It's like Google Maps for the sky.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Good news on a way to get healthier peanuts:
For lovers of boiled peanuts, there's some good news from the health front. A new study by a group of Huntsville researchers found that boiled peanuts bring out up to four times more chemicals that help protect against disease than raw, dry or oil-roasted nuts.
Lloyd Walker, chair of Alabama A&M University's Department of Food and Animal Sciences who co-authored the study, said these phytochemicals have antioxidant qualities that protect cells against the risk of degenerative diseases, including cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
"Boiling is a better method of preparing peanuts in order to preserve these phytochemicals," Walker said.
This brings to mind of course, Eddie Murphy's Black History Minute about George Washington Carver:
Meanwhile, one night, he's having a few friends over to his house for dinner. And one of them leans over and says to Dr. Carver, "Excuse me, George? What's that your putting on your bread?" Carver says, "Oh, that's nothing but a butter substitute that I made from peanuts. I can't digest all that animal fat, you know." So the other fellow tasted it, and he says, "Hmm.. this pastes pretty.. this tastes.." [ the audience again laughs at Murphy's blooper, causing him to break character again ] Yeah? Keep on smiling. [ back in character ] "This tastes pretty good, man. Mind if we take a peek at the recipe?" And Dr. Carver says, "Take a peek? Man, you can have it. Who's gonna eat butter made out of peanuts? No, I'm working on a method to compress peanuts into phonograph needles."
So, Professor Carver's two dinner guests.. [ Murphy removes his shades for better cue card reading ] ..Edward "Skippy" Williamson and Frederick "Jif" Armstrong - two white men - stole George Washington Carver's recipe for peanut butter, copyrighted it, and reaped untold fortunes from it. While Dr. Carver died penniless and insane, still trying to play a phonograph record with a peanut.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20071026-01
October 26, 2007
Iraqi Army at Besmaya Installation Support San Diego Fire Victims
By U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Charlene Sipperly
Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq Public Affairs
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims Thursday night at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony to support Besmaya's San Diego residents.
Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel Maxfield, Besmaya Range Complex officer in charge, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, to send to the fire victims in California.
The money was collected from Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers in Besmaya. In a speech given during the presentation, Col. Abbass stated that he and the Iraqi soldiers were connected with the American people in many ways, and they will not forget the help that the American government has given the Iraqi people. Abbass was honored to participate by sending a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego, to lower the suffering felt by the tragedy.
How much things have changed.
Listening to Reich on income inequality is like asking the arsonist for advice on how to put out a fire. Jump to the bottom of the post if you want to see why.
I note that McQ has a great post over at QandO on Robert Reich's misleading piece in support of soaking the rich to pay for costly new government programs. McQ says:
This is easy stuff, folks. Note the premise. The bill, its size or what is on it is not open for discussion. All that is open for discussion is who gets stuck with it. And that is how the Democrats and Reich frame the argument. Imagine going into a restaurant, having a meal delivered to your table which you didn't order and because you look fairly prosperous, finding the bills of 4 other tables added to yours because they're not. Outraged? You bet you would be outraged.Reich's entire premise for new taxes on the rich is that the current system is unfair. But federal tax data continue to confirm the progressivity of the current system. As Bob Bartlett points out:
But we hear basically the same argument here and most of us accept the premise because it probably won't be us footing the bill (just like those 4 tables of diners probably were fine with you picking up their tab).
Fleischer's main point is that a growing percentage of the population is paying no federal income taxes. He said the figure is 40 percent, based on a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office showing that the bottom two income quintiles (20 percent of households) paid no federal income taxes in the aggregate in 2004. This is because the Earned Income Tax Credit offsets all of the tax liability for those who had incomes below $29,400.Bartlett is going easy on the critics, too. Liberals have generally been very wary to change the current payroll tax structure. This is because it is easier to argue that Social Security is a pension plan when all contribute equally to their benefits. If you exempt those at the bottom -- or merely give them a lower rate -- you change the program from a pension plan to a welfare plan, and make it easier to cut benefits. For that reason Democrats have generally opposed plans that change the payroll taxes paid by earners at the low end.
Fleischer was quickly taken to task by liberals like Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute and Jonathan Chait of The New Republic for ignoring the burden of payroll taxes on those with low incomes. The same CBO data cited by Fleischer show that those in the bottom quintile paid 8.2 percent of their income in payroll taxes and the second quintile paid 9.1 percent.
This is the standard liberal response to data showing that the wealthy are shouldering a greater and greater share of the income tax burden. According to the CBO, those in the top quintile paid 85.3 percent of all such taxes in 2004. In 1979, the first year of the CBO study, this group paid only 64.9 percent.
Inclusion of payroll taxes in the calculation doesn't change the picture that much because the top quintile of households paid 44.2 percent of all payroll taxes in 2004. Overall, this group paid 67.1 percent of all federal taxes -- well above their share of reported income, which was 53.5 percent.
Of course, we have a progressive tax system, and the wealthy are expected to pay more than their proportional share of taxes. The CBO data confirm that our federal tax system is indeed very progressive. Looking at all federal taxes, including payroll taxes, those in the lowest quintile paid 4.5 percent of their income to the federal government in 2004, the second quintile paid 10 percent, the third paid 13.9 percent, the fourth paid 17.2 percent, and the top quintile paid 25.1 percent.
And with regard to income inequality overall, is it going up under Bush -- as Reich claims? Not according to the Census Bureau and Congress' Joint Economic Committee:
According to a key Census Bureau measure, income inequality was essentially unchanged between 2001 and 2006. In response to a request by the Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee, a statistical test performed by the Census Bureau earlier this week confirms that no statistically significant change in the inequality measure occurred between 2001 and 2006...
“Despite all the discussion about income inequality, the fact is that it hasn’t changed in recent years, according to the Census Bureau measure,” ranking Joint Economic Committee member Congressman Jim Saxton said today. “Congress should consider this fact before acting on the assumption that income inequality is surging.
How does Bush's record compare with the record under the Clinton administration -- when Robert Reich served as Labor Secretary?
However, the rise of the income share of the top 1 percent of tax filers ranked by income during the 1990s is very pronounced. For example, between 1992 and 2000, this share jumped from 14.23 percent to 20.81 percent, a huge increase of nearly 7 percentage points. Meanwhile, the income share of the bottom half of tax filers fell from 14.92 percent in 1992 to 12.99 percent in 2000.
Reich in his piece asserts:
The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earn more than 21 percent of all income. That's a postwar record.
So under the Clinton administration the share earned by the top 1 percent climbed 6.78%, while under President Bush it has climbed less than 0.4%.
Reich's argument is as full of holes as his credibility on the issue.
Update: I note good arguments on this over at Wake Up America, Sister Toldjah and Protein Wisdom as well.
There's a very interesting dispute brewing between the House Foreign Affairs Committee and some of the world's leading technology companies. Let's start with legislation introduced by Congressman Chris Smith, which was recently approved by the committee. From Congressional Quarterly:
A House panel Tuesday approved legislation to punish U.S. Internet companies for sharing information with foreign governments that restrict access to the Internet.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the measure by voice vote. The bill would make it illegal for U.S. companies hosting Internet content such as Web pages or e-mail to give users’ personal information to governments that restrict Internet access or cooperate in efforts to restrict access to U.S. government-supported Web content. Violators would be fined up to $2 million for businesses and up to $100,000 for individuals.
Countries restricting Internet freedom would be identified in an annual report to Congress from the president.
The bill is aimed at the actions of leading technology companies in China, including Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Microsoft. The firms have been criticized for sharing information with the Chinese government about the online activities of dissidents, as well as revising their search engines to censor some content for searches originating in China. In particular, Smith and the committee are angry with Yahoo, for allegedly having lied about their company's role in helping China develop evidence to jail dissident Shi Tao:
...At a 2006 hearing on the case, the company had assured Congress that it did not know about “the nature of the investigation” when it handed over the information.
