Thursday, June 30, 2005

Live 8 Philadelphia

Hmm, my Saturday is free.

Some of the artists I dig, others not so much. Good to see a few country artists in the mix, although I'm not a big Keith Urban fan. The yummy Natalie Portman and Jennifer Connolly will be presenting.

And at least Will Smith is only presenting and not performing. I think his hometown audience would beat him senseless for "Switch," if not for Hitch.


  • Will Smith
  • Salma Hayek
  • Natalie Portman
  • Chris Tucker
  • Jennifer Connolly
  • Jimmy Smits
  • Kami


BIGGEST surprise this year.

Finally, CNN's Inside Politics (IP) gets around to Kelo

but only because there is pending congressional action responding to it. Better late than never I guess. You will recall I blogged earlier about IP's silence on the story.

Here's the transcript of the Joe Johns piece, as recorded and checked against the video by yours truly, followed by my thoughts on Johns's slant:

Inside Politics
30 June 2005 (Thursday)

Suzanne Malveaux, host: “Last week's Supreme Court decision on the issue of eminent domain granted new powers to local governments that try to seize private property for economic development. The decision also angered some members of Congress in both political parties. CNN congressional correspondent Joe Johns is on Capitol Hill and he joins me now for more. Joe?”

John Johns, congressional correspondent: “Suzanne, the House is taking up a resolution condemning the Supreme Court decision, as well. There's legislation in both the House and the Senate now working its way through. We've heard this before, of course, the Supreme Court makes a decision, then the Congress of the United States gets up in arms about it, and that's happening in fact, as a matter of fact, a lot of conservative groups out in the country are getting up in arms, as well.

Johns: “Now, this is also happening, of course, over in the House of Representatives. Congressman Tom DeLay and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner attending a news conference with others today issuing essentially a challenge to the Supreme Court.”

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX): “This Congress has, is not going to just sit by, idly sit by, and let an unaccountable judiciary make these kinds of decisions without taking our responsibility and our duty to, eh, given to us by the Constitution to be a check on the judiciary.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI): “What all of us who wish to see this legislation enacted into law want to make sure happens is that the federal government's money will not be used to finance taking somebody's property from them to build a strip mall or a hotel.”

Johns: “On the Senate side, Senator John Cornyn of Texas also has a bill that he's working on, hoping to get some Democrats to sign on to that. The fact is though, a number of liberal Democrats are very concerned about the Kelo decision of the Supreme Court, including Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, also Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California. I talked to her a little while ago about that and she says she's particularly concerned about the effect on poor property owners.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA): “This is an issue that crosses lines, political lines. I think most of us really are steeped in the American dream of ownership of our homes and land. And we hold that very dear. That's something that we think the government should protect. Not put at risk. This decision turns that all on its head.”

Johns: “There's clearly another side to this. Of course, this is yet another challenge to the power of the Supreme Court. The other thing is, the Kelo decision stressed that people who have their property taken ought to get just compensation. That seems to be getting lost in the argument. Back to you, Suzanne.”

Malveaux: “Joe Johns, thank you very much.”

Well, no, John, it isn't being lost. The Supreme Court didn't make up the just compensation portion of the ruling, that language is in the Bill of Rights to begin with. But the fact remains that the just compensation stipulation in the Fifth Amendment is not a grant of power to Congress or the states to seize property to hand over to private entities so long as the monetary compensation is just. It is a restriction on the power of government to seize property: it may only do so for PUBLIC use and only then with just compensation. That seizing private property by government fiat to hand over to another private entity so long as there is a "just" monetary compensation to the original owner is egregious convoluted logic which resulted in Kelo and which is fundamentally at issue with the hell-freezing-over moment of Tom DeLay and Maxine Waters being political bedfellows. [I know, not the prettiest image to have burned in your mind.]

True, DeLay and company can focus on this as yet another prime example of a runaway judiciary, and to my mind, they should, especially since the liberals on the court, plus Anthony Kennedy, gave us this monstrous ruling. But by the same token leftists can use Kelo as a springboard to rail against greedy corporations teaming up with government cronies to screw the little guy. That doesn't mean both arguments don't hold some merit nor that the political posturing towards the base voters totally negates the sound policy that Congress seeks to assert in working to lessen the blow of Kelo.

Wanted: New 'Right-Leaning' Blogger

A prime example of why I don't blog about anything personal. One day I visit PoP's blog, and I find this scintillating piece of news:

I asked a cute barista at my favorite coffeehouse out in a unique, gimmicky way. Well, maybe gimmicky is too negative a connotation. Basically, I dropped a note in the tip jar asking her to use a code word next time I'm there and she's working if she's interested. We'll see what happens. I'm popping by there tonight. Not sure if she's working tonight. Oh well. I'll keep you updated.

Oh please keep us updated.

Now no one needs Aaron Brown at all

Yesterday on Inside Politics, CNN producer Abbi Tatton, during the Inside the Blogs segment, pointed viewers to a feature on the website of whereby website viewers can see the front pages of newspapers across the United States by scrolling over pinpoints on a US map and clicking to zoom in on the image of the paper.

TATTON: So the speech was a big topic of conversation in the blogosphere. It's also front-and-center on many newspapers across the country. Over at Daily Kos today, we found a link to this great side,, that allows you to look at the front pages of local newspapers all across the country. It really is very cool here.

And we went across here to San Diego, the "San Diego Union Tribune." You see the Bush speech up there on the front page above the fold and also a story about Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham who we have, yes, mentioned here before. He is under scrutiny in the blogosphere currently over a controversial house sale to a defense contractor that has a federal grand jury interested. And also bloggers referring to the eight-term congressman as "Cunningscam."

[JACKI] SCHECHNER [CNN "blog reporter"]: I love those point-and-click news tools. They're great.
Of course, the Tomorrow's Papers Tonight feature is a regular on CNN's NewsNight, hosted by the decidedly less interesting and less attractive Aaron Brown. Brown's show is markedly boring and usually devoid of anything worth writing home about. That and it switches from a newsmagazine format to a serious news program depending on the evening, and sometimes depending on the minute, of a particular edition.

Way to cut the legs out from your fellow CNN colleague, Abbi and Jacki. Keep up the good work.

Gaza Pullout Reaction

As I have watched the latest attempt at peace between Israel and Palestine (which started with the death of Yasir Arafat), I have wondered how each of these groups would control the extremist elements in their country. Palestine has done it through coercion and some force. They have negotiated with the terrorist groups to maintain a cease fire, while also refusing to be intimidated by threats of violence from those groups. But it is Israel’s latest reaction that has been the most interesting. As they have been preparing to pull out of Gaza, the government has not been afraid to use force to deal with extremist protestors. Last night they used police to remove and arrest squatters who were protesting the pullout. The protestors decided not to fight apparently because their reinforcements were prevented from reaching them. The police are also looking for three Israeli youth who beat a Palestinian youth unconscious during clashes between the Israeli extremists, and the police and Palestinians. The only way peace between the two can possible succeed is if both groups stand up to the extremists – and for now, it appears that both groups are doing just that.

Down with Pessimists

I think I have finally put my finger on what has been bothering me so much about a lot of the liberal commentary on the war in Iraq. It boils down to a sense of abject pessimism and negativity. Some on the left are looking at the situation in Iraq and calling it a failure and using it to rail on President Bush. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with criticizing our leaders when they make mistakes, but it should be in some way constructive. And more importantly, it should come from a perspective that shows the commentator really wants to see the situation be successful. I get the feeling that people like Bob Herbert of the New York Times are glad the Iraqi insurgency is so strong. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I think they want Iraq to fail. I think they care more about Bush failing then they do Iraq succeeding. Am I overreacting? I don’t think so. Here is Herbert’s language:

“The latest fantasy out of Washington is that American-trained Iraqi forces will ultimately be able to do what the American forces have not: defeat the insurgency and pacify Iraq.”

If Herbert had any grip on reality, he would realize that in fact, the only people that can defeat the insurgency are the Iraqis themselves. It is the moderates of that country which will have to stop supporting the insurgency through their silence. The fact is I don’t know for sure if the Iraqis can do it. But I am full of hope and optimism. I certainly don’t think Herbert feels that way. I bet it sounds strange listening to me defend Bush. But that isn’t what I am trying to do. I just get tired of people like Herbert (and Maureen Dowd) who do nothing but attack and criticize and refuse to offer better policies. Their constant attacks paired with an overriding pessimism spreads to the reader. That is bad for the situation in Iraq, and also bad for Democrats.

