April 28, 2009

Web Reconnaissance for 04/28/2009

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

Bill Whittle: TIME - Now just for the sake of this discussion I’ll tell you that I’m writing this on the afternoon of Friday, December 19th, 2008. It will get written to some sectors of a hard drive somewhere, to remain hopefully forever, a precious, precious gift to future generations. I mention all this crap because I thought I might say a few words about time. Humans may be the only animals on Earth who really perceive time… did you know that? I have heard that animal researchers say that dogs and cats have short-term memories of about 5-30 minutes or so. But I’m told – and I hope this is true – that when you leave your pets for the day or a weekend, they don’t have any real idea of how long you’ve been gone, and they don’t seem to be capable of the idea that you are coming back at some point. No frontal lobes, you see? But they clearly are sad when you are gone, and happy when you come back. But if you could ask them how long you’ve been away, they’d probably answer, “You’ve been away?” (READ MORE)

Gary Graham: Planet Dumbassnotion - The City of Riverside, California today announced a new plan, in light of the high volume of foreclosed homes, that it was going to start buying foreclosed home, fix them up, and resell them to ‘the needy’. Isn’t that nice? The city government in that lovely southern California town is going to do something to ‘make a difference’. Using tax payers dollars, they are going to enter the house-flipping industry in the midst of possibly the most disastrous housing market on record. Uh…say what?? Okay. Here again I find myself having awakened on the parallel-universe planet of Dumbassnotion - a delightful world where reason and logic are turned upside-down and everything you know is completely wrong. But let’s play this one out. (READ MORE)

Greg Gutfeld: The Uncommon Bravery of Guliana Rancic - So, it’s official: Barack Obama is a bigot. In a brave stance not seen since the beginning of time, a number of celebrities, journalists and bloggers have called President Obama out on his ignorant, narrow-minded views toward gay marriage. First, it was renegade blogger Perez Hilton who, after noting Obama`s Christian beliefs, called our President a “stupid bitch.” Shortly after that, pageant judge Alicia Jacobs rose up and said she would not have voted for Obama because of his intolerant and freakish views. Meanwhile, outspoken blogs like Queerty and Gawker have started using the b-word against Barack, calling him an out and out bigot. And then - out of nowhere - the Miss California USA pageant has urged Obama to apologize to the gay community! Finally - in possibly the bravest action of all, hard-hitting E News anchor Guliana Rancic tweeted that President Obama is an ignorant disgrace. (READ MORE)

AJStrata: To Investigate Bush Or Face Up To The Delayed Economic Recovery? - The liberal Democrats in Congress have no common sense. Absolutely none. They went out on a limb when it came to winning Iraq and let emotion drive them when a small modicum of common sense could have stopped them from betting the farm America would fail. Right now they are in a similar predicament. They have put in place massive government spending to try and turn the economy around - which cannot stimulate the economy for months to come. That is because the government is slow, bumbling, bureaucracy clogged with processes and rules. It is not nimble like the free market. It moves like a glacier while the free market flows like a river. By putting their economic cures into the wrong basket, they have set themselves on a course where we have months of declining jobs, which will continue to drag down the economy as spending and revenues slow. (READ MORE)

Victor Davis Hanson: Confessions of a Contrarian - I. I am not on the Obama bus. I followed the Obama senatorial campaign and even his early career in Chicago, and confess I was not impressed. I think on any occasion he announces a moral standard it is reactive—not proactive—and we can be sure it serves as cover for something of questionable morality. So when he says he won’t do something, it usually means he already has. Let us count the ways: a) “Highest ethical standards” are proof we will get Richardson, Geithner, Daschle, Solis, etc. nominated who cannot or do not pay all their taxes—among other things. There will be only praise for, not silence about, tax-cheats and unethical players in Congress like Chris Dodd, John Murtha, or Charles Rangel. To suggest otherwise is to be cynical, sharp, partisan; most on the Left who preach about the Wall-Street/DC nexus and the “big guys” at the trough are silent on this disturbing new big money/Democrat connection. (READ MORE)

Chicago Boyz: Statistical Fuzz - So the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy does a study saying that universal health insurance, i.e., socialized medicine, would save 18,000 lives a year. A former Clinton health care advisor says that it would save at most 9,000 lives a year and probably none. Who’s right and how could we tell? Well, we can’t. The U.S. total annual death rate is 8.28/1000 which comes to 2,484,000 deaths a year. 18,000 is 0.72% of 2,484,000. That means a change in the death rate from 8.28 to 8.34. That means that both estimates of lives saved are so minor compared to the overall death rate that the differences are completely lost in statistical fuzz. Both parties are wildly irresponsible to even pretend that they can estimate such an impact. Why we would we even suspect that government paid health care would save lives? There is no evidence that anyone in America is going without necessary health care. (READ MORE)

