August 31, 2007

Today I'm Popeye: Fisking Bush's VFW Speech

I've had all I can stand, and I can't stands no more.

(NOTE: I realize this is almost a week late, but I have an actual day job, and have to do actual work at it. Thus, I got this commentary on Bush's speech done as fast as I could. If this seems like old news to you, you can skip it.)

Bush's VFW talk (selected highlights) :

I stand before you as a wartime President.

Well, Bush started the damned thing. Is he boasting, or asking for sympathy?

I wish I didn't have to say that, but an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, declared war on the United States of America.

Right off the bat, Bush is conflating Iraq and Al Qaeda. Lovely. And, just for the record, Al Qaeda "declared" war (if you can really call it that; I'm not sure you can) sometime back in the 1990s. We just didn't notice, nor care. Had we "gone to war" back then (something there wasn't political will to do in either party) we wouldn't be here today. Just sayin'

And war is what we're engaged in. The struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it's a struggle for civilization. We fight for a free way of life against a new barbarism -- an ideology whose followers have killed thousands on American soil, and seek to kill again on even a greater scale.

If we're really in a war, where is the sacrifice by the general public? Where are the higher taxes? The draft? The investment in alternative fuels to reduce our political vulnerabilities in places we buy oil? Where's our diplomacy to build alliances? I'm really not seeing much mobilization for war, other than the military off shooting people.

Oh, and yes "they" seek to kill on a larger scale: if its a war, thats one of the ways you win. Scaring us doesn't create a good dialog.

We fight for the possibility that decent men and women across the broader Middle East can realize their destiny -- and raise up societies based on freedom and justice and personal dignity. And as long as I'm Commander-in-Chief we will fight to win. (Applause.) I'm confident that we will prevail. I'm confident we'll prevail because we have the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known -- the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. (Applause.)

Uh, Hamas? Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt (had the elections been free, they would have won)? Hell, the party we wanted didn't win in Iraq. See, "freedom" doesn't mean "people who agree with the US," it means "people who represent the majority." And, truth be told, the Middle East mostly doesn't like us.

Oh, and the "greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known" isn't our armed forces (no slight to them), but our ideology, freedom and capitalism (that's what won the Cold War, after all). Which Bush is busy discrediting and damaging.

Now, I know some people doubt the universal appeal of liberty, or worry that the Middle East isn't ready for it.

Those aren't the same arguments. Don't pretend they are. And, as I argued above, the first part of that is better phrased "some people doubt that freedom will result in a pro-US electorate." And I'd love for Bush to define what he means by "ready for it." Most of the Middle East think they are ready for it: that's why they don't like us (because we're propping up undemocratic regimes), or are actively fighting us.

Others believe that America's presence is destabilizing, and that if the United States would just leave a place like Iraq those who kill our troops or target civilians would no longer threaten us.

No; once again, Bush is conflating two different arguments. Yes, we are destabilizing: we support regimes and policies that are at odds with the views of the majority of people in a wide variety of countries. Thus, we destabilize them. This isn't new or shocking. Our national interest (things that would benefit the US) isn't always (or even very often) in the interest of other peoples or states. So, yes, the US's active involvement in the Middle East is destabilizing. That isn't remotely the same idea that "if we left there would be peace." No, if we left, fewer Americans would die. There would still be violence (until one side or the other managed to "win" in some fashion - winning defined as ethnic cleansing, genocide, mass refugee exodus, partition, something like that). And, yes, they would still threaten us in the sense of wanting to attack us. Wanting isn't the same thing as actually being able to. I want a pony. Surprisingly, one didn't just materialize in front of me. Al Qaeda wants to attack us. A means to do that won't just appear. 9/11 took years of planning, and only succeeded because the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies don't talk to each other (they still don't, really, but that's another rant). We're better prepared now, and the threat Al Qaeda represents is reduced. The fact that they still threaten us (to some degree) isn't a determining factor in whether we stay or leave. North Korea threatens us - should we invade? China has (through shoddy manufacturing) killed more Americans than Al Qaeda (Iraq excepted) in the last year: should we invade? Hell, the USSR represented an existential threat (they had the power to blow up the whole country) during the Cold War, but we didn't invade on that pretext. This is dumb reasoning.

Today I'm going to address these arguments. I'm going to describe why helping the young democracies of the Middle East stand up to violent Islamic extremists is the only realistic path to a safer world for the American people. I'm going to try to provide some historical perspective to show there is a precedent for the hard and necessary work we're doing, and why I have such confidence in the fact we'll be successful.

Why am I so nervous about Bush talking about history? This ought to be good.

Thank you all for letting me come by. I want to open today's speech with a story that begins on a sunny morning, when thousands of Americans were murdered in a surprise attack -- and our nation was propelled into a conflict that would take us to every corner of the globe.

The enemy who attacked us despises freedom, and harbors resentment at the slights he believes America and Western nations have inflicted on his people. He fights to establish his rule over an entire region. And over time, he turns to a strategy of suicide attacks destined to create so much carnage that the American people will tire of the violence and give up the fight.

If this story sounds familiar, it is -- except for one thing. The enemy I have just described is not al Qaeda, and the attack is not 9/11, and the empire is not the radical caliphate envisioned by Osama bin Laden. Instead, what I've described is the war machine of Imperial Japan in the 1940s, its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and its attempt to impose its empire throughout East Asia.

Mmmm. I'm not really sure how accurate that is. Sure, Pearl Harbor was a tactical surprise (we didn't know we'd be attacked right there, that day), but it wasn't a strategic surprise. We certainly knew the Japanese were likely to attack us within a few months. And we'd prepared for it (building up the Navy, mostly, and Army, to some degree, in the 1930s). 9/11 was more of a strategic surprise (we really didn't know Al Qaeda had that capability, nor did most people think they wanted to reach over here; it was a more significant surprise than Pearl Harbor, in those lights). So Bush is on thin historical ground here.

And I'm also a bit iffy on the attribution of "despises freedom and harbors resentment" thing. They certainly resented us: we were using economic sanctions to deny them oil that they needed to pursue a war in China. They were certainly nationalistic, xenophobic, and imperialistic. They didn't like us using our natural resources to try to force them to change policy (gee, that couldn't sound like us, could it?).

In any event, the Japanese certainly didn't despise us for our freedom. The Imperial Japanese war machine was, from my readings, motivated by (their perception) of national interest and their own version of lebensraum. The attack on Pearl Harbor was intended as the furthest expansion (east) of Japan, and meant to shock the US into a negotiated settlement. The ultimate goal of Japanese aggression was land and resources in China, and all they wanted from the US was to be left alone (and able to buy stuff from us, so they could continue to rape China). Mr. President Bush isn't reading history well here, and the attempted analogy doesn't work.

Ultimately, the United States prevailed in World War II, and we have fought two more land wars in Asia. And many in this hall were veterans of those campaigns. Yet even the most optimistic among you probably would not have foreseen that the Japanese would transform themselves into one of America's strongest and most steadfast allies, or that the South Koreans would recover from enemy invasion to raise up one of the world's most powerful economies, or that Asia would pull itself out of poverty and hopelessness as it embraced markets and freedom.

Japan is a steadfast ally at times (which, of course, means they aren't steadfast). They disagreed with our preferred policy on North Korea. They have provided troops for Afghanistan and Iraq, but only engineers, and they withdrew them when security conditions worsened. South Korea is a powerful economy. Fine. But to argue that Asia is significantly along in pulling itself "out of poverty and hopelessness" overstates how much wealth has distributed itself to that part of the world. And while free markets have made Asia more wealthy, a more accurate statement would argue that OUR free markets allowed Asia to fulfill United States CONSUMER needs, which has lead to Asia's wealth. And I'm not sure how much freedom there is in Asia. Myanmar? China? Cambodia? Thailand (how 'bout that democracy)? Singapore? Indonesia? I think the degree of freedom in Asia is debatable.

The lesson from Asia's development is that the heart's desire for liberty will not be denied. Once people even get a small taste of liberty, they're not going to rest until they're free.

Uh, China? Tiananmen Square, on about 18 years ago? I realize that Bush's statement is true more often then it is false (I think), but China is a big, honking, flashing, glowing negative data point.

There are many differences between the wars we fought in the Far East and the war on terror we're fighting today. But one important similarity is at their core they're ideological struggles. The militarists of Japan and the communists in Korea and Vietnam were driven by a merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity.

I'm delighted the President is willing to admit to differences between WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. I wish he'd admit to a few more. What the hell does "merciless vision for the proper ordering of humanity" mean? Yes, the folks we fought had an ideology. So do we. The President's previous paragraph just listed it: freedom and markets for everyone. That's just as much an ideology as Communism or Fascism. I'd argue that our ideology is both morally, practically, and financially superior to the alternatives, but I can't argue that it isn't an ideology that other groups obviously disagree with.

They killed Americans because we stood in the way of their attempt to force their ideology on others. Today, the names and places have changed, but the fundamental character of the struggle has not changed. Like our enemies in the past, the terrorists who wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places seek to spread a political vision of their own -- a harsh plan for life that crushes freedom, tolerance, and dissent.

This is particularly ironic, since most of the people who oppose us see themselves as defending their peoples from an oppressive ideology. Yes, Americans fought against the Imperial Japanese, Communist North Korean, and Communist North Vietnamese ideologies in those wars. The insurgents in Iraq and Al Qaeda in various places would likely argue that they are standing to prevent US from "forc[ing] our ideology on others." One of the prime motivations for Bin Laden to extend Al Qaeda's reach to the US was (in his view) to extend the war to the prime enemy: our culture, which Bin Laden blamed for destabilizing Islam in the Middle East. The insurgents and Bin Laden take heart and strength from the idea that they see themselves (though not in these words) as modern day examples of American revolutionaries: standing up to prevent hegemony, to safeguard their culture, and bring peace (on their terms) to their regions. While Bush may decry the political vision that Al Qaeda seeks to spread as "a harsh plan that crushes freedom, tolerance, and dissent" (and I would agree with that characterization of Al Qaeda's ideology), that doesn't change the fact that FROM THEIR POINT OF VIEW, the insurgents and Al Qaeda are the few proud fighters standing in the way of US attempts to spread our ideology, which they likely view as "crushing freedom, tolerance, and dissent."

Please. We really, really need to move beyond the stereotyped view of Al Qaeda "enemies" as a couple of turbaned young men standing around saying "Ahmed, we must be more intolerant." The idea that people are actively thinking up ways to be more evil (and actively thinking of it as being more evil) is ludicrous. Being (and doing) evil isn't a motivation for people. They believe they are making lives better for the people around them, not "doing evil". They think they are acting (nobly) to prevent harm to their people and their culture. They see us as "evil," for what we are (supposedly; according to their worldview) trying to force on them. They. Don't. See. Themselves. As. Evil. The more we understand that, the more intelligently we can fight this conflict.

We won't win this conflict until we clearly show them (and force/violence is a part of that showing) that their worldview is wrong. We need to demonstrate that the US is tolerant of different cultures and political systems (so long as some minimal standard of democracy is kept). We win when they believe that they can both be friendly with us, AND have a system of culture and government that a majority believes in. For the record, just so we're clear, US policy in the last six years (and, arguably, for the last half-century; that's another rant) hasn't done a good job of convincing them of that.

We're still in the early hours of the current ideological struggle, but we do know how the others ended -- and that knowledge helps guide our efforts today. The ideals and interests that led America to help the Japanese turn defeat into democracy are the same that lead us to remain engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are two responses to this. First, in terms of active shooting wars, the previous wars have been over by now (in a comparative time frame). This "war" has been going on, according to Bush, since 9/11/2001. It's now, almost, six years later. In World War II, it took us less than four years from being attacked (Pearl Harbor) to firebombing every major city in Japan, and beginning to prepare for an invasion of the Japanese home islands (likely, the fighting would have ended with us occupying Japan somewhere before five years after Pearl Harbor). In Korea, we had fought to a negotiated stalemate within five years. In Vietnam, we had begun withdrawn US combat forces (though the actual end of US combat forces would take several years more). In other words, our previous wars were (at worst) winding down by now, not gearing up. That's a problem for the US electorate today. They'd like to see a conclusion in sight, somewhere, reasonably soon. Not promise after promise that things will get better soon.

Second, in terms of ideological wars (like the "Cold War"), those wars took a very long time. The US won the Cold War, but it took half a century. And no President tried to hurry that end. The whole point of the US strategy of Containment was to build a wall around Communism, prevent it's expansion (hence, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Greece, etc.), and wait for it to crumble. So, in that sense, patience is required. If the President is counseling patience, that's fine. But, the US had many false starts in our half-century fight against Communism. It isn't outside the range of possibilities that the US adventures in Iraq could prove also to be short-term errors in our long-term (eventual) victory over Islamic Fundamentalism. The most important point to make here, however, is that we won the Cold War by sticking to our principles, ideology and values and then by making it a bipartisan issue. Over a long term, politicians on both sides believed in containment, and worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations to pursue foreign policy in line with the overall scheme. We didn't run off half-cocked and make idiotic laws like the Patriot Act or the Military Commissions Act (both of which are a violation of the values that helped us win the Cold War, and would help us win this fight against Islamic Fundamentalism). This is key.

And no one, absolutely no one, is arguing that we abandon Iraq and Afghanistan. The argument is that OUR PRESENT POLICIES in those countries aren't working (and may, in fact, be counterproductive), and we need to change what we are doing. Don't insult our intelligence by arguing that the only alternatives to "the surge" are complete withdrawal. There are many forms of intervention that may prove helpful in both Iraq that are short of the 165,000 troops in Iraq today. Could we have a rational debate about some of them?

The defense strategy that refused to hand the South Koreans over to a totalitarian neighbor helped raise up a Asian Tiger that is the model for developing countries across the world, including the Middle East. The result of American sacrifice and perseverance in Asia is a freer, more prosperous and stable continent whose people want to live in peace with America, not attack America.

OK, South Korea clearly benefited (both at the time and over time) from the US (actually, by the way, it was the United Nations, but Bush won't mention that) push that forced the North Koreans back. Fine. How is South Korea a model for the Middle East? What aspect of the South Korean political system should the Middle East countries adopt? The part where they don't get democracy for a couple of decades after the war, but are instead run by a military dictatorship? The part that they only get democracy when they have large-scale labor unrest (bordering on what we would call today an "orange revolution")? What aspect of the economic system should the Middle East model? The part where the government colludes with major industry to hold down labor costs (so their exports are cheaper)? The part where the county isn't open to free trade, so exports are impossibly expensive for South Korean citizens (its called the "East Asian Model, and while it has worked in some parts of Asia, it certainly doesn't work for all countries)? South Korea didn't turn into a strong, democratic ally of ours overnight. There were decades of political and economic policies that were not democratic or capitalist before the Koreans themselves righted their own ship. To argue that Iraq will make swift progress towards democracy and capitalism "like South Korea did" is to ignore history entirely.

At the outset of World War II there were only two democracies in the Far East -- Australia and New Zealand. Today most of the nations in Asia are free, and its democracies reflect the diversity of the region. Some of these nations have constitutional monarchies, some have parliaments, and some have presidents. Some are Christian, some are Muslim, some are Hindu, and some are Buddhist. Yet for all the differences, the free nations of Asia all share one thing in common: Their governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed, and they desire to live in peace with their neighbors.

Along the way to this freer and more hopeful Asia, there were a lot of doubters. Many times in the decades that followed World War II, American policy in Asia was dismissed as hopeless and naive. And when we listen to criticism of the difficult work our generation is undertaking in the Middle East today, we can hear the echoes of the same arguments made about the Far East years ago.

For the record, US support of some of those non-democracies (while we were fighting the Cold War) certainly helped keep those states non-democratic for some time. This isn't to say we caused those states to be dictatorships, just that we ranked containing the Soviet Union as a greater priority than nudging some Asian states to be democratic for most of the back half of the 20th Century. And a lot of those states became democratic in spite of our policies, not because of them.

(You can skip most of this next section: Bush points out that many people thought Japan wouldn't become democratic. He names names. It's boring.

In the aftermath of Japan's surrender, many thought it naive to help the Japanese transform themselves into a democracy. Then as now, the critics argued that some people were simply not fit for freedom.

Some said Japanese culture was inherently incompatible with democracy. Joseph Grew, a former United States ambassador to Japan who served as Harry Truman's Under Secretary of State, told the President flatly that -- and I quote -- "democracy in Japan would never work." He wasn't alone in that belief. A lot of Americans believed that -- and so did the Japanese -- a lot of Japanese believed the same thing: democracy simply wouldn't work.

Others critics said that Americans were imposing their ideals on the Japanese. For example, Japan's Vice Prime Minister asserted that allowing Japanese women to vote would "retard the progress of Japanese politics."

It's interesting what General MacArthur wrote in his memoirs. He wrote, "There was much criticism of my support for the enfranchisement of women. Many Americans, as well as many other so-called experts, expressed the view that Japanese women were too steeped in the tradition of subservience to their husbands to act with any degree of political independence." That's what General MacArthur observed. In the end, Japanese women were given the vote; 39 women won parliamentary seats in Japan's first free election. Today, Japan's minister of defense is a woman, and just last month, a record number of women were elected to Japan's Upper House. Other critics argued that democracy -- (applause.)

There are other critics, believe it or not, that argue that democracy could not succeed in Japan because the national religion -- Shinto -- was too fanatical and rooted in the Emperor. Senator Richard Russell denounced the Japanese faith, and said that if we did not put the Emperor on trial, "any steps we may take to create democracy are doomed to failure." The State Department's man in Tokyo put it bluntly: "The Emperor system must disappear if Japan is ever really to be democratic."

Those who said Shinto was incompatible with democracy were mistaken, and fortunately, Americans and Japanese leaders recognized it at the time, because instead of suppressing the Shinto faith, American authorities worked with the Japanese to institute religious freedom for all faiths. Instead of abolishing the imperial throne, Americans and Japanese worked together to find a place for the Emperor in the democratic political system.

And the result of all these steps was that every Japanese citizen gained freedom of religion, and the Emperor remained on his throne and Japanese democracy grew stronger because it embraced a cherished part of Japanese culture. And today, in defiance of the critics and the doubters and the skeptics, Japan retains its religions and cultural traditions, and stands as one of the world's great free societies. (Applause.)

You know, the experts sometimes get it wrong. An interesting observation, one historian put it -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts" -- he was talking about people criticizing the efforts to help Japan realize the blessings of a free society -- he said, "Had these erstwhile experts had their way, the very notion of inducing a democratic revolution would have died of ridicule at an early stage."

OK, fine, some experts were wrong. There are always experts who are wrong. Its as inevitable as the sun coming up tomorrow (just like when the sun fails to come up, if the experts are always right we can know the apocalypse is just around the corner).

You know, sometimes the experts are right. Like, for example, when they (INR at State) said Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Like (CIA) when they argued that the military body counts coming out of Vietnam really weren't indicators of success. There are other examples (we can get into a fight about whether experts are more often right or more often wrong if you want); my point was to say that you can find an expert to say anything you want said. The fact that Bush can point to several people who argued that democracy in Japan wouldn't work isn't really relevant to the discussion of whether we can form something we recognize as a democracy in Iraq; it certainly doesn't make him right.

Instead, I think it's important to look at what happened. A democratic Japan has brought peace and prosperity to its people. Its foreign trade and investment have helped jump-start the economies of others in the region. The alliance between our two nations is the lynchpin for freedom and stability throughout the Pacific. And I want you to listen carefully to this final point: Japan has transformed from America's enemy in the ideological struggle of the 20th century to one of America's strongest allies in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.)

Critics also complained when America intervened to save South Korea from communist invasion. Then as now, the critics argued that the war was futile, that we should never have sent our troops in, or they argued that America's intervention was divisive here at home.

After the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel in 1950, President Harry Truman came to the defense of the South -- and found himself attacked from all sides. From the left, I.F. Stone wrote a book suggesting that the South Koreans were the real aggressors and that we had entered the war on a false pretext. From the right, Republicans vacillated. Initially, the leader of the Republican Party in the Senate endorsed Harry Truman's action, saying, "I welcome the indication of a more definite policy" -- he went on to say, "I strongly hope that having adopted it, the President may maintain it intact," then later said "it was a mistake originally to go into Korea because it meant a land war."

I don't know what critics Bush is reading, but in my reading of American foreign policy history, there wasn't much criticism of the US intervening into South Korea. I'm sure you can find some critics; I'm guessing they were fairly marginal. So to attempt to draw a parallel between the Korean War and Iraq is so far off base that I haven't even seen this discussed by other critiques of this speech. I have no idea who I.F. Stone is, but it is historically inaccurate to argue that South Korea were the aggressors. There were no substantive attacks from the left on Truman; Bush is simply wrong. As for criticism from the right, the histories tell us that most Republicans were fine with the policy. To the extent there was criticism, it was that Truman wasn't using enough force (MacArthur thought about running against Truman as the Republican nominee on a platform of using more force - read "nuclear weapons" - to force the Chinese to end the war). Truman rejected that argument, and kept the war going using conventional weapons. Korea was not a politically divisive war in America.

As a point of irony, it's worth noting, Truman didn't fight to the finish: he negotiated a settlement that kept Korea partitioned into North and South. This administration rejects diplomacy, which is a necessary first step in a negotiation.

Throughout the war, the Republicans really never had a clear position. They never could decide whether they wanted the United States to withdraw from the war in Korea, or expand the war to the Chinese mainland. Others complained that our troops weren't getting the support from the government. One Republican senator said, the effort was just "bluff and bluster." He rejected calls to come together in a time of war, on the grounds that "we will not allow the cloak of national unity to be wrapped around horrible blunders."

Many in the press agreed. One columnist in The Washington Post said, "The fact is that the conduct of the Korean War has been shot through with errors great and small." A colleague wrote that "Korea is an open wound. It's bleeding and there's no cure for it in sight." He said that the American people could not understand "why Americans are doing about 95 percent of the fighting in Korea."

Many of these criticisms were offered as reasons for abandoning our commitments in Korea. And while it's true the Korean War had its share of challenges, the United States never broke its word.

Today, we see the result of a sacrifice of people in this room in the stark contrast of life on the Korean Peninsula. Without Americans' intervention during the war and our willingness to stick with the South Koreans after the war, millions of South Koreans would now be living under a brutal and repressive regime. The Soviets and Chinese communists would have learned the lesson that aggression pays. The world would be facing a more dangerous situation. The world would be less peaceful.

Instead, South Korea is a strong, democratic ally of the United States of America. South Korean troops are serving side-by-side with American forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And America can count on the free people of South Korea to be lasting partners in the ideological struggle we're facing in the beginning of the 21st century. (Applause.)

Again, this is a very odd reading of history. To my knowledge (and I know more than most, but don't claim to be an expert) the US intervention into Korea was not controversial. Sure, there were detractors. There always are (in a free society). But nothing like the public protests of Vietnam or subsequent conflicts. And remember, again, that the right-wing criticism of Truman was that he wasn't doing enough, not that we should withdraw. Bush is trying to argue that "staying the course" was the unpopular option in Korea, and Truman did right by sticking with it. That isn't historically accurate, I think.

Finally, there's Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I'm going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America's presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.

Nope. Not a single, reasonably intelligence person argued that the violence would end if we left. Not one. Everyone accepted that North and South Vietnam were not going to get along, and that North Vietnam would continue to fund/train/support the Viet Cong. Certainly some argued that America was adding to the violence; that's not the same as America as the sole cause of the violence. This is just dead wrong, and any reasonable person would know this.

The argument that America's presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, "The Quiet American." It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."

No, again. Not my field (literature), so go here for a complete description of how Bush screwed up this analogy. Short version: its doubtful that Bush (or whoever wrote this awfulness) ever read the Graham Greene novel.

After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people.

In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?" A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

Again, see the link right above. This quote, too, is taken out of context. The specific argument here is that for the vast majority of an agrarian culture (as Vietnam was in the 1960s/1970s), the specific government is fairly irrelevant. The people live their lives creating food for themselves, and the national government has little influence. Having the Americans go home and the fighting end (because the South Vietnamese would not be able to stand off the North Vietnamese without massive indirect US assistance, even if US combat troops were gone), would be direct benefit to the average Vietnamese: there would be no bombing, artillery, or firefight around them. This is a direct benefit. The specific ideological orientation of the national government was irrelevant to the average Vietnamese (in that time).

In this, Bush is correct. If the US leaves Iraq, things will get worse for most people. Of course, they are already getting worse. The only significant question that needs to be answered is whether an American presence in Iraq could possibly halt the security and political slide towards anarchy. Most knowledgeable people argue "no;" that Iraq has already slid past the point where it will be possible to patch it together again (make the different factions work together in a cohesive whole called "Iraq"). I'll grant that there are some "experts" that argue it is still possible. But this is the key question: if Iraq cannot be put back together again, and will continue to slide down further into chaos and anarchy before rebounding (via a dictator, partition, or something else), then why should the US stay? The presence of US troops might slow that halt, but cannot stop it (if, as most believe, Iraq has passed the tipping point). So, we can stay (and have more die and spend more billions) or we can leave; the end result will be the same (chaos and anarchy). That's the argument made by the so-called "anti-war" crowd. It isn't that we aren't resolute (as Bush would seem to have us become), its that we think the die is already cast, and there is no point standing around waiting to watch the oncoming ethnic cleansing, genocide, and large-scale sectarian warfare. I'll admit I could be wrong in my assessment (though what facts keep coming out don't seem to be particularly positive). That doesn't make me weak, or a defeatist. It makes me realistic.

The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea.

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."

Look, this is pure historical revisionism. The Khmer Rouge did not rise up because the US left. They were indigenous (Pol Pot, was schooled in France, and took the French Revolution as his model of societal and political change), and they certainly benefited from the destabilizing war in Vietnam. But our withdrawal did not allow their victory. Nor would our staying in Vietnam have prevented it.

And the comment about "boat people" begars belief. The boat people were Vietnamese who did not want to stay under the Communists, after the South fell. Many of them had been part of the South Vietnamese military, or had worked with the US. We left them there, evacuating only Americans and very, very small fraction of those who had fought by our side. We had the opportunity to bring them along, and chose not to. The same thing is happening in Iraq. There are thousands of Iraqis who have assisted US forces and US policymakers in Iraq at great personal risk. The US is making no effort at all to evacuate those people or their families. Given the legacy of Vietnam (knowing what happened to locals who assisted the US then), it is shameful what we are doing in Iraq today. The fact that Bush can try to use our failures in Vietnam at a time when we are failing all over again to argue for continued "resolve" is unbelievable.

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."

Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans "know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet." Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it differently.

I'm genuinely not sure what Bush is trying to say here. I think this is an argument about reputation: that since we "ran away" in Vietnam, we have the reputation of running away from other fights, so Al Qaeda thinks they have enough willpower/resolve to punish us enough to get us to run away again. Reputational arguments are incredibly tricky (and, for what its worth, academic international relations/political science hasn't been able to prove the existence of reputation that has any actual effect on the foreign policy of other states; in other words, there is no evidence that the reputation of a state causes other states to behave any differently had the reputation been different), since they depend on other actors perceiving your actions the way you want. You want other states to see your remaining in Vietnam (to use a counterfactual) as evidence that you are resolved and willful (not to be trifled with); you don't want other actors to perceive your remaining in Vietnam as blind stupidity and arrogance (which may lead them to think they can get away with actions because you are too stupid to notice or something). The point is, arguing we should have stayed in Vietnam (and, by extension, should stay in Iraq) because it will enhance our reputation in future interactions is unproven (academically), risky (others may not perceive your actions the way you want), expensive (you have to stay; that has costs), open-ended (at what point can you leave, and keep your "resolved" reputation?), and (assuming all the previous problems don't exist and you do have a reputation you want) assumes the other party (Al Qaeda, for example) gives a shit about your reputation (hey, these people successfully pushed the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan - do you think any US reputation will deflect them?). All in all, Bush is spouting crap.

We must remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that "the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever." Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror -- but it's the central front -- it's the central front for the enemy that attacked us and wants to attack us again. And it's the central front for the United States and to withdraw without getting the job done would be devastating. (Applause.)

I really can't repeat this enough: Iraq is a central front against Al Qaeda (if it is; that's debatable) because YOU MADE IT SO. Al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq before the US invaded. They are only there to attack us (or, by extension, any US-backed regime that governed Iraq). If we leave, Al Qaeda in Iraq will do one of two things: disappear (move to some other place to attack us) or attack the (likely) Shiite government of Iraq. Since they are already doing the latter action, its irrelevant whether we stay or go. The only thing our presence in Iraq is doing in in the fight against Islamic extremism (or GWOT or GSAVE or whatever they're calling it) is giving them a target. Granted, we get to kill a few of them, but we're making more all the time, and giving lots and lots of them on-the-job training they can use elsewhere (I think I've seen evidence that the IED techniques have begun to spread to other groups outside Iraq). Look, I'll agree that "withdrawal without getting the job done would be devastating," but what if we can't ever get the job done? If success is beyond us, then our continued presence only adds to the overall cost and lives.

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Look, their already using the fight in Iraq to gain recruits. Will they gain more if they "defeat" us? Maybe. Maybe not. In any event, you have to balance that against the fact that we won't be spending billions and billions of dollars (and lives) anymore, and may be better prepared to defend ourselves. Not to mention, we'd have an Army back that could invade someplace else if we can actually find Al Qaeda there (like, say Afghanistan; I heard there might be some there - you might want to check it out).

And I hate that Bush leaps directly from our leaving to a terrorist safe haven. Our leaving does not automatically create a safe harbor for Al Qaeda. The best possible prediction of what will happen in Iraq if we withdraw (and, by the way, withdrawal is a relative term: we would likely maintain a military presence there as advisers and trainers, at a minimum) is that the Shiites and Kurds would run the place, and do nasty things to the Sunnis (who did awful things to them for the past half-century plus). Al Qaeda is a Sunni terrorist group. A Shiite-run state is not going to be a safe haven for them. The Shiite government of a future Iraq would likely work hard to keep Al Qaeda out.

And my only comment to the last line is: if its so important to defeat them over there (so we don't fight them here), then why don't we have more people in Afghanistan (and Chechnya and Algeria and a few other places, for that matter)? Al Qaeda is in more places than Iraq; if we need to fight them over there, we should be fighting them wherever they are, and not limiting ourselves to just Iraq.

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here's what they said: "Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.

I have no idea who Bush is talking about. He doesn't cite anyone. Plus, didn't Bush just tell us that experts are often wrong? Why should we believe this set?

In Iraq, our moral obligations and our strategic interests are one. So we pursue the extremists wherever we find them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour -- because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until the people of the Middle East know the freedom that our Creator meant for all. (Applause.)

I agree that our moral obligations (though I prefer the "Pottery Barn Rule:" we broke it, we own it) and our strategic interests both support the idea of a free, peaceful, stable and democratic Iraq. Just because we want something, doesn't mean we get to have it. As others might say, I want a pony - doesn't mean I'm going to get one. If we can't accomplish our moral and strategic interests, is it better to keep trying (and weakening ourselves in the process), or give up and do the best we can to prevent further damage? That seems clear enough.

Oh, and saying the Creator wants freedom for the (Islamic) people in the Middle East would seem to be potentially offensive to those people (who reject your view of the Creator). This is helping our Hearts & Minds campaign?

I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty. I understand that. But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time. And we can learn something from history. In Asia, we saw freedom triumph over violent ideologies after the sacrifice of tens of thousands of American lives -- and that freedom has yielded peace for generations.

The American military graveyards across Europe attest to the terrible human cost in the fight against Nazism. They also attest to the triumph of a continent that today is whole, free, and at peace. The advance of freedom in these lands should give us confidence that the hard work we are doing in the Middle East can have the same results we've seen in Asia and elsewhere -- if we show the same perseverance and the same sense of purpose.

Dandy: there have been successes in the past (I think those other states might want to take some credit for their own democratic transitions - I don't think we did this all on our own). That doesn't mean this one will be a success. As noted, there have been failures in the past (Vietnam, Korea, Haiti, Afghanistan?). The application of "perseverance" and "purpose" does not guarantee success. If Bush's administration could show any degree of competence in foreign policy, I might be willing to let him role the dice here. However, just about everything Bush has attempted has failed; why should be be willing to believe this one might work?

In a world where the terrorists are willing to act on their twisted beliefs with sickening acts of barbarism, we must put faith in the timeless truths about human nature that have made us free.

I have no idea what this means. Really. No clue.

Across the Middle East, millions of ordinary citizens are tired of war, they're tired of dictatorship and corruption, they're tired of despair. They want societies where they're treated with dignity and respect, where their children have the hope for a better life. They want nations where their faiths are honored and they can worship in freedom.

And we'd stand a better chance of helping them (and getting them to believe we want to help them) if we didn't prop up a mess of anti-democratic dictatorships in the Middle East who spend a great deal of time and effort suppressing all those things that Bush says people want. There are, what, three-and-a-half democracies in the Middle East (Israel, Turkey, Palestine, and half a one in Lebanon)? If I count generously, its something like that. That leaves a whole mess of clearly non-democratic states, a great many of which are friendly with us: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Pakistan and Egypt to name a few. What, exactly, are we doing in those places to promote democracy? (Hint: "fuck all" might be a good answer.)

And that is why millions of Iraqis and Afghans turned out to the polls -- millions turned out to the polls. And that's why their leaders have stepped forward at the risk of assassination. And that's why tens of thousands are joining the security forces of their nations. These men and women are taking great risks to build a free and peaceful Middle East -- and for the sake of our own security, we must not abandon them.

There is one group of people who understand the stakes, understand as well as any expert, anybody in America -- those are the men and women in uniform. Through nearly six years of war, they have performed magnificently. (Applause.) Day after day, hour after hour, they keep the pressure on the enemy that would do our citizens harm. They've overthrown two of the most brutal tyrannies of the world, and liberated more than 50 million citizens. (Applause.)

I've got no bone to pick with the veterans, or the people in other countries who got to experience democracy. I'll just note that some of those votes (Palestine, the present government in Iraq) didn't turn out the way we wanted, and we've been somewhat reluctant to accept the results. When democracy happens and the US rejects the results, this tends to make the rest of the world suspicious that we really want democracy. This isn't helping our public image.

In Iraq, our troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year. (Applause.) We're in the fight. Today our troops are carrying out a surge that is helping bring former Sunni insurgents into the fight against the extremists and radicals, into the fight against al Qaeda, into the fight against the enemy that would do us harm. They're clearing out the terrorists out of population centers, they're giving families in liberated Iraqi cities a look at a decent and hopeful life.

I'd love to see the cite for the 1500/month statistic. My best guess is that Bush is lumping all the insurgents (Al Qaeda and not; Iraqi and not) into one big basket. In other words, we may be killing/capturing 1500 a month, but only a very few are actually Al Qaeda; the vast majority are Iraqi insurgents who are fighting us because they don't want us in their country.

I'd also like to point out that if we're killing/capturing that many a month, and the violence is at least stable, then we're not making any headway. We must be creating at least that many a month. And the "decent and hopeful life" that Bush is talking about is only in those areas where the different sects have been segregated. The sectarian violence is still high in Iraq, and that doesn't have much to do with Al Qaeda.

Our troops are seeing this progress that is being made on the ground. And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq? Here's my answer is clear: We'll support our troops, we'll support our commanders, and we will give them everything they need to succeed. (Applause.)

Look, its highly dubious that we're seeing progress on the ground (isn't that what the Crocker/Petraeus report is supposed to tell us? The report due next month?). And, I'd argue, its highly immoral of Bush to say that he speaks for the troops, and the troops (all of them?) want to continue this fight. You shouldn't use the military as a political club to beat the other party with. Its just wrong. The Republicans seem to be able to do this time and again, but that doesn't make it right.

Despite the mistakes that have been made, despite the problems we have encountered, seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy is critical to keeping the American people safe from the terrorists who want to attack us. It is critical work to lay the foundation for peace that veterans have done before you all.

The world didn't end when we left Vietnam; the world won't end if we leave Iraq. I'll grant that it might create more problems (it might also create less problems), but leaving Iraq will not cause the decline and fall of America. Pretending otherwise inhibits a genuine discussion of the pros and cons of our policies.

A free Iraq is not going to be perfect. A free Iraq will not make decisions as quickly as the country did under the dictatorship. Many are frustrated by the pace of progress in Baghdad, and I can understand this. As I noted yesterday, the Iraqi government is distributing oil revenues across its provinces despite not having an oil revenue law on its books, that the parliament has passed about 60 pieces of legislation.

Iraq may be distributing oil revenues, but the Shiite-led Maliki government is certainly not distributing oil revenues according to some sort of acceptable formula that the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have agreed to. So, Bush is being duplicitous by trying to claim that there is revenue sharing. There isn't. And while the problem of a lack of quick decisions coming from the Iraqi Congress certainly exists (they took most of August off), the larger and more important issue are the actual decisions made. As I've already noted, there have been democratic elections in the Middle East before, but the parties that won those elections have not necessarily been friendly to the US. Thus, bringing democracy to Iraq may not result in a state that is friendly to us.

Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man with a difficult job, and I support him. And it's not up to politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position -- that is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy, and not a dictatorship. (Applause.) A free Iraq is not going to transform the Middle East overnight. But a free Iraq will be a massive defeat for al Qaeda, it will be an example that provides hope for millions throughout the Middle East, it will be a friend of the United States, and it's going to be an important ally in the ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.)

Again, a "free" Iraq may not be a state that is friendly to us; in any event, a free Iraq is not a defeat for Al Qaeda; they aren't a territorially-based organization, so taking away their territory won't defeat them. Or, to put it another way, if taking Afghanistan (where they had a much more substantial infrastructure) didn't end the threat of Al Qaeda, why would pushing them out of Iraq be a defeat for them?

In any event, what with all the damage to Iraq (both physical and the harm done to their civil society), I don't think Iraq will be much help to us in the war on terror in the foreseeable future. At best, success is likely to be defined as keeping Al Qaeda from operating there. I'd like to point out that Al Qaeda wasn't operating there before we invaded; thus, the best possible outcome (with respect to the war on terror) is the status quo ante (what we had before 2003).

Prevailing in this struggle is essential to our future as a nation. And the question now that comes before us is this: Will today's generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?

Again with the scare tactics. Look, every foreign policy goof by both parties in the history of America has clearly been unessential, since were still here (and very powerful). If we fail to prevail in Iraq, it will likely hurt us in some way (as I've repeatedly said here); it is just as clear that failing to prevail in Iraq will not catastrophically devastate America, or even America's foreign interests. Pretending otherwise is simply lying.

And, once again, a whole host of conditions (domestic and foreign) had to come together to allow the states of Asia to rebuild after World War II. Most importantly, the US didn't do it alone. The dominant factor in success in Japan was the country's own willingness to recognize the need to change and act in that direction. Certainly the US provided material and leadership, but the Japanese did the changing themselves. It is not up to the US alone to "fix" or "rebuild" Iraq; they will need to do it themselves. No amount of US effort can overcome that, if the Iraqis choose not to.

The journey is not going to be easy, as the veterans fully understand. At the outset of the war in the Pacific, there were those who argued that freedom had seen its day and that the future belonged to the hard men in Tokyo. A year and a half before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan's Foreign Minister gave a hint of things to come during an interview with a New York newspaper. He said, "In the battle between democracy and totalitarianism the latter adversary will without question win and will control the world. The era of democracy is finished, the democratic system bankrupt."

Yup, he was wrong. I'll give you that.

In fact, the war machines of Imperial Japan would be brought down -- brought down by good folks who only months before had been students and farmers and bank clerks and factory hands. Some are in the room today. Others here have been inspired by their fathers and grandfathers and uncles and cousins.

Yeah, and for the record, the fight in Iraq involves none of those "students and farmers and bank clerks and factory hands." There is no draft; the people fighting for us in Iraq are all professional soldiers who have volunteered to fight. One of the reasons we won in World War II was that FDR (with the willing acquiescence of the Republicans) placed the country on a war footings, and drafted everything in sight (men, women, material, money, whatever). If the fight in Iraq is so important, why has Bush been unwilling to ask the country to sacrifice in some significant way? If this war is so critical, why has the country not been mobilized to provide more resources to fight harder, faster, and better?

That generation of Americans taught the tyrants a telling lesson: There is no power like the power of freedom and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for a free future for his children. (Applause.) And when America's work on the battlefield was done, the victorious children of democracy would help our defeated enemies rebuild, and bring the taste of freedom to millions.

Bush is playing fast and loose with history again here. While it is certainly true that US military might in World War II was strong, and our troops motivated to fight for American ideals, one cannot realistically make the case that the US troops were the strongest. The USSR suffered more, and arguably fought harder than we did (they killed/captured/wounded/faced more German soldiers than the US did during the war). And they certainly weren't motivated by freedom. It is certainly true that America was willing to rebuild the defeated powers after World War II, while the USSR just plundered them. A fundamental difference between our systems.

We can do the same for the Middle East. Today the violent Islamic extremists who fight us in Iraq are as certain of their cause as the Nazis, or the Imperial Japanese, or the Soviet communists were of theirs. They are destined for the same fate. (Applause.)

I'm happy to use history to guide future actions. I believe in studying history to better understand today, and make better policy decisions today. However, you have to be willing and able to recognize differences. The fact we succeeded in the past, does not mean we will succeed today. There are significant differences between World War II, the Cold War, and Islamic extremism. We need to understand those differences (without political rhetoric that obscures them) so we can better come together as a nation and more effectively beat back the challenge of Islamic extremism. Speeches like this hurt us, not help us. I, too, think Islamic extremism will eventually die off (though I believe it isn't the existential threat to America that Germany/Japan were in the 1940s, and the USSR was in the Cold War). However, I think that following stupid policies will prolong this fight (costing more lives and money), and we would be better served by actually debating these issues and policies. Clearly Bush disagrees with me.

The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator. So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. We will help those countries' peoples stand up functioning democracies in the heart of the broader Middle East. And when that hard work is done and the critics of today recede from memory, the cause of freedom will be stronger, a vital region will be brighter, and the American people will be safer.

Thank you, and God bless. (Applause.)

I find it ironic that Bush can speak of remaining "true to our ideals" while at the same time espousing a legal theory that argues for the primacy of the executive branch, and (likely) violating the Constitution through illegal wiretapping and deliberately withholding information from Congress so they can't do their (Constitutionally mandated) oversight. In other words, Bush is happy to work to undermine our ideals, while arguing that those very same ideals are what give us strength.

Look, this is an awful speech. I understand the purpose of it ("We did tough things before, we can do tough things again; these things take time"), but it is factually historically inaccurate and plain illogical at times (do we reject ex

Posted by baltar at 04:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2007

Pregnant at Nine

Nicaragua's restrictive abortion laws are again in the news, this time with regard to a case of a nine year old girl who was raped and impregnated by an older cousin (article in Spanish). At this point, the judicial authorities have decided that she may not have an abortion because her pregnancy is too far advanced (27 weeks) and abortion is illegal anyway:

"No queda mas que prepararse y esperar el parto" ["There's nothing left but to prepare herself and wait for labor."]

As horrific as the details of this individual case may be, they are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the treatment of young women in rural areas:

"ha servido para revelar una verdadera endemia, sobre todo en la parte rural, de ninas abusadas, casadas a tierna edad, vendidas, y, por supuesto, todas con embarazos de alto riesgo." [The case has served to reveal a veritable epidemic, most of all in rural areas, of abused girls, married at very young ages, sold, and of course, all with high risk pregnancies."

In Bluefields, where the girl is from, this year there were 82 reports of sexual violence, the principal form of which is rape against girls and young women aged 13-17.

The girl in this case is being taken from her family, to a larger city with better health facilities due to the extreme risk the birth will place on her medical health. The cousin has been expelled from the family residence.

Opponents of abortion and of hormonal contraception in the U.S. argue that it gives perpetrators of this kind of abuse free reign to do as they please, that they will be able to abuse and impregnate girls at will, without facing the consequences of their actions. Nicaragua has the kind of restrictive abortion law that anti-choice (and by this I mean not only anti-abortion but also anti-contraception) advocates call for, but the only one suffering consequences here is the girl. And it's not just this child, but many others around the country, especially in rural areas. Taking this one child from her family is not the solution to the problem... for a common occurrence like this goes beyond dysfunctional family units. The problem these girls face isn't the hypothetical oppression - proposed by anti-choicers - of having a choice to contracept or abort, but the very real oppression of their lives being disregarded by their society and legal system.

Posted by binky at 12:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Success! If Meeting 3 of 18 Benchmarks Equals Success

The new GAO report on Iraq is grim. Also grim is the fact that it's being released in this form because officials think the White House will skew its findings. That's entirely predictable - but it's sad that that's become so predictable.

Posted by armand at 10:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Republicans Think Should Resign

Hilzoy came up with a handy list comparing those members of Congress certain congressional Republicans think should resign to those who have not been subject to such calls. Revealing, no?

Posted by armand at 07:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Ask McCain If David Vitter and Elliot Abrams Should Resign

My dislike of John McCain never can go away for long it seems. And today it went right back up to "scorching". Seems he thinks Larry Craig should resign. I find that idea laughable. The guy might be deluded, self-loathing, pathetic, etc., but the idea that he should resign for admitting to what I'm still not clear is a crime is ridiculous. Now if you are regularing employing whores. That strikes me as rather more serious. And if you get convicted of keeping information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal, that strikes me as much, much, much more serious. So I want Sen. McCain to say if Vitter and Abrams should resign too - and if not, why they should get off while Craig should leave Washington.

Posted by armand at 03:50 PM | Comments (43) | TrackBack

Petraeus "Softened" the NIE?

I didn't know he had that kind of power.

Posted by armand at 09:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Advanced Arms for the Saudis?

Is it really such a good idea to sell these to Saudi Arabia?

Posted by armand at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

Do the math

So let's see, if professors, for the most part, don't like online classes, and students don't like online classes, why on earth are they becoming more and more prevalent? Gee, I wonder...

Posted by binky at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lieberman's 'Syria Hysteria'

This is one of those mornings when I hate Connecticut Republicans. Why oh why couldn't we have had Sen. Ned Lamont instead? Instead we get the frothing at the mouth, unglued from reality war-war-war rhetoric of Sen. Joe Lieberman. Ugh.

Posted by armand at 09:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2007

The Timing of the Gonzalez Resignation

Yes, it looks like it was rushed. So why? Perhaps because of naughty business in the Civil Rights Division?

Posted by armand at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I have a problem

Clearly, I've been suffering from outrage fatigue and blog burnout. But now this:

Puppy Whistle - video powered by Metacafe

I am paralyzed with teh cute. It's all over for me.

Posted by binky at 10:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Who Replaces AG Gonzalez?

The main name in the news is Secretary Chertoff. Do you buy that? It seems highly problematic to me. So if not him, who? Keep in mind that 1) Bush loves to appoints people who are very close to him personally to high office, and 2) he has a sense of executive power not seen since ... well, the Romanovs or the Stuarts. So whoever is named to be AG will have to support that too. I don't have any real sense of this, but if he opts to name someone who's not in his MySpace Top 8 (well, you know what I mean) names that would make sense to me are Ted Olson and Judge Raymond Randolph. And given that for the last year or two he's done little but be a White House toady I suppose Orrin Hatch is a possibility, though he seems too far removed from the president to really get the nod.

Posted by armand at 08:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Sen. Larry Craig (R) - Reinforcing Stereotypes About Chorus Boys

It was likely going to be the case anyway, but in light of today's press reports it seems close to a certainty that Trent Lott will be the last of the Singing Senators left in the Senate.

Posted by armand at 08:41 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

"Could Be Considered"

Greek authorities are discussing whether the fires ravaging the country could be considered to be terrorism:

Dimitris Papangelopoulos, who is responsible for prosecuting terrorism and organized crime, ordered an investigation to determine "whether the crimes of arsonists and of arson attacks on forests" could come under Greece's anti-terrorism law, the Public Order Ministry said.

What concerns me about this kind of language is that it's not whether they are an act of terrorism but whether the state can make the case that they can be considered as such. Perhaps they are truly acts of terrorism, and if so, I'd like to see that language reflect the investigation of whether they are.

Then again, I just watched V again, so my ears are pricked for language.

Posted by binky at 05:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Nikki Tinker Is Trying Again - This Time With Homophobia

To beat Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) that is. They (and others) faced off to succeed Harold Ford, Jr. Cohen won. Why is she running again? Well when it comes to issues, she won't say.

Talking about her differences with Cohen "is something that we really would rather not get into right now ... It will come, but it's just not going to come right now"

Yeah, that should inspire the trust of the voters. What will she say? That she wants to change "the face" of the district. Hmmm - and since she's black and Cohen's white ... that's one classy lady. Throw in that she and her backers seem to be campaigning on homophobia and misinformation about the Hate Crimes bill, and I really, really hope Cohen beats her like Obama beat Alan Keyes. However, I fear that that's not going to happen.

Posted by armand at 12:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Clay Johnson to Head DHS?

Seriously? And here I was thinking that a Chertoff nomination for AG would be contentious. Will we get the "fun" of both that and a Johnson nomination?

Posted by armand at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Cole Has a Message for America

Quit being such a damned pussy. All of you.

He's got a point. Some of the comments in that thread are really good too.

Posted by armand at 10:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Was on Face the Nation Yesterday?

Why that would be John and Elizabeth Edwards. Yes, both of them. I look forward to the similar shows featuring Anne and Mitt Romney, Jeri and Fred Thompson, Rudy and Judith Giuliani, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Posted by armand at 10:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

No Deliberations - Naming Bremer, But Not Khalilzad

I didn't know this either. The president's decision-making procedures (or lack thereof) really are the worst in the history of the modern presidency. The incompetence seemingly knows no bounds.

Posted by armand at 08:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2007

A Broken Army

The New York Times Magazine article on the potential division between Captains/Majors and Generals in the US Army is well worth reading.

There have been multiple arguments about "breaking" the Army by forcing it to recycle troops through Iraq multiple times; at some point, sheer fatigue (mental, physical, mechanical) sets in, and the Army starts to fail to be able to do its job. What hasn't been discussed is the potential breakage that is happening as the Captains and Majors bear the brunt of the failure of the Generals to speak truth to power (i.e., tell the White House that Iraq cannot be "solved" with the degree of resources devoted to it). This is a much less obvious story than the physical wearing of the Army, but potentially much more critical.

Posted by baltar at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Broken English

I think you should avoid this movie. It is lame. It is star-studded (I presume because Zoe Cassavetes is the director), but it is still lame, and features one of Parker Posey's worst performances (it's painful). Happily Justin Theroux is in it a bit, and that pleased me of course, and actually it also features a very nice turn by the attractive Melvil Poupaud. So the supporting actors save it from being a complete disaster. But between the script and the lead performance ... well I'd rate it no higher than a C- (if that).

Posted by armand at 07:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bill Kristol Is Dumb as a Rock - Why is He Employed?

Still, the damage done by U.S. weakness in the late 1970s should not be underestimated. To mention only one event, our weakness made possible the first successful Islamist revolution in the modern world in Iran in 1979, in the course of which we allowed a new Iranian government to hold 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

My oh my. That makes about as much sense as blaming Hilary Swank's 2004 Best Actress Oscar on the US leaving Vietnam. In other words, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Posted by armand at 07:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Buffy for Beginners

So since several of you have watched the series, I have this question - if you were going to show someone just a few episodes of the show as an example of what Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like, episodes that would both bring someone into the world of the show and get them to keep watching, which would you show? For myself, I've come up with 6 episodes: Never Kill a Boy on the First Date, Innocence, Doppelgangland, Life Serial, Entropy, and Storyteller. Do any of you agree (or not) with those selections? Do you have other ideas?

Posted by armand at 07:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scary Spiders

Actually, I usually like spiders. However there is now a brown and black one with striped legs by the basement door - one that looks truly scary.

Posted by armand at 07:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


So I saw Superbad last night. Honestly, I don't think it merits the raves it's gotten. But then when it comes to the work of that team I also thought The 40 Year Old Virgin was overrated. That said, I did basically like both movies, I just didn't think they were as wildly funny as some other people did. As to this one, I thought some parts of the movie worked well (the opening, the cops, McLovin, Evan), and some parts didn't. As to the latter, well lots of people have added this to the long list of recent movies featuring aesthetic pairings you'd very rarely see in real life. But my biggest problem is that Jonah Hill's character was such a bitch. Unless you'd been friends with that guy for 15 years, I can't imagine many wanting to stay friends with him. That said, on the whole it's still a funny movie with entertaining sharp, raunchy dialogue. I give it a B.

Posted by armand at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

Classification and Our "Pathological" President

We classify waaaaay too much information in this country - and sometimes for truly horrible reasons.

The thing to take away from this post by Jacob Sullum is that the Bush administration's concession that it classifies information that presents no security risk at all but that would be politically damaging to the president. Actually, it's worse than that. They think that any information that could be politically damaging to the president by definition is a threat to national security. They're using the classification of information to hide evidence of wrongdoing in the White House. And that they'll declassify the same information when doing so would be politically advantageous to the president.

This is nothing new. I blogged about the politicization of the classification process more than three years ago. But it seems to me that this is a bit worse. Politicizing what information gets classified is pretty ugly. But doing so because you fervently believe that any information that might make people think less of the president is ipso facto a threat to national security is downright pathological.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is claiming that the White House Administration Office is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, a claim that would be farcical if it weren't so flippin' scary.

Posted by armand at 01:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The rumors of his death are, well, you know...

...much discussed, at minimum. Regardless, it's Friday night, y hasta los muertos queiren ballar!

Posted by binky at 12:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2007

Edwards: "Lincoln Bedroom" Comment Wasn't an Attack on Hillary Clinton

Seriously, why does he bother? I mean, as if. Kleefeld's last line on this is great.

John Edwards said today that a line from his speech yesterday, in which he declared that "the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent," was not an attack on Hillary Clinton. "Nothing I said yesterday has anything to do with other presidential candidates," Edwards said. "They need to move off of thinking about themselves and think about what's important for the country, which is what I'm focused on." Also, he was not saying "Boo," he was saying "Boo-urns."
Posted by armand at 07:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Step Forward for Japan's Navy

They have launched a ship larger than any other their navy has operated since World War II.

Posted by armand at 04:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mother Teresa

Of course, fark sums it up in one sentence: Like most people, Mother Teresa was an atheist but was too afraid to admit it.

Posted by binky at 02:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hugo Chavez Controls Time!

With his super commie powers! The national metabolism will never be the same!

Moved by claims that it will help the metabolism and productivity of his fellow citizens, President Hugo Chávez said clocks would be moved forward by half an hour at the start of 2008.

Dude needs a cape or something.

Posted by binky at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hilzoy on Bush's Speech

Good read this. Now.

Posted by armand at 01:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Call CSI! Republicans,, a Triple Homicide, Bodies Dead Since Tuesday ...

If you are looking for a bit of scandal to distract your mind on Friday afternoon, try this. Seems ripe for a tv adaptation with Grisham and company, or hey, change the setting from Florida to New York and you've got a Law & Order episode.

Posted by armand at 01:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hillary Clinton Says a Terrorist Attack Would Be Good for the Republicans

I'm with Yglesias on this - Why in the world would a major political party want to nominate as its candidate for the presidency someone who seems to intrinsically believe that the other party is the one to be trusted on matters of foreign relations and national security? Substantively, I think that's nuts. Politically, that she seems to think running as Bush-lite in such a circumstance is the way to win ... well, I also think that's nuts.

Posted by armand at 10:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Sort of Like Taking Jesus Out of the Christian Bible

I'd read that they were going to tone down the role of the Church in the film adaptation of The Golden Compass - but they are going to delete it entirely?

Weitz revealed that New Line had, essentially, told him to remove all references to "the Church" from the screenplay. The problem, you see, is that Pullman's book takes place in a sort of parallel universe where the Reformation never happened and the Church exerts enormous power and authority. According to Weitz, the studio feared a perception of "antireligiosity" and therefore asked that he bowdlerize (my word, not his) the material - a request that Weitz seemed happy enough to comply with, noting that the book is generally anti-authoritarian, not necessarily anti-religion.

Hmmm. Clearly the word "heresy" will be in the movie a lot less often than it is in the book. More broadly, have they even read books 2 & 3? It's pretty close to impossible to take the Church out of these books. Strike that - it is impossible to take the Church out of these books. Which makes me wonder what the plot of the movies is going to be.

Posted by armand at 11:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hirsh: How Is Iraq Like Vietnam?

Michael Hirsh notes that while a lot of what the president was saying about Iraq and Vietnam yesterday was incredibly off-base, there are one or two unfortunate similarities between the two.

We need to face facts. The problem of Iraq has very little to do with "the terrorists" whom Bush vaguely refers to in speech after speech. The problem of Iraq is that four years of a botched bloody occupation have created a failed state defined by fear, sectarian slaughter and the flight of Iraq’s educated class. Iraq is being held together by just one thing now: American glue, the glue of U.S. troops on the ground. The noises you hear now about the ineffectiveness of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are merely the sound of an approaching collapse long in the making. The only really appropriate analogy to Vietnam is that Bush's policy of Iraqification - handing over things to the Iraqis - is far too similar to Vietnamization. Like the South Vietnamese government, the Iraqi politicians hunkered down in the Green Zone have little legitimacy any longer. Whatever authority they gained in the January 2005 elections has long since been frittered away and overtaken by the sectarian power struggle that is the governing reality on the ground. This power struggle is the reason why the Parliament is hopelessly paralyzed and why Maliki has almost no freedom of action. As a loyal Shiite of the Dawa Party, he is and will remain incapable of defying the new consensus among his sect for Shiite dominance. So powerful are these centrifugal forces pulling Iraq apart that the Iraqi Army seems to be disintegrating faster than it can be trained up. As seven soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote in The New York Times on Aug. 19: "Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias."
Posted by armand at 03:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Do you think they ever proofread at CNN?

On hurricane Dean:

On the Yucatan, tourist areas -- including Cozumel and Cancun -- dodged a bullet, but President Felipe Calderon expressed concern for some of the peninsula's poor Mayan communities.

Remember this?

BUSH: No. What I was referring to is this: When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, "Whew." There was a sense of relaxation. And that's what I was referring to. And I myself thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people probably over the airwaves say, "The bullet has been dodged." And that was what I was referring to. Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation at a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.

As of right now, I am officially banning the use of "dodge(d) [a/the] bullet" in reference to any and all hurricanes. Thank you for your cooperation.

Posted by binky at 07:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


We hit it, finally. Who would have thought that we could talk to each other so often, much less attract others to our prattling.

Posted by binky at 07:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

George Bush Is Getting So Much History Wrong Today

Where does one start? Vietnam (and here, and yes the White House used to spend untold hours or maybe even weeks arguing that this war was nothing like Vietnam)? Cambodia? Korea? The president's comments today might mirror certain loathsome political attacks of the past, but as is all too often the case his understanding of history and strategy is sorely lacking.

Posted by armand at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2007

The 25 Best Non-English Language Films (Pre-2003)

Ever wanted to take part in a survey of the best non-English language films? Now you have the chance. It's an interesting enterprise. I mean the variety in the list of nominees is remarkable. It'll be interesting to see what rises to the top. Do any of you have favorites that you think must be high on this list? Can you narrow your own favorites down to 1 or 5 or 25 ranked favorites?

Posted by armand at 01:31 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Obama Would Move to Normalize US Ties With Cuba

I imagine this is going to be Obama labeled as 'inexperienced" right? (Yes, by the same people's whose "experience" has led to the wildly successful US foreign policies we have seen in Iraq and ... Cuba)

Accordingly, I will use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message: If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States (the president working with Congress) is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades. That message coming from my administration in bilateral talks would be the best means of promoting Cuban freedom. To refuse to do so would substitute posturing for serious policy -- and we have seen too much of that in other areas over the past six years.
Posted by armand at 11:06 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

"Jordan on Politics"

This guy is a political analyst? One that the Hotline/National Journal refers people to? Oy.

During Sunday's Iowa Debate Senators Biden and Dodd attack Obama. Why? Maybe just maybe Biden and Dodd know the race is over and are now angling for the number 2 spot with Mrs. Clinton. How else do you explain Dodd all but naming Obama and proclaiming that whoever wins the nomination has to be ready for the job on day one; that the Presidency is no place for on the job training.

Well gee, maybe just maybe you could explain it by noting that 1) Biden and Dodd are desperate for attention and need to replace Obama as the alternative to Hillary, so it's hardly shocking they'd try to pull him down, and 2) "experience" is pretty much what their own presidential campaigns are all about (Biden having been in the Senate for 35 years, and Dodd for 27). Maybe just maybe that's what was going on.

Posted by armand at 09:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

Next, we'll check our score in the "Fulmer Cup" standings

West Virginia University, number one party school.

Posted by binky at 11:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Dean has been upgraded to a category five storm, and is boiling straight toward the Yucatan. Everyone is talking about the resorts, but I think about all the rural folks just inland, making their subsistence living on farming their milpas, living in thatch roof structures. It's all flat and low, which is bad, but porous limestone, which hopefully gives the water someplace to go.

It's been many years since I lived in Merida, and went beach camping on the Maya coast (paying some guy a buck to hang a hammock between two palm trees on the beach), but one thing I still remember is the warmth and hospitality of the folks in the Yucatan. I hope they come through this storm as unscathed as possible.

Posted by binky at 09:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Fred Thompson - If Need Be We'll Amend the "Full Faith and Credit" Clause

I find this very peculiar. Federalism fan Fred Thompson doesn't want a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But he also doesn't want states that ban same-sex marriage to have to recognize such marriages that are performed in other states - so it seems he's supporting a constitutional amendment to change the Full Faith and Credit clause. Have I got that right?

Posted by armand at 11:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 19, 2007

Inslee's H.RES.589 (Investigating the Impeachment of AG Gonzalez)

Josh Marshall points out that it's legitimate to impeach Attorney General Gonzalez, and wonders why there are only 27 cosponsors on Rep. Jay Inslee's (D-WA) resolution to investigate impeaching him. It's a very good question, and I'm inclined to write my member of Congress about that tomorrow. Are we really so cynical that we think we should live in a country where someone with as little respect for the law and the constitution should be Attorney General? I certainly hope not. The current Attorney General appears a woefully inadequate person to be entrusted with such an essential role in the US government. So why there are a mere 27 members who have cosponsored this is strange. But I'd say stranger still is who is or isn't on the list of 27. It features both staunch liberals like Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Barney Frank (D-MA), and moderate/conservative members like Dennis Moore (D-KS). Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Ben Chandler (D-KY), every single one of the Democrats from Oregon, but not a single one of the other 5 Democrats from Inslee's home state? What's up with that?

Posted by armand at 10:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Holy Martial Law, Batman!

Clergy response teams, because the bible helps people be calm in a time of crisis:

For the clergy team, one of the biggest tools that they will have in helping calm the public down or to obey the law is the bible itself, specifically Romans 13. Dr. Tuberville elaborated, "because the government's established by the Lord, you know. And, that's what we believe in the Christian faith. That's what's stated in the scripture."

Meu deus do ceu!

Last I checked, a lot of the national leaders of the Christian faith thought that Louisiana was filled with sinners and homos and fornicators and gamblers and abortionists and what not who all deserved to have the wrath brought down on them via natural disasters. Now suddenly Christian leaders want to help these folks, not let 'em get scrubbed off? Who knew!?

Civil rights advocates believe the amount of public cooperation during such a time of unrest may ultimately depend on how long they expect a suspension of rights might last.

Ya think?


Posted by binky at 09:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Another One Bites The Dust...

Another summer down. Back to school tomorrow.

Less than twelve hours to go, and I'm still hunting for some motivation or something.

Posted by baltar at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Charting the Number of US Nuclear Weapons Over Time

You know this was one of those things I knew (heck, I even teach it), but seeing a visual representation of how the Eisenhower administration built up US nuclear forces provides for quite the eye-popping visual. We changed the US military really quickly in the 1950s.

Posted by armand at 02:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Dearth of Republican Vice Presidential Possibilities

So I know others (who are more specialized in American politics than I am) who would disagree, but it seems to me that the likeliest Republican presidential nominees are Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. It also seems to me that if either one of them wins the nomination, they will be quite constrained when making their pick for the vice presidential nod. Both Romney and Giuliani are deeply distrusted by (at least) one key component of the Republican base. In particular, both are seen as suspect on matters key to the party's Sunbelt base. So it seems to me that they won't be able to pick anyone who might be suspected of having moderate tendencies (say goodbye to the Lamar Alexander and Mel Martinez types). But at the same time if they go for a full-on knuck-dragging "crazy", they run the risk of drawing stark distinctions that make it all the more clear why Romney and Giuliani are suspect in the first place (as well as inviting all kinds of negative stories in the national press). It will probably help them to have a nominee who appeals to true-blue conservatives, and a vice presidential nominee from the Sunbelt might seem particularly attractive.

All that said, just who is there to choose from? When all is said and done, there are probably two of their current (more or less) opponents who will merit consideration, Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson. But who else would be the right kind of match for a Romney or Giuliani ticket? When it comes to other Southerners, I don't see any other people who fit quite right, except, possibly, for Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia (for Giuliani, not Romney - I don't see any way a Mormon/Jew ticket would fly), and maybe (though not really) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas (if there was a push to have a woman on the ticket, since they'll likely be facing a ticket headed by Senator Clinton.

Who else is there? It seems to me that there are three Sunbelt possibilities from Arizona. No, not John McCain. But his Senate colleague Jon Kyl is very well liked in traditional Republican circles, and he has the sort of staid, serious demeanor that could work well in vice presidential campaign. Arizona is also home to two of the members of Congress who have been most active in pushing the Republican party to the right (John Shadegg) and pushing it to fiscal responsibility and curbing spending (Jeff Flake). Flake couldn't run with Romney, both are Mormons, but I think he'd clearly excite the base, while also not terrifying the country at large. Is there anyone from outside the Sunbelt who might fit the bill? Only two names come to mind. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is well thought of in conservative circles, but he's so closely tied to the McCain campaign that I don't know if anyone else would consider him. My final idea? Rob Portman. The former Ohio congressman was immensely well liked by Republicans in the House (he could probably have been Speaker if he'd wanted to be), and he "took one for the team" and worked in the Bush administration (USTR and OMB). He's got loads of pluses on this matter, and he comes from vote-rich, purple Ohio.

Anyway, am I leaving anyone out? It's really hard to predict these things I know. It's a deeply personal choice on the part of the presidential nominee (who whoever he delegates with the task), and there are so few people who are picked that examining this issue is notoriously difficult because ofthe low N problem (small number of cases to analyze). But it does seem to me that given Giuliani and Romney's special challenges with their base, that they won't have as wide a set of possibilities to choose from as some other nominees might.

Posted by armand at 02:04 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Should WV (or WY, AL, DE, AZ, etc.) Mimic New Zealand?

Sandy Levinson is back from New Zealand, and he's come back with some thoughts about US systems of government. Especially - why do 49 US states have bicameral legislatures? Would some of them work better as unicameral ones? And wouldn't unicameral systems create a political environment in which the people really thought their choices (votes) would matter? Wouldn't they be more "democratic" as the concept tends to be understood in this country?

Posted by armand at 11:45 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 18, 2007

I would like to spend most of my life in a hot country...

...nice dive, to swimming... it, and I go...

Posted by binky at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deja Vu

Oh the humanity.

I rented this cinematic atrocity because I was thinking, hey, action, thriller, mysterious, New Orleans ... good way to turn off my mind for a couple hours on weekend, right? Sadly instead of turning off my mind, this film seemed determined to try to destroy it. Honestly, off the top of my head I'm hard-pressed to think of another movie this stupid. The screenwriters really should be thrown out of Hollywood forever and ever. And ever. Suspend disbelief? No what this movie demands is that you turn off every brain cell and import something akin to bizarro brain cells. Stupid cells? Something like that. Hamsters would find this movie stupid. Hell, single cell organisms would. And what's all the more painful is while the script is builing upon itself - getting ever more ridiculous by the minute - it's also painfully predictable with the twists and turns laid out so brightly that even said hamsters won't miss a beat.

Basically, it's the kind of movie that would give Baltar a stroke - long before it ends. Throw in the fact that I think Denzel Washington has basically been phoning it in since the mid-1990s (he's righteous, everyone else is wrong, he has to look serious ...) and, well, this turned out to be a pretty lousy choice for a diversion from Netflix. Happily, it will soon be drinking hour - because I really feel like I need a couple after choosing to endure Deja Vu.

Posted by armand at 08:39 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Since Judges Create Law, Judging Them on Qualifications Isn't Enough

Publius explains why the Washington Post's endorsement of the Judge Leslie Southwick's nomination to the 5th Circuit is at best incomplete (and really, banal). Of course appeals court judges need to be qualified, but that's not the only matter by which we should judge their fitness for office.

Posted by armand at 04:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Inland Empire

So last night I once again entered a dreamy David Lynch world of crossed-worlds, or dreams, or narratives that bleed through each other, or however one prefers to describe it. However, while I love Mulholland Drive, this ... left me cold. I've seen rave after rave after rave of it, and it may very well be brilliant. And it surely seems more of an up/optimistic movie than Mulholland Drive, its frequent palpable dread and creepy music notwithstanding. But the thing is that it's so opaque and complex that I think I'd have to watch it at least 3 times to begin to "get" it. And at 3 hours, and given its general tone, wooden sections (yeah - I think I get why they are that way) and rather plodding pace ... I just don't want to do that. So if it contains a multitude of unlocked mysteries and is the greatest Lynch yet, hey, I won't argue. I just didn't find watching it to be a pleasant experience.

Loved the bunnies though - whatever that was about.

Posted by armand at 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2007

Welcome Back Students!

Important survival tips:

The tool to ponytail ration is astounding!

Posted by binky at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

American Theocracy

So yesterday I finished the bit of fiction I'd been reading for the last few weeks. Now I've finished my latest non-work nonfiction, Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy. Though he has of course been a keen commentator on US politics for decades, I'd never read one of his books before. As to this one, it's dense and depressing, but also rather compelling. Basically it's about three basic dangers he sees the US embroiled in: the rise of religious politics, dependence on foreign oil, and an astonishing rise in the scale of US debt. He discusses how these are interlinked and how the Republican party is a central player in these concerns (often to the detriment of what he sees as the national interest).

All three sections are deeply researched, and I learned a lot. He hits on a few things I hadn't given much thought to. The debt section is filled with things I didn't know, and I really wish I knew more about the economics of Habsburg Spain to get at some of his comparisons (no, not all that he has to say about debt involves 16th-17th century Europe, most of it doesn't, but there are some interesting and disturbing parallels). And along the way he also throws out some interesting thoughts that I hadn't really considered much before (say the realignment of the parties being delayed in the South by Watergate and Jimmy Carter being the Democratic nominee in 1976, and the rise in the country's first strong "religious party" being facilitated by the decline in anti-Catholic bias), and hits on some points that I never understand why they don't get more attention - say, "Left Behind" types regularly being invited to the Bush White House to give policy advice, or the fact that 60% of Americans believe (literally) in Noah's Ark.

Phillips makes a strong case for these three dangers having a toxic effect on US interests - but he also points out why it will be very, very hard to limit their effects. All in all, an interesting read - and I really must learn more about the implications of our gigantic current account deficit.

Posted by armand at 06:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

That Jane Mayer Piece in the August 13 New Yorker

So last night I also read this piece on torture/interrogation that recently received such high praise. I don't know how much of it is "new" news, but that's perhaps largely immaterial. It's an extremely well written and truly disturbing article. Honestly, I started to feel sick reading it. That this is what the Bush administration has taken the country to is appalling and grotesque.

Posted by armand at 08:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2007

The world needs more swedish chef


Posted by binky at 09:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I have now read two of David Mitchell's novels, and while I didn't like this one as much as Black Swan Green, it's still very good. It would seem that Mitchell's ever-rising reputation is justified.

Posted by armand at 09:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hot; Tired; Cranky.

It's hot (back into the high 80s, with approximately the same humidity); I'm tired (I start teaching three classes on Monday). Thus, I'm cranky. Consider this a wrap-up of the things I have muttered to myself this past week. If I had been a good doobee, I'd have blogged. I didn't. Deal with it.

Yes, Rove leaving means the rats are deserting the ship.

No, the trapped miners won't make it out alive.

Yes, the big bomb that killed all those Yadizi will complicate the security situation (the US will now be forced to put troops where they didn't have them before).

No, the Yazidi are such a minority that this won't really contribute to the sectarian violence.

Yes, it looks like Maliki's government is crumbling. This isn't really a surprise.

No, Petraeus won't be writing his report by himself. The White House will "edit" it.

Yes, this means it won't really be accurate.No, it's not a good idea for the US to let domestic agencies use US spy satellites to fight "crime." Plus, its likely a violation of some part of the Constitution.

Yes, its a good thing we're not in Peru right now.

No, giving several tens of billions of dollars to various Gulf states (and several tens of billions more to Israel, and several tens of billions more to Egypt) will not make the Middle East more stable.

Yes, mortgages that allow you to put nothing down, but have variable rates that look very low when you got them were (in fact) too good to be true. PS: Thanks for crashing the market.

No, replacing Michael Anthony with pictures of Wolfgang "Wolfie" Van Halen on all the album covers to promote the "new" tour with original vocalist David Lee "Just 'til I Run Out Of Drugs" (Anthony isn't touring; "Wolfie" is) was not a particularly bright idea.

Yes, the Democrats folded like a house of card in a hurricane over the FISA re-authorization.

No, it wasn't a shewed move. Nor did it help my level of paranoia.

Yes, Rudy Guiliani's article in some foreign policy journal was laughable. The man is an idiot at foreign policy, and his streak of authoritarianism should make every single person in the US shudder.

No, Fred Thompson is not going to save the Republican party.

Yes, we should all begin to think about the (very real) possibility of a "President Hillary Clinton."

No, I'm not happy about that.

Yes, the Democrats are significantly outraising the Republicans in (just about) every form of fundraising there is. This is justified: the Republicans have completely screwed up this country, and people seem to be recognizing that.

No, a permanent Democratic majority is no better than a permanent Republican majority.

Yes, AT&T screwed up when the censored Eddie Vedder.

No, Eddie Vedder wasn't saying anything you wouldn't have expected him to say.

Yes, you should read that NYT story from last Sunday that explains why the US is losing in Afghanistan (hint: the answer is that all those forces in Iraq should have been rebuilding Afghanistan, but weren't).

No, there isn't a circle of hell deep enough for Donald Rumsfeld.

Yes, NPR remains useless.

No, Elvis isn't coming back.

Yes, Chris Matthews may be as bad (in a "falafel" kind of way) as Bill O'Reilly

No, Camile Paglia can't write for shit.

Yes, Alberto Gonzalez is (in fact) the absolute last person in the US who should be given more power to hasten the application of the death penalty convictions through the US court system. Really. The last. What the hell was Congress thinking?

No, Robert Kaplan's article on the B-2 "Spirit" (or whatever the hell they call it) Bomber was not a good example of journalism. It read more like something out of the 1980s Clancy novels. It was embarrassing, and an example of why I stopped subscribing to The Atlantic.

Yes, the Joshua Green article on Karl Rove was almost interesting enough to make me reconsider dropping my subscription.

That's about it. If anyone is desperate for links to any of these points, let me know and I'll see what I can find. I read about all of them somewhere in the last week or so. Trust me.

To sum up: Condi Rice may turn out to be a competent SecState, but she was the worst NSA ever. Rudi Guiliani is not competent to be a dog catcher, much less President of the United States, and the Democrats still have no competent foreign policy alternatives.

I'm still cranky.

Posted by baltar at 07:40 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Kaplan on Giuliani's Foreign Affairs Piece

As a general rule one should read what Fred Kaplan writes. But this piece on Giuliani's foreign policy ... plan? screed? idiocy? ... is something you really don't want to miss.

Two months ago, when Giuliani issued some of his first pronouncements on foreign policy, I wrote that he is "that most dangerous would-be world leader: a man who doesn't seem to know how much he doesn't know." Judging from his Foreign Affairs article, the breadth and depth of his cluelessness are vaster than even I had imagined.
Posted by armand at 07:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

To (internal) bra, or not to (internal) bra

There's been quite a bit of discussion about whether or not an internal bra is a tool of the patriarchy or not. On the one hand, the pitch seems aimed at conventionally "pretty" people who are concerned about meeting oppressive beauty standards, and thus want the boob sling to keep up with the Janes. Point for the Patriarchy camp.

On the other hand, there's an undercurrent of people (in some quarters being shamed as anti-feminist for their stance) who are cautiously pro-internal bra. While acknowledging that the product is tested on animals, and aimed at perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards, they admit the possibility that the internal bra might just be something to think about.

I'm betting a good number of those are having misty thoughts about going braless for the first time since puberty because they are "well-endowed." I'll admit it. That was my first thought. I'm one of those women who is large on top and can't really go without a bra. Not because of beauty standards, but because of aches and pains. Wearing a bra sucks. Underwires poke, they scratch, they bind, and mostly serve as sweat retaining mechanisms designed for irritation. Going without is no better, because then there are rubs and aches and chafing of different sorts (and no, I don't buy the "go long enough without and your skin will get used to it." been there, done that, doesn't work). The worst part is exercise. One of the biggest hassles for me in training for a marathon was always what to do about the boobs. For someone who has had large and "gravity enhanced" breasts since about age sixteen, there is no exercising without support. The bra is a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario, and at least for me, one that has extremely little to do with fashion and lots and lots to do with choosing a lesser of two evils in terms of comfort.

That's why the idea of an internal bra is sort of appealing, in an albeit, misty, non-logical way. On the surface it sounds like a great idea, like contact lenses or lasik, something that would eliminate a daily encumbrance, a recurring expense (says the girl who just forked out for six new "back to school" bras). Braless! Even better, braless without having to hold onto your breasts as you walk briskly down stairs or dash across the parking lot. Braless on a hot summer day when you don't want to wear an extra layer under a tank. Braless (or at least not wearing what feels like a cast iron chafing torture device) while exercising! For the big and, let's face it, droopy, the idea of the internal bra represents something that has nothing to do with beauty.

The idea sounds like freedom.

So, yes, once you start thinking about the development of the product, the target market, the not-so-subtle message that normal women's bodies are somehow unacceptable, sure, it's hard to be thrilled about the internal bra. But for those of us who have breasts that get in the way, that require a lot of management in order to engage in certain activities... One commenter (and I can't remember where I read it) said something to the effect of well, if you hate your breasts that much, just have them cut off. I don't know, but to me, that comment really smacks of a lack of empathy for those who have to deal with being large breasted. We don't hate our breasts, anymore than we hate being tall (or short), near-sighted (or far-). The idea of not being weighed down (which, I recognize, is no possible because they won't become weightless) is a tempting fantasy. Surgery is painful, risky, expensive, and unlikely to fulfil the fantasy. I know that. I also know that me sitting on a beach having some sweet young thing bringing me drinks with umbrellas in them is also a fantasy.

So forgive us large-breasted women who might hear about the internal bra, and imagine that it would feel like flying.

Posted by binky at 03:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2007

Paper Tigers, Paper Ligers, and Iran

Victor Davis Hanson is famously stupid (as has been pointed out again and again by the folks at Lawyers, Guns and Money), so maybe he really did mean "paper tiger". That would fit with his general habit of making assertions about foreign policy that fall somewhere between "wacky' and "I love the smell of napalm in the morning". But then again, maybe he was talking about paper ligers after all, and has a deep knowledge of their species. After all, is there anything other than a deep knowledge of magic that could explain why he's thought of as a perceptive thinker about matters of 21st century war and foreign policy?

Posted by armand at 08:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When Did Rumsfeld Resign?

It would appear that Bush and Rove really don't have political antennae any better than those of Alan Keyes.

Posted by armand at 12:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The White House (Errr, Petraeus) Report on Iraq

Atrios thinks it's important that we keep it in mind that the "Petraeus Report" will actually be written by the White House. That's true. But I've got a question for the LA Times: Why make this paragraph -

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

- something like the 28th paragraph in your latest story on the report, what it'll say, and what that will mean. Don't you think who actually creates the report might deserve a little more attention?

Posted by armand at 09:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

"The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act..."

Well, isn't that special:

The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use "fast track" procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court.

The move to shorten the appeals process and effectively speed up executions comes at a time of growing national concern about the fairness of the death penalty, underscored by the use of DNA testing to establish the innocence of more than a dozen death row inmates in recent years.

Riddle me this... given that by the time the Patriot Act was re-authorized, how is it that anything got through being "little-noticed," given the seeming volume of such provisions?


Posted by binky at 08:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Robert Kaplan Is Hot for Flyboys

Here Mr. Farley quite reasonably questions the utility of the B-2 and Robert Kaplan's style of ... journalism? Jingoism? Homo-eroticism? You can choose the word you think fits.

Posted by armand at 03:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 13, 2007

Benedict XVI Reinstates the Old Papal Election Rules

This is old news, but given that I occassionally post on the Catholic hierarchy I figure it seems appropriate to point out. Benedict XVI has scrapped the "reform" of the papal election rules put in place by John Paul II. Now it will once again require a 2/3rds vote of the consistory to elect a pope, no matter how long the process takes.

Posted by armand at 04:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hey Big Spender

Boaz, via Sullivan:

The Treasury Department reported Friday that federal revenues reached $2.12 trillion ($2,120,000,000,0000) for the first ten months of fiscal year 2007. In both current and inflation-adjusted dollars, that puts the federal government on course for the most revenue it’s ever collected in a year. Indeed, it’s the most revenue any government in the history of the world has ever collected. And yet it’s not enough to satisfy the voracious appetites of the spenders in Congress and the administration. Spending was $2.27 trillion for the same ten months.

It seems that the deficit problem in Washington is not a result of insufficient tax revenue but rather the inexorable growth of spending on everything from earmarks to entitlements to war.

To be sure, the U.S. economy is the largest national economy in history, and that’s the main reason for record tax levels. And tax revenues are not at their peak in terms of percentage of GDP–though they’re getting close. Earlier in the year OMB estimated that revenues as a percentage of GDP would reach 18.5 percent in 2007. But as of a month ago that figure had reached 18.8 percent, approaching the levels that typically produce popular demand for relief. But as spending interests become stronger and more widespread in Washington, popular demand for lower taxes faces more resistance. It seems safe to conclude that George W. Bush will go down in history as the biggest taxer and the biggest spender ever.

Posted by armand at 04:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rudy Giuliani's February 5 Strategy

I think Romney is the likeliest to get the Republican nomination. But what might stop him? Among other things, winner-take-all.

Posted by armand at 11:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The (Liberal) Media Loves (the Creationist) Huckabee

If Scheiber is speaking literally (high-fives?!?), this is amazingly inappropriate. Of course if he's just conveying the general mood ... well that's still kind of problematic.

Posted by armand at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What of these claims that ATT censors political speech?

There has been quite a bit of attention paid to the recent censoring of Pearl Jam's performance. ATT claims that it was an error related to their policy of editing out profanity, but Pearl Jam and advocates of net neutrality are crying foul. The Stoller post excerpts a speech from FCC commissioner Michael Copps, and also notes this Wired blog which is trying to gather evidence that ATT censored Wayne Coyne (and others) at Bonnaroo. (As you may know, I have a soft spot for the Flaming Lips, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to want to censor Wayne Coyne.) Now that they've been confronted with additional claims of political censorship, ATT seems to be changing its tune.


Posted by binky at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2007

Chris Matthews Likes Hot Chicks Who Give Him News

Could he be more creepy? It's no great shock that this loudmouth would be inappropriate or off-point, clueless or illogical, or, hey, just off in his own little world. But even by his low standards this is a "yikes" moment.

Posted by armand at 10:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Al Qaeda at Its Strongest Since 9/11

Feeling safer yet?

Al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a new U.S. government analysis concludes, according to a senior government official who has seen it.

Despite a campaign of military action and counterterrorism operations, al Qaeda has regained its strength and found safe haven in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the report says, according to counterterrorism officials familiar with the report.

The five-page intelligence analysis remains classified and was prepared for senior U.S. policymakers. It was not issued in response to a specific threat.

Two intelligence officials said the report's finding are similar to what is expected to be in the National Intelligence Estimate anticipated to be released later this summer. The NIE is the intelligence community's collective analysis of pressing national security issues.

Posted by armand at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mr. Blue Sky

My foray into the world of Doctor Who seems to have sadly come to a close, as it appears that none of the episodes since season 2 have been released on dvd. That's too bad as I am quite enjoying the show. But at least the last half of the season included some good episodes, including a two-parter that was something akin to Alien meets The Exorcist meets the Doctor, and then that was followed by the highly unusual (the Doctor's hardly in it at all) but really rather wonderful "Love & Monsters". There's loads to recommend this episode, but one of the sort of incidental things it did was remind me of "Mr. Blue Sky", the ELO song that most people I know would know from the trailer for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That really is such a great bouncy, makes your troubles disappear tune. No wonder Elton dances around to it in the episode.

Posted by armand at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday's Best Line of the Blogosphere

From John Cole (emphasis mine):

...this "Second Life" phenomenon, which Tim described to me as much like WoW but without the +12 longsword of dork and more artsy people

Posted by binky at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

George Will Is Scared of Barack Obama

I mean it's pretty obvious from this, isn't it? I mean if they whole first paragraph is one long swipe at the Illinois senator that hasn't nothing whatsoever to do with what the column is ostensibly about, that he singles out Obama for attack when every single Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voted against Southwick, when he seems to find a backhanded way of saying he's like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Rovian mendacity that he uses to glide between shots at Obama specifically and the actions and words of unnamed Southwick opponents ... it's vintage Will, and perhaps a sign that the Republican establishment fears Obama.

Posted by armand at 10:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

PZ always finds the fun stuff

Like the lego you:


Posted by binky at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Iowa?

Good point - why do the parties privilege the state when its so bad at picking a winner?

Posted by armand at 08:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

Iran and Iraq, Hand in Hand

Literally. For the life of me I'll never understand why this doesn't get discussed more in the media's discussion of what victory entails, or whether the US can "win".

Posted by armand at 06:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


I am deeply ashamed. I have ... a favorite Romney brother/son.

It all started when I watched Jon Stewart's bit on those brothers' grueling national service - that is, working on their daddy's campaign. There was a clip of 3 of 'em and I got curious and checked a little into their backgrounds. Well, not any of the other four. All other Romneys I have seen appear too square (in all senses of the word) to raise any interest in me whatsoever. But in the clip Craig was introducing himself and said he's in the music industry and since I knew these guys had Myspace pages I went over there to take a look.

Turns out this Romney's actually got great taste in music (the first link he has after the family and his cat is Peter, Bjorn and John, his song is by the Strokes, and he has several other good links). It's too bad he has such bad taste in politicians. But hey, when his daddy has increased the size of Gitmo 10,000 times and locked up all the perfessers and libruls and others who might say something less than laudatory about his big, authoritarian, socially reactionary state (not saying that'll necessarily happen, but given the direction the Republicans have taken of late) ... well I hope President Romney at least lets Craig pick out the music playing in our cells.

Posted by armand at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Today's Best. Movie. Line. Ever.

So I've been enjoying this series on Andrew Sullivan's site. Though really I didn't think any new lines he'd post would be the equal of two he did quite some time ago - the famous last line of Some Like It Hot and "I'm into leather" from the start of Annie Hall. Those two are simply perfect, and very well delivered. But if a key component of a great line is its delivery, the actress/actor making it work, well is there any line better than "Flames - on the side of my face"?

Posted by armand at 02:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Stu Bykofsky Still Employed?

If so - why? If you owned a US newspaper would you feel comfortable paying someone to write columns that advocate mass murder? Aren't your advertisers and readers going to have a problem with that? Might not you as the publisher have a problem with that? It'll be interested to see what happens in this case.

Posted by armand at 10:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 10, 2007

More Depressing News

In a surprise to no one, any domestic political party the US tries to help in the Middle East loses in democratic elections. Thus, the US is bringing democracy to a region that is systematically voting against us. Gee, wonder why they don't like us? (Yes, I know that armand has already noted this, but it's worth noting again.)

Rudy Giuiliani should not be President under any circumstances. Full stop. No caveats. (Yes, I know it is the Village Voice, but they are based in NYC and know something about the city and the man.)

Cheney wants to bomb Iran (actually, that's not news; what is news is that he advocated specific targets and said we should bomb them today). I'm sure that will help calm the situation in Iraq and Iran.

Oh, and the financial markets seem to be flirting with actual ugliness (right now, having lost 1/14th of their value - the Dow has crashed from 14k to just over 13k - most people are calling it a "correction"), and anyone thinking about buying a house probably won't get a loan (lack of credit), and if they do, will pay a high rate (compared to the last few years, which granted were a period of unusually low rates).

On a related note, what the hell happened to the GOP? Just a few years ago, they seemed like a credible party. Now, I wouldn't vote for any of the group who want to be Prez. I might make Ron Paul the VP, just for the entertainment value (or maybe stick him in OMB, or Treasury), but the rest couldn't collectively tie their shoes. I'm very afraid: the grown-ups are getting along in age (Bush I, Baker, Scowcroft) and unlikely to be able to come back to power, the present generation have proven themselves utterly incompetent, and the next generation (today's "Young Republicans") have all sorts of problems (Liberty University and Regent Law School are not substitutes for actual education). The past six years have demonstrated that one-party rule is a bad thing; I have no desire to turn the US Government over to the Democrats alone.

Posted by baltar at 12:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Reverse Midas Touch in Southwest Asia

In all the back and forth over the supposed Obama/Clinton brouhaha over Pakistan I'm really surprised that I never saw this brought up. As to the case in Lebanon, it's highly troubling though also completely predictable.

Posted by armand at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Logo/Human Rights Campaign Debate

To me the real story that should be covered out of this debate, the debate at Howard and the debate before Big Labor is that Democrats seem willing to go in front of a host of Americans whereas the Republicans ... won't. I think that says a great deal. But moving on to the specifics of this debate ...

The set-up and questions and moderating left a great deal to be desired, but I still learned some things, and it showed some stark differences between the candidates. As tends to be the case in all the debates both Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton did a very fine job, and I'd rate theirs the top 2 performances of the evening. Former Sen. Gravel had what was by far his best and most impressive performance yet. And actually Rep. Kucinich seemed surprisingly reasonable before that "text peace" side of him seemed to appear in his final minutes.

The less said about Gov. Richardson and Sen. Edwards the better. Edwards was basically completely nonresponsive when it came to the questions asked. I'm growing to dislike him quite a bit. As to Richardson ... it was typical Richardson - exuding the kind of competence of a man you'd trust to do your taxes, while also boring you to tears aside from when your ears prick up at one of his jaw-dropping gaffes. He really doesn't belong on a national ticket, given that style and tendency. So I'd rate the winners Obama, Clinton, Gravel, with Edwards and Richardson losing ground from how they began the evening. My buddy Luke thought Gravel was the best of the night. It's really quite a contrast in his style - a one-on-one thing like this, versus being part of a panel (which seems to make him insecure and combative).

Posted by armand at 12:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 09, 2007

Giving Andrew Jackson the Respect He Deserves


I'm afraid Andrew Jackson just isn't much of a citation for me, Stephen. I have too much of a fondness for central banks, and too much of an aversion against ethnic cleansing.

Posted by armand at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2007

Seven Wonders...

...of the totalitarian world.

Posted by binky at 11:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


In a recent New Yorker, David Denby described this Woody Allen classic as the best movie about selfishness ever made. Agree? Disagree?

Posted by armand at 04:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Do you like it raw?

The NYT has a story about an underground food rage available to the persistent, the stealthy and the affluent: raw milk. I think I have more reservations about the widespread availability of it than Bean does (especially given current levels of inspections), but I do fall in the camp of "mmmm, tasty."

My one time drinking raw milk was while staying at a small pousada (and I mean small, like four rooms) on the island of Ilha de Mare in the Baia de Todos os Santos (top center-left on the map). At the time, on the island there were two tiny inns, only one phone, and no lights after dark. To get there, you had to wade out from a boat, and if you missed the four o-clock, well, you were spending another night on the island. I spent a couple of nights there about fifteen years ago, and they remain etched in my brain as the most perfect beach days ever.

Mare (the accent on the "e" won't work in the version of MT we use here at the blog) means tide, and true to form, the shallows waters recede dramatically when the tide turns, leaving boats stranded on the white sand. With little development, the stars were brilliant in the night sky. Lest the picture become too romantic, the mosquitoes could carry you off for a snack (and I remember huddling in the center of the bed under a net, watching the mosquitoes line up in the shapes of our bodies on the outside, sticking their proboscii through the net trying to grab a taste). There is a picturesque sixteenth century church, three main beaches, and not much else.

Ordering a meal on Ilha de Mare pretty much consisted of signalling that you were ready to eat whatever the folks running the establishment had happened to catch that day (or buy from the guys who just dragged their canoes up on shore), either fried or cooked as a moqueca baiana. Everything fresh, on rough wood table and chairs within spitting distance from the bay. The exception was breakfast, of course, which consisted of piles of fresh fruit and fresh bread, with coffee.

This the the raw milk part, by the way.

The first morning as we were eating breakfast, looking at the ocean and feeling gobsmacked at being in a tiny slice of paradise, the folks bringing the food asked if I wanted milk with my coffee. Sim, claro, 'brigada! I said. And then I noticed that the guy, instead of walking back towards the kitchen area, went the other way, towards the cow tied up to a palm tree. He bent down, grabbed an udder and shot out about half a cup of fresh raw milk, which he brought to me for my coffee. Granted I was influenced by the surroundings (and in case it's not obvious from the tale, being so stupidly in love that even the tale of the mosquitoes is worth remembering) but I swear that was the best cup of cafe com leite I've ever had in my life, and the rest of the raw milk that I sipped virtually right out of the cow was like none other.

Posted by binky at 04:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where Will the Edwards Vote Go?

Tom Schaller declares that John Edwards won't be the nominee - so he wonders whether his voters will move to Clinton or Obama, as where they go could decide the outcome of the campaign. It's a good question, but there's also another key side to it - when will Edwards supporters realize he won't win, and then switch their allegiances?

Posted by armand at 11:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2007

Karzai, Bush and Iran's Role in Afghanistan

President Karzai believes Iran is helping his country. To that President Bush responds ... well, I'm not sure. Can you make this out?

"The president knows best about what's taking place in his country, and of course, I'm willing to listen," Bush said. "But from my perspective, the burden of proof is on the Iranian government to show us that they're a positive force."

Bush says Karzai actually knows what's going on in Afghanistan better than Bush does ... but even though Bush knows Karzai knows better ... Karzai's still wrong and Iran is unhelpful? I'm confused.

Posted by armand at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abigail Alliance

Today Jonathan Adler is highlighting the DC Circuit's en banc decision in Abigail Alliance. He's put up a number of posts on the topic at the Volokh Conspiracy. It's an interesting case, with an interesting dissent. If you want to check these out see here and here (among others).

Posted by armand at 04:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Good Question

Re: FISA etc, Atrios wants someone who can to ask:

Have the phone and email conversations of any American journalists, US federal officeholders, or federal campaign workers ever been intercepted without a warrant?

Posted by binky at 01:17 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Lurid, Stupid CNN

What sorts of fears and assumptions does this little headline tap into, eh?

Woman's body found in NYU prof's bedroom

Scary faculty, preying on America's youth, right? And then...

Police found the decomposing body of a 20-year-old woman inside the locked bedroom of a New York University faculty member after neighbors complained of the smell, authorities said.

From that, would you think, oh, this is the child of a faculty member, who died in her mother's bed - possibly of foul play - while her mother was out of town?

The woman, whose name was not immediately released, is believed to be the daughter of the faculty member, who is traveling in a foreign study program.

Clearly, there is nothing important happening in the world or in US politics, to the point that implying scandal at NYU makes the headlines.

Posted by binky at 10:00 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Bush: You WILL Change the Laws to Protect the "Alleged" Lawbreakers

The president is shameless. It would be funny if it weren't so disturbing.

Posted by armand at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

White House Political Briefings and the US Attorney Firings

You have got to be kidding me. Please, please, please be kidding me. Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling went to one of these Karl Rove briefings? And it's one week later when Harriet Miers gets the first draft of the list of the US Attorney to be fired?

Posted by armand at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2007


Feeling safer yet? Think we're "supporting the troops"? Isn't this the kind of thing we'd decry Iran for? Oh my.

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq ...

The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment. But the GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus, who now commands all U.S. forces in Iraq. The Pentagon did not dispute the GAO findings ... "They really have no idea where they are," said Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information who has studied small-arms trade and received Pentagon briefings on the issue. "It likely means that the United States is unintentionally providing weapons to bad actors."

Posted by armand at 09:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cokie's Being Cokie on NPR Again

Cover your ears! Banality after banality, arguing presidential campaigns are making cooperation in Congress difficult (to make her point she has an example ... that has nothing to do with the presidential campaign), failing to pronounce "Kos" correctly ... To borrow from the great Daffy Duck - Shoot Her Now! Shoot Her Now! I mean when was the last time she had an actual insight? The Reagan years?

Posted by armand at 08:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2007


I got up kind of early today, it's been all gray and rainy, so I opted to watch a movie this morning - a rather unusual picture. Unusual how? Well this is how wikipedia describes it.

Motion capture with 40 actors and computer-generated imagery were used to create the film's distinctive black and white animated visual style. The actors wore black suits with markers dotted along the surface which recorded movement from their limbs, faces and eyes. All acting was performed against a bluescreen in a digital backlot. Once a scene was recorded, computer software was used to build 3D animated models around the motion captured data. The bluescreen was used to create a virtual setting around the models. The black and white effect was added later using lighting.

Supposedly it took 6 years to make. And it looks good (really quite like a black and white graphic novel come to life) and is diverting. It's a futuristic crime, cops and corporate intrigue kind of picture. Probably won't make my top 10 rentals of the year list (should I make such a list), but it was a nice distraction this morning.

Now if people would only stop hiring Jonathan Pryce to do voice work (the instant you hear his voice you know he's a villain) ...

Posted by armand at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cover Your Ears, Mitt Romney's Talking Foreign Policy

There are days when my belief that Romney is the most likely Republican nominee for president in 2008 chills me. This is one of those days. I mean does this bit from this morning's debate on This Week make sense to you?

"I think Obama is confused as to who are our friends and who are our enemies," Romney said. "We keep our options quiet. We don't go out to say to a nation that's working with us that we intend to go in there and bring on a unilateral attack," said Romney. "The only people who can defeat radical jihadists are Muslims themselves."

I suppose the first bit is sort of understandable given the vast sums of money and kind words the Bush administration has showered on Pakistan for the last 6 years. But just because the Bush administration treats the nation that in all likelihood contains the leadership of Al Qaeda and has signed a peace treaty that has greatly strengthed the Taliban and Taliban allies in Afghanistan as an ally, well, that doesn't necessarily make them an ally. And as to the latter bit about only the Muslims being able to defeat the radical jihadists - well there's a lot to that actually, but doesn't it completely contradict Romney's stated positions on the war on Iraq and the Global War on Terror? This is hardly the first occasion on which Romney has seemed not ready for primetime when it comes to foreign policy. Can't his campaign lock him away for 72 hours with George Shultz or somebody who can teach him the basics? Because answers like these are getting rather nerve-wracking.

For the record, Giuliani disagreed with Romney and appeared to go further than Obama has on the Pakistan issue. He said we should keep the option of invading them on the table.

Posted by armand at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2007

Jerome Hauer is Off Giuliani's Christmas Card List

New York's emergency management director from 1996-2000 thinks Rudy Giuliani "would make a terrible president". His criticisms of Giuliani's (and Mrs. Giuliani's) past performance on matters tied to emergency preparedness and 9/11 fall somewhere between scathing and withering.

Posted by armand at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, and Gender

I see that John Edwards was pulling out the Elizabeth card again today at the Yearly Kos convention (or whatever that's called). I like Elizabeth Edwards (much more than her husband), but I continue to find his constant references to her quite grating. Am I the only person who thinks that if their genders were switched and you had a female candidate talking about her spouse the way he talk about her that said female candidate would likely be run out of the presidential race? I mean would "remember how great my husband is, and all the great things he can do when I'm president" really fly with the party, the voters, and the press corps?

Posted by armand at 08:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ken Levine's Favorite Comedy Screenplays

It wouldn't be my list, but there are some great choices on here, including the scripts that contain what I think are the two best lines Andrew Sullivan has featured in his Best Movie Line Ever feature.

Posted by armand at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2007

Not that you were wondering,

but in case you were wondering, it's 84.4 degrees on my back porch, and 87.6 degrees in my kitchen.

Yes, the time stamp is 9:26 pm.

Posted by binky at 09:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Rudy G's Lack of a Health Care Plan

Ezra shows that on health care, Rudy doesn't really have a plan - just a figleaf that allows him to hurl insults at the Democrats. In and of itself, that's not too surprising (actually given we are talking about Giuliani, it's entirely predictable). But why the mainstream media has given Giuliani cover on this is ... well perhaps that's also not surprising, but it's quite depressing nonetheless.

Posted by armand at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is Being Open and Honest On Foreign Policy the Clinton/Obama Divide?

That's how Sam Boyd is reading this week's back and forth between the senators from Illinois and New York.

A pattern is developing. Obama says something vaguely controversial but sensible, Clinton condemns it as naive, careless and stupid, but then it becomes clear she doesn't actually have any real criticisms of his policy. The pattern does, however, perhaps reveal a disagreement about how foreign policy should be conducted. Obama is more willing to be open about what options he would consider while Clinton puts more value in secrecy and deterrence. Neither approach is without merit, but I find something refreshing in Obama's willingness to be honest and forthright, even when what he says is a bit provocative, and I suspect that after almost seven years of the Bush administration I'm not the only one.
Posted by armand at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2007

"Extreme" score

According to this test, I score in the extreme range, indicating Asperger's or autism. Gotta love online quizzes!


Posted by binky at 12:26 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 01, 2007

We can't stop here...

...this is big country!

The whole thread.

Hat tip to Shez.

Posted by binky at 11:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

If Only the Chief Justice Was a Woman


Posted by armand at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obama Vs. Al Qaeda and Pakistan: (MUCH) Tougher Than Bush

Marc Ambinder discusses the foreign policy agenda that Sen. Obama is laying out this morning.,/p>

As President, Barack Obama would order attacks on terrorist camps in Pakistan even if its president, Gen. Pervais Musharraf, refused to give permission and would link American aid on Pakistan's progress in rooting out its terrorist havens.
Posted by armand at 09:54 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

"Reform" of Electoral College Votes in California?

A few days ago I mentioned that this idea was moving through North Carolina - now I see it'll be on the California primary ballot next June. This is horrifying. Replacing one horribly skewed system of electing a president with another horribly skewed system is not a way we should fix the Electoral College. And of course if this goes through the Republicans will have suddenly won a huge number of electoral votes by simply rejiggering the rules in the biggest state - and that's perhaps the one thing that could save them in what looks to be a good year for Democrats.

Posted by armand at 08:29 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack