Monday, October 31, 2005

Scooters Under Paul's Bed?

It's a nightmare...a nightmare, sez Paul Krugman in his column today:

Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. For some of us, daily life has remained safe and comfortable, so the nightmare has merely been intellectual: we realized early on that this administration was cynical, dishonest and incompetent, but spent a long time unable to get others to see the obvious. For others -- above all, of course, those Americans risking their lives in a war whose real rationale has never been explained -- the nightmare has been all too concrete.

So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so.

The FLUBA Committee on the Deeper Meaning of Kissing Jessica Stein can only ask, 'What are you...twelve?'

Unless Paul is referring to our not having to listen any longer to Joe Wilson expound on what a martyr his wife is, for having allowed her husband to go public about an assignment she got for him with the CIA.

Patrick Fitzgerald at least settled the matter that had been obvious to the sentient for over two years; if your wife wants to keep her employment secret, don't talk about her work with newspaper reporters. And certainly don't write NY Times Op-ed columns about it.

Especially if what you have to say is false. Because the truth will out.

As it did.

So, turn out the lights, Paul. Not because the nightmare is over, but because the party is.

Friday, October 28, 2005

We Have a Nice Egyptian Cruise You'd Like

Barging upriver past the pyramids, the chronicler of Thomas White's criminal career keeps the faith by upping the ante:

In one of the boldest moves yet in the 22-month investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent to a handful of top reporters covering the White House, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is extending his probe and pursuing much more serious charges against senior White House officials, specifically President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, lawyers directly involved in the case told RAW STORY Friday.

While many people were left confused by news reports that said Rove wouldn't be indicted Friday, the lawyers said that Rove remains under intense scrutiny and added that Fitzgerald is betting on the fact that he can secure an indictment against Rove on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, the misuse of classified information, and possibly other charges, as early as next week.

“This investigation is not yet over,” one of the lawyers in the case said. “You must keep in mind that people like Mr. Rove are still under investigation. Rather than securing an indictment on perjury charges against Mr. Rove Mr. Fitzgerald strongly believes he can convince the grand

The lawyers said that in the past month Fitzgerald has obtained explosive information in the case that has enabled him to pursue broader charges such as conspiracy, and civil rights violations against targets like Rove. Specifically, the lawyers said Fitzgerald is focusing on phony intelligence documents that led to the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity: the documents that claimed Iraq was attempting to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger.

And, he is not alone. Also booking staterooms; the entire ensemble of the Huffington Post:

That's right -- it isn't a one-day holiday like Fitzmas. This could go on and on. One day a great gift like Libby, the next day a pair of socks (Ari Fleischer), the next day, who knows: maybe an Xbox 360 (Karl Rove)! Maybe this can be dragged out until the 2006 midterms.--Al Franken

Today's indictment of Vice President Cheney's Chief Aide Scooter Libby is an important first step in holding this Administration responsible for its efforts to deceive the American people and their elected representatives to bolster the case for going to with Iraq. But it is only the beginning.

In many ways, it raises more questions than it answers.--John Conyers

Rather than be the eighth person in the herd trampling after meaningless comments from "lawyers involved in the case," who'll spill first now to the NYT just to help its credibility-rebuilding campaign, why not camp out at Steve Hadley's office? There, you could try to get his comment on the blockbuster series this week in an Italian newspaper which seems to be the definitive story, so far, on how the forged yellowcake-Iraq-Niger documents, the story at the bottom of Plamegate, ended up at the White House.

One of the key moments in the story is a meeting, unusual in protocol terms, between the head of Italy's intel agency SISMI and Hadley, at the time Condi Rice's chief assistant at NSC.--
Harry Shearer

None of whom seem to have noted Fitzgerald's many cautions against 'reading too much into' his continuing investigation, since it's routine in cases where there has been an indictment.

Nor the grudging admission near the end of the question and answer period when the prosecutor said there was no Official Secrets Act in America. That for revealing classified information to be a crime there must be criminal intent to do harm, and that just wasn't there.

It's beginning to look a lot like Fitzmas

Left a lump of coal
For the stocking of the blithering idiot Joe
Whose story was a lie, we now all know:

Rove Apparently Is Not Indicted Today

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Making hay...

Even when The Son doesn't shine on you:

Outside the church, men of perform weddings and other services

By Jack Broom
Seattle Times staff reporter

One is a psychotherapist. Another is a retired travel agent. A third sells medical equipment.

But Sean Patrick O'Reilly, Ralph Bastian and John Shuster share an additional identity: Each is an ordained Catholic priest.

Each has left the church as an organization, but still — without official church approval — maintains a type of ministry.

"I checked out of the institution. I left the system. But I never left the church," said Shuster, 54, who lives in Port Orchard. To him, the "church" is the faithful, not the authority in Rome.

Shuster, who is married, spends most of his time on his current occupation, traveling from Alaska to California selling and servicing emergency-room equipment. But he still performs occasional weddings and other services, including hosting an annual Christmas Mass at his home for about 30 people.

"People come in. We sing carols. I get some pita bread and wine and have my chalice. I dress in my vestments. It's like the old midnight Mass Catholics used to go to."

Shuster is vice president of CITI (Celibacy Is The Issue) Ministries, a national organization of men who left positions with the church, most because the church doesn't allow priests to marry.

CITI claims some 2,500 members, several hundred of whom make themselves available for weddings and other services through the group's Web site,

'Inside Baseball has been, berry, berry good to me'

Says Joe Wilson, in his tour of Seattle's liberal haunts:

Joseph Wilson is uncertain how events will shake out, though he personally is doing just fine. He recently told an audience that he wasn't interested in public office, being someone who had "too many wives" (Valerie's his third) and, when young, took "too many drugs. And, yes, I did inhale." With a best-selling book, The Politics of Truth, and a speaking tour under way, Wilson's now making a living off the White House's apparent indiscretions. "I've got a great life, and what I'm doing now is the right thing to do," he allows....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Porthole Envy

In--where else--Berkeley:

Years ago I published an essay about my dad having a mid-life crisis at the age of 32, and buying himself a sports car to cope with a mortgage, a wife and three small children. In the essay I described the make of the car, (a Ford Thunderbird), the color, (off-white), and the design (two bucket seats up front and a hard, bench-like seat in the back flanked by two porthole windows).

Immediately after the essay appeared in print, I received angry e-mails from Thunderbird fans all over the world. They informed me that I was mistaken about the design: Birds with round windows did not have backseats!

I dismissed the complaints as misguided fanaticism. I remembered those portholes. They were an important part of my childhood development and identity. Sitting in the backseat of the Thunderbird, looking out a round window, shaped my view of the world and my place in it.

I sent the essay to my father and brothers for confirmation. Danny e-mailed me back and claimed he did not remember the Thunderbird. Brother Bill was more emphatic. What in hell are you talking about? he asked. But my father’s response was the most disturbing. Susan, he wrote in an e-mail, we never had a T-Bird with portholes. You must be confusing our “square bird” with the “little bird” my friend Doc Thomas had. His was black. It didn’t have a backseat, but it did have those ridiculous windows.

Could it be possible that I never looked out a porthole window when I was a child? Did I only look into Doc Thomas’s oval windows and wish that I was looking out? Four years ago I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that my psyche was determined, in part, by those unique circular windows, and that everything I have said, done and thought since were influenced by my childhood round view of the world. It’s hard to accept that I am, in fact, just a common square-window person, masquerading as someone who is classy, cool, chic, and circular.


You'll be a Floridian, my son:

MIAMI — Gov. Jeb Bush took the blame Wednesday for frustrating delays at centers distributing supplies to victims of Hurricane Wilma, saying criticism of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was misdirected.

"Don't blame FEMA. This is our responsibility," Bush said at a news conference in Tallahassee with federal Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees the agency.

Many Floridians were still struggling to find food, water, ice and gas on the third day of recovery from Wilma, waiting in line for hours - sometimes in vain. Miami-Dade's mayor called the distribution system flawed and said at least one relief site of 11 in his county ran out of supplies.

....Frustration with Florida's relief effort flared Tuesday, when trucks carrying the first wave of relief - food, ice and water - either arrived much later than local officials expected or didn't show up at all.

...."We did not perform to where we want to be," Bush said.

The governor added, however, that people seeking relief should have done more to prepare for the storm.

"People had ample time to prepare. It isn't that hard to get 72 hours worth of food and water," said Bush, repeating the advice that officials had given days before Wilma hit.

Barro Predicts Taylor Equivalence

Interviewed by the Minneapolis Fed this past summer, Harvard's Robert Barro says:

Region: Is the relationship you have in mind here similar to a Taylor rule?

Barro: Yes, it looks like that, but there are some differences. For example, it's clearly not GDP that the Fed reacts to. Given what's going on in the labor market in the sense of employment growth and the unemployment rate, empirically there's no reaction of the federal funds rate to GDP growth. Hence, when GDP growth goes up because of higher productivity growth, there's no tendency to raise the federal funds rate.

But if the economy is strong in terms of a tight labor market, meaning higher employment growth and a low unemployment rate, there seems very regularly to be an upward movement of interest rates. The reverse holds when the labor market is weak.

On the inflation side, it's a broad inflation index that seems to influence the Fed—something like the GDP deflator or the deflator for personal consumption expenditures. The Fed does not seem to react on a month-to-month basis to the consumer price index or the producer price index. So, in a general sense, it's a Taylor rule but it has some features that differ from [Stanford University's] John Taylor's precise formulation.

A crucial feature is that monetary policy responds to the economy in a way that's particularly strong with respect to inflation. The idea is that when you bring the [federal] funds rate up, inflation is supposed to go down. This mechanism has worked much better than I would have predicted at the end of the 1970s and early 1980s—it's kind of amazing how well this has turned out, and not just in the United States. Many other countries have gone further in terms of formalizing this policy reaction into a rule. I think the more formal rule is a good idea. I'm not sure it's that important because the United States is pretty close to it anyway. However, if Ben Bernanke becomes head of the Fed, he will likely try to implement something that looks more like a formal rule.

Best laid plans...

Jerry Brown Division:

Seven years after Jerry Brown was elected mayor of Oakland in part on a promise that his “10K Initiative” would lead to a retail revival in the city’s downtown, the area where the housing component has been most successful has yet to see the promised commercial development.

The City of Oakland’s 10K Housing webpage says that in Brown’s inaugural address, he “proposed a four-year goal of attracting 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland as a way to revitalize the physical, economic, and cultural environment of the area.” ....

But along the commercial corridor of Lower Broadway, where Brown’s promised retail revitalization would presumably follow the residential successes, progress has not been so dramatic. In some instances, it appears to have gone backwards.

Of 26 commercial addresses between Jack London Square and Fourth Street on Broadway, four appear to be long-term vacancies, with windows papered or boarded over and one of them, the old On Broadway club near the the corner of Fourth, sporting a message on the marquee that reads “Thank You. Bye.” Three other commercial addresses in the same stretch are closed and undergoing renovations, with one of them, the old Bluesville club at Second, sporting a For Lease sign. Two of the office complexes in the area have had vacancies for several weeks.

A number of office complexes along Fourth Street between Broadway and Franklin also sport “for lease” signs, monuments to the collapse of the dotcom boom.

In addition, two of the operating establishments in Lower Broadway—Carpenters Union Local 2236 and the Secrets Adult Superstore porn shop—would not appear to fit the mayor’s commercial revival vision.

Not about the O?

Understocked on des hommes forts in Belgium:

BRUSSELS – A Brussels fertility clinic claims it is being swamped by demand from French lesbian couples seeking fertility treatment.

"Last year, of the inseminations using a donor's sperm, 72 percent of patients came from France, with a majority of them being homosexual," the Erasmus fertility clinic's head Anne Delbaere told La Libre Belgique.

She said the clinic had never turned down requests for insemination from lesbian couples, or single women, since it opened 15 years ago.

But she said it would have to start limiting consultation appointments to French couples.

"We haven't got enough sperm samples in stock to meet all the demand," she said.

Which is because the Fab French health care system has let the progressive team down:

Many patients come from France for fertility treatment after being refused it at home. France's 1994 bioethical law limited the treatment to married couples or heterosexual couples who have been living together for longer than two years.

By contrast, Belgium has not banned anyone from treatment, leaving eligibility criteria to be decided by individual clinics.

Delbaere said in turning couples away, the clinic would be suggesting that the women work to "change mentalities in France".

Marketing director Marie-Pierre Micoud, a 41-year-old French marketing director, has had three children with her partner, midwife Nathalie Bassac, thanks to Belgian fertility treatment. She told La Libre Belgique: "In Belgium we were welcomed without any judging. We had to wait six months for our first interview. Now it's two years."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Or, a little lying to WaPo readers?

Pottle, Kettle, Black Award for the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz for criticizing Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison thusly:

It is true that prosecutors who can't prove the original crime often wind up bringing perjury and obstruction charges. But lying to investigators, or to a federal grand jury, strikes at the heart of the law-enforcement process. This happens to be the message that GOPers pounded over and over again when Clinton dissembled over Monica, so surely they take it seriously. Or is that only when a Democrat is president?

Hutchison likened the senior administration officials who might or might not be indicted to Martha Stewart, who was only charged with a cover-up (lying about insider trading is okay as long as you're not convicted of insider trading? ....).

But, a quick phone call to former Clinton Administration official Walter Dellinger--now Martha's legal representative for her appeal-- would have disabused Mr. Kurtz of the idea that his client was even charged with lying about insider trading, much less convicted of that charge.