Jammie Wearing Fool: Palin Harassment Continues - Clearly, many people are deathly afraid of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. What else can explain the nonstop badgering and ethics complaints against her? Now it's just getting stupid. Inundated with frivolous ethics complaints, she's set up a legal defense fund, but is now accused of an ethics violation for setting it up. “An ethics complaint filed Monday against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claims the legal defense fund formed last week to challenge such claims is an ethics violation itself. The complaint filed with the attorney general's office seeks an investigation by the state personnel board for violations of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. The complainant, Kim Chatman of Eagle River, claims Palin is misusing the governor's office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts. The governor's office said Monday the new complaint and others filed against Palin or her staff show a disturbing trend in Alaska politics.” (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: A trace of memory - Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “history is a set of lies agreed upon.” Perhaps another, but subtly different way to express this ambiguity is to conclude that history is a narrative where all the accusations are true. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the record of torture during the Marcos regime. The academic Alfred McCoy estimates that the number of summary executions under Marcos fell somewhere between the numbers of “desaparecidos” in Argentina and Brazil. He has no estimate for the number of people tortured and only a sketchy idea of the torture infrastructure itself. Most of his attention is concentrated on the activities of Colonel Rolando Abadilla and Rodolfo Aguinaldo, I think in part because M2 (Abadilla’s outfit which McCoy calls MISG) was responsible for interrogating many in the Left who were picked up in Manila and his sources naturally focused on that. Off McCoy’s radar are the provincial interrogators and the chain of command above Abadilla, which is linked, I think, to the ultimate question of who killed Ninoy Aquino. (READ MORE)

Bill Teach: Obama Administration Silent On Real Torture In UAE - If anything shows that the whole torture case is a political debate, meant simply to go after Bush, mostly because the Left is deranged and cannot MoveOn, this does: “Following an ABC News investigation last night that showed a Royal Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being urged to initiate and carry out an investigation into the sadistic torture tape. (WT: clicking that link will launch the video)” This story is from April 23rd. I've been waiting to see if Hillary, or someone high in the administration, would say something. So far, nothing: “The co-chairman of the House Human Rights Commission, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), said in a letter to Clinton that the tape ‘shocks the conscience’ and demanded she ‘express the outrage of our nation regarding these acts, and call for an end to the impunity that has provided Sheikh Issa the freedom and license to carry out such heinous acts without the fear of legal reprisal or consequences.’” (READ MORE)

McQ: Pelosi - Silence Equals Sanction And Hypocrisy - You know, when you're in DC it seems such a calm and beautiful place, and yet, the cynical machinations of politicians continue unabated. We now have Nancy Pelosi under fire for essentially sanctioning the "advanced interrogation techiniques" by not speaking up against them or opposing them when she was briefed about their use many years ago: “Nancy Pelosi didn't cry foul when the Bush administration briefed her on ‘enhanced interrogation’ of terror suspects in 2002, but her team was locked and loaded to counter hypocrisy charges when the ‘torture’ memos were released last week. Many Republicans obliged, led by former CIA chief Porter Goss, who is accusing Democrats like Pelosi of ‘amnesia’ for demanding investigations in 2009 after failing to raise objections seven years ago when she first learned of the legal basis for the program.” She and her staff can be as "locked and loaded" as they wish, but the fact remains that she's said nothing about the use of those techniques for 7 years - not a single, solitary word to anyone about opposing them on any grounds. (READ MORE)

John Hawkins: Steele, McConnell, & Cornyn: What Are They Doing About Arlen Specter? - Three weeks ago, I wrote a post called Steele, McConnell, & Cornyn: What Are They Doing About Jim Bunning? It basically pointed out the obvious to anyone who closely follows politics: it's highly likely that if Jim Bunning is the GOP candidate in Kentucky next year, we're probably going to lose the seat. Therefore, the people who consider themselves leaders in the party need to step up and do their part to make sure we don't get put in that position. Along those lines, I think it's time for Michael Steele, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn to start thinking about how they're going to handle Arlen Specter. As most readers of RWN know, Specter barely edged out Pat Toomey in a 2004 primary. In fact, had Specter not had a tremendous amount of help from the Republican establishment, he would have lost handily in that race. (READ MORE)

Van Helsing: Village of Moonbats Enacts Recruiting Ban - The war in Iraq is pretty much won, but that doesn't stop moonbats from sticking it to the military any way they can. The hippies infesting Arcata, California have passed a measure making it illegal for military personnel to discuss the merits of service with anyone under 18: “The law was the inspiration of former Arcata City Councilman Dave Meserve, who gained national attention after his 2002 election by spearheading a first-in-the-nation law making compliance with the USA Patriot Act illegal. The council followed up with repeated resolutions calling for Bush's impeachment and withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Meserve's failure to win re-election in 2006 is generally attributed to voter weariness of his sometimes divisive activism. Not easily deterred, in late 2007, Meserve began thinking about ways to re-engage his town against the war.” (READ MORE)

Classical Values: Protect me from the news I cannot handle! - Via Glenn Reynolds, Ryan Sager contrasts the New York Times' "responsible" non-reporting of the Swine Flu epidemic with Drudge's "sensationalist" approach. Sager wonders which one was actually doing the most social good, and makes a good case for panic: “The argument for the Times' approach, of course, is that it's best not to sow panic. What could be more sensible? Panic = bad. But let me propose an alternative: When it comes to epidemics, panic is a rational and socially beneficial response.” I would agree with that. Especially for families with children and frail or ailing members, canceling travel plans and even staying indoor might make a lot of sense. There's another important aspect of panic which also fails to take into account. My "panic" is my business. Whether or how I might panic is up to me, not the New York Times, or any other news source. Their job is to get me the effing news, and my job is to decide how to apply it to my life. (READ MORE)

Thomas Sowell: Survival Optional - It used to be said that self-preservation is the first law of nature. But much of what has been happening in recent times in the United States, and in Western civilization in general, suggests that survival is taking a back seat to the shibboleths of political correctness. We have already turned loose dozens of captured terrorists, who have resumed their terrorism. Why? Because they have been given “rights” that exist neither in our laws nor under international law. These are not criminals in our society, entitled to the protection of the Constitution of the United States. They are not prisoners of war entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. There was a time when people who violated the rules of war were not entitled to turn around and claim the protection of those rules. German soldiers who put on U.S. military uniforms in order to infiltrate American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were simply lined up against a wall and shot. (READ MORE)

Orin Kerr: More Thoughts on the Legal Barriers to a Torture Prosecution - In his post below, my co-blogger David Kopel considers some barriers to criminal prosecutions for torture of detainees during the Bush Administration. It's sort of hard to get into the details of the legal issues here because no one has been charged; the merits would depend on who was charged and for what. With that said, I did want to offer a few tentative thoughts about these issues. First, I think the important legal barrier to prosecution that David does not mention is the "entrapment by estoppel" defense, permitting reasonable reliance on an official statement of law -- here, the OLC opinions. How this would apply isn't entirely clear to me, as it would get into some difficult questions of what it means to reasonably rely on memos that assumed a set of facts that may have been inaccurate (such as the effect of the different interrogation methods, assumptions that were a big part of the reasoning of the memos). But that would also presumably depend on the individual prosecuted: (READ MORE)

Cassandra: Memory and Accountability - Nancy Pelosi wants to uphold the rule of law and ensure those who authorized "torture" are held accountable. Fantastic. I say we begin with her: “Maybe, for instance, the speaker doesn't remember that in September 2002, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, she was one of four members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA about the interrogation methods the agency was using on leading detainees. ‘For more than an hour,’ the Washington Post reported in 2007, ‘the bipartisan group . . . was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk. Among the techniques described,’ the story continued, ‘was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.’” (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: The torture of the Revealed Truth - In the Sunday Times yesterday Andrew Sullivan claimed, in respect of the controversy over the alleged use of torture by counter-terrorist investigators under the Bush administration, that a senior al Qaeda suspect named abu Zubeydah had given false information under torture that there had been an operational relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda – furthermore, that he had been tortured specifically to get him to make that statement in order to help justify the war in Iraq. Sullivan wrote: “This is partly how the entire war was justified: on a tortured lie. And this much we now know for sure.” Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether such ill-treatment (most or all of which is apparently used on US military personnel during their training) indeed constitutes torture and if so can ever be justified, Sullivan’s claim rests on two core propositions: that Bush had said there was an operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda, a claim that Sullivan said had been part of the justification for the war in Iraq; and that abu Zubeydah had made this claim under torture but it was false. (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: A Member of the Tribe - I remain agnostic about Barack Obama. I do not think I know enough about him and how he thinks to get an accurate reading of his character. People who have a great deal more certainty than I do have variously proclaimed him to be the embodiment of an idealistic liberal, a quasi (or actual) socialist, a Chicago pol complete with petite and grand corruption, and a spineless facade for powerful and often nefarious interests. I am determinedly omitting the most extreme possibilities, that he is the "light bringer" who will stop the seas from rising or a Manchurian candidate dedicated to the destruction of America. I often wonder if, in four years, I will be any closer to a decent reading of Barack Obama. Until now he has shown himself to be an ambitious President whose wishes and rhetoric border on the grandiose, with little evident awareness of the complexity of many of the problems he hopes to tackle and with little apparent ability or desire to confront the most aggressive among his friends or enemies. (READ MORE)

Paul Mirengoff: Obama's incoherent powder - President Obama and his spokespersons are deflecting questions about prosecuting former Bush administration lawyers who wrote memos saying that harsh interrogation techniques are legal. Their line, as stated by Valerie Jarrett for example, is that the Attorney General "is supposed to make decisions about prosecution." But the administration's position is incohernt because Obama has stated that anyone who committed acts approved by the Justice Department should not be prosecuted. If it is appropriate for Obama to take a position on prosecuting CIA operatives (as clearly it is), then it is not inappropriate for him to take a position regarding the prosecution of DOJ lawyers. This is not to say that both groups occupy the same ground on the meritis. Actually, I think those who did nothing more than express a legal opinion stand on stronger legal ground. (READ MORE)

John Hinderaker: Government Takeover of Private Sector Continues - You are about to become the proud owner of a controlling interest in General Motors--well, you and tens of millions of fellow taxpayers, anyway. A deal has been struck that tries to keep GM out of bankruptcy. As I understand it, the deal is contingent on GM providing a turnaround plan that is satisfactory to its new owners--us--by June 1. The company's bondholders are up in arms about the deal: “Calling the proposal ‘neither reasonable nor adequate,’ an ad hoc committee of GM bondholders said it believed ‘the offer to be a blatant disregard of fairness for the bondholders who have funded this company, and amounts to using taxpayer money to show political favouritism of one creditor over another.’” The linked news story fails to explain why the deal "shows political favouritism," but Larry Kudlow fills in the gaps: (READ MORE)

neo-neocon: Torturous decisions about torture - When I was in graduate school, I lived in a house with four other women. It was a large and lovely place, with five airy bedrooms, a living room and parlor, a pantry and a little yard. The rent was a cool sixty-five dollars a month per person. That’s right—and it was a bargain even then. Altogether a wonderful find. The house was owned by a couple who had emigrated from China at some unknown time in the past. Mrs. Chen could speak heavily-accented and halting English, but Mr. Chen could not. She came by every now and then to tend to landlady business and look over the place, but I only saw him once. It was a memorable sight. His hands were deformed, the thumbs broken, dangling and useless. We surmised that he’d been subject to torture back in China. There’s no telling whether we were correct in our supposition. But Mr. Chen’s thumbs often come to mind when I think about torture. (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: EPA fulfills Obama’s promise on coal - We can’t say we weren’t warned. In January 2008, Barack Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that people would have to be crazy to open a coal-fueled electricity plant, because Obama’s policies would make energy costs “skyrocket” and send them into bankruptcy. Now the EPA has issued an unprecedented order to renege on a permit already granted to open a coal-generator plant in a Navajo reservation in New Mexico that has the tribe and its supporters steaming: In a dramatic move yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew the air quality permit it issued last summer for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, which is slated to be built on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region just southwest of Farmington, New Mexico. … Jeff Holmstead, former head of the air program at EPA and now head of the Environmental Strategies Group at Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm representing the plant’s developer, Sithe Global, said in a statement that he has “never seen anything like it.” (READ MORE)

The Tygrrrr Express: Worse Than Arianna Huffington - At the UCLA Festival of Books, I actually encountered somebody worse than Arianna Huffington. I did not know this was possible. Yet at a panel on the role of media in our society, Ms. Huffington was not the most obnoxious participant. When asked what she read, she replied, “I read newspapers, and not just online. I read physical newspapers. I read the LA Times, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. I don’t believe newspapers need to die.” With regards to whether organizations could charge for people to read their content, Ms. Huffington was convinced this would not work. “The only things people would pay for online are niche content or weird porn. Putting content behind walls will fail.” While Ms. Huffington represents some of the worst of the new media, she ironically defends the worst of the old media. (READ MORE)

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