Cheat-Seeking Missles

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Religion Of Peace: Off With Her Head!

Thousands of sword-wielding, hate-spewing Muslims are protesting in Sudan, demanding that Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who allowed her students to name a Teddy bear Mohammed, be executed.
We cannot allow anything bad to be said about He Who Is Too Lame To Be Insulted! Kill her!
I made that up. Here's what they really were chanting:
"No tolerance: Execution,"

"Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

"Those who insult the Prophet of Islam should be punished with bullets."

Check out the photos posted at The Daily Mail and shudder. This face of Islam, of brutality and intolerance, is our enemy. Sudan gave cover to Osama bin Laden for years, and in the country's response to the Gibbons affair, we see why.

Gibbons now faces 15 days in the Khartoum's squalid Omdurman women's prison, which was built for 200 and now houses about 1,500. The Mail described it as "massively overcrowded and infested with mosquitoes."

It may also be infested with radical Islamists, so Gibbons is by no means safe within its walls.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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Quote Of The Year?

"I think the 'surge' is working."
-- Rep. John Murtha

Here's the story, from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. John Murtha today said he saw signs of military progress during a brief trip to Iraq last week, but he warned that Iraqis need to play a larger role in providing their own security and the Bush administration still must develop an exit strategy.

"I think the 'surge' is working," the Democrat said in a videoconference from his Johnstown office, describing the president's decision to commit more than 20,000 additional combat troops this year. But the Iraqis "have got to take care of themselves."

Violence has dropped significantly in recent months, but Mr. Murtha said he was most encouraged by changes in the once-volatile Anbar province, where locals have started working closely with U.S. forces to isolate insurgents linked to Al Qaeda.

He said Iraqis need to duplicate that success at the national level, but the central government in Baghdad is "dysfunctional."

Mr. Murtha's four day-trip took him to a Thanksgiving dinner with troops in Kuwait last Thursday, and he then made stops in Iraq, Turkey and Belgium.

The word "speechless" would come to mind, except that the word "but" keeps blocking it out.

Murtha may be wrong but he's not dumb. He knows he has to acknowledge success that's this obvious, but he's wiley enough to cage his phrase within the context of the Congressionally-approved milestones so he can continue to fight the war.

The left lobe of the blogosphere is silent on Murtha's statement, as can be expected. Among the many blog links to the story on memeorandum, only Huffpost represents the Left, writing of the briefing, but fails to mention his assessment on the surge. Rather, the post describes what it calls a set-up for Dem capitulation on Iraq:
And soon enough, the Democratic bluff will be called. In response, they will posture, bluster and then - you can bet on it-- they will fold. For a harbinger of this dreary scenario, you need look no further than the briefing held Thursday by the powerful Democratic chief of the House subcommittee on military spending, Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha. "Congress wants to come up with an agreement," he said. "Leadership may be willing to compromise" on the time line for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

May be willing to compromise? Really? Insert your laugh track right here, please.

Compromising and capitulating are the only things the Democrats have been doing on this issue. Murtha's statement implies that some sort of deal can be reached with the Republicans in which a somewhat extended troop withdrawal timetable will be agreed upon. During his press conference, Murtha suggested that might be something like a two year calendar.

Interesting, isn't it, that the author, Marc Cooper, did not feel compelled to mention to his readers Murtha's assessment of the war's progress? The truth? You can't take the truth. Or something like that.

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Watcher's Winners

The Watcher's Council was all over the place this week, struggling to pick winners from a collection of worthies. Myself, I rated two entries 10 and at least a half dozen 9 or 9+. Here's how it all fell out:

Among the Council's entries, my pick for first, Right Wing Nuthouse's Pat Buchanan's New Book: “Prepare Ye for the End” came in first, followed by a very interesting piece by The Glittering Eye, The Visual Imagery Society
, which was more esoteric than most winners, dealing with provocative questions on the future of communications and the implications of increasing use of visual communications.

My entry, Still No Evidence 9/11 Nuts Rule, was one of three tied for third.

Over on the non-Council side, things were a bit more spread out, with Wolf Howling's excellent Have Our Copperheads Found Their McClellan in Retired LTG General Sanchez? running (... well, jogging) away from the competition. My nominee, Michelle Malkin's Letter from the Front: Turkey Day in Tikrit, came in second.

See all the rankings here.

The Council bids too quick an adieu this week to Okie on the Lam. Okieboy in real life is a very busy and very talented graphic designer, and reading these entries is a time-consuming task. Keep visiting his blog, folks -- against all odds, it may get even better now that he's got a bit more time on his hands.

And Watcher, thank you very much for giving us much more than cold turkey and old dressing this week.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Teddy Mohammed Teacher Jailed

A Sudanese judge has ordered British teacher Gillian Gibbons to jail for 15 days after her schoolchildren named a teddy bear Mohammed.

Gibbons faced a year in jail and 40 lashes for her inadvertent insulting of He Who Isn't Tough Enough To Take A Joke. Still, in a just society where the dominant religion isn't paranoid and intolerant, she would have walked.

One, and only one, good thing came of this story: Muslims in Britain lobbied hard for Gibbons' release and professed disappointment that she was jailed. Reports the NYT:

"I'm utterly disappointed with this decision. We have been calling on the Sudanese authorities to show leniency, that this was a case of an innocent oversight, a misunderstanding, and there was no need for this to ... be escalated ..." said Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, the country's largest Muslim organisation.

"We are very hopeful that perhaps the appeals process will be more successful", he added.

"The question that I would want the judiciary there and the authorities to ponder over is: How does this help the cause of Islam? What kind of message and image are we portraying about our religion and our culture?"

Indeed, Ibrahim, indeed. Now perhaps you can ask the same question of your Palestinian brothers who insist on firing rockets into Israel and your Iranian brothers who profess their wish to wipe Israel off the face of the planet, and your terrorist brothers who want to kill us all in the name of Islam.

How does their behavior help the cause of Islam? What kind of message and image are they portraying of your religion and your culture?

hat-tip: Real Clear Politics

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Enriched Uranium Bust In Slovakia

Two Slovaks and one Hungarian are in custody and half a kilo of weapons grade enriched uranium has been seized in Slovakia, potentially foiling a dirty bomb attack. Spiegel reports:
Police in Slovakia and Hungary have busted a black-market ring allegedly aiming to sell nuclear contraband on the eastern frontier of Europe, Slovak authorities said late Wednesday. Three people have been arrested for trying to sell 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of enriched uranium for for €680,000 ($1 million).

On Wednesday the Slovak police had also said the contraband was a full kilogram (2.2 pounds) of a "highly dangerous radioactive material," but on Thursday they amended the information to say it was just under half a kilogram of enriched uranium in powder form.

"It was possible to use it in various ways for terrorist attacks," said First Slovak Police Vice President Michal Kopcik.

The uranium originated from an ex-Soviet republic, he said, without going into detail, and police weren't sure yet who was trying to buy it.

Kopcik said the 481.4 grams of powder had been stashed in unspecified containers, and that investigators determined it had a 98.6 percent uranium-235 content. "Weapons-grade" uranium contains at least 85 percent uranium-235.

