Monday, February 28, 2005

Totten in Puerto Rico

Michael Totten has pictures and descriptions of our only remaining non-state territory from his trip. Great stuff. No history and politics, just culture and touristy descriptions.

The Origin

It all started here.
The journey actually began with a PowerPoint presentation at the Pentagon in 2002.
It was at a routine meeting of a Pentagon advisory board that Rand analyst Laurent Murawiec (whose public resume bizarrely includes a fling with LaRouche and just about nothing else) laid out a philosophy based on the old addage "When it rains on the Tigris, Egyptians open their umbrellas."
There are probably infinite variations of that phrase. Creating democracies in Iraq and Egypt was the crux of the presentation.
One person, however, borrowed the Baghdad/Cairo concept and made it the centerpiece of his Middle East strategy. He did so against the very strong urgings of every human being who has studied the history of the Middle East or been involved in Middle East diplomacy. "This is a different place with different rules...", we told him. "You're being naive. They're going to chew us up and spit us out...". We begged him to listen. He didn't. And now we're very close to the point where historians will be naming George Bush as the founding father of democracy in the Middle East.
This is what impresses me the most about Bush. I disagree with him on many levels. He's not charismatic in the traditional sense. But vision is the thing that drives leadership. No president has had the long term vision that Bush has on any issue for decades.
Except Reagan.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Beirut fallen

There is a big protest going on in Beirut, Lebanon. The Caveman in Beirut estimates that there are over 200,000 people involved. And then there's this:
Prime Minister Omar Karami just did it - he resigned right in front of the Parliament after a lengthy speech introduction in which he complained of personal attacks in the local Lebanese media. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri objected, saying that proper procedure required that Karami notify him first, but it looks like what's done is done.

The government has fallen. And now the fun begins.
AP story of the resignation here.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Uh oh.

This is disturbing.

Since the Jan. 30 elections, Shiite militants have stepped up their campaign to exact street justice from men who were part of the regime that oppressed and massacred members of their sect for decades. While Shiite politicians turn a blind eye, assassins are working their way through a hit list of Saddam's former security and intelligence personnel, according to Iraqi authorities, Sunni politicians and interviews with the families of those who've been targeted.

Former Baathists have responded in kind, this month killing several Shiites allied with major political factions. Cases under investigation include the killings of two Shiite militiamen outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad a week ago and the deaths of three Shiite militiamen who were in police custody.

Sistani has called for restraint, so I don't think, from the report, that this little campaign has the backing of the Shi-ite majority. But it could stir up a hornet's nest regardless.

"The head of Iraqi intelligence accused us of these assassinations and I told him, `If you have proof against us, give me the intelligence.' I offered to form a committee and hand over any guilty men," al Ameri said. "We don't want revenge from anyone. We've been oppressed and we shouldn't oppress others."

The guerrilla-turned-politician conceded that some Shiites were attacking former Baathists of their own accord. If al Sistani hadn't asked militiamen to use the courts - not guns - for revenge, he said, the situation would be much worse.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush the Extremist

I was perusing Kevin Drum's site the other day and I came across this post called Conservatism vs. Extremism. In it he starts out with a discussion on a article in the Prospect arguing that conservatives are more concerned with conservative philosophy, while liberals are more concerned with strategy (he uses "obsessed" instead of concerned).
About half way through he changes the subject slightly and says this:
For now, though, let me just say that I think both of these pieces gloss over an important point: extremism. I'd say that extremist liberals are every bit as ideologically driven as extremist conservatives and that moderate conservatives are every bit as interested in problem solving as moderate liberals.
Which I agree with him on. I'll take it a step further and say that I don't think that you can really say with any degree of accuracy what moderate liberals and conservatives believe (unless you are looking solely at elected officials) because peoples views are never confined to those stereotypes. I'm liberal on some issues, conservative on others. Am I a moderate? On some issues yes, and on some issues a resounding no.
After that he brings out this little diddy:
Back here on planet Earth, though, we happen to be at a point in history when the Republican party has been taken over by extremists like Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, and George Bush. If the Democratic party were headed up by, say, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Barbara Ehrenreich, you'd have all the liberal philosophy you could stomach. But it isn't. Those three have their own spheres of influence, certainly, but the actual Democratic party is run by folks like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, and Bill Clinton, none of whom are agitating to take over the means of production or disband the military-industrial complex.
Um.... Excuse me. Bush is an extremist? I'd pair Bush up with Clinton or Dean any day. If Kevin thinks that Bush represents the extreme right in American politics then he is further left than I thought he was. Noticeably, when your philosophy is far to the right or left of the spectrum, your idea of where the middle is can get kind of distorted.
The way I look at it, Bush champions issues like prescription drug support, liberalized immigration, large education programs that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and I think I'm looking at the most effective liberal (modern definition) in recent memory. When I think what he's done internationally, I think I'm looking at the most effective liberal (classical definition) in recent memory.
Sure, he's conservative in many areas too, such as the social arena, and the generally conservative issue of Social Security reform (which was actually taken up in a similar way, but then dropped, by Clinton). So Bush is an extremist why?
Perhaps Kevin is referring to the reputation the current administration has, which has been built up by the left, of not conceding evidence that might refute his philosophy. "It's extremism that cares nothing for empirical evidence, not conservatism." OK, but in that case I wouldn't call Bush an extremist, I'd call him an American Politician.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Schiavo revisited

