August 31, 2006
The Sky is Falling! Not
Someone I respect greatly and love dearly has been spreading MSM-like "end times" stories about the state of GOP leadership in Congress come November. And who can blame him, with polls like these on the "Generic Congressional Vote" showing Democrats leading Republicans 50 points to 38. But we don't elect legislators that way, kids. We send folks to Washington from distinct geographical areas that must be considered individually and specifically. Type in house races 2006 polling map on Google and click I'm Feeling Lucky. You'll get Election Projection - 2006 Edition, an admitted GOP leaning site that breaks them all down using objective data. The result? GOP loses 4 in the Senate and Dems gain 8 in the house. Still Republican control all around.
And this doesn't even count my, "Oh crap, Democrats really DO want to lose the war" bounce on election eve.
CEOs Hate Me!
I'm obviously bored in the morning, as I've taken to listening to the local Air America affiliate on my morning commute. (This station cracks me up. It's called "Progressive Talk" and they also have "Progressive News, Progressive Weather, and Progressive Traffic." Just what is "Progressive Traffic" for people who hate cars? Traffic jams everywhere?) Anyway, this morning Jay Marvin interviewed Barbara Ehrenreich, author of 'Bait and Switch - The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream' (Amazon sales rank #5,347). The premise of the book is that unemployed white collar workers can't get jobs because of the "magisterial indifference of the corporate world" which is a euphemism for "nobody worries about me." The line that tingled my spine this morning was when Barbara said, "It really is criminal the way corporations use and abuse their employees." Apparently the unemployment rate is low only because white collar workers take "survival jobs" with low pay and no "benefits" (read: full-boat health insurance). Barbara was describing how what is needed is for white collar workers to organize for collective bargaining with corporations. Well, I thought, at least she's offering a plan. That's more than the "anybody but Bush" anti-war crowd (of which she's clearly a member) has done in the 5 years since 9/11.
As I considered whether to blog this I imagined how enjoyable it would be to read what JK does with Ehrenreich's hanging curve ball that "corporations don't care about their employees." It'll be much more enjoyable than watching what the Mets did to (Colorado Rockies') Josh Fogg's pitching at home last night!
Quite the Pair
It's official. Sens. Byrd and Stevens both had holds on the earmark-transparency database.
Confirming what we already knew, Senator Robert Byrd admitted today that he's the other secret holder.
What are the odds it would be those two? I'm going with 94%
Recycling as Gris-Gris
Penn and Teller crush the myth of recycling. Funny stuff (salty language, if that disturbs you).
Hat-tip: White Lighting Axiom: Redux
Posted by John Kranz at 1:37 PM
A Democratic 110th
I'm not going to excerpt. It's free, read it all. The Wall Street Journal highlights the luminaries that will likely chair committees in a Dem 110th.
August 30, 2006
Saturday Was Climate Change
Yet nobody told Samizdata. Or maybe it's the time difference.
In The Church of Global Warming Robert Clayton Dean offers some fun for the skeptics:
How can you tell who someone's god is? You look to see whose name they invoke as the cause of all things, good or bad. By that standard, the god of the devout Left is Global Warming; here is the Psalm of Al, from which the faithful constantly quote (King James Version):
In the comments, one Perry E. Metzger, offers a thoughtful libertarian view of global warming that brother Silence might enjoy:
I'm about as radical a libertarian as one can find, but I'm also educated in the sciences, and so far as I can tell, global warming is not a myth.
I'm a bit more skeptical than Metzger, but his words are consistent with the new jk manifesto: believe or don’t, but don't use it to stop modernity.
UPDATE: The comments, as usual in the Samizdata post are superb. They run heavily skeptical, but they are bright and informed.
UPDATE II: Except for mine, I tried to bring Dr. Popper inito it, as his "Open Society and its Enemies" appears in their logo. But I muffed the html. Harrumph.
I'm a Cat-4!
My wife has been keeping an eye on hurricane John in the Pacific, and informs me that I am a Category Four now. I don't know how I feel about my eponymous storm, but I had this idea a few days before I knew about it.
Let's create a national auction site for hurricane names. What do you buy the guy who has everything? Why, bid up his name (or his worst enemy's) on eyeBay! Unlike eBay, multiple people can bid on a single entry on eyeBay. Give the money to hurricane relief, it's all in good fun. A side benefit is that it gets the racial lobbies out. If you want Hurricane Shaniqua, Rep Waters, get out your Visa card.
Hurricane John, out!
Posted by John Kranz at 1:08 PM
The Shame of General Powell
Just when you thought l'Affaire Plame could not get any stranger, Michael "Spikey" Isikoff and The Nation's David Corn release a book with the miscreants finally identified. Whodunit? The State Department.
Thankfully, Christopher Hitchens and the Wall Street Journal have read the book so you don't have to. Hitch casually mentions that
What does emerge from Hubris is further confirmation of what we knew all along: the extraordinary venom of the interdepartmental rivalry that has characterized this administration. In particular, the bureaucracy at the State Department and the CIA appear to have used the indiscretion of Armitage to revenge themselves on the "neoconservatives" who had been advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein. Armitage identified himself to Colin Powell as Novak's source before the Fitzgerald inquiry had even been set on foot. The whole thing could—and should—have ended right there. But now read this and rub your eyes: William Howard Taft, the State Department's lawyer who had been told about Armitage (and who had passed on the name to the Justice Department)
Corn himself, Hitch reminds us, had portrayed the affair a little differently:
The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.
The Wall Street Journal Ed page, even less a friend to the Powell State Department points out the mendacity and insubordination of the President's cabinet.
At a minimum, there appears to be a serious question of disloyalty here. By keeping silent, Messrs. Powell and Armitage let the President take political heat for the case, while also letting Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby and other White House officials twist in the wind for more than two years. We also know that it was the folks in Mr. Powell's shop--including his former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson and intelligence officer Carl Ford Jr.--who did so much to trash John Bolton's nomination to be Ambassador to the U.N. in 2005. The State Department clique that Mr. Bush tolerated for so long did tremendous damage to his Administration.
I enjoyed Colin Powell's autobiography and have total respect for his service to country. I've always considered him a McCain-type guy who appreciates accolades from Washington society a little more than his principles.
This episode, however, places him in a different light. He sat back and watched the administration suffer a PR nightmare and key staff be subjected to expensive and grueling legal troubles. Secretary Powell was clearly out of line here. My respect has held up through many things, but not this. He is just another unprincipled politician walking the streets of our nation's capital. More disappointing that he knows the importance of freedom yet will not fight for it.
But it's hard to see anything but politics as the motivation for Fitzgerald's handling of the Plame affair. The facts indicate that Fitzgerald knew early on that the original leaker was State Department official Richard Armitage. So why did Fitzgerald let a cloud hang over White House adviser Karl Rove's head for so long? And why is Fitzgerald continuing to hound Libby, the former vice presidential chief of staff?
The U2 star made points with me when he befriended Senator Jesse Helms and President Bush as allies in his quest to help Africa. He showed a far greater understanding than most, looking at debt and trade, instead of just aid.
Lately, he seems to fallen right back in the celebrity pit. We have a bracelet now (two guys in my band wear them) but bracelets are not going to fix Africa. Freedom is required to fix Africa and trade is an important component of freedom.
The Wall Street Journal asks (paid site, sorry) if helping isn't all talk.
Senator Bill Frist is trying to renew part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which since 2000 has provided duty-free access to the U.S. market for substantially all products from most sub-Saharan countries. The full act doesn't expire until 2015 but its textile provisions are set to expire in 2007. These let sub-Saharan-assembled clothing that uses fabric purchased from any third country enter the American market duty-free. If this provision lapses, Africa could lose 150,000 jobs.
Rep. Rangel has not signaled that he will support this bill, and without support, it won't get done in a short session.
Better than bracelets, guys. Better than bracelets.
August 29, 2006
Colorado sheep dip
A few weeks back I celebrated Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's (R-CO) position on Club for Growth's legislative pork scorecard. She voted fifteen times in nineteen chances to kill a pork bill in Congress. So imagine my surprise when my wife receives a political mailing that claims Musgrave "never saw a pork barrel project she didn't like." A prior mailing also charged, essentially, that Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Delay are the same person!
So who is making these charges? A Republican group! They're called "Coloradoans for Life." Yeah, they're Republicans. Right? Aren't they? Well, it's hard to tell with this shadowy bunch but it ain't bloody likely. In addition to slamming Musgrave they've also mailed us to say what a louse Bob Beauprez (R for CO governor) is, and run radio spots to say just how peachy Angie Paccione (D for Musgrave's seat) is. But they've chosen "Coloradoans for Life" as their official name. Why? Because rural Coloradoans and country radio listeners are predominantly Republican and will ignore every word CFL says if they know who is saying it. And CFL sure isn't saying who they are anywhere on their web site.
Ah, politics. Reminds me of the feed lot down the road.
The Good people at the Economic Policy Institute have written a report on The State of Working America. Thankfully, Tim Worstall at TCS has read it so you don't have to.
Of the EPI, Worstall says "They are, as you may know, the people who urge that the USA become more like the European countries, most especially the Scandinavian ones. Less income inequality, more leisure time, stronger unions and so on."
Worstall points out that they have manipulated the data in a way that favors the EU economies in the chart, to get this damning chart:
How we're supposed to read this is that the USA has a very uneven income distribution, that the poorest 10% only get 39% of the median income, that the richest 10% get 210%. Compare and contrast that with the most egalitarian society amongst those studied, Finland, where the rich get 111% and the poor get 38%. Shown this undoubted fact we are therefore to don sackcloth and ashes, promise to do better and tax the heck out of everybody to rectify this appalling situation.
After they manipulate the data so it does not show how badly we are kicking EU asses, the disparity the find is that we have richer people.
The son of a lawmaker was recently kidnapped from a city street and his mother and sister were shot the following day.
Iraq is a terrible place.
Too bad it happened in Philadelphia.
Shamari Taylor, 26, remained missing for the second day Monday, while his 56-year-old mother remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition after being shot in the head. The sister, 21, had been treated and released Sunday evening.
Taylor is the son of Rep. John Myers, a Philadelphia Democrat who has been a vocal advocate for gun-control legislation.
The motive is unclear.
Unfinished in New Orleans
Kim Strassel was on Kudlow & Company last night and made several valid points on post Katrina New Orleans. The first is that the major lesson is to distrust government. Wal*Mart had generators, FedEx and UPS were there before USPS -- private enterprise outperformed government at every level.
Sadly, she also reminded viewers of the missed opportunities to harness the private sector in rebuilding. There was much hope on her employer's editorial page of enterprise zones, tax incentives, repeal of Davis-Bacon, and the President's promised urban homestead plan to privatize some government land.
Her employers are just a bit kinder in the lead editorial today (free site).
The post-Katrina spend-fest in Louisiana will be remembered as one of the greatest taxpayer wastes in U.S. history. First came the FEMA $2,000 debit-cards fiasco intended to pay for necessities that were used for things like flat-panel TVs and tattoos. Then came the purchase of thousands of mobile homes that cost as much as $400,000 per family housed; the $200 million for renting the Carnival Cruise Ship; millions more in payments that went for season football tickets, luxury vacation resorts, even divorce lawyers. Federal flood insurance policies surely will encourage many to rebuild in the same flood plains and at the same height as before.
They do document some successes but try not to get too excited out there:
Some of the tax incentives were enacted and have spurred more business investment. And charter schools will serve thousands of the kids still residing in New Orleans this fall. But Congress and Louisiana's pols have ignored most of the promising free-market reforms, opting instead for red tape as usual.
Even Bush 41 suspended Davis Bacon in the Andrew cleanup. The Democrats are in full dudgeon that only $125 Billion has been allocated. At the risk of piling on, I am disgusted that no conservative leadership or political courage was shown. "Just shovel money so we look compassionate" is not a Republican value.
Posted by John Kranz at 10:47 AM
August 28, 2006
Internecine -- The Home Game
I had a spirited discussion with my brother-in-law yesterday. He and I agree on much, but not on immigration. I got a little cranky and thought I should share it with all of you.
We have argued the merits and the economics around here but the politics are now becoming clear. I'd like to ask my more restrictionist blog brothers if they have buyer’s remorse on their intransigence, which is a rhetorical device for me to suggest that they should.
Congress will come back from an August recess for a short session before heading home to campaign for the midterms. My nine months of optimism are coming to a close. The idea of a conference committee hammering out a bill of this size and divergence in a month -- two months before an election -- is preposterous. Ain't gonna happen. That, my brother-in-law and I can agree on.
A few months ago, Bill Kristol at the Weekly Standard asked the House GOP members if they were going to follow [Rep.] Tom Tancredo over a cliff by insisting on an enforcement-only solution, against the wishes of business, free-traders,, minority groups, and high-ranking party politicians. The answer, many weeks later is a resounding "well, gee, I guess so...the water down at the bottom of those rocks looks pretty warm."
By refusing to compromise, the Tancredo wing of the party has prevented an immigration bill and helped make the party look feckless right before a six-year midterm which is historically difficult for the President's party. So my questions to the Tancredoites around here are:
Rep Tancredo is one of 535 legislators. Let him influence a compromise but don't let him derail the train.
August 27, 2006
Capabilities vs Rights
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was speaking just days before an August 31 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for Iran to halt uranium enrichment -- the West's biggest worry in Iran's atomic program -- or face possible sanctions.
"No one can deprive a nation of its rights based on its capabilities," Ahmadinejad said in his speech to inaugurate the heavy water project.
I did not know that rights were capability based. I'll make sure to remember that next time Israel retaliates (invoking it's right of self-defense) in a way which makes the liberal comentariat complain that there is no proportionality.
August 26, 2006
Good WaPo Research
Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell at the Washington Post answer a question that has been in the back of my mind but that I have been too lazy to research.
In short, there are a lot of young men and women serving our nation in Iraq. Every death is regrettable, but how many would die if they stayed home or went on spring break in Aruba?
Kudos to Preston and Buzzell for a nifty piece.
Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 "person-years" in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.
To give away the ending, that’s half the US average. But wait, that includes 95 year olds and people not in the good health of our men and women in uniform.
U.S. men 18-39 only face 39% of the risk, which seems closer to an intuitive estimate. But -- insert your own W.C. Fields joke here -- on the whole, it's better to be in Iraq than be an African-American in Philadelphia; the latter is 11% more risky.
"The death rate of American troops in Vietnam was 5.6 times that observed in Iraq. " (I blogged that we lost well over twice as many in a short while in WWII fighting for eight square miles of Iwo Jima).
In short, to post the number dead is specious. Kudos to Professor Preston and Ms. Buzzell for the perspective, and to the WaPo for printing it.
Warmer... Cooler.... etc.
Saturday has apparently degenerated into
"The Kyoto initiatives to save the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off until better times," he said. "The global temperature maximum has been reached on Earth, and Earth's global temperature will decline to a climatic minimum even without the Kyoto protocol."
Can we settle on a direction here?
Blog brother AlexC sends me a link to a Q and O blog post on global warming.
Written by Dale Franks (neither a Q nor and O), the post captures my position very well. Silence and I have talked past each other on these pages about whether global warming exists. While I remain skeptical, I am going to change my pattern. The point is not to argue against its existence, the point is to argue that we don't know enough to make policy decisions.
Franks nails this:
The Argo data on ocean cooling over the past few years merely highlights that problem. Over the past few years, about 20% of the warming of the past 50 years has simply disappeared. Apparently, it just radiated away back into space, since we can't seem to find any of that heat down here.
Franks, as it happens, does indeed believe in global warming and he believes that it is to some extent man-made.
I'm skeptical of both those assertions but agree with Franks that until we can codify and quantify what is happening and what causes it, we cannot "fix" it. If we are causing global warming by using so much battery power, those damn hybrid drivers will have to answer up.
I'm a big fan (I know I've bored you before) on the epistemology of Dr. Karl Popper. I don't know how much he created and how much he documented, but he defines the procedures where scientific theory progresses to acceptance or is discarded.
The first step is predictive power. Einstein’s Special Relativity made several predictions that were not testable at the time of its creation. Over time, experiments have been done, and they all support the predictions of Special Relativity. Ergo, it is commonly accepted (though Popper points out theories can only be disproven, never really proven).
The original global warming theorists made predictions based on computer modeling. It would start at the poles, reduce the length of the cold season in the cold climes, and proceed at a steady rate. Facts have not supported this prediction at all. warming has started at higher elevations, warmer climes, and has not been steady: CSU climate scientists point out two years of ocean cooling.
This is a very important observational study of changes in climate system heat content. While the models predict a general montonic increase in ocean heat content (e.g. see (Figure 1) ), the new observations in Lyman et al 2006 show an important decrease. The explanation of this temporal change in the radiative imbalance of the Earth’s climate system is a challenge to the climate science community. It does indicate that we know less about natural- and human-climate forcings and feedbacks than concluded in the IPCC Reports.
More research. We are all in agreement.
August 25, 2006
He Stole My Headline
Dan Henninger has a superb column today on l'affaire Cruise:
Depending on where you're standing, August has not been a good month.
Now if we could just get rid of the Dixie Chicks...
Even Christopher Shays
It seems likely that we won't have Senator Lincoln Chafee to kick around any more. If he survives his primary bid, there is a good chance the deeply azure Ocean State will turn him out for a real Democrat.
Of course, we might still have Rep Christopher Shays next door in Connecticut. I think it was Peggy Noonan who said that his first name should be "even" because Democrats would say "Even Christopher Shays said..."
Well, today the WaPo reports that Even Christopher "Urges Iraq Withdrawal."
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), once an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, said yesterday that the Bush administration should set a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops. He added that most of the withdrawal could take place next year.
Even Christopher Shays. It's not a partisan thing. He's a Republican.
August 24, 2006
I have teased the good folks at Amazon for some recommendations which I thought missed the mark. I am still a Long-tailer and Amazon recommendations are a part of that. How can you find new stuff you’ll like on an infinite shelf?
One of their recommendations caught my eye last week. "We've found that folks who purchase Diana Krall also purchase Tommy Emmanuel." So pony up, bud, it's $13 for his DVD Live at Her Majesty's Theatre.
