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April 30, 2009

Map of confirmed and suspected H1N1 flu cases

Courtesy of the Emergency and Disaster Information Service, Budapest, and based on WHO data.

Air Force One photo flap was actually an evangelical conspiracy against Obama

...at least that's the working theory of one of the denizens of The Daily Kos (commenting on this AP article):
Probably Evangelicals in the USAF

trying to make Obama look bad.

by filipstudo on Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 12:22:55 PM PDT
There are a few clear-thinking folks on that thread, but they're outnumbered by those who believe that Obama can do no wrong.

(Photo credit)

Either the vice president knows something we don't know...

...or else Joe "Loose Cannon" Biden is being an unbelievably irresponsible panicmonger. He may genuinely feel that an overabundance of caution is necessary, but when the Vice President of the United States speaks like this in a public setting, people are going to be alarmed.

NBC New York this morning:

Vice president Joe Biden said today he would tell his family members not to use subways in the U.S. and implied schools should be shuttered as the swine flu outbreak spread to 11 states and forced school closures amid confirmation of the first U.S. death.

"I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said when asked whether he would advise family members to use public transportation.

Biden made his comments during a brief interview on NBC's "Today" show during an interview with Matt Lauer.

"I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that it's going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation suggesting they ride the subway. "

The vice president also implied that schools should be closed as the threat of swine flu increases.

"If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or a closed container or closed car or closed classroom it's a different thing."

After the interview, co-host Meredith Vieira and NBC's Chuck Todd discussed Biden's statement, wondering if the vice president really had intended to caution the American public to stay off public transportation and airplanes. They noted his comments seemed to contradict public statements by other high-ranked White House officials.

UPDATE: As Mark Finkelstein notes, ABC's Jake Tapper had White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gasping for air as the latter tried to "clarify" Biden's remarks:

As it often the case nowadays, it was questioning by ABC’s Jake Tapper that put Gibbs on the spot.

JAKE TAPPER: My other question has to do with remarks Vice-President Biden made this morning on television. Representatives of the travel industry have accused the Vice-President of coming close to fear-mongering because of his comments. I’m wondering if you wanted to clarify, or correct or apologize for the remarks that he made.

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, what the Vice-President meant to say [at this point, some laughter in the press corps can be heard] is that again, many members have said in the last few days: if you feel sick, if you’re exhibiting symptoms, flu-like symptoms: coughing, sneezing, runny nose, that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel. And I just think he just: what he said and what he meant to say.

TAPPER: With all due respect, and I sympathize with you trying to explain the Vice-President’s comments, but that’s not even remotely close to what he said. He was asked about if a member of his family were to –

GIBBS: I understand what he said, and I’m telling you what he meant to say, which was that –

At this point, the loud and unrestrained laughter of the press corps can be heard.

GIBBS: — if someone is experiencing symptoms, you heard the President last night, if someone is feeling sick, exhibiting symptoms of being sick, then they should take all necessary precautions. Obviously if anybody was unduly alarmed for whatever reason, we would apologize for that and I hope that my remarks and remarks of people at the CDC and Secretary Napolitano have appropriately cleared up what he meant to say.

You can see a video of the exchange at the above link.

April 29, 2009

Lamest attempt at en e-mail scam that I've seen in a long time

You would think that by now the folks that perpetrate the Nigerian-style e-mail scams (where someone offers you fabulous riches in exchange for just a little bit of your money) would have figured out some Basic Rules For Scam Composition. You have to establish a certain level of credibility in order to get your victim to bite.

Granted, different people have different thresholds of credibility, so the scammers have seen a good measure of success even when their messages have laughable formatting and atrocious grammar and spelling.

Today I received a scam message that was so bad, I had to conclude that either (1) someone is trying to break into the business and hasn't learned the rules yet, or (2) someone is researching human gullibility for his or her PhD dissertation.

Here's a screenshot of the message. Click to view a larger image.

The message body is quite illiterate, and should immediately cause a reader to ask: Why would a FedEx employee be entrusted with this task if she has the writing skills of a fifth grader?

Here's the text of the message, with original formatting preserved:*
Subject: CONFIRM OWNERSHIP (PARCEL) Via Mail fedexcustomerservices_dep23@yahoo.com.hk

We have been waiting for you to contact us. Your package itself is a Bank Draft which worth over $500,000.00.usd As you know, FedEx do not ship money in CASH or in CHEQUES but Bank Drafts are shippable.

However, you will have to pay a sum of $291.00 USD to the FedEx Delivery Department being full payment for the Security Keeping Fee of the FedEx Company as stated in our privacy terms & condition page.

