Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rerun

I hope everyone can forgive me for my repetitiveness, but it seems that whenever I get into a new issue, I want to write about everything I find out. Recently, my issue has been global warming. My girlfriend and I have been talking about it a lot recently, and one of the things we were confused about is why so many people, including ourselves not too long ago, think there still isn't a real consensus on whether or not there is a human impact on global temperatures.

Columns like this one explain why that belief exists. The other side of the issue has gotten really good at telling compelling stories about why there is no such thing as global climate change. Granted, one can realize that the article is only using one study basically to defend their side, and you can tell from the group’s web site that their mission is to protect capitalism and free market, which is bound to influence their study and conclusions. But it is hard not to marvel at how strong their case is, even if it is biased. I don’t believe their argument, but it certainly is powerful.

The Washington Post Magazine story I linked to earlier talked about this very issue. Global Warming detractors have many positions they can take that all point to inaction as the right policy. They can either outright deny that it is happening; they can say there isn't enough convincing evidence yet; or they can simply argue that there might be an impact, but it is so small, and American ingenuity so strong, that it isn't worth regulating industry to make changes - the market will handle it. With all of those arguments in their arsenal, it is no wonder there is so much confusion and doubt about global warming.

Just on a side note, I wonder if the stats from the beginning of the article are true. Have we really cut pollutants down as much as they suggest? If so, that tells me that we are capable of making serious improvements once we decide it is important.

Ahmadinejad

Although I usually agree with Bull Moose, there are times when I don’t even know where he is coming from. This is one of those times. In a recent post, he compared President Ahmadinejad to Hitler. While the verdict is definitely still out, I don’t really see any connection at this point in time (besides some anti-Israeli comments). The Iranian government is not showing any desire to add to its territory, nor does it have any policies segregating minorities.

The fact is that the article that the Moose links to, suggesting how Ahmadinejad is consolidating power, is being misrepresented. That article actually talks about how Iran is finally talking with one voice right now. Although the article says that Ahmadinejad’s power is increasing, it isn’t really clear whether he is taking it from the clerics, or whether they are giving him some room to move because they are mostly on the same page.

The situation in Iran right now is really interesting. President Ahmadinejad and the clerics have some difficult situations in front of them. Their economy is at a low, unemployment is high, and ethnic tensions are growing. If this continues, the public faith in their government could deteriorate. At the same time, the article mentioned above suggests that the government is talking with one voice and indicating that it wants direct talks with the US.

With those conditions present, there is reason to believe that Iran is serious about some sort of normalized relations with the US. On the other hand, there is also the possibility that they will want to use the image of the American devil to create a common enemy for Iranians and divert attention away from their own problems. I still would recommend direct talks, even if they are only brief, to see which is their real goal.

And this is why I don’t agree at all with linking Ahmadinejad to Hitler. It is way too soon to even see what his real intentions are. At times he comes off as conservative as the clerics, but other times he seems to favor granting more rights to women and helping out the nation’s poor. I don't recommend giving him a nuke, but we should at least see how weak he is and how badly he wants to talk.

Stupid Op-Ed

The New York Times Op-Ed columns recently have been nothing short of stupid. The one I just finished reading bashes internships and makes the bold statement that paid internships are better for the intern than unpaid internships.

The column itself is far from objective; it doesn’t even bother to give the other side of the issue (a little too common in the media these days). While there are certain disadvantages to unpaid internships (lost wages, higher debt, rewards higher income people and people with connections), overall there are clear reasons why these are preferred. It would be nice if the author found the space in her column to mention those reasons. Since she didn’t, I will take the time to do so.

The biggest reason internships are sought after is that they give job experience you cannot get in the classroom. Future employers will want to see not only that you are a hard worker, but that you have the capability to do the specific assignments they need from you. The reason these internships are often unpaid is that many of the groups giving the internship do not have the money to pay the worker for their time. For example, I had an internship with the City of Syracuse Department of Audit during graduate school. Without that experience, I might not have gotten the job I am in now. And anyone who knows about the City of Syracuse will understand that the government does not have the funds to pay me for my time.

I know from other experiences that internships can be far from perfect. They don’t always give you work that is exciting or even applicable to your career path. But anyone who isn't smart enough to know that experience in a related field will look better on a job application than one more year of waitressing shouldn’t be allowed to publish in the New York Times.

Genocide Acceptable?

It is easy to dismiss someone’s entire opinion when most of it is enraging and idiotic. I felt this way when I first read Alan J. Kuperman’s Opinion piece in the NY Times. His column accuses the rebels in Darfur for starting the violence that lead to the genocide. Unfortunately, there is a grain of truth in his column. The rebels should not be romanticized as their history is not pure. In fact, the author is probably right that the rebels are standing in the way of a lasting peace.

While I can agree with his characterization of the rebels in Darfur, the rest of his column is completely out of line. The author uses the rebel’s history of violence as a pseudo-excuse for Sudan’s genocidal response:
“Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.

This reality has been obscured by Sudan's criminally irresponsible reaction to the rebellion: arming militias to carry out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. These Arab forces, who already resented the black tribes over past land disputes and recent attacks, were only too happy to rape and pillage any village suspected of supporting the rebels.

In light of janjaweed atrocities, it is natural to romanticize the other side as freedom fighters. But Darfur's rebels do not deserve that title. They took up arms not to stop genocide — which erupted only after they rebelled — but to gain tribal domination.”
Kuperman is suggesting that Sudan’s response is both criminally irresponsible, but yet also understandable based on the rebel’s actions.

Anyone who thinks back on the situation in Rwanda will remember that the Hutu government claimed that they were only suppressing an armed Tutsi rebellion. In fact, Rwanda’s history is remarkably similar to that of the picture Kuperman paints of Sudan. The Tutsis operated a government that repressed Hutus until the Hutus took power, after which there were numerous Tutsi rebellions. The fact is that both nations, and countless others around the world, have a violent history. But the international community cannot accept genocide as a natural result of civil war or repression.

Kuperman finishes his piece by suggesting that if the rebels do not accept the cease fire and peace proposals, we should allow the Sudanese government to deal with the uprising on their own as long as they "eschew war crimes". While I agree that the rebels in Darfur need to be held responsible for their violence and refusal to compromise, the Sudanese government has shown that it is incapable of stopping an uprising without raping and slaughtering civilians at the same time. Therefore, this proposal, and most of the column, is completely useless to the dialogue on Sudan.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More on Climate Change

Just so Old $ doesn't think I refuse to even listen to arguments from the other side, I want to link to this article from the Washington Post Magazine. The article gives a voice to some of the global warming non-believers (who think either that global warming is a hoax, or that it isn't enough to get worried about). It is a long read, but definitely well worth it. I don't have the energy right now to talk about all of the issues that came up, but there is a lot there to chew on. Enjoy.

Better Than Cable News

Wish the people on MSNBC and Fox News had a sense of humor and weren't stupid? Look no further, where you'll find a bunch of superjournalists (Mickey Kaus, Robert Wright, Matthew Iglesias, Eric Umansky, and a horde of guests from the media and think tanks alike) and politics beating the snot out of each other with katana-sharped wit you aren't going to find on Cable News.

Another Great New Term

It's buried at the end of a great rant by Mark Steyn, but it pretty much describes our current predicament by invoking a single word to describe out country: Incumbistan.

I said the other day that McCain and Specter and Sarbanes and Lott and the rest were presidents-for-life of the one-party state of Incumbistan. Between all the comprehensive immigration reform and corporate governance reform and campaign-finance reform and campaign-finance-reform reform and all the other changes, McCain and Co. sail on, eternally unchanging, decade after decade. There are no plans for Senate governance reform or Trent Lott finance reform. Incumbistan is a government that has a nation.


I think the word Incumbistan is a powerful one, and captures the entire governing philosophy of the Republicrat Statist Party. As a matter of fact, let's combine them and call them the Republicrat Statist Party of Incumbistan! I think that phrase alone pretty much sums up what's wrong with the ruling party in this country in one swoop.

One More Reason...

... why I hate the agriculture lobby. So much for free trade.

So Sorry

President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair held a joint press conference recently in which they talked about progress in Iraq and admitted to mistakes they made during the war. While I find it reassuring that both leaders are actually looking to the past and analyzing their actions, I do wish it would have happened sooner. They should have known within the first few months after the fall of Saddam that they hadn't actually planned well enough for the situation after the invasion. Also, it should not have taken this long to admit that de-Baathification was a major mistake, and that antagonizing comments to the insurgents was the wrong message to send - not because it might have encouraged them, they need no encouragement, but because it gives the impression that we are unfazed by their violence.

Unfortunately, neither leader seemed to admit that they didn't go to war with enough troops. Maybe Bush will admit to that after he leaves office.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Immigration Plan

I'm not satisfied with any of the proposals being debated in Congress. My two main objections: the path to citizenship for illegals and a failure to punish illegals by withholding some federal benefits. So here's what I want:

  1. Illegals should be allowed to stay in the U.S. upon registering with the ICE, however, they should be barred from ever gaining citizenship or holding federal-elective office. They should live out the rest of their lives as permanent residents. I do not want them voting or holding federal office in this country.
  2. They should pay a fine equal to the cost of deporting them were they not to pay said fine. This fine can be paid over a course of 5-10 years with a wage garnishing plan.
  3. I want illegals to forfeit ALL Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits they have paid into using falsified documents. Those monies were withheld under false pretenses and should not be held in trust to reward illegal entry. That money should instead benefit legal immigrants and citizens. This provision does NOT apply, however, to illegals who will have met my first and second conditions as listed above.
  4. A federal law barring financial aid to any state university that grants in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
These measures seem fair to me and rather center-of-the-road. No foolish attempts at mass deportation. No demonization of hard-working men and women who entered this country for laudable reasons. But on the same token they will pay an appropriate penalty for the privilege of staying in a country they illegally entered (or overstayed visas to remain in).

He Is No Arafat

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a bold step recently. He has given Hamas 10 days to accept a Palestinian state in the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War. If Hamas doesn’t accept those terms, Abbas will put it to a referendum to the Palestinian people, which pollsters think is likely to pass. With this step, Hamas will either have to follow Abbas’ lead, or become irrelevant. It is incredible to finally see a Palestinian leader take Hamas head-on.

Abbas and Hamas have been battling ever since the Hamas victory in the parliamentary elections, and recently the battles have been violent. Although violence is never something we wish for, in this situation I think it is healthy as long as it doesn’t spiral out of control. For too long, Palestinians under Arafat could ignore their differences because average citizens had no control over the direction of their country. Now that they elect their president and parliament, moderates and extremists need to actually confront each other over the direction to take their country. There is the potential for a great deal of change in the Middle East right now, and Palestinians need to realize they have a major stake in the outcome.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Here I Go Again

I can’t even begin to get my head around what our government is thinking, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

So far, Congress has decided that it is okay for the NSA to spy on Americans without seeking a warrant. When these activities came to light, the President was emphatic that he needed this power and seemed unwilling to give it up.

Next, Congress decides that they should be free from searches, even with a warrant. At this, the President accepts their concerns, and asks that Congressman Jefferson’s files be sealed until a deal can be reached between Congress and the FBI.

Just so that we are clear: Congress doesn’t want the executive branch to conduct searches of them with a warrant, but they are perfectly fine with warrant-less searches of average Americans.

If the approval rating of every elected official doesn’t come crashing down real soon, then the public isn’t paying any attention (what a depressing world to live in; no faith in Congress, the President, or the public). I get the feeling that my last hope for any sort of faith in humanity rests in the courts. Chief Justice Roberts, please don't let me down.

Just Appalled

I realize that Baron Violent already posted about the FBI raid of Congressman Jefferson’s office. My opinion is no different than the Baron’s, but I feel the need to add one more voice to the screams of outrage. Both parties right now are suggesting that their offices are immune from legal searches as part of the separation of powers under the Constitution. Because of this, both are showing that they are part of a culture of corruption that is free from legal justice. Democrats will have not only Jefferson to blame for our loss of the ethical high ground, but now Pelosi and Democratic leadership are also at fault. If I have a vote this fall after my move to NYC, I will join the Baron’s quest to vote out all incumbents.

Iran Follow-up

As a follow-up to my previous post about Iran, I want to encourage everyone to read this NY Times Opinion piece. The author uses Iran's tumultuous history as a lense to view its current actions through.

I really think that direct talks and some concessions would be a much better strategy than open hostility. It is unfortunate that the Bush administration only knows how to use sanctions and military force.

Global Climate Change

This post is for two people; my brother and my girlfriend. Both have been talking about global climate change recently, although taking very different sides. I encourage them to read this NY Times opinion column.

For a long time, I had been hesitant to really get behind environmentalists’ claims about global climate change. I never bothered to do enough research on the topic, especially because the science intimidated me. My position was that I would wait until there was enough evidence for consensus, and as far as I knew, the issue was still being debated. Apparently, ridiculous Michael Crichton books aside, there is no longer serious debate about whether or not there is global climate change and if human activities are causing it. Even skeptics, like the author of the column I linked to, are being converted:

Once global-warming science was too uncertain to form the basis of policy decisions — and this was hardly just the contention of oil executives. "There is no evidence yet" of dangerous climate change, a National Academy of Sciences report said in 1991. A 1992 survey of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society found that only 17 percent of members believed there was sufficient grounds to declare an artificial greenhouse effect in progress. In 1993 Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center, said there existed "a great range of uncertainty" regarding whether the world is warming. Clearly, the question called for more research.

That research is now in, and it shows a strong scientific consensus that an artificially warming world is a real phenomenon posing real danger:

[Edit]

In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences joined the science academies of Britain, China, Germany, Japan and other nations in a joint statement saying, "There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring."

This year Mr. Karl of the climatic data center said research now supports "a substantial human impact on global temperature increases."

And this month the Climate Change Science Program, the Bush administration's coordinating agency for global-warming research, declared it had found "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system."
It is becoming clear that there is now consensus about this issue and we can slowly make some changes. From the documentary about Al Gore and his speaking tour, to new books on the issue, it is becoming very hard for people like me to ignore the issue.

Replace Congress with the Men of the Square Table

Men of Restless Mania, I propose a Man Law:

We scrap our congressional-presidential form of government for rule by consensus man-law arrived at by the Men of the Square Table.

It seems like a reasonable remedy for the usual crap in Washington this midterm election year.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not Since 1979

There is a report in the Washington Post that Iran has been trying to engage in direct talks with America regarding its nuclear program. Despite this unprecedented step, the Bush administration has decided that it wants Iran to talk to the three European countries that have been leading the nuclear talks.

I understand that Iran is doing this as a tactical move, and in this case as well as with North Korea, the administration doesn’t want to encourage the threat of building a nuclear weapon as a way to bilateral talks with the US. In this situation though, it seems like there is a lot we could gain by doing it, and very little to gain by remaining steadfast in our policy not to engage in direct talks. The Iranian government gets a lot of play among their people out of portraying America as a bully, and refusing direct talks only promotes this image.

The Politics of Sports

The NFL has been looking for a new commissioner since Paul Tagliabue announced that he was retiring. First, rumors circulated that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice might be tapped for the position. Recently, there was a private meeting with Governor Jeb Bush. Who will they ask next, Dick Cheney?

Why is it that only Republicans are being considered for the job? There are plenty of qualified Democrats, but because the NFL wants to maintain its relationship with the GOP, they are passing up leaders that would do well to improve the NFL.

In case they are interested in ever getting their act together and performing a non-partisan search, I have a few names they could consider: Al Gore... actually, he might not be a great fit – environmental activism and football don’t exactly mix. But I am sure John Kerry would be... terrible. Okay, two bad examples. What about John Edwards? Wait, yeah, he does come off a little fragile. Oh! What about that Jack Kemp guy from the 1996 election. He even played football. Or maybe he was a Republican.

On second thought, maybe they should keep looking in the Republican Party.

Challenge!

After showing a friend of mine the Progressive Action Plan by the DLC, he wrote a post that was very critical of their proposals. What I realized was that those on the far left are great at criticizing foreign policy by Republicans and moderate Democrats, but I don’t ever hear from them what direction we need to go.

So, here is my challenge. I want someone to point me in the direction of what the far left – the Deaniacs, Kossacs and Moveon.org folks – think we need to do to win the GWOT. If there are proposals already out there, point me in that direction. And if there aren’t, then feel free to write your own.

Either way, I challenge the left to do more than tell the country why every foreign policy proposal out there is wrong, and tell me which one is right – but it better have more to it then a call for a quick exit from Iraq.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bodies to Hide

For those of you living in a hole, they caught a Congressman, Rep. Jefferson (D-LA, that's right, D, officially ending almost all of Democrats' sanctimonious anti-corruption campaign with a single swipe) taking a bribe on tape. They then raided his apartment, WITH A WARRANT, and find him stashing $90,000.00 in a freezer. Why would you put money in a freezer instead of, oh, I don't know, a bank? Or maybe under a mattress if you want to be old-fashioned. I know why: it's because you're trying to hide it, because you don't want people to have it. Well, Jefferson ludicrously refuses to resign in the face of this overwhelming evidence that he is a bribe-taking criminal. Cunningham must be wondering now if he should've just stayed in Congress after being convicted of a felony. What's more, Jefferson is calling this an abuse of separation of powers. If you need help, here is the correct reaction . . .

DOUBLE YOO TEE EFF?



Apparently he thinks it was an abuse of executive power for the nasty FBI to go get a warrant (which does mean the judicial branch was involved) after videotaping him taking a briefcase full of cash. That as a member of Congress, he should not be able to have his office raided when there's over-whelming evidence he's committing a felony and a judge thinks it warrants a search. In yet another reason for me to continue my VOTE OUT ALL INCUMBENTS 2006 movement, several of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle agree with this mindfucking assertion, including one member of the Republicrat Statist Party Congressional leadership and an old favorite looney:

Displaying bipartisanship for one of their own, House Republican leaders are expressing concern that the FBI's search of the Capitol office of Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson crossed the constitutional boundary between the White House and Congress. Tuesday, House Majority Leader John Boehner called the weekend raid "the Justice Department's invasion of the legislative branch" and predicted the issue would "end up across the street at the Supreme Court."


Apparently Congress has entered Fuck-the-Law (tm) territory. Not like it's new territory for them. They are, after all, the self-annointed nobles of a new American Aristocracy that puts the French nobles before the French Revolution to shame in terms of sheer corruption, amorality, and unaccountability. I think there's only one reason you see these Congressmen standing up against this, and I think it's worse than even Instapundit makes it out to be when he says it's some sort of quasi-principled stand in favor of "insiders' perks." There can only be one logical reason: they're afraid of the FBI or some other law enforcement entity catching them in something similar, or worse. This Congress is starting to get scared, and their silence or, worse, DEFENSE of Jefferson proves they know the knives are out for them as well. I propose we don't wait for the slow-moving scales of Justice. Let's go ahead and take these clowns out with the ballot box, then let the FBI and a dozen District Attorneys do their worst. It's fuel for at least a dozen Law and Order episodes.

This is for Prince

Although I haven't heard Prince rail on the Da Vinci code (maybe he doesn't take it seriously enough to waste his time on it), I think he would be pleased with the concise post at Slate that shows where the characters in Dan Brown's book, and now the movie, got history wrong. Although I love watching ultra-religious people squirm whenever their beliefs are challenged, I do think it is important to know that there are historical criticisms of Dan Brown's book.

Monday, May 22, 2006

I Still Love the DLC

The latest issue of Blueprint Magazine, published by the Democratic Leadership Council, has a Progressive Action Plan for the Global War on Terrorism. Although I don’t think anything there is the absolute cure for stopping Islamic fundamentalism, and many are obviously very difficult to achieve, they at least get the issues out there. The policy proposals are intelligent and would do well to give the impression that Democrats are not weak on defense and the GWOT.

If I had one wish, it would be that the Democratic leadership would forget about the WMD / bad intelligence issue and look to the future.

We Need Some New Friends

I recommend that everyone check out this opinion piece from yesterday’s Washington Post. The column has excerpts from school textbooks in Saudi Arabia that are teaching intolerance and hatred for non-Muslims (or, more accurately, non-Wahhabis). For some reason, Washington refuses to accept that Saudi Arabia should not be considered an ally. Although we do appreciate their oil output, every move they make is against the democratic, egalitarian and tolerance values that our society is based on.

Total Bloviation


The entire international community was in an uproar about The Da Vinci Code. From fundamentalist and conservative Christians to Muslims, various religious groups painted it like a coming film Armageddon of Blasphemy not heard of since Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses on a church. They protested. They called for boycotts. They had sermons attempting to "debunk" the movie (as Princezz has been so kind to already rant about for me). Samoa even banned it.

What did that get them? 224 Million Dollars made in one weekend (domestic plus international). The studio has already recouped 100 million of its production budget. So what happened to those protesters? What happened to the Bible-thumping zealots? How did they turn such a big push into such a big embarassment. For a microcosmic display of how it probably went, I present you with this, which I guarantee from personal experience is probably dead-on.

The Balkan Theatre

Ooooh, there’s gonna be trouble!

Montenegro passed the referendum to secede from Serbia with 55.4 percent of the votes. If history repeats itself, which it always does, there’s gonna be blood. Just look at history of nations seceding from a union with Serbia – Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina – see a pattern? Death, war, destruction.

Ah, it really has been far too long since I’ve seen those blue helmets on the evening news…

Friday, May 19, 2006

Columnists on the Attack

I have been following the liberal commentary on John McCain, mostly because I am still trying to make up my mind about him. While I still think he is the best Republican we can ask for, I don’t know if I am as excited about him as I once was.

From what I have read, most of the liberal columnists are saying the same thing. Richard Cohen, Michael Kinsley, and Paul Krugman have all tried to paint McCain not as someone who is actually moderate and is just pandering to the base right now, but as a solid conservative. At first I just thought they were just trying to scare moderate liberals away from McCain and hoping to push them back to someone like Hillary. But after reading two of the latest pieces on him, I think it is actually something else.

