Saturday, July 30, 2005

UMd. says adios to telnet access for student email

For the hell of it I was dicking around with telnet on my web browser and entered the address of the email server I logged onto as a student at Maryland. I can honestly say during my tenure, I never used a web-based method of accessing those emails, except maybe once or twice. I think for the first year or two there was no web-based method and the other two I just was too darn comfortable with telnet, no HTML emails, just unadulterated unformatted text, although I did use my Yahoo! account frequently as well.

Anyway, as of 1 August 2005, UMD will thoroughly do away with telnet to access email:

Security Alert: Removal of Services using Cleartext

Network programs such as telnet, ftp, and common e-mail protocols transfer data across the network unencrypted (in the clear) on the network and are therefore exposed to programs capable of capturing traffic as it flows from one device to another. Exposing accounts, passwords, and data in this manner not only makes our systems vulnerable, it puts the University at risk of violating federal privacy regulations.

As a result, effective August 1, 2005, OIT will no longer provide telnet or ftp services on any of the following public systems: WAM, Glue, and Deans.

Effective October 1, 2005, OIT will no longer provide non-secure e-mail (imap and pop) services on any of the following public systems: WAM, Glue, Deans and Mail@umd.

Replacing telnet

The remote terminal capabilities of the telnet program will be replaced by ssh, which is available on all major computing platforms at no cost. ssh, short for "secure shell," encrypts all data transmitted on the network.

Another thing. My email username was four character long, and looking back nostalgically the other day, I tried to use that username to sign up another Google account, but alas, they have to be 7 characters in length or so at least. And to think back in my day when I'd frequently get my Telnet on and flame people with incendiary diatribe emails, our usernames were LIMITED to eight characters in length.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Lunchbox

What's with the name change? Well, I now have a personal blog:

Juicy Pork Buns

And Lunchbox is my nickname bestowed upon me many moons ago over pizza and the great Kevin Smith classic, Mallrats. So I decided to write at JPBs as Lunchbox and to keep consistency, changed the name over here at RM too. Besides, if Ken can change his name, so can I.

Name Tags

The 5th is now Lunchbox.

Why? I'll post more about that later.

e-Daredevil

That non-deaf, non-dumb, but blind kid sure plays a mean Mortal Kombat:
And as he easily dispatched foes who took him on recently at a Lincoln gaming center, the affable and smiling Mellen remained humble.

"I can't say that I'm a superpro," he said, working the controller like an extension of his body. "I can be beat."

Those bold enough to challenge him weren't so lucky. One by one, while playing "Soul Caliber 2," their video characters were decapitated, eviscerated and gutted without mercy by Mellen's on-screen alter ego.

"I'm getting bored," Mellen said in jest as he won game after game.

Blind since birth when his optic nerve didn't connect because of Leber's disease, Mellen honed his video game skills over the years through patient and not-so-patient playing, memorizing key joystick operations and moves in certain games, asking lots of questions and paying particular attention to audio cues. He worked his way up from games such as "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid," onto the modern combat games.

Friday Gatling Blog: SuperUltraHyperMajinSaiyajin Edition

Soooooo, the Gatling Blog is out of the shop after a long period of maintenance and repairs. And the fire rate is much, much faster now. I bring you the first Gatling Blog since it's hiatus, and it's a doozy! Presented in no particular order, whether it be ideology, topic, or my level of agreement with them.

Donklephant theorizes on pacifism, Ghandi, Churchill, the Holocaust, World War II, and the War on Terror in a thought-provoking piece.

Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler wails on UK-style closed circuit cameras and the proposal to institute them in the U.S.

RConversation further questions Cisco's relationship with the Chinese government.

Pandagon has data on Americans' level of ignorance when it comes to what the Bible actually says.

Archpundit takes a closer look at Rovescandalo!'s prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Blackfive doubts the feasibility of the proposed troop draw-down in Iraq.

Daily Pundit agrees with Coulter, still squeamish about Roberts' commitment to the conservative cause.

Booker Rising profiles the proto-campaign for Steele's Senate run.

The Talking Dog castigates the Democrats' blind protectionist stance against CAFTA.

Virginia Centrist wonders if Kilgore's as right-wing as we think.

A Silent Cacophony finds a possible Ethics scandal with Rep. Sensenbrenner.

Southern Appeal continues a provocative 9th Amendment rant.

Red Hot Cuppa Politics denounces the widespread harassment of military families, with some particularly disturbing examples.

Balloon Juice calls "flip-flopper" on Frist for his Stem-Cell reversal.

Rantingprofs exposes more about the cold-blooded London terrorists.

Gateway Pundit illuminates the voter fraud scandals committed by Democrats in St. Louis.

Tigerhawk rubs the NYT's face in their bad economic predictions.

Ezra Klein makes the case that universal health care could be the basis of a new Democratic majority.

Futurepundit, the real expert, analyzes what scientific benefits (or lack thereof) we can expect from the Energy Bill.

The Speculist sees breakthroughs in AI and the possibility of artificial brains.

Respectful Insolence (from last week) brings us the Skeptics' Circle, a different kind of "Carnival."

Dean's World thinks ideological civil war within Islam is getting more intense.

Smash doesn't dig "Over There." And he's been "Over There", so he'd know.

Ambivablog investigates the latest fatwas. Is the one everyone is chattering about bogus? Answers at 11.

Random Fate froths about Lance Armstrong and "patriotism."

The Debate Link heckles the new Pope on his attitudes toward Israel and Jews.

RudePundit misses Old Labor.

DCeiver dissects Hill Hotties.

Friday Nostalgia Overdrive

Does anyone remember Bionic Commando? That game was awesome! Especially the music. The 3-way gun ruled!

And yes, there will be a Gatling Blog today, after a long Hiatus. And it will be a WHOPPER.

WTOP: Wasting Time On-Air with Plotkin

Our old buddy Mark Plotkin has another petty DC voting rights-tangent stick up his arse and it has to do with ESPN:

D.C. Excluded From ESPN
Phone number to call ESPN to voice your displeasure that D.C. is not included in ESPN's Best of the 50 States is 1-860-766-2000. The person to contact is Mark Shapiro, president of ESPN.

The number was mentioned on The Politics Program on July 22, 2005.


WTOP used to be my favorite radio station that doesn't play songs, now I can honestly say I don't listen to it more than maybe 5-10 minutes max a work week. Not all because of Plotkin, but he's a part of it. Whiney, one-issue liberals don't really entice me to stay tuned when I can be getting my news and views on with say Michael "really had too much sugar with my five cups of morning coffee" Graham!

But anyway, back to ESPN's 50 states gimmick. Since Plotkin is going to continue carping about DC supposedly being dissed, I'll whine about this crap:

Maryland Facts
Statehood: 1788
Capital: Annapolis
Bird: Baltimore Oriole
Highest Point: Backbone Mountain (3,360 ft.)
Motto: Strong deeds, gentle words
Nickname: Old Line State


Um, no, the Italian motto---Fatti Maschii, Parole Femine---means "manly deeds, womanly words," I guess which would translate for the more common folk as, "broads talk while guys get stuff done." It was only recently that PC loonies in the state government worked out a revision of the translation which would not offend feminists, while making linguists and Italian speakers everywhere rend their track suits in mourning before ordering Guido to leave a horse's head in Kim Gandy's bed.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

This is why I hate professional classical musicians...

...and why I will forbid my kid(s) from joining the school dorkestra as opposed to say the jazz band.

Young pianist sues over 'humiliation'

Jul. 28, 2005 at 11:31PM

A teenage pianist claims a competition director who rushed onstage and shut the keyboard cover on his fingers ruined his Carnegie Hall debut.
Bryan O'Lone, 16, filed a defamation suit against Yelena Ivanov, founder of the Young Pianist Competition of New Jersey, saying he was "humiliated" by her alleged behavior during his June 12 recital at New York's revered concert hall, the New York Post reported Thursday.
O'Lone said Ivanov told him at the last minute he would have to play a Beethoven piece instead of the Chopin he had prepared for the concert.
As he started to play the Beethoven piece anyway, Ivanov ran onstage and "started to close the lid on my fingers ... hard enough that I felt that if I didn't move my fingers they would be smashed between the cover and the keyboard," O'Lone, of Vineland, told the Post.
Ivanov's daughter, Lana, who is named in the suit as the competition's executive director, told the Post O'Lone's charges were "total lies."

Hemlock for Helen?

I think with her age and arthritis and what not, hemlock would be the way to go.

I hate to disappoint the suicidal Marxist matron of the White House press corps, but I'm a George Allen man myself.