I read some reviews and consulted Sugarchuck who knows every guitar player ever. Found out that this guy is known for instruction books. The reviews intrigued me just enough. I bought one for me and one for SC
I'll give it some serious stars. Tommy is an Aussie, he comes onstage in a small theater with a few battered acoustic guitars. He is a brilliant player, playing different styles but his foundation is the Chet Atkins/Merle Travis style. We have different tastes around here, but I can't imagine anybody's not liking this on some level. The honesty of the music and the virtuosity are something to see.
I'll share Sugarchuck's review (without his permission) "Remember the old arguments about flatpicking vs. fingerpicking and the incompatibility of the two. I guess that guy settled that for all time. Great, great stuff."
I have no idea what that means, but I think he liked it too.
Posted by John Kranz at 10:04 AM
August 23, 2006
Be Good Back There!
or I'm turning this plane around!
ANP said a police spokesman said 12 were arrested, but declined to give further details due to the ongoing investigation. Dutch police were not immediately available to comment on the report.
The Dutch defense ministry said earlier the pilot decided to turn back after the crew said several of the 149 passengers on flight 42 to Mumbai were behaving suspiciously.
No indication is given of any of the passengers' description or behaviour.
Which means they can only be ________________.
As many has predicted, Ned Lamont's narrow victory over Joe Lieberman in Connecticut is causing liberals and Democrats some heartburn.
Especially when Republican candidates take advantage of it.
From Rick Santorum's campaign...
Recently, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, a well-known supporter of Israel and the Jewish community, lost a narrow Democratic primary election in Connecticut against challenger Ned Lamont. As you may know, Lieberman has decided to run as an Independent in the upcoming general election. You may not be shocked to find out that Bobby Casey, Jr. DOES NOT SUPPORT Senator Lieberman in the upcoming election.
Democrats, wake up.
Neil Newhouse is the Republican pollster now shared by both Senators Santorum and Lieberman.
Y'all think I make this stuff up. Our government is endangering lives by bureaucratically keeping pharmaceutical innovation down. Dr. Henry Miller, a physician and former FDA official, points out in TCS today that the agency has had a confirmed commissioner for only 20 months of the Bush presidency ( I gave kudos to Dr. McClellan in May of 2003).
The acting head is facing a tough challenge in Senate hearings because all of government is really about abortion, and two Democratic Senators have a hold on his nomination. Even if Emily's list is placated, Miller is not excited that nominee Andrew von Eschenbach will champion the necessary reforms.
The lack of leadership makes the agency more risk averse than usual. And Miller reports that the innovation-suppressing is taking its toll.
In spite of increasingly more powerful and precise technologies for drug discovery, purification and production, during the past twenty years development costs have skyrocketed, with direct and indirect expenses now exceeding $800 million to bring an average drug to market. And the trends are ominous: the length of clinical testing for the average drug is increasing, fewer drugs are being approved, and the number of applications to FDA by industry for marketing approval has been decreasing for a decade.
Nope. Nobody sick out here and in need of new medications. Take your time.
The country -- and ThreeSources -- has focused much attention on whether or not the Federal government should subsidize Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research, and it is a valid, political question. At the same time, I wish that half of the effort directed at promoting more Federal $$ to ESC could be directed at the things which truly prevent miracle drugs: FDA bureaucracy and a rapacious tort bar.
Read the whole thing. It seems Europe has a largely private sector system for drug and device approvals. Oh well, they always lead the way in freedom...
A Hollywood celebrity is actually, financially punished for moonbatism. Mirabile dictu!
The Wall Street Journal (Kind of like E!, but with a conservative editorial page) reports Sumner Redstone Gives Tom Cruise His Walking Papers
In an unusually public rebuke, Viacom Inc. Chairman Sumner Redstone said that his company's movie studio, Paramount Pictures, plans to end its 14-year relationship with the 44-year-old Mr. Cruise and his film-production company. In an interview, Mr. Redstone, who is 83, was clear about the reason: Mr. Cruise's public antics and incessant stumping for personal causes, notably Scientology, have become intolerable and have been a drag on ticket sales for films like "Mission: Impossible III."
It seems "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."
You can take on the US Military, Christians, and the concept of freedom. But don't -- DON'T -- mess with South Park.
August 22, 2006
A Day for Headlines
I was ready to give Professor Reynolds the prize for "Ham on Pork"
...then, I saw TNR's story on the masturbating judge: "The Long Arm of the Law."
I rarely link to Taranto, because I assume that every ThreeSources reader reads Best Of The Web everyday.
But an item today is so perfect, I have to highlight it. He links to a Thomas Friedman column about Iranians who are displeased that their government is giving 500 million to Hezbollah, when their nation is still damaged by war and earthquakes. Taranto adds:
This is one reason why democratizing the Middle East is such an important goal. It's very unlikely that a democratic Iran would be waging war on Lebanon. Democracy is a check on unnecessary war. Indeed, a drawback of democracy is that it's sometimes a check on necessary war; just look at Old Europe and its approach to Iraq, Hezbollah, etc.
My idealism has been bruised and beaten these days. Republicans are distancing themselves from the President on Iraq, the Israel/Hezbollah war in Lebanon did not end as well as it could (that understates but captures ThreeSources opinion).
I turned in my neo-Wilsonian merit badge awhile back, but Mr. Taranto has put a little fight back in my Sharansky side. Why we fight. What's at stake. Thanks to ALL who serve!
Blood for Oil
An Iranian naval vessel fired on the rig owned by Romania's Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP) in the Salman field and took control of its radio room at about 7:00 a.m. local time, Lulu Tabanesku, Grup's representative in the United Arab Emirates said in a phone interview from Dubai today.
``The Iranians fired at the rig's crane with machine guns,'' Tabanesku said. ``They are in control now and we can't contact the rig.'' The Romanian company has 26 workers on the platform, he said.
Iran, which holds the world's second-largest oil and gas reserves, is due to respond today to a European Union-led offer of incentives aimed at persuading it to halt uranium enrichment activities that are crucial to its nuclear program.
Wonderful. Let's continue diplomacy.
The Dark Side of Valuing Life
Okay, I've written my provocative headline for the year.
We do value life. People complain that we live in a "disposable society" because we replace instead of repair things."We value human labor and thought more than a television set!" retorts I, "This is a good thing."
Kids wearing bicycle helmets strikes old- schoolers as "wussification." I'm concerned that we pamper youth, but much of it is valuing life highly. The same can be said for lawsuits. Life is not cheap anymore.
When an IDF company attacked the mountain town of Bint Jbail, losing eight men in one night, that number was perceived in Israel - and broadcast around the world - as a disastrous loss.
As Patton said "thank God that such men lived." They still live. Is not Iraq worth as much as eight square miles?
Ambassador Young's Gaffe
I teased Ambassador Andrew Young, in a post last week, for his racial slurs. It's always fun to hear a civil rights icon blasting other minorities.
I got to thinking, however, that Wal*Mart really comes out well in this. Michael Kinsley said "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth," and there is a bit of truth in Yong's comments. The small urban grocers, irrespective of race, did not provide good prices or service to their customers. There is also verisimilitude in Young's assertion that differences in race exacerbated this tension.
The WSJ Ed Page defends these shopkeepers.
To his credit, Mr. Young has distinguished himself from much of the black left by not siding with Big Labor, environmentalists and other liberals who would happily deny minorities the jobs and low-price goods that big-box stores have to offer. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that Mr. Young's economic analysis is so off-base.
Fair enough. But a Wal*Mart would provide far more to the community. Young essentially made a point that Wal*Mart never could have, and highlighted the fact a Wal*Mart would do a lot more for a community that the beloved mom and pop shop.
August 21, 2006
Freedom On Retreat
I will agree with The Wall Street Journal (free link) that the United States, Israel, and the cause of freedom have suffered a serious setback in Lebanon. The French have sandbagged us, the U.N. itself has shown its indifference to freedom, and the Bush/Rice promise that the region will not return to "the status quo ante" has been broken.
On Thursday, Jacques Chirac confirmed a Le Monde report that his government was prepared to offer only some 200 combat engineers (in addition to the 200 French troops already in Lebanon) to what is supposed to be the resolution's centerpiece: A 15,000-man U.N. force that will help the Lebanese army patrol their southern border and ensure that Hezbollah will no longer use the area as a staging ground for future attacks against Israel.
I will not join them in ascribing blame to the Secretary of State.
The person who should really be furious here is Secretary of State Rice. She midwifed this cease-fire in the name of Lebanese democracy and as a way to use diplomacy, and the U.N., to tame Hezbollah and frustrate its patrons. She also believed French promises, so it'd be good to know if she now feels she was lied to. If this U.N. exercise turns out to be as feckless as it increasingly appears, U.S. credibility will also be a loser.
As I commented before, I think the Secretary has been charged by the President to pursue the diplomatic tack. I don't think French perfidy is a surprise to her nor is the lesson is hers. The lesson here should be for the "multilateralists who believe that Kofi Annan's crew can solve problems in a difficult and dangerous world. Ned Lamont says we should negotiate with Iran and Syria. Sadly, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) agrees.
