Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fitting Punishment

Sounds right to me:

A 73-year-old man has been ordered to clean a veterans memorial with a toothbrush for taking part in a scam to solicit scrap yards for metal, saying it was to be used to build a memorial for soldiers in the Iraq war.

Did the US Sink a North Korean Ship Carrying Nuclear Fuel to Iran?

That's the report from a fringe site that's right as often as it's wrong. Word is that it occurred a few weeks ago:

On July 12, the second intercepted North Korean freighter was sunk in the Arabian Sea by torpedoes fired from a US submarine 100 miles southeast of the Iranian naval base-port of Chah Bahar. Delivery of its freight of enriched weapons-grade uranium and equipment and engines for manufacturing more fissile material including plutonium in its hold could have jump-forwarded Iran's nuclear bomb and warhead project, lopping off at least a year of work. For this Iran's rulers were ready to reportedly pay out a cool $500 million.

A few hours earlier, President Bush received an intelligence briefing on the vessel, its freight and destination. Apparently the shipment was brought forward by several weeks to evade detection by UN nuclear inspectors scheduled to visit Pyongyang this week to verify the dismantling of its nuclear facilities.

One would think this would have significantly ratcheted up the tension at the US-Iran talks a few days ago. Iran's nuclear ambitions were not on the table of course, and it might have been... touchy to add this as an agenda item -- considering the attention these talks have received.

A quick Google News search on Iran and North Korea seemed not to show anything that would support or disprove the allegation. Anyone have reason to think it might be accurate?

Fred Thompson's Pre-Campaign -- As Told by Tim Rice

Fred Dalton Thompson -- one month ago:

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?

Jesus Christ
Do you think you're what they say you are?

Fred Dalton Thompson -- today:

He's a man
He's just a man
And I've had so many
Men before
In very many ways
He's just one more

On Cleavage & Presidential Candidates

I had no comment on the Hillary cleavage 'controversy,' until I heard the definitive remark from my wife.

"Has anyone considered that she might have been trying to look good for a first date?"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Spreading the Good News

There are lots of reasons Catholicism is the healthiest Christian denomination. One is that the Jesuits keep finding new worlds to conquer.

Although I must admit, there seems to be something very... redundant... about carrying the Gospel to Second Life:

In an article in Rome-based Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, academic Antonio Spadaro urged fellow Catholics not to be scared of entering the virtual world which may be fertile ground for new converts wishing to better themselves.

"It's not possible to close our eyes to this phenomenon or rush to judge it," Spadaro said. "Instead it needs to be understood ... the best way to understand it is to enter it..."

"Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory," he said. "Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed, therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune."

Clearly, lots of people are treating MMO RPGs and other virtual domains as an extension of real life. Given how seriously some take it, there must be those who treat it more seriously than their real lives. Where is the spate of articles about those whose lives have been destroyed by addiction to WarCraft, or Second Life, or MySpace? Unless I've missed them, they can't be far off.

Coming this Christmas

Something light for a Friday night -- the must-see movie of the Christmas season:

Worth a viewing, if only because of Jason Lee -- and because it has to be better than this.

Update: And coming next year...

Pelosi: We're Not Listening

Read it at the Standard.

Obama's Big Mistake

Read it at the Standard.

Bloomberg's CIA

Judith Miller has a fascinating look in City Journal at the different anti-terror tactics employed by Los Angeles and New York City. One part of the NYPD anti-terror effort which gets a fair amount of attention is a unit that might be described as New York City's CIA:

The cutting edge of the NYPD’s antiterrorism efforts, though, is David Cohen’s Intelligence Division. “We’re looking at ‘clusters,’ at how and where people get together, what they do and where they go, how they raise funds,” Kelly says during an interview at One Police Plaza. “This analytical work is not being done anywhere else in government. It’s all about prevention.”

Before September 11, the Intelligence Division mainly developed intelligence on narcotics and violent crimes, and sought to protect visiting dignitaries to the city—a glorified “escort service,” Kelly once scoffed. Now, its personnel devote 95 percent of their time to terrorism investigations, the PERF report concludes (and sources confirm). Kelly says that the division has 23 civilian intelligence analysts, with master’s degrees and higher from Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and other universities; some have come from leading think tanks, even from the CIA—giving the force a capability, he says, “that exists no place else.” The division’s “field intelligence officers,” one assigned to each of the NYPD’s 76 precincts, keep tabs on people, crimes, and arrests that might have terrorism links. “Core Collection” officers develop confidential informants, who could give early warning about people being radicalized by militant associates or websites.

