Friday, June 30, 2006

House Party

Bruce Reed gets it very right when it comes to Congressional dysfunction. Some in the more creative segment of the rightwing have long demonized the Senate (and it's damnable Moderate/RINO tendencies) and called for term limits there. I think Reed's piece lets us know we need to start thinking about that with the House, maybe more importantly for the House, given its recent shenanigans and the Supreme Court's celebration of those in one of its earthshattering rulings.

In the House, DeLay launched an unprecedented and successful effort to redraw congressional districts year after year to maximize partisan advantage. If DeLay had gone on to the Senate, he no doubt would have tried to rewrite state boundaries every few years to achieve the highest possible number of red states.

The Supreme Court's refusal this week to overturn the DeLay gerrymander in Texas suggests that another firewall has fallen. From now on, both parties will feel compelled to take the same politics that has brought down the House to every state capital in America. Instead of doing the job people elected them to do, state legislators will spend all their time fighting over how to write safe congressional districts so that members of Congress don't have to do the job people elect them to do.

Redistricting was at the root of DeLay's downfall, and may well be at the root of Washington's as well. In recent years, redistricting has made districts more polarized, homogenous, and friendly to entrenched incumbents. Competitive districts in which incumbents actually have to earn re-election are becoming an endangered species.


Reed's piece is smart because it takes the basic political science conceptions of the House (more partisan, more shrill, more polarized) and marries it to our problem of everlasting incumbency. He also, wisely, discusses Tanner (D-TN)'s efforts to end gerrymandering with Congressional legislation even though the effort went down in flames. Several other reforms are discussed, like making the House seats all at-large and sending them home and having the House run in an e-government fashion with many, many more representatives. No matter what your chosen experiment is, Reed paints a good picture of how broken the House is and how we need to get out the power tools if we hope of making it any better in the future.

The Incredible Idiocy of "Panda Sluggers"

Do I trust China? Of course not. Do I think they could be dangerous? Yes. Do I think they are that dangerous right now? Not really (except to Taiwan). However, the most irritating thing about China is its ability to keep a certain amount of nutty ideologue, the China hawk, in business. Whenever I go on one of my tirades about how absurd it is that there are weapons systems for everything from new submarines to new fighter planes when we are in budget deficits and fighting an urban war that those things have about zero practical use in, some interlocutor will often start spinning China hawk bullshit. They will begin to say we need to have such absurd weapons in order to counter future threats from China. As we STILL have the number one Air Force and Navy in the world and China is still decades and decades behind, I've always found that sort of argument a bit laughable. Why not make the same argument about the future air power of Venezuala? Or Cuba? Sure they're a little more behind, but what's a few decades here and there? Well these China hawks get a better takedown than I could imagine, and a spiffy new moniker, "Panda Sluggers" (because these people tend to call those who don't want a war with China "Panda Huggers") right here, especially current DoD golden boy and slugger-supreme, Michael Pillsbury.

Pillsbury dwells on the far-hawkish end. Where others view China's intentions as complicated, Pillsbury says that Beijing views the United States as an "inevitable foe." ("He makes simple what is not simple," says Mark Pratt, a former State Department official who has known Pillsbury for over 30 years.) Where others debate the merits of hedging, Pillsbury feels that things haven't gone far enough. "The U.S. can do much more to hedge in the next few years if the Chinese do not end their excessive military secrecy and begin to reassure their neighbors," he recently told The Wall Street Journal. And where nearly everyone agrees that China is far behind the United States in military capacity, Pillsbury has been among the first, and the few, to argue that Beijing is preparing for an asymmetric military conflict with the United States in which it would draw on secret "assassin's mace" weapons. The term "assassin's mace," more commonly translated as "trump card" (shashoujian) is, according to Pillsbury, integral to a Chinese notion of "inferior defeats superior." (The Pentagon's most recent annual report to Congress on China's military from May 2006 includes the term, mentioning Chinese efforts to exploit "perceived vulnerabilities of potential opponents--so-called Assassin's Mace [sha shou jian] programs.") An "assassin's mace" might take the form of a computer application, for instance, that would take over an enemy information system, rendering a foe the victim of his own dependence on technology. In Pillsbury's telling, China intends to leapfrog ahead in battle readiness by using assassin's-mace weapons to find breaches in U.S. armor. Moreover, he implies, they could be ready at any time.


The article goes on to portray the shoddy methods of Pillsbury and his shriller-by-the-minute proclamation of impending war, and basically expose him for the grandstander he is. More commentary from Drum and Yglesias, but I think Yglesias is especially onto something. The reason Pillsbury and his ilk have any credibility can be found in the support this line of argument gives to a booming industry in Cold War-style weapons systems that have already become useless for the most part, and will continue to do so. The fact that there is no counter-lobby basically guarantees their continued existence as well, even though their arguments make little sense and have almost no backup besides paranoid speculation.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

UPDATE! The Times Flap / Kellergate / Latest Blog Hysteria

Lileks weighs in, with an NYT preview!

Feb. 14, 2007: Times Editor Keller approves the publication of the Pentagon’s plans for a Feb 15th strike on Iran, asserting that “there has been far too little debate about whether the sustained assault by cruise missiles and stealth bombers will provide a cover for the infiltration of several SpecOps teams from the Iraqi and Afghan bases, or whether these groups, code named ‘Red Six’ and ‘Blue Fourteen’ respectively, might suffer friendly fire. One error in timing, such as the barrage scheduled for the 3 AM on night of the 24th, could expose our troops to great harm. If this leads to a debate about whether the Tomahawk missile can be sent slightly off course by a concentrated microwave burst, as classified documents seem to suggest, it’s a debate we need to have.”

Oct. 31, 2007: Rumors in the Times newsroom indicate that Editor Keller has become a believer in the “Hidden Editor” sect of journalism. This sect believes that if newspapers create enough chaos in the world, the hidden, or Twelfth, editor will appear. This will institute a reign of peace, justice, rising circulation rates, an eternal lock on the classifieds market, and a general agreement that Walter Duranty was correct: Ukrainians really did starve themselves to death out of patriotic fervor.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tarkin Explains It All

As in Grand Moff Tarkin. When I first started reading blogs, I noticed a lot of them read like great op-ed pages. Some of the greatest ones almost touched academic journal heights in their sophistication. But there was something better. There was the ability of links to site sources, unclogging all the infinite foot- or end- notes that mess up reading a piece of scholarship, and their was the ability to exercise more levitas by drawing crazy analogies and then getting absolutely serious about them. A great example would be this perfectly reasonable explanation of Hegemonic Stability Theory just thrown together by the typically inventive Matt Yglesias. How does he do it? WITH STAR WARS DIALOGUE, OF COURSE! Yglesias starts his piece out with this classic exchange:

Tarkin: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.

