Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm Back

I was off on holiday and forgot my password, making it impossible to log on and post. But I'm back. I only have a few minutes, so here are some predictions for Iowa.

Clinton wins narrowly. Huckabee wins narrowly.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On the Ropes

Look who is polling third in Florida. If this is true and not a polling outlier, Rudy is in big trouble.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Where Was Cheney? reports that a "Mystery Beast" is loose in South Carolina, killing puppies and other animals.

Congress and Religion

Earlier this week the House of Representatives passed resolution recognizing the importance of Islam. Here is the text:

Whereas Ramadan, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Muslims throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 1.5 million Muslims in the United States, making Islam the third largest religion in the United States;

Whereas there are approximately 1,780,000,000 Muslims throughout the world, making Islam the second largest religion in the world and the religion of almost one-third of the world population;

Whereas Muslims and Islam have contributed greatly to the development of civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its monotheistic roots;

Whereas each calendar year, American Muslims observe Ramadan, the holiday celebrating the revelation of the Koran to their prophet, Muhammad;

Whereas for Muslims, Ramadan is celebrated as a recognition of one's willingness to suffer for Allah; and

Whereas many Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to honor Allah: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Muslims in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Muslims and the Islamic faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Muslims and Islam in the founding of civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Muslims and Muslims throughout the world.

Surprised? Well you should be. In fact, the House did nothing of the sort. Instead it passed a resolution much like this one, but recognizing Christians, Christianity, and Christmas as important. It makes me a tad uncomfortable to have the House of Representatives singling out a religion, any religion, for praise. You?

Sean Hannity's Solution to the Health Insurance Crisis

Two days ago, I heard what might have been the dumbest thing Sean Hannity ever said (and I've heard him say a lot of dumb things). It demonstrates the Right Wing's problem with the health care issue. An unemployed, uninsured accountant called Hannity's radio show and complained that he needed prescription drugs that were too expensive. Hannity suggested the accountant look into various government and private programs, and the caller said he already had, but they were for people under the poverty level, and he was not yet that poor.

Mr. Hannity then recalled days from his youth when he was having trouble paying rent. His landlord had agreed to let him clean other properties in lieu of paying rent. Mr. Hannity suggested that his caller ask the pharmaceutical companies if they needed any accounting done in trade for the drugs he needs. That is his solution to the middle class not being able to afford health insurance - ask the drug companies for a job. Wow! Why didn't I think of that. Maybe an unemployed licensed teacher could offer to teach the Novartis executive's kids how to read. And maybe an unemployed GM factory worker could offer to build Pfizer a car. Brilliant, Mr Hannity, brilliant.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whatever Happened To . . .

Douglas E. Lute? Who, you ask? He is our War Czar. Did you forget we have a war czar? I almost did.

What brought him to mind today? Absolutely nothing. Somewhere in the deepest, darkest, alcoves of my wandering mind, I just remembered we have a war czar. Do you think he gets angry when General Petraeus gets all the credit (if credit is due)?

More I Will Not Support

My reason for not supporting Romney, McCain, or Thompson is the same in each case: Why should I? It shouldn't be news to any regular reader that I don't agree with much of their policies. But, even more, could there be a less inspiring bunch? Romney wants to be President because that's what rich ex-governors do. McCain wants to be President because he lost in 2000. Thompson wants to be President because . . . well, I'm not convinced he wants to be President.

A Partial Defense of Mike Huckabee

I'm still not going to vote for him, but I think he is taking way too much heat for his role in the Wayne DuMond case. In case you have not been paying attention to the minutiae of the Republican battle for the nomination, Wayne DuMond was a convicted rapist in Arkansas. After his arrest, but before trial, DuMond claimed that two men entered his home and castrated him. He was convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years. Some conservatives alleged DuMond was not guilty and that then-Governor Bill Clinton had pushed for the conviction too hard becasue the victim was a distant relative of his.

Well, time passed and eventually the governor immediately preceding Mike Huckabee, Jim Guy Tucker, commuted DuMond's sentence to around 39 years - thereby making him eligible for parole - because the jury had never heard of the castration. Apparently, after a certain amount of dithering about a possible complete commutation of DuMond's sentence, Governor Huckabee influenced the parole board to grant DuMond parole. Subsequently, DuMond raped and killed a woman in Missouri. Now, Huckabee is taking the heat for the parole.

I think blaming Huckabee is ridiculous. It is pure 20-20 hindsight. Procedures in criminal law and sentencing exist for a reason. Obviously, the people of Arkansas, speaking through their legislature, approved of parole for some prisoners. It makes sense to put the power of parole in a parole board. That board, admittedly with the support of Huckabee, concluded DuMond should be paroled. That is the board's job. If no one should be paroled, change the law. But at the time, parole was an option in Arkansas law. Should DuMond have been paroled? Apparently it was an error in judgment. But humans makes such errors. And committees make them even more frequently.

The whole debate reminds me of the debate over capital punishment. Candidates for executive positions are routinely required to state that even if they oppose the death penalty, they will allow it to occur. The argument is that if the people of the state, speaking through their state government, have decided the death penalty is sometimes appropriate, it should be used on occasion. It seems to me that parole is the same. If the citizens of a state want it to exist, it should be used in appropriate cases. And mistakes will be made.

Huckabee made a judgment. It was incorrect. But was it unreasonably so? Was he negligent? Probably not. There were some who believed that DuMond's conviction was wrong. And there was evidence that DuMond had suffered vigilante justice that might convince someone he should receive some leniency. Wrong decision? Clearly. Wrong decision at the time it was made? Not obvious.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why the GOP Will Stay Lily-White For A While

This post from Mark Krikorian over at the Corner tells you all you need to know about why the Republicans will have to wait at least a generation to get the Hispanic vote. Look at this gem:

What right does Jorge Ramos, one of Univision's anchors, have to moderate a debate for American citizens about the American presidential election? The man is a foreigner — I don't mean foreign-born, I mean a foreign citizen. As this profile explains, Ramos "maintains Mexican citizenship in order to have the option to return there one day." Ramos (a "minority" champion who's one of the whitest men I have ever seen) has written, among other books, No Borders: A Journalist's Search for Home and is an explicit cultural separatist; from a 2002 column (original here, Allan Wall's translation here):

"The famous and stereotypical idea of the melting pot is a myth. The European immigrants — Italians, Germans and Poles, that preceded the Latinos assimilated rapidly to the American culture. But the Latinos have achieved the feat of integrating economically to the United States without losing their culture. Such a phenomenon has never occurred before."

As Allan asks, "Would Mexico allow Lou Dobbs to moderate a debate for Mexican presidential candidates? Of course not."
What right does he have? I'll tell you what right, Mr. Krikorian - the right to ask candidates to attend and the right to ask them questions if they do. And would "Mexico allow Lou Dobbs to moderate a debate?" I don't know and I don't care. Is Mr. Krikorian suggesting that the United States not allow Mr. Ramos to have the debate? Should U.S. Marshals have stormed the building and stopped the debate?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Who I Don't Support

Annie V. has asked me who I am supporting for the Presidency. I don't think my answer will surprise anyone, but just in case its a nailbiter for anyone, I'll keep you hanging for a while. But I will tell you who I am not supporting. Today I will explain why I will not vote for Giuliani or Huckabee.

As for Giuliani, just see these. He's a megolamaniac with poor judgment and an overriding concern in Rudy Giuliani above all else.

Huckabee is a more interesting case. He has expressed a concern for the environment and poor that I believe is true and admirable. I guess he'd have a chance with me if he would actually adopt reason, science, and the Constitution as his guiding principles. Oh, and if he didn't think I was going to hell.

