Franchising Killed the Mafia Star
15 minutes into tonight's Sopranos and we've got two not-so-subtle jabs at mass-franchisers. First, a pair of thugs are styimed trying to shake down a Starbucksy type coffee shop for protection money, failing because the store's sophisticated accounting and inventory controls won't allow the manager to fudge the books. Next, a live poultry store owned by Tony (and presumably used for various illegitimate purposes or rented above market to an unregistered, unsanitary, or otherwise unfit tenant) is targeted by Century 21 (and their proxy Nurse Hathway), with an eye on turning it into a Jamba Juice.
The thugs, on their way out of the Starbucksy coffee shop, lament, "It's over for the little guy."
Ah, the poultry shop is used as a gambling hall. Hathaway reveals this to bust Tony while he's waxing old-fashioned, complaining about the "Old Navy and Bed Bath and Whatever" taking over all the small towns.
Schmill of Rights
"He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform....I know that money corrupts....I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."
- John McCain on Imus
Video of the segment is available at YouTube.
Bloggers Review United 93
Hot Air is maintaining a roundup of the many reviews starting to pour out of the blogosphere. I've been sidelined with a cold the last couple days, but I'm going to try to see the movie this weekend, after which I'll follow suit.
As previously linked, Mary Katherine Ham put up what may have been the first blog review a week ago.
The roundup also links to this footage from Google Video of the South Tower collapsing. I've never seen this clip before. It features extreme close-ups of the burning floors just before the collapse. There's nothing in it that's any more graphic than all the other footage of this terrible scene, but listening to the reactions of the off-camera bystanders after the collapse is horrifying.
They Come In Threes
In the same week that brought us web-published recordings from Osama bin Laden and Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's #2 terrorist Ayman al-Zawahri is now appearing in a video released on an "Islamic militant website".
[Al-Zawahri] said the terror network's branch in Iraq had "broken the back" of the U.S. military with hundreds of homicide bombings... He said that U.S. and British forces in Iraq had bogged down in Iraq and "have achieved nothing but loss, disaster and misfortune.
Al Qaeda in Iraq alone has carried out 800 martyrdom operations (homicide attacks) in 3 years, besides the sacrifices of the other mujahedeen, and this is what has broken the back of American in Iraq," al-Zawahiri said.
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian militant believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as "traitors" and called on Muslims to rise up to "confront them."
The bin Laden audiotape released 6 days ago was followed by the coordinated Sinai bombings, then the release of the Zarqawi videotape in the subsequent two days, making this an abnormally concentrated period of psychopath propaganda.
If they do represent a coordinated communications blitz, whether to instill fear, demonstrate relevance, rally the faithful, or to trigger attacks, it would suggest that the substance of the messages is largely irrelevant. Yes, there's always a good bit of "standard jihadi wanker boilerplate" as Allah Pundit put it, but the specific themes are generally divergent and, in this case anyway, dissimilar to the attacks that actually occurred. Zarqawi and bin Laden urged confronting the infidels in Sudan, not Egypt. Zawahri's video is entitled "A Message to the People of Pakistan", carping about President Musharraf.
The bin Laden audiotape released 6 days ago was followed by the coordinated Sinai bombings, then the release of the Zarqawi videotape in the subsequent two days, making this an abnormally concentrated period of psychopath propaganda.Because of the limited quality of cave-borne production facilities and the producers' inability to drop in on their local news affiliates unfettered, we can't tell too much about when these tapes were created (though Zawahri mentions Bush's March trip to India and Pakistan), so it's hard to say whether the coincident timing is deliberate and meaningful, or merely coincidental.
If there's any good news behind the prospect of the timing of these tapes being deliberate (according to my lay speculation), it'd be that these terrorist leaders are in close coordination, maybe even closely co-located, which might suggest they throw up a larger signature on the radar screen of those hunting them.
Cyberjihadis Roast the Stomachs of Bloggers Everywhere
It appears a massive denial-of-service attack originating from Saudi Arabia took down a number of your favorite megablogs today. Michelle Malkin is maintaining a list of affected sites and status updates throughout the day. The e-fatwah rained down upon:
Instapundit (***Glenn is posting on his back-up site here***)
Small Dead Animals
Castle Arggh! - John Donovan
She Who Will Be Obeyed - Beth Donovan
I notice Google Reader has been on the fritz most of the afternoon too. Then again, it's a temperamental sort on the best of days.
- What's a denial-of-service attack?
- Did the etherfiends really target this site on April 1st?
- Don't those nutty jihadis have anything better to do with their time?
- How do they keep all that sand out of their keyboards anyway?
Roger Toussaint As Free As a Bird Now
Jailed transit union chief Roger Toussaint will be released today, after serving 4 days of his 10 day jail sentence. (GOP and the City has his final diary entry.)
As a condition of his early release, Toussaint should be compelled to write an essay entitled, "What I Learned About Illegally Leveraging the Financial Well-Being and Safety of 7 Million New Yorkers and Countless Holiday Tourists In the Pursuit Of Financial Gain For Myself and My Co-Conspirators."
Transit Tribulations Roll On
New Yorkers Do It Underground
A Taste of Their Own Medicine
Decision Time for Illegal NYC Transit Strikers
Fat Lady Iced
What a Deal
Roger Toussaint's Billion Dollar Christmas Present
Back on Track
The [Unofficial] Not For Tourists Guide to NYC - Strike Edition
Strike 3 (Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $62,000)
Transit Strike Update
TWU Walks Out On New york
New Yorkers Behaving Like New Yorkers
T-Minus 1 Hour: Transit Union Walks Out
No Progress on Transit Negotiations
Bracing for Bedlam
Bloomberg Steps Up
New York's Looming Illegal Transit Strike
America, Prepare To Be Shocked and Astonished
U.S. GDP grew at the superswift annual pace of 4.8% in the first quarter of 2006, according to the Commerce Department's advance reading [.pdf].
If polls are accurate, 70% of Americans should be flabbergasted by this.
Well, even if you're in the 30% that cleverly figured out the economy was in great shape (and my readers are a terribly clever bunch), allow yourself to be flabbergasted by this:
An inflation gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve showed that core prices -- excluding food and energy -- rose by 2 percent, down from 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter.
Yes, in sequential quarters, GDP growth nearly tripled, while inflation actually ticked down significantly.
Make it permanent, Congress.
Interview With Governor Bill Weld
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Weld, Republican Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, and 2006 New York gubernatorial hopeful.
I met with Mr. Weld at his campaign headquarters in midtown Manhattan, a spacious, but high-energy suite of offices, with campaign staffers constantly buzzing back and forth. The staff shrugged off the impact of the constant activity, stopping to take note of the relative opulence of their facilities compared to campaigns earlier in their careers. When I sat down with the candidate himself, it was clear he was in his element, delighting in everything from the breakneck pace of the campaign to the inevitable office clutter, without which "it wouldn't be a campaign headquarters."
In all, I was able to stick around for a little over an hour (though our actual conversation went on brief hiatus when important calls came in). Mr. Weld was eager to learn more about political blogging, including how to maintain quality control if allowing unmoderated comments. This, by now, is a familiar concern among elected officials. Nancy Pelosi's briefly published Congressional blogging primer discussed the importance of thick skin. And back in March, we heard many concerns about message control from House members' press secretaries at the blogging how-to event hosted by Rep. Jack Kingston.
The substance of our conversation vis a vis the gubernatorial race was wide-ranging as Mr. Weld happily indulged me on every topic I threw at him.
Mr. Weld was kind enough to let me capture the interview on video. Unfortunately, my laptop videocam encountered some audio hiccups along the way, resulting in several minute-or-longer stretches of nothing but loud static. Sadly, these interrupted some very interesting segments, making them wholly unusable. Thankfully, a number of stretches did come through unspoiled, which are presented in the video below.
My write-up on the full interview is available in the extended entry.
The number one priority Governor Weld identified for New York State was to alter fiscal policy, noting that New York is rated 50th out of 50 states in its business tax climate. He stood proudly on his record of 19 tax cuts in the commonwealth formerly known as Taxachusetts and expressed his desire to do the same for New York. He went on to discuss his proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a system that would by law restrain state spending to a level set by the prior year's revenue. Surpluses would be split into tax rebates and rainy day funds, while spikes in property taxes would be curtailed.
I noted that both Mr. Weld and the Democratic frontrunner Eliot Spitzer were similar in that they both had considerable experience prosecuting white collar crime in their careers. He responded that I was "half right". I thought he was referring to the fact that he'd also served as Governor. I quickly learned he meant that he doesn't consider Spitzer's prosecutorial achievements to be comparable to his, either in convictions or years of jail time. "Spitzer just puts out more press releases than I did," he explained.
We also spoke briefly about the MTA, the transit strike, the Roosevelt Island Tramway mishap, and New York's public benefit corporations in general. Mr. Weld agreed with the spirit of the Taylor Law, which prohibits public employee unions from striking, thus denying the public their taxpayer-funded services. He also expressed disappointment in the MTA when they reported a fat surplus right before hiking subway fares. As usual, there's plenty of blame to go around on this debacle.
Noting that New York is a border state, and that over a half million illegal immigrants are thought to live in New York City alone, I asked Mr. Weld about his thoughts on immigration reform and border security. Here, he stated a greater fondness for the Senate style of reform than for the House's. While border security is a key element, he does feel that a path to citizenship should be a component of immigration reform.
As one of my favorite 2008 contenders is now discharging Governor Weld's former duties in Massachusetts, I asked what he felt Mitt Romney's chances were in 2008. "Growth stock" was the phrase he used, which I thought was apt. He also mentioned George Allen's name, noting the two of them have been starting to generate a lot of buzz.
In all, Governor Weld struck me as extremely affable, at ease with and even reveling in his role as a campaigner. He's superlatively well-informed and conveys a genuine philosophical idealism when discussing the importance of encouraging business growth and curbing outmigration by lowering taxes, a refreshing quality for someone with a long (for most, long enough to be at least embittering, if not jading) and successful career in public service.
Weld will face John Faso, former NYS Assembly minority leader, in the Republican primary this September.
Apes Are People Too
The socialist PSOE party is apparently intent on introducing a bill aimed at giving apes the same rights as man, "and the immediate inclusion of these animals as people." As a result, the bill adds that apes "should have the same moral and legal protection that humans currently enjoy."
Fernando Sebastian, the bishop of Tudela has termed the measure as "making oneself looking ridiculous in the name of progress, and then what about the rights of the fighting bulls?" Meanwhile, other political commentators have stated that as a result of these measures, it will not be long before apes names will start appearing on the electoral rolls.
Those zany socialists are always up to something, ain't they? Well, the joke will be on them when they discover the primate voting bloc tends to skew very capitalist.
Midweek Market Surge
Tony Snow, Rock God
Tax Freedom Day!
Get ready to cast off the shackles, America. Tax Freedom Day is upon us!
As of April 26th (three days later than last year), you've earned enough to cover your federal, state, and local tax bill for 2006.
Now that Uncle Sam has finally finished exacting his toll, feel free to enjoy these next eight months of gathering filthy lucre for yourself!
"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom." - Albert Einstein
Let It Snow
Looks like a done deal.
Keith Olberman will
tear his hair out rip his own head off over this. I'm actually a little surprised (and a mite spurned that my pick of Dan Senor didn't pan out). Of course Tony Snow's White House credentials are unquestionable (he was chief speechwriter, then Deputy Assistant for Media Affairs to Bush 41), but given his strongly-entrenched Fox identity amassed over the entire decade of the channel's existence, I suspect the carping about overt and manifest ties between the GOP/the Bush administration and the Fox News Channel is about to reach an unholy volume.
Al-Zarqawi Releases New Cavecast
Expose the Left has video of a man who appears to be Abu Musab al Zarwaqi, unmasked and discussing the insurgency in Iraq.
The video comes one day after coordinated terror bombings rocked the Sinai, killing dozens, and two days after the release of a new Osama bin Laden audiotape. The timing of the sequence suggests to DEBKAfile the possibility of a "fresh al Qaeda cycle of terrorist attacks".
My guess: Zarqawi's peeved about the Washington Post report asserting that his significance is overstated and that the U.S. military is "conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq". That report was published just over two weeks ago. Seems like about the right turnaround time for a roundtrip media gibe between civilization and the fourth world terrorist badlands.
As for the substance of the tape, while a full transcript has yet to surface, Allah Pundit describes it as "standard jihadi wanker boilerplate".
Your mujahideen sons were able to confront the most ferocious of crusader campaigns on a Muslim state. They have stood in the face of this onslaught for three years.
When the crusader enemy entered Iraq, he intended to control the Islamic nation and supported the Zionist state.
By God, America will be defeated in Iraq.
Analysis of the video at Counterterrorism Blog
"We Just Wanted To See If a Picture of His Face Was Really Under the Word 'Evil'."
No one knows exactly why (perhaps to confirm the spelling of one or more of the words in the phrase "consummate candidate for extermination"), but the jury deliberating the fate of Zacarious Moussaoui asked the judge for a dictionary today. The judge said no, but did offer to help them with any specific definitions they may need.
The jury is in their second day of deliberation, following closing arguments that included a mild argument against dispatching Moussaoui to the hereafter.
Moussaoui's court-appointed defense lawyers, who have been at odds with their client for years, said a death sentence would be giving Moussaoui exactly what he wants an execution at the hands of his enemies and martyrdom.
Moussaoui has said at various times that he believes being executed by the Americans may grant him a path to paradise in the afterlife.
Great, then everybody's happy. What's the hold up? Chop, chop. Hoka hey.
Roger Toussaint's Jail Diary
Day 1 is available now. An excerpt:
It has been an exciting day so far, I even took The Man's advice and "walked my ass" to jail across the Brooklyn Bridge. You know, I hear that some people were forced to walk over that bridge in December. Why they did not take a chauffeured car across is a mystery to me?
