22 December 2008

Douche Of The Week 12.21.08

The Winner: OPEC

The Reason: Raising Fuel Prices

The Story

Saudi Arabia, OPEC's de-facto leader, said Wednesday the oil group will slash production by 2 million barrels a day at the beginning of next year — its largest single reduction ever.

Russia and other non-OPEC countries said they would join in the effort by removing hundreds of thousands more barrels from the market.

An official decision to cut 2 million barrels from output all at once would be a first for the organization. OPEC had cut that amount from its output four years ago, but that was done in two stages.

Asked Wednesday if he stood by that figure, Naimi told reporters "that's the correct number." Later, he said the cut would take effect Jan.1, pending formal approval by the ministers.

Also significant would be formal support from Russia, Azerbaijan and other non-OPEC producers. Mexico, Norway and Russia slashed production in the late 1990s, at a time oil was selling for about $10 a barrel.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said he supported the oil supply cut of at least two million barrels per day at the group's Wednesday meeting in Algeria.

OPEC gave ministers ammunition to justify cuts in its latest monthly market report, released Tuesday. The bloc predicted demand for its crude oil will have fallen by 700,000 barrels per day this year, and will drop by at least twice that amount in 2009 as the worsening global economy "is expected to have a strong impact on oil demand."

Ahead of a formal decision, other OPEC ministers also expressed sentiment for a large cut to shock the market and put a floor under prices.

Shokri Ghanem, Libya's delegate to OPEC, said that "we should make a substantial cut" and that 2 million barrels was "a very good number."

Iranian Petroleum Minister Gholamhossein Nozari did not give a number, but said that Iran would support a reduction of 2 million barrels per day.

Still, while eager to push prices higher, OPEC must weigh production cuts against the risk of driving the economies of its top customers deeper into recession.

A senior OPEC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly, said "reasonable" OPEC nations would accept prices around $50 a barrel in the short term so as not to contribute to the world economic downturn.

Russian media quote Deputy Premier Igor Sechin as saying Moscow is ready to take 300,000 barrels off the market. And the oil minister of Azerbaijan tells The Associated Press that his country is willing to cut back by the same amount.

The International Energy Agency recently forecast that global demand for oil would fall this year, the first decline since 1983.

Oil's collapse by more than $100 a barrel has made July's all-time high above $147 seem a distant memory but many analysts now expect a rebound and say crude's bear market may prove to have been exceptionally brief.

Oil prices could already have hit rock-bottom for 2008 when they touched lows near $40 a barrel this month, and are poised to climb despite the dire outlook for the global economy.

Merrill Lynch shocked investors earlier this month by saying that oil prices could fall as low as $25 a barrel next year.

Robocop's Comment:

So much for the excuse of supply and demand. Demand is at a constant high, so for our troubles,these sand monkeys want to keep the prices high. When OPEC finally falls on their asses, I hope we don't bail them out.

21 December 2008

More Christmas Joy


11 December 2008


Iraq, American Ally

By Charles Krauthammer

The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military- and strategic-cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.

They must not pass unnoted. They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.

For the United States, it represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don’t blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.

Also largely overlooked at home was the sheer wonder of the procedure that produced Iraq’s consent: classic legislative maneuvering with no more than a tussle or two — tame by international standards (see YouTube: “Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights Of All Time!”) — over the most fundamental issues of national identity and direction.

The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran’s pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance.

The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances — from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws.

That any of this democratic give-and-take should be happening in a peaceful parliament just two years after Iraq’s descent into sectarian hell is in itself astonishing. Nor is the setting of a withdrawal date terribly troubling. The deadline is almost entirely symbolic. U.S. troops must be out by December 31, 2011 — the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, which, because God is merciful, will arrive again only in the very fullness of time. Moreover, that date is not just distant but flexible. By treaty, it can be amended. If conditions on the ground warrant, it will be.

True, the war is not over. As Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly insists, our (belated) successes in Iraq are still fragile. There has already been an uptick in terror bombings, which will undoubtedly continue as what’s left of al-Qaeda, the Sadrist militias, and the Iranian-controlled “special groups” try to disrupt January’s provincial elections.

The more long-term danger is that Iraq’s reborn central government becomes too strong and, by military or parliamentary coup, the current democratic arrangements are dismantled by a renewed dictatorship that abrogates the alliance with the United States.

Such disasters are possible. But if our drawdown is conducted with the same acumen as was the surge, not probable. A self-sustaining, democratic, and pro-American Iraq is within our reach. It would have two hugely important effects in the region.

First, it would constitute a major defeat for Tehran, the putative winner of the Iraq War according to the smart set. Iran’s client, Moqtada al-Sadr, still hiding in Iran, was visibly marginalized in parliament — after being militarily humiliated in Basra and Baghdad by the new Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the major religious Shiite parties were the ones who negotiated, promoted, and assured passage of the strategic alliance with the U.S. — against the most determined Iranian opposition.

Second is the regional effect of the new political entity on display in Baghdad — a flawed yet functioning democratic polity with unprecedented free speech, free elections, and freely competing parliamentary factions. For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the timescale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States — with which, mirabile dictu, it has now thrown in its lot

08 December 2008

05 December 2008

Right to carry guns in U.S. parks expanded

Washington Times

The Bush administration Friday announced a new policy allowing people to carry concealed firearms in nearly every national park and wildlife refuge.

The move changes a nearly 25-year-old policy that only permitted firearms to be carried in areas of parks that are specifically designated for hunting and target practice.

According to the Department of Interior, the new rules apply to national parks and refuges located in states that allow people to carry concealed weapons, and a person carrying a concealed weapon must have proper authorization from the state where the park or refuge is located.

Forty-eight states allow people to carry concealed firearms; only Illinois and Wisconsin do not.

Chris Paolino, a spokesman for the Interior Department, said concealed firearms likely would be allowed in 388 national parks and not allowed in only three.

But Mr. Paolino also said the new rules don't extend to federal buildings on national parks, meaning, for example, that a licensed person can carry a concealed firearm on the grounds of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, but cannot bring the gun inside Independence Hall.

The change was met with approval from the National Rifle Association, which, along with 51 senators from both parties and Reps. Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia Democrat, and Don Young, Alaska Republican, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Natural Resources Committee.

"We are pleased that the Interior Department recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America's National Parks and wildlife refuges," said the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox. "These changes respect the Second Amendment rights of honest citizens as they enjoy our public lands."

The decision puts the incoming Barack Obama administration in a potentially awkward position — whether to reverse the rule and risk an early political fight over the contentious issue of gun rights or let stand the rule, which is disliked by Mr. Obama's liberal base.

Guns were not a major issue in the presidential election, with neither Mr. Obama nor Republican John McCain choosing to emphasize it and Mr. Obama making guarded steps away from some gun control votes he made early in his career and assuring gun owners that he backs the Second Amendment.

Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for the transition team, said only that "President-elect Obama will review all eleventh-hour regulations and will address them once he is president."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence blasted the decision, saying it will make national parks more dangerous.

"The Bush administration's parting gift for the gun lobby to allow hidden weapons in our parks threatens the safety of these national treasures and those who visit them," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign. "We should not be making it easier for dangerous people to carry firearms in our parks. We urge proper authorities to use common sense and stop this senseless rule."

The policy change also was opposed by all seven living former National Park Service directors and groups including the Association of National Park Rangers, the Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

"This regulation will put visitors, employees and precious resources of the national park system at risk," said Bill Wade, president of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. "We will do everything possible to overturn it and return to a common-sense approach to guns in national parks that has been working for decades."

Mr. Young, the top Republican on the panel that has jurisdiction over national parks and wildlife refuges, worried about efforts to change the new policy.

"While this is a positive step forward, we have to remain vigilant because there are many people in Congress and the incoming administration who strongly oppose our Second Amendment rights," he said.

The push to change the rules began with a letter sent last December to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne from a group of 39 Republican and eight Democratic senators.

Since the early 1980s, firearms in national parks had to be kept unloaded and packed away, except in those areas where hunting and target practice were specifically allowed.

Proponents of the change said allowing people to have guns in national parks will let them protect themselves from animals and other dangers.

Robocop's Comment:

Holy Shit! Bush did something right? The sky is falling!

03 December 2008

A Small Victory

Dem Supermajority Hopes Crushed

ATLANTA -- Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss handed the GOP a firewall against Democrats eager to flex their newfound political muscle in Washington, winning a bruising runoff battle Tuesday night that had captured the national limelight.

Chambliss' victory thwarted Democrats' hopes of winning a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It came after a bitter month long runoff against Democrat Jim Martin that drew political luminaries from both parties to the state and flooded the airwaves with fresh attack ads weeks after campaigns elsewhere had ended.

Minnesota -- where a recount is under way -- now remains the only unresolved Senate contest in the country. But the stakes there are significantly lower now that Georgia has put a 60-seat Democratic supermajority out of reach.

With 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Chambliss captured 60 percent to Martin's 40 percent. Chambliss' win is a rare bright spot for Republicans in a year where they lost the White House as well as seats in the House and the Senate.

"It's been a hard and tough four weeks," Chambliss said at a victory party in Cobb County. "We had a hardcore campaign on both sides and while things look good right now, we're going to continue to follow the returns as they come in."

Chambliss' mantra on the runoff campaign trail was simple: His re-election was critical to prevent Democrats in Washington from having a blank check. Chambliss, 65, had angered some conservatives with his vote for the $700 billion bailout of the financial services industry and his early support in 2007 for the guest worker provision in President Bush's immigration bill. But fearful of unchecked Democratic dominance, some came back into the GOP fold Tuesday.