Romney's Blinders On Faith

Well, I read Mitt Romney's speech on faith in politics, and was I disturbed. It demonstrates Romney's huge blinders when it come to American culture. The speech reeks of a purely evangelical world-view, while claiming to reflect an understanding of all. It has been widely commented that Romney's speech ignores the atheists and agnostics among us, and it certainly does that. Romney said a President "will need the prayers of the people of all faiths." Notice that he doesn't mention the good will of non-believers. He said that "[w]e should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders." Why should we? What if we don't believe in a Creator? He also says "Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God." Oh really? All Americans? I think not.

Note how all his rhetoric assumes a Christian belief system for all. He talks of placing his had on a Bible when he takes the oath of office, as if it were assumed that he should. But I encourage all of you to examine Article II of the Constitution. Neither the Bible nor God is mentioned - as they are not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. I wish Romney had commented on this absence. But instead he suggests those who have a real discomfort with God having any place in government are establishing a religion of secularism - and repeats that America must be considered a nation "Under God" and that in God "we do indeed trust." Who is this we? Surely not all Americans.

The most disheartening part of the speech is rightly the most quoted in the press. Romney argues that "Freedom requires religion," but offers no explanation. What does it mean? I read it as excluding non-believers from the truly American and patriotic. If someone does not have a religious faith, apparently he cannot truly believe in freedom or the American experiment.

Romney included one paragraph that I think expresses the correct way to examine a politician's. Sadly, he sets forth his standard as if it is only relevant to "a person of faith." He said:

Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of humankind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty?
Remove the phrase "of faith" and I think Romney is on to something. What Romney does not notice is that none of his three American values require the existence of God, or the belief therein.

To be honest, I don't think Romney meant to be exclusionary. Instead, I think he is blinded to the existence of those with a significantly different cultural understanding from his own. Romney pictures America as a a Christian postcard. He travels the country and sees the "many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven." Does he not know that many houses of worship do not have steeples? Even some Christian houses of worship are steepleless. But in an America where all believe in the same God, in Romney's America, all places to worship have steeples.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bush Infatuation Syndrome at the Corner

If you ever had any doubts about the Right Wing's Bush-Infatuation-Syndrome, consider David Freddoso's comment about the Energy Bill. The key quote:

Recall that when President Bush came to office advocating an energy bill, the whole point was to increase the amount of energy available. Given that the pending bill will not make even a single extra KiloJoule available, there is really no reason the American public should care at all whether this bill passes.
Consider what that means. Americans should not care if the energy bill passes because it is not what President Bush advocates. Anything less than the President's goals and programs are simply a waste of time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Big Tent, My Ass

Ron Paul supporters not allowed to participate in Republican straw poll.

Military Tribunals Reach Ridiculous Results

If this report doesn't piss you off, nothing will. In late 2001, a 19-year old German, Murat Kurnaz, was taken from Pakistan to Guantanamo. The intelligence community found him not to be a threat, concluding he was in Pakistan to visit religious sites and had "simply chosen a bad time to travel." But for some reason, the military decided to put him before a military tribunal, which concluded he should be held indefinitely. The evidence against Kurnaz included a memo that he prayed during the U.S. National Anthem and was interested in prisoner transfers and guard rotation. It also stated that Kurnaz was possibly estimating the height of the detention fence when he asked how high the basketball hoop was. The evidence for him included intelligence reports that he had no connection to terrorists. But the tribunal found for the military. A federal court ruled for Kurnaz, but the military appealed and it is before the Supreme Court today. Kurnaz was finally released in 2006, but the case continues.

Perhaps the most troubling statement by the Government in this case is that one of the factors used to determine if someone is an enemy combatant is "the passage of time." That suggests to me that even if Kurnaz wasn't a threat when he was picked up, if his treatment has created a dislike (oh let's say it - hatred) of the United States (a seemingly reasonable result) we can keep him locked up as long as we want. To some extent, therefore, Guantanamo is filling a need it itself creates.

Look, it might be necessary to have some sort of military tribunal process (although I'm not convinced), but unless the military is hiding some incredibly convincing evidence in this case, it seems clear the current system does not work if Kurnaz wasn't let out much earlier.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


There is nothing more annoying to a novice and unknown blogger than having your great idea independently spewed forth by a well-known blogger, and having him get recognition for it.

Another Reason Iran Might Have Dropped Its Nuclear Weapons Program

Well, this is familiar. The President claims a middle-eastern country has a WMD program, and then it turns out it doesn't. but the President keeps talking tough. Iraq? Yes, but it is not alone anymore. Now there is Iran. There are two questions that the new National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE")raises. First, when did the President know that his own intelligence community did not think Iran was engaged in constructing a nuclear weapon. Could it be when he said

I believe they want to have the capacity, the knowledge, in order to make a nuclear weapon…So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Look at the weasel words in that: "capacity", and "knowledge". The President denies he knew about the NIE conclusions when he said it. I'll let you reach your own conclusions.

The other question be bandied about is why did Iran cease its nuclear program in the fall of 2003. So far I have heard three theories. One is that the Iranians got scared by the invasion of Iraq and therefore, ceased its program. Another theory is that Iran was responding to international pressure (that seems to be the one adopted by the NIE). The third, what I call the NeoCon Wishful Thought, is that the NIE is wrong and Iran is still trying to make nuclear weapons.

But there is a fourth possibility. Before the invasion of Iraq, there were two huge military presences in the Middle East that were both seeking dominance in the region - Iran and Iraq. The only way for Iran to equal Iraq's threatened or actual nuclear program was a program of its own. After the Iraqi army was decimated by the U.S. invasion, and it became more clear there were no WMDs, Iran no longer had to engage in a financially costly and internationally reviled program to be the biggest guy on the block. Sure, the US was still there, but by the fall of 2003 it was becoming clear that the US might be the military threat to Iran it might have thought earlier because of the Iraqi insurgency. (This would especially be true if Iran was aiding the insurgency). And anyway, even Iran realizes that even with nuclear weapons, it cannot equal US power. So, Iran recognizes that the geopolitical advantages of a nuclear program have disappeared, and stops its program. In other words, prior to the invasion there was a military balance of power in the region. After the invasion, Iran was the only local power remaining, and a nuclear program was useless.

In short, President Bush created the conventional monster of an unopposed Iran by invading Iraq, but might have destroyed a potentially nuclear Iran that was subject to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. Which is better? Don't know.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What Is the Plan, Hillary?

Usually, when a candidate goes negative, he or she denies it. But Hillary Clinton is apparently trying a different tactic. She has announced that she is going negative. The most interesting paragraph in the Washington Post article is:

Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."
This announcement is, in my opinion, a mistake. First, it plays into Obama's position that he is the new voice of reason and that Clinton is desparate and calculating. Second, Clinton cannot argue that she is just demonstrating policy differences if she admits she is "raising questions about Obama's character." And perhaps most importantly, given her reputation, a campaign that focuses on the candidates' characters will probably hurt her more than Obama.

So why did she do it? I think she is a tad flustered by the recent polls. As someone put it on one of the Sunday shows, the "inevitable candidate" is beginning to look "evitable." Hillary's sole strategy has always been that she was inevitable. Now that that strategy looks like a loser, her campaign has to find a new strategy, and it is floundering for one. I'm not sure what the correct strategy is. I think Obama is almost the perfect candidate to be fighting Clinton. She can't argue that she is the only candidate who will make history, becasue Obama is an African-American. She can't claim she is the only electable candidate because Obama is very likeable and comparable to Hillary in head to head polls against Republicans. Her best argument, that she will continue the peace and prosperity of the 90's that was lost in the '00s is an ok strategy, but the "we don't want two political dynasties" meme is starting to catch on.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I think Hillary is making a big mistake announcing her negative campaign, but maybe its all she has left.

UPDATE - Robert Reich agrees with me.