Chavez seeks to stay in office

November 30, 2008

The least surprising story of the day:

President Hugo Chavez asked supporters to propose a constitutional reform that would allow him to seek indefinite re-election and govern through 2019, giving him more time to build a socialist economy in Venezuela.

On the other hand, this is a little interesting:

Chavez also threatened Sunday to expel Colombia’s top diplomat in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second largest city, after he privately welcomed opposition victories in five key races during last week’s gubernatorial and municipal elections.

In a private telephone conversation apparently recorded by Venezuelan intelligence agents, Carlos Galvis called the opposition’s gains “very good news.” The recording was then broadcast on state television by talk show host Alberto Noria.

It’s not surprising that Venezuela is spying on Colombian diplomats, but it is a little surprising that they would broadcast the proceeds on television.  It’s surprising, not because it causes an international incident (Chavez seems to love those), but because it probably compromised a Venezuelan intelligence capability.  Why would he do that?  It sounds a little like desperation, but I wouldn’t have thought that Chavez was there yet.

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Matthews for Senate?

November 30, 2008

Apparently there’s some buzz suggesting that Chris Matthews might run for the Senate against Arlen Specter.  Gee, I wonder what party he would run as?  He is a objective, non-partisan commentator after all.


Chutzpah

November 30, 2008

The NYT angles to give Democrats the credit for the victory in Iraq.  (Via Instapundit.)

Being a pragmatist, I’m willing to let them have it, if it gets them on board.  Historically, Republicans support Democratic wars (Spanish-American War, WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo), but generally not vice versa (Civil War, Gulf War, Iraq).  If revising the history is the price for getting Democrats to support the effort, so be it.


Shortage of doctors looms

November 29, 2008

Those who are thinking about ways to reform the health care system would do well to consider this:

Primary care doctors in the United States feel overworked and nearly half plan to either cut back on how many patients they see or quit medicine entirely, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

And 60 percent of 12,000 general practice physicians found they would not recommend medicine as a career.

“The whole thing has spun out of control. I plan to retire early even though I still love seeing patients. The process has just become too burdensome,” the Physicians’ Foundation, which conducted the survey, quoted one of the doctors as saying. . .

The 12,000 answers are considered representative of doctors as a whole, the group said, with a margin of error of about 1 percent. It found that 78 percent of those who answered believe there is a shortage of primary care doctors.

One major problem is the paperwork:

More than 90 percent said the time they devote to non-clinical paperwork has increased in the last three years and 63 percent said this has caused them to spend less time with each patient. . .

Many of the health plans proposed by members of Congress, insurers and employers’s groups, as well as Obama’s, suggest that electronic medical records would go a long way to saving time and reducing costs.

Electronic medical records seem like a good idea (if they can keep them secure — a big if), but I don’t see how they would make a significant dent in the time spent on paperwork.  Doing paperwork on a computer might be a little faster than doing it on paper, but hardly dramatically so.  It seems that the primary advantage of electronic medical records would be from accessibility, searchability, and legibility.

Also, the idea that extending governmental control over health care could reduce its paperwork burden is a preposterous fantasy.  I know; I used to fill out the forms to show compliance with the Paperwork Reduction Act.


The missile defense testing record

November 29, 2008

Last June I collated the missile defense testing record from MDA press releases. In light of my last post, I thought I would update the record with tests since June. There have been four tests during that time:

  • June 25, 2008: THAAD test successful.
  • November 19, 2008: Japanese Aegis/SM-3 test unsuccessful.
  • November 1, 2008: Aegis/SM-3 dual target test mixed (one target intercepted, one not).
  • September 17, 2007: THAAD test aborted (target missile failed).

There have been no intercept tests of the best known missile-defense system, the GBMD (ground-based midcourse defense), during that time. November was a tough month for the Aegis/SM-3 system, making only one of three attempted intercepts. If we set aside the aborted THAAD test, the Aegis/SM-3 is the only system to fail since missile defense was deployed in December 2002.

UPDATE (12/6): Another test of the GBMD system yesterday was a qualified success.  The system intercepted the target, but the test was intended to include countermeasures that failed to deploy, so it wasn’t as difficult as intended.


Popular Mechanics on missile defense

November 29, 2008

Popular Mechanics has an interesting article on the technology of missile defense. It takes a somewhat skeptical tone, which I suppose is fair, but what isn’t fair is their misrepresentation of the testing record:

Which leaves a vital question: Does the system work? That’s a matter of fierce debate, and the success rate of tests is mixed. Since 1999, the MDA’s strategic defense system has passed seven out of 12 hit-to-kill tests. But in the six years since President George W. Bush pushed for deployment to counter North Korean missiles, only two of the ground-based interceptor tests have been successful.

There have been exactly two GBMD intercept tests during that time (2006 and 2007 (pdfs)), so the fact that “only two” were successful isn’t exactly a mixed record. One might criticize them for lack of testing, but that’s an entirely different critique. (Full-fledged intercept tests are very expensive, so they run a lot more tracking tests (pdf) and so forth.)

(Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: Popular Mechanics links a Time article that argues the Obama administration will continue the program.  I sure hope so.


Who’s the hack?

November 29, 2008

Greg Mankiw shows quantitatively that Paul Krugman’s definition of “hack” must be “someone who disagrees with Paul Krugman.” He points out that, Krugman’s name-calling notwithstanding, both Bush and Obama appointed (objectively) top economists, with a slight edge to Bush.  I disagree that this is a redefinition, though.  I think it’s what Krugman has always meant.

(Via Instapundit.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: Seriously though, after some of the names that have been bandied about for Obama appointments (e.g., Robert Kennedy, Jr!), Obama’s actual appointments thus far have been a relief.  They are liberals, to be sure, but generally sane ones.


GM seeks less transparency

November 29, 2008

Stung by criticism over its use of private planes, bailout-seeking GM has decided to make a change, but not by curtailing its use of private planes. No, it has asked the FAA to make it impossible for the public to track its use of private planes:

General Motors Corp., criticized by U.S. lawmakers for its use of corporate jets, asked aviation regulators to block the public’s ability to track a plane it uses.

“We availed ourselves of the option as others do to have the aircraft removed” from a Federal Aviation Administration tracking service, a GM spokesman, Greg Martin, said yesterday in an interview. He declined to discuss why GM made the request.

(Via Instapundit.)


Violating terms of service is a federal crime

November 28, 2008

The jury has reached a mixed verdict in the Lori Drew “cyber-bullying” case. Drew was acquitted of any felonies, but convicted of misdemeanor charges. The bottom line is that violating the terms of service agreement of a website (which virtually no one even reads) is now a federal crime.

I find this case very troubling. Drew is scum, to be sure, but if she didn’t commit a crime, that should be the end of it from a legal perspective. In this case, there was no Missouri law under which to prosecute Drew, so federal prosecutors took over on the grounds that MySpace is headquartered in another state. They then concocted a novel legal theory under which to prosecute her and were able to obtain a conviction.

Beware. If the government wants to send you to jail, they can find a legal pretext to do it, and the victims of the government’s persecution aren’t always as deserving as Lori Drew.

UPDATE: If you’re ever being prosecuted, you’re much better off being charged with committing a particular criminal act, like murder.  Then you can convince a jury you didn’t do that particular act and get off.  (Even if you’re guilty!)  You’re in trouble when the facts are largely not in dispute, and the issue is the legal theory to support an obscure charge.


Senate update

November 28, 2008

I’ve been following the outstanding Senate races on the Intrade markets. Saxby Chambliss (who has a small lead in the polls) has had a solid advantage on Intrade since Election Day, but his price has jumped to 93.5, indicating a virtual certainty in the mind of the bettors.

It’s hard to know the true state of affairs In the Minnesota recount (I’ve been following the updates on Power Line), but it appears that Coleman has widened his lead a bit from a bottom in the middle one hundreds. The bettors, in any case, are now clearly favoring Coleman. The Coleman price has hovered a little over parity since the election, but it’s now jumped to 68.9.

One caution is that the rules of the Intrade contract seem to base the outcome on who wins the seat, not who ends up being seated, so the possibility that the Democratic Senate might set aside the Minnesota election result and seat Franken is not a factor as I read it. Would the Democrats go so far? Franken is angling for it, but I doubt it. I don’t think the Democrats would want to tarnish their victory and Obama’s by stealing an extra seat that wouldn’t get them to 60 anyway. But that might change if Franken succeeds in putting enough stink on the results to mute the outrage of a Senate reversal.


Mumbai terrorists targeted Americans, Brits, and Israelis

November 28, 2008

Fox News reports:

The attackers specifically targeted Britons, Americans and Israelis at the hotels and restaurant, witnesses said.

Alex Chamberlain, a British citizen who was dining at the Oberoi, told Sky News television that a gunman ushered 30 to 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and, speaking in Hindi or Urdu, ordered everyone to put up their hands.

“They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: ‘Where are you from?” and he said he’s from Italy and they said ‘fine’ and they left him alone. And I thought: ‘Fine, they’re going to shoot me if they ask me anything — and thank God they didn’t,” he said.

On the other hand, Russians were released:

Terrorists holed up inside Mumbai’s Taj and Trident-Oberoi hotels allowed 17 Russian hostages, including nine defence contractors, to leave after checking their passports, following which they were safely evacuated.

Earlier on Thursday, spokesman of Russian arms exporting company ‘Rosoboron export’ had confirmed that nine of its specialists working on various defence projects in India were safely evacuated from the Taj hotel.

(Via Classical Values and Barcepundit, via Instapundit.)

Plus a terror threat against New York’s mass transit.  Sounds like terrorism isn’t dead after all.


