December 19, 2007

Web Reconnaissance for 12/19/2007

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

In the News: (Registration may be required to read some stories)
House Sends President An Energy Bill to Sign - A year of rhetoric, lobbying, veto threats and negotiations ended yesterday as the House of Representatives voted 314 to 100 to pass an energy bill that President Bush is to sign this morning. (READ MORE)

Iraq Funds Approved In Senate Budget Bill - The Senate last night approved a $555 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, shortly after bowing to President Bush's demand for $70 billion in unrestricted funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Bush's Itinerary Includes Jerusalem, the West Bank - President Bush will make his first trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank next month to push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace, the White House announced yesterday. (READ MORE)

Funds Cut for Homeland Security Headquarters - Congress has eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars requested by President Bush for 2008 to start building a giant headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security in the District, officials said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Mbeki Toppled as Leader of Ruling Party in S. Africa - POLOKWANE, South Africa, Dec. 18 -- Former deputy president Jacob Zuma took control of South Africa's ruling party Tuesday in a resounding electoral victory, cementing his position as favorite to become the country's next leader. (READ MORE)

Hillary Struggles to Span Party Divide - There are catchy stump lines that primary voters remember, but they also send a key message as polls tighten and party members select their presidential candidate: I can win the general election in November 2008. (READ MORE)

Semantics of Immigration have Candidates on Guard - When Howard Dean complained recently about Republicans overheating the immigration debate, his top piece of evidence was their use of "outrageous phrases like 'illegal aliens.'" (READ MORE)

Cost Stalls West Bank Wall - Work on Israel's separation barrier has virtually halted as the country's attention — and budget funding — have shifted away from the threat of Palestinian suicide bombers from the West Bank. (READ MORE)

Fed Forbids 'Liar Loans' - The Federal Reserve Board yesterday voted unanimously to ban "liar loans," inflated home appraisals and other abusive practices that led to the housing bubble and today's foreclosure crisis. (READ MORE)

Wiretap Wig Out - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has apparently decided to send his colleagues home for the holidays without completing an important piece of business: a bill updating the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to take account of new technologies. FISA allows the government to tap communications outside the U.S. without judicial approval. (READ MORE)

One Budget Cheer - As we at the Journal debated Washington's latest spending deal yesterday, one of our tribe noted that it is the best budget of the Bush Presidency. To which someone else quipped that that was "the soft bigotry of low expectations." As we write this, the political deal seems set, with Democrats passing a 3,400-page, $516 billion "omnibus" budget bill, and President Bush prepared to sign it. Both sides are claiming victory, which usually means that taxpayers are the losers. (READ MORE)

From the Front:
Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure: Contrasts - Jalalabad. The last time that I was here, I was fairly new in-country. Jalalabad, or J-bad as it’s called for short, is a very different city from Kabul. It’s much lower in elevation, and the weather’s completely different. It’s a stone’s throw from Pakistan, just over the Khyber Pass; scene of the famous Charge of The Light Brigade. Rudyard Kipling wrote a great deal about Afghanistan. Jalalabad was not subjected to nearly the level of fighting that Kabul was. There is nowhere near the destruction in J-bad. Not being the capitol, which warring factions desire to possess, was a boon for Jalalabad. This appears to be a thriving city, full of life and bustle. (READ MORE)

Eighty Deuce On The Loose In Iraq: If it ain't broke, don't fix it... - Lately there have been some changes. Some changes from the squad level all the way up to the company. And with all these changes, come new ways of doing things. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. It seems with all of this new stuff, there have been many changes, and the way things are today are much different than how they were just a couple months ago. With all the changes that have been going on, the best phrase that comes to mind and had been said by many people is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Its pretty simple I think. If you come in to a system that has been working and working well, wouldn't it seem best to try and change as little as possible. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Who Cares About Safety and Economic Growth? - The Pentagon just released its report stating that it found progress in Iraq. "Iraq is becoming safer and the economy is growing at more than 6%, according to a new quarterly report for Congress." The report presents a realistic picture. It said that although Iraqi forces have grown in size, they still depend on the U.S. for logistics and training. And it warned that Iranian training and funding of Shia militias in Iraq has continued. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: In the footsteps of Hope - The best thing about being stuck in Kuwait waiting to go home is we happened to be here at the same time a USO show was passing through. We were treated to performances by comedians Lewis Black and Robin Williams along with an acoustic but still stellar Kid Rock. Miss USA 2007 Rachel Smith and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong also had some words of encouragement for the troops. I have been a Robin Williams fan for years. In high school, I performed one of his early bits, "Rev. Earnest Angry," on stage in a skit in which I played a comedian. Meeting him today and shaking his hand was quite a thrill. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
James Schlesinger: Stupid Intelligence on Iran - The release earlier this month of "key judgments" from the National Intelligence Estimate--including the bald assertion "that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program"--has caused both astonishment here at home and consternation overseas, where it has resulted in confusion about America's policy goals and steadiness. Let us stipulate that the intelligence community has acquired evidence sufficiently persuasive to lead it to reverse its prior judgment that Iran was hard at work developing nuclear weapons. For that it has been praised, particularly in traditional intelligence quarters, for "speaking truth to power," and thereby dissipating some of the distrust generated by its faulty earlier judgments on Iraq. (READ MORE)

Pete Du Pont: Bali Who? - Ten years ago, as the 1997 Kyoto Agreement was about to be signed, the Senate on a 95-0 vote passed a resolution stating that the United States should not be a signatory to any Climate Change or Kyoto negotiations that "mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties"--then 37 industrial nations--"unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties." (READ MORE)

Austin Bay: Goodwill and Armed Vigilance - In our broken world, the uneasy quiet that passes for peace anywhere on the planet is usually fragile, a blessed moment where goodwill and armed vigilance restrain our violent imperfections. The necessary combination of goodwill and armed vigilance is a paradox that frustrates hardened cynics and dreamy utopianists. The cynics deny the existence of goodwill. As these bitter souls see it, "goodness" is a delusion or possibly a genetically driven calculation based upon anticipated reciprocity. Bah, humbug -- it's all selfishness, pal. (READ MORE)

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Men of the Year - If I were the editor of Time magazine, I'd have three men on the famous year-ending issue. My men of the year would be Gen. David Petraeus, with Sen. John McCain and Joe Lieberman as his Beltway wingmen. Not to crowd the cover too much, but the mission takes a few good men: I'd make sure that George W. Bush (the commander in chief who put Petraeus where he is) and the American soldier (who does the work every day) got in the picture as well. (READ MORE)

John Stossel: Ron Paul on War - Ron Paul is the only Republican presidential candidate saying we should get our troops out of Iraq now. Here's more of my edited interview with the congressman. Some people say that if we don't attack the enemy there, they'll attack us here. Ron Paul: I think the opposite is true. The radicals were able to use our bases in Saudi Arabia and the bombing of Iraq (from 1991 to 2001) as a reason to come over here. If China were to do the same thing to us, and they had troops in our land, We would resent it. We'd probably do some shooting. (READ MORE)

Walter E. Williams: Academic Slums - Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducts its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is a set of tests that measure 15-year-olds' performance in mathematics, science and reading. The National Center for Education Statistics summarized the findings in "Highlights From PISA 2006." ( American students ranked 33rd among industrialized countries in math literacy, and in science literacy, they ranked 27th. Reading literacy was not reported for the U.S. because of an error in the test instruction booklets. (READ MORE)

Ben Shapiro: The Bear Is Back - On Monday, Russia announced it was sending 80 tons of uranium fuel to Iran to help that Islamist dictatorship build a "peaceful" nuclear reactor in Bushehr. Russia has an interest in building the power plant: It stands to gain $1 billion, since the plant is to be constructed by the Russian state-owned Atomstroyexport. Iran also has an interest in building a power plant: pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Meanwhile, the Bush administration stands by and does nothing. Russia says it will insist Iran return all processed uranium that could be used to create nuclear bombs. (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: The Incredible Disappearing Border Fence - Do you know the story of the Incredible Disappearing Border Fence? It's an object lesson in gesture politics and homeland insecurity. It's a tale of hollow rhetoric, meaningless legislation and bipartisan betrayal. And in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, it's a helpful learning tool as you assess the promises of immigration enforcement converts now running for president. Last fall, Democrats and Republicans in Washington responded to continued public outrage over border chaos by passing the "Secure Fence Act." Did you question the timing? You should have. (READ MORE)

Jonah Goldberg: Clinton Triangulation Comes Full Circle - The most enjoyable aspect of watching the HMS Hillary take on water is the prospect that Bill - and his cult of personality - will go down with the ship, too. Bill Clinton has been stumping for his wife on the Iowa hustings, framing the election as a referendum on his tenure as president. Last month in Muscatine (during the same speech in which he falsely claimed to have opposed the Iraq war from the beginning), he told the assembled Democrats that HMS Hillary could transport America "back to the future." (READ MORE)

