Posted by Adam @ 9:40 am on May 25th 2007

The latest Rojas ‘Go Die In a Fire Award’ nominee is…

James Pacenza. Fired for visiting adult chatrooms at work? Sue your employer for not getting you medical treatment for your grot addiction, leaving you to self-medicate, at work, with ‘adult’ chatrooms.

These ‘someone sues someone else’ stories are really the low-hanging fruit*. Whether they win is the important issue (although how much winning cases costs the victor is also an issue, for me).

First nominee here.

*Although, let’s be clear, I’m not promising not to post more of them, if they make me laugh.

Posted by Brad @ 8:13 am on May 25th 2007

Find the Problem

Inherent to these two statements, both repeated multiple times by Bush this morning at the press briefing.

In case you missed it, John Aravosis at Americablog helpfully points it out:

I totally missed the bizarre exchange Bush had with ABC’s Martha Raddatz at his press conference this morning. First, Bush told the reporters, twice, that if we leave Iraq before “victory,” Al Qaeda will come to America and kill our children. He then said that if the Iraqi government asked us to leave today, we’d leave. He repeated that answer, twice.

So, in other words, if the Iraqi government asked us to leave, Bush would sacrifice your children and he’d even be willing to let the terrorists commit another September 11 here in America – remember, those were his words, that’s what HE and the Republicans have repeatedly been saying would happen if we leave Iraq before “victory” – because what the Iraqi government wants is more important to Bush than the blood of “your children.”

He is in so far over his head it isn’t even funny.

Posted by Brad @ 8:09 am on May 25th 2007

Headline of the Day

Mary Cheney Births Human Boy.

Despite some fears to the contrary.

You heard it here first.

Posted by Brad @ 2:23 am on May 25th 2007

Wolfowitz’s Bad Week

Now his girlfriend leaves him.


Posted by Brad @ 2:11 am on May 25th 2007

Is Rudy Giuliani a Libertarian?

I can’t quite figure out Ross Douthat’s perspective. He’s a clever guy and I enjoy his blogging quite a bit, but his take on the spectrum of American political beliefs is….well, bizarre. You can sort of understand where he’s coming from when he takes as a premise that Rudy Giuliani is a “Libertarian Republican”, or that throwing in with neoconservatives is the best hope Libertarians have of making a political impact, but neither premise holds up under even a cursory scrutiny. And yet, he doggedly blogs on.

Anyway, he asks the question: “If Rudy Giuliani is a Libertarian, and Ron Paul is a Libertarian, doesn’t it prove that Rudy’s brand of Libertarianism is more popular?”

Freedom Democrats gives the appropriate head-shaking eye roll.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:58 pm on May 24th 2007

One last red state update…

Dean Hancock of Tupelo Mississippi, kindly go die in a fire.

Posted by Brad @ 9:23 pm on May 24th 2007

This Just In…

Voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on EVERY SINGLE ISSUE.

Immigration, taxes, abortion, national security, economy, ethics & corruption, Iraq, education, health care, social security.

You get what you pay for I guess.

Take in conjunction with this:

More Americans — 72 percent — now say that “generally, things in the country are seriously off on the wrong track” than at any time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in 1983. The figure had been in the high 60’s earlier this year.


A large majority of the public — 76 percent, including a majority of Republicans — say that the additional American troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush have either had no impact or are making things worse there. Twenty percent think the troop increase is improving the situation in Iraq.

Italics mine.

Posted by Rojas @ 7:34 pm on May 24th 2007

Tallahassee harrass-ye

In accordance with my duties as the site’s red state correspondent:

The great thing about free speech rights is that they apply to everybody.

The rotten thing about free speech rights is that they apply to everybody.

I’ll be in the Houston area over the weekend–the home of both great good (Ron Paul) and dire evil (killer bees). I’ll be back on Monday afternoon, if I get back at all.

Posted by Adam @ 6:05 pm on May 24th 2007

Competence: not negotiable

Conservatives, because of our desire to cut government spending down, need to emphasise effectiveness in those areas where government is to be involved. When we apply that standard to individuals in government, it becomes an insistence on competence. Yes, we wish to reduce the number of things that government does, but we also have to ensure that what government does do is done well; competence isn’t negotiable. We can’t hide behind an ideology that we are ‘doing good’ as easily as lefties can, because competence is central to our ideology.

