Suspicious package at Indonesian Embassy in Australia

The Indonesian Embassy has been closed due to a suspicious package.

Radio reports say that the package contained a powder that has tested positive for "biological agents."

The Embassy has had threats in the past days as some Australians reacted with hostility to the 20-year sentence given to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby in Bali.


Kind of disappointing that Deep Throat is some unknown FBI guy. I was hoping it was Rehnquist, or that there was more to the story. We've been waiting 30 years and this is all there is?

On the death penalty

Today's Supreme Court ruling on Arthur Andersen is a perfect example of why the death penalty should be used rarely, if ever.

Arthur Andersen has already received the lethal injection. It's a bit late to say, "Whoops. We made a mistake."

In this case, I'm not sad to see Andersen dead. In my opinion, Andersen was criminally complicit in the Enron fraud that destroyed so many people's life savings.

But this case shows the danger of Elliot Spitzer's methods of corporate reform. An indictment or a minor conviction could be enough to put a company out of business due to regulatory issues. Spitzer's threats of the corporate death penalty are the ultimate bullying tactic. One lone DA has the power to destroy huge companies. And as Neil Young says, "Once you're gone, you can never come back." My my, hey hey, indeed.

That sort of power shouldn't rest with one man, let alone a politically ambitious headline chaser such as Spitzer.

And by the way, the decision was not "a defeat for the Bush administration," as the AP gratuitously added.

Communism is neat

To borrow a phrase from Phil Hendrie, one of the most underrated comic geniuses of our age, "Communism is neat."

It may be a bit of hyperbole in the case of the Netherlands, so let's tone down the rhetoric to "Socialism is neat."

Yes, socialism, that wonderful political philosophy that allows honored leaders to run roughshod over individual rights (and popular opinion) to give the people what they need, regardless of what they want.

In a shocking interpretation of Generally Accepted Democracy Principles (GADP), the ├╝berklass in Holland has decided:

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's governing party said Monday it will accept a "no" verdict only if turnout reaches at least 30 percent and if 55 percent of those who vote reject the charter.

As PoliPundit puts it:
A yes vote needs only 45 percent, no matter the turnout. A no vote needs 55 percent, with at least 30 percent turnout. How very fair!

HT: PoliPundit.


Another argument for civil unions

I read Andrew Sullivan today, because Mickey Kaus was making fun of him. Sullivan, as always, is talking about gay marriage, and today points to an interesting case.

A couple of lesbians want to be treated as a married couple for purposes of playing cheaper golf at their country club. Now I'm certainly not in favor of golf, or country clubs, but I'm pretty wary of government intrusion into private clubs. I didn't like the Rotary Club being forced to admit women. Freedom of association should mean just that: freedom of association. But now that judges have invented new laws that require such intrusions, it seems to me that this couple has a pretty legitimate case.

As I've said before, the answer is to separate the religious institution of marriage from the state-sanctioned secular arrangement. Gays deserve equal rights under law, and churches should be free to maintain their own definitions of marriage according to their traditions and beliefs. Call it a civil union, or call it a marriage. The only difference is that the latter will agitate middle America a lot more.


The left has come to this

I never thought I would see this: a serious argument against wishing to see the President killed.

The climate of hatred created by Michael Moore, Howard Dean, Moveon, and the like has gotten us to this point. Moderate liberals on university campuses actually have to tell their more fervently leftist friends that the President shouldn't be killed.

HT: Lorie Byrd.

Draft Condi

No, not to send her to Iraq to fight in her imperalist war for oil. Not that kind of draft.

Americans for Dr. Rice is campaigning to get Condoleezza Rice to run for President. They are already putting together events and producing TV ads.

There are lots of good links and news stories, including this one that says she wants to be drafted. And there are links to several Condi for Prez web sites, including Filipinos for Condi.

She's obviously hawkish on defense, but her other positions are harder to gauge. Her personal history of high achievement suggests to me that she probably falls on the personal responsibility side of many social issues (as does her intellect -- surely someone that smart can't be a socialist!!!). On abortion, she's called herself "mildly pro-choice," putting her squarely in the mainstream of America, but damaging her chances in the Republican primary. Americans for Dr. Rice believes that in general, "a potential Rice administration would differ in detail, but not in direction, from from the Bush administration."

A more socially tolerant / moderate version of Bush? I'll take it!

UPDATE: Richard Mason of Americans for Rice clarifies Rice's abortion position in the Comments below. Bottom line: pretty mainstream thinking. Parental consent, no late term abortions, and no federal funding of abortions.

Further discussion of her positions on issues is here. She's a well-documented strong 2nd Amendment supporter. She is presumed to be a fiscal conservative, but there's little evidence so far to conclude this. A few more well-placed quotes in media interviews would shed some more light on her positions. Here is a good interview from NPR, but she doesn't pin herself down to any controversial domestic positions.

Some kind of monster

Robert Novak reports that the Hillary Clinton juggernaut is already racking up significant financial pledges, cutting off access to big Democratic donors for potential rivals.

As I said a few days ago, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. She's unstoppable.

The only people not excited about Hillary? The brilliant political minds in Hollywood:
An exception to Sen. Clinton's support is Hollywood, where some of the entertainment industry's big givers question her electability.

HA! First of all, when has Hollywood ever cared about electability? And what makes them think Hillary is less electable than the left-wing loonies they regularly support (e.g. John Kerry, Howard Dean)?

Bonus material: the same column reports that Robert Rubin is "appalled" by Dean.


Believe it: Hillary is happening

Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2008. Her harsh, left-wing image has been softened by the passage of time and her concerted effort to position herself as a moderate. It's working.

She may win the election -- especially if she claims the moderate ground and runs against a right-wing nut like Rick Santorum.

Some argue that she will have a difficult time in the primaries, because her new image is too far from the left-wing kooks that run the DNC and the grassroots. But Hillary has lingering credibility with the lefties from her First Lady days, and she's got the one thing no one else has: electability. Do you really think the Democrats want to send Kerry, Dean, or Kucinich to the slaughter again? Edwards is joining that crowd on the left, and has a bit of a Dan Quayle issue as well.

EU Constitution: carne tostada

I've been following the French referendum on the EU Constitution. For a while, it was hard to believe the polls that suggested the French might say "no" to the expansion of bureaucracy, centralized authority, and socialist regulations across Europe.

Now the "no" vote is solidifying its lead, though, and it appears that it will win. Analysts suggest that the French are afraid of opening up their 10.2% unemployment / 1.4% growth workers' paradise to competition from lower-cost Eastern Europe. News analysts further suggest that French voters believe they will be able to renegotiate a better Constitution. Fat chance. The existing Constitution wouldn't have made it past the British voters, and any changes the French want would make it more repulsive to the British.

The problem is this. The French want centralized authority in Europe without a common market. The British want a common market in Europe without centralized authority. Never the twain shall meet.

Coalition of the Chillin'

Decision '08 has organized a response to the screaming ninnies of the right who think that the filibuster deal was the worst thing imaginable:

The Coalition of the Chillin'

I'm not upset about the filibuster deal -- but the Democrats' weaselly move to delay John Bolton even more is a pretty bad early sign.


Europe descends further into authoritarianism

Freedom of speech is taking a big hit in Italy, as journalist Oriana Fallaci is ordered to stand trial for "incitement" in her book about Islam.

A judge has ordered best-selling writer and journalist Oriana Fallaci to stand trial in her native Italy on charges she defamed Islam in a recent book.

The decision angered Italy's justice minister but delighted Muslim activists, who accused Fallaci of inciting religious hatred in her 2004 work "La Forza della Ragione" (The Force of Reason).

Fallaci lives in New York and has regularly provoked the wrath of Muslims with her outspoken criticism of Islam following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. cities.

In "La Forza della Ragione," Fallaci wrote that terrorists had killed 6,000 people over the past 20 years in the name of the Koran and said the Islamic faith "sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom."

State prosecutors originally dismissed accusations of defamation from an Italian Muslim organization, and said Fallaci should not stand trial because she was merely exercising her right to freedom of speech.

But a preliminary judge in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, Armando Grasso, rejected the prosecutors advice at a hearing on Tuesday and said Fallaci should be indicted.

Grasso's ruling homed in on 18 sentences in the book, saying some of Fallaci's words were "without doubt offensive to Islam and to those who practice that religious faith."

All that stands between us and them is the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights... it's a shame the Constitution is more and more open to interpretation. Remember, as Justice Kennedy tells us, we have to look not to what the Constitution says, but to "the overwhelming weight of international opinion..."

HT: Protein Wisdom via Jay Reding at RedState.

Denial, part deux

Ha! PBS Chief Rejects Liberal Bias Allegations.

HT: PoliPundit.


EU referendum update

The French "no" vote is widening its lead.

O Schadenfreude, O Schadenfreude!
I hope Chirac gets hemorrhoids!

The moment we've all been waiting for

John Kerry has signed the SF 180 form, once and for all clearing up questions about questionable conduct in his military record.

Or maybe he hasn't.

"I have signed it,” Kerry said. Then, he added that his staff was "still going through it" and ‘’very, very shortly, you will have a chance to see it.”

The devil is usually in the details. With Kerry, it’s also in the dodges and digressions. After the interview, Kerry’s communications director, David Wade, was asked to clarify when Kerry signed SF 180 and when public access would be granted. Kerry drifted over to join the conversation, immediately raising the confusion level. He did not answer the question of when he signed the form or when the entire record will be made public.

Several e-mails later, Wade conveyed the following information: On Friday, May 20, Kerry obtained a copy of Form 180 and signed it. ‘’The next step is to send it to the Navy, which will happen in the next few days. The Navy will then send out the records,” e-mailed Wade. Kerry first said he would sign Form 180 when pressed by Tim Russert during a Jan. 30 appearance on ‘’Meet the Press.”

Six months after Kerry’s loss to George W. Bush, it feels somewhat gratuitous to point out how hard it can be to get a clear, straight answer from Kerry on this and other matters. But as long as the Massachusetts senator is thinking about another presidential run, the candor gap remains on the table, because he puts it there.

This has to be the worst-managed stonewall in history. If he's not going to release the records, he should try to come up with some quasi-legitimate and sympathetic excuse. If he is going to release the records, he should do it now. Why wait until more than 100 days after he promised to release them? It's as if he wants to create his own Watergate, but the public just doesn't care enough about him to make it front page news.

HT: PoliPundit.


Filibuster poker

We may have just seen the greatest bluff in recent political history.

What if the Republicans didn't have the votes in the first place?

It's not outside the realm of possibility.

The nuclear option was a pretty serious step to take. I would think many Republican senators, even if they despised the Democrats' obstructionist tactics, would be pretty reluctant to make a radical, and decorum-damaging, change to the rules. There's a reason Trent Lott called it the nuclear option in the first place.

Are we really so sure that Snow, Collins, Voinovich, Chafee, and several others were on board, and would have gone through with it? Maybe they just talked a good game so that the Democrats would compromise. That's easier for me to believe than the idea that 50 or 51 senators would have gone through with the nuclear option.

I wouldn't want to play poker with Frist... or with the Gang of Seven. They may have just pulled off the bluff of a lifetime. They may have just turned an embarassing defeat into the confirmation of Owens, Brown, and Pryor, as well as more restraint in Democratic filibusters in the future.

Sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.

If everybody's unhappy, it must be a good deal

Kos is happy that Frist loses, but the commenters on his blog overwhelmingly hate the filibuster deal. Some commenters there are coming up with the idiotic theory that Republicans will vote down Owens and Brown. What kind of sense would that make? What's the point of demanding a vote for a nominee if you are only going to vote down the nomination? Honestly, I don't know what those people are smoking.

TalkLeft headlines "Sell-Out Deal Made: - Bush's Judges In"

MyDD: "My first reaction is that this is a defeat..."

On the right, Powerline feels sold out by a "hideous deal."

Ace of Spades: "'Bipartisan' Group Caves To Liberals"

If both wings are that upset, maybe it's a good deal. I don't know enough about the other nominees, but I'm glad Owens and Brown are getting through. Perhaps the other nominees really are worse, and a filibuster of them will have more public support because it will be justified.

UPDATE: This claims to be a .pdf of the deal and the text is here.

It's pretty surreal seeing Kos claim the confirmation of Owen and Brown as a victory.

And this wasn't in the text, but De Wine is reserving the right to go nuclear.

