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Showing posts from June, 2008

Why did Obama feel the need for this speech?

Washington Post:

Dogged by persistent questions about his faith in God and country, Sen. Barack Obama today journeyed to Harry Truman's birthplace to lay out his vision of patriotism, conceding that he has learned in this campaign "the question of who is -- or is not -- a patriot all too often poisons our political debate." "Throughout my life, I have always taken my deep and abiding love for this country as a given, " Obama said. "It was how I was raised. It was what propelled me into public service. It it why I am running for president. And yet at times over the last 16 months, my patriotism [has been] challenged - at times as a result of my own carelessness, more often as a result of the desire by some to score political points and raise fears about who I am and what I stand for."...
I don't know that he has been dogged by other candidates on this issue although some voters have raised questions about his dedication in this area. I think much …

Iran will not be allowed to close Persian Gulf

AFP:

The commander of the US navy's Fifth Fleet warned on Monday that the United States will not allow Iran to shut the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf sea lane through which much of the world's oil is supplied.

"They will not close it... They will not be allowed to close it," Vice-Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff told a press conference in Bahrain, where the Fifth Fleet is based. His remarks followed comments by the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, who issued a new warning last week against any attack against his country over its controversial nuclear drive....

It is refreshing to hear some blunt language on issues like this. Too often even the military becomes too diplomatic in its dealings with despots. Iran plans to use small fast boats to swarm the big ships of the US and allied fleet. The best way to defeat these attacks is to destroy the Iranian vessels before they can launch. It should be part of a comprehensive…

Lawfare comes to the aid of enemy combatants

NY Times:

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.

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This points out the problem with allowing judges to second guess the decisions made by the troops in battle. The absurdity of the court suggesting that the military should have been gathering forensic evidence of enemy combatants pickup during or after a battle seems clear with the courts unconscionable ridicule of the evidence that was produced.

This kind of disparagement of the military process points out the…

Corn more vulnerable than oil to climate changes

NY Times:

The record storms and floods that swept through the Midwest last month struck at the heart of America’s corn region, drowning fields and dashing hopes of a bumper crop.

They also brought into sharp relief a new economic hazard. As America grows more reliant on corn for its fuel supply, it is becoming vulnerable to the many hazards that can damage crops, ranging from droughts to plagues to storms.The floods have helped send the price of ethanol up 19 percent in a month. They appear to have had little effect on the price of gasoline at the pump, as ethanol represents only about 6 percent of the nation’s transport fuel today. But that share is expected to rise to at least 20 percent in coming decades. Experts fear that a future crop failure could take so much fuel out of the market that it would send prices soaring at the pump. Eventually, the cost of filling Americans’ gas tanks could be influenced as much by hail in Iowa as by the bombing of an oil pipeline in Nigeria.“We are h…

Algerian religious bigots try to revive with al Qaeda

NY Times:

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The inside story of the group, pieced together through dozens of interviews with militants and with intelligence, military and diplomatic officials, shows that the Algerians’ decision to join Al Qaeda was driven by both practical forces and the global fault line of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Droukdal cited religious motivations for his group’s merger with Al Qaeda. Some militants also said that Washington’s designation of the Algerians as a terrorist organization after Sept. 11 — despite its categorization by some American government experts as a regional insurgency - had the effect of turning the group against the United States.“If the U.S. administration sees that its war against the Muslims is legitimate, then what makes us believe that our war on its territories is not legitimate?” Mr. Droukdal said in an audiotape in response to a list of questions from The New York Times, apparently his first contact with a journalist. “Everyone must know that we will not hesitate in target…

Mugabe's torture regime--much worse than water boarding

Independent:

As Robert Mugabe sought recognition from African leaders yesterday, his police have been arresting the "dangerous" opposition agents that Mr Mugabe accuses of fomenting violence in the country.Mrs Chigoro is one of them. She is considered such a threat she is being kept under armed police guard at a Harare hospital.Seventy years old, her injuries are so horrific she can no longer lie on her back or walk unassisted.She can only huddle in a claw-like shape. The appalling chemical burns that have removed her lips and melted her right cheek come from an industrial weedkiller she was forced to drink. The widow can eat no solids and survives with the aid of a saline drip.Her crime was to survive the death squads that have roamed the rural areas of this bankrupt and terrified country. The police, armed with AK-47s, have been stationed on her ward to stop her from telling her story.Gibb Chigoro, her son, had known that he was at risk. He was the first Movement for Democr…

Romney leading choice for McCain VP

Mike Allen:

Surprising many Republican insiders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is at the top of the vice presidential prospect list for John McCain. But lack of personal chemistry could derail the pick.

