Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Something new

Pregnant Philadelphia mother of one missing

What's new? She's not white! But at least she's attractive, so CNN hasn't totally flipped out. Plus, it doesn't seem to be a front-page type story.

Still, this is more than CNN reported when a black Atlanta woman went missing earlier this month. (She's okay, by the way)


Consider me surprised

IRA vows to end armed campaign

If it's true, it is great news. Let's set the over/under on how long it will last at six months.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More Conservative Hypocrisy

This is from a Fox News commentary by David Boaz of the Cato Institute. He is urging that Public Broadcasting (NPR and PBS) be privatized (i.e., become 100% beholden to corporate interests, as is the rest of the media).

"We wouldn’t want the federal government to publish a national newspaper. Why should we have a government television network and a government radio network? If anything should be kept separate from government and politics, it’s the news and public affairs programming that Americans watch. When government brings us the news—with all the inevitable bias and spin—the government is putting its thumb on the scales of democracy. It’s time for that to stop."

These same people support:
1. The US propaganda radio in Arabic
2. The fake "news" clips by the
3. The Pentagon's brand new "military channel" - a 24-hour government run propaganda network for the Bush administration's policies.


Paul Hackett: Iraq Vet for Congress

In Cincinnati (Ohio 2d District), a man named Paul Hackett, recently returned marine from Iraq, is running as a Democrat for Congress. The district had a 20-year Republican who just retired. It doesn't hurt that he's a good looking man. The new Republican nominee, Jean Schmidt, is an extreme right-to-lifer and a shriveled marathon runner.

Here's what the Cincinnati Inquirer said in its endorsement:

"Hackett, in our view, is a gust of fresh air. If we had to put a label on him, it would be Libertarian Democrat. He says what he thinks and doesn't seem to have much use for the orthodoxy, or the partisanship, of either party. He doesn't want the government telling him what kinds of guns he can own, nor does he want it interfering in family or medical decisions or taking away civil liberties in the name of fighting terror."



GOP Offers Reward for Convinction of Chicago's Mayor

Hi Folks,

The GOP is at it again. In a cheezy political move, the Cook County, Illinois GOP has offered $10,000 for information leading to the convinction of Chicago's Mayor, Richard Daley.

I think the Democrats should respond by offering a reward for information leading to the convinction of any government official who participated in the leak of Plame's identity and any official who participated in the subsequent cover-up.

Comments? Suggestions? Frustrated rants?


Monday, July 25, 2005

AFL-CIO Split?

Hi Everyone,

The AFL-CIO (America's major trade union confederation) is meeting for its annual convention in Chicago, and it's getting attention in the media for the first time in years. Why? Controversy. Four unions are boycotting the confederation meeting - these represent mostly low skilled workers such as service workers, hotel workers but also include the Teamsters.

The dispute is about how much of the budgets should be spent on recruiting new members. The percentage of workers in the US that are members of unions (or the union "density") is between 10% and 20% and dropping. Compare this to desnsity rates in Scandinavia and several other European countries approaching or exceeding 90%. The boycotting unions want the AFL-CIO to dramatically increase recruitment. The AFL-CIO leadership wants to maintain the current balance between recruitment and political lobbying.

Academic research on union strategies given particular density rates (in particular by Dr. Michael Wallerstein), have shown that as density decreases the incentives to spend on lobbying as opposed to recruitment increase. Other researchers (notably Dr. Geoff Garret) have shown strong unions' effect on national economic performance is positive when the government is friendly to labor but negative when the government is generally hostile to labor. America's frequently divide government is typically hostile or at best ambivolent with regard to organized labor. These researchers' findings suggest that increasing union density in the US would not be the most effecient strategy for the union to increase its strength and even if were successful, it would have a negative impact on our over all national economic performance. Of course the economic effect would change if American government became more positively disposed towards organized labor but changing that is a matter of lobbying.

I know we have some visitors who have extensive experience with unions. I'd love to see their thoughts about the events in Chicago.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Not the Same Old Bobbies or Are They?

British authorities have admitted that the man held down and shot in the head on a London train earlier this week was a Brazilian man who may have had no connection at all to the train bombings. Witnesses said that police tackled the man and held him down while a plain clothes man shot him five times in the head. After a couple of days of announcing that he had been on their watch list, that he was wearing a bomb, that he refused to obey police instructions, British authorities are now gradually coming to the point that their officers chased down and murdered an innocent man.

This kind of reckless abuse of police power is more commonly associated with Los Angeles than with London. But have the British police really behaved in such a way that we are justified in our surprise? Check out this Human Rights Watch report on Northern Ireland. You might say that Belfast is different but in Britain's highly centralized law enforcement apparatus (a structure envied by Republicans), the same policies and people are in charge of standards and practices in both London and Belfast.

The British have a long history of abusing police power. It was a major bone of contention for the Founding Fathers here in the United States (which is why Republican demands for increased police power are such a radical departure from American norms).

The facts aren't completely in. But given what the British authorities are already admitting to and their seldom talked about record of human rights abuses, it does not look to be a story with a happy ending.


Friday, July 22, 2005


From AP: Lawmakers from the House and Senate agreed Thursday to include a provision - part of a larger energy bill - that would start daylight-saving time three weeks earlier, the second Sunday in March, and end it a week later, the first Sunday of November

As it stands, there is a week in April and October each year that is terribly inconvenient for travelers because we are on daylight savings time, but Europe and most of the rest of the northern hemisphere is not. Now this adds a whole extra month. The travel industry, and every industry that has to coordinate across continents, is extremely upset, for good reason.

I'm annoyed for another reason. I don't like daylight savings time. I advocate changing work schedules in the summer for sure, but there is no reason to do so, but pretend we're not! To quote the movie Lawrence of Arabia, "A man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it." Changing our clocks but pretending that we haven't is a form of self-deception that, I believe, promotes dishonesty generally. There's a connection between lying about what time it is and the little signs at Costco that say they are checking your receipt "to ensure you are not overcharged and received all the items you paid for" rather than "to see if you are stealing." Or the little voice that says your phonecall to Comcast is being recorded "to ensure quality service" rather than "to see if our agents are making personal calls." Or the doublespeak we hear all the time, from "downsizing" (taking away people's livelihood) to every "convenience fee" charged by your bank. I grew up in Arizona where we did not participate in the daylight savings silliness, and it was fine. We had enough daylight, by the way. It would be a good beginning of a return of honesty to public life to abolish the daylight savings system and just say that starting around April 1 each year, we should all get to work and leave an hour earlier. It also would increase environmental awareness. Where people suffer under daylight savings time, they become estranged from nature. Time changes suddenly and the sun arrives or disappears by fiat. I remember the days gradually getting later, 2-3 minutes longer each day, from December through June. Then back again. There was a rhythm to life. The sun was always highest at noon. You could use a sundial. Those who labor under daylight savings time don't realize how it subtly, but decisively, disconnects them from living IN the world to living, well, around or in spite of it.

Then we could also choose to participate or not, instead of mandatorily being jetlagged in April, even if you like the cooler weather after the sun has gone down. Worse, in some parts of the country, daylight savings is a positive hazard. Traffic studies show that driving in twilight is the most dangerous time. In many places, DST puts the rush hour at twilight for almost twice as long. In the north, it means driving in the dark or twilight in the morning towards the end and beginning of the period, when that would never happen.

It's also just getting loony. Under the new plan, "standard" time will exist for just over 4 months, and "daylight" time for nearly 8. Shall we just start saying "short winter time" instead? Maybe it's time just permanently advance our clocks by an hour. The Russians do that. But then advance yet another hour for 6 months of the year. That's the next step.

Next rant: the metric system and other evils...


Thursday, July 21, 2005

I don't like where this is going

Well, I guess people are getting sick of comparing others to Hitler. Because the real chic thing to do now is compare people to Jesus. Exhibit A is Terrell Owens, comparing himself to Jesus. Why? Because people are "hating on" him, just like they did to Jesus. The difference is, Owens has a multi-million dollar contract and is holding out for more money, whereas Jesus had few possessions at all (excepting an episode with expensive perfume, of course).

Exhibit B? Look no further than Orrin Hatch, comparing Judge Roberts to Jesus!

I think senators can ask any questions they want. I've said, no matter how dumb the question may be. But the, the nominee doesn't have to answer them and he should not, under the canons of judicial ethics, he should not answer questions on any issue that possibly would come before the Supreme Court. Otherwise, he would be foretelling how he would vote on those issues and then they would hold that against him. So it's a little bit like Biblical Pharisees, you know, who basically are always trying to undermine Jesus Christ, you know, it goes on the same way. If they can catch him in something, they can then criticize -- and the outside groups will go berserk. And that's that what drives the People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They're against any Republican. We knew that just no matter who it was -- it could be the greatest person in the world, and Roberts is, is that -- they would come out against him.


What could Roberts say that the Republicans don't want us to learn? Now I'm extremely curious.


The "Anti-Walmart" Costco

The Ny Times has a fascinating article on Costco. It's the kind of good advertising you just can't buy. Here's an extended quote:

Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal [CEO of Costco] is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well. Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, [Mr. Sinegal] said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business."

...Eighty-five percent of Costco's workers have health insurance, compared with less than half at Wal-Mart and Target. Costco also has not shut out unions, as some of its rivals have. The Teamsters union, for example, represents 14,000 of Costco's 113,000 employees. "They gave us the best agreement of any retailer in the country," said Rome Aloise, the union's chief negotiator with Costco. The contract guarantees employees at least 25 hours of work a week, he said, and requires that at least half of a store's workers be full time.

Why is Costco playing nicer than the other kids? Is it a good strategy, or a personal choice on the part of the CEO? Of course, Costco jobs still aren't that great, and while the CEO earns "only" $350,000 per year, his stock options are currently worth upwards of $150 million. It's inspiring to know, however, that even in the world of discount retail, Walmart's race to the bottom isn't the only way to win. I'll end with my favorite quote from the article:

There is little love lost between Wal-Mart and Costco. Wal-Mart, for example, boasts that its Sam's Club division has the lowest prices of any retailer. Mr. Sinegal emphatically dismissed that assertion with a one-word barnyard epithet.


Chinese Currency Revalued

Hi Gang,

China announced today that they will allow their currency (which is grossly undervalued) to fluctuate in value relative to the dollar. In the past, China has pegged its currency, the Yuan, to a fixed value relative to the dollar that under values the Yuan. The undervalued Yuan makes Chinese products artificially cheap - especially in the USA. In effect, this lets Chinese companies (many of which are still state owned) gain an artificial advantage in world trade. The Yuan is still far below what its value would be if determined on the world currency markets. This is the economic equivalent of Barry Bonds promising to cut his steroid use in half.

So why now? The US has been pressuring China to do this for years. Why are they doing it now? I suspect this is China's attempt at offering a quid pro quo regarding a number of acquisitions of US companies by Chinese state owned enterprises (including Unocal and until recently, Maytag). The Unocal acquisition in particular has provoked significant political resistance. If this is something the Chinese are willing to give as part of the price for Unocal, I say we insist they allow their currency to float freely. Frankly, letting the Chinese have Unocal would cost far less to our security than we would gain in economic terms from a market based Chinese Yuan.


Somehow I missed this

There's been a lot of news over the past couple days, so some things tend to slip through the cracks. Like when a U.S. Congressman says we should bomb Mecca if we're attacked by Islamic terrorists. He still has not retracted his statement.

I don't need to tell you what political party he belongs to.

This is a terrible thing, but what makes it worse is that a lot of Americans feel this way. It's a matter of "killing the bad guys", and if we do that, the problems will go away. Democrats try to offer sensible, nuanced solutions and they get called weak. Republicans, on the other hand, can say this kind of thing, claim it was "taken out of context" and get re-elected.


Botched Terror Attack?

Hi Everyone,

There seems to have been something like a botched terror attack on the London mass transit system (Gee, might the Saudis be behind this after all? Why this obsession with blowing up mass transit?) . No casualties are reported and the bombs seem not to have gone off properly. There are rumors that failed suicide bomber(s) have been arrested in a London hospital. They also have recovered the fizzled bombs complete with forensic evidence such as finger prints etc. This could turn out to be a huge break in the effort to identify, locate and arrest those behind these attacks.

So now John Roberts is off the headlines and the topic is terrorism again. We'll see if next week Karl Rove doesn't pop up in the news again. My impression is that the journalists are personally ticked off by this whole CIA leak case and won't let it go for long. Obviously things like USSC appointments and terrorist attacks are too big to ignore but with no casualties and the confirmation hearings not slated until Labor Day, Rove will be the flavor of the month of most of August.

Good that there were no casualties in London!


Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Dr. Strangelove points out this quote from Judge Roberts in the comments:

Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.

I find this quote highly irrelevant to the issue. He was a lower court judge -- of course he had to uphold the law of the land! The question is, as a Supreme Court justice, would he vote to overturn Roe v. Wade? And the answer is almost certainly yes.
[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled ... The Court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion ... finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.

In my mind, it's very clear. If a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade comes up while he's on the bench, he will vote to overrule it. This is one thing about him that seems to be known, and it's why he's so popular with Bush's base.

I also want to make something else clear. I don't like abortions. It bugs me to think of wealthy childless married couples in their early 30's who abort because they couldn't bother to use birth control. That makes me sick. So I don't mind someone being opposed to abortion (and in Roberts' case, I tend to agree that nothing about abortion is in the Constitution).

If we're going to talk about his views on this issue, let's go deeper. Is he someone who thinks there is no right to privacy in general, or just no right to an abortion? Does he equate abortion to murder? Does he think that there should be no abortions in case of rape? Incest?

Look, there's going to be a lot of coverage about this issue. I think it serves the public better to learn more about his views on environmental issues, the Patriot Act/civil liberties, separation of Church and State, affirmative action, etc. Perhaps the members of The Citizens can do some digging and publish what they find.

Update: Let me clarify. I hope Roe v. Wade is not overturned -- I like that decision. I just don't think abortions should be handed out like candy on street corners.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And the winner is... John Roberts

Bush will announce in about 50 minutes thathe is nominating John G. Roberts, a super-conservative Republican from the D.C. Circuit. to the Supreme Court. His wife is an ardent anti-abortion activist, i.e., one who wants to criminalize abortion. He is a Harvard Law graduate and a partner at the prestigious firm of Hogan & Hartson. So he is probably not an idiot (probably).

The good news is that he is not a total wacko, like Priscilla Owens or Edith Jones. So he will probably get confirmed. The bad news is that laws criminalizing abortion and flag-burning, even banning birth control, will likely be upheld when they meet a court with Roberts on it. He will no doubt uphold any anti-gay legislation. It is a very dark day for the court and the country. And the loser is.... all the rest of us.


Oh boy

Well, maybe we were just being hopeful thinking it was Clement? And that's pretty scary, because she ain't exactly that moderate.

The new thinking is that it is not Clement. Alberto Gonzales recently cancelled some meetings to head back to Washington, but frankly, he makes no sense as a pick. What if it's the other Edith, Edith Jones? RbR especially will enjoy reading this story, given his crusade to convince everyone that the founding fathers were not as religious as the Dobson right would have us believe.

We find out for sure in three hours and a half, anyway.



Rumors are flying that the White House will announce the Supreme Court nominee today, or at least during the week. The timing would be perfect for the White House to defray attention from Karl Rove. Look for the nominee to be Edith Clement. She is conservative, of course, but would she be filibustered? I doubt it. Anyone know anything about her?


Monday, July 18, 2005

London and Atlanta

Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and conducted the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta, was sentenced to death today. London won its Olympics bid on 7/6, and the next day suffered bombings with home-made explosives by native Britons. The parallels are striking: the difference appears to be that the London bombers were filled with a fundamentalist Muslim ideology, while Eric Rudolph professes to be a devout Catholic. Where is the denunciation of terrorist activity? The White House is eerily silent. Rudolph is a problem for them: they do not want anti-terrorist laws being turned on right-wing extremists in America who vote Republican.

This is relevant for another reason: Today, the 4th Circuit accepted the appeal in the Jose Padilla case. Jose Padilla, some of you will recall, is an American citizen arrested by agents at O'Hare aiport after he arrived in this country. He has been rotting in a military jail for three years, while the military tries to extract a confession from him. He has been charged with no crime. Echoing King George III, this George says he needs this power. And conservative judges (Scalia excepted) are not that good at reading the plain text of the constitution in its historical context. You need to know very little about the details to know that the power of unlimited indefinite administrative detention was a major target of the Revolution of 1776.

If Democrats win, should they start throwing right wing radicals in the military brig indefinitely? What is to stop them?


Saturday, July 16, 2005

First Nuclear Explosion

I almost missed noticing this important date in history. Today is the anniversary of the test of the first atomic bomb. World War II ended about one month later - about as soon as the bomb could be deployed after the successful test at Los Alamos, NM. For a first hand account of the test, go to NPR where they have a recent recording of Don Honig, the youngest physicists at Los Alamos.

There are a lot of dimensions on which we could discuss this event...scientific, political, military, moral etc. But no matter how you slice it, the first successful test of an atomic bomb is the among the most important human actions since the invention of agriculture.

Comments? Observations?


More on Rove

Hi Gang,

It turns out that Karl Rove was sending emails around to other White House officials telling them he talked to reporters about Plame even before the story was printed. And yet the official White House position was that any suggestion that anyone in the White House was the source of the leak was "ridiculous."

Rove's version is that he was doing the reporters a favor by telling them that Former Ambassador Wilson's accusations about faulty intelligence in Iraq were unfounded (accusations that have since been shown to be 100% correct). Rove also claims that he did not learn about Plame's CIA position from another government official but rather from a journalist (who has not been identified yet).

To me it seems like there are three stories here. First, Rove defends himself by saying he was only trying to discredit Wilson (a whistle blower we now know to have been correct in his accusations). Second, regardless of whether Rove was the original source of the leak or not, he was certainly the source for the articles that first publicized Plame's identity. Third, even if Rove is not criminally liable for his role in the leak, this latest email revelation shows that the White House, as an institution, knew Rove's role in great detail right from the start but continued to lie about it to the press and - as Republicans liked to say during the Lewinski scandal - lie to the American people.

I'm curious about the legal ramifications of all this. What is the bare bones legal assessment of Rove's version of events?


Friday, July 15, 2005

Tom Vilsack To Head DLC

Hi Everyone,

Tom Vilsack, the governor of my new home state (where I have a job in small college town) has taken over as the head of the Democratic Leadership Council. This is not the same thing as the leadership of the entire party - that's Howard Dean's job. The DLC is the organization of "New Democrats." These people are right on the median position of Americans. This is where Clinton came from. There is a link to this group in the section "Sell Outs" to the right. There are a number of liberal Democrats, like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who try to hang out with the DLC to appear more centrist but it is fairly easy to tell who the true believers are. These are pro-trade (pro NAFTA/CAFTA/WTO) Democrats who advocate the politics of the "Third Way." They look to achieve progressive goals with market based methods. They tend to be socially progressive and fiscally responsible (pro-balanced budgets).

For Vilsack, this new job means a national profile for a small state governor. It is in effect a declaration of his intention to run for President in 2008. So we should all start looking at this guy more closely.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Just a thought

How many people who were so openly critical of Mark Felt for leaking information to reporters (that led to people being put in jail for crimes they committed) are now going to be just as critical of Karl Rove for leaking information to reporters (which potentially endangered the life of a CIA operative)?


Prices Rise But Inflation Doesn't?

So, here's for the economists among you. You exciting and excitable lot. The news today is that once again we are being told there is no inflation. Let's review:

  • Gas prices have more than doubled in the past three years. Seriously, gas in CA sold for close to $1/gallon in 2002. It's now above $2.50. It's $3.09 for premium near my house.
  • College tuition has increased almost 10% per year for the past several years (various sources).
  • Housing prices are going up by 20% per year.
  • Health insurance premiums go up by 10-20% year or more.

It seems that food (subsidized), and clothes and electronics (imported and cheap) appear to be the basis for the claim that there is no inflation.

I believe we are living in highly inflationary times except for small consumer goods, and there needs to be more said about this. Put another way, my salary buys a lot less now than it would have 5 years ago. Anybody else see the same thing?


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Don't Forget the Real Traitor...

Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column, Mission to Niger, in which he revealed Ambassador Wilson's wife was a CIA operative working on WMD, started this scandal. Then on October 1, 2003, after the official investigation began, Novak tried to explain his actions in a second column, The CIA Leak. His own explanation shows he is a liar. I ask you to consider the following full quotations, all taken from Novak's own writings.

1. In his October "explanation," Novak admits that he was asked by the CIA not to mention Wilson's wife, but explains that he did so because he needed to find the "missing" explanation for CIA's "otherwise incredible" choice of Joseph Wilson.

At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson's wife had inspired his selection but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause "difficulties" if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name. I used it in the sixth paragraph of my column because it looked like the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA for its mission.

2. However, in the original July column, we see that Novak already knew several obvious reasons why the CIA might select Joseph Wilson to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to buy nuclear materials in Niger.
(a) Wilson had served as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer in both Iraq and Niger.
(b) Wilson had risked his life to save Americans from Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.
(c) Wilson had served admirably under both Republican and Democratic Presidents for more than 20 years.
(D) Wilson had been in charge of African Affairs at the National Security Council until his retirement in 1998.

His first public notice had come in 1991 after 15 years as a Foreign Service officer when, as U.S. charge in Baghdad, he risked his life to shelter in the embassy some 800 Americans from Saddam Hussein's wrath. My partner Rowland Evans reported from the Iraqi capital in our column that Wilson showed "the stuff of heroism." President George H.W. Bush the next year named him ambassador to Gabon, and President Bill Clinton put him in charge of African affairs at the National Security Council until his retirement in 1998.

After eight days in the Niger capital of Niamey (where he once served), Wilson made an oral report in Langley that an Iraqi uranium purchase was "highly unlikely," though he also mentioned in passing that a 1988 Iraqi delegation tried to establish commercial contacts. CIA officials did not regard Wilson's intelligence as definitive, being based primarily on what the Niger officials told him and probably would have claimed under any circumstances. The CIA report of Wilson's briefing remains classified.

Either Novak is lying or he is an idiot. Picking a retired senior national security official with personal experience in both Iraq and Niger isn't "incredible"--it's inspired. The simplest explanation as to why Novak knowingly risked causing "difficulties" for Wilson's wife is because he wanted to cause "difficulties" for Wilson's wife. What a bastard.



I, like a lot of Democrats, did not support Wesley Clark in the 2004 election. I was worried that he really wasn't a Democrat! He seemed to be a Johnny-come-lately to the party, hoping to capitalize on his notoriety for a Presidential bid. So I immediately threw my support behind Kerry. Well, I picked the wrong horse. Clark has a new article in USA Today, and it's really good. The man is articulate and definitely a Democrat (now). Is he the front-runner for 2008? Discuss.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Karl Rove, the Republican Majority and Oversight

I have made a number of postings about oversight with regard to the Bush administration. With the developing Karl Rove/Plame/CIA leak scandal, it is worth bring up again. Karl Rove has been identified as the source that "outed" an undercover CIA operative in a crude attempt to punish her husband for criticizing Bush administration "intelligence" about Iraqi WMDs (intelligence since proven to be a combination of lies and idle speculation). Rove and Bush administration lawyers initially called accusations that Rove was the source "ridiculous." Well, unless you have been living under a rock you know that this is nonsense. Check this latest LA Times story on it.

Now, Democrats are demanding hearings on the matter but since the Republicans have the majority in both houses, no hearings will take place. In the past, contributors on this blog have accused Democrats of not doing enough to keep Bush in check. It is almost cliche in this country to say that Democrats are wimps. However, given the commitment of the Republican party to protect its own even when they are shown to be both criminal and incompetent, there is little the Democrats can do until and unless those who criticize them vote them the power they need to prove themselves.

I guess I have two points here: First, the problem is not Karl Rove or George W. Bush. The problem is the entire Republican party apparatus. Second, self described "independents" who say they don't support Democrats because they are "wimps," have little understanding of the institutional constraints imposed on the minority party - particularly with regard to oversight (as the Karl Rove case is demonstrating). At the same time, they blame a minority party for being weak when it was they (and their ilk) that made that party weak in the first place with their apathy.

OK, I feel better now. I certainly hope I'm wrong about the Rove case. I hope the Republicans stop protecting him. But...


Thursday, July 07, 2005

What Do Islamic Fundamentalist Terrorists Want?

Hi Gang,

US West alluded to a frustrated call from a British friend that perhaps it is time to negotiate with Al Qaida et al. US West brought up the question of what Al Qaida wants. That question was one of the early subjects of debate among the Citizens that led to the creation of this blog.

I think given the tragic events in London today, it is worth revisiting the subject.

I'll get the ball rolling with my own opinion: I think there are several problems with the idea of negotiating with Al Qaida.

First, it is far from clear that there is anything we could give them - either in terms of material goods or policy changes - that would make them stop. Al Qaida's own statements refer to an existential conflict. They object to the existence of modern Western society itself, not just the policies of particular governments. It is not enough to simply depart the Middle East, they want us to stop being modern at home as well. They see our very example as corrupting their culture.
Second, who is charge? Just from a practical standpoint, who would we actually sit down with? Despite the attempts of the Bush administration to personalize the "war on terror," it is not clear that there is a hierarchy with which we could make deals.

Third, if there is no single hierarchy, perhaps there are multiple demands. For example, the group that attacked Madrid mentioned their desire to restore Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula. That does not seem to be a major concern for Pakistani decent terrorists operating in London or the Saudi terrorists who pulled off the attacks on 9/11/01.

Fourth, what about Israel? Do these groups just want Israel to modify its behavior? Or do they want Israel (and its Jewish citizens) to be exterminated? A casual examination of the fundamentalist rhetoric suggests that some groups at least (again, there is no single monolithic demand here) want the latter. If that is the case, is there any change in policy the U.S.A. could make that would satisfy them? That is, would any U.S. administration be likely to stand by while an Islamic fundamentalist movement attempted genocide in Israel?

So to sum up: I think the negotiation option is not workable. We don't have anyone to talk to. We don't know what they would demand if we could find someone. And there is a good chance that if we did find someone with a credible claim to represent the terrorist movement, we would be uniformly unwilling to concede to their basic demands.

This is not to say I think Bush's approach is correct either. My own preference is more in line with the policy approach commonly used in Europe (at least their international policy). That is, I favor a primary reliance on police work and diplomacy with resort to war in clear cut cases such as Afghanistan (but not Iraq).


Terror Attack In London

Hi Everyone,

As you probably have heard by now, there has been a significant terrorist attack on the London mass transit system. Four bombs hit three subway trains and a double decker bus. You can find detailed reports just about everywhere so I won't repeat them here.

What does this mean? To me this shows that even in London, a city blanketed with security cameras in a country where there are far fewer restrictions on police powers than the US Constitution allows, terrorism can strike. To me, this attack shows that the Republican approach of trying to sacrifice liberty to gain security doesn't work. Britain has been sacrificing liberty for security for hundreds of years (that's what our Revolution was about after all). Since the IRA era in the 70s and 80s the British police have had powers in exess of those provided to the FBI in the Patriot Act. And yet...

Comments? Discussion?


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

With Six [Gallons] You Get Eggroll

The China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) is bidding about $18.5 billion to take over Unocal--an unsolicited offer that outbids Chevron's $16 billion offer.

CNN reports that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution 398-15 opposing the bid, and several congressmen are demanding the Bush administration review the bid under the Defense Production Act. Said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to Treasury Secretary Snow, "If you don't review this one, that law is meaningless. I don't think being a free trader is synonymous with being a sucker and a patsy." Meanwhile, the U.S. Trade Representative met with Chinese officials but pointedly did not discuss the offer (yeah, right!)

Now China has fired back, its Foreign Ministry stating, "We demand that the U.S. Congress correct its mistaken ways of politicizing economic and trade issues and stop interfering in the normal commercial exchanges between enterprises of the two countries. CNOOC's bid to take over the U.S. Unocal company is a normal commercial activity between enterprises and should not fall victim to political interference."

Ah... but there is one crucial difference that China conveniently overlooked: CNOOC is state-owned. Essentially, Communist China is bidding to take control of more of the world's petroleum resources for itself. Is China following Lenin, who once said that, "the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them"? Or is China just taking a page out of America's own books of coca-colonialism and economic imperialism? Well if it comes to pass, perhaps the new Unocal stations will at least offer tastier fare in their food marts...


The Simpsons on Flag Burning

It's time to take this out and post it. This is a "Schoolhouse Rock"-themed song from a Simpsons episode of a few years back.

Kid: Hey, who left all this garbage on the steps of Congress?
Amendment: I'm not garbage.

(starts singing)
I'm an amendment-to-be, yes an amendment-to-be,
And I'm hoping that they'll ratify me.

There's a lot of flag-burners,
Who have got too much freedom,
I want to make it legal
For policemen to beat'em.

'Cause there's limits to our liberties,
At least I hope and pray that there are,
'Cause those liberal freaks go too far.

Kid: But why can't we just make a law against flag-burning?
Amendment: Because that law would be unconstitutional.
But if we changed the Constitution...
Kid: Then we could make all sorts of crazy laws!
Amendment: Now you're catching on!
Kid: What if people say you're not good enough to be in the

Amendment: Then I'll crush all opposition to me,
And I'll make Ted Kennedy pay.
If he fights back, I'll say that he's gay.

Congressman: Good news, Amendment! They ratified ya!
You're in the US Constitution!
Amendment: Oh yeah!


Instituting a new award

This award is for "Biggest Jerk on Capitol Hill". Maybe we'll make this an annual installment. This year, it certainly goes to Rick Santorum, junior senator from Pennsylvania. Let's review the atrocities, shall we?

  • There's this bill, which would require that you pay for National Weather Service info that your tax dollars already pay for. Can this be seen as anything but a total sell-out to advertiser-supported weather sites?
  • When Senator Byrd compared the GOP's potential nuclear option to Nazi activities, Santorum admonished him, which is a good thing. But then, he went on to compare the Democrats to Hitler for trying to keep the filibuster. One wonders what Hitler's views would be.
  • Of course, he's a homophobe, that kind of goes without saying. Next.
  • In 2001, he attempted to amend the No Child Left Behind Act to allow for the teaching of Intelligent Design. Thankfully, this is only now happening in backward states like Ohio (ha! Please don't kill me.)
  • Let's not forget this beauty:
    It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior [Catholic sex scandals], since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

  • Finally, we have some truly excellent excerpts from his new book:
"Many women have told me, and surveys have shown, that they find it easier, more 'professionally' gratifying, and certainly more socially affirming, to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children. Think about that for a moment…Here, we can thank the influence of radical feminism, one of the core philosophies of the village elders.""But unlike abortion today, in most states even the slaveholder did not have the unlimited right to kill his slave."
"By asking the right question, we can see that when it comes to socialization, mass education is really the aberration, not homeschooling. Never before in human history have a majority of children spent at least half their waking hours in the presence of 25 to 35 unrelated children of exactly the same age (and usually the same socio-economic status), with only one adult to keep order and provide basic mentoring. Never before and never again after their years of mass education will any person live and work in such a radically narrow, age-segregated environment. It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools."

Are there any I forgot?


A Note On Pronunciation

President Bush is Copenhagen, Denmark today. Patting the local Poodle-minister on the head for his 500 troops in Iraq. No real news there.

NPR is reporting this visit in a way that annoys me greatly. The capitol of Denmark is Koebenhavn (pronounced something like Ke ben hawn). The English name for the city is Copenhagen (pronounced Ko pen hay gen). But lately pseudo intellectuals who don't speak foreign languages but want people to THINK they do have taken to pronouncing the capital of Denmark as "Ko pen hoggen" as if they have learned the correct pronunciation. This is compounded by the similarity between this new trendy pronunciation and the GERMAN word for Denmark's capitol. Of all languages to use! Repeated German invasions of Denmark have been the worst calamities to hit the Danes in the last 150 years! Imagine if we all started calling France "Frankreich."

Here is my appeal. If you can't pronounce the Danish word (and most can't and it many wouldn't recognize it anyway), just say it in English for crying out loud!


Friday, July 01, 2005

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

Recenlty reprinted with permission on the Episcopal News Service, here is the statement of Senator John Danforth (former Republican senator and Episcopal priest). It appeared in the 6/17/05 NY Times under the title "Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers." It is a lucid and thoughtful statement of Christians in America who are not part of the religious right.

My particular favorite passages:

"-We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
-Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals."

Here is the full text


Justice O'Connor Retires

July 1, 2005. Justice O'Connor announced this morning she will retire from the Supreme Court as soon as a successor is nominated and confirmed. This is a position of dubious legality, because there is, technically, no vacancy on the court. And theoretically a president could nominate and confirm a dozen or more judges "in waiting," but that violates our constitution. Moreover, there is no law that would force O'Connor to step down.

I expect the Democrats to demand World War Three in the Senate. This is the time for Democrats to stand up, filibuster every right-wing activist, and explain to the country that Bush is not seeking people who will "faithfully interpret the law" rather right wing activists who will busily overturn precedents. This is the time to pull out all the stops and fight for liberty.

I urge anyone interested in stopping a right-wing nominee to write to your senator, a real letter with a stamp on it, with a terse but clear message. In particular, anyone in Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, Wisconsin (both senators), and New York should write to their senator on the judiciary committee (below).

Orrin G. HatchUTAH
Charles E. GrassleyIOWA
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.DELAWARE
Mike DeWineOHIO
Jeff SessionsALABAMA
Dianne FeinsteinCALIFORNIA
Russell D. FeingoldWISCONSIN
John CornynTEXAS
Charles E. SchumerNEW YORK
Sam BrownbackKANSAS
Richard J. DurbinILLINOIS

Dear Senator:
This Supreme Court vacancy is the reason I voted for you. I have supported you in the past, but I will not do so again unless you stand up to the Republicans and stop another right-wing ideologue from getting on the Supreme Court. There is no political advantage for you in acting like a conservative or compromising with them, to try to fool some conservatives into voting for you. They know how to vote for a Republican if they want to, and so do I. It is time to suit up.