Dogged by persistent questions about his faith in God and country, Sen. Barack Obama today journeyed to Harry Truman’s birthplace to lay out his vision of patriotism, conceding that he has learned in this campaign “the question of who is — or is not — a patriot all too often poisons our political debate.”
“Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given, ” Obama said. “It was how I was raised. It was what propelled me into public service. It it why I am running for president. And yet at times over the last 16 months, my patriotism [has been] challenged – at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for.”
Curiously, Obama did not name a single person that actually has attacked his patriotism. Is there any national figure who has actually done so? Sure, there are anonymous emails propounding fevered conspiracy theories, and there might even be more of them targeting Obama than others (although I sincerely doubt he can beat Cheney), but I’m not aware of any major media outlet or public figure who has done so.
No, I think that Obama has learned the value of attacking a straw man, as he has done on race and campaign finance. And, I think the reason he chose today is to distract from yesterday’s attacks by Wesley Clark — his campaign surrogate — on John McCain’s military experience:
“In the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk,” [Clark] said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s a matter of gauging your opponents and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. . .
“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said. “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded _ that wasn’t a wartime squadron.”
Clark is right I suppose; McCain didn’t command a squadron until after the war. During the war, his promotions got stalled for some reason. (I’m reminded of this again.)
POSTSCRIPT: Part of the reason Obama has had troubles in the area of patriotism is the ridiculous flag pin controversy. As the record shows, Obama manufactured that controversy himself, with his unwise decision to attack the patriotism of those who did wear flag pins. Too clever by half, it turned out.
Glenn Reynolds makes an interesting observation about the Heller opinions:
What’s most striking about Heller is that absolutely everybody — majority and dissents — says the Second Amendment protects an individual right.
It’s true that the dissenters’ view of that right is somewhere between “minimalist” (to be charitable) and “incoherent” (to be accurate). But nonetheless, all nine Justices specifically said the right is individual, and thus rejected the “collective right” position on the Second Amendment, a position that’s been the mainstay of gun-control groups, newspaper editorialists, and lower federal courts for decades, and one that was presented by those adherents as so obviously correct that those arguing for an individual right were called “frauds” and shills for the NRA.
Yet the collective right theory could not command a single vote on the Court when actually tested. It was, it seems, a paper tiger all along.
I think the reason for this is all the Second Amendment scholarship in recent decades. I guess law professors are good for something other than blogging after all!
This is a good example of why I’m so troubled by Google’s near-monopoly over access to information on the Internet. If Google decides to distort its results, for some political or business purpose, how will people know? This is no abstract worry, either, as Google has already done so, and not only in China. (For example, Google News includes highly dubious “news” sources of the leftist persuasion, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an example from the right.)
In this case, Google is following bad procedures — in the very least — if obviously non-spam blogs are being suspended (and worse, not being reinstated in a timely fashion). But it’s more troublesome than that, because Google is deliberately opaque about what its procedures are. Consequently, if they bias their procedures — or just violate them — for some political or business purpose, we have no way of knowing.
Probably Google is simply utilizing a bad algorithm here that has been exploited by pro-Obama vandals, but given Google’s opaqueness, we can judge the incident only by its outcome. And the outcomes of Google incidents, when they have political implications, usually seem to be in line with the company’s public-record political preferences. (I only say “usually” as a hedge; I know of no counterexamples.)
Obviously, a big part of Google’s procedures is their page rank algorithm, which is an important trade secret. But if they can’t be transparent in that area, they need to make a special effort in other areas. It also wouldn’t hurt for them to try to build bridges with people outside the political left.
Doctors in the U.K. reportedly say they have helped conceive a child genetically incapable of developing hereditary breast cancer.
According to the Times of London, doctors screened out embryos that contained a gene that may have given the baby up to an 85 percent chance of getting disease.
The British couple agreed to go through IVF (in-vitro fertilization), although they had no problem conceiving, to allow for the embryos to be screened. They produced 11 embryos, which doctors tested, and found five to be free from the gene, the Times reported.
Two of these were implanted in the woman’s uterus, and she is now 14 weeks pregnant.
Nine discarded embryos to get two that are less likely to develop breast cancer in middle age. It won’t just be breast cancer for long, either. Soon people will be selecting eye color and cheekbones.
Wilmette and Morton Grove will suspend enforcement of their gun bans. (Via Snowflakes in Hell, via Instapundit.) Both towns are somewhat infamous for their gun bans. Morton Grove had the nation’s first. Wilmette made the news four years ago by prosecuting a man who shot an intruder in his home.
BONUS: This is nice:
“The [Heller] ruling puts [Justice Antonin] Scalia and the four other conservative justices squarely on the side of the gang-bangers who terrorize far too many of urban American neighborhoods today,” [Oak Park Village President David Pope] said.
Ooo-kay. I’m not sure that’s the kind of argument for the left to be making right now.
Obama has tried hard to distance himself from his campaign’s earlier statement in favor of the DC gun ban, but I think he’s nailed here. This time it isn’t an aide’s statement to be disavowed. Obama nods and says “right”, twice, as his interviewer asserts “you support the DC handgun ban and you’ve said that it’s constitutional.” He then spends over a minute focusing on more moderate gun-control measures that he supports, but never disputes the earlier assertion.
Hot Air has the YouTube video (search to 1:15 if you’re impatient).
The difference between then and now is, back then Obama was competing with Hillary Clinton for the votes of DC liberals. Back then, extreme gun-control positions paid. Now he wants to appear more centrist.
BONUS: Howard Kurtz tracks Obama’s changing positions on guns, and how they’ve been portrayed in the media. (Via Instapundit.)
Bill Clinton is so bitter about Barack Obama’s victory over his wife Hillary that he has told friends the Democratic nominee will have to beg for his wholehearted support.
Mr Obama is expected to speak to Mr Clinton for the first time since he won the nomination in the next few days, but campaign insiders say that the former president’s future campaign role is a “sticking point” in peace talks with Mrs Clinton’s aides.
The Telegraph has learned that the former president’s rage is still so great that even loyal allies are shocked by his patronising attitude to Mr Obama, and believe that he risks damaging his own reputation by his intransigence.
A senior Democrat who worked for Mr Clinton has revealed that he recently told friends Mr Obama could “kiss my ass” in return for his support.
If the Obama campaign induces the left to learn a few things about their favorite President’s character, it won’t have been a complete waste.
For the last week, orthodox Anglican leaders have been meeting at a conference in Jerusalem. Reuters reports on the results, managing to get nearly everything wrong:
Conservative Anglicans Reluctant to Break Away
Conservative Anglican leaders meeting at a rebel summit expressed frustration with the church’s leadership on Thursday but indicated that an outright schism might be avoided.
The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a week-long convention of hundreds of conservative bishops and clergy, opened on Sunday amid talk that it was a first step towards a split between conservative and liberal wings in the 77-million-strong Anglican Communion.
The Communion is divided over issues such as homosexuality and biblical authority. [Scofflaw: The latter is the central issue, but the former is what interests the media.]
But mid-way through the conference, conservative leaders spoke only of making GAFCON a “movement,” without indicating how such a process would be handled and if there was enough support among the bishops to initiate a split.
As we’ll see, this is simply wrong.
When asked whether worshippers would be able to belong to both the new movement and the Anglican Communion, [Archbishop Nzimbi of Kenya] said: “This is something which should emerge clearly at the end of GAFCON.”
The very question indicates that they have no idea what is going on. The assumption seems to be that orthodox Christians (“conservatives,” the article calls them) would secede from the Anglican Communion. What Reuters does not understand is that the Anglican Communion is overwhelmingly orthodox. If anyone found themselves on the outside, it wouldn’t be the orthodox members.
What is happening is a small province of the Anglican Communion (the United States Episcopal Church) is aggressively challenging the core tenets of the Christian faith (such as the unique redemptive work of Jesus Christ), and is persecuting dissident congregations. Many of those dissident congregations are looking to leave the Episcopal Church and join another province within the Anglican Communion. That is the split being contemplated, one within the Episcopal Church, not the Anglican Communion as a whole.
The conservatives, who claim to represent 35 million Anglicans, mostly in developing countries, have been hinting at a split within the Communion since Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop was consecrated in the United States.
However, it seems that they might now shy away from that step.
“They are trying to back down from the difficult position they put themselves in, as gracefully as possible,” said Jim Naughton, Canon for Communications with the diocese of Washington.
Notice that the only quote the article solicited was from an opponent of the conference, and it is presented uncritically (despite, we’ll see in a moment, being completely wrong). However, basic demographic facts are qualified by “claim”.
Anyway, the main thrust of the article is that participants are backing away from schism (and, according to Naughton, trying to back down gracefully). In fact, the official statement is out, and it doesn’t back away in the slightest:
We recognise the desirability of territorial jurisdiction for provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, except in those areas where churches and leaders are denying the orthodox faith or are preventing its spread, and in a few areas for which overlapping jurisdictions are beneficial for historical or cultural reasons.
We thank God for the courageous actions of those Primates and provinces who have offered orthodox oversight to churches under false leadership, especially in North and South America. The actions of these Primates have been a positive response to pastoral necessities and mission opportunities. We believe that such actions will continue to be necessary and we support them in offering help around the world.
We believe this is a critical moment when the Primates’ Council will need to put in place structures to lead and support the church. In particular, we believe the time is now ripe for the formation of a province in North America for the federation currently known as Common Cause Partnership to be recognised by the Primates’ Council.
(Emphasis mine.) The statement explicitly endorses the formation of a new, orthodox province in North America. Far from backing off, this is actually a stronger position than what has recently been contemplated. (What is now being contemplated is to move orthodox parishes and dioceses to another existing province — probably the Southern Cone — rather than creation of a new province.)
This article completely misunderstands what happened in Jerusalem (or worse, deliberately misrepresents it). Truly a shabby piece of work.
When you eliminate oil, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric, you’ve already eliminated every plausible technology to address our energy needs. But why stop with the plausible ones? Wind power is bad (either for environmental concerns, or because it spoils the beachfront views of our ruling class). Geothermal disrupts the earth.
Now, solar is bad for the environment too. (Via Instapundit.) So what’s left? Is there any form of energy, even impractical, that can satisfy the demands of the greens? (Perhaps this is where they imagine society should be going.)
Still working my way through the opinion. Scalia’s logical analysis of the Second Amendment was surprisingly enjoyable reading.
There was one bit I particularly liked. After demolishing the idea that the term “bear arms” (when not followed by “against”) was an idiom for military activity, the opinion goes on:
In any event, the meaning of “bear arms” that petitioners and JUSTICE STEVENS propose is not even the (sometimes) idiomatic meaning. Rather, they manufacture a hybrid definition, whereby “bear arms” connotes the actual carrying of arms (and therefore is not really an idiom) but only in the service of an organized militia. No dictionary has ever adopted that definition, and we have been apprised of no source that indicates that it carried that meaning at the time of the founding. But it is easy to see why petitioners and the dissent are driven to the hybrid definition. Giving “bear Arms” its idiomatic meaning would cause the protected right to consist of the right to be a soldier or to wage war—an absurdity that no commentator has ever endorsed. See L. Levy, Origins of the Bill of Rights 135 (1999). Worse still, the phrase “keep and bear Arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.” Grotesque.
France’s Europe minister, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, has said that Europe has enemies in Washington, suggesting that neo-conservatives played a significant role in the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty earlier this month.
French daily Le Monde reports Mr Jouyet as saying that “Europe has powerful enemies on the other side of the Atlantic, gifted with considerable financial means. The role of American neo-conservatives was very important in the victory of the No.”
A Virginia court today upheld an Virginia law that blocked the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia from confiscating the property of its dissident congregations. (Opinion here (big pdf).) Many conservative parishes are leaving the Episcopal Church over a host of issues (most famously — but less importantly — over issues regarding sexuality) that call into question whether the Episcopal Church is even Christian any more. Episcopal Dioceses have responded by attempting to confiscate the property of congregations that secede, but the Diocese of Virginia has been blocked by an 1867 law called the Division Statute.
The Diocese laments that the Division Statute is “uniquely hostile to religious freedom,” which is strikingly audacious, given that the Diocese itself is attempting to persecute dissident congregations for exercising their religious freedom. I sympathize with the idea that the court should not involve itself in the affairs of a church, but the Diocese of Virginia initiated that involvement itself by suing the dissident congregations for their property. (Contrary to the Bible’s teaching (1Co 6:1-8), I might add.)
When Obama recently backed away from his earlier statement in favor of the gun ban (“Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.”), his campaign refused to admit he was changing his position. Rather, they said that it was an “inartful” attempt to explain Obama’s position. Evidently, “artful” means “too clear”.
By that standard, Obama’s latest statement in the wake of the Heller decision is more much artful:
I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today’s ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.
As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today’s decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.
(Emphasis mine.) There’s a lot of obfuscatory (“artful”) blather here, but the statement may not quite be artful enough. Not the emphasized sentence, implying that Chicago’s gun ban works. Presumably, if it works, it must be constitutional, right?
The problem is, the Chicago gun ban is virtually identical to the unconstitutional DC gun ban, and will likely be overturned in short order. As Michael Goldfarb points out, Chicago Mayor Daley’s angry response to the ruling indicates he expects that to happen.
So is Obama saying that the Chicago ban is constitutional? His campaign turns on the art:
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is hedging on whether Chicago’s ban on handguns is constitutionally permissible in the wake of Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a similar law in Washington, D.C. . .
But Obama’s spokesman says that the reference to “what works in Chicago” does not indicate his view on the constitutionality of Chicago law.
“He didn’t point out anything specific except for the fact that they are two different places where different solutions are often appropriate,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.
So the mention of Chicago, the city obvious to all as the next battleground in gun rights, was just a meaningless turn of phrase? Please.
I’ve been thinking. The war in Iraq is 5 years old, but the war on poverty is 44 years old. Isn’t it high time that we cut off support for the poor? Wouldn’t that surely induce them to resolve their own problems?
First, read this “curious” exchange from today’s House Judiciary Committee meeting between Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) and David Addington (chief of staff to Vice President Cheney):
Addington had acknowledged earlier in the hearing that he took part in discussions with CIA lawyers over the agency’s interrogation policies. Delahunt tried to find out what Addington knew about the use of waterboarding on suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, or more specifically, whether Addington knew it was approved as an interrogation technique.
Addington told Delahunt he couldn’t discuss specific techniques being used, or even discussed for use, by CIA agents because terrorists may be watching his appearance and would gain insight into what U.S. intelligence agents are up to.
“You kind of communicate with Al Qaeda if you do. I can’t talk to you because Al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN,” Addington said.
Delahunt responded: “I’m sure they are watching. I’m glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington, given your penchant for being unobtrusive.“
(Emphasis mine.) What did Delahunt mean? Surely he couldn’t have meant that he’s glad Al Qaeda can target Addington now, could he? (Allahpundit thinks so.) Could he really have sunk so low that he cannot resist expressing revenge fantasies in public? These guys are running the country, for pete’s sake.
The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he ‘…believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.’
Asked by ABC News’ Charlie Gibson if he considers the D.C. law to be consistent with an individual’s right to bear arms at ABC’s April 16, 2008, debate in Philadelphia, Obama said, “Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven’t listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence.”
Now the campaign has explicitly disavowed its earlier statement, but as usual, he cannot admit he has changed his position:
The Obama campaign is disavowing what it calls an “inartful” statement to the Chicago Tribune last year in which an unnamed aide characterized Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as believing that the DC ban was constitutional.
“That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator’s consistent position,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.
“Inartful” means “too clear”, I guess. In contrast, his position now is quite “artful”, because he won’t say what it is. (Whatever it is, it’s definitely consistent, though.)
By the way, as Ed Morrissey points out, Obama was a constitutional law professor! Isn’t this the sort of subject on which he actually ought to be able to give an informed opinion? John McCain, on the other hand, despite not being a law professor of any kind, is on record with a clear and consistent position. He even went so far as to sign an amicus brief.
“It is extremely troubling to see the Government of Venezuela employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers. We will continue to expose the global nature of Hezbollah’s terrorist support network, and we call on responsible governments worldwide to disrupt and dismantle this activity,” said Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
The Second Amendment is naturally divided into two parts: its prefatory clause and its operative clause. The former does not limit the latter grammatically, but rather announces a purpose. . . Although this structure of the Second Amendment is unique in our Constitution, other legal documents of the founding era, particularly individual-rights provisions of state constitutions, commonly included a prefatory statement of purpose. . .
Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command. The Second Amendment would be nonsensical if it read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to petition for redress of grievances shall not be infringed.” That requirement of logical connection may cause a prefatory clause to resolve an ambiguity in the operative clause (“The separation of church and state being an important objective, the teachings of canons shall have no place in our jurisprudence.” The preface makes clear that the operative clause refers not to canons of interpretation but to clergymen.) But apart from that clarifying function, a prefatory clause does not limit or expand the scope of the operative clause. . . “ ‘It is nothing unusual in acts . . . for the enacting part to go beyond the preamble; the remedy often extends beyond the particular act or mischief which first suggested the necessity of the law.’ ”
With this enlightening footnote:
JUSTICE STEVENS says that we violate the general rule that every clause in a statute must have effect. . . But where the text of a clause itself indicates that it does not have operative effect, such as “whereas” clauses in federal legislation or the Constitution’s preamble, a court has no license to make it do what it was not designed to do. Or to put the point differently, operative provisions should be given effect as operative provisions, and prologues as prologues.
In interpreting [the Second Amendment], we are guided by the principle that “[t]he Constitution was written to be understood by the voters; its words and phrases were used in their normal and ordinary as distinguished from technical meaning.” United States v. Sprague, 282 U. S. 716, 731 (1931); see also Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 188 (1824). Normal meaning may of course include an idiomatic meaning, but it excludes secret or technical meanings that would not have been known to ordinary citizens in the
In a bid to cement voters’ loyalty, Mr Mugabe has ordered price cuts of up to 90 per cent in some areas. Truckloads of scarce goods are being sent from Harare to so-called People’s Shops, which were inaugurated by Mr Mugabe during his campaign. These will be forced to sell bottles of cooking oil at Z$1 billion, or about 6p, according to the official Herald daily. Normally, a bottle costs Z$16 billion (£1).
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns. (Opinion here.) According to Tom Goldstein, “The opinion leaves open the question whether the Second Amendment is incorporated against the States, but strongly suggests it is. So today’s ruling likely applies equally to State regulation.” (UPDATE: More on incorporation from Eugene Volokh.)
The vote was 5-4, which leaves the matter intact as a political issue. This probably helps McCain.
Finally, there’s this gem:
In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority “would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.”
For Justice Stevens to suddenly discover the idea of original intent is the height of chutzpah. Moreover, his application is complete nonsense; the Framers weren’t contemplating the regulation of civilian weapons one way or the other.
UPDATE: The bit about a “well regulated Militia” is directly addressed on page one of the syllabus:
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved.
UPDATE: Megan McArdle wonders what would have happened if Michael Bellesiles had never been shown to be a fraud. (Via Instapundit.)
Spanish apes are one step closer to receiving the same [rights] to life and freedom humans have.
The environmental committee of Spain’s parliament approved resolutions that urge the European country to comply with the Great Apes Project — a plan developed by philosophers and scientists who say the animals deserve the same rights as their closest genetic relatives, the Reuters news agency reported.
UPDATE: Stephen Green thinks that European-style human rights isn’t much of an aspiration for the apes:
Try looking at it this way. Your average EU country doesn’t really recognize individual rights; there are just some facets of human existence Brussels hasn’t gotten around yet to regulating fully. So why not give “rights” to chimps? It’s not like they’ll gain much, when half or more of Europe is already one very posh, very nice zoological garden where people are kept on display in a semi-natural state.
Heck, Madrid, or even Brussels, could extend the franchise to dogs who think they’re people, at it wouldn’t make one bit of difference to how the place is governed.
Words of condemnation help to deny Mugabe’s claims of legitimacy, but words alone are not enough. Specific sanctions against some of the leaders of the violence may also be useful, but their impact will be limited. Broad economic sanctions will only increase the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people, whose misery has already been increased by Mugabe’s refusal to accept emergency food assistance from the U.N.
There is also talk about U.N. peacekeeping forces or other forms of military intervention, but this does not seem to be what the people of Zimbabwe want. What the people of Zimbabwe clearly do want is to maintain the pressure on Mugabe and his cronies for peaceful, democratic change.
The international community should commit – as publicly and urgently as possible – to provide substantial support if Mugabe relinquishes power. Even if Mr. Tsvangirai were to become president tomorrow he would still face a daunting set of problems: restoring an economy in which hyperinflation has effectively destroyed the currency and unemployment is a staggering 70%; getting emergency food aid to millions who are at risk of starvation and disease; promoting reconciliation after the terrible violence; and undoing Mugabe’s damaging policies, without engendering a violent backlash.
The international community should also say it will move rapidly to remove the burden of debts accumulated by the Mugabe regime and not force a new government to spend many months and precious human resources on the issue.
Apropos of my earlier post, in which I asserted that nuclear power is extremely safe, I uncovered a short report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the Three Mile Island accident. The TMI accident is important because it and Chernobyl are the most frequent arguments against the safety of nuclear power. Chernobyl was a Soviet design far below any standards ever employed in the West, so it isn’t actually relevant. On the other hand, TMI was an American design.
One counter to the TMI example is that designs and procedures have changed completely since the TMI accident. Moreover, modern pebble bed reactors are based on an entirely different technology that is self-limiting, and therefore incapable of melting down.
The preceding is by far the more important argument, but there is another to be made: If by “serious” one means “affecting the health of at least one person,” then there has never been a serious nuclear accident in the United States, TMI notwithstanding. In the words of the NRC report:
Detailed studies of the radiological consequences of the accident have been conducted by the NRC, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services), the Department of Energy, and the State of Pennsylvania. Several independent studies have also been conducted. Estimates are that the average dose to about 2 million people in the area was only about 1 millirem. To put this into context, exposure from a full set of chest x-rays is about 6 millirem. Compared to the natural radioactive background dose of about 100-125 millirem per year for the area, the collective dose to the community from the accident was very small. The maximum dose to a person at the site boundary would have been less than 100 millirem.
