Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 5, 2006

Lobbying for Dummies

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:06 pm

Some of my best friends are liberals — and one of them just sent me an e-mail with this little taunt:

i hear there is a lobbist position available for the
rebublican party… and don’t forget to bring your
checkbook when you apply
:) :)

Now, I think he is trying to make a point — and I don’t think it’s a point about how liberals can’t spell or use capital letters, let alone to suggest I should become a lobbyist. I think the point has something to do with the recent guilty pleas of the formerly-famed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Now I’m not a lobbyist, and I’ve never been a lobbyist, but in recent years I’ve had two sources from which I’ve learned a few facts about lobbying that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and that I don’t think most people know (except for #1 below). The sources are, (a) I work at a company that does research in a regulatored industry (health care), and we often do work for clients referred to us by lobbyists — who in turn use our research in their lobbying if it comes out the way they want — and (b) I live in a suburb of Washington, DC, where I have met some friends who are, or have been, lobbyists — a few of whom have talked to me about how it all works, and some of whom even know Jack Abramoff. How closely, I don’t know.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned, and my response to my Democrat friend:

  1. Lobbyists are not employed by parties. They are employed by people who want something, in order to influence parties. Some big companies hire both Republican and Democrat lobbyists, each to influence the party tow which they claim to be loyal. (They are actually loyal mainly to their employer, of course. At least as long as they work there.)

  2. You do not “bring your checkbook when you apply” to become a lobbyist. You bring your Rolodex. If you know lots of Congressmen — or even high-ranking civil servants — someone will pay you to contact them and tell them to do things that someone wants them to do (either favors, or vote a certain way). The lobbyist will also tell the client/employer who they should donate to in order to get things done. The client/employer pays the lobbyist to tell them this.

  3. The lobbyist never pays anybody. The client/employer pays everybody — the lobbyist (salary/retainer/fee), the politicians (contributions — campaign and otherwise, and golf trips), and the bureaucrats (golf trips, and high-paying cushy jobs after they do what the client/employer wants), and in the case of my firm, the client/employer pays consulting firms the lobbyist recommends to do research used to convince bureaucrats to do what the client/employer wants. Lobbyists also recommend that the client/employer pay other lobbyists in cases where the first don’t know the right politician/bureaucrat for a particular issue and they know another lobbyist who does. (So the lobbyist has to have a big Rolodex, but it also helps to know who’s in all the other lobbyists’ Rolodexes.)

  4. One question I had is, how do lobbyists (quasi-legally) get around the restrictions on explicitly giving money — like the $2,000 limit on campaign contributions? Not to mention, of course, the rules against explicitly trading contributions for actions. The first part is easy: lobbyists tell their clients to contribute, and the clients often have lots of people who can give $2,000 each. When the politician knows that a bunch of contributions are coming from people in a certain company or interest group, as recommended by the lobbyist, the both the company or interest group and the lobbyist benefit, because the politician appreciates the contributions from the company or interest group, and he or she also appreciates that the lobbyist recommended that they contribute (and he or she knows the lobbyist isn’t allowed to make that huge contribution himself). The second part is a bit more complicated. It works like this: A congressman once called a lobbyist who worked for a particular industry group and asked him to buy a table at his fundraising dinner. The lobbyist told him that his group has the following three policy concerns at the time, and they have a policy of supporting only those congressmen who’ve taken positions on their side of those three issues. He didn’t ask the congressman to change any positions, and didn’t promise him anything if he did. Within a few days, the congressman — who’d previously shown no interest on either side of these issues — released a press release supporting one position they liked, signed on as a co-sponsor of some legislation they wanted passed, and did some spoke on the floor in favor of their position on something. Then the industry group called it’s members, and the members bought a table at the fundraiser. (Of course, people can also “contribute” more than the $2,000 limit be seting up non-campaign organizations that unofficially do things to help candidates; this is how George Soros spent $35 million (or whatever it was) on John Kerry’s campaign despite the $2,000 “limit.”)

  5. Another way they get around the contribution restriction is this: Sure congressmen like campaign contributions, but they also like other kinds of contributions — like charity, for example. Maybe a Congressman is on the board of the Inner-City Youth Chess and Self-Esteem Foundation. The lobbyist finds this out, and has his clients give a large (no measly $2,000 limit!) contribution to the foundation. Now, why would this influence the politician? Well, for one thing, the politician may actually care about the charity. Even most politicians actually care about something besides getting elected. For another thing, it can be good publicity — the politician can get a photo-op at the ceremony where the company hands the poster-sized $50,000 check to the director of the foundation, and basks in the reflected good publicity that comes from being associated with charitable causes. Plus, the foundation’s staff or organizer or beneficiaries like the fact that the congressman has this magical ability to steer contributions their way, so they nice things about him and that means the money actually could help him get elected, even though he doesn’t have it to spend on his campaign. Plus, at election time he can tout his involvement in “the community” by saying he serves on the boards of all these foundations — foundations that would have no interest in keeping him on their boards if it weren’t for the fact that he can arrange contribution from the folks like Amalgamated Union of BB Stackers, which would not care about Inner-City Youth Chess except that Representative Bullhorn is on their board, and also chairs the House Subcommittee on Small Metal Objects, which has jurisdiction over occupational health and safety regulations in the BB-stacking industry. So, they donate $50,000 to the Inner-City Youth Chess Foundation because they aren’t allowed to donate it to Representative Bullhorn’s re-election campaign, and the Foundation is her (Bullhorn’s — did I say Bullhorn was male?) second choice.

As far as I can tell, Jack Abramoff is not in trouble for giving bribes, as such. He’s in trouble for directing client bribes to particular politicians — of both parties, although he himself is a Republican. He is also in trouble for directing client contributions to some charities he cared about by telling the client some politican cared about them. (As well as the Florida stuff, which as far as I can tell has nothing to do with politics.)

And to answer my liberal friend’s implied taunt, I’m only slightly embarrassed that he’s a Republican. Yes, Republicans should know better. But (like John Podhoretz), I’m more embarrassed that he’s apparently an (otherwise) Orthodox Jew — which means he really should have known better!

As for my liberal Democrat friend (also an Orthodox Jew), I wonder how he feels about this, as explained by someone who, unlike me, is an actual ex-lobbyist:

What is missed in the Abramoff hooplah is how the whole investigation … at least the lobbying side of it…came about. From the WaPo 12.29.05[:]

“Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Indian Affairs Committee, remembers first hearing “vague complaints” about Abramoff in June 2003 from three Democratic lobbyists. The tribes had traditionally supported Democrats, but Abramoff was capturing them for Republicans, getting them to boost their contributions and give two-thirds to his party.”

Only in D.C. will a group of lobbyists, lobby a Dem Senator to go after a Republican lobbyist because Republican lobbyist convinced clients to contribute to Republicans. In D.C., getting a donor to flip sides is the greatest of sins.

So, if Jack would have let the Dems have a fair share of the Indian money flowing to political campaigns, the lobbyists wouldn’t have run to Dorgan, who also got some $90,000 in Abramoff related money, and Jack could have kept bilking the tribes.

What brought down Abramoff was his success. He was getting better results than most lobbyists and making a pile of money and sniping clients from other firms.

And of course, getting the Indians to contribute to Republicans … on K-Street, that is the unforgivable sin, for while most lobbying interests are big business, their lobbyists tend to be former Democrat staffers, who still want the Blue team to win.

My K-Street and politics education came the old fashioned way. I saw Liberal Democrat lobbyists stear money to candidates who consistently voted against their clients interests. I saw a lobbyist from a Pharmaceutical company direct the company make a max contribution to a candidate who wanted to crack down on the Pharmaceutical Industry’s profits and require more stringent safety standards.

The Pharm company didn’t know what was going on. But their lobbyist, a part-time gay rights activist, was actually playing the marriage issue with his company’s money.

Big businesses are waking up to what has been happening to them–the lobbyists have been ripping them off.

I also learned an unwritten rule in lobbying–don’t be too good, then everyone will have to work harder and produce results.

If you are too good, the other lobbyists will turn on you. Remember, most lobbyists are long removed from being a middling staffer. Few of them come from the campaign side and to them it is a big machine. The ones from the campaign side, at least Republicans, rarely end up on K-Street. They are too philosophically oriented, too driven to win and not urbane enough for those whose father could buy them an internship to start moving up the D.C. ladder. There are very few winning campaign managers running around D.C. when compared to those who come up through the company.

For those who came in through the staff side, D.C. is a company town and they just want to keep the money flowing and pay the mortgage and help the party they came up through.

Abramoff broke the rules. He cut off a source of Democrat money, got results and stole clients.

All of which led some Dem lobbyists to complain to a Dem Senator who took Abramoff related money.

That is how messed up the place is and why I stayed on the campaign side and eventually got out of it all.

Liberals Protect Women and Children?

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Clayton Cramer points to a report on a judge who sentenced a serial child rapist to 60 days (not years! days!) for repeatedly raping a girl for four years starting when she was seven years old.

The judge said he no longer believes in punishment and is more concerned about rehabilitation.

Prosecutors argued that confessed child-rapist Mark Hulett, 34, of Williston deserved at least eight years behind bars for repeatedly raping a littler girl countless times starting when she was seven.

But Judge Edward Cashman disagreed explaining that he no longer believes that punishment works.

“The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It just corrodes your soul,” said Judge Edward Cashman speaking to a packed Burlington courtroom. Most of the on-lookers were related to a young girl who was repeatedly raped by Mark Hulett who was in court to be sentenced.

The sex abuse started when the girl was seven and ended when she was ten. Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of eight to twenty years in prison, in part, as punishment.

Judge Cashman also also revealed that he once handed down stiff sentences when he first got on the bench 25 years ago, but he no longer believes in punishment.

“I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value; it doesn’t make anything better; it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger,”Cashman explained to the people in the court.

Right — so this liberal judge wants to let a serial child rapist out on the street in two months just so he can save a few bucks?

And they accuse conservatives of trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor”! Liberals think it’s better to balance the budget on the vaginas of little girls?
Are they nuts?

(Well, maybe: Michael Savage titles his book Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.)

Hugo Chávez’s Antisemitic Christmas Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:00 pm

Tom Gross reports:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced in a Christmas speech that “the descendants of those who crucified Christ” have appropriated the riches of the world.

Speaking at a rehabilitation center on December 24, the controversial left-wing president said “the descendants of those who crucified Christ… have taken ownership of the riches of the world, a minority has taken ownership of the gold of the world, the silver, the minerals, water, the good lands, petrol, well, the riches, and they have concentrated the riches in a small number of hands.”

The full speech (in a PDF file, in Spanish) is here; the relevant part is on page 18 of the PDF file.

My Spanish is not all that great, but it’s enough to confirm that this is not a gross mis-translation or taken out of context. My (Babelfish-assisted) translation of the surrounding passage is:

There was no money — and where was the money? The money in Venezuela was concentrated… as well as in the world, because this is a world-wide phenomenon, you know? This morning I finish reading the last report of the United Nations on the world situation, and it is alarming — and for that reason I say that today more than ever before in the last 2005 years we need Jesus Christ, because the world, the world, is exhausting every day, every day, the wealth of the world, because God, whose nature is wise, gave the world sufficient water so that all we had water, the world has sufficient wealth, sufficient land to produce foods for all the world-wide population, the world has sufficient stones and minerals for the construction, so that there was not anybody without a house.
The world has [enough] for all, then, but there are minorities, the descendants of such who crucified Christ, the descendants of such who threw to Bolivar from here and also crucified [them] in Santa Marta, back in Colombia. A minority has appropriated the wealth of the world, a minority has appropriated gold of the planet, the silver, minerals, waters, good land, petroleum — the wealth, then, and have concentrated the wealth in few hands: less than the ten percent of the population of the world own more than half of the wealth worldwide and … more than half of the inhabitants of the world are poor and every day there are more poor men throughout the world. We are determined, determined here to change history …

Clayton Cramer tries, but fails, to give Chávez the benefit of the doubt:

I found myself wondering: is he talking about the United States? But it wasn’t Americans who crucified Jesus. (Actually, it wasn’t Jews who crucified Jesus; it was Romans–but little details like history don’t usually bother anti-Semites.)

Clayton also says:

I thought that this sort of anti-Semitism was completely gone–but since the speaker is a bit of a hero to the left, I guess that I am not surprised[.]

We Americans (both Jewish and not) tend, if we think about it at all, to think that antisemitism is gone — because here in America, it basically is. The events in France in 2002-03 (and to a lesser extent, Germany and England) were a shocker to a lot of people, but antisemitism never really died in the rest of the world. In Europe, it was just submerged for a generation or two — probably because the Holocaust made people feel guilty for appaering, if not actually being, antisemitic.

There has always been an antisemitic undertone in Latin America. There’s a reason so many Nazis found refugees in Argentina, and I’ve heard the theory that Vatican II never really made it down to the masses in some of the poorer countries in South America. And of course, the fact that “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a best-seller in Japan is proof that antisemitism can exist without any actual Jews — and even without a history of a religion that makes the accusation of deicide against Jews.

Except from the Arab countries plus Iran, we have basically had a honeymoon from antisemtism for the last half-century. But the honeymoon is over (except in the United States, and I pray that remains the case). In the UK, unlike in the US, they have Chief Rabbi, and he said recently:

In an interview with BBC Radio yesterday [i.e.,Jan. 1] to mark the Christian New Year, Britain’s normally mild-mannered chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, warned that a “tsunami of anti-Semitism” is threatening to engulf many parts of the world. Dr Sacks said he was “very scared” by the rise in anti-Jewish feeling, which had led to Holocaust denial, attacks on synagogues and a boycott of Jewish groups on university campuses.

