Governor Mark Warner Overrides Supreme Court
The execution of Robin Lovitt, the well-broadcast 1,000th execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976, has been kiboshed by Virginia Governor Mark Warner.
Lovitt was convicted of the 1998 murder-by-scissors (committed during a robbery) of Clayton Dicks. His subsequent death sentence was upheld by numerous courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
The basis for Lovitt's bid for clemency was improper discarding of the murder weapon.
In granting Lovitt's clemency request, Warner stated, "The commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly... After a thorough review, it is my decision that Robin Lovitt should spend the rest of his life in prison with no eligibility for parole."
Well, why? If the improper evidence handling casts so much doubt on his conviction as to warrant superceding the decision of the jury and the appellate courts, shouldn't Lovitt be exonerated and set free with the apologies of the state?
Or are there other factors at play?
Nancy Pelosi Retires From Congress
Deliberately or otherwise.
Pelosi has decided to support John Murtha's cut-and-run plan, calling for U.S. troops to be pulled out of Iraq "at the earliest practicable date."
Pelosi has boldly declared, "I believe that a majority of our caucus clearly supports Mr. Murtha."
Really? So the GOP can look forward to picking up more than 100 House seats in 2006? Yowsers.
This represents a much more clearly demarcated intraparty policy rift among leading Democrats, as Hillary Clinton reasserted her Iraq vote as recently as yesterday:
"I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war," the New York senator said in a lengthy letter to thousands of people who have written her about the war.
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
The President gave a speech at 9:45 this morning at the U.S. Naval Academy addressing our strategy for victory in Iraq.
Funny, haven't we been told Bush has no strategy?
Part of the National Strategy outlines "8 strategic pillars" that range from the arse-kickin' to the somewhat touchy-feely.
And um, we currently appear to be on Pillar 1.
1. Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency
2. Transition Iraq to Security Self-Reliance
3. Help Iraqis Form a National Compact for Democratic Government
4. Help Iraq Build Government Capacity and Provide Essential Services
5. Help Iraq Strengthen its Economy
6. Help Iraq Strengthen the Rule of Law and Promote Civil Rights
7. Increase International Support for Iraq
8. Strengthen Public Understanding of Coalition Efforts and Public Isolation of the Insurgents
Bush-bashers thumbing through the plan will shortly be miffed to find it without a withdrawal timeline.
Among the more salient points:
One of those fallen heroes is a Marine Corporal named Jeff Starr, who was killed fighting the terrorists in Ramadi earlier this year. After he died, a letter was found on his laptop computer. Here's what he wrote, he said, "[I]f you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq. I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so they can live the way we live. Not [to] have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators_. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
There is only one way to honor the sacrifice of Corporal Starr and his fallen comrades -- and that is to take up their mantle, carry on their fight, and complete their mission. (Applause.)
- Download your own copy of the National Strategy.
- Watch a replay of the speech at Fox News.
- Read the full text of the President's remarks.
Don't Let MoveOn.org's Fraud Distract You From Their Message
Hey, Harry Reid: Shhh.
I Believe I Can Buy
Consumer confidence is way up in November, according to the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index. Lower oil prices and a strengthening job market are two key factors contributing to consumers' new can-do attitude.
This should've been just the kind of 1-2-3 punch we needed to boost the Dow up over 11,000 (for the first time since June, 2004), but thus far, the index is being highly stubborn.
Preliminary 3rd Quarter GDP data comes out tomorrow morning. If that's in line with or better than the 4.0% forecast, I'm predicting 11,000 and then some.
"Sword of Righteousness Brigade" Hostage Video Released
3/11 Update: American hostage Tom Fox found dead.
The video shows American Thomas Fox of Clear Brook Virginia, Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, who resides in Auckland, New Zealand, British citizen Norman Kember, and some one who appears to identify himself as James Loni (last name unclear) of Canada.
From an AP report on the broadcast:
Al-Jazeera broadcast an insurgent video Tuesday showing four peace activists taken hostage in Iraq, with a previously unknown group claiming responsibility for the kidnappings.
The Swords of Righteousness Brigade said the four were spies working undercover as Christian peace activists, Al-Jazeera said. The station said it could not verify any of the information on the tape.
The aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four of its members were taken hostage Saturday.
Transcript of the video, per Jawa:
My name is Norman Kember. I am 74. I am a member of the Christian Peacemaking team in Iraq.
My name is Harmeet Singh Sooden. I am 32 and I am working..I'm a volunteer for the CPT in Iraq.
My name is James Loni (?). I am 41 years old. I am from Canada and I am part of the Christian Peacemaker team in Iraq.
My name is Tom Fox and I am 54 years old. I am from the United States and I am a member of the Christian Peacmakers team in Iraq.
Tranlsation of an accompanying statement, per Jawa:
foreign arrest of four spy
Praise be to God god of the scientists and the prayer and the faithful peace on the prophet, and on his family and accompanied him ['ajme'yn]
As for after. Losing managed your brothers in secrecy of swords the truth from arrest of four spy is foreign forces of the occupation under cover do for what Christian team the peace rises in, [wllh] the praising god of the scientists.
Secrecy swords of the truth
This is the translation I've put together, using Sakhr:
And say the right came and the falsehood vanished the falsehood was perishable
Carrying out the arrest of four foreign spies
The praise of Allah the Lord of the Worlds and the prayer and the greeting on the Honest Prophet and on its family and its friends as a wholes
As for till now ..
Your brothers have managed in the right swords brigades carrying out the arrest of four foreign spies that make to the occupation forces
Under the cover of the so-called team of the Christian peace, praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds
The right swords brigades
The only English language references to "Swords of Righteousness" I can find are to an episode of the cartoon Earthworm Jim (Episode 7), entitled "Bring me the Head of Earthworm Jim/Sword of Righteousness".
Slightly chilling, given the context.
Mortally Wounded Cop Pursues Suspect In His Own Murder
This is an incredible story.
A New York City police officer pursuing a driver in Brooklyn was fatally shot through the heart early yesterday when the driver fired five bullets into the officer's patrol car, officials said. In spite of his wound, the officer kept driving for blocks in pursuit of the gunman.
Thanks to the unbelievable tenacity of the slain officer (Dillon Stewart, husband and father of two, serving his final overnight shift), the chase resulted in police successfully taking a suspect in custody.
Stewart died at Kings County Hospital Center yesterday morning, a few hours after the incident. He was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, but one of the five or more bullets fired entered his chest through his armpit.
Amazingly, Stewart was the first NYPD officer to die in the line of duty in more than a year.
The suspect in custody, Allen Cameron, is charged not only with Stewart's murder, but also with the attempted murder of off-duty NYPD officer Wiener Phillipe, who was shot less than two weeks ago and identified Cameron in a lineup as his assailant.
PC-Town Opens Up a Can of Whitewash
The town of Provincetown, Massachusetts (population 3,341 and shrinking) has done something peculiar, even by Bay State standards. When I read about this, I nearly pulled an eye muscle from such strenuous rolling.
The New England hamlet's Board of Selectmen recently voted 3 to 1 in favor of removing an oil painting of Pilgrims voting on the Mayflower Compact from their hearing room wall. Despite depicting a key development in the pre-history of America, which took place in their very town (more or less), the painting's egregious offenses were two-fold:
1) It didn't include any women.
2) The Native American featured in the piece was not voting!
Chairwoman of the Board of Selectman Cheryl Andrews, who cast the sole dissenting vote, offered the following:
''There's this lovely oil painting... The thing is huge. It's been up there since forever. It was painted by Max Bohm, who's considered quite something in local art circles.
''And Sarah Peake turns around and faces it, and it's government. They're voting. She says, 'I'd like to talk about this painting. I find this painting disturbing.' That's a quote. She said it's disturbing to her because there are no women in the painting and the only one not holding a ballot is the Native American Indian. And I thought, 'Here we go.' "
"Instead of P-Town, we'll be PC-Town," she said. ''Some of the things that are PC aren't bad, having sensitivity to different groups. But this feels strained, horribly strained."
Selected reaction from the townsfolk suggests the crazy in the water supply may be contained to Town Hall:
The former head of the town's Art Commission wrote to the local paper that the vote was ''an act of idiocy." Bohm's granddaughter, Anne Packard, herself a noted local artist, said, ''It offends me because they're trying to change the history of the town, or just history."
Historian John Kemp noted that the Compact was actually signed by the Pilgrims on board the Mayflower, but confirms it was only signed by men. Also, it was never actually voted on, so the painting does in fact take some liberties. But Peake's rationale for its removal was not based on these inconsistencies, but rather the bizarre requirement that suitable artwork magically swaddle our predecessors in the cultural and political norms in place 400 years later.
This is the worst brand of political correctness - that which finds it more palatable to disavow and disregard any historical reality that is out of sync with our modern enlightenment, rather than acknowledge, and even embrace, the progress highlighted by such contrast. While the painting sounds to be an imperfect account of the adoption of the Mayflower Compact, it's a shame to disavow a pivotal chapter of history (and one's own town's role in it) in favor of the delicate sensibilities of the politically hypercorrect.
On the bright side:
I'm just glad the statue depicting the flag-raising at Iwo Jima isn't in Provincetown. There's not a woman in it, meaning that the selectmen would order it melted down for scrap.
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin Ousted By Parliament
Prime Minister Paul Martin and his Liberal Party minority government were voted out of office tonight by political opponents in the Canadian Parliament, the first such ouster in 26 years. The no-confidence vote, which follows a two-year escalation in a Liberal Party ad scandal, was called for last week when Martin refused to hold new elections in February.
Lawmakers in Ottawa voted 171-133 in favor of a motion calling for Martin to step down after a public inquiry found members of his Liberal Party received kickbacks in exchange for advertising contracts.
No single party has majority support in Canada, so the prospect of another minority government looms, pending our northern neighbors' first mid-winter election in a generation.
The Liberals have about 36 percent support of decided voters, compared with 27 percent for the Conservatives, 16 percent for the New Democrats and 13 percent for the Bloc Quebecois, according to an Ipsos Reid poll published on Nov. 17. The survey of 1,000 people has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Parties typically need to win more than 40 percent of the vote to gain majorities in parliament. The Liberals have 133 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives have 98, the Bloc hold 53 and the New Democrats 18.
Paul Martin became PM in December 2003. Less than two months later, the "AdScam" sponsorship scandal broke. The scandal dates back to 1996, when Martin was Finance Minister. Beginning that year, hundreds of millions of dollars (well, Canadian dollars) were allocated to mount a massive pro-Canada PR campaign in Quebec, following the nearly successful referendum by the province to secede from Canada.
The advertising that resulted was minimal and lackluster, owing (Conservatives charged) to the funds being directed to firms allied with the Liberal Party. An audit of the program found that as much as $100 million had been allocated to ad firms that, in some cases, never rendered any services. Critics maintained that Martin's prominent financial role in the federal government during this period meant he could not have been unaware of the misappropriations.
Catching Up With POTUS
President Bush gave a policy speech on immigration today. Miss it? Me too.
In Diplomacy, Semantics Matter (and vice versa)
The 2-day Euromed summit co-hosted by Tony Blair and Spain's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero wrapped up in Barcelona today and organizers are smearing lipstick all over it, despite poor attendance and a failiure to come to terms on terms.
The purpose of Euromed (which to me sounds like something your urologist might prescribe, and appears to have been only modestly more pleasant) was to develop an anti-terror code to address "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations" and it aimed to include all 35 EU nations plus 10 Euromed neighbors. Laudable a goal as it undertook, the event was snubbed by Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and the Palestinian Authority.
A Financial Times piece explains that "Arab leaders were wary of attending an event that could be seen as cracking down on groups denounced as terrorists in the west but regarded as freedom fighters by many of their own people."
Indeed, too often we've seen terrorists variously misnomered as freedom fighters, insurgents, extremists, rebels, radicals, separatists, guerrillas, and other sanitizing euphemisms. Even here at home, unvarnished evil has by some been whitewashed as merely different "perspective".
This deliberate ambiguity and the attempt to coax grainy, grayscaled relativism out of sharp contrast and resolution renders the chief failure of the Euromed summit all the more regrettable. Despite the group's stated resolve to combat "terrorism in all its forms and manifestations", they overtly failed to define the word "terrorism".
Tony Blair downplayed the significance:
"The fact that we got the practical agreement on the code of conduct from everybody is a very significant step forward indeed.
"It's as strong a statement as you can possible have on the unified determination to fight terrorism is all its forms."
But this quote from Blair was the capper:
“I think that this is an area where semantic agreements are less important than shared spirit and determination.”
Assuming that by this area, he refers to the war on terror, I couldn't disagree more. UN Resolution 1441 appeared to be the very embodiment of shared spirit and determination when it was unanimously passed in 2002. But matters of semantics soon took hold. What is a "material breach"? What are "serious consequences"?
For that matter, what are "weapons of mass destruction"? What are "sexual relations"? What is "covert status"? What is the meaning of the word "is"? What are "new taxes"?
Semantics, as quibbled and seemingly trivial as they are wont to be, are not only important, they're often crucial. How much of the fate of national and world affairs has hinged (and continues to hinge) on the above embattled terminology?
No foreign diplomat represents a greater ally to the United States than the British Prime Minister, but Mr. Blair should not feel compelled to gloss over this significant failing. While the summit's deliverables weren't meant to provide a binding action plan, the group's inability to distinguish our civilian-slaying mutual enemy from combative political factions bodes poorly for the future of a cooperative, globally distributed war on terror.
Even the U.N. managed to adopt an "academic consensus definition" of terrorism back in 1988, which, while wordy, still fills the bill:
"Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby - in contrast to assassination - the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought" (Schmid, 1988).
Obviously, the Euromed summit had this language at their disposal, so the hang-up wasn't likely one of composition or phraseology. Rather, I suspect the definition was probably viewed by some as dangerously descriptive of factions that might be stewing in their own homelands. Factions best left misnomered.
Saddam's Trial Resumes (then re-desumes)
Update: The trial is once again adjourned as replacement for murdered counsel turns out to be hard to come by.
After a six week hiatus, Saddam Hussein was back in court today and he had his crazy-shoes laced up tight. Some highlights, from the BBC:
Practicing crafty legal nitpickery:
"They brought me here to the door and I was handcuffed. They cannot bring in the defendant in handcuffs."
Practicing crafty legal nitpickery in the self-applied 3rd person:
"How can a defendant defend himself if his pen was taken. Saddam Hussein's pen and papers were taken. I don't mean a white paper. There are papers downstairs that include my remarks in which I express my opinion."
And inveitably, coming apart at the seams:
"I don't want you to alert them! I want you to order them. They are in our country. You are an Iraqi, you are sovereign and they are foreigners, invaders, and occupiers." [speaking after hearing Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin would speak to Saddam's guards about his complaints]
Can't we extend a modicum of courtesy to this man? After all, he's only accused of 143 slaughters, not yet convicted. Surely he can at least be permitted to dictate how the judge handles the case.
Bloggers sound off:
The 16th Is the Loneliest Minute
What if you threw a book signing and nobody came?
(Hat tip: an alert reader)
Goings-on poised to take center stage this week:
- Dow Cracks 11,000
(Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? Friday?)
- EU Holds Lonely Conference on Muslim Democratization (Monday)
- 3rd Quarter GDP Data Released; Forecast: 4.0% (Wednesday)
- November Unemployment Data Released; Forecast 4.9% (Friday)
- Australia, Singapore In Possible Tussle Over Hanging (Friday)
- Plamegate Confusion re Connection Between Novaks (hint: none)
- Buildup To Tookie's Clemency Hearing Reaches Fever Pitch
Fretting Over Oil "Gouging"? Be Glad You Live In America.
If UK energy watchdog Office of Gas and Electricity Markets' (OFGEM) concerns are substantiated, natural gas prices in Britain, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe may be being kept artificially high thanks to unexplained supply constraints.
Gas prices hit a record 170 pence a therm last week, making UK gas the world's most costly traded fuel. But, despite the high prices, gas flows through the subsea pipeline with Belgium were running at about half capacity last week.
If true, such distortions would represent an unwelcome manipulation of the energy market, resulting in higher corporate profits at the direct expense of consumers. If such manipulation exists, the transgression would be notably reminiscent of the one wrought on the American public by U.S. oil companies... only worse, since it would actually exist.
I'm all for free trade, but this is a little embarrassing.
Carving Up the Tax Cut
Bulldog Pundit has some excellent commentary on today's New York Times piece looking at how the next round of tax cuts will be divvied up.
In short, there are two conflicting plans, each calling for cuts of roughly $60 billion. One, being promoted by the President and House Republicans, would extend Bush's earlier tax cuts on stock dividends and capital gains. The other, slightly smaller reduction plan, embraced by Senate Republicans, allows the dividend and gains cuts to expire in 2008 and imposes what amounts to a $5 billion fine for oil companies (assessed via a change in the accounting rules discussed earlier here). The Senate plan instead directs the cuts toward putting the brakes on the Alternative Minimum Tax, an outdated system that sought to capture wealthy, aggressively deducting taxpayers, but now results in higher taxes for millions of middle-class Americans.
While both plans are orders of magnitude too modest, the thrusts of each are laudable. Stock dividend taxes represent a double-taxation scheme which is not only unfair, it discourages investment and therefore growth. The AMT was at its best a band-aid solution to the exploitation of loopholes caused by the system's own lamentable complexity. In its current iteration, it's nothing more than an entrenched way to soak a huge cross-section of taxpayers for extra revenue. True tax reform would see a swift end to both.
However, if we accept the political reality that only one will be going through this round, which is more appropriate?
In my book, the proper test would be: Which plan better encourages long-term sustainable growth? Here, it seems clear the House/Bush plan wins out. Encouraging growth by enhancing the returns on equity investments is not only good for individual investors and businesses that can put that invested capital to productive use, but it also directly promotes real economic growth, the tide that truly lifts all boats.
The Senate plan, on the other hand, while commendable for seeking to roll back the AMT provision, has less compelling secondary effects (and the plan's watered down alternative to the Democrat-proposed "windfall profits tax" on oil companies is downright anti-growth). The number of people that would be immediately impacted by the Senate plan is admittedly greater and the day one impact would be felt by a wider economic swathe. That being the case, the cynic in me wonders if, given the plan's comparatively modest economic attractiveness, it may be more palatable to Senators with looming re-election campaigns to consider.
The President of course no longer has to worry about his own electoral lot. At this point, issues of legacy step in to cloud dispassionate analysis where re-election concerns once muddled. Preserving his hard-won tax cuts would certainly be a legacy-ensconcing move. And happily, in this case it's a move well-aligned with reasoned fiscal policy, given the implications of secondary economic effects discussed above. Still, Bush would do well to consider the secondary political effects of this process as well. Certainly, the Senate plan needs to come a long way toward the House/Bush plan. But an all-out victory at the expense of a few Senators' re-electability could contribute to a shift in the party balance in the Upper House a year from now.
Bush has the opportunity to see a legacy take shape, not only as his policies bear fruit, but also as a two-house majority continues to fight for the pro-growth reform which budded during his administration.
However the two plans wind up reconciling, they represent a move in the right direction, one which will hopefully not be overshadowed by party infighting (and hopefully, the tax cuts centrally embraced by each plan will eventually be implemented, as they are both in the country's best interest). That said, the long-term economic impact of the House/Bush plan is farther reaching and, should good economic sense prevail, this plan will be recognized as a higher priority.
American History Shaped by Colonial Beer Run
Today's American history tidbit: the Pilgrims' momentous decision to land at Plymouth Rock, it seems, owed largely to a dire need to replenish the ship's beer supply.
When the brew cache was cashed, tempers (and fevers) ran high on board the Mayflower.
The definitively informed Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope has, well, the straight dope:
"We could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer, and it being now the 19th of December" (Mourt's Relation, 1622, commonly attributed to colonists William Bradford and Edward Winslow).
The colonists used up their beer by Christmas. At first the ship's captain gave them a little out of the crew's supply, but when sickness, possibly scurvy, began felling the travelers (about half died that first winter), things got ugly. "As this calamity fell among the passengers that were to be left here to plant, and were hasted ashore and made to drink water that the seamen might have the more beer, and one in his sickness desiring but a small can of beer, it was answered that if he were their own father he should have none" (Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, circa 1650). The captain relented when his own men began getting sick too, evidently not wanting it to be known to history that, in addition to being late, lost, etc, he was the SOB who hogged the beer.
Ja- Ja- Jaded
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press recently completed an opinion survey on whether democracy will succeed in Iraq.
Can you match the respondent group with the percentage responding in the affirmative?
(Click the "Continue Reading" link to reveal answers.)
1. American Public
2. American Military
3. American Journalists
4. American Academia
Here's a hint: the numbers track nicely with the amount of stock you ought to put in the groups' respective opinions on the matter.
No surprises here:
1. American Public - 56%
2. American Military - 64%
3. American Journalists - 33%
4. American Academia - 27%
Scalia Zings Franken In Front of Fancy Friends
In a Q&A session witnessed by an audience of A-list celebrities, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took Al Franken to task when the comedian and radio host challenged his ethics.
[The New York Post's] Page Six said Franken, who hosts a program on the liberal Air America network, "found out the hard way not to mess with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who chided Franken as if he were a delinquent schoolboy … ."
Franken had challenged Justice Scalia about his friendship with Dick Cheney and whether it required Scalia recusing himself from a subsequent case.
The justice explained a judge does not have to recuse himself from a case if his friend, in an official capacity, was a nominal party in the dispute, according to Opinion Journal Editor James Taranto, who witnessed the exchange.
Evaluating Franken's performance, Time Warner chairman Dick Parsons later told the Post: "Al was not quite ready for prime time," an allusion to the comedian's stint with NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
"I don't think I was any meaner than I had to be," Scalia told New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove at the cocktail party.
Certainly not. By any measure, someone assailing your ethics without grounds to impress a roomful of big shots (whose ears he's eager to bend about his designs on a U.S. Senate seat) earns you the right to take him down a peg.
Don't Spend It All In One Place (or at all)
Good fiscal news for New York City.
The projected budget deficit for 2006 has been halved, from $4.5 billion to $2.25 billion. A sizzling real estate market, combined with rising incomes (and consequently rising income and sales taxes), contributed to the reduction in the estimated gap.
The good news: tax hikes being deliberated less likely to be implemented.
The bad news: less impetus to slash fat out of the city's nearly $53 billion annual budget.
This is clearly welcome news, but the worst reaction to it would be a renewed complacency. The city is overly debt-laden and faces ballooning pension and Medicare costs. Longer term, New York's fiscal equation has to be solved from both ends - with aggressive, thoughtful budget constraint and pro-growth tax policy.
Skyrocketing labor and healthcare costs obviously won't continue to be paced by rising real estate tax receipts; and we can't expect to maintain a healthy, growing local tax base (nor indeed a healthy, growing, splendorous, cultural, world-leading city) without overhauling the tax environment which is currently so punitive to corporations and individuals that commit the sin of wealth creation.
That said, far be it from me to rain on this budgetary parade. $2.25 billion found dollars is a cause for full-on merriment. But the best way to view this development is as an unexpected loosening of the noose; a surprise extra hundred yards of runway; a brief stay of execution. The fiscal equilibrium of the financial and operating structure in New York City remains crisis.
I hope (with some acknowledged measure of naivete) that the City Council will take full advantage of this new timeline of extended solvency to more thoroughly analyze, enact, and implement leaner, more pro-growth, more responsible fiscal policies to put New York on stronger, long-term financial footing. The city is clearly faring better than it has in periods in its not-too-distant past; given the substantial challenges we continue to face (not just as a local economy, but as a city still in the midst of rebuilding) let this unexpected windfall mark an opportunity to better secure our future through reasoned, disciplined fiscal policy.
This Thanksgiving, I'm Giving Till It Hurts
[This post is all sticky throughout Thanksgiving Day.]
- Thank you, Mr. President.
- Thank you, Laura Bush.
- Thank you, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
- Thank you, Ohio.
- Thank you, Fred Thompson.
- Thank you, Porkbusters.
- Thank you, Fox News Channel.
- Thank you, Senate Republican Conference.
- Thank you, House Republican Conference.
- Thank you, Mike Bloomberg.
- Thank you, NYPD.
- Thank you, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams.
- Thank you, CEA Chairman Glenn Hubbard.
- Thank you, Alan Greenspan.
- Thank you, Peter Drucker.
- Thank you, Coach Charlie Weis.
- Thank you, Merck.
- Thank you, J.J. Abrams.
- Thank you, Christopher Nolan.
- Thank you, XM Channel 166.
- Thank you, Scott Ott.
- Thank you, Tylenol 8-Hour.
- Thank you, Six Apart.
- Thank you, Seth.
- Thank you, Wikipedians.
- Thank you, readers.
- Thank you, linkers.
- Thank you, Karol.
- Thank you, Bruce Willis.
- Thank you, Minutemen.
- Thank you, London Police.
- Thank you, Australian Federal Police.
- Thank you, Belgian State Security Service.
