Friday, January 27, 2006

Testing for Cross country heterogeneity in Growth Models
using a finite mixture approach

Marco Alfo', Giovanni Trovato and Robert J. Waldmann

We use an empirical model to test if the economic growth can be
considered exogenous in the Solovian sense. We apply multivariate
mixture model proposed by Alfo' and Trovato (2004) to the
Bernanke and Gurkaynak (2000) extension of the Solow model. We
find that the explanatory power of the Solow growth model is
enhanced, since growth rates are not statistically significantly
associated with investment rates, when cross-country heterogeneity
is considered. Moreover we find no sign of convergence to a single
equilibrium.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Some of Jack Abramoff's clients testified under oath that he advised them to donate money to both major parties. See here here and here at the Next Hurrah.
Now That is Data Mining

Kevin Drum explains. Data mining is not when you handle way lots of data, data mining is when you handle data Lott's way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Glenn Reynolds discusses comments at the WAPO

Washington, D.C.: Hi, my question is for Glenn and then maybe Jane would like to comment.

Why is it that most of the high traffic right-wing blogs don't take comments, while most of the left-wing blogs do?

From my perspective, it looks like the conservatives can dish it out, but can't take it, that they are uncomfortable subjecting their ideas to scrutiny on their own Web sites.

Jeff Jarvis: Heh.

Glenn Reynolds: I think that one reason has to do with media treatment. Charles Johnson, for example -- who does have comments -- has repeatedly faced media stories about his site in which comments made by his readers are directly attributed to him, as if he had written them. I certainly worry about that sort of thing, too. I think that lefty sites expect, and get, less of that kind of mistreatment.

I've never had comments. I get about 1000 emails a day, and I don't have time to look at those, post on my blog, AND moderate comments. And unmoderated comments raise a risk of the kind of thing I mention above, as well as possible libel and copyright issues. I've actually considered bringing someone in to do that, but that seems too impersonal.


I submitted a comment, but I think I missed the deadline for consideration (and besides they probably had a backlog of comments by then).

Dear Professor Reynolds

You wrote

"Glenn Reynolds: [snip] And unmoderated comments raise a risk of the kind of thing I mention above, as well as possible libel and copyright issues."

Are you familiar with the law. In this case the law makes it very clear that if people can post comments automatically, the organiser of the site is not legally liable for the comments. Thus there could be no libel of copywrite violation liability for you if you were to allow comments. Further you do not acquire such liability by deleting some comments. The law is very clear that such deletions do not make a blogger the editor of a comments section for legal purposes.

Of course this was fully discussed when Daniel Luskin threatened to sue Atrios (see
http://tinyurl.com/b45lz).

Professor Reynolds. What subject exactly do you teach ? Are you completely ignorant about the law or were you trying to pull a fast one ?

Why does Reynolds feel the need to deceive when talking about the response to a factual error.

Also it is ironic, given that Reynolds was invited by a MSM organ to help them defend themselves against angry readers and the two who showed the readers the way to get the Post's attention, that he begins his answer by blaiming "media treatment".
Sure Glenn participants in the discussion are going to be real convinced that the MSM is unfair to righties and just doesn't know it has a problem with liberal bias. Just ask Deborah Howell.

My guess is that he doesn't even notice when he distorts or appeals to the assumption that the MSM has a liberal bias.

Comments:
As much as I hate political discussions that focus on my team/your team arguments instead of the issues themselves, I have to agree that the entire point of public discussion of politics SHOULD be to develop, through dialog and sharing ideas, political and economic systems for the betterment of the nation in question.
Blogs that just rant, however, without allowing for EXCHANGE of ideas are pointless.

Plus, and perhaps more to the point... if a blog has it's mouth open but its eyes and ears shut, then its author is likely the same way. How well informed and intelligent can any such speaker be?

# posted by K. R. Robling : 11:49 PM

Now I welcome comments but there are so few to welcome. I wish that Blogger had a setting so that comments appeared up here with the post and I didn't have to pull them up by hand.

posted by rjwaldmann
What is a Fishing Expedition ?

As has been noted everywhere, Scott McClellan said, when asked who Jack Abramoff met in the White House etc

"If you've got some specific issue that you need to bring to my attention, fine. But what we're not going to do is engage in a fishing expedition that has nothing to do with the investigation."

As has been noted at Think Progress, Mr McClellan spun himself into a loop on that one since, "This most recent explanation shows the White House has completely spun itself into knots. Whereas the White House used to refrain from comment on matters related to the leak investigation because the questions WERE related to an ongoing investigation, the White House is now arguing it won’t comment because the questions are NOT related to an ongoing investigation."

I would just like to note that he span himself into two loops. As far as I can tell "fishing expedition" is pejorative and is a synonym for "data mining" which is good.
The term is not just a term for a leisure activity, it is also a legal term of art referring to invasion of privacy and abuse of supoena power. A judge must not grant a warrent for a fishing expedition. A lawyer may not draf a reluctant witness on a fishing expedition. A fishing expedition violates a right to privacy.

The current Bush administration position is that I do not have a right to privacy when I talk to my mom on the phone, but they have a right to privacy while at work being paid by public money. I can point to the 4th amendment. They can point to the law which requires meetings with lobbyists to be open to the public but ooops.

Tomorrow we attempt to define "transparency in government".

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What is Data Mining ?

I am familiar with the phrase as a pejorative. If a researcher performs a large number of statistical tests and cherry picks the on which provides the strongest evidence for his or her hypothesis, he or she has come close to fraud. A reader informed only of the selected results can be misled. This is a particularly serious problem if readers rely on standard significance tests. Data snooping is a less severe offence against statistics. In data snooping the researcher informally looks at the data without generating test statistics. This can still create the illusion that a statistically significant pattern has been found.

The phrase is suddenly all over the papers. However, it is not used as a pejorative. It definitely is not used to mean "cherry picking". It has now been widely noticed that cherry picking can lead to false conclusions.

"Data mining" in contrast is now used to refer to mysterious information processing techniques which are very powerful, perhaps dangerously powerful. They are not described in detail but they have something to do with huge powerful computers and data sets so massive as to be incomprehensible to mere humans. Evidently the computers search through huge amounts of data looking for suspicious patters. Also the computers find a huge number of such suspicious patters.

Unfortunately people processing the ore from the data mine are not impressed

"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former FBI official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."

Ah yess that sounds like the result of data mining to me. If you look through a huge amound of data concerning innocent people for suspicious you will find many cases of patters so suspicious that the probability they are do to chance is very low like one in a hundred thousand. If you check every phone number in the world, you will end up sendign harassed FBI agents to harass thousands of innocent people. I mean the math isn't complicated.

However, a 1 in a 100,000 pattern is very very impressive. Our brains are not made to understand that 1 in a 100,000 is very different from 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 10,000,000. Furthermore computers remain strange and very impressive (especially google I mean how the hell can it search so fast ?).

It seems that the new meaning of "data mining" is very close to the old meaning and, thus, about the same as "cherry picking" or, to be exact, mechanised cherry picking.
It's connotations were not pejorative a year or so ago. People have to learn the same lesson again and again.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Ben Carter An Enemy of the People

(dear reader I hope you are familiar with Ibsen)
A block buster article by Dan Eggen on political bias in the Justice Department's voting section.

As has been reported already, Bush's political appointees have a pattern of over ruling staff attorneys in ways which help Republicans (and in one case which was held to be unconstitutional). One key issue was a Georgian law requiring voters to present photo identification. The law clearly establishes a poll tax and thus is unconstitutional. Georgia is now working on a new bill under which they will give people photo ID.

The Justice Department's voting section has a very relaxed view of conflict of interest. It's decision to accept the law was made by a former Republican party official who had advocated the law before evaluating it.

One of the officials involved in the decision was Hans von Spakovsky, a former head of the Fulton County GOP in Atlanta, who had long advocated a voter-identification law for the state and oversaw many voting issues at Justice. Justice spokesman Eric W. Holland said von Spakovsky's previous activities did not require a recusal and had no impact on his actions in the Georgia case.


Well at least Mr Holland has a sense of humor. Of course advocating something has no impact on whether you declare it to be illegal.

As to von Spakovsky, he is out of there as "Von Spakovsky has since been named to the Federal Election Commission in a recess appointment by President Bush."

Michael A. Carvin, a civil rights deputy under Reagan, won't let Holland claim the craziest quote prize without a fight. He argues that career lawyers in the Justice Department's voting section have long been acting counter to normal practice. Now my problem with this claim is not that it is false, it is self contradictory. There aren't a lot of competing voting sections you know. The systematic behavior of voting section career lawyers *is* the normal practice.

Carvin and other conservatives also say the opinions of career lawyers in the section frequently ...

"The notion that they are somehow neutral or somehow ideologically impartial is simply not supported by the evidence," Carvin said. "It hasn't been the politicos that were departing from the law or normal practice, but the voting-rights section."


Now that is special. I don't think the FEC is enough for this guy. By taking on logic itself for Bush, he's earned a nomination to the supreme court.
Ripon Rip Off

It is illegal for lobbyists to pay for travel for lawmakers. Thus non profit corporations serve as money laundrys. Most are newly founded with vague names. However even I have heard of the Ripon society. Thomas Edsall shows just how unafraid of any kind of oversight Republicans became.

In recent years, however, a leading public watchdog group suggests, the Ripon Society has added an unofficial mission: travel agency to lobbyists.

Under president Richard S. Kessler, himself a prominent Washington lobbyist, people who represent corporate interests before Congress have "spent millions taking lawmakers to European capitals and U.S. resorts" under the auspices of the Ripon Society and the affiliated Ripon Educational Fund, the group Public Citizen charged in a new report.


They do have a sense of humor however

McNeill adamantly defended the conferences. "We are not skirting any ethics rules," he said, adding that the society has a "hard and fast," if unwritten, rule that "we don't allow any lobbying."
Antidigital Divide

A narrow interest group for me. It is a group of Italian residents who don't have broad band and who protest this injustice. I can't get broad band here.

La Repubblica reports
Kathryn Jean Lopez (NRO Editor) does not know what Irony is.

via firedoglake via The General himself.

With respect to General JC Christian (patriot [heterosexual patriot])'s review of "Women Who Make the World Worse," she writes

Of course, we didn’t really need the admission; the lead customer review on Amazon for a few days now — besides citing “her frequent attacks against the television show, ‘Sex in the City,’” (good luck finding them in the book — they aren’t in there) — says:

As much as I enjoyed this book, I can't give it more than a single star because it has a fatal flaw. It promotes the most destructive myth of all, the existence of lesbianism. Mrs. O'Beirne discusses it throughout the book as if it is something that is real. She doesn't seem to be able to understand that women can't have sex with each other.

There’s not a single mention of lesbians in the book. That reviewer’s got his own vast-right-wing-conspiracy book fantasy going on.


I can only assume that K-Lo thinks it is funny to pretend that she is taking the general seriously. Sad to say, it is not. Unless she really really didn't notice that the General shouldn't be taken literally. Oh and since when has Lopez been in the habit of cutting off "little soldiers"

(Yglesias reminds us of the importance of the use mention distinction).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Speaking of Paranoia

Recently I was discussing 1984 and paranoia with my daughter. The NSA spying is not our families main concern at the moment. We are more distressed over the fact that our refrigerator is broken and the refrigerator repair guy was out of coolant when he came to not fix it. I'm not paranoid, but the latest spam I got at hotmail was this



From : Free Appliances
Sent : Sunday, January 22, 2006 6:19 PM
To : rjw88@hotmail.com
CC : offer@senderrrsite.com
Subject : We're giving away a Free Refrigerator

Now I know that, unlike google, microsoft co-operated with the latest DOJ invasion of privacy effort, but I didn't know they got information in exchange and how does the DOJ know we need a new refrigerator ?

Update: OK now I know microsoft is spying on me. Just after I posted my thoughts about the mysteriously timed refrigerator spam, my hotmail spam tried to reassure me. I got spam for "men's wedding bands" and "Engagement Rings" as if the sinister organization which knows my refrigerator is broked didn't know that I am currently married and, in fact, wearing a wedding ring. Also I got spams for "drug rehab" and "road to recovery" even though I have never been addicted to a banned substance and haven't consumed one in ... well a very long time (definitely more than 5 years).

Now you might argue that using evidence that the spam fits my case and evidence that it doesn't equally as proof that MSN is spying on me is clearly paranoid. If you do, I just hope they paid you well to be part of their conspiracy.
Kickapoo Joy

In one shot that TIME saw, Bush appears with Abramoff, several unidentified people and Raul Garza Sr., a Texan Abramoff represented who was then chairman of the Kickapoo Indians, which owned a casino in southern Texas.

via think progress

I deeply respect the Kickapoo and would never have used an insulting and racist reference to "Kickapoo joy juice" if I had know that they actually exist.
Howell's by now retracted corrected and cancelled howler

I am beginning to be concerned about my obsession with Deborah Howell. I believe that Carol Burnett got her big break when she sang the hit song "I made a fool of myself over John Foster Dulles." Attempting to avoid personal insults, I should add both that Deborah Howell is much sexier than John Foster Dulles and that she doesn't have to worry about me stalking her and harassing her with phone calls in which I talk about the unambiguity of the third person singular pronoun "he" and felafel.

Still in this harmless, low traffic, non obscene, not too personal and occasionally correctly spelled blog, I link to Josh Marshall who manages to have something useful to say as always. In his brief summary he notes that some have claimed that the distinction between money given by Abramoff and money given by his clients after he so recommended is without a difference. I can't help responding to this argument (I tried).

First I don't think a newspaper can make that argument when one of the statements is a factual error. I don't think a newspaper can argue that an error of fact is too minor to correct when it is challenged. This seems to me (and Deborah Howell) to be an obviously necessary rule.

Second I don't think the distinction is without a difference. In fact, I think it is necessary to make more distinctions if one wants to understand the controversy (although I have no idea why any sane person would want to do that). Consider 5 catagories

a. Money given by Jack Abramoff's clients
b. Money given by Jack Abramoff's clients after he recommended such giving
c. Money given by Jack Abramoff's clients because he recommended such giving
d. Money given by Jack Abramoff's clients at his direction.
e. Money given by Jack Abramoff.

In the original Howler, Howell conflated a and e. This is clear since she claimed that the giving was "substantial." If one clicks the link she used for evidence of b,c or d, and one relies on Mark Schmitt (see below) to understand how capitoleye works (it is very very simple) one finds that the total in c demonstrated by the Washington Post is $500 (to Max Cleland) which is not substantial.

Now are these distinctions without differences ? I think it is absolutely clear that the distinction between a (for which the Post presents significant evidence of considerable contributions to Democrats) and e must be important exactly because Abramoff gave often and always always to Republicans. If one wishes to argue that there is no important difference between a and e, one has to explain why the patterns are totally different. I think any attempt to understand this undeniable fact leads one to consider some donations by Abramoff clients to have been made in spite of not because of Abramoff. This means that the data on total giving by Abramoff clients is even less relevant than it appeared at first (which is basically totally irrelevant).

Howell says she wrote e when she should have written d. d clearly is zero dollars. Abramoff worked for his clients. They gave him money. They did not owe him obedience. Indeed (see below) the tiny scrap of information on Abramoff recommendations does not match actual giving. This shows, as if it were needed, that Abramoff did not command his clients.

To be charitable replace d with c. The distinction between c and b is as important as any aspect of Abramoff campaign donations (which is not very). It is clear that Abramoff could not convince his clients to instantly cut off Democrats completely and that he would have lost their trust if he tried. The scrap of a document cited as evidence provides no information on this. Thus Howell has shifted from a false claim to a claim unsupported by evidence.

I assume that, at this point, I have no readers to whom to apologise for this boring pointless post.
Howell's Howler Case Closed

Deborah Howler has written a column which has been printed in which she, finally, admits that the 11 word sentence "And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." was false not unclear, a poor way to put it, or anything else.

I wrote that he gave campaign money to both parties and their members of Congress. He didn't. I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.

My mistake set off a firestorm. I heard that I was lying, that Democrats never got a penny of Abramoff-tainted money, that I was trying to say it was a bipartisan scandal, as some Republicans claim. I didn't say that. It's not a bipartisan scandal; it's a Republican scandal, and that's why the Republicans are scurrying around trying to enact lobbying reforms.


Her current claim that "he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties" is unproven given the anomaly noted by Mark Schmitt.

Howell also approvingly quotes Michael Crowley who considers the difference between a false statement and an arguable true statement "foolish semantics." If a factual error is challenged, it must be corrected. No serious journalist can consider a factual error "foolish semantics." There is no plus side to refusing to correct an error immediately. At least two Post journalists refused to quote the offending 11 words for days debating readers obout what had been written in the Post and was available on its web page. That was dumb.

There is no evidence that Abramoff controlled his clients enough to justify the word "directed" as opposed to "advised." The scrap of evidence that Howell presented to prove such "direction" undermines her claim since actual money was not given as "directed."