[via Drudge]

REPORTER VOWS TO 'KILL SELF' IF CHENEY RUNS FOR PRESIDENT
Thu Jul 28 2005 15:32:13 ET

Veteran wire reporter Helen Thomas is vowing to 'kill herself' if Dick Cheney announces he is running for president.

The newspaper HILL first reported the startling claim on Thursday.

MORE

"The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself," she told the HILL. "All we need is one more liar."

Thomas added, "I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does."

MORE

Who's Next?

I realize that sometimes I get excited too easily. While many people remain skeptical about the IRA’s official renouncement of violence, I see this as a big step. It's worth getting excited about because we are seeing a terrorist group choosing to devote its resources to political means to achieve its ends. And with this decision, it looks like Britain is willing to try a greater degree of home rule in Northern Ireland.

The events of September 11, 2001 made many people aware of the hypocrisy of supporting so-called freedom fighters in Ireland while at the same time feeling enraged by the terrorists attacking the US (this is certainly the case with many Irish-Americans who had IRA sympathies).

This decision has been a very long time coming, but I think it teaches us some lessons. This recent call to disarm and pursue political and democratic means teaches us that getting terrorist groups involved in the government politically can slowly moderate them and move them away from terrorism. My hope is that this is what will one day happen with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Don't misunderstand me though, I do not favor inviting terrorist groups to have an active role in government while they continue violent uprisings. Instead they should be invited to the table only during cease fires and times of peace. Otherwise, they need to be shut out. This sends the clear message that their violent actions do not help them achieve their goals.

In the meantime though, let’s be thankful that we can put the violence in Northern Ireland behind us, and hopefully have no more Bloody Sundays (or any other bloody day of the week) ahead of us.

AFL-CIO... SEIU?

The Wall Street Journal has a good article on the upheaval inside the AFL-CIO. One of the more interesting points is that there still appears to be high demand for unions among workers, even though membership might be down. They make a good point that the nature of the workforce and the role of unions is changing. Apparently AFL-CIO isn't changing with the times. But SEIU on the other hand has been successful due the ability to be creative and meet the different needs of the different types of employees they seek out. If the article is correct, SEIU could lead the way in the changing (and flexible) nature of unions.

China Got Problems

First SARS. Then Asian Bird Flu. Now Asian Swine Flu?

Bombay Turns Into Just Plain Bay

More than a third got submerged as a result of yesterday's flooding in India. Rainfall of up to three feet in certain places splashed over India for two days, killing 99 in the deluge. Reports Indy:
Railway stations across the city were crammed with hundreds of thousands of people, stranded after all train services were cancelled. Electricity and phone lines were cut. India's largest city and financial capital, home to 13 million inhabitants and the Bollywood film industry, has ground to a halt.

The international airport, the busiest in India, was closed for a second day as the runway was still flooded. International flights were being diverted to Delhi, 700 miles away.

At least 99 confirmed deaths were reported in just two days across Maharashtra, with 130 people missing and feared trapped after their village was flattened by a mudslide caused by the rain. In the city, office workers walked and waded home or slept at work. Hundreds of children had to spend the night at their schools.

Jayant Shah walked through the night from his office to get to his daughter. "It was safer that my daughter was in school because I was stuck in my office. I'm trying to reach her school after walking and hopping in and out of buses," he said.

Monsoons are not uncommon in India, but this one was a catastrophe like none seen before it. Bombay, being a modern city, is going to experience a lot more economic damage and loss to its operations because of this. In the U.S. the lack of power in major cities after Hurricanes can often cause millions and millions of dollars in loss to businesses in not just property damage but dropoff in activity and sales volume, and this is far worse than many hurricanes. It's always tough for developing nations to face crises, but in a hub of activity it will strike even worse. Yet more ominous:
The Bombay rainfall may be a world record for a single day. It broke the Indian record of 83.82cm, held by Cherrapunji since 1910; Cherrapunji, known as the "rainiest place on earth", still holds the record for annual rainfall. But Cherrapunji is on the top of a hill, so does not flood easily. Bombay is built across low-lying islands.

Last night, weather forecasters were predicting that the rain would be continuing for a further 48 hours yet.

Makes our flood warnings in the U.S. look pathetic.

Space: The Final Tourist Trap

Discovery's launch Tuesday had a lot of mixed messages and results attached to it, especially for NASA and space flight in general. First, the negatives. As President Bush watched on his tiny TV, Discovery had a perfect launch. Or, seemingly perfect. A chunk of insulating foam was found detaching, but thankfully didn't seem to do any damage to Discovery. It was a "lucky" outcome for the malfunction, which has grounded the shuttle fleet for the foreseeable future. This is a setback, as Russia will have to continue to service the International Space Station, and continues to make space flight look dangerous to a wary public. The bad news, in a nutshell, is that NASA has egg on its face, and must fight again to justify its funding and existence. At least there's a sympathetic President to lend a hand. NASA, always a progressive force for space activities and science, will have to limp forward.

Then, two recent pieces of good news related to space. Russia's state-run Space Tourism has booked another passenger, and a program to provide $100M trips to the moon is in the works. Richard Branson and Burt Rhutan, of SpaceShipOne and X-Prize fame, are also stepping up the plate to offer flights in 2008 into space for $200,000. This is the good news, a proto-industry for space tourism is further along than the dreamy stages of pre-production, but is about to really gain steam. Branson is obviously a risk taker, and so are the Russians, but with these trailblazers at high prices hopefully future developments will allow for cheaper pricetags. This is the good news. NASA falters, but at the same time more options and players are entering the scene to take up NASA's slack. And these are players who aren't subject to the whims of busybody Congressmen (just eccentrics like Vladimir Putin and Richard Branson). Unlike a lot of people who want NASA out of the business, I think the private sector isn't completely ready for primetime yet. NASA will still need to do a lot of basic space research, and will likely always shoulder the burden when it comes to hard-core risky space exploration. This typical of government's role in all science and R&D. Undoubtedly the private sector is ready to enter the game, but for a long time the vast resources of government will still have an important role to play.

One thing is for sure: the space shuttles are rickety mess. It's time to move on. NASA needs to get its space plain off the cinderblocks sooner rather than later. The Shuttle fleet is no longer dependable, and a credible alternative is a necessity if the U.S. wants to be in the space business.

He . . . Lives . . . AGAIN!

Thanks to Defamer.

CAFTAeine

CAFTA was passed by the House late last night. This is one fight I am happy the House Democrats lost, considering this sample here:
During last night's debate, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, the bitterness of the Democrats' opposition shone through in condemnations such as that by Ohio's Dennis J. Kucinich, who thundered: "CAFTA is for multinational companies who want to make a profit by shutting plants in the United States and moving to places with cheap labor."

Of course, Dennis. This has nothing to do with where the work can be done better and more cheaply somewhere else. Or getting much needed investment to poorer countries so they can build their economies. Or with Americans getting goods cheaper from places that aren't despotic tyrannies like China. Sheesh.

CAFTA is a good thing because it will accomplish all of the above. For all rabid fair-traders out there, you should realize that CAFTA essentially just formalizes a bunch of bilateral agreements that already exist into a multilateral framework. Some of the changes are dramatic, but most of them are mundane and marginal. The FTAA is a more dramatic piece, but the CAFTA is going to build a bridge to that. I'm a free-trader, obviously unapologetically because trade helps build the economies of poorer countries, but I think incremental steps are better to take. CAFTA will allow all the Central American countries to better prepare for a Free Trade Area of the Americas framework, among many other beneficial things. It's a victory for a Bush, and for everyone.

Come on in, the Kool-Aid's fine

Give me a shot of whatever they're drinking at the AFL-CIO convention in Chicago!

They reelected a miserable failure, John Sweeney, as commissar-in-chief of the dying labor behemoth, the AFL-CIO despite labor having seen a steady decline in both membership and political clout over Sweeney's tenure. If I were a crazed liberal activist, I'd think somehow Sweeney was a Karl Rove plant and part and parcel of the Bush plan for turning America into Dubya's one party nation-state under Rove with Hannitization for all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Vacation

Forgot to tell you gents, and our reading public (all, what, ten of them?) I'm on vacation. Spent the last few days at Jesus at the Beach in Ocean City, MD. Now just chillin for the next few. Any one-to-two day road trip ideas?

Coalition For Darfur: Witness

Two weeks ago, the Center for American Progress and the Genocide Intervention Fund launched a joint initiative known as "Be A Witness" built around a petition calling on television networks to increase their coverage of the genocide in Darfur.

