Jim Moran Just Keeps On Tracking Mud Into The House

Jim “the Joos” Moran (D-VA and several large banks) has been someone who’s checkered career I’ve followed since 2002, when the news broke that he sponsored a precursor to the bad bankruptcy bill – four days after MBNA gave him a $447,000 debt-consolidation loan.

Wouldn’t you love to have been a fly on the wall during the meetings with that lobbyist?I’m already a reprobate Democrat in many people’s eyes, and I’m genuinely sorry about that. I think of myself as a strong believer in Democratic values and have some small hope for the future of the party. But in this case, I’m going to step further off the reservation and ask people to go visit the site of Moran’s opponent Tom O’Donoghue, the GOP candidate for the 8th CD seat in Virginia.

He’s a veteran, and seems like a decent guy. It wouldn’t hurt to toss a few bucks his way.

How can he be worse than Moran?

Why am I doing this?

Here’s Moran’s history, as I’ve blogged it.

Took $400K from MBNA and then sponsored a bad bankruptcy reform bill.

Blamed American Jews for the Iraq war.

Explained that if he got the chairmanship of Appropriations, he’s “earmark the shit” out of the spending bills.

Today, Instapundit points to an undelivered weapons system that has cost $37 million dollars – with the strong support of Moran, delivered for a $17,000 contribution.

If you want to have some fun, go check out the goodbyejim.com site – it’s got an astounding set of stories about Rep. Moran.

His wife is a real estate developer, seeking a HUD grant and financing – do you think she’ll get it?

Now while he’s probably among the worst in Congress, we ought to see some progress by the Democrats in cleaning their own house, right?


The time to criticize the Republicans’ “culture of corruption,” a Democratic refrain for nearly a year, is at an end, Pelosi said; Democrats need to begin promoting their own vision of America.

I’m going say that I called this one when I posted back in 2002:


So if they won’t turn him out, it’s up to the voters.

At some point, the Democratic Party leadership will get the idea that there’s a market for genuine reform, and clean our house. I’ll keep kicking them until they do. Want to help?

[Update: Corrected dumb typo “Murtha” for “Moran”]

Gun Registries and Playground Equipment

The LA Times today has a disapproving article about the new Canadian Conservative Party-led government’s move from registering guns to arresting criminals.

Police began kicking down doors before dawn on a chilly May morning while gang members in Toronto’s Jamestown neighborhood still slept. By lunchtime, officers had made 106 arrests, collected 33 guns and announced that they had broken an international gun ring run by the notorious Jamestown Crew.

The raid was a shot across the bow from newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who says his Conservative Party government is going to spend its money on crime control, not gun control.

The sweep came two days after Harper announced plans to dismantle Canada’s controversial gun registry — a system reviled by conservatives and gun owners, but lauded by others for reducing homicides and helping police.

The article makes a case for Canada’s peacefulness:

Compared with the United States, where there are 220 million guns among 300 million people, and 10,800 gun-related homicides in 2004, Canada is a peaceful backwater, with 7.1 million registered guns and only 175 gun homicides that year. Los Angeles alone had 416 gun-related killings that year.

But whether out of laziness or other motives, Maggie Farley fails to do some simple math:

Canada vs. US Gun ownership & Gun Homicide
Canada USA ratio
population in 000’s 33,098 298,444 9.02
guns in 000’s 7,100 220,000 30.99
guns/person 0.21 0.74 3.44
firearms deaths 175 9326 53.29
per 1000 people 0.005 0.031 5.91
per 1000 guns 0.025 0.042 1.72

So the US has 9 times Canada’s population, and 53 times the number of firearms murders (Canada’s numbers from the Times article, the 2004 US numbers from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports). We have 31 times the number of guns.

So we have 5.9 times the number of murders/person and 1.7 times the number of guns. These may suggest that there’s something cultural afoot, instead.

But Canada’s gang-related killings have gone up fourfold in a decade, along with the growth of gangs largely imported from the U.S. that attract what police and social workers describe as young black males from mostly West Indian immigrant families. And with the gangsta culture come the guns.

“If you want a gun, you can get one in a day, a couple of hours maybe,” said Andrew Bacchus, 30, founder of Toronto’s Vice Lords gang who is now working with Breaking the Cycle, a gang-exiting program. “The gun registry hasn’t made any difference on that.”

Homicide rates have increased, but shootings have mostly been confined to neighborhoods inhabited by gangs, such as Jamestown in the northeast part of the city. But the death last year of a 15-year-old girl caught in gang crossfire in a downtown shopping center the day after Christmas — and in the middle of an election campaign — was a turning point.

