Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chicks Dig the Panda

According to The Washington Times, the National Zoo's giant panda cub is a "chick magnet":

The National Zoo's new giant panda cub, who made his first appearance before the international press yesterday, has women all over the Washington area swooning over the cute and cuddly ball of fur -- and more than a few guys scratching their heads.

"He's just not that cute," said Richard Wertheim, 32, of Arlington -- drawing a fork to the leg from his panda-loving female lunch mate.

"He is too cute, say he is," quipped Aqsa Khan, 24, of Woodbridge, Va., to Mr. Wertheim. "The panda is cute, tell me he's cute. He's adorable."

Tai Shan's power over women has not gone unnoticed by local date seekers.

"I wouldn't go out of my way for a panda, but I'd go out of my way for a girl," said Thomas Holland, 17, of Alexandria. "Girls love cute things. [Forget] the movies, take a girl to see the panda."

Maybe I should have tried for those tickets after all.

During Tai Shan's press debut, most of the female reporters oohed and ahhed as the 21-pound cub climbed rocky ledges in his enclosure, pulling himself up with his front legs and wobbling his back paws up and over, while the male reporters focused primarily on shooting pictures and scribbling notes.

It might be maternal instinct that draws the female fans to Tai Shan, said Janice McGurick of the District.

"Guy's don't go for the cuddly stuff," she said. "Men just don't really like cutesy."


Last week, the zoo on its Web site distributed free tickets on a first-come, first-served basis for designated viewings, which begin Dec. 8 and end Jan. 2.

About 13,000 tickets were snatched up in a little more than two hours, and some later appeared on EBay with asking prices ranging from $199 for two to $500 for six.

As we mentioned earlier, transferred tickets are officially invalid:

Zoo officials then announced that people could use the tickets only if they can prove they reserved them themselves.

Those who got the tickets had to give their names, which were printed on the tickets. Zoo officials said that if the name on the ticket doesn't match a person's identification, they will be turned away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas is Back

From The Washington Times:

No more 'holiday' trees at Capitol

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has told federal officials that the lighted, decorated tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol -- known in recent years as the "Holiday Tree" -- should be renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree," as it was called until the late 1990s.

The Capitol's senior landscape architect confirmed the name switch yesterday for The Washington Times.

"It was known as the 'Holiday Tree' for several years and just recently was changed back to the 'Capitol Christmas Tree.' This was a directive from the speaker," said Capitol architect Matthew Evans...

The Capitol tree, traditionally overshadowed by the White House's "National Christmas Tree," was renamed a "holiday tree" several years ago, according to the Capitol Architect's offices, in an effort to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah -- although no one seemed to know exactly when the name was changed or by whom.

I'm guessing it was a self-righteous bureaucrat.

Calling a Christmas tree a Christmas tree has become a politically charged prospect in jurisdictions across the country -- from Boston to Sacramento and in dozens of communities in between...

The debate boiled over in Boston last week when the city's Web site referred to a giant tree erected on Boston Common as a "holiday tree."...

"The Boston Christmas tree situation is symbolic of what's happening ... around the country," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. "Government officials, either because of misinformation, or private retailers, for politically correct reasons, are trying to secularize Christmas.

"To rename a Christmas tree as a holiday tree is as offensive as renaming a Jewish menorah a candlestick," Mr. Staver said.

The Nova Scotia logger who cut down the 48-foot tree for Boston also was indignant. Donnie Hatt said he would not have donated the tree if he had known of the name change.

"I'd have cut it down and put it through the chipper," Mr. Hatt told a Canadian newspaper. "If they decide it should be a holiday tree, I'll tell them to send it back. If it was a holiday tree, you might as well put it up at Easter."

Well put, Mr. Hatt.

In and around the Beltway:
Cities and counties in the Washington area increasingly are dropping the reference to Christ. Localities such as Alexandria, Greenbelt and Baltimore County will hang their lights on politically correct "holiday" trees.
But deep inside the Beltway, it will be Christmas:

This year's Capitol tree, an 80-foot Engelmann spruce from New Mexico, arrived Sunday and was unveiled in a ceremony yesterday. The tree will be secured and displayed opposite the Washington Monument, on the building's West Lawn and will be decorated with 10,000 lights and 6,000 ornaments created by students in New Mexico.

