Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Whither Barack?

Barack Obama is having a rough patch.

His association with Jeremiah Wright has been dogging him for weeks, now, perhaps accounting primarily for a flattening of Obama's polling. And Wright just spent the weekend with a devastating set of public appearances.

Wright made clear where he stands politically, for those who sustained any doubt. And Obama, who in his early fire-stomping exercise over Wright had excused his pastor based on how well he knew him and thus the true nature of Wright's views, did a turnabout, saying that perhaps he did not recognize the Wright from this weekend and perhaps did not know him after all.

The media have begun to glom onto the young Senator's associations in the wake of the Wright weekend, such as with a story on (former terrorist) Bill Ayers in The New York Daily News (hat tip to Hugh Hewitt)

But listen to Ayers interviewed in The New York Times on Sept. 11, 2001, of all days: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

Though never a supporter of Obama, I admired him for a time for his ability to engage our imaginations, and especially for his ability to inspire theyoung once again to embrace the political system. Yet his myopia in the last few months has cast a new light on his "politics ofchange."

Nobody should hold the junior senator from Illinois responsible for his friends' and supporters' violent terrorist acts. But it is fair to hold him responsible for a startling lack of judgment in his choice of mentors, associates and friends, and for showing a callous disregard for the lives they damaged and the hatred they have demonstrated for this country.

So what does this shift in the emphasis on coverage mean?

First, it means that Hillary Clinton stays in the game a little longer. She has her shoe wedged against the door, keeping it ajar. Rush Limbaugh has made a to-do about suspending "Operation Chaos"--clearly to imply that Obama may have received a mortal political wound. And it's worth pointing out that Gallup's recent daily tracking polls have Sen. Clinton with a slight edge over Sen. McCain while Obama polls dead even against the presumptive GOP candidate. The Clinton versus Obama polling shows a dead heat among Democrats.

But the recent events simply cannot significantly affect the facts on the ground in the Democratic nomination battle. Blacks remain wedded to the Obama candidacy, and Obama's pledged delegate lead is insurmountable even if he cannot reach the required number. Clinton's only shot is a long one: The superdelegates see a late primary surge for Clinton while she significantly outperforms Obama in head-to-head polling against McCain--and that has to outweigh the potential for alienating black Democratic voters.

Either way, the outcome offers some hope to the GOP. If Obama wins the nomination, the questions about his associations linger until they appear resolved--and the press isn't likely to let it go no matter how much Obama might make them otherwise swoon.

If Clinton wins, the Democratic Party will be fractured to some degree. Clinton has magnified her negatives among Democrats, and the party may even fracture significantly if she captures the nomination (some think that if Obama accepts the V.P. slot on the Clinton ticket that black voters will go along with it).

In any case, it's safe to say that Wright has rocked Barack.


Yet more good news from Iraq

April 28 , 2008: After a month of fighting, the Mahdi Army has disappeared from the streets of Basra, the largest city in the south. The army and police are everywhere, and people are providing information on where Mahdi Army personnel are hiding out, and the locations of their weapons caches. Up north, in the Sadr City section of east Baghdad, the Mahdi Army is still fighting hard. But the army and police have the upper hand, and are pushing the Shia militiamen back block by block. Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al Sadr has responded by threatening to order his men to go after American troops if the government does not back off. That's won't work, because the Mahdi Army is not particularly skillful, and not very united either.
Despite the gloom and doom picture painted in the American mainstream press, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's confrontation with the Mahdi Army is turning out rather well.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Wright running to the left of Obama

In this video clip, Rev. Wright appears to confirm that Barack Obama's repudiations consist of political calculation rather than principle.


Unless we're just talking about the principle of getting elected.

Sorry for the wild ride while I refined the size of the video.


The doors of the Bull MRAP

I've posted a few times regarding what I see as a small mystery respecting the Ideal/Ceradyne/Oshkosh Bull MRAP.

As documented here, MRAP II includes a requirement for side doors.

And, as noted in the post linked just above, the available photos of the Bull show no evidence of side doors as such. Defense-related literature notes the deliberate intent of the Bull designers to omit the presence of doors in order to help ensure a more secure cabin space. As well, it has been pointed out that the windows of the Bull may be hinged to serve as escape hatches.

