Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Change and Bipartisanship

These are the two biggest themes of this year’s election. How many times have you heard, “this year, the people want change,” or, “the people want the parties to work together to solve our problems.” There is, however, some irony here—change and bipartisanship rarely go together.


Change is best accomplished through one party rule. When one party controls both houses of Congress and the White House, they are most able to facilitate big, broad changes in public policy. The New Deal changes that occurred in the 1930s would be a good example.


When we have divided government, bipartisanship tends to occur out of necessity. The choices are bipartisanship and gridlock, and we usually get some of each with divided government. So with bipartisan rule, change happens more slowly and usually around the fringes of public policy.


Both Obama and McCain can be heard sounding the themes of change and bipartisanship, but with each, we are more likely to get less of one and more of the other. Looking at the current polls, it is virtually impossible for Republicans to gain control of either house of Congress. An Obama presidency, therefore, would lead to one-party rule and provide the best opportunity for change, but with less bipartisanship. With a McCain presidency, on the other hand, change would be more modest, but we would see more bipartisanship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama and Abortion

On August 21 of this year, I wrote a post explaining how Barack Obama is reaching out to pro-life voters. His strategy is to argue that he would reduce the number of abortions by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and helping women who are considering abortion choose life by providing them with the resources to keep their baby or put it up for adoption. Now that it is two months later and close to the election, I will evaluate this effort.

Obama was successful in getting his abortion position put into the Democratic Party platform. Here is what it says:
The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.
While this statement may seem non-controversial to most, it is a significant change for the Democratic Party. When Bill Clinton said that he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare," in the 1992 campaign, he was harshly criticized by the pro-choice movement for suggesting, by including "rare," that it is wrong to have an abortion.

The platform also states, "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." "Regardless of ability to pay," implies support for taxpayer funded abortions--a more controversial position.

At the Saddleback Civil Forum, Obama explained this position by saying, "for me, the goal right now should be, and this is where I think we can find common ground, and by the way I've now inserted this into the Democratic Party platform, is how do we reduce the number of abortions." He made similar point in the 3rd presidential debate when he said,

But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, "We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby."

He also said that, "nobody's pro-abortion" and "it's always a tragic situation."

However, at a townhall meeting in Johnstown, PA, in March, an audience member asked him how do we "stop these abortions." In response, Obama imagined a scenario where one of his daughters would get pregnant as a teen. "I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby. I don't want them punished with an STD at age 16, so it doesn't make sense to not give them information." This response seems to indicate that he would want them to have an abortion, which is not the response one would expect from someone who claims to be personally opposed to abortion. Plus, the notion that a baby that was not planned for would be "punishment" seems like an extreme viewpoint to most, I would think.

At his DNC convention acceptance speech, additionally, Obama only said, "We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country." There was nothing in this speech about helping women who were already pregnant to choose to not have an abortion.

Obama was asked at the Saddleback Civil Forum, "at what point does a baby get human rights?" This is where he gave his now infamous reply, "answering that question with specificity is...above my pay grade." As I pointed out, this reply would have been appropriate if Rick Warren had asked, "when does life begin," and I suspect this is the question Obama came prepared to answer. But since the question was a legal one, not a metaphysical one, a former law professor and US Senator should be prepared to answer the question. Since then, I've been surprised at how few in the media or the campaigns have pointed this out. Everyone in the media, Democrats, and Republicans, are all retelling the story as if Warren asked "when does life begin?" Why is this happening? I think it is in the interest of both sides to assume he was answering the "life begins" question rather than the "human rights" question. For Republicans, they can present Obama as indecisive on the abortion question. For Democrats, it looks silly for Obama to say that a legal question is above his pay grade, so it's better to let everyone think it was the metaphysical question he was answering.

The most controversial aspect of Obama's abortion views have revolved around his votes, or nonvotes, on the Born Alive Bill when he was in the Illinois Senate. The Born Alive Bill would require life saving procedures for abortion survivors. In some late-term abortions, the fetus accidentally becomes seperated from the patient, resulting in a live baby outside its mother's womb. Some hospitals would leave these babies to die rather than provide care. This bill would prevent that practice.

Obama was the chair of the Senate committee that had oversight of this legislation. Different versions of this bill were presented before his committee in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Originally, Obama said that he opposed these bills because they did not contain a provision stating that the bill does not undermine Roe v. Wade. The National Right to Life Committee pointed out that Obama was not being truthful because the 2003 bill contained this provision. Obama then accused the NRLC of "lying." The NRLC, however, was correct. The 2003 bill had an amendment with the exact wording that Obama said he wanted. Obama now takes a different position and argues that he voted against the bill because there was already a law that provided protection for born-alive babies. Pro-lifers correctly argue that this law has no teeth because it only provides protection for viable babies, and the abortion doctor, who has a self-interest in providing a successful abortion, decides viability. How are you going to prosecute a doctor for not providing life-saving care to a viable infant if viability is determined by the same doctor? Obama now supports the Illinois bill that passed in 2005, after he left, with slightly modified language from the 2003 bill, and the federal bill.

For a more thorough discussion of this debate, see Steve Waldman's blog post on Beliefnet, Factcheck, Obama's website, and the National Right to Life Committee's website.

While much of the country has been focused on the economy, Obama's abortion position has stirred quite a bit of controversy in the pro-life community. Two of the intellectual heavyweights in this debate have been Douglas Kmiec and Robert George.

Kmiec is a law professor at Pepperdine University and previously served as legal counsel to presidents Reagan and G. H. W. Bush. He has endorsed Obama and written a book titled, Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama. The "big question" referenced in the titled is, of course, can a Catholic support a pro-choice candidate? Kmiec also explains his position in an LA Times editorial, where he states:
Some might ask, isn't John McCain, the self-proclaimed "pro-lifer," still a morally superior choice for Catholics? Not necessarily. McCain's commitment, as he stressed in the debate, is to try to reverse Roe vs. Wade. But Republicans have been after this for decades, and the effort has not saved a single child. Even if Roe were reversed -- unlikely, in my judgment -- it merely transfers the question to the states, most of which are not expected to ban abortion. A Catholic serious about preserving life could reasonably find Obama's educational and material assistance to mothers the practical, stronger alternative.
George is professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. Also a Catholic, George takes exception to Kmeic's position. He argues that pro-life arguments in favor of Obama are "spectacularly delusional." George notes that Obama is in favor of government funding of abortion, would sign the Freedom of Choice Act, opposes funding to pro-life centers that provide alternatives to abortion, supports embryonic stem-cell research while voting against funding for alternatives, and would require the destruction of cloned embryos. He also writes:
But on abortion and the industrial creation of embryos for destructive research, there is a profound difference of moral principle, not just prudence. These questions reveal the character and judgment of each man. Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect. Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these small and vulnerable members of the human family the basic protection of the laws. Over the next four to eight years, as many as five or even six U.S. Supreme Court justices could retire. Obama enthusiastically supports Roe v. Wade and would appoint judges who would protect that morally and constitutionally disastrous decision and even expand its scope. Indeed, in an interview in Glamour magazine, he made it clear that he would apply a litmus test for Supreme Court nominations: jurists who do not support Roe will not be considered for appointment by Obama. John McCain, by contrast, opposes Roe and would appoint judges likely to overturn it. This would not make abortion illegal, but it would return the issue to the forums of democratic deliberation, where pro-life Americans could engage in a fair debate to persuade fellow citizens that killing the unborn is no way to address the problems of pregnant women in need.
You can also read George's and Yuval Levin's critique of Obama's stated position on the Born Alive Act in the 3rd debate here.

