July 18, 2008

Web Reconnaissance for 07/18/2008

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)
Obama's 'Judgment'- Barack Obama departs for Iraq as early as this weekend, with a media entourage as large as some of his rallies. He'll no doubt learn a lot, in addition to getting a good photo op. What we'll be waiting to hear is whether the would-be Commander in Chief absorbs enough to admit he was wrong about the troop surge in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Who's Partying Naked? - One Wall Street trader summed up this week's headline message from Washington: "You can't buy oil and you can't sell financials." We wish that were a joke. Efforts by Congress to rein in "speculators" in the oil futures market, and by the Bush Administration to prevent "naked" short sales of bank shares, do not address the fundamental reasons that oil is expensive and Wall Street firms are cheap. (READ MORE)

Terrorism Funds May Let Brass Fly in Style - The Air Force's top leadership sought for three years to spend counterterrorism funds on "comfort capsules" to be installed on military planes that ferry senior officers and civilian leaders around the world, with at least four top generals involved in design details such as the color of the... (READ MORE)

In Texas, the Right Boots Up to Gain Strength Online - AUSTIN, July 17 -- Now this is some serious smackdown, blogger style. On Friday, a Who's Who of online conservatives will gather at the Renaissance Hotel in the picturesque Texas Hill Country here for an inaugural two-day conference called RightOnline. (READ MORE)

Warming Is Major Threat To Humans, EPA Warns - Climate change will pose "substantial" threats to human health in the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday -- issuing its warnings about heat waves, hurricanes and pathogens just days after the agency declined to regulate the pollutants blamed for warming. (READ MORE)

Ashcroft Testifies on Interrogation Policy - Former attorney general John D. Ashcroft defended his approach to forestalling terrorist attacks but told lawmakers yesterday that he moved quickly to respond to concerns that some Justice Department memos employed shoddy reasoning. (READ MORE)

New Stimulus Plan on Tap - Senate Democrats plan to unveil a second fiscal stimulus plan next week, this one worth at least $50 billion, arguing that soaring energy prices and the crisis in the housing market require a major jobs program to kick-start a faltering economy. (READ MORE)

Maryland troopers spied on activist groups - Undercover Maryland state troopers infiltrated three groups advocating peace and protesting the death penalty — attending meetings and sending reports on their activities to U.S. intelligence and military agencies, according to documents released Thursday. (READ MORE)

McCain's Straight Talk spins wheels - At times it appears Sen. John McCain's Straight Talk Express should stop and ask for directions. From signature issues such as immigration and climate change to tax cuts, the presumed Republican presidential nominee sometimes just seems lost as to his own record and his stance on hot-button social issues. (READ MORE)

Obama's windfall puts pressure on GOP - AUSTIN, Texas Sen. Barack Obama raised $52 million in June and had $72 million banked for the presidential campaign, showcasing a massive donor network that the Democratic candidate can continue to tap until the Nov. 4 election. (READ MORE)

Judge allows start of military tribunals - The first military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay is set to begin Monday after a last-minute plea Thursday by attorneys for a detainee failed to persuade a federal judge to stop the process. (READ MORE)

Gore introduces green challenge to U.S. - Former Vice President Al Gore harnessed his star power Thursday to push global warming to the forefront of election politics, challenging the nation to embark on an Apollo-style project to convert all electricity production to wind, solar and other renewable energy within 10 years. (READ MORE)

On the Web:
Kimberly A. Strassel: GOP Reformers Face a Tough Fight - The 11th commandment of politics is that elected officials shall not take sides in their party primaries. Then again, Missouri Republicans are burdened with so many sins, what's one more? For an insight as to why the GOP is down and out in Washington, take a look at Jefferson City. That's where Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer, is running in an Aug. 5 primary for the Missouri governorship. And it's where her reform campaign against earmarks and self-dealing is threatening the entrenched status quo, causing her own party to rise against her. So bitter are House Minority Whip Roy Blunt and Sen. Kit Bond at Ms. Steelman's attack on their cherished spending beliefs that last month they rallied the entire Missouri congressional delegation to put out a public statement openly criticizing her campaign against six-term U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof. Joining them in their support of Mr. Hulshof has been the vast majority of the state Republican machine. (READ MORE)

David Paul Kuhn: What Would Obama Die For? - Since securing the Democratic Party's nomination in June, Barack Obama has been busy redefining himself. He has come out for a government surveillance bill he once opposed. He's expressed support for funding religious programs with tax dollars. He reversed his stance on accepting public financing. He reversed his view of the D.C. gun ban. And he hinted that he will "refine" his position on Iraq, only to push back against himself this week and reiterate his Iraq withdrawal plan. Mr. Obama's position shifts are clumsy and ill-timed. He has built his franchise on the concept that he is a new kind of politician. But of late, he has become the reincarnation of Clintonian triangulation. (READ MORE)

James Freeman: Who's Going to Fund the Next Steve Jobs? - Is the great American financial engine that gave the world Intel and Google grinding to a halt? Last quarter marked the first time in 30 years that not a single company backed by venture capital went public in the U.S. A fluke? Two weeks into the current quarter, the drought continues. Dealogic reports that just one venture-backed company has gone public, California-based Energy Ventures, Inc. Of course this is a horrible market across many asset classes. But even before the credit crunch began last year, initial public offerings of young companies had become rare. Venture-backed IPOs in 2005 and 2006 were far below the levels of the early 1990s, never mind the boom years that followed. A recovery in the early months of 2007 still didn't push IPO numbers anywhere close to the number of young companies being acquired by bigger, more established firms. (READ MORE)

Vincent Reinhart: Securitization and the Mortgage Mess - The search for causes of the housing-market collapse has begun. Two key congressional leaders claim to have identified some main culprits, but their explanations are incomplete. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, points to the lack of regulations mandating adequate disclosure in mortgage-lending documents. His counterpart in the House, Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, blames securitization of mortgages for exacerbating the boom and bust. Mr. Dodd is right on one important point. Disclosure requirements in most retail-lending documents have been woefully inadequate for a long time, and that should be a source of embarrassment to banking regulators. These lending documents typically prize length over clarity thanks to the lawyerly writers' interest in racking up billable hours. (READ MORE)

Mitch McConnell: Democrats Should Let Us Drill - Now that an executive-branch ban on offshore oil exploration has been lifted, the time has come for Democrats in Washington to lift their own ban on increased domestic supply. Americans are demanding that Congress do something about record-high gas prices. They recognize that prices will not go down unless supplies go up. And they also know that the only thing now standing in the way of more domestic supply is the Democratic refusal to allow it. A recent Pew poll provides the evidence of a growing consensus on the issue. As gas prices have spiked by about 30% over the past five months, the percentage of Americans who support more domestic energy exploration and less reliance on Middle East oil has jumped too, to 47% from 35%. Most striking: Among self-described liberals, support for increased domestic exploration has jumped to 45% from 22% in just five months. (READ MORE)

Charles Krauthammer: Who Does He Think He Is? - WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast -- a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins -- would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials. What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn. President Reagan earned the right to speak there because his relentless pressure had brought the Soviet empire to its knees and he was demanding its final "tear down this wall" liquidation. When President Kennedy visited the Brandenburg Gate on the day of his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, he was representing a country that was prepared to go to the brink of nuclear war to defend West Berlin. Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop? (READ MORE)

Mike Gallagher: A President for America, Not for Hollywood - It was fun interviewing Sen. John McCain this week on my radio show. Sen. McCain isn't someone who strikes you as a particularly dynamic speaker. He doesn't seem to like the formality of giving speeches. He clearly isn't too comfortable reading off a TelePrompter. In other words, this isn't a guy who would be cast as a U.S. President on a TV show. Barack Obama would fit that description. Come to think of it, the actor who played a president on the hit TV show "24" resembles Sen. Obama a bit. No, not because they're both black (I can almost hear Al Sharpton's howls of protestation...please leave my private parts alone, Jesse Jackson). But the fictional president possessed some of the same characteristics as Obama: tall, lanky, self-assured, photogenic; a smooth delivery and a warm demeanor. Yes, Barack Obama could easily be cast as an American president in a movie or TV show. (READ MORE)

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann: The Way to Box in Barack on Iraq - The shadow of the Iraq War still hovers over the 2008 presidential race. In deed, though it's the issue that made Barack Obama (giving him his running room to Hillary Clinton's left), it may now become his chief vulnerability. Weak on national-security issues, untried, inexperienced and (perhaps) naive, Obama can find the Iraq issue hard to handle - if John McCain plays it right. Obama has long since won the issue of Iraq-past - opposing the war before anyone and voting continuously and solidly against it when others waffled. Yet McCain is winning Iraq-present: A majority of Americans believe that the surge is working. Casualties are down so far that the pessimistic left has shifted its doom-and-gloom to Afghanistan. But McCain's key opportunity is to exploit the issue of Iraq-future. To start, he must ask Obama: "Why won't your troop withdrawal allow al Qaeda and Iran to move into the vacuum... (READ MORE)

David Limbaugh: The Liberal Establishment's Race Race - One would have hoped that Barack Obama's presumptive capturing of the Democratic presidential nomination would have dampened the mainstream media's obsession with race, but instead, they've figured out a way to obsess even further about it since Obama's putative victory. You almost can't read election headlines in a major newspaper without some reference to race issues. Earlier this week, Google News featured three back-to-back stories in its "Elections" section highlighting race: "McCain looks to make gains among black voters," "Race, Foreign-Policy Plant Doubts for Obama" and "Poll Finds Obama Isn't Closing Divide on Race." The last one is a New York Times article analyzing results from the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. (READ MORE)

Oliver North: Ayatollah Talk - PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Here in the Carolina Lowcountry, there is considerable consternation about this week's meeting in Switzerland between U.S. and Iranian diplomats. Such confusion is understandable, given the longstanding Bush administration policy against such meetings, recent events in that part of the world, and the way in which the State Department and White House announced the July 19 get-together. In short, what has been happening in that part of the world and what Washington is saying now just don't match. And that's very dangerous. Last summer, the government of Israel began significantly improving measures to protect their civilian population. Civil-defense enhancements include new bomb shelters, stockpiling food and water, distributing upgraded chemical-biological protective equipment, radiation detectors, and drills so civilians know where to go and when in the event of an attack. (READ MORE)

Donald Lambro: Energy Woes Could Mean Dems 'Oil' Washed Up - WASHINGTON -- Gasoline prices are flattening consumer wallets and hobbling our economy, while the Democrats sit back and play politics with the issue. Voter surveys show that the economy and gas prices top the list of the most critical issues facing our country. A Washington Post/ABC News poll reported last week that 85 percent of voters polled said gas prices will be either extremely or very important to their vote in this year's elections. And with good reason: Americans are getting walloped with huge gas bills, while utilities, buckling under ever-higher energy prices, are raising electricity rates to historic levels. Other industries are getting hit, too. Airlines are cutting back on flights and services as higher fuel costs eat into declining revenues. Increased trucking costs are driving up the price of nearly everything that's shipped. Tighter budgets mean consumers are cutting back on discretionary spending. (READ MORE)

Mona Charen: A Child Killer's Homecoming - What can you say about a people who welcome a child murderer as a hero? Most Americans are familiar with the brutal murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer on the cruise ship Achille Laura in 1985. Terrorists led by Abu Abbas (who was later given safe haven in Baghdad by Saddam Hussein) took the ship captive and threw Klinghoffer overboard. But few recall that the ship was seized to bargain for the release of, among others, Samir Kuntar from an Israeli prison. Kuntar had taken part in an earlier terror attack. In 1979, as a 16-year-old, he and four others had traveled to northern Israel by boat from Lebanon and come ashore in the seaside town of Nahariya. At midnight, Smadar Haran recalled, they burst into her apartment building. Peering out to see what the noise was, Smadar, mother of two, slammed shut her apartment door when she saw the terrorists -- but too late. Kuntar had glimpsed her. (READ MORE)

Michael Gerson: Will the Environment Survive the Environmentalists? - IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE -- Two polar bears, known in these parts as ice bears, amble and yawn on an iceberg. The mother and her 2-year-old cub stand out light yellow against bright white and glacial blue -- these mascots of the global warming movement seem majestically content on an Arctic summer day. Polar bears may be threatened, but they can hardly be called fragile. They are serene, cuddly killers, with curved claws that can pull a seal from the water by the top of its head in one smooth stroke. If the ice floes on which they hunt were to melt entirely, the bears could probably adapt by genetically rejoining their relatives on land. But the ice bear would be no more. Once the main threat to these creatures came from hunters who lived in lonely shacks and set traps along the ocean shore. Now a threat comes from an unexpected source: elements of the environmental movement... (READ MORE)

