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Friday January 16, 2004

Well, duh!

Statewide sales of new motor vehicles have rebounded strongly since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed a tripling of California's vehicle license fee in November, according to an affiliate of J.D. Power and Associates.

Power Information Network LLC said Thursday that new-vehicle sales increased 19 percent and luxury car sales climbed 30 percent after Nov. 17, when the newly sworn-in governor signed an executive order that decreased the vehicle license fee from 2 percent of a vehicle's cost to 0.65 percent.

The VLF dropped from $223 to $73 for the average passenger car, with depreciation factors lowering the fee on some older autos. The governor's order was retroactive to Oct. 1.

Power Information previously reported that new luxury motor vehicle sales in California had plunged 40 percent from Sept. 1 to Oct. 19 -- a period that included the VLF increase. Sales of all vehicles dropped 35 percent compared year-over-year.

What I'd really like to see is what are the added benefits to the economy and the California budget: more jobs, more sales taxes paid, more income taxes paid, etc.

Thursday January 15, 2004

Jay Currie, writing in The American Spectator, asserts that the Democratic Party has made the following calculation:

Proposition the first: Barring catastrophe, there is not the slightest chance of beating Bush in 2004.

The second: No serious person wants the sort of catastrophe which could leave Bush vulnerable or worse.

The third: No serious person will seek the top spot on the Democratic ticket facing almost certain defeat.

The fourth: Democratic Party activists -- tin foil hats, Michael Moore fan club memberships, charter members, psych degrees, Boston, Berkeley, Seattle -- have not had a presidential candidate since 1988.

Therefore: Time for Children's Hour.

A wife, a mother of two small children and a murdering terrorist. She killed four Israelis in a homicide bombing attack:

The suicide attack was perpetrated by a young woman, the mother of two children aged 3 and 1 - the first time that Hamas has employed such a weapon, and the seventh female suicide bomber of the Oslo War. It is now known that she made her way to the checkpoint without arousing suspicion, but when she passed through the electronic door, the alarm sounded, and the guard on duty turned her away. She began to cry that she had a metal implant in her leg, and the same guard then apparently took pity on her, and allowed her in for a body check - and then she killed him.

The compassion of the Israelis led to their deaths. This was not a spontaneous event. She had been wanting to do this for some time:

The results of Arab/PA incitement and hatred for Israel was manifest not only in yesterday's attack, but in the videotape the terrorist mother made before her death. Smiling and cradling a rifle, she said that she had dreamed since she was 13 years old of "becoming a martyr" and dying for her people. "It was always my wish to turn my body into deadly shrapnel against the Zionists and to knock on the doors of heaven with the skulls of Zionists," she said.

What kind of sick culture leads to the production of so many willing to do this? Just read this:

In summary, the PA/PLO school textbooks contain absolutely no attempt to encourage reconciliation with Israel. Israel is dishonestly and falsely presented as inhumane and greedy. The implicit aspiration in the Arab "Palestinian" education system is to instill a deep-seeded evil hatred, incitement, terrorism and violence against the children of Israel and to replace the entire State of Israel with an Arab State of Palestine.

There are no camp counselors wearing shorts sharing a friendly game of basketball with campers. The counselors wear army uniforms. The children undergo weapons training.

Posters of "homicide bombers" or so-called "shahids" ("martyrs") are everywhere. They are worshipped like pagan idols. Glorified. Immortalized. As heroes and saints. The Arab "Palestinians" are willing to sacrifice their children in so-called "suicide" (actually "homicide") missions to cause as much murder and mayhem as possible among a chosen people.

Dick Gephardt has traditionally missed more votes than any other Congressman, but this year he's even surpassed his own record:

The American Conservative Union filed suit yesterday, demanding that Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat and presidential candidate, pay back 90 percent of his $157,000 salary.

Mr. Gephardt missed more than 90 percent of votes in the U.S. House during 2003, and the law requires the secretary of the Senate and the chief administrative officer of the House to dock a member's pay for each absent day, the organization said in a prepared statement. American Conservative Union Chairman David A. Keene called Mr. Gephardt's absences, "a callow shrugging off of the responsibility every congressman has to his constituents, all to appease his desire for presidential power."

My Life with the Academic Left tells the tale of a 60's grad student who later becomes a professor, despite her beliefs. If only there were more like her.

Instead of listening to all the partisan, frothing, foaming arguments for and against a Mars Mission, read this straightforward piece in

To be successful, the reorganization plan should be swift and severe.

Instead of spending billions each year to circle the Earth, Bush should quickly redirect the same billions to an effort singularly focused on getting to Mars, with the Moon as an important step.

Unfounded fears of a money pit abound. An editorial in the Washington Post, for example, faults Bush for thinking of ambitious spaceflight plans at a time when there are serious social and economic concerns.

But comparing the value of human spaceflight to the need for jobs or improved healthcare looks at the whole issue of how to spend federal money from an absurd perspective. It's like asking whether schools should offer sports programs or focus entirely on reading, writing and math.

The question of whether to put humans on the Moon and Mars should be viewed strictly in terms of how best to spend a reasonable chunk of science and exploration dollars, not in comparison to other important government programs. All the while NASA's budget must remain reasonable -- not much more than the tiny fraction of overall federal spending that it is today.

The Tallahassee Democrat has an article about political blogs--mainly those run by candidates--that definitely tilts left:

Computer users tend to be educated, under 50, wary of Washington and opposed to (or at least highly ambivalent about) the war. They are generally not scared by things like Vermont's "civil unions" and many are unimpressed (or unreached) by the Bush administration's tax cuts.

Ok, I'll buy educated and under 50 and I'd even agree with wary of Washington (if you're not, you should be) but I've not seen anything to support the other characterizations. And what the heck is highly ambivalent?

Rice said President Bush has "embraced blogging," but that his log "is more of a news wire than a blog. For example, the blog does not allow for comments, a key element of most blogs."

That's so Republican. It says, "We're going to join the 21st century, but we're going to do it like Nixon would." But they can change that with a few keystrokes.

Nice little jab, but it's not true. There are plenty of blogs that don't allow for comments, but in nearly all cases you can simply send an email to the author.

Wednesday January 14, 2004

John Derbyshire, writing in the National Review, attempts to quantify the threat we face by Muslim extremists. He is correct that we are not seriously threatened with annhilation and subjugation, primarily due to the abysmal failure of most Islamic states. Derbyshire eventually makes a tortured analogy between the threat we face by Islamacists to the threat the Brittish faced by the Irish:

If this analogy is right, the Arabs are, in a sense, the Irish of the world. Their threat to us is the one the Irish terrorists posed to Britain: decades of bombings and shootings, occasional sensational atrocities like the assassination of a national personality or the destruction of a large building. All of this rooted in a nagging sense of inferiority, of social and cultural failure, that failure believed to be the result of historical wrongs committed by malign foreigners, those wrongs constantly magnified by telling and re-telling.

I believe that this analogy is faulty primarily due to the magnitude of the problem. First, the population difference between the Irish and the Islamic world is huge. Derbyshire states that the number of actual IRA terrorists was only a few hundred. There are more than a few hundred terrorists in the West Bank alone.

Second, his analogy is based on the assumption that 99% of the Islamic population is indifferent or even hostile to terrorism, however, earlier in the same article, we learn that:

The Saudis are resentful of America. Many of them hate us, and those who do not hate us do not love us. ... I don't think it is unfair to take the situation in Saudi Arabia as representative of that in the Arab world at large, and to some lesser extent the Muslim world at large.

Granted, hatred does not necessarily equal terrorism, but I don't think 99% of the Islamic population is indifferent or even hostile to terrorism. Even if that percentage is correct, with a population of over 1 billion people, the Islamic world could produce 10 million terrorists.

Finally, the Irish, as far as I know, never used anything other than conventional weapons--mainly bombs--to wreak their havoc. As each year passes, the chances increase that our terrorist enemies will gain access to unconventional weapons of some kind. If this were to occur, the devastation would likely surpass all of the acts of Irish terrorism combined.

Sean Penn has made a return trip to Baghdad to reassess after one year. It's pretty lengthy, but well written--which, I must admit, surprised me. Also, surprisingly, it's not as negative as I'd expected:

For Iraqis, there was no pro-war or anti-war movement last spring when the United States invaded their country. That, in their view, was a predominantly Western debate. They're used to war; they're used to gunshots. What's new is this tiny seed and taste of freedom. It is a compelling experience to have been in Baghdad just one year ago, where not a single Iraqi expressed to me opinions outside Baathist party lines, and just one year later, when so many express their opinions and so many opinions compete for attention. Where the debate is similar to that in the United States is over the way in which the business of war will administer the opportunity for peace and freedom, and the reasonable expectation of Iraqi self-rule.

Someone has tried to auction the State of West Virginia on eBay and had a top bid of nearly $100 million before eBay pulled the plug. He might have succeeded if he had cleared it through Sen. Robert Byrd first. Excerpt,

"I, as emperor of West Virginia, have been appointed as steward of this sale," he wrote. "You are bidding on the ENTIRE STATE of West Virginia. Please note that this auction does not come with governing rites, nor the inhabitants of said property. You also may not change the state flag, bird, or so on. This is merely for bragging rights, or to hang a sign in your garage that says, 'I own West Virginia.' Also please note, you will have every right to succeed from the union, but that has been tried in the past without much success. I am also willing to relinquish the seat of `Emperor' FOR FREE!"

Thomas Sowell has some rather interesting random thoughts.

It's a bit chilly up on Mount Washington:

The weather outside is unreal. Working in temperatures 73 degrees below freezing is one thing, but couple that with the wind, and it has the potential to be a dangerous experience. The wind chill value is approaching 100 degrees below zero. Please don't pay us a visit over the next few days. Conditions do not get much more extreme up here, or anywhere in the world then they are right now.

What I find most amazing about this cold air, is that not only did we break a record low for the date when we hit -41 degrees... we shattered the old record of -28 which has stood since 1941!

Tuesday January 13, 2004

After nearly 20 hours of hearing that Bush wanted regime change in Iraq early in his Presidency (i.e. before 9/11) as the top story in the hourly radio news, I just have to ask: why? Why do they keep pushing this non-story? I'm sure Dan, and Tom and Peter carried it as the lede last night (although, honestly I don't watch). Perhaps they just expect the masses to be shocked and awed. So here's a little more background that CBSNBCABCCNN isn't likely to tell you:

In fact, not only did plans for "regime change" in Iraq NOT originate with the Bush White House, the "sinister plot" was actually ratified by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton a full three years before President Bush came to Washington.

According to Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, "The 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act was passed by an unanimous Senate and a near-unanimous House," after which Mr. Clinton certified it as the law of the land with his signature.

According to a report in Newsweek just three months ago, after Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, "the U.S. government convened a conference with the [Iraqi National Congress] and other opposition groups in London to discuss 'regime change.'"

In Jan. 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright even appointed a special representative for transition in Iraq, Frank Ricciardone, who reportedly had "a mandate to coordinate opposition to Saddam."

As the Washington Times noted at the time, "President Clinton has said that getting rid of Saddam is a major U.S. objective."

Now even Paul O'Neill acknowledges:

"People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."

Maybe it's just me, but I see this media hyperventilation as just another example of media bias.

Monday January 12, 2004

They went to the house of the wife of a war criminal--one of the most wanted. They found and confiscated weapons. They found documentation which they hope will lead to further arrests but, alas, they did not find their man. This was a successful Bosnia! Excerpt,

The UN war crimes tribunal has indicted Karadzic for his role in the war. He has been charged with genocide in connection with the Sarajevo siege and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim boys and men. Karadzic's wartime military commander, Ratko Mladic, also faces genocide charges over Srebrenica. Both men have been on the run for about eight years now, managing to elude several attempts at their capture. Karadzic is believed to be hiding in the mountainous areas in eastern BiH and in neighbouring Montenegro, while Mladic is reportedly in Serbia.