Al Franken bombs

It's bad enough when a politician bombs with bad jokes. But look at what alleged comedian Al Franken said:

Then he turned toward The New York Times table in the front of the room, where sat Judith Miller, best known these days for two things: her articles on weapons of mass destruction that didn't quite pan out and the possibility she will go to jail for not revealing sources in the Valerie Plame case. "Judy,"" Franken said, "maybe you can find some WMD in your cell." Silence. "OK, I shouldn't have told that joke."

HT: Alarming News.

A lefty defects

I am impressed with the eloquence of this writer, who is disgusted with the intellectual dishonesty and moral bankruptcy of the modern American left.

I'm pretty sick of the cultural conservative right -- maybe there's room in the middle for disaffected ex-lefties and ex-righties to form a common sense majority. And maybe we can reclaim the original, noble meaning of the term "liberal."

HT: Alarming News.

Trouble at the Ministry of Truth

Things are doubleplusungood at Britain's Ministry of Truth.

It's the unions vs. the voice of the proletariat a BBC strike disrupts programming.

Hundreds of BBC Wales staff are staging a 24-hour protest at plans to cut around 200 jobs at the broadcaster.They are part of a BBC-wide walk out at plans to cut 3,780 jobs and privatise parts of the corporation...

The BBC says the staff reductions are needed to improve efficiency and reflect changes in technology.

When financial reality hits socialist paradise, it's never pleasant.

Why don't they just raise the TV license fee so that they don't have to lay anyone off? After all, £126.50 per year seems like too little to charge for MiniTrue to allow Proles to have a TV in the house.

One happy side effect of the strike: on the BBC feed carried on Sydney radio, regular programming was replaced by a replay of an interview with Ian McEwan, author of Atonement. Atonement is one of the best fiction books I've ever read. Some of McEwan's other books, though, such as The Comfort of Strangers, are complete crap.


Harley Sorensen and the Fair Use Man

As of February, Harley Sorensen's columns have been discontinued in the San Francisco Chronicle and its online version, SFGate:
Harley Sorensen is a freelance writer and longtime journalist. This is his last regular column for SF Gate.

Brent Andrews at Chronic Discontent reports that Sorensen was dropped, along with another columnist, for economic reasons.

I had a serious back-and-forth in January (chronicled here and here) with Sorensen's editors about blatant falsehoods in his column. I enjoyed his column, though, and certainly didn't want to see it cancelled.

The Chronic Discontent article, though, raises a really interesting issue about "fair use," arising from a complaint by an SFGate editor:
"As an aside -- but one that obviously makes me angry -- Harley's columns were regularly being ripped off by a site called commondreams.org , a progressive site, which instead of linking to our versions actually republished the columns so it would get the page views instead of us. These people actually have the effrontery to say that ripping off columns is protected under the fair use provision of copyright law. As long as this sort of thing is going on, I doubt you'll see too many more opinion columns on websites like ours. The economic model for producing web-only content is a difficult one as it is. I suspect in the future we'll see a shift to websites like ours linking to blogs and somehow sharing revenue with the authors. Since you're a friend of Harley's, I hope you encourage him to keep writing for Common Dreams or some other source."

I'm shocked that Common Dreams can still get away with reprinting columns in their entirety. That's not "fair use" as I understand copyright law. What gives? Is the Chronicle just too cheap to pay lawyers to enforce its copyrights?

There is some serious legal discussion of the issue at RichardSilverstein.com. I'm still having trouble believing Common Dreams is in the right, though. The US Code as reported by Cornell says four factors must be considered:

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Most blogs woud seem to fall under the "nonprofit educational purposes" category. Still, points (3) and (4) should weigh heavily against Common Dreams' being able to use the columns. They must have better lawyers than the Hearst Corporation.

From the "European counterweight"

Ah, the wonders of socialism. 12.6% unemployment and 1% economic growth.

HT: PoliPundit.

Close, but no cigar

The Rude Pundit almost gets through an entire post with no profanity.

He's not for children or prudes, but the Rude Pundit is insightful, angry, and unlike many of his friends on the left, actually funny.

Theya culpa!

Well, sort of... the New York Times isn't officially admitting to unfairness and inaccuracy, but its departing Public Editor, Daniel Okrent is.

It's shockingly refreshing. If the Times in general were this candid, I think they would get a lot more sympathy. We can understand the pressures (deadlines, competitive "scoop" pressures, and financial pressures with the decline of print media) of the news business. If the Times were more honest and willing to admit its mistakes and biases, they would cease to be viewed as an arrogant and willfully deceitful villian.

HT: Alarming News.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Libs

[Don't worry -- no spoilers if you haven't seen it yet]

Much has been made of the political overtones in the new Star Wars movie. There are some pretty transparent anti-Bush comments, and Lucas has substantiated this view with his own comments about the movie and politics.

I do think that the "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" line and the accompanying "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes" were an intentional slap at Bush.

But it was a clumsy intentional slap at Bush, and didn't make sense in the context of the story.

In an earlier scene, Palpatine is trying to bring Anakin to the Dark Side. Anakin, as a Jedi would, thinks that the Dark Side is evil and he shouldn't go there. Palpatine says that the Jedis are too dogmatic and narrow-minded (sound like anyone to you?) and that, in order to understand the full potential of the Force, one must embrace all aspects of it in order to achieve balance*, sounding very much like a modern-day "Understand why the terrorists are mad at us, don't think they are evil," liberal.

This view, with the Jedi cast as absolutists in the service of good and the Sith as moral relativists, makes a lot more sense and is consistent with the rest of the series. But Lucas obviously didn't want to make a film that looked favorably on Bush. So he threw in the ham-handed switcheroo line, which makes absolutely no sense but is a feel-good slap at Bush.

Overall, though, not a bad movie. This morning I've been singing Weird Al's "Yoda" to myself.

UPDATE: I had missed this earlier Chrenkoff smack-down of Lucas. Chrenkoff, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, has a different view of who the Empire represents.

*This characterization of Palpatine's comments is borrowed from uncanny strange dejavu, who more eloquently recalled the gist of the comments than I could have.



Some guy over at the Washington Post still believes:

But in reality, no one has demonstrated conclusively whether the [Dan Rather Texas Air National Guard] documents are fake...

UPDATE: Powerline says what I was too speechless to say.

HT: Ace.


Pot, meet kettle

Senator George Voinovich won't vote to confirm John Bolton because he thinks Bolton has a temper problem. Apparently, Voinovich never likes to see a man put his hands on his hips.

Now Powerline has a story about Voinovich's temper. Voinovich threw a tantrum when his plane was delayed due to security for President Clinton. Voinovich ordered his pilot to disobey FAA instructions and take off anyway, then challenged the control tower to "shoot us down."

Personally, I'd rather have a U.N. Ambassador that ocassionally puts his hands on his hips.

Thank you, meat eaters!

They are clear-cutting the Amazon rainforest to grow cattle feed. Every time you eat a steak or a hamburger, you are contributing to this.

You vote for Democrats, you don't like fur, and you don't want drilling in ANWAR. But when saving the environment affects your ability to stuff your fat face with hormone-laden dead animals, you can't be bothered. Sense a little hypocrisy?

Filibuster poll

Wow. The public doesn't like judicial filibusters.

With polls like these, the Democrats will be looking for a face-saving option: something just short of total surrender that they will be able to cling to.

HT: PoliPundit.

On poker, Democrats, and Bolton

Daniel Henninger at OpinionJournal has a multi-pointed column this morning. Gems:
I think the Democrats have as much chance of winning the public with obstruction politics as they did of winning the past two presidential elections: close but not close enough.

If the nation's most popular sport now is poker, then the Democrats have become the party of the constant inside straight. They hold a politically competitive hand, but not a winning hand.

and on Bolton:
If George Bush had given up on the U.N., he'd have nominated a place-holder, not this linebacker. Talk to reformers inside the U.N., and they will tell you that its lifer bureaucracy is hopeless and destructive of the U.N.'s purposes. Mark Malloch Brown, Kofi Annan's chief of staff, said in our offices that rather than a nice, placid soul from the Upper East Side, he preferred a John Bolton who had the ear of the U.S. President, without which the U.N. cannot succeed in its reforms, notably stiffening its peacekeeping function.