I also strongly disagree with Richard Cohen’s column trying to link Vietnam and Iraq. Again, I get the feeling he (and many others) has been waiting in the wings ready to do this, and ready to use the word “quagmire”. Quagmire makes it sound like Iraq is hopeless – like Vietnam was. The difference is that we are now occupying Iraq, there is an elected government that is working on a constitution, and we are training security forces. We are much further along and have much more control over the country than we ever did in Vietnam. He spends most of his column making gigantic leaps in an effort to make Iraq sound like Vietnam, but in the end says he knows they are not the same. What was his point then? The point was to spread pessimism – to put the connection in the minds’ of the people, while trying to maintain credibility because he doesn’t actually believe what he just wrote. His exaggerations make him as guilty of misleading the public about the state of Iraq as the Bush administration is.

The bottom line is this: We have a real chance to succeed in Iraq and the public needs to know this. I agree that the situation could be managed better (including defending the Syrian border better and finding ways to improve and speed up the process of training Iraqi security forces). But it doesn’t help anyone to call the situation unsuccessful before it has had a chance to succeed. And it certainly doesn’t help to wish for Iraq to fail just because you hate Bush. I beg those people who cannot control their own pessimism and hatred for Bush to simply keep quiet.

House of Cards

So the GOP wants to put a Social Security bill up for a vote despite having no chance of passage in the Senate. This is pure bitch monkey politics. This is nothing more than an attempt by House Republicans to have something to harp on during the upcoming 2006 elections, much like the whole flag burning issue. It's the equivalent of a college student bringing home a drawing of a fire truck for mommy and daddy to showcase on the fridge like some 2nd grader. If House Republicans are serious about keeping Social Security solvent then they need to quit playing around with the ass hat idea of private accounts which have absolutely nothing to do with solvency and actually focus on solvency. It's simple - raise taxes, reduce benefits, cut spending in other areas or a combination of the three. Private accounts have nothing to do with solvency. And for those readers in the cheap seats, I'll repeat that, private accounts have nothing to do with solvency. And because things are better in threes, private accounts have nothing to do with solvency.

Situation: Critical

Tucker Carlson's latest attempt at Beltway glory, The Situation on MSNBC, quiet simply, sucks ass. I watched a little bit of it Monday night and had to turn it within three minutes because it fouled my head so much. Someone should claim eminent domain on his set and make into a Starbucks or something.

Canuck candy store closing, eh?

It was just a matter of time before our genteel neighbors to the north said, "awww, hell no!" to our penchant of reimporting their subsidized drugs. Of course, anyone with a rudimentary sense of economics could have told you this would happen, that Canada would not sit idly by while Americans purchase drugs subsidized for the benefit of Canadian taxpayers, who are paying after all for these drugs through their high taxes. After all, as the market for reimported drugs expands, the Canadians would either have to cut off the exports of these drugs or forever be readjusting upwards their drug importation and subsidization, to the increasing cost and decreasing benefit of the Canadian taxpayer. Not to mention US drug makers would probably ratchet up the price to prevent Canadian importation in large numbers because it would just end up being sold at lower prices to American drug buyers shopping on the Web.

Canada is to impose restrictions on the export of prescription drugs to US citizens, who pay less for them abroad than they do at home.

The US has the highest drug prices in the world, leading many citizens to order their supplies from Canada.

Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh said his country could no longer serve as a discount "drug-store" for the US.

US lawmakers are debating laws that could authorise the bulk purchase of medicines from Canada.

The import of prescription drugs - though technically illegal - is widely tolerated in the US.

US citizens have been able to get their supplies from Canada either by crossing the border or by ordering them on the internet.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Shining Example for All of Iran

Wow. Iran's newly elected president is a tried and true terrorist. No words can explain how unbelievably aghast I am at this very moment.

Creative Writing and the Internet

It always interests me to think of how the internet is changing the world around us. I often marvel at the blogosphere – especially now that I am a part of it – and its effects on news, politics, and informed dialogue. But what has really got me thinking recently is the internet’s effect on creative writing. I know lots of people who have online journals, cataloguing everyday events or deep thoughts, usually in a humorous or otherwise interesting way. And these journals are turning many of the people into better writers, and also providing a source of therapy by allowing them to sound off about the world around them to anyone and everyone.

But what I have seen from The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster and my new obsession Simon of Space – two science-fiction blognovels by Matthew Davis Frederick Hemming (a blogauthor that I have become an embarrassingly huge fan of) – is how the internet can polish growing authors. In the comments for his blognovels, readers can write in with questions about the plot, simple edits and corrections, or as is more often the case, simple praise. All three can help the writer hone his or her craft. When questions about the plot arise, the author can go back and make changes, as well as learn to be more conscious of how their style of writing may be confusing at times. Simple edits also help the author in a very obvious way – fixing grammatical errors and misspelled words. And praise can also help when it is directed at something specific. The author will know immediately what aspects of the story are particularly compelling, and what aspects might not be. A good author will of course learn to take all of the comments with a grain of salt, but their effect is still obvious. Hemming has also said in an online interview that this venue for writing is particularly challenging because readers will only follow you as long as you are interesting.

The reader has not spent a nickel up front to gain access to the content (unlike a magazine or a book), and thus will cast you away from their screen in a heartbeat if you lose their interest for even a second. They have nothing to lose. No aspect about the audience's attention can be assumed -- as a web writer you have to work hard for it, paragraph by paragraph.

Hopefully there will be much more of this type of publishing – and maybe there is already and I am just unaware of it. In the future, I would like to see this type of writing and critiquing grow. I came across a website a while ago called Shared Writing – which features creative writing contributions published on its site, free for all readers to view. That page also has comments. But so far, it is limited in that most of the comments are actually spam – and real critiques and opinions are scarce. But that type of forum, if managed correctly and with the right amount of interest from the internet community, could serve as a great place to help creative writers develop their craft. Imagine a creative writing club with a national (or international) scope; lots of writers and readers, working together for free to help develop another generation of great creative writers.

The REAL Speech Bush Should Have Given

(Note: this is not to be read as if it is a Bush speech, the point is more suggestive)

And I don't mean John Kerry's pathetic NYT op-ed. I've been thinking about Iraq a lot lately, and about how we're all flip-floppers now. Many who were pro-war are now questioning it. Many who were anti-war are now supporting it. I am the latter category. Strangely, with mounting violence and a dubious future I feel even more resolved that the U.S. must stay the course and win this war. Is it because of 9/11 I feel this way? Actually, not really. Is it because of Saddam Hussein's brutality do? Nope. Is it because of terrorism? Again, not really. The question to me is a moral one. And there is one simple reason that I support the war.

Whatever your political persuasion or belief was at the time, there were a lot of reasons to oppose the war beforehand, and then later in retrospect. The non-existant WMDs was one. Many were skeptical about them at first, and many more when the searches turned up inconclusive later. The Downing Street Memos have done their part and fueled this irrational hysteria, reconvening an obsolete debate. Also, there was the strange notion that the war was "illegal," although the questions of what war is okay and not okay according to international law is a tough one. If Iraq was illegal, so is Kosovo. So would be military intervention in Darfur. So would have been a hypothetical military intervention in Rwanda. International Law only authorizes war in self-defense, and stopping a genocide is, sadly, not a self-defense. Also, it could be argued Hussein was committing genocide even if war was allowed to stop genocide. There's also the "distraction" argument, that there were bigger fish to fry in Afghanistan, and perhaps in other countries (Iran, North Korea, Syria, Sudan) besides Iraq, and that Saddam was a low priority. That was the philosophy I described. All of this more or less hinged on one question, was the U.S. justified in going to war against Saddam Hussein? And all of these, to the letter, are irrelevant concerns now.

On January 30th, this war ceased to be about Saddam Hussein, or even about C-Plus Augustus himself. It ceased to be about WMDs, and I will say in large part it ceased to be about the U.S. vs. Al Qaida and 9/11 (however much of an extent it was ever really about that). On January 30th, the war took on a different purpose, and a purpose I cannot help but support without being an amoral, realist bastard. That purpose is the defense of a democratically-elected sovereign government against thugs that wish to plunge a country into violent anarchy or worse, a Sharia-based Islamic totalitarian state. When the people of Iraq elected a government, the game changed. It was no longer about what was before, about occupation, about Jerry Bremer's idiocy, about removing Saddam Hussein. There was now a fledgling government, elected by the people, that needed U.S. military support to insure it's survival. Puppet state like the Iraqi Governing Council, they aren't. Some of them have ties to Iran. Some of them aren't very pro-U.S. at all. But, they all have one thing in common. If we left this government as is, they would certainly all be murdered and beheaded by an insurgency happy to take their heads, and happy to plunge the rest of the country into violence and chaos.

On January 30th, this became about that. It became about whether or not the U.S. really cares enough to support a democratically-elected government against a bunch of bloody thugs. It's not about our interests, it's not even about Colin Powell's "you broke it, you own it" statement, and it's not about whether George W. Bush is fit to lead. It's about whether we as the most powerful country on Earth care about Iraq enough to make sure its democracy succeeds, or if we are willing to wash our hands of the matter and let them fail, as we have done so many other times in our history. Whatever history said before January 30th, a new chapter began that day. Do we want to help the heroes of this story succeed? Or are we content to be the spectator or the audience in a tragedy we can prevent? If you really believe in liberal Western values over selfish political partisanship, you know the answer.

Institute for Justice announces their campaign to fight Kelo's damaging precedent

The Institute for Justice, a conservative legal foundation which helped the losing parties in Kelo v. City of New London announced a new campaign today to promote legislative responses to prevent the power of eminent domain being abused by state and local governments to plunder property for the profit of private developers:


Washington, D.C.—The Institute for Justice and its grassroots group, the Castle Coalition, seeks to do what the U.S. Supreme Court refused to do last week when it issued its ruling in the Kelo case allowing eminent domain for private development: protect ordinary homeowners and small businesses from eminent domain abuse.

Through IJ’s Castle Coalition—a nationwide network of citizen activists determined to stop the abuse of eminent domain in their communities—the Institute for Justice today announced the “Hands Off My Home” campaign to give ordinary citizens the means to protect their homes from government-forced takings for private development. The Institute also made an initial commitment of $3 million to fund the national effort to combat eminent domain at the state and local level. IJ made the announcement less than one week after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Kelo decision allowing governments to take property from the rightful owner only to hand it over to another private party for his or her private gain.

“The floodgates to eminent domain abuse are already opening in the wake of the Supreme Court’s dreadful Kelo decision,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney for the Institute for Justice. “The Hands Off My Home campaign will empower ordinary Americans to fight back against eminent domain abuse and to stop this un-American alliance between tax-hungry politicians and land-hungry developers.”

“The American people are furious about this decision, but they can do something about it,” said Dana Berliner, an IJ senior attorney. “In this next year, the Castle Coalition will encourage and coordinate grassroots efforts to end eminent domain abuse in states and cities. At the same time, the Institute for Justice will ask state courts to enforce their state constitutional limits on the use of eminent domain for private development. And the next time we get to the Supreme Court, it will overturn the Kelo precedent.”

The "Hands of my Home" pledge is a pretty concise:

I pledge to the citizens of this
State that I will:
Oppose efforts by my state
government or municipalities
within my state to use the
government power of eminent
domain for private development
Support legislation and other
efforts to ensure that the
citizens of this State are safe
from eminent domain for
private development
The media should press Tim Kaine, Jerry Kilgore, Bob Ehrlich, Doug Duncan, and Martin O'Malley on this pledge specifically, or at least the Kelo issue in general, as the Virginia and Maryland gubernatorial races heat up.

More Advice from the Right

Asymmetrical Information (via Evil Glenn), someone with who I normally disagree pretty vehemently with, has undertaken the usually-common right-wing habit of giving the Democrats advice. While a lot of it is crap (like the ineffectiveness of reaching for the center because the center has no good ideas and that it is inherently prone to pork. . .The center are usually the ones that decry pork) some of it is pretty sage. It mostly evolves from a similar discussion at the lefty Crooked Timber on market making and market taking. The Crooked Timber business is also kinda sage and kinda crap, the sage part being the Democrats need some new ideas to carve out new political territory, and the crap part being that it should come from its populist roots. Of the moderate Democrats and the Progressive Democrats, she says the following:

Neither group is going to lead the Democrats to the kind of dominance that they once enjoyed--and that Republicans are now basking in. Neither is capable of building a winning coalition with a central set of values that pretty much everyone can endorse, as the Republicans have.

But even worse are the folks telling the progressives that the only problem is that they are misunderstood. Howard Dean, like a lot of my acquaintances, seems to believe that the only reason Republicans keep winning is that people somehow don't understand what they're up to. On fine regulatory questions, that is undoubtedly true--but I doubt that many voters know what Clinton's telecoms policy was, either. On big questions, such as taxes, the budget, the military, or what have you, the voters have a rough but workable idea of the differences between the two parties, and there is no evidence that there are systematic differences in their misperceptions of their politicians (which is to say, they believe some wrong things about Republicans, but about an equal number of wrong things about Democrats). The problem is not ignorance, or that they've been lied to. It is that they don't like what Democrats stand for.

The folks trying to tell Democrats that they've just got a branding problem are right, but the Lakoff solution--better slogans--is exactly the wrong idea. Democrats have a branding problem because, just like many companies with branding problems, they overpromised and underdelivered. Americans looked at the seventies, saw that it was the culmination of decades of progressive hegemony, and decided that they didn't need any more of that--just as decades earlier, they had punished Republicans for the Great Depression. Whether either, or neither, was fair, that is the political reality. Republicans eventually dealt with it, but the hardliners in the progressive movement are still resisting. Yet it's hard to see any hope of resurrecting the Great Society vision; the success of welfare reform has made that politically impossible. Other big issues, like abortion, are being slowly eroded by technological change that is making their stance both unnecessary, and unappealing. And the huge middle class entitlements that many are proposing in order to subvert bourgeois resistance to subsidizing the socioeconomically dysfunctional have a price tag that seems to be unacceptable to the American public.

I think this gets to what is the core problem of the Democrats: some of their platform has just become plain unappealing and unsellable. The moderate democrats do seem to be shortsighted because they get caught up too much in straddling, dissembling, and compromising that they don't have their own ideas at all. Tbey drone about reform so much there's never any thought as to whether abolition or creation would be appropriate. The progressives are worse, because they keep pushing ideas that aren't simply badly-packaged and sold wrong, they are just plain wrong and unconvincing at their core. Repackaging failed ideas isn't going to work, no matter how much you want to scream and how shrill you want to make the message. For all Howard Dean's "Health Care is a moral value", it just makes a lot of people too nervous to really sell. Raising taxes and big government is never going to be disguised by rhetoric, because Republicans and their flacks will expose whatever product as what it truly is in a flash, or even if it faintly resembles it they will be able to paint it that way.

For one thing, Democrats need to stop scaring Libertarians so much (which the progressive wing excels at doing) in the same way theocrats tend to, as well. They are far too effective as attack dogs. The Progressive wing of the Dems are way too unapologetic Socialists, and easily painted and branded as such by any libertarians with an axe to grind. I for one, with my centrist roots, believe the Democrats essentially need to look to Clinton's vision and Adam Smith's classical economics as a guide, focusing on education, science, and infrastructure (things which the Democrats excel at during state and local elections). That is a moderate path and could be root of a number of ideas that radical anti-taxers and rabid anti-government types have long strayed from, and economically is not so easily assaulted by Libertarians. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Fort Bragg

I like Wonkette's take super-best (and it's real Wonkette, not phony Greg Beato).

Primetime = Nap Time


That summarizes my reaction to C Plus Augustus and his teleprompter last night. Literally, I could barely stay awake throughout the speech. I'm not sure whether it was due to the speech repeating 9-11 in every other sentence, or because most of the rhetoric (as eloquent as it sounded) was merely the same, but rearranged Yoda style. Stay the course in Iraq we must.

Kudos to the Bushies for finally beginning to level with the American people. No more of this ridiculous stonewalling by Darth Cheney, Rummy and company. I'm with FDR on this one:

"Your government has unmistakable confidence in your ability to hear the worst, without flinching or losing heart. You must, in turn, have complete confidence that your government is keeping nothing from you except information that will help the enemy in his attempt to destroy us."

