Archive for August, 2009
31 Aug 2009

Wild Boars Declared Public Menace in France

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John Lichfield reports that Asterix’s beloved sanglier has multiplied five times over the last two decades.

In the forest close to our house in Normandy, we have neighbours that we never see. Occasionally, you might spot one sprinting across the road late at night. Each autumn, brutal-looking men in paramilitary uniforms invade the forest with dogs and horns to try to shoot them.

The other morning, for the first time in 11 years, I saw one of our neighbours in broad daylight. He was loitering in the middle of the road. When my car came along, he stared at me insolently and then trotted off into a field of almost-ripe maize.

Our neighbours are sangliers, or wild boar. Their population is exploding. Despite the best efforts of the men in paramilitary uniforms (who often seem to end up shooting one another), the wild boar population of France has increased five-fold in the last 20 years to reach an estimated one million.

Several reasons are given for their proliferation. The great hurricane of Christmas 1999 left French forests in such a jumble that the boar have many more places to hide from the hunters. The spread of cereal fields into traditional beef and dairy country (like Normandy) has given them a new food supply. They are especially partial to maize.

Last week, the wild boar, sanglier or Sus scrofa was officially declared a public menace. Over 15,000 road accidents a year – two-thirds of all French road accidents are attributable to animals – are caused by wild boar dashing across roads at night without looking both ways. The environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, has ordered an anti-boar campaign, including official culls and, possibly, a longer hunting season.

31 Aug 2009

Licensed to Surf

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Not just anyone should be allowed to take his mouse and ride the Information Superhighway anonymously, argues an Australian authority on crime.

Australia’s leading criminologist thinks online scams have escalated to such a point that first-time users of computers should have to earn a licence to surf the web.

Russel Smith, principal criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology said the concept of a “computer drivers licence” should be taken seriously as an option for combating internet-related crime.

“There’s been some discussion in Europe about the use of what’s called a computer drivers licence – where you have a standard set of skills people should learn before they start using computers,” Dr Smith told iTnews.

“At the moment we have drivers licences for cars, and cars are very dangerous machines. Computers are also quite dangerous in the way that they can make people vulnerable to fraud.

“In the future we might want to think about whether it’s necessary there be some sort of compulsory education of people before they start using computers,” he said.

31 Aug 2009

The Patriotism of Teddy Kennedy

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José Guardia quotes (and translates) a story about Ted Kennedy from recalled by former Spanish Ambassador to the US Javier Rupérez, adding his own puzzlement about the late Senator Kennedy’s behavior.

    Shortly after the Iraq war started I saw Senator Kennedy in a public session of the U.S. Supreme Court. As we were taking our seats he briefly took my arm and told me he greatly appreciated the attitude of the Spanish government regarding the decision taken by the White House because, he said, “although you know my position ” — he was one of the few senators to oppose the authorization for the war — “I appreciate the solidarity with my country in times like this.” “I would appreciate if you relay this to President Aznar,” he added.

Interesting. Let me see if I get this straight: if it’s good to show solidarity with the US “in times like this”, why did this only apply to foreigners? Why didn’t he start with himself? I understand the “politics ends at the water edge” principle, but it’s one thing not to criticize, and another to send a clear, precise message like this. Of course it may be he was acting as a politician, telling his interlocutor what he wanted to hear. But still, the opposition to the war in Iraq was a topic in which Ted Kennedy was very vocal, and it’s certainly odd he said this, if he did.

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How much solidarity with his own country did the late Senator show?

Paul Kengor, at American Thinker, reminds of us of the 1983 KGB memo describing the late Senator Kennedy making a confidential offer to General Secretary Andropov to join him in opposing the Reagan Administration defense build-up which ultimately persuaded the Soviet leadership it could not win the Cold War and brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There’s solidarity for you. Too bad the solidarity of the late Senator Edward Moore Kennedy was with his country’s enemies. And they buried him with honors in Arlington National Cemetery! That noise you hear in the distance must be the real Americans buried there revolving in their graves.

The subject head, carried under the words, “Special Importance,” read: “Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Y. V. Andropov.” According to the memo, Senator Kennedy was “very troubled” by U.S.-Soviet relations, which Kennedy attributed not to the murderous tyrant running the USSR but to President Reagan. The problem was Reagan’s “belligerence.”

This was allegedly made worse by Reagan’s stubbornness. “According to Kennedy,” reported Chebrikov, “the current threat is due to the President’s refusal to engage any modification to his politics.” That refusal, said the memo, was exacerbated by Reagan’s political success, which made the president surer of his course, and more obstinate — and, worst of all, re-electable.

On that, the fourth and fifth paragraphs of Chebrikov’s memo got to the thrust of Kennedy’s offer: The senator was apparently clinging to hope that President Reagan’s 1984 reelection bid could be thwarted. Of course, this seemed unlikely, given Reagan’s undeniable popularity. So, where was the president vulnerable?

Alas, Kennedy had an answer, and suggestion, for his Soviet friends: In Chebrikov’s words, “The only real threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations. These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

Therein, Chebrikov got to the heart of the U.S. senator’s offer to the USSR’s general secretary: “Kennedy believes that, given the state of current affairs, and in the interest of peace, it would be prudent and timely to undertake the following steps to counter the militaristic politics of Reagan.”

Of these, step one would be for Andropov to invite the senator to Moscow for a personal meeting. Said Chebrikov: “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they would be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.”

The second step, the KGB head informed Andropov, was a Kennedy strategy to help the Soviets “influence Americans.” Chebrikov explained: “Kennedy believes that in order to influence Americans it would be important to organize in August-September of this year [1983], televised interviews with Y. V. Andropov in the USA.” The media savvy Massachusetts senator recommended to the Soviet dictator that he seek a “direct appeal” to the American people. And, on that, “Kennedy and his friends,” explained Chebrikov, were willing to help, listing Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters (both listed by name in the memo) as good candidates for sit-down interviews with the dictator.

Kennedy concluded that the Soviets needed, in effect, some PR help, given that Reagan was good at “propaganda” (the word used in the memo). The senator wanted them to know he was more than eager to lend a hand.

Kennedy wanted the Soviets to saturate the American media during such a visit. Chebrikov said Kennedy could arrange interviews not only for the dictator but for “lower level Soviet officials, particularly from the military,” who “would also have an opportunity to appeal directly to the American people about the peaceful intentions of the USSR.”

This was apparently deemed crucial because of the dangerous threat posed not by Andropov’s regime but — in Kennedy’s view — by Ronald Reagan and his administration. It was up to the Kremlin folks to “root out the threat of nuclear war,” “improve Soviet-American relations,” and “define the safety for the world.”

Quite contrary to the ludicrous assertions now being made about Ted Kennedy working jovially with Ronald Reagan, Kennedy, in truth, thought Reagan was a trigger-happy buffoon, and said so constantly, with vicious words of caricature and ridicule. The senator felt very differently about Yuri Andropov. As Chebrikov noted in his memo, “Kennedy is very impressed with the activities of Y. V. Andropov and other Soviet leaders.”

Alas, the memo concluded with a discussion of Kennedy’s own presidential prospects in 1984, and a note that Kennedy “underscored that he eagerly awaits a reply to his appeal.”

What happened next? We will never know.

31 Aug 2009

Two Good Insults in One Column

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In Newsweek, George Will compares the Chosen One both to Muzak and to Depression-era populist demagogue Huey Long.

In August our ubiquitous president became the nation’s elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper. And now, as Congress returns to resume wrestling with health care reform, we shall see if he continues his August project of proving that the idea of an Ivy LeagueHuey Long is not oxymoronic.

