Archive for February, 2008
26 Feb 2008

Encyclopedia of Life

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The New York Times reports that a group of scientists is starting an on-line biological encyclopedia of species, to be developed and completed over time by Wikipedia-style volunteer contributors.

Imagine the Book of All Species: a single volume made up of one-page descriptions of every species known to science. On one page is the blue-footed booby. On another, the Douglas fir. Another, the oyster mushroom. If you owned the Book of All Species, you would need quite a bookshelf to hold it. Just to cover the 1.8 million known species, the book would have to be more than 300 feet long. And you’d have to be ready to expand the bookshelf strikingly, because scientists estimate there are 10 times more species waiting to be discovered.

An Online Catalog of Biodiversity It sounds surreal, and yet scientists are writing the Book of All Species. Or to be more precise, they are building a Web site called the Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org). On Thursday its authors, an international team of scientists, will introduce the first 30,000 pages, and within a decade, they predict, they will have the other 1.77 million.

While many of those pages may be sparse at first, the authors hope that the world’s scientific community will pool all of its knowledge on the pages.

26 Feb 2008

Obama is Jimmy Carter, Not Reagan

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Barack Obama aspires to be a transformative national leader like Ronald Reagan was, but Steve Kornacki thinks the O-man has a much greater resemblance to the little peanut farmer from Georgia.

Once again, the Democrats seem ready to nominate a candidate whose appeal is rooted more in the emotions that he stirs than in the details of his 12-point plans. For Jimmy Carter in 1976, the operative word was trust. For Barack Obama in 2008, it is hope.

Actually, the similarities between Carter and Obama are considerable. Like Obama, Carter’s resume included service in a state Legislature (rare for a president), and only a very brief stint in high-profile office, his single term as Georgia’s governor from 1970 to 1974. Obama, of course, has only been in the U.S. Senate since 2005, after an eight-year run in the Illinois state Senate.

Both also outsmarted their intra-party foes when it came to primary strategy. In ‘76, Carter was the lone Democrat to comprehend the opportunities that attended the proliferation of state primaries and caucuses, entering the race early and targeting every state, a tactic that produced weekly victories, hordes of delegates, and a gathering sense of momentum that left his late-starting rivals in the dust. Similarly, the wisdom of Obama’s decision to contest small caucus states and all of the mid-size contests between Super Tuesday and March 4—and the lack of wisdom in Hillary Clinton’s decision not to do so—is only now becoming clear.

Most significantly, both men came along at exactly the right time. Carter’s peanut-farmer-from-Plains simplicity and his oft-repeated promise that he “will never lie to you” were powerful political weapons after Nixon and his wiretapping, his plumbers and his pardon from Ford. And Obama’s message of hope—and his own life story—resonates with an electorate that, after these past eight years, feels utterly disconnected from its government and simply wants to believe in someone again.

In the ’76 primaries, Carter’s Democratic foes at first ignored his trust theme and then—when it was too late—brayed against it, warning that he’d been maddeningly vague about what he’d actually do as president. Hillary Clinton’s warnings about Obama, it appears, have been just as tardy and futile.

But the ’76 example tells us that criticisms that don’t stick during the primary season can still work in the general election. Day after day in fall campaign, the Ford forces pounded away at the experience question and painted Carter as a political illusion, an affable-seeming politician who was terrified of expressing his opinion on any controversial topic.

“It is not enough to say, ‘Trust me,’” Ford said at one rally. “Trust must be earned. Trust is not having to guess what a candidate means. Trust is leveling with people before the election about what you’re going to do after the election. Trust is not being all things to all people, but being the same thing to all people.”

The media eventually caught on too, scrutinizing Carter with a daily intensity that was absent in the primary season, and Carter’s lead steadily eroded.

McCain is readying the same kind of attack against Obama.

“I’m not the youngest candidate,” he said last week. “But I’m the most experienced.” And at a different event, he charged that Obama is offering “an eloquent but empty call for change.”

Obama may prove a more durable fall candidate that Carter. He’s been more specific in his proposals than Carter was (see: health care and diplomacy with hostile nations), and his personal bond with the electorate may prove deeper and more intense than Carter’s ever was.

But if you’re tempted to think Obama has too much working in his favor to lose in November, just remember what very nearly happened in 1976.

Even if Obama should succeed, which I personally think is somewhat unlikely, in defeating John McCain, I suspect that, like Carter, he’ll function as transformative candidate in reverse, as a democrat whose disastrous policies, domestically and internationally, teach Americans exactly why they don’t want to elect leftist democrats.