Perhaps hinged windows represent the Bull's attempt to meet the MRAP II requirement for side doors. I don't count that as settled fact.

From time to time, my amateur musings about MRAPs and JLTVs get linked from discussion boards dealing with investment, my questions regarding the Bull included. In one such thread I found the following, posted by "Amanda" (amandabreczinski):
This is going back to the original documents related to the process of procuring vehicles for MRAP II testing, specifically the DOD Q&A session with industry as stated below;

Q. 23
Reference: Performance Specification

Survivability is enhanced by the uniform application of armor across the side body of the crew compartment. An interruption of that uniformity may create a ballistic weak point in the armor.

Are the driver’s and co-driver’s doors required to be on the side of the vehicle?

If so, is the classified requirement for side protection also applicable for driver’s side door and seams?


Are the terms “door” and “hatch” interchangeable?

The information, though valuable (and not readily available over the Internet prior to Amanda posting it from what I can tell), is not particularly surprising, but it does not entirely resolve small mystery regarding the Bull's side doors.

Obviously the DOD finds the Bull an attractive option since the vehicle has made it to the last stages of competition. That is simply part of the mystery, since the mere fact that the Bull has made it this far does not give the vehicle side doors. It simply means that DOD finds much to like with the vehicle--perhaps enough to overlook part of the MRAP II requirement.

The mystery here is not concern the presence or lack of side doors/hatches or however they are termed. The MRAP II requirement calls for ingress/egress from "doors," and if "door" and "hatch" are interchangeable then MRAP II expressly calls for ingress/egress from the vehicle doors.

That is where the apparent problem comes in. An escape hatch is not necessarily a point of ingress. In the case of the Bull, it is difficult to imagine routine ingress by the driver or co-driver through any of the side window "hatches" ("doors").

From the list of MRAP II requirements:
Vehicle doors shall enable the 5th percentile female to 95 percentile male in full combat gear to rapidly ingress and egress the vehicle in response to tactical needs in full combat gear. (T) Full combat gear includes helmet, Body Armor, weapons, and all body borne equipment.
The list of requirements does not appear to unequivocally demand that the side doors must be used to accommodate additional requirements for rapid egress (for tactical purposes) of the vehicle crew, nor the requirement reproduced just above. But it seems obvious that more doors makes rapid loading and unloading of the crew easier to achieve in general.

So, in sum, a minor mystery remains in the question of how the Bull as it currently appears meets those sets of requirements, even if window hatches meet the technical requirement for side doors.

If you climb out that window, it looks like a pretty long drop to the ground to me.


Devil Rays sweep Red Sox

First baseball post of the season, still owing to my simmering anger at the ridiculous name-change initiated by the otherwise admirable Sternberg ownership and management.

The devil ray stays on one sleeve of the new uniform as the lone relic of the team's real name.

But enough about that. As stupid as the Sun Ray aspect of the team is, sweeping the Red Sox is sweet. I don't hate the Sox like the Yankees, but Red Sox fan down here is even worse than Yankee fan. It's wonderful to send them home with three straight disappointments.

James Shields pitched a terrific game, giving up just two hits in 9 innings of work to beat Boston hurler Josh Beckett. The final was 3-0.

The really encouraging thing about the team is that they haven't started to hit yet. It remains to be seen if this lineup will produce runs like last year's (Delmon Young's bat will be missed, I think), but the pitching has really come together thus far. The team is over .500 with many key hitters hovering around the Mendoza line.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

An alternative to bloghopping

I haven't done as much bloghopping over the past year as during the previous year. Part of that trend stems from the difficulty I've had finding good arguments at liberal blogs (you can fault me for not visiting the correct liberal blogs and for poor taste in good arguments if you wish).

I've engaged in a number of political, philosophical and theological arguments at a message board run by the Center for Inquiry. I have the impression that CFI is more-or-less a church organization for atheists and secular humanists. Recently they were in the news for having written a critique of the textbook criticized by high school student Matthew LaClair--already a minor celebrity because of his involvement in the brouhaha over a teacher who supposedly was preaching in the classroom (the newspapers went whole hog with that take--I found the evidence lacking).