Lastly, I would like to point out that Bush stated that he would supply the Iraq effort with more soldiers IF his generals on the ground requested them. I'm sitting here wondering where the disconnect is, because it seems everyone else knows this but the White House.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shady Grover: King of Alienation

Between dodging criminal indictments and supporting terroristesque Islamist, Grover Norquist always has time to insult members of his own party. What a multitasker!

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) became a target in the latest round of political rhetoric when Republican strategist Grover Norquist referred to him last week as "the nut-job from Arizona."

At the College Republicans convention in Arlington on Friday, Norquist also referred to Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) as "the two girls from Maine," according to the Dallas Morning News.

Norquist backed away from his "girls" comment yesterday, telling The Post's Brian Faler that he did not mean to be derisive. "It was not meant that way. We were talking to a bunch of college kids," he said.

As for McCain, Norquist said he "misspoke" and added, "I meant to say gun-grabbing, tax-increasing Bolshevik."

Ouch! But wait, McCain's people have a better response:
Mark Salter, a senior adviser for McCain, issued a statement that said, "John McCain hasn't spent five seconds in his entire life thinking about Grover Norquist. He's not going to start now."

SLAM! That about sums it up. I think Grover Norquist is in his "last throes" everyone. (Which means we can expect to hear from him for up to 12 years, according to Donald Rumsfeld)

(Via Wonkette)

It's not just a left-wing fight against the Man, Sharon

The AP's Sharon Theimer has a piece today on bloggers standing up against potential FEC regulation in which only left-wing bloggers are cited. And the tone of the comments of the bloggers quoted lends to the reader that this is a struggle against rascally conservative GOPers.

But this is an issue of concern to bloggers of all political stripes fighting government regulation stemming not from the minds of Tom DeLay or Dick Cheney but of of moderate-to-liberal "maverick" John McCain's campaign finance reform legislation.

Does Thiemer not know about or of's heavy-lifting on the regulation issue?:

Bloggers Turn Mainstream To Fight Government Regulation Some are joining the establishment in order to fight it, by working with lawyers, PR consultants, and a political action committee.

By Sharon Theimer, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP)--Bloggers who built their Internet followings with anti-establishment prose are now lobbying the establishment to protect their livelihoods from federal regulations.

Some are even working with lawyers, public-relations consultants and a political action committee to do it.

"I like to think of myself as just a guy with a blog, but it's clear that 'just a guy with a blog' is different today than it was when I started three years ago," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the Web log "One sign of having arrived is when government regulators start wanting to poke their fingers into what you do."

Moulitsas was to testify Tuesday at a hearing on a Federal Election Commission (FEC) proposal that would extend some campaign finance rules to the Internet, including bloggers.

Moulitsas also is working with a lawyer who volunteered to help bloggers fight new government regulations and whose efforts were promoted in a PR firm press release Monday. He is prepared to lobby Congress himself if necessary, and he is the treasurer of BlogPac, a political action committee formed last year by bloggers.

Duncan Black--who founded the blog--featured a headline Monday on his Web site, "Bite me, Congressman," that linked to a diatribe against a Republican House committee chairman over global warming.

Asked whether the use of hearing testimony and PACs is a sign that bloggers are succumbing to mainstream political techniques, Black said he and his colleagues have no choice.

"I think once you do achieve a certain degree of traffic, influence, notoriety--however you want to call it--eventually the outsider label is not perfectly applicable anymore," said Black, who describes himself as a "recovering economist." He too planned to testify before the FEC.

Federal election officials until now have steered clear of Internet oversight, siding with bloggers and other online activists who portray the Web as a laboratory of grass-roots political participation and an outlet for free speech that should develop unhampered by the government.

But online political activity has become increasingly more sophisticated since the FEC last examined it a few elections ago.

Since the 2000 presidential campaign, when Arizona Sen. John McCain made a splash by raising millions online, candidates have raised tens of millions of dollars, and online political ads, consultants, and organizing have become commonplace. Political parties and campaigns have added blogging to their Web sites.

A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that just over one-third of U.S. adults went to the Internet during the 2004 elections to get political news, share their views on candidates or issues, volunteer for a campaign, or make a political donation.

Internet advertising is also big business, and it's becoming a standard feature of blogs. Black said a small number of bloggers make a living from advertising revenue, but he added that most, including himself, have other jobs.

Acknowledging the Internet's growth, a federal judge last year ordered the FEC to extend some of the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to political activity on the Web.

Bloggers fear that will mean new, unique limits on their activities, even though several of the commission's six members have indicated they have no desire to go beyond what the judge has ordered them to do.

The FEC plans this summer to decide how far to go. Bloggers view whatever happens at the commission as just the first step in their quest to remain free of government oversight.

"The FEC isn't the end of it," Moulitsas said. "We still have Congress, and beyond Congress we still have the courts."

Gay Marriage Night at RFK

George "Money bags" Soros, he of anti-Bush fame, is a mere MEMBER in one of eight groups bidding to purchase the Washington Nationals franchise from Major League Baseball. The Nats', as many Washingtonians know, are performing quite well with a true home at RFK. Their popularity can also be attributed to the fact that baseball hasn't had a team in DC in over 30 years.

Now it seems peculiar that some on the Right side of the aisle would BALK at the purchase of this team by an overtly Liberal financier. Why should anyone CARE if an owner wears his politics on his sleeve, let alone the chairperson of the Government Reform Committee in the House? If the Nats become a politicized team, WHO CARES? If attending a Nats' game becomes the equivalent of a Leftist propaganda show, who would be sorry enough to allow the Liberal splooge destroy the experience of watching a baseball game in the first place? Damn it Tommy, I thought you were above BS like this.

So Happy Together

Imagine me and you, I do

I think about you day and night

It's only right

To think about the ex-prez you love

And hold him tight

So happy together

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) -- Former President Bill Clinton joined his one-time political foe, former President George H.W. Bush, for a boat ride on the Atlantic Ocean after attending a book-signing Monday.

If I should call you up

Invest a dime

And you say you belong to me

That you are mine

Imagine how the world would be

So very fine

So happy together

Clinton was seen kneeling to pet a dog when he arrived at Walker's Point, the summer home of George and Barbara Bush on Maine's rocky coast.

Later, Clinton and Bush waved to onlookers as they boated up and down a river before roaring into the ocean for a short ride in Bush's three-engine boat.

The 1992 election rivals became good friends when they led fund-raising as part of the relief effort for victims of the tsunami that hit Asia in December.

Everyone together now:

I can't see me loving nobody but you

For all my life

When you're with me

Baby the skies will be blue

For all my life

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Still nada on Kelo on Inside Politics; and Kelo-sanctioned property theft in Texas

At work, among the things I do is monitor and log into our database story summaries and transcripts from Inside Politics (IP) on CNN. IP has had nada on the Kelo ruling from last week, and no mention of it on the "Inside the Blogs" feature, despite an opportunity for mentions of blogger reax to this due to the Supreme Court term closure today, and their rulings on Grokster and 10 Commandment cases.

At any rate, I've given up on the idea of IP covering anything of substance and gravity from the Supreme Court unless it fits some stupid rubric of "red state vs. blue state."

I'm not holding my breath, but maybe that would change if they reported on the fact that the Kelo ruling is equally liable to cause politicians and developers in red states, as well as blue, to salivate over the greenbacks they can make off the deal. Take this Houston Chronicle article from Friday which I stumbled across linked from

Hours after the court's 5-4 ruling came down, Rep. Frank Corte Jr., R-San Antonio, said he would seek "to defend the rights of property owners in Texas" by proposing a state constitutional amendment limiting local powers of eminent domain, or condemnation.

Houston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Robert Eckels offered assurances that the city and county do not intend to condemn land for private development projects.

But officials in the beachfront town of Freeport, south of Houston, said they would move aggressively to condemn property owned by two seafood companies to clear the way for an $8 million private marina.

Thomas for Chief J revisited

Came across the following from a mention on the Bench Memos blog on NRO: the case for Bush to pick Clarence Thomas for Chief Justice from his dissent in Kelo.

Now, I used his dissent in the medical marijuana case to further my argument a few weeks ago, but I wholeheartedly concur with Wanniski that his Kelo dissent is a strong indicator that he is the man for the job.:

Memo To: President George W. Bush
Cc: Karl Rove
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The “Taking Clause” Erased

To be honest, Mr. President, until the Supreme Court on Thursday announced its 5-to-4 decision limiting the property rights of all Americans, I assumed that upon the retirement of Chief Justice Rehnquist you would not name Justice Clarence Thomas to fill that vacancy – and that you would probably be wise to avoid the controversy his nomination would bring.

But after reading Justice Thomas’s dissenting opinion in the New London, Conn. case, I think his wisdom, his judgment and his perspective so clearly fits him to be Chief Justice that the American people would not permit the kind of political firestorm that accompanied his appointment to the Court by your father 15 years ago.

Make Room for Daddy

During my mini-vacation to the OBX, 5th and I caught a movie I've been excited about or a long, LOOOONG, time: Romero's new Land of the Dead. I am, of course, a ridiculously huge zombie movie fan, and this movie was the best I could've hoped for. This CHUD review hits a lot of the good points, but I'm going to go for more to explain why this is not just a good zombie movie, but a good movie overall.

Land is like the Aliens of the Dead franchise. In the previous three Dead films, we dealt with survivors held up in first a house, then a mall, then a military base. Usually the plots were fairly one-note, a group of survivors trying to eke out an existence and survive an onslaught. The characters in Romero's films were always pretty well crafted, but the plots were usually simple and the situation simple. Not so in Land. Land of the Dead shows Romero's thinking about zombies and as a writer and director evolved, much like the intelligence of the zombies themselves by the time Land begins (all the relevant backstory is told in an incredibly creepy and powerful credit sequence, in grainy black and white and through the original radio from Night of the Living Dead, so you don't need to have seen any of the other films to understand the apocalypse scenario.) The archplot is conceived from FOUR (count 'em) separate subplots, which is not only unheard of for a horror movie, but which most movies on their own can't support. There is true-blue, world-weary hero Reilly (Simon Baker), greedy Nietzschean upstart Cholo (surprisingly less annoying John Leguizamo), rich uberbastard and would-be villain Kaufman (vintage Dennis Hopper), and the real star of the movie, "Big Daddy" the Einstein zombie (Eugene Clark). The plots weave and converge at points, but are definitely distinct story-points and follow distinct paths. This cast of characters, however, all have very distinct personalities and prove to be the foundation for the film. The setting is also better. Instead of protaganists suddenly surprised by an onslaught of zombies, these are characters who all have lived for a long time and built a life in a land of zombies true to its title. They are neither scared, nor really phased by the appearance of them (they even have a cute nickname for them: "stenches"). The characters led by Reilly and Cholo are actually experienced raiders of the outlying city's lands, used to confronting and battling the undead on a daily basis in a monstrous truck/tank called "Dead Reckoning".

That said, this is not a very scary movie. There's lots of death, there's lots of gore, there are a few horrifying moments, but this is more interesting as a thriller/action movie than a horror movie. Its way more about the plight of the characters and the plot (Big Daddy's Journey) than it is about scaring the audience. Big Daddy, the Zombie-In-Chief, is a curious character in that during the entire movie you don't see him munch on a single person. He pulls other zombies off the carcasses they are mauling to get them focused on the task at hand (laying siege to the human city). Big Daddy even expresses genuine sorrow and outrage as the gang of human bandits lead by Cholo and Reilly mow down his fellow-zombies. He also displays pretty creative ways of killing people (none of which actually involve eating them).

A number of trite themes and symbolism also pop up, from Kaufman's rich-people-only paradise "Fiddler's Green" and the rundown slums of poor survivors around it, to the eventual scenes of the zombies assaulting "Fiddler's Green" that invoke the storming of the Bastille or 1968 riots. There are a ton of lefty/Marxist motifs in the movie, but that doesn't really render it any less enjoyable. Asia Argento does her job by acting decently and looking HOTT as ever, and Robert Joy has a nice turn as a less-than-bright, deformed guy with a good heart who Reilly rescued from a fire. Land entertains, that much is obvious, but it also has complexity almost never seen in this kind of fare, rising to the intelligent levels of 28 Days Later easily. Lots of other filmmakers have done incredible things with Romero's influence, but Romero reasserts himself in this one. He is their Daddy.

Worship 4 Justice (re: ending genocide in Darfur)

Seems like a cool idea, although might be a bit crunchy and happy clappy for my tastes. That said, I think this sort of religious activism which transcends left-right paradigms is a good thing. Have any of you guys heard of this?

We will do what Christians always do when they gather for worship--pray, read Scripture, preach, sing, and take an offering (all of which will go to aid people suffering in Darfur). But we will do these things outdoors, in public, with four goals:

1. To pray for God’s justice and mercy to come for those suffering in Darfur, and to be formed as people who share God’s courageous compassion.

2. To urge the media to increase coverage for those who suffer in Darfur and elsewhere, and to urge our government to exert its influence in the world community to end the genocide there and pursue peace.

3. To call the church in America not to forget the poor and oppressed, especially those in Africa--and to make those who suffer poverty and injustice a greater priority in our prayers, preaching, and action whenever we gather to worship the God of justice.

4. To urge the U.S. government to promote peace in the Darfur region by adequately funding the African Union Peacekeeping effort from the current 2,000 soldiers to at least 15,000 by early 2006.

These are the services which remain:

  • Sunday, July 3, 2005: Sudanese Embassy
  • Sunday, July 10, 2005: Lafayette Park, White House
But for those of you who aren't Christian or not even religious, well, the event is open to all who are willing to participate:

Our gatherings will be organized and led by Christians from many denominations--but members of other faiths (and those with no faith commitment) who share our concern for our neighbors in Africa are welcomed to join us in solidarity and shared concern. Other sponsoring organizations include Africa Action and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Speakers will include Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Rabbi David Saperstein, and the Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, among others to be announced.

Lukewarm Court rulings get spit water treatment

"So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth." ---Revelation 3:16

Both Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance are not overly joyed with today's split rulings on the 10 Commandments cases.

First, Dobson:

"Today's split ruling sends a mixed message to the American public. The court has failed to decide whether it will stand up for religious freedom of expression, or if it will allow liberal special interests to banish God from the public square. Those who care deeply about the religious heritage of this country have cause to be concerned by the apparent lack of commitment to the founders' intent shown by our nation's highest court.

"One point has been clearly made by these decisions: the infamous 'Lemon Test,' used by the court in deciding these cases, is too restrictive of freedom of speech, allows for inequitable rulings and should be replaced. Just as clear is the fact that there is a religious witch-hunt underway, one which has infected virtually every level of our government. It is nothing less than historical revisionism to try to use the First Amendment as an excuse to scrub away all governmental references to the Ten Commandments and our Judeo-Christian heritage."

and Gaddy:

Today's Supreme Court split decision will, for now, keep the wall of separation between religion and government intact but greatly weakened. The Court determined that the display in Kentucky is unconstitutional but their decision in the Texas case allows the government display of this religious document. The venerable wall remains seriously threatened as intense assaults on religious liberty continue from many different parts of the nation.

"First Amendment guarantees of a free exercise of religion without entanglement between the institutions of religion and government are no longer secure in the present environment," said Rev Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance. "We continue to be grateful to the founders for their incredibly wise formula for keeping religion and government separate while fostering the freedom for people to practice or to abstain from the practice of religion. However, our nation's founders would be stunned if they could see the relentless assaults on their vision of a nation blessed by religious freedom. We commend the High Court for its decision on the Kentucky case, but the Texas decision is extremely troubling. Unfortunately this mixed message continues the erosion of the legacy of freedom for and from religion in this nation.

In other words: sppppttttpllpt.

Weekly Dose of Rage

Carnival of the RINOs.

This Party is Lame

There are two interesting columns about the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Apparently Democrats are planning to block the agreement that includes El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Both Thomas Friedman and Charles Krauthammer make strong arguments why CAFTA is good policy, both for the countries in Central America and for the United States. What Friedman says is particularly compelling;

CAFTA is critical for enabling U.S. and Central American textile firms to compete with China. U.S. firms specialize in the more sophisticated work of making dyes, designing patterns and manufacturing specialized yarns, threads and fabrics, and the CAFTA countries specialize in the labor-intensive sewing. Because the CAFTA countries are right next door, U.S. retailers can respond quickly to changes in the marketplace, which far-off Chinese factories cannot do as easily. That's also why, explains Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, that a shirt that says "Made in Honduras" might contain 60 percent U.S. content, while a similar shirt that says "Made in China" most likely would have none.

