Monday, May 31, 2010
Israeli Raid Complicates U.S. Ties and Push for Peace - The deadly operation on a flotilla trying to break a blockade of Gaza introduced a new strain into already tense relations between the United States and Israel. (NY Times) / Israel defends flotilla raid amid global furor - Soldiers came under attack on an aid boat, officials say. Activists say any skirmish was self-defense. (LA Times)
A video still from the Israeli raid on the Gaza supply flotilla...
IAEA: Iran has over 2 tons enriched uranium -2 bombs' worth… Iran has amassed more than two tons of enriched uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday in a report that heightened Western concerns about the country preparing to produce a nuclear weapon. (Jerusalem Post)
BP Revised Permits Before Blast: A week before the Deepwater Horizon exploded, BP asked regulators to approve permits for three successive changes to its oil well over the course of 24 hours. (Wall Street Journal) / Best hope for Gulf two months away - Two relief wells being drilled diagonally into the gushing well offer the best chance of stopping the leak. Even then, the first tries probably won't work. (SF Chronicle)
The BP oil plumes now threatens vast, fragile underwater ecosystems...
Qaeda Aide Believed Dead: Al Qaeda's third in command, who played key roles in a recently foiled terrorist plot against the U.S. and the 2001 terrorist attacks, is believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan's tribal areas, potentially dealing a significant blow to the terrorist network. (Wall Street Journal)
Sheik Sa'id al-Masri, al Qaeda's chief operating officer, was "fired"...
“Spain next in line to collapse under weight of borrowing to pay for socialism.” (Yahoo! News via Fark.com)
In the California GOP governor’s race: Poizner, trailing, slams Whitman's 'obscene' spending (LA Times)
Ranking member on Judiciary considering options to probe Sestak offer details - Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the "factual errors" blamed by the White House "could be not getting their stories right." (The Hill)
Home Sales Set to Plummet in Markets Hit Hard by Foreclosures. (Bloomberg)
Poll: California voters favor Arizona law. (LA Times via Don Surber)
Saturday, May 29, 2010
During the period since the horror first erupted in the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve seen the spill expand to beaches throughout the Gulf. We’ve seen BP downplay the severity – time and again. And we’ve watched the current administration present its biggest example yet that it is a presidency best characterized as “learning on the job.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and President Barack Obama...
For BP’s part, it’s difficult to imagine that a company this big and this experienced did not plan (better) for a “worst-case scenario.” While they’ve continued to bumble on the PR front, their engineers (God love ‘em) have been trying everything and anything to find a “magic bullet.” The first containment dome failed…froze-up. The “big straw” – an effort to suck spewing oil up to nearby ships – didn’t make a dent. “Top kill,” pumping heavy mud into the wellhead in an effort to seal it, didn’t do it. The “junk shot” – trying to stuff debris (including golf balls and old tires) into the hole – worked about as good as you’d imagine something called a “junk shot” would.
While BP has at least been trying every trick in the book – and some that aren’t – the feds have been doing bupkis. (OK, the Coast Guard has been doing their usual stellar job but the administration’s response has been, um, lacking.)
My friend and colleague, Tunku Varadarajan (writing for The Daily Beast), however, feels that it’s wrong to blame Barack Obama: “Writers have been free with their superlatives of calamity, the most common being a likening of the spill to Hurricane Katrina: ‘Obama’s Katrina,’ many have written, glibly judgmental. And going one step further up the ladder of shrillness, Thomas Friedman, the Emperor of Glib, has been imperiously judgmental, calling the spill ‘Obama’s 9/11.’ The oil spill is none of the above. It is not even ‘Obama’s oil spill,’ if by saying so we mean to ascribe culpability to the president. He didn’t run the rigs, or oversee the plans, or grant the licenses to drill, or write the rules that govern the granting of those licenses. He was just president when the bloody thing happened (cf. Bush, 9/11). Not one iota of this sticky mess is Obama’s doing, by any rational calculus of causation.”
Obviously, I agree with Tunku, in that the explosion wasn’t the cause of Obama (or his team), but I also agree with the president’s recent declaration that he’s in charge and, echoing Harry S. Truman, “the buck stops” with him.
Whether it’s now or after the spill is quelled, one of the steps Obama can take to make things better is to cut loose his Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar. It would be unreasonable to expect the president to take blame for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but during Salazar’s time at the helm of Interior (which has been otherwise unremarkable), the Minerals Management Service (MMS) – the federal agency overseeing offshore oil and natural-gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico – “has been cited again for ‘ethical lapses’ that included allowing rig inspectors and others to receive gifts from oil companies.”
The scapegoat, Elizabeth Birnbaum. Acknowledged as a "smart and hardworking administrator," Birnbaum took charge of the MMS two months after the department, part of the Department of the Interior (Ken Salazar, secretary), had already OK'd Deepwater Horizon's operations.
What’s more, Salazar (likely under orders from Rahm “The Godfather” Emanuel) – in an effort to produce a scalp for Congress – dumped one of his own, Elizabeth Birnbaum. According to The Washington Post, “Salazar, a politically savvy former senator from Colorado, responded that he had lost confidence in Elizabeth Birnbaum, the director of the Minerals Management Service, adding that he would soon be making changes. The next morning, Salazar and his deputy secretary David Hayes knocked on Birnbaum's office door and told her they planned to move her to another job; she resigned instead.”
The president checks out oil on a beach pre-cleaned by BP...
According to a report by Sharyl Attkison at CBSNews.com, “Birnbaum's departure was first reported as a "firing." Later, a "resignation." When asked for clarity, President Obama told the press corps today he had no idea.
CBS White House Correspondent Chip Reid: "Did she resign? Was she fired? Was she forced out? And if so, why?"
Obama: "I found out about her resignation today,so I don't know the circumstances in which this occurred."
The incredulous press corps followed up.
Reporter: "How is it that you didn't know about Ms. Birnbaum's resignation/firing before?"
Obama: "Well, you're assuming it was a firing. If it was a resignation, then she would have submitted a letter to Mr. Salazar this morning at a time when I had a whole bunch of other stuff going on... Come on, I don't know. I'm telling you I found out about it this morning. So I don't yet know the circumstances, and Ken Salazar has been in testimony on the Hill."
The Post article goes on to say that “Birnbaum's abrupt departure, coming just 10 months after she had taken the agency's helm, says more about the Obama administration's inability to improve MMS and the industry it regulates than Birnbaum herself. Facing a historically troubled agency, Salazar and his top deputies focused first on promoting easy-to-achieve changes…rather than conducting a broad agency overhaul.”
The mess gets worse...
Finally, when he had a chance to show some form of leadership, Salazar impressed no one as he toured affected areas of the Gulf coast with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and a group of U.S. senators, bragging to reporters that, "We will keep our boot on their [BP’s] neck until the job gets done.” That’s some fine work there, Kenny.
Let’s remember, that for all of Salazar’s big boot pronouncements and subordinate axing, he’s long been a friend of Big Oil. A story in The Nation reminds us that, “Salazar certainly believes in offshore oil drilling, but whether he can be trusted to regulate it is another matter. One wouldn't know it from his recent public statements, but Ken Salazar has long been one of the strongest advocates of offshore oil drilling in Washington. In 2008, as a Democratic Senator from Colorado, he criticized the Bush-Cheney administration for not doing enough to promote offshore drilling. In 2006, Sen. Salazar was the architect of the Gulf of Mexico Economic Security Act, which opened eight million acres of the Gulf to drilling. In 2009, as Interior Secretary, Salazar oversaw his department's lease of 55 million acres of the Gulf for oil and gas drilling.”
The author (no Big Oil-loving conservative) finishes with this viewpoint: “If Obama truly wants to chart a new course in dealing with the BP disaster and accelerating America's transition to a clean energy future, he should start by requesting Ken Salazar's resignation.”
Yes, that’s another way Obama could begin cleaning up this mess.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Two months ago, as the Cheonan – a South Korean naval corvette – cruised through the international waters of the Yellow Sea; a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo at the Cheonan. The device struck the South Korean vessel amidships, tearing it in two. The ship quickly sank and 46 sailors of the Republic of Korea lost their lives in the unprovoked attack.
Now, after a thorough investigation by international teams, the proof is there for the world to see: divers recovered pieces of the easily identifiable North Korean weapon and the evidence has been presented to the world. Despite having known from the get-go that their brothers to the north had attacked their nation, South Korea held judgment until all the corroboration was in.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s response to South Korea’s revelations was to – predictably – call its neighbor nation and those involved in the investigation “liars.” Also quite predictably, Pyongyang ratcheted-up tensions by putting its military on high-alert, conducting maneuvers and cranking-up its propaganda machine (spewing threats of all-out war against South Korea and its allies). For its part, “South Korea banned trade with its neighbor, said it would take the sinking to the UN Security Council and announced a resumption of propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers at the inter—Korean border.”
In addition, various trip-wire safeguards (which no one really ever believed the North would adhere to) have been scrapped by the communist nation. As the Voice of America and others are reporting, “In a sharp escalation of tensions with South Korea, North Korea says it is discarding military procedures the two sides have agreed to follow for years to ensure a conflict does not get out of hand.”
Also worth noting is South Korea and the U.S. revealing that four North Korean submarines – the kind the DPRK typically uses for inserting special forces troops or saboteurs into the South – were detected leaving their bases. (As worrying as this is, it is a clear message from the allies to North Korea that “we know where you are and what you’re doing.”) In response to the attack, the sub launches and the North’s announcement it would no longer allow safe passage through neighboring waters, “South Korea's navy conducted anti-submarine warfare drills off its west coast. South Korea and the United States have announced they will conduct a joint anti-submarine exercise, widely expected to take place within a matter of weeks.”
As the UN Security Council prepares to cogitate on the situation, North Korea’s patron – China – is said to be working behind the scenes to protect its puppet in Pyongyang, perhaps even offering the U.S. a deal that would finally bring sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program in exchange for softer treatment of the thugs of North Korea. This, however, will not go over well in Seoul. It will not sit well with a nation that has endured 60 years of attacks, terrorism, extortion and all forms of criminality. And it will not sit well with the families of the 46 sailors massacred on March 26 in the Yellow Sea.
South Korea, which has gone out of its way for decades to seek a peaceful reunification of North and South Korea, has always viewed its northern neighbors not as an “enemy” but, instead, as a “brother.” With the sinking of the Cheonan, however, that has all changed. As the BBC reported, “Thousands of protesters have gathered in Seoul to denounce North Korea's threats against the South, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.” South Korea’s leader, Lee Myung-bak (a solid, no-nonsense head of state with a backbone), has promised to take stern action against the North Korea.
North Korea has a history of inflicting violence on South Korea and then threatening worse when the light of day shined on their misdeeds. Once again, now that the world knows what Kim Jong Il’s regime has done, the Hermit Kingdom’s mad leader is trying to bully his way through the fallout. As noted, it doesn’t look like the South will stand idly by and let their sailors’ deaths pass as mere “incidents.”
The South is not going to back down and North Korea, which only has its willingness to commit violence to stand on when it comes to any form of credibility, is going to believe its hand is being forced.
These are dangerous times on the peninsula – perhaps worse than any since the Korean War itself. The difference this time is that the stakes are much, much higher. Let’s face it: North Korea, a nation ruled by a megalomaniac, possesses nuclear weapons and has threatened to use them – this should not be taken lightly. In addition to the human toll a renewed conflict would take, much of the world’s economy depends on that part of Asia: South Korea, Japan, and China. An all-out war would likely create devastation/havoc and throw the world into a vortex previously unseen.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Tonight (Tuesday) and tomorrow night (Wednesday), I’ll be on The John Batchelor Show...
Tonight, I’ll be on a brief segment beginning at 6:15 p.m. PDT. We’ll be discussing the recent poll numbers in the California GOP primary races showing Meg Whitman (gov’s race) and Carly Fiorina (senate race) surging to commanding leads...
…and on Thursday morning, I’ll join Brian Sussman and Officer Vic on The Brian Sussman Show on KSFO-AM 560 San Francisco at 8:05 a.m. What will we discuss? Hard to say, but I’m sure it will be fun/interesting/different…
Sunday, May 23, 2010
In “Climategate,” the newest bestseller addressing the hot potato of environmental science – so-called climate change (formerly known as global warming) - author/noted meteorologist/radio host Brian Sussman does all this and more as he skewers lying politicians, know-nothing celebrities and pols, agenda-driven media, cash-grubbing scientists, and institutions intent on shifting power – and money – away from the United States.
Chief among those targeted for Sussman’s laser-sharp critiques is former U.S. vice president/author/climate change bloviator Al Gore. Throughout the book, Gore’s intentions, sloppy science, Academy Award-winning PowerPoint presentation (“An Inconvenient Truth”) and “green scare” moneymaking ventures, are squarely in the author’s crosshairs.
What distinguishes Sussman’s dissection of the man and the movement (which has transformed from a socio-political movement to one that now bears close resemblance to a secular faith) is a strong reliance upon – and professional understanding – of science. Unlike Gore, who only knows what he’s been told or what he wants to sell, Sussman knows the science front-and-back.
Al Gore attempts to tie Hurricane Katrina to climate change...
While Climategate - the scandal that erupted last year over emails at the UK’s East Anglia Climate Research Unit casting doubt over many “warmists’” claims - helped give Sussman a title for his book, you should know this is something he’s been working on for several years now. (If only Gore & Company had done as much research/fact-checking as Sussman.) The fact that several other climate change-related scandals/frauds/hoaxes have recently come to light only serves to strengthen his arguments. Some of the nails he hits on the head:
- Since 1972-73, DDT – one of the safest and most effective pesticides ever created – has been banned…chiefly as the result of the landmark eco-jeremiad, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. Banned after being falsely accused of endangering wildlife, its absence has had significant negative impacts (such as the hardly-ever-reported-on 96 million related deaths attributed to malaria).
- The 2009 America Clean Energy and Security Act : "Buried in the 2009 America Clean Energy and Security Act are federally mandated energy-efficient building regulations, which supersede all local and state codes and which will be enforced by a national, green goon squad, funded in part by revenues from energy taxes, as well as by an annual $25 million from the Department of Energy 'to provide necessary enforcement of a national energy efficiency building code. The legislation also authorizes the Secretary of Energy to 'enhance compliance by conducting training and education of builders and other professionals in the jurisdiction concerning the national energy efficiency building code.' The plan is modeled on building code enforcement in California. Each time a home is built, remodeled, or – in the case of the federal plan – preparing to be sold, a G-man wearing a federal badge and armed with a clipboard will show up at your house to make sure ... all of your appliances have been updated with the most recent Energy Star-approved internal communication devices, and that the Home Area Network has been properly installed and connected to your new SmartMeter, whether you like it or not. This is not a helpful plan to assist you in meeting your family budget; it's a social engineering scheme, designed and promoted by the federal government to change your behavior. By having the capability to read your meter many times a day, the utility company is able to effectively establish demand pricing schedules; thus, using too much electricity during the peak periods is going to cost you."
- "The term SmartGrid [made law in 2007] refers to a distribution system that allows for flow of information from a customer's meter in two directions: both inside the house to thermostats and appliances and other devices, and back to the utility. … Once the…SmartMeter [is] connected to the SmartGrid, Big Brother will become the new authority figure in your home. Want to do a load of laundry or read at 3 p.m. on a hot afternoon in August? Good luck. With a bureaucratic keystroke, anything attached to your [home] could be selectively turned off – or on – without your approval."
- President Barack Obama, as a board member for the Joyce Foundation, voted for a $1.1 million grant to launch a privately owned "Chicago Climate Exchange."
- There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.
- How science has been willingly corrupted by activists with Ph.D.s.
- Who stands to make billions of dollars off the global warming scam.
- What really has happened, is happening and will happen with the earth’s climate.
- Why political leaders and government bureaucrats are determined to limit the amount of energy available to the people.
- How the United Nation’s policies are driving U.S. environmental law.
Even if you do buy into Gore & Friends’ take on the Earth and our environment, this is a book worth reading. It will at least help you better understand why the leaders of your movement have taken their respective/collective positions and where the information came from that informs your own beliefs.
For those of you who are skeptics, cynics or opponents, “Climategate” provides ample data, history and other information vital to illuminating the debate over climate change and advancing the argument that the threat posed by the deceits of those less interested in the Earth and more invested in separating ordinary citizens from their money (and liberties). Sussman has gone beyond the duty of a scientist/meteorologist and stepped in where "the Fourth Estate" and those charged with safeguarding freedoms should have -years ago.
“Climategate” is published by WND Books ($24.95).
Brian Sussman signing "Climategate"...
Sussman/"Climategate" bonus: Gore came to Monterey last week to give one of his $85 a ticket (bottom price) "lectures." Sussman - and a few hundred friends - were there to greet him. The interviews in this YouTube video are worth the price of admission...alone:
Thursday, May 20, 2010
...return on investment - and it doesn't look like Meg Whitman is getting it.
According to a story that broke in The Wall Street Journal last night (Pacific Time), “Meg Whitman appears to have lost much of her wide lead in the race to be the Republican contender in California's November gubernatorial election. Two months ago, Ms. Whitman looked to be cruising toward the Republican nomination. Polls showed the former eBay Inc. chief executive leading her main opponent, state insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, by 50 percentage points.”
But, oh, how times (and polling numbers) have changed.
The WSJ story continues: “With three weeks to go before the June 8 primary, Mr. Poizner is pulling off an unexpected rally. A survey to be released Thursday shows Ms. Whitman's advantage dwindling to single digits, with 38% of respondents saying they would vote for her, and 29% for Mr. Poizner. (The widely trusted poll, by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, follows similar results in other recent surveys that suggest a sharply tightened race. A May 10 SurveyUSA poll showed Ms. Whitman leading Mr. Poizner 39% to 37%.”
This is bad news for Meg – even if she manages to beat Poizner.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Since the cessation of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula officially ended in 1953, the communist government of Pyongyang has been nothing short of a cancer on the world, not to mention its own people.
Time and time again, whether it’s been the proliferation of nuclear weapons, sponsorship/support of terrorism, or numerous attacks on South Korea and its allies, North Korea has shown that it belongs in the Rogue Nations Hall of Fame.
Things are heating up again...
Despite the south’s reluctance to point a finger, everyone had that same terrible feeling: North Korea must be to blame.
Investigators from South Korea, the U.S. and other countries immediately began investigating the incident. Any accusation leveled at the insane leadership of North Korea could result in a resumption of the war that never ended, and an incorrect accusation would only invite it.
But know we know.
Today in Seoul, South Korea will declare that North Korea was responsible for a torpedo attack on the warship (in South Korean waters). South Korea will formally blame North Korea for launching a torpedo that caused an explosion killing 46 sailors and ratcheting-up tensions “in one of the world's most perilous regions.”
And let’s not forget, it also waged a war against the U.S. and its allies – a war that ended without capitulation and with plenty of talk (by North Korea) that it would one day finish what it started...
Monday, May 17, 2010
It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world...so it's easy to understand how a busy person can miss some of the important things out there. So as a service to you - and some of the folks here - The Bliss Index™ presents the following collection of news and information you probably didn't see coming...
News item: Iran agrees to nuclear exchange, will send enriched fuel to Turkey - The deal, brokered with the help of Brazil, could be a breakthrough in the long diplomatic deadlock over Tehran's nuclear program. Ahmadinejad calls on the West to resume talks. Experts are saying Iran scored a a”nuclear coup.” Hey, how’s that diplomatic dialogue working for ya?
Add Israel and the Middle East: "Residents in Southern Gaza who supported Hamas because Israeli troops were beating them and bulldozing their houses have just been beaten and had their houses bulldozed. By Hamas." (h/t: fark)
Are you telling me she didn't see this coming?: Barbara Boxer is facing her toughest race since 1992, according to most pollwatchers. (Boxer, btw, has never polled well, it's just that she's been incredible lucky to have horrible GOP opponents in general elections.) In this article, Democratic challenger Mickey Kaus shows that California's junior senator is having a difficult time connecting with moderates...
Five years ago in L.A.: It seems like just yesterday Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor. It’s been downhill there ever since…
Looks like someone has some ‘splainin’ to do: Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D), who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat belonging to the outgoing Christopher Dodd (D), appears to have talked up his military record - actually, exaggerated is more like it...
From the "No Duh" department: “States’ Tax Collections Falter, Widening Budget Gaps.” Yes, some legislators still think it’s a good idea to raise taxes (driving business down…or out of state)...
Totally unpredictable (not): Jerry Brown lashes out at GOP candidates - California's AG calls his gubernatorial rivals Whitman and Poizner "the apostles of darkness and ignorance." This from the man who sold (out) California for 30 pieces of silver back when he was governor -the first two times...
Friday, May 14, 2010
While Rome burned, Nero fiddled: Today, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released what his own staff said was a devastating budget proposal. Meanwhile, the de facto leader of the state’s self-proclaimed party “of the little guy,” state Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, was hobnobbing with lobbyists and campaign contributors in the wealthy California enclave of Pebble Beach. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) is hosting the annual Speaker's Cup, the state Democratic Party's biggest fundraiser of the year. Well-heeled interest groups have been asked to contribute $60,000 for two days of golf, four hotel rooms, two evenings of dinner and access to one of the most powerful people in the state Legislature.”
"Prognosis - Negative..."
Finally, I’ll end this with a great bit of news: “No pay raise for Congress in 2011!”