The Posthumous Tyranny of Nearly Headless Hussein
[P]eople in Baghdad are claiming that they are seeing Saddam’s ghost in Baghdad public areas. Sources say, this may be a plot by the Baathists to keep Saddam ‘alive’ among the Sunni communities.
Some claim he is seen in restaurants, markets and so on. It is possible many Saddam look-alikes are now more prominent and people are mistaking these look-alikes as possible Saddam. It is also possible that Saddam was such a threat that people just cannot believe he is dead and not coming back.
Curtains for Saddam
The beast is slain.
Saddam Hussein was an evil man. He was the Hitler that we stopped before he could do even more damage. Tonight he’s dead. Good.
Fox compiles a brief timeline of Hussein's atrocities.
Reports claim the hanging, said to have taken place around 6:00 am local time (10 pm Eastern), was indeed filmed. Al Arabiya says Saddam's half-brother was also executed.
Drudge tracked the race to report:
- Win - NBC: 10:014 pm
- Place - CBS: 10:18 pm
- Show - ABC: 10:25 pm
...for whatever that's worth.
Anyway, as discussed before, this is a great day and a development you can allow yourself to be pleased and unconflicted about, including being eager to feast your eyes on the inevitably forthcoming YouTubery of footage of the overdue event.
Dow Up 16.3% For 2006
As of today's market close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 12,463.15. A bit of a down day to sew up the year, but still better than a 16% climb from 10,717.50, where the index sat on December 30, 2005.
No slouches, the S&P 500 jumped nearly 14% and the Nasdaq climbed close to 10% during the year.
Looking back, the Dow is now a whopping 45% higher than when Congress passed that delicious, growthy Bush tax cut in 2003. Maybe there's something to this supply side nonsense.
Nannyism Is the New Black
This is getting rigaldangdiculous:
The New York Post offers a dispiriting review of the various items and entities the New York City Council banned (or attempted to ban) this year alone:
- Aluminum baseball bats.
- The purchase of tobacco by 18- to 20-year-olds.
- Foie gras.
- Pedicabs in parks.
- New fast-food restaurants (but only in poor neighborhoods).
- Lobbyists from the floor of council chambers.
- Lobbying city agencies after working at the same agency.
- Vehicles in Central and Prospect parks.
- Cell phones in upscale restaurants.
- The sale of pork products made in a processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., because of a unionization dispute.
- Mail-order pharmaceutical plans.
- Candy-flavored cigarettes.
- Gas-station operators adjusting prices more than once daily.
- Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
I was peeved about the trans fat ban, not so much because I feel like I need trans fats, but because I don't think it should be against the law for one New Yorker to sell them to another within the city limits. But our lawmakers' unwelcome zest for behavior control only explains some of the items (fats, cell phones, etc.).
The other obstructions to free trade and personal liberties we can credit to legislators pandering to unions, to animal rights activists, and to the ginned up, chimerical notion that big business is bad for consumers and wage-earners and that government's role is to protect us by obstructing those businesses' due access to free market real estate, labor, and consumer demand (and, in turn, obstructing consumers' and wage-earners' access to those wages, products, services, etc.).
Nannies, grow up.
Previously: Nannyism In New York
Pigging Out In Capital City
On day one, the cholesterol level changes.
People attending Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer's inauguration on Monday will have the opportunity to nosh their way across New York state.
The food lineup includes knishes from the Yonah Schimmel Bakery in New York City, savory meats from Syracuse's Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and a pair of Buffalo stand-bys -- chicken wings from Buffalo's Anchor Bar and "beef-on-weck" sandwiches from Charlie the Butcher's restaurant. Potato chips made from spuds grown on Long Island's century-old Martin Sidor farms will also be available, along with a Rochester favorite -- cheeseburger "Garbage Plates" from Nick Tahou's (TAH'-hohz) restaurant.
Thanks to press credentials being provided by Urban Elephants, on whose behalf I'll be doing some videoblogging from the coronation site on Monday, I'm going to have the honor of gorging on all the above.
Beyond the gastronimical extravaganza, until recently, there didn't seem to be too much of substantive note developing in Albany on Inauguration Day. Plenty of pomp and ceremony, but not so much on the newsy side. The overdue resignation of Comptroller Alan Hevesi, announced last week, added a little zest, but it was this Tuesday when the bigger bomb dropped.
On that day, Governor-elect Spitzer tapped Republican State Senator Michael Balboni as his new Deputy Secretary for Public Safety (the state's homeland security chief). The superficially bi-partisan move is in fact a shrewdly partisan political maneuver. Spitzer will tell you his motives were pure, but either way, the move has a foreseeably and potentially significantly beneficial effect on his party. Balboni's district (western Nassau County on Long Island) is one where Democrats enjoy a narrow majority among the electorate. With Balboni coaxed out of his seat, the thin 3-seat Republican majority in the State Senate will shrink to 2 if Democrats can capture the seat in a special election due to be called by Spitzer in February.
This could tee up the nightmare scenario in 2008, whereupon, if only 2 more seats are poached by Democrats, both houses of the State Legislature as well as the Governor's Mansion would be in Democratic hands. Despite New York's comically hostile existing tax environment, Democrats currently hold only the Assembly. The prospective environment following an incremental leftward sashay is nightmarish indeed.
That's not to say Balboni's seat is a lost cause, nor that the remaining 2 seats required would be easily flipped (this year, despite the Democratic tide, only 1 of the Republicans' 35 seats was poached), as the inertia of incumbency is - for a variety of unseemly reasons - unusually strong in New York. As luck would have it, my own opponent in this year's election, as chair of the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, is charged with the very task of toppling the Senate majority. Spitzer may wind up having relieved her of a full third of that workload with his ostensible magnanimousness.
I'll try to catch up with as many of the above cast as possible on Monday for blog-bound video chats. And if I can't, the cheeseburger garbage plates alone should make the trek worthwhile.
Tune in Monday for the excitement.
We Brillo Our Hands Of Him
A senior official in Washington tells ABC News that Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi custody by the end of today.
The actual date for the execution is still a closely guarded secret, and will be decided on solely by Iraqis, the official says.
Hussein's lawyers say they have been told to prepare to pick up his personal effects, but they do not know when they should do that.
Recent reports have suggested Saddam will swing by Eid, an Islamic holiday that falls this weekend. The latest word also suggested that the execution would be videotaped, but not made public. Any takers on how long until the video pops up online? I say within 36 hours of the butcher's last gasp. The production will apparently have a good amount of peripheral material too, which would make a dynamite little featurette.
"We will video everything... All documentation will be videoed. Taking him [Saddam Hussein] from his cell to the execution is going to be videoed, and the actual execution will be documented and videoed."
- Iraqi National Security adviser Mouffak al Rubaie
If Saddam is being granted a last meal, is it more likely to be a spread of Iraqi delicacies or something from the land of the infidels, maybe a bucket of KFC or a new Taco Bell Encharito (with the cheese and sauce on the inside)?
Update: Only hours to go (maybe). Eat up, buddy boy.
Alcoholic Beverages Are Available For $5 and Some Time In Jail
Poor choice #1: Getting drunk on an airplane.
Poor choice #2: Pitching a fit when the flight crew cuts you off.
Poor choice #3: Slapping a fellow passenger to display your outrage.
Karma: Said passenger is an undercover air marshall.