Finally, there is geopolitics. In the 1980's, we were worried Central America was going to go communist. Now we are worried it is going to go capitalist? We spent billions fighting communism there. Now we have a chance to help consolidate these fragile democracies by locking in a trading relationship with the U.S. that is critical for their development. Shame on us if we balk.

Friedman also references a study that has shown that protectionism in Germany and France has hurt both countries.

Ever since Bush won reelection, I have gotten the feeling that Democrats were more concerned with blocking his agenda and less concerned with good policy. This type of behavior is bad for the party. But worse than that, if they are successful it will be bad for the country.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

He Lost His Bags

So I ran into Donald Rumsfeld today. I was working my second job for a non-profit that brings students together from all across the country to learn about the American political system. As I was waiting for student 84 to arrive today at Dulles airport , one of my co-workers blurted out "Is that Donald Rumsfeld?"

Sure enough, with an AARP member's gait, it was ol' Rummy. He was sporting the faux-Brember look: Shirt, sports jacket, slacks and hiking shoes. Who knew the Bremer style would keep? I, being the only person in the group with cajones, waved to Rummy, and with an old politician's reflexes, he waved right back. The fact that I just saw our Secretary of Defense copying a former CPA manager's style wasn't shocking. The fact that he was travelling with no security detail was. He was trailed by what looked like a lowly aide, furiously typing away at his Blackberry.

Sadly, it seemed like United had lost ol' Rummy's bag, thus the reason he kept asking representatives from United for assistance, mentioning that he had to "get back to the office" in a timely fashion, and him missing some of his "paperwork" was not an ideal situation.

He walked within earshot of my group of students as he made his way to the exit, and as a parting gift I exclaimed "Keep up the good work sir!" With a big smile he replied "Thank you very much!", walking away into the sunset. My most significant brush with political fame thus far in my life.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Seething, just plain seething

That's my reaction to today's WaPo editorial which excuses the eminent domain Court case decided yesterday.

Of course, I'm not surprised. I fully expected these butterfly kisses from the Post on the ugly face of statism when it masquerades as a project for the public good. Let's face it, the only reason the Post thinks that conspiracies between rich developers and greedy politicians to force working and middle class people out of their homes for the sake of the Donald Trumps of the world is because, that's right, it will make the government richer from increased tax revenues.

In the name of taxation and socialistic redistribution the Washington Post gives a polite golf clap to the felling of a once mighty oak of liberty from the forest of freedom that our Bill of Rights used to be:

City authorities may be wrong in their judgment that their plans are a good way to revitalize the town. But the Fifth Amendment's takings clause was never meant to ensure good judgment or wise policy. Indeed, it was intended less as a restraint on the substance of what government does than as a guarantee that it will pay reasonably. However unfortunate New London's plans may prove, stopping the city based on a standardless judicial inquiry into how "public" its purpose really is would be far worse.
Of course, the Post is woefully, grossly WRONG about the history of the takings clause, as Clarence Thomas in a separate dissent proved at length yesterday. Go to page 40, et seq. of the pdf file available here:

Though one component of the protection provided by theTakings Clause is that the government can take private property only if it provides “just compensation” for the taking, the Takings Clause also prohibits the government from taking property except “for public use.” Were it otherwise, the Takings Clause would either be meaningless
or empty. If the Public Use Clause served no function other than to state that the government may take property
through its eminent domain power—for public or private uses—then it would be surplusage.


The Public Use Clause, like the Just Compensation Clause, is therefore an express limiton the government’s power of eminent domain.The most natural reading of the Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever. At the time of the founding, dictionaries primarily defined the noun “use” as “[t]he act of employing any thing to any purpose.” 2 S. Johnson, A Dictionary ofthe English Language 2194 (4th ed. 1773) (hereinafter Johnson). The term “use,” moreover, “is from the Latin utor, which means ‘to use, make use of, avail one’s self of, employ, apply, enjoy, etc.” J. Lewis, Law of Eminent Domain §165, p. 224, n. 4 (1888) (hereinafter Lewis). When the government takes property and gives it to a private individual, and the public has no right to use the property, it strains language to say that the public is “employing” the property, regardless of the incidental benefits that might accrue to the public from the private use. The term “public use,” then, means that either the government or its citizens as a whole must actually “employ”
the taken property.

El WaPo would be wise to study up on the history of the takings clause by reading Thomas's dissent. It would also be wise to ask itself why it wants the courts to be a guarantor of social and civil rights justice but it blithely shrugs when people are denuded of their property rights for the gain of greedy politicians and wealthy developers.

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

So much has been in the news lately about the situation in Iraq that I feel the need to comment on all of it. First of all, according to General John Abizaid, the top American commander in the Persian Gulf, says that more foreign troops are in Iraq now than there were six months ago, and the insurgency is about as strong as it was six months ago. Abizaid goes on to say, “We see good progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan... But we are realistic. And we know that great change is often accompanied with violence. We are not trying to paint a rosy picture.” It is about time that the public gets the real story in Iraq.

Vice President Cheney clarified his remarks about the insurgency being in its “last throes” on CNN last night. He thinks the level of violence in Iraq right now represents a last ditch effort by the insurgents to ruin Iraq and send the Americans home. Although I agree that they might be acting with a sense of urgency as the Iraqi government makes progress – the statement that they are in the “last throes” gives the impression that the current level is unsustainable. But with the border between Syria and Iraq still very porous, many of us looking at the situation are concerned that maybe the current level is sustainable, as more and more foreign fighters continue to enter Iraq. One of the points that Senator Biden keeps making is that we need to guard that border better – and we should ask for international help in doing that. Keeping foreign troops out could help our cause greatly.

Look, I want our leaders to be optimistic about problems they see in front of them. And I am happy to hear that Cheney thinks Iraq will be an enormous success – I really hope he is right. But I am very concerned that they aren’t taking the insurgency seriously and are not doing enough to combat it. Optimism is great – but painting a rosy picture at a time like this is inappropriate. I think our leaders owe us some honest talk – unfortunately only the military is giving that to us.

But I also want to comment on the talk from the Democrats. Most of them are focusing on the wrong things when it comes to Iraq. I have said this before and I will say it again – a timetable for pullout is a terrible idea. It sends the wrong message to the insurgents, and more importantly, it sends the wrong message to Iraqis. Continued talk of pullout gives the impression that we care more about getting out than we do a stable Iraq. We have to stay the course – Iraq must be successful; which is why I find Senator Levin’s remarks to be absolutely deplorable.

“[Levin] said the Bush administration should tell the Iraqis that if they do not meet their deadline for drafting a constitution -- August 15, with a possible six-month extension -- the United States will consider setting a timetable for troop withdrawals.

"We must demonstrate to the Iraqis that our willingness to bear the burden ... has limits," Levin said.

The last thing we should do is give the impression that we have limits. Iraqis need to have the confidence that we will stay until there is a stable Iraq. The political deadlines set up for Iraq right now are very ambitious, especially given the diverse groups trying to come to the table – and the history of violence between those groups. The dates can be met, but there needs to be some flexibility – we need to appreciate the difficulty they are facing.

And Senator Kennedy’s remarks are also counterproductive. Although I would love to see a new defense secretary because I don’t agree with Rumsfeld’s vision of a smaller, more agile military in an age when peacekeeping troops are so important, asking for his resignation moves the debate away from better management of Iraq.

Right now, both sides are doing a bad job at focusing on the important issues at hand. Our troops and the Iraqi people deserve better.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What's the Big Deal?

I know I will probably get yelled at for saying this, but I really don’t see what the big deal is about the Pentagon using a private firm to collect information in one place to help recruiting techniques. A good friend of mine sent me a link to this article, and other friends of mine have talked about it, and it is scaring many people. So why am I unfazed? When I turned 18, I was forced by law to register with the Selective Service – my privacy has already been violated (legally). Whether or not they collect a little more information to help them recruit is insignificant now that I am registered. I was solicited by the military at home repeatedly when I was in high school and I don’t see how the collection of more information could have possibly made it any worse. In fact, if they can collect information on your interests (for example what classes you are taking), they might be able to appeal to recruits better by describing what the military can offer in terms of training and tuition assistance. In the end, I feel that this may give the military some help with recruiting, but will have little effect on the already ridiculous recruitment process for high school-aged males.

But feel free to comment and tell me why you think I am wrong.