As "Be a Witness" noted
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.
This week, tireless Sudan advocate Nicholas Kristof took up the call and chastised the press for its lack of Darfur coverage
If only Michael Jackson's trial had been held in Darfur. Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.
Shortly thereafter, Editor and Publisher printed a piece reporting
New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof's attack on the press for underreporting the atrocities and genocide in Darfur, which ran in today's paper, has drawn the ire of some newspaper editors who said they are doing the best they can with what they have.
In this piece, USA Today Foreign Editor James Cox offered a partial but important explanation for the dearth of coverage
Cox pointed to a two-day series USA Today ran in May on Darfur, stressing the difficulty the paper had in even getting a visa for reporter Rick Hampson to travel there. "It was excruciatingly difficult to get the permission," he said. "We had an application that had been stalled for months."
Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign.

Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible.

The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.

Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world.

Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.

Scopes Revisited

Given the intense rekindling of evolution vs. creationism lately, I thought I might be interested in picking up Summer for the Gods, the 1997 book that sets out to give us "just the facts" and the real facts behind the Scopes trial. However, now I have no need to because Orin Kerr read it and gives us all the best parts and conclusions. Thanks, Orin!

The African Connection

Suspects in the recent London bombings include two Somalis who traveled to the UK on Kenyan passports. Why is this important?
US agents say they have new evidence that militant groups with links to Al-Qaeda have set up bases in lawless pockets of Somalia and Ethiopia, and smuggled their trained recruits in and out of Kenya.

The organisers of the new camps are said to be veterans of training camps in Afghanistan.

UN investigators said that the groups had set up their camps along the Kenyan coastal strip and in North Eastern province. Supporters of Osama bin Laden have long used the region as a sanctuary. Terror groups sponsored by Al-Qaeda set up bases in 1996 in Lamu and at Ras Kiamboni, on the Kenya-Somalia border.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the British government had not officially informed the Kibaki Administration of other possible link.

Also:
The two, who police say were originally from Somalia, were now on the run and might have fled to Holland, where there is a big Somali community.


Officers from UK's metropolitan police anti-terror unit might fly to Nairobi this week as the search widens, a Yard spokesman said.

Anti-terror police in London say they believe there is an active Al Qaeda cell in Kenya, and want to question people believed to be connected with it.

Al Qaeda has always had substantial operations in Africa, and with the Middle East on fire currently it remains a safe haven of failed and barely-functioning states for the terrorist networks to operate within. Again, I'll re-articulate this was one reason I was opposed to the Iraq war, because I thought more attention should have been given to Al Qaeda operations in Sudan, Yemen, and other such countries. Having been neglected for awhile, those chickens are coming home to roost. I would recommend the Bush Administration, Condi, or Rummy, or whoever needs to get on the African Union about this issue. While it's difficult for those states to sometimes enforce their own laws, or even collect their own taxes for that matter, action needs to begin. This cannot be handled through Visas and immigration policy alone.

NARAL vs. Roberts

NARAL is going hog-wild in an attempt to rip Roberts a new one. Not only do they have a letter generator on their front page, but they've also assembled a laughably miniscule document in an attempt to highlight his hostility towards reproductive rights (which they can only fill one page of, even though it's bulleted!) Personally I like Mr. Sun's letter-generator better. And yes, I'm feeling particularly generous toward Mr. Sun today.

I think NARAL's goods on what should be the most climactic battle for them in years are surprisingly hollow, shrill, and unconvincing. They try to stretch out his few years as Deputy Solicitor General for George I into an indictment that is just unconvincing. NARAL isn't going to win this fight, Roberts will be confirmed, and NARAL will suffer yet another in a series of defeats against conservatives. Why? I make the following statement not lightly: NARAL has become the Family Research Council of the left. In other words, a harsh ideological polarizer that does nothing but discredit those it supports in the eyes of mainstream Americans.

A few months ago, I saw a NARAL staffer give a talk to the Arlington Democrats, and was almost amazed at how far off the deep end these people are. While I'm sympathetic to, but far from completely convinced by, pro-choice arguments, NARAL accepts them like dogma and speaks them with a one-note zeal that would make Christian Fundamentalists jealous. I watched this NARAL staffer blast a number of Democrats who were "mixed choice" (basically meaning she was bashing me and my views), saying they really just lacked the spine to be true pro-choice, and said in so many words that anyone who was really mixed choice or pro life didn't belong in the Democratic party. She even said that Democrats shouldn't even allow the pro-choice component of the party to come under debate, because "Republicans would love to see us fight over our own values." That's right, don't question the dogma.

What blew me away was the constant effort, similar to the far right-wing groups, to completely deny any attempt to make the party a bigger tent. She even blasted Harry Reid and disparaged that the Democrats would pick someone with pro-life tendencies to be a leader! The only thing she didn't do was take a swipe at Tim Kaine, mostly because that probably would've caused the crowd to finally rise against her madness. Many people on the right-wing would say "well of course NARAL is crazy," but I'm just making the point to both righties and lefties here that there is definitely a symmetry. The same holds for all the right wing groups that denounce every Republican with pro-choice tendencies, though I've got to admit the Republican party is more accepting of that position than the Democrats are of their own members with pro-life tendencies.

But back to Roberts. I think the more these groups raise the bar about how dangerous he is with hysterical and unconvincing evidence, the worse they are going to look when Roberts is confirmed. It may help in the short-term with fundraising, but in the long-term it is only going to make them look more ideological and less effective.

How the DLC Understands Chainz

For a long time, I felt like I was only getting two sides to the issues. There was either the left, or the right – Democrat or Republican. And in that regard, I seemed to only hear the extreme sides. This was especially true while I was an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts. The campus, in western Massachusetts, was naturally very liberal, and the few conservative voices would react from the very opposite side of the spectrum (and their goal was usually just to aggravate the left). In siding with the extreme left, I thought I had found my place. But at times I was troubled. After learning more about the situation, I couldn’t side with those who thought the Palestinian intifadas were reasonable responses to their situation. But I certainly didn’t see Israel’s role as faultless either. And although I think the death penalty is wrong in principle as well as unfairly applied, I had trouble believing that Mumia Abu-Jamal was falsely convicted. I think women should have the right to have abortions, but I think we should direct as much attention as we can to making them rare – with family planning as one way of achieving that.

It was when I started seriously thinking about the Iraq War, and when I joined Restless Mania in February and began posting my thoughts on it, that I realized how far I was from many of the Democratic politicians. I was not opposed to our use of force without UN approval in theory – but I didn’t think Iraq was where our attention needed to be to fight the GWOT. It seemed to me that most on the left didn’t want us using force anywhere – and I certainly didn’t agree with that either. Writing for this blog helped me understand my own thinking a lot better – and I realized that the Democrat I am is very different from the Kennedy, Kerry, or Dean types of Democrat.

But at first I still didn’t know where my more moderate stances would be appreciated or which candidates would fit with my ideology. The reason I have been such a big supporter of Thomas Friedman and Senator Biden (as well as Senator McCain and Colin Powell) is because they were the only ones talking about foreign policy in an intelligent way. And when I finally became aware of bloggers like Bull Moose and New Donkey, it was an amazing discovery for me. This is why I have been following the recent reports from the DLC National Conversation with such interest. This organization is promoting the type of moderate thinking the Democratic Party needs. They are willing to talk about values and religion without turning the government into a Christian theocracy. They believe in helping those at the bottom of our society, but they also believe in responsibility. And most importantly, they believe in spreading "greater political and economic freedom" throughout the world. We certainly need to be willing to criticize policies from the right, but we also have to have reasonable alternatives – and that is something the far left has lacked lately. In the DLC, I see the reasonable alternatives that need to be offered – alternatives that can be accepted by a majority of Americans.

So now you know more about where I am coming from, and why I will be paying particular attention to the New Donkey, the Moose, and the DLC.

HP Is Doomed. . .DOOOOMMMMED!

HP is scheduled to dump a buttload of its employees in an effort to save itself from financial disaster. The job cuts are a non-trivial 14,500 and amount to 10% of the workforce of the firm. The move is an attempt to simplify and refocus HP's activities and structure. This is the opposite of what Carly Fiorina, the ex-CEO (who everyone thought was great but just ended up being an incompetent windbag), wanted to do. Carly's plan was to transform and expand HP's business well outside their fiefdom of printer domination to more plasma TVs, more PCs, and even IT services and consulting like IBM. Turned out to be a not-so-great idea, since the IT services and consulting market is just about one of the most flooded services markets. A lot of the cuts and changes are direct contradictions to what Carly tried to do, including vivisecting her Customer Solutions Group and breaking up the PC and printer divisions (which Carly had unwisely fused together). The Reaction, well, reacts to what the consequences of Carly's actions are:
14,500 HP employees will soon be paying the price for executive incompetence -- because, in today's corporate America, share price means more than loyalty. 3,000 employees have already been laid off this year, and another 17,900 were let go after HP's failed merger with Compaq in 2002. Do the math. Fiorina walks away with $51.5 million while 35,400 employees, many of whom no doubt face hardship or worse, are terminated.

