Championship Belt-Holders of Irreverent and Offensive Commentary
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
The Brown Stuff
Coffee: Antioxidant, Carcinogen, Health Food, Sterilizer, Crime, Joy.
Rumble in the Blogs
It seems that Evil Glenn is in a mad spot of trouble. In a story that I think shows yet another wide gulf of rifts in the entire right of center, there are calls for mass de-linking of him. And the main diatribe can be found here. What did Evil Glenn do to incur such wrath? Well, he made a backhanded comment in one of his microposts, basically dissing a huge anti-ACLU book. What did he say?
BOOKS LIKE THIS ONE ON THE ACLU, which I just got in the mail, are probably no worse than the myriad of hatchet jobs done in the past on, say, the NRA or (more recently) the Federalist Society. But I think that demonizing the ACLU is a bit silly. I do feel that they've become overly partisan in recent years, but they still do good work (I've worked with them in the past, on the New Orleans rave case for example, and will probably do so again.)
That's the post in its entirety. Now, of course people are piling on him about this. How the ACLU stands for the destruction of American values, how they are in league with Terrorists, how they are the secular Taliban, etc. etc. etc. Those who read this snippet are so furious they claim they'll never read Evil Glenn again (haha, yeah right) and are sponsoring a movement to have him stripped off all their blogrolls. This may fascinate people on the left, considering Glenn is scene as one of the biggest Republican/rightwing shills out there. Lordy be if he assert the slightest independent though.
But onto why we should even care about this. Anyone that reads any of the Evil One in any of his Evil Forms (1, 2, or 3) will be acqaunted with the fact that the man is pretty much a classical libertarian, though one that is also very hawkish on Foreign Policy. He is pro-choice, pro-stem-cell research, and anti-death penalty. Rightwing indeed! But he represents a certain wing of the Republican party that, while not possessing a huge political base (going back to today's earlier Fukuyama post), commands a share of "intellectual firepower." Libertarians, while they share with the Republican party much in terms of being skeptical of government, generally anti-tax and pro-growth, and somewhat hawkish on foreign policy, break ranks with them over social issues. Quite a few also over the failed GWOD (Global War on Drugs, of course). Evil Glenn is one such character. And it's not surprising he would help the ACLU, which is sympathetic to certain Libertarian goals on the social and civil end, on certain cases.
But, of course, this is just blood in the water to the crazy Ann Coulter right who like to throw around words like "treason", "traitor", "un-American" like pez dispensers of hyperbole. The libertarians have put much of their intellectual firepower to good use for the right, giving them great economic policy ideas, an alternate set of effective talking points, and basically fueling the ability of Republicans to compete in socially-liberal blue states by giving the Rudy Giulianis a tough yet liberty-friendly platform and ideology to stride forward on. And this backlash against Evil Glenn shows how much gratitude it has earned them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing extremists destroy the very people that help them with their agendas over minor squabbles. All the much more when I disagree with those extremists. But if extreme right wingers continue such witchhunts amongst the rank and file of their own side, they'll only have their own empty numbers and hyperbolic rhetoric to keep them company on election day.
Time to Collect
I have been hard on Saudi Arabia for a long time, hoping that we would eventually start to demand major changes from what is supposed to be a close ally of ours. Unfortunately I realize that these expectations are not very realistic. It is unlikely that they will make progress towards becoming a democracy or respecting the rule of law anytime soon. And there is very little chance that they will do much of anything to reverse all the suffering they have caused by spreading Wahhabism throughout much of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The most we can expect is that they crack down a little on Al Qaeda cells in their country, stop donating money to charities that will eventually send that money to terrorist cells, and maybe stop some of the anti-American sermons coming from their religious leaders (notice I don't even expect major efforts on any of these fronts).
But I think I have finally come across a realistic contribution they can make to somewhat atone for their past mistakes. Bull Moose suggests that Saudi Arabia announce that it will donate money to help build infrastructure in Sunni areas of Iraq in an effort to convince Sunnis to support the new government. Since the Sunni areas lack oil revenue that could support rebuilding efforts, they will need support from wherever they can get it.
Granted, I don’t know how realistic this is. It sounds reasonable, but many great ideas have been thwarted because the Bush administration lacks the vision to see a good policy when it hits them in the face.
Bloggers and Accountability (Scary)
The idea that FEC regulations may apply to bloggers is a scary one. The notion that your comments and posts about a particular candidate may somehow become judged as "contributions" or "endorsements" and thus subject to a whole lot of federal buffoonery is outrageous. Outrageous, and, because of McCain Feingold, a possibility. But it may not just be big government who is out to crush bloggers' free speech zones. The private sector wants its turn too.
At issue are statements posted in the comments section of Mr. Wall's blog, SEOBook.com. Many blogs allow readers to post comments, often anonymously, and Mr. Wall's blog included several reader submissions that blasted tools sold by Traffic-Power.com.
Traffic-Power.com said in the suit that confidential information about the company has been published on the blog, and it accused Mr. Wall of publishing "false and defamatory information," but it didn't identify any of the material in question.
There may be more than one reason for bloggers to turn off comments now. While it's uncertain whether this lawsuit has any true legal basis, it's also unclear that it doesn't. And now that we have one case, there will surely be others. Hat tip, Sullivan.
The Cost of Douch Baggedness
[see story in link]
Don't get me wrong, I'm a very strong conservative, but guys like Steve Moore nauseate me in the way they comport themselves like douchebags. Right on policy, horrible on people skills, downright impossible in the humility department. I'm sure there are analogs on the Left, but either they aren't as horrible at covering it up or it's just not as pronounced as with Moore.
Moore, and just about every other free market capitalist conservative should take to heart this simple truth: there is a dignity, a majestic beauty to humbling yourself as a servant to and for your political cause, in sublimating your ego to a greater cause, and not for the sake of personal aggrandizement but for the benefit of your ideology. Seems to me Moore didn't, and never did, understand this when he huffed out of Club for Growth and started Free Enterprise Fund in part out of spite.
Perhaps a certain level of humility and non-assholishness would have averted both the Club and the Fund from being tarnished by the whiff of irrelevance, and/or from the Fund ever having been started as an F-you move by Moore to his compatriots at the Club for Growth.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Robinson
Today is Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson’s 70th birthday and the Washington Post has a long tribute to him. If you don’t know that he is probably the second greatest living baseball player right now behind Willie Mays, than you would do well to read the whole article. But besides finishing with 586 home runs, 2,943 hits, Rookie of the Year in 1956, National League MVP in 1961, and American League MVP, World Series MVP and the Triple Crown in 1966, he was also baseball’s first African-American manager in 1975 – 28 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier as a player. All Washingtonians should read up on the fascinating life of their fearless manager.
On another note, I’ll bet some of you are wondering why I haven’t weighed in yet on the National’s slide. I haven’t said anything because I don’t want to be like every other sports journalist who says the team is finished one day and then says they are back on track the next. There is no doubt that they are struggling right now and have been since the All-Star break. But many teams falter after having unexpected success in the beginning of the season. They will need to rebound in a serious way soon or they will find themselves watching the playoffs from their couch. I am not trying to sound harsh, but that is the reality. The Nationals need to start hitting - their pitching has been stellar but has not been getting the run support it deserves (the Nats are last in baseball in runs scored). They took a step in the right direction by acquiring infielder Deivi Cruz from the San Francisco Giants, finally deciding to give up on shortstop Christian Guzman who been underperforming with a batting average under .200 all season.
My prediction – the Nats will finish above .500 somewhere in the middle of the very competitive National League East. Look for the Atlanta Braves to take first in the division, and the Houston Astros or Florida Marlins to get the Wild Card (the Philadelphia Phillies do not have a chance). We should all realize there is no shame if the Nats finish above .500 but don't make the playoffs. The team has played better than most expected and can use the offseason to make a few moves and make an even better run at the playoffs next year - especially if they ever get new ownership.
Fukuyama for Thought
Normally, I think Mr. Fukuyama is full of crap. Him and his posthuman and posthistory and endofhistory crowd nauseate me. However, he's written an Op-Ed in the NYT that is blunt, lucid, and on-target. He dissects two currents of thought in the Republican party, and then explains what the tension is and why it is likely to get worse over Iraq.
