Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Look, anywhere they think they can find a flip-flop, they're going to yell "flip-flop!" and there's nothing we can do about it: Democrat Barack Obama said he's always been open to refining his Iraq policy but blamed Republican John McCain's campaign for suggesting "we were changing our policy when we haven't." The Illinois senator called a second news conference of the day Thursday to address the Republican criticism of him and resulting questions about where he stands on Iraq. He said what he learns from military commanders on his upcoming trip to Iraq will refine his policy -- but "not the 16-month timetable" for withdrawing U.S. troops from combat in Iraq. He said what he learns could affect how many residual troops might be needed to train the Iraqi army and police. "I am going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there," he told reporters on the airport tarmac here. "I'm sure I'll have more information and continue to refine my policy." Relax, folks--it's just Karl Rove and his minions, trying to find something that will stick. If Obama DIDN'T say what he said, they'd attack him for that, too.

You know, you can stay over there as long as you want...President George W. Bush will attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing, the White House said Thursday. While there was no question Bush would attend the Olympics in August, the president's plans for the opening ceremonies had not been confirmed until now. Some world leaders have said they may boycott the Aug. 8 opening event to protest the most recent Chinese security crackdown in Tibetan areas of China.

You know, I'm so glad the adults have been in charge for the last seven and a half years: A State Department passport record system that holds personal data on more than 120 million Americans is wide open to abuse and unable to prevent or detect unauthorized access, investigators said Thursday. The review by the department's inspector general was ordered after revelations in March that State Department employees and contractors had accessed the files of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama. The IG report found a much broader problem. Investigators surveyed the records of 150 high-profile Americans, whose names were selected from Forbes and Sports Illustrated magazine lists and Internet search engine Google's most-searched names. Of the 150 — who weren't named in the report — 127, or 85 percent, had had their passport files accessed a total of 4,148 times, strongly suggesting attempts at unauthorized access. Welcome to Idiocy, people. Welcome to a world where government employees are trying to find out whether Beyonce went to Bolivia.

We needed this thing up in the sky years ago, but oh well...NASA plans to launch a new satellite next year that will help scientists fill in a gap in their understanding of global warming: the role of clouds and airborne particles. The satellite Glory, targeted for launch next June, will give scientists a much better tool to measure particles than any satellite so far. The particles, known as aerosols, are bits of things such as dust and smog. "Undoubtedly, greenhouse gases cause the biggest climatic effect. But the uncertainty in the aerosol effect is the biggest uncertainty in climate at the present," said Michael Mishchenko, the Glory project scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Juan Cole asks the wrong question: Will Afghanistan Violence hurt McCain Campaign? Sorry, Professor Cole--you're brilliant as always, but violence in Afghanistan doesn't hurt the guy who gets a free pass from the press every time he has a major gaffe or says something Joe Lieberman has to correct--violence in Afghanistan just hurts to troops. There's no conceivable way that John McCain is ever going to be held accountable for anything, except for being the bravest 'merican who ever did live, if I'm reading my Media Mancrush correctly.

How come we never talk about this ridiculous "missile shield" that will never work? Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk and US Vice President Dick Cheney discussed US plans to install a missile shield in Poland in a telephone conversation Thursday, the Polish government said. "Prime Minister Donald Tusk spoke with American Vice President Dick Cheney. The talk lasted 40 minutes and was about the current state of the Polish-American negotiations on an anti-missile shield system," a statement said without elaborating. Polish media said earlier that Tusk's government was not satisfied with Washington's proposals in a first round of talks earlier this week in Washington between the State Department's disarmament expert John Rood and two Polish junior ministers. The conversation between Tusk and Cheney was planned after a senior US State Department official who asked not to be named told AFP that a "tentative agreement" had been reached following the two days of talks between Polish and US officials.

Hard to believe someone in California would let grass die like that, but oh well...Sacramento city officials on Wednesday admitted their code enforcement policies may not be drought-friendly, and said they won't fine the couple featured in Wednesday's Bee who let their front lawn die to save water. The story prompted a torrent of outrage from the public, who overwhelmingly supported Anne Hartridge and Matt George, the east Sacramento couple cited by city code enforcers after they stopped watering their lawn. Dozens of readers commented on The Bee's Web site, and many more called or e-mailed the city to complain.

GET OUT of the way of the fire, dammit: An explosive wildfire ravaged the hillsides above this scenic coastal community Thursday, leaving the popular tourist region mostly deserted ahead of the holiday weekend. Still, some people defied orders to evacuate the Big Sur area and stayed behind to try to save their homes and businesses from the blaze, which has burned 100 square miles of the Los Padres National Forest and destroyed at least 17 homes. Kirk Gafill, general manager of the popular cliffside Nepenthe Restaurant, said he and five employees were up all night trying to protect the business his grandparents built in 1949. Wearing dust masks, the crew scrambled to stamp out embers, the size of dinner plates, dropping from the sky, he said. "We know fire officials don't have the manpower to secure our properties," Gafill said. "There are a lot of people in this community not following evacuation orders. Based on what we saw during Katrina and other disasters, we know we can only rely on ourselves and our neighbors." No, what WE know is that your stupidity is going to risk the lives of the firemen and the first responders and the rescue crews who will have to BAIL YOU OUT when you are overwhelmed.

That's OK--all we ever look at are some of the coolest videos ever: Google must divulge the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube, a US court has ruled. The ruling comes as part of Google's legal battle with Viacom over allegations of copyright infringement. Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the ruling a "set-back to privacy rights". The viewing log, which will be handed to Viacom, contains the log-in ID of users, the computer IP address (online identifier) and video clip details. While the legal battle between the two firms is being contested in the US, it is thought the ruling will apply to YouTube users and their viewing habits everywhere. Viacom, which owns MTV and Paramount Pictures, has alleged that YouTube is guilty of massive copyright infringement. Seriously, though--is it theft if someone isn't making any money from posting the latest clip or song? How do you sue a kid with nothing who shares music? How about charging a flat fee for YouTube that is then distributed, based on viewership, BACK to the artists?

Oh, shut up, you pathetic loser: A lot of poor commentary has framed the Iraq war as a conflict of "choice" rather than of "necessity." In fact, President George W. Bush chose to remove Saddam Hussein from power because he concluded that doing so was necessary. President Bush inherited a worrisome Iraq problem from Bill Clinton and from his own father. Saddam had systematically undermined the measures the U.N. Security Council put in place after the Gulf War to contain his regime. In the first months of the Bush presidency, officials debated what to do next. As a participant in the confidential, top-level administration meetings about Iraq, it was clear to me at the time that, had there been a realistic alternative to war to counter the threat from Saddam, Mr. Bush would have chosen it. He didn't "inherit" anything--he chose to go to war against a contained adversary. Feith's article goes on to highlight the graves of 2,000 victims of the Saddam regime. Well, thanks to Feith's war, those victims have about a million others added to their numbers, courtesy of the choice to go to war.

It's the dang holiday, people--go enjoy yourselves.

No comments: