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Showing posts from 2008

The folly of central planning that the left forgets

Robert Tracinska:

The top story of 2008 is undoubtedly the revival of the left. After nearly two decades on the defensive following the collapse of the Soviet empire--the definitive example of the failure of socialism--advocates of a government-controlled economy are trying to make a comeback.How brazen has this leftist revival become? It has gotten so far out of hand that some on the left are openly defending central planning. Yes, comrades, you read that right.I occasionally poke around the Internet to see the response to my articles, and I recently came across a reply to my December 11 article warning about the return of the Old Left, complete with central planning for the financial and auto industries. Over at MyDD, a prominent clearing house for "netroots" Democratic Party activists, Charles Lemos responded by complaining that "Central planning is the latest conservative epithet in the wake of president-elect Obama's bold and sweeping proposals for revitalizing …

Commandant wants Marines in the fight in Afghanistan

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CBS:

The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps says it's "high time" his troops leave Iraq and take their battle skills to Afghanistan.

"We are a fighting machine," Gen. James Conway tells CBS News, and the fight is now in Afghanistan.

On a whirlwind holiday visit to remote bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. Conway assessed the situation on the ground. He has made no secret of the fact he believes U.S. Marines would be better suited to the challenges in Afghanistan.

Their role in Iraq, he says, has been reduced to "nation building." In Anbar province, once the most dangerous province in Iraq, the violence has fallen to such low levels, Marines are working with the government on civil services.

"That’s not what we do," Conway told Marines in Afghanistan. "Where there’s a fight, that’s where the Marine Corps is needed."

"If we track the number of foreign fighters into Iraq it’s not nearly what it used to be," he said. "Simila…

Marine Corps legend 'Brute' Krulak dies

San Diego Union-Tribune:

He entered the U.S. Naval Academy as an undersized teenager, but Victor H. “Brute” Krulak rose to command all Marine Corps forces in the Pacific, helped develop a boat crucial to amphibious landings during World War II and spoke his mind in disagreeing with a president over Vietnam War strategy.

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Standing barely 5 feet 5 inches tall, he was jokingly nicknamed Brute by his academy classmates. The moniker stuck, reinforced by his direct, no-nonsense style. “There was nothing undersized about his brain,” Time magazine later said. One of Gen. Krulak's three sons – retired Gen. Charles Krulak of Wilmington, Del. – said his father “was proud of just being a Marine . . . He never forgot that at the end of the day, everything he did was in support of them.” As a major in the years before World War II, the senior Gen. Krulak helped create the amphibious-war doctrine that the Marines used to defeat Japan in the Pacific. He championed the Higgins boat landing…

Where Hamas officials are hiding

Haaretz:

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Diskin told the officials present at the meeting that the Islamic group's ability to govern the Strip has been seriously damaged, and that senior Hamas officials are hiding out in Gaza's hospitals, where they have disguised themselves as doctors and nurses."

"Many Hamas officials are hiding in mosques throughout Gaza, out of the assumption that Israel will avoid attacking Muslim houses of worship," the Shin Bet chief said. Dozens of the mosques have been turned into weapons stockpiles and command centers, he added.

...
I would go ahead and hit the mosques where they are seeking sanctuary. It is not like Israeli restraint has earned it any slack from Muslim groups. I suspect that ground operations will focus on the mosques and hospitals to find the death cult leaders.

Rocket that hit Beersheba made in China

Ynet:

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The army official said the rocket that struck the school in Beersheba was manufactured in China, is heavier than the Qassam and can "potentially cause much greater damage." He said the rocket contains metal pallets that can spread out across a radius of up to 100 meters (about 328 feet) from the point of impact.
This likely a missile that came through the tunnels into Gaza. It is one reason why Israel has focused so much attention on bombing the tunnels. Another reason is the concern that Hamas leaders might use them in an attempt to escape.

Israel rejects cease fire

NY Times:

After five straight days of punishing air attacks, Israel rejected a proposal for a 48-hour cease-fire in its military onslaught in Gaza on Wednesday, saying it would maintain pressure on Hamas. But it did not rule out future diplomacy and was open to ways of increasing humanitarian aid.

The decision was announced after a security cabinet meeting here. The Israeli air strikes on Gaza continued on Wednesday, and at least 20 more rockets were fired by Hamas militants in reprisal into southern Israel, including three that landed in the city of Beersheba. Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said earlier that the country’s leaders “view it as important to keep up the pressure on Hamas.”

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I noted in a post last night that Israel would probably reject the call for a ceasefire. It is already allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

This story suggest that "at least 20 more rockets were fired by Hamas militants in reprisal into southern Israel." That …

Court rules against Gitmo detainees

NY Times:

A federal judge in Washington ruled Tuesday that the government was properly holding two Guantánamo detainees as enemy combatants, the first clear-cut victories for the Bush administration in what are expected to be more than 200 similar cases. The ruling by a federal district judge, Richard J. Leon, followed his decision last month in a separate case declaring that five Algerians had been held unlawfully at the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for nearly seven years and ordering their release. That case had been the only one to reach a full court hearing after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court in June that said Guantánamo detainees have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in habeas corpus cases.The cases Tuesday, involving a Yemeni and a Tunisian detainee, were the next to be decided, and some lawyers said they expected rulings for the government in other cases. The habeas rulings are being watched carefully, in part because decisions approving th…

Irsael pounds Gaza, tunnels again

Haaretz:

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday evening unleashed a massive strike on a network of Hamas-dug tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip near the Philadephi Route, according to Palestinian sources.

IAF planes attacked dozens of the tunnels, which Hamas had used to smuggle weapons and militants between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, the army said in a statement.

The army said that the IAF struck 30 additional targets over the course of Tuesday, including seven Grad and five Qassam rocket launchers, rocket launching cells, rocket launching sites, weapons manufacturing facilities, Hamas outposts and armed terror operatives.

The IAF kept up a relentless string of attacks on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday, smashing a government complex, security installations and the home of a top militant commander.

According to a Military Intelligence assessment, the air offensive has destroyed a third of the Hamas rocket arsenal, Channel 10 television reported.

Meanwhile, thousands of Israel Defense Forces …

Iran tries to reduce subsidies again

NY Times:

Faced with falling oil prices and a weakening economy, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a plan to Parliament on Tuesday that would scrap energy subsidies, a significant change in a major oil-producing country where gasoline is sold for 36 cents a gallon. Economists warn that the move could spur inflation and raise unemployment. But Mr. Ahmadinejad urged Parliament to vote for the bill because of the need to curb costly energy consumption, which the subsidies have encouraged. The president previously insisted that the global economic downturn and the decline in oil prices would not harm Iran’s economy. But as oil prices have fallen to less than $40 a barrel from $147 in recent months, the pressures on the government have become unavoidable. It currently pays $100 billion a year in direct and indirect subsidies for goods, according to government figures.“Falling oil prices encourage us to promptly implement the bill,” Mr. Ahmadinejad told Parliament. “It is time we …

Getting ugly with the race card

John Kass:

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"Let me just remind you that there is presently no African-American in the Senate," said Rush, the U.S. representative of the 1st Congressional District, whom the young Obama challenged years ago and got trounced by, teaching Obama to embrace the realities of Chicago politics: Go along and get along.

On Tuesday, Rush was obviously quite ill, but he was not mentally unstable. He was certainly strong enough to use the angry race language of the 1960s as he stood next to Burris and Blagojevich. Rush warned that no sitting Democrat would go on record for long to bar an African-American from taking the seat.

"I would ask you to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Roland Burris is worthy," Rush said.

Hang? Lynch?

Isn't that the old politics of race that Obama was to have transcended for us?

But there it was, out in the open again, the images of young men hanging from trees in old black-and-white photos offered up easily by R…

Two Arab worlds

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Michael Ramirez looks at the "massacre" madness in the Arab world, or at least the Muslim world. When al Qaeda was killing thousands in Iraq, it was never called a massacre or a war crime and more often than not they blamed the US for not stopping the Muslim war criminals. They have this strange disconnect on war crimes too. Hamas targets noncombatants and that is not a war crime, but Israel targets the leaders of the Hamas death cult and that is supposed to be a war crime? they have a serious credibility problem.

Cornyn says Senate should reject Franken

The Hill:

Senate Republican campaign chief John Cornyn (Texas) said Tuesday the Senate shouldn't seat Democrat Al Franken, who leads GOP Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) in a hotly contested recount.

“Al Franken is falsely declaring victory based on an artificial lead created on the back of the double counting of ballots,” Cornyn said in a statement. The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee also accused Democrats of “creating additional chaos and disorder” during the recount.

“Minnesotans will not accept a recount in which some votes are counted twice, and I expect the Senate would have a problem seating a candidate who has not duly won an election,” the Texas Republican concluded.

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Regardless of whether Democrats decided to seat Franken, it remains up to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) to sign a formal notification to the Senate stipulating that either candidate is the victor.

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It is good to see the Senate Republicans with a forceful spokesman to stand up the Democrat…

Sarah Palin--Most desirable neighbor

Reuters:

If they had to live next door to a celebrity, American adults would most like to be neighbors with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and chat show host Oprah Winfrey. But trouble-prone pop star Britney Spears would be the worst celebrity neighbor, according to a survey published on Tuesday of the most and least desirable well-known faces Americans would have in their backyard.Republican vice presidential candidate Palin topped the poll of most desirable celebrity neighbors with 14 percent, closely followed by Winfrey, who was particularly popular with women....
She is certainly a nice lady, but I think she is probably way too busy to feed my dog when I am out of town. Now Piper might be up for the job. I am not sure I would trust Britney with that job though, although her dad seems to be level headed.

What the cease fire bought Hamas

NY Times:

A piercing shriek went up and a young woman fainted as the body, wrapped in a white shroud, was brought into the packed funeral hall. On Tuesday, this fast-developing, modern port city about halfway between Gaza and Tel Aviv buried its first victim of a rocket attack: Irit Sheetrit, a 39-year-old mother of four. The Katyusha-type rocket that killed her was fired Monday night by Palestinian militants from Gaza. It was the first to have hit this city of more than 200,000, so far north of the Palestinian territory, and underscored how rockets from Gaza were reaching farther into the country with each passing day.As the sun set on Tuesday, rockets flying out of Gaza were landing in new places like Kiryat Malachi, to the northeast, and Beersheba, a major city in Israel’s south.Over the weekend, Israel began its devastating aerial bombardment of Hamas targets in Gaza with the stated goal of stopping the incessant rocket fire that has plagued Israeli towns and villages close t…

French push 'humanitarian window,' Israelis reluctant

Telegraph:

News of a "humanitarian window'' initiative proposed by Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, came after a fourth day of Israeli air attacks that claimed the lives of more Palestinian civilians including two children. But while the Palestinian death toll grew to 365, including 39 children, there was some evidence late yesterday of a slowing down of the rate of Israel's air attacks. The humanitarian plan envisages a 48-hour period during which the Israeli armed forces would direct their fire away from the crossing points into Gaza so desperately needed aid could be delivered. The willingness of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, to consider the idea was the first indication of a possible reduction in the momentum of the Israeli assault codenamed operation Cast Lead.
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Ynet reports a lack of enthusiasm for the French suggestion:

A state official said Tuesday night that "Israel mustn't talk of a ceasefire for h…

Environmental wackos want to reintroduce vandal rodents in Scotland

From the Scotsman:

Shocking trail of beaver vandalism trashes beauty spots
The beavers are the vandals.

Lobbist sues NY Times over allegations of McCain affair

Michael Calderon:

Vikki Iseman, the D.C. lobbyist who was alleged to have an improper relationship with Sen. John McCain in an explosive New York Times story last February, is now suing the paper for $27 million.

Long Island Business News reports that "the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Tuesday, alleges the article falsely communicated that Iseman and McCain had an illicit 'romantic' relationship in 1999 when he was chair of the Senate Commerce Committee and she was a lobbyist representing clients before Congress." Both McCain and Iseman denied any romantic relationship.

Also named in the 36-page suit as defendants are exexcutive editor Bill Keller, Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet, and reporters Jim Rutenberg, David Kirkpatrick, Stephen Labaton and Marilyn Thompson (who's since joined the Washington Post).

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The suit may raise some interesting issues. Under NY Times v. Sullivan, McCain would have a difficult time recovering because his burden…

The Afghan alternate supply route

NY Times:

The United States and NATO are planning to open and expand supply lines through Central Asia to deliver fuel, food and other goods to a military mission in Afghanistan that is expected to grow by tens of thousands of troops in the months ahead, according to American and alliance diplomats and military officials.

The plan to open new paths through Central Asia reflects an American-led effort to seek out a more reliable alternative to the route from Pakistan through the strategic Khyber Pass, which was closed by Pakistani security forces on Tuesday as they launched an offensive against militants in the region.The militants have shown they can threaten shipments through the pass into Afghanistan, burning cargo trucks and American Humvees over recent weeks. More than 80 percent of the supplies for American and allied forces in Afghanistan now flow through Pakistan.But the new arrangements could leave the United States more reliant on cooperation from authoritarian countries like U…

Blagojevich to name Obama successor

CNN:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected Tuesday to name former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, CNN affiliates the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV reported, citing sources familiar with the decision.

Burris' appointment would fill President-elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Blagojevich is to announce his choice at a news conference at 3 p.m. ET. Burris, 71, is African-American. According to the newspaper, he expressed interest in the Senate seat shortly after the November 4 election....

I suspect the gold that Blagojevich hopes to get out this appointment is an acquittal on charges of trying to sell the seat.

Jim Geraghty says:

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First thought: Is Blago testing Harry Reid's pledge that he would never seat anyone named by the tainted governor? Does Reid have the guts to reject the seating of an African-American who, at first glance, appears untainted by this particular scandal?UPDATE: Jim Warren of the Chicago Tribune says he's "dum…

If only US states would do this

From the San Antonio Express-News:

Mexican state wants all to learn English
It sounds like they have theri own "head start" program.

Bombing is just first phase of Gaza op

BBC:

Israel's air assault on Gaza is "the first in several stages" of operations aimed at ending militant rocket fire, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.As the bombing continued for a fourth day, another top official said Israel was ready for "long weeks of action". Palestinian officials say 10 people died in the latest attacks, taking the death toll to over 360 since Saturday. Four Israelis have died in rocket fire. A BBC reporter says Israeli tanks and troops are massed along Gaza's border. Correspondents say this could be a prelude to ground operations, but could also be intended to build pressure on the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. "The army is concentrating troops near the Gaza Strip, but I don't want to give any details over what we are planning in the future," Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.
...Richard Falk - the UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories - said the international commun…

The disproportionate argument

David Aaronovitch:

Let's have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel's bombing is “disproportionate”. To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like. Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City? There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not. Of course, if one of Gaza's rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending upon how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion. Would you be happy then? This is not about proportionality. Let us instead express outrage and, perhaps, illustrate it with pictures of crowds of similarly …

A crisis of confidence

Lawrence Officer and Ari Officer:

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From this anti-Depression policy has come a stream of costly policy errors that could ultimately prolong the current recession. The Fed's December 16th decision to drop the target federal-funds rate to a record low of zero to 0.25% is but the most recent of these. With rates already effectively trading near zero despite the Fed's previous target of 1%, the decision does not actually change rates, but only sends a negative message about the state of the economy. That worsens confidence. And now the target rate has nowhere else to go, so the Fed will have to resort to new means to increase liquidity — a painful irony since liquidity is not even the problem. (Read TIME's Top 10 financial collapses of the year.) It is true that the Great Depression of the 1930s was a crisis of liquidity. Stocks plunged, banks went under, and the value of assets disintegrated. Our current policies would have been appropriate in the Great Depression, but they…

Attacking Hamas launch sites

This is from a collection at the new IDF channel on YouTube. The Jerusalem Post indicates that Israel is being much more proactive in the media battle space this go round. It is about time. This was an area of significant weakness for Israel in the Hezballah war of 2006. The Israelis are also going to be doing Vlogs that will be posted to the web.

Hamas's indifference to suffering

Jeff Robbins:

LAST MONTH'S commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided the occasion to ask difficult questions about societies whose political leadership serially violates them. What, for instance, is to be done about places like Darfur or Zimbabwe, or any one of a multitude of places governed by leaders whose consciences appear untouched by the suffering they are causing? To the list of grotesque human rights violators must be added Hamas, whose disdain for the suffering its policies cause the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip is exceeded only by its open, and even proud, infliction of atrocities on Israeli civilians.

This year alone, Hamas, which expressly calls for the obliteration of Israel, has launched approximately 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli civilian centers, always for the purpose of killing and maiming Israelis if possible, and terrifying those who are not actually hit. In the last week or so, Hamas has …

Iran, the bomb, and Israel, plus Syria, Hezballah, Hamas

Arthur Herman:

HAMAS' missile attacks on Israel last week, and Israel's thunderous re sponse, may only be the prelude for the next big Middle East confrontation between America and Iran - and a defining moment for the new Obama presidency. Imagine if, in the summer of 1941, Adolf Hitler had approached Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt with this deal: I will cease hostilities and leave the British Empire alone, if you leave me alone to finish my extermination of the Jews. Expect Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to offer a similar deal to Barack Obama come January. Officially, the offer will be Iranian cooperation with the West in Iran's nuclear program, possibly including United Nations inspections - if the United States reverses course on its support for Israel, including its actions against Hamas in Gaza. Iran expert Ze'ev Maghen of Bar-Ilan University thinks this may be what top Iranian officials are preparing to offer the West in a kind of crude devil&…

Government unions bump up against reality

Washington Times:

Unions invested heavily in the 2008 election in Colorado, and it paid off: The labor movement defeated three anti-labor initiatives, including a right-to-work measure, and helped Democrats increase their edge in Congress and the Legislature. Instead of celebrating, however, labor leaders find themselves butting heads with the very people they helped elect. Last week, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, confronted with a $56 million budget deficit, asked the city's police, sheriffs and firefighters unions to absorb a 2 percent cut in their scheduled 2009 pay increases. It's a scenario being played out nationwide as states and municipalities grapple with the economic downturn. Forced to make deep budget cuts, many elected officials are opting for the low-hanging fruit of union contracts by slicing into pay increases and paid workdays. Sometimes the unions are cooperating, and sometimes they're not. In Denver, for example, two of the three public-safety unions h…

The problem with state management of business

NY Times:

A year ago, Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, aspired to be the largest corporation in the world. Buoyed by high oil prices and political backing from the Kremlin, it had already achieved third place judging by market capitalization, behind Exxon Mobil and General Electric.

Today, Gazprom is deep in debt and negotiating a government bailout. Its market cap, the total value of all the company’s shares, has fallen 76 percent since the beginning of the year. Instead of becoming the world’s largest company, it has tumbled to 35th place. And while bailouts are increasingly common, none of Gazprom’s big private sector competitors in the West is looking for one. That Russia’s largest state-run energy company needs a bailout so soon after oil hit record highs last summer is a telling postscript to a turbulent period. Once the emblem of the pride and the menace of a resurgent Russia, Gazprom has become a symbol of this oil state’s rapid economic decline. During the boom times,…

Brits were ready for very short defense in Cold War

Daily Mail:

British defences were so perilously low during the Cold War that the RAF's ammunition would have lasted for only two days if the Soviets had decided to launch an attack, official files reveal today. The RAF's Phantom jets had enough firepower to defend the country for just two waves of attacks from Leonid Brezhnev's bombers. And if enemy planes had slipped through, air defence missile batteries protecting key strategic targets could have been fired only twice before they, too, ran out of ammunition. At sea, the Navy would have been no match for the threat posed by enemy submarines and on land the Army was so stretched that even when fully mobilised it would have been unable to cope with a wide-scale campaign of sabotage and subversion from the might of the Soviet special forces. When he learned about Britain's inability to defend itself, the then Prime Minister James Callaghan described it as a 'scandal' and called for heads to roll. 'Heaven hel…

Israel goes for regime change in Gaza?

Times:

Israel vowed yesterday to sweep Hamas from power in Gaza, pledging “all-out” war and promising to smash every building linked to the Islamist movement. Hamas continued to lob rockets at the Jewish state as Israeli forces carried out a third day of attacks on the Gaza Strip, broadening the offensive to include naval as well as aerial bombardments. But as Britain and other nations called for an end to the violence, there were signs that Hamas was feeling the strain with claims that its leader-in-exile was ready to renew a ceasefire that expired ten days ago. Yesterday’s targets in Gaza included a university building, the Interior Ministry and the office of Ismail Haniya, the Hamas political leader. The Palestinian death toll reached 345, with 1,550 wounded, in just three days. Four Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets.
“The goal of the operation is to topple Hamas,” Haim Ramon, the deputy to Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said. It was the first time since it launc…

Not too smart

Telegraph:

The man walked into a Chicago bank and handed a teller a note that read "Be Quick Be Quit (quiet). Give your cash or I'll shoot."He got about $400 from the teller but mistakenly left half of his note, written on his October payslip, behind. Investigators found the other half outside the bank's front doors, complete with his name and address.Police said they had never seen a criminal blunder like it."It's fairly unusual that we see something that specifically stupid," said FBI spokesman Ross Rice. "But overall, we see a lot of strange bank robberies."...Mr Infante was arrested at his home in Cary, and later admitted to his role in the robbery, according to an FBI statement....
Do you think he would have produced his ID if the teller demanded it? He is facing a potential 20 year sentence on a robbery that netted him $400. That is really not too smart.

Bristol Palin has son, mother and grandmother doing OK

NY Daily News:

Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of Alaska Gov. and former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth over the weekend to a 7-pound, 4-ounce boy. Both mom and baby were said to be doing well."We think it's wonderful," Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, told People Magazine. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited." Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston - the first grandchild for the governor - was born Sunday in Palmer, Alaska....
More on the birth announcement here. I wish Tripp, as well as his mom and dad well. I still think Tripp's grandmother has a future in the Republican party.

Democrats could lose 50 to 70 seats in 2010

Politico:

House Democrats are warning the party faithful of a difficult election cycle ahead, with as many as 70 party-held seats in danger.

"We have a daunting challenge ahead in the 2010 midterm elections," Democratic House campaign chief Chris Van Hollen says in a year-end Web video thanking supporters. "Many of our new members are from conservative areas with long histories of Republican representation. We are looking at potentially 70 — 70 — threatened Democrats who will need our support."

While House race watchers are predicting a difficult cycle for Democrats, Van Hollen's 70 figure may be on the high end.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan handicapping guide, places 48 Democrats in prospectively competitive races. And Democrats are expected to have targets of their own in 2010, with Cook placing 34 Republicans on its watch list.

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Over the past two election cycles, House Democrats picked up 51 seats....

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This may be just to scare some money out of do…

Hollywood's sick Che cult

Mary Anastasia O'Grady:

Hollywood hotshot Benicio Del Toro is not a stand-up comic, but he seemed to be playing one earlier this month when he said he found the role of Cuban Revolution hero Ernesto Guevara, in the new film "Che," like Jesus Christ.

"Only Jesus would turn the other cheek. Che wouldn't," Mr. Del Toro explained. Right. And Bernie Madoff is Mother Teresa, only she wasn't into fraud.With next month marking the 50th anniversary of the Castro dictatorship, it's no surprise that the film industry is trying to cash in by celebrating pop-culture icon Guevara. As one of Fidel Castro's lieutenants in the Sierra Maestra and a Castro enforcer in the years following the rebel victory, his name is synonymous with the Cuban Revolution.Interesting films are hard to come by these days and "Che" is a good example of the problem. Rebel glamour sells T-shirts and coffee mugs so why not another airbrushed rerun of Guevara's life? Or, more…

Did Madoff stash cash offshore?

NY Post:

Investigators believe that Bernard Madoff has stuffed hundreds of millions of dollars in Ponzi profits into offshore tax havens from which they could prove tricky to recover. In the weeks since his Dec. 11 arrest, forensic accountants have been scouring Madoff's books as federal officials ready an indictment against the hated hedge-funder, who remains under house arrest in his $7 million Upper East Side penthouse. The accountants believe Madoff regularly sent bundles of money to offshore accounts in the Caribbean and Europe, the Observer newspaper in London reported yesterday. Madoff, 70, has been ordered by a Manhattan fed eral judge to provide to the Securities and Exchange Commission by New Year's Eve a detailed list of all of his assets - in cluding investments, loans, lines of credit, business interests and brokerage accounts. But tracking what happened to the estimated $50 billion Madoff is accused of making off with is already promising to be one of the lon…

The Hamas war

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CNN:

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"We have stretched our hand in peace many times to the Palestinian people. We have nothing against the people of Gaza," Barak said as Israeli warplanes carried out a third day of strikes on the Palestinian territory. "But this is an all-out war against Hamas and its branches. The restraint that we have demonstrated is the source of our strength when it is time to fight." The Palestinian death toll from the campaign has topped 300, most of them Hamas militants, Palestinian medical sources said Monday. Columns of smoke could be seen over Gaza City, while Israeli tanks cruised along the edges of the territory. Watch as Gaza endures third day of attacks » Iyad Nasr, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the streets of Gaza were largely empty while airstrikes continued throughout the morning. "Very little number of cars are going out," he said. "People who need to secure some basic food supplies are all to go out, or …

Israel continues to pound Hamas targets

BBC:

Israeli air raids have pounded the Gaza Strip for a third day, hitting key sites linked to militant group Hamas.Gaza's interior ministry and Islamic University were the latest targets. Hamas says 300 Palestinians have died since Saturday, while the UN says 56 civilians are dead. In Israel, a second person was killed by a militant rocket. Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was not fighting the people of Gaza but was in "a war to the bitter end" with Hamas, which has ruled it since 2007. Israel has massed forces along the border and has declared the area around the narrow coastal strip a "closed military zone".
Correspondents say the move - in addition to the call-up of thousands of reservists - could be a prelude to ground operations, but could also be intended to build pressure on Hamas.
...Dozens of centres of Hamas strength, including security compounds, government offices and tunnels into Egypt, have been hit since Israel started its massive bombing c…

Strategy in Gaza

Richard Boudreaux:

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Faced with frequent Hamas rocket fire across its southern border, Israel planned its Gaza operation more meticulously, over nearly two years. As a result, Israeli officials said Sunday, their intelligence services developed a longer list of targets to bomb, enabling the air force to inflict more damage on the militant Palestinian group before Israel contemplates a risky ground assault.

And instead of boasting that they would "destroy" the enemy, as they did in the case of Lebanon, Israeli leaders set the more modest aim of "improving the security" of terrorized Israeli communities.

That less ambitious approach could make it easier for Israel to withdraw from the conflict on its terms, avoiding the kind of demoralizing stalemate that developed in Lebanon.

So far, Israel considers its Gaza offensive a success. Since it began Saturday, waves of airstrikes have destroyed dozens of Hamas paramilitary facilities, weapons-smuggling tunnels from Egy…

Confirmation bias--irrational despondency

Eric Weiner:

If the FDA regulated the media, it would require all stories about the economy to carry this warning: "Dizziness and pangs of existential angst may result. Do not read if you suffer from gloominess or are prone to bouts of anxiety. If you are near retirement age or work in the auto industry, consult with a physician before reading."

Yes, things out there are bad, really bad, and they're only going to get worse. Americans, we're told, are retrenching. We're eating out less, forsaking vacations and gift-giving and even that big New Year's Eve splurge, though we are apparently spending more -- lots more! -- on guns, booze and psychics. Crime rates are spiking, or soon will. We're hocking our jewelry and even our hair; we're donating our eggs; we're signing up as "lab rats." We're "ransacking our closets," as USA Today breathlessly put it, in hopes of finding something -- anything -- to sell on eBay. All because of…