Each of the commentators focus on two topics that prove McCain is really a solid conservative; abortion and the Iraq War. Everyone has known from the beginning that McCain was pro-life, so this is nothing new. But what I think is turning a lot of commentators away from McCain is his Iraq War stance (which is one of the things I like most about him). Read some of the following:

From Kinsley - In Powell's case, the theory always was that he was speaking truth to power from within, while telling the necessary public fibs to hold on to the privileged position this service required. With McCain, something more magical is going on. He says plainly that he is for the war, or against abortion choice, and people hear the opposite. It's a gift, I guess.

From Cohen - In short, he was the man who could restore faith in government.

But he cannot do that if, at the same time, he defends a war fought for nonexistent reasons, preceded by fibs, lies and exaggerations, draining America of blood and treasure and leaving us worse off now than before those bombs were dropped where -- as it symbolically turned out -- Saddam Hussein was not. Times have changed. The Straight Talk Express is in a ditch.


Here is what bothers me about all of this: They are using his defense of the war as proof of his truly conservative nature. The problem with this logic is that support for the war is not limited to the far-right and there are plenty of moderates (myself included) who support it. Furthermore, they are also saying that because he supports it, he must no longer be the same straight-shooter that he used to be – apparently you cannot tell the truth and support the Iraq War at the same time.

These commentators are letting their strong opposition to one policy affect their characterization of McCain, and they are sharing this with all of their readers. For any moderate voter, there are plenty of reasons to both support and be concerned about John McCain (his speech at Liberty University was a cop-out). I just hope that the discussion that follows in the future will be about more than just the Iraq War.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Churchill

Bainbridge points out that the investigation into Churchill's scholarship is complete. There's a little bit of everything, some plagiarism and some fabrication of evidence. The surprising thing is Bainbridge, while not agreeing with an iota of Churchill's work, is a little sympathetic to the plight:

I'm not fan of Ward Churchill, to put it mildly, but as an academic I'm troubled by this incident. On the one hand, academic misconduct is not to be tolerated. On the other hand, Churchill was singled out for an extensive investigation as a result of adverse publicity surrounding his role as a public intellectual. Apparently, there have been reports within his field of possible misconduct for years, which Colorado ignored until critics of Churchill's politics brought the charges to the attention of the mass media and the blogosphere. You will recall that Churchill wrote an essay in which he compared the victims of 9/11 to "little Eichmanns." After Colorado's regents were told the First Amendment barred them from punishing Churchill for that essay, they ordered the just completed investigation. Hence, the investigation was clearly political and retaliatory in its motivation.


Bainbridge goes just short of calling it a witchhunt. But in this case they found actual witches. I think Bainbridge is onto something with this argument. If someone is to make politically insane (not controversial in this case, just insane) arguments, are they to always be subject to such investigations? Will this lead to a great deal of self-censorship at public universities? For cases like Ward Churchill, maybe that's a good thing. But in a broader sense it's not a good precedent. But misconduct is misconduct. The more troubling thing, as Bainbridge is quick to point out, is that it took this kind of investigation to uncover such serious faults in someone whose work was actually taken seriously. And it's also right to point out that Cultural Studies as a discipline is, well, not very disciplined. People like Ward Churchill, in their efforts to write revisionist histories and challenge the very discipline of history, have basically thrown out the entire rule book of academic and scholarly rigor. So why punish just Ward Churchill? I'm sure if Colorado or any University went through their Cultural Studies faculty they would find the same kinds of misconduct. Perhaps ANY faculty. Everything about this shows that Churchill was singled out, and in a very vicious manner, for making ridiculous and insane analogies. If everyone is to be taken to task for that, we will have academic freedom in tatters, and University Professors running scared. It is good to hear from a libertarian/conservative like Bainbridge that this is of concern to him as well.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dividing Line

A staunch conservative reader on Sullivan's blog puts it eloquently:

Current history has taught me that in this modern America, divided government is the best government. I pray the Republicans lose the House of Representatives and/or the Senate this fall. This Republican Party is corrupt. It has been sold to the highest bidder, and since I cannot give $100,000 to the Republican, I have no voice within the party.
The Bush administration is incompetent at the basic level of execution of its responsibilities. Its excessive spending and the betrayal the nation's future generations through debt accumulation condemn it. It's prime claim to leadership is a war fought on the cheap with insufficient troops, faulty decision making at the most basic level, and Chicken Hawk wartime civilian leadership. Katrina.

Andrew, the war against fundamental Islam is simply too important to lose. This administration doesn't seem to understand that winning the war with those who wish to extinguish us is more important that tax breaks. It doesn't understand that control of our nation's borders is more important than winning the next election.


If you read the whole letter, the man makes it clear his Republican history, but feels disillusioned in a way I think everyone can relate to. This individual realizes that Democrats aren't really the solution to the problem either, so he's endorsed a favorite hobby horse of Senor C and myself: divided government. What happens under divided government? Real Congressional Oversight. Real battles over the federal budget. Real debates over government's priorities. Vetoes. Less pork and pet projects. Bipartisanship, or "date rape" for Grover Norquist fans. All of these are what the country needs right now. I still don't believe it's possible that the Democrats will take over Congress, though they may take the Senate. However, wanting Democrats to win some control and wanting divided government in a lot of cases isn't about wanting one party to pass their agenda. It's about precisely the opposite of that. We've been shown in the Bush years the worst parts of one-party rule the likes of which this country hasn't been subject to since LBJ. We need some restoration of separation of powers here, and we need a Congress that alternates from being asleep at the wheel and hog farming.

You Don't Own Me

I have a feeling that Baron Violent will enjoy this post, even though it is about baseball.

As a fantasy baseball player myself, I never really thought about who owns the rights to the names and statistics that make these leagues possible. Well, now a court will have to decide. As of right now, Major League Baseball claims they own the rights to the players' names and statistics (they purchased the rights from the players' union) and they require that fantasy leagues buy licenses for their use. Now, a small fantasy sports company is suing MLB claiming that names and statistics are in the public domain and are protected under the first amendment.

First of all, if you hadn't noticed already, MLB loves its monopolies. Bud Selig is a shrewd businessman and knows that revenues are higher when there is less competition. He also knows that when you decrease supply, prices go up, which is why he has cut back on the number of licenses given out each year.

These issues date back before online fantasy leagues. Other sports geeks like me might remember a game called Strat-O-Matic, which was a board game that used player names and statistics in head-to-head match-ups. According to a 1970 case, that board game was subject to license because it "misappropriated the players' marketable identity."

This case could be about much more than fantasy sports and board games though. Note the following:

"If anything, this case is even more impactful if the court rules for the players, because it will speak to any time you use a name in a commercial venture," said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at U.C.L.A. "What if you use a historical figure's name in a historical novel? Or other games, like Trivial Pursuit? How about 'Jeopardy!'? Would they be liable as well? That seems to be the logical consequence of this. How do you identify what is news, and other times when there's communication of factual information?"

One interesting wrinkle is that Major League Baseball appeared to take the argument's other side in 1996. When several major leaguers from the 1940's and 50's sued Major League Baseball over use of their names and statistics in materials like promotional videos and game programs, baseball argued that such use was protected by the First Amendment.
And this is why I hate Bud Selig and the owners so much. It is one thing to be rabid monopolists, but it is another thing altogether to be hypocritical about it. I long for a day when baseball is run by people who are unwilling to steal the soul of the game for more profit. Until then, I can only hope this goes to the Supreme Court and they can tell the world that there are limits to copyrights.

Friday, May 12, 2006

FEMail

Michael Brown is totally priceless. Wonkette has been all over the thousands of pages of FEMail, and I have to say that it has been very instructive in showing that Mike Brown was a real character. Maybe not qualified to run FEMA, but boy was he a character! Evidence:

I am tired, no, angered, by charges of racism. You know that neither me or anyone associated with me is a racist. Grrrr.

How was that Sonic Burger? (emphasis added)


Anyone who writes "grrrr" in an email deserves a second chance. And now, why do I want a sonic burger?

Silly Congress (Or Is It Smart?)

So bipartisan rancor is building up about the NSA wiretapping business and how they might have gotten their extensive and probing hands on everyone's phone records. Arlen Specter wants subpoenas. Why? Because Arlen Specter probably knows it's Bush's political savior. Republicans can hold hearings and do as much talking about this as they want, because the more they do the more the public seems to like the fact that the NSA can find out whatever it wants about them and listen to all of their phonecalls. I can't help but feel so much of the "outrage" by Republicans is a wink and a nudge, an effort to bring more attention to Bush's aggressive anti-terrorism tactics and steer Congress and the public's attention away from immigration and Iraq. Democrats, however, are falling for this ruse. As they line up in an effort to attack the President on this, they are going to continue to seem like the people who don't go far enough.

I think Sullivan's formulation that "We Don't Care" is dead wrong. I think people do care. They actually want the NSA doing what it's doing. The more I consider the nomination of Hayden, the more I think it was a shrewd and brilliant move by Bush. Sure, Bainbridge thinks it's him giving his critics the finger, but it might just work out for him. Or at least slow his freefall into total unpopular doom. Perhaps Rove is postulating that what Bush needs are hearings that remind everyone of how he called in the stormtroopers after 9/11 and saved everyone. At least, that's what still seems to be what the public believes.

I, actually, have a somewhat different take. After years of being bombarded with trashy movies like Enemy of the State, I think we need to ask a different question. And that is:

-Do people just assume that's what the NSA does and has been doing for years? And they're not really reacting strongly to this because to them it's old news?


I think Tom Clancy has gone a long way toward convincing people that this is business as usual, and that's why they aren't going up in arms over a database and some seized phone records. If you bombard people so much with screeds telling them their freedom has been compromised, and even in some cases romanticizing it (24), then shouldn't we expect it to affect their attitudes?

I Don't Hate Mark Fuhrman

Does that make me a bad person?

Last night I skimmed through Mark Fuhrman’s new book on the JFK assassinations, A Simple Act of Murder: November 22, 1963. For those of you who don’t know, since the OJ Simpson trial, Fuhrman has started a new life as a private detective and author (and apparently a regular guest on conservative talk shows). His book Murder in Greenwich, claimed that Michael Skakel was responsible for the killing of Martha Moxley – Skakel was later convicted of the murder.

His book about Kennedy’s assassination seems to be well researched and objective. It isn’t afraid to criticize previous investigations like the Warren Commission, without dismissing their evidence. With a mild curiosity in this subject, I have seen a few of the reports that have come out over years. Most of them revolve around reenactments because serious analysis of bullet speed, angles, and fragments are not exciting enough for TV. This book covers all of that. Fuhrman sticks to his strength and skills as a detective and goes where the evidence seems to take him.

In the end, he finds what most other objective analyses of the assassination find; Lee Harvey Oswald probably acted alone. He fired three bullets, each one hitting the motorcade. This is really the main place he diverges from the Warren Commission. Based on his look at the evidence, one bullet hit Kennedy’s shoulder, one hit Governor Connally (going through his back, out his chest, through his wrist and lodging into his thigh), and then the third bullet was the fatal head wound to Kennedy. Fuhrman finds the magic bullet theory, that one bullet inflicted Kennedy’s shoulder wound and all of Connelly’s wounds, highly unlikely (although it isn’t as ridiculous as Oliver Stone’s movie JFK makes it out to be). Fuhrman acknowledges that there is missing evidence and the investigation was mishandled from the beginning, but he finds no indication that there was a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy.

Fuhrman may be a racist, but his detective work really seems to be excellent. Hopefully, Furhman will continue his work on unsolved cases. Unfortunately, there are few unsolved cases like Martha Moxley's murder and the JFK assassination that would be as public and bring him as much attention.

Hmmmmm

Every morning, when I wake up, I ask myself a number of questions. Questions like:

-Will today be the day I wear my all yellow suit to work? Or maybe just the yellow shirt . . . Does the fact that yellow is my favorite color make me insane?
-Should I bother shaving today? How about showering?
-Who will I get in a screaming match with or headbutt at work today?
-What/who should I have for lunch?

But a more pressing question has hit me. That question is Does Lunchbox Still Even Read This Blog? I think the answer is "No." But I have a surefire way to test that. There's a new report from the Joint Economic Committee that says, in fact that the tax system has become MORE PROGRESSIVE under Bush. Fancy that! There's even a nifty bar graph that show that the top 25% of people pay 83.88% of the taxes. Those in the bottom 50% only pay 3% of the taxes. That looks pretty progressive to me. I'm a bit surprised, but I can't say it's all that rattling. As the economy is expanding it makes sense that perhaps people at the top are making more money and are paying a substantial volume of taxes even at reduced rates. Wait a minute! I just made a supply-side economics argument! What is happening to me ?!?!?! No, seriously though, I think what we're also seeing is a lot of measures that are helping the bottom. A lot of poor people have benefited from an indexed and expanded EITC and pay no federal taxes, and as these numbers count those as negatives, it's sort of padding it by making things look better for the lower 50% since so much of them are exempt or pay zero. That'll bring down averages and percentages FAST. Even so, I think with that taken into account these numbers are still a bit surprising.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alphonso Jackson's Orange Jumpsuit

The new HUD Secretary has gotten into quite a pickle by blatantly violating a law and then having the idiotic notion to BRAG about it!

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the bidder, according to an account of the speech in the Dallas Business Journal. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the GSA [General Services Administration] list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him.

"Then he said something. . . . He said, 'I have a problem with your president.' I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush. ' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.' "He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."


Maybe Jackson was not aware there were these things called Acquisition Regulations, you know, that say the government has to decide in a fair and transparent way based on who offers the best service (not the lowest bid, that is a MYTH, people!) and not on whatever a political appointee thinks or political preference. Perhaps Jackson, like so many Bush appointees, simply believes he can ignore the law and do whatever he thinks. It wouldn't surprise me if he's trying to pull a fast one after seeing Rumsfeld and the NSA get away with so many. And, if someone wanted to inform Alphonso, it's actually against the law for a contractor to use government funds from a contract to campaign for anybody FOR OR AGAINST. So he didn't actually have to worry about that (and thus, it's not an excuse, even if one grants him that he can break the law, which he can't). But there's more. Jackson isn't even a Contracting Officer, so he doesn't have the authority to award or not award a contract. Stating he can is absurd.

The bottom line isn't that Alphonso is a crook and has committed a criminal act (seriously, if that contractor had taken him to the Court of Federal Claims, Jackson would've been destroyed), it's that he doesn't even understand his job and how the federal government works. Which is GREAT when you're putting someone in charge of HUD, a Department rife with contracting and other financial scandals to begin with. You have to love croneyism. But hey, if Alphonso Jackson had his way and could toss 60 years of law into the trash heap, all government contracts would be awarded based on croneyism anyway! I wish I could say this situation surprises me, but it doesn't. Because in my time working as a Contracting Officer I've dealt with bigger idiots than Jackson (mostly appointees, but a decent number of career people too). They usually weren't the Secretary, though. If anything, this should just confirm the already obvious fact that too many people who don't have competency beyond being political hacks are being put in charge of our entire government, and given free reign to run wild. Laws and real needs be damned!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

With Friends Like These

With the evidence that is coming out now, it is hard for me to deny that there is a big problem with sectarian violence in Iraq. Reports of execution style killings of Sunni Muslims are making it clear that Sunnis and Al Qaeda are not the only groups preventing a stable Iraq. If the Shiites are not on our side, under control, and supporting a peaceful Iraq, then we have very little chance for success.

I have desperately tried not to lose hope - mostly because of how bad it would be for the region if Iraq failed, but also partly because I don't want the defeatists to be able to say that they were right. I can't imagine how depressing it will be if they can sit back and say they told us so - that Iraq wasn't capable of becoming a democracy.

Go to Support Genocide, Stay for the Soccer

The Wop, over at the sports blog I belong to, posted about a really disturbing sports story in Croatia. Dinamo Zagreb, the Coratian league soccer team, will donate the proceeds of its final game of the season to the defense funds of Croatian suspects being tried for genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal. Mixing sports and politics is just annoying for any reason - but using proceeds from a sport to defend participants in genocide is just apalling.

It Just Isn't Funny

Has anyone been reading Doonesbury lately? Instead of its usual brilliant political commentary, the comic has been following a high school candidate applying to college. Although that scenerio could be funny, the student has many of the best colleges and universities courting her, which makes the experience unlike anything normal people can relate to. Maybe I really need to start taking web comics much more seriously.

President Kerry

Sullivan gets this exactly right:

Can you imagine how battered a president Kerry would have been by now? He'd be stuck with Bush's Iraq mess; he'd be constantly told he's Neville Chamberlain on Iran for doing exactly what Bush has been doing; he'd be ruthlessly attacked by the Hannity right over Teresa, immigration, gays, and any other cultural issue they could exploit. And the GOP would have escaped the responsibility for their fiscal insanity, while Kerry took lumps for raising taxes. As a matter of principle, I do not regret endorsing Kerry. My decision was based on the manifest incompetence and unconservatism of Bush. But in the sweep of history, it is fitting that Bush, for the first time in his entire life, actually face the consequences of his own recklessness.


I couldn't agree more. Seeing events unfold, Kerry would have provided the perfect scapegoat for so much happening right now. The Republicrat Statist Party would be completely 100% unified against him. Instead, we have the budding awareness within the GOP by its supporters that they should demand better from those they have elected, or that they should look for alternatives. None of that would've happened if there had been a President Kerry. I'm not saying the country is better off with Bush in office, I certainly doubt that. But I think all those who supported Kerry can take more than simple Schadenfraude from what is happening to Bush and the Republicrats. They can take it that Kerry's electoral failure wasn't all bad, and an electoral success wouldn't have been all good.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Control Room

I just finished watching Control Room, a documentary about Al Jazeera's coverage of the Iraq War. I was expecting to see a movie that would show me how the Arab satellite network is a mouthpiece for violent and extremist Islam. What I actually saw in the movie was quite different.

In no way does Al Jazeera come off as malicious in the documentary. Although they obviously are coming from a very different perspective, they do try to remain objective. The network tries to cover aspects of the Iraq War that matter to Muslims, which means in part showing civilian casualties and American POWs. The former is much easier to justify than the latter. You can see through the documentary that their coverage questions whether the war really is improving Iraqi lives. What also rings true is the horrors of war in a very up close and personal way. American media doesn't cover war like that anymore because it turns the country off of war.

When I reflect on the movie, I realize that all media outlets try to remain objective. The nature of journalism though makes it impossible. Each outlet must decide what to cover and how to portray it. In the end, your own biases effect your coverage. American outlets didn't show as much civilian death on the news, while Al Jezeera focused almost entirely on that. Both are appealing to their audience by showing what is important to them. The lesson seems to be that the best way for a viewer to get as much informaiton as possible is to watch the news from different perspectives. In fact, a press liason for the US military, who is featured often in the movie, realizes this on camera when he says he can identify what is being left out of news stories when he watches Fox or Al Jazeera.

What I am most disappointed in is the misunderstanding that still persists about the Arab satellite network. Al Jazeera is not a mouthpiece of any government or ideology. Although they are definitely biased in favor of their Muslim audience, they are independent. This is something that needs to be acknowledged a little more in Western media. Since Al Jazeera is launching an English-language network, maybe they can help their own cause here in America.

Take Me to the Other Side

Recently, I posted about Senator Biden's proposal for a decentralized federal government in Iraq with the three regions having greater autonomy. Well, as a counter-point, there was an op-ed in the New York Times recently explaining why that is a terrible idea. The column, by Anthony H. Cordesman, is pretty compelling as well. Either way, I don't think we have a lot of say in the matter anymore.

Also, in other Iraq War news, Generaly McCaffrey released a report on what it would take to succeed in Iraq. From Fred Kaplan at Slate:

Good news and bad news on the war in Iraq: The good news is that victory is possible, our troops are the best ever, the Iraqi army is getting bigger and better, and most Iraqi people want a pluralistic government. The bad news is that it will take 10 more years to accomplish these successes—at least three years just to get the Iraqi military into shape.
I get the feeling that the American people aren't willing to stay the course that long. Maybe McCaffrey was exaggerating.

I Still Hate Pelosi

I just posted about why Pelosi’s announcement of a Congressional investigation into President Bush’s actions (with the possibility of an impeachment) is politically bad for the party. What I only realized after seeing it up on the site is that there is more that really bothers me about it. The decision is not just bad politics, it is terrible policy as well.

What Democrats are showing with this nonsense is that we have no real vision. Take Cheney’s energy task force as an example. Five years ago, Vice President Cheney devised a policy that would effectively be a hand-out to the big energy companies. While we don’t know who was on it, we do know that the policy sucks. So where does that leave us now? Well, we could spend a whole lot of political capital trying to find out who was on the task force. Or we could all agree that we really don’t give a crap who was on it, and try to come up with a new energy policy that meets our needs and plans for the future. Anyone can plan investigations and make allegations – it takes a real party of change to develop new policy. I can’t wait for this real party of change to show itself.

Kill the Gift Horse

Every time Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid talks, they confirm my fears; despite the many opportunities Republicans are giving the Democrats for taking over Congress (Abramoff scandal, soaring deficit spending, unpopular president), the Democrats will do everything they can to blow this chance.

Nancy Pelosi, in her very finite wisdom, has announced that if Democrats take control of the House, they will launch investigations into the Bush Presidency. These investigations would look into Cheney’s energy task force and the intelligence Bush used to go to war in Iraq. This move appeals only to the base – and with that strategy, the Democratic Party will remain the minority party. In order to win the moderates that are necessary to win control of the House, Democrats will need to show that they are forward thinking. Party leadership has to show that we have a vision for the country that is about more than attacking a President whose approval rating is miserably low. This isn’t the way to do it.

The Slate post where I first read about this also mentions how this strategy plays into the hands of Republicrat Statist Party leadership that wants to use scare tactics to motivate their base to come to the polls. The last thing we need to be doing right now is helping the Republicrat Statist Party turn out the vote when dissatisfaction is high among conservatives.

Why Shoot Yourself In the Foot . . .

When you can shoot yourself in the crotch? Walmart has been beleagured by image and PR problems recently, for a variety of reasons, some fair criticisms of the company's business practices and others completely unfair and untrue potshots. But they sure aren't helping their image any by trying to own the smiley face.

Wal-Mart is embroiled in a legal dispute over the smiley face image which it wants to trademark in the US. A Frenchman who claims to have invented the yellow smiley face back in 1968 is opposing the US retail giant's move.

For some, the image is a reminder of 1970s counter-culture, for others, a useful shorthand when sending e-mails.

But since 1996, Wal-Mart has used the image in the US on uniforms and promotional signs, and it wants sole rights to it in the US retail sector.


Wal-mart claims that they were forced to do this because of Franklin Loufrani, the above-referenced Frenchman who claims to be one of the inventors of the smiley face. To me, that argument wears thin and this seems like more of Walmart using Loufrani's actions as a pretext to lock down the smiley as a logo for the company. The BBC piece mentions other possible authors, so why doesn't Walmart just ally itself with them in an effort to stop Loufrani from getting the trademark? If they're that afraid of being charged money to use it as part of their corporate branding, why not fight to keep it public domain? The only answer to these questions is the obvious one: Walmart would much rather own the smiley, and that's what it comes down to. This sort of thing is bound to further amplify Walmart's negative image. What kind of corporation wants to own the smiley face? An evil one. And Mr. Loufrani is no better for trying to do the same. It's the stupidest thing since Donald Trump tried to copyright "You're fired" and Paris Hilton tried to copyright "That's hot." I doubt people will respond well to a world where they can't use emoticons without forking over some cash to Walmart. And if they're going to do it, they better trademark the frowny face as quickly as possible too. (H/t: Insta)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Military Power As First Resort?

TNR raises a very valid point here.

The '90s were a decade of genocides--unimpeded (Rwanda) and partially impeded (Bosnia) and impeded (Kosovo). The relative success of those genocides was owed generally to the indifference of that chimera known as "the international community," but, more specifically, it was owed to the learning curve of an American president about the moral--and therefore the operational--difference between genocide and other foreign policy crises. The difference is simple. In the response to most foreign policy crises, the use of military force is properly viewed as a last resort. In the response to genocide, the use of military force is properly viewed as a first resort.

The notion of force as a first resort defies the foundations of diplomacy and also of common sense: A willingness to use hard power abroad must not become a willingness to use it wildly. But if you are not willing to use force against genocide immediately, then you do not understand what genocide is. Genocide is not a crisis that escalates into evil. It is evil from its inception. It may change in degree if it is allowed to proceed, but it does not change in kind. It begins with the worst. Nor is its gravity to be measured quantitatively: The intention to destroy an entire group is present in the destruction of even a small number of people from that group. It makes no sense, therefore, to speak of ending genocide later. If you end it later, you will not have ended it. If Hitler had been stopped after the murder of three million Jews, would he be said to have failed? Four hundred thousand Darfuris have already been murdered by the Janjaweed, the Arab Einsatzgruppen. If we were to prevent the murder of the 400,001st, will we be said to have succeeded?


This is the trouble with stopping genocide. Institutions like NATO and the UN require a lot of stumbling blocks before military force is authorized. This is generally due to the good-natured intent of allowing diplomacy to defuse any crisis before it boils into war. This becomes a terrible weakness in an emergency case like genocide. What is needed in genocide is not a negotiation between two nations or even factions, but an immediate intervention to stop the massacre of one by the other. Talks don't do any good once killing has already begun. Dispute and conflict resolution are of little use when the knives are out and the goal is to kill as many people as fast as possible. This distinction also convincingly explains why the UN has been such a failure in stopping these crises, and why it likely will continue to be one.

Dissent Is the Highest Form of Making Shit Up

So John Kerry is galloping around the countryside, probably still trying to be relevant for a run in 2008, and he's all up on this "dissent" stuff. As a matter of fact. He continues to peddle a certain quote: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." There's nothing that makes better political theater than quoting Thomas Jefferson. Unless you're really quoting someone else, and Jefferson never said that at all. And guess what? Yep. You guessed it.

Relief

As a denizen of this particular Metro area, I get deeply depressed whenever the subject or thought of trying to purchase property here comes up. It's the same for many people who live here. The idea of owning any property is summed up in the following way: paying half a million dollars for a 300 square foot closet in Anacostia. Then, after making such a ridiculous purchase, one is likely to descend into the only scarier thing that having a half million dollar debt to one's name, a condition I like to call Aristocratosis. This is when you, because you own property in your area, believe you are something akin to landed aristocracy and proceed to tell all your friends and people you know who rent how financially stupid they are and decry what a bargain you got for your half a million dollar apartment in a high crime neighborhood. I think Aristocratosis naturally develops as a coping mechanism to the monstrous debt you have anchored to yourself and will be working to pay off for the rest of your life.

For all those who have the same depressed reaction I do, here is a blog to make you feel better. It's called Bubblemeter, and it's dedicated to the relieving assumption that the DC Housing Market is a bubble, and that it will burst soon. I hope so. They search out and find nifty facts, like that home cancellations are way up, anti-gentrification sentiment, and mortgage payments rising explosively. As the blog shouts, "always remember: Renters are people too. We are NOT second class citizens!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

Porter Goss, Communist

Porter Goss is gone already. I mean, geez, he left Congress just to do that? Oh well, guess his career is over. That is, until he becomes a beltway bandit and makes mountains of money. However, I like this parting remark from ol' C-Plus Augustus himself:

Making the announcement from the Oval Office, Bush said Goss' tenure had been one of transition.

"He has led ably," Bush said, Goss at his side. "He has a five-year plan to increase the analysts and operatives."


Because nothing should make people better than hearing "We have a five-year plan." Because, you know, Five Year Plans have such a fine historical record of working out so well.

Iraq Is Really Like . . . The War of 1812?

With all the overwrought comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam (the only real comparison is that they're guerilla wars. And it's not like Vietnam was the first) it's worth examining another comparison that might be more politically educational. And that is . . . the War of 1812!

The Wikipedia entry on the origins of the war notes that the British government "had already revoked the restrictions on American commerce" by the time war was declared on June 18, 1812 but that information hadn't yet reached the western hemisphere. Still, this reflects the basic unseriousness of the diplomatic approach to the main ostensible grievance reflecting, again, the fact that a hunt was under way to find an excuse for war. We even learn that "[s]ome Americans argued that the majority of the population in the British colonies would rise up and greet an American invading army as liberators."


It's interesting. While the facts of the wars themselves are different, of course, I think this is more an interesting case of looking at how the domestic politics are similar. Of course, Yglesias goes on after this to talk about how we wished we had actually invaded and taken over most of Canada to politically weaken the south and make us more socialist (or would the opposite have happened, I wonder, and Canada become more Americanized?).

Personally, I think if you want to make Iraq analogies you can do it all day long. There are similarities between all kinds of wars. And some of them draw educational points and some of them not. Nothing is going to be a perfect fit. I think the closest, for my money though, is the Phillipine Insurrection.

From Hell

Next time you think your neighbors suck, think about this.

Over the course of three years, Jeanne Wilding left dog poo, glass, and nails on people's doorsteps. She blasted "Carmina Burana" -- a musical piece about rape and pillage -- out her windows at high volume. She left dead animals in gardens and beamed floodlights into her neighbors' windows.

Lawyers told the court Jeanne Wilding was a "professional trouble-causer" running a "campaign of hatred and pure evil."

Nigel Pratt broke down as he testified about Wilding's frightening behavior. He said his 11-year-old son's life had been ruined by her pranks.

"He's frightened of my wife going out in the yard when Miss Wilding is there," he said.

"He screams and shouts at her not to go outside."


This sounds like the beginning of a bad Stephen King novel. You know, like before we find out that Wilding (and that is so a name from a bad Stephen King novel) is really an alien. Or a vampire. Or a clown. Or some combination of the three. And then she begins really reaking havoc. We all know it begins with dead animals and ends in an alien invasion. Or a vampire colony. Or some combination of the two.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Wal-Mart Cure

There is new legislation being proposed to increase access to unions (hat tip, Bull Moose). The proposed legislation would require employers to allow unions to be set up if a majority of workers sign a card authorizing union representation. Although I am not a blind supporter of unions, I do support this policy for one major reason – Wal-Mart.

My biggest problem with unions is that they are too strong in certain areas (education) and retard progressive policies as well as often working to protect the wrong people. At the same time though, I recognize the impact they have had in this country to protect our workers, and I think they can still serve that purpose in certain places.

As I see it, Wal-Mart uses its market power to take advantage of its employees. At the same time, I don’t want to see government interference like the kind we saw in Maryland. Instead, if Wal-Mart employees were allowed to unionize (or, to say it differently, if Wal-Mart was punished for using intimidation to prevent unionization), they might be able to negotiate pay and benefits that are in line with other jobs in the industry. Every once in a while, we need to make sure that all workers in this country have the ability to unionize without fear of employer retribution.

For Shame Liberal Media

There is an editorial in yesterday’s New York Time about the re-nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – which is often thought of as the most prestigious federal appeals court. I agree with the NY Times editorial staff that the nominee should get another Senate hearing. New information has come out since the original nomination about Kavanaugh’s involvement in controversial Bush administration policies.

What I don’t agree with is the editorial’s claim that Kavanaugh is unqualified for the position. The American Bar Association, the one place that non-legal experts can look to for objective analysis of federal judicial nominees’ qualifications, has rated Kavanaugh as Well Qualified (with a minority on the committee only rating him Qualified). The NY Times staff knows what the word “qualified” implies when it relates to judicial nominees. So when the editorial claims that Kavanaugh is unqualified, they are purposefully misleading their readers. While it is perfectly reasonable to think that the Times staff disagrees with the ABA, they don’t bother to mention that an objective organization gave Kavanaugh their highest rating.

We constantly rail on the Bush administration for only sharing information that supports their argument and thereby misleading the public. I think it is time we hold the media to the same standard.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

No More Mountain Dew

Thinking about the decrease in teenage pregnancy rates used to make me feel good. It made me believe that good policies really can make a difference. In fact, I'll even go so far to say that it shows bad policies can make a difference too. But after reading a post at Slate, I am more scared than I am encouraged. According to Liza Mundy, the decline might really be due to lower fertility among American males. I think before we ban fast food, we should ban Mountain Dew.

Biden My Time

Senator Biden wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times regarding strategy in Iraq. Although it isn't shocking or very original, it is pretty smart. It calls for a decentralized federal system, but one that grants the Sunni area, which lacks oil resources, a fair share (based on population) of the country's revenue. The proposal also calls for major American troop withdrawal by 2008.

A decentralized system will probably work best so long as the Sunnis aren't excluded from Iraqi revenue. Basically this means a decentralized system for policy and laws, but centralized taxation and budget distribution. Since Iraqis are now in charge of their their government and changing the constitution, we can only hope they read Biden's Op-Ed.

As for the planned withdrawal, I had been opposed to this for a long time. I thought it would cause the insurgents to wait until we left before making a violent attempt at power. But I think now that the insurgency is getting worse all the time, it might be our best option. An annoucement of a distant withdrawal might take the wind out of the sails of the Sunni groups that are only anti-American and rally everyone against the Al Qaeda groups that are anti-American and anti-Iraqi.

Trent Lott Needs an Atomic Wedgie

Captain Ed summarizes it well:

The projects that got past Senate pork hawks like Tom Coburn were a $200 million bailout of Northrup Grumman for indemnifyng the defense contractor against losses that its insurers refuse to cover. Coburn faced stiff opposition from Trent Lott, the man who apparently wants to make a career out of defying voters on earmarks, and Thad Cochran. Both Republicans insisted that the government needed to replace the loss, even though Northrup made a 7.1% operating margin in 2005, up from 6.7% in 2004 and 5.6% in 2003. That represent $2.4 billion in profit, an increase from $2.3B in 2004 and $1.9B in 2003.

Why does a corporation that made $2.4 billion in profit need another $200 million from American taxpayers to cover a loss they've absorbed in that same year?

Rather than focus resources on the truly needy and on real emergencies, Lott and Cochran have manipulated the relief bill to stick money into Northrup's pockets. Perhaps folks from Lott's home state of Mississippi should ask themselves why Lott seems more concerned about the travails of a corporation that had its best year ever than those who had their entire lives wiped out by Katrina.


There are a lot of rumors that when Frist leaves to campaign for President, Lott wants his leadership seat back. He's also been taking every opportunity he can to snipe at those who deposed him after his ridiculous canonizing of Strom Thurmond. He's also said he's "damn tired" of people who are trying to eliminate pork in spending bils. And this sort of thing, a blatant corporate payoff, is what he has to offer? This isn't policy or law, it's plain old-fashioned robbery. When a government contractor performs a government contract, they do so at a certain amount of risk. It is that risk that justifies their profit when they succeed. But to hand them hundreds of millions when they are already operating at a profit, as if they need some sort of "bailout"- which is a despicable act of socialist statism anyway, is outrageous. That Lott uses the federal budget this way is the ultimate sort of abuse, and if he did ever manage to get his leadership post back it would be a horrible thing for this country.

But it would be a great thing for the Republicrat Statist Party. Captain Ed also notes the irony of Congress calling a 10% profit by Exxon Mobil a "windfall" and yet passes legislation to give Northrop, with its 7% profit, a bailout.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Clueless Left

Currently there is a man on death row. Many argue he is a victim of a horrific abuse of police power. Many argue he is yet more collateral damage in the largely ineffective War on Drugs. Many argue still that he is about to be put to death largely because of racism. Those many are conservative bloggers (surprising to some, but not to me) and the man is Corey Maye. No one knew who he was until Radley Balko, author of the right-wing blog the Agitator and Fox News contributor, started making a stink. Now everyone is getting in on the act. I've blogged about this before, but I feel the need to do so again, especially now that the above-linked wikipedia entry exists.

Maye awoke in the middle of the night to hear someone breaking into his back door. He grabbed a gun he owned legally and fired in that general direction three times. He heard "Police! Police" afterward and put his gun now. Now Maye is on death row for murdering a cop. If you have a puzzled look on your face, that's the right reaction. Other interesting facts are that Maye was not named on any warrant, Maye was not suspected of any criminal activity at the time, and the warrant itself was for his neighbor in the Duplex in which he lived. A man the police had ALREADY ARRESTED when they felt compelled to go for two and knock down Maye's door just in case. Some other interesting facts are that the Prentiss Public Defender was actually fired from his job after repeated threats from the Mayor for defending Maye. The Mayor has actually copped to this. In spite of all this, a probably-racist jury convicted Maye and sent him to death, in what was a clear case of self-defense.

So why aren't liberals celebrating this perfect example of why the death penalty is unjust, and a clear-cut example of how it's completely racially biased? I'm asking the question, because I want someone to answer it for me. It's all there. This all happened, in case you needed more information, because the police wanted to arrest Maye's neighbor, who was dealing Marijuana. Not crack. Not heroine. Not meth. Marijuana. If there is a bet example of War on Drugs-related stupidity, I'd like to hear it. Maye is a poster boy for everything liberals argue. The continued existence of racism in America. Racial bias in the legal system. The horrific abuse of power that the police have engaged in as part of the War on Drugs. So why is it conservatives who are championing the cause of Maye? Oh, that's right. He owned a gun.