Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

There is an old Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian/who-knows-anymore saying that goes, "Vuk dlaku mjenja, ali ćud, nikada."

Literally translated, it says that a wolf sheds his fur, but never his true character (hey, once upon a time, sheep and shepherds were the shit in the old country...).

Figuratively translated, it says that Alito may be twenty years older, but he is none the wiser. And all his rhetoric about "oh, I was seeking a job [when I supported an overturn of Roe v. Wade], but now I'm a judge so my moral values are completely different" is complete bullshit.

So Fond of Benedict Now?

The Conservatives' Poster Pope has yet another radical statement to make. This one should invert things a little.

"Dear friends," the Holy Father said, "your presence in such large numbers gives me the opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation for the courageous and generous activity you carry out in support of the families of people hit by the deplorable social plague of usury."


Interest loans as a "social plague!" Actually, I'm sure this won't outrage Conservatives at all, because most of them will simply ignore it and go back to cherry-picking Benedict's points that they like. But seriously, this is another example of retrenching recent church doctrine and reverting to older more stringent doctrines. (Hat tip, Sullivan). Sure, he's not advocating policy of it, and the church hasn't put documents forth, but these are still dramatic statements. Perhaps bankers should be refused communion too.

Am I Pro-Torture?

If I say that I agree with Krauthammer's views to a large extent, then maybe the answer is 'Yes'. I'm perfectly willing to sacrifice a bit of my soul if it will save one or more human lives. Funny how an article Sully directed me to basically turned me against his blanket opposition to torture. Unfortunately, the world we live in isn't as black and white as most absolutists make it out to be. The most important section of this piece closes out Krauthammer's argument, which basically points out everyone's favorite Arizona senator's 'inconsistencies' in the torture debate:

"...I have just made what will be characterized as the pro-torture case contra McCain by proposing two major exceptions carved out of any no-torture rule: the ticking time bomb and the slow-fuse high-value terrorist. McCain supposedly is being hailed for defending all that is good and right and just in America by standing foursquare against any inhuman treatment. Or is he?

According to Newsweek, in the ticking time bomb case McCain says that the president should disobey the very law that McCain seeks to pass--under the justification that "you do what you have to do. But you take responsibility for it." But if torturing the ticking time bomb suspect is "what you have to do," then why has McCain been going around arguing that such things must never be done?

As for exception number two, the high-level terrorist with slow-fuse information, Stuart Taylor, the superb legal correspondent for National Journal, argues that with appropriate legal interpretation, the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" standard, "though vague, is said by experts to codify . . . the commonsense principle that the toughness of interrogation techniques should be calibrated to the importance and urgency of the information likely to be obtained." That would permit "some very aggressive techniques . . . on that small percentage of detainees who seem especially likely to have potentially life-saving information." Or as Evan Thomas and Michael Hirsh put it in the Newsweek report on McCain and torture, the McCain standard would "presumably allow for a sliding scale" of torture or torture-lite or other coercive techniques, thus permitting "for a very small percentage--those High Value Targets like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed--some pretty rough treatment."

But if that is the case, then McCain embraces the same exceptions I do, but prefers to pretend he does not. If that is the case, then his much-touted and endlessly repeated absolutism on inhumane treatment is merely for show. If that is the case, then the moral preening and the phony arguments can stop now, and we can all agree that in this real world of astonishingly murderous enemies, in two very circumscribed circumstances, we must all be prepared to torture. Having established that, we can then begin to work together to codify rules of interrogation for the two very unpleasant but very real cases in which we are morally permitted--indeed morally compelled--to do terrible things."

Too Important for the Comments

I feel the need to write a full post about MrP’s earlier post. A blog that MrP brought to our attention says that because McCain himself broke under torture, it proves that torture works – and therefore McCain is wrong to say torture doesn’t yield good intelligence. I don’t feel right leaving my opinion on this hidden in the comments section.

McCain doesn't say that torture never gives valuable information - which is why he is in favor of it being used in extreme situations (by knowingly breaking the law and accepting that responsibility) like an impending attack.

But he does argue that on the whole, it doesn't provide useful intelligence. He openly admits that prisoners break - but breaking doesn't always mean telling the truth, it can also mean telling the interrogators exactly what they want to hear. For example, if your interrogators believe you were seeking nuclear weapons, they might torture you until you admit to it. And people will admit to it even if it is false, because they will do anything to stop the torture. Another good example comes from McCain’s own experience: when asked to give the names of his flight squadron, he gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line instead.

Yes, torture will eventually lead to information. Sometimes that information is true and useful, and other times it isn’t. The problem is that it is next to impossible to know when a prisoner is telling you what you want to hear, or when they are giving you accurate information. And the information isn’t useful if you can’t verify its accuracy.

On a Roll

Sharon's gambit in leaving the Likud party and forming his own appears to be paying big. Many on the left are already signaling that they wish to join his centrist enterprise, with Sharon ready to steal just about everyone's thunder in a political manuever of almost Bismarckian magnitude.

Peres, who lost the Labor leadership vote earlier this month, was traveling in Spain on Tuesday and did not comment specifically about his plans. Sharon left the Likud Party last week to form the new movement, known as Kadima.

Peres's ally, Dalia Itzik, a member of Labor's 21-person parliamentary bloc, announced that she would join Sharon. She is the second Labor member of parliament to do so after Haim Ramon, who announced his decision last week.

"It looks like a package deal," Eitan Cabel, the Labor Party's secretary general, told Israel's Army Radio. "We spoke about their remaining and not defecting to another party. But apparently things were already sealed, and the talks with us were nothing but a smoke screen."


Sharon, first a prime architect of the settler movement and then later a prime demolition artist, calls for the following very specific things as part of his party:

The newly drafted party platform explicitly calls for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a goal of the U.S.-backed plan known as the "road map," which Sharon has said he would follow in seeking to revive a dormant peace process. The platform also calls for Israel to keep its major West Bank settlement blocs and East Jerusalem in any final peace agreement.


It's comforting that Sharon is truly hell-bent on this outcome and peace just as an individual and was fully prepared to torpedo the Likud party and go it alone to accomplish it. Its guts you almost never see from a politician, but does jive with the fact that Sharon was a former General. The comparison between Bismarck and Sharon is an interesting one, as Sharon is a sort of anti-Bismarck who is using power politics and careful diplomacy to bring about the fragmentation, not unification, of Israel into two states.

Update: It's official, the defections are underway!

Moonbat Assassin

To those of you who stay out of certain crazy places, you may not be aware that there was a recent Newsmax piece that really sets the bar for hyperbolic partisan insanity. Newsmax, of course, is very often good for providing us with such absurd benchmarks. In this piece, the author asserts that because John McCain "broke" under torture in North Vietnam, that tortue is in fact effective. This is a real zinger:

That McCain broke under torture doesn't make him any less of an American hero. But it does prove he's wrong to claim that harsh interrogation techniques simply don't work.


Many blogs on the right are trumpeting this piece of shit like it's the second coming of Christ. As always, you can rely on John Cole to pull their shirt over their head and beat the ever-living shit out of them:

The problem is not that I doubt people will ‘break,’ it is that I doubt torture will ‘work.’ I simply disagree that beating McCain until he signs a random ‘confession’ in a language he does not understand somehow proves that doing the same to others will provide us with necessary intel. Further, I do not trust the government with the death penalty, and amd not inclined to trust the government with torture. Furthermore, I do not like the idea of having foreign governments and despotic regimes to similarly be allowed to torture, because it will be, in many cases, our guys they are now LEGALLY torturing. And spare me the ‘they are going to abuse and our torture our guys anyway, if they want to.’ Again, no shit.

That is why we rightly view them as EVIL, and why we are fighting them in the first place.


Read them both.

I know I've not blogged much of late...

...so I'll give you a dose of what my tired, sleep-deprived, mind thinks is funny in IM conversation. Keep in mind too this was in a conversation with a former girlfriend who never really got my humor anyway:

me: oh man, crazy times
me: the girl at the coffee shop tonight, at caribou coffee
me: gave me $0.10 off my coffee, although I got the trivia question wrong
me: so I tipped well
me: then I went too far and opened up my trenchcoat
me: scalding hot coffee really really hurts on the crotch, lemme tell you

Anyway, that's some filler stuff which nonetheless is a window into my soul for our average reader.. I do hope to blog more substantively in the near future, perhaps on my thoughts on the renewed "war over Christmas" we've seen lately by activists fighting back against the generic "Happy Holidays" crap we see in politically-correct retail America.

Even the Speaker of the House has joined the fight, renaming the Capitol HolidayTree to its traditional moniker, the Capitol Christmas Tree, which, of course, I'm fine with, mind you.

But I do think this is on some level a silly, silly political fight to wage, and it's totally ginned up to milking special interest end-of-year donations to political campaigns. To that cynical angle of the Christmas/holiday moniker wars, I say bah humbug, particularly since as far back as I can remember corporate America has been PC with the Christmas season and no one has heretofore waged anything like the all-out war that some in the punditocracy are calling for. It's just kinda lame.

Well, whattayaknow? My sleep deprived mind pulls through in the clutch, I did put something substantive in here after all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Liberal Wish List

For Christmas, of course! (Or Winter Solstice, if you are a hippy atheist communist. Just kidding. Kinda.) Mr. Sun has all the hot gifts! Here's a sample:

Tattleship. Joe Wilson and Richard Clarke present this exciting new game of international warfare and incomprehensible disloyalty. Don't be fainthearted about turning your back on the people you swore to fight alongside. Just remember: Loose Lips - Book Ships! Simply yell out accusations about your former colleagues and current officeholders and they'll respond with a pouty, "You sunk my policy initiative!" Loyalty not included.

Strateg-0. The goal of Strateg-0 is to win an election with absolutely zero (0) strategies for solving public problems. How do you do it? By blaming the opposition for everything and hoping a senile Larry King or partisan Dan Rather moderates your debate.


Collect them all!

The Inquisition, Take 2

How does the Catholic Church get away with this ignorant, intolerant and hateful crap in this day and age?

TimesSelect - Probably Not Going Away

Ever since the New York Times started TimesSelect, I have been waiting for the moment when they abandon the project and go back to giving us their opinion pieces and other articles for free. Although Mickey Kaus on Slate has a post about why this won’t succeed, I find his argument weak. Kaus’ argument is limited to whether TimesSelect will be profitable on its own. In reality though, TimesSelect is only a small part of the NY Times revenue sources, and the decision to keep it or dump it depends on how this project affects their overall revenue. Previously, when they were giving everything away for free on the web, there was less of an incentive to buy the print version of the paper. Granted, most of their revenue comes from advertising, but some of it comes from sales. TimesSelect will not only generate revenue from people who prefer the online version, it will likely encourage more people to get a subscription to the print version. The only potential downside to this venture will be if readership declines so much on the website, that their internet advertising revenue declines substantially. I don’t think this is going to be the case.

But while I understand their decision from a business perspective, I have a problem with the lack of access bloggers have to link to some of their columns and articles, thereby preventing serious debate about the issues. I can no longer link and write about a Thomas Friedman or Nicholas Kristof column, and I can no longer rip into Maureen Dowd’s constant anti-Bush diatribes. So while I understood their desire to encourage people to pay for their paper – especially the content stuff we can’t get anywhere else (which is why the basic news articles are still free), I had always hoped that they would leave their content free on the web to encourage debate and discussion. I thought a liberal paper like the New York Times would value that over increasing their profits. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. And despite what Mickey Kaus has to say, I don’t think this is going away anytime soon.

Economics For Everyone

In case you are a huge dork like me, I will point out two economics blogs that are understandable to the non-economics student. Dear Economist is a Dear Abbey type blog with a twist. The blog answers the readers questions using economics. The writing is pretty witty, although the solutions to the problems are sometimes not very realistic. The Freakonomics blog is written by the authors of the popular book by the same name. It often links to other interesting economics papers and topics, as well as responding to criticisms of their book and papers.

Vive La Revolucion!

Paul Martin's corrupt cabal has been taken down!

A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday that toppled Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government, triggering an unusual election campaign during the holidays.

Canada's three opposition parties, which control a majority in Parliament, voted against Martin's government, claiming his Liberal Party no longer has the moral authority to lead the nation.

The loss means an election for all 308 seats in the House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet would continue to govern until then.

Opposition leaders last week called for the no-confidence vote after Martin rejected their demands to dissolve Parliament in January and hold early elections in February. Monday's vote follows a flurry of spending announcements in Ottawa last week, with the government trying to advance its agenda ahead of its demise.


The liberals had a complete dominance over Canadian government for a long time, and though they still have a plurality in polls, it looks like their monopoly over Canadian politics is over. Likely there will be an odd sort of coalition government to arise out of this that will be centrist in nature by incorporating the conservatives (which are not so conservative in Canada) and another group.

Captain Obvious to the Rescue

Oh, if I didn't have El Wapo to explain this stuff to me! Beltway bandits and their tactics are soooo confusing!

In any given week, a million or more WTOP radio listeners might hear a rich baritone voice advertise Lockheed Martin Corp. as the "right choice" to build a $10 billion federal law enforcement communications system because "the bad guys aren't going to take a break while we fix it."

But Lockheed Martin's marketing advisers don't care about the vast majority of that audience. They aren't selling beer or soda pop. Rather, in a peculiarly Washington form of advertising, their hope is that the radio spot might reach the ears of the 50 or so employees at the Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security departments who are going to decide which company should get the communications contract.

If it reaches those people -- or their bosses -- the ad is a success, Lockheed spokesman Scott Lusk said. Limited by federal law in how the company can interact with procurement officials, blanketing the entire region with sometimes jargon-filled ads is one of the ways contractors such as Lockheed try to build momentum for their latest contract proposal among the few federal officials who have authority over it.


Obviously the target of this marketing is me!! Of course, I would also ascertain that from the 5 or 6 cold calls I get a day from tiny companies wanting me to steer business their way.

Monday, November 28, 2005

One Question

Why isn't this on Cunningham's (R-CA) website?

Iran Implosion Watch

Ahmadinejad, aside from calling for the complete destruction of both the U.S. and Israel so that he can start an Islamic future for the world based on his own vision and the hidden Imam, (this man is President of a country that is about to have nuclear weapons), has been very busy alienating just about every in his own country as well.

Even extremists within the hardline camp want Ahmadinejad to be more responsive to their advice, experts say.

"If he doesn't want to hear no for a fourth time, he has to consult with people outside his circle of friends," said Mohammad Nabi Habibi, leader of the Islamic Coalition Society.

Since taking office in August, Ahmadinejad has jettisoned Iran's moderation in foreign policy and pursued a purge in the government, replacing pragmatic veterans with former military commanders and inexperienced religious hardliners.

[snip]

Iranian moderates say the president has harmed his country by isolating it internationally, and now Ahmadinejad's friends are lining up against him. He suffered a humiliating defeat last week when his choice for oil minister was rejected for a third time, an unprecedented failure for an Iranian president.

While parliament is dominated by Ahmadinejad's conservative allies, the president's isolationist stance and his failure to consult on cabinet appointments have annoyed legislators. They warn they will not approve any future nominee unless Ahmadinejad first consults parliament.


If you thought Iran's old guard was bad, Ahmadinejad plans to do them one better and replace them with a newer and even crazier cadre of nutcases. This is highlighted most by his recent pick for President of Tehran University, an "Islamic law teacher" with no formal education. The pick met with massive student protests. Hopefully the pragmatists and even hard-liners will form an alliance to get rid of Ahmadinejad soon, or else he will continue to be the best thing to happen for Islamofacism since the Taliban. Then there's what this psycho would do with a nuclear weapon. Maybe Jon Stewart was right when he told McCain on Wednesday that we missed the country we should've invaded by one letter.

In additional Iran news, check out Regime Change Iran which has a piece about Iran's involvements with Chechen terrorism. Maybe this is a good development in a way because it might break off Putin's love affair with Iran and his efforts to supply them with nuclear technology.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

In His Own Words

We have been talking a lot about Senator McCain’s anti-torture legislation on this blog. Recently, Newsweek allowed McCain to write an article about his stance on torture. We all know his position is principled and borne of experience in one of the infamously cruel POW camps in Vietnam. But his article shows he has more than principle. He attacks the issue from all angles in a way that leaves you wondering how anyone could disagree. In fact, one of the biggest strengths of the article is how it actually deals with security concerns of the right.

McCain starts off his piece by acknowledging that the Bush administration has a responsibility to protect the people of this country that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Their decision to condone harsh interrogation practices are meant to make us more secure. Where liberals might attack Bush and Cheney from the beginning, thereby losing any chance of influencing conservatives, McCain acknowledges their honorable intentions while still disagreeing with them. He also makes it clear that our decision to allow torture (or torture light) will have little impact on the terrorists’ decision to torture Americans. This enemy is unfazed by international condemnation or public opinion. But our enemies in the future could be different. And if we have a reputation of condoning torture or harsh interrogation tactics, that enemy may be more willing to do the same to our troops.

He also acknowledges the possibility that harsh interrogation might be necessary if there is an impending attack against the US. And his answer to this is simple, but brilliant. In that case, he believes harsh interrogation might be necessary. And in that situation, the President should be willing to break the law and be truthful after the fact about it. He argues that it would be better to break the law in the rare circumstances when there is an impending attack, instead of creating loopholes allowing for torture in these situations – loopholes that could easily become often used exceptions.

If that was all McCain wrote, it would be enough to convince most people. His argument is logical and will protect American interests in the long-term. But he is also able to talk about the effect of torture on the person, and the reality about the usefulness of the intelligence that is gathered from the victim. Through his own experience he is able to show that a victim will say anything he or she thinks the captors want to hear to stop the torture. In his case it meant lying about the names of his flight squadron (giving the names of the Green Bay Packers offensive line). But in other cases it could mean lying about the terrorists’ intentions or activities just to get the pain to stop.

And finally, McCain attacks some of the harsh interrogation methods, sometimes called torture light. Although some of these methods, like water boarding, don’t cause physical harm to the victim, he argues that some of these methods are worse than a beating. Water boarding makes the victim believe he or she is drowning, leaving them to believe they are going to die. McCain said that as a POW he would much rather have been beaten than have to face a mock execution. Wounds from a beating heal, the psychological effects of facing death through water boarding or pulling the trigger of an unloaded gun at your head stay with you forever. Those of us that have never faced any situation like this can sit back and believe that water boarding is okay because it causes no physical harm. But I would rather take the word of someone who has been through similar situations about the real harm of torture light.

In the end, McCain demonstrates that we as a nation can choose not to torture without losing our security. And he brings it back down to earth by saying (again, he draws this from his own experience) that soldiers need to feel that they are fighting for something – that they are better than their enemy. They need to believe that they are fighting to protect the grand idea that this country was founded on, democracy and liberty. When we torture, we show that we are as cruel as our enemy. And that is what hurts troop morale.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Grave Gets Deeper

The DeLay-Abramoff fiasco has an embarassing new chapter.

Michael Scanlon, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to bribe public officials, a charge growing out of the government investigation of attempts to defraud Indian tribes and corrupt a member of Congress.

Scanlon, a former partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and agreed to pay restitution totaling more than $19 million to the tribes.

Scanlon, who is expected to cooperate in the investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress, could face up to five years in prison.

Outside the courthouse, Scanlon attorney Plato Cacheris said his client “is regretful for what happened to the tribes” and is trying to do what is right by cooperating with the investigation.

The charge was in a criminal information filed Friday accusing Scanlon of conspiring with Abramoff to defraud Indian tribes and engage in a corrupt scheme that lavished trips, sports tickets and campaign donations on a member of Congress, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

Abramoff was indicted on fraud charges in August related to a $23 million purchase of casino fleet boats.

DeLay is among those facing scrutiny for his associations with Abramoff, including a trip to Scotland and use of Abramoff's skybox at a Washington sports arena.


Smells like pooh-gas!

2-0, Baby!

Camden, NJ takes home the prize for the second year in a row.

Take Note, Lunchbox

Splinter Cell

Israel's PM Sharon has been facing a lot of criticism from the more hawkish members of his own party in recent years for the Gaza withdrawal and more efforts to reach out and work with the Palestinian Authority. Many have even threatened his budget votes and many of his other legislative initiatives. So now he's come up with a novel answer: he's going to make his own party. Sharon has proved that he's not just a deft General but a political genius when it comes to recent moves. He dealt with the settlers well during the withdrawal, has done a decent job selling the withdrawal to his own people, and in the process has managed to get some work done actually with the Palestinian Authority and even opening up diplomatic relations with Pakistan! Who'd a thunk it? I guess while he was accomplishing more towards a solution to the Palestinian and Israeli debacle than any Prime Minister before him and in the face of mutinous fellow Likud members he simply decided "who needs them anyway?" This will most likely serve as a death-blow to Likud, as most will migrate to Sharon's new centrist party along with many from the more liberal parties, leaving only fringe dissenters behind. And it's probably all for the better to, allowing Sharon to negotiate and achieve more with less political baggage.

The New Sheriff In Town

The new Director of the Office of Women's Health has her work cut out for her, but her credentials are essentially perfect. From personal experience, HHS is a difficult agency. While Clinton and Bush both managed to heavily consolidate what were a bunch of disparate programs and also to resolve a lot of the turf wars, it's still a formidable alphabet soup. Many agencies have what sound like simple missions, but not much in the way of authority or budget to carry them out. Uhl, the new Director, has a lot of experience in the Public Health Service, HHS' general service-delivery arm, and has a lot of experience with the military and its health system and needs, which are often extremely complex. However, also from personal experience she's going to have a lot of problems to deal with. The resignation of their last director in protest over the FDA's ridiculous Plan B fiasco and a history of budget cuts has left the division demoralized and skeletal. It would take a real master of federal bureaucracy to accomplish anything.

Guess She Doesn't Believe In "Live and Let Die"

And now in a new annual "celebrity activist preaches about animal cruelty and vegetarianism in time for Thanksgiving" tradition, I present you Heather Mills McCartney.

PSA: Heather Mills McCartney Says 'Stop Amputating Turkeys' Toes'

11/21/2005 7:30:00 AM


To: National Desk

Contact: Lauren Ornelas, 530-848-4021

DAVIS, Calif. Nov. 21 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Speaking out for turkeys this holiday season, Heather Mills McCartney has recorded a PSA for the animal group Viva!USA. It focuses on the amputation of turkeys' toes by farmers and implores the public to forgo eating turkeys this holiday season.

"When I found out from my friends at Viva!USA that turkeys have their toes cut off or microwaved, I was shocked. Amputation causes the birds great pain and many can barely walk. The procedure should be banned immediately.

"I speak out about all suffering, whether it is a result of landmines or factory farming. It's the holiday season, a time for giving thanks, and I feel it's time to give the animals something to be thankful for. For me, that means eating vegetarian -- for the holidays and every day."

Approximately 45 million turkeys are killed every year in the U.S. just for the holidays. In addition to having their toes cut off, they also have the tips of their beaks painfully cut. They are bred to grow so quickly that many have difficulty walking due to their size and inability to balance without their full toes.

Overcrowding causes aggression in which animals may claw each other. The industry responds by cramming thousands of birds into sheds and cutting off body parts rather than giving them more room.

"Most people oppose cruelty to animals, but they just have no idea about what takes place in factory farms. Paul and I are 100 percent committed to Viva!’s campaign to end the suffering."

Heather closes the new PSA by saying: "Go on, celebrate life -– and save one!"

To view the PSA and for more information about turkeys and meal ideas go to: http://www.vivaturkeys.com.

----

Viva!USA conducts investigations of factory farms and its national headquarters are in Davis, Calif. Viva!USA ( http://www.vivausa.org ) is part of an international animal protection organization based in England.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Playing Chicken

Bush blinked. It's just as well. When your war effort is becoming more and more unpopular you don't get points by demonizing the opposition, you get points by making a more positive case. Bush is signaling that he's ready to have a more substantive debate now, and that's probably because his negative-on-negative attacks weren't working.

As I looked through the mass e-mails I receive from the Left Wing Conspiracy over the past week, they all decry that Murtha was being "swift-boated." While that's a bit of an exaggeration, it does signal a new and more sophisticated tactic of the Democrats. Even in Virginia, with the victory of David Englin for a Delegate seat, the strategy is to use veterans, especially young veterans who fought in Iraq as a vehicle for criticism. Murtha is another example of that. Kerry, as he suffered from chronic verbal diarrhea, was easily defeated this way. Some of the new spokesmen aren't. And as the public has grown more skeptical about Iraq, it's going to take more than bashing your attackers' credibility to win. It's going to take actually responding and rebutting their criticisms with real arguments, and those arguments can't just be "stay the course."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hokies Destroy Cavaliers

At least in the win column:

"Under the cloak of a bitterly cold autumn night, an unknown number of presumably Virginia Tech football fans jumped the fence surrounding Virginia's Scott Stadium sometime early Saturday morning, avoiding the not-so-watchful eyes of security personnel, and then spray-painted a maroon "T" next to the Cavaliers' white "V" logo at midfield."


Blacksburg can hold its head high for yet another year. But they routinely fall short where it really counts.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Gut Check

A little something to put the whole Intelligent Design debate in perspective. Those Saudis, so progressive! When are we just going to admit to ourselves that Saudi Arabia is just another Taliban?

All His Hopes and Dreams

Future Combat Systems may be on its deathbed! This is a catastrophic blow to Rumsfeld but basically good news to the taxpayers. Rumsfeld's dream of a fast, light, and small army was your classic top-down theory, an abstract idea imposed on conditions that didn't want it and rejected it. Rumsfeld wanted it to be the case, therefore despite all evidence to the contrary that it was a good idea he pushed it. Future Combat Systems was, in many ways, a typical DoD weapons system program: Ill thought-out, too vague, constantly changed, constantly overbudget, and constantly behind. The price tag has been upgraded to $161 Billion according to a new procurement forecast, and while that's astonishing enough, what's more astonishing is that it's only for about a third of the army's troops. Yikes.