Corporate bankruptcy

Bill Fleckenstein has a gem on the bankruptcy system buried in his most recent column:
The flawed bankruptcy "system" is also part of the reason why many of these troubled industries continue to get more troubled, rather than healthier. The first one into bankruptcy gets a lower cost structure and ultimately starts a price war -- eventually dragging its competitors into bankruptcy as well. Given that all of this is occurring when times have been relatively good, one can only imagine the types of problems that will emerge when times get tough in the not-so-distant future.

United's pension default is a shocking reminder that in Corporate America, nobody's word is worth very much. A person can slave away his whole life for the company and then be informed: "We're not going to give you what we told you we

We saw it happen first with WorldCom/MCI in the telecom business, and now we're seeing it in the airline business. Irresponsible companies commit fraud or default on their pension or other obligations, then simply file for bankruptcy and emerge leaner and meaner. Companies that played by the rules and/or negotiated sensible pension arrangements are then put at a competitive disadvantage.

It's certainly a contributor to disinflation, which is what the Fed wants, but it's not good for economic growth or the stock market, to say nothing of the shafted retirees.

UPDATE: George Will goes into more detail about the PBGC in the column referred to in the Comments below by IPFreely and Slate's Daniel Gross has a column loaded with facts and figures that illustrate the magnitude of the problem.

Most of these commentaries, though, avoid getting at the root cause of the problem: unrealistic pension assumptions. Extremely loose accounting standards basically allow companies to make up whatever numbers they want when forecasting investment returns. So if a company wants to stop putting money into its pension plan, it just says, "No worries! We believe our pension investments will grow 10% per year forever. So we don't have to fund the pension plan any more!"

To see how unrealistic these return assumptions are, do the math. Assume a typical 60% stock / 40% bond pension plan. If the fund is earning 5.1% on its bonds, a full percentage point over the 10-year Treasury yield, it has to earn more than 13% annually on its stocks to make the total fund return 10%. With dividend yields at a sickly 2%, that means we'd need earnings growth of 11% annually for the long term. How the entire stock market grows earnings 11% annually in an era of 3-4% GDP growth is beyond me.

If you are an employee of a company with a traditional pension plan, or if you are a shareholder, find out what your company's pension return assumptions are. They are in the annual report. If it's anywhere near 10%, you're not dealing with an honest company.


France hears from its neighbors

It's unanimous! France sucks.
Language, history, cooking and support for rival football teams still divide Europe. But when everything else fails, one glue binds the continent together: hatred of the French....

... the French are the worst company on the planet... They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour...

Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless." However, the French may be more shocked by the views of other nations.

For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous." The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching." In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants."

Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty."

But the knockout punch to French pride came in the way the poll was conducted. People were not asked what they hated in the French, just what they thought of them.

"Interviewees were simply asked an open question - what five adjectives sum up the French," said Olivier Clodong, one of the study's two authors and a professor of social and political communication at the Ecole Superieur de Commerce, in Paris. "The answers were overwhelmingly negative."

I'm guessing that won't help the upcoming French vote on the EU Constitution.

Fortunately, however, somebody still loves the French!

HT: Normblog.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!

The Democrats appear to lack the votes to block Bolton.


Senator Easily Amazed

Senator Rick Santorum, who will lose his re-election bid next year, has some kooky ideas. He's already been nicknamed "Senator Man-on-Dog" for bringing up pooch-screwing and pederasty when asked about about homosexuality in an interview.

Now Santorum sees the hand of God in lights on timers:
He recalls the meeting in which Karen's doctor raised the option of abortion. "We were in one of these little rooms, and it had one of those lights with a timer on it." As soon as the word "abortion" escaped the doctor's mouth, the light in the office went off. "It was eerie," he says, "really eerie."

That's eerie, all right. I bet he mortifies the flesh every morning when his sprinklers come on.


Urgent Grams

John Kerry is asking people to send "Urgent Grams" via his web site to send messages to Bill Frist.

I sent mine:

Dear Senator Frist,

I am sending this "Urgent Gram" because John Kerry URGENTLY needs at least a GRAM of Valium. He is totally freaking out about judicial nominees. As a physician, I know you can prescribe it for him.

W.C. Varones

I encourage you to send yours.

HT: GOP and the City via Polipundit.

