Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Grand Illusion

Shelby Steele looks at the fantasy of Obama versus the real thing:
The old fashioned, big government liberalism that Mr. Obama uses to make himself history-making also alienates him in the center-right America of today. It makes him the most divisive president in memory—a president who elicits narcissistic identification on the one hand and an enraged tea party movement on the other. His health-care victory has renewed his narcissistic charge for the moment, but if he continues to be a 1965 liberal it will become more and more impossible for Americans to see themselves in him.

Mr. Obama's success has always been ephemeral because it was based on an illusion: that if we Americans could transcend race enough to elect a black president, we could transcend all manner of human banalities and be on our way to human perfectibility. A black president would put us in a higher human territory. And yet the poor man we elected to play out this fantasy is now torturing us with his need to reflect our grandiosity back to us.
The danger of living out a fantasy is that once you start to believe it, reality becomes the enemy.

Let There Be Protons

We're getting closer to recreating the Big Bang:
The world's largest atom smasher threw together minuscule particles racing at unheard of speeds in conditions simulating those just after the Big Bang - a success that kick-started a megabillion-dollar experiment that could one day explain how the universe began.

Scientists cheered Tuesday's historic crash of two proton beams, which produced three times more energy than researchers had created before and marked a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider.

"This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 - what happened in the beginning," physicist Michio Kaku told The Associated Press.

"This is a Genesis machine. It'll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe."
Pretty cool. But what about the Genesis Wave?

Angry White Losers

The recent bust of a Christian militia group does not seem to indicate a return to the 90's after all:
There's a lot of anger out there. But the alleged plot by Midwestern militants and violent outbursts by scattered individuals don't signal any coming wave of extremist violence, federal investigators say.

There's more fizzle than fight among self-styled militias and other groups right now, they say, and little chance of a return to the organized violence that proved so deadly in the 1990s.

Militia extremist statements "primarily have served as an expression of anger after a particular event," according to an FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press. "The FBI assesses the likelihood of violent conflict from the remaining group members or other militia extremists as low."
Basically, they seem to be lost losers who like to fantasize about Armageddon. So much for the second civil war.

Drill, Barack, Drill

Has Obama finally gained some common sense?
The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean.

Under the plan, the coastline from New Jersey northward would remain closed to all oil and gas activity. So would the Pacific Coast, from Mexico to the Canadian border.

The environmentally sensitive Bristol Bay in southwestern Alaska would be protected and no drilling would be allowed under the plan, officials said. But large tracts in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska — nearly 130 million acres — would be eligible for exploration and drilling after extensive studies.
If he is sincere about this, then this is a big deal and a good start. Of course, it will turn all the Hollywood types whose ocean views would be spoiled against him-or, knowing that they opposed this when McCain suggested it, maybe not.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rove's War

Karl Rove meets the freaks:
Former White House chief of staff Karl Rove was heckled and branded a "war criminal' at a book signing in Beverly Hills, California, on Monday night.

Rove, who served as senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President Bush, was at the Saban Theater to discuss his new book, "Courage and Consequences: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight," to an audience of about 100 people who paid up to $40 to hear him.

But the audience members were unable to get their copies of the book signed after Rove was shouted down and forced to leave the stage, reported CNN affiliate KCAL-TV.

The event was heated from the onset as several anti-war protesters interrupted Rove's talk to accuse him and the Bush administration of lying to Americans about the threat Iraq posed to the United States -- and thus, taking the country into war.

Rove called one heckler a "lunatic." He told another to "get the heck out of here."

Rove, who defended his administration's stance on several controversial issues in heated exchanges with other critics, said the interruptions reflected the "totalitarianism of the left."

"They don't believe in dialogue. They don't believe in courtesy. They don't believe in First Amendment rights for anyone but themselves," he said.
But they're "tolerant," unlike those violent conservatives.

Holy Lovin'

Apparently American evangelists aren't the only ones who know the art of "Laying of hands":
A Hindu holy man in India has denied any wrongdoing, days after video emerged apparently showing him engaging in sexual acts with two women.

A spokesman for Nithyananda Swami said he was at the Kumbh Mela festival and would soon "clear the air".

In a video released on Sunday, the guru said he had done nothing illegal and the scandal was "a false campaign".

His ashram near the southern city of Bangalore was vandalised last week after TV channels broadcast the video.

In a message on his official website on Sunday, the guru asked his followers to remain calm and patient.

"I assure all of you that nothing illegal has been done by me or my organisation. We are in the process of collecting evidence to establish this lie and the motive behind this false campaign," he said.
I'm sure the ladies he was with will testify to that...

Dude, Where's Our Pork-The Health Care Edition

Now that they've sold out, they want to get paid:
The 11 House Democrats led by Rep. Bart Stupak who dropped their opposition to health care reform legislation mere hours before the final vote have requested $3.4 billion in earmarks -- and one watchdog group wants to know whether the money represents business as usual or political payoffs.

The Sunlight Foundation says it plans to track the earmark requests, which were put in one day after health care reform cleared Congress, to see whether they're approved and whether it appears lawmakers are being rewarded for their vote.

"We know that in Congress one of the ways that leadership tries to influence members is through earmarks," said Bill Allison, editorial director at the nonpartisan organization. "So this seemed to us something good to follow."

Stupak and the 10 other Democrats were critical to the success of the health care bill. They were holding out over concerns about funding for abortion coverage but announced the president had assuaged their worries -- with an executive order restricting abortion funding -- the morning of the big vote.

Stupak's office said there's absolutely no link between the earmarks and the health care bill's passage.

"The congressman's vote for health care has no connection to annual appropriations requests," spokeswoman Michelle Benoche said. "Appropriations requests were submitted on Monday, March 22, because that is the deadline of the Appropriations Committee."
Whatever you say, Mr. Stupak...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Witness For The Climate Change Defense

When all else fails, bring in the lawyers.
Environmentalists, unable to squeeze "cap and trade" rules through the U.S. Senate, have a new strategy for combating what they believe is man-made global warming:

They're going to sue.

They're revving up their briefs and getting ready to shop for judges who will be sympathetic to their novel claim that the companies they believe contribute to global warming are a "public nuisance."

The environmentalists allege that individual companies are responsible for climate change because they have emitted greenhouse gases during the course of their operations. Those gases, they say, have "harmed" them by fostering Hurricane Katrina, eroding the shorelines of America's coasts and causing global warming.

"People have a right to sue for redress of grievances," said Lee A. DeHihns III, a partner with law firm Alston & Bird's environmental and land development group and a former associate general counsel with the EPA. He said global warming is a "public nuisance," just like a neighbor with a loud stereo. "You can sue for an intentional infliction of harm, a nuisance," said DeHihns, whose firm is consulting with plaintiffs pursuing these cases.
People who are willing to be conned generally get what they deserve, too.

Just Your Everyday, Average Fanatics

There's more info on those so-called "Christians" who got busted by the Feds:
Seven members of an anti-government militia group were arraigned in federal court here on Monday, charged with conspiring to kill a law-enforcement official in hopes of starting a "war" against the U.S. government.

Two others who were arrested over the weekend have yet to appear in court, and a 10th person believed involved in the matter remains at large.

The seven who were arraigned in court today were ordered held without bond until further hearings later this week. Arrests took place over the weekend, primarily Michigan, along with two in Ohio and another of an Indiana man who had fled to Illinois.

The group, known as Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified local law-enforcement official in April and then attack local, state and federal officers who come to Michigan to attend the official's funeral, the U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of Michigan said in a statement.
It always bugs me when people on the right who should know better point to left wing violence when groups like these get caught, as if that somehow excuses their behavior. These people aren't the victims of a government conspiracy; they're homegrown terrorists and should be treated as such. So, good for the FBI on this one. Real conservatives know criminals when they see them, and aren't afraid to identify them as such.

In Da Club

I'd say it was money well spent:
The Republican National Committee say it's getting back nearly $2,000 that it reimbursed to a member for a night out at a bondage-themed night club in West Hollywood.

Doug Heye, a spokesman for the RNC, on Monday would not say who the donor was, but announced the committee got a commitment that the cash would be returned.

"The RNC has not only requested that that money that was sent out as a reimbursement be repaid by the member but we've got the commitment that will be done," Heye told Fox News.

Earlier in the day, Heye issued a statement after the Daily Caller reported that the organization reimbursed a member $1,946 for a February trip to Voyeur, a risque nightclub recently featured in The Los Angeles Times as the new hotspot.

"I don't know the person specifically. I know there are a lot of (Federal Election Commission) reports that people are going through trying to determine that. I just know from a conversation I had with a colleague that we got a commitment that that money will be returned," he said.
No word yet on whether or not this was "Research" in the ongoing Culture Wars...

Stupid Human Democracy

According to James Lovelock, we is dumb:
Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
A neocon environmentalist? Would he put violators in a Green Gitmo? I suppose you could say that at least he was an honest lefty in saying that he thought democracy didn't work.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Books For Boys

How to improve boys' reading skills? Give them stuff they might actually like:
Some educators say that one remedy may be to encourage lowbrow, adventure or even gross-out books that disproportionately appeal to boys. (I confess that I was a huge fan of the Hardy Boys, and then used them to entice my own kids into becoming avid readers as well.)

Indeed, the more books make parents flinch, the more they seem to suck boys in. A Web site,, offers useful lists of books to coax boys into reading, and they are helpfully sorted into categories like “ghosts,” “boxers, wrestlers, ultimate fighters,” and “at least one explosion.”
Hmm. Maybe books about exploding Hardy boys fighting pro wrestlers as ghosts?

Guns For Jesus

We'll see what comes of this:
The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.

Federal warrants were sealed, but a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said some of those arrested face gun charges and officials are pursuing other suspects.

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said there had been activity in two southeast Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. She wouldn't say whether they were tied to the raids in the other states.

Michael Lackomar, a spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said one of his team leaders got a frantic phone call Saturday evening from members of Hutaree, a Christian militia group, who said their property in southwest Michigan was being raided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"They said they were under attack by the ATF and wanted a place to hide," Lackomar said. "My team leader said, 'no thanks.' "

The team leader was cooperating with the FBI on Sunday, Lackomar said. He said SMVM wasn't affiliated with Hutaree, which states on its Web site to be "prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't."

"We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ," the group's Web site said. "Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.

An e-mail sent to the group by The Associated Press wasn't returned Sunday, and phone numbers for the group's leadership were not immediately available.
These groups are a thorn in the side of legitimate protest. I'm glad the FBI was paying attention in this case.

Petty Denial

The Pope is standing his ground:
Pope Benedict, facing one of the gravest crises of his pontificate as a sexual abuse scandal sweeps the Church, indicated on Sunday that his faith would give him the courage not to be intimidated by critics.

The 82-year-old pontiff led tens of thousands of people in a sunny St. Peter's Square in a Palm Sunday service at the start of Holy Week events commemorating the last days in Jesus's life.

While he did not directly mention the scandal involving sexual abuse of children by priests, parts of his sermon could be applicable to the crisis he and the Roman Catholic Church are facing.

The pontiff said faith in God helps lead one "toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion."

He also spoke of how man can sometimes "fall to the lowest, vulgar levels" and "sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty.
I'm sorry, but when he says stuff like this, it only makes him look more out of touch. With all due respect, your Holiness, it's the coverup that's your problem, not the "Gossip".

Tax, Clown, Tax

I know taxing in this country is a three-ring circus, but this is riduculous:
In June, voters in Maine will decide whether to accept a state overhaul of its tax system that would newly tax services like tailor alterations, blimp rides, and entertainment provided by clowns, comedians and jugglers.

Though some say the proposed service taxes face opposition too fierce to succeed in many places, particularly in an election year, even some of the most ardent opponents predict that some of the taxes will scrape through. The current budget misery will probably “push the idea over the edge” in at least some states, said Robert D. Fowler, president and chief executive of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“And they won’t be any better off for it, either,” said Mr. Fowler, who added that his members detested the notion. “It’s the wrong time, in the heat of just trying anything to find money, to have this discussion.
Somehow, I don't think the real clowns are the ones being taxed...

The Flip Side Of "Victory"

A warning for Republicans: if you do win, don't go back to your old ways:
In the final years of GOP control, all we saw was big spending and even bigger government.

In fact, if he chose to, President Obama could plausibly claim that he has simply continued GOP-era big government. After all, Bush and the GOP establishment gave us the unfunded prescription drug benefit program, bailouts for Wall Street and the auto industry, an attempted big government ban on online poker (legislation that even forced banks to act as an unpaid arm of the Justice Department), and huge budget deficits.

Big government is the problem, not the solution. Most conservatives have seen the light. We have seen the corrupting impact of big government. We have lived it, and we would rather protect our values from big government than entrust big government with them.

If we want to preserve the next electoral victory for limited government conservatism, we will all need to hold the GOP to its promises. We will need to tell our lawmakers that we demand liberty. We will need to tell them that their cushy seats on Capitol Hill will be at risk EVERY time they even hint at voting for more government. We will need to tell them that we no longer accept lip service.
The Republicans have a good shot at renewal this year. The question is, will they remember the lessons of the last two elections?

Don't Bring A Gun To A Knife Fight

On the subject of violent rhetoric, it seems Obama himself has joined the fray:
What does political wisdom say about bringing a gun to a knife fight?

That’s exactly what Barack Obama said he would do to counter Republican attacks “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” Obama said at a Philadelphia fundraiser Friday night. “Because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.”

The comment drew some laughs and applause. But it also struck a chord with his Republican rival. John McCain’s campaign immediately accused the Democratic candidate of playing the politics of fear. They also mentioned that Obama said he would use a gun that would be illegal under Obama’s plans to cut down on illegal firearms.

“Barack Obama’s call for ‘new politics’ is officially over. In just 24 hours, Barack Obama attacked one of America’s pioneering women CEOs, rejected a series of joint bipartisan town halls, and said that if there’s a political knife fight, he’d bring a gun,” McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement.
Maybe he's just keeping up with his side's traditions. After all, it's given them something to point fingers about. Maybe it's why Harry Reid went target shooting. I guess he wanted to be bitter and clinging while he can.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Debt Farm

Victor Davis Hanson laments:
The United States is floating far more loans than ever before in peacetime, and for longer scheduled durations, because interest rates are only a quarter of what they have been in the past. But this theory that we can endlessly multiply the size of our debt because the service costs remain low and static is a prescription for disaster — like the credit-card introductory offer of 2 to 3 percent for 6 months that hooks the naive into charging thousands of dollars, only to end up without the means to service the debt when the rate climbs over 20 percent. For a technocracy that is Ivy League certified and brags about its competency, we have fallen into the age-old trap that snares the naive ARM house buyer, the teenaged MasterCard mega-borrower, and the "free" coupon holder who heads headlong to Vegas.

That we are borrowing now at cheap interest hundreds of billions for things that are unnecessary or counterproductive will only make it worse, psychologically, when we have to pay it all back with high interest.It reminds me of the boom-to-bust neighbor who bought his superfluous super-duper, hydra-headed, metallic red-painted hydraulic vine-cutter with easy farm loans in the late 1970s and, when headed for bankruptcy in the 1980s, looked at the now rusted, useless contraption in his barnyard and sighed to me, "And I'm still paying 17 percent on that sucker!"
And now our country has turned into that guy. As the Greeks are learning (even if they don't want to admit it) there is no such thing as a free ride.

Biker's Delight

Guess whom Obama's Transportation Secretary says is more important than daily drivers?
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced a “major policy revision” that aims to give bicycling and walking the same policy and economic consideration as driving.

“Today I want to announce a sea change,” he wrote on his blog last week. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”

The new policy, which was introduced a few days after Mr. LaHood gave a well-received speech from atop a table at the National Bike Summit, is said to reflect the Transportation Department’s support for the development of fully integrated transportation networks.

It calls on state and local governments to go beyond minimum planning and maintenance requirements to provide convenient and safe amenities for bikers and walkers. “Walking and biking should not be an afterthought in roadway design,” the policy states.

Not surprisingly, the news had bike enthusiasts excited.

“It is simply the strongest statement of support for prioritizing bicycling and walking ever to come from a sitting secretary of transportation,” said Darren Flusche, policy analyst for the League of American Bicyclists.

Nonetheless, some business groups have expressed concern that giving walking and biking the same policy considerations as other transportation modes, as Mr. LaHood recommended, would impede progress on other fronts.

“Treating bicycles and other nonmotorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put it into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.”

At a House appropriations committee hearing last week, Congressman Steven LaTourette, Republican of Ohio, brought up the new policy and asked a Transportation Department official to clarify what Mr. LaHood means by “equal treatment.”

“If we’re going to spend $1 million on a road, we’re not going to have half of it go to a bike lane and half of it go to cars?” he asked, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Maybe they could just have bike roads-that way the rest of the world that drives wouldn't have to worry about hitting them...

Opposite Anger

Sarah Palin says she and other Obamacare opponents aren't going away. Fair enough, although Elizabeth Hasselbeck has a point when it comes to Palin's tactics:
"This hasn't been a great week in terms of, I think, the Constitution and where it says that you're supposed to, you know, everybody is, has a mandate to have insurance. But I think the way some Republicans are handling this is nothing more than purely despicable," Hasselbeck said. "The names that are next to and being highlighted by those crosshairs -- I think it's an abuse of the Second Amendment. I also feel as though every single person on here is a mother, a father, a friend, a brother, a sister, and to take it to this level is -- it's disappointing to see this come from the Party, and I would hope that leaders like Sarah Palin would end this."
Of course, this doesn't change the fact that the looney left are no strangers to violence themselves, only that it doesn't excuse similar tactics-or borderline calls for violence-from the right. Outrage is one thing-committing a crime because of it is something else.

Thou Shalt Have Insurance

As everyone knows, there's an insurance mandate in the health care reform bill. So what happens if you don't want any?
If you ignore this mandate and don’t get health insurance, you’ll have to pay a tax penalty to the federal government, beginning in 2014. This fine starts fairly small, but by the time it is fully phased in, in 2016, it is substantial.

An insurance-less person would have to pony up whichever is greater: $695 for each uninsured family member, up to a maximum of $2,085; or 2.5 percent of household income.

There are exceptions. Certain people with religious objections would not have to get health insurance. Nor would American Indians, illegal immigrants, or people in prison.
Hmm. Maybe if I joined a tribe and committed a felony...

Yes, it's subsidization. And it's selective subsidization of the "sharing the wealth" variety. Whatever other merits health care reform might have, this is the sort of thing that would get people angry, again. Of course, the Democrats could always accuse them of being racists and extremists.

In The Dark

In case you forgot:
Environmentalist groups and celebrities are celebrating “Earth Hour” tonight. They ask that you turn your lights out for an hour, to call attention to global warming. Folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggest that “this sends the wrong message — to plunge us all into darkness as a rejection of technology and human achievement.” In fact, they point out that it’s Earth Hour every night in North Korea, where people lack basic freedoms, as well as affordable, reliable access to many human achievements, such as electricity.
I guess it shows how little I care that I didn't remember. Or maybe I just like living in the modern world.

Fair Weather Stimulus

So how's that stimulus working out?
After a year of crippling delays, President Barack Obama's $5 billion program to install weather-tight windows and doors has retrofitted a fraction of homes and created far fewer construction jobs than expected.

In Indiana, state-trained workers flubbed insulation jobs. In Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, the program has yet to produce a single job or retrofit one home. And in California, a state with nearly 37 million residents, the program at last count had created 84 jobs.

The program was a hallmark of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a way to shore up the economy while encouraging people to conserve energy at home. But government rules about how to run what was deemed to be a ''shovel-ready'' project, including how much to pay contractors and how to protect historic homes during renovations, have thwarted chances at early success, according to an Associated Press review of the program.

''It seems like every day there is a new wrench in the works that keeps us from moving ahead,'' said program manager Joanne Chappell-Theunissen. She has spent the past several months mailing in photographs of old houses in rural Michigan to meet federal historic preservation rules. ''We keep playing catch-up.''

The stimulus package gave a jolt to the decades-old federal Weatherization Assistance Program. Weatherization money flows from Washington to the states, where it is passed to local nonprofits that hire contractors to spread insulation and install efficient heaters in people's homes.
In other words, the government program got the money, they just didn't really do anything with it. So, according to the Washington definition of success, maybe it did work, after all.

Uncle Obama Wants You

What, no more czars?
Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment.

The move immediately deepened the divide between the Democratic president and Republicans in the Senate following a long, bruising fight over health care. Obama revealed his decision by blistering Republicans, accusing them of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him.

"I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government," Obama said in a statement.

The 15 appointees to boards and agencies include the contentious choice of union lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Republicans had blocked his nomination on grounds he would bring a radical pro-union agenda to the job, and they called on Obama not to appoint Becker over the recess.

Obama went ahead anyway, while also choosing a second member for the labor board so that four of its five slots will be filled. The labor board, which referees labor-management disputes, has had a majority of its seats vacant for more than two years, raising questions about the legality of its rulings.

Overall, the appointments will take place through next week, allowing people to make the transition to their new jobs, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. said. The news of Becker's appointment drew the quickest ire from Republicans.

"Once again the administration showed that it had little respect for the time honored constitutional roles and procedures of Congress," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama's foe in the 2008 presidential election. "This is clear payback by the administration to organized labor."
Well, he did say that he didn't care what the procedural rules in the House and Senate were...

Tag Team

Just what is going on with Obama and Israel these days? Glenn Reynolds wonders:
I think Obama expects Israel to strike Iran, and wants to put distance between the United States and Israel in advance of that happening. (Perhaps he even thinks that treating Israel rudely will provoke such a response, saving him the trouble of doing anything about Iran himself, and avoiding the risk that things might go wrong if he does). On the most optimistic level, maybe this whole thing is a sham, and the U.S. is really helping Israel strike Iran, with this as distraction.
I'd say that's a fair bet, and that Obama might be saying "Gotcha!" to Ima Dinnerjacket soon.

Friday, March 26, 2010

And Thus It Begins

We'll see how well this works out:
Rupert Murdoch's attempt to reshape the landscape for online news will begin in June, with the websites of The Times and its sister publication, The Sunday Times, retreating behind a paywall.

The News Corp chairman's decision will be accompanied by the removal of Times stories from Google News search results within a few months.

The Times is the first general news UK newspaper to announce charges for access to its online content, in time for the football World Cup but probably after the UK general election.

Mr Murdoch's experiment will be watched by other news proprietors, many of whom are considering similar moves in the wake of falling advertising demand and lower circulations as readers migrate online.

A senior Guardian executive told the Financial Times yesterday that it planned to introduce a monthly charge for its iPhone application.

"We'll enhance the app, and then the whole aim will be to get that on monthly subscription because it has been amazingly successful and . . . a fantastic experiment," the executive said.
Because it was such a great idea for these guys, right?

Going, Going, Gone

Well, that settles that:
An island in the Bay of Bengal is believed to have disappeared because of rising sea levels caused by climate change, according to the Indian Express.

The island, called New Moore or Purbasha by Indians and South Talpatti by Bangladeshis because of competing territorial claims between the two nations, has vanished into the ocean, Sugata Hazra, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta has found.

There were no permanent settlements on the 2-mile long and 1.8-mile wide isle, which sat at the mouth of a river, the Hariabhanga, between Bangladesh and India. The island is located in a delta prone to floods and its highest elevation was about six feet.

The disappearance of the island appears to have settled the dispute between Bangladesh and India. It comes as a study funded by two United States agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation, published this month in Geophysical Research Letters said loss of ice in Greenland, where 20 percent of the world's ice is frozen, has increased since 2005.
Maybe it just got tired of being caught in the middle...

After The Outrage Has Gone

So what happens once cooler heads prevail?
History suggests there is a better chance the passions over the country's new health care regime will cool with an alacrity that seems unthinkable amid the clenched fists and snarling insults of the recent debate.

This has been a familiar pattern since New Deal days: Government programs from Social Security to Medicare that were launched amid incendiary arguments within a short time became sacrosanct — protected by a bipartisan consensus that was nowhere to be found at passage.

In fact, historians of social programs see no correlation between the intensity of controversy at the birth of a program and its ultimate popularity.

There simply aren't many precedents of new entitlement programs being undone once passed. One reason is that these programs build up a broad constituency of beneficiaries who make it hard to change, let alone eliminate, a program, sometimes regardless of cost. Think Medicare. Think Social Security.

Now, think health reform, which is designed to offer access to insurance to 32 million people — meaning that a total of 95 percent of all Americans would be insured when the program is in full swing. That's 32 million people who someday may look back at Democrats at the party that helped them get health insurance — or at least that's what Democrats hope.

"I think that's what the Republicans were frightened of," said Marmor. "They think President Obama has a chance of making health care reform do for him" and perhaps for the Democratic Party what "the Social Security Act of 1935 did for FDR".
It's a valid point, and something Republicans will have to deal with. If the bill is popular after all-and parts of it will be, with many people-then the GOP will have to acknowledge that and fin ways to make the bill better, not just go away. Because if history is any indication, it won't anytime soon.

Let's Work Together

Allawi has won big in Iraq's latest election:
The former interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, a secular Shiite once derided as an American puppet, galvanized the votes of Sunnis who sat out Iraq’s first national elections and clawed his way back from political obscurity. But his wafer-thin edge of 91 to 89 over his nearest rival, the incumbent prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, falls far short of the majority of 163 of the 325 seats in parliament that he needs to form a government.

A jubilant Mr. Allawi said he would work with any group that was willing to join him in forming a government. “We will not exclude anyone,” he said. “Our coalition is open to all.”
Allawi led the secularists, which should send a message to some of our own politicians. Michael Hanna is worried, while the Economist is cautiously optimistic. Whatever happens, it's a clearer sign than ever that Iraq's future is in its own hands now, and that's a good thing.

Men In Green

James Pethokoukis suggests a conspiracy theory that's actually for the greater good:
Raters have been intentionally insouciant so as not to incur the wrath of Congress as it fashions new regulations for the firms. U.S. debt-to-GDP may hit 90 percent by 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also says that Social Security, which accounts for 16 percent of the government’s $46 trillion in long-term liabilities, will in 2010 for the first time pay out more in benefits it takes in from taxes. That is six year earlier than predicted. The slow economy is the near-term cause. But the event marks a key milestone in the program’s long descent toward insolvency. Benefit cuts and tax hikes seem inevitable. But those will lower an already paltry rate of return, especially for younger workers.

Letting Americans shift at least some of their government-directed savings into the real economy would generate a bigger nest egg. This is done in Chile and Sweden, for instance. Yes, stocks are risky. But the market ultimately reflect the real economy. If it booms, so will portfolios. And if doesn’t, Social Security is in even deeper trouble. If there isn’t a conspiracy, someone should hatch one.
Well, some liberals do like to talk about economic "Theory". Let's see if they'd be willing to give this one a chance.

The End

When it's over, it's over.
Congressional Democrats sent the final piece of landmark health care legislation to President Barack Obama before heading home to face a skeptical — and sometimes even threatening — electorate.

The last legislative chapter in the wrenching national debate over Obama's health overhaul plan came Thursday night in the House, as Democrats approved — for the second time — a package of fixes to the sweeping health bill Obama signed two days earlier. The measure includes better benefits for seniors and low-income and middle-class families.

In the hours ahead of the vote lawmakers reported isolated threats of violence from a volatile public.

The vote was 220-207, as majority Democrats prevailed despite 32 defections and no Republican support. The same bill had passed the Senate earlier in the day 56-43, with all voting Republicans and three Democrats voting "no."

Obama was expected to sign the measure early next week.

The fix-it bill was slightly changed by the Senate from a version that passed the House last weekend, necessitating Thursday night's second vote by the House because both chambers must approve identical legislation before the president can sign it.

"This is the last step we must take to make health reform a reality for millions of Americans," said Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.
Whatever you might think, this was a win for them. Republicans would be better suited to coming up with actual arguments (some of which they actually had in the past) against the bill rather than hollering about armageddon for the next few months. One could only hope.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monsoon Spread

Call it spreading the industrialization around:
Pollution from Asia's booming economies rises into the stratosphere during the monsoon season then circles the world for years, according to a report out Thursday.
A study by the Boulder, Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said the strong air circulation patterns linked to Asia's monsoon rainy season serves as a pathway for black carbon, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants to rise into the stratosphere.

The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere located some 32 to 40 kilometers (20 to 25 miles) above the Earth's surface.

"The monsoon is one of the most powerful atmospheric circulation systems on the planet, and it happens to form right over a heavily polluted region," said NCAR scientist William Randel, the study's lead author.

"As a result, the monsoon provides a pathway for transporting pollutants up to the stratosphere."
Once again, we're not necessarily the biggest polluters on the planet. The biggest carbon footprints are being left behind elsewhere.

Freedom of Supress

I'm sure this is going to make Sean Penn happy. Meanwhile, Steve Forbes is worried about Chavez's American admirers trying the same thing in the U.S.:
Their latest plan to defacto nationalize the media calls for the federal government to bail out newspapers with $60 billion in new government subsidies. As anyone familiar with Washington knows, money does not come free: Such subsidies will virtually invite the government into the fourth estate as overseers. Richard Nixon must be rubbing his eyes in disbelief. But Free Press tells us not to worry. Such media reform will have safeguards in place to protect the freedom of the press from government influence.

So how committed is Free Press to enforcing such safeguards once the government is invited into the media business? Judging from McChesney’s defense of Chavez’s media crackdown in Venezuela, not much.
It looks like they might already have the tools to do this. Of course, it wouldn't really be a government takeover; just a "Bailout." All in the name of fairness, of course.

First Class Warfare

You'll be happy to know that our elected officials enjoyed their vacation on your dime:
The Washington Times reports that last year $13 billion in tax dollars was spent to pamper "public servants" on trips that double as vacation junkets.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, frequently sent employees overseas on first- or business-class airplane tickets that cost taxpayers up to $10,000 each...

Likewise, agencies spend millions sending employees to private industry trade shows that just happen to be in resort locations such as Las Vegas. The Department of Commerce spent $7.5 million on conferences of this sort in 2007.
Being lazy is hard work...

Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey

The TSA is on the job:
# When the handler and service monkey go through the walk through metal detector and the detector alarms, both the handler and the monkey must undergo additional screening.

# Since service monkeys may likely draw attention, the handler will be escorted to the physical inspection area where a table is available for the monkey to sit on. Only the handler will touch or interact with the service monkey.

# Security Officers have been trained to not touch the service monkey during the screening process.

# Security Officers will conduct a visual inspection on the service monkey and will coach the handler on how to hold the monkey during the visual inspection.
It's good to know they're keeping the skies safe from exploding apes, isn't it?

A Note On Anger

Drudge has a spate of stories about threats of violence being levied against Dems. And while I find this poll somewhat skewed, to say the least, I have no doubt that there are many on the fringe who feel this way, as evidenced by the birther nonsense we saw during the 2008 campaign.

If you don't like the bill, then vote the sellouts who voted for it out of office. Aside from being illegal, this kind of behavior only adds to liberal stereotypes of conservatives as crackpots. If you're that angry, then take a pill and calm down. Otherwise, you belong in Gitmo along with the other terrorists.

Boob Bombs

Now this is what I call an act of desperation:
Female homicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.

The shocking new Al Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women's breasts during plastic surgery — making them "virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines."

It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain's leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male bombers.

"Women suicide bombers recruited by Al Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery," Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims.
So what do we do now? Ban breast implants on planes?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Believe It Or Not, It's Just Me

And another icon leaves the set:
Robert Culp, the veteran actor best known for starring with Bill Cosby in the classic 1960s espionage-adventure series "I Spy" and for playing Bob in the 1969 movie "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," died Wednesday morning. He was 79.

Culp fell and hit his head while taking a walk outside his Hollywood Hills home. He was found by a jogger who called 911 and was pronounced dead at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, said Lt. Bob Binder of the Los Angeles Police Department. An autopsy is pending.

"My mind wants to flow into sadness, but I want to stay above that," Cosby told The Times on Wednesday.

"Those of us who are the firstborn always dream of that imaginary brother or sister who will be their protector, the buffer, the one to take the blows," Cosby said. "I'm a firstborn, and Bob was the answer to my dreams. He was the big brother that all of us wish for."

Longtime friend Hugh Hefner, who was introduced to Culp by Cosby in the 1960s, said he was "absolutely stunned" by the actor's death.

"He was one of my best friends," Hefner told The Times on Wednesday.

Culp was a regular at a weekly gathering of friends at the Playboy Mansion.

"He was very much like he appeared to be," Hefner said. "He's the one who came up with the tongue-in-cheek motto for when the guys got together: 'Gentlemen, gentlemen, be of good cheer, for they are out there and we are in here.' "

In a six-decade career in which he was best known for his work on television, Culp first came to fame as the star of the TV western "Trackdown," which ran on CBS from 1957 to 1959 and featured Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman.

He later played FBI Agent Bill Maxwell on the 1981-83 ABC series "The Greatest American Hero."

But for TV fans of a certain age, Culp is best remembered for “I Spy.”
I only remember "I Spy" from reruns, but I did watch "The Greatest American Hero" each week. He was also in the classic Outer Limits episode "Demon With A Glass Hand." Here he is, talking about the former. R.I.P.

Google The Almighty

The war of words between China and Google is heating up.
China's state media on Wednesday slammed Google after it effectively shut down its Chinese search engine, saying the US Internet giant was "not god" and accusing it of working with US intelligence.

The newspapers said the company had made a huge mistake in the world's largest online market and would earn little sympathy from Chinese users, as it had politicised its dispute with Beijing over web censorship and cyberattacks.

Google on Monday stopped filtering search results in China and re-routed traffic from to an uncensored site in Hong Kong, but said it would maintain its sales and research and development teams on the mainland.

"For Chinese people, Google is not god, and even if it puts on a show of politics and values, it is still not god," said the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's mouthpiece.

"In fact, Google is not chaste when it comes to values. Its cooperation and collusion with the US intelligence and security agencies is well-known," it said in a front-page commentary.

The harsh newspaper commentaries came after officials in China and the United States had appeared keen to tamp down the fallout from the row, as they try to put relations back on track after months of tension.

China had angrily denounced Google's decision as "totally wrong" but the foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang later described it as a commercial case and should not influence Sino-US relations unless people tried to "politicise it."

The China Daily relished the "moment of peace" created by Google's decision, which came two months after it first said it had been the victim of cyberattacks originating in China and was no longer willing to bow to censors.
Considering that China started this little cyberwar in the first place, they should indeed "Relish the peace."

Expect The Unpredictable

In responding to Matt Yglesias, Julian Sanchez ponders the future of political coalitions:
Suppose Yglesias is at least this far correct: The next set of political battles are likely to be fought along a different value dimension than was health care reform. Precisely because these groups formed outside the party-centered coalitions, and assuming they outlast the controversies that catalyzed their creation, it’s hard to predict which way they’ll move on tomorrow’s controversies. It’s entirely possible that there are latent and dispersed constituencies for policy change outside the bipartisan mainstream who have now, crucially, been connected: Any overlap on orthogonal value dimensions within or between the new groups won’t necessarily be evident until the relevant values are triggered by a high-visibility policy debate. Still, it’s reason to expect that the next decade of American politics may be even more turbulent and surprising than the last one.
If the old party alignments are indeed being abandoned in favor of a more independent activism, then that's a good thing insofar as it helps people break away from general political groupthink. Activism with an independent streak is something that both parties will have to contend with-and ultimately want to court.

"I Think We Forgot Something"

Obamacare is for the children! Well, sort of:
Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

However, if a child is accepted for coverage, or is already covered, the insurer cannot exclude payment for treating a particular illness, as sometimes happens now. For example, if a child has asthma, the insurance company cannot write a policy that excludes that condition from coverage. The new safeguard will be in place later this year.
Well, with all the self-congratulations, it must have slipped their minds...

What Would Gandhi Do?

Is Obamacare going to be the next civil rights battlefield?
President Barack Obama came into office promising hope and change. But he might get more change than he hoped for. By foisting ObamaCare on a deeply unwilling country he might have set the stage for the largest civil disobedience movement since the civil rights era, which, if it plays its cards right, could undo his legislation and his legacy.

President Obama is fond of quoting Mahatma Gandhi's line that "we should be the change we want to see." But Gandhi also said that "civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state has become lawless and corrupt." Americans instinctively understand this which is why pockets of resistance to ObamaCare are already emerging. The question is only whether they can be constructively harnessed into a grassroots, Gandhi-style civil disobedience movement powerful enough to undo this monstrosity.
If it does, it would be truly ironic, wouldn't it?

Get Richer, Live Longer

Among its many other uses, having more money can add years to your life:
History teaches us that the wealth of a region and the longevity of its inhabitants go hand in hand. The societal and economic changes wrought across the 17th century in England, for example, show us that increased longevity leads to increased wealth, through more foresighted allocation of capital resources and the compounded effect of small gains, year after year. The converse is also true: increased wealth leads to increased longevity, a fact well illustrated by the passage of many Asian countries from undeveloped to developed in a short span of decades.
In other words, progress, prosperity, and longevity go hand in hand.

Bloggin' In The Years: 1989

Somebody's in a whole lot of trouble:
An uncertified officer was in command when the Exxon Valdez hit an undersea reef and began spilling 250,000 barrels of oil into Prince William Sound, a company official said today.

The official, Frank Iarossi, president of the Exxon Shipping Company, disclosed that the Valdez struck a first reef and sustained serious damage to her starboard tanks and hull about two miles before coming aground on a second rocky reef.

Mr. Iarossi said he did not know why Capt. Joseph Hazelwood of Huntington, L.I., had left the bridge shortly after midnight Friday morning, just before the crash, or why the third mate, Gregory Cousins of Tampa, Fla., was left in command.
So what was this guy supposed to be? The ship's designated navigator?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

God Is My Programmer

Are we really living inside a computer?
The universe is governed by the famously weird laws of quantum mechanics. Computers that operate using quantum bits (or qubits), such as those stored on individual electrons, inherit this weirdness: bits can read 0 and 1 simultaneously, and quantum computers can solve problems classical computers cannot.

Over the last two decades, a flourishing field of quantum information and computation has generated a wealth of experimental and theoretical tests of information processing at the quantum scale. Vedral is one of the luminaries in this field.

In Decoding Reality, Vedral argues that we should regard the entire universe as a gigantic quantum computer. Wacky as that may sound, it is backed up by hard science. The laws of physics show that it is not only possible for electrons to store and flip bits: it is mandatory. For more than a decade, quantum-information scientists have been working to determine just how the universe processes information at the most microscopic scale.
God is a computer geek? I wonder how many security patches he has to download...

Chili Bomb

It's literally a gas:
The Indian military has a new weapon against terrorism: the world's hottest chili.

After conducting tests, the military has decided to use the thumb-sized "bhut jolokia," or "ghost chili," to make tear gas-like hand grenades to immobilize suspects, defense officials said Tuesday.

The bhut jolokia was accepted by Guinness World Records in 2007 as the world's spiciest chili. It is grown and eaten in India's northeast for its taste, as a cure for stomach troubles and a way to fight the crippling summer heat.

It has more than 1,000,000 Scoville units, the scientific measurement of a chili's spiciness. Classic Tabasco sauce ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while jalapeno peppers measure anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000.

"The chili grenade has been found fit for use after trials in Indian defense laboratories, a fact confirmed by scientists at the Defense Research and Development Organization," Col. R. Kalia, a defense spokesman in the northeastern state of Assam, told The Associated Press.

"This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hide-outs," R. B. Srivastava, the director of the Life Sciences Department at the New Delhi headquarters of the DRDO said.
It's the future of warfare, where the chili cookout will be the next line of defense...

The Rove Factor

Now that he's won, will Obama go the Bush/Rove route in attacking his opponents?
In the Bush administration, this was standard practice. Any Democrat who resisted any component of a bill was accused of opposing the bill's objective. If you complained about labor provisions of the bill to establish a federal department of homeland security, Republicans said you were against homeland security. If you objected to part of the "Patriot Act," they said you were unpatriotic. If you criticized Bush's execution of the Iraq war, they said you were undermining our troops.

Obama has avoided this scorched-earth style of politics. But his advisers seem ready to try it. "Let them tell a child with a pre-existing condition, 'We don't think you should be covered,' " David Axelrod said of Republicans last night.
One of Obama's strengths has been in letting his foes spin their wheels and self-destruct in public while he took the high road. But that was also because he was able to crete a groundswell of goodwill in his defense. With the way the bill was passed, much of that good will has been lost. Obama may now be more encouraged to fight, but that also might make him seem more obstinate and intractible-you know, kind of like Bush.

Mandates For Thee, Not For Me

It's the old Washington double standard in action:
House GOP aides and the non-partisan Congressional Research Service believe health care legislation passed this week requires lawmakers to enroll in government-run insurance programs -- while exempting leadership staffers, many of whom were instrumental in crafting the bill.

Top staffers buzzed yesterday on an off-the-record Capitol Hill list-serv, citing the part of the mammoth legislation that deals with members of Congress. The federal government can only make available to members and their official staffs health plans created by the bill or offered through an exchange.

But a member's staff, in a subsection of the bill, is defined as "full-time and part-time employees employed by the official office of a Member of Congress, whether in Washington, DC or outside of Washington, DC." CRS has interpreted that clause to mean the bill applies only to a personal office, not to committee staff or leadership staff.

CRS reports are confidential unless a member of Congress makes one public. The interpretation of the legislation was provided to Hotline OnCall by a GOP aide involved in the list-serv on condition of anonymity.

The loophole for leadership staffers could impact thousands of Hill employees. There are 16 active leadership offices in the House and 26 in the Senate, according to the government transparency website LegiStorm. Some are small, with just a few employees. Others are much larger; Speaker Nancy Pelosi paid 54 employees a total of $1.1M in the last quarter of '09, while House Min. Leader John Boehner paid his 26 staffers a total of $721K in the same quarter.

Leaving out committee staffers means aides at the 24 standing House committees and the 20 Senate panels will each be exempted as well, if CRS's interpretation of the measure stands.
This sort of thing isn't new. But a loophole does not an excuse make. And when people notice this, they're going to ask why they shouldn't be exempt, as well.

My Son Is An Honors Student Whose Family Has Better Connections

How did Obama's Education Secretary do his job back home? The Chicago way:
Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

Often a sponsor's request was rejected. Principals responded that a student's scores were too low, or that the school was full. In other cases, the student hadn't even taken the required admissions test, and therefore could not be considered, according to the documents.

The list surfaced amid a federal probe and an internal investigation into admissions practices at the city's top high schools. Until Monday, the district had not revealed it had kept such a list.
Corruption. It's for the children.

A Weed Grows In Albany

Considering what Obama is foisting upon us, this makes sense:
Senate Democrats are counting on a pot of gold!

They want to legalize medical marijuana as a way to generate nearly $15 million in licensing fees to help plug the state's $9 billion budget gap.

"It is the right thing to do and there is revenue attached to it," said state Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan). Duane and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) are behind the plan to make it legal for folks with serious medical woes to score limited amounts of weed from state-certified distributors - or grow it themselves.

The Senate still needs to approve the provision, though Dems included revenue projections from the sale of medical marijuana in their 2010-2011 budget proposal.
With most New Yorkers supporting something like this, it seems to make sense that the Democrats would at least use it to offset their spending. Now, if only the Republicans who were against this had some common sense.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Next Crusade

Here it comes:
After a hard-fought victory on health care reform, President Barack Obama's allies in Congress are setting their sights on climate change -- but some on both sides are already crying foul.

Environmentalists hope Obama will seize on new political momentum to push forward climate legislation, though some observers question whether he would seek another divisive vote as November congressional elections approach.

Senator John Kerry, who has spearheaded climate legislation, said that White House officials can now "pour their energy and attention" into the issue after Sunday's down-to-the-wire vote on expanding health care coverage.

"In the wake of health care's passage, we have a strong case to make that this can be the next breakthrough legislative fight," the Massachusetts Democrat argued.
I wonder how many job offers and kickbacks Obama will have to promise to get this one passed...

The Wingnuts Are Loose

Regardless of how much you might hate what happened on Sunday, this kind of stuff is way over the line:
The Secret Service is investigating two Twitter users who, apparently angered by the passage of the health care reform bill, took to the Internet Sunday to call for the assassination of President Obama.

"ASSASSINATION! America, we survived the Assassinations and Lincoln & Kennedy. We'll surely get over a bullet to Barrack Obama's head," wrote one Twitter user, who goes by the handle Solly Forell, and identifies himself as a conservative blogger and "'authentic' African American."

Soon after the first post, Forell tweeted another message actively encouraging someone with a "clear shot" to kill the president.

"The next American with a Clear Shot should drop Obama like a bad habit. 4get Blacks or his claims to b[e] Black. Turn on Barack Obama," he wrote on the messaging Web site.

The Secret Service investigates any perceived threats to the president or calls for his assassination.
The good new is that idiots like these are usually easy to catch. The bad news is that some bigger sack of stupidity might actually try and take them up on their "Request."

You Can Shame Some Of The Voters Some Of The Time

The Corner takes the NY Times to task over playing the white liberal guilt trip game:
Shame on the New York Times for comparing those who protested the Democrats’ health-care policy with the virulent southern racists who participated in violent and often deadly protests against civil-rights demonstrators. Give us a break.

The Left’s plan for November is to promote exactly this kind of thinking, shaming opponents into staying at home rather than going to the polls to vote the bums out, while fooling proponents that opposition is nothing more than the most atavistic form of prejudice. With every poll showing that far more voters hate Obamacare than love it (with the balance made up of the lukewarm on both sides of the issue), this is the New York Times’s effort to help shift voter intensity — which spells turnout in November — in favor of Obamacare.

We suspect the electorate won’t prove so gullible.
So, if the Democrats lose big on this in November, does that mean most of the country is racist? I don't think so.

Where Do They Gitmo From Here?

It seems the administration has some choices to make:
The White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said, an option that would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo Bay, which it has promised to close.