More and more we're engaged in a low-tech war, an old-fashioned guerilla struggle that involves a struggle to have more boots and more human intelligence. All the high tech toys in the world won't change that. Rumsfeld has built his whole career on his ideas of dramtically downsizing the U.S. Army and dramatically upgrading its field technology, but what good is speed when the job is basically standing still and guarding things? That's what we're looking at in the GWOT/GSAVE. It's time for Rummy to abandon his dreams, and I'm sure Congress will force him to, before all of us pay for them for years to come.

Mos Eisley Hall of Fame

Courtesy of $teve-O. "We must be cautious".

Inherit The Wind

Will and Krauthammer versus the Kansas State Board of Education.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Is Wrong With The Stork?

My knee-jerk reaction to the story that many parents are teaching sex-education at age five or even earlier was that it was ludicrous - another example of liberals going too far to make a point. But after reading the whole story, I realize it isn't as crazy as it sounds.

"If you're talking about how babies are made, there's no age at which it is harmful to learn that the penis goes into the vagina," [Dr. Justin Richardson] said. "Yes, it's true that exposing a child to sexual stimulation is harmful. But telling a kid how babies are made is very different."

The general cultural environment has become so vulgar, the early-approach advocates say, that sex education has become a race: parents must reach children before other forces - from misinformed playground confidantes to pubescent-looking models posed in their skivvies - do. "We need to get there first," said Deborah M. Roffman, a sex educator and the author of "But How'd I Get in There in the First Place? Talking to Your Young Child About Sex."

If not, these advocates warn, children will gather their impressions anywhere and everywhere: from prime-time television jokes about threesomes, Internet pop-up ads for penis enlargement pills or even more explicit Web sites.


To be clear, I am not saying I buy into this mentality. I definitely don't know enough about early childhood development to form my own conclusion yet. But some of what they are talking about isn't too crazy. Teaching kids to call their sexual body parts by clinical names seems normal enough. And as the article demonstrates, there are some compelling reasons to consider real sexual education at early ages.

Cold War II Watch

As if Islamofascism and Iran aren't troubling and demanding enough, there's this:

In a surprisingly short time, China has accomplished two feats. One, it has focused its energy and wealth on creating an army within an army. It has devoted huge amounts of capital to create a small high-tech army within its old 2.2 million-member rifle and shoe-leather force.

The specialty of this modern force, about 15 percent of the PLA, is to conduct lightning attacks on smaller foes, using an all-out missile attack designed to paralyze, and a modern sea and air attack coordinated by high-tech communications. In other words, this new modern force is designed to attack Taiwan.

Second, China has taken painful but successful steps to create a "defense industrial base," or weapons-building capability. The PLA has improved its factory quality control and its ability to adapt foreign technology. It is bringing an indigenous small-wing F-10 fighter off the production line, and it is moving rapidly toward a "blue water" Navy with ships built in China.


For the longest time we didn't have to worry a lot about China, except their nuclear capabilities, because there army was composed of low-tech and high-numbers. Sure we could never fight a ground war with them, but the air and the sea were clearly the U.S.'s advantage. Now? Not so much. China is changing the game fast, and now has a force that could be used to cripple Taiwan fast. The U.S. pledges to defend Taiwan, but then there's this little gem too:

This summer, Gen. Zhu Chenghu, dean of China's National Defense University, raised the subject of weapons of mass destruction, which China rarely mentions, in connection with Taiwan. Should US forces aid Taiwan in a war, he told bewildered US visitors, "Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by Chinese" nuclear weapons.


As much as Bush wants to visit China and talk up Taiwan, things aren't rosy and defending Taiwan could turn into a bloodbath. It's not guaranteed, and the U.S. could pay a severe price for it. Letting China steamroll Taiwan and invade it is an even steeper price and blow to world democracy. What to do, what to do? If we had a properly funded DoD (not one logjammed and hijacked by Congressmen and their ridiculous pet projects and insane weapons systems no one in DoD or the President wants) we could better deal with the situation. Sadly, we don't. But the important lesson is that unless China falls apart from its own internal contradictions of being a capitalist and communist country at the same time (always a possibility), real hostilities could be in the near future.

Corruption Roundup

Balloon Juice has all the news about crooked GOP superstar Abramoff and all the people he has tainted along the way for your daily smearing needs. Also, there's more on David Safavian, who continues to be a source of befuddlement for all of us in the Procurement community (because he was our boss, and apparently a criminal the whole time he was our boss).

Nowhere Men

As I mentioned before, Obsidian Wings has been on a roll when it comes to the whole detainee issue and the significance of Habeas Corpus in it. Well, they've done it again. This is a morbidly chilling little tale, and it really shows what's at stake when it comes to our detention policies. The innocent are subjected to so much, without any rights and any review, and even AFTER they're cleared of all wrongdoing they end up unable to get release from their non-existence in Guatanamo. As Obsidian Wings states, this is WITH Habeas, and the Senate has just weakened that considerably.

I think what we're doing should bother everyone, and it is why Scalia slammed the Administration in several of the Supreme Court's detainee cases. Without a judicial review of the executive branch's actions, and without a judicial review of the charges against the detainees, we've lost all checks and balances. These detainees have no hope, even if they are innocent, of being released from their hell. Their hope only lies with the sole discretion of their captors, with no possibility for anyone to hold their captors accountable.

Dubya's Officially Lost It

Oh my:

"
Here's Drudge: "The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.""


(Tip o' the Hat, TMV)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What A Tangled Web We Weave...

So Cheney and the oil execs did meet before we went to fight that non-oil-related war overseas!

Somehow, Wrapped Around Your Finger by The Police springs to mind...

Never In A Thousand Years

I don't normally go cuckoo over op-ed pieces by Bob Samuelson. But his El Wapo diatribe regarding the evil AARP hits the nail square on the head:

"...I won't be joining, because AARP has become America's most dangerous lobby. If left unchecked, its agenda will plunder our children and grandchildren. Massive outlays for the elderly threaten huge tax increases and other government spending. Both may weaken the economy and the social fabric. No thanks."

Alito and MCPS

With news about the Montgomery County Public Schools deliberating over a progressive sexual education curriculum, and Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, my thoughts on these issues and how they relate are long overdue.

There is little doubt in my mind that it is in our best interest to do what is reasonable to prevent unwanted pregnancies and births. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s book Freakonomics claims that the legalization of abortion had the biggest impact on the rapid decline of violent crime in the early 1990s. Their statistics seem to back up their claim, but the reasoning also seems intuitive – children born to parents who did not want them or were not ready for them are more likely to have troublesome lives and commit crimes.

A scary conclusion to draw from this finding is that there should be easier access to abortion*. That doesn’t sit very well with me though. Instead, I think we need to do much more to prevent the pregnancies in the first place. This is where sexual education comes in. It is completely naive and unrealistic to think that we can convince any sizeable segment of the population to abstain from sex until marriage or until ready to conceive. It is more unrealistic even than asking all Americans to give up their guns. Instead, we need to teach everyone how to be as safe as possible if they do have sex and how to prevent pregnancies.

What I do want to stress though is that any good sexual education class should stress this one thing first – the only form of truly safe sex is abstinence. In everything else there is some chance of pregnancy or transmission of STI's (I certainly don’t think we should scare anyone by over-hyping the dangers of STI’s, but people need to know the effectiveness of the preventative measures they are using).

Unfortunately, it seems like the left is only interested in protecting unrestricted access to abortions. This leaves even those in the middle a bit disturbed. Although I am pro-choice – mostly because I don’t hold to the dogmatic notion that life begins at conception – something troubles me about abortions, especially the further into the pregnancy. The left seems unwilling to concede that we should be doing all we can to decrease the number of abortions, afraid maybe that giving any ground will start a slippery slope towards the full abolition of abortions.

But the far right can be equally rigid in their belief in protecting life. Refusal to allow for an abortion when the mother’s life is in danger is absolutely absurd to me. In that situation, one life is likely to be lost and it becomes a choice over who should be saved. A decision that serious shouldn’t be outlined in a law, but flexible depending on the situation and choice of the family.

The point is that there can be middle ground on the issue of abortion and realistic approaches can be found - despite what the two extremes are saying. We can work to make abortions rare if we are committed to preventing unwanted pregnancies. And we can also limit abortions later in the term when babies begin to develop neurological functions and have the capacity to live outside the womb. But we can also allow the possibility of late term abortions to protect the mother. Conceding the middle ground should never be interpreted as losing the battle.


*Another conclusion to draw from that finding could be that more resources need to go to social programs to help children most at risk - but apparently the far right wants to protect life without trying to improve it.

Settle Down, Beavis (Red Gold III)

Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere has been nixed. Yay! Actually, wait a minute. For reasons why the Alaskan Congressional delegation is still screwing the rest of the country and why this is only a partial victory, check here.

the original half billion dollars earmarked for the bridges won't go to more worthy projects like rebuilding the Gulf, or, better yet, back to the taxpayers. Instead of going toward Ted Stevens', Don Young's, and Lisa Murkowski's pet projects, it'll merely be redirected toward the pet projects of Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Alaska state legislature. And don't forget, Murkowski, who's wife owns land on Gravina Island, fought long and hard for this bridge, too.


In other words, this is the Congressional shell game. The project has simply been hidden from view now, but the money is still there for it, and Alaska may still use it for this. Bottom line: It's still Red Gold.

Ch-Ch-Check It Out

I've been reading a lot of the really great pieces on Slate's college week, and I highly recommend everyone take a look at it. There's so much history, great reform ideas, and generally interesting sociological discussion about higher education that I think everyone can appreciate no matter what their political perspective.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sorry Don't Cut It

T.O. can apologize all he wants, but that doesn't mean he's going to get back on the team. There are just some things that apologies won't work for.

Oil Spot

It is obvious that the situation in Iraq is unstable and not showing much improvement, if any. So it would be right if much of the current debate centered on how to fix the problem. Instead there is a debate about who is to blame for bad intelligence and who supported the war and who didn’t.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that neither side is even talking about how to fix the problem. In fact, today the Democrats in the senate lost a vote to set a timetable for pullout from Iraq. Unfortunately, not only is this a bad policy, it also makes the Democrats look bad. I was very disappointed to find that almost all of the Dems voted in favor of this, with Lieberman being one of the few exceptions.

The only policy that has come out lately that makes even a little bit of sense is to set our sights on a few major cities and stay there to keep them secure (the oil spot strategy, hat tip Slate). The idea would be that after those are secure, we could eventually spread to other cities, slowly securing the whole country. The idea is appealing because by securing a few population centers, we could support the economy and help build infrastructure. This sounds very similar to what we have going on now in Afghanistan where areas outside major population centers are not secure.

Granted, this plan isn't perfect. It could allow terrorists to set up training camps in unsecured areas of Iraq. Also, this plan (along with every other realistic plan for success) will require more troops to make it successful. This is where the idea falls apart because Bush is unlikely to ask for more troops. He and Rumsfeld are wedded to the idea of having a small, mobile military - an idea that is outdated in a world of increasing occupations and peace-keeping forces.

Whether the oil spot strategy is the right one or not, we need to start talking about success seriously. Democrats need to end the blame game once and for all.

By The Power Invested in Me...

...by myself as a blogger, I declare this guy a fruit loop:

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - A Presbyterian Church pastor in Arlington is protesting Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage by ending traditional marriages at his church, too.

Pastor David Ensign of Clarendon Presbyterian Church says he'll perform "commitment celebrations" for heterosexual couples but they won't carry the weight of law. Ensign is giving up his authority to perform marriages on the state's behalf.

The pastor tells The Washington Post his conscious had been nagging him because he says Virginia's marriage laws are unjust and unequal.

Of course, this pastor is well within his rights to refuse to exercise his prerogatives as an ordained minister to officiate over weddings and sign marriage licenses, but it's rather odd to see this coming from a pulpit. I can understand, to some extent---although of course I theologically differ-- with a liberal preacher actively advocating the state change its marriage laws in this regard, but to altogether stop performing legally-binding wedding ceremonies for the sake of that agenda?

At any rate, a casual read-through of his archived sermons shows that this guy often pontificates on politics from the pulpit. Sort of the bizarro version of Pat Robertson, only with a much, much smaller following (the Post reported his congregation hovers around the 100-member mark).

For Ensign's sermons, click here. And speaking of, here's just a sample of teaching, which apparently lumps murderous al Qaeda thugs in with Dubya and Kerry as "children of God":

The Presbyterian Church of our day, in its most recent catechism, asks the same question in more personal terms: who are you?

You have all heard this often enough: who are you? I am a child of God.

And, the second question asks, what does that mean? That God loves me.

We are, then, children of a loving God who are to praise God and enjoy God forever; who are, in essence, to love God.That is the fundamental identity of all human beings: beloved children of God. It stands for all of us: conservative or liberal, man or woman, straight or gay, American or not, rich or poor, whatever race or creed or conviction. It stands for George W. Bush and for John Kerry. It stands for James Forbes and for Jerry Falwell. It stands for Pat Robertson and for William Sloan Coffin. It stands for churches at home in the Christian Coalition and for those more comfortable with Sojourners. It stands for American soldiers and for al Queda terrorists.


All About Ginsberg

There are two news items involving Ruth Bader Ginsberg that I want to cover. The first involves what I see as the changing nature of federal court appointees. I have argued before that Democrats need to be more reasonable when it comes to approving President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. I thought Roberts had enough experience and his views were reasonable enough that he should have received near unanimous approval. As evidence for the changing nature, I look back to the appointments of Ginsberg and Scalia, both relatively on the extreme. Although I still stand by that, it appears that Ginsberg was more of a consensus pick than I realized. Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post writes;

Far from being a crazed radical, Ginsburg had staked out a centrist role on a closely divided appeals court. Don't take it from me -- take it from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). In his autobiography, the Utah Republican describes how he suggested Ginsburg -- along with Clinton's second pick, Stephen G. Breyer -- to the president. "From my perspective, they were far better than the other likely candidates from a liberal Democratic administration," Hatch writes.

[snip]

According to a Legal Times study of voting patterns on the appeals court in 1987, for instance, Ginsburg sided more often with Republican-appointed judges than with those chosen by Democrats. In cases that divided the court, she joined most often with then-Judge Kenneth W. Starr and Reagan appointee Laurence H. Silberman; in split cases, she agreed 85 percent of the time with then-Judge Robert H. Bork -- compared with just 38 percent of the time with her fellow Carter appointee, Patricia M. Wald.


So what this tells us is that Ginsberg was a consensus pick (despite what Lindsey Graham is spinning). And it would have been amazing if Bush had decided to act in the same way. But I am still worried about the now highly partisan nature of Supreme Court picks.



On another note, the Supreme Court in a 6-2 vote sided with Montgomery County Public Schools yesterday in Shaffer v. Weast. (O'Connor wrote the majority opinion. She certainly will be missed.) The decision leaves the burden of proof on the parents who bring suit against a school for not providing adequate individual education plans for special education students. The two justices who dissented were Ginsberg and Breyer. This decision should have been unanimous. Burden of persuasion rests on the plaintiff, not the defendant. Done. Next case.

One thing I am highly interested in is whether Roberts as Chief Justice can create more unanimous decisions on cases like these.

I Scream, You Scream....

The cat's out of the bag! Or is it a rat?

According to an article in today's Washington Post, the U. S. Supreme Court Judge nominee Samuel Alito -- a.k.a. das Bush White House wunderknabe -- had stated in his job application to Reagan administration Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." This in light of a Washington Post-ABC News poll held shortly after his nomination in which half of our country's initial gut reaction was that he should be confirmed by the Senate and fewer than a third viewed him as too conservative. In addition, "73 percent of all Republicans [said] he should be confirmed, compared to 33 percent of all Democrats," and 44 percent of Americans thought that "his views appeared 'about right'."

Granted, this poll is now almost two weeks old... But c'mon!!!!!!!!

How could a country that frowns upon female genital mutilation, human trafficking, modern day brothels, child-brides, and honor killings support such an in-your-face anti-choice nominee for the highest court in the land?!

I know I will hear at least two arguments here:

1) Oh, but wait, those other practices are truly degrading and dehumanizing. We are civilized here in the U.S. We loves our women folk!

2) And anyway, sure, the Constitution doesn't say anything about abortion, so technically, Scalito is right.

Puh-lease. My two answers:

1) All of those savage practices have one thing in common: they disregard women's autonomy over their bodies and their selves. They objectify them as vessels of patriarchal desires, as things to be controlled, owned, bartered with, impregnated and discarded at will. They take away women's right to shape their own lives and destinies. Anti-choice rhetoric follows suit.

2) Let us connect the dots here. Alito is nominated for a Supreme Court Judge. Supreme Court Judges interpret the U.S. Constitution. Alito interpreted the U.S. Constitution to say that it does not protect a woman's right to choose. What makes people think that he won't interpret it the same way once he is confirmed?

So excuse me while I go to the corner and muffle my screams of frustration at the American public and our "democratically" elected officials. And wonder whether UNIFEM might just decide to open a U.S. programme office next door.

Suspending Habeas

It's what the Senate is about to do. That's right. Make no mistake. The mess about detainees and their legal status continues, alongside the mess related to all things torture. The Graham amendment is terrible. The Cheney plan to fix the McCain amendment is terrible. And even if those two things fail, the practice of "extraordinary rendition" is terrible, too. Obsidian Wings (links above) has covered the issue more thoroughly than just about any MSM source imaginable. Just keep reading the links and you'll learn more about the activities the President and all these politicians are up to. It's enough to demoralize anyone. Are we really at a state where we need to suspend Habeas? Are we really at a state when Congress passing bans on torture is considered "excessive interference" with the Executive?

GWOT/GSAVE is not going to end in the immediate future. To resort to these extreme measures because of its existence basically means accepting these measures and an even more Imperial Presidency for perhaps the rest of our lifetimes. is this really a step we're ready to take? I would hope not.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Meet the New Boss

For anyone following the bombings in Jordan last week, the subsequent fallout has revealed one salient fact: Zarqawi has probably surpassed bin Laden as the number one terrorist leader. The haunting confession of an Iraqi woman on Jordanian TV has made this plainly obvious, from her links to Zarqawi and Al-Qaida in Iraq, the name Zarqawi has chosen for his organization.

The confession has some doubters, but her identity and ties are without question. Zarqawi has clearly been building his terrorist capacities and exporting terror to Jordan is probably only his first baby-step in using them. Given the nearly complete disappearance of bin Laden since about a year ago (does anyone remember a more recent tape?), Zarqawi has seized the reins of Al Qaida. With this transition, the ever-lasting nature of GWOT/GSAVE is starting to become apparent. No matter how many terrorist leaders may be killed or captured, as long as the forces which create support and funding for these terrorists and the bitterness and lack of opportunity that provides them with recruits exists, new ones will arise. And perhaps flourish.

As depressing as that thought may be, it's not all gloom and doom. The more "successful" Al Qaida is in bringing terror to the Arab world, the more it broadcasts how horrific its vision of the world is.

How the Democrats Can Win

How can the Democrats really steal the Republicans' thunder? How about win the war in Iraq.

Instead of looking backward to question why we're at war, Democrats should focus on winning by increasing the size of the military, portraying a positive message, supporting not just the troops, but also their mission, and showing the world a united homefront in the midst of war.

There's precedent for this counterintuitive approach--1992. When Bushes win victories abroad, the focus returns quickly to their failures at home. And as far as many Republican voters are concerned, there are domestic deficiencies aplenty in this Bush administration. Just as there were in his father's.


Simple.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Can This All Be True?

There is good news abound on Capitol Hill. Moderate Republicans are pulling their support for spending cuts towards the less fortunate, tax cuts for the wealthy, and oil drilling in Alaska. In fact, not only are they having trouble enacting more tax cuts, but it is unlikely that they will be able to extend President Bush’s tax cuts for one year (much less make them permanent). The Senate also approved an amendment to force Secretary Rumsfeld to disclose information on all of the secret international detention facilities. It even seems that Congress might limit some of the surveillance and search powers it had granted after September 11, 2001.

And in the best piece of news from the Hill, the Senate unanimously approved Senator McCain’s measure to prevent torture and inhumane treatment of detainees, and they are doing it without Cheney’s proposed exemption for the CIA. They have overwhelmingly approved this once already, and it is reassuring to know that this isn’t going away. The President is in a tough place with this measure and will look bad no matter what position he takes – signing it makes him look weak because he originally opposed it, and if he vetoes it he makes his administration look morally bankrupt (which is definitely worse).

Even if half of what the Washington Post article said is true, I will be extremely happy.

From Hugo to Dover

Virginia's very own Pat Robertson is at it again. Here's another one for the STFU file:

"Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.
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All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" — the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power — as an alternative to the theory of evolution."


I guess Patty forgot that sometimes, in a democracy, even HIS side loses on occasion. But every once awhile, some losses are bigger than others.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

For the STFU File

Democrats always say this before trying to steal an election they lost:

But Deeds was defiant, arguing that "you have to wait until the votes are counted and they're not counted yet."

"I'll fight it until the last dog is dead, until the last vote is counted," Deeds said during a news conference yesterday with Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine.

"There are too many people who have been too good to me along the way and have invested too much time and energy in this campaign for me just to roll over, and I'm not going to do that."
STFU, Mister Deeds. All you have to say is something like, "I'm looking forward to a full and fair recount which will establish that the voters of the state of Virginia chose me to be their next attorney general. I call on my opponent to cooperate fully and amicably with my campaign and the Commonwealth as we make sure all the votes are counted and the winner correctly determined."

But no, you have to be a f***ing jackhole and spout overwrought asinine partisan rhetoric, rather than genteel and soaring partisan rhetoric.

Don't Forget Darfur

Slate has a concise but powerful post on the situation in Darfur. You should read the post, but there are some points it brings up that I want to reiterate.

It seems like there has been less talk on Darfur over the past few months. I think one of the reasons that the situation has lost urgency is because the government has nearly completed their task of reclaiming the land in western Sudan from the non-Arabs – after killing an estimated 400,000 and displacing close to 2 million Sudanese. And while our current administration talks big about unilateral action, in the face of genocide we chose multilateral negotiations – which gave the government more time to finish its task. And make no mistake, the government was involved even though the janjaweed has been doing much of the killing. In fact, I think one of the best quotes from the post is the following description of the janjaweed; “The actual killers and cleansers, the Arab janjaweed militias, are a 'deniable' arm of the Sudanese authorities.” Fortunately there appears to be proof of government helicopters aiding the militias, so that in the future everyone will know who was involved – and once again we can say, “never again”.

Make sure to read the full post because it also does a good job of assessing the realism of getting involved by looking back on what the costs might have been if we had intervened in Rwanda. The truth seems to be that we will always wish we had gotten involved, but we never actually want to get involved.

Update: It looks like some US diplomats are really getting tired of officials from the Sudanese government. If only Zoellick was there with the US military to do something more than just shout.

Different Perspective on Allen

NewDonkey has a different perspective on the junior senator from Virginia, George Allen. I have to admit that I don't know enough about Allen to know how realistic it is that he could win the Republican nomination in 2008. But for now I am going to hope that NewDonkey has it right.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Put The Husband On Trial

Something has been bothering me about the Andrea Yates story for quite some time, and it actually has very little to do with whether or not she knew right from wrong or the merits of having a new trial. After hearing the facts on one of the news magazines a while back, I realized that there are two other people that should be on trial also – two people who are probably more at fault than Andrea is. I am talking about her husband and their doctor.

While having her fourth child, Andrea suffered a severe bout of postpartum depression. It was so bad that their doctor at the time recommended that they have no more children. Well that didn’t satisfy her husband, who sought a new doctor who would permit them to have another child (their fifth). After having the fifth child, Andrea suffered from postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Both the new doctor and the husband knew the risks of having another child (as did Andrea), and both should be held responsible for pushing to go ahead anyway. Since both are complicit in what lead to her depression, both should be held criminally negligent. I would expect the same thing if two people conspired to hide medication from a patient with mental illness. In both situations, the people involved knew the consequences of their actions.

Mounting

Yet more evidence that the threat against marriage is not dudes marrying dudes, but celebrities.

Who Is In Charge Here?

I know that most liberals joke about Dick Cheney being president. But sometimes, information comes out that shows just how true that really is. This post on Slate is scary and shows that although most of the intelligence community didn’t believe Cheney’s claims of Iraqi ties to Al Qaida, because he was so close to the President, his information was treated as credible.

In fact, the bad intel came largely out of something called the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, which reported to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.

[snip]

The information CTEG put together was treated differently than other intelligence. Unlike other reports, CTEG's conclusions about Iraq's training of jihadists in the use of explosives and weapons of mass destruction were never distributed to the many different agencies in the intelligence community. Although CTEG analysts met once with Director George Tenet and other CIA officials, they changed no minds at the agency on the issue of Saddam and al-Qaida, and their work was never "coordinated" or cleared by the various agencies that weigh in on intelligence publications. Top officers in military intelligence who saw the report refused to concur with it.

Nonetheless, CTEG's findings were the basis for briefings in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

[snip]

Dick Cheney was CTEG's patron. He had the group present its material at OVP and the National Security Council. He made frequent public remarks, drawing on CTEG conclusions, alleging an al-Qaida/Saddam connection. (Even after the 9/11 commission delivered its verdict that there was no collaborative relationship between the two sides, Cheney announced that the evidence of the Bin Laden-Baghdad ties was "overwhelming.") John Hannah, a Cheney aide who became the vice president's national security adviser after Libby's resignation, recycled some of the material into a draft of the speech Secretary of State Colin Powell was to give at the United Nations in February 2003—a draft that Powell threw out, calling it "bullshit."


