31 July 2008
The failure appeared to end, for the near term at least, any hopes of a global deal to further open markets, cut farm subsidies and strengthen the international trading system.More here from The Economist.
“It is a massive blow to confidence in the global economy,” said Peter Power, spokesman for the European Commission. “The confidence shot in the arm that we needed badly will not now happen.”
Link to the referenced Top Ten List here. McCain's referenced new ad here.
It wasn’t until the last week, however, that the narrative of Obama as a president-in-waiting — and perhaps getting impatient in that waiting — began reverberating beyond the inboxes of Washington operatives and journalists.
Perhaps one of the clearest indications emerged Tuesday from the world of late-night comedy, when David Letterman offered his “Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.” The examples included Obama proposing to change the name of Oklahoma to “Oklobama” and measuring his head for Mount Rushmore.
Jon Stewart teased that the presumptive Democratic nominee traveled to Israel to visit his birthplace at Bethlehem’s Manger Square. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd amplified the McCain campaign’s private nickname for Obama (“The One”).
And the snickers about Obama’s perceived smugness may have a very real political impact as McCain's camp launched its most forceful effort yet to define him negatively. It released a TV ad Wednesday describing Obama as the “biggest celebrity in the world,” comparable to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, stars who are famous for attitude rather than accomplishments.
Senator Stevens clearly needs to go. His long involvement in politics (predating Alaskan statehood!) demonstrates the need for term limits.
Nothing like political corruption to get the good citizens of the blogosphere wound up. If only I had a political party to vote for that had some sense and didn't stink to high heaven of corruption. Until that happy day arrives, let's take a look:
Hot Air on the indictment of Senator Stevens:
How will this affect the election overall? Strangely, I don’t think it will have much affect at all outside of Alaska, where the Democrats may well win both the Senate and the House seats this year. With William Jefferson remaining in Congress, the Democrats have no real footing to use this against the Republicans. And that may be the biggest scandal of all — that corruption in both parties serves to protect everyone.Webloggin: Ted Stevens (R) vs. William Jefferson (D)
Regardless, if Stevens broke the law he needs to be gone (as does Jefferson). I have no tolerance for criminals regardless of which party they belong to. I don’t trust any politician and stories like this one make me hold them in even lower regard, if that is actually possible.Free Frank Warner: Why are Ted Stevens and William Jefferson still in Congress?
It’s a disgrace that their fellow senators and representatives don’t immediately remove Stevens and Jefferson from office. They’re all corrupt for accepting this corruption.Constitutionally Right: The Biggest Scandal of All
San Diego Union Tribune: Echoes of Cunningham heard in Stevens' case
When the news first broke on Ted Stevens, many Republicans countered by pointing out the corruption of William Jefferson. When Jefferson was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, many Democrats made references to Mark Foley.
It is this need to justify the actions of fellow party members by pointing out the faults of the opposing party that has allowed corruption to grow in Washington. The unwritten rule seems to be, it is OK to be corrupt, as long as you are less corrupt than the other guy.
Until the American people, whether Democrat or Republican, demand better from our elected leaders by exercising their right to vote the bad ones out of office, we will continue to see the likes of Ted Stevens and William Jefferson representing us in Congress.
[M]ost San Diegans know all about the type of corruption the powerful Alaska Republican stands accused of. They've seen it all before: the persistent grasping for extra dollars; the unending demands for special treatment; the haughty indignation when challenged.The Washington Post is tracking 17 scandals and investigations in the 110th Congress. If you want to get even more upset, click here.
And, most of all, they are familiar with the overweening sense of entitlement that lies behind most cases of congressional corruption.
I doubt you will be surprised that a bipartisan Anti-Corruption Bill is stuck in Congress. Article in the LA Times here.
There is a link to your left that will help you contact your Congressman or Senator to express your support for the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act. More information on this Act can be found here. More here.
Legislation that would give the U.S. Justice Department new influence to pursue lawmaker misconduct is unlikely to be passed this year, supporters say.
A year after a bipartisan group of senators made its recommendation, the Public Corruption Prosecution Improvements Act is apparently blocked in Congress, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, would seek to reduce gifts lobbyists and companies give congressional members by making it a felony for lawmakers to accept gifts valued above those allowed by Senate rules. The Justice Department supports the bill.