Paul Driessen: Climate Change Rallies, Realities, and Sacrifices - The mantra is repeated daily. There is consensus on climate change. Global warming is real. It will be a disaster. Humans are to blame. We have to do something – immediately. However, the consensus of 100 scientists is undone by one fact, Albert Einstein noted. The United Nations and its Climate Cataclysm army of 15,000 in exotic Bali clearly understood that. They were not about to let even one fact prevent them from promoting climate scares and a successor to the Kyoto treaty. Gloom-and-doom scientists and bureaucrats owned Bali’s podiums. (READ MORE)

Daniel Pipes: Fund the Palestinians? Bad Idea - Lavishing funds on Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to achieve peace has been a mainstay of Western, including Israeli, policy since Hamas seized Gaza in June. But this open spigot has counterproductive results and urgently must be stopped. Some background: Paul Morro of the Congressional Research Service reports that, in 2006, the European Union and its member states gave US$815 million to the Palestinian Authority, while the United States sent it $468 million. When other donors are included, the total receipts come to about $1.5 billion. (READ MORE)

Rosemary Mariner: The Americanization of the Armed Forces-Historical Perspective Women in Combat - The common approach to the women in combat debate is to follow the "can" women fight versus "should" they fight format. On the first point, the reality is that women have proved they can fight throughout time. The claim that women have never fought a major ground war is counterfactual. Of all the possible historical examples, none offers better empirical evidence that women can fight, alongside men, than that of Russia (later the Soviet Union) in the twentieth century. In both world wars and the Russian civil war, numerous women fought on the frontlines. (READ MORE)

The Tygrrrr Express: Lieberman vs Lamont Redux - On many occasions I have stated that the democratic party are a bunch of children, and the republicans, while far from perfect, are adults. In 2006 the democrats decided to lash out at Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman for having the nerve to be an adult. The temper tantrum toddlers on the left turned to Ned Lamont. Before seeing what they are talking about now, a brief look back is necessary. Joseph Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew with an unorthodox political streak, and on virtually every single issue, he is a moderate to liberal democrat. On one issue…and only one issue…Lieberman deviates from, not religiously speaking, orthodoxy. Joe Lieberman supported the Iraq War from the very beginning, and has never wavered. While many lily livered republicans bolted from President Bush, Lieberman has stayed by his side on this issue. (READ MORE)

Steve Schippert: APC's And Qassams: Tools of the Trade - The complex simplicity of the conflict that surrounds and permeates the Palestinian Territories is laid before the reader once again by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post. In her column, she brings up the renewed Russian effort to supply armored personnel carriers to the Palestinian Authority, an effort renewed since the popular means for opposing Hamas has been to support Fatah and the PLO. “A week before Zoldan was murdered by US-funded PA security forces, Olmert approved the shipment of two million bullets for AK-47 assault rifles and 50 advanced Russian armored personnel carriers to those forces in Judea and Samaria. The delivery of the APCs has been delayed because the Palestinians insist that they be deployed with roof mounted machine guns and Israel has refused to accept that demand so far. In the meantime however, the bullets have apparently arrived safe and sound.” Note that the rejection of the APC’s came from the Palestinians - and not the Israelis… (READ MORE)

TigerHawk: Iraq: The mainstream media and Pentagon in-fighting - In January, USA Today characterized the new strategy in Iraq -- the so-called "surge" -- as "the political and military equivalent of a 'Hail Mary' pass" (in an editorial that basically waffled between the respective positions of the administration and the Democratic leadership). Today, USA Today is running a front-page story that attacks the administration for having "snubbed" apparently obvious advice that it adopt counterinsurgency tactics for three years before promoting General Petraeus at the end of 2006. Never mind that USA Today's cover story is barely news at all -- civilian experts were arguing out in public back in 2004 and 2005 that we needed to adopt traditional counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross: More from the Moderate Muslim Brotherhood - There is currently a debate raging among analysts, largely because of an article by Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke of the Nixon Center entitled "The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood," about whether the U.S. should engage the Muslim Brotherhood in dialogue. I recently finished participating in a symposium over at FrontPage Magazine about the Brotherhood. The symposium is not yet posted, but in short my main argument was that policymakers and analysts need to better understand the Brotherhood before even thinking about engaging the group. (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: The litmus issue - Those (and there are many) who don’t know the history of the Jewish people and who have fallen for the propaganda lies that Israel was only created as a result of the Holocaust or that Jewish immigration to Palestine started in the 1880s would do well to read this concise historical account by Dore Gold and Jeff Helmreich. The key point it makes is that Israel was not a new creation but the restoration of the Jews’ ancient national home, to which the international community recognised in the early years of the last century that they and they alone had an overwhelming legal and moral claim. This was specifically on account of the fact that they had never renounced the land -- which had only ever been the nation state of the Jews alone -- but had been driven out: (READ MORE)