- Thank you, Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
- Thank you, America's servicemen and women.
- Thank you, America's fallen heroes.
John Kerry Elected
X Marks the Bias III: Freedom of [Interfering With Coverage of the Vice President's] Speech
A CNN employee (who at least seemed to feel he was empowered to speak on behalf of the network) maintains the X'ing of Cheney's face - that "technological malfunction" which resulted from a non-replicable computer bug - was simply an example of CNN exercising their own 1st Amendment rights to make a point about Cheney and the Bush administration.
"The point of it is: Tell them to stop lying... If you don't like it, don't watch."
Curiouser and curiouser.
Bill Quick at Daily Pundit has the audio of the phone call. Must listen.
Update: Daily Pundit reports CNN has confirmed the authenticity of the call and fired the employee.
Don't Incarcerate Me Because I'm Beautiful
Bulldog Pundit points out the highly creative (and somewhat bold) negotiating point Debra Lafave successfully used to stay out of prison, despite pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious battery of her 14-year-old student.
[LaFave's lawyer said] plea negotiations had broken off because prosecutors insisted on prison time, which he said would be too dangerous for someone as attractive as Lafave.
And I thought pretty girls just got out of speeding tickets.
Intended Bush Assassin Convicted
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an American citizen of Jordanian descent, was convicted of a raft of conspiracy charges today in a landmark terrorism trial.
The 24-year-old student from Virginia was found to have plotted with al Qaeda to assassinate the President and hijack airplanes.
The Justice Department regarded the case as an important test of its ability to use foreign intelligence sources for a criminal case in an American court.
The department described Mr. Abu Ali before the trial as "one of the most dangerous terrorist threats that America faces in the perilous world after Sept. 11, 2001: an Al Qaeda operative born and raised in the United States, trained and committed to carry out deadly attacks on American soil."
But the defense said Mr. Abu Ali was nothing more or less than an American student who went to Saudi Arabia to pursue his religious studies.
Smug-looking little whelp, isn't he?
Is it just me, or do they always seem to be students? Have we castigated the practice of academic profiling yet? If not, allow me to be the first transgressor:
Terror suspects always seem to be "students".
Germany's Merkel (gasp) *Sworn* In
Dr. Angela Merkel became Germany's first female Chancellor today, opting in for the God clause in her oath of office:
"I swear that I will devote my strength to the welfare of the German people, increase their benefits, ward off harm to them, respect and defend the Constitution and the laws of the state, conscientiously fulfil my duties and practise justice toward every person," she said.
Merkel (51) added the optional phrase "so help me God" at the end of the formal oath. Her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, had omitted it during his swearing-in as chancellor in 1998 and after his re-election in 2002.
Nobody tell Michael Newdow.
X Marks the Bias Revisited
On the ongoing discussion of the irregularity of CNN's video feed during Cheney's address yesterday (catch up here if this is new to you), Jeff Harrell aimed to debunk The Political Teen's video of the incident as "bogus". Not CNN-style bogus, but Political Teen-style bogus, and implicitly compared Ian Schwarz, the blogger behind the definitive blogger video archives, to Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, given what he presumed might be a "fake, but accurate" defense.
Harrell cites IntoxiNation, which dissects a 6-frame fade-in of the black x displayed during Ian's slo-mo video, during which the on-screen news ticker is oddly motionless. From this, he concludes inauthenticity, presumably on the part of the source of Ian's video.
Robot Guy offers a technical rebuttal, drawing on the nature of slow motion video compositing, which handily dispenses of the inauthenticity claim. Domo arigato.
So that brings us back to where we were. A black X (which, to my knowledge, no one has spotted in any other archived footage from any news channel, despite what must be many distributed man hours spent looking) mysteriously flashed over Cheney's face multiple times during his address, only on the CNN broadcast. CNN has yet to offer any specific explanation of exactly how and why this happened (though they have commented further on what happened, namely a "computer bug" that can't be re-created). A CNN control room staffer was said to laugh when the X aired.
It clearly defies belief that, if deliberate, the network made a high-level decision to air the X. But in my mind, given the seemingly singular nature of the irregularity and the uncanny timing, Occam points to a low-level staffer looking to make trouble, or to show his friends how cool his job is.
To that end, the full text of the Vice President's address is posted in the extended entry.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Remarks By The Vice President On The War On Terror
American Enterprise Institute
11:01 A.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, and thank you all very much. And thank you, Chris. It's great to be back at AEI. Both Lynne and I have a long history with the American Enterprise Institute, and we value the association, and even more, we value the friendships that have come from our time here. And I want to thank all of you for coming this morning and for your welcome.
My remarks today concern national security, in particular the war on terror and the Iraq front in that war. Several days ago, I commented briefly on some recent statements that have been made by some members of Congress about Iraq. Within hours of my speech, a report went out on the wires under the headline, “Cheney says war critics ‘dishonest,’ ‘reprehensible.’”
One thing I’ve learned in the last five years is that when you’re Vice President, you’re lucky if your speeches get any attention at all. But I do have a quarrel with that headline, and it’s important to make this point at the outset. I do not believe it is wrong to criticize the war on terror or any aspect thereof. Disagreement, argument, and debate are the essence of democracy, and none of us should want it any other way. For my part, I’ve spent a career in public service, run for office eight times -- six statewide offices and twice nationally. I served in the House of Representatives for better than a decade, most of that time as a member of the leadership of the minority party. To me, energetic debate on issues facing our country is more than just a sign of a healthy political system -- it’s also something I enjoy. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed in this business. And I believe the feeling is probably the same for most of us in public life.
For those of us who don’t mind debating, there’s plenty to keep us
busy these days, and it's not likely to change any time soon. On the
question of national security, feelings run especially strong, and
there are deeply held differences of opinion on how best to protect the
United States and our friends against the dangers of our time.
Recently my friend and former colleague Jack Murtha called for a
complete withdrawal of American forces now serving in Iraq, with a
drawdown to begin at once. I disagree with Jack and believe his
proposal would not serve the best interests of this nation. But he's a
good man, a Marine, a patriot -- and he's taking a clear stand in an
entirely legitimate discussion.
Nor is there any problem with debating whether the United States and our allies should have liberated Iraq in the first place. Here, as well, the differing views are very passionately and forcefully stated. But nobody is saying we should not be having this discussion, or that you cannot reexamine a decision made by the President and the Congress some years ago. To the contrary, I believe it is critical that we continue to remind ourselves why this nation took action, and why Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and why we have a duty to persevere.
What is not legitimate -- and what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensible -- is the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence.
Some of the most irresponsible comments have come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein. These are elected officials who had access to the intelligence materials. They are known to have a high opinion of their own analytical capabilities. (Laughter.) And they were free to reach their own judgments based upon the evidence. They concluded, as the President and I had concluded, and as the previous administration had concluded, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Available intelligence indicated that the dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and this judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of many other nations, according to the bipartisan Silberman-Robb Commission. All of us understood, as well, that for more than a decade, the U.N. Security Council had demanded that Saddam Hussein make a full accounting of his weapons programs. The burden of proof was entirely on the dictator of Iraq -- not on the U.N. or the United States or anyone else. And he repeatedly refused to comply throughout the course of the decade.
Permit me to burden you with a bit more history: In August of 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution urging President Clinton take "appropriate action" to compel Saddam to come into compliance with his obligations to the Security Council. Not a single senator voted no. Two months later, in October of '98 -- again, without a single dissenting vote in the United States Senate -- the Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act. It explicitly adopted as American policy supporting efforts to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power and promoting an Iraqi democracy in its place. And just two months after signing the Iraq Liberation law, President Clinton ordered that Iraq be bombed in an effort to destroy facilities that he believed were connected to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programs.
By the time Congress voted to authorize force in late 2002, there was broad-based, bipartisan agreement that the time had come to enforce the legitimate demands of the international community. And our thinking was informed by what had happened to our country on the morning of September 11th, 2001. As the prime target of terrorists who have shown an ability to hit America and who wish to do so in spectacular fashion, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep terrible weapons out of the hands of these enemies. And we must hold to account regimes that could supply those weapons to terrorists in defiance of the civilized world. As the President has said, “Terrorists and terror states do not reveal … threats with fair notice, in formal declarations -- and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide.”
In a post-9/11 world, the President and Congress of the United States declined to trust the word of a dictator who had a history of weapons of mass destruction programs, who actually used weapons of mass destruction against innocent civilians in his own country, who tried to assassinate a former President of the United States, who was routinely shooting at allied pilots trying to enforce no fly zones, who had excluded weapons inspectors, who had defied the demands of the international community, whose regime had been designated an official state sponsor of terror, and who had committed mass murder. Those are the facts.