Or, Kurtz could read Dellinger's appeal brief which explains that the prosecution effectively conflated the illegal insider trading of Imclone CEO Sam Waksal with Martha's perfectly legal sale of what remained of her Imclone holdings on December 27, 2001.

Which is exactly Senator Hutchison's point.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Round Mound Unwound

And speaking sense to the senseless:

Charles Barkley may not want to be your kids' role model, but he could be a role model for NBA players. And not just because he supports the league's new dress code.

...."Young black kids dress like NBA players," he said. "Unfortunately, they don't get paid like NBA players. So when they go out in the real world, what they wear is held against them.

"See, these players make $10 to $15 million a year, so nobody cares how they dress. But regular black kids go out into the real world and how they dress is held against them.

"If a well-dressed white kid and a black kid wearing a do-rag and throwback jersey came to me in a job interview, I'd hire the white kid," he said. "That's reality. That's the No. 1 reason I support the dress code.

"From the NBA perspective, they've got a product to sell. They've got to make it as attractive as possible to fans, viewers and corporate sponsors.

....Barkley, a TNT network basketball analyst, concedes there are racial overtones with the new dress code, but points out there is a dress code in every business in the country.

"It's dictated by the boss," he said.

....He hears that Marcus Camby of the Denver Nuggets wants a stipend to buy clothes to adhere to the dress code, and Barkley cringes.

"Guys like that have lost perspective," he said. "What's he make, $8 million a year? It's like when Latrell Sprewell said he needed more than $14 million a year so that he could feed his family. Give me a break."

Easy to see why he's Rush Limbaugh's friend.

Sonny Bono Memorial Award

Shortly before his death in a skiing accident, Congressman Sonny Bono appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews. After several self-deprecating jokes--such as that at his first committee meeting the other congressmen were looking at him with expressions that he read to be; Tell me this guy is here to deliver the pizzas--he said to Matthews that he actually thought it would be better if there were more people in congress with his background. I.e. , people with a history of hustling to earn a living. Because he knew that there were people who would try to game the system.

He might have been thinking of people like this:

With hundreds of thousands forced from homes battered by Hurricane Katrina, the federal government cut red tape to rush $2,000 checks and debit cards to help victims pay for clothes, food, transportation and a place to live.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency intended the aid for displaced Gulf Coast families and limited it to one payment per household.

But in three Louisiana parishes, FEMA issued more checks than there are households, at a cost to taxpayers of at least $70 million, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation has found.

And in 36 parishes and counties in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, FEMA awarded $102 million to at least 51,000 more applicants than local officials said were displaced by the storm.

....In Mobile, Ala., residents coached each other on the right words to use when calling FEMA to get the $2,000. Many who received the money never had to leave their homes. Mobile Police Lt. Christon Dorsey, a member of a hurricane fraud task force, estimated fewer than 300 Mobile County residents were displaced and in need of emergency aid, not the 17,050 who collected $34.1 million.

In Pike County, Miss., Katrina displaced 25 families, yet 2,494 collected nearly $5 million and "made a ton of money," said Civil Defense Director Richard Coghlan.

"I'll tell you, it was Christmas," Coghlan said. "We're talking plasma TVs. We're talking stereos. We're talking bicycles."

Now why might have FEMA been so lax?

FEMA began the $2,000 "expedited assistance" a week after Katrina devastated coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, and as the government faced criticism for its slow response.

"We are committed to cutting red tape and getting help to people who need it," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. "We are getting real assistance in record time."

FEMA waived its usual procedure of sending an inspector to an applicant's home to first verify damage. Instead, it approved payments based on a phone call or online application, which the agency said took 20 minutes.

....Some local officials said FEMA may have been motivated to counter earlier criticism. In the days immediately after the storm, the government was repeatedly accused of abandoning victims and waiting too long to send in troops and supplies.

"I suspect after the bad publicity that they just started throwing money out," said Ronnie Hughes, president of Ascension, La. Parish, where 1,552 residents collected $3.1 million. "We did not have 1,500 families displaced in Ascension Parish, I can tell you that."

Such were the incentives created by the caterwauling of television whiners instructed to get angry during appearances on talk shows. And people took advantage of that to the nation's detriment. Thanks Tim Russert, Chris Matthews (who'd been warned about this by Congressman Bono), and those in the left blogosphere who supposedly are trained to know better.

Friday, October 21, 2005

'Smearing' Joe Wilson

The poster boy for 'Cheney manipulated WMD intelligence to gin up an invasion of Iraq' , and hero to pgl and the denizens at Angry Bear tells all:

Wilson said he'd been a true child of the 1960s and had "too many wives and taken too many drugs. And, yes, I did inhale.''

Wilson demonstrates that by his plans for revenge on the evil Bushco:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame are preparing to file a civil suit against Bush administration officials.

Plame was the covert CIA agent allegedly unmasked by the White House. Now she is preparing to file a civil lawsuit against the Bush administration officials who may have disclosed her identity and scuttled her career, reported Thursday.

"There is no question that her privacy has been invaded. She was almost by definition the ultimate private person," said the couple's attorney, Christopher Wolf.

And, if they do sue, they'll be opening themselves up to 'discovery' by opposing lawyers, and the truth will actually come out about just what the Wilsons were really doing. Such as participating in a CIA disinformation campaign designed to elect a Democrat--probably John Kerry--in 2004.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hurricanes are for wimps

Real men live in the shadow of killer volcanoes:

Some 5,600 years ago, the body of water we call Puget Sound had an arm that extended 30 miles inland from present-day Elliott Bay in Seattle to a point halfway between Auburn and Sumner. Today, of course, that is the Green River Valley—the narrow, flat suburban land of Kent and Renton and the industrial lowlands of South Seattle. It would be reasonable to think that this change happened gradually, but scientists have determined that most of the long-gone stretch of inland sea was transformed by a single event that created 200 square miles of land in a matter of hours, with waves of mud 20 feet to 600 feet high. Imagine a wall the consistency of wet concrete traveling up to 60 mph. This mudflow destroyed everything in its path, uprooting entire old-growth forests. It hit Puget Sound with such force and with so much material that it flowed underwater for 15 miles, maybe farther. An area of hundreds of square miles was covered with mud and debris up to 350 feet deep.

The source of that enormous mudflow, which geologists call a lahar, was Mount Rainier, about 60 miles south- southeast of Seattle. And it could happen again—maybe even tomorrow.

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy is located about 45 miles south-southeast of Seattle. But on high ground, so we'll be able to report from the scene. We promise not to whine for FEMA assistance.

Because no one is afraid Martha is packin', Jason

Jason Richardson wants to dress like a gangster and still earn millions of dollars in the NBA:

OAKLAND, Calif. — Jason Richardson wants to keep wearing his gold chains, and the Golden State Warriors guard believes the NBA's new dress code takes aim at black players in the league.

