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Thursday
Dec232004

Yushchenko: Is Alcohol His Poison?

As Ukraine prepares for yet another presidential election Sunday, CodeBlueBlog remains convinced that opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's disfigurement is not a straightforward case of dioxin poisoning.



Worth a read, if you are following the story.

Wednesday
Dec222004

Fannie Mae and Jesse Jackson: NLPC Urges a Parting of the Ways

The National Legal and Policy Center is filing a Fannie Mae shareholder proposal that would, if adopted, preclude Fannie Mae from making future contributions to Jesse Jackson-run organizations.



NLPC also is applauding the exit of Fannie Mae Chairman and CEO Franklin D. Raines.



Read all about it here.

Wednesday
Dec222004

'Who's Your Baby?' Reality Show Probably Inevitable

Now that Fox is turning adoption into a reality show with its unfortunate 'Who's Your Daddy?' (should be called: 'Who's Your Sperm Donor'? -- real Daddies father ["father" is a verb]) reality show, I predict we'll soon see an even worse development. That is, a reality show in which newborn babies are taken from their parents and the parents have to guess which son or daughter is their own.



Addendum: Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media says the media is already doing something very similar.

Tuesday
Dec212004

In the Red Zone: Iraq As You've Never Read About It Before

Jeff Harrell has just published an interview that made me want to do something I have never wanted to do before: Go to Iraq (although I would not like to risk my life quite as often as did Steven Vincent, the subject of Harrell's interview and the author of the new book "In the Red Zone: A Journey Into the Soul of Iraq").



Although I enjoyed that part of the interview when author Steven Vincent described telling off a reporter from al-Jazeera (which Vincent called "al-Qaeda TV") in front of a crowd of Iraqis and American GIs, this piece is much deeper than the us-versus-them (whomever "them" may be on any given day) plotline that characterizes so many of our discussions about Iraq. You really get a feel for what Vincent was seeing and feeling as he traveled through Iraq.



There is, for example, Vincent's view of Islam as he saw it practiced by Iraqis, and how it affected Vincent's own Christian faith. Or his discussion of the tremendous strictures placed on Iraqi women by their families and culture, told through the story of one particular woman he came to know and admire. Or his very constructive critique of how the western mainstream media is reporting events in Iraq, and how a chance in how reporters use a handful of words could vastly improve the quality of their reporting.



If you click just one link today, make it this one. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday
Dec212004

La Shawn Barber on Blogs, Rathergate and the Future of Reporting

La Shawn Barber has just had her first piece published on National Review Online.



It is a great piece and fills a void in reporting. Called "The Blogosphere's Smaller Stars," it chronicles the contributions of lesser-known bloggers in reporting the Rathergate scandal.



I enjoyed the piece immensely, not least because she interviews a number of my favorite bloggers, but also because I enthusiastically endorse her message.

Tuesday
Dec212004

Amazon.com Unavailable?





Did Amazon.com crash today?



I'd guess the economy really is back.

Tuesday
Dec212004

Loving Laurie Fenner

Received the following succinct e-mail from one Laurie C. Fenner today: "EAT MY S___ LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!" (I deleted the expletive.)



The topic that has her enraged is unknown.



A quick google of her email address, Stealheadjoe@juno.com, finds one entry: A public exhortation that Christ "asked us only to LOVE!"



We love you, too, Laurie.

Monday
Dec202004

Christian Bashing in Time for Christmas 

I saw a bizarre bumpersticker on a car today. It read: "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?"



My first thought: Some people just can't handle compliments.



My second: How egotistical do you have to be to assume that the people in the car behind yours are spending their time thinking about your personal religious beliefs?



I found a version of the "How Dare You Presume I'm Christian?" sticker available online here.



The website's main page says: "If you want it by Xmas, you must ship it 2nd day air."

Monday
Dec202004

Men of the Years





Men of the Years 2004, 2000, 1941, 1934, 1932, 1949 and 1940 and, in my opinion (and Ed Haislmaier's), photo of the year.



(Reuters photo by Larry Downing reprinted here with permission -- aka, I paid for permission, nice and legal.)

Sunday
Dec192004

Trent Lott and Don Rumsfeld: Calling the Kettle Black

Scrappleface has a fun news parody up about the U.S. Senators who believe themselves to be more capable than Secretary Rumsfeld. (Hat tip: David Limbaugh.)



Speaking of Senators who like seeing their name in the newspaper are criticizing Rumsfeld, I had to laugh at ex-Majority Leader Trent Lott's criticism of Rumsfeld: "I don't think he listens enough..."



There's the pot calling the kettle black. Here's a story from my infinite archive of boring Washington tales:



Back in '97, when the Senate was asked by then-President Clinton to ratify the chemical weapons treaty, many conservatives were very much opposed to ratification on national security and civil liberties grounds. Then-Majority Leader Lott was in charge of the Senate schedule. He could single-handedly delay or halt a vote on the treaty.



Knowing this, long-time conservative leader Paul Weyrich gathered the CEOs of about thirty (maybe it was more) conservative organizations to visit Lott (an old friend of Weyrich's) at Lott's Senate office, to explain why we were concerned about the treaty. It was a pretty good group, full of very serious people, many of whom you would have heard of. As I recall, a significant number had flown in to D.C. specifically for the meeting.



Well, we showed up on time, but Lott was late. And later, and later, and later. Every now and then, some minion would come in and tell us he was still coming but he had some important meeting to finish. (I suspect we would have left, but when people have flown in to a city specifically for a meeting, it tends to make it harder to walk out.) Finally, Lott shows up, about an hour and a half late to a meeting in this own office, and proceeds to make it very clear that he isn't paying the slightest attention to any argument made about the substance of the treaty. I have been to many, many meetings with Congressmen and Senators over the years (I will get critical e-mails from people because I wrote that last bit -- they will say I am boasting), some of which broke down to the point that the elected official was red-faced and screaming. But although Lott did keep his "official (polite) face" on, I have never, ever seen any elected official so thoroughly convey to a group of people that he had no respect whatsoever for anything they thought or had to say.



Keep in mind that this is a guy who supposedly was a conservative Majority Leader. He wasn't even polite enough to pretend he was listening. I can't imagine why he agreed to the meeting, if he wasn't willing to pretend he didn't think we were beneath his notice. Why take time out of his day just to offend people?



Also, why not listen? Treaties are very important things. Listening does not take longer than acting openly dismissive.



Let's put it this way: If Trent Lott ever talks to the Indiana Pacers, he's a dead man. They don't wait seven years and then blog about it when they get dissed.



So, when Trent Lott says Don Rumsfeld doesn't listen, I scoff. I also note that when you read the Mississippi news media instead of the national press, Lott's real complaint about Rumsfeld becomes clear: Rumsfeld isn't shoveling enough pork to Mississippi.



Lott doesn't want to be heard -- he wants to be fed.



Speaking of Senators who criticize Rumsfeld: Blogger Ed at Captain's Quarters says: "If [Senator Norm] Coleman has lost confidence in Rumsfeld to the point of threatening an investigation over the armor issue, then the White House -- as I said yesterday -- has a potential meltdown with its own loyalists in the Senate. It's becoming apparent that the GOP expected Bush to replace Rumsfeld in the second term and are quite unhappy with his failure to do so. This has to be about more than up-armoring Humvees; something else is at play here."



I usually agree with Ed but I think he's in left field here. The GOP did not expect Bush to replace Rumsfeld. What is going on here is that the mainstream media, aided by a few who either genuinely disagree with Rumsfeld, find their careers at odds with Rumsfeld's, who are running for something or helping someone who is, is going after Rumsfeld. This means that Senators who speak out about Rumsfeld GET INK. ('Nuff said?)