Although our coalition has not found WMD stockpiles in Iraq, I repeat that we never had the burden of proof; Saddam Hussein did. We operated on the best available intelligence, gathered over a period of years from within a totalitarian society ruled by fear and secret police. We also had the experience of the first Gulf War -- when the intelligence community had seriously underestimated the extent and progress Saddam had made toward developing nuclear weapons.
Finally, according to the Duelfer report, Saddam Hussein wanted to preserve the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted. And we now know that the sanctions regime had lost its effectiveness and been totally undermined by Saddam Hussein’s successful effort to corrupt the Oil for Food program.
The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight, but any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false. Senator John McCain put it best: “It is a lie to say that the President lied to the American people.”
American soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq go out every day into some of the most dangerous and unpredictable conditions. Meanwhile, back in the United States, a few politicians are suggesting these brave Americans were sent into battle for a deliberate falsehood. This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.
One might also argue that untruthful charges against the Commander-in-Chief have an insidious effect on the war effort itself. I’m unwilling to say that, only because I know the character of the United States Armed Forces -- men and women who are fighting the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other fronts. They haven’t wavered in the slightest, and their conduct should make all Americans proud. They are absolutely relentless in their duties, and they are carrying out their missions with all the skill and the honor we expect of them. I think of the ones who put on heavy gear and work 12-hour shifts in the desert heat. Every day they are striking the enemy -- conducting raids, training up Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers. Americans appreciate our fellow citizens who go out on long deployments and endure the hardship of separation from home and family. We care about those who have returned with injuries, and who face the long, hard road of recovery. And our nation grieves for the men and women whose lives have ended in freedom’s cause.
The people who serve in uniform, and their families, can be certain: that their cause is right and just and necessary, and we will stand behind them with pride and without wavering until the day of victory.
The men and women on duty in this war are serving the highest ideals of this nation -- our belief in freedom and justice, equality, and the dignity of the individual. And they are serving the vital security interests of the United States. There is no denying that the work is difficult and there is much yet to do. Yet we can harbor no illusions about the nature of this enemy, or the ambitions it seeks to achieve.
In the war on terror we face a loose network of committed fanatics, found in many countries, operating under different commanders. Yet the branches of this network share the same basic ideology and the same dark vision for the world. The terrorists want to end American and Western influence in the Middle East. Their goal in that region is to gain control of the country, so they have a base from which to launch attacks and to wage war against governments that do not meet their demands. For a time, the terrorists had such a base in Afghanistan, under the backward and violent rule of the Taliban. And the terrorists hope to overturn Iraq’s democratic government and return that country to the rule of tyrants. The terrorists believe that by controlling an entire country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and to establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia. They have made clear, as well, their ultimate ambitions: to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries, and to cause mass death in the United States.
Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, we simply stirred up a hornet’s nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001 -- and the terrorists hit us anyway. The reality is that terrorists were at war with our country long before the liberation of Iraq, and long before the attacks of 9/11. And for many years, they were the ones on the offensive. They grew bolder in the belief that if they killed Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 of our service men. Thereafter, the United States withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, the U.S. withdrew its forces from Somalia. Over time, the terrorists concluded that they could strike America without paying a price, because they did, repeatedly: the bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993, the murders at the Saudi National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995, the Khobar Towers in 1996, the simultaneous bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and, of course, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Believing they could strike us with impunity and that they could change U.S. policy, they attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland, killing 3,000 people. Now they are making a stand in Iraq -- testing our resolve, trying to intimidate the United States into abandoning our friends and permitting the overthrow of this new Middle Eastern democracy. Recently we obtained a message from the number-two man in al Qaeda, Mr. Zawahiri, that he sent to his chief deputy in Iraq, the terrorist Zarqawi. The letter makes clear that Iraq is part of a larger plan of imposing Islamic radicalism across the broader Middle East -- making Iraq a terrorist haven and a staging ground for attacks against other nations. Zawahiri also expresses the view that America can be made to run again.
In light of the commitments our country has made, and given the stated intentions of the enemy, those who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq should answer a few simple questions: Would the United States and other free nations be better off, or worse off, with Zarqawi, bin Laden, and Zawahiri in control of Iraq? Would we be safer, or less safe, with Iraq ruled by men intent on the destruction of our country?
It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone. In fact such a retreat would convince the terrorists that free nations will change our policies, forsake our friends, abandon our interests whenever we are confronted with murder and blackmail. A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America.
So much self-defeating pessimism about Iraq comes at a time of real progress in that country. Coalition forces are making decisive strikes against terrorist strongholds, and more and more they are doing so with Iraqi forces at their side. There are more than 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists, along with our forces. On the political side, every benchmark has been met successfully -- starting with the turnover of sovereignty more than a year ago, the national elections last January, the drafting of the constitution and its ratification by voters just last month, and, a few weeks from now, the election of a new government under that new constitution.
The political leaders of Iraq are steady and courageous, and the citizens, police and soldiers of that country have proudly stepped forward as active participants and guardians in a new democracy -- running for office, speaking out, voting and sacrificing for their country. Iraqi citizens are doing all of this despite threats from terrorists who offer no political agenda for Iraq’s future, and wage a campaign of mass slaughter against the Iraqi people themselves -- the vast majority of whom are fellow Arabs and fellow Muslims.
Day after day, Iraqis are proving their determination to live in freedom, to chart their own destiny, and to defend their own country. And they can know that the United States will keep our commitment to them. We will continue the work of reconstruction. Our forces will keep going after the terrorists, and continue training the Iraqi military, so that Iraqis can eventually take the lead in their country’s security and our men and women can come home. We will succeed in this mission, and when it is concluded, we will be a safer nation.
Wartime conditions are, in every case, a test of military skill and national resolve. But this is especially true in the war on terror. Four years ago, President Bush told Congress and the country that the path ahead would be difficult, that we were heading into a long struggle, unlike any we have known. All this has come to pass. We have faced, and are facing today, enemies who hate us, hate our country, and hate the liberties for which we stand. They dwell in the shadows, wear no uniform, have no regard for the laws of warfare, and feel unconstrained by any standard of morality. We’ve never had a fight like this, and the Americans who go into the fight are among the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. All who have labored in this cause can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.
The terrorists lack any capacity to inspire the hearts of good men and women. And their only chance for victory is for us to walk away from the fight. They have contempt for our values, they doubt our strength, and they believe that America will lose our nerve and let down our guard. But this nation has made a decision: We will not retreat in the face of brutality, and we will never live at the mercy of tyrants or terrorists.
None of us can know every turn that lies ahead for America in the fight against terror. And because we are Americans, we are going to keep discussing the conduct and the progress of this war and having debates about strategy. Yet the direction of events is plain to see, and this period of struggle and testing should also be seen as a time of promise. The United States of America is a good country, a decent country, and we are making the world a better place by defending the innocent, confronting the violent, and bringing freedom to the oppressed. We understand the continuing dangers to civilization, and we have the resources, the strength, and the moral courage to overcome those dangers and lay the foundations for a better world.
Thank you very much.
Fool's [Black] Gold
The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is (according to conventional wisdom) a valuable tool for protecting our domestic economy from oil shocks due to supply interruptions, political strife, natural disasters, etc. It was established in the mid-1970's in the wake of the OPEC oil crisis and currently holds around 700 million barrels of sweet, delicious crude oil.
Given current high oil prices and ongoing unrest in oil-producing regions, one would think the SPR would be more vital than ever. On the contrary, however, the Cato Institute has just published a policy analysis report entitled "The Case against the Strategic Petroleum Reserve" which argues the prorgram is a patently bad deal.
From the abstract:
Absent concrete market failures, government intervention in oil markets is unlikely to enhance economic welfare.
A conservative estimate finds that the SPR has cost taxpayers at least $41.2–$50.8 billion (in 2004 dollars), or $64.64–$79.58 per barrel of oil deposited therein. Accordingly, the "premium" associated with the insurance provided by the SPR is quite high relative to market prices for oil, even during 2005.
[T]he costs associated with the SPR have been larger than the benefits thus far.
The SPR insurance policy is unlikely to pay off in the future either. First, major oil supply shocks are much rarer than many observers believe. Second, the executive branch has been unwilling to use the reserve as quickly and robustly as economists recommend. Third, the benefits from a release are almost certainly overstated.