It was fun and I had my trusty man-servant drag a case with all the things I'll need during my 10 days in jail:
- Gold-handled toothbrush
- Armani pajamas
- 2 cases of Caviar
- Soap on a rope
- Al Sharpton
Raise Your Hand If You're Sure
Last month, when consumer confidence ticked up to nearly a 4-year high, I made the hilarious joke that if it went any higher, we'd need to rename it the Consumer Cockiness Index.
Well, now it's official.
Today, the Conference Board released the April reading of the Consumer Confidence Index, which moved still higher, from 107.5 to 109.6.
"Improving present-day conditions continue to boost consumers' spirits," says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Recent improvements in the labor market have been a major driver behind the rise in confidence in early 2006. Looking ahead, consumers are not as pessimistic as they were last month. However, expectations for the economy and labor market have been trending downward since peaking in 2003. And, while prices at the pump have yet to impact confidence, further increases could dampen consumers' mood."
Consumers' overall assessment of current conditions remains favorable. Those claiming conditions are "good" rose to 29.7 percent from 27.9 percent. Those claiming conditions are "bad," however, also rose to 15.1 percent from 14.7 percent. Labor market conditions, which had been mixed, improved. Consumers saying jobs are "plentiful" increased to 29.1 percent from 28.3 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" edged down to 19.6 percent from 20.4 percent.
Have You Heard the [Previous] Good News?
Hey America, Why the Long Face?
Initial Jobless Claims Dip Still Lower
Fed: The End Is Near (Maybe)
Trade Deficit Narrows, Senate Angles For More
If Unemployment Falls In the U.S., Does It Make a Headline?
Say It With Me Now: "Joblessness Falls Again"
Besides Which, You See, We Have Confidence In We!
Tony Snow to Accept WH Press Secretary Offer?
“Sources close to the White House say that Fox News anchor Tony Snow is expected to accept the job as White House press secretary,” Anderson Cooper said at the top of 360 tonight.
CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said there may be an announcement in the next few days—possibly as soon as Tuesday. “Sources say that this came to some sort of resolution over the weekend,” she said.
Cooper asked: “Is this a done deal?” She replied: “it’s a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”
Three Explosions in Egyptian Resort Town
More than 150 are dead or wounded, according to the doctor who runs Egypt's Sinai Peninsula rescue squad, after three explosions rocked the resort town of Dahab Monday night, not far from Sharm el Sheik where simultaneous bomb attacks killed up to 88 people last July.
Both sites are scuba diving resort towns on the Red Sea's Gulf of Aqaba, popular among westerners and Israelis.
According to Haaretz.com, at least 22 people were killed in the attacks, which hit a hotel, a restaurant, and the town's market area.
This is high tourist season - part of a five-day Egyptian holiday - and hotels all along the Egyptian coasts could be expected to be at near capacity.
"There is smoke coming from the area and there are people running everywhere," said the witness, who did not want to be named.
Body parts and debris were seen in the streets after an explosion in a tourist restaurant, other residents said. One visitor said cars and buses leaving the resort were being stopped by police.
Groups claiming links to Al-Qaida took responsibility for those attacks, and Egyptian authorities say new Islamic militant groups have arisen in the peninsula - but they are still trying to determine if they have any real connection to al-Qaida or other international terrorists.
Among the groups that took credit for July's Sharm el Sheik bombings were Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Tawhid and Jihad Group in Egypt, and Holy Warriors of Egypt.
The timing of this attack is somewhat alarming, coming so immediately on the heels of yesterday's release of a new audio recording of Osama bin Laden, an event speculated to be a method of triggering attacks. But the substance of bin Laden's most recent cavecast was to encourage jihadis to fight the oppressors in Sudan, not Egypt.
"I call on the mujahideen and their supporters in Sudan ... and the Arabian peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the Crusaders in western Sudan," bin Laden said, accusing the West of seeking to divide Sudan.
Sudan hosted bin Laden in the 1990s, but on the tape he criticised a U.S.-backed peace deal between Khartoum and southern rebels and slammed the Sudanese government for not enforcing Islamic sharia law throughout the country.
The terror bombings came during a 5-day Egyptian holiday, however, a time when hotels were sure to be near capacity, so the timing in conjunction with the release of the tape may be coincidental. The July 2005 Sharm el Sheik attacks and the October 2004 terror bombings in Taba also fell during Egyptian holidays.
The North Korea Times and The Malaysia Sun (which appear to be the one and the same online and are of indeterminate credibility) are reporting the death toll has climbed as high as 100 and that the Egyptian Interior Ministry is confirming an official toll of 90.
Return of the Dissident
Cover your ears kids, the lexiconic abomination has returned.
George Orwell had nothing on today’s mainstream media, who now routinely refer to Osama bin Laden as a “Saudi dissident.”
Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden in an undisclosed place inside Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on Muslim fighters to go to Sudan to wage war against “crusader thieves,” according to a new audiotape attributed to him which served as a vexing reminder of the US failure to track down the terror mastermind. (AFP/File)
This is an undated photo of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, wanted by the United States government on account of the 1998 bombing of two U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden is hiding out in Afghanistan as guest of its Islamic rulers, the Taliban. Afghanistan’s hardline Taliban rulers condemned the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 and rejected suggestions that Osama bin Laden could be behind them. (AP Photo)
And there are others.
If "terrorist" suddenly too loaded a word for the world's most wanted man? If Osama isn't a terrorist, than who is? From "dissident", it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to "malcontent", "provocateur", or "precious cuddle-bug who's just a little cranky from his dialysis".
Not ones to be out-PC'ed, EU officials are drafting an official policy of "non-emotive lexicon for discussing radicalisation".
Call For Military To Search For 9/11 Remains
After hundreds of bone fragments were found on the roof of the slated-for-demolition Deutsche Bank bulding in Lower Manhattan, some families of as-yet unidentified victims and Senator Chuck Schumer are calling for military support to mount a new search effort.
They want JPAC, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which was created to find and identify military members or their remains from several previous military conflicts, to join in the search.
Schumer said Rumsfeld should allow the respected JPAC to visit New York and conduct a search of the Deutsche Bank building as well as other surrounding skyscrapers. Schumer said experts would have to determine exactly how wide the search area should be.
As much as it pains me physically to say so, Chuck makes a good point. The city has mounted a commendable effort, dispatching firefighters, medical examiners, and even an archaeologist to the site to assist in the recovery effort. But with over a thousand victims yet to be identified by the recovery of physical remains, if the military specialists have training and equipment that would enable them to get this job done better, let's bring 'em in.
Previously: 500 New 9/11 Bones Found
Further: Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Today, Michelle Malkin unveiled an ambitious new project called Hot Air, described as the world’s first full-service conservative Internet broadcast network.
Sort of like Air America, only conservative. And on the web. And likely to be successful.
It's very difficult to get the page to load this morning. Possibly because of a flood of first-day visitors, but also possibly because of a denial-of-service attack launched by any number of cyberjihadis, UC Santa Cruz students, or other non-Malkin fans.
Today's "Vent" is on the tech world's cozy relationship with Red China.
Woke Up [The Echoes] This Morning
Further cementing this season's place as the best in the history of The Sopranos, a minor plot device in this week's episode is last year's Notre Dame-Michigan game (so this season is apparently set is the fall of 2005...), the second game in Coach Charlie Weis' Notre Dame career and a monster upset that ended with the Irish beating the Wolverines 17-10, ending their 16-game winning streak.
Other than that, so far it's an Artie Bucco-heavy episode. Two whackings and a guest appearance by a fastidious and scatterbrained Ben Kingsley round out the highlight reel so far.
To be updated after the second half...
My, my, Artie knows about a thousand ways to say, "Kill me Mr. Fazio." The episode concluded in similarly Bucco-heavy fashion. The restaurateur gets into a violent scuffle with mafioso Benny Fazio, leaving him battered and with a skinless right arm. All in all, the show did little to advance any of the ongoing plot lines, other than Christopher's Hollywood dreams, which did offer some of the bright spots in the second half.
After joining Kingsley on a fabulous shopping spree and becoming miffed about the social injustice of celebrities getting free merchandise, Christopher (or his proxy) proceeds to mug Lauren Bacall (also playing herself) and snatch her basket of swag following what appeared to be an awards show.
Later, in a satisfying jab at Hollywood fashion, Tony is wholly unimpressed by his "cut", which includes a fussy wristwatch and a Burberry tote "for a pocket dog".
Cynthia McKinney - Off the Record, Her Rocker
Expose the Left has video of Rock'em Sock'em Cindy at her monthly constituent Q&A, during which she was (*gasp*) asked about her alleged assault on a Capitol police officer. Refusing to comment on the incident itself, McKinney made the rather bizarre claim that, "You media people are the only ones who are asking about that."
Well, yes, media people and the U.S. Capitol Police and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein.
After walking out of the press conference, not realizing she was still microphoned, McKinney was recorded saying of her aide Coz Carson (who hadn't realized she would be asked these questions), "Oh crap now you know what... they lied to Coz and Coz is a fool."
Realizing her blunder, she returned to the dais and retroactively admonished the press that they weren't permitted to disclose what they heard.
Anything that is captured by your audio, that is captured while I am not seated in this chair is off the record and is not permissible to be used. Is that understood?
When Cynthia McKinney Assaults a Cop, She Assaults a Cop
Capitol Cop Cops To Muppet Profiling
The Second Sign of the Ablogalypse
The First Sign of the Ablogalypse
Cynthia McKinney - Clueless
Cynthia McKinney - A Minor Variation
Cynthia McKinney - Theme and Variations
Support Security - Deck a Cop!
United 93 Review
I didn't feel like the movie was exploitative. There are no big stars saving the day single-handedly. There are many flawed, scared men and women who manage to do something very, very brave, but there also is not a lot of sentimentality.
The movie is stark, unadorned. The story speaks for itself. And, the people of Flight 93 and the rest of the victims of 9/11 deserve to have it told.
For all those reasons, it is hard to watch, but you should watch it.
Visit the film's official website for trailers and the making-of featurette.
Blogging for Demmies
Once again I tip my hat to Rep. Jack Kingston for another interesting find.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has posted a Blogging 101 primer on her House website, for the benefit of the not-yet-blogging members of her caucus.
Kingston points out that among the 7 House members whose blogs she links to as examples, 5 are Republicans. Specifically:
(The two Dem blogs she links to are Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the minority members of the House Committee on Agriculture.)
The spectrum-spanning doesn't manage to translate to Pelosi's list of "a few political blogs", which for the most part reads like a Who's Who in American Moonbattery. That said, Pelosi's guide does offer one particularly useful piece of advice that I know members on both sides of the aisle have struggled with.
Many members are concerned that when they post on an existing blog they will receive comments that they are not in control of. The long and the short of it is, they're right. It's part of the community and you can't worry about it.
Rep. Kingston hosted a blogging how-to event a couple months ago for House Republicans, at which I was humbled to serve as a panelist, and it was a common refrain among press secretaries that some members were lukewarm on the dernier cri of the blogosphere, given the inability to strictly control the message (or the reactions that are incorporated with and accompany the message, anyway). On that point, the Pelosi primer has it quite right, and if she can help get legislators over that unfamiliar hump, then kudos.
Maybe she'll even take her own advice and kick off a blog of her own (to date, she appears only in the maniacal pages of Daily Kos).
Update: Hmm... "Blogging 101" has apparently been pulled from Rep. Pelosi's site, without explanation. That's okay, I ran off a screenshot and saved a local copy for posterity:
Rep. Jack Kingston's office points out this Washington Times article, in which the Gallup Poll is cited as being aware of (and not particularly put off by) the fact that their polling consistently overstates the Democratic vote.
The Gallup Poll has been issuing [survey results suggesting a 10 point Democratic lead] over several months that are drawn from what the pollsters call "generic ballots" that do not name the specific congressional candidates, but ask only which party voters will support when they go into the voting booth.
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted from April 7 to April 9, found that the Democrats lead Republicans by 52 percent to 42 percent among all registered voters surveyed. "The Democratic lead on this measure has been in the double digits in each of the last three Gallup Polls, starting in late February/early March," wrote Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones.
But Gallup and other election pollsters who conduct generic polls acknowledge that the turnout rate for registered voters is much less than it is for Americans who say they are "regular voters." When Gallup polled a subgroup of people who say they vote on a regular basis, the Democratic lead fell to seven points, 51 percent to 44 percent.
But why, Gallup? Why?
The reason has to do with a different turnout for various groups of voters: registered voters, regular voters and, the most accurate of all, "likely voters." Notably, "In midterm elections, fewer than half of eligible voters usually turn out to vote and Republicans are more likely to turn out than Democrats," Mr. Jones said.
Hmmph. Seems like something you could control for a bit better if, you know, your whole business were polling.
But let's abide Gallup's limited ability to discern respondents' likelihood to vote. It's easy enough to acknowledge that the ranks of the polled may always be overly steeped in Democrats and simply remember to 1) adjust, 2) discount, and/or 3) ignore the results accordingly. After all, if the results are consistently biased, though it speaks poorly for Gallup's accuracy and perhaps their integrity, that very consistency would mean a reliable adjustment could be applied to the results.
But as Kingston blogged last month, the bias is not consistent.
Party ID Breakdown
Jan – March
What's worst about this shifting supersaturation of one party within the polling set is that it will tend to give evidence of a trend where one may not exist. So while Gallup couldn't realistically continue shifting the balance by one percent each month, even if it were to do so for 2 or three months, its resulting trending data would suggest a broadly shifting sentiment among the greater population.
Note to Gallup: you can begin shifting me from the "adjust and discount" to the "ignore" column.
Hey America, Why the Long Face?
A new Fox poll brings familiar (if quizzical) news.
President Bush’s job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve...
