Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Blind Squirrels in Washington

Something about inside Washington analyzing whether the President is responding to inside Washington…I dunno - Andrew Card was there for five years; it strikes me that this is more a calling for rain every day and one day you’re right.

Card's Departure Seen as a Sign President Hears Words of Critics

There may well be other high level moves. That kind of stuff happens. Doesn’t mean it’s all in response to Washington punditry.

One aside:

“He did not invite a well-known figure from the other party into his fold, as Bill Clinton did when he recruited commentator David Gergen to help right a stumbling presidency in 1993.” (emphasis added)

David Gergen? He’s like a crasher at a party hosted by a liberal and conservative – both of whom will eventually look at each other and say “I thought he was with you”.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Justice Scalia, Hamdan and some retired military officers

If some people had their way, Justice Scalia would have to recuse himself from every case so I don’t take seriously such calls. But the Washington Post’s Charles Lane does and writes up one such push for recusal by a group of retired military officers. (Their brief can be found here)

“The retired officers are Brig. Gen. David M. Brahms, Brig Gen. James P. Cullen, Vice Adm. Lee F. Gunn, Rear Adm. John D. Hutson and Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter. They have filed a friend of the court brief in the case opposing the military commissions, on the grounds that denying Geneva Conventions protections to detainees at Guantanamo Bay could result in their denial to U.S. troops by their captors abroad.”

A few comments: A list of retired officers is always impressive when it is made up of flag rank retirees but this list contains some familiar names. All five were signatories to a Letter to the Editor to Stars & Stripes in January 2005 expressing opposition to Alberto Gonzales’ nomination to be Attorney General. (January 25, 2005 Letter to the Editor) BG Brahms and Admiral Hutson co-signed another letter in December 2005 opposing efforts to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by Gitmo prisoners (Protect Habeas Corpus at Guantanamo). Adm. Gunn publicly endorsed John Kerry in the 2004 election ( "12 Generals and Admirals Endorse John Kerry..." ) All but Adm.Gunn were military lawyers.

This is not meant to impugn these men. As a Navy man myself, I respect and appreciate what they did and the success they had in their profession. But they are not typical of the military. A career as a military lawyer is an entirely different perspective than that of a line officer trained for combat (although, to be fair, Adm Gunn was a Surface Warfare Officer and others did see combat). And I think their history of partisanship on this issue does taint their call for Justice Scalia’s recusal and he is correct not to recuse himself

Finally, their position on this issue is one of policy not legal process. On the face of it, their position that how we treat our Gitmo captives could impact how our soldiers are treated is not an unreasonable one. But whether they should be afforded GC status is a different question than whether they are legally entitled to it. The Supreme Court should not be addressing such policy arguments as the Justices have no demonstrated competence in this arena.

Monday, March 27, 2006


The city of tolerance that is SF

Earlier this week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors described its city as "America's most tolerant and progressive city."

That was part of a welcoming resolution concerning some visitor’s to that city;

“Christian Gallion, a 15-year-old in town with his Assembly of God youth group from Humboldt County, shrugged off being called "fascists" by counterdemonstrators.
"It doesn't bother me," Gallion said. It's a beautiful city, and we don't have anything against the protesters."

“"I'm not here to hate anybody," Scott Thompson said. "This isn't about Bush or gays or anything other than being here to worship together."

Okay, I was kidding. You can’t welcome this kind of hate in your city. Being tolerant doesn’t mean being stupid and even ‘Frisco-ites can only tolerate so much. So, always alert to the potential power of irony, SFers countered such hate with their own message of tolerance and inclusiveness:

“"Even if it is done by a Barnum & Bailey crowd with a tent and some snake oil, I think we need to pay attention to it," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, ….. "We should not fall asleep at the wheel." ‘

“On one side of the barricade was girl carrying a sign that said, "Instead of porn, show us Godly relationships." On the other, a woman held one that said, "I moved here to get away from people like you."

All this going to explain why:

“Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."

I guess it is a bit much to expect tolerance to accomodate those who wish to influence politics

(H/T – Guy Benson Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online)


Illegals and Business

From today’s Washington Post:

“In the past 15 years, the Labor Department has audited McMahon's company five times looking for illegal workers -- each time finding none, McMahon said. He added that the House bill threatens to bring his business to a "screeching halt" because there is no provision for a guest-worker program or for dealing with the undocumented immigrants already working.”

So how does a lack of a provision “for dealing with the undocumented immigrants already working” (i.e. illegal immigrants) threaten to bring a business to a “screeching halt” if the company currently doesn’t hire illegal immigrants (or at least none that the Department of Labor could find). Unfortunately, there was no follow-up as to exactly what kind of business model is so reliant on foreign workers that proposals to enforce border security could so threaten a $300 million company.

Washington Post writers Mitra Kalita and Krissah Williams begin their front page article Help Wanted as Immigration Faces Overhaul with an anecdotal observation from a local landscaping business. After complaining about how hard it is to hire people for his company at $7.74/hour, the company owner makes this observation:

"I don't think it's a wage situation. It's the type of work and the nature of the work. It's hard, backbreaking work," said Trimmer, who started the company 31 years ago. "I think we're a more affluent society now. They expect more. Everybody expects more. . . . I have contracts, and they want an affordable price, too."

But of course it’s a wage situation. Most of us can point to aspects of our work that we would not do if the wages were less (and related work we would if the wages were more). I subscribe to two axioms here: (1) Pay people enough and you’ll find an adequate supply of labor and (2) No one has an absolute right to buy or sell services independent of applicable market forces.

In the above noted anecdote, the company owner is speculating:
“Occasionally, company President Bill Trimmer asks himself: If I doubled wages, would native-born Americans apply? He thinks he knows the answer.”

Well, if he doesn’t think so, so what? Then triple the wages. There is no “right” to cheap labor. Most of us would love to have our lawns professionally cared for but don’t because it already costs more than we are willing to pay. If someone wants their lawn professionally cared for then they should pay the going rate. If the going rate is considered expensive then that person has to decide just how much they want their lawn professionally cared for.

Every one of us faces these kinds of decisions every day. That’s why we go to self-serve instead of full serve gas stations. That’s why we pick up our own dry cleaning and cook most of our own meals. Because the alternatives aren’t worth it to us…but apparently are to others. And thus a market exists for those services to the extent that people are willing to pay for them.

But it becomes galling for many of us to discover that illegals are working in this country and not pulling the full freight. They distort the market with lower wages and they impose certain costs (schools, health) on society that neither they nor the employers/customers fully reimburse. In other words they are subsidized…and you get more of what you subsidize.

I am sympathetic to business concerns that they are slated to become an adjunct of our border control. After all, we didn’t set up a government as a convenient way of imposing requirements onus but to provide certain services for society as a whole. Border security should be one such service. But reliant businesses cannot simply turn a blind eye toward this problem. That they are so vociferous in their worries and concerns about efforts to stem the tide of illegals would seem a good indication that they are only too aware of just how much they are contributing to the problem.

For many of us, this is a simple matter: Every one in the United States should be accounted for. I have no problem with guest worker programs and other similar proposals as long as we know where the ‘guests’ are, how long they’ll be here and that they are subject to the same standards and regulations of U.S. citizens. The ones here now illegally (remember, they’re not just ‘undocumented’) should not be rewarded for their actions and should be ‘returned’ to whence they came.

Again, why is this so controversial?

Saturday, March 25, 2006


(yawn) Impeachment talk...