I find interesting the use of the term "Long War" to describe efforts against the Islamic fanatics.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that even winning the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will not end the "Long War" against violent extremism and that the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists should be the nation's top military priority over coming decades, according to a new National Defense Strategy he approved last month.
Maybe Gates is a fan of The Long War Journal.
Should the term "Long War" be reserved for the conflicts between 1914 and 1990, that historians of the future may view as one long, interconnected conflict?
I think of it as the War Against Fanatics.
30 July 2008
The number of U.S. soldiers killed in combat in Iraq has dropped sharply this month, putting July on track to have the lowest casualties for the military since the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003.
This should be a major opportunity for McCain to set himself up as the moderate, ethical and fiscally responsible choice in the upcoming election. However, the Republicans will probably do nothing and we will all watch Alaska turn blue in November.
As reported in the Post, Kaine is one of several politicians being vetted by Obama's campaign, and has told associates that the discussions are "very serious."But as is traditional, Kaine this morning sought to avoid looking eager for the position, saying repeatedly on WTOP and afterward that he expects to campaign for Obama in Virginia.
Meanwhile, though, national Republicans already began stirring the pot, noting to reporters that an Obama-Kaine ticket might be described as "the most inexperienced ticket in the history of the world."
29 July 2008
A thought occurred to me: Hey, don't we have a Department of Energy? A whole department! I had forgotten all about them! What have they been up to?
The Secretary of Energy is apparently somebody named Samuel W. Bodman. I've never heard of this guy. He has been in office since 2005. Where has he been?
The Department of Energy employs over 100,000 federal and contract employees. They have a budget of $23,000,000,000.00. What have they been up to?
As of today, the three press releases listed on their homepage are:
- DOE Selects ASE to Manage and Operate its National Renewable Energy Laboratory[???]
- U.S. and New Zealand Take Steps to Launch International Partnership to Further the Development of Clean Energy on Island Nations [New Zealand?]
- DOE Launches EnergySmart Hospitals to Promote Improved Energy Efficiency in Healthcare
All I know is, if we have a foreign policy crisis, the Secretary of State is in the news. A military crisis, and the Secretary of Defense is in the public eye. An intelligence or security crisis, and the CIA Director and the Homeland Security Director become household names. A financial crisis, and the Treasury Secretary and the Federal Reserve Chairman are all over the place.
But we are in the middle of an energy crisis, and the Secretary of Energy is missing in action. Why isn't he taking a lead in resolving the crisis, like any other Department would be? Where are his initiatives? Does he have any ideas? Apparently not.
L.A. OKs moratorium on fast-food restaurants
California outlaws trans-fats
Stevens, 84, has been dogged by a federal investigation into whether he pushed for fishing legislation that also benefited his son, an Alaska lobbyist.
From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said Stevens concealed "his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation."
28 July 2008
An al-Qaida commander who escaped from a US prison has posted a Web video urging Muslims to kill the Saudi king for leading an interfaith conference in Madrid earlier this month.
Abu Yahia al-Libi, who escaped from Afghanistan's Bagram prison in 2005, says "bringing religions together...means renouncing Islam."
Saudi King Abdullah sponsored the dialogue among Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and encouraged all faiths to turn away from extremism.
But al-Libi says "equating Islam with other religions is a betrayal of Islam." He calls for "the speedy killing of this tyrant."
There are extremist Buddhists?
The Texas State Board of Education has begun hearings on teaching the “weaknesses” of evolutionary science—which means, of course, teaching the “strengths” of the creationist flavor of the month, “intelligent design.”
The health of a modern society depends on the opportunities it provides its children through education. That’s too important to be left to amateurs, much less enemies of knowledge.
Ask any of the millions of tax paying Americans on April 15th if the current tax system has problems and you'll get a clear answer. Complexity, inequities and international pressures top the ever-growing list of concerns.
The last major tax reform in the United States occurred in 1986. Since this bipartisan effort to simplify the tax code, over 16,000 changes have been made, creating an inflating bubble of complexity that is ready to pop. This looming issue coupled with the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts in 2010 have economists, congressmen and concerned Americans scrambling to figure out a direction for immediate reform.
