Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Julian Assange Wanted by Interpol

At Business Week, "Interpol Adds WikiLeaks Founder to Wanted List for Rape Charge," and Telegraph UK, "WikiLeaks Cables: Julian Assange Lies Low After Unleashing Tempest."

Interpol's Assange page is
here.

I should have more on WikiLeaks tomorrow, but The Lede has a great roundup, "
Latest Updates on Leak of U.S. Cables." The post links to "Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”." (Also at Memeorandum.) It's a long discourse on Assange's 2006 essay, "State and Terrorist Conspiracies." Skimming over the former's analysis of the latter, it's a bit overdone. More later, in any case.

Hmm ... The Civil War Was Never Really About Slavery?

A very interesting piece at NYT, "Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves."

Immediately upon seeing this I figured I'd clicked over to Little Green Footballs, and what do you know?

"
For Civil War 150th, Neo-Confederates Consign Slavery to the Memory Hole."

I don't really see a passage worth quoting at the Times, although one paragraph comes awfully close to merging the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the tea parties. And then of course there's the obligatory quotation from Mark Potok, who's cited as "the director of intelligence at the Southern Poverty Law Center." I used to trust the SPLC, mainly because I don't discount the lingering existence Jim Crow racism, however residual. But whatever amount of that there is in fact, it's been superceded by the more problematic race-baiting industry that's killing free speech in America. William Jacobson's written on this quite a bit recently. See, "
Southern Poverty Law Center Completes Its Descent Into Madness," and "SPLC Demonizes Supporters of Traditional Marriage." Moreover, my knowledge of the South is based on textbook learning, which is fairly deep as far as 20th century civil rights goes. Less so on the Civil War however. But Robert Stacy McCain and Stogie at Saberpoint are very good friends of mine, and both had ancesters who fought for the Confedracy. You learn a lot from people with direct experience, and these interactions blow away the rank stereotypes that are used to brand and destroy people. This is Charles Johnson's stock-in-trade nowadays, and look how that's turned out.

In any case, I skimmed over Jefferson Davis'
Wikipedia entry as I was looking around for a picture to go with this post. He doesn't seem that impressive of a guy, but his reputation after the war was rehabilitated, and today he represents some of the more noble sentiments of the Old South. I know lots of folks on the left will reject the possibility of anything noble about that Anti-Bellum society, but I'd suggest that people keep an open mind on these things, lest they be poisoned by the likes of SPLC and their race-baiting brethren.

Jefferson Davis


Will 'Dancing With the Stars' Go Queer?

I was gonna say "Will 'Dancing With the Stars' Go Homo?" But "homo" is derogatory, and I'm much too politically correct for that. "Queer" is the acceptable term for the out and proud crowd. See, "A Politically Correct Lexicon: Your ‘How-To’ Guide to Avoid Offending Anyone."

That said, too bad we won't be seeing some of these folks on DWTS. I think it'd be a blast.

At Fox News, "
Will 'Dancing With the Stars' Feature a Same-Sex Couple?"

Losing His Cool? Rep. Steve Buyer Hammers Deadbeat Democrat House Speaker Pro Tempore Laura Richardson

For refusing to yield the floor for one minute during House debate. One minute! Sheesh, I'd lose my cool too. But the leftist press wants to play up the "anger" issue and not the "imperial" issue, which is what we see at the full clip. What you don't get is the background: Laura Richardson's one of the most scandal-plagued Democrats in office. But she serves an overwhelmingly disadvantaged constituency so safe that she's unlikely to face a serious challenge to reelection, even after this:
You remember Laura Richardson, right? She’s the Democrat congresswoman who defaulted six times on her home loans and has left a trail of unpaid bills in her wake. Well, she’s back. On behalf of taxpayers in her district, she’s now trying to get money back from Lehman Brothers after an investment gone awry. Hat tip to reader Thomas, who e-mails: “The irony is mighty thick.”
This is why folks want term limits on Members of Congress.

More commentary at AoSHQ, "
'This Is Why The American People Have Thrown You Out of Power!'."

Urban is the New Uppity

At PuffHo, "Republican Calls Obama 'Very, Very Urban' On House Floor."

And
Oliver Willis is on the case: "They just want to use the 'N' word so badly." (At Memeorandum.)

Progressives and WikiLeaks

I've had intermittent engagement with Professor Charli Carpenter on the utility of WikiLeaks. She's written much in favor of WikiLeaks, very little that's critical. She wrote earlier, in an August essay at Foreign Policy, regarding the Afghanistan document dump:
Assange's indiscriminate approach may have caused undue collateral damage this time around, the extent of which might never be known. But this doesn't mean that the weapons of his trade should be banned or written off altogether. A more targeted whistle-blowing architecture of this type could save civilian lives in warfare -- which is the whole point, after all.
I responded to Charli at "Bloody WikiLeaks." And to repeat:
Charli Carpenter wants to save lives, particularly civilians who are killed or injured in what is otherwise the lawful exercise of military power. The problem is that's not what Julian Assange wants, nor is it what his worldwide backers want. Frankly, I don't think these people care about "human rights" except as a vehicle to chain the United States to supranational norms and to limit America's international power. Thus, I don't think Assange and WikiLeaks should be the agents of the kind of military transparency that Charli proposes.
That opinion still stands.

