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."

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"This is our Tsunami"

So spoke Biloxi Mayor A. J. Holloway upon witnessing the devastation Hurricane Katrina visited on Mississippi and Louisiana. As Americans open their checkbooks and pour millions of dollars in private donations--and surely billions soon in public funds--to aid the victims of what may turn out to be the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history, we must do more than answer the cries of grief.

We must also listen to the warning. Because this catastrophe has more in commmon with the 2004 Christmas tsunami than just the scenes of coastal devastation; like the tsunami, it was also preventable.

No, the earthquake which caused the tsuanmi could not have been stopped by modern technology, nor can we control the weather. But just as the Indian Ocean could have been equipped with tsunami warning systems, so we could have built better dams and levees in Louisiana. Are such things expensive? Yes.

But it's not like we don't have the money. We have now spent $192 billion on a certain Middle Eastern military venture. And we regularly spend half a trillion a year on "national defense." What could we do with money on that scale--even just a fraction of it--to defend our nation from what really threatens us?

We could have built dams and levees that withstood Hurricane Katrina--a few billion a year buys a lot of sandbags. We could have built a lot of tsunami warning systems. It's time we look at "Homeland Security" in this broader sense. It's time to make investments in national defense that we know will pay off. It's time to invest in the protection and preservation of our climate and our planet. It's time to aggressively protect our citizens.

Mount Ranier in Washington State is a ticking bomb. It is widely expected to erupt before this century ends. Heck, it could be tomorrow. California will experience "The Big One" before 2100 (many predict much sooner.) There will be regular hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and tornadoes in the Midwest. And then there's the best-predicted, most-watched, oncoming world-wide flood in history: global climate change. Coming to a coastline near you sometime this century.

When the ocean levels rise and coastal cities everywhere--Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Boston--join the ranks of the drowned; when the Mississippi delta looks like the Ganges and every year brings hurricanes worse than Katrina... what will they say? Will they wring their hands and say, "how could we know?" Will they say, "there was nothing we could have done?" Oh yes. They will try. The conservative elite will wave their hands and try to make us forget that it was all preventable.

But the truth is we all can see it coming and it just costs more than they are willing to spend. So instead of taking reasonable precautions to prevent a global cataclysm, we sit like a stubborn old Victorian lady having her tea in the middle of the highway, dismissing all those who try to warn her of an oncoming convoy, saying, "I've already got everything set up just the way I like it! You can't be certain one of them will hit me. I just can't be bothered to move."

So when you send your money to the Red Cross, send a note to your Senators to remind them an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And when you send your thoughts and prayers to the families devastated by this hurricane, spare a thought also to the global tsunami to come.


Monday, August 29, 2005

A Note on the Iraqi Constitution

Hi Everyone,

With all this talk and demonstrating about, for and against the new Iraqi constitution I thought I'd give you my impression of it.

There are some very odd features: Most unusual is the odd way the executive is structured. The unicameral assembly elects, by 2/3 vote, the Presidency Council (the executive). That makes it look like a Prime Minister. But most Prime Ministers have control over the legislative agenda. The Iraqi President will not have such control. Furthermore, the Presidency Council can only be removed with a 3/4 vote. Prime Ministers can be removed by a majority vote. This odd combination of Prime Ministerial and Presidential features resembles the government of Israel which is, in my opinion, one of the worst run governments around.

This odd Presidency Council may veto legislation and appoints the "Council of Ministers" which consists of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. This dual executive resembles another often dysfunctional democracy: France (and Weimar Germany by the way). Ambiguous executive authority is workable in an established democracy like France but in democracy that is just starting out, it can be fatal - just ask the Germans.

A second odd feature is the unicameral assembly. In most federal systems, there is a bi-cameral legislature. Usually, the second chamber has the role of representing the constituent provinces or states. But no such second chamber exists in this constitution.

Finally, this is not even intended to be the final constitution. That constitution is to be written by the National Assembly. So what we have is a badly written constitution based on bizarre understandings of institutional design, that has built into it, a call for its own replacement.

That the Bush administration can claim that this is anything other than a long line of over hyped anti-climaxes in Iraq is absurd. Of course the Bushies only do two things in Iraqi: over play non-events; and sugar coat disasters.

I encourage you all to read this constitution for yourselves. The press is talking themselves silly about it but without any reference to any details. Don't let Chicken Noodle News tell you what's worth knowing.


Friday, August 19, 2005


From Paul Krugman in today's NY Times:
"Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation."

I fear just how far "any means necessary" may entail. A Washington Times reporter on NPR reiterated the Republicans' now favorite refrain that criticism of the war gives aid and comfort to the enemy. The same logic is extended quickly to criticism of the government at all...


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Land for Peace in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, some 8,500 Israeli settlers are being evacuated this week as part of Israel's first real commitment to a two-state solution. Until today, Israel has spoken of a two-state solution and tolerated a Palestinian Authority, but has pursued a policy of relentlessly increasing the size of its settlements, to change "facts on the ground" as they put it. Since the Oslo accord 10 years ago, the number of settlers has increased from about 100,000 to 250,000. The hope of many right-wing Israelis, fosteredin part by governments unwilling to defeat their dreams, was that if the peace process dragged on long enough, all of pre-1947 Palestine would be de facto Jewish. Ehud Barak said in 2000 that to make peace, you have to give up your dreams. He meant not only the dream of more than 2 million Palestinians to return to homes in Israel proper, but the Zionist dream of a Jewish state on all land west of the Jordan river.

Today marked the first real rollback of Israeli settlement, and the first time Israel has made a public commitment through actions, not just words, to leaving significant territories permanently under Palestian control. Over the next weeks and months, this should have a very salubrious effect on the region. Suicide bombings should decrease when there is a realistic hope that the future will improve. Free traffic flow without Israeli military checkpoints (and hours of delays) will be possible throughout Gaza.

While many Palestinians are skeptical that Israel will give up more land in the West Bank (does "Gaza First" mean "Gaza last?") , the whole dynamic has changed. The question is not whether Israel will withdraw, but how far. And not whether Palestine will be a state, but how big. Those changes will have a significant impact on the mindset of the negotiators and the public over time. Ariel Sharon has now made it clear that Israel is not trying to get ALL the territory, but only as much as it can. That is a big step forward. It is also a major defeat for right-wing ideology in Israel. The majority of the Israeli public supports this policy of disengagement and withdrawal. They are, perhaps, even in the process of giving up the dream of a Greater Israel, religiously defined, in favor of a modern state.

For the Israelis, there is now real hope relative peace and lack of terrorism these past few months will be connected, in the minds of Palestinians, with progress - rather than the opposite. Palestinian public demands for the past decade have been limited to the West Bank, Gaza, (parts of) Jerusalem, and the right of return to Israel. Privately, many wished to see a one-state solution, i.e., an end to a "Jewish State" altogether. Some wanted to drive Israelis "into the sea." Many have considered that the intifada in the 1980s marked the real renunciation by Palestinians of any goal greater than their own state (a two-state solution), and I agree, but bigger dreams die hard. I expect violence to further decrease (except among the true extremists) as Gazans enjoy new freedom, and the expectation of the end to occupation spreads to other regions.

The bottom line here is that peacemaking requires public commitments, private (real) commitments, and concrete actions that are difficult to revoke which lock the parties into the negotiation process. Sharon is not the man to make a final deal, I suspect, but he may have, for the first time, locked Israel into making a deal. The Palestinians have really been there for a long time, ever since peace with Egypt and Jordan, and the end of Soviet support for Arab clients, ended any realistic hope of military intervention on their side.


Monday, August 15, 2005

VJ Day

Hi Everyone,

This is the anniversary of V-J Day (Victory over Japan Day). One of the world's four most savage, brutal and murderous regimes finally surrendered on this date in 1945. They surrendered only after years of futile resistence on island after island in the Pacific and in South East Asia.

Japanese armies committed genocide in China - using weapons of mass destruction repeatedly against Chinese civilians. When American forces approached Manilla, the Phillipines, Japanese troops went on a rampage of murder and destruction that rival anything the NAZIs did. This list of horrors committed by Japanese forces is long. With the Japanese surrender a war which had claimed 62 million lives ended. That's an average of about 18, 800 deaths per day (judging the war to have started in 1936 with the invasion of China).

And what was the cause of this war? As I said in my posting on V-E day, it was nationalism! Nationalist dictatorships caused that war in their quest to establish "autarky."


Bush's Neighbor Threatens Peace Protestor

Hi Folks,

You may all remember the recent posting about the woman who's son was killed in Iraq. She and a group of protestors have camped outside Bush's ranch while he takes his extended paid vacation on his hobby ranch in Texas.

Well, one of Bush's neighbors is so annoyed that there might be Americans who don't agree with him that he's taken to threatening the protestors by firing his shotgun into the air near the protestors. When asked what message he was sending, he replied "I'm getting ready for dove season" and "Figure it out for yourself." Does anyone else hear the echoes of KKK sympathizers being interviewed in the 1960s? These half-brained attempts at subtle innuendo are typical of the fascist right in the South.

There are millions of voters in this country who will support his actions and statements and even laugh at them. That is who/what we are up against. This is not simply a disagreement about policy. It is a fundamental disagreement about the nature of democracy and liberty. Those who pretend that people like this gun toting hobby farmer are just like their Democratic opponents but with different policy preferences are whistling past the grave yard.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Key Republican Fundraiser Indicted

Hi Folks, is reporting that Texas based GOP fundraiser, Jack Abramoff has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida. He is also being investigated by a federal grand jury in Washington. Abramoff is charged with fraud related to some illegal wire transfers. He's also known to have acted as a lobbyist for two Indian tribes taking opposing views on the same casino gambling bill (that's a conflict of interest folks). He's being sued for that.

Abramoff is also suspected to have paid for some overseas junkets by Tom De Lay (R-Texas). De Lay is currently under investigation in Texas for his fund raising activities.

Meanwhile up north in Ohio, an associate of Abramoff, Tom Noe has been at the center of a fraud scandal involving bilking a state pension fund of millions of dollars in a crooked scheme to "invest" in rare coins. Noe raised over $100,000 for Ohio Governor Bob Taft (R) and President Bush (R). When it looked like Noe might have been caught red handed Taft, Bush and other ranking Republicans (including all the GOP candidates for the governorship in Ohio) belatedly returned contributions to Noe. Taft has also drawn fire because a key aide, Brian Hicks, took improperly disclosed vacation trips to Noe's home in Florida. Hicks has since been convicted but still sits on the Ohio State University System Board of Trustees and the state water board.

Now Governor Bob Taft (R-Ohio) may be about to be indicted for not reporting a number of expensive golf trips. Taft violated the same laws that Hicks has been convicted of. Hicks avoided a jail sentence but had to pay a $1000 fine. Taft is not expected to face jail time.

This is what I'm on about. The problem is not George Bush or the religious right alone. The problem is the entire Republican party.


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

He Still Doesn't Get It

NY Times Op Ed Columnist Maureen Dowd writes in her recent opinion piece,

There's an angry mother of a dead soldier camping outside [George W. Bush's] Crawford ranch, demanding to see a president who prefers his sympathy to be carefully choreographed... Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death... Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.

The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him...

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation...

Bush is so caught up in what the Economist called an "addiction to playing hardball with the Democrats" that he can't distinguish between a mother's personal anguish and a political attack. Bill Clinton would have invited her in for lunch, hugged her, shed a few tears, and had her standing with him for a photo-op in half an hour. Because Clinton understood what the Republicans never will: what people desire more is a feeling of shared understanding and warmth--not shared anger and hatred. If Hillary has the emotional savvy of her husband, they will be choosing new drapes for the Oval Office in three and a half years.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

August 9 Part I: was dropping the atomic bomb the right thing to do

On August 6, 1945 a single B-29 dropped a single bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. That bomb destroyed the city and killed 66,000 and wounded 69,000 Japanese people, mostly civilians. When the Japanese government failed to respond at all to allied demands for surrender, a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 destroying that city and killing 25,000 and wounding 35,000. On August 15, 1945 World War II ended. This is the first part of a two part posting on two questions relating to these events.

Part I of my August 9th posting is devoted to the question of whether dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan was the right decision to make at the time. I think the answer to that question is YES for a number of reasons:

First, Japan needed to be defeated totally. A negotiated cessation of hostilities with the Japanese regime was not an option. Japan was far more dangerous and far more aggressive than Sadam Hussein could ever imagine being in his most devilish dreams. By 1945, Japanese forces had killed millions of civilians in China in a genocidal war that rivaled that waged by Hitler in every measure of beastliness. The average estimate is that Japanese forces killed 7.75 million innocent Chinese civilians. Japanese actions in China included massacres, mass rape, slave labor, forced medical experiments on civilian prisoners, chemical warfare, and biological warfare and more. Allowing Japan to continue under its existing regime/political culture was unacceptable. The defeat of Japan required either a full scale invasion of Japan itself (and possibly also China- In 1945, Japan had hundreds of thousands of troops living off the land in China that had yet to be defeated decisively) or some way to convince the Japanese government to surrender before such an invasion became necessary. Dropping atomic bombs was a successful attempt at the second option.

Second, the invasion of Japan was the only other alternative to dropping the bombs. Operation Downfall was to be a two phase invasion of the Japanese Home Islands. Phase 1: Operation Olympic was to involve a dozen or so divisions (the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 3) invading the island of Kyushu (on which Nagasaki is located). Estimates for American casualties in this first phase exceeded a 250,000 (By comparison, Total US military deaths in WWII were arpox. 300,000 up until August 15, 1945). Japan was showing no signs of weakened defense. On the contrary, Japanese military forces on Okinawa fought to the death. At the same time, Japanese authorities encouraged Okinawan civilians to fight the Americans and/or commit suicide. Civilian deaths on Okinawa were on the order of 150,000 with a third to a half of the survivors being wounded (the war was being fought right in their homes, villages and towns after all). American military losses in the Okinawa invasion were about 65,000 killed and wounded out of about 183,000 engaged. American intelligence reported that they expected similar tactics and results should the US invade the Japanese main islands but on a far larger scale. American intelligence also reported that the Japanese military had heavily reinforced their defense of Kyushu in July and early August of 1945. Phase 2: Operation Coronet was to involve nearly two dozen divisions invading the largest island, Honshu. The expected casualty rates reported above are for Phase 1 ONLY.

Third, the bombing of civilians did not begin with the atomic bombs. In fact, bombing of cities in Germany had already exceeded the casualty rates reported in Hiroshima and Nagasaki by using conventional bombs. So at the time the decision was made, the moral decision to bomb civilians had already been made years before. The only thing being considered was whether or not to use a new type of bomb. The type of target was no longer a matter for discussion.

Too often the debate about whether the decision to drop the bomb ignores Japan's war record and seems to assume that the alternative was peace. Neither is appropriate. Also, the debate about atomic bombing of Japan often masks the greater moral dilemma of civilian bombing in general (a tactic the Japanese used extensively in China).

Comments? Discussion?


August 9 Part II is it good that the Atomic bomb was used?

Part II of my two part August 9th posting is devoted to starting a conversation about whether the world is better or worse off for the Atomic bombs having been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

In my opinion the answer is YES for two reasons.

First, by using atomic bombs when the technology was new and relatively less deadly humanity was given enough of a preview of what horrors they inflict to warn us off using the hydrogen bomb or the neutron bomb. I am convinced that if we had not dropped relatively small atomic bombs on two cities in Japan in 1945, we would have dropped much larger bombs on many cities in China in 1950 when China entered the Korean War in force. That would probably have provoked a Soviet Response as the Communist Chinese and Soviets had yet to fully break with each other at that time. Indeed, it was President Truman who made the decisions both to use the bomb against Japan and to not use the bomb against China in 1950! What if Truman had been more willing to listen to Douglas MacArthur who was pressing to use the H-bomb against China!? Did Truman's soul searching after Nagasaki inform his decision in 1950? I suspect that it did. In short, I think MAD worked throughout the cold war because of the horrible deaths and injuries inflicted at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Second, Japan has never fully come to terms with what it did in the 1930s and 1940s. While Germans were forced to confront their crimes when allied occupation forces marched them en masse past the mounds of dead in concentration camps (which were located near major German population centers), Japanese civilians resided far away from the scenes of their crimes and to this day Japanese denial of their responsibility for millions of deaths (especially in China) is far more accepted and wide spread in Japan than in Germany. I suggest that the only thing that has limited Japanese nationalism is traumatic experience of having been nuked - twice. Take that horrible experience away and Japan today would have had a much different view of World War II and its consequences. This is leaving aside the issue of reduced Japanese casualties by avoiding the full scale invasion of Japan.



Thursday, August 04, 2005

Snuppy the Clone

LA Times Science page reports that South Korean scientists have successfully cloned a dog. "The researchers transferred 1,095 cloned embryos into 123 surrogate dogs to produce three pregnancies, one of which resulted in a miscarriage." (The other puppy died from pneumonia 22 days after birth, which researchers think had nothing to do with the cloning.)

Now "Genetic Savings and Clone", the organization that wants to clone dogs for their owners, may have a viable market strategy. If Dolly the Sheep managed to cause a fuss, what will Snuppy do? Ah well. Let the Clone Wars (in congress) resume.


Hey there, Judge (wink)... goin' somewhere?

According to the LA Times, Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, volunteered and worked pro bono for the gay plaintiffs in Romer v. Evans--the case that overturned Colorado's Amendment 2 that permitted discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment and housing. So John G. Roberts worked to support gay rights, and did so of his own initiative. (Apparently, he helped frame the arguments in such a way that the Supreme Court, not gay-friendly at the time, would accept them.)

The ultra-conservatives won't like that, I'm sure, but they'll fall in line with Bush. And with the moderates, I think Roberts is a shoo-in now.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Five Sheep and a Postage Stamp of Land

Sometimes, there's good news from Iraq too. I love this little story (from yesterday's AP). It's a great lesson in honor and respect flowing both ways. It might be the best $130,000 we've ever spent in Iraq--and a better ambassador for the American people we could not have found if we had tried.

Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache -- and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers. Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols, he's known as the American sheik.

Sgt. Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Sgt. Horn's first Humvee patrols.... and [Sgt. Horn] started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk with people about their life and security problems. Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area. He boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.

Sheik Ahmed, Sgt. Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Sgt. Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote... Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Sgt. Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Sgt. Horn each month to discuss security issues. Sgt. Horn doesn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lately has been prodding the Iraqi Education Ministry to pay local teachers, and he closely follows a water-pipeline project that he hopes will ensure the steady flow of clean water to his villages.

...To Sgt. Horn's commanders, his success justifies his unorthodox approach: No rockets have hit their base in the past half year. "He has developed a great relationship with local leaders," said Lt. Col. Bradley Becker, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. "They love him. They're not going to let anyone shoot at Sheik Horn."


We Are Family

The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that businesses providing special discounts and services to spouses must extend the same to registered domestic partners. The LA Times describes the decision in greater detail. The ruling is based on the law Gov. Schwarzenegger signed that took effect Jan 1, 2005. Not only was the decision unanimous, but the only judge to partially dissent did so because he wanted to go further!

This is a victory for all Californian families. And that's not just being a little snide--that's how the court saw it too. The country club in question tried to argue that (a) they were trying to limit access to the club because they couldn't let all of their "members' friends" play, and (b) they were trying to create a "family friendly" environment.

As to the first claim, the court noted drily that, since the club already permitted spouses, children, and grandchildren of members to golf for free, extending equal benefits to a handful of registered domestic partners would not create a "stampede on the fairway." (They also noted that the person requesting a spousal benefit was not merely a "friend" but a "registered domestic partner" in a "loving, caring, committed relationship.") And as to the second claim, the court replied with what I feel was its most important holding: the unambiguous recognition that same-sex couples are families too.

BHCC [Bernardo Heights Country Club] also argues that denying French the spousal benefit contributes to the creation of a “family-friendly environment.” While creating a family-friendly environment may be a legitimate business interest, that policy is not served when a business discriminates against the domestic partner of one of its members. Rather, by so doing, the business violates the policy favoring domestic partnerships which, like the policy favoring marriage, seeks to promote and protect families as well as reduce discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. Accordingly, we conclude that, while promoting a “family-friendly environment” may be a legitimate business interest, that interest is not furthered by excluding families formed through domestic partnership. [Emphasis Added]

The court was not fooled by BHCC's attempt to hide behind the claim that they were just pursuing a neutral "marital status" policy. The court said that, "there was evidence that unmarried, heterosexual members of BHCC were granted membership privileges to which they were not entitled, while plaintiffs were denied such privileges purportedly pursuant to BHCC’s spousal benefit policy. There was, moreover, significant evidence that BHCC’s directors were motivated by animus toward plaintiffs because of their sexual orientation..." In other words, the court knew what this case was really about.

The partial dissent was even more keen on this point. The judge said that the evidence showed, "BHCC maintained its spousal benefit limitation as a 'subterfuge' or 'device' to accomplish prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation." And when dealing with the "family-friendly" claim, the judge reasoned rather sarcastically:

"By “family-friendly environment,” BHCC, which denies having intentionally discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, cannot mean a club devoid of gay and lesbian members... By a “family-friendly” club environment, then, I take BHCC to mean not an environment excluding gay and lesbian couples, but, rather, an environment that welcomes members’ immediate families and includes them in club activities, promoting fuller social relationships within the club membership... but this goal would be disserved, not served, by the club’s policy of denying club privileges to registered domestic partners of members."

You know, it's nice that Janice Rogers Brown is off the California court so great decisions like these can now be unanimous. Thanks, W!


Monday, August 01, 2005

Nom de Plame

Once again, it appears that Robert Novak is trying to wriggle out of his culpability for disclosing that Valerie Plame was Mr. Wilson's husband and also a covert CIA operative. He says Valerie Plame was listed as Mr. Wilson's wife in Who's Who in America.

The aforementioned tome, however, did not mention Ms. Plame was a spy. And it is highly unlikely that anyone Ms. Plame dealt with on her foreign assignments would have randomly perused Ambassador Wilson's entry in Who's Who on the off chance that she might be his third wife. No doubt her maiden name was also inscribed somewhere in local marriage records. But that was never the point. Novak's crime was not doing detective work; it was shouting out what he had uncovered to the world.

You should read this profile of the Wilsons taken from Vanity Faire. Valerie's friends did not know she worked for the CIA. She had been trained in multiple languages and had demonstrated "considerable prowess" wielding an AK-47. It is a travesty that her anonymity has been shattered, and real damage has been done to her career. It is to her credit, I think, that she has thusfar chosen to retain as much of her privacy as she can.


Recessive Appointment

It's official: Bush has conceded his battle with the US Senate and has handed Mr. Bolton a recess appointment. That's a first for the U.N. ambassadorship. (I wonder if he'll ever do the same for the Supreme Court someday.) What does this mean for the US at the UN? Not much. An organization which Bush never respected anyhow will remain disrespected for a couple more years. And it's not as though our credibility at the UN could fall much lower.

Remember when Bush called Sen. Frist on the carpet and demanded that he organize another floor vote for Bolton? But Frist did not do so, and Bush capitulated. Frist has also departed from Bush on the issue of stem cell research. Is Sen. Frist declaring his independence of Bush in preparation for his 2008 run for the presidency?