This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. The current tax code would never be enacted in its current form. The complexity and unfairness are designed into the current system so tax breaks can be offered in exchange for donations. It's good that someone is trying to bring this issue into the public debate, but with Congress having a vested interest in the current system, it will be hard to effect change to a more rational, fair, and simple system.
The administration actually underestimates the deficit, however, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition -- and in violation of new mandates from Congress -- the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs. [Which means the actual deficit is over $560 billion.]
John McCain used the news to slam both the Bush White House for its "profligate spending" and Democratic rival Barack Obama for saying he would not try to balance the budget. Obama's campaign used the new numbers to attack McCain for embracing Bush's tax cuts.
House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., said the new deficit figure confirms "the dismal legacy of the Bush administration: under its policies, the largest surpluses in history have been converted into the largest deficits in history."
The AP story linked above blames the economy for the record deficit. The blame should go to the irresponsible Congress and to a President who won't veto spending bills.
27 July 2008
Mr Obama responded by saying he dropped the visit after the Pentagon warned it might be considered a political event.
But Pentagon officials insisted the senator had never been told not to go.
A Pentagon spokesman said Mr Obama had only been told he could not do so if he was accompanied by campaign staff and reporters.
26 July 2008
Clad in knee-high leather boots, spandex shorts and a sports bra, Xiao Yan struck a pose two feet off the ground, her head glistening with sweat and her arms straining as she suspended herself from a vertical pole.
Story with video at the link.
25 July 2008
Maybe we should all default on our mortgages and get Congress to legislate a better deal for us. Then Congress could bail us out of our car loans, our credit cards, and our phone bills. Contact your congressman and tell her that you think paying your bills is a real drag -- what can she do to help?
Of course, the Mortgage Bill is full of extras that have nothing to do with any mortgage crisis.
WSJ: The Fan/Fred Bailout Is a Scandal
Americans who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules can't seem to get fair representation in Washington, D.C., these days. In the current debate over a government bailout of speculators, irresponsible banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the responsible majority has once again been pushed aside in a legislative rush to "do something."Financial Times: Fannie’s and Freddie’s free lunch
Much has been made in recent years of private/public partnerships. The US government is about to embark on another example of such a partnership, in which the private sector takes the profits and the public sector bears the risk.
The proposed bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac entails the socialisation of risk – with all the long-term adverse implications for moral hazard – from an administration supposedly committed to free-market principles.
Defenders of the bail-out argue that these institutions are too big to be allowed to fail. If that is the case, the government had a responsibility to regulate them so that they would not fail.
Daily Oklahoman: Bailout blues: Housing relief bill carries high cost.
Congress passed a housing bill that not only fails to truly address the foreclosure issue but actually amounts to little more than a massive bail-out program that ultimately makes it even harder for middle-class American taxpayers to pay their mortgages.
No matter how Washington spins it, the housing legislation does no good for America's homeowners. With this bill, Congress is turning a blind eye to irresponsible borrowers and is, in fact, rewarding them with a federal program paid for by struggling taxpayers barely able to make ends meet.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, pushed for bailout measures in this legislation for mortgage firms while at the same time depending on those firms for special VIP financial deals. The House has time to investigate everything from steroids in baseball to the state of thoroughbred racing, but it doesn't have time to look into potential under-the-table deals for its own members?
Time to Bury Fannie & Freddie, Not Praise Them
Taxpayers in this country must wonder when their interests will be Washington's foremost concern. They shouldn't hold their breath.
[W]rites the Cato Institute's Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr. ,"Fannie and Freddie continue to make risky bets and rack up more losses, with the taxpayer guarantee fueling the financial fiasco."
Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for corruption, bad business decisions and lobbying.
It figures that Congress would identify with those who can't live within their means.
Downing Street is dismayed that Barack Obama has agreed to meet Tony Blair ahead of Gordon Brown on his whistle stop tour of Britain.
Mr Obama's advisers calculated that photographs and television footage breaking bread with Mr Blair would play much better back home than with the Prime Minister.