Earlier this year, however, the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation released documents disputing that assertion.
“Our committee has established that Yahoo! provided false information to Congress in early 2006,” Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said. “We want to clarify how that happened, and to hold the company to account for its actions both before and after its testimony proved untrue. And we want to examine what steps the company has taken since then to protect the privacy rights of its users in China.”
Yahoo spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the committee’s decision to single out the company was “grossly unfair and mischaracterizes the nature and intent of our past testimony.”
The hearing, to which Yahoo’s chief executive, Jerry Yang, and the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, Michael Callahan, have been summoned, is scheduled for Nov. 6.
“Last year, in sworn testimony before my subcommittee, a Yahoo! official testified that the company knew nothing ‘about the nature of the investigation’ into Shi Tao, a pro-democracy activist who is now serving 10 years on trumped-up charges,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said.
“We have now learned there is much more to the story than Yahoo let on, and a Chinese government document that Yahoo had in their possession at the time of the hearing left little doubt of the government’s intentions," Smith said. "U.S. companies must hold the line and not work hand in glove with the secret police.”
The companies also face an extremely challenging business climate in China, where they apparently confront anti-competitive practices in their efforts to gain market share against Chinese companies -- notably Baidu.com.
If American companies are forced to limit their operations in China, it will hurt the effort to promote western values there. At the same time, the idea that these companies would assist in government efforts to jail people for practicing what we recognize as free speech is distasteful -- even offensive. I think it's undeniable that Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and others must walk a very narrow line.
This debate is likely to get a lot more attention at the scheduled hearing on November 6. It could also wind up being another serious test of Speaker Pelosi's ability to navigate foreign policy debates. While the Chinese hasn't waded into this debate in any serious way before, they didn't have to as long as the bill wasn't going anywhere. If it looks like the House might actually vote on it, that could change. Given the way Pelosi mishandled her trip to Syria, and the debate over the Armenian genocide, she needs to get this one right.
For years Republicans and Democrats who wanted to become president have been forced to go to Iowa to swear allegiance to the corn industry. John McCain says that he has a glass of ethanol with breakfast each morning.
Free marketeers have looked for some political counterweight -- some way to ensure that politicians lose more than they gain from the pandering. It may have arrived:
Fans of Snipes Mountain Brewery's cloudy Hefeweizen relish the subtle wheat flavor of the bright, summery brew, and like beer drinkers everywhere, they know when their favorite brew tastes a little too hoppy or bitter.
Connoisseurs could be in for a surprise this year, and they may not be alone.
Small brewers from Australia to Oregon face the daunting prospect of tweaking their recipes or experimenting less with new brews thanks to a worldwide shortage of one key beer ingredient and rising prices for others.
Oh, and one other thing: Beer prices are likely to climb. How high is anybody's guess. Craft brewers don't have the means to hedge against rising prices, like their industrial rivals.
"I'm guessing, at a minimum, at least a 10 per cent jump in beer prices for the average consumer before the end of the year," said Terry Butler, brewmaster at central Washington's Snipes Mountain...
Now the bright spot in the brewing industry is facing mounting costs on nearly every front. Fuel, aluminum and glass prices have been going up quickly over a period of several years. Barley and wheat prices have skyrocketed as more farmers plant corn to meet increasing demand for ethanol, while others plant feed crops to replace acres lost to corn.
Can we get the Beer Institute to run television ads apologizing to beer drinkers for the increased price of their favorite brew -- and telling them to call their congressmen?
Make mine an IPA, thanks.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Dino Rossi was defeated in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race only after a bitter dispute over absentee ballots:
In the November 2 election, over 2.8 million votes were cast for Governor. After the initial vote count, Rossi led Democrat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes.