The idea, which would require approval by President Obama, already has drawn resistance from within the government. Army Gen. Stanley A. McCrystal, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and other senior officials strongly oppose it, fearing that expansion of the U.S. detention facility at Bagram air base could make the job of stabilizing the country even tougher.

That the option of detaining suspects captured outside Afghanistan at Bagram is being contemplated reflects a recognition by the Obama administration that it has few other places to hold and interrogate foreign prisoners without giving them access to the U.S. court system, the officials said.
Considering that this is one area where Obama has actually been quite agressive and had some success, I'd say the decision should be easier for them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Vote

Well, here it is:

Megan McArdle reacts:
Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, social security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist. . . . If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don’t complain that it’s not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.
Touche'. Sullivan is happy, of course, but not everyone is, and I have the feeling that they'll outnumber those who are.

For balance, here's John Boehner's moment:

Words Of Warning

Mike Flynn puts the Democrats on notice:
They may take the bridge and get to 216 votes. (I’ve learned to never bet against Congressional leadership and an Administration united for a single legislative victory. ) But, they have already lost the war. They have deluded themselves that if they can…just…get…this…bill…passed, the public’s anger and attention will subside, they can put health care ‘behind them’ and they can focus on other ‘popular’ measures that will shore up their election prospects in November.

What they don’t realize is that today’s vote isn’t the end, but just a new beginning in the debate over health care. Buckle up, because if they manage to cobble together enough votes to pass the Senate Health Bill today, we’re set for weeks and perhaps months of a constitutional and political crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. . . . A representative democracy cannot long endure a political class that is so out of touch with the populace. In some respects, what happens tonight is almost beside the point. The politics are set. Some Democrats are deluding themselves that they can put this behind them and somehow survive in November. They are most assuredly wrong.
Dick Morris has related thoughts. It's almost as if they want to lose...

The View From The Peanut Gallery

From the Huffington Post comes this rather telling moment, early on as the Great Vote got underway:
A protester sitting in the House gallery just disrupted the early business going on in the chamber by screaming out: "The people have said no!" and "You took an oath." Leadership tried to gavel the members back into session and ordered the Sargent in Arms to remove the unruly man. Before he was escorted out, however, he did receive a fair amount of applause from the Republican side of the aisle.

Outside, meanwhile, bullhorns and chants are seeping into the press room and even the chamber. Chants of "Naaaannnccy" and "vote them out" are constant, as are the usual "kill the bill" refrains. At one point, three lawmakers, presumably Republicans, went outside the Capitol building -- on a second floor balcony -- to greet the protestors. And they each held up one side reading: "Kill" "The" "Bill"

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) emerged from the House floor irate to denounce Republicans for cheering on the protester, saying that dozens were encouraging lawbreaking and making the situation dangerous for the unarmed ushers who have to wrestle out protesters in a tight space. He yelled at Roy Blunt on the House floor, telling him to get his colleagues in order. "That's why you get this kind of virulence and hatred," he said.
Gee, Barney, I thought it was called free speech.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When Vegans Attack

I've been wondering how long it would be before something like this happened:
An ex-vegan who was hit with chili pepper-laced pies at an anarchist event in San Francisco said Tuesday that her assailants were cowards who should direct their herbivorous rage at the powerful - not at a fellow radical for writing a book denouncing animal-free diets.

Lierre Keith, a 45-year-old Arcata resident, was attacked at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at the 15th annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair while discussing her 2009 book, "The Vegetarian Myth." A 20-year vegan, Keith now argues that the diet is unhealthy and that agriculture is destroying the world.

As Keith stood at a lectern at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, three people in masks and black hooded sweatshirts ran from backstage, shouted, "Go vegan!" and threw pies in her face. While they fled, some in the audience cheered or handed out leaflets.

The attack, midway through a 30-minute talk, was captured on a video posted to YouTube and prompted blistering debates on radical Web sites.

Keith said the attack appeared to have been planned on Internet sites dedicated to veganism. She called it a case of infighting that harmed activist causes.

"If this is what is considered radical action," she said, "this movement is dead."
So what does that make her now? One of its moderates? Scary thought...

Environmental Protection Racket

Not all states are willing to go along with the Climate Change Cult:
At least 15 U.S. states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to stop it from issuing rules controlling greenhouse gas emissions until it reexamines whether the pollution harms human health.

Florida, Indiana, South Carolina and at least nine other states filed the petitions in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, states said.

They joined petitions filed last month by Virginia, Texas and Alabama.

The states have complained that the EPA relied too heavily from reports by the U.N.'s climate science panel which included information that exaggerated the melting of Himalayan glaciers.

The EPA said it was confident it would withstand legal challenges on the issue. "The question of the science is settled," spokeswoman Adora Andy said. The science "came from an array of highly respected, peer-reviewed sources from both within the United States and across the globe, and took into consideration hundreds of thousands of comments from members of the public, which were addressed in the finding," she said.
Except that the science isn't so settled. Unless you're a cult follower, of course.

The Decline And Fall Of The Cable Empire

Max Fisher suggests that traditional cable TV is doomed:
It's not hard to foresee a day when Americans come home and, using an Internet TV system that would probably look a lot like your DVR menu, queue up the latest situation comedy or key in to a live news broadcast. Maybe shows will have traditional ads, maybe they'll be ad free but cost a dollar each, or maybe viewers will get to choose. But payment model would be just the beginning of the changes. Networks, no longer forced to fill exactly 24 hours of daily programming, would act more like movie studios, releasing as many or as few titles as they wished. High-quality shows would prosper as networks dropped the unneeded filler. The market would open up to anyone with a camera and a server host, inviting a flood of independent TV shows produced on a shoestring by directors with broad creative license.
It does make the current cable versus network battles seem kind of redundent, doesn't it?

The First Bloggers?

Robert Darnton suggests that blogging had its roots in the Age of Reason:
To appreciate the importance of a pre-modern blog, consult a database such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and download a newspaper from eighteenth-century London. It will have no headlines, no bylines, no clear distinction between news and ads, and no spatial articulation in the dense columns of type, aside from one crucial ingredient: the paragraph. Paragraphs were self-sufficient units of news. They had no connection with one another, because writers and readers had no concept of a news “story” as a narrative that would run for more than a few dozen words. News came in bite-sized bits, often “advices” of a sober nature—the arrival of a ship, the birth of an heir to a noble title—until the 1770s, when they became juicy. Pre-modern scandal sheets appeared, exploiting the recent discovery about the magnetic pull of news toward names. As editors of the Morning Post and the Morning Herald, two men of the cloth, the Reverend Henry Bate (known as “the Reverend Bruiser”) and the Reverend William Jackson (known as “Dr. Viper”) packed their paragraphs with gossip about the great, and this new kind of news sold like hotcakes. Much of it came from a bountiful source: the coffee house.

London coffee houses were nerve centers, where regulars picked up talk about the private lives of public figures. Some regulars reduced the talk to writing, always in the form of a paragraph, and turned their bulletins in to editors or editor-compositors who set them in type and aligned the typeset paragraphs in columns on the imposing stone, ready for printing as the “freshest advices.” Known as “paragraph men,” these early-modern reporters might get paid by the piece or they might supply copy in order to score points in the daily struggle to master public opinion. Some did it for their own pleasure—like many bloggers today.

The French cafĂ© functioned in the same manner, but the French press was censored, and French-language journals printed outside France took great care to avoid offending French authorities. Gossipy news therefore circulated “under the cloak” in the form of short notes scribbled on scraps of paper that were carried around in pockets and passed from hand to hand. (Some of them still exist in the archives of the Bastille, because they were confiscated when the police frisked prisoners.) Although these bulletins usually contained only a few sentences, they were not called paragraphs. They were known as “anecdotes.”

The anecdotes constituted the early-modern equivalent of a blogosphere, one laced with explosives; for on the eve of the Revolution, French readers were consuming as much smut about the private lives of the great as they were reading treatises about the abuse of power. In fact, the anecdotes and the political discourse reinforced each other. I would therefore argue that the early-modern blog played an important part in the collapse of the Old Regime and in the politics of the French Revolution.
It's ironic to think that from such revolutionary fervor came today's MSM, which is itself now the old regime.

Save Our Welfare State

Greece's PM wants the EU to know he's putting them on notice:
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou implicitly criticised Germany on Saturday for opposing efforts to help his country out of its fiscal crisis, warning they risked destabilising the EU.

"We have struggled for years to build a strong Europe, economically stable and with social solidarity," Papandreou said at a meeting of the national council of his socialist PASOK party.

But "many forces forget the political importance of the euro, and are withdrawing the substance of the political vision of the European project, which is a joint effort to develop our economy in a calm and stable climate," he added.

"In the end this could destablise the EU, lead it in the opposite direction to that of those who inspired and created a united Europe and its common currency," warned the Greek prime minister.

Papandreou's comments came a day after a German official indicated that Berlin was open to the possibility of the International Monetary Fund helping Greece, throwing into doubt a plan for the other 15 countries which use the euro to help Athens meet its borrowing needs.
If Greece is the new "Sick Man of Europe," what does that mean for the rest of the EU? It's stuff like this that helped lead to wars on the Continent.

The Angry Proletariat

Is it time for a Russian Tea Party?
Thousands of protesters rallied in dozens of Russian cities on Saturday against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government as opposition groups mobilised anger over economic woes.

Riot police in Moscow massively outnumbered some 100 activists who took to the streets for an unsanctioned rally. They detained a few dozen activists and blocked the street to prevent demonstrators from marching.

"Today our movement is in solidarity with the other protests in the country where they are calling for the resignation of Putin's government. His policy during the crisis is not working!" youth activist Sergei Udaltsov told reporters shortly before being arrested.

Police also detained a handful of activists in the Russian cities of Arkhangelsk and Novosibirsk, news agencies reported.

Dubbed the "Day of Anger", the nationwide rallies are being organized by a mishmash of groups -- rights activists, the Communist Party, the opposition Solidarity movement and the Federation of Motorists -- in a bid to transform scattered discontent into something bigger.
Have the Russians finally had enough of Putin's authoritarian antics? Maybe this is the beginning of another "Russian Spring" for them?

One Party, One Vote

It looks like the House version of a royal decree won't be used after all:
Building on Democrats' momentum, House leaders decided on a straight up-or-down vote on Obama's top priority and the defining issue of his first year in office, backing off a much-challenged plan to vote on the bill indirectly. With the vote scheduled for Sunday, the battle tilted in Obama's direction as more Democrats disclosed how they would vote.

The president decided to make a final personal appeal with a Saturday afternoon visit to the Capitol where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was expected to reassure House rank and file that the Senate would complete the legislation. Reid's means would be a letter indicating he had the votes.

The legislation, affecting virtually every American and more than a year in the making, would extend coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured, bar insurers from denying coverage on the basis of existing medical conditions and cut federal deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.

Congressional analysts estimate the cost of the two bills combined would be $940 billion over a decade.
That's the good news. The bad news is how so many of the former "Undecideds" seem to have been swayed by the promises of jobs or kickbacks. Constituents? What're those?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Time To Chuck Another One Under The Bus

A wealthy businessman who raised money for leading Democratic Party politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding three major banks out of $292.2 million in loan transactions, Reuters reported.

Hassan Nemazee, 60, who once ran a private equity firm, admitted in Manhattan federal court to defrauding Bank of America of more than $142 million, Citigroup of $74.9 million and HSBC Holdings of $74.9 million to pay his debt to Citigroup.

During the plea proceeding, Mr. Nemasee, an Iranian-born investor who owned several multimillion-dollar properties and had interests in various companies and hedge funds, said he had tried to get out of financial difficulty starting in the 1990s, but that “the hole that I dug was larger and I borrowed more.”
Well, he was just doing the same thing his boss does.

Because If There's One Thing We Need More Of...

...It's tax collectors:
A new analysis by the Joint Economic Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee minority staff estimates up to 16,500 new IRS personnel will be needed to collect, examine and audit new tax information mandated on families and small businesses in the ‘reconciliation’ bill being taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives this weekend. ...

Scores of new federal mandates and fifteen different tax increases totaling $400 billion are imposed under the Democratic House bill. In addition to more complicated tax returns, families and small businesses will be forced to reveal further tax information to the IRS, provide proof of ‘government approved’ health care and submit detailed sales information to comply with new excise taxes.
On the plus side, who says government can't create new jobs?

Bart's Bluff

Bart Gordon tries to claim that he isn't a sellout:

I'm sure it's all just a coincidence, and that this had nothing to do with it.

The Long, Dark, Healthcare Tunnel

Has Obama become obsessed with HCR at the expense of everything else? Well, yes:
For 14 months -- nearly a third of his elected term in office -- President Obama has been fighting an almost constant battle to pass a health care reform bill. During that time, dust appears to have settled on many of his other campaign priorities, in particular immigration overhaul, energy reform and a comprehensive jobs bill.

The administration's singular focus on health care reform has left political observers scratching their heads.

"It's a strange White House," said GOP strategist Matt Schlapp, a former White House director to President George W. Bush.

Schlapp told that the administration is "too focused on one fight" and "not multitasking."

"What's on deck? There's nothing on deck," he said, describing the White House as having a "crisis mentality" that is unable to focus on other issues.

Schlapp said the Bush White House employed an overarching strategy to its agenda, focusing on a sequence of bills instead of just one.

"What we did always led to the next battle," he said. "In this White House, it seems they say, 'I've got to go here because this guy is undecided on health care.'"
Any time a President gets tunnel vision, the things that get left by the wayside always come back to bite them. It's what happens when you put a single agenda ahead of all else.

Protection Isn't Just A Good Idea, It's The Law

Well, it's good to know California is dealing with the really important things:
State regulators are expected to vote Thursday on a petition asking them to require porn industry performers to use condoms and to take other safety measures. The six-member California Division of Occupational Safety and Health standards board appears likely to create an advisory committee to report back on whether the law should be changed and how it could be accomplished.

The board, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has up to six months to act on a Dec. 17, 2009 petition filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that seeks to change state law to require safe-sex protections for adult-film workers, including mandatory condom use and more stringent safety training and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Considering that porn is one of the few industries left in the state, I guess they figured it was better safe than sorry...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kickbacks For Me, But Not For Thee

Some kickbacks are more equal than others:
Bye bye, Cornhusker Kickback. Hello, special treatment for Tennessee and North Dakota.

Democrats unveiling revisions Thursday to their health care overhaul bill decided to kill the extra $100 million in Medicaid funds for Nebraska that has become a symbol of backdoor deal making.

But the 153 pages of changes to the massive health care package include extra money for hospitals in Tennessee that serve large numbers of low-income patients. And though the bill would revamp the nation's student loan system to make the government the only lender, one bank - the state-owned Bank of North Dakota - would be allowed to continue making student loans.

That provision ended up rubbing Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., the wrong way. Fearing it would become a target by Republicans in what he said is "an overly heated partisan environment," he asked the House late Thursday to remove it from the legislation.

Still alive is special spending for Louisiana, Connecticut, Montana and other states that was included in the health care bill that the Senate approved in December. The House may give it final approval this weekend.
I guess Obama knows who his friends are, and even those that aren't can still be bought with job offers (and there seem to be plenty of those to go around). Who says you can't find good jobs these days?

Atomic Ocean

What could go wrong? Constructed by the state nuclear power firm Rosatom, the 144 by 30 metre (472 by 98 foot) ship holds two reactors with ...