In the months following the accident, although questions were raised about possible adverse effects from radiation on human, animal, and plant life in the TMI area, none could be directly correlated to the accident. Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil, and foodstuffs were collected by various groups monitoring the area. Very low levels of radionuclides could be attributed to releases from the accident. However, comprehensive investigations and assessments by several well-respected organizations have concluded that in spite of serious damage to the reactor, most of the radiation was contained and that the actual release had negligible effects on the physical health of individuals or the environment.
Of the two million affected, the average person got one-sixth of a chest x-ray. The maximum effect to anyone was equivalent to one year of natural background radiation.
“The possibilities of renewable energy are limitless,” Mr. Obama said in an energy policy speech Tuesday in Las Vegas.
He’s quite a bit more pessimistic about real technologies, though. In his energy speech yesterday, not only did he blast nuclear power, the one technology that can resolve our electric problems, but he also opposed oil sands, which could help reduce our dependence on OPEC.
While politicians prattle on about “renewable” (but uneconomical) energy sources such as solar and wind, or yet-to-be-invented silver bullets, there already exists one practical and economical way to generate all the electricity we need. Nuclear power is cost-effective, generates no greenhouse gases, and is extremely safe with modern technology (especially pebble bed designs).
Despite being the only existing technology that can solve our electricity problems, nuclear power has been crippled in America by demagoguery and NIMBYism. Recently, however, the rising price of oil, increasing concern over greenhouse gasses, and dwindling reserves in electrical generating capacity have let to a resurgence of interest in nuclear power, even among some on the left (eg, Nancy Pelosi).
ASIDE: If you’re not concerned about generating capacity, consider this: Washington DC is projecting rolling blackouts within three years if it cannot drag in power from elsewhere in the country.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama made clear yesterday that he opposes nuclear power (despite earlier indications that he might support it), and prefers to rely on uneconomical and/or nonexistent technologies instead. Speaking in Nevada, which has managed to block the opening of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, he blasted McCain’s proposal to begin building nuclear reactors again. He did say that he might support nuclear power sometime in the future, provided we can find a way to deal with the waste that doesn’t involve putting it somewhere. (Alas, I am not making this up.)
If our nation’s capital starts suffering rolling blackouts in a few years, or if we’re forced to rely on coal for electricity, I hope people will remember why.
Bizarrely, the decision seems to hinge on “a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape.” This is that sort of national consensus that exists without the participation of the people, I guess.
Barack Obama said Tuesday evangelical leader James Dobson was “making stuff up” when he accused the presumed Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible. Dobson used his Focus on the Family radio program to highlight excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal.
Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane before landing in Los Angeles, Obama said the speech made the argument that people of faith, like himself, “try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”
Obama added, “I think you’ll see that he was just making stuff up, maybe for his own purposes.”
I guess Obama’s idea of “open and vigorous debate” doesn’t allow for any actual criticism. (And what a strange ad hominem it is to accuse Dobson of acting “for his own purposes”! Of course he’s acting for his own purposes, as is Obama and everyone else.)
Anyway, the AP article doesn’t give any of the substance of the debate. It just presents it as a he-said, she-said sort of disagreement. (I suppose from the AP’s perspective, how could anyone be right? It’s just the Bible, after all.) But, since it’s already established that Obama doesn’t understand the Bible (or doesn’t believe it, at least), I suspect that Dobson has the right of it.
Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace with Palestinian terrorists have to be the very definition of the word “quixotic”. The latest cease-fire is in tatters after five days, and no one is surprised. (Actually, I’m a little surprised it lasted so long.) Few things in the world are certain, but two things you can predict with confidence are the outcomes of Cuban elections and Palestinian cease-fires.
The security environment in Iraq continues to improve, with all major violence indicators reduced between 40 to 80% from pre-surge levels. Total security incidents have fallen to their lowest level in over four years. Coalition and Iraqi forces’ operations against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have degraded its ability to attack and terrorize the population. Although AQI remains a major threat and is still capable of high-profile attacks, the lack of violence linked to AQI in recent weeks demonstrates the effect these operations have had on its network.
Equally important, the government’s success in Basrah and Baghdad’s Sadr City against militias, particularly Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and the Iranian-supported Special Groups, has reinforced a greater public rejection of militias. . . Overall, the communal struggle for power and resources is becoming less violent. Many Iraqis are now settling their differences through debate and the political process rather than open conflict. Other factors that have contributed to a reduction in violence include the revitalization of sectors of the Iraqi economy and local reconciliation measures.
Although the number of civilian deaths in April 2008 increased slightly from February and March 2008, in May 2008 civilian deaths declined to levels not seen since January 2006, when the Coalition began tracking this data. Both Iraqi and Coalition forces reported that civilian deaths are 75% lower than July 2007 levels and 82% lower than the peak number of monthly deaths that occurred in November of 2006 at the height of sectarian violence.
The U.S. military will transfer control of security in Iraq’s Anbar province to Iraqi forces this week, a remarkable turnaround given the vast western region was considered lost to insurgents less than two years ago.
Anbar will be the 10th of Iraq’s 18 provinces returned to Iraqi security control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but it will be the first Sunni Arab region handed back.
Barack Obama is endangering his status as the media darling of the 2008 presidential campaign. In fact, he has been the villain in the campaign story over the last few days. Two decisions — one small and one large — showed the dangers he faces. And a third showed that the post-racial candidate is no longer in evidence.
It is no secret that the media has been openly rooting for Obama for months. His gaffes would have felled other candidates, his relationship with hate-mongering preachers would have disqualified mere mortal candidates and, of course, his lack of any national record of accomplishment might have prevented all much the most ego-inflated from even mounting a White House run. But it was hanging together fairly well until last week.
With things starting to go well in Iraq, the networks are scaling back their coverage:
According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been “massively scaled back this year.” Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The “CBS Evening News” has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC’s “World News” and 74 minutes on “NBC Nightly News.” (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)
CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.
The networks cry that covering Iraq is too expensive now:
“It’s terrible,” Ms. Logan [of CBS] said in the telephone interview. She called it a financial decision. “We can’t afford to maintain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time,” she said. “It’s so expensive and the security risks are so great that it’s prohibitive.”
Mr. Friedman psenior VP at CBS] said coverage of Iraq is enormously expensive, mostly due to the security risks. He said meetings with other television networks about sharing the costs of coverage have faltered for logistical reasons.
I don’t buy it. How can security cost more now that it’s easier? No, they just don’t like the product they’re getting now.
Ms. Logan said she begged for months to be embedded with a group of Navy Seals, and when she came back with the story, a CBS producer said to her, “One guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform.”
Oh, they don’t like the stories they get from embedding. Too many actual servicemen that way.
Bottom line, Iraq coverage is all about politics:
Journalists at all three American television networks with evening newscasts expressed worries that their news organizations would withdraw from the Iraqi capital after the November presidential election. They spoke only on the condition of anonymity in order to avoid offending their employers.
The Telegraph has a generally good column comparing George W. Bush to Harry Truman, as presidents who are not well-liked as they leave office but to whom history will be kinder. It makes a strange mistake though, referring to “President Harding, the disastrous president of the Great Depression.”
Warren Harding died in office on August 2, 1923. The Depression is generally regarded to have begun with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. President Harding campaigned on a “return to normalcy” after Woodrow Wilson’s excesses during the First World War, and delivered on that promise, for which we should all be grateful. However, he was plagued by scandal and accomplished little else before his untimely death. He was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge, who is now generally well-regarded (more so by conservatives than liberals). Coolidge was then succeeded by Herbert Hoover (of whom Coolidge did not approve), and it was Hoover who was president at the start of the Great Depression.
The Telegraph is a British paper, of course, but one still might hope that they could get the basic facts of American history straight in a historical retrospective column.
POSTSCRIPT: The degree to which we needed a “return to normalcy” after the Wilson administration is not well-known any more, but it should be. Chapter 3 of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is all about it.
A few years ago, Israel unilaterally withdrew from its security buffer in southern Lebanon. At the time, that was the sole demand of Hezbollah. But terrorist organizations don’t cease to exist when their demands are met, they simply issue new demands, and Hezbollah is no exception. After Israel’s disengagement from Lebanon, Hezbollah announced that it also required that Israel turn over the Shebaa farms (a small piece of territory claimed by Syria).
Now, facing the prospect of perhaps getting what they demand, Hezbollah has announced that Israel turning over the Shebaa farms would not be enough. Also, they have backtracked in negotiations over a prisoner exchange, demanding hundreds of additional (non-Lebanese) prisoners be released in exchange for the release of the two Israeli soldiers they kidnapped. One might be forgiven for wondering if perhaps Hezbollah might not want peace!
There’s a reason it’s long been said that negotiating with terrorists is folly.
The strangest thing about the Plame-Novak-Armitage affair was the spectacle of liberal journalists pretending to be outraged at the leaking of the name of a CIA agent. Ordinarily, the media are delighted with any classified leaks they can get, and care not a whit about the implications to national security. What was different in the Plame affair was that the leak favored Republicans, and might have been (but, in fact, wasn’t) done by the White House.
With mounting violence in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai has announced that he is pulling out of the presidential runoff. With the likelihood that voting for Tsvangirai would cost voters their lives, and Mugabe vowing to stay in power whatever the results, he decided it would irresponsible to carry through with the charade.
I’ve long expected that Mugabe will leave office only at the end of a noose.
After Irish voters rejected the Lisbon treaty, the EU commissioned a poll to find out why. But it seems they didn’t like what they found, according to Open Europe Blog, who observe that the EU appears to have lied about the results. They claim that 40% voted no because they didn’t understand it, when the actual (pdf link) number is 22%. (The article specifically mentions Eurobarometer, so it does look like they’re talking about the same poll.)
There is a growing feeling that European leaders meeting in Brussels tomorrow for their six-monthly summit will want another Irish referendum next year to save the treaty, which they regard as vital for the streamlining of the EU.
“Of course, we must respect Ireland’s constitutional system, but we must also respect the vote of the 18 countries which have already ratified the treaty. The Irish ‘no’ cannot be the last word.”
Next Big Future has an update on the uranium hydride reactor, which Hyperion, a startup company, is preparing to bring to market in 2012. The reactor would be installed right where the power is needed, and would be fully contained with no serviceable parts, making it more akin to a battery than a reactor.
Hyperion advertises that its reactor should last 7-10 years and would cost $1400 per kilowatt during that time. Taking the conservative 7-year duration, that works out to 2.28 cents per kilowatt-hour (or a little more if you take into account present value). By comparison, I’m paying 8.41 cents per kilowatt-hour in Pittsburgh right now.
Their first installations will be at oil sand and oil shale facilities, where they hope their safety record will make people comfortable with installing them closer to home.
ASIDE: My understanding is that the hydrogen atoms in uranium hydride damp the neutrons, thereby slowing the fission reaction. That’s bad for weapons but good for energy generation.
The [Iraqi] foreign minister [Hoshyar Zebari] said “my message” to Mr. Obama “was very clear. . . . Really, we are making progress. I hope any actions you will take will not endanger this progress.” He said he was reassured by the candidate’s response, which caused him to think that Mr. Obama might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain. Mr. Zebari said that in addition to promising a visit, Mr. Obama said that “if there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or action to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security. Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field.”
It’s curious that this news is appearing in an editorial and not in any news report. (At least, I couldn’t find one, except second-hand stories referring to the editorial.) Additionally, according to ABC’s Jake Tapper, Obama denied to him that the conversation went the way the Post reports. But, that was before the editorial came out, so he wasn’t denying a specific report. Also, the Goulsbee controversy showed that Obama’s denials don’t mean anything (except perhaps in a ultra-literal way, such as denying an entire story because it took place at the Canadian consulate rather than embassy).
Anyway, not every flip-flop is bad, so this is potential good news.
The Motion Picture Association of America said Friday intellectual-property holders should have the right to collect damages, perhaps as much as $150,000 per copyright violation, without having to prove infringement.
“Mandating such proof could thus have the pernicious effect of depriving copyright owners of a practical remedy against massive copyright infringement in many instances,” MPAA attorney Marie L. van Uitert wrote Friday to the federal judge overseeing the Jammie Thomas trial.
These people must have taken a course on how to keep a straight face.
The New Atlantis has an article on public opinion regarding stem cell research. Two results stand out. First, people are strikingly ignorant, especially those who think they are not:
In fact, professed familiarity with stem cell research in the prior question turned out to be a leading indicator of actual ignorance with respect to this question of therapeutic uses. Almost 40% of those who claimed some knowledge about the research in the earlier question believed, incorrectly, that embryonic stem cells had yielded therapeutic results.
Second, people’s opinion on embryonic stem cell research depends largely on the way the question is framed. When phrased to emphasize potential cures for diseases, embryonic stem cell research is supported by a margin of 54%-39%. However, when phrased in terms of ethics, it is opposed by a margin of 62%-33%. Other phrasings gave results in the middle.
There’s material there for anyone to cherry-pick numbers to support their position, but if we can draw any honest conclusion, it’s that most people don’t know what’s going on.
Seriously, although the doomsday scenario always seemed extremely farfetched, it wasn’t clear to me how anyone could say for certain. But, it turns out that, as CERN puts it: “Nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments – and the planet still exists.”
Since February, American intelligence has been crippled since the House Democratic leadership refused to allow a vote on a compromise bill and also allowed a temporary measure to expire. During that time, any terrorists anywhere in the world could escape surveillance by the simple expedient of communicating over the Internet.
Finally a new compromise has been struck and it includes House Democratic leaders, so there’s good reason to expect it will actually be voted on, and pass. Andrew McCarthy of National Review says it’s a good deal on balance. So does Phillip Carter of the Washington Post.
UPDATE: Actually, the House already passed the bill.
As expected, Obama broke his pledge to accept public financing of his campaign. But in a fit of chutzpah, he presented his opportunistic reversal as a matter of principle. As the Washington Post put it:
Barack Obama isn’t abandoning his pledge to take public financing for the general election campaign because it’s in his political interest. Certainly not. He isn’t about to become the first candidate since Watergate to run an election fueled entirely with private money because he will be able to raise far more that way than the mere $85 million he’d get if he stuck to his promise — and with which his Republican opponent, John McCain, will have to make do. No, Mr. Obama, or so he would have you believe, is forgoing the money because he is so committed to public financing. . .
