Archive for October, 2007
27 Oct 2007

African Lion Sighted in West Virginia


Charleston Daily Mail:

Greenbrier County officials are scouring the woods near Cold Knob after receiving multiple reports that a lion — an African lion, not the mountain variety — is on the loose.

“We’re treating this pretty seriously,” said Robert McClung, the county’s senior animal-control officer. “Right now, we’re trying to confirm the initial report. Once we do that, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

A local hunter, 72-year-old Jim Shortridge of Frankfort, was bowhunting for deer Oct. 17 when the lion reportedly approached him.

“I watched it for more than 40 minutes,” said Shortridge, who owns the parcel of land he was hunting on. “I watched it from my vehicle and from my hunting blind.”

Shortridge first saw the creature as he carried a cooler and his lunch from a vehicle to the 6-by-8 foot wooden blind.

“When I first saw [the lion], I thought it was a deer,” Shortridge said. “Then it growled at me.”

The cat ran away after Shortridge yelled at it. Convinced that the potential threat had disappeared, the slightly shaken hunter returned to his vehicle and retrieved his bow. Shortly after he began hunting, the creature came back.

“It paced back and forth, in front of the blind, about 10 yards away,” Shortridge recalled. “I sat and watched him. I kept shining my light into his eyes. The more I put the light on him, the louder he growled.”

Shortridge remains convinced that the animal was a male African lion. He estimated its weight at 250 to 350 pounds.

“It had a mane, so I could tell it was a male. And I’m sure it wasn’t a bear. Bears are all over Cold Knob. I see six to eight of them every time I go hunting, and I can tell the difference. Bears don’t shake me up at all. This lion made me pretty nervous,” he said.

27 Oct 2007

Buchanan: A Giuliani Victory Would Come at a Price

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Pat Buchanan on Giuliani.

A McGovernite in 1972, he boasted in the campaign of 1993 that he would “rekindle the Rockefeller, Javits, Lefkowitz tradition” of New York’s GOP and “produce the kind of change New York City saw with … John Lindsay.” He ran on the Liberal Party line and supported Mario Cuomo in 1994.

Pro-abortion, anti-gun, again and again he strutted up Fifth Avenue in the June Gay Pride parade and turned the Big Apple into a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. While Ward Connerly goes state to state to end reverse discrimination, Rudy is an affirmative-action man.

Gravitating now to Rudy’s camp are those inveterate opportunists, the neocons, who see in Giuliani their last hope of redemption for their cakewalk war and their best hope for a “Long War” against “Islamo-fascism.”

I will, Rudy promises, nominate Scalias. Only one more may be needed to overturn Roe. And I will keep Hillary out of the White House.

A Giuliani presidency would represent the return and final triumph of the Republicanism that conservatives went into politics to purge from power. A Giuliani presidency would represent repudiation by the party of the moral, social and cultural content that, with anti-communism, once separated it from liberal Democrats and defined it as an institution.

Rudy offers the right the ultimate Faustian bargain: retention of power at the price of one’s soul.

26 Oct 2007

“We Did Not Kill Bin Laden”

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Col. David Hunt on Fox News reveals some startling information

We did not kill Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan just two short months ago.

We know, with a 70 percent level of certainty — which is huge in the world of intelligence — that in August of 2007, bin Laden was in a convoy headed south from Tora Bora. We had his butt, on camera, on satellite. We were listening to his conversations. We had the world’s best hunters/killers — Seal Team 6 — nearby. We had the world class Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) coordinating with the CIA and other agencies. We had unmanned drones overhead with missiles on their wings; we had the best Air Force on the planet, begging to drop one on the terrorist. We had him in our sights; we had done it. Nice job again guys — now, pull the damn trigger.

Unbelievably, and in my opinion, criminally, we did not kill Usama bin Laden.

You cannot make this crap up; truth is always stranger and more telling than fiction. Our government, the current administration and yes, our military leaders included, failed to kill bin Laden for no other reason than incompetence.

The current “boneheads” in charge will tell you all day long that we are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan to stop terrorists there so they do not come here. Nice talk, how about — just for a moment — acting like you mean what you say? You know walk the walk. These incidents, where we displayed a total lack of guts, like the one in August, are just too prevalent. The United States of America’s political and military leadership has, on at least three separate occasions, chosen not capture or kill bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahri. We have allowed Pakistan to become a safe haven for Al Qaeda. We have allowed Al Qaeda to reconstitute, partially because of money they (Al Qaeda in Iraq) have been sending to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

We are in a war with terrorists. We are in a war with countries that support terrorists. We are in a war with people that fly planes into buildings and who never, ever hesitate to pull the trigger when given the chance to kill us. We cannot win and, I will tell you this now, we are losing this war every damn time we fail to take every single opportunity to kill murderers like Usama bin Laden. Less than two months ago, we lost again.

Our men and women are being blown up and killed every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every family who is separated from a loved one during this war is being insulted by our government when they fail to kill those who have already killed us and will not hesitate to do so again and again. Damn it guys, PULL THE DAMN TRIGGER.

A bit more information on his sources would be nice.

26 Oct 2007

Nobel Peace Prize Co-Recipient on Gore

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The Wall Street Journal quotes an interview of the co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, John Christy of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by Miles O’Brien:

O’BRIEN: I assume you’re not happy about sharing this award with Al Gore. You going to renounce it in some way?

CHRISTY: Well, as a scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I always thought that — I may sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas here — that prizes were given for performance, and not for promotional activities.

And, when I look at the world, I see that the carbon dioxide rate is increasing, and energy demand, of course, is increasing. And that’s because, without energy, life is brutal and short. So, I don’t see very much effect in trying to scare people into not using energy, when it is the very basis of how we can live in our society.

O’BRIEN: So, what about the movie [“An Inconvenient Truth”]; do you take issue with, then, Dr. Christy?

CHRISTY: Well, there’s any number of things.

I suppose, fundamentally, it’s the fact that someone is speaking about a science that I have been very heavily involved with and have labored so hard in, and been humiliated by, in the sense that the climate is so difficult to understand, Mother Nature is so complex, and so the uncertainties are great, and then to hear someone speak with such certainty and such confidence about what the climate is going to do is — well, I suppose I could be kind and say, it’s annoying to me.

O’BRIEN: But you just got through saying that the carbon dioxide levels are up. Temperatures are going up. There is a certain degree of certainty that goes along with that, right?

CHRISTY: Well, the carbon dioxide is going up. And remember that carbon dioxide is plant food in the fundamental sense. All of life depends on the fact carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. So, we’re fortunate it’s not a toxic gas. But, on the other hand, what is the climate doing. And when we build — and I’m one of the few people in the world that actually builds these climate data sets — we don’t see the catastrophic changes that are being promoted all over the place.

For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.

26 Oct 2007


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(MMORG = Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game)

4 Guys From Viewpoint:

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
*Eisenhower has joined the game.*
*paTTon has joined the game.*
*Churchill has joined the game.*
*benny-tow has joined the game.*
*T0J0 has joined the game.*
*Roosevelt has joined the game.*
*Stalin has joined the game.*
*deGaulle has joined the game.*
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!


26 Oct 2007

Pumpkin Croc

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AP Photo/Winfried Rothermel
Photo:Winfried Rothermel, AP

A seasonal display by a farmer at Hartheim-Feldkirch in southwestern Germany.


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

26 Oct 2007



A collaborative art project using flash animation (also downloadable as a screensaver).

25 Oct 2007

The Sandbottle Art of Andrew Clemens

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Sand Picture in a Bottle, Paddle Wheeler Gray Eagle
Andrew Clemens, McGregor, Iowa, c. 1885

Skinner was kind enough to send me the catalogue for their upcoming November 3 & 4 sale of American Furniture & Decorative Arts.

Glancing through it last night, I was simply astonished at the sight of Lot 590.

