Monday, October 31, 2005

Start Over: When all else fails, revert to picking white males.

Honestly, that's an unfair comment I just made. One thing that has impressed me about the Bush administration is that, even though he speaks out against affirmative action, he still practices it -- finding qualified women and minorities with Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and others. It's nice to have a politician's actions exceed his rhetoric.

But that all seemed to go to hell with the Harriet Miers nomination. She appeared to be a token girl nomination with few qualifications to sit on the highest court in the land. And when critics lambasted her, administration officials fell back on the desperate tactic of labeling opponents as sexist, etc.

Alito seems to be a qualified jurist, although he's too conservative for my taste, but I don't think anybody expected anything less after what all has happened. However, after all the talk about possibly having the first Hispanic appointment, this is a bit of a disappointment.

But the Democrats are lining up against Alito already. So it appears we may have the exciting confirmation battle us news junkies have been waiting for after all.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Round and Round: When was the last time we had a president who wasn't embroiled in scandal during his second term? That would be Eisenhower.

Since then, LBJ (essentially in his second term, though he was eligible for another) had Vietnam, which prevented him from running for re-election. Nixon had Watergate. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Clinton had Lewinsky. Bush is now pestered by Valerie Plame.

What's disturbing about this trend is that each scandal seems to diminish in importance, but they still serve as a big distraction for the sitting president.

Clinton was impeached for lying about cheating on his wife. Bad man, but Republicans should have left the presidency out of this.

I still maintain that this Plame thing is overblown. Bush hasn't done anything wrong. I don't even think any of the White House aides knowingly identified Valerie Plame to get back at the nobody who is her husband. But that doesn't seem to prevent a Ken Starr wannabe from fishing for something, anything, to get an indictment.

"Scooter" faces charges of obstruction of justice, false statement, and perjury. No mention of any charges for outing a covert CIA agent. This is eerily reminiscent of Clinton getting charged with perjury about Monica Lewinsky, when Ken Starr was supposed to be investigating Whitewater -- an issue for which the Clintons were later exonerated.

Granted, the Plame case is far from being over, unfortunately. So the story isn't finished yet. And if we've learned anything in politics, it's that anything is possible, even if it seems unreal.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No Way, Dude! My blog is worth more than $30,000? Um, any takers? (via Centerfield)

My blog is worth $31,614.24.
How much is your blog worth?

Thud: Executive privilege has now become the greatest excuse known to man. Clinton used it during the Lewinsky scandal. Now Bush is using it as a mulligan.

Of course, everybody knows that Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination for the Supreme Court because she was in over her head. The bipartisan consensus was that she was not qualified, and the scant amount of information available about her record made her nomination a scary prospect. Still, the White House maintains that she withdrew to protect lawyer-client confidentiality.

I hate to see all this happen. I'm sure Miers is an intelligent woman and a good lawyer. The fact that she was pushed into the deep end and unprepared to fight the ensuing piranha attacks is the president's fault. Bush made a bad choice. His credibility is hurt, and he has also mired the reputation of a good friend by putting her in that situation.

The Senate has come out looking strong, especially the Republicans for refusing to be a rubber stamp for the president. This, I'm afraid, may lead to a new nominee who is overtly conservative. That's what the base wants, and Bush doesn't have much political capital left to do otherwise.

I'm just curious who will be willing to be Bush's second choice. Hopefully the lure of becoming a justice on the top court in the land will overshadow the fact that the next nominee is filling in for Harriet Miers. And then, we'll still have a tough confirmation battle to fight.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Look Out! After Syria has been found to have possibly been involved in a political assassination, President Bush wants to convene the United Nations for a response.

I would say that it's about time for Bush to do something about Syria. But I'm a little nervous, looking at Bush's popularity plummet, wondering whether he may overreact to remind everyone that he's a wartime president. There are few things scarier than a desperate politician.

I'll be out of town most of next week. Y'all tell me how it goes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

No News is Good News: BobJYoung at Centerfield is tired of the hype about hype. Bloggers and critics rail against the media for alarmist stories about Y2K, SARS, and a litany of other maladies -- all of which were duds.

Well, he says, that's because the added attention helped raise awareness and allowed people to do something about it before it became a catastrophe. Ask any computer expert about Y2K, and they'll tell you that it took a lot of work to make sure everything ran smoothly. The media likes to hype the problem, but not the solution.

Interesting take on the panicky press. Read the whole thing and join the discussion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Relatively Peaceful: Drudge links to a report saying that the number of wars and violent conflicts in the world has been decreasing lately. That's fine and good unless you're currently in a war. In case you need a reminder, here's a roundup of news and images about the genocide in Darfur.

Strategery: President Bush has pledged to kick every single illegal immigrant out of this country. Yup, all 11-million of them.

This crackdown seems to be an appeal to the conservative base, which is still dumbfounded by the whole Harriet Miers nomination. But it's meaningless rhetoric. Nothing can come of it. This would be like pledging to put all criminals behind bars.

But the pledge has consequences. Bush, I assume, still wants to go ahead with his immigrant-worker program. Under the plan, illegals could continue to work legally if they register with the government, all on the promise that they might be given legal status someday. However, now that Bush has made it clear that he wants them all gone, don't expect too many more illegals to come out of hiding and let Uncle Sam know what they're up to.

Bush is hurting in the polls. Fair or not, he has been hurt by Katrina and Rita. Although the economy is doing well, the hurricanes have slowed some of that expansion, and have added to overall inflation with skyrocketing gasoline and energy costs. And the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer Bush's saving grace. He's looking for some other peg to capture the nation's attention.

But this is beyond a flip-flop. President Bush is doing what we call, floundering.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

They're on to me: I've ranted before against the annoying fundraising drives conducted by public radio stations. However, because we have two stations in DC that play NPR, I would normally switch back and forth between the two while the other was fundraising.

Now, both 88.5-WAMU and 90.9-WETA are fundraising at the same time. That means neither of them are playing any news. All we get are the soft-spoken broadcasters whining endlessly about how they need money.

I still argue that these public radio stations should be allowed to play commercials. I know they're nonprofit, but they already have corporate sponsorship from the likes of Wal-Mart and other businesses. Their hands are forever tainted with the green of corporate money -- take advantage of it.

Most people would rather hear a 30 second jingle on occasion than a solid two weeks of all whining and no content. Commercials are at least designed to be somewhat entertaining.

Oh well, at least the Classic Rock station is playing music in the morning. I'll just listen to that until this is over and done with.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Devil in Disguise: A Prince William County, Virginia, school official has decided the marching band must stop playing a rendition of Charlie Daniel's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" because of the song's controversial subject matter.

After the devil went down to Georgia, it seems, he got censored in Prince William County.
When I first read that, I assumed that it must be another goddamn right-wing Christian do-gooder trying to save us from even the mention of anything salacious or evil. But that's not the case.

This time it's a godless left-wing PC nut who believes the song violates the separation of church and state. He wrote a letter saying as much, and the band director immediately took the song out of the music lineup.

In this case, it's nearly unanimous that the lone dissenting voice shouldn't be taken seriously, and the school official overreacted badly. Even the guy who wrote the letter says things got carried away.

Still, isn't it funny how easy it is to confuse the extreme Right and the extreme Left? Their tactics and their goals blend imperceptibly into one big mess.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Awww: Red State Romance. Complete with a spelling error.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Spotlight: Things have been busy here. That, and I haven't been able to find much to blog about. The news is dominated by the Harriet Miers nomination, the conservative backlash, and the Republican division. The blogosphere is seems to echo the mainstream media -- overkill on reporting some issues, not enough attention to others.

Let's put these news stories in perspective. The Coalition for Darfur reminds us that thousands of people are being murdered in Sudan.

Katrina and Darfur

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast last month, the American public was privy to 'round-the-clock media coverage of the disaster, especially of stories relating to the extraordinarily difficult living conditions faced by those who had been unable to evacuate. Thousands of people were left without food or water for days; their homes and cities destroyed, they were left to fend for themselves, trapped in squalid conditions and at the mercy of roving gangs of well-armed criminals.

As it turned out, many of the more horrific stories were later found to be false. Yet for the people of Darfur, the horrors that befell the people of New Orleans have become a way of life.

For more than two years, nearly 2-million people have been relegated to displacement camps across Darfur, with limited access to food, water and medical attention. They live in makeshift tents that provide little shelter from the elements, and in constant fear of rape, looting, and death at the hands of the Janjaweed militia.

An aid worker and blogger known only as Sleepless in Sudan, who has been working in Darfur for six months, has been kind enough to provide this assessment of the conditions in which the displaced are now living ("Sleepless" has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect herself and the agency for which she works from the very real threat of retribution from the Sudanese government):

People are living inside temporary shelters, covering their branch or wooden huts (those who have been there longer have built mud brick ones) with plastic sheeting from the aid agencies, and even this has often already been torn apart by the rains. Everyone sleeps on the floor, sometimes in puddles -- 10 people in a little shelter is not unusual, more is common.

Now that the aid agencies are operating in many camps there is regular water supply, there are latrines, there are medical clinics and most importantly, there is a monthly food distribution of staple grains and things like oil -- but this does not mean people have it easy. This season has brought many floods and people have lost their belongings or even shelters, huts and latrines sometimes collapsed in the rains, and the food is never enough (and people have to scramble for things like fresh vegetables themselves anyway, as these are not included in the distribution). Malnutrition inside the camps is still high.

Overall, I would say conditions are adequate for survival -- though some camps (especially the ones further away from big cities) are a lot worse off than others (Abu Shouk, for example, has dozens of aid agencies, while places just a few hours outside of it have one or two). Whether they are adequate for what you would consider a normal life is debatable -- I would say absolutely not, and I have no doubts any American would find them a lot more "unacceptable" than New Orleans.

I suppose the worst part of living in the camps is having absolutely no idea how much longer you will be there (many people have already been there for two years) and also constantly having to worry that you will be attacked -- Aro Sarow showed us that even large scale attacks and killings inside IDP camps are still a threat. In many camps -- Kalma, Tawila, etc. -- it is part of everyday life to hear shooting at night, and in nearly all of them it is still very dangerous to wander outside and carry out chores like collecting firewood. Knowing that you are constantly at risk of looting and assault is be an easy thing to live with.
While the United States government was blamed for a poor response to the Katrina catastrophe, the government of Sudan is directly responsible for the catastrophe in Darfur. And whereas the state and federal governments are now in the process of cleaning up, and will soon begin the process of rebuilding, the devastated Gulf Coast, the people of Darfur currently have no prospects of ever being able to leave the camps because insecurity is still rampant.

In the last few weeks, there have been a series of attacks on villages and camps that have created several thousand new refugees. In addition, nearly 40 African Union troops and workers were kidnapped over the weekend and, in a separate incident, five members of the AU force were ambushed and killed. And even if a semblance of peace does ever come to the region, the people of Darfur have nothing to return to, as their villages and homes have been utterly destroyed while their land and possessions have been stolen.

The post-Hurricane nightmare faced by the victims of Katrina has been the reality in Darfur for more than two years -- and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Lesson in History: Aside from the likeable Roberts, George W. Bush has made other questionable judicial appointments in the past. As governor, he passed over a qualified appellate judge waiting next in line to become chief justice of the Court of Appeals for the Third District of Texas, and instead he appointed a lawyer who was former chairman of the Travis County Republican Party and who had no previous judicial experience.

In Texas, the governor appoints judges with no legislative confirmation. However, Texans vote directly to elect all judges. And in the next election, the voters removed the Bush appointee from office and gave the appellate judge her expected promotion.

In the Miers case, the people don't have a vote. But the Senate does. And it appears likely that Republicans and Democrats alike aren't going to put up with cronyism this time either.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wake-Up Call: I have a strange confession to make. I've always thought the most ideal job in the world would be Supreme Court justice. Lifetime employment, lots of time off, and you get to set the law to be whatever you damn well want it to be. I even had a dream one night a few years ago that I was nominated to be a justice. There was some controversy in the dream about the fact that I didn't even have a law degree, let alone judicial experience. But, hey, it was just a silly dream, right?

Maybe dreams can come true. While Bush hasn't done anything as nutty as nominating me, he hasn't done much better with this random chick he's chosen. I know some observers say that we need justices who dwell outside the isolated world of circuit courts, but Harriet Miers is a political crony who has remained hidden in Bush's back office for years.

What surprises me though is the skepticism among conservatives. They need reassurance that Miers is a right-wing nut like them. It seems obvious to me that they have nothing to worry about. Newspapers were able to determine within seconds of her nomination that this woman is strongly pro-life. My guess is that Bush chose this stealth nominee because he wanted to try to slip a rabid right-winger under the radar.

Moderates and liberals are the ones who should be most concerned. We don't know how far to the right Miers is. Granted, Bush chose a well-qualified conservative with Roberts, so the president has some history of making a sane choice in this regard. But the whole, "trust me, that's all I can tell you about my business" Michael Corleone thing is a little unnerving.

Here's a roundup of reaction from The Reaction.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler: I got to see New Orleans and the surrounding areas. You've heard all the horror stories and seen the footage, so I won't bore you with tales of destroyed homes and toppled trees.

I am happy to report that Louisiana continues to be the friendliest place on Earth. The people I talked to are tired and frustrated, but they're holding on to their optimism. It may take some time, but the great city of New Orleans will bounce back.

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