Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nothing to see here, folks. Just state secrets. Move along.

From the AP: Feds move to dismiss lawsuit challenging spy tactics:
The Justice Department said Friday it was moving to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's secretive domestic wiretapping program.

The lawsuit, brought by the San Francisco-based Internet privacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, does not include the government but instead names AT&T Inc., whom the group accuses of colluding with the National Security Agency to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants.
From Wired News:
The government is not admitting, however, that AT&T aided the National Security Agency in spying on American's phone calls and internet communications.

"[T]he fact that the United States will assert the state secrets privilege should not be construed as a confirmation or denial of any of Plaintiffs' allegations, either about AT&T or the alleged surveillance activities," the filing reads. "When allegations are made about purported classified government activities or relationships, regardless of whether those allegations are accurate, the existence or non-existence of the activity or relationship is potentially a state secret."
Next on Fox, a new reality show, The Star Chamber. Followed by The President's Analyst.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Choose your poison

If Democrats expect to take back the country, they need to show voters that they can lead. By leading.

Leadership is about what you are going to do today.

Leaders aren’t just dreamers who offer perfect, but unrealistic solutions to problems, solutions available sometime in a distant future. Elections aren’t about what you propose for five years from now or ten. We could all be dead by then. You won’t be in office by then.

Leaders are people who can tell voters what they are going to do for them when they get into office in January.

Democrats have a reputation (not totally undeserved) among many voters as being dreamers, but not problem solvers. The problem Democrats have is, a) they want to take stands on issues that are sure to win public approval, and b) they want to choose among perfect solutions, not the solutions available come January.

Leadership isn’t just about being visionary and high-minded. It’s about being courageous enough to make choices, even among bad ones.

Take the energy crisis, just one example. Ask a group of Democrats (including progressives) what they propose to do about the energy crisis and you get a discussion of the merits of various options, and a litany of what they don’t want.

Fossil fuels contribute to global warming.
We don’t want more global warming.

Burning oil and gas means more drilling by oil companies.
We don’t want more drilling.

Coal is dirty and means more mining.
We don’t want more mining. We don’t want dirty air.

Hydro power means more dams.
We don’t want more dams.

Nuclear means radioactive waste.
We don’t want more radioactive waste.

Well, what DO you want? exasperated voters ask.

How about promoting clean, renewable energy? Like solar.

But today solar isn’t commercially viable for large-scale use and not practical or affordable for small-scale use.

Or wind power?

Wind energy is commercially viable, but geographically limited and not a solution where I live.

Or hydrogen fuel cells?

Not commercially viable.

Well it might be (someday), they’ll tell you, if we fund more research and promote it with tax incentives …

Yes, all those alternatives are good and worth pursuing, but what about the meantime? Gas is over $3/gal now. What solutions do you offer me today? How are you going to improve my life next year if I vote you into office this November?
"Well, it's a complex problem and it's going to take a comprehensive solution involving a raft of integrated technologies ranging from ..."
This is where Democrats fall flat.

Do something NOW. CHOOSE YOUR POISON. Literally. Don’t like your choices? Want to wait until that special technology magically appears that will make all your dreams come true? Folks, that’s the Bush plan. That’s what we have now. Why should they vote for you?

Choose your poison. Make a choice. Even a bad one. Show the voters you know how. That's leadership.

Democrats' approach to election campaigns are another example of choosing doing nothing rather than doing your best with what you have.

The problem with Democrats, a friend told me, is they need better candidates. (But she didn't offer any.)

I’d volunteer if I thought he/she had any chance of winning.

I’d volunteer if I liked their stance on
(insert your pet cause here, as Kos might say).

Why don’t voters see Democrats as strong leaders? That’s why.

And that's why we are going to be working hard on it. Watch this space.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Quid pro quo?

Something about this AT&T story has been nagging at me like a second-rate burglary. It might be just a footnote to the NSA domestic spying scandal. Or not.

Assuming for the moment that the allegations are true, AT&T would not go along with blatant violation of telecommunications laws out of the goodness of their hearts, out of a sense of patriotic duty, or for a mere promise of legal indemnity. They got something. Or were promised something.

What was their quid for the government's quo?

Smooth sailing for the SBC merger? (Like it wasn't going to happen otherwise?) Cash up front? A promise not to be punished for not cooperating? (The Bush administration saves its sticks for non-corporate players.)

Here's another possibility:

"Congress is going to hand the operation of the Internet over to AT&T, Verizon and Comcast." [more]

Matt Stoller at MyDD quotes this interview with Edward Whitacre, the CEO of SBC Communications (now AT&T):
How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG), MSN, Vonage, and others?

How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!
Follow the money.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The President's Analyst

On April 6, Mark Klein, a retired twenty-two year AT&T technician, told the U.S. District Court in San Francisco that in October 2003 the National Security Agency (NSA) installed data mining equipment in a secret room adjacent to AT&T’s San Francisco Internet and telephone switching hub. AT&T documents Klein submitted suggested that similar rooms exist in Atlanta and elsewhere. He says other technicians reported similar monitoring rooms were installed in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

"It appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet, whether that be people's e-mail, Web surfing or any other data," Klein said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

“Can you hear me now?” unnerved AT&T customers might say.

After the New York Times revealed the existence of the NSA program in December, Klein went public. His affidavit was filed as part of a class-action lawsuit a civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), filed against AT&T in January.

Other wiretapping lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others target the government, which President Bush deflects by claiming constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. So instead the EFF suit goes after private-sector accomplices.

EFF charges AT&T with violating customers’ privacy by participating in “a secret and illegal government program to intercept and analyze vast quantities of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications.” The suit alleges that in providing direct access to its voice and data network and its massive telephone and Internet records, AT&T is in direct violation of electronic surveillance and communications privacy laws.

The Times quotes an anonymous network designer who believes that the locations of the sites are consistent with administration assertions that only foreign communications or those between foreign countries and the United States are being targeted. He and other experts acknowledge, however, “it would be a simple technical matter to reprogram the equipment to intercept purely domestic Internet traffic.”

That is, assuming the NSA’s "semantic traffic analyzers" aren’t already warrantlessly tapping purely domestic calls. Asked about that very possibility the same day Klein’s lawyer released his statement, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the House Judiciary Committee, "I'm not going to rule it out."

When The President’s Analyst starring James Coburn ruled it in back in 1967, it was meant as satire.

Dr. Sidney Schaefer (Coburn) goes on the lam from his high-stress job as the president’s psychiatrist. Hunted by intelligence agencies from around the world, Sidney is ultimately “rendered” to an electronic fortress – a telephone switching hub, coincidentally – not by international spies, but by TPC (the phone company).

The corporation wants to reduce capital costs and boost profits by injecting telephonic microchips into people’s brains. TPC’s smiling, animatronic CEO explains:

“Can you imagine the ease, the fun with which you can place a call?” Just think the number and “you’re in instant communication, anywhere in the world.” All secretly monitored from a central location.

The phone company simply needs a law replacing people’s names with numbers as legal identification and requiring prenatal implantation of the “cerebrum communicator.”

But first it must overcome the public’s “misguided resistance.”

After torturing the president’s personal secrets out of Schaefer, TPC expects to blackmail the president into using his office to “mold public opinion and get that legislation.”

Pure fantasy. From 1967.

Anyway, blackmail is no longer necessary, so “pre-9/11,” as a former Halliburton CEO, Vice-president Dick Cheney, might say. “Torture doesn’t work,” as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might say. About getting that legislation, “Would 10K … help?” as one of lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s e-mails might say.

Instead of trusting to kidnapping, torture, threats and wiretapping, a modern CEO president can use town meetings as authentic as Disney’s “Hall of Presidents” to overcome misguided public resistance to, say, eliminating Social Security or to his second war.

Or his third.

“Wild speculation,” as President Bush might say.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The game is afoot

I woke up this morning to news of the Iranians shelling into Iraqi-Kurdish territory for the first time in years.
ZAKHU, Iraq (Reuters) - Iranian forces shelled Iranian Kurdish rebel positions inside mountainous northern Iraq on Friday to repel an attack, wounding at least four civilians, Iraqi Kurdish officials said.

"This morning Iranian Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side and the Iranian army bombed the area and repelled them. The shelling hit Iraqi land at Sidakan," said Saadi Pira, an official in Iraq's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party.
Oh great, here it comes. Listen for the growing drumbeat about Iranian aggression.

The fact that they were repelling an assault by Iranian Kurdish fighters will get drowned out by the sound of nuclear saber rattling.

And who's egging on the Iranian Kurds against Iran?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Focus, please

Scott Ritter on the peace movement, from the San Diego Citybeat. Good advice for Democrats in general, who could use a bit of focus:
You’ve offered the anti-war movement a bitter pill to swallow. You’ve said the peaceniks are a poorly organized conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism. Can you elaborate?

First of all, what is the peace movement? There is no national peace movement. There’s a conglomeration of organizations, all of which are ego-driven. If you take a look at Peace Action, they have a national Peace Action and they have state Peace Actions around the country. They don’t work well with each other; they don’t get along with each other. They feud. They don’t have a centralized plan.

You have Cindy Sheehan running around, a symbol of the peace movement. A symbol of what? Who is she? Who nominated her to be the spokesperson? She did one brave thing. I’m all for what Cindy Sheehan did last August. But people say, “She sacrificed so much.” She didn’t sacrifice anything. Her son sacrificed his life. In order for Cindy Sheehan to have sacrificed anything, she would have to have given up her son to the military. The last time I checked, he was an adult. He signed a contract. He went into the military. He went off to war, and he died. And, yes, it’s a tragedy that he died, and it’s a bigger tragedy that he died in a war that I believe is an illegal war of aggression. There should not have been a war to begin with. But Cindy Sheehan didn’t sacrifice a damn thing; her son did. He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country. That’s a tragedy that he died.

But this is the problem with the anti-war movement—they lionize people for artificial reasons. They give them artificial standing. There’s no depth to it. There’s no direction. Where does the peace movement want to go? Cindy Sheehan, in her own response to my [recent] article [criticizing the anti-war movement], spoke of defending a woman’s reproductive rights. You know what, Cindy? Go do that. But don’t call yourself the peace movement when you do that. Because when you do that, all you do is basically take the energy that’s necessary to have a genuine peace movement, to have a true impact, and you allow that to basically just be spread and wasted. It’s wasted energy. There is no peace movement. There is no peace movement. It’s a bunch of people who claim they’re part of a peace movement, but there is no peace movement.

What should the movement look like? What should it be doing?

I don’t know. I am not volunteering myself to be the visionary of the peace movement. All I’m saying is that having attended these meetings and reflecting on what I’ve seen, the peace movement’s getting its butt kicked. Who knows what it should look like. The peace movement needs to decide what it wants to look like. But, you know, they need to come together. There needs to a meeting of the minds, a unified vision statement: What do we agree on? What is our focus of effort? And then once you get this mission statement, let’s put a little bit of fire into this. Who’s going to be the person that makes sure everyone’s staying on mission? Let’s call that person the “incident commander,” whatever you want to call them. Let’s break it down. Who’s going to do the planning? That’s our “operations officer.” Let’s insert some structure.

But as soon as you mention “structure” to the peace movement, they get all nervous. They think it’s abut imposing military standards on them—an absurdity. The incident-command system that I referred to is something used by the firefighters in the United States. The big wildfires down in San Diego—ask your firefighter buddies down there what they did when they brought in national assets, state assets, local assets to fight the big fire. It’s called the incident-command system. It’s not a military system; it’s a control mechanism. The Red Cross uses it. A lot of civilian groups use it. It’s used to organize parades. It’s used to organize events. It’s about organizing, and making sure you don’t waste resources. That’s what the peace movement needs: organization and to stop wasting resources.

I’m a football fan. At the end of the day, I judge a coach and a team by the score that exists on the scoreboard when the end of the fourth quarter comes. And right now, it’s the pro-war movement 60, the anti-war movement nothing. Someone can’t tell me, “No, no, we’re doing OK.” No, you’re not. You’re getting beat, and you need to recognize you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out why you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out what you need to do to get yourself back on track. And the key thing here is: Bring a sense of focus and organization, which is lacking.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What Did Jesus Do?

Why did Jesus feed the multitude at the Sermon on the Mount? Why did he cure the sick, heal the lame, restore sight to the blind and make lepers whole?

Shouldn't those people have had to take responsibility for their own circumstances, develop some self-discipline, and pull themselves up by their own sandal straps?

Isn't what Jesus did in trying to "help" those people just a sad example of yet another, failed liberal social program? He simply reinforced their dependence on a Higher Power to solve their problems for them.

Shouldn't he instead have spent his brief ministry on earth preaching the value of hard work, entrepreneurship, lower taxes, and building wealth through investing in a balanced portfolio of equities?

And if you agree, dear friends, you should vote Republican.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dammit Jim, I'm an engineer not a tax attorney!

Once again taxes have been a head-banging ordeal. It's become something like figuring out Fizzbin for the non-professional. Every year I say I'm gonna get an accountant, then I'm too busy or too out of town during the week to line one up early enough.

"Taxes are the price we pay for civilization," Ben Stein just said on CBS Sunday Morning, quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes. He doesn't mind that some might go to welfare or other waste in government. There is waste in any large enterprise, Stein acknowledged, and in his own life as well. Nor does he mind that some of his tax money goes to support military families.

Unlike many of my more government-hating friends, I will "cheerfully pay for my little bit of civilization," as Stein put it. It's the paperwork nightmare we can't stand.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Real men don't use nukes

Seymour Hersh on NPR's Fresh Air, 12 April 2006
"In order to successfully bomb that (Iranian underground bunker complex), the president was told, we can guarantee 100% destruction with a tac-nuke. That was in a paper.

A few weeks or so afterwards, the Joint Chiefs realizing that this is, you know, perhaps even all along knowing, that was just an option, and whacko -- you don't want to start using nuclear weapons in the Middle East against a Muslim country -- went back to the White House and said, let's get this out of our plan. They tried to walk it back out. The White House then said, no, you, you [proposed] it; let's keep it in there.

At this point there was a lot of tension among some generals and admirals -- I can't say everybody, but among some -- about this, simply because they do not want the nuclear option in the package ...

Among many military people it's, believe it or not, real men don't use nukes. You know, we go out and get 'em hand to hand, or whatever.

...

If the president still insisted on keeping the nuclear option in the planning, guys were saying they would resign...

In all of the conversations I've had about this in the last three months -- more than that -- hundreds, and all of the talking, the one thing nobody's ever suggested is that there was any official reckoning or accounting or estimate of how many civilian casualties would result if we did an all-out bombing or even a partial bombing of Iran, a country with 80 million people, most of them instinctively pro-American and anti-cleric. That seems to be just a dreadful, dreadful fact."
**************
... his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had--for my sins, I suppose--to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it--I heard it.

The horror! The horror!


-- Joseph Conrad

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What will Al Qaeda think?

And I thought we still had troops in harm's way...
I've never voted for a Democrat in a general election in my life, and I don't expect to anytime soon, but it's been impossible for me over the past couple of years to get enthused about the Republican party. I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don't consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption — and, I know folks on this web site don't want to hear it, but deep down they know it's true — foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. -- George Conway, National Review, 10 April 2006
Et tu, Newt?
"Where I fault the administration is, sometimes it would be so easy to just be simple and straight, okay? All they had to do is go to the American people and say, we want to make sure that if the National Security Agency picks up a foreign terrorist calling someone in the U.S., that they can listen to the call..." -- Newt Gingrich, New York Sun, 12 April 2006
More...
"How can we discharge our oversight if, every time we ask a pointed question, we're told the program is classified?" Sensenbrenner asked Gonzales near the start of a lengthy hearing on the department's activities. "I think that ... is stonewalling." -- Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
Still more...
"He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq ... Mr. Rumsfeld must step down." -- Army Maj Gen. Paul D. Eaton, retired, formerly in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, regarding SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld in the New York Times, 19 March 2006
Why won't the MSM report the good news?
What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results. -- Marine Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff, Time magazine, 9 April 2006.
UPDATE:
"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."

Batiste noted that many of his peers feel the same way. "It speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," he said earlier yesterday on CNN. -- Washington Post, 13 April, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pickett's next charge

The evidence is piling up that President Bush was itching for a fight with Saddam Hussein long before the actual invasion and is itching for another.

Paul Krugman's column today summarizes the growing list of reports:
The New York Times has confirmed the authenticity of a British government memo reporting on a prewar discussion between Mr. Bush and Tony Blair. In that conversation, Mr. Bush told Mr. Blair that he was determined to invade Iraq even if U.N. inspectors came up empty-handed.

Second, it's becoming increasingly clear that Mr. Bush knew that the case he was presenting for war — a case that depended crucially on visions of mushroom clouds — rested on suspect evidence. For example, in the 2003 State of the Union address Mr. Bush cited Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes as clear evidence that Saddam was trying to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Yet Murray Waas of the National Journal reports that Mr. Bush had been warned that many intelligence analysts disagreed with that assessment.

Was the difference between Mr. Bush's public portrayal of the Iraqi threat and the actual intelligence he saw large enough to validate claims that he deliberately misled the nation into war? Karl Rove apparently thought so. According to Mr. Waas, Mr. Rove "cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged" if the contents of an October 2002 "President's Summary" containing dissents about the significance of the aluminum tubes became public.
While still governnor, Bush mused to biographer Micky Herskowitz,
“My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of [Kuwait] and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Uh-huh. And now that his presidency is on the rocks, Bush is looking to use the American military to "double down" his way out of the political hole.

Seymour Hersh in this week's New Yorker gives us a peek into the White House's foreign policy works. This time, it's a peek at Pentagon military plans for forcing regime change in Iran.
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”
Indeed. President Bush was determined not to repeat the mistakes his father made in Iraq. Instead he made all new ones. He plans to repeat his father's mistakes in Iran.

Given that some of the potential targets are hardened and deep Soviet-style bunkers, plus the same lack of adequate intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion over nonexistent WMDs, the White House is considering compensating with serious firepower, including tactical nuclear weapons. Hersh spoke with an unnamed former senior intelligence official:
“Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap,” the former senior intelligence official said. “ ‘Decisive’ is the key word of the Air Force’s planning. It’s a tough decision. But we made it in Japan.”

He went on, “Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout—we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out”—remove the nuclear option—“they’re shouted down.”
As the familiar prewar rhetoric heats up once again, retired Marine Lieut. General Greg Newbold quotes the rock group The Who in his 9 April Time magazine article, "Why Iraq Was a Mistake." The three-star general urges his fellow officers and citizens to speak out this time and not be "fooled again."

Newbold admits that culpability for the Iraq lies with himself, his fellow officers, members of Congress and the American media, and he decries White House efforts to deflect blame onto our own soldiers.
... Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
The errors were made at the top, Newbold asserts, by leaders who committed our forces "with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results."

The son of Bush has a talent for painting himself into a corner and leaving himself no other alternative than a military one. And rather than look as weak as he now is (and was), this Bush would order a second Pickett's Charge into a hail of canister shot rather than admit his first order was a grievous error.

Hersh cites a government consultant "with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon," as saying:
the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”
And again the fallout will be ours.

Give my creation LIFE!

Conservatism never fails. That's why many Republicans are now scurrying to put distance between themselves and George W. Bush. They have discovered their creation is an abomination, certainly not a conservative, as they first believed, nor the logical culmination of thirty-plus years of hard work and organizing to produce a conservative √úbermensch.

The GOP stitched him together from parts of past administrations, wrapped him from head to toe in donor checks, connected electrodes to the bolts in his neck, threw the switch on the Republican Noise Machine and said, "Life. Life do you hear me? Give my creation LIFE! " Only afterwards did they begin questioning what they had done.
GOP: Would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?
Karl: And you won't be angry?
GOP: I will *not* be angry!
Karl: Abby Someone.
GOP: Abby Someone. Abby Who?
Karl: Abby Normal.
GOP: Abby Normal.
Karl: I'm almost sure that was the name.
With apologies to Mel Brooks.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What's the Matter with Kansas Democrats?

A friend recently observed:
For Republican candidates, if Republicans can find one issue where they agree with you, it's enough for them to vote for you.

For Democrat candidates, if Democrats find one issue where they disagree with you, it's enough for them to vote against you.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Wake up, America!

Glenn Greenwald takes conservative columnist Mark Steyn to task today for this piece, another installment in Steyn's Muslims-are-the-new-Commies series. Steyn proposes defeating terrorism with tougher rhetoric. Don't just be afraid. Be V-E-R-Y afraid!

Greenwald observes:
"... Steyn thinks the problem is that President Bush and Tony Blair have not made it sufficiently clear to the American and British people that this is really a war against Islam. Yes, you read that correctly. Steyn attributes the plummeting support for the Iraq War to, of all things, political correctness gone awry. He writes:

The line here is "respect." Everybody's busy professing their "respect": We all "respect" Islam; presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers, lapsing so routinely into the deep-respect-for-the-religion-of-peace routine they forget that cumulatively it begins to sound less like "Let's roll!" and too often like "Let's roll over!"
...

Steyn concludes his column with this:

My worry is that the official platitudes in this new war are the equivalent of the Cold War chit-chat in its 1970s detente phase --when Willy Brandt and Pierre Trudeau and Jimmy Carter pretended the enemy was not what it was. Then came Ronald Reagan: It wasn't just the evil-empire stuff, his jokes were on the money, too. In their own depraved way, the Islamists are a lot goofier than the commies and a few gags wouldn't come amiss. If this is a "long war," it needs a rhetoric that can go the distance. And the present line fails that test.
For Steyn, the problem is simple: our rhetoric is not sufficiently inflammatory and jingoistic. The key to winning the war in Iraq and the overall war on terror is, apparently, to declare ourselves at war with Islam, and to make fun of Muslims.
I received another of Steyn’s fear-mongering ditties awhile back via one of my father’s e-mail buddies. "It's the Demography, Stupid" had all the "Wake up, America!" subtlety of the parody right-wing radio commentator, Earl Pitts – American.

While this jihad is still in its infancy, a burning xenophobia is our surest weapon, and Steyn works hard at fanning it. The secular west needs to wake up and face its slow suicide by contraception.

Steyn argues that just ground-pounding the Muslims wouldn’t prevent the fall of the Christian west. We suffer from an alarming birthrate gap vis-√†-vis the Muslim world, Steyn warns, and the Christian world risks being eventually overrun because of "our lack of civilizational confidence." (The cure for which is, no doubt, civilizational Viagra.) Americans are not afraid enough of the urgent threat posed by Muslim children and must retaliate by stockpiling more of our own.

To plagiarize a quote from a review of one of nuclear-alarmist Jonathan Schell’s old books, "I shudder to think how I’ve failed. I shudder for Mark Steyn, for all the time he’s spent banging away at his typewriter instead of banging away elsewhere."

Inward, Christian soldiers.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Automatons

On Face the Nation just now David Brooks described some of the White House staff as "automatons" and predicted the GOP would lose the House this fall (not that he's known for being right).
"Josh Bolten is someone, you know, if you divide the White House staff into automatons and people with whom it's possible to have a normal conversation, Josh Bolten is one of those people who can have a normal conversation."
Sen. Lindsay Graham was interviewed on Fox. Has anyone else noticed that he sounds like Mr. Rogers and sometimes looks like David Bowie?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Saturday A.M. grazing

Vessel Measures Record Ocean Swells - Der Spiegel
1 April 06

A British research team has observed some of the biggest sea swells ever measured. A whole series of giant waves hammered into their ship that were so big, according to computer models used to set safety standards for ships and oil rigs, they shouldn't even exist. [more]

Officials 'determined' to change textbooks - The Asahi Shimbun
31 March 06

Textbook editors said they were surprised by the determination of screening officials this year to ensure text references to Yasukuni Shrine, Iraq and territorial disputes followed the government line. [more]

Navy team to US to seal deal on large amphibious warship - The Indian Express
1 April 06

The purchase, agreed in principle, will make India the first country apart from the US to own and operate an Austin-class landing vessel. The 35-year-old warship is currently undergoing a refit and upgrade in Norfolk, Virginia. While the Navy’s pair of Magar-class landing ship tanks (LSTs) can transport and land 500 troops or 15 armoured vehicles onto a beach, the much larger Trenton can land 1,500 troops. It can also be used to land large amounts of relief in the event of a tsunami-like disaster. [more]

Strong protest lodged with Kabul over killing of 16 innocent Pakistanis - Pakistan Times
1 April 06

ISLAMABAD: As the nation of Pakistan was preparing to celebrate its Republic Day Thursday, Government of Afghanistan returned dead bodies of 14 Pakistanis who were gunned down by Afghanistan by the men of Afghan Commander Abdul Raziq who belongs to Achakzai tribe.

All those Pakistanis had gone to Kabul to attend Jashan-e-Norooz. They were picked up from Kabul, their hands were tied when they were killed in Spin Boldek.

They belong to Noorzai ribe. Pakistan Foreign Ministry summoned Afghan Ambassador to lodge strong protest with Afghan government over the brutal killings of Pakistani nationals and demanded prudent action against those who committed the crime.
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