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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Up and Down, North and South,

Today, in Concord (I lived there for a short time :-), the Democratic Govenor of New Hampshire, the state with one of the best mottos in the union, John Lynch signed into law civil unions for gay couples, stating:

New Hampshire has "a long and proud tradition taking the lead in opposing discrimination," Lynch said. "Today that tradition continues."

On the other hand, sadly, the Republican-led Federal government continues to appoint what looks like either bigotry or Roman Catholic bigotry to the bench:

In 2001, [Leslie] Southwick joined a ruling that upheld a chancellor's decision to take an eight-year-old girl away from her mother and award custody to the father, who had never married the mother, largely because the mother was living with another woman in a "lesbian home."

Married To A Man

Oh, you didn't go there ...

One of my college rommates was a total sweatheart from Brazil (Rio). Big personality, wonderful guy. However, in Brazil where domestic labor is cheap, he grew up with house servants.

You don't unlearn that in a term or so ...

Anyway, how many gay men are "Oscars", I wonder ...?

Theft or Violence

In other words, low mental ability was associated with violence while the brighter individuals tended to engage in theft.

This could be because successful theft could require more thought, from planning a robbery to tricking another individual, whereas successful violence just requires a target.

No, it's not craftiness or planning / foresight. I believe other studies have shown that it involves a sense of entitlement, sadly.

Fonting your Face

Speaking of fonts, I prefer Verdana, which was designed for web usage, by the great, unregulated utility, Microsoft:

Indeed, Verdana is so much more readable than other common fonts of the same sizes that some have suggested that web authors not specify it for the body text of a web page, because then the author is likely to select a font size that makes the text unreadable when Verdana is unavailable

As for Ambigrams, there is no reason not to find occasion to use the "naked alphabet".

(Separately, I hate websites that do not allow you change the size of the font! The W3C has guidelines for readability related to color contrasts. White-on-black is one of the visually least reader-friendly formats, even though black seems to appeal to many people's layout aesthetics. MIT has a media group that actually studies these things ... I think they may even get paid.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Homeland Security - Does "Orange" Make You Feel Safer, Three Years On?

New Leadership in the Wings: John Edwards spoke out last week against the hapless phrase 'War on Terror'

Expounding what Richard Clarke called the "puppydog theory", President Bush repeated last week that al-qaeda continued to threaten to 'follow us home', while declassifying intelligence that they intend to attack 'at home', regardless.

This calls to attention the lack of preparation in the Homeland and the "C"'s and "F"'s that the 9-11 Commissioners have been handing out on implementation of their recommendations.


Heck, even Michelle Malkin is making the case for how unprepared we are still. "If the Left weren't stuck in 9/10 mode and so bent on demonizing Jacobsen, it would be heralding the OIG report as evidence of the Bush administration's homeland defense ineptitude", quoth she, writing up the latest breakdown in airport security.


A few months ago or so, the Boston police department had that embarrassing episode in which they were unable to swiftly determine that a bunch of blinky promo items weren't a credible threat. Instead of taking it as a clarion call for how ill prepared we remain, the press feasted on the deflection, the demands for damages from the sponsors of the ad campaign and the laws needed to prosecute a hoax...


"While the Defense Department has pushed extra equipment to units in hurricane-prone states in part to compensate for what has been ordered to Iraq, an ABCNews.com investigation has found some Plains and western states have few if any helicopters on hand to respond quickly to a disaster."


The focus on Iraq has taken our eye off many other things that need doing. We haven't been very good at pushing private companies to upgrade the plant and grounds for security reasons. Instead, we seem to be passing out public funds for them to do so. I hope I'm wrong, but I'll bet in 18 months the stories of fraud and abuse will start to pour out from what seems to be a largely unattended taxpayer spigot.


From the NYT Book Review:

"National security policy, the authors argue, should reject the model of a military "war on terror," and instead adopt an intelligence-based approach ...

"The Bush administration's stubborn adherence to the traditional conception of war has caused it to disregard more important and effective defensive actions. The administration, Benjamin and Simon write, has failed to safeguard nuclear weapons materials in the former Soviet Union; failed to identify and protect the most vulnerable targets within the United States, such as water supplies; failed to work effectively with private businesses that are responsible for other vulnerable targets, such as chemical plants; and failed to increase in any significant measure the monitoring of container cargo at shipping ports, of which only one in twenty is inspected.

According to the authors, the FBI is still so reluctant to adapt its methods to the realities of terrorism that it has used its intelligence "analysts" to take out the garbage and answer phones, the result being a very large turnover of employees who should be piecing together scraps of intelligence in order to find terrorists and disrupt their plans."

Last Semblance of Free Speech Dies in Venezuela

"... from Nicaragua to Venezuela an 'oil curtain' is dimming the future" - Winston Churchill, Missouri, 1946, Remix

Thompson Step Closer to Sick Man Candidacy

Thompson moving to hire and fundraise. I cannot believe he is going to do it. Peggy Noonan was right and I was wrong (but, still, selling his futures contract is worth thinking about ...).

Should we think of him as the party janitor, if there is a Rudy bloodletting in Iowa and South Carolina?

Libby Given Standing-O at Conservative Happy Fest

The underprosecution of the decade?:

“It was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute”—the Intelligence Identities act— “as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press,” Fitzgerald wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed late last Friday night.

At the end of the day

Trump Probably Slandered Rosie on FOX

I suspect a review of The Donald's appearance with O'Reilly would be really close to offering up a lawsuit against him for slander, especially the "she ate a lot of cake" comment.

Trump personally shows off his sometimes bankrupt company's er.... pageant properties.
Perhaps he got a call from his lawyers, because, by the time he made it to the late-nite with Larry King, he was bad mouthing everyone on the View, to cover his tracks, most likely, so he couldn't be accused of singling out Rosie or something, just being a general curmudgeon.

I've always associated the Trump name with garishness, given his pink marble monstrosity, but now we can add "classless", without fear of serious challenge. I guess people are mesmerized with having the power to say "you're fired" - how else can we explain the attraction to such a bogus show, like The Apprentice. I cannot think of any business atmosphere where I would rather NOT apprentice, can you?


Its not as if there's a finite number of "terrorists" -TR, quoted at TPM

This assumption, probably not express, is likely one of the fundamental, Rumsfeld misconceptions of the "War on Terror".

There is more to say, but leave it at that (I wish I had the references to the investigative reporting done on what happened to the reports ordered up after Rummy's "Long, Hard Slog" memo / open plea.)

"Verschärfte Vernehmung"

"Verschärfte Vernehmung" to be filed under the Best of the Web.

(I hope this post means that the interns are working out well. Either way, it seems like a new level of excellence.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Edwards on Gay Issues

It appears that Jamie Kirchick is fumbling the ball on a gay issues (again?) and AS is missing the pick up.

The rampant homophobia among Christianist Republicans is not a get-off-free card for Democrats. Or did we learn nothing from the Clinton years? -AS

I have no problem asking Democratic leaders to represent their gay constituents more fully, but it is of course silly to expect any political leader to be way out ahead of the general electorate on almost any political issue.

The GOP is anti-gay ideologically. The Dems are not.
What AS (and probably Jamie) don't realize, however, is that, until gay rights are achieved in full, the Democratic Party will always be formally preferred to the GOP, whatever they self-imagine are the lessons of the Clinton era. The GOP is anti-gay ideologically. The Dems are not - they are just being pragmatic and will shift when the tide of public opinion turns sufficiently.

To wit: The GOP's second-term President could move with electoral impunity to end Don't-Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the polls in its favor, he won't do it and he won't get pressure to do it from his party, because it is a symbolic, ideological loss for them, as they see it.

Oathiness and Cheney's West Point Incitement to Break the Laws of God and Men

Not a bad idea, in reviewing the oath as AS has prompted, to ask people to think of things of higher purpose than Cheney's trying to rescue his torture legacy from the oppprobrium it so widely deserves.

Here is a history of the military oaths.

Dr. Laura Silences Army Wives, Yet Her Army Son Goes Berserk

A lot of people are following the developments over the past week or so in the ongoing National Drama of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, anti-gay mother.

So far as I see, no one has put together these two stories:

Dr. Laura tells Army wives to shut up, while her own soldier-boy may have ... gone into a dishonorable tailspin:

Radio talk show host "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger says she's tired of all the complaints she hears from military wives.

She says those wives "aren't dodging bullets" so she doesn't want to hear any whining.

And while we wait

Radio talk-show host Laura Schlessinger is appealing to news media outlets to respect her son's privacy amid an Army investigation into whether he is behind a lurid personal Web page that featured cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation.

Hey, if true, it wouldn't be the first time Dr. Laura was blindsided by her own self-righteousness.

Maybe she will listen to the concerns of some of those Army wives a little more closely, when she returns from her hiatus.

(hat-tip to bloggernista, here and here)

Cheney Thinks "War" is "Realistic" ... or was that Ideal?

In Cheney At West Point, AS writes all that is true.

Cheney won the early disagreements within the Administration, post 9/11, not to collect evidence and attempt trials, but to just use ... torture and proverbial firing squads.

Now, the truth is that we don't need extraordinary authorities to fight terrorism.

What we need are extraordinary expertise, finesses, and a comprehensive program to diffuse and combat the appeal of the jihadi message, with a view toward containing it and causing it to attenuate over the long term.

Sure, the jihadi manuals talk about taking advantage of Western sensitivities, but that doesn't mean we have to let them or that we have to throw away the whole system of justice, just to "show them we are tough, too!".

Truth is that we could have gotten by with a few changes to our surveillance laws, some improved administrative abilities to unwind terrorist networks, and maybe some tribunals, in circumstances where the court-review suggested that was appropriate.

The Comey Watershed

In The Crisis Within AS notes, "The latest reporting on the DOJ scandal reveals something quite remarkable."

Actually, I think this whole episode is bone chilling. This is the kind of stuff that you expect in banana Republics.

Seriously - seriously! - the only thing missing from this putsch is Bush availing Gonzales, et. al. of a few "loyal" Marines for his trip to "persuade" Ashcroft, or some other means of "persuasion".

Oh, and this is also why, Senator Lindsey Graham, despite all his gifts, just continually gets it wrong. This is the President, 'the man', 'the big boss', to whom Senator Graham would like to defer the entire designation of "enemy combatant". He thinks the Executive should make that decision, without judicial meddling.

Just say, "No!" to Lindsey, please.

Fixing Health Care

In Sicko, AS asks, "How radical is Michael Moore"?

The truth is that a lot of other, quite sober folks have asked for a single payor system.

There is a compelling case to be made that the insurance pools, as they exist today, are no longer serving the public interest.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Athlete of the Week

I haven't had time to keep up, lately, but this week's goes to Tyson Gay, who continues to show he is the man to beat on the track this year. Below he does the 100M in 9.79.

Quotus re Quotus

Quote for the day on our New Militarism:

But what is happening to the Republican party -- the transformation of its base from Falwell/Robertson social conservatism obsessed with abortion and gay rights into a macro version of the Little Green Footballs comment section, obsessed instead with, literally excited by, detaining and torturing people, maximizing government domestic surveillance, starting still new wars in the Middle East and being far more brutal with the current ones ("doing what needs to be done") -- is too extreme to ignore. - Glenn Reynolds

"The Greatest Exponent of Liberalism in My Lifetime"

.. so says, AS.

I like Barack too.

But where are his "friends of Bill"? In other words, even if I were to trust his intellect over his inexperience, I worry that he doesn't have the institutional support that some others do. Put plainly, could his Presidency get too easily stabbed, as did another great liberal exponent's, from Plains, Georgia?

Undecided, for now.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An Enemy Soooo Bad, We Need Torture - NOT!


Let them hate us, as long as they fear us.
- Caligula (Gaius Caesar)

AS is noting "the Pentagon's strange and sudden decision to release graphic drawings of al Qaeda torture techniques" in taking up some of his critics with this:

What al Qaeda and Saddam did was an extreme form of sadistic torture, the kind that psychopaths enjoy and inflict. But that does not make, say, freezing someone to near-death, reviving him, re-freezing him again any less torture. Yes, we did that, carefully monitored by Rumsfeld. -AS


The truth is that there are and will be American citizens among us who want to fight torture with torture, whose impulse it is to fight terror with terror.

It's even worse, because they will call themselves 'true patriots' and decry others as unaware of the true nature of our enemies, a nature that they intuit as requiring us to torture, as if our nature should be dictated (or corrupted?) by the nature of our enemies ... [btw, this is the stepping off point, I believe, for why 'terrorism' or, more generally, 'political violence' is fundamentally a moral challenge, not a military one].

When I am at my most cynical, I worry that it is done in order to save 'dear Leaders' Bush-Cheney from fates up to and including impeachment.

Sometimes, when I think it cannot be any worse than that, I feel as though some of the pro-torture lobby are actually trying to spin the torture legacy of Bush-Cheney, rather than own up to it as unlawful and unwise and almost abjectly unproductive - and, as we now know, most certainly murderous.

These feelings and their largely right-wing Sherpas are strong enough that they form part of a political movement, arguably. Just as the GOP set out to trash the U.N. when public opinion in favor of multilateralism was too high for what George Tenant euphemistically calls Administration 'policy', some are ready now to soften the beaches against the overwhelming public opinion against torture. When I am at my most cynical, as I say, I worry that it is done in order to save 'dear Leaders' Bush-Cheney from fates up to and including impeachment.


New Leadership in the Wings: John Edwards spoke out this week against the hapless phrase 'War on Terror'

The political problem is that we need to get past "war on terror" and "everything possible to protect the American people" and onto smart counterterrorism. RAND has recently pointed the way with its report on 'cognitive COIN', which casts the struggle with militant radicalism as global counter-insurgency. (If nothing else, perhaps this report can go a long way to settling the disagreement to the extent it exists within the military).

Democratic primary votes should go to the candidate who has the wits to ditch "war on terror" and ditch "what I'm going to do in the 'war on terror'" and starts to educate the public about smart counterterrorism and global counterinsurgency. Let's hope to find those phrases in the Democratic tag-clouds, I say, before the GOP have time to pervert the doctrines of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, too!


I'm not sure I'd focus on the act of torture as a psychopathy or sadism, but would rather highlight its gravely deliterious effects on the torturer, notwithstanding. Another, better focus is on the political ends of torture.

Saddam and al-qaeda used torture as a means to achieve their political ends. Baathism in general has a violently suppressive streak in it, and it took a student of Stalin to take it to the next level. Al-qaeda groups (and others), when they aren't competing against each other to see who can be the most 'shocking', use their violence also to intimidate, to sow fear among those who do not subscribe to their vision of 'justice', to their politics.

Now, I think we can concede that we also use violence (or the threat of it) in our societies as an ordering principle (and, oh, how the jihadis know the list of how we do and have, especially when it was done poorly according to Islamic law because it fits with their narrative of the 'corrupt' West). What I think that the 'enlightened' world can categorically reject is the notion that we need torture to be part of that ordering whatsoever.

In other words, we can easily reject a priori the notion that, "We are the good guys, so using torture to our own ends is okay and needed to protect 'our good' from 'their evil'." No, we are the 'good guys' because we don't need torture to order our societies. Also, we can go further and say, our rule of law, the Spirit of the Laws of Our People, do not require or permit us lawfully to torture the innocent, in pursuit of information that might 'protect Our Good', for what profit is it to lose one's soul to gain the world?