Charli hasn't written much on the latest release, although she suggests there's
nothing new under the sun. I linked her post at Right Wing News earlier: "WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy Cables Release." And my key line, "I continue to be amazed at the fawning credibility Assange gets on the progressive," is getting picked up by some ideological enemies on the left. Poor Barbara O'Brien thinks she's pwned me: "Donald Douglas is too stupid to recognize obvious sarcasm, mistaking it for 'fawning'."

Actually, I'm not mistaking anything with respect to Charli's commentary on WikiLeaks. Yeah, I've posted my share of stupidity, but WikiLeaks commentary is not it. Stupid is as stupid does, in any case. Besides, more bothersome is willful dishonesty, which is what Scott Lemieux is all about: "
Did You Know That Charli Was An Uncritical Defender of Wikileaks?" Frankly, that's what all of these progressives are all about, especially since the latest doc dump is making mincemeat of progressive foreign policy. And to that effect, folks should check out Spree at Wake Up America, "Examples of Progressive Liberal Wikileak 'Fawners'." This is an awesome post. Spree captures the absolute glee among some of the left's top bloggers. WikiLeaks is just peachy according to:
Attaturk from Firedoglake.

AmericaBlog.

Nicole Belle at Crooks and Liars.

Digby.

BradBlog.

Robert Farley of Lawyers, Gays and Marriage.

Paul Rosenberg from Open Left.

John Cole from Balloon Juice.
That's a roundup from Memeorandum, although I could add a few more to Spree's list. For example, at Newshoggers, "Wikileaks Cablegate: Nothing New But The Truth," and Matthew Rothschild, "Wikileaks and the Reactionary Impulse to Repress."

Leftists love WikiLeaks, which is no surprise, since it's essentially a neo-communist
information warfare operation against the U.S. I've written much on this, for example, "How Communists Exploit WikiLeaks," and "Daniel Ellsberg Works to Give Radical Imprimatur to Latest WikiLeaks Disclosures."

What's key this time is that WikiLeaks is making progressives look bad, really bad. Barbara O'Brien's
too stupid to break from the pack to call it what it is: a disaster. Sure there's some pushback, from Heather Hurlburt, for example: "Why Wikileaks Is Bad for Progressive Foreign Policy." But on balance leftists are responding to the latest release with equanimity. WikiLeaks is out to destroy establishment institutions, governments and business. And Julian Assange makes no attempt to hide his enmity of the United States. As with all the previous releases, the damage to American interests is enormous. It's no wonder leftists are thrilled, like the neo-communists at Democracy Now!

RELATED: "Whack WikiLeaks."

Whack WikiLeaks

William Kristol seconds that emotion.

At the video, Julian Assange's communist enablers at
Democracy Now!

And see John Hawkins, "5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange."

RELATED: "The Classical Liberal: Israel Bashing Paleocon?"

Prospects for Regime Change in North Korea

At the clip below, with Donald Kirk of the Christian Science Monitor. He speaks toward the end on the extreme dangers of a military overthrow in North Korea, especially a refugee crisis. Interesting how these dangers are raised primarily in the context of outside intervention, and not in the case of an implosion of the dictatorship in Pyongyang. Most problematic is the size of the North Korean forces, with nearly 1,000,000 troops under arms. A military incursion from the south would only be feasible with a combined contingent of American and South Korean units. The U.S. would provide air support off shore through carrier battle groups. Tokyo has indicated its support for military retaliation --- and Japanese military forces were deployed to Iraq in the first outside operations since WWII --- so perhaps the operation could be multilateralized. And then there's China. We can only speculate, but it's unlikely any force options would be available without some kind of support from Beijing. Regime change North Korea would require buy-in from all the major actors, and so far I don't see much realistic discussion of it on the Chinese side. (But see, "Is China About to Throw North Korea Under The Bus?") Certainly China relishes the regional prestige from propping up its NoKo client. But should the Kim dynasty continue its bellicose actions, perhaps leading to the additional loss of life, the situation will be an increasing reminder of the false peace of 1930s Europe. A huge blowout of historic proportions could be expected.

Kirk's got a report from yesterday: "Disillusioned South Korea Weighs Response to North Korean Flare-Up."

And New York Times has another installment on the diplomatic cables: "
Leaked Cables Depict a World Guessing About North Korea." And related news at Memeorandum.

Sarah Palin Blasts Obama's WikiLeaks 'Fiasco'

At Politico.

And at Politics Daily: "
Sarah Palin Blames WikiLeaks 'Fiasco' on Obama's 'Incompetence'."

Plus,
Marc Thiessen interviewed at the clip:

Involuntary Transparency or Information Warfare?

At Forbes (FWIW), "An Interview With WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange" (via Memeorandum):

Admire him or revile him, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is the prophet of a coming age of involuntary transparency, the leader of an organization devoted to divulging the world’s secrets using technology unimagined a generation ago. Over the last year his information insurgency has dumped 76,000 secret Afghan war documents and another trove of 392,000 files from the Iraq war into the public domain–the largest classified military security breaches in history. Sunday, WikiLeaks made the first of 250,000 classified U.S. State Department cables public, offering an unprecedented view of how America’s top diplomats view enemies and friends alike.

