Saturday, March 03, 2007

Closing in on Senior AQ Leader

HotAir carries the story:

According to eye witnesses and local reporters in Kunar province, Coalition forces launched a fierce attack on a small enclave in the village of Mandaghel on Friday afternoon. Warplanes pounded the positions and ground troops, including US special forces and Afghan National Army soldiers, moved in shortly afterwards. The assault appeared to encounter stiff resistance from militants inside the compound. Heavy artillery and gunfire could be heard for hours, according to local witnesses. A handful of civilians were wounded in the strike. The area now appears to be under coalition control but is still sealed off.

US officials declined to name the target of declined to identify who the operation was aimed against, but did indicate that it was a “High Value Target” (HVT) Sources would not rule out that the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden himself was the target. Afghan officials said the target could be another senior ranking al Qaeda leader.

Who knows who the target is, or even whether this story is accurate. But in the wake of the capture of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund and Amir Khan Haqqani, it would be a nice sign of continued progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Quick Thinking Under Duress

I don't usually post stuff like this, but I found it funny.

I am told that the crossed fingers on the soldier's left hand are the sign taught in survival school to indicate coercion. And if it's not, I don't want to know. It's funnier this way:

Hat Tip: Dad

Giuliani & Abortion

Analysts and activists continue to delve into Giuliani's views on abortion, and it's showing how tricky this issue is going to be for him. While he says he is pro-choice, that phrase does not in and of itself tell a lot about what he would do as President. There's a flip side to that - knowing that a candidate is pro-life doesn't necessarily tell us much, either. Those labels have been given more weight than they warrant, at least in the debate over what Republicans believe.

Giuliani is a pro-choice candidate who opposes taxpayer financing of abortions (now), opposes partial-birth abortion, and supports parental consent laws (with safeguards). He is signaling that he might be planning to nominate judges who'll overturn Roe vs. Wade. (And he seems to welcome it when conservatives like me, Ace of Spades, and Tucker Carlson hear him say more than he has). We'll have to wait and see where he stands on fetal tissue stem cell research, and any other pro-life priorities I may be missing.

So he is pro-choice, but on the top priorities of the pro-life movement, he seems to agree with them. So what kind of pro-choice candidate is he?

Note this interview with Giuliani-supporter David Dreier. Remember that Dreier is extremely smooth; there are few Republicans as sharp as he is at knowing what to say, and sticking to his message. The folks at the Corner are surprised that Giuliani is against taxpayer-financing of abortions; Dreier says it as well - demonstrating (I think) that he has made that clear at least, to his California supporters.

But even Dreier needs to work on how he talks about Giuliani's abortion views. He says that Giuliani has made clear that he is pro-life - and given the strong words Giuliani used in talking about it, that may be justified. But the Mayor said that he is pro-choice.

Well, which is it?

Further, Giuliani and his team should at all costs NOT remind Republicans of the 'Cuomo formulation;' the 'I'm personally pro-life, but I can't impose my religious beliefs' concept. Dreier specifically calls that phrasing to mind, and it will stick under the skin of pro-lifers and drive them crazy. While enough pro-lifers seem to be able to live with a pro-choice nominee - provided he's the right kind of pro-choicer - that whole 'I'm pro-life but...' thing carries the emotional weight to make Giuliani's chore a lot more difficult.

And Dreier describes himself as a 'libertarian conservative with a strong pro-life voting record, who doesn't believe the federal government has a role in abortion.'

Well, pro-lifers believe the federal government has a role - on things like the partial-birth abortion ban, for example. Dreier implicitly believes it as well, because he voted for the ban. If he intends to associate Giuliani with his pro-life libertarian, non-federal philosophy, then he will get tripped up in the same way.

This is going to be tricky.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stop Picking on My Little Pony!

Wow - Second Life is getting some tremendous free advertising. Last week we learned it was the place to go if you wanted to experience a virtual terrorist attack with nuclear weapons. Now we see it's the place to go to see John Edwards' campaign headquarters vandalized by anarchists or conservatives - depending on your conspiracy theory.

From the Edwards campaign blog:

Shortly before midnight (CST) on Monday, February 26, a group of republican Second Life users, some sporting "Bush '08" tags, vandalized the John Edwards Second Life HQ. They plastered the area with Marxist/Lenninist posters and slogans, a feces spewing obsenity, and a photoshopped picture of John in blackface, all the while harrassing visitors with right-wing nonsense and obsenity-laden abuse of Democrats in general and John in particular.

I witnessed this event, taking names and photos, including the owners of the pictures. I also kept and saved a copy of the chat log. I have filed an abuse report with Linden Labs, and am awaiting their investigation.

Yeah - I'm with you. I wish Marcotte was still the blogger, too. It would have had a lot more flair.

John Brownlee at Wired offers this comment:

This is the modern-day equivalent of hippies freaking out the squares. You see countless news stories about this, over and over again: the gray humorless drones of political parties or corporations rushing to establish a presence in Second Life because it's the thing to do, only to find themselves staring directly into the collective of the Internet's soul.
The alternate reality that is Second Life offers a great haven for Democrats by the way. Given their discomfort with the world as it is - with George Bush as President, and troops in Iraq, and all the rest - maybe they can make a home in Second Life. Over there, John Kerry can be President and John Edwards can succeed him. I bet Dennis Kucinich is already President in part of Second Life.

Heck, maybe they can even make Al Gore President over there as well; I bet his virtual home over there in Flatland wouldn't use near as much energy as the one in our plane of existence.

They just need to be willing to swallow the Red Pill...

Hat Tip: Glenn

Happy Birthday, Kurt Weill

He composed 'the Three Penny Opera,' including one of my all time favorite songs, 'Mack the Knife.'

Here's the very well-known version by Bobby Darin:

But the brilliant Louis Armstrong sang the song before Darin, and his version is superb as well:

CPAC: How Are they Doing?

Plenty of bloggers are over at CPAC, giving their impressions of Romney and Giuliani. There's also commentary on McCain and how much he may or may not have damaged himself by not attending.

I encourage you to check out Captain's Quarters, Ace, and Michelle Malkin for impressions.

I know that I ought to take this 'seriously;' that impressions made this early are important, and will help shape the race. But as I've noted before, I simply think that given how early it is, people are paying too much attention to it.

I suspect that there will be ups and down for each of the candidates between now and the time of the first primary. Romney is dead in the water today, but he may not be in 6 (or 8, or 10) months. Fred Thompson, or Newt Gingrich (someone who seemed to get a lot of love from the CPAC participants I spoke to last night), or someone else may yet get into this race.