26 Feb 2008

Was Obama’s Mansion Purchased With Iraqi Money?

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The London Times traces the trail of cash from Iraqi Nadhmi Auchi to Syrian Antoin Rezko to Barack Obama.

A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama’s fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.

The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama’s bagman Antoin “Tony” Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.

The spotlight fell on Mr Rezko’s ties to Mr Auchi last month when the Chicago businessman was thrown in jail for violating his bail terms by failing to declare a different $3.5 million loan from the British billionaire, made in April 2007. Prosecutors feared Mr Rezko, who travels widely in the Middle East, might flee to a country without an extradition treaty such as his birthplace of Syria.

Mr Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe. He, in a statement from his media lawyers, claims he is appealing against the sentence. …

Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr Auchi lent Mr Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007.

That agreement provided for the outstanding loans to be “forgiven” in return for a stake in the 62-acre Riverside Park development.

Mr Auchi founded his Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holding (GMH) in 1979, a year before he left Iraq. He says that he did business with his native country when it was considered a friend of the West but ceased to trade with the late Saddam Hussein’s regime once sanctions were imposed after the invasion of Kuwait.

Read the whole thing.

Earlier Obama house deal posting.

25 Feb 2008

Blogospheric Consolidation

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Attentive readers will find Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle (formerly Jane Galt), and Michael Totten are helping Glenn Reynolds with the aggregating on Instapundit.

The big news of the day is that Captain Ed Morrissey has announced that he will be closing down his illustrious Captain’s Quarters blog and working at Michelle Malkin‘s Hot Air. I suppose adapting to the change will be easy enough. I just need to put Hot Air in my Essential Blogs links category.

Congratulations to all concerned.

25 Feb 2008

Germany Adopts Toy Gun Control

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AP:

Germany’s parliament on Friday approved a new law that bans switchblades and the carrying of replica firearms.

The law, which takes effect Saturday, is largely an attempt to help police officers avoid accidentally mistaking replica firearms for real weapons.

Under the law, people can still sell, purchase and possess the replicas. Toy weapons that cannot be mistaken for real guns are not affected by the law.

The law also forbids the carrying of any knives with a blade longer than 12 centimeters (4 3/4 inches), and all switchblades.

A fine of up to €10,000 (US$15,000) can be imposed upon people breaking the new law.

25 Feb 2008

Fierce Urgency of Lies

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Lance Fairchok (can that possibly be a real name?) does not like Obama very much.

Grown men weep in his presence, women faint, and thousands scream his name like a rock star. The liberal press prints glowing tributes to their new progressive prophet, calling him “the triumph of word over flesh” and other absurd and profoundly unwarranted accolades. Obama, a very junior Senator, will guide us to a Utopia that has yet to be defined, an America that the left envisions but cannot quantify; but rest assured it will be swell.

Obama’s image is picture perfect Ivy League political correctness. He is an educated man of color. He is a socialist. He has an intelligent and lovely wife, which he publicly embraces with obvious devotion. Even better, he has a deep and melodious speaking voice, full of the heroic righteousness of Martin Luther King, which echoes a time of triumph over injustice. He is the embodiment of our popular culture, passionate and handsome, well spoken yet carefully imprecise, and so absent of consistency he cannot long endure critical examination.

His political history is painfully short; his track record, what there is of it, is pure leftist, there in nothing to indicate he has a uniting or bipartisan bone in his body. Yet he would have us believe he will “bring America together to solve problems” and fill us with an “Audacity of Hope.” Of course, how he will do that is merely a repackaging of the same leftist boilerplate we endured from Hillary, Kerry or Edwards. There is nothing new, nothing uniting, nothing to match the flow of his rhetoric or the timbre of his voice.

Read the whole thing.

Mr. Fairchok has written to assure me that he is using his real name and not a nom-de-plume descriptive of his belligerent editorial intentions. I’m glad I asked.

24 Feb 2008

Finally Proud of America

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The Daily Mail examines Michelle Obama’s “working class” roots in Chicago’s South Side, and finds a pretty solid middle-class background which ought to provide little basis for complaint. The working class heroine act seems even thinner when contrasted with the reality of the Obamas’ situation today.

Michelle is very much like Cherie Blair. She is a middle-class girl who has discovered that money is nice and doesn’t see that as a contradiction with having radical beliefs,” he said.

Chicago’s veteran political consultant and pundit Joe Novak agrees, saying: “She [Michelle] is now motivated more by personal gain than by social consciousness.