Policymakers should resist calls to increase the size of the reserve and instead sell the oil within the SPR and terminate the program.
In 2001, President Bush stated, "The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an important element of our Nation's energy security. To maximize long-term protection against oil supply disruptions, I am directing... the Secretary of Energy to fill the SPR up to its 700 million barrel [111,000,000 m³] capacity."
Bush may be an erstwhile oil man, but Cato makes a compelling case for selling off the reserve. If it helps seal the deal, the President can look forward to a one-time windfall of around $40 billion. That'd go a long way toward shoring up a short-term budget deficit.
Further: Full text of the Cato report (1mb pdf)
X Marks the Bias
Wow (via Drudge). Not terribly surprising, I suppose. But still, wow.
Bloggers (and other alternative media sources) of the world rejoice. CNN has just driven a deep nail in the MSM coffin. Unless there's an excellent explanation for this one, this ought to convince a lot of holdouts that traditional, ostensibly objective media sources are increasingly unreliable and agenda-driven.
I can't wait to hear how this one will be explained away. A/V malfunction? Meddlesome intern run amok? Family Feud rerun accidentally superimposed over footage? New Sesame Street cross-promotional campaign; today's broadcast brought to us by the letter X?
Can anyone tell what that black text underneath the X says (anyone looking for a Photoshop challenge)? The last word appears to be "Black", but I can't make the rest of it out.
Anyway, kudos, Drudge.
Update: CNN chose to go with "technological malfunction". Priceless. From TVNewser:
Upon seeing this unfortunate but very brief graphic, CNN senior management immediately investigated. We concluded this was a technological malfunction not an issue of operator error. A portion of the switcher experienced a momentary glitch. We obviously regret that it happened and are working on the equipment to ensure it is not repeated.
- NewsBusters reports.
- The Political Teen has the video.
- Stop the ACLU responds with its own subliminal messages.
- Blogs for Bush also wonders about the lower text.
- Wizbang notes a pattern.
- Don Surber has had enough of CNN.
Update: The Dan Report has managed to bring the muddied text into focus. It reads, "Transition begins after 5 frames of black".
A number of folks are thus concluding it was a simple technical glitch, no harm intended. In my mind, the issue is still wide open. "Technological malfunction" isn't going to cut it. What exactly happened, how did it happen, and how is it that it happened to happen with such intriguing timing? Why have we never seen it happen before, when CNN is on air 24/365? Was the timing purely coincidental? Perhaps it was. But a more thorough accounting is surely due.
Fishing For Dignity
Hurtling ever faster toward confirmed irrelevance, PETA has unleashed its most recent abomination - a charming little comic book (pictured) entitled "Your Daddy KILLS Animals!"
Subtitled "Ask your daddy why he's hooked on killing!" the comic (which follows the 2003 children's classic "Your Mommy Kills Animals") is posted on PETA's Fishing Hurts website, purveyor of Fish Flakes Trading Cards, which feature lovely cartoons of children vomiting and failing in school - presumably just two of the many consequences of ichthyocide.
In June, 2004, PETA's vegan campaign coordinator Matt Rice stated, "We would never use shock tactics with children; it wouldn't be right."
Yet the Center for Consumer Freedom notes that "PETA bragged last year that it reached over 2.3 million kids and teachers with its animal-rights propaganda." In August, the Center published a thorough report on the reprehensible tactics PETA uses in its targeting of children.
Now, personally, I'm not wild on the idea of eating fish. But that's only because I don't particularly enjoy seafood. Especially when there are so many tastier creatures to eat - like milk-fed veal calves or the noble buffalo.
But I digress. Appetites aside, PETA had better either think about a name change or begin according some ethical treatment to the corner of the animal kingdom known as juvenile homo sapiens.
Especially since the orgnization's own record of avoiding illegal animal slaughter and disposal is, well, blemished.
Elsewhere: Elephant in my Coffee
President Bush made his final Asian tour stop in Mongolia on Monday. Pictured here with Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar (AP photo via Fox News), Bush had high praise for the country, which was the first in Asia to reject communism in favor of democracy.
"Mongolia and the United States are standing together as brothers in the cause of freedom... You are an example of success for the region and for the world," Bush said. "As you build a free society in the heart of Central Asia, the American people stand with you."
Like many free and democratic nations around the world, Mongolia deployed its brave troops to Iraq.
Seriously, would you mess with this crowd?
Can You Repeat the Question?
Getting tired of trotting out the same old lineup of boring, logic-driven arguments for completing the mission in Iraq with your pullout-pushing friends? Here's a fresh incendiary one that's sure to strike a little deeper:
Dumb people support withdrawal.
Well, okay, maybe that's an oversimplification. But a new Pew Research Poll (via The Plank and Ankle Biting Pundits) finds a correlation between smarts (specifically, knowledge of world affairs) and rejection of the fast withdrawal policy.
[T]he poll found that the savvier Americans are about global affairs (based on their knowledge of key world figures and events), the less likely they are to support a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Sixty-six percent of the least knowledgeable folks--i.e., ones who couldn't even ID Vladimir Putin--support a fast withdrawal. Only 48 percent of the best-informed ones took that position. Perhaps that offers some small consolation to the currently besieged stay-the-course crowd.
al-Zarqawi Tasting His Own Medecine?
The Elaph Arab media website reported on Sunday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of the al-Qaida in Iraq terror group, may have been killed in Iraq on Sunday afternoon when eight terrorists blew themselves up in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
The unconfirmed report claimed that the explosions occurred while coalition forces surrounded the house in which al-Zarqawi was hiding. American and Iraqi forces are looking into the report.
DEBKAfile reports the U.S. is in the midst of a DNA comparison.
Lots more elsewhere (and hat tips to pretty much everyone below):
Update: White House says it's "highly unlikely" al-Zarqawi is among the dead.
A new fringe-dwelling creature has crawled out of the sociopolitical ooze. Closely related to the moonbat, the newly observed species features a collective, hive-like structure - not unlike the Borg. Or that network of parasitic fungus they found in Oregon a while back.
Taxonomically dubbed municipalus liberalus, the emerging political phenomenon is better known simply as a moonburg, after its human counterpart.
The identifying characteristic of the species is passage by the local legislature of a resolution to abandon the fight in Iraq.
Specimens include Chicago, IL; Chapel Hill, NC; Berkeley, CA; Sacramento, CA; Cambridge, MA; and more than 60 other U.S. cities.
From The Washington Post:
The efforts are being pushed by the D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, which sponsored the prewar "Cities for Peace" campaign that helped rally 165 cities to oppose the 2003 invasion. Director John Cavanagh, pointing to polls that show growing public frustration with the Iraq war, said that "we're at a fascinating tipping point."
How far the effort goes remains to be seen. Cavanagh is the first to concede that cities alone cannot make foreign policy.
When traveling, keep an eye out for these curious creatures, which are not well understood by cogent, rational observers. Moonburgs may be conspicuously non-aggressive, but make no mistake, they are dangerous.
Changes in Latitude
Aloha (the hello kind)!
Well, after a day and a half of travel, I've just arrived in the great state of Hawai'i, where I'll be through Thanksgiving. But Inouye do I plan to lay off the blog upkeep while here (yuk yuk).
Expect to see some gripping photo and videoblogging mixed in with the usual fare this week (pictured is the none-too-shabby view from the balcony).
Aloha (the goodbye kind)!
Cut and Run Resolution Fails 403-3
Spinelessness, it seems, is not contained to military policy.
[Blogger's note: I really picked the wrong day to be traveling. My apologies for being completely out of range during today's excitement. If you also happened to be on an airplane, in a sensory deprivation chamber, wedged in a 10,000' crevice, or otherwise cut off from the world, you may want to peruse the following coverage from bloggers that were not surprisingly way on the ball today.]
The Political Teen
Stop the ACLU
When John Murtha grandstood for the media Thursday and called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, he probably didn't expect Republicans to oblige him in a vote. But that's exactly what happened, and with predictable results.
Democrats said it was a political stunt and quickly decided to vote against it in an attempt to drain it of significance.
"A disgrace," declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "The rankest of politics and the absence of any sense of shame," added Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat.
Yes, there was an element of stunt involved here. On both sides. But the Republican stunt was simply to accede Murtha's stated (thus far loudly lauded) call for such a vote. Was the tenor of media coverage we've seen of John Murtha lately in keeping with a legislator espousing policy so radical he could only sell it to 3 of his 434 colleagues?