Fighting crime became a part of nearly every stump speech, a theme that hit home not just with Conservatives, but with middle-class voters across the spectrum. Harper promised stricter sentencing, but also a repeal of the gun registry, saying the millions it cost a year to track hunters would be better used for cracking down on gangs.

The article makes two of the three arguments I’ll make about a program like Canada’s.

1. It doesn’t work.

Washington DC and New York City are among the highest crime cities in the US, and yet have the most Draconian firearms laws.

2. It costs a lot – financially in this case – and that money would be better spent on other programs to reduce crime.

The registry was an obvious target. When it was created a little more than a decade ago, it was expected to cost only a few million dollars, and to be largely self-sustained by user fees. The expense of creating an extensive computerized database spiraled out of control, however, and an auditor general’s report this month estimated the cost to be nearly $1 billion over 10 years. It also showed that officials with the former Liberal Party government buried budget overruns so they wouldn’t have to go before Parliament to seek more money.

So if it has halved the firearms death rate in Canada, from 350 to 175, it has saved 175 people a year, or 1,750 people over ten years at a cost of a billion dollars. I’ve got to believe that you can do better than that by spending the money somewhere else.

My third reason is visible outside my dining room window, in the park across the street that’s just being renovated.

The playground used to have a 20’tall climbing structure and slide that was one of the most heavily used in the park. It’s gone now, because it’s considered unsafe to let children play in an environment where they might injure themselves. There are new standards for playground equipment, and many of the favorites that my older sons played on are now illegal.

The idea that we would leave people free to make mistakes in order to create a culture of responsibility is one of the major victims of laws like those gun control aimed not at legitimately restricting some aspect of firearms ownership (and I do think there are legitimate restrictions we could enact). Instead they are about changing the culture:

Although it doesn’t directly address the problem of illegal handguns, the registry helps create a culture in which guns are seen as dangerous and owners are held accountable, said Wendy Cukier, a professor of justice studies at Ryerson University and the co-author of the book “The Global Gun Epidemic.”

And that’s why people like me, who believe that some firearms regulations can have impacts and are sensible and equitable tend to side with the absolutists.

Because regulators like Prof, Cukier don’t really care if the regulations work, or if they are the best expenditure of the state’s money or legitimacy.

They just want a world where there are no guns, and no playground equipment is more than 4′ off the ground.

They’re Hurting, Too

Back when I was 30 pounds lighter (30 years ago, coincidentally…) I raced bicycles. I was (for those of you who know anything about the sport) a pretty good sprinter, a decent pacer, and – like most sprinters – pathetic as a climber (see this for definitions).

Climbing was all about suffering, and the suffering was worse as I watched everyone else slowly (or not so slowly) pull ahead of me. It mattered to my team that I make it to the top, because part of my job was helping control breaks by other sprinters, so one day the leader – the senior, best racer and an excellent climber – rode next to me as I sweated up a hill and cursed and said “You know, it’s hard for everybody. Everybody’s hurting right now. You just have to be willing to keep hurting until you get to the top of the hill.”

“Everybody is hurting” became my mantra, and it helped motivate me to keep turning the pedals over. Later, in my short-lived career as an amateur motorcycle road racer, I changed it “he’s scared too” to keep myself headed into the corner alongside antoher rider for another second before braking at (what seemed to me) the last possible moment.

It’s important to keep that in mind. We always focus on our own fear and weakness, without realizing that the people we are competing with – riding, running, or for a business deal – are weak and afraid too.That’s on reason I keep emphasizing sitzfleisch (an iron butt, or the willingness to just stay in the game) in talking about Iraq.

We don’t think about what it must be like for the other guys, until we get a glimpse – from a captured letter, for example – of how they think they are doing.

Recently, a letter claimed to be found in Zarqawi’s bombed house was released. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of what’s going on in the insurgency.

I want to take a moment to divert and talk about the response to this kind of document by otherwise sensible people. Marc Lynch – Abu Aardvark – has commented here and he and I have had constructive disagreements.

His response to the letter, though, was just risable:

So about that “treasure trove” of documents allegedly found with Zarqawi which proves that the insurgency is on the run, that American military strategy is working, that the Iraqi security forces are developing into a formidable force, and that all in all everything is going America’s way…. well, how can I put this?

Let’s just say that were I a strategist for a military which had just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and seized a bunch of documents full of actionable intelligence, I might not choose to, you know, release them to the media. On the other hand, had I just killed an insurgency leader such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and I wanted to follow up on that operational success by sowing confusion and disarray among his followers (and maybe even scoring some points with the domestic public opinion which my Secretary of Defense has identified as a principle theater of conflict), I might very well release a bunch of “documents” showing that the recently deceased was highly pessimistic about his prospects and that his movement was on the run. (I might also announce that said movement had just declared some random character as its new leader, just to sow more confusion.)

Oh, enough delicacy. These documents seem like a fairly obvious bit of strategic communication, psy-ops, whatever you want to call it. Nothing wrong with that as a way of pressing a temporary advantage against the jihadi wing of the insurgency, spreading confusion, that sort of thing – kind of a textbook move, even. Just as long as nobody serious is silly enough to actually believe any of it. Wouldn’t want blowback now, would we?

My issue with this is simple; the only evidence he presents that this is disinformation is that he wishes it were so. He wishes it to be so because it disagrees with the way the he sees things.

It’s an inconvenient truth, so it must be false.

It’s certainly not impossible. But there’s no data that supports his contention, and in fact there is significant other data – specifically other correspondence that has been intercepted or captured and released without disclaimer – which generally fits the points, tone, and issues raised in the new letter.

Back to the new letter.

I’ll skip over the operational details, but it’s clear that it makes one simple point: “Everybody is hurting.”

We certainly are. The Iraqis certainly are. But so are the bad guys.

And we’d do well to keep remember that.

So This Is What They Mean By Net Neutrality

Reporters Without Borders just did a study of major search engines in China, and discovered that Yahoo is actually more evil than Google there – which takes quite a stretch.

Reporters Without Borders said it found Yahoo! to be the clear worst offender in censorship tests the organisation carried out on Chinese versions of Internet search engines Yahoo!, Google, MSN as well as their local competitor Baidu.

The testing threw up significant variations in the level of filtering. While yahoo.cn censors results as strictly as baidu.cn, search engines google.cn and the beta version of msn.cn (beta.search.msn.com.cn) let through more information from sources that are not authorised by the authorities.
While Microsoft has just said it does not operate censorship, Reporters Without Borders found that the Chinese version of its search engine displays similar results to those of google.cn, which admits to filtering its content. Searches using a “subversive” key word display on average 83% of pro-Beijing websites on google.cn, against 78% on msn.cn. By contrast, the same type of request on an uncensored search engine, like google.com (http://www.google.com/intl/zh-CN), produces only 28% of pro-Beijing sources of information. However, Microsoft like Google appears not to filter content by blocking certain keywords but by refusing to include web sites considered illegal by the authorities.

The press freedom organisation is particularly shocked by the scale of censorship on yahoo.cn. first because the search results on “subversive” key words are 97% pro-Beijing. It is therefore censoring more than its Chinese competitor Baidu. Above all, the organisation was able to show that requests using certain terms, such as 6-4 (4 June, date of the Tiananmen Square massacre), or “Tibet independence”, temporarily blocked the search tool. If you type in one of these terms on the search tool, first you receive an error message. If you then go back to make a new request, even with a neutral key word, yahoo.cn refuses to respond. It takes one hour before the service can be used again. This method is not used by any other foreign search tools; only Baidu uses the same technique.

Go read their whole study. And when Google, Yahoo, and MSF try and tell you they’re “the good guys”, keep it in mind. I’ll join in calling bull**** on that and asking the Yahooligans “how do you sleep at night?”

Beinert & Tomasky: Narcissus & the War

I’ve been a fan of Peter Beinert’s for some time (and may even forgive him for caving on Iraq).

His recent book is on the list, and recently he went – I was going to say mano-a-mano, but it was described as ‘a pissing match’ and so that’s probably the wrong body part – with Michael Tomasky over at Slate.

Go read the exchange, it’s kinda amusing to watch public intellectuals try and out-Jim Harrison each other.

But the telling quote for me was this, by Tomasky:

Is that will there now in either Democratic leadership or the American people? It is not. And the fact that it isn’t is not the fault of the “abject pacifists.” It’s the fault of the warriors. It’s because of Iraq. The war in Iraq is why we “missed” Darfur, a moral error that your magazine (under new editorship) recently lamented. And the war in Iraq looms over our national future. I fear that it renders the grand visions for liberal internationalism that you and I share useless nullities, for a generation, maybe more. That is the tragedy of Iraq; that’s why I dwelt, and dwell, on it. And I tremble with fear—not for “my” side, but for the country and the world—that, should a Bush administration and an Iraq come around again, we will have forgotten everything I just said.

This segues neatly into Mark Schmitt at TPMCafe, talking about Beinert:

I think that in the long run, getting worked up about the very few who say silly things about Islamic terrorism itself or reject use force is going to be seen as the equivalent of anti-anti-communism: fair, but a distraction from the big moral issue of the day. The big moral question for our time, the one we have to get right just as the postwar liberals had to get totalitarian communism right, is the Iraq War and the ideology that underlies it.

[emphasis in the original]

Once again, what’s the issue? Us, our behaviour, our “helpless strength”.

I’m just puzzled here…

…there are other actors in the world than us, right?

[Update: In a related discussion, James Joyner is asking if the Democrats have become a ‘one-issue party’.]


Matt Yglesias points out the recent Pew polls that show (among other things) wide Jordanian and Egyptian support for an Iranian nuke. (and a majority believe it will be used on Israel).

This is, of course the fault of the neocons.

I think you’re seeing here the poisonous fruits of the “clash of civilizations” dynamic that we’ve been drifting toward for years now. And suffice it to say that this is very bad news. When people’s level of dislike for American hegemony is growing so intense that they start looking on things like Iranian nukes as a positive development, we have a problem. In part, it’s a serious problem for our Iran policy. In part, it’s a symptom of an underlying issue that’s going to create problems for us all over the map.

Now, some of us might have suggested that the problem was here in, say, 1988. But no one was paying attention back then, and no one was talking about “a clash of civilizations” yet (Huntington, 1993).

Once again, everything flows from our actions; there is no one out there except shadows cast by our helpless might.

I Wonder What His Stand Is On Jus Primus Noctis??

My old buddy, Jim Moran, has a kind of … traditional … view of politial office:

Democrats win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said he would use his position in the majority to help funnel more funds to his Northern Virginia district.

Moran, D-8th, told those attending the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 9 that while he in theory might oppose the fiscal irresponsibility of “earmarks” – funneling money to projects in a member of Congress’s district – he understands the value they have to constituents.

“When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the shit out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.

Colorful language and campaign hyperbole aside, Moran has a lot to gain if Democrats topple the GOP’s 12-year control of the House. His relative seniority of eight terms would make him a powerful member of any Democratic majority.

I’ve been following the career of Jim “the Jooos” Moran (D-MBNA) for a long time, beginning with this 2002 post:


From today’s NY Times

The bill, which has been vigorously opposed by consumer-rights groups, had long been the top legislative priority of credit card companies and some banks, which insist that many debtors abuse the bankruptcy laws to escape debts they should be able to pay. The companies sharply stepped up campaign contributions to members of Congress in recent years as they promoted the legislation.

Among the biggest beneficiaries would be the MBNA Corporation of Delaware, which describes itself as the world’s biggest independent credit card company. Ranked by employee donations, MBNA was the largest corporate contributor to President Bush’s 2000 campaign.

The company has also recently acknowledged that it gave a $447,000 debt-consolidation loan on what critics viewed as highly favorable terms to a crucial House supporter of the bill only four days before he signed on as a lead sponsor of the legislation in 1998. Both MBNA and the lawmaker, Representative James P. Moran Jr., Democrat of Virginia, have denied that there was anything improper about the loan.

Right. Then there was this gem:

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2003; 3:22 PM

Jewish organizations condemned Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) today for delivering what they said were anti-Semitic remarks at an anti-war forum in Reston, in which he suggested that American Jews are responsible for pushing the country to war with Iraq and that Jewish leaders could prevent war if they wanted…

Which got me going here, and more here.

Here’s the news about his stepdown from a minor committee post, and more about his sterling character.

He’s up for re-election this year. And while I’m generally favorible to Democrats in the national Legislature, I’d gladly make an exception for him.

Spending Your Lunch Money

If you’re like me, you typically spend $8 – 12 daily on lunch when you’re at work. Figure that’s $50/week.

If you’re like me, you could stand to lose a few pounds (I’m down 10 with 10 more to go to get to 180), and skipping lunch or taking a yogurt and banana from home is a good way to do it.

Then you’re left with the problem of what to do with the extra cash.

This week, I’m going to point you to two places:

Prosecutor Patterico is directing people to the fund for paralyzed LAPD officer Kristina Ripatti, who was shot by a genuine Bad Guy (note Patterico’s earlier post). You can PayPal him funds to patterico*at*gmail*dot*com (I just sent $25 over) and he’ll pass it along.

And BlackFive is asking for donations for new voice-actuated laptops for wounded troops through Project Valor-IT. I just sent them $25 as well.

So go look in the mirror and ask yourself – wouldn’t you feel better if you were 5 pounds thinner? And wouldn’t you feel lots better if the money went to – as BlackFive calls it: “Caring For The Defenders”?

Chutzpah’s Poster Boy

Chutzpah is the quality of audacity, for good or for bad. The word derives from the Yiddish khutspeh

(from Wikipedia)

So I’ve been following the diminishing aftershocks from RFK Jr.s pathetic swing and whiff on voting at Rolling Stone (my original dismissive comments on his efforts are here).

Now please note that I believe that electoral integrity is critically important, and at risk. I don’t believe that recent elections are significantly more at risk than elections have been here in the US (in, say Chicago or other machine cities), but they are more at risk than is acceptable and that needs to change.

But my argument keeps getting undercut by these clowns.

Now I get led over to Salon (where I launch a lame Flash ad while checking my son’s homework), in order to read a defense of Jr’s claims by Steven Freeman, who authored a book that – Freeman claims – supports Kennedy’s claims.

I hope like hell his book does a better job than his Salon piece, though – but I doubt it.
Here’s Salon:

Are exit polls usually accurate?

Yes, they are. On Nov. 2, 2004, Manjoo’s source Mark Blumenthal, the Mystery Pollster, had this to say: “I have always been a fan of exit polls. Despite the occasional controversies, exit polls remain among the most sophisticated and reliable political surveys available.” Properly done exit polls are highly accurate. Given the large sample size in U.S. exit polls, they ought to be accurate within 1 to 2 percentage points of the official count.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have nasty habit of actually clicking on the links people put in their web writing. So I click on over to Blumenthal, and read a post that opens with this:

Is RFK, Jr. Right About Exit Polls? – Part I

Late last week, Rolling Stone published an article by Robert Kennedy, Jr. that asks provocatively, “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” While it covers many topics involving alleged suppression and fraud in Ohio, the article disappoints in its discussion of the exit poll controversy, because on that aspect of the controversy Kennedy manages to dredge up nearly every long-ago discredited distortion or half-truth on this subject without any acknowledgement of contrary arguments or the weaknesses in his argument. It is as if the exit poll debate of the last eighteen months never happened. With this two-part post, I want to review the article’s discussion of the exit poll controversy in-depth, for it provides a good opportunity to learn something about what exit polls can tell us — and mostly what they cannot — about whether fraud was committed in the 2004 elections.

But then goes on to say this:

And yes, if you look back at my first post on exit polls on Election Day 2004, I too described exit polls as “among the most sophisticated and reliable political surveys available.”

However, I have certainly learned a great deal about exit polls since then, and calling them the “most reliable” of surveys ignores a host of other practical challenges. Exit polls generally sample a larger number of voters than telephone polls, but they do so because the “cluster sample” technique used on exit polls– which first selects sample precincts and then voters at those precincts — has more sampling error than comparably sized telephone poll samples. Exit polls also miss the growing number that vote by mail or cast absentee ballots.

[emphasis added]

…and this…

…one of the most blatant omissions from the Kennedy article: U.S. exit polls have been wrong before. In fact, according to the Edison-Mitofsky report, they have shown a consistent discrepancy favoring the Democrats in every presidential election since 1988. And while the 2004 discrepancy was the highest ever, they were almost as far off in 1992. More specifically, the “within precinct error” (WPE) reported by Edison-Mitofsky showed differences favoring the Democrat of 2.2 points on the margin in 1988, 5.0 in 1992, 2.2 in 1996, 1.8 in 2000 and 6.5 in 2004 (see p. 34).

Go back and watch the classic political documentary, The War Room — or easier, go back and read my post from January 2005 — and you will see that that leaked exit polls on Election Day 1992 provided as distorted a view as those leaked in 2004. The difference was that the leaked exit polls in 1992 were known mostly to insiders and served to exaggerate the size of Bill Clinton’s eventual victory. Clinton won by less than those early exit polls suggested, but he still won the election, so there was little lingering outrage.

So – our intrepid author has – I can’t even use the work Dowdified or cherrypicked – done what generations of movie publicists have done – and simply edited a useful quote out of a review which says quite the opposite. Blumenthal – a professional pollster – clearly set out in his piece an argument for why the exit polls a) were not as wrong as RFK claimed; b) showed error that was not atypical for U.S. elections; and c) were not as accurate in the German elections as claimed.

At that point, I stopped reading the Salon piece – it’s dinner time – and I’m not sure I’ll finish. The staggering dishonesty of his quote has left me thinking that this is not the best way to spend my time.

Note that he’ll probably turn this into “Armed Liberal says: ‘…this is…the best way to spend my time.'”

He’s just an ellipsis away.