That's obscene. Truly, utterly, and outrageously obscene.

It is kinda sick, and another example of idiotic CEO's jumping out of the office building with their golden parachutes while everything around them burns to the ground. And it's said Carly has political ambitions too! I hope someone remembers this story when that time comes. Meanwhile, Mr. Sun has a much funnier take on HP's downward spiral, including his predictions as to what jobs and positions are going to be let go.

Iraqi Constitution Gets Bronx Cheer

The leaked drafts of the Iraqi Constitution are getting mixed reviews. They run from lukewarm support to skepticism to genuine disapproval. There was great hope after the Purple Revolution and January 30th that perhaps Iraq wasn't going to go the way of Iran, that it would become more of a Western-style democracy. The Constitution doesn't inspire confidence in this regard. For native Iraqi criticism and great translated excerpts from the Arabic document, go to Mr. Omar at Iraq The Model, who is very unhappy.

Here are the troubling points, as Omar sees it and of course many others as well:

1) Islamism. The document refers to the Islamic Republic of Iraq. Ouch. Also, it says Islam is the official state religion and that all laws passed in Iraq must flow from Islam and not contradict Islam's teaching. Basically, Iraq=Iran, or something near that. While there's no Guardian Council, there's is no separation between mosque and state. What's that, Christian Right? I thought this was the exact kind of thing you wanted!

2) Family Values. The constitution states that the family shall be based on patriot, religious, and ethical values. Also, it defines that there is Equality between men and women based on Islamic teachings (say what?). Basically, this is a tough one because while it says women are equal before the law, this is based on rather thin religious notions and prevailing norms. It asserts it, but leaving it open to the prevailing social mores to interpret and enforce. Given the Middle East's record with feminism of even the most minimal persuasion and certain comments by now-powerful Iraqi politicians (al-Sadr), this ain't so good.

However, there's good bits in there about establishing rule of law, and how no one can be arrested without judicial warrants, and how the military cannot use oppressive force against ordinary citizens, and how violence, racism, and terrorism are banned as a basis for a political party. So: a mixed bag. Despite the fact that Omar's incline is to vote "no", he states that even if this draft were to pass it would clearly be better than anything under Saddam's lawless time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

And I'll Form The Head

In a blow to Transformers afficionados everywhere, some nostalgic studio execs have morphed another 80's classic into a live action movie. Voltron!!!! With Pharrell Williams.

Columbus Clippers

It sounds like there is optimism abound at the DLC National Conversation. Both New Donkey and Bull Moose are saying that talks have been positive and the info sessions have been very well attended. It is exciting indeed to see such excitement and activity from moderate Democrats.

GWOT Out, GSAVE In

Pentagon and Bush Administration leaders have announced that the Global War on Terror shall no longer be called that, but instead should be called the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. This is become a source of relentless mocking, but actually it seems there is some thought behind this:

Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke in the new terms on Friday when he addressed an audience in Annapolis, Md., for the retirement ceremony of Adm. Vern Clark as chief of naval operations. Mr. Rumsfeld described America's efforts as it "wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization."

The shifting language is one of the most public changes in the administration's strategy to battle Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and it tracks closely with Mr. Bush's recent speeches emphasizing freedom, democracy and the worldwide clash of ideas.

"It is more than just a military war on terror," Steven J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said in a telephone interview. "It's broader than that. It's a global struggle against extremism. We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative."

The language shifts also come at a time when Mr. Bush, with a new appointment for one of his most trusted aides, Karen Hughes, is trying to bolster the State Department's efforts at public diplomacy.

I thought it was kind of ridiculous, and thought of what it would sound like if you substitute Bush's talking points on "terror" with "violent extremism" and "war" with "struggle" and had to snicker at the notion. The more I think about this rhetorical shift, the more I think it may be a good idea. It sounds more like a history chapter than "global war on terror" and also does indicate the more multi-faceted nature of the situation we're in. It weakens Bush's image as a "War President" to speak this way, but he did say he wanted to be a "Peace President" during the 2004 election (well at least for about 2 weeks before that tested very poorly). It does make it easier to incorporate the spread of democracy and freedom into a "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" as opposed to just a "War on Terror", and highlights how certain ideas are just as troubling and problematic as the methods used to push them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No One Over 18 Allowed

When I saw the headline for this Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, I thought there was no way I would agree with it. The founders implemented life tenure for Supreme Court judges to insulate them from the whims of the majority and there was no way I could be convinced otherwise. Well, after actually reading the column with a relatively open mind, I think I am on board. Although I don't think there is any chance this could happen, I do think 18 year term limits (grandfathered in, of course) would be a good idea. Justices are staying on the Supreme Court way too long, which is both a function of the importance of the court's decisions and the ego that some justices have. Many want to retire only when there is a chance of a like-minded justice to replace them - while others just want to hold on as long as they can. Chief Justice Rehnquist is proving this point perfectly, but he isn't the only one in recent history to have stayed too long.

As for the intention of the founders - I think an 18 year term is enough to insulate them from political whims, while also allowing for younger and more mentally agile justices to take over. With a new justice taking over every two years, all presidents would have two appointments to make per term. Liberals might not like the idea when someone like President Bush serves two terms, but he was elected twice and based on that deserves to make appointments to the court. This might also force voters to think more about who they are electing to the presidency and the impact that will have on the Supreme Court.

I think this is only a good idea because the problem of justices serving too long has been a recent development. It was something the founders likely never foresaw; but now that we are facing it, we need to do something about it.

Paintings By Biff

I am RINO, hear me roar.

Our buddy over at Countertop Chronicles provides us with this week's latest RINO roundup.

Roberts Scandal!

Kaus:
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts appears to drive a Chrysler PT Cruiser. This may be the scariest thing I've heard about him. ... An ugly, immature attempt at returning to an earlier era! Is that what the Constitution will look like after Roberts is through with it? Probe this issue thoroughly, Sen. Schumer!

Abstract Screed: Pluralism vs. Multiculturalism

Oversized post alert.

One of the most troubling questions of our times has been what the role of multiculturalism and pluralism in our society should be. Floating around since 7/7 there's been a lot of different motifs and memes related to or invoking multiculturlism that have really reverberated through all of the GWOT. One of them is of course the ridiculous leftist notion that somehow we as a civilization or our governments are to blame for the actions of a few fanatics. Imagine this or dub this argument multiculturalism on steroids. Another is the slightly less ridiculous, though still wrongheaded right-wing notion that somehow multiculturalism is to blame. That the toleration of Muslim cultural differences and sometimes extremism in our midst has allowed the terrorists to happen is a version of this virulent anti-multiculturalism. Mark Steyn in the Australian reeks of this attitude while describing a real-life encounter between a USDA bureaucrat and Mohammad Atta. Atta wanted a farm-subsidy to build America's biggest crop-duster, and went to speak to Johnelle Bryant at the USDA about it. The meeting went as follows, in Steyn's words:

The meeting got off to a rocky start when Atta refused to deal with Bryant because she was but a woman. But, after this unpleasantness had been smoothed out, things went swimmingly. When it was explained to him that, alas, he wouldn't get the 650 grand in cash that day, Atta threatened to cut Bryant's throat. He then pointed to a picture behind her desk showing an aerial view of downtown Washington - the White House, the Pentagon et al - and asked: "How would America like it if another country destroyed that city and some of the monuments in it?"

Fortunately, Bryant's been on the training course and knows an opportunity for multicultural outreach when she sees one. "I felt that he was trying to make the cultural leap from the country that he came from," she recalled. "I was attempting, in every manner I could, to help him make his relocation into our country as easy for him as I could."

So a few weeks later, when fellow 9/11 terrorist Marwan al-Shehhi arrived to request another half-million dollar farm subsidy and Atta showed up cunningly disguised with a pair of glasses and claiming to be another person entirely - to whit, al-Shehhi's accountant - Bryant sportingly pretended not to recognise him and went along with the wheeze. The fake specs, like the threat to slit her throat and blow up the Pentagon, were just another example of the multicultural diversity that so enriches our society.

