Thursday, May 10, 2007

This afternoon's Judiciary hearing featured the following exchange:

Rep. Linda Sanchez: Are you aware that one month before [Debra] Yang resigned her post, White House Counsel Harriet Miers had asked Kyle Sampson if Ms. Yang planned to keep her post, or if, in Mr. Sampson's words to our investigators, "whether a vacancy could be created there in Los Angeles"? Were you aware of that?


Alberto Gonzalez: I think I'm... I think I may be aware of that.
It was such a ridiculous answer that he made himself laugh. I love it.

CongressDaily (et al) is reporting that Nancy Pelosi is going to allow the party progressives a pretty big -- albeit basically ceremonial -- vote this evening:

In a change of plans, House Democratic leaders today plan to bring up legislation that would begin redeployment of U.S. forces and contractors from Iraq not later than 90 days after enactment and to be completed within 180 days before turning to a second Iraq war supplemental. The bill was introduced Wednesday night by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., a prominent member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, after discussions with Speaker Pelosi. The vote on the McGovern bill is a concession to antiwar members of the Democratic Caucus who are concerned that supplemental proposed by Appropriations Chairman Obey would not permit until July an up-or-down vote on removing troops from combat zones.
It'll fail, obviously, but the roll call should be interesting.

[Sadly, this is likely to signal an end to any organized liberal opposition to the leadership's milquetoast supplemental. Way to be, guys!]

Update: 171-255 on the McGovern bill (which is quite a few more yeas than I would have expected); 221-205 on the supplemental (which, of course, will be inexplicably vetoed).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Three years ago, a senior researcher at the Department of Education distributed a memo blowing the whistle on a pretty major student-loan loophole. For his trouble, he received a hastily rewritten job description ("barring him from further research into the subsidies") and a pretty harsh rebuke ("In the 18 months you have remaining, I will expect your time and talents to be directed primarily to our business of conceptualizing, competing and monitoring research grants," his boss wrote).

Three years later, the researcher's retired, the memo's been proven entirely correct, and the boss is backpedaling:

"Plus, I didn’t understand the issues," Mr. Whitehurst said recently. "In retrospect, it looks like he identified an important issue and came up with a reasonable solution. But it was Greek to me at the time — preferential interest rates on bonds? I didn’t know what he was doing, except that he wasn’t supposed to be doing it."
Wherefore dost thou stop, buck?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On tonight's NewsHour, Judy Woodruff moderated a frustrating debate between founder Jon Soltz and vile Move America Forward chair Melanie Morgan (who, without going too deep into the ad hominems, has clearly spent some time with the drunken plastic surgeon responsible for Jennifer Coolidge's lips).

Somewhat inevitably, Soltz came off as reasonable, considerate, and intelligent; and Morgan came off as a walking talking point who hums with her mouth open.* But read that debate transcript (or listen to the audio), and let me know if you can get to the end without losing a bit of respect for Judy Woodruff. To grant someone like Melanie Morgan the gift of NewsHour airtime, and then completely fail to call her on any of her ridiculous bullshit ("Well, it's nice to know that you [former Army captain Jon Soltz] really believe in the fearsome firepower of al-Qaida and in their ability to win a war. And I think what you [former Army captain Jon Soltz] are saying is shameful and really disrespectful to our troops.")... well, you can take the girl out of CNN, but you can't take the CNN out of the girl.

* - I would have liked to include a link to the scene from A Mighty Wind that I'm referring to, but I couldn't find it online. So I'm afraid you'll have to imagine it. Also, this still only counts as one ad hominem, since I'm basically just repeating the Jennifer Coolidge joke from the first paragraph.

A whole mess o' catchuppery:

  • Wired reported about a week ago that the Army has quietly changed its regulations to forbid soldiers to send email without first "clearing the content" with their superiors. Practically speaking, I'm guessing this'll go mostly unenforced, but for those few whom it does affect, it seems awfully extreme. (And am I the only one who's surprised that none of the big liberal blogs picked this up?)
  • Over at TAPPED, Ezra Klein took a pretty amusing swing at Roger Simon's latest $400-haircut piece.
  • An article in Monday's Washington Post ripped John Edwards for failing to bring more to the table on poverty issues, prompting TPM wonks-in-residence Jared Bernstein and Greg Anrig to rip the Post right back.
  • And finally, things are not looking good for Wolfowitz, are they?

The Wolfers/Price referee study was pretty interesting all by itself, but the responses it provoked from frightened basketball cognoscenti* were absolutely priceless. From the NBA, you got:

"The study that is cited in the New York Times article is wrong," president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "The fact is there is no evidence of racial bias in foul calls made by NBA officials and that is based on a study conducted by our experts who looked at data that was far more robust and current than the data relied upon by Professor Wolfers" [emphasis added]. ... The NBA denied a request by Wolfers and Price to obtain that information, citing its confidentiality agreement with the officials.
In other words, "Your study is wrong, but we can't tell you why. So shut up." (There was also a weird passage in which Litvin attempted to use an earlier draft of the study to discredit its findings. What the hell?)

And on SportsCenter later that evening, NBA "analyst" and noted statistician Kiki Vandeweghe sounded off on the study's methodology:
Well, I took statistics in college, and I can tell you, you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say. That's the first thing. Second thing is, you know, when you get right down to it, they looked at box scores, which list three referees across the bottom. They can't tell, the researchers can't tell who actually made those calls, so they have no idea, so I don't know how they were deciding, you know, if it was an African-American or a white official or Hispanic... who made the call.
Because I guess despite all that statistics experience, he never made it as far as "Introductory Regression."

* - Ahem.

I'm not really sure I fully understand how the GOP leadership is internally justifying its current push for timetables (a strategy that, if you'll recall, they decried pretty vehemently and derisively a week ago). Can anyone explain that to me?