Charlie Gibson, the ABC news anchor, said: "If there is a criticism of this trip it is that he has been quite guarded so far and the trip therefore has tended to be emphasised by the photo-opportunities in all the different places he has gone."
Fundraising events were ruled out of the tour as Mr Obama wanted to be portrayed as statesman-like rather than electioneering.
Full story here.
24 July 2008
If space elevators work out the way the idea's advocates hope, sending payloads into orbit would become as routine as, say, sending a shipment on a freight train - except that the train would travel straight up for hundreds or thousands of miles, powered by laser beams.
But will such a "railroad to the sky" ever be built? That's the big question hanging over the 2008 Space Elevator Conference, taking place this weekend on Microsoft's Seattle-area campus.
Even if you scoff at the starry-eyed vision of riding a ribbon to outer space on a laser-powered lift, the technologies that form the foundation of that vision are far more down to earth - and likely to produce profits long before the space elevator sees the light of day. A working space elevator would require tethers or ribbons of synthetic material that would extend from Earth's surface up to an altitude of perhaps 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). Carbon nanotube fibers are the most popular candidates for the job.
The tethers would be sent into orbit aboard a conventional launch vehicle. One set of tethers would be lowered down from the orbiting craft for connection to an "attach point" on Earth's surface - for example, a floating platform in an area of the ocean that's relatively unaffected by weather. Counterbalancing tethers would spool out spaceward.
Even if you scoff at the starry-eyed vision of riding a ribbon to outer space on a laser-powered lift, the technologies that form the foundation of that vision are far more down to earth - and likely to produce profits long before the space elevator sees the light of day.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, wanted by the U.S. a a terrorist, seized power -- A fiery Muslim scholar and former army colonel that the United States has accused of having links to al-Qaeda said Wednesday he has taken over leadership of Somalia's opposition alliance.
He says he will be stepping up the violence. Fighting with the Ethiopian forces continues.
Meanwhile, aid workers have been targeted and killed throughout the country. Understandibly, this is reducing assistance at a time of increased food shortages.
In case their Plantation Bend neighbors had any questions about how Doug and Wendy McKain feel about Barack Obama, the bumper sticker on their pickup could be a clue.
But when Chynethia Gragg spotted the sticker — depicting someone urinating on the name "Obama" — Sugar Land police say, she stopped to express her disapproval, and that's when things got ugly.
Gragg, 35, has been charged with making a terroristic threat after confronting the McKains, telling them the sticker was racist, police said." Mr. McKain said Ms. Gragg began to rant and rave about the sticker on the back of his truck," the court document states.
McKain told police Gragg shouted numerous profanities at him and his wife.
"Mr. McKain said Ms. Gragg said she (would) get someone to take care of him later," the report said.
High Court judge David Eady ruled the News of the World must pay Mosley $120,000 in damages for the story claiming Mosley participated in a sadomasochistic sex romp with a Third Reich theme.
Mosley, 68, admits the encounter with sex workers in a basement apartment in London but says it was private and there were no Nazi overtones. Mosley told the court he had an interest in sadomasochism going back 45 years.
23 July 2008
Russia to ship S-300 air defense batteries to Iran via Belarus as early as September, operational by 2009
Full story here.
The high stakes chess game continues.
The current "cooperation or confrontation" offer expires on July 31st.
Full story here.
More on media bias from the Chicago Tribune:
A new disciple here: "in a moment of divine intervention, he saw me"
McCain is now cast as the crabby uncle who visits and shrieks there's no gin in your house. He grabs the TV remote control, turns off the cartoons and forces the kids to watch the ancient Mesopotamia special on The History Channel.
Meanwhile, the Democrat Obama is treated quite differently. He's the Mr. Tumnus of American politics, the gentle forest faun of Narnia, with throngs of reporters trembling to sit with him at tea and cakes, like the little girl in the C.S. Lewis story, as he plays the flute, chanting "We Are The Change We've Been Waiting For."
And nobody laughs. You don't laugh because you can't make fun of Obama. The ground would swallow you whole.
And when reporters weren't arguing about getting access to his fact-finding-tour-campaign-commercial this week, they were tossing rose petals before him, so that his feet wouldn't touch the ground. OK, I'm exaggerating about the roses. There are no rose petals left, because the media used them all up on Obama during his battle with the Clintons. I guess they'll have to use palm fronds now.
