Thursday, August 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The price of a gallon of gas at the Wal*Mart on the Atlanta Highway in Montgomery as spotted at about 6:40pm.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the CSM: Firefights mark further splintering in Iraq

Two days this week of fierce firefights between a Shiite militia and government forces in a usually calm town south of Baghdad left at least 80 dead and an unknown number wounded.

While the top US commander in Iraq said the battle came as a “surprise,” it underscores a proliferation of militia groups throughout the country that is making central government control in many places merely notional, many Iraqis and foreign experts say.


The battle in Diwaniyah, which ended Tuesday when the US Air Force dropped a 500-lb. bomb on what it called a militia position, started just three days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki led a peace conference among tribal leaders designed mostly to undercut Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions. But, as Diwaniyah demonstrates, sectarian fighting is far from the central government’s only security challenge.

That isn’t a phrase one wants to here: that “central government control in many places [is] merely notional.”

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Poll: Harris leads Fla. GOP Senate race

Congresswoman Katherine Harris holds a double-digit lead in the race for Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination less than a week before the primary, according to a poll released Thursday.
However, the poll also indicates that a large number of Republicans haven’t settled on a candidate, and about a third of those supporting Harris said they still might change their minds.

“If Rep. Harris had only one opponent she might be in deep trouble,” said Peter Brown, assistant polling director for the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which conducted the poll last week. “But having three candidates splitting the anti-Harris vote is a major plus for her.”

Harris was favored by 38 percent of 317 likely Republican voters.

William McBride, a 34-year-old attorney, was supported by 22 percent; retired Navy admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. of Tampa was backed by 11 percent; and Peter Monroe, a real estate developer from Safety Harbor, received 3 percent.

If anyone wants a lesson in the anemic influence of party leadership and the general fact that the process of choosing primaries candidates is a self-selection process, this race is it. It has been clear for months that Harris has no chance of winning this Senate seat, and while there were attempts by GOP leadership to recruit another candidate, or to dissuade Harris from running, the bottom line is that they have no power to actually make such things happen. Party leadership sometimes can actively and successfully recruit candidates, but on balance it is a catch as catch can in terms of who is willing and able to run.

There can be little doubt that she is not the best candidate for the GOP in Florida, but that lack of stronger competitor equals the likelihood that she will win the opportunity to lose miserablNovember.

This case also provides further evidence of the fact that people who go into politics have huge egos that get in the way of rational decision-making.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Price of gallon of gasoline seen dropping

The recent drop in prices at the pump could pick up steam, driving gasoline sharply lower in coming months.

“I’d say $2 to $2.50,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. “Once you get past Sept. 15, it’s really a downhill game.”

May it be so.

For the record:  I paid $2.62 or 2.67 (I honestly can’t recall which) in Troy today–and it was in the 2.80s there just last week.
h/t:  Chapman at WorldViews

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Sandinistas lead Nicaraguan election

Ortega, who headed the socialist Sandinista government in the 1980s, had the support of 29 percent of those surveyed, according to a poll by Cid-Gallup.

Twenty-three percent said they backed conservative banker and former Foreign Minister Eduardo Montealegre.

A June Cid-Gallip poll also gave Ortega a six-point lead.


Voters will choose a president on November 5. Nicaraguan elections include a run-off unless one candidate receives 40 percent of the vote or 35 percent with at least a five-point lead over his nearest rival.

Given the run-off provision, the six-point lead doesn’t mean all that much.  I don’t know enough at this point about the other third-plus of the voters not captured in the above polling numbers to say whether Ortega would even have a shot at a run-off.  His recent attempts at re-gaining office would suggest that he does not.

This one is worth watching if anything for the nostalgia of it all (the FSLN and Ortega were of great significance during my undergraduate days studying Latin America).  In terms of contemporary politics, there is a Chavez connection, as Hugo is helping Ortega in his bid to return to the presidency.

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By Steven L. Taylor

If you are familiar with the “Real Men of Genius” Budweiser commercials, and have been reading blogs for more than a few days, and especially if you yourself blog, you will find this amusing:  The Budweiser Commercial I Want to See.

h/t:  Chris Lawrence.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters:  Chavez vows solidarity with Syria against U.S., Israel

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged solidarity on Wednesday with
Syria in its struggle against Israel and the United States and predicted the demise of U.S. “imperialism.”[...]