“Romney as favorite” is the hot buzz in Republican circles, and top party advisers said the case is compelling.

Campaign insiders say McCain plans to name his running mate very shortly after Barack Obama does, as part of what one campaign planner called a “bounce-mitigation strategy.”

The Democratic convention is in late August, a week ahead of the Republican convention. That means McCain can size up the opposing ticket before locking in his own.The McCain campaign declined to comment, saying McCain has made it clear they are not to discuss the matter.

One of the chief reasons the Massachusetts governor is looking so attractive is his ability to raise huge amounts of money quickly through his former business partners and from fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Da…

Kenya asks for Mugabe suspension from AU

BBC:

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged the African Union to suspend Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe until he allows free and fair elections. His appeal at an African Union summit in Egypt came as Zimbabwe's opposition said the country faced a constitutional crisis after an "illegal" poll. Mr Mugabe claimed victory as the sole candidate in the presidential re-run after the opposition leader withdrew. Meanwhile, Italy recalled its envoy to Zimbabwe in protest at the situation.

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Speaking to reporters in Nairobi, Mr Odinga said: "They should suspend him and send peace forces to Zimbabwe to ensure free and fair elections." Mr Odinga, a vocal critic of President Mugabe, says the AU would set a dangerous precedent by accepting him as "a duly elected president".
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Some have said that Mugabe was treated like a hero at the meeting others said he was shunned. Odingo appears to be the only voice of sanity to speak out so far. It is a start.

Equal Pay?

Don Surber:

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Cybercast News Service reported: “The average pay for all 36 male employees on Obama’s staff was $55,962; and the average pay for all 31 female employees was $48,729.”That works out to 87¢ for every $1 a man is paid.But what about Republican Sen. John McCain, huh? Huh? What about him?CNS: “After excluding interns, the average pay for the 30 women on McCain’s staff was $59,104.51. The 16 non-intern males in McCain’s office, by comparison, were paid an average of $56,628.83.”That works out to $1.04 for every $1 a man makes.Oh and Obama’s staff appears to be 50% larger than McCain’s....

That is an interesting factoid. I wonder why the vaunted Clinton opposition research team missed that one. It will be interesting to see Obama weasel around the pay disparity.

Obama losing the war against cynicism

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CNN:

Sen. John McCain's campaign on Monday called retired Gen. Wesley Clark's remarks that McCain lacks command experience "the lowest form of politics."

Clark, a military adviser for Sen. Barack Obama, questioned Sunday whether McCain's military experience qualified him to be commander in chief. "I think it's kind of sad," McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said Monday on CNN's "American Morning." "I think all the promise that Barack Obama made about trying to change the political dynamic and run a different kind of campaign is evidenced by the fact that he's completely changed his political strikes and become sort of a partisan hack." Davis added, "Sending Wesley Clark out as a surrogate for your campaign and attacking John McCain and his war record and his military experience and his service is, I think, just the lowest form of politics." Obama's campaign on Monday issued a response: "As he's …

Swiftboating the Swift vets

The story in the NY Times claims that Swift vets who did not oppose John Kerry are offended by the way the name is now being used as a verb by Democrats. But the story does not blame the Democrats for this disparagement. It blames the Swift vets who opposed Kerry for among other things Kerry's slander of the troops in Vietnam including the Swift vets.

It does not take long to see how circular logic is of the premise of the story. The most effective ad the Swift vets ran was not one where they challenged his service record, it was the one where Kerry was slandering the troops before a Congressional committee.

The story also paints with a broad brush minor inconsistencies in some of the allegations in an attempt to challenge the credibility of the charges. It is a dishonest argument and it is being used to slander the vets who made the allegations against Kerry in good faith.

It is not clear why the vets who were being vilified in this piece were not available for comment or to ref…

Why it really is a war on terror

Professor Phillip Bobbitt discusses his new book Terror and Consent: The Wars for the 21st Century.

Today’s segment begins with a straightforward question: What sense it can possibly make to speak of waging war on terror, a mere technique or method, rather than on the terrorists who employ it?

Most people whose views I respect would agree that you can't have a war against terror. They also think that terrorism is a technique and, therefore, always merely a means to an end. The keyword I would withdraw from that proposition is the word always.

Terror has typically been a means to an end in the past, but it can also be for some groups an end in itself. If what you want to do is make people too fearful to exercise choice, to make them just too terrified to exercise their own political, religious, moral, and social choices, then what you want is a state of terror in both senses of the phrase: You want a state that maintains this terrifying atmosphere and you want to induce in the ind…

Democrats have a problem with whites

Peter Brown:

It is more than a little ironic that it has taken the first African-American to win a major party presidential nomination to make clear to everyone what has been the case for more than 40 years in presidential elections: Democrats have a problem with white voters.Suddenly, the topic du jour on television and radio talk shows, at water coolers and the most exclusive cocktail parties is how well Sen. Barack Obama can do among whites, especially the demographic group pundits call the “white working class.”The truth is these voters have been around for decades. They’re “The Silent Majority,” “Jill and Joe Six-Pack” and “Reagan Democrats,” and whatever the name, they have given Democratic presidential candidates the back of their hands since 1964. That was the year Lyndon Johnson won in one of the biggest landslides in American history, and any demographic group he did not carry probably held its meetings in a telephone booth.Neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton, the last Demo…

Obama runs from the gun issue

Robert Novak:

After months of claiming insufficient information to express an opinion on the District of Columbia gun law, Barack Obama noted with apparent approval Thursday that the Supreme Court ruled the 32-year ban on handguns "went too far." But what would he have said had the high court's five-to-four majority gone the other way and affirmed the law? Obama's strategists can only thank swing Justice Anthony Kennedy for enabling Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion to take the Democratic presidential candidate off the hook. Such relief is typified by a vigorous supporter of Obama who advised Al Gore in his 2000 presidential campaign. Believing Gore's gun-control advocacy lost him West Virginia and the presidency, this prominent Democrat told me: "I don't want that to happen with Obama -- to be defeated on an issue that is not important to us and is not a political winner for us." He would not be quoted by name because he did not want …

Dim Dems demonstrate ignorance of oil business

Wall Street Journal Editorial:

"I want you to think about this," Barack Obama said in Las Vegas last week. "The oil companies have already been given 68 million acres of federal land, both onshore and offshore, to drill. They're allowed to drill it, and yet they haven't touched it – 68 million acres that have the potential to nearly double America's total oil production."Wow, how come the oil companies didn't think of that?Perhaps because the notion is obviously false – at least to anyone who knows how oil and gas exploration actually works. Predictably, however, Mr. Obama's claim is also the mantra of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Nick Rahall and others writing Congressional energy policy. As a public service, here's a remedial education.Democrats are in a vise this summer, pinned on one side by voter anger over $4 gas and on the other by their ideological opposition to carbon-based energy – so, as always, the political first reso…

Iran struggles even with its oil wealth

Washington Post:

Faced with rapid inflation and growing international concern about his country's nuclear ambitions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is relying on huge increases in oil and gas revenue to insulate his government from internal and external pressures. Some of the same Western countries taking steps to compel Iran to stop uranium enrichment are also the biggest consumers of its oil and gas. The European Union said last week that it would freeze the assets of Bank Melli, Iran's largest, in keeping with U.N. sanctions. The E.U. is also the leading global consumer of Iranian oil and gas. Oil wealth, which funds 60 percent of the national budget, has allowed Iran's government to exercise its power to cut interest rates and ignore warnings from the country's Central Bank that overspending will worsen inflation. Iran earned $80 billion from oil and gas sales in the fiscal year that ended March 20, up from $35 billion three years ago. But the increasing …

Who knew?

From the Houston Chronicle:

Poll: 90% of U.S. expects pain from gas prices (w/video)
Who decided to poll and obvious answer?

