30 April 2008

Results of Zimbabwe Election Leaked

From the Guardian (UK):
Zimbabweans are bracing for a bloody second round of elections after government sources today said a recount of the presidential vote held a month ago shows that President Robert Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai but that neither won an outright majority.
Senior government sources told Reuters that Tsvangirai took 47% of the vote to 43% for Mugabe, a remarkable admission that the man who has ruled Zimbabwe for 28 years was beaten.

Fighting in Mexico Caused By Our Lawless Border

This hasn't gotten much attention in the press, but things are very bad on the Mexican side of the border. The problems in Mexico are caused by our lack of control over our border with Mexico. The lawless border is creating a law enforcement nightmare in Mexico, with drug and smuggling gangs fighting over lucrative turf. The story:

A violent drug war in the Mexican city of Tijuana has prompted the deployment of more than 3,000 soldiers and federal police to regain control of the streets.
President Felipe Calderón stepped up the battle against the country's narcotics traffickers after 17 gunmen were killed in a street battle between cartels.

A lot more on this story here: Defense Secretary Gates calls for Mexican border security

Secessionists in Hawaii?

A group of protesters in Hawaii took over the former royal palace, stating they did not recognize that Hawaii was a state and complaining that the overthow of the Hawaiian monarchy was illegal. More here.
Flag image here is of a 49 star-flag, courtesy of Flags of the World.

Silly me, I thought the issue of state secession was settled with the Civil War. Believe it or not, we have the same nuts here in Texas moaning about how Texas is still an independent republic, wasn't properly admitted to the union, etc, etc. As a Southerner, I suggest that the Hawaii protesters need to read a bit about what happened the last time part of the country tried to break away. Hint: start with Sherman and Georgia.

Here's an alternate-reality problem: Presidents must be native-born Americans. Obama was born in Hawaii. If Hawaii were to break away from the union before November, would he still be eligible to be President? Or would he have to settle for being King Barak Hussein I of the Royal House of Obama of the restored Kingdom of Hawa'ii?

Political Parties In Trouble

Now would have been a good time to relaunch the Whig Party. The Republican are in trouble and the Democrats are divided. The conditions are ripe for an historic realignment of political parties. From the Wall Street Journal:
Only 27% of voters have positive views of Republicans, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, the lowest level for either party in the survey's nearly two-decade history.
"The nearly unprecedented negative mood of the country is presenting significant challenges this year for other Republican candidates," said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducted the poll with Democrat Peter Hart.

"It seems clear that this spirited contest with the Democrats has left the party divided in many ways," Mr. Hart said. "Perhaps most ominous," he added is the poll's findings that four in 10 Obama voters don't think Sen. Clinton has the values they seek in a president, while five in 10 Clinton voters say the same about Sen. Obama.
If Sen. Clinton loses the nomination, "there's a chance that more of her voters will go to McCain or not vote," Mr. Newhouse said. In the poll, 30% of Clinton voters say they wouldn't vote for Sen. Obama and 22% of his supporters say they won't vote for Sen. Clinton.

BBC on Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda 'greatest threat' to US

Al-Qaeda is still the greatest terrorist threat to the US and its allies, according to a report from the US state department.
The department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism also names Iran as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism.
There were 14,499 attacks in 2007, the report says, down from 14,570 in 2006.
Attacks in Iraq were also down, from 6,628 to 6,212, although in Afghanistan the number of incidents rose from 969 in 2006 to 1,127 in 2007.
Although overall attacks were down slightly, the number of terror-related deaths rose by 8% to 22,000 in 2007.
"The ability of [Iraqi] attackers to penetrate large concentrations of people and then detonate their explosives may account for the increase in lethality of bombings in 2007," said the report.
Secret bases
In Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to the report, al-Qaeda remains "the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners".
Al-Qaeda "utilises terrorism, as well as subversion, propaganda, and open warfare; it seeks weapons of mass destruction in order to inflict the maximum possible damage on anyone who stands in its way, including other Muslims and/or elders, women and children," the report says.
And the militant group has rebuilt some of its pre-9/11 operational capacity at secret bases in Pakistan, the report's authors warn, with deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri now acting as the group's "strategic and operational planner".
Iran remains the "most active" state sponsor of terrorism, according to the report, and has lent its support to Palestinian militants, as well as insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have provided militants in Iraq with arms, training and money, the report says.
The other state sponsors of terrorism listed in the report are Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
A recent report published by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that that the US had "no comprehensive plan" to deal with the threat posed by al-Qaeda.

More news on U.S. vs Iran

Gates: Second US carrier deployed to Gulf is “reminder” to Tehran

During a visit to Mexico City, US defense secretary Robert Gates said April 29 that the arrival of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf should be seen as a reminder of US military power in the region. He flatly denied the US was preparing the ground for military strikes against Iran. But as DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly have reported in the last ten days, the carrier’s arrival and additional US military steps have underscored the hardening of US rhetoric against Iran.

DEBKAfile: So far, the Tehran government is not backing off and does not appear deterred by Washington’s warnings or its military movements.
Friday, April 25, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran. He spoke of rising concern about the Tehran government’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq.

A conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” he said, but not impossible and “it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.” The admiral stressed the reserve capabilities of the Navy and Air Force.

CBS News also reported that the Pentagon has ordered new options be drawn up for attacking Iran and that the State Department has begun drafting an ultimatum that would tell Iran to stop meddling or else.
Gates added that the rising number of US casualties in Iraq – 47 military deaths in April – was partly accountable to the rocketing of the Green Zone from Sadr City by Shiite “special groups” which are backed by Iran.

The defense secretary also pointed out that Iran continues to back the Taliban in Afghanistan.

29 April 2008

China Sentences Tibet Protesters

Chinese government sends message to protesters before Olympics:
Six Buddhist monks were among 30 people sentenced by a Chinese court Tuesday to jail terms ranging from three years to life for taking part in deadly riots in Tibet.
The quick trials and their prominent coverage by state media signaled China's resolve in putting a firm lid on domestic Tibetan dissent ahead of the Summer Games.
"The party has a long tradition of carrying out speeded up trials with minimum forms of process for defendants whenever it wants to send a strong message to local people," said Robbie Barnett, an expert in modern Tibet at Columbia University.

Encouraging Developments in Iraq

Recent military and political developments offer a gleam of hope that Iraq's government can start building a stronger consensus towards an eventual peace.

Obama Throws Wright Under the Bus

Obama threw his former longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah "Le black church c'est moi" Wright under the bus in an attempt to salvage his campaign.
Of course, there are still a number of factors out of Obama's control, including the reaction of voters to Wright, the appetite and attitudes of the press, and the extent to which Clinton allies can keep the story alive. Perhaps the most unpredictable variable is Wright himself, who, as Obama ruefully pointed out, is hardly coordinating with the campaign. Extricating himself from the relationship may be more complicated for Obama than the simple: I want a divorce.
Necessary at this point, but public perceptions of his candidacy may have been permanently altered.

No More Amber Waves of Grain

The rise in food prices has been partially prompted by wheat's fall from favor as a crop. No surprise, Congress and the farming subsidy program contributed to the change. It seems farmers can get more profits from soybeans and raising corn for ethanol.

Wheat's fall from favor, little noticed when it was cheap, has been long coming. Though still an iconic symbol of American abundance -- engraved on currency and praised in song -- the nation's amber waves of wheat have been increasingly shoved aside by other crops. The "breadbasket of the world," which had alleviated hunger and famine since World War I, now generally supplies only a quarter of world wheat exports.
U.S. farmers are expected to plant about 64 million acres of wheat this year, down from a high of 88 million in 1981. In Kansas, wheat acreage has declined by a third since the mid-1980s, and nationwide, there is now less wheat in grain bins than at any time since World War II -- only about enough to supply the world for four days. This occurs as developing countries with some of the poorest populations are rapidly increasing their wheat imports.

In 1996, Congress gave a strong nudge to these changes by passing legislation allowing wheat growers for the first time to switch to other crops and still collect government subsidies. The result is that farmers received federal wheat payments last year on 15 million acres more than were planted.

Osama, Obama; whats the difference?

Playmate says she supports "Umbama". Her publicist corrects her by suggesting she means Osama Bin Laden.

Here is the video from TMZ.

There are many things I could say here, but if you're here, you're probably thinking the same things I am so its not necessary.

More Interesting Baseball Needed?

An article about the need to make baseball more interesting and how to do so -- which has prompted some interesting and unusual ideas and argument -- can be found here.

Spider Silk Technology Advances

From the BBC: A device that partially mimics the process by which spiders produce fine, yet super-strong, silks has been built. A simple method for manufacturing strands of artificial gossamer has long been coveted as - weight for weight - it is five times stronger than steel.

Extreme Left versus Far Left: Sheehan to Run Against Pelosi

Now this should be fun to watch. Cindy Sheehan has filed paperwork to run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has until August 8th to get the required 10,198 signatures to get on the November ballot. Above photo courtesy of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's website.

I say send her a fifty bucks just to keep things interesting. Sheehan does have name recognition and will undoubtedly get the support of frustrated progressives.
Article from the SF Chronicle:

Calls for impeachment from Sheehan and other progressives didn't move Pelosi, who already had declared that impeachment was "off the table" when it came to the Democratic congressional agenda.
There are plenty of congressional Democrats, especially in the Bay Area, who don't agree, including Reps. Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Pete Stark, along with other progressives, both in and out of office.
Impeachment isn't Sheehan's only concern. Pelosi's refusal to vote for an immediate end to the Iraq war and to support single-payer health care shows she's out of touch with San Francisco's progressive roots, Sheehan said.
"I'll represent everyone in San Francisco, not just the corporate elite," she said. "I'm working class, my family was working class, and we have struggled the same way our neighbors here in San Francisco have struggled."

28 April 2008

Eminent Domain Proceedings Impact Poor

Via Instapundit an article on the effects of eminent domain and the Kelo decision:

Few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain. Some 3 million to 4 million Americans, most of them ethnic minorities, have been forcibly displaced from their homes as a result of urban-renewal takings since World War II.

Current eminent-domain horror stories in the South and elsewhere are not hard to find. At this writing, for example, the city of Clarksville, Tenn., is giving itself authority to seize more than 1,000 homes, businesses and churches and then resell much of the land to developers. Many who reside there are black, live on fixed incomes, and own well-maintained Victorian homes. At a City Council meeting earlier this month that overflowed with protesters from the neighborhood, local resident Virginia Hatcher charged that that the threat of forcing "people from their homesteads of many years" through "underhanded political manipulation" was not only "un-Christian" but had created a climate of fear.

Eminent domain has always had an outsized impact on the constitutional rights of minorities, but most of the public didn't notice until the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the court endorsed the power of a local government to forcibly transfer private property to commercial interests for the purpose of "economic development." The Fifth Amendment requires that such seizures be for a "public use," but that requirement can be satisfied, the court ruled, by virtually any claim of some sort of public benefit. Many charge that Kelo gives governments a blank check to redistribute land from the poor and middle class to the wealthy

McCain's Health Care Proposals

The issue of health care will be big in the general election. Each candidate has their own plan to reform the financing of health care. McCain restated his in a recent speech. I suspect that most Americans will not think that his plan goes far enough:
McCain's plan aims at eliminating "the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance" by offering tax credits for individual plans, according to his campaign website. The credits would be $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. Those amounts would be subtracted from the final tax bill. Families, the campaign says, should be able to buy nationwide policies that can move from state to state.
The Bush administration has proposed health care tax deductions of $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families.
Such write-offs have limited value because average family health care plans cost about $12,000 a year, says Ken Thorpe, a health policy professor at Emory University in Atlanta. Also, many insurers won't accept individuals with pre-existing medical problems, he says.

Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law

The U.S. Supreme court upheld an Indiana state law that requires the presentation of photographic identification to vote. From the AP:
Supporters of the law say it's all about preventing fraud.
Indiana has a "valid interest in protecting 'the integrity and reliability of the electoral process,'" said Justice John Paul Stevens in an opinion that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Stevens said that Indiana's desire to prevent fraud and to inspire voter confidence in the election system are important even though there have been no reports of the kind of fraud the law was designed to combat. Evidence of voters being inconvenienced by the law's requirements also is scant. For the overwhelming majority of voters, an Indiana driver's license serves as the identification.
The law does not apply to absentee balloting, where election experts agree the threat of fraud is higher.
The Indiana law was passed in 2005. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed it as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage groups of voters who tend to prefer Democrats. [Thereby admitting that illegal voters vote Democratic -- Septimus]
Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas agreed with the outcome Monday, but wrote separately in favor of a broader defense of voter ID laws.
"The universally applicable requirements of Indiana's voter-identification law are eminently reasonable. The burden of acquiring, possessing and showing a free photo identification is simply not severe, because it does not 'even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting,'" Scalia said.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.

Report on the Rights of Women in Saudi Arabia

It never ceases to amaze me why feminists and activists in the U.S. don't focus more on the deplorable status of women the Arab world.

The first and second time her husband shot her, the distressed woman in her 30s rejected advice to file a complaint. To do so, she explained, would require the presence of her obligatory male guardian, who happened to be...her husband. Without him, her testimony would not be legally valid. Besides, the all-male police might accuse her of “mixing” with the opposite sex, a crime in the eyes of most Saudi judges. The third time her husband shot her, she died.

Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship of women and policies of sex segregation stop women from enjoying their basic rights, Human Rights Watch said in a report. Saudi women often must obtain permission from a guardian (a father, husband, or even a son) to work, travel, study, marry, or even access health care.

In a 50-page report, “Perpetual Minors: Human Rights Abuses Stemming from Male Guardianship and Sex Segregation in Saudi Arabia,” Human Rights Watch draws on more than 100 interviews with Saudi women to document the effects of these discriminatory policies on woman’s most basic rights.

The authorities essentially treat adult women like legal minors who are not entitled to authority over their lives and well-being. Saudi women are similarly denied the legal right to make even trivial decisions for their children. Women cannot open bank accounts for children, enroll them in school, obtain school files, or travel with their children without written permission from the child’s father.

Obama's Rev. Wright Problem

If Obama does not get the Democratic nomination, I think he can fairly lay his defeat at the feet of Rev. Wright. On my drive home today, Wright's comments at the National Press Club were everywhere on the radio. And I don't mean just AM talk radio; it was the lead story on NPR as well. Wright just won't stop talking. The Rev. Wright's controversial statements are gutting Obama's potential appeal to white, working class voters, who make up much of Democratic support.

The statements by Wright today would be so damaging to Obama, I can only conclude that Wright is angry at Obama for repudiating him. For example:

"Politicians say what they say and do what they do because of electability," Mr Wright said.
"He has to distance himself because he's a politician ... whether he gets elected or not, I'm still going to have to be answerable to God," he said.

Obama on Rev. Wright: "He Does Not Speak for Me"

The comments by Wright were intended to raise the questions: Well, he seems to have for numerous years at your church. Why would you go to a church where you strongly disagreed with the pastor?

The defiant comments today seemed designed to damage Obama. More here.
Barack Obama's quest to become the first US African American president has suffered another blow from his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who on Monday launched an all-out defence of his controversial views from the pulpit - and in the process repeated many of them.
These included: that the US Government was responsible for the AIDS epidemic among African Americans; that Zionism was racism; that Louis Farrakan, head of the National of Islam, was an inspiration to many in the black community; and that "You cannot do terrorism on other people and not expect it to come back on you."
The last comment was made in response to a question about his earlier "America's chickens have come home to roost" comment, made the Sunday after September 11.

Welcome Back, Inflation

An excellent post on the subject of inflation at Liberty Yes, Anarchy No. Below is only part. Read the whole thing.

The problem is, if you cut back on borrowing and lending, you get a recession- a period where the economy shrinks. That's unpopular on multiple levels. The fact that sometimes it is necessary appears to be lost by everyone in government at the moment. Again, stability of the system (and the benefit of the wealthiest) is more important to those in power than long-term effects from an artificially "productive" economy based on borrowing.

So- what's being done, now that loans are beginning to default on massive levels?

First- lenders who loaned money unwisely are being bailed out of the consequences of their mistakes.

Second- those who borrowed money on blatantly false pretenses are NOT being bailed out. Net result of these two points- an encouragement to loan out more money, and to deliberately deceive borrowers in the process.

Third- government policy is keeping interest rates to banks low. Result- encourage, you guessed it, more lending and borrowing.

Fourth- deficit government spending continues to increase, which requires- guess what?- more lending and borrowing.

Thus, in trying to stave off recession, the government creates more and more inflation. Eventually these efforts will not be sufficient- we may have got to this point already- and we get stagflation, which is where the economy shrinks and inflation grows at the same time. Jobs dry up, wages either stay low or fail to keep up with inflation. This is the worst of all possible worlds...

Dean's got a solution!!!

Dean Says a Democrat Must Quit in June

WASHINGTON (April 28) - Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean said Monday that either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama must drop out of the Democratic presidential race after the June primaries in order to unify the party by the convention and win the election in November.

But Dean didn't say which candidate should drop out, only that it should happen after primary voters have been to the polls."We want the voters to have their say. That's over on June 3," Dean said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."Dean also said that while the party rules say Democratic superdelegates can wait until the party's August 25 convention to make up their minds, that would be too late to unify the party and defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain."We really can't have a divided convention. If we do it's going to be very hard to heal the party afterwards," Dean said. "So we'll know who the nominee is and that'll give us an extra 2 1/2 months to get our party together, heal the wounds of having a very closely divided race and take on Senator McCain."Dean said he won't have to tell either Clinton or Obama when it's time to leave the race."Either of these candidates, if it's time for them to go, they'll know it and they will go," Dean said. "They don't need any pushing from me. You know when to get in and you know when to get out. That's just part of the deal.""This is not about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," Dean added. "This is about our country. It's about a better course for our country. ... We've got to move on and win the presidency."

Obama has more delegates and popular votes than Clinton, but she is also fresh off a big-state win in Pennsylvania.Dean said that "none of the so-called party elders I talked to" think the contest should go until the convention. "I agree with that," Dean said."We've got nine more primaries ... Five hundred of the 800 unpledged delegates have already said who they are for. The remaining 300 will do that by the end of June and we'll know who our nominee is and that's what we need to do," Dean said on NBC's "Today" show.

Some just don't know when to quit.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro*** You’re so vain, you probably think this campaign is about you:

After addressing the NAACP yesterday in Detroit, Jeremiah Wright travels to the heart of the media beast -- the National Press Club in DC -- where he has been speaking this morning. At this point, no matter one's political inexperience, Wright has to know he's not helping his friend; his decision to go public and defend his reputation at this point in the campaign is doing nothing to help Obama, if anything, it's leading some to believe he's actually trying to sabotage him. He's hurting him and hurting him very badly. Frankly, it’s as selfish of a move as we've seen in some time. Imagine, for example, if Norman Hsu or Vicki Iseman were doing publicity tours right now. Maybe, if there's a silver lining for Obama, he's giving Obama a very easy chance to simply walk away. Remember, Obama didn't toss Wright under the bus, but Wright appears to be doing that to Obama’s candidacy. Still, if Wright Vol. 1, “bitter,” and Pennsylvania didn’t move superdelegates, what will? Nevertheless, Obama seems to be starting off this week in about as bad of shape as we've seen in him in some time.

*** McCain on the offensive: One of the more interesting political developments over the past few days has been McCain’s harsh tone toward Obama -- on Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and even Hamas (noting that the terrorist organization prefers Obama to win the presidency). A few things seem to be going on here. One, it looks like McCain is using this to define Obama on these matters. Two, the Arizona senator seems to be trying to draw a line in the sand now that he’s going to be tough on Obama -- unlike how Obama’s Democratic rivals treated him early on. (If they set the ground rules this far out, they can draw him into a fight early and potentially hurt him on his greatest strength: that he’s above the fray.) And three, it seems McCain is trying to shore up his base and placate the GOP’s amplifiers on these issues. (check out the 90%+ he's already getting from Republicans in nat'l polls; who woulda thunk he would have 90% of the GOP at all, let alone in late April). The downside to McCain’s tough tone, of course, is that it's very un-McCain. This isn’t the same guy we saw in 2000 or even in the GOP primaries until he began whacking Romney in Florida. Indeed, this tack can turn off folks (especially those coveted independents) as much as it might hurt Obama.

*** Obama’s re-launch: One story the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal all seem to agree on today: Obama’s recasting his stump speech as he talks more about the economy. Obama is trying to address an economic weakness the same way a professional basketball player approaches his craft -- by working on the weak parts of your game. Yet expect the Clinton campaign to jump on something in particular that was in the New York Times, the implication that Obama's "bored" with the primary. We can almost hear the Clinton hit on this now: "So, apparently, my opponent is bored debating the issues with me; he's bored, folks.” Now, the New York Times never quoted Obama as saying he was "bored"; it's a characterization based on interviews with aides. But the comment is one that can easily be used for some stump lines today. Yet let's take this "bored" sentiment a step further -- it's clearly a reflection of a candidate who seems to be struggling with what to say next and how to refine his pitch just enough to finish the job. The campaign seems to be shying away from the big rally approach. Here's our question: Why aren't they simply re-running their Iowa/New Hampshire strategy where he did a little of both, big rallies in small towns?

*** I challenge you to a duel: Clinton has not let a day go by without bringing up her debate challenge. What's been interesting is that Clinton keeps changing the offer; it started with simply accepting another media organized debate; then it shifted to Lincoln-Douglas-style debates (i.e. no moderator) and finally, yesterday, she offered to debate him on a flatbed truck. Maybe tomorrow she'll call for debates in the back of an astro-turf-lined El Camino. Still, the doggedness of the debate challenge may start to get under Obama's skin -- and given Wright's decision to not get out of the news -- maybe a debate will be what Obama wants in order to change the focus of the last week of this campaign.

*** Hillary Strangelove? Because of Jeremiah Wright remaining in the news, not that much attention has been paid to Clinton’s recent comments regarding Iran and the Middle East. But Sunday’s Boston Globe weighed in -- harshly. It dubbed her “Hillary Strangelove,” because of her umbrella Iran-Mideast ally retaliation policy. And the paper called that "Rambo rhetoric" that "plays into the hands of Iranian hard-liners who want to plow ahead with efforts to attain a nuclear weapons capability." More: “[T]here are some red lines that should never be crossed,” it said. “Clinton did so Tuesday morning, the day of the Pennsylvania primary, when she told ABC's ‘Good Morning America’ that, if she were president, she would ‘totally obliterate’ Iran if Iran attacked Israel. This foolish and dangerous threat was muted in domestic media coverage. But it reverberated in headlines around the world.”

*** What say you, superdelegates? By the end of June, Howard Dean says (and said again on Meet the Press) he wants superdelegates to come out to say which Democratic candidate they are backing. Just asking… After 15 months, do they really need more than two more months? For those keeping score at home, Clinton and Obama each picked up a superdelegate over the weekend. Clinton got the backing of New Hampshire add-on Kathy Sullivan, the state's former party chair. Obama picked up Charlene Fernandez (AZ), who filled a vacancy. Here’s where the counts stand: SUPERDELEGATES: Clinton 264-241 (290 still undecided); PLEDGED: Obama 1,491-1,334; OVERALL: Obama 1,732-1,598.

*** On the trail: Clinton spends her day in North Carolina, stumping in Graham, Salisbury, Concord, and finally with a rally in Charlotte; McCain is in Miami, where he holds a health-care roundtable; and Obama campaigns in North Carolina, hitting Wilmington, Wilson, and ending with a rally in Chapel Hill. Also, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are both in North Carolina.
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27 April 2008

What A Choice: All Three Presidential Candidates Would Increase Deficit

Lower deficit? Forget about it:

The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates differ strikingly in their approaches to taxes and spending, but their fiscal plans have at least one thing in common: each could significantly swell the budget deficit and increase the national debt by trillions of dollars, according to tax and budget experts.
The reasons reflect the ideological leanings of the candidates, with Senator John McCain proposing tax cuts that go beyond President Bush’s and the Democrats advocating programs costing hundreds of billions of dollars. But for fiscal experts concerned with the deficit, both approaches are worrisome.

Britons kidnapped in Iraq are ‘held by Iran’

Five British hostages who were kidnapped in Iraq almost a year ago are being held inside Iran by Revolutionary Guards, according to two separate sources in the Middle East and London.
The hostages were handed over to the Revolutionary Guards by their Iraqi kidnappers last November, the sources believe. One of the sources said they were being held in the western Iranian city of Hamadan.
If confirmed, the involvement of Revolutionary Guards would be seen as evidence that senior figures in the Iranian government had backed the decision to hold them in the country.
However, British officials said that while there had been rumours that the five were in Iran, they had seen no evidence to support the idea.
The hostages are said to be in good physical shape but spending much of their time in solitary confinement.
According to one of the sources, they are under the control of Mohammad Safaei, 41, a senior Revolutionary Guard colonel who was previously in charge of special operations in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
The hostages were kidnapped in Baghdad last May in an attempt to force the Americans to release Qais al-Khazaali, an Iraqi militia leader said to be close to the Revolutionary Guards.

Full story here.

A Large Portion of the Welfare State is Devoted to the Rich

An accurate observation from the Old Whig:

Advocates of the free market—including those considered “right-wing” and “conservative”—believe it is wrong to violate property rights. Consequently, they oppose egalitarian measures to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Such “income redistribution” represents naked theft and epitomizes the Founding Fathers’ fears of unfettered democracy. At the same time, champions of laissez faire devote much of their time to criticizing the thousands of distortionary and punitive regulations imposed on businesses. Indeed, Ayn Rand went so far as to write an essay in which she described big business as “America’s persecuted minority.”

In light of these tendencies, it is easy to overlook the fact that a large portion of the welfare state is devoted to the rich. Although couched in altruistic language and billed as serving the public interest, much of the government’s redistribution of wealth is from the hapless taxpayer to the pockets of large corporations.

This may seem paradoxical to naïve observers whose political views are shaped largely by political campaigns between Democrats (the ostensible friends of the poor) versus Republicans (the ostensible opponents of welfare). But anyone familiar with political economy can quickly recognize that it makes far more sense for politicians to funnel tax dollars into the hands of powerful (not to mention rich) special interests.

Big business learned long ago that the easiest way to handle taxes and regulations is to divert “public” money into its own hands and to influence the regulators to enforce measures that disproportionately burden upstart competitors.

Afghan President Attacked By Taliban

The Taliban launched an attack on Afghan President Karzai at a ceremony. No good: during the attack, the U.S. forces continued with the ceremony while the Afghan soldiers and armed police ran away.

Race A Factor in the General Election?

Obama says that race will not be a factor in the general election.

Sure, until someone actually criticizes him or any of his friends:
From now until November, any Republican criticizing Wright will be accused of playing the race card. It’s a way to shut down discussion of Wright’s poisonous worldview, and of what it says about Obama. These rules stack the deck and stifle legitimate debate.

A Question About Obama

Here's a good question:

"How does one explain campaigning throughout 2007 on a platform of transcending racial divisions, while in that same year contributing $26,000 to a church whose pastor incites race hatred?"

People like Barack Obama are the reason the American system of limited government was devised. Like a wolf in sheep's clothing, they seek to insinuate themselves into office rather than to be genuinely elected on their core beliefs, and only unveil their actual plans once they have power. They know that their core beliefs would be repudiated by the voters if exposed, but they believe their core beliefs are the only way to save the people for their own good from their own inadequacies. In this way, all the dictators of the past have been born, and America has been spared them because even when they -- like LBJ and FDR -- come to power, they find that the power they've obtained is so limited that they can't effectively wreck the nation.

Islamic War Against Pork

The Islamist ruling party in Turkey is cracking down on the sale of pork. Although Turkey is supposedly secular, and there are Christians, ethnic Greeks and Jews in Istanbul, the government is pressing to end the sale of pork.
"It's all about Islam," Sami said, as the shop-assistant wrapped his sausages in greaseproof paper.
"Most people are more religious these days. They don't want to eat pork, and they don't let others produce it either."

You know it's only a matter of time before we face the same thing in Western countries. Anticipate that our politically-correct politicians to fall over themselves to accommodate this demand in the name of "diversity" or "sensitivity".

Campaign Fatigue Affects Candidates, Staff

I was wondering how long they could keep this up. Month after month, the Democrats have to be getting weary, and it seems they are.

Fed Expected to Lower Rates This Week

Don't expect the dollar to recover its value or for inflation to fail to accelerate, as the Fed is expected to cut interest rates again this week:
If anything, inflation fears have grown in the past few weeks. Soaring prices for food, oil (which almost reached $120 a barrel last week) and other commodities appear to be as painful for Americans as unemployment and the collapse of the mortgage market. The trends are certain to be a matter of lively discussion this week.
"I think it's going to be a contentious meeting," said Lyle Gramley, a senior adviser at the Stanford Washington Research Group and a former Fed board member. "There are lots of people on the board who have demonstrated they are pretty hawkish on inflation, and developments in the past month have given them ammunition."
It is hardly new for the Fed to be caught in the middle of a quandary between the need to lower rates to stimulate the economy and the need to raise them to ward off inflation.
But added to the concern is the plummeting dollar, which is spurring rising oil prices, since oil is priced in dollars and oil producers are unhappy when cheaper dollars cut into their income. The lower dollar is also leading speculators to buy oil and other commodities, contributing to global spikes in the price of everything from food to gold.
If the Fed does signal a pause in lowering rates, however, it will not be welcome among many who feel that, with problems persisting in the housing sector, the dangers of a deepening slump should be the highest priority.

U.S. preparing for inevitable war with Iran?

Debkafile Exclusive: First frank talk of potential war on Iran from top US soldier

Addressing a news conference in Washington, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday, April 25, the Pentagon is planning for “potential military courses of action” against Iran. He spoke of the Tehran government’s “increasingly lethal and malign influence” in Iraq. A conflict with Iran would be “extremely stressing” he said, but not impossible and “it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability.” The admiral stressed the reserve capabilities of the Navy and Air Force.
Adm. Mullen’s statement came four days after US defense secretary Robert Gates said he favored keeping the military option against Iran on the table “given the destabilizing policies of the regime and the risks inherent in a future Iranian nuclear threat – either directly or through proliferation.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources report those remarks were underscored by news of large US naval, air and marine forces on their way to beef up the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and Middle East.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources reported Friday that the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group has just taken up position in Persian Gulf waters. It consists of 12 warships led by the giant LSD-41 class USS Whidby Island landing craft, submarines and eight assault squadrons. The legend on their banner is: Give ‘em Hell.
Another nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, will soon set out for the region from the South China Sea, along with two more US naval strike forces: the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Nimitz attended by strike groups.
Adm. Mullen went on to say: "I have no expectations that we're going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future." Our sources ask what time scale is indicated by the indefinite “immediate future” - the 8 months remaining to the Bush presidency or thereafter.
Mullen tied his remarks to Iran’s "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq. Of late, the US Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus pointed out that Iran is interfering increasingly in Iran and continues to arm insurgent militias.
The Tehran government is clearly not deterred by Washington’s warnings or its military movements.

26 April 2008

Obama Calls Elitist Charge 'Gauche' and 'Droll'

Read the whole thing from ScrappleFace:

Responding to remarks by presidential candidate John McCain suggesting he’s an ‘elitist‘, Sen. Barack Obama today called the accusation 'gauche' and 'droll'.
“First of all, it’s très gauche and a bit bourgeois to banter about elitism at all,” said Sen. Obama, “It simply isn’t done in polite society — not among my chums from Harvard Law School or Columbia University, and certainly not in the Senate cloak room or the finer salons.”

Democrats and the Black Vote

Thoughts on the Democrats and the black vote at JammieWearingFool.

Republicans, Corruption, and Earmarks

Via Porkbuster.net, two stories about Republicans, corruption, and earmarks:

The first story: House Republicans, who had hoped to restore their fiscal credibility by bludgeoning Democrats on pork-barrel spending, are instead targeting one another in an intraparty election-year earmark fight that appears to have divided members of the House GOP leadership.

Second story: [T]he Republican Congress earned a "thumping" in 2006 because of their spending addiction and corruption. Congressional members treated our hard-earned tax dollars as their personal slush fund, irresponsibly and wastefully spending on their pet pork projects, which bought votes, facilitated campaign donations and rewarded friends. Both parties did this--- the problem for Republicans was they were in charge...

Republican sometimes pay lip service to fiscal responsibility and limited government, but only rarely practice it, and have certainly lost thier way since the days of Gingrich and the Contract With America. Could a Whig Party do better?

Four Stages of Decline and Fall

Via samizdata.net, a guide to a society's fall in four easy to follow steps at mediocracy: Decline and Fall.

Chavez or Obama?

Fausta's blog has a translation of a speech from Hugo Chavez on economic conditions in the U.S. Meanwhile, despite sky-high oil revenues, food is rationed and milk is nearly impossible to find in stores in Venezuela. An excerpt of Chavez's speech is below. The thing is, I couldn't tell if it was from Hugo Chavez or if it was one of Barak Obama's campaign speeches:

Do you know where the government spends almost nothing on health? In the United States. It's all pure capitalism, compadre. Nothing on health and nothing on social security."See how much poverty and misery have increased in the US in the last few years."

Because, if something has increased in these years in the US, it's the suffering of its people. Social crisis, violence breaking out everywhere, hunger, misery, drug trafficking, drug addiction, businesses going broke, thousands and thousands homeless, economic crisis, economic recession, unemployment!"

At least this gentleman will be leaving soon. At least, because that one's really leaving."Uh, Ah, Bush si se va, (Bush is leaving)."

Hopefully there will come a government in the US that instead of spending, look, it's millions and millions of dollars on military spending to invade peoples, to build atomic bombs; They are building weapons for a gallactic war, we don't know against whom, against the Martians, maybe, the gallaxy war. Missile shields, and I don't know what many other things, invisible planes."

But it's that they spend thousands of millions of dollars on military spending, neglecting their own people. Hopefully there will soon come a government in the US that will take care of that people, the one we also love, the one we also respect, because it's a people which deserves respect, they are human beings same as us."

Translation courtesy of Fausta's Blog.

From Obama's Feb 12 campaign speech:

[T]rade deals like NAFTA ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wage at Wal-Mart. That's what happens when the American worker doesn't have a voice at the negotiating table.... [Y]ear after year after year, while another mother goes without health care for her sick child.

Zimbabwe Recount

This is good news: Robert Mugabe’s attempts to cling to power by demanding partial recounts of last month’s elections have suffered a blow after new results confirmed the opposition had taken control of Zimbabwe’s parliament.

Ethanol Blamed For Food Crisis

We've been pointing out the problems caused by ethanol subsidies, more here, here, and here. The latest criticism from the N.Y. Sun:
With prices for rice, wheat, and corn soaring, food-related unrest has broken out in places such as Haiti, Indonesia, and Afghanistan. Several countries have blocked the export of grain. There is even talk that governments could fall if they cannot bring food costs down.
One factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food.

Problems With Both Democrats and Republicans

More reasons we need to revive the Whig Party. From Current View:

Of course we paid for it big time with the Republicans in office as soon as Newt Gingrich self destructed. They didn't raise taxes, but they might as well have: they spent like drunken sailors, expanded ear marks, and acted in general like Imperial Rulers of the sheep, entitled to what they could take and spend; ending with a bridge to nowhere. There was nothing so ridiculous that the Country Club Republicans would not finance it. This madness continued after we went into Iraq. The war guaranteed enormous deficits. The trade policies guaranteed trade deficits. The wild spending guaranteed more deficits. Those guarantees made inflation certain. Inflation is itself a tax increase; and the enormous deficits make some tax increases almost inevitable.

And meanwhile the Democrats seem to be drifting toward the concept of prosecution of former office holders by criminalizing policy differences. That's a certain formula for civil war; perhaps not immediate, but inevitable. The absolute minimum requirement for democratic government is that the loser be willing to lose the election: that losing an election is not the loss of everything that matters. As soon as that assurance is gone, playing by the rules makes no sense at all. (Pinochet learned that lesson. Fortunately for Chile, he was old and was allowed to die in peace; the inevitable -- liberals can always find a good reason not to keep their word -- persecutions after he turned over power on the assurance that he would be allowed to retire in peace were not so severe that his adherents didn't take to their weapons.)

25 April 2008

Iran's Role in Iraq

Iran still causing trouble in Iraq:
The government of Iran continues to supply weapons and other support to extremists in Iraq, despite repeated promises to the contrary, and is increasingly complicit in the death of U.S. soldiers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday in a stark new assessment of Iranian influence.

A Cultural Export Of Which We Can All Be Proud

To enliven cricket matches in India, promoters have added American-style cheerleaders. Some in India do not welcome the addition. And some think its a good opportunity to add images of cheerleaders to their blog. More here.
The cheerleaders have been introduced into the Indian Premier League as part of moves to add glamour and entertainment to the game.
Some politicians say the cheerleaders are "vulgar and obscene".
Mumbai police say they will be checking that the cheerleaders' performances do not violate entertainment licences.
The cheerleading girls, wearing short skirts and low-cut tops, have been hired from around the world to perform during the matches which are also being heavily endorsed by leading Bollywood stars.
They include cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins.

Should We Arm the Opposition in Zimbabwe?

Opinion in the Wall Street Journal about arming the opposition in Zimbabwe:

Perhaps the Zimbabwean people would be ready and less afraid if they actually had guns to blaze. They do not lack a passion for freedom; it is the necessary tools to wrest themselves from the yoke of tyranny that they need.

The Secret World of Underground Bacon Dogs

A good example of the human cost and the unintended consequences of government over-regulation in an attempt to protect us from ourselves.

Amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Los Angeles, there exists another world, an underground world of illicit trade in—not drugs or sex—but bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

In "Food Fight: Battle of the Bacon Dogs," reason.tv host Drew Carey takes a long look at the human cost of trying to prohibit trade in oh-so-tasty treats.

From reason.tv:

Hat Tip: Instapundit

The Most Idiotic Thing I’ve Heard All Week

A Republican Congressman wants to protect our hard-fighting troops from dirty magazines. Thank goodness. Because it was keeping me up at night, worrying that a Marine in Iraq might see a picture of a naked woman.

From Rachel Lucas, the news that Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., introduced the Military Honor and Decency Act, which would amend a provision of the 1997 Defense Authorization Act that banned sales of “sexually explicit material” on military bases.

Its good to see that Congress has solved all of our other problems. I didn't realize that things were going so well that Congress had time to devote to the problem of our soldiers having a copy of Playboy.

24 April 2008

September Israel bombing of Syria coming to light

White House is convinced North Korea helped Syria build secret nuclear reactor
April 25, 2008, 1:22 AM (GMT+02:00)

Story from Debkafile here.

“We have good reason to believe that the reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year was not intended for peaceful purposes,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino in a statement Thursday, April 24, after intelligence officials briefed US lawmakers about the Syrian nuclear facility destroyed by Israel last year.
A Syrian nuclear reactor built with North Korean help was weeks away from functioning, a top U.S. official told lawmakers.
The Syrian ambassador denied the report as a “fantasy.” He said the US had a record of “fabricating evidence of nuclear activity in its allegations against Iraq before the 2003 invasion.”
Perino's statement, which broke White House silence on the raid, did not mention Israel. It said Syria was building a "covert nuclear reactor" in its eastern desert that was capable of producing plutonium.
Syria did not inform the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency about the construction of the reactor and after it was destroyed, Syria "moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence," the White House said.
The United States has long been "seriously concerned" about North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its proliferation activities and Pyongyang's cooperation with Syria was a "dangerous manifestation" of those activities, the White House said.
North Korea missed a December 31 deadline to make a declaration of its nuclear programs in a deal with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.
"The construction of this (Syrian) reactor was a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the region and the world," Perino said.
That development underscored the international community was right to be concerned about the nuclear activities of Iran and "must take further steps" to confront that challenge, she said.

Red State Video: Slogan for McCain

"I'd normally get after you for your language but that just about sums it up." Profanity Warning.

Hat Tip: Hot Air

Vice-President Speculation

Round-up of the latest on V.P. picks for the candidates at Club For Growth.

Sen Larry Craig To Pay for Playing Footsie

From Ankle Biting Pundits: In the “It Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Guy” department, GOP Senator Larry “Wide Stance” Craig has to pay a huge chunk of his $407,000 legal bill resulting from his guilty plea to “Disorderly Conduct” (i.e. trying to get busy with another guy in an airport toilet) out of his own pocket, and not use campaign funds like he tried to do previously.

Democrats: Average Americans are Bitter, Gun-toting Jesus Freaks Who Smell Bad

Missed this last week from Red State: Obama Thinks You Are Bitter. Harry Reid Thinks You Smell Bad.

Rev. Wright Keeps Stirring Up Trouble

Just when the controversy over Rev. Wright stats to die down, he starts granting interviews:

Obama denounced Wright's controversial sermons in a much-praised speech about race last month. But his 20-year attendance at Wright's church in Chicago has continued to be an issue.
In the PBS interview, which is the first of a number of public engagements by the pastor in the coming days, Wright argues that there was an organised attempt to smear him as "some sort of fanatic" as well as pull down Obama.
"I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ. And by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint? That's what they wanted to communicate."
The prospect of a second chapter in the Wright story has been greeted like a gift by rightwing television hosts who have been hammering Obama for weeks about his membership of Wright's church.

No, Rev. Wright, we're not hinting. We're saying it loud and clear.

More on this subject from Gateway Pundit.

Snipes Gets the Tax Crazies and Gets Three Years

Actor Wesley Snipes follows the advice of a tax denier and gets sent to prison for three years. Ouch.

You can't give in the tax crazies.

North Korea and Syria's Nuclear Program

Information about the Syria-North Korea nuclear reactor that was bombed is coming to light:
The White House said Thursday that North Korea's secret work on a nuclear reactor with Syria was "a dangerous and potentially destabilizing development for the world," raising doubts about Pyongyang's intention to carry through with a promised disclosure of its nuclear activities.
Seven months after Israel bombed the reactor, the White House broke its silence and said North Korea assisted Syria's secret nuclear program and that the destroyed facility was not intended for "peaceful purposes."

States Act on Immigration Concerns

The glories of the federal system. While the federal government fails to act on the nation's concerns over illegal immigration, the state legislature have been active. A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures:

States introduced an unprecedented 1,562 laws regarding immigration, of which 240 became law in 2007. In the first three months of this year, more than 1,100 bills were introduced in the 44 state legislatures that were in regular session.
A new NCSL report found the majority of bills address law enforcement, employment, driver's licenses and other identification, for both legal and unauthorized immigrants. On par with last year, the number of immigration-related measures demonstrates states' willingness to respond to the public's concerns in a time when Congress won't.

The entire report, in PDF format is here.

Senate Blocks Business Lawsuits

The Senate failed to overcome filibuster threats to pass legislation that would have dramatically increase litigation against businesses:

The Senate defeated an attempt to overturn a Supreme Court decision that made it harder for workers to sue for pay discrimination against their employers.
The bill would have loosened limits on the amount of time women, racial minorities and disabled people have to file lawsuits alleging pay discrimination.

A New Documentary About Our Lawless Borders

A new documentary about the human suffering that has resulted from our government's failure to secure our lawless border.

Despite election year promises, will America’s presidential candidates ever act to fix America’s immigration policy with Mexico and the dangerous state of our southern border? Filmmaker Chris Burgard, whose award winning, feature-length documentary: BORDER, presents a searing portrait of our porous border with Mexico (the film is currently in DVD release through http://www.bordermovie.com/), is screening his film at Los Angeles’s Skirball Cultural Center on Tuesday night May 6, 2008. Burgard is calling on the presidential candidates to offer their views in a panel discussion, with all proceeds from the event going to the National Border Patrol Council and the legal defense fund for U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Joseph Compean. In a call to action, Burgard is revealing a forward-thinking four-step plan to repair our immigration policy with Mexico and, challenging panelists to offer alternative plans or join him in a quest to make our borders safe. Burgard is not a learned politician; he is just a filmmaker who believes in common sense and helping those who need it. In the nearly three years since he has been documenting the southern border and subsequent national crisis, none of our presidential candidates have stepped forward to rescue American border ranchers or act to put a stop to the routine rapes of Mexican women in the borderlands. In this election year, Burgard feels that he can stand silently no longer.

Why We Need The Whig Party

Here's why we need a Whig Party: there are no leave-me-alone, limited government, fiscal conservative left in government anymore. Republicans have been sucked into the big-government mindset afflicting national politics. They are less interested in fiscal conservatism than the Democrats. Here's an article, in the New York Times no less, that asks the question, "Are there any fiscal conservatives anymore?"
It’s easy to imagine how Mr. McCain could be laying the groundwork to run as a true fiscal conservative, now that he has locked up the Republican nomination. He could present himself as the one candidate who believes that the nation can afford neither Mr. Bush’s endless tax cuts nor the Democrats’ big new government programs. He has the perfect adviser to help him make that case.
But it’s not the case he’s making, at least not yet. Instead, when you add up the numbers that have been released so far, you’re left wondering if he is the least fiscally conservative candidate still in the race.

23 April 2008

It's Always Something

Low sunspot activity has been observed when it should be increasing. Why should you care? Beacuse low sunspot activity means cold weather ahead. As in Ice Age. No kidding. Read the whole article.

The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790.
Northern winters became ferocious: in particular, the rout of Napoleon's Grand Army during the retreat from Moscow in 1812 was at least partly due to the lack of sunspots.
That the rapid temperature decline in 2007 coincided with the failure of cycle No.24 to begin on schedule is not proof of a causal connection but it is cause for concern.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice cores and other evidence show that for the past several million years, severe glaciation has almost always afflicted our planet.
The bleak truth is that, under normal conditions, most of North America and Europe are buried under about 1.5km of ice. This bitterly frigid climate is interrupted occasionally by brief warm interglacials, typically lasting less than 10,000 years.
The interglacial we have enjoyed throughout recorded human history, called the Holocene, began 11,000 years ago, so the ice is overdue. We also know that glaciation can occur quickly: the required decline in global temperature is about 12C and it can happen in 20 years.
The next descent into an ice age is inevitable but may not happen for another 1000 years. On the other hand, it must be noted that the cooling in 2007 was even faster than in typical glacial transitions. If it continued for 20 years, the temperature would be 14C cooler in 2027.
By then, most of the advanced nations would have ceased to exist, vanishing under the ice, and the rest of the world would be faced with a catastrophe beyond imagining.

My previous post on the halt in the warming trend.

Congressional Earmark-loving Murtha to Face Opponent

There are many reasons to oppose Congressman Murtha, and one of them is his love of budget-busting earmarks. His opponent just qualified for the November ballot, Lt.Col. William Russell, a veteran of both Iraq Wars.

You can contribute here.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Bitter Obama Exclaims: Why Can't I Just Eat My Waffle?

On the radio today I heard an opinion expressed that Obama would be a better candidate for the Democrats because he would be able to unite independents and Republicans in the fall. I know this was his claim when he was starting out, but after the exposure of the last several weeks, I was suprised to hear someone still making that argument. Obama can't unite his own party, so I doubt there will any notions of national unity left by the general election. And besides, unity for what purpose?

An acerbic and amusing column by Maureen Dowd today about Obama and Hillary:

He knew he tanked in the Philadelphia debate, but he was so irritated by the moderators — and by having to stand next to Hillary again — that he couldn’t summon a single merry dart.
Is he skittish around her because he knows that she detests him and he’s used to charming everyone? Or does he feel guilty that he cut in line ahead of her? As the husband of Michelle, does he know better than to defy the will of a strong woman? Or is he simply scared of Hillary because she’s scary?
He is frantic to get away from her because he can’t keep carbo-loading to relate to the common people.
In the final days in Pennsylvania, he dutifully logged time at diners and force-fed himself waffles, pancakes, sausage and a Philly cheese steak. He split the pancakes with Michelle, left some of the waffle and sausage behind, and gave away the French fries that came with the cheese steak.
But this is clearly a man who can’t wait to get back to his organic scrambled egg whites. That was made plain with his cri de coeur at the Glider Diner in Scranton when a reporter asked him about Jimmy Carter and Hamas.
“Why” he pleaded, sounding a bit, dare we say, bitter, “can’t I just eat my waffle?”
His subtext was obvious: Why can’t I just be president? Why do I have to keep eating these gooey waffles and answering these gotcha questions and debating this gonzo woman?

Laughing Baby

An article about the bizarre, strange and odd comments people make about laughing baby videos on YouTube is found here.

PETA Offers Prize for Lab-grown Meat

Would you eat meat grown in a vat in a lab? Efforts are underway to develop meat grown directly in laboratory vats through the use of stem cells and genetic manipulation. How it is to be done and its implications are discussed here and more here. The result would be a big tank of pure chicken meat or pork, supposedly ready to cook and eat. Advocates think it would be method to address world hunger and would address a desire to eat more meat as a society becomes wealthier, such as we are now seeing in India and China.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has now offered a one million dollar prize, modeled on the X-prize to the first to bring the idea to market. There was considerable controversy within PETA over the idea.

However, Daniel Engber at Slate thinks the million-dollar prize is bogus due to the conditions attached:

So what's wrong with the PETA prize? You need to sell your product in order to win. According to the contest guidelines (PDF), the million-dollar meat must be available in stores to qualify for the cash. Fake-chicken entrepreneurs have to demonstrate a "commercial sales minimum" at a "comparable market price"; in plain English, they need to move 2,000 pounds of the stuff at supermarkets and chain restaurants spread out across 10 states during a period of three months. And the Franken-meat can't cost more than regular chicken.

That means PETA won't be content with any intermediate (and not immediately profitable) breakthrough, like the development of lab-grown chicken that tastes as good as the natural stuff. Instead, the organization will hold the purse until a "commercially viable" product hits the market. In other words, you can't win the $1 million unless you're already in position to make a profit. At that point, a science prize doesn't provide much incentive for innovation. It's more like a small bonus.

To make matters worse, PETA's commercial requirements saddle researchers with demands that have nothing to do with science. Any company that wants to sell artificial chicken for public consumption will probably face a lengthy government-review process. Consider that it took five years for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the sale of cloned meat. Let's say you invented a perfect chicken substitute tomorrow—something so delicious and inexpensive that it could go into production right away. Even then, you still might not make the PETA deadline for supermarket sales.

By comparison, the contests sponsored by the X Prize Foundation have no such requirements.

Obama's Moral Blind Spot

More on Obama's relationship with terrorists Ayers and Dohrn from the Chicago Tribune:

Obama minimized his relationship by acknowledging only that he knows Ayers. But they have quite a bit more of a connection than that. He's appeared on panels with Ayers, served on a foundation board with him and held a 1995 campaign event at the home of Ayers and his wife, fellow former terrorist Bernardine Dohrn. Ayers even gave money to one of his campaigns.

It's not as though Ayers and Dohrn have denied or repudiated their crimes. After emerging from years in hiding, they escaped federal prosecution because of government misconduct in gathering evidence, but they don't pretend they were innocent. In 2001, Ayers said, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." Dohrn has likewise rationalized the explosions, claiming that "our acts of resistance were tiny and symbolic." She even went to prison for refusing to testify about an armored-car robbery involving her confederates. That crime was not tiny or symbolic to the two police officers or the security guard who were shot to death in the process.

All this is public record, and Barack Obama would have to be in a coma not to know it. Yet he showed no qualms about consorting with Ayers and Dohrn. It's hard to imagine he would be so indulgent if we learned that John McCain had a long association with a former Klansman who used to terrorize African-Americans.

Obama's conduct exposes a moral blind spot about these onetime terrorists, who get a pass because they a) fall on the left end of the spectrum and b) haven't planted any bombs lately.

Hat Tip: Roger L. Simon

Zimbabwe Recount Give Seat to Ruling Party

This comes as no surprise. I expect more recounts and more seats to the ruling party in the days ahead.

For the first time in Mugabe's 28-year rule, the opposition defeated his ruling ZANU-PF party in the first count of last month's parliamentary vote. But electoral officials began recounting ballots Saturday for the 23 legislative seats, most won by opposition candidates. The ZANU-PF party needs just nine seats to reclaim a majority.
State media reported Wednesday that the first results from the recount show Mugabe's party has won an additional parliamentary seat.


I got some feedback regarding comments. The site traffic isn't high enough yet to generate a lot of comments, so I turned off the notice to each post that said "0 Comments". I was told that turning it off made it too hard to leave a comment, as it took several steps to get to the comment screen, so I've turned it back on.

Comments will be unmoderated. However, we may delete comments that we determine to be abusive or obscene.

22 April 2008

Obama the Savior

From RealClearPolitics: Obama the Savior. Read the whole thing. Here's part:

OPPONENTS OF Clinton claim that she is a soulless woman who will do whatever is necessary to have power, because she likes power and wants it. But if this is true it is hard to see why a power-hungry president is worse than a president who believes that he is the people's redeemer. It is hard to see why a leader who wants power because she likes power is less reasonable than a president who thinks he has a right to demand that the American people follow his lead and fix their souls in the name of unity. In the former case, opposition to the leader is a policy dispute. In the latter case, it is apostasy.

Update on Kennedy Mass Litigation Act

Follow up to my post yesterday. From the NY Times:

Senate Republicans said on Tuesday that they were confident they would be able to block legislation intended to reverse a Supreme Court ruling last year that established tight time restrictions on lawsuits over pay discrimination.
Even if the bill stalls, the fight over the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — named for the Alabama woman who lost her case at the Supreme Court — is likely to resurface in both the presidential and Congressional campaigns. Democrats and others argue that the legislation is needed to ensure pay equity, an important issue with women.
But Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans said the bill, which is opposed by the business community and the Bush administration, could create a flood of lawsuits.
“We think that this bill is primarily designed to create a massive amount of new litigation in our country,” said Mr. McConnell, the minority leader.
Leadership aides and other Republicans said they expected to be able to deny backers of the bill the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor in a showdown scheduled for Wednesday.

Reconciliation in Iraq

From Hot Air, a report on progress and religious reconciliation in Iraq.

Campaign Finance Reform

Yesterday I posted about the Supreme Court review this week of part of McCain-Feingold. Afterwards, I researched the issue to learn more and all I figured out was that campaign finance reform gives me a headache.
All reform proposals seem to be designed to give one party or the other an advantage, so it is hard to determine the real effect of any proposal.
If you can reconcile yourself to a form of public financing, the "Clean Money Clean Elections" proposal sounds interesting. Mostly supported by Democrats, it was endorsed on the Arizona state level by Republican John McCain. It is in place in several states.
If interested, it is worth a look.

More on campaign finance reform here,

Link To Instapundit Post On Libertarian Paternalism

Instapundit has a post on Libertarian Paternalism, which we have been posting about here and here.

Wait -- What Was I Doing?

Scientists decode brain farts.

Al-Qaeda accuses Iran of 9/11 lie

Al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has blamed Iran for spreading the theory that Israel was behind the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In an audio tape posted on the internet, Zawahiri insisted al-Qaeda had carried out the attacks on the US.
He accused Iran, and its Hezbollah allies, of trying to discredit Osama Bin Laden's network.
Correspondents say the comments underline al-Qaeda's increasing public hostility towards Iran.
In a two-hour audiotape posted on an Islamist website, Osama Bin Laden's chief deputy responded to questions posted by al-Qaeda sympathisers.
In response to a question about persistent rumours in the Middle East that Israel was involved in the 9/11 attacks, Zawahiri said the rumour had begun on the Hezbollah television station, Al-Manar.
"The purpose of this lie is clear - [to suggest] that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no-one else did in history, he said.
"Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it."
Sunni fears
Zawahiri went on to criticise Iran for co-operating with the US in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, that helped to oust the Taleban.
"Iran's aim here is also clear - to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.
This is the second verbal attack on Iran, a predominantly Shia Muslim country.
Earlier this month, in an audiotape marking the fifth anniversary of the fall of Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein, the al-Qaeda deputy accused Iran of planning to annexe southern Iraq and the eastern part of the Arabian peninsula.
BBC security correspondent Rob Watson says such messages appear designed to play on Sunni fears throughout the region of growing Iranian influence, and to present al-Qaeda as the best bulwark against Tehran.

Russia Shoots Down Georgian Plane

Georgian air force commander Colonel David Nairashvili describes footage taken by an unmanned Georgian drone that allegedly shows a Russian fighter jet shooting it down on Sunday.

Video here.

21 April 2008

Baby Boomers Surprised To Find Being Spoiled and Self-Absorbed Not Key To Happiness

A recent study found that happiness increases with age and mid-life is the most stressful time of life. The study also found that baby-boomers are the most unhappy age group. No surprise to those of us unfortunately in the generation stuck behind them:

Yang's study also found that baby boomers were the least happy. They could end up living the unfortunate old-age stereotype if they can't let go of their achievement-driven mind-set, said George, the Duke aging expert.
So far, baby boomers aren't lowering their aspirations at the same rate earlier generations did. "They still seem to believe that they should have it all," George said. "They're still thinking about having a retirement that's going to let them do everything they haven't done yet."

Kennedy Proposes Endless Lawsuits Against Businesses

Senator Kennedy (D-Mass) is pushing for a vote this week on a measure that would expose business to new lawsuits. The so-called "Equal Pay" bill would allow employers to be sued for wage discrimination every time they issue a paycheck, regardless of how long ago the alleged discrimination occurred:
The bill’s opponents, however, say the measure represents undue meddling that would subject businesses to unsubstantiated, potentially endless lawsuits.
A statement of administration policy says the changes proposed in HR 2831 “would serve to impede justice and undermine the important goal of having allegations of discrimination expeditiously resolved. Furthermore, the effective elimination of any statute of limitations in this area would be contrary to the centuries-old notion of a limitations period for all lawsuits.”

Now thats more like it

Clinton warns Iran of U.S. nuclear response

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed Monday that as president she would be willing to use nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel.
Clinton’s remarks, made in an interview on MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” clarified a statement she made last week in a Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia. In that debate, Clinton, D-N.Y., said an Iranian attack on Israel would bring “massive retaliation,” without defining what the phrase meant.
In the interview Monday, Clinton affirmed that she would warn Iran’s leaders that “their use of nuclear weapons against Israel would provoke a nuclear response from the United States.”

She said U.S. allies in the Middle East were being “intimidated and bullied into submission by Iran,” raising the prospect of an “incredibly destabilizing” arms race in the region.
“I can imagine that they would be rushing to obtain nuclear weapons themselves” if Iran were to develop a nuclear arsenal, she said.
Clinton said it was vital that the United States create a new “security umbrella” to reassure Israel and its other allies in the region that they would not be threatened by Iran. She said she would tell them that “if you were the subject of an unprovoked nuclear attack by Iran, the United States, and hopefully our NATO allies, would respond to that.”
Clinton seeks tougher profile than ObamaClinton’s hinting at a nuclear option last week set off a wave of commentary in political circles that she was seeking to position herself as a hawk as the primary campaign winds toward an end. Her opponent for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, has said that he would not rule out any options if Iran were to become a nuclear power, but he has not explicitly said he would be willing use nuclear weapons.
Clinton’s remarks reflected the theme of her latest advertising in Pennsylvania, where Democratic voters go to the polls Tuesday with analysts in both camps saying she must win the state’s primary if she is to remain a credible candidate.



England agrees to quit bombing and terrorizing the U.S....

.......if the U.S. agrees to return to the 1775 policies of taxation without representation. Huh??? THAT is the equivalence of the Hamas offer to Israel as follows.

Hamas offers truce in return for 1967 borders

DAMASCUS, Syria - The leader of Hamas said Monday that his Palestinian militant group would offer Israel a 10-year "hudna," or truce, as implicit proof of recognition of Israel if it withdrew from all lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East War.

Why would we agree to give back everything we won in the war? ...and only in exchange for a 10 year truce??? Isn't that what happens when you lose a war?

Khaled Mashaal told The Associated Press that he made the offer to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in talks on Saturday. "We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition," Mashaal said.
In his comments Monday, Mashaal used the Arabic word "hudna," meaning truce, which is more concrete than "tahdiya" — a period of calm — which Hamas often uses to describe a simple cease-fire. "Hudna" implies a recognition of the other party's existence.
Mashaal said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state limited to the lands Israel seized in 1967 — that is, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. But he said the group would never outright formally recognize Israel.
Carter commentsEarlier, Carter said that Hamas is prepared to accept the right of Israel to “live as a neighbor next door in peace.”
Carter said the group promised it wouldn’t undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel, as long as the Palestinian people approved it in a referendum.
In the past, Hamas officials have said they would establish a “peace in stages” if Israel were to withdraw to the borders it held before 1967. But it has been evasive about how it sees the final borders of a Palestinian state and has not abandoned its official call for Israel’s destruction.
There was no immediate reaction from Israel to Hamas' truce offer.
Israel, which evacuated Gaza in 2005, has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state there and in much of the West Bank. But it has resisted Palestinian demands that it return to its 1967 frontiers.
In Washington, the State Department dismissed Carter’s assessment of his meetings, saying there was no indication Hamas wanted peace with Israel.
“What is clear to us is that there certainly is no change in Hamas’ position,” said deputy spokesman Tom Casey. “It does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, it has not eschewed or walked away from terrorism and violence, nor has it said it will honor any of the previous agreements that have been made with the Israeli government.”
Carter’s comments came after his much criticized meetings with the top Hamas leaders in Syria in last week.

I dont think Jimmy is in touch with reality.

I am Shocked -- Shocked! To Find Hypocrites in Congress

Put your money where your mouth is Congress! Or rather, put your money where you want to put our money:

[W]hile they're encouraging the country to invest in these alternatives, lawmakers themselves aren't taking a risk on them with their own money. In fact, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, members of Congress have more money invested in each of the top five oil and gas companies, individually, than in 305 green stock companies combined.

Democrats, who have tried repeatedly in the last year to pass legislation that would tax the five biggest oil companies (Exxon, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips) and use the money for wind and solar energy subsidies, had even less money invested in green stocks than Republicans in 2006—at least $59,300 compared to at least $392,600.

McCain Softens Stance on Federal Deficit

Reducing the deficit is not one of McCain's concerns, and neither is tax simplification. McCain proposes additional tax cuts and altering the current tax system, stating that now is not the time to reduce the deficit.
In the past, McCain was a deficit hawk, but no longer. It is apparently part of a larger shift in some of his positions as he prepares for the general election.
Many of our current economic problems come from our continually unbalanced budget. Other benefits include lower interest rates, increased flexibility to tackle economic problems, stabilization of the value of the dollar, and reduction of inflation.

McCain-Feingold "Millionaires Amendment" Before Supreme Court This Week

This week the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of part of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law called the "Millionaire's Amendment", or the Self-Funded Candidate Rule:
In oral argument Tuesday, the high court will examine whether the so-called "millionaires' amendment" violates the free-speech and equal-protection rights of self-funded candidates trying to win a seat in Congress. The amendment applies only to candidates for the US Senate and House of Representatives. Different rules govern presidential campaigns.

The measure, also known as Section 319 of the McCain-Feingold law, requires candidates who are self-financing their campaigns to abide by stringent finance reporting requirements that don't apply to other candidates. In addition, once a candidate's personal spending in a House race crosses a $350,000 threshold, contribution limits are relaxed for all other candidates in the same race.

The other candidates may then accept three times the usual $2,300 limit from individual contributors and receive unlimited coordinated expenditures from political parties. The self-financing candidate, meanwhile, must continue to abide by the lower contribution limits.
Section 319 is designed to undercut the advantages of using personal wealth to wage a political campaign and to prevent wealthy candidates from monopolizing a race.

The law is also aimed at countering a perception that anyone wealthy enough can buy a seat in Congress.

Opponents of Section 319 say it is an incumbent protection scheme passed by members of Congress to insulate themselves from challenges by wealthy opponents.