Cordesman goes on to write, of the fighting in Basra, that... There are good reasons for the central government to reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful. It is the key to Iraq’s oil exports. Gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government. But given the timing and tactics, it is far from clear that this offensive is meant to serve the nation’s interest as opposed to those of the Islamic Supreme Council and Dawa.A few thoughts: One, the fighting in Basra and Baghdad is, on one level, about asserting the control of the central government. That is a good thing. But two, on another level, the fighting that took place last week was about ISCI trying to set the stage for this fall's provincial elections. It wasn't about the central government versus local authorities at all -- it was about cold-blooded intra-Shia politics.
Note that AM thinks we backed the wrong dog in the fight:
Do we have a dog in such a fight? Alas, we do. That dog's name is ISCI. As the same friend mentioned above has noted, historians studying Iraq decades from now will wonder why the United States allied itself with the Iran-backed ISCI instead of the popularly-supported Sadr movement. (Hint to those historians: it's because they dress well and speak English. This is what happens when you send smart but young Republican loyalists -- who only speak English -- to help run the CPA in Baghdad.) Once again, we have backed the loser...
Might I suggest that our deference to Al-Sistani might have had more to do with it? While their relationship is a complex one (see this interesting article suggesting they are more closely aligned than not), it's certainly the case that they were significant rivals in the formative period of 04 and early 05.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr offered Sunday to pull his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities if the government halts raids against his followers and releases prisoners held without charge.
The offer was contained in a nine-point statement issued by his headquarters in Najaf.
This in spite of the press reports (on the admittedly confusing situation) that suggest that the 'Mahdi Army holds firm as Iraqi PM risks all in battle of Basra'.
The other side is always implacable, plucky, and standing firm - our side is always risking all, or otherwise at hazard. The reality is that both sides are hurting, and the question is who can sustain hurting longer.
Posted without comment from Nikki Finke):
I'm told #7 Stop-Loss opened to only $1.6 million Friday from just 1,291 plays and should eke out $4+M. Although the drama from MTV Films was the best-reviewed movie opening this weekend, Paramount wasn't expecting much because no Iraq war-themed movie has yet to perform at the box office. "It's not looking good," a studio source told me before the weekend. "No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It's a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that's unresolved yet. It's a shame because it's a good movie that's just ahead of its time."
OK, I lied, I'm going to comment - from Box Office Mojo, opening US weekends:
Lions for Lambs $6,702,434 (2,215 theaters, $3,025 average)
In The Valley of Elah $1,512,310 (wide, 762 theaters, $1,984 average)
Redacted $25,628 (15 theaters, $1,708 average)
Grace is Gone $13,880 (4 theaters, $3,470 average)
Rendition $4,060,012 (2,250 theaters, $1,804 average)
So obviously no one wants to see movies on the War on Terror.
Well, maybe not:
The Kingdom $17,135,055 (2,793 theaters, $6,135 average)
Maybe, just maybe, the audiences don't see 'addressing the conflict in a realistic way' the same way that the studios do. Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to be the bad guys. Just a thought.
So, let me get this straight? Not only do ethanol subsidies support products that requires more energy (mostly hydrocarbons) to produce than they generate, and drive up the price of food in the USA and abroad... they're also contributing to shortages of hops for beer.
Just when you thought government couldn't get much stupider, they find a way to surprise you.
...in Basra. Is that a bad thing?
From The Guardian:
A senior commander in the Mahdi army said today the militia was fighting a battle for survival in Basra against a rival Shia faction seeking to obliterate it ahead of September elections.
Fighting broke out in Basra on Tuesday when Iraqi government forces launched an offensive against Shia militia in the city. Overnight, US jets carried out air strikes in support of Iraqi forces in at least two locations.
Shiek Ali al-Sauidi, a prominent member of the Moqtada al-Sadr-led movement in Basra, said his men were being targeted not by the Iraqi government but by government militias loyal to the rival Supreme Islamic Council faction.
"They are a executing a very well drawn plan. They are trying to exterminate the Sadrists and cut and isolate the movement before the September local elections," he said in a telephone interview with the Guardian.
What do you think?
The creators of hit comedy show South Park have made every episode available online - for free, with ad support, as a joint venture with Comedy Central. These episodes were already wildly popular online as shared clips; all this does it ensure that the creators pick up revenue from the naturally viral nature of their show. That's is how we managed to show Marc "Armed Liberal" Danziger the immortal episode featuring the Hippiedigger for Thanksgiving, after all.
I certainly give thanks for South Park's brilliant social satire. Along the way, they've made it impossible for me to watch The Omen movies without laughing, and even changed my political views on at least one issue. As a fan of the movie Heavy Metal, I'd also be totally remiss if I didn't recommend yesterday's parody/homage to you.
South Park Digital Studios features all episodes and archives, including 3,000 embeddable video clips, and games. Due to continuing contractual obligations, however, all new episodes will be available online for 7 days after they premiere on Comedy Central. Then they disappear for 3 weeks or so, before returning permanently to the site 30 days after they air.
I'll help point people to the Live Leak version of Fitna:
I'm working and so haven't watched yet, and so can't comment approvingly or disapprovingly. More commentary to follow.
JK: LiveLeak pulled the movie, citing safety risks:
"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers. This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.... We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high."
We say the world is a big place, but how many of us really understand that concept? The strange disappearance of John Glasgow, CFO for one of Arkansas' largest corporations, underscores it.
It's definitely a very odd case for a number of reasons, but the central theme is that the indicators you'd expect to find are all missing. The difficulty in even getting many leads, despite all the resources invested, was a surprise to me. Check it out.
According to some statistics, fully one quarter of those enrolled in the educational system in Egypt today are studying in religious educational establishments [schools, academies, and colleges run by Al-Azhar]. Other statistics reduce the number to one fifth, while a recent survey places it at no more than one sixth. Even if we assume that the lowest estimate of one sixth, that is, slightly over 16%, is the correct one, this means that more than three million students receive their education from start to finish in religious establishments. And the number would rise to four or five million if we accept the other statistics.
What is certain is that we are facing an educational phenomenon that is bound to have far-reaching social, political and economic ramifications and hence needs to be closely examined and analyzed.
The first question that springs to mind here is “why”. Why does a society like Egypt’s end up sending such large numbers of its youth to study at religious establishments? This question evokes another question: What brought us to this? Was it planned or is it a random development that grew out of a reality not governed by strategic planning but by reactions and bureaucracy?
Before going into the question of why this phenomenon has reached such proportions in Egypt, it should be noted that, apart from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen, no similar phenomenon exists in any other of the more than 200 states in the world. Accordingly, we need to ask ourselves whether we have allowed matters to reach this point because we aspire to be not like Japan, Singapore, France, Canada or Spain [educationally and hence culturally] but like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen. And is this what we aimed for when we laid down a strategic educational policy in full awareness of its implications and consequences?
It beggars belief that we could knowingly have put in place an educational policy aimed at having one quarter, one fifth or one sixth of young people enrolled in the educational system receive their education in religious establishments. In fact, I would say that we never did lay down such a policy – or, indeed, any educational policy at all!
In my view, matters evolved in the direction they have done as a result of realities on the ground as well as bureaucracy. The huge forest of educational religious establishments we are now seeing sprouted up haphazardly, in reaction to specific problems, such as the lack of educational establishments within easy reach of children living in to small towns and villages and as a place of educational refuge for pupils who could not, whether for lack of material means or minimal educational requirements, join the general education system. If I am right, and I believe I am, our approach to the problem of education is consistent with our approach to many other issues.
Writing this article forced me to contemplate some alarming facts. Among the most disturbing is that we established the network of religious education as the solution of least resistance, so to speak, for the problems of the lowest social classes and the segments of society with the poorest learning skills. If that is so, this means that from a strategic point of view we are injecting huge numbers of the most disadvantaged elements of society - economically, socially and in terms of learning skills - into a religious educational system that is acquiring gargantuan proportions. Moreover, we have done so without making any effort to consider the strategic results – political, economic, social – of this “solution” on the future of society.
Over the years I have asked many, probably hundreds, of junior employees and workers if their children were attending Al-Azhar schools. The great majority replied in the negative and expressed disdain for the quality of education provided by these schools. Their reaction led me to believe, perhaps wrongly, that religious education in our society is perceived as the last refuge of those who, for lack of social, economic or mental abilities, have no recourse to the general education system. Once again I must emphasize that allowing this phenomenon to flourish unchecked will have dire consequences for society as a whole. The time has come to study the phenomenon and the adverse strategic results it is bound to produce rather than leave it to the culture of improvising ad hoc solutions that has prevailed for decades.
Over the last few decades, our society has been swept by a powerful wave of obscurantism, as evidenced by the primitive and archaic understanding of religion that has become all too prevalent. And yet no one seems to have studied the relationship between this wave and the hordes of mainly underprivileged members of society who have studied in religious educational establishments and who are, for obvious reasons, particularly vulnerable to the appeal of a simplistic understanding of religion.
Have any of our strategic thinkers looked at the phenomenon from another angle and asked themselves what effect these huge numbers of Egyptian students enrolled in religious establishments will have on the country’s scientific, technological, industrial and trade sectors? We have seen other countries expand religious education to the point which eventually gave rise to a cadre of men of religion determined to prevent their societies from joining the march of progress. Can we honestly say that we are not moving uncomfortably close to a similar scenario?
It is also to be questioned whether we have looked at the issue of religious education in Egypt from an extremely important perspective. The values of progress are a set of values that form an integral part of the ethos of every prosperous society. Among the most important are a belief in human diversity, pluralism, the universality of knowledge, human rights and women’s rights. I spent hours reviewing the curricula on offer at Al-Azhar’s educational establishments in various subjects – culture, literature and languages – and found them to be either totally devoid of any attempt to plant the seeds of these values in their students’ minds or actively promoting opposing values. Are we aware of the magnitude of the problem we have ourselves created by producing graduates whose conscience and mindset are inculcated with values diametrically opposed to the values of progress? In this connection, it is well to remember that progress is more a function of a set of values than it is of material resources.
Has anyone considered the possibility that, by allowing such a huge number of religious educational establishments to mushroom in our midst, we are, from a strategic political perspective, ultimately serving the interests of a trend that has rightfully been described by the state as the worst enemy of civil society? Are we as a society and a state financing the enemies of civil society and of progress?
Has anyone reflected on how such an extensive network of religious educational establishments will impact on the general cultural climate, on social peace and on our nature as a Mediterranean society? Or is the issue of such little importance that no one considers it worthy of attention?