Yet another failure of diplomacy, as Iran tests ten missiles and continues development of nuclear weapons. And the lesson remains unlearned.
August 20, 2006
Damn the Torpedoes
Why do we bother with these people? They're a perfect example of why diplomacy without muscle to back it up, is worthless.
Iran says it will formally respond by Tuesday to proposals made by the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. The six have offered incentives for Iran to suspend enrichment, a process that has both military and civilian uses.
Tehran, which insists its nuclear aims are purely civilian, shows no sign of accepting the package.
"We are not going to suspend (enrichment). The issue was that everything should come out of negotiations, but suspension of uranium enrichment is not on our agenda," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.
They're not going to stop.
At that point, why don't the diplomats hang it up?
Free Market Airline Security
Passengers told cabin crew they feared for their safety and demanded police action. Some stormed off the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320 minutes before it was due to leave the Costa del Sol at 3am. Others waiting for Flight ZB 613 in the departure lounge refused to board it.
The incident fuels the row over airport security following the arrest of more than 20 people [what kind of "people"? -AlexC] allegedly planning the suicide-bombing of transatlantic jets from the UK to America. It comes amid growing demands for passenger-profiling and selective security checks.
It also raised fears that more travellers will take the law into their own hands - effectively conducting their own 'passenger profiles'.
Here's a crazy idea. TSA and airport security do their job (ie not-profiling), and encourage the passengers do the final round of security. Like this flight.
These two passengers raised enough concern (right or wrong) that the other passengers held the plane up. The passengers (and the crew, natch) have their own safety intimately in mind. Let them make the call.
The logistics of it might be tricky. (Does each seat have a "protest a passenger" button?)
Sunday Morning Fare
For bloggers in one of those square states out west, the fifth Rocky Mountain Bloggers bash is nigh.
August 19, 2006
Spotted by an alert ThreeSources reader in the great State of Nebraska:
George W. Bush... saving your ass whether you like it or not!
UPDATE: I'm corrected, it is a hat-tip to Jay Nordliner at NRO. I like the Nebraska story better, but we are all about the truth here at ThreeSources.
August 18, 2006
The Carter Years
My post yesterday was meant to remind people that the effects of elected bodies last longer than their terms.
President Carter served one term between 1977 and 1981. I trace a lot of terrorism back to his decision to not seriously pursue the Iranians who took American hostages.
Is it me, or are the Carter Years back? Grab your 8-tracks and start up the Pacer. Our 39th President himself made news yesterday with Arabist prattle and partisan attacks on the current Administration.
Jimmy Carter says he's concerned that Arab hatred of the United States will only continue to grow given the Bush administration's support for what he calls Israel's "unjustified attack" on Lebanese civilians.Then Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, whom he appointed, made what appears to be a patently political rebuke of the NSA surveillance program (Carter's people have a freakin' gift for timing, don't they?)
Now Andrew Young, Carter's UN Ambassador and civil rights icon is stepping down from a position because he made racial remarks. The Wall Street Journal News Page reports that "Civil-rights leader Andrew Young, who was hired to help Wal-Mart Stores Inc. improve its public image, said early Friday he was stepping down from his position as head of an outside support group amid criticism for remarks seen as racially offensive."
When asked about whether Wal*Mart should be faulted for pushing local retailers out, Young had a reply which does not come from the Wal*Mart PR playbook:
"Well, I think they should; they ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Mr. Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."
I don't think he's out of a gig for long. The DNC will hire him to come up to Sausalito, Westchester county and the Hamptons to blast Wal*Mart. He'll probably get a raise.
All this from a single term. Just say no to a Democratic 110th.
UPDATE: I changed the link on the Judge Taylor Item to a free WSJ Editorial that better captures my accusation of partisanship. The editorial makes the point I've been crying to hear somebody else say about the NSA surveillance:
Judge Taylor sees an analogy here, but she manages to forget or overlook that no one is being denied his liberty and no evidence is being brought in criminal proceedings based on what the NSA might learn through listening to al Qaeda communications. The wiretapping program is an intelligence operation, not a law-enforcement proceeding.
That's the biggest argument in favor of the program (well, until 8/10).
August 17, 2006
Freedom Lovers in Hollywood
I completely missed this. Insty had a link yesterday, I am still reeling. It seems Nicole Kidman and some high-profile pals took out an ad in the LATimes to -- mirabile dictu -- oppose terrorism.
The actress, joined by 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper.
The Flaw in "Give Them Two Years"
An emailer today suggests that Democrats' taking charge in 2006 would force them to get serious about the war or show the country that they are not. A lot of Republicans (I'm pretty sure this guy would call himself one) are saying that. "Show the country what fools they are" I hear from less thoughtful people than my emailer.
No. And here's why. I'll recommend a great book: It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP by Peter Robinson. He has this great riff in there about "If they don't win, they don't eat." He claims that Republican candidates can more frequently return to the private sector and make more than they would had they won (cf. Pete Coors). Democratic candidates may be wealthy but their staff members need the gig, and activists need victorious Democrats to give them work.
Two years of Pelosi-Reid rule will rejuvenate and reactivate the base of Democratic staffers. The WaPo reports Democrats' Stock Is Rising on K Street
Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.
Two years will cause much harm on K Street, remove any chance of another excellent SCOTUS nomination from President Bush, and will set back the war on terror. All of this lasts longer than two years.
Bring Back The Poll Tax
An Arizona Democrat is pursuing, by referendum, an initiative to give one lucky voter $1,000,000 [Insert your pinky in your mouth and use you Dr. Evil voice, if it helps] to increase voter turnout.
A WSL guest ed (free link) explains the ballot initiative and some past measures by its champion, including public funding of elections (boo!) and anti-gerrymandering (yay!). He addresses my complaint but misses:
One complaint that earns a scowl from the twinkle-eyed Mr. Osterloh is that "bad voters" will jam into polling places. "Bad voters?" he harrumphs, claiming just the opposite: that voters who stand to win $1 million will at long last take a personal interest in upcoming elections.
I wouldn't use the term "bad voters" but the Bush v. Gore decision referenced a quote suggesting voters act with "the solemnity the occasion deserves." My trouble is that the million bucks will not make anybody more informed. Increasing the body count is important to some, but not me.
To not vote is a vote. In an economic light, you say that you have more valuable uses for your time. Maybe things are fine, or you don't like the candidates, or don't think they differ, whatever. It is your choice.
This will dent the "none of the above" vote that stays home and also increase fraud.
I have been having a long email discussion with a close relative who votes Republican and supports the War on Terror, yet thinks Israel has no right to exist, that it never should have been put there, and that her citizens should apologize and leave.
This relative is blessed with great humor and sends this today as a denoment to our discussion:
A fleeing al-Qaida guerrilla, desperate for water, was plodding through the desert when he saw something far off in the distance.
Posted by John Kranz at 9:47 AM
August 16, 2006
I'll have another cup
Who says there's no good news? Or that the NYTimes cannot be trusted?
A comprehensive, demonstrably true, well-reasoned and unbiased article sums up the positive effects of coffee. Studies suggest that coffee "reduces the risk of several serious ailments, including diabetes, heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver"
Nobody knows why, but it is suggested that:
Coffee contains antioxidants that help control the cell damage that can contribute to the development of the disease. It is also a source of chlorogenic acid, which has been shown in animal experiments to reduce glucose concentrations.
The more you drink, the better, although after six cups per day, the effects level off. I'm a big guy, I better have eight just to be safe.
I might sign up for TimesSelect, and Home delivery. The yuppies on the TV commercials look kinda wired.
Posted by John Kranz at 6:46 PM
XM vs Sirius
The Washington Post weighs in.
And the answer?
"Depends what you're looking for."
Myself, I got Sirius with a car I bought in 2004. Never really planned on getting either, since most of my (admittedly little) car time was spent listening to CDs or talk radio. But I gave it a shot and quickly discovered "First Wave" ... a station which plays New Wave bands of the late 70s and 80s. Perfect.
And "Hairnation"... 80's hair bands..... but my latest love. "Super Shuffle"
It plays random music from a variety of genres.... Hank Williams to Weezer and everything in between.
I thought I'd be listening to Howard Stern more, but I'm not exactly a morning person, either.
JK, your thoughts on XM?
One Trick Pony
People who have come to ThreeSources for reasoned debate and rational political dialogue might want to click on the blogroll or scroll down quickly. I've just read a disingenuous piece and I cannot guarantee politeness.
In the past week, my victory in the Connecticut Senate primary has been labeled everything from the death knell of the Democratic Party to the signal of our party's rebirth. Beneath all of this punditry is a question that I want to face directly: how the experience I will bring to the U.S. Senate will help Connecticut and the Democratic Party during this time of testing for our country.
So opens Democratic Senate Nominee for Connecticut (and daring of the left) Ned Lamont, in his guest editorial (free site) in the Wall Street Journal today.
Lamont is going to bring the entrepreneurial traits that worked for him in business (how do you think he can afford a Senate seat?) to government. He's not just an anti-war candidate, he's a businessman!