This principled realization is backed up by the observations that torture, as a general proposition, seldom produces anything actionable, is counterproductive if we wish to shield our own from torture done by others, confounds the battlefield wish that 'the enemy' surrender (who would surrender if you know you are going to be tortured), and is solidly and definitively no way to run a counterinsurgency that aims to get and keep the support of the general populace against a minority disruption, even a spectacularly powerful and heinous one.

The end of Idol on FOX

We are soooo over the Idol here.

First, it wasn't Melinda, then not Blake. And now poor Jordin ends up with a gutter-ball starter-song, "This is my now" (and Blake, too?). Can you imagine a worse artistic fate?

Well, at least until it gets stale, I can make both of us break into howls by peppering my commentary at unexpected moments with "This is my now!".

Week 21: a Pretty Horrible Week in U.S. Politics

For any number of reasons, this seemed like a particularly depressing week in U.S. politics.


The Nation continued on with its failed President, who seems blithely unaware that he created a war in Iraq with the possibility that he cannot finish it, that he and his probably created more of a terrorist threat than he has so far contained, let alone attenuated or destroyed.

His latest 'supplemental appropriation', which some have called a death warrant for another X number of soldiers, will likely bring the war past the point at which his reckless pursuit of what he called 'the war on terror' and 'fighting offense' and 'fighting over there (as if that were an advantage)' will have cost more American lives than those lost on 9/11.

Even after the clear inefficacy of bombing Hezbollah last summer, comes plausible word this week the implacable Mr. Cheney would like to bomb Iran. While the world's opinion is galvanized against Iran and they sow the seeds of their own demised with their recent kidnappings, it comes to light that the CIC probably just sowed our inability to tell any kind of law-and-order counternarrative of our own by authorizing our own variety of "diablo" on them, with an old-world style CIA black-ops campaign (yes, that was a reference to Chavez, who held up the chronicle of our little black-book of secrets at the U.N. just recently). Way to fight anti-Americanism, Mr. President - send in the CIA, unbound ...

Last, against the backdrop of an 'illegal' war, which is great fuel to the jihadi narrative, comes increasing evidence of an Administration so self-assured that it was willing to go to war against Saddam without a corroborating intelligence estimate of a clear and present danger.


Against the backdrop of an unpopular President and an unpopular wartime prosecution, the Congress was yet again unable to firmly face-up to the quagmire costs of ending the war, one way or another.

Even if one agrees that honest people can disagree about terminating the conflict and when, the meme that appears to have carried the day is fear of appearing to not 'fund our troops'. This attitude continues to 'shock and awe' me. Since when has the making of peace and war been tied to respecting or disrespecting the troops? How can it be that all peacekeeping and stabilization activities are perpetual, out of respect of doing no harm to the troops?

Surely, the Democratic caucus should have hived off and voted an appropriation to demobilize the troops. Afterall, we the taxpayers, via our Congress, pre-authorized a 'victory party' for OIF, as it was put forward in one of the prior appropriation requests. If something that odd can be funded, then surely we can appropriate the money to bring the troops home, so there isn't this bogus question of them being stranded in the desserts of Iraq.

This attitude continues to 'shock and awe' me. Since when has the making of peace and war been tied to respecting or disrespecting the troops? How can it be that all peacekeeping and stabilization activities are perpetual, out of respect of doing no harm to the troops?

The democratic leadership look like they don't understand how to calculate, agree or rhetorically defend a maximum bargaining position, so they have ended with nothing much except maybe pulling the field of Democratic nominee hopefuls to the left. But even that isn't completely true.

To get the appropriation passed, we ended up with Democratic pork in the bill, instead of Republican pork. Yee-haw!

And, to rub salt in the wound, the President was never once, that I know, asked to actually pay for his FOURTH 'supplemental' appropriation, to submit even as much as a plan to do so. Coupled with implications of an all-volunteer force, we have four years of sacrifice-free war for non-military families (something that Milton Friedman probably never envisioned in his marginal analysis).

The Dems are now fully complicit in tax freedom-to-fund and the voters don't have any choice, because of our hamstrung two party system that allows us to shuttle back-and-forth between the bad governance of the two wings on the business party, as Chomsky put it once. (Early analysis suggests that the Chinese trade negotiators earned their keep this week, too).


Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy continues to defend the bogus looking immigration compromise (one report had him convince Senator Akaka not to vote for the amendment that would have ditched the seriously flawed 'temporary work' provisions). I'll look around, but it doesn't seem like anything much has been elucidated as to why this bill is worthy, apart from the empty assurance that this is the best that can be got.


Last, the White House released a bizarrely composed photo of VP Cheney and his wife with Mary and Heather's newborn son (and latest heir to the Cheney-Haliburton fortune), although the two parents were no where to be seen. It is perhaps the crowning artistic expression of this administration's "Where's Waldo?" approach to gays and lesbians in the nation.

The Hebrew "Samuel", conventionally meaning 'asked of God', is a beautiful choice for the child, but is somehow a delusion if you ask, say, Family Scholars' swells.

O'Reilly Announces He Will Green Light Torture on Upcoming Program with Tenant

New espisode of prime-time O'Reilly soap, As the Stomach Turns, will air:

O'Reilly promised on his show Friday that he would continue his interview with Tenant and the topic will be torture. Specifically, he intends to push the general FOX agenda that 'torture is o.k. and useful and something we must do' by examination of the KSM case.

Be prepared for "fair and balanced" to be thrown under the train as O'Reilly steamrolls his way to ... well, I was going to say 'hell', but I'll just say "his own, triumphant moral cul-de-sac".

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rovian Political Milieu Torpedoes Another Bush Appointee, Laurita Doan


While Monica Goodling was busy capturing attention with anticipation of her testimony and her admission that she was apparently so self-smothered with 'permanent majority', Hewitt-missionary-cum-GOP-Federalist-Society-happy-talk that she didn't even have the frame of reference to wonder whether her political screening might either be unethical, counter-productive, or illegal -- how else can one imagine that she is truthful about having crossed the line 'innocently' -- the Office of Special Counsel, a quiet little group, has concluded that Laurita Doan broke the law by being similarly enthusiastic to a fault.

A while back, the Waxman-led committee looked into the matter of GSA Administration and Bush appointee, Laurita Doan. (The GSA does centralized contracting for the US gov't).

Doan's regular lunchtime "team meeting" for non-career types was used by widgets in Rove's office to hold forth on how to target and defeat Democrats in the upcoming 2008 elections.

A report is coming that concludes that Doan's involvement, which she described as ancillary at best, was meaningful and substantive enough that she likely broke the law, the Hatch Act. Naturally, the article is concluding that the President will continue to follow his "Harvard Rules" of good governance and continue in his Special Way to restore dignity to the Office of the President, as he promised in his 2000 election campaign ... yuk, yuk.

Seymour Hersh: Fatah al-Islam, like Osama before them, is an Uncle Tom

When I read stories about terrorists that our government likes Cheney-Abrams-Bandar like, it's just absolutely crazy enough to be true ...

And I say three cheers to Edwards for taking on that hapless phrase, "War on Terror". If that phrase ever meant anything specific, the GOP have emptied it. The list is long. Just look at what went wrong at Walter Reed to get a sense for whether this Administration really believes it is "at war", or whether it just trots that formulation out when it wants to win elections and pass legislation without accountability. Yes, there is a threat, but the more we think about the challenge as "war" the more incapacitated we render ourselves.

Oh, and by the way, even $200K tax-free didn't allow Wolfowitz to keep his girlfriend ... ouch, IF you believe the NY Post!

Last, 111 degrees in Baghdad and environs today ...

A View of 'The View'

I always like Rosie, her humor, her direct style, her fearlessness.

The problem with the current flap on The View is that both sides are wrongly expressed.

1. I don't think that Operation Iraqi Freedom is a "terrorist" undertaking, however poorly conceived, planned, and executed it has been.
2. It's very plain that Rosie has been getting smeared with the 'our troops are terrorists' meme. I say this after having watched the disgusting segment on Scarborough, in which he repeated it over and over again ("stay tuned") in the lead up to a thinly reported segment on it (sorry Joe, some people can spot dirty-media tactics such as that one, you stuffed shirt).

Either way, to resolve it, it seems that both sides are going to have to climb down.

There are personality types that tend to personalize conflict and negative feedback. What's your 'emotional IQ' telling you about what needs to be done? Does anything from books like this one apply?

Gay Citizens Victims of DoD's Outsourcing Mentality

Marine Maj. Stewart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Defense Department is enforcing the law [after dismissing more gay arabic linguists].

"The Department of Defense must ensure that the standards for enlistment and appointment of members of the armed forces reflect the policies set forth by Congress," he said, adding that those dismissed can serve their nation by working as contractors or at other federal agencies.

Every now and then you get a glimpse of current reality as seen through the rear-view mirror. In the long struggle for freedom, how many minority groups have heard the injunction, "If you don't like it here, you can always go elsewhere?"

Al-qaeda is on the lips of the President, even to the point of being crassly extolled at a commencement ceremony where few were probably inspired by his seemingly out-of-place words, yet we throw away this generation's "code talkers".

Civil rights IS "readiness".

Songs for the Choir: Popular Conservative Publishing

'Douthat comma Ross' notices the Audacity of Mediocrity passing as "book" in some quarters today.

These books are the gaslight in the echo chamber of popular conservatism, a moth-flame to insulant inanity.

People can and ought to read what they want, but I worry when a cult develops in which such texts are treated as more than guilty pleasure ... so I agree with Ross suggesting what he has (who, at his best, gets 'Hitchen's Awards' for the erstwhile incisiveness of his 'furiously scribbled prose').


To be complete, I do disagree with him about National Journal's cover on American retrenchment. To be sure, the U.S. economy has proven to be remarkably resiliant in the past ten years, but we (and our European allies) are also more exposed, economically and politically.

There is a chance for the next Democratic President to use the recognition of this fact to build a foreign policy orientation as significant as any in the last century.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The "Secret" Talk on Osama

The Bush Admin has alternated, over time, between OBL being public enemy #1 and OBL being reduced to near irrelevance.

In prep for today's talky-talk, we get this:

WASHINGTON - President Bush, trying to defend his war strategy, declassified intelligence Tuesday asserting thatOsama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005 to form a terrorist cell that would conduct attacks outside Iraq — and that the United States should be the top target.

But, the CIA has also reported this, which suggests Iraq was a bridge too far, despite some indications that the tide might be turning on AQI.

Washington: A major CIA effort launched last year to hunt down Osama Bin Laden has produced no significant leads on his whereabouts, but has helped track an alarming increase in the movement of Al Qaida operatives and money into Pakistan's tribal territories, according to senior US intelligence officials familiar with the operation.

In one of the most troubling trends, US officials said that Al Qaida's command base in Pakistan increasingly is being funded by cash coming out of Iraq, where the terrorist network's operatives are raising substantial sums from donations to the anti-American insurgency as well as kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis and other criminal activity.

[See also Opium reportedly growing in Iraq's Southern region - although a financing link there would suggest a financial cooperation between Sunni-Shia extremist groups that I would doubt, because I've only seen logistical and operational cross-support stories (with all the caveats that I'm not an expert, etc.)]

Cracks in the Pavement: Rummy Dissed Down Under

Nothing to add here:

Canberra: Former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the Iraq war verged on criminal negligence, a former Australian army lawyer-turned-political hopeful said yesterday.
[Col John] Kelly, who was among the most senior Australian officers in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, was scathing of Rumsfeld's role.
"If I look at people like Donald Rumsfeld, all I can say is, that verges on criminal negligence," Kelly told the ABC of Rumsfeld's failure to acknowledge problems in Iraq.

The blame-free zone ...

Suit against Rumsfeld thrown out
AP Washington: A federal judge says despite horrifying torture of US prisoners alleged to have been committed in overseas prisons during former Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's tenure, his position in the government shields him from being sued.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Exit Strategy is Really Just Phase III


To me, 'lilly pad' is just code for force projection, which is a bizarrely wagered goal in that region, on almost all sets of circumstance. Think Progress picks up on the possibility that Iraq will "need" the U.S. indefinitely to hold the line against Iran and ... Turkey.

Coupled with these observations and the comments about Algeria just below, "leave Iraq" still means "reduce Iraq to a 'managed conflict' (at least, it all seems to fit together like that):

  • The expansive Iraq embassy, getting finished now, 2007, in September! (a project which I used to justify as necessary, given the U.S.' huge responsibilities in Iraq, but now appears to be something far greater.)
  • The CBO cost projections based on a drawdown to a 30K troop level
  • The four "enduring" U.S. military mega-bases
  • A plan to increase the size of the standing U.S. army by ... you guessed it, 30-40K over the upcoming years.

What the Hoover Institute Pays Salary for, These Days ...

Dinesh D'Souza's new book is called ""What's So Great About Christianity." -AS

I can just feel the World's anticipation, can't you, to hear what Dinesh has to say that 2,000+ years of the world's best thinkers haven't already...

Meanwhile, I seldom take victory laps, but when you are at as much a distance from these buckos and you nail it, you really nail it:

... since I am in the process of finishing my new book What’s So Great About Christianity, out from Regnery in October. -D. D'Souza,

It sounds like he just unwillingly changed publishers to The Regnery Press ... who I imagine will be happy to have him. - D'Souza Lampoons Himself , 2/14/07

Immigration Polling: GOP Hucksters Moving Minds

The "GOP line" on immigration has gotten some traction, Rasmussen suggests.

Also, polling the issue state-by-state.

To me, the polls continue to show a lot of fear-based ill will and a considerable amount of misinformation. Some polls show over 40% believing that immigration is a net drain on the U.S. economy! Ay!

(By the way, FOX, regular-way Social Security payments are based on a formula, not on citizenship exclusively...)

Iraqi Lessons from Algeria

Noteworthy signposts on the long road to democracy (long road):

Many of Algeria's problems [after the new parliamentary elections this week] are obviously unique to Algeria. But Algeria's difficult experience may have some lessons that can be applied to today's crisis in Iraq as well as to the question of democracy elsewhere in the Arab world, especially in places like Egypt where rule has long been entrenched by military-backed authoritarian regimes.

One lesson from Algeria is that while Bush and Iraqi politicians may raise expectations for "progress" and even "success," actually achieving stability in Iraq is likely to take years if not decades.

A related lesson is that it takes years to defeat a determined insurgency.

Another lesson is what Algeria expert Hugh Roberts calls "the failure of premature reform." Algeria was pushed into extreme crisis by the regime's decision to open the country to free elections in the late 1980s.

And, of course, the curse of oil:

The high oil price and resulting buoyant revenue have given the "distributive state" in Algeria a new lease on life. As a result, the regime’s capacity to co-opt opposition and buy social peace is high and the effective pressure for fundamental institutional reform is low.

(btw, this smackdown of 'Cheney of Arabia' is a primer on how to abuse positions of privledge and the stuff for which journalists get garlands.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Gay Couples Left Out of 'Landmark' Immigration Reform

I worried about this in March, and so far, it seems to be true that the current immigration bill doesn't address the concerns of gay and lesbian citizens.

The bill is busy in eliminating family categories and so forth. Wouldn't it be a hoot if someone actually put in some language for 'gay relationships', just to put the GOP's President on the spot when he talks about civil rights for gays, while exhorting everyone to his sacred view of marriage. Why not risk a veto, just to get the GOP on record? It's not like the GOP don't want the immigration issue resolved. They do. Final passage is not at risk. It's not a 2008 winner for them at the polls, so far as I can tell (the Gallup polls that I read suggested that 'hard' views on the immigration reform are not broadly supported).

Meanwhile, the rest of the bill is a junk compromise, so far as I can tell. The so-called "touchback" provision, in which folks have to apply for entry via their home country seems ripe for Administrative abuse and manipulation. We know how corrupt officials can be ... and how "conservative" appointees, even in the DOJ, are naught but Rove-widgets, both sides of the border. It looks as though there might be a significant chance that someone might leave the country on a 'touchback' errand and never get back in, legally. (It's a long bill, and I stand to be corrected on that.)

Instead of employers evaluating and demanding the skills they need, we have some government agency giving out green cards based on government estimates of the same. That looks like a recipe for disaster, if you ask me. What's more, if you want to take care of your tia in your home and she doesn't have "skills", you get an arbitrary 50% or so consideration (I don't have the exact figure) versus "skilled workers" and asylum seekers.

The Republicans who forced these compromises ought to have just called it what it is, The Labor Importation and Taxation Act of 2007. (Taxation because you have to pay the US government a $5,000 "fine" to move from illegal to legal, if you are a non-resident alien, before whatever it is that you have to pay to travel home to pay your home-country government for their 'consideration' as well).

The Epidemiology of Political Blog Reading

...it is true that a good deal of research on human cognition supports the premise that we seek out “feedback that fits”: our perception, retention, and opinion-evaluations are selective and self-serving. -blogger, on a Dole Politics website, covering a WaPo story and writing on whether or not people seek opposing political opinions or re-enforcing ones. (also here).


Do you find you 'read around'? Heck, I'm just as likely - if not more - to read the latest conservative contrivances as I am to check in with the neo-Galbraith's, the grappling greens, or the recently-ascending libertarians. Up to the point that it just becomes rhetorical posturing, it does, I find, sharpen your thought(s).

I'm as likely to make a link or to or drop a comment on a right-wing political blog as anywhere else, but I guess that puts me in a minority on the blogosphere, that I didn't know about. So many minorities, so much fringe, so little time ... As always, I'm too much of a Gamma-Delta-Iota, I guess, except in my wanderings I never lose sight of who 'my own' might be, in terms of a political community. (I regurgitate over hopelessly self-reflective blogging, so this post will end, shortly).

The only thing for sure is that I hate websites that tell me how to think or act, rather than try to persuade me about what is important and empower me to figure out why. I loathe the Little Green Footballers, on that basis. I find non-interactive sites a "sin" against the spirit of the internet, and people who abuse interactivity to be the laxatives of dialog.

Netroots Starts to Grab "Free Trade" Flower by the Roots

I read every word of this back-and-forth, which pulled together some of the more informed and balanced commentary than you'll get, so far, from the old-platform media (outside of this lukewarm reception). It also pulls together who some of the players are on the Democratic side, working on trade issues currently.

There is a SWAT-I provided for in the recent agreement ("Strategic Worker Assistance and Training Initiative"), but no information on how this is to be paid for. I'm not a zippy trade economist, but this stands to reason: unless we ask for "free trade" to actually pay the transition costs, then don't we have the worst of two worlds, privatizing the "benefits" of trade and socializing the unpaid costs?

In other words, we vote for a "free trade" policy that provides a private benefit for companies who find non-U.S. workers at lower costs and then we vote to mitigate the pain to U.S. workers by creating "social cost" programs that are a public cost paid for by all the other workers, giving ourselves a double-whammy. Would it be unreasonably to ask "free trade" to pay for its social costs, a so-called 'transition recovery-tax on trade'?

Also, if the Dems have to give-up some 'consumption taxes' to the GOP to get some other goals (like paying for Bush-Cheney's 'free' war), would it make sense to have an 'partial equalization tax' on 'cheap labor', low enough that companies still have a profit motive to take advantage of trade opportunities?

Plenty of other issues, but I'm going to hit the books to see what some trade economists have been proposing in relation to my two taxes.

Last month, well known economist Alan Blinder concluded "I estimate that somewhere between 22% and 29% of all U.S. jobs are or will be potentially offshorable within a decade or two." Given that markets respond so quickly, the challenge to policymakers is not to fall behind or be complacent about the status quo.

Update: Dave Sirota, ahead coming out of the first turn, with two posts on the matter.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Bad-boy look?

Nah, couldn't be ...

I'm hoping that Tobey got contract 'points' for his Spidey appearances - anyone know if he did and/or how much?

Gay Wedding Planning

I have a frigging wedding to plan. -AS

Hey, Google "Gay Wedding Planning". Some folks were handing out giant "how to" compendiums at Philly's Equality Forum a few weeks ago. (And you know how well the bride-to-be magazines sell through and just how much of an industry "wedding parties" have become that the 'gay community' will not long be underserved).

(btw, it's not just 'leftists' whining about losing their "edge". I'd wager that not every conservative truly wants a pre-fab relationship structure.)

Impartiality, an Obliged Victim of Struggle and Crisis Within Islam

Robert Fisk trains his eye on the worrisome trend toward blinding the eyes of the public, journalists as targeted by extremists in the field and sometimes ignored by the military:

Yet our job [as journalists] is now ever more cabin'd, cribbed, confined. And "our" side likes it that way. Neither the Americans nor the British want us scurrying around unsupervised in Iraq, nosing out the lies of our governments, uncovering the dirty deeds of the US air force in Iraq or, for that matter, in Afghanistan.

And so it has come to pass. We cannot move in most of Iraq for fear of being butchered by our countries' enemies. We cannot move in southern Afghanistan. Italian journalists might be ransomed by their governments. Afghan journalists - I am thinking of the reporter/translator of the Italian who was kidnapped - simply have their heads chopped off. Never has reporting been so circumscribed by these terrors. Never have we been so poorly informed.

BBC's petition to focus World Opinion on the horrific transgression of kidnapping Alan Johnston.

International Press Institute's recent resolutions.

Re-thinking Evangelicalism in America, On the Occasion of the Death of Jerry Falwell

Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. -Voltaire
An exceptionally sound assessment of the misdirected ministry of Jerry Falwell, based on a better vision, the road not traveled.

Teaser quote:

Falwell could have reasoned with secularists and told them that even if we can't agree on a woman's right to choose, we can surely agree that a woman shouldn't be put into a situation where she is forced to choose. Women need to be educated to value themselves and demand commitment from a man whose claim to love them is all words and no action.

THE SAME is true of gay marriage. Falwell and other evangelical leaders argued that this is the defining moral issue of our time and, if allowed, would destroy the institution of marriage. But with a 50-percent divorce rate in nearly every Western country, how much of marriage is there left to destroy anyway?

Heterosexuals need no help from gays in eviscerating marriage. We have done a fine job on our own. If the intention was to save the American family, Falwell could have created a broader and more meaningful tent ...

Le Plafond Rose: Le Monde Covers the "Pink Ceiling" for Gays

Writing about the "pink ceiling" in gay finance, Le Monde author observes:

S'il avait avoué son homosexualité, Lord Browne n'aurait jamais pu gagner l'ultime marche du piédestal de la multinationale. En effet, rares sont les patrons britanniques à avoir franchi le pas en avouant leur orientation sexuelle.

Update: iNfoRmaTION age of AnXiety


More in the long, long line of scamming the elderly, but this time abetted by fee-for-service information databases:

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.
The banks and companies that sell such services often confront evidence that they are used for fraud, according to thousands of banking documents, court filings and e-mail messages reviewed by The New York Times.