As I enjoy arguing against capable opposition, I've had a good bit of fun at the CFI forum between my various brush-ups with the site leaders who sometimes express concern about my tone and general attitude. Which leads me to my reason for blogging about the discussion forum.

Another Christian (a Roman Catholic) posting at CFI started a thread called "Ask a Christian" but he ceased his participation in his own thread over time. Some days ago I started fielding some of the leftover questions, which resulted in a new raft of questions. Eventually the conversation drew out "dougsmith," who presented a relatively elegant argument from outrage as a problem for Christianity. After a few back and forth exchanges, this CFI member complained that I was using his name. Seriously. He said I'd made a habit of using his name and that of others (which I gather makes the practice even worse).
I’m going to skip all the diversionary attacks in the prior part of the message, and the constant repetition of my name, which seems to be a focus of your messages no matter who you’re talking to. If you’re concerned about these discussions becoming overly personalized, repeating someone’s name while taking issue with them is an odd way of depersonalizing things.
(CFI forum)
This is the kind of thing that evidently sets Doug on edge:

For that instance I would also bring to bear the other factor that I’ve already mentioned: the covenant. The people gathered before God and made a deal to follow the laws God gave them in return for God’s blessings. When Doug mentions the account of the folks stoned for collecting firewood he curiously omits that aspect of the problem; the text (Numbers 15) appears to indicate that the man who collected firewood would likely have been present to agree to the covenant.

By way of analogy, we might suppose that Doug agrees to put a dollar into a workplace fund every time he says “dammit!” And then we get the moral dilemma: Is it morally right to charge somebody a dollar just because he says “dammit!”? Context matters.

(bold emphasis added)

Here's another one where I make the debate personal with name-dropping:
More interesting, I think, is the way Doug leaves out both the context of my specific complaints about things he was leaving out as well as the present context (the fact that he is implicitly presenting the passage with the comment that it represents clear immorality). That on top of avoiding my questions, in particular my attempt to resolve an issue via Socratic dialog. Perhaps Doug sees himself as the prosecutor addressing a witness at trial.
And a particularly nasty one (I imagine):
It isn’t clear that you can describe such a compass in the first place, Doug, even given completely free reign. The poison you’ve prepared for the well is dilute.
You skipped the opportunity to demonstrate the “plainly immoral” nature of the commandments in favor of trying to get me to settle on one that I would contradict. Remember?
It's a mystery to me why one would object to having his name used in this manner, though I can sympathize in a small way with some ... disorientation owing to my sometimes-habit of alternating between addressing the one to whom I am replying and the other participants.

The debate, for those curious, concerned Doug's (I'm going to risk using the name since it's my blog) assertion that certain acts or statutes of God were clearly immoral. I challenged his basis for that declaration, and he responded by fashioning his argument to get me to declare one of God's actions immoral instead of establishing the supposedly clear immorality as an objective fact. It was a good strategy on his part, albeit making up for a problematic opening.

One area where he has been particularly impressive lately is his avoidance of my questions to him, to my amusement. And, by the way, I've immediately stopped using his name in my replies to him now that I've discovered that it apparently bothers him.

I expect to blog some of my general impressions over time. One not-unexpected impression is that there are some genuinely likable folks posting there along with some who are somewhat less likable. Average people in that respect. That has been my general experience in debating atheist and skeptical types over the years.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Steyn nails it

During an interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show, columnist Mark Steyn indicated bemusement at Nora Ephron's column that distills the Pennsylvania primary down to white males' response to identity politics.

Steyn's written response encapsulates the predominant reality:
... Nora Ephron's sneer over at The Huffington Post about whether Pennsylvania's embittered white men are more racist than they're sexist or vice-versa gets things completely upside down. The embittered white men are just about the only demographic weighing these candidates on their merits. The significant proportion of women and blacks in the Democratic base for whom identity politics trumps all is what's stopping either candidate from gaining the momentum that would have emerged in a contest between two squaresville dead European males. It's the identity-uber-alles blocs that prevent the black guy from finishing off the feminist or vice-versa.
(National Review)


Saturday, April 19, 2008

AAAAAAAGH! Reporters! (Updated)

McClatchy News is all over the newly published report that calls the Iraq War a "debacle."

Sounds like just the sort of thing that will vindicate Senators Obama and (to a lesser extent) Clinton, doesn't it?
WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.
Whoa. Things are going downhill, apparently.

Here's what I take to be the nut graph (second paragraph overall):
The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.
The sixth paragraph is the one that informs us that the report was written in the Fall of 2007. So much for "fresh doubts."
"Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt," said the report.
Oh. Well, that doesn't sound quite as bad. There was always some doubt about the ultimate outcome. I was among those concerned beforehand regarding the relationship between Iraq's various social groups, based on their history.

Twelfth paragraph, quoting the report:
"For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a 'must win,' but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a 'can't win.'"
In terms of news, this viewpoint from the author is buried at the bottom of the inverted pyramid, the journalistic practice of frontloading the most important part of the story and adding the details in decreasing order of importance. The entire story was 19 paragraphs long.

The report analyzed the execution of the war and found it wanting. Not fresh.

The report talked about polls. Having been written in the Fall ... not fresh.

In terms of freshness, the best that can be said is that the report was newly published. Second place is the fresh load of manure from the mainstream press as it stamps its opinion indelibly on the story via the style of delivery.


Small Wars Journal provides the antidote for Landay-Walcott Syndrome via their contact with report author Joseph J. Collins:

The Miami Herald piece on a NDU "occasional paper" (Choosing War: The Decision to Invade Iraq and Its Aftermath), quoted alternately as a Pentagon or NDU study, raised some flags here at SWJ. So we asked the author, Joseph Collins, to provide some context. His reply:

The Miami Herald story ("Pentagon Study: War is a 'Debacle' ") distorts the nature of and intent of my personal research project. It was not an NDU study, nor was it a Pentagon study. Indeed, the implication of the Herald story was that this study was mostly about current events. Such is not the case. It was mainly about the period 2002-04. The story also hypes a number of paragraphs, many of which are quoted out of context. The study does not "lay much of the blame" on Secretary Rumsfeld for problems in the conduct of the war, nor does it say that he "bypassed the Joint Chiefs of Staff." It does not single out "Condoleeza Rice and Stephen Hadley" for criticism.
There's more where that came from, so pay Small Wars Journal a visit.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Conservative blogs almost always link to other conservative blogs

Via the conservative blog LiberalLand and Nicholas Kristof:

This nugget is from his Thursday column on the Wednesday night debate, where he makes an “eye of the beholder” argument.

…liberal blogs overwhelmingly link to other liberal blogs or news sources. But with conservative blogs, the tendency is much more pronounced; it is almost a sealed universe.

For what it's worth.


Smoky correction from The New York Times regarding McCain story

Power Line notes that The New York Times finally got around to a correction of sorts to the Bumiller-Rohter story I posted about here (not that the Power Line folks took note of my post; they posted their own commentary somewhat after I published mine):
Because of an editing error, an article last Thursday about foreign policy advisers to Senator John McCain referred incorrectly to an error he made at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 8. He briefly referred to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a Shiite group, rather than a Sunni group; he did not repeat an error during the hearing that he had made on a trip to the Middle East last month when he said several times that he was concerned that Iran, a Shiite nation, was training Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a Sunni group. (Go to Article)
As Scott Johnson notes, the Times (almost defiantly) emphasizes the dubious former claims of supposed McCain errors. The Times' presentation makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint the error made by the Times. If that was by design, it was well done.

The error at the Times continues to rate as more severe than the supposed errors by McCain.


Lockheed Martin JLTV not a direct descendent of MRAP

A Lockheed Martin official was recently quoted in The Ithaca Journal regarding the company's approach to force protection in the next generation Humvee.
Lockheed said its vehicle offering relies more on situational awareness to avoid and communicate threats versus additional armor for survival.

“Today's brute force approach to survivability is based on adding more armor,” said Louis DeSantis, vice president and general manager of Ground Vehicle Systems at Lockheed in Owego. “Our holistic approach to JLTV survivability sees armor as a last resort.”

Lockheed said its vehicle also features excellent mobility, weapons and countermeasures to neutralize threats, and a new armor composition combined with a hull and structural design for protection if an attack cannot be avoided. The Lockheed-led JLTV team includes BAE Systems Mobility & Protection Systems, Alcoa Defense and JWF — Defense Systems

The quotation about "armor as a last resort" stands out. And it makes sense as a strategy.

For all the protection it offers, the sheer weight of MRAP armor severely limits the tactical applications for MRAPs, as illustrated by the cutback on MRAP orders by the Marines along with numerous stories of MRAPs straining bridges and negotiating the urban environment with difficulty. Effective avoidance of mines and ambush is the superior strategy--if it works. Most likely the countermeasures will add a new dimension to the technological aspect of the contest with terrorists. Enemies will come up with ways to beat current countermeasures, and new countermeasures will be developed to meet the threat.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There you go again, New York Times

I just e-mailed The New York Times requesting a correction of the Bumiller/Rohter fiction extravaganza I wrote about last week.

And the next thing I read from the Times is in the same biased ballpark.

The paper of record dutifully (gleefully?) reported on an Iraqi unit that abandoned its post in Sadr City, Iraq. An American officer argued with the Iraqi commander to get him to hold his ground.

Captain Veath’s pleas failed, and senior American and Iraqi commanders mounted an urgent effort to regain the lost ground. An elite Iraqi unit was rushed in and with the support of the Americans began to fight its way north.

This episode was a blow to the American effort to push the Iraqis into the lead in the struggle to wrest control of parts of Sadr City from the Mahdi Army militia and what Americans and Iraqis say are Iranian-backed groups.

(The New York Times)

The first sentence of the second paragraph could pass for news analysis with no difficulty whatsoever. I could find no notice in the online version to indicate that it was intended as other than news.

As analysis, how does it stack up? A blow to the effort to get Iraqis to take the lead in Sadr City fighting, eh? How big of a blow could it have been when an Iraqi unit took the place of the deserting unit?

I heard Michael Yon praise the work of a number of mainstream press reporters the other day during a radio interview. I don't recall whether Michael R. Gordon was one of them.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cougar 4x4's will wear the name "Ridgeback" with the Brits

Via "Defence of the Realm":
After what seem interminable delays – with the announcement having made in Parliament in December – a formal notification has been made to Congress that the UK is looking to buy 157 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles with associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $125 million.

These are the Force Protection 4x4 Cougars which, in British service, will be named "Ridgebacks" and, although the order has not been formally placed with Force Protection, this is the final stage of clearance before a sale can go ahead. It would seem reasonable now to assume that we will shortly be hearing the final details of a contract with the British government.
Force Protection's weak rival (reorganized to avoid bankruptcy last we checked) Protected Vehicles Inc. must be slightly miffed that their "Ridgeback" MRAP isn't the vehicle being sold to the British. PVI marketed its Golan MRAP to the British but the Cougar/Ridgeback came out on top.

I had assumed that the new Cougar order would be up-armored into a new set of Mastiffs, currently in service in Iraq and Afghanistan for our British allies. As it turns out, the Cougar is the Mastiff and the Cougar is the Ridgeback, but a Mastiff isn't a Ridgeback. It could have been worse. The Ridgeback could have been the Mastiff while the Cougar was the Ridgeback where the Cougar was not also the Mastiff.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cheetah "excellent start" toward Force Protection JLTV

I've posted before about the role of the Force Protection Cheetah in the JLTV program. Force Protection reportedly pitched the vehicle for MRAP II, apparently in anticipation of the need for a faster and lighter version of a mine-protected vehicle.

The armed services played wait-and-see while accelerating the JLTV program intended to replace the Humvee.

And I've taken a few stabs at guessing to what degree the Cheetah is supposed to fit the JLTV requirements. A recent story in the Charleston City Paper provides a quotation from a company official that sheds some light on the issue.

The big money is rightly moving past the MRAP industry to the next big thing. The military has commissioned specs for streamlined light, well-protected vehicles known as JLTVs, that are expected to be the next generation Humvees. But those won't be ready until 2014 or 2015, Moody said, potentially opening a window for a transition vehicle Force Protection calls the Cheetah — a faster, lighter Cougar.

"The development of the Cheetah gives us an excellent start on developing a vehicle for the JLTV," he said. "There is no doubt that this program is going to see an intense level of competition. The potential size of the JLTV program is in the tens of billions of dollars."


Force Protection scores with sale to Brits

April 10 (Reuters) - Shares of Force Protection Inc (FRPT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) rose more than 8 percent on Thursday, a day after the armored vehicle maker said the U.S. Defense Department approved the sale of its mine-resistant vehicles worth $125 million to Britain. The British government had requested the sale of 157 mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) Cougar vehicles built by the company for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
The Brits seem quite taken with the Cougar/Mastiff. The shift of the U.S. armed forces to the Caiman, MaxxPro and RG-33 has been a nice coincidence for our allies across the pond, since delivery on their order will likely accelerate as a result.


McCain still confusing Shiite with Sunni?

I call shenanigans on Elizabeth Bumiller, Larry Rohter and The New York Times.

A story by the two reporters associating McCain with the dreaded "neocon" influence on his foreign policy, but took the time to recycle the recent bad reporting with respect to some supposed McCain gaffes:
In a trip to the Middle East last month, Mr. McCain made an embarrassing mistake when he said several times that he was concerned that Iran was training Al Qaeda in Iraq. (The United States believes that Iran, a Shiite country, has been training Shiite extremists in Iraq, but not Al Qaeda, a Sunni insurgent group.) He repeated the mistake on Tuesday at hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Leaving aside the unsourced claim regarding the beliefs of the United States, McCain did what during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing????
Presumptive Republican John McCain gave the impression he was temporarily confused about al-Qaida in Iraq during his questioning of Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military official in Iraq, at a Senate hearing yesterday.

After asking Gen. Petraeus whether al-Qaida was still a major threat in the war-torn country, a question Gen. Petraeus answered with the explanation, "It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was, say, 15 month ago," Mr. McCain added, "Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites over all." Gen. Petraeus interjected a "no" and Mr. McCain quickly added "or the Sunnis or anybody else."
(The Bulletin)
The Bumiller/Rohter/Times gaffe is the greater of the two.

Why are you so angry, Bumiller?


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

One more post on Elspeth Reeve (Beauchamp)

I ran across a suitable postscript for my tentative final assessment of the Elspeth Reeve portion of the TNR/Scott Thomas/Scott Beauchamp saga.

I had judged that Elspeth Reeve shares some of the fault for the problems at TNR for not taking note of the ethical quagmire of fact-checking hubby's stories.
In an interview Friday, U.S. Army private Scott Thomas Beauchamp's wife Elspeth Reeve, a former reporter-researcher at The New Republic, told the Observer that she was excited when someone at the magazine assigned her to fact-check one of her husband's dispatches from Iraq.

“I was like, 'Sweet! I can talk to Scott on TNR’s dime!'” Ms. Reeve said.
(The New York Observer)
The blurb above attaches to a subsequent story also printed in the Observer. It makes Reeve appear a bit flakier than I suspected since she appears to stand behind Beauchamp's stories and provides no indication that she realizes that she stepped in ethical doo-doo by accepting the fact checking assignment. Though TNR rightly gets top billing in the blame department on that one.

clipped from
blog it

Best wishes to the happy couple; may they leave the TNR snafu far in their wake. And consider careers outside of journalism.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Maliki putting teeth in the anti-militia rhetoric?

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has followed up his military move against the Mahdi Army militia by demanding that it disband.

And that demand may have some teeth:
CNN reported Maliki has the backing of top Iraqi political leaders to bar all followers of Sadr from engaging in the Iraqi political process if the dismantling of the cleric's militia does not begin.
The al-Sadr voting bloc is on-again/off-again regarding its participation in the government. Booting them out makes their games of withdrawal ineffective. The move serves to confirm that that central Iraqi government finds its position increasingly stable.


The St. Petersburg Times on the $3 billion war

I'll add my commentary later.
clipped from

Suppose that, five years ago, President Bush had asked every American household to stump up $25,000 to pay for an imminent war on Iraq. How would they have responded?

[Getty Images]

Suppose that, five years ago, President Bush had asked every American household to stump up $25,000 to pay for an imminent war on Iraq. How would they have responded?

The Economist

The $3-trillion war

Bush never asked every American household to stump up $25,000 for the war. But this hefty sum is nonetheless just part of the toll the war may take on America by the time it is over, according to a new book by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, and Linda Bilmes, a budget and public finance expert at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

The picture of President Bush ... I guess that's justified by the question posed in the editorial (planned that way?).