Alberto Gonzales will face no confidence motions. It’s obviously not binding on the President, but the expected negative judgement, after it’s put to votes in the full House and Senate, is probably a fair reflection of the performance of the Attorney General with respect at the least to the US attorneys affair. It’s a no-brainer; Gonzales has failed to display competence. He’s not failed as badly as Michael Brown did, but that’s hardly something to put on your CV and, furthermore, Gonzales is in a more important job than Brown was.

Regardless of the difficulty in getting a replacement through the Senate, Bush has to fire Gonzales, suitably disguised as a resignation ‘to spare the administration from the distractions of partisan investigations by Congress’, perhaps. Gonzales may well be a great guy, but the holder of the office Attorney General isn’t your golf partner or fishing buddy, he’s the guy that runs the system that helps keep the country free. Keeping him on, following other competence doubts about this administration, doesn’t just hurt this President, it hurts the cause of conservatism, the cause with which (justifiably or otherwise) this president has identified himself and with which he is identified.

Posted by Brad @ 5:54 pm on May 24th 2007

The Vietnam Question Redux

I’ve already argued over and over again that, despite some hot-headed claims, America is NOT divided over the War in Vietnam. It was seen as a bad idea, poorly executed, the withdraw from which was perfectly justified and even morally required. The only people who think otherwise are a small, but loud, minority, some of who currently have jobs at 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, more distortions from that same gang on the Vietnam question. President Bush yesterday:

“Now, many critics compare the battle in Iraq to the situation we faced in Vietnam. There are many differences between those two conflicts, but one stands out above all: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does.”

Wow. The revision of history is now quite wholesale. Frankly, I’m not even sure WHAT the neocons think of Vietnam anymore.

But let’s be quick about this: the conceptualization of Vietnam, as an isolated and self-contained struggle that entailed a bunch of Vietnamese nationalists wanting to kick us out of the country but whose interest in us ended there, was actually pretty popular in the 1960s, among dirty hippies and flower children. But it’s a pretty startling reverse-course from how THAT war was sold or remembered by the neocon bunch, including GWH Bush, Dick Cheney, and W Bush himself circa the 80s and 90s.

In the pro-war (in Vietnam) notion of it, the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq should be pretty close. Vietnam was a war, we were told, that we were REQUIRED to fight “over there” so the Communists didn’t start claiming whole chunks of the world wholesale and, soon, start fighting us “over here”.

Sound familiar?

Of course, they were wrong back then, too.

Josh Marshall has this, and more. Including some juicy quotes from LBJ, including:

What in the hell is Vietnam worth to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? We’ve got a treaty but hell, everybody else has got a treaty out there, and they’re not doing a thing about it.

Johnson: Of course, if you start running from the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.


“If we quit Vietnam, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week we’ll have to fight in San Francisco.”

And I’m sure you can scare up another 500 quotes like that from primary sources if you spend a day googling, or going to your local library.

Make no mistake, nearly EVERY time we’re pushed or frightened into boondoggle wars in pissant little countries, it’s on the grounds that so doing is required in some mystically nebulous but very simple and clear way to stop direct threats on our homeland, in some fashion. That was true for Vietnam, it’s true for Iraq. And so we send half a million of our boys into jungles and deserts falling into triggered explosives and dying over various patches of ground about as far removed from our national interest as is imaginable.

There ARE lessons to be learned from Vietnam. George Bush Jr., apparently, has learned all the wrong ones (even, idiotically, where mutually exclusive).

Posted by Adam @ 12:50 pm on May 24th 2007

Local reporting in Conwy County, Wales

There is a Welsh chap called Oscar, who has a blog that he started recently. I noticed his blog because of the technorati service that allows paranoid bloggers to convince ourselves that we are being read and linked, and ruthlessly cunning Welsh bloggers to exploit that paranoia.

Oscar’s is an interesting blog; I’ve never spent any time in Conwy County (the location of Oscar and the subject of most of his blogging activity), although I have been driven through it on a bus, headed for the ferry terminal at Holyhead in Anglesea. The coach and ferry to Dublin from Ireland, you see, used to cost about 30 quid, peanuts compared to the cost of flying, back then, and the journey through North Wales was very pleasant, although the traffic was often bad; additionally, the drivers used to speak in Welsh on the radio and I imagined that they were saying stuff like ‘Hah, got a coach load full of cheap English bastards, God, I feel like driving the bastard lot of them right into the sea. Boyo’.

But I digress. Oscar’s blog, supported by the fact that he appears to take a camera everywhere he goes, allows us to see what’s up in a place that the majority of us will never visit. The nitty-gritty of local politics has some universal themes, of course, but more than just being an interesting window onto local events, the to and fro of local politics and pictures of the area, the blog material is a record of what’s going on in that area as it happens and information like this, I think, will be of interest to local historians in the future; the material is digital and searchable and in its moment. The days of the local vicar researching an area and producing a poorly-copied pamphlet for visitors are a thing of the past (apart from in North Norfolk, where they are soon to break upon the residents like an effervescent wave of modernity) and nor do we have to depend on the nearest newspaper sobering up their local reporter for long enough to print some bland nonsense to fill the space in the local rag that’s not taken up by adverts for Indian restaurants and delivery pizza. I, for one, home that Oscar maintains his enthusiasm for recording what he sees.

So, for an up-to-the-minute account of what’s up in Conwy County, Wales, United Kingdom, check out Thoughts of Oscar. Perhaps, if he is kind to filthy foreigners, he might put up some sort of pronunciation guide for the Welsh placenames (I can do some of them, although my acccent would make any welshman grimace, but I suspect that most people over here wouldn’t know how to pronounce, for example, Llandrillo yn Rhos).

Posted by Adam @ 10:55 am on May 24th 2007

“How do you plead?” “‘Useless’, your honour”

Byron York has a piece on the Monica Goodling testimony to the Senate judiciary committee, which was something of an anti-climax for those who expected that Goodling, with her immunity from prosecution, would slash open a ripe old plot. However, he ends with a couple of paragraphs that are quite disturbing:

But just because Goodling handled herself well did not mean the U.S. attorneys mess became any easier to understand as a result of her testimony. Throughout the day, Goodling maintained that she was a small-time player in the firings; she didn’t know why, exactly, the U.S. attorneys were canned. In that respect, her answers resembled those of her old boss, Attorney General Gonzales, who has also testified that he didn’t know why, exactly, the U.S. attorneys were canned.

The dismaying possibility in all this is that both are telling the truth. Democrats, intent on finding an all-encompassing Rovian plot behind the firings, will never accept that possibility that the U.S. attorney firings were done in a manner that was so slipshod, so halting, and so pointless that nobody quite knew what was going on. But that may be just what happened. Whatever their partisan motivation, Democrats are trying to impose a logical template on events. In the end, they may be doomed to fail.

Well, I’m not so sure, myself, but it’s pretty weird that, in any case, the best case for Gonzales, and to some extent the administration, is utter incompetence (plus, as she admits, Goodling herself broke the law or, as she put it, ‘crossed the line’). At what point does the “It’s not my fault, I’m useless” story start to hurt Bush? Bush might well be worried about whom he can get through the Senate as a replacement but, frankly, competence shouldn’t be sacrificed to political expedience, even if ideology is. It’s not like there are a shortage of competent Republicans who could do the job; Gonzales’ main current achievement is making Ashcroft look good.

Posted by Brad @ 3:27 am on May 24th 2007

Abilene (The Eisenhower Waltz)

This week’s music videos were from Peter Mulvey, one of my guarded personal favorites. I saw him live last week, and bought his new album, and I’ve been listening to it a great deal since.

One song in particular, that he talked about and played at the show, really moves me. It’s called “Abilene (The Eisenhower Waltz)”. As Peter described it, he wrote it shortly before visiting Abilene (though once he got there, he decided he had got it right), and the impetus for it was re-running into Eisenhower’s farewell address to the nation, his famous “military industrial complex” speech, and the stark contrast that much of it bears to the situation we find ourselves in today.

It’s a quiet song, ruminative, but not as angry as it might be, and it looks back on the former President and his hometown with charity and soft envy, but it isn’t backwards-looking, exactly, either.

I have a particular romanticized soft spot for Abilene. I sobered up there in the late 90s for awhile, and it’s a hidden gem of a town. I often think that, if I ever get a writing career going, or even just, way down the road, retirement, there’s nowhere else on the planet I’d like to settle and be at peace in more. So when I heard him perform this song, I was really touched.

I also have a soft spot for Eisenhower, and when you read his speech today, the grace, wisdom, humility, and relevancy of that farewell address is striking. If it’s been awhile, you can read it here.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small,there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties….

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs-balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage-balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise.