Dem talking points on al Qaeda lead new story

The NY Times has a long story on al Qaeda's attempts to adapt to their changed situation after the Taliban were defeated. It follows the tired old line about Iraq as a distraction ignoring the significant strategic defeat al Qaeda has suffered there and in the Muslim world as a result of their excesses in Iraq.

Al Qaeda is now trying to regroup for a last stand in Pakistan with its Taliban allies and it has been aided by the incompetence of the Pakistan Frontier Corps and the new government that insists on attempting the failed policy of the past seeking a truce with guys who think they are on a mission from God.

The assertion that al Qaeda can launch the kind o attacks it did before 9-11 is belied by the facts. The group is basically down to back pack bombs and human bomb attacks that do not have the capacity of their earlier attempts at mass murder for Allah. It is also short of funds needed for its high profile multiple attacks.

The organization has lost its command and control…

Bad news for UK cops and bondage fetishes

Times:

Police officers may have to be a little more restrained about restraining prisoners, because of a looming shortage of handcuffs. The company that makes cuffs for the majority of Britain's police forces is closing down this week, prompting something of a short-term supply problem. Hiatt & Company, which has been making handcuffs, leg-irons, manacles and other gruesome devices to shackle humans for more than 200 years, will shut its Birmingham workshops within days. “It's not going to be a problem, it already is a problem,” one police source told The Times. “I called the other day to buy in some stock and was told: "We can't do your order, we're closing'. It was the first I'd heard of it.”
Another police procurement official said: “I'm thinking of looking on eBay if I can't get any cuffs in the next day or two.”
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OK guys just go to the home or auto supply store and get the plastic binders used to wrap wire. The military calls them flex…

Massive protest in China over rape murder coverup

Washington Post:

Thousands of people thronged a police station in southwestern China to protest the alleged coverup of a teenage girl's rape and murder, witnesses and officials reported Sunday. The crowd set fire to a government building complex and several police vehicles. The violence, which began Saturday, was brought under control by authorities around 2 a.m. Sunday. There were conflicting reports about the number of injuries and arrests as news of the riot spread over the Internet. Pictures and video from the incident were posted on Chinese online discussion forums and Web sites but quickly became inaccessible, ostensibly as government censors stepped in. Spasms of public anger against perceived injustices or government corruption occur periodically in China, but this weekend's riot, in the seat of Weng'an County in Guizhou province, was larger and more destructive than many. The government has been anxious to contain such incidents, especially as it prepares to host…

Israel trades murderer for bodies

Scotsman:

ISRAEL'S cabinet agreed yesterday to a deal with Lebanon's Shiite fundamentalist Hezbollah group, in which it will set free a man serving multiple life sentences in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers.

The decision was immediately claimed as a victory by Hezbollah as a fulfilment of its promise to free Samir Kantar, sentenced in 1980 to 542 years in prison for an attack in the northern Israeli town of Nahariya.

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Retrieving the two seized soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, captured during a Hezbollah cross-border raid, was one of the stated aims of Israel's devastating military campaign in Lebanon in 2006. But prime minister Ehud Olmert announced during the cabinet meeting what had long been feared: that the two soldiers were dead, killed during the raid or shortly thereafter.

Israeli media said the soldiers' bodies would be sent to Germany, which mediated the swap, and identified by Israeli officials before Kantar is released. He is to be f…

Chavez losing political support

Telegraph:

Mr Chavez, a devoted admirer of Fidel Castro, has forged an anti-American front with leaders ranging from President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.At home, however, Mr Chavez is in trouble. State elections are due in November and Venezuela's opposition, which now includes former followers of South America's standard-bearer for socialism, is expected to perform well. The constitution compels Mr Chavez to leave office when his term ends in 2013. He tried to remove this clause and dramatically extend his powers last December - but lost the necessary referendum.Billboards across Venezuela's capital, Caracas, carry his response. "Por Ahora," they read in red capitals, meaning "For Now". Whether Mr Chavez's political setbacks are temporary or terminal is the central question.General Raul Salazar, once a close friend who served as the president's first defence minister, said that Mr Chavez suffers "man…

Why is Iran building a $200 million dam in Nicaragua

Miami Herald:

Iran's plan to build a $200 million hydroelectric dam in this energy-starved country is raising concerns here and in Washington about its mounting influence in Latin America.The plant proposal is part of a push to wean this oil-addicted country -- 80 percent of electricity is supplied by fuel-burning plants -- off increasingly expensive crude and help stem an energy crisis that has created electricityrationing blackouts.The dam is the latest among a handful of projects that Iran plans to build in Central America's most impoverished nation. Others include the construction of 10,000 homes for the poor, providing 4,000 farming tractors, and a joint effort with Venezuela to link deep-water container ports on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. In turn, Nicaragua is to export coffee and other products to Iran.But the hydroelectric dam, for which construction is to begin in 2011, faces staunch opposition from a group of cattle ranchers who say the dam would flood their p…

Obama surrogate makes personal attack on McCain's service

Politico:

Gen. Wesley Clark, acting as a surrogate for Barack Obama’s campaign, invoked John McCain’s military service against him in one of the more personal attacks on the Republican presidential nominee this election cycle.

Clark said that McCain lacked the executive experience necessary to be president, calling him “untested and untried” on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” And in saying so, he took a few swipes at McCain’s military service.

“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded — that wasn't a wartime squadron,” Clark said.

“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), also on CBS, was equally uncharitable towards Obama’s record on foreign policy as he continued to distance himself from his former party.

“Sen. Obama, unfortunately, like a …

Military wives become surrogate mothers

San Diego Union Tribune:

Elizabeth Nila's old street in Murphy Canyon could have been called Surrogate Lane. Four other women on her cul-de-sac in the military housing complex near Tierrasanta had given birth to babies for other people.

Nila is part of a sorority of military spouses who are surrogate moms. She has two children of her own and is expecting a sixth surrogate child this fall. “I get great satisfaction out of being able to help someone who can't have a child by themselves,” she said. Surrogacy brokers and fertility specialists interviewed for this story said 20 percent to 40 percent of their surrogates are military wives, and they praise the women's sense of discipline, commitment and cooperation. Most surrogates are paid $20,000 to $35,000 for carrying a child. Not coincidentally, the military's main medical provider, TRICARE, is one of the few health care insurers nationwide that doesn't ban coverage for surrogate pregnancies. By hiring a woman with TR…

Behind the Haditha debacle

Mark Walker:

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A day after the decision, prosecutors said they would appeal. They say they are doing so because of the effect the ruling could have on the primary target in the Haditha prosecutions, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, the Camp Pendleton Marine who led his squad in the killings following a roadside bombing in November 2005.

"He's been the No. 1 guy they've been after from Day 1," said an attorney with intimate knowledge of the case and the discussions that have been taking place in Washington.

What was unlawful in the Chessani case, a judge said, was that a legal adviser to the general overseeing that case and Wuterich's took that job after first serving as an investigator into the events at Haditha, an assignment that also made him a prosecution witness.

Those dual roles constituted a fatal conflict of interest, the judge said, a grievous sin in the military justice system. It's also one that legal experts say was readily avoidable.

Unlawful command influ…

Pakistan uncovers torture chambers and Taliban jails in offensive

The news agency that does not like to be quoted says that Pakistan is uncovering a "parallel" regime fostered by the Islamic religious bigots in the area. So far no liberals have demanded in war crimes trials nor volunteered to clean up the area.

Democrat hostility to guns

Jeff Jacoby:

WHEN IT comes to gun control, the Democratic Party is a house divided against itself. That helps explain Barack Obama's dizzyingly inconsistent positions on District of Columbia v. Heller, the landmark Second Amendment case decided by the Supreme Court last week.

As a candidate for the Illinois Legislature in the 1990s, Obama had supported legislation to "ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns," so it wasn't surprising that he endorsed the gun ban being challenged in Heller while campaigning for president. In November, for example, his campaign told the Chicago Tribune that "Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional." In February, when a questioner during a televised forum said, "You support the D.C. handgun ban," Obama readily agreed: "Right."By March, however, his spokesman would no longer say whether Obama considered the gun ban constitutional, and when the senator was asked about it in April, he …

Why the anti gun lobby lost

Steve Chapman:

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-- Gun control didn't work. In the 1990s, despite its draconian ban, Washington became the murder capital of the United States. Chicago's homicide rate, which had been declining in the years before it banned handguns, climbed over the following decade. Gun control didn't work. During the time the federal assault weapons law was in effect, the number of gun murders declined -- but so did murders involving knives and other weapons. When the law was allowed to expire in 2004, something interesting happened to the national murder rate: nothing. -- Laws allowing concealed weapons proliferated -- with no ill effects. In 1987, Florida gained national attention -- and notoriety -- by passing a law allowing citizens to get permits to carry concealed handguns. Opponents predicted a wave of carnage by pistol-packing hotheads, but it didn't happen. In fact, murders and other violent crimes subsided. Permit holders proved to be sober and restrained…

The 9-11 health scam

NY Post Editorial:

All the rhetoric about health crises affecting Ground Zero workers post-9/11 has finally been put to a fact test. And the data tell a different story. For years, this page has been warning that the no-questions-asked benefits demanded by such as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler for anyone claiming a 9/11-related illness were an invitation to fraud. Sure enough, that's the case. And the cost to taxpayers could run into the billions. Lawyers defending the city against a mass lawsuit say that a detailed review of medical records for nearly 10,000 litigants (of the 40,000 people who worked at Ground Zero) shows that 30 percent only have nominal health issues. And 306 have admitted openly that they have no past or current health problems. As for those who do claim a 9/11-related health problem, the list of illnesses includes things like Bell's palsy, elevated blood sugar, hepatitis and psoriasis - none of which could have any co…

Solar savings not in this life time

Smart Energy Views:

FindSolar.com, operated by solar industry interests and the DOE, has a handy Solar Estimator that calculates an estimated cost for a home solar PV system and provides a list of contractors in your area. It uses some curious formulas that I don't quite understand to calculate positive ROI, but it provides some interesting insights.Some manufacturers also have calculators, including BP Solar USA, Sharp Electronics, and Kyocera Solar. And the PVWatts.org calculator estimates how much solar power you can generate for any given U.S. location based on a number of variables.Where I live in Tennessee is listed at the high end of "good" on the "solar scale" of available solar energy. But a 3 or 4 kW system that costs $40K or so will only generate about $35 per month worth of electricity. That's a payback of about 95 years!
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That is one reason why environmentalist and liberals are trying to drive up the cost of energy so that solar may someday mak…

Liberals unfair to liberals?

Neal Gabler:

Oh, those crazy journalists. You know the ones I'm talking about. The one who described John Kerry as "French-looking" and made up some silly locution to show how out of touch he was -- "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?" -- even though he never said it. Or the one who taunted Al Gore for claiming that he and his wife, Tipper, were the models for "Love Story" when Gore said no such thing. Or the one who described Bill Clinton as an "overweight band boy" and Hillary Rodham Clinton as "inauthentic." Or the one who tabbed Barack Obama "Obambi" and said that when visiting him at his office, she felt like Ingrid Bergman in "The Bells of St. Mary's," having to teach a bullied schoolboy how to box. Or the one who kept pressing Obama at a debate to fess up to his relationship with a 1960s terrorist.

Of course, what do you expect from right-wing nuts who will do and say anything to demonize Democrats? …

Pakistan claims control of Khyber area

LA Times:

Pakistani authorities declared today that they had re-established control in a district that a local warlord had used as a staging ground for forays into the largest city in Pakistan's volatile northwest.

Commanders said paramilitary troops encountered no resistance as they fanned out in the Bara district of the Khyber tribal agency, the former stronghold of a local militant commander called Manghal Bagh.

Bagh's supporters, however, said his fighters had left voluntarily and could return whenever they wished.

Pakistani officials said a tribal paramilitary force had taken up positions in posts they had fled months ago, when Bagh first began to assert his influence in the area. Troops also destroyed more militant outposts and blew up an illicit FM radio station, they said.