That's far short of the 25 kilos needed to manufacture an atomic bomb, but it would be enough to create an effective dirty bomb ... or worse, the thwarted sale could have been part of a stockpiling scheme by someone seeking to build a bomb.

Fox News reports the Uranium is Russian in origin, but there's nothing released yet on how it was acquired ... or more importantly, who was going to buy it.

With Europe a favorite target of Islamist rage, you have to wonder if similar deals have transacted unnoticed, so I would like very much to know what these three scumbags know. I trust the Slovak police will have the means (Geneva-approved nice, but not mandatory) to get it out of them.

If you play that dirty -- selling massive death for personal profit -- you lose the right to be treated decently.

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Pakistan: Back From The Brink?

Now-civilian Pakistan prez Pervez Musharraf now says he will withdraw the state of emergency in his country on December 16 -- the day after candidates can withdraw their applications to run, as they would have to do if they move forward with plans to boycott the election.

And if that happens, some experts say the state of emergency could be reinstated.

Political analyst Shafqat Mahmood told private English channel DAWN NEWS that the date of Dec. 16 is significant because it came a day after the date by which candidates are allowed to withdraw their nomination paper.

"If political parties boycott elections, he might not withdraw [the] emergency an [Provisional Constitutional Order]," he said.

It's a long, long way to a stable Pakistan -- something there's precious little precedent for -- but at least the toes aren't hanging over the cliff now.

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A Smarmy End For The YouTube Debate Format

YouTube debate outing continues unabated this morning at Free Republic and Michelle Malkin.

First was the gay general who supports Hillary. Then the "abortion girl in blue" who is an Edwards supporter. (Picture courtesy of The Log Cabin Republican questioner is an Obama supporter. The lead toy questioner is a union activist and Edwards supporter.

Is this an outrage or simply the end of the YouTube debate format?

Most definitely an outrage is the chatter going on at Free Republic where the outting of the "abortion girl in blue" is getting quite creepy, with her Internet guts getting spread all over the blogosphere with info like this:
Blue Girl's Profile:

she listens like spring and she talks like june View all userpics
Name: cold as fire, baby, hot as ice
Message: Send likespring a text message
on his/her cellphone/pager.
Website: website
Location: Arlington, Texas, United States
Birthdate: 1988-09-21
E-mail: ******* @ [all addresses censored by C-SM]

AOL IM: ***** (Add Buddy, Send Message)
MSN Username: ******* @

******* @ l i v e j o u r n a l . c o m
journey. yes, that's her real name. female. 19. arlington, texas. liberal. vegetarian. feminist. lesbian. has an inexplicable teeny crush on joey
fatone. attending the university of texas in arlington. hoping to transfer to ut-austin in 2008. political science. aims for law school. enjoys good food. finding a great new book. watching glbt movies. and lots of shopping. was a princess in another life. future president of the united states of america.

Yes, of course Likespring opened the door to this exposure by becoming a public figure with her question, and she should know her cyber-fingerprints are easily lifted, but digging into her personal info like this seems a bit like cyber-stalking -- and with her various cyber-contact addresses now posted for all to see, she's probably in for a long bout of ugly inbox.

That's unfortunate because she probably had every right to ask the question. Nothing in the rules of the YouTube-CNN debate says questioners must be of the party that's debating that night, so there may well have been GOP questioners in the Dem debate.

"Abortion girl in blue" did not misidentify herself; she merely failed to identify her candidate of choice -- and being a GBLT supporter of the most feminine of all the Dem Prez wannabes isn't a crime. If, however, Likespring works for the Edwards campaign or cooperated with the Edwards campaign in designing and submitting the question, then it's another story. And it's a story that may turn out to be difficult to document one way or the other,

Also another story is the Log Cabin Republican questioner because he created the sense that he was a gay Republican by the way he asked his question. He is a political trickster, scum, persona non grata.

As is Gen. Keith Kerr, who, if he were an honorable man, would have stated his position in the Clinton campaign.

CNN has no excuse for not ID-ing Kerr. I traced his background in a couple clicks last night, and even this morning after his exposure, the Clinton news release listing him as a member of her GLBT task force is fifth from the top on Google: - Media Release
It includes people like former US Assistant Attorney General Eldie Acheson, ... Keith Kerr, retired Colonel., US Army; retired Brigadier General, ... - Similar pages - Note this
The most cursory review by CNN staff would have turned up this news release, so either they were entirely too cavalier in their screening of questioners, or someone at CNN knew full well who Kerr was and to whom he was affiliated.

This should, I hope, spell the end of YouTube debates. As refreshing as it has been to have real people ask real questions, the system is simply too easily corrupted by unreal people asking unreal questions. Winnowing out the Kerrs is as easy enough job, but tracking down the political affiliations and sexual orientations of people like Likespring infringes on their rights and chills the political process.

With YouTube so problematic, the format simply must be dropped. We then are back to the awful format of pundits asking preened-up questions of wooden, overly trained candidates, all to the detriment of the American people, who deserve a better way to evaluate their candidates.

I propose as an alternative a round-robin kind of debate, where two candidates are selected at random, then given five minutes in proper debate format to pound back and forth on a question from a list prepared by a neutered (not neutral) body, i.e., questions worked out by the party that's debating in concert with the media outlet that's sponsoring the debate.

Then another two candidates would get the opportunity, until every candidates has had at least two opportunities to give detailed responses under the pressure imposed by the responses of the other candidate.

It's compact, challenging and intelligent. It'll never happen.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hillary Plants A Question In YouTube-CNN Debate?

Hillary, much criticized for planting questions (here, here), apparently succeeded in planting one tonight in the YouTube-CNN GOP debate.

The question, on the candidates' position on gays in the military, was asked by retired brigadier general Keith Kerr, who lived in the closet throughout his 40-year service to the country.

Kerr is much more than a YouTube video submitter who got his question about the candidate's position on gays in the military on tonight's debate.

He's even much more than being, to my knowledge, the only non-candidate, citizen advocate of a radical position to be given the microphone for several minutes during a nationally televised debate -- not to answer or ask a question, but to harangue.

What Kerr really is is an official part of Hillary's team, having served on her lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender steering committee. The CNN news release attempts to gloss over this scandal in the making, saying only:

A retired brigadier general Keith Kerr, who is gay, asked candidates if they thought U.S. military personnel were professional enough to work with gay and lesbian troops.

CNN later learned that Kerr served on Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender steering committee.

Note CNN refers to Kerr's role on the task force in the past-tense, "served," but a news release dated June 2007 shows Kerr as a member of the task force as recently as less than six months ago. If indeed Kerr is no longer a member of the task force, is it because his question was selected, so he temporarily stepped down? That would be Clintonesque.

The CNN release also says the network learned of this affiliation "later," but doesn't bother to explain how they learned of it or when. Does "later" mean after the debate aired? Before or after they handed Kerr the mike?

Who know what when? It's probable, with all the gays, lesbians and probably transgenders employed at CNN, and with the support Hillary gets from highly placed CNN execs, that there would be awareness of her GLT task force in CNN's news room. Therefore, I'd like CNN to support its position that they found out "later."

Update: Instapundit reports,
"MORE: An on-air apology from Anderson Cooper, saying that CNN didn't know that Gen. Kerr was on Hillary's steering committee: "If we had known that we would have disclosed it before using the question, if we used the question at all."
So perhaps it was an innocent mistake by CNN -- but was it a deliberate plant by Hil's campaign?

This episode reveals a weakness in the YouTube debate format. Clearly, more policing is needed, and just as clearly, we can't trust the MSM to do it.

It's worth continuing to work to improve the format, because it is superior to the sorry excuse for what passes for debates today. Because the media has cast itself as the moderator, directing what will be asked of whom, in what order, the debates are fatally flawed by the preening peacocks who stink up the process with their cheap-cologne-like egos, and not-so-hidden biases.

In the YouTube debate, Anderson Cooper's on-camera role is simply that of celebrity host with a bit of traffic cop thrown in. That's a massive improvement of format -- but with this revelation of Kerr's background, we see that Cooper's off-camera role of selecting which 30 or so of the 5,000 submitted videos (up from 3,000 in the Dem debate!), it's obvious CNN has too much power, and that the network obviously is not capable of handling that power responsibly.

CNN -- and the Clinton campaign -- have some tough questions to answer.

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The Snowmanization Of Presidential Politics

Mitt Romney may be answering questions from a snowman after all.

That was his quip when he said earlier in the year he didn't want to follow the Dems into a CNN-YouTube debate, referring to a YouTube clip that made the cut, allowing a talking snowman to ask the Dem Prez candidates about global warming.

Romney wanted the prez race to be held to a higher standard -- uh, with Kucinich and Paul in the running? -- but the standard gets dropped tonight.

Writing in Politico, Garrett Graff says "the 2008 election will be the first one dominated and shaped heavily by the issues and technologies of the 21st century — from YouTube and MySpace online to China's rise and information age educational reforms."

It is, he thinks, the triumph of the interesting over the boring.

But is it? And if it is, is that a good thing?

We kid ourselves if we think this format allows the people to speak. In August, over 3,000 submitted videos got winnowed down to 37 that were used; winnowed not by the people, but by the gatekeepers.

Anderson Cooper and his staff decided what should be asked and what should not. They supposedly went for a mix of entertainment and policy -- but who's to know what they left behind and why they left it there?

It's the same old MSM-driven system, but the system has found citizens to ask the questions the system wants asked. As such, it's all packaging and the substance stays the same.

Granted, it's more interesting to have two lesbians from Brooklyn, Mary Matthews and Jen Weidenbaum, ask the candidates if they would allow the to be married than to have Anderson Cooper (who reportedly would be personally interested in the answer) ask it. But it's the same question in a different package, and it drew the same packaged answers from the Dem Prez wannabees.

I sympathize with Romney. I would like a more elegant campaign. Bring back the Lincoln-Douglas debates, which were real debates, with some 30 hours of back and forth, in depth, without a blow-dried moderator intervening.

But woe, that is not to be, at least not in this race or the next. Maybe sometime in some new and improved America.

But for now, we have two options: The standard, fatally flawed format of preening questioners and parrying responders, or a slightly more vital and fun, but still imperfect, format of YouTube questioners and parrying responders.

It's hardly the ideal, but I'm with Graff if the format draws more people, especially young people, into the political process.

Bring on YouTube. Goodbye, Cooper, hello Frosty.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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Wednesday Reading

Here's the Watcher of Weasel's smorgblogsboard for your reading pleasure. The Watcher's Council has nominated:

Council links:

  1. The Never-ending U.D. Thought-control Saga
    The Colossus of Rhodey
  2. Carnage
    Done With Mirrors
  3. The Visual Imagery Society
    The Glittering Eye
  4. Today's Non Sequitur: San Fran's Bohemian Intolerance
    The Education Wonks
  5. Legacy of Legacies
    Soccer Dad
  6. The Gap Between Critics and the Rest of Us
    Bookworm Room
  7. Arabs Coming To Annapolis
    Rhymes With Right
  8. "Apt Natural -- I Have a Gub"
    Big Lizards
  9. Dealing With Disinformation
  10. Still No Evidence 9/11 Nuts Rule
    Cheat Seeking Missiles
  11. Buchanan's New Book: “Prepare Ye for the End”
    Right Wing Nut House
Non-council links:
  1. Bowling with Others
    Commentary Magazine
  2. One Lesson from Life of Logan Man: History Matters
    Better Living: Thoughts from Mark Daniels
  3. A Remarkable Disconnect From Context and Causation
  4. Another Victory for Colorblind Government Policy
    La Shawn Barber's Corner
  5. What's Happening on the "Street"
    West Bank Mama
  6. The American Non-Empire
    Captain's Quarters
  7. America Magazine: Two Items on Summorum Pontificum: A Jeer and a Reflection
    What Does The Prayer Really Say?
  8. 50,000 By November?
    Captain's Quarters (2)
  9. US Withholding Reports That Are Critical of Abu Mazen's "Security Forces"
    Israel Matzav
  10. Letter from the Front: Turkey Day in Tikrit
    Michelle Malkin
  11. Outrage in Annapolis
    Eternity Road
  12. Have Our Copperheads Found Their McClellan in Retired LTG General Sanchez?
    Wolf Howling
  13. Hugo the Truther
Council members vote Thursday; results will be posted here Friday p.m. Happy reading, and thanks, Watcher, for the delicious spread! No left-overs here!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quote Of The Day: Dark Green Edition

"What is at risk is not the climate but freedom…I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning."
-- Vaclav Klaus

Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic knows a threat to freedom when he sees it, and he calls this one right. If given power, Greenies won't just tell us how to live (meager, drab, constrained lives), they'll tell us where to live as well (crammed into dark and dangerous urban cores, while nature again takes over the beautiful spaces).

My only gripe with Klaus' quote is his use of "ambitious environmentalism," because "ambition" is not an inherently negative word. I would substitute "radical," "doctrinaire," or -- just to get their goat -- "fundamentalist."

Hat-tip: Mark Steyn via Hatless in Hattiesburg

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Our Crumbling Civilization: Sick Santa Edition

I don't even know how to write this. How do you tell people that in New York there's a place one can buy a ... a ... a ... Santa With Butt-Plug to mark the holiday season? For $100, yet?

This past Easter, it was Chocolate Jesus, now we have to suffer through a chocolate Santa with a butt-plug. Is there a lower basement our culture can settle down into?

Here's the photo and the story, which unfortunately for America's reputation ran in the Times of London:
Is it a raunchy festive talking-point? Is it a work of art? Whatever it is, the $100, 10in tall chocolate Santa with Butt Plug is the talk of chic New York - and is delicious, even if the sugar rush could keep you awake.
I'm not 100% clear what one would use a butt-plug for, and please don't tell me. It's enough to know that this little bit of sickness is the creation of one Paul McCarthy, "the 62-year-old Los Angeles-based artist whose reputation was forged in the 1970s with performances that involved him rolling about on the floor, filling his pants with tuna and cramming his mouth with frankfurters."

The Times said "artist," not me. Shoot me, but I still feel artists create works that lift us up and inspire us, not works that exist only to outdo the last abomination foisted on us by the likes of McCarthy.

McCarty is selling his Sick Santa's in a gallery run by Michele Maccarone (say the name, don't just read it). Yes, a gallery, not a store, because this is art, you know. One thousand buyers thus far, many of them "art cognosenti" tell us it's art, as does The Times:
It’s all part of [McCarthy's] stream of thoughts about the infantilism of much contemporary culture, of how it all leads back to ingesting and defecating, to food and sex and toilet training.
Shudder. I actually agree with McCarthy: Much of contemporary culture is infantile indeed. But I bemoan the fact; I don't go around celebrating it by turning a revered childhood symbol of giving into a ass-inine attack on what's left of our culture.

And since you may be thinking, "What good is a chocolate sex toy anyway," and thereby contributing all the more to society's slide into hedonism, I'll leave it to Maccarone to explain:
“Well, if you want to break this off and stick it . . . I wonder. It might work . . . I haven’t tried."
It appears there remains room for Maccarone to get sicker still.

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Whip Inflation Now, Mugabe Style

Any guess what the inflation rate in the once paradisiacal country of Zimbabwe was last month? 100%? 1,000%? 10,000%? I'll have the probable answer in a minute.

It's anyone's guess, really, as the Times of London reports:

Zimbabwe can no longer calculate the rate of inflation because there are not enough goods left in the shops to allow price comparisons, the Central Statistical Office claimed yesterday.

Moffat Nyoni, the Director of the CSO, said that it had been impossible to compile reliable data for the past month because of “the unavailability of required information such as prices of goods, due to their shortage on the formal market”.

Robert Mugabe's single-handed destruction of the former Rhodesia now appears to be nearly complete. Of course we've said that before, only to find that the inventive despot can find new ways to make things worse. He has won the record as the world's current foremost example of why countries and markets should be free.

The inflation rate? Well, figures leaked to the paper peg it at 14,840%, up from 8,000% last month -- this as the Carteresque Mugabe assures his countrymen nation of prisoners that his government is whipping inflation. At least that's what he says when he's not whipping the businessmen who refuse to go along with his solution to inflation: Forcing retail price drops below the cost of goods.

And you wonder why they can't find enough goods on the shelves to get a reading of what the inflation rate is?

Mugabe takes not one whit of blame for this mess, blaming inflation instead on a conspiracy of Zimbabwe's battered business community and the African version of the bogeyman -- "Western governments" -- who are conspiring to create economic chaos, forcing Mugabe from office.

That's not a bad idea, actually, and I hope the CIA Africa desk at Langely is elbows deep in such a conspiracy ... if indeed anyone but a nation's leadership can manufacture inflation. I think that would be tough because inflation is, in one sense, a measure of a populace's faith in its government; the higher the inflation, the lower the trust.

The solution, then, appears obvious: Change the government.

Of course we've said that before, too, only to find that the inventive despot can find new ways to hang onto power.

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Putin Loves That Ol' Soviet Style

With an election coming up, Vladamir Putin wants to make sure his United Russia party makes a good showing; anything less would be embarrassing and detrimental to his daydream of re-establishing the old Soviet-style government. So ...
MOSCOW (AP) - With the Kremlin determined to see a high turnout in Sunday's election, many Russians say they are being pressured to vote at work under the watchful eyes of their bosses or risk losing their jobs.

They say they also are being told to provide lists of relatives and friends who will vote for United Russia, the party of President Vladimir Putin.

United Russia is expected to win handily. But Putin has turned the parliamentary elections into a plebiscite on his rule, and the Kremlin appears to be pushing for nothing short of a landslide. ...

"The plebiscite will become a mockery if only slightly more than half of the people vote and if only 60 percent of those vote for United Russia," as the latest opinion polls predict, political analyst Alexei Makarkin said.

In one example cited in the article, a school teacher says her school's administration got absentee ballots for the entire staff, and they will meet on Sunday to cast them together, under the watchful, totalitarian gaze of their union boss. And that's not all, by a long shot:

Similar accounts have been given by teachers, doctors, factory workers and others around the country. Some have said they were warned they would lose their jobs if they did not comply.

Hundreds of people have called an election hot line to complain about the use of absentee ballots, the Central Elections Commission said in a summary of the complaints posted on its Web site.

Some complaints came from hospital patients, who said they had been threatened with early discharge if they did not produce absentee ballots.

Election officials have promised to investigate ... as soon as they mark their absentee ballots while their bosses look on.

Next up: Military hardware on display in Red Square next May 1?

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My Money And Arab Investments

We are in the process of switching all our accounts, corporate and personal, from Wells Fargo to Citibank, the result of some mighty poor customer service from Wells Fargo following about 15 years of giving them our money to play with.

So imagine my thrill when I read this:

Citigroup Inc., seeking to restore investor confidence amid massive losses due in credit markets and a lack of permanent leadership, is receiving a $7.5 billion capital infusion from the investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government.

The investment by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will help rebuild Citigroup's capital levels, which have been eroded by a credit crunch that began in the summer. ....

As a result of the deal, the investment authority known as ADIA will become one of Citigroup's largest shareholders, with a stake of no more than 4.9%. The stake will exceed that of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, long known as one of Citigroup's largest shareholders, according to a person familiar with the situation. (WSJ)
So the new investment along with bin Talal's longstanding stake, means my bank may be up to 10 percent Arab owned.

Actually, that makes me feel pretty good. As noted below, Koran Kraziness is a pretty sick disease, but here we see some mighty big Muslim dudes heavily investing in an entity that makes most of its money by charging interest, in defiance of said Book That Shall Not Be Flushed.

Either we'll see the board of ADIA and bin Talal bend over to get their 40 lashes, or we'll see a force for moderation within Islam. Neither would upset me much.

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The Religion of Peace, Anger, Intolerance And Racism

Name a teddy bear Jesus and get 40 lashes? I don't think so. But then Christianity is a much more fun-loving religion than Islam, where teddy bear names can indeed lead to really big owies:
A British teacher is facing 40 lashes in a Sudanese jail if convicted of insulting Islam's prophet by letting children name a teddy bear Mohammed.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was arrested on suspicion of blasphemy on Sunday.

Ms Gibbons allowed her class of seven-year-olds at the Unity High School in Khartoum to name a teddy bear Mohammed as part of a lesson about animals' habitats.
Apparently Mohammed does not s*** in the woods.
Mohammed is sacred to Islamic philosophy and the penalty for blasphemy is 40 lashes, a large fine or a jail term. The British Embassy in Khartoum confirmed the arrest.

A source close to the school said one teacher was angered by the naming of the teddy bear and complained to the headmistress. (Sky News)
If you ask me, the Khartoum Krazies are being way too lenient. Sure, give Gibbons her lashes, but lash those pesky seven-year-olds, too. They're the ones who named the bear, for cryin' out loud (which, one gathers, they would if held to the same standard as Gibbons).

All this fanaticism over images of Mohammed are based on nothing more than this, from chapter 42, verse 11 of The Book That Shall Not Be Flushed: "[Allah is] the originator of the heavens and the earth... [there is] nothing like a likeness of Him." For that, embassies are burned, teachers are lashed and the cultural norms of most of the world are spit on by angry and intolerant Muslims.

They are more than angry and intolerant, though. Sky News quotes Hassan Aberdeen, a researcher at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies:
"This could be more to do with who is saying it than what is being said. It might not have been an issue if this was a Sudanese person. The fact that this was a European teacher is highly likely to be one of the key causes."
Nice, huh? Add racist to Islam's ills.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Anti-War Hollywood Update

It just dawned on my I've been terribly unfair to Redacted, Brian De Palma's strident anti-war flick. I last wrote that it opened 50th at the box office in limited release, but I never checked back to see how it's doing in broader release.

Guess what? There is no broader release.

On Box Office Mojo's rankings for the last weekend, the film simply does not appear at all. Box office oblivion.

But there is this expected fact: International box office is now almost 300 percent of U.S. box office for the film. Beware,though, because you can play statistical mischief with small numbers. The film's U.S. box office is a stunning stunted $25,628; it's global take is now at $71,968.

Adding insult to infantile anti-Americanism, the film's ranking among BOM's readers slipped from D- to F.

Meanwhile, the most successful of the anti-war films, Lions for Lambs, fell 61% over the previous week, dropping from 8th to 13th. Not even Redford, Streep and Cruise can keep this diatribe running for more than three weeks.

BOM readers gave it a D, by the way.

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Y.O.U.E.* Riot In France (Again)

Youths Of Unknown Ethnicity rioted last night in France.

The Telegraph's report wanders to the 16th of its 17 paragraphs before tossing in the word "immigrant," as close as the story gets to accurately reporting on another round of Muslim youth riots in France.

The circumstances are familiar. In 2005, two youths fleeing police were electrocuted when they cut through an electrical substation, sparking (pardon the pun) a season of burned cars, wrecked businesses, and cell phone-managed hit-and-run attacks that drove the French crazy.

Last night, two youths on a moped and a police car collided, generating a night of the same sort of havoc.

And on both occasions, the press was hard pressed to be honest about who was rioting, focusing on economics not ethnicity or religion. These may indeed be riots stemming in part from France's economic and social bias against Muslim immigrants, but they cannot be wholly and fairly reported unless what's preached at the local mosques is also reported.

Anyway, here's the police car that was involved in the collision with the moped. Apparently it was chasing the Y.O.U.E.s at high speed, passed them, whipped a speedy U-turn, and hit them head-on.

Will this be enough evidence of false rioting to allow the Sarkozy government to bring a quick stop to the unrest? If not, will Sarkozy deal with the rioting more effectively than his predecessor? Will the media ever use the phrase "Muslim youths?"

Stay tuned.

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Unintended Consequences And Sen. Lott

News that Trent Lott is leaving his very effective job as Senate Minority Whip is bad news for the GOP on Capitol Hill. Thus far, the GOP has been able to outmaneuver many a dangerous or counterproductive Dem initiatives thanks to the superior skills of seasoned warriors like Lott and Mitch McConnell.

Politico and other outlets report that Lott is retiring before the end of the year in order to avoid new restrictions that would prevent him from lobbying for two years. For that, we lose his leadership through 2012.

Ask yourself this: Would Lott be any more a threat to the integrity of government if he had to wait just one year, as the current law requires, instead of two? What exactly is gained from a two-year restriction that a one-year restriction does not already provide? Nothing except financial hardship for Senators and Representatives who have long labored for less dough than most of them could have made in the private sector.

Like term limits, most high-minded anti-corruption legislation does nothing to stop corruption -- the corrupt will always find ways to work the system; only the non-corrupt will be hurt -- while depriving city councils, statehouses and Congress of the seasoned leaders we need.

Of course, the leftyblogs will mark the occasion by dredging up the unfortunate and much overblown comment Lott made in 2002 at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday, when he said America would not "have had all these problems" if Thurmond had become president. They may even throw in some lefty closet anti-gay jibes by reminding us that Lott was an Ole Miss cheerleader. To see Lott's comment as racist, one must be a bigot, and unfortunately, most of the Left is.

Fine. We'll write about Monica every time we mention Bill.

But the real news about Lott today isn't what he said in 2002; it's that Congress is continuing to create new problems (think McCain/Feingold) instead of effectively addressing corruption.

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Those Hated Imperialist Americans

As you may have heard, corporate greed drove America to invade Iraq, where now our troops spill their blood -- and wantonly spill the blood of civilians -- for oil, occupying and repressing a nation in defiance of the U.N. as part of America's imperialist ambitions.

Right. And now this word from our sponsor, Reality:
BAGHDAD - Iraq's government is prepared to offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq and preferential treatment for American investments in return for an American guarantee of long-term security including defense against internal coups, The Associated Press learned Monday.

The proposal, described to the AP by two senior officials familiar with the issue, is one of the first indications that the United States and Iraq are beginning to explore what their relationship might look like, once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence.

As part of the package, the Iraqis want an end to the current U.N.-mandated multinational forces mission, and also an end to all U.N.-ordered restrictions on Iraq's sovereignty.

Iraq has been living under some form of U.N. restriction since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the officials said.

American troops and other foreign forces now operate in Iraq under a U.N. Security Council mandate, which has been renewed annually since 2003. Iraqi officials have have said they want that next renewal -- which must be approved by the U.N. Security Council by the end of this year -- to be the last.

Do you suppose this might be the story most ignored by the Left ... or do you more correctly suppose that they'll simply see it as evidence of "our puppet government in Baghdad" and add it to their collection of false myths and outright lies?

I'm betting on the latter.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Starry Eyed About Global Warming

His head are in the stars when they should be on earth.

Australia's new PM Kevin Rudd is set to dispatch Australia down the road to Warmie hysteria, with his top aide saying Rudd's off to Bali next month to sign the Aussies into Kyoto:
A day after Rudd announced he was preparing to attend a major conference on global warming in Bali next month, his deputy Julia Gillard said their Labor Party would immediately honour a campaign promise to ratify Kyoto.

"Kevin will be making that decision but you can expect it to be very soon. We need to ratify Kyoto as part of our commitments to dealing with climate change," she told Australian television. (AFP)
Yeah, that's a great idea. Pour all your resources into global warming at the expense of your economy or other good causes like freeing Africa of malaria and what do you get for it? You cut greenhouse gas by such an insignificant amount that global warming's impact is delayed a few days.

Of course, Rudd's got John Howard to thank for this victory and his stroll down the global warming highway. If Howard hadn't given the Aussies year after year of economic prosperity, they would have more important things to be doing with themselves today than tipping at windmills.

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Sunday Scan

Bad News For Cal. GOP

Everyone worth their political salt knows grassroots campaigning is key, so when a state party cuts its funding of its county kingpins -- the roots of the grassroots program -- you know they're in trouble. Welcome to the California Republican party:
At a regular scheduled meeting on November 16, the California Republican Party axed its counties "Executive Director" program because of the lackluster fundraising operation and the ongoing financial problems plaguing the organization. When Ron Nehring ... took over the party's chairmanship in the aftermath of the '06 election, the CRP's treasury was in red, with nearly $4 million in debt left behind by Duf Sundheim. (Red County)
The $260,000 a year program paid part of the salary of county GOP Executive Directors, whose primary job is to grow the party.

California has always been liberal, but it gave us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in days gone by ... make that day long gone by. With a liberal Republican in the statehouse, the conservative California GOP has lost its way; no, with this news we see that it is still losing its way and there's a way to go before the way back to strength is found.

Speaking Of Our RINO Governor

How liberal is the Republican in the California statehouse? How about this liberal, as described by Bakersfield Californian columnist Marylee Shriver:
Despite all his tough talk about securing borders and immigration reform, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month signed AB 976, making California the first state in the union to prohibit landlords from asking tenants about their immigration status.

Talk about your dubious distinctions.

Not a single Senate or Assembly Republican voted in support of the bill, but the governor -- never one to fret over party loyalties -- signed anyway. (source)

This is a no-brainer. You have individual property rights and maintaining a semblance of respect for federal law on one side of the ledger and collapsing before the lobbyists for illegals on the other ... and Arnie sides with Big Government taking away individual rights.

Shriver, whose conservative viewpoint always makes her column a joy to read, wraps it up nicely:

... Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Industry, penned the new bill anyway, slamming [a similar] Escondido ordinance for targeting "people of color." It didn't. It targeted illegal immigrants, but such rhetoric surely grabs at the hearts of landlords who fear the threat of possible legal reprisals.

The problem now is Calderon's bill actually forbids landlords to even ask prospective tenants about their citizenship status.

"The point of asking is so landlords can protect their financial assets from someone who is more likely to flee the country," Fuller said. "This bill is a special protection to a person who does not have legal status and is breaking immigration laws."

Getting the Message ... Sort Of

Yesterday, the NYT acknowledged what I wrote about last week in my Watcher's Council winner of a post:
But the changing situation [in Iraq] suggests for the first time that the politics of the war could shift in the general election next year, particularly if the gains continue. While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war — a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters — they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military.
How do you stay defeatist and hope to win? How do you demand withdrawal without admitting that victory, even when it appears to be increasingly within reach, is not as important to you as embarrassing W?

Here's how the primary Dem Prez candidates are punting:
  • Hillary: Won't say how large or how fast a withdrawal, but she supports the concept of withdrawal. Natch.
  • Obama: Favors the withdrawal of one or two brigades a month.
  • Edwards: Favors immediate withdrawal.
So the Dems still think the way to piece peace is premature withdrawal, which may prove a poor prophylactic to electoral defeat if victory continues to grow closer in Iraq.

Unable to continue to lay the blame for failure on the military, they are now clinging to the last desperate hope that the Iraqis will fail to establish a viable government. But now that the sectarian violence is diminishing, the likelihood that the Dems will lose that last crumbing toehold of a defeatist philosophy is increasing. Not surprisingly, that hasn't changed their message any; they remain steadfastly behind defeat in Iraq.

Differing Shades of Green

Green is great -- as long as it doesn't include that iridescent light green we associate with comic book renderings of nuclear power.

Case in point. The nice deep green was recently adopted as the County colors for Ventura County in CA, as county supervisors passed a new green ordinance they hope will make Ventura the venerated green leader nationally. The ordinance requires such things as biodiesel in all city diesel-fueled equipment, environmentally safe cleaning products, retrofitting city buildings to qualify for LEED standards, and eliminating Styrofoam.

But embrace nuclear power as the only technology capable of large-scale energy generation today without significant greenhouse gas emissions? Not a chance. California GOP Assemblyman Chuck Devore found that out as he realized his proposed ballot initiative that would have streamlined the development of nuclear power plants in the state did not have the support needed to pass.

Here's part of Devore's interview with FlashReport:
With the initiative filed, we were able to do two statewide polls, following on to a statewide poll done in July by a group of nuclear power supporters out of Fresno. The Fresno poll showed the public backing nuclear power by a margin of 52-42 - encouraging, to be sure, but not enough to launch a successful statewide ballot initiative. Our follow up polls showed the same public opinion climate: slight support for nuclear power.

Further, our polling showed that when voters where given the facts on the pro-nuclear side and the arguments against nuclear power, that there was a modest improvement in support for nuclear power. This was all encouraging, but the standard rule of thumb in California initiatives is that, to be successful in the face of well-funded opposition, an initiative has to start out with support in the mid- to high-60s.

We therefore decided that the time was not yet right to push to bring an initiative lifting the nuclear ban to the ballot. Discretion is the better part of valor.
Syria Wiggles

Last week, it was the news that Syria has suddenly begun closing its border to jihad-crazed Islamists wanting to enter heaven via Baghdad. Now, a new sign that Assad's toy country is still unable to resist the gravitational pull of America's global strength:
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Syria announced Sunday that it will attend the Annapolis summit on Mideast peace, saying it would send its deputy foreign minister because the future of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights had been put on the agenda.

The official news agency, SANA, said Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad would travel to the U.S.-backed conference, a decision made "after the Syria track was added to the conference agenda," the agency said. Syria had said it will attend only if the conference discusses the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed.
Funny thing, though: The Golan Heights aren't on the agenda. The White House stated that the Golan Heights were "not specifically on the agenda" but attendees would be able to freely raise issues. So if you see Mekdad in the media coverage, look carefully to see if his tail is between his legs.

Now if we could just get Syria to pay attention to us on Lebanon ...

Why We Call It Climate Change

Greenie Watch spotted this:
If last season was one for Europe's skiers to forget, the coming months on the slopes look more propitious than in recent memory, thanks to large snowfalls in recent days.The white windfall, although confined to the northern Alps and omitting France, prompted some Swiss and Austrian resorts to open early. Heavy snow forecast for the southern Alps on Saturday and Sunday might trigger the same there, as ski operators on both sides of Europe's mountain divide strive to make up for the misery of last season, when poor conditions and abnormally high temperatures prompted widespread fears about global warming.
Of course, it was perfectly all right for the media to clang the global warming hysteria gong last year, but this year we will all be warned that a single year does not a trend make. Still, here's what Swiss meteorologist Jacques Ambuehl said about this winter thus far:
"Last week's snowfalls were certainly quite extreme. We have no record, especially at mid altitudes, of such an event in the past.

Burma 101

History News Network provides us this week with a lengthy article by Donald M. Seekins, professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Japan's Meio University on the history of repression and defiance in Burma, showing how the regime's inept demonitization program of 1988 was a mirror of its fuel price hike in 2007: Same loony ineptness, same cavalier attitude about the financial condition of the populace, same uprising, same brutal quelling of the uprising.

The piece is informative, but anything but hopeful. The best Seekins an offer in terms of resolution is:
  • Smart sanctions that target the ruling elite, not the people -- you know, prohibitions on single malt scotch, fine watches and the despots' ever-popular entertainment of choice, American porn.
  • Pressure on China, which Seekins acknowledges is likely to go nowhere.
  • More cooperation among Burma's neighbors, which Seekins sees a probably unattainable.
  • Greater prominence of Burma on the U.N. agenda, even though China and Russia will continue to veto any real progress.
In other words, barring a miracle, Burma will continue to be a hell-hole for years to come.

Risks Of Teen Binge Drinking

Finally, since the Christmas decorations are calling, it's time to draw this to a close, with a warning about teenage binge drinking.

I doubt if many C-SM readers are teenagers awakening today with binge-fired splitting hangovers, but if so, take heed. And parents, friends and relatives of teenage binge drinkers take heed as well:
Binge drinking by teens and young adults is linked with increased long-term risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, a U.S. study found.

Senior author Dr. Marcia Russell of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Berkeley, Calif., says the risk is lower in people who start drinking alcohol later in life and maintain more moderate drinking patterns.

The study, scheduled to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, suggests that the increased health risks were independent of the total amount of alcohol consumed over a lifetime, or whether or not people stopped or curtailed drinking as they matured. (source)

Come to think of it, I should take heed as well -- and not just because I have young daughters. I haven't touched alcohol for a decade or so, but did binge in my youth. So far, the ticker and the blood sugar are fine, though, so I hope I'm an exception to this rule ... but not as much as I wish I had been wiser in my youth.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Still No Evidence 9/11 Nuts Rule

I will never refer those who think the US government is behind the attacks on our country on September 11, 2001 as "9/11 Truthers" because from a messaging point of view, the term yields the high ground to the disgusting whackos. So, I'm not happy to pass along this bit of news:
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the federal government had warnings about 9/11 but decided to ignore them, a national survey found. ...

Sixty-two percent of those polled thought it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials turned a blind eye to specific warnings of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Only 30 percent said the 9/11 theory was "not likely," according to the Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. (NYPost)

Of course, the poll is useless because it phrased its questions to sensationalize rather than gain understanding. It certainly doesn't show that 62% of Americans accept the insane, paranoid, anti-American rantings of the Truthers. Specifically:
  • What percent of those answering yes believe a routine transmittal within the intelligence agencies may have been lost in the paperwork?

  • What percentage of those answering yes believe a source that wasn't credible provided information that was ignored for seemingly good reason?

  • What percentage of those answering yes are aware of the many, many threats against America made by bin Laden and others; threats that seemed like huff and puff at the time, but turned out to be significant?
Unless polls ask follow-up questions like that to discern what percentage of people who answer "yes" to the question really think that senior U.S. officials knowingly allowed 3,000 people to die because it furthered their foreign policy and personal wealth objectives, and that the legions of operatives required to carry out the diabolical scheme have remained silent, we will not know what percentage of Americans have sadly fallen into the grip of the Truthers.

Designing polls right so they yield this level of understanding is not the exception; it's the routine. But this poll was designed by the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, so sensationalism clearly was more important than objectivity.

Scripps Howard has not posted a link to the survey instrument itself, which used to be fairly routine, but now stands out as particularly guarded and lacking transparency. If we dig deep into the Scripps Howard coverage of the poll, we find down in paragraph nine that "16 percent of Americans speculate that secretly planted explosives, not burning passenger jets, were the real reason the massive twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed."

That's a fairly good indicator of crazed conspiracy buy-in, but the one Truther I'm friends with believes explosives were planted, but doesn't necessarily believe that the U.S. was the one planting them ... so even a 16% whacko factor may well be nothing more than poor polling resulting in overstatement.

Still, the poll undeniably shows that a significant percentage of Americans believe in anti-government conspiracies. It shows, for example, a narrow majority believes the government is aware of the real truth of the Kennedy assassination and is keeping it secret, and about a third believe the government is keeping knowledge of UFOs and aliens secret.

These likely Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich voters can never answer the question "Why?" Why would no one ever break the silence -- especially on Kennedy or Roswell after all these years? Why did Bush want war in Iraq when he didn't campaign on it?

And most important of all, why would people who have dedicated their lives to serving the most freedom-loving, most transparent government on the planet suddenly stop loving freedom and create elaborate cover-ups of crimes against the country they serve?

Don't count on Scripps Howard to provide any answers.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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Aussie Vote Heard In Kyoto, Bali

The apparent defeat of Australian Liberal (i.e., Conservative) prime minister John Howard (fittingly on the right in this photo) by Labor's Kevin Rudd has its Iraq implications, but may be more significant in global warming politics.

Howard is, of course, a Bush ally on both. Rudd, looking reality in the eye like our serious Dem Prez candidates are, has not made any rash promises about pulling out of Iraq; rather, he talks only of pulling out some troops. Nancy and Harry, are you paying attention?

On global warming, though, Rudd has promised to sign the Kyoto Protocol, even though the protocol would bring massive reductions in international productivity with virtually no signficant atmospheric changes. Still, with Australia presumably joining the lemmings, Bush will find himself even more isolated when world leaders gather in Bali to discuss how to replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012.

Howard has overseen eleven and a half years of an unprecedented 17-year boom in the Australian economy. Much of the economy's strength can be attributed to Howard's undoing of Labor's big-government restrictions on the economy in favor of a free market approach. The results have been stunning -- so successful that the biggest economic worrys Australia faces is how to manage the boom.

Rudd has promised to follow in Howard's laissez faire footsteps -- but how can you do that while imposing mandatory limits on your economy, as Kyoto requires? Show me an economy without greenhouse gases and I'll show you a failing economy.

Before Rudd tanks the Australian economy in the name of Climate Change Fundamentalism, he might want to question the dogma of the faith a bit, as Malcolm Duncan did recently in Australia's Web Diary. Reading through the UN's IPCC report, Duncan wrote:

Let’s look at how reasonable this science is. Despite all the rhetoric, as all good science does, this document is hedged with qualifications.

First there is the assertion (p 2):

Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores (my emphasis)

Yet the explanation given includes this:

The annual carbon dioxide concentration growth-rate was larger during the last 10 years (1995-2005 average: 1.9 ppm per year) than it has been since the beginning of continuous atmospheric measurements (1960-2005 average 1.4 ppm per year) although there is year-to-year variability in growth rates

That’s right: they’ve only been doing serious continuous measurements since 1960.

A footnote says:

Climate Change in IPCC usage refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

Hmmm, so we’re not necessarily talking about human activity as a factor. In the rest of the report, that just gets glossed over and of course it is ignored by every Climate Change nutter activist and journalist who says anything about the issue. (hat-tip: Greenie Watch)

Duncan's piece goes on through quite a few more wiggle-words and conflicting statements, to the point one must wonder why Australians would willingly buy into the global warming hysteria and put their economic well-being at risk.

In Rudd's election, we have the set up of a perfect global warming experiment. We won't be measuring greenhouse gases; we'll be tracking an economy that was healthy as it enters the world of mandatory controls required to comply with Kyoto. Will it stay healthy? Will it fail?

Hint: Most Kyoto signatories have simply ignored the protocol's requirements, so my guess is the Australian experiment may well prove inconclusive.

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Stalin Vs. Chavez

Leftist students who revere the state torturer Che and spout off on doctrines of collectivism and state planning as if these very doctrines weren't already in history's dustbin bother me to no end. How interesting to find that I am joined in that reaction by Hugo Chavez, the supposed darling of the Left.

How do Penn, Glover & Co. square their fondness for Chavez with the fact that Hugo's most vocal and threatening opponents are college leftists -- their support base here at home?

The WSJ tells the story by cuing off on the curiously named leader of the Venezuelan student movement against Chavez:
As Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez attempts to push through what he calls 21st-Century Socialism, his biggest obstacle is an army of students led by a leftist named Stalin.

Ivan Stalin González, who prefers to be called just plain Stalin, is president of the student body at the Central University of Venezuela, or UCV, Venezuela's biggest public university. During the past few weeks, Mr. González and other student leaders here have organized protest marches by tens of thousands of students opposed to a constitutional referendum set for Dec. 2. The proposed changes would dramatically expand Mr. Chávez's power and allow him to seek perpetual re-election.

"Historically, students have represented the hope and conscience of Venezuela," says Mr. González, who, unlike his bushy-moustached and sinister-mannered Soviet namesake, is scruffy-bearded and laid-back.
Young Stalin isn't really overstating the case that much. Throughout Latin America, student unions have a solid place in history. Fifty years ago, a student strike at UCV led ultimately to the downfall of Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, and in Cuba, Fidel Castro got his start as a student leader at the University of Havana.

Many Venezuelans are looking hopefully to UCV to spark a protest and save Venezuela from the Chavezocracy that will follow should Hugo prevail in the upcoming Dec. 2 referendum -- and that focus on the university's student leadership is exactly why the power-hungry young Stalin went to the school in the first place.

As you can imagine from his name, Stalin -- who has sisters named Ilych and and Engles -- was raised Red in a union-loving Communist household:
His father, a print-machine operator, was a high-ranking member of the Bandera Roja, or Red Flag, a hard-line Marxist-Leninist party that maintained a guerrilla force until as recently as the mid-1990s. Its members revered Josef Stalin as well as Albania's xenophobic Enver Hoxha. ...

As a young man, Mr. González burnished his leftist credentials, joining Marxist youth groups and following his father into the Bandera Roja. He traveled to Socialist youth conferences in Latin America.

Still seeking to make a life out of left-wing politics, Mr. González enrolled in 2001 at UCV. Rising in the ranks of the student body can be a fast track into political life, and as head of the 40,000-member student federation, his studies have taken a back seat to politics. He plans to graduate next year.
Poor Venezuela has Chavez on the one side, ready to install a dictatorship under a Socialist cover, and a power-hungry hard-core Communist on the other, wanting to take the nation down another path to another failed vision of Socialism. Either route is guaranteed to end in repression, as can be seen by how Stalin's factions treat their own opponents:
The law school's student-center room, a base for Chávez supporters, still smells of charred wood and plastic from a fire that recently destroyed it. Workmen are still cleaning up the School of Social Work. There, pro-Chávez students barricaded themselves for several hours during a standoff with a crowd of students, until a group of armed civilians on motorcycles intervened to allow the Chávez supporters to escape.
How interesting that Stalin's movement got its grip on the campuses by crystallizing the anti-Chávez sentiment that exploded six months ago, when Chavez pulled the plug on the independent television station RCTV. Free speech in May, followed by the repression of Chavez supporters in November.

How typically Leftist.

Still, in the cause of greater global freedom, Stalin Gonzalez can be a useful idiot, helping to remove a much more dangerous idiot from power. Then, we can hope, Gonzalez will swiftly follow Communism into historical obscurity, and Venezuela will be able to pursue a more perfect freedom.

Update: The Hoover Institute's William Ratliff predicts a Chavez victory in the referendum.

Update: Polls show Chavez has lost his lead; will lose.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The French Become More Likable

More good news out of France:

PARIS (Reuters) - The Paris prosecutors' office has dismissed a suit against Donald Rumsfeld accusing the former U.S. defense secretary of torture, human rights groups who brought the case said on Friday.

The plaintiffs, who included the French-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said Rumsfeld had authorized interrogation techniques that led to rights abuses.

The FIDH said it had received a letter from the prosecutors' office ruling that Rumsfeld benefited from a "customary" immunity from prosecution granted to heads of state and government and foreign ministers, even after they left office.

I would have liked to have had the decision based on more substantive reasons, like the techniques were not torture and the FIDH and CCR were ridiculously trumping up charges in pursuit not of human rights, but publicity.

Still, the dismissal is justified. Underlings -- far, far underlings -- way down the command chain from Rumsfeld were prosecuted for their crimes, which were against U.S. policy. And that should be the end of it ... unless grandstanding is your desire.

The French courts, it seems, will have none of that.

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Lebanon's Dreams Slipping Away

Syria's heavy hand has nearly completely extinguished the spark of a hope for freedom in Lebanon:
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) - President Emile Lahoud said Friday that Lebanon is in a "state of emergency" and ordered the army to take over security powers, hours before he was stepping down without a successor and leaving the divided country in a political vacuum. The government rejected the move, raising tensions.

Lahoud's announcement immediately raised further confusion amid Lebanon's political turmoil, which many fear could explode into violence between supporters of the government and the opposition.

The president cannot declare a state of emergency without approval from the government, but Lahoud's spokesman said the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is considered unconstitutional.

Lahoud, of course, is a puppet of Syria, hardly any more legitimate than Saniora. It would be helpful of AP to point that out.

The UN's mandate to disarm Hezbollah has gone nowhere, so behind this instability is a threatening force to whom bloody civil war seems an entirely desirable option. The days of the Cedar Revolution are far behind Lebanon now and the future looks bleak, indeed.

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Scary Scorpions

File this in the handy file you keep for reasons to be thankful we live now instead of 390 million years ago:
ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — The discovery of a giant fossilised claw from an ancient sea scorpion indicates that when alive it would have been about two and a half meters long, much taller than the average man.

This find, from rocks 390 million years old, suggests that spiders, insects, crabs and similar creatures were much larger in the past than previously thought.

As if this weren't scary enough, next we're treated to some really crazy quotesmanship from one of the docs:

Dr Simon Braddy from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol, co-author of an article about the find, said, 'This is an amazing discovery. We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies, but we never realised, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were.'

Why was such a large critter with such a large claw needed? The surprisingly witty story gives us the answer:
Some geologists believe that giant arthropods evolved due to higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere in the past. Others, that they evolved in an 'arms race' alongside their likely prey, the early armoured fish.
Arms race? Like a claw competition?

By the way, how did that extra oxygen get there without us to jack it up, as we're supposedly doing with greenhouse gases?

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Watcher's Winners

Hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving reading provided you by the Watcher of Weasels.

Winning the competition among Watcher's Council was ... me! My post, Charting a New Course in Iraq Messaging, eked out a win over Bookworm's Prophets in a Freudian Age, thanks to a tie-breaker vote by the Watcher.

I earn my keep with messaging -- what would be called "spin" if it weren't factual, sincere and respectful of the audience. Anyone with enough involvement in the world to be important is too smart to fall for spin, so messaging is needed to communicate policy and potential today. Politicians don't understand this -- hence the post on the Dems' new Iraq messaging.

Bookworm's piece on mental illness, street crazies, Mohammad and Jesus got my first place vote.

On the non-Council side, my second choice came in first and first came in second. First in the Council's eyes was The Irrationality of Europe from the Van Der Galien Gazette, followed by a deliciously funny The Ultimate War Simulation Game.

See all the winners here.

Thanks for the Thanksgiving reading feast, Watcher ... and for your vote, which provided a bit of special dessert for me.