Kofi Annan: don't look to the UN on international security issues

In a USA Today interview, Kofi Annan wants nothing to do with resolving the Iranian nuclear problem. When asked if the Security Council was the proper venue for the issue, he responded:

I think were the Iran nuclear issue to be referred to the Council, the members would have to be keenly aware that any decision they make will set a precedent. Their action or inaction will have a great impact on future cases and on our efforts to promote nulcear nonproliferation.

Translation: If the Security Council addresses the issue, China and Russia will veto any serious action. This will once and for all expose the U.N. as totally impotent in resolving any serious international disputes.

Well, at least Annan finally admits that the U.N. can't fulfill its Charter:


Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

So if Annan finally admits what some of us have known for a long time, that the U.N. is totally incapable of doing what it was created to do, why are we still funding it?

HT: OpinionJournal's Best of the Web.


Why I didn't vote for George W. Bush

Puttering around in the ancient history volumes of the Internet archives, I came across this list, which reminded me why I didn't vote for George W. Bush.

HT: The dormant (or desaparecido?) San Francisco Republican.

Filibusters:a modest proposal

CJ at GOPbloggers is worried that the Republicans will lose the PR war even if they successfully use the "nuclear option."

CJ proposes a better strategy: let the Democrats filibuster. Let them go on C-SPAN for days on end and make asses of themselves. Let them be blamed for shutting down the government this time.

I agree, at least with the strategy to let the Democrats do themselves in. I'm not so sure an up-or-down vote will be harmful to the Republicans, though.

HT: Instapundit.

I'll take the CDMA phone, please.

GSM appears to cause brain cancer.

Yes, the story is by the notoriously French Agence France Presse, but it's legit. This story will hit the U.S. news services soon.

The Pianist

A classical pianist has washed up on shore in England:

His suit and tie were dripping wet and he wouldn't say a word despite his agitation. But when hospital staff showed the mysterious man a piano, he started playing and wouldn't stop for two hours.

The man was found wandering the streets in a coastal town in southeast England over a month ago and he has refused to communicate ever since, except through music.

"I cannot get within a yard of him without him becoming very anxious," said Michael Camp, the social worker assigned to the tall blond man dubbed the "Piano Man" by hospital staff. "Yet at the piano he comes alive."

Staff at Medway Maritime Hospital launched a search Monday for anyone who knows the man, who is in his 20s or early 30s and was found April 7 in the coastal town of Sheerness. He is being treated at a psychiatric unit in nearby Dartford.

I can't help wondering if this is some sort of publicity stunt, or performance art. Cynical Americans!


Needle in a haystack

Mickey Kaus finds a post worth reading in the unbelievably awful Huffington Post, which is full of hundreds of pointless posts from dozens of irrelevant minor celebrities. The post is an insider's view of education reform and its potential and its obstacles. It's just a teaser, though. Mike Piscal promises to fill in the details in later posts.

Actually, "minor celebrities" is an overstatement of who these people are. Aside from occasionally recognizable names like Mike McCurry and Larry David, most of these people are total unknowns. Who are they, Huffington's kitchen staff and pool boys?

Newsweek kills!

Shoddy reporting led to riots that killed 16 and injured 100.

As those brilliantly poetic lefties might say, "Newsweek lied! People died!"

HT: Ace.

Summertime reading

I've just read a couple of great books that I have to recommend. Neither is new, and both got a lot of press when they came out. It just took me a while to get around to reading them. If you, like me, missed them the first time around, here's your chance to go get them.

The first is Tomorrow Is Another Country by Allister Sparks, a long-time South African journalist. It's a play-by-play telling of South Africa's transition, from Nelson Mandela's imprisonment to his presidency. While I'm worried about South Africa's future under the less-than-Mandela-like Thabo Mbeke, the story of the peaceful transition is amazing.

The second book is Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, which sets the ambitious goal of finding the root causes for European dominance over other societies, and in my view completely succeeds in this goal. Diamond is a real-life Indiana Jones, a brilliant professor and student of many disciplines who spends time in remote corners of the world to study cultures, botany, and linguistics. It's amazing that one person could put together such a comprehensive, multidisciplinary book. I lack the words to recommend it strongly enough.

UPDATE: The Rude Pundit has some interesting observations about the reading habits of El Presidente.

UPDATE on the UPDATE: A plausable explanation (from the evil genius mind of Karl Rove?).