A judge made a decision extending the stay that's keeping Terri Schiavo alive for the moment. I've been concerned about this, as I think her husband is a slime for wanting this.
But the decision by the judge raises another flag that's a little disturbing. His reasoning for the extension of the stay is thus:
A judge Wednesday extended a stay keeping brain-damaged Terri Schiavo's feeding tube in place, saying he needed time to decide whether her husband, who wants to let her die, is fit to be her guardian.

Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer extended until Friday an emergency stay that was to expire Wednesday afternoon. He said he also needs more time to determine whether Terri Schiavo needs more medical tests to determine if she has greater mental capabilities than previously thought.

Ok, I'm with the second reason, but the first one gives me pause. There's a pretty sacred tradition in this country that Spouses have the right to make the decisions for their respective others, if they can't make it for themselves. It's as if they are one in this decision making ability. At what point can a judge just say that a husband is not "fit" to be a guardian for his wife? Is there precedent here? I think that Michael Schiavo is a selfish bastard, but he is her husband. I would hate for a court to interfere with a decision I made on behalf of my wife just because folks don't like it.

Girls and Boys equal

Washington Post has a story about a study done that indicates that boys and girls have it about the same in the school years. Looking at individual areas, sometimes boys have the advantage, sometimes girls do, but as those things cancel each other out, both sexes fare pretty equally.
Although boys have the advantage in some areas and girls score better in others, they are doing about the same in a broad array of measures assessing essential dimensions of life, such as health, safety, economics and education, the researchers found.
"If you're on one side or the other of the gender-wars debate, you could pick a specific indicator to buttress your case," said Kenneth C. Land, a professor of demographic studies and sociology at Duke University, senior author of the study.
Which, of course, happens.
"This reminds me of that saying, 'lies, damn lies and statistics," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. "There's no question that boys and girls have disadvantages in different ways, but the variables they have chosen seem designed to show girls are doing better."
Oh, you mean like drug use, suicide, graduation rates, test scores? Variables like that? What do they want? I would think that any study proving the equality of the sexes would be what NOW people want! But apparenly a thriving female class might be dangerous to the cause. You can't protest high graduation rates and low drug use.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Iranian Blogger Day

The call has come over the wire, to dedicate today, Tuesday, Feb 22nd, to a couple of Iranian bloggers known as Mojtaba and Arash. This blog recognizes that they are probably not the only bloggers in Iran that need our moral support and encouragement.
Jeff Jarvis posts:

I first discovered the Iranian blog culture when its Johnny Appleseed, Hossein Derakhshan, reported on the arrest of blogger Sina Motallebi. We blogged about that and brought international attention to the story and Sina credits that with helping to get him out of jail and out of the country.

These people are in jail for doing exactly what we have the privilege of doing: Speaking. We must stand with them.

Totten has more too. And here is the website of the Commitee to Protect Bloggers.


Winds of Change has a great post today on many things going on in South Asia, but most notably Nepal. For those of you not in the know, the King of Nepal has seized executive power and declared a state of emergency so that he could clamp down a bit on his government. India has been pressuring Nepal to slowly reform into a democracy, but this is a step in the other direction.
India has a great opportunity to reverse the flow here, but China is keeping quiet. Apparently the king closed down the Dalai Lama's office in Nepal, and the Chinese aren't crying about that.
Anyway, there's much more.

Does it include all countries?

