January 25, 2008

Web Reconnaissance for 01/25/2008

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

In the News: (Registration may be required to read some stories)
Stimulus Deal Reached - The White House and House leaders yesterday agreed on a $146 billion financial stimulus package that will attempt to stave off a recession by delivering rebate checks to lower- and middle-class Americans of $300 to $600 per person, in addition to child credits of $300. (READ MORE)

Fiscal Fix Tops GOP Debate - When the five Republican presidential candidates faced off last night in their final debate before Tuesday's Florida primary, the prime topic, just as on the campaign trail, was the floundering U.S. economy. (READ MORE)

McCain Focuses on Party Voters - Sen. John McCain's camp says that contrary to conventional wisdom their candidate's victories in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries were fueled by Republicans — not independents — making Florida's Republican-only primary on Tuesday ripe for another victory. (READ MORE)

Israel Puts Gaza Onus on Egypt - A top defense official yesterday said Israel wants to completely sever ties with the Gaza Strip, and called on Egypt to take responsibility after it allowed tens of thousands of Gazans to surge over its border. (READ MORE)
Women Cite Utility in Peace Efforts - Talks were deadlocked; fighting was still raging in the Liberian countryside. A group of women, frustrated by years of war and the loss of husbands and children, finally took matters into their own hands by surrounding the building and threatening to take off their clothes. It worked. (READ MORE)

Deal Spotlights Rarity Of Bipartisan Action - As they unveiled a $150 billion package of tax breaks for consumers and businesses yesterday, Republicans and Democrats hoped to rescue not only a troubled economy but also a government that increasingly has seemed as if it could not get anything done. (READ MORE)

All Right -- I'll Vote for Me, Too - With Congress deadlocked over how to fill four open seats on the Federal Election Commission, the two remaining commissioners sat surrounded by empty chairs yesterday during their first meeting of the year, our colleague Matthew Mosk reports. (READ MORE)

Order Begins to Return To Breached Gaza Border - RAFAH, Gaza Strip, Jan. 24 -- Egyptian security forces began imposing control over the country's breached border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, using clubs and dogs to police the thousands of Gazans still making their way past barricades blown up or toppled by Palestinian gunmen a day earlier. (READ MORE)

Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy - The Democratic epiphany about the political tactics of Bill and Hillary Clinton continues, with scales falling from eyes on a daily basis. "I think it's not Presidential," said former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, about Mr. Clinton's steady barrage against Barack Obama. (READ MORE)

Foggy Bottom Apostate - Jay Lefkowitz, President Bush's special envoy for human rights in North Korea, has recently pointed out that our current approach to Pyongyang is failing. Lord help a diplomat who tells the truth. (READ MORE)

From the Front:
Babylon & Beyond: From killing field to playing field - When the Marines left Haditha to fight insurgents in Fallouja in 2004, insurgents regained control of the Euphrates River Valley town. Dozens of police and others who had worked with the Americans were rounded up, marched to the local soccer field, and beheaded _ some while their families were forced to watch. Now that same soccer field is under control of the Iraqi police, with Marines in "over-watch" nearby. It's used as a helicopter landing zone for the Marines bringing reinforcements or local politicians. (READ MORE)

Badger 6: Your Questions Answered!! - Frankly Opinionated asks – “Hello Badger 6: How's the Anbar law cap wearing? I have a question relative to your last command. I would like a word defined. Over the years I have often heard of the word "Sapper". As I remember, a sapper is the guy that sets a charge to blow an enemy bridge. How would you define it? Possibly as the guys that hunt and remove IED's?” The Al Anbar Law College cap is great - when I was at home I wore one of the two readers made for me all of the time. The origin word Sapper lies with the French word sape meaning to undermine. The original Sappers sought to dig under obstacles and breach them with explosives. Today I would say that any US Army Engineer who completes the Sapper Leader Course or works directly in mobility/counter-mobility operations is a Sapper. (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 24 January - Last night was pretty shitty…I was told that I was flying out that night to go to Bagram to get my ID fixed…the flight was at 2100hrs… so, I packed everything up –told to pack for 7- 10 days—headed out to the Helicopter pad around 2030 and stood around getting cold …I knew it was gonna be a cold ass flight so I piled on every piece of cold weather gear I could find—I had to loosen up all the straps on my IBA(Individual Body Armor) just to get it on …the commander saw me and started laughing and called me the Michelin Man…I might have looked funny but, I was gonna be as warm as possible… (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Powell and the Pottery Barn - "Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. 'made serious errors' in intelligence and tactics in the Iraq war," according to this story. What's the saying about hindsight? Powell said he supported the use of force in Iraq based on the available intelligence. "But we made serious errors in respect to imposing our will on the government of Iraq." But what does he say after that "oops"? He said the recent increase in American troops will work for a time, but won't win the conflict in Iraq. "Ultimately, the surge that is needed is not Gen. Petraeus and the military, but a political surge from the Iraqis themselves," he said. (READ MORE)