Tagge: But that's impossible. How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?

Tarkin: The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.


Yglesias then explicates:

What Tarkin's talking about here is a leading power -- the Empire -- trying to do away with the former constitutional order ("the last remnants of the Old Republic") in order to create a hegemonic one (Palpatine Unbound, as it were). Tagge is skeptical that this will work -- the political processes may be cumbersome, but they're actually necessary to maintain the system's stability. It would actually be even more cumbersome for the center to be constantly trying to impose its will on everyone without the assistance of the bureacracy. Tarkin's counterproposal is that the development of the Death Star has changed the situation -- use it once on Alderaan to make an example of them, and in the future fear will keep the local systems in line.

And I think it's fairly clear that something of this sort was motivating the Bush administration in 2002-2003. The key decisionmakers took the view that technological developments (the "revolution in military affairs") had radically enhanced America's ability to overthrow foreign governments. Rather than simply keep this power in our back pocket for use when circumstances clearly warranted it (as in Afghanistan) there was a palpable desire to make an example out of Iraq to send a message.


The one thing Yglesias doesn't do, after he labels the Bush Administration as the Death Star, is to accurately explain how his own analogy both describes Hegemonic Stability Theory and its weakness. Namely that if the Hegemon is too powerful it starts to be perceived as a threat and those below it begin to unite against it and antagonism builds up. A "rebel alliance" forms and the unipolar monopoly of power the Hegemon possesses slowly (or quickly) deteriorates. Is that what is happening in the Middle East? I think sometimes it's hard to argue otherwise. But Yglesias is right. Star Wars may be a better explainer of IR theory than anyone could've imagined.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Times Flap / Kellergate / Latest Blog Hysteria

I've been following the debacle related to the NYT reporting on the financial records spying program and subsequent fallout, and I have to say I really agree with the right-wing half of the blogosphere on this one. Insta has a lot of informative links here, and then later here. I proceed on the following assumptions, which to me seem so far to be relatively indisputable:

1) The program was legal in nature as the government already has and always has had a lot of authority to search bank records and in that sense nothing like the NSA/FISA debacle.

2) The program was very effective in identifying the assets of terrorist groups and helping to freeze them.

3) There is not really any other effective way for this to be done.

4) It was pretty much widely assumed something like this was going on anyway.


The only one that works in the NYT favor in this dump of classified information is number 4. 1-3 indicate that this was probably a good program for national security purposes and was not doing anything wrong, thus disclosing its nature when it was classified is at best irresponsible and arrogant and at worse akin to notifying the enemy of secret Pentagon weapons or plans. I don't think there should be some sort of Congressional denunciation of the newspaper. That's completely hyperbolic. Nor do I think the NYT committed some sort of treason or act of espionage. This was intentional, but I doubt that the Times really thought about how this would effect the behavior of terrorists or damage the government's ability to go after their finances. They're less criminal than they are incredibly stupid.

That said, I think the NYT deserves the flaying its getting and every word of this criticism, and I do think their should be inquiries to punish the leaker. The NYT is continuously basking in non-existent First Amendment "privileges" - their term - that it seems to think enable the media to do everything it wants to compromise classified information. That's an irresponsible attitude and shows a lack of concern for national security and, when you get down to it, the public interest as it should be defined (instead of how the Times defines it). If you believe the NYT argument, their basically should be no such thing as classified information that is protected. And that is a ridiculous notion. Sure the Bush Administration has abused secrecy by classifying just about everything, and sure we have a severe problem because whistleblowers in the intelligence industry have nowhere to go, but those should be cause for reform and political accountability. They are not cause to play "gotcha" tactics by exposing secrets for its own sake in a sort of phony, gutless move of civil disobedience.

We do need reform. The Bush Administration is abusing transparency. We need some form of whistleblower protection for people in intelligence. What we don't need is the Times playing games with some of our effective and legal weapons on terrorism for either institutional gain of its own or political games.

Hamas Does a Backflip

Hamas and Fatah are very close to passing some kind of agreement that Israel maybe kinda has the right to exist. And, from the looks of it, it appears we actually have one historical example of sanctions actually sort of kinda accomplishing something.

The agreement, resulting from weeks of negotiations, could lead to an easing of the international economic sanctions against the Palestinian government, which Hamas has managed since the end of March. Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah party, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas were expected to outline the details here Wednesday.

Awad said the makeup of the next government has not been settled and could take weeks to work out, although it is unlikely that a Hamas official will lead it. He said it would likely be composed of Palestinian leaders unaffiliated with either of the major political movements.

Since Hamas won January parliamentary elections, most foreign donors have frozen aid to the Palestinian Authority, which relies on the funding for nearly half of its $2 billion annual budget. Israel has stopped the monthly transfer of $55 million in tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian government -- sanctions that have left most of the authority's more than 150,000 employees without pay for four months.


Though I wouldn't get all triumphalist yet. The agreement isn't a done deal and El Wapo makes it plenty clear that the military wing of Hamas may thumb its nose at this. Then again, is division within Hamas over an issue like this really such a bad thing? In the end, if Hamas is going to get Palestinians anything but a state of perpetual war and violence, it's going to have to at least agree to a two-state solution. After ages, Israel seems plenty willing to negotiate along those lines, but drawing the line at Israel's destruction is insane utopianism that will only bring disaster. There is a situation right now where the mainstream of both sides is wandering toward a workable two-state solution, and if Hamas moves closer to that it gives everyone some chance of it actually happening.

Net Neutrality Summed Up

The Net Neutrality debate is a really hard one. No one really knows what is going to happen, especially since it's looking bad for its proponents right now. But, even worse, most people have no understanding of the debate at all. Explaining ISPs and content and how they interact takes a high level of knowledge about the structure of the internet that most people probably are not aware of. Loaded language of "toll booths" get thrown around, as well as panaceas of "hands off the internet!" Just what the hell is going on, and what are the implications? Well, I've found one really great synopsis that explains it all quite clearly.