It's a quagmire. Just remind your liberal friends of this when they complain that we didn't include the UN or NATO in our campaign in Iraq. It seems like success is measured differently in Bosnia than it is in Iraq. Maybe it's because those Europeans are on the metric system.

NATO insisted the operation in Pale -- the first in almost two years after a two-day raid in a remote eastern village at the end of February 2002 -- was a success, saying information gathered would help its hunt in the future.

"This operation was a success," Sullivan said. "We collected valuable information that will support future operations to continue our search for persons indicted for war crimes."

Don't you just hate it when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate:

"Due to inclement weather and massive amounts of ice everywhere, tonight's Healthy Environment Forum on Global Warming with Dr. Patz has been postponed," wrote Sarah Doll of the Oregon Environmental Council in an e-mail sent to reporters.

"We will announce a new date soon," she wrote. "Sorry for any inconvenience and hope you are staying warm."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. So, as always, go read Victor Davis Hanson:

Thirty years ago, during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, most of the Europeans of the NATO alliance refused over-flight rights to the United States. We had only hours in which to aid Israel from a multifaceted surprise attack and were desperately ferrying tons of supplies to save it from literal extinction. In contrast, many of these same allies allowed the Soviet Union the supposed common enemy from which thousands of Americans were based in Europe to protect Europeans to fly over NATO airspace to ensure the Syrians sufficient material to launch and sustain their surprise attack on the Golan.

American "unilateralism" in those days meant acting alone not to let Israel perish. Had we gone "multilateral" and listened to our NATO allies Germany, France, Greece, and Turkey all prohibited American planes from flying supplies in their space in transit to Tel-Aviv there would be no Israel today at all. How odd that nations who asked for our protection from the Soviets would allow them to fly in supplies to the Syrian dictatorship, but not extend the same privilege of airspace to their protectors to save a democracy.

In exasperation at such a bad state of transatlantic relations, a furious who else? Ted Kennedy attacked Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, blaming us, not the Europeans' peculiar taste for fascism over Israeli democracy, for "heedlessly creating a crisis in the Atlantic alliance." Again, this was 30 years before his most recent outburst about a fraudulent war being cooked up in Texas. The New York Times, of course, then as now, echoed his concern.

This may seem like a small, petty jab, but don't these folks have editors:

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Tired of being overlooked for development and confused with its neighbor to the north, momentum is growing to obliterate this 117-year-old community - by renaming it.

Several names have been bandied about, including Soho, a takeoff on the nickname for South Hampton in New York. Another possibility is Crossroads, suggested because of the city's proximity to the crossroads of U.S. 50, Kansas 96, Kansas 61 and Kansas 17. (emphasis added).

Soho is actually a contraction of South Houston. This would never have been missed my editors.

Why is there such an uproar over the "revelations" of Paul O'Neill that President Bush has planned for the Iraq invasion prior to 9/11? Bush mentioned that he wanted Saddam out during the campaign. Clinton had even called for regime change in Iraq as early as 1998. If you have a goal, don't you also formulate a plan to reach that goal? Here's the Clinton plan (via scrappleface):

"Regime change in Iraq was the official policy of the Clinton administration since 1998, but Bush foolishly rejected Clinton's ingenious strategy," Mr. O'Neill told Ron Suskind, author of the new book The Price of Loyalty. "President Clinton's diplomatic effort to appear cowardly, indecisive and careless about the plight of 25 million Iraqis was on the brink of bearing fruit. We had suckered Saddam into thinking America was weak. If Clinton had been re-elected to a third term, he would have shocked and awed Saddam by launching a decisive verbal attack in the U.N. Security Council. The statue would have fallen in Baghdad from the sheer force of Clinton's intellect."

Mr. O'Neill said former President Clinton didn't use a faster method to implement regime change in Iraq because, "he just didn't care that much about oil. He was not obsessed with oil the way some people are."