Saturday, December 31, 2005

Latest on lobbying (bribery?) scandal within GOP

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has been a great source for understanding the unfolding lobbying scandal where Tom DeLay is the point man. This post explains some of the background on the latest, this time involving what may have been a largely phony lobbying group for "family values."

Surprisingly, however, the article in the Washington Post Josh is discussing, also tells us something quite nefarious in terms of the laundering of money through this probabaly false lobbying group: It appears this lobbying group funneled Russian source money to help persuade Representative DeLay to vote for Russia's interests at the International Monetary Fund.

Alger, I mean, Tom is gonna have some fun explaining that one.* I guess he'll say, for starters, "Well, the Ruskies weren't Commies any more and this was from Russian oil and gas executives who were private businesses--so no biggie!" The rejoinder: It's still a foriegn country where astute observers understand how closely tied such executives were, at that time, to the Russian government, still being run by then Russian President Boris Yeltsin. (Note: More recently, Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin, has been at odds with many of those interests as Putin has sought Western oil companies' assistance to kick start development of oil fields.)

Does all of this suggest a big GOP political meltdown in 2006? Probably, but the Dems may still not be organized enough with any consistent economic populist message to take back Congress.

As for the criminal prosecutions, we should all remember this: Even if Abramoff cuts a plea deal, the prosecution of these politicians will still be a criminal prosecution. The information brought forth so far represents some strong evidence, but is it enough to convince a particular jury after a high priced and detailed defense to convict based upon the standard that such defendants are guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt?"

*Joe McCarthy once famously slipped or "quipped" "Alger, I mean Adlai" which was a conflating of the infamous pro-Soviet Communist Party member, Alger Hiss, with the then Democratic Presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson during the last days of the 1952 presidential election (General Eisenhower was the Republican candidate and eventual winner of that election, of course; though McCarthy's statement backfired more than helped Eisenhower). As for Hiss, I have long been convinced of the essential correctness of Allen Weinstein's book on Hiss, but have never understood just what Hiss did that was treasonous. The problems with the formulation "Communist equals spy equals treason" are not often discussed even among historians arguing over Hiss. Hiss' son, Tony, maintains this web site defending his father.

(Edited)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Iraq and Venezuela roundup

Two articles worth reading:

1. IRAQ: It appears much of the Sunni leadership is spoiling for a civil war. With the UN elections inspector who believed the results of the election were an accurate reflection of the electorate, Iraq may be sliding into civil war. Notice the relative quiet among the right wing blogs. They can feel it, too. While there is always the chance the Shi'ite leadership will agree to new elections--they might because they know they are going to win a strong majority anyway--there is less and less reason to believe much of the Sunni leadership will accept the fact that the Sunnis are outnumbered in a new Iraqi government that rests upon votes of the populace of the entire country. As usual, I say it's time for US troops to leave Iraq.

2. VENEZUELA: A very well written post on Venezuela by Mark Weisbrot at Josh Marshall's place known as TPM Cafe. Weisbot who has closely followed events in Venzuela. He rips into a Foreign Policy magazine article that was quite over the top in attacking Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. Does anyone with an ounce of thought think Chavez is less a "democrat" than the Saudi or Chinese leadership, with whom the Terrible President and elite businessmen in the US trade with constantly? The reason certain elite elements and the Terrible President don't like Chavez has little to do with "dictatorial" tendencies and much to do with the fact that Chavez has used oil revenues to boost literacy, education in general, health and safety, and land redistribution in the nation he leads.

Final comment regarding Weisbrot article: Check Weisbrot's rejoinder to an anti-Chavez commenter to Weisbrot's post.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

More info on "Munich" and fight over history

Here is an article from the Jerusalem Post that summarizes the issues with George Jonas' book and the recent charges of historical inaccuracy of Jonas' book (not just the film) from Aaron Klien and others, includng David Kimche, a former intelligence agent who was near the vortex of the Iran-Contra scandals under former US president, Ronald Wilson Reagan (aka "Mr. 666") (Bias alert: please note the source link about Kimche is from Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which is known as a very pro-Palestinian group of analysts. However, please also note that the excellent and definitive book on the Iran-Contra scandals, "A Very Thin Line" by Theodore Draper (Hill & Wang, 1991) confirms Kimche's involvement as well as the involvement of other Israeli officials).

Also, it is not as if George Jonas, the author of the 1984 book Vengeance, upon which Speilberg's "Munich" is based, is some left-wing, self-hating Jew (though here is an example of a right wing Jewish guy engaging in self hatred). Here is an article Jonas wrote in October 2003 that David Horowitz felt obliged to reprint as a column. And of course, Horowitz has now printed another Jewish right winger's rant against "Munich" (scroll down on December 22, 2005 entry) with no indication by that ranter that the film may be a fairly reliable adaptation of Jonas' book. Jonas writes for the Canadian National Post and is a contributor to the original American modern conservative movement magazine, National Review.

The interesting question is whether Jonas will stand up for the Speilberg film's basic premises and points that, again, appear to be consistent with Jonas' own book. At this point, it is hard to credit screenwriter Tony Kushner's leftism with reference to the film's point of view, as most critics appear to be doing.

(Edited)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Juan Cole on Iraq

Juan Cole has an informative post on what he calls the 10 "myths" currently circulating about Iraq. Reading it, though, I find some disagreement, but some surprises--such as Iraqi religious Shi'ite leader's Sistani's less than friendly stance toward the Iranians and the US not really being interested in any free elections in Iraq.

Cole's first point is his best, which is that it is a canard to suggest, as supporters of the Terrible President often do, that the insurgency is confined to four of eighteen provinces in Iraq.

Despite the disagreements and surprises, I am more convinced than ever that pulling out US troops is best for America, and the best of what are all likely bad alternatives for Iraqis.

As for Iraq's future, can it be any worse than what it was under Saddam's reign during the 1960s through early 1990s (after which, Saddam was largely reduced in power, particularly in northern Iraq)? The latest evidence of mass graves should hopefully sober enough Iraqis about where extremist ideology and religiosity leads. Unfortunately, people do tend to forget these things when they are whipped up in various frenzies--kind of the way certain Terrible President supporters are supporting the Terrible President's failure to faithfully follow the laws of the United States.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The historical flaws of "Munich"?

"Munich" has been getting rave reviews and criticisms (I'm sure you've seen them, so no reason to link). Until now, the basic critique of the film comes from those on the Right (most of whom haven't seen the film) who say it is about "moral equivalence" of Palestinian terrorists and Israelis. I do not see violent films (I didn't see Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan, for example) and this one is one I'll likely miss, too. Thus, I won't comment except to say that we should be hugely skeptical of such critics in most instances, including such critics' carping about "Munich."

However, here is an article from Slate.com from an author, Aaron J. Klein, of a new book on the subject who tells us that there was not one single group of revenge assassins, but a wider ranging department set up within the Mossad (the Israeli version of both the CIA and FBI) to take out those who the Mossad (1) concluded took part in the Munich massacres and (2) thought were going to commit further terror attacks.

Going to the heart of the matter, Klein, a Time magazine reporter who specializes in the Middle East, writes:

"The assassins in 'Munich' are presented as quintessential everyday guys—patriots who want to defend their country and who gradually grow disillusioned, guilt-ridden, and paranoid. The Mossad teams did draw from the ordinary Israeli population, but they were well-trained professionals intent on their missions. In the movie, a Mossad agent gingerly asks a target if he 'knows why we are here?' That's farfetched. In interviewing more than 50 veterans of the Mossad and military intelligence, I found not a single trace of remorse. On the contrary, Mossad combatants thought they were doing holy work." (Italics added)

That there was no remorse may well have to do with the fact that they did not have to stay on that particular assignment for too long and were targeting those who were still-active terrorists. Then again, they may not have had any remorse, in any event. People come in all flavors of personalities, as many of us know by now.

But before those who critiqued this film without researching this information feel vindicated, here is Klein's penultimate paragraph, which tells us about the Mossad program of targeted assasinations in this instance:

"The Munich Massacre triggered a fundamental change in Israel's approach to terrorism—a 'Munich Revolution' (the phrase was used by the Mossad) that endures as a mindset and an operational protocol today. Finding and killing the perpetrators of the Munich Massacre was a part of that campaign only insofar as the men involved were deemed likely to act again. Revenge was the atmosphere—but preventing future attacks by networks that Israel saw as threatening its citizens was the goal. Mistakes were made, innocents were killed, and Israel's government and intelligence agencies never publicly questioned their right to carry out assassinations on foreign soil. Indeed, the true story of Israel's response to Munich is if anything more ambiguous than Spielberg's narrative."

Now that would make a great film, wouldn't it?

Klein's critique of "Munich", again, strikes directly at the film's claim that revenge is something which ultimately turns one to doubt and guilt. Maybe revenge does that in personal situations, but in larger political contexts where a nation's continued sovereignty or safety is at stake, maybe it doesn't.

In my initial post on the subject, I originally wrote that if Klein is correct, then the makers of the film were wrong to use a real life event as a backdrop and make us believe the basic narrative of guilt and doubt was historically accurate. However, I believe the filmakers, Spielberg included, deserve a defense here, as they admittedly used a different book for their film called Vengeance, which does say the leader of the Mossad unit did show doubt and guilt after awhile. Klein's book just came out this past week--marketing, marketing!--and we should perhaps be waiting to hear what the author of Vengeance, George Jonas, has to say.

In writing the above, I must also say the following: I am not a Spielberg basher. Indeed, I have great respect for Speilberg and his many films. I also love a film of his that most critics sneer at--Spielberg's 1991 film, "Hook." This was a wonderful film because it contains quite a startling insight into how we parents fail to see how much our kids want to look up to us, with us either showing indifference or stress-induced hostility towards them that often crushes the spirit of our children. If you think I'm reading too much into this film, then watch it again. Really. You'll see it and you will wonder whether those critics who hate that film even had any kids at the time they saw the film.

(Edited!)

Some web reading for the holiday season

1. This is a thought-provoking book review about how the Dust Bowl in the early 1930s at least partly arose from economic activty and inactivity--and how FDR listened to scientists to start replanting trees and engaging in better irrigation methods. The end of the article is worth reading as it shows how we quickly forget what we should have learned after a crisis. I have been a strong proponent of the view that the agricultural subsidies created the world's food basket inside the US--but also mechanized agribusiness more quickly, which led to so many people leaving the American Mid West and parts of the American South. Our politics and better cultural values may have been better served by focusing on the small farmer and organics, etc. starting in the mid- to late 1960s.

2. Here is a very thoughtful article on the consequences of the end of formal federal "mommy" welfare programs by Christopher Jencks, perhaps the greatest sociologist of our time. Jencks is not afraid to attack shibboleths of left and right, yet remains firmly in favor of a New Deal sensibility. In other words, he is upfront about his biases, yet takes pains to ensure he recognizes that those with whom he disagrees provide insight into certain important truths in nearly any policy matter. This article on welfare shows that many who thought the end of Aid to Dependent Families and Children (AFDC) would create a horrorshow for poor moms and their children were not correct. However, the poverty rate has risen nearly every year since 2000, which means, without mommy welfare, the poor are with us and not securing as much in the way of aid. Jencks also shows that, since many poor moms worked for much of the year from the 1970s through the 1990s (through the time Clinton and Republicans in Congress in 1996 abolished AFDC), the impact of making poor moms work did not have as much a positive effect as some of the humane proponents of killing AFDC expected.

Jencks once said that the more he studied society, the more he realized the following: There is no substitute for a re-distribution of wealth and power other than a re-distribution of wealth and power.

A tautology, yes. However, the point is in the power of saying something that is essentially taboo in corporate owned media. One may tell a woman to take off her clothes or say the "f" word, but nothing is more taboo-breaking than to say "Rich people have too much money, dammit!"

3. A bit further from home, a great overview book review and article about Turkey and the Kurds from the NY Review of Books. As Turkey attempts to complete its formal entry into US and European trade partnership, its Achilles' heel may be the growing recognition that our invasion of Iraq may have set the stage to complete Kurish independence--which would perhaps be the only immediate salutary effect of the invasion.

4. Fun and snark reading: Here is a take down of the silliest, most elitist sorority sister currently residing within our corporate media, Peggy Noonan. The review concerns Noonan's latest "book" about the late Pope John Paul II. The reviewing writer, Margaret Steinfels, was editor of Commonweal, a progressive and pluralistic Catholic magazine. If you never heard of this magazine, here is a brief history of that magazine, which is worth a read itself. Final note: The writer's husband was an earlier and terrific editor of Commonweal, Peter Steinfels, a friend of Michael Harrington and an all around supporter of a Church that is first and foremost humane, not oppressive.

(Edited)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Inverted Class War continues

Kevin Drum surprised me in his latest column that ripped transit workers who can make $22,500 a year as a pension (a) at age 62 or (b) after 25 years on the job (also must be at least age 55)--IF those workers ever reach the "high" salary of $55,000 annually. He finds it "indefensible."

Such a pension plan can only be possibly "indefensible" if one has already decided its okay to place income limits on rich people who make $1 million a year who have incredible retirement plans. Just check out Jack Welch's (of GE) or Mikey Eisner's (at Disney) for starters. Even relatively small, but publicly traded corporations have pensions or other equivalent plans for millionaires that would make your head spin.

But just look at the salaries of these guys and gals at top corporate levels. They get $1 million or more a year, usually don't have to pay for a car or medical coverage, and have other perks most can't even conceive of. After a couple of years of a $1 million, they have the ability to save enough income that they can survive on $20,000 a year for 20 years, roughly what a transit worker has after 25 years and first reaching the age of 62. And let's understand that most corporate executives will not get the type of back, neck and other body part problems that blue collar workers face.

No, Kevin. What is indefensible is the income received by CEO and Wal Mart money mongers which, without unions to act as a mechanism to spread wealth among workers at a company, ends up simply going from the pockets of the workers to the already big pockets of the executives.

Yes, lots of us in America wish we had a steady job for 20 years where the chances of being let go are small. Yes, all of us wish we had pensions that would pay out and not have the pensions be lost or replaced with a meager 401k which is a contribution, not a benefit plan.

But people (and that means you too Kevin, who I otherwise adore)! Let's stop engaging in inverted class war rhetoric against workers in unions or baseball players. If we're going to decide as a society that someone makes "too much" (a policy discussion I would recommend, by the way), let's start with corporate barons and separately, the Wal Mart family types who live almost purely off what is called "investment income" that has low capital gains tax rates, lower than many workers who are earning $55,000 a year.

I have never understood what makes "investment" income so important that we have to tax such income lower than wage income. Those who invest primarily have income that is "excess" to their basic needs and, once one achieves the levels one is speaking of, you have to be pathological to try and spend it all anyway. So, again, what is the point of creating such a subsidy in terms of tax rates?

Only pointy headed economists who whore themselves for corporations think this "incentive" of lower investment income is somehow required.

So, Kevin, don't sound like a Republican jeering at workers. Say, "Wow! Good for those workers! We need more unions and better paid workers like that!" That's the spirit. Charles Dickens would understand...As does Atrios, who initially just made fun of Kevin, but then wrote this explanation with some numbers.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

You know, things are looking up, aren't they?

Katha Pollitt, at the Nation, tells us to be of cheer at the end of 2005. I do believe she's on to something here.

If I may rhyme a bit:

Let the Republicans and their supporters be full of anger and jeer.

We must regain some hope and joy as we face the next year.


_______________

Yes, indeed.

Thank you, Katha. You have written a wonderful essay to read and reflect upon.

(Edited)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jack Anderson, R.I.P.

Jack Anderson, a muckraker who proudly wore that label and lived it nearly every day, died on Sunday. I meant to write something about it, but got caught up in the other events of the week.

Here is the article from the Washington Post, which highlights some of his impressive scoops:

"The number of scoops that he had a hand in was amazing: the Keating Five congressional ethics scandal; revelations in the Iran-Contra scandal; the U.S. government's tilt away from India toward Pakistan, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1972; the ITT-Dita Beard affair, which linked the settlement of a federal antitrust suit against International Telephone & Telegraph to a $400,000 pledge to underwrite the 1972 Republican National Convention; the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro; the final days of Howard Hughes; U.S. attempts to undermine the government of Chilean president Salvador Allende; allegations about a possible Bulgarian connection to the shooting of the pope; an Iranian connection to the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut."

Here is an appreciation by a great investigative reporter, Murray Waas. This article is terrific in placing Anderson in the context of the history of mass media over the past 50 years. He also writes movingly of his personal experiences with Anderson and his grief in not visiting him enough when Anderson's health was failing from the Parkinson's disease that would primarily end Anderson's still fairly long life.

Here, however, is a warts-and-all article writen while Anderson was alive that showed, like the rest of us, Anderson wasn't perfect, either. Also, the Washington Post obituary, the writer of the article mentioned that a couple of his interns were Brit Hume of FoxNews and Howard Kurtz of the Post. Bad. Very bad. As Waas says, however, he and Tom Rosenteil were also Anderson interns.

Anderson also helped out Ann Coutler's hero, Joe McCarthy (!), in the early days of McCarthy's farce and sometimes inquisition, though Anderson later skewered McCarthy and more consistently, J. Edgar Hoover. Plus, let's remember that G. Gordon Liddy had said, while working in the Nixon White House, that it would be a good idea to kill Anderson because of his scoops regarding the activities of the Nixon White House. To be an enemy of G. Gordon Liddy is a salutary achievement.

Overall, one may confidently say the weight of the deeds in the life of Jack Anderson fall far more often on the "good" side of life's ledger. Anderson was a national treasure. His consistent willingness to attack the powerful has been sorely missed among our remaining major newspapers for more years than we as a nation may want to admit.

(Edited)

Hooray for the 14th Amendment!

With the Dover decision (rejecting an attempt to require "intelligent design" as a "theory" in science classes in public schools), written by a Republican and "conservative" judge, scientific integrity has prevailed once again (as it did in the US Supreme Court years ago in rejecting an attempt to impose creationism into science classes).

Here is an excellent web log, known as The Questionable Authority, that provides nearly everything one needs to know about the decision, the reaction from both sides, and some fun commentary.

One thing that caught my law-minded eye was a sophomoric analysis of the 14th Amendment by someone at something called "The Federalist Blog." The purpose of the long blog entry (and it is longer by far than anything I've written!) is to say that the 14th Amendment did not extend the protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights to citizens of the U.S. within the States they reside or visit. Before the 14th Amendment, there was no doubt that the Bill of Rights were largely limits on the power of the federal government (the First Amendment states for example, that "Congress" shall make no law "abridging" speech or establishing religion). The 14th Amendment, or the interpretation of its language in many US Supreme Court decisions, expanded the Bill of Rights to place limits on State power vis-a-vis US citizens.

In reading the Federalist Blog analysis, I found that the author of the article ironically strengthened my view that the 14th Amendment did incorporate most if not all of the Bill of Rights to apply to the individual States. How? Deep into his article, the author admits the following statement was made by the main Congressional author of the 14th Amendment:

"Probably the most misunderstood comment by John Bingham that has helped fuel the controversy came some four years after the Fourteenth Amendment had been adopted, when Bingham rhetorically uttered: 'These eight articles [Bill of Rights] I have shown never were limitations upon the power of the States, until made so by the Fourteenth Amendment.'

"But minutes later Bingham says, 'In this discussion I have been necessarily compelled to speak of the powers of the national government and of the powers of the States, and have referred only incidentally to the provisions of the Constitution guarantying rights, privileges, and immunities to citizens of the United States.'"

Why the first statement quoted by Bingham is "rhetorical" is not explained. In fact, it is a clear recitation of the position that the 14th Amendment abridged States' rights to the extent their actions conflict with the Bill of Rights on behalf of individual American citizens. The author also fails to explain (to my mind, anyway) why the statement Bingham supposedly made "minutes later" contradicts Bingham's point. If anything, it is a re-statement of the principle that the 14th Amendment concerns the "the powers of the national government and...the powers of the States..."

His best point occurs near the end of the blog post where he points out that Bingham, after the vote approving the 14th Amendment, approved a bill that supposedly promoted "Christian materials." Here is the quote from the blog post:

"Why would such a devoted Christian man (Bingham), who after the adoption of the Amendment vote favorably for a bill to promote Christian materials in District of Columbia schools, or never to bring up a discussion of enforcing the "Establishment Clause" against the States during the entire legislative process? Furthermore, consider the text of the Fourteenth Amendment as it is found in the Constitution today with its silence on the 'Bill of Rights.'" (Parenthesis and italics added)

The phrase italicized is merely the author's interpretation of the bill Bingham supported. In an entry today at his blog, the author gives the precise wording of what appears to be the salient portion of the bill in question when he states:

"Soon after the Fourteenth Amendment was passed, the same Congress went on to pass 'A Bill To establish a system of common schools for the District of Columbia.' The requirement of this bill was that the "school books used shall be such as shall best promote the acquirement of the branch of knowledge to which each relates, and shall be Christian in their character.' Not exactly the kind of bill you would expect from Congress if the US Supreme Court's jurisprudence is to be taken seriously at all." (Italics added)

First, we note that the language of the bill says nothing about Christian "materials." It states the school books should be "Christian in their character."

Second, the term Christian here is used not as a noun but as an adjective. I looked up the term "Christian" as an adjective in the Merriman-Webster's dictionary, which admittedly is the modern dictionary, not one from the late 1860s. It defines "Christian", when used as an adjective, this way:

"Christian

"Function: adjective

"1 a : of or relating to Christianity (Christian scriptures) b : based on or conforming with Christianity (Christian ethics)

"2 a : of or relating to a Christian (Christian responsibilities) b : professing Christianity (a Christian affirmation)

"3 : commendably decent or generous (has a very Christian concern for others)

- Chris·tian·ly adjective or adverb"

I note the third definition comports with the use of the term Christian that is outside the religious connotation. In my own life experience, I also recall that, up until the last 20 or 30 years, I have had people tell me when I did something nice that what I did "was mighty Christian" of me to do. The statement was never used to denigrate my Jewish beliefs, but to compliment the good thing I had done (I recall specifically a fellow law student from North Carolina who used this phrase often to describe someone who did something nice for someone else).

Finally, a review of the author's entire blog post reveals some statements by some of the Framers of the 14th Amendment that are supportive of the author's position. However, there are many statements he included that are not inconsistent with the quote from Bingham he found so troubling. One may also ask at various points that if the purpose of the 14th Amendment was not to limit the power of the individual States to oppress the "privileges and immunities" and "due process" rights of citizens, and to provide for the "equal protection" of the rights of citizens, then what the heck does it mean? The author attempts to limit the meaning to civil and criminal cases, but even that begs the question of why lawsuits like the one in the Dover case are supposedly improper to bring.

(Edited)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Optimism fades...

I was hoping things might actually begin to go well in Iraq.

Oh well. So much for hoping.

On the other hand, as far as the chances of the impeachment of the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities goes, things are beginning to look up.

(Edited)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Right leaning law prof analyzes what the Terrible President did

Orin Kerr, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, writes a detailed and almost persuasive article that says the Terrible President "probably" didn't violate the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, but "probably" violated the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

I respectfully disagree as to the Fourth Amendment with Professor Kerr for the following reasons:

1. First, Professor Kerr writes near the beginning of his analysis: "As I understand it, all of the monitoring involved in the NSA program involved international calls (and international e-mails). That is, the NSA was intercepting communications in the U.S., but only communications going outside the U.S. or coming from abroad."

I believe the professor should be careful about drawing large conclusions here, considering the Pentagon has not released all of the information as to who was tapped or under surveillance. (UPDATE: The NY Times revealed on December 21, 2005 that domestic calls were monitored without warrants under this NSA spy program). Further, Professor Kerr's analysis is too broad in concluding that American citizens may be tapped without a warrant for merely making an international telephone call.

2. As Professor Kerr acknowledges in his Update, the FISA law was created precisely to close any potential gap in the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment over the years by various Supreme Courts. The purpose of FISA was to allow the US government to investigate an emergency situation involving a foreign national of a hostile government and then, after the fact, seek a warrant. The law was passed in 1977 (and went into effect in 1978), following the disclosure of nefarious deeds of the CIA and the FBI by the Church Committee investigations (Frank Church was a Democratic Party Senator from Idaho and chaired the committee; most conservatives spit in disgust as they recall that committee, but it provided US citizens with important information about our government's often illegal actions and how much our leaders had lied to us about such activities).

In any event, as FISA closed whatever loopholes may have existed, and since it more apparent than not, even under Professor Kerr's generous analysis on behalf of the Terrible President, that these actions post-9/11 were in violation of that set of laws, the President's actions were improper and, per the FISA, in violation of Congress' attempt to restore limits to the exceptions to the prohibition against warrantless searches, contained within the Fourth Amendment.

Overall, the Kerr analysis is still worth the read as it represents the best analysis I've seen that attempts to defend the Terrible President's actions. Note (thanks, Crooksandliars.com and Tom Tomorrow!), however, that both Alan Dershowitz and Andrew Napalitano of FoxNews agree that the Terrible President violated the law and had more than enough ability to seek a warrant.

(Edited)

Interesting pespective on Boliva election results

From a freelance reporter living in Bolivia on today's election results. I cannot vouch for her general views, but I did some research on her through Googling her name. This is what I found:

She is part of a group called Citizens Trade Campaign. She also published an article appearing in Common Dreams earlier this year. This is the article.

Ms. Gordon appears to be of the "Left" so if that is disconcerting to any readers, they are, as usual, free to take what Ms. Gordon writes with the proverbial grain of salt.

Final thought: Is the presence of American troops in Iraq keeping the Terrible President from invading or at least destablizing other nations such as Venezuela and Bolivia? Could be. Even if I thought this was a salutary effect of the US invasion of Iraq, I would still rather have our troops come home from Iraq. We should rather deal separately with the Terrible President's likely hostile response to these other nations for their no longer wanting to follow stifling and anti-human corporate capitalist policies. Whether the policies pursued by Chavez and to be pursued by the new leader in Bolivia are more humane overall remains the rub, doesn't it?

(Edited)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Brooklyn terrorist plot not a valid defense for Terrible President's warrantless surveillance

Don't buy the nonsense that the illegal wiretaps were necessary to nab a guy with loose connections to Al Queda who was supposedly going to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. This has surfaced as the new defense from the Terrible President and his supporters.

Back in 2003, the culprit being referred to in the "Brooklyn Bridge Plot," Iyman Faris, pleaded guilty for taking some steps to determine if the Brooklyn Bridge could become a target for Al Queda. Faris, a man with a history of mental problems and a suicide attempt in 1998 or 1999, had traveled to Pakistan and had told Al Queda that he could blow up the Brooklyn Bridge...with a blowtorch!

Faris later told his Al Queda sponsor, Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed, that the terrorist attack could not be done.

How, then, did the US find and arrest Faris? Faris was exposed by Mohammad after Mohammad was captured in Pakistan and told what he knew about various low level hangers on with Al Queda still in the US at the time. If the US government did wiretap Faris thereafter without a warrant, this is totally ridiculous. No judge would have denied a warrant to the US government with information from Kahlid Mohammed--and certainly the FISA wouldn't have denied it, either.

The real irony? Faris, figuring out he was under surveillance, is said to have turned himself in to US authorities. Even more intriguing, he turned into an agent for the US government in making calls for US authorities on his cell phone to people he said were also with Al Queda. Let's also note Faris was not tortured...

Again, the point here should not be lost or twisted: The Terrible President cannot use this case as an excuse for seeking a warrantless search or tap on a potential terrorist suspect. The law, even without THE PATRIOT ACT, provides the Terrible President the ability to easily secure a warrant to find and arrest bad and apparently mentally unstable guys like Faris. The Terrible President, in briefly referencing this case as one of the reasons for why he chose to not use a warrant, is misleading the public once again.

Compare the Farris case to other warrantless surveillance uses, such as unarmed grandmothers and native born American citizen dissenters. At this point, one realizes that the reason the Terrible President didn't get a warrant against these unarmed and non-dangerous American citizens was because there would be no reason for a judge to grant such a warrant against what are merely political opponents of the President.

That is the crime. That is the scandal. And that is why our Founders wanted the Fourth Amendment prohibiting warrantless searches: To stop a sovereign from abusing his powers.

(Edited)

Impeachment is the answer (again)

While the Terrible President was doing this, he was failing to do what the 9/11 commission recommended.

The Terrible President's act and omission have the effect of lessening the effectiveness of government to protect and promote our best values.

That the Terrible President violated the law in spying on Americans, without even using the very easy method already approved by law, is without doubt. As for his continuing failure to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, it should not take, God forbid, another attack on our soil by foreign terrorists to see that the failure to implement these recommendations is approaching (if not at the level of) criminal negligence on the part of the Terrible President.

Every so-called "conservative" or Republican Party leader who supported the impeachment of Clinton should be screaming for the impeachment of the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities. Their silence is proof of the hypocrisy and venality of such persons.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Latest analysis and information on Iraqi election

The LA Times this morning has an excellent summation of where things stand and the challenges Iraq faces among pluralists and fundamentalists, among Shi'ites and among Sunnis.

A couple of neo-cons are already trying to rewrite history by saying our presence made the difference this time because we somehow secured the place and allowed the Sunnis, who were scared to vote before, to come out and vote. There are definitely some Sunnis who felt that way. However, the truth is that most Sunni leaders, from clerics to Baathists, were actively boycotting the previous two elections and, tacitly or actively supporting the insurgency the way the IRA in Northern Ireland gets support from its populace and "civilian" leaders.

The basic difference between the first two Iraqi elections this year and this latest election is that, contrary to such Terrible President supporters, the same Sunni clerics and Baathists decided to let people vote and see what that brings. There has been no showing that our generals changed tactics or did anything different to stop the insurgency--as even the Terrible President in the LA Times article warns of more violence. Our generals' statement to Congress in early October remains operative: Our occupying presence is what emboldens the insurgents.

An election that is as successful in turnout as this one provides the promise of future stability. It is not a guarantee. Again, the voices of peace must be heard. You know, the kinds of voices that neo-cons blast as weak, naive, etc. in our own nation.

UPDATE: Kristol and his co-hort at the Weekly Standard may want to read about how suicide bombers and terror attacks resumed on Sunday, December 18, 2005--just as Mr. Bad News arrived to try and get a photo-op from the initial glow of the Iraqi elections. As I had noted in this post above, the choice to attack or not attack is with the insurgents and there appears to be little the US forces can do in many if not most instances. This is not a criticism of our brave and able bodied troops. This is about the US being an occupier in a place where we do not appear to be wanted.
(Edited)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Language alert, but funny

My cousin Steve Peckman, he of the progressive-fusion band, Monkeyworks, sent me this very funny, if high octane cursing animated video about the end of the world. You need flash to make it work, though.

Also, I have another cousin, Zac Lasher, who leads a progressive rock band, U-Melt.

Yes, we are all progressive rock fans. Prog rules, man!

Cal Thomas agrees with me

Former Jerry Falwell communications director, Cal Thomas, says those who are pushing stores to say "Merry Christmas" are "Santa worshippers." (That's the last line in the article, which is worth a read).

The Boondocks comic has been on this all week, by the way.

Also, a take down of poor Burt Prelutsky pathetically trying to defend his Jewish self-loathing. And if you're wondering who this putz is, I hate to tell you, he is a very respected television writer who writes a regular column at the conservative-right on line journal, Townhall, (Clownhall in TBogg's put down) and is a film writer for Los Angeles magazine. He wrote some of the better or best episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore show, The Bob Newhart Show (second one), and even MASH (which last program, admittedly, does not hold up well). It's a shame, really.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Praying for the start of a stable and non-theocratic Iraq

The initial reports are leading me to become optimistic that the Sunnis have finally begun to understand that they must participate in the government of Iraq, particularly if the Shi'ites are willing to allow for automony in areas where the Sunnis are most numerous. See here and here where I have hoped the Sunnis may finally recognize they are a minority compared to Shi'ites and must learn to exist in a federation of sorts. Heck, I am praying that there was a low turnout among Shi'ite fundamentalists and a high one among Sunnis and Shi'ites who are more pluralistic and multi-cultural in their sensibility...

On the other hand, if it turns out the Shi'ites use their likely majority position and attempt to impose a theocracy that is discriminatory against Sunnis and is anti-pluralist in that it oppresses secular views and conduct, then that would be a bad outcome for America and the world--particularly if the Shi'ite led government moves toward even closer relations with the fundamentalists running Iran.

At this point, one may only pray that the results of this vote in Iraq are for democracy and an open society, not a theocracy and a closed one. And, either way, it's time to bring our troops home.

UPDATE: Even better news for the Iraqi people. I am very, very optimistic right now--although final voting results may vary my mood should the fundamentalist Shi'ites secure a majority. The US military, which told Congress and the world that it believed we should significantly lower troops in Iraq because our presence fuels the insurgency, should be pushing the Terrible President to immediately lower troops (more than this, General). I wish we'd just send our troops home now, he said again.

Calling Alexander Hamilton

Robert Reich, in The American Prospect, explains trends in wealth, nation building and nation sustaining--all in the context of corporate globalization.

Time for Americans to re-read Hamilton's Federalist Paper no. 11. Just substitute, oh, China, for Britain and ask yourself how angry Alex would be at the "Washington-corporate consensus" on so-called "free" trade. He's be screaming "It's about nation building! It's about nation-sustaining! My God, you people are ignorant fools!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Must read article on Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

At TruthDig, Marc Cooper writes a detailed and perceptive article on Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.

Cooper appears to recognize that the Terrible President and his supporters don't like Chavez because Chavez is actually using oil and gas money to help people and that their concern about Chavez's sometimes anti-democratic tactics is feigned. The Terrible President likes dictators just fine in China, Pakistan, Eygpt, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan (here, too, for Uzbekistan) and several other places. Heck, the Terrible President even gets along with the genocidal butchers in Darfur.

Iran's leader screams into a mirror

The new president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly has a Jew fixation and has established himself as the most anti-Semitic leader of a nation anywhere on our planet. His latest outburst, that the Holocaust is a "legend", is par for the course for this guy.

Later in the linked article, though, there is a quote from Ahmadinejad that was also quite striking. He said:

"'If your civilization consists of unjust acts, oppression and poverty for the majority of the globe to provide your own people welfare, then we shout at the top of our voices that we hate your frail civilization,' he added.

"This was greeted by rapturous cries of 'God is the Greatest' from the crowd."

He was talking about the West and/or Israel here, but allow me to respond:

Um, fellas--I include the crowd in this--are you sure you're not talking about your "civilization"?

And while we're at it, considering all the unjust acts, oppression and poverty around the globe, shouldn't we all "wrestle with God" (as Jewish partriarchs Abraham and Jacob did, among others) and say we are not satisfied with God's performance, either, in allowing this condition to be so common place around the globe? Someone who is "the greatest" should certainly be trying to do something better for the vast majority of people on our planet.

Another major irony in the quote cited above is that it shows Ahmadinejad has a similar mind set as some of those "clash of civilization" folks in the US--and they know who they are, don't they?

As I tried telling people back in 2002, when the Iraq War II bandwagon began, our nation should be more concerned with the conduct of Iran than Iraq. Iraq was contained and Saddam was acting more like a paper tiger than the mass murdering dictator of the 1980s and early 1990s. Plus, Iran's leadership was and continues to be more in line with the terrorists who attacked the US on 9/11. But, no, we had to have this diversion into Iraq that, as many have noted, is something which only emoboldened and played into the desires of the fundamentalist Shi'ites in Iran. We need to get our soldiers out of Iraq, rest our soldiers, watch carefully this guy running Iran and redouble our efforts against Al-Queda--and Iran itself, especially if it is reasonably possible to derail its nuclear development.

Why is this so hard for the supporters of the Terrible President to understand?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Take that, O'Reilly!" sayeth the Pope

The Pope says what I think myself: The emphasis on consumer shopping "pollutes" the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

When O'Reilly talks specifically about Christmas the holiday, as he does here, he is talking about Christmas trees and getting gifts as a child. Nowhere does he mention the religious element of the holiday. Here is his quote about his "first" memory of Christmas:

"Because it's our earliest Christmas memories. You know, I have a memory of me sitting on my stairs in my Levittown house, four rooms, and looking at this Christmas tree about 5:30 in the morning, my parents were still asleep, my sister was still asleep. And I just stood -- I just sat on the stairs and stared at that Christmas tree with all the gifts underneath. That is one of my earliest memories; maybe I was three, maybe four. OK? And I -- it was such a magical time for me as a child. It was just magic. The whole thing was magical. I never felt better as a kid than I did at Christmas time. I loved everything about Christmas. And I submit to you that 80 percent of Americans feel the way that I do. All right? That they just remember as a child the joy the season brought."

For O'Reilly, the primacy of Santa Claus over Jesus is quite clear.

Then, the very next thing he said (this is from his December 2, 2005 radio show) is this:

"I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that."

Feel the love here. Does anyone believe this would be Jesus' reaction when a store selling consumer goods every December says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"? One could make an overly broad point here about the "conservative" mind and how their understanding of "tradition" is simply what they grew up with. But that sort of "analysis" is what "conservatives" do, isn't it?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Of things RFK...and Richard Pryor

A great one act play about RFK is now in NYC. My wife and I saw it in LA and loved it. Jack Holmes has channeled RFK and has captured the essence of RFK from 1964-68. I noted the negative review of the play cited at the end of the article. It is the familiar cynical line that assumes an artistic work must be predominately negative to be valid. That's wrong, of course.

On a sadder note, a decent and brave soul, Eugene McCarthy, died earlier today at the age of 89. Read about him here. There was always something eccentric and distant about the man, but it was that sensibility that caused him, ahead of RFK, to take on an incumbent president in his own party and tell him he had fundamentally blown it by continuing on with the Vietnam War.

Finally, the second coming of Lenny Bruce was a guy named Richard Pryor. Pryor also passed away today after a half a lifetime of trying to kill himself--not really sucidal but more recklessness. But again, as with Eugene McCarthy, there was a double edge to that personality trait: It made Pryor take chances and do things that changed the way we think of stand up comics.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Women jihadists, patterns of human emotions and history, and the "virus" of equality

This article in Newsweek on the women jihadists is a must read--all of it. It's not about the western woman who was most likely in a Patty Hearst mode. The article is far more comprehensive than that. It makes clear that when bin Laden and his cohorts are talking to the Muslim world about "oppression" and "tradition," they are talking about the subjugation of women--just as when the Confederates at the start of the American Civil War were talking about their "rights," they were talking about slavery.

And now, just as toward the end of the Civil War, slaves were recruited and promised freedom if they fought against Union troops, the jihadists are recruiting women. The war with al Queda and Mulsim fundamentalists will not end as quickly as the American Civil War did after that phenomenon, however, because the Al Queda and like-minded fundamentalists don't yet have anyone humane at the top of their hierarchy the way the Confederates had Robert E. Lee--who, per Jay Winik's important work of history, "April 1865", reveals how Lee and Grant simply decided there had been enough war no matter what anyone else thought. And remember, the American Civil War was fought over a very limited scope of land so that Lee's action had a more comprehensive effect.

The point here is not to compare the Confederates to the Mulsim terrorists. For example, there were obviously no suicide bombers among the Confederates, thought there was terrorism against civilians, per Winik, particularly by Mosby's Rangers, among others. However, when one reads in the Newsweek article about the Muslim fundamentalists' argument that the West "emasculates the manhood" of Muslims and their incessant references to the Crusades, there is a cultural counterpart in the way some right wing American Southerners today continue to rail against "Yankees" and recoil in anger and fear that allowing immigrants and blacks to become part of the fabric of American life will undermine their "traditions." These are patterns recognizable at a particular level, but we can easily overstate the point and should approach it with humility and recognize the limitations of the analogy.

The Newsweek article also reminded me, once again, that the more one reads about or listens to the fundamentalist Muslims mullahs and their zombie like followers who seem to pin the essence of their religious views on issues of sex (virgins waiting in heaven for suicide bombers) and the subjugation of women, the more one is at least vaguely reminded of the relatively small group of anti-abortion and anti-homosexual religious zealots in our nation who define the essence of their Christian religion by the sanctity of zygotes and embryos or the hatred of homosexuals. Why these fellow Americans are not as horrible and widespread in their terror tactics as we see in the poor nations' Muslim counterparts has more to do with my next and final point:

Helping people in these other areas of the world develop economically and maybe dropping CDs, DVDs, beer, food, and blue jeans, and lessening the use of bombs, might prove more helpful to lessening the power of the fundies, especially as they are beginning to "empower" women. The fact that many of the Muslim fundamentalists' male leaders are from the middle and upper classes does not answer this point as many of the Communist Third World leaders of the 20th Century did not come from the oppressed lower classes, either. Note also that several of the women discussed in the Newsweek article were recruited after their husbands and sons were killed and that those who blinked at actually carrying out their suicide bombing mission tended to have something to live for. This tells us much about the scope and universality of human emotions and that this war against the Muslim fundamentalist terrorists can be won. It also tells us that we should not fall into one of those Jeanne Kirpatrick style of analyses that theorized the Soviet Union or Communism would never fall (Kirkpatrick later wrote about the fall of Communism and in her title, called it a "surprise". Heh and indeed!). The fundies will fail, if we change our leadership here at home and pursue more intelligent and practical policies. Bush has proven largely if not completely incompetent (above and beyond his misleading statements and his counterproductive invasion of Iraq).

(Edited)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Torture and Republican moral relativists

Another confirmation as to why torture is not only disgustingly reprehensible, but most often not effective in gathering truthful information.

As we consider the continued defense of torture by Mr. Other Priorities, I recall the days when putzim like this guy would rave against their boogeymen, mostly known as "Liberals" or the "Left," for beleiving in something these putzim (not the "Liberals" or "Left" themselves) called "moral relativity."

With the new generation of soft-bellied putzim merrily defending the use of torture, I notice we haven't heard much about "liberals" being "moral relativists" for quite some time.

This is yet another example of what I was posting about the other day as to how certain Republican supporters have perfected a polemical style of argument that is akin to American Stalinists in the 1930s.

And finally, off topic, though I can't resist: If anyone wants to read a true example of self-loathing by someone of the Jewish faith or heritage, this is it. Funny, though, I just feel sorry for the guy for writing such a poisonous thing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Closing churches for Christmas?

This article, if it reflects more than a few churches, is disturbing. Why would a church think that people would not want to show up at church on Christmas day because it is a Sunday? Yes, people spend time with families on Christmas day. Heck, we Jewish folks do, too! We tend, though, to go to the movies together, though. (In that regard, I must say I adore A Christmas Carol (the link is to the too often neglgected and wonderful book)).

But I believe these churches who are closing are missing something about the human psyche that may lead people to decide, upon the spur of the moment, "You know, it's Sunday and it's Christmas. Let's spend an hour or so at church today. It may do us some good." Call me an optimist, but I believe Christmas falling on a Sunday may even help remind people that this holdiay celebrates Jesus' birthday, not Santa's.

A related comment about the FoxNews-Jerry Falwell hysteria over stores and businesses saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas":

1. Most Christians I know are not the least bit offended by "Happy Holidays,"

2. MaxSpeak (and the Daily Kos) is perhaps partly correct, though not ultimately helpful, in trying to show that there is a whiff, just a whiff, of anti-Semitism in this bullying businesses into officially saying "Merry Christmas." I prefer to say that it shows a lack of religious tolerance to tell non-Christians that they better "like it or lump it"--with "it" being the requirement of businesses to say "Merry Christmas." When one thinks about it, this bullying goes against various percepts of Jesus, does it not?

3. The most ironic thing to me, as noted in the linked article, is that those who promote this hysteria are, in reality, promoting the idea of the commercialization of Christmas by wanting stores to consciously conflate Christmas and shopping. Why are these voices not instead speaking out against the commercialization of Christmas? One would think they would be wanting to separate, not conlfate that event with Santa, Germanic and Scandanavian winter celebrations with evergreen trees, etc. Rather than anti-Semitism, these guys are more likely just promoting their databases for money (Falwell) or promoting capitalist ideology into every facet of our lives (the FoxNews guys).

From the vantage point of those who value acknowledging Jesus' birthday, businesses that say "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" respect the distance between the religious holiday and the more recent cultural phenomenon of buying consumer goods to give each other on that day.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cetain Republican supporters and American Stalinists

For the past decade, I have noticed that the style of certain Republican supporters has strong similarities to those Americans who were Stalinists in the 1930s. They always led with a philosophical principle vehemently stated, but when confronted with evidence of Stalin's crimes or betrayal of such principles, they shifted gears and went to another principle that was just as vehemently stated. And oftentimes, they denied ever having held the previous principle.

Rick Perstein, in this remarkable speech to some of the surviving founders of the modern Republican movement, and some of their modern acolytes, nails this point with a breadth and depth of examples and analysis.

When two persons I knew who were always telling me they could not vote for Clinton because he led an immoral life suddenly said they were voting for Arnold Schwarzengger in the California gubernatorial recall of 2003, I told them they could no longer be considered "conservatives" in any principled sense. They now revealed themselves as merely "Republican." For Arnold's transgressions had a pattern of assault and assault-like behavior, unlike most of Clinton's transgressions, which was more like a rock star making it with groupies (The exceptions include: 1. Juanita Brodderick, who Chris Hitchens naively found compelling in her testimony that Clinton raped her, somehow herself managed to sign two affidavits saying otherwise and 2. Katherine Willey, who, ironically, Linda Tripp outed by saying Willey had been looking for a tryst with Clinton for quite some time before she got what she wanted to get from him--and recalls her very happy after the very encounter where she had sexual relations with him).

The money quote is where Perstein notes that for the modern GOP, the source of their ideology is not Goldwater, but Watergate. What he means, and the speech is a must read here, is the secrecy, the over the top attacks against opponents in elections, the corruption, and willingness to simultaneously destroy government's capacity to do good and expand its capacity to do wrong (or, to use the preferred right wing word, evil), and constantly attempt to manipulate enough of the electorate with any issue that diverts attention from what's really going on (think of Terri Schiavo, for starters, or the politicization of science).

The most unintentionally proving line is when M. Stanton Evans, an original Goldwater fan who help found the Young Americans for Fascism--oops, Freedom, admits he never liked Nixon "until Watergate." Think of how one can begin to make such a statement and one begins to finally understand the mindset that produced Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, or recruited the likes of Elliot Abrams.

It is rare that someone nails an entire movement the way Perlstein does because generalities always cry out for specific exceptions. Of course there are exceptions and counterexamples--and arguments in reverse such as Richard Daley, the boss mayor of Chicago during the 1950s and 1960s, personified elements of the New Deal, etc. But somehow the weight of evidence in this instance of the Republican movement's Goldwater or really Watergate wing is something that can be quantified and studied--and compared to the tactics and mindsets of American Stalinists in the 1930s who defended the indefensible and never said they were sorry. Hmmmm. Sounds like the Terrible President on Iraq or so many other matters, doesn't it?

(Edited)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday evening reading for December 4, 2005

The Nation's book review section has two intriguing articles:

1. An interesting take on the meaning of Jews in Western society, and on the non-Jewish ethnicities around the world who have similar habits we associate with Jews in pre-Renassiance Europe.

2. The origins and history of the famous, though ficitious, female adolescent detective, Nancy Drew.

Also, the following articles in the Nation are worth reading, too:

3. A nice summary of how Al Jazerra is a far more diverse and open voice than our domestic corporate media make it out to be--and how the Terrible President's desire to bomb Al Jazerra begins to look more like another example of the Terrible President's inadvertent and often reckless promotion Iranian and Saudi fundamentalism than anything resembling open government.

4. An important article summarizing the scary proposal by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to end habeas corpus petitions to US federal courts and the hopeful McCain proposal to ban torture.

Final comment:

I will make this prediction right now: Lindsey Graham will likely be the Republican Presidential nominee in 2008. If the Dems expect to beat him, they should be looking to nominate Brian Schweitzer, the populist governor from Montana. Yup, going out on a limb here, but it needs to be said now. Don't know who Schweitzer is? Here is one article that is worth a read. Graham, on the other hand, has already established his credentials with some D.C. Villagers as a "moderate" when he is anything but...And this proposal of his shows him bearing his fangs against the neck of liberty envisioned by our Founders.

(Edited)

Hey, that's my diet!

This admittedly unscientific experiment has appeal to me because I mostly do the same as this professor. This, however, is the key line and it is something that pretty much defines my eating habits:

"There is a catch to this no-diet diet, however: Intuitive eaters only eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. That means not eating a box of chocolates when you're feeling blue or digging into a big plate of nachos just because everyone else at the table is. The trade-off is the opportunity to eat whatever your heart desires when you are actually hungry."

The big problem here is metabolism, though, isn't it? I have always been thin, except during my infancy. However, those who have a metabolism that keeps on pounds of food they consume, then this plan, touted by this professor in Utah, may cause more harm than good. In my unscientific, life-experience, I have concluded that those who are overweight should merely attempt to become healthy with exercise and not try to become thin. For one's healthy weight may in fact be what our nation's cultural elite in the corporate media may still call "overweight."

One may then ask, "Well, what does 'healthy' mean?" The answer may not be simple, either, but it leads to better eating than a simple-minded drive for "thinness."

(Edited)

Women leave workforce due to recession or because they can afford it

Here are the two best competing analyses on the issue of whether, since the Terrible President began occupying the White House, women are leaving the workforce because they want to stay at home for the children or because of a weaker labor market.

Here is the Center for Economic and Policy Research's conclusions, which I find more persuasive:

"The important trend that this paper has explored is that the lackluster performance of the labor market since 2001 is the real reason that LFPRs have been falling among women. Women’s employment rates were hit exceptionally hard by this recession and they have yet to fully recover. While women had previously been more insulated from cyclical unemployment (teachers and nurses, as noted earlier in the paper), compared to men, now they appear to be nearly as vulnerable, although it remains the case that men’s employment rates fell further than women’s over the past few years. Future analysis should focus on demand-side factors, rather than assuming that most women either want to or are able to choose to stay at home. (Parenthesis added-MJF)

"The media hype about women opting out of employment is probably a result of the reality that for highly educated women, dropping out of the labor force is usually associated with having a child at home. What is interesting here is that just about the only reason that better-educated older women drop out of the labor force in the 2000s is to care for small children while at the same time, most highly educated women stay in the labor force when they have children."

Here is the "money" paragraph in Linda Hirshman's article in the American Prospect, which I will state below is less in disagreement with the Center's research than may be assumed:

"I stumbled across the story when, while planning a book, I happened to watch Sex and the City’s Charlotte agonize about getting her wedding announcement in the “Sunday Styles” section of The New York Times. What better sample, I thought, than the brilliantly educated and accomplished brides of the “Sunday Styles,” circa 1996? At marriage, they included a vice president of client communication, a gastroenterologist, a lawyer, an editor, and a marketing executive. In 2003 and 2004, I tracked them down and called them. I interviewed about 80 percent of the 41 women who announced their weddings over three Sundays in 1996. Around 40 years old, college graduates with careers: Who was more likely than they to be reaping feminism’s promise of opportunity? Imagine my shock when I found almost all the brides from the first Sunday at home with their children. Statistical anomaly? Nope. Same result for the next Sunday. And the one after that.

"Ninety percent of the brides I found had had babies. Of the 30 with babies, five were still working full time. Twenty-five, or 85 percent, were not working full time. Of those not working full time, 10 were working part time but often a long way from their prior career paths. And half the married women with children were not working at all.

"And there is more. In 2000, Harvard Business School professor Myra Hart surveyed the women of the classes of 1981, 1986, and 1991 and found that only 38 percent of female Harvard MBAs were working full time. A 2004 survey by the Center for Work-Life Policy of 2,443 women with a graduate degree or very prestigious bachelor’s degree revealed that 43 percent of those women with children had taken a time out, primarily for family reasons. Richard Posner, federal appeals-court judge and occasional University of Chicago adjunct professor, reports that 'the [Times] article confirms -- what everyone associated with such institutions [elite law schools] has long known: that a vastly higher percentage of female than of male students will drop out of the workforce to take care of their children.'"

But, as Ms. Hirshman and Heather Boushey of the Center for Economic and Policy Research both discuss in their respective analyses, these are the women of the elite sector of our society. They quit work because they can afford to do so--maybe even separate and apart from babies. Again, Hirshman:

"This isn’t only about day care. Half my Times brides quit before the first baby came. In interviews, at least half of them expressed a hope never to work again. None had realistic plans to work. More importantly, when they quit, they were already alienated from their work or at least not committed to a life of work. One, a female MBA, said she could never figure out why the men at her workplace, which fired her, were so excited about making deals. “It’s only money,” she mused. Not surprisingly, even where employers offered them part-time work, they were not interested in taking it."

As usual, I think, this fight over "what women want" is an overstatement based upon stereotypical assumptions that bear down on women in a way that we men don't directly deal with. Most of us, male or female, if we had the choice, would choose not to go to the office and face the nonsense we have to deal with at our jobs. Some are very happy in their jobs, and I've met women and men in the corporate world at least, who would rather be at the office than anywhere else. For the vast majority of people, and that includes the elite, we have other interests including raising children, writing, drawing, community volunteering, or following our hobby into a paying venture.

Hirshman creditably admits she is dealing with anecdotes for the most part. But those anecdotes are telling. She is correct to state that women do bear the brunt of child raising and this most often adversely affects their outside careers. The cultural default remains fairly engrained, at least in the U.S., that women, more than men, have the "duty" to take care of children, though this is less engrained than it was even 25 years ago in this nation (The rise of the househusband is still small, but no longer "weird"). Here is a somewhat related "pdf" that reviews the post-partum policies of the U.S., Netherlands, and Sweden that is excellent is understanding the intersection of culture and economics. The report shows us why we too often "over conclude" our data.

In any event, the more one reads these reports, the more a national policy of providing quality child care for children in the US makes sense from an investment as well as cultural (societal) standpoint. Reading such reports also leads one to recognize that we, as a nation, do place more emphasis on women raising children than men (I stand "guilty" of this in our home, I must add). But the bottom line remains, as Linda Hirshman aptly states in her article: Too often we analyze these issues as if it's women who should be the focus when us guys are standing off stage hoping nobody notices.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A military historian speaks out against the Iraq War II

Hat tip to Jim Wolcott's blog for this link:

Martin van Creveld, a very respected military historian, has written a scathing analysis of the Iraq War II. His last paragraph, after laying out his case for withdrawal, is what really grabbed me:

"For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins."

Here is the brief bio of van Creveld at the end of the article, in case anyone is wondering:

"Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at the Hebrew University, is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers."

I wonder what the right wing Victor Davis Hanson, a noted writer on the Peloponnesian wars in Ancient Greece--who also cheerleads for the Terrible President--thinks of van Creveld's analysis. In some ways, this article from Hanson in the National Review this morning may be his answer. Personally, while Hanson overstates the case of "success," in the long term of 10 or 15 years, Iraq may well stabilize--or break up into regional nation states that will then stabilize. The question, though, will remain: Why was it necessary to fight this war in Iraq in 2003 and beyond, compared to using all resources against bin Laden and the Al Queda terrorists?

Hanson is also absolutely wrong to assert that critics of the war have the burden of proof. No, professor. When it comes to war, the burden of proof must ALWAYS be on those who want to pursue war. For war is the exception to the Biblical and societal commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill. If you want to make a case for an exception to that commandment, you have the burden of proof. And here, the misleading statements and actions of the Terrible President and his cronies, their failure to plan properly for such an undertaking, and their inability to understand that bin Laden and Al Queda were and are the immediate priorities for our nation and the planet, requires that the Terrible President be impeached and his administration ended.

(Edited)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lesbian Dem Becomes Governator's Chief of Staff

Susan Kennedy, a so-called "Democrat" who is a lesbian and pro-abortion activist, is joining Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration as his chief of staff.

Maybe she read my long and quite prescient dissection of her corporate politics back in one of my earliest blog posts in May 2005. In the post, I wrote about "identity politics" gone awry where a lesbian Democrat at the Public Ultilities Commission--Susan Kennedy--was acting like a big-business Republican in undermining consumer protections and shilling for the big telecoms. At the end of the post, I said corporate Dems such as Ms. Kennedy, who are merely Democrats because they are lesbians, should join up with the Republicans and work to moderate that party. Now, she has. One less identity politics Democrat who is essentially a banker's Republican has joined forces with another banker's Republican.

Here is a money quote from the LA Times article:

"Kennedy, asked about working for a Republican governor, said: 'My philosophy has not changed. I see a man whose philosophy is not that different from mine. I can't see a lot of differences in philosophy. Moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans — there's not a lot of light between us.'"

That's right, Susan. You and the Governator both hate unions, don't give a damn about workers or their families, and just want to par-tay. But, really, I am very thankful she's joined forces with the Governator. More of these anti-union Dems should do the same. Maybe the culturally conservative religious voters who turn out for the Republicans can move beyond their disapointment and start to listen to Democrats who want to protect the manufacturing base in America, promote unions (which increase wages and benefits for workers), push for a higher minimum wage, create a national health insurance program, promote public financing to limit the power of big money in politics, and support government initiatives to wean us off fossil fuels--and maybe promote mass transit. You know, things that actually affect our daily lives and strengthen our nation.

Maybe Ms. Kennedy and "Arnold" can help moderate the California Republican Party toward something approaching humanity with regard to people who are so-called "homosexuals." I use the term in quotes this time to give some deference to Gore Vidal's insightful remark, which, while it overstates the presence of homosexual conduct within our society, provides us "breeders" (those of us who are not "homosexual") with a basis upon which to become more tolerant in the way that Jesus tells us not to judge people in terms of personal conduct. Sayeth Vidal:

"Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no one would perform them."

Somehow, though I want to believe that, I nonetheless think to myself, "Wait a minute. I'm heterosexual!" A man kissing a man? Yuck. But, still...

By the way, Vidal recently said, in an interview with Marc Cooper of the Nation magazine, that it is a mistake to promote gay marriage as an issue of public policy as it diverts us from vital economic issues and may even promote homophobia. As for the latter point, I find Vidal's position too defeatist and blaming-the-victim. As for his former point, made less clearly in his interview, I do wholeheartedly agree with Vidal's ulimate view that most of the population has no reason to see "gay marriage" as an issue worth discussing or promoting. Civil unions are both humane and appropriate. End of story. Let's not ever lose another election over "gay marriage," shall we?

(Edited)