"The Economist"

When I first started reading the piece, that line made me wonder. Did this supposedly appear in "The Economist"? Yes, it did--but the page layout was nothing like what the Times chose for its online presentation.

In the Times, the editorial seems to pass on the information from the Stiglitz/Bilmes book without any judgment, at least as evidenced by the traditional attention-getting features of the online presentation.

It is only well into the editorial, past where many readers' interest has terminated, that one finds the Stiglitz/Bilmes thesis brought to question:
They go on to pursue the war's trail through every twist and turn of the macroeconomic labyrinth. Here, their reasoning is a bit too ingenious. They argue, for example, that the government's spending abroad prevented it from giving America a needed fiscal boost at home. Even if you believe America has suffered from a shortfall of demand in the past five years, surely the blame cannot be pinned on the Iraq war. It must lie instead with the Federal Reserve, which is supposed to maintain full employment as best it can.

Indeed, what is remarkable is how small a macroeconomic price America has paid for its adventure. Not only has the war been financed by borrowing rather than taxes, but also the borrowing has been dirt cheap. Neo-imperialists worry that America has the responsibilities of a global superpower, but an electorate unwilling to shoulder them. For better or worse, though, the combination of volunteer soldiers, hired guns and Asian creditors has lightened the load.

(The Economist)

I should have done a screen capture on the Times version before they updated the page (the original URL for the clipping no longer features the same story or layout). Nonetheless, the comparison to the version used by The Economist tells us something.

The Times' presentation is misleading on account of the headline and layout.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Thomas Edsall examines the Clinton-Burkle connection

The campaign press statement accompanying the release on Friday of Hillary Clinton's 2000 - 2007 tax returns includes some useful summary data for the media: Bill and Hillary Clinton's total income over the past 8 years, $109 million; her Senate salary, $1.1 million; his presidential pension, $1.2 million; her book royalties, $10.5 million; his book royalties, $29.6 million; and his speaking fees, $51.9 million.

One big line item is missing from the press summary however: the $15 million paid to Bill Clinton between 2003 and 2007 by Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund.

In fact, the Burkle payments, buried deep in the income tax forms themselves, were the only real news in tax documents ...
(read more at The Huffington Post)
Edsall concludes that Bill Clinton played the role of a "door opener" for Yucaipa Global.

The story reinforces what should be common knowledge by now. The Clintons, for all their talk of "income gaps," CEO pay and the like are more than happy to rake in big $ for doing very little in return.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I want that

I want a version of the personal submarine that operates under pedal power, though.

But this is a good start.

clipped from
Personal U-Boat

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who purchased the lot next to the Obama house?

Rezko Watch has the goods in the form of circumstantial evidence. Here is a key graph:

When asked about possible assets held by his wife, Tony Rezko responded that his wife (no name) had some some land in Hyde Park she had sold the month before. Rezko said she had sold it for $120,000 in excess of the mortgage (he didn't say value, he said in excess of the mortgage). However, Tony Rezko said that the $120,000 went to pay the buyer for a previous debt and that she had not made one penny on the deal.
Visit Rezko Watch for the identity of the lot buyer/Obama donor/Rezko chum.


Obama flowing into the Clintonian mold

At least for a day:

Various fact check enterprises have judged Obama false on this point, but here we have him defending himself with gusto, even if his smooth delivery abandons him here and there during the exchange.

I suppose the question that should be posed to Obama, given his opposition to leaving occupying forces in other countries for a long period of time, would be whether he would withdraw U.S. trooops from Great Britain, Germany, Japan, and South Korea?
Forces Permanently Stationed Abroad
Just over 200,000 U.S. troops, mainly stationed in South Korea, Germany and Japan, are currently deployed abroad. This is actually a reduction of almost 50-percent since the Cold War era, when U.S. troop levels reached the 450,000 mark. U.S. forces stationed abroad are intended to prevent and put down any acts of aggression, or violations of human rights, and to maintain visibility as a stabilizing presence in the region.

Another rookie mistake.

Hat tip to Hot Air and Allahpundit.