Happy New Year

At the first real “career” job I had at Hughes Aircraft, I worked in the Tech Pubs department as an editor and writer. It paid well and it allowed me to learn a lot about the military, corporate America, and life in general — and taught me a few lessons about professional behavior, too. On one occasion just before New Years Eve, I decided to leave a little ditty on my white board that I had seen on a poster:

See Dick drink.
See Dick drive.
See Dick die.
Don’t be a Dick.

My boss, an old Senior Chief from the Navy (and a good but tough manager), did a double-take as he walked by my cubicle. He looked as though he wanted to say something to me, but then shook his head and walked off. When we came back from the holiday, someone had removed my Public Service Announcement from the office.
Now that I own the joint, I can put up whatever message I want on the white board, I suppose. Have a happy and joyous New Year celebration, but be safe, and don’t be a …. well, you get the idea.
UPDATE: And give thanks that these folks can celebrate the New Year, this year (via Bruce Kesler):

It was something not seen in Baghdad since before the 2003 invasion — people publicly welcoming a new year with singing, dancing and general revelry. The ballrooms of two landmark hotels — the Palestine and the Sheraton — were full of people for the first New Year’s Eve celebrations after four years of violence that has bloodied Iraq.
“This place is now more secure,” said Zahraa, 23, adorned with heavy black eyeliner and red lipstick, sitting with colleagues at the Palestine hotel, which was the target of huge car bombs in 2005. “Yes, we are still afraid, but we need to lighten our moods occasionally.”

Hillary, The Geraldo Of National Politics (Update: Hillary Fibbing?)

For those who remember when Geraldo Rivera did actual investigative journalism, his excellent work would often get marred by his shameless self-promotion. On more than one occasion, he would interject in his reports that his life was actually in danger while investigating mostly mundane controversies. Hillary Clinton seems to have discovered her inner Geraldo in claiming that she handled all of the dangerous diplomatic missions in the Clinton administration:

Ever since Barack Obama suggested Hillary Clinton’s eight years as first lady were a glorified tea party a few days back, she’s looked for an opening to strike back.
On Saturday night in Dubuque she pounced, arguing she risked her life on White House missions in the 1990s, including a hair-raising flight into Bosnia that ended in a “corkscrew” landing and a sprint off the tarmac to dodge snipers. …
It turns out that Clinton wasn’t quite flying solo into harm’s way that day.
She was, in fact, leading a goodwill entourage that included baggy-pants funnyman Sinbad, singer Sheryl Crow and Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, then 15, according to an account of the March 1995 trip in her autobiography “Living History.”

In this appearance, Hillary insists that the guidelines in the White House were that any mission that carried danger should go to her, apparently rather than her husband. If that’s true, it may say something about how Bill viewed her at the time, but this sounds more like another Clintonian affectation. If the mission carried that much danger, why would she have taken 15-year-old Chelsea along? Why would she have taken Sheryl Crow and Sinbad into a dangerous situation, where snipers would shoot down their airplane?
This absurdity demonstrates the larger absurdity of Hillary claiming her status as a First Lady as relevant experience for the presidency. No one knowingly sends spouses into harm’s way, and they certainly don’t send children into a shooting zone. The US usually doesn’t send Presidents there, either; that’s why we have a foreign service. Ambassadors and consular officials, trained to deal with these situations, usually get dispatched under heavy guard for diplomacy in regions such as these.
When a candidate reaches Geraldo levels of credibility, even the most impressive resume will eventually get discredited. Hillary keeps reminding us that she doesn’t have the experience for the job, and she doesn’t have the credibility to fool us into thinking she does. (via Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard)
UPDATE and BUMP: CapQ commenter Jonathan Sabin questions whether this happened at all (UPDATE II: Jonathan himself has more at this link):

I was part of Task Force Eagle in Bosnia during that time. I was part of then MG William Nash, 1st Armored Division, security detail. I take two issues with her statement. First and most blatantly checkable, was the year she states. She’s a year off. It was actually March 1996. We didn’t go into Bosnia until after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, which was in the Fall of 1995, (November, I think). I remember it because it ruined Christmas for just about the entire 2nd Brigade, 1st AD, in Baumholder Germany. Then President Clinton actually came to Baumholder right before Christmas to make a speech. It should be easily checkable.
Secondly, she landed at Eagle Base in Tuzla, Bosnia in a C-17. At that time, it was the most secure location in country, being an old Russian MIG base. The compound was very well fortified and snipers weren’t an issue for us. They never were during the entire mission, except maybe in Sarajevo. Our biggest issue was landmines, again, not an issue at Eagle Base as it had been very well cleared.
Shameless self promotion is just stupid when things like that are so easily verifiable.