These unique artworks were apparently created in the late 19th century by a deaf-mute, Andrew Clemens (1852-1894), who sold them as his sole means of support. The colored sands were naturally-occurring, and were collected by the artist in the Pictured Rocks, a mile south of McGregor, Iowa.

Richard J. Langel of the Iowa Geological Survey writes:

To create his sand paintings, Clemens used only a few tools: brushes made from hickory sticks, a curved fish hook stick, and a tiny tin scoop to hold sand. His sand paintings ranged from original designs to reproductions of images from photographs.

Because the majority of the bottles that Clemens used were round-top drug jars, he painted his designs upside down. Clemens inserted the sand using the fish hook stick. The brushes were used to keep the picture straight. No glue was used in the process; the sand was only held in place by pressure from other sand grains. Once a design was completed and the bottle was full, the bottle was sealed with a stopper.

Clemens originally sold his sand paintings in the McGregor grocery store. A small bottle sold for $1; a larger personalized bottle sold for $6-$8. The popularity of his sand paintings increased as travelers and steamboat agents purchased the bottles as souvenirs. Eventually, orders for his bottles became worldwide.

Clemens’ sandbottles are avidly collected as folk art, and now sell for thousands of dollars.

McGregor Sand Artist by Marian Carroll Rischmueller


The Sandbottles of Andrew Clemens

Andrew “Andreas” Clemens

Cowan’s – Painter Without a Brush

25 Oct 2007

Abolishing the Ivies

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The New York Society for Ethical Culture, as part of the New Yorker Festival, earlier this month held a somewhat tongue-in-cheek debate, moderated by Simon Schama, featuring two of the magazine’s staff writers, Malcolm Gladwell versus Adam Gopnik on the question: “Resolved: The Ivy League Should Be Abolished.”

NY Sun (10/5)

IvyGate (10/10)

Thomas Bartlett, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes the silliness.

It’s easy to hate the Ivy League. Also, it’s fun.

Yet rarely do hundreds of people cheer wildly as some crazy-haired guy calls for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to be shut down. That’s right: closed entirely. Their campuses turned into luxury condos. Their students distributed evenly throughout the colleges of the Big Ten. Their endowments donated to charity, or used to purchase Canada.

But cheering is exactly what happened on a recent Saturday night during a somewhat tongue-in-cheek debate on the abolition of the Ivy League. The guy with the crazy hair was Malcolm Gladwell, author of two best-selling works of counterintuitive nonfiction, The Tipping Point and Blink. His opponent, the essayist Adam Gopnik, took the opposite view, arguing that — whatever their faults — we shouldn’t shutter those three prestigious institutions. Both men are staff writers for The New Yorker, and the event was part of the magazine’s annual literary festival.

Mr. Gladwell (University of Toronto, ’84) is a well-known Ivy hater. In a 2005 article, he argued that the admissions process for Ivy League colleges is odd, arbitrary, and more or less ridiculous. On this particular evening he pushed that view to its most extreme: that Harvard, Yale, and Princeton should be made extinct (the other five Ivies can, presumably, rest easy). The heart of his argument was that the Big Three do a lousy job of promoting social mobility. He also asserted that they have come to be valued as “consumption preferences” rather than places where people, you know, go to learn.

But more interesting than the debate itself was the audience reaction. Anti-Ivy proclamations were greeted with enthusiastic whoops. It was as if everyone had finally been given permission to voice their long-held antipathy toward the elite. It was a mob scene, or as close as you’re likely to get at a wine-and-cheese gathering on the Upper West Side.

It’s all part of a current Ivy backlash, according to Alexandra Robbins, author of The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids and Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. Ms. Robbins thinks the mystique of the Ivy League is starting to wear thin — even though, as she acknowledges, it’s harder than ever to get into those colleges. “Other schools have caught up and surpassed the Ivy League,” she says.

An Ivy League degree can even be a hindrance. Ms. Robbins says she recently talked to the chief executive of a major company who has an unofficial policy against hiring Ivy grads. “There is an assumption that if you went to an Ivy League school, you have a sense of entitlement,” she says.