President Bush will light the National Christmas Tree, which stands south of the White House on the Ellipse, at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Yesterday, the White House also received its Christmas tree for the Blue Room. A horse-drawn wagon delivered the 18?-foot Fraser fir, marking the official start of the holiday decorating season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

"This is a very fun tradition, the delivery of the Christmas tree to the White House," first lady Laura Bush said. "This is the 40th year the National Christmas Tree Growers Association has given the White House the magnificent tree -- the biggest tree there."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Baltimore City Council Too Busy to Fight Crime

From The Washington Times:

The Baltimore City Council last week unanimously approved a resolution that urges President Bush and Congress to "commence a humane, orderly, immediate and comprehensive withdrawal" of military personnel and bases from Iraq...

Maryland's governor and the state's Republican Party were displeased with the council's action.

"It's clearly political grandstanding by the city council," said Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party. "They should concern themselves with the war going on in Baltimore every day."

Shareese DeLeaver, spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said that Mr. Bush commands the Maryland National Guard and that the council should be more focused on the city's "failing schools" and high crime rate...

Meanwhile, Baltimore last week was identified by Morgan Quitno Press as the sixth most-dangerous city in America.

As we noted, Baltimore even outranks DC on that list.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

This is News?

From The Drudge Report:


Senior Bush administration officials have considered the unthinkable: What if Saddam Hussein is found not guilty in his trial?

"There will be more charges filed against him, and more charges after that, if needed... he has committed tremendous crimes," a top Bush source explained last week from Washington.

I could answer that question in my sleep.
Saddam and seven of his former henchmen currently face charges of crimes against humanity over a 1982 massacre of Shiite villagers...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Canadians Invade Maryland

From WTOP:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - They may look innocuous, even elegant, but Canada geese are an invasive species doing serious environmental damage, according to state officials.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has named the Canada goose the Invader of the Month _ lumping it together with nonnative species such as the red imported fire ant and the giant hogweed.

Problems with Canada geese are familiar to golfers, park managers and many suburbanites. The geese litter lawns with feathers and droppings and can become aggressive while defending their turf.

But they are capable of far more serious damage, including "destruction of wetlands, usually in the upper reaches of freshwater marshes," said Larry Hindman, waterfowl project manager for the DNR. "They've denuded important wetland plants and food sources of native wildlife."

The Canada goose population in Maryland jumped from about 25,000 in 1989 to 90,000 in 1998. Today, it stands at about 86,500, according to the DNR.

We're still not sure if having these foreign invading waterfowl destroy "wetlands" is actually such a bad thing - unless they're driving out the ducks.
Greg Kearns, a Patuxent River Park naturalist who has also worked with Jug Bay, said he has seen fewer birds, such as sora rail, redwing blackbirds and bobolinks, nesting in the marshes, because the geese have taken over.
Early environmentalists may be a cause of the problem:

Others may be descendants of geese brought in to repopulate the Eastern Shore around [the 1930s].

Canada geese like to return to their birthplace and want to nest and feed in the same places, and that "makes it hard eliminate geese once they become settled in a local area," Hindman wrote.

The federal government makes solutions more difficult:

The Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission, which oversees parkland in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, is using two border collies to keep the geese away. Officials are also addling, or shaking, goose eggs so that they don't hatch, said Marion Joyce, a commission spokeswoman.

"If you remove the eggs or crush the eggs, the geese will either build another nest and reproduce, or just reproduce more eggs," she said. With "egg addling, the geese are less likely to abandon the nest and make a new one."

Egg addling or euthanizing geese require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because the geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. During the proper season, licensed hunters in Maryland are also allowed to kill Canada geese.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Scrap the Shuttle

Elsewhere, I've written that the International Space Station should be scrapped because of its high cost and limited scientific value. The station and the shuttle essentially exist to keep each other running, but at extraordinary cost. Now, The Washington Post reports on the shuttle's (or perhaps we should say sinkhole's) budget problems:

A large deficit in NASA's troubled shuttle program threatens to seriously delay and possibly cripple President Bush's space exploration initiative unless the number of planned flights is cut virtually in half or the White House agrees to add billions of dollars to the human spaceflight budget...