Another space filler in the Washington Post about a potential impeachment of President Bush.  Near Paul Revere Country, Anti-Bush Cries Get Louder Of course, remembering that it takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict; impeachment talk is right now just an evening news (or morning paper) sound bite. Predictably, today’s article is filled with the usual quotes by ordinary citizens and politicians about the supposed lies of our president in the time leading up to the campaign against Saddam’s army:

“The man's been lying from Jump Street on the war in Iraq," Clemons said. "Bush says there were weapons of mass destruction, but there wasn't.”

“"If the president says 'We made mistakes,' fine, let's move on," said Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.). "But if he lied to get America into a war, I can't imagine anything more impeachable."”

““He picks and chooses his information and can't admit it's erroneous, and he annoys me," said Colleen Kucinski, walking Aleks, 5, and Gregory, 2, home.

Would she support impeachment? Kucinski wags her head "yes" before the question is finished. "Without a doubt. This is far more serious than Clinton and Monica. This is about life and death. We're fighting a war on his say-so and it was all wrong."”

She doesn’t actually accuse the President of lying although I will give Ms. Kucinski the benefit of the doubt and assume her support for impeachment is based on that and not the heretofore unused “annoys Collen Kucinski” clause.  Now, lying to get into a war would be far more serious a charge than “Clinton and Monica”. And we know he lied about Monica so now I’m curious: would President Clinton have lied to the American people about such a “far more serious” matter?

“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear," Clinton said. "We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. We want to seriously reduce his capacity to threaten his neighbors."” Clinton Faces Rocky Path In Iraqi Crisis - February 18, 1998

(For the record, I don’t think he was lying.)

Finally, as part of an otherwise refreshingly reasonable take by him in the Post article, Cass Sunstein offers this curiousity:

“The Clinton impeachment was plainly unconstitutional, and a Bush impeachment would be nearly as bad," said Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago.”

“Nearly as bad”?? President Clinton lied under oath, which is a crime. And even Professor Sunstein goes on to acknowledge that being wrong is not the same as lying. So how is impeachment for a bona fide crime constitutionally worse than one for a supposed mistake?  


Jonathan Pollard, Larry Franklin & "The Lobby"

Earlier this week I posted some comments on a London Review of Books article by a couple of professors entitled The Israel Lobby. I was not impressed and many others have obviously had the same reaction. As usual, Soccer Dad has a nice roundup of some more reactions to the article. Soccer Dad: Pulling the chair out

Maybe Professors Mearsheimer and Walt couldn’t find room for it in their article but apparently others in the government haven’t got the Lobby-prepared memo about deference to Israel and AIPAC. Here’s the good professors cursory mention of a couple of significant happenings.

“In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which it reportedly passed on to the Soviet Union in return for more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official called Larry Franklin had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat.”

They cite those two examples as part of a counter to the supposed-Lobby’s assertion of Israel as a strategic ally. What they don’t mention is what happened to the individuals involved.

Last month, I followed a Soccer Dad link to the The IgNoble Experiment where I briefly got into a thread about the same Jonathan Pollard., the American convicted of spying for Israel back in 1987. I yield to no one in my utter contempt for Mr. Pollard and the idea that he may never takes another free step causes me no consternation. But in that thread I was a minority as he obviously has his vocal supporters (as many of the comments clearly demonstrate).

If “The Lobby” was the influential juggernaut that the professors claim it is, Jonathan Pollard would long ago have been sitting in Tel Aviv, recounting for anyone who would buy him a drink (or a snort) his years of ‘mis-treatment’ by the Lobby-run US government.

As for Mr. Franklin, his troubles have just begun: he (along with two AIPAC employees) was indicted last August. USA v.a Lawrence Anthony Franklin, Steven J. Rose, Keith Weissman


Is a Muslim enclave coming to a city near you?

Thanks to DBL over at Light Seeking Light for pointing me towards this analysis

The Islamist Challenge to the U.S. Constitution - Middle East Quarterly - Spring 2006.

The paper discusses how “Muslim groups have petitioned to establish enclaves in which they can uphold and enforce greater compliance to Islamic law” and what protections the rest of us have in fighting such moves.

This anecdote in particular caught my eye:

“The Gwynnoaks Muslim Residential Development group, for example, has established an informal enclave in Baltimore because, according to John Yahya Cason, director of the Islamic Education and Community Development Initiative, a Baltimore-based Muslim advocacy group, "there was no community in the U.S. that showed the totality of the essential components of Muslim social, economic, and political structure."

More here Islam only community in Baltimore to show "totality of Muslim social, economic, and political structure" and for 'protection':

Gwynn Oaks is a Baltimore community…as in Baltimore, the city where I live so I am definitely attuned to this now. Fortunately, it seems the enclave remains an informal one with no basis for respect of its decisions by US or Maryland courts. As such it may just be on par with homeowners associations….but they can be pretty scary so we’ll keep an eye out on this.

BTW – did you read or hear about Holy Cross’ big win last night over Minnesota in the NCAA Hockey Tournament…”arguably the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history” 'SADERS WIN!!!
In a politically incorrect matchup tonight (3/25), the Crusaders take on the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota @ 9PM on ESPNU (DirectTV Ch #609).

Friday, March 24, 2006



As a fan, today is as good as it gets. BC loses (finally) to Villanova by one in OT and then:

'Saders Win! 'Saders win! 'Saders win!!!

Let me give you the front page of USCHO,com:

The incredible happened Friday in Grand Forks, as Holy Cross pulled off arguably the greatest upset in NCAA tournament history with a 4-3 win over Minnesota. Tyler McGregor's goal 53 seconds into overtime completed the Crusaders' win, Atlantic Hockey's first-ever in the national tournament.”

This is easily among the top 5 sporting victories all time in Holy Cross history

(The other four: 1947 NCAA Basketball championship; 1952 NCAA Baseball championship; 1954 NIT Basketball championship and the 1942 shellacking of then #1-ranked Boston College football team: 55-12)

Tomorrow night against the winner of North Dakota and Michigan!!

Go Cross!!!


Senator Clinton speaks out on immigration....again

Remember this? Hillary goes conservative on immigration.

“In an interview last month on Fox News, Mrs. Clinton said she does not "think that we have protected our borders or our ports or provided our first responders with the resources they need, so we can do more and we can do better."”

“In an interview on WABC radio, she said: "I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants." "Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we're going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let's have a system that keeps track of them," she said.”

And this:

“Unlike many pro-business Republicans, Mrs. Clinton also has castigated Americans for hiring illegal aliens. "People have to stop employing illegal immigrants," she said. "I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You're going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work."”

That was December 2004, shortly after President Bush won re-election with a campaign in which he championed a guest worker program. This presented an excellent opportunity to establish some centrist street cred by getting to the right of the President on this issue

Well, that was then, this is now. Earlier this month she opined:

“… some Republicans are trying to create a "police state" to round up illegal immigrantsSen. Clinton slams GOP immigration bill -

And in case we didn't get the message that Republicans are evil:

“And after weeks of sitting on the sidelines, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) jumped into the immigration debate Wednesday. She declared that Republican efforts to criminalize undocumented workers and their support networks "would literally criminalize the good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself."” Immigration Debate Is Shaped by '08 Election (and isn’t that a handy quote to remember the next time you hear someone lambaste Republicans for interjecting religion into politics)

With the Republicans dismayingly all over the spectrum on this issue, Senator Clinton no doubt feels she can retreat from her earlier hard-line rhetoric to a more lefty pleasant message. And, if I wasn’t busted in all my NCAA pools, I’d be betting her latest tough talk has been thoroughly focus-group tested to do just that. Ignoring the fact that she is simply wrong on the issue of criminalization of “good Samaritans’ and Jesus, “undocumented workers” is just a PC term for illegals….and she’s already told us she is “adamantly” against them. What "tough decisions as a country" is she proposing we make?

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Duncan v. O'Malley

Thanks to Soccer Dad for clueing me into this little tidbit: The Hedgehog Report » MD: Duncan Barely Ahead In Montgomery County. It reports:

Doug Duncan 41%
Martin O’Malley 35%

Without going into who did the poll and why (one poster suggested it was so-called environmentalists) let me spin this: This is as good as it gets for Martin O’Malley. The Montgomery County voters know Doug Duncan but they don’t know Martin O’Malley. Getting to better know Mr. O’Malley and his record will not be to Mr. O’Malley’s benefit.

Further, I think this highlights that Maryland Democrats will not be going to the polls to vote for governor with the same enthusiasm that Maryland Republicans will. Mr. Duncan is the front runner where he is best known…but barely. Mr. O’Malley leads the race in his strongholds but is missing out on the endorsements of many key Democrats from the same.

I think the 2006 Maryland Republicans will be among the most energized in the nation and I remain cautiously optimistic for my state in November.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


The Lobby...and other things that go bump in the night

Soccer Dad: Poisoned ivies includes his initial take of a London Review of Books article entitled: The Israel Lobby (The Lobby) by Chicago professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard professor Stephen Walt. If you’re already inclined to blame Israel (before or after Bush – take your pick) for all the world’s woes then The Lobby will only feed into your paranoia. Otherwise, you’ll probably just wonder how low the barrier has dropped for becoming a professor at two of our supposedly top schools. Soccer Dad adds additional comments and links here.

Written in a seemingly calm and rational tone, the gist of their case seems to be that

  1. The US does a lot for Israel;

  2. Mearsheimer and Walt don’t agree we should…..therefore

  3. it must be because of the Lobby
They sketch out who is part of this Lobby and apparently just about everyone is eligible: Democrats, Republicans, Christians and Jews:

“We use ‘the Lobby’ as shorthand for the loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. This is not meant to suggest that ‘the Lobby’ is a unified movement with a central leadership, or that individuals within it do not disagree on certain issues. Not all Jewish Americans are part of the Lobby, because Israel is not a salient issue for many of them.”

(A “loose coalition”…sounds like a fun group from which to meet women …but unfortunately, I never get notice of the meetings.)

Mocking those who profess the existence of some Jewish Cabal running this country is always good for a cheap laugh and adding a Harvard professor to their ranks just enhances the enjoyment. This is an example of their hard-hitting, no-stone-unturned expose of The Lobby:

“Charles Krauthammer describes this grand scheme as the brainchild of Natan Sharansky, but Israelis across the political spectrum believed that toppling Saddam would alter the Middle East to Israel’s advantage. Aluf Benn reported in Ha’aretz (17 February 2003):

“Senior IDF officers and those close to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, such as National Security Adviser Ephraim Halevy, paint a rosy picture of the wonderful future Israel can expect after the war. They envision a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein followed by that of Israel’s other enemies . . . Along with these leaders will disappear terror and weapons of mass destruction.”

That’s right: Israelis “across the political spectrum” thought that getting rid of a man who had previously lobbed SCUD missiles into their midst and had been actively threatening Israel “would alter the Middle East to Israel’s advantage.”

This is nothing more than a collection of cherry-picked anecdotes to support one-sided arguments. And when I read statements like this:

“At a minimum, the Lobby’s hostility towards Syria and Iran makes it almost impossible for Washington to enlist them in the struggle against al-Qaida and the Iraqi insurgency, where their help is badly needed.”

….I can’t even concede it was artfully done. After reading this drivel, I wonder if these two had news sources beyond Al Jazeera and the UN. Such scholarship would have been more appropriate from the Ted Kennedy School of Government.


Doug Duncan comes to Baltimore

In Tuesday’s Washington Post, John Wagner describes Doug Duncan’s efforts to increase his profile beyond the DC suburbs and into Baltimore.

“After settling into a Baltimore area radio studio last week and slipping on some headphones, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan offered a candid admission about his bid for governor: Too many people in that region still know him only as "the other guy in the race."
"I think it's the biggest disadvantage I have," Duncan told listeners more familiar with the other Democratic candidate, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. "But that's changing."

For over a year here in Baltimore, I’ve been brashly predicting that Doug Duncan would kick Martin O’Malley’s a** in the Democratic primary race to be governor. He’s not the pretty boy that the Mayor is but I think he is smarter with more positive experience in elected executive positions. He has served as a popular mayor of Maryland’s second largest city (Rockville) and as a popular county executive of its largest political subdivision. Between Montgomery County and Baltimore City, I think he has the better story: nobody moves from Montgomery County to Baltimore City because of schools, crime or employment opportunities. He projects competence and, before he started focusing on the governor’s mansion, was a welcome voice of moderation amidst the knee-jerk liberalism of Montgomery County.

Still there is a lot to be wary of in Mr. Duncan’s policies. For no apparent reason, he has supported efforts to make illegal immigrants more welcome in Maryland (with drivers licenses) and he oversaw the expansion of the nanny state with the no smoking ban extended to all bars and restaurants. No reason to think he wouldn’t bring that thought process to Annapolis.

The conventional wisdom (and the polls) still says the Democratic nomination is Mr. O’Malley’s to lose. But given that the primary is not until September, there remains plenty of time for him to do just that.

I’m voting for Bob Ehrlich and the prospect of these Democrats duking it out over the next few months is not an unpleasant one. But should the Democrats nominate Martin O’Malley over Doug Duncan, you can be sure there will have been no knockout punch thrown and the fight was not decided on points.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Republican woes

The GOP–in-trouble bit is becoming a familiar one this election year and sightings will only become more frequent as November approaches. Part factual-analysis, part wishful-thinking; they play on a hope/concern that the era of Republican control of the House and Senate may soon be over because of public dissatisfaction with the goings-on in Washington.

Today’s Washington Post adds to this growing collection of writings with a piece by Dan Balz and Jonathan Weisman that asserts the GOP Struggles To Define Its Message for 2006 Elections. While recounting the standard litany of woes weighing on Republicans up for re-election this year, it offers this:

“Republicans insist they remain united around core principles of smaller government, lower taxes and a strong national defense…”

I think that’s right: most Republicans are united around those core principles (although I would also throw in a restrained Judiciary). The problem is that Republican politicians don’t really trust the voters to be so. They seem to secretly believe their constituents can easily be swayed from their ranks with Democratic promises of more something for nothing. So they attempt to preempt that opposition message with their own something for nothing. Hence our latest outbreak of earmark gluttony.

Fortunately for the Republicans, they have those core principles to act as a lodestar for when they’ve gone astray. And deviating for the sake of pragmatism or expediency is turning out to be neither pragmatic nor expedient. Rick Santorum, probably as reliable a conservative as we have in the Senate, is still dogged by his inexplicable vocal support for Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary over Pat Toomey. The National Republican Senatorial Committee lags in fundraising in part because it moronically continues to insist on viciously attacking Lincoln Chaffee’s primary opponent.

The Democrats got out their vote in unprecedented numbers in 2004, only to see the Republicans match and surpass them. That base outpouring was not because of bridges to nowhere, guest worker programs or an increase in the ceiling debt. Instead it was a response to core principles. Counting on the Democrats main message of “We’re not them” not to resonate is not a viable political strategy for the Republicans. It is worrisome when so many of us who do not make our living as political wonks can so clearly that while the so-called pros apparently can’t (or won’t).


Former Iraqi PM not happy he's a former Iraqi PM

I pull up the Washington Post on my computer and first page:

Bush Remains Upbeat On Outcome for Iraq
On third anniversary of war, White House hails progress, but Iraqi prime minister warns country is edging toward "the point of no return."
Michael A. Fletcher

Wow; Iraqi Prime Minister Jafaari!!??!!

Uhhh, was actually Ayad Allawi, a FORMER Prime Minister, or more accurately, the former Prime Minister of the former Interim Government.. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider what he has to say but there is a BIG difference between “prime minister” and “former prime minister”.

“"We are losing a day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," Allawi said on BBC's "Sunday AM" program. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is." “

And a former Prime Minister saying this would be news….if it was new:

Allawi: this is the start of civil war - Sunday Times: July 10, 2005

This guy is starting to sound like an Iraqi Jimmy Carter.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Carter Administration Agreement blocks Iranian hostages' compensation; Bush to blame

The headline says it all: Administration Blocks Ex-Hostages' Bid for Damages From Iran.

“But in 1996 Congress amended the foreign sovereign immunity law to allow suits against countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism. The former hostages sued under the new law, seeking $33 billion in compensatory and punitive damages, and won a default judgment against Iran in 2001.

“But on the eve of a hearing to consider damages, the Bush administration intervened, ….”

Reading that, you might think that, but for the Administration’s actions, the Iranian embassy hostages from over 25 years ago would be collecting some money from Iran. So why would the Administration side with Iran on this matter?

Well, because a previous administration said we would. The Washington Post article does not mention the Carter Administration…so I will. The “agreement with Iran that had secured the hostages' release” is known as the Algiers Accord. Warren Christopher, then Deputy Secretary of State, was the lead person in negotiating it and President Carter issued the executive order enforcing it. The Order clearly states:

“The Secretary of the Treasury shall promulgate regulations: (a) prohibiting any person …prosecuting …any claim against the Government of Iran arising out of events occurring before the date of this Order relating to (1) the seizure of the hostages on November 4, 1979….”

A Congressional Research Service paper for Congress further explains

“A further complication arose in connection with a suit against Iran by those who were held hostage from 1979-81, whose previous efforts to sue Iran for their ordeal had failed due to Iran’s sovereign immunity. In late 2000, the 52 persons who were held hostage and their families initiated a new suit against Iran under the terrorist state exception to the FSIA. After a federal district court held Iran to be liable but before it
assessed damages in 2001, the U.S. government intervened and argued that the case should be dismissed because Iran had not been designated a terrorist state at the time of the hostage incident — one of the requirements of the FSIA exception allowing suits against terrorist States — and because one part of the Algiers Accords that led to the hostages’ release in 1981 required the United States to bar any suits from being adjudicated based on the incident. Congress enacted riders to pending appropriations bills
to allow the suit to proceed. Nonetheless, the federal district court in 2002 dismissed the suit on the grounds the Algiers Accords, although entered into as a series of executive agreements, are binding on the United States and Congress had not acted with sufficient clarity to abrogate the provision precluding suit. Subsequent efforts in the 107th and 108th Congress expressly to abrogate the Algiers Accords did not succeed.”

As the Post’s article (but not the headline) and the above excerpt make clear, it’s not the Bush administration that is thwarting the former hostages efforts here.  A federal district court threw out the case in 2002 because of the Carter-Administration-negotiated Algiers Accord. In fact, a quote from Mr. Carter would have been helpful here ias to just how much in good faith he assessed his administration’s efforts in this deal and does he believe the Bush Administration should continue to seek adherence to the agreement.

Instead, it’s all Bush administration all the time:

“At an emotional meeting this month at the State Department, steps from the office of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a group of former American hostages released by Iran a quarter of a century ago, accompanied by lawyers and some relatives, confronted two of Rice's most senior aides..” (emphasis added)

That meeting occurred on March 2nd, the case was dismissed in 2002 and the Administration is defending a 1981 negotiated international settlement of the Carter Administration. Why is this a front page story on March 19th 2006 unless it is just to make the administration look petty and mean-spirited?  Never mind, I answered my own question.


Aahh, the French!!

From France:

“Teachers, unionized government employees and retired workers joined students in escalating demonstrations against a new law that would allow companies to fire employees under age 26 at will during their first two years of work.” (emphasis added)

....and I think they supported John Kerry too Rallies Across France Protest New Job Law



#20 Holy Cross beats Bentley 5-2 to win the AHA and advance to the NCAA Hockey Tournament…suddenly that other NCAA Tournament seems so tired.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Beat UConn...

Hockey that is…Go Cross!!

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

(Damn – BC won)

Thursday, March 16, 2006


The Moussaoui Case

Put simply, it would suck to be Carla Martin right now. She is the Lawyer in 9/11 Case Placed on Leave yesterday for contacting certain witnesses in the ongoing proceedings to determine whether Zacarias Moussaoui gets the death penalty for his role in the 9/11 attacks. The judge had specifically ordered there be no such contact. As a result, the judge then banned those witnesses (and other aviation evidence) from testifying; effectively gutting the government’s case.

“Legal experts said it devastated the prosecution's main argument -- that if Moussaoui had not lied to the FBI about his knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, plot, the hijackings could have been prevented. The witnesses are airline security experts who would have testified about the measures the government would have taken had the truth been told.”  Federal Witnesses Banned in 9/11 Trial

The first thing to remember is that this is a sentencing trial; Moussaoui had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy with the other 9/11 terrorists….so this setback doesn’t mean he is going anywhere soon. He still faces, at minimum, life without parole.

How serious is what Ms. Martin is accused of? Well, she apparently violated a rather standard court order so it’s very serious…although I don’t think it reaches Stephen Gillers’ hyperbole:

“"The evil here, the corruption of the system, is that through the intermediation of Ms. Martin, witnesses were able to change their testimony to corroborate other witnesses," said Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics at New York University Law School. "You want the raw experiences of other witnesses, untainted and uninfluenced by the views of others." “

(When I read a Stephen Gillers’ quote, I am usually also reaching for the salt shaker. This is the same Stephen Gillers who flat out said that that one of Justice Alito’s new clerks couldn’t work on some potential cases because….Stephen Gillers didn’t think it was a good idea. Justice Alito and his law clerks.)

Please; the witnesses weren’t “able to change their testimony to corroborate other witnesses” because they weren’t able to testify.

"I cannot allow that kind of conduct to go without there being serious sanctions," Brinkema said as she struck the expected testimony and all of the evidence about aviation.” (emphasis added) Federal Witnesses Banned in 9/11 Trial

And there is nothing to suggest that the witnesses would have changed their testimony; after all it was one of the potential witnesses (Ms. Osmus) that first brought the communications to the prosecutors’ attention:

“Osmus and the four other senior FAA and TSA officials who testified yesterday said their communication with Martin would not have affected the testimony they would have given. Osmus's deputy, Claudio Manno, said he brushed aside Martin's e-mails "because I can only testify about what I know."

In my mind, however, there is a much more serious charge against Ms. Martin:

“Legal experts said prosecutors could also seek to charge Martin with more serious felony charges, such as lying to a federal officer. Evidence emerged at a hearing Tuesday that a prosecutor, David J. Novak, had sent a letter to Moussaoui's attorneys saying that witnesses they were seeking would not meet with them.

“Brinkema called the letter a "bald-faced lie." It was based on information from Martin, prosecutors said”.

More serious…and incredibly stupid because you could never figure that the lie wouldn’t be exposed when the witness actually testified.

Moussaoui was already in jail on September 11, 2001 so, despite the backdrop of 9/11, the death penalty has never been seen as an easy sell. Prosecution mishaps haven’t helped but I think the judge here went too far in removing all the aviation-related testimony and evidence. As Drudge would say…Developing.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


NCAAs: Comments & Predictions

Have made my picks (several pools – no strong consensus); not too excited about it this year since I really have no dog in this fight, not even a sacrificial 1st round early-out. Nevertheless, comments and predictions::

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Iran not conclusively linked to Iraq's problems; Bush to blame

Here’s the headline: Top U.S. Military Official: No Evidence of Iran Involvement in Iraq

Why is this story so important? Because

“On Monday, President Bush suggested Iran was involved in making roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, that are being used in Iraq. And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week accused Iran of sending members of its Revolutionary Guard to conduct operations in Iraq.

That’s right, this gives the Washington Post a chance to highlight another Bush gaffe or a Bush attempt to mislead or,….just take your pick.

“Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joints (sic) Chiefs of Staff, said today he has no evidence the Iranian government has been sending military equipment and personnel into neighboring Iraq.

“Today, Pace, …, was asked at a Pentagon news conference if he has proof that Iran's government is sponsoring these activities.

““I do not, sir,” Pace said.”

That was General Pace’s entire contribution to answering that question He didn’t say he had no “evidence”; he answered that he had no “proof”. And they are not the same thing! Secretary Rumsfeld (who then went on for some time answering that question) made that point immediately clear:

“Rumsfeld, standing beside Pace, said today it is difficult to ascertain whether the Iranian government is directly involved in sending military equipment and personnel to Iraq.

"As to equipment, unless you physically see it coming in in a government-sponsored vehicle, or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it" comes from Iran's government, Rumsfeld said.
"All you know is that you find equipment -- weapons, explosives, whatever -- in a country that came from the neighboring country.

"With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran. As we all know, there are pilgrimages where Shi'a come from Iran and around the world to go to holy places in Iraq, and they come by the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. And so, that is also a difficult" to prove.”

That’s what you read in the Post. Now this is the part they left out from Secretary Rumsfeld’s answer:

“Now if, on the other hand, you have evidence, intelligence or physical evidence, that Revolutionary Guard or Qods Force people are in Iraq, you again can't -- it's entirely possible they're rogue elements, and they're just there on their own, or they're pilgrims. Not likely. And in this case, there has been evidence that Qods Force/Revolutionary Guard people have been and/or are in Iraq. And I think that it's -- a reasonable man test would suggest that they're not freelancing and they're not pilgrims.” 3/14/06: DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace

So the only logical headline could be: Top U.S. Military Official: No Evidence of Iran Involvement in Iraq


US seeks to help Iran democracy: Bush to blame

On February 15th of this year, Secretary Rice requested of Congress $75 million in emergency funding “to support democracy in Iran.”

“I want to thank the Congress for giving us $10 million to support the cause of freedom and human rights in Iran this year. We will use this money to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists. We also plan to request $75 million in supplemental funding for the year 2006 to support democracy in Iran. That money would enable us to increase our support for democracy and improve our radio broadcasting, begin satellite television broadcasts, increase the contacts between our peoples through expanded fellowships and scholarships for Iranian students, and to bolster our public diplomacy efforts.”
Secretary Rice's February 15, 2006 testimony re: President’s FY 2007 International Affairs Budget Request

Well, things are going so bad for the Administration that apparently these new initiatives are having a retro-active impact U.S. Push for Democracy Could Backfire Inside Iran.

“In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days

“The workshops, conducted by groups based in the United States, were held last April, but Iranian investigators did not summon the participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million " to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year.’ ” (emphasis added)

Well, “about the time” isn’t “the same time” as we later learn:

“Then on Feb. 12, with reports emerging in Washington of the Bush initiative, Afsahi was taken into custody. Ehsan Kamali, the law student, was detained at a filling station four days later. Both remain in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in the north of Tehran, their condition unknown.”

While generally U.S. and British officials were discussing Iran’s government (ABC News: U.S., Britain discuss promoting democracy in Iran 2/8/06), nothing specific about any new initiatives came out until Secretary Rice’s testimony to Congress on February 15th – 3 days after the Iranians were jailed. Further, all this is against a backdrop of increasing world hostility toward Iran and their nuclear development program.

The Post writers, Karl Vick and David Finkel, also include this useful anecdote:

“ ‘Unfortunately, I've got to say it has a negative effect, not a positive one," said Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer recently released from seven months in prison. After writing in a newspaper that his clients were beaten while in jail, Soltani was charged with offenses that included spying for the United States.

So, prior to the announcement of these initiatives, Mr. Soltani spent 7 months in prison on charges “that included spying for the United States”. And that’s the environment our initiatives could negatively effect.

This is a Page One report?

UPDATE: Michael Ledeen over at NRO also has comments on this same Post article:

Monday, March 13, 2006


Senator Feingold - 'nuff said

Senator Feingold introduced a measure to censure the President because supposedly he:

“authorized an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil, and then misled Congress and the public about the existence and legality of that program.” Feingold Pushes to Censure President

Normally I would ignore such a nothing story but I wanted to highlight one part of Charles Babington’s piece about this in Tuesday’s Washington Post:

“..Bush's four-year-old decision to direct the National Security Agency, without obtaining warrants, to monitor international phone calls and e-mails of Americans when one of the parties is considered a possible terrorist suspect.”

That might be the fairest on-the-fly description of the program I’ve seen from the Post or any other large newspaper. Let’s hope he assigned it a shortcut for future use.


More on Iran

Last week we learned that:

“Iran on Wednesday threatened the United States with "harm and pain" if the U.N. Security Council imposes sanctions on the Islamic republic over its nuclear program.” Iran Threatens U.S. With 'Harm and Pain'

In response,

“the Bush administration plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran.
and that the U.S. Campaign Is Aimed at Iran's Leaders.

Responding to Iran has its own challenges, of course, as the Washington Post helpfully explains:

“But as the administration gears up, the struggle with Iran remains shadowed by Iraq. The botched intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weapons has left a credibility challenge in convincing the public and the world that the administration is right this time about Iran. After alienating European allies in the rush to war in Iraq, the administration is following a slower, multilateral approach. And with U.S. forces stretched, analysts wonder how feasible a military option would be if it came to that.”

When you use phrases like “botched intelligence’, “rush to war” and “right this time”, you have likely crossed from reporter to pundit thus putting me on notice of a probable bias in the report.

Let’s put a few things into context: our “botched intelligence” was a collective intelligence, drawing on British and German sources to name a few. Just about everyone of note, going back to the Clinton Administration, believed Iraq had a WMD program. Not all European allies were alienated; the British have certainly played the part of an engaged co-advocate….and the French, Germans et al? Please, they’re in a perpetual state of alienation, no matter what we do. Finally, the “rush to war” was, in reality, a culmination of over a decade of Iraqi flouting of UN-provisions imposed in the wake of the first Gulf War.

So, I think most people agreed on the basic scenario Iraq presented at that time, it was the debate as to what was the appropriate response that generated the most significant differences.

I laid out a brief timeline of getting Iran to the UN Security Council in an earlier post but the WaPo apparently sees things a little differently:

“The administration got to this point after a year of deliberately staying on the sidelines. After the United States took the lead on Iraq, the British told Bush administration officials that Washington should let the Europeans go first on dealing with Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

Actually, France, Germany and the UK had been working with Iran on this matter since at least 2003 (see IAEA - October 21, 2003 Statement by Iran & visting EU Foreign Ministers)

“During her first trip to Europe as secretary of state, in February 2005, Rice was surprised that most questions from European officials concerned Iran, not Iraq, and was sobered by the realization that they viewed Washington as the problem, not Tehran.

“When Bush went to Europe a few weeks later, French President Jacques Chirac and then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany pushed him to support a British-French-German diplomatic effort dubbed the EU-3. Bush agreed, and Rice announced the decision a year ago last weekend.”

Huh? If we were the problem why would they want us more actively involved? Well, left out of this timeline summary is what was going then between the EU-3 and Iran:

“Representatives of the IR of Iran and the EU troika (Germany, France, Britain) concluded their fourth round of breath-taking talks earlier Friday evening in Geneva, Switzerland, having achieved no further progress compared to the 3rd round…. The talks that ended on Friday in Geneva were the fourth round of their kind in last three months,…”Fourth round of Iran-EU talks concludes in Geneva without tangible progress (March 11, 2005)

“According to another report, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to announce Washington’s viewpoints on Iran-EU talks at press conference a few hours from now.”

And here is Secretary Rice on that same date:

“And we, for our part, have decided to more actively back those diplomatic efforts of the EU-3 by removing our objections to spare parts and to WTO application -- and I want to emphasize application -- by the Iranians, because it exposes where the problem is. If the Iranians can't come to agreement with the Europeans, it exposes what all of us suspect, which is that the Iranians don't want to come to agreement. So it puts the spotlight back on the Iranians, not on, well, what is the United States willing to do or why aren't you supporting the diplomacy and so forth.” (emphasis added) Embassy of the U.S. London: Iran: Rice Says Recent EU, U.S. Actions Put Spotlight on Iran (from an interview with The Washington Times)

So the Washington Post reports that in February 2005 Secretary Rice was “sobered” upon learning that European viewed the US as the problem and not Iran – this despite the fact that the EU-3 was about to embark on their 4th fruitless set of talks with Iran in 3 months. If the EU-3 really did consider us the problem, then I can only guess that Secretary Rice was “sobered” by the realization that her European diplomatic counterparts were morons. If, on the other hand, this is just mere conjecture by an observer, then the failure to apply even a little bit of skepticism takes me back again to my point on reporters crossing over to pundit.

For now, whatever you read about Iran is just speculation as our options there range from not good to worse and nothing is obvious. But look at the bright side, so far Jimmy Carter isn't involved.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


The Briar Patch that is the UN Security Council

The news coming out of Iran continues to be negative as Iran seemingly wants to call the world’s bluff Iran Rejects Russian Uranium Proposal.

“A prominent Russian lawmaker said Iran is hurting its case before the Security Council, which is due to receive a report from IAEA director Mohammad ElBaradei”

Ah yes, the United Nation’s Security Council. The United States has been trying to get Iran before the Security Council since 2003. Instead we got:

An October 2003 agreement between Iran and Germany, France and the UK at which time:

“[t]he Iranian authorities reaffirmed that nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defence doctrine and that its nuclear programme and activities have been exclusively in the peaceful domain” News Center : In Focus : IAEA and Iran

That worked so well that in November 2004, those same parties decided to agree to Iranian suspension of certain nuclear activities November 2004 agreement between Iran and Germany, France and the UK

Because of the long history of success with diplomatic solutions with terrorists, everyone was surprised then when they read that the fourth round of Iran-EU talks concluded in Geneva without tangible progress.

“Meanwhile, a few hours after the end of the fourth round of Iran-EU nuclear talks in Geneva, the three EU states leading tense nuclear talks with Iran said Friday progress has been slower than hoped, and while voicing hope they can succeed warned Tehran risks being referred to the UN if they fail” (emphasis added)

That was a year ago, March 2005.

But hope springs eternal so it was understandable that Europeans would criticize U.S. sanctions as potential risk to Iran talks (IHT) this past December.

Finally, the IAEA voted to report Iran to the UN Security council on February 4th of this year but, at Russia’s insistence, allowed Iran some time to continue to work out a solution Iran Defiant Despite UN Referral - Council on Foreign Relations:

“Under the resolution approved by the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran must meet a series of demands, including the cessation of all uranium enrichment work and full disclosure of its past efforts to obtain nuclear technology. Otherwise, it will face censure and possible sanctions by the Security Council” Iran defiant in face of U.N. nuclear demands

In response:

“Iran said Monday that it would restart uranium enrichment work despite international objections. At the same time, Tehran indicated that negotiations were still possible and that Russian options were being considered.” Iran Issues Enrichment Threat But Considers Russian Proposal Europe Deutsche Welle 06.02.2006

And so here we are. To let you know just how serious a matter being reported to the Security Council is, consider this:

“Responding to North Korea’s rejection of two previous IAEA resolutions, the agency’s Board of Governors adopted a resolution February 12 declaring Pyongyang in “further non-compliance” with its obligations under the NPT. The board decided to report the matter to the UN Security Council, in accordance with agency mandates.” North Korea Restarts Reactor; IAEA Sends Resolution to UN

That was February, 2003.

The problem with going to the UN is that it puts the UN in the awkward position of actually having to do something…which can only exacerbate a growing recognition that the UN is poorly structured to do much of substance. But I suppose political reality requires the US to continue to work this channel (and thank God we have someone like John Bolton working it).

Final note: None of our options are particularly attractive here but I like the tone that I’m hearing out of the administration U.S., Russia Cooperate on Iran Amid Rifts:

“Though Lavrov said it was too early to discuss U.N. sanctions against Iran, Vice President Cheney had already issued a blunt threat that Iran will face "meaningful consequences" if it fails to cooperate with international efforts to curb its nuclear program. Cheney told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday that the United States "is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime" and is sending "a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."


The 2008 Democratic electoral process

City officials said the District is an ideal forum for candidates with its high percentage of African-American voters, and he says candidates should want to campaign in the city.

“A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, Tony Welch, told News4 that the DNC opposes any early contests and is fighting a straw ballot in Florida for the same reason” D.C. Could Force Names Onto Primary Ballot

Well, that was then (2003), this is now. Apparently, the Democrats are altering their 2008 plans for the primaries and caucuses:

“The Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee yesterday dealt a blow to New Hampshire Democrats hoping to keep their coveted place in the presidential nominating schedule, agreeing by voice vote to a plan that would place one or two caucuses between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14, 2008, and the New Hampshire primary eight days later.”


“The proposal, which grew from recommendations by a commission studying how to make the nominating process more diverse….”

(For future reference: Diversity, The Children and/or A Women’s Right to Choose are always good guesses Democrats to Alter Caucus Schedule to Boost Diversity)

Of course, New Hampshire’s national identity has been pretty much tied up in its status as the first-in-the-nation primary and you would expect them not to take this too lightly:

“New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner has threatened that if a state caucus is added between the Iowa and New Hampshire events, he will simply move up the date of the Granite State vote -- a power granted him by state law.”

See also: The Union Leader and New Hampshire: NH Politics

But there could be repercussions:

“Should Gardner go that route, the DNC could refuse to seat delegates from his state at the 2008 national party convention”

Wow, that could throw the whole process into disarray – after all, NH accounts for approximately ½ of 1% of the delegates at the convention. But I’d want to see it just to hear NH Governor John Lynch do his best Willie Brown (albeit with a New Hampshire twang): “Give me back my delegation!”

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Japan's Income Disparity Problem

Today’s Washington Post alerts us to an emerging problem in Japan: Income Disparity. Conspicuous Consumption Shapes New Tokyo Skyline. The article’s sub-title further explains “Income Disparity Raises Demand for Public Housing”.