Among British concerns, he cited the fact that since 2002, Jewish student groups on 17 British campuses have faced the threat of expulsion from fellow students who claim to merely be anti-Israeli rather than anti-Semitic. Dr Sacks said attempts to “silence and even ban” Jewish student groups were “quite extraordinary” because most of Britain’s 350,000 Jews regarded themselves primarily as “British citizens”.

And here in Virginia, we have seen a small part of the effect. Among our neighbors are a Jewish family who moved here from France about a year and a half ago, after concluding that it was not safe to raise Jewish kids there. They’re great people and we love them, but we wish they’d had a less discouraging reason to move here.

UPDATE (1/6/06): The English-language mainstream media is picking up on the story a day after the English-language blogosphere. At least if you count the Jerusalem Post, the Times of India, or the Houston Chronicle as “mainstream.”

Ariel Sharon’s Stroke

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:11 pm

When I first heard that Ariel Sharon had had a second stroke after the “mini-strokes” last month, and that the second was a hemorrhagic stroke, my first thought was that they’d put him on anticoagulants as a result of the mini-strokes, and they caused the second one.

Now, it seems that some doctors are saying the same thing. (I should have posted this two days ago; I’d have looked like a genius. But, a lot of good that would have done Sharon…)

You see, there are two kinds of strokes — and they are pretty much the opposite in terms of what happens and what causes them. An ischemic stroke is when a blood clot lodges in a artery in the brain, cutting off the supply of blood to the part of brain supplied by that artery. It’s basically the same as a heart attack, only the artery being blocked is in the brain rather than the heart. A mini-stroke is what they call a “transient ischemic attack” — a small clot that either dissolves by itself rather quickly, or blocks an artery that’s so minor the brain can sort of work around the damage. A hemorrhagic stroke — AKA, a cerebral hemorrhage — is the opposite — it’s when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood starts spilling all over the place, coming into contact with brain tissue it isn’t supposed be in contact with, and also causing pressure, since there’s not much room for swelling inside a hard container like the skull.

So, these two are opposites — an ischemic stroke is not enough blood where it’s supposed to be, and a hemorrhagic stroke is too much blood where it’s not supposed to be.

The main treatment for an ischemic stroke is to give anticoagulant drugs — drugs that dissolve clots, and prevent new clots from forming. If you’ve heard of that drug (tPA) that can stop a stroke, but only if is given within 3 hours of a stroke — well, that’s a drug that can dissolve blood clots. If it dissolves them fast enough, the severity of brain damage cause by the stroke can be reduced or maybe even eliminated. Someone who has an ischemic stroke — either a “mini-stroke” or a full-blown one — is normally put on milder anticoagulant drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin®) for an extended period after the stroke, and perhaps indefinitely, to prevent a subsequent stroke. Warfarin works by inhibiting the blood from clotting.

And here’s the problem: Warfarin works on all your blood, so it slows clot formation all the time — not just when it would cause a stroke, but all the time. One of the effects of warfarin and other anticoagulants is that when you start to bleed (say, from a paper cut), you bleed longer since it takes longer for your blood to clot. And if you happen to start to bleed inside your brain, anticoagulants will prevent that bleeding from stopping, too.

In short, the same drugs that cure or prevent ischemic strokes can actually cause hemorrhagic strokes, or at least make them much, much, worse. And this isn’t really a side effect as such — anticoagulants make hemorrhagic strokes for the exact same reason that they cure, reduce, or prevent ischemic strokes.

People often wonder why people are not given tPA right away with they show up in the emergency room showing stroke symptoms. After all, could it hurt? Yes, it could — both kinds of strokes have similar or identical symptoms, so they have to do an MRI or CT scan or otherwise try to figure out whether the person is having a ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic one — while if it’s ischemic, tPA could save the patient’s life, if it’s hemorrhagic, tPA could kill the patient or otherwise make the stoke a lot worse. And they have to do it very quickly, since tPA works much better when given sooner, and it loses its effectiveness rapidly after about three hours.

I’m not second-guessing the doctors here. I believe it’s standard practice to give anticoagulants to everyone who has an ischemic stroke unless there’s a known good reason not to, under the theory that if a person had one, they are susceptible and could have another. So, they probably did the right thing given the information they had at the time. I don’t know how common it is for the same person to be susceptible to both kinds of strokes, or if there’s any way to tell, or if it’s possible they misdiagnosed the events of last week. Perhaps a doctor reading this might be willing to leave a comment to clarify some of this.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, and I don’t even play one on TV. Don’t take any of this as medical advice. If you think any of this applies to you, consult an actual medical doctor, not me. I do not guarantee that anything said about is true. I mean, I think it is, but I’m not a doctor so I might make a mistake, and I’m not licensed to guarantee it anyway.

More Carnivals!

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:15 am

Gosh, I can’t keep up with these things … but they’re good!

Will This be Treated as a Hate Crime?

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:31 am

Man Shoots Two Mormons Going Door To Door

POSTED: 7:57 am EST January 3, 2006

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — A Mormon missionary going door to door was fatally shot Monday night and a fellow missionary was wounded by an assailant who fled, police said.

The attacks happened just after 6 p.m. in the Deep Creek area of the city, police said, when a man approached the two, shot them and ran away.

The missionaries were identified by church spokesmen Dale Bills and Michael Purdy as Elders Morgan Young, 21, of Bountiful, Utah, and Joshua Heidbrink of Greeley, Colo. Chesapeake police said he is 19.

OK, two obviously identifiable Mormons, shot without any provocation by an unknown assailand on the street. Might this be considered and prosecuted as a “hate crime”?

Police described the gunman as a black male about 5 feet 10 inches . They said he was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and denim jeans.


Now if a Mormon had shot two black guys, now that would have been a hate crime!

The Candidates Disagree on “Domestic” Issues

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:26 am

Matt Drudge links to this story in the Houston Chronicle:

Wife files to run against husband for State House seat

PHARR — The wife of a state representative filed Monday to run against her husband in a South Texas race that both candidates said coincides with an impending divorce.

Democratic state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, an incumbent from Weslaco, faces a primary challenge from his wife, Jessica Reyes-Martinez. The District 39 seat covers part of Hidalgo County.

Reyes-Martinez, 28, filed as a candidate in the March 7 primary only 30 minutes before the Monday deadline, The Monitor reported in its Tuesday edition. She’s making her first bid for public office and is now a homemaker.

“I’m actually running for office, not against him,” Reyes-Martinez told the McAllen newspaper. “It just happens he’s in office right now.”

Yeah, that sounds believable….

I don’t know how much Texas state representative get paid, but I kind of wonder if taking away your soon-to-be-ex-husband’s job is the best way to get a lot of alimony.

Global Warming Has Shifted Ocean Currents

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:22 am

55 Million years ago, anyway….

An extraordinary burst of global warming that occurred around 55 million years ago dramatically reversed Earth’s pattern of ocean currents, a finding that strengthens modern-day concern about climate change, a study says.

The big event, the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), saw the planet’s surface temperature rise by between five and eight degrees C (nine and 16.2 F) in a very short time, unleashing climate shifts that endured tens of thousands of years.

Between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius! Egads! Even nowadays, the most pessimistic estimates nowadays say we’ve only had 0.6 of a degree in the last century.

Gosh, what kind of SUVs must they have been driving 55 million years ago? Is this what wiped out the dinosaurs? Or was it too many fire-breathing dragons?

Artistic Intelligence

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:08 am

Ever heard of “artistic intelligence”? When I was in middle school, where self-esteem is more important than knowledge or ability, the teachers used to tell us that there were all sorts of “intelligence,” and maybe people who weren’t good at math or writing or science or history had more “artistic intelligence” to make up for it.

I wonder if this is what they were talking about:

An artist who chained his legs together to draw a picture of the image hopped 12 hours through the desert after realizing he lost the key and couldn’t unlock the restraints, authorities said Wednesday.

Trevor Corneliusien, 26, tightly wrapped and locked a long, thick chain around his bare ankles Tuesday while camping in an abandoned mine shaft about five miles north of Baker, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Ford said.

“It took him over 12 hours because he had to hop through boulders and sand,” Ford said. “He did put on his shoes before hopping.”

The artist, who is from the area, often sketched images inside mines in the Southwest. He had finished his drawing Tuesday when he realized he didn’t have the key.

Corneliusien finally made it to a gas station and called the sheriff’s department, which sent paramedics and deputies with bolt cutters. His legs were bruised but he was otherwise in good health, Ford said.

The artist did not have a listed phone number and could not be reached for comment.

And the drawing?

“He brought it down with him,” Ford said. “It was a pretty good depiction of how a chain would look wrapped around your legs.”

Se, he was a good artist! And he was able to rescue the drawing!

Of course, if he only had normal intelligence, he would have just wrapped the chain and not used a lock in the first place — but that would have comprimised his “artistic integrity”!

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