Barack Obama in August became a Huey for today, a rabble rouser with a better tailor, an unrumpled and modulated tribune of downtrodden Americans, telling them that opponents of his reform plan—which actually does not yet exist—are fearmongers employing scare tactics. He also told Americans to be afraid, very afraid of health-insurance providers because they are dishonest (and will remain so until there is a “public option” to make them “honest”). And to be afraid, very afraid of pediatricians who unnecessarily extract children’s tonsils for monetary rather than medical reasons. And to be afraid, very afraid of doctors generally because so many of them are so rapacious that they prefer lopping off limbs of diabetes patients rather than engaging in lifestyle counseling that for “a pittance” could prevent diabetes.

Read the whole thing. George Will is in good form.

30 Aug 2009

Standing Up to Harry Reid

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the mistake of trying to intimidate the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Instead of being frightened, Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick reported what Reid did and openly defied him. I wish I lived near enough to Las Vegas to subscribe.

On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber’s board members for a meet-‘n’-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal’s director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.

Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: “I hope you go out of business.”

Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.

Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.

You could call Reid’s remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.

But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid’s remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was — a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he’s shaking them down.

No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.

If he thinks he can push the state’s largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don’t have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.

For the sake of all who live and work in Nevada, we can’t let this bully behavior pass without calling out Sen. Reid. If he’ll try it with the Review-Journal, you can bet that he’s tried it with others. So today, we serve notice on Sen. Reid that this creepy tactic will not be tolerated.

We won’t allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first.

Read the whole thing.

I look forward to 2010.

30 Aug 2009

Remembering a Fallen Lion

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Iowahawk pays a final tribute to a dynastic happy warrior.

“Lion of Leinenkugel” Norm Snitker, 62, Laid to Rest

La Crosse WI — Slowly filing past a green-and-gold casket festooned with cheese curds, lottery tickets, and bouquets of 6-pack rings, the city of La Crosse bid a tearful farewell this morning to Norman V. “Norm” Snitker, 62. Long heralded as the “Lion of Leinenkugel” for his relentless fight for free beer and shots at local taverns and supper clubs, Snitker succumbed to an exploding liver Tuesday evening during a late model modified heat at La Crosse Speedway’s $1 Jagermeister night.

“Norm left an amazing legacy, and an amazing bar tab,” said mourner Les Schreindl, 59. “La Crosse won’t see his likes again soon.”….

Like hundreds of other who came to pay their respects at First Presbyterian — some traveling from as far as Menomonie, Pewaukee, Ashwebenon, and Waunawacamapepee — Schreindl wiped a tear in remembrance of the fallen champion of universal alcohol rights. Many vowed to carry on his fight, but along with the heartfelt, staggering eulogies, there was a melancholy sense that the death of Norm Snitker marked the end of the Snitker welding supply dynasty that has for so long dominated public life in La Crosse County.

As tears and Jager shots flowed in the pews of First Presbyterian, there was a sense that Norman Snitker’s death brought to an end the long legacy of Snitker rule in La Crosse. Many La Crossians hold out hope that an heir apparent will emerge from the next generation of Snitkers, but the once white-hot inert gas flame of Snitker welding celebrity has seemingly flickered. LMS daughter Tiffani Snitker-Pflugelhoefer, the presumptive princess to the family barstool, cites career obligations at a Prairie du Chien Farm and Fleet, while other Snitker cousins cite obligations at local halfway houses and work-release programs.

“No matter how hard times were, me and my family have always had a Snitker to call on,” said grieving Clifford Albrechtson. “Now I’m worried where my next boilermaker is going to come from.”

Others vowed to carry on the fight, and said they would push the La Crosse city council to fund the planned $1.2 billion Norman V. Snitker memorial public Shnapps fountain.

At the packed memorial service, Pastor Ed Vos urged mourners to remember the full measure of their fallen friend.

“Whatever his endless shortcomings were as a human being, we cannot let a few DUIs, cheese entombments and arson episodes overshadow the many good things that Norm thought he did,” said Vos. “Let us all recognize that Norm stood up for what he thought was right. No matter whether it was really right or not, and no matter how blotto he was. I suppose we all have to respect a man who can maintain that kind of fierce moral clarity. And can hold his liquor like that.”