Jason's Iraq Vacation: Letters from home - "Dear soldier. Plees dont die. I love you." Receiving letters from elementary school kids has to be the highlight of being deployed. I remember getting letters when I was in Afghanistan and spending hours reading them, and then whenever I was a little down re-reading them. It's kind of like that show "Kids say the darndest things" that used to be on. They write down whatever they think about the war, or Soldiers in general, and usually accompany it with an awesome drawing. (READ MORE)

A Surgeon's Letters Home From Iraq: 24 JAN 2008 Happy to report - I received some very happy news from my friends back at the hospital. We had been treating an Iraqi girl named S. who had developed an abnormal blood vessel in her neck from a gunshot wound years ago. Vascular Surgeon M. and Radiologist B. worked intensely to correct it using minimally invasive techniques. As Radiologist B. and I travelled home together, we wondered what would become of S. and how she would recover. I've delayed in reporting this a few days to allow the family a safe passage home, but I'm happy to report that S. had an excellent recovery and shouldn't be bothered by that abnormal vessel anymore. (READ MORE)

Lt Nixon: Mosul: "A Decisive Battle" says Maliki - If you managed to filter out the important stuff from the crap while watching the news yesterday, you might've heard about Mosul, the third-biggest city in Iraq. While most American outlets were covering the fact that Heath Ledger's masseuse made a phone-call to one of the Full House twins or some such tripe, international media was talking about the Provincial Police Chief of Ninewa province that tragically got assassinated. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Setback? - The current situation in Ghazni caps off what has been a difficult week for the soldiers of Camp Vulcan. Most of us traveled to Kabul on Monday to take care of some of our regular business but also to pick up some jingle trucks of supplies. I've spoken of jingle trucks before. They are commercial trucks of various sizes that are usually painted with brightly colored images. Hanging like fringe from their bumpers are chains that usually have medallions or bells, causing them to jingle as they role. Anyway, we were to escort several jingle trucks back to Camp Vulcan Wednesday. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
John Hawkins: The Ten Most Annoying Things About the Race for the Presidency - Change, Change, Change: Everyone seems to be campaigning as the candidate of change, but what does that mean exactly? Wouldn't a depression be a change? How about basing our economy on Communism instead of Capitalism? That would be a change, right? In fact, I think that's pretty much the core of Hillary's platform. Speaking of which, isn't it odd that in a campaign where everyone is paying lip service to change, the two front-runners are John McCain and Hillary Clinton? (READ MORE)

Burt Prelutsky: Mulling Over Movies and Politics - With so many Hollywood celebrities jumping on the various presidential bandwagons, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell where politics leaves off and show business begins. This being the movie awards season, one sort of expects the politicians to return the favor by announcing their support of, say, George Clooney or Johnny Depp for the Oscar. When I read recently that Robin Wright was divorcing Sean Penn after 11 years of marriage, I was hoping she would attribute the split not to the usual irreconcilable differences, but to irreconcilable differences of opinion. (READ MORE)

Ann Coulter: 'Straight Talk' Express Takes Scenic Route To Truth - John McCain is Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism and youth. Like McCain, pollsters assured us that Dole was the most "electable" Republican. Unlike McCain, Dole didn't lie all the time while claiming to engage in Straight Talk. Of course, I might lie constantly too, if I were seeking the Republican presidential nomination after enthusiastically promoting amnesty for illegal aliens, Social Security credit for illegal aliens, criminal trials for terrorists, stem-cell research on human embryos, crackpot global warming legislation and free speech-crushing campaign-finance laws. (READ MORE)