Linda Chavez: Hero's Welcome - A country's heroes are a reflection of its people's values. So what does it say that Lebanon gave a hero's welcome to Samir Kuntar this week? Kuntar has been in an Israeli prison since 1979 and was released in exchange for the return of the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers who had been kidnapped by Hezbollah in 2006, leading to Israel's incursion into Lebanon. He's not a household name in the United States, far less famous than the terrorist who led the group in which Kuntar operated, Abu Abbas, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But Kuntar's crimes are worth recalling. On April 22, 1979, Kuntar, then 16 years old, came ashore with three other terrorists near Nahariya, a beach resort along Israel's Mediterranean coast. They quickly made their way to a nearby apartment building, killing a policeman on the way. Once inside the building, they went apartment to apartment searching for Israelis to murder. They weren't picky. (READ MORE)

Suzanne Fields: Spectacle in Berlin - Barack Obama is a man in a hurry. He had barely quieted the criticism of his using the presidential seal with his name on it as a prop for his speeches before he suggested that he wanted to follow Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to Berlin to make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. He got a lot of public reminders that Reagan and Clinton waited until they were sworn in to use the famous gate as backdrop. The history and reflected glory of the Brandenburg Gate has trapped ambitious men before. What was built as an elaborate toll gate to collect from everyone entering and leaving the city quickly became a symbol of national honor. Napoleon marched under it when he entered Berlin in triumph in 1806. He seized the bronze goddess of peace and her chariot, pulled by four horses, from her place atop the gate and took it home to Paris as booty of war. France returned it eight years later, and the Germans gave her a new identity, calling her Victoria, goddess of victory. (READ MORE)
John Hawkins: Five Pieces of Liberal "Wisdom" That Need to Be Put Out to Pasture - "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." -- Fake Thomas Jefferson - Actually, Thomas Jefferson never said or believed that, which makes perfect sense given that he was a very wise man and that phrase is nonsense. Dissent can indeed be patriotism, but it can just as easily be foolishness, disloyalty, or even treason. Moreover, it's hard to miss the fact that most people who use the phrase "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism," seem to have an active dislike of their country. A true American patriot may disagree with his government, criticize his nation's policies, or refuse to go along with the majority of his fellow citizens, but he will also never turn his back on his own country or hold it in contempt. "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." -- Misquoted Ben Franklin - Ben Franklin, being a brilliant man, didn't ever actually say the above quote. (READ MORE)

Michael Reagan: The Real Party of Special Interests - Barack Obama is given to calling the GOP a party captive of hateful special interests. It takes a lot of what my Jewish friends call “chutzpah” to suggest that unnamed special interests control the Republican Party when his own party is totally captive to the most wealthy and powerful special interests in the nation. Obama and the national Democratic Party is owned lock, stock and barrel by the teachers’ unions, the bosses of big labor, cash-heavy, tree-hugging environmental groups, and Planned Parenthood and its allies in the sleazy abortion industry. And boy, do Obama and his fellow Democrats dance to their tunes! When they say “waltz,” in a second he’s out there on the political stage whirling obediently to their three-step beat. In February 2008, Obama spoke to reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, “Let’s see if this [school voucher] experiment works, and then if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what’s best for kids.” (READ MORE)

Patrick J. Buchanan: The Untouchables - To watch the contortions over that New Yorker cover cartoon of the Obamas is to understand whom it is impermissible to offend in the America of 2008. The cartoon is a caricature of Michelle as an urban terrorist in an Angela Davis afro with an AK-47 slung over her back and a bandoleer of ammo in the Oval Office doing a fist-bump with a Barack decked out in turban and Muslim garb. On the wall hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden. Blazing away in the fireplace is the American flag. "President Obama and First Lady -- as Seen From the Right-Wing Point of View" might have been the caption. Phil Klein of American Spectator nailed it: "This cartoon is intended to make fun of conservatives as ignorant racists and essentially marginalize any criticism of Obama as moronic." Unfortunately for the New Yorker, the cartoon misfired. Blow-ups are likely to be as pandemic in right-wing dorms this fall as were posters of "Che" Guevara in left-wing dorms in the 1970s. (READ MORE)

Glen Lavy: Same-sex “Marriage” the Same as Interracial Marriage? Hardly. - In yet another attempt to excuse bypassing the democratic process, California Chief Justice Ronald George recently asserted that a 1948 court decision legalizing interracial marriage in California is analogous to the May 15 ruling granting same-sex couples the “right” to marry. He went on to predict, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, that same-sex “marriage” will be more quickly accepted by the public than racial equality. Putting aside for the moment that it’s quite presumptuous to say that Californians consider same-sex “marriage” a more important thing to act quickly upon than racism, Chief Justice George’s take on the California fiasco proves once again that judges make poor prophets, as his prediction and comparison fall miserably short on several grounds. First of all, the court’s role in society is not to make laws, but to interpret and apply them; lawmaking is reserved for the legislature. (READ MORE)