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

30 Aug 2009

“Blood For Oil”

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Jules Crittenden comments on the not-wholly-unexpected confirmation via a leak to the Times of London that, yes, Virginia, the Labour Government really did trade the Lockerbie bomber for a BP oil deal.

Remember when the United States and Britain used to make murderous, terrorism-supporting dictators tremble? They even made Moammar Ghadafi cry uncle and the Iranians bring their nuke program to a temporary halt back in 2003, when they took out Saddam. It was another time, when people used to say it was all about blood for oil. We didn’t actually get any oil for that blood. But in a new, gentler time, apparently it’s possible to swap mass murderers for oil. Think of the possibilities.

29 Aug 2009

The Guild

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Felicia Day, writer of The Guild, also plays Codex

The Guild is an amusing online comedy whose storyline revolves around a group of on-line gamers playing an unnamed Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing game bearing a considerable, not entirely coincidental, resemblance to World of Warcraft.

Not surprisingly, because The Guild represents a satirical commentary by actress Felicia Day, best-known for the role of Violet on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, on her own on-line gaming addiction.

The Guild premiered on-line in 2007. Its first season consisted of ten 3-to-7-minute episodes. A second season of only six episodes ran the following year. But The Guild has attracted corporate sponsorship. Microsoft bought the exclusive right to release the first episode of Season 3 on Xbox starting this week, for one week prior to the general release September 1st.

The musical number Do You Wanna To Date My Avatar is a good introduction and has links to episodes.

WatchtheGuild

29 Aug 2009

UAE Seizes North Korean Arms Shipment

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ANL Australia

Wall Street Journal reports on a UN leak revealing a month-old event. The appearance of the news story is probably related to a more recent development. It may represent a warning to North Korea, saying in essence, don’t bother sending that loaded container ship out of port, we arranged the seizure of the last one, and we can do it to the one you just loaded, too.

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates recently seized a shipment of military hardware from North Korea aboard a vessel bound for Iran, according to people familiar with the seizure.

The seizure could fuel efforts by the U.S. and other Western powers to push for greater economic sanctions against Tehran, if diplomatic outreach fails.

The equipment included detonators and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a diplomat to the United Nations Security Council, but no nuclear-related material.

Their purchase by Iran would violate new U.N. sanctions imposed against North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s test of a nuclear device in May. They would have been legal under earlier sanctions regimes.

According to the Security Council diplomat, the weapons were carried on an Australian vessel, the ANL-Australia, which was flying under a Bahamian flag. According to an Aug. 14 letter sent to the U.N. sanctions committee, the exporting company was an Italian shipper, Otim, which exported the items from its Shanghai office.

“The cargo manifest said the shipment contained oil-boring machines, but then you opened it up and there were these items,” the diplomat said. ANL and Otim officials couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.

The sanctions committee replied to the letter earlier this week, informing the U.A.E. it had an obligation to “seize and dispose” of the weapons. The weapons have been offloaded from the ship, and the ship has been released, according to people familiar with the action.

The seizure took place roughly a month ago, according to an Emirati official. It was earlier reported on the Web site of the Financial Times.

28 Aug 2009

CBS Knew George W. Bush Volunteered for Vietnam

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Lt. George W. Bush in the cockpit of an F102 jet fighter at Ellington Field near Houston in 1968

Bernard Goldberg reveals a major detail disclosed by CBS’s investigation of Rathergate which the mainstream media for some mysterious reason has never considered worth reporting.

Dan Rather is suing the network that employed him for 44 years, asking for $70 million dollars in damages. Technically, the lawsuit is about a dry legal issue — breach of contract. But it is also about something much more personal to Rather: his legacy. It is a lawsuit, fundamentally, about saving Dan Rather’s reputation.

That reputation took a turn for the worse back in 2004. As has been widely reported, just 55 days before a very close presidential election, Dan Rather and his producer Mary Mapes put a story on the weekday edition of 60 Minutes that brought on the media equivalent of World War III. There were accusations that Rather, Mapes, and maybe the entire CBS News Division had set out to deliberately destroy George W. Bush and get John Kerry elected President of the United States – a charge everyone at CBS vehemently denies.

The story was about how the young George Bush got preferential treatment during the Vietnam War; how he wangled his way into the Texas Air National Guard back in the 1960s to avoid service in Vietnam; and how he was able to do it because his father was a big-shot, a United States Congressman from Houston. The story portrayed the Bush as a slacker. Others have said it portrayed him as a “cowardly draft dodger.”

And to bolster their story, Rather and Mapes got their hands on “never-before-seen” documents (as Rather put it in his story) that supposedly backed up their months (and in Mapes’ case, years) of reporting. But in no time flat the documents came under attack, mainly by conservatives on the web who examined the typeface of the memos and concluded they were fakes.

CBS News management aggressively defended the story in general and the documents in particular – until they didn’t. After about two weeks, CBS threw in the towel and said it could no longer stand by the story. Rather, who had been vigorously defending his story, reluctantly went on the air and admitted the documents could not be authenticated. Later he would say he was forced to do it.

In the aftermath of the fiasco, CBS established an outside panel to look into the matter. In January of 2005 the panel issued a report which concluded the news division failed to establish that the documents were legitimate and not bogus. Mapes was fired. A vice president and two producers were forced to resign. And Dan Rather was a dead man walking.

He had already lost his job as anchorman of the evening news but was allowed to stay on the weekday edition of 60 Minutes, which his story had sent on a glide path to oblivion. And when that show died an inglorious death Rather went over to the Sunday edition of 60 Minutes. But that wouldn’t last long, either. When his contract ran out CBS yanked him off the show, but made him an offer he decided to refuse: Rather would get an office and an assistant and he could report stories for any CBS News broadcast that called on him – if any CBS News broadcast ever chose to call on him. CBS offered Rather $250,000 a year, according to my sources, who say he wanted a million. When he didn’t get it, he quit. According to Rather, he was pushed out the door by the head of CBS, Leslie Moonves.

In 2007, Rather filed his $70 million lawsuit against his old company saying he wasn’t allowed to defend his story because the top management of CBS’ parent company, Viacom, wanted to appease the Bush Administration and protect its business interests.

Until now, the controversy over the Rather/Mapes story has centered almost entirely on one issue: the legitimacy of the documents – a very important issue, indeed. But it turns out that there was another very important issue, one that goes to the very heart of what the story was about – and one that has gone virtually unnoticed. This is it: Mary Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that George W. Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam.

Who says? The outside panel CBS brought into to get to the bottom of the so-called “Rathergate” mess says. I recently re-examined the panel’s report after a source, Deep Throat style, told me to “Go to page 130.” When I did, here’s the startling piece of information I found:

Mapes had information prior to the airing of the September 8 [2004] Segment that President Bush, while in the TexANG [Texas Air National Guard] did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots. For example, a flight instructor who served in the TexANG with Lieutenant Bush advised Mapes in 1999 that Lieutenant Bush “did want to go to Vietnam but others went first.” Similarly, several others advised Mapes in 1999, and again in 2004 before September 8, that Lieutenant Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam but did not have enough flight hours to qualify.

This information, despite the fact that it has been available since the CBS report came out four years ago, has remained a secret to almost everybody both in and out of the media — one lonely fact in a 234- page report loaded with thousands of facts, and overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the documents.

Hat tip to Scott Drum.

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That particular piece of data certainly puts this Huffington Post editorial by Mary Mapes in an interesting light, doesn’t it?

28 Aug 2009

Bastiat Debunked Cash for Clunkers in 1850

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The left commentariat has been burbling happily about the “success” of the democrat Cash for Clunkers program. It turned out Americans with an active interest in a new car, who happened to have an eligible, low value trade-in on hand, were happy to take some free money to do perhaps slightly more rapidly what they were going to do anyway.

Bruce Yandle points out that the relevance of Cash for Clunkers to one of the best known economic fallacies.