Another Conversation That Made My Head Hurt

I might make this a regular feature. Who knows. The name was changed to protect the guilty. She was complaining I said something because she thought that's what I thought she wanted to hear not because it reflected my actual sentiments.

Sally: Say that you tell me, "Sally, you never ask me about my day". And then I start asking about your day. Do you really want to ask me about my day or are you doing it cause I asked you to ask?

me: that's a good question but you are assuming that it's either solely one or the other

Sally: no, just thinking it could be either way.

you know

me: by the way I always ask you about your day

Sally: I know you do

that was an example

me: ok

Sally: sometimes it's annoying though

me: asking you every day

Sally: cause maybe it's very typical of you to do so

me: how your day is is annoying

Sally: maybe you can say something different, and mix things up once in a while. Not so generic

me: oh geez

Sally: like "morning"

me: I give up

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mind-Meld

With all the infighting in the Democratic Party between DLCers and Kossack Progressives, it's funny how quickly Yglesias and Kilgore gel on this bloggingheads edition. Anyone who wants to see an intelligent discussion on the current situation in the Democratic party, what needs fixing, and some likely brilliant prognosticating, check it out. Topics addressed include why Conservatism is a terrible governing philosophy (inherently), the idiotic and quixotic attempts to take down Lieberman and the likely pyrrhic victory that might result, and also the future of Mark Warner. It's 45 minutes of pure genius. If Democrats talked this way on cable news it wouldn't even be fair.

Bush Loves Him Some Kelo

C-Plus Augustus signed an executive order on "takings" related to Federal agencies, perhaps designed to set an internal policy against Kelo and thus appease his still flagging credibility with many conservatives, but Ilya Somin over at Volokh Conspiracy thinks there's more than meets the eye. The order says this:

It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.


Seems a strident enough stand on Kelo. But is it really? Somin gets to the heart of the matter.

Read carefully, the order does not in fact bar condemnations that transfer property to other private parties for economic development. Instead, it permits them to continue so long as they are "for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken."

Unfortunately, this language validates virtually any economic development condemnation that the feds might want to pursue. Officials can (and do) always claim that the goal of a taking is to benefit "the general public" and not "merely" the new owners. This is not a new pattern, but one that bedeviled takings litigation long before Kelo. Indeed, the New London authorities made such claims in Kelo itself and they were accepted by all nine Supreme Court justices, including the four dissenters, as well as by the Connecticut Supreme Court (including its three dissenters). This despite considerable evidence that the takings were instigated by the Pfizer Corporation, which at the time hoped to benefit from them. Not all the evidence of Pfizer's role was available at the time of the trial, but enough was submitted to demonstrate that Pfizer played a crucial role (e.g. - the head of a firm that helped prepare New London's development plan testifed that Pfizer was the "10,000 pound gorilla" behind the takings). Nonetheless, the courts accepted New London's claims that its officials acted in good faith, since they could have been intending to benefit the public as well as Pfizer.


Aha! What we probably have here is an executive order reinforcing Kelo. The whole problem with takings and economic development since day one has been one of definition. Everyone claims their project is "benefiting the general public." Pre-Kelo, the issue of the takings and whether it was allowed was one of quantifying what this "benefit" was supposed to be. Construction of a school? Affordable housing? A road? The ever-slippery "job creation?" Fighting that phantom menace "blight?" Kelo answered that question by stating all they had to do was prove that it would generate more tax revenue, which makes it just an issue of handing the property over to someone who can make more money there. Bush's Executive Order, for all its aspirational language about private property, does nothing to change this definition. And, since the definition set in Kelo is the problem in the first place, it solves nothing and does nothing. I think Somin is largely right too when he states the backlash isn't quite what people predicted, which is a shame because this is a serious issue in terms of both private property rights and social justice in urban America newest wave of economic redevelopment.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Lieberman Must Lose

I've defended Lieberman a lot. Probably more than I've been comfortable with. But he just lost me. If this is the best he can muster against Lamont, then he truly does deserve to be sacked in the primary. The fact that he has a decent record to run on despite the pro-war stances he's been taking flack for should be enough to run on. At least enough not to resort to bullshit like this. Thumbs down, and off with his head.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Vietnam Talk

Matt Yglesias makes a good point about Iraq vs. Vietnam, and especially the recent meme going around on the left that conservatives are actually the ones more obsessive about how Iraq is like Vietnam.

If I may make a bold observation, I feel like the American right's thinking on national security policy is being deeply distorted by an obsessive overreaction to the Vietnam War. See, for example, Cliff May's theory that "We lost in Vietnam because we didn’t have the will and the skills to prevail" and that now we will "either develop the will – and the military and intelligence skills — to defeat the enemy we now face on the battlefield in Iraq, or we retreat not just from Iraq but from anyplace our enemies don’t want us." This is really a bizarre reading of history.

In the first instance, as a read of what happened in Vietnam it involves dropping all context and making it seem as if there was something unusual about an economically and militarily superior outside power finding itself unable to subdue a reasonably popular nationalist movement. In point of fact, what we got was an entirely typical result. That sort of thing happens all the time from England in America and Ireland, to France in Algeria, to Portugal in Angola, etc., etc., etc. The track record of success in such endeavors is extremely poor and the winning examples tend to involve the application of extreme brutality -- viz. the United States in the Indian Wars (and, I assume, Australia against the Aborigines), Saddam Hussein against the Kurds, the Sudanese government's current efforts in Darfur, etc. One imagines that something similar -- slow-and-steady extermination of the Sunni Arab population unless and until they entirely submit to Shiite/Kurdish domination -- would "work" in Iraq or that we could have killed the entire population of Vietnam had we been so inclined.

But we lack the "will" to employ such measures for the perfectly good reason that it would be sick and immoral, the gains totally out of proportion to the devastation thereby caused. In circumstances when victory was regarded as absolutely crucial -- the Second World War, for example -- the United States was not especially hesitant to deploy large-scale killing of civilians as a tactic but, thankfully, we haven't yet reached the point where anyone's explicitly advocating that for Iraq.