One of the things that I learned, even about myself, when sitting before a marriage counselor in the early days of my marriage was that men typically say things, like "I'm sorry," before what they feel actually, emotionally, backs up what they just said.
I kind of understood that theory when it was explained to me, but later in my life I have actually experienced what it is like. I have to say I'm sorry whether I feel it or not. Later I realize what an idiot I've been, but I won't as long as the argument is continuing (and if I don't say I'm sorry for something the argument will continue). The same goes for I love you, and a whole host of other sentiments. For guys emotion is very much a decision to make, not an something you feel at that moment.
I wonder how that plays in politics sometimes. I have noticed that, despite the past actions of a politician, that when he starts talking about a particular philosophy in public, that his actions kind of follow that trend, whether that's where they started or not.
Take Clinton for instance. I was often amazed by how moderate he sounded in his speeches, and how much some of his rhetoric on programs almost sounded conservative. Later he would prove to move his administration pretty far to the right compared to the early days of his administration.
Bush has been like that too. You can't say that he has not made great strides in following an agenda that was set in his campaign speeches. One area in particular has struck me lately as a great example of this phenomena.
Back in the 1980s, Reagan had this habit (as did Carter and others) of supporting bad regimes in the fight against the USSR. Afghanistan is one example. But something happened in the 2nd term that kind of shifted that policy. Reagan began to talk freedom and democracy. His speeches began to look something similar to what Bush has been repeating over the last 3 years. The problem was that Reagan's track record to that point had not been great. But that changed. Say whatever you will about his methods, he sent the Philippines down that road by forcing the Marcos dictatorship out. Reagan was trying to support Democratic revolutions in central and south America (somewhat badly when that revolution was militant and brutal itself). The point is though that Reagan became more of a champion of democracy because of his own rhetoric.
Now GW is on that path. Lest anyone think that the only reason we invaded Iraq instead of, say, Togo, is that Iraq has lots of oil, see events in recent days as a partial refute.
There were some making the point that Togo was regressing, because the military took over and appointed the son of the just deceased leader as President. Calls came out for Bush to do something, or say something, because if he didn't it would prove the critics right.
Well, this weekend the Bush administration has announced that it will cut off military assistance to the country and endorse the sanctions imposed on it from the regional ECOWAS. How's that for an answer.
The Bush administration has reacted favorably to the Ukrainian elections and the Georgian elections. In addition, he finally has talked tough to Putin, showing a hardening of his attitude toward the crumbling democracy in Russia.
We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power and the rule of law - and the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia.
In doing this, Mr. Bush has refuted my rather snarky comment regarding his past statements where Mr. Putin is concerned. Good show, Mr. President. (Hat tip to Oxblog)
I must say that based on my little story at the start of this post, that I expect that Bush will indeed be a champion of democracy during his second term.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Someone gets it

When you talk about cutting the budget (any political budget) one always hears the moans and groans about how all these vital programs will get cut, and sick old ladies will get thrown out onto the street, your son won't be able to run track because that's bee cut, and so forth.
When I read this it was a real breath of fresh air.

To hear the bureaus tell it, police would no longer have an officer assigned to public schools, grime would collect on downtown streets, fire stations would close, street lights would go dark and more 9-1-1- callers would be put on hold if the City Council went through with its plan to find major cuts in the city's spending.

Yet City Council members don't believe the fiscal sky is falling -- at least not to the degree suggested in the bureaus' budget proposals filed last week and Monday. Yes, City Council members have said they want to cut $8 million, or about 3 percent, from services in the general fund budget in 2005-06. Yes, Potter has said he's serious about rethinking the role of city government, and shrinking it if necessary.

But so far, commissioners aren't convinced bureau leaders have looked under every sofa cushion and behind every manager's office door for savings.

Commissioner Randy Leonard said the suggested trims he's seen were offered "to scare the citizenry." Commissioner Sam Adams said he's seen too many "Washington Monument" cuts -- slashes to services the City Council can't possibly make without huge public outcry.

"I'm seeing too many proposals that call for cutting programs rather than cutting management," he said. "That's not acceptable."

Finally someone gets it.

School closures in Portland

The student body population in the Portland School district has been steadily dropping over the last decade or so, as families with school age children head for the burbs. Some individual school populations are causing those schools to reach the point where the money coming in won't support certain activities or services, or much needed maintenance.
So the superintendent Vicki Phillips makes a plan to close some schools. This, of course, makes some people angry.
Superintendent Vicki Phillips on Monday unveiled a sweeping proposal to close four small elementary schools and two small middle schools in the next 18 months while expanding Ockley Green Middle School and Jefferson High School. Phillips said improving the district's academic performance was her primary motivation, though the district's budget picture also is a factor.
Academic performance was her primary motivation. Yeah, sure, whatever.
The reason that people are really upset is that Phillips didn't really think this through, and the parents of the schools say that they had no input into this process.
But beyond that, I think that tough decisions need to be made, and Phillips has at least moving in SOME direction. There are some interesting ideas on the table, like creating k-6 and 7-12 (or k-8 and 9-12) schools, eliminating the middle school altogether.
Here's a suggestion though. While you are making tough choices with students because you are having budget problems, PSD is running out of room in it's central office complex. That's right: the student population is decreasing, but the bureaucracy is increasing. And you wonder why there is a budget problem?

