Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I have a client going before the Coastal Commission next Wednesday, which means we are meeting from 8:30 to 5:30 every day to prep for it -- and we're worried about whether there will be enough time, so I'm bringing work home.

Such is the fate of consultants who deal with overzealous regulators.

You may have noticed a drop-off in the frequency of my posts. It will continue at least through our hearing ... then, hopefully, sanity and blogging breaks will return to my life.

Political Fundraising

This guy is so entrepreneurial that there's no reason he should be a bum:

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Department Of Homeland Insanity

Sometimes I wonder how we've made it since 9/11 without a terrorist attack on our shores, given the incredible incompetence of some of those tasked with protecting us. As reported in WashTimes:
Some federal air marshals have been denied entry to flights they are assigned to protect when their names matched those on the terrorist no-fly list, and the agency says it's now taking steps to make sure their agents are allowed to board in the future.

The problem with federal air marshals (FAM) names matching those of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list has persisted for years, say air marshals familiar with the situation.

One air marshal said it has been “a major problem, where guys are denied boarding by the airline.”

“In some cases, planes have departed without any coverage because the airline employees were adamant they would not fly,” the air marshal said. “I've seen guys actually being denied boarding.”

A second air marshal says one agent “has been getting harassed for six years because his exact name is on the no-fly list.”
Well, gee. They've only had six years to work out this thorny problem so maybe we should cut them some slack ... hey wait! That's longer than it took al-Qaeda to plan and carry out 9/11.

hat-tip: Urgent Agenda via Jim

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Fatal Energy Policies

"While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio," writes Thomas Friedman in today's NYT, "no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not."

Well, that's a biased way to present good news. It's not like First Solar shut down it Ohio operations and moved lock, stock and barrel to Germany. Rather, they saw a strong emerging market rich with government incentives and expanded their operations.

Friedman's overarching point -- that America needs a sound energy policy -- is correct, but he picks weird way to present it and ends up with a policy that panders to the Warmies and the expense of the consumers.

Friedman starts by picking a lousy example in First Solar. He wants the US to incentivize alternative energy, which is a somewhat good idea, so he focused his example on First Solar's German operations -- but he ignored the company's Malaysian plant because he certainly doesn't want call for cheap US labor.

And neither did he want to write about Ohio's crumbling infrastructure and rustbelt ways to drive up the cost of business. Otherwise, he might have mentioned that First Solar pulled up its roots last week and moved to Arizona.

Still, there's much I agree with in Friedman's analysis, starting with his dislike of the currently voguish drive to cut or eliminate federal gas taxes over the summer. His point -- that we're giving money to China to incentivize us to enjoy ourselves by driving our SUVs to vacation spots -- is sound on the China debt front, but elitist in how he wants to mandate our behavior. (He did not divulge the Friedman vacation plans, BTW.)

He is also correct that if it is our goal to use incentives to quicken the development and market penetration of renewable technologies, incentivizing the use of gasoline is not the way to do it, whether it's the McCain/Clinton tax cut idea, or all the existing credits that go oil's way.

I think reasonable incentives for alternative energy -- accelerated depreciation for alternative energy infrastructure, reduced regulatory burdens for "green" transmission corridors, tax credits for purchases -- are a good idea if they're carefully watched so they don't become permanent subsidies for successful businesses.

I'd go further, though, and say that all politically motivated federal give-aways -- the gas tax cut, Obama's college freebie or the checks the IRS mailed out last week -- send the wrong message. Government isn't in existence to dole out freebies, and whenever it does, it keeps the free market from making the adjustments necessary to sustain a sound economy.

Friedman also acts as if we have only one energy source available to us -- alternatives -- and wants to pretend we can just leave oil behind. Alternative energy is called alternative for a reason. There's a Big Daddy energy and then there are these yapping alternatives that say they can replace Big Daddy, but they're hardly out of diapers.

If we worry, as we should and Friedman does, about our increasing debt to China, then why should we continue to compete against China on world markets for oil? If we're worried about the social and economic consequences of the rising cost of energy, why shouldn't we work to increase all supply?

Friedman says nothing about opening ANWR or the continental shelf to drilling; he's mum on exploration on federal lands; there's not a peep about the benefits of fuel mix standardization or the construction or expansion of refineries -- all things that would greatly benefit America's energy picture and economy.

These are simply discounted with the charge that any use of oil simply increases "our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit."

America is moving dramatically toward more efficient, cleaner use of petroleum, from Priuses and clean-burning diesels to more efficient industrial applications. And as long as the debate on global warming isn't over -- and it's not -- it's perfectly fine to use it, drill it and refine it until the alternatives shed their diapers and are ready to replace Big Daddy.

Get it wrong, and the economy crashes and people suffer. And Friedman gets it wrong.

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Wednesday Reading

After last week's techno-meltdown, the Watcher of Weasels is back and has configured the Watcher's Council nominees for best on-line troopers of the week into smart columns, all linked up to their individual mother ships, standing at parade rest for your perusal.

Council members will submit their votes Thursday afternoon, and you'll see the winners here Friday morning.

Council links:

  1. Past Is Never Past
    Done With Mirrors
  2. The Company One Keeps
  3. Oppressive Speech Regulation
    Rhymes With Right
  4. Outfoxed By Obama & The Twelve Unasked Questions
    Wolf Howling
  5. Throwing Bashar a Lifeline
    Soccer Dad
  6. An Article About Islam Most Amazing for What It Doesn't Say
    Bookworm Room
  7. Moral Relativism Reaches a New Low
    The Colossus of Rhodey
  8. Rising Food Prices
    The Glittering Eye
  9. Obama's Exxon Valdez
    Cheat Seeking Missiles
  10. Teacher Arrested Not Once, But Twice!
    The Education Wonks
  11. Wright's Revenge
    Hillbilly White Trash
  12. The Total Witlessness of Obama Apologists
    Right Wing Nut House
Non-council links:
  1. An Anatomy of Surrender
    City Journal
  2. Obama. Wright. Farrakhan. Cone.
    Ace of Spades HQ
  3. Affirmative Action Abortions
  4. Standing Up for Their Culture
    Brits At Their Best
  5. Rushing to Blame Israel
  6. Syriana
  7. ID (the Other Kind): Beginning of the Death of the Democratic Party?
    Big Lizards
  8. Political Maneuver in Counterinsurgency
    Small Wars Journal
  9. Obama's Eagleton Affair
    The American Spectator
  10. "A Triumph of Postmodern Politics"
    Dr. Sanity
  11. Chevy Bill Ayers: A Classic Ride for Limousine Liberals
    The People's Cube
  12. The Obama Aesthetic
    American Thinker
  13. Choose Your Identity Group Carefully, Kids!
    Classical Values
  14. Multiculturalism Breeds Cultural Apartheid
At ease, Watcher!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The "Progressives" Love Wright

“I’m outraged," said Barack Obama today, "by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I find these comments appalling. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am.”

So he went at least part of the way towards the third option I laid out to him this morning:
Third, he can utterly repudiate Wright, going beyond today's statement, leaving "offend" and "does not speak for me" language behind to say, "I've seen Wright for what he really is and I regret the time I spent in his church, I repudiate him, I so not stand for Liberation Theology, which has served its purpose but is past its time, and I assure the American people that anyone who holds beliefs like his will not be welcome in my administration."
The statement isn't necessary for most Obama supporters, who have already worked out how they'll stay with him despite Wright, but it will likely keep some waverers on Obama's battered ship.

What it won't do is bring back a single soul who has left Obama because of the insights the Wright debacle has given into Obama's character and his ability to pick his mentors. And it certainly won't appease the hard left, who aren't at all happy with how Obama's handled this whole thing ... people like Ruth Conniff of The Progressive, who wrote today, adding more fuel to the fire by praising Wright.

As Obama flails to distance himself from Wright, the left is racing to embrace him and all he believes in:
Much of what Wright said was absolutely true--yet too hot for white America, for the National Press Club, and for a mainstream U.S. Presidential campaign.
What's funny about Conniff's column is that it starts like this ...
Instead, Wright came out swinging, mocking the media for knowing nothing about the black church, for taking soundbites from his sermons out of context, and, basically, for being lazy and ignorant.
... then she proves they were neither lazy nor ignorant by gleefully reveling in all the awful Wright comments that show he was not taken out of context at all.
It was striking to hear the themes of Wright's speech: the criticism of U.S. militarism and imperialism, racial and economic injustice, the references to progressive figures from Cornel West to Jim Wallis, and watch the audience and the press corps react.
Forget the generalizations; let's get into this:
To be sure, Wright's refusal to denounce Louis Farrakhan, his angry-sounding declaration that Farrakhan didn't put him in chains or "make me this color," his assertion that "yes, I believe our country is capable of doing anything" in answer to a question about whether he thinks the United States deliberately infected black people with AIDS will be held against him.
Yeah, but not everyone will hold it against him:
But the audience of his friends and supporters [like Conniff] ate up his strikes back against what has surely been a racist and unfair campaign against him.
Why? Do they think the presidential candidate's long-time pastor is really anti-American ... that all those soundbites really were correct? You bet:
Wright doesn't hesitate to puncture the national myth of America's essential goodness.
Note from Obama camp: Thanks a great big bunch, Conniff.

hat-tip: RCP; art: Ian Davis

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Boris, Ken, Barack And Hillary

There's another election going on that we in America aren't too aware of: Boris Johnson (right) is running against one of the great men we love to hate ("great" addresses "love to hate," not "men"), London mayor Ken Livingstone (left).

You'd think this would be a race about issues. After all, Livingstone has made himself into a symbol for post-modern, hard-left thinking, as Anne Appelbaum points out today in Slate:
His need to attract attention manifests itself in other ways: the expensive celebration he had planned to commemorate 50 years of Fidel Castro's dictatorial rule, for example, or his public embrace of a Muslim cleric who defends suicide bombing and advocates the death penalty for homosexuals. ... He called the U.S. ambassador to Britain a "chiseling little crook" and told a Jewish journalist he was behaving "like a concentration camp guard."
Eech. Less familiar to most of us is Johnson, but he's every bit as much a character:
Though he's been more staid than usual during the mayoral campaign, Boris is a man who can't stop telling jokes, whether at the expense of the aforementioned mistress or the people of Portsmouth (a city of "drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs").

Adjectives like mop-haired, blustering, and old Etonian appear in just about every profile of him ever written. So does his most famous quotation—"Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3"—though that line is misleading since his sense of humor is usually far more self-deprecating. "Beneath the carefully constructed veneer of a blithering buffoon," he once remarked, "there lurks a blithering buffoon."
Of course we'll track this election (election day is May 1) because it could spell the end of Livingstone's horrific reign, but Applebaum says it's more than a clash of two very different belief systems:
But it's nevertheless worth watching because this campaign could well be a blueprint for the elections of the future since it is postmodern and post-ideological in the deepest sense: In a world in which "issues" are not the issue and ... there's nothing left to talk about except who said what to whom and whose tongue was sharper while doing so.
Sound like our Dem primary? More than a bit. But this is, in effect, a general election, not a primary.

Let's hope this is another way America keeps itself cut off from its European roots.

hat-tip: RCP

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Obama's Exxon Valdez

Welcome, NY Times readers!

Like Obama's Jeremiah Wright fiasco, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the worst kind of communications crisis because it just kept the bad news flowing until it seemed like it would never end.

More and more dying birds. Miles and miles of spoiled seashores. And Joseph Hazelwood, drunk at the helm, then going through a protracted trial. The first goal of any crisis communications program is to make the story stop, but this nightmare story just kept oozing, like the 10.8 million gallons of crude escaping from the ship's hull.

Enter Barack Obama, skipper of the Hussein Valdez, with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright leaking endlessly from the damaged hull.

Obama had managed Wright as best he could, not so much because of what he (Obama) said and did, but what Wright said and did, basically not registering because he was gone from the public view. But those days have ended, and Wright's back with a vengeance, taking advantage of the media spotlight to espouse his philosophy for his purposes.

Here's what Obama offered up yesterday to counter the endless Wright sound bites of the last couple days, interviews that offered America a prolonged look at a man they didn't like attacking in the most vile terms a country they love:
“People will understand that I am not perfect and there are going to be folks in my past – like Reverend Wright – that may cause them concern. But, ultimately, my 20 years of service and the values that I’ve written about, spoken about and promoted are their values and what they are concerned about. That’s what this campaign has been about. And will continue to be about.

“Some of the comments that Reverend Wright has made offended me and I understand why they offend the American people. He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign.” (NYT)

Will this be enough? That depends in part on whether Wright shuts up or not. Oddly, Wright's recent comments may bring some people back to Obama, because the more he talks the more some people will think Obama simply had no idea how crazy he was during his pulpit years.

But for most impacted by Wright, this is just more of the same, raising the same questions about the true beliefs of the candidate. Most who rejected Obama because of Wright did so forcefully, with repulsion, and more Wright just repulses more.

So Obama has three choices:

First, he can hope it will go away, thinking he can spin his way out of it, keeping up the sort of patter he pattered yesterday. This is a common response and it always fails if the story has momentum.

Second, he can admit that he wasn't really much of a church-goer (if that's true). He can say he was pretty much a lilies and poinsettias Christian, missing far more Sundays than he attended. This will make him look like a hypocrite and cost him votes, but he will be sharing a common American hypocrisy.

Third, he can utterly repudiate Wright, going beyond today's statement, leaving "offend" and "does not speak for me" language behind to say, "I've seen Wright for what he really is and I regret the time I spent in his church, I repudiate him, I so not stand for Liberation Theology, which has served its purpose but is past its time, and I assure the American people that anyone who holds beliefs like his will not be welcome in my administration." That also would cost him a ton of votes.