FedEx Delivery Post Contact Person: Mr. Peter Luis Tel: +234-8078-082-201 Email: fedexcustomerservices_dep23@yahoo.com.hk Kindly complete the below form and send it to the email address given above. This is mandatory to reconfirm FULL NAMES:. TELEPHONE:.. ADDRESS :..COUNTRY:.

Yours Faithfully,
Mrs Victoria Wallison
FedEx Online Team Management
This has the hallmarks of a typical scam message, including the phenomenon of a global corporation using Yahoo (in Hong Kong, no less) as its contact address. It also has the aforementioned problematic formatting and grammar.

But the message body is not what made me laugh out loud. If this was a legitimate message from FedEx informing me that I -- and nobody else -- had a valuable package waiting for me in the form of a $500,000 bank draft, I would expect the message to be addressed to me -- and nobody else (assuming of course that a company would use a nonsecure form of communication like e-mail to deliver such a notice). But the loser who sent this one had several dozen addresses in the To: field in addition to mine. Lame!

Oh, and the From: field referenced a Michael Booker, hailing from a domain for an electronic components business located in England. No sign of FedEx or Mrs. Victoria Wallison. Lame!

More accomplished scammers will put a bogus-but-legitimate-looking address in the From: field, and then put the real address (for the throwaway Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. account) in the Reply-To: field (which many e-mail programs do not display).

With a quick look at the detailed mail header (in particular the Received: fields), it was obvious to me that the message was in fact sent from the mail server of that English electronic component business. That leaves two possibilities (that I can think of at the moment):
  1. Michael Booker is himself the scammer, and deserves all of the hate mail he'll receive because he wasn't clever enough to conceal his actual e-mail address, or
  2. Michael Booker inadvertently downloaded a spyware/trojan horse program that has turned his PC into a zombie -- generating spam e-mails at the behest of some unknown party, using Booker's e-mail account.
I suspect the latter, because this is a well-established method of operation for spammers. If this is the case, perhaps the hate mail he receives will persuade him to be a little more diligent to keep his PC invader-free.

Whoever the actual scammer is: C'mon guys, you're dissapointing me! But thanks for the laugh.

* Reproduced here as search engine bait. If I can help just one person keep his money in his wallet, I'll be a happy man.

April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter, we never knew you

WaPo's Chris Cillizza reports today that Senator Arlen Specter will run for re-election in 2010 as a Democrat:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning.

Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken's victory in the state Supreme Court.)

"I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary," said Specter in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."

Reading on, we find that the only other declared candidates are Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Torsella. Cillizza strongly suggests that Specter considers himself vulnerable in the GOP primary, and thus sees much brighter prospects in the general election if he can get the Dem nomination.

Of course, he won't admit that publicly. Rather, we get the usual boilerplate "GOP has abandoned the big tent, the conservative extremists are in control, yada yada yada."

Many consider Democrat control of Congress to be a fact of life in the coming years, and Specter wants to be a part of the winning team. He'll even be invited to Democrat cocktail parties for a while, at least until the propaganda value of his switch runs its course.

April 27, 2009

Photoshop Phun: Obama's First 100 Days

I'm sure that conservatives don't want to be left out of all of the merrymaking we'll be seeing this week as America marks the completion of the first one hundred days of Year One of the Era Of Hope And Change.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to imagine a book that truthfully tells the story of what Obama has done for -- and to -- our country, our economy, our Constitution, etc. What hath Obama wrought?

Use Photoshop, Gimp, Paint.Net, or something similar to create the cover of the book that you have imagined. Then, let us know where we can view it. You can:
  • Post it on your own blog, and give us the link in the comments section of this post
  • Upload it to an image hosting site like Flickr or Imageshack, and post the link here
  • E-mail it to the contact address for this site (see the sidebar)
If you don't have the time (or the skill) to do image manipulation, feel free to leave a comment with just the title (and subtitle) of your imagined book.

My only real groundrule is: be clever and profound without being vulgar, suggestive or sophomoric. The point here is to imagine the book that should be written about Obama's rule. Anything posted here that violates my standards risks being deleted. Sorry if that offends you. You're welcome to post your creations elsewhere.

All that said, here's an example to kick things off.

April 16, 2009

George Will: Blue jeans don't go well with my bow ties

George Will, bless his heart, is probably planning a followup essay calling for the return of fedoras for men. I'm in my mid 40s, and I am not at all ashamed to wear my blue jeans whenever the occasion allows. They're the most comfortable pants I own.

WaPo, April 16:
On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically -- running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans. If mother is there, she, too, is draped in denim.

Writer Daniel Akst has noticed and has had a constructive conniption. He should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has earned it by identifying an obnoxious misuse of freedom. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.
What standard does he recommend, nay, insist, we adopt?
This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.
I guess I can rest easy regarding the fedoras. Astaire favored top hats and straw hats.

April 14, 2009

Eye of Newt doesn't always see clearly

AP notices that Newt Gingrich is quite obviously testing the waters for a 2012 presidential run.

I welcome him to make his case, but I have one serious reservation about him. He is brilliant and correct on countless issues, but that does not include his swallowing hook, line and sinker the premises of the global warming cult.

Yes, there have been four more hijackings, but...

The Associated Press overlooked one important fact in this morning's report about four new hijackings by Somali pirates:
Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed five bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked four more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the waterway at the center of the world's fight against piracy.

Pirates have vowed to retaliate for deaths of their colleagues-- and the top U.S. military officer said Tuesday he takes those comments seriously. But Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that "we're very well prepared to deal with anything like that."

Still, despite Mullen's confident statement and President Barack Obama's warning Monday, pirates captured two more nautical trophies Tuesday to match the two ships they seized a day or two earlier.

NATO spokeswoman Shona Lowe said the MV Sea Horse, a Lebanese-owned cargo ship, was attacked and captured Tuesday by pirates in three or four speedboats. She had no further information.

That hijacking came only hours after the Greek-managed MV Irene E.M. was seized in a rare overnight attack by pirates.
AP says the pirates were "undeterred" by the French and American actions, but consider this: the number of French and American ships seized since this past weekend's rescues is.... ZERO.

As I predicted Sunday, the Somali "businessmen" are focusing their efforts on activities that show the greatest promise of earning them money rather than on activities that will earn them an early death.

For the moment at least, the pirates have indeed been deterred from attacking French and American interests.

France and the US have shown the rest of the world how to deal with the pirate menace. If they choose to continue to capitulate, that's their problem.

April 13, 2009

Has Clarence Thomas soured on the Bill of Rights?

NY Times writer Adam Liptak wants us to believe that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas isn't all that keen about the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. He writes in an April 13 article:
[Thomas] turned up in a Washington ballroom the other night to respond to questions from the winners of a high school essay contest. His answers and the remarks that preceded them provided a revealing look at Justice Thomas’s worldview these days.

[...] though the dinner was sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, he admitted to an uneasy relationship with the whole idea of rights.

[...] The event, on March 31, was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.
Wow, that sounds pretty bad. Is it possible that Liptak misunderstood the nature of Thomas' complaint? Why, yes he did, as should be apparent by a quick read of the very next paragraph.
‘Today there is much focus on our rights,” Justice Thomas said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights.”
The rights in the first ten amendments are specific and enumerated. How can there be a "proliferation" of enumerated rights in those amendments? Further, the rights in Amendments 1 through 10 are focused on protecting individuals and institutions from the abuse of government power.

Thomas isn't complaining about that. He's complaining about a proliferation of other "rights", ones not found in the Constitution, ones focused on the presumed entitlement of individuals, ones which are always exercised at the expense of others. One might go so far as to say that the exercise of many of these "rights" depends of the abuse of government power.

The distinction is obvious in this paragraph:
He gave examples: “It seems that many have come to think that each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living. They’re owed air conditioning, cars, telephones, televisions.”
I, for one, join Justice Thomas in his complaint.

Obamas in doghouse for 'elitist' puppy choice

It's not just the right wing crazies that the president needs to worry about. Obama is still learning the cold, hard reality of the fact that his allies on the radical left are testing his every word and his every choice for ideological purity. Alas, he really stepped in it with his choice of a purebred puppy for his girls.

Reuters reports today:
Animal rescuers voiced disappointment on Monday that President Barack Obama and his family chose a purebred dog from a breeder over rescuing an unwanted animal from a shelter.

Bo, the first family's new Portuguese Water Dog, is six-month-old puppy who was returned to his Texas breeder by a previous owner.

"I think all of us who work trying to place homeless animals had hoped that they would choose a shelter dog," said Steve Gruber, spokesman for the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals in New York City.

"His choosing to go to a breeder is a disappointment. Choosing a shelter dog, that would have been a really powerful message to the American people," he said.

[...] "I am really disappointed," [rescue group adoption coordinator Antonia] Kwalick said, calling the Obamas' decision "elitist" for "wanting a pure breed and getting it from a breeder so that it is presumed perfect." "It would have been good for the girls to actually walk into a shelter to see how many animals need homes. They should have set a better example," she said.
The Obamas, of course, are free to choose whatever dog they like for any reason, but it would be heresy for them to say so out loud.