Because the election is over, isn't it? Obama is president, all we're waiting for is the transcending, when a beam of light shines on Chris Matthews' face, carrying him to the heavens, smiling, that tingle running down his leg.
And Kuntar was no ordinary terrorist prisoner. Abu Abbas was so impressed with Kuntar's savage child-killing tactics that Abbas masterminded the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 - including the killing and dumping into the ocean of the defenseless, elderly, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer - to secure Kuntar's release.
Israel didn't cave into terrorists in 1985, but it did last week. And the deal it struck with Hezbollah will have disastrous consequences for Israel and the world.
The concession, writes the Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick "will cement Iran's control of Lebanon through Hizbullah. It also all but guarantees that any future Israeli soldiers taken hostage by Hizbullah will be killed on the spot. Why care for hostages when you can murder them and expect to receive the same payoff you would get if you kept them alive?"
Columnist Mona Charen reports that Kuntar literally received a red carpet reception in Beirut. Charen writes: The government closed all offices and declared a national day of celebration. Tens of thousands of Lebanese cheered, waved flags, threw confetti, and set off fireworks as Hezbollah staged a rally to celebrate their "victory" over Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, the "moderate" leader of the Palestinian Authority, sent "blessings to Samir Kuntar's family." PA spokesman Ahmad Abdul Rahman sent "warm blessings to Hezbollah . . . on the return of the heroes of freedom . . . headed by the great Samir Kuntar."
This barbaric display enrages me and it should enrage all Americans.
Both the Palestinian Authority and the Lebanese government are recipients of U.S. taxpayers' money through foreign assistance. Political leaders - and the people they lead - who cheer the release of despicable child murderers are unworthy recipients of our assistance.
Congress should insist that the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority retract their support for Kuntar or it should cut off U.S. assistance to them.
The State Department sent its third most senior official to sit in on nuclear "negotiations" with Iran, even as Iran continues its relentless pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
In the past, President Bush had a label for such a move. He called it "appeasement." Last week, his own State Department succeeded in taking the first steps in a futile attempt to appease a dictator who has called for the destruction of Israel and defeat of the West. His stated goal? A world without America.
And so I ask again: Have our leaders lost their minds?
As a young Senator with little foreign policy experience, Barack Obama faces a unique challenge. As I write this, Senator Obama is traveling abroad seeking to convince the American people that he has the leadership ability to be commander in chief.
Senator Obama has also repeatedly assured us that he, too, will negotiate with regimes like Iran. But the question we owe to ourselves is to ask Senator Obama and our current State Department: When negotiations don't work, what are you prepared to do?
Talking isn't a policy, it's a process. And talking to people who have vowed your destruction is at best a futile and at worst a dangerous process.
Just ask the Israelis. After greeting Samir Kuntar with a hug and a kiss when he returned to Lebanon last week, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Nasrallah declared, "The time of defeat is long gone. Today is the time of victory."
Obamessiah can't do that?
A college student, Mohammed Hatem said, "We have seen a lot of (U.S.) leaders who say they are going to work to get the Palestinian people an independent state, and they end up serving Israel."
On this I agree with Obamessiah. Nothing we do will have any lasting effect over there. All we can do is sponsor and broker an agreement, and even then we need to realize it will crumble the first time some Palestinian kills an Israeli over a bag of groceries.
22 July 2008
"I have no problem with the ad itself, but I have a very, very real problem with those behind it," Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, said Tuesday. He is urging the Metropolitan Transit Authority to reject the ads.
[One] of the backers of the advertising campaign -- which will launch in September to coincide with the monthlong Islamic holiday of Ramadan -- is Siraj Wahhaj, imam of a Brooklyn mosque. Wahhaj also said that he regrets some of his more controversial statements, such as calling the FBI and the CIA "terrorists."
"He is a known Islamic extremist, and you would be giving him credibility and stature through a known government facility," said King, ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee. King objects to him because he was a character witness for convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman.
The New York Post has reacted strongly to the ads, running a cover photograph of Wahhaj on Monday with the headline "Jihad Train" and posting an article on its Web site with the headline "Train-ing day for jihadists" and the first paragraph saying, "Allah aboard!"
There has been debate for years as to whether this is the best way to prevent police misconduct and to protect constitutional rights. It is up for reconsideration:
But there are signs that some justices on the United States Supreme Court may be ready to reconsider the American version of the exclusionary rule. Writing for the majority two years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia said that at least some unconstitutional conduct ought not require “resort to the massive remedy of suppressing evidence of guilt.”
The court will soon have an opportunity to clarify matters. The justices will hear arguments on Oct. 7 about whether methamphetamines and a gun belonging to Bennie Dean Herring, of Brundidge, Ala., should be suppressed because the officers who conducted the search mistakenly believed he was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant as a result of careless record-keeping by another police department.
Supporters of the American practice say that only strict application of the exclusionary rule can effectively address violations of the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.
Several justices have in recent years questioned whether the rule still makes sense in light of what they called the increased professionalism of the police and the availability of alternative and arguably more direct ways to punish misconduct, including internal discipline and civil suits.
Opponents of the rule say it is indirect, incomplete and in a way perverse. Even if it deters unlawful searches, exclusion of evidence, for instance, offers no remedy to innocent people whose rights were violated by unlawful searches.
Why only the U.S. has the Exclusionary Rule discussed here.
Originalism and the Exclusionary Rule discussed here, with links to two other posts discussing.
[I]t’s not surprising that voters, particularly those of the Republican persuasion, think the media is more or less in Obama’s pocket.
A recent survey by Rasmussen found that 49 percent of the likely voters they talked to believed that reporters would favor Obama in their coverage, while just 14 percent said the same about McCain. Seventy-eight percent of Republicans thought the press would try and help Obama win, while only 21 percent of Democrats thought journalists were in bed with McCain.
Complaints about bias are only exacerbated when the New York Times (the bête noire of the right) rejects an opinion piece written by McCain comparing his position on Iraq to Obama’s—just days after the Times ran a similar piece by Obama.
A few days ago, Mr. Khadr's attorneys released a videotape from February 2003 of their client being questioned by visiting Canadian officials. At first he was hopeful, but he quickly became sullen and withdrawn when he realized the Canadians were not going to get him out. The tape shows the young man, then 16, crying for his mother, and complaining about treatment for the wounds he suffered while fighting alongside al Qaeda.
The response has been illuminating. The Montreal Gazette calls him "a victim," "not a villain." Closer to home, our headlines run along the lines of "Tape shows 'frightened boy,'" "Teen on video: 'Help me, help me'" or "Teenage detainee pleads for help, tells of torture on video; Rights group seeks immediate release." About the only one willing to say anything unpleasant about Mr. Khadr is the soldier who lost an eye in the same firefight in which Mr. Khadr is alleged to have thrown the grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer.
Mr. Addington is chief of staff to Vice President Richard Cheney. He's the son of a West Point man who earned a bronze star in World War II and went on to become a general. Before coming to the White House, David put in stints at the CIA, at a congressional intelligence committee, and at the Pentagon -- all giving him an expertise on intelligence and national security issues only a handful of others can match.
While the operative for al Qaeda is humanized, the counsel for the vice president is demonized. Such is the temper of the times that Rep. William Delahunt (D., Mass.) felt free to joke during recent hearings that he was sure al Qaeda was watching -- and was "glad they finally have the chance to see you."
It's a tribute to our society that even amid a terrible war we are capable of seeing the humanity of an enemy raised and trained to hate and kill us. Some of us are still waiting for that same presumption of humanity to be extended to the good men and women doing their imperfect best to keep us safe.
According to security officials coordinating deployments of forces with the PA for Obama's Ramallah visit, members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's declared military wing, have been called upon by the PA to participate in the protection of Obama, particularly in securing the perimeter during a scheduled meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Brigades is listed as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department. The group took credit along with the Islamic Jihad terror organization for every suicide bombing in Israel between 2005 and 2006 and is responsible for thousands of shootings and rocket firings. Statistically, the Al Aqsa Brigades perpetuated more terrorism from the West Bank than Hamas, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
21 July 2008
The anchor blessing defines the trip as a Major Event and — much like a "Saturday Night Live" skit in February that depicted a press corps fawning over Obama — raises anew the issue of fairness in campaign coverage.