Three lousy choices. My bet: He'll go with the first and hope he can avoid utter disaster and meltdown in the final primaries.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Danish Perspective

This email is making the rounds, perportedly from a very American-thinking Danish friend:
We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an

On one side, you have a b!tch who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, and a
lawyer who is married to a b!tch who is a lawyer.

On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a huge
chest who owns a beer distributorship.

Is there a contest here?

Unfortunately, there is.

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The Divisive Rev. Wright

How savvy of the NCCP to invite Rev. Wright to give the keynote address at its 53rd annual "Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner." No speaker, not even Barack Obama -- or as Wright referred to him, "Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Barack HUSSEIN Obama" -- could have garnered more attention.

And fundraising is always about getting attention.

You can see Rev. Wright's speech here; I've only had a chance to view about a third of it, so I'm going to focus on just one passage, in which he was rebuking an Oakland official who called him divisive:
"I am not one of the most 'divisive.' Tell him the word is 'descriptive.' I describe the conditions in this country -- conditions divide, not my description."
This is the sort of wordplay most pastors like. Give them an alliteration and they can build an entire sermon series around it. Most, fortunately, do a better job at it than Wright.

Does Wright spend any time accurately describing conditions in America? Forget the sound bites we all know -- AIDS, chickens coming home to roost -- and think of the stuff of his week in, week out sermons as they've been described to us by his church itself:
We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.
This is a church that describes itself as not being of America. It describes America as having a long night of racism without hinting that dawn came a long time ago. (In fact, he says in the speech he believes "a change is going to come.") It describes an America of continuous injustice, not one continuous opportunity. It describes a church with no desire to join the rest of America, but to maintain itself apart, divisively.

That's Wright's description of America: A country in which every black is oppressed and every white is an oppressor, a country in which blacks who do succeed are derided with derogatory name-plays (with the exception of Obama).

These are not accurate descriptions of America. Opportunity abounds, and even if black racism remains robust, white America is more than willing to accept and promote ambitious, hard working blacks, just as we are with the ambitious and hard working of any race. All you have to do is look around; count the numbers, track the income, check the admissions, name the senior executives and partners.

Nor are Wright's descriptions of America helpful. They seek to continue the divide, to promote victimization, to make differentness a divide. Black liberation theology can only continue if the need to liberate continues, so the advances in civil rights, not white racism, are the greatest threat the church faces. Wright does not want it put out of business, so his is not a language of description; it is a language of division.

Descriptions are not necessarily divisive, if they are accurate. No one ever went to war over agreements. But Wright doesn't describe America correctly, and it is those descriptions themselves that are so divisive. America is moving far beyond the America Wright describes, and his continued description of where we were instead of where we are going is, in a word, divisive.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Finally, Beijing's Torch Finds A Welcome

A nation finally rolled out a red carpet ... albeit, a thread-bear, ratty looking one ... for the Olympic torch today, giving the Beijingoists a welcome relief from demonstrations that marred the torch's progress around the globe.

What country?

Here's a hint: Celebretory crowds were waving artificial bunches of the national flower, kimjongilia.

As in Kim Jong-Il-ia.

Yes, NoKo's torch relay started off with a leg run by Pak Du-Ik, who symbolized North Korea's greatest international sports triumph: their
1966 World Cup soccer team, which advanced to the quarter-finals. As in, here's a nation that's gone 42 years since falling far short of winning.

Of course, there would have been protests in NoKo, too, if people were free to protest. China routinely sends North Koreans who flee Li'l Kim's cesspool nation back to NoKo, where they face imprisonment if they're lucky, death if they're not.

But if they'd protested the torch, they'd face imprisonment if they're lucky, death if their not. So, hey! Welcome China! Cool torch!

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Sunday Scan

Lessons In New Politics From Barack

Barack Obama is leaving the old politics behind, supplanting it with a new, cleaner style that leaves the smarminess behind. Here, courtesy of The LA Times (which provides a darn good compendium of Obama-smashing news, in its usual blatant favoritism for Hillary objective style), is a tutorial in how Obama approaches politics the new, clean way:
  1. Need money after your first unsuccessful campaign for Congress? Then get a sweet job from a big campaign supporter to supplement your state senate income. (Obama got a $112,000 job from Robert Blackwell Jr., about double his state senate salary of $58,000.)

  2. In return for the favor, urge the state legislature to grant a Blackwell company, table tennis promoter Killerspin, a $50,000 tourism grant. (Pingpong tourism is such an important tourist market, and so deserving of state subsidies!) ((Shall we make, or avoid, the devilishly clever connection between the name "Killerspin" and the Obama PR machine?))

  3. Then, to show that a cash-stuffed paper bag the system really does work, land $320,000 in state subsidies for Killerspin tournaments.

  4. Finally, get new political contributions from Blackwell as soon as the grants go through.
There are business people who feel it is their responsibility to run a profitable company, and there are business people who feel it is the people's responsibility to make their company profitable. There are politicians who believe in the former, and politicians like Obama who, despite all their fine talk about new ways of doing things, definitely believe in the latter.

Islamist Horror Stories

Bubba, of What Bubba Knows, has put together a list of stories for Sabine, a gal who apparently doesn't get the threat posed by Islamist thought and action. Here's his intro:
For Sabine's education, today's stories of atrocities by Muslims.

May you come to realize who and what is the real threat to peace, may you learn to recognize the face of the real enemies of your peaceful, tranquil world.
And here are the story links:
¤ Please Let Me Marry Her and Then Kill Me
¤ The criminality against children in the koran
¤ German Charity Helps Turkish Women Escape Forced Marriages
¤ Europe or Eurabia?
¤ Home-grown 'champion of Islam'
¤ Saudi women 'kept in childhood'
¤ Not Child's Play: The Teddy-Bear Intifada
The first link one tells of a particularly heartless murder carried out by an al-Qaeda in Iraq thug, who is now in prison, awaiting his death sentence. Another prisoner wanted to identify the thug's victim:
So, he asked the killer to give him the name of the victim.

The killer replied he didn’t know, he asked from what tribe? The killer didn’t know, he asked from what sect? The killer didn’t know, he asked him from what province? The killer didn’t know.

Then he asked him, then why you killed him? The killer said he cannot remember, whether it was the victim's haircut or the way he was dressed or the music pouring from his car.
This is the enemy we're fighting, and this is why we're fighting this enemy. Islamist terrorists are the vilest villains we have ever fought, a fact the Left is quick to forget, despite unforgettable stories like this one.

Lessons In Environmental Hypocrisy

If you like the splendor and quiet, hot solitude of the desert, Anza Borrego is your state park. It's the state's largest park, stretching across most of eastern San Diego County almost all the way to the Mexican border, with 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 separate wilderness areas and untold miles of hiking trails.

Somewhere in that vastness, a long line of wooden power poles stretches from horizon to horizon, lost in the vastness, hardly noticed by most park visitors. Call the power lines the Maginot Line of the war between the Greenies and the rest of us.

San Diego Gas & Electric, in order to meet a state mandate that 20% of its power come from alternative sources by 2010 (that's less than two years away!), proposes to convert the current power corridor to a new Sunrise Powerlink, which would carry renewable power from the sun, wind and geothermal facilities to be built in the Imperial Valley.

The environmentalists, who demand that we stop using oil and go with renewable resources, are furious, of course. Here's Elizabeth Goldstein, prez of the California Parks Foundation, quoted in the LA Times:
"The idea that we're going to sacrifice critical pieces of our environment to protect other pieces of our environment seems a little ironic. That's an irony I cannot accept. We have to find a way to do both."
I think she means "protect both," not "sacrifice both," but the sentence's structure is a little hazy. The Sierra Club makes it more clear, talking about a "powerline juggernaut:"
Fare thee well, big skies and open vistas. To feed the energy demands of the West's inland megalopolises and crowded coasts, public lands in 11 Western states may soon be crisscrossed by a web of power lines and pipelines. These "energy easements," up to three-quarters of a mile wide, are slated for every sort of public property: national forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holdings, state parks, even national parks. Since they'll be "preapproved," the easements will be ready to go at the energy companies' convenience.
Note that they don't say a word about these easements being required to comply with the alternative energy mandates they themselves demanded. So like a Kennedy attacking windmills, they attack the infrastructure required to make their alternative energy dream come true.

But you see, having 20% alternative energy isn't their dream, not if it means conventional power solutions. They wanted growth to stop, grids to be ripped out, and Americans to change the way they live. Nothing less will do.

So they will fight this power line, even though there really isn't a good alternative route. They would rather condemn private land than use public land for a public use. And the public, I hope, will see the Greenies for what they are: Demanding and totally inflexible, demanding the world without giving up a square inch, and self-righteous but thoroughly hypocritical.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Two New (Much Loved) Technologies

New technology has brought me great joy this week, specifically my new Kindle and the Web site Pandora.

I have my wonderful step-dad Bill to thank for my Kindle. In his 80s and still an early adaptor, he had his in tow when he and Mom passed through in March. I ordered one immediately, and it finally arrived late last week.

In a nutshell, Kindle is an electronic book, about the size of a publishers paperback, that can hold a couple hundred titles. But that's just the beginning.
  • It's astonishingly easy on the eyes, letting you read for hours with no strain at all.
  • Besides books, you can subscribe to any of a couple dozen daily newspapers, and magazines and blogs.
  • It lets you annotate pages, save pages as clippings, look up words you don't know and change font sizes in a jif.
  • While it costs $399, it lets you buy new hardbacks like Douglas Feith's new War and Decisions (list $27.45, Amazon $18.45) for much less, $9.99 in this case.
  • You can email a document to Amazon, and it is quickly downloaded into your Kindle for reading.
  • And the technology is simply amazing.
Kindle (as in kindle a fire or kindle the imagination) uses a built-in cell phone to put the searchable Kindle Store onto the screen, with its approximately 150,000 book titles. Once you pick one, it's downloaded in seconds, using the same cell phone connection -- but I don't pay a cell bill or even know the cell number; it's just part of the deal.

Because of this easy technology, book purchases become very impulsive. I heard Doug Feith on Hugh Hewitt last week, looked up the book at one stop light and bought it at the next.

Pandora, Radio from the Music Genome Project was interjected into my life by Incredible Daughter #2. Here's what the Web site says about itself:
We believe that each individual has a unique relationship with music - no one else has tastes exactly like yours. So delivering a great radio experience to each and every listener requires an incredibly broad and deep understanding of music. That's why Pandora is based on the Music Genome Project, the most sophisticated taxonomy of musical information ever collected. It represents over eight years of analysis by our trained team of musicologists, and spans almost a century of music (and soon several centuries!).

Each song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed using up to 400 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. These attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners. The typical music analyst working on the Music Genome Project has a four-year degree in music theory, composition or performance, has passed through a selective screening process and has completed intensive training in the Music Genome's rigorous and precise methodology. To qualify for the work, analysts must have a firm grounding in music theory, including familiarity with a wide range of styles and sounds. All analysis is done on location.
Here's how it works. Incredible Daughter #2 brought up the Pandora home page on my computer and asked me to name a musical artist I liked. I said James Taylor, she typed it in, and now I have my own radio station that plays music with high genome matches to Taylor.

Some of today's selections have been: Oh Baby, Don't You Loose Your Lip On Me and Everyday by James Taylor; I Thought I Was A Child by Jackson Brown; Nothing I Can Do by Ben Taylor; Lonestar by Nora Jones and Stop This Train by John Mayer.

If I ask it why a certain song was selected for this mix (a two-click request) it says:
Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing this track because it features rock accoustic arrangement, folk influence, the subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation and acoustic piano.
Or some such thing. It changes a bit depending on the song that's playing.

You can give Pandora feedback by voting thumbs-up or thumbs-down on songs, and can purchase any song you like with quick pop-ups of your preferred music buying site.

And of course you can have multiple playlists. As much as I like the music that's playing now, I'm going to go back to the home page now and create an entirely new radio station for myself; this one keying off another artist I like a lot, Fryderyk Chopin.

Ahh ... that's nice.

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A Vote To Watch

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson is readying a bill for Senate consideration that would freeze US biofuel mandates at their current level, ending the mandated increases in biofuel production through 2030.

The reason for Hutchinson's bill -- a bold one, given the amount of grain production in Texas -- is simple: Artificial, government-set mandates for biofuels are a key component of food staple price increases that have driven people to hunger around the world. Writes Hutchinson in IBD,
Nearly all our domestic corn and grain supply is needed to meet this [biofuel] mandate, robbing the world of one of its most important sources of food.

We are already seeing the ill effects of this measure. Last year, 25% of America's corn crop was diverted to produce ethanol. In 2008, that number will grow to 30%-35%, and it will soar even higher in the years to come.

Furthermore, the trend of farmers supplanting other grains with corn is decreasing the supply of numerous agricultural products. When the supply of those products goes down, the price inevitably goes up.

Subsequently, the cost of feeding farm and ranch animals increases and the cost is passed to consumers of beef, poultry and pork products.

Since February 2006, the price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased by more than 240%. Rising food prices are hitting the pockets of lower-income Americans and people who live on fixed incomes.
The UN has called the current situation a global food crisis, and this time they just might be right.

So let's see what happens to Hutchinson's bill. Two predictions:

First, despite the extremely negative fall-out of yet another poorly conceived government mandate, the farm lobby can be expected to fight it.

And second, the obvious companion piece to this legislation, opening up North Slope lands for production, will go nowhere.

Hutchinson begins her piece with a quote that's a good wrap-up for this post:

"One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results." -- Milton Friedman

hat-tip: RCP

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What Does Clinton's Vote Lead Mean?

I heard it the other day, checked it out, but only posted it in a comment. Let's make a bit more hay of this and use Mr. Political Almanac, Michael Barone, to carry the message, via Real Clear Politics:
One thing many people haven't noticed about Hillary Clinton's 55 percent to 45 percent victory over Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania primary is that it put her ahead of Obama in the popular vote. Her 214,000-vote margin in the Keystone State means that she has won the votes, in primaries and caucuses, of 15,112,000 Americans, compared to 14,993,000 for Obama.

If you add in the votes, as estimated by the folks at, in the Iowa, Nevada, Washington and Maine caucuses, where state Democratic parties did not count the number of caucus-attenders, Clinton still has a lead of 12,000 votes.
With four primaries to go, Obama can count on big numbers in North Carolina. RCP's polling averages have Obama ahead by a tad in Indiana, but I think Hillary might pull out a squeaker, based on Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania and the downspin Obama's currently in.

I can't find any current Kentucky polling data, but I'm calling it close because the black and redneck populations pretty much balance themselves out and other populations will split between the two. Puerto Rico? Obama has fared poorly with Hispanic voters and who in Puerto Rico isn't Hispanic?

However the ultimate tally tilts, its obvious that the Dems are horrifically split and have no clear front-runner. In the end, Barone thinks it will be Obama who walks away with the nomination. But you have to ask, who would want this stinkin' nomination. As Bob Herbert puts it:
The share of Clinton voters who have been telling exit pollsters that they will not vote for Senator Obama if he wins the nomination is inching toward the red zone. At the same time, there is growing resentment of the Clintons’ tactics among Obama partisans, especially the young and African-Americans.
I've felt since early in the campaign that Hillary would be the easier candidate to beat, but now I'm not so sure. Obama isn't projecting the strength that's needed to be president (and Hillary is showing bulldog tenaciousness, if not strength), and given that Rev. Wright has utterly trashed the cause d'etre of the Obama campaign -- newness, reconciliation -- what possible reason would anyone have to vote for him?

The only thing about the Dem race that isn't too close to call is that whoever emerges when the dust settles will be damaged goods. Thank you, Mike Huckabee, for effectively splitting the GOP vote so we didn't have to suffer a similar fate!

Hillary composit: Danz Family

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Torch Troubles In Japan

The Chinese Olympic torch ran into more trouble today as it passed through the Japanese city of Nagano.

BBC has a good video here. It's impressive to watch because it shows the level of security needed to protect the torch -- a phalanx of runners that look like it's out of 300 encircle the runner, with a row of policemen outside that, and motorcycle police scattered here and there.

Here's BBC's print report:
The Olympic torch has met with more protests and scuffles on the latest leg of its troubled relay in the Japanese city of Nagano.

With security tight along the route, two demonstrators tried to seize the torch and a third threw eggs at the flame. All were arrested.

But correspondents say the relay passed off without serious disruption.

The streets were lined with thousands of Chinese supporters, as well as dozens of protesters. ...

More than 3,000 police officers were brought in to guard the event after demonstrations had plagued the flame in some other cities on its route.

In a last-minute change, the Nagano leg of the relay began in a parking lot rather than a 1,400-year-old Buddhist temple.

The temple was withdrawn as the starting point after objections over China's crackdown in Tibet.
It's obvious from the video that most of the crowd was out for a good time to see an Olympic torch go by, and that the protesters were the minority. Still, it was another international embarrassment for the Beijingoists, and hurrah for that.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Was Rev. Wright Wronged?

This evening, Rev. Jeremiah Wright breaks his silence before a sympathetic interviewer, PBS' Bill Moyers. Bobby Seale and Louis Farrahkan apparently were unavailable to interview him.

Wright's big point is that he was wronged. Here's his exposition:
Wright defended his sermons, telling Moyers, "the persons who have heard the entire sermon understand the communication perfectly ... those who are doing that are communicating exactly what they want to do, which is to paint me as some sort of fanatic."
Actually, I didn't need Wright's help to come to this point; I've thought about it quite a bit because I've seen my fair share of out of context quotes, so fairness mandates that I consider the "out of context" question here. As an example, let's look at this infamous Wright quote:
" ... and then [America] wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."
I would actually like to hear a pastor say this, if the context around the quote is that God is within his rights to withdraw his favor from America because of the millions of his little ones we have suctioned and cut into oblivion in America's abortion mills.

But that wasn't the context behind the quote. We have the context, and it is this:
"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law ..."
And that's why God should damn America. Any black leader who says the (white) government (deliberately) gives black drugs and passes three strikes laws as a racist tool to imprison people who should still be on the streets even though they're three-strike criminals should expect media coverage, whether they're Obama's pastor or not.

In other words, we don't have to listen to the entire sermon, or the entire 20 years of sermons when Obama (theoretically) attended the church. Rev. Wright gave us the context. And if Al Campanis can get the boot for saying blacks "may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager," then Wright can certainly feel some heat for saying this.

Back to the interview:
He said his critics' motives are clear: to undermine Obama. "I think they wanted to communicate that I am unpatriotic, that I am un-American, that I am filled with hate speech, that I have a cult at Trinity United Church of Christ. And by the way, guess who goes to his church, hint, hint, hint?"
Of course Wright has been used by some to undermine Obama and the story is bigger because he is Obama's pastor. That doesn't make the statements any less outrageous and any less newsworthy however, and a great deal of the newsworthiness of this story was the shock most of America felt upon hearing Wright for the first time. News is by definition "new," and this language from a pulpit was new to most of us.

Besides, before he accuses others of exploiting him because of Obama, Wright would do well to ask himself if he did not, in fact, benefit more from Obama than he suffered from him. How many times did Wright use his famous parishioner to aggrandize his church? How many favors did he ask Obama to do? This cuts both ways, Reverend.

But he added, "They know nothing about the church. They know nothing about our prison ministry. They know nothing about our food ministry. They know nothing about our senior citizens home. They know nothing about all we try to do as a church and have tried to do." Focusing only on the snippets, he said, "was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt for those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons."
The same can be said of Hezbollah. They have "ministries" that feed and heal and educate. But they also fire rockets from Muslim civilian neighborhoods into Jewish civilian neighborhoods and send martyrs duped idiots into crowds of Jews with explosives strapped around them.

And Mussolini got the trains to run on time.

Hezbollah is not remembered for its schools; Mussolini is not remembered for his train schedules. And Wright won't be remembered by most of Americans for his outreach because it's nothing more than expected that a church the size of his would have numerous outreaches. Having them, then, does not exonerate him from his wrongs.

So you see, what's unfair is not the media focusing on the "snippets;" rather, it is unfair that Wright calls them "snippets." They are his rockets and explosive vests, so of course the media and the people will focus on them, and running crying and sniffling to broadcast's ubber-Lib will not change that one bit.

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Strutting Through Failure

I recently had a run of exceptionally rude comments from Navigator, a Brit who has a decidedly anti-American POV, which is fine if it's well articulated, but this is the kind of revisionist junk he spewed:
News flash - America didnt [sic] join WW1 and 2 out of any sort of altruistic inclination.

Remember Japan? India and Burma is on the other side of that front. British Indian troops fought on the other front in Indo- China to help rescue you guys or have you forgotten that part of the story?
No, I hadn't really forgotten and I can give credit, not sneering abuse. Neither had I forgotten the truly decisive battles we waged Island-hopping the Pacific. Midway, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima. Rescue us? Interesting way of looking at it.

I answered his claims that America is swill in world opinion by asking why Italy and France moved towards us in their last elections, and he answered in part:
[Y]ou're showing your ignorance and arrogance by thinking the world revolves around the US once again. Naples (thats in Italy) is buried in garbage, unemplyment [sic] is high and economic growth in Italy is restricted to the cities. In short, domestic crisis. Berlesconi is a businessman so for dosmestic interests he has been re-elected.
All I'd said is the Berlesconi is more aligned with Bush than he is with England's pathetic government, which is hardly grounds for accusing me of thinking the world revolves around the US. But tell me a nation it revolves around more. The failure of the Italian economy is emblematic of the failure of the Euro-Socialist mega-state, a government model England has embraced and America, thank God, has thus far been able to reject.

I could go on, but why subject you? I only bring Navigator up because I thought of him when I read this in the Times of London (a name, by the way, he insulted me for using, claiming it was the Times of Great Britain):
Young women are daring to wear jeans, soldiers listen to pop music on their mobile phones and bands are performing at wedding parties again.

All across Iraq’s second city life is improving, a month after Iraqi troops began a surprise crackdown on the black-clad gangs who were allowed to flourish under the British military.
That was not written by an American reporter who thinks the world revolves around the US. It was written by a Brit about a country a big chunk of the world (including us) used to revolve around.

I have a small idea what happened in Basra and why the British command failed to adapt to the situation as well as we did, but I have a much better understanding of why the British crown failed here: arrogance, inflexibility, greed and outmoded military tactics.

I love Great Britain. I have enjoyed my visits there immensely, we love Incredible Wife's Aston, and their culture and history are indelibly intertwined with ours. It's a shame they also have a rude, bull-headed leftist minority full of bile and anger -- but hey, that's just another similarity between our two great nations.

Navigator would do his nation a much greater service if he would redirect his rancor against the EU, because that is the real threat to his country, not us. It threatens to homogenize Europe into a tasteless, over-regulated, PC shell of what it once was.

In closing, the Brits have re-engaged in Basra, and we all thank them for their improved effort and assistance in the recent fighting. But the victory there is the Iraqis' -- and if people like Navigator would remove their blinders and see the results of victory, perhaps they would understand that what we are fighting for is worth it.

(A note to Navigator: As a service to my readers, who prefer discourse to barroom brawls, I have blocked you from posting comments [I think I have, anyway]. You are free to send me any comments via email; my address is near the top of the right column.)

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wednesday Reading On Thursday Night

The cyber-meltdown experienced by the Watcher of Weasels this week would have torn asunder our weekly blog-in were it not for the indomitable Joshuapundit, who rallied us and was able to get nine Council members and their non-Council entries together.

So here's the link to some good reading.


Oil Prices May Fall, Just In Time For McCain

I just filled my beautiful German V8 (18.9 mpg) with $4.11 a gallon gasoline. That was an unwelcome first! Did it make me want to vote for Obama or Hillary?

Of course not -- with their sucking up to the enviros and love of regulation and Big Gov, they haven't a clue what to do about oil prices.

Fortunately the free market knows exactly what to do -- and it looks likely a correct will come in time to keep McCain from being saddled with a deepening recession:
The roaring oil boom of the last few months may be on its last legs as economic growth slows hard across the world and a clutch new refineries come into operation, Lehman Brothers has warned in a hard-hitting report.

“Supply is outpacing demand growth,” said Michael Waldron, the US bank’s oil strategist.

“Inventories have been building since the beginning of the year. We have pretty significant projects starting soon in Saudi Arabia, and large off-shore fields in Nigeria,” he said.

The Saudi Khursaniya field has just opened with 500,000 barrels a day (b/d) of production, and the new Khurais field will start next year with a further 1.2m b/d.
The [UK] Telegraph report goes on to blame the recent price run-up on the same folks that brought us the pre-crash real estate price run-up, speculators.
Lehman Brothers said the price of oil had been pushed to inflated levels by a $40bn inflow into commodity index funds this year, much of it coming from Mid-East sovereign wealth funds.

The petro-investors may have second thoughts about gaining “double exposure” to commodity prices.

“Financial flows have been the marginal driver of prices since the onset of the credit crunch. Investors are using oil as a hedge against inflation and a falling dollar,” said Mr Widmer.
Once again, recent media reports on oil prices have sounded like prices will continue to go up and up and up with little hope for relief. This is to be expected since most MSM reporters have bought into the false Greenie belief that all resources have been exploited to the breaking point.

If the Lehman projection is correct (they didn't call the housing crash right, so don't file their prediction in your "guaranteed" file), it will lead to lower prices quickly enough, which in turn will lead to happier consumers, which will be good news for the GOP, come November.

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Thriller Plot For Sale

Here's a fascinating follow-up to earlier reports concerning NoKo operatives in Syria's since-bombed nuclear facility:
A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

The officials said the video of the remote site, code-named Al Kibar by the Syrians, shows North Koreans inside. It played a pivotal role in Israel's decision to bomb the facility late at night last Sept. 6, a move that was publicly denounced by Damascus but not by Washington.

Sources familiar with the video say it also shows that the Syrian reactor core's design is the same as that of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon, including a virtually identical configuration and number of holes for fuel rods. It shows "remarkable resemblances inside and out to Yongbyon," a U.S. intelligence official said. A nuclear weapons specialist called the video "very, very damning." (WaPo)
So, who shot the video and how did it get smuggled out of Syria? That would be the stuff of a great spy thriller. And imagine what diabolical plot developments would occur to violently alter the life of this guy:
"The United States and Israel have not identified any Syrian plutonium separation facilities or nuclear weaponization facilities," [David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector] said. "The lack of any such facilities gives little confidence that the reactor is part of an active nuclear weapons program."
OK, sure. Let's let the Syrians develop fortified underground uranium enrichment facilities like the Iranians before we take out their reactors. Oh wait. We haven't taken out the Iranian reactors because there have been too many Albrights involved there since the initiation of their program.

Get me rewrite!

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Obama's Man: Teaching Tomorrow's Terrorists

Barack Obama referred to Bill Ayres, his Chicago buddy and former Weather Underground domestic terrorist, as an "English teacher." Would that it were so! A better phrase would be a "Terror teacher." From Sol Stern in City Journal:
As I have shown elsewhere in City Journal, Ayers’s politics have hardly changed since his Weatherman days. He still boasts about working full-time to bring down American capitalism and imperialism. This time, however, he does it from his tenured perch as Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Instead of planting bombs in public buildings, Ayers now works to indoctrinate America’s future teachers in the revolutionary cause, urging them to pass on the lessons to their public school students.

Indeed, the education department at the University of Illinois is a hotbed for the radical education professoriate. As Ayers puts it in one of his course descriptions, prospective K–12 teachers need to “be aware of the social and moral universe we inhabit and . . . be a teacher capable of hope and struggle, outrage and action, a teacher teaching for social justice and liberation.” Ayers’s texts on the imperative of social-justice teaching are among the most popular works in the syllabi of the nation’s ed schools and teacher-training institutes.

One of Ayers’s major themes is that the American public school system is nothing but a reflection of capitalist hegemony. Thus, the mission of all progressive teachers is to take back the classrooms and turn them into laboratories of revolutionary change.
And therefore, the mission of teachers is not to teach children real skills they need in the real world, like math, English and science, which after all are also nothing more than reflections of capitalist hegemony. Ayres is not even bright enough to figure out why capitalism has become the global economic hegemon (because it has proven itself better and more progressive than any other system), yet he is entrusted to teach the teachers of our children.

Does Obama know this? Possibly not, or he wouldn't have referred to Ayers as an English prof in the debate. I'm much more upset about what Bill Ayres says about the state of education in America than I am about what he says about Obama.

Public pressure and a deceitful resume brought down Ward Churchill, who was much less dangerous than Ayres because he didn't teach teachers. Let's take a lesson from Ayres' own playbook and show some struggle, outrage and action to get this #$%@! out of the classroom and banned from influencing future generations.

hat-tip: memeorandum

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Global Warming Or Ice Age?

It was sunny but unusually cool today as I read this, from The Australian:
Disconcerting as it may be to true believers in global warming, the average temperature on Earth has remained steady or slowly declined during the past decade, despite the continued increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and now the global temperature is falling precipitously.

All four agencies that track Earth's temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930. If the temperature does not soon recover, we will have to conclude that global warming is over.
This is another one of those sunspot stories. You know, the alternative global temperature theory we read precious little about in the MSM despite it being quite popular in Russia, where there are no big global warming grants to influence fund climate researchers. The more sunspots, the warmer we get here on the home planet.
The most recent [sunspot] minimum was in March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers. It didn't happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.

The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790.
Right up through 1812, when ferociously cold winter weather added to Napoleon's problems, leading to his retreat from Moscow.

The story goes on from there to get into what I can only describe as "Coldie hysteria," every bit as intense as Al Gore predicting global doom in 15 minutes if we don't all can our SUVs in 13. But after getting pretty scary, the author, Phil Chapman, qualifies in a way that would shame a Warmie:
We cannot really know, but my guess is that the odds are at least 50-50 that we will see significant cooling rather than warming in coming decades.

The probability that we are witnessing the onset of a real ice age is much less, perhaps one in 500, but not totally negligible.
Before you pass that off with a ho-hum, "a real ice age" would mean for us glaciation all the way down to the Midwest. Yeah, but don't sweat it, because the global warming debate is over.

hat-tip: Jim

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No Wednesday Reading

The Watcher of Weasels had a technology meltdown this week, and was not able to post this week's picks from the Watcher's Council of the week's best alignment of electrons into insightful words to fire your synapses.

Soccer Dad may yet salvage something. In the interim, here are my nominees for anyone who's interested:
If you missed mine last week, read it first. It's very troubling and you'll need the cheering up you'll get from The Nose on Your Face.


Maureen Channels Marvin

I hate it when she does that.

Maureen Dowd wrote one heck of a funny column today with next to no fingernails on the blackboard. Next to; she did say that New Orleans was "the city [Bush] let drown."

She concludes the piece by channeling Dr. Suess' “Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!
“The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. ... I don’t care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Hillary R. Clinton, will you please go now! You can go on skates. You can go on skis. ... You can go in an old blue shoe.

Just go, go, GO!”
But she won't, she won't go now. No matter how they howl, she won't go now. Not on a horse, not on a cow. Look at the ruckus they raise! But she just stays and stays and stays!

Leaving Obama with this:
But this is clearly a man who can’t wait to get back to his organic scrambled egg whites. That was made plain with his cri de coeur at the Glider Diner in Scranton when a reporter asked him about Jimmy Carter and Hamas.

“Why” he pleaded, sounding a bit, dare we say, bitter, “can’t I just eat my waffle?”

His subtext was obvious: Why can’t I just be president? Why do I have to keep eating these gooey waffles and answering these gotcha questions and debating this gonzo woman?
Nice. It must be crushing to him that we aren't just handing him are nation on a platter because he's so darn special.

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Polls Off In PA: Biased? Incapable? Inept?

Three point four. It doesn't sound like much, but at this stage of the game, the polls should not have missed the Pennsylvania call by this much -- the high end of the margin of error.

The pollsters had all but eight states behind them going into PA , with a mountain of data on the candidates and the electorate, yet on average (the RCP average) had her at a 6 percent lead while the voters carried her across the line 9.4 points ahead of Barack Obama.

And it's not like there were a lot of surprises in the vote; it went pretty much as expected, as RCP's Horse Race Blog points out:
What we see, then, is what we have seen again and again in this contest. Clinton continues to do well with "downscale" whites. Obama does well with "upscale" whites and African Americans. What is intriguing about this result is not just that it is similar to Ohio - but also that it is similar after seven weeks and millions of dollars in campaign expenditures. Clearly, these voting groups are entrenched.
Check this out and see just how predictable PA was:

Obama carried the black-and-lib urban county and the elite-and-lib university town, and Hillary won everything else.

Granted, the RCP average was skewed by a horrific PPD poll that showed Obama up by 3 (can we say "push poll?"), but Rasmussen had Clinton by only 5 and Survey USA only by 6.

Are the pollsters biased toward Obama? Incapable? Inept?

All of the above?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Talking To Terrorists: NoKo Aided Syrian Nuke Program

Imagine the progress Syria would have made on its nuclear facilities (left) if Israel hadn't blown them to smithereens (right). Now you finally get to officially imagine how many North Koreans were blown to smithereens in the attack:
WASHINGTON (WSJ) —North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium-based nuclear reactor, the Bush administration is set to tell Congress, a revelation that could undermine diplomatic efforts to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program.

Speculation about North Korea's alleged role was sparked by a September Israeli strike inside Syria, which targeted what many U.S. government and private analysts believe was a nascent nuclear reactor. To date, neither Israel nor U.S. intelligence officials have made public information about the attack, except for a small number of lawmakers. That's fueled criticism from Republicans who charge the Bush administration with downplaying the matter to avoid hurting talks with the North Koreans.

This week, the Central Intelligence Agency is expected to begin briefing members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on the Israeli strike, according to Congressional and administration officials, based in part on intelligence provided by the Israeli government.

The information is expected to confirm that North Korea was helping Syria develop a plutonium-based nuclear reactor similar to the Yongbyon facility North Korea built north of Pyongyang, said an official familiar with the deliberations. The briefings are also expected to confirm that North Korean workers were active at the Syrian site at the time of the Israeli attack.
That's the trouble with trying to negotiate with rogue terrorist states. Obama tells us he'll be very good at this kind of stuff given his messianic aura and all, but one third of the American voting populace notwithstanding, do you think Li'l Kim will fall for that ballyhoo?

No, it's much more likely that the very junior senator from Illinois will fall for Li'l Kim's ballyhoo, coming back from Pyongyang with all sorts of assurances based on his abiding ego, not on any semblance of reality, only to find out that he's been duped.

As for Mr. Bush, he's played a pretty smart game with Pyongyang, not providing too much icing until he gets his cake, but this week's CIA briefing hopefully is signaling a new get tougher approach to the crazies in Pyongyang. This is a regime that engenders absolutely no sympathy from any credible countries, so we have a free hand in dealing with them.

Let's slap them around a bit.

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Finally, Some Fiscal Responsibility in California!

The California Citizens Compensation Commission -- who would expect revolutionary work out of such a group, appointed as it is by the governor, and therefore hardly answerable to the people?

But the six commissioners took a look at officials whose salaries they have jurisdiction over through a vote of the people in the passage of Prop. 112 in 1989, and they didn't like what they saw. Here are those salaries (source):

Elected Officials Monthly Salary Annual Salary
Governor $17,681.56 $212,179
Lieutenant Governor $13,261.17 $159,134
Attorney General $15,358.43 $184,301
Secretary of State $13,261.17 $159,134
Controller $14,145.25 $169,743
Treasurer $14,145.25 $169,743
Superintendent of Public Instruction $15,358.43 $184,301
Insurance Commissioner $14,145.25 $169,743
Members, Board of Equalization $13,261.17 $159,134
Speaker of the Assembly $11,136.56 $133,639
President Pro Tem of the Senate $11,136.56 $133,639
Minority Floor Leader $11,136.56 $133,639
Majority Floor Leader $10,410.29 $124,923
Second Ranking Minority Leader $10,410.29 $124,923
All Other Legislators $9,684.01 $116,208

Today, they said, "No more!" and voted against raising any of these salaries. Here's a bit of the SacBee report:

"We have a deficit of $7 billion" that news reports say will double by this summer, [Charles] Murray, of San Marino, said during the short meeting. "Everybody has to take a cut."

[Kathy] Sands, a retired banker and former mayor of Auburn, said a vote to reduce top government officials' salaries would send a message about their performance.

"We don't have a budget and they're not working any overtime to get it done," she said. "People have said that to me. They're not doing their job."

Not only that, but two members of the committee asked for an opinion on whether they have the authority to cut salaries. The decision, presumably to be rendered by the $184,301 a year Attorney General Moonbeam, will be coming along shortly.

There are two labor representatives on the six-person commission. So guess: How many votes there were against freezing the salaries? That's right. Two.

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Happy? Earth Day

I remember the first Earth Day back in the 70s, when we worried about the imminent risk to the earth caused by pollution. Now, nearly four decades later, we are supposedly still worried about the imminent risk to the earth caused by pollution.

The pollution has changed; the worry has not, even though it's clear there are lessons to be learned from year after year of hysteria: The earth works on its own long cycles, not our headline-grabbing short cycles; the earth is a lot more resilient than Greenie fundraisers would like you to believe, and finally, Greenies have gotten more successful at promoting environmental hysteria.

The evidence for each of the three is self-evident and needs no further explanation here. Instead, I'd like to praise the Greenies for a moment.

Don't get me wrong; I'm no fan, primarily because from top to bottom, the movement knowingly sensationalizes and distorts for self-benefit, which appalls me since I believe public discourse requires the level playing field truth provides. Worse, their solution is always larger government. They are anti-capitalist, anti-corporate and completely untrusting in the character of man, trusting instead in the fumbling, power-corrupted auspices of government.

Yes, capitalism lead the world into the industrial revolution and pollution, but government went along with it and in time communism proved itself far more capable of blindly destroying natural resources than capitalism. The Greenies have forgiven government and big social programs, but have never forgiven capitalism, even though today it is the leading force that's creating the technologies that are taking us away from our polluting past.

But I still praise the Greenies because at their core they are conservationists, as am I. Conservationism is a biblical concept rooted in God's decree that we be stewards of his creation, and it holds as true today as it did with Adam and Eve. So while I make a living fighting environmentalists who try to stop new homes and infrastructure, and think their positions in these battles are untenable and do not represent stewardship, I look at the results of the fights and am not too upset at all.

My firm has been involved in programs that have set aside over 350 square miles of open space in return for development rights. That's more open space conservation than any environmental group has accomplished, as far as I know. Today, I'm working on one project that will preserve 1,600 of its 3,000 acres, another that will build on just under 12,000 acres and preserve just over 12,000, and a third that will permanently protect 21,000 acres, building on just 5,000 acres.

And the built environments within these projects are becoming quite green. Extra work is done to give more houses south-facing orientations for active and passive solar, and Energy Star appliances are required. Recycled water is used to irrigate lawns and parks, and low-flow fixtures are mandatory. Transit is given high priority, and walkability is incorporated in the design to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve quality of life.

These are dramatic changes from the old model of subdivisions as far as the eye can see, and it's come about for two reasons: regulation and marketing.

The Greenies celebrate regulation on Earth Day and call for more, but there's more than enough, at least here in the USA. Land is preserved to protect endangered species, streams, oaks and rare plants. Carbon footprints are reduced to comply with new laws and regs.

But more important, consumers are starting to prefer green communities and are willing to pay a bit more to have open space nearby and energy efficiency everywhere they look.

So this Earth Day, my prayer is that we get down to earth and celebrate the fact that we're doing enough. There's no need for more political grandstanding on Greenie causes; the balance has been struck in America, and if anything, it favors the earth more than the people who live on it.

Now we are in a position where the free market can take over, working within the regulatory process, and create communities that take care of human needs while stewarding the resources God gave us.

Some related reading:
  • For the whacked-out MSM view calling for a complete retooling of the economy a la WWII to tilt at windmills fight global warming, read this essay in Time.

  • For a counterpoint, read this essay by Dennis Prager, who says, "It is much easier to fight global warming than to fight human evil."

  • For a much more logical approach than Time's, in which we apply technology to conserve, rather than appease the hysterics, see this essay by Glenn Reynolds in the NY Post.
hat-tip for links to Real Clear Politics

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