“She saw her opportunities, and she took them.”

The rewards have been significant. Despite the image she projects on the Newsweek cover, Michelle owns an impressive collection of diamond jewellery, designer outfits and £400-a-pair Jimmy Choo shoes.

When she is wooing working-class voters, however, she favours austere black skirts and white blouses. “Our lives are so close to normal, if there is such a thing when you’re running for president,” she declared during a campaign stop in Delaware, shortly before her husband’s latest victories were announced.

“When I’m off the road, I’m going to Target [a U.S. chain store] to get the toilet paper.”

She did not bother to mention, however, that the paper, like the rest of the family shopping, is taken to an £825,000 three-storey red-brick Georgian revival mansion, set amid beautifully manicured lawns in one of Chicago’s most affluent districts.

Even the house became a source of controversy when it emerged that the wife of a Chicago slum landlord, Tony Rezko, helped them buy land to enlarge its grounds.

Renowned for leaving tenants of one of his squalid buildings without heat in the city’s brutal winter, Rezko now is facing federal corruption charges.

More contentious still was Michelle’s appointment as the £150,000-a-year vice-president of external affairs at the University of Chicago hospital in 2005.

It came only two months after Barack was sworn in as a U.S. senator, and was attacked by critics as a blatant attempt, critics claim, by the hospital’s hierarchy to curry favour with her husband, in an era when some politicians want to rein in the vast profits of America’s medical system. …

In their most recently publicised tax returns, for 2005, the Obamas earned £800,000.

This included royalties from the senator’s autobiography Dreams From My Father, and his £82,600 Senate salary.

Under a three-book deal which he subsequently-signed, he stands to earn at least £1million.

To Joe Novak, this only goes to prove that Michelle is distorting reality when she attempts to depict herself as a champion of the masses.

“For the past year (she and Barack) have jetted around the country with Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro, enjoying penthouse parties and living the high life,” he said.

Perhaps, when she contrasts her current red-carpet lifestyle with the unassuming world of South Euclid Avenue, she genuinely may think that her childhood was impoverished. And the one thing that is certain about the incredible Mrs O is that she never intends to have to live that way again.

24 Feb 2008

50 Mystery Writers (plus 3 More)

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The Telegraph offers a list of 50 detective story authors with a recommended title from each.

Missing from the list? I’d suggest including:

Nicholas Freeling was an Englishman and resident of the Continent, who brought keen intelligence and a serious and humane philosophical perspective to the detective genre. His best work was probably the series of novels revolving around criminal investigations conducted by Dutch Inspector Van der Valk. Most readers felt that Van der Valk’s death in the line of duty —Aupres de ma blonde aka A Long Silence (1972)– was a mistake, and Freeling’s replacement, French detective Henri Castaing, made for less compelling reading.

Read: Love in Amersterdam aka Death in Amsterdam (1962)

Robert van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat and orientalist, who translated an 18th century Chinese detective story about the adventures of a Tang Dynasty Imperial official. Inspired by the original, Gulik proceeded to produce his own series of further adventures of Judge Dee, running to 16 volumes of individual novels and short stories or thereabouts. The Judge Dee mysteries offer a fascinating picture of a distant time and place, viewed specifically from a Confucian perspective.

Read: The Chinese Bell Murders (1958)

And how could they possibly have missed?

John D. McDonald, a Harvard MBA, tried his hand at fiction while serving in WWII, and after his discharge settled down to produce a well-crafted series of hardboiled crime thrillers in the manner of James M. Cain. 1950s paperback racks were filled with McDonald’s pulpy novels, each with its cover featuring a buxom broad in provocative déshabillé. In the early 1960s, McDonald the professional sat down and carefully designed the ultimate series hero, one of the detective genre’s all-time great protagonists, Florida “salvage consultant,” thinking man’s action hero, and rueful philosopher Travis McGee.

Read: The Deep Blue Goodbye (1964)

23 Feb 2008

Obama Humor

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23 Feb 2008

Obama’s Captain Story Criticized

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Obama’s complaining captain story when fact checked by AP had some problems.

THE FACTS:

The Obama campaign offered no details to support the captain’s story, making it impossible to verify. A spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about who the captain was and when and how the candidate learned about the allegation.

ABC News said it talked to the unidentified captain, whose account of shortages in Afghanistan was for the most part accurately summarized by Obama, although not verified.

The captain said, however, that the unit did not go after the Taliban for the purpose of getting their weapons, but sometimes used those weapons when some were captured.