Howell and the Post have presented no evidence that Abramoff ever encouraged anyone to give anything to a Democrat as opposed to reluctantly accepting that he could not prevent them from doing so.

Still the key issue of an uncorrected unambiguous error has been settled.
As we were driving in my car, My daughter Marina said

M "So George Orwell is your favorite author"
R "yeah I guess so why ? Are you reading something by him ?"
M "No I'm remembering 1984 a great book, especially for paranoid people like us."
R "Shhhhh" pointing at a vaguely microphone shaped bit of my car."
M "Your countrymen are listening to you."
R "Well actually they do record it when I talk to my mom [capsule summary of the NSA scandal]. It's getting hard to be paranoid these days.

I am delighted that my daughter appreciates Orwell, less delighted that she refers to *our* countrymen as "your countrymen" and worried about the fate of the paranoid. I mean I suppose there is some psychological reason they believe crazy things that no one else takes seriously, and whatever they get out of it they risk losing as George Bush et al model the world after their fantasies.

With this in mind, I was seriously worried by the Deibold story in the Washington Post. Next are they going to write an article about the beneficial health properties of tinfoil hats ?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Howell's Howler VII

Mark Schmitt absolutely nails the Washington Post in a very important ...
comment on Brad DeLong's blog. "And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." This lead to an avalanche of furious complaints. Howell replied conceding (sortof) that her claim was false, but also claiming that Jack Abramoff
"directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties." To support this claim she links to two graphics. A graph of donations by Abramoff and Abramoff's clients which provides no evidence on which donations of clients were directed by abramoff and a scrap of evidence about direction which does show some names of Democrats in a memo identified by the Post as a communication from Abramoff to the Lousiana Coushettas.

Mark Schmitt notes that the actual donations to Democrats by the Coushettas do not match those on the list. Thus there are donations from Abramoff's clients and indications from Abramoff about donations to Democrats, but no match. I had trouble finding the FEC records last night and tip my hat to Schmitt. However, the Washington Post can not use that as an excuse. Howell and 3 defenders at the Post have repeated that they have proof that Abramoff directed donations to Democrats. The scrap of evidence they present is no such thing. Due dilligence would have included checking FEC records before libelling Democrats. Posting the scrap is not asserting that it corresponds to what actually happened, but they have since made that assertion without checking.

The scrap of evidence stolen

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I'm just going to steal Mark Schmitt's response to Howell. I can't understand why I had trouble getting to the page with data myself.



A detailed list of contributions by Abramoff, Scanlon, and their clients is here:



This excludes contributions made before Abramoff was a registered lobbyist, but makes no effort to detect whether he directed them or not, or to compare their pre- and post-Abramoff giving.

Comparing it to the list that Howell cited, reveals some interesting discrepancies: the fragment of the list directs $2,000 to former Sen. Max Cleland. The Center for Responsive Politics list shows the Coushattas giving $500 to Cleland and $5,500 to his opponent, Saxby Chambliss. Likewise, the fragment suggests $2,000 to Jean Carnahan; in reality, neither the Coushattas nor any other Abramoff client gave to Carnahan but both Abramoff and his clients gave $3,000 to her opponent, Jim Talent. Senator Daschle, whose name appears on the fragment of a list with an illegible amount, did not receive any money from the Coushattas, although he did receive significant funding from other tribes, as did his opponent, now-Sen. Thune.

Not sure what this proves, except that the fragment of an e-mail cited by Howell does not seem to be an accurate representation of actual donations directed by Abramoff.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt | January 21, 2006 at 08:54 AM

Here, by the way, is the list just for actual Coushatta contributions:

[That is]
http://www.capitaleye.org/abramoff_donor.asp?Name=Coushatta+Tribe+of+Louisiana

I'll let someone else do the math. My inclination would be to exclude all the contributions to Louisiana Dems and Republicans -- since those are their own representatives -- and then add up the rest. There's some money to Tim Johnson in South Dakota on that list -- like Byron Dorgan, someone who "was supporting Indian tribes for longer than Abramoff was bilking them" -- and $2,000 to Tom Harkin (likewise), and the rest of the $220,000 or so is all Republicans, especially those in targetted races.


Posted by: Mark Schmitt | January 21, 2006 at 09:06 AM


Also Brad's comments on the scrap of evidence that Abramoff directed donations to democrats are very convincing. I'd say that it is no mystery that no donations to Dascle were actually made.
Howell's Howler VII

Mark Schmitt absolutely nails the Washington Post in a very important ... comment on Brad DeLong's blog. href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/14/AR2006011400859.html">"And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties."
This lead to an avalanche of furious complaints. Howell replied conceding (sortof) that her claim was false, but also claiming that Jack Abramoff "directed his Indian tribal clients to make millions of dollars in campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties." To support this claim she links to two graphics. A graph of donations by Abramoff and Abramoff's clients which provides no evidence on which donations of clients were directed by abramoff and a scrap of evidence about direction which does show some names of Democrats in a memo identified by the Post as a communication from Abramoff to the Lousiana Coushettas.

Mark Schmitt notes that the actual donations to Democrats by the Coushettas do not match those on the list. Thus there are donations from Abramoff's clients and indications from Abramoff about donations to Democrats, but no match. I had trouble finding the FEC records last night and tip my hat to Schmitt. However, the Washington Post can not use that as an excuse. Howell and 3 defenders at the Post have repeated that they have proof that Abramoff directed donations to Democrats. The scrap of evidence they present is no such thing. Due dilligence would have included checking FEC records before libelling Democrats. Posting the scrap is not asserting that it corresponds to what actually happened, but they have since made that assertion without checking.

The scrap of evidence stolen

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I'm just going to steal Mark Schmitt's response to Howell. I can't understand why I had trouble getting to the page with data myself.



A detailed list of contributions by Abramoff, Scanlon, and their clients is here:



This excludes contributions made before Abramoff was a registered lobbyist, but makes no effort to detect whether he directed them or not, or to compare their pre- and post-Abramoff giving.

Comparing it to the list that Howell cited, reveals some interesting discrepancies: the fragment of the list directs $2,000 to former Sen. Max Cleland. The Center for Responsive Politics list shows the Coushattas giving $500 to Cleland and $5,500 to his opponent, Saxby Chambliss. Likewise, the fragment suggests $2,000 to Jean Carnahan; in reality, neither the Coushattas nor any other Abramoff client gave to Carnahan but both Abramoff and his clients gave $3,000 to her opponent, Jim Talent. Senator Daschle, whose name appears on the fragment of a list with an illegible amount, did not receive any money from the Coushattas, although he did receive significant funding from other tribes, as did his opponent, now-Sen. Thune.

Not sure what this proves, except that the fragment of an e-mail cited by Howell does not seem to be an accurate representation of actual donations directed by Abramoff.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt | January 21, 2006 at 08:54 AM

Here, by the way, is the list just for actual Coushatta contributions:

[That is]
http://www.capitaleye.org/abramoff_donor.asp?Name=Coushatta+Tribe+of+Louisiana

I'll let someone else do the math. My inclination would be to exclude all the contributions to Louisiana Dems and Republicans -- since those are their own representatives -- and then add up the rest. There's some money to Tim Johnson in South Dakota on that list -- like Byron Dorgan, someone who "was supporting Indian tribes for longer than Abramoff was bilking them" -- and $2,000 to Tom Harkin (likewise), and the rest of the $220,000 or so is all Republicans, especially those in targetted races.


Posted by: Mark Schmitt | January 21, 2006 at 09:06 AM


Also Brad's comments on the scrap of evidence that Abramoff directed donations to democrats are very convincing. I'd say that it is no mystery that no donations to Dascle were actually made.
The Presidentialist Papers

via The Carpetbagger Report

A guide to reading as they read in the Bush White House f e d e r a l is pronounced like "presidential." In the DOJ they aren't so vulgar and pronounce it "unitary executive" with a strong Britich accent (hold the crown). This really does not overstate the inanity of a White Paper which asserts that a discussion of federal powers (as opposed to state powers) is a discussion of presidential powers as opposed to congressional powers.

You can't make this shit up.


the administration released a white paper insisting that there's nothing illegal about the NSA program.

The Bush administration argued yesterday that the president has inherent war powers under the Constitution to order warrantless eavesdropping on the international calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and others in this country, offering the administration's most detailed legal defense to date of its surveillance program.

Unfortunately, over the course of 42 pages (.pdf), there's not much in the way of new arguments. Bush has the "inherent" authority to execute a war on terror, Congress' 9/11 resolution said the president could do anything he wanted in this endeavor, yada yada yada.

What I did find interesting, however, is to help find support for its case, the administration relied on the Federalist Papers. Yes, the ones from 1788. From the administration's report:

To carry out these responsibilities, the President must have authority to gather information necessary for the execution of his office. The Founders, after all, intended the federal Government to be clothed with all authority necessary to protect the Nation. See, e.g., The Federalist No. 23, at 147 (Alexander Hamilton) (Jacob E. Cooke ed. 1961) (explaining that the federal Government will be "cloathed with all the powers requisite to the complete execution of its trust"); id. No. 41, at 269 (James Madison) ("Security against foreign danger is one of the primitive objects of civil society . . . . The powers requisite for attaining it must be effectually confided to the federal councils."). Because of the structural advantages of the Executive Branch, the Founders also intended that the President would have the primary responsibility and necessary authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive to protect the Nation and to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs. See, e.g., The Federalist No. 70, at 471-72 (Alexander Hamilton); see also Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763, 788 (1950) ("this [constitutional] grant of war power includes all that is necessary and proper for carrying these powers into execution") (citation omitted).
I mostly agree with Jim Brady

On the other hand he typed an emoticon

"Jim Brady: Figured one note from a supporter would be OK. :-)"

Standard Mr Brady Standards :-((

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chirac Mon Amour II

The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would envision using . . . weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and fitting response on our part," Chirac said during a visit to a nuclear submarine base in Brittany. "This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind."

[snip]

"The flexibility and reaction of our strategic forces allow us to respond directly against the centers of power. . . . All of our nuclear forces have been configured in this spirit."

Sometimes I wonder if I will be ashamed to speak in public in Italy where I live because my accent reveals me to be American. So far any hopes that this will happen have been frustrated partly by my need to talk and partly by Italians' weird Americanophillia. Still it's nice to know that Jacques Chirac is always around to balance the horror of Bush. This is part II because of something I wrote back when I could not quite understand that I desperately wanted a blog, because I didn't know what a blog was.

8/10/1995

Chirac mon amour

I viewed the approach of the 50th anniversary of the bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki with great aprehension. I expected that I
would be Made to feel personally responsible for the bombings. In
the event I was surprised to learn that one person and one person
only was responsisble -- Jacques Chirac. Chirac chose to blow up
a bomb almost exactly on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of
Hiroshima and almost exactly on the 10 anniversary of the rainbow
warrior I by French secret agents. Chirac was making final plans
for a trip to Japan when the bomb blew up so the Japanese had to
tell him that he was not welcome. Chirac's wife went to the
women's conference in Beijing (the capital of the only other
country which has not promised to refrain from nuclear tests) where
she waited in the rain while arguing that she should be allowed to
hear the speach by another first lady (ah la gloire). Today I
learned that the EU ministers declared their perfect syntony with
Eltsin on Bosnia and in complete (if not quite unanimous)
disagreement with the French proposal to Europeanize the bomb. All
ministers other than those from England (Hurd ?) and Germany
(Kinkel ?) went on to criticize the bomb tests. In other words
Europe says Eltsin good Chirac bad.

I was astounded to learn that Chirac had once been not only a
communist but a communist activist who sold l'Humanite on the
street. How things change -- or do they -- is Chirac an idiot ex-
communist rightist or is he a crypto-communist genius ? You got to
admit that it answers a whole lot of nagging questions.


As a result of all this I feel a warm glow of gratitude whenever I
see an image of Chirac, hear Chirac, or think of Chirac.



Jacques Chirac, still protecting my patriotism after all these years.
James Webb has become popular in the left blogosphere by denouncing the swift boating of John Murtha.

Brad DeLong actually claims that he is an honorable gentleman .

Oh yeah ? and what about this ?

The single factor that undid much of the established cohesion of the female and male midshipmen, however, was the publication, midway through their senior year, of James Webb’s article “Women Can’t Fight.”[45] A 1968 graduate who spent two months as a “writer-in-residence” at Annapolis, Webb argued that the presence of women “sterilized” the Academy by turning it in to “a test tube for social experimentation.”[46] Webb hit a powerful chord in the minds of many Naval Academy alumni, particularly those who, like him, had battle experience and believed that women did not belong in combat and, by extension, at Annapolis.[47] Claiming that women “poisoned” the institution, Webb declared that he would never want to be in combat with any of the female midshipmen he knew.[48] As male midshipmen pasted copies of the article on the walls of Bancroft Hall, the women realized that Webb had undermined any respect and acceptance that they had managed to achieve during their four years at the Academy.[49]


It took me unusually long to google up the goods on Webb. The key keyword was wuba
According to www.google.com.sg
I am the web's 5th leading expert on "qiyyadah". I am flattered, but I must admit that I have only the faintest idea of what quiyyadah might be and that is based on the line of text provided by www.google.com.sg (I'm afraid to say that I think it has something to do with terrorism). Let me click the link, add to my own traffic and check.

Aha my apparent expertise is based on the fact that I miss spelled the name (for once deliberately) in an effort to prevent people from getting the answer from google. That was almost 2 years ago and I was so young and naive that I thought that you could trick google by mispelling. Ha. The web is so huge that you can get information on pretty much anything even if you don't know how to spell. Unfortunately, if you really really don't know how to spell, you might get the information from me.

I'm going to guess that "Fatah al-Qiyyadah al-Thawriyah" is one of the names that Abu Nidal gave to the terrorist group he lead.

Yep
Howell's Howler VI

Debora Howell wrote "I've heard from lots of angry readers about the remark in my column Sunday that lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave money to both parties. A better way to have said it would be that Abramoff "directed" contributions to both parties."

This can be consstrued to be a correction. Thus I feel free to blog on other topics (nothing like promising not to do something to make one want to do it). However, it is at most a very minimal correction. Unlike her colleagues Howard Kurtz and Jeff Leen, who chose to lie about this fact, Howell admits that she did indeed write that Abramoff gave money to both parties. She also admits that she should not have done so. However, she claims that two different claims, one true and one false are different ways of saying the same thing. This is nonsense.

Since the original falsehood was printed, a web only correction is not sufficient. www.washingtonpost.com is having problems and gave me this when I searched for "Howell" and "correction" so I don't know if they have printed a correction. I am fairly sure they haven't.

In posts below I declared my ignorance of any evidence that Abramoff directed his clients to give money to Democrats. There is proof that he did. I apologise for my ignorance. Howell directed me to the proof here.

Obviously a large part of my outrage about Howell's original false claim was caused by my ignorance of the proof of this related but not identical claim.

Howell deliberately conflates two different issues in her reply. When discussing contributions directed by Abramoff, she links to a graph of contributions by "Abramoff, his tribal clients, and the lobbyists that make up team Abramoff." which is misleadingly entitled "How Abramoff Spread the Wealth." Since it is unusual to detect a lobbyist in the act of directing contributions, the graph might be the best possible simple summary of the giving. To link to it when defending the claim that Abramoff directed donations to Democrats is not at all reasonable.

I think that Abramoff tilted contributions towards Republicans as sharply as he could without tipping his client/victims off to the fact that he was not honestly serving their interests. Evidence (not proof) of this is provided by the facts that, when they hired Abramoff, clients' giving did indeed shift toward Republicans and that Abramoff's tribal clients gave more to Republicans than Democrats while all non Abromoff client tribes among the top 10 givers, gave more to Republicans.

Looking closely at the list of "Coushetta requests" I note three Democrats, Jean Carnahan, Max Cleland and Thomas Daschle. Abramoff also asked the Coushetta's to give to Cleland's opponent Saxby Chambliss with the note "challenger of incumbent". Clearly giving both to the incumbent and the challenger is not a sign of support for the incumbent. It also doesn't seem to me to be so bright, since it is not hard for the incumbent to detect such double dealing, but I know it is done. The list is, of course, incomplete going from Bu to Da. The name of a recipient who runs Delay's leadership PAC has been torn off hmmm.

The entry for Daschle seems to be crossed out. The large donations are to Burns, DeLay and Gale Norton's group where the amount is increased by a hand written note to $100,000. The graphic is strong evidence of favoring Republicans, but it does include direction of donations to Democrats.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Howell's Howler V

The Hotline's Blog is eager to compete with the Washington Post in making clearly false statements in response to Howell's Howler about Abramoff "And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties". However, it also links to me. I don't want to bite the hand that links to me or to mix the metaphor that pays my rent, but the blog describes Howell's clearly false statement as a failure to "clear up the underlying semantic difference."

The semantic difference is the difference between claiming that Abramoff had made substatial campaign contributions to both major parties and claiming that Abramoff's clients had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties. The 11 word sentence in Howell's column is perfectly clear, semantically unambiguous, concise, to the point, and false.

confession: I found The Hotline's blog with sitemeter. In spite of that, I wrote a much harsher post after reading the first half of The Hotline's Blog's post. After actually seeing my very own URL I depravedly toned down my denunciation. How can I have managed to preserve such immaturity at the advanced age of 45 ?
All Howell's Howler all the time.

In an effort to waste less time blogging, I am going to write about nothing except the 11 words referring to Abramoff "And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." until the Washington Post publishes a correction or two weeks pass.

I will not add more time to this self imposed semi gag order each time someone at the Post makes a false claim about what Howell wrote.
Deborah Howell wrote in the column "Getting the Story on Jack Abramoff" on january 15 2006

"And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties."

It is trivially easy to demonstrate that this assertion is false. As of 7:54 EST January 18 2005, I can find no evidence that Howell has corrected her false statement of fact. I can find no evidence that The Washington Post has corrected the false statement of fact printed on its pages. I can't even find any evidence that anyone at the Post is willing to confirm that the false statement was indeed printed in the Washington Post. The most recent comment on the false statement to appear in the Post is the blatantly false statement that Howell did not write what she wrote.

Obviously this is intollerable. The Washington Post is supposed to be a serious newspaper. It can not allow a false assertion made by a Post employee in the Post to remain uncorrected. This issue can be separated with questions of bias or the debate about whether the best way to fight corruption is to throw the Republicans out. The post published a demonstrable falsehood. It has not acknowledged or corrected the error. This is totally unacceptable.

She has not written an article of column containing the word "Abramoff" since then.

The most recent entry containing "Howell" and "Abramoff" is this online discussion with Jeff Leen Assistant Managing Editor, Investigative. When challenged about the false claim made by Howell, Leen replies with his own blatant undeniable falsehood. Given the publicity, I find it absolutely impossible to believe that Leen didn't read the article by the Post's ombudsman discussing the work of his team. Thus I must conclude that the Assistant Managing Editor, Investigative of the post chose to lie to readers. I think he should be fired immediately.

Arlington, Va.: On Sunday, The Post's ombudsman printed an outright falsehood in her column, i.e., that Democrats had taken money from Jack Abramoff. There is no evidence that any Democrat got money from Jack Abramoff, and until there is proof that casino interests gave money to Senator Reid and Indian tribes gave money to Senator Dorgan at the behest of Jack Abramoff, this remains a Republican scandal, no matter how hard the RNC tries to spread the blame. When will we get a retraction?

Jeff Leen: The ombudsman was talking about campaign money put up by Abramoff's tribal clients that he was directing to Democrats as well as Republicans. She was not simply referring to his own personal contributions. Abramoff's personal money all went to Republicans, but that amount is dwarfed by the $5 million tribal war chest he controlled. Two-thirds of that went to Republicans and one-third to Democrats. So far, the Abramoff affair is clearly a Republican scandal, judging from the indictments and plea agreements. But the investigation is far from over and it is difficult to predict where it will ultimately lead.


Put together Leens lie and Howell's false claim "She was not simply referring to his own personal contributions" and "And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." Which is it ? Did Leen not read the column under discussion ? Is he incapable of understanding plain English ? Does it depend on what the definitino of "he" is ? I think that Leen decided to lie and must be fired.

On a separate note, Leens claim that Abramoff directed money to Democrats is completely unsupported by evidence (except unless I am mistaken the simple claim by a Republican operative). In contrast, Abramoff's e-mails contain proof that he directed contributions to Republicans. Leen's claim about what Howell wrote is totally false. His accusation against Democrats is unsupported by evidence and irresponsible.

The only other entry containing "Howell" and "Abramoff" and
the only Washington Post entry containing "Howell" and "correction" since Howell's column is the on line discussion in which Howard Kurtz responded to a criticism of the claim in the 11 false words by discussing another sentence in Howell's column.. Then when challenged again, Kurtz refused again to aknowledge the existence of the false 11 words, discussing yet another sentence in the same column

Cannon Falls, Minn.: You asked in your column how reporters can forget about Abramoff being completely tied to Republicans? Well your own ombudsman did so on Sunday with her column talking about Democrats receiving money from Abramoff.

No Democrats were given money by Abramoff. When will there be a correction to her inaccuracy?

Howard Kurtz: Howell did note at the bottom of her column: "So far, [Post staffers] Schmidt and Grimaldi say their reporting on the investigations hasn't put Democrats in the first tier of people being investigated."


I wonder if he would have quoted every word in the article except for the relevant 11 words if readers had continued to ask general questions. However someone from Washington DC nailed him with the quote of the 11 words. Kurtz did not confirm or deny that the 11 word quote was accurate. He did not concede that he had twice responded to indirect quotations of Howell's claim by quoting other parts of her column and he refused to concede that the 11 word claim is totally false rather saying that a different (completely unproven) claim is "more accurate". Now a claim that is unproven and completely unsupported by any evidence other than the assertion f a partisan operative is certainly not less accurate than a claim which is demonstrably false. However, in ordinary english usage when one says that A is more x than B, one implies that B is at least a little tiny bit B. Howell's 11 word claim is totally totally false.


Washington, D.C.: Your response to Fort Washington, Md. missed the point. Howell falsely claimed in her column of Abramoff that "he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties." Your additional quote from her column does not make that claim less false.

Why did she make that false claim, and what is The Post going to do about it.

And why did you change the subject in your response to Fort Washington?

Howard Kurtz: I have not delved deeply into this myself, but I believe it would have been more accurate to say that Abramoff steered contributions to politicians of both parties.


Note again that Kurtz presented no evidence for his modified accusation against Democrats. I think this is partly due to the fact that the only such evidence is a claim by a Republican operative. In contrast, positive proof that Abramoff steered contributions to Republicans can easily be obtained from his e-mails.

Kurtz was pathetically ineptly dishonest in his effort to avoid admitting that Howell wrote a totally false statement in the Post. When caught, he did not attempt to respond to the clearly valid accusation that he had deliberately changed the subject.

A search for "Abramoff" and "correction" returned the same totally dishonest online conversation with Kurtz and this

Bethesda, Md.: Desson

Did you know you were nominated as the Hottest Postie on last week's Reliable Source chat? Congrats, but your fans always knew that.

I missed the show last night but heard that George Clooney made some crack about Jack Abramoff. Can you repeat it?

Desson Thomson: I heard about that last week. I admit I was CHUFFED as we say in England. I need to strut around the newsroom more these days. As for the quote, Clooney was thanking Abramoff, sophomorically, because "who would name their kid Jack with the last word 'off' at the end of your last name?" Sad but true. He could have been talking about Abramoff as a corruption figure, which would have tied in with his movies Good Night and Good Luck, and Syriana, but noooooo. Had to be a Beavis and Butt-head joke. Disappointing.


Which is amusing to the sophomoric, but which does not correct the false claim of fact made in the Washington Post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

That's Like Major Leverage or Maybe a Typo

Tokyo Exchange Closes Early Amid Investor Panic

In three days, the Tokyo Stock Exchange has shed roughly $300 billion in shareholder value. Livedoor alone has lost $1.8 billion in market capitalization.

[snip]

Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported that Livedoor is suspected of falsifying its financial reports for fiscal 2004 to make it appear that the company had a profit of 1.4 billion yen when in fact, it had suffered a 1 billion-yen loss.


1.4 billion yen - minus 1 billion yen is about $ 21 million (with an m). How can exposure of $ 21 million of accounting fraud case $300 Billion (with a B) to disappear ? Herd mentality ? Panic ? First time a Japanese CEO has lost his Louis Vuitton t-shirt ? Major typo ?

Also how in the name of irrational exuberance did a firm which (falsely?) claimed profits of about $ 12.5 million manage to have market capitalisation of more than $1.8 billion ???

It's weird enough to make me blog about economics and that's weird.
Ceci Connolly Shows How To Do It

In a call with reporters, Leavitt said enrollment in the program, called Medicare Part D, exceeded expectations and put the administration "well on track to meet our goal of enrolling 28 to 30 million in the first year." Last year, officials predicted 39 million seniors and disabled people would participate, according to documents published in the Federal Register on Jan. 28, 2005.


Journalists sometimes say that they are reduced to he said/she said because there is no way to say someone is just lying without expressing an opinion.

Kudos CC

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bush's Bagging Brooklyn Bridge Blowtorch Buffoon Boast Bolloxed, Blogger Bemoans Bombastic Bushlit.

But, along with several British counterterrorism officials, some of the officials questioned assertions by the Bush administration that the program was the key to uncovering a plot to detonate fertilizer bombs in London in 2004. The F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials also expressed doubts about the importance of the program's role in another case named by administration officials as a success in the fight against terrorism, an aborted scheme to topple the Brooklyn Bridge with a blow torch.

Some officials said that in both cases, they had already learned of the plans through interrogation of prisoners or other means.


My father laughed when I told him that exibit A of the success of the criminal NSA program was finding the guy who planned to bring the bridge down with a blowtorch.
How do I tell him that this claim was false without endagering his ribs ? I guess I shouldn't worry about the effect of absurdity on the guy who was (falsely) accused of painting a toilet seat at the University of Chicago red (and don't even ask me about his wedding reception).
Howard Kurtz lies about what Deborah Howell did and didn't write in his attempt to defend her.

In an online discussion, Kurtz lied in his answer to a question from a poster from Fort Washington.

Fort Washington, Md.: Reporter Sue Schmidt and ombudsman Deborah Howell have both asserted repeatedly that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats as well as Republicans. The FEC shows no record of any Democrat getting any money from Abramoff, period. Some Indian tribes who were among Abramoff's victims contributed funds to some Democrats, but suggesting that that somehow is a donation from Abramoff defies logic. How does the Post justify passing on what appears to be nothing but GOP spin as fact?

Howard Kurtz: Howell's column Sunday said that a number of Democrats "have gotten Abramoff campaign money." That was inartfully worded. I believe what she was trying to say, and I have not discussed this with her, is that some Democrats have received campaign cash from Abramoff clients, and that this may have been orchestrated by the convicted lobbyist. That's why you have a number of Democrats (as well as many Republicans, now including Denny Hastert) giving back the tainted dough or donating it to charity. Even National Review Editor Rich Lowry says this is basically a Republican scandal -- we are talking about a Bush fundraiser and Tom DeLay pal -- but where the tangled web has extended to Democrats, we need to mention that too.


In the article quoted by Kurtz Deborah Howell also wrote "Schmidt quickly found that Abramoff was getting 10 to 20 times as much from Indian tribes as they had paid other lobbyists. And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties.". This is not inartful wording. This is an unambiguously false statement. The pronoun "he" is unambiguously singular and can not possibly be interpreted as referring to Jack Abramoff or his clients.

In response to the demonstrably accurate claim that Howell falsely wrote that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats, Kurtz quotes something else Howell wrote. He can not prove that she didn't write something by noting that, in another part of the same article she wrote something else. An equally honest response would be the following
"Deborah Howell wrote "The Post's two-year investigation into lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings is one of the best and most explosive pieces of investigative journalism this town has seen in a long time" which does not state or imply that Jack Abramoff gave money to Democrats.

It is impossible that Kurtz, an alleged media critic, is unaware of the false statement written by Howell. It has been brought to the attention of the Washington Post hundreds of times, since it was made. He chose to pretend that she did not write what she wrote and talk about something else she wrote in a pathetic attempt at deceit. Kurtz is so transparently dishonest that he demonstrates that he has as much contempt for the Post's readers as for the truth.

Of course, even the allegedly inartful statement is false if one corrects the grammatical error to change Abramoff money to Abramoff's money. "Abramoff" is not an English adjective. The use of "Abramoff" as an adjective was clearly a very artful attempt to mislead with ambiguity. "Abramoff's" would make the statement false, "Abramoff's clients" would not create the false impression that Democrats are, with respect to Abramoff, anything like Republicans.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jesus Christ on Trial in Viterbo

Read about it on CNN or The Volokh conspiracy or The Times of London or even The Washington Times but what happens when you search for the story in Italy's leading dalies
La Repubblica and Il Corriere della Sera. Zip zero nada. Jesus Christ is under judicial challenge right here in Italy and they don't see fit to mention it.

In fact, the top two Italian web references to the case are both from the plaintif's site.

There is also a comment by a user on a blog sponsored by La Repubblica a reference on an obscure TV site which is related to mediaset (think Fox News and multiply by ten) and La Gazzetta di Sondrio

But the so called laical media are hiding this assault on Christ from the public.

The story is simple Luigi Cascioli has denounced father Enrico Righi for abusing public credulity (Abuso di Credulita Popolare) and impersonation (Sostituzione di Persona), because Enrico Righi claims that, get this, Jesus Christ existed. An extremely unamused gup (giudice dell'udienza perliminaria) has to decide whether to indict father Righi. The udienza preliminaria is pretty much an arraignment although I suppose it could also be compared to a grand jury proceding.

The second charge seems to me to be crazy, since Righi is not claiming that he personally is Jesus Christ. The first seems quite solid as a matter of law. The law is there to make it possible to prosecute faith healers, fortune tellers and such. I think it actually is applied occasionally and many such frauds dress up their scams as christianity (Pat Robertson better check on the law before he decides to move his christian theme part to Rome now that Israel is mad at him).

The claim that Jesus Christ is a historical figure is not overwhelmingly supported by the evidence. At least Cascioli is sincerely convinced that there was no such person. Note that Righi can't get off by claiming he never said Christ is divine (which might get him in a spot of hot water with his bishop). Cascioli claims there was no such guy.

Now the burden of proof is on the extremely reluctant prosecution, but this is a preliminary hearing in which the unfortunate magistrate has to say if there is grounds for a trial.

One problem with the absence of reputable Italian language coverage is that I am not sure if this is a civil suit or (more likely) a criminal case. The headline at TGCOM
"'Gesù esiste', prete querelato Viterbo, denunciato da autore libro". Contradicts itself. "Denunciare" is to accuse someone of a crime, querelare is to sue them. I think the case is a criminal case, because it definitely concerns a reato (crime).
English translations are no help.

Now I am very embarassed that I know more about Samuel Alito's college years than I do about what is happening right now in the country where I live, but I think the news is being played up overseas for the usual laugh at Italy reasons and is understressed hear, because it makes the Italian legal system look silly.

The Italian legal system is absurd. On the one hand there are many laws which can not be enforced in a free country. I believe that Righi could denounce Casioli for blasphemy which is a crime. It is also a crime to detract from the honor of the state while in a foreign country, to vilify the President of the Repubblic and to deny the Presidents absolute lack of responsibility for any action of the cabinet (got to watch myself on that one).

Fortunately none of these cases comes to trial. This in spite of the fact that prosecutors are supposed to have no discretion at all. Si riesci a tira a campa I don't know how (hmmm how do you say that in American, in English it is muddle through).

I personally have no opinion about whether there was a historical Jesus (I have no doubt that if there were he wasn't divine). Still I applaud Cascioli, because with a few dozen crazy cases like this, parliament might establish genuine freedom of speach just to end the international humiliation.
Libel in the Washington Post : Experiment in Information Retrieval III

Califlander at The Daily Kos quotes Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell

"Schmidt quickly found that Abramoff was getting 10 to 20 times as much from Indian tribes as they had paid other lobbyists. And he had made substantial campaign contributions to both major parties."

This assertion is false, Jack Abramoff gave money only to Republicans. Ambramoff gave to Republicans on 111 separate occasions. He gave to Democrats on 0 (zero) occasions. Furthermore it is very easy to determine that Howell's claim is false. It could only have been written by someone who knew it was false or recklessly disregarded the truth, that is, Howell's article constitutes libel.

I have a very slow dial up connection. I decided to see how long it would take to prove that Howell's claim is false. I blush to admit that it took me 5 minutes. First I vaguely recalled opensecrets and had to google to get the url. Then I decided not to use the headlined Abramoff story but just to look up Abramoff. Laziness defeated sillyness but it did take me a minute or two.

Some clicking got me here in 5 minutes over a connection so slow that smoke signals work faster.

Howell has, of course, conflated giving by Abramoff and giving by the victims of Abramoff's fraud. In less than five minutes, she could have found a misleading formulation as in "he and his clients or his clients" or a probably false claim which is hard to refute as in "He directed his clients to give both to Democrats and Republicans". There is no evidence for the last claim, but it is not trivially easy to demonstrate that it is false and at least one Republican operative claims it is true.

Howell is being Kossed, but just to do my bit, I suggest you e-mail ombudsman@washpost.com.
A Poll Worth Considering

By a margin of 52% to 43%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he wiretapped American citizens without a judge's approval,

Now that is polarization. To consider impeaching is not to impeach, but Americans seem to be fairly evenly divided between supporting warrantless wiretaps and considering them grounds for impeachment.

Recall

CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. Jan. 6-8, 2006. N=1,003 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

[snip]

"Do you think the Bush Administration was right or wrong in wiretapping these conversations without obtaining a court order?"


Right 50
Wrong 46
unsure 4


Ignoring sampling error would lead one to imagine that 2 percent of Americans think that congress should consider impeaching Bush for doing the right thing.

I find myself oddly other than completely estranged from the non existent people in this purely sampling error based illusory subset.

I certainly believe that, sometimes, it is morally necessary to break the law. I also think that, in these cases, people should be punished for doing the right thing. This is because I don't seem punishment as revenge but as incapacitation and deterent. Punishment deters acts which people considering crimes see as similar to the punished act not acts which are identical. Punishing people for doing the right thing is a way to avoid slipping down slippery slopes.

In this case, I have no idea what could possibly have justified just tapping without complying with the apparently extremely unburdensome FISA requirements or, at most, asking for a change in the law, but I can imagine that it would be right to impeach a President for doing the right thing which is plenty eccentric enough for now.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 13 January 2006


The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.


via firedoglake which also has a nice visual as always.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Paul Kiel in The Daily Muck

Will the House ethics committee be roused from its slumber? Nancy Pelosi gave it a poke in the ribs yesterday, sending a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) that said Democrats expect the committee to investigate "alleged violations of criminal laws and the rules of the House" by four House members: DeLay, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), Rep. John Doolittle (R-Cal.), and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Cal.). The letter was not a formal complaint, however, so it will undoubtedly be ignored. The AP gingerly notes that "Pelosi's letter did not ask the ethics committee to investigate an unrelated case involving Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana."


OK I think that the Dems have to be ruthless. In this case they have to be totally ruthless with Rep. Jefferson and demand an investigation maybe exclude him from the caucus. The Republicans want a crooked Democrat to argue that the scandal is non partisan, the Democrats shoud use a crooked Democrat to argue that their hatred of corruption is non partisan.

Then once they take back the house he can get a nice job as a lobbyist or something, but right now he has to take one for the team.
A Good Catch by Billmon

No tribe spends more--or more effectively--than Mississippi's Choctaw . . . Most of the money has gone to one of the capital's premier lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, a top Republican Party fund raiser. It was money well spent. In the 1997 legislative caper, Thad Cochran, Mississippi's five-term Republican Senator, slipped into a 40,000-word appropriations bill a 19-word sentence that exempts the tribe from oversight by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Time
Playing The Political Slots
December 23, 2002
CAP ROTC WTF

In a very good article Dale Russakoff writes in the January 12 Washington Post

He said he assumes he joined only because he supported the return of ROTC to the Princeton campus. As an undergraduate, Alito was a member of Princeton's Army ROTC unit when it was expelled from the campus -- a move that he said "rankled" him because "the attitude seemed to be that the military was a bad institution and that Princeton was too good for the military."

The Army ROTC unit was back on campus by the time Alito wrote his 1985 job application, but he said the Navy and Air Force units were not.


This last sentence is true in the same sense that World War II was over by the time Alito wrote his job application. Army ROTC returned to Princeton in 1972 before Alito graduated. Thus he claims he joined CAP to advocate a policy that had already been implemented.

At the time the Harvard Crimson was the Harvard Red a Leninist rag, but, I think that they can be trusted to get the facts right.
ROTC was back at Princeton by September 1973

Published On Friday, September 28, 1973 12:00 AM
By NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

[snip]

More than three years after the 1969 outburst of campus antiwar protest, the ROTC program is limited but credited at Cornell and Penn, extracurricular at Princeton and dead and buried at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia and Dartmouth. "


This article follows up a report on the return in progress of ROTC to Princeton

Published On Thursday, January 13, 1972 12:00 AM
By NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

[snip]

ROTC is making determined efforts to return to both Princeton and Brown, according to the student newspapers at both universities.

At Princeton, the Board of Trustees will vote next Saturday on whether ROTC should return. The faculty had decided in the spring of 1968 to end all academic credit for ROTC courses, and in the spring of 1970 all ROTC contracts expired and were not renewed.

In a university-wide referendum last spring, Princeton undergraduates voted to bring back ROTC as an extracurricular activity, and the Princeton administration decided that ROTC had met the necessary guidelines for reinstatement.

This fall, however, both the faculty and the undergraduate assembly voted against ROTC's return. But shortly afterwards, the University Council--a committee of faculty, students, and administration officials--voted in favor of its return, with both Goheen and President-elect William G. Bowen assenting.


It is clear from the September 73 article that the vote on January 15 1972 reinstated ROTC at Princeton (unless next Saturday means January 22 1972).

Alito's lies are so incredible that Russakoff must have assumed that the issue was still not resolved when Alito was an alumnus of Princeton. The substitution of "the time Alito wrote his 1985 job applicatio" for before the end of the 1872-3 academic year is sloppy (even if the claim is not literally false).

Background

Attempting to explain his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) Samuel Alito claims he has no recollection of the organisation or why he mentioned his membership in 1985, but that he joined because he thought ROTC should be brought back to Princeton. This is odd, since CAP was principly devoted to arguing in favor of gendre discrimination not the ROTC. It is odder since ROTC was back in Princeton by the time Alito was an alumnus. His current version is that he was upset that only army ROTC and not Navy and Air Force ROTC was re-established.

I don't think any person of normal intelligence can doubt that this combination of extreme amnesia and an extremely vivid recollection of attachment to the ROTC of branches of the armed forces could possibly reflect anything other than perjury. We will soon see how many Senators have no problem with a felon on the Supreme court.

Rule of law and all that.
Spectre Knows All

Brad DeLong quotes Keith quoting the Washington Post Quoting Arlen Specter.


“Judge Alito’s name never appeared in any document,” Specter said. It was not mentioned in any letters to or from the group’s founder or executive director, did not appear on any canceled checks for subscriptions, was nowhere to be found on any articles, lists of board members or contributors, and was not in any minutes or attendance records from CAP meetings,” Specter said.

He quoted CAP founder William Rusher as saying: “I have no recollection of Samuel Alito at all. He certainly was not very heavily involved in CAP, if at all.”





That would be the same Senator Specter who claimed that the had never received Senator Kennedy's letter requesting that he request the records ? The one whose office had sent a reply to the letter refusing to request the records ?

If this guy is not familiar with (or lying about) the letters he recently received from the ranking member of his committee why should anyone give any credence whatever to what he claims he did or did not read ?

Further how dare he ask anyone to trust both his reading comprehension and his integrity when yesterday he demonstrated a total complete utter lack of one or the other concerning exactly the issue of CAP records ?

Weirdness within weirdness. How can anyone pretend to take seriously the instant review of voluminus records by someone who forcefully claimed on TV that he had not received a letter to which his office had replied ?

Recall the reply was a refusal to request the records. Specter agreed to request them during lunch break Wednesday. How can he know what they do not contain by Thursday ? What kind of idiots does he think the American people are ?
Ethical Subrogation is a fascinating topic at least as it is discussed by Kevin Drum


The part which really informed me is the discussion of "managers' amemendments"
It was added surreptitiously, just prior to the House floor debate as part of a Manager’s Amendment. The House Rules allow this, if a Manager’s Amendment is blessed by the Rules Committee


aahhhhhh so thats how Rep Blunt tried to sneak an amendment favorable to Phillip Morris into the homeland security bill. The idea that a bill can be changed without public discussion of the amendment either in committee or on the floor still shocks me. How naive. Of course I should have known that the rules are what the rules committee says the rules are and that the current rules committee is for sale.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Brother in law Johnny Carrera writes

You Guys, This message has exactly what i had been looking for: A way to tell Ted Kennedy what questions to Ask! You can also submit a url to your blog! Robert! You must do this! In brief, I told him I want to ask Alito how we are supposed to believe him now when he was dishonest in his last confirmation hearings as a judge.
ps, Gretchen, Gus's bumperstickers/ shirts are hilarious - jon, you need the bumpersticker that says - "Ribbons are for wimps, go fight in Iraq."
love ,johnny

-----Forwarded Message-----
From: "Marty Walsh, TedKennedy.com"
Sent: Jan 11, 2006 3:15 PM
To: John Carrera
Subject: Ask Alito



Dear John,

Samuel Alito began his Senate confirmation hearings Monday, after weeks of intense preparation by some of the President's closest aides. It's clear that the Administration has picked a nominee to satisfy the ideological appetite of the radical wing of its Party -- but they can't let the general public realize just how out of the mainstream his beliefs are.

The Senators on the Judiciary Committee -- including Senator Kennedy -- now have the duty to peel back the carefully constructed facade. We have to get to the bottom of Mr. Alito's record and judicial philosophy and determine how he would impact the rights and freedoms of every American.

President Bush's nominee already knows the answers to questions the White House coaches and handlers anticipated, but he hasn't heard from you -- yet. As he makes his case to serve on the nation's Supreme Court, what is the most important question you think Samuel Alito should answer?



Given the recent revelations about the Administration's rejection of judicial oversight for its programs of torture and domestic spying, Mr. Alito's expansive view of the power of the executive branch is troubling. It's clear that President Bush wants a Supreme Court justice who will rubber stamp abuses of power rather than question his authority.

We deserve to know whether this nominee would put the power of executive branch before the American people. Sometimes it just takes a simple question to get the most revealing answer. What will you ask?


When he was first confirmed to the federal bench in 1990, Samuel Alito promised to recuse himself from any cases involving a company named Vanguard, in which he owned stock. When a case involving Vanguard came before him, however, he went ahead and ruled on it -- and has since offered varied and conflicting reasons as to why he broke this pledge.

Even more red flags plague Samuel Alito's record when it comes to protecting our civil rights. After graduation from Princeton, he joined an alumni group that stood for curbing the admission of minority applicants and blocking female applicants altogether. Furthermore, in fifteen years on the bench, he never wrote an opinion on the merits favoring a person of color who alleged racial discrimination on the job.

The words above the Supreme Court -- Equal Justice Under the Law -- should guide any judge on the federal bench, and Samuel Alito is no exception. How would you ask him to reconcile his troubling record to this fundamental principle?



Keep an eye on the news and the campaign's journal; Senator Kennedy is already asking tough questions, but many more will follow. What will yours be?

Thank you,

Marty Walsh
Campaign Manager

P.S. "Ted Kennedy: Last Liberal Standing" -- a three-part documentary focusing on the Senator's legislative record -- has been made available online.

Check it out here:



Contribute to TedKennedy.com today:



This email was sent to: cquercus@ix.netcom.com
Alito Hearings Weirdness leave me Breathless

Arlen Specter claims he never received a letter from Edward Kennedy. However, his office did reply to Kennedy's office.

Think Progress has it covered. Click on the link and scroll up.

Specter's current position is that he didn't see the letter but did discuss the issue with his chief of staff on the phone "UPDATE: Specter admits he discussed Kennedy’s letter in a phone call with his Chief-of-Staff. He rejected the request then but said if it was really important Kennedy should have mentioned it to him at the gym. (Kennedy explained he hasn’t been to the gym since before Christmas.) Specter has now agreed to get the records."

I have my tinfoil hat on. Specter claimed that he hadn't received Kennedy's letter. Kennedy's office supplied the committee with the reply from Specter's office. Has Specter been caught in a lie ? It would be a very stupid lie. Specter couldn't have forgotten (it hasn't been 20 years).

I think the most likely explanation is that someone on Specter's staff replied (refusing Kennedy's request) without showing the letter to Specter or explaining its contents clearly. I mean Specter may be a whimp but he is not an idiot and would not risk being nailed for lying on TV for no good reason.

How much of the majority staff was inherited from Hatch ? Recall Miranda who was reading Democrats' e-mails. I think it is possible that hard core Republican operatives are trying to control Specter by hiding things from him.

Now if he puts up with that, he is not only a whimp but the worlds whimpiest whimp ever.

I know this all sounds crazy, but why would Specter angrily confront Kennedy, then give him what he wants during the lunch break ?
The Pentagon and Senator John Warner describe their plan to increase US deaths in Iraq by reducing servicemen's mobility under excessive weight. Reuters

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Iraq are using body armor that strikes a balance of protecting them while allowing movement to do their jobs and withstand hot temperatures, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

[snip]

"We must not burden our soldiers with weight to the point that they become ineffective and susceptible to other dangers," Army Major Gen. Stephen Speakes told reporters after the briefing.

[snip]

Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, Armed Services Committee chairman, said [snip]

Adding more body armor to existing systems that can weigh nearly 90 pounds could "reduce the mobility of the individual to a point where he or she can't even protect themselves in trying to dodge certain situations in combat," Warner said.

The Pentagon is in the process of getting new side and shoulder protections [snip]

Major Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, deputy for the Army's acquisition and systems management, said 230,000 sets of new side armor were to be delivered to Iraq throughout this year.


Yep you read that right (and all edits were deletions as indicated). The official Pentagon position is that the currently deployed armor strikes the right balance between protection and mobility and that they are sending over heavier armor.

Got to get you lies straight generals.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Name That Scandal II : the Democrat

Note, not the DemocratS.

Rep. Bill Jefferson D La is likely to go down with Delay et al. I have taken to calling him Frozen Assets Jefferson, since financial instruments were found hidden in his freezer. I guess you could also call him William Jefferson Not-Clinton.

The thing which, in my mind, puts this guy totally out of bounds and over the top is the fact that he had a helicopter and crew rescue his belongings from Katrina at a time when people were still stranded on roof tops. If his concern was that some of his belongings were evidence of corruption that would be a perfect storm.
Hypothetical Questions

Following in Roberts' footsteps Alito is refusing to answer questions whose answers might prejudge cases he might hear. I think there is a simple way to get around this frustrating excuse for obfuscation.

Alito claims that he will keep an open mind about Roe vs Wade. As such he should have no trouble answering the following question.

" What considerations would tend to lead you to uphold Roe vs Wade and What considerations would tend to lead you to overturn Roe vs Wade ?"

If one of the lists is empty, Alito has been lying about the alleged open ness of his mind.

Respect for precedent will, of course, be his only argument for upholding. His argument against will either show he intends to reverse or enrage the right. I don't see how saying you see arguments on each side of a question can possibly prejudge a decision. I don't think he can dodge that one.

I would also really really like to ask him how he can possibly accept Griswold vs Connecticut and argue that Roe vs Wade constitutes judicial activism. Actually I would like to know what creadible arguments there are for this position. Quite frankly, I can't think of one (good thing I'm not a lawyer eh?).
Oh What a Tangled Web They Weaved When They Forced Them to Conceive.

Kevin Drum is Puzzled. He writes "I listened to a few minutes of the Alito hearing this morning and I heard Alito say that he thought Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark privacy case, was correctly decided. But of course he won't tell us whether he thinks Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. Why not?"

Now we all know that the real answer is that Alito wants to overturn Roe vs Wade but doesn't want to admit it, because he knows that will, to say the least, hurt his chances of getting on the court. On the other hand, even the hint of a possibility that Supreme Court Justice Alito will allow some state legislature to ban contraception would doom him.

To me the interesting thing is the intellectual challenge of accepting Griswold vs Connecticut and questioning Roe vs Wade. By itself Roe vs Wade has always struck me as judicial activism gone wild. The 4th amendment was the smugglers' revenge against George III. The founding fathers clearly did not have abortion in mind. Also, without hemmings and hawings, we have to admit that they were clueless about contraception and had only a very vague idea about how they had become fathers, that is didn't have a modern conception of conception.

I think the original sin in this case belongs to the idiot legislators of Connecticut who were to lazy or reactionary to remove the absurd ban on contraception. The Court was thus faced with an appalling law which was, however, not specifically banned by the constitution. They couldn't really accept a ban on contraception, so they had to give an biological reading to the 4th amendment. Now I think there should be a right to privacy in the Constitution, so I don't mind, but once the Supreme Court begins to read biology into the constitution it has to decide where to draw the line. That is, once a Constitutional right to contraception is discovered, it becomes necessary to distinguish contraception from infanticide.

Now different people draw the line everywhere from conception to birth. The first Choice would require overturning Griswolf vs Connecticut, since contraceptives protected by Griswold vs Connecticut function by preventing implantation. This leaves a range from implantation to birth. There doesn't seem to be any way to argue that it is judicial activism to draw the line at viability but not judicial activism to draw the line at implantation or (shudder) birth.

We really can't accept a ban on contraception. Elected bodies did their job so badly that the court had to read reproductive biology into the Constitution. Once one accepts that the consitution regulates possible regulations of reproduction, I see no way to dismiss Roe vs Wade as any more activist than any other possible decision.
Wow
Even Brad DeLong must enjoy this Jonathan Weisman article

which begins by noting how rep Boehner felt he had to give up his usual midwinter carribean cruise with lobbyists.

I name Brad, because he regularly accuses Weisman of being a stenographer for Republicans. If he bothers, Brad can reply that Weisman is still being a stenographer for Republicans and is reliably reporting their attacks on each other. In fact, he seems to be aiming to get them to say "if you don't talk to Weisman, you will regret it" just as they did of his well known semi disgraced colleague.

Still its great fun to read.

update: another possible title for the article "Smoke filled Representatives" most of the scandals relate to tobacco.