Iraqi parliament passes security pact

November 28, 2008

Reuters reports.  Talk that the pact was in trouble came to nothing, as it passed 149-49.


Don’t be evil?

November 27, 2008

Your Google searches, which Google is helpfully tracking for you, will be used against you in a court of law.


HLF guilty

November 26, 2008

The Investigative Project has a report on the verdict:

A jury convicted five former officials at the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) on all counts in the Hamas-support case after 8 days of deliberations. . .

Prosecutors say HLF was part of a Palestine Committee – a conglomerate of U.S. based Muslim organizations and individuals committed to helping Hamas financially and politically. HLF was its fundraising arm, a designation formalized by Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook in 1994. Support for Hamas became illegal with a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton and subsequent congressional action.

Defense attorneys say the men were simply providing desperately needed charity to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. HLF routed millions of dollars through a series of Palestinian charities known as zakat committees. While Hamas was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury, those zakat committees never were. That, defense attorneys argued, meant donations to them did not violate the law.

But the evidence proved that HLF knew where the money was going.

(Via the Corner.)


FOCA

November 26, 2008

Slate reports:

If the Freedom of Choice Act passes Congress, and that’s a big if, Obama has promised to sign it the second it hits his desk. (Here he is at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event in 2007, vowing, “The first thing I’d do as president is, is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That’s the first thing I’d do.”) Though it’s often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out.

While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many believe the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn’t stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn’t be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute “material cooperation with an intrinsic evil.”

The bishops are not bluffing when they say they’d turn out the lights rather than comply. . . Whatever your view on the legality and morality of abortion, there is another important question to be considered here: Could we even begin to reform our already overburdened health care system without these Catholic institutions? I don’t see how.

(Via the Corner.)

The tone of this article is very strange, by the way.  It spends the first several paragraphs mocking Catholic bishops for their concern over Obama’s abortion agenda, before conceding that they are right.  Being right should be proof against mockery, shouldn’t it?


Rangel’s woes worsen

November 26, 2008

Instapundit has a round-up.


Markets work

November 26, 2008

NYT science columnist John Tierney notes that the prediction markets did much better at predicting the election than any pundit.  (Via Instapundit.)  It’s a good reminder that free markets aggregate information better than just about anything.


More good news from Iraq

November 25, 2008

Michael Yon is happy:

Today’s mission — observing the progress of the peace — makes for boring journalism, but it made me very happy. I was smiling all day. This victory, like all real triumphs, is monumental and historic — though our military will not be allowed to express their feelings of pride and sense of well-earned glory.

When the war was on full-steam there was so much to report that it was impossible to keep track. And now that peace is breaking out, it’s equally impossible to keep track of all the progress. There’s still focus on the attacks, most of which are directed against Iraqis, not us. And so this “mission” was more like an armed errand to remove some concrete barriers between neighborhoods.

(Via Instapundit.)


The Emoluments clause

November 25, 2008

I was very amused to learn that, as matters currently stand, Hillary Clinton cannot constitutionally be appointed Secretary of State. The obstacle is the Emoluments clause:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time: and no person holding any office under the United States, shall be a member of either House during his continuance in office.

The compensation of the Secretary of State has been increased during Clinton’s Senate term, so she is ineligible for the office. More interestingly, there is a dispute about whether the obstacle can be removed by cutting the Secretary’s salary. (This is called the “Saxbe fix.”) A precedent dating to the Taft administration says it can, but some legal opinion disagrees and the question seems never to have been tested in court. Eugene Volokh explains.

My prediction is that Congress will institute the Saxbe fix and the Senate will confirm Clinton. Probably that will be the end of it, since it will be very difficult for opponents of the Clinton appointment (if there are any) to find someone with standing to challenge it in court.

I was very interested to read, however, that the Reagan administration believed the Saxbe fix was unconstitutional. Consequently, Reagan passed up his first choice for a Supreme Court appointment and instead picked Robert Bork. Reagan’s first choice was Orrin Hatch. Imagine how history would have been different with no Bork confirmation battle, and with Hatch on the court in place of Anthony Kennedy.


Chavez dealt setback in local elections

November 25, 2008

The NYT reports:

President Hugo Chávez’s supporters suffered defeat in several state and municipal races on Sunday, with the opposition retaining power in Zulia, the country’s most populous state, and winning crucial races here in the capital, the National Electoral Council said.

But:

The results will be a test for Venezuela’s beleaguered political institutions, depending on how the president reacts.

Despite the inroads made by the opposition, followers of Mr. Chávez still control the Supreme Court, the National Assembly, the federal bureaucracy and every state company.

Mr. Chávez recently signaled that he might move to pick new regional officials, effectively diminishing the power of opponents elected elsewhere by voters.

(Via the Corner.)


A bad review for Bond

November 24, 2008

The Communist Party of St. Petersburg seems to have decided that they are in the movie review business. Last May they bashed the latest Indiana Jones movie for promoting anti-Soviet propaganda. (The Soviets were really dedicated to peace, you see; the Soviet invasions of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan being minor aberrations.) Their latest review pans the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, calling the fictional James Bond “a man who worked for decades under the orders of Thatcher and Reagan to destroy the USSR.”

The story gets even weirder. The group is particularly incensed with Ukrainian co-star Olga Kurylenko, but:

Her supposed betrayals will be forgiven, the group promised in its statement, if the actress delivers her co-star Craig to the Russian secret service. “Let him tell what other plans are being written in the Pentagon and Hollywood to discredit Russia and drive a wedge between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples.”

(Via the Corner.)


Whither the ray gun?

November 24, 2008

A NYT story on the debut of the Zeus directed-energy weapon makes a minor error:

Sci-Fi Ray Gun Debuts in Iraq

I tremble to type this, but here goes: The ray gun has finally become a reality.

At least that’s what the Economist reports. It says a “directed-energy weapon” named Zeus (presumably because of his fondness for hurling lightning bolts) has been deployed in the back of a Humvee in Iraq. It’s being tested by soldiers who are using its laser beam to detonate roadside bombs from a safe distance of 300 meters.

(Via Instapundit.)

It’s reasonable to assume that the Zeus is in Iraq; that’s certainly the only reasonable place for it to be. But the Economist (as I noted two weeks ago) doesn’t actually say that. It only says:

At the moment, there is only one Zeus in the field. It is sitting in the back of a Humvee in an undisclosed theatre of war.

A minor offense, to be sure, but the NYT story does little other than repeat the Economist story, so it doesn’t seem like too much to hope that it could get it right.


Holder and Rich

November 24, 2008

Eric Holder’s role in the Rich pardon is looking worse and worse. The author of a history of presidential pardons writes that Holder was in the thick of it:

On Nov. 18, 2000, Mr. Quinn [Marc Rich’s lawyer] told Mr. Holder that Mr. Rich was going to go for a pardon, a step his team had been contemplating for months. After the conversation, Mr. Quinn told colleagues that Mr. Holder had advised him to “go straight to” the White House and that the “timing is good.” On Dec. 11, just over a month before Mr. Clinton was to leave office, Mr. Quinn delivered the pardon papers to the White House. “The greatest danger lies with the lawyers,” Mr. Quinn wrote in an e-mail message to an aide to Mr. Rich, referring to the prosecutors in New York. “I have worked them hard and I am hopeful that E. Holder will be helpful to us.”

Under the rules governing pardon petitions — rules that were approved by Mr. Holder’s office — the views of United States attorneys “are given considerable weight” because of the “valuable insights” they have. And yet Mr. Holder did not consult Ms. White and her colleagues about the Rich pardon petition; they did not know of it until it had been granted.

Then, on Jan. 19, 2001, Mr. Holder delivered his pardon assessment to the White House, telling Beth Nolan, the White House counsel, that he was “neutral leaning favorable” on the Rich pardon. His decision, he added, was influenced by the support of Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister.

The people in the United States attorney’s office in New York weren’t the only ones surprised by Mr. Holder’s decision. Deborah Smolover, his top deputy for pardon cases, did not find out about the pardon for Mr. Rich until the White House called to inform her of it after midnight on Jan. 20. (Mr. Green [Rich’s business partner] won a pardon, too.) After the pardon was signed, Mr. Quinn has testified, Mr. Holder called him to commend him on “a very good job.” Mr. Holder also asked Mr. Quinn to consider hiring two former aides, one of whom had already contacted Mr. Quinn on Jan. 2 “at Holder’s suggestion.”

At the very best, Holder was guilty of dereliction of duty, failing to carry out basic due diligence.  But given his evidently close connections to Rich’s attorney, it looks even worse than that.

(Via Instapundit.)


It’s a pity they can’t both lose

November 24, 2008

Kissinger’s famous quip seems very apt for this news:

Tension mounted Sunday between pirates holding a Saudi tanker and Islamist fighters threatening to attack them, with a week remaining for the ship’s owners to meet a 25-million-dollar ransom demand.

“If the pirates want peace, they had better release the tanker,” Sheikh Ahmed, a spokesman for the Shebab group in the coastal region of Harardhere, told AFP by phone.


Obama to delay tax hikes

November 24, 2008

The NYT reports that President-Elect Obama is reconsidering a key campaign promise:

In light of the downturn, Mr. Obama is also said to be reconsidering a key campaign pledge: his proposal to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. According to several people familiar with the discussions, he might instead let those tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2011, effectively delaying any tax increase while he gives his stimulus plan a chance to work.

Good for him.  But why would Obama delay his tax hike?  It’s not fear of political opposition; he has the votes to enact any tax program he likes.  The only explanation is that he thinks it would be bad policy.

