April 3, 2009

Web Reconnaissance for 04/03/2009

A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

A Rare Triumph of Substance at the Summit - International economic summits deserve to be regarded with skepticism: The most important decision to come out of them is usually the call for yet another meeting. (READ MORE)

3 Detained in Afghanistan Can Take Challenges to U.S. Court - A federal judge ruled yesterday that three detainees at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan may challenge their confinement before a U.S. court, handing the Obama administration one of its first legal defeats on a claim of executive power. (READ MORE)

XXX Film Spells Lost $$$ for U-Md. - Tickets were selling fast for Saturday night's showing of a "XXX blockbuster" at the University of Maryland's student union. (Pirates! Skeletons! An orgy of belly dancers!) Then, like a douse of cold water, the state Senate stepped in. (READ MORE)

As Crisis Loomed, Geithner Pressed But Fell Short - In September 2005, Timothy Geithner made one of his most visible moves as a supervisor of the U.S. banking system. He summoned the nation's top financial firms and their regulators to streamline an antiquated system that threatened Wall Street's boom. (READ MORE)

Audit Faults Payment of $681,379 to OSHA Consultant - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration paid more than half a million dollars to a consultant from the home state of the agency's director without keeping any "work products" produced by the consultant, an act that violated the terms of a government contract, federal laws and regulations ... (READ MORE)

Former Illinois Governor Indicted - CHICAGO, April 2 -- A federal grand jury charged former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on Thursday with racketeering, extortion and fraud, opening a new chapter in the prosecution of the voluble Democrat, who could spend years behind bars if convicted. (READ MORE)

D.C. Vote Memo Called Informal - After receiving a legal memo that declared the pending D.C. voting rights bill unconstitutional, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. reached out to another lawyer on whose judgment he had relied for years. (READ MORE)

FDA Hasn't Intensified Inspections At Peanut Facilities, Despite Illness - Despite four outbreaks of salmonella illness from peanut products in the past three years, the federal government has not changed the safety measures required of peanut companies or instructed its inspectors to test for the bacteria. (READ MORE)

Splintered Taliban Thwarts Afghan Peace - KABUL -- When voter registration stations opened in southern Afghanistan several months ago, officials feared they would be attacked by Taliban fighters who control much of the region. Instead, the process went smoothly and not a shot was fired. There were even reports of local Taliban members... (READ MORE)

N. Korean Threats Grow as Launch Draws Near - TOKYO, April 2 -- Amid reports that it is fueling a missile for launch as soon as this weekend, North Korea escalated threats on Thursday against a worried neighbor, warning that it would attack "major targets" in Japan if Tokyo shot the missile down. (READ MORE)

Europeans Reluctant to Follow Obama on Afghan Initiative - STRASBOURG, France, April 2 -- European leaders have prepared to host a spectacular summit here to mark the 60th anniversary of NATO, the bedrock military alliance that has bound the United States to the security of Europe since shortly after World War II. (READ MORE)


Mirek Topolanek: If NATO Didn't Exist We'd Have to Invent It - I think often about the lessons of history. Against the backdrop of our global economic crisis, I refer to the ill-fated experience of protectionism in the 1930s. When discussing the ratification of the European Union's (EU) Lisbon Treaty, I remind others of the fact that independence, regained only about two decades ago by the Czech Republic, remains a sensitive issue for our country. And when defending priorities such as the energy security of the EU and the strategic importance of relations with our eastern neighbors, I mention recent crises over security in Georgia and gas in Ukraine. But the past also teaches positive lessons. One of them is success of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It was undoubtedly this alliance that stabilized the countries of Western Europe -- which had for centuries been beset by power struggles -- and created a block capable of resisting potential threats from the eastern part of the bipolar world. (READ MORE)

Paul Singer: Free-Marketeers Should Welcome Some Regulation - President Barack Obama took his proposed financial regulatory reforms to London this week for the G-20 meeting, while free-market advocates objected. While many of Mr. Obama's ideas warrant skepticism, conservative opposition to any expanded role for government is a mistake. There is an urgent need for a new global regulatory initiative that addresses the primary cause of the financial collapse: highly leveraged and concentrated positions. Reform must begin with a regulatory regime focused on "behavior" instead of "systemically important institutions." Today, even small entities that trade complex instruments or are granted sufficient leverage can threaten the global financial system. (READ MORE)
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr: Technology Is the Answer to Climate Change - Last summer, China and the developing world announced the price for their cooperation on a global-warming treaty: up to 1% of the developed world's gross domestic product. For the U.S., this would mean sending $140 billion a year to China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba, among other countries. This is in addition to the $28 billion we already distribute each year in foreign aid. For a U.S. family of four, China's demand comes to nearly $1,900 in yearly taxes. And that's just the beginning. The tenor of international climate negotiations has emboldened the Indian government to claim in a February filing with the United Nations that the West owes it billions of dollars in compensation for climate change. (READ MORE)

Douglas J. Feith: Spain Has No Right to Try U.S. Officials - A lawyer in Spain -- who did his legal studies while serving over seven years in prison for kidnapping and terrorism -- has engineered a complaint accusing the U.S. government of systematically torturing war-on-terrorism detainees. He filed this complaint with Baltasar Garzon, an activist magistrate famous for championing the "universal jurisdiction" of Spanish courts. That magistrate is now asking a Spanish prosecutor to bring criminal charges on this matter against former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, four other former Bush administration lawyers, and me. The allegation is not that any of us tortured anyone. And it is not that any of us even directed anyone to commit torture. (READ MORE)

Peggy Noonan: Obama's Domestic Agenda Gains Clarity - Barack Obama was elected in part because of his singularity. There was no one like him. He was a break with the past, not only because of his youth and race but also his cerebral bent, his cool demeanor. He seemed free of the partisan muck. He was hard to categorize because we didn't have categories for him. This was part of his power. It denied his foes purchase; they didn't know how to get at him. It allowed others to project on his canvas. After the thickly drawn George W. Bush, he seemed something refreshing: a mystery. He has been criticized in the past for not being philosophically clear, but Mr. Obama possesses the canny knowledge that in modern politics, clarity can sometimes get in your way. You don't always want to shoot arrows that pierce; sometimes it's better to be a great enveloping fog, something your enemies get lost in. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Boskin: Obama's $163,000 Tax Bomb - The House and Senate are preparing to pass President Barack Obama's radical budget blueprint, with only minor modifications, by using (abusing would be more accurate) the budget "reconciliation" process. This process circumvents the Senate's normal rules requiring 60 votes to prevent a filibuster. Reconciliation was created by Congress in the mid-1970s to enforce deficit reduction, the opposite of what the president and his party are aiming for. The immense increase in nondefense spending and taxes, and the tripling of the national debt in Mr. Obama's budget, have been the subject of considerable scrutiny since it was announced. Mr. Obama and his economic officials respond, not without justification, that he inherited an enormous economic and financial crisis and a large deficit. All presidents present the best possible case for their budgets, but a mind-numbing array of numbers offers innumerable opportunities to conjure up misleading comparisons. (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: Obama Census Plan: No Illegal Alien Left Behind - I have seen the electoral future, and it is rigged. With fraud-prone, ideologically driven interest groups swarming the census-gathering process, the left is solidifying its chances of a permanent ruling majority. Lax immigration enforcement is the not-so-secret key to the Democrats' power grab. And the Obama administration is all too happy to aid and abet. At a meeting to mobilize volunteer trainees assisting with the decennial national headcount, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke encouraged the government's partners to spread the word that privacy rights of census-takers would not be violated, and that accuracy and fairness would be ensured. Locke assured the activists: "We all recognize what is at stake." But do you? (READ MORE)

Oliver North: Et Tu, Barack? - WASHINGTON -- Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus and his friends in the Roman legislature on the ides of March 44 B.C. Free enterprise died at the hands of Barack and his friends in the American legislature on the 30th of March 2009. The following day, those same ministers of American government completed the death warrant for civic duty in our republic. They called it the "Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act." The bill passed -- as did the killing of Caesar -- with overwhelming support from the legislature. It was a remarkable performance, worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. In the space of 48 hours, the president of the United States seized control of one of the world's largest manufacturing companies and fired its CEO. He followed up by congratulating our representatives for creating the 14th-largest paid entity on the planet -- a quarter-million government-paid "volunteers." (READ MORE)

David Limbaugh: Holder's Injustice - Remember the cacophonous wailing of the left over the Bush administration's alleged politicization of the Justice Department? We always knew they were just projecting, but now we have even more proof. I first learned from my friend Andy McCarthy's blog post on National Review Online that Attorney General Eric Holder had rejected the legal opinion of his own Justice Department lawyers that the D.C. voting rights bill, which would give the District of Columbia a voting member in the House of Representatives, is unconstitutional. Why would Holder reject the legal opinion of his own deputies? Dumb question. Because he doesn't like the answer and neither does his boss, President Obama. (READ MORE)