Ms. Robbins, a Yale graduate herself, is sometimes sheepish about her pedigree, preferring to avoid the topic.

Jim Newell knows the feeling. He writes for IvyGate, a snarky Ivy League gossip blog. Mr. Newell attended the University of Pennsylvania, “one of the lesser Ivies” (his words). His alma mater often gets confused with Penn State, and he’d rather not correct people: “God forbid I’d say, ‘That’s the one in the Ivy League.’ I’d rather run away than say that.”

He thinks a lot of the resentment toward the Ivy League is based on an outdated image. “There is some foundation for the hatred,” he says. “There are a lot of stereotypes about WASPs smoking cigars with stuffed moose heads by the fireplace.”

Of course, it also has a lot to do with admissions. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton reject a lot of applicants, and that can create some hard feelings.

It’s Michele Hernandez’s job to get kids into Ivy League colleges. Ms. Hernandez is one of the most prominent college consultants around. Plenty of people are willing to pay a gulp-inducing $40,000 for her five-year package, which begins in the eighth grade. Ms. Hernandez made about a million dollars last year helping to craft applications.

Still, she tries to dissuade clients — frequently without success — from the idea that it’s Ivy or nothing. “I don’t find anything special about Harvard, Yale, or Princeton,” she says.

But she would hardly celebrate their demise. “Other elite schools would spring up in their place, like a Hydra,” she says, demonstrating a knack for entrance-essay allusions.

There is a “perception issue” when it comes to Ivy League colleges, says Robert Franek, author of The Best 366 Colleges, published by Princeton Review. “I think students and parents may be fed up with the hierarchy,” he says. “They’re starting to take a harder look at other colleges, even if they might be in a position to go to an Ivy.”

But that doesn’t explain where the hate comes from. James Twitchell, a professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida, who writes about branding and popular culture, says it’s simple: “Because so much of what most of us have at the mass-supplier level is interchangeable, we resent those who have something more or better or different.”

Another word for that is envy. Sarah E. Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University at Fullerton, who studies envy, says The New Yorker debate was an opportunity to revel in that feeling. “The audience obviously perceives that these people in the Ivy League receive some kind of unfair advantage,” she says. “The idea of removing them is exciting. It’s like, ‘Ha, ha, ha,’ we took away your label!'”

Representatives of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton would not comment for this article. But, really, what did you expect?


If you don’t happen to be part of the pitchfork-waving mob of anti-elitists and actually attended one of the Ivies, be informed that GoCrossCampus is conducting an Ivy League Championship Risk Tournament, which will be starting its very first combats today. Yale has a bit of an advantage right now, which is only right.


Hat tips to David Nix and AJ.

24 Oct 2007

Imaginary Symbolism of Nooses

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Press reports of the sinister appearance of nooses as threats or as a form of racial initimidation are suddenly everywhere.

7 Eyewitness News today offers a typical example:

Authorities are investigating the third apparent hate crime at New York City schools– in just the last two weeks. A noose was found hanging from a tree in a playground in Queens yesterday– one day after a principal in Brooklyn received a noose in the mail.


And politicians are responding with a rash of proposed laws, some making displaying a noose a hate crime and a felony.


The problem is that, until this September, when leftwing coverage of the so-called Jena Six having spread to Black talk radio finally reached the mainstream media, no one thought of nooses as a racial symbol at all.

But, in the customary media avalanche fashion, a false statement was published by the first paper, and was repeated by the second, and before very long, a considerable body of public record exists attesting to validity and universal acceptance of another piece of arrant nonsense.

But the indefatigable Michelle Malkin is on the case, thank goodness, using her bully pulpit to republish a Christian Science Monitor article by Craig Franklin, which notes that just about the entire Jena Six story is a myth from top to bottom.

By now, almost everyone in America has heard of Jena, La., because they’ve all heard the story of the “Jena 6.” White students hanging nooses barely punished, a schoolyard fight, excessive punishment for the six black attackers, racist local officials, public outrage and protests – the outside media made sure everyone knew the basics.