Americans are more than twice as likely to rate the nation’s economy negatively as positively. Nearly 3 in 10 rate economic conditions as either "excellent" (6 percent) or "good" 22 percent, while the widespread consensus is gloomier: about 4 in 10 say the economy is "only fair" (42 percent) and another 30 percent say it is in "poor" shape. Like on most issues these days, there are clear partisan differences on the economy.
Among Republicans, views are evenly divided between a positive rating (50 percent excellent/good) and a negative rating (49 percent only fair/poor). In contrast, almost all Democrats rate the condition of the economy negatively (85 percent only fair/poor).
With the stock market rallying, the labor market sizzling, GDP growing faster than in any other industrialized country (despite war, high oil prices, and natural disasters), all with inflation under control, it's hard to imagine a more robust economy. More money in the hands of taxpayers has led to increased private investment, sustained wealth creation, millions of new jobs, and a far more flexible, resilient, swiftly growing economy.
I find it difficult to believe that 5 of 6 Democrats would objectively deem these conditions "only fair/poor". I don't know whether the gulf between reality and the poll numbers is driven by media distortion of the true economic picture or by the tendency of poll respondents to equivocate "How would you rate the economy?" with "Are you angry with this administration and do you feel the economy is an area where they can be productively attacked?"
For a little historical perspective, let's consider the "misery index", an economic metric coined by Harvard economist Robert Barro in the 1970's. (The index is calculated simply as the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate. And higher = more miserable.)
While it's not a perfect measure, it does take into account two of the weightier economic variables that not only shape the overall health of the economy and quite directly affect consumers and wage earners, but also are notoriously difficult to keep down simultaneously. Normally, when one goes up, the other goes down (except in periods of unsustainable bubbly growth, which explains the Clintonian anomaly), giving further support to the argument that the American economy is currently on uncommonly good footing.
Source data from miseryindex.us. Snazzy chart by yours truly.
High five for lack of misery.
Linked at Stop the ACLU.
Initial Jobless Claims Dip Still Lower
Stock Market Indices Hit 5-Year High
National High Five Day
Despite being maligned by Jerry Seinfeld as the lowest form of male primate ritual, I'm convinced this 80's classic is primed for a comeback.
To learn more, check out the National High Five Day Documentary.
Scott McLellan Resigns From World's Most Thankless Job
Appearing with Bush on the White House South Lawn just before the president boarded a helicopter at the start a trip to Alabama, McClellan, who has parried especially fiercefully with reporters on Iraq and on intelligence issues, told Bush: "I have given it my all sir and I have given you my all sir, and I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary."
Bush said McClellan had "a challenging assignment."
"I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity," the president said. "It's going to be hard to replace Scott, but nevertheless he made the decision and I accepted it. One of these days, he and I are going to be rocking in chairs in Texas and talking about the good old days."
Also, in an ongoing shakeup of the president's staff, longtime confidant and adviser Karl Rove is giving up oversight of policy development to focus more on politics with the approach of the fall midterm elections, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
Fox News identifies FNC's own Tony Snow, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark, and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman (and Fox News contributor) Dan Senor as possible replacements.
My prediction: Senor. A very well-spoken, affable representative of the administration who recently pulled off a favorable appearance in as potentially hostile a venue as The Colbert Report. He and the President are also fellow Harvard MBAs.
Anyway, here's hoping Scott finds a rewarding and lucrative new job, ideally one where he has less cr*p slung at him on a daily basis. Like monkey custodian or cesspool declogger.
When Cynthia McKinney Assaults a Cop, She Assaults a Cop
So what exactly happened when Cynthia McKinney hopped a security checkpoint without ID and was chased down by a US Capitol Police officer?
Did she slap him? Did she poke him with a cell phone? Was it a scuffle? A run-in? A flare-up? A fracas?
According to a report cited by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Rep. McKinney simply slugged him, closed-fisted, in the chest.
The official police report on Rep. Cynthia McKinney's clash with a Capitol Hill police officer three weeks ago says the DeKalb County congresswoman struck the officer "in his chest with [a] closed fist."
The "event report" — obtained Tuesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — describes the altercation as an assault on a police officer.
The report for the first time provides specific details of what happened when McKenna tried to stop McKinney from going around a security checkpoint at a House office building.
There had previously been reports that McKinney "stabbed" the officer with a cellphone or that she slapped McKenna with an open hand.
U.S. Attorney Ken Wainstein turned the matter over to the grand jury two weeks ago. Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he met last week with McKenna and asked him to consider filing a lawsuit against McKinney.
Capitol Cop Cops to Muppet Profiling
The Second Sign of the Ablogalypse
The First Sign of the Ablogalypse
Cynthia McKinney - Clueless
Cynthia McKinney - A Minor Variation
Cynthia McKinney - Theme and Variations
Support Security - Deck a Cop!
Trams Stuck Suspended Over East River, Spiderman Unavailable
Both cars of the Roosevelt Island Tramway have been stranded between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island since 5:00 this afternoon after a mechanical malfunction caused the cable system to lose power.
One of the trams, carrying dozens of people, is left suspended 250 feet above the East River. Passengers and Tramway officials on board are in contact with newsrooms and the NYPD via cell phone and appear to be maintaining their sanity. While the passengers appear to be in no immediate danger, they are without food, diapers, and plumbing.
As of 10:15 pm, a rescue basket was en route to try to extract the 72 stranded passengers from the two trams. Sadly, the one New Yorker with Roosevelt Island Tramway rescue experience is unavailable, having recently relocated to Cleveland.
Update 10:45 pm: A rescue basket (being manually cranked across the cable) has reached one of the trams and has made a delivery of baby formula, food, water, and blankets. Judging from the grainy, flashing video footage, a ladder has been lowered into the tram, but no one has climbed up or down.
Update 11:20 pm: The first cage full of passengers, including 7 children and 5 adults, has been successfully offloaded on Roosevelt Island. It's a slow process (authorities are estimating another 3-6 hours), but it appears to be just a matter of time until all the passengers are back on terra firma. Knock on wood, it looks like a happy ending to a wretched experience.
Update 11:45 pm: Mayor Bloomberg has held a brief press conference, confirming it was a power failure that led to the malfunction of both the primary system and the backup generator. He noted the advanced age of the system and stated the trams would be grounded until the cause of the malfunction can be sorted out.
Update 12:15 am: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Governor Pataki are holding a news conference, but they don't seem to have anything newsworthy to say, because the local coverage quickly switched away from them to interview offloaded passengers. A boy named Zachary reports having been annoyed by the ordeal, but is "happy [he] experienced it" and is very excited to go to school tomorrow. His mother reports no one got sick on her tram and that the passengers all managed to remain calm.
Update 12:20 am: A second basket full of passengers has been offloaded. Meanwhile, attempts to restore power to the trams continue to fail. These people have now been stranded for more than 7 hours, having expected a 5 minute ride. Three things seem certain: 1) The call of nature must at some point have become an imperative; 2) Some of the passengers must have had picture phones; 3) If there's even one openable window on those trams, we should expect some amusing pictures to be forthcoming thanks to 1 and 2.
Update 7:00 am: All 69 passengers were safely extracted, the final group touching down at around 4:30 this morning. Former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio, whose wife and daughter were on board one of the trams, was critical of the antiquated system.
"I think the information flow has been pretty abysmal," said Mr. Lazio, in an interview from his Manhattan apartment about 10 p.m. "One of the problems is that the official communication has been extremely wanting, so people would get information from different sources, like cellphones."
"It's difficult for me to understand when you have a primary means of transportation over to an island, you don't have a backup plan in terms of retrieving the people who are caught in a situation like this," Mr. Lazio said.
FYI: The tramway is operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp., a quasi-private New York State "public benefit corporation" much like the MTA or the power authorities. According to the RIOC website, the 30-year-old tram was intended to serve only as a temporary measure until the subway was completed (the Roosevelt Island Q-line station opened in 1989).
Fed: The End Is Near (Maybe)
The Federal Reserve has released the minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, held March 27-28. There were strong signs that the governors by and large felt that the time to quit hiking interest rates was drawing nigh.
Most members thought that the end of the tightening process was likely to be near, and some expressed concerns about the dangers of tightening too much, given the lags in the effects of policy. However, members also recognized that in current circumstances, checking upside risks to inflation was important to sustaining good economic performance. The need for further policy firming would be determined by the implications of incoming information for future activity and inflation.
Quitting too early means risking unwelcome inflation; quitting too late would choke off economic growth. With 15 consecutive quarter point hikes in the rearview mirror, the Fed Funds rate currently stands at 4.75%, close to what many economists feel would be a neutral rate.
Exactly when and where the Bernanke Fed chooses to pause will tell us something about his inflation hawkishness. I've been arguing (here and here) that the new Chairman has shown no signs of being any more austere than Greenspan, either in his background, in official statements released under his tenure, or in his Congressional testimony. Indeed, taken at face value, Fed commentary has made clear that any moves beyond the current level would be data-driven. And the inflation data (adjusting for food and energy) has continued to be remarkably tame, given the solid real GDP growth the American economy has sustained. (The Producer Price Index data released this morning showed wholesale prices rose a modest 0.1% in March.)
Still, the markets have sifted through these tea leaves to glean hints that the Fed is likely to hike again, not once, but multiple times, perhaps several. This consensus has continued to weigh on the equity markets, as investors expect businesses to incur higher borrowing costs and as bonds become relatively more attractive than stocks under tightening monetary policy.
Today, on the other hand, the release of the dovish minutes has further fueled an already impressive rally on Wall Street, as investors start to believe that maybe the Fed has meant what it's been saying about not tightening any more than inflation dictates.
The FOMC meets again on May 10. Assuming inflation data remains tame (and particularly if energy prices roll back), I still see a possible pause coming as soon as that meeting, leaving the Fed Funds at 4.75%. At very least, if the Fed does hike to 5%, I would expect the accompanying language to become much more explicit about the expectation of a pause thereafter.
Either outcome should be a shot in the arm for the equity markets and indeed for our national income growth. Pushing past 5% (especially considering this run started at 1%) would seem to me to be oversteering the ship. Inflation is a tenacious little bugger, but we shouldn't be so afraid of it that it forces us to deny a robust economy room to thrive.
500 New 9/11 Bones Found
The 565 foot Deutsche Bank building in Lower Manhattan was irreparably damaged on 9/11 when the falling WTC Tower 2 carved a 15-story hole in its side. Recently, workers preparing the building for demolition have made the grim discovery of more than 500 bone fragments mixed in with the gravel on the building's roof.
Last week alone, 456 fragments — some as small as one-sixteenth of an inch — were separated from the rooftop ballast, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner.
The remains will undergo DNA testing in an attempt to identify the victims, 40% of whom remain unidentified via recovered remains.
Meanwhile, the $52 million demolition job contracted by the Lower Manhatttan Development Corp. to John Galt Co. is embroiled in alleged mob ties and safety violations. Galt, a firm with no demolition experience, has quadrupled its headcount and recruited two top executives from Safeway Environmental Corp. to handle the job.
One of Safeway's owners, Stephen Chasin, confirmed in an interview with The News that his partner is Harold Greenberg, a two-time felon identified by the FBI as a Gambino associate.
Safeway also has been cited by the city and feds for alleged safety violations during the demolition of an upper West Side supermarket that collapsed in July, injuring several passersby, including an infant in a stroller.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit Safeway with $15,000 in fines after finding five safety violations termed "serious," records show. Safeway is contesting the fines.
In addition to the oversight of the project by Safeway executives, Galt is leasing much of the required equipment from the spotty company. The possible criminal ties and the unlovable safety record sported by Safeway is worrisome because of the toxic dust thought to fill the 40-story building and the care required to bring it down without endangering the tens of thousands of people that work and live in the immediate vicinty.
At Real Clear Politics, Tony Blankley wonders if a coordinated, premeditated campaign of resignation and griping amounts to potential mutiny and sedition on the part of ex-generals "revolting" against Secretary Rumsfeld and the U.S.-led efforts to put down the Iraqi insurgency.
A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.
But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.
The upcoming, unprecedented generals' "revolt" described by Mr. Holbrooke, if it is not against the law, certainly comes dangerously close to violating three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:
Rise of the Machines
Somewhere in Sacramento, a Governor is smiling.
Chat With House Republicans Returning From Iraq
Later today, I'll be participating in a conference call with Republican Congressmen who spent their April district work week in Iraq. On the call will be Rep. Joe Wilson (SC), chairman of the Victory in Iraq Caucus (returning from his 5th trip to Iraq) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Chairwoman of the International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and Asia (returning from her second trip).
The Members will "discuss the situation on the ground and report on their interactions with the troops." I'm looking forward to salving the unchallenged distortions lately peddled by their crepehanging colleagues.
Update: The call has just ended.
Rep. Conaway, who just returned from Iraq on Friday, reported a distinct change since his visit last summer. On his previous trip, he was shadowed by armed escorts at all times. On this trip, security was far lighter and he was among the first groups to be accommodated overnight at the Embassy. What remained constant was the morale and determination of the troops he encountered, who he characterized as being "convinced they were doing the right thing the right way."
We spent much of the call discussing the disparity between conditions in Iraq (high morale among the troops, progress building infrastructure and training Iraqi military and police, quality of life improvements) and the media-driven perception of such conditions here at home. Milblogger CJ Grisham asked whether U.S. military leaders in Iraq are frustrated by this disparity and if they have offered any plans to help narrow the media's reality gap.
Conaway reported that our soldiers, from high-ranking officers on down through the rank-and-file are indeed frustrated, but that it's an uphill battle when "the other side has better graphics". He likened the preference for school bombings over school openings to local news coverage in America, which tends to lead with car wrecks and train derailments.