Nancy, Steny, when you bluff and get called on it, you can't lash out at the bluff caller simply for exposing the emptiness and indefensibility of your position.
Elsewhere, John Kerry was doing a little grandstanding of his own, saying he "won't stand for the swift-boating" of Murtha, a fellow Vietnam veteran.
*Sheesh* It's not always about you, John.
Today's impromptu tempest makes me wonder about the shrewdness of the modern American Democratic legislator. First, they were hoodwinked by an inept and dimwitted President into casting faulty and regrettable votes in favor of the Iraq war. And now, Denny Hastert managed to hornswoggle them into this awkward embarrassment.
Hey Democratic leadership, what's this spot on your tie?
Elsewhere: Final Vote Results of Roll Call 608
Overdue Housekeeping, From Bloggers Against Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Just a quick note - you no longer need the unsightly .blogs intermediary in the web address to get here.
suitablyflip.com will do fine (though the old address will continue to work as well).
Conference Call with Alito "Confirmation Sherpa" Sen. Dan Coats
This afternoon, former U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) will host a blogger conference call to "give us an update on the nomination, report on the Judge Alito’s meetings with Senators, and discuss the emerging attacks from liberal interest groups."
Watch this space for a scintillating summary.
Background: Excerpted from "Ad war targets N.E. senators on Alito nomination" at Boston.com:
Today, a coalition of leading liberal groups is launching its first major advertising push against Alito, depicting the appeals court judge as the choice of the ''right wing" who would limit individual freedoms.
The ad is airing on cable nationally and on local stations in the home states of Republican senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins of Maine, and Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island.
The 30-second spot is being funded jointly by the Alliance for Justice, People for the American Way, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which announced its formal opposition to Alito yesterday. It is scheduled to air today through Tuesday, and other ads are in the works for the coming weeks.
The ad follows a smaller campaign, launched by People for the American Way but not the other liberal groups two weeks ago, arguing in broader terms that Alito would threaten ''fundamental rights and freedoms."
Aron is the voice of the telling "You name it, we'll do it" strategy of defeating Alito and her Alliance for Justice seems recently to have taken on the role of Senator Kennedy's outsourced research department, as noted during the recent conference call with Ed Gillespie.
Update: The Synopsis
RNC eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini kicked off the call, introducing Senator Coats, who commented on the state of the Alito confirmation process before taking our questions (excerpted and lightly paraphrased, except as noted):
Coats: Judge Alito has recently finished his 66th U.S. Senator consultation, which is likely a Guinness Book accomplishment. These meetings have continued to go exceptionally well. To those Senators who were already supportive of the nominee, he has reaffirmed their opinion. To those that may have had doubts or reservations, he has successfully made the case that he does not resemble the caricature being conveyed by his opponents.
Judge Alito can be expected to be attacked during the Congressional recess, in particular in televised ads that greatly exaggerate and mischaracterize his positions.
I was in the Senate when Justice Ginsberg was nominated, and while I differed with her ideologically, I voted to affirm her nomination based on her qualifications, her experience on the bench, and the belief that the President had "the right to nominate someone of his leaning".
Flip Pidot: How does Judge Alito respond to the Alliance for Justice's claim (per the attack ad transcript discussed above) that Judge Alito made it "easier for companies to discriminate" in the Bray v. Marriott Hotels case?
Coats: I haven't yet seen that transcript, but that was a single, narrow case, about which there were divided opinions. Judge Alito has shown no ideological bent or judicial activism. 66 Senators having met with the nominee, not a single one of them believed otherwise after listening to his explanations of why he ruled as he did.
Patrick Hynes: Why have we not yet seen more activism at a grassroots level both for and against Alito?
Coats: Because upon learning about Judge Alito, "no alarms are ringing." He has a temperament appropriate for the Court and he has been fair in all his rulings.
Matt Margolis: We've been warned for a while that these attack ads were coming. Why wasn't there a stronger fight for a shorter hearing calendar?
Coats: That's a legitimate question and it's a real concern. There was a fight, but ultimately we had to defer to the Judicial Committee, where there was significant resistance among the Democrats.
Ryne McClaren: Given the long lead time before the hearings, will Alito have to prepare for a different line of questioning than John Roberts did? Will Alito need to be more on the offensive?
Coats: Because Judge Alito has been on the bench for so much longer (15 years versus Roberts' 1.5 years), he has presided over a lot more cases (some 3,500). He has been consistent in how and why he has made the decisions he has made, but the longer track record will mean the questions will relate more to specific cases.
John Hawkins: Judge Alito stated in 1985 that he didn't believe there was a Constitutional right to abortion. Given the subsequent related cases that have come before the Supreme Court, doesn't the Ginsberg rule still apply?
Coats: We believe the Ginsberg rule does apply. We didn't press the previous administration's nominee on specifics of such cases and it wouldn't be fair for the Democrats to do so now.
Many thanks to Patrick and Senator Coats for hosting the call.
Update: Patrick Ruffini has followed up with several documents that lay out the controversial, liberal positions Ruth Bader Ginsburg had staked out on age of consent laws, abortion, Mother's Day, and even prostitution, none of which precluded her from being duly considered on the basis of her judicial philosophy and experience. I'm on my way to catch a plane, so I won't be able to look at any of these or offer any reaction until much later tonight. In the mean time, feel free to tear into them yourself. Let me know if you come across anything particularly on point.
Tax Bill Passes Senate, Possibly Muster
Sometime after midnight on Friday, the Senate passed by a vote of 64-33 a $60 billion dollar tax bill that could be called the "Tax Increase Prevention Act" if you're Rick Santorum, or a regressive, oppressive, tax cut for the wealthy, if you're a Democratic Senator or left wing pundit with a casual regard for accuracy.
Most of the provisions in the bill do indeed seek to extend duly enacted tax reductions that would otherwise sunset over the next several years, so Santorum's characterization is apt.
Nomenclature may prove a moot point, however, if the President makes good on his veto threat. Bush takes issue with the bill because it alters accounting standards for oil companies (specifically, it disallows them from deducting their full inventory costs, raising their stated income and likewise, their tax liability), to the tune of $4.3 billion in estimated incremental annual tax burden.
Alert readers will recall I sympathize with Bush on this issue, but at least the Senate majority succeeded in putting a stop to the "windfall profit taxes" some Democrats were angling for. When a similar plan was put in place in 1980, its annual drain on oil companies was more than $20 billion, and the ripple effects on consumers, the economy, and indeed the long-term growth and operating efficiency of the energy industry were costlier still.
Answering my question at yesterday's Senate Blog Row on the mysterious newfound attention to windfall taxes, Sam Brownback (R-KS) agreed such tax policy is "a terrible idea to even be considering."
So the accounting change-up seems somewhat less terrible, both in magnitude and in so much as there's an ostensible accounting standard case to be made (though a filmsy one), compared with a hike imposed simply on the basis of excessive profitability.
All in all, this bill (while falling short of the kind of substantive, overdue tax reform Republicans ought to be able to put through with bicameral majorities and the White House) has a lot of nice features. And with the Senate getting ready to recess and their cups runnething over with Patriot Act items on their remaining agenda (and Alito items upon their return), it would be somewhat disheartening to see the non-2/3-majority-getting bill thrown back into an already frenetic Upper House.
That said, I can't say I'll hold it against the President if he makes good on his veto threat (though I'm sure the deluded "Bush will do anything for his oil buddies" brigade will). Thin veneer of accounting rationale notwithstanding, $4+ billion of incremental tax liability heaped on the energy industry is anti-growth policy applied right where we need it the least.
Senate Blog Row Wrap-Up
The Senate Republican Committee put on a stellar program today. Made possible largely thanks to Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (PA), a panel of bloggers was given unprecedented access to a number of Republican Senators, who graciously indulged our questions on a variety of topics ranging from Alito to Zarqawi.
Mary Katherine Ham, Hugh Hewitt
William Beutler, Hotline
Justin Hart, Right Side Redux
Bill McCarthy, Defend Democracy
Pat Cleary, National Association of Manufacturers Blog
Orin Kerr, Volokh Conspiracy
TigerHawk, TigerHawk Blog
Tim Chapman, Townhall.com Capitol Report
Gerard Vanderleun, American Digest
Ed Driscoll, Open Source Media
Flip Pidot, Suitably Flip
(Please let me know if you know of anyone I didn't catch on my list.)
