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It was only the

It was only the tip of the iceberg.

I was away from the computer and any news for the evening and here I come back to find out that Bernard Kerik has withdrawn his name from consideration for head of DHS allegedly for a nanny problem. (AP quotes the White House saying simply that it was for "personal reasons.")

Frankly, I doubt that was all there was. As we've discussed on this site, only a president with majorities as compliant as George W. Bush has right now would have even considered nominating Kerik. On top of the mysterious departure from Baghdad and the Rudy and Co. rainmaking, there's the fact that he left the Riker's Island prison as something very near to a latter-day version of Tammany Hall. And that was hardly the end of it. Eventually, the pay-off to Rudy aspect of the nod would have come up too.

This is the Bush way of handling these sorts of things: if it's going to be bloody, dispatch him early. Don't even let it get to the hearings stage -- just like Linda Chavez.

I'll be very curious to hear the follow-on reporting about what really happened. What was the problem that did him in? When did the White House send the message? How did they do it?

Maybe not a horse-head in the bed-sheets, but there must be some story to tell.

Here is the extremely

Here is the extremely broad-ranging <$NoAd$>list of participants for the Social Security (abolition) panel at the president's "Securing Our Economic Future" conference.

Richard D. Parsons, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Inc.; Co-Chair, President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security (New York, NY)

Liz Ann Sonders, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab and Co. (New York, NY)

William Roper, Dean, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

James Glassman, Senior U.S. Economist, JP Morgan Chase (New York, NY)

Tim Penny, Professor, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; Member, President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security; former U.S. Representative (Waseca, MN)

Sandy Jaques, National Advisory Council Member, Women for a Sound Social Security Choice (West Des Moines, IA)

Everyone from Wall Street economists who support ending Social Security, to think-tankers and activists who support it too.

[ed.note: I tried to find a link for everyone. But neither google nor Nexis gave me any results for "Sandy Jaques" or her organization "Women for a Sound Social Security Choice." So presumably it's another phoney-baloney astroturf outfit that's so new their site isn't even listed on google yet. I'd figure Mr. Synhorst would be more on his game for the big moment.]

Late Update: A reader sent in this press release about the mysterious Ms. Jaques from October 6th of this year. That was apparently before she cooked up 'Women for a Sound ... etc.' She seems to come out of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

From this page, it sounds like Jacques is a classic astroturf operative.

Could this be one

Could this be one of the things that got ol' Clark Kent Ervin out of favor at the White House?

You may have heard of the case Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, who was born in 1970 and immigrated to Canada in 1987. In September 2002, during a stopover in New York while returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia, he was taken into custody by US Immigration officials who claimed he had ties to al Qaida.

Arar was subsequently deported to Syria. And, when he returned to Canada over a year later, he claimed to have been tortured while in Syrian custody.

In December 2003 Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan wrote the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security -- that would be our Mr. Ervin -- asking him to conduct a review into the circumstances under which INS deported Arar to Syria despite that fact that he was carrying a Canadian passport at the time of his detention.

But, according to a letter Ervin sent Conyers on July 14th, 2004, he wasn't getting a lot of cooperation on his review.

(Before proceeding, it's important to note that whether or not Arar is a bad guy is an entirely separate question from whether the statutorily-empowered Department IG can review what happened.)

Ervin began his letter by explaining various delays in the review because of his inability to see classified documents and because of various claims of privilege by DHS lawyers.

Then, in the final three grafs, Ervin describes how he had been prevented from interviewing past and present government officials involved in the case as well as being denied access to additional government documents because DHS lawyers were asserting various legal privileges, such as attorney-client privilege, among others.

Ervin found the assertions of privilege to be bogus (my words, not his) but had had "no success", to use his words, in his efforts to get the access he felt he needed. Click here to see the passage from Ervin's letter.

After reading the letter, my question is less why the guy got canned than how he ever got hired by these guys in the first place.

I hear Sen. Collins ain't crazy about Ervin either, though the reasons I've heard for her disapproval seem debatable.

Imagine for a moment

Imagine for a moment that we were having a different sort of Social Security debate. In this alternative universe it wouldn't be about reform or privatization or who had the best plan to save Social Security. The issues would be different. The question would be whether we should abolish Social Security and replace it with a system of loosely-federally-regulated 401ks, or not.

It wouldn't be abolished overnight, of course, but phased out over time. So any oldsters collecting benefits now wouldn't need to worry. And the same would probably go for pre-fogies too ... say, anyone over 55.

But that's the essence of it: abolishing Social Security or not.

Well, guess what? That is exactly the debate we're having. Only many of Social Security's defenders don't seem to know it. It's not that they don't know it exactly. They, more than anyone, understand the stakes involved. But for all the great facts they're bringing to the table, they still seem content to frame the argument in a way that obscures the true issues involved and benefits their opponents immeasurably.

If the shoe were on the other foot, Republicans would not make the same mistake.

Maybe the conservatives who

Maybe the conservatives who go <$NoAd$> into paroxysms with charges of anti-Semitism any time the word "neoconservative" is uttered, will spare a moment to take notice of this (courtesy of Andrew Sullivan) from Bill Donohue of the Catholic League ...

Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth. It's about the messiah. Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common.

The Jew-Hollywood-Anal-Sex-Abortion conspiracy revealed!

The blog medium is

The blog medium is nothing if not flexible; and it's open to a seemingly limitless variety of unexpected uses. Here's one I wouldn't have expected: a group of climate scientists has established a climate change group blog, RealClimate.org.

(Actually, the promo introducing the site seems to go to some lengths not to call it a site about climate change but rather one about climate science. Between you and me, I think it's basically about the climate change issue. But don't tell them I said that.)

The brief description on the site says it is aimed at the "interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in political or economic issues."

I can't say I'll be clicking the refresh button non-stop throughout the day on this one. But so long as the rate of posts doesn't move on the geologic time scale I think I'll be stopping by regularly to find out more. It's a creative way to spread knowledge about an important subject.