Sunday, September 30, 2007

Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh now claims that he was referring to just one particular individual who was pretending to be a soldier, though it's clear from the transcript that that's not the case. However, Limbaugh has now edited the original clip in order to make it seem that way. He's apparently convinced some folks.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Notes

Rush Limbaugh thinks that soldiers who oppose the war are phony soldiers. Fox News thinks the generals are betraying the soldiers.

Interesting.

Update: Wow, Limbaugh digs himself much deeper. He claims that he was referring to people who claim to be soldiers but in fact aren't. And then he gives an example: John Murtha.
That would be the same Murtha who earned the Bronze Star with Valor device, two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

Got that? "Phony soldiers" was a literal reference to those who've lied about serving, a list which Limbaugh believes should include decorated war hero Jack Murtha.

Youth

From Pandagon via Atrios comes this story of school officials encroaching on kids' privacy in creepy ways and of students fighting back. I agree with Amanda here:
Good for them. If kids these days are like that, I feel a surge of optimism about the fate of the Republic. God, high school was hard enough having to put up with other kids, but seriously, the insane adults on paranoid power trips that seem to rule every high school made it a living hell.

For all the problems the US has these days, it does seem that a new generation is being brought up believing in their right to stand up to authority and fight ridiculous policies. That's a trait that will stand them in good stead in the coming years.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bush's Climate Change Conference

The media have really failed in reporting on this climate change conference. They give Bush way too much credit, as if he were really trying to be proactive in fighting climate change, when he's really trying his best to undermine concerted global efforts. For example, the link at CNN's homepage to this article reads "Bush wants climate change action." In fact, he is stressing that any action on reducing emissions is up to individual countries, i.e. the US is not signing up to any treaties or making any commitments on reductions. And the scheduling of the conference was deliberately meant to detract from efforts of other countries to come to agreements on reductions.

Clinton and Inevitability

In the last few days there has suddenly been a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton being the inevitable nominee. Look here, for example. This is really based on nothing more than a good debate performance this week, even though we're still months from the first primary. The CW seems to be that Edwards and Obama missed an opportunity to tear her to shreds in the debate, and so she's running away with the show now.

First of all, the civility of the Democratic debates should reflect well on all of the candidates. While there's disagreement between the 3 central campaigns, it's not bitter or personal at this point.

Second, Obama and Clinton are basically tied on fundraising and in the polls. Why is it not being said that he's the inevitable nominee? Do the press just not take his campaign seriously?

A lot of the "inevitable" talk about Hillary is coming from the Right, and I think that's understandable. There are plenty in the GOP who would love her to be the nominee, thinking that her divisiveness will work to their favour. I think the fact that she's somewhat divisive and a known quantity doesn't really work to the advantage of either side. She's not going to win over many conservative votes, and she's not going to lose much of the support she already has from the Left. We won't see a panicky drop-off in support, like we saw with Dean and which could happen with Obama or Edwards. Conservatives who think she would be easy pickings as the Democratic nominee are likely to be disappointed.

Now imagine the scenario that John Podhoretz thinks is inevitable: Rudy vs. Hillary. Like I said, Hillary is a known quanitity and all of her dirty laundry has probably been aired. People like her or hate her. Rudy has had his dirty laundry aired, but on a much smaller scale: the people of NYC know about his sordid past and personal life, but by and large Americans don't. They just think of him as the 9/11 guy. If he is the nominee, he is going to go under the microscope and it will be brutal. I don't think his nomination is inevitable in the way that many think Clinton's is, but I do think that if he does get the nomination, it will be nearly impossible for the GOP to win in 2008.

Russert and Clinton


A couple of things here: Russert is a total wanker. What was the point of his attempted gotcha? To see if she would change her mind and "fall in line" behind her husband? To make her look inexperienced compared with him? He came off looking very foolish.

And second, Clinton's answer was very, very good. This hypothetical, which keeps cropping up in the torture debates, is just plain stupid. It's very smart of Clinton to include the response "torture doesn't work" in her answer, in addition to making the moral case. I don't know why Democrats don't keep emphasizing that point: not only is torture wrong, but it just doesn't work.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Harper at the CFR

Canada PM Stephen Harper has given a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, regarding relationships between the US and Canada:
Canada's relationship with the United States is stalled thanks to an "unhealthy" trend in the U.S. toward nationalism and away from deeper economic ties, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a prestigious foreign policy think-tank here yesterday.

He said he was "deeply concerned" that the political discourse in the U.S. had been infected by "populism, protectionism and nationalism in an unhealthy sense."

Regarding the differences between the US and Canada's differing international reputations:

In his speech, Harper emphasized the "shared values" of Canada and the U.S., and seemed taken by surprise when an audience member asked why, despite these common traits, Canada was not hated internationally, as is the U.S.

"It's certainly hated in some circles," Harper said.

"I suspect in the circles where the United States as a nation is genuinely hated, I suspect Canada is equally hated as are all countries that stand for these values. The American administration is, to be frank, more widely unpopular than the United States itself, but that's an issue for American domestic politics."

Unlike the U.S., Harper said, "Canada has no history anywhere in the world of conquest or domination. It's probably hard to perceive of Canada being in that type of a position."

In contrast, Canada is seen in the world as a "positive and non-threatening force," he said. "What my government is trying to do is to use those values to promote positive change in concert with our allies."

$9.11

You can't make this stuff up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The GOP Field

Has anyone else noticed the GOP front-runners just seem completely barking mad in the things they've been saying? I'm not even talking far-right policies or the like - that would at least suggest a bit of intellect in their talking points. They've just been engaging in the most hilarious, pathetic pandering in their speeches. Can anyone actually tell me what any of the top 4 stand for?

Romney: "I'll make sure that our future is defined not by the letters ACLU, but by the letters USA." Also, wants to move In God We Trust from the side of the dollar to the center.

McCain: Wants Iraq War to go on forever. That honestly is the extent of his campaign platform.

Thompson: Nobody knows, they weren't paying attention. He does have a secret weapon for finding bin Laden, though: tactics.

Giuliani: This is maybe the toughest of all. He's reversed himself on so many issues and tried so often to have it both ways that nobody can say what he stands for, and it's unclear who actually supports him and why.

So maybe all the talk of whether Gore will enter the race should take a backseat to the question of whether a sane member of the GOP will enter the fray. I can't imagine that any self-respecting conservative is happy with this lot.

Goldilocks

Larry Elliott has a good overview of the recent bumps in the global economy and how they came to be. A sample:
Let me tell you the story of the Goldilocks economy. Once upon a time there were two countries separated by an ocean. One was called China and its people worked long hours to produce cheap goods.

The other was known as the United States. Once its people had worked hard and it was the workshop of the world. But recently, the US had not worked so hard and for every $100 of goods and services produced in its factories and offices, $106 was spent in its shopping malls. Instead of producing its own goods, the US bought them from China.

For many years, this arrangement worked nicely. The Chinese people kindly spent the money they made exporting their TVs and toys to the US by buying shares in American companies and the bills issued by the US treasury to pay for its debts.

The whole thing doesn't take long to read and is a good overview of the crisis.

Nobel Surprise

Hitchens has a piece in Slate that's bound to increase the Gore chatter a bit. He basically suggests that Gore is a shoe-in for the Nobel Peace Prize next month, and that winning would be the perfect time to decide on and announce a run for President, as it would wrap up a year of winning an Oscar, having a bestselling book and winning a Nobel. There aren't many concrete indications that Gore might run, and Hitchens is just throwing the idea out there, but it's a compelling thought. I was convinced for a long time that Gore was going to run and was just cleverly letting the others duke it out for a while, but I'd given up hope the past month or so. If Hitchens is right that the smart money is on him for the Nobel, that does seem interesting. Would failing to get the Nobel actually play a part in such a decision?

It's amazing, talking to people, how many there are out there who are just waiting for him to announce. He and his advisers must be completely aware of this. I for one really hope he decides to go for it.

Via Debatable Land

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Re: Our Useless Congress

And here's the clincher: the Dems provided an alternative resolution condemning both the MoveOn ad (which I agree was stupid) and GOP smears against veterans like Kerry and Cleland. The GOP Senators didn't vote for it. Here's the CarpetBagger Report:

It was a compelling pitch. If Republicans are outraged by criticism of those who serve in the Armed Forces, is their disgust equal-opportunity, or are they only bothered by criticism of those they perceive as being on their “side”? Are they concerned about one newspaper ad, or about the broader issue of besmirching others who wear the uniform?

Alas, Republicans are more narrowly focused, and were unwilling to criticize attacks levied by their own.

When Boxer’s amendment came to the floor, it needed 60 votes to pass. Republicans, regrettably, voted against the measure.

Shortly thereafter, Sen. Cornyn’s more narrow, anti-MoveOn measure received a vote, and passed easily, thanks to 25 Dems breaking ranks. The final tally was 72-25. It’s disappointing, but not surprising.

Maybe now lawmakers can get back to work, and move away from their obsession with a newspaper ad?

Just in case you thought they actually had convictions. Pure politics, played by hypocrites.

Our Useless Congress

David Kurtz has the analysis on the Senate's condemnation of the MoveOn ad:
Correct me if I'm wrong here. But by my calculation, more U.S. senators (72) voted today to condemn a newspaper ad attacking Gen. Petraeus than voted yesterday (56) to lengthen the time off troops get from the frontlines in Iraq, thereby reducing individual soldiers exposure to actual attacks. Am I missing something, or is that about right?

Yep, that's about right. The folks at The Corner seem to think this is the most important thing the congress has ever done. I can't believe this is what our Senators are spending their time on right now, condemning newspaper advertisements.

Clemons on Iran

People seem to be taking Steve's piece to mean that the US is not going to attack Iran. That's not quite right. What he's saying is that Bush won't attack Iran...but Cheney might. Don't calm those nerves just yet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Walt and Mearsheimer

I haven't read the book but did read the original article, which I found to be basically uncontroversial. While people can debate the extent of the Israel lobby's influence, I find this to be completely intellectually dishonest:
“Everything in the book that isn't just blatantly obvious is ridiculous. The Israel lobby controls U.S. foreign policy? In this country all ethnic groups attempt to influence foreign policy towards their country of origin. That is normal and legitimate. Ask the Greeks, Armenians, Turks. You would think that neither of them had ever lived here in America… In a sense, of course, they haven't…” he chuckled, before getting back to the business at hand. The class, filled with new grad students, all laughed too.

To say that the Israel lobby is no different in terms of influence and power than Turkish or Armenian lobbies is ridiculous. They influence foreign policy much, much more than other similar lobbies. I am sympathetic to this argument, however:

But wait a minute — these guys really don't seem to understand America at all. And I don't mean our affection for Israel a beacon of democracy, blah, blah — I'm talking about our visceral identification with the Jewish people specifically, something inherent in our national character. Sure, the pro-Israel lobby is powerful and effective, but most of the time it's going with the flow of American attitudes rather than redirecting them. It's not just those wacky Christian Zionists they identify as part of the elite Lobby, bending America to their will — our association with the Israelites of the Old Testament (and by implication, their modern heirs) is part of our foundational mythology and shapes our modern attitudes. When John Winthrop told his flock that "we shall be as a city upon a hill," the allusion was to the City of David atop Mt. Zion. They and subsequent settlers explicitly saw themselves as making an exodus from the fleshpots of Europe to wander in the wilderness, which is why both Franklin and Jefferson proposed images of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt for the the Great Seal of the United States, and why Lincoln called us God's "almost chosen people."

I agree that Americans have an affinity for Israel and the Jews historically that has little or nothing to do with the lobby. This affinity, however, works hand in hand with the Israel lobby in Washington to strongly mold our foreign policy. And our one-sided approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict is unjustifiable either morally or strategically.

Monday, September 17, 2007

France and Iran

Well, the Bush administration is feeling good about Sarkozy's new government right about now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mark Steyn's Islamophobia

Light Amsterdam blogging here.

Anyone who's at all familiar with Mark Steyn knows that his biggest fear is that white people are being outbred by Muslims. I know this basically from his posts at The Corner, but apparently he even wrote a book based around this fear.

Today brings the latest installment of his rantings. The trigger? The apparent fact that the mayor of Brussels presides over a party with 10 of 17 council members being Muslim. Whether or not this is even true, I don't know; Steyn seems to have gleaned this from a Belgian anti-Muslim website. But he uses this information to characterize Brussels as a "Muslim-run city", and of course by the extension, that Europe is soon to be run entirely be Muslims.

At first it's just amazing to think that people take Steyn seriously. But actually, he gets away with this kind of garbage because he's supposedly a "comic political writer" and so can use such language in way that makes some people think he's just being hyperbolic for comic effect while others understand exactly what he's saying. Disturbing stuff.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Even More Iran

Larry Johnson has some worries and theories about the nuclear warheads incident:
Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can’t imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations?

His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else.

Now maybe there is an innocent explanation for this? I can’t think of one. What is certain is that the pilots of this plane did not just make a last minute decision to strap on some nukes and take them for a joy ride. We need some tough questions and clear answers. What the hell is going on? Did someone at Barksdale try to indirectly warn the American people that the Bush Administration is staging nukes for Iran? I don’t know, but it is a question worth asking.

I still think it was just a really inexcusable mistake, but there are some very odd aspects of this story. I would assume that a lot of people would have to sign off on anything involving transport of nuclear warheads. And we're meant to believe that everyone along the chain messed up the authorization for this? The other thing is that we only know about this story because of three individuals in the military who leaked the information to The Army Times. Surely those responsible wouldn't have gone public on their own choice. Who were the whistleblowers and what was their motivation? Simply to point out incompetence and oversight, or were they worried about something much larger?

Like I said, I'm skeptical of Johnson's points, and he takes it as a given that the warheads were meant to travel to Barksdale. But at the same time it's very difficult to see how this could happen as an accident.

My Dream Bike

These are all the rage in Amsterdam and I would love to have one someday. Pricey, though, at around 1500 euros.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ramping Up For Iran

The conservative media have their instructions: prep for Iran.

Vaestro

I think I may have blogged about Vaestro, the audio-based web discussion forum, several months back, but they've recently revamped and it's worth checking them out again.