Showing posts from May, 2009

Taliban retreat from area occupied by US troops

NY Times: A year ago, the Taliban were tormenting this lush valley just miles from the Afghan capital, kidnapping people and blocking the road. All that changed when American troops arrived in February. They dropped from helicopters and set up three camps where there had been none, expecting a fight. Instead, the Taliban put up almost no resistance and left for other areas. Now trucks travel freely and merchants no longer fear for their lives. “Compared with last year, it’s 100 percent different,” said Muhamed Zaker, an apple farmer from the area. The Jalrez Valley is a test case, the first area in Afghanistan where President Obama ’s strategy of increasing troop levels has been applied, and it is a promising early indicator. But in Afghanistan, a complex patchwork of tribes, ethnicities and rivalries, it remains unclear whether the early success in this area can be replicated. In the painstaking business of counterinsurgency, security requires more than just extra troops. It means g

Al Qaeda is in trouble in Pakistan

Washington Post: Drone-launched U.S. missile attacks and Pakistan's ongoing military offensive in and around the Swat Valley have unsettled al-Qaeda and undermined its relative invulnerability in Pakistani mountain sanctuaries, U.S. military and intelligence officials say. The dual disruption offers potential new opportunities to ferret out and target the extremists, and it has sparked a new sense of possibility amid a generally pessimistic outlook for the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although al-Qaeda remains "a serious, potent threat," a U.S. counterterrorism official said, "they've suffered some serious losses and seem to be feeling a heightened sense of anxiety -- and that's not a bad thing at all." The offensive in Swat against its Taliban allies also poses a dilemma for al-Qaeda, a senior military official said. "They're asking themselves, 'Are we going to contest' " Taliban losses, he said, predicting that al-Q

US Mosul withdrawal cause for concern of Iraqis and insurgents

Times: Lying in the dust of a Mosul street, a bullet in his leg, the insurgent had plenty on his mind when American soldiers ran towards him. The engineer, who was in his thirties and fluent in English, had thrown a grenade at a US patrol and been shot down by a turret gunner as he tried to make his escape seconds earlier. As the Americans gathered around him, one concern seemed paramount. “Don’t give me to the Iraqi Army, don’t give me to the Iraqi Army’,” he begged, according to the gunner. Iraqi forces, American units, insurgent cells: every group has its own worry in Mosul in the run-up to the planned withdrawal of US forces from the city on June 30. The insurgents have the most to gain from an American pullout but realise that they will face harsher treatment if they fall into the hands of the remaining Iraqi forces. “The Iraqi Army’s reaction will be much more extreme once we’ve gone — and they tell us that privately,” a US major said. The June 30 deadline wa

Reason for long term government interest rates to rise

Reuters: The Federal Reserve is studying significant moves in the U.S. government bond market last week that could have big implications for the central bank's strategy to combat the country's recession. But the Fed is not really sure what is driving the sharp rise in long-dated bond yields, and especially a widening gap between short and long term yields. Do rising U.S. Treasury yields and a steepening yield curve suggest an economic recovery is more certain, meaning less need for safe haven government bonds and a healthy demand for credit? If so, there might be less need for the Fed to expand the money supply by buying more U.S. Treasuries. Or does the steepening yield curve mean investors are worried about the deterioration in the U.S. fiscal outlook, or the potential for a collapse in the U.S. dollar as the Fed floods the world with newly minted currency as part of its quantitative easing program. This might be an argument to augment to step up asset pu

Wide spread destruction in Mingora

BBC: The scale of the war damage to the main city in the Swat valley has become clear, as fears are expressed about the humanitarian situation in the region. Taliban rebels were driven out of Mingora on Saturday by Pakistan government troops. The defence secretary says operations in the whole Swat valley region should end in the next few days, though military chiefs are more cautious. A BBC correspondent who went to Mingora has reported widespread damage. Rifatullah Orakzai, reporting for the BBC's Urdu Service, said that all the buildings and shops in the town square had been completely destroyed. However, local people have now been able to seek supplies in the town's market after the lifting of a curfew. Pakistan's army said essential services were being restored to the city. The International Red Cross said it was "gravely concerned" by the humanitarian situation in Swat. Water and electricity were not available, there was no fuel for generators, most medical f

