Prison is just one part of the penalty that Enron's Lay and Skilling face


ABC hirers former Brady Campaign Staffer to Handle Gun Control Stories

I heard tonight that ABC News has decided that a former Brady Campaign staffer, Jake Tapper, will handle gun control issues. Is this serious?

An example of his writings on guns from the very liberal Salon.com can be found here. Another example of his partisian writings on guns can be found here. (On this last point, note that Bush pushed for a mandatory gun lock law while governor and the right-to-carry law that he signed, while I am glad that he signed it, was one of the most restrictive in the country.) Tapper refers to the extremely misleading quote by Kayne Robinson that ""If we win, we'll have a president ... where we work out of their office." The problem with this quote in reference to Bush was that Robinson was talking about the Republican field generally, not Bush.

It looks like ABC News has no problem at all with the appearance of bias, now that they've assigned a reporter who used to work for Handgun Control, Inc. to cover firearms-related stories, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) said today.

Washington correspondent Jake Tapper once worked for Handgun Control, according to a piece he wrote when he worked for Salon News. His obvious bias greatly alarms SAF founder Alan M. Gottlieb.

"This is the same ABC News that rushed to the air this week to report that Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert is under investigation by the Justice Department, when the Justice Department said he wasn't," Gottlieb noted. "This is the same news network that added George Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to anti-gun President Bill Clinton. Now they've got a former staffer for an extremist gun control group reporting on firearms issues.

"It is no wonder why so many American citizens believe there is an institutional bias in the national press," Gottlieb continued. "MSNBC's Chris Matthews once worked for anti-gun Congressman Tip O'Neill and wrote speeches for Jimmy Carter. NBC's Tim Russert was chief of staff for anti-gun Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and was a counselor for Mario Cuomo, an avowed gun prohibitionist. Does anyone see a pattern here?"

SAF urges gun owners to express their disappointment to ABC News by e-mail at: support@abcnews.go.com , or via mail to ABC News, 7 West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023.

"Tapper has an established anti-gun bias, and for a network that claims objectivity, having him report on gun-related stories is insulting," Gottlieb said. "What if he is assigned to cover this summer's conference on global gun control being held at the United Nations? I'm going to be there. Can I expect him to approach this subject with an open mind? His history with Handgun Control, and his writings in Salon tell me his mind is made up.

"Why is it that ABC does not include Tapper's affiliation with a gun control organization in his biographical information," Gottlieb wondered. "Is this to shield the network's bias against guns?

I was wondering about this last point myself. To me, leaving out this information is probably the most serious problem.


Well, I suppose that it was obvious


Blackwell quickly closing the gap in Ohio Gubernatorial race

Hotline reports that "Dems Thinking, 'OH No'?: Latest OH GOV poll has Strickland up just 6 and Blackwell nabbing 1/3 of blacks."


Beware of Rampaging Deer

"Proof Of Al-Qaida's Links To Iraq Just Too Strong To Be Dismissed"

Richard Miniter has a nice piece in today's Investors' Business Daily. Here is part of the piece, but there is a lot more evidence if you follow the link.

. . . Rather than trumpet this new evidence, the Administration and the military seem to regard it as historical. They are more focused on today's decisions than justifying yesterday's. So the growing impression, especially among the press, is that there simply was no link between Iraq and al-Qaida. If so, they would have told us, goes the argument. . . .

These sources reveal three kinds of undisputed connections between Iraq and al-Qaida: meetings, money, and training.


• Photographs taken by Malaysian intelligence in January 2000 place Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, an Iraqi intelligence operative, meeting with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

• Captured Iraqi intelligence documents show that bin Laden met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Syria in 1992.

• Sudanese intelligence officials told me that their agents had observed meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden starting in 1994, when bin Laden lived in Khartoum.

• Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit and a critic of the Bush administration, writes in "Through Our Enemies' Eyes" that bin Laden "made a connection with Iraq's intelligence service through its Khartoum station."

• Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam's son Qusay, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the United Nations on Feb. 6, 2003.

• Bin Laden met the director of the Iraqi mukhabarat, Iraq's external intelligence service, in Khartoum in 1996.

• An al-Qaida operative now held by the United States confessed that in the mid-1990s, bin Laden agreed to cease all terrorist activities against the Iraqi dictator, Powell said.

• Patrick Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney in the Clinton Justice Department, noted in the bin Laden indictment: "Al-Qaida reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al-Qaida would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al-Qaida would work cooperatively with the government of Iraq."

• In 2000, Saudi Arabia went on nation-wide alert when its intelligence learned that Iraq was working with al-Qaida to attack U.S. interests there.

• Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes cites captured Iraqi documents: "In 1998, according to documents unearthed in Iraq's intelligence headquarters in April 2003, al-Qaida sent a 'trusted confidant' to Baghdad for sixteen days of meetings beginning March 5. Iraqi intelligence paid for his stay in Room 414 of the Mansur al-Melia hotel and expressed hope that the envoy would serve as the liaison between Iraqi intelligence and bin Laden. The DIA \[the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency\] has assessed those documents as authentic."

• ABC News's Nightline interviewed a "twenty-year veteran of Iraqi intelligence," identified him by his nom de guerre, Abu Aman Amaleeki, who said: "In 1992, elements of al-Qaida came to Baghdad and met with Saddam Hussein. And among them was Ayman al-Zawahiri. I was present when Ayman al-Zawahiri visited Baghdad." Zawahiri is al-Qaida's no. 2.

• Another visit by al-Zawahiri, in 1999, was confirmed by former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi.

• Allawi also said that al-Zawahiri was invited to attend the ninth Popular Islamic Conference by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam's own no. 2. The Iraqi government, he said, has the invitation and other records. . . . . [the piece is much longer and contains much more information]

15-year-old shots intruder who broke into family's home

People should read the entire story.

Maxine Chandler thought she would faint in the wee hours of Saturday when she heard a knock at her door and opened it, only to have a man lunge toward her.

She slammed the door shut and watched the 6-foot-tall man banging a bicycle against the front of her house -- repeatedly hitting the window and the door.

Chandler's screaming and crying roused her 15-year-old son, Javaris Granger, who came to see what was wrong.

Javaris went to his mother's bedroom and loaded the two handguns his father keeps for protection in the home in the 700 block of South 61st Avenue. The family also called 911.

The man -- later identified by police as Keil Jumper -- kicked the door off its hinges and barged into the home about 3:30 a.m. Jumper, 22, lives on the Seminoles' reservation near Hollywood.

Javaris, who is 5-foot-6 and weighs about 125 pounds, took cover behind a wall, armed with a gun in each hand. One of the guns was a .38 caliber, but family members said Tuesday night they were unsure about the other gun.

''He was going crazy,'' Javaris said. ``I shot one time to let him know he had to leave. The dude didn't leave. He was looking at my eyes, trying to get closer.''

The gun in Javaris' right hand jammed, and he fired with the gun in his left, sending Jumper running from the single-story home. Javaris thought his shots missed the man, simply scaring him off. . . . .

Competitive Enterprise Institute Dinner

I enjoyed going to the Competitive Enterprise Institute dinner tonight. P. J. O'Rourke's talk was very entertaining. Here are a couple of interesting statements that he made:

P.J. noted how his seven year old daughter complained that life wasn't fair. P.J. turned to her and said: you are cute, that isn't fair. Your family is well to do, that isn't fair. You are born in the United States, that isn't fair. You better pray that life doesn't become fair.

*While P.J.'s comments are funnier than what I would say and his daugther might remember them longer, I suppose that I would explain that fairness is that her family and country get to keep what is theirs, that they took the time and effort to produce. Ensuring equality of outcomes is not the same thing as ensuring equality of opportunity.

P.J. also said: Someone mentions corporate corruption and you think of Enron. I think of Elliot Spitzer.

*May be you had to be there for this last one.


Will William Jefferson's case get as much news coverage as Duke Cunningham's case?

Today at Political Diary, John Fund writes:

Duke Cunningham move aside. The prize for most outrageous abuse of Congressional office may have to be transferred from the disgraced former California solon to Rep. William Jefferson, in whose freezer the FBI is said to have discovered $90,000 in bribe money wrapped in aluminum foil.

Prosecution documents allege that Mr. Jefferson, who represents parts of New Orleans that are as badly flooded as his career path is currently, took the cash from a businesswoman who wore an FBI wire as she sought to buy his influence. The court papers say Mr. Jefferson was going to use the cash to bribe African politicians to give her a contract for her phone and Internet company.

After discovering the cash during a raid on Mr. Jefferson's house, the FBI conducted a follow-up search of his Capitol Hill office, the first time in history that such an indignity has been inflicted on a sitting lawmaker. ABC News reports that the raid only occurred after lawyers for the House of Representatives refused to turn over the material the FBI sought. "Left with no other method, the government is proceeding in this fashion" by requesting a search warrant, wrote FBI agent Timothy Thibault last week in a court filing. A federal judge promptly issued a warrant directing Capitol Hill police "to provide immediate access" to Mr. Jefferson's office. And the FBI team that went in last Saturday night included specialists assigned to separate files related to Mr. Jefferson's alleged crimes from "any potentially politically sensitive" items, a search of which might raise the ire of House lawyers.

I can understand the concerns about separation of powers that House lawyers might believe were raised by an executive agency searching a Congressional office. But blocking access to relevant documents requested by the FBI has the appearance of favoritism towards members of Congress. As for the political files in Mr. Jefferson's office, I doubt that he will be needing them in the near future.

Mr. Jefferson emerged yesterday to call the search of his office "outrageous" and to say he will continue to run for re-election. But even staffers in his office are said to be shopping their resumes to other members in anticipation that there will soon be a vacancy in the seat.

One solution to the alligator attacks in Florida

Some facts to keep in mind when you talk to friends who see Al Gore's new movie

Pete DuPont has a useful piece in today's Opinion Journal:

When it comes to visible environmental improvements, America is also making substantial progress:

• The number of days the city of Los Angeles exceeded the one-hour ozone standard has declined from just under 200 a year in the late 1970s to 27 in 2004.

• The Pacific Research Institute's Index of Leading Environmental Indicators shows that "U.S. forests expanded by 9.5 million acres between 1990 and 2000."

• While wetlands were declining at the rate of 500,000 acres a year at midcentury, they "have shown a net gain of about 26,000 acres per year in the past five years," according to the institute.

• Also according to the institute, "bald eagles, down to fewer than 500 nesting pairs in 1965, are now estimated to number more than 7,500 nesting pairs."

Environmentally speaking, America has had a very good third of a century; the economy has grown and pollutants and their impacts upon society are substantially down.

But now comes the carbon dioxide alarm. CO2 is not a pollutant--indeed it is vital for plant growth--but the annual amount released into the atmosphere has increased 40% since 1970. This increase is blamed by global warming alarmists for a great many evil things. The Web site for Al Gore's new film, "An Inconvenient Truth," claims that because of CO2's impact on our atmosphere, sea levels may rise by 20 feet, the Arctic and Antarctic ice will likely melt, heat waves will be "more frequent and more intense," and "deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years--to 300,000 people a year." . . . .

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Iraq: Some very interesting measures of how well things are going

As an economist, these measures of well-being are quite attractive because they rely on people "voting with their feet," what economists would call revealed preferences. From an article in Commentary magazine by Amir Taheri (the whole article is worth reading):

. . . Since my first encounter with Iraq almost 40 years ago, I have relied on several broad measures of social and economic health to assess the countrys condition. Through good times and bad, these signs have proved remarkably accurateas accurate, that is, as is possible in human affairs. For some time now, all have been pointing in an unequivocally positive direction.

The first sign is refugees. When things have been truly desperate in Iraqin 1959, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1988, and 1990long queues of Iraqis have formed at the Turkish and Iranian frontiers, hoping to escape. In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraqs creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks. This was not the temporary exile of a small group of middle-class professionals and intellectuals, which is a common enough phenomenon in most Arab countries. Rather, it was a departure en masse, affecting people both in small villages and in big cities, and it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein.

Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen on our television setsand we can be sure that we would be seeing it if it were there to be shown. To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark. Many of the camps set up for fleeing Iraqis in Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia since 1959 have now closed down. The oldest such center, at Ashrafiayh in southwest Iran, was formally shut when its last Iraqi guests returned home in 2004.

A second dependable sign likewise concerns human movement, but of a different kind. This is the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely. From 1991 (when Saddam Hussein massacred Shiites involved in a revolt against him) to 2003, there were scarcely any pilgrims to these cities. Since Saddams fall, they have been flooded with visitors. In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina.

Over 3,000 Iraqi clerics have also returned from exile, and Shiite seminaries, which just a few years ago held no more than a few dozen pupils, now boast over 15,000 from 40 different countries. . . .

A third sign, . . . is the value of the Iraqi dinar, especially as compared with the regions other major currencies. In the final years of Saddam Husseins rule, the Iraqi dinar was in free fall; after 1995, it was no longer even traded in Iran and Kuwait. By contrast, the new dinar, introduced early in 2004, is doing well against both the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial . . . .

My fourth time-tested sign is . . . whenever things have gone downhill in Iraq, large numbers of such enterprises have simply closed down, with the countrys most capable entrepreneurs decamping to Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, Iran, and even Europe and North America. Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses. . . .

UPDATE: A reader named Guav alerts me to the fact that Amir Taheri was apparently the same person who has recently made some mistakes reporting on Iran.

A news story and column by Iranian-born analyst Amir Taheri in yesterday’s National Post reported that the Iranian parliament had passed a sweeping new law this week outlining proper dress for Iran’s majority Muslims, including an order for Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians to wear special strips of cloth.

The FTC's bizarre definition of price gouging

Before we look at the FTC's conclusion on price gouging, let's look at how when it was defined as occurring:

For the purpose of the report, and as mandated by Congress, the FTC defined price gouging as "any finding" that the average price of gasoline in designated disaster areas in September 2005 was higher than in August 2005.