Martin made the economy the centerpiece of his bid, casting himself as a champion for the neglected middle class. He also linked himself at every opportunity to Barack Obama and his message of change. The Democratic president elect was a no show on the campaign trail in Georgia but did record a radio ad and automated phone calls for Martin.

In the end, Martin, a 63-year-old former state lawmaker from Atlanta, wasn't able to get Obama voters back to the polls in large enough numbers to overcome the Republican advantage in Georgia, which has become an increasingly a reliable red state since 2002.

Turnout was light throughout the state Tuesday. A spokesman for Secretary of State Karen Handel predicted between 18 and 20 percent of the state's 5.75 million registered voters would cast ballots -- far less than the 65 percent who voted in last month's general election.

The runoff between the former University of Georgia fraternity brothers was necessary after a three-way general election prevented any of the candidates from getting the necessary 50 percent.

Chambliss came to the Senate in 2002 after defeating Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in a campaign that infuriated Democrats. Chambliss ran a TV ad that questioned Cleland's commitment to national security and flashed a photo of Osama bin Laden. Cleland is a triple amputee wounded in the Vietnam War.

He was a loyal supporter of President Bush and, as a freshman, rose to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. the former agriculture lawyer from Moultrie has been the ranking Republican on the panel since Democrats won control of the Senate.

Some 3.7 million people cast ballots in this year's general election, and both sides have since tried to keep voters' attention with a barrage of ads and visits by political heavy-hitters.

Former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore both stumped for Martin. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Martin and sent 100 field operatives, but he didn't campaign in the state despite a request from Martin to do so.

Several ex-Republican presidential candidates made appearances for Chambliss, including GOP nominee John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Chambliss brought in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential pick, as his closer. She headlined four rallies for Chambliss across the state Monday that drew thousands of party faithful.

Robocop's Comment:

I am surprised that the Libtards are not bringing this up in court like they do every other time they lose something. I hope this at least slows Obama's agenda down.

02 December 2008

Meet the Taliban

By Clifford D. May

‘Afghanistan is the most foreign country in the world,” says William Wood, the American ambassador in Kabul. I ask if I may quote him on that. He hesitates, then says it’s alright, then adds: “It’s a ferociously foreign country.”

Mountainous, landlocked and remote, populated by legendary warriors — Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek — historically rich but economically dirt poor, Afghanistan has been in a state of turmoil for almost 30 years, since the Soviet invasion of 1980. “People here are used to violence, Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, says. “But they also have been traumatized by violence.”

By 1989, the Afghans had defeated the Soviet invaders — a great and consequential victory, achieved with assistance from the U.S. But once the Russians were gone, Americans and Europeans lost interest in Afghanistan. Warlords fought among themselves for land, power and wealth — mostly in the form of the poppies from which heroin is made.

In 1994, a group of provincial vigilantes led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the administrator of a religious school, rose up against the chaos and corruption. He and his followers called themselves “the students” — the “Taliban” in the Pashto language.

The Taliban restored law and order. People welcomed that. The Taliban also had the support of Islamists entrenched in Pakistan’s intelligence service. The Saudis approved as well.

Before long, the Taliban’s ultra-radical agenda became apparent. Girls were no longer permitted to go to school. Women could not leave their homes unless covered from head to toe in a burqa and accompanied by a male. Singing, dancing, playing music, watching television, sports, even flying kites — an Afghan national pastime — were prohibited. Prayer five times a day became compulsory.

Those who transgressed were sentenced to amputations or executions — by the thousands, often in public. Traditional tribal leaders were murdered and replaced by fire-breathing mullahs who broke with Afghan tradition by combining religious and political power.

In March 2001, the Taliban dynamited the Buddhas of Bamiyan — giant statues, great works of religion and art, built in the sixth century. To the Taliban, these were pagan “idols” that deserved destruction — like all things not Islamic. “It is purely a religious issue,” then-Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawekel told a Japanese reporter.

The Taliban, wrote the Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, represented a new kind of Islamic fundamentalist: “aggressive, expansionist and uncompromising in its purist demands to turn Afghan society back to an imagined model of seventh-century Arabia at the time of the Prophet Mohammed.”

At this same time, of course, the Taliban also was providing refuge to a Saudi exile by the name of Osama bin Laden. He was plotting another kind of assault against the despised infidels. In the wake of the slaughter of September 11, 2001, the Taliban remained loyal to bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The result was an American-led invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban.

Both bin Laden and Mullah Omar escaped, presumably to the wild reaches of western Pakistan.

Today, Taliban forces — bolstered by Arabs, Chechens, Pakistanis, and other “foreign fighters” — are attempting to retake Afghanistan, using the same terrorist tactics that al-Qaeda used in Iraq: assassinations, roadside bombs, and — while I was in Afghanistan earlier this month — throwing acid in the faces of young girls walking to school. A European diplomat in Kabul notes that this year 900 Afghan policemen have been killed — an improvement over the 1,200 killed in 2007. “The Taliban are not sentimental people,” he says.

Like other militant Islamists groups — Hamas and Hezbollah, for example — the Taliban acts locally but thinks globally. “We want to eradicate Britain and America,” Ay’atulah Mahsoud, the emir of the Pakistani Taliban, has said, “and to shatter the arrogance and tyranny of the infidels. We pray that Allah will enable us to destroy the White House, New York and London.”

The available evidence suggests the vast majority of Afghans would not welcome the Taliban’s return to power. Indeed, the Taliban has not managed to regain a single city. But they have been stepping up the violence.

In past years, fighting has slowed during Afghanistan’s cold and snowy winter. This season, Gen. McKiernan plans to keep the pressure on. “If we allow enemy forces time to rest and relax over the winter,” explains one of his commanders, “they will be back with a bang in the spring.” The hope — one can’t yet say the expectation — is that Pakistan also will move aggressively against Taliban fighters within is borders.

“Do it right,” an American general in Kandahar says, “and we won’t have to come back here years from now.

01 December 2008

Chicago Defies the Second Amendment

by Steve Chapman

Since the Supreme Court upheld the individual right to own guns last summer, one municipality after another with handgun bans has faced reality. Washington, D.C., which lost the case, changed its law. Morton Grove, Ill., repealed its ban. So did neighboring Wilmette. Likewise for Evanston. Last week, Winnetka followed suit.

Then there is Chicago, which is being sued for violating the Second Amendment but refuses to confront the possibility that what the Supreme Court said may apply on this side of the Appalachians.

When it comes to firearms, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is no slave to rationality. "Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society?" he demanded after the ruling came down. "Then why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West, where you have a gun and I have a gun and we'll settle it in the streets?"

From listening to him, you might assume that the only places in North America that don't have firefights on a daily basis are cities that outlaw handguns. You might also assume that Chicago is an oasis of concord, rather than the site of 443 homicides last year.

So it's no surprise that Daley refuses to make the slightest change in the handgun ordinance, preferring to fight the lawsuits filed by the National Rifle Association. He is not impressed that 1) the law almost certainly violates the Constitution, which elected officials are supposed to uphold, and 2) it will cost taxpayers a lot of money to fight lawsuits the city is bound to lose.

The Chicago ban dates back to 1983 -- a time when no one had to worry about the forgotten Second Amendment. The ordinance prohibited the possession of all handguns (except those acquired before the law took effect).

It had no obvious benefits: Homicides climbed in the ensuing years and by 1992 were 41 percent higher than before. But the policy rested undisturbed until last summer, when the Supreme Court ruled that Washington's complete ban on handguns violated the individual right to use arms for self-defense in the home.

If that logic applies to the D.C. statute, it very likely applies to Chicago's law. The city, however, notes that the nation's capital is a federal enclave, and that the court did not say that states must respect the Second Amendment. That's true. The court's ruling also did not say that China is in Asia, which doesn't make it part of South America.

Once upon a time, the Bill of Rights restricted only what the federal government could do: States were free to restrict free speech, conduct unreasonable searches and impose cruel and unusual punishments. But nowadays, the court says that because of the 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, states must respect virtually all the rights set out in the Constitution.

There is no reason to think the justices would exempt the Second Amendment from that rule. Ronald Rotunda, a constitutional scholar at Chapman University law school, thinks the Chicago ban has no more than a one in five chance of surviving court review.

That might be worth the gamble except for all the money the city is asking to be relieved of. The losing side would not only have to cover the costs of its own lawyers but also pay the winning attorneys. In the D.C. case, the amount has not been settled, but the lawyers who handled the suit asked the court for nearly $3.6 million, while Washington offered some $800,000. So if Daley insists on fighting all the way to the Supreme Court, the total tab will probably run into multiple millions.

The city says this is not necessarily money that can be saved, since even a revised ordinance could face a court challenge. But sensible changes might deter opponents from pursuing a lawsuit, and if not, at least the new version would stand a good chance of being upheld. Judging from its lawsuit, the NRA is aiming only at eliminating the city's total ban on handguns -- which is what the Supreme Court will almost surely demand anyway.

Daley's recalcitrance may be viscerally satisfying to him and some others, but it doesn't change the choice the city faces. It can change the law now or it can change it later. Later will be a lot more expensive

Robocop's Comment:

This is classic Libtard hypocrisy. They applaud when the court embarks on judicial legislation. Yet, when the courts actually do their actual job of interpreting the Constitution, they throw a tantrum. By the way, the homicide rate in the "old west" was much lower than "civilized" areas with gun control like New York. Perhaps this is also a classic example of Libtard memory loss.