Diana West: A Swiss "Extremist" Against Islamic Law - THE SWISS ALPS, SWITZERLAND -- "Explain the minaret ban," I asked. I was sitting in the side room of a house, overlooking a flat plot somewhat larger than the trampoline outside. Beyond that trampoline, still visible in the evening light, rose the Swiss Alps. Across the table, Oskar Freysinger sat poised to address my query over some cups of espresso, speaking as a local leader of the Swiss People's Party. Or perhaps I should say -- a local leader of the "extremist," "bigoted" and "xenophobic" Swiss People's Party. That's how this largest political party in tiny Switzerland is routinely discussed, or, rather, dismissed by elites, glitterati and other social deadweights. Why? Because the Swiss People's Party is, with noticeable success, fighting to bring massive immigration, including Islamic immigration, under control in Switzerland before this rigidly neutral, quite independent, non-European Union country loses its uniquely Swiss character. (READ MORE)

Cliff May: The Disinformation Age: OPEC Lies, the SUV Dies - The folks over at OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, must think we’re pretty stupid. The other day, Chakib Khelil, the current OPEC president, asserted that "the intrusion of bioethanol on the market" is responsible for 40% of recent increases in the price of oil. Now how exactly would that work? How does growing sugarcane in Brazil or corn in Iowa push up the price of oil sucked from holes in the ground in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela? If we roasted the corn and put the sugar in coffee -- instead of making it into alcohol fuels -- would oil prices go up less? And if mixing a little ethanol in with gasoline has caused much of oil’s latest price rise, does it follow that replacing oil entirely with alternative fuels would result in even higher oil prices? By that logic, if everyone switched from Coca Cola to Kool-Aid, the price of a bottle of Coke would go up rather than down. (READ MORE)

Amanda Carpenter: Obama: Right Wing to Blame for Wife's Negs - In October’s installation of Glamour Magazine, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama blames conservative-leaning media outlets for driving up his wife’s negative ratings. “What happened was that the conservative press — Fox News and the National Review and columnists of every ilk — went fairly deliberately at her in a pretty systematic way,” Obama told Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive. The women’s magazine published excerpts of the Obama interview on their political blog Glamocracy on Thursday morning. [Full disclosure, I blog there every Tuesday] “It took a toll,” Obama said. “If you start being subjected to rants by Sean Hannity and the like, day in day out, that'll drive up your negatives.” A joint poll conducted by the Associated Press and Yahoo released July 2 found 35 percent of voters had an unfavorable impression of Mrs. Obama. 30 percent viewed her favorably. (READ MORE)

Soccerdad: Just one more iddy biddy concession and they’ll love you - Before Israel agreed to a ceasefire with Hezbollah in 2006, Thomas Friedman wrote a column, The Morning After the Morning After, in which he argued that the population of Lebanon would eventually turn on Hezbollah when it realized the costs that the war imposed on the country and how little Hezbollah gained. I dismissed it at the time. To some degree, now, nearly two years later we’re seeing small stirrings of this sentiment. But it’s hardly leading to a weakening of Hezbollah’s position as Friedman suggested. In fact Friedman’s belief overall seems like a lot of wishful thinking: “Israel needs to keep its eyes on the prize. It’s already inflicted enormous damage on Hezbollah and its community, but Nasrallah will only have to pay the full price for inviting all that destruction once the guns fall silent on the morning after the morning after. So let’s get there as soon as possible. That will deter him.” (READ MORE)

Ron Winter: 9 Percent Congress: You Can't Legislate Your Way Out of This! - Did you see what happened to the stock market when President Bush stood tall, lifted the executive restrictions on off-shore drilling and called on the 9 Percent Congress to do the same? You bet. The price of oil dropped like a rock and the stock market rebounded like a rocket! As Bush said in announcing his decision earlier this week it won't mean more oil tomorrow, but it will change the "psychology" of oil trading. As long as futures traders, speculators if you will, see the supply of oil as outstripping the demand, the price will stay low. Just the hint that new supplies will finally be opened was enough to turn the skyrocketing prices around. (READ MORE)

Ilya Somin: New York City Declares Neighborhood "Blighted" so that Property Coveted by Columbia University Can be Condemned - The New York Times reports that Columbia University has succeeded in its efforts to get New York City to declare a portion of Manhattanville "blighted" so that the area can potentially be condemned and transferred to the university in order to facilitate its expansion plans [HT: VC reader Michael Pitkowsky]. Once an area is declared blighted, all the property there can be condemned by the government at any time, for as long as the blight designation lasts (which can be many decades). I have previously criticized Columbia's efforts to use the threat of eminent domain to acquire this property (see here for the most recent post and links to earlier ones). Although the Manhattanville area isn't one of New York City's most prosperous, it is clearly not blighted in the layperson's sense of the term (see here for a photo). (READ MORE)

Melanie Phillips' Blog: America's Chamberlain? - Some months ago I worried here that the quiet in Iraq might be at least in part the result of a deal made between America and Iran: in exchange for Tehran’s calling off the bombers in Iraq to help put another Republican into the White House, the Bush administration would undertake not to attack Iran. Yesterday’s Guardian story that America is to station diplomats in Iran for the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and intends to send a senior official, William Burns to discuss Iran’s nuclear program with Iranian officials can only deepen that fear. Unless this is all an elaborate bluff, the suspicion must be that what the Bush administration is now focused upon is not safeguarding the survival of Israel and the freedom of the world but on winning the presidency for the Republicans. (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: The Danger of "Counting Coup" in the Middle East - The prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah is widely considered a terrible defeat for Israel and another great victory for Hezbollah, much as the summer war of 2006 is widely considered a victory for Hezbollah and a disastrous defeat for Israel. This opinion is shared almost universally across the board. Paul Hinderaker expresses the predominant sentiment on the right: “As expected, the return of the murderer Kuntar was greeted in Lebanon with elation and celebration. Hezbollah and its Lebanese suporters plainly viewed the swap as a victory, and to a degree it was.” Lazar, at the Augean Stables, summarized: “The prisoner exchange has been completed, and Hizbullah has not missed the opportunity. They are proclaiming victory in the Second Lebanon War, since they carried out the initial ambush with the goal of kidnapping soldiers to gain the release of Samir Kuntar. The Hizbullah commander in Southern Lebanon, Nabil Kaouk, said,” (READ MORE)

McQ: AGW "consensus"challenged by scientists - Finally, something I’ve been hoping to see, and something which helps restore my faith in real science: “The American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming. The APS is also sponsoring public debate on the validity of global warming science. The leadership of the society had previously called the evidence for global warming ‘incontrovertible.’ In a posting to the APS forum, editor Jeffrey Marque explains, ‘There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution.’” As noted, they’re sponsoring a public debate, which I would love to hear and see. Wonder if Al "The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk" Gore will get an invitation? Wonder if Al Gore would show up if he did? (READ MORE)

Protein Wisdom: As goes California - If anything clearly demonstrates why the Los Angeles Times is losing circulation and spiraling out of business, it is this short piece on California’s budget debacle buried in the Opinion section, chock full of facts that not one LATimes staff member ever bothers to present rather than the constant scolding of Californians for not rolling over and accepting more taxes. With a moderate Republican governor and a overwhelming socialist Democrat legislature, California bears a passing resemblance in political structure to the US as a whole. Bush has NCLB as his pet spending project, Arnold has stem-cell research. The state legislature is beholding to the teachers’, lawyers’ and prison guards’ unions, and enviro-nutz, Congress to unions and enviros. In both areas, no matter how much revenue has gone up over the past five to ten years, it is “not enough” and now the talk of raising taxes and bleeding the successful is openly discussed. Yet … (READ MORE)