France rides to Blair's rescue

I've been watching the flip-flopping French polls on the E.U. Constitution referendum. Now, it looks like the French are leaning towards "no."

The Constitution was probably dead anyway, as the Brits and/or others would have voted no, so the most significant result of a French "no" is Tony Blair's avoidance of a major embarassment.

Blair, usually an astute politician and a good man, stupidly lashed himself to the mast of the E.U. Constitution Titanic. He faced a humiliating rejection at the polls that could have seriously boosted a leadership challenge from within his already agitated Labour Party. If the French vote "no," Blair will have dodged a bullet -- and his chances of serving a full term will increase dramatically.


Former BBC insider speaks out on bias

A former BBC insider is writing a book on bias at the BBC.

The BBC is like America's PBS, but much, much worse. Like PBS, the BBC uses taxpayer money to brainwash the populace with leftist propaganda. PBS, however, has a pretty small budget and isn't watched by many people. The BBC, on the other hand, has a massive budget and a large audience, both inside Britain and around the world.

What's worse is that the BBC is funded by an outrageous annual TV fee of £126.50 ($234) that must be paid by anyone who owns a TV. That's more than some TVs cost in the first place! And you have to pay even if you hate the BBC and never watch it.

The fee is enforced by TV Gestapo vans that drive around with equipment that can detect TVs inside your house. The TV Gestapo can then enter your house to find illegal TVs. I am not making this up. It happened to some close friends of mine when I lived in London.

UPDATE: Helen corrects me in the comments below. Apparently, the vans' detection capabilities may be fake, and citizens technically have the right to refuse entrance to the TV Gestapo. I would think, though, that many people are not sufficiently aware of or confident in their rights to resist the TV Gestapo. I know that my friends were led to believe they had no choice in the matter.

HT: Polipundit.



... as Homer would say.

I'm out of contact with the world in an undisclosed tropical paradise, and the world stops! I check e-mail and news and nothing has happened: no action on the filibusters, no action on John Bolton, and only a couple firecrackers at the British Consulate in New York.

If the world can't be more interesting than this, I may have to return to poolside pina coladas.


Stupid Belgian tricks

Belgian doctors are trying to bill the U.S. Embassy for treating an Iraqi girl.

I can't top Alarming News's response:

How about this: We'll pay the Belgians' medical bills when they compensate us for saving them from Hitler.

Doesn't Belgium have socialized medicine? They wouldn't discriminate against immigrants or visitors, right?

Missiles for China: OK. Space tourism for Britain: no way!

Your government at work: technology export rules are hindering Richard Branson's efforts to launch a space tourism company using technology licensed from American aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan.

Under the Clinton administration, big Democrat donor Bernie Schwartz and his company, Loral, gave missile technology to communist China, and walked away with a slap on the wrist. But Burt Rutan can't help Richard Branson, a citizen of America's closest ally, build a space bus for rich tourists?

HT: IPFreely.


The filibuster solution

TigerHawk has a great solution to the Senate showdown over filibusters: make the filibusterers actually filibuster! Jack Kemp proposed the same thing last year.

Under the current rules, obstructionists in the Senate can block a vote on anything without actually having to stand up and filibuster. If they were required to argue their point for hours on end, they might think twice about using the filibuster so often.

HT: Instapundit.

John Kerry won't go away

I've had a few offline comments about the Kerry clock from PoliPundit on the top of my blog. People think that Kerry is old news and irrelevant, so there's no point beating a dead horse by leaving the Kerry clock up there.

I would like to agree. Everyone knows that Kerry is a pathetic joke whose 15 minutes of fame are up. Everyone, that is, except John Kerry. He still believes the Democrats will trust him to carry the standard in 2008. After all, he was such a compelling candidate in 2004!

No, the Kerry clock stays on the blog until the delusional Senator Kerry either signs the 180 or stops pretending he's a legitimate candidate.

I used to have a visceral revulsion to Hillary Clinton. John Kerry, however, is succeeding in making her look not only moderate, but also competent and electable. The longer Kerry stays around, the better Hillary's odds in 2008.

HT: PoliPundit.

The disinformation and election interference is coming from inside the house

The FBI just admitted in court that Hunter Biden's laptop is real. Here are 20 minutes of Joe Biden, U.S. intelligence officials, and th...