Saturday, May 28, 2005

Judicial Nominees Compromise

Yahoo! News reported The signatures of 14 Senate centrists, seven from each party, spilled across the last page of a hard-won compromise on President Bush's judicial nominees. But whatever elation the negotiators felt, the Senate's Democratic leader did not share it. In the privacy of his Capitol office last Monday night, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked for commitments from six Democrats fresh from the talks. Would they pledge to support filibusters against Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes, two nominees not specifically covered by the pact with Republicans? Some of the Democrats agreed.

I figured the Dems did not really mean it.
At least one, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, declined. Details of Reid's attempt to kill the two nominations within minutes of the agreement, as well as other events during this tumultuous time, were obtained by The Associated Press in interviews with senators and aides in both parties. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality pledges. The conversation in Reid's office was among the final acts of a drama that played out unpredictably over several weeks. It culminated in a deal that cleared the way for votes on some nominees long blocked by Democrats, left other nominees in limbo and averted a bruising fight over the Senate's filibuster rules.

Captain Ed blogged How Democrats Define Comity - The AP's David Espo gets behind the scenes in the hours after the announcement of the compromise on judicial confirmations that the Gang of 14 heralded as a new era of Senate comity. Far from an emergent period of truce and trust, Espo reports that Harry Reid and the Democrats immediately began planning the exploitation of the pact to their advantage even as the indulgent backslapping still echoed in the hallways. It didn't take more than a few minutes for Reid to read between the lines of the MOU to see how to exploit it. In that, one has to give him a tip of the hat; he instinctively knew what seven Republicans couldn't grasp with two hands and a map. It also tells us that the rest of Bush's nominees have no chance of making it to a floor vote, not without going back to the Byrd option. Pathetic.

Jasyn blogged Within minutes of signing the agreement, 6 of the 7 Democrats had abandoned the agreement. Why is it that Republicans are Washington's dupes-in-residence? Gingrich got rolled. Lott got rolled. Bush got rolled (twice!). And now the Simple-Simon Seven got rolled. Is no-one paying attention? How gullible do we have to be? Why is it that none of them can face up to the reality of their enemy? Are there no good Republicans to be found? Can we not elect Republicans who will fight?

Orrin Judd blogged Sometimes a win can be bitter.


The Anchoress

The Anchoress blogged I’m not much for personal details but this cute survey from Julie at Happy Catholic is kinda cute. H/T Closed Cafeteria.

She said Add yours in comments - or at your site! so here goes:

A is for Age - 62
B is for Booze - I don't drink
C is for Career - Computer Programmer, Systems Analyst, Systems Programmer
D is for Dad’s name - Rip
E is for Essential items to bring to a party - Enthusiasm
F is for Favorite song at the moment - The Eyes of Texas
G is for Goof off thing to do - Blog
H is for Hometown - Tulsa, OK
I is for Instrument you play - none
J is for Jam or Jelly you like - Red Plum
K is for Kids - none
L is for Living arrangement - room filled with computers to be refurbished
M is for Mom’s name - Doris
N is for Names of best friends - Lee, Polly, Paula
O is for overnight hospital stays - four
P is for Phobias - none
Q is for Quote you like - John 3:16
R is for Relationship that lasted longest - too long ago
S is for Siblings - two brothers, one sister
T is for Texas, ever been? - born and raised there
U is for Unique trait - Helping others with computers
V if for Vegetable you love - Potato, but it is forbidden because I am on Atkins
W is for Worst trait - Houskeeping
X is for XRays you’ve had - many.
Y is for Yummy food you make - Brisket slow cooked with onion soup mix and brown gravy mix
Z is for Zodiac sign - Aquarius


The Frist Problem

LA Times reported The best thing a Senate majority leader with presidential aspirations can do is quit. That was Bob Dole's strategy in 1996, when he resigned to run against President Clinton. And it may be part of Bill Frist's decision not to seek reelection in 2006. If so, Frist could hardly make a smarter move.

Yes, it certainly worked for Dole, didn't it?

Everyone knows Hillary plans to run in '08. Is the LA Times urging her to quit as well?


Gold Star

CNN reports Everyone agrees that Ligaya Lagman is a Gold Star mother, part of the long line of mournful women whose sons or daughters gave their lives for their country. Her 27-year-old son, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman, was killed last year in Afghanistan when his unit came under fire during a mission to drive out remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida forces. But the largest organization of these women, the American Gold Star Mothers Inc., has rejected Lagman, a Filipino, for membership because -- though a permanent resident and a taxpayer -- she is not a U.S. citizen. "There's nothing we can do because that's what our organization says: You have to be an American citizen," national President Ann Herd said Thursday. "We can't go changing the rules every time the wind blows."

The wind blows very often. Do you really have that many calls for changing the rules, and what other sort of rules chages have you opposed? Gold Star Mothers grew out of the Service Flags displayed in homes, places of business, churches, schools, etc., to indicate the number of members of the family or organizations who are serving in the Armed Forces or who have died from such service. Service flags had a deep Blue Star for each living member in the service and a Gold Star for each member who has died. Usually I believe the Service Flags were displayed inside, but if they were flown from a flag pole they would certainly have been affected by the wind. According to your website, " Natural Mothers, who are citizens of the United States of America or of the Territorial and Insular Possessions of the United States of America, whose sons and daughters served and died in line of duty in the Armed Forces of the United States of America or its Allies, or died as a result of injuries sustained in such service, are eligible for membership in American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. Adoptive Mothers and Stepmothers who reared the child from the age of five years whose natural mother is deceased, are also eligible under the above conditions." The Philippines were an American protectorate from 1898 to 1946. Why should the fact that they were granted their independence mean that children of Filipinos that die in service to America deserve less honor than children of mothers who are US Citizens.
That explanation isn't satisfying the war veterans who sponsored Lagman's application, some other members of the mothers' group or several members of Congress. "It is disheartening that any mother of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who has died in the line of duty would be denied membership in an organization that honors the memory of fallen service men and women," said Rep. Nita Lowey, whose district includes Lagman's home in Yonkers.

James Joyner blogged While private organizations
Are they a private organization? They were granted a charter on June 12th, 1984 by the Ninety-Eighth Congress of the United State, and Public Resolution 123, 74th Congress, approved June 23, 1936 (40 Stat. 1895) requires that "it shall be the duty of the President to request its observance" [of last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day]
have every right to decide who to grant membership to, this is an embarrassing situation and incredibly hurtful to Mrs. Lagman. It's clearly time for American Gold Star Mothers to change their rules so that the mother of any U.S. serviceman killed in combat is eligible. Doing that is hardly "changing the rules every time the wind blows." The purpose of the organization is to honor those who have lost a son fighting for our country. Mrs. Lagman certainly qualifies.

Frederick Maryland blogged First of all, yes, Ms. Herd, you can change the rules every time the wind blows -- if that's what your organization feels is appropriate. Secondly, the phrase used by Ms. Herd ("every time the wind blows") seriously cheapens what we're talking about here. A more accurate statement would be: "We can't go changing the rules every time a soldier is killed."

RJ Eskow blogged so it's just the "wind blowing" when a son dies, according to ann herd. she lost a son herself -- you think she'd know better. i'm betting the rules are about to change. either way, here's hoping the winds die down soon.


Saturday, May 28

This Day In History

  • 1533   England's Archbishop declared the marriage of King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn valid.
  • 1892   The Sierra Club was organized in San Francisco.
  • 1934   The Dionne quintuplets   Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne   were born to Elzire Dionne at the family farm in Ontario, Canada.
  • 1937   The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened to traffic.
  • 1937   Neville Chamberlain became prime minister of Britain.
  • 1940   The Belgian army surrendered to invading German forces during World War II.
  • 1957   The National League approved the move of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants baseball teams to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively.
  • 1977   Fire raced through the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Ky., killing 165 people.
  • 1985   David Jacobsen, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, was abducted by pro-Iranian kidnappers.
  • 1987   Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old West German pilot, landed a private plane in Moscow's Red Square after evading Soviet air defenses.
  • 1996   President Clinton's former business partners in the Whitewater land deal, James and Susan McDougal, and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, were convicted of fraud.
  • 1998   Pakistan matched India with five nuclear test blasts.
  • 1998   Comic actor Phil Hartman of ''Saturday Night Live'' and ''NewsRadio'' fame was shot to death at his home in Encino, Calif., by his wife, Brynn, who then killed herself.
  • 2002   NATO declared Russia a limited partner in the Western alliance.
  • 2003   President Bush signed a 10-year, $350 billion package of tax cuts, saying they already were "adding fuel to an economic recovery."
Happy Birthday To
  • 1908   Ian Fleming (author: creator of Bond ... James Bond; died Aug 12, 1964)
  • 1944   Rudolph Giuliani (Rudolph William Louis Giuliani III) (politician: Mayor of New York City)
  • 1944   Gladys (Maria) Knight (singer: w/The Pips)
  • 1945   John Fogerty (songwriter; singer: group: Creedence Clearwater:)


Friday, May 27, 2005

The Great Abortion-Is-Rising Hoax

Michelle Malkin blogged You probably haven't heard about the new analysis by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, released Thursday, May 19. The study indicates that both the number of abortions in the U.S. and the abortion rate declined in 2001 and 2002:

The Institute estimates that 1,303,000 abortions took place in the United States in 2001—0.8% fewer than the 1,313,000 in 2000. In 2002, the number of abortions declined again, to 1,293,000, or another 0.8%. The rate of abortion also declined, from 21.3 procedures per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2000 to 21.1 in 2001 and 20.9 in 2002.
The full study is available here (.pdf file).

In the wake of the report's release last week, top Democrats continued to claim that abortions have increased since President Bush took office in January 2001--a claim they have made repeatedly since last fall.

As Hillary Clinton put it on
Inside Politics yesterday,
[D]uring the Clinton administration, abortions went down. And they've gone back up under the Bush administration. So clearly, what is being done by the current policies are not necessarily working.

Howard Dean made an even more outlandish statement on Meet the Press on Sunday, three days after the Guttmacher analysis was released:
You know that abortions have gone up 25 percent since George Bush was president? ... There are not many of us who want to see the abortion rate continue to go up as it has under President Bush.
Neither Inside Politics host Judy Woodruff nor Meet the Press host Tim Russert challenged these unsubstantiated claims.

Nor did any other MSM reporter or news anchor. According to Nexis database, the only people to mention the Guttmacher study were the editorial writers at the New York Sun and columnist Rich Lowry.

Do you think the MSM would have ignored the study if it had shown an increase in the number of abortions rather than a decrease?
I doubt the MSM even heard of the study, since it was not listed in a Dem talking point
The bogus claim about rising abortions is apparently based on a discredited analysis of abortions in 16 states by Glenn Stassen, a professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Stassen himself has retracted his original conclusion that abortion increased in 2 of the 16 states he examined (South Dakota and Wisconsin). A third state, Illinois, showed an increase in Stassen's analysis, but more recent figures show a large decrease. In at least two states, Arizona and Colorado, the increase in abortions reported by Stassen is almost certainly an artifact of improved reporting techniques.

Although the Guttmacher estimates are "subject to some limitations and should be considered provisional," they are more rigorous than Stassen's analysis, as even Stassen now concedes.

Hat tip to Reasoned Audacity via Just One Minute, both of whom have much more.

See also The biography of a bad statistic.

JustOneMinute blogged The AGI and the Center for Disease Control are the two nationally recognized authorities on this topic, a fact we have been noting for months while deriding this Dem talking point that abortions have risen under George Bush.

blogged Take a look at the whole transcript. This is just a small slice of the comedy Dean served up yesterday. . . For more abortion decline data, see here. And here's a link to a series of articles Ramesh Ponnuru has written on abortion decline.

Scott C. Pierce blogged I have found to be a good source of non-partisan information when examining claims made by politicians. Their latest exposes the lie of Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean when they claim the number of abortions has risen since President Bush took office.

Tom Maguire blogged Can't Spell "Hilarity" Without "Hillary"

Another humorous item from the interview with Hillary:
WOODRUFF: To the United States Senate. Ed Cox has formed an exploratory committee, Republican attorney. He's already saying New Yorkers deserve a senator who is committed to New York and only to New York. If you were asked to pledge, at some point between now and next year, whether you will definitely fill out a six-year term in the Senate, what would you say?

CLINTON: I am focused on winning re-election. That is what I work on every single day, just as I have worked my heart out for the last four years. I think that many people in New York know how hard I've worked. Obviously dealing with 9/11 was a horrific experience and responsibility. I've tried to work throughout the state. I've tried to bring people together from upstate and downstate and from one end to the other. And I'm going to continue doing that every day, and I'm not going to get diverted. I'm going to stay focused on what my job is as the senator from New York.
And most of all I am not going to answer your question.


Doctors' kitchen knives ban call

BBC reported A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing. A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings. They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon. The research is published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all. They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen. None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.

To illustrate this the article showed a picture of injuries to an ear and the face, which it would seem could well have been caused by a short blade just as well as a long blade.
The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault - but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs. In contrast, a pointed long blade pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon".
And a sharp knife with a blunt edge is still useful for slitting throats.
The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year-olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.
And how many of those teenagers have been carrying long kitchen knives?
Tom @ScaredMonkeys blogged Ah, good to see the nanny state is in full swing over across the pond.

Mark in Mexico blogged Jim Bowie rolls over in his grave - They can have my pointy-edged, razor-sharp knife when they can pry it out of my cold dead hands. 25 bucks would also work.

David Carr blogged Doctors call for ban on opposable thumbs.

The Cranky Professor blogged Do you have a license for that long, pointy kitchen knife? Kitchen inspections. That's what it will call for. With confiscation of unlicensed knives.

K. J. Lopez blogged Really, what took so long? We need knife-control laws.


5 Koran mishandling cases

Yahoo! News reported The U.S. military has identified five incidents of "mishandling of a Koran" by U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay, but found no credible evidence that the Muslim holy book had been flushed down a toilet, the commander of the prison said Thursday. Brig. Gen. Jay Hood refused to specify the nature of the mishandling of the Koran at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, other than to say it did not involve placing it in a toilet.

Dr. Steven Taylor blogged All of this speak volumes about the US. Even if there was mishandling or even abuse of the Koran by US personnel, it is remarkable that such attention would be given to the issues of whether or not prisoners’ religious sensibilities are being abused or not. Of course I will grant that part of the reason that the US government cares about the issue is that it has broader global political implications.

Considering that people bringing Bibles into Saudia Arabia have had them confiscated and burned, by government officials, I am not terribly disturbed by 5 Koran mishandling cases. If Muslims want people to respect their religion, they need to show respect for Jewish and Christian faiths.


A Pact Does Not Mean Peace

NYT replaces The filibuster is far from dead in the Senate. Putting a fitting exclamation point on weeks of bitter partisan fighting, Democrats initiated a stunningly successful procedural attack on Thursday against one of President Bush's high-profile nominees, just days after an unusual compromise averted a showdown over the right to filibuster judicial candidates. The vote against cutting off debate over the confirmation of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, just as Congress was recessing for Memorial Day, left Republicans fuming and showed there is still some distance to travel to reach the new spirit of Senate comity that some believed was represented in the judicial pact announced Monday. "It lasted about a day and a half," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican.

Not only that, but the worthless Reid promised Frist there would be no filibuster, and if there was an attempt at a filibuster he would corral enough Dems to break it, and then he buckled to the extreme Dems and said this was not a filibuster. If the Dems are going to claim that every cloture vote in the past was a filibuster, then this certainly was a filibuster, and the Dems lied, and Reid cannot be trusted.
Architects of the agreement that forestalled a showdown over judicial filibusters insisted there was no link between Monday's deal and the filibuster against Mr. Bolton, who is an executive branch nominee and thus not covered under the new arrangement. But there was a clear sense of disappointment that the opportunity for better relations that had seemed so open on Monday was not there as the Senate prepared to leave town. "It is unfortunate," conceded Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio and a prominent member of the so-called Gang of 14 who drew up the judicial compromise. "It is too bad. But the deal was on judges, not anything else." Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the Democrat who led the opposition to Mr. Bolton, acknowledged that members of the public watching the Senate were probably perplexed by the new filibuster so soon after the judicial compromise. But he said that the intent of his action was simply to force the administration to surrender information he sought on Mr. Bolton,
Yes, the dems wanted secret intelligence information they could leak and thereby weaken the country even more, and the State Department said they should not have it, and the President backed them up.
and that the vote should not be seen as weakening the judicial agreement. Yet there were clear implications for the judicial compromise. Its authors had said repeatedly that it was a testament to the ability of senators to trust one another. In the aftermath of the Bolton vote, some Republicans were asserting that Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, had been misled by his Democratic counterpart, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Reid, they said, had assured Dr. Frist there were sufficient votes to cut off debate and move toward a floor vote on Mr. Bolton. "In this atmosphere of trust, you have to take people's word," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, as he left the Senate chamber.
They are fools to take the word of any Dem, and particularly to take Reid's word on anything. Reid is a liar.
Aides to Mr. Reid said he had provided no such assurances and, in fact, had warned Dr. Frist a few hours earlier that the effort to force a confirmation vote on Mr. Bolton could fall short.
So Reid's aides lie just like he does.
"I am disappointed that tonight we were unable to have a vote on Bolton," Mr. Reid said. "But it is not the fault of the Democratic caucus. We're not here to filibuster Bolton, we're here to get information." But it was not lost on Republicans that only a few hours before the Bolton vote, Mr. Reid delivered a tough speech at the National Press Club, where he assailed Republicans for pandering to the right wing and described the Senate agreement on judges as a potential "new beginning" for consensus in the Senate. Dr. Frist said "actions speak volumes" in his statement after the Bolton defeat, referring to Senator Reid's speech. "Tonight, after the Democrats have launched into yet another filibuster of a presidential nomination," he said, "those words seem empty and hollow." The Bolton vote came at the conclusion of a day that had shown glimmers of a new approach in the Senate after weeks devoted to the prospect of a floor showdown over eliminating filibusters. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved by a nearly unanimous vote a broad energy policy that both parties hailed after years of disagreement. The Judiciary Committee agreed to a plan to compensate victims of asbestos exposure, another measure that has proven very difficult to draft. And Republicans began the process of getting votes on two other federal court nominees who had been filibustered but were now protected by the compromise. With the prospect of a final vote on the contentious Mr. Bolton, a nominee considered to be unfit by most Democrats and a few Republicans, some senators had hoped to leave Capitol Hill on a high note and start fresh, with a new emphasis on legislation, when they returned in 10 days. They hoped such a conclusion would also put to rest the skepticism of many inside and outside the Senate about whether the judicial deal will hold when it comes under strain in the weeks ahead. But Democrats said they could not surrender on Mr. Bolton without attempting to force cooperation from the White House to provide long sought documents. Senator Barack Obama, the freshman Democrat from Illinois who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said it was pure White House stubbornness that threatened Mr. Bolton.
And it is now up to the White House to resolve the matter. Give Bolton a recess appointment. It will give him through 2006 to start cleaning house at the UN, and also show the Senate that he is not going to back down to a minority of Dems.
Dr. Steven Taylor: blogged What?! No Peace, Love and Laughter? (Senate Version) - I must confess, this is hardly a surprise. It is, however, an odd strategic choice by the Democrats. On the one hand, there is the chance that maybe, just maybe, with more time and one last fishing expedition, that they can find some information that will finally derail Bolton. On the other, the odds are that Bolton will be nominated. Given that fact, it is odd that the Democrats have allowed themselves to be associated with a filibuster the same week as the compromise over the judicial nominees. Of course, the Democrats insist this isn’t a filibuster. Indeed, both a letter from Senator Biden and a statement by Senator Reid have pointed out how this isn’t a filibuster.

Patterico blogged Wasn’t that whole flibuster compromise with Democrats supposed to be about re-establishing trust? For example, just after the deal was announced, Sen. Lindsey Graham told Chris Matthews that he thought it would help with the Bolton confirmaton. Now, Democrats have apparently filibustered Bolton — though they have denied that they are doing so. Is the trust still there? Graham, for one, seems to think not. And you believed that, Sen. Graham. Sucker. P.S. Then again, Fox News is reporting tonight that Sen. Graham and Sen. DeWine signed on to the deal at the explicit request of the White House, which wasn’t sure that Arlen Specter would vote for the nuclear option if push came to shove. Apparently Sens. Graham and DeWine were asked to join the group and get the best deal they could get — which wasn’t very good. If this is true, it is yet another miscalculation by the Bush Administration. The GOP should have forced Specter to vote. Had he voted the wrong way, that would have been his last day as Judiciary Committee Chairman. He wouldn’t dare.


Friday, May 27

This Day In History

  • 1647   The first recorded American execution of a ''witch'' took place in Massachusetts.
  • 1896   A tornado struck St. Louis and East St. Louis, Ill., killing 255 people.
  • 1926   The people of Hannibal, MO erected the first statue of literary characters. The bronze figures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer were hoisted above a red granite base.
  • 1935   The Supreme Court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act.
  • 1937   The Golden Gate Bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin County, Calif., was opened to the public.
  • 1941   The German battleship Bismarck sank off France, with a loss of 2,300 lives.
  • 1963   The album ''The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan,'' which featured the song ''Blowin' in the Wind,'' was released.
  • 1994   Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after spending two decades in exile.
  • 1995   Actor Christopher Reeve was paralyzed when he was thrown from his horse during a jumping event in Charlottesville, Va.
  • 1996   Russian President Boris Yeltsin negotiated a cease-fire to the war in Chechnya in his first meeting with the rebels' leader.
  • 1997   The Supreme Court ruled Paula Jones could pursue her sex harassment lawsuit against President Clinton while he was in office.
  • 1998   Michael Fortier, the government's star witness in the Oklahoma City bombing case, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after apologizing for not warning anyone about the deadly plot.
  • 1999   A U.N. tribunal indicted Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity, holding the Yugoslav president personally responsible for the horrors in Kosovo.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1794   Cornelius Vanderbilt (capitalist: established ferry service between Manhattan & Staten Islands; turned a NY railroad into $$$; died Jan 4, 1877)
  • 1837   Wild Bill (James Butler) Hickok (U.S. Marshall, frontiersman, army scout, gambler, legendary marksman; shot [from behind] and killed Aug 2, 1876 while playing poker holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights [known since as the ‘dead man’s hand’])
  • 1911   Hubert Humphrey (38th vice president of the U.S.; died Jan 13, 1978)
  • 1911   Vincent (Leonard) Price
  • 1923   Henry (Alfred) Kissinger (Nobel Peace Prize-winner [1973]; U.S. Secretary of State: Nixon Administration; political consultant: NBC News)
  • 1935   Lee Ann Meriwether (Miss America [1955]; actress: Barnaby Jones, Batman)
  • 1936   Lou Gossett Jr. (Academy Award-winning actor: An Officer and a Gentleman [1982]; Emmy Award winner: Roots-Part Two [1977]; Sadat, Enemy Mine, Iron Eagle series)


Thursday, May 26, 2005


Scobleizer blogged Calling all BBS'ers

OK, all you people who were nerds back in the 1980s, this site is for you -- BBS: The Documentary.

Yeah, I was one. I remember my friends who ran bulletin board systems out of their garages. I remember dreaming of the day when I would finally be able to afford a Hayes 9600baud modem like those that my friend had running in his garage. That's so slow in comparison to the Wifi network I'm typing to you on right now it isn't even funny.

I can identify with what he is saying. I think when I started my BBS it was on a 2400 baud modem, but when I finally took it down the modem had been upgraded to 14.4kb.

When the internet came around there were some people using 300 baud dial up modems, but ISPs finally started requiring at least 2400 baud because they would not tie up their lines as much. Now I have a cable modem which is supposed to go to 4 mbps, although I usually don't get more than 2 mbps.


Get caught, al-Zarqawi

Chrenkoff blogged Get well, go to hell, al-Zarqawi

Supporters of the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, filled Islamist bulletin boards on the Internet with prayers for his recovery on Wednesday after his group said he had been wounded. A statement posted on Tuesday on sites used by insurgents called on Muslims to "pray for the healing of our Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi from an injury he suffered in the path of God"... Within hours one posting had launched a "million prayers of recovery campaign," quickly garnering over 70 responses.

Just 999,930 to go. I suspect the 72 virgins will have died of old age before they get that many.
"Do not be sparing in your prayers for a speedy recovery for the Sheikh and may God return him to the fray in safety," the poster said, signing off with a graphic that featured Zarqawi's face, a bloodied knife and the words "behead."

70 messages of support in a few hours? C'mon people - we can do better than that. Forget "Get well, al-Zarqawi", it's time for the launch of the official Get caught, al-Zarqawi campaign. Abu Musab - wishing you a speedy meeting with the Coalition security forces. So, dear readers, the comments section is all yours - please feel free to write in your "get caught" or "get [anything else] wishes for Al Qaeda's Number 1 in Iraq. And let's show jihadis we can run a successful "million prayers of capture campaign."

At the time I am posting this, Chrenkoff has 97 comments and 5 trackbacks. And that does not count my earlier prayer for Al-Zarqawi to go directly to hell.


Measuring the Impact of Blogs

WSJ reported If you read press coverage about blogs, you might conclude that just about all Americans are reading a blog. But then you wouldn't have time to read the press coverage, because if surveys are to be believed, you're probably busy creating your own blog. The numbers of the blogosphere range widely. Are there 10 million blogs, or 32 million?

Who cares? I only worry about my blog, and the blogs I read.
Do a quarter of online Americans really read blogs, as one oft-cited survey found? And why do rankings of the most popular blogs vary so much? Adding to the confusion: disagreement over exactly what a blog is. In our young era of blogging, there's still no consensus. "Blog" derives from "Web log," and everyone agrees that a blog should be regularly updated, with new entries in reverse chronological order -- and that the entries can be about anything. But millions of people establish blogging accounts with free software providers like Google Inc.'s Blogger, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN or Six Apart Ltd.'s LiveJournal -- it takes mere minutes -- and then never post to their blogs.
Something I did when working on Comparison of Blog Services
Others password-protect their blogs and use them to share photos and data with a small group of family members, friends or colleagues. Whether or not you count all those represents a big chunk of the swing from 10 million (cited recently in the New York Times and USA Today) to 31.6 million blogs (Ottawa Citizen and the Ann Arbor News). Both are world-wide estimates. First, let's step back and consider why we're counting blogs at all. You no longer see articles that attempt to demonstrate the legitimacy of the Web by stating how many Web pages there are. But blogs are still in the process of entering mainstream consciousness, so numerical credibility is important; bloggers themselves cite the statistics a lot. It turns out that counting blogs isn't as hard as counting Web pages. When writers who use common blogging software want their blogs to be publicized, they choose to automatically "ping" computer servers for companies like Technorati Inc. and Intelliseek's BlogPulse, whose goal is to measure and index blogs.
Do you add the two together? What about blogs that ping both? And what abou blogs that don't ping either?
Then Web users can go to those companies' Web sites and run searches to find blogs that have written about topics they're interested in. BlogPulse now indexes about 11 million blogs world-wide; Technorati, about 10 million. Over the past six months, both have seen a doubling in the number of blogs on the Internet. "Nobody asks how many Web sites there are out there," Natalie Glance, a researcher with BlogPulse, told me.
They did when websites were new, and none of the answers were anywhere close, because so many new websites were going online.
"We're fortunate that all these ping servers do exist. But it's really a hard question to answer." That's because not all blogs ping the search services. In Korea, some software providers say they have millions of blogs, and neither BlogPulse or Technorati count them all. "It's pretty significant undercounting," Ms. Glance said. David Sifry, Technorati's chief executive, told me at a blogger conference last week that he was headed to Seoul later that week to try to get Korean blogs in his index. (Already, about two-third of the blogs indexed by Technorati are in languages other than English.)

Technorati and BlogPulse both define blogs as being meant for public consumption. This is an important distinction because Internet companies seeking to cash in on the surge in blogging have rolled out products that combine blogging software with other tools like photo-sharing and social-networking services. When you create an account with one of these companies, you're considered to have a blog, even if you never write a post. The same goes if you restrict access to a select group of readers. Microsoft's MSN Spaces says it has 10 million accounts, but a spokeswoman says more than half of those accounts are available only to a restricted set of users.
In fact as my above mentioned article indicated, that is one of the big selling points of MSN Spaces, Live Journal, and Yahoo 360, being able to limit viewership to friends, or friends of friends, or in the case of Yahoo360, friends of friends of friends.
Meanwhile, BlogPulse's Ms. Glance says that half of MSN Spaces blogs appear to be blank, based on her research. Some analysts have tried to count private blogs. Perseus Development Corp., a Braintree, Mass., market-research company, last month reported 31.6 million blogs, using an unusual approach: It added reported numbers of blogs from companies like MSN, with its own projections for number of blogs for companies like Google that don't disclose stats. It arrived at the projection by forming random strings of letters, and then searching to see if those letters corresponded to a blog on the service. Services with lots of matches were assumed to be hosting more blogs than those with fewer matches.
That is not a very reliable way of checking, IMHO. Many blogs have names 30 characters or longer.
"We tried to extend the random-digit dialing from the telephone world into the blog world," Jeffrey Henning, chief operating officer of Perseus, told me. (The Blog Herald, a blog about blogs, counted over 60 million blogs this week, relying on figures from operators world-wide.) No one has sole control of the definition of blog, but it seems to me that for the sake of counting, Technorati and BlogPulse are right to exclude the private blogs. That puts their estimates below those from some other analysts, but the companies are focusing on what they can directly count, and relying less on estimates. Still, the number of blogs isn't really that informative, since so many blogs are abandoned soon after they're launched. It's more useful to look at the volume of blog posts. According to a presentation by Technorati's Mr. Sifry at the blog conference, daily volume is 800,000 to 900,000 posts. But Ms. Glance says BlogPulse, which says it has more blogs in its index, counts only between 350,000 and 450,000 posts a day -- and that number has held steady for about a year, even as the total number of blogs has accelerated. Regardless of who's right, notice that these number are well below estimates for the total number of blogs, countering the image of blogging as a multiple-times-a-day activity. Ms. Glance says that based on her research of activity in January, the typical active blogger posted an update just once every 10 days.

Jeff Jarvis: blogged Bialik leaves out one important factor that must not be ignored: RSS. My Sitemeter stats say I had 340k pageviews in March but my server stats said I had 996k and the difference is mostly RSS (and things such as the page views I generate when I publish posts). But, of course, RSS is complicated because just because a feed is downloaded doesn't mean it's read (and what does it mean to read a feed vs. reading a post?). If all this is only about bragging rights, it doesn't matter. Brag away. Debate at will. Who cares? The power of blogs is not about the total or the biggest (that so old-media-think, so mass) but instead about the rising volume of individual conversations.

Rex Hammock blogged The Numbers Guy at the WSJ does the math on blogs: Bottom line, there's a lot, but nobody knows, but who cares: we're getting close to a point where how many there are will be irrelevant. No one asks, "how many websites are there?" anymore. They won't do that about blogs soon, either. (Which, I guess is what that USA Today writer was really saying when he said that interest in weblogs is going to chill. It's hard to keep considering something a phenomena when it becomes as pervasive as air.)

Juan Cole blogged As I see it, the problem for advertisers is that blogging appears to be a form of narrow-casting. They like broadcasting. You place an ad on even a low-ranking cable television show like Star Trek Enterprise (while it was still limping along) and about 3 million people see it every week. You place an ad on even a popular weblog like MyDD and Blogads says that it has 146,000 page views a week. ( measures its popularity rather by looking at how many other blogs link to it.)

Tom Biro blogged Thursday's Wall Street Journal has an article by Carl Bialik asking if the numbers quoted in various places about how many blogs there actually are are correct - or if they based on different perceptions of what a blog is, live blogs or not, or a number of other factors.


It's their economies, stupid

Times Online reported Why are the people of Europe so angry? The standard answer, as the Germans, French and Dutch all turn against their governments, is that the European project has gone too far and that political elites have overreached themselves, losing touch with the ordinary people. Their resentment about the loss of national political control to the unaccountable Eurocrats of Brussels has finally boiled over.

Good for them figuring it out before it is too late.
The French may be voting “no” to defend their country against a European Union which they now see as a Trojan horse for ultra-liberal Anglo-Saxon values, while the Dutch (and the Danish and British) rejectionists may be driven by exactly the opposite motive, believing that the EU constitution is trying to ensnare them in a centralised, over-regulated Gallic state.
They are right. The French are upset that they are now a third rate power, and they think they can dominate the EU.
But far from discrediting the anti-EU movement, this diversity of opposition actually accounts for the power of the revolt. What people are voting against is not just one or other particular clause of the constitution, nor even its general tenor, whether this is too liberal or insufficiently so. The real bugbear is the idea of any unified constitution that attempts to impose a single system of government on the whole of Europe and purports to harmonise away the political philosophies, economic preferences and social traditions developed in different nations over hundreds of years. But before we assume that the federalists will simply give up in desperation, it is worth considering another possible explanation for the popular revolt against European elites. In Sunday’s German election, which effectively destroyed Gerhard Schröder’s Government, his recent ratification of the EU constitution was not even an issue and Europe was far from the voters’ minds. Two months earlier, the Berlusconi Government suffered a similar fate in Italy, a country where Euro-enthusiasm remains undimmed. Why did this happen? In my view, the answer is simple: it’s the economy, stupid. As regular readers of this column may be aware, I have always argued against economic determinism in British or US politics. But that is because the British and American economies have on the whole been performing well since 1992. Europe, meanwhile, has become an economic disaster.
Some parts are in worse shape than others, and each worries that those less well off will pull them down. Even West Germans are now getting upset at how after unification East Germany is dragging down the West German economy.
Dale Franks blogged Anatole Kaletsky writes that the European electorate's growing dissatisfaction with the new EU constitution—including what is looking to be a probable French "non" in a few days—may have much more to do with economic collapse than opposition to the idea of a united Europe. The Continental economies are mired in excessive regulation and taxation, and so beset with huge claims on welfare spending that they've become moribund. And as the baby-boom generation retires in just a few years, those demands on the public purse will only increase. But where will the money come from? Taxes are already ruinously high as it is, and the cost of employment so steep that job creation is effectively nil. Indeed, job creation has been that way for 25 years.

Marcus @HarrysPlace blogged Anatole Kaletsky thinks the real reason things are looking gloomy for supporters of the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands is actually the generally lamentable performance of "old" European economies over the last decade and a half.


Rubin urges Democrats not to reveal their hand

The Hill reports Former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, the steward of President Clinton’s economic policy, told the House Democratic Caucus yesterday that it needs to continue to “hold firm” in its opposition to President Bush’s effort to reform Social Security and advised the Democrats not to introduce their own plan, according to aides and lawmakers in the meeting.

Do they even have a plan????
Rubin, who has gained huge stature in the party for presiding over the national finances during the Clinton boom years, counseled congressional Democrats against engaging Republicans on specifics. He urged them instead to cast the debate in terms of principles,
In other words, we dont have a plan of fixing things, but we are opposed to anything the Republicans want on principle.
with opposition to deficit spending as their guiding conviction. “Putting out a Democrat plan on Social Security would be a horrible mistake because right now it’s the president’s principles against our principles,”
He has a plan, and the Dems don't.
Rubin said, according to a Democratic leadership aide. The aide added that Rubin told his party colleagues that it would be hard to win a battle of specifics.
And the Dems dont really want to fix the problem.


Senate Could Override a Veto

NYT reported Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican and chief sponsor of a bill to expand federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, issued a stark challenge to President Bush on Wednesday, saying he had enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto of the measure. "I don't like veto threats, and I don't like statements about overriding veto threats," Mr. Specter said, speaking at a news conference where the House backers of the measure presented him the legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday, topped with a red bow. "But if a veto threat is going to come from the White House, then the response from the Congress is to override the veto, if we can," Mr. Specter added. "Last year we had a letter signed by some 58 senators, and we had about 20 more in the wings. I think if it really comes down to a showdown, we will have enough in the United States Senate to override a veto."

That does not mean the President should cave to something he thinks is unethical. Besides you might find that Senators might be willing to vote for something, but not vote to override their President's veto.
But the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, said the bill, which garnered a majority that fell 52 votes short of the two-thirds majority required to overturn a veto, would "never become law." And Mr. Bush, appearing at a news conference with the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, restated his opposition. "I believe that the use of federal monies that end up destroying life is not - is not positive, it's not good," Mr. Bush said. "And so, therefore, I'm against the extension of the research, of using more federal dollars on new embryonic stem cell lines."

James Joyner blogged Both Specter and DeLay could be right. Although I doubt eleven Republican Senators will cross the aisle on an issue so important to a part of the base, it's possible. There's no way there will be two-thirds support in the House, though. Specter's attitude here, though, is exactly as the Framers intended. Each branch--and both Houses of Congress--are supposed to jealously guard its powers against perceived encroachment from the others. In reality, party loyalty often trumps institutional prerogative.

Mark Kleiman blogged Perfect. Just what we need. Take an issue where public sentiment is clearly with the Democrats, and set it up so the radical conservatives of the Texas Republican Party are standing between sick people and miracle cures. Exectly the right issue for the 2006/2008 elections: science and health v. fanaticism. Liberalism lost public favor mostly because it came to appear to many voters that electing liberals meant having the government get in the way of stuff they wanted to do. I'm delighted to see the right making the same dumb mistake. Meanwhile, the research goes forward abroad, and here in California.

Kathryn Jean Lopez blogged Filibuster the Stem Cell Bill? That's what Sam Brownback's hinting at.


Mr. Narcissus

Peggy Noonan editorialized in OpinionJournal You've heard the mindless braying and fruitless arguments, but I'm here to tell you the facts, no matter what brickbats and catcalls may come my way. Lindsey Graham defied the biases of his constituency to do what was right, not what was easy.

Whether he was right or not will be determined when we see whether the Dems are going to keep right on filibustering or whether they will hold off till a Supreme Court nomination is made. But either way I think Lindsey Graham shot himself in the foot.
Robert Byrd put aside personal gain to save our Republic.
Robert Byrd does not do anything unless he thinks it will mean more money for West Virginia.
David Pryor ignored the counsels of hate to stand firm for our hopes and dreams. Mike DeWine protected our way of life. These men are uniters, not dividers. How do I know? Because they told me. Again and again, and at great length, as they announced The Deal. And I believed them, because I am an idiot. Or as they might put it, your basic "folk" from "back home".... John McCain wryly reminded us not to miss A&E's biography of his heroic Vietnam experience. Joe Lieberman referred to the group as "this band of brothers, and sisters." But my favorite was Lindsey Graham, who said, "I know there will be folks 'back home' who will be angry, but that's only because they're not as sophisticated and high-minded as I am. Actually they're rather stupid, which is why they're not in the Senate and I am. But I have 3 1/2 years to charm them out of their narrow-minded resentments, and watch me, baby." Oh, excuse me, that's not what he said. That's only what he meant. It was the invisible scroll as he spoke. The CNN identifier that popped up beneath his head as he chattered, however, did say, "Conceited Nitwit Who Affects 'Back Home' Accent to Confuse the Boobs." Oh wait, that's not what it said. It said, "R-South Carolina." My bad. Actually, what Mr. Graham said was, "People at home are gonna be mad at me for a while." He said he decided to support the deal because "kids are dyin' " in Iraq, "Social Security is comin' up," and "this is a lot bigger than me." If only he knew that is true.
It is true, but the "agreement" does nothing about Iraq, it does nothing to stop the Dems from blocking anything on Social Security, and just about anything is bigger than Lindsey Graham
Salon writer S.Z. blogged here's a new quiz for you: identify which quote is from Ann Coulter; which is from nice Catholic lady (and former presidential speech writer) Peggy Noonan; which is from third-tier pundit Debbie Schlussel; and which is from laughing-stock of the internets Kaye Grogan

Scott @PowerLine blogged In his Daily Standard column Hugh Hewitt looks over the carnage wrought by the gang of 14 with a gimlet eye: "Non-nuclear fallout." Joining Hugh in a great burst of derision is Peggy Noonan over at OpinionJournal: "Mr. Narcissus goes to Washington."

K. J. Lopez blogged Well, the conservative base that is hating the GOP in the Senate will be loving, loving, loving Peggy Noonan today. Here's her translation of Lindsey Graham: "I know there will be folks 'back home' who will be angry, but that's only because they're not as sophisticated and high-minded as I am. Actually they're rather stupid, which is why they're not in the Senate and I am. But I have 3 1/2 years to charm them out of their narrow-minded resentments, and watch me, baby."


Wanted and Imprisioned Candidates

Israel National News reported Many terrorists currently serving time in Israeli prisons will be permitted by the Palestinian Authority to run in its upcoming parliamentary elections. Among them will apparently be convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, seeking a seat in the PA parliament. Another terrorist candidate is wanted Al-Aqsa Brigade chief Jamal Abu Roub, who goes by the nickname “Hitler.”

I see nothing wrong with this. Now if they win, and the Palestinians said they had to be freed, I would have a problem with it, but I think that many currently in office probably should be in prision, so I don't see why a prisoner should not be a candidate. Now if the voters want to throw away their vote, by electing someone who can't serve them, that is their right.


GOP Tilting Balance Of Power to the Right

WaPo reported As Democrats tell it, this week's compromise on judges was about much more than the federal courts. If President Bush and congressional allies had prevailed, they say, the balance of power would have been forever altered. Yet, amid the partisan rhetoric, a little-noticed fact about modern politics has been lost: Republicans have already changed how the business of government gets done, in ways both profound and lasting. The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president's judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.

Do you suggest that they should try to consolidate influence in a small circle of Democrats and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a liberal agenda? We had that for forty years and look where it got us.
House Republicans, for instance, discarded the seniority system and limited the independence and prerogatives of committee chairmen. The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders.
Just because Democrats ran things one way when they were in control does not mean that Republicans must do it the same way.
At the White House, Bush has tightened the reins on Cabinet members,
Who were not elected, as he was.
centralizing the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists. With the strong encouragement of Vice President Cheney, he has also moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public. Now, the White House and Congress are setting their sights on how to make the judiciary more deferential to the conservative cause
Actually all they want is to make it less deferential to the liberal cause. They want the legislature to legislate, and the judiciary to judge.
-- as illustrated by the filibuster debate and recent threats by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and others to more vigorously oversee the courts. "I think we have used the legislative and executive branch as well as anybody to achieve our policy aims," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). "It is a remarkable governing instrument." The transformation started in the House in the 1990s and intensified with Bush's 2000 election. The result has been a stronger president working with a compliant and streamlined Congress to push the country, and the courts, in a more conservative direction, according to historians, government scholars, and current and former federal officials.
Good. It moved so far in a liberal direction that a move back to the center (which is a move in a conservative direction because of where it was), is a good thing.
Some of the changes, such as a more powerful executive branch, less powerful rank-and-file members of Congress and more pro-Republican courts, are likely to outlast the current president and GOP majority, they say. The Republican bid to ban the filibustering of judges made it easier for Bush to appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court and holds open the threat of future attempts to erode the most powerful tool available to the minority party in Congress. "Every president grabs for more power. What's different it seems to me is the acquiescence of Congress," said former representative Mickey Edwards (R-Okla.), a government scholar at the Aspen Institute. When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, conservatives turned an institution run by Democrats and veteran chairmen into a top-down organization that looked in some ways like the flow chart of a Fortune 500 business.
Most Fortune 500 businesses are a LOT better run than the government.
The idea was to put power in the hands of a few leaders and place conservative loyalists in the most important lower-level jobs to move legislation as quickly as possible through Congress, according to current and former lawmakers. Those who cross party leaders often pay a price, usually by losing positions of influence. Most recently, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) lost the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee after clashing with party leaders over spending and other issues. At the same time, loyalists are rewarded. The result, writes American University's James A. Thurber in a forthcoming book on Congress and the presidency, is less powerful representatives facing increased pressure to carry out their leadership's wishes.
Sounds good to me
The GOP unity has led to speedy passage this year of legislation to make it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy and a budget plan that makes way for more tax cuts and oil drilling in Alaska wilderness.

Betsy Newmark blogged The Washington Post's Jim VanderHei has an article sure to scare the left about how the Republicans in Congress and the White House are strengthening their control of those institutions and the bureaucracy. Of course, this is what politicians do. The Democrats ran Congress for most of 50 years. You think they didn't have control in their hands? Why is it so scary that the White House is organizing things in a top down fashion? Perhaps this is the result of having an MBA president. Most business leaders want control of the institutions they lead. The bureaucracy is a largely immovable object. It's hard enough for an appointed agency head to change the culture within an agency. The bureaucrats can always leak to the press or to their friends in Congress. They can slow thigns down or interpret ambiguous laws in a way they think is right. No agency head has the power to change all of that. But, is it so strange that a president would want to see people who think like he does and are loyal to him in charge of these behemoths? Democratic presidents do the same thing if they can. If Clinton and Carter didn't do the same thing, was it because they were being deferential to his political opponents or because they just wasn't as organized?

Tim Graham blogged Washington Post readers are treated to a news "analysis" at the top of Page One today by Jim VandeHei, who explains the GOP plot "to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda." When you try to marginalize dissenting voices that would impede a liberal agenda, that would make you suitable to write for the front page of the Washington Post.


EU call to re-run treaty referendums

FT reported France and the Netherlands should re-run their referendums to obtain the "right answer" if their voters reject Europe's constitutional treaty in imminent national ballots, Jean-Claude Juncker, the holder of the EU presidency, said on Wednesday.

If countries in the EU reject joining the EU, then where is the need for an EU president?
The Luxembourg prime minister said all 25 EU member countries should continue their attempts to ratify the treaty whatever the outcome of the French and Dutch votes. His comments reflect a mood of deepening pessimism among Europe's leaders about the outcome of the referendums. "The countries which have said No will have to ask themselves the question again.
Why, so they can say NO again?
And if we don't manage to find the right answer, the treaty will not enter into force," he said in an interview with the Belgian Le Soir newspaper.
Precisely, and you may be out of a job.
The French and the Dutch governments have for the moment ruled out the prospect of a second referendum and hope they can win their votes on Sunday and Tuesday respectively. Jacques Chirac, France's president, will tonight launch a last-ditch televised appeal to voters to back the treaty, which lays out new rules for the expanded EU and deepens integration. François Bayrou, a leading Yes campaigner and president of the UDF party, said Mr Chirac should explain the high stakes involved. "The role of the president of the republic is to show the gravity of things," he said. "All modern campaigns are played out in the last hours." Pro-constitution politicians across Europe have been sounding increasingly alarmist about the consequences of a No vote. "If the No side wins on Sunday, it will be a catastrophe for France, for Chirac, for everyone," Mr Juncker said in his interview. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, France's prime minister, warned on Wednesday that a No vote could deter foreign investment and damage the French economy.
Maybe the French think their economy is better than that of other parts of Europe, and would rather have a French economy than a European economy.
"Do you think that a France that cuts itself off, that says No to Europe will be attractive for new investments and new jobs?" he said in a television interview. "The No to Europe would be a No to investment."

Vox Day blogged Vote until you get it right. Why not? This vote-until-you-get-it-right strategy worked in forcing Ireland to "accept" the Nice Treaty. As I've stated before, the EU is about as democratic as the National Socialists, and about as liberty-loving too. To loosely quote Tom Wolfe, the spectre of fascism hangs over America, and yet it somehow always manages to land in Europe. Not that our own National and Social Democrats won't learn from this debacle and imitate Germany's national suicide by legislative vote when the time comes for us to merge with Mexico and Canada.

Orrin Judd blogged Let Saddam run the next one.


No Wicca

IndyStar reports An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth. Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion. Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall. Through a court spokeswoman, Bradford said Wednesday he could not discuss the pending legal dispute.

I would like to see the judges order, but if this news report is right, I suspect it will be reversed by the Court of Appeals.

I certainly don't support Wicca, but it is a very longstanding religion, and if both parents follow it, I don't think the court has any right to say they can't teach their child this faith, just as two Jewish parents or two Muslim parents should not be blocked from bringing up their child in their faith, even if they live in a predominately Christian area.
The parents' Wiccan beliefs came to Bradford's attention in a confidential report prepared by the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, which provides recommendations to the court on child custody and visitation rights. Jones' son attends a local Catholic school. "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school. . . . Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages," the bureau said in its report. But Jones, 37, Indianapolis, disputes the bureau's findings, saying he attended Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis as a non-Christian.
If Bishop Chatard High School wants to insist that it's students be Christian, that is fine with me, but if they are willing to teach a child of Wiccan parents, the courts should not interfere.
Jones has brought the case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, with help from the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. They filed their request for the appeals court to strike the one-paragraph clause in January. "This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim," said Jones, who has organized Pagan Pride Day events in Indianapolis. "It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox."
I sympathize with the parents, just as I sympathize with Christian parents who would like their children to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ (Christmas) when the Wiccans are celebrating Yule, and who would like their children to be able to celebrate the death and resurection of Christ (Easter) when the Wiccans are celebrating Ostara. What really upsets me is that public schools, which permit Jewish, Muslim, and Kwanza symbols, but don't permit Nativity Scenes during the Winter Holiday period are more likely to allow symbols of Yule than symbols meaningful to those of the Christian faith.


Thursday, May 26

This Day In History

  • 1521   Martin Luther was declared an outlaw and his writings were banned by the Edict of Worms because of his religious beliefs.
  • 1805   Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned king of Italy.
  • 1868   The impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson ended with his acquittal as the Senate fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority required for conviction.
  • 1913   The Actors' Equity Association was organized.
  • 1940   The evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, began during World War II.
  • 1977   George H. Willig scaled the outside of the south tower of New York's World Trade Center; he was arrested at the top of the 110-story building.
  • 1978   The first legal casino in the eastern United States opened in Atlantic City, N.J.
  • 1981   A Marine jet crashed onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz off Florida, killing 14 people.
  • 1994   President Clinton renewed trade privileges for China, and announced his administration would no longer link China's trade status with its human rights record.
  • 1994   Pop star Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley were married in the Dominican Republic.
  • 1998   The Supreme Court ruled that Ellis Island   historic gateway for millions of immigrants   is mainly in New Jersey, not New York.
  • 2002   Barges being pushed by a towboat crashed into the piers of the Interstate 40 bridge in Oklahoma, causing part of the structure to fall into the Arkansas River; 14 people were killed.
Happy Birthday To
  • 1886   Al Jolson
  • 1907   John ‘Duke’ Wayne (Marion Morrison)
  • 1923   James Arness (Aurness) (actor: Gunsmoke)
  • 1949   Hank Williams Jr.
  • 1951   Sally Ride (astronaut: 1st American woman in space: Challenger shuttle [1983])


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spam Zombies

TopTechNews reported Because home users often lack the technological savvy needed to recognize and fight spammers, the FTC is concentrating its appeal on ISPs, asking the providers to watch for computers that send out unusually high amounts of e-mail and quarantine them. The FTC is targeting "zombie" networks, which are basically the machines of unwitting users that are used to launch spam campaigns. Zombie networks account for about 50 to 80 percent of all spam, according to news reports. The commission noted that it is asking 3,000 ISPs around the world to develop better monitoring systems for detecting hijacked computers.

I would be happy to see spam reduced, but exactly how much email does the FTC think should be allowed before ISP's quarantee users? I regularly send email to 55 users at one time, and from time to time need to send email to 300 people at one time for APCUG business.


Disarmament in the Senate

NYT editorialized If nothing else, the deal to end the Senate's "nuclear option" showdown was heartening in that it did demonstrate that moderates still exist in Washington, and actually have the capacity to work together to get things done. On the other hand, it's not terribly encouraging to see how low the bar is for joining the moderate camp.

Viewing things from the extreme left, as NYT usually does, I wonder if they really understand what moderate means.
The seven Republicans who played the critical role in brokering an agreement include several staunch conservatives whose claim to centrism lies in their desire to avoid devoting the rest of the year to procedural battles between the hamstrung Democrats and the overbearing Republican majority. The pact they forged will preserve the minority's right to filibuster - block a bill or nomination unless a supermajority of 60 senators votes to proceed. To get there, the seven Democrats involved in the negotiations paid a high price - allowing the nominations of three of President Bush's most controversial nominees to the federal Courts of Appeals to go through to an up-or-down vote that they will undoubtedly win....
As I understand it the agreement was supposed to be a compromise. Did you really think the Republicans were going to compromise and not let at least some of their judges get approved?
While the idea of letting the majority rule is at the heart of much in American democracy, it has little to do with the Senate, where some members represent 10 times as many people as others. There is absolutely nothing unfair about allowing a minority that actually represents more American people to veto lifetime appointments of judges who are far outside the mainstream of American thinking.
The reason some senators represent more people than other senators is that the founding fathers set up the Senate to represent states. If you like representatives that are set up according to population, you need to look at the House.
Captain Ed blogged Their main beef, besides the signatories, is that some of Bush's nominees get votes. If that's the problem, why does the Times endorse this compromise at all? After all, did they expect a compromise to mean that the GOP wound up with nothing at all? .... The clear ignorance of the Times' editorial board demonstrates once again the wisdom of their publisher in hiding their future statements from bloggers behind a $50 firewall. They've made themselves irrelevant through intellectual dishonesty and incompetence, and their disappearance from the public discourse should cause nary a ripple once they lock themselves away into their financial cloister.

Ace blogged Typical screeching column about "extremists" on the bench, "overbearing Republicans," and the need for "centrist" (read: dogmatic liberal) nominees for the high court.


Two perspectives

Yesterday we mentioned Virtual Earth. Now Rick Segal points out two reviews of the interview of Bill Gates at Tech Show by Walt Mossberg (of WSJ fame), and I urge you to read both the one by Dan Gillmor and Tim O'Reilly.

Dwight Silverman blogged Dan Gillmor is formerly of the San Jose Mercury News and now a full-time champion of citizen journalism, and Tim O'Reilly is the founder of computer book publisher O'Reilly Media. Dan's got a reputation as a vocal critic of Microsoft. Tim's friendlier to Redmond. The differences in their accounts is striking, as well as nuanced.

Jim blogged After reading both of these entries, you can start adding on individual agendas. Tim O’Reilly and Dan Gillmor are both pretty well known so you can add what you know, what you’ve seen, etc, and layer it on as you decide what’s accurate, what’s bias, what’s whatever. It’s not for me to tell you, it’s an exercise for the reader."

The best idea is from Rick. "In my opinion, being able to read this kind of material with a critical eye, being fully aware of styles, history, agendas, etc, affords you training to make better decisions with data that is coming at you from all sides."

I thought it was very interesting to get both Dan and Tim's perspective on this matter. If you can't be there yourself, and I couldn't, having multiple opinions of what was said was very useful.


Owen Approved

Priscilla Owen has been approved 56 to 43 to the 5th Circuit. The Senate will now take up John Bolton.


Media Slander

La Shawn Barber blogs In the spirit of comes a new blog called Media Slander. Media scandals are happening at a rate that justifies a site dedicated to exposing them. This site will address media bias against the military in general, as well as remarks made by individual journals, including
Linda Foley, who has yet to substantiate her claim that the American military is targeting foreign journalists for assassination. (Also see Foley Gate).

Jonathan R. blogged U.S. Media Slandering U.S. Troops, When Not Mourning Them

Our troops are fighting for us. The media need to support them and this country, rather than trying to tear either one down


A Matter Of Public Record

WaPo reports Activist Aims to Scare Officials Into Protecting Personal Data

Betty (but call her BJ) Ostergren, a feisty 56-year-old from just north of Richmond, is driven to make important people angry. She puts their Social Security numbers on her Web site, or links to where they can be found. It's not that she wants CIA Director Porter J. Goss, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell, or Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to be victims of identity theft, as were millions of Americans in the past year. Ostergren is on a crusade to scare and shame public officials into doing something about how easy it is to get sensitive personal data. Data brokers such as ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis Group have been attractive targets for identity thieves because they are giant buyers and sellers of personal data on millions of people.

But as federal and state lawmakers try to keep sensitive information from falling into criminal hands, they face a difficult dilemma: The information typically originates from records gathered and stored by public agencies, available for anyone to see in courthouses and government buildings around the country. What's more, local governments have in recent years rushed to put these records online. A wealth of documents -- including marriage and divorce records, property deeds, and military discharge papers -- containing Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information is accessible from any computer anywhere. Many of the online records are images of original documents, which also display people's signatures.

I applaud the local governments making public data available online, but they should non show things like Social Security numbers or signatures. This even points out how bad it is that Social Security numbers are used for identification, yet the social security card is so easy to forge. We need to have ID cards that are impossible to forge, and which use several forms of biometric data, and those numbers could be used for identification numbers.
Ostergren began organizing citizens and complaining to officials on the issue in 2002, when a title examiner called to warn her that her county was about to put a slew of documents online, including pages with her signature. A longtime activist in local politics, Ostergren swung into action, bringing enough pressure on Hanover County officials that they halted their plans. Then she broadened her attack, targeting other counties in Virginia and elsewhere. Today, she is eager to guide reporters to her favorite example: the Social Security number of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), which is viewable via the Internet on a tax lien filed against him in 1980. "Don't you think if I can get Tom DeLay's Social Security number . . . that some guy in an Internet cafe in Pakistan can, too?" she asks, her voice rising with indignation. "It's just ridiculous what we're doing in this country."
She makes a very valid point
The drumbeat of identity-theft revelations is the stuff of nightmares for cash-strapped county recorders, court clerks and other custodians of public records, even without people like Ostergren hounding them. They could start masking out sensitive data tomorrow for new documents they receive, but billions of records already are online. "It's a national issue and it's hitting everybody," said Kathi L. Guay, the register of deeds in Merrimack County, N.H., who participates on a joint task force of public agencies and companies addressing the issue. In addition to providing citizens with information on how their government operates, many public records are essential for commerce.

Knowing who has legal title to property, for example, is necessary for real estate transactions. The presence of a tax lien can also affect a person's ability to buy or sell property or other goods. In some circumstances, Social Security numbers can help distinguish between people with common names. But for decades, Social Security numbers, mothers' maiden names and other crucial forms of personal identity were routinely included in dozens of documents, regardless of whether they were essential and with little thought to the consequences. That, in turn, enabled companies such as ChoicePoint to send workers to courthouses across the country to scoop up the data for their databanks. The information is collated, or analyzed, and sold to other companies and back to government agencies. Many counties package their data to make it easier for database companies to collect it.
And easy for identity th
"Public records laws were designed to shed the light on government activities, not our personal information," said Kerry Smith, an attorney with Public Interest Research Groups, a coalition of state consumer advocacy organizations. States are "clearly not striking the right balance when they release our Social Security numbers -- the key to our financial identity -- to commercial data brokers and anyone with access to the Internet." Some states have passed or are considering laws restricting the release of certain kinds of data. Florida, for instance, gives consumers the right to have Social Security numbers and other data blacked out from view online. But few local governments have the resources to go into all existing online records to remove sensitive data. "Usually when you are talking about these issues, no one is talking about it retroactively," said Chris Jay Hoofnagle, West Coast director of the Electronic Information Privacy Center, an advocacy group. "They are talking as if it can't be addressed. Which is too bad."

One exception is Orange County, Fla., which recently awarded a $500,000 contract to a private company that will comb through its 26 million pages of online records, masking Social Security numbers and other confidential information. "The mortgage lenders and title searchers are very concerned that we are hiding things," said Carol Foglesong, the assistant county comptroller. "But my answer is, 'I sure don't want to take the whole document away.' " The Florida Legislature has ordered the masking of data to be completed throughout the state by the beginning of 2006, but so far only eight counties have signed contracts for the work, said Foglesong, who expects an extension. Foglesong and others are pinning their hopes on technology.

Companies that mine data often boast that they can use software to collect individual pieces of data from images of documents that are posted online. Similar technology can be used to mask certain data. But many in the industry are pessimistic that nationally, sufficient resources will be available. "It's probably going to be a county-by-county undertaking, as record custodians are able to convince local administrators that this is worthy of taxpayer dollars," said Mark Ladd, a former register of deeds in Wisconsin who works on privacy issues for the Property Records Industry Association. Ostergren sees the solution in more simple terms: Keep public records public, but don't put them online. "If you want to go snooping in my records, you drive to the courthouse," Ostergren said. Most identity thieves, she reasons, will neither take the time nor want to be seen. In the meantime, she pursues her guerrilla campaign. Her formula is simple: Target a county, locate personal data on hundreds of residents, send them letters telling them how much of their personal information is or might be exposed online, and urge them to pressure their local officials. "I thought it was the most ludicrous thing I had ever heard of," said Mary Guest, recalling her reaction when she got a letter from Ostergren while living in Front Royal a couple of years ago. When she found out it was true, Guest -- whose husband had been in the Virginia House of Delegates before he died -- began pressing Warren County officials not to post records online, which they so far have not done. When Ostergren finds a well-known figure, she decides whether exposing his or her number on her Virginia Watchdog Web site might further her cause.

Which is how she came to link to Jeb Bush's Social Security number. She notified him through someone she knew in the administration of President Bush. Soon after, she noticed that the governor's number was blacked out on the county Web site in Florida where it was listed. So she posted it on her site. "I decided since he protected his own hind end and nobody else's, I'd put his on there," she said.

James Joyner blogged A Richmond, Virginia woman is posting the Social Security Number and other sensitive information on some major public officials on her website, in order to spur action on the issue of identity theft. I applaud Ostergren's enthusiasm on this issue--my girlfriend's identity has been stolen twice and there seems little interest in doing much about it on the part of creditors--but agree with Cori Dauber that this methodology is extreme. What's more, it's rather silly. What exactly are Goss and Powell supposed to do about identity theft? Powell is no longer in public office and Goss is out of the legislature.

Cori Dauber blogged Clearly we have a problem with personal data being far too available to bad actors. It's wonderful to hear that individual activists are making a point of pushing the issue to the forefront of debate (although I don't know what to make of the proposals being discussed in the article, since alternatives are not cross-compared.) But is it really necessary to get attention by posting the personal information of prominent political leaders? And did the Post help matters by making it so easy to find this woman's site?
That is true. I found it easily with Google using her name.
(By the way, the blurb on the Post's home page refers to "activists." But I only see mention of one woman who's actually engaged in this behavior.)

Vox Day blogged I'm all for this. If they're going to cram it down the throats of the American people, the American people should make sure that they get to experience the full consequences of their evil, idiotic actions.


Left Wing Media Desperate

The Left Wing Media is desperate to try to turn the compromise that temporarilly delayed the Constitutional Option into something that would force GWB into proposing only moderates as judges.

LA Times reported
Senate Truce Faces Test of Bush's Next Nominations
A polarizing choice, especially for Supreme Court, could unravel the deal, both sides say. - The fate of Monday's agreement defusing the Capitol Hill confrontation over judicial nominations may now rest as much in the hands of President Bush as in those of the senators who crafted it. The dramatic deal by a bipartisan group of 14 senators produced immediate results Tuesday. The chamber voted to end a Democratic filibuster of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen. Her long-stalled nomination to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to be confirmed today.

The agreement showed that Priscilla Owen and the other two were not extreme candidates, like the Dems were saying, so it sounds like they would be ideal candidates should openings appear in the Supreme Court.
Some who forged the deal expressed hope that the agreement would create momentum for compromise on other knotty issues, such as Social Security and immigration. "Watch this group when it comes to major problems that the nation faces, like Social Security," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. "I think we have created momentum for the idea that if you constructively engage each other, the political reward is high." The group brokered a compromise in which seven Republicans agreed to oppose a Senate rule change to end the judicial filibuster and seven Democrats agreed to use the tactic against future nominees only in "extraordinary circumstances." But the agreement could prove short-lived if future judicial appointments provoke partisan conflicts similar to those that erupted over the current nominees.

TalkLeft blogger Jeralyn Merritt: blogged Republicans Think They Can Now Compromise Social Security. One day after the awful compromise on filibusters, Republicans already think they can use the same strategy to force a compromise on social security. Lindsay Graham says: "Some who forged the deal expressed hope that the agreement would create momentum for compromise on other knotty issues, such as Social Security and immigration. "Watch this group when it comes to major problems that the nation faces, like Social Security," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "I think we have created momentum for the idea that if you constructively engage each other, the political reward is high."
If Lindsey means that the 7 Dems will now support a Social Security compromise that includes personal accounts, then that would be wonderful, but if he thinks he is going to get the President to roll over on people the age of his daughters and give up the idea of personal accounts, which is the only way they will ever see Social Security, then he needs to rethink
WaPo reported An Unwelcome Compromise - Yesterday's last-minute bipartisan compromise averting a historic clash on judicial nominations was just that: A compromise. But this White House isn't keen on compromises. It hasn't had to compromise much so far.
Actually Bush made the mistake of compromising with the Dems on No Child Left Behind and Medicare Drug Benefits. I am not surprised it is leary of compromising.
And it doesn't want to compromise now. Compromise means the Senate is not following the White House script. And where that leads is anyone's guess.

Dan Balz writes in a Washington Post news analysis: "The deal brings mixed results for President Bush. It means that at least three of the nominees who have been blocked for years will make it to the appellate courts, while at least two will not.
It does not say that. It just guarantees votes on three.
Beyond that, without a total ban on judicial filibusters, as the nuclear option would have guaranteed, the president will not have such a free hand in selecting a Supreme Court nominee. He also will be under pressure from the moderates to work more cooperatively with the Senate on judicial nominations or face rebellion from at least some of them."

Janet Hook and Ronald Brownstein write in the Los Angeles Times that the agreement "is an unusual challenge to Bush and GOP leaders who until now have commanded remarkable party discipline on a wide range of issues. It throws a rare obstacle in the Republicans' steady march toward the overarching goal of the Bush presidency: to parlay the party's slim majority in the country into major changes in policy and in government institutions for years to come."
Or at least that is what they hope it means.
Peter S. Canellos writes in the Boston Globe: "Emerging from their weeks of negotiations like a long-sequestered jury, Senate moderates delivered a stunning verdict to the White House and Congress: Politicians have spent too much time rallying their bases of support and not enough time coming together in the national interest."
And by coming together they mean giving into pressure from the minority and letting it have what it wants.
Richard W. Stevenson writes in the New York Times: "President Bush won enough from the bipartisan compromise on judicial nominees on Monday night to claim a limited victory, but he now faces a series of additional tests of his political authority, with the stakes extending to the fate of his second-term agenda

David S. Broder writes in WaPo reported The Senate's Real Leader - The Monday night agreement to avert a showdown vote over judicial filibusters not only spared the Senate from a potentially ruinous clash, but also certified John McCain as the real leader of that body.
That is the biggest joke I ever heard. McCain totally shot his chance of ever becoming President.
In contrast to Majority Leader Bill Frist, who was unable to negotiate a compromise with Minority Leader Harry Reid or hold his Republicans in line to clear the way for all of President Bush's nominees to be confirmed, McCain looks like the man who achieved his objectives. If -- as many expect -- McCain and Frist find themselves rivals for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, the gap in their performance will be remembered.
Frist never had a big chance, but McCain certainly threw any chance he had away.
To be sure, McCain was only one of 14 senators -- seven from each party -- who forged an agreement to clear three of the roadblocked circuit court nominees at once, shelve two others, and reserve the option of future filibusters only for "exceptional circumstances." And the deal forged in McCain's office probably would not have been possible without the support of such Senate elders as Republican John Warner and Democrat Robert Byrd.

Brendan Nyhan blogged More McCain fetish nonsense from David Broder, dean of the "can't we all get along" wing of the press. Also, it's absurd to call McCain the "real leader" of the Senate. He's a backbencher who helped broker a paper agreement that has yet to be tested.

NYT reported Justice Choice Could Rekindle Filibuster Fight in the Senate - For all the euphoria Monday night that the political center had held, the Senate compromise in the judicial filibuster fight did not noticeably de-escalate the ultimate battle now looming: that over a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court. In fact, a new debate erupted almost immediately over the meaning of the agreement reached by seven Democrats and seven Republicans, which sought to preserve the right to judicial filibusters but restrict their use to "extraordinary circumstances." Republicans and their allies said the agreement made it much harder for Democrats to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee - particularly on the basis of the candidate's judicial philosophy. After all, they argued, the accord explicitly cleared three appellate court nominees - all established conservatives - for floor votes. Democrats disagreed. "There's nothing in anything that was done last night that prevents us from filibustering somebody that's extreme, whether it's on the district court, on a circuit court or the Supreme Court," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader. Leading Democrats and their allies were highlighting another part of the agreement: what they asserted was a clear signal to President Bush that he needed to engage in "true consultation and cooperation" with both parties before naming future court nominees, particularly to the Supreme Court. "This agreement is a shot across the bow toward the president," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "Don't pick someone too extreme or you'll run into trouble."
Pick Owen or Brown. The agreement just proved they were not extreme.
Administration officials and their allies pushed back, saying the agreement would have no effect on their powers to pick a nominee. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said the administration would consult as it always had, signaling that it did not intend to change in any substantive way its method of selecting, vetting and nominating candidates for the federal bench, including the Supreme Court.