Showing posts from May, 2008

Behind Us All The Way

They've got a long way to go: The Association of European Chambers of Commerce in Brussels warned that the transatlantic gap had widened yet further in the past five years by all key measures, despite the pledge by EU leaders at the 2000 Lisbon summit to transform Europe into the world's 'most dynamic knowledge-based economy' by the end of the decade.

The EU-wide umbrella group, known asEurochambres said the EU's overall employment rate was still stuck at levels attained by the United States in 1978, chiefly due to an incentive structure that discourages women from working and prompts early retirement by those in their fifties.

It found that the European Union's research and development levels were achieved by America as long ago as 1979, while the lag time on per capita income is 18 years.

"It will take the EU until 2072 to reach US levels of income per capita, and then only if the EU income growth exceeds that of the US by 0.5pc," the study said.Rememb…

Get Your Game On

You'll be shocked to learn that video games have not led to society's collapse. So far, the dire predictions many have made about the 'death' of traditional narratives and imaginative thought at the hands of video games have at best equivocal evidence to support them. Television and cinema may be suffering, economically, at the hands of interactive media. But literacy standards and book sales have failed to nosedive, and both books and radio are happily expanding into an age that increasingly looks like it will be anything but lived on-screen. Young people still enjoy sport, going out and listening to music. They like playing games with their friends, and using the internet to keep in touch and arrange meetings rather than to isolate themselves. And most research—including a recent $1.5m study funded by the US government—suggests that even pre-teens are not in the habit of blurring game and real worlds. This finding chimes with an obvious truth: that a large proportion…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1900

The Chinese Emperor finally takes action, sort of: A dispatch from Shanghai, dated yesterday, says: "Yesterday the Chinese Government issued an edict prohibiting the "Boxers" organization, under penalty of death,

"The edict, which was signed by the Emperor, was couched in equivocal terms, and promulgated more as an excuse than in condemnattion of the movement."

Sir Halladay Macartney, counselor and English secretary to the Chinese Legation in London, says he regards the rebellion as grave, although he is hopeful that it may be suppressed. The danger lies, in his opinion, in the fact that among the Chinese there are "large numbers of inflammable persons."If a person is inflammable, do they burn when you touch them?

Dude, Where's My Jihad?

According to the guy in charge, the bad guys are losing big time. Hayden says Al Qaeda’s losses in Iraq are encouraging, not just for the United States' fight against them, but also for Iraqi groups Al Qaeda sought to force into its cause.

“Although it kind of seems operational and tactical, we should not dismiss the importance of that,” he said. “That creates the conditions for other kinds of success. Other kinds of success would be the Iraqi people … realizing that the Al Qaeda vision for Iraq is not something that they want to have for themselves or for their children.

“You could say Al Qaeda overplayed its hand. I'd say Al Qaeda revealed its true colors.”
In fact, Hayden says Al Qaeda is not only struggling in the military sense, but is also encountering increasing and broader resistance from other Muslims, even radical ones. Several are starting to question Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri about the group's tactics and philosophy.

“You are seeing significant portions of t…

Bill's List

Bill Clinton channels Nixon. With Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign on the verge of defeat, Bill Clinton has been placing blame on enemies including a brazenly biased media that tried to suppress blue-collar votes, a powerful anti-war group that endorsed rival Barack Obama and weak-willed party leaders unable to stand up to either of these nefarious forces.

Pieced together from the former president’s public remarks at his wife’s campaign events and a private conversation last week with top donors to her campaign, the theory goes something like this: After Hillary recovered from a string of losses to rival Barack Obama with March 4 wins in Texas and Ohio, powerful forces conspired to pressure the superdelegates who will decide the nomination to back Obama by discouraging her supporters from voting and trying to hide evidence proving she would fare better than Obama against presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

While the former president has offered parts of this theory publicly, he …

Darwin Comes Calling

Let's see the creationists try and wrap their heads around this: The Vatican is planning a special conference in 2009 to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution.

First printed in November 1859, Darwin’s evolutionary theories rocked the faith of Victorian Christians and are stoutly contested today by Creationists. The Vatican has traditionally backed a more nuanced approach. Three years ago, Cardinal Paul Poupard, the then president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said Darwin’s theory of Evolution and the Old Testament book of Genesis were “perfectly compatible” if the Bible were correctly read, saying: 'The fundamentalists want to give a scientific meaning to words that had no scientific aim,' explaining that the real message in Genesis was that “the universe didn't make itself and had a creator.'

Next year's conference will be held in Rome and organised by Poupard&#…

Barry Goldwater, The Sequel

On why John McCain may actually be the conservative movement's last, best hope.Irascible, iconoclastic, sometimes a bit profane, always his own man and nobody else's, McCain is a curmudgeon's curmudgeon -- but still with much to offer his country. We all know, of course, why so many of us are so often so angry with McCain -- his sometimes bizarre heresies from conservatism, his insulting language and hair-trigger temper toward conservatives who disagree with him -- but we spend too little time acknowledging the man's strengths. On those issues on which Goldwater was strongest, about which he cared most deeply and on which he was most identifiably conservative, McCain is as strong or stronger than any national leader in the past 20 years.

Consider the fight against outrageous government spending. No major party nominee since Goldwater, Reagan included, has been as consistently and bravely dedicated to fiscal discipline as has McCain. Last week he both made a superb campa…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1965

It's been a good week at the World's Fair.

Questions over the voting rights bill.

The University of Maryland apparently doesn't have enough protests. So some students decided to start some.But what should they protest? After a long pause for thought, S.F.U. seized upon two yawning gaps in Maryland's academic life: the library closes at 10 p.m. instead of midnight, and students are not allowed to wear Bermuda shorts at dinner in the dining halls. S.F.U. began promoting a library study-in—even though the administration was already considering longer library hours, as well as abolition of all dress standards.

Hoping for bigger and better issues, S.F.U. appointed a committee to seek new problems to protest. One student found a long-forgotten and never-used rule under which the university could eject a student without explanation. That also proved to be a nonissue. "I don't see any point in keeping the regulation on the books either," said University Vice Preside…

Every Cent Counts

It seems the Democrats are finally learning fiscal responsibility. Millions of dollars behind in raising money and unlikely to meet a fast-approaching final deadline, the Denver committee hosting the Democratic National Convention is considering spending cuts.

Committee sources say they are working with the Democratic National Convention Committee to consider lowering the $55 million in private cash and donated services that must be raised to bring the convention to town. The cuts would be made to the many parties the host committee is obligated to throw for the delegations and the news media, and other hospitality functions not tied to production aspects inside the convention hall.

'There have been no specific decisions made,' host committee spokesman Chris Lopez said. 'We're always identifying costs and weighing them against our anticipated revenue.'Odd how their counterparts in Congress can't seem to do that...

How To Save The World In Ten Steps Or Less

A group of highly educated folks got together to try and solve the world's problems. Near the top of their list trade.Eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, were asked to prioritize 30 different proposed solutions to ten of the world's biggest problems. The proposed solutions were developed by more than 50 specialist scholars over the past two years and were presented as reports to the panel over the past week. Since we live in a world of scarce resources, not all good projects can be funded. So the experts were constrained in their decision making by allocating a budget of an 'extra' $75 billion among the solutions over four years.

Number 2 on the list of Copenhagen Consensus 2008 priorities is to widen free trade by means of the Doha Development Agenda. The benefits from trade are enormous. Success at Doha trade negotiations could boost global income by $3 trillion per year, of which $2.5 trillion would go to the developing countries. At the Cop…

Not Just Another Bush Basher

Peggy Noonan analyzes Scott McClellan's motives and finds them to be more than just about money: Mr. McClellan attempts to reveal and expose what he believes, what he came to see as, an inherent dishonesty and hypocrisy within a hardened administration. It is a real denunciation.

He believes the invasion of Iraq was "a serious strategic blunder," that the decision to invade Iraq was "a fateful misstep" born in part of the shock of 9/11 but also of "an air of invincibility" sharpened by the surprisingly and "deceptively" quick initial military success in Afghanistan. He scores President Bush's "certitude" and "self-deceit" and asserts the decision to invade Iraq was tied to the president's lust for legacy, need for boldness, and grandiose notions as to what is possible in the Mideast. He argues that Mr. Bush did not try to change the culture of the capital, that he "chose to play the Washington game the way he …

Taxes Are For Little People

Keith Olbermann seems to have pulled an Al Franken: New York State has issued a tax warrant against Keith Olbermann for failure to pay taxes on his humbly named personal corporation, Olbermann Broadcasting Empire, Inc. Olbermann is listed in legal records as the President of Olbermann Broadcasting Empire, Inc.

A call to the Albany County Clerk's Office in upstate New York confirmed that the warrant is still outstanding and that Olbermann has still failed to pay his back taxes. State records show that Olbermann's company failed to pay $2,269.50 in state taxes. A judgement was entered against Olbermann last summer (Docket Date: 8/21/2007), just weeks before Olbermann closed on a a luxurious $4.2 mm condo at Trump Palace, at 200 East 69th Street.Hey-he runs an Empire! I guess he figures he's entitled.

Crossing Over

Are Republicans losing the Catholic vote? A Pew poll taken in January 2007 found only 38% of traditional Catholics favored a generic Republican presidential candidate. An August 2007 poll showed them three times as concerned with the economy as social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

'Conservative Catholics are very much in play,' Mr. Green says.

While Sen. Obama supports abortion rights, he has backed several bills to reduce unintended pregnancies and therefore the need for abortion. His campaign is hoping his record on other issues will carry the day. 'He has spent an entire career bringing people together and putting his faith into action, and that's a distinctly Catholic concept,' says Joshua DuBois, national director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign.

Sen. McCain is still establishing his conservative credentials among the religious right. In a speech at Wake Forest University in North Carolina this month, he assured conservatives he would…

A Natural Brand

What is conservatism? In an essay at National Review Online, which seems to be developing a split personality these days, Alex Castellanos says it should be the following: Conservatives do have solutions. Our answer is not “no government”; our answer is a government that is more natural. Choice and diversity, if entrusted to people, require — and create — economic freedom. Conservatives need to learn the language of the environmental and civil-rights movements, not only because it is more marketable, but also because it more accurately reflects the organic liberty and self-government we cherish.

Our theme, our brand, our identity? How about this: Republicans are the not the party of a decaying, old, static, industrial-age, top-down government in Washington. We are the communications-age party of genuinely democratic, dynamic government — of, for, and by real people. We want to get money and power out of Washington and into the hands of the people — not because we want no government, bu…

Houston, We Need A Plumber

This will really hit them where they live. The crew aboard the International Space Station is working on a problem with the system for collecting solid and liquid waste, which is a trickier proposition without gravity than it is on the Earth. Space toilets use jets of fan-propelled air to guide waste into the proper container.