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin has said that terminating the shuttle program would be just as expensive as keeping it going. The shuttle routinely consumes more than 30 percent of NASA's budget.

How's that now? I'm guessing that this means that shut-down costs like scrapping vehicles and facilities and transferring workers would cost an amount comparable to the current budget - but that isn't a reason not to do it. I'd rather spend $1 billion to shut down a program today that costs $1 billion a year than to wait until ten years pass and another $10 billion is spent to do it. Delaying the inevitable will cost billions of dollars.

Where [Griffin] has not fared so well, however, is in allaying lawmakers' misgivings about the "gap" in human space travel between the end of the shuttle program in 2010 and the first manned flights of the new exploration vehicle in 2014.

Griffin said earlier this year that NASA now projects that the new spaceship would fly by 2012, with a return to the moon by 2018, but he was unable to satisfy those who want to close the gap completely.

If they want space travel to be exciting and inspiring, the small "gap" would probably be helpful. Congress is probably mostly concerned about protecting pork:

NASA's budget difficulties have also been complicated by having to pay for about $400 million in special projects inserted, mostly by senators, into the agency's 2006 funding...

Scrapping the shuttle was proposed, but didn't make it far enough:

Several sources confirmed that the budget office in the early negotiations proposed stopping shuttle flights altogether. "It sucks money out of the budget, and it's a dead-end program," one source said.

But "that argument's over," another source said. "The political side of the White House said, 'We're keeping it.' If you kill the shuttle right now, it will be heavy lifting for your foreign policy because of the international obligations" around the space station.

That's why we should scrap the station at the same time.

[Cross-Posted at Observant Observations]

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Anti-Sprawl "Extremists"

From an AP story in The Washington Times:

Anti-sprawl extremists coming east

HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- The torching of four town houses in this rapidly growing western Maryland city highlights the spread of a radical environmental movement associated largely with the western United States.

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which claimed responsibility for the weekend fires, is growing through exposure via the Internet to its philosophy and methods, said Kelly Stoner, executive director of Stop Eco-Violence, which monitors vandalism linked to environmental and animal rights groups.

"Without question, we have seen the radical environmental movement spreading across the United States," Miss Stoner said Tuesday in a telephone interview from her office near Portland, Ore...

"Extremists" is too polite a term for these people. The headline made me think of Tim Kaine, not ELF terrorists.

Monday, November 21, 2005

DC 13th Most Dangerous City

Camden, New Jersey was ranked as America's most dangerous city in an annual ranking:

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - For the second year in a row, this destitute city has been named the nation's most dangerous, according to a company's annual ranking based on crime statistics...

The city took the top spot last year from Detroit, which remained No. 2 in the most dangerous city rankings, to be released Monday by Morgan Quitno Press. The Lawrence, Kan.-based company publishes "City Crime Rankings," an annual reference book.

Other detailed rankings are available on the publisher's website. Among them, DC comes in as the 13th most dangerous city nationwide (out of 369). In neighboring states, Richmond, VA and Baltimore, MD come in 5th and 6th respectively. Out of cities with populations of 500,000 or more, Baltimore and DC rank 2nd and 3rd behind Detroit. Richmond comes in 3rd for cities with populations between 100,000 and 499,000. Interestingly, the DC-area does not appear in the 25 most dangerous metropolitan areas (Baltimore-Towson, MD is 20th).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a maneuver to strike at Iraq war critics, the Republican-led House of Representatives engineered a vote on Friday on a resolution to pull U.S. troops immediately from Iraq, which was defeated nearly unanimously.

Republicans, who introduced the surprise resolution hours before lawmakers were to start a Thanksgiving holiday recess, said the vote was intended to show support for U.S. forces.

Democrats denounced it as a political stunt and an attack on Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a leading Democratic military hawk who stunned his colleagues on Thursday by calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as quickly as possible...

Unlike Murtha's proposal calling for troops to be withdrawn "as soon as practicable," which he expected would be about six months, the Republican resolution said deployment of the U.S. forces should be "terminated immediately."

