May 29, 2008

Web Reconnaissance for 05/29/2008

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)
The Florida Revelation ... - Republicans in Congress may be out of gas, but that doesn't mean conservative ideas aren't percolating elsewhere, and even on the supposedly Democratic stronghold of health care. Take the news from Florida, where GOP Governor Charlie Crist succeeded last week in moving an innovative reform through the state legislature. (READ MORE)

...And Escape From New Jersey - New Jersey is about the last place one might think to look for free-market policy reform. But this week Jay Webber, a Republican Assemblyman in Trenton, will introduce legislation to let Garden State residents buy low-cost health insurance from any registered policy in any of the 50 states. Mr. Webber's proposal is a state version of Arizona Congressman John Shadegg's federal legislation to let individuals buy insurance across state lines, and John McCain has also endorsed the idea. (READ MORE)

The Menendez Method - Republicans in Congress are usually to blame for blocking immigration reform. So it's worth noting that last week's effort to fix a broken guest-worker program for migrant farm workers died at the hands of a Democrat. Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Emergency Agricultural Relief Act with a bipartisan vote of 17 to 12. (READ MORE)

Ex-Colleagues Ask, 'What Happened?' - Scott McClellan was the ultimate Bush loyalist. He went to work for George W. Bush when he was Texas governor in 1999, helped Bush gain the White House in 2000, and then came to Washington to defend the president for the next six years on such issues as the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. (READ MORE)

On Policy, Obama Breaks Little New Ground - Already famous for his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama entered the Senate with more than the usual aspirations about the impact he could have. (READ MORE)

111 Nations, Minus the U.S., Agree to Cluster-Bomb Ban - LONDON, May 28 -- More than 100 countries reached agreement Wednesday to ban cluster bombs, controversial weapons that human rights groups deplore but that the United States, which did not join the ban, calls an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
The Belmont Club: Behind the scenes - The Telegraph reports that someone's quest to acquire WMDs still goes on. “Equipment bound for Syria which could be used to test ballistic missile components was intercepted during a previously undisclosed mission, the United States has announced. Four member states of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a group of 90 countries who seek to prevent the shipment of weapons of mass destruction, were involved in the operation in February, 2007. US national security adviser Stephen Hadley described the incident in a speech to members of the PSI, which the Bush administration has sought to portray as a significant success in its drive to prevent biological, chemical or nuclear terrorism.” (READ MORE)

Dafydd: McClellan's Losing Campaign - I believe that McClellan's campaign will turn out to be a disaster, not for the president but for McClellan himself. Alas, I was scooped on the following observation by John Hinderaker at my favorite blogsite, Power Line; but I shall persevere, secure behind the lizardly firewall of "Never first, always final." What has struck me is "the Case of the Missing Evidence": McClellan is quoted as leveling numerous charges against President Bush and members of his administration, from "misleading" us into the Iraq war by spreading "propaganda," to McClellan's accusation that Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby conspired together to out Valerie Plame and then lie about it to the grand jury, to -- this is truly bizarre -- McClellan's psychic claim that Bush lied about never having tried cocaine. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Post toasties - The Fact Checker’s 5 favorite flip-flops from Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. Michael Dobbs of the Washington Post listed his 5 favorite times when Obama said actually-I-was-for-it-before-I-was-against-it. In American Bandstand’s countdown style. No. 5: Actually he was for legalizing marijuana before he was against it. No. 4: Actually he was for hiring illegal aliens before he was against it. No. 3: Actually he was for the Cuban embargo before he was against it. No. 2: Actually he was for accepting public financing before he was against it. No. 1: Actually he was for opposing special interests before he was against it. (READ MORE)

Allahpundit: Surprise: Obama suddenly considering trip to Iraq - That was fast. “Senator Barack Obama said today that he is considering visiting American troops and commanders in Iraq this summer. He declined an invitation from Senator John McCain to take a joint trip to Iraq, saying: ‘I just don’t want to be involved in a political stunt.’ In a brief interview here, Mr. Obama said his campaign was considering taking a foreign trip after he secures the Democratic presidential nomination. No details have been set, he said, but added: ‘Iraq would obviously be at the top of the list of stops.’… ‘I think that if I’m going to Iraq, then I’m there to talk to troops and talk to commanders, I’m not there to try to score political points or perform,’ Mr. Obama said. ‘The work they’re doing there is too important.’” Just so we’re clear, a “political stunt” would be letting McCain cow him into a joint trip to Iraq. Letting McCain cow him into a solo trip? Not a stunt. (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Obama on policy: er, Hope! Change! - The Washington Post runs a front-page analysis of Barack Obama’s policy positions today, and they find … nothing much. In fact, what little work Obama had done on policy since entering the Senate in 2005 he abandoned in 2006 as he prepared for his presidential campaign. To the extent that he has any policy credentials, Perry Bacon reports that it doesn’t differ at all from the standard platform of the Democratic Party: “Already famous for his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama entered the Senate with more than the usual aspirations about the impact he could have. So in 2005, he had his office arrange informal seminars so that experts on health care, the economy, energy and education could brief him.” (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: The Arab Mind: Part XV - On the Use of Language: Hyperbole as Defense - Until 9/11 most Americans, and most Europeans, had almost no experience of the Arab use of language. Arabic spokesmen were adept at using soothing, noninflammatory language when speaking to Westerners. There were few people with access to the Media who actually spoke Arabic, and there was no MEMRI, Camera, or other translators available to most people to facilitate learning of the actual words used by the Arabs in their native language(s). Since 9/11 and with the explosive growth of the Internet, it has become much easier to obtain translations of actual speeches meant for and delivered to Arabic speaking audiences, and this now allows for a greater understanding of how such language is used and what the words are meant to convey. (READ MORE)

Cassandra: A Failure of Imagination - OMFG!!! Is Scott McClellan just the best White House secretary EVER, or *what*? Get a load of this: "The President, he, President Bush, too, had been deceived and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. OMG, OMG, OMG!!! Finally, the proof of what we have been telling America all along! That scummy little lying bastard lied to us without knowing that he lied!!! Jimminy Christmas, what a day! Can you say Chimpeachment, boys and girls? I knew that you could. Of course, the pathetic 28 percenters will be working overtime to discredit poor Scott: (READ MORE)

Jay Tea: Just Go Already! - Recently, Senator John McCain invited/challenged/double dog dared Senator Barack Obama to accompany him on a trip to Iraq. Obama, sensing a political trap (he's apparently as wary of McCain as he is of Fox News, neither of whom are as trustworthy as his longtime former pastor, his buddy the former terrorist, his buddy the indicted political fixer, or the heads of terrorist states, all of whom he has no problems with seeing), has declined. I think that is a mistake of Obama's. No, I don't think it's a political trap. And no, I don't think that Obama would suddenly have a "road to Damascus" moment and see the progress being made in Iraq and pronounce it good, and renounce his previous statements. But the simple facts of the matter are these: (READ MORE)

DJ Drummond: Their Surrender, Not Ours - An early distinction between the Democrat and Republican candidates for President, is the question about whether countries like Iran represent a threat to the United States, and if so what sort of posture should be taken to protect America. Speaking for the Left, Senator Barack Obama says that Iran should not be considered a real threat to the US, generally because it lacks the size of army and scale of armament to threaten American territory. It is laughable to argue that a nation like Iran would invade any land where US troops have boots on the ground. He makes the point that one-size-fits-all does not make sense when addressing different types of enemies, and suggests that discussions might prevent more costly confrontation later. In theory, this makes a kind of sense. Unfortunately for Senator Obama, the reality of the situation is very different from what he believes to be the case. (READ MORE)

Kevin Aylward: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin To Meet With McCain VP Search Team - A tipster sent us word that John McCain's VP advance man Arthur Culvahouse has been spotted in Juneau, Alaska. There's only one reason he would be there - to meet with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin about the Vice President position. This comes on the heels of McCain's Memorial Day weekend barbecue attended by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former White House budget director Rob Portman, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman. Supposedly that was in informal affair, not a vetting session, but it appears that the VP selection game is very much afoot. (READ MORE)

This Ain't Hell: Gas price climbs while oil falls - The Associated Press writes this morning that even though oil prices are falling, prices for gasoline continue climbing; “Oil prices fell back Thursday ahead of a report expected to show U.S. inventories of crude and petroleum products grew last week. Prices remained volatile, though, buffeted about by threats against Nigerian oil facilities, worries about falling gasoline demand in the U.S. and a strengthening U.S. dollar.” That’s those big, bad oil companies getting rich on the backs of working Americans, right? Wrong. The problem is the bottleneck at the refinery stage. OPEC can pump oil as fast as they want and the price for each barrel will fall, but refineries are working at full capacity and can’t meet the demand which drives gas prices up. (READ MORE)

Westhawk: McCain’s nuke plan is good, but could go farther - Yesterday, Senator John McCain gave a speech that described how his administration would enhance global nuclear security. The speech addressed all of the most important issues relating to nuclear security and Senator McCain endorsed a variety of sound ideas. But for the U.S. to obtain the leverage it needs to make significant progress against current and future nuclear proliferation rogues, future U.S. policy will need to go farther than what Senator McCain proposed. Media headlines from the speech discussed Senator McCain’s willingness to discuss further warhead reductions with Russia and China. But Russia and China, being rational players, are the least important nuclear worries for the U.S. The gravest nuclear problem for the U.S. and the world is proliferation to rogue states and non-state actors. The top priority of U.S. nuclear security policy should be to obtain leverage over this problem. (READ MORE)

THE TYGRRRR EXPRESS: Why Hillary Still Runs - In a pathetic attempt at damage control after implying that she could still win the democratic nomination if Barack Obama were to be assassinated, Hillary Clinton offered a pious justification. As long as I live and breathe and blog, I will make sure that Hillary Clinton’s every statement is rebutted. In 1992, Hillary Clinton invented the “War Room.” Counterattacks were to be swift and severe. The blogosphere allows lies to be challenged. My blog is my own personal war room. Hillary will drown in an avalanche of her own lies. It is my honor to help in this version of ethical waterboarding. Below are some of Hillary’s comments, with the actual truth offered by the Tygrrrr Express. (READ MORE)

Stop the ACLU: Garrison Keillor Mocks Patriotism - I guess out on Lake Blowbegone, patriotism isn’t kosher? Keillor just seems, nose in the air, to find all that lowborn patriotism so woefully gauche. At least, one might get that impression by reading the attack penned by Garrison Keillor against the patriotism evinced by the folks who don their red, white and blue, along with their leather jackets and hop on their Hogs to join the long line of motorcycle riders at “Rolling Thunder” on Memorial Day in Washington D.C. This year, Keillor was so put off by the patriotic bikers that he was driven to his keyboard to regale us all with his bad metaphors and surly disposition. With “The roar of hollow patriotism,” Keillor found that he just couldn’t stomach the loud patriotism expressed by the Harley riders in D.C. He also seemed to say that if you are a “fat man with a ponytail” you shouldn’t be allowed to express that patriotism in a manner you so wish to express it. (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips: The universities' witch-hunt against the Jews - Today, the Universities and Colleges Union is discussing whether universities should single out Israeli and Jewish scholars for active discrimination. Yes, you read that correctly. The UCU is debating a motion which not only raises the spectre yet again of an academic boycott of Israel but demands of Jewish and Israeli academics that they explain their politics as a pre-condition to normal academic contact. The motion asks colleagues to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating... the testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions... Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure. (READ MORE)

Right Wing Nut House: EMBRACE THE HORROR - There are days that I really hate politics – days when my cynicism and contempt for the politicians, the process, the whole bloody, unholy mess of spin meisters, pundits, press, bloggers, and commentators from all sides of the ideological spectrum make me want to chuck it all and write about sports, or gardening, or cats. Readers of this site know that this too, shall pass; that tomorrow or the next day or day after that, I will resume my role as cantankerous curmudgeon railing against the left, the right, and the squishes in the middle as if this feeling of utter, depthless depression about the state of the nation never existed. Part of it is, I’m sure, the coming slaughter of conservatives at the polls in November. (READ MORE)

ROFASix: Are We Safer from Terrorists Here Now? - Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton say no. But a look here suggests something has changed. Was it the war against terrorists? Some think so. I suspect that is only a part of the reason that so far we have not been attacked again here at home. As you look at the various reasons you realize some are attributable to administration actions and directed changes, while some others are clearly not. First, we are no longer viewing actions of terrorists as a law enforcement issue. Instead of attempting to monitor, detect, and defend against terrorists at the local level, the response, in theory at least, is one that integrates the efforts and talents of the local through national levels of law enforcement, intelligence, backed up by the military to the extent permitted by posse comitatus. (READ MORE)

John Hawkins: The Daily Kos Thread Of The Day: It's Karl Rove's Fault I Am Driving My Conservative Friends Away! - It's always fascinating to watch the hoops liberals are willing to jump through in order to paint themselves as victims. I didn't get that job. Must be racism! I'm not as far ahead in my career as I'd like. Must be sexism! I'm poor. It must be because the rich people are getting all the breaks at my expense! It's always something. Now, over at the Daily Kos, a diarist named RoddieH is complaining that he can no longer be friends with conservatives, basically just because he can't stand the fact that they don't agree with him. Now, that's not my personal philosophy. I have a few liberal friends and acquaintances, but I do understand people who just get so wrapped up in politics that they can't be friends with people on the opposite side of the fence. (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Al Qaeda's Civil War? - In an online town hall meeting with supporters last month, Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri was asked a number of unusually pointed questions. "Do you consider the killing of women and children to be Jihad?" one asked. "What is the legal [basis] for killing the innocents?" another wanted to know. Turns out, others in Al Qaeda are wondering the same thing -- including one of its founding members. In this week's New Yorker, Lawrence Wright profiles Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, "known to those in the underground mainly as Dr. Fadl." He's part of "the original core of Al Qaeda," and "one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. (READ MORE)

Paul Cruickshank: The Beginning of the End for Al Qaeda? - Peter Bergen (my colleague at the NYU Center on Law and Security) and myself have a cover story out in the latest issue of the New Republic -- published online last week and now on news stands --- entitled the ‘Jihadist Revolt against Bin Laden.’ We report that key figures in the Jihadist movement, many of them veterans of the Afghan anti-Soviet Jihad, are increasingly publicly repudiating Bin Laden, alarmed by Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians and the fact that most of its victims since 9/11 have been Muslim. Although several veterans of the Afghan Jihad saw 9/11 as an illegitimate attack on civilians and a blunder by Bin Laden because Jihadists lost their ability to train in Afghanistan, the emergence of a fully-fledged ‘Jihadist Critique’ of Al Qaeda was almost certainly delayed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, ‘a cause celebre’ for Jihadists around the world. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Miliband Surrenders - In an astonishing announcement today carried by the AP and other sources, Marine General James Mattis said that “we should immediately begin negotiations with both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Military action can only carry us so far, and eventually political reconciliation is necessary to address the root cause of the problems that cause the jihadists.” “I sincerely believe,” continued Mattis, “that with the right grievance amelioration, participation and representation in the government and infrastructure, our erstwhile enemies - al Qaeda and the Taliban - can be our friends.” Finally, in a statement that brought stares of disbelief from the audience at Quantico, Mattis wrapped up by saying that “there just seems to be no military solution to any of these problems.” For a once confident warrior among the Sunni insurgency, Mattis appeared tired and disheveled. Er … maybe not. (READ MORE)

Confederate Yankee: Just the Facts, Sam - Would someone please provide ABC News' Sam Donaldson with some facts? It is perhaps progress in this commentary piece for a journalist to admit that Obama needs schooling— I do find it amusing that he refers to McCain as "the professor" and Obama as "his callow student"—but he grossly overestimates the size of al Sadr's faltering organization by an enormous amount, while downplaying Madhi Army defeats at the hands of the Iraqi security forces in recent weeks. “Iraq will almost certainly be one of the central issues in November -- if McCain is lucky it will remain relatively calm with casualties relatively low. But there is a wildcard named Moqtada al-Sadr, the 34-year-old Shiite leader of a 2 million man army. When the surge began, al-Sadr instructed his army to lie low. Why fight an increased American force? But we all saw what happened a few weeks ago when al-Sadr loosed his men in Bashra and Bagdad -- violence flared, casualties spiked -- before calling another truce.” (READ MORE)

The Barnyard: Obama Doesn't Watch The News - I have wondered how Barack could seem so ignorant of current events particularly in the Middle East but now it comes out in a profile of his "body man" Reggie Love in the NYT. Dean Barnett and Abe Greenwald picked up on this little nugget that sheds alot of light on the subject. I hear he doesn't read blogs either so where does he get his news? “Along the way, some unofficial rules have emerged between the candidate and his aide. From Mr. Obama: ‘One cardinal rule of the road is, we don’t watch CNN, the news or MSNBC. We don’t watch any talking heads or any politics. We watch ‘SportsCenter’ and argue about that.’” John McCain recently challenged/invited Obama to go to Iraq with him to meet with PM Maliki and Gen Petraeus to see the very real progress that has been made there in the last year or so but the Obama camp declined with talking points that sound more like talking points gleaned from a MoveOn memo. (READ MORE)

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