Posted at 5:30pm on Jun. 24, 2007 It's An Endorsement Of The First Rank

It Pays To Be Nice To The Exes

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Former wives and girlfriends think highly of Fred Thompson:

IN the battle for the women's vote, Fred Thompson has a secret weapon against Hillary Clinton - the legions of former girlfriends who still adore him and who want him to be president.

The Hollywood actor and former Tennessee senator racked up an impressive list of conquests during his swinging bachelor days in the 1990s, but he appears to have achieved the impossible and kept their friendship and respect.

Lorrie Morgan, a country singer who dated Thompson and considered marrying him in the mid1990s, told The Sunday Times: "I couldn't think of a bad word to say about Fred if somebody put a gun to my head.

"Fred is a perfect example of chivalry. He's the kind of man little girls dream about marrying, who opens doors for you, lights your cigarettes, helps you on with your coat, buys wonderful gifts. It's every woman's fantasy." Thompson, who wooed Baroness Thatcher during a visit to London last week, is expected to announce officially next month that he is running for president. He is already challenging Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, for first place in polls of likely Republican voters.

Morgan remembers encouraging Thompson to run for president when they were together. "I think he has a great chance of capturing the women's vote. He's majestic. He's a soft, safe place to be and that could be Fred's ticket. Women love a soft place to lay and a strong pair of hands to hold us," she said.

Georgette Mosbacher, a leading Republican fundraiser who dated Thompson after Morgan and remains a good friend, said he would defeat Clinton because of his appeal to "traditional women who will like the Southern gentleman in him".

He is just as able to charm professional women, she added: "Another thing that is extremely attractive about Fred is that he is a really good listener. As a woman you can talk to Fred about any subject and know that you're getting someone who respects your opinion and isn't just being polite."

There isn't a dollar amount you can put on that kind of publicity. And to be perfectly honest, if I were running the Thompson campaign, I would get the ladies mentioned in this story to do a commercial together for Thompson. It would be one of the more popular commercials in the campaign season and may even pass into Presidential campaign legend as a defining advertisement for a candidate.

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Posted at 6:36pm on Jun. 23, 2007 We Have Not Yet Heard The Last Of Jacques Chirac . . .

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The wishes of Jacques Chirac himself notwithstanding:

Former French President Jacques Chirac refused to be questioned in an investigation that includes allegations of a smear campaign aimed at the nation's new leader, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Chirac's office _ confirming that the former president declined to be questioned _ refused to comment Saturday on a report that he had also been summoned for questioning about a second scandal that dates back to his years as Paris mayor from 1977 to 1995.

Chirac faces a slew of potential legal problems now that he no longer has presidential immunity, which expired a week ago. He handed over power to Sarkozy on May 16.

In the first case, investigating judges want to question Chirac about the so-called Clearstream affair, his office said in a statement. The murky scandal centered on damaging but false allegations that Sarkozy _ a one-time Chirac protege who later became a political rival _ had secret bank accounts.

Chirac's office said that, because he enjoyed constitutionally guaranteed judicial immunity while he was president, he cannot "be ordered to provide testimony" about incidents that happened during his tenure.

The former president wrote to the investigating judges to inform them of his position, the statement said Friday. Chirac reiterated his denial of wrongdoing in the Clearstream case. The statement added that he was at the judges' disposal to answer questions about cases from before his tenure as president.

Yet another reason not to miss Jacques Chirac.

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Posted at 6:32pm on Jun. 23, 2007 The Shape Of The New EU

Tony Blair's Last Hurrah, Nicolas Sarkozy's First One, And Yet Another Hammer Blow Landed By Protectionism

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

It would appear that the European Union has inched ever closer to the status of superstate with the latest summit now having been concluded. In his final appearance at an EU summit as British Prime Minister, Tony Blair consented to granting the EU great power and authority--at the expense of national sovereignty:

Tony Blair emerged from tense negotiations today claiming to have secured a new European treaty which protects Britain's interests but which opponents say hands vast swathes of power to Brussels.

The Prime Minister won a legal exemption from a new Charter of Fundamental Rights, one of four "red lines" fought over during days of acrimonious negotiations.

But he surrendered Britain's right to veto EU decisions in more than 40 other areas of policy including energy, tourism, space policy, transport, civil protection and migration.

The visibly-tired Prime Minister said the most important thing about the deal was that it allowed European nations to focus on the issues that concerned their citizens: "The truth is we've been arguing now for many years about the constitutional question.

"This deal gives us a chance to move on. It was important to get out of this bind into which we'd got with the constitutional treaty: to go back to making simple changes in our rules that allow us to operate more effectively now we are in a large European Union."

The outgoing Prime Minister, who hands over to Gordon Brown on Wednesday, said his work on Europe was a key part of his legacy.

He told reporters as the negotiations came to an end shortly before 4am (GMT): "My position throughout the course of my time as Prime Minister has been to get out of this endless destructive negativity and realise that actually Britain has a lot to offer Europe and Europe has a lot to offer Britain."

However, critics were keen to point out that the deal secured by Mr Blair was not as watertight as he claimed. An opt-out for Britain on a common foreign policy, another of his "red lines", is included in a mere "declaration" by the 27 members states and not in a legally binding protocol.

An analysis of the deal suggests that almost all of the key elements of the EU Constitution are to be reintroduced including an EU diplomatic service and EU foreign minister.

The Conservatives immediately called for the British people to be given a referendum.

Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague said: "Not all the details are clear or finalised but we now know the basis of the new EU Treaty and it is clear that large parts of the EU Constitution are repackaged but back.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 1:09am on Jun. 23, 2007 Unadulturated Cynicism

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The key constituency that John Edwards has allied himself with is the poor. His "Two Americas" speech is designed to highlight the differences between the rich and the poor and he has portrayed himself as a champion of the dispossessed, going so far as to create a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty once he left elected office.

In this article, however, we see what the real purpose of Edwards's "Center for Promise and Opportunity" was:

Mr. Edwards, who reported this year that he had assets of nearly $30 million, came up with a novel solution, creating a nonprofit organization with the stated mission of fighting poverty. The organization, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, raised $1.3 million in 2005, and -- unlike a sister charity he created to raise scholarship money for poor students -- the main beneficiary of the center's fund-raising was Mr. Edwards himself, tax filings show.

A spokesman for Mr. Edwards defended the center yesterday as a legitimate tool against poverty.

The organization became a big part of a shadow political apparatus for Mr. Edwards after his defeat as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2004 and before the start of his presidential bid this time around. Its officers were members of his political staff, and it helped pay for his nearly constant travel, including to early primary states.

While Mr. Edwards said the organization's purpose was "making the eradication of poverty the cause of this generation," its federal filings say it financed "retreats and seminars" with foreign policy experts on Iraq and national security issues. Unlike the scholarship charity, donations to it were not tax deductible, and, significantly, it did not have to disclose its donors -- as political action committees and other political fund-raising vehicles do -- and there were no limits on the size of individual donations.

Read on . . .

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Posted at 1:07am on Jun. 23, 2007 More Bad News In The Effort To Secure Free Trade

When It Rains, It Pours

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The Doha Rounds just ended in disaster:

The chance of a global trade deal being clinched before President George W. Bush leaves the White House shrank dramatically on Thursday with talks between core negotiating partners collapsing again in division and acrimony.

In a near-exact repeat of events last summer, talks in Potsdam, Germany, between the four partners at the centre of the so-called Doha round of negotiations - the EU, US, Brazil and India - broke up with sides still far apart on cutting agricultural subsidies and goods tariffs.

The collapse makes it unlikely that an outline deal can be agreed before the summer, a step necessary to complete a detailed agreement by the end of the year. With the US presidential race starting in earnest next year, many in the talks believe the political sensitivities in any deal mean no agreement can be concluded until there is a new incumbent in the White House.

Kamal Nath, the Indian trade minister, accused the rich countries of arrogance and inflexibility. He told the Financial Times: "It is not just a question of figures. It is a question of attitude. The US does not realise that the world has changed." The US and the EU said Brazil and India offered no serious access to manufactured goods markets in return for proposed reductions in US farm subsidies and European agricultural tariffs.

I've argued in the past that I believe that the United States should unilaterally phase out farm subsidy distortions over a five year period, lest sanctions kick in and cause the U.S. to be limited in its use of farm policy tools. The more trade talks hinge on the issue of agricultural subsidies, the more compelling I believe this recommendation becomes.

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Posted at 1:04am on Jun. 23, 2007 Here's A New One

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Michael Moore may be inconvenient to the crop of Democratic Presidential candidates. Never let it be said that the political world is absent its share of ironies:

With the release of Michael Moore's "Sicko," a movie once again is adding sizzle to an issue that's a high priority for liberal politicians -- this time comprehensive health insurance for all. But unlike Al Gore's film on global warming, which helped rally support on an equally controversial problem, "Sicko" is creating an awkward situation for the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

Rejecting Moore's prescription on healthcare could alienate liberal activists, who will play a big role in choosing the party's next standard-bearer. However, his proposal -- wiping out private health insurance and replacing it with a massive federal program -- could be political poison with the larger electorate.

At a special screening in Washington this week, politicians, lobbyists, media pooh-bahs and policy junkies flocked to see Moore's film. And its slashing demand for action on an issue that voters care deeply about, and Democrats hope to capitalize on, generated plenty of buzz. Moore hopes that, after its general release June 29, "Sicko" will exert significant influence on the presidential campaign.

Instead of greeting the film with hosannas or challenging it head-on, however, the leading Democratic presidential candidates have sidestepped direct comment on Moore's proposals.

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of South Carolina all have staked out positions sharply at odds with Moore's approach. But none of them is eager to have that fact dragged into the spotlight.

If Moore's fire-breathing proposal catches on among party activists, who tend to be suspicious of the private sector and supportive of direct government action, the candidates' pragmatic, consensus-seeking ideas could look like weak-kneed temporizing -- much the way their rejection of an immediate pullout from Iraq has drawn heated criticism from antiwar activists.

It ought to be interesting to see how this develops.

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Posted at 1:03am on Jun. 23, 2007 Omission

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

For whatever reason, this story on the passage of the energy bill last night in the Senate fails to mention that the bill contains vague and absurd provisions mandating punishment for "price gouging" at the gas pump. I have declaimed against this kind of legislation until I got blue in the face. I would imagine that it would have merited some mention, given the fact that anti-"price gouging" legislation is the manifestation of an exceedingly poor understanding of economics. But . . . nothing.

'Tis strange. 'Tis very strange. The press corps should pick up the slack quickly on this issue. After all, the White House may need to be alerted to the fact that a bill may need vetoing.

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Posted at 7:50pm on Jun. 21, 2007 Let The Following Fact Sink In

That's One Heck Of A Misery Index

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

Inflation in Zimbabwe is reaching five digits to the left of the decimal point:

The value of the Zimbabwean dollar suffered its worst crash in memory, dealers said Thursday, sparking a run on dollars and forcing stores to close early to put new prices on their meager stock.

Black market exchange rates -- fueled by the central bank buying at the illegal rates to pay the mounting debts of crumbling state fuel and power utilities -- rose to upward of 300,000 Zimbabwe dollars to one U.S. dollar in large offshore deals, said one trader.

The official exchange rate is 15,000-1.

"It's gone crazy," said the trader, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his dealings are illegal. "People are holding out for the highest bidder and mentioning as much as 400,000-1 which could be tomorrow's price. It's changing by the hour."

The going rate doubled since Monday, he said

In local deals, the U.S. currency fetched at least 140,000-1 in cash and around 200,000-1 in electronic bank transfers. Shortages of Zimbabwe bank notes created the premium on bank transfers, said the illegal dealer.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest rate of inflation, estimated officially at around 4,500 percent but calculated by independent finance houses at closer to 9,000 percent.

A hardware store in northern Harare closed its doors Monday through Tuesday to re-price all its goods. Supermarkets and other shops are planning to shorten opening hours to make price changes, enabling them to buy replacement stock at higher prices.

A journalist for Zimbabwe's official Herald newspaper reported that she had returned home from a week in South Africa to discover that during her absence the price of beef had increased 2.5 times, a bottle of cooking oil had doubled and bus fares had gone up between three and fivefold.

"The price movements in the past week are nothing short of total madness," wrote Victoria Ruzvidzo in Thursday's edition of the newspaper, a government mouthpiece.

When "government mouthpieces" are writing that sort of thing, you know that times are tough. Explain to me again, by the way, why Zimbabwe got appointed to chair the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development. Because that decision just doesn't make any sense.

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Posted at 7:49pm on Jun. 21, 2007 Edward Lazear Beats Up On Anti-"Price Gouging" Legislation

Talk About Your Easy Targets

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

The more people we can get to beat up on this horrifically bad idea, the better:

When it comes to gas prices, it may be hard to believe that virtually all policymakers actually share the same goal: to protect consumers and help ensure they pay an affordable price at the pump. We agree that high gas prices impose a big burden on families and businesses. We firmly oppose exploitive practices perpetrated by opportunists.

Unfortunately, "price gouging" legislation passed by the House last month and now under consideration by the Senate does not address these concerns. Instead, it would harm the economy in general and drivers in particular.

The legislation creates price controls that would exacerbate shortages and potentially produce lines at gasoline stations not seen in three decades. By disrupting market prices, price controls make lines longer during emergencies, misallocate the available supply and prevent those with the greatest need for gasoline from getting access. Gasoline trades on an international market. If U.S. gasoline prices were kept below world market levels, there would be shortages here. Consumers would be forced to line up at gas pumps, but gasoline would run out before satisfying demand, and many would be forced to do without.

Read it all. It's amazing that Congress is even wasting time with this legislation. I thought there were more important things to do than to indulge in debating--and potentially passing--a feel-good bill that is economically insane.

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Posted at 6:23pm on Jun. 21, 2007 White House Confirms Big Business Is Behind Amnesty Bill

And the National Council Of La Raza, Too

By Bluey

The Bush administration's latest piece of immigration propaganda (not even posted on WhiteHouse.gov) highlights the efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, National Federation Of Independent Business, National Restaurant Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Builders and Contractors, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, American Subcontractors Association, American Health Care Association, Poultry Federation, Georgia Farm Bureau, Tyson Foods, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and many others.

But perhaps what's most shocking is the White House's inclusion of a quote from National Council Of La Raza chief executive Janet Murguía. This is a group with a radical agenda that has ties to the "Reconquista" movement to reclaim the Western portion of the United States. This article by the late Rep. Charlie Norwood blew the lid off many of La Raza's activities. Why is the White House legitimizing this organization?

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Posted at 5:34pm on Jun. 21, 2007 There's No Defending Amnesty

By Bluey

Hugh Hewitt is defending Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.), one of the masterminds behind the amnesty bill. Hewitt opposes the bill because it doesn't include a 700-mile fence, but he thinks Kyl is getting a bum rap for this role in the deal. That might be true, but it was Kyl's choice to negotiate with Sen. Teddy Kennedy (D.-Mass.) and a pro-amnesty president. No one made him sit at the table.

Kyl has claimed that were it not for his involvement in the negotiations, the bill would be worse. That might be true, but it's not saying much. As I wrote more than a month ago, Kennedy got the best of Republicans in this deal. There's no question about it. He always has and he always will.

Conservatives have a lot of reasons to thank Kyl for what he's accomplished during his legislative career. But immigration reform isn't one of them. His support for this bill is what's giving cover to other Republicans who might otherwise oppose it. For that reason alone, I see no reason to defend him.

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Posted at 3:38pm on Jun. 21, 2007 A Thank You for Fighting Amnesty

By Bluey

Eagle Forum and Let Freedom Ring pay tribute to Senators Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) and David Vitter (R.-La.), three courageous leaders who have fought against the amnesty bill.

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Posted at 11:09am on Jun. 21, 2007 But Here's A Consolation

In Which We (Re)Discover That The Media Is In The Tank

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

As the 110th Congress desperately seeks popularity, it can rest assured that the media will be helpful to those who run Congress nowadays:

A CNN reporter gave $500 to John Kerry's campaign the same month he was embedded with the U.S. Army in Iraq. An assistant managing editor at Forbes magazine not only sent $2,000 to Republicans, but also volunteers as a director of an ExxonMobil-funded group that questions global warming. A junior editor at Dow Jones Newswires gave $1,036 to the liberal group MoveOn.org and keeps a blog listing "people I don't like," starting with George Bush, Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition, the NRA and corporate America ("these are the people who are really in charge").

Whether you sample your news feed from ABC or CBS (or, yes, even NBC and MSNBC), whether you prefer Fox News Channel or National Public Radio, The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker, some of the journalists feeding you are also feeding cash to politicians, parties or political action committees.

MSNBC.com identified 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

The donations will supposedly come to a halt in many of the news organizations. But does anyone actually believe that this will keep journalists from writing ideologically skewed reports? I mean, we even get the "Bush is Hitler" comment from one of the interviewees:

"Probably there should be a rule against [donations from reporters]," said New Yorker writer Mark Singer, who wrote the magazine's profile of Howard Dean during the 2004 campaign, then gave $250 to America Coming Together and its get-out-the-vote campaign to defeat President Bush. "But there's a rule against murder. If someone had murdered Hitler -- a journalist interviewing him had murdered him -- the world would be a better place. I only feel good, as a citizen, about getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly don't regret it."

So, you see, donating to Democrats is like violating rules against murder. But since Bush is Hitler, that's fine. Or something.

And some journalists are twisted into pretzels--you know, the food that nearly killed Hitler Bush--in trying to rationalize their quasi-political activity.

I really get snarky below the jump . . .

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Posted at 11:06am on Jun. 21, 2007 Congress Sinks Into The Quagmire Of Unpopularity

And No One Has An Exit Strategy

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

When the 110th Congress came storming into the American political scene, it appeared to be a worldbeater of sorts. At long last, 12 years of corrupt Republican rule had been swept away! We had the first female Speaker and a Majority Leader who got one of the Smothers Brothers to portray him on Casino. ('Tis true!) Surely, things were going to be different and this Congress was going to fulfill the hopes and wishes of all those who voted for it.

Eh . . . not so much:

Just 14% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Congress.

This 14% Congressional confidence rating is the all-time low for this measure, which Gallup initiated in 1973.  The previous low point for Congress was 18% at several points in the period of time 1991 to 1994.

Congress is now nestled at the bottom of the list of Gallup's annual Confidence in Institutions rankings, along with HMOs.  Just 15% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in HMOs.  (By way of contrast, 69% of Americans have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military, which tops the list.  More on this at galluppoll.com on Thursday).

Read on . . .

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Posted at 9:54pm on Jun. 20, 2007 Yes. He Has.

You Want Toughness? Find A Rabbit.

By Pejman Yousefzadeh

I just answered the first question of this editorial:

Has Jimmy Carter gone off the deep end? He's now scolding the West for refusing to bankroll Hamas terrorists who've just seized power at gunpoint in Gaza. It's a new low in coddling terrorism.

As the Gaza Strip flamed into Hamas gang warfare and the West Bank slid into another civil war, Carter -- cozy in distant Ireland accepting another "human rights" award -- found cause Tuesday to blame America first for all the violence.

Amid wine, cheese and good feeling, America's worst ex-president drew a bead on the West. The refusal by the U.S., Israel and the EU to support Hamas, an armed terror group that just launched a coup d'etat and civil war in full view of the world, was nothing but a "criminal" act at the root of the trouble there, Carter asserted.

"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.

The statement was so malevolent and illogical as to border on insane. Carter wasn't honest enough to say he was rooting for terrorists who started a terrifying new war in the region and trashed what little democratic rule the Palestinians had. Instead, he tut-tutted the West for being insufficiently sensitive to the fact that Hamas thugs were democratically elected in 2006 in an "orderly and fair" vote.

When one party has started a civil war, democracy isn't exactly the issue anymore. Just being elected does not justify making warfare on your fellow citizens. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly points out that those who are elected democratically have an obligation to govern democratically or they aren't democrats. Hamas has blown its right to democracy.

You would think these points to be so obvious that they would not require repetition. Alas, you would be wrong.

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