Matt Towery: A Battle for the Heart and Soul of Political Parties Boils Down to Florida - As I write this column for Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union and Creators Syndicate, it is Thursday afternoon, Jan. 24. Our latest InsiderAdvantage survey of Florida, conducted with our partners at Majority Opinion Research, shows John McCain and Mitt Romney in basically a tie going into the weekend before the huge Florida Republican primary. It remains my opinion that the winners of the Florida primaries will be the ultimate nominees of both the Republican and Democratic parties. This, despite that the Democratic National Committee has done its party a huge disservice by ruling that no delegates will be awarded based on Tuesday's primary. (READ MORE)

Kathleen Parker: Truth Squads and Robo-Politics - Let's hope aspiring democracies everywhere are paying close attention as Americans select the next leader of the free world. Especially instructive will be South Carolina's recent spawn: The Truth Squad. At least two squads formed recently around the need to counter false attacks intended to smear candidates. John McCain's supporters formed one leading up to last week's Republican primary; Barack Obama's minions created one in the days preceding Saturday's Democratic primary. (READ MORE)

Oliver North: Selling It - WASHINGTON -- Traveling salespeople always have a hard job. That's especially true when the economy isn't exactly booming -- and the product you are selling will go off the market in a year. That kind of describes Secretary of State Condi Rice as she tries to pitch American foreign policy to domestic and international "customers" in the last 12 months of the Bush administration. That's not to say she isn't trying, but it's proving to be a tough sell. January started with Ms. Rice trying to convince "moderate Arab regimes" that Iran is a major threat; that a peace deal can be worked out between Israel and the Palestinians; that NATO and Afghanistan's neighbors need to do more to help quash a resurgent Taliban; and that the price of oil is too high. (READ MORE)

Lawrence Kudlow: Capitalism Doesn't Work, Mr. Gates? - Bill Gates, bloviating at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is issuing a clarion call for a "kinder capitalism" to aid the world's poor. Gates says he has grown impatient with the shortcomings of capitalism. He thinks it's failing much of the world. This, of course, from a guy who's worth around $35 billion (give or take a billion). Don't you just love it? A guy without a college degree who invented a new technology process in his garage that literally changed the entire world, a guy who took advantage of all the great opportunities that a free and capitalist society has to offer and got filthy rich in the process, is now trashing capitalism and telling us it doesn't work. What chutzpah. (READ MORE)

Charles Krauthammer: Raging Populist or Just Angry Hypocrite? - WASHINGTON -- There's losing. There's losing honorably. And then there's John Edwards. Mike Huckabee is not going to be president. The loss in South Carolina, one of the most highly evangelical states in the union, made that plain. With a ceiling of 14 percent among nonevangelical Republicans, Huckabee's base is simply too narrow. But his was not a rise and then a fall. He came from nowhere to establish himself as the voice of an important national constituency. Huckabee will continue to matter, and might even carry enough remaining Southern states to wield considerable influence at a fractured Republican convention. (READ MORE)

Patrick J. Buchanan: What McCain Means - In 2004, the voters of Arizona, by 56 percent to 44 percent, enacted Proposition 200, requiring proof of citizenship before an individual may vote or receive state benefits. Forty-six percent of Hispanics voted for Prop. 200, giving the lie to those who say Hispanics support the illegal invasion of their country. Over 190,000 Arizonans petitioned to put Prop. 200 on the ballot. As it simply required proof of citizenship before receiving the benefits and privileges of citizenship, who could oppose it? Answer: the entire GOP congressional delegation, led by Sen. John McCain. (READ MORE)

Michael Reagan: Newt: A GOP Dark Horse? - Fred Thompson's gone. Duncan Hunter's gone. All these people are gone. Huckabee could become Huckabeen -- gone by next Tuesday. So could Rudy after next's Tuesday's Florida primary. All of a sudden you've got this Republican primary coming down to McCain, Romney and Ron Paul. With all this uncertainty, just where can a conservative go? All of a sudden radio talk show hosts, who reflect the opinions of grass-roots conservative voters, are all over the lot hammering on Rudy, hammering on Romney, hammering on McCain and hammering on Paul. (READ MORE)

Thomas Sowell: McCain's Age - Among the painful signs of our time are the shocked reactions to Chuck Norris' raising the question of whether Senator John McCain is too old to be president. Have we reached the point where we have so many politically correct taboos that we can't even talk sense? Does a man in his seventies have less energy for either physical or mental tasks than someone younger? Those of us who are in our seventies know darn well that we can't do everything we used to do, as well as we used to do it. (READ MORE)

Tom DeLay: Minority to Majority - One of the few bright spots on the American political map right now for Republicans is, perhaps surprisingly, the House of Representatives. Once the source of the Republican Party’s (and the conservative movement’s) powerbase in Washington, the House is now the institution in which conservatives hold the least actual legislative power. Because of the legislative rules, majorities in the House possess somewhere between 99 and 100 percent of the institutional power of the place. While Republicans still hold the White House and can still hold their own as a Senate minority, Democrats should, under the rules, be more than able to impose their will in the people’s House. (READ MORE)

John McCaslin: Changed History - The birthday crowd was in hysterics at Brasserie Les Halles on Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday night, when political satirist Mark Russell heaped praise on Washington public relations mogul and presidential-inaugural parade announcer Charlie Brotman for his myriad contributions on the occasion of his turning 80. It was Mr. Brotman, the comedian insisted, who suggested to Bill Clinton that he introduce himself to Monica Lewinsky, encouraged Marion Barry to hook up with Rashida Moore, advised Fred Thompson to enter the 2008 presidential contest late — "the people will love you" — and disclosed to Sen. George Allen of Virginia that his state's motto was actually "Sic Semper Tyrannis Macaca." (READ MORE)

Arthur B. Laffer: The Tax Threat to Prosperity - Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has seen large changes in income tax rates as well as other tax rates. And, as would be expected, the budgetary implications of these tax changes have once again become a hotly debated partisan issue. But missing from the discussion are the huge differences in how the top 1% of income earners respond to changes in tax rates versus, say, the bottom 75% or 80% of taxpayers -- the so-called middle class and lowest income groups. The "rich" quite simply are not like the rest of us. (READ MORE)

Husain Haqqani: Pakistan Is Turning on Musharraf - Pakistan's embattled President Pervez Musharraf is touring European capitals to try and convince Western governments of the country's stability, and his own good intentions. He should instead face the evaporation of support for his authoritarian regime at home. Opinion polls show that 68% of Pakistanis want Mr. Musharraf to step down immediately. (READ MORE)

Paul S. Atkins: Stoneridge and the Rule of Law - Last week, the Supreme Court rejected the claims of certain defrauded investors when it handed down the decision in Stoneridge Investment Partners LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. This week the court refused to hear the appeal of Enron investors, who raised similar claims. Is this proof that the court is insensitive to victimized investors? (READ MORE)

Peggy Noonan: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do - We begin, as one always must now, again, with Bill Clinton. The past week he has traveled South Carolina, leaving discord in his wake. Barack Obama, that "fairytale," is low, sneaky. "He put out a hit job on me." The press is cruelly carrying Mr. Obama's counter-jabs. "You live for it." In Dillon, S.C., according to the Associated Press, on Thursday Mr. Clinton "predicted that many voters will be guided mainly by gender and race loyalties" and suggested he wife may lose Saturday's primary because black voters will side with Mr. Obama. (READ MORE)

Kimberly A. Strassel: Bush's Economic Surrender - Here's one group that isn't much stimulated by the White House's economic pact: Republican presidential hopefuls. The general sentiment among most of the campaigns? Thanks for nothing. The Bush administration unveiled its $150 billion feel-good stimulus package yesterday, with President Bush praising the "good will on all sides." The package, with its "middle-class" tax rebates and minor assortment of business benefits, isn't likely to help the economy. (READ MORE)

Westhawk: A U.S. advisory command in Pakistan? - According to this article from the Associated Press, Admiral William Fallon, USN, commander of Centcom, has received something of an invitation from the Pakistani military to establish a significant American military advisory effort inside Pakistan. Admiral Fallon has ordered his staff to prepare a plan to implement that concept. It goes without saying that Pakistani society as a whole maintains a hostile view toward the United States government. Kinetic military operations by the U.S. on Pakistani soil would be a propaganda triumph for the Islamists wishing to seize control of the country. (READ MORE)

The Tygrrr Express: Grow up! All of you! - Yeah, I’ve had it. There is a time for graciousness and a time to be strident. Welcome to strident central. Too many adults are acting like a bunch of spoiled children. I have a simple message to these crybabies. Grow up! All of you! Hillary Clinton…grow up. Knock it off. Stop trying to have it both ways on every single issue. Take some clear stands. Tick people off for the right reasons. Tick people off because they disagree with what you stand for. Stop ticking people off for refusing to stand for anything. (READ MORE)

Jim Addison: Bill Clinton comes to town - A reliable informant called me yesterday around noon to tell me former President Bill Clinton was coming to Walterboro, the town I live near in South Carolina. Arrangements had been hastily made the night before, and the Hampton Street Auditorium (capacity about 650) booked for the appearance. The only publicity was via Hillary's website and word of mouth through the local Democratic Party, but the event was open to the public. I resolved to attend, and had a number of surprises in store. (READ MORE)

Jay Tea: John Kerry: Not The Swiftest Boat At The Dock - Well, John Kerry has decided to pretend he's the martyred victim again and bring back to mind his sparring with the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. For some of you who missed it the first time around, here are a few of the salient facts about the dust-up between John Kerry and a lot of the men who served in the same Swift Boat squadron with him in Viet Nam: (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: The Hamas repertory company - It seems that Hamas didn’t just switch off the lights when there was no need to do so—they made a theatrical production of it. Khaled Abu Toameh reports in the Jerusalem Post: On at least two occasions this week, Hamas staged scenes of darkness as part of its campaign to end the political and economic sanctions against the Gaza Strip, Palestinian journalists said Wednesday. In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles. In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles. But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight. (READ MORE)

Tel-Chai Nation: One murdered and others injured in terrorist attack - More terrorist attacks have flared up again in two places: "One Israeli was killed and another wounded Thursday night in a shooting attack near the entrance to the Shuafat refugee camp in northern Jerusalem. One of the wounded died after resuscitation attempts and the other, a female, was listed in serious condition. IDF sources said that terrorists had approached the entrance to Shuafat by foot and opened fire at a group of Israelis nearby and then fled the scene. Military forces and Border Policemen immediately dispatched search parties to catch the gunmen." (READ MORE)

Texas Rainmaker: Congress and the President Agree on Economic Stimulus Wealth Redistribution Package - Congress and the President have agreed on an economic stimulus package that’s sure to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You see, not only do all of us taxpayers get some of our hard-earned money back from the government, but part of our tax money is being “refunded” to those who never paid taxes in the first place. "The rebates, which would go to about 116 million families, had appeal for both Democrats and Republicans. Pelosi’s staff noted that they would include $28 billion in checks to 35 million working families who wouldn’t have been helped by Bush’s original proposal. Republicans, for their part, were pleased that the bulk of the rebates — more than 70 percent, according to an analysis by Congress’ Joint Tax Committee — would go to individuals who pay taxes." (READ MORE)

Warner Todd Huston: Has the West Lost its Manhood? - The west's current battle with radical Islam has revealed the worst in both the west and the world of Islam. Obviously from Islam we have seen the intolerance, hatred, oppression and evil in its nature. But, from the west we have seen revealed the hollowness of its soul and a complete lack of self-regard as so many western nations allow the evil of Islam to attack them from within as well as from without. The west has lost its spine to stand up for its own principles, in fact has thrown away all pretext that it even has principles worth preserving. (READ MORE)

Martin Kramer: Gaza into Egypt - “This may be a blessing in disguise.” This is how an unnamed Israeli official greeted the destruction by Hamas of a chunk of the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, followed by an unregulated flood of hundreds of thousands of Gazan Palestinians across the border into Egypt. “Some people in the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and prime minister’s office are very happy with this. They are saying, ‘At last, the disengagement is beginning to work.’” Obviously, a broken border between Egypt and Gaza is a major security problem for Israel. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda strikes in Iraq's North - The northern city of Mosul has been racked with violence the past two days as al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq has stepped up terror activities in the city. Two major bombings in Mosul have claimed dozens killed, including the city's police chief, and over a hundred wounded. The major activity began on Jan. 23, when Iraqi troops raided a suspected weapons factory and storage site in a residential neighborhood. AL Qaeda in Iraq detonated the building with pre-positioned explosives, killing 34 Iraqis and wounding another 135. Most of those killed and wounded were in adjacent buildings that collapsed due to the explosion. The following day, a suicide bomber targeted the site of the blast as the rescue and recovery team was pulling survivors from the rubble. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Economic optimism - The economy is not crashing. Look at the numbers. Ask Bill Gates. Before I get into what Bill Gates said in Switzerland, let us look at some facts. Not to belabor the point, but the U.S. economy grew by 4.9% in the 3rd quarter 2007. 4th quarter preliminary data comes out next week. AT&T’s profits rose by 62% in the 4th quarter, Bloomberg reported. That’s on sales of iPhones, a little vanity toy. Apple’s profits rose by 57% in the 4th quarter, Earth Times reported. Same reason as AT&T, plus the iPods, another toy. (READ MORE)

Allahpundit: Clyburn: Clinton/Obama racial tensions in SC are … Huckabee’s fault? - Yeah, turns out the month-long series of cracks about shucking and jiving and Obama dealing drugs was water under the bridge until Huck popped off a week ago about the confederate flag, a moment of jackassery so fleeting that it hardly affected the GOP primary (if at all) let alone the Democratic one. Granted, blaming Republicans for all the world’s evils comes with the territory of being a Democrat, and granted, Clyburn’s wise to worry about lingering hard feelings within his party after the nomination, but he’s not fooling anyone with this pathetic bit of scapegoating... (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Egypt Got The Message - It didn't take long for Egypt to get the message. After Israeli ministers openly talked about transferring responsibility for Gaza's energy and humanitarian needs to Cairo for not closing the blown-up Rafah border, Egypt responded today by forcing the border closed. They put up barbed wire and shot water cannons at Gazans who attempted to defy the closure: "Egypt began closing its breached border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Friday, using barbed wire and water cannons to keep Palestinians from crossing into Egypt in defiance of an Israeli blockade." (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: A First - The long-term strategic agreement with Iraq would be an alarming one, according to this article that offers a critical look at i’s that must be dotted, t’s that must be crossed, but fails to note how alarming the lack of an agreement might be. Globe scribbler Charlie Savage presents a number of alarmed congressmen and legal experts, but he apparently failed to find anyone who might point out that this is the most aggressively short-sighted and isolationist Congress to occupy the Capitol since Dec. 6, 1941... (READ MORE)

Bryan Preston: (Video) Hillary Clinton’s photo op with a slumlord - During the last Democrat debate, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got into a tussle over, on the one hand Hillary having worked in the Wal-Mart board of directors, and on the other hand, Obama’s 17-year relationship to Tony Rezko. Rezko is about to stand trial for fraud. Well, a photo of Hillary and Bill Clinton with Rezko has surfaced. Matt Lauer confronted Hillary Clinton with the photo this morning. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The leader rises, but the country falls - Janes reports that North Korea is in a bad way -- in a really bad way -- bad even by its own abysmal standards. "Kim Jong-Il's regime could collapse within six months, bringing chaos to North Korea, observers and intelligence sources in Asia have told Jane's. ... The centrally controlled economy has also now ceased to function and the food distribution system is near breaking point. With loyalty to the regime at an all-time low, another sign of trouble is the regime's diminishing ability to prevent people from leaving the country." But the most alarming sign involves Kim Jong-Il himself. (READ MORE)

Drew M: “The Meaning of Our Victory in Iraq” - Those aren’t my words or the words of some rightwing, neo-con newspaper columnist but of the American diplomat leading the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Anbar Province, John Matel. You may remember Mr. Matel from last fall’s dust up at the State Department over a then lack of volunteers for duty in Iraq (a shortfall that was subsequently met). He wrote on the State Department’s own public blog essentially that his colleagues needed to suck it up and get to work. During his time in Iraq he’s also kept a personal blog and he has some thoughts on the situation in Iraq and what’s been accomplished to date. (READ MORE)

Jack M: To Hell with the New York Times...who does the WASHINGTON TIMES endorse? - Well, to be honest, the only "Times" worth reading hasn't formally endorsed anyone yet. However, they pretty much make it clear who they WON'T be endorsing today. Who won't they endorse? John McCain. Who does that benefit? Conservatives. Check out this indictment they prepared in today's "McCain vs. McCain" editorial. It's as if the Times (the reputable, Washington one) has decided to channel their inner Coulter as a force for truth, justice, and the American way. (READ MORE)

Lawhawk: Crazy As a Loon - So, we've got a bunch of people who continue to believe that President Bush lied about the presence of WMD in Iraq, despite the fact that there was more than a decade of intel stating precisely that. Democrats and Republicans alike for more than a decade were claiming that Saddam Hussein and Iraq had WMD and was a persistent threat. Only after the 2003 invasion did those intel reports turn out to be incorrect. That doesn't make them lies. There were lies spun, however. Lies were spun not by the United States or President Bush, but by Saddam Hussein himself. (READ MORE)

