Not One Dime For Porkers: A Convergence

porkbusterssm.jpgI have been watching the Porkbusters campaign championed by Instapundit, NZ Bear, Michelle Malkin, and others with a wistful sense of admiration and regret. Normally I would love to dive into the federal budget and find the pork, but due to work obligations, family issues, and other investigations I’m pursuing at the moment on the blog, I simply don’t have the time. Those who have worked hard to make this effort have done a tremendous job in identifying billions of dollars in federal spending on foolishness and waste.
My good friend Mark Tapscott of the Heritage Foundation called me today and asked me why I had not yet blogged about Porkbusters. I told him that without having much to contribute that I didn’t want to distract from the effort made by other bloggers. He suggested that I could assist the program by expanding the Not One Dime More effort to Porkbusters … which I think is an excellent idea.
Not One Dime More targeted the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the failure of GOP leadership to get George Bush’s judicial nominees confirmed or even in process. Now we want to target both parties’ Congressional election commitees, the NRCC and the DCCC, by withholding funds while the parties act to protect their pork. For those representatives who refuse to pare the pork, we need to cut off their political oxygen until they turn blue and their campaign chests grow cold. Tell your Congressperson that while they protect the pork we discover, while they continue to vote for budgets with these useless and wasteful projects when the funding could defray the hurricane relief efforts, we will send Not One Dime to their efforts to re-elect their incumbents.
Voting for outdoor art museums as part of a transportation bill? Not One Dime More for Porkers.
Supporting baseball lessons from a foundation set up by a wealthy former baseball player? Cal Ripken might be a great guy, but the government needs its $3 million for higher purposes. Not One Dime More for Porkers.
Unwilling to rethink priorities and excusing it by demanding that federal money get spent on the ‘burbs as well as the big cities? Not One Dime More for Porkers.
If I can clear some research time, I promise to find more myself. In the meantime, I’ll help out by linking back to races we can target for withholding campaign funds until the pols get the message. We mean to end the pork wagon now.

Movie Review: Serenity

The distribution partners for the new film Serenity, the sequel to the short-lived television series Firefly, have decided to embrace the blogosphere in order to promote its movie. They asked bloggers to set up pre-release screenings across America (or to attend previously scheduled screenings) for free as long as the bloggers agreed to write about the film on their blogs. They did not demand or even suggest that the blog reviews be positive or encouraging, just to write something.
One might assume that Universal might have taken this approach for one of two reasons. The first motive that occurred to me was that the studio did not have confidence that Serenity would score with traditional critics and wanted to bypass them, which would indicate a poor effort. The other option was that the studio didn’t have confidence that a sci-fi film based on a failed TV series qould find an audience in the fall season, and they wanted to get some buzz going so that a good film would not fall off the radar screen for moviegoers.
I’m happy to report that, based on the film itself, Universal must have had the second motive in mind. I never saw more than five minutes of Firefly, so I have no idea how this fits in with the series. I can tell you that this may be one of the better sci-fi films I’ve seen in the theaters in a long time. It has some flaws, but they remain minor and do not interfere with a movie that does not take itself too seriously but also does not kneecap itself by insulting its audience with dumb gag lines, either.
It takes a while to understand all the plot elements — perhaps because I was unfamiliar with the series — but the story coalesces around the sister, River, of the doctor, Simon, who rescues her froma secret facility that has programmed her for some heavy-duty purpose. A government operative (played with monstrous humanity by Chiwetel Ejiofor) sets out to get her back, which puts him on the trail of the ship Serenity. Mal decides that he must protect her, a decision that he will come to regret, but one that may also unlock a way to finally prevail against his enemies.
I won’t tell you more than that; for the purposes of this review, it isn’t necessary to give anything away. Very little of what follows is illogical or unbelievable, but most of it will surprise viewers. The film unpredictably navigates an incredibly complex universe, almost never allows viewers to rely on a pure good/pure evil paradigm, and puts its main characters on the line like no movie will risk in an age of focus-group testing and reliance on sequels.
Its characters do not rely on speeches and noble slogans (much), and most of them have their own sense of gallows humor that come from their own unique identity. The laughs the movie gets come honestly from realistic dialogue, from having the characters on the screen say what the audience is thinking, but avoids the “I like you, Solly, I kill you last” kind of goofiness.
In fact, the only major complaint I have with the film is its rating. The film has far too much horrific violence for a PG-13 rating. I thought it must have been an R, and only after the film ended did I discover its MPAA rating. Some of the futurespeak got on my nerves as well, but that gets less troublesome as the movie goes along.
My recommendation: Sci-fi fans will love this film. It reminds me of the best of the classics, where the purpose of all the hardware and the costumes is to remind us of our humanity and how easily it can be lost. It’s good enough that many who do not normally enjoy sci-fi might find this one an exception to the rule. Don’t bring the kids, though.
Back to the marketing. Power Line arranged this showing, and over 150 people came out to see it. Between then and now, John has heard from other studios that would like to have blogger pre-release screenings for their films as well. It makes a lot of sense; for a low cost, a movie that may not have a built-in audience could get some Internet momentum going for its launch. That might not mean much for an expected blockbuster, but we may see this model used more and more for the midlevel releases or those films that might develop a cult following.
Bloggers who love films may have hit upon a way to combine their passions. I say, as long as we get no pressure to praise a movie, pass the popcorn and bring on the feature film!
UPDATE: John at Power Line says that he has offers to do more of these pre-release screenings. Great! I hope I can make it to all of them. He also gives his review, although he has a number of caveats that might tend to undermine his credibility just a tad on sci-fi action films.
And yes, I did have to pay for the popcorn …

DeLay Indicted By Partisan DA

A Travis County, Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a single charge of conspiracy to violate state campaign-finance laws earlier today, a long-awaited result of a years-long investigation by Travis County DA Ronnie Earle. The indictment will force DeLay to step down from his leadership position until either a trial or a dismissal. Roy Blunt will take over most of his responsibilities temporarily, with some falling to David Dreier and Eric Cantor:

The indictment accuses DeLay of criminally conspiring to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections that helped the Republican Party reorder the congressional map in Texas and cement its control of the House of Representatives in Washington.
The four-page indictment alleged for the first time that DeLay himself participated in a conspiracy with others to funnel corporate money into the 2002 state election “with the intent that a felony be committed.”
In the indictment, DeLay is accused of conspiring with two associates: John D. Colyandro, the former executive director of a political action committee in Texas that was formed by DeLay, and James W. Ellis, the head of DeLay’s national political committee. Colyandro and Ellis had previously been charged in an indictment that did not name DeLay.
DeLay helped organize the Texas election fundraising effort at the core of today’s indictment, Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, known as TRMPAC. The committee itself was indicted on Sept. 8 for accepting illegal corporate funds. Eight corporations and an industry lobbying group have also been indicted during the 34-month probe.
The indictment charges that DeLay entered “into an agreement” with Colyandro and Ellis to circumvent the state’s ban on corporate contributions by arranging for the donations to be sent first to an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington, and then back to Republican candidates in Texas named on a written list prepared in Texas.
The conspiracy charge against DeLay carries a potential penalty of six months to two years in state prison and a fine of up to $100,000. DeLay, unlike the two others named in the indictment Wednesday, was not charged with money-laundering, an offense that can bring a 10-year prison term.

Ronnie Earle has tried to derail DeLay for years, and he has conducted himself in a most partisan fashion in doing it. Rather than investigate these charges in a clearheaded, direct, and nonpartisan manner, Earle has made no bones about his personal and political vendetta. He has openly used this investigation as a Democratic Party fundraising device, charging up Democratic rallies such as one last May that raised over $100,000, featuring Earle on the stump talking about the case and DeLay. According to the American Bar Association Canon of Ethics, Earle has violated DR7-107(A) as well as (B)(1). He also has clearly violated EC8-8, which states that lawyers who serve as public officers “should not engage in activities in which his personal or professional interests are or foreseeably may be in conflict with his official duties.”
That has nothing to do with any question of whether DeLay violated the law, of course, but it has plenty to do with whether Earle presented a balanced and honest case to the Travis County grand jury. I suspect that his political ambitions come before his desire to see that justice is done in Travis County, and just like his ill-starred indictment against the diminutive Kay Bailey Hutchinson for battery, it will probably get a quick dismissal from the first judge to review it. Besides, as the American Spectator points out, the activity that garnered Earle’s attention hardly qualifies as unique:

At stake in 2002 was control of the Texas legislature, which was to redraw congressional district lines. Corporate contributions to legislative candidates are illegal in Texas. The DeLay aides stand accused of violating that prohibition, along with eight companies like Sears Roebuck that provided the funds. The corporate money, however, never went to the candidates. Instead, it went to a much larger fund for state elections controlled by the Republican National Committee in Washington. That committee made contributions to Texas legislative candidates, constituting what Earle now charges is “money laundering.”
The only problem is that similar transactions are conducted by both parties in many states, including Texas. In fact, on October 31, 2002, the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000. On July 19, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000 and, again on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000. On June 8, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000. That very same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000.
EARLE’S LAST FORAY INTO politicized prosecution in 1993 turned into a huge embarrassment when he went after Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who was then Texas Treasurer. Earle made a series of trumped-up charges, including that the demure Hutchison had physically assaulted an employee. Earle dropped the case during the trial.

Michelle Malkin has plenty of links at her site, but make sure to read the e-mail she received from former DoJ official Barbara Comstock, especially this:

Neither the RNC nor RNSEC constitute a political party under Texas election law. They are considered PACs, just as the DNC is.
Corporations in Texas could have legally made contributions to the RNC or RNSEC during the period in question under Texas election law.
There was no violation of the Texas Election Code. There was no conspiracy. The underlying transaction was legal. Had corporations sent money directly to the RNC or RNSEC, the transaction would be legal. How could anyone conspire to do indirectly what could legally have been done directly?

If DeLay broke the law and conspired to break the law, then he should face trial and a jury, just like anyone else. However, anyone else facing this Javert-like partisan would immediately get a judge’s attention and a skeptical review of the underlying charges. Regardless of the profession of a defendant, District Attorneys represent all of the People — including the defendants — and are supposed to ensure fairness of process, not just cheerlead for indictments. Those who fail to live up to that standard expose themselves as political hacks, and political hacks might start off getting headlines but they usually wind up receiving blistering remonstrations from judges who suffer such wastes of time poorly.
Don’t be surprised to find this indictment quashed within a few weeks.
UPDATE: The Commissar has a broad collection of links from across the blogospheric spectrum, well worth checking out.

It Takes A Thief …

In my Weekly Standard column today, I note the lack of media interest in the scandal that Hugh Hewitt dubbed “Chuckaquiddick”. Senator Chuck Schumer runs the DSCC, which we found out last week had fraudulently obtained the credit report of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele — and had kept it quiet for over two months. I write that what this scandal needs is Congressional hearings, chaired by an expert on data privacy:

Where would we find experts on data privacy in Congress to hold this hearing? For starters, we would need senators and congressmen like–well, like Chuck Schumer. Schumer, after all, co-authored and sponsored the Schumer-Nelson ID Theft Prevention Bill, introduced in April of this year to discourage the kind of actions that Barge and Weiner took on Schumer’s behalf. At the time, Schumer himself said the following, a prescient warning about how someone’s personal information could be abused:
[O]ur comprehensive measure focuses on making sure that your personal information isn’t surfing the Internet without your permission and that companies handling your Social Security number and other sensitive information should come under the watchful eye of the Federal Trade Commission immediately.
Who knew that within weeks of uttering this statement, his staff at the DSCC would have provided such a compelling example of the problem? Once again, Senator Chuck Schumer was ahead of the curve.