Obama's record at reaching out to pro-life voters is clearly mixed. He has been influential, along with pro-life Democrats, in moving his party more towards the center on abortion. Though some pro-lifers seem hesitant to admit this, there would clearly be some opportunities for pro-lifers to advance some of their goals with an Obama presidency. At the same time, Obama also has a record of being a strong supporter of pro-choice causes, defending and taking stances that are out of step with most of the public's views on abortion.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Top 5: Websites for Undecided Voters, 2008

If you still haven't decided who to vote for in the presidential race, here are some good independent sources to give you information about the candidates:
  1. CQ Politics: Notes, Votes, and Quotes: Find out where the candidates stand on many different issues.
  2. NYT Election Guide 2008: Has bios, issue stances, and news stories. You can also see how much money they have raised and where they are buying ads.
  3. Open Secrets: Find out who is financing their campaigns.
  4. Politifact and FactCheck: Find out if what they are telling you is true.
  5. Obama's website and McCain's website: Don't go here to find info about their opponent. That info is distorted. Go here to find out what they say about their own positions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Independent Campaign Ads

In Wisconsin Right to Life vs. FEC (2007) the Supreme Court allowed the FEC to regulate "electioneering" ads by groups not affiliated with a campaign under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (2002), but set a very high bar for what might be considered an electioneering ad. Essentially, the court argued that when it comes to political speech, when the choice is between free speech and censorship, the court will side with speech. This has allowed unregulated money to be spent by groups that are not affiliated with a political campaign or a political party on campaign ads. If they spend regulated money, or Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, they have more freedom to explicitly advocate for a candidate. Sometimes, is is hard to tell the difference. See if you can tell. Here are some examples on independent expenditures from this years election:

Go to leadershipforamericasfuture.org and click on "media" to watch their ad.

Here is an ad by bornalivetruth.org:



Here is an ad by the Service Employees International Union:



Here is an ad from MoveOn.org:



Here is an ad from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce about Al Franken, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate.



To see more campaign ads, go to this YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/campaigntvads

Update: The New York Times released an excellent tool that helps you analyze the money being spent on campaign ads. It has a map with a visual representation showing where the money is being spent. If you're curious about where any of the above ads are being run, you can select them from the scroll down menu.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Religion and the Candidates

In my previous post I was fairly harsh on how the media covers the religion of presidential candidates. Generally speaking, my criticisms are valid, but there have been some exceptions. I previously mentioned NPRs excellent coverage of Reverend Wright. This weekend, PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly ran a story on Obama, Biden, McCain, Palin and their religion. If you want an example of how I think most of the media should cover religion and political campaigns, watch this. It also had a story on how the media covers religion in the campaigns. This piece was making some of the same points I was attempting to bring up in my post on Palin's religion. You can read the transcript or watch it here, or here are some snippets:

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, makes the point that reporters aren't well educated about religion.
...when it comes to their religion. What we're seeing is episodic coverage that -- Mitt Romney will give a speech about his religion, or tapes will come out of Obama's pastor or from Palin's church, and often the coverage of that relates to the political impact of how they deal with these tempests. The reason for that is, I think, twofold: one is that we have political writers covering these candidates, not people who understand the nuance of religion. It's not, however, because the candidates don't want to talk about this stuff. Barack Obama's made a special effort, I think, this year to talk about faith in his life because he thought that this was a failing of Democrats that was limiting their appeal.
Kelly McBride, head of the ethics department at the Poynter Institute in Florida, notes that the press only covers religion when something scandalous has happened, which has a "distorting effect" on religion coverage.
I think most of the reporting on religious issues has had a distorting effect. Most of the time in a political campaign when the media does focus on a religious issue, it's as a distortion, or something that's exotic or weird. So Reverend Wright was outside of the mainstream belief system, and there was a lot of focus on him and what the implication might be for Barack Obama when, in fact, Obama had spent weeks and months describing how his personal belief system and his faith guided him and influenced him. And Wright's behavior and his theology, his belief system was really not much of a part of that. But because of the focus on that, it ended up distorting in the public's mind Obama's belief system. And I think you can say that almost every time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sarah Palin's Religion


Since she was tapped as McCain’s VP pick, there has been much interest in Sarah Palin’s religion. Here is what we know.