By all means a story that chills anyone's blood. Anyone could take any number of lessons from this, about vigilance, about the limits of cross-cultural dialogue, about the evilness of farm subsidies, about the "ingenuity" of Al-Qaida operatives, or about the bumbling nature of the Federal Government's bureaucracy. Whatever. Steyn lumps the situation together with the horror Douglas Wood experienced at the hands of Iraqi insurgents and the subsequent reaction of Australia's left-wing press together and learns an altogether different lesson. That lesson is that multiculturalism has made us weak:
Usually it's the hostage who gets Stockholm Syndrome, but the newly liberated Wood must occasionally reflect that in this instance the entire culture seems to have caught a dose. And, in a sense, we have: multiculturalism is a kind of societal Stockholm Syndrome. Atta's meetings with Bryant are emblematic: He wasn't a genius, a master of disguise in deep cover; indeed, he was barely covered at all, he was the Leslie Nielsen of terrorist masterminds - but the more he stuck out, the more Bryant was trained not to notice, or to put it all down to his vibrant cultural tradition.

That's the great thing about multiculturalism: it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures - like, say, the capital of Bhutan or the principal exports of Malaysia, the sort of stuff the old imperialist wallahs used to be well up on. Instead, it just involves feeling warm and fluffy, making bliss out of ignorance. And one notices a subtle evolution in multicultural pieties since the Islamists came along. It was most explicitly addressed by the eminent British lawyer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, who thought that it was too easy to disparage "Islamic fundamentalists". "We as western liberals too often are fundamentalist ourselves. We don't look at our own fundamentalisms."

It's an altogether easy trick to blame multiculturalism and decry. And multiculturalism does deserve perhaps some blame. With less of it, perhaps Atta might have been caught, but that's doubtful. Steyn also highlights that the attitude in the left-wing press of Australia has started to switch from multiculturalism to assimilationism in the wake of 9/11, a development Steyn sees as a good thing. Joseph Braude at TNR mentions a similar backlash against multiculturalism:
In the wake of the July 7 bombings in London, British pluralism finds itself on the defensive. The revelation that Muslims living in Britain may have carried out the attacks has led many Brits to question whether their government made a mistake by welcoming so many immigrants from Muslim countries over the years. A British Daily Mail editorial faulted the country's "political establishment" for having "so unthinkingly foisted multiculturalism on society. Hasn't it unwittingly encouraged separatism, alienation, and the ghetto mentality?" A contributor to The Times of London's op-ed page echoed this sentiment, writing that "Multiculturalism as a political ideology has helped to create a tribal Britain with no political or moral centre." Meanwhile, here in the United States, Newsday columnist James Pinkerton has written a string of pieces calling for crackdowns on immigration and get-tough policies toward Muslims in the West. "If a group can't be made, one way or another, to abide by the rules of its adopted home country, the group ought not to be living freely in that country," he wrote. Lamenting that "hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants are turning London into 'Londonistan,'" he urged Americans to "not let New York become 'New Yorkistan.'"

That is where any similarities between Braude and Steyn end. Braude latches onto a point about all of this, and that is multiculturalism's critical brother: pluralism. Pluralism is a pillar of liberalism and also one of conservatism. Just ask archconservative John Kekes (who wrote two books on the subject: A Case for Conservatism and The Morality of Pluralism). Braude's point in TNR is a smarter one that Is Multiculturalism Dangerous and Is It A Good Thing That Multiculturalism Is Dying? His question is: What is the correct and socially beneficial form of multiculturalism? Of course, the answer is pluralism.
But diaspora Muslims may, in the long run, be doing more than any government policy possibly could to undermine Islamist terror. That's because Muslims living in America and Europe are a key conduit for the diffusion of Western cultural values to North Africa and the Middle East. Chief among these values are family planning and the education of women. In the course of traveling to and from their countries of origin, keeping in touch with friends and family by email and phone, and remitting billions of dollars in cash to the region annually, Muslim expats are steadily, quietly influencing the life-cycle decisions of their extended families; and there is strong evidence that this has already translated into lower birth rates in most Arab countries.

[snip]

The arrival of the "demographic gift" has the potential to change all that, and should therefore be bright news for Arab reformers. The UNDP has thoroughly documented over the past few years how, from Morocco to Iran, birth rates are falling and, in some cases, falling dramatically. As more women demand education and use birth control, the number of under-15-year-old dependents is shrinking. Yet this hopeful shift is surprisingly alien to popular discussions of terrorism and the Middle East. Even less well known is the crucial role diaspora Muslims may have played in bringing it about.

People traffic means idea traffic. This simple point informs a landmark paper released at a U.N. conference last month by population studies scholar Philippe Fargues. The paper uses statistical data from the Middle East and North Africa to demonstrate convincingly that "international migration has contributed to contain the demographic explosion ... increas[ing] global security through demographic change. ... [B]ecause international migrants adopt for themselves, and send back to their home countries, models and ideas that prevail in host countries, they are susceptible to be agents of the diffusion of demographic modernity."


The security solution in terms of culture isn't too get wishy-washy lefty and try to do the terrorists' work of justifying their murders for them with relativist bullshit, nor is it to crack down and force assimilation and antagonism of Muslims. It is, instead, the wishy-washy act of engaging diasporic Muslims better. The worst kind of relativist multiculturalism isolates Muslims in the same way forced assimilation does. It doesn't engage in dialogue, it doesn't bring their communities into the fold, but isolates them by non-interference and non-engagement. That's just as bad as crushing communities and stifling dissent with heavy-handed assimilation efforts. New York will never be New Yorkistan, because New York has the right approach, and that isn't standoffish multi-culturalism but a blending of communities. New York is probably the closest thing to a pluralist model that you can probably find (and bursting with the subsequent racial and ethnic tensions that are symptoms of a pluralism hard at work). It's that lesson that many countries will need to learn.

Lots of Talk About the Church

A column from July 17 in the Washington Post has gotten a lot of attention and sparked some good debate. In the column, John W. Fountain talks about how churches in the inner city are failing black men. In his opinion, the church today is more concerned with materialism and self-preservation, instead of reaching out to those who need the church’s teachings the most. The author sees church leaders driving expensive cars, leaders whose congregation lives in the inner city while they choose to live in the suburbs. One of his comments that hit home the most is how unavailable some leaders are – one of whom compared himself to a CEO of a large company. Above all else, a church leader needs to be available to his people.

But this article, as the online discussion that came after the article was published shows, is about more than how the church turns its back on African-American men. It is about how many churches in many communities are not acting in the way God intended. And straight talk like this, talk that is not afraid to be critical, is necessary if churches are to get back to caring most about ministry – about being a good shepherd and finding lost sheep.

Looking back at the church I grew up in, there is one thing that stands out; and that is its role in the community. If civic involvement is decreasing as Robert Putman would have us believe, the church might be one of the few remaining places that can maintain civic bonds and build a sense of connectedness and shared destiny within a community. Leaders of the church need to realize this and try their hardest to not just lead inside the church, but be leaders in the community. And they can start by living in the community, so there will be no doubt that problems in that community affect them as well.

Is Michael Bay Done For?

Having seen Wedding Crashers, I knew it was good. I didn't know it was 80 million in 10 days good. But, I have to say, it's quite a blow to superaction Director Michael Bay that his new scifi epic The Island opened at only $12.1 M! He was beat by the Okay 4 (which, even though predicted to be a bomb has now raked in $122 M over the last 3 and a half weeks). It's not a good sign for anyone's career when you put together an action movie with McGregor and Johannson in it (2 of the supposedly hottest actors right now) and you end up getting pounded by Michael Chiklis. I'm saying it now, Michael Bay's career is in some serious jeopardy. His movies are always budget-busters, and the only he's pulled a decent sized hit out of recently was Bad Boys 2, which was still hailed as a disappointment because of its failure to measure up to anywhere near the box office of the original. And you know what? I'm not going to miss him.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Siege Continues

Egypt has been victim to the deadliest terrorist attack in that country's history, a bombing that has killed 88 people at the Red Sea Resort of Sharm el-Shaikh. Condemnations have come from the U.S., the White House, and now also from embattled states of Lebanon and Iraq. Al-Qaida's latest spree of violence has accomplished untold terror and horror, and murdered many innocent civilians. And, of course, this kind of senseless violence is their goal. It's likely to be a Pyrrhic victory, though. Mubarak has already gone on the defensive, and is likely to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. I stand with the Egyptians, and I hope they can bring these killers to justice. My thoughts and prayers go to them, as to the Londoners. These attacks have only highlighted how critical the GWOT is, as such time has passed since 9/11 it's easy for some people to forget and to move on. But the U.S., the UK, Europe, and especially the Middle East are all still locked in a struggle with these murderers, and they still have the power to hurt anyone anywhere.