A NASA status report noted that last week, while using the toilet system in the Russian-built service module, “the crew heard a loud noise and the fan stopped working.” The solid waste collector is functioning properly, but the system for collecting liquid waste was not.

The crew tried replacing one device, an air/water separator, and then a filter, but nothing seemed to bring the toilet back to full operation. Russian mission control told the crew — Russian Cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, and Garrett Reisman, a NASA astronaut, to use the toilet on the Soyuz capsule that is attached to the station as a lifeboat. But that system has very limited capaci…

Port Of No Return

But I thought we were supposed to be safer. After all, the NRO tells me so. WASHINGTON - A Department of Homeland Security program to strengthen port security has gaps that terrorists could exploit to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in cargo containers, congressional investigators have found.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, being released Tuesday, assesses the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT), a federal program established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to deter a potential terrorist strike via cargo passing through 326 of the nation's airports, seaports and designated land borders.

Under the program, roughly 8,000 importers, port authorities and air, sea and land carriers are granted benefits such as reduced scrutiny of their cargo. In exchange, the companies submit a security plan that must meet U.S. Customs and Border Protection's minimum standards and allow officials to verify their measures are being followed.

A 2005 GAO report …

Burps Away

I'll do my part.Conservative grassroots group wants people to waste as much energy as possible on June 12 by 'hosting a barbecue, going for a drive, watching television, leaving a few lights on, or even smoking a few cigars.'

The point: the group wants to 'help Americans break free from the 'carbon footprint guilt' being imposed by Climate Alarmists.' says it's skeptical over claims that man-made sources of carbon dioxide emissions -- from automobile exhausts to manufacturing plants -- are raising the Earth's temperature at a dangerous rate. Theories about global warming were highlighted by former Vice President Al Gore's 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth. president Steve Elliott, in a statement, said such theories are off the mark. 'It's time for Americans to purge ourselves of the false guilt that Al Gore and the Climate Alarmists have placed on us,' Elliott said.If it's a belch they want, …

Compassionate Warfare

Speaking of screw-ups, Soctt McClellan explains Bush's "Logic": The president's real motivation for the war, he said, was to transform the Middle East to ensure an enduring peace in the region. But the White House effort to sell the war as necessary due to the stated threat posed by Saddam Hussein was needed because 'Bush and his advisers knew that the American people would almost certainly not support a war launched primarily for the ambitions purpose of transforming the Middle East,' McClellan wrote.

'Rather than open this Pandora's Box, the administration chose a different path — not employing out-and-out deception, but shading the truth,' he wrote of the effort to convince the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, an effort he said used 'innuendo and implication' and 'intentional ignoring of intelligence to the contrary.'

'President Bush managed the crisis in a way that almost guaranteed that the use of force wou…

Losers R Us

They've turned into the Keystone Terrorists.Today, al Qaeda has been shattered, with most of its leadership and foot soldiers dead, captured or moved from Iraq. As a result, al Qaeda attacks have declined more than 90 percent. Worse, most of their Iraqi Sunni Arab allies have turned on them, or simply quit. This 'betrayal' is handled carefully on the terrorist web sites, for it is seen as both shameful, and perhaps recoverable.

This defeat was not as sudden as it appeared to be, and some Islamic terrorist web sites have been discussing the problem for several years. The primary cause has been Moslems killed as a side effect of attacks on infidel troops, Iraqi security forces and non-Sunnis. Al Qaeda plays down the impact of this, calling the Moslem victims 'involuntary martyrs.' But that's a minority opinion. Most Moslems, and many other Islamic terrorists, see this as a surefire way to turn the Moslem population against the Islamic radicals. That's what hap…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1902

An African Peace

The Boer War may finally be ending:The Daily Chronicle this morning asserts that the negotiations in South Africa are practically concluded, and that the present week will witness the termination of the war in South Africa. The paper says that it understands that the Government has declined to grant unqaulified amnesty to the rebels or to fix a date for the establishment of self government, and that English will probably be the official language in the two colonies.All I can say is, I hope we never get involved in the colonization business to the same extent that the Europeans have.

T.R. Says He Can't Get Involved

President Roosevelt says it's not up to him to settle the strike: After a conference with the members of his Cabinet to-day, President Roosevelt decided that there was no legal ground for interference by him in the settlement of the dispute between the coal operators and striking miners.Sounds like the coal barons are on their own for now. Wait until Te…

Six Is Enough

How did this get into the National Review Online, of all places? For many of us, the war was supposed to be about U.S. national security and only about U.S. national security. It would be nice if we could make Iraq a better place, just as it would be nice if we could make Afghanistan a better place, but that was never a sufficient reason to go to war. The reason to go to war was to find and kill every last son of a bitch who had anything to do with 9/11. And that job was not the main focus in Iraq, and in any event is unfortunately not finished.

One of the main reasons John McCain is facing such an tough job today is that we are now in the sixth year of a war that the president of his own party started by mistake. That's a major headwind when you're running for president; an error of that magnitude will exact a political price. Would anyone be surprised if voters say that they've had enough?I think McCain does know that voters have had enough; the question is, will he be ma…

Homeless Go Home

The times they are a' changing in the place known as the Midwest's answer to Berkeley. "It used to be the homeless were tolerated and somewhat supported," said former six-term Mayor Paul Soglin, who led the city during antiwar riots in the 1970s. "But the combination of more homeless, more aggressive panhandling and these recent crimes has led to some not-so-politically-correct views."

After student Brittany Zimmermann was killed April 2, police interviewed dozens of homeless in the downtown area.

Police took DNA samples from some of the panhandlers, and more than a dozen were arrested on unrelated charges, Madison police Officer Meredith York said.

But department spokesman Joel DeSpain said "the homeless have been a focus, not the only focus" in Zimmermann's death and the January slaying of businessman Joel Anthony Marino, 31.

"We're just trying to talk to everyone who may have been in the area when the crimes occurred," DeSpain sai…

"Debate...For Your Freedom!"

One of the last sane leaders in the Old World is calling out the Prophet of Doom: Washington - Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Tuesday he is ready to debate Al Gore about global warming, as he presented the English version of his latest book that argues environmentalism poses a threat to basic human freedoms. 'I many times tried to talk to have a public exchange of views with him, and he's not too much willing to make such a conversation,' Klaus said. 'So I'm ready to do it.'

Klaus was speaking a the National Press Building in Washington to present his new book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?, before meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday.

'My answer is it is our freedom and, I might add, and our prosperity,' he said.


Klaus, an economist, said he opposed the "climate alarmism" perpetuated by environmentalism trying to impose their ideals, comparing it to the decades of communist rule he …

Cards For All

Regardless of the Tory win, the Nannystate continues.Every adult should be forced to use a 'carbon ration card' when they pay for petrol, airline tickets or household energy, MPs say.

The influential Environmental Audit Committee says a personal carbon trading scheme is the best and fairest way of cutting Britain's CO2 emissions without penalising the poor.
Under the scheme, everyone would be given an annual carbon allowance to use when buying oil, gas, electricity and flights.

Anyone who exceeds their entitlement would have to buy top-up credits from individuals who haven't used up their allowance. The amount paid would be driven by market forces and the deal done through a specialist company.

MPs, led by Tory Tim Yeo, say the scheme could be more effective at cutting greenhouse gas emissions than green taxes.

But critics say the idea is costly, bureaucratic, intrusive and unworkable.Well, if it wasn't intrusive then it wouldn't be Government, would it?

Boggin' In The Years: 1980

Anderson, John Anderson

Reagan Versus Carter Versus John Who?In the West, often regarded as a Reagan stronghold, the three candidates are also grouped quite closely. Reagan leads with 35%, Anderson is second with 30%, Carter is third with 29%. Reagan appears strongest in the Midwest, and Carter still holds a narrow lead in his native South. Anderson does poorly in both regions and also has little support among blue-collar workers, older voters, blacks and other minority groups. At this stage of the campaign, however, even this support is subject to quick change. When asked how firmly committed they are to their first choice for President, only 31% of those surveyed say they are 'very committed.' Fully 30% say they are 'not that committed.' And when asked who among the three candidates would be their second choice, more voters (31%) choose Anderson than either Carter or Reagan. Among both Democrats and Republicans, about one-third name Anderson as a second choice. That p…

Sorry, Charlie

Why are they called the Stupid Party? Because the Republicans still listen to people who think like this: The Brody File has been talking with pro-family leaders and activists and they all agree that if John McCain picks Florida Governor Charlie Crist as his running mate, there will be MAJOR dissatisfaction among social conservatives. Jim Backlin, a conservative activist with a hefty email list, told me:

'If the goal of the campaign is to shore up the base of the party, which is still critically needed, that pick would do exactly the opposite and many social conservatives, and conservatives in general, would sit on their hands this election.'

Connie Mackay, Senior Vice President for FRCAction tells me:

“We have concerns about Governor Crist. While he claims to be pro-life he has not been an advocate…We would not be supportive of his candidacy for Vice-President…I think it would not help him. McCain needs to continue to try and energize the base. I think that would certainly not e…

The Governator's Gravy Train

Life is good when you work for Arnold. In Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's first four years, the total bill for state workers' salaries jumped by 37 percent, compared with a 5 percent increase in the preceding four years under then-Gov. Gray Davis, a Chronicle analysis of state payroll records shows.

One month before Schwarzenegger took office in November 2003, just eight state employees earned more than $200,000 a year working in the core state government, which excludes universities and the Legislature. In April of this year, there were nearly a thousand, according to records.

And the number of state employees making six-figure salaries has more than doubled since 2003, to nearly 15,000. Meanwhile, the number of state workers has grown by 26,000 under Schwarzenegger after being cut by Davis, who was recalled from office in the midst of a severe budget crisis.

Some of the pay increases in recent years have been out of Schwarzenegger's control, including previously negotiated pay…

Viva Il Nukes

Italy leads the way in creating an atomic Europe: ITALY, which last week decided to embrace nuclear power two decades after a public referendum banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors, could be just the first of several European countries to reverse its stance on nuclear power, a leading industry group has said.

Ian Hore-Lacey, spokesman for the London-based World Nuclear Association, said: 'Italy has had the most dramatic, the most public turnaround, but the sentiments against nuclear are reversing very quickly all across Europe.'

When asked which nations were likely to join Britain and France as major producers of nuclear power, he replied: 'Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and more.'So why aren't WE doing this?