John McCaslin: Leggo my Logo - ”Reminds me of Jimmy Carter turning off the lights at the White House,” says our insider at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who forwards a memo he and his colleagues were sent by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Among nearly two dozen “major” cost-saving steps Ms. Napolitano announced she will implement over the next 120 days: consolidating subscriptions to publications and newspapers to avoid duplication, eliminating printing and distribution of all reports and documents that can be sent electronically or posted online, maximizing use of conference calls and Web-based meetings and using purchasing agreements to save on office supplies. (READ MORE)

Jason Clemens: Is All "Fair" With the Obama Agenda? - President Obama and congressional Democrats are avidly pursuing a sweeping agenda they claim is justified by the need for greater "fairness." This invites scrutiny of the various programs to verify if they do, in fact, promote fairness. "Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice" is the standard meaning of fairness, which requires treating people similarly, perhaps not identically, but certainly not with purposeful difference. Apply this test to the tax changes proposed in President Obama's budget, and it seems clear he wants to punish higher-income earners for the benefit of others, namely lower and middle-income earners. Let's understand the pre-Obama tax status quo. In 2006, the most recent year for which comprehensive IRS statistics are available, there were 135.7 million tax returns with a total of $8.1 trillion in income (technically called adjusted gross income) and a total of $1.0 trillion paid in income taxes after consideration of tax credits. (READ MORE)

Robert Stacy McCain: Hysterical: Sully denies nihilism, accuses conservatives of psychopathology - Quoted by Ta-Nehesi Coates: “I don't think it's possible to believe [the gay rights agenda threatens traditional families] without, at some level, engaging in homophobia - literally an irrational and exaggerated fear that the gay somehow always obliterates the straight, or that 2 percent somehow always controls the fate of 98 percent. This is where paranoia and panic take over. It is where homophobia most feels like anti-Semitism.” Sullivan's finger-pointing j'accuse is enthusiastically endorsed by Coates, of course. Amazing how these "intellectuals" -- including Sullivan, who pretends to the humlity of Oakeshott -- just know these things, eh? To oppose their politics is to be guilty of bigotry, per se, with them acting as judge, jury and executioner. Myself, I profess to be a man of "untaught feelings," as described by Edmund Burke: (READ MORE)

Black & Right: UN: Speak No Ill Of Islam… Or Else - These are truly amazing times we live in. We have our own government seizing businesses and dictating how much people should get paid, if the government doesn't fire them. We have our own government giving the word "spending" a catastrophic new meaning. We have our own government acting like fascist thugs, squelching opposition on the floor othe House and Senate, and now we have the United Nations dictating what free speech will be from now on. “In a crushing blow to the freedom of speech worldwide, the United Nations Human Rights Council last Thursday approved a resolution calling upon member states to provide legal ‘protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.’” The ramifications here in America are unclear, but if I were to write something that was critical of murderous thugs who may have just blown up a market, killing dozens of people (and were Muslims), would I be contacted by the United Nations and charged with a crime? (READ MORE)

Ari David: Obama’s Weakness Endangers Us All - North Korea has taken two American journalists prisoner and charged them with committing “hostile acts” against the regime. Countries like North Korea, which are the pinnacle of tyranny in the modern world, commit atrocities all the time. What they don’t do is challenge America directly - unless they perceive weakness. The consequence of having a weak president in office is that countries like North Korea are more apt to challenge our resolve. There is no question that by his actions in the last few weeks, taping a message for Iran which legitimized the Islamic government, sending Secretary of State Clinton to Russia with a mislabeled ‘reset’ button, and sending Clinton to Mexico where she blamed the United States for Mexican drug violence, Barack Obama has emboldened all of America’s enemies and emboldened North Korea in this particular case. (READ MORE)

Gary Graham: The Bobby-Bash World Cup - Reporting from the BBC in London… Good morning, and welcome to the 34th Annual Bobby-Bash in East London, England! Today’s event promises to be ripping with action and a jolly tough competition! As you recall, after yesterday’s bash the Anarchists hold a slight lead over the Bobbies, having yesterday knocked seventeen helmets off policemen’s heads and conked five Bobbies with protest signs and flying bottles; but in the third Over, the Bobbies rallied a strong surge with some fine baton swatting and scored twelve bloody noggins upon the Anarchists. An umpire disallowed three of those, however, in the sixth Over, due to a BPC infringement (or Blatant Posturing for Cameras, i.e., exacerbating of the head wound and rubbing of the blood all over the face), which is clearly against International League Bobby Bashing Association rules. It’s rumoured by some ILBBA officials that Blatant Posturing by the Anarchists has been steadily on the rise: (READ MORE)