I asked the Congressmen to respond to two of the more outlandish, unsupported statistics slung so rabidly by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) at the Manhattan townhall meeting I posted on last week. Specifically, Murtha had claimed that 1) 80% of Iraqis say they'd be better off with the U.S. out of the country (as distinct from a real poll that showed 80% of Iraqis favored establishing a timetable for withdrawal) and 2) that given the current trajectory, we can expect conditions to be no better one year from now.
Rep. Conaway and Rep. Wilson both rejected these claims. Conaway acknolwedged that the majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to withdraw in time (as do we all), but that 80% favoring immediate withdrawal is incorrect. Rep. Wilson said he felt that the majority of Iraqis would disagree with rapid withdrawal, noting that while sovereignty is of obvious importance to them, it would make no sense to trade a U.S. presence for unrestricted civil war, sectarian violence, or a totalitarian regime. Congressman Wilson drew a parallel between U.S. efforts to rebuild Japan and Germany in order to forestall them becoming breeding grounds for communists, just as we are now rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan (by leaps and bounds better than before, I would add) to forestall them becoming breeding grounds for terrorists.
As for measurable improvements in ground conditions and quality of life, the Congressmen pointed out several key metrics and observations:
- Per IMF forecasts, Iraq should see GDP growth of 10.4% this year (3x as fast as the U.S. and 10x as fast as France)
- 32,000 new businesses have been created since liberation
- Iraq has roughly 5 million cellular subscribers (up from near zero pre-liberation)
- The stock market has reopened and the currency has stabilized
- Satellite dishes, illegal under Saddam, are now atop virtually every house
The Congressmen seemed to feel that one key lingering impediment to more rapid improvement in infrastructural items like garbage, water, electricity, and mass transit is the continued lack of a permanent government. Once the temporary ministers and other leaders are replaced by officials with 4-year elected terms, they argue, many of these public projects that help grease the wheels of commerce (and, I would note, diminsh the impetus for unrest) will come online faster.
While Reps. Wilson and Conaway were clearly disappointed a permanent government had not yet taken over, Wilson noted that it's a good thing there were no satellite news trucks covering the mess that was our Constitutional Convention. Further, he stated his confidence that Iraq would have their governmental ducks in a row far faster than the 13 years the United States treaded in fledgling democratic limbo between independence and a ratified Constitution.
Thanks and kudos to the Representatives for participating in the call and to the House Republican Conference for arranging it. These trips taken by legislators to the front lines are vital to ensuring our policy-making bodies form opinions based on evidence unvarnished and unfiltered by agenda-driven editorial staffs, ratings-focused newsrooms, and the intellectual laziness of blind Bush-bashing.
For ongoing updates on the progress in the "eight areas identified as pillars of U.S. policy in Iraq", check out the State Department's unclassified Iraq Weekly Status Report.
From South Park to North Jersey: Sopranos Family Politics
This week's episode offered us a few revealing insights into the political bents of America's favorite crime family. Among the tidbits: Meadow suffers from advanced Bush Derangement Syndrome, Carmela voted for Bush, and Tony is predictably conflicted.
Meadow: 9/11, 9/11. Bush is using it as an excuse to erode our Constitutional protections and you're falling for it.
Carmela: Well, I voted for him.
Meadow: Right. You don't relate to black people clinging to logs.
Tony: You ought to chill out about some of this!
The intrigue wasn't without humor either. Christopher submitted a novel approach to discerning Islamic terrorists from friendly neighborhood Muslims.
Tony: You think there's a chance they could be, uh... Al Qaedas? Somethin' like that?
Christopher: Hmm, you know at one point it did cross my mind.
Tony: Yeah, and?
Christopher: I don't think so. They're gun nuts, but the smaller guy, Ahmed, when those Danish cartoons got published, he was very upset. But at the protesters. He said he hated the cartoons but that the rioting s*** would just bring bad attention to all Muslims. And the other guy Mohammed, his brother's a government interrogator in Lebanon. Or Syria. Plus Mohammed and his girlfriend have a dog. A springer spaniel.
Bad Idea Jeans On Sale in 15 States
Just as you lick the envelope on that tax filing, Tax Prof Blog brings us the lamentable news that 15 states and the District of Columbia currently impose a tax on digital media downloads such as iTunes music and video.
Furthering that old stereotype that Democratic lawmakers just can't get enough of your hard earned money, a look at the political breakdown of these state legislatures paints a predictably lopsided picture.
New Mexico: D
South Dakota: R
West Virginia: D
Washington, D.C.: D
How Do You Spell Hypersensitivity?
Saturday Miscellany, Excuses, and Keeping Up With the Peaceful Nuketoters
I'm down in sunny Florida for the weekend and will be limited in my blogging capacity. I'm loathe to apologize though, as the only thing worse than sparse blogging is a blogger apologizing for his own sparse blogging. So I'll spare you that.
Instead, enjoy these quick hits on the gathering menace of Iran...
Following on the heels of their Orwellian display of doves and interpretive dancing and enriched uranium containers, Iran is talking tough about the "decaying power" of the United States and the pending elimination of the "Zionist regime" that we and Israel constitute. Iranian Revolutionary Guard chief Yahya Rahim Safavi made it clear the country was emboldened by what was seen as an impotence of the American military given our commitment in Iraq. Horsefeathers. That might be believable if, say, a highly-placed U.S. lawmaking type were off spouting such nonsense.
Elsewhere, Cox and Forkum beautifully encapsulates the sheepish left's preemptive peacenikking on the prospect of dealing seriously with Ahmadinejad's evil regime.
Sheesh. Save it for when we storm Halifax.
Caroline Glick of The Jeruslam Post (no line toer of the Bush administration by any stretch), on the other hand, makes a strong case that The Fateful Hour Has Arrived.
IRAN ANNOUNCED this week that it is a member of the nuclear club. Over the past five years this new member of the nuclear club has become the undisputed leader of the global jihad. It controls Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad. It has open and warm ties with al-Qaida. It has transformed Hamas and Fatah into its clients. Syria has become its vassal. It controls the majority of Iraq's Shi'ite politicians and militias. It is feared by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It is respected and revered by European Muslims.
To date, the US's official policy for contending with Iran is to seek redress in the UN Security Council. That is, the US has placed the responsibility for meeting what it has itself admitted is the greatest threat to global security in the hands of nations that do not share its assessment of Iran. By seeking Security Council action on Iran, the US has delegated the power for contending with the Iranian nuclear threat to China and Russia which have both assisted Iran in developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
America is the greatest nation on Earth and it does have the ability to defend the world against regimes like Iran and its allies. It can prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It can take those weapons out of North Korea's hands. It can bring Damascus to its knees and force it to cough up Iraq's arsenal of pathogens. And no, military might is not the only way for it to accomplish these tasks.
But America cannot, and it will not accomplish any of these goals if it continues to abide by strategies and frameworks that serve only to strengthen its enemies and permit its "allies" to behave perfidiously. It cannot and will not defend the world from evil, demonic regimes like Iran's if it continues to allow the likes of the EU, Russia, Egypt and China to undercut its will at every turn.
This week Teheran threw down the gauntlet. The greatest battle of this war - the battle to prevent the world's most dangerous regime from attaining the most dangerous weapons known to man - has begun. The moment has arrived for President George W. Bush to make clear if he is, in the final analysis, the leader of the free world or its undertaker.
Troops in Support of the War
Murtha undoubtedly knows full well that the greatest single thing that drags on morale in war is the loss of a buddy. But second to that is politicians questioning, in amplified tones, the validity of that loss to our families, colleagues, the nation and the world.
The morale of the trigger-pulling class of today's fighting force is strong. Unfortunately, we have not had a microphone or media audience willing to report our comments. Despite this frustration, our military continues to proudly dedicate itself to the mission at hand: a free, democratic and stable Iraq and a more secure America.
Previously: Mad Murtha Comes to Murray Hill
Elsewhere: Vets for Freedom
Illegal, Not Irrational
Mark Krikorian at the Center for Immigration Studies has long held that history shows the rate of illegal immigration increases not only when amnesty is granted, but even the prospect of amnesty is debated by policymakers.
[Manager of a Mexican shelter for aspiring border crossers] Francisco Loureiro, said he has not seen such a rush of migrants since 1986, when the United States allowed 2.6 million illegal residents to get American citizenship.
This time, the draw is a bill before the U.S. Senate that could legalize some of the 11 million people now illegally in the United States while tightening border security. Migrants are hurrying to cross over in time to qualify for a possible guest-worker program - and before the journey becomes even harder.
Many migrants said they were being encouraged to come now by relatives living in the United States.
Many of the migrants also are being driven by a desire to get into the United States before the likelihood that legislators further fortify the border.
In light of this, wouldn't it make sense to enact some independent border-strengthening legislation before we take another crack at the ugly, protracted process of orchestrating a compromise on the guest worker/amnesty issues? The security implications are compelling to say the least. Moreover, John Hawkins recently noted the prospective political benefits of the GOP spearheading such a move.
-- The GOP would be the party that believes in respecting the law and the Democrats would be the party that believes in rewarding people for breaking the law.
-- The GOP would be the party sticking up for the jobs of poor Americans while the Democrats would be the party that wants to bring in foreigners to take jobs from Americans.
-- The GOP would be the party looking out for the American taxpayers, while the Democrats would be the party that wants to make illegals citizens so they can give them welfare and food stamps.
-- The GOP would be the party that puts Americans first, while Democrats would be the party for people who believe that foreigners should be given a leg up over Americans in America.
Voices from Flight 93
Jurors deliberating the fate of Zacarias Moussaoui heard testimony from crew and passengers of United 93 today, as prosecutors played a cockpit voice recording chronicling the flight's final minutes.
(Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs)
At 10 a.m. a hijacker asks in Arabic "Shall we finish it off?" The response come back: "No, not yet."
Then a voice is heard in English: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!"
At 10:01 a.m., a hijacker asks again: "Shall we put it down? The response: "Yes, put it down."
At 10:02 a.m., a hijacker says, "Give it to me. Give it to me." At 10:03 a.m., the recording ends, and the simulation shows the plane flying nose down, then rolling over belly up and hitting the ground nose first.
During the government's playing of the recording, a voice is heard from the cockpit, possibly that of a flight crew member, saying, "Please don't hurt me. Oh God!" A few seconds later, somebody says, three times, "I don't want to die."
But then, amid sounds of a struggle, a hijacker asks, "There is something, a fight?" The response is, "Yeah."
The last words heard as the plane nears the ground were repeated four times in Arabic: "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." Then, just the sound roaring static can be heard.
People Everywhere Just Got To Be Free
Today, the Tax Foundation released its annual calculation of Tax Freedom Day, that marvelous day each year when we've finally earned enough money to meet our tax burden. Unfortunately, TFD will slip this year to April 26th, a full 10 days later than it fell in 2003 and 2004 and 3 days later than last year.
As painful as it is to be indentured to the government for these extra days, the drastic dip-rise cycle observable over the last few years actually has a relatively intuitive explanation (one that paints an encouraging economic picture).
At the end of the Clinton era, with effective tax rates higher than they are now, and amid a bubbly economy enfrothed in murderously taxable capital gains, Tax Freedom Day was bound to push out further into the year. Upon the arrival of the blessed Bush tax cuts, TFD rolled way back. Now, after a few years of rising incomes buoyed by those tax cuts, more and more Americans are leaping into higher marginal brackets, increasing their effective tax rates (relative to the moment of the cuts) and again delaying their annual manumission. In that light, the delay is somewhat more palatable, but it's still a craw-sticker.
So hang in there, America. Only two more weeks until you get to go to work for yourself!
(Care to know how many days you'll work this year just to pay for Social Security?)
Trade Deficit Narrows, Senate Angles for More
Unexpectedly good news today from the Department of Commerce [.pdf], as the U.S. trade deficit was found to have shrunk by $3 billion in February.
The trade deficit continues to loom near record highs, but then again China (accounting for the lion's share of our trade gap) continues to refuse to trade like a grown-up, playing fast and loose with intellectual property pirates, banning U.S. beef imports, and keeping their currency artificially undervalued.
China has made some preliminary overtures toward reforming these abusive trade policies in advance of President Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S. next week. Meanwhile, two bi-partisan Senate bills (one sponsored by Chuck Grassley and Max Baucus and another, more dramatically protectionist bill introduced by Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham) are aimed at pressuring China to allow its currency to float freely.
A trade war with China is clearly in no one's interest, so legislators are rightfully gunshy about the Schumer-Graham bill, which would impose broad retaliatory tariffs on Chinese imports. The Grassley-Baucus currency bill (S. 2467) on the other hand would focus on how the U.S. Treasury identifies problematic world currencies, introducing the kinder, gentler alternative of "misaligned" to the designation of "manipulated", a loaded taboo that hasn't been wielded in a decade.
This compromise between the more draconian Schumer-Graham bill and the current policy of asking nicely seems to have broad bi-partisan support and if passed, might have just sharp enough teeth to convince China to embrace free trade in earnest (most importantly by allowing the yuan's exchange rate to float unfettered), a move that would likely reverse a significant portion of our total trade deficit.
9/11 Death Toll Increments by One
NYPD Detective James Zadroga, who died in January of respiratoy failure, is the first rescue worker whose death has been conclusively linked to the recovery and clean-up effort at Ground Zero.
The Detectives Endowment Association presented autopsy results released by the Ocean County Medical Examiner's Office at union headquarters on Tuesday afternoon. The final findings said Zadroga died of respiratory failure, with this conclusion: "It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident."
"In my opinion, Det. Zadroga is the 24th member of the NYPD to die as a result of the World Trade Center attack," said Michael Palladino of the Detectives Endowment Association. "The difference being, the original 23 passed on Sept. 11."
Now, the detectives union wants Zadroga's pension changed to death in the line of duty. His remaining pension is going to his orphaned daughter, Tyler Ann, whose mother also died.