Patterico: Andrew McCarthy Blasts NYT Over Whelan/Greenhouse Incident - Andrew McCarthy has an excellent column on the New York Times’s shabby treatment of Ed Whelan. A taste: “The readers’ representative recounted discussing the matter with Times editor Bill Keller. Tellingly, Keller said he ‘does not want to single out Greenhouse … because it would appear to be a tacit rebuke in the face of a partisan assault.’ And so, at last, we stumble into the truth. The Times is not a newspaper. It is a partisan, self-consciously engaged in partisan battle.” (READ MORE)

Justin Levine: Andrew Sullivan: An Anti-Clinton Compilation - Like many, I have become exacerbated over much of Andrew Sullivan’s writings in recent years for reasons that will be familiar to many. (I choose not to specifically list them here in the hopes of minimizing sidetracked debates that would be best tackled at another time.) Still, I would argue that in recent months, Sullivan’s pluses outweigh his minuses in such a way that demands repeated visits to his blog. First, there is the fact that his views remain genuine (regardless of what you may think of them). He clearly isn’t writing to pander to a political party, partisan aims, or some reader constituency. That remains refreshing. Plus, he makes an honest attempt to at least air or link to dissenting views. (READ MORE)

Alexham: Romney Rising: And this time, it's for real - There weren't many fireworks between our candidates last night, but one did stand out in a big way: Mitt Romney. He was good. Very good. Indeed, for the first time I thought to myself: "You know, this guy is pretty damn impressive. I think I will take that BMW after all." And his line about Bill Clinton "in the White House with nothing to do" was nothing short of priceless. So, what happened? Why does Romney all of the sudden strike me as the best person to represent the Republican Party this fall in the presidential election? (READ MORE)

blackhedd: Is It Too Early to Declare the Recession Over? - The most salient feature of the current economic and financial environment, and what makes it different from much of the past, is uncertainty. Measurements of current activity, investment patterns and credit markets are giving a conflicting picture of the global economy. No one knows for sure whether business will pick up, which makes everyone reluctant to take risk. As day follows night, the increased uncertainty leads to expectations of lower economic activity. In the everyday world, where reality is whatever journalists say it is on any given day, all of this translates into fears of recession. (READ MORE)

Knee Deep in the Hooah!: He teacheth mine hands to fight, Pt. 2 - Following the reception at 30th AG we were moved “down range” to our BCT unit where I met the soldiers I would be living with for the next nine weeks. We were all in for another “shock & awe” exercise. After marching down the road about a mile or so we arrived in our new home away from home. Hanson Barracks. Upon arrival in the CTA (Common Training Area) we were given a couple of quick tasks to perform to standard, but in less time than was humanly possible to accomplish said tasks. Our new First Sergeant was on a PA system while our new Drill Instructors had (you guessed it) bull horns. We were expected to fail. I knew that. Some of the kids did not. Myself and the other older guys did not react so much this time. The younger guys did. When the First Sergeant called out, “Did the recruits accomplish their mission to standard?” to which the Drill Instructors replied in unison, “NO!!” the games began and the looks were priceless. (READ MORE)

Gribbit's Word: Hypocrisy Alert: Global Warming Cries Morph Into Climate Change Rhetoric - Remember the panicked warnings of melting icecaps, drowning polar bears, 20′ rises in sea levels, and all the other moronic rhetoric parroted by the pseudo intellectual left? Those are morphing from warning of a planetary increase in temperatures to the generic term “climate change”. This is so that when episodes of snow in Southern California and record low temperatures in other parts of the globe occur, they can be included in the chicken little “the sky is falling” hysteria propagated by the lunatics that previously warned of global warming (and before that a new ice age). But ask yourself why? I know why. Global climate change is an ever occurring natural phenomenon created by increases and decreases in solar activity not as High Priest Al Gore of the Church of Global Warming of Modern Day Idiots (MDI) would have you believe - carbon dioxide. (READ MORE)

Chickenhawk Express: Who Is Checking the Credibility of the Winter Soldier II Credibility Checkers? - The promotional push has geared up for the Winter Soldier Rehash sponsored by IVAW. The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman got the ball rolling with a write-up in the Jan 22 edition. This piece of the article gives you an idea where Ackerman’s point of view lies… Throughout the course of the war, the public has become agonizingly familiar with its excesses, most notably the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the deliberate killing of civilians at Haditha. Still attempting to equate Abu Ghraib to Haditha…. Will they ever learn? Ackerman interviewed some of the IVAW members involved with the vetting of those signing up to present testimony. First there is Jose Vasquez… (READ MORE)

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