It should be easily checked — and we have a couple of reports on trips taken to Bosnia by Hillary. One, from December 1997, shows her landing at Tuzla but with Bill and Chelsea along with Bob and Elizabeth Dole, not on her own at all. Tuzla gets criticized in the article as unrepresentative of the mission, with one serviceman calling it “Disneyland”:

Some soldiers said that in visiting Eagle Base, Mr. Clinton was not getting a true picture of life in the field, where troops must shut off their kerosene heaters on even the coldest nights for fear of starting a fire.
”This right here is Disneyland,” said Pfc. Jimmy Marcom, a 20-year-old from Dallas, as he cast a wistful eye around Club 21, with its clean concrete floor, its walls covered with camouflage netting and holiday greetings, and its wooden cutout of Santa and his sleigh. ”I would love to be in this base camp.”

The Times also has a short blurb on a trip that Hillary took to Tuzla in March 1996. Undoubtedly, this is the trip that Hillary referenced, and a subsequent report by the Times makes no mention of corkscrew approaches or potential sniper fire:

Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn’t hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage.
In her appearance at Tuzla Air Base, the First Lady told a couple of thousand of the 19,300 Americans serving in Bosnia that they were using military power to advance United States interests and values. She said they were part of “the kind of peacekeeping mission every American should be proud of and support.”

Not only did she fly in and out of Tuzla, a camp called a comparative Disneyland, the camp was secure enough to stage the USO show there. She also took Chelsea on a walking tour at Camp Alicia, located on the DMZ between the Bosnians and the Bosnian Serbs, with a coterie of journalists in tow. None of them reported it being fraught with danger either. If it had been dangerous, one would have questioned Chelsea’s presence on the tour.
It looks like Hillary has stretched the truth considerably with this little yarn.

How To Succeed In New York Politics

How does one get ahead in New York state politics? Locating the skeletons — and then taking an expensive vacation to keep them buried. That’s apparently how Herbert Teitelbaum scored a $15,000 raise after starting an investigation of Governor Eliot Spitzer (via Jazz Shaw at Middle Earth Journal):

THE man supposedly leading a key state probe of Gov. Spitzer and the Dirty Tricks Scandal has abruptly taken a 21/2-week vacation in South America – after secretly receiving a $15,000 pay raise, The Post has learned.
Recently hired Public Integrity Commission Executive Director Herbert Teitelbaum’s extended vacation in Argentina has left stunned commission employees questioning his commitment to a probe aimed at determining if Spitzer and his aides broke the law by using the State Police in an effort to politically damage Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Rensselaer.) …
Teitelbaum, a longtime Manhattan lawyer with close ties to Spitzer’s aides, was named in mid-July by another Spitzer appointee, commission Chairman John Feerick, as the $140,000-a-year head of the Ethics Commission. ….
Teitelbaum’s $15,000 pay raise two weeks ago was approved without public notice by Feerick, a former Fordham Law School dean accused by Bruno aides of seeking to cover up the scandal.
The nearly 11 percent pay hike came at a time when the state faces a massive, $4 billion-plus, projected deficit.

Anyone who believes in coincidences will find their credulity strained in this story. Teitelbaum, who has ties to Spitzer, gets named to head the commission that would seek to police the integrity of the Spitzer administration. When the Ethics Commission merged with the Lobbying Commission into the Public Integrity Commission, Teitelbaum got appointed Executive Director there, too. Less than three months after accepting that position at his starting salary — and before he had much chance to pursue this investigation — he suddenly gets an 11% raise in a state running towards a California-style bankruptcy and takes a long South American vacation.
How many questions does this raise?
1. How did Teitelbaum get chosen for this position?
2. Why hasn’t Teitelbaum taken testimony from Spitzer yet?
3. How many other state employees have received 11% raises in the first six months of their employment?
4. Why did the Spitzer administration keep the raise secret?
Eliot Spitzer built his career prosecuting corporations and Wall Street figures who conducted themselves with better ethics than this. His first year on the job has exposed Spitzer as a deeply unethical politician who wants to build his power at the expense of New York and while running roughshod over the law. This state of affairs with Teitelbaum strongly suggests a tawdry, scandalous political payoff that might even be worse than the scandal Teitelbaum is supposed to be investigating.
At some point the state legislature needs to look into ejecting Spitzer and his neo-Tammany machine from Albany.

Heading Right Radio: Year In Review!

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Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), my NARN colleague Mitch Berg joins me to do a Year in Review. Patterico joins us to go over his annual review of the Los Angeles Times, a perennial blogospheric classic you don’t want to miss!
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Wicker To The Senate

In a refreshing diversion from primary politics, Mississippi has a new Senator to replace the retired Trent Lott. Roger Wicker will ascend from the House to the upper chamber, and will also run for the seat in the special election on November 4th:

Republican Haley Barbour’s choice to succeed Sen. Trent Lott is Rep. Roger Wicker, a conservative congressman, congressional officials with knowledge of the selection process said Monday.
Wicker, 56, will serve until a special election is held, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made. Wicker is expected to be a candidate in the special election, which Barbour has scheduled for Nov. 4.
Wicker had been mentioned as a possible successor since Lott’s resignation this month after serving one year of a six-year term. Lott’s term runs through 2012.

Wicker looks like a safe choice for Barbour. He represents a solidly Republican district that will remain in GOP hands in the 2008 election. Wicker, at 56, is young enough to run for at least three terms in the Senate without tripping the Strom Thurmond/Robert Byrd age wire — but that could have been said for Lott as well, who’s leaving at 66.
As a legislator, Wicker also seems safely Republican. Poole reports for the 109th and 108th Congress put his voting record in the center of the party, comparable to Adam Putnam and Eric Cantor. Unfortunately, Wicker’s record on pork strongly resembles that of his predecessor. The Club for Growth RePork Card gives Wicker an embarrassing 2% rating, meaning he only voted in favor of one pork-reform measure out of 50 in the 110th Congress. We can look forward to more federal funding of Mississippi pet projects with Wicker in place; losing Lott will not improve matters in that respect.
Perhaps Wicker will surprise us and act like a fiscally responsible conservative after taking his new seat in the Senate. If not, then Barbour will have done his party no favors by promoting another porker to higher office in an election where Republicans have a chance to differentiate themselves from the budget-busting antics of the majority.
UPDATE: Rob Bluey reminds us at Redstate that it could have been worse, and he’s right.

Fund: Phooey On The Iowa Caucus

John Fund punctures the small-town Americana aspect of the Iowa caucuses and questions their actual worth in determining momentum for Presidential aspirants. Instead of allowing the voice of the people to be heard, the actual effect gives a minutely small sample an oversize impact on the election:

The trouble with the Iowa caucuses isn’t that there’s anything wrong with Iowans. It’s the bizarre rules of the process. Caucuses are touted as authentic neighborhood meetings where voters gather in their precincts and make democracy come alive. In truth, they are anything but.
Caucuses occur only at a fixed time at night, so that many people working odd hours can’t participate. They can easily exceed two hours. There are no absentee ballots, which means the process disfranchises the sick, shut-ins and people who are out of town on the day of the caucus. The Democratic caucuses require participants to stand in a corner with other supporters of their candidate. That eliminates the secret ballot.
There are reasons for all this. The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren’t regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders’ game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process. In other words, they are designed not to be overly democratic. Primaries aren’t perfect. but at least they make it fairly easy for everyone to vote, since polls are open all day and it takes only a few minutes to cast a ballot.
Little wonder that voter turnout for the Iowa caucuses is extremely low–in recent years about 6% of registered voters. Many potential voters will proclaim their civic virtue to pollsters and others and say they will show up at the caucus–and then find something else to do Thursday night.