"He had a bad night last night," said [an official familiar with the case], who asked to remain anonymous and isn't authorized to reveal specifics of the case. The passenger is expected to be arraigned Thursday.
The air marshal detained the man for the remainder of the flight and arrested him after the aircraft arrived in Fort Myers. The man is expected to be charged with interfering with a flight crew.
Liberal Yearbook 2006
In just a few short days, we can close the book on 2006 and all the glorious and unifying claptrap to which we've been treated by the burgeoning majority, lo these twelve months.
But before the S.S. Ethical Congress sets sail, let's send her off with one final bask in all the best banality this year had to offer.
Pander to us, baby, one more time:
(Hat tips to Hot Air, various YouTubers, and the respective media outlets for capturing the sundry splendor.)
Dow Scrapes 12,500
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tagged a big, round intraday trading high today, poking just above 12,500. It's been all of 5 sessions since the most recent all-time closing high of 12,471.32. If the market holds on to the bulk of its intraday gains, the Dow is poised to notch up its 22nd all-time high in just three months.
All the stars aligned for a nice move higher today - yet more M&A activity, an unexpectedly strong housing report, easing oil prices, and perhaps the effects of so-called "window dressing" (a practice employed by some investment managers to expand their holdings of winning stocks just before year-end to present more attractive performance figures), conspired to shove the market higher, despite the light trading typical of the final few trading days of the year.
Gerald Ford Dead
Earlier this year, Ford underwent treatment for pneumonia and later for shortness of breath. He was fitted with a pacemaker and underwent angioplasty, returning in subsequent months for additional testing.
Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal- shattered White House as the 38th and only unelected president in America's history, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.
"My family joins me in sharing the difficult news that Gerald Ford, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather has passed away at 93 years of age," Mrs. Ford said in a brief statement issued from her husband's office in Rancho Mirage. "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country."
He was the longest living president, followed by Ronald Reagan, who also died at 93. Ford had been living at his desert home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.
Ford's 10 best Presidential superlatives and singularities:
- Longest-lived President
- One half of the longest-lived First Couple
- Survived two assassination attempts
- Only President never elected
- First Vice President appointed under the 25th Amendment
- Only man to succeed a resigning President
- Nominated the youngest ever Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld
- Only former fashion model to become President
- Only President born in Nebraska
- Only President to exceed Dana Carvey-as-Tom Brokaw's longevity estimate by a full decade
Update: President Bush Reacts
[President Ford] assumed the presidency in an hour of national turmoil and division. With his quiet integrity, commonsense and kind instincts, President Ford helped heal our land and restore public confidence in the presidency.
The American people will always admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his personal character and the honorable conduct of his administration. We mourn the loss of such a leader, and our 38th president will always have a special place in our nation's memory.
Hang Him High (And In High Def)!
A genuine Festivus miracle is poised to transpire within days.
Saddam Hussein could be hanged within days after the rejection of his appeal by Iraq's highest court yesterday.
The death sentence from the first trial must be implemented within 30 days, the chief judge, Aref Shahin, said yesterday, hinting that it could come even sooner: "From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation."
Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, a member of the Shia majority persecuted under Saddam's Sunni-minority rule, has already said he wants the execution to take place before the end of the year.
What's more, we may have the opportunity for righteous revelry in the overdue event from the comfort of our living rooms.
One option would be to do it without prior announcement in an attempt to forestall possible protests - though some Shia elements have called for the hanging to be televised. Saddam, 69, is in the custody of US forces, so Washington could also have a say in the timing.
(Timing, incidentally, which we should all proactively question...)
It's beyond the scope of this post to delve into the propriety of capital punishment (which of course is, suffice it to say without the bother of such delving, totally proper for duly convicted capital criminals (not to mention the real baddies like cop killers and terrorists (and sparing even the most glancing consideration history's most heinously genocidal tyrants))), but a mild intellectual treatment of the propriety of its televised broadcast is perhaps somewhat more worthwhile.
It's little more than gratuitous, politically-motivated sating of the basest bloodlust of the masses, opponents will say. A cheap, transparent attempt by the Bush Administration (which is obviously not singly dictating such variables, but, as noted above, with Saddam in U.S. custody, may indeed get a vote) to distract the public from an unpopular war, a disastrous quagmire, a misguided misadventure to settle a family score, to quench an oil addiction, etc., etc., etc.
Nannyism will disquiet others, keen on protecting the innocent eyes of channel- or web-surfing youngsters and imprudent adults alike from images that will corrupt and desensitize their sensibilities and from indulgences that will bankrupt their souls.
To the former, I say, "Deal with it. This is a big and hard-won payoff in this enduring effort, with immense practical and symbolic significance. The implications and conequences of that moment may be inconvenient to your cause, but let those who recognize its significance and momentousness appreciate it." To the latter, I say, "Change the channel, keep an eye on your kids, password-protect the PC, and worry about your own soul. If the Iraqis are willing to visually document this seminal moment in a massive global endeavor, I'm appreciative of the opportunity to avail myself of it. You don't need to want to see it in order for others' desire to see it (or, perhaps more importantly, their desire to be able to see it) to remain valid."
So, in a parlance that went out of vogue earlier in this struggle, bring it on!
Of Tubes, Little Buttons, and Etherwebs
Wired presents the 2006 Foot-In-Mouth Awards, in which prominent politicians and tech tycoons say the darndest things.
Among the honorrees: Bush fumbling on Google Earth, Ted Stevens explaining the "series of tubes", and Larry King proving he's barely alive.
Plus: A rather blatantly manufactured gaffe slips in under the '06 wire.
Indiana Couple Appear To Be Three-Decker Sauerkraut and Toadstool Sandwiches With Arsenic Sauce
Someone just made the naughty list.
A couple trailed UPS trucks in Indiana and Illinois and snatched packages off doorsteps once they were delivered, building a hoard of thousands of dollars worth of stolen Christmas gifts, police said.
The booty recovered from an East Chicago home Friday included notes from grandmothers wishing the intended recipients a merry Christmas and mounds of shredded wrapping paper, authorities said.
Charges against Marcus McCoy, 30, and Tanya White, 37, are expected to include theft, burglary, forgery and unlawful use of a credit card. McCoy and White are in custody and face arraignment this weekend.
“We’re happy to arrest a grinch anytime,’’ said Lake County Sheriff Rogelio “Roy’’ Dominguez.
Pelosi Abandons "Most Open" Pledge, Completes Trifecta
The other, other shoe has finally dropped in Pelosi's race to vacate her farcical reform promises, something we've been waiting for since her rapid eschewal of the "most ethical" and "most honest" components of the pledge.
This last bit took a little time to come around, but it's still impressive that she's now managed to expose the entirety of her pledge as mere campaign piffle, even before officially assuming the majority.
Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi cited the need to preserve the ''dignity and decorum'' of the House as she rejected a request Friday that C-SPAN operate its own cameras in covering the chamber.
Brian Lamb wrote Pelosi on Dec. 14 that media cameras long have been permitted to cover committee hearings and that for a dozen years or more independent cameras have been allowed into the chamber for joint sessions and joint meetings in the House.
He said C-SPAN would cover floor proceedings in the same manner it covers hearings _ ''fully, accurately and with the unbiased production style on which we've built our reputation for the past 28 years.''
Pelosi said in her response Friday, ''I believe the dignity and decorum of the United States House of Representatives are best preserved by maintaining the current system of televised proceedings.''