(Side note: Do you suppose that maybe someone in the established conservative press -- by which I mean a publication with paid subscribers -- could be looking for a prestigious White House staff job if McCain should happen to be elected in '08? And maybe is writing copy accordingly?)



Captain Ed has spoken highly about Norm Coleman, citing particularly his work on the oil-for-food scandal. I, too, was impressed by what I have seen of Coleman's work on oil-for-food. Yet, I am very much concerned about any Senator who plays to the MSM peanut gallery this early in a Senatorial career. It usually takes them longer to be corrupted.



Postscript on the chemical weapons treaty: Back in '97, Lott not only scheduled the chemical weapons treaty for a vote, but voted for it himself. A 1997 letter quoting Judge Robert Bork about the treaty said that, if it were ratified, foreign states would have the right to inspect U.S. facilities without the grounds essential for a search warrant, even over opposition from the owner. On-site personnel could be compelled to answer questions, provide data, and permit searches of anything within the premises -- including records, files, papers, processes, controls, structures and vehicles.



Don't you just love thinking that this is the law of the land now, given the way much of the world feels about the United States?



Well, if you can actually get him to listen, thank Trent Lott.

Saturday
Dec182004

Commonwealth Conservative: New Look, New Neighbor

The Commonwealth Conservative, one of the commonwealth of Virginia's ultimate blogs, has a fantastic new design.



It also is welcoming a new Virginia blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, to the fold.



P.S. Ever notice that Virginians love to call their state a "commonwealth"? (I think that is so typical of Virginians, who, to my mind, are in personality just like Texans, except Virginians show off their brains, and Texans, their machismo.)

Saturday
Dec182004

Dying in a Firey Crash Placed a Distant Third

Says L.A. Times headline: "Rehnquist Receives Support Over Cancer."



Nice to know there is something worse than a conservative jurist to the L.A. Times.

Friday
Dec172004

Mike Rosen: Dissing Uppity Blacks

Columnist and KOA Radio Denver talk host Mike Rosen addresses Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's comments about Clarence Thomas in the December 17 Rocky Mountain News:

...if Clarence Thomas were an African-American, liberal Supreme Court justice, you can be sure Reid would never have "dissed" the man like that. (He might even have called him a "credit to his race.") A white Republican saying such a thing about a black jurist would have been accused of racism. But rare black conservatives, like Thomas and Condoleezza Rice, are apparently fair game.



I suspect it's not the quality of Thomas' opinions that Reid objects to; it's the substance. Thomas bases his decisions on the principles of limited government and strict constitutional constructionism. It's not like Thomas is a lone wolf, winging his opinions and jotting them down on the back of a napkin while watching NASCAR races on TV. He, and every other justice, is supported by the cream of the crop of law school graduates and brilliant staffers anxious to pad their résumés by clerking for the Supreme Court. The opinions they help their bosses write are painstakingly researched, crafted and vetted.



But Reid was just warming up. Here comes the best part and an insight to the mindset of judicial activists. Reid volunteered that he could support Thomas' fellow conservative on the high bench, Antonin Scalia, for chief justice. (It should be noted that Scalia and Thomas routinely vote on the same side employing similar reasoning. I guess Reid finds these decisions more palatable coming from a white conservative than from an uppity black who fails to vote just like Thurgood Marshall did.) Said Reid, "I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that (Scalia) is one smart guy. And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reasons for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute [italics mine]." Aha!

Friday
Dec172004

Bastogne Remembers Battle of the Bulge

Speaking of the Philadelphia Inquirer, there was a nice AP story in it Sunday about the people of Bastogne, Belgium, and their continuing friendship with the United States.



The story begins:

To find the city hall in Bastogne, walk past the White House Hotel, cross Gen. McAuliffe square, turn at the Dakota Cafe, and it's the building on the right flying the Stars and Stripes, just before you reach Rue de l'American Legion.



For 60 years, this rural town in southeast Belgium has been tied to the United States by bonds forged in the fire and fury of the Battle of the Bulge, when the locals and their American defenders stood in the path of a German onslaught during the bitter winter of 1944.



"Bastogne has never stopped its friendship with the American people," Mayor Philippe Collard told dignitaries from the U.S. Embassy on a visit to prepare this year's anniversary. "In Bastogne, you are at home."



That friendship shows no sign of waning despite the passing of time...



While some neighboring towns called a halt to their World War II remembrance ceremonies after the 50th anniversary in 1994, Bastogne had a yearlong program of commemoration that culminates this month with parades, a night vigil, and a major exhibition designed to give new generations insight into one of America's biggest and bloodiest battles of the war.



Bastogne was the key turning point in the Battle of the Bulge...
Read it all here.

Friday
Dec172004

Philadelphia Inquirer Feature Pending

I had a call from the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday. They are doing a feature story on a lady, Ms. Florence Duckett, who was inspired by Joe Roche's Keep the Faith: A Letter from Iraq after a photocopy of it was handed to her when she was going into church earlier this year. She then took up making and sending comfort and care packages to our troops overseas to such an extent that the Inquirer is doing a feature story on her.



Joe's piece and his follow-up pieces eventually were reprinted or linked to by at least 200 blogs this year, that I know of. It may be that one of those blogs supplied the copy of the piece that was handed to Ms. Duckett, thus inspiring her to reach out to our troops. It is hard to overestimate the potential of the blogosphere.



I very much look forward to reading the piece in the Inquirer. I'll post a link to it here in the blog when it appears.

Wednesday
Dec152004

MTBE Issue Redux: A Thoughtful Response to the Federal Employee Who Opposes Groundwater Pollution, Right-Wingers and Christians

From my in-box, a thoughtful letter in reference to issues raised in the post about the federal employee who thinks about poisoning right-wing Christian children with MTBE:

Regarding Ms. McKonnell's letter referencing feeding MTBE [Methyl Tert-butyl Ether]....



As you correctly point out, this was an additive that was mandated by the EPA, and therefore the Federal government. As Ms. McKonnell pointed out, it leads the nastiest stuff coming out of petroleum spills and leaks, as it is 'small' and highly mobile. This crap is among the worst [as it spreads amongst the fleetest] of the things we face in areas that are still served by drinking water wells. It also costs everybody that is not on a well, for their local municipal water supply service to capture this and clean it from their source.



When I say 'leads' and compare it to Benzene, I refer to it's motility in groundwater. This stuff moves and spreads like nothing else I am aware of, ruining drinking water supplies. I live in a state where the soils are mostly sands, clays, and limestones. In the west, this stuff intermingles with what they refer to as 'cobbles' rocks the size of bowling balls and larger. This sort of material cannot be drilled and suctioned to clean these messes up. Quite frankly, it cannot be economically drilled. Certainly, the idea of excavating the vast areas contaminated by this crap, washing down the sands and cobbles and boulders, will be prohibitively expensive; fortunately, we taxpayers will pay for every penny of that effort for many years to come, so we won't have to rely upon the people that caused this mess to quit pointing fingers and resolve it. The downstream halos around gasoline stations all over the country, all over the planet, dwarf the imagination in two dimensions. Now multiply that by a third dimension, especially the large third dimension in the western states, the depth from your feet in a service station parking lot down to the groundwater.



If Ms. Mckonnell has an idea about how to efficiently recover this mess, given her background, I say let her get started. We only need stop her before she starts feeding it to students.



As for the rest of us, we just keep plugging along, washing rocks and cleaning this mess up the old fashioned way. That, and we don't mandate that it become a part of the waste stream in the first place.



I will not give up trying to clean this crap up, even though I know there are well-meaning people that will keep spilling it, and will keep adding new challenges like the old MTBE. Next week, I will scrub my face and go start cleaning up a horrible waste stream in New Orleans.



By the way, Ms. McKonnell, how is Love Canal going? That's your project, isn't it? The Holy Grail. EPA's project, your first Superfund site, your chance to prove your skills and determination on a clean-up effort. After 30-plus years of studying it, has your agency even gotten started? Please send me a copy of your most current physical and your doctor's opinion, allowing you to even wear a respirator. That's Public Record. Why is it that when the federal government gets in trouble that they hire private contractors to come in and clean up the mess? It seems to me that they must be either trying to shed the responsibility/ liability or they haven't got the first clue about what they are doing.



Why did the EPA issue a clean bill of health over the air quality in lower Manhattan after 9/11/01? Why did the federal government bring in private contractors to clean up the mess when the cameras were turned off? Was this somehow the fault of a dreaded Republican administration? Or is it a fact that the federal government is incapable of taking on such an unexpected event and that private industry maintains and employs people that have to deal with this sort of thing, not because they are evil, but because they are not?



Perhaps, before people purposely poison children, the people want to know.



It is time and long past time that the good people in this country stopped tearing each other apart. The people I work for and the people that work with me are not red or blue, they are Red, White, and Blue. We do not poison anyone. We diligently and at the risk of of our lives clean up the accidental mistakes that were made by our fathers, uncles, and mothers. Mistakes, made in the name of making livings for families. The well-meaning folks that introduced MTBE to our fuel supply, regulators, but probably under the influence of industry son-and-dance-men, probably meant well. That's not our problem. Getting rid of this crap is and it will take some time and effort.



CJ

Wednesday
Dec152004

Will Iraqi Trials Interest Mainstream Media, Or Will They Be Too Focused on the San Quentin Lunch Menu to Cover Them?

Will the mainstream media cover the trial of "Chemical Ali" as extensively as it has (I'd like to put that in past tense, but, so far, no luck) the Scott Peterson trial?



Last week the ABC network national radio actually ran, as its lead story, the news that there was a shortage of chairs for people waiting on-site to learn to results of the sentencing deliberations.



That's simply not newsworthy.

Wednesday
Dec152004

Heritage Policy Weblog: Social Security Tax Increases and Benefit Cuts Needed, Says Congressman

The Heritage Policy Weblog is having a little fun with Rep. Robert T. Matsui (D-CA), ranking member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security.



Based on a literal reading of Congressman Matsui's recent rhetoric on Social Security, Heritage's Policy Weblog commends Congressman Matsui for his honest advocacy of Social Security benefit cuts and Social Security tax increases.



No doubt that's just what Congressman Matsui intended to convey.



Addendum:: Our condolences to the family and friends of Congressman Matsui, who passed away on January 1 from complications relating to Milo Dysplastic Disorder. Congressman Matsui represented the Sacramento area and recently served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He was the senior Democrat on the House subcommittee with juristiction over Social Security and was elected to his 14th term this past November with 71 percent of the vote. He is survived by his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Wednesday
Dec152004

Ed Haislmaier on Drug Importation Economic and Safety Issues

Ed Haislmaier has some follow-on thoughts to my recent posts (here and here) on drug importation from Canada.



Readers who believe importation of drugs from Canada would save Americans a bundle should particularly note Ed's last four paragraphs.

Regarding the issue of legalizing third-party wholesale importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada, this article in the Financial Times has some bearing, by way of example from another area, on the question of what might happen if the U.S. changed it's laws.



The article discusses how post-9/11 changes in U.S. visa rules are resulting in more international travelers (e.g., ones going from Asia or Europe to Latin America and vice versa), choosing to fly with Air Canada rather than on U.S. carriers and "... choosing to travel via Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal rather than U.S. cities."



The article further notes that:



"The new U.S. visa requirements have also benefited Canada in other ways. Several Canadian universities are seeking to attract foreign students and researchers who might otherwise have attended U.S. institutions.



Canada has also become a base for some offshore outsourcing companies to serve US customers without their employees needing to enter the U.S.



Nevertheless, many other Canadian companies are concerned that tighter border security could severely jeopardize their business in the U.S."



The relevance is that, just as we can't expect Canada to enforce U.S. visa rules, neither can we expect Canada to enforce U.S. "chain-of-custody" regulations with respect to the trans-shipment of pharmaceuticals from manufacturers to wholesalers to pharmacists to consumers if the U.S. decides to remove its controls on bulk drug importation from Canada (a point you made in your last post).



In both cases, the entirely reasonable and justifiable Canadian position is, "We set and enforce our own laws. Your [the U.S.] laws are your problem."



One implication of the article is that disparities between U.S. and Canadian immigration controls might now encourage terrorist organizations to focus more on getting would-be terrorists into Canada first and then across the U.S. border, where U.S. controls are not as effective as at U.S. airports. Now, while we can all agree the U.S. needs better border controls, the larger point is that a change in U.S. law has follow-on effects as people outside the U.S. (including bad guys) react to the change by modifying their own behavior. Thus, it is also reasonable to expect that relaxing U.S. controls on the bulk importation of drugs from Canada would likely encourage those who would tamper with drugs for either profit or malicious reasons to set up shop in Canada.



On a related note, while I realize that your arguments have focused on the safety issue, there is one overriding economic point that needs to be made. Namely, even if all the safety issues inherent in third-party bulk importation of drugs could be satisfactorily resolved, it is still highly unlikely U.S. consumers would see more than a marginal decrease in end-user prices. Rather, the middlemen doing the importing would pocket the lion's share of the price difference. In fact, this is exactly what has been happening in Europe for years as "parallel traders" arbitrage away the price differences among EU countries that set drug prices at different levels.



For example, if a 90 day supply of drug X cost $100 in Country A and the price is set at $50 in Country B, then a parallel trader can buy the pills in Country B for $50 and resell them in Country A for $90 or $95 and make a nice profit. The end consumer in Country A gets only a 5-10% discount, not the 50% discount he sees across the border and wants for himself. To get that full discount the consumer would have to cut out the middleman by going to Country B and buying the drugs directly -- something individual U.S. consumers can and are doing in Canada right now.



Furthermore, even competition among parallel traders won't further lower prices to the end-user so long as the demand for cheaper drugs exceeds the supply. Again, using the above example, unless manufacturers put no limits at all on the quantity they will supply to Country B for sale at $50 (highly unlikely) competing parallel traders will have no reason to lower the prices they charge in Country A. They will simply continue to "shadow price" in the destination market. The most that aggressive competition among parallel traders might produce is the offering of a somewhat higher "black market" price in Country B to ensure supply. For instance, a parallel trader might offer a supplier in Country B $55 or $60 if he diverts his supply to the trader instead of selling it to a competing trader or dispensing it to patients in Country B at the controlled price of $50. While more people are getting a slice of the price arbitrage, the price to the end-user in Country A remains the same.



It's simple economics. When supply exceeds demand, suppliers cut production and/or cut prices. But, when demand exceeds supply, suppliers raise production and/or raise prices. However, if demand exceeds supply but the supplier is under price controls, suppliers have no incentive to increase supply and thus the demand/supply imbalance continues. The inevitable result, if the price difference is large enough, is middlemen enter the market to arbitrage the price difference. If the supply is sufficiently constrained, the middlemen might eventually offer suppliers inducements to violate the price controls in the form of higher "black market" purchase prices, but in none of this does the end-user wind up with anything more than a marginal reduction in the sales price.



Ed

Tuesday
Dec142004

Michael Savage = Michael Moore?

David at The Sparse Matrix has called talk radio host Michael Savage "the right-wing's Michael Moore."



Apparently, David's not the only Michael Savage listener to be dissatisfied of late. Visit The Sparse Matrix for more commentary and links.