He continues to discuss how a lot of it involve neo-domino theory as well. While I don't necessarily agree with Yglesias' conclusions and positions on the War, his premises and analyses are always illuminating and move way beyond typical liberal claptrap. And I do think he's onto something, at least in terms of perception. I think a lot of people who want to remain in Iraq until the job is done (myself included) too easily fall back on arguments that parallel those made about Vietnam, communism, and the domino theory. And I think a lot of certain "stay the course" lingo doesn't help in that respect and doesn't build a case at all. Yglesias is also probably right, that a lot of the people who line up as pro-war still are of this opinion that we could've somehow brutalized Vietnam into submission had we the "will." That's completely fallacious thinking, and Yglesias has some other good historical examples there to explain why. And it WILL continue to be fallcious thinking in this situation. To think that we can just wait the insurgency out or somehow kill them all is an impossible feat. The goal has to be different, and that goal is helping to stand up and support an Iraqi government that can do that independently and on their own. More importantly that has to be a government supported by the people of Iraq that Sunnis will accept.

We still don't have that. Some breakthroughs have happened recently but it could arguably be too little too late. Fighting the insurgency, even killing Zarqawi and his Lieutenants, mostly just buys time. But time is NOT on our side in this capacity unless the political objectives in Iraq are achieved, which is still and will always be a tenuous proposition.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Beinart: Part 1

I have started reading The Good Fight by Peter Beinart, and have found that it has me thinking a lot and I haven’t even finished the first chapter. Since reviewers usually wait until they finish the book to write something, I can’t really write a review of the book. Instead, I am going to write as I read it and explore the ideas the author presents. I think this will be a welcome difference to what appears to be a cat fight over the book at Slate.

Beinart starts by describing the Democratic party during the mid-term elections of Truman’s Presidency. At that time, there was a conflict within the party similar to what we are seeing now. There are certainly plenty of differences between that time and now, but Beinart does a good job of linking the moderate philosophy of that time to current events.

The basic tenants of Truman’s policies during his campaign for re-election focus on economic development, containment, and a realistic approach to competition over developing countries. Truman, and the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), believed that the poor and hungry would not be strong defenders of democracy. Beinart claims that Truman actually felt this (ie The Marshall Plan) was more important than the containment / military aspects of his foreign policy. The more I think about it, the more I think this is one issue that all liberals should be able to agree with. Nothing is better at producing insurgents or suicide bombers than poverty and joblessness. If someone like The Beard, or Macie, or Lizzie – basically any of my more liberal friends, can agree with me on this, I think we could make it our starting point for policy unity. From there, we can debate the next aspects of foreign policy while understanding we agree on the most important part.

Truman also believed in containing communism, instead of either direct engagement or isolationism. I think this policy is a little harder to project onto our current situation. I guess this would mean that we leave totalitarian governments in place, while preventing their spread to other governments. My gut tells me that Beinart will use this to explain why we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. I can see that argument – containment might have been better in Iraq. The problem now though is that if we truly believe in containment, we have to stay in Iraq until it is stable. Any reasonable assessment of the situation leads to the conclusion that our premature departure will cause a regional war and a training ground for future terrorist attacks. In effect, we will not be able to contain extremism if we leave Iraq too soon.

The key to containment though is the belief that in the long run, democracy has the stamina to outlast oppressive governments. Stamina is never easy; the public is easily riled to war, but rarely wants to stay until it is over. But if we are to win this fight, it is completely necessary. This is why I agree with Bush's "stay the course" even if I wish it included regular assessments and changes to strategy.

Where Beinart is most critical is towards what Schlesinger called “doughface-ism”. Here is his quote:

“They opposed Communism, but would not endorse practical steps to combat it, so as not to implicate themselves in a morally imperfect action. In the ‘doughface fantasy,’ Schlesinger wrote, ‘one can denounce a decision without accepting the consequences of the alternative.’ It is a fantasy to which liberals fall prey to this day.”

From some of Beinart’s comments, I gather that the last sentence is specifically talking about people like Chomsky and Michael Moore who opposed the war in Afghanistan. But I would go so far as to also include those who want an immediate withdrawal of American troops in Iraq. No matter who he is indicting, all liberals would do well to consider the consequences of their proposals to be more important than their own moral self-righteousness.

This issue goes deeper though than mere name-calling. Each of us needs to think about what we are willing to accept to move towards our long-term goal of a world full of democratic governments. Truman seemed to accept less-than perfect regimes in developing countries so long as they weren’t Communist. In a more recent example, the Bush administration tolerated a violent government in Sudan because it was cooperating in the GWOT. We can also look at recent news in Mogadishu where the CIA was supporting war lords in Somalia against Muslim extremists.

I don’t really have an answer on this question, mostly because it depends on the situation. If we look at some of the governments we tolerated / supported during the Cold War, there are a number of which that were just as bad as a Communist government would have been. We do need to decide though how imperfect of a partner we are willing to accept to prevent the spread of Muslim extremism. This decision today is more confounded by our dependence on foreign oil. The fact is that a country like Saudi Arabia should be our worst enemy in the GWOT, but because of their oil reserves, we consider them a strong ally.

I guess if I had to conclude, I would emphasize Truman's focus on economic development. But I also have to stress that in the end, our decision and policies need to show an understanding of reality and the consequences of our decisions.

Stay tuned for more on this book, because so much of it is relevant to what we are dealing with today.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Another Flip-Flopper

I came across this NY Times article on Ned Lamont while scanning some of eduwonk's posts. Both eduwonk and I find this very troubling about Lamont:

Mr. Lamont said that his frequent meetings with voters had altered his views on some issues. Initially, he said, he considered some job losses caused by free-trade agreements to be a necessary "transition cost" for succeeding in a world economy. But after meeting manufacturing workers who had been laid off, he said he realized that "we're going to have to be respectful of our workers when it comes to negotiating a trade agreement."

He said he had regarded President Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy as having some positive elements, such as "having a benchmark and seeing how schools perform." But after talking with teachers, parents and students, he said that he has decided that "fundamentally, the bill is irrelevant."
Although it isn't always fair to attack politicians for changing their position, it can be a sign of political weakness. Maybe Lamont realized that, although his previous positions were intelligent and thoughtful, he would have to cave in to irrational interest groups if he was going to out-flank Lieberman on the left. Either that, or Lamont hadn't really given NCLB serious consideration until he decided to run for office. If that is the case, I wonder what a public school teacher was thinking about if not education policy.

Either way, it seems that the hard-core liberals that support him only care that he is against the Iraq War (also an illogical position), and don't mind that he changes his positions at the request of interest groups.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Return of Chap!

Chap Petersen, former VA Delegate and one of my great political crushes, has kept himself alive and active via his new blog. He endorse Jim Webb for Senate awhile ago, but here he recounts why in detail:

I met him on a gray December afternoon at his office which overlooks Arlington Cemetery. I told him that I had run a statewide primary and learned a lot from it. We talked about the Democratic Party, what it represented historically and where it was headed. We also talked about Virginia's unique history. He struck me as being a straight-shooter. A non-politician. I liked that and I liked him. He was something different.

Over the next few weeks, a strange thing happened. A small band of Virginia bloggers (largely but not exclusively Democratic) began to float Webb's name and bio around the blogosphere. It was if someone had lit a match by an oil drum. Because the demand was there for a different kind of Democrat to take down George Allen.

In February, I got a call from Jim Webb. I'm going forward, he said. I hope I can count on your support. Since then, it's been a whirlwind four months. Straw polls, fundraisers and community festivals. I've seen the campaign struggle in some areas and succeed beyond belief in others. But the bottom-line message has been the same: Jim Webb has what it takes to beat George Allen and represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate. And no one else can realistically claim that.

Last Thursday, I cast an absentee ballot for Jim Webb. (For you statistic gurus, I was #14 in Fairfax City). This turnout will be very small. Every vote will count. Therefore, if you are a Democrat, independent or Republican looking for awesome new leadership, please vote Tuesday for Jim Webb.


So, listen to Chap! If you want George Allen's Presidential ambitions shattered, and you actually live in Virginia, Webb on Tuesday is the best shot. However, if you're a big fan of Allen, make sure you get to the polls on Tuesday and vote for Harris. Because Allen will crush him. Considering Harris is, you know, a big-time Telecom lobbyist. And that's about all. And please, don't hold the fact that Kerry endorsed Webb against him.

America-Hater!

Right-wingers, knives out! Look at this obviously America-bashing editorial written in a FOREIGN NEWSPAPER! (gasp) Especially this blasphemous passage:

Today, brandishing ideologies that appeal to domestic political audiences and intimidate everyone else, American and British leaders sound like Leonid Brezhnev. A current Afghan joke asks the difference between Americans and Russians, and the bitter answer is: “The Americans are better paid.”

By the standards of Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, our neoconservatives are not conservative, they are neosoviet. In the process, George Bush and Tony Blair are losing the so-called war on terror. Their policies backfire and play into the hands of Osama Bin Laden.


So where can we find this treasonous lefty? Try looking under a list of Reagan's former speechwriters. It's becoming more apparent that Bush's people stand for and conduct themselves pretty much in stark opposition to everything Reagan's people stood for. They stand for, in the words of Derbyshire, "evangelico-romanticism," which topples the pragmatic conservatism of the Reaganites in uncountable and inexplicable ways. (H/t: Sullivan! and Sullivan!, and there is a 100% chance he will cover this sort of thing in that book he's been working on forever.)

Pay to Play

Campaign Finance reform was something I applauded for a long time before my Great Reawakening, then McCain-Feingold and similar state laws came and I started to realize what the implementation of it meant. What started as an innocent notion to rid politics of big money influence could only be done by means of putting so many regulations on political activities and organizations (which inevitably had to run on. . .you guessed it. . .money). In the end, while not outright government censorship, it became obvious to me that the constructed complex had hampered free speech and freedom of association in some very terrible ways and, adding insult to injury, had not achieved the promised goals of getting big money out. All it did was mute people and constrain them in webs of regulation while forcing the money to take more circuitous paths.

This nightmare of FEC compliance and its deleterious effect on political speech and activity has risen a great deal of skepticism over campaign finance reform. There is, however, one area I think campaign finance reform can have a big and positive impact without harming free speech much. And New Jersey's "Pay to Play" (quick registration required) laws are a great example of that.

The newspaper's review found the rules have had a wide-ranging impact:

All donations to the Democratic State Committee, a political action committee controlled by the governor, dropped 78 percent from its recent peak in 2001 through 2005, and contractor donations to the PAC plunged 86 percent in the same period. In 2004, one-third of the money the DSC raised came from contractors; last year, it was 6 percent.

Contractor contributions to the "big six" fundraising committees -- the two state party committees and four legislative leadership PACs -- fell from $5.4 million in 2001 to $1.8 million last year.

Late last year Schoor DePalma, a Manalapan engineering firm that donated more than $2.8million to both parties since 1990, ceased all donations.

G-Tech, which runs the lottery system and has been a steady donor to both parties since 1997, stopped all donations in 2004.

Tech, which runs the lottery system and has been a steady donor to both parties since 1997, stopped all donations in 2004.

Parsons Transportation Group, a poster child for pay-to-play criticism in the 1990s when it gave heavily to the Republican Party and got a $500 million state auto emissions testing contract, gave $25,000 to the Democratic State Committee in 2003 and 2004 but nothing since.

The historic reforms were meant to discourage donations to gubernatorial candidates and the ruling governor's party, because the state's chief executive awards contracts. Businesses with government contracts of more than $17,500 are forbidden to make donations larger than $300 to gubernatorial candidates and party committees.


Many may be immediately be ready to call "foul" on this, but I would also immediately point out the fact that contractors are, in effect, de facto members of government bureaucracy. I know all too well and could cite numerous examples (if it wouldn't get me into legal trouble to do so) of how government contractors can use political contributions to secure endless direct payouts of money to their own pockets. This is why, for all of the DoD's attempts, it cannot rid itself of weapons systems it does not want when the contractors who build them line the pockets of the relevant Congressmen. Whereas some may say it's perfectly all right for this sort of "quid pro quo" to happen, I think it's only a hop, skip, and jump to direct bribery.

If someone wants government contracts, they should abstain from political donations and from attempting to guide taxpayer dollars to their own pockets. In the cases that they do attempt to it's not so much free speech as practicing corruption. And, even if it isn't, it's tantamount to allowing individual government programs to give their own funding to Congressmen in contributions (in order to secure even greater funding). They are all, after all, financed out of the same pot, both government contractors and government bureacrats are paid by the taxpayers. So why treat one differently than the other? If these contractors feel so passionately about their free speech and politics, they are always free to practice it independent of their various firms and as a private citizen. These laws are a great example of how campaign finance reform can have a positive effect without damaging political rights much, and how democracies and governments may need similar rules if corruption is to be anything less than rampant.

Blowback

I tried to respond to Ann Coulter's latest, like so many, but Henry Rollins does everyone better.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

You've Got to Recognize

I can't tell you how excited recent developments in Palestine are making me. Although there is no guarentee that this will take them down a road to lasting peace, the fact that the two main groups are having a public dialogue is amazing. I'll let the NY Times sum up the current situation.

Hamas, which now runs the Palestinian Authority, has accused Mr. Abbas of trying to undermine its authority with the referendum. The vote would decide whether to support a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 boundaries, presumably existing alongside Israel — whose right to exist Hamas has refused to recognize.

Because of Abbas' threat to call a referendum, Hamas is forced to either agree to recognize Israel, watch the referendum show support for recognizing Israel, or try to block it. Apparently they have chosen the latter, although none of those options will show strength.

None of this public debate would have happened in the past because both Hamas and Arafat were great at preventing dialogue. Now, Hamas has to either accept the views of the public that elected it, or risk losing support. I don't know what will happen (my hope is that either through the referendum or Hamas accepting the inevitable, Palestine will accept Israel), but just the fact that this debate is happening is incredible.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gastarbeiter

John Tierney’s opinion column ($) from the other day uses our own history to explain why we need to increase legal immigration programs, like guest workers or replicating an old program called braceros, if we are going to have any chance of eliminating illegal immigration. Tough enforcement can be one side of the solution, but it will not work alone.

In the 1950's, federal agents were initially overwhelmed by waves of Mexican farmworkers illegally crossing the border. The number of immigrants apprehended surpassed half a million in 1951 and was approaching 900,000 in 1953, a level roughly comparable to the situation now.

Back then there were fewer than 2,000 federal agents patrolling the borders, less than a fifth the size of today's force. But within two years, the flow of illegal immigrants declined so drastically that the immigration service declared in its 1955 annual report, "The border has been secured."

And it stayed that way the rest of the decade. The number of immigrants caught kept dropping until it reached 45,000 in 1959 — a decline of 95 percent in just six years.

[Edit]

What stopped the farmworkers from sneaking across? It wasn't simply the get-tough measures that Republicans are calling for today. Although federal agents did intensify their efforts, conducting sweeps of farms and ranches, immigration officials realized that stricter enforcement wasn't enough.

Along with the crackdown, officials encouraged farmers and ranchers to legally hire Mexican temporary workers called braceros. As new rules made it easier to hire braceros, the number of these legal workers doubled to more than 400,000 at the same time illegal immigration was plummeting.
Tierney goes on to describe how immigration problems increased again once the braceros program was abandoned by Congress.

One thing that I want to highlight in the column is that the program was successful when new rules made it easy for employers to hire legal workers. From what I have heard in the press, the current guest worker program we have here is too slow to respond to the needs of employers. We also shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that we can have a successful program today with only 400,000 legal workers. Any guest worker program will need to be much bigger.

Mmm... Masking Agents

For me, it is always a constant struggle between remaining optimistic while trying not be too naive. The latest example of this is in baseball. I want to be excited about the efforts of Major League Baseball to actually get rid of steroids. At the same time, I realize that there are still plenty of ways around the tests. First of all, MLB doesn’t even look for human growth hormone. Beyond that though, I read an article (which I haven’t been able to find) that talked about how easy it still is to get around baseball’s anti-doping rules using masking agents.

It is because of this that I can’t get too excited about Jason Giambi’s comeback or Albert Pujols’ homerun outburst. While every sports writer is praising these athletes for remaining clean, I have to agree with Jeff Pearlman and wonder if they really are. I think I will always be skeptical of remarkable performances in baseball from now on. It is amazing to me though that sports writers aren’t. In fact, many of these writers are the same ones that were outraged when they found out how extensive performance enhancing drug use was in baseball, and now act like they are convinced that the sport is clean. I guess the easiest way to be righteous is to start by being naive.

Zarqawi Takes a Dirt Nap

Good riddance.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq who waged a bloody campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings, was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his isolated safehouse, officials said Thursday. His death was a long-sought victory in the war in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi and several aides, including spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman, were killed Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles from Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, officials said.

"Al-Zarqawi was eliminated," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

At the White House, President Bush hailed the killing as "a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant victory in the war on terror."

But he cautioned: "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people."


Two things. The first is Zarqawi's death is huge. His leadership took the insurgency in Iraq to bloody levels that may have not happened otherwise, and he personally murdered people on camera. Osama Bin Laden is a bad dude, but I think when it comes down to it Zarqawi has probably been responsible for more deaths and carnage than Bin Laden has. The loss of that kind of leadership will be a big blow to the jihadist forces. Though someone will inevitably step into the power vacuum, Zarqawi was a zealous murderer without peer and had serious acumen as a leader to make it all the more deadly. In a very sick way, he had a "talent" for terrorism that I think even Bin Laden doesn't possess.

Second, as Biden said this morning on the Today Show, even if you got every jihadist in Iraq there would still be a war in Iraq. We've moved past fighting these sorts of terrorists, because they've largely succeeded in igniting sectarian violence that is on the edge of, or just plain is, a small-scale civil war. There's momentum behind that which Zarqawi's death or perhaps even more defeats to his organization will not likely affect. In that sense, it's wise for Bush to point out the importance of this moment but still emphasize that there is much left to do. But that note of caution should not undermine the fact that a sinister guy and a bigtime terrorist leader has been taken out, which is definitely some cause for hope after a long time without anything but more violence and chaos.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Alabamistan Nixed

A lot of people, especially people in Georgia, love to pick on Alabamans. Part of this has been the constant doom-staying over Roy Moore's ridiculous circus over the ten commandments monument at the Alabama Supreme Court, and Moore's consequent departure from that court. Since he decided to run against Republicrat incumbent Riley for Alabama governor, many thought he would ride a wave of Christian fundamentalist glory straight into the Governor's mansion. Alas, Alabamans, even Alabaman Republicrats, were a little too smart to fall for Moore's fundamentalist theocratic schtick. Vodkapundit enjoys it, and explains to us that there isn't as much of a need to sound the alarms of a theocratic Alabamistan as we may think.

9/11 Widows = Witches of East Brunswick

That kooky Ann Coulter is up to it again!

LAUER: On the 9-11 widows, an in particular a group that had been critical of the administration:

"These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted like as if the terrorist attack only happened to them. They believe the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony. Apparently, denouncing bush was part of the closure process."

And this part is the part I really need to talk to you about:

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by griefparrazies. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much."

Because they dare to speak out?

COULTER: To speak out using the fact they are widows. This is the left's doctrine of infallibility. If they have a point to make about the 9-11 commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism, how about sending in somebody we are allowed to respond to> No-No-No. We always have to respond to someone who just had a family member die--

LAUER: But aren't they in the middle of the story?...


Oh boy . . . That 9/11 widows have disagreed with the Republicrat Statist Party of Incumbistan tends to be politically inconvenient for them, but does it really merit this type of tripe from Coulter's new book? That she has turned on the War on Terror's first war widows and blasted them double-barrel, calling them "Witches" and accusing them of "enjoying" 9/11, has got to rank up there with some of her most outrageous material. The 9/11 widows have responded, and hopefully it will do the damage to her shrill ass she deserves. The frustrating thing is that Coulter can say such outrageous moonbattery and get herself to a best-seller.

I think the quotes from her book are quite relevatory though, and do point at a certain mindset that has overtaken the Republicrat base. Coulter tries to belittle the widows' suffering by declaring that 9/11 was an attack on "our nation" and she denies that it "only happened to them." I hate to burst Coulter's bubble, but loopy metaphysics aside, it sort of "only happened to them." In a large sense America was attacked, but these people felt it in a more personal way than anyone in the Midwest did. The people who have the least likelihood of experiencing a terrorist attack will likely be the primary consumers of this extravagant piece of printed shit, and Coulter has given them the gift they've always wanted: a feeling of moral superiority over 9/11 victims. Coulter tries to spin it on the Today Show by trying to bring up Cindy Sheehan, but this is fundamentally a different issue. When we've launched war after war because of an event, the people who experienced that event in a direct way do have a legitimate point of view, and have a more personal and close experience of the tragedy than others. Especially when the people killed were innocent civilians in a horrific mass murder.

FMA: Burninated

The FMA failed again. I don't think anyone should be surprised at that. According to blogometer, most of the right even disliked it because it was such a transparent pander. Then there's the fact that the DC Examiner editorialized that there were these things called issues and, you know, priorities, that maybe Congress should take into account. That's saying it even when they agree with the amendment. I think a lot of the rage and frustration and why the amendment got exactly zero more traction from last time has to do with the obvious symbolism of it when this country right now is in desperate need of actual substance. And a Congress that hasn't produced any is getting more obvious in its attempt to cover that sad record up.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Kathy Lee Wasn't So Bad

I realize that there are a number of issues, liberal issues to be more specific, that I need to learn more about before I can take a solid position. Global climate change was one of those issues, and I have been researching it more lately. Another of these issues is sweatshops. I feel like I can’t take a position because I don’t really know how bad the conditions are. My (uneducated) feeling had been that although conditions might be really bad compared to our standards, I wondered if they weren’t much safer than the other job opportunities available.

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote on this very subject ($) in a NY Times column. Here is what he had to say:

Sure, sweatshop work is tedious, grueling and sometimes dangerous. But over all, sewing clothes is considerably less dangerous or arduous — or sweaty — than most alternatives in poor countries.

[Edit]

The problem is that it's still costly to manufacture in Africa. The headaches across much of the continent include red tape, corruption, political instability, unreliable electricity and ports, and an inexperienced labor force that leads to low productivity and quality. The anti-sweatshop movement isn't a prime obstacle, but it's one more reason not to manufacture in Africa.

[Edit]

So companies like Nike, itself once a target of sweatshop critics, tend not to have highly labor-intensive factories in the very poorest countries, but rather more capital-intensive factories (in which machines do more of the work) in better-off nations like Malaysia or Indonesia. And the real losers are the world's poorest people.

Kristof goes on to support an American initiative called the African Growth Opportunity Act that, “allows duty-free imports from Africa,” in a hope to spark manufacturing. If this column were published in the Wall Street Journal, we could dismiss it right away. Instead though, it is coming from one of the few truly loud advocates for the world's poor and endangered.

Before my good friends Lizzie and The Beard call me a fascist in the comments section, I don’t want to make it sound like I have come to any conclusion on this, because I still don't know enough. But I do take it seriously when Nicholas Kristof says that sweatshops will actually help the economies, and the people, of Africa.

Monday, June 05, 2006

When the Right is Wrong

I don’t know what to say about the proposed Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that hasn’t been said already. We all know that it is just a stupid (but effective) attempt to rally the hateful conservative base. Everyone also knows that it does nothing to protect marriage – banning divorces would do more for that (I don’t support that either). And we also know there are more important things for our president and Congress to work on besides whether or not the word “marriage” applies only to a man and a woman; Iraq is growing more violent every month, their neighbor Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, gas prices are rising showing how dependent we are on foreign oil, and we aren’t doing enough for domestic security from terrorism or potential pandemics like bird flu. But since the GOP insists on bringing up this divisive issue again, I felt the need to repeat all the reasons this issue is harmful for the country.

The Truth Will Set You Free

I saw An Inconvenient Truth last night. As a documentary, I don’t think it was anything spectacular. It was basically Al Gore’s presentation with some small snippets of biographical information. So while it was informative, I don’t think it revealed anything profound about its subject (Al Gore) nor do I think it presented the information in a way that was much different from what we would have seen by going to the presentation.

As far as the presentation goes though, it did a good job of demonstrating that there really is a lot of consensus right now about global climate change, and also showing how serious the consequences will be. The information is relatively concise and easy for the lay person to process. This movie is a good place to start for anyone that wants to learn more about global climate change, and if the goal of the movie is to increase awareness (as opposed to being any sort of character study), then it will probably be successful.

Although environmentalists will find everything they believed confirmed in this movie, that isn’t the audience this movie should be targeted to. If we really want to decrease our output of carbon dioxide, we need to reach the non-believers. The big question then is what an open-minded non-believer (is there such a thing?) will think of the movie. Maybe I can convince Old $ to go see it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Let That Eagle Soar II: The Reckoning

Along the lines of Ashcroft being "the good old days" I it sounds like Team Gonzalez is far from finished pushing the DOJ deeper and deeper into Americans' lives and activities.

Big Internet and telephone companies are girding to fight an unprecedented call by the Bush administration for them to keep detailed records of customers' online activities for two years.

The request by Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III would dramatically expand the government's ability to track what people do online and with whom they communicate.

It follows disclosure this year that the Justice Department had solicited potentially billions of online search queries from some of the same companies and that the National Security Agency had requested calling records of virtually all U.S. customers.

Gonzales and Mueller asked Google Inc., Time Warner Inc.'s AOL and other companies to preserve the data at a May 26 meeting, citing their value to investigations into child-pornography distribution and terrorism. Internet companies typically keep customer histories for only a few days or weeks.

The Justice Department said Thursday that it was not seeking to have e-mail content archived, just information about the websites people visit and those with whom they correspond.

Beyond law enforcement, though, the trove also could be available to lawyers arguing civil lawsuits — including divorce cases and suits against people suspected of swapping copyrighted movie and music files online. Privacy advocates fear the user histories could be exploited by criminal investigators conducting inappropriate exploration or pursuing minor cases.


Ahhh, Big Government. You're never Big enough for ol' Alberto. Sure, they don't want email "content", they just want to know everyone you've ever emailed and every website you ever visited. This is egregious madness. The idea that Conservatives get up in arms about red-light cameras and let this shit slide, which is just as bad if not incredibly worse, is beyond me. And the idea that any member of the Republicrat Statist Party can honestly stand back and say they'd be comfortable with a Democratic President trying this same bullshit is ludicrous. These naked power grabs should phase us, but why are we even surprised any more? This is par for the course with Alberto Gonzalez and his obsession with being able to call up any information on the communications of any American he wants. And if you think he's going to get a warrant before doing so, please leave me your name and address so I can come to your house and point and laugh at your stupidity. Ashcroft looks like a saint more and more everyday, because this isn't something Gonzalez would think up overnight. It's probably been on his wishlist for the last five years. (H/t: Drum).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Let That Eagle Soar

John Ashcroft, or John Ashkkkroft if you want to use one of the favored extremist monikers, was so thoroughly demonized during his tenor as Attorney General it's hard to begin to cite episodes. Recently, however, I've become almost nostalgic for the man after seing the bang up job Alberto Gonzalez has been doing in misusing the Justice Department and making it a bagman for Bush's plans. Jason Zegerle at The Plank has an episode here of an Ashcroft associate blasting Gonzalez. These battles always seem to have to be waged with associates and subordinates (witness Richard Armitage serving as Powell's mouthpiece after the two left office). But he also points to two previous incidents where Ashcroft may have done battle with Gonzalez over NSA wiretapping and Yoo over torture. While there are plenty of reasons left to still hate Ashcroft, he's starting to look like an upright guy and a huggable teddy bear next to Gonzalez. And that's a sad state of affairs when you make Ashcroft look like a good Attorney General. Is there a rock bottom we can break through this one to get to? I'm fully expecting the appointment of Overkill as Attorney General before all this is over. We're going to probably look at Rumsfeld nostalgically after demands for his resignation are finally heeded and we get Darkseid.

Heart of Africa

There is an article in Time magazine about Congo’s recent history. It is a must read because it truly opens readers' eyes to the reality and scale of conflicts around the world. Our attention span often restricts us to thinking about one humanitarian crisis at a time. Right now, it is the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. But the truth is that there are a lot of other countries with problems just as serious.

What is most striking about Congo is its contrast in the amount of hope there is for a country so rich in natural resources, as well as the pessimism for success in the near future.

Congo represents the promise of Africa as much as its misery: its fertile fields and tropical forests cover an area bigger than California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas combined. Its soils are packed with diamonds, gold, copper, tantalum (known locally as coltan and used in electronic devices such as cell phones and laptop computers) and uranium. The waters of its mighty river could one day power the continent.

[Edit]

Can Congo be saved? Maybe, but it can't save itself. If the country has any hope of escaping the cycle of violence, misrule and despair, it will need the largesse and mercy of governments and citizens all over the globe. "Even in five years, it will be lucky if we have isolated pockets of real progress," says a Western official in Kinshasa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch says, "The focus is on bringing this country to elections, but there's almost no interest in the impunity and human-rights abuses that continue today. The truth is, Congo isn't magically going to become a democracy. It's going to take years of hard work and money."
It seems that Time magazine is trying to get the reader to take away the idea that if the world tried hard enough, Congo could eventually be self-sufficient. And just as war in Congo can bring in the nations around it, stability could also spread outwardly. All that stands in the way is violence, corruption, and international disinterest.

Time and Troops

Some friends of mine showed me this article from the March issue of Atlantic Monthly outlining seven steps for Iraqi security. Their proposals include getting the UN more involved, an oil spot strategy (as opposed to the current military strategy of seeking out and engaging insurgents), and more time training Iraqi troops. Each of these make sense, although the oil spot strategy, where certain areas are pacified first, while allowing others to remain unchallenged until later, is one I have less faith in with each new time I read about it.

Although their specific recommendations are different from the current steps being taken in Iraq, the overall theme is the same as most other reports of its kind. In the end, the two things that will really help Iraq are more troops / support and more time. I really don’t think there is any way around that. The problem is that the American people want troop levels to decrease and involvement to end relatively soon. It is going to be interesting to see how this issue unfolds in upcoming elections, where the popular thing to say will not be the realistic strategy for success.

"Journalism Abortion"

I'm pretty sure the Post thought this article on Wingmen might be a must-read for the young, hip-set. Instead, it's a ginormous trainwreck of shit that doesn't even deserve the high-minded label of "fluff journalism." What is must-read? Rusty's vicious disintegration of it, and his invention of a whole new media category below fluff journalism: "journalism abortion."