AJStrata: Senator Thune (R) Kills CO2 Cap & Trade - All right! Another win for the GOP in a little noticed senate amendment battle - and it wasn’t even close: An Amendment was introduced by Senator John Thune (R-SD) on the Budget Resolution and its text is as follows: “To amend the deficit-neutral reserve fund for climate change legislation to require that such legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices. What is this? Climate change legislation cannot increase electricity or gasoline prices? The entire purpose of cap and trade is in fact to increase the costs of carbon-emitting sources of energy, which dominate US energy consumption.” The Thune Amendment thus undercuts the entire purpose of cap and trade. What was the vote on the Thune Amendment? 89-8 in favor of the Amendment, 48 Democrats and 41 Republicans. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The arithmetic of news - A reader has trouble reconciling the numbers reported in various news stories. “Something,” the reader says, “doesn’t add up.” The problem, I think, could be in the data sources and the news stories themselves. “It has always bugged me that the Obama campaign reported raising enormous, unprecedented sums of money from small donors. According this study, Obama’s campaign reports that about 3 million people gave to his campaign, and about 2.5 million gave less than $200. This number sounds about right (I have a better estimate below) given than he raised about $335 million from under-$200s according to the FEC, meaning the average donation was $134. That sounds plausible. However, I read on an Instapundit link to this story that he sent out emails to 13 million people asking them to sign a pledge in support of his budget, and got back 114,000 pledges.” Essentially the problem is this: why could Obama persuade nearly 3 million people to send him campaign contributions yet be unable to convince any more than 114,000 to send him back a pledge? (READ MORE)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN): Don't Play Politics with Prosperity - Do you have a 401k to ensure that you can comfortably retire? Do you have a college savings fund for your children? Do you think you're rich? The President assumes that you are and wants to punish you for your savings. Like many Americans, you've probably seen your nest egg disappear with the recession. Do you think it's fair that while you're trying to rebuild your savings to preserve children's future, and secure your own, the President wants to slow down your progress? We all know that capital investments are no longer only for the wealthy; college savings funds and 401k's are staples for hard working families. These families urgently want to recoup the losses in their savings accounts as soon as possible and suspending the Capital Gains Tax can help them do that. Congress can help people who have seen their retirement funds decrease by 50% by responsibly suspending the Capital Gains Tax. (READ MORE)

John Hawkins: Do The Members Of The Republican National Committee Understand Their Jobs? - There is a reason that the GOP is called the "stupid" party. It's always one thing or another. If Republicans in DC aren't dumping their principles to try to appeal to liberals who are always going to hate them, they're running people out of the party for not being pure enough. Although the former problem has been a much bigger problem than the latter of late, we have a bunch of doofuses at the Republican National Committee who are apparently so desperate to vent that they're willing to make jackasses of themselves on a national stage: “Conservatives on the 168-member Republican National Committee are pressing a reluctant RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele to call a party meeting that would focus criticism on President Obama's stimulus package and its backers -- including three Republican senators who voted for it.” (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: The nerve! Doesn't this man realise that black is white? - Here is a standard boilerplate Israeli reaction to Avigdor Lieberman’s speech, which I remarked upon here. Writer Eitan Haber comments that the foreign Minister needs some tutoring before he says such foolish things as the fact that Israel failed to achieve anything from the concessions it made as part of the Oslo peace process, since that process apparently led to the approval of Israel by the world, a doubling of the education budget, the building of new roads and Ben Gurion airport and the eradication of cancer (ok, I made that last bit up). What Haber fails to acknowledge is a) the world approved of Israel during Oslo because it thought that now Israel would never again use military force to defend itself, which of course Jews are forbidden by the world to do, and b) that it was during the Oslo years that admiration for ‘plucky little Israel’ somehow got translated to ‘Israel is a Nazi state’... (READ MORE)

Dan Riehl: Guns: The Games They Play - Fox takes a look at how our government generates the bogus "90% of guns in Mexico come from the US" statistic they've been touting in the media. Only a small portion of the guns seized are traceable. Yes, 90% of those may trace back to the US, but the vast majority of non-trace-able weapons have markings indicating they don't come from America at all. But in our government's eyes, somehow they just don't count. “There's just one problem with the 90 percent "statistic" and it's a big one: It's just not true. In fact, it's not even close. By all accounts, it's probably around 17 percent. What's true, an ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com, in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director, ‘is that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S.’” (READ MORE)

The Redhunter: The Coming War on American Sovereignty - What do these stories have in common? One: The New York Times reports that a Spanish court wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." If this evokes a response of "oh these are some kooks and nothing will come of it," think again. Two: The Times also reports that President Obama has appointed Yale law school dean Harold Koh has to head the legal adviser's office in the State Department. Ed Whelan at NRO says that "Koh is a leading proponent of transnationalism." Three: There's a new push for the United States to ratify something called the innocuous sounding UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Michael Farris in which he explained why it's not so innocuous. (READ MORE)

John Hinderaker: AIG: Another View - Hank Greenberg, the former Chairman of AIG and the man who largely made that company what it was, testified today before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The subjects were Greenberg's views on what happened to AIG--he left the company around four years ago--and the government bailout. Greenberg is a controversial guy. Not to put too fine a point on it, some people think he is a crook. But putting together AIG was a towering achievement, and no one thinks he is stupid. In my view, his perspective, while no doubt self-serving, is very much worth hearing. Greenberg, in a nutshell, thinks the bailout was a terrible idea and AIG should have been allowed to go into bankruptcy. He is at a loss as to why American taxpayers should have poured tens of millions of dollars into the company, much of which went to make European banks whole when they otherwise would have taken a loss. He explained AIG's downfall: (READ MORE)

Political Pistachio: Obama, G-20, and a Show of Idiocy - Barack Obama, the first candidate to campaign to the entire world, returned triumphantly to Europe for the G-20 Summit of Global Economic Meetings. The people danced in the streets with approval, and marveled at the wonderful outfits that Michelle Obama was wearing. Hey, did you hear about her amazing change of clothes during the flight? Wait, wait, I got carried away, I think. The people dancing in the streets were not dancing after all. As they do every time there is a global summit of this nature, they were protesting. The anarchists took to the streets to demand a global unification of governments. Anarchists? Global unification? Even the protesters are a contradiction of terms. Interestingly, the only leader praising the gallant efforts of Messiah Obama was British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Must have been that wonderfully thoughtful (sort of like giving DVD's to the Prime Minister) gift of an I-Pod the Obamas gave the Queen of England. (READ MORE)

neo-neocon: Obama, his task force, and the auto industry: does anyone else find this especially chilling? - When Obama took it on himself to fire GM CEO Rick Wagnoner, this is how it went down, according to someone who ought to know: “The president said he had decided to do that. He wasn’t asking for opinions,” said U.S. Sen Carl Levin, a Michigan democrat. “There wasn’t much point in arguing whether it was fair or unfair, wise or unwise.” Curious, isn’t it, coming from a president whose big skill was supposed to be his ability to dialogue with both sides and to hear them out? And remember, this is a man from Obama’s own party speaking, one who should have had something to say on the matter of the auto industry. After all, he’s not only the Senator from the state most deeply involved, Michigan, (and has held that office for a very long time), but he’s a liberal Democrat as well. But it seems that the King has spoken, and it’s off with Wagoner’s head—metaphorically, that is. (READ MORE)

Jay Fraser: Of Drones, Guns and Cooperation - Through numerous articles over recent months, arguments have been presented exclaiming the devolution of the Mexican state, and at least on one occasion, referred to it as a "failed state". So, the question must be asked if by changing of White House occupants, that the perceived realities of the "unrest" in Mexico is real, or imagined (fabricated)? While preoccupied by other responsibilities, others have addressed one of the issues that will be discussed in this article. This entry, in reverse order, covers the opportunities of cooperation between the United States and Mexico in combating the drug cartels that have threatened to rend Mexico apart, the realities (or "myths") associated with the origins of the weapons arming the Mexican drug cartels, and finally, the ultimate wisdom of selling Predator drones (UAVs) to Mexico to help fight the war that rages within its borders. (READ MORE)

Classical Values: Not gun grabbers. Gun monopolists - Not long ago, the following pronouncement from Hillary Clinton upset me enough that in desperation I turned to Ayn Rand: “‘Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police, of soldiers, and civilians.’” Ugh! (That is the Secretary of State, talking, after all....) In a great PJM piece today, Bob Owens takes a critical look at this utterance: “Sadly, media already sympathetic toward gun control take such claims at face value, even when the evidence proves that the most dangerous weapons used by cartels in Mexico come from sources outside of the civilian U.S. gun market. Yes, there are small arms and ammunition being smuggled illegally into Mexico by cartels battling the authorities and each other for supremacy. Yes, many of those firearms presently come from the United States, but they are brought in by cartels that specialize in international smuggling.” (READ MORE)

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