Bush shortens Iraq tours

July 31, 2008

Fox News reports.

Hezbollah in Baghdad

July 31, 2008

Bill Roggio reports:

Coalition special operations forces captured two members of the Iranian-supported Hezbollah Brigades during a raid in eastern Baghdad on early Thursday morning. The intelligence-driven raid targeted the home of a propaganda cell member, Multinational Forces Iraq reported. The cell member was responsible for videotaping Hezbollah Brigades attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

“This propaganda cell is suspected of making, videos of attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces, which are then used to raise funds and resources for additional attacks against Coalition forces and Iraqis,” the US military stated in a press release. The cell member was responsible for videotaping Hezbollah Brigades attacks on US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

While the exact neighborhood in Baghdad was not identified, Multinational Forces Iraq often referred to the New Baghdad district as east Baghdad. On July 21, Coalition forces captured a member of a Hezbollah Brigades propaganda cell who was responsible for uploading attack videos to the Internet in New Baghdad.

The awesomely stupendous power of tire inflation

July 31, 2008

Power Line catches the latest Obama gaffe:

Barack Obama is a lot like Sean Penn or George Clooney. If you give him a script, he can deliver it pretty well. But if he tries to talk without a script that has been written for him by others, he quickly reveals that he is poorly-informed if not downright ignorant. Today he delivered another classic, by claiming that if only we would all properly inflate our tires, we could save as much gasoline as “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.” . . .

The stunned silence with which the crowd greets this howler suggests that most Americans have a more practical understanding of energy consumption than Obama.

Just for fun, I did the math. . . [Calculations omitted.] So, on the above assumptions, it would take only 11,308 years of proper tire inflation to equal “all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling.”

Obama is a curious case. He gives the impression of being an intelligent guy, but through his unscripted comments we have learned that he knows little about history, science or mathematics. He also seems rather shockingly short on common sense, as this most recent gaffe illustrates.

It’s no wonder why Obama cut off debating Hillary Clinton when people started paying attention, and is now dodging debates with McCain. Will the media be able to protect him until Election Day? Time will tell.

UPDATE (8/6): ABC takes Obama’s claim more seriously, but still finds it wanting. They’re bending over backward to be charitable to Obama, taking into account only the continental shelf (not Alaska) and assuming, implicitly, that we could only double oil production there. Even with those assumptions, they still come up with a full order of magnitude between drilling and tire inflation. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE (8/7): Time tries to cover for Obama.  Hilarity ensues.  (Via Instapundit.)

Beijing will institute dress code during Olympics

July 31, 2008

The latest Chinese oppression shows that farce need not wait for the tragedy to end:

Polishing up Beijing for the Olympics has extended to the city government telling residents what not to wear, advising against too many colors, white socks with black shoes, and parading in pajamas.

The advice, on top of campaigns to cut out public spitting and promote orderly lining up, was handed out in booklets to 4 million households ahead of the Olympics, an official said Thursday.

The etiquette book giving advice on everything from shaking hands to how to stand is part of a slew of admonitions on manners, said Zheng Mojie, deputy director of the Office of Capital Spiritual Civilization Construction Commission.

“The level of civility of the whole city has improved and a sound cultural and social environment has been assured for the success of the Beijing Olympic Games,” she said.

There should be no more than three color groups in your clothing, the book published by Zheng’s committee advises, and wearing pajamas and slippers to visit neighbors, as some elderly Beijing residents like to do, is also out. It recommends dark-colored socks, and says white socks should never be worn with black leather shoes.

In the last few years, the government has educated people on how to prepare for the Olympics under the slogan: “I participate, I contribute, I enjoy.”

(Via Hot Air.)

Olmert to resign

July 31, 2008

His successor will have some mighty small shoes to fill.

Palestinians violate civil rights

July 31, 2008

Imagine my shock and dismay at learning that terrorists don’t make good governments:

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas and Fatah have both carried out serious human rights abuses over the past year, including arbitrary arrests and torture, according to a report on the bitter power struggle between the groups.

Human Rights Watch, in the report released on Wednesday, cited a pattern of politically motivated arrests, mock executions and severe beatings in detention centers run by Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip and President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction in the West Bank.

It faulted the United States and other donors, who have bankrolled Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and Fatah-dominated security forces, for “not paying adequate attention to the systematic abuses by those forces.” . . .

According to Human Rights Watch, masked Fatah security men in the West Bank have arrested hundreds of Hamas members and supporters without warrants.

The report said Fatah forces often tortured detainees during interrogation, apparently resulting in one death. Torture methods included mock executions, kicks and punches, and beatings with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses, it said.

The most common form of torture was forcing detainees to stay in “stress” positions, a practice known in Arabic as shabah, which causes intense pain and sometimes internal injury but leaves no physical mark, Human Rights Watch said.

Hamas forces in Gaza committed many of the same abuses, including arbitrary detentions accompanied by severe beatings and, in two cases, multiple gunshots at close range to the legs, Human Rights Watch said. In at least three cases, individuals died in custody, apparently from torture, the report said.

Human Rights Watch said Hamas and Fatah have both largely failed to hold accountable security men implicated in abuses.

(Via LGF.)

Another report due to be released shortly reveals that the sun rises in the east, the Pope is Catholic, and water is wet.

Post-racial candidate plays the race card again

July 31, 2008

The AP reports:

Democrat Barack Obama, the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House, says John McCain and his Republican allies will try to scare them by saying Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

Stumping in an economically challenged battleground state, Obama argued Wednesday that President Bush and McCain will resort to scare tactics to maintain their hold on the White House because they have little else to offer voters.

“Nobody thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me,” Obama said. “You know, he’s not patriotic enough, he’s got a funny name, you know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

(ASIDE: Setting the race card aside, “other people” might be more apt than “other presidents”, since Obama is not a president, and neither were Hamilton or Franklin.)

(Via Instapundit.)

The left is getting on the bandwagon, as witnessed by this Josh Marshall post, where he argues that John McCain’s “Celebrity” ad’s allusions to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are presumptively racist, and that criticizing Obama for pretending he’s the president when he’s not is also presumptively racist:

I note with interest today, John McCain’s new tactic of associating Barack Obama with oversexed and/or promiscuous young white women. . . Presumably, a la Harold Ford 2006, this will be one of those strategies that will be a matter of deep dispute during the campaign and later treated as transparent and obvious once the campaign is concluded.

But what I’m most interested in today is the new meme the McCain campaign has been pushing for the last few weeks that Obama is presumptuous, arrogant and well … just a bit uppity.

(Via the Corner.)

When the left is willing to see racism in cases like this, where there is not a hint of it, the game plan is clear. Any criticism of Obama will be castigated as racism. There’s no reason it will end with the election either. If Obama is elected president, for the next eight-to-ten years anyone who opposes to his radical program will be charged with racism. Naturally, many will still oppose him — particularly when his policies bring disaster — and the ensuing racism charges will leave America much more racially divided than today.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign tries to backpedal:

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the senator was not referring to race.

“What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington,” Gibbs said. “There is nothing more to this than the fact that he was describing that he was new to the political scene. He was referring to the fact that he didn’t come into the race with the history of others. It is not about race.”

Obama often makes references to his distinctions as a candidate, such as saying there are doubts among some voters because he has “a funny name.” At times he refers to his race as well, saying he looks different from any previous candidate but then adding that the differences are not just about race. Addressing supporters Wednesday night at a fundraiser in Springfield, Mo., he said, “It’s a leap, electing a 46-year-old black guy named Barack Obama.”

UPDATE: In case anyone takes this seriously, this was Obama last month:

The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?

This is the same riff, almost point for point: Republicans have no ideas, they’ll try to scare you, funny name, black. If it weren’t obvious from his actual remarks that he was referring to race, it is certainly obvious from the way he’s phrased those same remarks in the past.

(Via the Corner.)

UPDATE: The New York Times agrees that likening Obama to Britney Spears is a racial attack. Also, it’s “contemptible” to point out that Obama is playing the race card. (Via Hot Air.)

UPDATE: The Obama campaign finally concedes the obvious.

UPDATE: The McCain campaign fires back at the NYT.  (Via Hot Air.)

Sexual harrassment in Russia

July 30, 2008

The Telegraph reports:

The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia’s history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer.

She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss. . .

The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.

“If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.

According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

(Via Hot Air.)

China breaks human-rights pledge

July 30, 2008

Here’s a shocker:

With the 2008 Olympic Games due to open in the shining Bird’s Nest Stadium on Aug. 8, [Amnesty International] on Tuesday gave a scathing assessment of China’s record, saying many of its citizens’ protections and freedoms have shrunk, not expanded, in the seven years since Beijing won the right to hold the Games.

The country has not honored vows to improve rights that officials made in lobbying for the Games, and was not living up to commitments as an Olympic host, the group stated in the report released in Hong Kong.

“There has been no progress towards fulfilling these promises, only continued deterioration,” it said in the report, titled “The Olympics countdown — broken promises.”

“The authorities have used the Olympic Games as pretext to continue, and in some respects, intensify existing policies and practices which have led to serious and widespread violations of human rights,” it said in the report released in Hong Kong.

Amnesty said that in the past year alone, thousands of petitioners, reformists and others were arrested as part of a government campaign to “clean up” Beijing before the games. It said many of those arrested have been sentenced to manual labor without trial.

And then there’s this related item:

Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive Web sites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official admitted on Wednesday. . .

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the Games as they enjoyed at previous Olympics, but journalists have this week complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to its communist leadership blocked. . .

China has backed away from a promise to lift all Internet blocks on foreign media. . .  Chinese officials assured news organizations “complete freedom to report” when bidding for the games seven years ago. The International Olympic Committee received further such assurances in April. But Kevan Gosper, a senior member of the IOC, said this week that the promise will apply only to sites related to “Olympic competitions.”

Wikipedia cited in appeals court opinion

July 30, 2008


How not to use Google

July 30, 2008

You might accidentally discover a non-existent religious denomination.  (Via the Corner.)

Iraq to compete at Olympics after all

July 29, 2008

AP reports.  (Via Hot Air.)

(Previous post.)

Smuggling tunnels are for milk, Hamas says

July 29, 2008

Oh geez:

Palestinian officials from the Gaza Strip have distributed a set of carefully-staged photographs they say are evidence that the smuggling tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border are for milk and other essential goods, not weapons.

The photographs show masked Palestinian militants lifting jugs of milk and sacks of baby food from the entrance to one of the tunnels on the Gaza side of the border.

Israel insists that the tunnels, of which intelligence estimates indicate there are hundreds, are used to import small arms and advanced weapons like heavy mortar shells, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. The tunnels are also said to be the conduit via which the Palestinians receive the material used to build their Kassam rockets.

(Via Power Line.)

China plans to spy on all Olympic visitors

July 29, 2008

No surprise here:

China has installed Internet-spying equipment in all the major hotel chains serving the 2008 Summer Olympics, a U.S. senator charged on Tuesday.  “The Chinese government has put in place a system to spy on and gather information about every guest at hotels where Olympic visitors are staying,” said Sen. Sam Brownback.

The conservative Republican from Kansas, citing hotel documents he received, added that journalists, athletes’ families and others attending the Olympics next month “will be subjected to invasive intelligence-gathering” by China’s Public Security Bureau. He said the agency will be monitoring Internet communications at the hotels.

The U.S. senator made a similar charge a few months ago but said that since then, hotels have come forward with detailed information on the monitoring systems that have been required by Beijing.

(Via LGF.)

They want to believe

July 29, 2008

On the NYT op-ed page: John McCain?  No.  UFOs?  Certainly.

“Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats”

July 29, 2008

How to steal a state:

This November, voters in Michigan may be asked to consider a lengthy ballot initiative to revise the state’s constitution. Proposed by a group called Reform Michigan Government Now, the initiative’s ostensible purpose is to restore efficiency and accountability to Michigan government. A look at the fine print, and a recently disclosed strategy document, reveals something altogether different: A stealth campaign to restructure all three branches of government, including the state judiciary, for partisan advantage. . .

Buried in the text of the 19,500-word ballot initiative are provisions designed to shift partisan control of every branch of Michigan government, including the state courts. Among other things, the initiative would eliminate two seats on the Michigan supreme court and several more seats on the state Courts of Appeals. The constitutional revisions would also cut the size of the Michigan legislature, rewrite the standards for legislative districting, and adopt controversial election reforms, such as no-excuse absentee voting, which has the potential to increase voter fraud within the state. In all, the initiative would rewrite over two dozen provisions in the Michigan state constitution.

Proponents proclaim the ballot initiative is a bipartisan effort to improve Michigan government, but a recently disclosed strategy document revealed a more partisan agenda. According to a PowerPoint presentation drafted by political consultants working for initiative proponents, the ballot initiative’s primary virtue is its potential to hand control of Michigan government over to the Democratic party for at least a decade.

The presentation was delivered to a union leadership conference this past spring. A graduate student intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based free-market think tank, discovered the slides on the United Auto Workers Region 1-C website. This discovery revealed a breathtakingly cynical stealth campaign to rewrite the state constitution. As the title slide explains, the plan’s true purpose is “Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.”

Reform Michigan Government Now presents itself as a bipartisan good government initiative that seeks to make government more accountable and efficient. Yet according to the presentation, the real problem facing Michigan is not bloated or inefficient government, but the Democratic Party’s failure to control the state legislature and governor’s office.

In order to ensure pro-Democrat redistricting in 2011-12, the presentation explains, the Democratic party will need to control all three branches of government: the governor’s office, state legislature and the judiciary. According to one slide, control of the supreme court is the “most important,” as the court “can overturn redistricting” done by the political branches. It seems judicial oversight is a particular concern because the traditional state redistricting criteria, such as keeping communities together, are “systematically biased against Democrats.”

Most distressing, and revealing, is how the Reform Michigan Government Now plan “reforms” the state judiciary. Specifically, the ballot initiative selectively alters the composition of Michigan state courts at every level — trial courts, appellate courts, and the supreme court — each by a different standard. The only unifying theme is that each reform will increase the proportion of Democrat-appointed judges.

As in many states, Michigan’s supreme court justices are subject to re-election, giving court critics ample opportunity to seek change through traditional political means. But, the presentation explains, defeating incumbent justices would be costly and difficult. So, rather than promote candidates for the Court who would rubber stamp a pro-Democrat redistricting effort, and seek to have them elected fair and square, initiative proponents want to seize partisan control of the Court in one fell swoop by eliminating two seats and removing two Republican appointees from the Court. This is no accident, as the presentation makes clear when describing the relevant plank in the proposal: “Reduce the number of Supreme Court justices from seven to five; two GOP justices eliminated” (emphasis added).

(Via the Volokh Conspiracy.)

China tests authoritarian environmentalism

July 29, 2008

China is looking likely to be embarrassed by its failure to curb pollution in advance of the Olympics:

China has gone to Olympian lengths to try to ensure that its skies are clear for the Summer Games, which formally kick off in 10 days. It has spent $17 billion on antipollution measures in recent years. Last week, it forced more than a million cars off the streets, halted construction in and around the city, and temporarily closed hundreds of factories in surrounding provinces.

But despite these measures, the Chinese capital remains mired in a gray haze, and the government’s pollution readings have exceeded its own safe levels four out of the past eight days.

Now, with the prospect of international embarrassment looming, officials are considering even tougher measures, including shutting more factories. They might also ban as many as 90% of Beijing’s private vehicles on especially bad days during the Games, a government adviser said Monday. Special lanes for Olympic VIPs may be abandoned because officials say they’re causing extra congestion and making the air worse.

I hope they are embarrassed. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of totalitarian thugs. But the key point is this one:

The success or failure of Beijing’s efforts in the coming days could help determine whether China’s most important international event in modern times is itself a success. But it also has implications that go beyond the ability of the city to host a clean Games.

Scientists from around the world are studying the antipollution efforts to see what, if anything, succeeds — and what the costs are. These conclusions could affect policies in countries like India. . .

China’s authoritarian government can compel companies and citizens to comply with regulations more easily than other countries can. The government’s antipollution measures have disrupted workday commutes for hundreds of thousands of residents, and caused tens of thousands of workers to go on forced holiday, with reduced pay.

So if Beijing can’t succeed — even in the short term — the current experiment could bode ill for the ability of other industrializing countries to curb pollution.

If authoritarian environmentalism can’t make it in China, it can’t make it anywhere.

LA escalates war on consumer choice

July 29, 2008

The LA city council is displeased with the verdict of the market:

In the impoverished neighborhood of South Los Angeles, fast food is the easiest cuisine to find — and that’s a problem for elected officials who see it as an unhealthy source of calories and cholesterol.

The City Council was poised to vote Tuesday on a moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a swath of the city where a proliferation of such eateries goes hand-in-hand with obesity.

“Our communities have an extreme shortage of quality foods,” City Councilman Bernard Parks said. . .

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the measure and represents much of South Los Angeles in her 9th District, says that’s no accident. South LA residents lack healthy food options, including grocery stores, fresh produce markets — and full-service restaurants with wait staff and food prepared to order.

A report by the Community Health Councils found 73 percent of South L.A. restaurants were fast food, compared to 42 percent in West Los Angeles.

If the moratorium is passed, Perry wants to lure restaurateurs and grocery retailers to area.

Evidently, “healthy food options” have generally found South LA (formerly known as South Central LA) an unprofitable place to locate, otherwise there would be more of them there already. The LA city council did not explain how banning profitable businesses would make the area more attractive to unprofitable ones.

Dueling polls

July 28, 2008

The latest Gallup tracking poll has Obama leading by 8.  The latest Gallup/USA Today poll has McCain leading by 4.  Hmm.

Cuil search engine aims to compete with Google

July 28, 2008

MSNBC has a profile on Cuil, which debuts today.  They claim to be able to build a database as large or larger than Google’s with a fraction of the computing power.

I’ve often wished for a plausible alternative to Google.  Is Cuil it?  Well, it’s not starting well.  After successfully processing one search for me, their page is now failing to load.  The terrible font they use for displaying their results has to go, too.

Irish oppose second Lisbon vote

July 28, 2008

It’s no secret that the EU’s preferred strategy for dealing with the Irish no vote on Lisbon is for Ireland to vote again, and get it right this time. That’s now looking unlikely:

Almost three-quarters of Irish voters are opposed to a second referendum on the EU’s new reform treaty, a new poll published yesterday (27 July) revealed, dealing a blow to EU leaders’ hopes of rescuing the text.

71% said they do not want to vote again on the reform treaty, while only 24% are in favour, according to the Red C poll conducted for the eurosceptic Open Europe think tank.

Of those who voiced an opinion, 62% said they would vote no in a second referendum, while 34% said they would back the treaty, which aims to overhaul the Union’s institutions and procedures.

(Via Instapundit.)

Crime surges in Venezuela

July 28, 2008

Another thing Hugo Chavez has to answer for is a horrific surge in Venezuela’s murder rate:

ONE of Hugo Chávez’s lesser-known feats since taking over as Venezuela’s leader in 1999 is to have presided over a tripling of the annual homicide rate—and that’s according to the official statistics. Last year more than 13,000 people were killed in a country of 27m, producing a murder rate of 48 per 100,000, the second highest in the world (after El Salvador). In neighbouring Colombia, a country plagued by guerrilla war and drug violence, the rate was 40 per 100,000.

Not surprisingly, violent crime far outweighs the other worries of Venezuelans. Three-quarters of them describe it as the worst problem now facing the country, polls show. “The first thing we need to do”, says José Vicente Rangel, Mr Chávez’s former vice-president, “is confess our failure.”

He claims that the government, opposition, media and criminologists are all equally to blame. But, as critics point out, Mr Chávez controls most of the security forces, as well as the prisons; the courts and the prosecution service are in effect branches of the executive, too. Luis Cedeño, head of Incosec, a public-security think-tank, accuses the government of showing a “total lack of political interest” in tackling crime. . .

Many homicides never get into the official statistics. They include those killed while supposedly “resisting arrest”. Yet in exchanges of fire between police and alleged criminals, 39 suspects are killed for every policeman, suggesting not much “resistance” is taking place. Another large (and growing) group of suspicious deaths excluded from the official data are those that have not yet been categorised—and probably never will be—though most are likely to result from murder. . .

Caracas is currently the second most dangerous city in the Americas (after San Salvador). Even by the official figures, the murder rate is 130 per 100,000; Mr Cedeño says the true figure is a staggering 166. One reason, he argues, is impunity. On average, only three of every 100 murderers are actually sentenced, he points out. Another is a presidential discourse that emphasises class warfare and has sometimes excused crime as a response to social inequality.

For perspective, the murder rate in Detroit, the worst in America, was 47.3 in 2006, so Venezuela as a whole is more dangerous than America’s worst city. Caracas is over three times worse. The annualized rate of death-by-violence in Baghdad for the first nine months of 2006 (near the height of the sectarian violence) was around 300. So Caracas is about half as bad as Baghdad at its worst. In the first half of 2008, Iraq had an annualized death-by-violence rate of 27.6.

(ASIDE: The Iraq 2008 figure is computed from the Brookings Institution report of 18Jul2008. Reliable figures on Baghdad are hard to find. I did my Baghdad 2006 calculation by subtracting the cumulative figures in two Brookings Institution reports, 23Feb2006 and 31May2007. I was unable to find any figures on Baghdad 2008.)

The article also reports that Venezuela’s latest interior minister has “achieved” a 27% drop in homicides in the traditional way, by changing the way the figures are calculated.

Zimbabweans abandon their dollar

July 28, 2008

The suffering people of Zimbabwe are responding rationally to hyperinflation, conducting transactions in anything but Zimbabwean dollars:

Zimbabweans spend their local dollars as fast as possible or change them into hard currency on the black market. A parallel system is thriving in back offices and parking lots. Ronald was a civil servant but became a money dealer about a year ago to feed his family. He now makes about $100 a month, whereas his former colleagues earn the equivalent of less than $2 a month, enough to buy two loaves of bread. On a recent trip, this correspondent changed money from a central-bank employee running an illegal foreign-exchange business in his own office.

With a strict daily limit (currently less than $1.40) on bank withdrawals, people shun banks as much as possible and are returning to a cash economy. Petrol and rents are now charged mainly in American dollars or South African rand, but since some landlords have been taken to court, rents are increasingly often paid for in groceries. People buying overpriced cooking oil or sugar on the black market, since those items have long vanished from shops due to official price controls, are charged more if they pay in local dollars. Petrol coupons have become a virtual currency.

John Robertson, a local economist, reckons that the informal economy has probably become larger than the formal one. Though estimates are fuzzy, he believes that money sent by Zimbabweans abroad to friends and relatives at home, which used barely to register on Zimbabwe’s foreign-exchange radar screen, now accounts for probably a third or so of the country’s foreign-exchange inflows.

Turning to foreign exchange or barter is what you would expect in countries that have had inflation of more than a few hundred per cent a year. At the height of its inflation crisis, shops in Argentina were no longer able to price their goods. In some cases, Peruvians started using lavatory paper, then in short supply, as currency.

Pat Buchanan is an idiotic swine, redux

July 28, 2008

Buchanan has a new book, the central thesis of which is (I gather) that WW2 need not have happened, and was only the result of the Allies’ unwise security guarantee to Poland.  Buchanan argues that absent that guarantee, Poland would have been willing to negotiate with Germany over Danzig and war could have been averted.

Sheer idiocy.  One does not have to be a military historian to recognize that Danzig was merely the latest in a series of increasingly unacceptable German territorial demands, and if granted, the demands would only have continued until Hitler ruled the entire world.

Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens, who are military historians, take on Buchanan and the WW2 revisionists on NRO TV’s Uncommon Knowledge.

(Via the Corner.)  (Previous post.)

More on Landstuhl

July 28, 2008

Jim Geraghty has uncovered the truth behind Obama’s cancelled visit to the Landstuhl Medical Center. (Obama has confirmed the principal facts himself.) To be fair, the truth looks a little better than the story did before. I think Obama still looks bad, but you can decide for yourself.

Apparently it was not a matter of bringing reporters and photographer to Landstuhl, but one specific campaign aide, Jonathan Gration, a retired general. General Gration, being campaign staff, not legislative or personal staff, was not permitted to attend. Gration “got torqued” (generals aren’t used to being told no) and shortly thereafter the visit was cancelled. The campaign has not revealed whether they considered the possibility of going without Gration.

The original story put out by the campaign, that the visit was cancelled because they didn’t want it to appear political, was misleading at best. If there is any truth to that story at all, their sudden concern about appearing political arose only after Gration got angry that he wouldn’t be able to go.

A second story put out later by the campaign was an outright lie. Gration himself, who was certainly in command of the facts, put out the false statement that the visit was scuttled by the Pentagon.

Will General Gration keep his job after causing this debacle and then lying about it to the press? We’ll see.

UPDATE: The NYT, of all papers, has started to wonder about this.  (Via Hot Air.)

Mugabe’s days numbered?

July 27, 2008

I wish I could believe this London Times report:

THE president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been warned by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, that he faces prosecution for the crimes he has committed during his 28 years in office unless he signs a deal to give up all effective power.

Mbeki, who has done all he can to shield and support Mugabe for the past eight years, has come under overwhelming western pressure and has had to tell Mugabe that he could no longer protect him and his key cronies from being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The power-sharing talks between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are shrouded in secrecy. But The Sunday Times has learnt that Mugabe, who has vowed that Tsvangirai will never be in government and that “only God can remove me from power”, faces humiliation over the terms of the deal that he will be forced to sign next month.

He will remain as president in name only and all real power will be held by a 20-member cabinet under Tsvangirai as prime minister. The opposition MDC will have 11 cabinet posts to nine for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

All Mugabe’s senior officials in the army, police and intelligence services, who have unleashed a campaign of terror since the MDC won a disputed victory in the elections held in March, will be dismissed.

(Via Hot Air.)

The impossible becomes inevitable

July 27, 2008

Tom Maguire is annoyed that the AP “US winning in Iraq” story doesn’t credit the Surge for our victory.  Well, what do you expect?

Let’s recall another war that could not be won: the Cold War.  Nearly everyone thought that the Soviet Union could not be beaten, that the best thing we could do was to come to an accommodation with them.  Ronald Reagan thought differently.  He said the Soviet Union could be defeated, if only we would stop propping up their regime and actively compete with them instead.  (ASIDE: I heartily recommend Peter Schweizer’s excellent book on the subject.)

Reagan proved to be right, and was fortunate to live long enough to see the fruits of his labors.  But not, alas, to see his critics admit they were wrong.  Where once they called the Soviet Union’s defeat impossible, now they say it was inevitable.  Where once they mocked Reagan’s claims that his strategy would bring down the Soviets, they now say his strategy wasn’t even necessary.

The turnaround of the Iraq conflict shows the same pattern.  Where once the left said that the US could not win (indeed, had already lost), and that the surge would only worsen matters, now they say that victory in Iraq was already underway and the surge wasn’t even necessary.

AP: US winning in Iraq

July 27, 2008

An AP analysis piece admits what can no longer be denied:

The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.

Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government. . .

This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the AP on Thursday that the insurgency as a whole has withered to the point where it is no longer a threat to Iraq’s future.

“Very clearly, the insurgency is in no position to overthrow the government or, really, even to challenge it,” Crocker said. “It’s actually almost in no position to try to confront it. By and large, what’s left of the insurgency is just trying to hang on.”

Shiite militias, notably the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, have lost their power bases in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. An important step was the routing of Shiite extremists in the Sadr City slums of eastern Baghdad this spring — now a quiet though not fully secure district.  Al-Sadr and top lieutenants are now in Iran. . .

Statistics show violence at a four-year low. The monthly American death toll appears to be at its lowest of the war — four killed in action so far this month as of Friday, compared with 66 in July a year ago. From a daily average of 160 insurgent attacks in July 2007, the average has plummeted to about two dozen a day this month. On Wednesday the nationwide total was 13. . .

Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer.  In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged.

(Via Instapundit.)

Still, they can’t resist one cheap and inaccurate shot:

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had.

Although President Bush clearly did not foresee a five-year counterinsurgency, he never declared that the “combat phase” had ended (whatever that means). He deliberately avoided language implying that the war was over, referring instead to the end of “major combat operations” (i.e., the invasion). Nevertheless, even with the cheap shot, it’s a good milestone for the AP.

Also, the New York Times has a new piece on Iraq. They are not quite ready to admit that the US is winning, but they acknowledge that the militias are losing:

The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.

It is a remarkable change from years past, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of Baghdad, including local governments and police forces. But its use of extortion and violence began alienating much of the Shiite population to the point that many quietly supported American military sweeps against the group. . .

The shift, if it holds, would solidify a transfer of power from Mr. Sadr, who had lorded his once broad political support over the government, to Mr. Maliki, who is increasingly seen as a true national leader.

Has anyone told Time?

Dog bites man

July 27, 2008

Here’s a shocker: Obama Says Overseas Trip Confirmed Foreign Policy Views.

London Times does what US media will not

July 27, 2008

It covers the John Edwards sex scandal. I ignored this story as long as it was only in the National Enquirer, but now the Times has confirmed a key element of the story:

Every supermarket shopper knows that the preternaturally youthful former senator for North Carolina may have fathered a love child with a film-maker while Elizabeth, his saintly wife, is dying of cancer. There are sensational new details on the National Enquirer website, although most of the media have done their best to ignore them.

The tabloid magazine cornered Edwards, 55, leaving a Los Angeles hotel where Rielle Hunter, his alleged mistress, and her baby were staying, at 2.40am last Tuesday. He ran down a hallway and dived into the men’s bathroom. A hotel security guard confirmed the encounter. “His face just went totally white,” the guard said.

The most interesting aspect of this has been the US media’s treatment of the story:

Tony Pierce, editor of the Los Angeles Times, issued an edict to the paper’s own bloggers to stay off the subject. “Because the only source has been the National Enquirer, we have decided not to cover the rumours or salacious speculations,” he wrote.

Mickey Kaus, a blogger for Slate magazine, leaked the memo. He noted: “This was a sensational scandal that the Los Angeles Times and other mainstream papers passionately did not want to uncover when Edwards was a formal candidate and now that the Enquirer seems to have done the job for them it looks like they want everyone to shut up while they fail to uncover it again.”

The New York Times has not deigned to touch the story, although it recently ran thousands of words on a relationship between McCain and a female lobbyist, which appeared to be based more on innuendo than fact.

Byron York, a conservative journalist, finally broke the silence in The Hill, a reputable, non-partisan congressional newspaper. “The media looks down on the National Enquirer but you look at the Edwards story and say, ‘Wow! There appears to be a lot of knowledge there’. It is darned fishy,” York said.

Now that the London Times has picked up the story, the LA Times will need a new excuse.

As far as Edwards is concerned, it’s been perfectly obvious for years that he is as phony as a $3 bill. For example:

Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he’d never told anyone else—that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he’d do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade’s ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before—and with the same preface, that he’d never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn’t pick Edwards unless he met with him again.

By any means necessary

July 26, 2008

A look at the tactics used to keep race-neutrality and other voter initiatives off the ballot:

“The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place,” says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). “That’s the only way we’re going to win.” . . .

The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. “BAMN’s tactics,” she concluded, “resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics.”

But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. “If you give me your signatures, we’ll leave you alone,” says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who’s earning money by circulating several different petitions. . .

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 12% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another “voter educator” hired by the state’s Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.

(Via Instapundit.)

FCC demands racial quotas from XM-Sirius

July 26, 2008

Or else the FCC won’t approve their merger, according to a press release by the Mountain States Legal Foundation, who is suing:

A demand by a federal agency that two companies agree to a race-based set aside as a condition to approval of their merger today drew a warning that the provision is unconstitutional from a western, nonprofit, public-interest law firm known for civil rights litigation. In a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) warned the agency that its demand that, as a condition to its approval of a proposed merger between XM and Sirius satellite radio companies, the companies set aside 8 percent, or 24 channels, for “educational and minority broadcasters” violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. MSLF advised the FCC that, although the agency’s use of racial preferences to achieve “diversity” was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, that ruling was overturned in 1995. As a result, argues MSLF, the FCC has no legal basis to demand use of racial preferences or quotas.

(Via the Corner.)

No American flag for Obama-Sarkozy presser

July 26, 2008

This is weird:

One interesting detail from Le Figaro: The Obama-Sarkozy meeting will be conducted with a minimum of fuss, to mark it off clearly from the trappings of a presidential visit.

“Nicolas Sarkozy’s advisers received only one demand from the team of the Democratic candidate: no American flag for the press conference, because it’s a candidate being received, not the president of the United States.”

For a candidate with his own presidential seal, who is already planning his presidential transition, and who is holding a joint press conference with a foreign head of state, his sudden reticence to pretend to be president is a little odd.  But that’s nothing compared to his strange belief — if this is being reported accurately — that the American flag is for the president only.

(Via Media Blog.)

CNN interviews fake College Republican

July 25, 2008

CNN, as a professional news organization, is ordinarily able to locate members of a group it wishes to interview, but not, it seems, when that group is the College Republicans:

The president of the College Republicans at the University of Southern California is charging that CNN used a “fake College Republican” in its broadcast report today, claiming there was a lack of enthusiasm for the GOP candidate, Sen. John McCain.

A CNN spokeswoman now says it was an inadvertent error.

In its Thursday morning report, according to a news release from the student organization, CNN interviewed someone identified as Eric Pearlmutter, who was said to be a USC student and College Republican.

“We try to get people out to our College Republican meetings, but we can’t seem to get the same amount of support,” he said.

Ben Myers, the president of USC College Republicans, said, “I have never met Eric Pearlmutter. I have never seen him at a College Republican meeting. He is not on our membership roster. I don’t know why someone would think he speaks for us. As far as I know, he could be a Democrat.”

A CNN spokeswoman admitted the error this evening in an e-mailed response: ““Eric Perlmutter appeared on today’s ‘American Morning’ segment about young Republicans on college campuses. While he attends USC and says that he is a registered Republican, he was inadvertently identified on-screen as a member of the USC College Republicans organization.

(Via Hot Air.)

Backstory of the Obama Landstuhl cancellation

July 25, 2008

(Update appended.)

When I read that Obama had cancelled his planned visit to injured troops at the Landstuhl Medical Center because he thought it would be “inappropriate”, I was inclined to give him a break. In fact, I agreed that it would have been inappropriate to use our wounded troops as political props.

That was before this scoop from NBC News, who learned that preparations for Obama’s visit were already being made and that the visit was cancelled after the campaign learned they would not be able to bring the media:

A U.S. military official tells NBC News they were making preparations for Sen. Barack Obama to visit wounded troops at the Landstuhl Medical Center at Ramstein, Germany on Friday, but “for some reason the visit was called off.”

One military official who was working on the Obama visit said because political candidates are prohibited from using military installations as campaign backdrops, Obama’s representatives were told, “he could only bring two or three of his Senate staff member, no campaign officials or workers.” In addition, “Obama could not bring any media. Only military photographers would be permitted to record Obama’s visit.”

The official said “We didn’t know why” the request to visit the wounded troops was withdrawn. “He (Obama) was more than welcome. We were all ready for him.”

(Via Hot Air.)

This casts the cancellation in a rather different light. Rather than an exhibition of good taste and judgement, it’s just the opposite. It would seem that Obama cancelled, not because he saw it would be inappropriate to use wounded troops as political props, but because the military wouldn’t let him do so.

I’m sure Obama’s defenders will say this is merely coincidence; that his last-minute change of heart about visiting Landstuhl during a campaign trip had nothing to do with his being told he couldn’t make it a campaign stop. There’s to way to know for sure (given what we know now, anyway), but I have to say that if this was an instance of prudence and good taste, it was entirely out-of-character for this trip.

UPDATE: The facts are now known, and Obama looks a little bit better than this.  Apparently it was a matter of certain campaign staff, not the media, that aborted the visit.

Obama fails to impress the Post

July 25, 2008

The Washington Post gets it:

THE INITIAL MEDIA coverage of Barack Obama’s visit to Iraq suggested that the Democratic candidate found agreement with his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat forces on a 16-month timetable. So it seems worthwhile to point out that, by Mr. Obama’s own account, neither U.S. commanders nor Iraq’s principal political leaders actually support his strategy. . .

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki’s timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama’s. More significant, it would be “a timetable which Iraqis set” — not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki “wants some flexibility in terms of how that’s carried out.” . . .

Yet Mr. Obama’s account of his strategic vision remains eccentric. He insists that Afghanistan is “the central front” for the United States, along with the border areas of Pakistan. But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country’s strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world’s largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama’s antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.

(Via Power Line.)

Obama loses ground during trip

July 25, 2008

Over the past week, while Obama made his ballyhooed overseas trip, the proportion of voters saying he was too inexperienced to be president rose to 45%, according to Rasmussen.  Less than a third thought he would learn anything from his “fact-finding” mission.

(Via Instapundit.)

Because then he wouldn’t be Obama

July 25, 2008

USA Today: “Why can’t Obama admit the obvious? The surge worked.”  (Via Instapundit.)

Reaper enters service

July 24, 2008

The MQ-9 Reaper UAV, successor to the Predator UAV, is entering service in Iraq.  Unlike the Predator, the Reaper was designed from the start as a combat platform.

IOC bans Iraq from Olympics

July 24, 2008

Fox News reports:

The International Olympic Committee confirmed its decision to ban Iraq from taking part in the Beijing Olympics because of the government’s interference with sports by disbanding the country’s National Olympic Committee, Reuters reported.

“This morning we were informed of the final decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee,” Hussein al-Amidi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, said.

The decision is a major blow to seven Iraqi athletes who hoped to travel to Beijing this summer, AFP reported.

During Saddam Hussein’s regime, the IOC didn’t act on Uday Hussein’s interference with sports:

In the history of the world, an expanse that covers Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler and other despots both past and present, there is no shortage of absolute rulers whose human rights records compare with that of today’s designated pariah, Saddam Hussein.

There may never have been a sports official, though, as brutal as his son, Uday.

As president of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, Uday allegedly tortures athletes for losing games. He sticks them in prison for days or months at a time. Has them beaten with iron bars. Caned on the soles of their feet. Chained to walls and left to stay in contorted positions for days. Dragged on pavement until their backs are bloody, then dunked in sewage to ensure the wounds become infected. If Uday stops by a player’s jail cell, he might urinate on his bowed, shaven head. Just to humiliate him.

This is the picture that emerges of Uday Saddam Hussein from ESPN.com interviews in the United States and England with former Iraqi national team athletes in several sports. Some of them claim they were personally tortured. All of them say they lived in fear that they would be punished at Uday’s whim. . .

The allegations in the ESPN.com report come on the heels of a formal complaint filed with the International Olympic Committee earlier this month. Indict, a London-based human rights group created in 1997 that seeks to bring criminal charges against the top leaders of the Iraqi regime, asked the IOC Ethics Commission earlier this month to suspend or expel the country from the Olympics based on violations of the IOC code of ethics. The IOC, which has no sway over a nation’s choice for its Olympic committee chief, is reviewing the request.

Didn’t act, that is, until a month after Saddam’s regime fell. Then, in May 2003, the IOC’s “ethics commission” called for the dissolution of Iraq’s national Olympic committee, the same action for which Iraq now finds itself banned from the 2008 Olympics.

Another reason to boycott them.

UPDATE (7/29): The IOC has relented.

90 billion barrels of oil in Arctic

July 24, 2008

According to a US Geological Survey report issued yesterday, the Arctic holds 90 billion barrels of oil that can be extracted using available technology and industry practices.  Also 1670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.  (Via Fox News.)

Google censors anti-Obama YouTube video

July 24, 2008

A YouTube video criticizing the Obama messiah complex has been flagged as adult content, making it hard to view and crippling its traffic.  (Via Instapundit.)  I viewed the video, and although it’s silly, there’s nothing objectionable about it, other than its anti-Obama message.

One might argue (dubiously) that Google isn’t responsible for outsiders abusing its procedures, but that won’t get them off the hook.  The flag has been in place for over a month, so Google has had more than enough time to review the flag, but according to the video’s author, they won’t even reply to his emails.  That makes them complicit.

It was less than a month ago that Google suspended several anti-Obama blogs.  We should be very concerned with how a company with clear ideological preferences and an increasing willingness to act on them is gaining an effective monopoly on access to information on the Internet.

Unparalleled arrogance

July 24, 2008

With over three months to go before the election, Marc Ambinder reports that Barack Obama has begun work on his presidential transition.  (Via Instapundit.)

(Related item.)

One last iPhone gotcha

July 24, 2008

I finally resolved (well, circumvented would be a better word) my problem with iPhone-Outlook calendar synchronization by switching to use an Exchange server for my calendar.  There was one more gotcha, though.  I found that events I added to the calendar on Exchange were appearing on the phone as invitations.  This is bad because, for example, you can’t edit those events.  A similar issue happens with events you create on the iPhone and then edit on Exchange.

It turns out that the iPhone uses the email address of the event originator to distinguish between appointments and invitations.  If the email address you use when configuring the phone doesn’t match the email address verbatim (i.e., case-sensitively and ignoring aliases), you get this behavior.

More at Apple support article TS1865.

Confessions of an anti-war Democrat

July 24, 2008

Lanny Davis, former White House Counsel, writes:

. . . And then in early 2007 came the surge, which so many of us in the anti-war left of the Democratic Party predicted would be a failure, throwing good men and women and billions of dollars after futility. We were wrong.

The surge did, in fact, lead to a reduction of violence, confirmed by media on the ground as well as our military leaders.

It did allow the Shi’ite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the last several months to show leadership by joining, if not leading, the military effort to clean out of Basra the masked Mahdi Army controlled by the anti-U.S. Shiite extremist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and in the Sadr City section of Baghdad he claimed to control.

This willingness by the Shi’ite–dominated Maliki government to move against the Sadr Shi’ite extremists won crucial credibility for the government among many Sunni leaders and Sunnis on the streets, who joined together with Shi’ites to turn against the Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Taliban–like extremists.

These are facts, not arguments.

I think there are a lot of anti-war Democrats who, like me, are impressed by these facts and who now see a moral obligation, after all the carnage and destruction wrought by our military intervention, not just to pick up and leave without looking over our shoulders.

Surely we owe the Iraqis who helped us, whose lives are in danger, immediate immigration rights to the U.S. Yet the shameful fact is that most are still not even close to having such rights.

Surely we owe the Maliki government and the Shiiite and Sunni soldiers who put their lives on the line against Shiite and Sunni extremists and terrorists at our behest some continuing presence and support and patience as they strive to find peace, political reconciliation — and maybe even the beginnings of a stable democracy.

(Via Instapundit.)

New York Times tanks

July 24, 2008

Second quarter profits are down 82% at the NYT.  They’re barely a for-profit enterprise any more; maybe they should become a 527 and take donations.

(Via Instapundit.)

ASIDE: Okay, the profits a year ago included the sale of some television stations, so things aren’t quite so bad as the 82% would suggest, but they’re still looking at a 16.4% drop in advertising revenues.

Obama rewrites Ahmadinejad statement again

July 23, 2008

On the anniversary of Obama’s meet-without-preconditions statement at the Democratic debate, Byron York notices that Obama is still rewriting his statement.

Name that party

July 23, 2008

A popular pastime in the conservative blogosphere is the “name that party” game, which is based on the observation that, when reporting political corruption cases, the media almost always reports party affiliation when the politician in question is a Republican, but rarely when a Democrat. I don’t play the “name that party” game at Internet Scofflaw because it’s just too easy. I prefer to focus on actual media lies and misconduct rather than general observations of bias.

Now the AP has given me a chance to play, with this story on the latest Gary Condit development:

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by former Congressman Gary Condit claiming author Dominick Dunne slandered him over the death of a young female intern.

Condit claimed that Dunne falsely accused him on the “Larry King Live” show of involvement in the 2001 disappearance of government intern Chandra Levy, with whom Condit acknowledged having an affair. . .

Condit, a former Republican congressman from California’s Central Valley, has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Levy’s May 2001 disappearance at age 24, or her death. However, he acknowledged to investigators that they had an intimate relationship.

(Emphasis mine.) Condit was, in fact, a Democrat.

(Via Instapundit.)

More on the Maliki interview

July 23, 2008

Patterico notes that that Der Spiegel admits to rewriting its Maliki interview, but stands by the essential accuracy of their account. (Fake but accurate!)

Also the NYT’s claim that Der Spiegel “provided” them the audio isn’t really true. Der Spiegel won’t release the audio, but will play it over the phone for a “journalist”. (Whatever that means in the Internet age.)

On the other hand, Patterico agrees with my point that the “mistranslation” is largely a red herring.

Obama lies about committee membership

July 23, 2008

A good catch by Power Line:

Now, in terms of knowing my commitments, you don’t have to just look at my words, you can look at my deeds. Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon.

(Emphasis mine.)  Obama is not a member of the Banking Committee.

What’s the deal with this?  Is Obama confused about what committees he serves on?  (After all, he doesn’t attend many committee meetings.)  If not, why tell such an obvious lie?  Is it because he knows the media won’t call him on it?  So far, he’s right.

Love is in the air

July 23, 2008

UPDATE: A related item: media contributions favor Democrats by at least 10:1.  Depending on how you count, as much as 100:1.  (Via Instapundit.)

DC defies SCOTUS

July 23, 2008

The District of Columbia has made it clear that it will not abide by a mere order from the US Supreme Court. So far it has:

  • Denied citizens the right to possess semi-automatic handguns, despite their being the most popular weapons for self defense, despite a clear analogy to the Court’s finding that:

    It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. . . Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.

  • Denied Dick Heller a permit for his handgun, violating the Court’s order that:

    Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

Now they’ve gone to the ruling’s central holding. The Court found that:

In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.

“Immediate self-defense” seems clear, doesn’t it? That means that your gun can be assembled, loaded, unlocked, and available. Otherwise you can’t use it immediately. DC doesn’t agree, reports Washington Post blogger Marc Fisher:

The D.C. officials read the decision as an almost academic ruling that although there may be a constitutional right to bear arms to protect yourself, that right is pretty much limited to folks whose house is being broken into right this very second. . . [DC Attorney General] Nickles said “it’s clear the Supreme Court didn’t intend for you to have a loaded gun around the house. . .

D.C. gun owners would be prohibited from keeping their gun loaded unless they could demonstrate that the firearm is “being used against a reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm.”

What does that mean? “Somebody’s approaching your home,” Nickles offered. Or “an actual threat by somebody you believe is out to hurt you.”

How about if there’s been a break-in next door? That’s close, the attorney general said. . .

“I don’t think they intended that anybody who had a vague notion of a threat should have access to a gun,” [DC Mayor] Fenty told me.

(By the way, I was wrong about this and Glenn Reynolds was right. I gave DC too much credit.) They also plan to tie up any gun registrations in red tape:

The mayor and the D.C. Council are enacting emergency law setting up a cumbersome mechanism by which someone who wants to own a gun legally may register a weapon if they clear a background check, pass a vision test and a written test of gun safety knowledge, pay a fee and wait for the bureaucracy to push through all these steps. “There are circumstances where it could take months,” Police Chief Cathy Lanier conceded, and you could almost hear the elected officials around her emitting “heh-hehs” of mischievous delight.

(Via Reason, via Instapundit.)

I think this is actually good news, as long as you don’t live in DC, that is. This will keep the legal conflict alive on the most favorable possible terms, in the very place where the Circuit Court and Supreme Court have already found in favor of the right to bear arms.

Chavez builds military and economic ties with Russia

July 23, 2008

Fox News reports.

In hindsight, Obama would still oppose the surge

July 23, 2008

Because to do otherwise would mean admitting he was wrong:

Q: If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?

A: No, because, keep in mind that…

Q: You wouldn’t?

A: Keep in mind… These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that, what I’m absolutely convinced of, is that at that time we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.


July 22, 2008

Scott Rasmussen:

Voters are looking at reporters in the way reporters want us to look at Wikipedia.

(Via Instapundit.)

Key Chavez opponent attacked by gunmen

July 22, 2008

The AP reports.

Nuclear power makes a comeback

July 22, 2008

A nice op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.  (Via Instapundit.)

Here’s the video he refers to:

Max Boot on Maliki

July 22, 2008

Commentary has his theory on what was going on with the Der Spiegel interview. (Via Instapundit.)

UPDATE: Boot follows up.  (Via the Corner.)

Top Obama fund-raiser headed failed subprime lender

July 22, 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports:

For the Pritzker family of Chicago, the 2001 collapse of subprime-mortgage lender Superior Bank was an embarrassing failure in a corner of their giant business empire.

Billionaire Penny Pritzker helped run Hinsdale, Ill.-based Superior, overseeing her family’s 50% ownership stake. She now serves as Barack Obama’s national campaign-finance chairwoman, which means her banking past could prove to be an embarrassment to her — and perhaps to the campaign.

Superior was seized in 2001 and later closed by federal regulators. Government investigators and consumer advocates have contended that Superior engaged in unsound financial activities and predatory lending practices. Ms. Pritzker, a longtime friend and supporter of Sen. Obama, served for a time as Superior’s chairman, and later sat on the board of its holding company.

Sen. Obama has long criticized predatory subprime mortgage lenders and urged strong actions against them. . .

The Obama campaign recently faced a controversy related to mortgage lending. A member of Sen. Obama’s vice-presidential selection committee resigned after a Wall Street Journal story said he received favorable treatment on personal loans from Countrywide Financial Corp., a major subprime lender. . .

Superior’s failure could still cost the federal deposit insurance fund tens of millions of dollars or more. And hundreds of people whose deposits exceeded federal insurance limits, such as Ms. Sweet, are still out millions of dollars, which will be reduced some by future Pritzker settlement payments.

(Emphasis mine.)  (Via Instapundit.)

It’s starting to get hard to keep track of all of Obama’s corrupt friends.

Microsoft wants me to buy a Mac

July 21, 2008

That’s how it seems, anyway.  I just “upgraded” to Office 2007, hoping that might solve my iPhone synchronization problems (it didn’t).  What I didn’t know is they completely changed the UI, into one that’s unusable.  I was hoping there was an “Office classic” option somewhere, but I couldn’t find one.  (I couldn’t even find the old options menu, if indeed it still exists.)  But the fact that you can buy a product for $30 that makes Office 2007 work like Office 2003 suggests that there’s no built-in way to do it.

Looks like I’ll be downgrading for now.  In the long run, running old software and operating system isn’t really an option, though.  If Microsoft doesn’t get its act together, it looks like I may have a Mac in my future.

NYT rejects McCain op-ed

July 21, 2008

Wow. The New York Times is happy to publish Obama’s op-ed, but won’t publish McCain’s rebuttal. (Via Instapundit.) It’s like they’re picking sides or something.

UPDATE: Last year, the NYT ombudsman defended their decision to run an op-ed piece for Hamas.  (Via LGF.)  The final line:

Op-ed pages are for debate, but if you get only one side, that’s not debate. And that’s not healthy.

“Eight to ten years”

July 21, 2008

That’s how long Obama says he’ll be in office.  (Via Instapundit.)

Poll: Media helping Obama

July 21, 2008

According to a recent Rasmussen poll:

  • 49% believe the media is trying to help Obama (including 78% of Republicans and 50% of unaffiliated voters).  This is up 5 points in the last month.
  • 45% say that would hide information that hurts their preferred candidate (25% aren’t sure).
  • 50% say the media makes the economy look worse than it is.
  • 41% say the media makes the war in Iraq look worse than it is.

(Via Instapundit.)

(Previous post.)

Why does the left hate Fox News?

July 21, 2008

The New York Times reports that the organizers of the Netroots Nation conference (the new name for Yearly Kos) have a juvenile plan to require Fox News reporters to wear special press badges that mock them. For their part, Fox News says that matter is moot because they weren’t planning to go anyway.

What I want to know is, why do they hate Fox News so much that they are willing to look like a bunch of petulant kids?

“Fox News calls itself fair and balanced, but it’s not,” Josh Orton, political director for Netroots said in an interview. He accused the network, which is popular among conservatives, of misrepresenting itself.

Fox News is slanted to the right. So what? Almost every major news outlet is slanted to the left. So why does the existence of a right-leaning outlet give the left such fits?

For my part, if I don’t like someone’s news, I just don’t watch them. Furthermore, there are even a few left-leaning news outlets I like (NPR and the Washington Post). But for the “Netroots”, it seems that not only do they not want to hear the other side, they don’t want anyone else to hear it either.

The irony is that Fox News actually is fairly well balanced, according the Groseclose-Milyo quantitative measure (pdf) I’ve mentioned before. According to Groseclose-Milyo, the most balanced media outlets are:

  1. Newshour with Jim Lehrer (55.8)
  2. CNN NewsNight with Aaron Brown (56.0)
  3. ABC Good Morning America (56.1)
  4. Drudge Report (60.4)
  5. Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume (39.7)

The scores are adjusted ADA scores (see the paper), where a higher number is more liberal and the average US voter’s score is roughly 50. Sure enough, Fox News comes in on the right, but it is among the most balanced of the 20 outlets they considered. (It is also one of only two to score right of center, the other being the Washington Times.)

The New York Times, incidentally, is tied with the CBS Evening News for 18th place at an abysmal 73.7. The paper makes the amusing calculation that if one wants to get a balanced news perspective, one should put about twice as much weight on Fox News as the New York Times. This would result in a combined score of about 51, slightly left of center.

A nice graphical representation of the results appears after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

A civilian national security force

July 21, 2008

My take on Obama’s civilian national security force was it sounded like the American Protective League, part of Woodrow Wilson’s experiment in American fascism. But Classical Values has a more positive interpretation. (Via Instapundit.)

Maliki denies Der Spiegel report

July 20, 2008

The report in the German magazine Der Spiegel that Iraqi PM Maliki had endorsed Obama’s withdrawal plan were surprising and dismaying. The Obama campaign quickly issued a statement praising the remarks:

Senator Obama welcomes Prime Minister Maliki’s support for a 16 month timeline for the redeployment of U.S combat brigades. This presents an important opportunity to transition to Iraqi responsibility, while restoring our military and increasing our commitment to finish the fight in Afghanistan.

I’ve quoted the statement because it might not stay up for long. CNN is now reporting the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement saying his remarks were “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.” (Via Gateway Pundit, via Instapundit.)

What really happened? Kevin Drum argues that Der Spiegel’s report was accurate. (He would certainly like it to be so.) It’s not plausible, he argues, that three separate remarks were mistranslated. In a way, I think Drum isn’t far from the mark. I suspect that “mistranslation” will prove to be a red herring. (But, I’ll change my mind about this if Der Spiegel doesn’t release the raw audio.) What I think happened here is Maliki is not used to speaking with a western press that twists your remarks to fit its preferred narrative. I think he said that he’d like to see Coalition troops leave (there’s no secret about that), and that a 16-month timeframe is probably doable in principle.

In fact, the fact that he was talking about a hypothetical timeline, and not a rigid timeframe, is clear even from the Der Spiegel piece. The 16-month remark was in reply to the question, “Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?” Clearly, hazarding a prediction is not the same as endorsing Obama’s rigid timeline, despite Der Spiegel’s dishonest choice of headline.

Western politicians are used to speaking with a ideological, dishonest press corps, and still slip up. Maliki does not have that experience, and inadvertently gave Der Spiegel the material they wanted. Certainly he wants the Coalition out, but that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly changed his position and wants them out in 16 months even if Iraq isn’t ready.

Let’s pull back and look at the larger picture. Frankly, the difference between a rigid timeline and a general timeframe is not all that great any more. Before the surge, a rigid timeline meant pulling out when Iraq was still in chaos, even if that led to genocide and a terrorist state in Iraq. After the surge, matters have improved to the extent that the rigid timeline may not be that far from what is safely possible. The surge was the whole thing. Without it, Maliki would never have been talking about the possibility of a near-term Coalition exit.

Where Drum has it exactly backwards, then, is where he says the most reasonable interpretation of the Der Spiegel controversy is that “Obama has shown good judgment and good instincts in foreign affairs.” It is exactly because of the surge, which Obama vigorously opposed, that we’re even having this debate. Obama’s judgement would have led to defeat, genocide, and a terrorist state in Iraq.

POSTSCRIPT: What happens now? The Maliki statement will blunt the political effect of the Der Spiegel interview. Der Spiegel will release the raw audio and Juan Cole will tell us it was flawlessly translated. Therefore, the netroots will argue, Maliki’s Der Spiegel remarks — and not their denial — represent his true position. But since Maliki will be standing by the denial, those arguments will amount to nothing.

Incidentally, in the Der Spiegel interview, Maliki also defends the necessity of the original invasion. Obama doubtless won’t be praising that part of the PM’s wisdom.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. Der Spiegel says they stand by their version, but they have two different versions, and they won’t release the raw audio. Interestingly, one of their versions tends to agree with Maliki’s statement. Also, the NYT has a third version, based on the audio that Der Spiegel will give to them, but not us. So there might be something fraudulent here after all. (Via Instapundit.)

Also, I may have given the press too much credit. They have a way to deal with Maliki’s denial: just don’t mention it.

UPDATE: More: there does seem to be at least some element of mistranslation.  (Via Instapundit.)

How Heller came to be

July 20, 2008

James Taranto interviews Alan Gura, the lawyer who argued D.C. versus Heller.  (Via Instapundit.)

China shuts down for Olympics

July 19, 2008

Communist countries cannot afford green industry, so they tend to be among the worst polluted if they are industrialized at all. However, if their rulers so desire, they can put the entire country behind a single national effort, such as Sputnik or temporarily clearing the smog from Beijing. So, China is shutting down industry, transportation, and construction throughout the Beijing area:

Beijing’s Olympic shutdown begins Sunday, a drastic plan to lift the Chinese capital’s gray shroud of pollution just three weeks ahead of the games.

Half of Beijing’s 3.3 million vehicles will be pulled off the roads and many polluting factories will be shuttered. Chemical plants, power stations and foundries left open have to cut emissions by 30 percent — and dust-spewing construction in the capital will be halted. . .

Striking venues and $40 billion spent to improve infrastructure cannot mask Beijing’s dirty air. A World Bank study found China is home to 16 of the 20 worst cities for air quality. Three-quarters of the water flowing through urban areas is unsuitable for drinking or fishing.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has repeatedly warned that outdoor endurance events lasting more than an hour will be postponed if the air quality is poor.

Under the two-month plan, vehicles will be allowed on the roads every other day depending on even-odd registration numbers. In addition, 300,000 heavy polluting vehicles — aging industrial trucks, many of which operate only at night — were banned beginning July 1. . .

The gigantic experiment to curb pollution could still go wrong. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, an atmospheric scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said unpredictable winds could blow pollution into Beijing despite factory shutdowns in the city and five surrounding provinces.


July 19, 2008

President Bush’s domestic program: a picture is worth a thousand words.

Micronations and self-defense

July 19, 2008

Chris Borgen has an interesting post about “seasteading,” the idea of forming micronations at sea. (Via Instapundit.)

I’ve daydreamed about this sort of thing a lot, and my conclusions are generally the same as his. I think he complicates matters, though, with his focus on the idea of sovereignty. I would argue that in reality, there’s no such thing. Any group of people who decide to call themselves an independent nation are independent exactly to the degree to which they are able to defend themselves.

Trying to make yourself inoffensive, so that you don’t need to defend yourself, is a non-starter. No one contemplating seasteading has the intention of living in poverty, and anyone enjoying a western standard of living would be a target.

You can try to get friends to defend you, but you need to find someone who is able and willing. Most countries that are able (America for example), aren’t likely to exert themselves to protect people they see as tax dodgers. (The unique quality of Sealand was that it was clearly under the umbrella of the UK, but had a peculiar legal status that made it de facto independent.)

Hiding worked for John Galt and Andrew Ryan, but it’s not an option in the real world, at least until we can settle in space. That leaves defending yourself.

So there’s really two avenues to starting your own nation. First, get a strong power to accept your “sovereignty” and also be friendly enough that they will defend you. To pull that off, you generally need to be a persecuted minority. Second, hire yourself an army.

Where I differ from Borgen is I don’t see the latter as impossible. To be sure, you’d need to be seriously rich, but there are people in the world who can afford to retain a decent mercenary force. You don’t need one that can fight world powers; just one that can deter pirates and whatever nearby dictators might cast a covetous eye your way.

What happens next? That’s where the daydream begins.

DNI responds to NYT

July 19, 2008

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has written a response to the NYT’s ombudsman’s column arguing that they were right to reveal the identity of a CIA interrogator.

Lèse majesté

July 18, 2008

Charles Krauthammer is not a believer in our new messiah:

Americans are beginning to notice Obama’s elevated opinion of himself. There’s nothing new about narcissism in politics. Every senator looks in the mirror and sees a president. Nonetheless, has there ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?

Obama is a three-year senator without a single important legislative achievement to his name, a former Illinois state senator who voted “present” nearly 130 times. As president of the Harvard Law Review, as law professor and as legislator, has he ever produced a single notable piece of scholarship? Written a single memorable article? His most memorable work is a biography of his favorite subject: himself.

It is a subject upon which he can dilate effortlessly. In his victory speech upon winning the nomination, Obama declared it a great turning point in history — “generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment” — when, among other wonders, “the rise of the oceans began to slow.” As economist Irwin Stelzer noted in his London Daily Telegraph column, “Moses made the waters recede, but he had help.” Obama apparently works alone. . .

For the first few months of the campaign, the question about Obama was: Who is he? The question now is: Who does he think he is?

We are getting to know. Redeemer of our uninvolved, uninformed lives. Lord of the seas. And more. As he said on victory night, his rise marks the moment when “our planet began to heal.” As I recall — I’m no expert on this — Jesus practiced his healing just on the sick. Obama operates on a larger canvas.


July 18, 2008

I saw this story earlier, but it wasn’t funny until Jonah Goldberg added his title.


July 18, 2008

Much is being made in some circles of the latest issue of Physics and Society (a newsletter of the American Physical Society) with this concession in its editorial:

There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution. Since the correctness or fallacy of that conclusion has immense implications for public policy and for the future of the biosphere, we thought it appropriate to present a debate within the pages of P&S concerning that conclusion.

and the inclusion of an article critical of anthropogenic theories of global warming. I wouldn’t make very much of it, the editorial seems carefully worded and the article is prefaced with this:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

Based on my conversations with climate scientists, I think there’s much better reason to question future projections of global warming than there is to question analyses of what’s happened already.

UPDATE: This clarification, currently on the APS home page (no permalink), seems to prove my point:

The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

“Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.” This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

DOE files application to open Yucca Mountain

July 18, 2008

The DOE has filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a construction and operation license for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.  The DOE has spent $10 billion over 20 years examining the site.  Barring unforeseen obstacles (ha!) it could open in early 2017.

The DOE has a variety of information on the Yucca Mountain project here.

The Pearl Harbor “bomb”

July 18, 2008

Dean Barnett and Ed Morrissey are crowing over the latest Obama gaffe:

Throughout our history, America’s confronted constantly evolving danger, from the oppression of an empire, to the lawlessness of the frontier, from the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor, to the threat of nuclear annihilation. Americans have adapted to the threats posed by an ever-changing world.

(Emphasis mine.)

Come on, let’s be fair.  This would make perfect sense (or at least be fully defensible) if he had said “bombs” rather than “bomb”.  That makes this most likely a verbal flub, not evidence of Obama’s appalling ignorance.  It’s hardly worth our attention, particular with such more compelling material available.

That said, it should go without saying that if George W Bush had made the same remark, the left would be crowing about the latest proof of his stupidity.

Appealed strike call goes to Supreme Court

July 18, 2008

The Onion reports:

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the case of Wright v. Dreckman, which calls into question professional baseball player David Wright’s 2005 check swing against the San Diego Padres and whether or not the resulting strike call should be upheld. . .

The road to the Supreme Court for Wright v. Dreckman has been lengthy, convoluted, and filled with more than its share of tumult. After the 2005 Shea ruling, the case was appealed to the U.S. District Court of the state of New York, where the decision was reversed in favor of Wright. However, when it was revealed that the presiding judge was a lifelong Mets fan, the decision was thrown out and the case was again argued in front of the New York State Court of Appeals. That court, citing the 1994 case Bonds v. Davidson, sided with Dreckman.

According to attorney Reiss, however, the decision in Bonds v. Davidson was inapplicable. Though the court upheld the original ruling on the field, Reiss was quick to note that Bonds was left-handed, and thus the case set legal precedent with third-base umpires, not first-base umpires. Reiss believed Wright being right-handed constituted a legitimate enough reason to file a writ of certiorari, or “cert petition,” an order for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. . .

This is far from the first instance in which the Supreme Court has been called upon to decide matters of the national pastime. In the 1903 case of Wagner v. The Chicago White Sox, the court ruled 5-4 in favor of the defendant that “a base-ball hit far and high, only to bounce fairly onto the field-of-play, and then spring forth into the seats of the ‘bleachers’ should earn the bats-man no more and no fewer than two bases, and not an out.” A landmark 1976 ruling established the infield fly rule. And more recently, a 2006 decision in the case of Rodriguez v. The Fans of New York cemented the legal precedent established in the 1940 case of Williams v. The Fans of Boston, which made it clear that baseball fans are free to boo, no matter how nonsensical it may seem, players on their home team.

Ha ha. As if the judicial system would ever inject itself in a rule-making capacity into private affairs. How silly.

(UPDATE: I’m reminded of this non-Onion article.)

Also at the Onion: ‘Time’ Publishes Definitive Obama Puff Piece. (Via the Corner.)

Diwaniya under Iraqi control

July 18, 2008

The handover makes 10 of 18 provinces.  (Via Confederate Yankee, via Instapundit.)

DC blocks gun purchases

July 18, 2008

Under DC’s new gun law, people who already had guns despite the now-overturned gun ban, can register them (maybe). But, law-abiding citizens who previously abided by the ban still cannot get a gun. Why? There are no gun shops in DC, and there won’t be, because zoning regulations prohibit them. You can, however, buy a gun outside DC and ship it to a federally licensed firearms dealer. That’s where things get interesting:

As WTOP first reported, there are only six federally licensed firearm dealers in the District, and only one of them is willing to handle the transfer of handguns. Until gun shops open in the District, residents will have to buy their handguns out of state and have them shipped to a licensed dealer in the District. Charles Sykes is that licensed dealer, and he’s told WTOP he’s willing to handle the transfer of handguns for residents, just has he has for security companies since 1994. “On a low key basis,” Sykes says. “By appointment.”

But Sykes has a problem. He lost his lease and has had to relocate, and the District has refused to issue him the necessary permit to open his new office. Sykes told the Washington CityPaper he thinks the city is withholding his Certificate of Occupancy for “political” reasons. He may be right.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which issues the permit, could not say what the status of his application is, or why it was being withheld in time for this report.

DC does not appear to be acting in good faith.

Here’s what I find amazing, though. Violators of the old law can now have legal weapons (under the amnesty), but those who obeyed the law cannot. DC has actually managed to arrange matters so that a classic problem with gun bans (law-violators are armed, but law-abiders are not) is preserved even when the gun ban is lifted. Way to go, DC!

(Via Outside the Beltway, via Instapundit.)

Heller denied handgun permit

July 17, 2008

In its Heller decision, the Supreme Court ordered (pdf, page 64):

Assuming that Heller is not disqualified from the exercise of Second Amendment rights, the District must permit him to register his handgun and must issue him a license to carry it in the home.

Clear? Not to the District of Columbia:

District residents can start registering their guns today. But at least one very high profile application was already rejected.

Dick Heller is the man who brought the lawsuit against the District’s 32-year-old ban on handguns. He was among the first in line Thursday morning to apply for a handgun permit.

But when he tried to register his semi-automatic weapon, he says he was rejected. He says his gun has seven bullet clip. Heller says the City Council legislation allows weapons with fewer than eleven bullets in the clip. A spokesman for the DC Police says the gun was a bottom-loading weapon, and according to their interpretation, all bottom-loading guns are outlawed because they are grouped with machine guns.

The Supreme Court’s order was qualified in only one way, that Heller has not been disqualified from his Second Amendment rights. There was no qualification about Heller’s handgun being a revolver, or any other specific sort. I don’t see how this can stand.

I have to say this is clever on Heller’s part. With a Supreme Court decision to back him up, he’s uniquely positioned to force this issue.

Bored soldiers yearn for Afghanistan

July 17, 2008

Courtesy of the AP is a story that’s both optimistic and a little sad:

Quiet Iraq streets leave soldiers yearning for Afghanistan

Spc. Grover Gebhart has spent nine months at a small post on a Sunni-Shiite fault line in western Baghdad. But the 21-year-old soldier on his first tour in Iraq feels he’s missing the real war — in Afghanistan, where his brother is fighting the Taliban.

With violence in Iraq at its lowest level in four years and the war in Afghanistan at a peak, the soldiers serving at patrol station Maverick say Gebhart’s view is increasingly common, especially among younger soldiers looking to prove themselves in battle. . .

Soldiers who have experienced combat stress note that it is usually young soldiers on their first tour who most want to get on the battlefield. They say it is hard to communicate the horrors of war to those who have not actually experienced it.

“These kids are just being young,” said Sgt. Christopher Janis, who is only 23 but is on his third tour in Iraq. “They say they want to get into battle until they do, and then they won’t want it anymore.”

That soldiers are looking elsewhere for a battle is a testament to how much Iraq has changed from a year ago, when violence was at its height. Now it’s the lowest in four years, thanks to the U.S. troop surge, the turn by former Sunni insurgents against al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Iraqi government crackdowns on Shiite militias.

(Via LGF.)

Why oil developers prefer ANWR

July 17, 2008

The no-oil-development caucus in Congress, led by Nancy Pelosi, has settled on a strategy to defuse calls for more oil drilling.  It’s a political strategy, in that it doesn’t do anything about the underlying problem of insufficient supplies of energy, but they hope it will deal with the increasingly popular calls to open up ANWR or the continental shelf to oil exploration.  The strategy is to shift blame to oil companies that have signed leases for oil exploration in other areas but have not yet exploited them.

Oil companies are in the business of developing oil, so if they are not developing areas in which they have the right to do so, it’s obvious that those areas must be unattractive for some reason.  It makes no sense to suppose, as Pelosi would have us, that the oil companies are spitefully refusing to develop profitable oil reserves.

So why are those existing leases unattractive?  Power Line has a post explaining why.  The area currently open for development is called NPR-A (National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska).  The other area in question is ANWR-1002, a tiny piece of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.  Both areas were set aside for future production of oil, but ANWR-1002 requires Congressional authorization to begin, which as we all well know has not been granted.

Two main obstacles have impeded the development of NPR-A:  First, the ubiquitous environmental litgation.  Second, the lack of any infrastructure to move oil out of the area.  NPR-A is enormous, and even at its closest point is far from the Alaskan pipeline.  Furthermore, no permit has been granted even to begin extending the pipeline to NPR-A.  (If Pelosi were serious about NPR-A, her legislation would authorize immediate commencement of an extension.  Even then it would take years to build.)

ANWR-1002, on the other hand, is small and not far from the existing pipeline.  Moreover, it has the same reserves as NPR-A, despite being one-tenth the size.  Thus, the density of oil reserves is an order of magnitude greater.  So it’s not hard to see why ANWR-1002 is so much more attractive: much denser (and therefore cost-effective) oil deposits and a practical means to move that oil to market.

The irony of Pelosi’s plan is that if we focused on NPR-A, as she feigns to wish, the environmental damage would be much greater than if we developed the much smaller and readily reachable area of ANWR-1002.  Since increased environmental damage is clearly not Pelosi’s aim, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that she supports NPR-A development precisely because she knows it won’t happen.

Washington Post hits Obama on Iraq

July 17, 2008

They write:

BARACK OBAMA yesterday accused President Bush and Sen. John McCain of rigidity on Iraq: “They said we couldn’t leave when violence was up, they say we can’t leave when violence is down.” Mr. Obama then confirmed his own foolish consistency. . . After hinting earlier this month that he might “refine” his Iraq strategy after visiting the country and listening to commanders, Mr. Obama appears to have decided that sticking to his arbitrary, 16-month timetable is more important than adjusting to the dramatic changes in Iraq. . .

“What’s missing in our debate,” Mr. Obama said yesterday, “is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq.” Indeed: The message that the Democrat sends is that he is ultimately indifferent to the war’s outcome — that Iraq “distracts us from every threat we face” and thus must be speedily evacuated regardless of the consequences. That’s an irrational and ahistorical way to view a country at the strategic center of the Middle East, with some of the world’s largest oil reserves. Whether or not the war was a mistake, Iraq’s future is a vital U.S. security interest.

(Emphasis mine.)  They also note than Obama was dead wrong on the surge.

(Via the Corner.)

Is the war in Iraq over?

July 16, 2008

Earlier Michael Yon declared that the war in Iraq is over.  Now, Michael Totten asks the question. Totten is evidently more wary of being a hostage to fortune, but here’s his bottom line:

What most of us still think of as “war” in Iraq is, at this point, a rough and unfinished peacekeeping mission. Whether it is officially over or not, it has certainly been downgraded to something else, and it’s about time more analysts and observers are willing to say so.

(Via Instapundit.)

Good news, but no triumphalism this time, please, particularly with how things are going in Afghanistan.

New comment policy

July 16, 2008

I’ve managed to get by so far without a comment policy. I haven’t gotten many, and nearly all of those have been non-objectionable. As a safety measure, I’ve left moderation on, just in case things changed. It turns out I was wise to do so.

Coincident with yesterday’s Instalanche has been a rash of anonymous (and mostly nasty) comments. This is a leisure time activity for me, so I’ve taken a few steps to ensure blogging remains fun. First, I deleted all the comments for which it was obvious the comment form was not filled in honestly. (This turned out to be all of them.) Second, I’ve changed the discussion settings so that commenters must be logged into a WordPress.com account. My hope is that this requirement will serve to repel the casual troll.

Anyone whose comment was deleted in the last two days can create an account and resubmit their comments, and I’ll consider approving them. Honestly, though, I don’t expect to see many of those people back.

I’ve also decided to institute the following comment policy:

  1. Thoughtful rebuttals (or agreement) will be cheerfully approved.
  2. Non-sequitur rebuttals will be grumpily approved (mainly because I can’t be bothered to police comments for logic), provided they are civil. I will probably ignore them, though.
  3. Comments I deem to be uncivil will be thrown out with the spam.

As nearly any blogger will tell you, I’m the one paying for this (although, thanks to WordPress.com, I’m not paying very much), so I make the rules. The main rule is blogging needs to be fun for me. If you don’t like it, you can get your own blog. WordPress.com will be happy to set you up for free.

Us versus them

July 16, 2008

In the war between residents and commuters, Megan McArdle sides with her own:

People who commute into DC have put the city into their mental “Work” basket. Wherever they are in the city, they tend to act as if they are in some commercially zoned suburban office park, where children and pedestrians basically don’t belong. . . Bicycles and pedestrians slowing down their commute seem like unreasonable intrusions.

For residents of DC, the city is the mental equivalent of your suburban culde-sac. . . When we see commuters behaving as if they were on a highway, rather than in a residential area, we get, well, a tad miffed. And as you’ve probably guessed, I think we have the right of it.

I’ll be the first to agree that people should drive safely in residential areas (or anywhere else). But I have noticed that people’s claims of high principle in battles of us versus them never last very long after they switch categories. I’ve watched people curse pedestrians and then, without a hint of irony, turn around and curse motorists moments after getting out of their car. Heck, I’ve even caught myself doing it. Dividing the world into residents and commuters sounds like a good innovation to avoid cognitive dissonance, since you don’t change categories nearly as often.

Then McArdle goes on to say something very interesting:

Commuters into DC do not even have the excuse for their sense of entitlement that commuters into New York or San Francisco have: that without them, the businesses wouldn’t be there, and the economy of the city would drastically suffer. The business of DC is mostly various non-profit, or very thinly profitable, entities that do not pay significant taxes–only a quarter of DC’s revenue comes from sales and business taxes, and of course a lot of those are paid by the residents. The business that does bring substantial revenue into DC, tourism, is not going anywhere, because they’re not going to move the Washington Monument to Silver Spring.

Nor, as some of the commuters have alleged, do their gas taxes pay for the roads. Federal highway funds provide about 20% of the capital budget for DC streets; the rest comes from those of us who live and pay taxes in the city.

As a former Pittsburgher, now living in the suburbs, this is a very familiar argument. The City of Pittsburgh is bankrupt. This is mainly due to years and years of appallingly bad financial choices that show no sign of ending. But to those who approved those budgets and to their supporters, another culprit is needed. That culprit, of course, is the commuters.

The commuters are responsible, we are told, because most of the major employers in Pittsburgh are non-profit, and therefore do not pay taxes. (ASIDE: This isn’t actually true; the non-profits do pay taxes, but they’re called “voluntary contributions”. “Shakedowns” would be more appropriate.) Consequently, all those commuters working at non-profits aren’t paying for the services they consume.

This leads to an obvious solution: annex the suburbs, or at least get the county or the state to permit them to levy taxes on them. It’s the time-honored solution for polities with financial difficulties: conquer your neighbor and plunder them. The only problem is we don’t want to be conquered.

The District of Columbia is a bit different, because the plundering is already under way. McArdle helpfully linked the DC budget (pdf), wherein I was able to find the following statistic: of the $254 million in DC revenues, $146 million is “subsidy from primary government.” That, I assume, is us.

Moreover, looking at everything in terms of taxes misses the point. The lifeblood of a city is not tax revenues, the lifeblood is the commerce and other activity of the people there, residents and commuters alike. Without the hospitals and universities, Pittsburgh would cease to exist. And without the Federal government, DC would still be a swamp.

So perhaps us versus them isn’t the right way to look at it after all. Maybe we should just say that people should drive safely in residential areas.

Al Qaeda: downsizing and outsourcing

July 16, 2008

Iowahawk has uncovered Al Qaeda’s new business plan. (Via Transterrestrial Musings.)

A shibboleth for the war

July 16, 2008

Some people are upset that the Colombian hostage rescue operation may have employed a red cross emblem as part of its ruse:

Colombian military intelligence used the Red Cross emblem in a rescue operation in which leftist guerrillas were duped into handing over 15 hostages, according to unpublished photographs and video viewed by CNN.

Photographs of the Colombian military intelligence-led team that spearheaded the rescue, shown to CNN by a confidential military source, show one man wearing a bib with the Red Cross symbol. The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.

Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a “war crime” under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association. . .

The unpublished video and photos of the mission, hailed internationally as a daring success, were shown to CNN by a military source looking to sell the material. CNN declined to buy the material at the price being asked; it was therefore unable to verify the authenticity of the images.

(Via LGF.)

Geez. If we suppose this even happened at all, the Colombians weren’t using the emblem to launch attacks or transport weapons, they were rescuing hostages held by terrorists for years. If you think this was wrong, much less a war crime, that says more about you than it does about Colombia. Indeed, it strikes me that one’s opinion about this could be an excellent shibboleth to determine one’s general stance regarding terrorism.

Also, before one sheds any tears for the now-terribly-endangered humanitarian workers, it might be worthwhile to read Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s WSJ piece on the NGO-FARC axis.

McCain rebuts Obama

July 16, 2008

The McCain campaign has a response piece out rebutting Obama’s brazen attempt to rewrite the history of his statements on Iraq, and the Surge in particular.  (Via the Tank.)

For what it’s worth, the response leaves out one important point.  Obama says that Iraq has “not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.”  This was stupid last September, when Democrats seized on the “benchmarks” to deny the achievements of the Surge.  After all, for our purposes, those political goals were merely means to an end (i.e., to bring stability to Iraq) that was being met without them.  Now, however, it’s doubly stupid, since now nearly all the (largely forgotten) benchmarks have seen satisfactory progress.

Bronx DA tries to silence bloggers

July 16, 2008

The NYT reports. (Via No Silence Here, via Instapundit.)

“What happens to all that seized money?”

July 15, 2008

The Economist looks at a few cautionary tales of abuse of asset forfeiture.  It’s always struck me that creating financial incentives for law enforcement would cause dangerous conflicts of interest.

The fall of Britain, part n+1

July 15, 2008

Citizen stops youths from vandalizing a WW2 memorial.  Citizen is convicted of assault.  (Via Instapundit.)

Fake caption on AFP photo

July 15, 2008

Confederate Yankee spots a fake caption on an AFP photo. (Via Instapundit.)

I have to add that it is instantly obvious to anyone who has served in the military that those soldiers aren’t securing anything. The brightly colored blank firing adapters screwed into the end of the barrels are a dead giveaway that this is a training exercise. Also, the woodland camouflage makes it just as obvious that this isn’t Iraq, and is probably North America or Europe. (Romania, it turns out.)

This could never have happened if they had a single person with military experience glancing at their photos.

BONUS: The fake caption cribbed most of a sentence from the real one. Before:

US soldiers secure the area at a new installed check-point at Babadag training facility in the county of Tulcea, during a joint task force-east rotation 2008 training exercise . . .


US soldiers secure the area at a newly installed check-point at the Babadag training facility in Tulcea, Iraq.

This is fraud, not just a stupid mistake.

Ethical journalism at the NYT

July 15, 2008

The New York Times’ Standards Editor reminds the staff of their rules of “Ethical Journalism.” There’s nothing about accurate, balanced articles in those rules; they’re all about avoiding obvious politicking that might tend to give people the right idea. For example:

Staff members may not themselves give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides.

He says it explicitly: the problem isn’t supporting the candidate; the problem is the Internet makes it easy for people to know that you’re supporting the candidate. You don’t want to feed a “false impression” of bias. (He must have chuckled as he wrote that one.) Anyway, that ship has already sailed.

(Via LGF.)

UPDATE: It’s old, but I’m reminded of this as another sort of thing the NYT might want to avoid.

New infantry weapons

July 15, 2008

. . . that the Army could buy today.  (Via the Corner.)

Obama scrubs web site

July 15, 2008

Obama’s old Iraq plan, which attacked the Surge and proved to be wrong in every regard, has disappeared from his web site.  I think this is as close as Obama is capable to admitting he was wrong.

Quotas for women in science

July 15, 2008

They could be on their way, if activists and members of Congress have their way.  (Via Instapundit.)

In my department, many people earnestly believe that a Democratic administration would fix all of our funding problems.  I always thought that was naive, but it still didn’t occur to me that one might actually make things much, much worse.

EPA considers regulating speed limits

July 15, 2008

These people must be stopped.  (Via Instapundit.)

DC thumbs its nose at Heller

July 15, 2008

DC is set to pass a new gun law in response to Heller:

The District of Columbia Council planned to vote Tuesday on emergency legislation to allow handguns, but only if they are used for self-defense in the home and carry fewer than 12 rounds of ammunition.

The legislation announced Monday comes as officials try to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month striking down the city’s 32-year-old weapons ban.

The proposal, which maintains some of the city’s strict gun ownership rules and adds more regulations, was immediately criticized by gun rights advocates. They threatened more legal action.

The nation’s capital would still require all legal firearms — including handguns, rifles and shotguns — to be kept in the home unloaded and disassembled, or equipped with trigger locks. There would be an exception for guns used against the “reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm.”

The proposed legislation also maintains the city’s unusual ban of machine guns, defined as weapons that shoot at least 12 rounds without reloading. That applies to most semiautomatic firearms.

“We have crafted what I believe to be a model for the nation in terms of complying with the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decision and at the same time protecting our citizens,” interim Attorney General Peter Nickles said.

The new law would comply with the extremely narrow relief requested by and granted to the plaintiff in Heller. But, it certainly does not comply the Constitutional requirements set down by Heller. First, there is the Court’s interpretation of “bear arms”:

At the time of the founding, as now, to “bear” meant to “carry.” . . . When used with “arms,” however, the term has a meaning that refers to carrying for a particular purpose— confrontation. In Muscarello v. United States, . . . in the course of analyzing the meaning of “carries a firearm” in a federal criminal statute, JUSTICE GINSBURG wrote that “[s]urely a most familiar meaning is, as the Constitution’s Second Amendment . . . indicate[s]: ‘wear, bear, or carry . . . upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose . . . of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.’ ” We think that JUSTICE GINSBURG accurately captured the natural meaning of “bear arms.”

I don’t see how a requirement to keep firearms within the home and disassembled can be reconciled with the right to bear arms, as seen in Heller.

I believe the decision also speaks to the provision that would permit only revolvers:

It is no answer to say, as petitioners do, that it is permissible to ban the possession of handguns so long as the possession of other firearms (i.e., long guns) is allowed. It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.

This seems to indicate that Americans have the right to an appropriate weapon for self-defense, and that in particular that the prohibition of the most popular weapon is invalid. Semi-automatic pistols are the most popular weapon chosen for self-defense in the home, so the same principle should apply as for handguns in general, at least if plausible reasons can be given for preferring them. It’s not hard to come up with such reasons, since they are the same reasons DC wishes to ban them.

UPDATE: According to Glenn Reynolds, this is too charitable.  He reads the “reasonably perceived threat of immediate harm” exception to apply only when an intruder has already broken into your house.  Only then could you start assembling your gun.  That would make the exception useless, and plainly violate Heller.  There’s also a questionable vision test, which I missed.

Eleanor Holmes Norton: idiot

July 14, 2008

The DC delegate to the US House of Representatives says:

“In many ways, the decision was a huge stretch, a stretch around the Second Amendment itself because the Second Amendment starts saying exactly what it is about.

“It was about a country that was very afraid that creating a central government which would have an army, would leave the states disempowered to, in fact, handle themselves,” Ms. Norton continued. “The states were sure that these militias could always be armed.

“This court, which calls itself a conservative, strict constructionist court, simply reached around that, called it a preamble and said the use of the words ‘militia’ and ‘people’ was about individual rights. When you look at all of the amendments, six other amendments, the word ‘people’ is used, it is referring collectively, usually to the states,” Ms. Norton said.

Wow. Of course, the court does not call itself conservative or strict constructionist. In fact, Antonin Scalia has been quite critical of the doctrine of strict construction, calling it better “I suppose” than non-textualism, but still “a degraded form of textualism that brings the whole philosophy into disrepute.”

Also, the Heller decision actually deals very carefully indeed with the prefatory clause. Moreover, not one of the nine Justices endorsed Norton’s collectivist interpretation. (Modern legal scholarship makes that almost impossible.)

But, we can’t be surprised by any lack of sophistication from someone who thinks that all these amendments are about collective rights of the states:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

(Via Say Uncle, via Instapundit.)