12 November 2010

Mesoamerican Map Muddle

Occasionally there will be news reports about drivers who relied too much on technology and nearly drove over a cliff based on GPS directions.  A similar situation is unfolding in Central America where a border dispute was exacerbated by an undue reliance on Google Maps.

A Nicaraguan military commander using Google Maps moved 50 troops across the San Juan River to Calero Island and replaced the Costa Rican colors with the Nicaraguan Flag.  When asked why he acted, the Nicaraguan General claimed that the region belonged to Nicaragua as shown on Google Maps.

The Calero Island is at  the mouth of the San Juan river has been disputed for two centuries. After the incident occurred, Google corrected the cyber-cartography.

Before this expedition is laughed off as just a technical glitch or maybe an irrational internet exuberance, the occupation continues.   The Nicaraguan forces began to deepen the nearby river and dredge the sentiment in the Costa Rican territory.  Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has ignored entreaties by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and the Organization for American States to move his forces from Calero Island.

It is reasonable to wonder why, aside from nationalistic pride, there would be such stakes attached to this small spit of land.  This may be the first step in building a Trans-Oceanic Nicaraguan Canal. A Nicaraguan Canal would be the one place in the Western Hemisphere where a sea-level canal without locks could be built to accommodate large sea going vessels as there are no mountains to cross and two gigantic natural lakes to facilitate a proposed canal.  A canal through Nicaragua reportedly has the support of  Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the financial backing of Iran.  Haaretz reports that Western intelligence agencies are monitoring the arrival of heavy equipment in Nicaragua as well as the activities of Iranians in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city.

Costa Rica proudly abolished its military forces in 1949 but the so called Switzerland in Central America’s stability may be threatened by outside forces.  In July, the U.S. Navy moved a flotilla of 46 ships to Costa Rica until the end of the year ostensibly  to fight against drug trafficking. How convenient for US forces to flex muscles against the neighborhood bully taking what he wants.

Weak Beast?

Despite sounding like the punchline to a joke, Newsweek magazine is going to be merging with the liberal website “The Daily Beast”, backed by Barry Diller.  This will be a 50%-50% merger with Tina Brown, formerly editor of Vanity Fair now of “The Daily Beast” as editor.   Officially, the enterprise will be called Newsweek Daily Beast Co.

This “merger” of Newsweek follows the August 2010 purchase of the 73 year old news weekly for $1 by Sidney Harman (who is married to Rep. Jane Harman D-CA 36th), which also assumed Newsweek’s $47 million in liabilities.

The business plan is to continue publishing Newsweek as a weekly print periodical but incorporating its internet operations with the two year old Daily Beast website.  Tina Brown effused about the synergy between the organizations:

I see Newsweek and the Beast as a marriage between Newsweek's journalistic depth and the vibrant versatility the Daily Beast has realized on the web. The metabolism of the Daily Beast will help power the resurgence of Newsweek and Newsweek amplifies the range of talent and audience the Daily Beast can reach. The two entities together offer writers, photographers and marketers a powerful dual platform.

Oh, I am sure that longtime Newsweek columnist George Will will revel at having equal billing with Daily Beast columnist Megan McCain.

The Daily Beast may have bought more goodwill than journalistic talent.  Since Harmon acquired Newsweek, Managing Editor Jon Meacham bolted along with Evan Thomas, Michael Isakoff and Fareed Zakaria. That was much of Newsweek’s journalistic star power.

Aside from the historical legacy, it makes one wonder why Newsweek continues to exist.  Newsweek had a $29 million operating loss in 2009 and was having trouble selling advertising. In 2009, Newsweek tried to reposition itself as a seminal commentary weekly akin to the Economist and intentionally shrank its subscriber base by 50% in one year.  Not surprisingly, that plan failed forcing the Washington Post to sell the newsweekly for a fire sale price.

Perhaps the major motivation is to splice Newsweek's 2.9 million monthly hits with the Daily Beast’s 5 million unique monthly visits.  But that is a lot of operating losses for goodwill and a money losing dead-tree edition.

This media merger may prove to be more of a weak beast.

10 November 2010

Anarchy in the U.K.

An estimated 50,000 people demonstrated on the streets of Central London to protest a proposed trebling of student tuition costs by the ruling Tory government.

But things turned violent when a group of perhaps 500 protestors broke off from the main demonstration and gathered in front of the Conservative Party Headquarters at Millbank Centre (Westminster) carrying an effigy of Prime Minister David Cameron.  The protestors at Millbank Center dropped their placards and burned them as they banged drums and shouted their slogans like “No ifs ands or buts–No Student Cuts”.  But the mood turned darker when masked anarchists lead the mob to start attacking the building by throwing missiles at the plate glass ground floor windows chanting “Die Tory Scum”.

Eventually the 20 cops stations at Millbank were overwhelmed  so the mob waltzed into the building, smashing everything inside and spray painting symbols of anarchism inside the building. Rioters set off fire extinguishers, overturned filing cabinets and threw paperwork out of the windows. Some rioters reached the top of the building and started throwing fire extinguishers, bottles and burning placards at the police cordon.  In the end, 35 thugs were arrested and 14 people were hospitalized in this violent row.

Conservatives were non-plussed that the Tory headquarters were trashed but the nearby Liberal Democrat Headquarters (which is the minority partner in the ruling coalition) was unscathed.  This lead a senior Tory official to grouse about how the Lib Democrats got a heavy security cordon but the police failed to do so for the Conservatives. There were some reports that the Conservative Headquarters had to be evacuated but this report has been played down by the Tories.

Of course, student leaders were aghast that their well publicized protest was hijacked by a small band of violent troublemakers. The student leaders feel that their message was completely undermined by the violence.

This episode is worrisome for several reasons.  This was a well publicized and organized protest march but only 225 police were assigned.  Moreover, the London Metropolitan Police had a woefully inadequate response to an attack at members of the governing party.  That is not yobs or idealistic protesters that is anarchistic terrorism that threatens civil government.   The infiltration by the anarchists was roundly criticized by student protest leaders, but the Millbank attack marks a foray at mainstreaming anarchism by bootstrapping on middle class protests.  It also was a violent protest that was not contained in a “free speech zone” that sometimes is tolerated for international meetings.  This sort of vitriolic violence can spiral out of control, especially if economic conditions markedly worsen.

Could this be a foray at fulfilling the dream depicted in the Fabian window? George Bernard Shaw commissioned a window for the London School of Economics that shows socialist hammering out a burning world under the crest of a wolf in sheep's clothing hammer out the world with the motto "remoulding the world nearer his heart’s desire".

Such symbolic syncronicity may seem specious to the Common Man.  But forces that want to impose  fundamental change might seize upon instances of social chaos.

Murky Voter Intent in Alaska

The Alaska Senate race will be decided by how the Alaska Division of Elections (and the Court of last word) interpret voter intention for Write In votes.  On Election Day, Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller soundly beat Scott McAdams (D-AK) but there was a significant number of write-in votes, many of which were attributable to the incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK).

Several decisions by the Alaska Division of Elections changed the rules on the fly, like providing lists of write-in candidates to voters and accelerating the schedule to count absentee ballots by a week.  Additionally, officials at the Alaska Division of Elections expressed a philosophy that would take an expansive view of voter intent.

The Miller campaign has limited success slowing the murky rush to judgment.  Miller was unsuccessful in preventing write-in aids being used in the voting booth, but citizen activism boosted the candidates list to about 150 names.  Miller expects to get many additional votes from absentees ballots cast by active duty personnel supporting their former brother-in-arms.   But the Division of Elections moved the absentee count up by a week.  Federal Courts denied Miller’s request for an injunction to stop the write-in votes.

Team Miller is pinning much of their hopes on having a strict application of election law for write-in votes as written by the Alaska legislature.  Alaska Statutes 15.15.360  "Rules for Counting Ballots" are quite specific about what is necessary for a valid write-in ballot: (1) fill in the write in oval (2) the name must be the same as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy.  That does not seem to allow for compensating for voter intent if the candidate’s name is misspelt.

This ruling may make the difference in the election.  Early counting indicates that 98% of the 89,000 write-in votes were for Murkowski and prior history indicates that 8% of the ballots will have misspellings (and that was an easier name).   Write-Ins had a 13,000 vote lead before starting the canvassing.  Miller picked up 2,700 votes from the absentee ballots counted so far.  The decision may once again be made by the courts (and any other ballots that are mysteriously “found” ala Al Franken in 2008).  To me, it sees like the Write-In is already on the Wall and the Alaskan insiders will help one of their own.  Lawfare is frustrating enough but the changing of rules and facts until the desired result is reached is dispiriting to believers in our democratic Republic.

09 November 2010

Vince Vaughan Kisses Up To Arch Campbell

To promote their one-night Comedy Roadshow at the Warner Theater, Kevin James and Vince Vaughan did a stand up with Channel 7's veteran entertainment personality Arch Campbell.

As the segment was ending, an unscripted group hug turned into something more as Vaughan literally tried to charm Arch with his silver tongue as Kevin James watched.

Perhaps Vaughan was laying the groundwork for a hot review from Campbell for their upcoming buddy move The Dilemma.

From my perspective, this Kiss and Tell segment was funnier than the early portion of the Road Show.

Via: TBD.com

08 November 2010

Pope Dedicates a Gaudí Church

During a brief trip to the Iberian Peninsula, Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona to dedicate and consecrate Sagrada Familia as a basilica, despite its unfinished status. Construction began in 1882 and is not projected to be completed until 2026, although the sanctuary has been ready for worship for a year. Nevertheless, Sagrada Familia is a beloved symbol of Barcelona and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.

The Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia was a project that began as a simple church in a neo-gothic style designed by Francesc de Paula Villar.   But when the Sagrada Familia project reigns passed to Antoni Gaudí, a young Catalan architect who was a devote Catholic with an imaginative spirit who intended that the church would be the last great sanctuary of Christendom.

Gaudí designed Sagrada Familia to depict "the divine history of the salvation of man through Christ incarnate, given to the world by the Virgin Mary".  Consequently, the plans for the edifice were imaginatively transformed to have three façades would depict the Nativity, the Passion of Christ and the Glory.  The 18 spires symbolized the twelve Apostles, the four Evangalists, the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) and the Son of God (Jesus Christ). So far, only eight towers have been built. These towers have a hollow middle section which allow for tubular bells to be placed as carillon to combine with the voices of the choirs.

Aside from the Grand layout, Antoni Gaudí’s naturalistic style is most evident in the Nativity Façade where elements of life augment the Incarnation theme.  Columns which separate the porticos in this section have tortoises as their base, which symbolize something set in stone and unchangeable. But at the sides of this  façade are chameleons, which are symbols of change.

In his remarks during the consecration Mass, Pope Benedict XVI recognized Gaudí’s ambition to unify the book of nature, the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy in his architectural design. By incorporating the marvels of nature to glorify god with the mystery of the birth passion and glory of Jesus Christ, the Pope noted that:

[Gaudí] brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudí did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness. 

These lofty reflections on theology and aesthetics are in marked contrast to the louche libertine protests of the Papal visit outside the Sagrada Familia Basilica by homosexuals and anti-clerical activists.

The Sagrada Familia project was never expected to a completed quickly.  It is an Expiatory Temple, which is totally dependent on donations for completion.  Gaudí used to quip that “My client is not in a hurry.”  Construction was complicated because Gaudí constantly changed his blueprints informed by his evolving imagination. Much of the remaining original architectural design was destroyed by anti-clerical Republican partisans during the Spanish Civil War in 1938. So there are some noticeable deviations from Gaudí’s style in the construction that has continued since his death in 1926.

Gaudí spent the last 15 years of his life totally dedicated to this monumental project living an austere life.  In fact, Gaudí spent the last two years of his life sleeping in the crypt of Sagrada Familia and begging for donations. Gaudí died tragically in 1926 when he was hit by a tram driver and was not immediately taken to the hospital because taxi drivers refused to transport the ragged man with empty pockets to the hospital.  When Gaudí was recognized in a pauper’s hospital three days after the accident,  Gaudí  refused to go to a better hospital, he refused by saying “I belong here among the poor”.

The history of Gaudí is not only intertwined with the Sagrada Familia Basilica but it also may portend canonization.  Gaudí has been known as God’s architect due to his devotion to Sagrada Familia but there has also been a cause open for Gaudí’s beatification open in the Vatican since 1992. One of two miracles necessary for sainthood have been identified with case of Monserrat Barenys, whose perforated retina was miraculously healed when she prayed to Gaudí, but the Vatican has not certified this miracle.

Gaudí’s magnus opus may be endangered by progress.  The government wants to run a high speed rail line 90 feet underground near Sagrada Familia.  The government insists that the icon of Barcelona would not be endangered by the new public works project, but some locals consider a 2005 tunnel collapse as a cautionary example and oppose the high speed train. Perhaps UNESCO can protect their World Heritage site rather than play politics in the Holy Land by rewriting history.

G.O.P. Party Favors?

Even before he enters the Senate Club, Senator-elect Joe Manchin (D-WV) is being courted by Republican insiders to switch parties.  Manchin will be sworn in during the lame-duck session next week since it was a special election caused by the death of long-time Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Aside from dangling choice Committee assignments (like Environmental and Natural Resources) to the new Senator for switching caucuses, the pot might be sweetened by funding pet projects.  There is talk that Republicans would back a plant that converts coal into bio-diesel fuel, which has been stalled in the 111th Congress.   This coal conversion scheme is a $1 billion pet project of the erstwhile Governor of West Virginia and would certainly show that he knows how to bring home the bacon.

Manchins aides are demur about party switching.  While Team Manchin claims, "He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on.”  But the same Manchin insider also said, "Now, if that doesn't work and Democrats aren't receptive, I don't know what possibilities that leaves open." That was such a great political answer that manages to converse out of both sides of his mouth.

These party favor forays seem to indicate that Republican leadership in the Senate does not appreciate the Tea Party premises.  Funding a billion dollar earmark for political favor in a backroom deal seems tone deaf to the good governance grievances of Tea Party types.   Moreover, this move would essentially be meaningless.

In the 112th Congress, the Democrat Caucus is 53 to 47.  The increase in Republican Senators will prevent the Obama Administration from steamrolling liberal legislation and picking off a couple of RINO defectors to overcome cloture votes. Certainly the thinking is that Manchin could be the vanguard to stampede conservative Democrat Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and liberal hawk Joe Lieberman (I-CN) to caucus with the Republicans.  But It would take four defections in the Senate to shift party control, which is highly unlikely.

Manchin was elected on a conservative campaign although he was elected as a Democrat.  He is going to have to face that constituency in two years.   If Senator Ben Nelson wants to be re-elected, he will have to vote more conservatively and not be swayed by things like the Cornhusker kickback on Health Care. Both Manchin and Ben Nelson would be unlikely to stray far from the conservative fold even if they do not strictly caucus with the Republicans.  In the 2012 cycle, Democrats will have to defend 22 seats, some of which were marginal wins in 2006.  Combine that with the changing electoral map due to redistricting, Democrats will have their hands full trying to keep control of the Senate.

It seems like former Senator Trent Lott’s statement about co-opting new members still has some resonance amongst the Cocktail Party and (by some extension ) Senate cloakrooms where there is the expectation that it can be politics as usual.  The Midterm Elections should have shown that the voters prefer a different cup of tea for party functions.

UPDATE 11/10  Considering the day after this rumor broke, the RNSC started a campaign directed AGAINST Senator-elect Manchin, it makes more sense that the party switching rumblings may have stemmed from Manchin's staff to seem to augment his position by playing coy.

Those Anglo Catholic Bishops Have Flown

All of the Anglican “Flying Bishops are flying the Church of England’s coop and joining the Catholic Anglican Ordinariate that Pope Benedict XVI established last year.

The “Flying Bishops” were a solution 17 years ago that established bishops without geographic diocese to minister to Anglican parishes that baulked at having priestesses and women bishops.  But the actions this year by the Church of England’s General Synod made it clear that it was only a matter of time before orthodoxy will be made moot.  It was serendipitous that Pope Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus allowed for Anglicans to bring the best of their traditions into the Catholic fold while reaffirming their traditionalist religiosity.

The converts will have to immediately give up their pastoral ministries, although they will remain titularly in office until the end of the year.   It is expected that 500 people will be part of the first wave to join the Ordinariate with more to follow when the Ordinariate becomes established. Whole parishes are considering swimming the Tiber.

This move by traditional Anglo-Catholics into Catholic Communion will not be without chaffing. When the Pope visited the United Kingdom in September, he reminded the Catholic bishops to generously implement the Ordinariate. Moreover, the Anglo-Catholics might have a more formal way of worshiping than the post-Vatican II parishes.

07 November 2010

The Rent Is Too Damn High Rap

While it is a little late for the election, this viral video by Dr. Dave House of Fun  has a good beat and you can dance to it:

If only all political debates were this entertaining.

06 November 2010

Doubleplusgood Thoughtcrime Vid

I was just contemplating Newspeak when I came across this video from RightChange.com

1984 - Big Brother Obama from RightChange on Vimeo.

From a dystopian novel to an iconic one-off Apple Superbowl ad to an insurgent Obama internet viral video to this video turning of tables.  Talk about doublethink! What would Emmanuel Goldberg think?

05 November 2010

Reid Casino Voter Intimidation Case On the Table

The Justice Department is reviewing a complaint made by Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle’s campaign that the re-election campaign for Senator Harry Reid’s broke campaign finance laws and engaged in voter intimidate.

The National Review exposed a string of e-mails between a Reid campaign staffer Harrah’s International Government Relations demanding that the casino to get out its employees to vote for Harry Reid.  In fact, the campaign suggested that Harrah’s should put their employees into a headlock to get them to follow through. The campaign even offered to have Senator Reid call in order to get the backing of Harrah’s executives.

This desperate message from the incumbents campaign scored points with Harrah’s executives, as internal e-mails from Harrah’s Vice President Marybel Bejar implored:

 [D]o whatever we need to do to get the supervisors to know that there is NOTHING more important than to get employees out to vote. Waking up to a defeat of Harry Reid Nov 3rd will be devastating for our industry's future

 Election Law expert Hans A. von Spakovsk postulated that there was enough there for the DOJ to open an investigation since the materials suggest that both Harrah’s and Harry’s staff may have run amiss on coordinating in-kind contributions to a political campaign and coordinating GOTV efforts with a business.  Harrah’s and the unions spent money and time on the work clock to engage in partisan activities at the behest of Harry Reid’s re-election.

Von Spakovsk indicated that Harrahs might be culpable on coercing its employees to vote or not.  Harrah’s was not just encouraging their workers to be good citizens and do their civic duty. It seems that employees who had not voted were threatened and they were coerced to vote for a particular candidate. According to 18 U.S.C. section 594, that sort of coercion may be a federal crime.

Should we expect that the Justice Department will act swiftly to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.  Judging from the Holder Administrations withdrawal of the Philadelphia Black Panther voter intimidation VERDICT– I would not bet on it.

Honesty with the Morning Joe

During a roundtable on MSNBC Morning Joe program, Lawrence O’Donnell boldly proclaimed that he was a socialist while advancing a point of view that Blue Dogs were a vital part of the coalition that kept House Democrats in power.  O’Donnell started out under the tutalege of former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), so his Democrat leanings were never in doubt,  but when O'Donnell says: “I am a socialist. I live to the extreme left, the extreme left of you mere liberals," that really is The Last Word (sic).

While it is refreshing to have a political pundit to be forthright about his radical beliefs, it is kind of shocking that America has entered an age where a Lamestream Media member can boldly proclaim oneself socialist.

Considering MSNBC’s Lean Forward campaign, O’Donnell should fit in just fine, as long as he does not violate the Peacock Network’s corporate policy about political contributions without prior disclosure.

Midterm Election Ads--The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Hat tip to Roll Call for compiling a paid media history of the 2010 Midterm Elections. Grab some popcorn for 120 seconds of excitement for political animals.

The Capitol is A-Twitter As Pelosi Seeks Minority Leadership

After leading House Democrats to a 62+ seat loss in the midterm elections, Washington wags were wondering if soon to be former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 8th) would even remain in Congress.  It is difficult to give up the prestige and the perks of the Speakership office, like the non-stop military jets that can ferry Pelosi and her family between San Francisco and Washington DC.   After all,  Denny Hastert (R-IL 14th) handed over the Speaker’s gavel to Pelosi in January 2007, Hastert did not seek a minority leadership position and resigned mid-term in November 2007.

Pelosi, however, has chosen another path. Just days after the electoral defeat that President Obama called a shelacking, Pelosi sent out a Twitter indicating that she will seek the Minority Leader position. Her current lieutenant, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5th) promised not to seek the Minority Leader’s position. So far, only Sophomore Congressman Health Schuler (NC-11th) has announced his intention to lead the House Minority huddle.  But the midterm blowout cut the Blue Dog caucus in half from 54 to 26 seats, so this seems like a stray challenge for the leadership.

There is no doubt that Pelosi can keep her leadership role in the Democrat caucus if she wants it. Pelosi’s “PAC for the Future” has a nice war chest remaining so it could be useful in a quid pro quo for leadership support.

The real question should be whether continuing to have SanFranGranNan as the face of Democrats in the House is a wise idea. The Pew Poll gave the 111th Congress a 37% favorability rating in September, while a separate Washington Post/ABC poll from the same time showed that Pelosi had a 29% approval rating.  Frankly, those numbers seem high.  While the Lamestream Press will not be as antagonistic as they will towards Republican leaders, Pelosi will lose her insularity that she had as Speaker and will continue to be scrutinized.

At a junction when re-districting will make more Democrat districts vulnerable, having an uber-liberal leader will be a lightning-rod going into the 2012 election cycle. The Democrats might not be putting their best face forward.  To that end, there is a new banner hanging over the Republican National Committee which standing in stark contrast to the pre-election "Fire Pelosi"; now the RNC puckishly urges "Hire Pelosi".

CAIR Has Reservations on OK Anti-Sharia Amendment

In the Midterm Election, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 755 by a 70% margin.  The state ballot referendum amended the Oklahoma Constitution to require its courts to solely rely on federal and state law when adjudicating cases and not considering or using international or sharia law.

The Oklahama chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is considering seeking an injunction to prevent the Oklahoma State Elections Board from certifying the results for State Question 755.  Although CAIR-OK held a large press conference announcing their unprecedented action, Executive Director Muneer Awad had not filed the papers to protest was Awad labeled the unnecessary and offensive measure.

CAIR’s argument is that State Question 755 is targeted against a single religious tradition–Islam.  Of course that viewpoint ignores the fact that devoted adherents to Islam see it as a holistic religious and juridical system which supercedes secular law.

It would be an interesting legal argument to litigate whether an anti-sharia constitutional amendment interferes with the Federal First Amendment. But that dispute is not ripe as the law has not been enacted.  CAIR either does not understand the process in a democratic republic that a law must be implemented and a harm caused before it can be litigated.  Maybe CAIR is utilizing the self restraining rules of their opponents that they seek to overturn using lawfare instead of the sword?   Or maybe they are persiverating on the fact that Islam translates to mean submission?

UPDATE 11/08  Federal District Court Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of Oklahoma City stayed certification of the Oklahoma State Question 755 until November 22, when consideration of if its Constitutionality.

Olbermann Does More Than Lean Forward

During this election cycle, MSNBC news anchor Keith Olbermann donated the federal maximum amount of $2,400 to three Democrat candidates. This is a prima facie breach of NBC corporate policy, which forbids monetary contributions to political causes as it compromises journalistic independence.

Aside from ignoring corporate policy, Olbermann also complicated MSNBC’s public relations campaign.  Despite launching a two year, multi-million dollar campaign of positioning MSNBC as a network that “Leans Forward”, MSNBC was snipping at its rival’s parent company’s corporate contribution.  MSNBC President Phil Griffin needled News Corporation for a million dollar contributions to the Republican Governors’ Association.  Griffin denied that MSNBC was the flip side of Fox News by asserting “Show me the fund-raising”.  Well, res ipsa loquitur.

Another inconvenient truth about Olbermann’s contribution is the timing.  One contribution was to Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ 7th) who was locked in a tight re-election race against a strong tea party challenge by Republican newcomer Ruth McClung.  Olbermann made a contribution to Grijalva on October 28, 2010 the same day that he conducted a prime-time interview with Grijalva.  Granted, critics of the Lamestream Media have always thought that liberals made in-kind contributions to their cause with slanted coverage.  But the timing of this contribution illustrates a causal nexus for jaundiced journalism.

To be charitable, Olbermann may be incapable of taking directions.  Consider his publicity shot for MSNBC’s Lean Forward campaign.  The bloviating anchor chose to lean back, which some might say is symbolically significant.   After this episode, perhaps we will hear less of Olbermann’s sanctimonious shtick of an angry leftist. Hope for change springs eternal.

UPDATE 11/05 MSNBC suspended Olbermann without pay over the indiscretion. Now they will have space in their lineup for Alan Grayson once he finishes his gig in Congress.

Glenn Beck had fun with the hypocrisy of Olbermann's claim that he does not vote in order to remain impartial yet he got caught contributing to partisan candidates.

UPDATE 11/08 MSNBC announced that Olbermann will be back from his "indefinite" suspension after two broadcast days. It makes one wonder if it was just a craven publicity stunt to give the illusion that MSNBC is a news network rather than a propaganda arm of the DNC.

GOP Challenges in Counting Alaska Senate Write-In Votes

A great assessment of the challenges that Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller faces in the tallying of Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK) write-in votes by Dan Riel at Big Government.com

» The Path To Victory For Joe Miller In Alaska - Big Government

Amongst the 37,800 uncounted votes includes 31,000 absentee ballots, many of which may be military so likely for the Republican nominee not the write-in.

When deciding voter's intent when counting write-ins, it takes good lawyering.  The Murkowski campaign has hired the Bush 2000 Florida recount team.  It is unclear what resources the Miller campaign can tap into.  While Alaska is generous in determining voter intent, the flood of last minute write-in candidates included one who is also a "Lisa M." so that might cause some intense law-fare.

The difficulty that I see is that the GOP may be ambivalent to expend full support to the Miller campaign so as not to alienate Murkowski in case Lisa does not lose. The Senate Republican did not strip her of her ranking member status on the Environmental and Public Works Committee. I doubt that the RNSC will stick its neck out for Miller, especially since Between the Beltways prefer connected insider incumbents rather than unpolished insurgents.

UPDATE 11/05  Under pressure from radio host Mark Levin and other conservative groups, the NRSC is fund raising for Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller in his canvass fight over write-in candidate Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK).

Connecticut Compromised in Gubernatorial Election

There has been chaos in counting and announcing the winner of the Connecticut gubernatorial contest. The day after the midterm elections, the AP declared Stamford Mayor  Dan Malloy (D-CT) the winner of Connecticut’s gubernatorial election by a margin of 3,000 votes over Republican nominee Tom Foley.   This press pronouncement was despite objections to by the Republican Governors Association about the number of photocopied ballots used due to a shortage of ballots in Bridgeport and keeping the polls open late.  AP quickly retracted when official counts with 98% of the precincts reporting had Foley ahead by 8,500 votes.

The Connecticut Secretary of State has refused to declare a winner after two days waiting for additional results from Bridgeport (an urban area that would lean for the Democrats).  Now there is documentary evidence of from a poll watcher showing the mixing of official and unofficial ballots along with giving voters multiple ballots or properly checking Ids.

Amazingly enough, the Bridgeport vote was able to overcome Foley’s 8,500 vote lead . Now it seems that Malloy is winning by 5,465 votes.  The results were announced at 6:20 am Friday after election workers counted throughout the night.  It seems to me that the Governor’s race in Connecticut has been compromised, which cost the Republicans another Governor’s race.

UPDATE 11/05  Tom Foley is unwilling to concede the race at this time and is contemplating a court challenge.  The only thing Foley concedes is that Connecticut is being laughed at nationwide.

UPDATE 11/08  Despite calls from the Connecticut GOP to investigate irregularities in the gubernatorial election, Republican nominee Tom Foley conceded his race to Democrat Dan Malloy.  Foley thought that things were chaotic due to the shortage at Bridgeport voting stations so they used photocopied ballots, he did it was a good faith solution which he would not protest.

This plants an acorn to grow voter fraud for the future, especially in Blue states.

04 November 2010

Close Encounters with a Comet

Artist Sketch of EPOXI
On November 4, 2010, NASA successfully completed a mission for with a repurposed EPOXI spacecraft to come within 485 miles from the Comet Hartley 2.  NASA originally was trying to cross paths with comet 85P/Boethin two years ago but that comet disappeared, so the rocket scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California set their sights on the Haley 2.

HD Photo of Hartley 2 Comet 11/04/10
Hartley 2 is a relatively small comet with three quarter mile core of rock and ice, but it is unusual for the large amounts of dust and gas that it spews on its path towards the sun.

The EPOXI team will be sifting through the 6,000 high definition photos of the close encounter with the comet to discern what accounts for the wide range and shape of comet nuclei.  The scientists may find some important clues about how the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago, possibly with a Big Bang.

Political Train Derailments

One of the prized features of the Obama Administration and subsequent Stimulus spending was to advance public transportation solutions to improve America’s infrastructure, create “green” jobs and provide many government jobs for the foreseeable future. But the conservative wave that has swept across America threatens to derail the train set.

Prior to the elections, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) killed the nation’s most expensive public-works programs, a proposed new rail tunnel between New Jersey and midtown Manhattan which would have doubled commuter rail service.  Gov. Christie refused to hand over a blank check to the “Access to the Regions Core” project as New Jersey’s costs had risen to $3.5 billion of the $9 billion project and more cost overruns were likely. The new Hudson tunnel was $2.3 billion more than forecast and funding from New York entities had not been secured. Christie seems to have learned from Boston’s Big Dig which was originally slated to cost $2.8 billion in 1982 but eventually cost $22 billion by the time it was completed in 2007.

The day after Governor-elect John Kaisich (R-OH) was elected, he announced that passenger rail was not in Ohio’s future.  During the gubernatorial campaign, Kaisich scoffed at how a train running at 39 miles an hour could solve Ohio’s economic woes Current Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) had scored $400 million to study converting current freight rails into a passenger service between the 3C’s, Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland. The remaining $375 million may go to another train friendly state.

Governor-elect Scott Walker (R-WI) kept a campaign pledge to kill a proposed high speed train service for Madison and Milwaukee.  The Stimulus was slated to pay the entire $810 million for this 90 mile project.  But it would only create 55 permanent jobs and is projected to cost the state $10 million a year for very light projected usage. Just before the election, Badger State officials quietly committed Wisconsin to the deal.  But the Wisconsin State Department of Transportation now has advised all contractors to stop working on the Cheesehead choo-choo.

The SunRail and high speed train projects in central Florida are facing trouble on several fronts.  Railroad proponents have indicated that completing the Tampa to Orlando rail line by 2013 is a priority for the Obama Administration to justify a $2 billion stimulus earmark and smart transportation efforts.  But voters in Tampa and Polk County solidly rejected a $0.01 sales tax increases to pay for the train service.  Governor-elect Rick Scott (R-FL) is skeptical about the projects, especially if the projects cost Florida any money.  Currently the state would have to shoulder 20% of the commuter rail costs and half of the high speed rail costs.

While these thrifty Republican governors will certainly be derided by liberals as being short sighted transportation troglodytes.  A serious cost benefit analysis needs to be made without idealist rose colored glasses.  Unlike in Europe, America's population is not densely located in urban clusters, especially outside of the US Northeast. Aside from train enthusiasts, it is unlikely that most travelers would choose riding the rails for transcontinental transit in America.  Even with the infrastructure expenditures, states would be responsible for hefty subsidies for sparse ridership. And naturally all of the workers on the rail lines would be unionized and might even be made government workers.

There are some instances where commuter rail service makes sense, like in Chicagoland, Philadelphia, New York-New Jersey and Washington, DC.  Trying to force rail service between Madison and Milwaukee, Cleveland to Cincinnati or Tampa to Orlando seem like expensive boondoggles that may not be as wasteful as the Detroit monorail but does not promise to be supported by consumers.

As the realities of spending our grandchildens’ inheritance in Porkulus and ultimately inflationary QE2 monetary policy, governmental officials need to make hard choices.  But until I hear convincing arguments to the contrary, derailing these boondoggles seems like an easy decision.

2012 Psephology

Apologies for the obscure expression in the title, but it is an erudite way for me  to justify being a political junkie.  It is almost inevitable that those infected with Potomac Fever starts thinking about the next election the minute the polls close. I will avoid pre-mature Presidential prognostication, but sufficed to say that 2012 is a Presidential election year so there will be intense attention and presumably more participation than a midterm election.

In the Senate, it will be a tough cycle for Democrats.  They will have 21 of 33 seats to defend. But if you include Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Sanders (I-VT) who caucus with the Democrats, they will have to worry about defending 23 seats.  A few of the first term Democrats were marginal winners in 2006.  Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) only won by less than 0.5% and the Commonwealth went markedly Red in 2010.  Senator John Tester (D-MT) also won by less than 1% in a Democrat trend election.  Senator Claire Mccaskill (D-MO) won with a comfortable 2.3% margin but the Missouri electoral map has changed. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Sherrod Brown (R-OH)  and Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) had easier elections in 2006 but are candidates about which the DSCC should be worried. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin (D-WV) who won by campaigning as a conservative in 2010 will have to win back his voters in 2012.

Republicans have picked up at least seven Governorships (with Illinois, Minnesota and Connecticut) still in dispute. That means that there will be Republican governors in at least 29 states, including the electorally important Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.  But it is not just the prestige of having a GOP governor.  Since 2012 will be an apportionment year, the Governors will be key in reapportioning districts.  Since the midwestern states have lost population, the Republican governors can help shape the districts which impacts House races. Re-drawing the maps can help make districts more competitive for the party in power or concentrate your opponents into “safe” districts.

03 November 2010


There are reports that there may be significant voter fraud occurring in California 20 that would overturn election results.  On election night, Republican challenger Andy Vidak beat three term incumbent Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA 20th) by 2% with all 564 precincts reporting.   Now there is talk that 150,000 uncounted drop-off votes have been “found” in Fresno and Bakersfield, urban areas that will lean heavily Democrat.  There are perhaps 80,000 other votes uncounted too.

Not all of the 150,000 votes of the found ballots will be for CA-20.  Even if only 1/4 of the votes are for the district, it is shocking to have 35,000 votes mysteriously appear.  It makes one wonder what is the real story.

This may show a flaw in California’s process to have permanent absentee ballots.  Traditionally, a voter needed to request that an absentee ballot is sent.  Now the ballots are automatically sent and dropped off to election offices.  Could this be like scam that Brian Murphy campaign manager perpetrated in PA-08?  Voters received absentee ballots from the “Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Center” with a return address run by the Murphy campaign manager.

The extremely large number of uncounted found ballots from Democrat leaning districts makes one wonder if SEIU or Acorn was involved.

While more facts and additional sourcing will add credibility to the story, the initial reports are from John Batchelor, one of the most elitist Republican voices in the media.  This is a story that should be watched.  If it’s true, it could have significant effects on positions up the statewide ballot and may be a vanguard of other state-wide shenanigans.

UPDATE 11/04   Bakersfield.com quotes Kern County Auditor Comptroller Ann Barnett that a remarkable 40,000 ballots by mail and provisional ballots were delivered, which seems to comprise over 38% of ballots cast.  What raises eyebrows is the the circumstance that tears and other damage to ballots have required workers to duplicate an extraordinary number of ballots and process those copies. It makes me wonder if voter's intent was transcribed or if the ballots were manufactured. 

More American Graffiti In The Golden State

California did not catch the wave of the Tea Party.  Incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) beat Republican challenger Carly Fiorna by 9%.  The Golden State also returned Jerry Brown to California’s governor’s chair after an 18 year absence, beating GOP opponent Meg Whitman by over 12%.  Those are very impressive numbers, especially in an anti-incumbent wave election. With those results one might have thought that California would legalize marijuana, but Proposition 19 was defeated by 55.9% to 44.1%.

While it is tempting to invoke a Back to the Future (1985) metaphor, it is more appropos to allude to More American Graffiti (1979).  That was the sequel to American Graffiti (1973), George Lucas’ wildly successful cinematic paean to the carefree days in Modesto, California during the summer after high school graduation in 1962.  More American Graffiti is set several years afterwards where those carefree kids are thrust into grown up choices and the messiness of life during the tumultuous mid 1960s. Apologies to Ron Howard, but those were not your and my Happy Days (sic).

California is in serious debt.  The state owes $85 billion in long term debt and state spending and obligations to generous pension plans will only add to the figure. Governor-elect Brown does not have a plan to ameliorate the debt by itself, so it may declare bankruptcy and let all of America service those debt obligations.  That does not seem like a good idea when Washington is effectively broke.  Maybe the Federal Reserve can implement a QE3 and inflate the way out of California’s debt.  If Jerry Brown is going to govern rather than preside over the financial demise of the 7th largest economy in the world, he is going to face some difficult decisions. But based on his educate “undocumented aliens” at California colleges at all cost, it is dubious if Brown can do a real cost-benefit analysis to a limited income environment.

The official California unemployment rate is 12.4%, which is several percent above the national rate.  California has a heavy tax rate coupled by ever increasing alluvia of state regulations making the cost of business burdensome.  On top of that, a judicial ruling cutting off water rights to agriculture to help an endangered Snail Darter, which has consequentially turned the fecund Central Valley into the Dust Bowl.  It’s no wonder why there have been significant migrations of mobile middle class to neighboring states which is sometimes derided as Californication.

So the new Governor of California needs to bring jobs to the state.  While I do not want to re-argue an already settled election, Governor-elect Brown’s website stresses job gains through green jobs.  Really? That sounds wonderful at Cal-Berkeley bull sessions at the dorm. But the real life examples of Spain and Germany with green jobs shows the perilousness of that pipe dream.  And what about the California Mandate to make 2% of all California cars Zero Emission Vehicles by 1998?  GM rented the E.V.1 which were promptly destroyed after the 2 year lease.  So much for mandating immature technology on an economy.

In a moment of candor late in the campaign, Jerry Brown admitted that he did not have a plan the first time that he was governor and it is pretty clear that he does not have a real plan now.

As for Senator Barbara Boxer, her re-election strategy was the same as it ever was: run on the reproductive right for women to kill unwanted fetuses they are caring and attack your opponent. She may be the Lionness of Liberalism, but Boxer is legislatively timid, only authoring post office naming and ensuring insider deals that seem to enrich her scion when restoring an extinct  Indian tribe who wants to open a casino.  I only really expect hubris from SENATOR Boxer.

My view towards California’s electoral choices for Governor and Senator are epitomized by a later album by the Kinks “Give the People What They Want (Hope they get what they deserve)”.  More American Graffiti did not have a Hollywood happy ending, but perhaps we can hope for better things.

Tea Types in the Senate Cooling Saucer

The 2010 Midterm Election Cycle featured the emergence of the Tea Party in contemporary American politics.  The TEA Party inspired by an adherence to constitutional governance and the feeling that Americans were Taxed Enough Already.  The Tea Party exerted its influence in the Republican primaries and in the general election.

The Tea Party was instrumental in defeating some incumbent establishment Republicans in the primaries and pushing the agenda more conservative.   Three term Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) was defeated by nominating convention in May by now Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT).  Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) was considered to be a shoe-in for Delaware’s Senate seat in the general election, but was defeated by Tea Party Express favorite Christine O’Donnell for the Republican nomination.

 Florida Governor Charlie Crist (?-FL) was being positioned to be Florida’s Republican Senate nominee until a strong Tea Party challenge by now Senator-elect Marco Rubio (R-FL) prompted Crist to come out of the ideological closet and declare himself Independent to run as a third party Senate candidate. A similar scenario occurred in Alaska when incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski (?-AK) lost the GOP primary nomination to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, but she launched a write in campaign. The differences there is that Murkowski may actually win and she says that she will still caucus with the Republicans, while Crist toyed with caucusing with the Democrats as Crist echoed President Obama on the stump.

Exit polling seemed to indicate at 23% of voters were strongly influenced by the Tea Party. That is pretty remarkable for a spontaneous, leaderless movement that sprung up in the last 18 months. Certainly the Lamestream Media will intimate that this quarter of the electorate is a fringe movement.  Such a specious conclusion conflicts with the fact that 40% of the electorate considers itself conservative, which has considerable overlap with the Tea Party.  The Tea Party has also been cast as merely a Republican movement.  I suspect that polling will show how Democrats have lost their sway with Independents and their weltanschauung is more aligned with Tea Party principles.  Aside from newly elected Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the Blue Dog Democrat is virtually extinct in the Senate.  There are several RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) in the Senate who are up in 2012 and are trying to  curry favor with the Tea Party movement.

In assessing the impact of the Tea Party on the Senate side, I find that there were three types of brew: Weak Tea, Strong Tea and Mulled Wine.

The QE2 is Actually the Titanic

The second round of Quantitative Easement that the U.S. Federal Reserve is implementing is intended to spike inflation by further lowering interest rates by having the Fed buy its own debt. A simple explanation is that the Fed will just be printing money.  By lowering interest rates, the Government can easily add to the Federal Debt to continue financing expensive and expansive social programs, like Obamacare.

Lowering interest rates beyond the already rock bottom current rates will take money out of financial institutions and give the stock markets a quick rush from Uncle Sugar.  But much like a sugar rush, there inevitably is a crash.

The fact that the Fed can not sell its notes on the open market shows that our international creditors (particularly China) is chary about continuing to fund America’s spending spree.  By buying its own notes, the Fed is effectively de-valuing the Dollar.  Expect commodity prices to soon jump in response but financial markets will immediately rise. When the public faces the pinch for consumer purchases, the temptation by the Fed will be to print more money, backed by buying its own bonds.  The danger in this strategy is that when the confidence in the dollar eventually plummets, the markets will tank along with the curse of hyperinflation.  Nobel economist Robert Mundell speculated that there would be a year lag between a sinking dollar and hyper-inflation.

That is why the QE2 is actually the Titanic. I hope that we switch course before the American economy hits the inflationary iceberg just beyond the horizon.

UPDATE 11/01 The Fed announced that it will pump $900 billion into the US economy by printing $600 billion via a QE2 policy and investing $250 to $300 billion through proceeds from earlier investments. And so it begins, and we need not wait for Babylon 5.

TEA-Nami Downcast as ONLY an Electoral Tidal Wave

So much of electoral politics involve playing the expectation game.  Candidates want to peak right at the election.  Negative ads and last minute negative news leaks can be crafted to depress turnout and dispirit the opposition.  Now that we are (mostly) post election, political punits are trying to characterize the results to correspond with their favored narratives.

Before the electoral wave crested, anti-incumbent Tea Party partisans hoped that the results would be a TEA-nami.  As the results rolled in the Red Tide filled in House seats across the map. There were significant Republican gains for Republicans in Governors mansions. The Republicans picked up at least five additional seats in the United States Senate, which fell several seats short of control.

Now the battle is for the public mind.  The Lamestream Media can stack stories of hard fought and retention of Democrat seats, like Senator Boxer (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Elect John Manchin (D-WV).  Of course Gov. Elect Jerry Brown’s (D-CA) convincing victory for the Sacramental statehouse meriting strong mentioning.

But the Lamestream Media made some odd post election story choices.   Even though Senator Elect Chris Coons (D-DE) won by 17% to retain the Senate Seat in the First State, it was Republican challenger Christine O’Donnell, and not the winner Coons, who was still interviewed in the media the day after.  That is contrary to common sense, unless you understand it as directing the public’s perception of the overall outcome.  O’Donnell was a Tea Party Express favorite who was an unpolished politician who got savaged as a witch.  By continuing to focus on O’Donnell, it drives the narrative that the Tea Party’s influence was fringe and minimal, despite their incredible successes in the lower chamber.

There will be a lot of spin and commentary over the next couple of weeks to make sense of the Voice of the People as expressed in the Midterm Elections.  But due to the important issues looming over the Lame Duck Congressional Session (FY 2011 budget, Democrats possibly rushing through amnesty, card check and Cap & Trade before they lose power in both Houses of Congress) we will find out where they truly stand soon enough.

01 November 2010

TEA-nami Warning




2 NOV 2010







[Hat tip to anonymous wags at FreeRepublic.com for this Early Warning Forecast]

Rock the Vote Stupor

It is a long standing vaudeville like joke–“Remember to vote on Tuesday. But if you disagree with me, vote on Wednesday when the lines are shorter.”  It is a half-hearted attempt to reduce voter turnout of dimwits.

The Rock The Vote Effort at Colorado State University took out a full page ad in the student newspaper trying to increase voter turnout.  Unfortunately, the copy in The Collegian recommended that students cast their votes on Thursday November 4th instead of Tuesday November 2nd. I doubt that the Facebook correction makes up for the media miscue.

To think, Proposition 19 is on the ballot to legalize marijuana in California.  The CSU Rock the Vote staff just seems to be a on a Rocky Mountain High.

Restoring Sanity Crowd Mocked By a Malapropism

While I did not hike to the National Mall to watch the Comedy Central happening, otherwise known as the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, I did watch the proceedings on C-SPAN.  It made my eyes bleed.  During three hours of showtime, it barely elicited a laugh. Why must the rally of the self-appointed intelligencia rally always include a giant puppet? And  the Colbert/Stewart mock jingoistic song was so painful to my ears that I had Ishtar flashbacks.

 Personally, I wanted to get a refund for the time that I spent watching it, but I’m happy if the event amused others. I find myself in agreement with Bill Press who likened the Colbert/Stewart show as "a big masturbation festival on the national mall" that will divert liberals from working for Democrat candidates on a crucial weekend before the election when the stakes are so high. Stewart claimed that he wanted to attract a mob of moderates but his torch of sanity seemed to overwhelmingly attract liberals out to have a good time.

By not visiting the Mall, I missed out on watch the flock of fans that freely flew their freak flags. Maybe it was an excuse for many extroverts to get another days mileage out of their Halloween costumes.  I saw snippets of signs in the coverage.  Of course, there were the obligatory Republicans as Nazis signage carried by the angry liberals. But most of the signs had an air of post-modern irony.  Some critics have dubbed it Smugapalooza.  Most of their Socratic irony was supercilious.   That is why I was most I was so amused by the video from the Second City crew.

Perhaps I’m jaundiced by my time spent on Houghton St., London WC1 but I loved watching haughty hipsters flummoxed by a “Obama is a Keynesian” sign.  Too clever by half!

Al-Qaeda Atrocity at Baghdad Church

Al-Qaeda paramilitaries attacked Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq while 100 parishioners worshiped at Sunday Mass.  First they exploded a vehicle on the street and then the gunmen stormed the church The gunmen immediately killed the priest and then took over a hundred worshipers hostage. Iraqi official attempted to negotiate for three hours with the Islamic State of Iraq, the al-Qaeda affiliate, which demanded the release of jailed al-Qaeda militants or else they would "exterminate" the hostages.

When Iraqi police and US troops launched a rescue mission, a gunmen exploded a suicide vest while standing at the altar and then the shootout ensued.  While the commandos rescued 80 people, at least 37 hostages, including both priests died along with seven Iraqi police and six paramilitaries with several suspects captured.  As Salah Abdul-Razzaq, the Governor of Baghdad, said after touring the church: "These people do not value human life and have no respect for any religion. They say they are Muslims, but they killed here in cold blood."

There are concerns that the disphora of Arab Christians will be hastened by this massacre.  Since 2003, over a million Iraqi Christians have fled the country.  The Chadean Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly urged the remaining 1.5 million Christians to remain in Iraq. Delly lamented "We have never seen anything like it, militants attacking God's house with worshippers praying for peace.”

It is easy to dismiss Mesopotamian massacres as just another bloody day in Iraq.  On All Saints Day, I wanted to recognize the costs that members of the Communion of Saints sometimes pay for remaining steadfast in their Christian faith.  It also shows the intolerance of jihadist fanatics who prize promulgate their sect through death and mayhem.

DE Electioneering by Omission?

In a desperate attempt to influence First State voter, Delaware Republican Senate nominee bought 30 minute campaign spots to air Deleware 28, a local cable access channel, on Sunday night at 11:30 pm, and 10 am.  But instead of airing "We the People of the First State” which the O’Donnell campaign had hyped, Delaware 28 ran other programming.

The station implausabily announced said that they forgot to run it. Twice.   I might have believed problems with payment, but the media is wise to get campaign commercials paid up front. What will be the excuse if the O’Donnell paid media does not run for the next three airings?

As we learned in the 1992 campaign with Ross Perot, sometimes a half hour commercial does not cost much more than a 30 second spot.  And there is a precedent for half hour political ads changing the political tide, as was demonstrated by then Senator Richard Nixon’s “Checkers Speech” in 1952.  While I am dubious about the effectiveness of a half hour campaign commercial swaying the electorate in this day and age, this string of unfortunate, in not intentional, coincidences does drive home a message–Electioneering by Omission.

A last hour dirty trick might get lost in the media mix.  But Rush Limbaugh picked up the O’Donnell anecdote and trumpeted it to his large audience. It will motive conservatives and Tea Party types to crawl over broken glass to get out the vote, but the news will also augment O’Donnell’s aura as an outsider who is opposed by entrenched powers.

The seat is still a long shot for O’Donnell but this odd event draws more media than a half hour ad on local access cable ever could.

Update 11/1  The Politico is reporting that the tape arrived at the station two hours before the first scheduled run but it was Comcast's duty to load the tape.  The independent producer said that he did not receive the payment until today and that he was out of the area during the weekend due to a family emergency.  Did the dog eat the homework too.  Really, it sounds like just about every other excuse was implemented.  If all of these excuses were true, why did Delaware 28 leak that they forgot and let the story stand even after it gained national attention?

Boxer's Familial Wampum

During this years contentious California Senate campaign, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has been recognized as the upper chamber’s quintessential liberal but not as a leading legislator.  However, the Miwok matter is showing how Boxer’s legislative legerdemain can be profitable for her family.

In 1998, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA 6th) introduced a bill which reinstated the Miwoks, an indian tribe that the Bureau of Indian Affairs declared defunct in 1958.  Woolsey’s bill also expressly prohibited the indian tribe from establishing a casino in the middle of Northern California’s wine country.  The legislation got stalled when the Bureau of Indian Affairs opposed it because of insufficient evidence that the tribe was actually related to the Miwoks. When the stalled Woolsey bill eventually was advanced to the Senate side, Boxer removed the restriction on casinos and allowed the Miwoks to consider any land owned by them a reservation.  Boxer inserted her legislative language into the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act of 2000 which President Clinton signed into law.

Of course the Miwoks decided that they needed to build a casino. Senator Boxer’s son, Doug Boxer, helped facilitate an arrangement between the tribe and Stations Cross, a Las Vegas casino entity.  Doug Boxer’s firm then fronted the purchase of 2,000 acres in the tony town of Rohnert Park, on the outskirts of San Francisco.  Doug Boxer’s firm then optioned the land to Stations Cross casino on behalf of the Miwoks. How convenient as that conveyance nullified state and local regulations as it was a Indian reservation which did not need to comply with Federal regulations.

Senator Boxer recused herself from the Miwok matter, but not until her son pocketed big profits from the deal.  Gregory Sarris, the Miwok tribal chairman complained that the consulting fee that was paid to Doug Boxer’s firm was “too much, more than I would like.”  The Hill puts the price tag at $8 million.  Although ten years have passed and the casino has not been built yet, if it ever opens Doug Boxer stands to win again, as the casino is a limited liability partnership in which Doug Boxer’s firm and the developer are partners.

Republicans suffered significant legislative losses in 2006 due to their ties to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who was convicted of defrauding Indian tribes and corrupting public officials.  I wonder whether if the Lamestream Media will decide to cover this?

Much like the Alaska mafia manipulation of Native Corporations, this is another example of how political insiders profit from specials rules intended to help protected minorities.   This corrupt crony capitalism inspires so much animus in the Tea Party and why Washington insiders are worried about the invasion of the outsiders

Update 11/01 - Hot Air reports that The Hill withdrew the article due to serious factual flaws, namely that Boxer did not change the prohibition on casinos. Boxer refuted the reliability that her son made millions on the deal and that he was not a partner in the LLC.

Assuming all of these denials are true, it makes one wonder why Senator Boxer stonewalled these issues during an October 10, 2010 interview with the Sacramento Bee when she said:

“I can’t talk about any developments because my son was a lawyer who was part of some consultant that was somehow related to this.”
Final hour straight talk?  More likely plugging the breach in the stonewall until the tidal wave passes.


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is charged with preserving historical sites around the world.  UNESCO ended its biannual session by adopting several Arab proposals which classified Jewish and Muslim holy sites.

Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron
UNESCO proclaimed that the Cave of the Machpelah (a.k.a. Cave of the Patriarchs)  in the West Bank city of Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb near the West Bank city of Bethlehem are actually Muslim holy sites. This UNESCO judgment comes after Turkish Foreign Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”  UNESCO requested that Israel take those sites off the Israeli National Heritage list.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is the place where Jewish forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried, so it is understandable that Muslims include it as part of their heritage, but certainly not exclusivity as the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque.  But UNESCO’s 44 to 1 vote with 12 abstentions on the "Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb" was dubious.   The site had been known in Arabic as Qubat Rachel until 1996 when Muslims started referring to the site as Bilal bin Rabah Mosque. UNESCO proclaimed that Rachel’s tomb was "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law."  The fact that Rachel’s Tomb is Judaism’s third most sacred site where tens of thousands of Jewish pilgrims still visit was inconsequential to the majority of the international body. 

Rachel's Tomb, near Bethlehem

Israeli Prime Minister Binyahmin Netanyahu was incensed at UNESCO’s absurd decision.  Netanyahu stated: “If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation are buried, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rachel some 4,000 years ago are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is?”  Netanyahu expressed regret that the international organization charged with protecting historical heritage sites would play politics and try to delink the Jewish people from its heritage.  

There are several factors at play.  Certainly, international organizations have a bias against Israeli and use supposedly non-controversial UN activities as a buttress for antisemitic ends.  This UNESCO ultimatum inserts the cultural organization into international political territorial disputes. 

Counterintuitively, the Palestinian Authority opposed the UNESCO ukase as it was deemed political and that interfered with the West Bank settlement negotiations.  That sounds noble but the PA has no standing in the UN and there is no reason to sully your reputation when your allies can win your fight themselves.   But the Palestinians, may also view this UNESCO finding as an easy way to secure more international aid while sticking a political poker into an enemy’s eye without direct involvement.  The Palestinian Authority recently announced an ambitious multi-million dollar restoration project for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The birthplace of Jesus is suffering from architectural age stresses as well as scars from the 2002 incident during the 2nd Intifada where Palestinian militants sparred against the Israeli Defense Force from within the Catholic section of the Church. 

Is it any wonder why the United States pulled out of UNESCO for 19 years?  I am not sure that President George W. Bush’s re-entry to UNESCO in 2003 has made any difference to the organization or its stated mission. 

As for the curious cultural claims, it is curious how Islam is granted exclusivity for anything it desires in the Holy Land.  The aforementioned Church of the Nativity is jointly claimed by Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches.  But considering that Muslims also consider Jesus as a Messenger of God, I suspect that it is only a matter of time before the site is also proclaimed as a mosque.