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Archive for 2007

December 31st 2007

Clueless Clinton

I admit I made the same mistake, but I’m not running for president, touting my superior foreign policy skills. Thomas Houlahan, via Power Line, sets it all straight:

“If President Musharraf wishes to stand for election,” [Senator Clinton] told Blitzer, “then he should abide by the same rules that every other candidate will have to follow.”

My immediate reaction was: “Did I hear that correctly?”

As a Pakistan analyst, I know for a fact that Pervez Musharraf doesn’t wish to stand for election any time soon.

The upcoming elections are for the next parliament. Musharraf was just elected president of Pakistan, overwhelmingly, by popularly elected electors on Oct. 6. He’s just begun his five-year term as the president of the country. Why would he ever want to run for one seat in parliament? It wouldn’t make sense.

In other words, it’s like Hillary confusing the 2006 congressional elections with the 2008 presidential.

After several days, surrounded by her own magnificent mind and her massive staff, she went on George Stephanopolous’ show and …

Referring to a possible delay in the elections, Sen. Clinton said: “I think it will be very difficult to have a real election. You know, Nawaz Sharif [leader of the PML-N, an opposition party] has said he’s not going to compete. The PPP is in disarray with Benazir’s assassination. He [President Pervez Musharraf] could be the only person on the ballot. I don’t think that’s a real election.”

Bhutto wasn’t running for President. Sharif isn’t. Musharraf isn’t. But Hillary is.

All this happened days ago and Houlahan is the first one to point out her error. Somehow I feel that if any of the GOP candidates had made the same mistake … twice … the media would have been all over it, at their mocking best.

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December 31st 2007

The Most Ridiculous Story Of The Year

There were certainly more than four stories this year to qualify for “most ridiculous story of the year,” but given that I didn’t start chronicling them until April 25, and that I still have to actually work for a living, rather than read all I’d like to read, four it is.

The criteria for selection aren’t easy to meet: Entries must be work that serious writers present in all seriousness that goes far, far beyond the sublime and settle heavily into the imbecilic.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the nominees, in order of their original appearance in C-SM:

First, Naomi Wolf’s Fascist America in 10 easy steps.” Wolf is, of course, the author of much ridiculousness, much of it ending up in The Guardian, which is a repository of such stuff. But in this piece, Wolf lets lose all her paranoid delusions, not stopping at merely comparing Bush to Hitler, but:

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And … George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all.

She then lists the ten steps Bush is supposedly following to turn America into a dictatorship, stuff like “Create a Gulag,” “Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy,” and “Develop a thug caste,” in this case, “angry Republican men.”

Never mind that mobs angry Republican men have not rounded up scores of Muslims (the internal/external threat) and sent them to Guantanamo (the Gulag), Wolf is, very ridiculously, convinced her home country — which lets her write and publish this filth — is becoming a police state.

Second, Steven Simon and Ray Takeyh in their WaPo column We’ve Lost. Here’s How To Handle It. Cuing off the June mosque bombings in Samarra and Basra, Simon and Takeyh decide:

The war in Iraq is lost. The only question that remains — for our gallant troops and our blinkered policymakers — is how to manage the inevitable. What the United States needs now is a guide to how to lose — how to start thinking about minimizing the damage done to American interests, saving lives and ultimately wresting some good from this fiasco.

The authors miss the obvious point: No one loses a war unless someone has won it — and not realizing that makes everything that follows, in a word, ridiculous.

It’s easy to read this in light of what’s happened following the Surge, which proved the authors false again and again, as in this case:

U.S. troops can’t beat the insurgency on their own; our forces are too few and too isolated to compete with the insurgents for the public’s support.

It is obvious that al-Qaeda has lost the public’s support and we helped that happen not by the sheer number of our troops, but by their sheer decency and al-Qaeda’s sheer savagery.

But that’s the easy critique, and hardly the most damning. That goes to Simon and Takeyh’s dismissal of speculation that bloodshed would follow our retreat as “unknowable … In fact, history suggests that the consequences of a U.S. defeat will not be that dire.”

Unknowable? Not dire? Can you say Vietnam? Cambodia?

The two have a solution, though, that they say will make retreat very do-able and positive: Contain Iran; tamp down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and return to realism.

Oh, yeah. We’ll use all our great new credibility, gained by letting al-Qaeda defeat us, to do just that.

Third, This is Your Brain on Politics, by Sharon Begley, an opinion writer for Newsweek, a book by Drew Westen of Emory University, “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”

The book itself is a disagreeable thing with a central thesis I generally agree with: Emotion trumps rationality in opinion formation. But Begley earned her nomination for using Westen’s book as nothing more than a platform for her blind as a bat, emotionally over-amped Democratic bias.

She dismisses GOP policy and its appeal to large blocks of American voters:

After reading [the book] you won’t be surprised that Westen has been approached by the campaigns of “several” Democratic hopefuls (he is too discrete to say which) for advice on how to make use of findings about how the brain operates in the political arena. Why aren’t Republicans beating a path to his door? Because the GOP has already mastered the dark art of psych-ops—of pushing the right buttons in people’s brains to win their vote. (emphasis added)

Have you ever heard a GOP candidate say the Dems would kill Social Security if they were elected? And don’t even get me started on playing the race card. Button-pushing is not a single party deal, but Begley is blinded to reality.

No, she sees Dem mind as a high-minded thing, “dispassionate, making decisions by rationally weighing evidence and balancing pros and cons.”

Ridiculous.

Our fourth entry is Is Cheney About to Blow Up the Bay Bridge? from Gypsy Taub at the blog Politics of the Heart. I considered not entering this post in the contest because 9/11 Truthers Paranoid Schizophrenics are so overwhelmingly ridiculous it gives Taub an unfair head start.

But then I thought about die-hard Socialists, cut-and-run Dems and blind pundits like Begley, and I thought, “What the heck? Taub’s got no head start with this bunch.”

Taub apparently missed the fact that the Bay Bridge was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake, so a new bridge had to be built. (That earthquake occurred in 1989, a bit before (take your pick) Bush/terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.) As part of this process — and of construction not going as planned — the Bay Bridge was closed for four days in August.

I’m too harsh. Taub is aware of the earthquake … it’s just the conclusions he draws from it in his muddled mind:

Don’t quote me on this, but I have also heard that the old Bay Bridge is not earthquake stable, so if that is true [it is, my gypsy friend], then it sounds like the World Trade Center that needed to go because of all the asbestos that it was filled with.

Anyway, the bridge’s temporary closing was enough to set off a Truther’s Numskull’s paranoid fantasies:

Bush’s term is coming to an end. The public is pushing to ban voting machines. The power of the Bush administration is deteriorating with major figures resigning, almost daily scandals on the news and constant threat of impeachment. Their only weapon is fear, it’s their last hope. I can see them really desperately needing a terrorist attack in the near future. 911 [I thought that was an emergency number] did them a great deal of good. 911 was, of course, the work of the Bush administration, the Pentagon, and others connected tightly to the Bush administration.

This is a bit muddled. If Bush wants to stay in power, what do voting machines have to do with it? If he doesn’t want to stay in power, why does he need to (it’s hard to even type this) concoct another 9/11? Well, let’s not let rational thought get in the way of the ridiculous:

Getting back to the Bay Bridge, it being shut down for 4 entire days sounds suspicious. They are also demolishing a section of the bridge, so that gives them a green light to bring in a demolition crew. According to their official website they are doing seismic safety work which can, as far as I understand, involve drilling holes in the structure to test it for safety. Also, the new bridge being close to finished would be a convenient time to blow up the old one [sic].

Got it. Close the bridge for four days so as not to raise suspicion, then put your Black Ops crews out in full sight of all to drill the holes. Oh, those tricky bastards! Taug goes on to accuse the Bush administration of crashing a fuel tanker so the 880 freeway in Oakland would collapse:

As soon as 880 collapsed the mainstream media [those famous Bush allies] started screaming about steel melting from fossil fuel fires and comparing it to 911. I knew they were going to say that. That seemed to be the whole purpose of this incident, to “prove” that the WTC really did collapse from the jet fuel fire.

Purpose? There are no accidents? And the Minnesota bridge collapse? A training exercise for the upcoming Oakland explosion, of course! Then, suddenly, a near brush with reality:

Having said all this I would like to hope that I am wrong, that it is indeed a legitimate bridge repair work. But if the bridge does get blown up in the near future don’t buy the “terrorist” story! Investigate, document, take pictures, samples of soil, water, anything and don’t let them institute marshal [sic] law or sign Patriot Act 3!

It didn’t blow up; there were no charges of a new terror attack. And there’s no “marshal” law … yet.

So, which story is the most ridiculous?

Wolf, and her countdown to Bush’s dictatorship?

Simon and Takeyh with their primer for a win/win defeat in Iraq?

Begley with her insights into the GOP and Dem mind?

Or Gypsy Taub, with his deep, deep insanity over police emergency numbers … oh, I’m sorry, not 911, but 9/11.

I have to reject Taub because his rants are more bizarre than ridiculous and are too narrowly focused on the guilt of the Bush administration. He says nothing that is broadly applicable.

Simon and Takeyh get a pass because history has so quickly proved so much of what they wrote to be wrong. Yes, history has made them appear even more ridiculous, but it has also made it easier to gauge their ridiculousness.

Between Begley’s blindness to her own prejudice, which is such a lovely metaphor for the greater MSM’s blindness, and Wolf’s senseless but vivid paranoia about Bush, it’s a tough choice.

But Wolf gets the honors because she took the care to identify ten separate steps, a primer for despots, and figure out how to connect each to Bush. In the process, she managed to ignore the fact that the American democracy remains balanced and protected by its three branches and its no-nonsense public, and that a campaign for the next American president is in the works.

But mostly, Wolf won because she didn’t share Begley’s blindness to her prejudices … she lays hers right out there, for all to see, and she glories in just how bright and insightful she is — failing to see just how ridiculous she and her views are.

Congratulations, Naomi. Keep up the ridiculous work.

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December 31st 2007

Has Hamas Finally Gone Crazy?

What was Hamas thinking?

Palestinian security forces in the West Bank recently arrested a Hamas cell that planned a suicide attack in Israel, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Monday. A videotape showing a suicide bomber detailing his intentions to blow up an Israeli target was also seized, Malki said at a news conference.

The announcement came a week before U.S. President George W. Bush visits the region to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are eager to prove they are cracking down on militants which is a central demand of the negotiations.

“We confiscated huge amounts of mercury in Nablus,” Malki told reporters. “This mercury is used for explosives and especially in preparing detonators,” he said.

Malki refused to elaborate or answer reporters’ questions about the incident. He did not show the videotape to reporters or release the name of the alleged bomber. The Israeli military said it had no knowledge of the case. (International Herald Tribune)

Given the number of suicide attacks Hamas has planned and carried out against Israel, to say that the announcement is insincere is too kind. Hamas is not in the business of busting paradise-seekers intent on blowing themselves up and taking some Jews with them.

They are, however, into periodically sucking up in order to keep the money train rolling — or in Hamas’ case with US funding, to get it rolling again. That they suddenly found and busted a suicide bombing cell just before a visit to the region by President Bush is just a wee tad transparent.

Malki, show us the tape, then prosecute and jail the would-be bombers. Then do it all again, and again. Then maybe we’ll believe you.

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December 31st 2007

Iowa Polls Show … Nothing

As the Iowa caucuses draw near, the news is full of the latest polls — Huckabee’s falling, Edwards is strong, Thompson is … is whatever the most recent results of a few hundred phone calls across the frozen fields says it is.

And it’s all pretty much meaningless, mostly because only about six percent of Iowans actually participate in the caucuses. A poll of party regulars could be meaningful, but nearly all the polls are drawn from random samples of Iowa registered voters, most of whom will be busy doing something other than caucusing this Thursday evening.