Regardless of the turnout, the results are binding. The delegates get assigned, and the candidates get bragging rights going into the first real primary of the year, in New Hampshire. For some reason, both political parties have settled on a process that takes the candidates through two sparsely-populated states and in the first one uses town-hall formats that went out with the 19th century — but it all still counts.
It’s interesting to note the differences between the two caucuses and what it says about each party. Republicans still use a single ballot, privately created and discreetly submitted for a single count. That process not only protects the rights of the individual, but it provides a clear and rational process for the vote. It doesn’t require do-overs, and it doesn’t subject caucus-goers to ranting from partisans, intimidation, or corruption.
And then we have the Democratic caucuses, which look like one of those joke org charts where the secretary winds up secretly running everything. Caucus-goers have to stand in certain corners to cast their vote after a goodly amount of campaigning in the precincts. This means that partisans can harangue people for their choices, wheedle people to change their minds, or (possibly) offer incentives for walking into a different corner. When some candidates can’t clear a changeable bar of viability, the process begins again after eliminating the unviable — during which already-committed voters can change positions. It ends when the precinct captains say it ends, unlike the GOP process, where a single ballot signals a clear and understandable stop to the madness.
How well has this worked for both parties? Iowa Republicans have picked the nominee all but two times over the past 32 years, although three of the six picks came for incumbents. Democrats guessed correctly on non-incumbents in 2004, 2000, and 1984. In 1992, Democrats overwhelmingly picked Tom Harkin over “uncommitted”, Paul Tsongas, and in 4th place, Bill Clinton with a meager 4%. In 1988, Dick Gephardt won with over 30%, while Michael Dukakis came in 3rd.
Anyone watching the primary process in this cycle knows that it needs serious reconsideration. The Iowa caucus is an anachronism whose time passed decades ago.

The Bubba Factor, And Other Maladroit Clintonisms

The Politico notes that Bill Clinton has fallen back on Bubbalistic campaigning in Iowa. The homespun wisdom of the former Rhodes scholar comes along with his wife’s various regional accents, but as Ben Smith notes, usually much farther away from the press:

Before he was a silver-haired elder statesman, ex-president, and globe-trotting do-gooder, Bill Clinton was Bubba.
And out in rural Western Iowa, Bubba is back. … While his speech differed little from the one he gives in upscale audiences, his presence there indicates both the potential his wife’s campaign sees in the West and the fact that the former president retains what many once saw as his basic political gift – his ability to connect to the small-town voters whom his party had lost, and to allow them to identify with him.

It also allows the media to lose sight of Bill. Smith noted that only one other reporter made his way to Cherokee to listen to the speech. Given the couple of items Smith notes, the Clinton campaign probably made the right choice. For instance, the blatantly racist argument that a Clinton campaigner made in Cherokee would probably not play well in the major media outlets:

In Cherokee, one Clinton precinct captain who asked that her name not be used questioned his prospects: “We’ve got to keep an eye on electability,” she said. “Is America ready for a black president?”

According to the Clintons, Maya Angelou, and Andrew Young, we’ve already had one — the same man who traveled to Cherokee. Oh, wait, apparently she meant someone who actually is black, like Barack Obama, rather than someone whose upbringing apparently made him a poor black child from Hope, or the candidate who affects Southern accents when speaking to congregations at black churches. If the media caught the Clinton team questioning whether a black man should get nominated for a major-party ticket, it might create a huge political problem for Hillary. Good thing she hid Bill in Cherokee.
That made this throwaway line a little more forgettable, in which Bill came to praise Mike Huckabee and not bury him:

“We grew up in an oral culture and we like to laugh,” the former president said.

Next memo from Hillary to Bill will include an instruction to remove the word oral from the dictionary, permanently.
The Bubba persona, like Hillary’s accents, are affectations for what the campaign sees as the rubes in the sticks. This kind of posturing worked well in an era where mass communications remained in the hands of a few, and where the lack of reporters meant that no one heard what was being said. This kind of politicking indicates that the Clintons may not have fully comprehended how much communications have changed politics since 1992.

New Video Shows Bhutto Shot

New videotape of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has hit the news channels, and it effectively torpedoes the notion that Bhutto died from bumping her head on anything other than hot lead. Watch this clip very carefully, and viewers will notice that Bhutto’s hair and headscarf fly upward on the left side of her head just before she collapses back into her vehicle:

This puts to lie any notion that Bhutto did not die from the gunshots that can clearly be heard in this and other videos, just before the explosion. Her head jerks to the right as the hair and scarf rise, and then she falls into the car going sideways. After she falls completely back into the vehicle, the bomb explodes.
Musharraf has a huge credibility problem, and this video makes it crystal clear. Until now, Musharraf has resisted calls for an international investigation into the assassination. Today, CNN reports that the Pakistani government could reconsider that decision. If they do, the family of Bhutto could then agree to an exhumation and an autopsy by an independent coroner which will confirm the cause of death.
That will open up a lot of questions about the official government story and what prompted it. With so many eyewitnesses to the murder, why float such a ridiculous theory about a sunroof handle? What were they trying to cover up? The video also shows the vehicle surrounded by people; where was a security cordon? How could the police, seen standing around the vehicle, allow a gunman to get within a few feet of Bhutto?
It still leaves the one question unanswered. With all of the concerns Benazir Bhutto had about her security, why would she have exposed herself to an assassin in such an obvious and easy manner?

Same Old Populism

E.J. Dionne surprises me this morning with his sudden discovery that populism sells in Iowa. He sees the rise of Mike Huckabee and John Edwards as an indicator of deep economic revolt, when it is nothing much more than Iowa being Iowa. The rise of both men could easily have been predicted, and their inability to resonate more effectively anywhere else shows that Iowa’s populism still hasn’t caught fire anywhere else.
At Heading Right, I look at the pattern of Iowa populism, and discover a two-decade streak in both parties when it comes to the caucuses. John Edwards even used it four years ago in the same place — and isn’t gaining the same traction he did then. Politicians break out the populism when they come to Iowa for a reason, and it’s not because of a sudden interest in the political movement — a fact that the lack of traction these candidates get elsewhere aptly demonstrates.

Sarkozy A Little Smarter Than The US Congress

Nicolas Sarkozy has suspended diplomatic relations with Syria over its murderous interference with Lebanon. France’s action to isolate Syria comes as two American Congressmen flew to Damascus to kowtow to the Assad government and force Israel to give up the Golan Heights. The bipartisan duo could learn something from French fortitude:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Sunday that his country will hold no more discussions with Syria until Damascus shows its willingness to let Lebanon elect a new president.
Lebanon’s Western-backed government and pro-Syrian opposition have been unable to overcome their disagreements to follow through with the election, and many Western countries have accused Damascus of interfering in the process – a claim Syria denies.
“I will not have any more contact with the Syrians until… we have received proof of Syria’s intention to let Lebanon designate a president of consensus,” said Sarkozy at a press conference in Cairo after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Assad wouldn’t have time to meet anyway. He’s going to be busy receiving Patrick Kennedy and Arlen Specter on their mission to see how many concessions we can offer to Syria while the French fume on the sidelines:

A pair of U.S. lawmakers visited the Syrian capital on Sunday in an attempt to persuade the Arab state to make peace with Israel and woo it from the Iranian sphere of influence.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) visited Syria after a trip to neighboring Israel, which gave its blessing to the lawmakers’ mediation effort. Israel and Syria have been in a state of war for decades despite occasional diplomatic forays between the two nations. …
“The time is right now, and prospects are very good,” Specter told reporters Sunday on his 16th visit to Syria since 1984. “The parties will continue talks through intermediaries, and it’s my hope and expectation at some point, if preliminary progress has been made, the U.S. government would be ready too.”

The time is right? The prospects are good? Syria has conducted a series of assassinations in Lebanon over the past two years, killing politicians who oppose its rule over what it sees as a vassal state. The UN has demanded cooperation from Assad and his government, which has not been forthcoming, over the first assassination of Rafik Hariri.
On top of that, Syria has re-armed Hezbollah in the south in defiance of UN resolutions and a laughably inept peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. They have interfered in Lebanon’s political processes and kept its government in a stalemate. Even the French have stopped talking with Syria because of its intransigence. What prospects look good, other than enhanced concessions from Israel and the US that will only encourage further Syrian machinations?
Specter and Kennedy will fall all over themselves to give back the Golan Heights without addressing any of these issues. They want to come back with their signature Neville Chamberlain umbrellas and wave a piece of paper to proclaim peace in our time while appeasing a murderous dictator, someone who assassinates real democrats rather than suffer their existence. Israel gave them a blessing, all right — they must have felt blessed when the pair left Israel, and they know that the duo have no hope in wringing concessions out of Syria that Assad’s trading partner France couldn’t get.
First Nancy Pelosi and now Specter and Kennedy have made pilgrimages to Damascus. One might have hoped that scales would have fallen from some Congressional eyes by this time. It seems that none of them learned from Sarkozy and took a good opportunity to keep their mouths shut. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Patrick Kennedy, not Ted. Thanks to several CapQ commenters who noticed the error.