Carter worst President ever?

Powerline makes their case.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Update on Russian autocracy

Someone passed me this rather large piece in the Weekly Standard discussing just what President Putin has been doing lately and what that means to us.
IN RETROSPECT, we now recognize that the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky on October 25, 2003 by heavily armed, special forces troops was the watershed event in the deterioration of democracy in Russia. Prior to this arrest, the soft suppression of democratic forces appeared to some as a manifestation of Moscow's historic political insecurity and an understandable effort to "manage' democracy and ameliorate the excesses of, and societal stress from, the Yeltsin era. Subsequent to October 2003, it became apparent that what President Putin had undertaken was a comprehensive crackdown on each and every perceived rival to state power and the re-imposition of the traditional Russian state, autocratic at home and imperial abroad.
If the conditions which supported democratic change and reform in Georgia and Ukraine are any guide, President Putin has orchestrated a sustained and methodical campaign to eliminate not only democratic forces in civil and political life, but also the possibility of such forces arising again in the future. I do not think that it is accurate to say that democracy is in retreat in Russia. Democracy has been assassinated in Russia.
The policies of Russia and the conduct of President Putin are growing increasingly eccentric and seem to be motivated more by an angry romanticism, than by a rational calculation of national interest.
Read the whole thing. GW Bush said once of Putin that he could see into his soul and thought he was an alright guy with the interests of his nation in mind. What do ya think now, GW?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Blogs in their opinion

Volokh has a look into the opinions of the Plame/Wilson case, and they mention bloggers and blogging. They actually use an article by Eugene Volokh (who happens to be a Constitutional Law professor in LA) where he states:
"[T]he rules should be the same for old media and new, professional and amateur. Any journalist's privilege should extend to every journalist."
Including bloggers. The opinion mentions blogging several times.

Update: Robin Burk notes that a day later, now it's Senators talking about blogs. Senators Cornyn (R) and Leahy (D) note:
Protect access to FOIA fee waivers for legitimate journalists, regardless of institutional association – including bloggers and other Internet-based journalists

Speaking of Syria and others

That last post I got from Winds of Change (I should have given a hat-tip, but forgot). They also have their Winds of War, which talks about our fight against terrorism in the middle east and beyond, and Africa regional briefing, a summation of news and events in Africa.
I got the stuff on Syria and Lebanon there. The Lebanese state of revolt over the suicide bombing and death of Rafik Hariri should be interesting to watch.

Free the terrorists

OK, just when I thought that the peace talks between the PLO and Israel were going smashingly...
SCREEEEEECH. It seems that the PLO will not take the peace process any further unless:
The Executive Committee of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Sunday demanded the immediate release of all jailed “Palestinian” terrorists, without restrictions or preconditions, if Israel wants the peace process to continue.
Whaaaaaat? Your kidding right? Israel has taken some steps of faith lately, like releasing some Palestinian prisoners now and then. Their step of faith deserves a step of faith from the PLO, and then another from Israel. But asking them to release them all might be a stretch. I'm betting this is just a move to accept something less from Israel, but more than they were going to give in the first place.
I would be highly surprised if Israel agreed to anything close to this, though.
And once the terrorists are free, PA police officers indicated they either would not or could not do anything to prevent them from planning and executing further atrocities against Jewish men, women and children.
What a great comfort!
Washington seeks to remedy the situation by training the PA security forces to be a lean, organized terror-fighting machine. But the Clinton Administration’s attempt to do the same backfired when CIA-trained “Palestinian” troops turned their guns on Israelis.
Yeah, they don't inspire much confidence do they? I don't think that the PLO is in a moral position yet to make such a request. And the threat to stall the peace process if they don't is probably something that Israel is getting used to by now. Whatever. Abbas is failing to impress me.
Israel is not in a really good mood to be toying with, as Abbas seems to be doing. They just found out that the Russians are planning to stock Syria's back yard with all sorts of ballistic lawn equipment. Big thanks to the Ruskies there for helping out in all this Middle-east instability. Much abliged fellows, now go away!