I guess my refusal to blog CPAC 24-7 is my way of protesting the seemingly inordinate amount of attention given to it.

It's more important today that we get the war right. So go read Bill Roggio.

Harry Reid Needs to Brush Up on the Law

Harry Reid supports an effort to enact a law forbidding the President from attacking Iran with explicit authorization from Congress:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said he likely would support legislation barring a U.S. attack on Iran unless Congress explicitly gave President George W. Bush the green light to do so.

The Nevada Democrat was responding to reporters' questions about an amendment to an upcoming war-funding bill, which could come to the Senate floor later this month. The amendment is being drafted by Sen. James Webb, the Virginia Democrat who won his seat in November largely on a vow to work to end the war in Iraq.

"I would be very, very confident, I have not read this (amendment), but I'm confident, in real generality ... that I can support him," Reid told reporters.

Webb's amendment would prohibit Bush from spending any money on a "unilateral military action in Iran without the express consent of the Congress," the Virginia senator told reporters on Wednesday. He said there would be some exceptions, but did not detail them.

Maybe he'll support legislation to take away the President's veto power, too. That's another power of the President enshrined in the Constitution, which cannot be taken away without a constitutional amendment.

There is a lengthy discussion prepared by the Department of Justice in 2001 on the President's authority to use military force - with and without the prior approval of Congress. It treats at some length a wealth of topics, including the good reasons that the President should not be limited in the use of his authority, and the clear intent of the framers in drawing a distinction between the power to declare war and the power to make war - vested in the Commander in Chief.

If you're interested, I encourage you to read the whole thing. I'll pull out one section however, that explains how President Clinton used his authority:

Major recent deployments have also taken place in Central America and in the Persian Gulf. In 1994, President Clinton ordered some 20,000 United States troops to be deployed into Haiti, again without prior statutory authorization from Congress, in reliance solely upon his Article II authority. See Deployment of United States Armed Forces into Haiti, supra. On August 8, 1990, in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the consequent threat to Saudi Arabia, President Bush ordered the deployment of substantial forces into Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. The forces were equipped for combat and included two squadrons of F-15 aircraft and a brigade of the 82d Airborne Division; the deployment eventually grew to several hundred thousand. The President informed Congress that he had taken these actions "pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct our foreign relations and as Commander in Chief..."

Several recent precedents stand out as particularly relevant to the situation at hand, where the conflict is with terrorists. The first and most relevant precedent is also the most recent: the military actions that President William J. Clinton ordered on August 20, 1998, against terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan. The second is the strike on Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters that President Clinton ordered on June 26, 1993. The third is President Ronald Reagan's action on April 14, 1986, ordering United States armed forces to attack selected targets at Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya.

(A) On August 20, 1998, President Clinton ordered the Armed Forces to strike at terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan "because of the threat they present to our national security." Remarks in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on Military Action Against Terrorist Sites in Afghanistan and Sudan, 2 Pub. Papers of William J. Clinton 1460 (1998). The President stated that the purpose of the operation was "to strike at the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Usama bin Ladin, perhaps the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today..."

Furthermore, in explaining why military action was necessary, the President noted that "law enforcement and diplomatic tools" to combat terrorism had proved insufficient, and that "when our very national security is challenged . . . we must take extraordinary steps to protect the safety of our citizens." Id. at 1461. Finally, the President made plain that the action of the two targeted countries in harboring terrorists justified the use of military force on their territory: "The United States does not take this action lightly. Afghanistan and Sudan have been warned for years to stop harboring and supporting these terrorist groups. But countries that persistently host terrorists have no right to be safe havens." Id.

Of course, the War Powers Act - which requires the President to inform the Congress and seek authorization after having already used the military - implicitly acknowledges at a bare minimum the de facto power of the President to engage in hostilities without prior approval by Congress.

This is just another example of the Congressional Democrats trying to find a way to hamper the President, other than actually doing what the Constitution empowers them to do: restrict or withdraw funding.

Almost an Experienced Man

An 88 - not great, but I can take it:

Guess I need to hang out with Bruce Campbell more...

Thanks to Blackfive

Please Help us Stop BDS

Bush Derangement Syndrome, or just another case of 'free speech?'

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- An Alameda artist got a surprise visit from the U.S. Secret Service last week for displaying artwork some people thought was threatening to the president, NBC11's Jodi Hernandez reported.

Artist Michael McDonald, 55, routinely displays art in his front yard. One of his latest pieces is a cardboard representation of President George W. Bush being impaled by a knife.

The cutout shows painted blood running over the president's eyes and down the bridge of his nose.

McDonald said the piece intended to spark discussion about controversial topics.

"The knife is used as a hook, basically to bring you into the piece," McDonald said.

McDonald said the Secret Service grilled him for 90 minutes about his art and his beliefs, Hernandez reported. They also asked him to allow access to his medical records, he said.

McDonald said the federal agents asked if he interpreted his work as a threat against the country's chief executive. He said he didn't.

"They said, 'You've got a knife sitting in the head of the president of the United States,'" McDonald said. "I said, 'No, I got a knife in a piece of cardboard.'"

The display prompted at least three people to complain, Hernandez reported.

Jeff Segurson said he was so disturbed, he called the police.

"I don't think he's a threat to the president, but I don't think it's the best thing for this to be out here with the knife and the F-word and the blood all over the president. I don't think it's that respectful," Segurson said.

McDonald said the art is in no way meant to threaten the president, but to get people thinking about Bush's policies and the war in Iraq.

Yes, when I see photos like the ones over at the linked story, it sure makes me think 'gee, what's our goal in Iraq.' It certainly doesn't make me think 'here's a real lunatic, who also happens to take the Holocaust pretty lightly.'

The Omni Shoreham Bar: Promoting Conservative Sobriety

Good time at the CPAC event last night, where Ace and Jack M, Dave at Garfield Ridge, Harrison from Innocent Bystanders and others were hanging around in the hotel bar. Regrettably, there were no drinks to be had - unless you had an hour or two to wait for service. Fortunately, someone was gracious enough to commandeer the piano and play tunes from 'Guys and Dolls.' I believe the song I heard was the Tom Tancredo campaign theme: 'Luck be a Lady.'

With the end of waterboarding, I believe this is now the preferred method of getting suspected Al Qaeda operatives to talk.

It's good to know no one will be hung over for the speeches today.

The Indispensable Nation

Michael Barone reminds us that there are lots of people that thinks US troops are not deployed to enough nations in the world - or at least, that they're not deployed to the right nations. But the US military is limited, and our allies refuse to build the sort of muscular military needed to do the job:

In the Los Angeles Times, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations makes a point I have long wanted to make. But he has done what I haven't bothered to do, which is to gather the numbers that make the case.

The point is this: There aren't that many military troops in the world to provide much help to the United States when we choose to take military action. All through the Iraq conflict, Democrats and the mainstream media have been bemoaning the fact that American troops are bearing most of the burden. We should get our allies to help, they say–ignoring that something like 32 other nations have sent troops to Iraq. The problem is that they don't have all that many troops to send. Any large military operation is inevitably going to be mostly American. Citizens questioned in public opinion polls can perhaps be forgiven for assuming that there's all kinds of help we can get out there if we only say pretty please and in something other than a Texas accent.

But serious public officials and serious people in mainstream media should know better.

And if they think that the relative paucity of available foreign troops is a problem, they should direct their complaints to those who can do something about it and call on our NATO allies to increase their military budgets.

What's the effect of this? First and foremost, it encourages more unwelcome actions by rogue states like Iran and North Korea, who recognize that the world's only policeman can only be in so many neighborhoods.

Second, it probably makes things like 'surgical strikes' more likely in places such as Iran, since the US recognizes the difficulty of a major ground operation. It also puts more influence in the hands of regional powers, who recognize that Washington (and London, and Berlin) are further away than ever.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More on the F-22

Apparently the US government has determined that the F-22 is too advanced to sell to even our closest allies:

Despite feelers from Japan and Australia, the U.S. has officially stated that the F-22 will not be available for export. This is unusual, especially in light of the high cost of the F-22 (over $200 million each, without taking into account billions spent on R&D), and the need to build as many as possible to spread out the R&D expense. The real issue here is keeping technology secrets secret. For example, there have already been a number of disagreements with buyers of the F-35 (a light bomber, or "attack aircraft" using electronic and stealth technologies similar to those in the F-22) over access to technology details. Several F-35 buyers want to modify their aircraft, and need access to source code and manufacturing processes in order to do that. This access has been provided in the past, and there has been some "leakage" of secrets to Russia and China. Apparently the United States considers the F-22 technologies so important that they don't want to take any chances with leaks. Japan and Australia are two of Americas most trusted allies when it comes to sharing secrets, so the F-22 decision indicates the belief that the F-22 is considered a decisive weapon. Or at least some of the F-22 technologies are considered extremely important.

Checking Out this Weekend's Total Lunar Eclipse

Pretty good show for us east coast folks, Saturday evening:

If you live in the eastern U.S. and Canada, you'll see the eclipse in progress at nightfall. Only in New England, Québec, and the Maritime Provinces does the sky become fully dark before the end of totality. Farther west, the eclipse is nearing its end when the Moon rises, and the Sun sets mdash; unfortunately, the main event ends before moonrise for anyone west of the Rockies. Farther east, across the Atlantic Ocean, the entire eclipse can be viewed from Europe, Africa, and western Asia, where it occurs in the hours before dawn on March 4th.

If you're east of the Mississippi River, you'll see the Moon rise while still in totality. But you may find it very difficult to spot the lunar disk at all while it's still very low in the sky. So, if your weather permits, note where moonrise occurs along the horizon on the evening before the eclipse; on March 3rd the eclipsed Moon will rise very close to that location.

House Hispanic Caucus Settling its Infighting...

by ousting Joe Baca as chair:

Civil war within the Congressional Hispanic Caucus appeared to reach its climax Wednesday night as rebellious members sought to overthrow their chairman, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.).

The move, which is still unfolding and could be averted at the eleventh hour, is an effort to end many months of turmoil over the allocation of funds to election campaigns involving Baca’s sons and the accusation that the reviled chairman insulted one colleague, calling her a "whore."

The sequence of events Wednesday remains unclear but it appears that the coup, if it goes ahead, will be effected by a face-saving mechanism in which all members of the caucus leadership resign Thursday.

What was clear late Wednesday was that members wanted to replace Baca as CHC chairman with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), while Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) would take charge of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), a non-profit foundation, said Democratic sources. Normally both posts are held by a single lawmaker.

Expect this internecine squabble to continue, and pop up from time to time.

An Oldie but a Goodie

The powers of 10:

Credit Where it's Due

The other day I reported that the incoming House Democratic Committee chairmen were seeking dramatic increases in their committee budgets. Today Roll Call reports that all such increases will be limited to no more than 2 percent:

But House Administration Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) announced committees will receive an across-the-board increase limited to about 2 percent, as the continuing resolution funding most government operations has applied serious constraints to legislative branch spending.

Committees requested much more than a 2 percent increase, ranging from 4 percent or 5 percent to as much as 43 percent boosts.

“We are trying our best to do whatever we can possibly do,” Millender-McDonald said. “We just do not have the money.”

But Millender-McDonald also said she plans to meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to address the lack of funds for staff, which she called a serious issue.

“We cannot have committees, which are so crucial and important, have turnover,” she said.

House Administration is in charge of approving the funding resolution that provides money for most House committees. Markup on this year’s bill could happen as early as today, with a vote on the House floor next week, according to a committee spokeswoman.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Novak: Dems Too Timid on Iraq

Novak (in his E-mailed political report) comes close to my assessment of where the Iraq debate stands (no link). Is it any wonder I link him so often:

Iraq: Thanks in part to Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha's talk about Democrats' plans to attach conditions to Iraq-War funding, Democrats are on the retreat with respect to Iraq. In fact, however, Democrats are retreating from their own shadows, even as the public warms to their position.

Murtha had let slip in an interview with an anti-war website that he wanted to paralyze the military by requiring rigorous standards of troop readiness and equipment before funds would be released. This threw Democrats into retreat, despite the fact that a new poll shows support for the Iraq War and the troop "surge" is now a minority position. Most Americans now want a withdrawal date. Support for simply cutting off war funding is now at 46 percent, according to a Washington Post poll.

After the failure of the Senate's "non-binding" troop-surge resolution, Democrats still appear to be cowering when they should probably be bounding forward. They lack the will at this point to take what appears to be a popular step: binding action that would bring about a withdrawal or redeployment.

Republicans' rhetoric has carefully focused on the problems with Congress' trying to micromanage a war -- repeating the idea of "535 commanders in chief" on the floors of both houses of Congress. For now, this works, and it will continue to work as long as Democrats remain too frightened to act.

This is deeply troubling of course. The Democrats are like sandpeople; they frighten easily, but they will soon be back in greater number.

(OK, that was a reach).

Anyway, they will try again to restrict funds.

Baseless Speculation?

Nico at Think Progress is angry that Chris Matthews is 'obsessed' with the question of whether Bill Clinton's personal behavior will damage Hillary's campaign:

MSNBC host Chris Matthews is obsessed with Bill Clinton’s sex life. Over the last four weeks, Matthews has incessantly raised baseless speculation that President Clinton may have an extramarital affair or engage in inappropriate behavior that would impact Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

He has called Clinton’s sex life the “800-pound gorilla stalking behind” Hillary Clinton, and suggested it would sink her presidential campaign. Earlier this month, Matthews asked about Bill Clinton’s “personal behavior” 10 separate times in a single interview.

First off, let's stipulate that Chris Matthews is an irresponsible nut, who probably wears a tinfoil hat when he's not on the air. That said, to call this speculation baseless...

I mean, you're kidding right?

This is Bill Clinton, for heaven's sake. His personal behavior has been a problem for most of his political career, and rumors about inappropriate behavior on his part have continued since he left the White House. The Washington Post and the New York Times have both written - at times obliquely - about a personal relationship of his that attracted attention and raised concern. There are other rumors as well - some I am certain, that Chris Matthews has heard.

I attended a session where a very prominent Democratic political consultant put it this way: 'if Bill Clinton is seen anywhere with a woman that he's not related to, there will be questions.'

If I were a Hillary supporter, I would be angry about this. If you're Bill Clinton, you're probably pumped to see that someone at least, realizes that 'you've still got it.'

But either way, you better be prepared for it.

That's Some Kite Festival

Glad I missed this one:

At least 11 people died in an annual two-day kite festival in Punjab Province. Officials said two died after their throats were cut by kite strings made of wire, used to damage rival kites. Five died after being hit by celebratory gunshots, and two people were electrocuted trying to untangle kites from overhead power cables. Two others fell from roofs. The police arrested more than 700 people for using sharpened kite strings or firing guns. The authorities had temporarily lifted a ban on kite-flying that was imposed after deaths at last year’s festival.

Lula and Chavez in Tit-for-Tat

In advance of the President's visit next month, Lula is working to keep Uruguay and Brazil aligned:

In Uruguay on Monday, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gave Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez a bear hug and both said they had strengthened ties during talks at a country estate where Vázquez will host Bush on March 10, some 110 miles west of Montevideo.

Lula da Silva said he could assure smaller countries in the strained Mercosur trade bloc that they had the ear of the bloc's more powerful economies, like Brazil's.

''Brazil's relationship with the region is not one of hegemony,'' Lula da Silva told a news conference. He added that he and Uruguayan officials had discussed ''asymmetries'' in the trade relationships between small and large countries...

Uruguay and the United States last month signed a pact laying down guidelines for boosting trade between the two countries, a move Uruguayan officials said is key to future economic growth.

Lula da Silva's visit was viewed by the Brazilian media as a way to head off any attempt by the United States to establish a trade agreement with Uruguay.

Lula's visit was intended to head off a US attempt to establish a FTA with Uruguay. At the same time, I think Lula's comment about 'hegemony' is intended as much for Chavez - a mor immediate rival - as it is for the US.

Global Warming: Settled Science?

Good catch over at Redstate.

Much more over at Hall of Record.

(Fred) Thompson for President

Is he waiting for the clamoring to grow?

Join the Milbloggers

Michelle Malkin has your plans for March 17:

On March 17, a number of celebrities and anti-war groups will march past the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial and on to the Pentagon, to demand the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, the dismantling of the US military, the shutdown of Gitmo and (of course) the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

Check out Gathering of Eagles for more information.

Update: This is only tangentially-related, but it's a great story. It concerns Welcome Home a Hero:

Update II: Today's Iraq update from Bill Roggio.

Why Have we Not Cured Cancer?

Could it be because we've been sending doctors to try to figure it out, instead of physicists who know how to use nano-particles:

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. -- A Florida man with no medical training has invented a machine that he believes may lead to a cure for cancer.

John Kanzius, who turns 63 on March 1, is a former broadcasting executive from Pennsylvania who wondered if his background in physics and radio could come in handy in treating the disease from which he suffers himself.

Inside his Sanibel Island garage, Kanzius invented a machine he believes sits on the brink of a major medical breakthrough.

The machine began to take shape four years ago, when his dreams of retirement were put on hold after he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, he told West Palm Beach television station WPBF.

Kanzius' invention is not flashy, and it looks like a piece of 20th-century hardware. It doesn't even have a name.

"It's a kick-ass cancer cell generator," Kanzius said...

Now, some of the nation's most prominent doctors and scientists are using Kanzius' machines in their research. In January, researchers said they performed a breakthrough at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

"The complete killing of pancreatic cells in laboratory conditions is encouraging," Dr. Steve Curley said.

Curley is currently testing whether cancerous tumors can be wiped out in animals.

"We've got a lot more work to do, but this is very interesting preliminary work," Curley told WPBF.

Kanzius explained that his machine uses a solution filled with nanoparticles, which measure no more than one-billionth of a meter. A test subject would be injected with either gold or carbon nanoparticles, which would make their way through the body and attach to the cancerous cells. The test subject would then enter the machine and receive a dose of radio frequency waves, theoretically heating and killing the cancerous cells in moments and leaving nearby cells untouched.

"That is the holy grail ... Research has shown that they're able to kill them once they attach to the cancer cells," Kanzius said...

Don't Scare the Children!

A story about an 'ape escape drill' gone wrong.

Get Ready for Son of Murtha

The House Democrats were not going to give up completely, and simply approve Bush's Iraq request with no strings attached, were they? Not according to Roll Call:

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.), Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) late Tuesday afternoon tried to address their Democratic colleagues’ concerns about how they intend to handle the expected $100 billion Iraq War spending bill, including putting the onus on President Bush to ensure troops are prepared and equipped before being deployed.

“We have to raise the standard of accountability,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) said following a meeting of House Democrats, adding that the criteria would be applied to both Bush and the Iraqi government under the Democratic proposal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said additional funds could be dedicated to training and equipment for those troops, including National Guard personnel, who are assigned to the war.

“We’re talking about focusing more of the funding on readiness,” Pelosi said. The Speaker did not indicate whether those funds would be shifted from other areas in the spending bill or if overall spending would be increased.

While the proposal echoes a plan unveiled by Murtha last week via an anti-war Web site — that plan would use Congressional control over federal funds to require readiness guidelines are closely followed, and make it more difficult for Bush to execute his current war strategy, including an increase in troop levels — Democratic leaders insisted the strategy does not include more stringent rules.