Lamb said in an interview he was ''very disappointed'' by Pelosi's decision. He said he tried unsuccessfully to change the policy when Republicans gained control of the House in 1995 and thought this would be another good opportunity because Pelosi has stressed that this will be the most open and ethical Congress in history.
The Very Model Of a Modern Media Strategist
Congressional blog king Jack Kingston (R-GA) is losing his spokesblogger and the driving force behind his ascension to the throne of the legislative blogging set. But Kingston's loss may be our collective gain.
David All, who took a leave from Kingston's office to serve as Mike Bouchard's communications director in his bid to unseat the dangerous incompetence that is Debbie Stabenow, has hung out an e-shingle under the name The David All Group.
In David's words:
After nearly two years at the helm of the Kingston modern media machine, I’ve decided to jump to the next chapter of the revolution by founding the nation’s premiere, Republican-only modern media consultancy. I strongly believe that our party needs to find and embrace modern, better ways to communicate with America to win back the majority and I look forward to helping the team do just that.
Recently, '08 Presidential hopefuls have been netting high-profile bloggers to head their respective in-house online outreach programs. For Senatorial and Congressional campaigns, All seems well positioned to serve as the outsourced alternative to DIY modern media.
In the spirit of disclosure, I'm favorably biased, as I've gotten to take some pretty cool trips to Capitol Hill for events organized by David (plus, I was honored with a vaunted Jackie, further eroding my objectivity), but this is a group to watch closely as hundreds of Republican candidates scramble to find an edge going into the '08 elections.
"English Brothers" Poised For Holiday Bombings
So say the Brits.
British intelligence and law enforcement officials have passed on a grim assessment to their U.S. counterparts, "It will be a miracle if there isn't a terror attack over the holidays in London," a senior American law enforcement official tells ABCNews.com.
British police have been quietly carrying out a series of key arrests as they continue to track at least six active "plots" tied to what they call "al Qaeda of England."
A report by "Newsweek" says that American al Qaeda figure Adam Gadahn has served as a translator of a 12-member team of Western recruits, the "English brothers," said to be preparing an attack that would be much bigger than last year's attack on the London subway system.
According to Newsweek, the gang (a dozen 20-somethings, primarily Brits, plus a couple Norwegians and one Australian) is just wrapping up a year-long training course in the tribal Waziristan area of Pakistan designed to ready them for their special missions back home.
HT: Hot Air
'Bout Freakin' Time
Good riddance to a thieving bum.
State Comptroller Alan Hevesi will agree this week to resign to avoid an indictment stemming from an ethics scandal in which he used public employees to chauffeur his wife, according to sources familiar with his decision.
Hevesi, one of the state’s highest-ranking elected officials, will consent to stepping down from the $151,500-a-year post he has held since January 2003 by Friday morning at the latest as part of a plea deal with Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
The comptroller, a 66-year-old Queens Democrat, will also plead guilty to a criminal charge. It will not be higher than a Class E felony nor require him to spend any time in jail, according to the sources.
Hevesi’s resignation will bring an end to a scandal that has consumed New York’s political class for more than three months and continued even though he reimbursed the state $206,294 and was re-elected with 57 percent of the vote in November.
Alan's kindly saving us from ourselves here, New York. Why did we just re-elect this man?
Scott Sala at Urban Elephants notes that in no way can this be accurately notched up as a win for Eliot Spitzer nor any sign of him endeavoring to clean up Albany. Spitzer was ultimately forced to withdraw his endorsement for Hevesi's re-election bid once the flagrancy and extent of his crimes became so abundantly clear, but he was quite clearly not committed to forcibly removing him from office (either directly or by sending him to the State Legislature for impeachment), which, if Hevesi weren't to resign, would be the only conceivably justifiable course of action for any Governor, not to mention one who fancies himself a crusading reformer.
The Counterproductivity of Race-Baiting Protestors
Maybe it's not quite fair to refer to the protests as being counterproductive, since the people headlining them are explicitly calling for violence and lawlessness, but even before the all-out race war that NYC Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) and his ilk are desperately trying to ignite actually begins, we may now be seeing the harmful side effects of their actions.
In the weeks since Sean Bell was fatally shot by police outside a Queens topless bar, arrests have dropped by about 40% in the area, the latest police statistics show.
Some experts said the drop reflected police officers' reluctance to face another confrontation in a neighborhood charged with racial tension after the shooting, and some pointed to similar drops following other controversial shootings.
We might have seen this effect in some measure no matter what, simply because the shooting was bound to become controversial. But the ongoing protests at which Black "leaders" do their damnedest to fuel racial hatred are certainly escalating the tension and, apparently, the negative impact on law enforcement.
And the consequences are very real.
After four street crime officers fatally shot Amadou Diallo, who was unarmed, in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building in 1999, citywide arrests dropped by 8% over nine months, according to published news reports. Arrests by street crime officers dropped to 3,115 in fiscal 1999 from 4,250 in fiscal 1998, a 26.7% decrease, the reports say.
Mayor Giuliani reportedly said at the time that the intense public scrutiny of the police after the Diallo shooting caused the murder rate to rise slightly, because officers were less confident to make arrests.
If the phenomenon plays out similarly this time, Councilman Barron's pleas for "Black power against the police" don't even need to be overtly heeded for blood to be on his hands.
A Little Bit Softer Now
The Commerce Department issued its final third quarter GDP report today, scaling back its previous growth estimate for the quarter from 2.2% to 2.0%. Economists thought they'd reaffirm the 2.2% estimate.
It's worth noting though that the previous estimate of the negative effect of the housing slump on GDP was 1.0%. That's now been revised to 1.2%, fully accounting for the downward surprise in the growth number. That's not to say the housing slowdown is irrelevant, but it does mean that a lot of the declining growth is symptomatic of the overjuiced housing market coming back to earth, rather than reflecting the broader dynamics of the economy.
Slowing growth at this point is okay. The key is for the economy, with a little help from the Fed, to pull off the much discussed "soft landing", wherein inflation is warded off without our slipping into recession. In my view, that continues to look like the most likely case.
The Munchausen Majority
Handing the Democrats this enormous minimum wage hike had better come with substantial quid pro quos, as its negative effects on the economy (most notably on small businesses and, in turn, their ability to create new jobs, constraining the supply of jobs and creating downward pressure on prices (wages)) are bound to be significant. As usual, this favorite liberal policy point - while warm, fuzzy, and populist-sounding - will be most harmful to those it purports to help. It'll help keep people poor, which (if all goes according to plan) will fuel their perceived need for more Democratic policies in the future.
Yes, the Dems slinging this economic gruel are essentially akin to a lonely old lady mixing bleach into her poor, sick grandchild's soup so he'll stay sick and give her purpose.
"Minimum wage workers have waited almost 10 long years for an increase," responded Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who has said that boosting the federal minimum wage will be his chief goal when he takes over as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. "We need to pass a clean bill giving them the raise they deserve as quickly as possible."
10 years and no wage increase? That sounds terrible for those minimum wage workers. Speaking of which, how about America's kindergarteners? They never seem to get anywhere in life. Kindergarteners have been going to kindergarten for years! Decades even. Won't someone please think of the children? They seem to be in such a rut.
Well, whether they've developed the required skills or not, we need to pass legislation to move kindergarteners into a higher grade - let's say third. That ought to make us feel good. It'll be tight in there with all the existing third graders, but it'll work itself out somehow. Maybe the schools will just have to implement a policy where only half the kids actually come to school and the rest stay home. Kids hate school anyway, right?