First, entrepreneurs are frugal beasts, because the bottom line means everything. In Connecticut, voters are convinced that Washington has utterly lost touch with fiscal reality. We talked about irresponsible budget policies that have driven the annual federal deficit above $300 billion and the debt ceiling to $9 trillion. Meanwhile, the government is spending $250 million a day on an unprovoked war in Iraq while starving needed social investment at home. I am a fiscal conservative and our people want their government to be sparing and sensible with their tax dollars.
Not anti-war per se, he just objects to the money! Democrats who claim to be "fiscally responsible" and worried about the deficit want to raise taxes. Mr. Lamont will NOT present any spending cuts between now and November except the big savings from our hurried and unconditional surrender in Iraq. Withdrawal -- it's just good business!
Second, entrepreneurs invest in human resources. Our business strives to pay good wages and provide good health benefits so that we can attract employees that give us an edge in a competitive marketplace. Well-trained and well-cared-for people are essential for every business these days, particularly in a global economy. It's getting harder and harder for American businesses to compete on price, but we innovate and change better than any economy on the planet. The quality of our work force is one of America's competitive advantages--if our education system fails our children and our employers, we'll lose the future.
Can anybody parse this into something remotely policy oriented? He is for good wages, and well cared for people and is against bad education. This will differentiate him from his pro-bad education opponents. Senator Lieberman was lobbying for bad wages.
That's why I believe in an employer-based health-care system that covers everyone, and providing tax benefits to small businesses so they can provide insurance without risking bankruptcy.
Taranto makes a little hay here, quoting Lamont blasting this idea of Sen. Lieberman:” When it comes to universal health care for everybody in this country as a basic right, that's a principle of the Democratic Party that Sen. Lieberman has never quite embraced. He's come up with tax incentives for businesses to see if they might be a little more inclined to insure their people." Accept only Ned Lamont super-effective tax incentives!
Third, in a market-driven economy, entrepreneurs can never lose touch with what customers, suppliers and workers are saying. A great strength of our campaign is that we embraced the grassroots and netroots, suburbs and inner cities, and used the most advanced technology to empower our door-knockers and activists. We listened hard and respectfully to what voters told us, and gave them the confidence to trust someone new.
Elect someone with good activists and door-knockers!
Finally, entrepreneurs are pragmatic. Unlike some politicians, we don't draw a false strength from closed minds, and we don't step on the accelerator when the car is headed off the cliff.
Did I mention cut-and-run?
The line on Lamont was that he was just a single issue candidate. I cannot say that he has dispelled that with this less-than-stunning-exegesis. He claims he has presented alternatives to standardized tests and No Child Left Behind, but he didn't really have room to elaborate.
Take four seconds and read the whole thing. There are no serious ideas or detailed policy to trip over.
When TSA searches your checked luggage they used to put a note in saying "Hey we opened your bag."
When did this policy end? Was there any official notice? Is it something that the TSA in Philadelphia decided to do on it's own?
Yesterday I checked a bag with some clothes and some fly fishing gear. The fishing gear included a hemostat (looks like scissors, but used like pliers), flies, hooks, and fly floatant. For those who don't know, fly floatant is a liquid/gel product that you put on the fly to keep it afloat. All of the fly fishing gear was stored in a glorified fanny pack, which was velcroed shut.
When I unpacked, I noticed that the fly floatant wasn't in the pouch anymore. There's no way it could have flopped out of the pouch. It was laying loose in the suitcase, and the pouch was still velcroed shut.
I'm amazed that they found the floatant. I suspect that the hemostat showed up on an x-ray and figured that they opened it up then. But where's my note? ... and why not put it back where it belongs?
For what it's worth, a month ago, I carried the same setup on the plane. No problems... I wish they would profile frequent fliers and let us be.
Peace in Our Time
Resolution 1701 shows that, for the time being at least, the balance has likewise shifted to the terrorists and their state sponsors. Like Munich, it marks the triumph of the principle of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today. Like Munich, it will mean not peace in our time, but a bigger war in our future.
Read It All
Back in my day, we only had NINE PLANETS! .... and that's how we liked it!
The solar system has 12 planets, not nine.
That's the earthshaking conclusion of an influential international committee, which on Wednesday will recommend a new definition of what qualifies as a planet.
The change is necessary, experts say, because of discoveries in the past decade that have revealed a glut of Pluto-sized bodies beyond the orbit of Pluto - until now considered the furthest planet from the sun.
Governments Don't Set Wages
But they can sure screw things up. A Wall Street Journal editorial reports that Chicago's new minimum wage had the effect an economist would predict, rather than a liberal alderman's "immanentizing the eschaton."
Target was the first big chain to react, recently cancelling plans to open a new superstore in a run-down area on the city's North side. Only a few months ago the project was hailed by city leaders as an anchor for redeveloping that depressed neighborhood. Now it gets to stay depressed. Wal-Mart has also announced that its plans to build 20 new stores in the city over the next five years are "on hold" until the wage issue is resolved.
Governments don't set wages. The market does. All government can do is to make low wage work illegal. Is that what Chicago needs?
August 15, 2006
A video for you caninephiles.
Posted by John Kranz at 7:24 PM
Doggies, it has been one year since I started my clinical trial. (That's 416 shots, but who's counting?).
That meant a day of doctor's visits and MRIs. Maybe socialized medicine would be better, they would not have had time to see me. Go Hillary!
Back to blogging and Republicanism tomorrow…
Posted by John Kranz at 7:10 PM
August 14, 2006
The WaPo leads their email with For GOP, Bad Gets Worse in Northeast
PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. -- When it comes to President Bush and the Republican Congress, Rep. Jim Gerlach says voters in his suburban Philadelphia district are in a "sour mood."
In a way, it is dog-bites-man that the Northeast is tougher on President Bush and the GOP, but the House is up for grabs this year. If popular Republicans cannot hold seats in blue districts, it will be nearly impossible to hold majorities.
I can take some bad news, but soon after reading that, I read Michael Rosen's piece in TCS. It questions Jewish predilection for the Democratic party but contains this reminder of what is at stake:
Take the vote in the House of Representatives for the Stand With Israel resolution introduced on July 21 by Republican leader John Boehner in which the House "reaffirm[ed] its steadfast support for the State of Israel; condemn[ed] Hamas and Hezbollah;...and support[ed] Israel's right to take appropriate action to defend itself."
As bad as "Speaker Pelosi" sounds, "Chairman Dingell," "Chairman Rangel..."
I'm going back to bed.
Not after these foreign policy wins.
An Army of Game Programmers
Glenn Reynolds's "An Army of Davids" chronicles the movement from passive enjoyment of a beer, or music, or political punditry to active participation in its creation. Chris Andersen's "The Long Tail" identifies technologies that enable this as well as technologies that allows users to find and enjoy this new content.
The Wall Street Journal reports (paid link, sorry!) that Microsoft is introducing software to enable this trend on Xbox games.
Peter Moore, the Microsoft corporate vice president who leads the company's game efforts, said Microsoft's goal is to make creation of Xbox 360 game as easy as "drag and drop," using simple mouse and menu commands familiar to average users of a Windows PC. Mr. Moore said his objective is to engage Xbox 360 users in the creation of games the way sites like YouTube have given rise to countless amateur movie makers. "We're seeing a desire for rawer content, where you can put your hand up and say, 'I made this,'" Mr. Moore said in an interview.
I'm still surprised at the number of people dismissing these trends. Just because everybody hasn't given up "American Idol" for YouTube and just because Eminem still sells millions, they think it is not happening.
I started in advertising just as desktop publishing was taking hold. We sent our type to a typesetter and pasted ads up on a drafting table. My first album was mastered in Nashville and (don't laugh) released on Vinyl. Doubters don't seem to be looking too closely.
August 13, 2006
Public service time: Do not rent or purchase “C.S.A.”
I had my concerns but I love counterfactuals. I consider them a lively way to learn history's consequences as well as facts. I highly recommend the What If? books. They give insightful and intelligent commentary on how different the world could look with a small change of historical facts.
Last week's review corner included British actor Stephen Fry, who has also written some very good books. One, Making History, is a counterfactual of sorts where a young Physicist uses time travel to prevent Adolf Hitler's birth. This book, like What If, has some nuance. Actions have reactions and the removal of one figure does not supersede the unfairness at Versailles or economic forces of post-Weimar Germany.
"C.S.A" displays exactly zero nuance. Like good counterfactuals, it exploits a tipping point. Washington almost lost a huge percentage of Continental forces at Brooklyn. If not for fog and quick thinking, the war could have been lost early. Fry's setup is a little more far-fetched, but his is a novel. The Confederacy was close to bringing in Europe on her side, and in this mock-British-documentary, that is exactly what happened. Grant surrendered to Lee. Lincoln flees to Canada (using the Underground Railway) and dies in relative obscurity. So far, so good...
Most of the film is then devoted to the idea of a modern slave-owning and drawl-speaking continental power. Chattel slavery of Africans was so good, it was spread to include Asians on the west coast, and a caste system in Latin America. The Ken Burns style look at the War is interrupted by commercials for "The Shackle" to keep your property in line, "Black Sambo" racing oil, and a sequence of minstrel spots for restaurants and foodstuffs.
There is a great line in "The Simpsons." Apu is applying for U.S. Citizenship. During an oral history exam, he is asked " What was the cause of the Civil War?" He responds, "Actually, there were numerous causes. Aside from the obvious schism between the abolitionists and the anti-abolitionists, there were economic factors, both domestic and inter--" He is interrupted: "Wait, wait... just say slavery" and he confirms: "Slavery it is, sir."
I wouldn't call myself a Southern sympathizer. Most of my kin dressed in Gray and I am very glad they lost. Slavery outweighed any beneficent aspects of their cause. Yet I am aggravated when people cannot see any other factors. It's lazy thought.
And lazy thought carries on for two hours here. One star. Skip it.
August 12, 2006
My friend Chris Lilik is going to be blogging for the Club for Growth!
Remember when fiscal conservatives were successful at voting a couple of big-spending Republicans out of office during the PA primaries earlier this year? Chris did a lot behind the scenes to make that happen.
Posted by AlexC at 6:11 PM
France Sandbags US Another Time
Taranto would put that in his "Bottom Headlines of the Day." Dog bites Man. A week ago, France and the US were together Mon Dieu! on a cease fire resolution. But when we got to Turtle Bay -- stop me if you've heard this story -- France had been persuaded by Arab diplomats to pull support and demand more concessions from the forces of freedom
The WaPo has the lugubrious details.
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 11 -- The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday that calls for a halt to the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and authorizes the deployment of 15,000 foreign troops to help the Lebanese army take control of southern Lebanon.
I am amazed that PM Olmert is buying into this. Charles Krauthammer pointed out that diplomacy doesn't get you things that your army doesn't win on the ground. It is perhaps a military defeat for Israel.
But I wish we had fought with France for another week and let the IDF waste a few hundred more rockets.
August 11, 2006
Smoke 'em if you got 'em
I quit smoking about 15 years ago. Unlike poor President Johnson, I lost the cravings over the course of several years. I could even have an occasional one (in Ireland, everybody smokes) but I am a cured man. That is, until I read Clay Risen's column in TNR online.
Now I think it may be my duty to take it up. Risen is upset at people who call themselves liberal and advance a liberal agenda (We're talking Humphrey liberals here, not von Mises), yet, gasp-cough-cough, smoke! Not only do they contribute to pollution and give their money to evil tobacco companies, but they express solidarity with bete noir Ayn Rand!
Among Ayn Rand's stranger quirks was her insistence that smoking was not just a right, but a moral obligation. To her, the burning cigarette was nothing less than the physical embodiment of the individual spirit: "When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind--and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression," she wrote in her propaganda tract-cum-novel Atlas Shrugged.
These people are such scolds. They decry Puritanism, but they want to bring back the stocks for smokers, and SUV drivers, and Wal*Mart shoppers, and people who don't listen to NPR.
For Rand, while the personal consequences of smoking proved ultimately compelling (she gave up once she developed lung cancer), it's highly unlikely that the environmental or public health arguments would have mattered much; after all, under her philosophy of radical selfishness, her desires were absolute trumps over any construction of the "greater good."
This says a lot more about Mr. Risen than it says about Ms. Rand.
More details on as mentioned yesterday...
And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who's bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that "the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists."
Sad, but true.
(tip to the professor)
August 10, 2006
The NYTimes Europe reports
WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — American intelligence officials said today that they and their British counterparts had been tracking terrorists for months before the schemers were rounded up in Britain, and that they could not say positively that all the plotters had yet been caught.
Am I the only one around here who is worried that some of their civil rights may have been violated in this surveillance? Why didn't the New York Times alert these poor people in time?
The Real Loser in Connecticut: TNR
I get distressed that there are so few free traders and libertarians in the GOP. Imagine being a center-left type in the Democratic party after Tuesday's CT Senate primary.
The head of the non-loony left is certainly The New Republic. (Kos calls it a neocon book!) Today, Thomas Edsall asks Does Joe Lieberman's defeat spell doom for Democrats in 2008? Edsall says "Yes."
In a quick and dirty analysis of the difference between the Lamont and Lieberman voters based on income, education, and other demographic data from across Connecticut, Ken Strasma of Strategic Telemetry found that Lamont's strongest support came from areas with high housing values, voters with college or graduate degrees, and parents with children in private schools. Lieberman's votes, in contrast, came from the cities, renters, blue-collar and service-sector workers, and those receiving Social Security benefits.
The 2008 hopefuls are already falling into line:
Already, a number of prospective Democratic 2008 candidates have begun to adjust to the early leverage of the upscale, antiwar wing of the party. John Kerry, a Democratic weather vane, has tacked left on the war, renounced his past vote for the military action in Iraq, and sought to the support in the antiwar blogosphere.
Michael Barone makes the exact same point in a guest editorial in today's WSJ (paid link, sorry)
The Connecticut primary reveals that the center of gravity in the Democratic Party has moved, from the lunch-bucket working class that was the dominant constituency up through the 1960s to the secular transnational professional class that was the dominant constituency in the 2004 presidential cycle. You can see the results on the map. Joe Lieberman carried by and large the same cities and towns that John F. Kennedy carried in the 1960 presidential general election.
I think Mr. Edsall is more disturbed by this trend than Mr. Barone.
Ned-renaline or McCain Feingold?
We can all take what we will from Ned Lamont's victory in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary last night. Like many, I see it as the moonbat left flexing its muscle in a blue state, but telling the whole nation that pro-war politicians will not be welcome in the national party.
Ed Crane at Cato has an interesting angle. He notes that Campaign Finance Reform was highly protective of incumbents, but the only "loophole" was for self-financed candidates. Crane thinks we may be seeing a lot more.
More than 60 percent of Ned’s campaign expenditures came from Ned. Without Ned, Ned loses. In fact, no political observer thought any candidate dependent on a $2000 contribution limit had any kind of chance of ousting Lieberman. Ned was a very poor candidate. Inarticulate with zero charisma. But by spending his own money he enfranchised the Democrats of Connecticut who otherwise, given the contribution limits, were disenfranchised. The Democrats in Connecticut hate the war in Iraq, Lieberman has rather energetically endorsed it. Yet the federal election laws would have assured Lieberman reelection were it not for the “loophole.”
August 8, 2006
Let Go of My Car!
A fancy new garage controlled by a robot that inserts cars into slots stopped working.
The Hoboken garage is one of a handful of fully automated parking structures that make more efficient use of space by eliminating ramps and driving lanes, lifting and sliding automobiles into slots and shuffling them as needed. If the robot shuts down, there is no practical way to manually remove parked vehicles.
The city began licensing the software month by month, and whoops... eventually the software expired.
It's funny, but I think that's kind of weak. They own the garage, they should have paid for the software and all should have moved on. I don't know how advanced garage automation is, so maybe there'd be a small maintenance fee yearly. A lot of very high end software is sold that way. But it shouldn't stop the garage.
In the 80s, there was a company selling compressor and turbine control software to third world nations.... and companies within them. Obviously on big equipment, it gets installed, running and then the payments get completed. After a run of "non-payments" the controls company began installing code with a month or two "startup grace", and then after a while, it would stop. If you're using turbines to make electricity, you can imagine what kind of a bind that put the theives in.
The WSJ Imitates AlexC
I may have to turn in my ThreeSources Optimist badge, but I see this as a net loss for ANWR. This will contravene the assertions that the work will be environmentally friendly and the environmentalists will use it to play up the dangers.
I've come to the conclusion that Democrats simply don't stand for anything outside of bashing big business.
Now some are calling for Congressional investigations. Congressman John Dingell, the House Energy and Commerce Committee top Democrat.
Congress is now out for its month-long summer recess, and any hearings on the shutdown would not take place until lawmakers return in early September.
These Democrats are the same ones that argue that ANWR's additional oil production will only be a drop in the bucket.
Especially when the Energy Information Administrations thinks that there might be anywhere from 600,000 to 1.9 Million bbls per day available from ANWR.
Either an additional 1,000,000 bbls is important to our nation, or 400,000 isn't.... and based on the doomsday rhetoric from the media regarding the Prudhoe Bay shutdown, it sounds like it is.
August 7, 2006
Greg Gutfield defines fear from the left
It's a good mix of seriousness and levity... but they're mostly serious. Like the above example.
Saw this over at Club for Growth's Blog.
In March, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, offered her apparent blessing for the minimum waiting times by announcing they would be "appropriate" in some cases. Amid fears about £1.27 billion of NHS debts, she expressed concern that some hospitals were so productive "they actually got ahead of what the NHS could afford".
The lesson here? In the United Kingdom, if you do your job quickly, seeing more patients, you're going to be kneecapped.
Nice. Let's take two helpings of that here.
UPDATE: jk busting in on another's post, here. I wanted to give a link to a thoughful post on this topic from Perry at Eidelblog.
Back to Internecine Strife
The serious situation in the Middle East has brought the freedom lovers of ThreeSources together. Allow me to fire a rhetorical Katyusha somewhere into the comity.
Virginia University professor Larry Sabato is a pretty serious guy in reading and interpreting polls. While he is not expressly partisan, he is obviously sympathetic to conservatives and Republicans.
Friday night on Larry Kudlow's show, Sabato said if the election were held today, Republicans would lose the house by a wide margin and would lose five Senate seats, keeping the Dick Cheney majority unless the Democrats found a lucky sixth. Rep. Harold Ford was on the same show. He's not one of the five, and he is a very impressive candidate whom the party will back to the hilt.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn was on as well. She is convinced the answer is border security. Her constituents in Tennessee are swamped (really?)
I like Rep Blackburn, but I have to go with the Wall Street Journal Ed page. Today they wonder if Rep. Pence and Sen. Hutchinson will be able to "talk the party down from the ledge."
GOP Representative Mike Pence of Indiana has been pushing an immigration compromise that he hopes will end the stand-off between the House, which has passed a bill focusing entirely on enforcement, and the Senate, whose bill combines more security with a guest-worker program.
This is compromise sausage, the editorial and I find much to dislike about it Yet Rep Ford presaged the campaigns to come, accusing his GOP colleague of "getting nothing done on Immigration, even though you control both houses of Congress and the White House.”
The Tancredo wing is still convinced that obstructionism is a winner.
These objections aside, we'd consider it progress if the House and Senate ever reached the point of discussing these details. And thanks to Representative Pence and Senator Hutchison, there's still a chance that might happen. First, however, they must convince their GOP colleagues that voters would prefer a solution to divisive rhetoric. That will be a tough sell, especially without the help of Democrats who are only too happy to use the stalemate as a campaign issue in November.
Sounds like "Speaker Pelosi" and "Majority Leader Reid" to me...
August 6, 2006
One of the best political stimulants, is shame.
The Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommmittee on Federal Financial Management has introduced a bipartisan bill to create a Google-like online searchable database of all federal spending. Currently, said Coburn, there is no way for taxpayers to find out what the federal government is paying individuals, groups, localities, and contractors. "This bill will empower citizens investigators to root out waste, fraud, and abuse," the Oklahoma Republican, a leading opponent of pork, told U.S. News.
He has earned a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Republicans John McCain and Rick Santorum and Democrat Barack Obama. Since most of the information is already online or in digital data records that could be easily posted, the cost would be comparatively small.
This is a good thing. There's plenty of shame to go around.
Hopefully you can group it by Senator / Congressman and see what they've introduced... and give you a dollar total.
CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave, "Pork Slayer"
JK blogged a couple weeks ago about Club for Growth's legislative pork scorecard. Poor JK's representative, Mark Udall in CO's 2nd district, rarely saw a pork bill he would kill. Mine on the other hand, Marilyn Musgrave of CO-04, is a veritable "pork slayer" by comparison. Her score: 15 of 19. Who can say exactly why she failed to oppose four of the earmarks without in depth research (or maybe calling her office to ask) but who has time for that? A cursory analysis shows that three of them were agricultural earmarks (and hers is a heavily ag district) and a $4M "education research" sop. (I guess nobody is willing to take on the NEA.)
Despite the heavy rural component in CO-04 it also includes the heavily liberal Larimer county, home of Colorado State University and the usual "progressive" suspects. In '04 Musgrave beat an established state Democrat, Stan Matsunaka, 51% to 45%. It's not a 'gimme' district for the GOP so it attracts national attention from the DNC. This year appears to be no different.
There's already been no shortage of radio spots for Paccione, criticizing the "Bush/Musgrave" agenda on Iraq and illegal immigration. This weekend, Marliyn started shooting back. Her first radio spot cites Paccione's votes in the CO legislature for state tuition subsidies to illegal immigrant students, then informs us that ol' Angie defaulted on her very own student loans! The CO student loan board apparently took her to court and her solution was to declare bankruptcy. Ouch, that's gonna hurt!
Salena Zito looks at who the two parties think they are.
Republicans, on the other hand, face not so much a struggle for identity, but a battle.
Fifteen years ago, Republicans confronted their identity crisis with Newt Gingrich and the "Contract with America." That revolution was designed to reunite everyone under one big tent.
It is considered to have been successful because it has sustained a congressional majority based on reform, responsible government and a strong defense.
It's also kept Republicans united, minimizing the inside-party battles that are consuming Democrats.
The struggle now for Republicans is not about where the party stands as much as who is doing the standing on the soapbox.
Regarding the Democrats, I think the only thing unifying them is "we're not them." Them being Bush, their opponent (see Pa's Bob Casey) and Republicans in general.
A dubious electoral strategy at best. What are they for?
It depends who you ask. The Republicans, I believe, haven't had that problem.
August 5, 2006
R for Review Corner
Warner Brothers made a movie for ThreeSourcers. They created a testament to the power of ideas, the danger of collectivism, the importance for retaining a Sharansky free society instead of a fear society. They lined up superb acting, great writing and incomparable cinematography The movie would be called V For Vendetta.
Then, the politically-correct multiculturalism police got hold of the script. "Are you Different-reality-enabled?" they asked the studio. "This contravenes everything we stand for." A last minute deal allowed them to make their choice of three script changes. Production continued.
The movie suffers from the last minute changes but remains a great film. The changes are so obvious and transparent that they can be easily ignored. Let's cover these flaws first:
1) Make the evil leader conservative and Christian! or "I wish I was in a land Orwell-sotten, Irony there ain't forgotten..."
2) Gay characters risk their life to keep a copy of the Koran.
3) The ultimate villain will, of course, have controlling interest in a pharmaceutical company.
Plus a few gratuitous swipes at "the former United States" and its problems, but who's counting?
Educated viewers who realize that the bad guys are collectivist socialists, that the serious contraband is anti-government artwork, and that the over-controlling state remains the real enemy, can make the translation in their heads real time, and enjoy one of the great movies of this year (or most others).
The look, the dialogue, the pace and the acting of this film are perfect in every way. Portman is lovely and credible without being glamorous. Several individual performances could be highlighted. I'm not a comic book guy and I had no prior knowledge of the characters or plot (I know a bit about Guy Fawkes!) I saw the movie because of the tag line "People should not be afraid of the Government. Government should be afraid of the people." On that sentiment it did not disappoint.
The film was released in DVD last Tuesday. If you have not seen it drop the mouse and go rent it. 4.5 Stars.
UPDATE: A commenter points out that the ideological flaws are more serious than I allow; I will back my rating down to four stars.
News You Can Use
In celebration of Three Sources Firearm Safety Week 2006, I bought a small safe. Not having kids, and living in a pretty safe neighborhood, I have been able to blow off the important responsibility of storage. A blog post last week made me feel guilty, and I found this little jewel on the Internet for $98.00.
The gun-control forces cannot hide their feelings of intellectual superiority to the bucolic hayseeds who choose to take an active role in their personal protection. I have always attributed it to elitism, but now I wonder if they don't have a point.
Posted by John Kranz at 3:19 PM
Turtle Bay Two-Step
"Countries Near Agreement on Resolution" the headline reads. In the matter of open warfare between Israel and hateful religious zealots armed with military ordnance by the hateful religious regime in Iran, an agreement to resolve the situation has nearly been reached between: Paris and Washington.
Dagny wonders, "Who is going to deliver that message to Hezbollah?" "I think it may have to be delivered to Iran on their behalf... via B-52," I quipped.
Seriously though, I think Israel should tell all the meddling busybodies in foreign capitals who seek to end Israel's vigorous self-defense that they will stop trying to kill Hezbollah fighters and destroy their weapons "just as soon as you get your ass over here and make us."
Multiculturalism Shrugs II
Two days ago I blogged about Tony Blair's newfound respect for the western cultural values of freedom, tolerance, and respect for the rights of others. Today I was reminded of a radio interview around the same time as Blair's comments, wherein former Colorado governor Richard Lamm proclaimed black and hispanic cultural values as inferior to white and asian values. The message was documented in a Denver Post op ed by the former gov:
"How do we lovingly, yet honestly, diagnose the large economic, education and success gap between black/Hispanic America and white/Asian America?
The sentiment Lamm attributes to scholars that "culture matters" is in direct conflict with the prevailing multiculturalist status quo in academia that says there are no "right" or "wrong" cultural values. Serious academics, few though there may be, are slowly recognizing that the emperor has no clothes.
August 4, 2006
The Master Plan
The document, signed by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), reveals plans to focus Republican Senatorial campaigns on three themes.
Next week, Republicans will tout efforts to "secure America's prosperity" through a variety of programs. Plans for small business health insurance pooling, spending reductions, increased domestic oil drilling, and "permanent death tax reform" are all to be pushed at the state level.
Mid-month, Republicans are expected to shift gears, focusing voter's attention instead on a variety of values-based initiatives. "Democrats oppose preserving a clear definition of marriage, are blocking child custody protections, and have obstructed the confirmation of fair judges," the document reads. "Republicans are committed to protecting these traditional values by fostering a culture of life, protecting children, banning internet gambling and upholding the rule of law."
Let's just hope for Raw Story's sake, there wasn't a break-in involved in getting these plans.
Some people still haven't gotten over that thing.
I got a knock on the door this afternoon.
"Would you like to sign a petition to help prevent outsourcing?"
Some guy wearing a shirt which I think said "Working Together" or something. I was distracted by the AFL-CIO text, personally.
I'm wondering, however, what in the world will a petition do for outsourcing?
Nothing, I'm sure, other than get me on a union mailing list.
