December 30, 2004

Sidney Blumenthal on The Bush Foreign Policy Team

I'll admit that a Blumenthal column in The Guardian is something that by its very nature is likely to cast the Bush administration in a negative light. But even if it's tone is expected, this column is still worth reading. For one thing it reminds us of the fact that Condi Rice couldn't organize a one-car parade. And secondly, it's just delicious with a capital D. It's filled with razor-edged criticism. Some highlights:

"The transition to President Bush's second term, filled with backstage betrayals, plots and pathologies, would make for an excellent chapter of I, Claudius."

"At the same time the vice president, Dick Cheney, has imposed his authority over secretary of state designate Condoleezza Rice, in order to blackball Arnold Kanter, former under secretary of state to James Baker and partner in the Scowcroft Group, as a candidate for deputy secretary of state."

"Words like 'incoherent' come to mind," one top state department official told me about Rice's effort to organise her office. She is unable to assert herself against Cheney, her wobbliness a sign that the state department will mostly be sidelined as a power centre for the next four years."

"Rice has pleaded with Armitage to stay on, but "he colourfully said he would not", a state department official told me."

"In private, Baker is scathing about the current occupant of the White House. Now the one indispensable creator of the Bush family political fortunes is repudiated."

"Secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld, whose heart beats with the compassion of a crocodile, clings to his job by staging Florence Nightingale-like tableaux of hand-holding of the wounded while declaiming into the desert wind about "victory"".

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Military Lawyers Versus Civilian Lawyers

Andrew Rosenthal discusses the marginalization of the military lawyers in the Bush administration.

Normally, the civilian policy makers would have asked the military lawyers to draft the rules for a military prison in wartime. The lawyers for the service secretaries are supposed to focus on issues like contracts, environmental impact statements and base closings. They're not supposed to meddle in rules of engagement or military justice. But the civilian policy makers knew that the military lawyers would never sanction tossing the Geneva Conventions aside in the war against terrorists. Military lawyers, Mr. Johnson said, "tend to see things through the prism of how it will affect their people if one gets captured or prosecuted."

They've been putting up a noble fight to restrain the claims of unlimited power coming from the White House, and policy changes that threaten our men and women in uniform. I hope that the Senate will carefully consider their concerns during the coming confirmation hearing for Alberto Gonzalez.

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The Top Lobbies in Washington DC

In case you were wondering about who can buy the most access in Washington, Kevin Drum brings you a list of the 10 richest lobbying groups. As to the policy implications of the list ... I think those are pretty clear.

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Dino Rossi Wants Another Election

Wasn't holding an election what produced this mess in the first place?

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December 29, 2004

Cutting the F/A-22 Order

There have been plenty of rumblings that next year's federal budget (you know, the one that comes after the president is reelected) is going to include big cuts in all sorts of domestic spending. Today it appears that these cuts will extend to some Pentagon programs. The Pentagon has announced it plans to substantially cut back the number F/A-22 Raptors it will buy. While this will cause the cost per aircraft to soar (we've already spent around $40 billion on developing these planes), it may make it possible to save billions over time - though of course we'll end up with far fewer of these advanced fighters.

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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Terribly disappointing.

Bottle Rocket was whimsical. An unexpected love story, staying true to your friends and wacky crime hijinks all rolled into a really nice little film.

Rushmore was a perfect film - perhaps THE perfect film.

The Royal Tenenbaums was more grand - a son of a bitch is reunited with his family amid unreally-detailed characters and settings.

Now to be fully appreciated all Wes Anderson movies probably need to be seen more than once (especially Tenenbaums and Zissou - the screen is loaded with just too much to appreciate it all). But that said, and having seen it only once, this latest Wes Anderson work was disappointing. It had his trademark unexpectedness - but not really in good ways. And some of the absurdist elements (a shoot-out with pirates!?!) seemed particularly misplaced in this movie. Now there are a few great moments here and there. And there are some nice performances in this (Bill Murray has been spectacular in his work with Anderson). But overall, I was really disappointed.

At least the music was on target. Once again Anderson made some great selections there.

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The Hideous Past of Archbishop Alfred Hughes

Ricky is outraged that the New Orleans press runs stories about sexual abuse and the Roman Catholic Church without mentioning Archbishop Hughes' complicity in the scandal that led to the resignation of Cardinal Law.

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I rented this John Frankenheimer thriller because it's a John Frankenheimer thriller. The man knows chills, paranoia, and how to make all kinds of weird shots work. And this film fits with his style beautifully. It's cold, claustrophobic, and features surprisingly little dialogue and lots of unusual shots. I suppose in a way it's a classic of its era. Movies this dark and unsettling don't get made these days - certainly not with top box-office stars like Rock Hudson.

All that said, I didn't really enjoy it much. It's not a movie that's easy to like. But it's interesting.

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December 28, 2004

The Damage Inflicted by A.Q. Khan

This article in The New York Times reminds us that when it comes to spreading WMD Iraq had nothing on our close friend and ally, Pakistan. We still don't know how deep the damage is - and we are getting little help on that matter from our close friend and ally, Pakistan. And of course our ability to figure these things out is hampered by the administration's current goal of replacing the head of the IAEA (he had the audacity to disagree with Bush's assessment of the Iraqi threat - a be right). That's the Bush team for you - prioritizing staying on message and loyalty above everything else, even if it gets in the way of effectively protecting the United States.

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The Incredibles

Brad Bird + Pixar. What more do you need to know?

It's great. Perhaps it doesn't equal The Iron Giant in certain respects, but it's a very different kind of film. It's both amusing and perceptive. It's politics are interesting - very pro-family, but very pro-individual at the same time. The animation is stunning. It's perfect for family viewing in that there is something for everyone to enjoy. I liked it more than Finding Nemo.

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Girl With Curious Hair

I consider myself to be a big fan of David Foster Wallace. Infinite Jest was amazing, even if it did take me months to get through it. And A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again is a truly great story collection - occasionally touching, frequently fall-on-the-floor funny (the title story is an absolute must read). I was notably less pleased with this collection. Now there are some dynamite stories in it. My favorites were "Luckily the Account Representative Knew CPR" and Here and There". And there were some stories that I could still sort of admire even if I sort of disliked them (like the title story of the collection). But it also contains the first thing by Wallace that I read that I really thought was lousy, "Lyndon". And it's a rather sad thing in any aspect of life when someone who's always come through for you finally fails to do so. There are some good stories here - and maybe even a few great ones. But this collection is more uneven than A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again.

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December 23, 2004

Holiday Break

I'm going to take a break from this for a few days (and I'm guessing Binky and Baltar will continue their winter blogging slumber for a bit longer too). Have a great weekend. I'll be back sometime next week.

And if like me you are sick of holiday music, may I recommend The Donna's Gold Medal. Some long-time Donnas fans don't love it, but I think it's a lot of fun and an interesting chang of pace for them. And it's a nice contrast to the interminable fa-la-la's we've all been assaulted with of late.

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The Conservative Case for Outrage

Publius passionately, but succinctly, notes why conservatives should take off their partisan blinders and see the incredible damage the prisoner abuse and torture issues related to the war in Iraq are doing to the causes they believe in.

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The Education President - As If

What a special Christmas president from the government to the low-income students of America - 1.3 million of them will be getting smaller Pell grants in the next academic year.

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General Myers Loses Touch With Reality

Josh Marshall notes a bizarre statement by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Those same insurgents sure get around.

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Projecting Kentucky Derby Favorites in December?

Bill Finley engages that bit of prognostication. It's really hard to know so far in advance how these young horses will develop, but his top 5 choices - Declan's Moon, Rockport Harbor, Fusaichi Samurai (yes, he is noting a maiden winner), Sweet Catomine (yes, he's also noting a filly - albeit an extremely talented one), and Roman Ruler - all definitely merit close scrutiny. As to his the horses he places 6-10 ... to me at that point things become considerably more uncertain.

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December 22, 2004

The Office of Legal Counsel on War and Torture

Phil Carter brings us up to date on some of the latest reports on the Bush administration's sweeping assertions of its powers - where they came from, and the effects they've had on US foreign policy. Carter thinks that John Yoo and the Office of Legal Counsel didn't do an especially good job in advising the president and that their, shall we say, enthusiasm encouraged a decision-making environment that has both hurt US interests and misconstrued American law.

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December 21, 2004

Mark Palmer and George Shultz's Iran Policy

Via Helena Cobban. She calls it the Serbia "smart sanctions" policy. It looks to me like it has much to recommend it. Military options, even if they were a good idea (they are not), aren't possible given current circumstances. Still, we need to be taking action on this - dealing with the current government on vital security issues and fostering reform within Iran. Iran is too important to ignore.

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Israel's 31st Government

Jonathan has these thoughts on what the new coalition means for politics and policy in Israel.

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Battle-Trained Insurgents Headed to Saudi?