From There To Here

How did it come to this? I think the following quotes sum it up: From Ronald Reagan:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. ... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

To Rick Santorum:

One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. ... This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand …

Earthquakes Are Icky

Oh, jeeze. ACTOR Sharon Stone is in strife after claiming the Chinese earthquake which claimed the lives of 80,000 people was 'karma'.
Stone made the not so smart statement while on the red carpet in Cannes.
She was asked if she had heard about the disaster that hit China recently, and her answer was:

'Of course I have. Well you know at first I thought I'm not happy with the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans … and I've been concerned with should we have the Olympics because they're not being nice to the Dalai Lama who's a good friend of mine.

' And then all this earthquake and stuff happened and I thought, 'Is that Karma, when you're not nice and the bad things happen to you?'Somebody needs to warn Pat Robertson that Sharon Stone is stealing his copy.

It's The Message, Stupid

A lesson on what the Stupid Party needs to do if it ever hopes to get its act together again: Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets. But the burning bush, so to speak, is delivering a blindingly simple message: Behave like Republicans.

Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn't good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.


Regaining our brand as the party of fiscal discipline will require us to rejoin Americans in the real world of budget choices and priorities, and to leave behind the fanta…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1998

We live in scary times.U.S. officials said Thursday that Pakistan appears to be prepared for another nuclear test, even as world leaders searched for ways to stop a nuclear arms race on the Asian subcontinent.

Pakistan detonated nuclear devices underground in a remote area early Thursday, triggering world condemnation and almost certain hardship from economic sanctions.

U.S. officials, who asked not to be named, said U.S. spy satellites are monitoring a second location where it is believed a nuclear device has been placed in an underground shaft and encased in concrete.

U.S. officials told CNN that there are 'some indications' that Pakistan may be planning a second test -- but said they were not 'predicting' a test.

Pakistan's president declared a state of emergency hours after the first devices were detonated, citing threats of 'external aggression.'India and Pakistan, both trying to give each other a nuclear hot foot. Just great.

The death of Phil Hartman keep…

Clerical Error

There's one person in Iraq who isn't thrilled with the idea of McCain's Long View: Iraq's most revered Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has strongly objected to a 'security accord' between the US and Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah has reiterated that he would not allow Iraq to sign such a deal with 'the US occupiers' as long as he was alive, a source close to Ayatollah Sistani said.

The source added the Grand Ayatollah had voiced his strong objection to the deal during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday.

The remarks were made amid reports that the Iraqi government might sign a long-term framework agreement with the United States, under which Washington would be allowed to set up permanent military bases in the country and US citizens would be granted immunity from legal prosecution in the country.A better idea would be to go ahead and build the bases, but then turn them over to the Iraqis. Call me crazy…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1982

Israel is at war, again. A Cabinet communiqué issued yesterday defined the purpose of the invasion as "placing the civilian population of Galilee beyond the range of the terrorists' fire from Lebanon, where their bases and their headquarters are located".

In reply to a letter from President Regan to the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Begin claimed last night that Israel was exercising its right of self-defence, which he compared with Britain's invasion of the Falklands. The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Mr David Kimeche, said in a radio interview that Israel had no territorial ambitions in Lebanon.

The decision to send in the army was taken at an emergency Cabinet meeting on Saturday night in the middle of northern Israel's heaviest artillery and rocket bombardment since last July's war of attrition.

At least 23 towns and villages were hit in a barrage of nearly 1,000 shells and Katyushas, causing serious damage to property and sending the inhabitants sc…

Super Management

Call it Obama-lust if you must (hey, that rhymes) but Andrew Sullivan may have a point here: The strongest criticism of Obama is his lack of substantive achievements in public life. He is a freshman senator, and his record is indeed thin in comparison with that of McCain or Clinton. However, if his abilities in government are in any way similar to the skills he has shown in managing – and brilliantly not managing – his campaign, then this is a candidate not to be underestimated. Clinton has been sideswiped. And, privately, most Republicans I know are terrified.I wouldn't call Obama's campaign brilliant so much as I would Hillary's abysmal, but if Obama can keep it up the Republicans may indeed have reason to be terrified.

Rove, Don't Run

Turd Blossom may have to take the stand: President Bush's former chief political adviser denied meddling in the Justice Department's prosecution of Alabama's ex-governor and said Sunday the courts will have to resolve a congressional subpoena for his testimony.

'Congress, the House Judiciary Committee, wants to be able to call presidential aides on its whim up to testify,' Karl Rove said. 'It's going to be tied up in court and settled in court.'

Last week, the committee ordered Rove to appear July 10. Lawmakers want to ask him about the White House's role in firing nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman, D-Ala.

Also under congressional subpoena are Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, and his former counsel, Harriet Miers. The White House is citing executive privilege, the doctrine intended to protect the confidentiality of presidential communications, in refusing to let them testify.

The fight over testimony f…

Spin Machine

Selling the war may get more difficult in the future. The Pentagon's internal watchdog is investigating a government public relations effort that relied on retired military officers to defend the administration's Iraq war policies.

The House this past week passed an amendment to a defense authorization bill calling for reviews by both the inspector general's office and the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm.

The Pentagon suspended the program last month after The New York Times reported that retired officers who acted as military analysts for major news outlets were given plum access to the Pentagon. The analysts, many of whom had undisclosed ties to military contractors, received regular briefings by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and a sponsored trip to the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.

A Defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Saturday the inspector general's review will look at whether special access to Pentagon…

Disorder In The Court

The GOP-that same organization which itself has been such a stellar example of efficiency-is worried about how McCain is running his show. In interviews, some party leaders said they were worried about signs of disorder in his campaign and about whether the focus in the last several weeks on the prominent role of lobbyists in McCain's inner circle might undercut the heart of his general election message: that he is reformer taking on special interests in Washington.

'The core image of John McCain is as a reformer in Washington, and the more dominant the story is about the lobbying teams around him, the more you put that into question,' said Terry Nelson, who was McCain's campaign manager until he was forced out last year. 'If the Obama campaign can truly change him from being seen as a reformer to just being another Washington politician, it could be very damaging over the course of the campaign.'

Some leaders of state Republican party organizations said they wer…

Raising The Barr

I'm still skeptical. But this could be his year if anyone's: Barr has the potential to win more votes than any LP nominee in history. If he helps the GOP learn that it’s time to boot the neocons and pay more attention to its limited government wing, all the better.

This is a good thing.It says something about the state of the Republican Party that I agree with this more now than I did back in 1992, which was the last time there was a serious third-party spoiler in the form of Ross Perot. I do hope the GOP learns something from this, although I'm not too optmistic right now.

Goodbye Mr. Brown

And you thought the Republicans were in bad shape.Gordon Brown was facing public and private pressure to consider quitting for the sake of his party last night after the Crewe by-election “catastrophe” left ministers and Labour MPs convinced that they could not win with him at the helm.

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, was being earmarked by senior backbenchers as the figure to tell Mr Brown that they had lost confidence in him and that he should step aside unless there was a swift improvement in Labour’s fortunes.

Graham Stringer was the first Labour MP to call for Mr Brown to go, saying that the party needed a new leader to save it from “disaster” at the next election.

Ivan Lewis, the Health Minister, said that Crewe & Nantwich, where the Conservatives overturned a 7,000 Labour majority to win with their own majority of nearly 8,000, could mark the “beginning of the end” for Labour."Their party is in a shambles and their leaders are being shown the door. Who says Labour didn…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1977

It's a hit!A universe of plenty—as audiences can discover beginning this week in Star Wars, a grand and glorious film that may well be the smash hit of 1977, and certainly is the best movie of the year so far. Star Wars is a combination of Flash Gordon, The Wizard of Oz, the Errol Flynn swashbucklers of the '30s and '40s and almost every western ever screened—not to mention the Hardy
Boys, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Faerie Queene. The result is a remarkable confection: a subliminal history of the movies, wrapped in a riveting tale of suspense and adventure, ornamented with some of the most ingenious special effects ever contrived for film. It has no message, no sex and only the merest dollop of blood shed here and there. It's aimed at kids—the kid in everybody.

'It's the flotsam and jetsam from the period when I was twelve years old,' says Director George Lucas, 33. 'All the books and films and comics that I liked when I was a child. The plot…

Shake, Rattle And Flood

Talk about Chinese water torture: Nearly 70 dams scarred by the force of China's most powerful earthquake in three decades were in danger of bursting, rattled again Sunday by one of the strongest aftershocks since the initial disaster.

Meanwhile, soldiers carrying explosives hiked to a lake formed by a blocked river near the epicenter, hoping to blast through debris to alleviate the threat of floods.

The confirmed death toll from the May 12 quake rose to 62,664, with another 23,775 people missing, the Cabinet said. Premier Wen Jiabao has said the number of dead could surpass 80,000.

An aftershock Sunday afternoon caused office towers to sway in Beijing, 800 miles away. There was no immediate information on any new damage.Communist engineering+Mother Nature=not a good combination.

Life After Doomsday

Some people aren't waiting until the end of the world. Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.


These survivalists believe in "peak oil," the idea that world oil production is set to hit a high point and then decline.…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1992

Bill Clinton literally toots his own horn!

Meanwhile, what about Dan Quayle? Well, it's the end of Spring, which means he goes into extra goofy mode: IF FOR NOTHING ELSE, DAN QUAYLE DESERVES POINTS for audacity. In modern America taking on a popular TV character, even a fictional one, is politically more precarious than taking a clear stand on a substantive campaign issue. And yet the Vice President dared to argue last week in a San Francisco speech that the Los Angeles riots were caused in part by a "poverty of values" that included the acceptance of unwed motherhood, as celebrated in popular culture by the CBS comedy series Murphy Brown. The title character, a divorced news anchorwoman, got pregnant and chose to have the baby, a boy, who was delivered on last Monday's episode, watched by 38 million Americans. "It doesn't help matters," Quayle complained, when Brown, "a character who supposedly epitomizes today's intelligent, highly paid profes…

Natural Crime

The great outdoors-now with more drugs.ANCHORAGE, Alaska — America's wildlife refuges are so short of money that one-third have no staff, boardwalks and buildings are in disrepair, and drug dealers are using them to grow marijuana and make methamphetamine, a group pushing for more funding says.

'Without adequate funding, we are jeopardizing some of the world's most spectacular wildlife and wild lands,' said Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and chairman of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement.

The alliance said in a report released this week to Congress that the nation's 548 refuges and the 100 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System — about the size of California — is underfunded by 43 percent. The refuge system needs at least $765 million a year but is receiving only $434 million, the report said.

A decrease in law enforcement has left the refuges vulnerable to criminal activity, including prostitution, torched cars …

Don't Stand So Close To Me

McCain wants Bush to back off: President Bush is scaling back next week’s fundraising swings for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the request of the campaign, which wants the events closed to the press, POLITICO has learned.

The change — in both Arizona and Utah — is part of McCain’s delicate effort to find the balance between embracing an unpopular president and taking advantage of his huge continuing draw with well-heeled Republicans.

The Arizona event, which was to be at the Phoenix Convention Center, was the first time Bush was to have appeared with McCain since their White House meeting in March.

A McCain aide said: “The McCain campaign has a policy that fundraising events are closed press. In keeping with that policy, the campaign requested the event be moved to a private home.”In other words, McCain seems to be saying, "I like you, but let's just be friends."

They Durk Ur Slums

I guess this is another place the U.N. needs to send racism inspectors: A wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa spread to Cape Town on Friday, even as troops and police appeared to have quelled the unrest in the hotspot of Johannesburg.

Police reported attacks against immigrants and foreign-owned shops in a slum area of picturesque Cape Town.

The southern coastal city is a major draw for tourists and had thus far been spared the mob violence seen in Johannesburg.

At least 42 have been killed, more than 500 arrested and 16,000 displaced in the province of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, since unrest broke out 12 days ago.

Police spokesman for the Cape Town area Billy Jones said a public meeting to address the danger of xenophobia in the Dunoon slum area 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the city degenerated into violence on Thursday evening.

'Groups within the crowd started to loot shops owned by Zimbabweans and other foreigners,' he told AFP…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1964

LBJ has big plans.In a speech before 80,000 at the University of Michigan stadium at Ann Arbor—where he was given an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree—the President eloquently invited his fellow citizens to join in the pursuit of a 'Great Society' uniquely American both in spirit and promise. Excerpts:

'For a century we labored to settle and subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all our people. The challenge of the next half-century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life—and to advance the quality of American civilization.

'Your imagination, your initiative, your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time, we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the po…

Hot Taxation Action

They'll literally tax anything these days. LOS ANGELES - California state lawmakers are considering an unusual idea to solve the state's huge budget shortfall: Tax pornography.

The idea was proposed by a state assemblyman, and would impose a 25 percent tax on the production and sales of pornographic videos -- the vast majority of which are made in southern California.

It is unknown, however, how seriously lawmakers will take the idea or how the porn business would deal with the new tax. It is likely, though, that porm-makers would simply pass the cost along to consumers by making pornographic materials more expensive.I can see it now: A huge tax revolt in the Valley...

They Saw Red

Hmm. First they complain.ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian Communist party members condemned the new Indiana Jones' film on Friday as crude anti-Soviet propaganda that distorted history and called for it to be banned from Russian screens.

'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' stars Harrison Ford as an archeologist in 1957 competing with an evil KGB agent, played by Cate Blanchett, to find a skull endowed with mystic powers.

'What galls is how together with America we defeated Hitler, and how we sympathized when Bin Laden hit them. But they go ahead and scare kids with Communists. These people have no shame,' said Viktor Perov, a Communist Party member in Russia's second city of St Petersburg."So they don't like being reminded of their past. Then why are they trying to emulate it? BEIJING - China and Russia sharply condemned U.S. missile defense plans Friday, taking a harder common line that reinforces an already strong strategic pa…

Tucker: The Host And His Dream

As if that clown car wasn't full enough already: "Tucker Carlson for president?" That's the headline at the personal blog for Brendan Nyhan, a former Spinsanity editor who is now a graduate student in political science at Duke. Nyhan says that Carlson, the former 'Crossfire' host and former writer for The Weekly Standard, among other magazines, may seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, according to a rumor making the rounds among delegates to the Libertarian convention, which is being held in Denver this weekend.Note that Denver is also hosting the Democratic Convention later on. Is this their idea of a preview?

Hagee A No Go

Good for him.UNION CITY, Calif. (AP) - Republican John McCain rejected the months-old endorsement of an influential Texas televangelist after an audio recording surfaced in which the preacher said God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land.

'Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well,' the presidential candidate said in a statement issued Thursday.

Hagee quickly responded that he was withdrawing the endorsement.

McCain actively courted Hagee, who leads a megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands and has an even wider television audience. Former GOP presidential rivals also sought Hagee's backing.To paraphrase Goldwater, extremism in the defense of your fringe church is no virtue.

Bloggin' In The Years: 1927

From one pioneer to another.

The Great Flood is literally of Biblical proportions: Extent. From Cairo, Ill., to the Gulf is 570 miles air line but 1,090 miles by the river line. Southwestern Illinois, western Tennessee and Mississippi, eastern Missouri and Arkansas, northern and central Louisiana have been flooded. Hardest hit has been Louisiana. Two Louisiana parishes were inundated when the Poydras levee was dynamited; 5,000,000 acres in north Louisiana were under water last week with 4,000,000 more in imminent danger.

The entire flooded area through the valley was estimated at 15,000 square miles, an area larger than Belgium, three times the size of Connecticut; almost as large as Switzerland.

Homeless. The Red Cross definitely listed 323,000 refugees in its care. This estimate did not include 35,000 to 50,000 additional refugees in Louisiana. If the hardpressed Red River levee line broke, as seemed likely, another 200,000 would be in the path of the waters.

Deaths. Death estimates hav…

Bloggin' in The Years: 1990

Rush Limbaugh-blowhard, or mad prophet of the airwaves? On certain weighty, if arid, topics, Limbaugh will discourse (some would say harangue) long and earnestly: 'The tax code is the single greatest power Congress has. It is the means of social architecture in this country. . . . Oil is the fuel of the engine that runs the free world.' Blah, blah, blah.

But when he contemplates the universe of liberal activists and protesters, lecturer gives way to lampoonist and out pours the broad, bruising humor. For in that universe are Limbaugh's favorite enemies: black activists, gay activists, abortion rights activists, homeless activists, animal rights activists, militant vegetarians, environmentalists, artists with erotic tendencies and, above all, 'the NOW Gang.' Such people he sees as crackpot oddball weirdos yet somehow, at the same time, a growing menace. They arouse in him the irrepressible urge to tweak.

'The simple fact of the matter,' Limbaugh is apt to info…

Bloggin' In The Years: 1969

Apollo 10 comes home; the real thing is next!

The Fab Four find out that running a business isn't all peace and love: A multimillion-dollar business cannot be run on fun and flowers, the Beatles be latedly discovered after the death in 1967 of their canny manager and mentor, Brian Epstein. More interested in gadding about than tending to their enterprises, they left their convoluted corporate empire (see chart) to run on its own momentum. Inertia was not a successful philosophy. Three of the biggest companies in which the Beatles hold stakes have lately tumbled into trouble.


Apple Corps, wholly owned by the Beatles as their major corporate entity, is a disappointment. It was founded last year with the aim of promoting other talented people and creating businesses in recording, electronics, publishing, films and retailing. But Apple bankrolled stale ideas and supported a film division that never made a movie. Even the Beatles' enormous earning capacities could no longer com…

Mortgage Crisis? What Mortgage Crisis?

I wonder if Congresscritters qualify for government bailouts: California Rep. Laura Richardson today denied a published report that her $535,000 Sacramento home had slipped into foreclosure, saying she had renegotiated her loan to keep the home.

The house '... is not in foreclosure and has NOT been seized by the bank,' Richardson, a Democrat from Long Beach, said in a statement. 'I have worked with my lender to complete a loan modification and have renegotiated the terms of the agreement -- with no special provisions.' (Richardson's entire statement is at the bottom of this article).

Earlier, Capitol Weekly reported that Richardson walked away from the mortgage on her $535,000 Sacramento home, letting the house slip into foreclosure and disrepair less than two years after she bought it with no money down.

'While being elevated to Congress in a 2007 special election, Richardson apparently stopped making payments on her new Sacramento home, and eventually walked awa…

Good Night, Don't Sleep Tight

I wonder if this explains liberals whose worries about the welfare of others keeps them up at night. Being deprived of sleep even for one night makes the brain unstable and prone to sudden shutdowns akin to a power failure - brief lapses that hover between sleep and wakefulness, according to researchers.

'It's as though it is both asleep and awake and they are switching between each other very rapidly,' said David Dinges of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, whose study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

'Imagine you are sitting in a room watching a movie with the lights on. In a stable brain, the lights stay on all the time. In a sleepy brain, the lights suddenly go off,' Dinges said.

The findings suggest that people who are sleep-deprived alternate between periods of near-normal brain function and dramatic lapses in attention and visual processing.The lights are on but nobody's home? Hillary Clinton must be an insomniac.

Burn Witch Burn

Would this have happened to Elizabeth Montgomery? A rampaging mob in western Kenya burnt 15 women accused of witchcraft to death, a local official and villagers told AFP Wednesday.

'This is unacceptable. People must not take the law into their own hands simply because they suspected someone,' said Mwangi Ngunyi, the head of Nyamaiya district. 'We will hunt the suspects down,' he added.

The gang of about 100 people moved from house to house late Tuesday, tied up their victims and set them ablaze, the official said.

Ngunyi added that the mob also torched 50 houses in Nyakeo village, located some 300 kilometres (180 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.

'I can't believe my wife of many years would be killed so brutally by people who cannot prove their case even before God,' said Enoch Obiero, a pastor.

'My mother has always been a role model to the entire village and why the mob had to kill her will remain a mystery to me forever,' lamented 32-year-old E…

Sexy Shake

And now we have...disaster porn?Beijing - A Chinese magazine has been shut down for printing pictures of scantily clad women posing in rubble for a special report on the country's devastating earthquake, officials said on Wednesday.

The New Travel Weekly, a small lifestyle magazine, ran photos of sultry models in their underwear amid the debris in an issue that hit the stands on Monday - the first of three days of national mourning.

The press and publication department of the southwestern city of Chongqing, where the magazine was based, said it decided to close the magazine down for 'rectification'.

The department said the magazine 'seriously violated propaganda discipline and went against social morals' and the report constituted an 'extremely evil social influence.'It may be bad taste, but evil social influence? That's a word that American fundamentalists are prone to use.

No Carbons Allowed

Now there's even less of a reason for companies to come to San Francisco. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District's board of directors on Wednesday approved new rules to charge businesses a fee for the pollution they emit.

The group's board of directors voted 15-1 on unprecedented new rules that will impose fees on factories, power plants, oil refineries and other businesses that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

The agency, which regulates air pollution in the nine-county Bay Area, will be the first in the country to charge companies fees based on their greenhouse gas emissions, experts say. The new rules will take effect July 1.

The modest fee -- 4.4 cents per ton of carbon dioxide -- probably won't be enough to force companies to reduce their emissions, but backers say it sets an important precedent in combating climate change and could serve as a model for regional air districts nationwide.What about the massive amounts of carbons being emitted b…