The Lasso of Truth: The right to offend - A regular reader emailed yesterday, to humbly ask what my opinion is on all this Mark Steyn business going on, on my doorstep. It is not often I am silent about things like this, and he understandably misunderstood that silence as having been the result of faintheartedness, in light of the possible legal ramifications I could face for weighing in. The truth is, with my hectic schedule leading up to Christmas, and the abundance of coverage being given in other corners, by Kathy, Kate, neo, Tim, Melanie, Wendy, the team at The Corner and Mark himself, I simply had very little more to offer that hadn’t already been said by others. However, in a matter so vitally important to the freedom I take so casually for granted, and in order to cut off at the knees any impression that I could be stifled by hypocritical PC censors, I will take measures to stand up and be counted among my betters as listed above. (READ MORE)

Jake's Life: Nathan's Memorial - Yesterday my old platoon had the honor of traveling to Huntington Beach, CA, hometown of Nathan Windsor, to take part in a rededication ceremony for a memorial to the fallen heroes of that city. Nathan lived a good part of his life in Huntington Beach, and his name will now forever be inscribed on the granite rock that sits in front of the city hall. There were plenty of mixed emotions surrounding the whole day. For myself personally it was a great opportunity to see a lot of guys that I never have the chance to see anymore now that I'm in Snipers. I think that many of us had done a good job of moving on since the deployment, not of forgetting what had happened, but moving on towards the future. Before we had changed into our blues or the ceremony had even begun, myself and a few buddies went across the street to grab a bite to eat. We ended up talking over a beer about how weird it was to be attending a memorial for a friend. (READ MORE)

GayPatriotWest: The Problem with Andrew Sullivan - Today, I read two pieces by Andrew Sullivan, one linked by a reader, the other by OpinionJournal’s Political Diary. Buried beneath that blogger’s bile were some insightful observations and even the makings of solid arguments. But, as I read each, I realized (yet again) why I don’t much bother with Andrew’s blog any more. It seems that soon after introduces an interesting idea, he launches into some diatribe against the president his Administration and/or those who, from time to time, dare defend him. Andrew Sullivan’s tendentious tirades and persistent name-calling obscures his occasional wisdom. He does have a point in the debate on aggressive interrogation techniques and torture, but his obsession with the issue has caused me to question his judgment. (READ MORE)

Lawhawk: Energy Bill Doesn't Hit On All Cylinders - An 800-page energy bill is going to be signed into law by President Bush today, and while most of the ink will be spilled over the first increase in the corporate average fuel economy standards in 32 years, the bill does little to actually improve American energy independence from foreign sources. “In addition to the 40 percent increase in fuel efficiency for new cars and light trucks by 2020, for a fleetwide average of 35 mpg, the bill requires a fivefold increase -- to 36 billion gallons -- in the amount of alternative home-grown fuels, such as ethanol, that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply by 2022.” (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Bush Gets War Funding, Congress Gets Pork - Voters will have to determine whether the trade is worth it, but the 2008 budget finally passed Congress in an omnibus bill that will make its way down Pennsylvania Avenue on pork grease. The spending bill contains 9,000 earmarks, hundreds of which violated the supposed ethics reforms by getting airdropped in conference. Still, the bill represents at least two stunning victories for the White House and yet another surrender on the war by Democrats: (READ MORE)

Flopping Aces: The Unreported War - While the media obsesses over Iraq and how we treat Al-Qaeda in our prison camps, another war that is happening daily remains unreported by our “media” If one would believe their reporting, one might almost think this is not terrorism, judging by their silence on the matter. Where are the libs and the MSM on this? Probably the same place the cowards N.O.W. are when they have replied “no comment” when confronted with abuses of women under Islam. I can’t understand why Israel is skeptical on the matter and hesitant to give over more land for peace. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: You’ve got to be Putin me on - Time’s Man of the Year sucks. Again. Vladimir Putin is the Man of the Year? The headline on the story announcing this says more about Time than Putin: “Choosing Order Before Freedom.” Many liberals prefer order over freedom. Time tries to pretend that its Man of the Year is not an honor. “TIME’s Person of the Year is not and never has been an honor. It is not an endorsement. It is not a popularity contest. At its best, it is a clear-eyed recognition of the world as it is and of the most powerful individuals and forces shaping that world — for better or for worse,” wrote Richard Stengel. But a Man of the Year is an honor. It is an endorsement. (READ MORE)

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