He’s right of course; it would be terrible policy to hike taxes on entrepreneurs just as we’re going into a recession.  I’m glad he recognizes it.  It is interesting that a few short weeks ago he was making a pledge that he knew was bad policy.  It’s called demagoguery.  But at least he might be the better class of demagogue, the kind that does the right thing (relatively speaking) once elected.

(Via Instapundit.)


Still more Holder

November 21, 2008

Holder favors “reasonable restrictions” on Internet speech.  (Via Instapundit.)

Okay, so Holder is starting to sound pretty bad.  But, before conservatives and libertarians start opposing him, we still ought to ask if we could expect anyone better.  (In retrospect, Kimba Wood looks pretty good.)


More Holder

November 21, 2008

David Kopel points out another skeleton in Eric Holder’s closet: he has a very poor record on gun rights and played a role in the INS’s paramilitary capture of Elian Gonzalez.

Earlier this year (no ancient history here), Holder joined an amicus brief in the Heller case, supporting DC’s total ban on handgun ownership and armed self-defense. Not only did the brief support the now-discredited collective view of the Second Amendment, but it also falsely argued that the collective view had been the consistent position of the Department of Justice for decades.

After the public-defenselessness side lost the historic case, he lamented the result, saying it “opens the door to more people having more access to guns.” That, of course, was the point.

Holder also played a role in the 2000 paramilitary raid on a Miami home to place Elian Gonzalez into custody and send him back to Cuba. Setting aside the question of whether it was right to send Gonzalez back (I’m prepared to concede that the law may have required it, but see the postscript), there was no excuse to stage a paramilitary raid on a peaceful, law-abiding home. Furthermore, the raid was carried out without even the authority of a court order! In fact, the court had refused to issue one.

Janet Reno’s justification for the paramilitary raid, Kopel relates, was that the family might own guns. Amazingly, the possibility that one might exercise one’s constitutional rights are justification for federal agents to knock down your door and storm your house with automatic weapons, without the cover of a court order.

Not only was Holder the deputy AG when this travesty took place, but he defended it in an interview thereafter. In that interview, Holder argued that they did not need a court order to carry out the raid, and was unable to explain why they had sought a court order if they did not need one. He also said that Gonzalez was not taken at gunpoint, and the federal agents acted “very sensitively”. A Cato Institute article relates their “sensitive” behavior:

At 5:14 a.m. — while attorneys for the young Cuban refugee negotiated his status with Justice Department officials — eight Immigration and Naturalization Service officers used a battering ram to knock down the front door of Elian’s great uncle, Lazaro. Wielding machine guns, the body-armor-clad agents knocked over a picture of Jesus Christ and a statue of the Virgin Mary on Easter Eve. They then kicked down another door inside the Gonzalez home.

According to Elian’s cousin, Marisleysis Gonzalez, federal agents held her at gun point while one screamed, “Give me the f – – – ing boy or we’ll shoot you.” An NBC cameraman said federal gunmen kicked him in the stomach, hit his sound man with a rifle butt and yelled, “Don’t move or we’ll shoot.”

Of course, as for whether Elian was taken at gunpoint, we need not take Ms. Gonzalez’s for it, there’s Alan Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo:

Elian Gonzalez taken at gunpoint

POSTSCRIPT: I wrote that I’m prepared to concede that the law may have required that Gonzalez be sent back to Cuba, but it is far from obvious. According to Andrew Napolitano (a legal analyst and former judge), the INS’s action was in direct violation of an order from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling that Elian Gonzalez’s guardian could not be changed until it had heard his application for asylum. If so, the raid was not only dangerous and unjustified, but illegal as well.


Joe-gate investigation concludes checks illegitimate

November 21, 2008

Ohio’s Inspector General has concluded that there was no legitimate reason for the investigation of Joe the Plumber:

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is standing by an agency director who OK’d improper computer checks for confidential information on “Joe the Plumber” and used state e-mails for political fundraising.

Strickland announced today that Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Department of Job and Family Services, will be placed on unpaid leave for one month in response to an inspector general’s investigation.

The investigation found Jones-Kelley had no legitimate reasons to check on Toledo-area resident Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, who was popularized as “Joe the Plumber” by Republican presidential candidate John McCain. It also confirmed she improperly used her state e-mail account to raise campaign money for President-elect Barack Obama.

Some Republican leaders, who cited the report’s findings to call on Democrat Strickland to fire Jones-Kelley, were stunned that she will remain on the job.

The Inspector General’s conclusion isn’t at all surprising, given everything we already know. I am honestly shocked, however, that Gov. Strickland is standing by Jones-Kelley. He could have avoided being swept up in this scandal, but he’s a part of it now. He is now the Governor that condones using sensitive state databases for political opposition research. He is also the Governor that condones using state resources for political fundraising. Why would he do that?

(Via Instapundit.) (Previous post.)


Antiwar groups fear Obama foreign policy

November 21, 2008

I’m not reassured yet, but this helps:

Reporting from Washington — Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.

The activists are uneasy not only about signs that both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet, but at reports suggesting that several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war. . .

The activists — key members of the coalition that propelled Obama to the White House — fear he is drifting from the antiwar moorings of his once-longshot presidential candidacy. Obama has eased the rigid timetable he had set for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he appears to be leaning toward the center in his candidates to fill key national security posts.

The president-elect has told some Democrats that he expects to take heat from parts of his political base but will not be deterred by it.

(Via Instapundit.)


Another gun ban scrapped

November 20, 2008

More Heller dividend, this time in Winnetka, Illinois. (Via Instapundit.)


Gun-free zones kill

November 20, 2008

New research on “active killers” confirms something we’ve long suspected:

The other statistic that emerged from a study of active killers is that they almost exclusively seek out “gun free” zones for their attacks.

In most states, concealed handguns are prohibited at schools and on college campuses even for those with permits.

Many malls and workplaces also place signs at their entrances prohibiting firearms on the premises.

Now tacticians believe the signs themselves may be an invitation to the active killers.

The psychological profile of a mass murderer indicates he is looking to inflict the most casualties as quickly as possible.

Also, the data show most active killers have no intention of surviving the event.

They may select schools and shopping malls because of the large number of defenseless victims and the virtual guarantee no on the scene one is armed.

As soon as they’re confronted by any armed resistance, the shooters typically turn the gun on themselves.

(Via Arms and the Law, via Instapundit.)


New Palin ethics complaint

November 20, 2008

With the Monegan affair behind her, Sarah Palin’s critics are looking for new material, and their latest “scandal” is taking shape: she conducted interviews from her office. I am not making this up; this is an actual ethics complaint. Apparently, some feel that politicians should leave government property before speaking to the press, at least whenever they might be asked about political matters.

Sheesh.


Israel ready to attack Iranian nukes

November 20, 2008

Fox News reports:

The Israeli Air Force is ready to attack Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons project if diplomacy fails to persuade the Islamic Republic to halt uranium enrichment, said Commander Ido Nehushtan in an interview published Tuesday.

The news comes as the U.N. watchdog agency reports Iran is probably at the point of being capable of making a nuclear bomb.

“We are prepared and ready to do whatever Israel needs us to do and if this is the mission we’re given then we are ready,” Nehushtan told German magazine Der Spiegel.

A strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities “is a political decision,” the IAF commander said, “but if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table … The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us.”

Asked if the Israeli military would be able to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are spread around the country, with some built underground, Nehushtan said, “Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question.”

While Israel has fought all its immediate Arab neighbors, its pilots have had limited capabilities to carry out missions as far away as Iran. A strike on Iraq’s sole nuclear reactor in 1981 was an extraordinary exception at the time but analysts say the F-16I has made long-distance strikes more possible.


Eric Holder

November 20, 2008

Debate on Eric Holder, President-Elect Obama’s choice for Attorney General, is centering on his acquiescence to President Clinton’s last-minute pardons for fugitive financier Marc Rich and others. That’s as it should be. Eric Holder does not look like he will be a very good Attorney General (here’s National Review’s take), but Obama gets to pick his cabinet. We can’t be under any illusions that he would pick another Mukasey. A competent and ethical liberal is the best we can hope for. The clear consensus is that Holder is at least two of the three.  (Here’s Orin Kerr, for example.)

But the stain (as the Washington Post puts it) on Holder’s ethics from the Rich pardon is important. Not only did he sorta, kinda approve the pardon, saying he was “neutral, leaning toward favorable” on it, but he also (as Jennifer Rubin points out) had a major conflict of interest in the case. The New York Times reported in 2002:

Mr. Holder, the [House] report says, played a major role, steering Mr. Rich’s lawyers toward Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel. Mr. Rich hired Mr. Quinn, whose Washington contacts and ability to lobby the president made the difference, according to the report. It says that Mr. Holder’s support for the pardon and his failure to alert prosecutors of a pending pardon were just as crucial. . .

The panel criticized Mr. Holder’s conduct as unconscionable and cited several problems. It cited his admission last year that he had hoped Mr. Quinn would support his becoming attorney general in a Gore administration.

(It must be noted that the House report to which the NYT refers was partisan in tone, but I don’t believe any of these facts are in dispute.)

This makes it should as though Holder was willing to stand back from a miscarriage of justice (and even add equivocating support to it) in order to curry favor with lobbyists who could further his career, which would be truly troubling from the nation’s top law-enforcement official.

(Via Instapundit.)

POSTSCRIPT: Holder’s aggressive stance on drugs is also troubling to libertarians, but probably won’t even arise as a topic at his hearing.  (Via Instapundit.)


Hungry kids consoled by UN mural

November 20, 2008

The UN Human Rights Council spent $23 million in foreign aid money on a mural:

The U.N. Human Rights Council, frequently accused of coddling some of the world’s most repressive governments, threw itself a party in Geneva Tuesday that featured the unveiling of a $23 million mural paid for in part with foreign aid funds.

In a ceremony attended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo told the press that his 16,000-square-foot ceiling artwork reminded him of “an image of the world dripping toward the sky” — but it reminded critics of money slipping out of relief coffers.

“In Spain there’s a controversy because they took money out of the foreign aid budget — took money from starving children in Africa — and spent it on colorful stalactites,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch.


Syria can’t be flipped

November 19, 2008

Michael Rubin writes that efforts to bring Damascus into America’s orbit are doomed to fail, and will probably hurt American interests in the process.

Why does Assad flirt with the West? He derives his power from rejection of the West and Israel, but he knows history. He understands that he can both embrace process and ignore peace. So long as the West conflates diplomacy and inducement, Assad can pocket irreversible incentives: A reprieve from the Rafik Hariri murder investigation, concessions on territorial disputes, an end to sanctions and heightened trade.

When the time comes to reciprocate, Assad can walk away, as his father so often did, leaving Washington with far less leverage than before.

I hope he’s wrong, but I doubt it.


How Heller happened

November 19, 2008

Reason has an interesting article on how the Heller decision came to pass.  Particularly fascinating is how Heller had to fight the NRA as well as the District of Columbia, and how Heller avoided having the case thrown out for lack of standing.

(Via Instapundit.)


A minor thought

November 19, 2008

Isn’t it high time that WordPress’s spell-checker recognized “Barack” and “Obama” as words?


The reality-based community

November 19, 2008

It’s always depressing to see the results when someone polls the public on matters of fact, as one invariably finds that the public is clueless. Still, Zogby’s scientific poll (pdf) of Obama voters (commissioned by How Obama Got Elected, an anti-Obama web site) is somewhat interesting, not because Obama voters got the answers wrong (which one tends to expect), but how they got them wrong.

It’s interesting because anti-McCain information (and pseudo-information) penetrated effectively even when they were not featured in advertising, but the anti-Obama information penetrated only when it was featured in McCain advertising. For instance, questions about Sarah Palin’s family and wardrobe were answered fairly accurately, but almost no one knew that Obama said his policies would cause energy rates to skyrocket. (In fact, more thought McCain said that than Obama.) They were able to answer that Obama says government should redistribute wealth, which appeared prominently in McCain advertising.

In short, the media seems to have done its job as it sees it (that is, to boost Obama) very well.

(Via Power Line.)


NYT urges approval of Colombian free trade pact

November 19, 2008

As it did last April, the New York Times again urges that Congress approve the Colombian free trade pact. (Via Instapundit.)  As I’ve pointed out before, Colombia already has trade preferences so even protectionism can’t “justify” opposition to the pact. Its primary result would be to open Colombia to US exports.

They do miss the point a bit with this argument though:

If the lame-duck Congress does not approve the trade pact this year, prospects would dim considerably since it would lose the cover of the rule (formerly known as fast track) that provides for an up-or-down, no-amendment vote.

Congress already changed the rules to avoid a required vote on the pact last April, so I see no reason to think they feel constrained by the rules.


New Anglican province to launch December 3

November 18, 2008

So reports Virtue Online:

The new American province will launch on December 2-3 in Wheaton, IL, when the Council of the Common Cause Partnership will receive and likely commend a draft constitution and canons for the new province. If this is done, the formal announcement of the new province will take place at a service on the evening of 3rd December.

Recognition of the new province by the majority of the Anglican primates is a forgone conclusion, but it’s not entirely clear what Rowan Williams will do.  I think he will probably recognize the new province to avoid a larger rift in the Anglican communion, but he might try to strike some compromise position.  (It’s hard to compromise on a binary decision, but one shouldn’t underestimate human creativity.)

Barring a change of heart on the part of the Episcopal Church, the two American provinces will be in litigation for years.


Coleman wins, re-count to begin

November 18, 2008

Minnesota’s canvassing board has rebuffed an eleventh hour effort by Al Franken to avert its certification of Norm Coleman as the winner in Minnesota’s Senate race. Coleman won by 215 votes, down significantly from his election-night margin of 725 for reasons that have never been fully explained.

The mandatory recount begins tomorrow. Since Minnesota uses optical scan ballots, there oughtn’t be a significant shift in the results from the actual counting, but you can’t rule out the possibility of chicanery. There are also some outstanding lawsuits.


Victory in Iraq

November 18, 2008

It’s been increasingly clear that the war in Iraq is essentially over. The mortality rate in the Iraq theater has dropped well below the comparable civilian population. (In the last year, we lost more Americans on the streets of Chicago than in Iraq, and that period includes the surge itself.) Unfortunately, counterinsurgencies don’t have sharp conclusions, so there won’t be any particular day that we can celebrate as V-I day.

Zombietime wants to rectify that by proclaiming November 22 as Victory in Iraq day. (Via LGF.) I’m not sure why he picked that day in particular, but it’s as good as any other.

Here’s a picture of what that victory has accomplished:

(Via Instapundit.)


GM’s bailout prospect fades

November 18, 2008

When the financial rescue bill was proposed, we were told it was $700 billion to buy troubled assets. We’ve since learned that the $700 billion was for just about any damn thing the treasury feels like. (I may owe Tim Murphy an apology.) First it was for banks ($159 billion so far), which sort of made sense, but then there was talk of a bailout for automakers.

Bailing out GM would serve no purpose in regard to the stated aims of the rescue bill (to get credit flowing again), and it’s hard to think of another company more richly deserving of bankruptcy than GM. Nevertheless, I assumed it was going to happen. Now, however, the AP is reporting that prospects of a GM bailout are fading. I sure hope so.

The Intrade contract seems to concur.  It’s trading around 33, well down from the 80 or so it was at on Friday.

POSTSCRIPT: This Heritage Foundation article on the 1979 Chrysler bailout is germane as we consider an automaker bailout. If we do it a second time, there’s no way it will take another 30 years for the next.


Iraqi cabinet approves pact with U.S.

November 18, 2008

The pact is now being debated in parliament:

More than two-thirds of the 275-seat legislature attended Monday’s session, raising confidence that parliament will be able to muster a quorum for the Nov. 24 vote. . .

The Cabinet approved the pact Sunday, meaning the political parties in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition government are expected to have similar success in securing parliamentary support. If parliament approves, President Jalal Talabani and his two deputies must ratify it.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces must vacate Iraqi cities by June, leave Iraq by the end of 2011 and grant Iraqi authorities extensive power over the operations and movements of American forces. It also prohibits the U.S. from using Iraqi territory to attack Iraq’s neighbors, like Syria and Iran.

The last provision is a little odd, and I suspect it’s been garbled by the AP.  More likely it says it prohibits us from doing so without Iraqi permission, which would be much the same arrangement as any other sovereign country that houses U.S. bases.


Joe-gate continues

November 15, 2008

Six different Ohio agencies investigated Joe the Plumber after he was mentioned at the Presidential debate:

Ohio Inspector General Tom Charles said his office is now looking at a half-dozen agencies that accessed state records on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher.

The Beacon Journal has learned that, in addition to the Department of Job and Family Services, two other state offices — the Ohio Department of Taxation and Ohio Attorney General Nancy Rogers — conducted database searches of Joe the Plumber. . .

In the third debate between Obama and Republican John McCain on Oct. 15, the candidates referred to Joe the Plumber more than 20 times.The next day, the taxation department conducted two separate searches of a database of liens for unpaid taxes that were certified to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for collection.

(Via Ace, via Instapundit.)

The search was done for the express purpose of releasing the information to the media:

The department’s first search of the day was unsuccessful because of incorrect information about the individual, Kohlstrand said. Ohio Attorney General Nancy Rogers’ office then contacted taxation because it was having difficulty accessing the database, Kohlstrand said. After the two agencies talked, taxation completed a successful search.

Kohlstrand said that the AG’s office wanted access to the records so they could turn over to the national media lien information that was a public record in Lucas County. He said the national media did not have reporters in Toledo, so the attorney general’s office was helping them out with public records.

On the day following the two searches, the taxation department conducted a search of another in-house database that tracks cases and correspondence between taxpayers and the department before the liens being certified and turned over to the attorney general for collection. . . [Rick] Anthony said the database searches on both days were conducted to ensure that the information in Lucas County was being properly reported by the media.

That’s a new one. They had to investigate him, you see, to ensure that the media reports were accurate. And to save them the trouble of going to Toledo.

POSTSCRIPT: Nancy Rogers, incidentally, was appointed by Democratic Governor Ted Strickland.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: The Beacon Journal says six, but I’m only aware of five: the Attorney General, the Department of Taxation, the Department of Job and Family Services, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the Toledo Police. What’s the sixth?

(Previous post.)


“The war is over”

November 14, 2008

That’s what Michael Yon tells Glenn Reynolds about the war in Iraq, and he’s been closer to it than any other journalist.  At his own web site he echoes that assessment, but that’s not the end of it.  The war in Afghanistan is heating up, and most of our allies are useless.  The primary front in the war on terror is shifting back to Afghanistan, and it’s too early to say how it will end.


Putin: term-extension not for me

November 13, 2008

Whatever:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that a bill that would extend the Russian president’s term to six years was not tailored for him and would be a boost for democracy in the country.

The measure could pave the way for a new 12-year presidency for Putin if he decides to seek Russia’s highest office again. Lawmakers are moving to fast-track the constitutional change that President Dmitry Medvedev submitted to parliament Tuesday.

Putin said the change “has no personal dimension” and cast it as aiding democracy — which critics say was rolled back dramatically during his two four-year presidential terms.


I think “govern” is the word you’re looking for

November 13, 2008

Speaking on Meet the Press, the co-chair of Obama’s transition committee says Obama will be ready to “rule” on day one.  (Via Power Line.)


Democrats may abandon “paygo”

November 13, 2008

The Wall Street Journal comments:

Democrats ran on “paygo” in 2006, promising to offset any new spending increases or tax cuts with comparable tax increases or spending cuts. Once in charge on Capitol Hill they quickly made exceptions, waiving paygo no fewer than 12 times to accommodate some $398 billion in new deficit spending — not that the press corps bothered to notice. That didn’t stop Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from announcing in May that “We’re absolutely committed to paygo. Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] is committed to paygo. I’m very committed to paygo. Our caucus is committed to paygo.”

But that was with a Republican president. With Obama coming into office, matters are different:

Late last week the leader of the House Blue Dog Coalition, Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper, announced that with Barack Obama about to enter the White House, “I’m not sure the old rules are relevant anymore.” Why not? Because, Mr. Cooper said, “It would be unfair to the new President to put him in a budget straitjacket.”

Good riddance. At its best, “paygo” was bad policy, because it over-estimated the impact of tax cuts while under-estimating the cost of spending. And it had no impact at all on “off-budget” expenditures. Moreover, it was rarely at its best. As the WSJ notes, Democrats waived it whenever it got in the way of their priorities. Its primary purpose was as a bulwark against tax cuts.

(Via Instapundit.)


Obama urged to keep missile defense

November 13, 2008

General Obering is trying to persuade Obama to follow through with missile defense in Europe:

The Air Force general who runs the Pentagon’s missile defense projects said that American interests would be “severely hurt” if President-elect Obama decided to halt plans developed by the Bush administration to install missile interceptors in Eastern Europe.

Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told a group of reporters Wednesday that he is awaiting word from Obama’s transition team on their interest in receiving briefings.

During the campaign, Obama was not explicit about his intentions with regard to missile defense. . . Obama has said it would be prudent to “explore the possibility of deploying missile defense systems in Europe,” in light of what he called active efforts by Iran to develop ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.

(Via Instapundit.)

I’d be surprised if Obama okays the European deployment. It’s true that at times he was vague about whether he would, but I think that was election-season equivocation. In the general election, the anti-war left had no additional support to give him. (Earlier, before the nomination was locked up, he was strident in opposition to missile defense.)

My guess (or perhaps I should say my most realistic hope) is that Obama will cut the baby in two: keep the North American missile defense system that’s already deployed, but abandon a European shield. Shutting down a working system would be a truly rash step, beyond (hopefully) what President Obama would do. If he did, and it ever were needed, history would not be kind to him.

Whether ongoing research will continue I cannot hazard a guess. Obama has said we will “work with NATO allies to develop anti-missile technologies,” whatever that means.

But the wild card is whether Obama will meet with Obering:

Obama expressed some skepticism about the technical capability of U.S. missile defenses. . . Obering, who is leaving his post next week after more than four years in charge, said in the interview that his office has pulled together information for a presentation to the Obama team, if asked.

“What we have discovered is that a lot of the folks that have not been in this administration seem to be dated, in terms of the program,” he said. “They are kind of calibrated back in the 2000 time frame and we have come a hell of a long way since 2000. Our primary objective is going to be just, frankly, educating them on what we have accomplished, what we have been able to do and why we have confidence in what we are doing.”

If he gets the chance to make the case, he can point to a very successful testing record since the system was deployed in 2002. Perhaps that will sway the President. Conversely, if Obama won’t even listen, that’s a bad sign.


Trouble in the Indian military

November 13, 2008

Strategypage worries about Indian military officers becoming radicalized. (Via Instapundit.)


Sunnis join government payroll

November 13, 2008

With the United States soon to pull out of Iraq, one worry is whether the Sunnis who began working with us during the Sunni Awakening will be willing to work for a government controlled by Shiites. This is a promising sign:

It’s pay week for the patrolmen who helped flush al Qaeda militants out of their Baghdad neighborhoods. Only this time, it is the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government that is paying the mainly Sunni fighters, rather than the U.S. military.

Putting the fighters, many of whom were once insurgents, on the payroll of a government they once fought is seen as a major test of reconciliation as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.

The Iraqi army began paying them at dozens of stations opened this week throughout Baghdad.

The U.S. military says the fighters number 100,000, about half of them in Baghdad province. The government took charge of the Baghdad fighters last month and plans to take on those in other parts of the country in coming months.

(Via Instapundit.)


Medvedev unconciliatory

November 12, 2008

Fox News reports:

Barack Obama had been president-elect for all of one day last week when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called him out, reminding many of vice president-to-be Joe Biden’s warning that America’s enemies would test the new president with an international crisis within six months.

In his first state-of-the-nation address, Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia’s borders with NATO countries to counter America’s plan to build a missile defense shield in Poland.

Medvedev didn’t congratulate Obama or mention him by name in his nationally televised 85-minute address, during which he blamed Washington for the war in Georgia and the world financial crisis and suggested it was up to Washington to mend badly damaged ties.

“It was a really unfortunate time to make this type of statement, just when Obama was elected,” said Dimitri K. Simes, president of The Nixon Center and author of “After the Collapse: Russia Seeks Its Place as a Great Power.”

“It was a poor way to communicate the interest Russia has in the new beginning of the United States,” Simes said.

A poor way? To the contrary, I think Medvedev conveyed precisely the interest Russia has in the new American administration. Those who think that Russia (and Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.) are opposed not to America, but merely to President Bush, are going to find themselves greatly disappointed.


Democrat may win Alaskan Senate seat

November 12, 2008

The Alaskan Senate seat has been in limbo for a week, as Alaska proceeds with its interminable process, but they have finally begun counting the remaining votes, and there are indications that the result is not good for Stevens. Apparently, early votes may be breaking significantly more Democratic than election day votes.

If so, and if the election day results hold up in the Minnesota recount and Georgia runoff, Michael Barone’s prediction will turn out to have been perfect. Power Line has been following Minnesota’s process.

UPDATE: Sure enough, Begich is now in the lead, and with the remaining votes seeming to break for him, one has to assume that he will win the seat.


Baghdad bridge reopens

November 11, 2008

The AP reports:

Hundreds of people joined Iraqi officials on Tuesday in reopening a major bridge linking Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad — a further sign of improving security in the Iraqi capital. . .

The Imams Bridge in north Baghdad was barricaded shut three years ago following a deadly stampede during a Shiite procession that killed almost 1,000 people. The bridge remained closed during the sectarian bloodletting that plagued the city in 2006 and 2007.

But U.S. and Iraqi security forces have grabbed the upper hand against extremists in recent months, contributing to a general drop in violence in the capital. Those gains have allowed officials to replace sealed barricades on the bridge with checkpoints and reopen the east-west artery in north Baghdad.

Sunnis, Shiites and government officials hailed the event as a triumph over sectarianism and celebrated with the ritual slaughter of a half-dozen sheep.

UPDATE: Reuters has a nice story on this.  (Via Instapundit.)


Universal health care

November 11, 2008

The Australian reports:

THE Rudd Government is under pressure from all fronts, even Labor colleagues, to overturn a decision denying German doctor Bernhard Moeller permanent residency in Australia because his son Lukas has Down syndrome.

The Immigration Department this week rejected Dr Moeller’s application for permanent residency, saying the potential cost to the taxpayer of 13-year-old Lukas’s condition was too great.

Politicians, disability groups and the small Victorian town of Horsham, where Dr Moeller is the only specialist physician, were outraged by the decision and have called on Immigration Minister Chris Evans to intervene on the family’s behalf.

(Via the Corner.)


Little rise in voter turnout

November 10, 2008

Politico reports:

Despite widespread predictions of record turnout in this year’s presidential election, roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.

Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout.

(Via Instapundit.)

Every election it’s said that it’s the most important election ever and voting rates are going to soar, but it never seems to happen.


If Obama is serious about bipartisanship

November 10, 2008

Okay, I know my suggestion (appoint McCain Secretary of Defense) isn’t going to happen, but Peter Berkowitz has some more plausible suggestions for how Obama can show he’s serious.  Some of these could happen, but #3, #5, or #7 would shock me.

(Via Instapundit.)


Will Obama keep Fitzgerald on?

November 10, 2008

President Obama’s treatment of Patrick Fitzgerald will be a good first test of his integrity. The Chicago Tribune (which endorsed Obama) editorializes:

Since his arrival from New York in 2001, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald has demonstrated the energy and integrity that, in time, could liberate Illinoisans from indentured servitude to criminals in government.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he’ll keep Fitzgerald in the job, and we trust he’ll keep his word. But Fitzgerald, who serves at the president’s pleasure, has powerful enemies. They know that as his list of cooperating witnesses lengthens—convicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko may be joining that club—so does his list of potential targets. Those with reason to fear Fitzgerald’s breath on their necks would love to see him dumped—or promoted high into Justice Department oblivion—when Obama takes office. . .

Obama can show his commitment to cleaning up this city and state by affirming that he meant what he said during the campaign: He wants Fitzgerald to stay. The sooner Obama silences speculation about the possible replacement of Fitzgerald, the better for both men: Obama will show that he’s a man of his word. And witnesses to corruption will know they aren’t cooperating with prosecutors who might soon have a new boss.

(Via Instapundit.)


Laser weapons arrive

November 9, 2008

The Economist has an interesting article on the long-awaited arrival of ray guns to reality.  The first prototype directed-energy weapon is deployed in an “undisclosed theatre of war,” and more are on the way.

Does this mean we’ll finally have flying cars soon?


Uranium hydride update

November 9, 2008

The Guardian has a story on Hyperion, the company that’s planning to build small uranium hydride reactors for communities and industrial facilities.  They say they have over 100 firm orders and will begin manufacturing in 2013.  (Via Instapundit.)

My previous post on Hyperion had some more details on the plan.


Here we go again

November 8, 2008

Shades of Washington 2004: the Democrats are “finding” uncounted ballots in Minnesota.

(Via Sweetness & Light, via Power Line.)


Joe-gate figure suspended

November 8, 2008

A key figure in the (presumptively) illegal search of government records on Joe the Plumber and the ensuing cover-up has been suspended:

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and former head of that department in Montgomery County, has been placed on paid administrative leave by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Strickland said on Friday, Nov. 7, that he took the action “due to the possibility, as yet unconfirmed, that a state computer or state e-mail account was used to assist in political fund raising.”

“I have asked Inspector General Tom Charles to include this matter in his current, ongoing investigation,” Strickland said in a press release. . . Charles already was investigating reports that a department computer was used to gather personal information about “Joe the Plumber” — Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher of suburban Toledo.

Note that Jones-Kelley was not suspended for her illegal snooping, but for other (apparently unrelated) misconduct: using state resources for fundraising. The article doesn’t say who the (alleged) fundraising was for, but it’s not hard to guess; Jones-Kelley contributed the maximum to Barack Obama.

(Via Hot Air.) (Previous post.)


Crackdown on naked longs

November 8, 2008

The Economist worries about where new financial regulation will take us.


Privatization works

November 8, 2008

Economists have proven that privatizing fishing stocks can avert the tragedy of the commons.  No surprise here, but it’s still good to see it proven.


Better late than never

November 8, 2008

It’s not exactly timely, but with the election over, the Washington Post ombudsman can admit that their coverage was a teensy weensy bit slanted toward Obama.

Still, she fails to acknowledge the most amazing incident in the Post’s election coverage, when they sided with Obama over their own reporting, and faulting John McCain for quoting the Post’s story on Obama’s link with Franklin Raines.  In the same incident, they were also unable to report accurately on the contents of their own newspaper.

(Via the Corner.)


Conservatives win New Zealand election

November 8, 2008

CBS reports.


Hah

November 8, 2008

CBS looks at the question everyone is asking:

How Obama Can Win Over The Media

No, they’re not being ironic.  Jonah Goldberg adds: “Next in the series: ‘How Obama Can Win Over Blacks, Upscale White Liberals and Chicago Activists.'”


Increasing spending while reducing spending

November 8, 2008

At the Presidential transition web site:

The Obama-Biden plan provides affordable, accessible health care for all Americans, builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement the plan. Under the Obama-Biden plan, patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats.

Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

Look at this in the aggregate: we’re going to increase health care spending (by removing any restraint from insurance companies), and at the same time everyone’s costs go down. Nice trick. The difference must be made up somewhere. So who gets stuck with the bill?

Certainly doctors aren’t going to work for free. It can’t be the insurance companies; they would pass on the cost, and that’s exactly what Obama is promising won’t happen. The government? There’s no way the government will be shelling out for whatever doctors and patients decide, no questions asked. (Plus, I hear the government is a little short on money right now.)

No, if they’re serious about this, they have to intend some government oversight. In other words, they’re replacing the insurance company bureaucrat with a government bureaucrat.

POSTSCRIPT: Since pages at change.gov have a tendency to, uh, change, here’s an archive.


Mandatory community service

November 8, 2008

Earlier today, on the official Presidential transition web site:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year.

Within hours of hitting the blogosphere, the plan was changed to this:

Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free.

Well, I’m glad someone over there realized it was a bad idea. So who’s writing this stuff? Will Obama blame wayward staffers again? At some point he has to start taking responsibility for his administration.

You can find the original page in Google’s cache (via Acre of Independence, via Instapundit), for however long it lasts. After that, there’s a copy at Overlawyered (again via Instapundit).

UPDATE: LGF points out that they missed something when they airbrushed the page:

Require 100 Hours of Service in College: Obama and Biden will establish a new American Opportunity Tax Credit that is worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year.

Archive here.


Rahmbo

November 7, 2008

Wow:

Barack Obama, who ran on a platform of change and a message of bipartisanship, has tapped a Washington insider with a reputation for hardball politics to run his White House staff.

The president-elect’s selection of Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel is a significant departure from the soft-spoken, low-key aides that Obama surrounded himself with during his campaign. . . Emanuel served as a political and policy aide in the Clinton White House. . .

“No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel,” Obama said in a statement announcing the selection.

Indeed, Emanuel has forged a reputation as a partisan fighter.

Nicknamed “Rahmbo,” he once mailed a dead fish to a Democratic pollster who got on his bad side during a long-ago congressional race. Outraged over what he regarded as disloyal Democrats during Clinton’s first presidential campaign, he stunned dinner companions by rattling off names of the offenders, each time stabbing the restaurant table with a dinner knife and shouting, “Dead.”

UPDATE: The AP has a story with the dead-fish incident, the dinner-knife incident, and more.


Chris Matthews: My job is to make this presidency work

November 7, 2008

It’s not often said as forthrightly as that. Video here.  (Via Instapundit.)


Minnesota starts to smell

November 7, 2008

It begins:

Hot off the press, the first apparent evidence of fraud. Last night at around 7:30, a precinct in Mountain Iron, St. Louis County, mysteriously updated its vote total to add 100 new votes–all 100 for Barack Obama and Al Franken.

Mountain Iron uses optical scanning, so the Coleman campaign asked for a copy of the tape documenting the ballots cast on election night. St. Louis County responded by providing a tape that includes the newly-added 100 votes, and is dated November 2–the Sunday before the election. St. Louis County reportedly denies being able to produce the genuine tape from election night, even though Minnesota law, as I understand it, requires that tape to be signed by the election judges and publicly displayed.

UPDATE: Power Line (the link above) now has a partial explanation for the Mountain Iron discrepancy, but it has yet to be verified, and the genuine tape still hasn’t been produced.  They need to produce the tape; it’s as simple as that.


The Fair model on 2008

November 7, 2008

During election season, there’s a lot of talk about “keys to the election,” all the factors that supposedly influence the outcome of the presidential election: the economy, Iraq, the candidates’ charisma, the campaigns’ organization, fundraising, media bias, etc. But Yale economist Ray Fair would argue that there is exactly one key to the election, which is the economy.

More precisely, he shows that you can predict the outcome of presidential elections using an equation, the Fair model, that is based on economic variables and a few other predictors (e.g., incumbency and party). Notably absent from the equation is anything referring to current events, or to the candidates themselves. According to Fair, you can predict the outcome of the election as soon as you can predict the economic variables, long before you even know who the candidates are.

The equation has successfully predicted the popular vote of each presidential election since 1996, and retroactively predicts nearly every election back to 1892. (An earlier version of the model, developed in 1978, was revised after it failed to predict the outcome of the 1992 election.) In 2000 it essentially predicted a tie, with a microscopic margin dwarfed by the margin of error.

For the 2008 election, it predicted that Obama would win 51.9% of the two-party popular vote, with a standard error of 2.5%. The actual outcome was 53% for Obama, meaning that he slightly outperformed the prediction, but was well within its margin of error. The striking fact is that Fair made similar predictions as far back as November 2006, long before we had any inkling who the candidates and what the issues would be.

Given this, it is hard to escape the impression that most presidential elections are largely a charade, a lengthy process toward a pre-ordained outcome. All the “keys to the election,” including the candidates themselves and all the issues, amounted to just a 1.1% deviation from the prediction. An optimally Republican-favoring campaign season, one that swung the result by the entire standard error, would have eked out a 50.4% victory in the popular vote. (Recalling 2000, such a narrow edge might have been insufficient for an electoral college victory.) In any case, this year was hardly optimally Republican.

I find these results somewhat dispiriting, because it makes no sense for voters to make their decision solely on economic variables. The President has relatively little power to affect the economy, compared to his much greater power and importance in foreign affairs. And frankly, foreign affairs are much more important, particularly today. But alas, according to the Fair model, foreign affairs hardly figure in to the election at all.

Another takeaway from Fair’s results is the silliness of the idea of an electoral “mandate” for the President. Since you can predict the election’s outcome without knowing the candidates, much less any promises the candidates have made, the election can hardly be viewed as a judgement on those promises.


Russia amends its constitution

November 7, 2008

Hint: they’re not adding checks and balances.


Gun lock laws are unconstitutional

November 7, 2008

So rules a New York trial court.


A modest proposal

November 6, 2008

According to the exit polls, President-Elect Obama did well across a wide range of issues, but one area where he was weak was national security. If Obama truly wants to unite the nation as he said in his victory speech, and wants to set minds at ease on national security, I have a suggestion: appoint John McCain as Secretary of Defense.

This would be a win for nearly everyone. With the war in Iraq winding down, McCain’s and Obama’s positions on Iraq are no longer so very far apart, which makes it feasible. Obama would win enormous credit for bipartisanship, and would get an excellent Secretary of Defense. He probably has to appoint a Republican to his cabinet anyway, and the other names bandied about (Hagel, Lugar) offer him no obvious political advantage.

John McCain would get to demonstrate that he puts his country ahead of politics, and would get a job for which he is obviously passionate. At his age, he probably doesn’t have that much longer to serve in the Senate anyway, and he could probably serve at least eight years as SecDef. (If Obama were defeated for re-election, his successor would likely keep McCain on.)

The American people would see the man they trust most to lead the military placed in charge of it. Our foreign allies would be reassured that there would be no sudden reversals of policy. The right would be pleased to see McCain out of the Senate where (campaign ads notwithstanding) he was hardly a loyal supporter of his party.  Libertarians would be even more delighted to see him go.  And the left is so happy to have Obama that most of them will go along with anything.

Arizona’s governor, Janet Napolitano, is a Democrat, so a deal would have to be struck to keep McCain’s seat in Republican hands. But Napolitano is a member of Obama’s transition team and a Cabinet candidate herself, so she would be very unlikely to obstruct such a deal. (If Napolitano were to join Obama’s cabinet, she would be succeeded by a Republican, which suggests one easy way to arrange the deal would be simply to confirm her first.)

In short, everyone wins but the anti-war left. Which makes it perfect.


Alaska’s mess

November 6, 2008

If Stevens holds on to win re-election, as it appears he will, and then is expelled by the Senate, what happens? Election Law explains it’s much as you might expect: Governor Palin will appoint a temporary replacement and then a special election will be called. However, a new Alaska law passed by voter initiative requires the special election be called sooner than you might expect, after just a few months.

When will Stevens be expelled? Harry Reid has indicated that he will not wait for Stevens’s appeal to be heard, but he needs a 2/3 majority, and it’s not clear whether Republicans agree. Personally, I hope they do. A criminal conviction should be more than enough.

It’s also been suggested that Stevens’s re-election after his conviction provides a presumption against expulsion. I don’t buy that at all. Surely plenty of Alaskans voted for Stevens anticipating that he would be forced from office and Palin would appoint a Republican successor. (That’s how I would have voted.) So under these circumstances, his narrow re-election can hardly be taken as an endorsement that he should remain in office.

(Via Volokh.)

UPDATE: Actually, it’s a bit more complicated.  Apparently, it’s not entirely clear whether the Governor can appoint a temporary successor.  It might be that the seat remains open until the special election.


Minnesota recount

November 6, 2008

Ed Morrissey reports that the recount in Minnesota’s Senate race shouldn’t be very ugly, for two reasons.  First, Minnesota uses optical scan ballots, which are immediately checked and returned to the voter to try again if they cannot be read clearly.  Consequently, there’s shouldn’t be very many unclear ballots at all.  Second, Minnesota law gives clear standards for a hand count, unlike Florida 2000 where individual counties were making it up as they went along.  Barring a Washington 2004 scenario (where hundreds of new ballots were “found” during the recount), the recount should go smoothly and is unlikely to change the result.

So why doesn’t everyone use optical scan ballots?  They have nearly all the advantages of electronic voting machines with none of the drawbacks.  What’s the attraction of electronic voting machines?  I can’t remember where I saw this theory, but I think it’s spot on: People like them for the same reason they once preferred canned vegetables, they’re more “modern”!

IRRELEVANT ASIDE: Come to think of it, that’s kind of the same reason people like object-oriented programming too.


U.S. reducing Iraq presence two months early

November 5, 2008

The AP reports:

Spurred by a continued decline in violence, the U.S. military will reduce its presence in Iraq from 16 combat brigades to 14 this month, at least two months earlier than planned.

Military officials say two brigades from the 101st Airborne Division will leave Iraq this month, and only one will be replaced. A brigade is roughly 3,500 soldiers. Initially the 3rd Brigade, 101st Division, was scheduled to leave this month, and the 2nd Brigade, 101st Division, was to leave by February.

On Wednesday, the military announced the 2nd Brigade will instead return this month to its home base, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, after serving 13 months in Iraq rather than the expected 15.

The unit served in northwest Baghdad, where violence has plunged, including a 50 percent decline in overall attacks in the area and a more than 90 percent drop in murders.

U.S. forces also have seen a dramatic decline in troop fatalities, with deaths falling to their second lowest monthly level in October. Fourteen U.S. troops killed last month, including seven in combat. That total was one more than the 13 deaths in July, the lowest monthly level of the war.


Left 4 Dead

November 5, 2008

The election was yesterday.  The zombie apocalypse begins tomorrow.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.


Outstanding Senate races

November 5, 2008

Chambliss (R-Georgia) appears to have microscopically missed achieving a majority, so it appears that race is headed to a runoff. Coleman (R-Minnesota) is leading Franken by about 1000 votes with 9 precincts left to report; it is surely headed to a recount. Stevens (R-Alaska) appears to have survived, despite being the Republican least deserving of a win yesterday. He leads by over 3000 in a small state, but we’ll probably see a recount there as well. All three are strong favorites on Intrade at this point.

Oregon, for some reason, is unable to count vote in a timely fashion. Despite having the entire night to work, only 75% percent of precincts are reporting. Smith (R) is leading by 2 points, but that doesn’t mean much. Intrade has nary a hint either.

If we assume Republicans hold Georgia, Minnesota, and Alaska, but lose Oregon, that leaves a 57-43 balance in the Senate.

UPDATE: With all precincts now reporting in Minnesota, Coleman has won by 726 votes, until the recount. (And late-arriving absentees?) Also, Georgia still has 4% of precincts to report so we don’t have a runoff just yet.

UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez says Alaska has 40,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted. Oy. She also says that Chambliss is back over 50% with 99% of precincts reporting. (I can’t confirm this on Georgia’s web site.)

UPDATE: Intrade is calling Oregon virtual certainty for Merkley (D).  However, it’s also strongly favoring an outcome of 51-55 Democratic Senate seats, which doesn’t make any sense, since the Democrats have already locked up 56 and Oregon would make 57.  What’s going on?


Good luck, President Obama

November 5, 2008

The next four years will be defined by international crises. I pray you’re up to the task.


Philadelphia shames the state

November 4, 2008

Not many reports (so far) of voting problems or irregularities today, except out of Philadelphia. But Philly is making up for the rest of the country. So far today, Philly has poll watchers illegally ejected from polling places, armed Black Panthers blocking access to a polling place, and voting machines breaking down.

UPDATE: Still more troubles in Philly and its suburbs.  (Via Instapundit.)  What is it with you people?


Hate speech

November 4, 2008

A progressive group in California is running a television ad attacking Mormons (directly and explicitly) for supporting California’s proposition 8.

It’s all in the name of tolerance.


Obama opposes fairness doctrine

November 4, 2008

According to an obscure statement from Obama’s campaign that’s now come to light, Obama does not support reimposing the fairness doctrine.  Good news for free speech?  Maybe not.  Mark Levin notes that Obama does support government control of radio content, but prefers a more subtle way to attack talk radio.


TV and teen pregnancy

November 4, 2008

A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics:

RESULTS. Exposure to sexual content on television predicted teen pregnancy, with adjustment for all covariates. Teens who were exposed to high levels of television sexual content (90th percentile) were twice as likely to experience a pregnancy in the subsequent 3 years, compared with those with lower levels of exposure (10th percentile).

CONCLUSIONS. This is the first study to demonstrate a prospective link between exposure to sexual content on television and the experience of a pregnancy before the age of 20. Limiting adolescent exposure to the sexual content on television and balancing portrayals of sex in the media with information about possible negative consequences might reduce the risk of teen pregnancy. Parents may be able to mitigate the influence of this sexual content by viewing with their children and discussing these depictions of sex.

(Via Instapundit.)


Dixville Notch

November 4, 2008

Heh.


Report shows Palin violated no rules

November 4, 2008

The political investigation run by Democrats hedged, being unwilling to exonerate Palin fully, but the independent investigation did just that:

Gov. Sarah Palin violated no ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner, the state personnel board concluded in a report released Monday.

“There is no probable cause to believe that the governor, or any other state official, violated the Alaska Executive Ethics Act in connection with these matters,” the report says.

“Gov. Palin is pleased that the independent investigator for the Personnel Board has concluded that she acted properly in the reassignment of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan,” her attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said in a statement.

(Via Instapundit.)


The presiding heretic speaks

November 3, 2008

In a Q&A session with Katharine Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, she takes her universalism to the next level:

A few said their fellow parishioners wonder whether the presiding bishop sees Jesus Christ as the sole way to salvation.

Jefferts Schori replied that like most Christians, she believes Jesus died for “the whole world.” But his life and resurrection did not sever the promise God made to Jews and to Muslims, she added, and those groups still have access to salvation.

Now, universalism from Schori is nothing new, but this is the first time I’m aware of her speaking of God making a promise to Muslims.

Christianity does not recognize any promise made to Muslims (per se).  (Jews are another matter altogether.)  To the contrary, Galatians 1:6-9 specifically condemns any future revelation (e.g., the Koran) that opposes the gospel.  So the only way this could possibly make sense is if Schori was referring to everyone, which is hard to reconcile with her specific listing of Jews and Muslims, much less her reference to “those groups.”

But more than that, Schori’s statement is bizarrely anachronistic.  Jesus’s (earthly) life and resurrection predated Islam by centuries, so it makes no sense at all to refer to him severing any promise made to Muslims, even if we suppose that such a promise later existed.


“Let ’em invade Georgia”

November 3, 2008

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is fine with Russia invading Georgia.

Nadler says:

We have not been willing to put our priorities properly. We have not been willing to say … “Hey Russia, we won’t expand NATO into the Ukraine and Georgia, right next to your borders, if you cooperate with us on Iran.” …

I think Iran and Israel are a hell of a lot more important than expanding NATO to Russia’s borders. Why should we? What do we need it for?

Someone in the crowd says: “Because they invaded Georgia.”

Nadler retorts: “So let ’em invade Georgia. It’s right next to them. Would we tolerate a foreign–a Russian army in Mexico? Which is more important to us Georgia or Israel, frankly?”

Nadler is the Democratic chariman of the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties subcommittee.  Thankfully, I’m unaware of him having any particular influence in foreign policy.

What Nadler apparently fails to remember is that Russia is our former enemy, that would very much like to challenge us again.  Nadler’s moral equivalence notwithstanding, extending NATO is a key element in the West’s strategy to consolidate its gains.

An argument that might be defensible would be one of realpolitik: not that Georgia and Ukraine are of no significance to us, but that we should regretfully cut them loose in exchange for Russia’s assistance with a more serious threat.  To do so would incur a significant realpolitik cost, by showing the world that we are unreliable ally, but one might argue (I suppose) that it would be worth it.  But at the very least, we should require some concrete action in exchange, rather than vague diplomatic platitudes.  But that is clearly not what Nadler is contemplating.  Rather, he is suggesting that cutting Georgia and Ukraine loose are our diplomatic opening to Russia!

ASIDE: As a historical note, we need not speculate about our reaction to a foreign army in Mexico.


NYT taken in by “man in the street”

November 3, 2008

The NYT’s vaunted army of editors and fact-checkers strike again:

The parade drew fans from beyond the region, too. Greg Packer, 44, of Huntington, N.Y., drove in for Game 5 of the World Series and stayed for the celebration. He arrived on Broad Street near City Hall at 5 a.m. to secure what he considered the best spot.

“In New York right now, we have no Mets, no Yankees, no stadiums,” he said. “I came here to represent and cheer our neighbors.”

What’s wrong with this? Just this:

He’s not just another face in the crowd at concerts, book signings, and sporting events. Somehow, over the course of 10 years, one man has managed to become the media’s go-to guy, quoted more than 100 times in various publications, including several prominent newspapers. Greg Packer is the “man on the street.” . . .

While Packer says “honesty is very important to me,” he does admit that about 5% of the time, “I’m making stuff up to get in the paper.” A Boston newspaper, for example, quoted him as saying he had a ticket for the 1999 baseball All-Star Game there when he really didn’t. . .

In June 2003, the Associated Press circulated a memo instructing its reporters not to quote Packer in any more stories, saying the media had been over-relying on him. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter has deemed him “the entire media’s designated man on the street for all articles ever written.” Sheryl McCarthy, a columnist for New York’s Newsday, said, “The fact that Greg Packer’s quotes have turned up everywhere suggests that man-on-the-street interviews are worthless.” . . .

“I do not think members of the press are pansies, but there are times when I go home and laugh because I can’t believe that I made the newspaper pages again,” Packer says.

(Via Patterico, via Kausfiles, via Instapundit.)


Media coverage favors Obama

November 2, 2008

Yet another study shows that media coverage has favored Obama:

Comments made by sources, voters, reporters and anchors that aired on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts over the past two months reflected positively on Obama in 65 percent of cases, compared to 31 percent of cases with regards to McCain, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

ABC’s “World News” had more balance than NBC’s “Nightly News” or the “CBS Evening News,” the group said. Meanwhile, the first half of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” with Brit Hume showed more balance than any of the network broadcasters, although it was dominated by negative evaluations of both campaigns. The center didn’t evaluate programs on CNN or MSNBC.

“For whatever reason, the media are portraying Barack Obama as a better choice for president than John McCain,” said Robert Lichter, a George Mason University professor and head of the center. “If you watch the evening news, you’d think you should vote for Obama.” . . .

ABC recorded 57 percent favorable comments toward the Democrats, and 42 percent positive for the Republicans. NBC had 56 percent positive for the Democrats, 16 percent for the Republicans. CBS had 73 percent positive (Obama), versus 31 percent (McCain).

Hume’s telecast had 39 percent favorable comments for McCain and 28 percent positive for the Democratic ticket.

It was the second study in two weeks to remark upon negative coverage for the McCain-Palin ticket. The Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded last week that McCain’s coverage has been overwhelmingly negative since the conventions ended, while Obama’s has been more mixed.

(Via Instapundit.)

That’s 65% positive for Obama, versus 31% positive for McCain. The Pew study that the article alludes to came up with different absolute numbers (presumably due to differences in methodology) but agreed that the media is biased more than 2-to-1 in favor of Obama, finding 36% positive for Obama versus 16% positive for McCain.

It’s also interesting that the network-specific results align perfectly with the Groseclose-Milyo measure, with CBS furthest left, then NBC, then ABC, then Fox.

AFTERTHOUGHT: In all seriousness, I suppose we ought to congratulate ABC. Despite being only slightly more ideologically moderate than NBC (according to Groseclose-Milyo), ABC managed to be much more fair, with a 15-point Obama bias compared to NBC’s 40-point bias. (Suggested slogan: “ABC News: less unfair than you’d expect!”)

Fox News did better still. Despite being only slightly closer to center than ABC (on the other side, of course), they managed a mere 11-point McCain bias.

UPDATE: The Pew study covered only newspapers and cable news, while this study covered only the evening news on the broadcast networks and Fox. Thus, their data sets were almost disjoint (intersecting only on Brit Hume), which is probably the primary explanation for the difference in absolute numbers. Also, since the newspapers are generally more ideologically liberal than the networks (other than CBS), it explains why Pew found even more bias than this study.


Obama promises skyrocketing electricity rates

November 2, 2008

I am not making this up.  I wish I were.  He specifically used the word “skyrocket”.


Feel-good story of the day

November 2, 2008

Daylight savings time kills terrorists and saves innocents:

Back in 1999, terrorists on the daylight-saving West Bank built several time bombs, delivered to co-conspirators in Israel and scheduled to explode at a set time. Problem was, Israel had just switched back to standard time, so the only people injured were the terrorists themselves when the bomb detonated an hour earlier than they expected and killed them all.

(Via the Corner.)


Tech firms complete “code of conduct”

November 1, 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Criticized for their human rights records, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft plan to adopt voluntary guidelines that will govern their business practices in nations like China that restrict free speech, according to people who participated in drafting the rules.

The code of conduct, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle before its scheduled release next week, spells out that the technology titans should, for instance, carefully scrutinize demands by authorities for information about users and requests that online material be censored.

By agreeing to the rules, the companies hope to counter unflattering publicity in recent years over their cooperation with China’s efforts to crack down on dissidents and block Web sites considered to be subversive. It also might be a way to fend off U.S. legislation that could hamstring their business in some potentially profitable markets.

But critics complained that some of the rules fail to go far enough. Loopholes make it possible for companies to continue some of their most egregious behavior, they said.

Ooooh!  Careful scrutiny before cooperating with censors and oppressors!

These companies have already made their priorities clear.  This “code of conduct” is nothing more than a PR effort to repair their tarnished reputation and stave off legislation.  Does anyone think it will stop them from doing anything that China (and Australia) requires?  I hope no one is taken in by it.


Australia emulates China

November 1, 2008

The Herald Sun reports that Australia is preparing to implement nationwide internet filtering (that is, censorship):

AUSTRALIA will join China in implementing mandatory censoring of the internet under plans put forward by the Federal Government. . . The government has declared it will not let internet users opt out of the proposed national internet filter.

The plan was first created as a way to combat child pronography and adult content, but could be extended to include controversial websites on euthanasia or anorexia.

Communications minister Stephen Conroy revealed the mandatory censorship to the Senate estimates committee as the Global Network Initiative, bringing together leading companies, human rights organisations, academics and investors, committed the technology firms to “protect the freedom of expression and privacy rights of their users”. . .

The net nanny proposal was originally going to allow Australians who wanted uncensored access to the web the option of contacting their internet service provider to be excluded from the service.

(Via Volokh.)

Just a few days ago, I listened to Kaithy Shaidle on PJM political predict that nationwide net filtering wasn’t far away in Canada. Lord help me, I thought she was exaggerating. Continental Europe is one thing, but we’re not there yet in the English-speaking world, right? Wrong.

Anyway, anyone who thinks that it would be used only for child pornography for long has not been paying attention. It won’t be limited to that even on the day it’s activated.

It’s worth mentioning that the current Australian government is leftist. Let’s not hear any more prattle about liberal concern for free speech. (Am I generalizing too much from one incident in a foreign country? I wish.)

UPDATE: A reader writes to tell me that this started during the preceding Conservative government.  That’s not much of a defense in any case, but is it true?  After a couple of minutes of googling, it looks like the answer is “sort of.”  Electronic Frontiers Australia has a web page denouncing the proposal.  Nowhere does it point to an origin for this proposal outside of the Labor party.  In fact, it specifically points to its origin in a press release from Labor, while they were still in opposition.

But, EFA also has a lot to say about other internet censorship laws passed by the preceding Conservative government.  Nothing as sweeping or draconian as this, to be sure, but still bad.   So you can pick your story.  If you’re anti-Labor, you can say that Labor plans to make Australia’s censorship far, far worse.  If you’re pro-Labor, you can say that (unlike the Conservatives) they haven’t actually done anything yet, and maybe they won’t.  Let’s hope the latter story pans out.


Murtha won’t answer “redneck” questions

November 1, 2008

Murtha won’t take questions from the press unless they are about the “real issues,” which do not include why Murtha has repeatedly insulted his constituents.

(Via Hot Air.)


FIRE on Delaware

November 1, 2008

FIRE has a retrospective on the University of Delaware’s 2007 re-education program.  Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear that it was actually dissolved.

(Via Instapundit.)