Saturday, October 3, 2009

More like ‘DeMint *schools* Kerry over Honduras.’

Via Jen Rubin) Let’s review (I almost did this using an extended metaphor of a fencing match, but I didn’t want actual fencers wincing):

* Sen. John Kerry is the Democratic point man in Foreign Relations for this administration’s messed-up Honduras policy. He is, in fact, the Foreign Relations chair… which tells you how seriously the Democrats take this committee (i.e., they don’t).
* Sen. Jim DeMint is the Republican determined to wreck Sen. Kerry’s day - both on this administration’s messed-up Honduras policy, and on general principles.
* This administration has a messed-up Honduras policy.
* DeMint therefore slaps a couple of Senatorial holds on some State Department appointments until the administration stops messing up on Honduras policy.
* Kerry responds by denying DeMint the plane that he’d need to go down to Honduras and see for himself how messed up our Honduras policy is. This is one of those steps that prudent Senate chairs usually don’t take, because it makes it easier for it to happen again, and nobody controls Congress forever.
* DeMint talks to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.
* McConnell talks to the Pentagon.
* The Pentagon is, of course, filled with people who didn’t come back from Vietnam and promptly announce that we were worse than the Mongol Horde. Which is to say, people not like Kerry.
* The Pentagon gives Kerry the Hawaiian good-luck symbol, and DeMint a plane. DeMint may now go to Honduras and see how messed up our policy is down there.
* DeMint then links this mess to the State Department.
* The State Department promptly disavows themselves of this mess.
* So: Kerry establishes a precedent, doesn’t accomplish his goal of keeping our messed-up Honduras policy off the radar, and doesn’t even get the State Department backing him up. For a Democrat, that takes skill.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what one motivated Senator can do to mess up another Senator’s day.

Moe Lane

PS: Bear this in mind when the reconciliation question comes up regarding the Democrats’ messed-up health care rationing bill.

Bush boost put Christie on path to NJ gov's run

SELIN, N.J. (AP) — Chris Christie has had political ambitions his whole life. He was president of his class at Livingston High School and the student government of the University of Delaware, and a committed volunteer for Republican campaigns.

But a dozen years ago, he figured he was done with running for office when he was bounced from a Republican primary after serving one turbulent term as a Morris County freeholder.

Now he's running for governor, and leading in the polls against the Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine. Like former Goldman Sachs chairman Corzine, his path to the race came outside the traditional route of moving up gradually from perhaps the town council to the state Legislature before running for statewide office.

Christie, 47, moved into position to make a serious run for governor during a seven-year stint as the state's U.S. Attorney during which he built a reputation as a corruption fighter in a state rife with corruption.

He was an unconventional pick by President George W. Bush. He got the job, and much of his political juice, through the connections he made working for the Bush campaign.

"They got to know me and I got to know them," he said.

Democrats know that, too; one of their main criticisms of Christie is that he's too close to the Bush administration.

The key link to Bush initially was lobbyist Bill Palatucci, who ran the New Jersey campaign of President George H.W. Bush in 1988 — the last time the state supported a Republican for president — and 1992. Christie took a few months off his job as a securities lawyer to volunteer for the second campaign and struck up a bond with Palatucci, who soon joined the Cranford law firm where Christie was then an associate.

In 1994, Christie won a seat on the Morris County Board of Freeholders. Within months after being sworn in, he was already seeking another office, this time a seat in the state Senate. He lost that primary.

And in 1997, he lost a primary to keep his freeholder job.

"When I left electoral politics in 1997," he said, "I never thought I'd come back to it."

In 1998, Palatucci said he was at a Republican Governors Association convention in New Orleans when he ran into Bush, who by then was a nationally known figure as the governor of Texas, the son of a former president and the former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Bush invited him to bring a contingent from New Jersey to Texas to talk about his plans to run for president.

Palatucci's group included Christie, along with some key Republicans from New Jersey. Among them were state Senate President Donald DiFrancesco, and Assembly Speaker Jack Collins.

Christie said he made three or four more trips to Austin in the first part of 1999. When Bush launched his campaign, Christie became his lead lawyer in New Jersey, a volunteer job.

He and Palatucci were also among Bush's most prolific fundraisers in the state. They gathered contributions of about $350,000 for Bush and the national Republican Party, enough to join Bush's elite Pioneer Club.

When Bush was elected, Christie applied to be U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, the top federal law enforcement job in the state. Palatucci said he also sent Christie's resume to Karl Rove, Bush's political affairs director.

Christie said U.S. Attorney was the only administration job that interested him, and the only one for which he applied.

"I had always been someone who had watched the office from afar and had admired some of the people who held the position," he said.

New Jersey's recent U.S. Attorneys included Michael Chertoff, who later became Secretary of Homeland Security under Bush; Samuel Alito, who is now on the U.S. Supreme Court; and Faith Hochberg, who is now a federal judge.

Not yet 40, Christie was not the sort of lawyer who got his name in the paper and not an obvious choice for the job.

"When I became U.S. Attorney, I had never prosecuted a criminal case," he said in a speech this month to a Chamber of Commerce group in Galloway. "There were editorials all over the state of New Jersey that said, 'This guy's not up for the job, he doesn't have the requisite experience.'"

Christie, who radiates confidence, said he knew he would be a good leader if given the chance.

"I think the record over the seven years that I was U.S. Attorney proved that we were right and the editorial writers were wrong," he said.

Even without the expected legal resume of a U.S. Attorney, Christie built support among the state's Republicans.

Christie's confidantes, who include many top Republicans, say the charismatic and sometimes brash lawyer gained the trust of so many leaders because they saw him in action, as a freeholder lobbying state lawmakers on local issues and later as a campaign lawyer.

"People had and have a good feeling about his judgment, his competence, his independence, his ability to be good at that role," said state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, who was then chair of the state Republican Committee. "The proof is in the pudding."

Christie was vetted by a mix of White House aides and career Justice Department employees. The two Democratic U.S. Senators from New Jersey — Corzine and Robert Torricelli — did not block the nomination even though the Federal Bar Association of New Jersey said Christie wasn't qualified.

Bush chose Christie on Sept. 10, 2001. The U.S. Senate confirmed him three months later.

Christie kept longtime Justice Department lawyers in the office's other top spots and put a priority on corruption investigations. Over seven years, he built a following by winning convictions of 130 public officials. His office also got convictions in the high-profile terrorism trials of arms dealer Hemnant Lackhani and of six men accused of plotting to kill military personnel, possibly at Fort Dix.

Within two years, Republicans were reportedly trying to draft him for a gubernatorial bid in 2005, when Corzine ended up running and winning.

The Corzine-Christie matchup, 10 years in the making, is on now.

'Housewives' cast member's ex-fiance dies in fight

ATLANTA — The former fiance of a cast member from "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" died Friday night after a fight outside an Atlanta strip club, and police said they had charged a man in his death.

Atlanta police spokesman James Polite said Fredrick Richardson was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of Ashley "A.J." Jewell, who died from massive head injuries after the fight in the parking lot of the Body Tap Club.

Jewell was engaged to "Housewives" cast member Kandi Burruss until August. He appeared in several episodes of the television show, which follows the lives of metro Atlanta socialites.

Police say Jewell worked at the strip club, but they are not sure what started the fight.

Richardson was in the hospital, and police didn't immediately know his age or whether he had an attorney.

Burruss, a Grammy award-winning songwriter who penned TLC's hit "No Scrubs," posted a message on her Twitter account early Saturday.

"im just in one of those moods where i dont wanna talk, i dont wanna b held & told its gonna b ok. i just wanna cry myself 2 sleep, alone," wrote the 33-year-old Burruss, who was also was a member of 1990s R&B group Xscape. "I could never n a million years imagine this happening. please pray for AJ's children."

Burruss told in an interview last month that she was caring for Jewell's 12-year-old twin daughters.

"He would have taken them with him, but they needed a strong female role model and wanted to stay with me," she said.

Intelligence Analyst Looks At Conflicts And Progress In The Next 100 Years

By Greg Flakus

In the century ahead, there will be wars fought from space, between nations that are friendly with each other today. Populations will decline and industrialized nations will compete for immigrant labor. Poland, Turkey, Mexico and Japan will emerge as great powers. These are just some of the startling predictions made by George Friedman, founder and chief executive officer of Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based global intelligence company. In his new book, The Next 100 Years, published by Doubleday, Friedman provides a look at how he believes the world will change over the course of this century.

One of the major issues discussed around the world these days is the challenge of feeding a growing population.

But, in the decades ahead, George Friedman believes this concern will be swept aside by the challenge of a declining birth rates coupled with the aging of the largest segment of the current population. "On the one hand, everybody still talks about the population explosion; on the other hand everybody knows about the graying of society. Beyond the graying of society is the death of the gray hairs and the fact that many countries like Germany and Russia are going to have populations 25, 30 percent smaller," he says.

Friedman says industrialized nations with declining populations will need more immigrants from less developed nations to do their work. "As you have a labor shortage, somebody is going to have to come in to these advanced industrial countries, first of all, to do the labor that no one else is available to do. So we are going to be competing for immigrants," he says.

Not so fast, say those who advocate programs to reduce population growth.

One who expresses some doubts about Friedman's forecast is Elizabeth Leahy Madsen, Research Associate with Population Action International. "Projections of future population produced by the United Nations assume that all countries' fertility rates are going to converge at a universal, fairly low level. However, current trends in countries in both developed and developing regions don't indicate that that convergence is already under way," she says.

In other words, she argues, the reduction in population Friedman sees will not come about without major efforts to promote birth control.

But George Friedman does not argue against such policies. He simply says he thinks the problem will be solved in the century ahead.

And when it comes to climate change, a very real problem, in his opinion, he sees a clean energy future provided by giant solar arrays in near-earth orbit. "In space you have plenty of room to put solar collectors and your only problem is beaming it back to earth and there are two ways to do that, one is by cable and the other is by microwave radiation," he says.

Friedman's book also contains a number of startling political predictions.

He says Poland and Turkey will emerge as major powers and that by the end of this century Mexico will challenge the United States for dominance in North America. "This is a great power. It is next door, it has 100 million people and it has a problem with the United States and the United States has a problem with it. It is very difficult to imagine an evolution in which Mexico drops back in the pack or one in which is very strengths do not challenge the United States," he says.

He says U.S. irritation over illegal immigration and drug smuggling and Mexican resentment of U.S. dominance will eventually grow stronger, even though the two countries have strong trade relations.

Friedman predicts the United States will face some serious challenges in the next decade or two, but no emerging power, not even an economic powerhouse like China, will displace the United States. "When you take a look at the fundamentals, it is impossible to imagine another country surpassing the United States in the time frame of this century," he says.

George Friedman is the first to admit he has no crystal ball and that he could be wrong on how events will unfold, but he says final judgment on his forecasts can only come from those who will be alive 100 years from now.

Israel Tones Down Warnings of Strike on Iran as Diplomatic Efforts Intensify

Israel has for some time warned it is ready to launch preemptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities at any time. With international pressure growing on Iran to freeze its nuclear program, analysts say Israeli leaders are toning down those warnings and giving diplomacy a chance to work.

Iran's Islamist leaders have for decades called for Israel to be eliminated from the pages of history, fueling calls by many Israelis for their government to strike and destroy the Iranians' ability to make nuclear weapons.

For months, Israel warned it was ready for an immediate preemptive strike on Iranian targets much like the ones it conducted in the past against Syria, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Recent remarks by Israeli officials, however, indicate Israel may be toning down its approach. A major Israeli newspaper last month quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak as suggesting Iran is not such a big menace to the Jewish State. The paper quoted Mr. Barak as saying he does not think Israel is on the brink of a new Holocaust in the face of an Iranian nuclear threat.

The remark appeared to be a retreat from earlier statements in which the Israeli government presented Iran's nuclear ambitions as a threat to the existence of the Jewish State.

Others, including Israel's hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are sounding more cautious as well. Lieberman spoke on an Israeli TV channel, saying he hopes there is no need to attack anything.

He said he hopes the nations meeting with Iran will use their power to stop what he called the madness of Iran's nuclear program.

But Israel says all options remain open and officials have explained Mr. Barak's remarks as meaning that Israel is not in danger of disappearing because it has the means to fight off any attack from Iran.

Political scientist Avraham Diskin at Hebrew University in Jerusalem says Israeli politicians cannot afford to rule out military action.

"If Israel or the United States pick that alternative, Israel will pay costly for it. Israel is at the front line and because of that, maybe there is no alternative but to pay the cost and solve that in a military way," Diskin said.

At the same time, analysts say Israeli leaders are skeptical about taking action unilaterally and are waiting to see if international pressure sways the Iranians to freeze their nuclear activities.

Mr. Obama's proposal during his campaign to engage Iran in negotiations without preconditions was not welcomed here, and many Israelis generally view the Obama White House as being softer on Iran.

Diskin says there is the perception among Israeli leaders that the support Israel is getting from Washington now is not what it was under the previous administration.

"I think there is such a feeling. Definitely, there is such a feeling. I also believe that this fear [of] Iran is quite a consensus [maker] and there is a wide consensus that Israel cannot afford a nuclear Iran. There is a wide consensus that this is a new administration and it is more problematic to Israel," said Diskin.

An Iranian-born Middle East analyst in Tel Aviv, Meir Javedanfar, says there are other reasons for Israel's leaders to temper their approach.

"It is also possible that the recent events in Iran show this current regime is not as strong as people thought. Another possibility is that Defense Minister Barak has realized that the more Iran is threatened, the more it helps the [Iranian] leadership," Javedanfar said.

Maintaining its international image is another concern for Israel. The country has been hit with international accusations that its forces committed abuses during their 22-day assault on Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip early this year.

Analysts say Israeli leaders have reason to be concerned that their actions may also come under scrutiny if they rush into a new operation against Iran.

US Recession Possibly Slowing

A modestly upbeat reading of U.S. economic performance is adding to hopes that the initial phase of a recovery could be underway.

The U.S. economy has been contracting for more than a year, and last quarter was no exception. An initial estimate of the April through June period showed negative growth at a 1 percent annual rate, which was an improvement over previous quarters that had seen drops as high as 5.4 percent.

Now, in its final calculation, the U.S. Commerce Department has revised the second quarter figure to a more modest .7 percent annualized dip in gross domestic product (GDP).

Economists welcomed the news, saying it bolsters projections that a recovery might already have begun.

"GDP numbers were a little bit better than expected. Most of us [economists] thought there would be a slight downward revision instead of a slight upward revision. We are expecting a pretty strong positive [growth] number for the third quarter, not just in the U.S., but [also] around the world," said David Weiss, Chief Economist at the credit rating agency, Standard and Poor's.

The upbeat sentiment was tempered, however, by a drop in a regional U.S. economic indicator. The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index fell unexpectedly -- a sign of continued woes in U.S. manufacturing.

Overall, many economists expect an eventual economic recovery to be slow, with U.S. unemployment remaining high for months to come. The jobless rate stands at 9.7 percent and could edge higher, even if the overall economy returns to positive growth.

Sony to Release New Michael Jackson Single; Carey Celebrates Album Release, Movie

Sony to Release New Michael Jackson Single

Sony Music Group has announced that a new Michael Jackson single will be released on October 12. "This Is It" is the debut single from his upcoming double CD and film of the same name. The movie, which consists of rehearsal footage from his planned concert engagement in London, will arrive in theaters on October 28. The album release is set for October 26 internationally and October 27 in North America. One disc contains Jackson's biggest hits, plus two versions of the new single, "This Is It." The second disc features some previously unreleased versions of his hits and his spoken-word poem, "Planet Earth."

In other news, on October 28, London's 02 Bubble gallery will begin a three-month run of "Michael Jackson: The Official Exhibition." The exhibit is stocked with more than 250 items from Jackson's Neverland Ranch, including costumes, awards, his sequined glove and Rolls-Royce automobile.

Mariah Carey Celebrates New Album, Movie

Mariah Carey's new album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, will be released on September 29. The set includes her current single "Obsessed," which she describes as an anthem for people who have been abused or stalked. The track has sold one million downloads since its release in mid-June. Also on the album is Mariah's version of the Foreigner classic, "I Want To Know What Love Is." Mariah will star in the upcoming film, Precious. She plays a social worker in the movie, which is based on the Sapphire novel Push. Earlier this year, Precious won three Sundance Film Festival awards. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, it recently won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Last year's winner of that honor, Slumdog Millionaire, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

TV Producer Indicted in Letterman Extortion Plot

A senior news producer in New York for the CBS television network has been charged in connection with an attempt to extort $2 million from U.S. late-night talk-show host David Letterman.

New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau told reporters Friday that Robert Halderman has been indicted on one count of attempted first degree grand larceny after threatening to expose secrets about the talk show host's personal life. Halderman was arrested late Thursday.

Letterman himself revealed the plot late in his nationally televised talk show late Thursday. Amid jokes and laughter from audience members who were unsure whether the monologue was part of a joke, the 62-year-old talk show host said he received a package in his car three weeks ago containing a letter from a person who knew embarrassing things about his life.

Letterman said he contacted authorities and arranged a meeting with the person, who threatened to expose the talk show host if he was not paid $2 million.

Letterman said he gave the man a phony check for $2 million.

The talk show host told his audience the embarrassing information was that he had sexual relationships with women who worked for him. It is unclear when the relationships took place.

Halderman is a producer with the CBS news program 48 Hours. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

Letterman married long-time girlfriend Regina Lasko earlier this year. The couple has a five-year-old son.

Letterman has been host of The Late Show With David Letterman since 1993 and has been a late-night talk show host for nearly 30 years. Just last week, U.S. President Barack Obama had been a guest on his show.

Earthquake Cripples Indonesian City of Padang

Foreign emergency rescue teams are working to reach areas in and around Indonesia's port city, Padang, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake Wednesday. The undersea earthquake that hit the Indonesian Island of Sumatra originated only 50 kilometers from the city.

Ambulances had trouble getting through the traffic jams in Padang. With the electricity out, the traffic lights were not working. Police had closed off some streets where rescue workers were digging through the rubble. Crowds of bystanders spilled out onto the streets to watch.

In front of a collapsed storefront where the father, mother and two year old sister of Kendi Pratama now lie buried, friends and neighbors are flagging down cars and asking for donations to help the remaining family members. Pratama finds it difficult to speak.

He says he feels sorry today and cannot think straight.

Many houses and offices in Padang suffered only structural damage. But some large commercial buildings, hospitals, hotels, mosques and churches were completely destroyed.

A local middle school is now just a pile of rubble. More than 60 students died when the school crashed down upon them. Indonesian Marine Lieutenant Alberto Nainggolan and his unit have been conducting rescue efforts at the school.

He says today they found only one body alive. Yesterday they found 16 bodies, all dead.

They are racing against time. Soon their mission will change from rescuing survivors to recovering the dead.

As they leave the site for the day, crowds of people descend, looking for anything of value, clothing, copper wire. One man finds a live rabbit.

With electricity out, most local broadcasting has stopped. But not Padang television. While their building was damaged, network employees have moved their equipment outside and are using a generator for power. Budi Syahrial is the news presenter.

He says the building is damaged but the people need information.

Of course, most people in Padang cannot watch the news because they do not have power. But Syahrial says others outside the city can see and need to know the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake.

Polanski Agreed to $500,000 Civil Suit Settlement

Court documents show that Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski agreed years ago to pay the victim in his sexual assault case more than a half million dollars to settle a civil suit.

Court records reviewed Friday in Los Angeles indicate the confidential agreement was reached in 1993, five years after the victim filed the suit accusing Polanski of sexual assault and inflicting emotional distress.

It is not clear if Polanski ever paid the settlement amount.

The last court filing in the case in 1996 shows Polanski owed more than $600,000, including interest. The records show that attorneys for the victim then tried to garnish Polanski's wages from movie studios and his agent.

Polanski, famed for such films as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, was arrested in the late 1970s in Los Angeles. He was charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her. He fled the United States in 1978 after pleading guilty.

Polanski won an Academy Award in 2003 for the film The Pianist, but did not return to Hollywood to receive the Oscar.

Since then, the victim, now in her 40s, says she does not want him to be jailed.

Earlier this year, a judge in Los Angeles rejected the fugitive's bid to dismiss the case, despite new evidence showing the original trial judge colluded illegally with prosecutors in 1978.

In his ruling, the new judge said there appeared to be substantial judicial misconduct in the original case. However, he said he could not rule on Polanski's dismissal bid until the director returned from exile.