Sunday, August 31, 2008

Defending Against the First Attacks on Sarah Palin

The left-wing smears against Governor Palin have already started, so it's a good idea to get some facts out as there will be many more smear attempts.

Defending Against the First Attacks on Sarah Palin

August 29, 2008 By Patrick J. Casey American Thinker (Excerpt)

First - "Palin has no experience". That's an easy one to dismiss. Sarah Palin has had more executive experience, meaning experience in running either a business or a government, than either Barack Obama or his running mate, Joe Biden. She has more executive experience than even her running mate, John McCain. Governor Palin served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska from 1999 to 2002. She was elected as President of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. She was elected as Governor of Alaska in 2006. And she has quite a few concrete achievements, considering the amount of time she's been in office.

Second - "Palin's part of the corrupt GOP establishment in Alaska (Stevens, Young, etc.)". That's an even easier one to dismiss. Governor Palin has always run as the anti-corruption candidate. She served as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004, when she resigned in protest over the actions of her fellow Alaskan GOP leaders, including then-Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski. She was furious over the fact that they ignored her reports of rampant GOP corruption. When she chose to run for Governor, the GOP establishment ignored her and supported the incumbent Murkowski. Palin beat him, and went on to beat former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles with no support from Alaskan GOP leadership. She has actively supported and helped the GOP primary opponents of current indicted Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, and denounced both of them often in public.

Oh, and the forthcoming claim that Palin's in the pocket of big-oil? Her ethics complaints were filed against people who really were in the pocket of big oil - she was on the outside, investigating.

Third - "Palin used her position as Governor to get back at the man whom her sister was divorcing, and fired the man who refused to fire her sister's ex-husband". This is the slimiest attack that the Democrats and the media will launch. It concerns a current investigation into allegations that Governor Palin fired former Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because he would not bend to her will.

When Palin fired Monegan, her office gave no reason for her decision. As the Commissioner serves at the discretion of the Governor, no reason is needed. In an effort to save his job and get back at the person who fired him, Monegan claimed that he was fired because he would not fire an Alaskan State Trooper, Michael Wooten, who was going through a messy divorce with Palin's sister. Recently, the Associated Press ran an article about some tapes that surfaced regarding phone calls made by some of Palin's staff worried about Wooten - and worried about the safety of the Palin family:

JUNEAU, Alaska - Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday said at least two dozens calls were made from her staff members to Department of Public Safety officials questioning the employment of a trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.

But Palin maintained none was done at her direction, a claim backed up by one administration member caught on tape.

...The Palins have accused Wooten of drunken driving, illegal hunting and firing a Taser at his 11-year-old stepson, Palin's nephew. These allegations led to an internal investigation, which occurred before she ran for governor.

Todd Palin has said the family was concerned about the governor's safety, claiming Wooten threatened to kill Sarah Palin's father and made vague threats to her. Todd Palin has said he took concerns about Wooten directly to Monegan.

So, the tapes seem to prove that Governor Palin was unaware that anyone from her office was aware of this, which should take care of questions about Palin's possible complicity. But we should go past that, and look at the facts of the entire situation. Even if this investigation shows that someone in Palin's office did pressure the Public Safety Commissioner to fire Wooten, this is a fight that we should relish having with the white male hierarchy of the Democratic Party and the drive-by media. Let's get all of the dirt about Wooten out in the open. Show that the police union and the Commissioner were protecting him, and then ask why? What would any American do, if faced with the same situation - an overt threat to their family?

Over the years, many of the allegations against Wooten - including the fact that he Tasered Palin's sister's 10 year old son and threatened the life of Palin's father - have turned out to be true:

Grimes suspended Wooten for 10 days. He also was punished for illegally shooting a moose and using a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson. The trooper admitted to using the Taser on his stepson in a "training capacity" and said he shot a moose on his wife's tag, but didn't think the act was illegal.

...Wall's investigation did find that Wooten threatened Palin's sister, Molly McCann, with shooting her father if he hired a lawyer to represent her. Wooten denied making the statement, but Palin, McCann and Palin's son all confirmed that he did.

Wall said the act wasn't a crime because Palin's father was not present when Wooten made the statement.

Who the heck uses a Taser on a 10 year old kid!? It appears as if Wooten's gotten off scott-free so far, and it's those that are protecting him that should be ashamed. And once the facts of the entire situation come out, the voters will largely agree. I can't wait until Keith Olbermann attempts to use this!


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Friday, August 29, 2008

The Dark Stain Behind the Obama Facade

This is a story that just won't go away. As Senator Obama was rousing a huge crowd in Denver, a more important drama was playing out concerning Obama’s real relationship and motivations in allying himself with the terrorist, William Ayers, a drama that is deplorable in its implications. When Senator Obama was confronted about this strange and disturbing relationship, his response was that he (Obama) was only 8 years old when Ayers exploded and conspired to explode bombs trying to kill policemen, military officers and various other American officials on American soil. What a deceptive answer! What is at issue here is just why he would employ an unrepentant terrorist to advance his own career and carry out joint projects.

Is there any one of you who would welcome this man, Ayers, into your life? Is there any way that we can understand a wholesome motivation for this? No we can’t, and because it is not only not understandable, it is also so unthinkable that Senator Obama is raising heaven and earth to try to hide the details of this relationship from American voters through intimidation and thuggary. Senator Obama’s people are trying to get the Justice Department to shut down a TV ad that raises this issue in a truthful manner, and his people are trying to destroy a respected researcher who has looked into documents that reveal some of the truth about this matter.

Barack Obama, Aspiring Commissar

By the Editors August 28, 2008 National Review

While the Obama coronation proceeds apace in Denver, it is in Chicago that Americans are getting a disturbing demonstration of his thuggish methods of stifling criticism.

Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Harvard-educated social anthropologist and frequent contributor to National Review, among other publications. He is widely respected for his meticulous research and measured commentary. For months, he has been doing the job the mainstream media refuses to do: examining the background and public record of Barack Obama, the first-term senator Democrats are about to make their nominee for president despite the shallowness of his experience and achievement.

Kurtz has written extensively, and with characteristic attention to factual detail, about Obama’s early career as a “community organizer,” his cultivation of benefactors in the most radical cauldrons of Chicago politics, his long-time pastor’s immersion in Black Liberation Theology, his ties to anti-American zealots, and the years in the Illinois state legislature this self-styled agent of change spent practicing the by-the-numbers left-wing politics of redistribution and race-consciousness, remaining soft on crime and extreme on abortion.

This has led Kurtz, naturally, to scrutinize the relationship between Obama and one of his early political sponsors, William Ayers. Ayers, as we have previously detailed, is a confessed terrorist who, having escaped prosecution due to surveillance violations that came to light during his decade on the lam after a bombing spree, landed an influential professorship in education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As he has made clear several times before and after helping to launch Obama’s political career, Ayers remains defiantly proud of bombing the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and other targets. He expresses regret only that he didn’t do more. Far from abandoning his radical politics, he has simply changed methods: the classroom, rather than the detonator, is now his instrument for campaigning against an America he portrays as racist and imperialist.

Obama supporters risibly complain that shining a light on the Obama/Ayers relationship is a “smear” and smacks of “guilt by association.” A presidential candidate’s choice to associate himself with an unrepentant terrorist would be highly relevant in any event — does anyone think the Obamedia would keep mum if John McCain had a long-standing relationship with David Duke or an abortion-clinic bomber?

But we are talking about more than a mere “association.”

Bluntly, Obama has lied about his relationship with Ayers, whom he now dismisses as “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” Ayers and Obama have made joint appearances together; they have argued together for “reforms” of the criminal justice system to make it more criminal-friendly; Obama gushed with praise for Ayers’ 1997 polemical book on the Chicago courts; and they sat together for three years on the board of the Woods Fund, a left-wing enterprise that distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to their ideological allies. Most significant, they worked closely together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC).

The CAC was a major education reform project, proposed by Ayers, which was underwritten by a $49.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, complemented by another $100 million in private and public funding. The project ran for about five years, beginning in 1995. As the liberal researcher Steve Diamond has recounted, Ayers ran its operational arm, the “Chicago School Reform Collaborative.” Obama, then a 33-year-old, third-year associate at a small law firm, having no executive experience, was brought in to chair the board of directors, which oversaw all “fiscal matters.”

By the time the CAC’s operations were wound down in 2001 it had doled out more than $100 million in grants but had failed to achieve any improvement in the Chicago schools. What little is known about the grants Obama oversaw is troubling. As Diamond relates, one of the first CAC awards in 1995 was $175,000 for the “Small Schools Workshop,” which had been founded by Ayers and was then headed by Mike Klonsky. It was only the beginning of the CAC’s generous funding of Klonsky — a committed Maoist who had been an Ayers comrade in the radical Students for a Democratic Society (the forerunner of Ayers’ Weatherman terrorist organization), and who hosted a “social justice” blog on the Obama campaign website until his writings were hastily purged in June after Diamond called attention to them.

The CAC records, said to comprise 70 linear feet of files, have long been maintained at the library of the UIC, the public university where Ayers teaches. This summer, Kurtz made an appointment to review them and, after being assured access, was blocked from seeing them by library administrators, who stammered about needing permission from the “donor” — whom they declined to identify. Kurtz energetically raised public awareness to the stonewalling, and the library finally relented this week. That is, as Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democrats’ nomination tonight, the records of his only significant executive experience just became available for review on Tuesday.

Kurtz began his review, and on Wednesday was invited on Milt Rosenberg’s radio program to discuss it. Rosenberg is a Chicago institution. His program, “Extension 720,” has aired for more than 30 years — a civil forum where knowledgeable guests from across the political spectrum discuss important issues in revealing two-hour interviews. What happened Wednesday night was stunning, as even the normally unflappable Rosenberg observed.

The Obama campaign — which has emissaries appearing everywhere — declined Rosenberg’s invitation to have a representative appear on the program and respond to Kurtz’s factual assertions. The campaign did, however, issue an “Obama Action Wire” that encouraged supporters to contact the program (telephone information was provided) and use scripted “talking points” to disrupt Kurtz’s appearance, which it deemed “unacceptable.” As the Politico’s Ben Smith reported, the campaign also urged supporters to demand that Rosenberg scrap the appearance of Kurtz, whom the campaign libeled as a “smear-merchant” and a “slimy character assassin.” The rant was reminiscent of the work of the left-wing media “watch-dog” Media Matters for America.

Other than denigrating Kurtz for being conservative, Obama’s operatives have provided no response to the substance of his claims. In their only pretense of engaging him, they accuse him of telling “a flat out lie” that Ayers recruited Obama for the CAC. Though it is a reasonable inference that Ayers recruited Obama, the careful Kurtz has stopped short of making it — observing only that Obama offers no explanation of how he was recruited if not through Ayers, his friend and the CAC’s driving force.

The station, WGN, has made a stream of the broadcast available online, here, and it has to be heard to be believed. Obama’s robotic legions dutifully jammed the station’s phone lines and inundated the program with emails, attacking Kurtz personally. Pressed by Rosenberg to specify what inaccuracies Kurtz was guilty of, caller after caller demurred, mulishly railing that “we just want it to stop,” and that criticism of Obama was “just not what we want to hear as Americans.” Remarkably, as Obama sympathizers raced through their script, they echoed the campaign’s insistence that it was Rosenberg who was “lowering the standards of political discourse” by having Kurtz on, rather than the campaign by shouting him down.

Kurtz has obviously hit a nerve. It is the same nerve hit by the American Issues Project, whose television ad calling for examination of the Obama/Ayers relationship has prompted the Obama campaign to demand that the Justice Department begin a criminal investigation. Obama fancies himself as “post-partisan.” He is that only in the sense that he apparently brooks no criticism. This episode could be an alarming preview of what life will be like for the media should the party of the Fairness Doctrine gain unified control of the federal government next year.


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Good for Joe Biden, He Said It Best

I’m not going to criticize Senator Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for Vice President this year. In fact, what I’d rather do is present a list of very smart things that Joe Biden has said in recent years, a list compiled by Jim Geraghty of NRO. Of course, one thing that won’t make this list was Biden’s condemnation of the Haditha marines, all but one of which have been completely exonerated (the last one is awaiting a trial, although it is now questionable that there will be one). One would think a sitting U.S. Senator would wait for a trial before condemning America’s military personnel acting under fire with death all around them.

‘Just Words’ That Joe Biden Would Like To Forget
The curse of a loose mouth and Nexis.

By Jim Geraghty August 20, 2008 National Review

The fun thing about an Obama-Biden ticket is that the McCain campaign can point to a new awkward comment by Joe Biden — either on the importance of experience, in praise of McCain, or in support of invading Iraq — that contradicts the stands and qualities of the Democratic nominee for every day from now until Election Day.

On McCain:
Biden, on a post-debate appearance on MSNBC, October 30, 2007: “The only guy on the other side who’s qualified is John McCain.”

Biden appearing on The Daily Show, August 2, 2005: “John McCain is a personal friend, a great friend, and I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off, be well off no matter who...”

On Meet the Press, November 27, 2005: “I’ve been calling for more troops for over two years, along with John McCain and others subsequent to my saying that.”

On Obama:
Reacting to an Obama speech on counterterrorism, August 1, 2007: “‘Look, the truth is the four major things he called for, well, hell that’s what I called for,’ Biden said today on MSNBC’s Hardball, echoing comments he made earlier in the day at an event promoting his book at the National Press Club. Biden added, ‘I’m glad he’s talking about these things.’”

Also that day, the Biden campaign issued a release that began, “The Biden for President Campaign today congratulated Sen. Barack Obama for arriving at a number of Sen. Biden’s long-held views on combating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” That release mocked Obama for asking about the “stunning level of mercury in fish” and asked about a proposal for the U.S. adopt a ban on mercury sales abroad at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

Assessing Obama’s Iraq plan on September 13, 2007: “My impression is [Obama] thinks that if we leave, somehow the Iraqis are going to have an epiphany” of peaceful coexistence among warring sects. “I’ve seen zero evidence of that.”

Speaking to the New York Observer: Biden was equally skeptical — albeit in a slightly more backhanded way — about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

Also from that Observer interview: “But — and the ‘but’ was clearly inevitable — he doubts whether American voters are going to elect ‘a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,’ and added: ‘I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.’”

Around that time, Biden in an interview with the Huffington Post, he assessed Obama and Hillary Clinton: “The more people learn about them (Obama and Hillary) and how they handle the pressure, the more their support will evaporate.”

December 11, 2007: “If Iowans believe campaign funds and celebrity will fix the debacle in Iraq, put the economy on track, and provide health care and education for America’s children, they should support another candidate,” said Biden for President Campaign Manager Luis Navarro. “But I’m confident that Iowans know what I know: our problems will require experience and leadership from Day One. Empty slogans will be no match for proven action on caucus night.”

Also that night, Biden said in a campaign ad, “When this campaign is over, political slogans like ‘experience’ and ‘change’ will mean absolutely nothing. The next president has to act.”

September 26, 2007: Biden for President Campaign Manager Luis Navarro said, “Sen. Obama said he would do everything possible to end the war in Iraq and emphasized the need for a political solution yet he failed to show up to vote for Sen. Biden’s critical amendment to provide a political solution in Iraq.

December 26, 2006: “Frankly, I think I’m more qualified than other candidates, and the issues facing the American public are all in my wheelbarrow.”

On Iraq:
Biden on Meet the Press in 2002, discussing Saddam Hussein: “He’s a long term threat and a short term threat to our national security… “We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.”

Biden on Meet the Press in 2002: “Saddam must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power.”

Biden on Meet the Press in 2007, on Hussein’s WMDs: “Well, the point is, it turned out they didn’t, but everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued — they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued.”

Biden, on Obama’s Iraq plan in August 2007: “I don’t want [my son] going [to Iraq],” Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said from the campaign trail Wednesday, according to a report on Radio Iowa. “But I tell you what, I don’t want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference.” Biden criticized Democratic rivals such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama who have voted against Iraq funding bills to try to pressure President Bush to end the war. “There’s no political point worth my son’s life,” Biden said, according to Radio Iowa. “There’s no political point worth anybody’s life out there. None.”

Biden on Meet the Press, April 29, 2007: “The threat [Saddam Hussein] presented was that, if Saddam was left unfettered, which I said during that period, for the next five years with sanctions lifted and billions of dollars into his coffers, then I believed he had the ability to acquire a tactical nuclear weapon — not by building it, by purchasing it. I also believed he was a threat in that he was — every single solitary U.N. resolution which he agreed to abide by, which was the equivalent of a peace agreement at the United Nations, after he got out of — after we kicked him out of Kuwait, he was violating. Now, the rules of the road either mean something or they don’t. The international community says “We’re going to enforce the sanctions we placed” or not. And what was the international community doing? The international community was weakening. They were pulling away.”

Biden to the Brookings Institution in 2005: “We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake. Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out — equally a mistake.”

Analyzing the surge on Meet the Press, September 9, 2007: “I mean, the truth of the matter is that, that the — America’s — this administration’s policy and the surge are a failure, and that the surge, which was supposed to stop sectarian violence and — long enough to give political reconciliation, there’s been no political reconciliation... The reality is that, although there has been some mild progress on the security front, there is, in fact, no, no real security in Baghdad and/or in Anbar province, where I was, dealing with the most serious problem, sectarian violence. Sectarian violence is as strong and as solid and as serious a problem as it was before the surge started.”

Biden in October of 2002: “We must be clear with the American people that we are committing to Iraq for the long haul; not just the day after, but the decade after.”

On Meet the Press, January 7, 2007, assessing the proposal of a surge of troops to Iraq: “If he surges another 20, 30, or whatever number he’s going to, into Baghdad, it’ll be a tragic mistake, in my view, but, as a practical matter, there’s no way to say, ‘Mr. President, stop.’”

On Meet the Press, November 27, 2005: “Unless we fundamentally change the rotation dates and fundamentally change how many members of the National Guard we’re calling up, it’ll be virtually impossible to maintain 150,000 folks this year.” (The number of troops in Iraq peaked at 162,000 in August 2007, during the surge.)

Having said all that: “There’s something decent at the core of Joe Biden.” — Jim Geraghty, December 13, 2007


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Which Is the Real Michelle Obama?

Only in the movies does a leopard change his spots. In real life, your associations and past activities are the best indicators of who you really are and what you are likely to do. Guess what my answer to the question is.

This Historic Candidacy

By Mona Charen August 27, 2008 RealClearPolitics (Excerpts)

“I would love to support the person Michelle Obama has conjured for us this week -- successful working-class girl who worked hard, upheld traditional values, and was rewarded by a great nation.

But in her case, as in Barack Obama's case, there is just too much artifice and not enough reality here. Their true history keeps intruding -- and their true views remain opaque.

Mrs. Obama went to Princeton. Her solipsistic senior thesis (1985) concerned the plight of blacks at Princeton. She complained that the college's "Afro-American studies" program was "one of the smallest and most understaffed departments in the university." She further complained that only one major university-recognized group on campus was "designed specifically for the intellectual and social interests of blacks and other third world students."

Third World? Is that how she sees herself and other black Americans? That suggests a pretty advanced level of alienation -- not the happy daughter of Chicago she served up Monday night.

Michelle Obama was introduced to most Americans when she said that "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country" because her country seemed to be in the process of nominating her husband for president. It's hard to imagine a deep patriot mouthing those words under any circumstances, but even if we assume that her statement did not reflect her real views, there are plenty of other red flags that wave all over Michelle and Barack Obama's life.

When Michelle Obama spoke to church groups, according to a profile in the New Yorker, she would take to the podium and proclaim, "On behalf of my church home and my pastor, Reverend Wright, I bring greetings." The campaign now suggests that the Obamas, who chose the Rev. Wright to perform their wedding and baptize their children, were never really in the pews that often. But no matter how infrequently they attended, they were certain to have heard the kind of racist, bitter, anti-American rants that the Rev. Wright has perfected.

Mrs. Obama says she didn't always agree with the Rev. Wright. OK. But her own riff on American life, delivered time and again on the stump, is grim. Here is the New Yorker description:

"Obama begins with a broad assessment of life in America in 2008, and life is not good: we're a divided country, we're a country that is 'just downright mean,' we are 'guided by fear,' we're a nation of cynics, sloths, and complacents. 'We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day,' she said, as heads bobbed in the pews. 'Folks are just jammed up, and it's gotten worse over my lifetime. And, doggone it, I'm young. Forty-four!'"…

She opened her home to William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. She sat in the Rev. Wright's church for 20 years. She told the Democratic convention that she loves America. Is that the real Michelle Obama? Or was it the woman who hoped her husband could deliver this country because "our souls are broken in this nation."” RealClearPolitics

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Second Look at the Pickens Energy Plan

In all fairness to T. Boone Pickens, whom I and others have heavily criticized for trying to cash in on the desire of Americans for energy independence and lower fuel costs, the following NY Times report certainly greatly improves and supports the argument Pickens has been making, and causes me to change my mind somewhat. He wants to extend drilling for oil as much as possible, but says that’s not going to be anywhere near enough. No-one would dispute that. Pickens also says we should build massive numbers of wind turbines in order to substitute wind energy for the natural gas and oil now burned to produce electricity.

He would then convert internal combustion vehicles to the natural gas that would be freed up, and run the nation’s vehicle fleet on natural gas - at least until the nation’s scientists and industrialists are able to develop and produce a renewable biofuel that makes sense, which Pickens estimates will take at least another 10 years.

Pickens plan, as stated, doesn’t make much sense. Converting cars and trucks to run on natural gas is expensive, and doing that while establishing a supply network would probably use up the ten year period, and so would the creation of the number of wind farms we would need to make such an impact.

What makes more sense, especially given the report below on natural gas supplies, is to convert some natural gas to gasoline and diesel fuel. Germany did this during World War II using a process that is very expensive, but several American firms have announced the development of processes that they claim will produce very inexpensive gasoline and diesel. At the same time, car manufacturers can bring out some new models that will run on natural gas directly. Honda has a car out that seems to do this quite well. If you combine this with the new discoveries of immense quantities of domestic natural gas, you have the makings of a winning program for America: cheap and abundant energy from domestic sources:

1. Drill, drill everywhere
2. Build wind farms where it makes sense
3. Build nuclear plants to add electrical capacity (wind farms do not add capacity)
4. Convert some natural gas to gasoline and diesel fuel
5. Continue development of Biofuels not made from foodstuffs (both domestic oil and natural gas will not last forever)

Drilling Boom Revives Hopes for Natural Gas

August 25, 2008 New York Times (Excerpts)

HOUSTON — “American natural gas production is rising at a clip not seen in half a century, pushing down prices of the fuel and reversing conventional wisdom that domestic gas fields were in irreversible decline.

The new drilling boom uses advanced technology to release gas trapped in huge shale beds found throughout North America — gas long believed to be out of reach. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, releasing less of the emissions that cause global warming than coal or oil.

Rising production of natural gas has significant long-range implications for American consumers and businesses. A sustained increase in gas supplies over the next decade could slow the rise of utility bills, obviate the need to import gas and make energy-intensive industries more competitive…

“It’s almost divine intervention,” said Aubrey K. McClendon, chairman and chief executive of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the nation’s largest natural gas producers. “Right at the time oil prices are skyrocketing, we’re struggling with the economy, we’re concerned about global warming, and national security threats remain intense, we wake up and we’ve got this abundance of natural gas around us.”…

Most of the gain is coming from shale, particularly the Barnett Shale region around Fort Worth, which has been under development for several years. The increase in gas production stands in sharp contrast to the trend in domestic oil production, which has been declining steadily since 1970 and dropped 21 percent in the last decade alone.

The Barnett region proved that, using new technology, shale gas could be extracted on a large scale. But lately, companies have set their sights on shale formations that could produce far more gas than the Barnett….

Domestic natural gas prices have already plunged 42 percent since early July, an even faster drop in price than oil or most other commodities, in part because the rapid supply growth has begun to influence the market. Price spikes remain possible, of course, but throughout the industry the shale discoveries are causing a shift in thinking about the long-term outlook.” New York Times

Friday, August 15, 2008 Technology Review (Excerpt)

Natural Gas to Gasoline

A firm claims to have a cheaper way to harness natural gas.
By Tyler Hamilton

“A Texas company says that it has developed a cheaper and cleaner way to convert natural gas into gasoline and other liquid fuels, making it economical to tap natural-gas reserves that in the past have been too small or remote to develop.” Technology Review

Nancy Pelosi, the House Majority Leader is supporting the Pickens plan because she believes that natural gas is not a fossil fuel. We should get this plan into operation before she learns otherwise. After all:
1. we have tried to make a practical electric car for 100 years without success
2. we have tried to make a practical fuel cell car for 60 years without success
3. our Biofuels program so far has been a disaster, and it may take many more than 10 years to make Biofuels the predominant fuel for vehicles


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act, as is often the case with liberal legislation, has created some unintended consequences, which, in many cases, has made life worse for disabled people and placed employers in Catch 22 situations. I was fortunate to be an employer before this act was passed, but even then I knew better than to ask certain questions or report certain truths. For example, if I caught someone stealing or dealing drugs on my premises and fired them, I would never give that as a cause for termination, nor would we ever tell that person's tentative next employer anything other than "would rehire" or "would not rehire".

We would also never tell anyone whom we did not wish to hire anything other than that the job was filled. Why subject oneself to litigation? Employers are not stupid, and will try to hire employees that will serve their interests. What is stupid is trying to force employers to hire someone not in their interest, like a grossly obese woman to be a receptionist at a weight loss clinic, or someone with all kinds of pierced body parts and studs to be a waitress. The ADA has added an unacceptable dimension to the normal constraints on the freedom of speech of America’s employers and on the employer’s right to run his business as effectively as possible – and disabled people are paying the price.

Are You Able to Obey This Law?

By John Stossel June 07, 2006 RealClearPolitics (Excerpts)

Some shortsighted employers don't give jobs to people with disabilities, even when the disabled could do the work. Politicians thought the way to stop this discrimination was to make it illegal. That's what politicians tend to do. But in the real world, even Congress can't wish problems away. Their well-intended solutions create nasty unintended consequences. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is proving to be yet another sad example.

Consider what an employer has to do to try to obey the ADA. Even the job interview is a minefield. Julie Janofsky, a labor lawyer, patiently explained to me that it is forbidden even to ask certain disability-related questions. If an applicant comes to my office with his arm in a sling, I can't ask whether he's disabled. It would be "discriminatory."

I can't ask about past drug addiction -- or even about current addiction, if the drugs are legal. "You can't ask me if I'm addicted to Valium," said Janofsky, "because if I'm addicted to Valium now, I'm protected under the ADA."

How are employers supposed to understand this? I confronted Gilbert Casellas, head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Clinton. He said the ADA is a wonderful law, and had the nerve to say it isn't complicated. "None of this stuff is rocket science," he said.

So I asked him about Janofsky's example: If you come to me applying for a job, and your arm is in a sling, can I ask you why your arm is in a sling?

"You can ask -- you know what? I'm going to ask you to stop the tape, because we're getting into -- "

I was incredulous. "You want to check?"

The head of the EEOC had just said the law wasn't complicated, and every employer in America is supposed to obey it, but he had to consult one of his experts….

That's the point! Every employer is in a specific situation, and lawyers are ready to pounce if they don't do everything according to the law. And the laws are now so complex, it's impossible to obey all of them. Exxon gave Joseph Hazelwood a job after he completed alcohol rehab; when Hazelwood then let the Exxon Valdez run aground, a jury found that he'd recklessly gotten drunk before taking command--and that the company had been reckless to give him the job. So then the company decided people who've had a drug or drinking problem may not hold safety-sensitive jobs. The result? You guessed it -- employees with a history of alcohol abuse sued under the ADA, demanding their right to hold safety-sensitive jobs. Employers can't win. They get sued if they do, sued if they don't….

Complicated laws like the ADA eventually hurt the people they were meant to help. The ADA has led many employers to avoid the disabled. One poll found that since the ADA was passed, the percentage of disabled men who were employed dropped. "Once you hire them, you can never fire them. They are lawsuit bombs," one employer said. "So we just tell them the job has been filled."”


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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Contending with an Upside-down World

We are often left dumbfounded when we confront some of the leftist views of the world, i.e.: Hamas and Fatah terrorists who set off bombs in crowded marketplaces in the sovereign country of Israel are the “good guys”; President Bush is more of a threat to our freedoms than Islamists who massacre 3000 Americans on 9/11, stone women to death, cut off heads and murder homosexuals; Saddam Hussein was no threat to the rest of us; 9/11 was a criminal plot carried out by President Bush and VP Cheney; and now – Russia is the good guy and Georgia the bad guy in their current conflict.

Nowhere is this upside-down world more apparent than is revealed in Senator Obama’s comments that obviously seek to compare Russia’s rape of Georgia with our removal of Saddam Hussein:

“Democrat Barack Obama scolded Russia again on Wednesday for invading another country’s sovereign territory while adding a new twist: the United States, he said, should set a better example on that front, too.

The Illinois senator’s opposition to the Iraq war, which his comment clearly referenced, is well known. But this was the first time the Democratic presidential candidate has made a comparison between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s recent military activity in Georgia.

“We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.””

I think John Hinderaker said it best: “So our "charging into" Iraq--with dozens of allies, supported by a U.N. resolution, as a last resort after six months of build-up and negotiations, to unseat one of the cruelest dictators of modern times who had twice invaded neighboring states, was in violation of more than a dozen U.N. resolutions and was responsible for the deaths of something like two million people, who was shooting at American aircraft and had tried to assassinate a former President of the United States, in Obama's childish mind, was just like Russia's "charging into" Georgia, which resembles Saddam's Iraq in no respect. And, of course, we invaded a horrifying charnel-house so as to establish a democracy, whereas Russia invaded a peaceful democracy that it wants to re-incorporate into its empire.

Is Obama an idiot? I don't think so, really. But one of the many problems with being a leftist is that it leads you to say lots of stupid things. Today, the Obama gaffe machine went into overdrive. By November, I suspect that most voters will have heard enough to know that Barack Obama is unqualified to be a middle-manager in a well-run company, let alone President of the United States.”

In an informal survey of various sources, it became apparent to me that liberal publications generally seemed to blame Georgia for its invasion by Russia, while conservative publications blamed Russia. I was therefore surprised this morning to read the following report in the normally liberal Washington Post. Is the tide turning?
Who Needs Russia?

The United States should make a clear-eyed assessment of the fruits of strategic cooperation.

August 23, 2008 Washington Post (Excerpt)

"ON THURSDAY, while overseeing his country's continuing occupation of neighboring Georgia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev found time to meet with visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Assad, who is under suspicion of ordering the murder of political opponents in Lebanon, lavishly praised Russia's invasion of Georgia and asked for more Russian weapons. Mr. Medvedev acceded to this request, according to his foreign minister.

This was a small and unsurprising event in the annals of Russian diplomatic history. But it's worth noting as the United States and its European allies consider how to reshape relations with Russia in the wake of its Aug. 7 invasion of Georgia. A common theme of commentary since the war began has been that the United States is constrained in its condemnation of -- or sanctions against -- Russia because it needs Russia too much in areas ranging from counterterrorism to checking the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran. But you can't lose what you never had, and it's fair to question how much help Russia has been providing in any of those areas, even before Aug. 7.

Iran provides a useful example. Russia has participated, with Germany, France and Britain, in talks aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear program and even has gone along with some sanctions enacted by the U.N. Security Council. But Russia's principal contribution has been to slow the process and resist meaningful sanctions, stringing the Bush administration along just enough to convince it that truly effective measures -- sometime, somewhere down the road -- might be possible.

Iran's nuclear program has proceeded without inhibition. Meanwhile, Russian experts help develop Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, and Russia sells Iran air-defense weapons it can use to protect its nuclear sites and anti-ship weapons it could use to menace Persian Gulf shipping traffic in the event of conflict. While the administration blames Iran and its proteges, including Hamas and Syria, for destabilizing the Middle East, Russia sells arms to all of them, and to Venezuela and Sudan." Washington Post

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A safer society? Legalize drugs

I would never criticize Mitt Romney for changing his mind about what the proper role of government is regarding abortion because I have changed my mind a couple of times over my lifetime. I also have changed my mind about how to deal with drugs.

"Thirty-five years into the “war on drugs”, the United States still has a huge drug abuse problem, with several million problem users of illicit drugs and about 15 million problem users of alcohol. Illicit drug-dealing industries take in about $50 billion per year. Much of the retail drug trade is flagrant, involving either open-air activity or identified, dedicated drug houses. Flagrant dealing creates violence and disorder, wrecking both the neighborhoods where it goes on and the lives of the dealers. Chronic heavy users of expensive illicit drugs steal and deal to finance their habits. Drug injection spreads HIV and hepatitis-C.

On top of all that, we have a highly intrusive and semi-militarized drug enforcement effort that is often only marginally constitutional and sometimes more than marginally indecent.11. That enforcement effort keeps about 500,000 Americans behind bars at any one time for drug law violations, about 25 percent of the total U.S. prison and jail population. A larger proportion of U.S. residents is doing time for drug law violations than is behind bars for all offenses put together in any country to which we’d like to be compared." The American Interest

It’s pretty obvious to many people that our war on drugs is a losing proposition. Prisons are full of drug offenders, but large areas of most cities are off-limits to all but those pursuing the drug trade as sellers and buyers. The amounts of money involved lead to carnage on our streets and corruption in our criminal justice system, while every day’s newspaper brings another story of innocent people murdered because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or killed in a traffic accident by a druggie. The author of this article makes a good case for legalization; I agree with him as long as some of the savings go into enforcing public intoxication laws to keep druggies off the streets, and severe penalties are imposed for DUI’s.
A safer society? Legalize drugs

By Bill Fried | June 6, 2006 (Excerpts)

“Eddie is an addict and a seller. He feeds his addiction by stealing, often violently… He did prison time, where taxpayers fed and housed him and gave him a stigma that made it virtually impossible for him to re integrate into society upon his release. Except as a drug dealer.

He is part of an established food chain, an elaborate, international protection racket. To defend his turf -- maintain market share -- he joins an armed gang, as does his connection, as does the syndicate that supplies his connection, as do those who protect the producers.

At every stage, corruption and violence. Elements of the police and military look the other way. Selected judges and politicians look the other way. The great source of drug demand, the United States, hops into bed with drug runners to pursue its geopolitical aims. Billions of dollars slide around. Those who don't have their hands out have their hands tied. Those without connections get hounded and jailed….

His failure is defined as a personal one; his usage is defined as criminal. He may be arrested, put in expensive jails, and guarded. Meanwhile, politicians puff sanctimoniously about ``cleaning the streets" and ``ridding the projects of drug dealers."

But, in fact, we know that he'll be replaced, as will every corrupt person in the entire international supply chain. There will be inevitable ``personal" failings all up and down the line. The incentives and despair are too great.

But what if we step back and take a radical new look at this, what if we dive down to the epicenter and pull the plug from this dysfunctional vortex? What if we legalize and control the drugs in question: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, to name three? Clinics could dispense these drugs affordably, and some of the $69 billion that Law Enforcement Against Prohibition documents we spend on ``enforcement" and ``interdiction" could go to treatment , for which there is already unmet demand. For the kids, hip anti drug messages could parallel the successful anti-smoking campaign. In the absence of prohibition, drug use may actually decline among the young.

What will our society look like as we transform outlaws into clients?
There will be millions of people on drugs.

There are currently millions of people on drugs.