The government moved on Saturday against Bagh and another insurgent leader after armed, bearded militants began staging brazen patrols in Peshawar, a city of more than 3 million people. The insurgents als…

Habeas corpus goes worldwide

Washington Post:

Jawed Ahmad, a driver and assistant for reporters of a Canadian television network in Afghanistan, knew the roads to avoid, how to get interviews and which stories to pitch. Reporters trusted him, his bosses say. Then, one day about seven months ago, the 22-year-old CTV News contractor vanished. Weeks later, reporters would learn from Ahmad's family that he had been arrested by U.S. troops, locked up in the U.S. military prison at Bagram air base and accused of being an enemy combatant. Lawyers representing Ahmad filed a federal lawsuit early this month challenging his detention on grounds similar to those cited in successful lawsuits on behalf of captives at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The lawyers are hoping to turn Ahmad's case and a handful of others into the next legal battleground over the rights of terrorism suspects apprehended on foreign soil. More lawsuits are expected on behalf of Bagram detainees in coming months, the lawyers…

Exploration needed to find true offshore potential

Houston Chronicle:

The debate over whether to lift a 27-year-old ban on offshore drilling in most U.S. waters raises a key question that some say hasn't been answered: How much oil and gas is really out there? Government estimates are based on data that in some cases haven't been updated in 40 years. Technology used to detect oil and gas resources in rockbeds below the sea floor has improved dramatically since then. That's why the oil and gas industry argues that the only way to have a fair discussion about opening all or part of the banned areas is to do new surveys, using the latest technology. "We would think policymakers would want to know what's out there," said Dan Naatz, vice president for natural resources at the Independent Petroleum Association of America, an industry trade group. "Right now, it's a complete black hole." Randall Luthi, director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department charged with over…

US increases covert ops against Iran

Fox News:

Late last year, Congressional leaders agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, The New Yorker magazine reported.An article published online Sunday by the magazine cites current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources and said the operations were described in a highly classified Presidential Finding signed by Bush and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.Even though some legislators, including top Democrats, were troubled by the Finding, the $400 million funding for the escalation, which includes gathering intelligence about Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program, was approved.While clandestine operations against Iran are not new, the article by reporter Seymour Hersh cites officials as saying the scale and scope of the operations in Iran have been significantly expanded.Some of the operations that have taken place within the past year include seizing members of A…

Tanker troubles

NY Times Editorial:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates must take over the troubled contracting process for the Air Force’s new midair refueling tankers. The current tankers are decades old and the Air Force needs the new planes. But its repeated bungling of the procurement process shows that it is incapable of doing the task on its own.

Healthy competition among defense contractors — on both sides of the Atlantic — is the best way to ensure that the Pentagon buys the best possible gear for the lowest possible price. But according to a scathing report by the Government Accountability Office, there was nothing healthy about how the Air Force awarded the $35 billion tanker contract to the team of Northrop Grumman and the European company EADS over rival Boeing.The government watchdog agency did not say which was the best plane. But it accused the Air Force of breaking its own contracting rules. It told Boeing it wouldn’t give extra credit for a big jet and then gave extra credit to Northrop’s …

If Mugabe were white, there would be more ouitrage

Nicholas Kristof:

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When the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith oppressed Zimbabweans in the 1970s, African countries rallied against it. Eventually, even the white racist government in South Africa demanded change and threatened to cut off electricity supplies if it didn’t happen.Yet South African President Thabo Mbeki continues to make excuses for Mr. Mugabe — who is more brutal than Ian Smith ever was — out of misplaced deference for a common history in the liberation struggle. Zimbabweans suffered so much for so many decades from white racism that the last thing they need is excuses for Mr. Mugabe’s brutality because of his skin color....When I grew up in the 1970s, a central truth was that Ian Smith was evil and Mr. Mugabe heroic. So it was jolting on my last visit to Zimbabwe, in 2005, to see how many Zimbabweans looked back on oppressive white rule with nostalgia. They offered a refrain: “Back then, at least parents could feed their children.”Africa’s rulers often complain, …

Mugabe sends invitations to swearing in

CNN:

Zimbabwean officials sent out invitations Sunday to a presidential swearing-in ceremony, hours after Robert Mugabe declared himself the winner of the country's runoff elections.

A government official confirmed to CNN that invitations had been sent out, but said the ceremony would not be held until official results were announced some time Sunday -- and a winner declared. A Zimbabwean journalist told CNN there was a lot of activity at the presidential residence Saturday night. Tents went up and trucks drove in and out of the property, leading reporters to speculate that a swearing-in ceremony for Mugabe may be in the works. Mugabe has already declared himself the winner of Friday's runoff, even though the election was strongly questioned by a group of African lawmakers who observed the polls....

Meanwhile President Bush has called for new sanctions according to the NY Times.

President Bush called Saturday for an international arms embargo against Zimbabwe in the wake of last…

Brits subsidizing torture on the West Bank

Sunday Times:

Millions of pounds of British government money is going to Palestinian security forces which use methods of torture including hanging prisoners by their feet and putting them in “stress” positions for hours at a time. Evidence to be published next month in a report by Human Rights Watch was corroborated last week in interviews by The Sunday Times with victims in the West Bank, ruled by President Mahmoud Abbas’s western-backed Palestinian Authority. Prisoners who have emerged from Palestinian Authority jails – many of whom have never been charged with any offence or even seen a lawyer – said they had been subjected to mock executions, kicked, punched and beaten with sticks, plastic pipes and hoses.
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I am sure the Arab and Muslim world will ignore this report. Now if it was Israel or the US abusing these guys it would be cause for world wide tantrums and condemnations, but for other Muslims to do it it is just business as usual.

Norks using Russian sniper rifle to kill fleeing refugees

Sunday Times:

North Korean guards, newly armed with Russian Dragunov sniper rifles, have shot dead refugees attempting to ford the river that divides their hungry homeland from China, according to human rights campaigners.On the Chinese shore alone, two bodies, marked by several bullet holes, were found by a local activist, said Tim Peters, an American pastor who runs a Christian group supporting the fugitives.The shootings indicate a coordinated change in tactics by North Korea and China to deter refugees from crossing. They want to stamp out bribery among border guards who let the refugees go and to catch those who make it to safety.The two countries, nominally socialist allies, have agreed to tighten security measures to ensure “stability” in the run-up to the Olympic Games and to stop any embarrassing demonstrations by the refugees....
You can read more on the Russian Dragunov sniper rifles here and here. It is describes as "... designed with the intention of increasing the e…

Where was Gen. Abizaid?

Michael Gordon of the NY Times looks at a new history of post major combat operations Iraq and the usual suspects are named. Of course Tommy Franks comes in for his share of criticism, but the guy who replaced him is like the guy who wasn't there. It begs the question of why Abizaid never reversed decisions that led to too few troops and an inadequate staff.

Franks says he has not read the new history, but thinks he covered it in his book. However his book gives the impression of a Phase IV plan very different from what happened and does not suggest he changed his mind. If he did, he owes it to history to say why.

Centcom was still the primary command for operations in Iraq after Gen. Franks left, but responsibility for troop decisions is shuffled off to the Army chairman or downward to Lt. Gen. Sanchez but it never seems to land on Abizaid's desk. However, it was Abizaid who was the chief proponent of the small foot print strategy which was left in place.

Perhaps Gen. Abiza…

One of youngest victims of Mugabe thugs

Sunday Times:

A baby boy had both legs broken by supporters of President Robert Mugabe to punish his father for being an opposition councillor in Zimbabwe.Blessing Mabhena, aged 11 months, was seized from a bed and flung down with force as his mother, Agnes, hid from the thugs, convinced that they were about to murder her.She heard one of them say, “Let’s kill the baby”, before Blessing was hurled on to a bare concrete floor.Blessing, who may never be able to walk properly, was one of the youngest victims of atrocities against the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change in the run-up to last Friday’s sham presidential election....
Magabe and his supporters are certainly people without conscience. It takes a special kind a sadist to deliberately injure a baby. They are certainly people without inhibitions.

Obama, a man of expiring commitments

Michael Crowley:

During the Democratic primary season, all those eons ago, Barack Obama deployed no more powerful line against Hillary Clinton than his insistence that 'we can't just tell people what they want to hear. We need to tell them what they need to hear'. More than just a catchy couplet, the phrase was a deadly arrow into the heart of Clintonism. Few things crippled Hillary's campaign like the belief that she would say or do anything to get elected, from supporting the Iraq War to claiming she'd dodged sniper fire at Tuzla. In Obama, Democrats seemed to have found something refreshing: a brave truth-teller unmoored to pollsters such as Mark Penn, someone who had spoken out against Iraq the war and could at last restore integrity and honesty to Washington politics.But since Obama dispatched Clinton, he has seemed rather more attuned to what the people want to hear or perhaps he has simply traded the wants of a liberal audience for those of a more moderate on…