As far as I'm concerned, the Obamas made a good choice. Bo (pictured above) is a cute puppy.

(Photo credit: White House via Getty via USA Today)

UPDATE: Aw, c'mon. I do my best to stand up for the Obamas, assuming that they had freely and unapologetically chosen a purebred despite the expectations of the left. As it turns out, this may have been a stunt meant to look more or less like a rescue. As the AP reports, the Obamas may deserve the criticism they received:
Barack Obama and his wife Michelle said during the presidential campaign that they had promised their two girls a dog after the election, and they repeatedly said they wanted it to be a rescued dog such as one from a shelter. Their search was complicated by daughter Malia's allergies, which would rule out many of the "mutts" the president has said he would prefer.
Enter Bo, a 6-month-old puppy given up by his first owner and matched with the Obamas through his breeders. Because he was given up by his first owner as a poor fit and is now with his second owners, the Obamas, but never spent time in a shelter or with a rescue group, Bo is a "quasi-rescue dog," says Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States.
Here's where the intrigue comes in:
—Bo's breeders happen to have bred Sen. Edward Kennedy's Portuguese water dogs. The Massachusetts Democrat, an Obama friend and political ally, also acquired a pup from Bo's litter. Bo's breeders are fans of Obama and named Bo's litter the Hope and Change litter.
—Bo's first owner lives in Washington.
—Bo was returned to the breeder in early March, fitting the spring timeline the Obamas had given for their dog adoption.
—Kennedy and his wife Victoria helped line Bo up with the Obamas. Before moving into the White House, the pup spent nearly a month with the Kennedys' dog trainer in Virginia.
Conspiracy buffs might speculate that Bo was meant for the Obamas all along. Was his adoption by the Obamas engineered to look like a rescue—or at least blur the line to head off criticism that the Obamas had picked a purebred from a breeder?
Sigh. I really should wait a couple of days into the news cycle before commenting on stories.

April 12, 2009

Mr. President, I hope you're paying attention

In all of the years of the Bush administration, I don't recall hearing of an American ship being seized by Somali pirates. Less than three months into the Obama administration, however, folks in one of the numerous pirate villages on the coast figured that the new US government, seeking to become European in every meaningful way, would also capitulate to pirate demands like the Europeans typically do.

It's an age-old principle of child-rearing: you get more of the behaviors you reward. Somali piracy has increased significantly in the last two or three years because the ships and/or crews always end up getting ransomed. But somehow, all of the American ships sailing past were ignored. Could it have been because President Bush had demonstrated his resolve not to allow such outrages against Americans to go unpunished?

For a while, it was looking like the current incident would end up with the pirates going free (with or without the ransom). The bad guys were certainly not impressed when a navy ship showed up, only to stand by quietly while hostage negotiation teams swung into action.

It was with grim satisfaction that I saw today that the standoff was resolved in a swift firefight -- three of the four pirates dead, and the American captain unharmed.

This is justice. If other Somali pirates have any wisdom, they will know to let American ships pass unmolested from now on. There are still plenty of European ships out there to provide a handsome income.

President Obama, I don't know what role you played in setting the rules of engagement in this standoff, but I sincerely hope you will take to heart the lesson that -- just like with strong-willed youngsters -- we must make bad behavior so unprofitable that the bad behavior will decrease or be abandoned.

UPDATE: Credit where credit is due: the president did authorize force as early as Saturday, but it might be better to make it a standing order rather than having to react to every incident after it is underway.

UPDATE #2: It seems that the pirates are very put out over the deaths of what AP calls their "colleagues".
Somali pirates on Monday vowed to retaliate for the deaths of three colleagues who were shot dead by U.S. Navy snipers hours before in a daring nighttime assault that freed a 53-year-old American captain.
The Navy Seals late Sunday rescued freighter Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held by pirates on a lifeboat that drifted in the Indian Ocean for five days.
"Every country will be treated the way it treats us," said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town.
"In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men."
He gave no details and it was not clear in what way the pirates could retaliate, though some fear they could take their revenge on the hundreds of other foreign nationals they hold on seized ships.
This is a standoff of another kind. Who will blink first: Obama or the pirates?

By the way, the AP article reveals something that I missed before. I was overly harsh in characterizing all of the Europeans as appeasers. The French, apparently, have had enough:
The American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault.
Good on them. Let's hope that more countries follow their example. The only negotiations the pirates will submit to are ones that result in money being paid to them. Some may think that paying ransoms are an acceptable cost of doing business, but they have no right to make that decision for the rest of us.