But there would be significantly fewer human tragedies; fewer broken lives and families; less crime on the street; fewer people in jail (especially minorities); less State Police and State Department corruption. We would live in a safer, gentler country.

Many drug addicts will be cured and live normal lives.

Many will never kick the addiction but will live mostly normal lives, like functioning alcoholics; holding down jobs, remaining in marriages, and raising children; a monkey on their back, but getting by.

And many will remain mired in drugs. They will consume drugs as the morbidly obese consume food -- until they self destruct. Even with legalization and control and all the support in the world. Some folks will simply fail, and their failure will be a small though intense tragedy. But it will be theirs and that of their families. Not ours. Not everyone's.”

For a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of drug use and the consequences of drug law enforcement in America go here.


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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama Campaign Caught; Two Lies This Week

While everyone not associated with the Obama candidacy is chortling over the way Senator Obama tried to disassociate himself from an Illinois Senate vote NOT to protect babies born in botched abortions, the Obama campaign staff, with the complicity of the New York Times, tried to excuse Obama’s poor performance in the Saddleback Forum by claiming that Senator McCain “cheated”. It seems that every time the left loses an election or a debate, someone must have cheated.

The NYT's Most Anti-McCain, Misleading Headline of the Week

2008-08-18 (Excerpts)

“Many of you are aware of the kerfuffle surrounding the "cone of silence" complaint being ginned up by the Obama campaign [1] after the recent Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency on Saturday, August 16. The claim made by Obama and his willing accomplices in the Old Media (like Andrea Mitchell, not to mention the DailyKos [2]) is that John McCain "cheated" by hearing the questions proffered to Obama, who was first up to be questioned by moderator Rick Warren. McCain's answers were just too glib, the Obama meme posits, so he must have heard the questions ahead of time instead of being placed in an area off stage where he could not hear the proceedings. Yes, they are saying he cheated.

On Sunday, August 17, The New York Times did its level best to assist the Obama campaign to further that mistaken conception -- well, all right, that outright lie -- even as they debunked the story. How? By making their headline seem to support the Obama claim [3] that McCain cheated, that's how.

Now, remember, that the claim from the Obama camp is that John McCain somehow snuck out of the "cone of silence" he was supposed to be in while backstage. This so-called "cone of silence" was supposed to be an area backstage where McCain was not able to hear the questioning. Keep in mind that the Obama camp is saying McCain left this area unauthorized and that he, therefore, cheated. Now check out the New York Times headline:

"Despite Assurances, McCain Wasn’t in a ‘Cone of Silence"

Now, if you were to read only this headline and skip the story, it would seem to verify that the Obama campaign was right. McCain was not in this "cone of silence." It would be very easy to conclude that McCain then did hear the questions and did cheat.

And it isn't just the headline. The first short paragraph also made it seem as if Obama was right about his "cheating" charge.

"Senator John McCain was not in a “cone of silence” on Saturday night while his rival, Senator Barack Obama, was being interviewed at the Saddleback Church in California."

But wait. It turns out that John McCain wasn't even at the venue to hear the questions.

...Mr. McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed... Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions….

So, the ignominious, but ingenious, prize for most misleading headline of the week goes to The New York Times for its Obama leaning treatment of this McCain smear.”

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The End of Aviation

As America and the rest of the world struggles to find ways to combat the rapid and huge increases in the price of oil, a commodity the modern world cannot live without, we see all around us efforts to accommodate to the new reality. Conservation efforts, development of renewables, increased efficiencies, the possible opening of drilling areas in ANWR, the Gulf and the Outer Continental Shelf, and new technologies – are all offering modest and incremental steps that we hope will allow us to retain our way of life and our standard of living.

According to a perceptive article in the “New Republic”, however, there is one major aspect of our lives that will change radically – air travel. Many economists are predicting that, no matter what we do, $200 per barrel oil is on the near term horizon, and air travel ceases to be economically feasible somewhere around $135 per barrel, a figure we recently surpassed for a time this winter and spring. Those of us who travel back and forth to Florida have already seen fares double and triple in the last two years.

The End Of Aviation
What will happen when America can't afford to fly?

August 27, 2008 The New Republic (Excerpt)

“As the age of cheap oil comes to a close, it's springtime for gloomy futurists. Visions of a brutish world marked by violent squabbles over dwindling reserves, of junkyards littered with abandoned cars, of suburban slums overrun by weeds, of the collapse of industrial agriculture--none of this sounds as outlandish as it once did. Still, most of these horror stories are likely overstated: Energy experts tend to agree that, with a little ingenuity and a generous helping of political will, we could transition away from fossil fuels without being forced to give up our modern lifestyles.

But there's one big exception--an area where a post-carbon world really could mean a radical shift in the way we live. That's the world of commercial flight.

Early signs of an aviation apocalypse are already upon us. As oil prices flirt with $130 per barrel and the dollar struggles, airlines are paying nearly 80 percent more for fuel than they did a year ago. Twenty-five airlines have gone belly-up this year--three to four times the usual yearly rate. Major carriers like American, Northwest, and United, still reeling from the industry downturn after September 11, go barely a month without announcing layoffs and capacity cuts.

And it gets worse from there. Despite recent fluctuations, a growing number of economists are bracing for oil to hit or surpass $200 per barrel in a few years, and most industry analysts agree with Douglas Runte, of RBS Greenwich Capital, who told The Wall Street Journal in June, "Many airline business models cease to work at $135-a-barrel oil prices." After all, most airlines barely figured out how to be profitable in a world of low fuel costs. Jeff Rubin, chief economist of Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets, has predicted that gasoline will hit $7 per gallon by 2010, forcing some 10 million cars in the United States off the road. If that happens, he told me, "You're going to see an even bigger exit in the airline industry."” The New Republic

This is a long article that covers many aspects of how life would change radically with the death of low-cost air travel – the rise of trains, the end of air freight, changing vacation and immigration patterns, the death of small cities, rising unemployment as industries die and new ones appear. As always, there will also be opportunities for those who anticipate trends and act to exploit them.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Georgia, Russia, the Ukraine and Us

What should the ordinary citizen of the United States think about the Russian invasion of the independent, former Soviet state of Georgia? What are the stakes? Who did what to whom? What should we do about it? Two things are clear: 1. the Russian invasion was so immense and so well-planned and coordinated that troop movements and logistics had to have been in place and carried out for weeks or months, and, 2. the Georgian debacle seems to fit right in to a pattern involving Russia’s threats to Europe over energy supplies, Russia’s nuclear threats to Poland over the missile shield, and Russia’s attempted murder of the president of the Ukraine, another breakaway and democratic state.

It also seems clear that Georgia’s president acted somewhat recklessly when he undertook military action against the enclave of South Ossetia, a territory that lies wholly within Georgia’s internationally recognized borders. What is not clear to the outside world is the extent of any Russian inspired and planned incidents there that were intended to get the desired results – a pretext for the Russian move.

Russia needs to pay a price for this naked aggression, but it is not immediately clear what the vital interests of the U.S. are here – although forestalling similar moves against Poland certainly is in our interest, as is encouraging Europe to try to move away from such energy dependency as now exists. Immediate extension of NATO memberships to Georgia and the Ukraine are at the high risk end of the spectrum, while doing nothing but protesting and seeking sanctions are at the other end. We have to do something, even if only to continue our long-standing tradition of supporting the growth of freedom everywhere in the world, and old-fashioned balance-of-power international politics is a pretty good reason also.

What Is Russia Afraid Of?
The spread of freedom and the West standing up to it.

Aug. 18, 2008 Slate (Excerpts)

"The Russian state's open hostility, not only toward Georgia but also toward Ukraine and the Baltic states, is, in this sense, partly ideological. Genuine elections have taken place in all these countries; people who have not been preselected by the ruling oligarchy sometimes gain wealth or power. Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution even involved street demonstrations that helped unseat more-oligarchic regimes. Thus it is not pure nationalism, nor mere traditional great-power arrogance, that makes the Russian leadership disdainful of Georgia and Ukraine: It is also, at some level, fear that similar voter revolutions could someday challenge Russia, too.

Nevertheless, the word superficial is worth repeating here: As I've written before, I don't really like historical analogies, which can conceal as much as they reveal. For one thing, the ethnic conflict that sparked the Georgian president's foolhardy response and the Russian invasion two weeks ago has been twisted and manipulated, but it nevertheless involves real people. Any long-term solution to the current crisis has to find some accommodation for the South Ossetians whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed in the exchange of fire….

Today's Russian leaders, despite the paranoia they learned in KGB training, have far more profound relationships with Western institutions, not only the G-8 and the Council of Europe but the Western banks and companies that invest their money and manage their property. Today's Europe is theoretically better prepared to engage Russia, though it has not done so until now. On Aug. 8, I wrote that the West, which failed for many years to address the security vacuum in the Caucasus, would have no influence over Russia, and in the short term this has proved true. Despite a cease-fire brokered by France, Russian troops are withdrawing very slowly, if at all. We have no military means to force them out and should not pretend otherwise.

But if this turns into a long-term conflict, if the Russian military remains in Georgia proper, if this proves to be only the first of more incursions into other neighboring states, there are relationships we have and meaningful levers we can use, whether over Russian membership in international institutions or Russian leaders' luxury apartments in Paris—if, of course, we are willing to use them. The critical question now is whether the West is prepared to behave like the West, to speak with one voice and create a common trans-Atlantic policy. In recent years, Russia has preferred to deal with Western countries and their leaders one by one.

Just last week, an affiliate of Gazprom, the Russian state-dominated gas company, added a former Finnish prime minister to its payroll—which already includes former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. If we hang together instead of allowing Gazprom to pick us all off separately, there is at least a chance that this minichill won't last another 40 years." Slate

It is my view that the steps being contemplated and discussed above are like mosquitoes to the elephant – easily anticipated and brushed off by Putin and Medvedev. Although our interests may not be directly at risk here, I believe that we in the west are in for a long series of power moves intended to reconstruct the former Soviet Union, and will result in the same kind of long-term standoff as the 40 year long Cold War if allowed to succeed. I believe that the time to take risks is now. We must convince Europe to extend NATO membership to Georgia and the Ukraine, and we must go ahead and move some of the forces and installations we have in Germany to Poland, a move long overdue.


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Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama Demeans Thomas and Exposes Own Shortcomings

Clarence Thomas, the only black member on the Supreme Court and a highly respected jurist, was demeaned and insulted for political gain by Senator Obama in Saturday's forum. As a conservative nominee, we well remember the "high tech lynching" that took place by Democrat senators and operatives at Thomas's hearing because he had the gall to be a black conservative who also believed that abortion is wrong. Using a playbook that was originated at a previous hearing for Judge Bork, Thomas was smeared and lied about and private detectives went through his garbage. Justice Thomas faced down the liars and gained the nomination; now along comes Obama and reaches down into left-wing talkingpoints to defame Thomas again. Senator Obama ought to be careful; his qualifications and experience might be compared to Justice Thomas and found wanting.

Obama on Clarence Thomas

August 18, 2008 Wall Street Journal

Barack Obama likes to portray himself as a centrist politician who wants to unite the country, but occasionally his postpartisan mask slips. That was the case at Saturday night's Saddleback Church forum, when Mr. Obama chose to demean Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Pastor Rick Warren asked each Presidential candidate which Justices he would not have nominated. Mr. McCain said, "with all due respect" the four most liberal sitting Justices because of his different judicial philosophy.

Mr. Obama took a lower road, replying first that "that's a good one," and then adding that "I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas. I don't think that he, I don't think that he was a strong enough jurist or legal thinker at the time for that elevation. Setting aside the fact that I profoundly disagree with his interpretation of a lot of the Constitution." The Democrat added that he also wouldn't have appointed Antonin Scalia, and perhaps not John Roberts, though he assured the audience that at least they were smart enough for the job.

So let's see. By the time he was nominated, Clarence Thomas had worked in the Missouri Attorney General's office, served as an Assistant Secretary of Education, run the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and sat for a year on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation's second most prominent court. Since his "elevation" to the High Court in 1991, he has also shown himself to be a principled and scholarly jurist.

Meanwhile, as he bids to be America's Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama isn't yet four years out of the Illinois state Senate, has never held a hearing of note of his U.S. Senate subcommittee, and had an unremarkable record as both a "community organizer" and law school lecturer. Justice Thomas's judicial credentials compare favorably to Mr. Obama's Presidential résumé by any measure. And when it comes to rising from difficult circumstances, Justice Thomas's rural Georgian upbringing makes Mr. Obama's story look like easy street.

Even more troubling is what the Illinois Democrat's answer betrays about his political habits of mind. Asked a question he didn't expect at a rare unscripted event, the rookie candidate didn't merely say he disagreed with Justice Thomas. Instead, he instinctively reverted to the leftwing cliché that the Court's black conservative isn't up to the job while his white conservative colleagues are.

So much for civility in politics and bringing people together. And no wonder Mr. Obama's advisers have refused invitations for more such open forums, preferring to keep him in front of a teleprompter, where he won't let slip what he really believes.


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Sunday, August 17, 2008

NY Times Reports Obama Qualms Among Democrats

In a surprising article that may indicate that some of the overwhelming Obama bias in the mainstream press may be diminishing as Senator Obama flip-flops and shows his inexperience, the NY Times reports of the misgivings of some leading Democrats.

Perhaps Obama’s missteps regarding Russia’s brutal invasion and conquest of Georgia have caused concerns, or perhaps his attempts to move to the right have angered and upset his supporters. Whatever the reasons, it is somewhat unusual for comments like these to air just as the Democratic convention is about to begin.

Among other comments cited were these, and I quote, “I particularly hope he strengthens his economic message — even Senator Obama can speak more clearly and specifically about the kitchen-table, bread-and-butter issues like high energy costs,” said Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. “It’s fine to tell people about hope and change, but you have to have plenty of concrete, pragmatic ideas that bring hope and change to life.”

Or, in the blunter words of Gov. Phil Bredesen, Democrat of Tennessee: “Instead of giving big speeches at big stadiums, he needs to give straight-up 10-word answers to people at Wal-Mart about how he would improve their lives.”

Allies Ask Obama to Make ‘Hope’ More Specific

August 17, 2008 New York Times (Excerpt)

“As Senator Barack Obama prepares to accept the Democratic presidential nomination next week, party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts despite weeks of cross-country and overseas campaigning.

These Democrats — 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders — say Mr. Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship or national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters.

Mr. Obama has run for the last 18 months as the candidate of hope. Yet party leaders — while enthusiastic about Mr. Obama and his state-by-state campaign operations — say he must do more to convince the many undecided Democrats and independents that he would address their financial anxieties rather than run, by and large, as an agent of change — given that change, they note, is not an issue.” NY Times

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Don’t Buy the Snake Oil Coming Through the TV

Ever since the American public exploded with rage over gasoline prices and demanded that Congress stop the nonsense and let an American industry go back to work, we have seen a procession of Democrat talking heads and spin meisters trying to undermine the push for more oil drilling. They say, “no oil for 10 years” (not true, but so what?); they say, oil companies already have 68,000,000 acres on which to drill (not true, these leases are dry); and they say, “not enough oil to be concerned about” (NOT TRUE).

The Institute of Energy Research (admittedly a group favorable to energy companies) points out that the Democrats are using deceptive figures supplied by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The naysayers say that the amount of oil we could produce on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) if the drilling ban were lifted to be approximately 200,000 barrels per day. This is just not true. I quote from the report excerpted below: “200,000 barrels per day is roughly equal to the daily production rate of just one new offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The Thunder Horse oil production facility, which will be on line this year, is designed to produce 250,000 barrels per day. The Atlantis oil platform currently producing in the Gulf of Mexico has a production capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.”

Report from The Institute for Energy Research August 8, 2008 (Excerpt)

“Despite these facts, the EIA projects that lifting the bans that prevent production on 85 percent of the OCS acreage surrounding the lower 48 states will yield an amount equal to that which can be produced from just one of these platforms. Obviously, the projections are flawed.

The EIA assumed that technically recoverable undiscovered oil resources in off-limits areas of the OCS total 18.2 billion barrels, based on the Department of Interior’s Mineral Management Service’s Report to Congress (February 2006). But technically recoverable resources are based on current technology and economics.

Historically, technological improvements and on-site exploration and development have increased technically recoverable resource estimates. For example, world proved oil reserves were estimated to be 521 billion barrels in 1971 when oil was $1.25 per barrel ($6.61 in 2007 dollars) and are estimated under present technology to be 1,317 billion barrels at an average price per barrel in 2007 of $67.

• EIA’s analysis is based on crude oil prices averaging around $50 per barrel in 2005 dollars (or around $80 per barrel in 2030 assuming a 2 percent per year inflation rate), well below the current price of around $120 per barrel.

• EIA’s analysis assumes that exploration, development, and production of economical fields (drilling schedules, costs, platform selection, reserves-to-production ratios, etc.) in the OCS are based on data from fields in the western Gulf of Mexico that are of similar water depth and size. Since the majority of the resources under moratoria (55 percent) are off the coast of California, the analysis should have used data from the Santa Barbara Channel, which would have provided more realistic assumptions and higher production levels.

• EIA’s analysis assumes that leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017. Yet, off the coast of California, some of these resources have already been leased. A report from Wall Street research house Sanford C. Bernstein says that California actually could start producing new oil within one year if the moratoria were lifted. The California oil is under shallow water and already has been explored. Drilling platforms have been in place since before the moratorium. Further, Department of Interior Secretary Kempthorne announced in July a new 5 year plan that will allow leasing to start 2 years earlier, in 2010, implying production from currently unleased areas could begin as early as 2015. This new 5 year plan includes the areas under Federal moratoria.” Institute for Energy Research

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama and other leading Democrats do not want any domestic drilling for oil to proceed. This goes against their agenda, despite the fact that American companies have made great strides in environmentally friendly technology and despite the fact that Cuban-sponsored drilling using Chinese and Indian firms are ready to drill in the Gulf a few miles from Florida. The American people must turn back this propaganda campaign and take the steps necessary to regain our energy independence. This means a combination of renewables, nuclear, natural gas, coal and especially, oil. The world has just witnessed a pitiful Europe, dependent on Russia for energy, standing by helplessly during the rape and occupation of a free country. We must all gain all possible energy independence to remain free and prosperous.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Iraq's Budget Surplus Scandal

Christopher Hitchens, who writes for the liberal magazine, Slate, is one of those modern liberals who pay attention to facts and history, rather than making most decisions on the basis of their ‘feelings’. Hitchens recognized immediately that Iraq’s role in the terrorization of Westerners had to be stopped, and that Saddam had long since outworn his right to continue murdering people and corrupting the United Nations on such a large scale. Here Hitchens discusses how some who have opposed President Bush at every step are twisting like pretzels:

Iraq's Budget Surplus Scandal

Why do we have such a hard time hearing good news from Baghdad?

By Christopher Hitchens
Aug. 11, 2008 Slate

One day I will publish my entire collection of upside-down Iraq headlines, where the true purport of the story is the inverse of the intended one. (Top billing thus far would go to the greatest downer of them all: the tale of Iraq's unemployed gravediggers, their always-insecure standard of living newly imperiled by the falling murder rate. You don't believe me? Wait for the forthcoming anthology.) While you wait, you might consider last week's astonishing report about the Iraqi budget surplus and the way in which the report was reported.

Largely attributable to the bonanza in oil prices, to new discoveries of oil since the eviction of Saddam Hussein, and to the increasing success of Iraqi exports via the pipelines to Turkey, this surplus could amount to as much as $79 billion by the end of this year. A good chunk of that money is sitting safely in a bank in New York. I would call this good news by any standard, though of course I understand the annoyance of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and others involved in the auditing of Iraq, who complain that all the unspent wealth is a bit much, given the heavy outlay from the U.S. treasury for the rebuilding of Mesopotamia.

Yes indeed, Iraq should pay for its own reconstruction. But, just before we all join hands on this obvious proposition, may we take a moment to apologize to Paul Wolfowitz? Of all the many slanders hurled at this advocate for Iraq's liberation, probably none was more gleefully bandied about than his congressional testimony that Iraq's recovery from decades of war and fascism could be self-financing. Now the opponents of the intervention are yelling that Iraq ought to be opening its bulging wallet right away.

There will be time enough for that to happen, since Iraq's vast resources are back in the hands of its own people and are no longer "privatized" as the personal property of a psychopathic crime family. Sen. Levin, who with Sen. John Warner, R-Va., requested the original report from the Government Accountability Office on Iraq's finances, was the ranking Democrat on the Senate subcommittee investigating the "oil for food" outrage. He knows perfectly well what used to happen to Iraq's oil wealth, which was prostituted through a U.N. program and diverted to such noble causes as the subsidy of suicide bombers in Gaza and the financing of pro-Saddam and "anti-war" politicians in London, Paris, and Moscow. While this criminal enrichment of Iraqi and overseas elites was taking place, the population of the country was living on garbage and drinking tainted water as a result of the U.N.-mandated international sanctions.

I think we should be glad that the luridly sadistic and aggressive Saddam Hussein regime is no longer in power to be the beneficiary of the rise in oil prices and thus able to share its wealth with the terrorists, crooks, and demagogues on its secret payroll. I think we should also be glad that its private ownership of Iraq's armed forces, and its control over a party monopoly called the Baath, has been irrecoverably smashed. Iraq's resources are no longer at the disposal of an aggressive, parasitic oligarchy. Its retrained and re-equipped army is being deployed, not in wars of invasion against its neighbors and genocide against its inhabitants, but in cleanup campaigns against al-Qaida and the Mahdi Army. An improvement. A distinct improvement.

It is in no spirit of revenge that I remind you that, as little as a year ago, the whole of smart liberal opinion believed that the dissolution of Baathism and militarism had been a mistake, that Iraq itself was a bottomless pit of wasted dollars and pointless casualties, and that the only option was to withdraw as fast as possible and let the inevitable civil war burn itself out. To the left of that liberal consensus, people of the caliber and quality of Michael Moore were describing the nihilist "insurgents" as the moral equivalent of the Minutemen, and to the right of the same consensus, people like Pat Buchanan were hinting that we had been cheated into the whole enterprise by a certain minority whose collective name began with the letter J.

Had any of this sinister nonsense been heeded, it wouldn't even be Saddam's goons who were getting their hands on that fantastic wealth in such a strategic country. It would have been the gruesome militias who answer either to fanatical Wahhabism on one wing or to fanatical Shiism on another, and who are the instruments of tyrannical forces in neighboring countries. Hardly a prospect to be viewed with indifference. I still reel when I remember how many supposedly responsible people advocated surrendering Iraq without a fight.

Before 2003, there was, in a way, a socioeconomic basis for fascism in Iraq, in that the lack of oil on Sunni turf supplied an imperative to the Tikrit-based gangsters for the domination of Kurdish and Shiite areas that did possess the needful oilfields. Now, new discoveries of oil and new laws on regional and provincial decentralization provide at least the socioeconomic basis for federalism. Again, a distinct improvement. This element of the substructure, as we Marxists say, does not in itself guarantee the superstructure, any more than the vast new wealth in Iraqi coffers is automatically a promise of prosperity for all. (After all, in spite of a huge improvement in prison conditions in Iraq in general, one has to admit the crimes and coverups of Abu Ghraib.) But does anyone seriously regret that these questions are being addressed in their only feasible context, namely the post-Saddam era that was the necessary if not the sufficient condition?

So, yes, major combat operations appear to be over, and to that extent one can belatedly say, "Mission accomplished." If there is any Iraqi nostalgia for the old party and the old army, it is remarkably well-concealed. Iraq no longer plays deceptive games with weapons of mass destruction or plays host to international terrorist groups. It is no longer subject to sanctions that punish its people and enrich its rulers. Its religious and ethnic minorities—together a majority—are no longer treated like disposable trash. Its most bitter internal argument is about the timing of the next provincial and national elections. Surely it is those who opposed every step of this emancipation, rather than those who advocated it, who should be asked to explain and justify themselves.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mexican Smuggler Shot by Agents Goes to Prison

There was a further development in the mysterious case of Border Agents Campeon and Ramos who are in prison serving 10 years for the shooting in the butt of the illegal alien drug-smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila. I use the term, “mysterious”, because no-one can really figure out how the two Agents could have been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in the first place, nor why President Bush has steadfastly refused to consider pardoning these men. I have written before about this case and of the lies and dissembling by the federal prosecutor, Johnny Sutton. Now Aldrete has been sentenced to jail.

This means that the main witness against the Border Agents is now a convicted and jailed felon with less time to serve than the Agents. Sutton knew that he was an often-armed drug-smuggler during the Agents’ trial. This means that our government placed the word of a drug smuggler over the testimony of serving agents of the U.S.A. When are they going to get the break they deserve or we the truth about this whole matter?

Smuggler shot by agents gets 9½ years in prison

Mexican national sentenced for part in later incidents

Aug. 6, 2008 Houston Chronicle

EL PASO — An admitted drug smuggler shot by a pair of former U.S. Border Patrol agents was sentenced to nearly a decade in federal prison Wednesday.

Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks while fleeing from an abandoned marijuana load in 2005, was sentenced to 9½ years in prison for his role in other smuggling efforts months after he was shot.

The sentence was issued a little more than a week after a federal appeals court upheld lengthy sentences for the former agents convicted in the shooting. Their case has drawn national attention, prompting several members of Congress to call on President Bush to commute their sentences or pardon them outright.

Aldrete, of Juarez, Mexico, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and one count each of conspiracy to import a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance.
Before being sentenced, Aldrete insisted that he was not a career smuggler and asked the court for leniency.

"I don't do this for a living," Aldrete, who spoke in Spanish, told U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone. "I did it again because I had to cover the debt" from the first failed smuggling attempt.

Aldrete said his family was threatened, forcing him to again smuggle large loads of marijuana in 2005, while cooperating with the U.S. government in the case against agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.

He was shot in February of that year.

Cardone rejected his apologies, telling Aldrete that he squandered an opportunity to stay clean after being given immunity for the original smuggling effort in exchange for his testimony against Ramos and Compean.

"I just don't believe you were a minor ... player," Cardone said. "You had ample opportunity ... and you still decided to engage in (drug smuggling.)"

Aldrete testified against the agents in their 2006 trial, telling a jury that he was unarmed when he was shot as he ran toward Mexico after a brief scuffle with Compean.
Ramos and Compean, who were convicted of shooting Aldrete and then trying to cover up the incident, argued that they believed Aldrete had a weapon.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld most of the agents' convictions while tossing out charges that the men tampered with an official proceeding.

The ruling left intact the mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years for the each agent's convictions on the charge of discharge of a weapon in the commission of a crime of violence.

Relatives of both agents were in the courtroom for Wednesday's sentencing.
Monica Ramos, Ignacio Ramos' wife, said the sentence brought some relief, but was hardly justice for her family.

"I'm not going to say this is a victory," Monica Ramos said. "I think for the first time our justice system worked."


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Major League Baseball’s Elephant on the Field

As a long-time Boston Red Sox fan who watches lots of games, I have been struck by the number of shattered bats made of maple that I have witnessed this year. It seems like one or two bats shatter in every game, and in today’s game between the Red Sox and the White Sox, a bat fragment seriously injured a fan in the stands.

I am also struck by the fact that the announcers hardly mention it when a bat comes apart, and pointedly keep away from discussing the number of occurrences that have become all too common. I decided today to Google the words, “broken maple bats”; I received 72,800 hits – that is, stories that mentioned this subject. Is this a problem that has become all too obvious, but which baseball’s executives are keeping under wraps? Here is just one such article:

Maple bats are shattering lives, and baseball needs to do something

At the breaking point

August 3, 2008 Sacramento Bee

Hearing the crack of Nate McLouth's bat, Pittsburgh Pirates hitting coach Don Long turned his head slightly to follow the ball at Dodger Stadium on April 15.

An instant later, Long was woozy and bloodied. The jagged end of McLouth's broken maple bat had tomahawked its way into the visitor's dugout and slashed Long on his left cheek and nose.

Ten days later, Susan Rhodes, a 50-year-old mother of two sitting four rows behind the same dugout, suffered a broken jaw when the barrel of Colorado Rockies star Todd Helton's maple bat struck her in the face.

Working in Kansas City, Mo., in late June, plate umpire Brian O'Nora was hit in the head by a piece of Royals catcher Miguel Olivo's broken maple bat, bled profusely and had to leave the game.

Sensing a trend? See the common denominator? There's a new blight on the face of the national pastime. No, not steroids or human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing drug. Those are so 2007. Maple bats, rather, the way maple bats explode into shockingly sharp and possible lethal missiles, are the latest scourge of the grand old game.

"God, sometimes it's dangerous out there," said Los Angeles Angels third-base coach Dino Ebel. "Especially when there's a runner at second and I'm more toward home plate, I flinch (on contact). You just don't know."

"They are like a javelin coming at you, a spear," added Philadelphia Phillies first-base coach Davey Lopes. "Something needs to be addressed before something unfortunate happens."

It was high irony, then, that O'Nora was injured the night a player-management safety committee met in New York City to discuss the seemingly rising crisis with maple bats.

Really, all that came of that summit was that more testing of the wood was necessary, since maple breaks differently than ash, the second-leading source of bats. More often than not, ash merely splinters or cracks and falls harmlessly to the ground, while maple explodes spectacularly and flies off in different directions.

As such, from July 2 to 23, every bat broken, chipped, cracked or smashed in a game was collected for analysis. With all 30 teams following suit, 257 bats were busted in a combined 260 games, nearly one per game. Major League Baseball has also hired a wood research institute at the University of Wisconsin and a Harvard statistician to investigate.

"I think they're going to get rid of them, I really do," said A's designated hitter Frank Thomas, who has used ash exclusively throughout his 19-year Hall of Fame career. "I didn't like the way (maple) sounded; I see it exploding all the time. I grew up with ash and I've stayed with ash.

"There's got to be an alternative (to ash), but maple's just not it. Those things are exploding, and it's dangerous. It's a serious situation."

Banishment of maple by Commissioner Bud Selig would be problematic. Since bats are covered under the current collective bargaining agreement as "tools of the trade," players and owners would have to agree to a ban. Good luck on any expeditious negotiations between those two often-warring parties.

Plus, an immediate ban would leave baseball with a lumber shortage, as there are simply not enough ash bats in reserve to replace the maple bats used by an estimated 55 to 60 percent of major leaguers today.

Another possible fix would be to tweak the specifications for a bat – thicken the handles on a bat since thinner handles seem to expedite breakage, or to reduce its weight ratio, the length of the bat in inches minus its weight in ounces, from no more than 3 1/2 (for example, a 34-inch bat can weigh no less than 30 ounces).

Currently, a bat's barrel can be no more than 2 3/4 inches in diameter while its handle cannot be thinner than 16/19 of an inch in diameter.

Don't mess with the specs, pleaded A's third baseman Eric Chavez.

"I don't care which wood they use; I wouldn't mind if they go back to ash," said Chavez, referring to the more than 20 companies licensed by MLB to make bats. "I use maple because that's just what all the bat companies have in stock … and what they can get me the fastest, and that's maple."

Players have generally accepted the on-field risks associated with flying bats. It's merely a part of the game now, they say.

However, they do fear for the safety of others.

"My biggest concern is a fan, if a bat flew in the stands and hurt a fan who's not really paying attention," said Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, a former El Camino High School star. "You see these bats flying all over the place nowadays. I don't know what the difference is this year (because) it's more ridiculous."

Rhodes, the fan injured at Dodger Stadium, reportedly had her jaw wired shut for three weeks, experienced headaches and memory loss and had a titanium plate and four screws inserted.

Some observers have suggested extending protective netting down the baselines to the ends of the dugouts, much like the NHL put up a see-through barricade to protect fans after a 13-year-old girl was killed when struck by a stray puck in 2002.

"What I don't get is why it wasn't a problem seven years ago, but now it's a problem," Chavez wondered. "I don't understand – if maple's maple, why are they breaking so much now?"

Sam Holman, an Ottawa carpenter and founder of Original Maple Bat Corporation in Canada, has theorized that cheaper wood is being used to satiate a hungry market, and that many bat companies are simply cutting corners to meet the demand.

All of which begs the question – if fans, players and management alike all see the inherent danger of the way maple bats are breaking, then what is their appeal?
"The biggest difference is it doesn't splinter," Lee said.

An ash bat, which has noticeable grain and texture, also flakes or peels with use, like an onion, weakening the wood. A maple bat is smooth and its grain barely visible. That characteristic, though, can give a false sense of pristine security because a vein on the inside might have already been broken and its user has no idea … until its spectacularly explosive demise.

Plus, while maple bats are more expensive – maple runs about $65, ash about $45 – they last longer.

On July 1, Lee was still using the same maple bat for batting practice he was swinging on Day 1 of spring training.

Compared to ash, maple wood is a more dense and hard. Being lighter also translates into greater bat speed, which could mean balls traveling further, though studies have refuted such thoughts.

So who's to blame for the preponderance of maple in the majors? Who made maple the madness that saw independent minor league pitcher John Odom traded in May by the Calgary Vipers to the Laredo Broncos for 10 maple bats?

It seems baseball has something else for which to blame Barry Bonds, who swung maple to set both the season (73 in 2001) and career home run (762 set in 2007) records while with the Giants.

"When Barry started using maple," Chavez said, "that pretty much was the end of ash."

Bonds, however, didn't just wake up one day, chop down the nearest maple tree and whittle out his personal Wonderboy (according to Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy, Bonds would go through only "about five bats a season when he was going good.") Rather, it was Joe Carter, who had an otherwise innocuous 41-game San Francisco stint in 1998, who turned Bonds onto the wood.

Carter, who came to the Giants from the Baltimore Orioles after a lengthy stay with the Toronto Blue Jays, brought his maple Sam Bats, named after Holman.

Holman favors increasing the minimum price of maple bats to $200 apiece to prod companies to not cut corners in production, essentially leveling the competition.
Meanwhile, Murphy said 50 percent of the Giants use maple, with veterans such as Omar Vizquel and Aaron Rowand eschewing it for ash.

Oakland clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich said 65 percent of the A's are imbibing in maple, though they are starting to be weaned off the wood. Bats in the future, Vucinich said, will be made of such exotic lumber as beachwood and bamboo.

Until then, players, coaches and fans remain in harm's way.

Long, the Pirates coach, had no chance to react as the bat barreled in on him in milliseconds, and he suffered nerve damage and took 10 stitches.

Merely a part of the game?

Giants rookie Emmanuel Burriss had his welcome-to-The-More-Dangerous-Show moment at San Diego's Petco Park on April 24, the night before Rhodes was hit in L.A. The Padres' Tadahito Iguchi smacked a grounder to Burris at shortstop, and the barrel of Iguchi's bat followed suit, only twirling its way to Burris.

"It's just hovering over the ball," said Burriss, a scant five days into his big league career. "He got a base hit out of it because there was no shot I was going to get that ball (without being hit by the bat). … "

Burris laughed uneasily, perhaps remembering the second-inning misadventure could have been huge in a 1-0 game won by the Giants.

"You've got to get out of the way of the bat, and then look for the ball, which probably is backwards," he said. "It shouldn't be that way.

"It's crazy, dude."

The wonderful thing about baseball is that in this ever-changing world of disasters and crises and disintegrating neighborhoods , baseball mostly remains the same and manages to focus us intently for a few hours on something that really matters not at all. We are still arguing about the role of the designated hitter, and keeping statistics on every possible series of occurrences. Now we can keep track of shattered maple bats until the obvious problem is corrected.


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