“All we’re saying is follow the policy that’s in place,” Pelosi said.

But Democrats did not indicate how they plan to enforce those guidelines — stating only that they will not cut off funding for troops in Iraq — asserting that the majority will continue to discuss those possibilities. The spending bill is expected in full committee next week and on the House floor the week of March 12.

“You’ll see that as the language becomes apparent,” Emanuel said. However, an aide to the Speaker suggested that the bill could include provisions requiring the president to sign off each time existing guidelines for readiness are waived, something the commander in chief is not currently required to do.

“We would like to see the war ended, but it’s the president’s war,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said...

This half-a-loaf strategy is an attractive solution for Democrats, because it continues to leave the ball in the President's court. He appears likely to get the funds he desires, but he will need to 'take responsibility' for deploying troops that do not meet readiness guidelines.

And by the way, the quote from Ms. Pelosi's spokesperson gives a stunning demonstration of today's political climate. Democrats continue to assert that this is 'the President's war.'

I can't decide whether it's more accurate to call that BS or wishful thinking. Whatever divisions exist in the country, we are fighting this war, and the military and the government that are fighting it must be funded. It is the Congress - under Democratic control - that does the funding. The Democrats are eager to use their authority to change the terms on which the war is fought. Ergo, it is the Democrats' war too. If the Democrats want this to be 'the President's war,' they'll need to start by shutting up and writing blank checks. And they should also tell the American people they elected the wrong guys in November, because they don't want to lead.

Update: The Washington Post covers this as well. Their picture of where this stands is somewhat different. In the Post rendition, it seems that no two Democrats agree on their next course of action:

More than a week after Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.) detailed plans that he said would curtail deployments to Iraq, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders said the coming debate on war funding would be about forcing the administration to live up to existing military requirements. War funds would be redirected toward equipment, such as night-vision goggles, that some troops lack. Democrats would insist on giving combat troops a year off between deployments, and they could impose restrictions on Pentagon policies that extend combat tours.

They would also condition some war funding on benchmarks for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

But some Democrats, especially those from conservative districts, remain wary. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (Va.), who supports the plan, said many Democrats "want to make sure this is still President Bush's war. It's his war to manage, and it's his war to end."

Members of Congress are not "the only ones conflicted," said Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.). "The country's conflicted. We don't want to do the same thing we've been doing for 3 1/2 years that hasn't worked, but we don't want to pull the plug."

I guess it is inherently confusing when you want to impose restrictions on how the President uses money, but don't want to take any responsibility for the consequences, and don't want to be accused of restricting war fighting. The Democrats are pulling in a dozen directions right now.

I have to think that the Roll Call article is closer to accurate, if only because the Democrats still seem to believe that their paramount political goal is not to be accountable for anything at all.

Pondering Hagel and McCain

It seems entirely possible that either Chuck Hagel or John McCain will mount an independent Presidential candidacy. McCain is challenged in trying to win the love of conservatives, and Hagel seems like he can't be bothered to try. There have been rumors that both have been gearing up for a run.

How many independent candidacies can there be - particularly when you're speaking of two such similar personalities? And has anyone figured out what the incentive is for the two? Does one or the other need to declare first, or beat the other, or can McCain afford to compete in the GOP primary for a while, and then enter - even if Hagel has already?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mexican Wives Want their Husbands Back

I post this note only because it's attracting a lot of attention on the conservative side of the blogosphere:

TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT - CLOSE THE BORDER SEND OUR MEN HOME TO US, EVEN IF YOU MUST DEPORT THEM (only treat them in a humane manner - please do not hurt them)

The work is in the United States that is why the men left.

Leaving millions of broken families in the villages now our men are running from the police, But now we have organized our village cottage industry around the traditional handcraft jewelry of our region of Mexico.

Our village of Tecalpulco was very successful in the 1980s when our parents were the creators of the abalone shell jewelry.

Ours is a beautiful place to live and since we have formed our womens artisans cooperative and begun to have some success our hope is that the Mexican men who have gone to the US return."

It seems to me that anti-illegal immigration conservatives who point to this as a reason to support deportation and/or tough border enforcement are being duplicitous. When Mexican women talk not about how much they miss their husbands and want them back, but instead how they depend on the remittances their spouses send home, no one cares.

You can make an argument that Mexico would be better off having its able-bodied men at home, but shed no crocodile tears, please.

Practice What you Preach

Neither Al Gore nor George Bush practices what he preaches.

Al Gore, who believes that global warming is the greatest threat to humankind - greater than nuclear war - consumes energy like it's going out of style.

George Bush, who is a global warming skeptic, lives as if global warming was an immediate threat.

Great post at Wizbang.

And if you - like me - are wondering what the hell 'carbon offsets' are, it basically means that someone is planting trees on your behalf. I suppose that's nice, if your ultimate 'solution' to global warming is that we all live like Al Gore, while some poor Africa nation plants trees three-deep like some crazy Japanese driving range.

If that's not your idea of a real response though, then Al Gore might seem like a bit of a hypocrite.

Update: Thinking about it further, isn't Al Gore essentially endorsing the old idea of selling indulgences? You get to engage in bad behavior, as long as you pay for atonement. Doesn't sound very responsible to me.

Chavez Seizes Oil Assets

Venezuela's Hugo Chaves has announced his intention to seize the assets of foreign oil companies:

Chavez had previously announced the government's intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA.

He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.

"The privatization of oil in Venezuela has come to an end," he said on his weekday radio show, "Hello, President." "This marks the true nationalization of oil in Venezuela."

By May 1, "we will occupy these fields" and have the national flag flying on them, he said.

Obviously, this is a huge mistake for the country and the people of Venezuela. One need look no further than Mexico, where Mexico's nationalized petroleum company - Pemex - has for many years served as a cash-cow for government over-spending, and a slush fund for illegal political payments. As a result, the company has chronically under-funded development of new petroleum sources, and must find a way to bring an infusion of private capital. Venezuela's Pedeveza is headed down the same road.

I also find the timing of this move interesting. I doubt that it is coordinated to occur shortly before Bush's Central America trip; I suspect it's just coincidence. Still, we know that Chavez is watching closely.

Further, much of South America is currently teetering between the United States and Chavez. Lula da Silva in Brazil resents Chavez enough that he tends to side with the US - even if only on the old 'enemy of my enemy' rationale. Uruguay has sought closer ties, but has been unable to make progress on a hoped-for FTA with the US.

Chavez will be the unseen presence at each of Bush's meetings in South and Central America. His high-profile actions will be an interesting backdrop at these meetings.

Dems Reneg on Election Promises

So reports the Politico:

Pelosi vowed that five-day workweeks would be a hallmark of a harder-working Democratic majority. So far, the House has logged only one. Lawmakers plan to clock three days this week.

The speaker has denied Republicans a vote on their proposals during congressional debates -- a tactic she previously declared oppressive and promised to end. Pelosi has opened the floor to a Republican alternative just once...

"She has done exactly what she said she would do," said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.

For example, he noted, while the House is not always in session five days a weeks, many committees are working throughout the week. Pelosi promised an ambitious start to the new Congress, he said, and she had determined the best way to proceed was by limiting debate.

"In the future," Daly said, "we will do business in the regular order."

Pelosi seems to be following a familiar pattern. Twelve years ago, Speaker Newt Gingrich promised to reform the House and govern by principles of fairness and transparency. But, for leaders of both parties, the reality of ruling with a narrow majority translates into tight controls over floor debate, cozy relations with lobbyists and accommodating the needs of lawmakers (who hate working long weeks).

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a congressional watchdog organization, said Jefferson's reelection put the new speaker in a bind.

"Pelosi had to put him somewhere," said Sloan, who has also worked as minority counsel for the House Judiciary Committee for then-ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). "But I am troubled by the fact ... that (Jefferson) is the kind of guy who could not pass a security clearance test and yet now he has access to top-secret government info."

Sloan also took issue with Democrats' use of committee chairs for fundraising efforts, a tactic Republicans often abused in the last Congress.

"Given the scandals of last Congress, particularly involving (disgraced former lobbyist Jack) Abramoff, it doesn't look good," Sloan said. "It is very hard for people to understand the difference between what's legal and what's illegal."

So far, the GOP has been shut out of virtually every big debate. The most recent example was the House fight over the war in Iraq, in which Democrats broke their promise to allow the GOP a vote on its nonbinding resolution supporting the troops...

If anything, this criticism is too generous. Pelosi's spokesman defends her leadership by saying that committees have been working even while the House was out of session. That has always been the case; it was true last year. Apparently those workdays only count when Democrats are in charge.

He further says that Democrats will return to 'regular order' once the promised 'ambitious start' is finished.

Well, that 'ambitious start' had already ended when Republicans were shut out of the Iraq debate, refused the opportunity to offer amendments to major appropriatons legislation, as well as to a measure to grant a vote to previously non-voting delegates.

Democrats have not shut Republicans out of the debate when necessary to complete an ambitious start. They have shut Republicans out of the debate when their participation threatened to derail a Democratic priority.

Ms. Pelosi promised that once in charge, Democrats would open the debate up - and even lose votes. That is precisely what they have refused to do so far; to allow debate on Republican ideas that have majority support.

WPost/ABC Poll: Dems Should Move Faster on Iraq?

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll attracted some attention on the liberal side of the blogosphere. I'm thinking in particular of this post over at ThinkProgress, regarding the fact that the poll shows majority support for the 'Murtha Plan.' Indeed, the poll does (Question 9):

Would you support or oppose Congress trying to block Bush’s plan by creating new rules on troop training and rest time that would limit the number of troops available for duty in Iraq?

Support: 58 percent
Oppose: 39 percent
Unknown: 4 percent

The reason that Democrats have elected to eschew this plan is that the same question shows opposition - by a 51-46 margin - to a move to 'restrict funding for the war.'

Of course, these two choices are the same; 'creating new rules... that would limit the number of troops available' is 'restricting funding for the war.' The question is how the Murtha plan is portrayed in public, and how it is perceived by the American people. The Democrats have moved away from the Murtha plan because they believe they cannot afford - politically - to be seen as 'restricting funding.'

It's also interesting to note that in the last month, the measure of how Congress is doing its job (Question 3) has fallen from net 7 disapprove, to net 13 disapprove. At the same time, support for Democrats over the President on handling 'the situation in Iraq' has fallen by 6 points.

To me, this overall result could fairly be read as a dissatisfaction with the inability of Congressional Democrats to lead on getting US troops out of Iraq. The last month has been dominated by talk of the surge, the disapproval resolutions on the surge, and the failed attempts by Congressional Democrats to find a workable way to force a draw down of troop levels.

Others will say that the Congressional approval rating fell because discussion of the disapproval resolution demonstrated that Democrats have no qualms about undercutting the Commander in Chief, and cutting off the troops at the knees. I think that given the continued trend in the poll against the mission in Iraq, that's not a viable interpretation.

What does all this mean?

Well, I think it underscores the fact that the surge is probably the 'last chance' to get things right in Iraq. There must be an understanding in the public that it is working/has worked, or the numbers against the mission will continue to rise. This will fuel Democratic confidence that the public is with them, and I believe that as the appropriations bills move their way through Congress in the summer, there will be a move by Democrats to withdraw funding for the troops - probably by a date certain.

Why will the Democrats change course? Three reasons:

  1. Competition among Presidential hopefuls to be 'unholier than thou' on Iraq;
  2. The sense that by Summer, the surge will have worked or not - either outcome providing the pretext for a drawdown; and,
  3. Polls like this one

There are early indications that the surge is working. Hopefully, that will continue to be the case. If it is, and the Iraqi government is able to assume security responsibilities as promised, we could even at arrive at an almost unthinkable outcome - one where the President and Congress are in basic agreement on a reduction in troop levels, at more or less the same time.

In such a case, we would turn to arguing over the proper US postwar role in Iraq.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's Great About a Market Economy

It can respond to desires like this one:

Susan Witt is an unassuming middle-aged woman who drives a Volvo around her quaint Rockwell-esque town and has somehow managed to foment a small revolution.

After years of planning, Witt started printing her own money and spending it around town.

She is not a counterfeiter. She is the founder of Berkshares, a local currency that was introduced last fall in Southern Berkshire, Mass. (where Normal Rockwell lived out his later years).

"The Berkshares are pretty simple to operate," she said. "You walk into a local bank, put down $90 federal and get 100 Berkshares, and then those Berkshares are spent at full value at regional stores."

$835,000-worth of notes were printed on fine-grain paper and distributed to banks that agreed to participate. The notes are now accepted at 225 businesses in the area, and the program continues to grow.

Berkshares were created to stimulate the local economy by giving people incentive to shop in their own neighborhood, rather than drive the distance to large chain stores.

"We want to encourage everybody to do their business locally rather than going to a mall or shopping online," said Sharon Palma, executive director of the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. "Using Berkshares, you have to do business locally, and the other really nice piece of that is it's face-to-face business."

Several communities across the U.S., Canada and Europe have developed similar programs, but only Berkshares are fully-backed by the U.S. dollar. Several banks in Southern Berkshire have agreed to exchange Berkshares for dollars.

This sounds silly to me of course. The purchasers of 'Berkshares' are almost certainly limited to those most likely to purchase products at these stores anyway. The increased business for participating firms is likely rather small. And the system operates more or less like a 'frequent-shopper' club, in that you receive a discount of 10 percent on purchases as a reward for using Berkshares.

Do the stores actually make a greater profit by increasing business marginally and giving a 10 percent discout? I'd be curious to know. Further, when WalMart or some other national chain starts to grant a 10 percent - or 25 percent - discount for the use of Berkshares, the game is up.

But in the meantime, isn't it neat that the free market can respond to every wing-nut idea?

Global Warming Shows Value of Federalism

Of course, that's not how Reuters paints the picture; they say that five states have 'bypassed Bush' on emissions. Would they have phrased it the same way if say, five states had agreed to expand oil drilling rights? And it's risible that they would use such a headline to describe the adoption of a carbon cap-and-trade system such as the type advocated by conservatives for many years.

I am highly skeptical of the notion that man is contributing significantly to global warming. Still, the result of this will be interesting. I'm curious as to whether they can create a mechanism to curb emissions and - even more unlikely - whether it measurably affects regional temperatures.

It won't of course, which ought to be taken as a warning against adoption of Kyoto-like plans that curb emissions from some large ecnomies, but leave others unaffected:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five Western U.S. states have formed the latest regional pact that bypasses the Bush administration to cut emissions linked to global warming through market mechanisms, according to Oregon's governor.

Oregon, California, Washington, New Mexico and Arizona have agreed to develop a regional target for reducing greenhouse emissions in six months, according a statement from Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

During the next 18 months, the governors will devise a market-based program, such as a load-based cap and trade program to reach the target. The five states also have agreed to participate in a multi-state registry to track and manage greenhouse gas emissions in their region.

The Western Regional Climate Action Initiative comes on the heels of an agreement in the East called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

"With the Western states you've got a huge part of the U.S. economy that are beginning to regulate greenhouse gases," said Jeremiah Baumann, an advocate with the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently passed the country's toughest greenhouse emissions laws which aim to reduce the state's economy-wide output of the gases by 25 percent by 2020.

Monday's agreement "sets the stage for a regional cap and trade program, which will provide a powerful framework for developing a national cap and trade program," Schwarzenegger said in a statement on Monday. "This agreement shows the power of states to lead our nation addressing climate change."

Who Says it's OK to Kill Americans

A commenter at DailyKos has this to say about US troops in Iraq:

"...The issue of "supporting the troops" is a sensitive one - families who have sons or daughters serving in Iraq do not want to hear that attacks on them may be justified. That is completely understandable - the soldiers serving in Iraq are just kids, often from a deprived background, who trusted and were let down by their governments who sent them into an illegal and immoral war of choice. Indeed, the wish to shield the troops from further harm is a major factor in the movement to bring them home. But we must not let the Bush administration’s hijack of our strong, emotional desire to protect the troops convince us that an attack on Iran would be justified in order to defend them." (by heathlander at Kos)

Inflammatory? Obviously. Patronizing? Clearly. And one has to wonder what sort of person talks about US troops this way. ALa has the surprising answer.

Novak: Dems Painted into a Corner on Iraq

Bob Novak has an extremely useful column this morning, noting (basically) that the Democrats do not have the votes to pass a 'revised authorization' of the Iraq operation. He also captures superbly what Democrats are trying to accomplish with this debate: wipe out a perceived 'original sin:'

Democratic senators face trouble this week trying to cleanse themselves of the stain of voting for President Bush's Iraq war resolution. Republican senators who have turned against the U.S. military intervention in Iraq are not interested in bailing out Democrats by approving their proposal to repeal the authorization overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 2002.

As Congress returns this week from the year's first recess, an amendment to repeal authorization is supposed to be attached to the bill containing homeland security recommendations by the Sept. 11 commission. But Sen. Norm Coleman, who has become prominent among Republican critics of Bush's war policy, told me from his home state of Minnesota that he would oppose deauthorization and predicted that no more than two Republican senators would vote for it.

One of those two Republican senators would have to be Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, who has fearlessly critiqued Bush's war policy. But Hagel told me that he is not inclined to support a repeal. If Hagel is lost, Democrats might fall short of the 50 votes necessary for final passage, much less the 60 necessary to close off debate. George W. Bush may be an unpopular president fighting an unpopular war, but Democrats are finding it hard to make war policy from Capitol Hill.

Democrats do not cloak the political nature of their efforts. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, participating in a Nevada forum for Democratic presidential candidates last week, exultantly announced to applause his intent to "revoke the president's authority that he was given . . . to go to war." The mantra is not limited to the presidential hopefuls from the Senate. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico also called for de-authorization...

In contrast, the proposed 2007 de-authorization looks like a Democratic effort to escape the wrath of the antiwar party faithful. Of the 29 Democrats who voted for the 2002 war resolution over four years ago, 21 are still in the Senate, seven are up for reelection next year and three -- Biden, Christopher Dodd and Hillary Clinton -- are running for president...

Hagel's position is critical. Before the recess, Biden and Levin sought support from the conservative who had been one of only two Republicans to back their tough nonbinding resolution. Hagel has long been appalled by Bush's war policy, but he is rightly suspicious of Democratic ploys that would have no impact on dire conditions in Iraq.

Democrats will eventually have to face a tough choice: try to withdraq funding, or give up.

I suspect that they will do this dance until the summer, when the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills will be moving through the Congressional process. With the benefit of a few months more consideration, they may find it easier to try to pull funding, which I suspect many of them will attempt to do. By that time, they will be able to argue either that the surge is well on its way to failure - or well on its way to success - either of which would be sufficient pretext to propose a forced drawdown of troop levels.

I suspect they will see this as a way to have their cake and eat it too.

Kudos by the way, to Chuck Hagel, whom I have criticized quite a bit lately.

Update: Read McQ and McQ at QandO as well. In the latter piece, he makes an excellent point about hypocrisy: Carl Levin calls for a dramatic troop drawdown in Iraq, but when pressed about how many, he says that should be left to the commanders in the field.

What is the Gyroball?

American League hitters will be asking themselves that question much of the year, apparently. Yahoo sports claims to have tracked down the answer.

Hat Tip: Mystic Chords

Dem Congress to Spend More on Itself

Roll Call ($) reports that a number of House Committees have submitted their funding requests for 2007 and 2008. The committees on average, seek increases of about 11 percent from the 2006 spending level.

I find this interesting because the House committees have retained the traditional 2/3-1/3 split in funding ratios. That is, under both Republican and now Democratic leadership, the majority gets about two-thirds of all funding and staff. The Democrats have already just about doubled their staff levels - and yet they still need more funds.

The biggest overall budget request so far is for Henry Waxman's Government Reform Committee, which apparently needs about 12 percent more funding to conduct all the investigations it plans:

House committees are proving to be a little more ambitious, at least financially, than their Senate counterparts, according to budget requests submitted to the chambers’ respective administrative panels. With most committees having turned in their requests, House panels are seeking an overall budget boost of 10.7 percent, nearly double the average Senate request of about 5 percent over funding provided during the 109th Congress...

The panel that has requested the most money? That honor goes to Oversight and Government Reform, which is seeking an 11.6 percent increase, to $22.9 million from $20.5 million. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has made it clear in recent weeks he intends to increase the level of oversight done by the committee.

Per tradition, the Appropriations Committee writes and approves its own budget. Energy and Commerce, Intelligence, Rules, and House Administration had yet to introduce their budget resolutions as of last week.

A new panel that is expected to study climate change is still being formed and also has not introduced a funding resolution...

The only panel not seeking an increase this session is the House Budget Committee, which is requesting about $12 million. But others asked for fairly significant funding boosts.

Armed Services is seeking $15.5 million, a 20.6 percent increase from the previous session’s $12.8 million. The Homeland Security Committee, meanwhile, requested $16.5 million, a 17.9 percent boost from $14 million two years ago.

But a Homeland Security aide said those numbers are a bit misleading, as the committee is asking for about a 3 percent increase in 2007 from 2006, to $8.1 million from $7.9 million.

That is because in 2005, when the 109th session committee budgets were approved, Homeland Security had just become a permanent panel and required a bit more funding...

We'll see if these requests get pared down during consideration - but considering the dramatic increase that the new Democratic Committee chairs have already seen, it's stunning to me that they need so much more.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thank You, NASA

The picture of the week is from NASA's Terra Satellite, on February 19. It shows who got the snow and who didn't last week:

Snow stretches from Maine to Virginia, highlighting the curving folds of the Appalachian Mountains, branch-like rivers and streams, and the solid white smoothness of frozen lakes. Beautiful though the snow is, it trapped hundreds of motorists in eastern Pennsylvania, shut down some air and train travel, closed businesses and schools, triggered power outages, and caused 15 deaths, reported CNN on February 15.

New Irritant in US-Mexico Relationship

Will the US be forced to recognize gay marriages in Mexico?

This week, María Carreón and Amparo Maldonaldo, two US residents, hopped across the border to do what their home state of Texas did not permit: formalise their five-year lesbian relationship before the law.

For just 1,000 pesos ($91, €69, £47) and another 1,500 pesos for the public notary’s office, the two now enjoy legal rights and obligations similar to those of married heterosexual couples.

“The ceremony establishes the obligation of each member of the union to contribute everyday living expenses, the concept of inheritance and even alimony in case of subsequent separation,” says Armando Luna, sub-secretary of legal affairs in the government of Coahuila, the first of Mexico’s 31 states to pass such a liberal law...

The new law was passed in January, making Coahuila state one of the few places in Latin America where a legal union between people of the same sex is permitted. Buenos Aires and Rio Grande do Sul, a Brazilian state, have similar laws. Next month, Mexico City will follow suit.

Mr Luna was not sure whether the union would carry legal weight for US citizens returning to their country. But he said: “Conventional marriage and other civil acts in Mexico such as registering the birth of children are recognised under US law so it would stand to reason that this would be too.”

He also preferred not to speculate on whether the law would produce an avalanche of tourism...

In the unlikely event that such unions were recognized, it would probably lead to a tremendous boon in Mexican tourism.

WP: Murtha Interview with MoveCongress Killed Plan

The Washington Post notes that it was Murtha's interview with that killed his plan to force re-deployment from Iraq by attaching un-meetable conditions:

The plan was bold: By tying President Bush's $100 billion war request to strict standards of troop safety and readiness, Democrats believed they could grab hold of Iraq war policy while forcing Republicans to defend sending troops into battle without the necessary training or equipment.

But a botched launch by the plan's author, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), has united Republicans and divided Democrats, sending the latter back to the drawing board just a week before scheduled legislative action, a score of House Democratic lawmakers said last week.

"If this is going to be legislation that's crafted in such a way that holds back resources from our troops, that is a non-starter, an absolute non-starter," declared Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

That was predicted here just over a week ago. Among major columnists, Bob Novak is the only one I saw who got it right.

Hat Tip: Blue Crab

Iran & the Changing Times

From the Democratic Presidential platform, just 3 years ago:

There is no greater threat to American security than the possibility of terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. Preventing terrorists from gaining access to these weapons must be our number one security goal.

Containing this massive threat requires American leadership of the highest order – leadership that brings our allies, friends, and partners to greater collaboration and participation – and compels problem states to join and comply with international agreements and abandon their weapons programs...

Defending America against attack at all costs.

First, the world should be on notice that we will take every possible measure to defend ourselves against the possibility of attack by unconventional arms. If such an attack appears imminent, we will do everything necessary to stop it. If such a strike does occur, we will respond with overwhelming and devastating force. But we should never wait to act until we have no other choice but war...

Even as we have scoured Iraq for signs of weapons of mass destruction, Iran has reportedly been working to develop them next door. A nuclear-armed Iran is an unacceptable risk to us and our allies.

Even John Kerry sounds like a hawk, circa 2004. He doesn't sound like the type of President who intended to wait for Congress to dither about the issue before acting.

Did Ms. Pelosi not support Kerry for President? Would he have needed authorization:

At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran."

The Democrats sure don't sound as tough on rogue states with nuclear weapons as they did the last time they fielded a national platform. I'm not looking for anything too dramatic - nothing like 'we think Iran has demonstrated that it fully intends to develop nuclear weapons, and we support pre-emptive action to prevent it.' No, that's probably unrealistic. But how about something like:

We continue to believe it is unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and while we have our differences with the President, we look forward to working closely with him - and with regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia - to ensure that all necessary and appropriate tools are used to address this serious issue.

Is that too much to ask?