There’s just one problem: The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice. …

Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree. There has never been a “whites-only” tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree. When a student asked during an assembly at the start of school last year if anyone could sit under the tree, it evoked laughter from everyone present – blacks and whites. As reported by students in the assembly, the question was asked to make a joke and to drag out the assembly and avoid class.

Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students. An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of “Lonesome Dove.”) The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends. Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals.


Of course, it’s not really surprising that the teen-age pranksters “had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history.” That particular identification would only have been made (before last September) by hyper-racially-sensitive obsessives. The lynching of blacks in the post-Civil War pre-WWII era is commonly treated as a key feature of the American catalogue of racial crime, but the reality is that lynchings were equal opportunity forms of mob justice.

Lynchings occurred as spontaneous outbursts of public indignation over particularly objectionable crimes, in which a suitable quorum of the community assembled proved unwilling to wait for legal due process to unfold, and having –rightly or wrongly– concluded the suspect’s guilt was incontrovertible, simply proceeded without further ado to the immediate application of justice.

Nor was lynching a unique feature of the segregated American South. As recently as 1933, there was a lynching in the San Francisco Bay area, following a kidnap-murder in San Jose. The perpetrators wound up dangling from the recently-completed (1929) San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.

24 Oct 2007

Hamline University Sends Student to Shrink for Pro-Gun Position

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Minding the Campus:

Troy Scheffler, a graduate student at Hamline University in Minnesota, thinks that the Virginia Tech massacre might have been avoided if students had been allowed to carry concealed weapons. After e-mailing this opinion to the university president, he was suspended and ordered to undergo “mental health evaluation” before being allowed to return to school.

Punishment for expressing an opinion is not unusual on the modern campus. Neither is the lack of protest among faculty and students for the kind of treatment Scheffler got. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending the student, reports that it has failed to find a single Hamline student or faculty member who has spoken out in favor of Scheffler’s right to free speech. So far, no protest from has been reported in the student newspaper or in outside internet outlets such as Myspace.

FIRE’s collected links on the case.

23 Oct 2007

California Burning

Latest reports say 1300 homes and businesses burned, more than 500,000 people evacuated.


1) Witch Fire: 10/23
San Diego County: 164,000 acres at one percent contained. This fire is one mile east of Ramona. 500 homes and 100 commercial buildings have been destroyed. Nearly 400 structures have been damaged. Currently, 5,000 residences and 1,500 commercial properties are threatened in San Diego, Poway, Ramona, Escondido, Lakeside, Valley Center, San Marcos, and Rancho Santa Fe. Wildcat Canyon is closed. Highway 67 is closed from Poway to Ramona.

2) Ranch Fire: 10/23
Angeles National Forest: 55,000 acres at 10 percent contained. This fire is seven miles north of Castaic. Evacuations continue in Chiquito Canyon, Hasley Canyon, Val Verde, Hopper Canyon and toward Filmore. Currently, 500 residences and 50 commercial properties are threatened. Three homes and four outbuildings have been destroyed.

3) Canyon Fire: 10/23
Los Angeles County: 4,400 acres at 15 percent contained. This fire is burning in Malibu. 8 structures have been destroyed and 14 damaged. Mandatory evacuations in effect in Monte Nido, Malibu Colony, Malibu Rd., Sweetwater Canyon, Carbon Canyon, Carbon Mesa, Rambla Pacifica, Big Rock, Topanga Canyon, Powder Ranch Rd. and Monte Vista Dr. Currently, 600 residences, 200 commercial buildings and 100 outbuildings are threatened. Residents from 500 homes have been evacuated.

4) Buckweed Fire: 10/23
Los Angeles County: Nearly 38,000 acres at 27 percent contained. This fire is burning near Canyon County and Saugus. A mandatory evacuation of 15,000 residents remains in effect. More than 55,000 homes in the communities of Santa Clarita, Castaic, Leona Valley, Green Valley, Acton, Agua Dulce, Bouquet Reservoir and Mint Canyon are threatened. 32 structures have been lost.

5) ice Fire: 10/23
Los Angeles County: 6,100 acres at zero percent contained. The blaze is burning near Fallbrook. 500 homes lost, 2,500 homes threatened. The town of Fallbrook, with a population of 30,000, has been evacuated. Camp Pendleton and Oceanside are threatened. Hundreds of homes and commercial buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

6) Harris Fire: 10/23
San Diego County: 70,000 acres at five percent contained. This fire burning near Potrero. At least 200 homes have been destroyed and 250 damaged in this fire. 2,000 homes and 500 commercial properties are threatened. More than 3,000 people have been evacuated in the area of Harris Ranch Road and Otay Lake Road. Citizens are sheltered Steele Canyon High School.

7) Magic Fire: 10/23
Los Angeles County: 1,500 acres at 40 percent contained. The fire is burning near Stevenson Ranch on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. 950 homes are threatened in the Simi Valley area. Transportation and oil infrastructures are threatened.

8) Santiago Fire: 10/23
Orange County: 17,800 acres at 30 percent contained. This fire is 12 miles east of Santa Ana. Highway 241 is closed from Santiago Canyon to Highway 133. Portola Parkway and portions of Jamboree Road in Irvine are closed. 3,500 homes and 150 commercial properties are threatened in the communities of Foothill Ranch, Lake Forest, Modjeska, and Silverado Canyon.

9) Grass Valley Fire: 10/23
San Bernardino National Forest: 1,000 acres burning. This fire is north of Lake Arrowhead. North Lake Arrowhead and Grass Valley are under mandatory evacuation (north of the Lake Arrowhead Dam on SR 173 and areas north of Hwy 189). So are Twin Peaks, Rim Forest, Crestline and Lake Gregory. 113 homes have been destroyed and 1,500 are threatened.

10) Slide Fire: 10/23
Angeles National Forest: 4,000 acres burning. Mandatory evacuations are in effect for Green Valley Lake, Arrowbear and Running Springs. Fire has crossed Highway 18 in Running Springs, which lost 100 homes. Evacuation Center is located at National Orange Show in San Bernardino.

11) Coronado Hills Fire: 10/23
San Diego County: 300 acres at zero percent contained. This fire is two miles south of San Marcos. The communities of Discovery Hills, Coronado Hills and San Elijo Hills are threatened.

12) Poomacha Fire: 10/23
San Diego County: 3,000 acres at zero percent contained. The fire is burning near Pauma Valley and moving to the base of Palomar Mountain. Structures threatened. Evacuations are in effect for five communities along the Highway 76 corridor.

13) Cajon Fire: 10/23
San Bernardino National Forest: 200 acres at 20 percent contained and heading toward Lytle Creek. Mandatory Evacuations around the Lytle Creek Ranger Station.

14) McCoy Fire: 10/23
Cleveland National Forest: 300 acres at 50 percent contained. This fire is four miles southwest of Julian.

15) Roca Fire: 10/23
Riverside County, California Department of Forestry: 269 acres at 100 percent contained. This fire is near Aguanga, east of Temecula.

16) Sedgewick Fire: 10/23
Los Padres National Forest: 710 acres at 100 percent contained. This fire is eight miles northeast of Los Olivos.

23 Oct 2007

A Failed Conservative Government?

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Michael Tomaskey is whistling in the dark in the Guardian, hoping that George W. Bush’s second-term unpopularity signals a long-term change in the direction of American politics.

By 1964, conservatives were able to nominate one of their own, Barry Goldwater, for president. But it took them another 16 years to elect a president, Reagan. And then it took another 14 years before Republicans led by Newt Gingrich took control of the House of Representatives, for conservatives to seize power at a level below the presidency. In all that time, your “average”- that is, nonpolitical – American had no deeply negative experience of movement conservatism. It wasn’t quite the golden age that today’s embattled conservatives contend it was; for example, Reagan left office with a lower approval rating than Bill Clinton did.