UPDATE: Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh is where you can get a powerful first-hand account of this tragedy, and a hot cup of rage from a real Egyptain. I stand with you, Big Pharaoh, and wish your country and the rest of the Middle East the best of luck in stopping these amoral terrorists. (Via Instapundit, with unusually good, even for his standards, meta-links on this.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sun sets on the sunset for the USA Patriot Act

Lawmakers narrowly turned back an effort by Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Virginia, to renew the expiring Patriot Act provisions for four more years, rather than making them permanent -- an amendment that drew spirited support from archconservative Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California.

Rohrabacher said he supported the Patriot Act in 2001 because of the threat faced by the country after 9/11, but only under the belief that once the emergency was over, "the government would again return to a level consistent with a free society."

"We should not be required to live in peacetime under the extraordinary laws that were passed during times of war and crisis. Emergency powers of investigation should not become the standard once the crisis has passed," he said, drawing applause from his colleagues.

But House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisconsin, who shepherded the bill through the House, said sunset provisions were not necessary because there was no evidence the Patriot Act was being misused and lawmakers could provide sufficient oversight.

He also said 13 of the 16 provisions up for renewal have not been controversial, including one allowing increased communication between the FBI and CIA.

"Why sunset legislation where there's been no actual record of abuse and vigorous oversight?" Sensenbrenner said.

In the end, the amendment failed, with 209 in favor and 218 opposed.



I've stated before on this blog that the USA Patriot Act should be renewed by re-sunsetted for a date certain. I believe doing so is a wise course of action which will ensure that the issues involving the Patriot Act find their reemergence in political discussion in the near future rather than being shunted aside and forgotten by the shifting seas of political fortune, and most likely relegated, like everything else, to policymaking by the courts of law, which will divorce public opinion from public policy and further degrade political control over prosecuting the criminal front in the war on terror.

I'm saddened to see the House didn't see the wisdom of renewing the sunset, and I doubt the Senate will act to reinsert the sunset when it takes up the matter. I'm afraid it will reach the President's desk without the provision.

Sensenbrenner has got it completely ass-backwards to think that making this provision permanent because no major abuses were committed in the first 4 years of the legislation. He should take to heart the wisdom of President Reagan: "A government bureau is the closest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth."


We shouldn't be so quick to give eternal life to this legislation, and Sensenbrenner and other Republicans would be wise to consider the damage they could affect in the long run to the Republican coalition which needs the votes and financial support of a good number of libertarian-minded voters.

Looking to the Moose

Bull Moose has done a great job analyzing the attempted London bombings - and has included some great analysis from other people as well. One of his best points is the following:

"As the Moose has previously noted, the Jihadist threat is a fight against the modern variant of the reactionary fascist scourge. It is not a generic fight against terrorism, but rather a specific battle against a totalitarian ideology that has hijacked a faith."

He goes on to say that although British Prime Minister Tony Blair clearly understands that this is a war of ideas, both Republicans and Democrats seem to miss this point. The right is intent on the war aspect of the fight against terrorism, but does not seem to fully grasp that minds need to be changed also. Which is why the Bush administration should echo Blair's call for a summit to deal with Islamic extremism - and include Middle Eastern countries in this summit.

But worse, the left seems too intent on bashing the Bush administration and connecting the attacks to the War in Iraq or other problems that the Middle East has with western policies. This time the Moose uses someone else's words to argue that liberals need to change their focus:

"The case for the liberal war against the Jihadists is also passionately articulated in an article by Peter Ross Range in the forthcoming Blueprint,

'If it weren't already obvious that liberals should be leading exponents of the war on terror -- rather than only its sharpest critics -- then the London terror attacks should have had a clarifying effect. By striking one of the most liberal-minded cities in the world, the jihadists showed their disdain for the place where more Muslims have found greater refuge from the failings of their own societies, politically and economically, than anywhere else. Nowhere else do they experience greater freedom of speech -- including the right to use their mosques to incite violence against non-Muslims.'"


Those on the left should not refrain from criticism of the Bush administration, but we should realize the terrorists have no legitimate grievances. They are not protesting policies but attacking the fundamental aspects of our society that we hold dear.

Long Essay on Tradition

I have been reading / skimming a really powerful essay from the Wall Street Journal. Lee Harris dissects cultural relativism and the defense of tradition in an attempt to understand the arguments surrounding the culture war and gay marriage. Most of what I have read is interesting and provokes serious thought. Unfortunately, since I certainly don't have the time to read the 14,000 word essay while I am at work, I can't comment on the conclusions. But I think it will be a very stimulating read for those who have the time - and I plan to finish it this weekend.

Under the Radar

I think Friedman has a good point here. In his latest column for the NY Times he says we should make the names of people guilty of hate speech and excusing terrorism public. We live in an open society where free speech is one of the rights we cherish most (although there are limits). But that doesn't mean we have to tolerate people inciting hatred or claiming that terrorism is an understandable response. Friedman says that those making hate speeches usually like to do it in private - believing they are only talking to people just like them. He goes on to say that once they are confronted, they usually are forced to take back what they said. I'm not sure to what extent that is true, but I definitely think the public needs to be much more aware of who is making these hate speeches so that we can bring pressure to bear on them. For too long these people have felt comfortable making hate speeches because they have been largely ignored or remained under the radar.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Siege

London has been attacked again, but this time with no fatalities, Thank God. My thoughts and prayers to the Londoners as they deal with yet more terror inflicted on their world-class city, and I'm sure the other Restless Maniacs agree. Likely, Al Qaida is only going to strengthen the British resolve, but I dread even more the insipid terrorist apologism to creep out as a likely result of this. This is a reminder that it can happen to you, that lightning can strike, and that the whole world needs to keep its vigilance against these fanatical butchers.

Flashback to the Souter nomination

I didn't follow this stuff back then as I was only 11 years old, but here's how the Souter confirmation was covered in the Post:

The day of the vote, 2 October 1990, in a piece by E.J. Dionne:


The liberal coalition that proved so formidable against Robert H. Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court fell apart when confronted with Judge David H. Souter, because many in its ranks were unwilling to risk an almost hopeless fight over a nominee who provided his foes with so little ammunition.

But the ease with which Souter sailed through the confirmation process -- his nomination is expected to be overwhelmingly ratified by the Senate today -- has left some leaders of feminist and abortion rights groups disappointed and angry. Last summer, they hoped that the abortion issue would become the centerpiece of the confirmation battle and that Souter's lack of a clear public position on the issue would rally opposition.

Instead, many of the groups that played a key role in the battle against Bork -- notably People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union -- decided not to oppose Souter, which made it easier for many of the Senate's staunch liberals to support him.

"I find it all a puzzle," said Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Fund for a Feminist Majority. "To us, it sets a very troubling double standard because on the record, this is a very anti-civil rights, anti-civil liberties, anti-women's rights vote."

"I was totally incredulous that there was only one who had the guts to vote no," said Molly Yard, president of the National Organization for Women, referring to the sole negative vote against Souter in the Judiciary Committee cast by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass). Kennedy was sufficiently frustrated over the lack of opposition to Souter that he personally rallied civil rights groups to come out against him.

Many leaders of the liberal and civil rights coalition argued that talk of division in the ranks has been exaggerated. What happened with Souter, they said, had nothing to do with divisions over principle and everything to do with tactics -- and with Souter's brilliant ambiguity during his Senate testimony.



The day after the vote, a piece by Helen DeWar:


The Senate voted 90 to 9 last night to confirm Judge David H. Souter to succeed retired Justice William J. Brennan Jr. on the Supreme Court.

President Bush's first nominee to the court was approved by a strong bipartisan majority despite complaints by some Democrats that Souter's views on many constitutional issues remain a mystery. As a replacement for the court's most powerful liberal voice, the 51-year-old New Hampshire native is expected to play a key role in shaping the court's direction in years to come.

Only liberal Democratic Sens. Brock Adams (Wash.), Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii), Bill Bradley (N.J.), Quentin N. Burdick (N.D.), Alan Cranston (Calif.), Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), John F. Kerry (Mass.), Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) and Barbara A. Mikulski (Md.) voted against confirming Souter as the 105th justice of the court. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) did not vote.


I'm not too worried history will repeat itself and Roberts will be W's Souter, but it is a possibility when you have a candidate who sails to confirmation on the vagueness of his record. At any rate, EJ Dionne's column today reflects his wariness that in fact Roberts may be just as every bit conservative as the Left fears:

The Bush administration will be trying to create a nice-guy stampede to Roberts among moderate Democrats and Republicans. The stampede should be resisted until everyone knows more about where Roberts stands. Conservatives were surprised at how liberal Justice Souter turned out to be. There will be no excuse for discovering too late that Roberts is every bit as conservative as his supporters think he is.