University of California-Berkley economist Christopher Knittel has developed a rigorous assessment of the implied cost of carbon emissions under the clunker program. (“The Implied Cost of Carbon Dioxide Under the Cash for Clunkers Program” [pdf], Center for the Study of Energy Markets, Berkeley, The University of California Energy Institute.) Knittel made plausible assumptions about the average life remaining in vehicles removed from the road, the average fuel economy associated with those vehicles, and the resulting levels of carbon emission that would have survived in the absence of clunkers. Eventually, of course, the clunkers would have died a natural but less dramatic death. Knittel then estimated the carbon reduction gained when the large fleet of clunkers was replaced by a new fuel-efficient fleet. When he ran the numbers, Knittel found the cost per ton of carbon reduced could reach $500 under a set of normal values for critical variables. The cost estimate was $237 per ton under best case conditions. And what does this tell us? The much celebrated Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade carbon-emission control legislation estimates the cost of reducing a ton of carbon to be $28 when done across U.S. industries. Yes, we are getting carbon-emission reductions by way of clunker reduction, but we are paying a pretty penny for it.

Frédéric Bastiat’s brilliant parable of the broken window reminds us that a street hoodlum throwing a brick through a window generates a series of job-generating transactions that might raise GDP by a trivial amount, if it could be measured. Indeed, the idea seems so compelling that people today often speak of the silver lining found in the clouds that create hurricanes. Think of the roofers that become employed. But Bastiat’s key lesson is that a window has been destroyed—and it had value. Before touting the total benefits of clunkers, we must take account of the destroyed vehicles and engines that represented part of the wealth of the nation. As Tony Liller, vice president for Goodwill, put it: “They’re crushing these cars, and they’re perfectly good. These are cars the poor need to buy.”

Finally, over the eons, human communities have contrived all kinds of devices to transmit critical survival skills and compatible behavioral norms. One of these has to do with conservation of wealth. “Waste not, want not,” we are told. “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” we are reminded. Using politics to pay people who destroy valuable vehicles, or to hold crops off the market, or to produce ethanol that may use more energy in production than it adds when burned, teaches a lesson of anti-matter and wealth destruction. When all these considerations are made, Cash for Clunkers sounds like a sorry idea that should not be the model for future policy.

Let’s stop Cash for Refrigerators before the idea spreads further.

27 Aug 2009

Panetta Being Ousted at CIA?

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All the denials quoted in this ABC News story suggest that Leon Panetta fought too hard to protect Agency employees from a Justice Department witchhunt, and the skids are already greased to ease him out of the CIA Directorship.

Amid reports that Panetta had threatened to quit just seven months after taking over at the spy agency, other insiders tell ABCNews.com that senior White House staff members are already discussing a possible shake-up of top national security officials.

“You can expect a larger than normal turnover in the next year,” a senior adviser to Obama on intelligence matters told ABCNews.com.

Since 9/11, the CIA has had five directors or acting directors.

A White House spokesperson, Denis McDonough, said reports that Panetta had threatened to quit and that the White House was seeking a replacement were “inaccurate.”

According to intelligence officials, Panetta erupted in a tirade last month during a meeting with a senior White House staff member. Panetta was reportedly upset over plans by Attorney General Eric Holder to open a criminal investigation of allegations that CIA officers broke the law in carrying out certain interrogation techniques that President Obama has termed “torture.”

A CIA spokesman quoted Panetta as saying “it is absolutely untrue” that he has any plans to leave the CIA. As to the reported White House tirade, the spokesman said Panetta is known to use “salty language.” CIA spokesman George Little said the report was “wrong, inaccurate, bogus and false.”…

In addition to concerns about the CIA’s reputation and its legal exposure, other White House insiders say Panetta has been frustrated by what he perceives to be less of a role than he was promised in the administration’s intelligence structure. Panetta has reportedly chafed at reporting through the director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, according to the senior adviser who said Blair is equally unhappy with Panetta.

“Leon will be leaving,” predicted a former top U.S. intelligence official, citing the conflict with Blair. The former official said Panetta is also “uncomfortable” with some of the operations being carried out by the CIA that he did not know about until he took the job.