There's not actually much of a difference here - picking either deadline would be waiving the white flag of surrender. A "smooth" withdrawal might take six months, but it would begin immediately - and an immediate withdrawal would probably take six months.

This was a smart move to resolve the conflicting messages coming from American politicians. War opponents have been abusing the idea of withdrawal timetables by pretending to take a non-existant middle ground. Changing the proposal from withdrawal in six months to immediate withdrawal illustrates the problems with all demanded timetables - any agreement to a timetable has immediate impact and is only superficially reasonable.
(AP) Democrats said they planned to counter by voting against the GOP provision en masse.
Voting with the Republicans isn't a counter-move, but abstaining might be. In the end, only six Democrats had the guts to do that.

Ultimately the House voted the resolution (H. Res. 571) down, 3-403. Oddly enough, even Dennis Kucinich voted No.

I enjoyed watching some of the House on CSPAN. At times the yells from the Representatives began to resemble the British House of Commons (but not the outright brawls of East Asian legislatures). Now that Democrats are on the record as opposing immediate withdrawal will they continue their demands for the real world equivalent?

Friday, November 18, 2005

How to Use a Surplus

From The Washington Post:

RICHMOND, Nov. 17 -- The leading Republican in Virginia's state Senate warned his colleagues Thursday that the commonwealth must not go on a spending spree with the budget surplus from a strong economy.

John H. Chichester (Northumberland), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said at a two-day committee retreat that surplus money, about $1 billion, should be spent on "one-time, non-recurring, non-habit-forming expenditures."

"Listen to that voice in your head that says go slow," he told senators in his southern, patrician-like drawl. "Take it easy. Don't overextend."

The fiscal danger, Chichester said, is that the Republican-controlled legislature and Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine (D) will get "hooked on the revenue" during the General Assembly session that begins Jan. 11...

Efforts to raise taxes for transportation are likely to run into a roadblock in the House of Delegates, where the Republican leadership has said the existence of a large state surplus should end any talk of a tax increase.

If it is expected to be a long-term surplus, a tax cut should also be considered - although at least Northern Virginia is in desperate need of some road work (I miss Spokane's nice laid-out street grid).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

DC Commuter Tax Update

From The Washington Times:

Attempts to impose a commuter tax in the District took a new turn yesterday.

An appeals court rejected the city's efforts earlier this month, but D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty introduced legislation yesterday to hold a referendum on the matter.

Mr. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said if D.C. voters approve the referendum, it would amend the city charter, removing the commuter tax restriction Congress put into place when it granted the city home rule in 1973.

"Citizens have the right to vote to change the charter," said Mr. Fenty, who is running for mayor in next year's primary. But he acknowledged that if the referendum passes, it still must be sent to Congress for approval -- like all D.C. laws -- before it is enacted.

It is somewhat amusing that with all the populist posturing by DC politicians, they simply ignore the fact that they are calling for a vote in which no one who would be forced to pay the new tax will be allowed to vote. (Meanwhile, DC license plates fallaciously proclaim "Taxation without Representation.") Instead, the DC position is that they should have the right to steal tax revenue from neighboring states. If DC didn't already have the highest taxes in the region, maybe more people would be willing to live there.

I also have to question a commuter tax on policy grounds. Commuters come into a city, work, spend money, and go home. Commuters and their employers already pay a broad range of taxes directly and indirectly (e.g., sales, corporate, and property taxes). Most importantly, however, the impact of a commuter is very small. Commuters aren't sending their kids to city schools, they aren't committing crimes, they aren't filling up the jails or the hospitals, they aren't collecting welfare or living in public housing, they don't use the libraries, and they aren't even present in the city two thirds of the time. A regional organization, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, runs the transit system.

If mere presence of non-residents is a drain on local economies, why do cities spend so much money promoting tourism? DC politicians just want some easy money and publicity:
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) dismissed Fenty's effort last week, calling it "silly" and "just a way to get some publicity and get some people razzed up."
If DC has financial problems directly resulting from the presence of the federal government, that's an issue to take up with the federal government - not Maryland and Virginia.

Or perhaps the U.S. should seek to balance its budget by taxing Canada.

For earlier coverage, check out DC Loses Lawsuit Against U.S. Constitution.
Click here for an overview of DC's 2006 budget.

DC Bar Exam Results Update

I commented in an earlier post that the July 2005 DC Bar Exam results were up on one site, but not the one I had actually been watching.

The second site now claims to be updated, but they haven't actually changed the names (instead of the 137 that passed in July, they still list the 165 that passed in February).

Sadly, I missed out on discovering a great scandal as my original suspicion of a published fail list turned out to be incorrect.

I've sent them an email to correct the situation, and this post is in case anyone out there is confused about missing names and stumbles upon this site.

Have a nice day.

Split the Ninth Circuit?

From KVAL:

WASHINGTON The Justice Department is backing efforts by congressional Republicans to split up the Ninth U-S Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's largest federal appeals court and the frequent source of anti-Bush administration rulings.

The court covers nine Western states, including Idaho, and the Pacific Islands.

Proponents say the court is too big to be efficient.

Opponents allege political motives by Republicans annoyed by the court's rulings.

The House GOP is seeking to fast-track the circuit-split legislation by making it part of a pending deficit-cutting bill. That move is meeting opposition in the Senate.

The court has 28 judges and takes in about 54 million people.

Pending legislation would create a 9th Circuit covering California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and a new 12th Circuit covering Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona.

Hopefully this split will finally get Congressional approval.

It's also important to point out that any split would not stop the extreme rulings that give the Ninth Circuit it's reputation. While several states would be freed from its authority, the current judges would remain in office.

The administrative problems resulting from having one in five Americans living in one of eleven circuits are the real problem here. The Ninth Circuit has so many judges that full en banc hearings are impractical - potentially requiring the Supreme Court to review decisions that never received majority support in from the Court of Appeals.

As Senator Grassley (R-IA) testified in 1999, splitting the Ninth Circuit has been under consideration for decades:
Due to the Ninth Circuit's large size, bills advocating splitting the circuit have been introduced as early as the 1940s. In 1973, the Commission on Revision of the Federal Court Appellate System, known as the Hruska Commission, recommended that Congress split both the Fifth and Ninth Circuits. Though the Commission's proposals were not enacted, Congress did split the Fifth Circuit in 1981.
Opinions from Ninth Circuit judges are divided, and many lawyers are opposed to the split - but I would attribute much of this to anti-Bush administration attitudes as well as old-fashioned resistance to change. The use of circuit precedent may be complicated for a few years as the new Twelfth Circuit relies on pre-split Ninth Circuit cases, but it might actually be easier in the long run since lawyers won't have to monitor the massive case load of the Ninth Circuit for relevant rulings. In addition, the Eleventh Circuit has dealt with this same problem since 1981 - when the Ninth Circuit really should have been split.

The Ninth Circuit is simply too large in every way. When circuits get too large, we split them. The political problems will probably require the eventual replacement of judges and possibly the creation of new judgeships (which may also be necessary for administrative reasons).

For more information, check out:
Ninth Circuit Judge Calls Court Split 'Inevitable'
United States Courts of Appeals (with a pdf federal circuit map)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Free Trade for the Willing

From the Investor's Business Daily:

If you heeded the hype from gloomy hand wringers or news photos of shop-trashing anti-American thugs, you'd think President Bush left the Argentina summit in failure. It's nothing but rubbish.

Seldom has news been so distorted against facts. Most of the U.S. media claim that because the 34 states were obstructed from full agreement on a declaration to kick-start free trade by a few holdouts, it's some sort of victory for the chief obstructor, U.S. antagonist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Just by the numbers, it's a false impression. Only five states at the Organization of American States summit in Mar del Plata withheld signing a statement to restart talks for a Free Trade of the Americas pact, and four of those — Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay — did so temporarily on valid concerns about farm subsidies.

The U.S. sympathizes with them, but is hamstrung by its larger trade relations with heavily subsidized Europe. That's why the U.S. is going to bat for those four at the World Trade Organization's 148-nation Doha Round of trade talks in Hong Kong this December.

That leaves just Venezuela obstructing free trade, and on ideological grounds. The real story is that 29 very different states — making up 90% of the hemisphere's GDP — endorsed free trade.

Free trade opponents try to cloak themselves in anti-Americanism, but it just doesn't work:

Even more encouraging, the summit's most articulate advocates for free trade spontaneously came from Latin American leaders whose nations have already experienced free trade. Among them, Mexico's President Vicente Fox emerged as a star, bluntly warning anti-trade factions they are "out of touch with reality."

Fox should know. Mexico's GDP has nearly doubled and its exports to the U.S. have tripled since the 1994 passage of NAFTA, expanding Mexico's economy to just a hair's breadth below that of Brazil, a country with almost twice Mexico's population.

Central American states south of Mexico aren't stupid, either, and NAFTA's success encouraged them to seek their own free trade pact with the U.S. — CAFTA. They know how it draws permanent investment and increases business activity across the board, even in industries like coffee not subject to tariffs.

In the absence of a FTAA, states are reaching separate agreements:

If anything, it's Chavez who is isolated. No one has taken him up on his counterfree trade proposals, which are not based on market mechanisms but pork-barrel spending.

In the end Bush won because free trade is moving along anyway, summit or no summit. Panama is close to signing its own trade pact with the U.S. The Andean states — Colombia, Ecuador and Peru — are in the last stages of a swift, 18-month effort to hammer out a pact. Besides these smaller, separate deals, the World Trade Organization talks will overtake anything that went on at this summit.

Fox of Mexico called it right when he said that free trade would just move on with the willing who want it.

It might be nice to have a free trade zone for the whole Western Hemisphere, but we should not let a handful of countries (or fewer) stand in the way. As with so many other areas of international relations, we must remember that a broad international agreement is not an end in itself. A 29-nation agreement is infinitely better than hoping for the slightest possibility of reaching a watered-down and meaningless version after years of negotiations.
(AP) Bush's first stop in Panama represents what has been his multitrack strategy for opening up world markets. Even as the FTAA is stalled and worldwide trade talks are embroiled in thorny issues of farm subsidies, the president has set his sights on individual countries that are eager to do business with the United States, the world's largest economic power.
The FTAA without Venezuela isn't such a shabby goal either - it already wasn't going to include Cuba.

[Cross-Posted at Observant Observations]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Ambiguous Postal Rate Hike of 2006

From Fox News:

WASHINGTON — The cost of mailing a letter will increase to 39 cents on Jan. 8.

The Postal Service's board of governors approved the two-cent increase in first-class postal rates late Monday. It is the first increase since June 2002.

The cost of mailing a postcard will increase a penny, to 24 cents, as part of the roughly 5.4 percent, across-the-board hike in most rates and fees.

The increase fulfills a requirement, passed by Congress in 2003, that the Postal Service establish a $3.1 billion escrow account. Congress is to determine later how to spend that money. The Postal Service said without the mandate it would not have had to raise rates next year...

Great, now I have to get a bunch of two cent stamps to go with the Muppets so the Postal Service can have some spare money that only Congress seems to think they need.

Remember 2001?

Donald Lambro, for The Washington Times, provides good context for our earlier post on the 2005 elections ("Status Quo"):

If last week's governors elections and the exuberant Democratic claims after sounded familiar, that's because it was, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "deja vu all over again."

Four years ago, Democrats also won the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey in the only two statewide contests in that 2001 off-year election. The next day Democrats and political news analysts said the results proved Republicans were in trouble and would suffer serious losses in 2002's elections.

But it didn't turn out that way. The Republicans, with some nonstop campaigning by President Bush, made sizable gains in the House and Senate and maintained their majority in the governorships. And they made more gains in 2004 and kept their advantage over Democrats in the state capitals...

Missing from most of the national postelection analysis [of Virginia], however, is the fact that outside of the governor's office, Republicans won the No. 2 and No. 3 statewide contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general and lost only one seat in the state legislature, which they control.

It is difficult to fathom how Mr. Bush's slump in the national polls plays into what happened in either of these elections. When his approval polls were at 87 percent four years ago, the GOP still lost Virginia and New Jersey.

We'll also try to pretend that Ken Mehlman (the guy Howard Dean is afraid to face in public) is a regular visitor:
Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman said after the results were in: "This was a status-quo Election Day. There were 28 Republican governors before the election and there were 28 Republican governors after the election."
Mr. Lambro briefly addresses some of the strategies and problems of the Virginia campaigns, but returns to agree with our conclusion:
Does any of this suggest a trend is building toward a congressional turnover in November 2006? Not as long as polls show most Americans like the job their own member of Congress is doing.
My own meaningless abuse of statistics, which only takes into account the party of the President and trends in previous Congressional elections, continues to project Republicans picking up 7 House and 7 Senate seats in the 2006 elections.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hurricane Houses

From the AP:

Volunteers began building homes not far from the Washington Monument yesterday, hoping to renew interest in the need to help provide replacement housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Federal officials and members of Congress joined business leaders and private citizens in a Habitat for Humanity International project to frame 51 homes for shipment by Nov. 19 to hard-hit areas of the Gulf Coast...

By late next week, one home for each of the nation's 50 states and the District will have been framed on one of five assembly pads set up on the Mall.

Segments will be loaded into containers and onto flatbed trailers, then trucked to Louisiana and Mississippi for reassembly...

I saw these people yesterday on the way to the National Lawyers Convention. The symbolism mentioned in the article raises a few interesting questions though:

1. If the 51 houses are meant to represent the 50 states and DC, are the 46 non-capital-region, non-beneficiary states at all involved in their construction or transportation?

2. Wouldn't it be easier to build the Louisiana and Mississippi houses in... Louisiana and Mississippi?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Maryland County Exec. Demands Price Controls

From The Washington Times:
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said yesterday that he would defy the federal government by importing prescription drugs from Canada, only to say later that he would not advise county employees to break the law.
For more on the "re-importation" fraud (a.k.a. cowardly price controls), check out "Importing Price Controls."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Republicans maintain solid control of VA House

From The Washington Times:

Virginia Republicans kept their firm control of the House of Delegates, despite losing a couple of seats in yesterday's elections.

All 100 House seats were at stake, and Republicans had won at least 57 seats, Democrats 39 and independents two.

Republicans also control 60% of the Virginia Senate.

Update, Nov. 12th: Republicans hold 58 or 59 seats. Democrats stopped at 39. Upcoming recount between a Republican and an Independent.

Status Quo

Tonight's three nationally-observed elections can be summed up simply as the status quo.

New Jersey: A Democrat replaces a Democrat as Governor.

Virginia: A Democrat replaces a Democrat as Governor. (Republicans may win the other two statewide races, a wash or a pickup of one.)

New York: Republican Michael Bloomberg re-elected Mayor.

Texas: Following the lead of 11 states in 2004, voters overwhelmingly approve Constitutional amendment defining marriage.

Local Coverage: Beltway news jumped constantly between Virginia House of Delegates races, often leaving out party affiliation, and without any big picture analysis. (It will remain Republican.)

National Coverage: The gubernatorial races will be reported as Democrat victories when they are in reality merely not GOP takeovers. New York City, with a population greater than the Commonwealth of Virginia, will not be comparably reported as a Republican victory.

So what does all this mean for 2006?

If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

DC Loses Lawsuit Against U.S. Constitution

From The Washington Times:

A federal appeals court yesterday ruled that Congress has the authority to prevent the D.C. government from taxing commuters.

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District said the Constitution clearly grants Congress "exclusive authority" to govern the District, tossing out a lawsuit brought by more than 30 plaintiffs -- including Mayor Anthony A. Williams -- who sought to impose a commuter tax.

"The policy choices are Congress' to make," the court said. The decision was written by Judge John G. Roberts, now the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was a member of the appellate court when the lawsuit was argued there in April.

For the record, the exclusive authority provision is from Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power... To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District... as may... become the Seat of the Government of the United States...
What part of "in all Cases whatsoever" don't they understand?

Reaction to yesterday's ruling, which upheld a U.S. District Court decision last year, was mixed across the region.

U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican who has supported a plan that would give the District a vote in the House, hailed the decision and said it came as no surprise to him. He said the city needs to develop its tax base and not "soak commuters."

D.C.'s existing taxes are one of the major reasons I won't be moving there any time soon. The District should work with Congress to solve its internal problems, not steal $1.4 billion in tax revenue from neighboring states.

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, a Ward 4 Democrat who is running for mayor next year, said he will introduce a bill to call for a referendum that would abolish the D.C. Home Rule Charter's ban on a commuter tax, then impose such a tax.

"The court's decision is outrageous," Mr. Fenty said. "It flies in the face of why this country was founded.

"It is a matter of fundamental fairness that we move to release the shackles of this congressionally imposed ban on taxing income earned in the District," he said.

And he's not even afraid of that pesky Constitution.
Mr. Williams, a Democrat, also voiced his displeasure with the court ruling, noting that cities such as New York and Philadelphia have levied taxes on commuters.
Although commuter taxes are already questionable policy (perhaps they could be described as imperialist taxation) there's one notable difference here: the Constitution does not grant Congress exclusive authority over New York or Philadelphia.

More on imperialist taxation:

"The people of the District bear the burden of this unfair limitation," he said. "As we've argued countless times, a commuter tax would not have any impact on Maryland and Virginia residents, who would be able to deduct the taxes they pay to D.C. from their state taxes."

But Maryland Deputy Attorney General Michael Berman disagreed.

"Those other states would be forced to cut services or tax citizens who do not commute into the District to make up the shortfall," said Mr. Berman, who argued the case on behalf of the state last April.

It is unfortunate that Virginia and Maryland had to spend any of their resources fighting this absurd lawsuit.

[Cross-Posted at Observant Observations]

Update, Nov. 17th: DC Commuter Tax Update.

Re-election Campaigns Delay Alito Hearings

From Robert Novak:

The January scheduling of Judge Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, instead of December as desired by President Bush, was caused in part by political needs of Republican senators facing opposition for re-election.

Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Mike DeWine of Ohio are supporters of Alito. But each wanted to get home in December to prepare for strong Democratic challenges.

We wouldn't want their jobs to get in the way of re-election.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Knife Control for DC?

(Tuesday) Knife-wielding man slashes at four outside White House

Aknife-wielding man slashed at four people in a park near the White House and two were taken to hospital, police said.

"A suspect was arrested by the uniformed division of the Secret Service and handed over to Park Police," US Park Police Lieutenant Phil Beck told AFP...

Beck said that shortly before noon, a man slashed at four persons, who called for help from a police officer patrolling in Lafayette Park, just north of the White House...

DC has the most restrictive gun laws in the country, now will they try anti-knife laws too?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

They should be having barbeque

From the Drudge Report:
WHITE HOUSE DINNER FOR PRINCE CHARLES AND DUTCHESS... Medallions of Buffalo Tenderloin, Roasted Corn, Wild Rice Pancakes, Glazed Parsnips and Young Carrots; Mint Romaine Lettuce with Blood Orange Vinaigrette, Vermont Camembert Cheese and Spiced Walnuts; Petits Fours Cake, Chartreuse Ice Cream, Red and Green Grape Sauce...
I'm not even hungry for my own dinner any more.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Senate Closes Doors, and Then Opens Them

In what is probably the biggest non-story of the day, Senate Democrats briefly closed Senate doors when they realized that nobody cared about what they said when the doors were open:

(Washington Post) With no warning in the mid-afternoon, the Senate's top Democrat invoked the little-used Rule 21, which forced aides to turn off the chamber's cameras and close its massive doors after evicting all visitors, reporters and most staffers. Plans to bring in electronic-bug-sniffing dogs were dropped when it became clear that senators would trade barbs but discuss no classified information.

Republicans condemned the Democrats' maneuver, which marked the first time in more than 25 years that one party had insisted on a closed session without consulting the other party.

So it was essentially a meaningless partisan stunt, although from the Drudge Report tried to make it look like a coup.
The usually unflappable majority leader, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), was searching for words to express his outrage to reporters a few minutes later. The Senate "has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership," he said. "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas." Never before had he been "slapped in the face with such an affront," he said, adding: "For the next year and a half, I can't trust Senator Reid."
So Senator Frist is only a week or so behind the President.