I hope so, E.J. If Bush could reverse the one-term curse his father suffered under, I'm cautiously confident that nominating solid Court justices is in the bag too.

I've just lost some respect for Ken Salazar

The guy's a Democrat, and I hope he gets tossed in 2010 when he faces election. I hoped Pete Coors* would win, but he didn't, but Salazar ran as a moderate and he hasn't been a fire-breathing crazy partisan liberal Democrat so far. Sure, he's left of center a little, but he's a standup guy it seems to me.

So why the hell do you go and do dumb shit like this, Ken, why?:

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) released a letter addressed to the president lamenting what he said was a missed opportunity to assure the inclusion of women at all levels of government. "You and I both have two daughters," Salazar wrote. "The profound message we should be giving to them is that their gender creates no limitations for them to live up to their God-given potential. Yet, I fear that with the loss of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor from the United States Supreme Court, we are sending the opposite message."
That is just moronic and cheap, Ken, and what's worse, it's the cheap inanity that I expect from say Jim Jordan:

Democratic strategist Jim Jordan said that by not appointing a woman or Latino, Bush has "highlighted a negative stereotype of the party -- a party that truly only welcomes conservative white males. That's an unflattering view of the party and one frankly we thought they were trying to ameliorate."
Of course, Jordan and all his slimey hack friends know that's not the case, considering Bush's picks of moderate to conservative blacks, women, and Latinos to serve in his administration, and Bush going to the mat to support Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen recently, and that two highly qualified female 5th Circuit judges were among the short list finalists for the O'Connor seat.

Look, the O'Connor seat should be filled with a highly skilled and qualified jurist. By all accounts, John Roberts is that. By all accounts, there were both men and women up to that task. So why cheapen O'Connor's legacy and her seat by making it an female-quota post on the high court's bench, which is essentially what happens when you whine that its 'unfortunate' a woman was replaced by a man in the O'Connor seat.

I expect a lot of sleazy, cheap politics with this confirmation, but at least keep it to the merits of Roberts's rulings and his judicial philosophy. Gender politics is outdated and insulting to the legacy of accomplished female jurists, especially Sandra Day O'Connor.

Bluegrass – The New Jazz

For those of you seeking the intensity and fast improvisations of jazz music, but want it in a modern form that is exciting and evolving, I suggest you look to bluegrass. As bands like the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Widespread Panic stop touring or wind down, jam band fans have already turned to bluegrass as a replacement (not surprising given Jerry Garcia’s background was bluegrass music). Since every subgenre has to have a name, this resurgence is being called jamgrass.

The future of this movement rests in the plucking and rolling hands of people like Chris Thile, a young but brilliant mandolin player. His solo album Not All Who Wander Are Lost is an example of how bluegrass can be exciting and modern. In the album he teams up with greats Bela Fleck (banjo virtuoso), Jerry Douglas (probably the best Dobro player in the world), Edger Meyer (classical / bluegrass crossover bassist), and many more including his band-mates from Nickel Creek, Sarah and Sean Watkins. This album is fast when it needs to be – like any good bluegrass album should be. But there are also songs that are slow and beautiful. Fans of Nickel Creek will be reminded of their self-titled debut album. But this one is far more mature as Thile benefits from the collaboration with Fleck, Meyer and company. The album plays well straight through as the power of all the musicians bring the songs to life. One of the strenths of this album though is that Thile mixes it up, leaving some musicians off certain songs, which gives every song its own feel. This is especially noticeable on Club GROSS, where Thile plays with jazz saxophonist and member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Jeff Coffin. The song adds a jazz-based sound to the album, while still fitting in with the overall theme of the album, which is heavy on improvisation.

I have been thirsting for more bluegrass after discovering some older albums by Bela Fleck (Drive and The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet Volume 2). For a while I was afraid I would be consigned to a life of consuming old relics, much like I do with jazz – unable to find excitement in modern musicians of the genre. I thought maybe the bluegrass movement died when Newgrass Revival split up – long before my love of this music started. I can rest assured though with young musicians like Chris Thile maturing, and with help from chiseled veterans like the ones he has on this album, bluegrass will continue to produce exciting new music for some time.

On another positive note, with this resurgence, Bela Fleck is looking back to his roots in bluegrass after spending many years with the funk / jazz / bluegrass fusion band Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Going back to the movement he helped launch as part of Newgrass Revival should give even more life to this movement that continues to grow.

MSM - Flame ON!

Countries have warred for lesser reasons. Maybe this incident will piss the MSM off enough that they'll actually put Darfur front and center.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanded and received an apology Thursday after Sudanese security guards manhandled staff members and press accompanying her on her journey to the country.

The incidents occurred while Rice was meeting with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Bashir. Sudanese officials shoved U.S. journalists away from the Bashir meeting, grabbed a tape from a reporter and slammed the wooden doors to his palace in their faces.

Some U.S. officials were also blocked for several minutes before the Sudanese agreed to allow Rice and aides in. The media was later allowed to witness briefly the talks.

At one point, NBC's Andrea Mitchell attempted to ask a question about the killing of innocent civilians in Sudan and was physically pulled away and told there were no questions allowed.

Angered U.S. reporters responded that the press corps with Rice as a "free press," but were told by a Bashir aide that "it's not a free press here."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Let My Ballers Go

I have to say that the focus on graduation rates and college athletes leaving school early for the NBA or NFL is more than a little hypocritical. In both sports there are effectively no minor leagues – so the college and universities become the feeder programs for the professional teams. Most athletes therefore will have to attend college in order to get drafted in these sports. Some athletes, especially basketball, can prove they are ready before they graduate, and therefore leave school early for the professional draft. Sports analysts spend so much time talking about whether or not this is a good thing.

The problem is that no one is talking about a similar problem with baseball and hockey athletes who never attend or finish college. Because both of those sports have solid minor league feeder systems (baseball has the minor league organizations affiliated with professional teams and hockey has the Canadian junior leagues, the IHL and AHL), many of the athletes will pursue their professional sports ambitions immediately after graduation from high school. But since they don’t go straight into the pros, the fact that they are not attending college is much less visible.

If we are to give serious attention to the way professional sports draw youth away from higher education we should do it for every sport. But that is certainly not what I am really advocating. Instead, I say we allow all athletes to decide, for themselves, what level of education they want to pursue and when they want to focus their full attention on their professional sports career. Many athletes have the opportunity to attend college for free if they so choose – but it should remain a choice. Of course we want as many people to take advantage of these opportunities as possible – but higher education isn’t for everyone and so it shouldn’t be forced on anyone.

Loading Up the Belts

SCOTUS has released its oral arguments schedule for the next term, and SCOTUSblog has the exhausting list. The (not really) surprise? Two abortion cases. One involves a health exception for parental notification, and the other blockades of abortion clinics. Hmmmm. . . .Looks like if Roberts gets confirmed we'll see where he stands by a year from now.

Bush's evil smirk, oh no, wait, he likes children

Makes me wonder what the hell goes through the average person's mind when they attempt to pay attention to politics:


New York, N.Y.: Last night I watched Bush's nomination speech on CNN. I kept thinking he looked smug and had an "evil" grin on his face. It wasn't until later that evening that Nightline showed the speech from a different angle, and there was Robert's son playing and jumping in front of the podium which was obviously what was making the President grin. Do you think the White House is aware that most people probably never saw that wider angle view?

Michael Fletcher: I'm sure they are aware of that. The White House communications people watch such broadcasts closely so they understand how their message is getting across. I'm willing to guess that they wouldn't have characterized his grin as 'evil.' In any event, they, more than most of us, understand the president's various quirks and they often put them to use on his behalf.

Best Reaction So Far

Award for best John Roberts reaction goes to Vodkapundit, hands down. First, there is this monumental piece of honesty that came last night:
Yeah, I'll have something on John Roberts here before long.

In the meantime, here's the short version: Who?

You gotta love a blogger who just admits they have no idea who someone in the news is. I admit it was definitely my first reaction. Then Mr. Green continues today on his vodka-fueled commentary:
There's no fun to be had with John Roberts. Look at his picture, and he could be an orthodontist giving a commencement speech. Hell, even his name is dull. But what about his legal stuff? You got me.