AP Bedevils Bush?
Here's the original AP image:
And here's another photo buried deeper in the same slide show:
The shape of Bush's mouth is different, but these images appear to have been snapped within a split second of each other (the fingers on his right hand and even the orientation of his shirt cuff under his suit jacket is nearly identical) and from a very similar vantage point. The camera appears to be roughly eye-level with Bush - no sense in either photo of looking down on or up at him.
For the seal to shift so dramatically in relation to Bush's head (since the pictures appear to be taken from similar, if not identical elevations) would require the photographer to be right smack in front of the subject, in order for such an unnoticeably small elevation change to pivot the background scenery so drastically.
Anyway, that's my lay take. It's far from conclusive, but on an even odds bet, I'd lay my money on it being just a wee bit doctored. And even if it's not, it's fun to play Hunt the Flimflammer with the MSM.
For reference, the two images are set against each other below, highlighting the clearly close temporal proximity of the two photos.
Update: Meh, maybe I take that back. Looking at the microphones, the bedeviled photo does appear to be taken from a slightly lower vantage point. No way to know without knowing how far away the photographer(s) were when the photos were taken, I guess. For now, one has to give the photographer the benefit of the doubt, allowing that it was likely just intentionally unflattering cropping that led to the bedevilment.
King Of the Jews, Poles
This is just so batty, not even the church thinks it's a good idea.
Backing from the church in this strongly Catholic country would be crucial for building support for the proposal, but on Wednesday several bishops criticized it, and said parliament should stay out of religious affairs.
"Let parliament deal with passing better laws that we need," Gdansk Archbishop Tadeusz Goclowski said.
Pelosi Blames Bush For Her Welching On Campaign Promises
It's becoming increasingly clear that by "implement all of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations" Nancy & Co. meant "implement some of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations."
A legislative package that House Democrats are preparing to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission will include measures on port and cargo security, interoperable communications, securing loose nuclear materials abroad and distributing homeland security grants based on risk, according to Democratic sources.
But the package will not include a reorganization of congressional oversight of the Homeland Security Department or an attempt to declassify the intelligence budget, despite the fact that those, too, were key recommendations. Although Democrats pledged during the election to implement all of the commission's unfulfilled recommendations, aides now concede that doing so will be harder than they thought.
And why is it "harder" than they thought? Why, it's the man keeping them down.
The leadership aide said Pelosi supports declassification of the intelligence budget but any attempt to do so would be shot down by the administration. "If we put that in there, that kills the bill," the aide said.
That's surely a more palatable backpeddle than having to admit some of the recommendations are legislative non-starters simply because they're bad ideas. But whatever Pelosi's excuse for hollowing out her campaign promises before those swamp-draining 100 hours have even begun, she can't make the case that she was unaware of the political realities - imagined and/or scapegoated as they may be - when those promises were made. Is she suddenly more attuned to the political mechanations than during the campaign season? Or with the election in the rearview mirror, has angsty populist rhetoric simply been displaced by complacency and ambivalence toward her own stated priorities?
We know the whole "most honest, most open, most ethical Congress" bit went down in the first round with the Murtha-Hastings 1-2 punch.
What might be the next priority stricken from the agenda? Me, I'm hoping for a switcheroo on Social Security.
You Now Have 5 Seconds To Comply
The next time you beat your keyboard in frustration, think of a day where it may be able to sue you for assault. Within 50 years we might even find ourselves standing next to the next generation of vacuum cleaners in the voting booth.
Far from being extracts from the extreme end of science fiction, the idea that we may one day give sentient machines the kind of rights traditionally reserved for humans is raised in a British government-commissioned report which claims to be an extensive look into the future.
Visions of the status of robots around 2056 have emerged from one of 270 forward-looking papers sponsored by Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientist. The paper covering robots’ rights was written by a UK partnership of Outsights, the management consultancy, and Ipsos Mori, the opinion research organisation.
“If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Prepare for the dawn of the American Cyborg Liberties Union.
Hat Tip: Stop the ACLU
55 Days, 21 Records
Since October 3, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average first broke through its previous all-time high set nearly 7 years ago on January 14, 2000, the Dow has gone on to notch up 21 new all-time highs, including today. The index currently sits at a superlatively lofty 12471.32.
Regular readers will know I'm still pining for 12,800 by year-end, not because my objective economic analysis would at this point necessarily support that target (though I would say we're more likely to move meaningfully higher than meaningfully lower over the remaining several trading sessions), but purely for retroactive style points.
Either way, I'll keep the record day counter clicking through New Year's. Where the Dow's concerned, the fourth quarter of 2006 could well go on record as the most record-setting quarter on record.
David Zucker Zuckerizes the ISG
Bask in its prescient hilarity.
Headhunter Seeks Same
With the vocational stars aligning, now might be the time to consider a career move.
Your award-winning participation in the new web revolution might well make you the perfect candidate to be Mary Katherine's new co-worker at Townhall.
Not your cup of tea? Then maybe you'd be better suited for this coveted overseas assignment. (Knot-tying experience strongly preferred.)
Nonthrax, Nonchalance At the U.N.
The latest white powder scare once again turned out to be a false alarm, but a reminder - in more ways than one - of lurking dangers.
A suspicious package leaking white powder was found near CNN's office at U.N. headquarters Friday, prompting officials to cordon off the area, but preliminary tests showed the substance appeared to be flour, U.N. officials said.
"On the basis of preliminary results, the substance does not appear to be harmful but some tests continue," U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday night. "It appears to flour."
Still, the incident follows close behind other nonthrax scares at the Lincoln Memorial in November and at Bill Clinton's Harlem office in October. However benign the substances were found to be, the episodes highlight the continued ease with which an Anthrax-bearing individual could apparently get the agent into sensitive areas.
Worse still, according to journalists in the vicinity of the affected CNN office Friday, is the woeful lack of preparedness and sound decision making on display.
The U.N. is lucky to be physically situated in New York, protected by the NYPD and other elite emergency services. They're unlucky the NYPD was appropriately mindful of the body's territorial authority. So are the citizens of New York.
[NYPD HazMat officers] warned those in the U.N. "hotzone" that no final determination on what the mystery material is could be reached before late Sunday.
As such, the NYPD offered workers impacted by the "event" two options:
1. Consent to de-contamination. That meant taking body showers and impounding all clothing until further notice. The NYPD offered to supply a biohazard suit to return home, replacing the sequestered clothing.
2. Remain in one's office until an official "all-clear" was issued. The NYPD explained that would likely come "Monday morning."
The NYPD also mentioned that if the first option was selected the "U.N. would provide any transportation home needed by the workers."
Since the U.N. is considered international territory, the NYPD ceded ultimate decision-making to the world body's security service.
I can see why the U.N. security service might've been inclined to opt for Door #1. Despite the inconvenience and awkwardness of submitting to compulsory showering and walking home in a spacesuit, it probably seemed less intrusive than forcing everyone to stay in their offices for 3 days.
But leave it to the U.N. to find a loophole. One which endangered diplomats, civilians, and friendly tourists alike, but - in their defense - was expedient. They went with Door #2, the "all-clear" option. But rather than wait for Monday, they simply redefined the term.
When faced with the prospect of paying transportation costs home for the effected workers, U.N. security issued its own "all-clear" to the astonishment of the NYPD hazmat officers.
So, while the chances were slim that the mystery substance was toxic, the U.N. nonetheless decided to release numerous "exposed" workers into the NYC environment.
But, the U.N. did ask for names and telephone numbers of those refusing decontamination, "just in case" explained one security officer.
Oh, well, thank Heavens. For a minute there, this all sounded pretty irresponsible.
From failing to secure "hot zones" within the building to withholding or providing flawed information to emergency services personnel, the U.N. security service comes off, as Debbie Stabenow might say, as dangerously incompetent.
To its east midtown neighbors (myself included), the U.N. is generally a mild inconvenience, occasionally snarling traffic, offering noisy protests, blocking river views, and preventing anyone without diplomatic tags from ever finding street parking. But once they start deliberately sending out possibly contaminated people onto the streets, against the advice of local law enforcement, it rises to the level of genuine menace.
While they seem to have been much more on the ball, I'll offer one bit of Monday morning quarterbacking for the NYPD.
If they had set up a little receiving area a few feet away from every exit (each squarely planted on American soil), would they have been within their bounds to detain each departing individual and subject them to decontamination? It would've spelled a much larger inconvenience than decontaminating just those coming from the hot zone, but as the U.N. couldn't even keep track of what that zone encompassed or who was entering or exiting it, the only way to thoroughly prevent a spreading contamination would be to process everyone leaving the building.
Further, assuming this would've been feasible and within the NYPD's jurisdiction, might the threat of that more invasive solution been enough to convince the U.N. security service to submit to one of the two prescribed options?
In the end, we're all very lucky the substance was harmless, but we ought to take full advantage of the lesson learned. As is so often the case, the U.N. is proving to be not only an ineffective partner, but an increasing nuisance, hazard, and threat to our interests.
On Tuesday, the Fed reaffirmed its position that inflation poses a greater risk than slowing economic growth. Record earnings from major investment banks released this week seemed to support the idea that economic activity is far from anemic. With Wall Street charging ahead, inflation creeping in appears to be the only thing that could spoil the party.
So all eyes were on today's CPI inflation report, which economists predicted would show consumer prices rising by 0.2% in November. Instead, prices rose by 0.0%.
The market celebrated with a fresh all-time intraday high for the Dow and multi-year highs for the other major indices.
Crystal ball check: In January, with the Dow near 11,000, I made the crazily optimistic prediction that the index would end the year at 12,800. With only 2.6% to go before we hit the magic number, it won't be easy, but we just might pull it off.
With crude oil prices hovering a couple bucks above recent levels, a timely pullback, perhaps in conjunction with Chairman Bernanke making headway in China, and maybe some better-than-expected holiday sales indicators could conspire to give us the necessary year-end juice to fulfill the prophecy.
Pennies Not Worth The Copper They're Printed On
With the soaring price of copper, a melted-down penny or nickel is now worth more than it would be in its regular state at face value.
So let's get melting, right? So long as you don't mind spending 5 years in the can.
So let's get melting, right? So long as you don't mind spending 5 years in the can.
Officials at the Mint say in recent months they have received numerous inquiries into whether or not it is illegal to melt coins.
"We are taking this action because the Nation needs its coinage for commerce," said U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy in a statement. "Replacing these coins would be an enormous cost to taxpayers."
How big a cost? Moy told ABC News that if just 1 percent of all the nickels and pennies that are in circulation were melted down, taxpayers would have to foot a $43 million bill.
To avoid this costly coin shortage, the new regulations prohibit the melting or treatment of all 1- and 5-cent U.S. coins.
I've just run a few numbers and I'm not so sure we need this. Yes, it should be illegal to destroy U.S. currency, but I don't see the need to get tougher about it in response to the run-up in copper prices. I don't have a problem with imposing strict penalties; I just think the Treasury is getting needlessly nervous.
Let's consider how lucrative a nickel melting racket might be (as they're heavier than pennies and contain a much higher concentration of copper), under optimal circumstances. Nickels are made of a 75-25 copper-nickel alloy. I'm assuming that's by weight. Nickels weigh 5 grams, meaning you should have 3.75 grams of copper in each nickel. Copper's currently going for about $6.78/kg, so if you had a perfectly efficient melting and separating operation, you could extract only 2.5 cents worth of copper per coin. It turns out it's the nickel in the nickel that's much more valuable. Currently trading at more than $34/kg, the nickel content works out to roughly 4 cents per coin.
Add in the production costs and the Treasury estimates each nickel to be "worth" 8 cents or so. But the "worth" tied up in its production costs actually has negative value to the would-be melter, as there's cost to be incurred in the separation of the base metals (i.e. to undo the "worth" created when it was minted into legal tender).
If your melting/separating operation were perfectly efficient and completely cost-free, you'd clear about 1.5 cents/nickel (after the cost of buying the nickels). That might be enough to make it worth your while, but - while I know nothing of the cost or efficiency of large-scale coin melting - I have to assume that even if the physical processes were incredibly efficient and the cost of operation were very low, it'd require an enormously large-scale operation to extract any net value from U.S. nickels at current metals prices.
As for pennies, the prospects are even worse. With copper accounting for 2.4% of a 2.5 gram penny (it's only in the plating), the market value of its copper content would only be about 1/20th of a cent. The zinc core on the other hand would be worth just a hair over $0.01 at current prices, meaning your net value extracted per coin would be around 1/10th of a cent (again, after the cost of buying the pennies and assuming a free and perfectly efficient melting/separating operation).
So yes, currently the metal content of both pennies and nickels are worth more than the coins' face values - ever so slightly, fractionally more. But the Treasury's figures of 8.3 cents/nickel and 1.7 cents/penny are hugely overstated in that they bake their own cost of production into the coins' "value", a measure totally irrelevant to would-be melters or mass exporters. (Plus, that kind of thinking really smacks of Marxism and the labor theory of value, which frankly has no place at the heart of the American monetary system.)
I'll concede that if a sufficiently efficient and low-cost, high-volume melting/separating operation could be devised, it's feasible that nickel-melting could be very thinly profitable. But (while I'd like to see this all more thoroughly vetted by the Mythbusters) my outside guess is that the size of the operation required to reach break-even would call for more nickels than are currently in circulation.
Sony Shutters a Flog
Oh, this is a little pathetic.
Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn't a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP.
Sony Computer Entertainment America
The ruse only lasted a few weeks. It apparently didn't take long for readers to begin to suspect something squirrelly about bloggers Charlie ("designer. artist. playa.") and Jeremy ("rocker. playa. hater.").
A Whois lookup of the blog's domain referred curious readers to a "the ZIPATONI co." in St. Louis, Missouri. Questioned about the identity of the blog's proprietors, a self-identified Zipatoni executive soon posted a comment on the blog:
Please know that we approached the client initially with this scenario and they said "who cares if people find out? As long as it is funny, we do this stuff all of the time."
The cat being of the bag, it wasn't long before Sony added the "Busted. Nailed. Snagged." disclaimer to the site.
Naturally, Sony is playing this one off as a botched joke.
Sony Wednesday released a statement acknowledging that the blog was phony. "Sony Computer Entertainment America developed alliwantforxmasisapsp.com as a humorous site targeting those interested in getting a PSP system this holiday season," it read. "We've now added a posting that provides this clarification to consumers visiting the site."
Greedy Oil Mongers
Look, kids - an OPEC meeting.
OPEC ministers agreed Thursday to hold oil production unchanged for now but set the stage for a cutback of half a million barrels a day in February. Oil rose above $62 a barrel in response.
The decision -- in a closed meeting of the 11-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries -- was confirmed by OPEC President Edmund Daukoru, who is also oil minister of Nigeria, along with ministers from other member nations.
With world inventories high but moving downward and the coldest days of the Northern Hemisphere winter still ahead, the move was a compromise -- meant to keep markets and consumers calm at least in the short term. It also left a possible window for the organization to retrench and decide not to cut in February should demand spike, moving prices sharply upward.
Senator Johnson Critical After Surgery
Tim Johnson is said to be in critical condition, after undergoing brain surgery last night.
Johnson suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital arteriovenous malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said, describing the surgery as succesful.
"The senator is recovering without complication," the physician, Adm. John Eisold, said. "It is premature to determine whether further surgery will be required or to assess any long-term prognosis."
The good news appears to be that there are several ways to treat AVMs once they've been found and that there are preventative measure to prevent future bleeding.
Assuming the characterization of the surgery as "successful" was accurate, let's hope full recovery is only a matter of time.
Update: Harry Reid says Johnson really looks good.
They apparently have a higher threshold for acceptable discourse than the ladies of The View.
Strong Job Numbers Suggest Soft Landing, Economic Rebound
Year-end is a tricky time to get reliable, seasonally adjusted employment data, what with people on vacation, suspending searches, changing jobs, skipping town, and generally bewildering the Labor Department. Still, today's new jobless report was nonetheless surprising cheery. New claims filed fell by 20,000 to 304,000 (a 25% larger drop than was expected).
Tuesday's new Fed statement suggested that inflation continued to be the bigger worry than recession (good news, on balance, if you're a fan of economic growth) and today's jobless data suggests that employers likewise expect the recent economic slowdown will not keep growth away in 2007.
Regret the Error presents Crunks '06: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections, celebrating the best of the worst from the MSM over the past year. Endless good stuff in categories like "Apology of the Year", "Typo of the Year", "Best Porn-Related Error", etc.
Here's a taste.
Senator Tim Johnson In Hospital After Reported Stroke
[Scroll for updates]
[Latest updates at new post]
WASHINGTON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, was hospitalized on Wednesday after suffering a possible stroke, Johnson's office said.
The 59-year-old Johnson, now serving his second term in the U.S. Senate, is in George Washington University Hospital.
A video report is available at MSNBC.com.
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S. D., has been hospitalized with symptoms described as stroke-like. The seriousness of his illness has not been disclosed.
A statement released by Johnson's office said, "Senator Tim Johnson was taken to George Washington University Hospital this afternoon suffering from a possible stroke. As this stage, he is undergoing a comprehensive evaluation by the stroke team. Further details will be forthcoming when more is known."
While concerns for Senator Johnson, his family, and his speedy recovery are primary, the story also has an unavoidable political component.
In addition to concern about Johnson's immediate health, his illness draws political concern in that the Democrats currently hold a 51-49 advantage in seats, giving them control of the Senate.
Should Johnson, 59, not be healthy enough to be resign from the Senate, according to the South Dakota Secretary of State, the governor of South Dakota may appoint a replacement. The appointment would last until the next general election -- in this case, 2008. Johnson's term happens to expire in 2008.
The governor of South Dakota is Republican Mike Rounds. Should there be a vacancy as a consequence of Johnson's illness and Rounds appoints a Republican to fill the term, that would make the count 50 Demorats and 50 Republicans. Under the rules of the Senate, ties votes are settled by the vote of the vice president - currently Republican Dick Cheney - effectively giving control of the Senate to the Republicans.
There's some disagreement on the Democratic Underground thread about what would happen if Senator Johnson (or any Democratic Senator in a Republican-Governed state for that matter) were to step down. This handy guide to filling Senate vacancies, which was linked (and, it seems, improperly interpreted) by one of the commenters suggests the common practice is for the Governor's appointee to serve until a special election can be held, unless the term is in its final two years (as Johnson's is), in which case the appointee typically serves the balance of the term.
Update: WorldNetDaily reports on Tom DeLay's comments on today's Your World With Neil Cavuto.
"Let's just keep him in our prayers and hope that he's going to be all right," said former House Speaker Tom DeLay told host Neal [sic] Cavuto on the Fox News Channel.
Asked about why a senator's health is getting the scrutiny it does, DeLay said: "Because this town is so eat-up with power. That's all they think about. It doesn't matter [the subject]. You go and ask somebody for a cup of coffee, they question why you asked. There must be an ulterior motive to you asking somebdoy [sic] for a cup of coffee in this town. It's a pretty mean town."
Update: Happily, WaPo reports a Johnson spokeswoman has said the stroke was caught "very early."
Update: Blogger News Network confirms that South Dakota law would call for the Governor's appointee to serve until the next general election, as detailed in the state's Special Congressional Elections, Chapter 12-11.
Special election to fill senate vacancy. The special election to fill the vacancy of a senator shall be held at the same time as the next general election. The general election laws shall apply unless inconsistent with this chapter.
If a vacancy occurs in the office of a senator or representative in the United States Congress it shall be the duty of the Governor within ten days of the occurrence, to issue a proclamation setting the date of and calling for a special election for the purpose of filling such vacancy. If either a primary or general election is to be held within six months, an election to fill a vacancy in the office of representative in the United States Congress shall be held in conjunction with that election, otherwise the election shall be held not less than eighty nor more than ninety days after the vacancy occurs.
Who knows. Hopefully, the stroke was caught early enough that it's a moot point. But if it does come into play, the weight of the national political calculus that hinges on that chapter of SD's election law can't be overstated.
The significance isn't lost on our buddies at DU, who - now that a couple hours have passed - have decided it's time to don their tinfoil apparel.
Any chance that he was poisioned...
...or otherwise incapacitated by the Repugs?
it is a rather naive question
The possibility also exists that his brain was zapped by Moon men. Shall we throw that hat into the ring as well?
... while there is no evidence of Moon Men, there is evidence that Repugs will pull dirty tricks to remain in power. So, again, I think that, granted, the probability is that this is natural, but the other *reasonable* possibilities need to be looked into as well (as Repug malfeasance is a reasonable, if small possibility).
That thought popped into my mind, too
I hope it was a natural event and the Senator makes a speedy recovery. We cannot, however, put anything past this power hungry pack of jackals. They've proven time and time again that they will go to any lengths to "remove" anyone who gets in their way.
Update: Johnson did not suffer a stroke or a heart attack, according to a spokesman for the Senator.
Judge Says Not To Seat First Mulsim Congressman-Elect
Judge Roy Moore (that Judge Roy Moore) believes that because the Quran dictates that Islamic law supercedes any secular system of laws, Democrat Keith Ellison (a Sunni Muslim from Minnesota elected to Congress last month) should not be seated in office if he insists on swearing his oath on the Quran.
Islamic law is simply incompatible with our law. Jaafar Sheikh Idris, founder and chairman of American Open University, a radical Islamic school that has received funding from suspected al-Qaida sources and which supports Islamic law, recently stated that “Islam cannot be separated from the state,” and that no Muslim elected to Congress or the White House can swear to uphold the United States Constitution and still be a Muslim, because the law of Allah as expressed in the Quran is supreme. Idris was recently deported for his illegal activities. While we certainly disagree with Idris’ radical extremism, he at least knows what Islam is all about!…
Our Constitution states, “Each House [of Congress] shall be the judge … of the qualifications of its own members.” Enough evidence exists for Congress to question Ellison’s qualifications to be a member of Congress as well as his commitment to the Constitution in view of his apparent determination to embrace the Quran and an Islamic philosophy directly contrary to the principles of the Constitution.
Which part of Article VI of the Constitution takes precedence - this part?
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution;
Or the very next line?
... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
So what happens when it's a religious observance itself that conflicts with upholding the oath to support the Constitution?
I can't imagine Ellison running into even a whiff of actual resistance, but to a non-Muslim non-lawyer, it seems like an interesting Constitutional pickle.
Kerry Plans Pity Pop-In With Lazy Halfwits In Iraq
Brace yourself for the arrival of the nuanced thinker, you shiftless dregs.
Sen. John Kerry, whose botched joke about U.S. troops in Iraq dealt a blow to his presidential ambitions, will travel to Iraq this weekend to meet with soldiers, political leaders and military officials.
"I've talked to plenty of guys who've come back from Iraq, who are there now, who understand exactly what happened," Kerry said of his joke in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "They laugh at it."
No. No, they don't. Does this man ever tell the truth?
The Massachusetts senator, who was widely criticized for the quip, said he'd be happy to apologize to any soldiers he encounters in Iraq who don't understand what happened.
"For anybody who misunderstood (the joke) or got only the White House presentation of it, I'd apologize, obviously," he said.
So the "White House presentation" of the joke must be any version of the joke (including the unedited video of Kerry telling it), not accompanied by the painstakingly retrofitted alternative he'd desperately like us to believe he meant to say.
I genuinely think that the anti-Bush sentiment in this country is strong enough that if Kerry would drop the incredible contention that he meant the joke to be about the President, and just admit what everyone knows to be true, he'd actually begin to regain some support. Yes, troops would hate him, but they already hate him. They've had plenty of cause to hate him well before his most recent slur.
Instead, if he presses on with his "sorry if you misunderstood" non-apology, I think he only digs himself deeper. Not only will he continue to be hated by the troops, but he'll convince anyone who was in doubt that he's a disingenuous weasel.
Hat Tip: Blackfive
Alan Hevesi - Such Magnitude, Such Grandeur...
Comptroller Hevesi has quite munificently agreed to pay New York taxpayers back the money he stole from us over the last 3 years, the best estimate of which now exceeds $206,000.
In a prepared statement, Hevesi said he was "pleased" that Tuesday's settlement "brings the issue of reimbursement to a close."
Okay, perhaps the reimbursement issue is at a close. But how about the removal from office issue and the criminal penalty issue?
Hevesi still faces other investigations. Albany County District Attorney David Soares is looking into possible criminal charges against Hevesi. Gov. George Pataki has appointed a special prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney David Kelley, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to merit a state Senate proceeding to remove Hevesi from office.
It's unclear if Governor-Elect Spitzer will push for Hevesi's removal or not. Hevesi's argument is that by re-electing him, New Yorkers have forgiven his thievery. (Right, um... I haven't. Are criminal matters that are still under investigation eligible for electoral expunging?)
During one of his debates with John Faso, Spitzer described Hevesi's actions as "intolerable". The self-styled "Sheriff of Wall Street" would also have us believe he's riding into Albany to clean up the town. Alan Hevesi represents the most egregious manifestation of the corruption and decay in Albany. If Spitzer doesn't initiate removal proceedings in the State Legislature, we can be assured nothing is changing on day one.
"Pay Up If You Ever Want To See Your Hilarious Forwards Again"
There's a new breed of cyber-bandito out there. And he's holding your record of correspondence for ransom.
When end-users logged into their web mail accounts (in this case Hotmail), they noticed that all their 'sent' and 'received' emails were deleted along with all their online contacts. The only message that remained was one from the attacker that requested they contact them for payment in order to receive the data back.
The email, which was poorly written in Spanish, roughly translates in English to:
"If you want to know where your contacts and your emails are then pay us or if you prefer to lose everything then don't write soon!"
2006's Trendiest Handles
Oh, what a difference a year makes. In 2005, Aidan was the most popular name for new baby boys. In 2006, it's Aiden.
Other curiosities: Landon was more popular than Christopher. Gabriel beat out John. And Brookyln - yes Brooklyn - was more popular than Brooke.
Plenty of the most popular names are just plain made up. #89 for girls: Nevaeh. As in "Heaven" spelled backward.
I apologize to any new parents reading who have just named their daughter Nevaeh, but that's just a little too precious.
So they say... sort of.
Been getting quite a bit of traffic via searches with "castro death" and "is castro dead" and "castro death rumors" the past couple of days so I thought I'd go ahead and clear that whole mess up right now.
Barring any unforeseen actions such as, say, breathing, for all intents and purposes, fidel castro is dead. And, should the case be that he is, in fact, still breathing, chances are that it's only a "little" breathing or a clever rendition of the act of breathing and not real breathing in the real breathing scientific term of real breathing. There have been, however, unconfirmed reports of fidel castro actually breathing, but all have come with the caveat "he is breathing, but he's certainly not inhaling."
PJM says Spanish Radio is confirming his death.
Check for the very latest headlines from Google-sanctioned sources.
Chris Matthews - Chauvinist Blowhard
Sheesh, aren't practiced prime-time liberals supposed to be a little better at masking their sexist misogyny than this?
Observe as Matthews curries adoring favor by toeing the comically flimsy "botched joke" line, then manages to turn his otherwise fawning audience and guests against him in 30 seconds flat.
[Start your stopwatch when Chris starts laugh-honking.]
Kanye West Doesn't Care About Trademark Infringement
Kanye West, Jay-Z protege and race-baiting humanitarian, much celebrated for his "song" Gold Digger (a virtuosic use of someone else's voice, singing in someone else's style, using samples from someone else's recording), may have pushed his derivative art one step too far.
The Smoking Gun is all over it.
Retired daredevil Evel Knievel is suing Kanye West, claiming the rapper ripped off his trademarked look in a recent music video in which the performer, using the handle "Evel Kanyevel," wears a red, white, and blue jumpsuit during a failed rocket ride over a gorge. Knievel, 68, charges that West copied his look down to a distinctive "EK" belt buckle in the video for "Touch The Sky," a single off his hit album "Late Registration."
Did you notice how he changed "Knievel" to "Kanyevel"? Genius. Seriously, where does he come up with this stuff? What an artist.
Tracking Fed Changes
This afternoon, the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee issued a new policy statement, indicating it would keep the Fed Funds rate unchanged at 5.25% for the 4th consecutive time.
As always, the market likes to seize on any minor language tweaks within such statements to try to glean any hints about which way the FOMC may be leaning for future moves. For easy comparison, below is a copy of today's statement as it would look if the Fed had simply opened the October 25th statement in Microsoft Word and turned "Track Changes" on while editing.
October 25,December 12, 2006
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 percent.
Economic growth has slowed over the course of the year, partly reflecting a substantial cooling of the housing market.
Going forward,Although recent indicators have been mixed, the economy seems likely to expand at a moderate pace, on balance over coming quarters.
Readings on core inflation have been elevated, and the high level of resource utilization has the potential to sustain inflation pressures. However, inflation pressures seem likely to moderate over time, reflecting reduced impetus from energy prices, contained inflation expectations, and the cumulative effects of monetary policy actions and other factors restraining aggregate demand.
Nonetheless, the Committee judges that some inflation risks remain. The extent and timing of any additional firming that may be needed to address these risks will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Susan S. Bies; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Frederic S. Mishkin; Sandra Pianalto; William Poole; Kevin M. Warsh; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who preferred an increase of 25 basis points in the federal funds rate target at this meeting.
So the language appears just a wee bit stronger in its reaffirmation of the economic outlook, in that the forecast of moderate expansion is not disturbed by the recent pullback in the GDP growth rate, which, as they note, is due in part to substantial cooling in the housing market.
One would expect whatever incremental economic bullishness this conveys would translate into similar incremental interest rate hawkishness (which the equity markets might not love). The fact that the Fed is continuing to concentrate on containing inflation, rather than forestalling recession should thin out the ranks of economists and traders looking for a lowering of rates in early 2007. On the bright side, the analysis lends credence to the argument that we're in for a soft economic landing, which could allow us to skate through the business cycle trough recession-free.
On balance, a rather cruddy session on Wall Street turned somewhat brighter following the release.
Better Know a Muslim
You may have read about incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes' stunning ignorance of the nature of the terrorist threat, but there's a lot more complexity to the interplay of Sunnis and Shiites than just "Which predominates al Qaeda?"
Complexity that the average American, even a well-informed observer, heck, even Congressman Reyes himself might find illustrative.
Dean Barrett at Townhall lays down the FAQ. A snippet:
Historically, they suffered their fissure 13 centuries ago when they differed over who the rightful heir to Muhammad was. Beyond that little nugget, the typical congressman shouldn’t have to worry his pretty little blow-dried head about the origins of the two sects.
The Sunnis historically were much more political than the Shiites. Devout and fundamentalist Sunnis felt (and feel) that there can be no law above the Koran. That means they feel that government by necessity must be a theocracy. Also, fundamentalist Sunnis consider Shiites to be apostates. An apostate is an even worse thing to be than an infidel.
Shiites traditionally were relatively non-political. You’ve seen this kind of Shiite philosophy in action in Iraq where Ayatollah Sistani supported the formation of a secular government and declined to claim the reins of leadership himself.
There's plenty more at the link. It's really quite a good primer. And once you finish reading it, you can delight in the fact that you know 15 things the new Intel Chair doesn't know.
Countdown To Obama Overexposure - 10
Barak Obama has, in his less than two years in the U.S. Senate, put up an impressively liberal (by some measures, perfectly liberal) voting record, a ways left of Hillary and just a hair more radical than Ted Kennedy. And yet, he's managed to put on an as-yet unchallenged air of eclectic centrism (while his only significant aisle-crossing was on the not particularly partisan (though admittedly worthwhile) issue of pork disclosure).
His political fortunes may rest on his ability to stay sufficiently far left as to dodge Hillary on the road to the primary, offering the left wing an alternative to Clinton's longer practiced (if equally ficticious) centrism, without giving up the maverick, no-tie-wearing, unbehloden to either party, choice of a new generation status he's been riding.
In my opinion, his viability in 2008 hinges more immediately on his ability to avoid catastrophic overexposure. As much of a media darling as he may be, so too was Howard Dean (and much farther along in the election cycle) before his own implosion. Dean's downfall may have pivoted on his Napoleonic scream, but it happened when it happened because that's when the dynamics of media and public opinion finally grew unsustainably large around him. The whole works were bound to collapse on him as soon as he offered up the next minor, irrelevant (if very stupid looking) gaffe. Suddenly, the frontrunner was an instant laughing stock and the party scrambled around the nearest empty suit to prop up.
Obama would be well-advised to hold on loosely to his momentum, but not let go. If he clings too tightly, he's gonna lose control.
Sure, he could pour a bunch more fuel on his own media fire and continue to dominate the political news cycle. Probably for weeks, maybe months. But eventually, the same mechanations of public opinion and media attention will come into play - more journalists following Obama means more incentive to find counter-stories; the more centralized his support becomes, the more fashionable it will be for Democrats to find a new non-establishment candidate to cheer. With more than a year until the first primaries, it's likely time to ease off on the throttle.
But instant fame must be quite an intoxicant. It might simply be too much to expect somone thrust so swiftly into the national spotlight not to want to go on dancing and bowing for as long as that spotlight's shining.
As Obamamania has gripped the country, I've been genuinely uncertain and quite curious as to whether he could resist the media sirens' call and escape the fate of the Deaniacs. As of today, I'm no longer uncertain.
And so begins the countdown to Barak Obama's fatal overexposure.
It's funny. And it's charming. But it's too early.
Elsewhere: John Podhoretz ponders how and why Obama became this cycle's Rorschach Candidate.
Larry Kudlow highlights the very liberal record Obama has notched up despite his short tenure in the Senate.
You Now Have 10 Seconds To Comply
Honda's Asimo may represent the cutting edge of humanoid robotics poised to enslave us all, but so long as we all keep within scampering distance of a flight of stairs, we've still got the upper hand.
Just so long as no one invents a way to pick our metallic overlords up off the floor.
Previously: You Have 20 Seconds To Comply
Hmm, thanks to the evils of Big Oil, global warming appears to be serving up a mild winter, which in turn is lowering demand for heating oil, pushing down crude oil prices and dragging Big Oil shares down with them.
Oil fell nearly a dollar on Monday as mild weather blanketed much of the United States, cutting into heating oil demand from the world's largest energy consuming nation.
"The mild weather should keep some pressure on prices," said Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president for energy risk management at Fimat USA.
U.S. heating demand is expected to be nearly 27% below normal this week with warmer temperatures in most regions east of the Rockies, the National Weather Service said Monday.
Al Gore must not know how to feel about this. I hope his head has paradox-absorbing crumple zones.
Previously: You're As Cold As Ice
Eurovandals Mucking Up New York
New York thrives on tourism. But frankly, these Germans, Italians, French, Spaniards, Swiss, Danes, and Norwegians can all go back where they came from.
Subway graffiti is back - and Europeans are to blame.
Most of the major graffiti attacks on trains are being carried out by twentysomething Europeans who want to leave their marks where the graffiti culture was born, experts said.
They come from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway to spray-paint their murals and elaborate tags - called "pieces" - on trains, fully aware that the Transit Authority will scrub them clean within hours.
When [retired NYPD Transit Bureau Lt. Steven] Mona and his team reviewed last year's graffiti hits, they estimated that 70% were carried out by Europeans.
Sounds like a perfect "broken windows" opportunity. Under Rudy Giuliani, New York enjoyed immense success at lowering violent crime across the board, thanks in part to tough stances on petty crimes like vandalism, turnstile-hopping, public urination, and even the squeegee men. While most of those lesser nuisances remain under control, according to the Daily News, subway defacement has tripled in the last two years.
Sounds like a perfect "broken windows" opportunity. Under Rudy Giuliani, New York enjoyed immense success at lowering violent crime across the board, thanks in part to tough stances on petty crimes like vandalism, turnstile-hopping, public urination, and even the squeegee men.
While most of those lesser nuisances remain under control, according to the Daily News, subway defacement has tripled in the last two years.If our current Mayoral White House hopeful wants to polish his own executive bona fides (now that we're safe from deliciousness), he might do well to follow Rudy's example by cracking down on these marauding Euro-taggers.