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Commentators from the perspective of the right were not pleased by the prospect of Leon Panetta’s appointment, and back in January we were rooting for him to withdraw his name.

If Leon Panetta has actually fallen on his own sword as the result of defending the Agency against the desire of the democrat party’s moonbat base for sacrificial victims, I’m prepared to say that I did not give Panetta enough credit. He’s a better man, and made a much more worthy CIA director, than I had believed.

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Spook86 adds support to the stories of Panetta’s impending ouster by quoting a particularly horrifying rumor.

Under ordinary circumstances, we’d call for Panetta’s resignation, but his potential replacements would be far worse. One name making the rounds is Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, who served in Vietnam.

Kerry as CIA Director? God help us.

A traitor for CIA director? What could be a more obvious choice for Barack Obama?

27 Aug 2009

“Absolutely”

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Thomas F. Cooley and Peter Rupert discuss, in Forbes, the recent triumphant claims heard widely on the left that “the stimulus is working.”

The bloviators of the blogosphere have been in full roar the past few weeks over the claimed success of the economic stimulus program. Much of this was ignited by Christina Romer, chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, in a speech addressing the question of whether the stimulus was working–and concluding that it was, “absolutely.” …

The recent economic news has been encouraging. The pace of contraction of output and the rate of job losses has declined. This is evidence enough for many people to conclude that the stimulus is working. Writing in The New York Times, Robert H. Frank concludes that the stimulus is working, and that we need more of it. It is perfectly reasonable to have that as an opinion but it isn’t supported by either facts or reasoning.

Now understand that, no matter what point of view you start from–whether you believe stimulus is effective or that it is the voodoo economics of the new millennium–the Economic Recovery Act is a grand fiscal experiment. It is a bit like throwing the baby in the swimming pool to see if it swims.

At some future time, after careful parsing of the data and studying people’s decisions, we may have a much better estimate of the effectiveness of debt-financed government spending of this sort. One should keep in mind, however, that the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the programs to combat the Great Depression in the 1930s is still a matter of great debate. Of course it would be a lot easier if the stimulus programs were better designed and more focused.

To claim, however, that the evidence suggests it is working–and that we need more of it–is nonsense for two reasons. The first, which ought to be obvious, is that we only get one observation on events. To draw a causal connection between the stimulus and the fact that we haven’t plunged into another Great Depression seems bold, to say the least. Since we don’t have a parallel universe in which to play out events without the stimulus, we can’t refute it. …

The other reason why it is illogical to claim a boost from the stimulus is that, for the most part, it hasn’t gone out the door yet. …

Doug Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office… estimates that by the end of fiscal year 2009, which falls on Sept. 30, just a month from now, 32% of the income transfers for things such as food stamps and extended unemployment benefits will have been spent and 31% of the tax cuts will have been disbursed. And by the end of fiscal year 2010 just 73% of the money allocated to these programs will have been spent.

Even Christina Romer concedes that this part of the stimulus hasn’t done much. …

..the most important stuff–the discretionary spending on infrastructure–has hardly started. By the end of the fiscal year, only 11% of the budgeted discretionary spending on highways, mass transit, energy efficiency and medical infrastructure will have gone out the door. …

There has been remarkably expansionary monetary policy in place for the last year. And there is the promise of massive spending, most of it in the future. If you, the reader, had to pick one as the key fact, would you pick the one that has already occurred and that clearly re-capitalized the banking system and restored liquidity, or the one that hasn’t hit yet?

There is nothing like data to kill a good story.

With or without stimuli, economies do recover from recessions, even great ones.

26 Aug 2009

A Presidency in Serious Trouble

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Charles Murray wonders what the Obama Administration thinks it’s doing.

The late New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael famously said after Nixon’s landslide reelection, “How can he have won? Nobody I know voted for him.” My proposition for today is that the entire White House suffers from the Kael syndrome.

It was the only explanation I could think of as I watched the news last night about the coming prosecution of CIA interrogators. When it comes to political analysis, I’m no Barone or Bowman or Ornstein, but this is not a really tough call. Attempts to put men on trial who obtained information that most Americans will believe (probably rightly) saved the nation from more terrorist attacks will be a political catastrophe, all the more so because I bet that the defendants will come across as straight-arrow good guys (and probably are), while the prosecutors come across as self-righteous wimps (and…). How could the White House not have thought this through? …

(E)very white socioeconomic class in America has become more conservative in the last four decades, with the Traditional Middles moving the most decisively rightward. But the Intellectual Uppers have not just moved slightly in the other direction, they have careened in the other direction.

They won the election with a candidate who sounded centrist running against an exceptionally weak Republican opponent. But they’ve been in the bubble too long. They really think that the rest of America thinks as they do. Nothing but the Pauline Kael syndrome can explain the political idiocy of letting Attorney General Eric Holder go after the interrogators.

Read the whole thing.

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Meanwhile in the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami concludes that Barack Obama’s moment has passed. Health Care Reform finished it. Barack Obama is definitely not Ronald Reagan, and the American people who gambled on his governing as a centrist are gradually coming to recognize his real agenda and are growing increasingly frightened and appalled.

In one of the revealing moments of the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama rightly observed that the Reagan presidency was a transformational presidency in a way Clinton’s wasn’t. And by that Reagan precedent, that Reagan standard, the faults of the Obama presidency are laid bare. Ronald Reagan, it should be recalled, had been swept into office by a wave of dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter and his failures. At the core of the Reagan mission was the recovery of the nation’s esteem and self-regard. Reagan was an optimist. He was Hollywood glamour to be sure, but he was also Peoria, Ill. His faith in the country was boundless, and when he said it was “morning in America” he meant it; he believed in America’s miracle and had seen it in his own life, in his rise from a child of the Depression to the summit of political power.

The failure of the Carter years was, in Reagan’s view, the failure of the man at the helm and the policies he had pursued at home and abroad. At no time had Ronald Reagan believed that the American covenant had failed, that America should apologize for itself in the world beyond its shores. There was no narcissism in Reagan. It was stirring that the man who headed into the sunset of his life would bid his country farewell by reminding it that its best days were yet to come.

In contrast, there is joylessness in Mr. Obama. He is a scold, the “Yes we can!” mantra is shallow, and at any rate, it is about the coming to power of a man, and a political class, invested in its own sense of smarts and wisdom, and its right to alter the social contract of the land. In this view, the country had lost its way and the new leader and the political class arrayed around him will bring it back to the right path.

Thus the moment of crisis would become an opportunity to push through a political economy of redistribution and a foreign policy of American penance. The independent voters were the first to break ranks. They hadn’t underwritten this fundamental change in the American polity when they cast their votes for Mr. Obama.

American democracy has never been democracy by plebiscite, a process by which a leader is anointed, then the populace steps out of the way, and the anointed one puts his political program in place. In the American tradition, the “mandate of heaven” is gained and lost every day and people talk back to their leaders. They are not held in thrall by them. The leaders are not infallible or a breed apart. That way is the Third World way, the way it plays out in Arab and Latin American politics.

Those protesters in those town-hall meetings have served notice that Mr. Obama’s charismatic moment has passed. Once again, the belief in that American exception that set this nation apart from other lands is re-emerging. Health care is the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it is an unease with the way the verdict of the 2008 election was read by those who prevailed. It shall be seen whether the man swept into office in the moment of national panic will adjust to the nation’s recovery of its self-confidence.

Read the whole thing.

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Barack Obama’s determination to govern de haute en bas, to impose on the rest of the country the ideological preferences of what Charles Murray calls the “Intellectual Upper,” really the community of fashion, places him in serious conflict with the uncommitted political center which gave him his margin of victory. Rather than giving Obama and the democrat party a mandate for Socialism and a blank check for revenge, the centrists mistakenly accepted Obama’s soft talk and tone of moderation. They voted for a calm and emollient presidency, desiring an end to the ideological furor of George W. Bush’s presidency. Barack Obama is fatally misinterpreting the voters’ message.

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