Model UN

The Univ. of Chicago hosted a simulation where students model the United Nations:
This past weekend, Model United Nations of the University of Chicago (MUNUC) hosted one of the premier high school United Nations simulations in the country for the 17th year. Some 150 Chicago students sacrificed time and sleep to teach thousands of high school delegates that, unlike the Bush administration’s policies, diplomacy and debate can work.
Oxblog responds:
But is a "model" UN supposed to be effective and decisive? Or are students expected to behave like actual UN delegates? For that matter, does the Chicago Model UN program teach high school students how to embezzle like actual UN bureaucrats?

Why can't we all just get along?

Well, in some circumstances we still can. Part of Bush's budget calls for federally subsidized power companies to start charging customers market value for power. Local officials are maintaining that this will raise the cost of power for local residents something like 20% per year.
The plan also would affect three other regional agencies that supply power to dozens of states: the Colorado-based Western Area Power Administration; Georgia-based Southeastern Power Administration; and Oklahoma-based Southwestern Power Administration. Overall, the plan could save as much as $12 billion during 10 years by removing subsidies and other federal assistance, officials said.
Ordinarily, I am in favor of market conditions and privatization, but this smells of something different. This feels more like an additional tax to raise money for the feds. Currently, the BPA charges to cover the cost of producing power. Makes it kind of like a non-profit. Is this fair?

"There are plenty of sources of power out there. They can't compete with the BPA because they are charging a discounted price based on cost and subsidy," Carnes said.
The administration plan "levels the playing field" with nonfederal providers that are being undercut by as much as 30 percent, Carnes said.

But RoguePundit points out that:
Carnes is engaging in a wee bit of hyperbole. There is very little spare power in the West during hot "plenty" is certainly an exaggeration. The plants that have excess capacity also produce greenhouse gasses, whereas dams do not. We subsidize wind and solar power to help make these cleaner power sources more affordable, so why would we want to potentially make fossil fuel power cheaper than hydropower?
Again, I say that since this is a government power company, where is the extra income that would come from charging market value going to? Federal coffers?
The interesting part about this is who is supporting it and who is opposing it. You would expect that NW congress persons would be against it. Count DeFazio (D-OR), Cantwell (D-WA), Inslee (D-WA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR)

Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., also opposed the plan, which he said could cost Northwest ratepayers as much as $2 billion during three years.
"BPA's customers are still recovering from the West Coast energy crisis and a sluggish economy. They've already been hit with rate hikes, and they can't afford any more. I am going to exhaust every right and privilege I have as a senator to kill this proposal," Smith said.

On a national level you have a mix as well. California Senators Fienstein and Boxer (both D) and Representatives Miller (D) and Bilbray (R) all are in favor of stopping the BPA from providing subsidized or at-cost power to their customers.
The chairman of the Senate Energy and NR committee, Pete Domenici (R-NM) opposes it.

The proposal immediately faced trouble in Congress. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called it "politically untenable."
"Every once in a while, administrations of either party come up with this idea, and I won't support it," Domenici said.

This is all getting pretty surreal, watching Democrast demand a market solution and Repubs demanding subsidized power. But like I said before, since these are government agencies, the profits are just new government funds, which would be just like a new tax, so there's why Democrats would not have a problem with it.
I wonder if this is more of a regional thing than a Democrat-Republican thing. It seems like the winers in California are pissed that we up here in the NW have all this nice cheep power when they can't seem to restrain themselves when creating water and power for millions in southern California strains the system.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Map of Iraq Elections

Great map from Patrick Ruffini showing election results in all the regions of Iraq.

Monday, February 14, 2005

We hate love!

Happy Valentines Day! In case you are wondering why the cynical post title, just read stories about cultures in other nations that seem to hate this rather secular holiday, which is pretty harmless in it's essence.
Radicalists in India gather and burn Valentine's day cards. Nice. How does this not make them look foolish and petty? Next they'll be burning elmo dolls in effigy.
Nearly 50 Hindu hardliners burned Valentine's Day cards and posters in the Indian capital on Monday, protesting the international day of love that they say imposes Western values on India's youth.
Let's just say I feel no cultural shame in spreading the "Western" value of love. They need to get a life.
And even though it's not real, this kind of mocks that attitude (from the Onion).

WASHINGTON, DC-A new videotape of Osama bin Laden broadcast on the Arab satellite news channel Al-Jazeera Monday beseeched Allah to grant all Americans a "crappy Valentine's Day." . . .

"Allah willing, embarrassment and tearful rejection shall rule this day," bin Laden said. "Paper hearts shall be rent and trod upon, and dreams of love delivered stillborn. Body language shall be misinterpreted, crushes unrequited, and sincere expressions of affection mocked. Invitations to dinner will be rejected, just as Americans have rejected Allah, the one true God."

During a speech before the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association, President Bush condemned the al-Qaeda leader's remarks.

Friday, February 11, 2005

UN moves ahead.....Slowly

OK, so the UN finally acted on something. Only it's the conflict in the Sudan that ended last year. They are, like, so last year. Whatever. Like totally.
Via Winds of Change comes this report that the UN has sent in troops to monitor the cease fire between the Sudan government and the SPLM. The SPLM is the southern resistance that Sudan was trying to wipe out for the past few years. Well, due to US pressure, the government decided to stop slaughtering those pesky southerners. But the Darfur residents, while also being black, are Muslims, so of course no-one will have any objections if we just quietly clear them out with vicious militant attacks and the like.
The UN also notified Western powers that a peace-keeping force will be required a few years from now to monitor the ceasefire between murdered blacks in Darfur, and marauding Arab militias and Sudanese bombers. Or maybe not. I'm just sick of the Nations United in Ignoring Genocide.
Yeah, me too. But at least having UN troops in place will be good for the people of southern Sudan. Oh, wait a minute...

Eason Jordan

I haven't been posting on this, but have been following it on Instapundit and Powerline. Instapundit today has a big roundup of commentary from Jordan's resignation.
I agree with what Jeff Jarvis and others are saying about this. It's not about the whacko conspiricy theory that Jordan was accused of making at the Davos summit.
It's about the fact that he tried to cover it up. It's just like the Rather-gate last year. If Rather had just admited mistake from the start and not tried to cover the mistake with transparent fabrications, he would still be reading the news to us nightly and still have some measure of respect.
That says something about Americans, that we treat lies and cover ups with such distain. It's a good lesson for the new democracies of the world, that transparency is important in government and the watchdog press.

Where liberalism leads

Unchecked anyway. There is a brand of liberalism (which I'm warm to) which follows the more classical vein. Limited government intervention, democratic, free and capitalist.
Then there is the vein that seems to dislike freedom in favor of some sort of perverse equality. It's this idiom that seems to embrace the terrorist movements, like for instance, the civil rights lawyer Lynn Stewart. Ms. Stewart, 65, was convicted of conspiring with her client, a terrorist leader, and lying to authorities.
"It's a dark day for civil liberties and for civil liberties lawyers in this country," attorney Ron Kuby
Yeah, perhaps. Or maybe we're just drawing the line here.

A tearful Stewart insisted she did nothing wrong after taking over Abdel-Rahman's case and representing him until her arrest in 2002. The blind cleric was convicted in 1995 of plotting to blow up New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president.

"I hope this is a wake up call to all the citizens of this country," she said outside court. "You can't lock up the lawyers."

Whaaaat? Isn't that every American's secret fantasy?
"I think lawyers need to be advocates but they don't need to be accomplices," said Peter Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams University
Absolutely. Amen.
No, really, this isn't that surprising. After all Robert Conquest makes a good case in his book, "Dragons of Expectation," which I picked up recently, that western liberalism creates these types of extreme ideologies. So maybe she believes that she and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman are on the same team.

Gospel Spot

It turns out that the fantastic salvation add during the Super Bowl was financed by GospelSpot, an organization local to the Portland, Oregon area. On their website they announce that their spot was seen by over 1 million people in this area during the bowl.
Not to put a damper on that, but I highly doubt that. There are only about 2 million people, perhaps more than that by an order of thousands, that are in the Portland TV market. Kids and many wives were probably not glued to the set. And this spot was during halftime, in a set of local adds that you commonly get during the game. How many people do you think tuned out the local adds during halftime?
However, this is not to take away from the possible impact of the add. Just think if these guys had the money to make the add nation wide.
You can view the commercial here (wmv) or here (mp3).

Extraordinary Rendition

Is the US torturing people? Should we be having a discussion about where to draw the line on interrogations? I think yes, and so does Obsidian Wings, although I think they are a bit over the edge in the opposite direction as myself.
They point to this New Yorker article that talks about extraordinary rendition, which is the practice of handing over suspected terrorists, or other military captures, over to other nations for interrogation. Nations that don't hold back when trying to extract information. This stuff needs to be looked into. I don't believe everything I read these days, but upon reading the New Yorker article, if any of that stuff is true we need to stop it. I voted for GW, but not because I thought that anything we do to terrorists is OK if only becuase the information might save some of our troops.
There is a fine line, but we have to make sure that line is not crossed. Sebastian Halsclaw over at agrees, and says that
Torture is wrong. The practice of extraordinary rendition began as a classic Clintonian hairsplitting exercise in the mid 1990s to avoid the clear letter of the laws which prohibit America from using torture. This is the kind of avoidance of the law and ridiculous semantics that we decried when employed by the Clinton adminstration. It has gotten no more attractive just because Bush has decided to continue the program.

Dobson redeemed

The LA Times recently printed an editorial that ridiculed James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and an Evangelical figurehead, for making comments that the cartoon character Sponge Bob was gay.
Apparently the Times has recanted and produced this correction:
SpongeBob — An editorial Saturday about children’s literature and cartoons erroneously stated that James Dobson of Focus on the Family declared that SpongeBob SquarePants is a homosexual sponge. Instead, in a speech last month, Dobson criticized as pro-homosexual a tolerance video featuring SpongeBob, Big Bird and others.
This was probably due to complaints, like this one from Patterico, that the Times was taking the Dobson quotes out of context, and they were. This might seem like a trivial complaint, but I think it's significant and systematic of the main stream media. We cannot seem to trust them to get facts straight and be faithful to quotations without the blogosphere raising a fuss.
The correction might be enough, but might not. It could be argued that the damage has already been done.

Monday, February 07, 2005

New-gen Nukes

This story is not all together welcome.
US scientists are quietly starting work on a new generation of nuclear arms meant to be more rugged and reliable than warheads in the existing arsenal.
The story goes on to say that the US has about 10,000 existing warheads, and that sturdier more reliable nukes could stay on the shelf longer and ultimately reduce the number that we keep. I'm usually one to say that if anyone should have nukes it's the US. But do we really need to have 10,000 sitting around anyway? This isn't the cold world anymore. Why not send a positive message to the world, at a time when we are getting our tights in a bunge about N.Korea and Iran having them, by reducing the stockpile ANYWAY, and then consider replacing the balance with more reliable versions. As a step of good faith.

Bush's new Budget

The budget is out, and draws much criticism. I can understand much of the concern from Democrats (after all they are losing some pet programs, and Bush is answering their call to restrain spending, which they didn't want to happen). Bush is proving once again that he can take the heat, indicating that he is excited to explain each and every one of the cuts. Once again, he taunts, "Bring it on." (Paraphrasing there).
The reason that I linked the AP article as "Concern from Democrats" is that the first half of the article is criticism of the budget from Dems and from the author himself. Waaaaaaa!
Come on. I think that some of the cuts the Pres has called for take some real balls. Cuting funding for Farm subsidies?
Of 23 major government agencies, 12 would see their budget authority reduced next year, including cuts of 9.6 percent at Agriculture, 5.6 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency, 6.7 percent at Transportation and 11.5 percent at Housing and Urban Development.
When was the last time cuts like this were proposed? What is the likelyhood that it'll happen? Democrats, like Pelosi and Ried, fresh off their post State of the Union rebuttals, are whining that the budget makes no mention of any extra funds for the Iraq conflict (although Bush has made it plain that he will ask for $80 billion more this year) or for Social Security reform. And they are right to ask those questions.
However, how they deal with the rest of the budget will show how they REALLY feel about Bush's deficit.

Super Bowl add

I enjoyed many of the adds during the Super Bowl this year (as well as the game too, yes that part was fun). They definitely were less offensive and boorish than last year. Some were actually even funny.
There was one during halftime, though, that really caught our attention. I watch the Bowl at church, where many of us get together and project the game onto a big screen in the lower auditorium. Anyway, during halftime there was an add that started out with something about a guy who was going to die that day and started to ramble on about how much insurance he had and how well he was going to leave his family off when he passed.
But then it got interesting. After all that was done the announcer said something to the effect of (I'm doing this off memory) , "But Mr. so and so forgot to insure himself." The commercial then relates that the guy didn't know Jesus Christ, implying that he should have insured himself against eternal damnation.
Nice. The whole auditorium stood cheering, as did I. I mean that was totally unexpected in a barrage of Bud Light and Ameriquest commercials. But we never found out who sponsored the add, or whether it was a national or local spot. Anyone out there know?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Cats and Dogs living together...

Gay activists may be joining up with the National Rifle Assoc against.....
are you ready for this?
... the City of San Francisco.
The right to own guns may be even more important than the right to marry, Thomas said during the monthly shooting practice organized by the gay gun group the Pink Pistols.

"I want to be liberated as a gay man, but I'm not willing to give up the rights I have," he said. "If they can take that away from you, what more can they do?"

As the debate over the handgun ban proposal sharpens, the Pink Pistols, a national group with 38 chapters, is determinedly stepping into the fray. Organizers have posted their hearty objections to the proposed law on the group's Web site -- along with contact information for the five supervisors who voted for the ban -- and are weighing whether to join a lawsuit challenging the ordinance that the National Rifle Association is expected to file, said spokeswoman Gwen Patton.

Somebody pinch me.

Update: Someone from the Pink Pistols wrote me in the comments and gave me the link to thier site. From the site it looks like a group of libertarian minded gays. Definitely not playing the victim. Quite the opposite. Thanks for writing, Maggie.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Central Asia and the USA

The Argus has a discussion on why we don't actively go after all the dictatorships in the world, even politically. At least on the surface. He uses Uzbekistan as the focus of the discussion, as we have a base there, and Karimov is a pretty nasty dictator. We appear to be using the country as a base of operations in that region in our war on terror. Karimov allows this and backs us as long as we don't criticize him.
This makes it look like we are encouraging the oppressive regime solely for our strategic interests, but the Argus reminds us that not all political pressure is visible.
...we are attempting some small things to try to further democracy in Uzbekistan. They aren’t particularly sexy, high-profile projects, but IREX (and their IATP and Freenet), IWPR, and my beloved Peace Corps (among many others I’m forgetting) are supported by the US government and laying the ground in Uzbekistan. After all, nobody but close watchers of post-Soviet societies had heard of the years of work supported by the US government that went into preparing for the Rose and Orange Revolutions until after the fact.
He also argues that democracy is sometimes harder to get started in some places than others, and trying to push for democracy in Uzbekistan might not work right now. But the quiet effort goes on.
This is the whole idea behind the Peace Corps when it was started with the full blessing of the Kennedy administration. Kennedy was a liberal in the sense of wanting to project American power (in this case economic) to promote democracy throughout the world. Bush's retoric is not all that different, and the Peace Corps has been operating with government support all these decades.

Reclaiming the word "Martyr"

I use the same title as the M. Totten post, because I can't think of a better one. Michael posts a link to a Jeremy Brown article about those who died while waiting in line to vote on Sunday in Iraq, and the sentiments of those Iraqis who knew and loved them.
"It's not the man who exploded himself who's a martyr," Mr. Jasim said as the body washer wiped away dried blood. "He wasn't a true Muslim. This is the martyr. What religion asks people to blow themselves up? It's not written in the Koran."

What to call it.

If it's not genocide, then what would you call it? Protein Wisdom has some suggestions:
"9 names the UN would PREFER we give to the "not genocide" in Darfur"
  1. "Refugee Bingo"
  2. "The Sudenese government presents, Darfur on Ice!"
  3. "Just a few silly Arab militia men sowing their oats"
  4. "David Blaine’s The Incredible Disappearing Civilians of Displeasing Ethnicity"
  5. "People Pruning"
  6. "Mulching the Desert"
  7. "No Chocolate Wednesdays"
  8. "That little African misunderstanding"
  9. “‘Extreme Makeover’: The Dark Continent edition"
Oh my.

Darfur update

Canada Free Press:
Canada Free Press has obtained a copy of the 176 page Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to the United Nations Secretary-General, released on Monday.

According to the report, "The Commission does recognize that in some instances individuals, including Government officials, may commit acts with genocidal intent. [Emphasis added] Whether this was the case in Darfur, however, is a determination that only a competent court can make on a case by case basis." Cited under the Commission's "Accountability Mechanism" section, the International Commission "strongly recommends that the Security Council immediately refer the situation of Darfur to the International Criminal Court."

The "competent" court cited by the International Commission, the International Criminal Court, was established in part "to prosecute crimes such as genocide."

They put the scare quotes around "competent." Declaring genocide would mean that the UN would actually have to do something, so they declare that there is no genocide, just individuals who are "probably" committing "acts with genocidal intent." Problem solved! We don't have to do anything!
What a bunch of Weasles.
The US is still calling it genocide. Senators Sam Brownback and Frank Wolf are again calling for Kofi Annan to do something or resign.

"If the UN Security Council cannot deal with genocide ... I believe it's fair to ask what purpose is the UN serving in the 21st century."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Squeeze every last drop...

Lawmakers like to wax that Oregon's tax burden is light compared to other states, and that since certain programs are suffering right now, we should bring taxes up to the levels of other comparable states.
Oregonians have proven time and time again that they won't stand for that, and have voted down nearly every tax measure that has come before them in the past few years.
But, as this article in the Oregonian points out, there is more than one way to tax the citizens. One thing lawmakers don't tell you is that the burden on Oregonians to fund the state government is much higher than you think it is. Fees take up a large part (not a majority, but a large part) of the income of the state, and congress can raise those fees without taxpayer approval.
Note that Oregon ranks about 41st in the nation in general taxes, but 11th in state spending per capita.
The state has a spending problem.