  • She was baptized Catholic as an infant.
  • She attended an Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal denomination) congregation as a child.
  • She was president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in high school.
  • She left the Wasilla Assemblies of God in 2001.
  • Today, she does not describe herself as a Pentecostal or an evangelical, but as a “bible-believing Christian.”

The amount of misinformation and derision regarding Palin’s faith and religious views is astounding. I already mentioned the Washington Post cartoon mocking her religion. Since then, there have been some other developments that make this story worthy of a full length post.


The Iraq War was a “mission from God”?


Charles Gibson asked Palin about this quote in his interview:



As politifact.com points out, Gibson took her words out of context by not finishing the quote. (Did you notice how ABCs video clip of the quote ended abruptly?) Here is the whole quote:

"My oldest, my son Track, is a soldier in the United States Army now. ... Pray for our military. He's going to be deployed in September to Iraq. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan."

As you can see, in context, her words were similar to Lincoln’s. Essentially saying "pray that God is on our side."


Dinosaurs roamed the earth 4,000 years ago?


This was an internet hoax started by a blogger with 20 readers (according to him). This CNN clip shows the blogger and explains:



This rumor made its way quickly around the internet, was a topic of the much ballyhooed Matt Damon interview, and was reported in the LA Times, which printed the story based upon the word of a liberal blogger in Alaska. (As far as I can tell, the LA Times has not printed a retraction.) The fact that this rumor would spread so quickly is indicative of some deep-seated biases.


Witches?


This YouTube video shows Palin being prayed over by a Kenyan preacher named Thomas Muthee. In the prayer, he asks God to keep her safe from “every form of witchcraft.”


Andy Barr, of Politico.com, did some research. He found a 1999 Christian Science Monitor article about Muthee indicating that he equates witchcraft with demons or evil spirits, not in the American cultural sense of someone who practices the Wicca faith. Barr also asked Harvard religion professor Jacob K. Olupana about the prayer. Opulana was surprised at the reaction over the video and remarked that, “Witchcraft as part of a belief system is real to the people who live there,” and there was “nothing unusual about what happened.”


CNBCs Keith Olbermann also reported on the video, but rather than find some experts who might understand something about Muthee’s or Palin’s faith, he interviewed Alaska radio journalist Shannyn Moore, a political liberal. He began the interview by calling the video “terrifying.” Moore noted that Muthee believes in “spiritual warfare," and added, “it’s pretty farfetched, I think, to many of us.” And later remarked, “you see this and you wonder are we going to be going from waterboarding to just throwing people in ponds to see if they float or not?”


I assume that Olbermann would describe himself as a liberal, but is it liberal to mock other cultures? Liberals should be tolerant of those who are not like them and accepting of cultural differences.


Doug Weed wrote a prescient blog post shortly after Palin was announced as McCain’s VP. He said, “But wait until liberal media finds out [about her faith]. Expect all hell to break loose. She will be portrayed as a pro creationist - Neanderthal. Just wait.”


The fact that so much misinformation is spread so quickly about Palin’s religion shows that we, as a nation, have a long way to go in accepting our religious differences. These events also show that the media does a horrible job in trying to understand and accurately report on religion. I noted in an earlier post that that the media, by and large, failed to understand the context of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons. Now it is showing the same ineptitude with Palin’s religion.


Also remarkable, many in the media are treating charismatic religion like it is a fringe religion, akin to voodoo. Charismatics (these include Pentecostals) are the fastest growing religious group in the US, and today (according to Barna Group) comprise 36% of all Americans! This includes 1/3 of Catholics, and it is particularly prevalent among Latinos. Follow this link to learn more about charismatics from a journalist who is one.


If Palin is charismatic (she hasn’t talked much about it, so we really don’t know), her nomination is historic. Think about it. A religious movement that has influenced over 1/3 of the population has never before produced a presidential or vice-presidential nominee. Why aren’t we talking about this in a positive sense, the same way we talked about the first Jewish nominee in 2000?


Guilt by Association

Both the Obama and McCain campaigns have stepped up their "guilt by association" attacks over that last week. These are attacks where you claim that the candidate is guilty of some act or viewpoint because someone that they are, or were, associated with are guilty of the same. Here are some examples.

In recent stump speeches, Sarah Palin and John McCain have brought up Sen. Obama's relationship with William Ayers, a University of Illinois professor who had been a member of a radical leftist group in the 1960s. Here is a clip:



The Obama campaign, on the other hand has been running spanish TV and radio ads where they show Rush Limbaugh saying that "Mexicans are stupid and unqualified," (a quote that was taken out of context) and calling Limbaugh one of McCain's "Republican friends."

Obama also released this 13 min video about the "Keating 5" scandal:



To anyone who thinks that these issues belong in the campaign, I ask, "would you like to be held responsible for the actions of everyone you've associated with throughout your life?" Obama has condemned Ayers' radical views. McCain has admitted that he made a mistake in his relationship with Charles Keating. And, just because McCain and Limbaugh are both Republican does not make them friends--they were even on different sides of the immigration issue. Can we please move on?

Besides being an invalid argument, I think these attacks are a problem in that they distract from discussion of more important issues. We have some serious problems that need to be discussed. We're facing the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime. Entitlements will make things worse if they aren't reformed soon. Iran and North Korea could be developing nuclear weapons. And, NATO troops in Afghanistan are in need of more support. These are just of few of the issues we should be discussing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What the Candidates Don't Tell You


Personal finance blogger Ramit Sethi has a list of 9 truths that neither candidate will tell you about your money. Here one part worth quoting:
Things will get more expensive. Taxes will eventually go up. They have to. Costs of ordinary goods will go up. They always do. If you’re expecting it to get easier, you’re wrong. The key is to make more money and cut your costs. Sadly, Americans are poorly versed in being frugal. You think it makes sense to buy a new car every few years? You think it’s normal to eat out 5 times per week (lunch and dinner)? You feel good about yourself for ordering water when you go to a restaurant, but you blew $50,000 because you didn’t take the time to understand your mortgage? You’re not frugal. But a few more years of an economy like this and things just might change.
David Brooks made a similar point on NPR's All Things Considered; the candidates "totally excuse the American people, as if these sub-prime loans were forced upon people."

Neither candidate wants to be the bearer of bad news. This reluctance, unfortunately, also means that we are not hearing the whole truth about the financial crisis. Instead, candidates are leading voters to think that it's not our fault. By pointing their fingers at Wall Street CEOs, predatory lenders, lobbyists, and "Big Oil", they are helping Americans to avoid personal responsibility.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Top 5: Reasons McCain (Probably) Can't Win



  1. He's a Republican: The Republican Party is in disarray. It has been marked by scandal and an unpopular president. This will be a difficult year for any Republican.
  2. He's not a Democrat: Democratic party registration is surging. There are 4 new Democrats for every new Republican. This means that in order to win, McCain must not only mobilize Republicans and get a vast majority of independents, he also has to win a significant number of Democrats.
  3. The economy is in the tank: Regardless of who is at fault, voters traditionally hold the party that controls the presidency responsible when the economy is poor. (Note: presidents try to take the credit when the economy does well, also; regardless of who is responsible.)
  4. He supports continuation of troop deployment in Iraq: Most voters want the troops to come home, but McCain has been the strongest supporter in the Senate of continued operations in Iraq.
  5. Voters want change: It is difficult to market yourself as the change candidate when you've been in Congress since 1982.
Having said all that, we should remember that last summer we thought McCain's campaign was over, but he staged a remarkable comeback. By and large, McCain is a good candidate. He is well liked among independents. In any other election, without these Top 5 working against him, McCain could've easily won the presidency. It's a testament to his abilities as a candidate that he has been able to keep the election this close.