I'm in the process of chewing through my notes and working up a more thoughtful wrap-up, but I'd be remiss if I didn't also comment on our special behind-the-scenes tour of the Senate Republican Conference nerve center/communications office in the Hart Office Building (that's yours truly at right, in one of the SRC studios; photo by TigerHawk).
I'd already been duly impressed by the innovative ways the party has found to leverage alternative media channels. But the SRC operations are really taking things to new heights. In addition to being slathered in dark and shiny technology (not unlike the WOPR room from WarGames, only less 80's), but a swarm of terribly clever people are crawling around the joint, monitoring dozens of video feeds on integrated wall displays, mixing sound and video footage for web distribution, designing those flashy visual aids you see Senators using as Floor exhibits, and otherwise optimizing the 2-way flow of information among Senators, their constituents, and everyone in between (which I guess is called "the media").
Watch this space shortly for the fleshed out wrap-up of the Blog Row proper. In the meantime, please enjoy the several prior entries below, posted live (and thus somewhat hastily) during this groundbreaking event.
First the House, then the Senate... it's been an exciting month to be a conservative blogger. Could there be a Presidential Blog Row in the cards?
Previously: House Blog Row Wrap-Up
Senate Blog Row: Majority Leader Bill Frist
Bill Frist (TN):
Current Senate priorities:
1st - Restore fiscal discipline: cut spending, reduce the deficit, balance the budget.
2nd - Energy independence: elimination of our irresponsible dependence on foreign oil.
3rd - Border security: a problem of national security, fairness, and economics.
On the Patriot Act agreement and whether it will hold: It's still being negotiated, but it's my intention to keep the Senate here straight through Monday with completing the Patriot Act as our goal. We're at war and this Act is a bipartisan tool that we have a responsibility to pass now.
On the job of majority leader: Lead in a direction that is conservative and focuses on the dignity of individuals. Focus on government, but not with the aim of making it bigger.
On the Harriet Miers nomination: Harriet Miers withdrew herself for reasons she made clear. No one has given up right to demand up or down vote.
On tax policy (my question): We tend to have two packages - one on the spending side (mandatory entitlement spending, which is problematic because it's on autopilot) and one on revenue side (14% increase in revenues last years was in large part due to investment tax credits, jobs programs, stimulated growth of capital investment). The tax package on the floor now is not what I would've designed, but it's what we can get 50 votes on (and I'm going to work hard to improve it).
On 2 Iraq amendments: The Democratic amendment would've sent exactly the wrong message. The alternative amendment that we laid out was intended to address the cut and run stance of the Levin proposal. That stark contrast was what enabled us to get majority support.
Senate Blog Row: Sam Brownback
Senator Brownback (KS):
On Alito and filibusters: If Democrats go the route of filibustering Sam Alito, we're going to go the route of changing the rule.
On spending: We as conservative lawmakers need to change the system. The system used for identifying military bases due for elimination should be mapped across all government programs.
On ANWR: It's not DOA. In this atmosphere, if you can't pass a drilling initiative, I don't know when you can.
On windfall profit taxes (my question):
3 dollar/gallon gasoline upsets people. Under economic theory or practice, these taxes are a terrible idea to even be considering. If any companies participated in anti-trust violation or market manipulation, I say throw the book at them. Lock them up. But when you’re dealing with a commodity business (which sometimes move with you and sometimes against you), to go after commodity-based industries is just a terrilbe idea.
Senator Frist just walked in...
Senate Blog Row: Craig Thomas, Rick Santorum
Slight break in the action here as we await Senators Brownback and Frist (and possibly DeMint).
Senators Craig Thomas (WY) and Rick Santorum (PA) just finished up. A couple more highlights:
Tim Chapman of Townhall.com asked Senator Thomas what this session's biggest accomplishments have been.
Thomas (paraphrased): The energy bill and the highway bill were very important. Going forward, we'll be looking at healthcare more seriously. There's also clearly increased interest in holding down spending. Our current culture is one in which it seem sanything people need or want is provided by the government.
I asked Senator Santorum what the GOP strategy is to maintain and build the Senate majority in 2006.
His response was that the party needs to leverage alternative media sources (like talk radio and the blogosphere), due to the clear bias of the mainstream media and their unwillingness to provide balanced reporting.
Brownback now beginning...
Senate Blog Row: George Allen, Saxby Chambliss, John Thune
More thorough recaps will follow during breaks or at the end of the event, but here are some quick hits from the afternoon so far:
George Allen (VA):
On 3 most pressing "to do's":
1: Energy (need long-term approach to energy independence)
2: Strengthen and enforce border control
3: Restrain spending
(Also: don't let the UN or other international bodies seize internet oversight)
Saxby Chambliss (GA):
Answering my question about the two new Iraq amendments, the second of which, proposed by John Warner, passed with wide Republican support and calls for a quarterly update on progress in Iraq by the White House:
I voted against both amendments. The Warner amendment was less mischevious than the Levin amendment (which was "horrible"), but both send the wrong message to the troops and the terrorists.
John Thune (SD):
Attacks on the President: There is no basis to make the reckless and irresponsible claims attacking the President's character. I just came from the floor where Senator Reid was doing it again.
Energy: We have a responsibility to make use of the resources, renewables, and industrial resources at our disposal. We ought to have the goal of complete energy independence within 5-10 years. We need to pick a date and declare it our energy "moonshot".
Begin the Senate Liveblog
Well, sort of.
They've currently got us cooling our heels in a corrdior outside the Foreign Relations Room, but things should kick off in the next few minutes.
Senate Blog Row Today
This afternoon I'll be taking part in a blogger panel hosted by the Senate Republican Conference, featuring an as yet undisclosed roster of GOP Senators.
Alert readers will recall I had the privilege of attending a similar event put on by the House Republican Conference last month. If today's turnout is anything comparable, it should be a great day.
I'll be liveblogging starting around 1:00 pm (give or take, depending on how long the security screening and tech setup takes). The event is scheduled to run until 3:30.
If you're online during those hours, you can join me in a Yahoo! Messenger chat (ID: flippidot) to throw feedback or follow-up questions to the attending Senators. I'll do my best to facilitate a real-time two-way exchange.
Alternatively, you can reach me via e-mail with questions (don't forget to fix the address).
Bush Fights Back - Round 4
The counterattack to the Bush lied lie continued in its newfound doggedness today. With the President out of the country, Cheney stepped in for this round, offering some choice words about the hypocrisy and memory lapses among the administration's critics.
Excerpted from the Vice President's remarks at the Frontiers of Freedom Institute's 2005 Ronald Reagan Gala:
What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out. American soldiers and Marines are out there every day in dangerous conditions and desert temperatures – conducting raids, training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers – and back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie. The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone – but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history.
Hands Off, World
You browse with your eyes, not with your governance.
I've carped before about the pesky persistence of the EU to get their hands into internet oversight. The argument goes something like this: "The internet is a global resource and not the domain (no pun intended) of any single nation. It's too important to be left to a single overseer."
On the contrary, I say it's too important to unleash the ills and inefficiencies of international bureaucracy on it.
Still, 100 countries are getting together this week to hash out a deal at the momentously named World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia (which is apparently called Tunis now - apologies to Art Blakey).
It looks as though the compromise struck is little more than a placating gesture:
Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.
U.S. officials said early Wednesday that instead of transferring management of the system to an international body such as the United Nations, an international forum would be created to address concerns. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael D. Gallagher, however, said the deal means the United States will leave day-to-day management to the private sector, through a quasi-independent organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
Okay, so functionally, it doesn't seem that much will change with this new accord. But this still a dunderheaded and potentially dangerous direction to be moving in. Set aside that it was predominantly American capital, information systems, and intellectual resources that gave rise to the internet (which of course is how U.S.-based organizations grew organically into the role of de facto overseers). From a strictly utilitarian, what's-best-for-the-future-of-the-internet perspective, it's senseless that there's such hue and cry to upturn a status quo that in fact serves phenomenally well.
All things considered, would you rather a hugely complex, vital system be managed by the private sector or government? By a concentrated body or a web of consortiums of far-flung parties? By the United States or... anyone else?
If you picked all the first answers, kudos. You're a logical, objective thinker who resides in the real world. If you picked some or all of the latter answers, you're probably reading this from the Brussels-Capital Region.
(Nothing against Brussels - I hear it's a lovely city with a rich heritage. It's also a good bet if you're looking for Carmen Sandiego.)
Not convinced that letting the international bureaucracy have its way with the web would befoul it beyond recognition? Try chewing through some of the 56 conference planning documents on the WSIS website.