UPDATE #3: Man, this is getting confusing. The Obama administration is claiming that it authorized the military action that freed Captain Phillips, but as Blackfive notes, in reality the on-scene commander took action under standing rules of engagement that would have applied with or without the president's input:
I just finished listening to the press conference w/ ADM Gortney about the rescue of Captain Phillips. At the time it happened the USS Bainbridge was towing the lifeboat to calmer waters as the sea state was deteriorating. One of the pirates was on board the Bainbridge as the talks about obtaining Phillip's release continued. The lifeboat was approx. 25 m behind the Bainbridge when snipers on the fantail observed one of the pirates in the pilot house of the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 at the back of a tied up Phillips and the other two pirates on board were visible (at least shoulders and heads). The standing authority gave them clearance to engage the pirates if the life of the captain was in imminent danger. The on scene commander deemed this to be true and gave the order to fire. All three bad guys were taken out and then a rigid inflatable boat went to the lifeboat to retrieve Phillips. Iti is unknown at this point whether the shooters were SEALs or Marine Scout Snipers as both would have been available. This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.
(Via Gateway Pundit)

April 10, 2009

Why it's called "Good Friday", not "Happy Friday"

This weekend I'm planning to take a break from politics and current events, focusing instead on what I believe is the central event of all human history.

The following is the text of an essay I wrote to help east Asian graduate students at my university understand the foundation of Good Friday and Easter.

Many who are familiar with the Bible's story of Jesus wonder why Christians refer to the Friday of Easter weekend as "Good Friday", given that it commemorates an outrageous act of violence and injustice. We say that the death of Jesus was far from being a happy event, but it was a good event -- morally good -- because it represented the completion of a plan that had been in the works for thousands of years. The events of Good Friday mean it is now possible for people to be reconciled with their creator. This is the essence of the Good News.

This coming weekend marks the Christian observances of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Good Friday is the commemoration of the day almost two thousand years ago when Jesus was put to death. Easter Sunday is when, according to the Bible, Jesus rose (that is, was resurrected) from the dead.

The Bible says that Jesus came to earth for one reason: to do what was necessary to reconcile mankind with its Creator. Man’s sin (that is, his tendency to rebel against God’s perfect moral law) had broken his relationship with God. Throughout history, God showed time and time again that no ordinary man could ever be good enough to restore that relationship.

Before Jesus came, God required that people atone for their sin by sacrificing an animal, usually a lamb, a bull or a goat. The animal was to be flawless, representing purity (that is, innocence) before God. This innocent animal was considered qualified to take the punishment on behalf of someone who was not innocent.

Jesus was called the “lamb of God”, because he came to fulfill the role of the innocent lamb—not for one person, or one sin, but for all people of all nations, for all sins, for all time. By living a life of perfect innocence and perfect obedience to God’s law, he was considered qualified to take the punishment on behalf of all who are not innocent—including you and me. By taking this punishment upon himself, he made it possible for us to be reconciled with God.

More than seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a Hebrew prophet named Isaiah described to the people of his day a “servant” who would voluntarily take upon himself this punishment. It would become clear later that he was referring to Jesus. The following is taken from the 53rd chapter of his prophecy.
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins—that he was suffering their punishment? He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of one who is mighty and great, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among those who were sinners. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.

The fevered recollections of Joe "serial exaggerator" Biden

VP Joe, you really should get some help. You're starting to make Walter Mitty blush.

Fox News, April 9:
Republican strategist Karl Rove called Vice President Biden a "liar" on Thursday, dramatically escalating a feud between Biden and aides to former President George W. Bush over Biden's claims to have rebuked Bush in private meetings.

"I hate to say this, but he's a serial exaggerator," Rove told FOX News. "If I was being unkind I would say liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop."

Rove added: "You should not exaggerate and lie like this when you are the Vice President of the United States."

Biden's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Biden spokesman Jay Carney told Fox on Wednesday: "The vice president stands by his remarks."

Carney was referring to two controversial assertions by Biden, the latest coming Tuesday during an interview on CNN.

"I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office," Biden began, "'Well, Joe,' he said, 'I'm a leader.' And I said: 'Mr. President, turn and around look behind you. No one is following.'"

The exchange is purely "fictional," said Rove, who was Bush's top political adviser in the White House.

"It didn't happen," Rove, a FOX News contributor and former Bush adviser, told Megyn Kelly in an interview taped for "On The Record." "It's his imagination; it's a made-up, fictional world.

"He ought to get out of it and get back to reality," Rove added. "He's making this up out of whole cloth."

Rove also said few presidents would spend a long time with anybody in the Oval Office, particularly "with all due respect, a blowhard like Joe Biden."

Rove's skepticism was echoed by a variety of other Bush aides, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, chief of staff Andy Card and legislative liaison Candida Wolff.
That reminds me of the time that I stared Biden right in the eye and said, "Mr. Vice President, you are a liar!" He didn't even try to deny it.

Back to you, Joe.

UPDATE: Scott Ott can teach the VP a lesson or two on how to tell a whopper and make it funny:
Vice President Joe Biden, under fire from Karl Rove and other former Bush administration officials for bragging that he ridiculed George W. Bush face to face in the White House, today claimed he had also once defeated President Bush in arm wrestling.

“We were all alone in the Oval Office, as we often were,” said Mr. Biden, then a U.S. Senator. “I had just dissed old Georgie with another of my famous presidential put-downs, when he challenged me to arm wrestle…the truth from my lips to God’s ears, I swear. So we get down on our knees next to that little coffee table between the sofas. And I get the grip on him, you know, the old Biden clutch grip. It was over in seconds.”

The vice president said he had promised that he would never publicize the humiliating incident, “but now that Bush says he owes the Obama administration his silence, I feel at liberty to tell the story…you know, since he’s not going comment on it, and no one believes Karl Rove or Dick Cheney anyway.”

April 9, 2009

Poll shows success of left's propaganda efforts

Rasmussen released the results of a recent poll asking Americans whether they preferred capitalism or socialism, without defining either term.

Only 53% of all respondents surveyed agreed that capitalism is better, while 20% insisted that socialism is better.

Have Americans lost faith in the engine that made our country the leading economy in the world? Possibly not, because when the poll question was changed, replacing the term "capitalism" with "free-market economy", free markets were favored by 70%.

Rasmussen suggests an interesting explanation for this divergence in results:
The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.
There is a germ of truth in this. American capitalism does not rely heavily on free markets, but that is largely the fault of the government, not of businesses.

When government shows its willingness to act as a regulatory sledgehammer, why wouldn't corporate America attempt to use the system to their advantage and to the detriment of their rivals? If the government concerned itself chiefly with ensuring the free flow of goods without partiality (which was the original intent of the Constitution's "commerce clause"), then we could say that American capitalism was built on a foundation of free markets. We are ridiculously far from that reality.

But I think Rasmussen attributes to the public more sophistication on this issue than it deserves. Ask the average American if capitalism relies on free markets, he or she will pause thoughtfully and then reply, "Huh?"

A more likely explanation is that the public has succumbed to a generation of anticapitalist propaganda in the media and in our public education system. This seems to be borne out in the demographic breakdown of Rasmussen's data.
Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.
Those of us who are old enough to have personal memory of the effects of fully-realized socialism (as seen in the late, unlamented Soviet bloc) are much more likely to distrust the economic prescriptions of the European Union and the Obama administration.

These results do not bode well for America, because it won't be long before the younger generation -- a third of whom currently prefer socialism -- takes the reigns of power. Some will probably come to their senses before then, but how many of these will go on to become activists for freedom?

Repeat after me: Everything bad is the Republicans' fault

In the midst of a fairly innocuous Financial Times article about the changing spending habits of western consumers, the author drops this little beauty:
Ed Kerschner, chief investment strategist at Citi Global Wealth Management, says the US has passed an “inflection” point, marking the end of an acceptance of conspicuous consumption that he traces back to the Reagan presidency of the early 1980s.
Right. Our embrace of conspicuous consumption is Reagan's fault.

I'm sure that they would have preferred to blame George W. Bush--that way, Obama could complain about inheriting the problem--but that would have been a bit of a stretch.

April 6, 2009

Irony, thy name is Joe Biden

Vice President, speaking to Al Sharpton's National Action Network,
decries the senseless violence of the Binghamton, NY murders
while standing in front of a banner that reads

(Via FinkelBlog)

April 2, 2009

Citizen grand juries -- be careful what you wish for

Some Americans, frustrated by the lack of success of various legal attempts to prove that President Obama is not a natural born citizen, are pushing the notion of "citizen grand juries" as a means of delivering an indictment against the president.

The idea, promoted by websites like American Grand Jury, goes like this:
  • The U.S. Constitution requires that no person can be tried in a major criminal case unless indicted by a grand jury.
  • A grand jury is composed of citizens who are not in any way agents of the government.
  • The Constitution does not require that the government supervise the formation or operation of a grand jury.
  • Therefore, citizens have the right to form ad hoc grand juries for the purpose of handing down indictments to prosecutors.
I haven't taken sufficient time to study the legal merits of this argument, but the very notion smacks of vigilante justice to me. Grand juries formed by angry citizens frustrated at government inaction on whatever issue led to the formation of the grand jury can hardly be expected to be objective evaluators of the evidence at hand.