He's calling for the players' association to fight the new wardrobe rules announced this week that will go into effect when the season kicks off next month.

"They want to sway away from the hip-hop generation," Richardson said Wednesday night, before the Warriors beat the Phoenix Suns in a preseason game. "You think of hip-hop right now and think of things that happen like gangs having shootouts in front of radio stations."

Richardson, who describes his style as "different" and says he won't be caught as a "copy cat," left the Oakland Arena wearing a camouflage zip-up sweatshirt, a long necklace with a diamond-encrusted triangle at the end, and a beige cap slightly tilted to one side.

"One thing to me that was kind of racist was you can't wear chains outside your clothing," he said. "I don't understand what that has to do with being business approachable. ... You wear a suit you still could be a crook. You see all that happened with Enron and Martha Stewart. Just because you dress a certain way doesn't mean you're that way. ....

Men Behaving Badly

In the NFL:

Ken Hamlin was on his back on a street corner, knocked down by a punch that the Seahawks football player probably never saw coming.

He was being pummeled while he lay unconscious as a security guard working outside Larry's Nightclub and Seahawks teammate Rocky Bernard ran to his aid.

As bad as Hamlin's injuries were after the altercation early Monday morning, it could have been much worse, an interview with the security worker revealed.

"A person was like, 'I'll shoot the whole block up,' " said the security worker, who described the scene on the condition that he not be identified. "I'm like, 'Yo, just leave.' I couldn't make out who that person was ... I definitely didn't see no gun, but when he said 'gun,' (everyone) dispersed."

....Hamlin, 24, was moved out of the intensive-care unit of Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday, but remains at the hospital. He suffered a fractured skull and a cerebral bruising in the fight outside the Pioneer Square nightclub.

....The man who struck Hamlin was identified as Terrell Milam by Milam's younger brother, Tramaine Isabell, who was not in Pioneer Square but who later saw security video footage and identified Milam as Hamlin's assailant.

Milam was found dead at Seward Park about three hours after the Pioneer Square altercation, the result of gunshot wounds.

And, in the NBA:

Kelly Davis thought working undercover narcotics on the west side of Chicago was high-stress employment. Then he spent four years as Dennis Rodman's bodyguard.

Then he really saw it all.

Already a police officer, Davis learned the delicate art of diffusing tension and keeping Rodman out of headlines. He learned that high-profile athletes often need to be protected from the public and themselves.

....Every time there's an off-the-field incident, there's a debate about how much professional sports leagues can control their players' private lives. There are clauses in NFL contracts that stipulate no basketball and no motorcycle riding, but none that stipulate no nightclubs.

The NFL brings its rookies together for a four-day symposium before the season starts. Davis said that's not nearly long enough to teach the right behavior.

....Davis wonders who is watching over athletes while the world is watching them. He wonders why athletes insure their homes, their cars, their jewelry, but not their safety.

...."These situations are going to happen over and over again until the NBA or NFL address it," Davis said. "I hope it never comes to this, but we're getting real close. Someone is going to get killed out there. I went to NFL teams. I went to NBA teams. Everyone seems to turn a blind eye and say, 'We don't need it.' "

....The bottom line, Davis said, is that athletes are not conventional people. That they cannot be treated as such. He said that teams need to "reinforce, reinforce, reinforce" correct behavior, and sometimes, especially in the case of a player with a history like Hamlin, they need to "make decisions for their players."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Egg[head] and [the] I [word]

Ann Coulter lets a kitten out of the bag on Hannity and Colmes:

HANNITY: ....What if it turns out she is a steady, solid, consistent voting bloc, along with Scalia and Thomas? And what if she turns out to be an intellectual on a level — regarding the Constitution that you don't anticipate? Maybe something the president does know. Is there any possibility or any hope for you in that?

COULTER: No. And the reason I say that is, I mean, she does — there is a record there. I keep hearing people say, "Oh, let's wait and see."

She's a 60-year-old woman. We know what is in the record. We know what she's done. We know what she's accomplished. The day she was nominated, she was — her speeches were being played over and over again on C-SPAN. That's when I officially went on suicide watch.

And no. She is not an intellectual. She may be a very smart woman. And no, it wouldn't be enough if she just votes the right way.

She also has to write with style? Here is the big difference between George W. Bush and Ann Coulter. Bush, as a former CEO, is trained to get results. Which usually is more productive, than philosophizing.

Case in point; when Senator Alan Simpson asked Robert Bork, during his 1987 confirmation hearing, why he wanted to be on the Supreme Court, Bork replied:

I think it would be an intellectual feast just to be there and to read the briefs and discuss things with counsel and discuss things with my colleagues...

That (and a few other similarly bizarre responses) is why Bork did not get onto the Court. As despicable as the attacks on him by Teddy Kennedy and others were, they didn't resonate with the American public, and wouldn't have kept Bork off.

George W. Bush is also a very smart and accomplished fellow, and he's owed a few of his successes to his enemies underestimating him. Bush, with the Miers nomination, gave Harry Reid a 'be careful what you wish for, pal....' moment; a Justice who'll vote like Scalia and Thomas, but was recommended by the leader of the Democrats in the Senate.

El lleno Monti, pero fiable

This story:

BARCELONA — Catalonia's regional police has suspended for two years without pay an officer who moonlighted as a stripper, doing gigs at bachelor parties in which he would take off his policeman's uniform.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Periodico de Cataluña, following 20 months of investigation, the force's internal affairs department concluded the officer committed two grave offenses: stripping down from his regulation uniform while off duty, and charging for it.

The department launched its investigation when in February of last year it received photographs from an anonymous source in which the policeman appeared first in his uniform and then naked inside a bus full of


Would seem to conflict with this one:

MADRID — Spaniards are neither extroverts nor irresponsible, a new study finds.

In fact, they are a lot more like the Japanese and quite the reverse of the way Spaniards would like to see themselves, the journal Science reported.

A study of 4,000 people from 49 countries found national stereotypes do not correspond with reality.

So Spaniards may like to compare themselves to the most extroverted people in the world, along with Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and Serbia.

But they are no more show-offs than the Japanese.

And in terms of reliability, they rank alongside the Germans and the German-speaking Swiss.

Texans Benefitting from Tort Reform

Thanks to a 2003 law capping awards in malpractice lawsuits, insurers have been cutting their rates and Doctors returning to their practices in Texas:

Passage of Proposition 12, also known as tort reform, on Sept. 1, 2003, caused some insurers to consider adjustments to malpractice rates. The state referendum, which placed a cap on jury awards related to malpractice suits, has resulted in attracting more insurance carriers to the state as well as more doctors.

"Last year, we were 'wait and see,' but now we're definitely pleased," notes family practitioner Dr. Robert Vanzant, president of the Harris County Medical Society.

"What's happening is going to help stabilize health care costs in Texas," he adds.

....This marks the third major rate cut for Texas doctors within the past five weeks, according to Austin internist Dr. Howard Marcus, chairman of the Texas Alliance For Patient Access.

The alliance is a statewide coalition of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and physician liability carriers focused on improving patient care access and passing and preserving medical liability reforms.

CEO Cheney Vindicated by Clinton Judge

One supposed blunder by Dick Cheney when he was running Haliburton was its acquisition of Dresser Industries. Which corporation ended up with billions of dollars in liabilities from asbestos litigation. But, thanks to a Federal judge in Texas--appointed by Bill Clinton--it appears that Dresser-Haliburton may have been victimized by fraudulent medical diagnoses on a massive scale (thanks to Scrivener for the link).

It turns out that many people who were paid for asbestosis claims have also filed claims for silicosis. With the same Doctor often making both diagnoses:

With roughly 10,000 silica claims in one courtroom in Corpus Christi by the end of 2003, the next step was to persuade Judge [Janis Graham] Jack to let the defendants gather information on the basis of each claim. On Feb. 5, 2004, she did exactly that, giving each plaintiff two months to fill out a form indicating his or her employment history, illness and the names of doctors seen. The claimants were also asked to provide their Social Security numbers on the forms. This information turned out to be crucial.

[The Law firm] Forman Perry kept a database of people who had filed asbestos claims; the database was built over years of representing companies battling asbestos litigation. And as they loaded the information from the silica claimants' forms, lawyers found that some of these claimants had also filed asbestos claims.

"They would show up in our internal information system as asbestos victims," recalled Daniel J. Mulholland, a lawyer at Forman Perry....

The question was: Could these people have had both diseases? That would be possible....

Mr. Mulholland pulled the medical records from the asbestos claims and noticed something else: in hundreds of cases, the same doctor who had diagnosed asbestosis in a claimant went on to diagnose silicosis in the same person a few years later. Although not impossible, it is highly unlikely that someone developed signs of a second disease in the period between diagnoses, and it would be reasonable to expect a doctor reviewing the X-rays to note signs of both diseases if they were present. The doctors did not do that; Mr. Mulholland concluded that they were "flip flops."

"I was able to document 400 examples of that just based on our firm's files," Mr. Mulholland said, but he needed more data to find out whether more silica claimants had previously filed asbestos claims. "The next question was: How do I get more of the asbestos reference points?"

There is one institution that may have more data on asbestos claims than any other, and that is the Manville Personal Injury Settlement Trust. It was set up in 1988 to pay people who brought asbestos claims against Johns Manville, the building materials company now owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Since it was created, the Manville Trust has paid out $3.3 billion to resolve 655,096 claims. Perhaps, Mr. Mulholland thought, the trust could provide a list of the Social Security numbers of claimants it had paid, and then Forman Perry could compare them with the Social Security numbers of silica claimants.

....Armed with the evidence of multiple claims by the same person, first seeking compensation for an asbestos-related injury and then for a silica-related injury, Mr. Krutz and Mr. Mulholland asked Judge Jack if they could question one of the doctors, George H. Martindale....

Under the questioning, Dr. Martindale said he never talked to any of the claimants whose X-rays he read, either to learn their work histories or to notify them if he determined that they suffered from silicosis. Pushing further, Mr. Mulholland asked Dr. Martindale whether he stood by the diagnoses. Dr. Martindale responded, "If another physician hadn't established a diagnosis of silicosis/asbestosis, I would withdraw that. I would - I would say that I am personally not making a diagnosis of asbestosis or silicosis."

....The deposition opened the door to questioning the other doctors whose diagnoses supported nearly all of the silica claims in the federal proceeding in Corpus Christi. It also appeared to irritate Judge Jack. ....

In January, the claimant information from the Manville Trust started to arrive, prompting a frenzy to load the data into Forman Perry's database. Mr. Mulholland remembered sitting in his office on the last Sunday of the month, working with the data and coming to realize that more than half of the claimants in the silica litigation had previously filed asbestos claims with the trust. "I was just blown away," Mr. Mulholland said. He had the critical evidence to challenge the diagnosing doctors.

The hearing was a watershed. Several doctors on the witness stand withdrew their diagnoses and said they had never interviewed the people whose X-rays, or in some cases just reports on their X-rays, they had analyzed. ....

....Aftershocks from the February hearing are still spreading. The Manville Trust has barred payment of claims based on diagnoses by any of nine doctors involved in the silica litigation. One of those doctors, Dr. Harron, was responsible for 53,724 asbestos claims, more than any other doctor and nearly 8 percent of the 691,910 asbestos claims that the trust has received, according to the trust. Many of those were paid long ago.

FEDERAL prosecutors in New York have opened an investigation into the claims and have issued subpoenas for documents to the Manville Trust, to a screening company that took X-rays of silica claimants and to others whose identities are still unknown. (A spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office declined to comment on the investigation.)

And in asbestos lawsuits that are still being heard, defense lawyers for companies or their insurers are using the Corpus Christi revelations to attack settlement agreements to compensate claimants. Last month, lawyers for W. R. Grace & Company, a building materials maker that is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings because of asbestos claims against it, asked a Delaware bankruptcy court to let them investigate the lawyers involved in filing those claims. Grace's lawyers cited Judge Jack's decision.

At some level, the outcome of the silica litigation raises the question of why defense lawyers were not more successful in challenging the validity of claims in the past. While lawyers point to the cost of investigating and challenging claims, it is also true that defense and bankruptcy lawyers have earned a lot of money handling claims the way they have been handled, paying off plaintiffs through years of Chapter 11 proceedings.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wait a Minute

Fresh from lying about Dick Cheney's stock options--they've been donated to three charities, and Cheney has no financial interest in them--Kevin Drum moves on to health care in America, to decry the waiting lists. Based on one sad sack's anecdote.

Unfortunately for Mr Drum, he tried to defend himself:

The cries of despair from conservatives about my use of an anecdote are genuinely pitiful. My heart goes out to you guys.

Anyway, feel free to dredge up statistics.

And they were produced, showing that waiting times for health care were not at all significant in the United States, or in European Countries such as France with more market based systems (the majority of the French have private insurance to supplement the government's). But were a huge problem in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Further, last summer a Quebec court ruled that Canada's prohibitions against private provision of health care violate Canadians' rights, specifically saying that access to waiting lists is not the same as access to health care.

And the Quebec government is more or less ignoring the court:

The Quebec government reacted by saying it would apply immediately for a stay of between six months and two years before the decision takes effect, given the chaos it could cause in the delivery of medical services in Quebec.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Benoit Pelletier said the province would consider using the notwithstanding clause in Quebec's constitution as an alternative to abiding by the court's decision.

The plaintiffs in the case – a Montreal patient and a doctor wanting to set up a private clinic – asked Canada's top court to strike down sections of the Quebec Hospital Insurance Act that prevent people from buying health insurance for medical procedures covered by the public health plan.

We expect all of the above to register not a bit with Kevin Drum and his hardy band of commenter brothers. Nor would this letter from Jacob Arfwedsen to John Kerry during the 2004 election campaign, about the supposedly first rate system in France:

Dear Senator Kerry,

I'd like to give you an update on France for your campaign since you regularly refer to it as an example.

As you are well aware, wine consumption in France is financed by government and every citizen is subject to a payroll tax which finances the central wine fund. There are also private wine funds but these are regulated and basically depend on subsidies from the government wine officials.

Bottles of wine may be picked up for a symbolic charge by each citizen paying contributions; particularly needy or extremely thirsty users pay nothing. There may be waiting times of course, and users may not always pick their favorite Burgundy (no foreign wines, unless you go abroad and get them at your own expense). People are also advised to stick to the local merchant and not skip around town looking for better deals, although this is tolerated; the possibility of shopping at special stores for exclusive brands is considered one of the system's great virtues.

The system is managed by the wine funds, their representatives are appointed by the unions and politicians. The problem is that wine consumption is constantly increasing as citizens pay nothing or very low refill fees. Administrators try to cap consumption by raising the taxes on corkscrews and wine coolers; recently the government recommended that thirst be quenched with less expensive products, such as grape juice or mineral water, although the effects are not the same. Costs are exploding, but people are still thirsty; wealthy consumers go on drinking binges abroad, the less well-off are still lining up in front of their local provider. The Minister of Essential Beverages recently announced the 17th plan to reform financing in close cooperation with vineyards and wine merchants.

Sorry, did I say "wine"? I meant of course health care; apart from that, the principles outlined above are the same; this is how the brunt of the French health care system is managed.

Mr. Arfwedsen then goes on to detail the impending bankruptcy of that system:

The deficit of the compulsory health insurance is currently increasing by € 21,000 per minute. In January the deficit was estimated at € 11 billion for 2004, equivalent to one month of consumption; this figure was recently revised upwards to € 11.9 billion. The Health Minister Douste-Blazy declared that "the health insurance is bankrupt". In fact, nobody knows exactly how much the system costs, which doesn't make for wise policy decisions.

And, that things are only to get worse as France's population ages.

High hopes were placed in the High Council for the future of social insurance (a k a the Fragonard Commission), which presented its report in January 2004. The report summarized the dilemma of reform as follows:
  • current debt financing is unsustainable
  • increasing revenues is not an option (this would mean doubling contributions, from 5.25 to 10.75 points)
  • reimbursements must not be curtailed, since this would be contrary to the founding principles of solidarity
  • health care rationing is unacceptable

In other words, socialized financing means the next generation will have to foot the bill; our children will also have to pay for the generous retirement benefits which are not funded. Raising taxes is ruled out (although it will eventually prove the easiest way out politically) and the current principles of Soviet management are deemed sacrosanct. Today's "reforms" are essentially geared towards cost containment, for instance by favoring generic medicines to cap drug expenditure, without considering an opportunity cost analysis to establish whether for instance increased use of innovative drugs or ambulatory surgery may help reduce hospital stays.

We cannot do anything really, says the High Council, except keep trying what doesn't work.

And closes with some advice for the loser:

Please remember the above when you use France as an example, Mr. Kerry.

The Sitting Nun

Matisse model Monique Bourgeois passes away quietly in a convent near Biarritz after a life indistinguishable from a movie script

Sister Jacques-Marie, who has died at the age of 84, was the student nurse, later a Dominican nun, who tended Henri Matisse after a major operation in 1942, going on to pose for him and eventually to inspire the work he considered his last masterpiece, the Chapel of the Rosary at Vence.

Monique was shy, inexperienced and so unworldly that she had never worn make-up, let alone read a book without asking her mother first. Matisse dressed her in a filmy, sleeveless chiffon dress with a plunging neckline, painting her lightly and rapidly in deep, soft, earthy colours, outlining her face and figure with yellow-ochre brushstrokes that radiate like fansticks between the flat grey planes of her dress.

This first canvas, Monique in a Grey Dress, like the three other paintings he made of her - L'Idole, La Robe Verte, Tabac Royal - conveys her statuesque quality, a majestic inner poise and strength only he could see at that stage. The sitter, who had artistic aspirations herself, was bitterly disappointed: "Instead of the realistic portrait I had waited impatiently to see, just lines and blobs of colour."

Monique's father had recently died of wounds, leaving his family homeless and destitute - they had abandoned everything to flee Metz in cattle trucks at the start of the second world war - with no source of support except the eldest daughter, herself weakened by tuberculosis, malnutrition and exhaustion. Matisse, lonely and isolated in wartime, missing his own children and grandchildren, gave her food coupons and practical advice, becoming a fond adoptive grandfather.

Separated, then reunited by war, the two by chance ended up living opposite one another in 1946 in Vence, where the painter had rented temporary accommodation as an evacuee. His former model was by this time a Dominican novice.

Initially horrified by her decision to take the veil, Matisse came to accept that Sister Jacques-Marie's life of austere discipline and dedication paralleled his own. When she showed him her design for a stained-glass window to beautify the leaky garage the nuns used as a chapel, his enthusiasm got the better of him. Within days he had taken over the putative chapel, designing everything, including two great ranges of radiantly coloured windows.

Scandalised by Matisse's reputation for painting sexy pictures, Sister Jacques-Marie's mother superior fiercely opposed the project, but her resistance proved no match for his unbudgeable will. ....

After the chapel opened in 1951, the press compounded her troubles by inventing titillating stories about the old painter and the young nun. "The builders of churches," her novice mistress told her sternly, "have never achieved anything good or beautiful without being crucified for it."

Nice Work. If You Can Get It.

Massaging movie stars and models who aren't wearing burkas...nor anything else:

Mr. [Mohammed] Bendraoua's card calls him a "relaxiologue," which translated liberally means masseur, although one who uses a variety of techniques to restore equilibrium. ....

A massage from Mr. Bendraoua typically lasts three times as long as psychotherapy session, but with faster results. And one can see him these days at all hours of the day or night wheeling a nylon suitcase containing his portable massage table down the Rue St.-Honoré or the Place Vendôme and into the Hôtel Costes or the Ritz. His first daily appointment during Fashion Week is usually at 8 a.m. Midnight is often his last.

The son of a train conductor and a housewife, Mr. Bendraoua emigrated to France in 1989, was trained as a hospital administrator and has no background in fashion. ....

Excepting Anna Wintour, Mr. Bendraoua has had his hands on most of the staff at Vogue. .... A number of movie stars also employ him in the United States, as do dancers. But his bread and butter is fashion types.

"There's no limit," Grace Coddington, the Vogue creative director, said this week before the start of the Dior show. "It's very, very rare for a masseur to go on that long," Ms. Coddington explained, referring to her shock when first booking one of Mr. Bendraoua's $170 sessions and finding "that one hour became three hours and that one had to be totally naked." Ms. Coddington adapted, somehow.

Al Qaedans for Kerry 2004

Ayman al-Zawahri in a letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

"Things may develop faster than we imagine....The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam _ and how they ran and left their agents _ is noteworthy. ... We must be ready starting now."

And, by the way, they think Bush is right about Iraq being in the forefront of the War on Terror.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Curses! A-Rod Foiled Again.

Money may be able to buy love, but not a championship for the multi-million dollar man this year. (As in the past.)

Alex Rodriguez went 2 for 15 in the series, grounding into a double play after Jeter's leadoff single in the ninth. Matsui was 4 for 20 over all. Gary Sheffield had six hits in the series, none for extra bases. Each has been added since the last World Series title, but the Yankees are still waiting to win again.

"We played so well down the stretch," Rodriguez said. "To end in this fashion, it's disappointing. I played great baseball this year, and I played like a dog the last five games."

Monday, October 10, 2005

In Stockholm, We'll Meet at the Bank of Sweden

The Richmond Fed had an interview with new Nobelist Thomas Schelling earlier this year:

RF: One of the more famous bargaining situations that you propose in The Strategy of Conflict involves a problem in which communication is incomplete or impossible – the game where two strangers are told to meet in New York City but have not communicated with each other about the meeting place. What does this game tell us about bargaining? And what, if any, are the policy implications?

Schelling: That little exercise, which I designed to determine if people could coordinate without any communication, became fairly famous and now I am usually identified as the originator of the idea of "focal points." My argument was that in overt negotiations something is required to get people to arrive at a common expectation of an outcome. And the ability to reach such a conclusion without communication suggested to me that there was a psychological phenomenon, even in explicit negotiations, which may work to focus bargainers eventually on that commonly expected outcome. By understanding that, I thought, we may be able to more easily facilitate policy negotiations over such matters as what would be an appropriate division of the spoils, an appropriate division of labor, and so forth.

RF: What were the responses when you originally posed this question to people?

Schelling: When I first asked that question, way back in the 1950s, I was teaching at Yale. A lot of the people to whom I sent the questionnaire were students, and a large share of them responded: under the clock at the information desk at Grand Central Station. That was because in the 1950s most of the male students in New England were at men's colleges and most of the female students were at women's colleges. So if you had a date, you needed a place to meet, and instead of meeting in, say, New Haven, you would meet in New York. And, of course, all trains went to Grand Central Station, so you would meet at the information desk. Now when I try it on students, they almost never give that response.

Some cities have more obvious focal points than others. For instance, if I asked people where would you meet in Paris, they probably would have no trouble. Most would go to the Eiffel Tower. But in other cities, it's not so clear.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Fathers, Sons, Cronies...

...and LBJ.

On today's Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: A historical note, how it came to be that Justice Tom Clark retired from the Supreme Court at the relatively young age of 67. His departure was masterfully engineered by President Lyndon Baines Johnson himself. L.B.J. wanted the chance to appoint the first African-American to the Court, namely Thurgood Marshall. But there were no Court openings, so he cleverly set in motion a scheme to create one. You can hear L.B.J. laying the groundwork in this telephone conversation with Justice Clark's son, Ramsey, on January 25, 1967.

(Audiotape, January 25, 1967):

PRES. LYNDON JOHNSON: Do you think you could be attorney general with your daddy on the Court?

MR. RAMSEY CLARK: Well, I think that--I guess other people ought to judge that, really. I know as far as I'm personally concerned, that that would not affect my judgment. I don't think it would affect Dad's judgment. I'd hate to see Dad get off the Court. I think he's at the height of his judicial power...

PRES. JOHNSON: My judgment is that if you became attorney general, he'd have to leave the Court, for no other reason than the public appearance of the old man sitting on his boy's case and you tell me that the old man can judge it fairly when his own boy's sending them up?

(End audiotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Just four weeks later, Ramsey Clark was named attorney general of the United States, and as predicted, his father, Justice Tom Clark, announced his resignation from the Supreme Court that same day. L.B.J. then nominated Thurgood Marshall to fill the Clark vacancy, becoming the nation's first black Supreme Court justice.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Talking Sense to the Foolish

Few do it as well as Thomas Sowell:

President Bush has taken on too many tough fights -- Social Security being a classic example -- to be regarded as a man who is personally weak. What is weak is the Republican majority in the Senate.

When it comes to taking on a tough fight with the Senate Democrats over judicial nominations, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist doesn't really have a majority to lead. Before the President nominated anybody, before he even took the oath of office for his second term, Senator Arlen Specter was already warning him not to nominate anyone who would rile up the Senate. Later, Senator John Warner issued a similar warning. It sounded like a familiar Republican strategy of pre-emptive surrender.

Before we can judge how the President played his hand, we have to consider what kind of hand he had to play. It was a weak hand -- and the weakness was in the Republican Senators.

Does this mean that Harriet Miers will not be a good Supreme Court justice if she is confirmed? It is hard to imagine her being worse than Sandra Day O'Connor -- or even as bad.

The very fact that Harriet Miers is a member of an evangelical church suggests that she is not dying to be accepted by the beautiful people, and is unlikely to sell out the Constitution of the United States in order to be the toast of Georgetown cocktail parties or praised in the New York Times. Considering some of the turkeys that Republicans have put on the Supreme Court in the past, she could be a big improvement.

We don't know. But President Bush says he has known Harriet Miers long enough that he feels sure.

George W. Bush is a practical man. As a Harvard MBA and former CEO, he keeps his eye on the bottom line.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Getting Professional Help

Group therapy perhaps:

A Connecticut psychologist has been ordered held on $1.7 million bond on charges he conspired to murder a fellow psychologist, the stepfather of [Seattle] Sonics guard Ray Allen.

Ernest C. Garlington, 37, appeared yesterday in Middlesex Superior Court.

Garlington and Terrence Battle, 31, were charged Wednesday in a murder-for-hire plot against psychologist Derek Hopson. Arrest warrants detailing the allegations have been ordered sealed for two weeks.

Hopson was once married to Garlington's wife. He's now married to Flora Allen-Hopson, Allen's mother.

Garlington and Battle are accused of conspiring with a third man, 34-year-old Robbie Santos, who is serving an 18-year prison term for firing a shot at Hopson in 2003.

.... Garlington and Battle are also accused in another assault on Hopson, on Aug. 12, 2002. In that incident, Hopson was attacked with a golf club.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Vox, Baby. You Bet.

Dartmouth economist Andrew Samwick--who knows Harriet Miers from his days on the Council of Economic Advisers--shows that when you study logic, you can apply it to more than economics:

The surprising aspect of this [negative] commentary, which is echoed in many places on the political right, is that there is doubt about Miers' likely voting patterns. Are you kidding? She has been on this President's staff for a number of years. How could anyone but a "Bush Conservative" tolerate that proximity for so long without having views that were wholly compatible? The conservatives have something to worry about in charges of cronyism, but I would be shocked to see a Justice Miers anywhere but in the Scalia-Thomas wing of the Court.

Perhaps George Will should enroll in one of his classes. If George W. Bush is being truthful about wanting more justices like Scalia and Thomas, wouldn't it make sense that the one candidate he truly knows well, would only be nominated if he were confident that that's what she will turn out to be.

Like Walter Jones on a Pass Rusher... Northwestern economist (and FLUBA e-mail pal) Lynne Kiesling in rebutting John Irons' claim:

...higher prices may be the result of standard supply shocks of the type that one sees in an introductory economics course, but then again they might not. The energy price spikes in California during the 2000-01 electricity crisis
turned out to be market manipulation by Enron, and provided a stark example of how markets can be manipulated for private gain.

The lady pancakes him:

John, you should know better than to rattle my cage about the causes of the California electricity crisis! The real blame in such a controlled-and-managed market rests with the policy makers who designed the rules and implemented them without good (dare I say experimental?) testing in advance. Oil and gasoline markets, both financial and retail, are more organic than that. They are also sets of integrated spot and forward markets, with participants using forward contracts, options, derivatives, and other contractual innovations to lay off risk on parties who are willing to take it. Those integrated, organic markets insulate most of us from most of the economic shocks that would accompany having to deal with volatile commodity markets in real time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Just Us Pros Practicin' Here

The FLUBA Committee on Those Who Cannot Be Embarrassed No Matter What, notes this bit of professionalism in Austin, Texas:

A Travis County grand jury last week refused to indict former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as prosecutors raced to salvage their felony case against the Sugar Land Republican.

In a written statement Tuesday, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle acknowledged that prosecutors presented their case to three grand juries — not just the two they had discussed — and one grand jury refused to indict DeLay. ....

Normally, a "no-bill" document is available at the courthouse after such a decision. No such document was released Tuesday.

Earle's statement on Tuesday said he took money-laundering and conspiracy charges to a third grand jury on Monday after prosecutors learned of new evidence over the weekend.

Lawyers for DeLay immediately called foul after Earle released his statement after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"What could have happened over the weekend?" said Austin lawyer Bill White, who represents DeLay. "They investigate for three years and suddenly they have new evidence? That's beyond the pale!"

White suggested that Earle released his statement Tuesday because he feared reporters would learn about the no-bill.

In his statement, Earle said he would have no further comment because grand jury proceedings are secret.

Apparently forgetting to tell the foreman of the jury that though, as he's been giving interviews about what went on in the jury room.

Effete Impudent Snob Alert

For Nattering Nabob of Negativism, and Sunday Second Banana to George Stephanopoulis, George Will for:

It is not important that [Harriet Miers] be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's ``argument'' for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their prepresidential careers, and this president, particularly, is not disposed to such reflections.

The FLUBA Committee on Inside the Beltway Commentators Who've Had Too Many Conversations With Each Other and Had Make-up Applied Too Often notes that the standard of being, among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, is not only nowhere found in the Constitution, but is also a meaningless platitude.

Would Clarence Thomas have been said to have been one when he was nominated? Or any of the others currently sitting on the Court--including current pinch hitter Sandra Day O'Connor, then of the Arizona State Court of Appeals?

Byron--Whizzer--White was best known for his college football exploits when John Kennedy named him to the Supreme Court, and he turned out to be one of the few voices of reason on the Warren Court (speaking of another non-leading legal light). Robert Jackson didn't even have a law degree but managed to muddle through after FDR appointed him from his Attorney General post in 1941.

And Will might ponder the implications of his argument that few presidents are qualified to select Supreme Court Justices, when it is the Constitution itself that gives the elected Executive just that authority, not to unelected, accountable to no one except the Nielsen Ratings, TV personalities.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

These Guys Are Not Good

NFL games in Mexico City? How about slam dunk contests in Pyongyang:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has decided to pass the mantle of leadership to his second son, Kim Jong-Chol, according to AERA magazine, a publication of Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

AERA quoted an informed official as saying Kim Jong-Il has made up his mind to transfer his power to his 24-year-old son.

....According to AERA, Kim, who was born on Sept. 25, 1981, studied at an international school in Switzerland. He is such an enthusiastic fan of the U.S. basketball that his doting father built basketball courts at his villas throughout North Korea.

Seoul's intelligence sources also indicated North Korea may announce Kim's successor in the near future. In an apparent bid by Kim to reinforce the country's dynastic rule, he has purged Jang Song-Taek, his brother-in-law and closest aide, according to the sources. Jang had long been believed to be a strong candidate to succeed Kim.

But the Pyongyang regime has recently described Jang as a "tree" that is now cut off, a strong indication that he was officially removed from the power.

Kim Jong-Chol was also competing with his elder half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, to lead the country. But Jong-Nam has been considered out of contention after Japanese authorities caught him attempting to enter Japan illegally in May 2001, an act that caused Pyongyang severe diplomatic embarrassment. Jong-Nam is the son of Kim Jong-Il's second wife, Song Hae-Rim, who died in a Moscow hospital in 2002.

Go East, Young Man

That's apparently where the young economists make the big bucks these days:

Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, came to the school in 2002 with the goal of putting the university on a par with the likes of Harvard and Yale. He knew that it was nearly impossible to be a top university without a first-rate economics department. Undergraduate majors were surging; American universities awarded almost 40 percent more economics degrees in 2004 than in 1999, while most other majors were either flat or declining. And these relatively well-compensated graduates—the average economics major earns more than $40,000 per year in his first job—were, in turn, helping boost their schools’ position in U.S. News and World Report, which considers alumni giving in its rankings.

....Salaries were rising across the field, and there was a run on the top scholars; NYU is rumored to have offered Harvard’s Andrei Schleifer a $500,000 salary in 2003.

Bollinger gave department chairman Donald Davis a mandate to restore the program to its past glory.

Including those forged on the anvil of sci.econ:

Edward Vytlacil

Vytlacil applied microeconomist. At Stanford, Vytlacil studied the impact of education on wages and the effectiveness of drug and alcohol treatment programs. He is also an innovator in the field of econometrics, the statistical methods economists use to analyze data. Vytlacil was a student of Michael Woodford’s during his undergrad days at Chicago and interpreted his former professor’s hiring as a sign that Columbia was on the rebound.

The FLUBA Committee on Sraffadolatry considers this a setback for that movement.