So much attention has been paid to these false determinants of administration policy that a different political dynamic has been underappreciated. Within the Republican Party, the Bush administration got support for the Iraq war from the neoconservatives (who lack a political base of their own but who provide considerable intellectual firepower) and from what Walter Russell Mead calls "Jacksonian America" - American nationalists whose instincts lead them toward a pugnacious isolationism.
Happenstance then magnified this unlikely alliance. Failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the inability to prove relevant connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda left the president, by the time of his second inaugural address, justifying the war exclusively in neoconservative terms: that is, as part of an idealistic policy of political transformation of the broader Middle East. The president's Jacksonian base, which provides the bulk of the troops serving and dying in Iraq, has no natural affinity for such a policy but would not abandon the commander in chief in the middle of a war, particularly if there is clear hope of success.
This war coalition is fragile, however, and vulnerable to mishap. If Jacksonians begin to perceive the war as unwinnable or a failure, there will be little future support for an expansive foreign policy that focuses on promoting democracy. That in turn could drive the 2008 Republican presidential primaries in ways likely to affect the future of American foreign policy as a whole.
This is so spot-on its amazing, and it explains the eroding support for the war. The neoconservative and Straussian arguments (aside: Fukuyama himself is part of this camp) about the importance of bringing democracy to the Mideast, a new Iraq, and the use of American military power for humanitarian and history-changing ways have considerable weight to them. The only problem is they don't sell well. People like myself, Senor C, and Chainz can spew these out all day and they are often powerful moral and philosophical arguments. The problem is that Americans have never much bought into this kind of idealistic foreign policy, and it smacks so much of neo-Wilsonianism that people are starting to realize it and become a little bit timid in the face of such grandiose theories. That's why the neocons have "intellectual firepower" but no real political base of power, as Fukuyama wisely points out.
But Fukuyama isn't done there, he has one last important thing to say. In his closing, he states:
We do not know what outcome we will face in Iraq. We do know that four years after 9/11, our whole foreign policy seems destined to rise or fall on the outcome of a war only marginally related to the source of what befell us on that day. There was nothing inevitable about this. There is everything to be regretted about it.
This is why, on balance, I was against the war and now in a bizarre turn of events I am basically for it. Fukuyama sees what happened, and he sees the support eroding, and he sees the basis for the war as questionable, but understands that our whole foreign policy is at stake here. To me, that is why I cannot simply retreat to the safety of ivory-tower like arguments about the war's legitimacy. We've staked everything on the experiment in Iraq, and if it fails we and Iraq suffer an incalculable loss. But, since this is likely a neocon/Straussian/abstract notion it is unlikely to have political traction. And that is the saddest part of this whole saga. As we grapple with Iraq, and as one dives further into the consequences and problems, the desperation over the future and the frustration of the constitution building, its clear that there is still so much that has to be done before even the end of the beginning.
The failure of the Iraq policy is something some may secretly applaud because it would tear apart factions in the Republican party and would be bad news for President Bush. It would also play into the hands of so many "gotcha" politicians who have claimed (somewhat rightly) that Iraq was just a big distraction. Whatever you think of these consequences, there are consequences of a historical nature beyond that. There's the consequence of another tyranny arising in the Mideast, another Somalian bloodbath of a failed state, and perhaps the deaths of millions in an Iraqi civil war that could rage for years and plunge the entire region into terrorism and chaos. I for one am not willing to see the latter set of circumstances play out just to get the former. But again, this position has no political base and will likely not be taken into account.
If anything, Americans are likely to take an even more careful look at foreign policy after this situation plays out. However it plays out. Vietnam changed American foreign policy forever as it tested the limits, legitimacy, and ability of the U.S. to wage a certain type of war for certain ends against a certain type of enemy. Iraq is similar to Vietnam only in that it is such a test, but against another certain type of war and enemy, toward another set of ends.
Hat tip, The Moderate Voice.
Coalition for Darfur: What It Is All About
Last weekend, the blog Blue Girl, Red State wrote a post about a regular blog commenter who went by the name "Shameless Hussy."
Blue Girl reports that "Shameless Hussy" went to Darfur in June as a humanitarian volunteer and was traumatized by what she saw
What she dealt with daily goes beyond the pale...beyond the nightmares of most people; Children with all four limbs hacked off right above the knee or below the elbow. Twelve year olds who died in childbirth after being gang-raped by the Janjaweed. Women who gave birth to rape-babies who were then cast out by their families for shaming the family name, leaving only one avenue of survival for themselves and their children after the camps: Prostitution.This post receive a fair amount of attention within the blogosphere (as far as posts about Darfur go) mainly due to the fact that Kevin Drum linked to it. And while getting bloggers to pay attention to Darfur, if only for a minute, is a minor miracle, it is worth asking why it takes a post about traumatized aid workers to generate any interest in genocide.
What is f**ing her up is the desperation, and the fact that she worked herself to death for over a month, and she still didn't really save anyone. Now that she's gone, it's like she was never there. Even the ones she helped keep alive, she didn't save. You try dealing with that reality.
And women are the preponderance of victims. Men do not leave the villages to go to the countryside to gather firewood and other necessary items of sustenance. Women venture out, even though every time they leave their villages, they are at horrific risk of being beaten and raped and disfigured. The reason they go instead of the men? The women are only attacked, the en are killed.
This situation in Darfur has existed for over two years and, if people were interested, they could find accounts of death, disease, rape and torture occurring there on an almost daily basis. 400,000 people have died and nearly 3 million have been displaced and yet nobody - not politicans, not the media, not bloggers - really seem to care.
To anyone who has been paying attention, the atrocities witnessed by "Shameless Hussy" are, sadly, well-known. If her story generates concern for the people of Darfur, then for that we should be thankful. And if people who were moved by it are really interested in Darfur, then they should start reading the analyses produced by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Eric Reeves and the International Crisis Group, supporting organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Save Darfur and STAND, reading blogs like Passion of the Present, Sudan Watch, the Coalition for Darfur, and Sleepless in Sudan and demanding that their elected leaders do something about it.
Our thanks goes out to "Shameless Hussy" and all those who sacrifice to help those in need. But we must keep in mind that Darfur is not about them - it is about this
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Inevitably, the elephant in the room must be addressed. And I'm not talking about PoP. This hurricane is a catastrophe, and you only need to read the harrowing first-person blogger accounts Joe Gandelman has diligently and somberly collected to get half a clue about it. I can't top his extensive meta-blogging prowess, nor will I try. My thoughts and prayers to all those touched by it. It is truly a horrific display of natural power. I hope New Orleans will be spared, but it doesn't look good. I hope the death toll will be low, but it doesn't look good. This has truly been one of the worst hurricanes the U.S. has ever seen, and the final damages will be unprecedented as levees break and cities submerge.
There are already many in more-than-idle wonderment at this. To all the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Fallwells who will likely say this is because we tolerate gay people, I reference you to the erudite script already in Beliefnet. An event this full of awesome power deserves some theological thought, and the Beliefnet piece is as good as any a place to start. The human damage of this is high, and will take some time. FEMA has leapt into action. And I will, and I hope everyone else will, open up your wallets when the relief charities come asking.
Oil prices will rise, no doubt. The refineries and chemical plants may yet end up wreaking environmental havoc should the flooding continue unabated. The damage to people, environment, and property shall be immense in the end. Again, my thoughts and prayers out to the victims of this.
The Other Side of Coming Down
The US Census Bureau just released some new numbers about poverty and it don't look good:
The official poverty rate in 2004 was 12.7 percent, up from 12.5 percent 2003.
And according to a professor from where I spent way too long in exile earning my mad grad creds:
Tim Smeeding, an economics professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, says the nation has experienced a shift from earnings income to capital income and capital gains, which aren't reflected in the Census Bureau's latest numbers.
''Most of that growth in the economy over the last couple of years has gone to higher income people and has taken the form of capital income -- interest, rents, dividends,'' Smeeding said.
So how come poverty is going up when we're supposed to be experiencing an economic recovery? The "economic recovery" is uneven - the trickle down part of supplied side economics is failing to trickle. As Smeeding points out, the income growth is in the higher income distribution (with CGs and such); it's not within the lower and middle parts of the overall income distribution which is fed by wages (earnings income). More simply, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.
Sheehan Activism Update
I received the following in an email this morning from Sojourners, a liberal Christian magazine. Below my post you will find the cartoon which accompanied the text, which I excerpt below:
Now, it is a fair point that NCLB may need some amending to restrict data-mining by the Pentagon, although, considering that every 18-year old male is required to register with Selective Service anyway, I fail to see how this is so earth-shattering a privacy concern.
Buried deep within the No Child Left Behind Act is a provision that requires public high schools to hand over students' private contact information to military recruiters. If a school does not comply, it risks losing vital federal education funds. As if that weren't bad enough, the Pentagon has now built an illegal database of 30 million 16 to 25-year-olds as another recruitment tool.
Action 1: Protect our Children - "Opt Them Out!"
Sojourners is partnering with Working Assets and others in The Leave My Child Alone Coalition to make it easy to protect children from unwanted military recruiting by getting their names off both Pentagon and high school recruiting lists.
Action 2: Host a Back-To-School Event
Because most high schools turn over their student lists to military recruiters in October, it's imperative that we get as many kids as possible "opted out" during the month of September. Parents, teachers, grandparents, and concerned citizens are planning Leave My Child Alone back-to-school events from September 7 to 30. It's easy to host an event at your home, church, or local coffee shop - we provide you with the forms and information you need, plus a FREE DVD (http://www.leavemychildalone
.org/DVD) on opting out, featuring Cindy Sheehan and former recruiter Jim Massey.
»Click here to register an event now and help local families opt out! Consider making "Opt Out" the subject of a religious education class, youth group gathering, book club, or other community activity you already participate in.
Additionally, while parental input is key for a lot of kids and the education and career choices they make fresh out of college, it seems to me this push by Sojourners, Sheehan, et al is bordering on being anti-military and being insulting to the maturity, intelligence, and bravery of the youth of our nation. I'm sure most 17 and 18-year old American kids these days recognize the costs and risks, the dangers, and the benefits of military service. To hype this issue as though children are mindless robots who are easily seduced to some dark side (joining the military) is a window into the soul of the anti-war movement and how it truly is diving in head first into the shallow end of the pool.
Cartoon accompanying an email from Sojourners magazine, a liberal Christian journal.
We're Not Worthy
David Segal has a great article in the Washington Post Magazine. In it, he talks about the search for the Live Concert Moment (LCM). While the point of his article seems to be that these seemingly unplanned moments at live music that cause awe and wonder for the listener are becoming harder to find due to what he sees as a focus on theatrics instead of music and causing concerts to lose some of their unpredictability, he does spend a lot of the article talking about some of his favorite moments. While I don’t necessarily agree that it is harder to find LCM in music today, his description of these moments is one of the best explanations I have come across for these experiences. I also don’t think it has to be unpredictable – but it is always something transcendent. Whether it is watching Bruce Springsteen for the first time as he seemingly gives every ounce of his energy to that show you are at (and obviously loving every minute of it), listening to Dave Matthews Band perform Two Step during an encore that was besieged by an unexpected severe thunderstorm with heavy rain and hail, watching Ray LaMontagne at Bonnaroo at a tent full of people who might also have come to Tennessee just to see him, or seeing Bela Fleck play his banjo in a small night club with Sandip Burman – a short and skinny man from India who plays the tablas faster than I have seen anyone play a percussion instrument, these moments are unexpected, often defy explanation later as to what made them so great, and are also very unforgettable.
What Segal also points out though is that these moments happen at different shows for everyone. Too many music fans have amazing chips on their shoulder – as if music fans with different tastes are nothing but hacks. Most people who read this might not have been blown away by Ray LaMongtange or Bela Fleck and Sandip Burman – just like I could not imagine enjoying ‘NSync. But the point isn’t where you get the LCM – but that you get it at all.
Segal’s article reminds us of those moments, and rekindles the search for more of them. He also makes me hope he isn’t right that it is harder to find them these days. Granted, Dave Matthews Band might be losing some of their creativity, U2 might be more choreographed these days, and many bands might be too close to their corporate sponsors. But there are still plenty of places to seek out live music experiences. Events like Bonnaroo, where guest musicians abound, are breeding grounds for these moments. In fact, the most amazing thing about that festival was the relative diversity of the performers - from Jurassic 5 to Earl Scruggs - there were plenty of new experiences for even the most traveled music fans.
Segal is leaving the world of pop music reviews for another job. I guess from now on he'll have to search for these moments by paying for tickets just like the rest of us.
I will never advocate for the US to follow the international community on every issue. But we also shouldn’t be shocked that we have so few who want to help us with Iraq specifically and the GWOT in general when at the same time we refuse to go along with a number of major initiatives.
The decision by the Bush administration not to send the international tobacco control treaty to the Senate for ratification will only promote the view that America is behind the times and is impeding global progress on important issues. As the world tries to deal with global warming and the major health threat that is tobacco, they continue to be frustrated with how we stand in the way.
Now We're In For It
Sistani has rejected the Iraqi Constitution. Expect blanket condemnation to follow from virtually every source, especially Al-Sadr.
UPDATE: This appears to be a phantom story. Apparently it was up (I even saw it), now it's gone. Iraq the Model is usually pretty reliable, so it may resurface, or it may be uncorroborated. We'll see.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Attack of the Pat, Part II
Not Pat Robertson, but another famous Pat from right-of-center, Patrick J. Buchanan. Yeah, lacking a book to plug alternative views of the political strategems of Hitler in WWII, I guess he has to resort to making crazy off-the-wall man-bites-dog political news by saying Bush should be charged with an article of impeachment:
Why is a Republican Congress permitting this president to persist in the dereliction of his sworn duty?
George Bush is chief executive of the United States. It is his duty to enforce the laws. Can anyone fairly say he is enforcing the immigration laws? Those laws are clear. People who break in are to be sent back. Yet, more than 10 million have broken in with impunity. Another million attempt to break in every year. Half a million succeed. Border security is homeland security. How, then, can the Department of Homeland Security say America is secure?
Twice, George Bush has taken an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Article IV, Section 4 of that Constitution reads, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion."
Well, we are being invaded, and the president of the United States is not doing his duty to protect the states against that invasion. Some courageous Republican, to get the attention of this White House, should drop into the hopper a bill of impeachment, charging George W. Bush with a conscious refusal to uphold his oath and defend the states of the Union against "invasion."
Hat tip: Drudge, who else. Do you think I read WND on a regular basis? I guess you do. Well I don't.
Now It's Really Getting Ridiculous
So obviously by now everyone is waxing weary of Cindy Sheehan, especially since she got her time with President Bush in 2004 and because everyone knows she's a few cans short of a six-pack. So what to do to find a new angle? Why, just get a paralyzed Iraq vet to ask Bush why he won't revoke his ban on federal funding for stem cell research:
Paralyzed Iraq veteran Tomas Young called on President Bush to meet with him to explain why his best hope to walk again, stem cell research, was not being pursued. Tomas was wounded in Iraq the same day that Casey Sheehan was killed.
Mr. Sun has created yet another invaluable tool, the Cultural Flowchart. I say we occupy about step 6 or 7. Any other thoughts?
Missing Koran Pages?
Jihadists fear Allah AND Metro. (Skit)
Bluegrass Loses a Pioneer
I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that I didn’t hear about this when it actually happened. Last Tuesday, Vassar Clements died of lung cancer at the age of 77. His death might not have made headlines due to the fact that he was a pioneer in a music that is way outside the mainstream (and it didn’t help that he was a quiet pioneer). A virtuoso on the fiddle, he took his instrument through all different genres. Although he spent most of his time with bluegrass, some of the most memorable moments were his collaborations outside of his traditional music. He played with such greats as Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, and collaborated with everyone from BB King to Paul McCartney. Some of his groups were short-lived, like Old and In the Way with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. But each one was memorable and had lasting impacts on the country and bluegrass world. Many give him credit for what modern bluegrass musicians are taking advantage of – a style of bluegrass that is heavy on instrumental improvisation and heavily influenced by jazz. My lasting memory of his work though will be his collaborations with Bela Fleck.
The wait of all waits is over. RINO Sightings, enjoy the carnage.
Major GWOT/GSAVE Victory
There's still a war in Afghanistan, as I've been prone to stating recently. A war that is important and which has historical consequences perhaps at least as major as Iraq. And it's going well. And certain people who put a lot of stock in Cindy Sheehan should take note of the fact that she would like to have us pull out of there. Thankfully, she hasn't been successful, otherwise people like this would still be alive and still trying to return Afghanistan to a medieval, theocratic hellhole.
The man, identified as Payenda Mohammed, was in command of more than 150 Taliban fighters in Uruzgan province. He was killed along with three of his men in a battle last week, a U.S. military spokesman said.
"He was known for conducting rocket attacks, ambushes, guerrilla-style attacks and setting up illegal checkpoints," Colonel Jim Yonts told a briefing.
Taliban insurgents are battling the government army and about 20,000 U.S. troops across a rugged swathe of south and east Afghanistan.
About 1,000 people have been killed in violence this year, most of them militants, but including 48 U.S. soldiers.
The governor of Uruzgan province, Jan Mohammad Khan, said Payenda Mohammed was one of the main Taliban commanders in the province and he had been responsible for numerous attacks.
Another nail in the Taliban's coffin. And the sooner they end up in the dustpan of history, the better. While Afghanistan still has major drug problems, mopping up the Taliban is proceeding well, especially since they themselves have agreed not to attack voters in the next election.
First off, here's the transcript from last night's 60 minutes on Darfur. I didn't catch it, but from reading the transcript it was probably a good program. It should definitely help increase awareness of the situation and what we're all letting happen. Secondly, there's this bit of disturbing news:
Bandits are stepping up attacks on African Union and relief convoys in Sudan's Darfur region disrupting the flow of aid in the conflict-stricken area, African Union and aid officials told Reuters on Sunday.
"There is a lot of banditry ... The area is lawless and they (gunmen) are attacking everyone," Jean Baptiste Natama, a senior AU protocol officer told Reuters.
Natama said one person was lightly injured on Thursday when unidentified gunmen attacked a patrol near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state.
The AU has been given all the heavy-lifting duties and they are being raided. Heavier hands are needed. At least the AU hasn't pulled a UN and run at the first sign of trouble. Once again, as I've articulated before, I think an air strike is in order. At the very least it will help back up the AU and disrupt some of these hives of gunmen. With the janjaweed now attacking refugee camps and disrupting supplies, and bandits raiding the only troops sent in for relief, there needs to be some assertion of power over this mayhem.
Hat tip, the Coalition, always on top of things.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Friday Gatling Blog: Villains Rocking Blue Hair Edition
It's late on Friday, but I have arrived with a full plate of gatling blog glory of this week's more provocative posts for you all. The Carnival of the Involuntary. . .fire away!
Vodkapundit crushes Pat Robertson more succintly and powerfully than anyone ever has.
Liquid List keeps tabs on John Bolton's psychotic beginnings at the U.N.
The Anchoress comments on George Will and Hillary's coming implosion.
Right Wing Nuthouse wants to see Cindy Sheehan's bus tour. Be careful what you wish for.
Progressive Conservatism has plenty on Vietnam and its explosive development as of late.
Voice of the Taciturn discusses CIA problems and reform.
Tigerhawk writes probably one of the most sobering and best essays on anti-war dissent I've ever seen.
Marginal Revolution says welfare states might be obsolete. I would venture that's sort of an almost Marxist comment! (But won't say why, because this is Gatling Blog, and in Gatling Blog I don't editorialize).
In the Agora answers an old Kerry prophesy that no one probably noticed didn't come true.
The Jawa Report writes a rosary for the left.
Virginia Centrist reiterates that not all Democrats are crazy leftists.
Classical Values extensively covers the underground economy in America.
Donklephant asks a very important question.
Cindy Sheehan Quote of The Day
Apparently Sheehan sees membership in the US Army as uncharacteristic of people who are kind and gentle souls:
For Casey to even join the Army, let alone being killed in battle was the thing that was most uncharacteristic of him. He was a gentle and kind soul who only wanted to help others. What did his untimely and unnecessary death accomplish? It accomplished reinvigorating a peace movement that was sincere, but not very active -- or if active, not well covered by the main stream media.Sheehan here betrays her kooky far left outlook on war and peace. To be a kind and gentle soul you must eschew all violence, even that against depraved enemies who are a threat to peace and security of kind and gentle souls everywhere? And what of the chaplains and doctors and nurses in the US military, who wish above all to see an end to the carnage and bloodshed of war? Is their military service uncharacteristic, or rather an extention of their kindness and gentility, and their desire to serve others?
Maybe Sheehan just doesn't get the history of the American GI in war and occupation, particularly from War War II through the Cold War onward. The war in Afghanistan saw an unprecedented simultaneous carpet-dropping of food for destitute Afghan civilians alongside a targeted bombing campaign to dismantle the Taliban, the very regime holding Afghans in destitution and repression.
Cindy has a right to her beliefs and I hope she keeps it up, as she has every right to, but the American public should not assume Mrs. Sheehan is a moderate or apolitical woman thrust into the anti-war camp by the death of her son causing something inside to just snap. She's a political actor with a political agenda, and a skeptical media should, tactfully of course, be careful to relay that to everyday American news consumers.
A new, pathetic low for El Wapo.
This article reminds me of a line an old friend from NYC used to recite: "You can take the white girl out of Westchester, but you can't take the Westchester out of the white girl." Not to say that I subscribe to that "fallacy", but I find it rather discomforting that anyone would want to "kill the whiteness inside".
"What that means, precisely, is debatable, but it has something to do with young white hipsters believing they can shed white privilege by parodying the black hip-hop life. In this way, they hope to escape their uptight conditioning and get in touch with the looser soul within them."
To even claim that what mainstream America sees on MTV and BET is even remotely representative of "the black hip-hop life" is laughable. Mainstream hip-hop life is already a parody of hip-hop life. So what does a parody of a parody make the "Kill Whitey" crowd?
A great day for John Thune
Ellsworth AFB has been spared the chopping block. Apparently the Pentagon's proposed closure really wouldn't save any money at all, but it would have done major damage to South Dakota's economy.
Thune promised to save Ellsworth and maybe he is partly responsible, but it seems to me to have been largely out of his hands, and that Ellsworth may have been saved just on the merits. That said, I don't expect South Dakotans to think Thune expendable in the next election. Given the conservative Republican bent of the state, and if Thune proves to remain popular and deliver for the state, I think we can see the old boy around for a while.
Do Democrats Need a Leader?
Mickey Kaus, Kerryhater for Kerry, says no. After some correspondence with a reader, Kaus wrote the following brilliant nugget:
Alert kf reader G.S. suggests leaderless Democrats take another look at that Amazing Dr. Pollkatz Polling Graphic. The only time Bush's steady polling decline stopped was in 2004, when he actually had some identifiable Democratic champions (Dean, then Kerry) to be set off against. G.S.'s upshot isMidterm political advice for the Dems: Keep the party face-less through the 2006 races.
It's good to be kingless!
The graphic Kaus talks about is here, and there's some sense and logic to this. Bush does very well when CONTRASTED to someone else. When put next to an Al Gore, a John Kerry, or a Howard Dean, something happens and these qualities come out that people don't see normally. Also, it's just an issue of focus. With two faces, there's going to be some attention diverted to both, and every politician is flawed. When there's one face, the President and the Republican party, all the focus goes on them. Kaus also makes the point that the Dems don't even need to be an opposition party (because we already have an opposition party: the media!). And that's part of it.
With no Dem leader, the spot light remains on Bush. And right now it's not working out so great. Maybe the Dems shouldn't have a leader, and maybe they should just let the Republicans have the spotlight for awhile. After all, what they're doing with it doesn't seem to be much other than self-destructive.
Yemenis Do WHAT?
Seriously. What the hell are they doing in Yemen these days? Oh yeah, doing their best impressions of the Gestapo.
Its like the Twilight Zone over there, complete anarchy, the only rule is power. They take this editor and beat him up and tell him not to write about government officials. They took him in a military car. Lets review normal intimidation tactics on the journos in Yemen: death threats, threats against their kids, slander, arrests, taking newspapers, cloning newspapers, assaults, letter bombs, the list goes on. This more than anything else shows Yemen is not anything close to a democracy but instead is a repressive dictatorship.
Jamal Amer, editor-in-chief of the independent weekly newspaper al-Wassat, told Reuters armed men blindfolded him, forced him into a military car and took him to a remote area outside the capital Sanaa where they beat him.
“They warned me about slandering state officials and questioned me about writers and editors at the newspaper, and about our sources and funding,” he said. Officials were not immediately available for comment.
Read the WHOLE post.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Where the hell has Senator George Allen (R-Va) been during this whole BRAC process? I feel like Senator Warner has been front and center (given he's the chair of the SASC, but still), with Senator Allen content to take full advantage of the summer recess. What gives Georgie?
Don't tell someone they should lose weight, or you might lose your license! Salute, The Moderate Voice.
The Fair Tax Hoax
While Lunchbox is probably much more competent than I at explaining and dissecting the Fair Tax phenomenon and what is wrong with it, I ran across something that surprised the hell out of me. The Freepers, that's right, the Libertarians who of all people should be all over the Fair Tax and how wonderful Boortz and Linder are, have unraveled THE WHOLE DAMN THING. Boom. And that's that. Turns out this best-selling right-wing manual isn't anything but a nice little novel that belongs in the fiction section. I was skeptical of this whole Fair Tax mythos to begin with, but when your own allies are throwing the bullshit flag on you you're in some deep doodoo. Hat tip, Pandagon.
All right, while I don't complete condone this type of mathematical exercise nor completely accept its results, it's a provocative point and food for thought. Confederate Yankee has crunched some numbers about U.S. casualties in war, and the number of people basically spared/liberated as a result. In the process, he has crafted a People Freed per U.S. Soldier killed number which coincidentally has only gone up over time. He appends some nice commentary to it, as the whole thing is meant to be a rebuttal to Cindy Sheehan's declaration of BOTH Iraq and Afghanistan as "senseless wars" with "meaningless deaths." The exercise may be a bit contrived, because it does not take into effect things like civilian casualties in these liberations and also areas where effectively people aren't so "liberated" (by that I mean areas where the fledgling governments haven't really been able to establish dominance), but it helps to place some context to U.S. Casualties and their scope. Salute, Jawa Report.
Pimp Their Rides
The Army is finally copping to what we all know to be true: the Humvees ain't working. Just not cutting the mustard. So, to counter it, they're off and running to conjure up a better vehicle, and this time they want to do it right.
"Survivability is our primary concern," says Jeff Bradel, project officer at the Office of Naval Research, which is overseeing prototype development for the Marines. Unlike the Humvee, originally designed for tasks behind the lines, the next vehicle will be a fighter from the start, he says.
The original Humvee design worked well in the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, says Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research organization. The Iraq war has forced the vehicle into doing what "it was never contemplated that it would do," including battling bomb-wielding insurgents in today's urban combat.
Again, this is an important lesson in Military Force Transformation. Lighter isn't better, especially when we're talking nation-building, occupation, guerilla war, or whatever you want to call it to euphemize the reality. Rumsfeld's stated goals of a smaller, lighter, faster force have hit the reality in Iraq like a brick wall. We've consistently needed more boots and heavier armor to deal with urban warfare. At least all of that is being acknowledged in the plans for this new vehicle. Maybe the best route is slower, heavier, and more numerous.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Birth of the Uncool
We all know the movies this summer were not so great. I used to make a point of seeing most of the "headliner" summer movies, but this year even with a Theater right next to me (ask anyone who has been to my apartment, it is NEXT to me) I didn't feel compelled to see a lot of the crap Hollywood was churning out. Stealth? Are you kidding me? The Island? Absolute rubbish. If I wasn't even interested enough to see War of the Worlds you can bet I'm not going to see those two. And I wasn't alone. People didn't show up for these "blockbuster" movies in droves. While a few mediocre films got past the goalie and made some money, most of the big successes this summer were all fairly solid films. So I had to laugh when I read this NYT piece that confront studio executives in an existential crisis over their bad movies being recognized as, well, bad movies. A great passage:
Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal, said Hollywood has been too focused on short-term box office payoff and not focused enough on what he called "the most elemental factor of all" - the satisfaction of the moviegoing experience.
"It wasn't like the last crop of summer movies were that much better than this summer," said Mr. Shmuger, whose studio's recent releases included the success "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and several disappointments, including "Cinderella Man," "The Perfect Man" and "Kicking and Screaming." "This summer has been as deadening as it has been exciting, and there's a cumulative wearing down effect. We're beginning to witness the results of that. People are just beginning to wake up that what used to pass as summer excitement isn't that exciting, or that entertaining. This is vividly clear in terms of the other choices that consumers have."
At Universal, Mr. Shmuger said he intends to reassert "time and care and passion" in movie production. Some of his own summer movies, he conceded, should never have been made.
He declined to name them.
Ouch. You know who you are. Big salute, Defamer, with more thoughts on the subject.
America's Newest Hog Farm: Washington, DC
We first had the pork-laden, corporate welfare mess that was the energy bill. Then we had the mother-of-all-pet-projects incubator, the Transportation Bill. Now, it looks like the aggies are not ones to be outdone! Citizens against Government Waste has the following to say in their press release:
Just before heading home for summer recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee compiled the fiscal 2006 Senate Agriculture Appropriations Act, totaling more than $100 billion, $597 million more than the president's request. Senate appropriators beefed up the agriculture spending bill with 257 special interest research grants and projects totaling $208.7 million. The bill is also saturated with funding for programs that the president suggested terminating, such as $60 million for the Natural Resources Conservative Service's watershed and flood prevention operations. In addition to their usual shenanigans of adding money for unrequested pork projects, appropriators also added lump sums of funding for questionable grant programs including $40 million for rural business enterprise grants and $20 million for economic impact initiative grants.
The Senate will vote on the bill upon their return in September. Hopefully, the Senate will keep the looming $331 billion deficit in mind and trim the excess fat.
Many of you know I'm prone to blame every problem in this country on Agricultural Subsidies. And I do so without jest because I do believe if we got rid of them EVERY OTHER problem would soon start going too. But no one in their right mind, with a straight face, can think this is reasonable, and they don't have to be as anti-farm as me. (That's right, I'm anti-farm. You heard me.) Alaska is a big winner again, taking home $34.3 million in this bill. Again, those Alaskans love their gubment subsidies.
I'm feeling ill looking at this. It recalls a conversation I had with someone yesterday who told me she was a Republican, and that she was aware that most people down here weren't. I quipped "I don't see why. This is all government. If you like big government you should LOVE this Republican Congress."
Hatred Leads to the Dark Side
I am so glad a friend of mine emailed me this article because it highlights everything that is wrong with the view on the far left about the war in Iraq. I know by posting this, I risk being repetitive. We have been talking about Iraq a lot lately. But it is one of the most important issues right now, and it needs to be debated.
Former Senator Gary Hart claims that we need a leader who can admit that they were wrong to vote for the Iraq War – someone who will admit that this war is not making us safer. The biggest problem with the left is that while they claim this isn’t making us safer, I have yet to hear what will make us safer. And in fact, so much of the talking points from the left are vague and without real policy alternatives. Hart gives us an example of what his ideal 2008 candidate will say:
"I am now going to give a series of speeches across the country documenting how the administration did not tell the American people the truth, why this war is making our country more vulnerable and less secure, how we can drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and outside jihadists and leave Iraq for the Iraqis to govern, how we can repair the damage done to our military, what we and our allies can do to dry up the jihadists' swamp, and what dramatic steps we must take to become energy-secure and prevent Gulf Wars III, IV and so on."
This candidate says he knows of a way to drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and outside jihadists. I would love to hear that one. And if we were able to do that – what would be the result? They would likely fight each other and drive Iraq into a civil war. Apparently there is also a way to dry up the jihadists’ swamp – but again I have not heard anyone on the left find a way to do this. Does the candidate mean stop buying oil? Well, yes we do need to become more energy independent – but that can only be achieved with in the distant future. We need to do something sooner to protect ourselves. And even if we are energy independent, the Middle East will likely still get oil revenue from China and Russia.
If you read that quote carefully, you will realize there are no real solutions or alternatives. The reason is that the only real solutions to the global terror threat involve the military. There is no way around that. We are either in Iraq, or we are in Somalia and Sudan. But most on the far left want to pretend that if we pull out of Iraq, we will somehow become safer and the terror threat will go away. I am thankful that those people are in the minority and not making decisions.
A free and democratic Iraq will be a model for the rest of the Middle East. Leaving too early and watching Iraq turn into a failed state will be a major victory to Islamic militants everywhere. And as of right now, Iraq is the main battlefield in their attempt to defeat the Western infidels – but when we leave, America will likely become the next battlefield. Those on the far left need to bury their blinding hatred for Bush and look at the situation objectively. We need Iraq to succeed. And they should be doing everything they can to ensure that it does – instead of doing everything they can to ensure that it doesn’t.
Coalition for Darfur: Genocide and Statistics
Last week, International Studies Quarterly published a study by Matthew Krain, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the College of Wooster, examining "the effectiveness of military action on the severity of ongoing instances of genocide and polititcide."
According to the press release
The study reveals that only overt military interventions that explicitly challenge the perpetrator appear to be effective in reducing the severity of the brutal policies. Military support for targets, or in opposition to the perpetrators, alters the almost complete vulnerability of unarmed civilian targets. And these interventions that directly target the perpetrators were not, on the whole, found to make matters worse for those being attacked ... He finds that even military intervention against the perpetrator by a single country or international organization has a measurable effect in the "typical" case.In the introduction to the study, Krain notes
When a single international actor challenges the aggressor, the probability that the killings will escalate drops while the probability that the killings will decrease jumps. Each additional intervention by another international actor raises the chance of saving lives.
Policy makers faced with situations like those in Rwanda or Bosnia, Kosovo or Darfur, are forced to rely on past experience with interventions in other types of internal conflicts, often with disastrous results. This study is a step toward a better understanding of the effectiveness of potential responses by the international community to genocides and politicides.
Krain goes on to examine various intervention methods of dealing with on-going genocides and politicides (the "impartial intervention model," the "witness model," the "bystander model," etc...) and notes that not one of them is capable of reducing the severity of such situations.
After conducting a statistical analysis of the various models, Krain concludes
Policy maker concerns that intervention on the behalf of target populations will escalate the killing appear to be unfounded.He then discusses his finding as they relate to Darfur, writing
The only overt military interventions that appear to be effective in reducing the severity of genocides or politicides are those that explicitly challenge the perpetrator
Kraine does not claim that military intervention is the "only" option. In fact, he notes that "policy makers have a range of options available to them in the face of an ongoing genocide or politicide" and that his study "only examines one of those options."
Intervention against the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed within the first year of the genocide would likely have had a measurable effect on the severity  of state-sponsored mass murder in the following year.
Keeping that in mind, it is hard to argue with Kraine's basic conclusion
If actors wish to slow or stop the killing in an ongoing instance of state-sponsored mass murder, they are more likely to be effective if they oppose the perpetrators of the brutal policy.
I addressed this issue last week and it looks like Homeland Security is finally moving in the right direction on it. Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that they would be increasing border patrol, adding beds to detention centers, and working with the State Department to expedite work and student visas. All of these are steps in the right direction. Chertoff also pressed Congress to pass legislation allowing for guest workers (and I want to say that I do agree with PoP's previous comment that the number of guest workers allowed into the country should be inversely tied to unemployment levels).
Something the administration hasn't done yet, and I think they are right in not doing it yet, is punishing businesses that hire illegal workers (the question remains if Bush or Congress will ever be willing to do it). Right now, many businesses have no choice but to hire cheap illegal labor. Not until we allow the right number of legal workers can we begin to fine businesses that continue to hire illegal workers.
We certainly debate Iraq a lot here. And while more often lately I'm tending to support the hawkish, Administration position on the situation, I have never approved of the rhetoric and reasons the Administration has used. I've always bought more into the hawkish-liberal argument that this is about liberation and democracy, and thus only tangential to GWOT/GSAVE. Of course, it would be a political disaster for the Bush Administration to argue this kind of position, but arguable the positions they are arguing now are even more politically disastrous. In the President's latest round of speeches, the gist has been that if you want to withdraw from Iraq, then not only do you question his Iraq policy, YOU QUESTION THE WHOLE WAR ON TERROR. This is supremely misguided, and more than just a little bit politically sinister. Joe Gandelman believes it might be a new McCarthyism, and I would tend to agree even though the All the President's Men are trying their hardest to backpedal about this.
The last thing the President should do if he wants to sell Iraq is to start being even more divisive. It's a longtime habit of his that is not only disgusting, but is starting to finally fail him politically in his dropping approval ratings.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
The Deed Is Done
Despite all the burdens of history, despite all the cause for pessimism, sometimes the Middle East holds some real surprises and some real victories for common sense. The withdrawal from the West Bank has been completed. This is a good day and a victory for moderates of both sides. It was done without fatal bloodshed, and with minimal effective interference from extremists on both sides. The naysayers said it couldn't be done. But it was. And ahead of schedule.
Coming just one day after the last of 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip was cleared, the swift closing of four remote settlements on the West Bank meant that in nine days, security forces accomplished a painful task that Israeli officials had warned could take weeks.
"Game over," an Israeli border policeman said with a tight smile, walking briskly away from the spectacular rooftop confrontation that ended resistance here in Sanur, a tiny enclave on a hillock in the middle of a valley dominated by Palestinian villages.
The final encounter involved a choreographed assault by riot police from a pair of shipping containers swaying from cranes and backed by tear gas and a fire hose.
Uniformed security forces overwhelmed the mostly young resistors who made a last stand down the road in Homesh, which, like Sanur, faced an overpowering force of 6,000 police officers and soldiers. Two other settlements, Ganim and Kadim, emptied without confrontation.
What happened to the Israeli settlers was sad, but this was absolutely necessary. A demographic timebomb would've overwhelmed the settlers, and for once Israel has truly handed something of real value and goodwill over to the Palestinians. The peace process is always fragile, and it will have plenty of opportunities to come off the rails later. But the number of things that could've gone wrong here was incalculable, and it went off with only a few hitches. Hopefully this result of careful negotiation and cautious determination will yield something lasting for the region.
I don’t agree at all with Montgomery County’s decision to try John Allen Muhammad. I have heard the arguments, and they just don’t seem to hold water. The one most often cited is that in case something happens to his sentence in Virginia, they can fall back on this one. First of all, since there is no statute of limitations on murder, if his Virginia sentence was overturned, they could still try him in Maryland later. And the odds of his conviction being overturned are so slim that it is hardly worth thinking about and certainly not worth all the money that will be spent on this trial.
Another apparent reason is to give closure to the families of the victims from Maryland. This one I really don’t understand. What good does another death sentence do for the families? Muhammad has already been brought to justice for his crimes. The only difference is that the murder conviction in Virginia doesn’t include the names of the victims from Maryland. Are we really going to spend millions of dollars just so that he can have a murder conviction for every known victim? To spend that much money to appease just a few families seems ludicrous. I think Montgomery County should look its citizens in the eye and say that justice has been carried out; Muhammad has been found guilty for his crimes and will face the ultimate penalty. We do not need to spend valuable county resources to kill someone a second time.
But of course, Montgomery County will not do that. Especially because the district attorney would never pass up the chance to get a little more name recognition.
Many have been grilling Bush for his recent comparisons of Baghdad 2005 to Philadelphia 1787, but John P. Avlon of the NY Sun offers a quick set of similarities that make it seem not so out of the ballpark.
The nervous hand-wringing that accompanied the delay to the Iraqi constitutional convention lacked any sense of perspective. The perfect should not be made the enemy of the good. Our own history shows that the creation of a new constitution can be a difficult and often tortuous process.
Even four years after the end of the War for Independence, the 13 colonies were far more divided than united. Armed rebellions broke out that had to be put down by the fledging militia, and former officers of the continental army plotted a coup to protest their absent pensions. The economy was unsteady, with rampant inflation. No less a national leader than George Washington described the country as having "a half-starved, limping government that appears always to be moving upon crutches, and tottering at every step."
But even amid chaos, national heroes such as Virginia's Patrick Henry - whose cry of "Give me liberty or give me death" helped inspire the revolution - refused to attend the convention, saying less eloquently that he "smelt a rat." Rhode Island, concerned that increased federal power would overwhelm its small state, refused to send any delegates in pre-emptive protest. Some participants worried that the creation of an office of president contained "the fetus of monarchy."
The parallels aren't perfect, but they're not so crazy either. While Kaplan in Slate wants to nitpick all the tiny details of history, the fact is a lot of what both Constitutional Conventions were doing involved fashioning a new nation out of some foundation. With Americans it was the American Revolution. With Iraqis, it is their liberation from Saddam (though not at their own hands, which makes the situation more complex and difficult given the appearance of two invading armies on their soil: the U.S. and Al-Qaeda). The founding of a state is its most important and problematic element, and one from which all its further legitimacy extends. Hannah Arendt discussed this thoroughly in On Revolution and Between Past and Future. This founding is an act of natality, one of creation, and if it fails all fails with it. So more time? It's not unparalleled, as our own history suggests. Nor is it easy, as our own history suggests. So all the finger-waggers who want to blast the Iraqis for dawdling and want to start baying "failure", hold your horses. We've got a ways to go here, and this isn't something to rush.
Pat Robertson, Now With Extra Crazy!
This headline pretty much says it all. Pat Robertson has called upon the U.S. Government to assassinate Hugo Chavez. Does anyone remember the days when Pat Robertson actually used to have political pull? He probably still will after this in Virginia (I grew up in Robertsonland, and you just can never completely escape his influence even as it shrinks to fruitfly penis size). But after blaming 9/11 on our tolerance of gay people and reducing him to ridiculousness and greatly shattering any credibility he had, now he's become his own self satire machine:
Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on “The 700 Club” it was the United States’ duty to stop Chavez from making Venezuela a “launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”
Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.
“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
How low can he go! Sure Chavez is a fool, and a dangerous one at that. It would be nice to have him gone, but this man bills himself as a religious leader. Where's the biblical passage to back this up? Oh, that's right, Pat Robertson doesn't care about the bible except to use as toilet paper for his shitty rantings.
Big salute to Jawa Report on this one.
Happy belated blogday, Ambivablog!
Monday, August 22, 2005
I Knew This Was Coming
WMAL radio fired Michael Graham today. Listening to the station this morning I thought it was curious that he wasn't back after two weeks of scheduled vacation. The ire of Graham's suspension was quickly replaced in radioland in DC by WMAL hosts in part, who focused on the Herndon day labor site. Of course, I'm no conspiracy theorist and this wasn't a top-down effort to shift the focus off Graham, it's just the nature of the news cycle and the issue-du-jour culture of talk radio which quickly ditches one topic for another, more timely one. It should be interesting to see to what extent Chris Core tonight deals with Graham's firing. I don't foresee the entire three hours being devoted to the issue, nor completely ignoring the matter, but I would find it hard to believe that Core is not under some harsh directives from top management not to stir up a hornet's nest on this issue.
The Chickenhawk Squawk
It's all the rage. They do it at every Republican fundraiser! No, seriously. This "Chickenhawk" bullshit has got to stop. I don't care who it is. Cindy Sheehanism and other assorted arguments the left has taken up are beyond self-parody. A popular meme is starting to take shape on the left, and that meme is that you can't be a hawk without having some sort of military background. That only by serving to you gain the moral authority to decide whether or not people deserve to be sent to war. This argument is so fallacious and foul I can't even begin to think about it. Jonathan Chait writes a sort-of takedown of the notion.
One of the important ideas of a democratic culture is that we all have equal standing in the public square. That doesn't mean stupid ideas should be taken as seriously as smart ones. It means that the content of an argument should be judged on its own merits.
The left seems to be embracing the notion of moral authority in part as a tactical response to the right. For years, conservatives have said or implied that if you criticize a war, you hate the soldiers. During the Clinton years, conservatives insisted that the president lacked "moral authority" to send troops into battle because he had avoided the draft as a youth or, later, because he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
So adopting veterans or their mourning parents as spokesmen is an understandable counter-tactic. It was a major part of the rationale behind John Kerry's candidacy. The trouble is, plenty of liberals have come to believe their own bleatings about moral authority. Liberal blogs are filled with attacks on "chicken hawk" conservatives who support the war but never served in the military. A recent story in the antiwar magazine Nation attacked my New Republic editor, Peter Beinart, a supporter of the Iraq war, for having "no national security experience," as if Nation editors routinely served in the Marine Corps.
The silliness of this argument is obvious. There are parents of dead soldiers on both sides. Conservatives have begun trotting out their own this week. What does this tell us about the virtues or flaws of the war? Nothing.
Chait is absolutely right. And beyond that, I remember there being something in our political ideology about "civilian control of the military." This nugget is a little bit important. Implementing what the left advocates in the Chickenhawk bleating would be akin to calling for abandonment of civilian control of the military. Someone who commands the military must have been in the military. Someone who wants to go to war must have been in one. Not only is it circular reasoning, it's a monstrous idea and, if you get right down to it, decrees that only the military culture and the culture of war can make decisions about those matters. That's antidemocratic to a massive extent, not to mention in a certain way elitist. There's no way liberals actually believe it, or even want to see it carried to its logical extent. It's just effective talking points. Again, they've lowered themselves to the level of some of the worst Clinton lampooners on the right.
I believe in civilian control of the military. I believe anyone has a place, and anyone who is citizen of a country has equal moral authority to debate the merits of the war with someone who has been there and done that. As Chait says, it's about the contents of the argument, not the status or experience of the one making the argument. But apparently the Cindy Sheehans and Nation editors don't believe this notion anymore. And they're becoming just as detached from America's values as the old rightwingers who used to make the same argument.
In the Name of the Father
So I finally saw In the Name of the Father this weekend. I watched it with my sister, who spent a semester in Ireland, and she was able to give me a fair amount of background on the story itself and the situation in Northern Ireland. There were a number of things to take away from the movie. The first thing I noticed was the power of Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Gerry Conlon – one of the Guildford Four who were wrongly convicted for an IRA bombing. It really made me wish he did more movies. He was able to play an irresponsible thief, obnoxious son, and brazen martyr all rolled into one. Pete Postlethwaite, who played Giuseppe Conlon, Gerry’s father who was also wrongly convicted in the same bombings, was also stellar. His role as the morally strong martyr who wouldn’t sink to violence while in prison despite the wrongful conviction was solid. He made his character appear strong, and rarely pitiful.
The movie itself was well written (Jim Sheridan - who also wrote and directed In America) and dealt with many themes. Terrorism, a government’s response, as well as dealing with life in prison and family dynamics all come out in the movie. While Gerry and his father are imprisoned together for a bombing they didn’t commit, their interactions naturally evolve. Gerry spends a lot of time trying to deal with the situation he finds himself in – while his father continues to try to keep his son from going astray. The disputes are intense at times, but in the end it comes full circle, with Gerry maturing and taking up the fight his father started to prove their innocence.
But probably the most interesting part of the film is how terrorism and the British response are portrayed. While in prison, Gerry and Giuseppe meet a member of the IRA who says he carried out the bombing. Gerry looks up to him at first – finding satisfaction in fighting against the establishment that has him wrongly imprisoned. But in short time, Gerry realizes what his dad already knows. The IRA is violent and cruel; taking lives indiscriminately while masking it in their broader mission (The Devil’s Own taught a similar lesson). This lesson is something IRA sympathizers, especially those in the US, should have understood a lot sooner. It is amazing how we are able to see the senseless violence in the methods of Al Qaeda, but not in a group like the IRA.
The British response is something we as a country also need to be cognizant of. There is no doubt that the police who extracted the “confessions” believed they were acting to protect their country. But their desire to do so blinded them from the truth. At the same time we need to realize that torture can often lead, not to valuable information, but false confessions and the conviction of innocents. If we allow ourselves to ignore the rights of the accused, we risk hurting more innocent people.
Watch this movie for the brialliant preformances and great writing - and watch it to get some new perspectives on our own efforts to confront terrorism.
The Silver Lining
Afghanistan is still full of violence. Despite the fact that the Afghani National Guard continues to grow and the Taliban fails to score decisive victories, they just don't seem to go away. More and more the guerilla struggle there seems like a slow war of attrition against the former regime and all its desperate holdouts. The casualties on the enemy side:
The weeklong operation, which concluded over the weekend, was aimed at rebels believed responsible for twin attacks that killed 19 troops in June. Three Navy SEALs were killed in an ambush, and all 16 soldiers on a helicopter sent to rescue them died when it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It was successful,” Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara told The Associated Press. “We had over 29 separate engagements with enemy forces that resulted in more than 40 enemy killed in action and many others wounded.”
O’Hara also announced that a separate three-day battle from Aug. 7-10 in southern Zabul province’s Daychopan district left a total of 65 suspected militants dead. The military had previously reported that 16 rebels had been killed.
The US side:
News of the casualties comes after a deadly period for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with 13 American troops killed this month. Four soldiers were killed Sunday when a massive bomb exploded under a wooden bridge as a convoy of armored Humvees was crossing it. Three troops were wounded by shrapnel from secondary explosions as they tried to pull the four out of a burning Humvee.
Most of the troops who have been killed were part of an offensive against militants who have vowed to subvert legislative elections on Sept. 18 — the next step toward democracy after more than two decades of war and civil strife.
Some 187 U.S. service members have been killed in and around Afghanistan since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 — including 64 during a rash of insurgent attacks in the last six months, which have left about 1,000 other people dead as well.
The Taliban, while not showing any signs of bringing down the Afghani government, have shown themselves to be a resilient and deadly menace. This isn't all bad news though. With some resurgence in the Taliban, there's a recognition that they have to play by a new set of rules. Attacking and killing innocent civilians has continued to turn populations against the terrorists that want to "liberate" (read: enslave under Sharia law and a despotic Caliphate) them from the "invaders" (read: possibility of a democratic government). A Taliban spokesman has announced this not-so-subtle shift in terrorist policy:
"We have decided not to target polling stations in civilian areas," a spokesman for the militant group, Abdul Latif Hakimi, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"U.S. and Afghan forces are setting up polling stations in crowded areas which if attacked will cause big losses," said Hakimi, who government and security officials believe is the main Taliban spokesman.
This says a lot. The Taliban, who has shown in its history no end to its brutality and backwardness, will not try to violently disrupt the elections. And they have announced their intention not to do so, because they think it would be wrong! The Taliban accepts democracy? Okay, that's impossible. But what it does mean is that they've noticed that elections and the voting process have gained legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghani people, a people who every day consign more of the Taliban to the dustbin of history. To block these elections, they know would be the end of them.
I had no idea Michelle Malkin was married.
RINOs R Us
Get it? I spelled out Rhinoceros without really spelling Rhinoceros. Clever ain't it, don't cha think? No?
Raging RINO Sightings Weekly is now posted. Damn. Tough crowd.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye
Yeah. I've been thinkin' about this long before the other band members decided to pursue solo albums, so no accusations of copycat work are necessary. Being a political junkie is a serious hobby for me, but I've been finding it increasingly difficult to become impassioned with the might of Thor to post on political goings-on, especially when we're getting some great material from the rest of band. No, this is not me walking out the door, as I certainly plan to continue contributing. But it's high time I devoted a blog specifically to a subject that gets me hotter than all the stars in the galaxy combined. "And what is the name of this so-called, next step of yours?" Lame Duck Sauce.
Friday, August 19, 2005
I Thought We Were An Autonomous Collective
The Washington Post has a detailed analysis of the situation in Saudi Arabia with the official succession of King Abdullah. Although there is hope that Abdullah will allow political and economic reforms in the country – this is one thing I am not overly optimistic about. At 82 years old, King Abdullah lacks the time necessary to enact changes at a slow enough pace to prevent major backlashes. And it is likely that any moderate changes he does make would be overturned (or at least stopped) by current interior minister and probable successor, Niyef. And current reforms, like the election of some municipal council members, have been largely meaningless (many of councils have yet to meet, four months after the election).
On the positive side though, with political reforms so difficult in oppressive regimes like this one, Abdullah has undertaken some economic reforms. Saudi Arabia could join the World Trade Organization next month, which would force the country to meet international business norms. Reformers are hoping this will also combat corruption and lead to investment in modern industries. And with economic reforms, political reforms sometimes follow - although in this case probably very slowly.
Tell Me Something I Don't Know
El Wapo's done a bang-up job of fueling the fire that is John Roberts' nomination to SCOTUS. He's a conservative nominee and to think (or pray) otherwise is pure folly, but I'm not yet convinced he's really THAT BAD of a conservative. Take today's headline for instance:
Roberts Resisted Women's Rights
1982-86 Memos Detail Skepticism
"Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women's rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called "the purported gender gap" and, at one point, questioning "whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good."
In internal memos, Roberts urged President Ronald Reagan to refrain from embracing any form of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment pending in Congress; he concluded that some state initiatives to curb workplace discrimination against women relied on legal tools that were "highly objectionable"; and he said that a controversial legal theory then in vogue -- of directing employers to pay women the same as men for jobs of "comparable worth" -- was "staggeringly pernicious" and "anti-capitalist."
This article irks me. First question: Is no one allowed to grow intellectually/politically/personally anymore?
A basic labor economics course explains that women make less money than men when you compare each group on the whole. When salaries are broken down by occupation, the wage gap between men and women essentially disappears. The truth is that women are more likely to work in lower paying positions for one reason or another (lack of training, etc.) that's the gap that should be discussed. Calling bullshit on Liberal spin is no worse than calling a kettle black. Just don't cry about it.
Second question: Didn't Hillary make a similar disparaging remark about staying home and baking cookies when asked about career choices? The truth is, once women left the household to work, it put added pressures on both the nuclear family and the women who tried to manage both, taking all of American society with it.
Update: Click through to read an interesting article that concludes that a 17-year old John Roberts is a neanderthal. Okay, so that finally proves I am both a monkey-boy in AND outside of work.
With immigration problems in the news lately as the effects of a deficient federal policy hit local governments, many are calling for a coherent solution to illegal immigration. Some of the major issues are serious gang problems leading to violence in the Virginia ad Maryland suburbs and how to deal with the overflow of illegal but cheap labor. Herndon has decided to build a day labor center, correctly realizing that since they can’t prevent the labor from coming, they have to deal with it. So they will build a place for the laborers to gather and look for work so they no longer have to do this at a local Seven-Eleven (another proposed solution was to lock up any illegal immigrants indefinitely – hardly a justified response). Gang violence is not as easily solved. Local jurisdictions are planning to share information, but again this problem is largely the result of failed federal policy. When gang members are deported, they find themselves back in America within months. With no way to stop the flow into their area, there is little chance to really deal with the problem.
David Brooks (hat tip, AmbivaBlog) has an interesting solution to merge two competing bills in Congress. He says we need to blend the guest-worker provisions of the McCain-Kennedy bill with the tougher border control measures of the Kyl-Cornyn bill.
“Since 1986, we've tripled the number of Border Patrol agents and increased the enforcement budget 10 times over, but we haven't made a dent in the number of illegals who make it here.”
“The problem is that we make it nearly impossible for the immigrants to come here legally. We issue about 5,000 visas for unskilled year-round labor annually, but the economy requires hundreds of thousands of new workers to clean hotel rooms and process food. We need these workers but we force them underground with our self-delusional immigration policies.”
Neither of the two bills I mentioned will solve the problem on their own. Without tougher border control we cannot keep out those looking to come to this country to join gangs. But we also need to accept that cheap labor is an important part of our economy. The toughest part of merging these bills would be how we treat those already in the country. Amnesty seems to be the only feasible solution (deporting everyone is unrealistic), but finding an appropriate middle ground for an amnesty program may be very difficult.
“If we treat them too punitively, we'll just push them further underground. On the other hand, they broke the law, and they have to pay. McCain-Kennedy would lure them into the sunlight with the prospect of normalization, but would make them pay all back taxes and a $2,000 fine to become regularized, and they'd have to get in the back of the line. That's a start, but the penalties will probably have to be a bit tougher to be politically palatable.”
I actually think the McCain-Kennedy amnesty program is plenty punitive, but I have a feeling Republicans will not agree. Whatever penalty is decided, a strong federal policy is needed so local governments do not have make stop-gap solutions to much larger problems.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Kanye West Says No To Justice Sunday II
Well, sort of.
In an upcoming interview on MTV, Kanye says gay basing has got to go in hip hop, and perceives it as a severe problem:
West says he changed his ways, though, when he learned one of his cousins was gay.
"It was kind of like a turning point when I was like, `Yo, this is my cousin. I love him and I've been discriminating against gays.'"
West says hip-hop was always about "speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people." He adds that in slang, gay is "the opposite, the exact opposite word of hip-hop."
Kanye's message: "Not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates. And I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, `Yo, stop it.'"
Good for Kanye. It is true that rappers can spout the word "fag" and "faggot" nonstop on albums and get away with it when any similar artists who would try that would likely get nailed to the wall. The only one who ever caught any flack about it was Eminem, and that's because he was white. It's yet another one of those bizarre PC cliches that it's okay for one "oppressed" group to hate on and bash another "oppressed" group. A figure like Kanye, becoming a transcendent force in the hip hop world, could make a real difference. Especially since now he's going to be turning the knobs on so many hit singles, we'll watch and see if he lets those he produces get away with it.