I don’t think anyone ever intended the VP to have the ability to circumvent normal channels of intelligence checking in order to drum up a course for war. But I guess no one ever expected to have such an intellectually weak President either. Read the whole post to really grasp how strong Cheney’s influence is and oblivious the President seems to be.

Some Observations

Regarding last night, I'm not going to gloat, but I do want to offer a few tidbits I think are interesting. Some of these are from my insider perspective as a heavily-involved grassroots volunteer in the campaign, others are simply general ones.

1) Leslie Byrne sucks.
She's terrible. She's a loser with a track record of spectacular losses. The idiots that put her in the Lt. Gov. spot thinking she could ever possibly win deserve Bolling. It's amazing she didn't bring Kaine down like a lead balloon with her given such overwhelming loserness.

2) Ticket Splitting was rampant. As we were watching the precincts come in at headquarters, you saw it everywhere. You can see it in the overall count too, but it was true on a precinct-by-precinct basis. People were voting for Tim Kaine, and then turning around and voting for Bolling and McDonnell, or Bolling and Deeds. I think this is definitely true partly because of Leslie Byrnes overwhelming powers of losing elections. But, it illustrates that the tendency of Virginians (god bless it too) is still more strongly based on voting for an individual over a party. They liked Kaine, didn't like his ticket mates. Or, they liked Kilgore's ticket mates, and didn't like Kilgore. This says a lot about both Kaine and Kilgore, especially in a state where 55% voted for Bush and 45% voted for Kerry a year ago (but Kerry sucks actually MORE than Leslie Byrne does, as the data shows, which is amazing and should be politically impossible). I almost did it myself, my finger hovering over the Lt. Gov. slot wondering if I should vote for Bolling in protest about Leslie Byrne. That says a lot.

3) Kaine's campaign was well-executed. The grassroots ops were the most organized thing I've ever seen. Every regional office and county committee was making heavy use of GIS mapping tools and had been doing months of voter ID to make the GOTV targeted and more effective. And it worked. But, besides that, there was the whole general thrust of it. In the closing days, as Kilgore went increasingly negative and Swift Boat Howell was all over him with the Hitler ads, many Democrats were enraged and wanted Kaine to fire back and run just as many negative ads against Kilgore. Kaine didn't do it, and it was a good move. Any campaign has to have a plan, and it has to have positive elements to it. The "vision thing" Karl Rove treasures so much. Kaine learned the lessons of the Bush campaign of 2000 and 2004 well, and put them into practice. That, and Kaine had a decent record to stand on. Kilgore didn't learn the lesson of 2004, and ended up looking more like MoveOn.org or John Kerry with his relentless attacking and no attempt to offer initiatives of his own. As much as NRO and Weekly Standard wanted to paint Kaine as Kerry, Kaine campaigned and acted a lot more like Bush.

4) George Allen is going to be a strong Presidential candidate. Yes, Prince, you've been saying this all along. I credit you for it. Fact is, I didn't want to believe it. Allen effectively delivered Kilgore's concession speech last night. It was, to say the least, incredibly mature, sober, and still positive. Allen showed himself to be someone of consistency when he referred to Kaine's win as "the will of the majority" and that Republican's must "accept the will of the majority." He proceeded then to talk about how both Kaine and Kilgore shared a deep love of Virginia. Then he proceeded to re-iterate the message of the Republican party in pitch-perfect Reagan terms, as a party that pushes for growth for entrepreneurialism. It was sort of a miniature version of what will undoubtedly be his stump speech in his 2006 re-election and 2008 Presidential campaign. He came off as someone who wasn't a sore loser at all, more as a man ready and willing to learn lessons and improve for the next fight.

Minor Update: I've been checking around, especially on Commonwealth Conservative, and Malkin, and I want to emphasize something more about Point 4). The reaction from these elections shows I think a key strength of Republicans: they take losing the right way. All of them are attempting to read the tea leaves and figure out what went wrong and how they can do better next time. They are not, as Democrats tend to do, screaming "what is wrong with people!" and making shirts about the United States of Jesusland, or all threatening to move to another state/country. Democrats go into hysterics upon losses, which is why it is still taking them time to bounce back fully from 2000. While there's a lot of triumphalism that somehow this is going to be a huge Democratic sweep (something I heard a lot last night but don't buy), I think the Republicans are going to learn some good lessons from these races and fast, and they're going to put them into practice and adapt. This year's Republicans won't be 2006's Republicans, or 2008's. I expect vast improvement.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kaine/Bolling/McDonnell?

So the executive branch in Virginia remains in Democratic hands, but the Lt. Governorship returns to the GOP, setting up Bill Bolling as the presumptive heir-apparent for 2009. As of yet Bob McDonnell's victory hasn't been declared and Governor Warner a few minutes ago tossed out the standard Democratic "every vote counted" line that is used in any close race nowadays where the result isn't a blowout in either direction. Typical partisan rhetoric, but I'm guessing there's not much more to it than that.

As much as I dislike Kaine's smirk and transparent phoniness, Creigh Deeds really tripped off the asshole alarm with me, particularly with his attack ads on McDonnell where Deeds made it abundantly clear he was running as a social liberal and trying to paint McDonnell as a right-wing kook to NoVA audiences (not sure that plays as well downstate though). What I'm really looking for now is the results in the House of Delegates races to see the makeup of the chamber post-election and if there is a discernible Democratic trend in seat-shifts.

But honestly, why should I even care? While my co-workers must suffer another four years of Democratic rule, I've got a year and a few months more, at least, of Bobby Ehrlich (and hopefully four more if he plays his cards right in 2006).

End Of An Era For St. Louis

Unlike some of my Restless Mania cohorts, I cannot claim any sort of allegiance to a particular baseball team or the game of baseball in general, so mourning the demise of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium may seem a bit out of character. But I shall mourn it nonetheless.

The wrecking balls attacked the concrete giant yesterday, slowly chipping away at the forty years of St. Louis history to make way for a more modern rendition. The new stadium promises better seating, better views, better concession stands… and better profits for the owners. Alas, this is something we Washingtonians are grappling with as well as the prospect of the RFK-replacement looms overhead.

But perhaps that’s fodder for another post.

For now, farewell to the Busch Stadium, from baseball fans big and small. With you goes a big part of St. Louis history. You shall be missed.

Stephen Green Is On Fire (Or Rip-Roaring Drunk)

Stuff like this reminds me that PhD's in International Relations are completely unnecessary to make a smart commentator. Vodkapundit at it's best, taking the left and right and knocking their heads together. The distilled point: this war, the GWOT/GSAVE, is a media war, a war won on propaganda, image, and message. None of the other stuff matters. Green argues the terrorists are more media-savvy, and it so far it has helped them handily. He spares no one from criticism: the President, the political parties, policy wonks, the media, the military, and even himself.

Concise (But Not From Me)

Evil Glenn on the McCain Amendment, showing his talent for the quick and sharp:

But regardless of what rules Congress adopts, I'm certainly against the Cheney proposal to exempt the CIA.

First of all, if this sort of thing is too wrong for Americans to do, it's too wrong for any Americans to do, period. Right? Second of all, if we are going to trust any agency with such extraordinary powers, surely it shouldn't be the CIA, which has established, repeatedly, that it's not to be trusted, either in terms of competence or in terms of, well, trustworthiness. I'd sooner entrust the power to the District of Columbia parking enforcement people. At least they're respected for their zeal.


I think this is an important point. If we're going to apply a rule, let's make it universal. Certainly if we're not going to make it universal the CIA, with its problematic history, should not be the designated gray area. After all, wasn't it the CIA that supposedly gave the President and the Vice President all that bad intelligence about Iraqi WMD? Aren't they the ones leaking stuff to the press about said intelligence? Why is Cheney sticking up for them so much when they've been a constant foe to him? And also, with the recent revelations about a whole network of secret CIA prisons, doesn't exempting them basically leave the entire status quo in check?

As much as the Bush Administration wants to whine about the unlimited powers of the Imperial Presidency in wartime, we live now in a state of perpetual war, or at least war for the forseeable future, so when Congress wants to assert its authority and establish rules IT HAS THE RIGHT TO. And if Bush says "we do no torture", then what's the big deal? What does he have to fear? Congress is acting in a legitimate capacity here, re-establishing checks and balances and putting in standards where none existed.

Monday, November 07, 2005

For the Uninitiated

John Henke has a review of right-wing blogs for those of you who don't surf that end very often. And it's incredibly funny and on-point too, just like his one for liberal blogs awhile back. Diversify your reading lists.

99 Problems But a Constitution Ain't One

As rancorous as the hearings over Alito may become, this Thanksgiving, we all should be thankful that no matter what happens with the Alito pick, we have a completely secular legal system, the existence of a judicial monopoly which neither takes into account religious dogma in running family courts nor deputizes religious tribunals to act with the blessing and full legal authority of the state.

In Kenya, however, the public is at a crossroads with a constitutional referendum, which could empower religious sects with judicial prerogatives in marriage, divorce, and custody laws.

Christianity Today reports that Kenyan Christians find themselves split on the proposed constitution which would allow for religious family law courts (a plurality of Kenyans, 42 percent, oppose it, while 32 percent are in favor):

The Kenya Church, an umbrella body for 40 evangelical churches, opposes the clause and says it is a ploy to ensure that kadhi courts remain in the constitution. Thus, they oppose the draft constitution and have urged their followers to vote no.

"Christians did not ask for religious courts," said Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of Jesus Is Alive Ministries, a key Kenya Church member. "They wanted the government to remove kadhi courts from the constitution. This has not happened, so our opposition to the constitution draft remains."

But not all Christians, who compose about two-thirds of the country's nearly 34 million people, oppose the draft.

"The Kenya Church should reconsider its decision, because the mission of the church should be to promote harmony in society," said Pastor Ndura Waruingi of the Redeemed Gospel Church.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), another body of evangelical churches, did not reject the draft. It said the draft is better than the present constitution, but told Christians to decide for themselves how to vote. The existing constitution affords broad presidential powers, which many Christians oppose.

Some Kenyan Christians might be heartened by the ability to achieve state-granted power to enforce and inculcate biblical values in family life, particularly in issues of marriage and divorce and child-rearing. But the marriage of church and state is one made in Hell, and Satan is its unholy officiant. Aside from serious and well-founded concerns about giving militant Islam a foothold in the government via state-sanctioned religious courts, the Kenyan Church should be equally aghast at the frightening prospect of losing its own soul by wedding the Bride of Christ to Leviathan. The Church Universal should train, instruct, reprove, and encourage its flock, all while longingly awaiting the eternal earthly reign of Christ, for when it seeks to gain temporal powers now to establish a temporal kingdom, it finds itself wrapped up in the cares of this age, not living in light of eternity. One need only look to the endemically corrrupt medieval Catholic Church's marriage with the state to take that lesson to heart. I hope my Kenyan brethren do so when voting later this month.

Arrrrrrr!

The Nominee Who Wasn't

Sometimes Doonesbury is cynical, sometimes it's shrill and partisan, sometimes it's hilarious, but often it's brilliant. In Harriet Miers' case, it was especially so. Witness the Strips Trudeau prepared for Miers before she withdrew. They're unprinted, but they're nothing short of amazing.

Boys Will Be Boys

This smells of desperation.

As Republican lawyers urged state election officials Friday to punish Democrat Tim Kaine for a gubernatorial campaign mailing that impersonated official GOP fliers, voters received brochures from Republican Jerry Kilgore replete with an official Democratic donkey logo.

[snip]

On the outside face page is the red-and-blue Democratic donkey emblem.

Inside, however, is a comparison of Kaine to independent candidate Russ Potts. Potts is rated as preferable to liberals or progressives on support for gun control, gay marriage and the right of same-sex couples to adopt.

Kilgore's most conspicuous turnabout, however, is that his mailing describes Kaine as hostile to "protecting undocumented workers" even as Kilgore television ads portray Kaine as coddling illegal immigrants who are "jeopardizing jobs and security."

"Taxpayer benefits for illegal immigrants?" Kilgore's television ad concludes, "What part of illegal does Tim Kaine not understand?"

On both mailings, the true origin is discernible only from a line of small, thin type printed diagonally alongside a photo.

[snip]

Potts was furious over Kilgore's mailer.

"This is a new low and ... I think it indicates the trademark of the Jerry Kilgore campaign: the end justifies the means, do anything to win," Potts said.

"I never authorized anything like this," he said. "I expect a personal apology from Jerry Kilgore."


Wow. I heard about this last night when I was sacrificing yet another few hours of my free time (make that almost the whole weekend) on the barely-adequate altar of Tim Kaine, and I was pretty surprised. I talked to people who received the mailer and was shown a copy of it and it was pretty deceptive. It basically looked like a mailer sent out by some liberal group trying to endorse Potts, and the identification that it was from Kilgore was really difficult to find.

Potts has a right to be furious, especially since he's a Republican (though running as an independent because he wasn't right wing enough) and it misidentifies many of his stands and views on things and tries to portray him in as distortionary a way as possible as to the left of Kaine, and even tries to portray Kaine as being more to the right than Kilgore's own commercial suggest. I think Larry Sabato says it best:

"Both Kaine and Kilgore are generally nice people--some of my favorites--but they have let these consultants and staffers run one of the nastiest, most petty races I have seen in 40 years of covering state elections," Sabato said.


I've lived in VA all my life except for a little over a year spent in Upstate NY (where the whole McCall, Golisano, and Pataki race seemed almost like a friendly rivalry in comparison) and this is definitely the nastiest election I've ever seen.

Le Mobb Deep, Part Deux

The Parisian riots are getting substantially worse. The violence has spread throughout the entire country now, with the rioters firing on policemen, burning cars by the thousands, and a sweeping load of arrests and crackdowns by police that don't seem to be helping matters.

The national police chief, Michel Gaudin, on Monday described the violence as a “shock wave that is spreading across the country,” sliding away from Paris and worsening elsewhere in France.

Vandals burned 1,408 vehicles across France, setting a new high for overnight arson attacks since the unrest started Oct. 27, Gaudin told a news conference. The figure was an increase from the 1,295 vehicles torched the night before.

Police made 395 arrests nationwide, he said.

Ten riot police were injured by youths firing fine-grain birdshot in a late night clash in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. Two were hospitalized; their lives were not in danger.

It was the first time police were injured by weapon fire since the unrest started nearly two weeks ago.

The violence came in open defiance to a warning by French President Jacques Chirac, who pledged to clamp down on the troublemakers.


This has, as typically, brought up screams from the right-wing of "Eurabia." Now, for the unintiatied, "Eurabia" is a term used to describe what Europe will eventually become, that it's secular states will eventually be overwhelmed by Islamic immigrants (a fact backed up by demographics), causing these states to become destabilized and crumble or to become Islamic. A more extreme version of the term "Eurabia" is what Europe will become after it is defeated by Al-Qaida. For extensive discussion of "Eurabia", go here, a general Eurabian resource center and blog. Some interesting tidbit on the rioting is this, though:

The country’s biggest Muslim fundamentalist organization, the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, issued a fatwa, or religious decree. It forbade all those “who seek divine grace from taking part in any action that blindly strikes private or public property or can harm others.”


That's something I suppose, that there's an official fatwa denouncing the riots. As for the Eurabian point, I think while there may be a few grains of truth to it, it misses the whole picture. So much of this has to do with poor management and governance in France, a stagnant economy, chronic unemployment, and a general climate of racism and ethnic strife between the native French and immigrants. Greg Djerejian seconds that in a must-read post over at Belgravia Dispatch.

The list is long, but a hastily put together incomplete one would have to include the stunning popular defeat of the European Constitution (by the very country most closely associated with spearheading European unification since the time of Jean Monnet), the painful loss of the 2012 Olympic Games to London, Chirac's geopolitically inept and disingenuous ginning up of a rift with the U.S. (mostly as transparent ploy to buttress his sagging popularity via faux and pitiable neo-Gaullist swagger--rather than as a result of true conviction, that is, beyond being enamored with a quite putrid, Pasqua-esque status quo), the now even more apparent alienation of disaffected youth grappling with high unemployment, endemic racism and feelings of 'otherness'--all these bad tidings have now culminated in a very dramatic break-down of basic law and order through significant swaths of France.

[snip]

It is indeed sad when a country's citizens have become so removed from an esprit of fellow-feeling with their common citoyens that they must lash out in anarchic fashion to get attention and communicate. But this is where France now finds itself, as it wakes up Monday morning wondering where the tumult and mayhem may hit next. No, what is needed now is honesty and straight-shooting and a real sense of urgency. The violence the roving gangs of youth are engaging in is borne of various causes and grievances. This profound alienation needs to be analyzed, to be sure. And at the end of the day, while there is some room for jihadist radicals to play on these sentiments to lure more towards piety, the book and perhaps terror--what this is really about is not some religiosity-infused intifada on the Seine but bread and butter issues of jobs and racism.


That Islamism has something to do with this is, I think, undeniable. But, this has mostly only been a force in sustaining the violence. This all started out because of a condition all too well known in France: unrest and anger at a stagnant or corrupted government that is not delivering anything to the people. It happened in 1789, in 1792, 1848, 1871, and even 1968. Riots are as much a part of French history as the Eiffel Tower, amd people who want to read into this some apocalyptic end for France are ignoring that. It's bounced back before, and it will happen again, but as before France will probably come back a much different state and transformed and perhaps strengthened by this course of events.