“Syria and Venezuela share the same firm positions and a resistance to imperialism and imperialist aggression,” Chavez told a news conference after talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, speaking in Spanish through an Arab interpreter.[...]

Chavez denounced what he called Israel’s “Nazi crimes” in Lebanon during the recent war and said the Jewish state should pull its remaining troops out of that country and also out of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967.

“Nothing equals the Nazi crimes Israel has committed in Lebanon and against the Palestinians,” said Chavez, who arrived in Syria on Tuesday evening from Malaysia.Chavez’s

popularity shot up across the Arab world after he ordered Venezuela’s envoy to Israel home earlier this month to protest Israel’s military offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Many civilians died in the fighting.

Chavez’s desire to be some sort of international anti-US gadfly continues to astound.  Being anti-yanqui imperialist makes plenty of sense for a Latin American leader seeking to carve out a space for himself–especially when he clearly wants to take on Fidel’s role as Anti-Yanqui Gadfly-in-Chief.  However, one wonders if this strategy of cozying up to places like Iran and Syria will work for him in the long haul.  Is that really the best way for him to become the leader of the leftist anti-US alliance that he seems to want to create in Latin America?  He at least tries to have a patina of democracy covering his own regime, but being buddies with obvious dictators and regimes that repress their own populations has to conjure the Bad Old Days in the minds of some in his own region.

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By Steven L. Taylor

It hasn’t exactly been a morning conducive to blogging, however, I did notice the story about the guy who ran over a number of people in San Francisco, which is quite a terrible thing. I have also noted some of the blogospheric reaction to the fact that 1) the man of Afghan origin, and 2) that part of the mad SUV event ended near a Jewish Community Center. As such, it seems that many have jumped to the conclusion that this was either terrorism of some type, or, at a minimum, that the individual was targeting Jews (for example: here and here).

Let’s be clear, I really don’t know (and neither do those who are engaged in their speculation-fest). I must confess that it seems premature to assume much of anything at the moment, given the lack of any additional information that would suggest motive. It isn’t as if people never do nutty, homicidal things without having some sort of jihadist motivations.
As such, I am casting my vote with James Joyner:

Much speculation, reasonably enough, about whether this is just some nut unable to handle the pressures of life, some act of Muslim terrorism, anti-Semitic homicide (the neighborhood apparently has or had a large Jewish population) or perhaps a combination. My leaning in cases not involving bombs or multiple killers tends to be “nut” until proven otherwise.

I just felt a need to contribute that to the conversation.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the NYTFirst Source of C.I.A. Leak Admits Role, Lawyer Says

Mr. Armitage did not return calls for comment. But the lawyer and other associates of Mr. Armitage have said he has confirmed that he was the initial and primary source for the columnist, Robert D. Novak, whose column of July 14, 2024, identified Valerie Wilson as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

So much for the vast Rovian conspiracy.  It seems pretty clear that this entire affair started, as has been speculated by many from the beginning, as the result of careless chit-chat between with a reporter.

By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Austin American-Statesman: Perry calls special election for DeLay’s unexpired term

Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday called a Nov. 7 special election to temporarily fill the seat left vacant when former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay resigned.DeLay

DeLay, a Republican whose term would have expired in January, resigned in June. The winner of the special election will fill the Houston-area seat until January. Anyone can still file for candidacy in the special election, which happens the same day as the genelection.While

While the people of the 22nd District deserve representation, one has to wonder if this is necessary given that we are talking about a period of time that traditionally is devoid of legislative business. They have been without representation for months as it is, raising the basic question of whether two more months will really make that much difference.
At a minimum this is just more of the mess that DeLay has wrought by trying to hold onto this seat in the midst of all his personal troubles. It would have been better for his party, his district and his state had he foregone his re-nomination bid in the fplace.More.

More here from the Houston Chronicle, which discusses the seniority implications of the special v. the general election:

If the same person wins the special election as the general election, it will give that person a leg-up in seniority over other incoming members of Congress.

If Democratic former U.S. Rep. Lampson wins the seat, it will be up to the U.S. House leadership as to whether he regains his seniority from his previous service.

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