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Archive for April, 2008

April 30th 2008

Apologies

I have a client going before the Coastal Commission next Wednesday, which means we are meeting from 8:30 to 5:30 every day to prep for it — and we’re worried about whether there will be enough time, so I’m bringing work home.

Such is the fate of consultants who deal with overzealous regulators.

You may have noticed a drop-off in the frequency of my posts. It will continue at least through our hearing … then, hopefully, sanity and blogging breaks will return to my life.

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April 30th 2008

Political Fundraising

This guy is so entrepreneurial that there’s no reason he should be a bum:

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April 30th 2008

Department Of Homeland Insanity

Sometimes I wonder how we’ve made it since 9/11 without a terrorist attack on our shores, given the incredible incompetence of some of those tasked with protecting us. As reported in WashTimes:

Some federal air marshals have been denied entry to flights they are assigned to protect when their names matched those on the terrorist no-fly list, and the agency says it’s now taking steps to make sure their agents are allowed to board in the future.

The problem with federal air marshals (FAM) names matching those of suspected terrorists on the no-fly list has persisted for years, say air marshals familiar with the situation.

One air marshal said it has been “a major problem, where guys are denied boarding by the airline.”

“In some cases, planes have departed without any coverage because the airline employees were adamant they would not fly,” the air marshal said. “I’ve seen guys actually being denied boarding.”

A second air marshal says one agent “has been getting harassed for six years because his exact name is on the no-fly list.”

Well, gee. They’ve only had six years to work out this thorny problem so maybe we should cut them some slack … hey wait! That’s longer than it took al-Qaeda to plan and carry out 9/11.

hat-tip: Urgent Agenda via Jim

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April 30th 2008

Fatal Energy Policies

“While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio,” writes Thomas Friedman in today’s NYT, “no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.”

Well, that’s a biased way to present good news. It’s not like First Solar shut down it Ohio operations and moved lock, stock and barrel to Germany. Rather, they saw a strong emerging market rich with government incentives and expanded their operations.

Friedman’s overarching point — that America needs a sound energy policy — is correct, but he picks weird way to present it and ends up with a policy that panders to the Warmies and the expense of the consumers.

Friedman starts by picking a lousy example in First Solar. He wants the US to incentivize alternative energy, which is a somewhat good idea, so he focused his example on First Solar’s German operations — but he ignored the company’s Malaysian plant because he certainly doesn’t want call for cheap US labor.

And neither did he want to write about Ohio’s crumbling infrastructure and rustbelt ways to drive up the cost of business. Otherwise, he might have mentioned that First Solar pulled up its roots last week and moved to Arizona.

Still, there’s much I agree with in Friedman’s analysis, starting with his dislike of the currently voguish drive to cut or eliminate federal gas taxes over the summer. His point — that we’re giving money to China to incentivize us to enjoy ourselves by driving our SUVs to vacation spots — is sound on the China debt front, but elitist in how he wants to mandate our behavior. (He did not divulge the Friedman vacation plans, BTW.)

He is also correct that if it is our goal to use incentives to quicken the development and market penetration of renewable technologies, incentivizing the use of gasoline is not the way to do it, whether it’s the McCain/Clinton tax cut idea, or all the existing credits that go oil’s way.

I think reasonable incentives for alternative energy — accelerated depreciation for alternative energy infrastructure, reduced regulatory burdens for “green” transmission corridors, tax credits for purchases — are a good idea if they’re carefully watched so they don’t become permanent subsidies for successful businesses.

I’d go further, though, and say that all politically motivated federal give-aways — the gas tax cut, Obama’s college freebie or the checks the IRS mailed out last week — send the wrong message. Government isn’t in existence to dole out freebies, and whenever it does, it keeps the free market from making the adjustments necessary to sustain a sound economy.

Friedman also acts as if we have only one energy source available to us — alternatives — and wants to pretend we can just leave oil behind. Alternative energy is called alternative for a reason. There’s a Big Daddy energy and then there are these yapping alternatives that say they can replace Big Daddy, but they’re hardly out of diapers.

If we worry, as we should and Friedman does, about our increasing debt to China, then why should we continue to compete against China on world markets for oil? If we’re worried about the social and economic consequences of the rising cost of energy, why shouldn’t we work to increase all supply?

Friedman says nothing about opening ANWR or the continental shelf to drilling; he’s mum on exploration on federal lands; there’s not a peep about the benefits of fuel mix standardization or the construction or expansion of refineries — all things that would greatly benefit America’s energy picture and economy.

These are simply discounted with the charge that any use of oil simply increases “our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.”

America is moving dramatically toward more efficient, cleaner use of petroleum, from Priuses and clean-burning diesels to more efficient industrial applications. And as long as the debate on global warming isn’t over — and it’s not — it’s perfectly fine to use it, drill it and refine it until the alternatives shed their diapers and are ready to replace Big Daddy.

Get it wrong, and the economy crashes and people suffer. And Friedman gets it wrong.

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April 30th 2008

Wednesday Reading

After last week’s techno-meltdown, the Watcher of Weasels is back and has configured the Watcher’s Council nominees for best on-line troopers of the week into smart columns, all linked up to their individual mother ships, standing at parade rest for your perusal.

Council members will submit their votes Thursday afternoon, and you’ll see the winners here Friday morning.

Council links:

  1. Past Is Never Past
    Done With Mirrors
  2. The Company One Keeps
    Joshuapundit
  3. Oppressive Speech Regulation
    Rhymes With Right
  4. Outfoxed By Obama & The Twelve Unasked Questions
    Wolf Howling
  5. Throwing Bashar a Lifeline
    Soccer Dad
  6. An Article About Islam Most Amazing for What It Doesn’t Say
    Bookworm Room
  7. Moral Relativism Reaches a New Low
    The Colossus of Rhodey
  8. Rising Food Prices
    The Glittering Eye
  9. Obama’s Exxon Valdez
    Cheat Seeking Missiles
  10. Teacher Arrested Not Once, But Twice!
    The Education Wonks
  11. Wright’s Revenge
    Hillbilly White Trash
  12. The Total Witlessness of Obama Apologists
    Right Wing Nut House

Non-council links:

  1. An Anatomy of Surrender
    City Journal
  2. Obama. Wright. Farrakhan. Cone.
    Ace of Spades HQ
  3. Affirmative Action Abortions
    Balkinization
  4. Standing Up for Their Culture
    Brits At Their Best
  5. Rushing to Blame Israel
    Israellycool
  6. Syriana
    Commentary
  7. ID (the Other Kind): Beginning of the Death of the Democratic Party?
    Big Lizards
  8. Political Maneuver in Counterinsurgency
    Small Wars Journal
  9. Obama’s Eagleton Affair
    The American Spectator
  10. “A Triumph of Postmodern Politics”
    Dr. Sanity
  11. Chevy Bill Ayers: A Classic Ride for Limousine Liberals
    The People’s Cube
  12. The Obama Aesthetic
    American Thinker
  13. Choose Your Identity Group Carefully, Kids!
    Classical Values
  14. Multiculturalism Breeds Cultural Apartheid
    Dodgeblogium

At ease, Watcher!

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April 29th 2008

The "Progressives" Love Wright

“I’m outraged,” said Barack Obama today, “by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday. I find these comments appalling. It contradicts everything that I’m about and who I am.”

So he went at least part of the way towards the third option I laid out to him this morning:

Third, he can utterly repudiate Wright, going beyond today’s statement, leaving “offend” and “does not speak for me” language behind to say, “I’ve seen Wright for what he really is and I regret the time I spent in his church, I repudiate him, I so not stand for Liberation Theology, which has served its purpose but is past its time, and I assure the American people that anyone who holds beliefs like his will not be welcome in my administration.”

The statement isn’t necessary for most Obama supporters, who have already worked out how they’ll stay with him despite Wright, but it will likely keep some waverers on Obama’s battered ship.

What it won’t do is bring back a single soul who has left Obama because of the insights the Wright debacle has given into Obama’s character and his ability to pick his mentors. And it certainly won’t appease the hard left, who aren’t at all happy with how Obama’s handled this whole thing … people like Ruth Conniff of The Progressive, who wrote today, adding more fuel to the fire by praising Wright.

As Obama flails to distance himself from Wright, the left is racing to embrace him and all he believes in:

Much of what Wright said was absolutely true–yet too hot for white America, for the National Press Club, and for a mainstream U.S. Presidential campaign.

What’s funny about Conniff’s column is that it starts like this …

Instead, Wright came out swinging, mocking the media for knowing nothing about the black church, for taking soundbites from his sermons out of context, and, basically, for being lazy and ignorant.

… then she proves they were neither lazy nor ignorant by gleefully reveling in all the awful Wright comments that show he was not taken out of context at all.

It was striking to hear the themes of Wright’s speech: the criticism of U.S. militarism and imperialism, racial and economic injustice, the references to progressive figures from Cornel West to Jim Wallis, and watch the audience and the press corps react.

Forget the generalizations; let’s get into this:

To be sure, Wright’s refusal to denounce Louis Farrakhan, his angry-sounding declaration that Farrakhan didn’t put him in chains or “make me this color,” his assertion that “yes, I believe our country is capable of doing anything” in answer to a question about whether he thinks the United States deliberately infected black people with AIDS will be held against him.

Yeah, but not everyone will hold it against him:

But the audience of his friends and supporters [like Conniff] ate up his strikes back against what has surely been a racist and unfair campaign against him.

Why? Do they think the presidential candidate’s long-time pastor is really anti-American … that all those soundbites really were correct? You bet:

Wright doesn’t hesitate to puncture the national myth of America’s essential goodness.

Note from Obama camp: Thanks a great big bunch, Conniff.

hat-tip: RCP; art: Ian Davis

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April 29th 2008

Boris, Ken, Barack And Hillary

There’s another election going on that we in America aren’t too aware of: Boris Johnson (right) is running against one of the great men we love to hate (“great” addresses “love to hate,” not “men”), London mayor Ken Livingstone (left).

You’d think this would be a race about issues. After all, Livingstone has made himself into a symbol for post-modern, hard-left thinking, as Anne Appelbaum points out today in Slate:

His need to attract attention manifests itself in other ways: the expensive celebration he had planned to commemorate 50 years of Fidel Castro’s dictatorial rule, for example, or his public embrace of a Muslim cleric who defends suicide bombing and advocates the death penalty for homosexuals. … He called the U.S. ambassador to Britain a “chiseling little crook” and told a Jewish journalist he was behaving “like a concentration camp guard.”

Eech. Less familiar to most of us is Johnson, but he’s every bit as much a character:

Though he’s been more staid than usual during the mayoral campaign, Boris is a man who can’t stop telling jokes, whether at the expense of the aforementioned mistress or the people of Portsmouth (a city of “drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs“).

Adjectives like mop-haired, blustering, and old Etonian appear in just about every profile of him ever written. So does his most famous quotation—”Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3″—though that line is misleading since his sense of humor is usually far more self-deprecating. “Beneath the carefully constructed veneer of a blithering buffoon,” he once remarked, “there lurks a blithering buffoon.”

Of course we’ll track this election (election day is May 1) because it could spell the end of Livingstone’s horrific reign, but Applebaum says it’s more than a clash of two very different belief systems:

But it’s nevertheless worth watching because this campaign could well be a blueprint for the elections of the future since it is postmodern and post-ideological in the deepest sense: In a world in which “issues” are not the issue and … there’s nothing left to talk about except who said what to whom and whose tongue was sharper while doing so.

Sound like our Dem primary? More than a bit. But this is, in effect, a general election, not a primary.

Let’s hope this is another way America keeps itself cut off from its European roots.

hat-tip: RCP

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April 29th 2008

Obama’s Exxon Valdez

Welcome, NY Times readers!

Like Obama’s Jeremiah Wright fiasco, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the worst kind of communications crisis because it just kept the bad news flowing until it seemed like it would never end.

More and more dying birds. Miles and miles of spoiled seashores. And Joseph Hazelwood, drunk at the helm, then going through a protracted trial. The first goal of any crisis communications program is to make the story stop, but this nightmare story just kept oozing, like the 10.8 million gallons of crude escaping from the ship’s hull.

Enter Barack Obama, skipper of the Hussein Valdez, with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright leaking endlessly from the damaged hull.

Obama had managed Wright as best he could, not so much because of what he (Obama) said and did, but what Wright said and did, basically not registering because he was gone from the public view. But those days have ended, and Wright’s back with a vengeance, taking advantage of the media spotlight to espouse his philosophy for his purposes.

Here’s what Obama offered up yesterday to counter the endless Wright sound bites of the last couple days, interviews that offered America a prolonged look at a man they didn’t like attacking in the most vile terms a country they love:

“People will understand that I am not perfect and there are going to be folks in my past – like Reverend Wright – that may cause them concern. But, ultimately, my 20 years of service and the values that I’ve written about, spoken about and promoted are their values and what they are concerned about. That’s what this campaign has been about. And will continue to be about.

“Some of the comments that Reverend Wright has made offended me and I understand why they offend the American people. He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign.” (NYT)

Will this be enough? That depends in part on whether Wright shuts up or not. Oddly, Wright’s recent comments may bring some people back to Obama, because the more he talks the more some people will think Obama simply had no idea how crazy he was during his pulpit years.

But for most impacted by Wright, this is just more of the same, raising the same questions about the true beliefs of the candidate. Most who rejected Obama because of Wright did so forcefully, with repulsion, and more Wright just repulses more.

So Obama has three choices:

First, he can hope it will go away, thinking he can spin his way out of it, keeping up the sort of patter he pattered yesterday. This is a common response and it always fails if the story has momentum.

Second, he can admit that he wasn’t really much of a church-goer (if that’s true). He can say he was pretty much a lilies and poinsettias Christian, missing far more Sundays than he attended. This will make him look like a hypocrite and cost him votes, but he will be sharing a common American hypocrisy.

Third, he can utterly repudiate Wright, going beyond today’s statement, leaving “offend” and “does not speak for me” language behind to say, “I’ve seen Wright for what he really is and I regret the time I spent in his church, I repudiate him, I so not stand for Liberation Theology, which has served its purpose but is past its time, and I assure the American people that anyone who holds beliefs like his will not be welcome in my administration.” That also would cost him a ton of votes.

Three lousy choices. My bet: He’ll go with the first and hope he can avoid utter disaster and meltdown in the final primaries.

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April 28th 2008

The Danish Perspective

This email is making the rounds, perportedly from a very American-thinking Danish friend:

We in Denmark cannot figure out why you are even bothering to hold an
election.

On one side, you have a b!tch who is a lawyer, married to a lawyer, and a
lawyer who is married to a b!tch who is a lawyer.

On the other side, you have a true war hero married to a woman with a huge
chest who owns a beer distributorship.

Is there a contest here?

Unfortunately, there is.

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April 28th 2008

The Divisive Rev. Wright

How savvy of the NCCP to invite Rev. Wright to give the keynote address at its 53rd annual “Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.” No speaker, not even Barack Obama — or as Wright referred to him, “Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Barack HUSSEIN Obama” — could have garnered more attention.

And fundraising is always about getting attention.

You can see Rev. Wright’s speech here; I’ve only had a chance to view about a third of it, so I’m going to focus on just one passage, in which he was rebuking an Oakland official who called him divisive:

“I am not one of the most ‘divisive.’ Tell him the word is ‘descriptive.’ I describe the conditions in this country — conditions divide, not my description.”

This is the sort of wordplay most pastors like. Give them an alliteration and they can build an entire sermon series around it. Most, fortunately, do a better job at it than Wright.

Does Wright spend any time accurately describing conditions in America? Forget the sound bites we all know — AIDS, chickens coming home to roost — and think of the stuff of his week in, week out sermons as they’ve been described to us by his church itself:

We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian… Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain “true to our native land,” the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

This is a church that describes itself as not being of America. It describes America as having a long night of racism without hinting that dawn came a long time ago. (In fact, he says in the speech he believes “a change is going to come.”) It describes an America of continuous injustice, not one continuous opportunity. It describes a church with no desire to join the rest of America, but to maintain itself apart, divisively.

That’s Wright’s description of America: A country in which every black is oppressed and every white is an oppressor, a country in which blacks who do succeed are derided with derogatory name-plays (with the exception of Obama).

These are not accurate descriptions of America. Opportunity abounds, and even if black racism remains robust, white America is more than willing to accept and promote ambitious, hard working blacks, just as we are with the ambitious and hard working of any race. All you have to do is look around; count the numbers, track the income, check the admissions, name the senior executives and partners.

Nor are Wright’s descriptions of America helpful. They seek to continue the divide, to promote victimization, to make differentness a divide. Black liberation theology can only continue if the need to liberate continues, so the advances in civil rights, not white racism, are the greatest threat the church faces. Wright does not want it put out of business, so his is not a language of description; it is a language of division.

Descriptions are not necessarily divisive, if they are accurate. No one ever went to war over agreements. But Wright doesn’t describe America correctly, and it is those descriptions themselves that are so divisive. America is moving far beyond the America Wright describes, and his continued description of where we were instead of where we are going is, in a word, divisive.

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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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