John Fund has broken down all this in an excellent WSJ Opinion Journal article today, What’s the matter with Iowa? In it, he lays down these faults with the caucus process:

  • They occur during a brief, fixed window at night, so those who work odd hours or have to care for kids or home-bound loved ones can’t make it.

  • There are no absentee ballots, so the sick, disabled, elderly and busy are hugely underrepresented.
  • The rules of the Democratic caucus require participants to publicly stand with others who support their particular candidate — this is no secret ballot.
  • To further complicate things, if less than 15% stand for a Dem candidate at a caucus, they have to pick another candidate to stand with, resulting in yelling, cajoling, and results that are anything but representative of a primary or an election.
  • “Entrance” polls that are reported Thursday night under-represent rural communities and the candidates, like Thompson and Edwards, who are stronger there.
  • There is no process of screening caucus participants for residency, so results could be skewed by over-zealous campaign workers.

In short, polls on Iowa voter preference are virtually meaningless, and the results of the caucuses are not representative of much other than a candidate’s organizing abilities — and this year, his commitment to campaigning there.

Yet it is the first test of any sort for the 2008 election, so the media cover it from border to border, from morning to night, the pollsters call and call and call again, in search of tea leaves to read, the candidates pour their hearts and purses it it … and we political junkies wait anxiously for the results, cloudy, faulty, skewed and weird as they may be.

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December 30th 2007

Inept Panel Of Climate Clowns

When hundreds of scientists issued a letter saying they weren’t too keen on Warmie hysterics, advocates of imminent climate doom like Andrew Dessler, professor at the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M, quickly got to work attacking their credentials.

What then of the UN’s top global warming cheerleading body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Well …

We decided to test Dessler’s claim. So we downloaded IPCC WGII’s latest report on “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”. There were 380 contributors to the report [PDF of contributors]. A thorough and exhaustive analysis of the backgrounds of these experts (or were they?) was too ambitious (it’s Christmas, and we have wine to drink, and mince pies to eat, too). So, we focused on the contributors who operate in the UK.

Of the 51 UK contributors to the report, there were 5 economists, 3 epidemiologists, 5 who were either zoologists, entomologists, or biologists. 5 worked in civil engineering or risk management / insurance. 7 had specialisms in physical geography (we gave the benefit of the doubt to some academics whose profiles weren’t clear about whether they are physical or human geographers). And just 10 have specialisms in geophysics, climate science or modelling, or hydrology. But there were 15 who could only be described as social scientists. If we take the view that economics is a social science, that makes 20 social scientists.

This gives the lie to Dessler’s claim that IPCC contributors are analogous to medical doctors. There are economists working on saving that dying child!!! That’s got to be wrong, by Dessler’s own standards. (Climate Resistance)

This would be interesting, but of course the debate is over.

hat-tip: Small Dead Animals via What Bubba Knows

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December 30th 2007

Lebanon Biggie Praises Iran’s Nukes

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Fars, the Iranian news service Ahmadinejad mouthpiece:

Iran’s N. Power a Back Up for Arabs against Israel

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran’s nuclear capability brings balance of power to the region and strengthens Muslim and Arab world against the Zionist regime of Israel, a former Lebanese minister said. …

Speaking in an exclusive interview with FNA in Beirut, head of Towhid Movement and former Lebanese Minister Weam Vahab viewed Iran’s role in Lebanon and the region as significant and outstanding, and said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran plays a remarkable role in supporting the Islamic resistance movements of the region and Lebanon and renders support to the Lebanese nation and resistance without imposing its will and aspirations.”

Vahab, who is among the respected heads of Lebanon’s important Darouzi tribe, also defended Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities, saying that Tehran’s nuclear power brings equilibrium to the region and a point of reliance for the world of Islam.

Yeah, yeah, Iran is arming and training Hezbollah and Hamas to kill Jews; knew that, but what am I missing here? How do “peaceful nuclear activities,” oh, like generating electricity or using nuclear medicine to diagnose disease, help create a balance of power and a “back up” against Israel?

I can hear it now; “Stop murdering innocent Palestinians, you Jew devils, or we’ll … we’ll … we’ll turn on more lights in Tehran!”

The only ones stupid enough to buy Tehran’s “peaceful” nuclear program are Western leftists and academics.

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December 30th 2007

Sunday Scan

All The News That Causes A Fit

Speaking hypothetically, if a conservative major MSM outlet (see why we have to be speaking hypothetically?) hired a liberal columnist, would anyone even peep? Well, peeping they are about the NYT’s hiring of the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol as a columnist.

As the picture shows, Libs aren’t too keen on letting Kristol speak his piece, so it’ll be nice that NYT readers will now have a weekly wincing and grinding of teeth, as we do on reading any number of their far left “thinkers.”

And it’s beyond nice to read this in the NYT:

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”

Is redemption at hand? Nah, not by a long shot.

“Considering?!”

If you’re planning to become a parent someday, clip and file this one under “What not to do:”

GARLAND, Texas – An essay that won a 6-year-old Texas girl four tickets to a Hannah Montana concert began with the powerful line: “My daddy died this year in Iraq.”

While gripping, it was not true …. Her mom acknowledged to contest organizers the claim was made up specifically to win the contest. …

The girl won a makeover that included a blonde Hannah Montana wig, as well as the grand prize: airfare for four to Albany, N.Y., and four tickets to the sold-out concert on Jan. 9.

The mother had told company officials that the girl’s father died April 17 in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

“We did the essay and that’s what we did to win,” Priscilla Ceballos, the mother, said in an interview with Dallas TV station KDFW. “We did whatever we could do to win.”

Winning, Ceballos taught her daughter, is more important than honesty or integrity.

Ceballos and offspring were busted when the Dept. of Defense confirmed that the alleged father, one Sgt. Jonathon Menjivar, did not exist.

Support our fighting men! Kill them fictionally for concert tickets!

Most amazingly, contest organizers, instead of immediately pressing criminal charges against Ceballos so her unfortunate daughter might finally learn a civics lesson, are “considering” taking away the girl’s tickets.

Healthy Christian Skepticism

While some famous Christians are hopping on the global warming bandwagon, George Pell, the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, isn’t so sure. In a year-end column, Pell said:

The Bali summit on the Kyoto Protocol and climate change was a public relations triumph, although I’m hopeful the new government will not impose major costs on the people for dubious versions of climate goals.

We need rigorous cost-benefit analysis of every proposal and healthy scepticism of all semi-religious rhetoric about the climate and, especially, about computer models for the future. It is difficult to predict what the weather will be like next week, let alone in 10, 20 or 100 years.

“Semi-religious?” Pell is being diplomatic, since great faith is required to accept Warmism lock, stock and barrel. (hat-tip: Greenie Watch)


Ron Paul’s Medal Mettle

Consistency, blogs Josh Nelson at The Seminal, “is one of Ron Paul’s strongest points in his presidential campaign.” Put Paul loses his mettle when it comes to Congressional medals.

Nelson points out that Paul voted against awarding custom-made, $30,000 solid gold Congressional Gold Medals to American luminaries, asking “Why should taxpayers pay for these medals?”
Why, then, did Paul earlier submit a bill (which, like all of his bills, went absolutely nowhere) calling for a military metal for everyone who served in the armed forces during the Cold War, from September 2, 1945 to December 26, 1991?

DoD fought the bill. Why? Well, think of the weapons you could buy or salaries you could pay for the loony concept’s price tag: $240 million.

More damning than the flip-flop (“I was for costly Congressional medals before I was against them”), is that the supposedly anti-government, pro-individualism Paul was saying in this bill that it didn’t matter whether recipients served well, stood out, or accomplished anything during their service; everyone gets a medal.

I’ve thought many things of Ron Paul, but I’ve never thought him to be a “trophy for everyone who plays” sort. (Art: Neoperspectives)

The Debate Is Over!

We’ve heard that one before. Not just global warming, mind you. The debate has long been over on vegetables. Eat ‘em raw for max nutritional value; cook ‘em and lose some benefit.

