Barack Obama, Friday, on why he’s losing in Kentucky:
“What it says is that I’m not very well known in that part of the country,” Obama said. “Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it’s not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle.”
And here’s a map of the US…
Can the man who wants to be President please tell us why Arkansas is somehow closer to Kentucky than Illinois?
Sunday, May 18th, 2008
A spokeswoman for an Eden Prairie firm that produced a yearbook for a Texas high school with bizarre altered photos of students has apologized.
Photos of about 580 McKinney High School students were altered by the company that produced the yearbooks, Lifetouch Inc. of Eden Prairie.
Some girls’ heads were plunked on boys’ bodies, and vice versa. Necks were stretched in some photos and clothing altered. Several students are wearing the same outfits. One student’s arm is missing, and another girl appears to lack clothing altogether.
Officials at the school, in an upscale suburb north of Dallas, were reportedly appalled by the changes. All told, 39 percent of the 1,486 photos were changed, according to news reports.
Sara Thurin Rollin, corporate director of public relations and events for Lifetouch, said Saturday that the mistake was unprecedented in the company’s 70-year history. Each year, Lifetouch produces 28,000 yearbooks.
“We take full responsibility; this is certainly not standard practice,” she said.
You don’t say.
Well, look who’s reconciled to reconciliation. Today, Nancy Pelosi met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Mosul and–according to the AP, the Speaker of the House, “welcomed Iraq’s progress in passing a budget as well as oil legislation, and a bill paving the way for the provincial elections in the fall that are expected to more equitably redistribute power among local officials.”
“We’re assured the elections will happen here, they will be transparent, they will be inclusive and they will take Iraq closer to the reconciliation we all want it to have,” said Pelosi.
In February, she had said, “The purpose of the surge was to create a secure time for the government of Iraq to make the political change to bring reconciliation to Iraq. They have not done that.”
Some questions: Does this mean that the surge worked? And if so, does this mean Pelosi–gasp!–disagrees with Barack Obama, who has been against the surge from its inception? And when Nancy Pelosi returns home and speaks before the House about her experience in Iraq, will we finally see a change from the lockstep posturing that keeps the Democrats aligned with Obama on every last detail?
From the Stratfor:
Edgar Millan Gomez was shot dead in his own home in Mexico City on May 8. Millan Gomez was the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Mexico, responsible for overseeing most of Mexico’s counternarcotics efforts. He orchestrated the January arrest of one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, Alfredo Beltran Leyva. (Several Sinaloa members have been arrested in Mexico City since the beginning of the year.) The week before, Roberto Velasco Bravo died when he was shot in the head at close range by two armed men near his home in Mexico City. He was the director of organized criminal investigations in a tactical analysis unit of the federal police. The Mexican government believes the Sinaloa drug cartel ordered the assassinations of Velasco Bravo and Millan Gomez. Combined with the assassination of other federal police officials in Mexico City, we now see a pattern of intensifying warfare in Mexico City.
The fighting also extended to the killing of the son of the Sinaloa cartel leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, who was killed outside a shopping center in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. Also killed was the son of reputed top Sinaloa money launderer Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar in an attack carried out by 40 gunmen. According to sources, Los Zetas, the enforcement arm of the rival Gulf cartel, carried out the attack. Reports also indicate a split between Sinaloa and a resurgent Juarez cartel, which also could have been behind the Millan Gomez killing.
Violence along the U.S.-Mexican border has been intensifying for several years, and there have been attacks in Mexico City. But last week was noteworthy not so much for the body count, but for the type of people being killed. Very senior government police officials in Mexico City were killed along with senior Sinaloa cartel operatives in Sinaloa state. In other words, the killings are extending from low-level operatives to higher-ranking ones, and the attacks are reaching into enemy territory, so to speak. Mexican government officials are being killed in Mexico City, Sinaloan operatives in Sinaloa. The conflict is becoming more intense and placing senior officials at risk.
The killings pose a strategic problem for the Mexican government. The bulk of its effective troops are deployed along the U.S. border, attempting to suppress violence and smuggling among the grunts along the border, as well as the well-known smuggling routes elsewhere in the country. The attacks in Mexico raise the question of whether forces should be shifted from these assignments to Mexico City to protect officials and break up the infrastructure of the Sinaloa and other cartels there. The government also faces the secondary task of suppressing violence between cartels. The Sinaloa cartel struck in Mexico City not only to kill troublesome officials and intimidate others, but also to pose a problem for the Mexican government by increasing areas requiring forces, thereby requiring the government to consider splitting its forces — thus reducing the government presence along the border. It was a strategically smart move by Sinaloa, but no one has accused the cartels of being stupid.
Mexico now faces a classic problem. Multiple, well-armed organized groups have emerged. They are fighting among themselves while simultaneously fighting the government. The groups are fueled by vast amounts of money earned via drug smuggling to the United States. The amount of money involved — estimated at some $40 billion a year — is sufficient to increase tension between these criminal groups and give them the resources to conduct wars against each other. It also provides them with resources to bribe and intimidate government officials. The resources they deploy in some ways are superior to the resources the government employs.
Given the amount of money they have, the organized criminal groups can be very effective in bribing government officials at all levels, from squad leaders patrolling the border to high-ranking state and federal officials. Given the resources they have, they can reach out and kill government officials at all levels as well. Government officials are human; and faced with the carrot of bribes and the stick of death, even the most incorruptible is going to be cautious in executing operations against the cartels.
Toward a Failed State?
There comes a moment when the imbalance in resources reverses the relationship between government and cartels. Government officials, seeing the futility of resistance, effectively become tools of the cartels. Since there are multiple cartels, the area of competition ceases to be solely the border towns, shifting to the corridors of power in Mexico City. Government officials begin giving their primary loyalty not to the government but to one of the cartels. The government thus becomes both an arena for competition among the cartels and an instrument used by one cartel against another. That is the prescription for what is called a “failed state” — a state that no longer can function as a state. Lebanon in the 1980s is one such example. (more…)
He’s in a funny, but foul mood.
“There is only one number that matters in politics. And you may think that that’s the number of votes, but that’s not the number. The number that matters in politics is the lowest common denominator. It is the avowed purpose of politics to bring the policies of our nation down to a level where they are good for everyone.
No matter how foolish, irresponsible, selfish, grasping, or vile everyone may be, politics seeks fairness for them all. I do not. I am here to speak in favor of unfairness. I have a 10 year old at home, and she is always saying, “That’s not fair.” When she says that, I say, “Honey, you’re cute; that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off; that’s not fair. You were born in America; that’s not fair. Honey, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”
We recently linked to a story about tort reform in Mississippi.
The current New Yorker tells the tale of lawyer Dickie Scruggs, big time Democrat and big time tort lawyer who won the billion dollar settlement from the tobacco industry, making himself very rich.
Now he’s pleaded guilty to bribery charges and will be sentenced next month.
It’s an ugly story of greed, politics. From the abstract:
Richard Scruggs, known as Dickie, was arguably the most successful tort lawyer in America and the man who took down Big Tobacco without conducting a single trial. Although Dickie is former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s brother-in-law, he’s a stout Democrat. Scruggs was not present at the rally in November because that morning a federal grand jury in Oxford returned an indictment charging Scruggs, his son, Zach, and three other men with conspiring to offer a $50,000 bribe to a judge in Calhoun City.
The reaction to the indictment was incredulity. Scruggs was said to have scored a billion-dollar fee in the tobacco case. Why would he bother with a tawdry little bribery scam? After graduating near the top of his class at Ole Miss Law, Scruggs worked at a pair of Jackson law firms before moving with his wife, Diane, to Pascagoula and opening a law office. He made his first fortune trying asbestos cases.
Scruggs began to formulate his own brand of litigation, of which the actual practice of law was only one part. The strategic manipulation of politics and public opinion was just as important. Mentions Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore. Moore deputized Scruggs to develop the 1994 Medicaid suit against Big Tobacco.
Yep, he got a legal permit to be a stickup man. You can despise tobacco companies and still despise the foul system that beat them.
In case you were wondering how the Democrats are going to deal with John McCain’s military record, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa launches a new line of attack to turn that supposed advantage to a negative.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, “and he has a hard time thinking beyond that,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.
“I think he’s trapped in that,” Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. “Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous.”
Harkin said that “it’s one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that’s just how you’re steeped, how you’ve learned, how you’ve grown up.”
See, being in the military by choice rather than being drafted is a negative. What does that say about everyone in the military today since we have an all-volunteer armed forces? Do they have dangerous worldviews?
And Harkin is forgetting that McCain has been out of the Navy for about 30 years. In fact, he’s been serving in the same Senate that Harkin has been serving in. Which career is liable to give someone a more dangerous worldview: the Senate or the Navy?
Or a tendency to lie?
Of course, among other tall tales, Tom Harkin has had his problems with how he has portrayed his own service in the Navy during the Vietnam war. He has became well-known as prevaricating about his service and pretending that he’d served in Vietnam when he’d really been stationed in Japan during the war.
“After I got out of college,” he says in his standard stump speech, “I spent eight years, eight months and eight days as a Navy pilot.” His military record, though, shows he served five years on active duty, from Nov. 21, 1962, until Nov. 30, 1967. The senator arrives at the eight-year figure by adding on three years in the ready reserve. Mr. Harkin’s military record, acquired by The Wall Street Journal through a Freedom of Information request, shows he remained active in the reserves, ready or not, until Oct. 1, 1989, retiring with the rank of commander.
“I’m right,” Mr. Harkin says. “I was a Navy flyer for eight years, eight months and eight days. I have a certificate to prove it.”
What he did while on active duty is even more confusing. In 1979, Mr. Harkin, then a congressman, participated in a round-table discussion arranged by the Congressional Vietnam Veterans’ Caucus. “I spent five years as a Navy pilot, starting in November of 1962,” Mr. Harkin said at that meeting, in words that were later quoted in a book, Changing of the Guard, by Washington Post political writer David Broder. “One year was in Vietnam. I was flying F-4s and F-8s on combat air patrols and photo-reconnaissance support missions. I did no bombing.”
That clearly is not an accurate picture of his Navy service. Though Mr. Harkin stresses he is proud of his Navy record–”I put my ass on the line day after day”–he concedes now he never flew combat air patrols in Vietnam.
He was stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Atsugi, Japan. Damaged aircraft were flown into Atsugi for repairs or sometimes flown out of Atsugi to the Philippines for more substantial work. Mr. Harkin says he and three other Navy pilots flew these ferry flights. And, when the planes had been repaired, he and his fellow pilots took them up on test flights. “I had always wanted to be a test pilot,” he says. “It was damned demanding work.”
How much time did he actually spend in Vietnam? “I wouldn’t really know,” he says. He estimates that over a period of about 12 months he flew in and out of Vietnam “a dozen times, maybe 10 times.”
But what about those combat air patrols and the photo-reconnaissance support missions? He says he did fly combat air patrols, in Cuba, in 1965 and 1966. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base, “and we were on frigging alert for 18 months, the whole time I was there.” He would take off whenever a U-2 American spy plane flew by, in case Cuban dictator Fidel Castro scrambled his fighters to intercept it. And he says he flew photo-reconnaissance missions too, out of Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, D.C., while he was serving in the ready reserve.
In explaining his Vietnam experience at that congressional round-table in 1979, Sen. Harkin says that in retrospect “maybe I didn’t say it right.”
Nothing shameful in having been a pilot in Japan. But what is shameful is trying to pretend that he was a combat pilot and borrow some of the glory from those who had served in combat. Perhaps that explains the bitterness he now seems to project onto John McCain.