Cohen’s division also supervises undercover agents who infiltrate potentially violent groups. The identities of these covert warriors, and other details of the program, remain fiercely guarded secrets. But information occasionally turns up in federal prosecutions, such as the NYPD’s use of an undercover agent in helping to foil the June JFK airport conspiracy, and of both a Bangladeshi undercover officer and an Egyptian-born confidential informant in disrupting a 2004 plot by Islamic terrorists to bomb the Herald Square subway station. “I want at least 1,000 to 2,000 to die in one day,” one of the accused told the informant in the subway case, a stunned New York jury heard last year. Though the men had not acquired explosives, police arrested them shortly before the Republican national convention in August 2004, after nearly two years of surveillance. The key plotter, Shahawar Matin Siraj, a 22-year-old Pakistani, recently received a 30-year sentence. “This is the kind of homegrown, lone-wolf case that starts way below federal radar,” Cohen says. “But had these two guys acted on their intentions”—to “fuck this country very bad,” as Siraj threatened on tape—“a lot of New Yorkers would have died and been injured.”

But does the NYPD need to share more?

What Bratton criticizes—and he’s not alone—is the NYPD’s alleged refusal to give other law enforcement agencies access to the intelligence that it has so doggedly gathered. “New York has perfected an array of intelligence-gathering initiatives,” he observes. “My concern is that at the federal level, there are too few dots to connect, and in New York, what they collect is not being shared. As a result, law enforcement is not being formed by this information.”

Read the whole thing. It's fascinating. First off, from a simple political perspective, it will provide the meat of Mayor Bloomberg's presidential platform as regards national security -- if he ultimately chooses to run. Since the 9/11 attacks occurred at the end of the Giuliani mayoralty, Bloomberg will claim credit for all of New York's anti-terror developments since the attacks.

Second, it seems to show the extraordinary difference that an actual terrorist attacks makes in perceptions. Miller looks at Los Angeles, whose anti-terror efforts seem a world away from New York City's -- and one big reason is the urgency in New York as a result of 9/11. Should a successful terror attack occur in Los Angeles, one can imagine officials there being forced to discuss why they did not learn the lessons of September 11, and having to consider an overhaul to government structures and jurisdictions to do more of what New York does.

The piece also illustrates the value of an 'Army of Davids' approach to anti-terrorism efforts. One gets the sense that America's large cities can accomplish as much to check terrorism in the US as does the federal government -- once they combine their efforts.

The NYPD's larger and more comprehensive program in particular, seems to be at the center of a northeast regional anti-terror hub, whose roots in the communities offer the potential for a great amount of intelligence about terrorist activities. With the knowledge they develop from walking the streets and listening to tipsters, these police agencies that make a big difference.

LaHood to Retire

Ray LaHood -- a moderate Republican from Peoria, Illinois, becomes the first Republican Representative in a swing seat to announce that he won't seek re-election in 2008. The Politico regards the seat as GOP-leaning, but winnable for Democrats:

Democrats have said the Peoria-based seat would be a target for them assuming LaHood retired -- particularly if Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is their presidential nominee. The district gave President Bush 58 percent of the vote in 2004. A Democrat hasn't represented the Peoria area since 1917.

State senator John Sullivan would be a likely Democratic candidate, and he has already spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Republicans also have a number of potential candidates in the wings. Tazewell County Attorney Stu Umholtz, who ran for attorney general last year, and 25-year-old state Rep. Aaron Schock -- a protege of LaHood's -- are two of the better-known GOP prospects within the district.

Jonathan Singer over at MyDD (a liberal site) opined a little while back that a LaHood retirement could make this a costly seat to retain for the GOP. Depending on who the nominees are and who is at the top of the ticket, that could be right -- we won't really know for a while.

But more broadly, LaHood's name is the first on a list, the ultimate length of which may determine whether the Republicans have a chance of winning back the House in 2008. That's the list of GOP retirements in swing seats. If that winds up being a short list, the chances could be good. If it grows into double digits, it winds up being a great challenge for the GOP to overcome -- barring long Presidential coattails in their favor.

DHS Working on Light Saber

It's not the light saber from Star Wars; it won't cut the arm off a drunken Mos Eisley bar patron. But it sounds cool nonetheless:

The Department of Homeland Security is funding the creation an LED flashlight that uses powerful flashes of light to temporarily blind, disorient and incapacitate people. Homeland Security's Science and Technology arm hopes government agents can use the "light saber" to arrest people on planes and at the borders without using traditional weapons.

The LED Incapacitator uses a range-finder to measure the distance to a target's eyes and then unleashes continually changing, multi-color light pulses that both blind and disorient the person. Intelligent Optical Systems, a small company in Torrance, CA, is developing the weapon with money from Homeland Security's Science and Technology division, which thinks its possible to have the weapon deployed to cops, National Guard troops and border agents by 2010...

The tool could be scaled up to make a light bazooka that could subdue a crowd, but the company is focusing on miniaturizing the device to make it resemble a traditional D-cell Maglite. Right now the prototype is a non-svelte 15 inches by 4 inches wide.

This sounds cool, but remember the old maxim: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Spidey & Planned Parenthood

This is pretty funny.

Hat Tip: Taylor Buley

House Slashes Missile Defense

Read it at the Standard.

Trouble for the US-India Nuclear Deal

If we're going to increase our dependence on nuclear power -- and if we're going to enhance our security in South Asia -- it would be good to seal our nuclear deal with India. Looks like that's not going all that well, however:

US lawmakers have warned Bush administration of "inconsistencies" in the 123 agreement after reports that Washington has agreed to allow India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel under civilian nuclear deal with New Delhi.