But, as Assange explained to me earlier this month, the Pentagon and State Department leaks are just the start...

It's information warfare, of course. Assange thinks he's some kinda hero who's creating a marketplace for government and business accountability. Yet he admits he has no respect for state legitimacy nor the international system's regime of legalized rules and norms.

We'll see how that works out for him. At WaPo, "WikiLeaks founder could be charged by Feds."

Say, About That Old 'Bush Lied' Trope...

From Doug Ross, "Say, About That Old 'Bush Lied' Trope, Looks Like Wikileaks Proved Obama Repeatedly Lied About Middle East Policy":
Anyone remember that exactly one year ago President Obama's original deadline for Iran expired?

Back in the halcyon days of hopeychange, newly minted President Barack Obama articulated his master plan for dealing with Iran. Mr. Peabody, set the Wayback Machine for May of 2009 ...
RTWT.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Axis of Evil: One Down Two to Go

There are few presidential slogans more reviled that President George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil" from his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002. Endlessly ridiculed, leftist media outlets argued such rhetoric "heightened dangers" while some claimed the speech came back to "haunt the U.S." in 2006. But President Bush stayed the course, and Iraq now boasts a democratic government that is unique among Arab states of the Middle East. See, "Seven Years Later, Iraq War Bearing Fruit." Unfortunately the Obama administration's precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces leaves a tenuous security balance between the Iraqi government and its long-time nemesis Iran. At the height of the insurgency Shiite power spread like an arc across the Persian Gulf and today Iran presses its claws on political developments in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and even the Pakistani hinterlands controlled by the Qaeda-Taliban-Lashkar enterprise. See, "Obama's Lose-Lose Iraq Policy." Now we have not only an emboldened Iran but an increasingly bellicose alliance between Tehran and Pyongyang. And while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the document release as an "attack on the international community," there's a demonstrable clarity to the nature of global threats today following the WikiLeaks disclosures. Even New York Times reporting occasionally concedes the dangers. See, "Iran Fortifies Its Arsenal With the Aid of North Korea."

I have called for regime change in North Korea. We'll hardly see a better time than right now. Japan has pressed the U.S. for a military response and Sen. John McCain argued for lobbying China on toppling Pyongyang. Continued soft-peddling will only bring more conflict on the Korean peninula, and more military and civilian deaths. It's time for American foreign policy to return to the animating vision of the early Bush years. President Bush's Axis of Evil speech identified the threatening storm of rogue regimes in the early post-9/11 period. Toppling Saddam in Iraq was costly, but the world benefits with one less leg of the rogue revisionist triad of terror. It's time to work on making the Axis of Evil two down and one to go.

The Classical Liberal: Israel Bashing Paleocon?

I used to link TCL fairly often for the weekly Rule 5 entries, as recently as a month or two ago. But while cruising around over there a while back I noticed some positive chatter on Ron Paul's ideological positions. Since then I've just left the dude alone. But now it turns out that he's in my comments disgreeing with my ruminations on Julian Assange (I said "I won't think twice if Julian Assange meets the cold blade of an assassin"). Look, I consider Assange an enemy of the state. If he was an American he could be charged with espionage and perhaps sentenced to death. Marc Thiessen's written on this at length (and more today: "Obama administration is weak in the face of WikiLeaks"). John Hawkins has been out front on this for a while: "The CIA Should Kill Julian Assange." And it's like I said, I wouldn't think twice if Assange met an untimely fate. Perhaps no one in history has leaked more classified information. And not only is he putting American lives at risk, he's abetting terrorism. I don't like him and I want him stopped. So what does TCL have to say? Well ...
You're a good guy, at least I think so. Maybe you want to think twice about the "virtue" of advocating murder. There are things in this world much more important than government.
Hmm. I'm a "bad guy" if I reject illegal violations of U.S. sovereignty, not to mention the larger compromise of American national security interests and the security of our allies? Okay, I guess I'm a bad guy then. Or, I'm bad if you're half-baked Paulbot. Yep. Looking over at TCL's right now it's clear the dude's all in for the Texas Congressman, defending him against claims of anti-Semitism, trutherism, or what have you. See, "Ron Paul Sucks!", and "'Israel’s intransigence could cost American lives'." And that's just for starters. The first one's a snarkly piece where TCL links to some lame Paulbot-worshippers, "Why Ron Paul is wrong on every damn thing!", and "Ron Paul, not a Truther, nor a Birther, but perhaps a Round-Earther." And the second one's a classic Israel-bashing screed:
As we speak, America is facing both a constitutional and financial crisis of epic proportions. So tell me, please, how "conservative" is it, really, to render America's best interests subservient to the desires of the Israeli government, while spending trillions of dollars fighting wars without end, with nothing substantial to show for it?
And that's what really bugs me. "Subservient to the desires of the Isreali government"? I really don't like going there, but this is the same territory as Mearsheimer and Walt. I wrote on that recently: "The London Review of Bigotry." Plus, see View From the Right, "The Paleocon anti-Semitic Complex." And NewsReal has lots of stuff, especially "7 Videos That Prove Ron Paul is a Leftist in Libertarian Clothing." And also Jane Jamison: "Ron Paul: Anti-Semite: Case Closed."

No Ron Paul

I'm sure TCL means well. But he's way over the anti-Semitic side of town, and I can't hang with that. And that's to say nothing of the America- and Israel-bashers at Faux-Conservative Times.

NO RULE 5 FOR YOU!!

Middle East Mountebanks Exposed

I mentioned that something good might come of the latest WikiLeaks document dump, but I wasn't expecting it so soon.

The headline at this morning's Los Angeles Times hardcopy reads: "
Hidden Diplomacy Exposed: Among the WikiLeaks disclosures are pleas by Arab nations to the U.S. to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities." I'm a little flabbergasted that evidence repudiating the shibboleths of Middle East "experts" is getting such prominent play, considering that New York Times is tweaking every angle from the cables to pump up how allegedly brilliant the Obama administration's been in supporting "tougher measures" against Iran.

Well, not.

Mere Rhetoric has a blog entry featuring the kind of commentary rarely found in the legacy press: "
Wikileaks – Anti-Israel Foreign Policy Experts Got Saudi Arabia, Other Arab Countries 100% Backward On Iran Attack." Folks'll want to read it over carefully, savoring the not-too-subtle schadenfreude that animates the commentary. I can't help myself, though. So here's a bit of the payoff from the conclusion:

Mearsheimer and Walt

Either Walt, Mearsheimer, Lynch, Chas Freeman, and their ilk don’t know much about the Middle East, or they’re ignoring what they do know in order to push their own foreign policy wishful thinking as objective analysis. Which is fine – everyone gets to have an agenda – but now can we at least dispense with the aggravating hagiographies to their vaunted neutrality and expertise? Because apparently their wrongheaded assumptions are influencing policymakers, and – predictably – that’s not going well.
Go back and read the whole thing for the background context. I just love how we've got all these "expert" Israel bashers who've been shown the door with the release of these diplomatic cables. In the years following the Iraq deployment, radical leftists routinely decried the continued prominence of war hawks such as William Kristol, et al., who they demonized as clowns or a killers alternatively. Of course these same antiwar/anti-Jew critics will be working overtime to rewrite one of the key findings of this latest doc dump. This time, though, even some of the dead tree press corps are getting the story right.

PICTURED: Israel-bashing Professor Stephen Walt, at right, signs a book, while Professor John Mearsheimer mugs for the camera.

Iran May Have Missiles From North Korea, WikiLeaks Show

The report's at Bloomberg.

And at Guardian, "US Embassy Cables: Browse the Database (via Memeorandum and Techmeme).

Some other interesting reports: * "
Australia To Back Legal Action Against WikiLeaks Founder."

* "
WikiLeaked Diplomatic Cables Confirm China's Politburo Was Behind Google Hacking Incident."

* "
Israel says Wikileaks vindicates its Iran focus."

* "
WikiLeaks and the future of the newspaper."

* "
Around the World, Distress Over Iran."

RELATED: From John Hawkins, "Reactions To The Wikileaks Document Dump From Around The Right Side Of The Blogosphere."

Comfortably Numb

Unlike Elvis Costello, Roger Waters toured Israel, although he couldn't resist the opportunity to use his appearances "to criticize the government's treatment of Palestinians and to spray-paint the words 'Tear Down the Wall' on Israel's security barrier." Perhaps such talk comfortably numbs the soft-on-jihad Israelis at the shows, but tearing down the wall is the last thing Israel wants to do at this point. There's little evidence Palestinians want peace, and lots of evidence of the kind of terror Hamas wants to impose on the whole of Israel. All of this is beside the point, I guess. I was mostly thinking about Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" since lately I'm hearing it all the time on the radio. Waters is playing Los Angeles this week, tonight, tomorrow, and Friday. And I had no interest in going, frankly, although Larry Morgan's been talkin' it up like crazy. I do have an automatic recollection whenever the song comes on. In 1980 I was really getting into punk. But Scott, one of my skating buddies, was still into the arena rocks bands and he sat me down at his house one afternoon, saying "you gotta listen to 'Comfortably Numb'." It was quite a change from the Johnny Rotten I'd been listening to, but obviously it's a moment I haven't forgotten. Weird. That said, the Roger Waters tour, seen at the clip below, looks exactly like the big stadium concerts that punkers railed against in the 1970s. Corporate and the opposite of intimacy. I like everything nowadays, so I shouldn't complain, but I doubt this would have been cool back in the day. Good reviews, in any case: "Roger Waters at US Airways Center Last Night."

Life After Mortgage Modification

I don't write about this stuff, since I'm actually working with my lender (I'll update on New Year's Day). But this story at LAT is interesting, and no doubt resonates with a lot of folks. "Her House Was Saved But Now What?"
In the midst of a divorce and unable to afford her Torrance home, Nicole Rasmussen phoned her lender to ask for a mortgage modification.

She phoned every week for more than a year.

She also called her congressman and a senator to seek their help. Then, in desperation, she and her ex-husband — who still jointly owned the home — stopped making the payments on their $475,000 mortgage.

It was the only way, she felt, that the bank would seriously consider her pleas for a modification.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," said Rasmussen, who was frightened that she and her 7-year-old daughter would be forced out of the home. "We were living in limbo."

The risk paid off. Several weeks ago Rasmussen finalized the loan modification on the three-bedroom, 1950s ranch-style house.

Grateful to be at home for the holidays, she now looks forward to trimming the three artificial Christmas trees in the house and baking snickerdoodle cookies with her daughter.

But the mortgage mess and divorce have rocked her finances.

Like millions of other Americans, Rasmussen, 38, is facing an uncertain financial future, even with the loan modification. The only thing that's certain this holiday season is that she will have to change her financial life.

She has already started. To make the mortgage payments more manageable Rasmussen took in a roommate. She also succeeded in getting the property reassessed, resulting in a lower tax bill.

And there were smaller steps — raising the deductible on her auto insurance and canceling her Costco membership.

But there are often reminders that, though she makes a very good salary, her financial picture has changed. For example, not only was she refused when she applied for a new credit card, but a card she already had was frozen.

On her own for the first time in more than a decade, Rasmussen has to navi-

gate her finances while balancing a tenuous mixture of income, debt and assets that could all too easily unravel.

"I have a general idea of what to do, but I don't know for sure what to do," Rasmussen said.

She wants to save for emergencies and retirement and pay down her debt, but she also wants to have enough money to splurge occasionally on theater tickets and attend out-of-town artist workshops to indulge her passion for mixed-media collages.

And she wants to be able to pay a portion of college costs for her daughter, who is so academically minded that she does multiplication problems at home for fun.

Certified financial planner Dirk Huybrechts reviewed Rasmussen's financial details and drew up a plan for her ...
More at the link.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It Worked! Jennifer Aniston Google Bomb Gets Results!

I was jonesin' for some traffic the other night, and Jennifer Aniston came through! (And Robert Stacy McCain as well, not to mention the folks at Wizbang.)

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Three Deaths Shifted Course of Greek Crisis

The story's at WSJ, and it's sad. This is what you get with the left, and it's undereported:
Above the seething streets of this ancient city, Angeliki Papathanasopoulou—four months pregnant and at work in a downtown bank—tried to soothe her fearful mother on the other end of the phone.

It was noontime on May 5, and the tension was palpable as angry crowds gathered in Athens's main squares, readying to protest deep spending cuts needed to earn an international bailout.

"Don't worry," Ms. Papathanasopoulou told her mother on that May day. "I'm on an upper floor." Besides, the 32-year-old was leaving work early at 3 p.m., for a doctor's appointment to learn whether the child she carried was a girl or a boy.

She never found out. Shortly after 2 o'clock, as the throngs marched past her building on Stadiou Street, hooded men shattered the window, poured gasoline on the floor and hurled in a Molotov cocktail. Toxic smoke filled the three-story bank, sending 24 people who worked there climbing out of windows or clambering onto roofs of adjacent buildings.

Ms. Papathanasopoulou and two colleagues, people who had watched her marry her husband nine months before, succumbed to the thick black fumes before they could make it out.

"She and I did everything together. We were best friends," says her husband, Christos Karapanagiotis. "No one could imagine this."

For decades, Greece had tolerated unruly, sometimes violent protests against the state. Athens's radical anarchist fringe, of which police believe the arsonists were members, even enjoyed moral legitimacy in the eyes of many Greeks. The attitude reflected society's deep mistrust of its rulers and, more recently, anger at a debt crisis that nearly tipped the country into bankruptcy.

May 5 changed all that.

The deaths of three innocent employees shocked Greece, shifting the national mood and the course of this year's crisis. Instead of rising social unrest as many had feared, Greece has seen only fragmented opposition to the euro zone's most drastic austerity measures. An expected backlash against the ruling Socialist government failed to materialize in recent local elections. And last week, when the government announced fresh budget cuts, the streets were mostly quiet.

Some Greeks say it took a tragedy to burst the romantic idea of rebellion rooted in their history of resistance to the state, forcing a sobered society to face the need for radical economic overhaul. It wasn't lost on Greek commentators that the three who died went to work that day instead of protesting.
It's completely oxymoronic to pair anarchic and romanticism, at least nowadays. But until more folks wake up and challenge the anarcho-socialist-enabling media we'll be seeing more unnecessary deaths like these.

Resist these people. They are bad here, bad there, and bad for the world.

RELATED: "
Not Just ‘Yes,’ But ‘Hell, Yes!’"

Target — 'First'

Target's Black Friday Christmas ad campaign was a riot. My wife's suggested I post this, and for sure — this lady is funny:

Shoppers Come Out in Force — Cyber Monday Expectations High

Update from yesterday's report, at WSJ, "Shoppers Hit Stores in Hunt for Deals."

I went out Saturday night with my youngest son to the Irvine Spectrum:

Photobucket

Discussion at Fox News:

But it could be online where retailers really rack it up. See LAT, "Array of Deals Overshadow Black Friday," and USA Today, "Record Number of Shoppers Poised for Cyber Monday."

WikiLeaks Diplomatic Cables

Blazing Catfur has the key headline: "Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables Released by Times, Der Spiegel."

Here's this at NYT, "
Cables Obtained by WikiLeaks Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels." And I love this at Spiegel: "A Superpower's View of the World." And Doug Mataconis has a report: "Wikileaks Releases Diplomatic Cables, Revealing International Secrets." (Via Memeorandum.) I've commented on WikiLeaks extensively. I won't think twice if Julian Assange meets the cold blade of an assassin, and apparently a significant number of others don't care for the guy. See the WikiLeaks Twitter page and Hot Air: "Wikileaks servers under DOS attack ahead of diplomatic document dump" (with lots of updates). I continue to be amazed at the fawning credibility Assange gets on the progressive left. Anything that tears down the military --- even putting at risk the lives of Americans and our allies --- is totally cool with these freaks. But maybe something good will come of all this, in the end.

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Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers

If these are the world's top thinkers, the world's in a world of hurt.

At Foreign Policy: "
The Wisdom of the Smart Crowd."

One-fifth say that the rise of China is "good for the global balance of power" (along with some even more favorable findings on China). And a whopping 81 percent say that regime change in Iraq "wasn't worth it."


Oooh, surprise!! The world's top thinkers favor the rise of a murderous authoritarian regime in Beijing to balance the international system's leading democratic power.

There's a roster of respondents at Foreign Policy. I'm shaking my head at these people.

John McCain Calls for Regime Change in North Korea

I've been out in front on this issue: "Regime Change North Korea." But I'm not pussy-footing around the military option. The story's at Politico and CNN (at Memeorandum):
"I think it's time we talked about regime change in North Korea, and I do not mean military action, but I do believe that this is a very unstable regime" ...

Global Aging and U.S. Power

A couple of pieces on the topic:
* At Foreign Affairs, Nicholas Eberstadt, "The Demographic Future: What Population Growth — and Decline — Means for the Global Economy."

* At Foreign Policy, Phillip Longman, "
Think Again: Global Aging."
RELATED: At International Security, Mark Haas, "A Geriatric Peace? The Future of U.S. Power in a World of Aging Populations." (Abstract here.)

UNFORTUNATE TRIVIA: Phillip Longman's brother is Martin Longman of
Booman Tribune. This minor detail helps put Phillip's conclusion at Foreign Policy in perspective:
The connection between a society's wealth and its demographics is cyclical. At first, with fertility declining and the workforce aging, there are proportionately fewer children to raise and educate. This is good: It frees up female labor to join the formal economy and allows for greater investment in the education of each remaining child. All else being equal, both factors stimulate economic development. Japan went through this phase in the 1960s and 1970s, with the other Asian countries following close behind. China is benefiting from it now.

Then, however, the outlook turns bleak. Over time, low birth rates lead not only to fewer children, but also to fewer working-age people just as the percentage of dependent elders explodes. This means that as population aging runs its course, it might well go from stimulating the economy to depressing it. Fewer young adults means fewer people needing to purchase new homes, new furniture, and the like, as well as fewer people likely to take entrepreneurial risks. Aging workers become more interested in protecting existing jobs than in creating new businesses. Last-ditch efforts to prop up consumption and home values may result in more and more capital flowing into expanded consumer credit, creating financial bubbles that inevitably burst (sound familiar?).

In other words, a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble. But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road: It involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks. But so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood. This mindset may well maintain high birth rates, but with consequences that today are unacceptable to all but the most rigid fundamentalists.
The Taliban road?

Only a radical progressive would even raise that notion with respect to cultural conservatives in the United States. Who knows if Phillip is close to Martin? But the Daily Kosification of putatively scholarly writing is a disaster. The Eberstadt piece at Foreign Affairs is far superior, a welcomed corrective to such idiotic leftist blather. A shame too. Phillip Longman's done some impressive research, but he's blinkered by ideology.

Amazon Prime Triggers Shipping Price War Among Retailers

Interesting piece at Business Week, "What's in Amazon's Box? Instant Gratification: Customers love Prime, Amazon's two-day shipping program. Now rivals such as Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and J.C. Penney are copying it":

Ruth Tinsley made two momentous changes to her life in the last year. In December she had identical twin girls. A few weeks later she signed up for Amazon.com's free shipping service, Amazon Prime, which guarantees delivery of products within two days for an annual fee of $79. The combination of those two events turned the graphic designer from Birmingham, Ala., into an Amazon loyalist who now buys software, jewelry, and birthday gifts on the site. Her 2010 Amazon total heading into the holidays: 150 individual items, up from 82 in all of 2009. "Now if I see or hear about a product somewhere else, I'll always check first to see if Amazon has it," Tinsley says.

Amazon Prime may be the most ingenious and effective customer loyalty program in all of e-commerce, if not retail in general. It converts casual shoppers like Tinsley, who gorge on the gratification of having purchases reliably appear two days after they order, into Amazon addicts. Analysts describe Prime as one of the main factors driving Amazon's stock price—up 296 percent in the last two years—and the main reason Amazon's sales grew 30 percent during the recession while other retailers flailed. At the same time, Prime has proven exceedingly difficult for rivals to copy: It allows Amazon to exploit its wide selection, low prices, network of third-party merchants, and finely tuned distribution system, while also keying off that faintly irrational human need to maximize the benefits of a club you have already paid to join.

Now six years after the program's creation, rivals, both online and off, have sensed the increasing threat posed by Prime and are rushing to try to respond. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT), and J.C. Penney (JCP) have recently unveiled free shipping promotions for the holidays, turning the fall shopping season into a race to see who can go furthest in lowering shipping costs. In August, eBay announced its first rewards program, eBay Bucks, which gives shoppers 2 percent back on items purchased on the auction site using PayPal. Last month a consortium of more than 20 retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, and Toys 'R' Us, banded together with their own copycat $79, two-day shipping program, ShopRunner, which applies to products across their Web sites. "As Amazon added more merchandising categories to Prime, retailers started feeling the pain," says Fiona Dias, executive vice-president at GSI Commerce (GSIC), which administers the ShopRunner service. "They have finally come to understand that Amazon is an existential threat and that Prime is the fuel of the engine."

Holiday Shopping Starts Off Strong

I headed out to do a little shopping for myself yesterday, seen below at Samy's Cameras in Santa Ana around 3:00pm. From the Los Angeles Times, "Black Friday: Determined Shoppers Swarm Southern California Stores":

Photobucket

On the biggest shopping day of the year, fights broke out in the food court at Los Cerritos Center and at a Best Buy in Burbank. At the Torrance Toys R Us the night before, latecomers tried in vain to bribe early-bird shoppers into letting them cut in line outside the store. At the Glendale Galleria and Westfield Century City, frustrated drivers reported circling the parking structures for an hour Friday looking for a spot.

It was a strong start for the crucial holiday season, with retailers and industry watchers reporting longer lines than last year and brisk business at the cash registers.

More mall madness is on the way this weekend as bargain-hungry shoppers scour the shelves for fresh discounts.

"The good news is that the retailers got a lot of traffic, and those that did come out came out to buy," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group. "If you're going to venture into those crowds and take those hours out of your normal sleeping, you're going to spend money. You'd have to be crazy to go out there and not buy."
Black Friday is like bloodsport for many shoppers, apparently, "For Many Black Friday Shoppers, Fighting the Crowds Is a Team Effort":
For Aliso Viejo resident Eric Walsh, 28, shopping hell is lugging around women's clothing from Banana Republic.

Taking a break with his son tucked in a stroller, Walsh tried to calculate the amount of time each stuffed bag of pink and beige apparel cost him.

"About 21/2 hours," he said, smirking. The journey started at 8 a.m., fighting the crowds and doing the holiday shuffle to the cash register.

"It's like standing in line for an hour at Disneyland for a 2-minute ride," said Walsh, who added that his wife stood in line at the Gap to save 50% on clothes. "Was it worth it? I don't know, maybe to her."

When it comes to Black Friday, A.J. Castro, 27, knows what he's doing.

At 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the Burbank actor and several warmly bundled friends grabbed spots near the front of the line at the Target at the Burbank Empire Center, having mapped out the store's layout and thoroughly studied its circular.

One member was angling for an X-box console, the rest were going for cheap televisions.

"Women, children, it doesn't matter," Castro joked. "No one is standing in my way."

Said his friend, actress Jenna Nickerson, 23, of Sherman Oaks: "You've got to attack it; you have to have a plan. We're helping out the economy."
Also, "Retail Roundup":
It was a record day for spending, with consumers buying $10.69 billion worth of merchandise at brick-and-mortar stores, a 0.3% rise over last year, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., a research firm that monitors spending at more than 50,000 retail stores. Foot traffic was up 2.2%.

Although the sales increase -- which does not include online spending -- was not as strong as many industry watchers had expected, ShopperTrak noted that earlier-than-ever deals this year drove many shoppers to the malls well before Black Friday.

That meant some unexpected strength in early November that may have thinned business on the day after Thanksgiving: Sales and traffic for the first two weeks of the month through Nov. 13 increased 6.1% and 6.2%, respectively, versus the same two weeks in 2009, ShopperTrak said.

"The early weeks in November were really strong, so the fact we still had an increase on Black Friday, I think that sets us up for a pretty good holiday season," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder.

China Calls for North Korea Talks

At WaPo:
SEOUL - South Korea and the United States on Sunday began joint naval exercises that will include live fire and bombing drills as hermetic North Korea deployed missiles close to the Yellow Sea and warned that it will turn the region into "a merciless shower of fire" if its territory is violated.

With tensions high in the region, China on Sunday called for an emergency session in December of the long-suspended six-way talks over North Korea's nuclear program. The call for new talks, announced at an unusual Sunday afternoon foreign ministry briefing in Beijing, came from Wu Dawei, China's top nuclear negotiator.

China has been under intense pressure to rein in its often erratic ally, North Korea, and Beijing this weekend was engaged in an intense round of diplomacy to try to prevent the recent crisis -- the most serious in months -- from escalating into a full-scale conflict. The six party talks include China, Japan, Russia, the two Koreas and the United States.
PREVIOUSLY: "Korean Joint Exercises in Futility."

Tens of Thousands Protest Irish Austerity Plan

At Telegraph UK, "Irish Fury as EU 'Nationalises' Bank of Ireland."

And at NYT, "
Demonstrators in Ireland Protest Austerity Plan":

DUBLIN — After a week that brought Ireland a pledge of a $114 billion international rescue package and the toughest austerity program of any country in Europe, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to Dublin’s streets on Saturday to protest wide cuts in the country’s welfare programs and in public-sector jobs.

The protests centered on a milelong march along the banks of the River Liffey in central Dublin to the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street, the site of the battle between Irish republican rebels and British troops in the Easter Uprising in 1916 — an iconic event that many in Ireland regard as the tipping point in Ireland’s long struggle for independence.

The choice of venue for the protests by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, coordinating the march through the city, reflected the mood of anger, dismay and recrimination in the wake of the economic shocks of the past 10 days. Those shocks have been the culmination of two years in which the economy has shrunk by about 15 percent, faster than any other European economy.

Before that, Ireland enjoyed more than a decade of unprecedented prosperity, so the rescue package being worked out by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union and the austerity program the Dublin government has been forced to adopt to secure the bailout loans have come as a deep jolt.

Among other things, the austerity package will involve the loss of about 25,000 public-sector jobs, equivalent to 10 percent of the government work force, as well as a four-year, $20 billion program of tax increases and spending cuts like sharp reductions in state pensions and minimum wage. One Dublin newspaper, the Irish Independent, estimated that the cost of the measures for a typical middle-class family earning $67,000 a year would be about $5,800 a year.

The ensuing political turmoil has raised questions about the ability of the government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen to secure backing for the austerity package when it is presented to Parliament on Dec. 7. The coalition government was weakened last week by a split between the Fianna Fail party, which Mr. Cowen leads, and its main coalition partner, the Green Party, and a stunning loss by Fianna Fail in an election on Friday for a parliamentary seat that reduced the government majority to two.

The mostly peaceful and restrained nature of the protests on Saturday was one indication that the unrest may not lead to confrontations in the streets, as some have feared. On a bitterly cold day, organizers put the turnout at 100,000. The police estimated 50,000, still one of the largest protest gatherings in years.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cheryl Cole Nude Video!

Not really, but since demand for Erin Andrews seems to be flattening out, what the heck? This Google bombing's da bomb!

I just found out about Cheryl Cole, in any case. She looks like a nice lady. See, "
Cheryl Cole: 'The Flood' Video Premiere!"

Looking forward to this week's Rule 5 entry at The Other McCain. It's the big debut for The Wombat.

Added: "Kate Middleton Upskirt Photo?"

Class Warfare

Advanced by Bob Herbert at New York Times:
What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.
RTWT.

It'a big long whiny rant against wealth and Wall Street. Herbert begrudges the market's exuberant comeback I
mentioned previously, citing the same article: "Signs of Swagger, Wallets Out, Wall St. Dares to Indulge." And of course Herbert, ensconced at the cushy offices of the Old Grey Lady, doesn't speak truth to what he's really pushing: the anti-capitalist revolution. And further it's not as if we aren't seeing the development of "such alliances" fighting back "against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy." They're all around, actually. Most people don't like them, regular people, because in the end those bitter clingers understand that the proletarian left wants them dead:

RELATED: "Did Someone Say ‘Desperation’?"

International Crises Threaten to Overshadow Obama's Economic Message

Well, the report's at Fox News, but my question is, "what message?"

Oh yeah, that socialism thingy? How's that working out? Not so great, eh?


At WSJ, "Obama's Overture to Business Gets Wary Reception From CEOs." And on taxes, some left-wing whining: "Extend Bush Tax Cuts? Don't Call it Compromise, it is Surrender."

Lefties should get real. Obama's takin' it on the chin.

As well he should: At Monsters and Critics, "
Obama's Losing battle: Chances Drop for US Climate Action," at Business Week, "Global Warming Skeptics Ascend in Congress," and WSJ, "Countries Pare Ambitions for Talks on Climate Change."

RELATED: At Weasel Zippers, "
UN Official Admits It’s About “Redistributing Wealth”."

The Bankers Killed the Community Colleges?

At WaPo, "Workers seek new skills at community colleges, but classes are full." (via Memeorandum).

Suburban Guerilla responds:
In the UK, the politicians cut education funding, the high school kids saw their future slipping away and took to the streets. Meanwhile, in the United States, people sit and wait quietly for crumbs to fall from the banquet table of the bankers. What is wrong with this picture
I commented at the post:
Right.

Great idea. We'll just burn everything down like the freak anarchists in London. That'll make everything better. It's not the bankers who're killing education in the states. It's the unions. Get a clue.
More about folks who aren't entitled to their own facts, I guess. The Suburban Guerilla should read Steven Malanga, Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer.

Unions

See also, "The Beholden State."