Sunday, December 31, 2006
Happy New Year
But first some football...
Thursday, December 28, 2006
What about the Liturgical Left?
Ms. Jacoby opens with a whine:
"In nearly every interview about my book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,I am asked whether I am an atheist or an agnostic. The bias--a profoundly American bias--implicit in this question is that only an "unbeliever" would want to write a historical work about the secular influences on the founding and development of our nation.
"This question reflects the 25-year ascendancy of right-wing religiosity, which has fostered a general ignorance about and lack of respect for the Enlightenment rationalist side of the nation's heritage."
Right-wing religiosity? Democratic Party Icon Jimmy Carter is a Christian-preaching author. A staple of the Democratic primaries is the weekly parade of liberal pols showing their bona-fides with trips to predominantly-black churches. The REVEREND Jesse Jackson and the REVEREND Al Sharpton aren’t getting their asses continually kissed by practitioners of Right-wing Religiosity. And it’s not the right wing that’s openly sucking up to another God-fearing, hard-line religious group the Muslims.
But Ms. Jacoby points derisively only to the Right. And after whining about the unfairness of the atheist/agnostic question, she concludes:
“As an atheist, I believe…”
…and she never does name any of the prominent “unbelievers” who also wrote an “historical work about the secular influences on the founding and development of our nation”.
SEC modifies rule change; women and minorities hit hardest
Nowhere throughout the article does it explain just HOW the executive is benefited. The new rule modifies a July ’06 change in reporting that hadn’t even gone into effect yet. The SEC rules do not affect the executive’s tax reporting, instead, most logically:
“The approach the SEC announced Friday would spread the value of the options over the vesting period, following the method companies must use to account for the cost of options on their financial statements.”
The executive doesn’t get any more options; doesn’t defer taxable income and ends up with no more dollars in her pocket than before. The only real benefit here lies in the pleasure one gets in observing a displeased Rep. Barney Frank – but that’s a guilty pleasure we can all enjoy.
I expect Barney Frank to spout off populist nonsense on issues like this that he obviously knows little about but I expected more – admittedly, for no apparent reason - from a Business reporter at the Washington Post.
Imagine-Life's Hateful Imagination
“Imagine-Life's mission is to educate the American public about underrepresented human rights violations, through various media outlets, raising awareness in order to:
*Advocate for the rights of people in need;
*Alleviate human suffering;
*Ensure American policies reflect American values, and;
*Create environments where peace can prosper.”
They are doing this because:
“Collectively, the group felt that unbalanced and often distorted U.S. media coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not address the underlying human rights catastrophe. It was concluded that a comprehensive, media-focused educational campaign was necessary to educate the public on underrepresented human rights violations at large.”
Anyone want to guess which way they feel the media is not adequately reporting? (Hint: Danny Glover is one of their guys.)
As an example of their getting the facts out is a “Resources” page entitled “Did you know”:
“In March, 2002 alone, six Palestinian ambulance personnel were killed by IDF fire, in most cases the attacked ambulances had been cleared by IDF for passage in order to reach individuals in need of emergency care (Source: Physicians for Human Rights, 4 April 2002).
Imagine the ambulance was on its way to save you...”
Not mentioned is the background of Palestinian use of Red Crescent ambulances as bomb carriers or of the instance where the ambulance was NOT cleared and was hurrying toward Israeli forces or of the tensions prevalent as a precursor to Operation Defensive Shield. In fact, not mentioned or even alluded to at all is one mention of any kind of terrorist activity by Palestinians. It’s as if they were channeling Jimmy Carter…
…which they kind of are. Because the ad I mentioned seeing earlier plays on the Apartheid meme that our former President has championed. In fact, it intimates that South African blacks probably had it better than the Palestinians…and like Jimmy Carter, it ignores that many Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel, they want its destruction.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
More objective evidence of Israeli malfeasance
If you guessed along the lines of "if it bleeds, it leads" and said "rocket fire", then you are unaware of the oft-used "Israeli exception" and not a Wshington Post editor.
The headline tells you which way the Post is going here: Despite Pledge, Israel Approves New Settlement
“Israel has approved a new settlement in the West Bank to house former Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, officials said Tuesday, breaking a promise to the United States to halt home construction in the Palestinian territories.”
This is just a small AP article on the matter but the night before, they were a little more verbose about the announcement, posting another AP article: Israel Settlement Breaks Promise to U.S.
Not a lot of details as to just how the settlement “breaks” the promise but I’m curious as to U.S. reaction. The AP reports one U.S. reaction:
“"The U.S. view on settlements remains unchanged," said Geoff Anisman, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. "The U.S. continues to urge both sides to meet their road map obligations and to avoid taking steps that could be viewed as predetermining the outcome of final status negotiations."
Meanwhile, later in the article, we learn that:
"...despite a truce, militants in Gaza launched seven rockets into Israel, hitting a street in the town of Sderot and seriously wounding two 13-year-old boys, Israeli officials said. The radical Islamic Jihad group asserted responsibility for the attacks."
More U.S. reaction?
“A spokeswoman for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, which deals with the West Bank, said a new settlement would be troubling. "We're looking into it, and if turns out to be a new settlement, we would be very concerned, given Israel's obligations under the road map," said Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, the spokeswoman.” Israel approves new West Bank settlement - International Herald Tribune
…so despite AP’s pronouncement that this is a breach of a promise, the promisee hasn’t yet so declared. Perhaps because Israel may have a perfectly reasonable explanation:
“An Israeli official, however, insisted that the settlement was not "new," but rather a revival of a settlement approved in 1981 that, by the mid-1990s, had become a school for training people before they entered the army.
“The defense minister, Amir Peretz, the dovish head of the Labor Party, gave his approval to a promise made by his predecessor — Shaul Mofaz, then of Likud and now of Kadima and the current transport minister — that houses would be built on the site of an army base in the northern Jordan Valley. The houses would be used to resettle Israelis who were forced to leave settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, according to a Defense Ministry official.” IHT
Remarkably those are from the International Herald Tribune, which is a NY Times publication. But don’t worry; the Tribune quickly goes about making sure we all know who is to blame out there. It liberally quotes the reliable Israeli critics at Peace Now:
“This is a veritable scandal, all the more so that this decision was taken by Amir Peretz," himself a former activist with Peace Now, Oppenheimer said. What may begin with 30 houses could easily become more due to "thickening," Peace Now said.”
…and it makes assertions apparently believing they are self-evident:
“Much of the world considers all Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be illegal under international law; the United States, which used to call them illegal, now calls them "obstacles to peace." The outposts are illegal under Israeli law because the government has not authorized them.”
Seriously, that is unattributed 'hard journalism' within - this in an article critical because the government is, in fact, authorizing a settlements.
Jimmy Carter could not be reached for comment.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Bush to Blame: this week's chapter - Ethiopia & Somalia
“Ethiopian warplanes attacked the airport in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Monday in another major escalation of fighting between the Ethiopian-backed Somali government and the Islamic Courts movement that in recent months has taken over much of the country.”
Apparently because Post writer Stephanie McCrummen isn’t sure we can follow the significance of what’s going on over there, she helpfully makes use of “analysts”.
“Analysts believe that Ethiopia's offensive is intended to force the movement back into negotiations by changing the situation on the ground.”
“But some analysts have expressed fear that Ethiopia's military calculation is seriously flawed…”
“Although some analysts believe al-Qaeda may exert influence over some military and political leaders within the Islamic movement…”
“…a claim that regional analysts believe is exaggerated.”
And this being the Washington Post, predictably:
“Analysts said the current crisis stems from another failure of U.S. policy in an increasingly vulnerable region.”
Ah yes, even when we’re not there, we manage to screw it up.
But despite the constant references to “analysts”, only one manages to go on record here: former Clinton Administration official and reliable current administration basher, John Prendergast. He thinks:
"All this could have been averted," Prendergast said. "If the U.S. joined a serious diplomatic effort aimed at finding a compromise between Ethiopia and the Courts, negotiations could have had a much better chance.”
I know Mr. Prendergast was a big part of the success the US enjoyed in Africa in the 90’s – Sudan, Rwanda, Mogadishu - but that just doesn’t make diplomatic sense. The High Courts are NOT the government of Somalia and the US should not seek to legitimize it in this way. And what kind of compromise should the parties seek? Ethiopia, not unrealistically, sees Somalia as a potential launching spot for terrorist actions against itself should the High Courts establish an unfettered stronghold within Somalia.
“Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has maintained, however, that this is a war of self-defense and that dialogue has only bought the Islamic movement time to expand its control.”
Whether he is right or wrong – and giving the Islamic movement the benefit of the doubt here doesn’t strike me as a winning tactic – any compromise on his part would only come across as appeasement and on the wrong side of history.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Merry Christmas, Everyone
Thanks Through The Wine
Friday, December 22, 2006
E. J. Dionne goes Bi-partisan
“In New York this week, Bloomberg announced a new initiative to fight poverty, including a Center for Economic Opportunity and $150 million annually that would, among other things, provide incentives for the poor to stay in school, to build up their personal savings and to get preventive medical care.”
Not to be too cynical but $150 million doesn’t even buy you a Bridge to Nowhere. Accordingly, Mr. Dionne cautions us that “Bloomberg has not launched a Great Society experiment, and the importance of his initiative should not be exaggerated.”
…although that is exactly what Mr. Dionne is doing. Of course, it wouldn’t be an E. J. Dionne column if he didn’t include at least one slam at those who don’t think the federal government should be relied on as the primary caretaker.
“In the wake of the handling of Hurricane Katrina, Republicans will also have to convince voters they respect government enough to demand that it perform competently.”
In the wake of Katrina a significant portion of the populace of New Orleans has not returned. Since they haven’t apparently forsaken the USA, can we possibly conclude that they are not returning to a city with a Democratic administration located in a state with a Democratic administration because maybe, just maybe, those administrations reacted to Katrina like the proverbial deer-in-headlights?
Mr. Dionne tries to make the point throughout that innovation in government needs to be encouraged:
“Daring to innovate means risking failure. Failure generates bad headlines, even charges of scandal -- and the strong possibility that the pioneering politician will lose the next election.”
What he could have added was that results can also be mis-reported as failures to fit the reporters/columnists own bias and mistakes can be recast as lies. He also didn’t mention the President’s attempt at Social Security reform, perhaps because he has been a constant critic of such attempts at innovation.
“But after six years in which clubhouse politics produced ideologically driven policies that were neither practical nor evidence-based, they are buzzwords that should have a future in Washington.”
After six years? I, for one, think policies should be ideologically driven; after all, I vote for candidates based in large part on a shared ideology. But if he is going to throw out a timeline, perhaps he could have expanded it. Because I’d have enjoyed reading about the Era of Innovation that apparently was the Clinton Administration. Exhibit 1: the “practical” Health Care Initiative honchoed by now-Senator Clinton herself.
But maybe that’s the subject of a follow-up column.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The Sacrificial Haditha Marines
“Four U.S. Marines were charged with multiple counts of murder yesterday for their alleged roles in the deaths of two dozen civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha last year. The accusations set up what could be the highest-profile atrocity prosecution to arise from the Iraq war.”
I’ve followed this case with some interest because I was afraid the Marines would wimp out and succumb to the political pressure to indict somebody here. That’s because the Marines, like all the services, are run by Generals (or Admirals). The difference between a General and a Colonel is usually politics: It’s not bravery, it’s not battlefield prowess and it’s not leadership. The Marines, like all our armed forces, have those in spades. No, it usually comes down to politics – who had the better assignments; who has the better sponsors. This doesn’t mean those who make General are unworthy – it just means they are usually better connected. And people who succeed in politics usually don’t give up on it.
While on active duty I spent a lot of time working with Marines. They’re smart, professional and committed. They are also ethical. Lacking overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe the Marines who were there and their version of events. I believe they feel horrible about what transpired…but not guilty. From what has been made public, the prosecution does not have the evidence to convict but instead must pin its hopes on someone rolling. That’s an acceptable prosecutorial tool but just further adds to the disdain and lack of respect many within the Services feel for the JAG Corps.
These Marines were in a combat situation experiencing stress at a level most of us – thank God – will never experience. In such situations, errors can occur. But absent that conclusive evidence, we should at least offer these Marines the benefit of the doubt that they acted appropriately. I would have no qualms defending any one of these Marines against these speculative charges.
I think this is Marine politicians throwing raw meat to the critics; hoping to quiet them for awhile. But what it says is that a bunch of law school grads would rather believe a doddering John Murtha than the grunt on the ground. That’s a mistake and a more morale-killing one I can’t think of.
Full disclosure: I am a veteran – Navy (but never a JAG).
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
A TIME-ly honor
Recognize me? Look at 1966. That year they honored “Twenty Five and Under” and, well, I was under Twenty Five so I proudly appropriated the cover as my own. That award has bucked me up many a time when I was otherwise down and I am convinced that it’s been the extra oomph on the resume that’s separated me from the pack in many of my job searches.
And you're right, I wrote “first…designation”. Now garnering such prestigious recognition is enough for any one lifetime so imagine my delight when I found out that I was a repeat winner. Yep, I did it again. I first found this out when I read a rant about the honor by fellow MBA-blogger Crablaw: Person of the Year is You Because "You Is A Blogger" (warning - incivility by Crablaw in post)
True, as his title intimates, I’m sharing this recognition with millions (more probably, hundreds of millions) but unlike that ingrate Crablaw, I appreciate Time’s recognition of my efforts. And I am thrilled to be sharing this honor with so many of you.
For the curious, here’s the link to the Cover and the Cover Story:
"Person of the Year: You Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world"
You should be very proud.
Of course, on every parade…. Those killjoys over at National Review Online have their own take on the designation, not seeming to recognize that Time is honoring THEM too.
Oh well, enough blogging for now; got to go and add another bullet to my resume.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Joe Biden explains Somalia
“Somalia descended into chaos after U.S. and U.N. troops withdrew in 1994, with warring clans competing for power and the rest of the world turning away. When the Islamist push began several years ago, the Bush administration started paying attention -- and funding locally unpopular warlords to gather intelligence and gird for battle.”
For which Senator Joe Biden had these enlightening comments:
“"By making a bad bet on the warlords to do our bidding," incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) charged last week, "the administration has managed to strengthen the Courts, weaken our position and leave no good options. This is one of the least-known but most dangerous developments in the world, and the administration lacks a credible strategy to deal with it."
…and then Senator Biden lays out a well-reasoned strategic alternative to the Administration, displaying the scholarship skills that one would expect of one who did so well in law school.
Ha!! C’mon now – he was clearly identified as a US Senator…and a Democrat.