To those who favor this idea: Are you sure you want to open this Pandora's Box? If you insist the concept of citizen grand juries is valid for your hot-button issue (i.e. Obama's citizenship), will you continue to support the concept when it is used by the various denizens of the radical Left to air their grievances?

The Left is very good at using a society's institutions as weapons against that society. I don't recommend giving them more weapons than they already have. Their abuse of this tool will far outweigh any legitimate use you would make of it.

"Abortion is a blessing", but the negative publicity that such a view brings isn't

The discovery of the extreme pro-abortion views of Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, the new dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, generated enough heat on the internet that -- after eight months online -- the blog post containing her remarks was suddenly removed overnight.

I have updated my original post on the topic to include the entire text of Ragsdale's remarks.

April 1, 2009

Michael Moore loves the notion of Obama as absolute ruler

Michael Moore, that Millionaire Champion Of The Working Class, appears to believe that We The People have granted President Obama dictatorial powers. And, he thinks it's a beautiful thing.
Nothing like it has ever happened. The President of the United States, the elected representative of the people, has just told the head of General Motors -- a company that's spent more years at #1 on the Fortune 500 list than anyone else -- "You're fired!"
I simply can't believe it. This stunning, unprecedented action has left me speechless for the past two days. I keep saying, "Did Obama really fire the chairman of General Motors? The wealthiest and most powerful corporation of the 20th century? Can he do that? Really? Well, damn! What else can he do?!"
This bold move has sent the heads of corporate America spinning and spewing pea soup. Obama has issued this edict: The government of, by, and for the people is in charge here, not big business. John McCain got it. On the floor of the Senate he asked, "What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?" Senator Bob Corker said it "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise." The stock market plunged as the masters of the universe asked themselves, "Am I next?" And they whispered to each other, "What are we going to do about this Obama?"
Not much, fellows. He has the massive will of the American people behind him -- and he has been granted permission by us to do what he sees fit. If you liked this week's all-net 3-pointer, stay tuned.
Having a dictator is kind of cool, as long as he keeps dictating in the way consistent with your agenda.

But, Mr. Moore, you do not have the president on a leash, and one of these days Obama, citing that "massive will of the American people", will do something that you don't like. Then, living under a dictator won't be so wonderful. So be careful what you wish for.

"Abortion is a blessing": Episcopals drop further into the Abyss

The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts has unanimously appointed one Katherine Ragsdale as its dean.

Ragsdale's views on abortion are even more extreme than those of the typical secular abortion activist. Here's what she said in a July 2007 sermon in Birmingham, Alabama:
Too often even those who support us can be heard talking about abortion as a tragedy. Let’s be very clear about this:

When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion – often a late-term abortion – to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes -- in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.
So, God smiles on the abortionist, and it is often a moral good to crush a budding life in the womb. Words fail me as I try to get a grip on the unmitigated evil residing in that viewpoint. The Episcopal Divinity School yawns and wonders what all the hubbub is about.

At what point can we stop calling the American Episcopal Church "Christian"?

(Via Midwest Conservative Journal, via Amy Wellborn)

April 2 UPDATE:
Somebody is engaged in a bit of damage control -- Ragsdale's blog post has been deleted. Apparently the Episcopal Divinity School saw nothing controversial about the post in the eight months it had been online.... until it received a flood of negative publicity yesterday.

All is not lost, though; I saved the entire text of the post. Here it is, so you can see the quoted portion in its proper context:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Our Work Is Not Done

The Democrats have removed "safe, legal, and rare" language about abortion from the platform. About time! I was reminded of a speech from last year that never made it onto this site.

Better late than never, perhaps ...

Our Work is Not Done
Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale
Birmingham, AL
July 21, 2007

Well Operation Save America came, they saw, they harassed, and they annoyed; but they did not close the clinic. The clinic stayed open, no patients were turned away, and the doors never closed. We remain victorious. And that victory is a good thing – but, make no mistake, even though OSA has gone home; our work is not done.

If we were to leave this park and discover that clinic violence had become a thing of the past, never to plague us again, that would be a very good thing, indeed; but, still, our work would not be done.

If we were to find that, while we were here, Congress had acted to insure that abortion would always be legal, that would be a very good thing; but our work would not be done.

If we were suddenly to find a host of trained providers, insuring access in every city, town, village, and military base throughout the world, that would be a very good thing; but our work would not be done.

When every woman has everything she needs to make an informed, thoughtful choice, and to act upon it, we will be very close; but, still, our work will not be done.

As long as women, acting as responsible moral agents, taking responsibility for their own lives and for those who depend on them, have to contend with guilt and shame, have judgment and contempt heaped upon them, rather than the support and respect they deserve, our work is not done.