Always eager to learn more about economics, I carefully read the piece. Unfortunately, Post writer Anthony Faiola never really explains how income disparity goes about raising the demand for public housing. Opening the article with a description of Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills and its $50,000-a-month apartments ($50,000-a-month!?!), Mr. Faiola then contrasts that with the “flip side”:

“Even as the area's population growth has stagnated, the number of applicants for each low-income housing unit has nearly doubled in the past four years.”

If I’m supposed to see an obvious correlation, I’m still missing it. But the way Mr. Faiola’s uses some terms throughout his article leads me to believe it was never there to find.

“In 2002, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the richest 20 percent of Japanese earned 50.4 percent of the nation's wealth, compared with 48.8 percent in 1999 and 44.3 percent in 1987. The poorest 20 percent were earning only 0.3 percent of the wealth in 2002, compared with 0.8 percent in 1999 and 2.7 percent in 1987.”

(I’m not sure what he’s trying to convey here because I’m not sure if he is using the term “wealth” for “income”. They’re not the same. Let’s say I make $10 million this year: that probably would put me ahead of Ted Kennedy for income, however I would still significantly lag him in terms of total wealth.)

Lost in his recitation of numbers is any kind of analysis as to the significance of the changes. For example, compare the income disparity among professional football players from 1970 and today and you’ll find that the range is much greater today than in 1970. However, the lowest-paid players today are doing significantly better than their counterparts were in 1970. It may be a smaller percentage of the pie but it’s still a much bigger piece.

But for many, income disparity is a per se evil, so who’s to blame?

“The reasons for the shift remain in dispute, with opponents of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi citing his reform efforts, which have forced banks to come down harder on debtors and eliminated massive pork-barrel spending that had created a trickledown effect of wealth.

“Others blame the rise of the generation of Japanese who grew up in the 1990s disillusioned by the burst of the economic bubble in 1991 and lacking in education and training.”

Yet Mr. Faiola doesn’t seem to make the link between those two paragraphs and his next one:

“Yamada, the sociologist, said well-paying jobs were plentiful for most of the Japanese workforce during the period of its economic dominance in the 1980s, known as the bubble years.”

The 80’s were known as the bubble years for a reason. The government, through its Ministry of Finance, was way too involved with banking decisions. Land was often the collateral for loans (to the extent that one estimate had the aggregate value of all the land in Japan in 1990 at fifty percent greater than the rest of the world combined) and banks were (and are) holding onto too many non-performing loans. That’s why the banking reforms the opponents of the Prime Minister were citing were (and remain) so important. That economy, with its “plentiful” well-paying jobs, was simply unsustainable.

He goes on:

“Today, despite a low unemployment rate and Japan's steady economic growth, many young Japanese find themselves working in lower-paying jobs with little security and long hours, even as others have found ways to get in on the new gravy train.”

“..even as others have found ways to get in on the new gravy train.” – He makes it sound like it’s all the luck of the Irish (well, maybe not the Irish in this case but you know what I mean) but this implied income disparity is not simply a matter of some getting good jobs by knowing the secret handshake while the other, less-connecteds languish in more menial, lower-paying endeavors. As he cited, there are those “disillusioned” who are lacking in education and training. They are and will always be at a disadvantage, especially in the more developed economies (and, despite its problems, Japan remains the number two economy in the world). That’s the problem…not some joker living in a $50,000-a-month apartment ($50,000-a-month!?!).

And I’m still trying to figure out just how having high-wage earners take a pay cut reduces the demand for public housing.


Milosevic Dead

It’s a beautiful morning here in Baltimore and reading this headline did nothing to alter that: Former Yugoslav Leader Milosevic Found Dead. Outside of family, the only people likely mourning the death of this self-described "Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia" are those who were making a living from his ongoing trial at The Hague.

One curious line from the article:

“A key witness who testified against Milosevic, a Croatian Serb leader named Milan Babic, committed suicide in his own cell a week ago, according to officials at the tribunal.” (WP)

“Croatian Serb leader”? Technically accurate because he was of Serb descent but born in Croatia, this description is nevertheless a jarring reminder of the dangers of ethnic identity trumping all else: in his case, markedly differentiating between being a Croatian and being a Croat. From the UN’s website, this is why Mr. Babic was in the prison.

“According to the Indictment, Milan Babic participated in a joint criminal enterprise that came into existence no later than 1 August 1991 and continued until at least June 1992. The purpose of this joint criminal enterprise was the permanent forcible removal of the majority of the Croat and other non-Serb population from approximately one-third of the territory of the Republic of Croatia ("Croatia"), in order to make them part of a new Serb-dominated state through the commission of crimes in violation of Articles 3 and 5 of the Statute of the Tribunal.” (emphasis added) Case Information Sheet - Milan BABIC CASE (IT-03-72)

UPDATED: to link to the more complete Washington Post story

Friday, March 10, 2006


Go Cross!! Beat Bucknell

Holy Cross takes on Bucknell for the Patriot League Championship and the right to represent the conference in the NCAAs. Live today at 4:30PM on ESPN2. There are no other sporting events of significance today


More reaction to the (non) port deal

Two weeks ago I lambasted a David Ignatius column for its simplistic views on foreign investments.  Maryland Conservatarian: Is America for Sale? Although overall critical of his analysis, I did give him credit for being one of the few commentators to correctly note the furor over the Dubai ports deal as the over hype it was. Well, he’s back with a full column on the ports deal just in time for it to be yesterday’s news.

In today’s column, Burning Allies -- and Ourselves, Mr. Ignatius expresses his worries about the impact of the forced withdrawal of the deal on our relations in the mideast:

“I suspect America will pay a steep price for Congress's rejection of this deal. It sent a message that for all the U.S. rhetoric about free trade and partnerships with allies, America is basically hostile to Arab investment.”

I don’t disagree but in handing out the blame, the press is conspicuously absent as one of his recipients:

“One could blame it all on craven members of Congress, if the opinion polls didn't show that Americans are overwhelmingly against the deal -- and suspicious of Muslims in general. …If anything, Iraq has deepened the country's anxiety, introspection and foreboding.”

Iraq? The ongoing attacks on the populace and our soldiers are surely factors but you must also throw into the mix some other recent events in the news such as the French riots, the Palestinian’s election of the terrorist group Hamas and, perhaps most graphically, the moronic worldwide riots over cartoons. When was the last time you read or heard a press report that opened, “Good news out of the mideast today…”?  Those “craven” Congress members were merely reflections of their constituencies who themselves were just reacting to what was being reported by the various factions of the media.

And, unfortunately, to a large extent what was being reported was wrong.  The ports weren’t being sold; the UAE-based company wasn’t going to run the ports; port security responsibility wasn’t changing hands; none of that was true but we all heard some version of them in the aftermath of the deal’s announcement. For example: this tidbit was filed in my hometown of Baltimore over a week after the deal was announced:

“….where several state lawmakers lashed out at the federal government after the approval of the sale of six major American ports, which included the Port of Baltimore, to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates--a country that was believed to be a base for September 11 operations.” State Lawmakers Outraged At 'Reckless' Port Deal

Mr. Ignatius, from the vantage point of actually being in Dubai, spends most of the rest of his column putting the UAE in a very positive light.

“The truth is, this is one of the few places in the Arab world where things have been going in the right direction -- away from terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism and toward an open, modern economy.”  

He had no way of knowing the deal would be scuttled during his travels but that he is just now in a position to report this is the perfect anecdote for a story in which the facts never quite caught up.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Profile in Courage: Congress & the ports deal

Apparently, the ports deal is off and not in a way that reflects well on Congress. Dubai Port Company to Divest Itself of American Holdings. The Speaker of the House:

“We want to protect the American people," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said this morning. "We've been doing it the last four and a half years. We fought a war in Iraq, fought a war in Afghanistan, stood up to the Homeland Security Department. We will continue to do that. We will maybe have our differences, but we think we're going to continue to" oppose the Dubai deal.

“Protect the American people”? What a crock!

(and “stood up to the Homeland Security Department”? That could be a misquote…at least I hope it is)

There were salient reasons to oppose the Dubai port deal – their (non) dealings with Israel being the one that most concerned me but, at best, they became periphery matters in this saga. Instead, it is obvious what drove the Congressional reaction we witnessed in the aftermath of the deal’s announcement. Eschewing a display of even the slightest hint of leadership, Congressmen and Senators were only too happy to ride the opposition borne of ignorance (ports being sold, security responsibility being transferred etc.), arriving then at this hollow victory. We’ve insulted one our few consistent allies in the mideast for reasons that have no basis in principle nor groundings in facts.


Everyone's a critic: the NSA surveillance program

Since December, a lot of people have had a lot of things to say about the NSA surveillance program. Now into the fray, the Washington Post introduces “David S. Kris, a former associate deputy attorney general who now works at Time Warner Inc.” Ex-Justice Lawyer Rips Case for Spying

Mr. Kris “concludes that a National Security Agency domestic spying program is clearly covered by a 1978 law governing clandestine surveillance, according to a legal analysis and e-mails sent to current Justice officials.”

“The criticism represents an unusual public dissent by a former administration official over the legality of the domestic spying program, which allows the NSA to intercept international communications involving U.S. citizens and residents without warrants.”

Got that? DOMESTIC spying on INTERNATIONAL communications. Kind of like free drinks on all domestic flights between Washington and London.

Mr. Kris’ credentials seem weighty: his position as “a former associate deputy attorney general” was to oversee “national security issues at Justice from 2000 until he left the department in 2003.”

Okay – this guy was a real insider. But then 8 paragraphs into the article, we read this:

“Kris acknowledged in his paper that many facts about the program are not known, suggesting that he was not briefed on the NSA program despite his senior position at Justice during the first two years of its existence”

So the Post is breathlessly touting the criticisms of a former administration official who, “oversaw national security issues at Justice “….and they’re not even sure if he was briefed on one of the most important programs involving national security while he was there. But wait – there’s more:

“Kris refrains from passing final judgment on the government's constitutional argument, however, saying that more facts need to be known to reach a conclusion.”

The Administration’s position?

The terrorist surveillance program is firmly grounded in the President’s constitutional authorities. No other public official – no mayor, no governor, no member of Congress -- is charged by the Constitution with the primary responsibility for protecting the safety of all Americans – and the Constitution gives the President all authority necessary to fulfill this solemn duty.” Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales (01-24-06) (emphasis added)

So, to sum it all up: the Post headlines a story “Ex-Justice Lawyer Rips Case for Spying” and it turns out that the “ex-Justice lawyer” isn’t actually ripping the case the administration is making……Move along folks, nothing to see here.


Rick Santorum's inning-suspending out

This is the online grabber for Jeffrey Birnbaum and Charles Babbington’s March 9th piece in the Washington Post:

Sen. Resumes Lobbyist Huddles
Santorum is still seeing lobbyists each week despite saying he would end the regular meetings.
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Charles Babington

Here’s their opening line:
“After saying in January that he would end his regular meetings with lobbyists, Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), the third-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, has continued to meet with many of the same lobbyists at the same time and on the same day of the week.” Senator Resumes Lobbyist Huddles

Damn – they got him….well, all except for the fact that he never said he was ending the meetings. I know this because I read Jeffrey Birnbaum (from January 30th):

“A Republican conference aide said that after a review of its programs the conference would no longer hold its biweekly, Tuesday morning meetings led by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Republican conference -- at least for now.” (emphasis added) Contacts With Lobbyists Curbed

And, indeed, the reporting makes fairly clear that the meetings were “suspended”…and when I write “the reporting”, I’m referring to their March 9th piece where they write:

“Santorum, whose ties to Washington lobbyists have been criticized by his Democratic challenger, suspended his biweekly encounters on Jan. 30.”

That is the second sentence in the article….you know, the one right after the sentence where they wrote “[a]fter saying in January that he would end his regular meetings with lobbyists”.

Don’t mean to be showing off my liberal arts education but “ended” and “suspended” are not synonyms.

And why were the meetings suspended?

“Democrats had lambasted Santorum's Capitol meetings in large part because, at the end of most of them, a representative of the Republican National Committee distributed lists of Washington-based lobbying job openings, and participants often discussed which GOP congressional aides and former lawmakers might be best suited for those jobs.”

But now?

“Now, his aides said, he has resumed the meetings with lobbyists. Their purpose is to help Santorum's reelection effort, but many of the same topics other than jobs are discussed, aides and participants said” (emphasis added).

So, through the able efforts of two Washington Post reporters, we now know that Senator Santorum has resumed meetings that he had SUSPENDED in January and at which job lists are no longer being handed out or discussed. Can we just give them the Pulitzer now?


News Flash: Islam's US popularity is not on an upswing

The Post reports some bad poll numbers if you’re a Muslim – “The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam,…” Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make George Bush look bad so they throw this little tidbit in:

“The survey comes at a time of increasing tension; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq show little sign of ending, and members of Congress are seeking to block the Bush administration's attempt to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of the nation's ports.”

Wow – one sentence, crammed with information….and it’s all wrong!

First off, I’m not surprised the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are showing little signs of ending – that’s probably because they’ve ALREADY ended…a few years ago. Remember? Taliban – gone! (to Yale, among other places) Saddam – gone! (now on trial) There’ve been elections; we’re helping the new governments set up….any of this ringing a bell?

And did the Post really report on “the Bush administration's attempt to hire an Arab company to manage operations at six of the nation's ports.”? Attempt to hire??? When did the executive office become an HR office for US ports? People who read this article for content can only be considered stupider for the effort if they now believe this is what the port deal is all about.

This ongoing misrepresentation of the transaction is a large part of why it is so unpopular. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned about this pending transaction but the purported sale of the ports or an attempted administration hiring of an Arab-based company are not among them.

For the record, a company out of the UAE is trying to BUY a BRITISH company that ALREADY manages operations at certain TERMINALS, located at certain (and more than 6) US ports.

The Post spared no expense though in getting us this story, digging deep to get to all kinds of experts:

“Conservative and liberal experts said Americans' attitudes about Islam are fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists.”

Get that – conservative AND liberal experts…so, you know, it’s like a bi-partisan conclusion.

But just when you think the journalism here couldn’t get any more shallow, the Post rolls out Juan Cole:

“Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests.

"Cole said he was shocked when a radio talk show host asked him if Islamic extremists would set off a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next six months. "It was ridiculous. I think anti-Arab racism and profiling has become respectable," he said.”

He was shocked? Why? Is it the timeline of 6 months that he considers racist or is it the presumption that they’ll do it at all? Didn’t bin Laden just threaten us again this past January? U.S. rejects bin Laden's tape's "truce offer". Can Professor Cole point to anything coming out those factions that would indicate that they don’t have our ultimate destruction as their goal?

Obviously I’m no fan of Professor Cole but here’s some links – you decide if this is a man worthy of professional respect:

Informed Comment (this is Juan Cole’s own blog)
TNR: JUAN COLE'S BAD BLOG. (The New Republic)
"It's called courage": Murdoc Online (follows up on a Juan Cole reaction to the murder of Steve Vincent, a journalist covering the situation in Iraq)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Preview on Feedage: maryland-conservatarian
Add to Windows Live iPing-it