We're gonna be working over the coming month to instituting some measures to make it more difficult to have an account here at MyDD. I'm sure there's many places on the web where people that having nothing better to do than attack other users will be welcome, but not here.
Karen DeYoung published a story in the Washington Post that ought to embarrass anyone making decisions about who deserves permanent residence in the U.S.
Saman Kareem Ahmad is an Iraqi Kurd who worked as a translator with the Marines in Iraq’s Anbar Province. He was one of the few selected translators who was granted asylum in the U.S. because he and his family were singled out for destruction by insurgents for “collaboration.” He wants to return to Iraq as an American citizen and a Marine, and has already been awarded the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter and General David Petraeus wrote notes for his file and recommended he be given a Green Card, but the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) declined his application and called him a “terrorist.”
The INS says Ahmad “conducted full-scale armed attacks and helped incite rebellions against Hussein’s regime, most notably during the Iran-Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom” while a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
The KDP is one of two mainstream Kurdish political parties in Iraq. Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is a member of the KDP. The KDP fought alongside the United States military as an ally during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After Operation Desert Storm the KDP fought the Saddam regime after President George H. W. Bush called on Iraqis to do so. During the Iran-Iraq War, the KDP fought the Ba’athists because they were actively resisting genocide in the Kurdish region where Saddam used chemical weapons, artillery, air strikes, and napalm to exterminate them. And he’s a terrorist?
The Kurds in Iraq–unlike the Kurds in Turkey and the ever-popular Palestinians– did not use terrorism as a tactic in their struggle for liberation. They fought honorably against Saddam’s soldiers, not against Arab civilians in south and central Iraq.
"A war on gophers waged by two Canadian men went awry this weekend when a device used to blast the rodents in their holes sparked a massive grass fire in a rural area near Calgary, Alberta, causing more than C$200,000 ($197,000) in damages...."
KARMAH, IRAQ – Just beyond the outskirts of Fallujah lies the terror-wracked city of Karmah. While you may not have heard of this small city of 35,000 people, American soldiers and Marines who served in Anbar Province know it as a terrifying place of oppression, death, and destruction. “It was much worse than Fallujah” said more than a dozen Marines who were themselves based in Fallujah.
“Karmah was so important to the insurgency because we've got Baghdad right there,” Lieutenant Andrew Macak told me. “This is part of the periphery of Baghdad. At the same time, it is part of the periphery of Fallujah.”
Lieutenant Macak is not a veteran of Karmah, but Sergeant Jason Howell is. He was deployed in the city from March through October in 2006. “People weren't out in the streets,” he said. “They were very reserved. They were afraid to talk to us. They had the feeling that, especially in the smaller towns, they were constantly being watched. They were in real jeopardy if they interacted with coalition forces and, especially, the Iraqi Police.”
Lieutenant Macak arrived in Karmah in the middle of July 2007 when the city was still a war zone. “It was moving in the right direction, but it was still active,” he said. “2/5 [Second Battalion, Fifth Regiment], who we relieved, was part of the surge effort. Karmah was still a very dangerous place. The lollipop over here was a big deal.”
“You mean the traffic circle?” I said. The Marines refer to a large traffic circle down the street from the police station at the entrance to the market as the “lollipop.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It was basically IED Alley. The whole road out here in front of the station was just covered in IEDs. No one even went down the roads leading to the north of here. It was an insurgent stronghold. Before 2/5 came in there weren't many patrols. They didn't do a whole lot. The Iraqi Police didn't have any confidence. Their numbers weren't big and there wasn't a whole lot of organization. 2/5 came in and started patrolling, started doing what Marines do. They identified local leaders and started engaging them. Sheikh Mishan came back at about the same time from Syria.”
Sheikh Mishan Abbas, like many other sheikhs in Anbar Province, fled to Syria shortly after the U.S. invaded.
By random chance, on Friday I picked up a used copy of Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" at the awesome renaissance Bookshop at the Milwaukee Airport.
I was led there by Susan Nieman's "Evil in Modern Thought," about which I may try and write later. That was a challenging book...
And either I'm much smarter now and so more aware of the deep subtleties in books like this, or a whole lot dumber than I was in college when they were easy to read.
I'd tagged this article and want to just toss it up while I work on a longer piece on the points it makes.
David Brooks at the NYT, writing 'Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooders':
Earlier generations of benefactors thought that social service should be like sainthood or socialism. But this one thinks it should be like venture capital.
These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don't wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don't devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.
Next to them, Barack Obama looks like Abbie Hoffman.
It also means that they are not that interested in working for big, sluggish bureaucracies. They are not hostile to the alphabet-soup agencies that grew out of the New Deal and the Great Society; they just aren't inspired by them.
He's talking about something that resonates with me pretty closely:
The older do-gooders had a certain policy model: government identifies a problem. Really smart people design a program. A cabinet department in a big building administers it.
But the new do-gooders have absorbed the disappointments of the past decades. They have a much more decentralized worldview. They don't believe government on its own can be innovative. A thousand different private groups have to try new things. Then we measure to see what works.
Sounds good to me...
If you're a Canadian, the utter demise of the Atlantic Cod fishery within the last decade stands out as an exemplary case of politically-driven mismanagement to buy votes, and government-driven economic failure. The warnings were abundant, consistent, and ignored. Now a species that was once present in numbers so vast as to defy description is now rare, and shows few signs of any sort of comeback. To put some quickie numbers beside that, the cod fishery was worth $1.4 billion in 1968 when it was already past its heyday. It was worth just $10 million in 2004.
Scientists are beginning to sound the same warnings about Bluefin and Yellowfin Tuna, which are valued for their sushi-grade meat.
If you've ever seen these fish up close, they are seriously big, seriously wide, and seriously fast. Having one headed toward you is kind of like facing a linebacker rush.
In the Atlantic, however, the Bluefins suffered a huge population shock from 1900-1950 that coincided with industrialized fishing. Now scientists are looking at their migration patterns, and discovering that the conservative American approach to management (2,500 ton quota) is useless because the tuna's migration patterns take them into European waters (50,000 ton quota). Research is ongoing in the Pacific as well, via projects like the Stanford/Monterey Bay Aquarium Tuna Research project, TOPP (Tagging Of Pacific Predators), et. al. A recent New Scientist article adds that the situation is slipping fast for one of the most valuable fisheries on earth:
"In 2001, the western and central Pacific Ocean yellowfin tuna fishing industry was worth $1.9 billion. By 2004, its value had dropped by more than 40% to $1.1 billion. According to Barbara Block of Stanford University in California, US, Atlantic bluefin tuna populations have declined by as much as 90% since the 1970s and Mediterranean bluefin by about 50%. In both cases, the rate of decline has accelerated in recent years...."
Rating programs like Seafood Watch are spreading, and can make a difference in your local grocery store and on your home table. That's certainly a start.
A lot of environmental concern gets focused on the land, but in many ways, that situation is far better than it was even 3 or 4 decades ago. The same cannot be said about our oceans, which are in steadily declining shape. As Canada learned the hard way, the ocean's capacity is vast, but vast is not infinte. Unless we start getting smarter about that fact, it will bite us as a species in some very unpleasant ways. And it will begin doing so as a near to medium term issue, not a long-term one.
Commenters Metrico, Davebo and Dreuk challenge me on my support for Obama in the comment thread below.
I'll make a comment and then a suggestion.
I'd like Obama to win; I'm anxious about his foreign policy, but not as anxious as I am about McCain's because I'm confident that it won't survive contact with reality (I said so here) - and Powers was probably fired as much for saying that was true as she was for calling Hillary a monster. I'm working on a post on McCain's, and hope to get it out next week, work permitting.
Of course, I have until I put the card into the slot on the Inkavote to make the decision, and lots could happen between now and November. Lots already has in this race.
But when I criticize Obama in my posts on Wright, I'm making a concrete suggestion on what he could do to win over voters like me who might be more anxious than I about him. I'm telling him how he could improve his game, and how - I think - he could make his election more certain.
Now I've had running battles on the blog for years with liberal voters who state, simply, that I'm a party of one, and that there's no 'voter cohort' that thinks like me, and so on. I'll suggest that if that were the case, both Hillary and Obama would be 10 - 15 points up on McCain at this point in the game. Hint: they aren't.
So when I toss out the idea that Obama should make a more solid explanation of how he combines his 'radical roots' and his moderate expressions, it's intended to help him win.
MDD, below, aren't so interested in that. Because if they were, and they had a wobbly Obama voter in front of them, they'd be propping him up - offering responses to his concerns, pointing out facts that have been missed and doing everything they can to say, "Hey, Marc I get it that you're concerned about this, and here's why you shouldn't be and should support Obama more solidly." They'd reassure me, publicly lock me into a position, and maybe create the seeds of some arguments that might persuade others as well.
In fact they aren't interested in that: they are interested in feeling smug and high-fiving each other over how wondeful and righteous they are. If they do it at my expense, I'm pretty much indifferent (although if bored, I might swipe back). But when they do that, they are carrying on a long trend in US left politics, which has resulted in - among other things, an effective electoral tie with a geriatric standard-bearer for a party that ought to be on it's last legs for the next eight years.
I don't know how often I have to post this quote, but I'm prepared to keep doing it until somebody starts to get it. From John Schaar:
"Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960's. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow."
And if you want to understand 'the arc of my beliefs', an earlier post that cited this offers a pretty good explanation: 'Why does Brian Leiter Want to Kill Poor People?' It's also all over www.armedliberal.com (look for 'Skyboxes') and this site.
Why do you want to kill poor people, Davebo?
In 1975, he wrote a story (not really science fiction) called "Sierra Maestra" which takes place about now in a penthouse apartment above a riot-torn Manhattan. In that apartment, a progressive radical clique plots to take over America; they do it by having spent the last twenty-five years working their way to positions of incredible prominence - running General Motors, richest financier in the country, Senator, Governor. Their entire lives to that point had been dissembling so that they could attain the positions they wanted to have on this day and move to make change.
I get a creepy reminder of that story when I read things like this about Obama:
The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.
As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more up front." He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, "Keep up the good work!"
Mr. Wright said that in the phone conversation in which Mr. Obama disinvited him from a role in the announcement, Mr. Obama cited an article in Rolling Stone, "The Radical Roots of Barack Obama."
According to the pastor, Mr. Obama then told him, "You can get kind of rough in the sermons, so what we’ve decided is that it’s best for you not to be out there in public."
I can understand why these things would make conservatives - and many moderates - hyperventilate.Because they think that what they are seeing is a real-life re-enactment of Spinrad's story.
Now that's not necessarily true; I have a diverse body of friends and lots of friends who I don't mix together - deliberately, out of courtesy and respect to each. I can understand how Obama could face the same issue, writ far larger.
And I'll note that in the story, Spinrad approves of the plotters who plan to rescue a collapsing United States.
But the one thing Obama needs to do - and did not do, in spite of some excellent sleight of hand in his speech last week - is explain the arc of his beliefs and how it is that he's comfortable with Rev. Wright and uncomfortable with some of Rev. Wright's core beliefs.
I'm still standing on his side of the line - along with lots and lots of people like me - and if he wants to nail my feet to the floor here, this is the first and most important thing he needs to do.
I've posted a small series of photos on my own blog that I took in Jerusalem last October. The first photo, below, is of the Gethsemane Church on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. The church's proper name is the Church of All Nations and was built from 1919-1924. It was to Gethsemane that Jesus and his disciples, except Judas, came after the Last Supper. It was here that Judas brought the Temple police to arrest Jesus.
The useless (to the Tibetans) charade of visiting the Dalai Lama
"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out about Chinese repression in China and Tibet" Nancy Pelosi said, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world".
She may not be exaggerating. But the issue is not about the freedom-loving people of the world, who are already speaking up against Chinese repression in Tibet.
The issue is of ostensibly freedom-loving governments and political leaders of the world, who are not. It is all very well for the Speaker of the US House of Representatives to travel half-way around the world and stand beside the Dalai Lama at this time. It plays well to the world's television cameras and to Ms Pelosi's constituents back in America. But by way of meaningful support for the Tibetan struggle, it means little. On the contrary, it will allow China's Communist party to project the Tibetan protests as part of an American conspiracy to shame China.
If she really wanted to support the Dalai Lama's struggle, she needn't even have made the trip to Dharamsala. Perhaps the US Congress could have adopted a stern resolution. Perhaps American congressmen could try and compel the Bush administration to be blunt in its criticism of China. And perhaps (yes, we're stretching it), freedom-loving American legislators could compel the Bush administration to do something about it.
No, Ms Pelosi and US legislators are not doing that. Regardless of their sincerity, they are content to only put up another show of the dismal political theatre. At the Tibetans' expense. Ms Pelosi could have spared us this act.
Snowed in. Of course Jimbo and Blackfive are down where there is sun...
...who's around for a round of drunks and food tomorrow around lunchtime?
The ATF had a 2007 solicitation for bids to deliver 2,000 Leatherman tools.
Engraved with the following:
ATF-Asset Forfeiture AND "always think forfeiture"
...are you outraged yet?
I wonder how Donald Scott's family feels about that?
I think asset forfeiture is reprehensible, and when it funds law enforcement corrupting. I think it should be banned outright; I can understand it being used very narrowly in the case of convicted criminals - but very narrowly. And when a law enforcement agency sends little promotional items to the troops reminding them that it's really about marque and reprisal - will, I'm deeply disgusted.
I debated posting the contract officers information here, and encouraging everyone to let him know what you think of this "opportunity", but I think instead you ought to send a message to your Congressmember. You can find them at Congress.org; you can find your local officials by entering your zip in the box at the upper left, and then create your own message about this.
Sometime on the Friday after Passover, almost 2,000 years ago, Roman soldiers, acting on orders of Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, took Jesus of Nazareth to a low hill outside Jerusalem and crucified him to death. As crucifixion deaths went, Jesus' death came pretty quickly, within a few hours. It was not unusual for victims to linger on the cross for days.
There were two criminals also crucified alongside Jesus. Because it was Passover week, emotions ran high among the Jews who had made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holy observances. There were many thousands of pilgrims there, some historians say more than 100,000. At sunset on Fridays the Jewish Sabbath began then as now, and even hardened Roman soldiers were uneasy about the execution of these men continuing when the Sabbath began during this particular week. So they decided to break the victims' legs in order to make quick their suffocation to death. Crucifixion is, after all, a form of hanging, killing by suffocation. With their legs broken, the victims could not push up to take a breath and so would die a quick, though brutal death ("excruciating" derives from the same root as "crucifixion," and it is no accidental relationship).
But when they came to Jesus to break his legs, they discovered he had already died. Another soldier, probably more experienced and thus leaving nothing to chance, took his long spear and plunged it into Jesus' side, almost certainly penetrating his heart, since that would have been the whole point of spearing him to begin with.
Before sundown, the Romans permitted some of Jesus' friends to retrieve his body and entomb it.
by Bart Hall
One of the funniest things in the world, according to the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, "is to see the expression on the faces of so-called African-Americans when they finally figure out that we consider them to be White."
Mr. Orombi and I have been friends for nearly a decade, at one point bouncing across bad gravel roads here in rural Kansas (in our white 1984 Toyota) so he could see American bison. He felt totally at home. He called me an "African with white skin."
The dirty secret of American racial politics is that Commonwealth blacks, and most of them really are BLACK, intensely dislike African-Americans. It was the same in Canada for all the years I lived there. It doesn't matter if it's Grace, the Trinidadian nurse; John, my Igbo (Nigerian) classmate in geology; "Auntie" the Jamaican coffee grower; or Henry, the Ugandan Archbishop.
Commonwealth blacks, here and in their own countries, see America as a land of unbelievable opportunity. "Racism" is not a factor. They're much blacker, and if "black" were the problem, they'd not praise the incredible opportunities available here, to all.
Let's be blunt. The problem is Black Trash, not dark skin. Think: White Trash with a somewhat darker skin and generally living in urban areas rather than mostly rural ones. Unwilling to delay gratification. Blaming others for their problems. Ascribing their failures to some sort of conspiracy. Bombastic attacks on others unlike themselves. Sticking "to their own" because others are hostile. Seeking short-term pleasure to the detriment of longer-term success. Taking ridiculous risks for pleasure.
That is the "Trash" frame of mind, and skin color doesn't matter. Bill Clinton has been described by some as "America's first black President" simply because Black Trash observed White Trash and found a kindred spirit.
There are attitudes of success and attitudes of victimization. When young African-Americans are called "Oreos" for working hard in school or Condi Rice is dismissed as "George Bush's house nigger" the majority of African-Americans are rejecting the very attitudes and approach to life that could change their situation. Until they stop, we'll get nowhere on the "race" issue, because it isn't really about race. There are attitudes of success and attitudes of failure.
Like the White Trash in the hills of Arkansas, where I lived for five years, they find it easier to blame someone else. There are plenty of whites I'd never hire. The only way to "transcend race" in America is to address the question of attitude. I won't hire the average African-American, not because his skin is barely darker than my wife's, but because his attitude sucks.
In fact, I'd hire a jet-black Nigerian, or Ugandan long before I'd ever hire an "African-American," and until our folks from the 'hood figure that out, American politics will remain distorted and dysfunctional.
...amaze me with their Wiley Coyote Super-Genius brainpower yet again.
Over at the serious academic Thom Brooks 'Brooks Blog', we get this gem: "Is promising tax cuts tantamount to bribery?," which explains:
. . . and so we learn that the Tories are not promising tax cuts before the next election. (Details here.) This tendency of politicians to even discuss tax cuts as a major election issue has always troubled me. Now I think I know a bit more why.
It is wrong for politicians to bribe the electorate. They cannot pay for our votes. Of course, the expenditure of large sums of cash on advertisement, etc. can have positive effects in general (although not always). But spending money on tv ads in no way is like bribery.
When politicians promise tax cuts, they are promising the electorate that if they vote for the politician, then they can expect extra money in their pocket. We might call this indirect bribery. Direct bribery is when politicians pay you directly from their coffers for your vote. This is illegal in an obvious sense. Indirect bribery is different. Rather than pay voters from the party's accounts, the party pays back voters from the treasury.
Promises to, say raise teachers' salaries, on the other hand...he's OK with that:
There is at least one major qualification in all of this. Of course, the public has a right to know how politicians and parties might spend public money if elected.
This is, of course, beyond ridiculous. Politicians make promises of benefits all the time; they discuss zoning plans which may increase or decrease the value of my home; they discuss tax policy that may leave more money in my pocket, or advantage or disadvantage my industry.
I'm generally pretty admiring of Josh Marshall; he's an unabashed partisan but usually one with a fair respect for facts and sense.
Today, not so much.
First, he gets spun by Juan Cole's mistranslation of the Iranian threat to Israel. Here's Marshall citing Cole:
According to Farsi-speaking commentators including Juan Cole, a professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, Ahmadinejad's exact quote was, "The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." Cole has written that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the "Nazi-style extermination of a people," but was expressing the wish that the Israeli government would disappear just as the shah of Iran's regime had collapsed in 1979.
When Cole made his post, a commenter here at Winds took him to school:
I am Iranian, and I can tell you Cole is wrong.
Let's start with simple fact, that is not directly relevant. He writes that Khomaini said the Shah government "must go". But "az bain bayad berad" does not mean "go", it litterarly mean something like "must cease to exist", and the most direct translation would be "must be destroyed".
Now to the latter part:
"bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad"
The translation is not perfect, the dear Professor is not convewing the action implyied the sentence, as I or any Iranian would read it.
So Cole errs, or lies, and somehow it becomes a part of the historical record...
Next he catches McCain in a double-secret intellectual jujitsu hold.
...But that's really secondary to the real issue which is that the strategic aim of the surge has failed. It's fastened us down even more firmly in Iraq whereas the aim was to jumpstart a political process in the country that would allow us to begin to disengage.
These points are completely lost on McCain. A savvy campaign should be able to make McCain's failure to understand the surge's failure into a potent political issue.
So the disagreement becomes a flat disagreement over facts; the problem, of course is that this presupposes that the issue isn't whether McCain disagrees - because we've already assumed facts that make McCain wrong - so no debate is possible or even desirable.
The last time I saw intellectual jujitsu that slick was last week, when the data showed that the oceans were stubbornly not warming up:
Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.
...if you're a Democrat like me.
Neither Michigan nor Florida look they will do a revote, meaning we'll have a stupendous floor fight about seating the rump-delagates elected in the non-primaries that were held too-early in the primary season.
Now I just don't see how this is going to do anything except give the GOP a significant leg up in those states. The ads just write themselves.
I continue to be astounded at the ability of the Democrats to pull defeat from what should have been the slam-dunk electoral victory of the new millenium. Does anyone there have two clues to rub together?
“All we want is to reduce the Albanian population to a manageable level.” – Zoran Andjelkovic, former Serbian governor of Kosovo
Genocide is the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” – United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
The State of Israel is divided on the Kosovo question: should the world’s newest country be recognized? Some, like former Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman, worry that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia might encourage Palestinians to make the same move. The small Balkan state, however, may have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza.
Israelis, as Amir Mizroch notes in the Jerusalem Post, have excellent relations with the Kosovars. “Israel has an interest in helping to establish a moderate, secular Muslim state friendly to Jerusalem and Washington in the heart of southeast Europe,” he writes. Indeed, Kosovo is neither an enemy state nor a jihad state. Its brand of Islam is heavily Sufi, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Wahhabism and Salafism that inspire Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Kosovo doesn’t belong to the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas axis. On the contrary, Kosovo has thrown in its lot with the West, and especially with the United States. Serbia’s breakaway province is perhaps the most pro-American country in all of Europe. Bill Clinton is lionized there as a liberator – a main boulevard through the capital Prishtina is named after him – just as George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush are hailed as saviors in Iraqi Kurdistan. It should be no surprise then that Mizroch quotes an Israeli official who says Israel most likely will recognize Kosovo if its “influential friends” in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, and France, decide to do so.
Concern that Kosovo’s independence might trigger a similar declaration from the West Bank to Spain’s Basque country to Chechnya and beyond is understandable but perhaps overwrought. Bosnia declared independence without unleashing a domino effect beyond Yugoslavia. So did Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Montenegro declared independence from Serbia less than two years ago. It’s doubtful the Palestinians even noticed. Hardly anyone else did. In any case, it had no effect on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The irrelevance of Kosovo to the Arab-Israeli conflict is underscored by the fact that not a single Arab country has recognized Kosovo. The only Muslim countries which so far have bothered are Turkey, Malaysia, Senegal, Albania, and Afghanistan. The governments of all these countries are, to one extent or another, either moderate, in the pro-Western camp, or both. All aside from Albania have sizeable ethnic minorities of their own. Turkey especially frets about its own separatists – the Kurds in the east – but still went ahead and recognized Kosovo almost instantly.
Many in Kosovo are well aware that they have more in common with Israel than with the West Bank and Gaza. “Kosovars used to identify with the Palestinians because we Albanians are Muslims and Christians and we saw Serbia and Israel both as usurpers of land,” a prominent Kosovar recently told journalist Stephen Schwartz. “Then we looked at a map and woke up. Israelis have a population of six million, their backs to the sea, and 300 million Arab enemies. Albanians have a total population of eight million, our backs to the sea, and 200 million Slav enemies. So why should we identify with the Arabs?”
Came across this while searching for something totally unrelated. It helps to have seen "Cheese Shop" in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Why is this so germane for Israelis? Because similar statements are made in this part of the world daily, such comments made by political figures and religious leaders are taken seriously. Those who hear them are inspired by them and then use these words to justify violence and murder. While it might be no big deal in the States to Damn the government, it is a big deal else where. ... Israelis have seen this silent affirmation of racist and divisive culture grow in recent years in very interesting and peculiar ways—their Foreign Minister forced to use the side servant entrance to the Annapolis conference. Secretary of State Rice used her personal narrative of growing up Black in the Old South to identify with the plight of Palestinians forced to stop at check points. No mention was made that the check points were instituted to prevent the very acts southern racists carried out against Black religious establishments, not unlike the homicides and murder perpetrated against Israeli parochial schools or religious ceremonies.There's a lot more.
Opinion polls, including those commissioned by the American command, have long suggested that a majority of Iraqis would like American troops withdrawn, but another lesson to be drawn from Saddam Hussein’s years is that any attempt to measure opinion in Iraq is fatally skewed by intimidation. More often than not, people tell pollsters and reporters what they think is safe, not necessarily what they believe. My own experience, invariably, was that Iraqis I met who felt secure enough to speak with candor had an overwhelming desire to see American troops remain long enough to restore stability.
This feels right to me, not only thanks to my experience in Iraq, but also in places like totalitarian Libya where no one dared criticize the regime in public, and where everyone I spoke to did so in private where they were safe. Saddam Hussein commanded a murder and intimidation regime in Iraq, and today’s insurgents wage a murder and intimidation campaign in the streets. In Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraqi civilians were murdered just for waving hello to Americans, and for accepting bags of rice as charity. Fear should not be ignored when gauging Iraqi public opinion, and that includes fear of American guns as well as fear of insurgents.
I’ve been to Iraq five times, and never once have I heard an Iraqi say anything hostile about Americans. Partly this is because I don’t spend time in insurgent circles. How could I? The Iraqis I’ve met don’t represent the full spectrum. Middle Easterners are also famous for their politeness and, unlike some people from other parts of the world, they will not get in your face if they don’t like where you come from. (Al Qaeda members are an obvious and extreme exception, but they’re hated everywhere in Iraq and are violently atypical.)
First of all, to paraphrase Nixon, "this was a great speech". I don't quite know if forensics students will be repeating it in a decade, but the guy is an amazing orator.
Two things struck me negatively about the content of the speech.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
Two percent of the US population died in the Civil War. It seems at best callous of him to slight that very real sacrifice paid in blood by Americans to clean the moral slate of slavery.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
I think the missing piece here is the explanation of how his values intersect those of Rev. Wright. I think that it is legitimate for Obama to state that those values aren't the same, and that other things that the church brought him made it possible for him to overcome his discomfort with the "...remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church..."
I think he should have talked less about Ashley and more about that. because if people understood that - understood the real values Obama is trying to realize in his life and his policies, I think they would be better able to judge from something other than blind devotion to him or equally blind revulsion.
One of the things I like the most about the speech is the fact that in it, Obama embraces moral ambiguity - and hence embraces the morality of the real world. I am profoundly uncomfortable with people comfortable in the moral certainty of the world that exists in their words or their imaginations.
I'm not sure it's enough politically, and I'm still a wobbly supporter, but liked what the speech said and who it showed. Now we need to see that that man is really who Obama is.
Conservative parents often raise radical children - and vice versa. I'm not panicked by Obama's relationship with a radical. Let's see more of the substance of who he is and what he wants to do with the country.
Social engineering, not hacking. Here's the news:
'06 election officer pleads guilty to voter fraud conspiracy
LONDON, Ky. (AP) -- An eastern Kentucky man who was an election officer has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit voter fraud during primary elections two years ago.
Acting U.S. Attorney James Zerhusen's office says 36-year-old Charles Newton Weaver of Manchester admitted agreeing to change votes of voters who were unfamiliar with new electronic voting machines. The prosecutor's office says Weaver led voters to believe their vote was cast by pressing one button, although a second button was required to cast the vote.
Zerhusen's office says Weaver changed votes after voters left the machines during the 2006 primary elections for county officials in Clay County.
The secretary of state's office said after the 2006 primary that some voters reported that they didn't know how to properly cast their ballots and that they were misled by poll workers.
For more information, check out the Kentucky SoS site.
SEARS guarantees aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and they don't stand behind their products. Kenmore PowerMiser 8 water heater is broken. We call SEARS. They inform us that all of their technicians are off for the holidays (odd, haven't noticed one at my workplace), and the earliest they might consider scheduling service is over a week away.
You know, if you sell high-cost, critical items like home heating systems, refrigerators, et. al., "we're taking the week off" isn't a remotely acceptable answer. Giving the call center a script that says "I apologize" doesn't make this better, as the people who really need to apologize are the incompetent managers who thought this was a good plan. (The people they need to apologize to are, in order, their customers, and their shareholders.)
SEARS just lost a fridge sale, and I'd advise all concerned to buy other brands elsewhere.
This was sent by an anonymous friend in response to an LA Times editorial on SWAT and affirmative action:
I am a police supervisor in Southern California. I have been in law enforcement for over twenty five years. I am female.
In Sunday's Los Angeles Times Opinion section, Robert C. J. Parry, exposes the results of a board of inquiry commissioned by Chief of Police Bill Bratton to look into the only hostage death in LAPD SWAT's 35 year history.
"When Pena retreated to his office, four SWAT officers crossed the alley in a matter of seconds, entered the building, took fire through the walls -- fire that struck one officer -- and entered Pena's office. There, they exchanged more shots with the gunman, who was standing behind a desk with Suzie. In the chaos, both Jose and Suzie Pena were killed.
It is important, in the aftermath of this kind of tragedy to review the actions of the involved officers for ways to improve tactics, etc and try to prevent a recurrence and that was the chief's stated goal in this inquiry. Unfortunately, that is not what he told his team."In November 2005, he (Chief Bratton) privately addressed the board about his goals for their inquiry. The final report quotes him: "I'm looking to create change within SWAT. The qualifications to get in are stringent. But are they too stringent? There are no women and few African Americans.... Are there artificial barriers for getting into SWAT that the 'good old boys' network has maintained?"
Chief Bratton it seems, along with his review team, believe that SWAT needs to be more diverse in it's membership. The Chief appointed a review board that seemed to reflect this agenda:"None of the SWAT officers from the Pena shooting were even interviewed by the panel, according to multiple sources. Indeed, the board's eight members included fewer tactical experts (one) than attorneys (three). In its final report, the board acknowledged that it had been "ultimately precluded from gaining a full and complete understanding of what transpired in Pena until after this report was finalized."
The final report expresses the following:"The absence of women ... and the low number of African Americans in SWAT should be addressed and dealt with, and the membership of SWAT should be reflective of the community," the report says, although it offers no qualitative or quantitative evidence that this change would save a single life or lead to a single suspect's apprehension. The unit, the report says, has become "insular, self-referential and resistant to change."
As a veteran law enforcement officer/supervisor and a woman, I have a couple of things to say about this that may be relevant.
Let me preface this with some history. When I first applied for a job in my profession, the department, I for which I ultimately worked, did not recognize the affirmative action policies that were practiced elsewhere in the county. The physical agility test included the 6' solid wall, you had to move 165 pounds of dead weight a certain distance under time and push a car in addition to running fast through an obstacle course. After acing the physical agility, and doing well in the written and oral exams, my sister and I were told that we were in line for jobs "when a female position came open." We were eventually hired, came in first and third in our academy, which included rigorous physical training and moved on to successful careers.
I have, on occasion, in my career been the beneficiary of affirmative action policies. The ethical trade off for this has been to make sure that I am overqualified for advancement or assignments that I seek. That way I am comfortable that I didn't ace out someone more qualified for the position for the sake of greater diversity. I also recognize that on occasion, these policies have leveled the playing field appropriately.
Since I came into this job there has been a consistent lowering of standards in misguided attempts to add diversity to policing and the results have been at best, mixed. First of all, if you fall into one of the favored categories, you have the unique pleasure of knowing that when you enter the job you are already stigmatized as below par because the rules were changed to get you in. You're partners will wonder if they need help on the other side of a wall you didn't have to climb to get the job, whether you can get to them. It has also resulted in some seriously substandard hires. Rafael Perez comes to mind.
The first and most important thing a person should understand when entering a "risk" profession such as mine is their personal limitations. Failure to understand this basic rule endangers you and others from the beginning. I am a member of the rifle team and have served as a firearms instructor. However, I have not and would not apply to be a motor officer or a SWAT officer because I am too small. I know you cannot hand me the ram to take down the front door. I recognize if the motorcycle goes down, I might have trouble picking it up again. It might take me longer to get one of my partners out of the line of fire after he gets shot upon entry, when time is of the essence.That is not to say that I don't belong in my job. I am good at it and have seen officers of all sizes, shapes, genders and colors perform the job with skill and heart. Because I recognize my limitations, I can plan to overcome them tactically in the situations I encounter. SWAT does not have this luxury. SWAT is who I call when the situation overwhelms my immediate resources. If I need them, I don't give a damn if they are "reflective of the community" or six toed farm boys with acne, I just want them to be the best. Only the most physically capable, tactically gifted, expert shooters, with a proven ability to perform for the good of the team and the innocent victims in immediate need of their services should qualify for SWAT. If some of those super qualified candidates happen to be female, terrific, but I cannot understand, for the life of me what benefit is reached for officer or public safety by lowering standards and tweaking the process to increase the numbers of minorities and women qualifying for this unique and vital function. Chief Bratton's transparent attempt to court certain groups in this and other situations indicates a troubling willingness to endanger lives in pursuit of his personal ambitions.
At the airport, watching Rick Sanchez on CNN as he pounds home the issue that the Pentagon report on Saddam and terrorism 'puts to rest the original justification for the war'.
Um, not quite:
This ought to be big news. Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein actively supported an influential terrorist group headed by the man who is now al Qaeda's second-in-command, according to an exhaustive study issued last week by the Pentagon. "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives." According to the Pentagon study, Egyptian Islamic Jihad was one of many jihadist groups that Iraq's former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.
I can imagine that there are political rationales for not taking this falsehood on. But this does show the basically supine posiiton the Bush adminsitation has been taking.
Well, this has been kinda depressing.
I'm on record as supporting Obama, and continue to support him. But his viability as a candidate is about to hit major midair turbulence, and the question now is how he'll be able to fly the giant cumbersome machine of his campaign through it.
Look, part of my view of Obama is that he's a post '68-er; he grew up on the other side of the shockwave that split American politics, and as a consequence there's a chance that he can find new frameworks to understand issues and create policies that aren't entirely driven by the relatively stupid positions taken by my cohort back when we were smoking a lot of pot and working out our anger issues with out parents.
His appeal thus is in part post-racial; he's someone who isn't neatly pigeonholed as a 'black man' or a 'Harvard man' or anything else. As someone who sees himself as a 'mutt', and thus as 'a Californian', I like that a lot.
Sadly, with this we discover that he's aligned himself - at least in some serious ways - with the worst kind of Afrocentric communities out there.
I'm not shocked that there are African-American preachers who say things like this. But - speaking as someone who probably has spent more time in black churches than any other kind - I know preaching like this isn't the only kind that exists in black churches, and I know that it doesn't help black people; and I don't think it represents values that help America (or the world).
It represents the worst kind of conspiratorial thinking - where 9/11 is a comeuppance, if not an inside job; where the real struggles faced by many black people aren't structural outcomes of choices by both black and whites but are deliberate; where AIDS is the white man's way of depopulating Africa.
I've written about this a bit:
I know two really bad parents. One is a couple that simply refuses to control their children; they love them totally, and so, they explain, they love everything they do. Unsurprisingly, they are raising two little monsters. The other is a single mother who explains that everything bad in her life is the fault of her child, and that everything he does is wrong. Unsurprisingly, her child is depressed, withdrawn and equally badly damaged.
I'll define patriotism as 'love of country'. Both the parents above (all three of them, actually) claim to 'love' their children. But to blindly smile and clean up when your child smashes plates on the floor is not an act of love. And blindly smiling and waving flags when your country does something wrong is not an act of patriotism.
But - there is a point where criticism, even offered in the guise of love, moves past the point of correction and to the point of destruction. It's a subtle line, but it exists. And my friend (who is less of a friend because I can't begin to deal with her fundamentally abusive parenting) is destroying her child. And there are liberals who have adopted an uncritically critical view of America. Who believe it to have been founded in genocide and theft, made wealthy on slave labor and mercantilist expropriation, to be a destroyer of minorities, women, the environment and ultimately they argue, itself.
I'm sorry but their profession of love for America is as hollow to me as that mother's profession of love for her son. Are those things true' As facts, they are an incomplete account of this country's history. As a worldview, they are destructive and self-consuming.
I obviously don't support those values and beliefs, and bluntly, there is no way that anyone who embodies those values is going to be elected President.
The problem, of course, is that while it's indicative - it doesn't tell us what Obama himself believes.
But neither has Obama.
Here's something from his first statement at Huffpo on Wright:
Let me say at the outset that I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.
He goes on to explain that 1) he's never heard anything like this in the church; and 2) gives a history of his association with the church.
He rejects the words that are "at issue"?
You know, that doesn't it. It reminds me of Zelazny's 'Possibly Proper' prayer:
Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.
What Obama needs to do - to make me feel confident in my support of him - is what John Kerry needed, and failed to do. He needs to explain the arc of his beliefs, and how it is that he could sit in a church where outrage and hyperbole seem to be the stuff of conversation, and at the same time embody a politics of unity. How is it that he attends a church that seems to be energized by the politics of '68 and hopes to lead the country past it?
And how will he make this explanation and do it without alienating the black community who will feel offended? Or without alienating the deeply progressive Democratic base?
I made a comment a while ago:
One of my best friends spent years as a community organizer for parks in New York City. She is a fountain of funny stories and 'on-the-ground' political wisdom, and one of her truisms is: dog doo ends all meetings.
That is to say, much like Godwin's Law, as soon as dog waste is brought up, the meeting is effectively over. The room divides, the tempers get hot, and constructive discussion flies out the window.
I'll suggest a corollary of this, which is: race ends all Democratic politics.
God, I was hoping we were past that...
The "Winter Soldier II" conference is on, and I'll have a lot more to say about it later today. For now, let me suggest that you read two things:
Wintersoldiers.com - 'Busted by the Historians,' an account of how the original Vietnam-era 'Winter Soldiers' claims were pretty thoroughly eviscerated. Which makes one wonder why, exactly, IAVA chose to wave that flag.
Democracy Project - 'Washington Post Duped Instead of D.U.P.E.S.'
I'm certainly not shocked that IAVA is raising the stakes on the war at a time when it might et them political leverage; Move America Forward is doing the same thing. I am more than a little shocked that they would hitch themselves to as discredited an example as the John Kerry/Winter Soldier drama. And I'm deeply shocked that the Washington Post is doing such a piss-poor job of covering it.
"...spinning like Iranian centrifuges...", from Charles at LGF
That Long Beach Opera is doing another performance this weekend - you can still go tonight at 8pm or tomorrow at 4 and see film star Michael York make everyone in the theater cry with his impassioned recital of Tennyson's Enoch Arden (accompanied on piano by Lisa Sylvester playing Strauss), and then make everyone in the audience laugh uncontrollably (yas, I remember my post from yesterday) playing in a multmedia piece with shadow puppets, a short film starring a Superman doll (and Robin!), real puppets, a small orchestra (with a blogger!) and amazing dancers from the Rogue Artist Ensemble. York even blows up and pops paper bags - that's not something you'll see a major star do every day!
Seriously, it's an amazing performance. LBO (disclosure: I'm on the board) fully did it again. If you're looking for something to do this weekend and you want to be moved, see something you've never seen before ... and get to shake a movie star's hand (I kept seeing him as the Gascon d'Artagnan in Richard Lester's great Musketeers movies).
Go buy tickets and have a great time.
Four years ago today, TG and I were married in the garden at Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
Tonight, we had a marvelous dinner, and then went to the hall for a LA Philharmonic concert (we go about once a month).
It was a great concert; Rachmaninoff and Shostakovitch (his "Leningrad" concerto) immaculately and passionately performed. (Interesting thought about Shostakovitch and morally bent people doing great work - think Heidegger. And Rachmaninoff died about five blocks from where I grew up.)
But I want to take a moment while TG cleans up to rant. About the audience.
Look, it's possible that many people there have never been to a classical concert - or any live performance before. But it's unlikely.
So it's obvious that no one showed them the rules.
I'm happy to help.
1) No talking. Ever. I don't care if your pet ferret leaps out of your handbag and starts gnawing its way to your vitals - sit there and die in silence like a music fan. Tonight some woman started narrating the piano solo in the Rachmaninoff piece. I came as close as I've ever been to beating down an old lady. And I wouldn't have felt bad about it if I had...
2) There is no way it takes you a minute and 45 seconds to unwrap your throat lozenge from the crinkly plastic wrapper. I don't care if you can only use one hand. Do it quickly and quietly. Better still, here's a trick - unwrap three or four before the damn performance starts.
3) Don't tap your ***ing feet. No, you're not a percussionist, nor are you Savion Glover - and if you were, I'd still be pissed because it wasn't a Savion Glover concert. It sounded like the freaking Rockettes tapdancing their way through the music tonight.
4) Classical music pieces are often made up of sections, called 'movements'. Don't clap between them. If you're not sure whether to clap or not, don't until 3/4 of the audience is clapping (in LA, if you set the bar at 1/2, people will clap all the damn time). It's not that hard; look in the program and see how many movements there are in the work being played. Clap then that number of pauses plus one comes along. Use rubber bands like football refs do if you need to. Just don't clap between movements, OK?
You paid a lot of money for that seat and the experience of listening to the music. You didn't pay to do audience participation. And I didn't pay to listen to you. So sit still and listen, mmmkay?
Good news story now. From, of all places, the New York Times (Feb 28/08). About a Republican governor, in Louisiana, who is actually creating major change there:
"Six weeks into the term of Gov. Bobby Jindal, an extensive package of ethics bills was approved here this week, signaling a shift in the political culture of a state proud of its brazen style. Mr. Jindal, the earnest son of Indian immigrants, quickly declared open season on the cozy fusion of interests and social habits that have prevailed among lobbyists, state legislators and state agencies here for decades. Mostly, he got what he wanted.
....Grudgingly, pushed by public opinion and business pressure, it went along. When the legislative session ended Tuesday, lawmakers had passed bills aimed at making their finances less opaque, barring their lucrative contracts with the state - some have been known to do good business with them - and cutting down on perks like free tickets to sporting events. The bills, which advocates say will put Louisiana in the top tier of states with tough ethics rules, now await Mr. Jindal’s signature, which should come early next week.
....The volume of grumbling suggested real change was afoot."
"This is huge," said D. W. Hunt, a veteran lobbyist at the Capitol. "This is a sea change. This will seriously, dramatically change things. The meta-theme is the transparency."
Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a good-government watchdog group, described the new bills as "a major change in the culture."
"It’s a world of difference, particularly on the disclosure side, and the same thing with conflict-of-interest," he said.
A reporter for the Lafayette Daily Advertiser echoed the sentiment, saying that this was "something many of us didn't expect to see in our lifetimes." I was probably one of those people, and I loved this bit from the NYT story. Its inclusion is good writing and, yes, good reporting.
"The governor, ignoring cries of pain and going against the unswerving devotion to Louisiana’s food culture, pushed for the $50-a-meal cap, at any restaurant. No more unlimited spending.
In a town where legislators have been known to proclaim paid-for meals a principal draw to public service, this was an especially unpopular move. Last week, State Representative Charmaine L. Marchand of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans said the limit would force her and her colleagues to dine at Taco Bell, and urged that it be pushed to $75 per person, to give them "wiggle room."
No public groundswell took up her cause, and the $50 limit held."
Party not identified in the media, so it's a safe bet she's... yep, a Democrat. If I were in charge of marketing at Taco Bell, I'd be producing related TV and radio commercials (or at the very least, YouTube videos) to run in Louisiana.
Meanwhile, hats off to Bobby Jindal for achieving what few have even tried, and getting legislation passed to help make a famously corrupt institution better. In this effort, he has the support of famed mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat who is working hard at the New Orleans level to clean things up - and who often butted heads with Jindal's incompetent predecessor.
There are many more issues left to tackle, of course. There's low business growth, ongoing rebuilding, and state infrastructure and services that were terrible long before Katrina exposed the folly of, among other things, diverting levee dollars to casinos et. al.
Gov. Jindal will succeed in some places, fail in others, and gain a much sharper understanding of what it takes to govern. Which will be very different from his former Representative job in Congress. But corruption was the cancer worsening most of Louisiana's problems, and simultaneously making them almost impossible to address. Successfully tackling it with real reforms a critical first step, and anyone with any sense of ethics has to applaud what Jindal has achieved.
I wish him - and Nagin - well in their future efforts.
With big comeback wins. Including handing Taiwan its only loss. Qualifiers from this round, in alphabetical order: Canada. South Korea. Taiwan.
Won't that be interesting at Beijing 2008?
Former VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro resigned after making this comment about Obama:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
Talkleft has more, and I'd recommend a read of the comments section too - it's at least as informative as the article, just in a different way. My take?
If Obama was an African-American woman with his thin and undistinguished legislative record, would she be a serious Presidential candidate? I can't believe that for a minute. A white woman? No, I cannot believe that either. A white male? Not just no - hell, no. You might want to ask Mr. "didn't even carry my own state" Edwards about that one...
I've started to bump into some interesting emerging reactions to it, too - the whole thing appears to be hitting a nerve for some women, who see it as a replay of the "experienced, qualified woman passed over by slick male newcomer deemed 'promising'" scenario. Clinton's known negatives don't figure in - it's clearly a personal sore spot, to the point where it's causing me second thoughts about some of the "glass ceiling" issues I've tended to dismiss. Ferraro obviously felt it, and voiced that.
She has resigned, but that meme was and is out there. It's interesting in that it fits with an emerging theme that Clinton's campaign is feeding/ working with: working at setting the stage so that they have more permission to treat Obama just like any other candidate, and hold him to the same harsh scrutiny.
Do I mind? Actually, no. If someone is running for President, from either party, their record and qualifications had better be open to serious scrutiny - and his have not. But the big bad world will be at least as tough, and won't pull its punches for you.
"Paging Mr. Alcibiades" not a great scenario for the country. No matter which side is answering the page. Maybe Obama can dispel that, and maybe he can't. But he absolutely must be forced to try.
Whatever it is, it happened just before the end of season last year. Suddenly, Red Sox uber-slugger Ramirez became this semi-philosophical, non-reclusive, personal guy with observations that were interesting. His team-mates have all said - for attribution, and for many years - that Manny was from another planet. Whatever the reporters were asking about today, the response became just go with it, man, it's only "Manny Being Manny." A lot of folks on the outside looked askance at him, even as he put up huge numbers.
That turned around, and it wasn't a change in his production that did it. It's kind if fun to see, even if he does play for one of the 2 Evil Empires of the East. Bit of a head-scratcher, though. There's a really, really interesting case study somewhere in there, from a PR/ celebrity point of view.
A letter published by the NY Times:
Re "To Revive Hunting, States Turn to the Classroom" (front page, March 8):
Shame on West Virginia if it approves a bill that allows hunting education classes in public schools to become law.
We should not use public schools to try to reverse the inexorable decline in the "sport" of hunting.
The killing and maiming of animals for sport is a cruel and violent activity that is the antithesis of what schools should be teaching. Furthermore, in the context of a dramatic increase in school violence in recent years, to teach hunting is ludicrous.
We should be teaching our children how to be better citizens of the community, and that certainly does not include taking up arms against other living beings.
President, Animal Welfare Advocacy
Mamaroneck, N.Y., March 8, 2008
It would be great if, say on their website, they published all the letters they received on the article. Maybe they could even have - comments - on their articles. Meanwhile, we get predictable cant.
Maybe someone can send him a copy of Dirty Hands.
There's been a whole and interesting discussion on public diplomacy going on at the "smaht kid" blogs, Abu Aardvark, Mountain Runner, et al.
Note that I think that public diplomacy - meaning stepping up and engaging in the war of ideas and the stories and images that express those ideas - is one of the Bush Administration's greatest failings (and I'm no johnny-come-lately to that bandwagon. Here's what I wrote in March, 2003:
But Bush has failed to sell this war in three arenas.
He has failed to sell it (as well as it should have been) to the U.S. people. The reality of 9/11 has sold this war, and our atavistic desire for revenge is the engine that drives the support that Bush actually has.
He has failed to sell it diplomatically. Not that he could have ever gotten the support of France or Germany; as noted above, even with an AmEx receipt for the 9/11 plane tickets signed by Saddam himself, France would find a reason to defer this war. But he should never have let them get the moral high ground, which they have somehow managed to claim.
He has failed to sell it to our enemies, who do not believe today that we are serious about achieving our stated goals. This is, to me the most serious one, because the perception that we are not deadly serious is a perception that we are weak; and we will have to fight harder, not because we are too strong, but because we will be perceived as too weak.
Let me add my "dumb guy" spin to the discussion however.
Reading it, one interesting thought popped into my head, which was encapsulated well in this comment on AM's first post:
McCain appears less interested in public diplomacy than in what we used to call advocacy and is now called strategic communication. His interest is in the "war of ideas" and advancing American objectives in the global information battle-space.
The author, it appears, was Donna Marie Oglesby, a counselor for USIA in the Clinton Administration. Here's the dumb-guy question:
If the purpose of public diplomacy isn't to 'advance American objectives in the global information battle-space' - what the hell is it?
Here's the dilemma as I see it.
I've been arguing for a long time that modern Leftism (as opposed to, say pre-1968 "Old" Leftism) has roots in the Romantic, anti-Enlightenment "Bad Philosophy" movement. There has been a whole lot of discussion among we "decent" lefties about how much of the Left today - and much intellectual life today - is defined simply by blind opposition to America and Western society and values - which are seen as uniquely dangerous and evil.
Here's the rub. To the extent that the above is even partially correct, we have this problem: The people who are supposed to be doing the fighting in the realm of ideas on our behalf may not believe much in what we stand for - and instead believe that we are uniquely evil, or that there is no substantive difference between Abu Ghreib as it was run by Saddam and - at an extreme - Guantanamo - are we really sending the right people into battle? And what do we expect to happen when that battle is joined?
In basic, I think we need to resolve some of the core values questions in order to engage in the battle. And since we need to win this battle in order to minimize the other, harder-to-clean-up kinds of battles we may have to fight otherwise (or, more accurately, that my son may have to fight), I think it's important that we start dealing with these core issues of values right about now.
Update: I put the wrong quote from myself in; fixed it.
If you're a new blogger, this is well worth reading.
Iowahawk offers wry commentary on the political system, and some advice for candidates:
"So remember: the next time you learn that your opponent's staff is spreading stories about your candidate's involvement with a satanic LSD murder cult, take a deep breath, count to ten, and let it go. Sure, you could probably respond by distributing the well-documented evidence of your opponent's long history of serial necrophilia. Sure, it might temporarily feel good, and maybe it might swing a few million votes. But you have to ask yourself: to what end? Is some cushy 6-figure job in the next presidential administration -- with a probable $5 million-per-year K Street lobbying career waiting on the back end -- really worth losing your dignity and self respect over? Trust me, when your candidate's campaign is finally destroyed by some unanswered charges, and you're back waiting tables and filling out grad school applications, you'll at least have the deep personal satisfaction of knowing that you took the high road -- even when the game was on the line, even when the other team was playing dirty, and even when a well-timed "March surprise" would have easily made all the difference."
At a hastily scheduled morning press conference at the headquarters of New York's exclusive Emperors Club prostitution ring, high priced call girl "Kristen" announced that she would temporarily step aside in the wake of charges that she had engaged in sex with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.
"I made a serious mistake and betrayed the trust of my co-workers, my many clients, and my pimps," she said in a quiet voice cracking with emotion. "I will be taking a leave of absence to earn their forgiveness, and redeem myself in the eyes of the entire expensive whore community."
The embattled prostitute did not mention Spitzer by name, and stopped short of offering an official resignation. But longtime sex industry insiders say that it will be difficult for Kristen to return to her post in light of mounting federal wiretap evidence that she had sexually serviced the Governor on at least two occasions.
It's Iowahawk, so you know he's just getting rolling.
National-level politicians can be seen as many negative things - except ridiculous. That's why Spitzer is toast.
I think it was Warren Beatty who said that he had the choice of bedding lots of women or going into politics...more politicians need to keep that in mind.
Because then I could see the upcoming Saturday Night Live skit.
"Good afternoon. Over the past nine years, eight years as attorney general and one as governor, I’ve tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all."
- "Which I did. Where else could a girl like Honey have the opportunity to make $5,000 per night? Charity starts at home, you know. Hoooo boy, does she ever! I mean, that trick with my garden hose.... uh, where was I?"
Blowing something bigger than you are may be very lucrative under the right circumstances, but it's damn shame when it happens in politics. Spitzer sometimes went overboard, but he has been uniquely willing to take on some of Wall Street's more egregious practices. That makes a ton of enemies, of course - enemies who don't and won't play fair, and will pounce if you give them an opening. Or, and he should have been thinking of this, work to set one up if you let them (as a reader pointed out, the blackmail possibilities alone should have stopped him).
The whole affair may be survivable for Gov. Spitzer,
and when you think about it, it probably ought to be. Whether a guy hangs out with prostitutes, or gets oral sex from interns, really isn't relevant to very much in the larger political scheme of things. Better them than the nation, and all that. But that isn't where the betting odds are right now. And I'd still like to see that SNL skit.
UPDATE: I don't take what I said above back, but I've changed my mind re: Spitzer. He should go, and here's why.
Just as a note - since I did a lot of comment cleanup this morning - if your comment has a commercial url in it (i.e. if the url you give as a part of your identity is a commercial site, not a blog or news site), we automatically consider the comment spam. If there is a commercial url in the body of the content, we'll decide on a case-by-case basis (are you a long-time commenter, what is the context of the url, etc.).
So if you're looking to raise the organic SEO rankings of your business site, please don't try to do it by posting comments here. It just makes for more tidying up that we have to do.
ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The Iraqi town of Al Farris looks like a model Soviet city up close and a rounded square from the sky. Saddam Hussein built it to house workers in the now-defunct weapons factory to the east, and they live in neighborhoods called City 1, City 2, City 3, City 4, and City 5. “Socialist living at its finest,” Sergeant Edward Guerrero said as we rolled through the gates in a Humvee. The place made me think of Libya, where I have been, and North Korea, where I have not.
Al Farris was part of Saddam’s attempt to launch Iraq into the sci-fi future before he ruined his country with four wars, two genocides, and an international sanctions regime. It was a failure. Like all utopian cities, Al Farris is dreary. Every apartment building is nearly identical. There are few stores, restaurants, or other businesses at street level. There certainly is no traditional Arabic souk. If it weren’t for the vaguely Arabesque windows, little would distinguish it from any other drab worker’s paradise.
“It’s like a gulag city,” one Military Police officer said. The grace note, if I could call it that, is the encircling coil or razor wire at the city limits which keeps insurgents from coming in and blowing up buildings and people. Billowing plastic bags have been snagged along the length of the wire.
Sergeant Guerrero had a private meeting scheduled with the local Iraqi Police chief, so I climbed a ladder to the roof where I could get a better view.
An Iraqi Police officer pointed out an American military outpost on top of the water tower. His job entailed sitting in silence in a rooftop bunker with a machine gun in case the station is attacked. I assumed the Americans on the water tower overwatched the city with sniper rifles. I didn't ask, but if they are it would not be a secret.
Ali "Drizzt" Eteraz review Benazir Bhutto's new book "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West." It's a worthwhile review, and as you'd expect he makes a number of good points. The core of her argument is definitely addressed to a Western audience, and remains the contention that democracy remains the best hope for progress within the Islamic world.
Mr. Eteraz is canny enough to note some of the flaws in her argument, too - such as her family's own complicity in the Islamization of Pakistan. He also criticizes Ms. Bhutto on the grounds that she "spends too much time trying to mollify those who conceive of Muslims as nihilist monsters... Muslims, like all believers, live a pick-and-choose-life and it’s pretty apparent that today most Muslims want to buy cars, raise families and hold jobs."
There, I think, he's on weaker ground. Yes, religious people pick and choose. Yes, a lot of people want a good material life. No, that doesn't remove the historic or current problems in Islam. It's more than than just some texts recommending violence, it's a long, consistent, and very blood-soaked history derived from those texts, which includes the prime role in the global slave trade (a stain that is still ingoing in Sudan et. al.). The role of jihad in Islam is not so easily dismissed, and it may be that Ms. Bhutto was wiser than Mr. Eteraz in deciding to face, rather than dismiss, a question that is growing rather than fading in the minds of her potential audience.
In the end, the Islamic world, too, will have to face, own, and reconsider their own history - as other religions have done, and continue to do.
Just on my way back from North Carolina, where TG & I got to spend the weekend with Biggest Guy.
He's loving training & feeling ready for selection...so I'm crossing fingers and toes that he's as ready as he feels. He tells me that one of his mates apparently reads this blog - which is a damn funny case of 'small world'. But boy, as much as I appreciate the audience, if I was there I've gotta say that I'd be spending my time running instead!
It was a great trip - we started out in Charlotte, where we got to hang out with Mike Hendrix, who comes across as One Of The Good Guys - and is, even if he is far too cool to hang with the likes of late middle-aged me. TG and I got to hang with him and some dear friends of his at his 'living room away from home' - "Penguin". Great burger, great vibe. We enjoyed it enough that the smokers didn't drive us Californians out - and I think even the children there were smoking...we'll be back. Mike crushed me though - we share a fondness for writer Larry Brown, and somehow I missed it that he died a few years ago. I'd envisioned him as kicking back on his porch, taking a break from writing and storing up experience for his next books. C**p.
I can't be in Charlotte without thinking of Tony Early's great short story of the same name. When I get home I'll post the opening and closing - two perfect sets of paragraphs.
Abhi from the Desi team blog Sepia Mutiny finds himself in the middle of the primaries, and reports on the experience. The conclusions would cover a lot of political events, but do seem especially relevant lately:
"It’s been a long 48 hours for me here in the heart of Texas. Monday night I went to check out Barack Obama for myself at one of his stops in Houston. The crowd was about six thousand or so strong and was composed mostly of people of color (probably an 85-15 split) including quite a few South Asian Americans. I’d never been to a political rally and figured this would be my chance to witness one first hand. I would have loved to have gone to a Clinton rally as well but my schedule (and hers) didn’t permit it. My observations from the rally were many, but here are a few:" [read 'em]
Nice flashlight... until you press the button. Take a look at the video and you'll see what I mean.
Practicality could be the subject of interesting arguments, but damn...
I'm hanging in the lobby of our hotel in Fayetteville with Biggest Guy, we're both surfing the web and he brings up the video of McCain and the NYT reporter Elisabeth Bumiller. We watched it and I asked him what he thought - he enjoyed it, and thought it made McCain look good. Shockingly, I kind of agreed. I've mentioned the incident where Giscard d'Estaing blew off a reporter who asked him about his illegitimate daughter - at the time, I was focused on politicians erecting a wall around their private lives. Looking at the McCain video, I realize that a big part of it was a politician stepping out of the role of sniffing the rear of the press to try and ensure a good relationship and, hopefully, good coverage.
Via Memorandum, I also see Glenn Greenwald making the same point from the other side - about the way that the US press is a willing partner in the coverage tango, citing Tucker Carlson interviewing the reporter for the Scotsman whose interview tubed Samantha Power.
Here's the quote (but go over and read Greenwald's commentary as well):
CARLSON: What -- she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you're interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn't you do that?
PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that's decided ahead of the interview. If a figure in public life.
PEEV: Someone who's ostensibly going to be an advisor to the man who could be the most powerful politician in the world, if she makes a comment and decides it's a bit too controversial and wants to withdraw it immediately after, unfortunately if the interview is on the record, it has to go ahead.
CARLSON: Right. Well, it's a little.
PEEV: I didn't set out in any way, shape.
CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here, it's a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the "Scotsman," but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don't talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.
Don't you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principals in these campaigns?
PEEV: If this is the first time that candid remarks have been published about what one campaign team thinks of the other candidate, then I would argue that your journalists aren't doing a very good job of getting to the truth. Now I did not go out of my way in any way, shape or form to hurt Miss Power. I believe she's an intelligent and perfectly affable woman. In fact, she's -- she is incredibly intelligent so she -- who knows she may have known what she was doing.
She regretted it. She probably acted with integrity. It's not for me to decide one way or the other whether she did the right thing. But I did not go out and try to end her career.
See also Powerline's dismissal of Power and the contentious interview with the BBC. I'm still digesting, and not sure I 100% agree re Power - but that's real interviewing, not setting someone up for a puff - or hit - piece.
I was at first relieved to learn that Senator Barack Obama had chosen Samantha Power as a foreign policy advisor. Her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide is hardly wishy-washy or leftist, and I concur with Max Boot that it could have been written by a neoconservative. It had been years, though, since I had paid her any attention. Until, that is, Noah Pollak forced me to take a fresh look. Much of what she has written and said since her book’s publication has been troubling, and she turned out to be the most controversial of Obama’s advisors. Yesterday she resigned after calling Senator Hillary Clinton a “monster” in an interview with a Scottish newspaper. I suspect an additional (though unstated) reason may have been the unwanted storm of controversy surrounding her, a storm that has had the Obama campaign on the defensive for some time now.
To her credit, Power disavowed her most controversial idea–that American troops be sent to Israel and the Palestinian territories–but troubling questions remain. If she thinks Clinton is a monster, what does she think about the dictators of Syria and Iran? She doesn’t approve of them. That’s obvious. But neither she nor Obama has ever been so “undiplomatic” as to suggest that they’re monsters.
So Samantha Power didn't exactly set me on fire, and this week she managed to show some foot-in-mouth disease and cost herself her role in the campaign, and her colleague Susan Rice explained that neither Obama nor Hillary are ready for the 3am call. Sheesh.
But when I wonder why I can't bring myself to support Hillary, there's always this to shore me up:
Federal archivists at the Clinton Presidential Library are blocking the release of hundreds of pages of White House papers on pardons that the former president approved, including clemency for fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich.
The archivists' decision, based on guidance provided by Bill Clinton that restricts the disclosure of advice he received from aides, prevents public scrutiny of documents that would shed light on how he decided which pardons to approve from among hundreds of requests.
Clinton's legal agent declined the option of reviewing and releasing the documents that were withheld, said the archivists, who work for the federal government, not the Clintons.
And when I suggested that Obama's idealistic foreign policy - the one sticking point in my support for him - wouldn't survive contact with reality, I may just have been right:
For all the chatter about Obama adviser Samantha Power's calling Clinton a "monster," another set of remarks made on her book tour in the United Kingdom may be equally threatening to the Obama campaign: Comments in a BBC interview that express a lack of confidence that Obama will be able to carry through his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months.
"He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator," she said at one point in the interview.
...or maybe that's why she resigned?
Over at LA Biz Observed, Mark Lacter makes a point I've wondered about as well.
Never in my memory has the question of whether we're entering a recession gotten so much attention, both in the press and on Wall Street. At this point the conventional wisdom is that a recession has either arrived or is about to. Certainly, there's plenty of evidence pointing in that direction - tomorrow's employment report is expected to be dismal - and yet Business Week's Chris Farrell suggests that the half-filled glass crowd is getting shunted aside.
Then again, the natural cycles clear the brush for the 'creative destruction' I believe in so much. So maybe talking ourselves into an overdue recession isn't such a bad thing...
...to Continental Airlines. I'm in Milwaukee (don't ask, yes it's cold) headed to North Carolina to see Biggest Guy. A storm is hitting my connection point in Cleveland, and there was no way I'd make my connection. The very nice rep just voluntarily reticketed me on a Midwest nonstop.
If I'm going to feel free to bitch about bad service, I've always felt that the price is the willingness to compliment people who give good service. Today I'm happy to pay it.
...and noting that Citi's CEO is defending his pay package - and being amazed that when times are trying and it's necessary to reward him (and the others of his class) for navigating the treacherous shoals; and when times are good, I guess it's important to reward them disproportionately because the company is so successful.
So paid well when the company does badly and paid well when the company does well. Somehow I think Joseph Schumpeter is grinning somewhere in heaven.
I guess I should have stayed in Corporate America...who says America isn't a socialist country?
Michael Young has a terrific article in Reason magazine about the collateral damage (as he put it) in think tanks, academia, and the media after the assassination of Hezbollah Commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. He zeroes in on leftist icons Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein for their full-throated support for the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorist militia. (Be sure to watch Finkelstein’s performance on Lebanon’s Future TV here, and note how exasperated his interviewer Najat Sharafeddine is with his views.) The absurd alliance of violent Islamists and leftists has been covered elsewhere at length. At least Finkelstein and Chomsky are honest with their audience about what they believe and where they’re coming from.
Young also points out what may be a more serious problem, one much harder for most observers to see. Certain things are expected of those who want to maintain access to groups like Hezbollah. As Young points out,
Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors … Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.
Dear Atlantic Magazine:
Please cancel my subscription.
My son - serving in the US Army - is not a part of a group that needs to justify that "most of them are not sociopaths".
Check this out.
When the Netroots says "we're all about Democratic victory" please keep this in mind...
I'm sure that if Obama maintains his "pledged" delegate lead into the convention the argument his supporters will make is that the role of the super-delegates must be to ratify the decision of "the people." It is already being suggested that “party leadership,” including super-delegates, may need to step in to keep the party from self-inflicted injury. But what this perspective omits is that the reason Obama is still ahead in the committed delegate count even after losses in Ohio and Texas is largely a function of the Democrats' misguided adoption of the principle of proportional representation in their nomination system.
Just for the sake of argument, if we, instead, looked at only those states that award their delegates on the basis of a popular vote primary (ignoring caucus states for the moment) and employ a winner-take-all rule, such as the number of electoral college delegates that represent those states in a general election, Clinton has won over three times as many electors as Obama! This is the case even though Obama actually has more votes. (It’s not clear whether he’d maintain that aggregate vote lead if caucuses were transformed into popular vote primaries, however.) By my count, and excluding MI and FL, that's 71 electors for Obama and 224 for Clinton!1
Of course, it isn’t really fair to exclude the caucus states just because caucuses confer advantage to activists, university students, etc (and is therefore, er... less democratic). If we add the caucus states to the primary states (treating 2-step states like TX as primaries for the sake of simplicity) the electoral dimensions of the contest level out a lot. By this rule, again excluding MI and FL, Obama has so far earned 198 electors to Hillary's 224. (All of Hillary's wins have been in popular vote primaries). Assuming she wins PA and Obama wins WY, MS, and NC her analog electoral vote count will be 245 to Obama’s 222.2 This is still close, but she, rather than Obama, would be in the lead.3
However, as many in the media like to point out it’s now virtually impossible for Hillary to catch Obama in pledged delegates, no matter how many states she wins, because she can't win by a large enough margin to overcome her proportional deficit. But does that mean it’s really valid to argue that Obama's lead reflects a more democratic tally than would be the case in a winner-take-all election, such as a national primary, let alone the electoral college analog I’m suggesting? Are caucuses broadly representative in the same way as primary elections? And if not where would Obama be without them? Would he still be ahead in the popular vote count?
We have no way of knowing, of course. But it seems to me that a demand that super-delegates ratify the pledged delegate count, on the basis that this would be more democratically representative than Hillary’s case, is thin at best.
And what about MI and FL? Clearly those will have to be accommodated somehow. Assuming the party leaders won’t simply ratify the earlier “beauty contest” wins of Hillary that means either “do-over” primaries or caucuses. Obama will argue for caucuses, since his campaign organization is good at winning among activists and students, and because they’re more economical than primaries and easier to implement within a short time frame. Hillary will argue for primaries, both because she stands a better chance of winning such contests and (she’ll say with some conviction) they’re more democratic.
After all, the ultimate test will be whether the nominee can win the general election... and that, for better or worse, is based on a winner-take-all electoral vote tally by state that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of idealistic Democrat activists. But given that reality, should super-delegates really lie supine before the alter of the so-called "pledged delegate count?" Should their support for Obama be a foregone conclusion if Hillary has won the states that are required to give her a general election victory? Just how idealistic is the Democrat Party? Are they too idealistic for their own good?
 Note: I tallied this twice, but since mistakes are easy you can check my counting against the popular vote page on Real Clear Politics, and there’s a list of electoral college votes by state here.)
 Note: I’m not counting six smaller states with upcoming primaries or caucuses, because I have no way to project the outcomes. Anyone who knows the polls in IN, WV, OR, KY, MT, and SD are invited to update my projected electoral analog.
 Note: If Clinton had failed to win TX the analog electoral vote count would have favored Obama by a lopsided 232 to 190. If Hillary had not delivered TX she wouldn't have had much of an argument for convincing her super-delegates to hang with her, or that there ought to be some accommodation of MI and FL. But she did win TX. As her husband suggested last week, TX was critical.
Senator McCain's recent kind words re: Canada in Afghanistan, which he used as an argument for not messing with NAFTA, have drawn a lot of attention north of the border. But the reasons why go a lot deeper than McCain himself, or Afghanistan itself, or even NAFTA itself, which was controversial in Canada.
Recently, Obama has begin to attract scrutiny for his promises to "renegotiate" NAFTA. That plays well with a certain segment in America, but it plays very poorly in Canada, even among people who didn't and don't like NAFTA. Frankly, even Canadians who supported the deal are annoyed at the consistent difficulty we've been having in getting the USA to keep its damn word re: the deal's terms. The whole "softwood lumber" dispute (which increased your home prices in America) was a prominent example, but not the only one. Now, we have some guy running for President, promising to bully the other signatories into changing the deal so it's less favourable to them.
Of course, he could simply be lying through his teeth. There are reports to that effect. But the impression of a bullying America that doesn't give a damn about its friends and won't keep its word, even with its #1 oil supplier, historic ally, and top trading partner, doesn't strike me as a great message to send the rest of the world if you're looking for friends. It will certainly play very poorly in Canada.
Need one add the monumental stupidity of promising to, in effect, first cripple the Mexican economy, and then throw open the border? Maybe someone in the press can find time to ask Mr. Obama about that...
This was funny [incl. video] - but my lord, this was even funnier. Right up there with some of the great Saturday Night Live skits from the old days... and though Obama is a secondary target, and Clinton a (very) tertiary target, the hardest bladed jab isn't aimed at Clinton, or Obama - it's the American media's "unsafe at any speed" product.
The time away has obviously been good for the writers. As a general rule: if you, as a candidate are in a parody this good, and are a target in any way, you'd better have been onstage yourself (note to McCain campaign: book stage time now, for after the convention). Otherwise, you've got trouble - and this one is going very viral on the net. Just spoke to a friend in Vermont, f'rinstance, who has been getting automated phone calls for the primary on the 4th - he says Obama's make him laugh now, because the opening recording's tone et. al. reminds him of the SNL skits.
The satire has also struck home with some in the media, as Jennifer Rubin reports. Will it make a real difference? We'll see. Meanwhile, Matthew Sheffield has some very worthwhile points to ponder for conservatives re: SNL and 'the new politics.'
Refresh my memory, folks: has SNL ever materially changed a US Presidential contest? Thanks to YouTube, the blogsphere et. al. as a new secondary distribution channel, we may be on our way to a first. Even if we're not, there are growing signs that the reflexive media scrutiny blogs have made their bones on may be starting to go mainstream. If so, it can only be good news for the country.
Michael didn't cross-post this one here, but it's worth your attention:
"My Contentions colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.
First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.
Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.
I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims - aside from secular terror-supporters - too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists." [read the rest....]
Blogger The Remittance Man has an interesting take on Prince Harry's service in Afghanistan:
... all credit to the lad. He’s apparently been doing a bit of FACing for the Gurkhas; calling down seven shades of aerial destruction upon Terry Taliban’s bonce. But this does raise a couple of important issues as yet unaddressed by the Grown Ups:
Firstly: Does being blown to smithereens by bombs dropped on the say so of a Prince of the Blood give a recently slotted warrior of God any extra bennies? Does he get to push to the front of the queue outside the celestial bordello his priests say awaits him? Do more than the standard 72 heavenly hookers wait to serve his every need? Perhaps someone with a better understanding of the finer points of Muslim theology can enlighten us.The second and perhaps the more important one is this: Will the various coalition squadrons* that have delivered deadly ordinance at HRH’s request be eligible for a Royal Warrant? Will they be allowed to carry the appropriate device on their tail fins? How does “4077th, Tactical Fragging, Nuking and Napalming Wing (By Royal Appointment)” sound?
There aren't that many scientists in Congress. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R-MD-6] is one. I know him best as the senior Republican in the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces (read: Navy and Marines) subcommittee. One of the other areas he's focused on, however, is energy policy.
Rep. Bartlett has argued for the "Peak Oil" theory for some time now. Boiled down to its barest essentials, that theory states that global production is at or approaching a peak, from which it will likely drop, while the same is not happening to demand. Naturally, there are lots of arguments about this, back and forth. It's a very consequential argument in terms of energy policy, and is bleeding into defense policy as well.
If this topic interests you at all, I'd recommend watching Rep. Bartlett's Deb 28/08 Peak Oil speech in Congress, complete with charts and other presentation material. The delivery isn't flashy - he'll never run for President. The content is very worthwhile, however, as he makes a case any intelligent viewer can understand, with full reference to alternative predictions, tar sands and oil shales, alternative energy options, and multiple studies that include the US Army Engineering Corps, the Congressional GAO, oil firms, financial institutions, et. al. Whether you agree or disagree in the end, you'll have heard a very strong presentation of the Peak Oil argument.