Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: The Real Story Behind the Russian Spies

GLOBAL REVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Why did 10 deep-cover Russian spies get arrested right after a visit by President Medvedev to Washington? Easy - he gave them up. Originally, the spies had been put in place to pose as ordinary U.S. citizens and spy on those who hold the levers of power in America.

After a decade or two, however, the Russian handlers were fed up: the spies had succeeded in becoming "ordinary Americans", but had also discovered that ordinary Americans know very little about what goes on behind the closed doors of the powerful! And what little we do know comes from the internet.

A quick cost-benefit analysis by Medvedev's people determined that the best alternative was to abort the program and buy a high-speed internet modem. To avoid the high cost of 10 retired-spy pensions (bitter spies are dangerous at home), the Russkies gave up their people to a lifetime in U.S. prisons.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The beam that is in thine own eye

Democrats in Washington have come to an agreement palatable to the Congress, Senate, and White House on financial reform. No doubt some financial reform was needed; whether 2000 incomprehensible pages were needed is another story.

The good news about the banking sector is that (whether thanks to or inspite of TARP) the remaining banks are solvent, have not needed more bailout money despite the recession, and appear to be running normally. But two huge enterprises are still sucking up taxpayer money and barreling along toward financial ruin: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Here's what the exhaustive, 2000-page financial diktat does to reform Fannie & Freddie: .

That's right, nothing. In fact, the Wall Street Journal notes, Government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain a multibillion dollar drain on the U.S. Treasury, and largely untouched by this proposal. The Federal government contributed heftily to causing a housing crisis by pushing marginal buyers into homes for two decades, and guaranteeing their mortgages through Fannie & Freddie. They blamed Wall Street, are socking them with 2000 pages of fees and regulations... and leaving the beam in their own eye untouched.

On the upside, with the prospect of all those new regulations, fine print, and slogging court battles, financial lawyers everywhere just got expensive dinner reservations for their families to celebrate.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slam Dunk!

President Obama does the right thing by removing loose-lipped Gen'l Stanley McChrystal and replacing him with Gen'l David Petraeus. Petraeus had been at CENTCOM, overseeing the Aghanistan and Iraq wars from a distance. Now he'll get the chance to work in Afghanistan with the same talent - and hopefully comparable results - as he displayed in Iraq.

You ^&#!@ set of Algerines!

America has a long history of rivalry with Algeria leading into their decisive World Cup match today. OK, mainly an old history of conflict. North African pirates ravaged American shipping to the Mediterranean, and "Algerine" was almost synonymous with "Pirate".

In Milton, Massachusetts, Algerine Corner commemorates an event (or legend) in which a local citizen cursed young miscreants as a "set of Algerines".*

The Marine Corps anthem and the U.S.S. Constitution commemorate the First Barbary War, a naval excursion to punish the pirates and the states that harbored them - mainly in modern Algeria.

Thus, game-time taunts can include:
  • Making fun of the Algerian mascot, the Fennec. Nice ears, Belhadj!
  • Any insult ending with "you &$%%@! set of Algerines".
  • Referring to the game as the "Third Barbary War".
  • Humming the Marine Corps anthem.
  • Chanting "Egypt's Better".
* The History of Milton, Mass, 1640-1877 attributes the remark to Hon. Edward H. Robbins, a Milton scion born in 1758.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bush / Obama

A poll of Louisianans last week found that most respondents think President Bush did a better job of handling Hurricane Katrina than President Obama has been doing handling the Deepwater Horizon gusher. Prof Paul Rubin gives some reasons why that shouldn't be a surprise. While Rubin ignores some key communication failures within the Bush administration, the dichotomy in actions possible / actions taken is striking.

A Run of Luck

David Brooks points out what an incredible run of political good luck Democrats have had in the past few years. Why, then, has the country turned so sharply against Democrat-style liberalism? Brooks spins a modern Dr. Faustus trading his soul to the devil:
"First, I would like the nation to be hurled into an economic crisis caused by Wall Street greed and recklessness. This will discredit free-market fundamentalism once and for all...

"[F]ind the smartest Democratic politician in the land and make him president...

"Then I would like you to create a political climate so he can immediately enact an $800 billion spending package... [and] a universal health care law. This will show a grateful nation that government can provide basic security."

"Just to be sure, I would like a multinational oil company to cause the biggest environmental disaster in American history."
Shouldn't Democrats be utterly ascendant right now? In crises of economy and environment, isn't the 'Mommy Party' favored? With Big Business looking worse than Enron, and regulations apparently missing all over the place, isn't the Party of Regulation in great demand?

Apparently not.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No Fault?

New York is considering a unilateral no-fault divorce law. This law essentially eviscerates the contract of marriage before law, and should be fought by Christian conservatives more vociferously than gay-marriage laws. A thoughtful review of the issues by Stephanie Coontz is posted on NYTimes.

Bilateral no-fault divorce will always occur. Coontz discusses how cooperating couples can easily work around any law requiring fault. While no-fault divorce is unacceptable in orthodox Christianity, it is unavoidable in a tolerant society. New York's current system is healthy: a no-fault divorce requires a signed separation agreement, 1 year, and mutual consent.

Unilateral no-fault divorce is another story. In a unilateral no-fault, one spouse decides to abort the marriage over the objections of the other spouse. Unlike the bilateral case, it essentially involves one party seeking to break the contract of marriage despite no breach by the other party. This is monumentally unfair to the faithful partner, especially if he or she gave up other avenues of advancement to invest in what has been called "marriage capital". It gives a legal thumbs up to abandonment and strips the legal commitment of marriage of meaning.

A better alternative to the proposed law would be a unilateral divorce in which the abandoning party rescinds any claim to jointly held assets. That is, the house, bank accounts, cars, and any belongings normally subject to division would instead go to the faithful spouse. All outstanding debts would follow the divorcer. Thus, the law would enforce the contractual nature of marriage by making default costly. This would buttress the existing child-support system to enforce at least financial responsibility on spouses who do not take their commitments seriously.

Christians, this is your political battlefront. This already passed the Senate and is headed for the Assembly. Write your representative, and let him or her know that you want the state to respect marriage contracts.

Introducing: Indexed

Hat tip to STW for linking to a brilliant webcomic, Indexed. It'll stay on the blogroll until I get bored of the concept.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Obama Takes Action!

The President is not just talk,talk,talk on the oil spill crisis (now in Day 58). He's taking action, and has volunteers taking action all across the Gulf Coast.

In all seriousness, President Obama needs to tell his political handlers to shut up and let him focus on the actual business at hand. He's flying down to the Gulf every time there's a perceived need for him to appear involved. And - unlike Bill Clinton - he's not convincing. Even some of his most loyal, liberal supporters were sharply critical of his latest speech. It had all the trappings of decisive authority, taking place in the sacred Oval Office, but lacked substance.

America is not as foolish as Washington thinks it is. Obama, Pelosi, and friends constantly bemoan their "failure to communicate" (on health care, on cap and trade, on the oil spill). The real problem is that they have succeeded in communicating. They've communicated their priorities of politics over substance, they've communicated their unwillingness to make hard decisions. Above all, Obama has communicated his own helplessness to stop the oil leak. I can't stop it either, of course, but I don't compound my weakness by pretending that I can.

Osh Burning

If you can find Osh on a map, you're special. It's in Kyrgyzstan, near the Uzbek border, and is - or was - an ethnically mixed city. News reports are filtering out; here's a firsthand email from a Russian living in Osh:
"We are in the center of a war in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. It is impossible to imagine the horror of the situation here!! The news is only reporting a small portion of what is actually going on. It is ethnic cleansing if you can call it that. Whole blocks of Uzbek homes have been torched and burned. Women and children are being mercilessly killed. Many bodies and injured people are lying in the streets without anyone to help. Kyrgyz youth under the influence of alcohol and drugs are running wild in the streets killing anyone and burning whatever lies in their paths. This ethnic tension (between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks) has existed under the surface for many years but recently has been stirred up for political purposes. Because of this, it appears that authorities are doing nothing to stop the conflict and are silent. It seems that the whole situation was planned out in advance and that no one planned to put a stop to it.

"One of my relatives went out today at great risk to get groceries for his household. On his way he saw an old man badly injured who was lying in the street. He wanted to help him and turned him over onto his back. Immediately a group of young men ran up and starting kicking the old man fiercely. My relative heard one of these youths say, "He's Kyrgyz" Another said, "No he's Uzbek, let's set him on fire." When my relative returned the old man lay burned to death. Officially the government has issued an order to shoot to kill anyone with a weapon but in reality no one is carrying out this order. These horrendous acts are continuing to take place. Police and soldiers are patrolling the streets but doing nothing to stop the violence. Last night bandits broke into an army storage facility where weapons, helicopters, tanks, etc were stored. We couldn't imagine where these simple people had obtained so many weapons before and now they have even more weapons, plus army equipment! On top of all of this there is a shortage of food as the stores have been vandalized. When our food supply runs out we will go hungry. The news is reporting that humanitarian aid is getting in but the supply is very limited. Not long ago bread was given out but for some reason they refused to give it to the Russians. We are not concerned about humanitarian aid, we simply want to live!

Some news reports are saying that things are getting more stable but the truth is it is getting worse. My goal in writing this is to the get word out to the world about what is actually happening here. We are afraid that we will be forgotten and alone in this crisis with no one coming to our aid. Presently they are not coming against us as Russians but we believe it is only a matter of time before they turn on us. People have "tasted blood" with no consequences and will not stop the killing. We are living in a state of fear.

Please send this information out to as many people as possible. This is our urgent plea for help."
Our prayers go out to those living in and fleeing from Osh.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The Netherlands held parliamentary elections today. It looks like a center-right coalition with a mandate to curb deficits will emerge. If I were a Dutchman, I think I would vote for this niche party.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Some excellent readings for this week:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Celtic Drumbeat

Boston is getting hyped up for Celtics v. Lakers XII. Ian Rider has the best soliloquy. An excerpt:
This team doesn't have a bandwagon, they take prisoners. There is no hopping on and off. They batter you into submission, tie you up, and toss you in the back with the rest of their victims. This team does not campaign for your votes. This is a coup d'etat, not an election. Just ask the swing states how they feel about the new Green Party. The citizens of Florida and Ohio can testify.