I checked out the ACLU website to see what they are saying. While I do agree with many principles the ACLU stands for, I sometimes disagree with the way they give limited information to cause more alarm than is necessary. When talking about this issue, they say, "The net result is that sensitive information about the lives of millions of innocent students (including the keys to identity theft like social security numbers) may now end up in the files of not just the Pentagon but a host of public and private parties." The problem with this statement is that it leads the reader to think the Pentagon doesn't already have your social security number. In reality though, when an male turns 18 and registers with Selective Service, they already have to include their social security number.

Extreme liberals did have a different response to 9/11

And for proof you should consult the webpage as archived by [see link in title]. This was the language of their anti war in Afghanistan petition:


TO: (your representatives)
FROM: (your name and email)
Justice, not Escalating Violence

Dear Representative,

To combat terrorism, we must act in accordance with a high standard that does not disregard the lives of people in other countries. If we retaliate by bombing Kabul and kill people oppressed by the Taliban dictatorship who have no part in deciding whether terrorists are harbored, we become like the terrorists we oppose. We perpetuate the cycle of retribution and recruit more terrorists by creating martyrs.

(Your personal note)

Please do everything you can to counsel patience as we search for those responsible. Please ensure that our actions reflect the sanctity of human life everywhere. Thank you.


(your name)

(your address)

Michael Moore was also against the war in Iraq as a search of his website as archived by will also show:

A few of you have written me to say, Please, Mike, don't talk about this stuff, at least not right now. We need to bury the dead.

I agree. And I apologize to any who have taken offense. No one wants to talk about politics right now -- except our installed leaders in Washington. Trust me, they are talking politics night and day, and those discussions involve sending our kids off to fight some invisible enemy and to indiscriminately bomb Afghans or whoever they think will make us Americans feel good.

I feel I have a responsibility as one of those Americans who doesn't feel good right now to speak out and say what needs to be said: That we, the United States of America, are culpable in committing so many acts of terror and bloodshed that we had better get a clue about the culture of violence in which we have been active participants. I know it's a hard thing to hear right now, but if I and others don't say it, I fear we will soon be in a war that will do NOTHING to protect us from the next terrorist attack.

I have received more emails this week than ever before -- about a thousand every four hours. Ninety percent of them are from people who also refuse to be drawn into some form of senseless bloodletting, and who agree that we need to find the right way to bring those to justice who committed these acts.

So Karl Rove should have said that " extremist liberals were against the war in Afghanistan, but to their credit, most Democrats were solidly behind our retaliatory strike on the Taliban." I certainly don't remember any ELECTED liberal Democrats of prominence who were as radical as Michael Moore in the days after 9/11.

The best thing to do is keep Rove in a darkened war room and keep him away from microphones.

Libeskind's Update

Daniel Libeskind, master planner of the World Trade Center site, has a column in today’s New York Times. In the column, he urges New Yorkers to remain patient, saying that projects of this scale take time. He points out that progress is being made and ground will be broken soon on some of the buildings and memorials at ground zero. And although he admits that the plan is flexible, there are certain aspects that should not change.

Some things, however, are inviolable. The Freedom Tower must remain the beacon around which the others cluster. It must stand 1,776 feet tall, and it should beckon toward the Hudson River. These are not simply hallmarks of a plastic keychain souvenir. Symbols matter - whether the slurry wall, the Wedge of Light Plaza or the luminous Freedom Tower itself. The quality of what we achieve at ground zero will, after all, define the New York skyline and give shape to our aspirations and dreams.

I agree – symbols do matter, especially when we are rebuilding after one of the greatest tragedies inflicted on this nation.

It is a good column – concise in how it brings the reader up to speed on development of the ground zero sight. And he does a good job of reassuring us that the plan in on schedule. I’m glad that the master planner of such an important project is an unabashed optimist and firm believer in what America stands for.

Supreme Court liberals lay the smack down on the little guy

A heavy miscarriage of justice was made possible today by the Supreme Court okaying an unholy alliance of rich, politically connected developers with tax revenue-thirsty politicians.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- -- The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development.

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

So who brought us this ruling? Conservative, business-of-America-is-business justices like Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist? No, they were in the minority. This ruling was the work of the JP Stevens liberal wing of the court and swing justice, though usually right-leaning, Anthony Kennedy.

Let this ruling forever dispel the notion that liberal jurists are concerned with the rights of individuals against powerful corporations with political connections. This ruling may open the floodgates of more and more politically marginal residential communities being dislocated, albeit "fairly compensated" for the sake of real estate developers and big business working hand-in-glove with politicians bought off by campaign donations and the siren song of commerical tax revenues.

Friday Gatling Blog: Premature Blogulation Edition

I'm going on vacation to NC's glorious OBX this weekend, so I offer the week's Gatling Blog one day early! Deal with it.

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler takes apart an article from El Wapo, and uncovers some hidden insights in the latest Iraq War polls about the public's level of support.

Smash, war veteran and proven patriot, says of the Flag Burning Amendment, "leave our constitution alone."

Charging RINO is following the energy bill closely.

Demagogue updates us on Judith Miller's predicament.

Pandagon uncovers more battles in the surging war against birth control.

Futurepundit finds gambling monkeys.

Random Fate says "enough" to Pentagon excuses when it comes to equipping the troops.

Tigerhawk thinks over a bold and yet very odd statement by China.

RConversation explains how China and Iran block free speech online.

The Superficial notes that J. Lo is crazier than you even think.

Villanous Company defends American exceptionalism.

Jesus' General unveils Operation Yellow Elephant.

DCeiver mocks the smoking ban, including both sides of the argument.

Public Works Nightmare?

All together now: The Big Dig would not work in a redesigned Route 7 corridor. Hmmm ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Listen to Him Now

Vote for Him in 2008

I have already said that I think Senator Biden is one of the few Democrats that I could really get behind for President in 2008. I have heard some decent arguments about why he isn’t a viable candidate. But his speech at the Brookings Institution on Iraq (hat tip, Bull Moose) shows that we desperately need his leadership right now, and will need it in 2008 as well. In fact, I would be happy if the Bush administration listened to what Biden said and took credit for it themselves. At least that way they would be showing a real plan in Iraq.

One of the first things Senator Biden talks about is the B.S. we are getting from the current administration. Recently Vice President Cheney said about Iraq, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." Anybody with the slightest idea of the current situation in Iraq knows that nothing could be further from the truth. And nothing burns me up more than being lied to – especially about something so important. The insurgency is still very powerful, taking American and Iraqi lives everyday. We need the administration to level with us, and show us what they plan to do to deal with the violence.

Senator Biden goes on to list steps we can take to continue to push Iraq in the right direction, and keep it from slipping into civil war and becoming a failed state. Added international support is obviously very important – as is an increased role in management by Congress. And these are some of the many things the Bush administration seems unwilling to accept (it’s as if they would rather Iraq fail, than admit they were wrong and need more help). The situation in Iraq is serious and it demands serious attention. Hopefully Bush and Cheney understand this before it is too late, and listen to the few people making sense on the topic.

Don’t Burn Baby Burn

Sometime in late 2000, my father bought me an American flag that had flown over the US Capital (with help from the office of Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman – former ranking member of the House Committee on International Relations). I am a patriotic Democrat – a rare breed. But no matter how much I cherish our flag – a symbol of all of the great things this country stands for, I will never understand the need for a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the flag. There is no doubt that I am offended whenever someone burns our flag. In fact, I probably take it more personally than I should. But I take the same offense when someone tells me that they hate America and what we stand for. Even though I am offended, I have never believed that in this country we would try to prohibit a nonviolent act of showing hatred for America or disgust with America’s policies. So whether someone tells me they hate America, or they show me through actions such as burning the American flag, I will always believe that they have the right to do both.

What I find more troubling though is how much time this takes up that could be spent towards more useful purposes. There are violent conflicts in Africa, but Congress is more concerned with the peaceful burning of cloth. American soldiers are dying in Iraq as the current administration mismanages the war, but Congress would rather protect a symbol. We continue to face problems of violence and poverty in our inner-cities, and an AIDS epidemic in the third world. But of course, our legislators would rather work on an issue that has 65% favorable support. More than anything, I wish our elected officials would spend their time on more meaningful issues.

Kristof – Hero for the Voiceless

Although I have often read Nicholas Kristof’s opinion pieces in the New York Times, and I have even blogged about a few of them, it somehow escaped me how tirelessly he has used his position to fight for groups that lack the voice to fight for themselves. Of all the Op-Ed writers for the New York Times and Washington Post, Kristof has been the most vocal about the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan. And when he isn’t talking about Darfur, he is bringing much needed attention to the plight of women in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. One of his most memorable columns described how he paid for the freedom of two young girls who were trapped in the sex trade in Cambodia. What he found after freeing them was the difficulty they faced in trying to stay out of the sex trade – even after further financial support from him. By highlighting these issues, he works to correct them. I think today was the first day I learned to truly appreciate his efforts.

In his most recent column he talks about the problems women still face in Pakistan, and the role President Bush can play.

Then there are Pakistan's hudood laws, which have been used to imprison thousands of women who report rapes. If rape victims cannot provide four male witnesses to the crime, they risk being whipped for adultery, since they acknowledge illicit sex and cannot prove rape.

When a group of middle-class Pakistani women demonstrated last month for equal rights in Lahore, police clubbed them and dragged them to police stations.

As Bush and President Musharraf talk about the sale of F-16s to Pakistan, Kristof says Bush should use this chance to press Musharraf to enact just laws for women in Pakistan. President Bush has some real leverage right now, and it would be a shame if he didn't bother to use it to fight for basic justice for women.

Downing Street Hysteria

I will say this once, and only once. The Downing Street Memos mean nothing. They are, outright, a non-event. As someone who opposed the war, and who skimps on no opportunity to criticize Bush, this is the kind of overwrought reaching that lost the election for John Kerry in 2004 when he spent the final days of the election talking about those bombs in Al-Qaqaa. (You remember that? Neither did I until this, and I guarantee about 100% of Americans don't). These memos suggest a lot of things, that somehow intelligence was carefully assembled into a package that told a certain story, that there was a lack of postwar planning, that America was bent on use of military force. This has caused a lot of the left-flank of the blogosphere to go, quite simply, bananas. To anyone else, it sounds really, really familiar. In fact, too familiar. In fact, so familiar and so old-hat that's it's not even news, and even so much that the Downing Street Memos are close to useless and meaningless in this debate.

Two great sources from Slate partially explain why: Hitch, and Kaplan. In a rare moment of lucidity Hitch says this:
I am now forced to wonder: Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq? This was a fairly open conspiracy, and an open secret. Given that everyone from Hans Blix to Jacques Chirac believed that Saddam was hiding weapons from inspectors, it made legal sense to advance this case under the banner of international law and to treat Saddam "as if" (and how else?) his strategy of concealment and deception were prima facie proof. The British attorney general—who has no jurisdiction in these 50 states—was worried that "regime change" alone would not be a sufficient legal basis. One appreciates his concern. But the existence of the Saddam regime was itself a defiance of all known international laws, and we had before us the consequences of previous failures to act, in Bosnia and Rwanda, where action would have been another word for "regime change."

Kaplan sums it all up:
Read in conjunction with the six other British documents, the case weakens further. The memos do not show, for instance, that Bush simply invented the notion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or that Saddam posed a threat to the region. In fact, the memos reveal quite clearly that the top leaders in the U.S. and British governments genuinely believed their claims.

But they're not the only ones to weigh in on this. Sullivan zeroes in on the post-war planning aspect, but dismisses a lot of the WMD hysteria. The others, are countless. Kevin Drum is a good example of the hyperbole coming out of this when he talks about "criminal neglect."

These memos are not a big deal, or not noteworthy, for three reasons. The first, addressed by Sullivan, Kaplan, and Hitch, is that this is nothing new. We already knew there was minimal postwar planning. This has been clear from the get-go, from what members of Congress have said, from what former Pentagon officials have said, even from what the neocons said before we went to war about being greeted as liberators. Not to mention the fact that it was blatantly obvious from the Jay Garner-Bremer switcheroo in the immediate Post-War Coalition Provincial Authority and the wrangling with Sistani over interim governments. They assumed there wouldn't be a need for extensive post-war operations, as people like Wolfowitz and Perle assured us. They were wrong. It's true, but it's not a new story. The memo says this, but you could infer it yourself at the time, and we know it. So what vindication do the memos provide? Nothing really, they pretty much provide evidence of something most people already knew was the case. We also knew Bush was fully ready to use the military, from Clarke's Against All Enemies and Suskind's The Price of Loyalty books.

Second, they are nothing definitive. This business about "fixed" intelligence is, as I said, overwrought reaching. Never did Bush lie, never was he deceptive. I believe, as Kaplan and others do, that the salesmen believed in their product. I believed in their product. Hans Blix even seemed to believe in their product. Everyone involved thought Iraq had some weapons capability. The evidence may have been cherry-picked, but that's what you do in politics. When's the last time anyone saw any politician sit there laying out their case to do anything, and actually bring up the "con" evidence to their "pro?" NEVER, and I'm not going to hold Bush to a different standard. Only show that they were engaged in this kind of typical political exercise. Does it ever say the evidence was fabricated? Does it ever claim that it was deceptive? No. Only that they were assembling a sales pitch. And, as stated above, this is nothing we didn't know already. The memos don't prove their was any counterfeit evidence. Boooring. Let's move on.

The last thing, and the most damning as to the significance of these memos, is best summed up in a Big Lebowski quote: "That's just like. . .your opinion, man." That's exactly what these memos are. A set of opinions, a set of "what ifs." Nothing in them is new or enlightening, because there's no evidence, there're no specifics, there're only some vague concerns and some political hand-wringing. These memos are grief sheets, inner demons and doubts made public. This is instructive in the fact that it shows some British people had some second thoughts about it, but really it's so familiar because it shows they only had the same concerns that were voiced both before the war and after the war. But what they don't do is show any evidence or proof beyond these doubts, they are merely speculative. Perhaps some feel this is important because some British officials had the same thought or doubt about something they did. Me? I don't need a British officials doubts to mirror my own to boost my self-esteem. And that's all this is, self-aggrandizement. But I'll stick with my statement: these are nothing new, nothing definitive, and nothing factual. . .just some old opinions that have become pretty much conventional wisdom by now. There's no need for alarm. If you still feel passionate about it, put down those British documents and focus on something productive, like how to prevent the next Iraq from happening.

Larry King, moron

The Southern Baptist Convention on June 20, 1995, issued an apology for that church's history of interpreting the Bible to condone slavery. The story was covered on CNN that evening, as well as in major metropolitan newspapers the following morning. Ten years to the day later, it would still be news to CNN’s Larry King, who on Monday prodded evangelical Christian (but not Southern Baptist) Pastor Joel Osteen of Houston’s Lakewood Church if the Southern Baptists should apologize for slavery, noting, "the Senate apologized last week for slavery [sic*]. You think the Southern Baptists and a lot of the churches in the South owe some apology, too?"

The slavery apology by the Southern Baptist Convention was covered by CNN ten years ago to the day on June 20, 1995. A quick Nexis search revealed a story by correspondent Brian Cabell on a 6 o’clock CNN newscast on that date, followed by an interview with then-President of the Southern Baptist Convention Richard Land and another Baptist preacher, Albert Johnson.

The following day, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the hometown paper of CNN’s headquarters, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, were among major metropolitan newspapers to cover the historic apology.

King’s question came 15 minutes into the June 20 edition of Larry King Live with Reverend Osteen and was a rare semi-political departure from the rest of the interview, which dealt with Osteen's theology and pastoral style. The excerpt from the interview, corrected from a CNN transcript against videotape, follows here:

Larry King: "The Senate apologized last week for slavery. You think the Southern Baptists and a lot of the churches in the South owe some apology, too?"

Joel Osteen, Pastor of Lakewood Church in suburban Houston: "I've never thought about it. Because I just didn't -- wasn't raised in it."

King: "But you know its history."

Osteen: "Oh, absolutely. I think that it would never hurt; anything we could do to make amends, the better it can be. That's what I love about our church. It's made up of all different races. That's what life should all be about. That's what God wants it to be."

King: "Doesn't it hurt you that people 50 years ago talking about God and Christ also didn't -- Martin Luther King call 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America? Does it bother you to know that predecessors of yours ..."

Osteen: "Yeah, absolutely bothers me. It's not right. It's a shame, and I don't know how they could do it with a pure heart to God but, you know what? It happened."

The full transcript of the Osteen interview from CNN can be found here.

* The apology King was referring to was actually a Senate resolution to apologize for failing to pass federal anti-lynching legislation in the early 1900's.