Taliban move fight to South Waziristan

CNN: Twenty-five militants and six soldiers were killed Saturday night in two separate clashes between security forces and insurgents in Pakistan's tribal region, officials said. Both clashes took place after militants ambushed security forces in South Waziristan, one of seven districts in Pakistan's mostly ungoverned tribal region along the Afghan border, said military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas. The clashes in South Waziristan were separate from an ongoing months-long military offensive in the Swat Valley. Many analysts believe the army may launch an offensive to flush out militants from South Waziristan once it completes its campaign in Swat where the military claimed a major victory Saturday when it said its security forces had secured the key city of Mingora. In the first incident Saturday, militants attacked an army check post near the village of Spinkai killing three soldiers and wounding six, Abbas said. Pakistani troops beat back the insurgents, killing 15. In th

Venezuela's missile purchases could go to FARC

Miami Herald: Venezuela's recent purchase of the most lethal shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in the Russian arsenal is sharpening U.S. concerns that parts of President Hugo Chávez's massive weapons buildup could wind up in the hands of terrorists or guerrillas in neighboring Colombia. Washington's unease is well-founded, U.S. government officials say, because of credible evidence that three top Venezuelan officials offered Colombia's FARC rebels weapons, money and contacts to buy anti-aircraft missiles in 2007. Such missiles in the hands of the FARC would mark a steep escalation of the 45-year-old conflict in Colombia, where government forces in recent years have deployed a fleet of slow-moving ground-attack warplanes and U.S.-built helicopters to deal devastating blows to rebel jungle camps. ''We are concerned about Venezuelan arms purchases that exceed its needs and are therefore potentially destabilizing,'' State Department spokeswoma

Indiana fights back against Obama 'taking' from state retirees

George Will: ... State governments, too, are expected to accept Washington's whims, but plucky Indiana is being obdurate. Gov. Mitch Daniels, alarmed by what he calls the Obama administration's "shock-and-awe statism," is supporting state Treasurer Richard Mourdock's objection to the administration's treatment of Chrysler's creditors, which include the pension funds for Indiana's retired teachers and state police officers and a state construction fund. Together they own $42.5 million of Chrysler's $6.9 billion (supposedly) secured debt. Compliant, because dependent, banks bowed to the administration's demand that they accept less than settled bankruptcy law would have given them as secured creditors. Next, the president denounced as "speculators" remaining secured creditors, who then folded and accepted less on the dollar than an unsecured creditor -- the United Auto Workers union -- is getting. This raw taking of property from secur

Debate challenge silences Chavez talkathon

BBC: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancelled an edition of his TV show, Alo Presidente. The cancellation comes amid arguments with the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa about a live televised debate. ... The decision to suspend Alo Presidente comes after a series of challenges and counter-challenges about holding a televised debate with the Peruvian writer - and arch-critic of President Chavez - Mario Vargas Llosa. Mr Vargas Llosa is currently in Venezuela to attend an opposition-led seminar about democracy and authoritarianism in Latin America. The last time Mr Chavez was on air, he challenged to Mr Vargas Llosa and his colleagues to come onto the programme and debate live with another group of assembled Latin American academics who are sympathetic to Mr Chavez. President Chavez said he would moderate the discussion. Amid insults on both sides, Mr Vargas Llosa retorted he was only interested in debating directly with President Chavez and that the president's offer was not

Criminal insurgency takes corruption to new level in Mexico

LA Times: ... Unlike some drug syndicates, La Familia goes beyond the production and transport of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine and seeks political and social standing. It has created a cult-like mystique and developed pseudo-evangelical recruitment techniques that experts and law enforcement authorities say are unique in Mexico. No party has been spared its influence or interference, politicians of all stripes said in a series of interviews conducted before the arrests of the mayors. "It is a way to win power with fear, where the authorities either don't have the capability to fight it, or have the capability but not the inclination," said German Tena, president of the Michoacan branch of the country's ruling National Action Party. "There are mayors and politicians who 'let things happen,' and there are some who have sold their soul to the devil," said a high-ranking Michoacan state official who agreed to discuss the sensitive topic of corr

The question of natural growth in Israeli settlements

Jerusalem Post: "The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind Pharaoh who said: Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river," Science Minister and Habayit Hayehudi head Daniel Herschkowitz said Sunday, referring to US President Barack Obama's demand to freeze all settlement activity, even that ensuing from natural growth . Speaking ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, mathematician Herschkowitz furthered his point with a simple equation. "If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them - to ship the children off to Petah Tikva? This is an unacceptable demand, even if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively," he affirmed. Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "The American demand to freeze construction means expulsion for young people living in large locales. I hope the US administration understands that. If not, I don't want to be an apocal

US culturural impact in Iraq

Washington Post: Across the street from the tidy rows of tombstones in the British cemetery, mute testimony to the soldiers of an earlier occupation, Mustafa Muwaffaq bears witness to the quieter side of the United States' six-year-old presence in Iraq . In wraparound sunglasses, shorts and shoes without socks, the burly 20-year-old student waxes eloquent about his love for heavy metal of all kinds: death, thrash, black. But none of it compares, he says, to the honky-tonk of Alan Jackson, whose tunes he strums on his acoustic guitar at night, pining for a life as far away as a passport will take him. "You know, I wanna go to Texas and be a country boy," he said, as he stood in the sweltering shade of Baghdad's Academy of Fine Arts. "I wanna be a cowboy, and I wanna sing like one." ... ... From tattoos of Metallica to bellybutton piercings, from posters for a rap concert in Baghdad to stories parents tell their naughty children in Fallujah of the America

A case Sotomayor is unlikely to explain

Washington Post: It is the 134-word summary order in Ricci v. DeStefano , which upheld the decision of New Haven, Conn., to throw out the promotion test it had given city firefighters when no African Americans and two Hispanics qualified for advancement. The case is under review by the Supreme Court that Sotomayor would join. If the decision is reversed -- which, from the tone of oral arguments in April, seems a distinct possibility -- the high court's ruling will probably come at the end of June, just as the Senate and the nation begin to consider Sotomayor's qualifications. The White House, concerned that a reversal would be seen as an embarrassment for its nomination, is rolling out a multi-pronged strategy to explain the case and Sotomayor's role in it. The first step was to offer a collection of legal experts who say the ruling marks Sotomayor not as a judicial activist, or even a supporter of minority rights, but as a conservative jurist whose actions show how clos

Sotomayor's bias against impartiality

Steve Chapman: The chief blot on Sonia Sotomayor's otherwise stellar professional record is a comment she made deprecating the capabilities of any judge lacking a Y chromosome and Iberian ancestry. "I would hope," she said in a 2001 lecture on law and multicultural diversity, "that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." The question for her supporters is: How do we spin that? It's not sufficient grounds to reject her nomination, given her excellent credentials. But it's still an embarrassment. One possible way to handle it is a mea culpa by the nominee. She could say, "Let me explain what I meant to say," or "I used to believe that, but I now realize I was mistaken," or "Oh, man -- what was I thinking?" Any of those tactics would defuse the controversy and allow the debate to proceed to a topic more adva

Palestinian civil war watch

Reuters /NY Times: Six people were killed on Sunday when forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas raided a Hamas hideout, just days after he promised in Washington to fulfill his security commitments. The violence erupted when police encircled a house in the West Bank town of Qalqilya where a top Hamas field commander, Mohammad Samman, and his deputy Mohammad Yasin had taken refuge, witnesses and security officials said. Both Hamas men and the homeowner died in the shootout, along with three policemen. Dozens of bullet holes in walls and furniture in the home attested to the ferocity of the fighting. It was the bloodiest internal Palestinian clash in the occupied West Bank since the Western-backed Abbas launched a security drive and revived peace talks with Israel in 2007 after breaking with Hamas over its takeover of the Gaza Strip. Samman and Yasin had ignored calls to surrender, witnesses said. Palestinian security forces spokesman Adnan Damiri said police had tried to

Legislative whine

Houston Chronicle: Tempers flared Saturday on the Legislature’s last weekend with a key GOP senator declaring that the session’s central theme is “lack of leadership” by top members of his own party. “If you look at this session, you’ve got two underlying problems: One is simply the lack of leadership in the top offices and the second is the lack of any clear, compelling agenda,” said Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Chairman John Carona, R-Dallas. His angst was triggered by the evident demise of a proposal to allow urban areas to raise gasoline taxes and some fees in their areas to pay for local transportation projects. But the bickering about the bill has been emblematic of a string of sparring episodes that have played out over the last few weeks as lawmakers have struggled with successes and losses on controversial public issues. The gas tax proposal was stripped Saturday from a compromise bill to overhaul the Texas Department of Transportation, which was among sever

Obama's Sotomayor spin does not work

Ruth Marcus: Nice try, Mr. President, but I’m not buying the poor-choice-of-words defense for Sonia Sotomayor. “I’m sure she would have restated it,” President Obama told NBC News about his Supreme Court nominee’s now-famous 32 words: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "I think she'd say that her word choice in 2001 was poor.” You spin the speech that’s dealt you. But it seems clear to me that Sotomayor, to quote that great jurist Dr. Seuss, meant what she said and said what she meant. This was no throwaway line or off-the-cuff linguistic stumble along the lines of the judge’s other controversial comment about appeals courts making policy . Rather, Sotomayor was deliberately and directly disputing remarks by then-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that a wise old woman and a wise o

Litigating green building standards?

NY Times: Building green can open the door to plenty of legal pitfalls, a new study warns. The study, by Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and sponsored by Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox , a Philadelphia law firm, says that green building raises a number of liability questions. What if the building set out to meet LEED certification or other government green-building standards, but falls short, for example? What if it fails to garner expected tax breaks from the government for building green? Already, according to Robert Fox, a managing partner with the Philadelphia firm, a number of legal disputes have arisen in the area of green building. ... If you are building green for tax breaks, aren't you missing the point? These buildings are supposed to be energy efficient enough that operating costs are greatly reduced. Just paint your roof white and add insulation according to our energy secretary. For once someone is on to something. I put a white meta

Local option transportation tax defeated in Texas

Peggy Venable: Taxpayers are the big winners as the so-called “local option” transportation tax fails to make it onto the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) Sunset legislation. Even high-priced taxpayer-funded lobbyists and local elected officials descending upon the Capitol for a last-ditch effort couldn’t put lipstick on this pig. House bill sponsor Rep. Vicki Truitt spoke out – via a letter – chastising the conservative groups which helped kill the local option tax. We conservatives usually like local options. But not when the cards are stacked against taxpayers. Americans for Prosperity-Texas opposed this local option tax. Local officials don’t need more taxing authority – or the ability to put more tax increases on the ballot – until they agree to an automatic rate rollback election. But local government officials and their associations didn’t want taxpayers to have the opportunity to determine how much government we want and are willing to pay for – unless we want M

Headline of the day

From ABC News: First President in US History to Have Voted to Filibuster a Supreme Court Nominee Now Hopes for Clean Process That tells you a lot about Obama and his double standards.

Pakistan using tech and Facebook to rally against Taliban

Sunday Times: THE first thing Sadaffe Abid did when she heard Wednesday’s massive bomb rattling the windows in her office four miles away was, like most residents of Lahore, to telephone to check on family and friends. However, what she did next was more surprising. “I told them we should come out on to the streets to protest against these militants,” she said. “This bomb was meant to turn public opinion against the army operation to clear the Taliban from Swat, and we shouldn’t give in.” The stylishly dressed Abid, 35, is chief executive of a foundation providing microfinance for rural women, and says until recently she never thought the Taliban were anything to do with her. Yet twice in the past two months she and many of her friends have gathered for rallies in the Mall in central Lahore, holding placards declaring “No to terrorism”, after spreading the word through Facebook and text messages. Outraged by a video showing the Taliban flogging a young girl in Swat, in

Shortage of girls leads to kidnapping in China

Sunday Times: WHEN Li Xiang Xiang, aged 2½, went out of her family's home on April 1 to the shop around the corner, as she did every day, her mother expected to see her back in minutes with a big smile and a bag of sweets. Instead, Xiang Xiang - whose rhyming name means “thoughtful” - vanished and her heartbroken mother and father joined the ranks of Chinese parents who fear they have lost their little girls to child kidnappers. Small boys have long been abducted for sale in China, but in recent years the country’s strict birth control policy, which has led to abortions of girls in families intent on having a boy, has left the countryside short of female babies. According to a recent report in the British Medical Journal, 124 boys are born for every 100 girls in the country as a whole, and in one province the figure has risen to 192. Stolen girls have therefore become increasingly valuable commodities in an cruel trade. Many are bought by farmers who want wives f

Taliban training terrorist to hit UK, Europe

Sunday Telegraph: The terrorist informant has told prosecutors he was trained by Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistan Taliban, and was planning a series of suicide attacks with 11 other men. The informant, known as "Ahmed", told investigators the bombers were to work in pairs using a "device carried in a backpack with a third person to detonate a remote control" in order to ensure the bombers went through with their mission. Details of the attempted attacks emerged in papers submitted to the Spanish authorities in a case against the alleged bombers, who were arrested in raids in the Raval district of Barcelona in January last year. It is claimed the attacks were to begin on the Barcelona underground system and then spread to the other European countries with a presence in Afghanistan, thought to include Britain, according to new documents. The information echoed claims made by British security services that a terrorist c

Street dancers defeat Susan Boyle in talent show

BBC: Street dance group Diversity has been crowned the winner of this year's Britain's Got Talent in a shock victory over favourite Susan Boyle. The 10-strong group from Essex fell to the floor and cried in surprise when they were told they had won. ... The story does not say what Boyle sung or whether she had a poor performance. The Sun has more on the competition.

Cyber ninjas

NY Times: The government’s urgent push into cyberwarfare has set off a rush among the biggest military companies for billions of dollars in new defense contracts. The exotic nature of the work, coupled with the deep recession , is enabling the companies to attract top young talent that once would have gone to Silicon Valley. And the race to develop weapons that defend against, or initiate, computer attacks has given rise to thousands of “hacker soldiers” within the Pentagon who can blend the new capabilities into the nation’s war planning. Nearly all of the largest military companies — including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics , Lockheed Martin and Raytheon — have major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies. The companies have been moving quickly to lock up the relatively small number of experts with the training and creativity to block the attacks and design countermeasures. They have been buying smaller firms, financing academic research and running advert

Locals help Pakistan army chase Taliban in Swat

NY Times: Pakistan’s military said Saturday that it had taken full control of Mingora, the most populous city in the Swat Valley , scoring a significant victory against Taliban forces three weeks after the start of an offensive in the area. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said at a news conference that the army was able to flush out militants, in part with the help of locals who showed soldiers Taliban hiding places in hotels and other buildings. The military estimates it has killed more than 1,000 militants since the campaign began on May 8 . Mingora, 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, the capital, is the most important city in Swat, a resort area that was overrun by the Taliban. The campaign is seen as a test of Pakistan’s resolve to fight its growing insurgency, which has spread substantially in the past two years, and which the United States says is compromising efforts to quell a similar insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. General Abbas announced the killing

A day at the beach for Marines

San Diego Union-Tribune: Cpl. Andrew Mustain joined the Marine Corps a few years ago, drawn partly by its storied heritage of storming beaches and the chance to drive a large vehicle in and out of water. The Marines' expertise with amphibious landings has been memorialized in movies, posters and recruiting commercials. It's arguably the Corps' defining image – a Leatherneck rushing the shores of Iwo Jima, Japan; Inchon, Korea; and other foreign locales. That's what Mustain, 21, is learning to do at Red Beach, a mile-long stretch of sand in the middle of Camp Pendleton's coastal training zone. The parcel is one of the most uncluttered yet heavily used oceanfront tracts in Southern California. “Every time, it's kind of a nervous feeling,” Mustain said of the maneuvers. “You get used to it, but you still have the nervousness.” Red Beach is one of the Marine Corps' most valuable assets. Since the early 1940s, hundreds of thousands of Marines have tr

Gitmo Uighers free to leave, but not come here?

Politico: The Obama Administration told the Supreme Court Friday that 17 Uighur men forcibly brought to Guantanamo Bay by the American military seven years ago are "free to leave" but have no right to come to the United States. ... In a brief urging the high court not to hear an appeal from the 17 men , the Justice Department said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit acted correctly earlier this year when it overturned a district court judge's order that the men be brought to the U.S. for release. "Petitioners would like the federal courts to order that they be brought to the United States, because they are unwilling to return to their home country. But they have no entitlement to that form of relief," the brief submitted by Solicitor General Elena Kagan said. "As this Court has recognized repeatedly, the decision whether to allow an alied abroad to enter the United States, and if so, under what terms, rests exclusively in the political Branches.

Inside the cyber war rooms

CBS: It may not look like a battleground, but behind the walls at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations are the front lines in the booming cyber war against hackers driven to disrupt - even destroy - vital U.S. military networks and investigators intent on protecting them. "What we want to do is protect the way we do business, protect the Air Force, and protect our country from this kind of harm," Brigadier General Dana Simmons said. At the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, agents identify and attempt to neutralize criminal, terrorist and espionage computer threats of every kind, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian . They have 11 field offices around the world. Using brains and bytes, agents like Paul Alvarez play a high-tech game of cat and mouse - running traces, tracking IP address, assessing damage, plugging security holes in the network by erasing viruses and fixing programs and searching for the source of nameless, face

Bottom story of the day

From the Washington Post: Rep. Murtha Defends Earmarks to His District What else is new?

The IEDs of love

NY Times: It goes like this: Boy meets girl. They exchange glances and text messages , the limit of respectable courting here. Then boy asks girl’s father for her hand. Dad turns him down. Boy goes to girl’s house and plants a bomb out front. The authorities call it a “love I.E.D.,” or improvised explosive device, and it is not just an isolated case. Capt. Nabil Abdul Hussein of the Iraqi national police said that six had exploded in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad alone in the past year. “These guys, they face any problem with their girlfriends, family, anyone, and they’re making this kind of I.E.D.,” Captain Hussein said. There have been no reported deaths or injuries from the devices used in this way, in Dora or elsewhere. “Usually they’re putting them in front of the doors of their houses, not to kill, but to scare them,” Captain Hussein said. After six years of war, Iraq is a society with a serious anger management problem. That, along with a lot of men with a lot of exper

Gitmo symbolism and substance

David Rivkin and Lee Casey: ... Guantanamo has always been a symbol, rather than the substance, of complaints against America's "war on terror." It's the military character of the U.S. response to 9/11 that foreign and domestic critics won't accept. There are also longstanding ideological currents at work here. At least since the 1970s, "progressive" international activists have sought to level the playing field between nation states (especially the U.S. and Israel) and nonstate actors such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas. Although international humanitarian law is supposed to apply neutrally to all belligerents, international opinion now gives nonstate actors far more leeway to ignore fundamental norms such as the rule against deliberately targeting civilians. The underlying implication is that terrorist tactics, however regrettable, are justified as the only means of achieving laudable goals like national liberation. This mindset w

Obama's crummy car company

Larry Kudlow: ... Instead of putting the failed car enterprise into bankruptcy six months ago -- where Carl Icahn or Wilbur Ross could have bought it -- the Bush administration chose Bailout Nation. Under Team Obama, that bailout has morphed into full-scale government ownership. Twenty-billion dollars of TARP money is already invested in GM, with another $50 billion on the way. And that number could easily double unless GM car sales miraculously climb back to 14 million this year. That’s highly unlikely, with car sales presently hovering around 9 million a year. In other words, taxpayers are not going to get their money back. Yes, we the people will be left holding the bag for the mistakes of GM’s management and labor leaders over the last four decades. And with CAFE mileage-standards ratcheting up -- all while GM is going down -- Team Obama’s green vision for the economy will soon be crystal clear. With President Obama in the driver’s seat, we’re going to get little green two-door

Democrat bad faith on Hispanic nominee

Byron York: Unless something entirely unforeseen happens, confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will be a lovefest for the Democrats who run the Senate Judiciary Committee. There will be much talk about Sotomayor's historic opportunity to become the first Hispanic on the Court, about her inspiring background, and about the sterling qualifications she would bring to the job. Sotomayor will have the majority party strongly on her side, and odds are things will end happily for her. For some Republicans, however, it will be hard to avoid thinking back a few years, to a confirmation hearing that didn't end happily at all. In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated former Justice Department lawyer Miguel Estrada to a seat on the federal courts of appeals. In that instance, as today, the nominee was was a Hispanic with a compelling story and impressive qualifications. And some of the very people who are today praising Sotomayor spent their time devisin

Democrats run out of excuses for Norks

Opinion Journal: Right after North Korea's first nuclear test, in October 2006, Senator Bob Menendez explained that the event "illustrates just how much the Bush Administration's incompetence has endangered our nation." The New Jersey Democrat hasn't said what he thinks North Korea's second test says about the current Administration, so allow us to connect the diplomatic dots. At the time of the first test, the common liberal lament was that Kim Jong Il was belligerent only because President Bush had eschewed diplomacy in favor of tough rhetoric, like naming Pyongyang to the "axis of evil." Never mind that the U.S. had continued to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, including fuel shipments and the building of "civilian" nuclear reactors, until the North admitted it was violating that framework in late 2002. Never mind, too, that by 2006 the Bush Administration had participated in multiple rounds of six-party nuclear t

Empathy for whom?

Christopher Caldwell: ... A few of Sotomayor's decisions may ring a bell. It was she who ruled in 1999 that a law-school graduate with a learning disability was entitled to extra time to take a bar exam. More recently, she forbade the Environmental Protection Agency to use a cost-benefit analysis in antipollution enforcement (her ruling was later overturned). But the real fight over her confirmation will focus on her role in a case about tests for promotion within the New Haven, Conn., fire department. Although the tests were designed to be race-neutral, the pass rate for blacks was half that for whites. So New Haven threw out the test results. Several white firefighters who scored high enough for promotion sued the city. One of the plaintiffs was dyslexic and had hired tutors to help him. Sotomayor was on the three-judge panel that okayed New Haven's decision to nullify the tests. The panel did so in a one-paragraph blow-off that ignored a host of pressing constitutional issue

Chavez locks up his military leadership

NY Times: They say prison life can be lonely, but not for Raúl Isaías Baduel, Venezuela’s former army chief and once one of President Hugo Chávez ’s confidants, who was detained last month. Among his cellmates in the Ramo Verde military prison here are a former admiral, Carlos Millán, and Wilfredo Barroso, a onetime general arrested along with Mr. Millán on charges of conspiring to oust Mr. Chávez. Since February, Mr. Chávez has moved against a wide range of domestic critics, and his efforts in recent weeks to strengthen his grip on the armed forces have led to high-profile arrests and a wave of reassignments. These are seen here as part of a larger effort by Mr. Chávez to cement loyalty in the military, where some officers are growing resentful at what they see as his micromanagement and politicizing of a proud and relatively independent institution. “Chávez does not have the support he thinks he has in the armed forces,” Mr. Baduel, 53, said in an interview in the cell that has beco

Video shows Taliban was target of raid where civilians killed

Washington Times: Video footage of a bombing raid by U.S. forces earlier this month on a village in western Afghanistan "very clearly" shows that Taliban militants were targeted and it accounts for most of those killed, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East and South Asia said Friday. "What the video will prove is that the targets of these different strikes were the Taliban," Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of Central Command, told National Public Radio. Gen. Petraeus' assertion stands in contrast to testimony by locals that militants had left the area several hours before the May 4 bombardments in Farah province's Bala Boluk district, as well as an independent report from a leading rights group that a limited number of Taliban may have been present. The Afghan government claims that at least 140 people died, including 95 children. If confirmed, this would amount to the largest number of civilians killed in a military action here since U.S.-led forces oust