Right? Everyone says so! Just like global warming! Think again:

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2007) — In a finding that defies conventional culinary wisdom, researchers in Italy report that cooking vegetables can preserve or even boost their nutritional value in comparison to their raw counterparts, depending on the cooking method used.

Specifics? You want specifics? We got ‘em:

In the new study, the researchers evaluated the effects of three commonly-used Italian cooking practices — boiling, steaming, and frying — on the nutritional content of carrots, zucchini and broccoli. Boiling and steaming maintained the antioxidant compounds of the vegetables, whereas frying caused a significantly higher loss of antioxidants in comparison to the water-based cooking methods, they say. For broccoli, steaming actually increased its content of glucosinolates, a group of plant compounds touted for their cancer-fighting abilities. The findings suggest that it may be possible to select a cooking method for each vegetable that can best preserve or improve its nutritional quality, the researchers say.

The lesson: Beware of false algore-ithms.

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December 29th 2007

Candidates’ Response to Bhutto Assassination

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto presented a pop quiz for the candidates on the subjects of foreign policy and “acting presidential.” Here are their grades, starting with the key Dems:

Hillary Clinton: B. Worthy of an A was Hillary’s quick, thorough and strong response, post on her Web site. But a big negative was Clinton’s continued deceitful grandstanding on her relationship with Bhutto.

Her website promptly posted a lengthy statement on the assassination in the form of a Wolf Blitzer interview and summarized her position as follows:

… Hillary Clinton outlined five steps she believes must be taken to address Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Clinton called for an independent, international investigation, reiterated the need for free and fair elections, proposed the appointment of a special envoy, discussed revamping U.S. foreign aid, and a renewed commitment to a stabilized India-Pakistan relationship.

Her call for an independent international investigation was politically astute for a Dem, but problematic. The Rafiki assissination investigation in Lebanon has gone on interminably, and has yet to yield an indictment; the course of events in Pakistan is likely to sweep by such a lengthy investigation. Further, it would have been diplomatically more tactful to call on Musharraf to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation and suggest that he request the assistance of Interpol and others.

Barack Obama: F. His Web site reveals only a brief statement that is cursory, revealing neither depth of analysis nor understanding of the complexities:

“I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.”

WaPo found just how abysmal Obama’s response was:

Then Mr. Obama committed his foul — a far-fetched attempt to connect the killing of Ms. Bhutto with Ms. Clinton’s vote on the war in Iraq. After the candidate made the debatable assertion that the Iraq invasion strengthened al-Qaeda in Pakistan, his spokesman, David Axelrod, said Ms. Clinton “was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in the event today.”

It’s not unexpected for a politician to respond to news politically, but low-blowing Hillary is not the response the American public wants when critical issues burst forth in the War on Terror, putting peace and the lives of our soldiers at greater risk.

John Edwards. A. His Web site statement is brief and quick to condemn Bush:

Benazir Bhutton [a big, nasty sic], the former Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated a number of hours ago. Nawaz Sharif, another former Prime Minister, was right when he said it was a tragedy for her party and Pakistan. I submit that it is also a tragedy for the whole world and another powerful symbol of the total failure of the President’s Global War on Terror.

Since bashing Bush at least hints at a foreign policy statement, Edwards’ statement is way ahead of Obama’s. It also shows he knows who he’s playing to and is keeping his eye on the ball — no matter how much I may disagree with him.

Then, according to the same WaPo story linked above, Edwards did something presidential: He picked up the phone and called Musharraf. WaPo describes the call:

The candidate said he had encouraged Mr. Musharraf “to continue on the path to democratization [and] to allow international investigators to come in and determine what happened, what the facts were.”

Edwards not only showed a boldness none of the other candidates replicated, he was more diplomatic than Hillary, encouraging Musharraf to bring in international investigators, rather than demanding it.

Now the GOP biggies, none of whom performed as well as Hillary or Edwards:

Mitt Romney. C. Romney’s Web site promptly posted the transcripts of numerous media interviews given following Bhutto’s assassination. They show a clear understanding of the threats radical Islamism poses:

“This really underscores the fact, of course, that what’s occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan is not unique to those areas alone, that there is a radical, violent Jihadist effort throughout the world that’s trying to topple not just Western governments but moderate governments in the world of Islam. We as a nation are going to have to work together with other nations to help moderate voices within the world of Islam with a wide array of support. But this is something we’re going to have to do not just in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Iraq, but everywhere from Indonesia to Nigeria. There’s a big amount of work ahead to help Muslims become strong enough to reject the extreme within them.” (Hannity and Combes)

None of Romney’s posted statements, however, spell out any specific action he’d take or conversation he’d have with Musharraf — a missed opportunity.

Rudy Giuliani — D+. Giuliani’s posted response was not quite as strong as Romney’s, and showed the same weaknesses:

“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”

Another missed opportunity, although HuffPo reports that Rudy’s new ad, which in their Lib words “finally — and unsurprisingly — plays the 9/11 card,” may give him a bit of a Bhutto-boost.

Mike Huckabee: F. The Huckabee Web site news room has nothing at all posted on the assassination. The Swamp posted an interview with Huckabee where he clumsily over-plays the fear card:

DES MOINES — The day after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Republican Mike Huckabee said Friday that the killing “changes the world” by adding a new level or turmoil to the Middle East and raises concerns about terrorist attacks on America.

“The assassination of Bhutto I think creates not only new heightened tensions there but it reminds us just how delicate that situation is,” the former Arkansas governor said during an interview Friday morning on KCCI-TV. “If you think about Pakistan, that’s where if we have another terrorist attack, it’s going to be postmarked: Pakistan. That’s where Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding.”

Then Huckabee focuses his attention on Pakistan’s frontier with Afghanistan, “where the terrorists are hiding.” This continues Huckabee’s string of foreign policy gaffes, since concerns about Islamism in Pakistan go far beyond what’s happening in the frontier.

John McCain: B-. McCain’s statement was fairly lengthy and played to his foreign policy strengths. After a paragraph of condolences, he said:

“The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

“Given Pakistan’s strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of that country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle.

“In my numerous visits to Pakistan – to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan – I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today’s tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them.”

McCain appropriately touted his experience and put the right foreign policy perspective on the assassination, and was the only GOP candidate to mention Pakistan’s nukes. But like all the GOP candidates, he just analyzed the situation and said nothing about what he would actually do. Good swing, but the ball went just foul.

Once again, Edwards shows himself to be, if nothing else, a masterful campaigner. And the GOP candidates continue to fail to stand out from one another — except Huckabee, who’s standing out in all the wrong ways.

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December 29th 2007

A Voice Of Reason In Iraq’s Parliament

Give a listen to this video from MEMRI; it’s about 12 minutes in length, but it’s worth it if you want to hear an Iraqi Shi’ite political leader who is strongly religious defend flexibility and freedom in government.

The clip is of Iraqi MP Iyad Jamal al-Din, a Shi’ite who has survived four assassination attempts, being interviewed by Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi/Dubai station. In other words, an elected Shi’ite interviewed on Sunni TV.

Al-Din is a secularist who has caught the attention of others as diverse as Spike and Dr. Sanity for his reformist positions.

In the clip, al-Din supports the concept of Sharia Law, but also says that following leaders who demand the sort of allegiance Muslims give only to Muhammed is wrong. Al-Din supports making bars legal, for example, because while he does not drink out of respect for his religion’s laws, he does not see a non-Sharia government as a source of authority capable of demanding certain behaviors from Muslims.

He also says that he respects a woman who does not cover her head out of religious principle more than a woman who covers her head because she doesn’t want to make waves.

As for the current government in Iraq, al-Din sees it as a blessing, but a mixed one:

President Bush and America should be thanked for saving us from that idol [Saddam Hussein] that wanted to be worshiped like Allah. If you were to go to Iraq in the days of Saddam Hussein, it was Saddam who (decided) everything from A to Z. Saddam gave life and took life and decided if people would be rich or poor.

Interviewer: Don’t the new politicians have many, if not all, of Saddam’s qualities?

Undoubtedly. We’ve gotten rid of Saddam, but not all the mini-Saddams. Even before the war, I said that I was worried that the democracy that we have longed for would turn into a Latin American-style democracy, a banana republic, relying on an economic mafia and a political mafia.

This is a complex man whose beliefs may well be mainstream demographically, but are hardly mainstream politically in conservative Muslim society. They are the sorts of beliefs that got Benazir Bhutto killed, so there’s little surprise that al-Din been the targets of assassins. (He implies that the attacks on him were carried out by more dogmatic Shi’ites, not al-Qaeda because “al-Qaeda does not fail.”)

Listening to a man like this gives one appreciation or the complexity of the task of establishing democracies in Islamic nations, but also clearly shows that there are some leaders who understand the benefits and see the process as possible, even under Islam.

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December 28th 2007

Protests To Meet Beijing Rose Bowl Float

After the city of Pasadena nixed all their protest plans, anti-Beijing protesters have come up with a unique way to draw the huge Rose Bowl Parade audience’s attention to Beijing’s horrific record of human rights abuses: They are asking those lining the parade route to turn their backs on the Beijing Olympics float as it passes.

Human rights groups, frustrated that Pasadena will not allow them to protest a Rose Parade float touting the 2008 Olympics in China one minute before the parade begins, asked spectators Friday to turn their backs to the float when it goes down Colorado Boulevard next week.

“We are asking all Rose Parade attendees to show their support for human rights in China by turning their backs as it passes by,” said Tseten Phanucharas, president of Los Angeles Friends of Tibet.

“We, as a coalition, support this wholeheartedly, and we will be out on the parade route urging everyone to turn their backs.” (source)

The float is sponsored by the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations and Avery Dennison Corporation, whose web site is mum on the subject, but a business web site quotes the company:

“Avery Dennison has been doing business in China for over 15 years and we are proud to co-sponsor a float that will highlight the economic success of China of the 21st century and the first Olympic Games ever hosted by Beijing,” said Dean A. Scarborough, president and CEO of Avery Dennison. “Having China participate in one of our most American of celebrations demonstrates the important link between the two countries.”

No chance for a float highlighting China’s world-topping execution rates or its sophisticated torture technologies.

The same site lists the Roundtable members as:

Members of the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations include: Sue Zhang, president, Tsinghua Education Foundation of North America; Gareth Chang, chairman, GC3 International Corp.; Dunson Cheng, chairman & CEO, Cathay Bank; Grace Chew, vice president, Hong Kong Association of Southern California; Leo Chu, chairman, Hollywood Park Casino & Hotel; Feng Deng, director, Tsinghua Education Foundation of North America; Michael Fulton, president and CEO, Western Market, Comerica Bank; May Hsu, president, China Electronic Commerce Association North American Office; Evans Lam, senior vice president, Citi Smith Barney; Richard Lee, chairman, Amsino Corporation; and Yuling Li, president, American International Cultural Exchanges Foundation.

Bankers and Chinese industry reps — none overly concerned about torture, false imprisonment and crushing on freedom of speech and religion.

But Jianzhong (John) Li, a Caltech lab employee who sought asylum in the US after the 1989 Tiananmen Square violent repression of public protest and is now a follower of Falun Gong, sees it differently:

“The Chinese are using the Rose Parade to show the world that a country, without caring about human rights, can achieve so much. It reminds me of the Olympic Games in 1936, which gave Hitler an opportunity to demonstrate for the world how efficient Nazi Germany was.”

Yup.

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With Obama winning the presidency by seven percent, we can't blame the media. Their laudatory coverage and refusal to extensively probe into Obama's background and [lack of] experience was at best responsible for five percent of his vote, the pundits tell us. Here is a compilation of over 100 significant instances of pro-Obama/anti-McCain bias during the 2008 campaign.

For all 'Media Bias 2008' – Click Here

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