What was weirdest about the door-knocker guy, was that he was an Indian immigrant! Very strong accent. He's trying to screw the compatriots he left behind.
One for The Other Side
It's only right that I offer a "fair and balanced" link to a Reuters Story about a new convert.
"We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels. It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."
This from 700 Club Atmospheric Physicist Pat Robertson. Okay, I'm convinced.
I have called America's European Allies and some domestic Democrats "unserious." You may accuse me of name calling, think I don't go far enough, whatever.
An article in TCS today supports my case.
Authors J. Peter Pham & Michael I. Krauss wonder when the human rights organizations will hold up MidEastern war criminals to the scrutiny applied to, say, Don Rumsfeld (my example, not theirs).
Accordingly, groups like Human Rights Watch, which issues press releases accusing Israel of war crimes following the death of civilians in Qana, mentions Hezbollah's offenses (which of course include using the Qana residents as unwilling pawns) only as an afterthought. In so doing they knowingly sacrifice consistency and integrity for "relevance" (ephemeral publicity) and "solidarity" (political correctness).
The article then lists eight infractions which are war crimes, violations of the Geneva Convention, or crimes against humanity. Nasrallah is clearly guilty of every one.
In short, the case for prosecuting Hassan Nasrallah as an international criminal is open-and-shut. However, we are not holding our breath for the usual international justice advocates and NGOs to protest audibly -- or even to be vexed -- when the eventual United Nations-mandated "resolution" does not include any provision for proceedings against Nasrallah. Those who hope for an accounting may have to rely on a more elemental -- though no less righteous -- justice, such as the targeting mechanism of an Israeli missile system.
It is unserious of Israel's critics to ignore this. Yet they will.
Et Tu, WSJ?
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page is a bastion of free enterprise, classical liberal values, and support for meritocracy.
They frequently publish guest editorials that may not celebrate these values, but it was still a shock to read Judith Dobrznski's Cherchez la Femme. The former NYTimes, Business Week and CNBC Editor was displeased that a qualified woman was passed over for the new top job at Pfizer.
I cannot, and would not, make the case that Ms. Katen should have bested Mr. Kindler. Maybe the reasons being bandied about are true -- that he has better leadership skills, that directors valued his outside experience (he ran units at McDonald's Corp. for a very short time), that she is too close to Mr. McKinnell. Pfizer's stock barely reacted to the choice, however, losing a little ground on Monday.
Dobrzynski makes some good statistical points. Women constitute one third of MBA grads, and have had time to "fill the pipeline" of executive aspirants, yet remain under-represented.
My problem is that her goal is quota based and ignores market forces. Shareholders and boards are either making the right decisions when they promote individual men, or are making mistakes. If they're making mistakes, some firms will get these qualified but spurned female executives at a discount, and those firms will prosper.
Unless top executives and corporate directors start taking a few more risks -- and, after all, calculated risks are what business is all about -- who knows how long it will be before parity could be achieved in the corner office?
Corner office parity is not the goal. Shareholder value is. And the market will fix it if it is a problem.
Posted by John Kranz at 12:22 PM
August 3, 2006
The New Marxism?
We haven't really got rid of the old Marxism yet. But Josh at Everyday Economist declares protectionism to be The New Marxism. He wonders if we'll choose to isolate ourselves as the communists did in the previous century.
Nonetheless, support for protectionism remains strong. Unfortunately, many would rather accept the belief that the Chinese are stealing “our” jobs because of low wages than subscribe to the fact that it is advantageous for the United States to focus on areas where it has a comparative advantage. Much like the communists of the 20th-century, a great many wish to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. If the U.S. were to do so, however, it would not only prevent the country from losing jobs, but also it would prevent businesses from growing into ever emerging markets. The United States would fail to attract any investment. Thus, just like communism, growth would deteriorate and the “wall” put up by the protectionists would do more harm than good for those within.
I never say this, but, read the whole thing.
jk 5, Erin Brokovitch 3
A California jury cleared Merck & Co. of responsibility for the heart attack of Stewart Grossberg, a 71-year-old retired construction manager who took the painkiller Vioxx for about two years.
I'm an optimist, but this still surprised me: The king mac-daddy pragmatist of world politics, Tony Blair, officially pronounced the death of multiculturalism as a guiding geopolitical principle. Mark the date, kids: August 1, 2006.
"9/11 in the US, 7/7 in the UK, 11/3 in Madrid, the countless terrorist attacks in countries as disparate as Indonesia or Algeria, what is now happening in Afghanistan and in Indonesia, the continuing conflict in Lebanon and Palestine, it is all part of the same thing. What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative." (emphasis mine)
In a paragraph where a European head-of-state admits that Israel's life and death battles with Islamists in Lebanon and "Palestine" (and the implicit inclusion of the Iraq war later in the speech) are "all part of the same thing" as 9/11, what can overshadow such a monumental confession? One word: Better.
The hallmark of multiculturalism is an absolute prohibition on such value judgements. "No culture's ideas are 'better' or 'worse' than any other's, they are merely different. Each is best for the culture that holds it," the multiculturalists say. But here we see Prime Minister Blair not only publicly admit his heretofore unacknowledged belief that western values and ideas are better than the Islamist's (without even the excuse of intoxication) but declare that propagation of this value judgement is the "only" way that this war can be won! Congratulations Mr. Blair. The first step to the cure is to admit that you have a disease.
The rest of the speech goes downhill from here, but believe me... this is a watershed moment in postmodern western civilization.
In the wake of PM Blair's concise and reasoned analysis of the war between western modernity and Islamic extremism, the British press shows its mettle in cutting him back down to size. (As explained in this David Aaronovitch editorial, 'If you're so clever, then why is it that they all hate you?')
What was clear was that no one in the room was prepared to be sidetracked by anything as arcane as the PM’s account of his contacts with Bush and Siniora. Nor were they interested in Mr Blair’s condemnation of the latest comments from the President of Iran about the need to eliminate Israel. They were far more concerned to remind him how everyone hated him.
August 2, 2006
It inspired a great Bus Boys song and is the centerpiece of Leader Pelosi's "New Direction for America." The GOP offered to raise it in a deal to end the estate tax and to diffuse it as an issue for the Democrats.
Many have offered eloquent and well reasoned objections. Everyday Economist links to a WSJ Guest Editorial by David Henderson, which opens with this amusing tidbit:
"The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00." So read an editorial headline in one of the most respected newspapers in America. The editorial stated: "There's a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market." Can you guess the newspaper? The Wall Street Journal, perhaps? Right city; wrong paper. This editorial appeared on Jan. 14, 1987, in the New York Times.
Ahh, the halcyon days when Professor Krugman believed in economics and Enron. The article makes excellent points about the consequences of a minimum wage.
Second, because the minimum wage does not make employees automatically more productive, employers who must pay higher wages will look for other ways to compensate: by cutting non-wage benefits, by working the labor force harder, or by cutting training. Interestingly, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a union-funded organization in Washington that pushes for higher minimum wages, implicitly admits the last two of these three. On its Web site, EPI states, "employers may be able to absorb some of the costs of a wage increase through higher productivity, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale."
Thomas Sowell remains the best detractor. He calls the law racist, in that minority groups have been able to sidestep racism by undercutting other workers' price. Sowell suggests a $100,000 per annum minimum would allow companies to hire exactly and only the people with which they were most comfortable.
I will leave the economics to the more skilled, but I suggest that we evaluate the minimum wage as contrary to freedom. Congress does not set wages for workers in the private sector, that is set by skill sets, supply and demand. All Congress can do is to make certain transactions illegal.
The worker is not getting a "raise," the lower skilled worker is simply told that work at his/her level is against the law.
August 1, 2006
Dems Coalesce Around Cut-and-run
After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.
Ahh yes, mid-term elections coming -- a humiliating American defeat and MidEast chaos would be great to run on...
Big Box Stores
I always knew the Costco shoppers were bigger snobs.
The whole article is pretty good... I like this graf..
(tip to Club for Growth)
So, it would seem that Cuba's Fidel Castro is berry berry ill.
"The operation obligates me to undertake several weeks of rest," said the letter. Extreme stress "had provoked in me a sharp intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding that obligated me to undergo a complicated surgical procedure."
Castro said he was temporarily relinquishing the presidency to his younger brother and successor Raul, the defense minister, but said the move was of "a provisional character." There was no immediate appearance or statement by Raul Castro.
With that world quality socialized health-care we've been hearing about, he's bound to live another decade or two.
However, should he meet his maker in the coming days or weeks, a big question remains unanswered. How will Cuba look without him?
The conventional wisdom is that Cuba will go democratic in someway. Perhaps dissident Floridians providing the seed money, if not human capital.
But what if Venezuela's Hugo Chavez decides to get involved? He's pretty interested in sticking to the United States in anyway possible. Being right off shore with his own puppet, would be an excellent way. He's been influencing or attempting to influence Latin American politics lately. Why would Cuba be any different?
Let's not forget China either. China is interested in Cuban oil reserves in the Gulf... and already has some leases purchased. Wouldn't a Democratic Cuba perhaps want to entertain other offers for their oil?
Could oil politics get in the way of a free Cuba?