I’ve been trying to think of how I can post the song, and finally found it online, at NPR. Here it is. Lyrics after the jump. If anything, what Peter offers is a gentle reminder. We could use it.


Posted by Rojas @ 12:40 am on May 24th 2007

Giuliani and immigration

Holy freaking God. How did I miss this?

Giuliani is well to the left of Bush on immigration. As New York City mayor, he ordered his police not to turn illegal aliens over to the feds.


…the Republican frontrunner not only supports illegal immigration in principle, he actually ordered his law enforcement officers to DEFY FEDERAL LAW in order to protect illegal aliens from deportation???

And somehow it’s MCCAIN who’s in trouble with the base on the immigration issue? When THIS is the alternative? When the Republican frontrunner is openly abdicating his oath of office in order to keep illegal immigrants in the US???

The Republican base just baffles me sometimes.

Posted by Adam @ 8:52 pm on May 23rd 2007

GOP: Not screwed after all?

David Hill thinks not (was linked at RCP).

I’m not so convinced that things are so rosy; in particular, I think that he assumes a homogeneity in the geographical demographic without showing that there is a homogeneity on the issues in those geographical subsets. As he states it, it almost looks like the GOP almost couldn’t lose that base, and that is dangerous thinking. Lastly, it’s not like the Republican party wins a national election in the South, excepting Florida. On issues, he has this to say:

The focus on issue divisions is another attack on the party that misses its mark. The Republicans have always had the kinds of divisions over issues that suddenly seem to be so telling to party critics. The doomsayers who make such a big deal out of Rudy Giuliani’s moderate positions on social issues like abortion and guns forget that moderates like Gerald Ford or Nelson Rockefeller have always been able to attract support from the same 35 percent who now support the latest squish to seek the presidency. This is nothing new or different. And besides, I’m convinced that these issue differences don’t matter much once the nomination is decided. After we have a nominee, the ranks start to close.

This ignores the fact that some of, say, the NRA types may just not vote (or could vote third-party: Ron Paul likes him some gun rights). Maybe Hill is right, but I’d say that assumptions on the lines of “we can’t lose our base” are damn dangerous. Another risk is that GOTV efforts lean on the base and require their enthusiasm, as does fundraising. It’s not as if the candidate just wants the votes from the base; cash and help will be equally welcome.

Similarly, I think that this is dubious:

In the end, it’s not conservative issues or ideology that defines the Republican coalition today. Instead, the framework around which the party is built is principally demographic, focused on the South, select suburbs, rural areas and traditional families (i.e., households with a daddy, mommy and kids). These building blocks of the party are not under the same siege that afflicts conservatism. So even though issues like Iraq and immigration are roiling the waters of Long Island or Chicago’s Lakefront, they’re not cracking the bedrock of GOP support in climes like Atlanta’s northern suburbs or rural Iowa’s farm communities. GOP fortunes were more threatened in the Reagan years, when GOP support in the rural Midwest was eroded by rural opposition to the Gipper’s farm policies. Southern support of the GOP was under greater duress when the first Bush raised taxes than under the current Bush.

Apart from the fact that Hill does say that issues can threaten regional support (having started by saying that issues don’t define the coalition), you take out issues and ideology and stress geography and you are committed to the idea that people vote for you just because of where they live or their age or marital status, etc; sure, I think that it’s a factor (an element of groupthink) and no, I don’t think that the GOP is screwed (yet, at least) but I think that taking too much reassurance from Hill’s analysis could help them get screwed. Demographic groupings don’t vote a particular way because they’re in that grouping; they vote for a lot of reasons and issues are one of them. The demographic is just shorthand for the raft of issues and contexts hidden underneath the label and the demographic’s historical loyalties are subject to change if those issues and contexts are better served by another party or type of candidate. Things may have inertia but when they do turn, that’s too late to try to be fixing things.

UPDATE: I see on re-reading that I have described Ron Paul as ‘Third Party’. I should point out that this time, he is running for the Republican nomination, but he’ll be doing it with plenty of Libertarian support. The genuine Third-Party candidate I should be considering is whomever should gain the Libertarian nomination; that person is guaranteed to believe in the ‘right to bear arms’. Along with the rights to do drugs, dodge the draft and engage in sexual relations with adult animals, no doubt.