A series of recounts and legal battles ensued. Rossi led by an even smaller margin after the first recount.
After a second recount, done by hand, gave Gregoire a very slim lead.
Along the way it was discovered that hundreds of disputed votes, including votes by suspected felons, deceased voters, and double voters, were included in the canvas. King County's election department (the greater Seattle area) came under fire for how it handled its ballots, including untracked use of a "ballot-on-demand" printing machine. Also, ballots in six counties were discovered after the initial count and included in the recounts, the most being from King County, a heavy supporter of Gregoire. Even before the election date, the U.S. Department of Justice threatened to sue Washington state for failing to mail military ballots overseas, generally assumed to be Republican votes.
Washington Republican leaders claimed there were enough disputed votes to change the outcome of the election and sued. On May 25, 2005 the judge hearing the lawsuit ruled that the Party did not provide enough evidence that the disputed votes were ineligible votes, or for whom they were cast, to enable the court to overturn the election.
Rossi has declared that he will seek the governorship again in 2008:
Former state Sen. Dino Rossi announced Thursday that he will challenge Washington Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire in a rematch of their extraordinary close and controversial 2004 contest.
“The state government we set out to change four years ago is more expensive and less effective at solving our problems... It’s going to take new leadership in Olympia.” Rossi said in his announcement speech from his hometown of Issaquah, an outer suburb of Seattle.
Rossi’s entry, which was widely expected, solidifies CQPolitics.com’s rating of the Washington governor’s race as No Clear Favorite...
Yet the Democrats’ statistical advantage in the state is not overwhelming, and Republican statewide candidates can compete strongly under the right circumstances — as Rossi showed in losing to Gregoire last time by a razor-thin and heavily disputed margin.
The race is sure to be one of the closest of 2008 -- heavily targeted by both sides.
The local blog SoundPolitics did a great job of covering the race and recount in 2004; it looks like they will be following it closely again in 2008. They report that at the outset, enthusiasm is high for the candidate that a majority believes actually won in 2004.
Congressman Mike McNulty (D-NY) is announcing that he won't seek re-election in 2008. This is according to both the New York Daily News and the Albany Times Union, which paints the district as competitive for the right Republican:
On the Republican side, newly elected Assemblyman George Amedore's name has come up, as has Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco of Schenectady...
Of the Republicans whose names have surfaced, Amedore, a home builder, drew lots of publicity, first for his appearance in the Extreme Makeover TV show, and then for running a savvy and energetic campaign in a traditionally Democratic district.
Tedisco, already recognized among Republicans, does well in Democratic Schenectady, and has been making a name for himself lately for taking on Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer over a controversial plan to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
The district reportedly has a partisan vote index of +8.7 Democratic, so a generic Republican would be a clear underdog. If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, there's the potential for her to have heavy coattails that could wipe out any chance for Republican gains.
Still, the partisan bent is not as great as that of the Massachusetts district where Jim Ogonowski recently over-performed, so it could be competitive.
Update: CQ Politics does not see this as a competitive race:
McNulty has never has faced a serious challenge in his district, which encompasses the largely blue-collar and union-friendly cities of Schenectady, Troy and Albany and is considered safe for Democrats.
Mike Huckabee's campaign has reportedly informed supporters via E-mail that he's on pace to top his entire fundraising for the third quarter, in just the month of October:
Those who have been waiting in vain for a fundraising surge to match former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) upwardly mobile campaign need wait no longer: Huckabee is on pace to top his third-quarter haul in the month of October alone, and that’s only counting online contributions.
The campaign said in a message to supporters Thursday that it had raised $330,000 online over the previous five days and $700,000 online for the month of October. Its new goal is to top its total third-quarter receipts, which include events and direct-mail contributions, by raising $1,034,487 online by the end of the month.
One would imagine that many of the campaigns are likely to improve their fundraising in the last quarter before polling begins. Huckabee might be announcing this now to ensure his improved numbers get noticed early.
Can anyone say 'virtuous cycle?'
Regular readers of the blog know that I'm not a fan of Mr. Huckabee's, but at least any increase in attention to the Huckabee campaign is likely to come at the expense of Ron Paul.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Hill has the story:
Democrats are losing the battle for voters’ hearts because the party’s message lacks emotional appeal, according to a widely circulated critique of House Democratic communications strategy.Helfert thinks that Democrats don't work hard enough at appealing to emotion? Is this the sort of dry, clinical argument that Democrats need to avoid -- in favor of more emotional connections?
“Our message sounds like an audit report on defense logistics,” wrote Dave Helfert, a former Appropriations spokesman who now works for Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). “Why are we defending [the State Children’s Health Insurance Program] instead of advocating a ‘Healthy Kids’ plan?”
Helfert sent the memo this week to an e-mail list of all Democratic press secretaries and communications directors after staffers met on Monday to discuss rolling out the Democrats’ latest message.
Appeals to emotion are all that Democrats offer. The whole of their argument about Iraq and the War on Terror -- the pre-eminent issue of the day -- consists of 'the war is lost; let's support our troops by bringing them home.' SCHIP is painted as an effort to do something for America's poor children -- never mind that that's a fiction, which Democrats ignore by refusing to debate the merits of the competing proposals.
Democrats would do well to take policy seriously, and attempt to offer real solutions. It would be a refreshing change, and it's the sort of unexpected approach that might actually fool the voters into taking them seriously.
If that doesn't work, well -- it could just be because the American people don't agree with you.
Roll Call reports on the Code Pink protester who nearly grabbed Secretary Rice at a House committee hearing:
CODEPINKers upped the ante Wednesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing when one of them attempted to rush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Protester Desiree Ali-Fairooz, whose hands were covered in red goo, screamed, “war criminal!” and got within a foot of Rice before being pulled out of the room by Capitol Police. The near-assault prompted Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) to demand that the women in pink be removed from the room. They didn’t go quietly — five were arrested, with Ali-Fairooz getting charged with not only the usual charge of disorderly conduct (a ho-hum for the frequently cuffed ladies) but for serious charges of defacing government property and (gulp) assaulting a federal officer.
CODEPINK spokeswoman Dana Balacki insists that her compatriot never intended to actually touch Rice, just make the point that the group feels Rice has blood on her hands. Still, she acknowledges that the group is turning to more dramatic tactics than ever before.
“I think at this point there are some bolder actions,” Balacki said of Ali-Farooz’s stunt. “We feel like there was an understanding with a lot of the Capitol Police, chairs of various committees, but some of that has gone out the window.” The rules haven’t changed, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. “If you break the law you’ll be charged accordingly,” she tells HOH.
So CodePink threatens to do more? What will they say when someone actually does violence to one of the intended targets of their demonstrations?
The Capitol Police better reassess their policies on allowing known troublemakers easy access to sensitive areas.
CodePink posts the protest video (Hat Tip: Bryan). Note the theatrics. All that's missing is 'Don't Tase me, Bro!'
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Important catch by Erick regarding the candidates' appearance at the Values Voters Summit:
The social conservatives do not want to rally around Huckabee because he is as distasteful to fiscalcons as Rudy is to socons. Even Tony Perkins, the head of FRC, said he hoped the social conservative candidate would be palatable to the fiscal conservatives out there. Huckabee is not.
And here we arrive at the conundrum for the GOP and the Press. While the media has been filled with stories about the socons ready to bolt from the GOP if Rudy is the nominee, the real story and the untold story is that the business community is even more ready to bolt from the GOP. For the last eight years they've watched as the socons have scored every significant win on the right — stem cells, judges, etc. Only against Labor have the fiscal guys scored wins. But there have been no budget cuts, no culling of pork, steel subsidies, etc.
The fiscal guys see the writing on the wall. They see Hillary's position. And they are just about ready to cut a deal. And then you have the Republican libertarians who are just about ready to really vote for Ron Paul, doing to the GOP in 2008 what Ralph Nader voters did for the Democrats in 2000.
Huckabee breaks the coalition more than Giuliani because the socons fear Hillary more than the fiscalcons do. And that is why we won't see too many of the socon leaders rallying to the clear favorite of the socon base.
As a social and fiscal conservative, I distrust Mike Huckabee more than I do Rudy Giuliani.
Partly, it's because a Giuliani presidency won't move the party to the Left on abortion and gay marriage. For one thing, Giulani is trimming his sails on these issues to win the nomination. For another, one man -- even a Republican President -- cannot move the party's base from the south to the northeast. So after 8 years of a Giuliani presidency, the party would still be a socially conservative one -- albeit with more northeastern moderates and liberals.
But Mike Huckabee would not need to change the party to move it to the left on economic issues. There is already a significant strain of anti-Wall Street populism in the party. The candidacies of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot tapped into it; Lou Dobbs reaches it each evening. It's one reason that trade votes are painful even for many Republican Members of Congress. A Huckabee presidency could move the populist faction in the party to dominance over the free-marketeers.
Further, I want to see the results of Huckabee's gubernatorial races in Arkansas. Specifically, I wonder if his social conservative populist message didn't bring in more low-income voters -- especially African-Americans. It strikes me that Huckabee might be able to bring African-Americans to the Republican line more than any other candidate of recent vintage. If that happened, it would strengthen the hand of 'fair-trade,' bleeding-heart conservatives -- weakening the hand of Republicans who would cut taxes and reduce the size of government.
That's not a risk I can take lightly, and it's why I fear Huckabee's candidacy.
Hat Tip: Soren
Ramesh Ponnuru hits on what I think is one of the more important events in the 2008 presidential campaign over the last week:
What was good was that Giuliani has now pledged to veto any attempt to weaken current anti-abortion policies, and in particular any attempt to expand federal funding for abortion. He has also said that he would support "reasonable" ideas to reduce abortion, which sounds like a promise to sign any restrictions that Congress could actually pass. These pledges are very good news. The pro-lifers who have criticized Giuliani so strongly over the past few months can take some credit for prompting them.
The last time I blogged about Giuliani's statements on abortion was May. That marked the end of a disastrous stretch where Giuliani could say nothing about abortion that helped his campaign, and little that seemed thought-out. At that time, his public statements left it an open question as to whether he would work to block expansion of abortion, or merely not encourage it. He had said for example, that he would not seek to revise or repeal the Hyde amendment barring public funding of abortions, but did not say whether he would veto such a measure.
Give him credit for staying away from the issue for months. And give him credit for now quietly reassuring people like myself that he will support measures to limit abortion. This promise is likely to help mitigate some of the agitation on the social right for a more conservative candidate, and it's likely to undercut the support for a third-party candidacy.
Posted by The Editor at IP at 1:11 PM
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Michael Barone summarizes how the political climate has changed since 2006:
Democrats are coming face to face with the fact that there's a war on -- and that Americans prefer success to failure. If the choice is between stalemate and withdrawal, as it seemed to be in November 2006, they may favor withdrawal; but if the choice is between victory and withdrawal, they don't want to quit -- or to undermine the effort.
Last week, Democrat Niki Tsongas won a special election with only 51 percent of the vote, in a Massachusetts district where John Kerry won 57 percent in 2004 and would have run much better in 2006. History doesn't stand still -- we're not in 2006 anymore.
Barone makes the same point Patrick Ruffini made after Niki Tsongas' victory in Massachusetts last week: 2006 is history and politics has changed. This should not be a surprise. Political commentators said after the 2006 election that the loss of the House and Senate was a blessing for Republicans -- one that would break the rise of anti-Republican sentiment to ensure that 2008 was not a catastrophic anti-GOP tidal wave. That's now happened. By controlling one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Democrats have reminded voters that it's not just Republicans they don't like.