[snip]

Blogs for Bush has a roundup of conservative blogger reaction to Roberts. The response is almost uniformly positive. Correction – almost uniformly ecstatic. What's all the excitement about? Meanwhile, the usual crackpots are cracking the usual pots. What are they so upset about? Meanwhile, saner people are taking a wait-and-see attitude.


There's also a lot about how John Roberts is a cipher, a flip-flopper, GWB got what he said he was going to get, etc., etc. All in all, Green proves himself again to be one of the most independent don't-give-a-shit-about partisan koolaid, what color it is, or what it tastes like. Stick with the vodka.

Boogie Shoes!

He Couldn't Hold It Together Any Longer

When They are Happy, I'm Not Happy

After reading the first pieces on President Bush's nominee, John Roberts, I felt untroubled, and I thought I agreed with many others that it could have been worse. It reassured me that despite the fact that he has written briefs that argued to overturn Roe v. Wade, he has said on record that he favors following precedent. But then I read a column on the Wall Street Journal and became a little alarmed. If the conservative base breathed a sigh of relief and went to sleep happy last night, then maybe I should be worried. There is more we need to learn about this nominee for sure, but when the conservative base is happy, I worry. I am glad we have plenty of time to review his record and think about the impact he could have on the court.

Nuclear India (Not a Form of Indigestion Obtained After Eating Curry)

The recent PR show with India is about more than just, well, PR with India. The strengthening of ties with the World's Largest Democracy and the agreements on nuclear technology have a lot more to do with China, and a troubling assessment by the Pentagon:
Over the longer term, however, an increasingly modern Chinese military could pose a threat to U.S. and other forces in the Asia-Pacific region, it said.

“Some of China’s military planners are surveying the strategic landscape beyond Taiwan,” the report said.

Among a number of such developments, it noted improvements in Chinese intercontinental-range missiles “capable of striking targets across the globe, including the United States.” Air and naval force improvements also appear to be geared for operations beyond the geography around Taiwan, it added.

Fueled by a booming economy and foreign arms purchases, China’s military is developing new capabilities in line with Beijing’s strategy of deterring Taiwan from declaring its independence and countering a potential U.S. military intervention, according to the 45-page report, an annual assessment required by Congress.

CS Monitor argues that the recent talks with India and deals on nuclear technology are designed to help build India into a counterbalance against China's ascending technology and economy. Recently, India's naval buildup signals a desire on India's part to become a strong regional power, and with pushing and prompting from the U.S. the nation could become an effective foil for checking Chinese regional ambitions. It does seem to be part of a new geopolitical strategy:
But perhaps the greatest significance of the plan is what it says about 21st- century geopolitics and in particular about a Bush administration vision for dealing with China, some analysts say.

"The crux of this announcement is what it tells us about the US grand strategy, and that behind whatever else is going on here the US is preparing for a grand conflict with China and constructing an anti-China coalition," says Joseph Cirincione, head of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "In that scenario, India is even more valuable as a nuclear power, rather than as a nonnuclear country."

The White House plan, which would allow India broader access to international technology for its nuclear power industry in exchange for India granting some access to international inspections, still faces high hurdles: Opposition is expected to be strong both in the US Congress and among other nuclear powers who along with the US would have some say.

The building of a sort of "anti-China coalition" would not be without its risks, though. The U.S. has already had lots of problems in trying to simultaneously get closer to Pakistan and India at once, while the cold war between those two countries continues in violent Kashmir. Giving India technology is likely to make Pakistan jealous, and want similar treatment. And round and round we go. The embracing of nuclear India and spread of nuclear technology damages non-proliferation efforts as well, allowing many would-be nuclear powers a clear example of how a nation can go from being a pariah because of developing weapons to an accepted partner.

It's a risky gamble, but China is increasingly a threat. If preparations aren't made, then a violent annexation of Taiwan (and whatever other Tibet-like piece of land China decides it likes) could catch the U.S. off-guard.

It's Like I Wrote It Myself

The link in the header is to a NYT Op-Ed about SCOTUS nominee, Judge John Roberts. It's the closest thing I've come across to my own thoughts. Basically, I reserve a cautious opinion.

With Judge Roberts being a conservative, there are things I will fundamentally disagree with - but that doesn't mean he'll be a bad Justice. Currently, my gut instinct is saying the kid is alright. However, my guts also seem to have shit for brains sometimes.

Imperial Judiciary Alert with a Kelo tie in

Nope, this isn't about Judge Roberts, but rather a state judge in Maryland who apparently doesn't get the notion of separation of powers, nor of the limits of the power of the judiciary.

A judge in Carroll County is sending a clear message to the county planning commission -- either approve a townhouse project planned for Eldersburg or go to jail for contempt of court. Circuit Judge Michael Galloway said the commission violated a previous court order when it voted last year to reject the planned 254-home project. The commission cited inadequate facilities and congestion when it rejected the development. The dispute spans a decade and included a court order in 1999 directing that commissioners approve the plan, which was subsequently shelved for several years by the developer. The commission is to meet Thursday with the county attorney to discuss its options, including possible avenues in court.
That's right, Judge Galloway ordered an elected commission to vote in the affirmative on a zoning issue or face jail time. I sure as hell hope this gets reversed in court, but even if it is overturned eventually, this sounds like a valid reason for the Maryland General Assembly to pursue impeachment proceedings against the judge. To impose any legislative action by court fiat backed by use of armed force is egregious, doubly so when enacted to further this private profiteering.

Maybe the planning commission is too "anti-growth" and maybe the economic development benefits and tax-base enhancing benefits are in the long-term public interest, but that is for the people of Carroll County, Maryland, to decide by political and electoral processes as set forth in law, not for a state judge by threat of arms against elected representatives of the people. At the very most I could see a case for green-lighting the development contrary to the final ruling of the commission, but arresting the commissioners for acting in their official capacity under the law?

I said on this blog and I'll say again that Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich should make the Kelo ruling a plank of his 2006 reelection campaign, or at least push for legislation to temper Kelo on the state level in the 2006 General Assembly session. He should take separate action, however, on this, calling for the appropriate actions to be taken by the legislature and where feasible, executive agencies to put political pressure to bear on Judge Galloway, hopefully to the end of tendering his resignation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The pundits on Roberts

So I've only seen Fox News coverage so far, but the recurring theme seems to be that Roberts is a traditional conservative a la Rehnquist (for whom, by the way, he clerked at one time), but not a "movement" conservative like Scalia or Thomas.

Former Democratic bogeyman/Clinton Watergate independent counsel Ken Starr said he was quite familiar with Roberts professionally and that he was a "straight down the middle of the fairway traditional conservative" if memory serves.

At any rate, he only got three nay votes on confirmation to the DC Circuit a few years back: Durbin, Kennedy, and Schumer, the latter of which was on hand at a press conference immediately following Bush's announcement to lambaste Roberts and promise a thorough grilling.

I'm quite optimistic that Democrats have zero-to-slim chances of turning this into a circus and Borking the guy. I think what will confirm that will be if the Democrats rally back to the Rove/Plame/CIA controversy for red meat rather than choosing to take on Bush on this matter save for a few obligatory scattershots across the senatorial bow.

DC Appeals - Anyone Surprised?

News reports are now saying President Bush will nominate John G. Roberts, Jr. as Supreme Court Justice. Roberts appears to be very conservative - but also a strict contructionist which we know is what Bush was looking for. He apparantly has a past that involves Roe v. Wade which is sure to draw attacks from liberal groups - but the details are still a little murky this early so stay tuned. Look for this to be a nasty fight, but I don't expect any filibusters due to his qualifications and very strong legal background.

Clement-cy

Well, we'll know for sure tonight but the buzz is definitely on Ms. Edith Clement for the SCOTUS nomination. She seems to be a newcomer. SCOTUS blog has an exhaustive list of her opinions, which isn't hard because she hasn't been around long. She does seem to be somewhat of a strict constructionist, but is mostly a big mystery. This is probably a smart idea on Bush's part. Now if the far right wants to heckle his choice, well they have to heckle his choice and any associated distasteful banter will be coming from them. Also, she doesn't have a history, so liberals won't be able to attack her very well. Win-win for him, because he doesn't have to be the bad guy to either the left or the right. He's giving them both ropes to hang themselves with in public, and one can at least say he's having faith in new blood in the judiciary. My guess is we won't see much judicial activism on her part because she believes that most laws are by nature constitutional, and would look at most things from a Commerce clause angle. Likely she'll be friendly to big business, which won't hurt Bush among the moderate Republicans. All in all, tactically a brilliant choice on Bush's fault and one that removes him from much of the controversy. Since she's untested, the paranoid extremists who attack her will look like, well, paranoid extremists.