Posted by Brad @ 8:47 pm on May 23rd 2007

“The people who are against the war were waiting for someone who wasn’t Michael Moore”

A lot of articles have been popping up only very recently, after the blowback from the last Republican debate has died down some, wherein journalists are now starting to take a real look at the Ron Paul campaign, and in so doing, are finding that their assertions and assumptions about the “snowball’s chance in hell” of a real and impactful anti-neocon foreign policy critique from within the Republican party might have been wrong, or at least overblown. The media, I think it’s fair to say, despite some grumblings about 11 Senators doing this or that, have for the most part taken it as a given that A. conservatives are unified behind the Bush conceptualization of foreign policy, and B. this is a generally popular position (even some who contend that it’s the “mainstream American” position, and those that adhere to it “centrists” on this issue).

Even the quick reaction from the South Carolina debate was all journalists and bloggers (including myself, I should add) quick to stuff it into the pre-fab “Republicans Strong On Iraq” meme that they’ve been pushing Day One. And yet now, after a second look, we’re starting to see the media sending out exploratory articles wondering aloud if maybe, this Ron Paul thing is more of a story than some obscure Representative in Texas that can safely be ignored and chalked up along with Duncan Hunter and Tommy Thompson as just white noise. I had a brief email exchange with a journalist for the L.A. Times the other day who had just written an article on the power of the Democratic party in online activism. I had corrected him on something (the idea that “no Republican comes close to Obama on YouTube”), and after our brief back and forth on that, he admitted that he’s thinking his next story (and “the” next story) about the intersection of politics and the internet is probably Ron Paul.

And it’s not just technology, it’s ideology.

Here’s an emblematic column from the Newark Star-Ledger, simply titled “The Neocon Movement is Over”. Knock me over with a feather on the title alone, but the piece is essentially looking at the Ron Paul phenomenon as the prima facie evidence that the neocon ship has sailed with the American public, and the Republican party has probably sailed with it.

Clearly, the doctor had hit a nerve. The neocons are fond of ar guing that we can’t simply retreat into “fortress America,” as they call it. But the impulse to do so is deeply ingrained in the American psyche….

As it now stands, all of the leading GOP contenders endorse some version of the neocon view of the world. They agree that it is the proper duty of the president to administer not just the United States but the Persian Gulf states. But the current Republican president has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this idea is unworkable. No wonder the party politburo doesn’t want Paul in the debates.

Out in the heartland, however, isolationism is the default setting. The American people supported the Iraq war only because the neocons convinced them that Saddam Hussein was a threat to America…

He also gives a lot of anecdotal evidence that, while everybody (again, including me) just sort of ASSUMED that the reaction to Ron Paul from the debates would be overwhelmingly negative, the reality has been…surprising. From The View to YouTube to Fox News to HBO (to say nothing of the online world: Ron Paul is now the SECOND MOST SEARCHED ITEM ON MSN), Paul’s position might not be the majority, but it certainly isn’t being dismissed out-of-hand…by anybody but all the other Republican candidates running.

Which leads us all to a curious place. Ron Paul might, in some ways, begin functioning as a Pied Piper for the anti-war anti-neocon conservatives that are, I suspect, still around in droves in the Republican party, and have either just been silent or acting against their better judgment for the last few years. It’s too early to say if it’ll be Paul that at last brings them out of the woodwork, if it’ll be Paul that’ll play the role for the GOP that Howard Dean did for the Dems in 2004…but at this point, that doesn’t seem unlikely.

Interesting times. And remember: The Crossed Pond was there first!

Posted by Adam @ 6:03 pm on May 23rd 2007

Thinking ahead

The benefits of forethought are brought into glorious smelly technicolour in Naples at present. All but one of the city dumps is full (and the last one is about to be filled) with the result that the streets are full of rotting garbage as the Southern Italian Summer approaches. Yummy.

There are also fears that the tourist trade could be hit by the mountains of rubbish piling up in front of hotels and restaurants.

Ya think?

Of course, a sudden disaster like this could never have been seen coming from a ways off. No way.

Posted by Adam @ 5:33 pm on May 23rd 2007

“Sacrificing children to the corn god”

It’s a nice quote from a John Stossel article (and something that was mentioned in the last season of West Wing where, I think, the principled Republican candidate played by Alan Alda didn’t push ethanol in Iowa)(although I could have misremembered that):

“It’s no mystery that people who want to be president support the corn ethanol program,” Taylor says. “If you’re not willing to sacrifice children to the corn god, you will not get out of the Iowa primary with more than one percent of the vote, Right now the closest thing we have to a state religion in the United States isn’t Christianity. It’s corn.”