Inspired by a tip from CQ reader Donald Morrissey (no relation), I use questions that Schumer posed to Choicepoint VP Don McGuffey during his appearance at the Senate Banking Committee to imagine a Schumer vs Schumer showdown in Congress. In fact, I see that Mark Kennedy anticipated one of my questions by demanding to know whether the DSCC has acquired his credit report as well (via Fraters Libertas).
UPDATE, IN THE GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE CATEGORY: Michelle Malkin’s latest column addresses the DSCC scandal as well:

Law enforcement officials are taking this criminal intrusion into private records deadly seriously. But left-wing partisans are nowhere to be found. Steele’s staff tells me that longtime crusader against identity theft Sen. Schumer, who denies having any knowledge of the scheme, has still issued no apology for the abuse of Steele’s personal data. And there has been no outcry from the ACLU, the champions of clean campaigns, or any major national newspaper editorial board.
(Protecting privacy only seems to matter to liberals when it comes to 14-year-old girls seeking abortions behind their parents’ backs, illegal aliens seeking sanctuary from the police, and registered sex offenders objecting to community registration requirements.)

Michelle gets to the heart of an issue like no one else. Be sure to read the whole thing.

A Battle Only Postponed

ersailWhen fourteen Senators gathered to congratulate themselves on hijacking the leadership of the upper chamber on judicial confirmations last spring, they proclaimed that they had, in Robert Byrd’s words, “saved the Republic” by avoiding a rule change on filibusters — a parliamentary manuever for which Byrd himself changed rules on four separate occasions. Despite the opportunity to get the matter resolved by the full Senate while working on lower-level judicial appointments, the Gang of 14 instead imposed the Memorandum of Understanding on both sides, with the seven GOP Senators essentially ceding some legitimacy to filibustering judicial nominees on ideological bases.
That will now come back to haunt them, as the Democrats get ready to crank up another filibuster regardless, it seems, of who the President nominates to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. As I predicted, the vaunted MoU turned out to be nothing more than a Versailles Treaty, a simple postponement of war rather than any kind of resolution:

The roster of those threatening a filibuster includes liberal and moderate Democrats, supporters and opponents of John G. Roberts Jr., Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and at least one of the seven Democratic senators who were part of the bipartisan “Gang of 14.”
Democrats have splintered almost evenly over Roberts’s nomination as chief justice, leading to frustration among party activists who think their elected leaders did not put up a serious fight against him. Pollsters have told party leaders that a show of opposition against Bush’s next nominee could be crucial to restoring enthusiasm among the rank and file on the left.
In an interview, Dean said Democratic unity is essential in the upcoming battle and that the party “absolutely” should be prepared to filibuster — holding unlimited debate and preventing an up-or-down vote — Bush’s next high court nominee, if he taps someone they find unacceptably ideological. …
The possibility of a filibuster comes only a few months after an agreement that supposedly eliminated such threats. The Gang of 14 agreement barred filibusters against judicial nominees except under “extraordinary circumstances.” The compromise also blocked Republican threats to change Senate rules to bar the use of filibusters to block judicial nominations, a step considered so drastic it became known as the “nuclear option.”
Owen and Brown were cleared for confirmation to the appellate courts as part of that agreement, and Republicans said then that Democratic acquiescence in their confirmation meant the opposition party could not use ideology to bar future Bush nominees. But Democrats rejected that interpretation and said this week that Owen, Brown and several others believed to be under consideration by the president face a likely filibuster if nominated to the high court.

The Democrats obviously didn’t learn any lessons from the Roberts confirmation battle, a debacle that they imposed upon themselves. Despite the warnings from some of their leadership to keep their heads, the Democrats instead went on the attack against Roberts only to find themselves outclassed and outgunned by the brilliance of the nominee. They got away with filibustering Roberts the first time around due to the media’s lack of interest in appellate court nominations, but that will not hold true of Supreme Court confirmations — and they found that out, painfully, with Roberts.
Almost anyone Bush nominates will probably face a filibuster at this point. The money on the Left now demands it, and Dean’s signal shows that some Democrats feel they cannot win an election without obstructionism, the last two electoral cycles notwithstanding. The GOP needs to give them what they want and let the Kennedy-Schumer-Biden triumvirate of ineptitude loose once again on prime-time TV. The President needs to nominate someone with the same kind of skill at drawing out the innate foolishness of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee as Roberts — which is why I hope he will nominate Janice Rogers Brown, a brilliant legal scholar possessing a keen judicial temperament.
Now the Seven Republican Dwarves of the Gang of 14 will see the folly in compromising with the Democrats. They now have to make up their minds about whether to support Bush’s nominees to the Supreme Court or to protect a filibuster that has been abused by the Democrats to overturn the results of two elections in terms of controlling judicial nominees. They could have resolved this four months ago, with the stakes less than today and with a lower level of media attention. Now they find themselves only a year away from an important election cycle, where the voters will surely remember whether they supported a Supreme Court pick rather than an obscure appellate nomination.
The time for the Byrd option has arrived. This time, let’s get it done quickly and firmly, so that we can minimize the risk of wavering. I put off the Not One Dime campaign to give the MoU a chance to succeed, but this shows that the issue of the Constitutional prerogative for the presidential power to nominate jurists has never been resolved. We’ll be watching those seven GOP Senators and the GOP leadership before we give a single dime to the NRSC.

DNC Supports Race Baiting, Paper Of Record Misses It Entirely (Update)

When Charlie Rangel called George Bush “our Bull Connor”, I didn’t pay much attention to the comment. Rangel, after all, often issues ridiculous and deplorable statements, and the notion that anyone can compare the firehose-directing, dog-siccing racist of Birmingham with the President who has put African-Americans into such jobs as Secretary of State — twice — shows more than just a little disconnect from reality. It demonstrates a full-blown schizophrenia and paranoia that Rangel all too often vents in his scratchy voice.
A paranoid Rangel doesn’t amount to news. Having the DNC back him up, as the New York Sun reports, is another matter entirely (subscription may be required):

The Democratic National Committee yesterday refused to distance itself from Rep. Charles Rangel’s comparison of President Bush to an infamous Southern segregationist, Theophilus “Bull” Connor, remarks the Republican National Committee identified as “hate speech” and urged the DNC to repudiate. …
The DNC chairman, Howard Dean, appeared yesterday at a campaign stop on the Upper West Side with the Democrats’ mayoral nominee, Fernando Ferrer, who has supported Mr. Rangel’s remarks.
Asked at the campaign appearance by The New York Sun to respond to Mr. Rangel’s statement and the RNC’s requests, Dr. Dean said: “I think the chairman of the RNC ought to be embarrassed for what his party has done to America the last five years. … It ought to be Mehlman that’s apologizing to the people of New York City.” Dr. Dean made no reference to Mr. Rangel’s statements.

George Bush’s low approval ratings should give the Democrats the perfect opening to reclaim their status as a majority party. However, they have found themselves mired in a deeper funk than the GOP despite Bush’s recent woes. This shows why; the people cannot put any trust into the knee-jerk hysteria that has gripped the Democratic Party. Fringe pols like Rangel used to play a useful role in keeping the International ANSWER/MoveOn conspiratorial weenies in harness while the party establishment would scold such behavior and present a more responsible image.
Now, however, the people in charge of the party have bought into the personal attacks, the conspiracy theories, and the outright insanity that the hothouses of the radical Left produce. Only an idiot could defend the notion that George Bush equals Bull Connor in any sense, only a nut would risk his own political reputation to try it, and only Howard Dean would be dumb enough to take the entire DNC with him.
Even more egregiously, the DNC claims it speaks for African-Americans as a group in supporting Rangel’s contentions. I suspect that African-Americans who remember what people like Connor actually did to them and their families understand the difference between George Bush and Bull Connor. They may not agree with the President’s policies, but they don’t see Bush directing firehoses and siccing dogs on them when they congregate for demonstrations. They won’t recall seeing black men and women as key aides to Bull Connor’s regime in 1963, either. In other words, most African-Americans will see this statement and its support by Howard Dean for what it is: a baseless personal attack that not only makes the Democrats look like kooks, but demeans and diminishes the real terror that Bull Connor and people like him caused during the struggle for civil rights.
Do you suppose the DNC has tired of Howard Dean yet, or will it take a debacle in 2006 for them to ask him to MoveOn?
UPDATE: I noticed that the NY Times had a piece mentioning race as a factor in the Ferrer-Bloomberg contest for mayor. The Gray Lady gives a long analysis of the so-called “coded language” of comparing Ferrer’s policies to those of David Dinkins, the last liberal New York mayor — but mentions nothing about Ferrer’s support of Rangel’s “Bull Connor” comments:

A supporter of Fernando Ferrer accused one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s allies of using “coded, fear-mongering language” by linking Mr. Ferrer to former Mayor David N. Dinkins, raising a racial element in the mayoral race as the two candidates battle for the support of black voters.
Responding to a comment in The New York Times on Tuesday by a Staten Island congressman, Vito Fossella, that a Ferrer victory would mean going “right back to the antagonistic years under David Dinkins,” Representatives Jerrold L. Nadler of Manhattan and Gregory W. Meeks of Queens released statements accusing him of using Mr. Dinkins, the city’s only black mayor, to pit voters against one another.
“The Bloomberg campaign and Representative Fossella ought to know better than to inject this kind of coded, fear-mongering language into what ought to be a thoughtful debate about our city’s future,” Mr. Meeks said.
“For the Republicans to fall back on tired, divisive scare-mongering the way Representative Fossella did is to show that they will do anything, including sowing seeds of divisiveness, in order to retain control of City Hall.”

So comparing the policies of Ferrer to Dinkins somehow equates to “divisiveness”, while comparing the actions and personal motives of George Bush to Bull Connor equates to reality? The Democrats have lost their minds, and the New York Times keeps proving they never had theirs to lose at all.
UPDATE II: Michael Barone of US News and World Report e-mails:

There’s one additional point that you might want to make
in connection with the Democratic National Committee’s comparison of George W. Bush with Bull Connor.
That is this: at the time of the police dogs and firehose incidents, CONNOR WAS A MEMBER OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE. He was the single Democratic National Committeeman from Alabama.
Some Democrats like to pretend that all Democrats were for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all Republicans were against it. Just the opposite of the truth. Support for the Act was bipartisan, with Republicans like Senator Jacob Javits and Congressman William McCulloch taking the lead along with Democrats like Senator
Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Emanuel Celler. Most of the votes against were cast by Democrats. A larger percentage of Republican members than of Democratic members voted for the Civil Rights Act.

When Johnny Met Cindy

Ever in search of ways to endear himself to the national media, John McCain met with so-called “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan, who returned the favor by calling McCain a “warmonger”:

Peace mom Cindy Sheehan didn’t change her opposition to the war in Iraq after meeting Tuesday with one of its supporters, Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran whom she called “a warmonger.” …
“He is a warmonger, and I’m not,” Sheehan said after meeting with McCain. “I believe this war is not keeping America safer.”…
Sheehan and McCain had met once before, shortly after the funeral of her son. Sheehan said Tuesday that McCain told her then that her son’s death was “like his buddies in Vietnam” and that he feared their deaths were “for nothing.” McCain, however, denied he made such a statement.

McCain later told reporters that he had been misled into believing that her delegation included some of his Arizona constituents. Otherwise, McCain claims he wouldn’t have met with her at all.
Does anyone believe that? McCain’s entire career shows him as a rank opportunist, and with his recent moves to establish himself for a run at the 2008 Presidential nomination, he figured he could score a twofer: he could embarrass George Bush and make himself a media darling by getting some friendly face time with Sheehan. Instead, she winds up, predictably, talking about him in shrill tones while he mumbles some excuse about thinking that he would meet an Arizona representative among her staff. In the end, he proved Bush’s wisdom in declining a second meeting with the poster woman for the radical Left.
If CQ readers want to see how badly this worked out for John McCain, by the way, read through the print editions of the Washington Post and New York Times. Neither one of them carried a word about this meeting, despite the meeting taking place well before deadline. This AP report appears on the web editions of both newspapers as a wire-service story, which means that McCain’s office waited a long time before talking about this meeting to reporters. How … convenient.

The New, Improved Ruffini Straw Poll!

Patrick Ruffini has a new straw poll for blog readers to cast their votes for their Presidential preferences in the 2008 race. We had a lot of fun tracking the results from Patrick’s last poll, which could display results by referring blog. CQ readers surprised me by selecting Rudy Giuliani in August, 40%-25% over George Allen, at the time my undisclosed choice in the poll. Patrick now has a way to use Technorati tags to give even further breakdowns in the results.
None of this is scientific, of course, but it’s a lot of fun. Give it a whirl, using the above link, and we’ll see where CQ readers fall this time.

Roberts — In With A Whimper

The massive effort to derail the John Roberts nomination will end, in the words of TS Eliot, not with a bang but a whimper on Thursday. The New York Times reports that debate opened in the full Senate yesterday and that the Democrats did not attempt to fight cloture, allowing Bill Frist and the GOP to schedule the vote for 11:30 AM on the 29th, as predicted last week:

There were no surprises as the floor deliberations on Judge Roberts began, and Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that a vote should come no later than Thursday. Lawmakers restated their reasoning on the nomination and emphasized the import and unique opportunity of voting on the lifetime appointment of a chief justice. …
With Republicans solidly backing Judge Roberts and Democrats divided, he has easily surpassed the threshold for confirmation. And Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, on Monday eliminated the prospect that Democrats might seek to stall the vote through any procedural effort, saying they would be ready to vote by Thursday.

The Democrats may have finally discovered that the longer they fought against Roberts, the more ridiculous and partisan they appeared. Reid made a comment that the Judiciary Committee had done the “heavy lifting” on the confirmation, meaning that he didn’t see any need to prolong the debate or delay Roberts’ ascension to the Supreme Court. Roberts will probably only get about a third of the Democratic votes in the Senate — at best, he will only have 75 for his confirmation — but that more than guarantees that grandstanding stunts will flop rather spectacularly if attempted.
The Democrats will instead lick their wounds and attempt to show that they can be reasonable in an effort to influence the White House to select a moderate to replace Sandra Day O’Connor. Bush hinted strongly yesterday that he wanted a woman to take her seat on the bench, and he has several candidates from which to choose — but probably none of which will thrill Reid or his caucus one bit. Two of the most-mentioned names got their current bench assignments this summer thanks to a shabby compromise that temporarily transferred de facto power over nominations to a superminority of fourteen Senators, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, and a third (Edith Hollan Jones) promising just as much opposition over her long track record of conservative opinions.
The White House should not be fooled into thinking that the Democrats have any political capital left. They put on a circus for the nation to see in Roberts’ hearings before the Judiciary Committee and got outed for the inept, inarticulate boobery that most of them keep behind the scenes, and for good reason. While Pat Leahy may have recovered some respect for his tough but informed questioning, the rest of the Democrats got so badly outplayed by Roberts in both class and legal erudition that the nation could be excused from wondering how this collection of political hacks wound up on a Judiciary Commitee in the first place. None of them, save perhaps Leahy, showed any kind of depth as legal scholars, and at least two of them (Biden and Schumer) spent most of their time whining that they didn’t have enough time because Roberts kept answering their questions. One, Ted Kennedy, sounded so incoherent and disconnected from the proceedings — and appeared so ill — that viewers hoped the committee had an EMT team standing by in case Ted needed to return to the sanitarium.
This doesn’t add up to leverage or political capital; it adds up to a Siegfried Line circa 1945. All it takes is the will to punch through it, and it will completely collapse. Janice Rogers Brown will provide the legal scholarship, the poise, and the verbal deftness to swiftly dispatch the pretenders on the Judiciary Committee, and again the nation will see the injustice of the Democratic demagogues that kept her prior nomination bottled up for four years, just as they did with Roberts for almost two.

Spanish Verdicts Contradict 9/11 Commission But Disappoint Prosecutors

I wrote yesterday before the Spanish trial judges announced their decision on their only 9/11 trial that the verdict had the possibility of demonstrating the invalidity of the conclusions reached by the 9/11 Commission. The Spanish court did just that, convicting two of the three major figures before the court with belonging to the 9/11 conspiracy — but then confused the issue by letting them off the hook for the actual deaths that conspiracy caused. The Washington Post tried to make sense of the verdicts reached:

A Spanish court on Monday convicted and sentenced a Syrian-born man to 27 years in prison for conspiring with al Qaeda and the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, was one of 18 found guilty among 24 defendants on charges of cooperating with al Qaeda. …
Prosecutors presented evidence that Yarkas and Driss Chebli, a Moroccan, coordinated a key meeting in Spain with the lead Sept. 11 hijacker two months before the attacks.
Chebli received a six-year prison sentence on a charge of collaborating with a terrorist organization. Ghasoub Abrash Ghayoun, a Syrian who videotaped the World Trade Center and other key landmarks in the United States, was acquitted. He insisted he shot the footage as a tourist.
Tayssir Alouni, a journalist with the Arabic-language television network al-Jazeera, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Prosecutors used an interview that Alouni conducted in 2001 with Osama bin Laden as evidence that he had a link to al Qaeda.

If the overwhelming number of convictions belied the 9/11 Commission’s findings that Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh received no material assistance from anyone else in Spain during the odd interlude in Madrid two months before the attacks, the sentencing appeared strangely disconnected from the crimes they conspired to commit. Yarkas got twenty-seven years for conspiracy to commit terrorism, even though his conspiracy ultimately met success with the deaths of 3,000 people, the worst such attacks in history. The Spanish court ruled that although prosecutors had proven his role in the 9/11 planning, he had not taken material part in the attacks themselves. Thanks to this ruling, Yarkas will likely survive to walk out of prison a free man within the next decade.
Even more odd, the court only gave Chebli a six-year sentence for performing more or less the same role as Yarkas. The six-year sentence guarantees that Chebli will emerge from prison within a couple of years, free to coordinate more attacks on Western targets. Both men will make a number of new contacts in prison to allow al-Qaeda to hatch new plots and find new “holy warriors”. Why the twenty-one year disparity between the sentences? Why didn’t the Spanish court recognize that those who conspire to commit murderous acts that prove successful become accessories before the fact to each murder committed — and sentence them properly for it?
As Dafydd at Big Lizards notes, this puts the sanctimonious closing argument from the Spanish prosecutor in the light it deserves:

In clear reference to the United States, the lead prosecutor, Pedro Rubira, called in his closing arguments this summer for “an exemplary sentence which shows that neither wars nor detention camps are necessary in the fight against Islamic terrorism.”

Rubira didn’t get an exemplary sentence; he got instead a ridiculously light sentence for his efforts, proving that the idea of using civilian courts to answer acts of war provides only an illusion of security. He wound up proving the wisdom of the Bush administration’s policy, not deflating it. The Spanish took four years to settle the question of 24 detainees from the 9/11 attacks, and will likely take two more to do the same with the terrorists captured from the 2003 Madrid bombings. In the meantime, the Spaniards wait for the next terrorist attack so that they can arrest a few more people and take another four years to figure out what to do with them — and the ultimate result will be that since the detainees didn’t commit suicide, they cannot be held responsible for the murders.
Brilliant. They have the al-Qaeda martyrs right where they want them now! Dafydd wonders whether the Democrats will still want to argue for the law-enforcement approach in next year’s elections:

Yep, the Spaniards certainly showed us how to do things. I wonder if the Democrats in Washington D.C. will point with admiration in November 2006 to this less-than-spectacular result of the antiterrorism policies they advocate…?

They’ll abandon that strategy about the same time they quit demanding 9/11 Commission-type panels to investigate the response to Hurricane Katrina. Some people cannot admit failure even when it stands out so obviously, as it does in both cases.