Although some companies, including Wachovia, have made refunds to victims who have complained, neither that bank nor infoUSA stopped working with criminals even after executives were warned that they were aiding continuing crimes, according to government investigators. Instead, those companies collected millions of dollars in fees from scam artists. (Neither company has been formally accused of wrongdoing by the authorities.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Mansfield's Machismo: Part II

AS posts a note about the executive power and manliness, calling up an interview in which Professor Harvey Mansfield juxtaposes the two.

I've been meaning to actually get to the book on the subject, to make a fuller comment, but that appears unlikely to happen, now.

I think in his op-ed piece, Mansfield is talking about a "strong executive", which is more than an executive. We might say it equates to an extra-judicial executive, even.

On that view, his juxtaposition remains unchanged, but doesn't apply to the WSJ piece, which is about another kind of executive.

(pundits view / re-view Manliness)

Ron Paul on "The View"

Sorry, Andrew, but I ... I can't. They get into these fracas on "The View" and I can't take it. It's like the opening scene from the classic, "The Women", which goes on just long enough to set the stage by causing you to pull your hair.

It's not just a gender thing either. I couldn't take much of "Firing Line", especially when Pat Buchanan was on - there is something about Pat's voice or delivery that makes you just want to head for the hills.

'Global Consumers', Maybe Democrats Sell Out Chinese Labor and More


I was looking for Bruce Bawer's interview with Bill Moyers last night (I was late and missed it), but I caught his interview with John MacArthur, Harper's publisher.


Basically, MacArthur's thesis, fairly well defended so far as I could tell, is that the Democratic Party has 'sold out' on trade issues, either because they don't understand them enough to formulate a defensible policy or because, perhaps more likely, they sell out the issue in order to fund raise. (In his view, my writing about a "Lion of the party" is a vain hope, indeed, on trade issues.) MacArthur puts his arguments in the context of fast-track, which amounts to an end-run around the democratic process. Given the eye-popping issues in ceded sovereignty associated with NAFTA, I'm inclined to take him at his word ...

Now, I'm pretty pro-business (whatever that means, exactly, but take it to mean 'against artificial restraint'), but when China labor is either free (see below) or costs just 3% on average of US wages as far out as the eye can see, then I start thinking that these disproportions ought to be managed.

There ought to be some 'enforceability' of international labor standards, in terms of carrots and sticks. What's more, because 'structural shifts' are costly in the U.S. and for all the reasons in my prior post, some type of equalization tax or 'transition tax' seems in order, just so long as it is not too high.

To be sure, 'trade policy' is complex and not nearly as sexy to 'net roots' as is, say, war ethics - perhaps. But, make no mistake about it, the fact that issues as important as trade policy can float by on fastrack with high-level Democratic approval is just as much meat for the grinder.

Jehangir S. Pocha, in this issue of The Nation:

Global consumers buying $25 Chinese-made DVD players usually assume Chinese labor is cheap because the country has a limitless supply of poor workers. But the morally cumbersome truth is that the Chinese government systematically prevents workers from being paid the full value of their labor. Chinese workers can join several state-controlled unions, but since the state and politically connected clans, or families, own most of the Chinese economy, official union representatives who work too zealously first get a warning smack on the wrist--then worse. Ask Kong Youping. After Kong, a trade union official in Liaoyang, raised the ire of local officials by fighting doggedly for the rights of recently laid-off workers, he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

This power imbalance between owners and workers in China means that almost 200 million Chinese workers go to bed every night in overcrowded dormitory rooms after having worked eighteen-hour days in Dickensian factories where some employees are literally worked to death. The phenomenon has even added a new word to the Mandarin vocabulary: guolaosi, or overwork death, where fatigued workers fall off their stools bleeding from the ears, nose and anus.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bush on Comey

Bush takes the rhetorical fifth on Comey.

I can understand Cheney being at an undisclosed location.

But now we have undisclosed hospital bedside visits of senior cabinet officials?

Forget Rosie: GOP Candidates and Fox News questioners are bad for the troops

The United States Military Academy at West Point yesterday [12-Feb-07] confirmed that Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently travelled to California to meet producers of the show, broadcast on the Fox channel. He told them that promoting illegal behaviour in the series - apparently hugely popular among the US military - was having a damaging effect on young troops.

According to the New Yorker magazine, Gen Finnegan, who teaches a course on the laws of war, said of the producers: "I'd like them to stop. They should do a show where torture backfires... The kids see it and say, 'If torture is wrong, what about 24'?

To its great credit, the US military is actively trying to fix the legacy of Rumsfeld and his generals:

This is the first time questions about ethics have been asked during any combat situation, Pentagon officials said, adding that the questions came at the request of Army Gen. George Casey, the former senior U.S. commander in Iraq who recently took over as Army chief of staff.

With evidence like this, why pussyfoot? Let's just say it: Giuliani is not fit for duty, not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.

Getting the "Torture Question" Right

The Washington Post and Greg Djerejian weigh in on the Republican party's shift toward withdrawal from the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. -AS

So, we're all pundits here, how would you have advised your favorite Democratic candidate to answer Brit Hume's question?

I think that one way is to zero in on Hume's premise, that "intelligence" believes that there is another attack. (Romney got started on an unspoken premise, but not this one, before he nose dived).

Given how poorly Bush-Cheney used intelligence, I think Democratic candidates could build confidence by showing that they know how to actually use intelligence product, how to weigh, question and interpret it.

So, one answer might be, "Brit, if we had specific, credible intelligence that there would be another attack, we would likely be able to thwart the attack. Otherwise, we risk torturing an innocent person based on intelligence that may well be completely wrong, and that would not only be the wrong action to take but it would be imprudent."

This highlights the fallacy of the Bush Administration's rhetoric, which apparently still is not dead yet, namely, the assumption that everyone at Gitmo is 'guilty' 'terrorist' and that we only listen to international calls from al-qaeda. (I mean seriously, if it is so easy to tell who is a terrorist just by looking or listening, then why isn't the struggle over yet?)

Personally, I continue to like the view of torture adopted by the Israeli supreme court (who knows more about terror in the last 40 years than the Israelis, maybe? Certainly NOT Senator Lindsey Graham. Probably not even Charles Krauthammer.). It's not the decision of the President or the commander, but the decision of how far to go is in the hands of highly skilled interrogators, who face serious jeopardy if they get it wrong. This has all the right balances in the right places, so far as I can tell. There is no "list" of "enhanced" or "normal" anythings and torture remains an illegal and punishable offense, notwithstanding.

Jimmy Carter Shows Leadership on Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell

Former President Jimmy Carter, a Navy man, shows the way, calling for an end to the once expedient, now useless military policy that continues to harm military readiness.

Waiting and watching you, Laura Bush. You too, Mr. Gates. Carpe diem. You may serve at the Pleasure of the President, but you are the servants of the People.

A 'no confidence' vote? Or just send in the replacements already.

Maybe that works.

I haven't had the time to watch closely the developments in the politicization of Justice, but I'm starting to get the sense that some of this stuff might fit into a dossier called "impeachment files of the President of the United States".

I would never suggest such a thing, even for a President I didn't like, except that it is becoming plain that this Administration is not likely to "wake up" to the fact that they are not plenipotents in-between election dates, until and unless someone actually threatens to fire them.

The GOP might pick a couple of replacements from their ranks and we have 612 days left to figure out the constitutionality of it and not a single one to waste.

If the White House wants to play "hardball", then Leahy and Waxman ought to stop with the small fry and start sending in the subpeonas on the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld torture regime...

Listening, Acting is not "Giving in" to Terrorists

AS asks:

So should we listen to OBL in trying to understand the motivations for his actions? Or shouldn't we?

We should listen - and learn - so that we can sidestep, and thereby discredit, their narratives, which helps, in the short term, to contain them, and in the long-term, to attenuate their appeal.

The problem is that, for their own political reasons or because there is no consensus on what I just wrote (I know, it seems obvious, but it isn't), there are many people who feel as though listening is tantamount to endorsing or according stature. So, as soon as you try to do sound counterterrorism, there is a swath of people on the far right (and a bunch on the far left who enable them) who seize on that as "appeasement", etc., etc.

It's not. It's just being smart and doing smart counterterrorism. With some luck, a few of the Democratic Party members will adopt that message, which is not so far left as to be simplemindedly "singing for peace" and definitely not as far right as Bush-Cheney have sadly conditioned the GOP center-right to be today, even.

(Separately, is Ron Paul going to end up like Alan Keyes, fighting his way on stage? LOL.)


o.k., so what did Rufus just wear on the Tonight Show? (I think he's been touring too much, maybe).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Benchmarks: OIF

"Terrorism is targeting scholars in an almost unprecedented way," says Allan E. Goodman, president and chief executive of the Institute of International Education, in New York. "It's hard to say there even is a higher-education system in Iraq anymore, with so many students and professors being killed and kidnapped on a daily basis." -AS

This has been going on for a long time.

This ought to have been a benchmark or indicator on the military's list of things, from day one when it was clear these people were being targeted.

Why? To lose the educated class is to lose the struggle inside Islam, arguably, not so much against al-qaeda, but against ... er, 'radical clerics'.

It's a red line. It's been crossed (in this way and in others).

Only one left of two, in my book of estimates (not yet crossed).

Andrew J. Bacevich and the story of the Long War

The story of the recent death of Andrew J. Bacevich is now on many blogs.


After WMD were not found in Iraq, the only prime reason to continue on in Iraq was to give the Iraqi people a chance to restore their civic life.

Rather than adopt this purpose, the GOP political war-machine went on into the 2004 election still with enough traction on other reasons that were all ... empty, I guess. Put another way, their ideological biases, the public's willingness to go along with them, and the indelicate anti-war posture of many have cut out this, the only rhetorical, 'win-win' frame.

Now, even among the cognoscenti, we have numerous commentators discerning the death of Professor Bacevich's son as more proof of "this horrible, self-damaging crusade".


I believe that every drop of American blood that is sacrificed in Iraq ennobles the very cause that we rhetorically deny to ourselves, in the current zeal to reign in a failed wartime President, his cook, and his gardener (you know who they are) who long ago lost their capacity to lead, rhetorically and otherwise.

The chapter of what the US did and tried to do in Iraq will reverberate in the region for years to come, even if it were to close immediately, because of the orientation to history that inflects the collective understanding in the region. (Fawaz Gerges is one scholar who has written on the role and importance of the interpretation of history).

In short, the dominant narratives that emerge from the Iraqi conflict are important and will be for a long time. Yet, the US seems unable to be an active participant in shaping them.

The 'jihad' and others have broadly attacked the effort in Iraq as 'illegitimate' and as purely self-interest (which includes 'Zionist interest'). The cost of the war has now eliminated the arguments about self-interest, especially the one about 'stealing Iraq's oil', which is no longer heard, much. "Illegitimacy" we often hand to them on a silver platter, in both large and small ways.

As a matter of course, then, I'd rather write about how each soldier's death, including Andrew Bacevich's, is our Nation's "core" truth against the very nature of "jihad" as it is conceived by, say, al-qaeda, because we are willing to do what no Frenchman did, namely stand-up with others who might fight it head on (even if we misconceived or poorly strategized about that fight as it relates to pre-war Iraq). With some changes, the same argument is true for the age-old 'refuseniks' attitude among those giving 'spiritual direction' to the Sunni insurgency, outside of the al-qaeda ideology.

That doesn't mean that there might not be a time to withdraw from any specific effort, such as Iraq. Even if we withdraw unthanked, as most likely we will, given how double-faced narratives 'protect' the psyche in the region, the 'win-win' formulation is undiminished.


But, even to this day, I refuse to accept that every death reinforces a notion that the continuation after WMD was "wrong" or "a mistake". Of course, there is waste and blundering and miscalculation going on, even profoundly on some issues, but criticizing all that is quite different than impugning the effort in such a way as to not even fight the war of ideas, to just concede it, practically wholesale.

In sum, I say, Andrew Bacevich fought to give a chance to the Iraqi people to restore their civic life, to throw off the bondage of any number of would be political masters, fought even against great odds and against the powerful tools of random violence, intimidation, and kidnapping. What can the jihad say they have done? They blew up people at the markets, for nothing. What can the Sunni insurgency say it has done in the name of Allah? They fought and killed men who weren't even their sworn enemies, who promised to give them a polity of their own and to leave them to it.

May 15th, Falwell learns whether Jesus is interested in a 'Moral Majority'

[This space intentionally left blank.]

GOP Debate Gasses: II

I'll have to watch the whole debate to decide whether to agree with AS that the "questions were excellent".


I came into it about when Brit Hume was pursuing what looked like the bogus 'ticking bomb' scenario and everyone striving to show just how-much-mo'-better they would "protect" the people. These are the kinds of questions that you get from FOX News, questions that lead people in the wrong direction on issues as important as National Security.

Imagining myself as a foreigner, listening to these replies, it's not hard to see why "the world" is wary of the US.

(Btw, I felt that Rudy continues to show just how traumatized he remains from 9/11 and just how easy he would be for "terrorists" to provoke ....).


'Douthat comma Ross' has pointed out just recently that all of the GOP's prime candidates are now firmly for an expanded military as the 'solution' to our foreign policy challenges. To me, this seems to open the door wide to the Democratic field and the Democratic Party, if they don't get gripped too much by "Iraq" at the expense of a broader policy. (When I have a chance, I'll try to flesh that out more fully).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Latin Beat: The Boys from Ipanema

Cultural chic - the beat goes on:

Except that, in the case of Avalon Hollywood’s “Made in Brazil” quarterly parties, the vibe is all fast-forward, technologic, and DJ-centric. In other words, Brazilian exoticisms take a backseat to contemporary, binary beat-craft. With the advent of laptop production, language-neutral e-music, and light-speed file-sharing, DJs around the globe are racing toward the future, and Brazil’s spinners are eager to measure up. The country excels and often dominates in other edgy youth culture arenas, including skateboarding, surfing, and mixed martial arts, so it’s no wonder that a new wave of e-music stars is emerging from the world’s fifth largest country.

Journalists who are Gay

Wasn't it Tom Fenton who was held by Saddam years ago, locked up in one of his prisons? How many other journalists end up in prison, possibly, just for getting the story? How do prisons, generally, treat openly gay folks, the world over? Jeffrey Gettleman of the NYT was picked up for one of those little 're-education' rides that they give to journlaists in the Palestinian "territories", as best I recall (I wonder if Yang's perspective would have changed, had he suffered similar circumstances). That's even before you contemplate being held by al-qaeda or something.

Fine to be an anchorman, but maybe rather risky for a field journalist?

Whatever the case, it is the journalist's own risk and therefore their decision, it seems to me.

Blogosphere Silence on DC Madam Nondisclosure

The "blogosphere" seems silent on ABC News' decision generously not to release a list of names given over by the "DC Madam". Even Bill O'Reilly was on-board with non-disclosure (can you believe it?), not to "out" adultery, etc.

Ask yourself, what if this list had been given to Drudge? humm... dunno. I've been busy with lots of other stuff, so I could be wrong about the play it has gotten, but it is an interesting lacuna in perceptions of "coverage" nonetheless.

(edit: Not that I think that her list ought to have been published, but it's odd that the 'normal' voices for disclosure appear somewhat absent.)

I Am What I Am, The Face of Transgender

Newsweek does a cover on transgender and provides a much needed face to a population deeply misunderstood.

Though their numbers are relatively few—the most generous estimate from the National Center for Transgender Equality is between 750,000 and 3 million Americans (fewer than 1 percent)—many of them are taking their intimate struggles public for the first time.
Today's transgender Americans go far beyond the old stereotypes (think "Rocky Horror Picture Show"). They are soccer moms, ministers, teachers, politicians, even young children. Their push for tolerance and acceptance is reshaping businesses, sports, schools and families. It's also raising new questions about just what makes us male or female.

Dem's Upcoming Chance to Flank GOP on Trade Policy

The Democrats have an opening for a genuinely new deal on trade, since the figures can no longer support the 'its all good' meme, even allowing for a distinction between 'fair' and 'unfair' labor market adjustments. More of the same starts to look like too much short-term gain at the risk of long-term stability, balance, and financial capacity to assert self-interest.

A true Lion of the party would be able to use moderate protectionist taxes to dampen overwrought US consumption spending, re-build US public savings, and possibly broaden world-labor standards and address structural imbalances (i.e. simultaneously achieve long-term policy objectives). That would be a fitting legacy indeed, one that will never be matched by the free-trade myopia of the Republican party, that continues to risk a broad inflation on the heels of a slow decline in the dollar or a rapid fall of it, on the heels of some future inflection point.


Zakaria's reported Asian tour appears to have influenced him to write like a cyclops on the (a) the upcoming needs for a hard look at the other deficit that the GOP has been ignoring, the burgeoning balance of payments problem and (b) the rest of the 'realities' that are being financed by abject worship at the 'perfect trade' totem:

The current Democratic approach to these issues is misguided. Loading trade pacts with environmental and labor standards is ineffective, unless the aim is to sink them. It will not really change the fact of low-wage competition from poor countries. And, most important, it doesn't really help American workers to prosper in the long term.

What America needs is a new way to tackle trade. It is a C-and-T agenda: cushion and train. The government should help people to weather the shocks of this roller-coaster ride, and it should help train them to be better equipped for the next round of global competition. We do very little of this today.

But does Fareed consider this (have all these problems been fixed?):

Contrary to promises by business and government leaders that increased trade would benefit workers on both sides of the Pacific, the opposite is actually occurring. China's export industries are associated with gross violations of human rights, including forced labor,1 and even while China's economy is growing and becoming more productive, minimum wages are stagnant or decreasing in major manufacturing centers.2


The financial picture isn't pretty either (see chart below). Even if there is some context in which to make sense of this, there is no new "American Century" to be built on the back of this triple-witching, as one was once built on the back of the WWII break-up of the British financial empire, the technology acquisition from the Germany empire, and the human capital that came along with war flight:

  1. (1) Rising need to managing social costs, such as healthcare against an adverse demographic trend,
  2. (2) a fiscal deficit driven ever higher by a GOP that prefers to cut taxes in the face of dangerously expanding wealth and income disparities,
  3. (3) a near permanent decline in the terms of trade dictated by 'cheap global labor' cum 'open markets' and long-term geopolitical oil instability.

All of these things suggest that, in addition to the declining efficacy of military power, at least for the foreseeable future, the new century will be marked by how well America manages its coming changes in relative position. On that score, pushing now for trade "fairness", including labor-market stabilization and equalization practices, while the US still has the relative standing to do so, can only help down the road, when arguably, her assets and financial health will be in others hands along with the associated 'bargaining power' that goes with them ...

*Mark Stein reminds that "American Century" was a phrase of Henry Luce. We're lucky to have those around who remember.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Update: iNfoRmaTION age of AnXiety

Employee likely fired for posting gay personal ad - 2 years ago ... It's all legal, sadly (not that laws ever stopped employers from 'finding a way').

I'll bet anything that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as folks dismissed for similar/same reasons.

(hat tip: the gist)

Jesus on K Street

Churches are turned by Rove-style politics into yet another special interest, out for their own money and power. And, yes, the average tax-payer eventually foots the bill - just to grease the wheels of Rove's corrupt and corrupting machine. -AS

I find this exponentional growth to be sickening and reason to (a) reject Cizik's claim that above board is "o.k." (b) reason to press forward for dropping tax-free status from religious organizations - period (c) vote out every damn Senator who participated in the 108th Congress with an 'earmark' of such to his/her name.

The public coffers are NOT for faith-based anythings!

Mansfield's Machismo

For reasons unclear, Harvey Mansfield's book Manliness has come into my roving purview, and this brings up his now much talked about essay in the WSJ about a "strong Executive", a.k.a. the "imperial Presidency".


Disposed as I am to find Mansfield's broad analysis largely on the mark, I have to say, however, that the questions about the Bush Presidency are not centered on whether stronger or weaker might have been better, they are about a President and an Administration who used their strength (or "energy") poorly. Strength alone does not make one great, even if strength is required to make one great. It's really as simple as that.
...questions about the Bush Presidency are not centered on whether stronger or weaker might have been better, they are about a President and an Administration who used their strength (or "energy") poorly. It's really as simple as that.


For political theory junkies or those interested, be sure to read Henry Midley's take and the blogalogue that he includes at the end, for a good sampling of what "My Life as a Theorist" must be like. Teaser quote:

The English Civil War took place as Professor Pocock and Dr Baldwin's research makes clear (see Pocock's Machiavellian Moment and Dr Baldwin's thesis in the Cambridge University Library) as a contest between two groups both claiming supreme authority when the law was violated. Henry Parker the great Parliamentarian propagandist argued for example that the law had already been attacked by the King and Parliament was obliged to act illegally in defence of the law of the land. Whether to live under the rule of law was not the issue here- both sides recognised that there were times when the state had to act illegally- the question was who could take that action. Reconstructing the civil war argument in this way allows us to proceed through the thinkers that Professor Mansfield talks about later in a much more sensible way because the fact of the matter is that by misunderstanding what the civil war was about- his entire historical trajectory after that is wrong as well.


Many have seemed to read a lot into Mansfield's piece that I didn't see there. I think he might have just been trying to tip the scales into balance, by injecting an argument to counter, say, Schlesinger's, as he says.

If he is trying to argue, as one might, that in strength there is not good or bad, it comes out only in the ambiguous way that he ends his note, with the observation that "... the difficulties of the war in Iraq arise from having wished to leave too much to the Iraqis, thus from a sense of inhibition rather than imperial ambition." What carefully unarticulated "difficulties" would those be, moral or practical ones? For instance, is he intimating that we ought to have left the Baath party in power, via Saddam's Army, and not "lawfully" arrested the so-called deck of cards? What's more, if one reads other accounts, one might equally blame the desire to leave too little to the Iraqis, embodied, say, in General Eaton's testimony about the lack of early priority and resourcing on rebuilding Iraqi Security Forces and Rumsfeld (among others) thumbing their nose at spending US dollars on reconstruction. Before he was summarily removed, Jay Gardner wanted to leave the Iraqis to do more themselves, earlier on, and have elections pronto - was that "inhibited" or "imperial"?


The facts of Bush-Cheney's aggrandizement of the Executive and empowerment of the military (at the expense of State and CIA) are well known. For issues on which the "tension" that Mansfield describes have come up, what we see is a belligerent Executive, under Bush, even one with open contempt for the 'inefficacy' and 'boneheadedness' of the legislature.

Other modern Presidents who have been strong have worked in a consultative fashion, in the American tradition, to gloss-over the "tensions" with back-room machinations and understandings. To the contrary, Bush-Cheney seem almost naturally confrontational, and they have caucused in private and, afterwards, slammed legislation through on important issues. They have done end-runs around the Spirit of the Laws, on issues like torture and detainment, fostering blunders which have ended up profoundly against the common good, not only because they have jeopardized trials but because they have corrupted the military and the CIA (see Philip Zimbardo, if no other, for details about how these issues extend beyond Abu Grhaib).