A Republican congress approved this? We know that prices went up so the conclusion was already predetermined. Based upon that definition, this is what they found:

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday said it found 15 examples of gasoline price gouging after Hurricane Katrina, though the agency said it has not identified any widespread effort by the oil industry to illegally manipulate the marketplace.

Here is one question. If it is price gouging whenever the average price rises, what do you call it whenever the average price falls? Uncontrolable altruism by companies? Is the ideal market one where the price never moves? If you are interested, you can see how much the price of gasoline goes up and down over time. Boy, there must be a lot of market power.

UPDATE: Fox News that I cited above may have blown this story. Here is what I just read in the WSJ.
"The FTC defined gouging as a gas price in September 2005 that was higher than the previous month for reasons other than higher cost or market trend." (Emphasis added.)

However, I will say that I don't understand this market trend argument and I don't know why demand changes aren't included, especially since different blends of gas can make it hard to move gas from lower to higher valued areas.

Senator Barack Obama makes life difficult for Mexican Guest Workers in US

How can Democrats explain that they are on the same side as the Mexicans coming to the US? Isn't it clear to everyone that this provision does more to protect union workers than it does to help guest workers to make a living.

an amendment by Senator Barack Obama, approved by voice vote, extended Davis-Bacon wages rates to all private work performed by guest workers, even if their occupations are not covered by Davis-Bacon.


Americans support National Guard at Border

A couple of interesting points on some Ethanol

This discussion could be titled: Why Ethanol makes us poorer.

Are there any problems with ethanol?
Oh, yes. Ethanol can't travel in pipelines along with gasoline, because it picks up excess water and impurities. As a result, ethanol needs to be transported by trucks, trains, or barges, which is more expensive and complicated than sending it down a pipeline. As refiners switched to ethanol this spring, the change in transport needs has likely contributed to the rise in gas prices. Some experts argue that the U. S. doesn't have adequate infrastructure for wide ethanol use.

Also, ethanol contains less energy than gas. That means drivers have to make more frequent trips to the pump.

Doesn't producing ethanol on a large scale use a great deal of energy?
Yes. Some ethanol skeptics have even argued that the process involved in growing grain and then transforming it into ethanol requires more energy from fossil fuels than ethanol generates. In other words, they say the whole movement is a farce.

There's no absolute consensus in the scientific community, but that argument is losing strength. Michael Wang, a scientist at the Energy Dept.-funded Argonne National Laboratory for Transportation Research, says "The energy used for each unit of ethanol produced has been reduced by about half [since 1980]." Now, Wang says, the delivery of 1 million British thermal units (BTUs) of ethanol uses 0.74 million BTUs of fossil fuels. (That does not include the solar energy -- the sun shining -- used in growing corn.) By contrast, he finds that the delivery of 1 million BTUs of gasoline requires 1.23 million BTU of fossil fuels.

Producing ethanol could get more efficient soon as new technologies help farmers get more corn per acre of land and allow ethanol producers to get more of the fuel from the same amount of corn. The companies developing new corn technologies include chemical giant Dupont (DD ) and Monsanto (MON ), which sells genetically modified seeds as well as chemicals for protecting crops. . . .

Is ethanol cheaper than gas?
Surprise, surprise, it isn't. The move this spring by more regions to use ethanol means that demand has spiked, driving up prices. On Monday, the New York harbor price was around $3 per gallon compared with about $2.28 for gasoline (before being mixed with ethanol). In other words, for now ethanol is helping to increase prices at the pump, not to push them down.

This piece has its problems, but it still raises a couple of useful points.

On Bonds breaking the Babe's record

I confess I have mixed feelings about Barry Bonds tying Babe Ruth's home run record I may have written op-eds with Sonya defending the right of baseball to make its own decisions on steroid use independent of any government intervention, but it is still quite sad about him breaking the Babe's record. On the one hand, it is nice to seem human beings accomplish more and more difficult tasks. On the other hand, there is something different in my mind to the Babe drinking too many beers and eating too many hot dogs and still completely dominating the sport in the way no one has done so since (e.g., home runs as a percentage of home runs hit by everyone else in the league at that time). As opposed to someone (such as Bonds) breaking the Babe's numerical record, but not doing so in any where near the way that he dominated things and getting the benefit of later scientific advances.


Gore's entourage takes five cars a few blocks at Cannes

I was just listening to the news on the radio (WABC), and they were saying that Gore apparently woulld have saved time if he had simply walked the few blocks from his hotel to where his film was showing at Cannes. The funny thing to me wasn't that he would have saved time, but that his film is about global warming and here he is taking cars a very short distance when the cars take longer than simply walking. My question is: why Gore was only kidded for taking the slowest way to get to the showing? Why not kid him on the global warming issue?

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