Now the last time we were in Somalia, our credible strategy was to get out and basically turn over everything to the UN. And we stopped looking for Aidid. Senator Biden was not a forceful critic of that strategy and for all I know that now might be his preferred course of action. The Congress of our immediate future looks a lot like the one we had back in ’93-94 and that failure to act back then certainly hasn’t haunted those pols still with us. – including the erudite Joe Biden. But that last time allowed Osama this recent taunt:
“In a taped statement released in July, bin Laden called on Somalis to begin preparing for regional war. He recalled the 1994 withdrawal of U.S. military forces after a warlord attack killed 18 U.S. troops, saying, "This time, victory will be far easier."
Bin Laden should never be proved correct. We need to win this war. Any ideas you might have, Senator Biden, are mighty welcome.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Can these people get along with anybody?
“Hamas officials condemned the attack on Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar's motorcade, which came as it passed through Gaza City, as an assassination attempt.”
This is Scott Wilson reporting though so you expect him to somehow get Israel involved here. Sure enough:
“Zahar, a surgeon by training, is an outspoken Hamas hardliner whom the Israeli government has tried to assassinate before.”
For those who don’t remember, the Israelis dropped some bombs on his place in September 2003 as part of a re-emerging conflict (and spate of suicide bombings) involving Hamas. When did going after a militaristic enemy’s leadership become an assassination attempt?
Because, as a reminder, Mr. Zahar is a FOUNDING member of Hamas; as in the sworn ENEMY of Israel. From Article 28 of the Hamas Covenant:
“Arab countries surrounding Israel are asked to open their borders before the fighters from among the Arab and Islamic nations so that they could consolidate their efforts with those of their Moslem brethren in Palestine.
As for the other Arab and Islamic countries, they are asked to facilitate the movement of the fighters from and to it, and this is the least thing they could do.
We should not forget to remind every Moslem that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that "Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women."
Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. "May the cowards never sleep." The Avalon Project : Hamas Covenant 1988
(I know this is serious stuff but I can’t help but laugh when I read the line “Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women". Too bad the Israelis never actually said that because that would have been some pretty good trash-talking.)
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Like a junior high dance; boys & girls in different parts of the gym
…and the NCAA does not disappoint: CWA takes stance against male practice players
“The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics has issued a position statement calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women’s intercollegiate athletics. The statement comes after months of debate within the governance structure and elsewhere in the membership about whether the practice should be allowed to continue.”
It’s too early for April Fool’s so I’m guessing this is an earnest effort by a group of social-engineer wannabes who probably shouldn’t be allowed access to a word processor if they’re going to put out drivel like this. (My first inclination was to write that they shouldn’t be allowed to vote but since we all know – and we just do – that they probably went at least 90% for John Kerry, I thought that might make this be seen as a partisan attack.)
This is all too much – even for Sally Jenkins:
“This week, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics declared it wants to disallow the use of male practice players in women's sports. Now, you might ask, how far down the list of problems in collegiate athletics do you have to go before you arrive at practice players? But the committee, that august body of small-minded functionaries, seems to think it's hugely important, so it has issued a "position statement" on the subject. There would seem to be so many other pressing questions before us, such as why doesn't anybody at the university level get fired for stupidity anymore? But the NCAA has spoken: No more stinking boys.” In Practice, a Ludicrous Declaration by the NCAA
Your tax-exempt dollars at work.
Friday, December 15, 2006
A civil war NOT of our doing?
“Rival Palestinian factions exchanged gunfire Friday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leaving more than 30 people wounded, as leaders from both parties warned of a violent escalation that could push the territories toward a wider civil conflict. …
“What we are seeing is the beginning of an ugly civil war," Saeb Erekat, a Fatah lawmaker, told a news conference in Ramallah.”
Coincidently? …or maybe it’s not a coincidence: Rumsfeld departs
Anyway, this is what I take out of this news about the Palestinians
1) Our presence isn’t the problem. That’s because we’re not even there. I know that won’t stop many (read: Jimmy Carter) from blaming us but at least it won’t be because of our very presence.
2) Israeli occupation isn’t the problem. In fact, the Israeli’s have put up a wall to keep the thugs out. I know that won’t stop many (read: Jimmy Carter) from blaming the Israeli’s but at least it won’t be because of the Israeli occupation..
3) This is terrorists versus terrorists. Don’t know if this helps in the recruitment of new terrorists but if it does; at least we‘re not doing the recruiting.
Perhaps Jimmy Carter will later explain which side is the apartheider and which is the apartheidee.
Now this is a sex scandal...
“An unprecedented sex scandal has rocked Polish politics after deputies from Samoobrona, a junior partner in the governing coalition, were accused of pressurizing a woman to have sex in return for a job. If the accusations against Deputy Prime Minister and Samoobrona leader Andrzej Lepper are proved, Poland could face early elections.” Sex Scandal
The woman also accused another party deputy, Stanisław Łyżwiński, of fathering her child.
“She claimed Lyzwinski is the father of her youngest child, and now her credibility is shot. She also claimed she had sex with Lepper "between 2 and 8 times." The difference between two and eight is enormous.” DNA tests
I don’t think she likes this guy:
““She also said that Samoobrona Deputy Stanislaw Lyzwinski had a veterinarian inject her with oxytocin in order to prompt a miscarriage after he learned she was pregnant with his child.” Sex scandal deepens
But being innocent of the paternity charge wasn’t good enough for Mr. Łyżwiński…
“While Krawczyk has largely been discredited thanks to DNA tests that showed that Lyzwinski is not the father of her child, another Samoobrona party member said that Lyzwinski sexually harassed her and took advantage of her sexually.”
So…Lyzwinski dropped from Samoobrona
…and this scandal isn’t even two weeks old yet. Don’t worry, I’m staying tuned.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Straight reporting on an "injured" Tom Delay
Nice spin by reliable Democratic spinmeisters Sylvia Moreno and Chris Cillizza…who also happen to write for the Washington Post.
“Former congressman Ciro Rodriguez's victory in a House runoff election Tuesday in Texas not only allowed Democrats to pick up their 30th seat of the 2006 elections but served as a final rebuke to one of the architects of the Republican House majority: Tom DeLay.”
The Post writers provide this piece of the timeline:
“He was forced to resign as House majority leader after his indictment by a grand jury in Travis County, Tex., in connection with the alleged funneling of illegal corporate contributions into state legislative races.”
…leaving out the salient point that it was notorious Democratic hit man, Ronnie Earle who got the indictment, playing to the Republican (not Congressional) rule that required leadership to step down under indictment (in other words - had he been a Dem, he would not have been “forced” to step down). They also ignored the fact that parts of that indictment have been tossed. Here is an especially astute analysis of the (non) case against Mr. Delay.
They further observe:
“The Supreme Court struck another blow to DeLay when it ruled that portions of the map he devised were in violation of the Voting Rights Act.”
…leaving out the salient point that, for the most part, the Supreme Court’s June 2006 decision was a victory for the Delay efforts at redistricting. Loss in Texas redistricting case gives Left another chance to slam Delay
I thought the left would miss Tom Delay but I guess they’re just going to ignore the fact that he's gone away.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Jimmy Carter: Our first Nation of Islam President?
“Incredibly, given his media presence, Carter thinks that he is being silenced by shadowy forces. He makes this bizarre claim: “My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment.” Rich Lowry on Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid on National Review Online
Has anyone heard of one school where this has happened? I can imagine schools not accepting his offer because he’s Jimmy Carter and the act was old by ’78 but to imply that high Jewish enrollments correlates to his not speaking at certain schools comes across as rather Michael Moore-ish (in other words, I don't think it's true).
As Rich Lowry goes on to allude to, I’m amazed that he is even cognizant of levels of Jewish enrollments. If pressed on the same matter, I’d guess Brandeis and after that…. Although it is increasingly sounding like he believes one Jew is too high a presence, I don’t know even know what a “high” enrollment is. I mean, it’s not like there is a group of colleges and universities collectively referred to as “historically Jewish”…(there isn’t, is there?)
Finally, let’s not forget this from earlier this year:
““Is Jerusalem surrounded by armies now? …These neocons and Zionists have manipulated Bush and the American government and our boys and girls are dying in Iraq and in Afghanistan for the cause of Israel, not for the cause of America! Israel is the tail waggin’ the dog, which is America. You may not like me, and I really don’t give a damn. I’m throwin’ the gauntlet down today.”ADL
I’m sorry, that was Louis Farrakhan – but could you honestly tell the difference?
A Caliphate in our future?
“New Delhi, India - "Muslims want to revive the Caliphate," I hear pundits say. The idea is just preposterous. The Caliphate is a pre-nation state concept, relevant only to the Age of Empire. The Caliphate was defeated by the British in 1918. It was buried by the Turks in 1924.”
"New Caliphate" Nonsense - M.J. Akbar - PostGlobal
Hmm, I hope we’ve learned that when people threaten us…believe them and act accordingly:
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is it not true that one of bin Laden's aims is to overthrow the Middle East governments to establish his own united Islamic country?
HAYKEL: That is absolutely correct. That is his main aim.
CNN: Why does bin Laden talk about "80 years?"
HAYKEL: The reference to 80 years, I believe, pertained to the end of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. This happened in the Muslim year 1342, and we are now in the Muslim year 1422, and it is exactly 80 years to the month that the caliphate was abolished. I believe it is a reference to his vision of re-creating the caliphate, and uniting the Muslim world under a single and unified political and spiritual leadership. The caliphate refers to the spiritual and political leadership of the Muslim world. CNN.com - Bernard Haykel: The meaning of bin Laden's videotape - October 11, 2001 (ed. Note; Mr. Haykel is a professor of Islamic Studies at NYU)
“The Terrorists On Establishing A Caliphate Ruled By Their Hateful Ideology
Osama Bin Laden: The 9/11 Attacks Were "A Great Step Towards The Unity Of Muslims And Establishing The Righteous [Caliphate]." BIN LADEN: "These attacks took off the skin of the American wolf and they have been left standing in their filthy, naked reality. Thus the whole World awoke from its sleep and the Muslims realized the importance of the belief of loving and hating for the sake of Allah; the ties of brotherhood between the Muslims have become stronger, which is a very good sign and a great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the Righteous Islamic Khilafah insha-Allah." (Translation Of Purported Bin Laden Audio Message, Posted On Islamist Site, 2/14/03) In Their Own Words: What the Terrorists Believe, What They Hope to Accomplish, and How They Intend to Accomplish It
Osama Bin Laden: Baghdad Is "The Capital Of The Caliphate." (Text Of Bin Laden's Audio Message To Muslims In Iraq, Posted On Jihadist Websites, 12/28/04)
Bin Laden: "The Most Important And Serious Issue Today For The Whole World Is This Third World War … Raging In [Iraq]." BIN LADEN: "I now address my speech to the whole of the Islamic nation: Listen and understand. The issue is big and the misfortune is momentous. The most important and serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War, which the Crusader-Zionist coalition began against the Islamic nation. It is raging in the land of the two rivers. The world's millstone and pillar is in Baghdad, the capital of the caliphate." (Text Of Bin Laden's Audio Message To Muslims In Iraq, Posted On Jihadist Websites, 12/28/04) In Their Own Words: What the Terrorists Believe, What They Hope to Accomplish, and How They Intend to Accomplish It
The Saudis vs. John Murtha
Report: Saudis Warn They May Back Iraqi Sunnis
…which sounds as if it could be a major problem to our efforts there. So we follow the link and the actual article is headed:
Report: Saudis Warn Against US Pullout
Okay now, despite the constant harping about how everyone over there hates our presence, we read an intimation that maybe the Saudis don't want to fight us but instead want us to succeed. Perhaps all this talk about an early exit has a few people nervous. So we read the AP report:
“Saudi Arabia has warned Washington it might provide financial aid to Iraqi Sunnis in any fighting against Shiites if the U.S. pulls its troops out of Iraq, The New York Times reported Wednesday.”
The New York Times? You’re scaring all of us based on a NY Times report?
Here’s the response from the White House:
“That's not Saudi government policy," press secretary Tony Snow said in Washington.”
And sure enough, nothing from the Saudis would back up the Times on this.
The Saudis are predominantly Sunni, Iran is predominantly Shiite and of course Iraq has the two groups battling it out. Were the Saudis to officially support Sunni terrorists in Iraq, they would be supporting the very people they were afraid of when they welcomed us in 1990-91. So I'm a bit wary...and not just because it comes from the NY Times.
Were the Saudis to do so, I’m sure they could rationalize such support as an intended defensive measure against a growing Iranian powerbase. The Saudis do nothing gratuitously and nothing if they don't have to. And remember, such support for these terrorist only begins with a U.S. pullout and, Speaker Pelosi and friends notwithstanding, that ain’t happening soon.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Can Buttons be Unfair to Murderers
Reading that, your first reaction may be: “That went to the Supreme Court?” The facts of the case are amazingly simple. Mathew Musladin admitted to killing Tom Studer, who happened to be Mr. Musladin’s estranged wife's boyfriend. He claimed self-defense; the jury didn’t buy it and convicted him of 1st degree murder. Apparently during the trial members of Mr. Studer’s family wore buttons with his picture on it and Mr. Musladin felt this impinged on his right to a fair trial.
The California Court of appeals didn’t agree which meant it went next to the federal courts, meaning it eventually ended up at the Ninth Circuit. Now anyone with even a passing interest in such things knows of the Ninth Circuit’s reputation for being the most overturned Circuit in the land. I don’t think it too much of a stretch to say that without the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court could probably wait until March to start their term…and still finish by June. Anyway, doing nothing to disappoint their fans, the Ninth ruled that poor Mr. Musladin had been unfairly impacted.
..which brought us to the Supreme Court and a dose of common sense.
Post writer Robert Barnes however seems uncomfortable with the decision, perhaps because it was authored by Justice Thomas “…for the six-member majority.”
Actually all nine agreed to the decision and strangely Mr. Barnes spends more ink discussing Justice Souter’s and Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinions. But he concludes with this dig at the decision;
“But Thomas said the Supreme Court's only established law about inherently prejudicial actions involves government-sponsored acts, such as requiring defendants to wear prison uniforms or stationing uniformed guards nearby. He said the "spectator conduct to which Musladin objects is an open question in our jurisprudence."
“And it is one still specifically unanswered in the narrowly written decision in the case, Carey v. Musladin05-785.”
Here’s the whole quote from the decision:
“In contrast to state-sponsored courtroom practices, the effect on a defendant's fair-trial rights of the spectator conduct to which Musladin objects is an open question in our jurisprudence. This Court has never addressed a claim that such private-actor courtroom conduct was so inherently prejudicial that it deprived a defendant of a fair trial.”
I don’t want to get all inside baseball here but the only question before the court was whether the California courts actions “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U. S. C. §2254(d)(1).”
Because the Court had never addressed such a claim, it is hard to see how the California courts were in contrast to “clearly established Federal law”. As Justice Thomas succinctly concludes:
“No holding of this Court required the California Court of Appeal to apply the test of Williams and Flynn to the spectators' conduct here. Therefore, the state court's decision was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.”
As usual Justice Thomas gets it right without the meanderings that bog down other *cough* Justice Kennedy *cough* Justices.
The Ethical are now in charge...
“Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) violated ethics standards by giving reporters access to an illegally taped telephone call involving Republican leaders a decade ago, the House ethics committee said.”
It’s good to know the House ethics committee is so quick off the ball. From nearly nine months ago:
“A federal appeals court ruled today that Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., violated federal law by turning over an illegally taped telephone call to reporters nearly a decade ago.” Appeals Court rules against McDermott in taped call dispute
Pelosi May Give Jefferson a Lesser Committee Assignment
“House Democratic leaders, who have vowed to run a more ethical Congress, are struggling with how to respond to the reelection of Rep. William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat whose Washington home freezer once held $90,000 in alleged bribe money.”
He should have just claimed he was freezing an earmark…
Democrats Freeze Earmarks for Now
Monday, December 11, 2006
Kofi Annan: Don't let the door hit you...
Apparently Mr. Annan is giving a speech today in Missouri and the Post was so impressed with the text they decided to share it with us: What I’ve Learned
He lists out five key lessons that he’s learned and now thinks “the community of nations needs to learn as it confronts the challenges of the 21st century.” They can be summed up in one simple phrase: We need more, not less, global government.
“How can states hold each other to account? Only through multilateral institutions. So my final lesson is that those institutions must be organized in a fair and democratic way, giving the poor and the weak some influence over the actions of the rich and the strong.”
Such drivel merely reflects why the Annan-era at the UN has been one of increasing irrelevancy for the UN as an institution. What have been the signal achievements of his organization during his term of office? Darfur? Rwanda? Oil-for-food? His organization is notable for its constant criticisms of Israel while it tiptoes around the slaughters of Africa. It has earned its disdain.
By and large, the poor and the weak in this world do not have democratic institutions in place, do not have capitalistic underpinnings of their economies and require the assistance of the rich and the strong. They offer little to suggest that giving them influence over our actions is at all beneficial to us…or, in the long run, to them. As the Rev. Ike used to say: the best thing you can do for the poor is not become one of them.
I realize that adopting the rhetoric of a Koffi Annan appeals to the incessant need within many among us that the US be “liked”. It is notable that he is giving such talks within the US – I’d be more impressed if he took his show on the road to Russia or Red China. But showing up in Missouri instead is merely looking for the lost object where the light is best. We’ll listen, we’ll discuss…but, no matter what the Blame America First crowd believes, we’re not the problem.
Jeane Kirkpatrick R. I. P.
UPDATE: Kofi and U.N. 'Ideals': Rwanda, Dafur, Iraq and Oil for Food. remember where you read it first.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Iraq Study Group: We waited for this??
They include the banal:
"RECOMMENDATION 23: The President should restate that the United States does not seek to control Iraq’s oil."
They include actions that aren’t directly in our control:
(From) "Recommendation 30: …A referendum on the future of Kirkuk (as required by the Iraqi Constitution before the end of 2007) would be explosive and should be delayed."
They include the too-general-to-give-an-opinion-on:
“RECOMMENDATION 37: Iraqi amnesty proposals must not be undercut in Washington by either the executive or the legislative branch."
And they include the I’m-listening-but-I’m-suspicious (because it means calling in the UN):
“RECOMMENDATION 38: The United States should support the presence of neutral international experts as advisors to the Iraqi government on the processes of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration."
But nothing in it made me sit up with that “I could have had a V8” reaction. And like everything else involved with government, it’s the details that get you...and the details aren't there. The Group appropriately gives itself cover and the future opportunity to say “I told you so:
“It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation.”
Unfortunately the new way requires actions by others – notably Syria and Iran – that nothing in the recent past indicates are either practical or realistic expectations.
As to overall reaction to the Report, I think Soccer Dad has it about right:
“It's hard to get a good read on the Iraq Study Group's final report; but, in a sense, it's something of a Rorschach test: people see in it what they want to see.”
The “Dean” however seems impressed...and not in agreement with me:
“The Iraq Study Group -- 10 senior statesmen, equally divided between the political parties -- threw down the challenge in a unanimous report that showed no signs of being compromised or softened in the interests of bipartisan comity. This was not a happy-talk report.” David S. Broder - The Great Divide Over Iraq
One of my favorite sayings is that if two of us agree on everything, one of us isn’t thinking. But I’m not sure how to extrapolate that to a 10-member report. While the report may have involved a lot of work, it isn’t apparent that it involved a lot of thought beyond just how to get something on paper that all agreed on. I like the tone Jonah Goldberg takes on this:
“At the end of the day, the report reflects the man who put the deal together. Baker is a deal maker, a power broker, a difference splitter. And that’s the real spirit of the Baker-Hamilton commission.
”Some people want more troops in Iraq, so it calls for some more troops at first — so as to better train the Iraqis. And then, because other people want far fewer troops, it calls for a timetable for far fewer troops by 2008. Because no foreign policy commission could ever be complete without blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for something, the group throws a bone to that crowd as well. And because Baker thinks everything is a negotiation, he sees nothing wrong with chatting up everyone — including terrorist militias and our enemies in Iran and Syria” Jonah Goldberg on Iraq Study Group on National Review Online
But he’s not finished:
“Nowhere does the commission ever seriously consider how to win the war in Iraq. Why? Because winning is no longer a possible consensus position. And pulling out isn’t a consensus position either. So rather than a real strategy about Iraq, we get Laodicean tripe about how the Iraq Study Group is our last best hope to unite Americans. I’m sorry, but that wasn’t its mandate.”
Honestly, I was expecting more from the ISG. Based on the pre-release hype, I was expecting some bold recommendations. I may not have agreed with some or all of them but people throughout government would at least have been forced to react and perhaps share with us their own recommended strategy. Instead, we get a lot of let’s-talk-more, let’s-encourage-others, let’s-be-friends blather. Don’t worry kids, this Report won’t be on any future exams.
The I-Did-Not-Know-This-Department: Many are familiar with the fact that George Foreman has 5 sons – all named George. It’s usually worth a chuckle. But did you know that Lawrence Eagleburger, a member of the Study Group, has three sons all named Lawrence: Lawrence Scott, Lawrence Andrew, and Lawrence Jason.
Other Fun Facts: Two of the ten members of the Group are graduates of DePauw University: Vernon Jordan and Lee Hamilton….Only two members are NOT lawyers: Lawrence Eagleburger and William Perry.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Free Saddam!! Stop the Humiliation!!
PostGlobal asks the following:
“If the American era in the Middle East is ending, as argued by some analysts, what is likely to replace it? Chaos? Self-determination? Iranian hegemony? A new caliphate?”
First responder is one Bashir Goth, described as "a veteran journalist, freelance writer, the first Somali blogger and editor of a leading news website." His response, The Apocalyptic Whistle, was as unserious a piece as I’ve read in years (with all due respects to Paul Krugman and the Baltimore Sun). It deserves to be ignored yet...I feel compelled to comment. One part in particular stood out:
“A release of Saddam Hussein, giving him an exile in Venezuala, Cuba, Zimbabwe, or North Korea may also help to calm down the Iraqi Sunnis who feel humiliated every day by the way their former leader is being treated. It will also show Bush's atonement for waging a domestically unpopular and internationally unjust war on the basis of lies and deceit.”
This is all about Sunni humiliation over Saddam’s treatment? Maybe we should be shipping over therapists to help these poor people work through such issues. I simply cannot take seriously such commentary. However, he may be coming at this from personal experience since Somalians tend to be of Sunni-orientation. Maybe he feels Hussein's pain.
Still, any humiliation Sunni’s are currently feeling (and honestly, I cannot remember reading of this as any kind of large scale reaction) would be instantly dwarfed by Shiite and Kurdish anger were Saddam to traipse away to Cuba to spend his final days commiserating with fellow wide-scale murderer, Fidel Castro during his, hopefully, final days.
More remarkable is the link he provides as a back up to his reference to the President’s “lies and deceit” as a basis for going to war. Here’s the gist of his smoking gun:
“Former US secretary of state Colin Powell has expressed his deep regret that much of the information he gave to the United Nations about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction was wrong. …
“'But at the time we had every reason to believe that it was true. I spent a lot of time with the CIA sourcing the information before I gave that speech,' he said.” Powell regrets WMD speech
The only lies and deceit referred to in the article are those of Saddam Hussein:
“'If Saddam Hussein had come forward with a full and complete declaration and he had not thrown the UN inspectors out, a war could have been avoided.'”
But apparently for Mr. Goth, no amount of lies and deceit – not to mention oil-for-food plundering and the systematic murder of many of your countrymen – should subject anyone to such mistreatment as has been experienced by Saddam.
Friday, December 08, 2006
There are facts...and then there's AP
“Six pro-Hezbollah ministers resigned from the Cabinet last month over Saniora's refusal to accept the demand, depriving the government of any Shiite representation.”
Saying they were “pro-Hezbollah” is like saying Nancy Pelosi is pro-Democrat. CNN gives us the breakdown:
“Four of the five Shiite ministers who quit Saturday are part of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah; the fifth, Mohammed Jawad Khalife, is with the Amal political party.
Environment Minister Yaacoub Sarraf, a Greek Orthodox Christian, announced his cabinet exit Monday morning. He is aligned with Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. Lebanon approves court amid crisis - CNN.com (Ed. Note: other sources say that 3 of the 5 were Hezbollah and that Amal had 2 of them)
The issue was the number of reps the Shiites would have on the Cabinet. Hezbollah wanted at least a third, PM Saniora quite rightly rejected such a power share. Also lacking is the context of the demand:
Lebanon's depleted government Monday approved a United Nations draft setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. CNN.com
Hezbollah – and more importantly, their friends in Syria – have no interest in such a tribunal coming into being.
Then there’s this: as a reporter, if you take note of something like this:
“"Your sit-in today, with God's help, will defeat the American project," Yakan said, accusing the U.S. of sowing division between Shiites and Sunnis in the Islamic world.”
…aren’t you kind of curious as to what the hell he means. Perhaps find some examples of such U.S. actions. ‘Cause from where I sit, it doesn’t look like they need much help.
Finally, my biggest pet-peeve:
“The pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its opposition allies have called for a huge demonstration Sunday, saying it will mark an escalation in their attempts to oust the U.S.-backed premier.”
What does that mean: U.S.-backed premier? Did we somehow install him in a rigged election (sit down, Mr. Carter!)? Who knows?...but this is repeated all the time in much of the press without anyone adequately defining what the hell it means. (And if PM Saniora is a “U.S.-backed” leader, we are doing a piss-poor job of selecting who to back..)
I suspect what it means is that the Prime Minister was fairly elected and he isn’t fronting a terrorist organization so we’re not on record as being to opposed to him. (Of course, in that vein, I guess you could describe French leader Chirac as a “U.S.-backed” leader.) I don’t think we had volunteers out there handing out campaign literature; don’t believe we set up a 527 to funnel soft money toward his campaign nor can I did iI hear of us peppering the Lebanon airwaves with pro-Saniora ads on VOA.
The problem with such a description here is the less-ominous description of Hezbollah as “Pro-Syrian”, making the Prime Minister appear like some Yankee puppet while Hezbollah has merely staked out a political position. But of course Hezbollah is not just “pro-Syrian”, they are Syrian backed. They are practically an extension of the Syrian government, a vestige of the not-so-distant past when Syria occupied Lebanon. but at least the connection was made there. the AP isn't always so even-handed:
“A senior Hezbollah official vowed on Sunday to press ahead with street protests and other peaceful means to topple Lebanon's Western-backed government but said the group's plans would not be announced beforehand.” Hezbollah Official Vows Protests Vs US-Backed Lebanon Government
The Syrian backing of Hezbollah is much more relevant than any moral support the US or the West in general is offering to the Lebanon government and yet…
“Lebanon’s American-backed government on Saturday approved the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, overriding objections by Hezbollah and the country’s pro-Syrian president, Émile Lahoud.” Lebanon Backs Tribunal - New York Times
“Thousands of Hezbollah supporters set up camp in the heart of Beirut on Saturday, starting an open-ended sit-in with a carnival atmosphere intended to pressure the U.S.-backed government of Fuad Saniora into resigning.” Hezbollah Loyalists Camp Out in Beirut - Worldnews.com
You get the idea…
Side Note: “On Thursday, Nasrallah said government officials had asked American envoys to persuade Israel to destroy Hezbollah and claimed that Saniora had ordered the Lebanese army to deprive Hezbollah of weapons. …
“The Lebanese army said Friday that it had received no such orders from the government during the 34-day war, but that troops did confiscate Hezbollah ammunition at one checkpoint.”
Where else but the Mid East could a terrorist group “accuse” its own government of using its army to deprive it of weapons…and the army feels compelled to issue a denial.
Reading a law review article; now that's torture...
“In a federal courtroom today, nine former prisoners at U.S. military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan will seek through an unusual lawsuit to hold outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top military commanders personally responsible for the torture they say they endured.”
I’ve read enough newspapers to be wary of a reporter’s synopsis of a legal matter so I will delay commenting on specifics here although I am skeptical that this is anything more than a publicity stunt by the plaintiffs’ attorneys – the usual suspects of the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. But the article does include some comments from “Linda Malone, a visiting professor of national security at the University of Virginia School of Law.”
Post writer Carol Leonnig alludes to the defense claims that the plaintiffs have no rights under the constitutions, that the October 2006 Military Commissions Act bars court review of detention cases and, besides, federal tort law protects federal officials personally from liability arising out of their employment.
“Malone said that is a relatively weak part of the officials' defense.
"In international law, the prohibition against torture is one of the most serious conventions," Malone said. "There is an obligation to prosecute and punish those crimes. Just to say it's within the scope of his job -- there simply has to be more to his defense than that."
Now Ms. Malone is no dispassionate observer of this matter. She was “co-counsel for amicus in the Supreme Court in Padilla v. Rumsfeld and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.” (Linda Malone). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she is probably sympathetic to any claim against Don Rumsfeld.
I think her comments provide an excellent insight to the mindset of the legal left. She goes on about how there is an obligation to prosecute and punish torture; this is both true…and irrelevant.
Because, this isn’t a prosecution –it’s a lawsuit. I realize it flatters many on the legal left to picture themselves as moral prosecutors but our laws (and even their venerable, but nebulous, international law) simply don’t work that way…as inconvenient a truth as that may be for them.
Besides, and speaking of inconvenient truths, the crimes at Abu Ghraib WERE prosecuted and the guilty were punished. This has all the markings of a fishing expedition solely designed to harass Donald Rumsfeld (with the others thrown in only to form a bridge to get to him).
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I'll be the good-looking guy in a Holy Cross sweatshirt and HC ballcap sitting behind the Holy Cross bench.Go Cross!!!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Dionne swoons for Obama
“When Rick Warren, one of the nation's most popular evangelical pastors, faced down right-wing pressure and invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak at a gathering at his Saddleback Valley Community Church about the AIDS crisis, he sent a signal: A significant group of theologically conservative Christians no longer wants to be treated as a cog in the Republican political machine” Message From a Megachurch
Well, I don’t think anyone wants to be treated as a cog in any political machine but for those whose identity is as a theologically conservative Christian, the Republican Party has lately been a more welcoming place. And I will welcome the day when Mr. Dionne writes that a significant group of Blacks or union members no longer want to be treated as a cog in the Democratic political machine…and that he considers that a positive.
“That Obama received a standing ovation suggests that Warren is right to sense that growing numbers of Christians are tired of narrowly partisan politics and share his interest in "the whole bird." In their different spheres, Warren and Obama are both in the business of retailing hope.”
Now the other person speaking at the conference has also expressed an interest in running for president – as recent as yesterday. Mr. Dionne mentions Senator Brownback’s presence but doesn’t explain why he didn’t include the Republican Senator among those in the business of “retailing hope.”
Of course it wouldn’t have helped the story to point out that Republicans, particularly this Administration and outgoing Congressional majorities, have been on the AIDS matter from even before Senator Obama got all the love for doing just that. To his credit, though, Senator Obama did:
“In his speech at Saddleback's cavernous worship center in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, Obama applauded the Bush administration for spending billions on AIDS programs abroad."I don't do that that often," he said to laughter, "and sometimes unfairly so, because this is an area where I think the Bush administration has not gotten enough credit. The administration and this Congress have been serious about putting resources in contributing to the fight against HIV and AIDS." AIDS fight needs churches, Obama says - Los Angeles Times
Mr. Dionne throws in "one more thing" so I will too:
"One more thing: If you read Obama's speech, you'll realize he demonstrates a much truer Christian spirit than the GOP masterminds who have recently tried to push people away from Obama by pointing out that his middle name is Hussein."
It would help if Mr. Dionne would get the facts right. The apparent GOP masterminds is Ed Rogers, who was a White House official in the Reagan and first Bush administration but has been a lobbyist since 1991. Bryon York has a good synopsis over at The Corner on National Review Online. He makes a good point within:
“Of course, all this might generate a little more sympathy had not some Democrats in recent months become so fond of the name "George Felix Allen, Jr." During the campaign, winning Senate candidate James Webb routinely referred to his opponent as George Felix Allen, Jr. (just search for the name at webbforsenate.com.) Although it wasn't even correct — Allen, whose father's middle name was Herbert, wasn't a junior — the use of Allen's full name was clearly a campaign strategy, first, to diminish Allen, and then, after news of Allen's Jewish ancestry emerged, to make an oblique reference to that.”
Actually, I think both are much ado about nothing. Didn't some Democrats once get upset that certain Republicans (Marlin Fitzwater?) kept referring to Mario Cuomo as "Mario"? I thought we were supposed to celebrate such examples of our multicultural landscape.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Let's all welcome Senator Brownback...
SIDE NOTE: “Apart from McCain and Giuliani, other potential GOP contenders for the White House include Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gov. George Pataki of New York, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.”
A few remarks: Senator McCain has a few problems with parts of the GOP and Chuck Hagel is simply a John McCain wannabe – Chuck Hagel ain’t gonna happen. And only someone looking to increase word count would include George Pataki among GOP contenders. Mr. Pataki is about well-liked within GOP circles as he’ll ever be and as he gets out the word about what he “accomplished” in New York, people will be wondering why he’s not running as a Democrat.
As she is firmly ensconced in third (out of 3) place, I’d say it’s not just the critics who haven’t noticed…
What - greater than 100%?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
This just in: Liberal historians don't like Bush
Noted historian Douglas Brinkley has weighed the evidence:
“…after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it's safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder.” Move Over, Hoover
Now before you get all gleeful and start quoting this guy, let me remind you: this is the same guy who once wrote – and I’m not making this up:
"It's as if suddenly, an entire generation's optimism is deflated, and all that is left is the limp reality of growing old." Douglas Brinkley - Slate Magazine
I know – that’s beautiful. Would you have guessed that he was commenting on the death of John Kennedy, Jr.? Stop laughing; he was serious. He thought it was a watershed moment.
This is also the same man who wrote “Tour of Duty”: that ground breaking biography of John Kerry that came out just as the 2004 primaries were kicking off. As you know, despite Mr. Brinkley’s kind words and best efforts, George Bush received more votes than any other presidential candidate in history.
And no, there was no mention of Jimmy Carter as a possible candidate for this worst ranking.
The Post also thought that Columbia University history professor Eric Foner could provide some useful insight. Mr. Foner calmly goes through his assertions that, if taken at face value, would have you packing your bags for the relative freedom of North Korea and concludes in his best Keith Olbereman style:
“I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.” He's the Worst Ever
I can only guess he slept through the Carter years. Anyway, the Post could have saved the space for someone else’s anti-Bush rant and just pointed us to Eric Foner’s article in The Nation back in December 2004:
“RARELY HAS A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION produced such widespread despair on the left. By any objective standard, George W. Bush has been among the worst Presidents in American history.” Looking Back, Looking Forward
Next to those two, Michael Lind of the New America Foundation comes across as practically a groupie, ranking this President as only the fifth worst ever:
“In the White House Hall of Shame, Bush comes behind four other Oval Officers whose policies were even more disastrous: James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and James Madison.” He's Only Fifth Worst
Doesn’t anyone remember Jimmy Carter?
Mr. Lind makes it three-for-three in the no-surprise-he’s-bashing-Bush countdown. From the Publisher’s Weekly review of his book on the President:
“Stopping the threat, for Lind, does not necessarily mean reelecting Democrats, although unseating Bush would be a first step. Provocative as his examination may seem to some, Lind's hyperbolic tone is comparable to that of the most incendiary talk-show host.”Amazon.com: Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics (New America Books (Paperback)): Books: Michael Lind
David Greenberg makes it a grand slam. But the Professor, who teaches at Rutgers (who just lost a tough one to West Virginia in triple OT) does at least come across as somewhat nuanced in his disdain for Bush: At Least He's Not Nixon. Now I am no fan of Mr. Nixon – his enlargement of the federal bureaucracy and attempt at wage and price controls represent everything I don’t want in my national government. But Professor Greenberg makes a comment in passing that strikes me as kind of inane:
“And it's conceivable that the consequences of the invasion of Iraq may prove more destructive than those of Nixon's stubborn continuation of the Vietnam War.”
Most of our involvement in Vietnam happened before Richard Nixon took office in 1969 and for all intents and purposes, our involvement was over by his second inauguration. Of all the problems that emanated from our time in Vietnam, I can’t lay too many off on “Nixon’s stubborn continuation”. ...and, oh yeah, Iraq is no Vietnam.
But fear not - there is reason within the History Teaching profession and it comes from, of all places, Boston where Vincent Cannato teaches at UMass. Mr. Cannato worked briefly with the Bush administration but manages to avoid gushing and seems, uniquely among this group, to fully comprehend that this Administration still has a few years left:
“I don't know how history will judge him. My guess is that, like most presidents, he will bequeath a mixed record. We can debate policies and actions now, but honesty should force us to acknowledge that real judgments will have to wait.” Time's On His Side
But what fun is that?
For the record, I’m not putting this President on any pedestal. Campaign finance, immigration, the unwillingness to use the veto – all this and more have been constant sources of irritation for me. But I remain with him on Iraq. I believe we are better off without Saddam in power.
Given a do over – I’d still enthusiastically vote for 43 over Al Gore or John Kerry. And looking back even farther in my lifetime, only Ronald Reagan and possibly Gerald Ford would get my vote over our current President.
As to worst president ever; in my lifetime it has to be Jimmy Carter, with Richard Nixon at best a blip on the radar. But all time worst: James Buchanan…and following him only magnified just how great Abe Lincoln was.
UPDATE: I could have used some of Pillage Idiot's succinctness on this subject.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Extra, Extra: Water raises risks of floods
“A place near the water has been an American dream for a very long time. Fifty-four percent of Americans live within 50 miles of a coast.
“This is the year, however, in which the big boys in global finance got religion about climate change. As a result, this American dream -- as far north as the Washington area, and even New York and New England -- is under attack.”
We then read the heart-tugging story of a couple who recently left Silver Spring Maryland for a retirement home in NC.
“It's a big place -- eight bedrooms, nine baths, three stories, 5,000 square feet, heated pool, kiddie pool, wild horses out back, dolphins out front. "It sits like a palace in the sky," Peg says. The front door is 12 feet above sea level. They figured on selling it for $2 million. The proceeds would pay for the rest of their lives.”
“Now they're wondering if they will ever be able to sell it. The map of their part of Carova Beach has been redrawn as a high-risk flood area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As a result, it may not be possible for any new buyer to get a mortgage.”
A little history, courtesy of FEMA itself:
“In 1968, flood insurance coverage was virtually unavailable in the private sector. The private insurance industry was then, and remains now, largely unwilling to underwrite and bear the risk of flood because of its catastrophic nature. Consequently, Congress decided to provide coverage through a Federal flood insurance program to help reduce the costs of expensive disaster relief payments.” FEMA - National Flood Insurance Program
In other words, when disaster hit, the Federal government would step in and provide disaster relief. But after awhile you get tired of bailing out people who live in harm’s way. You reasonably start expecting them to undertake the costs themselves. Hence, mandatory flood insurance. (Of course, you could just have the government NOT step in: essentially telling those beachfront property owners that they’ve assumed the risk. But I’m guessing that‘s not politically viable)
But the market was telling us all something back in 1968 when it didn’t make available much flood insurance. The price the industry had to charge for them to be willing to assume the risk was beyond what most people wanted to pay. The federal program changed all that so that a big reason we have so much at-risk property now is that flood insurance, partially subsidized by the federal government is cheaper than it should be. A give-away to the rich, if you will. Flood Insurance for Dummies
“So far, climate change has shaken the market most notably in high-value coastal areas. But if weather losses get worse, upheaval will become more common.”
Climate change? The author links all these problems to this nebulous "climate change" without actually, you know, linking them. Where is the evidence that hurricanes and climate change are related? In the aftermath of 2005’s season, NOAA predicted bad things for the US: eight -10 hurricanes. Result: Not One Hurricane Strikes United States Most of the time the Rich are the bogeyman of policy discussions but since in this instance the Post is advancing the hysteria of Climate Change, I guess even the Rich get a free ride.
A few things to keep at the forefront of all this:
1) The only thing that changed at Peg’s NC home was its change of designation into a high flood risk area. There wasn’t any actual flooding, the government simply got antsy after the 2005 hurricanes and got more property into the flood insurance program.
2) Hurricanes happen…they even happened before George Bush became president.
“The specter looms of the big hurricanes of 1938 and 1954. Those Category 3 hurricanes devastated New England. Storm surges of 13 and 12 feet, respectively, swept through Providence, R.I. Historic markers demonstrate how high the water rose downtown. They are over your head. Photos show seas crashing over the top of a harbor lighthouse. It is 70 feet tall. Beach homes were swept out to sea.”
3) But if this really is all about global warming (or whatever they’re calling it now), I continue to blame John Kerry: usnews.com: Washington Whispers: May 2004 (3rd Item)
Friday, December 01, 2006
A Tangled (Jim) Webb
I dunno – that assumes he has some effectiveness to diminish. I think Mr. Webb is a single issue guy who is going to have to reinvent himself if he’s ever going to fit in with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. He can do it; he’s certainly smart and accomplished enough but I don’t see it happening. Mr. Webb seems to possess what may be the ultimate piece of leverage in politics – he doesn’t need the job. He doesn’t to be a Senator. Accordingly, if he does what he wants and says the first thing that pops into his mind for six years and then finds himself out of office – I believe he’s going to be okay with that. Now Washington changes people – lots of 3-terms-and-out'ers change their mind once they experience the headiness of political office. But I’m betting Jim Webb won’t be one of them.
But that kind of independence doesn’t make you effective by most traditional measurements in Washington.
Your reaction to what happened between the two may be colored by your politics, particularly on Iraq and/or the President. The reactions noted in the Post certainly seem to reflect that range of opinion. But I find this simply silly:
“Among hundreds of comments posted on The Washington Post website, many Virginia residents and others praised Webb's courage in standing up to Bush.”
Courage? This speaks only to that faux courage alluded to in the “Truth to Power” mantra so often bandied about. What was the President going to do in response? Have him arrested? This is of the same level of courage as exhibited by Kenye West, the Dixie Chicks and Cindy Sheehan – which is to say it is self-indulgence under a new name. It is the proverbial pig-with-lipstick.
I obviously don’t agree with Mr. Webb on a lot of issues but he served honorably and is a graduate of my father’s alma mater, the Naval Academy. I have a lot respect for what he’s done with his life and expect that he would act in the tradition of an officer and a gentleman. So I’m disappointed that he is beginning his Senatorial stint in such a boorish fashion.
Side Note: James Taranto’s continually excellent Best of the Web Today has this fun comment today:
“Jose Carbonell, meanwhile, manages to respond to Rangel and Kerry as well as Webb: "You have to understand Webb's uncomfortable position. A reception with the president and other lawmakers is not the place to admit he has a dumb and uneducated loser of a son (why else would he be in Iraq?)."
Read the report? That's why they have a staff.
Reaction to the report has been insightful:
"I think that the Baker report is . . . going to change the debate in this country," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) told CNN”
(Change the debate how? Is John Kerry signaling yet another change in his position?)
Reaction to the report has been prescient:
“Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), speaking on MSNBC's "Hardball," said that "I suspect there may be a growing bipartisan support in this country for what Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, the other members of that commission have put together."
(All the while keeping in mind that no one’s actually read the report yet)
Reaction to the report has left the door open to choose a reaction:
“Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a careful assessment: "It's a welcome change in course, although it's not as specific, or it's not as pointed, or it's not as clear as I would like."
(He may just be waiting for a growing bipartisan support to arise for one of them. Presumably, though, the incoming Chair will alert us as to which of the three criticisms he’s chosen to adopt.)
At the risk of sounding not-ready-for-Washington, I’m going to wait to actually read the report before I opine on its significance.