Pardon the sarcasm. But given Mr. Obama’s earlier pledge to “aggressively pursue” an agreement with the Republican nominee to accept public financing, his effort to cloak his broken promise in the smug mantle of selfless dedication to the public good is a little hard to take. “It’s not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections,” Mr. Obama said in a video message to supporters.
Mr. Obama didn’t mention his previous proposal to take public financing if the Republican nominee agreed to do the same . . . Instead, he cast his abandonment of the system as a bold good-government move. . .
Fine. Politicians do what politicians need to do. But they ought to spare us the self-congratulatory back-patting while they’re doing it.
“John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs,” Obama said in his message to supporters yesterday. “And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”
To date, no conservative 527 groups have materialized.
The Washington Post also reports that Obama has rejected McCain’s proposal for a series of town hall debates:
Although campaign finance issues rank low on lists of voter concerns, the McCain team pounced on Obama’s move, along with his rejection of the 10 town hall meetings that McCain has proposed, as evidence that his claim to represent a “new politics” is empty rhetoric.
There is some potential good news here; this stuff was all reported and editorialized. As Glenn Reynolds put it, the media bloom may be off the Obama rose. Obama has benefited from breathtakingly positive coverage, and if he loses that, he may find that it was worth more than he’s gaining.
Matthews denies he wants to host “Meet the Press”: “I love what I do. My Sunday show is a perfect fit for me. I hope they find a perfect fit for ‘Meet the Press.’ ”
Meanwhile, Matthews’ MSNBC cable cohort Olbermann, who was also at the memorial, is “threatening to quit if he isn’t installed as Russert’s replacement,” another insider said. “I know, it sounds ludicrous, but, then, Keith Olbermann is ludicrous.”
A rep for MSNBC said, “All of this is utterly untrue.”
Russert himself wanted Chuck Todd, the NBC News political director he hired, to succeed him, said one source, who added that MSNBC hosts don’t stand a chance of landing “Meet the Press.” The insider said, “They’re cable. They’re far too partisan. They have no gravitas. If gravitas is eight letters, they’re about seven letters short.”
The artists reportedly softened King’s face to make him look less “confrontational and like a socialist leader.” However, officials with the King memorial foundation refused to release a picture. What’s that about?
Defense contractor Northrop Grumman won a $6.7 million contract to develop brain-wave binoculars.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA, awarded the contract to develop intelligent binoculars that would help soldiers detect threats from miles away. The defense contractor says electrodes placed on the scalp will record the user’s electrical brain activity. Responses will train the system over time to recognize actual threats at greater distances than conventional binoculars.
The system would use a custom helmet equipped with wide-angle binoculars capable of producing high-resolution images and electroencephalogram, or EEG, electrodes. Researchers hope to tap into the brain’s ability to spot patterns and movement.
The article doesn’t say how it works, and seems to imply that the device would tap into subconscious brain activity. That would definitely be cool, but it seems more likely to me that the brain-wave monitoring is used to identify threats that the wearer is aware of, and then a machine-learning algorithm uses that information to learn to recognize threats from video input.
Because advertisement fact-checking reports like this one are never viewed as widely as the spots themselves, a good many people may take from this advertisement that Mr. McCain is supporting 100 years of an overwhelmingly unpopular war.
Iraqi troops fanned out and gunmen tossed weapons on the streets or in canals with the official launch of the military crackdown in Amarah, a stronghold of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia and the purported center of weapons smuggling from neighboring Iran.
The military action came a day after the expiration of a four-day deadline for militants in Amarah to surrender their arms or face arrest.
It’s the fourth such U.S.-backed Iraqi military operation launched against Shiite and Sunni extremists in recent months as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seeks to assert government control over the country ahead of provincial elections to be held in the fall.
Hopefully this will help stem the flow of weapons from Iran.
ASIDE: The AP article focuses on the arrest of the top official in Amarah, a Sadrist. The usual people are outraged, but there’s not enough information yet to know what the arrest was about.
Last February, Barack Obama spoke out against NAFTA, saying he would tell Canada and Mexico “that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labour and environmental standards.” However, Canadian television reported that a “top staff member” of the Obama campaign reassured the Canadian government that this was only (in CTV’s words) “campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.” The Obama campaign furiously denied the story, at times denying even that a meeting took place. (Obama put it plainly, “It did not happen.”) But then CTV named the representative, Austan Goolsbee, and the AP obtained an official memo regarding the meeting:
According to the writer of the memorandum, Joseph De Mora, a political and economic affairs consular officer, Professor Goolsbee assured them that Mr. Obama’s protectionist stand on the trail was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.”
Then unable to deny the meeting, the Obama campaign changed its tack, denying only the substance of the report, and claiming never to have denied the actual meeting:
In an interview with the AP, Goolsbee disputed a portion of the memo that quotes him as saying that campaign rhetoric “that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy.”
“That’s this guy’s language,” Goolsbee said of the memo’s author, Joseph De Mora. “He’s not quoting me.” . . .
Burton stood by the campaign’s handling of the story, saying the denials were in response to the “substance of the matter at hand” about whether someone representing Obama was consistent about his position on trade.
“At no point did we deny there was a meeting,” Burton said Monday, hours after Sen. Dick Durbin, a top Obama surrogate, denied the meeting on MSNBC. “We made it crystal clear to anyone who was covering it.”
That’s where the Obama campaign left it: he really would opt out of the treaty and his supposed reassurances to Canada were a misunderstanding.
In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine’s upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn’t want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.
“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,” he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake,” despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.
Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? “Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself,” he answered.
In other words, Obama’s opt-out position on NAFTA was (as CTV put it from the start) “campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.” Every single denial the Obama campaign issued was a a lie, from the actual meeting to the underlying substance.
POSTSCRIPT: The campaign has admitted being in possession of all the facts when they issued their denials, so they can’t argue confusion. However, the story is muddled by the fact that the original CTV story contained some minor factual errors — such as whether the meeting happened at the Canadian Embassy or Consulate — so it could be argued that some of the denials were literally true. I’m comfortable calling a deliberate deception a lie, but if you like, you can read “lie” as “deception” in the last paragraph.
First, the father banned his 12-year-old daughter from going online after she posted photos of herself on a dating site. Then she allegedly had a row with her stepmother, so the father said his girl couldn’t go on a school trip.
The girl took the matter to the court – and won what lawyers say was an unprecedented judgment.
Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court ruled on Friday that the father couldn’t discipline his daughter by barring her from the school trip.
We don’t hold out much hope that a review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s powers to investigate allegations of hate speech will come to much. For one thing, the commission handpicked its own investigator. But mostly we are skeptical because even when calling for the review, chief commissioner Jennifer Lynch demonstrated no clear understanding of free speech or the value of protecting it.
There can be no doubt Canada’s human rights bodies — federal and provincial — are in need of investigation. They are out of control, far more interested in imposing political correctness than defending free speech.
They have become laws unto themselves, too, routinely suspending rules of evidence that have taken centuries to perfect.
Consider that Ms. Lynch’s own lead investigator at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), Dean Steacy, recently testified at a hate speech hearing that “freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.” . . .
It is increasingly obvious these commissions were set up deliberately to lower the standard of proof and get around rules of natural justice, thereby ensuring people who would never be convicted in court are punished to the satisfaction of the activists and special interest groups that hover around the tribunals.
Third parties not involved in the alleged offences may nonetheless file complaints. Occasionally, the plaintiff has been given access to the commissions’ investigation files and given the power to direct investigators. Truth is not a defence. Defendants are not always permitted to face their accusers. Normal standards for assuring the validity of evidence do not apply. Hearsay is admitted. The government funds the plaintiff but the defendant is on his own and commission investigators may attempt to entrap suspects by getting them to say or do hateful things they might not have done on their own.
No wonder the CHRC has a 100% conviction rate on hate speech complaints.
Two Muslim women at Barack Obama’s rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women’s headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.
The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.
“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”
They can say that it’s not their policy, but this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the Obama campaign. And why not? Today’s identity politics makes this sort of thing inevitable.
An advisor, Daniel Kurtzer, to Barack Obama says that Obama didn’t realize what he was saying to AIPAC when he used the term”undivided” in reference to Jerusalem. According to Kurtzer, Obama had “a picture in his mind of Jerusalem before 1967 with barbed wires and minefields and demilitarized zones.” Kurtzer says that only after the speech did Obama realize it was a “code word” to use the phrase, “but it does not indicate any kind of naivete about foreign affairs.”
Oh, it doesn’t indicate naivete? That’s a relief.
ASIDE: Even I knew that “undivided” meant not sharing the city with a Palestinian state. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t say “even I,” since I have nearly as much experience in government as Obama does.
Michael Ledeen writes on our bizarre, but hardly unprecedented, blindness to the nature of evil world leaders:
Clearly, the explanations we gave for our failure to act in the last century were wrong. The rise of messianic mass movements is not new, and there is very little we do not know about them. Nor is there any excuse for us to be surprised at the success of evil leaders, even in countries with long histories and great cultural and political accomplishments. We know all about that. So we need to ask the old questions again. Why are we failing to see the mounting power of evil enemies? Why do we treat them as if they were normal political phenomena, as Western leaders do when they embrace negotiations as the best course of action?
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (June 17, 2008) – Afghan National Police and Coalition forces completed a patrol in the Arghandab District of Kandahar province today and found no evidence that militants control the area.
While in the area, Coalition forces moved freely and met no resistance. Recent reports of militant control in the area appear to be unfounded.
The threat of militant activity still exists throughout the province, but the patrol found no indication that militants have overwhelming strength in the Arghandab area.
The Economist reports that police are looking for ways to catch fugitives in cars without dangerous high-speed chases:
One way to avoid the need for chases would be to track felonious vehicles electronically, instead of running after them. StarChase, a company based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, has developed a way to do just that. A pneumatic cannon is mounted on the pursuit car. With the help of a guiding laser, it shoots a satellite-based tracking device, smothered in epoxy goo, onto the target vehicle, allowing the police to track the suspect without endangering the public. The Los Angeles Police Department plans to deploy the system this year.
Sounds good, and they mention several other interesting ideas as well. This one, however, I’m not wild about:
From the police’s point of view, however, it would be better if they could actually stop a runaway car by satellite, not just track it. General Motors plans to allow them to do just that. From September its OnStar service, which provides navigation and emergency services to drivers, will include a system called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. Police who believe a car to be stolen can ask an OnStar operator to disable its accelerator, while leaving the steering and brakes in working order. Some people worry that hackers might take over the system. But Chet Huber, OnStar’s boss, reckons that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Yes, the hackers are a worry, but a greater worry is the government. Once the government starts controlling our vehicles, how long will they limit themselves to this narrow purpose? Not long, history tells us.
ASIDE: The Long Run, one of my favorite novels, paints a picture of an oppressive world government that uses control over vehicles as one of its tools for controlling the populace.
The Economist, in a review of a recent Nixon biography, repeats an old allegation against Chuck Colson:
Chuck Colson, Nixon’s general counsel who famously said that he would run over his grandmother for his boss, once contemplated firebombing the Brookings Institution, a stately think-tank, and then sending in FBI officers dressed as firemen to steal a document that Nixon wanted.
Colson admits to doing many unsavory things in his time before converting to Christianity, but he prefers to be infamous only for the real ones, writing:
SIR – I noticed that your review of a biography of Richard Nixon referred to me in a couple of unflattering ways, including the notion that I contemplated firebombing the Brookings Institution (“The fuel of power”, May 10th). You need to know, if it ever does any good, that this is untrue. The fellow that testified about it during Watergate has totally recanted.
It is not true that I ever urged or suggested it. It was the idea of one Jack Caulfield, who told me about it in the White House men’s room, and I told him he was crazy. Mr Caulfield called me one day and said he wanted to make amends; that I had been unfairly treated, and he was sorry. He later confirmed this to Jonathan Aitken, who wrote a biography of me. I don’t know if it does any good to try to change these things now, but that is the fact.
I was able to locate the relevant passage of Aitken’s book, Charles W. Colson: A Life Redeemed, online and it confirms Colson’s claim. It’s not well-known that Caulfield recanted his allegation, so the Economist doesn’t look all that bad. Still, fact-checking is supposed to be the big advantage of the mainstream media, isn’t it?
In a 132-word videotaped pledge (still viewable on YouTube), Obama agreed to hollow out the U.S. military by slashing both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The scope of his planned defense cuts, combined with his angry tone, is breathtaking. He sounds as if the military is the enemy, not the bad guys it’s fighting. Here is a transcript:
“I’m the only major candidate who opposed this war from the beginning; and as president, I will end it.
“Second, I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems.
“I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the Quadrennial Review is not used to justify unnecessary defense spending.
“Third, I will set a goal for a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop nuclear weapons; I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material; and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert, and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.”
Video here, and his tone is indeed striking. (Via LGF.)
POSTSCRIPT: What exactly would it take for missile defense to be “proven”? Not a deployed system with 23 of 25 tests successful, obviously. I guess the only way to prove it is to shoot down an enemy missile in action. That’s the one proof we’ll never be able to get, if Obama has his way.
Two months ago, I linked to a chronology of missile defense tests at the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance web site. Unfortunately, that link went stale, so I decided to assemble a chronology of my own by correlating dates from the MDAA with press releases at the Missile Defense Agency. Since the first missile defense system was ordered deployed in December 2002, there have been 23 tests reported by the MDA:
For those keeping score, that’s 23 successes and 2 failures. Both failures were for the Aegis/SM-3; one in 2006 when an interceptor failed to fire, the other back in 2003 when an interceptor missed its target.
GMBD (pdf) (ground-based midcourse defense) is the best-known, long-range system, designed to destroy missiles at a distance. THAAD (pdf) (terminal high-altitude area defense) is a portable ground-based system. Aegis/SM-2 and SM-3 (pdf) are sea-based systems (using two different missiles). NCADE (pdf) (net-centric air defense element) is an air-based system, designed to destroy missiles during their boost phase. PAC-3 (pdf) (Patriot advanced capability) is an evolution of the Patriot system, designed for short-range interceptions.
ASIDE: The MDAA says there have been four more PAC-3 tests (all successful) than the MDA has reported. (The MDA stopped issuing press releases related to the PAC-3 system after its successful test in September 2005.) If we count those, the record goes to 27-2.
UPDATE (11/29): I update the record through November 2008 here.
“The wolves have not encircled us yet,” the Denver Post opined in an article in 2006 entitled “Signs America’s Scientific Edge is Slipping”, “but there’s no denying the sounds of scratching at the door.”
This was a pithy summary of a mountain of reports from congressional committees, scientific panels and business groups. But a new report from the RAND Corporation’s National Defence Research Institute, “US Competitiveness in Science and Technology”, suggests that the panic is overblown.
The report demonstrates that America is still the world’s science and technology powerhouse. It accounts for 40% of total world spending on research and development, and produces 63% of the most frequently cited publications. It is home to 30 of the world’s leading 40 universities, and employs 70% of the world’s living Nobel laureates. America produces 38% of patented new technologies in the OECD and employs 37% of the OECD’s researchers.
There is little evidence that America is resting on its laurels, according to RAND.
It’s nice to hear such an encouraging report, but I think there’s still plenty of reason for worry, particularly when it comes to science, as opposed to technology.
When Hugo Chavez was somewhat popular, he may not have needed a secret police. Now, times have changed:
It may be an autocracy, but Hugo Chávez’s government has never been particularly repressive, let alone a dictatorship. A decree issued late last month with no prior debate threatens to change that. It creates a new intelligence and counter-intelligence system which in the name of national security enlists the entire population in what could potentially amount to a spy network. “This undoubtedly brings us close to…a ‘police state’,” declared Provea, a human-rights group.
The decree authorises police raids without warrant, the use of anonymous witnesses and secret evidence. Judges are obliged to collaborate with the intelligence services. Anyone caught investigating sensitive matters faces jail. The law contains no provision for any kind of oversight. It blurs the distinction between external threats and internal political dissent. It requires all citizens, foreigners and organisations to act in support of the intelligence system whenever required—or face jail terms of up to six years. . .
[Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín] said that members of the new intelligence and counter-intelligence bodies will be required to demonstrate “ideological commitment” to Mr Chávez’s “Bolivarian revolution”.
The president’s popularity is falling, according to most opinion polls. In December he lost a constitutional referendum. Regional elections in November are likely to erode his near-monopoly of power. The suspicion must be that this law is designed to defend a declining regime rather than to bolster the security of Venezuelans.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has revoked a law that made sweeping changes to the intelligence services.
Mr Chavez said he recognised he had made errors when proclaiming the law by decree, adding that it breached the country’s constitution.
What happened? The sequence is reminiscent of the recent Venezuelan referendum that would have made Chavez a dictator. The government initially declared victory, before eventually conceding defeat after actual results leaked and the military refused to cooperate with vote-rigging. I suspect that here too, the military refused to acquiesce to Chavez’s plans.
This isn’t over. Chavez will be working hard to replace the military’s chiefs, and he has lots of time to do it. He doesn’t face re-election until December 2012.
It’s no surprise when a newspaper prints a puff piece for Barack Obama. It is a little bit surprising when they provide a free link to Obama’s campaign web site, though. Somehow, John McCain doesn’t get the same treatment. (Via Instapundit.)
Hundreds of Taliban fighters took over several villages in southern Afghanistan on Monday just outside the region’s largest city, and NATO and Afghan forces were redeploying to meet the threat, officials said.
Mohammad Farooq, the government leader in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, said around 500 Taliban fighters moved into his district and took over several villages. . .
The push into Arghandab comes three days after a sophisticated Taliban attack on Kandahar’s prison that freed hundreds of insurgent fighters being held there.
Every year there’s a lot of talk about the Taliban’s spring offensive, but this is the first time I remember it amounting to anything.
UPDATE: Never mind. It appears this one hasn’t yet amounted to anything either. (Also, I corrected the origin of the story to AP.)
“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”
He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.
Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”. . .
What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.
This would be terrific news if it worked out. Of course, this isn’t the only way to make artificial petroleum; for over eighty years it’s been possible (via the Fischer-Tropsch process) to make oil from coal, natural gas, or (in principle) biomass. (South Africa manufactures most of its diesel fuel that way.) The question is whether the process is cost-effective enough to compete with conventional oil wells.
Still, this work sounds like it has two advantages over the Fischer-Tropsch process. It generates petroleum, which could be used in our existing infrastructure. And, there’s the environmental advantage of making fuel from agricultural waste rather than coal or natural gas.
Since taking office last year, Sarkozy has done much to roll back the legacy of French-U.S. relations left by Chirac, who had angered the Bush administration with his outspoken opposition to military action against Iraq.
That prompted some indignant Americans to rename french fries “freedom fries” and boycott products such as French cheese, drawing heavy publicity but only a modest following.
Lawrence Lessig has a good explanation of what’s going on with the Judge Kozinski kerfuffle. (Via Instapundit.) Here’s the even shorter version: What most press reports (for example) are calling Kozinski’s family’s “publicly accessible Web site” would better be described as their “improperly secured private file server.” He (or someone in his family) chose to store some strange (but not illegal) files in a place he thought was private.
I think it would be a good rule, when reading any media report involving the Internet, simply to assume the report is wrong.
Quoted at Libertas, several European leaders tell the story of the Lisbon treaty. Nicolas Sarkozy says the (rejected) EU constitution couldn’t have passed anywhere if voted on by the people:
France was just ahead of all the other countries in voting No. It would happen in all Member States if they have a referendum. There is a cleavage between people and governments.
How is the Lisbon treaty different? In substance, not at all, says the Irish foreign minister:
The substance of what was agreed in 2004 has been retained. What is gone is the term ‘constitution’.
Angela Merkel agrees:
The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact.
So how is it different? Deliberate obscurity, the Belgian Foreign Minister explains:
The aim of the Constitutional Treaty was to be more readable; the aim of this treaty is to be unreadable… The Constitution aimed to be clear, whereas this treaty had to be unclear. It is a success.
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (former French President and chairman of the EU constitutional convention) expands:
The difference between the original Constitution and the present Lisbon Treaty is one of approach, rather than content … the proposals in the original constitutional treaty are practically unchanged. They have simply been dispersed through old treaties in the form of amendments. Why this subtle change? Above all, to head off any threat of referenda by avoiding any form of constitutional vocabulary.
The bottom line, again from d’Estaing:
Public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly.
iPhone 3G users will have to use AT&T’s 3G network, which is not as extensive as some. In fact, AT&T won’t give you a nationwide map; you need to select particular areas to see what 3G coverage they have. But iPhone Atlas features a nationwide map that someone cobbled together from AT&T’s little maps. (Via End User, via Instapundit.)
Two influential US senators got “VIP” loans from a leading subprime mortgage lender that saved them tens of thousands of dollars. . . The Democratic pols, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, both received the highly favorable loans under the designation “Friend of Angelo,” a reference to embattled Countrywide head Angelo Mozilo, Condé Nast Portfolio reported.
Dodd is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, while Conrad is chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. The two senators refinanced properties through the VIP program in 2003 and 2004, the report said. . .
The report came one day after Democratic heavyweight Jim Johnson stepped down as chief of Barack Obama’s vice-presidential search committee after revelations he’d gotten Countrywide loans at very favorable rates because of Mozilo. . .
Dodd reportedly received two loans through the program in 2003 – $506,000 to refinance his Washington town house, and $275,042 to refinance a home in Connecticut. The more favorable terms saved him about $70,000, the report says. . . Conrad borrowed $1 million to refinance his vacation home, and saved at least $10,000.
As always, Europeans reject EU transnationalism whenever they are given the chance to vote on it. (Via Instapundit.) Having learned from the past, no other EU nation allowed a public vote on the Lisbon treaty, but Ireland’s constitution requires one.
UPDATE: The vote was 53%-47%, similar to when they rejected the Nice treaty 54%-46% in 2001. That time they made a highly controversial second attempt a year later in which the treaty passed.
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