Network anchors stayed home during John McCain's recent foreign excursions.
20 July 2008
Today on CBS's Face the Nation, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Afghanistan, told the paparazzi-pursued correspondent Lara Logan that "the objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to 10 years.More here. And here.
First, 57 states and now this? Buy him a civics text.
-- John Adams
Congressional approval ratings are an all-time low. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, has presided over an ineffectual term punctuated by the House's return to reason on FISA, its game of chicken over the Iraq war and other embarrassments.
Today's sour political climate is not solely anti-Republican. Amid soaring gas prices, plummeting home values and bank failures, this cycle also features a more general "throw the bums out" factor.
Why have House Republicans have failed to capitalize upon the failures of the majority's ineffectual leadership in such a climate?
No system of resource allocation is more efficient than pure competition. Competition causes new products, services, and technologies. This gives consumers greater selection and better products. The greater selection typically causes lower prices for the products compared to what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or little competition (oligopoly).
Because there are few participants in this type of market, each oligopolist is aware of the actions of the others. This causes oligopolistic markets to be at the highest risk for collusion.
Consultants justify their fees by getting political candidates to do what they otherwise might not. In short, they guarantee in many cases that winning through manipulation is all that counts, for only then can they justify making their bucks.
The result is an increasingly stagnant political system, one apparently increasingly incapable of adapting to challenges.
Graph courtesy Center for Responsive Politics.
More on the policy change here.
Without any indication that Iran was suspending its uranium enrichment program, the State Department announced that Burns would be heading to Switzerland for direct meetings with Iran's nuclear negotiators.
So what changed? Very little.
In the weeks leading up to the State Department's announcement, Iran had been deliberately provocative. At a Kuala Lumpur summit for developing nations, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned of George W. Bush's "satanic desires." Iran test-fired long-range missiles, including the Shahab-3, which is capable of striking Israel. And a few days after that, it rejected a generous aid offer from our European allies--backed by the State Department--that included nuclear fuel, assistance on a nuclear reactor, and improved trade and diplomatic relations, if the Iranian regime would simply suspend its uranium enrichment program.
The State Department response wasn't to get tough. Instead, Condoleezza Rice directed her diplomats to simply drop the one precondition for engagement that we had insisted on for years and in effect reward these provocations.
Beijing's government said it has spent around $20 billion to improve its air quality, deploying a variety of emissions-reducing measures such as cutting fares for public transport; converting coal-fired heaters to electric or other clean-fuel ones; imposing new vehicle-exhaust standards that match those in Western Europe; and shutting down or relocating factories in the capital.
There was Mr. McCain appearing yet again with Mitt Romney, his former rival for the Republican nomination and a frequently mentioned possibility for the No. 2 spot, in Detroit on Friday. In Indiana last week, Mr. Obama appeared with two of the more speculated-about names on Democratic lists, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.
I generally think its true that a candidate's choice for VP will not win the election, but could cost them the election. However, that wasn't the case for Bush-Quayle.
19 July 2008
Previously: Does Obama Have The Experience To Be President?
And: Name some of his legislative accomplishments.
18 July 2008
Harris County should establish a board to investigate ethics complaints, require lobbyists to register with the county and make former employees wait a year before benefiting financially from a county contract, according to an ethics task force draft report obtained Thursday by the Houston Chronicle.We could use an improvement in Harris County government. Looks like county government nationwide could use an emphasis on ethics.
This week, a senior International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor decided to seek an arrest warrant for Sudan's noxious leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. The prosecutor accuses Bashir of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region. No one who has been following the savage conflict can doubt the validity of the charges against Bashir or the other senior leaders in his despicable regime.He acknowledges that the warrant itself is likely to be ineffective, but argues that it will serve as an important embarrassment to Sudan.
Others argue that it may only get in the way of any settlement of the dispute in Sudan, note also that the ICC indictment of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda for murder impeded negotiations there to resolve a long-running insurgency.