The Pentagon has acknowledged forces are stretched, but spokesman Bryan Whitman said that without knowing more, he could not comment on the veracity of Obama’s claim, except to say: “I find that account pretty hard to imagine.”

Whitman contended “all of our units and service members that go into harm’s way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful for the mission that they’ve been given.”

Obama said the platoon was supposed to have 39 soldiers. A platoon does not have to consist of 39, but can have between 16 to 40 soldiers, according to standard Army unit organization. It is also commanded by a lieutenant and not a captain.

According to the ABC report, the captain was a lieutenant when he took command of the rifle platoon.

Reuters reporting the Pentagon response:

The Pentagon on Friday cast doubt on an account of military equipment shortages mentioned by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during a debate with rival Hillary Clinton.

During the face-to-face encounter on Thursday evening, Obama said he had heard from an Army captain whose unit had served in Afghanistan without enough ammunition or vehicles.

Obama said it was easier for the troops to capture weapons from Taliban militants than it was “to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief,” President George W. Bush.

“I find that account pretty hard to imagine,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

“Despite the stress that we readily acknowledge on the force, one of the things that we do is make sure that all of our units and service members that are going into harm’s way are properly trained, equipped and with the leadership to be successful,” he said.

Whitman’s remarks were unusual as the Pentagon often declines to talk about comments from political campaigns.

23 Feb 2008

Ivy League Populism

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Dr. Sanity has an excellent article discussing in detail the game both democrat candidates are playing.

You have to admit, it’s a bit strange that all these multimillionaires who have greatly benefited from the freedom and opportunity offered by this country are competing with each other to see who can yell the loudest that the American dream is lost?

What’s going on here is not just a case of pessimism about what America stands for; it is a deliberate, calculated attempt to manipulate and appeal to one of the worse aspects of human nature–primitive envy–and stoke the fires of resentment and entitlement.

The message from the Democatic presidential candidates is almost exactly identical and it is the same message their party has been promoting (except, of course, when THEY are in the White House) since the 60’s: Things are BAD! Poverty is INCREASING! DOOM DOOM DOOM! You foolish people out there only think you are content!

Don’t you know that there are people in this very country who are richer than you are? There are even (gasp!) people who are smarter, more talented, and happier than you could possibly ever be!

Is this fair? Is this something that we have to put up with in our politically correct, culturally diverse, and oh so egalitarian society? You don’t have to be satisfied with life, liberty and only the pursuit of happiness– WE CAN GUARANTEE HAPPINESS FOR YOU!

You only think this is a land of opportunity…but vote for ME and you will see how much MORE you will have!

And now we have Barack the Messiah, who manages to cloak this same old tired egalitarian message in his lovely rhetorical babblings about “hope”, and “change”, and “yes we can”–as if he were actually appealing to the best, instead of the worst within each of us.

It all reminds me of the scene in the movie “Key Largo” where Frank McCloud confronts the criminal thug, Johnny Rocco:

    Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don’t you, Rocco?
    Johnny Rocco: Sure.
    James Temple: What’s that?
    Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
    Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh …
    Frank McCloud: He wants more, don’t you, Rocco?
    Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That’s it. More. That’s right! I want more!
    James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
    Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
    Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won’t.

We have become a country of thuggish Johnny Roccos.

The Democratic Party is there for all you unhappy people who want MORE–but who don’t want to work for it. They will tell you that you are entitled to it; that it is your right and that they will get it for you! Yes they can!

Read the whole thing.

23 Feb 2008

George Maurer, Famed Rodmaker, Dead

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The news had begun to circulate yesterday that George Maurer, proprietor of Sweetwater Bamboo Flyrods, had died suddenly of a heart attack.

Maurer had been the most renowned rod maker to work in Pennsylvania since the 19th century era of John Krieder and Samuel Phillippe. He built parabolic rods inspired by the tapers of Paul Young, and standard tapers based on the works of Jim Payne and Goodwin Granger.

Maurer was a friend of the angling writers Harry Middleton and John Gierach and built rods named after some of their books. I’ve never owned one myself, but I’ve often heard the model he called the “Old Philosopher,” a 7′ 5″ for 5 wt., singled out for exceptional praise.

Maurer’s shop in recent years was located at a wide place in the road along the rural highway paralleling the Big Pine Creek in North Central Pennsylvania, where cities are far away, and newspapers are few. It will be a while before a full obituary appears.

Len Codella

Trout Underground

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