Michelle Malkin: A cast of hundreds: Who isn’t an Obama foreign policy adviser?! - So Barack Obama has 300 foreign policy advisers. 300. That’s quite a carbon footprint. But he needs that many–not just to compensate for his complete lack of foreign policy chops, but because he throws so many of his advisers and acolytes off the bus each week. Gotta have padding. Jennifer Rubin points out that the man who subscribes to the Winnie the Pooh School of Foreign Policy is on the list and adds: “Most troubling is the possibility that the performance of the campaign’s foreign policy apparatus is a preview of the Obama administration’s foreign policy apparatus. There are apparently hundreds (if not thousands) of folks waiting to join the State and Defense Departments who hold beliefs that defy evidence and logic. They honestly believe that Iraq is unimportant, unconditional direct talks with Iran will unlock the promise of world peace, we can talk up protectionism at home without scaring our trading partners, and the less input from military commanders in war zones the better.” (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: The Audacity of … Arrogance? - I may have been the only person on the Right who didn’t get hot and bothered by the proposed Brandenburg venue. Yes, Kennedy and Reagan spoke there as Presidents, but the gate had more meaning during the Cold War and when the Berlin Wall still stood. The significance of the Brandenburg Gate as a Cold War front faded as the wall came down and both Kennedy and Reagan accomplished their mission — fortunately for Reagan, while he still lived to see it happen. Had Obama given a speech there, it would have highlighted how mundane Brandenburg Gate has become — and it would have reminded people of why it got that way, and who made it so. Obama would have been overshadowed by the history, not glorified by it. However, Krauthammer has the main point correct. In ways large and small, Obama has demonstrated arrogance and conceit in ways not before seen in presidential politics. Americans may like their Congressmen and Senators to be arrogant and haughty at times, but not Presidents. (READ MORE)

Gribbit's Word: Democrats’ “No Energy” Bill Defeated Again - Boehner: “Congress must vote on a real plan to produce new American energy before the August recess.” WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) today issued the following statement after yet another “do nothing” energy bill crafted by the Democratic leadership was defeated on the House floor: “It’s no wonder yet another ‘no energy’ scheme hatched by the Democratic Majority has been defeated. This bill would not have produced one drop – not a single drop – of new American energy to help reduce gas prices on behalf of American families and small businesses. It was designed to advance the Democratic leaders’ plan to run out the clock between now and the August recess without having to take a meaningful vote on producing new American energy. Fortunately, the measure was exposed for what it truly is: a sham.” (READ MORE)

Andrew Cochran: Swiss Envoy's Relationship With FARC Under Investigation - From the pages of Die Weltwoche comes news that Jean-Pierre Gontard, the special envoy from the Switzerland Ministry of Foreign Affairs whom the Colombian government invited to assist in hostage negotations with FARC, is now under investigation himself. Information developed from the computer of Raul Reyes, the FARC senior commander killed by Colombian troops on May 1, implies that Gontard was a FARC sympathizer and provides details of strategic advice that Gontard gave to Reyes in meetings in 2004. From a recent DW article translated into English: "The Swiss professor reportedly tells Reyes that a FARC demand for one hundred million dollars in exchange for a six month ceasefire is realistic. (READ MORE)

Don Surber: Ignoring Bush - He says drill. Oil prices drop immediately. The press doesn’t see the connection. And on top of that, dropping oil prices now are a bad thing. To recap: President Bush officially announced at a press conference a lift on the presidential ban on offshore drilling — at 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday. At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, oil prices began a slide from about $145 a barrel to just under $130. That’s a 10% drop. How has the press reported this? Bloomberg News: “Crude oil rose, rebounding from the biggest four-day decline in more than three years, on speculation that prices fell too far, too fast this week.” Chicago Tribune: “Oil prices have retreated for the past three days, falling $18 from a record $147.27 a barrel reached last week as a stream of troubling economic data appears to have corralled oil’s bull run.” (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Troop Surge for Afghanistan? - Similar to the opposition to the surge in Iraq, the chorus of voices calling for a military stand-down in Afghanistan are growing. There is the classical “we can’t win” approach, analogous to the “insurgencies cannot be beaten” meme (regardless of the fact that the insurgency has essentially been beaten in Iraq). Then there is the “we must educate the extremists out of there extremism” approach. In this version of the problem, the root of the extremism becomes disenfranchisement, poverty, and valid grievances which require redress (regardless of the example of Bangladesh, which is 90% Muslim and one of the poorest nations on earth, but without the violent extremism). There are other stupid arguments for a draw-down of troops (or leaving a very small military footprint) over which we won’t waste our time. (READ MORE)

Confederate Yankee: Worst House Speaker in History Labels Bush a Total Failure - Legislators fear for their lives, simply because they come to work. Some have been assassinated by car bombs, others by gunfire, while simply going out among their constituents. During their legislative meetings there is always the (increasingly) slight risk of a mortar attack or a suicide bomber. And yet a fractious Iraqi Parliament just learning democracy has still accomplished far more than the U.S. House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi. Her horrid leadership has managed to drag Congress to the lowest approval ratings in history. Pelosi's Congress is polling nine points lower than Nixon's just ten days before he resigned. So Nancy... dear... I think you might have a wee bit of a projection issue going on. (READ MORE)

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