Nevertheless, most average people found the experience of conservative governance more positive than not: Reagan cut their taxes, stared down the Russkies and made them feel good about their country. Even Gingrich and his cohort, before being laid deservedly low by their obsession with Clinton’s sex life, were credited by your average Joe with having cleaned out the Augean stables of Democratic Washington.

Then came Bush. At first things were motoring along nicely, and Bush guru Karl Rove’s prediction that a permanent conservative majority was coalescing seemed probable. Now it has all crashed and burned for the reasons we know about. But we still don’t know what exactly is that “it”.

That is, Americans have now experienced a conservative government failing them. But what lesson will they take? That conservatism itself is exhausted and without answers to the problems that confront American and the world today? Or will they conclude that the problem hasn’t been conservatism per se, just Bush, and that a conservatism that is competent and comparatively honest will suit them just fine?

Conservatives and the Republican presidential candidates hope and argue that it’s the latter. They largely endorse and in some cases vow to expand on the Bush administration’s policies – Mitt Romney’s infamous promise to “double” the size of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, notably. Like Bush, they vow that tax cuts, deregulation and smaller government will solve every domestic problem. Where they try to distinguish themselves from Bush is on competence. Romney talks up his corporate success, Rudy Giuliani his prowess as mayor of New York.

The Democrats aren’t as full-throated in opposition to all this as one would hope – they dance away from the word “liberal” and they don’t really traffic in head-on philosophical critiques of conservative governance. That said, though, all the leading Democrats are running on pretty strongly progressive platforms.

On healthcare, energy and global warming, all promise a very different direction for the country. Hillary Clinton has even inched to her husband’s left on trade issues. Even given her innate caution and rhetorical hawkishness on foreign policy, it’s fair to say that Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards are making a forceful case for a clean ideological break.

The rubber will hit the road next summer and autumn. Then the Republicans will tell voters that the Democratic nominee has proposed trillions of dollars’ worth of new programmes and will inevitably raise taxes to pay for them. The Democrat will need to stand her or his ground and, while obviously not being cavalier about taxes, present a vision of a different kind of society. There are signs that 51% of the voters may be ready to embrace it.

I think it’s true that George W. Bush failed to get control of his own government, failed to mobilize the American people as a whole in support of American military efforts, and failed to defend himself and his policies with adequate vigor and effectiveness. Consequently, the democrat party is enjoying positive political momentum going into the 2008 Presidential Election, but the victory of Hillary Clinton is still far from assured.

Even if Hillary wins, it seems doubtful that she will succeed in effectuating a reversal of the historic tide away from statism and collectivism. Most probably, if Hillary is indeed elected, the democrat radical base will grow quickly embittered by her moderation, and will turn their full fury on her. Hillary may only succeed in achieving in one term the loss of approval and support unsuccessful presidents more commonly experience at the end of two.

23 Oct 2007

Worried Bin Laden Urges Unity

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Walid Phares quotes some of the reactions to the al Qaeda chieftain’s latest audiotape.

..on al Jazeera, yet another commentator Dhaya’ Rashwan said that Bin laden is telling his supporters in Iraq to make concessions on few things and unite with all other insurgents to defeat the US. And as in magic, Abdelrahman al Jabburi -the spokesperson of the “Iraqi resistance,” a competitive group, called in (al Jazeera) and declared that “indeed local Jihadists must seize the opportunity and reorganize, unite.” Almost as in a captivating movie, in about three hours, the master of al Qaeda had his message aired, the commentators were ready to make very focused analysis -of what it means- and leaders from inside Iraq calling in and approving. The audio message was few minutes long while the whole back and forth debate was few hours long.

At the end of the day, this tape show -as I have argued since last summer- that al Qaeda central feels that their strategic initiative in Iraq is lagging behind. Two things went wrong for al Qaeda: One was the misbehavior of its own barons on the ground, and two -one can see it clearer now- the (US led) surge has worked so far. The Jihadi combat machine is flying low and is going through turbulences. Any major decision in Washington can accentuate this direction down or release it up. Ben Ladin has taken the risk of exposing this reality to his foes. It should be read thoroughly and responsibly inside the beltway.

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