Efforts to expand efforts to bring brutal heads of state and government does have an unintended consequence; it may cause dictators to hang on to the bitter end instead of leaving their office and power behind to face justice.
[O]ne reason why Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is clinging to power could be his fear of being hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.The ICC could therefore result in the unfortunate and unintended consequence of making things worse.
17 July 2008
Inflation was 5% over the past year, the highest level in 17 years.
Yea! We're doing better that Zimbabwe! In Zimbabwe, the inflation rate was 2,000,000% as of last May, and the rate is estimated to be 15,000,000% by June. Those figure were released by the Central Bank. Some estimate the actual rate is as high as 70,000,000%, with 80% unemployment.
I typically eat whatever I'm in the mood for (which shows) but I do try not to go too crazy. I eat more than the average amount of vegetables and I eat as much fish as I can afford. I have weaknesses for ice cream, pasta and a rare steak. I also have the occasional cigar, which I count as a vegetable.
After seeing some of the frightening caloric values considered for the report, it would definitely affect my decision. A cookie or a muffin at Starbuck's may seem like a cute snack, but at 500 calories or so, no thanks.
In a front-page report, the Guardian said Washington would open a U.S. interests section in the Iranian capital, halfway towards opening an embassy.
Maybe we'll get it right the next time our embassy is seized.
Full story here.
Texas will go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 5 execution of Houston rapist-killer Jose Medellin despite Wednesday's United Nations world court order for a stay, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said.
The U.N.'s International Court of Justice's call for stays in the cases of Medellin and four other Mexican nationals awaiting execution in Texas came in response to a petition filed last month by the Mexican government.
The petition sought to halt executions to allow for review of the killers' cases to determine whether denying them access to the Mexican Consulate after arrest impaired their trial defenses.
16 July 2008
Anyone with a fifth-grade level of intellectual sophistication would understand, the cover is clearly aimed at lampooning those who perpetuate the rumors, innuendos and urban legends about the senator and his wife.Satire must be outrageous to be funny. I laughed out loud when I first saw it.
"They've all been for the sake of political expedience," RNC spokesman Alex Conant said about Obama's policy shifts.
"We've seen a very clear pattern now of him putting political calculations first," the Democratic National Committee's Damien LaVera said of McCain.
May require a free HD View plug-in.
15 July 2008
The risk is that there's a moral hazard. That's that people will think they can take chances and invest and not worry about the consequences because the government will bail them out.
In the first three months of the year alone, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spent a combined total of about $3.5 million on lobbying and hired 42 outside firms.
Fannie and Freddie have kept their profiles high because of their odd situation: They're not government agencies, but they're not regular corporations either. As government sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, they're often thought to have guarantees of federal support. It lets them get discounts when they borrow money.
To maintain that advantage and others, they hire well-placed politicos for big salaries.
A rival lobbyist once described Fannie Mae as a political organization that happened to be in the mortgage business.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the collapse of Indymac will cost taxpayers $4 billion to $8 billion. Not to mention the stock declines.
It appears that Mike Huckabee will not be John McCain's choice for VP.
I don't really need to see or hear more of Mike Huckabee, but then I have successfully avoided Nancy Grace's whiny, screaming, bitchy dribble so far.
14 July 2008
The run on Indymac prompted huge losses in bank stocks today.
The controversy started on June 27th when Senator Chuck Schumer's office released a letter sent to various bank regulatory agencies calling into question Indymac Bank's viability and urging steps be taken to prevent the bank's collapse.
The public disclosure of the letter from Chuck Schumer, who serves on both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, resulted in an eleven day run on Indymac that resulted in the withdraw of more than $1.3 billion dollars.
John Reich, the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, blamed the Indymac bank failure on the comments made in Senator Chuck Schumer's letter. Reich suggested that Schumer had given the bank a "heart attack."
Concerns about the health of the country's financial firms spiked Friday after federal regulators seized IndyMac, which had relied on brokered deposit accounts -- high interest rate paying accounts, normally certificates of deposit, that are offered by a bank to brokers who represent large investors.Declining to accept the award, Senator Schumer refuses to accept any responsibility for the fiasco. Why would we expect anything less?
Apparently Senator Schumer wholly embraces the "destruction" side of "creative destruction."