Yeah, it's summer, and I have outrage fatigue. Fucking Supreme Court decisions, corruption, Ann Coulter, blah blah fucking blah.
Always something there to remind me...
Make your own Simpson's avatar.
I see that the Supreme Court has decided to see if Congress can pass a law that forbids people (granted, non-citizens) from having access to our judicial system. I'll agree that, in theory, this is a question the Court should weight in on.
That being said, given all the decisions this Court has made in the last few months, is anyone expecting this decision to be a good one?
I'll just hazard a guess now, and say "no" (or, perhaps, "hell no").
Here you can find a visual rundown of who was who in Tony Blair's cabinet, contrasted with who is filling the positions in the Gordon Brown Cabinet. Only one person is staying in the same slot (Des Browne at Defence - he's also getting the Scotland brief). And while new Foreign Secretary David Miliband is getting a lot of the press today (along with new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith), it's his brother Ed who gets the position with the most fun name - Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
That AIPAC is friendlier with Republicans than Democrats is hardly shocking news. They are basically in bed with the neocons and a large number of Christianist Republicans. But evenso ... you've got to be kidding me:
The aid to Israel, all $2.4 billion of it, is not in question. A formula without doubt will be found, but what happened next is what really speaks volumes. Nothing. Silence from AIPAC. The GOP explained its position. AIPAC chose not to score the vote, nor to in any way publicize any issue it might have with opposition to a women’s right to choose being a higher principle than aid to Israel for the Republican Congressional minority.
How on Earth could AIPAC possibly hope to justify not scoring the Foreign Aid vote? Well, they can't really, so they won't bother, which is, as Levy notes, another big sign that they are at times more interested in maintaining their alliance with the Republican Party than in securing aid to Israel.
The RIAA - one of my personal favorites - and its lobbying are about to kill internet radio.
If you listen to any internet radio at all, check out these links, and contact your representatives in Congress right away.
2. Thousands of webcasters shut down today in protest of new retroactive royalty rates that would drive most of them out of business or force them into lockstep formation with the terrestrial radio stations many of us have learned to tune out. (One of the worst aspects of the new rates that I didn't mention in the above-linked article is the $500 per-month-per-station minumum payment, which would make customized radio services such as Pandora financially impossible.)
3. In March, the Copyright Royalty Board said that it planned to change the method by which Internet broadcasters would pay for royalties from a per-song to a per-listener rate. This, combined with new base fees of $500 for each separate station that a broadcaster managed, would require many Internet radio stations to pay crippling fees to the Copyright Royalty Board that would essentially put them out of business.
National Public Radio attempted to get a rehearing with the CRB, arguing that the decision was an "abuse of discretion," but their appeal was denied less than a month later. Still, the CRB offered a small reprieve from the threat of retroactive fees in May by extending the deadline for retroactive rates from May 15 to July 15. A couple of weeks later, SoundExchange tweaked its requirements so that smaller broadcasters won't have to pay increased royalties until 2010—a decision that was unpopular with SaveNetRadio, which argued that SoundExchange's offer would still punish larger webcasters while ensuring that smaller ones would never see any growth.
4. Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that "silence" is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months' worth of retroactive royalty payments -- at new, exceedingly high rates -- are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.
To contact your representative, go here for instructions.
Laura disregards that safe choices for women are often not an option:
But there is bad news, too: The HIV/AIDS prevention strategies have stunningly failed African women and girls. Rape of women and children by partners, husbands, relatives, neighbors and strangers has put hundreds of thousands at risk of violent transmission of HIV.
Medical experts have shown a clear association between HIV exposure and coerced sex. Wives who suffer violence if they request condom use or faithfulness are at higher risk of AIDS than unmarried women and girls.
2. The State of Virginia: License plate slogan? "Fight Terrorism." Yeah. Right after I "Choose Life," I'll get right on that.
3. Dumbass parked in the high speed lane on I-40 with his right hand clasping his cell phone tightly to his ear, and the left hand perched on top of his head, ruffling his hair.
4. "Rutledge: A Southern Heritage Gated Community." What, all the houses have stars and bars trim?
5. Brain seizure stoplights. The red light has a flashing circular strobe around the rim of the redlight. I thought I would either have a seizure, or be seized by the urge to hop out of my car and dance.
And, last but not least...
7. Hideous beach "cottages."
It's hard to really tell how awful these hulking monstrosities are, and they are all the worse because they dwarf and shadow the old fashioned cuties that still dot the area:
And that's what I was thinking about instead of blogging last week.
Bust out the champagne (or at least break out the mimosas) - Tony Blair has resigned. Gordon Brown is now prime minister (the first Scot in the job since Sir Alec Douglas-Home), and he's expected to name the top members of his cabinet in the next few hours, with a fuller cabinet reshuffle coming tomorrow.
Hat Tip to Shezbot
Dahlia Lithwick and Walter Dellinger have some reasonable points about Justice Alito's executive branch-friendly opinion in Hein (Alito executive-branch friendly? who'd have thought that?!?):
Justice Souter need barely put an oar in the water after Scalia's efforts. He merely notes in his dissent that for some ill-defined and incomprehensible reason "the controlling opinion closes the door on these taxpayers because the Executive Branch, and not the Legislative Branch, caused their injury." He is baffled that Alito has devised some sort of magical separation-of-powers rationale that renders spending decisions by the president less worthy of judicial review than those decisions made by Congress. As he puts it, "If the Executive could accomplish through the exercise of discretion exactly what Congress cannot do through legislation, Establishment Clause protection would melt away."
And what Souter need not add to this analysis—after all, it's been shouted from the front page of the Washington Post all week—is that now more than ever we should understand why shielding executive branch actions from court scrutiny, merely because they happen to emanate from the executive branch, is a pretty damn horrifying idea. That's assuming we can even identify anymore what the words executive branch might mean.
Flast was a very bad decision. It both reflected and contributed to the view that the court is above everyone else when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Five current justices clearly think it was wrong (Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito). But the new arrivals, Roberts and Alito, stopped short of overruling it out of a stated respect for stare decisis (the principle that previous holdings of the court should usually stand). Instead they accepted the solicitor general's suggestion that there is a difference between the expenditure of congressionally earmarked money, which gave rise to standing in Flast, and general appropriations by the executive branch. But nobody, I mean nobody, can offer a really convincing explanation of why that difference (and a couple of other distinctions understandable only to somebody who is both a Jesuitical and a Talmudic scholar, as well as president of a law review) matters. Flast and Hein present the same issue: Either the court should limit itself to deciding real lawsuits, or it should proclaim upon the constitutional rightness or wrongness of governmental actions whether or not there is such a suit.
So in light of this news, I'm wondering if there's any way I can take advantage of the coneflower in my backyard. Actually, that just started blooming again today - 'tis pretty.
Read it, if you can stomach it.
There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women's group Women's Will, puts the figure at 50,000.
Tonight I can recommend two films. My latest from Netflix was the newly released Criterion Collection edition of Lindsay Andreson's anti-establishment, public school tale If .... . It's one of those things that I've heard about for years, but never seen - and I've got to say it lives up to the hype. It's superbly constructed, technically, it's engrossing, and presents a world that's both exceedingly real and appropriately dream-like (especially considering the last section of the film). If you are interested in Britain in the 1960's or the early career of Malcolm McDowell, well those are extra reasons to see it. Anyway, I liked it a lot.
Jumping ahead to a film released 39 years later (that is, this year) Away From Her is also enjoyable, though obviously it's an extremely different movie. It's not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting a film that centered more clearly around Julie Christie's performance, and really it's more immediately centered around the character of her husband. But nonetheless it's moving, very well written, and nicely acted. Though honestly the performance that stuck with me wasn't Christie's (though she's good) but Kristen Thomson's nurse. But no matter, the film has several points to recommend it, and if you are looking for something that's touching and deals with relationships you might very well enjoy it (though be prepared to tear up at least once).
The next person who says a kind word about Robert C. Byrd, who voted for Justice Alito, risks geting slapped in the face. Morse, Hein ... you can follow the Court's actions today at SCOTUSBlog - if you have the stomach for it.
By far - here he links to the new Washington Post series on ... see for yourself.
In a few days Gordon Brown will succeed Tony Blair as prime minister. In advance of that, today he became the new leader of the Labour party. That was of course expected. What was not expected was that the new leader would be Harriet Harman. He's been a vocal opponent of Blair's leadership and of his prosecution of the Iraq war. Nick Assinder analyzes her win here. For what it's worth, I'm quite pleased by her victory, and am looking forward to Blair finally being out of power. The last several months have been what I imagine they will be here in 2008 - a dreadful, tiring, waiting-out of the final weeks and months of a disliked executive's reign. It's exciting to finally have a long expected-change in government occur - and in Harman's case led (to a degree) by someone who seems committed to changing policies and politics that the people have grown tired of.
Seemingly everyone who's not a fan of the administration or Dick Cheney has already announced their support for this - so let me add my voice to the cause. This is both exactly what the Vice President deserves, and a serious political boon for the Democrats, if it gets enough coverage (as Dick Cheney's about as popular as syphilis and Ehud Olmert). Go Congressman Emanuel!
Why on Earth would you where black pants? And isn't it doubly bad that a senator from Georgia would make that sort of fashion error?
Right now one of the most contentious issues in the state is a plan to build a new set of gigantic transmission lines that will run through West Virginia on their way to carry electricity to the East Coast. This has upset a host of interests in the state, and even our normally business-lovin' local newspaper is opposed to this construction. So it's interesting that when Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) proposed an amendment to bar the Energy Dept. from approving these and other similar lines for a year two of our state's US Representatives voted against it. In fact, it was the two Democrats who voted against blocking the lines, while our Republican representative Shelley Moore Capito voted for it. The vote was 174 for to 257 against, with 90 Democrats voting with most Republicans to block the proposal. Our representative, Mollohan (D-WV), seems to have opposed this because he wants to deal with this issue through authorizing authority, not limiting appropriations. Likely relatedly, Mollohan is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, and may not have wished to oppose his committee on the House floor.
To me that's the most interesting number in Gallup's mid-June poll testing how the leading Democrats and the leading Republicans would fare in head-to-head match-ups. In all pairings, the Democrat wins. However it's interesting to look at how the Democrats do in individual races. Basically, Edwards and Obama crush Romney, and because of that, the numbers they get vary widely, depending on their opponent. Clinton's numbers though vary very little. And even against Romney, the weakest Republican in these match-ups, she only gets 53% support. Is this more evidence that Clinton's vote ceiling is pretty low?
Lately I probably spend more time at The Atlantic's blogs than any other blogs. Between Yglesias, Sullivan and Ambinder they've got an insightful set of talent posting on a wide array of things political - and posting a nearly endless set of stories and links throughout the day (and of course they've got Douthat and Fallows blogging for them too, but Fallows posts infrequently and I don't check Douthat as often). So I like the place. But I've got one question about it. Why on Earth is the first link in both Sullivan's and Ambinder's blogroll the uber-hack Matt Drudge? Really ... why?
I can see a big upside in the proposal for a Name Every Victim law - politically, ethically, and in our ability to make better-informed choices as a nation. Still, I can't imagine that our "pro-life" administration would support it under any circumstances.
Via Pandagon, a story in the NYT about freegans:
Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.
They dress in castoff clothes and furnish their homes with items found on the street; at freecycle.org, where users post unwanted items; and at so-called freemeets, flea markets where no money is exchanged. Some claim to hold themselves to rigorous standards. "If a person chooses to live an ethical lifestyle it's not enough to be vegan, they need to absent themselves from capitalism," said Adam Weissman, 29, who started freegan.info four years ago and is the movement's de facto spokesman.
Well, not totally. Not the rotting veggies part, but the dumpster diving, furniture picked out of the trash and recycled clothing part, oh yes.
OK, well, maybe, I'm just cheap.
But are we pungent?
This made the rounds awhile ago, but CityRag reminded me that this is definitely the best five second video on the intarwebz:
...but West Virginia sure has the failure part going on.
Hat tip to Alabama Ass Whuppin.
I'm having one of those mornings when I want to listen to "Blocalicious" again and again and again. Maybe that's what's making the cat so extra testy/playful today.
So I finished the David Mitchell novel I'd been reading - and it's really good. If you think you might be interested in it, here's the book's website.
I can't believe so few news outlets are covering this story. It's pretty much nowhere to be found in the news beyond Newsday - while a Bloomberg candidacy that likelly wouldn't be announced until next year, should it ever occur, is all over the morning press. Anyway, Newsday has a follow-up piece today. Giuliani's excuses remain lame - if he was worried about the panel appearing partisan he wouldn't have joined it in the first place and his resignation letter didn't mention those concerns, only his other time commitments (to got make masses of money speaking at events, which was more important to the former mayor than trying to fix US policy in Iraq). Two people are defending Giuliani in the piece, Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who, though the article fails to note it, has endorsed Giuliani for president, and Giuliani's campaign manager. The campaign manager is given the last word in the story, and it's a bizarre word:
"I don't think anybody can question the mayor's commitment to the Iraq war, or the mayor's commitment to the war on terror in general. This is somebody who for the last 30 years of his life has spent time working on and studying the Islamic terrorist threat to America," DuHaime said.
What. The. Hell? Can any of you enlighten me on this 30 years of work former mayor Giuliani has been doing on the Islamic terrorist threat to America? I'm genuinely curious. Quite.
So since people are discussing Hillary's choice of a Celine/Air Canada song for her campaign (and The Sopranos spoof she made as an ad for it), I think discussing what we think of as "good" campaign songs is in order. [Disclaimer: I should say I don't care about this one iota in terms of issues or votes or air-time on tv or anything else that really affects who'll lead the country - this isn't a real campaign issues and shouldn't be - I'm simply bring this up for the music/inspirational/ kind of psychy matters tied to how you choose want you want to play at campaign events.] It seems to me that for national appeal you want a famous song, a song that's upbeat, a song that's appealing to a broad group, a song that includes some sort of hopeful or inspirational message. Also, you'd not want a song many find irritating (no "Walkin' on Sunshine" or the like), and you don't want a song made famous by someone's who's evil (to your voters) or a basketcase (so, no Courtney Love songs - a shame that). Does anyone disagree with those criteria? If so, please let me know. And are there other key criteria I'm leaving out? And with all that in mind - if you were a campaign manager, what song would you pick for your candidate? I'll try to think of some possibilities over trivia, and post my picks when I get back in tonight.
They are meeting today to come up with a list of 3 names to submit to the governor, who will choose a replacement for the late senator. The Casper paper is liveblogging the event here.
We have a different "enemy," but just about everything else is the same. Via DefenseTech, we find that the US and China are installing a "hot line" to facilitate communications during crises. Just like the Cold War (where we had one with the USSR):
U.S. and Chinese officials are expected to finalize arrangements in September for a "hotline" communications link between the Pentagon and China's Ministry of Defense. Lieutenant General Zhang Qinsheng, the deputy chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, is planning to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C., in September to complete arrangements for the link.
Don't get me wrong - this makes sense, but it does make me feel a little more "The Day After"ish than I want to be feeling.
Given what the Cuban revolution has become, sometimes it's hard to remember what it once represented. In the 1950s, the struggle against Batista's oppression mobilized many to action. One of them was Vilma Espin, who later became the wife of Raul Castro. She died Monday:
Born into a wealthy family in eastern Cuba, Espin became a young urban rebel after Fulgencio Batista took power in a coup, and she battled his dictatorship throughout the 1950s.
Espin's power also was rooted in the more than four decades she served as president of the Federation of Cuban Women, which she founded in 1960 and fashioned into an important pillar of support for the communist government. Virtually every woman and adolescent girl on the island are listed as members.
Born in Santiago on April 7, 1930, and trained as a chemical engineer, Espin participated in early street protests against Batista, and became deeply involved in the revolutionary underground, working with regional leader Frank Pais, who was assassinated in July 1957. Even before Pais died, Espin had assumed leadership of the urban rebel movement in eastern Cuba.
She become part of the machine, but in the early days, she represented the hope that many women had for a new role in Cuban politics and society.
Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said ...
By giving up his seat on the panel, Giuliani has opened himself up to charges that he chose private-sector paydays and politics over unpaid service on a critical issue facing the nation. Not only that, but the 10-member group -- also called the Baker-Hamilton commission -- was no ordinary blue-ribbon panel, instead chartered by Congress and encouraged by the president to find a way forward in Iraq ...
Stephen Hess, who has served as an adviser to presidents from both parties, said quitting the group is likely to pose a political problem for Giuliani. "Leaving that study group was not exactly an act of courage," said Hess, particularly because the group's recommendations ultimately diverged from Bush's stick-it-out approach, which Giuliani has embraced.
While I suppose ideologically, on several key issues, I might be much closer to Giuliani than the other leading Republican candidates, he's more more the Republican I like least. And this Newsday report fits with several things I don't like about him, including his lack of foreign policy credentials and the questionable way in which he became rich.
And because today's posts have been a bit on the serious side (political problems, birdies in danger), I present this for the evening hour. I love the outfit on the right. As to the one on the left ... not ... so ... much.
The old haircut story is back on the blogs, earning Edwards great heapings of criticism from - of all people - Kos.
Some of you will shoot me for this, but the more time passes, the more his "haircut" deal pisses me off. Why? I see it as a stategic, tactical, and personal failure, and one that was so easy to avoid that it makes me question his judgment in a long, tough, presidential battle.
Strategic: There are two narratives Edwards' opponents are building against him -- one, that he's a "pretty boy", and two, that he's so rich he's out of touch with "regular" people. And in one fell swoop, Edwards reinforced both negative narratives!
Tactical: The only reason anyone knew about that haircut was because it was in campaign finance disclosures. Why was it in those disclosures? Because he used campaign funds to pay for the haircut! If he wants his pimp haircuts, I couldn't care less. But why do it in such a way that it's easy for your enemies to use against you?
Personal: I don't know Edwards' net worth, nor care. But he has a lot of money. I'm willing to bet that most of the small dollar donors Edwards has solicited don't have that much. For them, that $20 or $50 or even $100 contribution is a big sacrifice. Yet given the choice between taking out his own checkbook or having his campaign pay for the $400 the haircut cost, someone made the choice to put this on the contributors. More than anything, it's this that offends me about this incident. People expect their money to be well spent by campaigns, not used as personal slush funds for whatever luxuries they may want.
So as stupid and media-driven as that whole "haircut" mess may have been, it really was a disaster on way too many levels to completely ignore and shrug off.
And hey, I guess keeping with the theme of prominent Democrats dissing major Democratic presidential candidates, Andrew Sullivan picks up on this passage in which Bill Bradley conveys his quite negative views of Hillary Clinton. As it's likely she will be the presidential nominee, it will be interesting who the "Hillary of the 1990's" stories play out over the next year and a half.
UPDATE: So now Sullivan has posted another slam at Sen. Clinton, this one comparing her to Richard Nixon. That charge is rather ridiculous - and really something of a hoot considering that we are in the midst of the most Nixonian presidency since Nixon right now. Really, there's a considerable difference between cutting your enemies to shreds and being a paranoid of Nixon's level. And I don't see any evidence that she's the latter.
OK, people, who knows what to do about baby birds on the ground. Some cardinals nested in the rhodedendron near my front door, and just now there was a kerfuffle (some sparrows fluttering around, lots of schiping, angry cardinals) and I looked over to see babies on the ground. The good news is that it is a relatively secluded spot, and I already have up some low fencing to keep the dogs out of the area. Mom and Dad are feeding them, and nothing seems to be broken (they are flopping around with directional intent to get to the meal wagon). My concern is cats in the nighttime. I know there is "nature taking its course" aspect here, but the neighbor's kitty doesn't really seem to fit in. Also, I know that for some babies, flopping out and learning to move around is part of the process, and putting them back in the nest might result in them hopping back out again. I think they are about a week old.
What happens when a state can't - or won't - rely on a standing army to accomplish its security objectives? Privatization. In the case of the war in Iraq, it looks like the private sector has found new and improved ways of torturing the families of individuals slain during the mission:
The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men's estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.
Following these gruesome deaths which were broadcast on worldwide television, the surviving family members looked to Blackwater for answers as to how and why their loved ones died. Blackwater not only refused to give the grieving families any information, but also callously stated that they would need to sue Blackwater to get it. Left with no alternative, in January 2005, the families filed suit against Blackwater, which is owned by the wealthy and politically-connected Erik Prince.
Blackwater quickly adapted its battlefield tactics to the courtroom. It initially hired Fred F. Fielding, who is currently counsel to the President of the United States. It then hired Joseph E. Schmitz as its in-house counsel, who was formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon. More recently, Blackwater employed Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, to oppose the families. To add additional muscle, Blackwater hired Cofer Black, who was the Director of the CIA Counter- Terrorist Center.
Caveat: this was written by the families' attorneys.
Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.
Foreign Policy released this year's failed states index. Iraq has moved up from 4th place (the last two years) to second. The top ten:
6) Ivory Coast
7) Democratic Republic of the Congo
10) Central African Republic
In foreign policy terms, this is an interesting list, because it's populated with countries about which (ostensibly) we care the most as well as the ones (demonstrably) about which we care the least.
If they could find a way to do it, I think Dubai would buy the moon. But for now their latest big-name acquisition is the legendary ocean liner.
Andrew Bacevich makes an interesting proposal.
Wow. Do you think she could be a little more condescending? Just maybe?
Maria Carvajal walks the sweltering streets of Tijuana, Mexico, clutching a photo of her mentally disabled son, who she says went missing after being deported more than a month ago, despite being a U.S. citizen.
Carvajal says she has searched hospitals, shelters and jails here looking for her 29-year-old son, Pedro Guzman of Lancaster, California, who was jailed for a misdemeanor trespassing violation, then sent to Mexico on May 11.
Guzman's relatives sued the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department last week in federal court, claiming Guzman was a U.S. citizen and had been wrongfully deported and demanding that U.S. authorities help find him.
"I'm searching for him because he's my son. But it should be (U.S. authorities) searching for him," Carvajal, a 49-year-old fast-food restaurant worker from Lancaster, said Sunday in Tijuana. "They made the mistake. Not me."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Guzman had been deported and said the agency had done so correctly. "ICE has no reason to believe that it improperly removed Pedro Guzman," read a statement.
Officials at the U.S. consulate in Tijuana say they have made calls to help search for Guzman and asked other consulates in Mexico if they have information.
"We are doing things to help that we are not obliged to do," said consulate spokeswoman Lorena Blanco.
Often left out of the discussion of security measures is the question who are not mentally able to navigate the tortured waters of Homeland Security policy.
Guzman can't read or write and has trouble processing information. Carvajal fears he could be an easy victim for robbers.
The lawsuit says Guzman was asked about his immigration status in jail and responded that he was born in California of Mexican parents.
Sometime after that, the Sheriff's Department identified him as a non-citizen, obtained his signature for voluntary removal from the United States and turned him over to Customs and Immigration Enforcement, a division of the Homeland Security Department, for deportation.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which helped file the lawsuit, says it has Guzman's birth certificate showing he was born at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
It also says that Guzman had previously done jail time for drug possession, so he had a record that could have been cross-checked before a deportation decision was made.
So a guy who can't read or write, and has trouble processing information, signs a voluntary removal order. To have been a fly on the wall for how that went down.
And I'm sure lots of people have said it before, but come on, what the fuck? ICE? LAME
Bad news from Kabul.
Thirty-five people were killed and 52 injured this morning in a devastating suicide bomb attack on a bus in Kabul. The attack bore immediate comparison to mass casualty suicide bombings in Iraq and appeared to mark a leap in the capability of the Taliban and its Al-Qa'eda mentors in Afghanistan to mount such attacks.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility.
The New Yorker has a depressing profile of the man behind the Taguba report. It's worth a look.
By the way, the article also mentions Gen. Bantz Craddock a few times. As he is a WVU graduate it seems entirely possible that he may be up for certain honors from the university in the future. I hope the university community will give his record the full investigation it deserves before any such honors are bestowed. Given his close association with Secretary Rumsfeld it may be the case that he is someone who does not deserve such honors.
PZ writes about how the "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs" have combined to be a war against science projects:
In the name of child safety, in order to inhibit drug peddlers, because we don't want to make things easy for terrorists, we have put up bureaucratic barriers to the purchase of laboratory glassware — while encouraging unimpaired, unchecked access to guns
It's like they want everyone to be stupid. Hey... wait a minute...
I think it's fairly predictable that a cover story on Justice Kennedy is going to be negative. Why that's the case is an interesting question. But there's negative ... and then there's what Jeffrey Rosen has written for The New Republic. Michael Dorf decribes Rosen's article this way:
The tone and content are so over the top that one wonders whether Rosen believes that Kennedy personally harmed Rosen in some way.
Dorf has much more to say about the piece, and in the end sadly comes to the conclusion that Rosen is engaging in the sort of arrogance that he's accusing Kennedy of. The comments are quite critical of Rosen too.
...but the conclusion reminds of my doctoral leg process seminar.
Hat tip to Baltar
I think Josh Marshall is right on target here. What exactly is wrong with questioning the competence of military leaders? And if merely questioning their competence is wrong - shouldn't not listening to their recommedations, or especially firing them, be some horrifying sin that merits vastly more criticism than simply labeling them incompetent? If Lieberman was more than an ideologue and semi-loony tool he might realize this. But on issues of war and the Middle East he long ago strayed far, far away from the path of logic.
Still, given the number of times the president he loves to hug has turned his back on generals, someone might want to pass Sen. Lieberman a copy of Supreme Command, a book the president has read, written by one of the newest neocons to join the administration.
Though by the way, what's with the interviewer asking Joe Lieberman to explain Harry Reid's thoughts? What possible purpose did that serve other than to give Lieberman a chance to insult Reid?
With rape an ongoing threat to women serving the United States in uniform, the Bush administration has shown its indifference to truly supporting the troops, demanding that EC be taken off the list of medicines required at military facilities. Apparently the Democrats don't care to engage the fight to counteract the order.
My recent post on the rise in popularity of "Landon" got me thinking about something. Has there been research done on which parents name their children? And on whether or not that varies by the sex of the baby? I am wondering whether any variation in those matters might explain the rise and fall of certain names.
...or maybe not:
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.
The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.
Actually, I kind of thought Armand or Baltar would blog on this, so I'm posting without comment. A brief selection of old posts from all of us here.
The lack of bees in my garden was starting to worry me a bit, what with all the stories aout colony collapse around the country. Normally there are many flitting about the flowers, and more in the section of the garden where I ripped up the grass and planted white clover. So far this year, however, I have seen one big fat "bumblebee," cruising around, not a one of the regular workhorse pollinators.
Until this morning. As I was sitting on the porch, trying to be very still so the cardinals feeding their babies about five feet from my head wouldn't be disturbed, I saw the bee. Bopping from one fluffy clover blossom to the next, bending their stems and making them flop. I'm hopeful that this bee will be back with friends.
The conversion of the oldest Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines into platforms for cruise missiles and special operations forces continues.
The Albritton's new political rag has produced some awfully shoddy product in its short lifespan. And today it looks like another one of their stories isn't really based in reality. Of course that hasn't stopped the right-wing noise machine from taking it up - from Drudge to Tony Snow (who's suddenly more than happy to discuss hypotheticals).
Over at Low Resolution there's a competition going on. 64 top actors are being placed in a single-elimination tournament to determine who's the best. One or more of the categories they are being judged on might seem kind of odd - but hey, it's probably as reasonable a way to determine this as any other. And it's rather more fun than a lot of other possibilities.
Did any of the rest of you know that there's a guy in B&E who writes on political economy issues dealing with pirates?
The alma mater of our dear friend Jane is shutting down.
Who knew the president had presidential-seal socks made? Or that he wore crocs? I think this calls for some attention from Go Fug Yourself.
It's a case of dog bites man, sure. But hey it's also kind of interesting that if you ask lesbians which women are hot you're likely to get a rather different set of answers than you'd be likely to get if you were asking, say, the publishers of Maxim. AfterEllen.com asked their readers to come up with a list of the top 100 hottest women. Their choices can be found here.
Keep in mind that this guy is running for president. Danger Room features a post on an investigation into one of Duncan Hunter's pet projects.
In military-industrial circles, former House Armed Services Committee chairman (and long-shot Presidential candidate) Duncan Hunter is well-known as a guy who makes damn sure that his pet projects get healthy heaps of federal bucks -- whether the Pentagon wants 'em, nor not. Some of these efforts are pretty cool, like the tricked-out, ultra-fast catamaran that the Navy is now using for humanitarian and counter-narcotics missions. Others are considerably, um, less impressive ...
The military absolutely hates the thing, as this House Science Committee report reveals. But, year after year, ol' Duncan has kept earmarking major funds for the plane (this year, he asked for $6 million) -- while the plane's designer stuffed the Congressman's campaign coffers.
Follow the link to more details.
There are individuals who I think might fit well on a national ticket with certain individual presidential candidates (like former Gov. Vilsack of Iowa would make sense as a possible running-mate for Sen. Clinton), but when it comes to Democrats who should be on (really at or near the top) of every vice presidential short list, the first two names that come to my mind are Mark Warner and Bob Graham.
The Sao Paulo Pride Parade may have reached 3 million participants!
Given the way the awards came down last night you can be excused for thinking there were only three shows on Broadway last year. Coast of Utopia dominated things on the side of the plays, with Spring Awakening dominating the musical awards, though on that side Grey Gardens picked up a few prizes too (notably the two prizes for lead and featured actress). StinkyLulu made what I think is the most interesting observation about the show itself - how the the producers were able to make art out of CBS's ridiculous censorship of the medley performed from Spring Awakening.
But the niftiest aspect of the curiously frankensteined number? The way they "adapted" the profanities to CBS standards and practices -- with some lyrics adapted, with other deleted lyrics created some of the night's most interesting theatre. The startling but evocative "gaps" in "Totally F*****" were amplified by additional choreography -- arms crossing in an "x" before the performer's mouth, index finger raised and shushing the lips, hands clasped across mouths -- gestures that both acknowledged the censorious nature of the adjustments while also elaborating upon them in ways totally in tune with the musical's style, tone and message. 'Twas one of those rare occasions in which a performance adapted cruelly for television adeptly communicated the original spirit of the piece, adding surprising elements rather than merely removing the offensive bits...
Anyway, speaking of Spring Awakening, if you are curious to see what Duncan Sheik has done to the American musical, you might be interested in this video for "Bitch of Living".
I suppose some new revelation about how low this administration has sunk shouldn't surprise anyone at this point. And, to be honest, I'm not really surprised by this. Still, what's one more scandal at the Justice Department at this point. Gonzalez doesn't have anything else to do, right? Via the WaPo:
The Bush administration increasingly emphasized partisan political ties over expertise in recent years in selecting the judges who decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, despite laws that preclude such considerations, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.
At least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law, Justice Department, immigration court and other records show.(snip)
That year is when the Justice Department began to jettison the civil service process that traditionally guided the selections in favor of political considerations, according to sworn congressional testimony by one senior department official and a statement by the lawyer for another official.
Those two officials, D. Kyle Sampson and Monica M. Goodling, have said they were told the practice was legal. But Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said that immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors, unlike judges in federal criminal courts.
All the judges appointed during this period who arrived with experience in immigration law were prosecutors or held other immigration enforcement jobs. That was a reversal of a trend during the Clinton administration in which the Justice Department sought to balance such appointees with ones who had been attorneys representing immigrants, according to current and former immigration judges.
Not really surprising that this administration would play fast-and-loose with the immigration system. I'm more surprised it took this long to discover it. Did you notice the double-whammy here? Justice is taking unqualified people to be immigration judges (that's the meat of the scandal), but even those qualified (who have some background in immigration law) are only coming from the prosecutor/enforcement side - no one who defended or worked for the immigrants seems to have been qualified to serve as a judge. I'd say "shocking," but it really isn't.
How many days are left in this guy's term?
"Froo froo" (which is neither of the two options I would have chosen, "frou frou" or "foo foo") menu generator.
Jacflash, of course, I thought of the time we ate at Daniel and the very French waiter asked if your sweetie really wanted a glass of the Chateau Giuliani.
Via Pharyngula, we get some initial results of the 2006 General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS is done every few years (two? four? I don't remember), and is an attempt to study the general characteristics of the population of the US. No one claims that it is perfect, but the GSS has been giving pretty much the same battery of tests every iteration for decades. The advantage here is obvious: since the same questions are given every time, we can track how the population has changed by the changing answers to the questions.
But that's not what this is about. Pharyngula points to correlations between religion and lack of scientific knowledge:
Let's deal with the depressing news first: by a slight (and likely statistically insignificant) amount, more Americans disagree with evolution than agree with it (that's the pair of columns on the right). That's not good, considering that evolution is the foundation for biology, and is taught (or should be) fairly early on in science. Given this result, one doesn't really have to wonder why other countries are beating the pants off us in when standardized test scores are compared across states.
However, Pharyngula wants to beat up on fundamentalism. As he notes, in this table the clear correlation is to fundamentalism: almost three times as many "fundamentalist" reject evolution as accept it (almost twice as many "moderate Christians" reject evolution as accept it). In every other religious category the number that accept evolution outweighs the number that reject it. If there were any doubts about the consequences of the rise of fundamentalism, this should leave no doubt: science and religion are antithetical (at least the version of religion accepted by the majority of Americans). Notice the numbers of respondents in each category: of the 1849 people surveyed, about 800 fall into either "fundamentalist" or "moderate Christian" (and, given the responses about evolution, I'm hesitant to call those people genuinely moderate). That's close to 50% (technically, 43.1%), which is a scary number of people, if they have this belief system. These are certainly depressing results.
(It's worth noting a significant, and perhaps fatal, caveat here: the religious categories are "self identified," meaning every person who took the GSS is asked to choose their own category for religious belief. People choose where they want to put themselves. Thus, it is possible that the data does not accurately reflect the reality of people's beliefs. In other words, given that "fundamentalist" has a certain connotation (as opposed to a defined denotation), some people do not see themselves as fundamentalist (even though they meet a definition) and won't self-identify into that category. This doesn't make the data wrong, but does add a note of caution to sweeping conclusions.)
Pharyngula goes on to argue that the following chart is scarier:
He argues that this is even worse news: that "some college" makes everybody accept evolution, except for fundamentalists, who do not change their beliefs. While the chart does show that "some college" increases the percent of people who accept evolution in every religious group (except fundamentalists), I think Pharyngula jumps to conclusions here: the key is that this is a chart of people who have had "some college," not "college graduates." "Some college" includes everyone who enrolled for a semester (and, perhaps even people who took courses for college credit in high school; technically, they have had "some college" education) up to people who have Ph.Ds. Thus, the data in the second chart seems more suspicious to me than the first one, and I'm reluctant to draw as firm a conclusion. Still, interesting, isn't it?
While ignorance is never a good thing, I'm not sure we can blame religion for it all. The problem with the two charts on evolution is that evolution has become a buzz-word, or at least a hot-button topic today. Evolution has been distorted, and is rarely reported accurately in the media. Thus, polling on evolution runs the risk of being distorted by the media and debate surrounding the issue. Pharyngula wants to draw conclusions about the compatibility of fundamentalism and science from a potentially distorted pool of data. I'm not sure I buy it, and two additional sets of data (one a table, the other just numbers) call into question the idea that fundamentalists are more ignorant than everybody else. (via Marginal Utility):
Yes, you read it right. About 30% of fundamentalists either believe the Sun revolves around the Earth, or don't know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. This isn't a good number: this is a basic fact of science that everyone should know. The problem here, however, is that about 30% of every religious group believes the same. The numbers for fundamentalists may be slightly higher (they look to have over 30% with this belief system, where some of the other religious groups are under 30%), but the difference does not look to be statistically significant (and even if it is, its a small difference).
Lastly, a purely scientific question was asked:
Update: After I posted this, it occurred to me that I should look at a less religiously charged scientific knowledge question, e.g., on the experimental method. The question asks how best to test a new drug: with or without a control group. (This is explained in the question.) Ns are the same as in the other graphs.
Total: 79% w/control, 16% without, 4% DK
Fund prot: 76% w/control
Mod prot: 81%
Lib prot: 84%
Jews/lib others: 82%
So, Fundamental Protestants are a bit below the other groups on this form of scientific knowledge, too, but the difference is less extreme.
So, in a question about the basic scientific method, about 4/5ths of Americans got it right. Being a fundamentalist reduces that ratio (to about 3/4th getting it right), while being a "moderate" or "liberal" protestant (or "none" for religion) raises you above the average. While being a fundamentalist make you more likely to reject basic science, the difference is not overwhelming (the maximum change for this question is 10 percentage points: the worst group (fundamentalists) had 25% get it wrong, while the best group ("none" for religion) had 15% get it wrong).
In the end, I think Pharyngula is engaging in a bit of baiting here. While it is true that the question on evolution produced some very discouraging results (see the first table, where about three times as many fundamentalists rejected evolution as believed in it), questions about more prosaic scientific methods produced much less flamboyant results (yes, fundamentalism scored worse, but not that much worse than other religious groups). I think, but cannot show (no data in the GSS), that evolution has become a "buzz word" more than a debate, and that many fundamentalists are reacting to the word (and the debate in the media) rather than the reasoned science. In other words, the GSS results are tracking beliefs about the debate on evolution, and many self-identified fundamentalists may feel the need to reject evolution in the GSS as a political statement (or something like that). Overall, the results to clearly show that fundamentalism puts you at a disadvantage with respect to science, though how much of one is debatable (some of the results may not be statistically significant, and if they are produce only a marginal problem for fundamentalism.
In the end, the biggest problem these GSS results point to is the depressing state of science for all Americans. Only 80% know that the Earth revolves around the Sun? Only 80% know what a control group is for? That's really depressing.
If you are the kind of person who, like me, refuses to carry a purse, and thus ends up keeping your dee-lee-shous leepy steecky in your pocket which, being the careless kind of person who doesn't carry a purse and all that, means that you fail to check said pockets before washing the pants or skirt containing the pockets, have I got a product for you. Not only did the cap stay on through a wash and two (count 'em two!) rinses, but the leepy steecky maintained its structural integrity even in warm water.
Am I the only one perplexed by the fact that this morning's talking head shows on ABC, CBS and NBC fail to feature even a single Democratic guest? Not even one? Only FoxNews was giving an outlet (such as it is) to a liberal Democrat? Hmmm.
Via Crooks and Liars, because when things get this bad, we need to find ways to laugh at them. My favorites are the monopoly game and the 30 months/19 months gags.
School's out and everyone is traveling, students are away and kennels are full. This is how I find myself caring for over two hundrend and fifty pounds of extra dog for the next couple of weeks. This ought to be interesting.
Judge Walton is very, uh, impressed by Scooter Libby's high-powered supporters in the law professoriate - and he's sure that in the future these well-meaning academics will be as quick to offer counsel to poor people.
Yes it's four years behind schedule, but nonetheless the British have finally launched the first of their new class of attack submarines. Looks like an impressive warship. And they continue to outclass us in naming their warships. These will be named Astute, Ambush, Artful and Audacious.
Vikram Amar wrote this excellent column arguing that the much-discussed law that constrains who Wyoming's governor can name to the seat of the late senator Craig Thomas is quite possibly unconsitutional.
I don't miss it often, but at times I do, and I'm going to really miss it on Sunday. First, Roger Federer should be playing in the finals of the French Open that morning (presuming he wins today, and he's beaten today's opponent every time he's played him before), and since I love Roger Federer, and think it would be great to see him finally win the French (which tends to be my favorite of the grand slam events) it would be great to see that. And then, Sunday night, there's the Tony awards.
Now true, I'm not the world's biggest fan of them. In fact I haven't seen 'em in years. But reading over the predictions made by Josh R and Gabriel it looks like there are going to be some great people and shows rewarded including Grey Gardens (the adaptation of everyone's favorite hilarious 1970's documentary), Duncan Sheik (who's penned what's apparently the best rock score to a musical in 20 years), possibly David Hyde Pierce (Niles!), Billy Crudup, Dana Ivey, Kiki & Herb (!) and most especially ... Martha Plimpton. I mean how great would it be to see her take a major acting award?
Well, you know, when he's the one who's filing suit.
I'm pulling for her to win the Belmont. No filly has won that race in over 100 years. That's one of those statements that I really can't quite get my head around. I mean during the entire lifetimes of my grandparents no filly won that race. It would be a great moment in sports history if she won. And since she's obviously an exceptionally fine racehorse, well, here's hoping it'll happen.
Let me get this straight: she get sentenced to 45 days, which is reduced to 23 (if she behaves herself), get special treatment (how many other people get to enter jail three minutes before midnight?), refuses to eat (uh, is that good behavior, or not), perhaps has some mental issues which make her unhappy in jail (1. Who didn't know that Paris had mental issues, and 2. Isn't jail supposed to be unhappy?), the result of which is that after 5 days (counting the 3 minutes she spend in jail as a day, and counting the three minutes she spent in jail today - she was released just after midnight - as another day) after entering jail, she gets to go home and sit around and throw parties for another 40 days.
What is the "justice" thing of which you speak?
To Norbizness, if I just deleted a comment you posted (which I'm afraid I might have done). We're getting so much spam lately that sometimes my fingers are a little too quick as I try to get rid of the thousands of junk comments.
I'm shocked, just shocked.
BAE Systems made regular payments of hundreds of millions of pounds to Prince Bandar bin Sultan for more than a decade ... David Caruso, an investigator who worked for the American bank where the accounts were held, said Prince Bandar had been taking money for his own personal use out of accounts that seemed to belong to his government. He said: "There wasn't a distinction between the accounts of the embassy, or official government accounts as we would call them, and the accounts of the royal family." Mr Caruso said he understood this had been going on for "years and years".
Next thing you know these princes living the high life off their country's cash will be curtailing the freedoms of its people. Oh wait ...
For some reason tonight I decided to look in again at the list of the country's most popular baby names. More specifically I surfed over to the 2006 list, by state. At the top of the page is the list of girls' names - and it looks like the popularity of Emma, Madison and Isabella continues unabated. I was scanning down the boys' list and a #1 name stuck out like a sore thumb. In fact, it's the #1 name in my home state of Louisiana. It's not Jacob or Joshua or Ethan ... it's Landon. Landon? That's also the #3 name in West Virginia and ranks in the top 5 in neighboring Kentucky too. So I've got to ask - where in the hell did that come from? Landon? The only Landons I've ever heard of are the late Michael Landon and Landon Donovan - and I just don't see that many young parents today in those states being huge fans of Little House or soccer. So how did that become so popular (at least in a few areas)? Who started this trend?
Maybe it's just one of those things that starts from seemingly nowhere (like the name Madison), but am I missing something here?
Considering his lead in Iowa, anything that detracts from Iowa appearing the first real contest in the fight for the presidency hurts him. Today both Giuiani and McCain dropped out of the Ames straw poll.
The Sadrists withdrew from his coalition, then the parliament blocked confirmation of his replacements for those cabinet ministers, and now the parliament has demanded that it grant permission for US troops to remain in the country.
Iraqi legislators led by followers of a radical Shi'ite cleric passed a resolution Tuesday requiring the government to seek parliamentary permission for asking the United Nations to extend the mandate of US-led forces in Iraq.
And what's followed that challenge to the government's authority to direct foreign policy as it sees fit? Why, an invasion (or should it be called an incursion?) by Turkey.
Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press.
At least the Turks are saying it's not a major offensive and that their forces don't number in the "tens of thousands". But as I guess that's about as much of a brightside as the Maliki government is going to find in this ... I think it's safe to say they are having a horrible week.
UPDATE: According to the Kurds the number of Turkish troops involved was smaller than the story implies and they have returned to Turkey.
This was the first year I planted radishes in my garden, a mix heirloom selection. Boy howdy did they take off! Generally the only thing I get to harvest in early June is parsley, which winters over and bursts out again in late May. This year, the exhuberant radishes were the first real harvest, even when all I was ready to do was thin them out. I started thinning, but ended up taking extra large radishes instead of puny seedlings. In addition to the juicy radishes - which pack a lot more heat than the watery ones you get at the grocery - there were about eight cups of radish greens for the eight to ten radishes I pulled out. Lucky for me, that's just what this recipe (page down) calls for:
Radish Top Soup
Don't throw out your radish greens. Believe it or not, those fuzzy leaves can be transformed into a smooth green soup, with a hint of watercress flavor.
6 Tb butter
1 cup chopped onions or leeks
8 cups loosely packed radish leaves
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock)
1/2 cup cream (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan, add onions or leeks, and cook until golden, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in radish tops, cover pan, and cook over low heat until wilted, 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook potatoes until soft in liquid along with 1 teaspoon salt. Combine with radish tops and broth, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes to mingle flavors. Puree finely in a food processor. Add cream if desired. Season to taste with butter, salt and pepper.
The version my radishes went into had onions (not leeks), chicken stock (not water) and no cream (although I could see having a drizzle on top for presentation.
It's so obscene that he wouldn't shake Eli Roth's hand, and wonders if he's a little less than human. I've got to say that the film does make Roth sound like one disgustingly twisted man.
30 minutes in: My first thoughts on the debate (which is so far mostly about Iraq) - Biden and Obama are very good, Hillary is very smooth (if not entirely convincing on her Iraq vote - which she probably is talking too much about as all that defensiveness just means we hear more about it), Edwards is rather petty and rather too much an attack dog, Kucinich is sniveling, and poor Chris Dodd is being ignored.
8:15: Oy - Kucinich is trying to make my head explode. His response to what we should do to rebuild the military is ... to use the military for peace-keeping operations (that'll thrill the military) and to cut the defense budget. Obama is (obviously) much better.
WOW - Kucinich just said he wouldn't take out Osama bin Laden with a Hellfire if he had the opportunity! Obama says he would kill him (duh).
Wolf is repeatedly asking ridiculous hypotheticals that seem like 24 scripts. And the reporter who's insisting on telling us little facts about the people from New Hampshire who are asking the questions ... can someone please shut her up? None of us care who these random people are.
Basic counterinsurgency strategy (best discussed about forty years ago in Galula's counterinsurgency bible, written after Galula served in Algeria, and observing France's failing attempts to win in Vietnam) argues that counterinsurgency is fundamentally political. On one side is the government, trying to keep order and reduce violence; on the other are the insurgents, trying to change the government or it's policies. In the middle are the vast majority of actors: the regular people. Insurgents target their attacks at whatever targets (political, commercial, religious, cultural, whatever) that will best show to the mass of people that the government is weak/disorganized/failing. When enough people believe that (through the success of those attacks), the insurgency wins (or, at least, is on the way to winning). The government tries to prevent the insurgency from getting the mass of people to believe this. The entire conflict, while fought with guns and bombs, is inherently political (and fundamentally political).
The insurgents don't actually want to fight the counterinsurgency troops. Fighting other people with guns is difficult and deadly; far better to attack "softer" targets (buildings, politicians, bridges - you'll note that another bridge got blown up in Iraq yesterday for example). Insurgents only attack counterinsurgent forces when (A) they are so clearly winning that they can and want to attack the government directly, or (B) when the counterinsurgency is so effective at preventing the insurgents from attacking "soft" targets that the insurgency must fight back directly.
Thus, this WaPo story today could be seen as some good news:
As U.S. troops push more deeply into Baghdad and its volatile outskirts, Iraqi insurgents are using increasingly sophisticated and lethal means of attack, including bigger roadside bombs that are resulting in greater numbers of American fatalities relative to the number of wounded.
Insurgents are deploying huge, deeply buried munitions set up to protect their territory and mounting complex ambushes that demonstrate their ability to respond rapidly to U.S. tactics. A new counterinsurgency strategy has resulted in decreased civilian deaths in Baghdad but has placed thousands of additional American troops at greater risk in small outposts in the capital and other parts of the country.
"It is very clear that the number of attacks against U.S. forces is up" and that they have grown more effective in Baghdad, especially in recent weeks, said Maj. Gen. James E. Simmons, deputy commander for operations in Iraq. At the same time, he said, attacks on Iraqi security forces have declined slightly, citing figures that compare the period of mid-February to mid-May to the preceding three months. "The attacks are being directed at us and not against other people," he said.
The key phrases in those paragraphs are "to protect their territory" and "attacks are being directed at us and not against other people." For counterinsurgency, those are exactly the responses you want: insurgents that are busy attacking you are not busy attacking the people, and the government has a greater chance of restoring political stability.
The "surge" might actually be working at opening up a window of opportunity. The much more important question, at this point, is whether the Iraqi politicians are able (or capable) of driving through that opening...
I think I speak for the whole crew here in wishing our thoughts, prayers and/or general good wishes on all those close to him. He ran a very informative and entertaining blog.
Jan Crawford Greenburg lets us know that the White House is readying itself in case a member of the Supreme Court decides to step down when their current term ends this month. Justice Souter wouldn't really do that to the country, would be? Here's hoping he won't. And I can't imagine the Court's two oldest members, Stevens and Ginsburg, will retire right now - so let's all hope this is prepping for something that doesn't occur. But should the terrifying and utterly horrible come to pass, the top names in contention appear to be 3 or 4 women on federal appeals courts who were considered for the last SCOTUS vacancy or two (Judges Owen, Rogers Brown, Sykes and Clement), plus two new names, Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York, and a member of Florida's Supreme Court who also happens to be a grandson of Fulgencio Batista.
Over at Balkinization Sanford Levinson cotinues his discussion of what's wrong with our constitution - adding the Vice Presidency to the list. While the original design of the position is one of the best examples of why we should not venerate the constitution (hmmm, John Kerry as George Bush's vice president - wouldn't that have worked out well?), the current design of the position has some problems too. If you were redesigning the US government, would you change it? Is it bad to be locked into one figure the way we are? Would it make more sense to have a vice president serve as a caretaker into early elections for a new president could be called? What do you think? Should there be formal mechanisms in place that allow for an easier removal of the vice president than our constitution presently allows?
Egads - there are bad remake ideas, and then there are BAD remake ideas ...
The Women was one the great Hollywood classics of the late 1930's. An adaptation of Clare Boothe Luce's play, it was at once a showpiece for some of the top actresses of the era (including a glorious campy diva turn by Rosalind Russell, who really made far too few films), and a delicious catfight. Now shooting will begin this summer on a remake that's dialing back the catty style, and features a cast list that makes you want to fall asleep before you finish reading it. It's a terrible shame really. This is great material. I mean the Broadway revival a few years back was hilarious and featured just the sort of cast a work like this needs - Cynthia Nixon, Kristen Johnson, Jennifer Coolidge, Jennifer Tilly, Rue McClanahan. Really it was a perfect cast for this deliciously sharp-edged work (and why the hell isn't the Stage on Screen showing of it on dvd?). Who the hell wants to watch something like this if it's not only not catty - but also stars Meg Ryan? Ugh.
Of the guitar variety (wait until the cute monsters start biting into buildings):
I have a headache, and can't muster a post on Friday night.