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, May 31, 2007

Kissinger and Bush

Henry Kissinger wrote an appalling op-ed in the LA Times this morning. He begins by repeating the old canard that "American disunity" led to the ultimate defeat in Vietnam. But that's not the most dangerous duck he's floating. Kissinger says that we won in Vietnam, more or less, because our overtures to China got them (and the USSR, apparently, after the 1972 summit) to "stand aside" when we mined Hanoi harbor. That, he said, scared the N. Vietnamese and got them to sign the peace deal. He then says that "American disunity" again faltered when the USA would not back S. Vietnam after the war even though we had "had achieved a decent opportunity for the people of South Vietnam to determine their own fate." Now what's really scary is that Kissinger is regularly consulting with Bush and Cheney.

Of course, this is realist rubbish. McNamara and Kissinger never understood that the Vietnamese conflict was a colonial war, with the USA playing the role of imperial power (stepping in for the French) and facing a domestic insurgency motivated by its desire to be free of occupation. They always believed that they were fighting a proxy war with the USSR and/or China. They never got it. In "Fog of War", McNamara finally admits he now understands it. Too bad for 50,000 dead Americans and a scarred generation. (Rumsfeld and McNamara are twins in their arrogance: in "Fog of War", McNamara basically says that he's so smart and did the best anyone could do given the information he had, ignoring the millions of Americans at all levels who protested because they knew better- he still thinks they are somehow the problem).

Bush makes the same errors in Iraq, thinking that Syria and Iran are the "real" enemies. Or the amorphous "foreign fighters" of Al Qaeda. Or "Islamofascism." No, it's not a cold war redux. No, it's not a proxy war. What we have in Iraq is a domestic insurgency motivated by domestic politics. It's Vietnam all over again. And just like in Vietnam, the President keeps lying, saying that victory is "just around the corner." All that's around the corner are more dead boys.

Just like Iraq today, S. Vietnam was not a popular or democratic regime. It was a sick, corrupt, and ugly dictatorship. Iraq's new puppet government under Al-Maliki is becoming the same thing, beholden to various Shi'ite militias, running death squads out of the ministry of the interior, and so forth. The S. Vietnamese were not able to "determine their own fate" at any time. Neither is Iraq today. American disunity didn't cause S. Vietnam's collapse in 1975; the total lack of any support among the S. Vietnamese people did. Iraq may well go the same way, even if we achieve some form of phony "peace with honor" as Kissinger thinks he did in Vietnam.

In Vietnam, we were told that defeat would be catastrophic, the good old domino theory. Bush and Cheney say the same thing today, "defeat would be catastrophic, destroy the middle east, etc., monsters eating your children in bed..." Nope. Iraq should be so lucky to end up like Vietnam today.


DOJ Hirings and Firings and Democracy

We've been blogging a lot about the war lately: should Hilary apologize, should the Congressional leadership do more to stop it etc. But I think the biggest issue going on right now is the Department of Justice probe. Congress is investigating two related issues. One is related to hiring practices and the other to who gets fired.

First, did the DOJ make religious and political views a pre-condition for getting a job at DOJ?
This is the whole mess about the surprising number of people hired at DOJ with degrees from academically suspect, religious universities like Regent, Messiah and Liberty. If you think I'm just being snobby or anti-religious pick a field about which you know something (political science, economics, physics or whatever) and check out the CVs of the faculty at these places
and compare them to the CVs of faculty in the same field at even average public universities like Kansas or Kent State or NC State.

Second, did the DOJ target federal prosecutors who refused to bring their prosecution strategies into line with Republican campaign strategies. The most famous examples are prosecutors who were fired for either prosecuting Republicans like Duke Cunningham or refusing to bring poorly supported cases against Democrats in the run up to the 2006 elections. The latest story in the LA Times though is that a prosecutor in Minnesota, Tom Heffelfinger, may have been targeted for firing just as he "resigned for personal reasons" because he resisted the local Republican Secretary of State's plan to limit Native American voters' use of IDs when they come to the poles. Reminiscent of the Blackwell scheme in Ohio in 2004, the Minnesota Republicans were planning to refuse to allow Native Americans to use their tribal IDs to prove their identity when they went to vote. Heffelfinger's office said it might be a violation of Native American voting rights.

The pattern is clear. The DOJ has been transformed into a political office. Prosecutions under the Bush regime are subject to political approval. Prosecute the wrong person or refuse to prosecute the right person and you could be forced out. Graduated from Harvard but not a Fundamentalist Christian? Well, you may not be DOJ material then. Have a law degree from a cracker-jack box but you're a biblical literalist? You'll be in a position of tremendous authority before you're 30.

LTG's been busy as all get out lately so I'm not complaining that he hasn't blogged about this. But I really am interested in his analysis of this whole DOJ/Regent/Hiring/Firing mess.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Hillary Clinton is right not to apologize for her vote in 2002 to authorize the President to use force in Iraq. Given the information presented to her, and given her role as a Senator, it was the correct call. I recall that I was also in favor of the resolution at that time. She could have been more skeptical and pressed for more information--and ideally she would have--but the CIA and the White House would have not given her markedly different intelligence estimates than what they had already made available.

The critical distinction Clinton must continue to make is that while the decision to give the President the power to confront a clear and imminent threat (or what was presented as such) belonged to Congress, the decision to skip all diplomacy, scuttle the inspections process, and march straight into war belonged entirely to President Bush. Kerry did not make that case clearly, and may have lost because of that failure; Clinton is working hard to do it right this time. The one thing she must not do is apologize.


We Need This Bill

The immigration and border security compromise working its way through Congress is deeply flawed... but that still makes it far better than the current system, which has broken entirely. We need this bill. As Sen. Harry Reid put it, the new bill would allow us to, "refocus our limited resources on those who would do us harm, rather than those who would do us proud." There are three big components to the bill:

(1) Z-Visas. The "Z-Visa" would grant legal status to those here illegally since 1 Jan 2007. These would not be granted until certain border security benchmarks are met, and applicants would have to pass a background check and pay a $1000 fine. In time, those with a Z-Visa could apply for permanent residency ("Green Card"), although not until all current applicants have been reviewed (Z-visas go to the back of the line). This is the so-called "Amnesty" provision.

(2) Guest Workers. The "Guest Worker" program that would permit about 200,000 workers per year (reduced from 600,000 in the original bill) to come for a two-year period. After a one-year wait, another two-year visa would be granted. None after that. This is the provision that the unions don't like.

(3) Point-Based Evaluation. Under the current system, applicants for permanent residency can file based on family ties or an employer's affidavit. These would now be combined into one system that allows applicants to accrue "points" based on family , education, employment, etc. Such a system would make it harder to bring in more distant relatives and would make it easier for people to apply on their own. This is the provision that Hillary Clinton and others are trying to water down.

I approve of the Z-Visas because we need a realistic way to deal with the current security hazard posed by so many millions of people living outside the law. I approve of the point-based evaluation system because the current one is fossilized and almost any update would be an improvement.

The deepest flaw in the bill is its failure to deal adequately with the problem of future illegal immigration. The "guest worker" program is too small and too limited, and furthermore the very idea of it violates a basic American promise: that all those who come here (legally) are fully welcome, and should put down roots and invest in their community. Still, it will reduce the illegal immigration somewhat, and may be amended in the future.

The real solution to the whole problem is just to lift the caps, end the quotas, and issue a lot more visas and green cards to those who want to live and work here. But as always, the ultra-nationalists want to burn the welcome mat as soon as they enter the golden door.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Total Betrayal

The latest "deal" to fund the war is a total betrayal. The Democrats have failed totally. I think Keith Olberman says it best.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Plot Thickens

Man, turn off the news for a few days and you almost miss the most important story of the week!

It is an established fact that Turkey has been amassing troops on its border with Iraq. Currently there are some 400,000 ready to rock and roll. The weekend bombing in Ankara that killed 6 and wounded many more may have pushed Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, over the edge. Ankara believes, but has not yet confirmed, that the attack was carried out by Kurdish separatists operating from Northern Iraq.

Erdogan has told his General Staff (Turkish equivalent of our Joint Chiefs) that if they want to attack "Kurdistan", he will support them. At the same time, he has warned the U.S. that we must crack down on border incursions into Turkey by PKK separatists.

This is a very big deal and we should be paying close attention. Erdogan is not popular with the military at the moment (see previous posts on the situation in Turkey). The military has all but threatened a coup. Erdogan has now called for early elections. I am sure that he would love to give the Turkish people a reason to keep the AKP (conservative party) in power. What better way to do so than to start military action!

In addition, with the election of Sarkozy in France, Turkey's EU membership is even less likely and thus that carrot is no longer viable. Turkey will feel no need to contain itself. There is a great deal of resentment building up against the EU and even the U.S. Turkish liberals are not happy with globalisation nor the feeling that Turkey is being pushed to accept it. All of this puts the U.S. in a very difficult position and could expand the boundaries of the war. Turkey is a long-standing ally with the second largest military in NATO. The U.S. has the largest military in NATO.

Our new president may be inheriting a much bigger problem than Iraq. We may very well be gearing up for a much larger war. If Turkey gets involved in Iraq, then prepare yourselves for Iran to move in. That will pull in Israel, Syria, and the rest. And then we will have a serious big ball game.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Debtaes . . . Yawn

Apologies to our readers for our long pause. We have all be preoccupied with life . . .home buying, moving, new jobs . So while this is late considering the second Republican Debate was last week, better later than never.

I have been watching the debates on line. First of all, Fox hosted the Republicans and like all Fox productions, it resembled a game show complete with buzzers and light cues.

In general, there are four types of candidates: The front-runners, the hopefuls, the amusers, and the certifiables.

The front-runners are playing it safe. Clinton and McCain are trying to look as "presidential" or seasoned as possible. And Clinton is now sending the message out about how detail-oriented and studious she is. This has been the message in a recent Economist article as well as a recent Newsweek article.

All Giuliani has is 9/11. I think the luster will wear off of him fairly soon. People don't want to hear about 9/11 all the time and he won't appeal to a national audience if all he wants to do is talk about NYC. Romney and Obama are trying to make a good impression, but both come off looking light. Romney, in an interview recently said that his granddad had multiple wives because he was told to do so by the elders- a pretty bad way to spin the whole thing in my opinion. But then again, I am not sure how you spin that well. Obama is all charm, but little content. He's VP material at best.

The hopefuls are trying to stand out in the hopes of edging in on the front runner. John Edwards held his own and may still stand an outside chance. I just don't see Todd and Richardson getting any traction. These are potential cabinet members but not presidential material. The same can be said for Tommy Thompson, Tom Tancredo, Brownback, and Huckabee and Hunter, I just don't see it happening for them. I think the Republicans are still looking to find their guy. And the candidates in this category are really positioning themselves for posts in the next Administration.

Among the amusers are Denis Kucinich, Joe Biden, and Ron Paul. I found Paul to be interesting. He is a libertarian who has nothing to loose and is challenging the Republican candidates out right. A lot has been made of his statement that blowback caused 9/11. I think that was a courageous statement for him to make. And the only candidate to really make a big deal of it was Giuliani who is sort of obliged to do so since 9/11 is his thing. At MSNBC’s site, 49% of those participating in the survey gave Paul positive marks. But they are self-selected, probably watching on the internet like me, and thus don’t resemble the average Republican voter. So I doubt you can site that as meaningful.

I don’t think Joe Biden is serious. I think he is having fun more than anything else. As for Kucinich, how can you take a guy who waves a pocket copy of the constitution around and brags that he is middle class because he still lives in the house he purchased in 1971 as serious? Give him a cabinet post: health and Human services, or Housing and Urban development perhaps.

The biggest nut case is Gravel for the Democrats. He is a piece of work . . . makes Alaskans look bad and appears to be a bitter kodger more than anything else. In fairness, the Republicans don’t have anyone certifiable, at least none we know about.

What did the rest of the Citizens think?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Oh Good! That'll fix everything!

When we started this mess in Iraq Bush appointed what amounted to a Viceroy for the occupation. I use the old feudal/imperial term deliberately.

Three years, 3000+ American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars later and things are even worse than when the Viceroy left his post with nothing accomplished. What is Bush's latest miracle solution???

He's appointed a "War Czar." I am amazed at the idiocy of this. Bush is acting as if the problem in Iraq is a management issue. The inability of this administration or anyone of influence within it to see even the most basic features of the political terrain in the Middle East is astounding. The problem in Iraq is that we're stuck between two (three) sides of a bitter civil war each of which is backed by regional powers who distrust us at best or hate us.

And will this even do what it promises? Will it really centralize command? No. In reality what this will do is add a commander (who will be based in the White House!) answerable only to the President but able to countermand the orders of regular command structure in the military. I can't imagine that the Joint Chiefs are happy about this at all. The spin from the White House will be that this centralizes command and control. The reality is that it will further politicize an already over politicized operation.

Bush is worse than Nixon. At least Nixon's escalations were part of an overall strategy of face saving withdrawal from Vietnam. Bush is just being criminally stupid.


New Wiretap Scandal

Quite unexpectedly, former deputy AG James Comey testified today that, at one point, the Administration tried to get him to sign off on an even more sweeping wiretap bill when Ashcroft was in the hospital with pancreatitis (so Comey was Acting AG). Comey refused. So Card (WH chief of staff) and Gonzales (then WH counsel) went to the hospital to try to coerce Ashcroft into signing. He still refused. It went into effect anyway. Later, a current, "revised" version was agreed to.

"I was very upset," Comey told the committee. "I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me."

And what did the Administration really ask for? Comey would not say. But if it was too much for Ashcroft... wow...


Monday, May 14, 2007

Is Bush Judgment Proof?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will remain in his post until President George W. Bush leaves office. Such a prognostication is always risky--though far less so than it would have been a month ago--but the reasoning behind it is simple: Bush has decided to get stubborn about Gonzales. Bush knows this Senate will never impeach anyone in his administration unless they are actually convicted of a felony... so why should Bush budge?

Similar logic holds for the Democratic attempts to attach strings to Bush's supplemental funding request for OIF. Bush knows that Congress will fund the soldiers in the field no matter what... so why should Bush even bother to negotiate? Furthermore, Bush can rest assured that nearly any veto he makes will be sustained in at least one chamber, so the Democrats are hamstrung there as well. People speak of keeping "pressure" on Bush, but Bush has been living with basement-level approval ratings for over a year now and doesn't give a damn anymore. What does he care what the Washington Post writes?

My question for the blog is: how can the Democrats get some leverage on Bush? They can try to swamp the White House with subpoenas, but already many officials in the Bush administration have refused to give testimony on record (much less under oath!) in the Gonzales case. The Democrats could shut down the government like Gingrich did in 1995, but it will probably fail similarly--and even so, Bush cares little for any part of the government except the military, and he knows the Democrats will never starve the Pentagon in the current climate. The Democrats could refuse to pass any of Bush's legislation... but I am scratching my head to guess what legislation that might be: does anyone know of anything Bush wants to do now except keep the Democrats from repealing his tax cuts?

Is there anything the Democrats can do? Is it really possible for Bush and his war to become so unpopular that a third of the Republicans will break ranks and override a veto? As far as I can see, the Democrats best hope is that Bush or Cheney will personally insult enough Republicans that they are willing to break with him. In other words, other than hoping the Bush administration will shoot itself in the foot again, there is little hope of ending this war anytime soon. Otherwise, I think Bush can keep doing what he is doing because, politically speaking, he is judgment proof.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday YouTube

The creation of life on earth, Family Guy - style. With the obligatory dig at Kansas.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Millionaires for Rudy!

More specifically, if you're not a millionaire, Rudy gets to treat you like dirt. This story is unbelievable.


Giuliani's Right to Choose

Giuliani has now made it clear that he intends to run as an unambiguously pro-choice candidate. With this stance, can he win the Republican nomination? And if he wins the Republican nomination, will his pro-choice platform attract enough support from independents to outweigh the loss of support from the evangelicals?

Finally, is it healthy thing for the Republican party that a major candidate like Giuliani has asserted his right to choose a different (and more mainstream) position... or will the anger and infighting over abortion do the Republican party more harm than good during this long, long primary season?


Monday, May 07, 2007

Whistler Blower and Student Loan Flapp

This is why persistance matters among lower level civil servants. What happened to Jon Oberg, a Department of Education researcher, is what I see happening all the time. People either put their heads in the sand with indifference, refuse to fully understand the issue that has been brought to their door, or try to stop you from fixing problems in any way possible.

The dirtiness of this Administration and the attitude of entitlement has roots so deep, it is shocking.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

French Election Day

At midday, reports are that over 75% of French voters have cast their ballots. By the end, 85% of France's 44.5 mil voters had cast ballots. Sarkozy is the declared winner with 85% of the vote coutned. If you had tried to find out who was winning earlier today, you had no joy. French law bans the publication of any exit polls or projections in France until after the last polling stations close in big cities at 8 p.m.

Something else, we might want to consider adopting in our elections, that, and holding elections on a non-working day!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sarko or Sego?

That's the title of an interactive quiz at to help you decide who to vote for. Since I was still undecided I took the quiz and ... I'm for Royal, 12-8 out of 20 questions. So I guess I'll vote for her. All things being equal (and they mostly are, for me) I'd rather have a woman in charge anyway.

If you speak enough French and know enough about French politics (I had to look up a lot of the terms) take it yourself! I'd be interested in hearing the results.


Bravo La France!

Yesterday the French deserted their city streets and sat for 2 hours and 40 minutes listening to their two top presidential candidates debate in an open format. Seated with two moderators, the two candidates had a substantive debate and were allowed to address each other. The initial time allotted was 2 hours. However, no one complained about their favorite TV show being bumped in order to extend the debate. Bravo! This is how it should be! All networks in this country should be made to air debates for free, and they should do it willingly! It won't hurt their billion dollar profits that much and the airwaves belong to the public!

85% of French voters participated in the first round of voting. It is estimated that 20 million people in France (a nation of 61-64 million people) watched the debate and I can tell you that several of us in my office, French and otherwise, watched it as well. It was an incredible show of quality politics and debate. These are two very professional candidates who appear to have some level of conviction about their programs. The French are taking this election very seriously and the results will be close. But I think Sarkozy will take it.

The take away message for Americans, GET SOME DEMOCRACY! Watch debates, let them run long, learn something, make candidates be substantive, let them address each other, force them to interact! How they interact with each other will tell you how they will handle interaction in the White House. And for God’s sake, drop this win/lose mentality. It isn’t about who wins a debate and who loses. It is about educating voters and allowing voters to choose for themselves. Win of Lose should be saved for election day. I am tired of politics being compared to war and sports events. We have to improve the semantics in this country to elevate the exercise of our campaigns and elections.

If only we could see our candidates in a similar debate, if only we could shut down our nation for a night to watch these debates, then maybe we could create a cohesive nation of informed citizens!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Turkey and Democracy

Turkey is in upheaval. The selection of a conservative President by the Turkish Parliament that is dominated by the conservative, AK party has raised, yet again, concerns in Turkey’s secular future.

The AK Party is dominated by conservative Islamists. They are the equivalent of our Christian Coalition. For those who don’t understand how this works, the President of the Turkish Republic is chosen by Parliament. The President has veto power over parliamentary resolutions. The current president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, is a strict secularist. He has blocked many of the most conservative (i.e. Islamist) proposals to come out of the Parliament. This has actually worked out well for Erdogan. He can claim credit for many reforms that have help build up the Turkish economy. Of course, many of these reforms have been made under pressure from the EU and U.S.

The concern now is that if the Parliament selects a conservative Prime Minister, that the checks and balances of the system will be under threat. Who will stop the Islamist tide that seems to be threatening Turkish shores? Well, in Turkish history it has always been the military. In fact in Turkey, the military has always protected the Turkish state from itself. This is why many Turks support and trust the military. In this case, the military threatened Erdogan, telling him that if he ran, they would put a stop to it. Erdogan decided to get around them by putting up a soft-spoken, conservative diplomat. That hasn’t worked.

Over the weekend, there were huge anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Turkey’s cities. Today, Turkish police broke up May 1 demonstrations, arresting some 600 people, most of them leftists. At the same time, The Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that the election of Abdullah Gul to the presidency was unconstitutional because there were not enough participants in the election. This is a binding decision. So now, one of two things will have to happen. 1) Erdogan will have to call general elections 2) He will have to find a compromise candidate. He will end up taking the first option.

I am very interested to see how this plays out. Turkey is struggling now with deep riffs between secularists and Islamists, with globalization, modernization and cultural preservation. It is struggling to maintain its secular, westernized democracy. It straddles East and West. And as such, its East is very conservative, underdeveloped, and rural while its West is very modern, European, and wealthy. With insecurity on nearly all its borders, it is a nation that is trying to strike a very delicate balance. Many from Turkey tell me that the U.S. picks the Prime Minister. They tell me that this conservative party was supported by the U.S. embassy who wanted to create a model of an Islamic democracy. I am sure it comported well with the value system of this Administration as well. The result has been instability. Its success or lack thereof will have some interesting ramifications for US foreign policy and strategic interests.