My pet irritation with this program is that there is a tarriff on Brazilian ethanol importation; if the aims really do relate to energy, rather than another agricultural subsidy boondoggle, why increase the price of the imported product?

Posted by Brad @ 4:56 pm on May 23rd 2007

Ron Paul on Real Time

With Bill Maher. Guest will be Paul, P.J. O’Rourke, and Ben Affleck.

Wow. That’s about the most awesome lineup I can imagine, and I’m not being facetious. Even Affleck, when I’ve seen him give political interviews (most notably with Bill O’Reilly), is a sharp guy with political roots less in Hollywood than in working class Southie Democrat classes. I remember being pretty impressed with him last time I saw him on a show like this. And of course, O’Rourke. And Ron Paul. Wow.


It’ll be on 11:00 on HBO this Friday. Rojas, can you tape it for me and send it to me?

(also, note the new Ron Paul tag. Inspired by Laura. I may get off my ass and edit it into old posts, but for now at least I’ll at least edit it into new ones. Should make searching for Paul stuff easier).

Posted by Rojas @ 1:34 pm on May 23rd 2007

Free Speech and the ACLU

One of my many heresies against conservative thought has been my long-standing support for the ACLU. Although I am not fond of the secondary “group rights” agendas which the ACLU occasionally supports, I have always been inspired by the group’s uncompromising stand in favor of free speech, even when the speech in question is the sort that ACLU members find abhorrent. The most notable example is, of course, the organization’s decision to support the rights of radical right-wing groups such as the Klan and the Nazis to demonstrate publicly. Regrettably, the ACLU is beginning to backslide on this principle.

Wendy Kaminer is the author of one of the best books of the last ten years, a book which set the stage for Al Gore and Andrew Sullivan’s later works on the same subject. Certainly she is no enemy of the ACLU. She is, in fact, a state board member of the organization and was a national officer until her term expired in 2006. In today’s Wall Street Journal, however, she lays into the organization with a wire whip, setting out numerous recent instances in which the ACLU has either chosen to remain silent on speech issues or has even taken stances aggressively hostile to free speech.

Ironically, were it not for Kaminer’s own efforts, she might not be permitted to make statements like this about the organization of which she is a member. The ACLU itself recently considered issuing a de facto gag rule against public criticism of its board members, and only altered this proposal when it became public knowledge.

This is a situation which merits watching. It will be a great pity if the ACLU turns its back on a legacy of absolute nonpartisan protection of free speech. It is a role that somebody needs to fill–and few have been stronger warriors in the cause than Wendy Kaminer.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:44 am on May 23rd 2007

Stingrays: bees of the deep?

First they offed the Crocodile Hunter. Now it seems that they’ve also murdered the Jesus Shark:

The joint Northern Ireland-U.S. research, being published Wednesday in the Royal Society’s peer-reviewed Biology Letter journal, analyzed the DNA of a shark born in 2001 in the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. The shark was born in a tank with three potential mothers, none of whom had contact with a male hammerhead for at least three years.

The baby was killed within hours of its birth by a stingray in the same tank. Analysis of its DNA found no trace of any chromosomal contribution from a male partner.

Shark experts said this was the first confirmed case in a shark of parthenogenesis, which is derived from Greek and means “virgin birth.”

We need to find out whether there’s collaboration afoot. Humanity cannot afford to let the bees develop a navy.

Posted by Rojas @ 9:02 pm on May 22nd 2007

Fundamentalist terror plot foiled

Breaking news at Apparently, authorities have arrested a young religious fundamentalist in Virginia; reports allege that he was in possession of explosives and on his way to bomb a funeral at the time of his arr…

…oh, wait, he’s Christian. And his target was, very likely, Fred Phelps.

Never mind. No story here.

Posted by Brad @ 4:16 pm on May 22nd 2007

“Ron Paul Did Americans an Immense Service”

I’ve mentioned the name a few times, as have other Ron Paul supporting bloggers, so I thought I’d drop the clearest quote from him on the issue.

Michael F. Scheuer is the Former Chief of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit who is as in the know on the minds of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists as anybody. He’s been cited by Ron Paul a number of times to back up his point, so here he is speaking directly:

Last week, Representative Paul did all Americans an immense service by simply pointing out the obvious: Our Islamist enemies do not give a damn about the way we vote, think, or live. Though any country they ruled would surely not look like ours, they are motivated by the belief that U.S. foreign policy is an attack on Islam, its lands, and its believers. This, of course, is not to say that America is to blame for the war it is now engaged in, but it is to say that it is foolish – and perhaps fatal – for Americans to believe that are we are being attacked for such ephemera as primary elections, R-rated movies, and gender equality.

And no matter how you view Mr. Paul’s words, you can safely take one thing to the bank. The person most shaken by Mr. Paul’s frankness was Osama bin Laden, who knows that the current status quo in U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic world is al-Qaeda’s one indispensable ally, and the only glue that provides cohesion between and among the diverse and often fractious Islamist groups that follow its banner.

Read the whole thing. Even I don’t know if I agree with it totally–I think they do indeed hate us culturally in a lot of ways, but I don’t think that’s the operating engine of Islamic terrorism, and certainly not the salient part that our foreign policy need to consider. But it’s worth reading (it’s short, just Mr. Scheuer getting on the record).

And your pro-Ron Paul clip of the day.

Posted by Brad @ 4:03 pm on May 22nd 2007

Edwards in Favor of Mandatory Military Service?

He’s made similar vague pronouncements before. I had alway assumed they were just rhetorical.

Maybe not.

“One of the things we ought to be thinking about is some level of mandatory service to our country, so that everybody in America — not just the poor kids who get sent to war — are serving this country,” he said.

After the event, Edwards said he had not meant to imply that only the poor go to war, only that everyone should serve in some way.

“We have people from all walks of life in America who are serving, including Reservists and National Guard,” he said. “What we want to do is to have all Americans to have a chance to serve their country.”

Hat tip: Anthony Gregory.

Posted by Brad @ 3:41 pm on May 22nd 2007

“Racism is Collectivism”

So, here’s a case where we got linked by a blog, and I went back and read the link (a response to Roja’s post about Ron Paul’s race problem), and found just as much worth looking at in the response than in our original post (no offense Rojas). I agree with Scott Horton’s one-liner that “Ron Paul is not a racist. He is an individualist. An individualist with a PR problem.”

But also interestingly, the first commentator (Mike in St. Lucia) quotes a recent “Texas Straight Talk”, the same newsletter from which the out of context racist quotes come, and he finds this worth quoting:

Bigotry at its essence is a sin of the heart, and we can’t change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations. In fact it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines. Government, through taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails in our society. This government “benevolence” crowds out genuine goodwill between men by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility between us. The political left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, even as they advocate incredibly divisive collectivist policies.

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms or groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called “diversity” actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist. The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

I don’t know if that answer will help Ron Paul in a debate (if he gets asked about the racist quote, it won’t), but it sure is provocative, intriguing, and has the benefit of being right.

Posted by Adam @ 3:30 pm on May 22nd 2007

Russian extradition shenanigans

Well, the UK has issued an extradition request in the Litvinenko case. The subject of the extradition request is Andrei Lugovi, a former KGB agent that met with Litvinenko and on whose path that day traces of Polonium-210 were later found.

There are legal niceties and so on, with any extradition request, but this statement, by a spokesman for the Russian general prosecution service, is pretty mind-boggling:

But the service’s spokesman added that a Russian citizen who had committed a crime in another country “should be prosecuted in Russia with evidence provided by the foreign state”.

If that were really true, why would anyone let Russian citizens into their country at all? If they commit a crime and you don’t catch them before they get out the country, they are to be prosecuted in Russia and you just provide the Russians with the evidence? I mean, sure, you can refuse to extradite people who you believe won’t get a fair trial, and for a few other reasons, but a blanket declaration that extradition, in fact, isn’t ever going to happen? That’s pretty whacked-out.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:12 pm on May 22nd 2007

Flashback: 2003

I was thinking back today to the early days of the Iraq invasion, when I sat glued to CNN for 18-hour stretches. Thinking back to an incident that I felt I must surely have misremembered.

Turns out I didn’t. I did indeed correctly recall that a number of US servicemen had been taken hostage by Hussein’s forces–and that the US government was wild with rage over their treatment. Why? Because our captive soldiers were being shown on Iraqi television.

Gaze in awe at the Bush administration’s standards as to what constituted “human rights violations” in 2003. Money quote:

GEORGE W BUSH, US PRESIDENT: I do know that we expect them to be treated humanely.

Just like we will treat any prisoners of theirs.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Hussein made a mistake by showing these prisoners on TV. Had he been more humane, he merely would have taken them to a cold cell, forced them to stand at attention for forty consecutive hours, and then waterboarded them.

We’ve come a long way in four years, haven’t we?

Posted by Rojas @ 2:06 pm on May 22nd 2007

In a hole in the ground…

Early drafts of “The Hobbit”. Even Stephen Erikson could do better.

Posted by Adam @ 11:01 am on May 22nd 2007

The difficulties with human remains

How to treat human remains? Obviously, immediate family in some sense ‘own’ the remains by default, unless the deceased had a strong enough opinion on the matter to specify their own disposal. But what if there are no immediate family, because the remains are very old, for example? What if they are old and from somewhere else?

I’ve been bemused by the UK’s new policy of flying military remains home from Iraq (something that, to my knowledge, has not generally been the case before, for fallen troops). The US, according to a sentence at end of page 2 in this article about the current search for missing GIs in Iraq, didn’t start doing it until the Korean War. Now, these people do generally have living family and this approach may be an inducement to recruitment, or at least an improvement in working conditions that helps retention, as well as pleasing the general public who often do care about the disposition of the remains of their troops. It’s not always so clear-cut, though, as we shall see.

A different issue is the one of display of shrunken heads, including the issue of their possible repatriation. The heads in question were taken by Amazonian tribesmen and collected as war trophies. They have obvious interest to museum-goers and there are no records to directly connect the deceased with individuals living today, although presumably tribal affiliation might be discoverable. The artist at the center of the story raises an interesting question; he is prepared to donate his own head for shrinking, along with the money to perform the procedure (he is wisely waiting until he is dead, however). If the heads are repatriated (as have been some Australian Aboriginal remains, respecting the wishes and beliefs of current Aborigines), would displaying the shrunken head of a recently deceased and entirely willing volunteer be disgusting or too macabre?

Death confuses us, I think. Most religions hold that your essential soul departs the physical remains (although some do hold that the disposition of the remains is important in the task of properly freeing, equipping or preparing the soul) and the truth of all of that is entirely unproveable, but the fact is that people still living do have strong beliefs on these matters. Pissing those people off can have consequences and often doesn’t seem very necessary. But after how long shouldn’t it matter? How distant a familial relationship allows ownership of the remains and how do you break ties? The Schiavo farrago ended with a dispute over where her body should be put which, although not as interesting to the public as the rest of the debate (understandably), was also a serious bone of contention between two parties who, at that stage, really didn’t like each other very much. How much weight to give the assumed wishes of the deceased (when they haven’t explicitly requested, and provided for, a particular method of disposal of their remains)? That’s aside from possible health issues, of course and, in small densely-populated countries like the UK, land-use concerns (so what if a cemetary owner wants to sell the land for development? What happens to the remains then?). None of these are easy issues.

Posted by Rojas @ 8:32 am on May 22nd 2007

Primary primacy

As I mentioned in the comments section of this post, Florida has now moved its primary to January 29, one week after New Hampshire and the same day as South Carolina.

Both parties are unhappy about this, and are threatening to take away half of Florida’s delegates. But it hardly matters. It really seems to me that this creates a tectonic shift in the nature of the entire primary system. Most obviously, it renders South Carolina almost entirely irrelevant.

But realistically, why doesn’t it also make Iowa and New Hampshire irrelevant? Florida is a far larger and more electorally critical state, with a population far more representative of the nation as a whole. Now that there’s no meaningful gap between Iowa/New Hampshire and Florida, why would any candidate spend their time anywhere BUT the sunshine state? Can anything but tradition and quaint charm preserve Iowa and New Hampshire’s status? And, for that matter, should anything preserve their status?

As to who benefits: well, obviously, the big winner here is the citrus industry, and the loser is the ethanol lobby (unless somebody can figure out a way to make gasoline additives out of grapefruit). That aside, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani have sizable leads in the Florida polls. I had thought that John Edwards was running more strongly there, but I see that I was mistaken. By denying insurgent candidacies their traditional opportunity to stage an ambush in Iowa or New Hampshire, the net effect of this change might be to effectively end the campaign before it starts.

EDIT: On the other hand, the second tier ChristCons clearly thinks there’s an opening for them in Florida. So…we’ll see. (Hat tip: RSE)

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