The warning came after the agreement between the US and India was finalised in extended talks in Washington last week.

In a letter to President George W Bush, as many as 23 Congressmen-led by Democratic lawmaker Edward Markey expressed their concern that perhaps Washington may have "capitulated" to India's demands on the agreement.

India had sought permission to reprocess nuclear fuel, which would allow it to be used for development of nuclear weapons. Leaders in Congress had indicated that would be a problem -- as seems to be the case now.

For its part, the White House says the deal is kosher:

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said on Wednesday that a just-completed nuclear deal with India complies with U.S. law, but some experts doubted that, and lawmakers said the agreement could face a rough road in the U.S. Congress.

Congressional sources and other experts told Reuters the agreement reached last week appears to go a long way toward meeting the demands of India's nuclear establishment, giving New Delhi rights only accorded to key U.S. allies Japan and the European Union.

You have to hope we can 'square the circle' and cement a relationship between the US and the world's largest democracy.

Democrats Brag About Fiscal Responsibility

Read it over at Rob's place.

Environmentalists Choose Nuclear Power

It's nothing new that nuclear power is becoming more attractive for the environmental community as the concern people used to have about nuclear waste is replaced by concern about global warming. It has seemed for a few years now that nuclear power was poised for a comeback.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, the environmental community has been increasingly successful in blocking coal-fired power plants -- including so-called clear coal:

Even proposals to build so-called "clean coal" plants have been met with skepticism. This new technology, which primarily involves converting coal into a combustible gas for electricity generation, has been touted as a solution to coal's global-warming problems.

A hearing judge at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is urging commissioners to reject a plan for Northern States Power Co., a unit of Xcel Energy Inc., Minneapolis, to buy about 8% of its electricity from a coal-gasification power plant that was proposed by Excelsior Energy Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. The judge concluded the 600-megawatt Excelsior plant wouldn't be a good deal for consumers.

The judge concluded it would cost an extra $472.3 million, in 2011 dollars, to make the power plant capable of capturing about 30% of its carbon dioxide emissions, and another $635.4 million to build a pipeline to move the greenhouse gas to the nearest deep geologic storage in Alberta, Canada. Thus, $1.1 billion in pollution controls had the potential to inflate the cost of power coming from the plant by $50 a megawatt hour, making electricity from Excelsior twice as costly as power from many older coal-fired plants that simply vent their carbon dioxide. The recommendation will be considered by the commission on Aug. 2.

It seems that the environmental movement is now doing to coal power what it once did to nuclear. And while we may not yet have affirmatively chosen nuclear power, we've still made a choice; the 'veto' of coal makes it the only realistic alternative.

Note: OK, that last paragraph was somewhat contrived. But how else am I going to link Rush?

The NYTimes Can't Believe Good Iraq News

Good catch from Dick Morris of all people:

Check out this story.

It’s a piece by Janet Elder, a New York Times reporter, about the paper’s polling. It says that the Times couldn’t believe that its polling showed an increase in the number of people who felt it was a correct decision to invade Iraq in the first place, from 35 percent last month to 42 percent this month. Nor could they believe the finding that the proportion of voters who felt the war was going badly dropped by 10 points.

The newspaper article said the findings were “counterintuitive.” In other words, The New York Times cannot believe good news! Typical.

It answers a lot.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When All You Have Is a Hammer...

Or something like that...

Speaker Pelosi proudly hails House passage of legislation to bar the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq:

Today, the House passed H.R. 2929, Banning Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq. This bill states that it is the policy of the United States not to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing a permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq. It also states that it is the policy of the United States not to exercise U.S. control of the oil resources of Iraq. The measure bars the use of any funds provided by any law from being used to carry out any policy that contradicts these statements of policy.

While the Bush Administration has indicated it would not seek permanent bases in Iraq, Administration officials have recently remarked that the President envisioned a continued military presence in Iraq similar to our presence in Korea, where U.S. forces have been stationed for more than 50 years. Speaker Pelosi explained that “today’s vote can again make clear to the President, to the Administration, to the American people, to the people in the Middle East, to the people in Iraq — that the American people are opposed to a permanent military presence in Iraq.”
As I pointed out over here -- and as Ms. Pelosi implicitly concedes in this victory statement -- this legislation is frivolous and pointless.

The United States has no permanent military bases; they all exist subject to agreements with the host nation, which can be terminated. So the House legislation does not affect the potential establishment of long-term bases in Iraq. Ms. Pelosi mentions Korea as a negative example; if she wants to avoid a long-term presence such as that one, then the House ought to have considered legislation to bar bases that will be in place for 50 years -- or 40, or 20, or 10 years. But to ban permanent bases won't affect our position in Iraq any more than it would our position in Korea.

Meanwhile, Mr. Murtha says that the House may soon consider legislation to require troop withdrawals. Good for him. That measure could not pass the Senate, so whatever the House does with it is pointless.

This all goes to prolong the fiction that Democrats are seriously trying to end the Iraq war. Had they wanted to do that, they would have denied funding for it. As Dennis Kucinich (of all people) pointed out in the debate the other night:
The answer to your question, ma'am, is: Yes, it is politics. The Democrats have failed the American people. When we took over in January, the American people didn't expect us to give them a Democratic version of the war. They expected us to act quickly to end the war.

Take it from our next President: this is all about politics, not about the war.

It's beginning to seem as if the only issue that this Congress is interested in is Iraq. And while that's clearly our nation's primary concern, it will be resolved one day. What will the Congress have then? God help the Democrats if it is resolved one way or the other before the election; there'll be nothing for them to talk about or take credit for.

Update: Looks like the House might not vote on Murtha's measure, since it would represent 'a step backward' on Iraq. Ironically that's right, but not for the reasons the opponents believe.

"Worst President Ever"

A little perspective, please. James Madison's historical reputation hinges on his absolutely phenomenal work at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and as an author of the Federalist Papers, but his subsequent political career culminated in a presidency which saw the threatened secession of New England (the Essex Junto and Hartford Convention--little taught in modern public schools), the capitulation of an entire American brigade under General Hull on U.S. soil, and the occupation, looting and destruction of the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

And yet, in spite of this, the Democrats succeeded in holding the White House, electing Madison's Secretary of State, James Monroe, in the elections of 1816. In fact, it was the opposition party, the Federalists who had opposed the war, which was destroyed in the subsequent election.

How did this occur?

First of all, the Democratic Party clung tenaciously to its support for the war in principle, while actively taking steps to conclude it on the best possible terms. Jackson's fortuitous victory at New Orleans was a significant part of this equation, but the Democrats grasped the nettle and concluded a completely ambiguous peace (the best for which could be hoped, given the astonishing bungling of the war up to that point) which merely restored the status quo ante.

What saved them was their willingness to claim victory on that basis, and the clear unwillingness of the Federalists to endorse the war in principle. Once the ongoing costs of the war had ended, a positive note was seized and pounded relentlessly as evidence of the ultimately correct logic of going to war in the first place.

In Iraq, then, the question will be, was the war a mistake or not, and was its termination (almost everyone agrees that active U.S. campaigning will be ended sometime next year) on the best possible terms? History suggests that the ability of the Republican Party to effectively answer those two questions will determine the likely Presidential prospects of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Willie Horton Reappears

If the Willie Horton ad was racist, why are Democrats using it in South Carolina against Barack Obama?

Presumably, anyone involved in politics knows how the Willie Horton ad is now viewed; it represents an unacceptable form of politicking. To specifically reference that ad in an attack such as this one would have to be seen as an attempt to stir up that hornet's nest and make a racist appeal, right?

It's unlikely that this attack would come from someone sympathetic to Obama -- trying to air the attack in a way that would tend to discredit it -- isn't it? That leaves us with one of the other Democratic campaigns -- or just some troublemaker.

Hat Tip: Marc Ambinder

Is Iraq Part of the War on Terror?

Read it at the Standard.

Capitol Hill's 50 Most Beautiful

The Hill releases its annual list. This year they rate only the Top 10, and list the others who 'placed.' It's sure to generate controversy -- to the extent it can -- since they rate Speaker Pelosi as the 3rd most beautiful woman on the Hill. Go ahead and check it out, and see if you agree.

I would have given the honors to Mrs. Skipper (pictured).

Tobacco is Evil & Please Smoke More

That's the message Congress is sending as it tries to fund an expansion of children's health care with revenues from dramatically higher tobacco taxes, while it simultaneously considers legislation to significantly reduce smoking:

To pay for an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), a Finance Committee draft bill would increase cigarette taxes to $1 per pack, raising an estimated $35.7 billion in new revenue.

Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., would have the Food and Drug Administration regulate tobacco with the help of advertising controls, new warnings and nicotine reductions, all designed to help people quit smoking or stop them from starting. Kennedy’s bill (S 625) is due to be marked up Wednesday by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

In scoring the Finance tax proposal, the Congressional Budget Office factored in that a few million smokers might quit puffing because of the increased cost. But CBO analysts didn’t take into account the effect that new FDA regulations might have on the tax package.

So supporters of the SCHIP program may be put in the uncomfortable position of having to depend on committed smokers not heeding new FDA warnings.
The S-CHIP expansion would expand eligibility to the 'poorest' 60 percent of all children, including parents earning as much as $82,000 per year. To pay for that expansion using tobacco taxes, the federal government will need 22 million new smokers over the next ten years -- a goal just slightly at odds with the ongoing attempt to reduce smoking. It also ignores the fact that cigarette sales have fallen 20 percent over the last 10 years.

As the Heritage Foundation points out:

Funding the expansion of a government health program through a tax on a toxic product with a declining revenue stream is not only paradoxical but also fiscally irresponsible. It is not a reliable source of continued funding. Even with the tobacco tax hike, additional revenues, most likely from other tax increases, will be necessary to pay for SCHIP expansion.

Isn't there a better approach?

Update -- Here is a better approach:

Jim DeMint: I'll tell you simply and then we'll get out more details and talking points later. The federal government spends a lot of money helping to buy private health insurance for some workers. We do that through the deduction that employers get. But, if your employer doesn't offer it, you don't get it. Over the next 10 years, this is an incredible number -- we're going to spend as a nation, $3.7 trillion dollars through our tax code -- and some people don't like to say that we spend through the tax code, but we pay for the insurance for people who get it through their employers. People who buy it on their own don't get anything.

If we discontinued using the tax code to pay for health insurance and took that $3.7 trillion dollars and spread it out across all Americans, we could give every American family a $5000 a year health care tax voucher that they could use to buy insurance. Every individual, every single person, would get $2000. It would be budget neutral. No effect on the deficit, no new spending...but the choice is, do we want Hillarycare, which we're headed towards in a hurry, and the Democrats are going to try to expand the child health care program in the next couple of weeks by tens of billions of dollars or are we going to figure out how to get everyone a basic insurance package? One way or the other, people are going to have to be covered. We don't have to do a mandate, but we can provide every American family, without spending any more money, $5000 to buy health insurance...

On Barry Bonds

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that he will make an effort to attend the game -- soon to come -- when Barry Bonds will hit his 756th career home run. With that blast, Bonds will become the all-time career home run leader, surpassing the legendary Hank Aaron.

While Bonds is undoubtedly an extraordinary talent, it's clear that Bonds' performance and totals have been enhanced by the use of anabolic steroids. To me, that's a taint that renders Bonds' record illegitimate. Unless Bonds can hit another 100 homers or so, I will always regard Aaron as the career home run king -- and Bonds as an extraordinarily talented cheater.

Since the record will probably be broken in the next few days, this is a good time to post ESPN's back-of-the-envelope guess at how many home runs Bonds hit thanks to steroids. At the end of 2005, the number was 98:

Truth be told, we can only manage a crude approximation. An educated guess, but a guess nonetheless.

On the other hand, that sure beats an unsightly asterisk.

So, how did Page 2 place Bonds' "legitimate" total at 616 homers? In taking away 98 home runs since 1999 -- when Bonds' allegedly began using steroids -- we sought to quantify the performance-enhancing effects of steroids in four hitting-related categories: strength, stamina, longevity and confidence. To do so, we spoke to a swing guru, a major league scout, training and biomechanics specialists, and an expert on the physics of baseball. We looked over hit charts and home run distances, tabulating every Bonds blast from '99 to now. We even got help from a nuclear scientist (albeit a nuclear scientist who really likes baseball).

So here's a salute to Barry Bonds, with his 655 or so career home runs. That puts him just about on a par with Willie Mays, who hit 660. That puts Bonds on the short list of the all-time great players who cheated.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Airports Noticing Terror Dry Runs?

According to the Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security has warned airports to be on the watch for passengers trying to smuggle items that could be part of improvised explosive devices:

Airport security officers around the nation have been alerted by federal officials to look out for terrorists practicing to carry explosive components onto aircraft, based on four curious seizures at airports since last September...

The bulletin said the passengers carrying the suspicious items seized since September included men and women and that initial investigation had not linked them with criminal or terrorist organizations. But it added that most of their explanations for carrying the items were suspicious and some were still under investigation.

The four seizures were described this way:
  • San Diego, July 7. A U.S. person — either a citizen or a foreigner legally here — checked baggage containing two ice packs covered in duct tape. The ice packs had clay inside them rather than the normal blue gel.
  • Milwaukee, June 4. A U.S. person's carryon baggage contained wire coil wrapped around a possible initiator, an electrical switch, batteries, three tubes and two blocks of cheese. The bulletin said block cheese has a consistency similar to some explosives.
  • Houston, Nov. 8, 2006. A U.S. person's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a 9-volt battery, wires, a block of brown clay-like minerals and pipes.
  • Baltimore, Sept. 16, 2006. A couple's checked baggage contained a plastic bag with a block of processed cheese taped to another plastic bag holding a cellular phone charger.

First off, I would argue for a one-way ticket to Guantanamo for each of these passengers.

Second, it's really starting to seem as if all the elements are there for a new terror attack in the US: a high level of chatter, reports of an Al Qaeda cell being smuggled into the US, a public perception that Al Qaeda is no longer able to mount 'spectacular attacks' in the US and a failed round of attacks in Great Britain.

Given the extraordinary partisan atmosphere today, the Bush administration ought to be bringing in Reid, Pelosi, Rockefeller, Reyes, and anyone else interested in intelligence, to let them know exactly what our intelligence knows.

After all, if no attack occurs (or one is defused before fruition), Democrats will ratchet up their complaints about the Bush White House's fear-mongering and 'Big Brother' tactics. And if an attack succeeds, Democrats will instantly switch to accusing them of failing to 'connect the dots.' In fact, I suspect that Keith Olbermann already has both attacks in the can.

The DHS document is here.

Update: If nothing else, it looks like House Republicans have protected your right to blow the whistle on the passenger carrying the block of cheese.

If the Peter Principle Were Valid, He'd Be Premier

Insert your own bureaucrat-or-French-politician joke here:

Report: Man with Almost No Brain Has Led Normal Life

French doctors are amazed that a 44-year-old civil servant with an abnormally small brain has led a normal life with a slightly lower than normal IQ, according to a report on

Might as Well Tell Me There's No Santa Claus

Bear Grylls is a faker? Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so:

But an adviser to Born Survivor has disclosed that at one location where the adventurer claimed to be a “real life Robin-son Crusoe” trapped on “a desert island”, he was actually on an outlying part of the Hawaiian archipelago and spent nights at a motel.

On another occasion in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains where he was filmed biting off the head of a snake for breakfast and struggling for survival “with just a water bottle, a cup and a flint for making fire”, he actually slept some nights with the crew in a lodge fitted with television and internet access. The Pines Resort at Bass Lake is advertised as “a cosy getaway for families” with blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

In one episode Grylls, son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, was shown apparently building a Polynesian-style raft using only materials around him, including bamboo, hibiscus twine and palm leaves for a sail.

But according to Mark Weinert, an Oregon-based survival consultant brought in for the job, it was he who led the team that built the raft. It was then dismantled so that Grylls could be shown building it on camera.
Now I'll have to find something else to watch.

Hat Tip: Last

Joe Biden Wrote the Assault Weapons Ban?

When Joe Biden insulted the Michigan gun owner who asked his view on gun control, he claimed that he 'originally wrote the assault weapons ban:'

A search of the Congressional online database Thomas shows that there were 18 bills introduced in the 101st Congress (1989-1990) on 'assault weapons.' The first assault weapons ban introduced appears to be HR 669 by Howard Berman, which was introduced in January, 1989 -- right at the start of the Congress.

I don't see any legislation introduced by Senator Biden prior to that. Biden did introduce S. 1972 -- the 'Federal Crime Control Act' -- in November, 1989, and it does include an assault weapons ban. That legislation was not enacted into law. He again introduced an assault weapons ban in the next Congress, which was also not enacted into law.

Over this time period, many other lawmakers also introduced their own versions of legislation to ban assault weapons. A search for 'assault weapon' shows measures introduced by Bob Torricelli, Pete Stark, Sam Gibbons, and many other prominent Democrats. I don't see any legislation mentioning 'assault weapons' in the 100th Congress or earlier.

Many people associate the assault weapons ban with Dianne Feinstein, so Biden can be forgiven for pointing out that he introduced legislation before she did. However, Biden is wrong to claim credit for being the first.

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers and thanks Glenn, for the traffic. While you're here, read how Jimmy Carter is teaming up with Peter Gabriel and Nelson Mandela for world peace. Or just look around.

Dingell Plotting Rebellion on CAFE Standards?

The Politico catches whiff of a John Dingell's plotting with Republicans to torpedo the House leadership proposal on global warming:

Republicans believe that if Dingell were to sign onto their plan as a backup in case the Hill-Terry proposal fails to garner majority support, they could push through the GOP proposal, even over Pelosi's objections.

A Republican insider said that Dingell was "noncommittal" during the meeting with Barton, Hastert and Upton -- not saying "anything one way or the other" about his plans for a floor fight over auto mileage and whether he would support Republicans.

Dingell and Hastert enjoy warm personal ties, according to House insiders, and are in many ways closer than Pelosi and Dingell. Those two have fought a running battle that dates back years, and the CAFE clash is not going to do anything to slow it down.

If Dingell and the GOP team up, it might lead to a proposal that the White House would sign -- as opposed to a measure that would wind up as veto bait. It would also leave a bad taste in the mouth of Congressional Democrats as they head out for the August recess. To be dealt a loss on such an important policy matter, due to an inability to unite the House Democratic conference would be a blow to morale.

Freshman Democrats Plan Ethics Action

According to Roll Call, they're frustrated that House Democratic leadership has been slow on ethics reform. They recognize that if they cannot tell the voters that they did something to clean up Washington, they'll be behind the 8 ball come election day:

Frustrated that the House task force assigned to review the ethics complaint process has yet to issue an official recommendation after nearly six months, freshman Democrats are mulling the introduction of their own proposal, lawmakers said...

Nonetheless, several freshman Democratic lawmakers — many of whom campaigned on anti-corruption platforms in the fall — said they have discussed moving ahead with an independent proposal to reform the ethics process, potentially before the House begins its monthlong August recess.

“It could include a new proposal,” said one Democratic freshman who discussed the issue with other House freshmen last week and asked not to be identified...

Many freshman lawmakers had earlier endorsed a proposal by Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) that called for abolishing the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and replacing it with an independent, bipartisan commission, but it is not clear if that legislation will be up for consideration when freshmen meet to discuss an ethics proposal.

First off, you can interpret this article as a shot across the bow of leadership. The Freshmen want something done, and talking to Roll Call about it is a clear sign to the Speaker and other leaders that they take this very seriously.

Second off, if they are politically astute, they will endorse the idea of an outside, impartial ethics review body. The voters are likely to regard any ethics reform cynically, but giving authority to investigate and discipline Members to an outside body is one thing that might make a substantive difference -- particularly if such an entity was actually up and running by election day next year.

Peanut Butter Proves the Existence of God

How a jar of peanut butter proves that God created life on earth:

(Excuse the jumbled up html code; I don't know how to cut out the extraneous stuff without losing the embedded video.)

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I know if I'm sarcastic about this, it will go over somebody's head and I'll get nasty E-mails. So I'll just have to be straight on this one.

What complex amino acids and other 'ingredients for life' are in peanut butter? How much light and heat does a jar of peanut butter get exposed to? And how many of us check our peanut butter for single celled life forms, anyway?

Support for Iraq on the Rise?

One poll doesn't demonstrate much; unless confirmed by others this will go down as a blip. But still:

Americans’ support for the initial invasion of Iraq has risen somewhat as the White House has continued to ask the public to reserve judgment about the war until at least the fall. In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted over the weekend, 42 percent of Americans said that looking back, taking military action in Iraq was the right thing to do, while 51 percent said the United States should have stayed out of Iraq...

However, the number of people who say the war is going “very badly” has fallen from 45 percent earlier in July to a current reading of 35 percent, and of those who say it is going well, 29 percent now describe it as “somewhat well” compared with 23 percent just last week.

Sheehan: I'll Beat Pelosi

We can only hope the race actually materializes:

If Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refuses to bring articles of impeachment against President Bush to the floor of the House, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan said Monday, Sheehan not only will challenge the Speaker in the next election but also will defeat her.

Discussing President Bush and Vice President Cheney, Sheehan said, “We put them there. We can fire them. If Nancy Pelosi doesn't do her constitutionally mandated job by midnight tonight, tomorrow I will announce that I'm going to run against her.

“And not only am I going to run against her, but I will beat her,” Sheehan added.

Maybe we could get Michael Moore and Rosie O'Donnell to run against some other Democratic leaders, on a 'Wing Nut' ticket.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Peter Gabriel Forms Bizarro SuperFriends

I really don't know how else to describe this. The once brilliant Peter Gabriel has created a group of 'Elders' to resolve conflicts worldwide. But the group is formed of morons, whose answers to conflict in the past seems to have been for those in the right to step aside and let evil run wild:

Nelson Mandela announced the formation of this new group, The Elders, yesterday in a speech he delivered on the occasion of his 89th birthday.

“This group can speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes on whatever actions need to be taken,” Mandela commented. “Together we will work to support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair...”

The Elders will use their unique collective skills to catalyze peaceful resolutions to long-standing conflicts, articulate new approaches to global issues that may cause immense human suffering, and share wisdom by helping to connect voices all over the world. They will be working together over the next several months to carefully consider which specific issues they will approach. The Elders’ criteria are not only the magnitude and importance of the challenge, but a deliberate view that their role could contribute significantly to solving the problem.

Obviously, Jimmy Carter is a part of this group. As smug and sanctimonious as he is, he'll fit right in. I bet he'll try to get the Elders to confront the evil George Bush.

The article mentions one vignette that might guide us on how the Elders will operate:

For their model they looked to traditional village elders, trusted by their people to resolve conflict within their communities. In 2001 they took their idea to Nelson Mandela — which even led to an agreement of Mandela and Kofi Annan to travel to Baghdad and meet with Saddam Hussein with the request for him to stand down (too late as it happened)...

Perhaps I'm being unkind. It might be more positive to say that the group seeks to resolve conflict the way Christ or Ghandi would have -- by turning the other cheek. While it didn't work with Saddam, I bet Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejad will fold like a house of cards.

To the ElderMobile!

Update: Welcome Bloggingheads viewers and thanks, Mickey & Bob for the link. Let me stipulate that if you have viewed the Bloggingheads segment, I'll concede Bob Wright's points that Jimmy Carter is not a moron, and that Nelson Mandela showed both courage and wisdom in helping to prevent a 'retributive bloodbath' in South Africa.

However, this is still a very goofy idea. And to have the faintest hope that it might prove fruitful, you'd need to convince me that the Elders do believe that conflict is at times the best of a bad range of options. And I have no confidence that this team could acknowledge that.

Get Henry Kissinger on board and we can talk.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Front and Center

There is something deeply disturbing about seeing the apparently terminal illness of the wife of a Presidential candidate so prominently featured. It used to be that such an affliction was considered to be a deeply private and personal matter. I cannot help but feel that we've lost something when it becomes a focal point of a political campaign -- as this piece in the Wall Street Journal matter-of-factly reports it to be:

Mr. Edwards's strategists planned to make her a central feature of the campaign, believing both Democrats and Republicans could identify with her experiences, including a dead child, breast cancer, infertility, weight-loss struggles, aging parents, mother to both adult and young children, childhood of moving constantly as a Navy brat. "Elizabeth would be the A-number-one top surrogate for John," says Jonathan Prince, deputy campaign manager.

Then in March, she broke a rib while playing with her young son and getting a hug from her husband. She visited a doctor and discovered something that could be cancer on her X-rays. The next day, Mr. Edwards went with his wife for complete body scans. The cancer had metastasized. The couple faced the media on March 22 and explained that they would continue.

Behind the scenes, campaign staffers were thrilled at the surge in interest and Mrs. Edwards's "high likeability," but worried that "too much exposure could cause a backlash," according to one adviser. Mrs. Edwards wanted to be open about the cancer recurrence but didn't want to give specific details on her treatment or prognosis. "'Let's follow Elizabeth as she goes through her cancer' would be almost exploitive," she told them.

'Almost' exploitive? 'Following Elizabeth Edwards through her cancer' would be clearly and obviously exploitive. After all, why else would you call it 'following her around,' instead of something non-exploitive like 'answering questions and downplaying.' The only question is whether -- her denials notwithstanding -- that's what we've got. It sure looks a lot like it.

This article examines Elizabeth Edwards medical treatments, prognosis, hopes for the future, and her plans for her loved ones after her death. Beyond the macabre nature of inviting the national media to dissect it with you, this will clearly have the effect of making some people far more sympathetic to her husband's campaign. The only question is whether any of those folks turned off by it -- like myself -- would ever have backed Edwards in the first place.

A sample of what the Edwards family shared with the Journal:

Between campaign stops and monitoring political blogs, she is working on a "dying letter" to her three children -- a "guide to life" she started before her diagnosis but which takes on more poignancy now. Her advice runs from balancing work and family to telling her children they should always wear solids instead of stripes or plaid -- otherwise, she warns, you'll look back at old photos and cringe at what you're wearing. She is sorting out her and her children's possessions -- clothes, papers, photographs -- and boxing them to save after her death...

In boxes spread over a basketball court in the gym on their Chapel Hill estate, Mrs. Edwards is dividing clothes from each of her children into what should be kept and what can be given away. Otherwise, "John would just throw all this out," Mrs. Edwards says. She especially wants the family to keep the Halloween costumes she made for each of her four children.

When she finds Wade's baseball cards, she presents them to Jack. A few minutes later, she hears Jack and Emma Claire fighting over them. "I want something of Wade's too," her nine-year-old daughter cries. "You're right," Mrs. Edwards tells her, dividing the cards.

Mrs. Edwards is clearly brave, and one can only admire her work ethic. I think it's also important that as we face life and death, each of us must follow his or her own heart in deciding how to face mortality. That obviously extends to Mrs. Edwards. I join many in praying for a long and happy life for her.

But I don't want this glimpse inside her illness. And I can't see a good reason for the Edwardses to cooperate in a piece like this one at this time. Since they've decided not to exploit the illness, should they not have been pleased that coverage of her cancer had largely disappeared from the front pages -- allowing them to deal with it privately and within the family?

Conyers Preparing to Impeach Bush?

That's the report from liberal radio host Bree Walker:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has said that if three more Congress Members get behind impeachment he will start the impeachment proceedings.

I was a guest today on Bree Walker's radio show. She's the progressive radio host from California who purchased Cindy Sheehan's land from her in Crawford, Texas...

It appears to be more than that. Bree Walker told me, on the air, that Conyers said that all he needs is three more Congress Members backing impeachment, and he'll move on it, even without Pelosi. I asked whether that meant specifically moving from 14 cosponsors of H Res 333 to 17, or adding 3 to the larger number of Congress Members who have spoken favorably of impeachment but not all signed onto bills. Bree said she didn't know and that Conyers had declined to take any questions.

Actually, it seems they're not really sure whether they'll impeach Bush or Cheney. The liberal Left seems pretty ambivalent on this point, as long as both are eventually impeached.

Either way, this target of three more members seems perfectly doable. It's safe to assume, I think, that we're talking about impeaching Cheney first. But, even if Conyers is talking about Bush, the target is perfectly achievable.

What's the test anyway -- high crimes or misdemeanors, right? Sure. I think they both did that. Does it matter? The Kucinich legislation that liberals are pushing would impeach Cheney for manipulating intelligence about Iraq and Iran.

Here's the list of cosponsors of the legislation: Yvette Clarke, William Lacy Clay, Keith Ellison, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, Hank Johnson, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Jim Moran, Jan Schakowsky,Maxine Waters,Lynn Woolsey and Albert Wynn.

Impeachment would be the greatest political gift the Democratic party could give to the GOP. It would demonstrate just how frivolous the Democratic party has become, and it would put the Senators running for President in the difficult position of having to decide whether to sink their national hopes completely, or sink their chances of securing the Democratic presidential nomination.

If you are a conservative who happens to be represented by a Democratic Member of Congress -- particularly a member of the healthy Democratic lunatic fringe -- please call and insist that your Representative sign on to the legislation. It could be the most valuable thing you could do to restore conservative governance.