How will we know when our work is done? I suspect we’ll know it when we see it. But let me give you some sure indicators that it isn’t done yet:

- When doctors and pharmacists try to opt out of providing medical care, claiming it’s an act of conscience, our work is not done.

Let me say a bit more about that, because the religious community has long been an advocate of taking principled stands of conscience – even when such stands require civil disobedience. We’ve supported conscientious objectors, the Underground Railroad, freedom riders, sanctuary seekers, and anti-apartheid protestors. We support people who put their freedom and safety at risk for principles they believe in.

But let’s be clear, there’s a world of difference between those who engage in such civil disobedience, and pay the price, and doctors and pharmacists who insist that the rest of the world reorder itself to protect their consciences – that others pay the price for their principles.

This isn’t particularly complicated. If your conscience forbids you to carry arms, don’t join the military or become a police officer. If you have qualms about animal experimentation, think hard before choosing to go into medical research. And, if you’re not prepared to provide the full range of reproductive health care (or prescriptions) to any woman who needs it then don’t go into obstetrics and gynecology, or internal or emergency medicine, or pharmacology. Choose another field! We’ll respect your consciences when you begin to take responsibility for them.

- Here’s another sign. Did you notice the arguments that were being shouted at us in front of the clinic? They’ve been trying for years, and seem to be pushing especially hard now, to position themselves as feminists – supporters of women. You heard them – yelling that they understand that it’s all men’s fault. That men must do better at supporting women and children so that women, presumably, won’t feel the need to abort. They yelled that they understood that the women going into the clinic had been hurt by men and were reacting to that pain and betrayal. They pledged to help men be more responsible so that women wouldn’t want abortions.

Let me tell you something. Any argument that puts men alone at the center – for good or for bad -- any discussion of women’s reproductive health that ends up being all about men, is not feminism. Nor, for that matter, is it Christian, or reflective of any God I recognize. And as long as anyone can even imagine such an argument, our work is not done.

- And while we’re at it, as long as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States can argue, as Justice Kennedy recently did, that women are not capable of making our own informed moral decisions, that we need men to help us so that we won’t make mistakes that we later regret; as long as a Supreme Court Justice can deny the moral agency of women simply because we are women – and can do it without being laughed off the public stage forever – our work is not done. What has happened to us that he could even think he could get away with publishing such an opinion? Our work most certainly is not done.

- Finally, the last sign I want to identify relates to my fellow clergy. Too often even those who support us can be heard talking about abortion as a tragedy. Let’s be very clear about this:

When a woman finds herself pregnant due to violence and chooses an abortion, it is the violence that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman finds that the fetus she is carrying has anomalies incompatible with life, that it will not live and that she requires an abortion – often a late-term abortion – to protect her life, her health, or her fertility, it is the shattering of her hopes and dreams for that pregnancy that is the tragedy; the abortion is a blessing.

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done.

I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes -- in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.

Thank you for allowing me to join you in that work for a few days here in Alabama. God bless you all.

When dish detergents are outlawed, only outlaws will have clean dishes

Eco-nannies in Spokane County, Washington thought they had scored a major victory when the county banned the sale of detergents containing more than 0.5% phosphates. This eliminated popular brands like Cascade and Electrasol, and left consumers with brands that supposedly are more eco-friendly but are not so popular.

The reason these eco-friendly brands aren't popular is....

...wait for it....

...they don't actually clean your dishes.

This flies in the face of altogether reasonable customer expectations about dishwasher detergents. The outcome was predictable. Associated Press, March 28:
The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states.

But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green.

Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand. The culprit was hard water, which is mineral-rich and resistant to soap.

As a result, there has been a quiet rush of Spokane-area shoppers heading east on Interstate 90 into Idaho in search of old-school suds.
The ban will be expanded to the entire state next year, so look for a thriving black market to develop, thanks to entrepreneurs who are willing (for a small fee, natch) to save people the inconvenience of having to drive to Idaho.

This law has a loophole big enough to drive a contraband-laden truck through it: only the sale of such detergents is banned. It's still legal to drive outside the ban zone, buy some Cascade, and bring it home.

The ban's chief proponents acknowledge that the law is easily and routinely bypassed. Easy prediction: Eco-nannies hate it when the general public doesn't take them seriously, so it won't be long before the loophole is closed.

Then, whenever you get invited to a dinner party in Washington, if your food is served on a clean plate, just wink at the host and keep your mouth shut.

"Psst! Did you see the plates and glasses? Do you think they...?"
, sweetheart. Don't ask, don't tell."