Beware Students: Multitasking Muddles Your Brain

Multitasking Teens May Be Muddling Their Brains : NPR

I don't know if this was intentional, but NPR ran this story about the same time that students, including mine, are studying for their midterm exams. While multitasking may seem productive because you're doing more than one thing at the same time; in the long run, it makes you less productive because your activities don't have your focused attention.

So, don't forget to turn off your chat rooms, social networks, email, and TVs, and you'll be more productive.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Understanding the Financial Crisis (for Non-economists)


Here is a list of resources that I have found helpful in understanding the financial crisis:

The Newshour's Paul Solman is, in my opinion, the best in the business at explaining economic issues to laymen, such as myself. Back in March, he did a piece explaining how the subprime loan crisis is effecting the rest of the economy. You can link to it here. More recently, he explained how the credit crunch relates to the current crisis.

You can also read David Leonhart's piece in the New York Times explaining the relationship between trust and credit. He also draws some relationships between the current crisis and the Great Depression. And more recently in the same newspaper, David Brooks explains how the hubris of Wall Street traders contributed to the crisis.

This article from the American Enterprise Institute, which was also published in the Wall Street Journal, helps us understand how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were at the center of this crisis, and what Congress should have done about it, but didn't.

This blogger reminds us that you, "the American people," are also at fault for the current crisis.

Update:
SNL also provides some worthy explanations for the financial crisis:



Another Update (thanks Jordan):

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Gaffe Machine versus the Hockey Mom


Am I writing about a vice-presidential debate, or WWE?

I thought that Biden showed that he is much more of a policy expert than Palin. But, everyone knew that going into the debate, so I'm not sure how much Obama can gain from it. Palin's performance probably would surprise more voters. Chances are, over the last couple of weeks the perception of Palin that many hold has been formed by Tina Fey's impersonation and select clips of the Katie Couric interview. For those people, they were probably surprised at how well she did.

Joe Biden did have another gaffe, something he has become quite well known for. This is what he said:

BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

Now here is the part of the Constitution he is referring to:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President,
This appears in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution.

First, this part of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch, not the executive branch as Biden claimed.

Second, nothing in the Constitution states that the vice-president's primary role is to support the president. In the original document, the vice-president was the second place finisher in the presidential race, so it was likely the the VP would be an opponent of the president anyway.

Third, the Constitution says that the VP will only vote when it is a tie vote, but it does not say that is the only time that the VP will preside over the Senate. In the early Congresses, the VP did preside over the Senate. It is only because of custom that, today, the VP only presides during a tie-vote or ceremonial occasions.

I was watching the post-debate commentary on PBS and was surprised that no one picked up on that. They even had presidential historians!

Top 5: News Stories You may have Missed Because of the Election and Financial Crisis

1. North Korea is restarting its nuclear weapons program and its leader is ill. Also, it has started upgrading a ballistic missile site. Not a good combination if you ask me. Absent the election and financial crisis, this would have been the top news.

2. Somalia pirates captured a bunch of Russian tanks. Apparently, they did know what the cargo was before they boarded. They are demanding a $20 million ransom for return of the cargo.

3. The US will provide nuclear technology to India. As part of the agreement, India would stop nuclear weapons tests. The Senate approved the treaty today. Someday, we may look back on this as one of Bush's greatest foreign policy achievements.

4. Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan says that more troops are urgently needed. Insurgents from Pakistan are crossing into Afghanistan to fight the NATO forces. Speaking of Pakistan--

5. Pakistan's new president, Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto's husband), told US troops to stay out of his country. Since then, Pakistani forces have been in a major battle with militants, one of the worst bombings in Pakistan's history took place at a hotel frequented by Al Zardari, and the Pakistani military fired warning shots at a US helicopter inside Pakistan's borders.

Some other honorable mentions: the Supreme Court decided to hear two separate cases dealing with Native American rights, a multi-state and federal authority crackdown on gangs led to the arrest of 1,759, the Mars rover may have found snow, and Paul Newman died.

Any that I missed?