This piece in The Financial Times reminds us that many warriors are learning all manner of battle-related skills in Iraq, and even if Iraq suddenly becomes quiet and safe, many of those people will likely remain in the region. What they will do then has a number of governments in the region worried.

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Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn to Join Judiciary Panel

So this committee wasn't right-wing enough with Kyl, Cornyn, and Sessions on it? Frist had to add Brownback and Coburn. While it's true that these men are replacing two other far-far-right senators (Craig and Chambliss) these two ... yikes. Brownback is the smoother of the two, but he simply loves governmental regulation of all kinds of things that are in line with the agenda of what's often called the "Christian Right". He's been the lead guy in the Senate on issues like cloning bans, and I imagined every medical researcher in the country is (or should be) shuddering today. Remember that he came into the Senate by soundly defeating another Kansas Republican (Sheila Frahm, appointed to replace Bob Dole) who apparently just wasn't conservative enough. And he's long been rumored to have presidential ambitions, so who knows what he'll get up to on this high-profile panel.

As to Tom Coburn - the man who wants to execute abortion providers and thinks that gays are the biggest threat facing the country will now have a lead role in writing the country's laws and picking its judges ... ugh.

It should be noted Frist likely saved himself some headaches by putting Coburn on this non-money panel. Coburn's great strength in my eyes is that he's fed up with pork spending, huge deficits and certain corporate giveaways. Since the Republicans are all about those things at the moment it makes sense that they wouldn't want him on a committee in which he could challenge big-government and big-deficit economic policies.

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The Door in the Floor

Tod Williams wrote and directed this adaptation of part of a John Irving novel. While I thought his first film, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, was a bit over-rated, this is a very fine piece of work. Though it features several moments of the sort of unexpected humor you might associate with an Irving novel, this is largely a dark family drama set in the beautiful environs of a summer in the Hamptons. The lives of Ted (Jeff Bridges) and Marion Cole (Kim Basinger) have been slowly crumbling in the wake of an accident that killed their teenage sons. In an attempt to improve the situation Ted hires Eddie, who bears a resemblance to his sons, as his personal assistant. Events donít go entirely to plan.

Technically, this movie is a gem. It looks gorgeous and sounds just right. Bridges and Basinger are splendid. The structure of the story really fits the tale. And Iíll note that Mimi Rogers and Donna Murphy are terrific in tiny roles. Rogersí performance took a lot of guts, and Murphy shows just how much you can do with probably no more than a minute of screen time. Overall, itís first-rate storytelling.

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December 20, 2004

India Has Had It With the United States

That was the message a congressional delegation got there recently. Many of these concerns are shared by governments around the world, and the "if you don't want to work with us, why should we work with you?" response our policy initiatives have been getting for the past few years seems only likely to worsen with the president's reelection.

But what I find of special interest in this post are the India-specific references on Iran, Pakistan and China. The Iran reference reminds Americans just how out of step they are with most countries' foreign policies on this important topic, the Pakistan reference reminds Americans of how hypocritical they are, and the China reference reminds us of how Americans too frequently fail to see great big things that should be in front of their eyes (say terrorism pre-9/11). And our blindness to the India/China rivalry, and our constant assumption that China will rise without giving any thought to India are two of the more prominent blindspots we have in discussions of US foreign policy at the moment. I think there are several reasons why India may be the more powerful and richer country in the long term, and I find it odd how we do so little to ally ourselves with the world's biggest democracy (understandble given our priorities, but still odd given our foreign policy discourse).

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December 18, 2004

Publius on the Kerik Follies

If you haven't been following the Kerik follies Publius tells you why you should be - here. This incident says a lot about the wildly inept decision-making style favored by George W. Bush - and Publius is right that this is something that will continue to have consequences for us for years to come.

And of course putting aside the weighty implications of the matter, you really should be following this anyway. Rarely do you see something in politics that's terrifying and astounding and yet really kind of funny all at once. This guy was so brazen that it's really hard to get your head around it. And that Rudy and the president trusted him ... I mean it's horrifying, but so horrible you have to laugh to deal with it. Otherwise it's just too unsettling and scary.

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Angels in America: The Mike Nichols/HBO Version

I recently rented this film adaptation of what's arguably the most significant Broadway play of the 1990's. It seemed to win every major award that it could last year, and it is indeed quite a production. It's a shame that so much of the best stuff on film these days is only available to people who have HBO - but you've got to laud HBO for creating so many excellent productions. Now I should say that there are parts of it that I think work much better on stage. But if you were going to make a film version of it - this is excellent. Most surprising to me was just how good the cast was. Jeffrey Wright, Patrick Wilson and Mary Louise Parker are perfect from begining to end, and Justin Kirk and Meryl Streep also turn in excellent performances. It's really remarkable how good they are. However, I was not thrilled with Al Pacino. To me, he's too frequently hammy. And really I think Wright does better work in the scenes they have together. I'm also not entirely thrilled with the guy who plays Louis. And ... well, I have some issues with the script. I prefer Millenium Approaches to the second half, and I really dislike the epilogue at the Angel of the Waters fountain (though I love seeing that every chance I have). But really these are relatively minor complaints. On the whole, this is a very impressive piece of work, and if in the transfer to the screen it perhaps looks a little too slick - so what? It's still one of the best movies of last year.

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Realist Scholar Denounces Idealist President

This is posted over on Oxblog. I don't think it makes the point David thinks it makes (well, I do, but that point is so obvious as to be of no interest whatsoever). Why I think it's interesting is that in an aside David A. makes an interesting point, even if it seems tinged with partisan indignation. Harry Truman was no Harry Truman. I think that's exactly right. Why exactly is Truman's reputation so high? There were some things he did that were great - obviously in domestic policy (though let's overlook those awful Supreme Court appoinments), but also in foreign policy (Berlin, NATO) - but he made many errors in foreign policy and his White House was not one that I think we should seek to emulate. Is it just that if the last wildly successful biography of a president was fawning even for hagiography (which isn't to say it wasn;t a good book and a great read) that he's bound to be admired? Is it that we have a need to idolize all of our presidents even though many of them have a host of faults that should chill us to the bone? What gives?

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December 17, 2004


If you've never seen the Frayn play performed and are interested in seeing how you work Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle into the structure of a mystery/drama, you might want to think about renting this film. It's rather interesting, and stars Stephen Rea as Niels Bohr. The film examines the question of what went on when Heisenberg met Bohr during World War II.

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The Brilliance of Buffy's Anya

OK, so most of you aren't likely to care, but this post has bugged me ever since I wrote it. This is not because I've changed my mind about Season 7 or Andrew, but because my assertion that Andrew was the funniest thing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer is only sort of accurate. He's brilliantly funny, no question. But I'm picking him out as "funniest" because I think the other clear candidate for that title - Emma Caulfield's Anya - did wonderful work that was both funny and deeply moving (just think of her in "The Body" for instance - I broke into tears). On the whole she may have even greater comedic talents than Tom Lenk (wow!). But it's hard for me to think of her as just comic relief, and while Andrew had his deep, serious moments too (he's great at the end of "Storyteller") - that's more often what he was. As Anya, Emma Caulfield was brilliant at everything she did (even dancing).

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December 16, 2004

Congressman Giuliano?

Is it really possible? Could the 2006 elections produce an outcome in which there will be two openly gay Republican members of the US House from Arizona? It appears possible.

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Joe Barton vs. Heather Wilson

Since the Republicans took over the US House in 1994 they've largely rewritten the rules of how it's run. The idea of Congress being run by its committees and their chairmen has become (even more) a thing of the past. But that's not to say that certain chairmen don't make a fuss from time to time. A few weeks ago you had the chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees holding up the intelligence overhaul bill. Now you have Joe Barton wanting to throw Heather Wilson off the Energy and Commerce Committee over a single vote she cast this year. Has the Republican's 11th commandment become though shalt not challenge White House secrecy?

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December 14, 2004

Who Reads Which Paper?

Doug Merrill bring us this amusing run-down on who reads which major US newspapers. The piece is modeled on a classic piece of British comedy from Yes, Prime Minister.

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Get Your Hot Priest Calendar

Who knew they sold this kind of thing in Vatican gift shops?

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Why Keep Rummy?

Andrew Sullivan succinctly explains it.

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Why Smart People Make Dumb Decisions

Timothy Noah tells us what The Wisdom of Crowds means for Bush administration decision making.

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Brzezinski and Scowcroft on Middle Eastern Issues

Helena Cobban brings us this shockingly honest exchange involving the comments of two titans of the foreign policy establishment.

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Will King County Ballots Provide a Gregoire Victory?

The discovery of the valid ballots makes it possible. More than that though it would seem likely to ensure that the results of an already ridiculously close race become even closer. This is the kind of thing that really makes me wonder about first-past-the-post election systems. If a handful of ballots separate winner from loser when millions of ballots are cast how sure can we be that the "winner" won? And what does that mean for the idea of representative democracy? I don't see the basic design of the US government changing, but between this and the fiasco that was Florida 2000 I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion of reforming not just how we count votes but our voting system itself.

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December 13, 2004

New York Film Critics Awards

They joined the critics groups I've already mentioned (Los Angeles, Boston and San Fransisco) in naming Sideways as the year's best film. They named Bad Education as the year's best foreign film.

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Let's Take on Syria - It's Weak and an Easy Target!

Matt Yglesias notes yet another turn in the neocon strategy. It's really been striking the degree to which Bush administration foreign-policy priorities are driven not be the depth of a particular threat, but by the degree to which the targets in question can be dealt with by the tactics they prefer to use.

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More Year-End Movie Awards

Oscarwatch has the Golden Globe nominations, the AFI top 10, and the awards from the film critics in Boston and San Francisco. The critics in both of those cities named Sideways the year's best picture.

My favorites out of these picks? I'm thrilled to see Julie Delpy win the Best Actress award from the San Francisco critics, and I am very happy to see Kate Winslet get a Golden Globe nomination for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Basically I'm happy for every nomination Eternal Sunshine gets, and I'm sad (though not surprised) that it's director, Michael Gondry, failed to get a Golden Globe nomination.

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December 12, 2004

L.A. Film Critics Awards for 2004

Best Picture - Sideways; Director - Alexander Payne for Sideways; Actor - Liam Neeson for Kinsey; Actress - Imelda Stauton for Vera Drake; Supporting Actor - Thomas Haden Church for Sideways; Supporting Actress - Virginia Madsen for Sideways; Screenplay - Sideways; Foreign Film - The House of Flying Daggers.

It appears they really like Sideways.

The New York Film Critics Circle awards will be known on Monday, the same day the Golden Globe nominations are announced.

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December 10, 2004

Barry Bonds Doesn't Get a Presumption of Innocence?

Not from the press, George Bush, Bud Selig, John McCain ...

This Matt Welch column is positively delicious. I don't have much interest in Bonds one way or the other (though I don't see how anyone can argue with considering him one of the best baseball players ever). But I think Welch is correct in noting he's getting a bum deal, and the behavior of McCain, Bush, Selig, etc. on this issue has been unfair. In some cases it's been hideous.

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Fallujah Photos

This Helena Cobban post has a link to photos of some of the dead. I'm linking to this post instead of the photos directly so you'll have a little context on their origins.

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December 09, 2004

Mapping the WV Election Returns

The text of this article is rather ho-hum. But it contains a graphic of the West Virginia counties won by each candidate for president and governor. Though he was beaten statewide, John Kerry led the president in 9 counties (predictably, mostly in Southern West Virginia). While Bush was winning across the state Monty Warner, the hapless Republican candidate for governor, only led the victorious Democrat, Joe Manchin, in 3 counties.

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Clark Kent Ervin

The man who has issued many critical reports about the mismanagement and security flaws at the Department of Homeland Security was told Wednesday night that he was out of a job.

Of course Ervin was fired. And he should have known better. Hadn't he watched the way that the NSC and DOD were run for the last four years? Mismanagement appears to be key to getting promoted, or at least retained, in the Bush administration. For the Bushies mismanagement is the new black.

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Secretary Nicholson

Jim Nicholson, Ambassador to the Holy See, will be taking over as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs. It appears that this will be the last personnel change in the Bush cabinet associated with the change from term 1 to term 2. Whether or not this is the last stop in this administration for Nicholson (a former RNC chairman and observant Catholic from the swing state of Colorado) remains to be seen.

UPDATE: By "last personnel change" I mean that VA is apparently going to be the last slot to open up - but to my knowledge not all of the new cabinet nominees have been named yet. And of course several key non-cabinet slots remain open too (Deputy Secretary of State, UN Ambassador ...).

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Justice Clarence Thomas: Principled and Wrong

Publius has an interesting post on Clarence Thomas.

Thomas has a perfectly coherent jurisprudence that would (1) unfetter the executive in wartime; (2) allow state-established religion; (3) invalidate much of the administrative state; and (4) toss out all precedent that is deemed contrary to his perception of originial understanding. I don't know if "embarrassing" is the right word, but it's not too far off the mark.

"Activist" is another good word for him.

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December 08, 2004

The Use of Settlements as a Political Tool

Jonathan has this enlightening post on the use of settlers to achieve political gains.

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Meddlesome Prudes With Too Much Free Time?

Tyler Cowen alerts us to the fact that 99.8% of the indecency complaints brought to the FCC are made by a single activist group.

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Prisoner Abuse Continues, As Does Harrassment of Those Against It

This is appalling. Bush and Rumsfeld are the lowest of the low, and we're stuck with them for four more years.

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Anti-Environmentalist Propoganda on NPR's Morning Edition

Just when you thought the quality of Morning Edition couldn't decline further ...

This morning I listened to a report by Luke Burbank on the possibility that an act of arson that resulted in 10 homes being burned down in a new development in Maryland was committed by eco-terrorists. The thing is, there is no evidence of such a motive behind the fires. Burbank didn't quote a single person saying they thought that was what was behind it. He did interview the local police. The police they hadn't ruled anything out, and didn't even mention eco-terrorism. Burbank also mentioned that maybe the crime was racially motivated. But yet again, he didn't quote a single source who thought that. How in the world is this news or journalism?

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December 07, 2004

Why Democrats Might Support a Scalia Nomination

Risk Hasen has some pretty good reasons. And he doesn't even touch on the areas of law in which many Democrats would actually agree with Scalia's views.

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Arrested Development

This week I finished watching season 1 on DVD. I'd say that along with The Simpsons and Jon Stewart it's the best thing on TV. Yeah, I realize that The Sopranos and other shows have critical acclaim and rabid fans, but from what I've seen this is the best non-animated series on television today.

As an aside, does any other show come remotely close to the quality of the guest stars on this program? Not only do they have a large, great cast of regulars, but the number of funny, talented folks who'll come on for just an episode or two is startling. The guests on one episode alone included Julia Louis Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, James Lipton, Henry Winkler and Jane Lynch.

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The 2004 Grammy Nominations

No comment.

OK Joshua, here's the link to the major nominees.

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The Democrats Senate Committee Assignments

Via Redstate. What's notable here? Finance is typically viewed as the great assignment prize of the last several Congresses (it covers a swath of issues including entitlements, taxes, and trade) and the one new addition to that is Chuck Schumer (New York finally has representation on it again!). Obama is to be named to Environment and Foreign Relations panels. Salazar is to join Energy and Agriculture (which seem good fits for Colorado). There are no new members on the Judiciary committee. The additions of Mark Pryor (who lost his Armed Services seat) and Ben Nelson to the Commerce committee may make it more conservative and perhaps more likely to uphold, for example, stricter "decency" rules for the media networks.

It should be noted that the party ratios have been changed, and in most cases Republicans outnumber Democrats on committees by two.

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December 06, 2004

Heisman 2004

OK, so in many ways it's as meaningless as an Emmy, but for those who care ...

If the winner isn't Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson or USC's Reggie Bush, something is just wrong. It probably won't be Bush since he does so many things it's hard to compare him to others, plus USC has another candidate (QB Matt Leinart), and Peterson will likely suffer from an anti-freshman vote. Still it should be one of them, and I'm hopeful (if not very hopeful) about Peterson's chances. Out of the quarterbacks I like Stefan Lefors who's run Louisville's amazing offense beautifully, but he has little if any chance to win.

Posted by armand at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Forced Labor Camps in Fallujah

One of the things that I've found interesting about the attacks by the insurgents is that even in the face of massive levels of killings of Iraqis by Iraqis, the US is still seen by many (especially in central Iraq) as the #1 enemy. There are many reasons for that. Abu Ghraib is one that leaps to mind of course. Like it or not, Americans will be dying for years to come because of the president and the White House encouraging such things to happen, and not even bothering to go through the motions of holding anyone in power "accountable" (that's among the multitude of reasons that Rumsfeld should have been fired). But that's just one of the bone-headed and immoral decisions the US has made. It looks like we may soon be making another one.

Posted by armand at 09:29 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Modern Heros

Sometimes you just don't know whether to laugh or cry. Do you remember Pat Tillman? He's the NFL cornerback that walked away from a multi-million dollar contract after 9/11 to join the US Army. A very noble and patriotic act. He died fighting the Al Qaeda/Taliban remnants in Afghanistan in April of this year.

Turns out he died from friendly fire while trying to tell other soldiers not to shoot him (not, as his silver star notes, while leading the fight against the enemy), and that the US Army knew this when the awarded him the medal and shaded the facts in order to manage the public relations issues.

None of this makes Tillman's death any less noble or tragic. Well, actually, perhaps it makes it more tragic.

Posted by baltar at 09:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 05, 2004

John McCain, Baseball Commissioner

This kind of thing again raises my mystification with the cult of John McCain. I think he's done some impressive things in his career. No question. And his treatment by our president in the 2000 primary was positively disgraceful. That affair definitively showed George W. Bush to be one of the world's biggest slimeballs. So I have some feelings of sympathy still on that score. But in terms of his policy preferences, aside from his valiant tilting-at-windmills approach to attacking "pork" projects, and his willingness to not always tow a partisan line (though he still usually does), he's really a bit scary. Of course he's much more "conservative" than he's usually portrayed (we are in a weird and lazy media world that measures one's "moderateness" on the basis of how often you publicly question the president and his policies). But more than that he's one of the leading examples of giant-government conservatism (the sort pushed by our president). He likes big government, and he calls for more regulation and government power with great frequency. And this proposal - yipes. If he thinks that this is the kind of thing that calls for government intervention - what doesn't?

Posted by armand at 02:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Supreme Court vs. The Fifth Circuit

While the general impression of the US Supreme Court is that it's not friendly to complaints brought by people convicted of violent crimes, it's also clearly not friendly to appeals courts that appear to repeatedly violate its holdings. Adam Liptak and Ralph Blumental discuss Miller-El, round two, in today's New York Times. It appears that in this case the primary concern of the Supremes is bringing into line what it sees as state (the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals) and federal (the Fifth Circuit) appeals courts that are refusing to follow its dictates. If the Rehnquist Court is known for anything, it's known for trying to protect and expand its own power. That said, if the legal system is going to work as designed, it would seem appropriate to end some of the more reactionary tendencies of the Fifth Circuit that are discussed in the article.

Posted by armand at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Louisiana US House Run-Offs

The last two US House races of the 2004 cycle have been completed with both parties finding a bit of good news and a bit of bad news. Both of these races were held in districts in Southern Louisiana. In the 3rd District Democrat Charlie Melancon defeated Republican Billy Tauzin III by a very small margin (514 votes). Melancon will replace current Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin (father of the candidate who lost). In the neighboring 7th District (to the West of the 3rd) Republican Charles Boustany defeated Democrat Willie Mount in the race to succeed Democrat Chris John (who lost last month's US Senate race). Boustany posted a strong margin, winning 55% to 45%, even though in the November balloting the total vote for the Democrat candidates was 52% (it should be noted that Mount's Democratic opponent in that race, Don Cravins, a veteran state senator who is black, did not endorse her in the run-off).

This means that in the next Congress Louisiana's House delegation will be composed of 5 Republicans and 2 Democrats. It also means that Charlie Melancon should probably expect to face a spirited race for reelection in 2006. Boustany could conceivably face a test next cycle as well, but his unexpectedly high percentage, deep bank account, and the simmering racial tensions among Democrats in that district mean that his seat is probably not in as much immediate danger. Besides, even if it is probably a losing cause given the demographics of his district, many Louisiana Democrats are likely to have their sights focused most strongly on Rodney Alexander's next race for reelection.

Posted by armand at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 04, 2004

A Possible Mass Exodus at State

If the White House is purging State anyway, it appears doing this would speed the process along.

Posted by armand at 02:51 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2004

Succession in Jordan

King Abdullah has sacked his half-brother Hamza as Crown Prince. Abu Aardvark has the story and thoughts on its meaning here, here and here.

Why should Jordanian royals matter to the US? This matters given US interest in Israeli politics and Jordan's importance in Israeli politics. It matters because of our long friendship and growing economic ties with Jordan (we have a free trade agreement with them, though our aid is endangered by the Nethercutt amendment). And it matters because in the last ten years Jordan has slid further and further away from being a free society with a responsive government (not that it was one, but things have gotten steadily worse). In such a system, who the heir to the throne is can have important political consequences.

Posted by armand at 11:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Administration Personnel Mysteries

OK, would someone please explain to me why ex-Senator Danforth is leaving his post after only about five months, and the President has tapped Kerik (the ex-NYC police comissioner) as the next head of the Department of Homeland Security? Danforth is a relatively respected politician, who got pretty good (initial) reviews as UN Ambassador. He seems to be a decent guy, who has bailed out after a very, very short tenure. Kerik is not a national politician by any means, and while he may have been a good police commissioner (the fact that he was during 9/11 isn't necessarily a recommendation - what, exactly, did the NYC police have to do during and after 9/11? It wasn't a criminal investigation, and the fire department handled most of the rescues), why is he remotely qualified to run the department charged with defending the homeland. What does he know about immigration? Coast Guard? Customs? Someone want to explain any of this to me.

Posted by baltar at 10:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Home at the End of the World

I rented this clunker on the basis of the cast (including Colin Farrell, Sissy Spacek and Robin Wright Penn), and it should be noted that they do indeed give game performances with what they have to work with. But yikes, it's bad. So very bad. And the blame most go to the novelist Michael Cunningham (who wrote the screenplay based on his own novel) and the director Michael Mayer. The structure features way too many montages, and it seems to constantly zip ahead without ever giving us much time to connect with the characters or their new situations. Maybe the book was good - but the movie is so bad I think it merits lawsuits against Mayer and Cunningham. Or we should at least be afforded the opportunity to throw rotten vegetables at them for wasting the time of viewers and the talents of actors.

Posted by armand at 10:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Giambi Used Drugs!?!?

What is with the "news"? Yes, one could write that most days, but this latest media sensation seems particularly egregious. Who doesn't know that professional athletes use performance enhancing drugs? Do all of them? No. But from baseball, to track and field, to tennis, major players use these things and have for many years. And in many sports people know exactly who's doing it. What's the story here? Is it that a newspaper has the never to report Giambi used them? Is it that Giambi admitted to it in a deposition? This about as surprising as another bit of news I heard on the radio today. The oldest woman in the United States died. Wow. You don't say.

Posted by armand at 10:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 02, 2004

Are You Open to Also-Rans in 2008?

It's early to be thinking about the 2008 presidential race, but I'm wondering - out of the people who ran for president this year and failed, who, if any, would you be open to supporting in 2008? I'm not asking if you'd be enthusiastic about any of them (though you can of course mention that in the comments), I'm just wondering who you'd be willing to give another look in a few years? As for myself, I'd think about supporting John Kerry or Wesley Clark (especially Clark) and maybe, just maybe, John Edwards (though I doubt it). What do you think?

Posted by armand at 06:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Orin Kerr on What Dale Means for the Solomon Amendment Case

Since I know the Third Circuit's recent ruling on the Solomon Amendment interested Binky, I'm going to link to this post by Orin Kerr on how it relates to the Dale (Boy Scouts) case. The more I read about the Solomon Amendment case the more I am reminded of the fact that occasionally courts are confronted with a question on which there really is no obvious answer. There's precedent in a number of directions, and there's not really a "right" answer legally. Well, maybe there is. After all, I'm not a lawyer. But it's cases like these that remind me that there's often not just one legitimate answer that can be reached when you interpret the law. Multiple, conflicting arguments can be made about the Third Circuit's decision that strike me as making a good deal of sense.

Posted by armand at 03:23 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Dame Edna and Molly Ringwald

You can always count on the greatest city in the world to provide you with the opportunity to experience wonderful surprises and smart frivolity. Today I will note that if you're a fan of such things, this week's issue of The New Yorker provides a practically orgasmic rave review of Dame Edna's new show. Lahr makes the vital point that Edna is all about vaudeville, not drag, and if you like that kind of thing (and it does offer, when done well, unusual opportunities for being scathing, silly and brilliant all at the same time) this show is apparently a must-see. It's playing at the Music Box.

In other New York theater news, as a teen-movie afficianado I feel it is my duty to report that Molly Ringwald will soon be returning to the stage. She's one of the stars of Modern Orthodox, a Daniel Goldfarb comedy that will be directed by James Lapine.

Posted by armand at 03:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Better than Coffee at Waking you up.

Did you know that abortion causes sterility and suicide? Did you know that women who offer to many suggestions and advice, will drive away men? Did you know that half of gay male teenages have AIDS?

You didn't know this?

This is what our government is teaching teenagers in public schools in abstinence-only sex-ed programs. In addition to being WRONG (and I mean that in a fact-and-science-reality-based-way, not a moral way), it costs us about $170 million a year.

If anyone is looking for suggestions as to where to start cutting the federal deficit, I've got one.

Posted by baltar at 12:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 01, 2004

What Viacom Will and Won't Run

Josh Marshall, via Ricky Prado, has the quote of the day. Networks will run outright lies for weeks on end, but they wouldn't dare want to do anything "controversial". Is this outrageous? Sure. But we all too frequently forget that we are talking about arms of giant corporations, and that "big" media is much more about advertising than it is about news. This is appalling, and I urge you to contact the networks and complain, but it's also sadly predictable.

Posted by armand at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Red Ribbon

Today is world AIDS day. It's not on the home page of the New York Times, or CNN, but you can find a post at Crooked Timber with links to several stories in the international press.

Normally it's hard to shut a political scientist up on matters of policy, but today I find myself at a loss for words on this subject, but full of memories of loved ones lost.

Posted by binky at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack