Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I thought it was Linda Lovelace: Today is a historic day. One of the last fun mysteries has been solved. Some guy I am not very familiar with was one of the important sources for the Watergate stories.

Watergate was before my time. So the revelation that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat is anticlimactic.

But even though this mystery is over, so many questions remain:

How does Felt feel about being forever linked to a porn movie about blow jobs?

Will everybody accept that Felt was Deep Throat? Or is this going to turn into another JFK-assassination-type theory, and this is just the cover up, and the real Deep Throat is somebody else, but the MSM is protecting him, because so many things just don't make sense, and that somebody still believes it was Pat Buchanan?

Was meeting in a parking garage really necessary, or did Felt just think it would seem really cool to be shady like that? And a flower pot? Did Felt really walk by Woodward's apartment every day to check out his flower arrangement?

And, finally, who is going to make the most money off this revelation?
I'm highly annoyed, however, that Felt's family leaked the information to Vanity Fair to give that magazine the scoop. The Washington Post owned the story and sat on the story for decades out of respect for their cherished source and his privacy. In return, the family goes behind Woodward's and Bernstein's backs and tells some other magazine.

Kudos to Woodward and Bernstein for protecting their source this well. Although many people suspected Felt for years, nobody knew for sure. In this day in age when anything remotely interesting gets smeared across cyberspace in seconds, I think we can all concur with Ben Bradlee: "The thing that stuns me is that the goddamn secret has lasted this long."

More Fun Stuff: My mind is still on the white-water rafting trip from over the weekend. Now I get back to find out that a conservative senator offers a sex-ed course to Capital Hill staffers and interns.

Good Morning: I can't blog, because I just discovered this site. The Gateway one is the best.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hawks Soar Higher: Do you want to know why Hillary is getting more popular in the polls? She's a hawk. Her only criticism of the war in Iraq is that we haven't been aggressive enough and that we need more troops.

Now I don't trust her any more than I can throw her. But the Democrats need to emulate her national security message if they want to regain the nation's confidence.

Welcome Aboard: The Lebanese, newly liberated from the Syrian military, want to work to disarm the terrorist group Hezbollah. Funny how a little spread of freedom and democracy is winning us new allies in the War on Terrorism among Islamic countries in the Middle East.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wrong Amendment: A couple congressmen have proposed a bill to repeal the Wright Amendment.

That may not mean much to you, but that just means that you aren't from Dallas. The Wright Amendment was adopted in 1979 to restrict the number and destinations of flights out of Dallas' airport, Love Field. This was to make way for the new DFW International Airport, which needed some protection in its early days.

Well, the early days are gone, DFW is doing just fine, and the Wright Amendment has long outlived its usefulness.

Unfortunately, this is considered a local issue, so nobody seems to care. Like voting rights in Washington, DC, nobody else in the country knows about this or wants to know.

But people should care. Giving one airport a monopoly increases airline prices, which affects other carriers. Plus, on principle alone, the federal government should not be protecting American Airlines from competition.

I grew up in Dallas, and most of my family and friends still live there. When I visit, I'm not able to take Southwest Airlines of the restrictions.

American Airlines whines and lies about how opening up competition will hurt the area economy. But competition never hurts the economy, it only helps. Plus, areas with smaller population -- such as Washington, DC -- have three airports that have no restrictions on air travel. American Airlines needs to learn to compete.

The truth is, Love Field is too small to ever suck the life out of DFW. But allowing it to thrive will keep DFW honest. Congress needs to kick the airline industry out of the government's protective nest, because it's time for the airlines to learn to fly on their own.

Media Clog: The Koran-toilet mess has floated back to the surface, like some stubborn turd. Media outlets, such as The Washington Post, are splashing articles on their Web sites stating that, indeed, detainees have made allegations that American captors flushed their beloved holy book down Gitmo sewer pipes.

Clearly people are going to look at this as vindication to Newsweek, who suffered through all the crap that rained on them from their retracted story on the same topic. But the fact remains that Newsweek published unsubstantiated claims based off one anonymous source, which is just shoddy reporting. Newsweek did the right thing afterwards by retracting the story immediately and apologizing. But its defenders are making fools of themselves.

Let's be clear now. Even if the allegations are true, this does not constitute torture, mistreatment, or even hazing. The U.S. military has taught Gitmo captors to treat our enemy's religion and holy relics with respect. However, if a few bad actors do something un-PC with the Koran, that is not a war crime.

And remember, Al Qaeda members are trained to lie about their captivity. They rely on sympathetic media coverage to make America look bad. So they make up stuff. This is really old news.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Simply Unbearable: Historians love to play the "What If" game. What if Hitler won WWII? What if Watergate never happened? What if we intervened in the genocide in Rwanda? Now, as history is repeating itself with the genocide in Sudan, we don't have to wait to ask. What if we act now to stop the mass murder in Darfur? The Coalition for Darfur makes the case for action.

A few weeks ago, PBS aired a made-for-HBO film about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda called "Sometimes in April." Following the presentation, journalist Jeff Greenfield held a panel discussion about world's last of response to Rwanda and the similarities to the current genocide in Darfur.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz was among the panelists and during the discussion, made the following points:
Wolfowitz: One of the things that bears thinking about from the Rwanda experience, and everyone of these cases is different, and I think one ought to recognize that. But it seems to me that the thing that stuck me as unique about the Rwanda experience, on the one hand the sheer horror of it, with the exception of the Holocaust and even then at a sort of per day rate, this was probably the worst genocide ever. But secondly, and we'll never know this for sure because you never know the course that wasn't taken, but it was seem as though a relatively modest military action aimed at eliminating that regime could have ended the genocide and ended it rather quickly.

What strikes me and seems to me is true in Rwanda, is true in Bosnia, is true in World War II, is true in Cambodia, this kind of systematic, one-sided elimination of a population is not done spontaneously by another ethnic group, it's organized by a criminal gang, and if that criminal gang had been eliminated in Rwanda the genocide would have ended.

But that comes to my last point which is, then it depends on how do you conceive of the peacekeeping operation and nobody proposed, that I know of, going in and taking out the government.

Greenfield: Should they have?

Wolfowitz: I think so, yes.


Wolfowitz: This is not a simple problem. The Rwanda case, I think, is striking because it at least it looks in hindsight to have been so simple to prevent something that was so horrible. But most of these cases are complicated ... In a way the Rwanda case is helpful for thinking about things but in some ways it's misleading because most cases are a little more difficult.
Wolfowitz openly argued that the world should have intervened in Rwanda, but them makes the strikingly disingenuous argument that Rwanda was somehow "simpler" than the current situation in Darfur.

Rwanda is only "simpler" because it is now over and hindsight allows us to see just how, where, and why the world failed. But in 1994, with bodies filling the streets, Rwanda did not appear to be simple at all
U.S. Opposes Plan for U.N. Force in Rwanda
12 May 1994
The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- As rebel forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front pressed their attack today against the capital, Kigali, the United States criticized a new United Nations plan to send some 5,500 soldiers into the heart of the Rwandan civil war to protect refugees and assist relief workers, saying it is more than the organization can handle.


While not excluding any course of action, Ms. Albright said it remains unclear whether African countries are ready or able to send forces for such a dangerous and complicated mission at the epicenter of a raging civil war.
Ten years later, it now appears as if a few relatively simple measures backed by the necessary political will could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But in 1994, the genocide appeared massively complex and that complexity was routinely cited as a justification for not intervening.

And Wolfowitz is making exactly the same justification for not intervening in Darfur today.

Were there feasible solutions to Rwanda? In hindsight, the answer is obviously "yes." Are there feasible solutions to Darfur? It is hard to say because right now it seems so complex, but there certainly are if the world powers can muster the will to address them.

But unfortunately, it is far more likely that 10 years from now, when perhaps another 1-million Africans have needlessly died, we'll wonder why we did not act when "it looks in hindsight to have been so simple to prevent something that was so horrible."

What is Drama? First the filibuster flip-flop in the Senate, now House Republicans are challenging Bush on his ridiculous opposition to stem-cell research. The moderates are on the rise this week. Look for a conservative crackdown from DeLay and Co. soon. Then we'll see whether the moderates have any real strength in Congress.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Hooray for Centrists! Moderates in the Senate have once again fashioned a fragile compromise, an ancient tactic which guarantees that neither side will ever be satisfied and which manages to delay inevitable confrontation for at least a day or two.

The deal, as I understand it, gives an up-or-down vote on three of the judicial nominees, ignores two other nominees, and guarantees that the filibuster will not be nuked anytime soon. Both sides have declared victory, which means that both sides will try to undermine this deal as soon as possible.

I've stayed out of this debate, mostly because it bores me. But I don't want to see the filibuster go away. Sometimes a political body, such as the Senate, lets passion or partisanship get the best of them, leading to bad decisions. The filibuster helps prevent that. Also, I find in general that I like my government the most when it's not doing anything at all.

As for the judges, both parties are guilty of the recent arms race of appointing the most ideological extremists to the federal bench. The fiefdoms of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just make up their own reality as they see fit, as far as I can tell. Anything that requires a broader consensus for lifetime appointments sounds like a safe plan to me.

I haven't studied these particular Bush nominees. I understand that the Democrats don't like them because they are really, really conservative. But it's difficult to separate legitimate concerns from scare tactics. Once again we're hearing that if we do what Bush wants, then we will lose all our civil rights, our liberties, and our first born child. So far this has not happened, and the Left needs to stop crying wolf.

It's important to remember that the moderates created this compromise without support of either party's leadership. I don't see Bush backing down from getting all of his nominees confirmed, and I don't see the Democrats letting them all go through the process. And I don't see myself caring about this issue for very much longer.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Work is Busy Today: Enjoy.

Until recently, Chicago's municipal code had authorized police officers to dump confiscated weapons in Lake Michigan at least five miles from the shoreline. It had also prohibited carrying a dead body on public transportation unless the body was that of a child younger than 8. Those and 33 other laws considered obsolete, unconstitutional or redundant were repealed last year.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Get Up, Stand Up: The Iraqi prime minister is telling Syria to help stop all the foreign fighters pouring into Iraq and committing terrorist attacks. It's nice to see Iraq beginning to stand up for itself against neighbors who are being uncooperative, if not downright hostile. Iraq can help spread democracy by showing its own diplomatic strength in the region.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

You must unlearn what you have learned: The old saying goes, "All politics is local." I'm not so sure that's true anymore. In fact, I'm ready to declare, "All politics is national."

I realized this when I got a message on my answering machine from a recording that was reminding me of the important school board election coming up on Saturday. This is a crucial election, the message said, and I should remember to get out to vote.

The funny thing was, I had no idea up until that point that a campaign was underway and that an election was imminent. I do read the newspaper -- several of them, in fact -- every day. I'm sure if I dug through the Metro sections of WashPost or WashTimes, I would have found a couple stories of an upcoming Arlington, Virginia, election. But I don't remember any stories getting any sort of prominence.

Contrast that with the Terri Schiavo "issue". I'm pretty certain nobody beyond immediate friends and family cared one way or the other until the story was turned into a national soap opera. Something that was about as local as a story can get was deemed important based on what kind of national exposure it could garner.

It amazes me that people get so wrapped up in national issues and ignore local ones. The fate of the filibuster is not going to affect your day-to-day life. Local zoning ordinances, as boring as that may be, actually do.

Typically in national surveys, when people are asked to name which issues are most important to them, education ranks pretty high on the list. But most of the people who answer that way probably couldn't name one elected member of their local school board. Instead, they ask the national government to make sure that no child is left behind in their hometown school district.

Based on the number of voters alone, you're more likely to have a significant impact on a local election than a national one, simply because your vote ends up being a bigger percentage of the total. But local elections are seen as a waste of time. So voter turnouts are much larger for national elections, about issues that don't concern most people, than for local ones -- making your vote even more valuable for municipal tallies.

Apparently, though, I'm as guilty about this issue as everyone else. But I think it's dangerous to expect the national government to solve everyone's everyday problems.

I recall soon after Bush was elected and he was proposing his tax increases, some critics would trash the idea by saying, "Like we couldn't use that money to fix more potholes." Excuse me, but federal tax dollars don't fix potholes. Talk to your city council about that. Now people blame Bush for recent closings of fire houses in major cities. That, my friends, is decided locally. The President of the United States gets no say in such matters.

I would like to say the answer to this problem is to get the news media to pay more attention to local issues. But considering all the trash reporting that goes on with national coverage, I don't think I want that to be extended to the local venue, where the topics really are important.

Probably the best thing for us to do is to become more involved in our own communities, especially in our schools. Maybe more adults could volunteer spending time with students in classrooms. That would help our school systems out much more than anything President Bush can sign into law.

As for me, I'm going to start out by learning as much as I can about this upcoming election before I vote on Saturday.

The Circle is Now Complete: This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and it will soon see the end of the last Star Wars movie ever.

Yes, I am one of those obsessive Star Wars fans who is salivating to see Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. I got my Fandango tickets ahead of time for an evening show tonight. And you might have noticed the Star Wars themes in yesterday's blog posts.

I was in college when Episode I came out, and a group of us who worked for the student newspaper spent time saving places in line for weeks so we could see the midnight showing on opening night. We took turns in line, making sure that nobody had to stay there for more than a few hours at a time, giving us time to work, study, and shower. Regardless, we had a great time there. As you can imagine, the line had quite a party atmosphere the whole time, complete with alcohol and other strange chemical substances.

The first two prequel movies have been disappointing, compared to the original trilogy. In fact, it probably would have been better off if the prequels were never made at all, leaving the back story to our imaginations. But this movie is supposed to be much darker and more evil than its predecessors -- and that's gonna be cool!

I don't know what I'm going to do when it's all over. There's going to be a TV series after this movie, but that will never be the same. Plus, I've spent the past few years combing theforce.net and millenniumfalcon.com for spoilers, now I'm going to have to find new ways to procrastinate during the day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Twisted and Evil: It's amazing how simple issues of right and wrong can become so complicated when it comes to actually solving the problem. Few people in the world would attempt to justify the genocide in Darfur. It is the worst of mankind -- evil unabated. Stopping the murder is a must. Yet, the world community cannot agree on a solution to this madness. African countries will not allow foreign interference for political reasons. North American and European countries don't seem to have to will to get involved. The Coalition for Darfur explains.

Delays and Complications

The genocide in Darfur began more than two years ago. Since then, more than 400,000 people have died and the international community has yet to take any concrete action toward stopping the violence or helping the nearly 2-million displaced return to their destroyed villages and resume semi-normal lives.

And the longer the world delays, the more complicated the situation seems to become.

Just last week, the UNHCR was forced to pull its staff out of four refugee camps in Chad after five of its workers were wounded in protests over food distribution. The same day, two refugees and two Chadian police officers were killed during a clash in another camp.

Also last week, two drivers for the World Food Program were killed and rebels abducted but later released 17 members of the African Union ceasefire monitoring force.

The UN reported that militia attacks have intensified in the last month and there are now reports that rebels in the East have amassed along the border with Eritrea, potentially creating a Darfur-like conflict there as well.

All the while, the world makes symbolic gestures of concern and assistance. The AU has decided to expand its force in Darfur but lacks the troops, money, and logistical resources necessary to fully do so. Help from NATO has been requested but has not yet materialized. For domestic political reasons of its own, Canada recently pledged to send 100 troops to Darfur but has since backed off because of objections from Sudan. Meanwhile, leaders from Egypt, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Sudan, Gabon, and Eritrea jointly announced their rejection of "any foreign intervention in the Darfur problem."

The crisis in Darfur is by no means simple and solutions are going to require serious thought and real political will. Unfortunately, Darfur has not yet been able to garner either. But the longer the world refuses to deal with this, the more complicated the situation is going to become.

Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy: From the man who brought you Centerfield comes a new blog about the news media, called Transparent Eye on the Media. What really makes this interesting is that site-host Rick Heller is entering Boston University's journalism program to start a new career as a news reporter. So by watching this blog we'll be able to see naive idealism slowly crack under the weight of cynical disillusionment. It's kind of like watching Anakin Skywalker slowly get seduced by the dark side. It's tragic, yet fascinating to watch, because it's unavoidable -- it is your destiny.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

First Draft of History, Needs Editing: Despite my cynicism yesterday, I don't mean to dismiss the shoddy reporting done by the news media in covering this war. Yes, I am a little tired of the conservative complaints about news coverage being anti-American -- the truth is, the news will not and should not cover every new school that's built in Iraq or every flower that's handed to a soldier or Marine. If it bleeds, it leads.

That being said, there is a major problem with the current meme that's perpetuated by the media, that the war in Iraq is a mistake, we're making everything worse, and the Bush administration has some hidden/incompetent agenda up its sleeve. This is all false, and the media needs to bring its coverage a little more toward the reality on the ground.

Glenn Reynolds, in one of the rare instances where he actually posts his own thoughts instead of just linking to somebody else's, lays out how the charges.

When you go out of your way to report the bad news, and bury the good news, when you're credulous toward critics (remember the Boston Globe porn photos?) and treat all positive news as presumptive lies, and when it's clear that the enemy relies on press behavior in planning its campaigns, then you've got a problem. Huffing and puffing in response isn't constructive.
Christopher Hitchens nails The New York Times in his latest Slate article. And what he writes could essentially apply to any press coverage.

I don't think the New York Times ever referred to those who devastated its hometown's downtown as "insurgents." But it does employ this title every day for the gang headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. With pedantic exactitude, and unless anyone should miss the point, this man has named his organization "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" and sought (and apparently received) Osama Bin Laden's permission for the franchise.


That's not to say that the paper doesn't have a long memory. Having once read in high school that violence is produced by underlying social conditions, the author of this appalling article refers in lenient terms to "the goal of ridding Iraq of an American presence, a goal that may find sympathy among Iraqis angry about poor electricity and water service and high unemployment." Bet you hadn't thought of that: The water and power are intermittent, so let's go and blow up the generating stations and the oil pipelines. No job? Shoot up the people waiting to register for employment. To the insult of flattering the psychopaths, Bennet adds his condescension to the suffering of ordinary Iraqis, who are murdered every day while trying to keep essential services running.
Now the press and those on the Left want to hang on to this flushing Koran story. Their argument is that some former Gitmo detainees have made this accusation. But Al Qaeda teaches its followers to lie about treatment under captivity. It's in the handbook.

Why do critics want to believe Al Qaeda terrorists over their own government? Yes, our government has lied before, and will continue to do so. But I still trust the people who are trying to protect me more than the ones who want to kill me, and I wish the anti-war nuts would do the same.

Our government is rooting out the torture conducted in our prison camps and is prosecuting the criminals. We are fighting against dictators and groups that employ torture cheerfully. While we shouldn't ignore the bad things that happen under our watch, we shouldn't attack our government and simultaneously give our enemies a pass.

Kevin Drum had a good post today about how conservatives outnumber liberals and that the Left needs to reach out to the Middle in order to win. My suggestion, start actively supporting our methods in the War on Terrorism. That includes what's going on in Iraq.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Kick Ass: Kuwaiti women win right to vote. (Hat Tip: Centerfield)

Today is Cynicism Day: It's nice to come into work dog tired on a Monday morning and find out that the news media has once again destroyed its credibility by maliciously attacking America's credibility, and that blogs are putting their credibility on the line to play up the charges.

In the great scheme of things, Newsweek's major wholesale fuck-up of news judgment and of minimum journalistic standards and accuracy isn't that big of a deal. Yes, people died as a result of the riots. But in this war-torn region, nothing is going to stop them from killing each other. And yes, falsely making the U.S. government look bad does not help the safety of our troops. But the same people who will attack our troops over this would have used any other excuse to carry out jihad against our bravest.

It's not like our reputation in the Middle East was stellar to begin with. Sure, in some places -- such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Iran -- the U.S. is becoming more popular. But it's still safer to say you're from Canada.

Judging from the blogosphere, people are only seeing what they want to see in this story. Conservatives are ranting against the MSM for screwing up yet again, blowing what's left of its credibility, hating our troops, attacking Bush, only reporting the bad news -- did I leave anything out?

Liberals, who enjoyed the Newsweek story when it first came out, are strangely quiet. Hell, some are still trying to find a few shreds of evidence that the overall thrust of the story is true. Fake but accurate, redux.

This was a sad, pathetic attempt by Newsweek to beat its competition in unfairly smearing the U.S. government. Hell, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal if the accusations were true. I would have been more curious as to exactly how they were able to flush the entire Koran down the toilet. Some people tend to think that our troops are systematically torturing and violating the captives from our War on Terrorism. From what I've seen so far, we're dealing with little more than a few bad apples, not some Bush-Cheney conspiracy.

I don't have a scorecard available, but liberals have apparently lost a point in the "Bush is Evil" category now that the reports are found to be false, and conservatives have gained another point for "The Liberal Media Hates America". Honestly, this competition bored me a long time ago.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Slow News Day: In journalism, we're told to answer the six question words: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? But in this story about high school kids who pulled off a prank by putting a VW Beetle on the roof of the school, one is left out. It says who did it, what they did, when it happened, where it was, and why they did it. But the most intriguing question of all, how the hell they got a car on the roof, is never explained.

Overall, though, cool prank!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Touching Story: Here's a discussion question for all you kids. While we all hate child molesters, what do we do with them after they have "served their time"?

A Florida mayor is proposing to ban them from living within a half mile of schools, bus stops, parks, or any other place children congregate. Of course, that effectively means convicted child molesters would not be allowed to live anywhere within the city limits.

I know I'd like to put all such scum on an island somewhere, preferably in the path of an oncoming tsunami. And I can see why Mr. Mayor would like to get rid of all such people from his city, while scoring some political points in the process. But what if all cities passed this ban? While there is a problem with recidivism among child molesters, it just isn't practical to ban them from living near other people.

So far the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers are openly opposing the mayor's plan. But it could be politically tough for other city officials to advocate for the rights of pedophiles. This may be one of those times when the politicians take the popular route, fully expecting some federal judge to declare the ban unconstitutional.

It will be an interesting case to watch. If the mayor succeeds, look for other cities to emulate this plan.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Big Mess: It's almost like the crisis in Sudan is getting so severe that people are afraid to even talk about it. Because nobody can think of an easy solution to the problem, it seems, people want to push it aside and not think about it.

Few blogs mention it. Even good programs like The Daily Show, which generally takes the Bush administration and the media to task for inaction on important issues, only makes passing jokes on occasion about the lack of aid to that region.

Even without a plan of action, we can't just ignore the situation. More discussion brings more attention, which brings eventual action. It's up to us to inform others about what's happening. The Coalition for Darfur explains:

The Attention it Deserves

The Coalition for Darfur has two goals: to get bloggers writing about Darfur and to raise money for worthy organizations providing life-saving assistance to the people of Darfur.

So far, we are not doing particularly well on either count.

Outside of Instapundit, very few of the "big blogs" seem to be paying much attention to Darfur, which is why it was nice to see Kevin Drum finally address the issue a few days ago.

In his post on the topic, Drum made an important point about the genocide:

But hope is not a plan, and right now it strikes me that the only realistic option for stopping the genocide is to be prepared for a full-scale invasion and long-term occupation of Sudan. I could probably be talked into that if someone presented a serious military plan showing where the troops would come from and how they'd get there, but I haven't seen it yet.
It is probably an oversimplification to say that full-scale invasion and occupation of Sudan is the "only realistic option" for dealing with the genocide, but the key point to be understood here is that nobody knows what it will take to stop this because almost nobody is even thinking about it.

Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, the head of the failed UN mission to Rwanda, estimates that it would take 44,000 troops to stop the violence and Brian Steidle, a former Marine who spent six months serving with the AU mission in Darfur, estimates that it will take anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000. There is also talk of imposing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo and expanding the AU mandate to allow it to protect civilians. But after more than two years of violence, these things still remain little more than talk.

As far as can be determined, nobody (not the US, the EU, NATO, or the UN) has even seriously contemplated what sort of military action might be necessary in order to stop the genocide. Foreign policy journals and think tanks have likewise been silent on the issue. The only people who appear to be seriously thinking about what needs to be done in Darfur are journalists like Bradford Plumer and activists like Eric Reeves.

For two years, rhetorically pressuring Sudan to disarm and reign in the Janjaweed and stop the genocide has not worked. Many hoped that the Security Council's referral of the crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court might force Khartoum to back down, but unfortunately that has not happened. If anything, the ICC referral may have made the situation on the ground worse -- and open discussion of possible military intervention might make things worse still. It is impossible to say.

Nobody wants a large-scale invasion of Sudan, but more importantly, nobody wants to even think that such an invasion might be necessary and how it will need to be carried out. It is a sign of just how little serious concern the genocide in Darfur is generating that those who might theoretically be called upon in the future to intervene do not appear to even have begun examining the feasibility of such an intervention. Darfur might not require military intervention, but it certainly requires more than the few small steps currently being contemplated. And until those in power begin to give the genocide the attention and serious thought it deserves, there is little reason to believe that there will soon be an end to the violence.

This genocide will end in one of two ways: either the international community will begin to take its responsibility to protect the people of Darfur seriously and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their survival, or it will end when the Africans in Darfur have been completely eliminated.

The choice is ours.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Borderline Crazy: After the short-lived "minutemen" border patrol in Arizona, a new breed of "minutemen" are guarding the Canadian border. I guess they think they'll be able to catch a terrorist sneaking in disguised as a hockey puck.

The first group of minutemen, as far as I can tell, didn't accomplish much in any practical sense, but they did bring a lot of attention to the immigration issue. They were too small a group to be effective, so they were essentially wasting their time. But the press overreacted to a group of retirees who used radios to report illegal immigrants crossing the border. Because the men carried guns (in a state where it's legal to carry), the media began hyping the possibility of a war breaking out, when it was obvious that this wasn't going to be the case.

A Washington Post opinion columnist penned an interesting piece about how the minutemen at least brought attention to the issue. We can't close the border, because Americans rely on illegal immigrants' cheap labor to provide us cheap goods and services. The writer offers this bit: "Imagine suggesting that your teenager take a summer job picking melons for 12 hours a day in California."

I like President Bush's proposal to ease immigration laws. He's meeting with a lot of understandable resistance from his own party, especially since we're in the middle of a war with a group of people who sneak into this country to commit acts of terrorism. But our porous borders aren't doing anything to stop them now. If we allow more people to come in legitimately, we'll be able to keep records more easily of who they are. That leaves mostly the ones who are up to no good to continue sneaking over the border illegally.

The people who come into this country usually do so with one word on their minds: "Work". They need the money, and we need the services. This country would not be able to function in its current state without a continuous flood of immigrants. We need to work within the system, not fight it.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Work in Progress: Speaking of fundamentalism, I'm still amazed by the things I read about what's going on in the Middle East. Here's a story about a young woman who is killed for adultery in Afghanistan. What's even more amazing is that her family is happy that she's dead, for she dishonored them.

We're not going to be able to change the culture of that region overnight, nor do I suppose we really should. But spreading the ideas of freedom will help protect ourselves from fanaticism, as well as protect future women like this.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What the Hell? A federal judge ruled that a Maryland school district's sex-ed curriculum was unconstitutional. The reason? Because it doesn't include the religious perspective about homosexuality, namely condemning gays to burn in hell.

No, the judge ruled, the curriculum merely presents homosexuality as something that exists and doesn't attach any moral definition to it.

How the hell can a judge pull something off like that? I want to know where in the Maryland or U.S. constitutions it says that religious points of view must be presented when school curriculum explains a subject that has nothing to do with religion.

If the school district tried to put in religious messages, that would be unconstitutional, violating the separation of church and state. If the school district wanted to include information about the controversy surrounding homosexuality, that would be odd but acceptable, although that should be left to the elected school board.

I think we have proven that there are activist judges on both sides. I haven't taken a side on the whole filibuster issue, just because I think both Republicans and Democrats are incessant whiners. But with more instances like this, I'll be advocating that we need a constitutional amendment assuring that no judge can be confirmed without two-thirds approval of both houses, instead of just consent from the Senate.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Out There: Al Qaeda is the new Nazi. I don't mean that in the obvious way, in the fact that they are both racist, totalitarian extremists who murder innocents by the thousands or millions to impose their way of life on others. No, Al Qaeda has now become the newest overused political insult.

Just as many political wing-nuts defile and denigrate the memory of World War II veterans and holocaust victims by calling everyone a Nazi, such as by referring to President Bush and his administration as Nazis or by coining the ridiculous term "Feminazis", partisans are minimizing our current War on Terrorism by comparing all political enemies to Al Qaeda.

Conservative activist Pat Robertson says that federal judges are worse than Al Qaeda, in that they pass rulings with which he disagrees. And Democratic Mayor Martin O'Malley says Bush's budget is as destructive as the 9/11 attacks, because the president is attempting to actually cut federal spending.

This is insulting, immature, and inappropriate political behavior. Unfortunately partisans eat it up and the media flocks to it. It's well known in the news business that if you say something intelligent and reasonable, you'll never get quoted. Only the most extreme hyperbolic statements get headlines. In the process we cheapen the memory of the millions who died in World War II and the thousands who continue to die at the hands of Al Qaeda to score a quick political point.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stupid People: A man and a woman tried to stage the man's death by digging up a corpse, putting it in a car, lighting the car on fire, then pushing the car over a cliff. They wanted the insurance money. Somehow, they got caught.

Funny how it never works out like it does in the movies. Come to think of it, that never works in the movies either.

More Cold Feet: The Bush administration doesn't seem to have much momentum to do anything for the second term. And now, what's worse, it seems to be undoing some of the good things from last term, namely putting international pressure on Sudan about the genocide.

Perhaps we're trying to strike a deal with Sudan leaders for information on Al Qaeda. But the War on Terrorism means more than rounding up a few militants. We need to transform that region from one of oppression to one of freedom and opportunity so terrorism doesn't continue to breed. That's what we're doing in Iraq. But we'd be hypocrites if we eased off the situation in Sudan and let the genocide continue. The Coaltion for Darfur explains the latest developments.

The United States has played a leading role in attempts to deal with the crisis in Darfur by donating hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, providing logistical and financial support to the AU mission, and pushing for various resolutions and sanctions in the UN Security Council. In September, the Bush administration even took the unprecedented step of labeling the situation "genocide."

But now it appears as if the Bush administration is intentionally lessening its pressure on Sudan.

On a recent visit to Sudan, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick backed away from the earlier genocide designation and offered an oddly low estimate of the death toll in Darfur. Shortly thereafter, the State Department released a fact sheet claiming that an estimated "63-146,000 'excess' deaths can be attributed to violence, disease, and malnutrition because of the conflict;" a figure that is less than half the commonly accepted estimate. Noted Sudan expert Eric Reeves wrote of the State Department's estimate, "This is not epidemiology: this is propaganda" and claimed that it called into question "not only the motives of those who have compiled it, but the moral and intellectual integrity of those ... who would cite it."

And last week, Mark Leon Goldberg reported that the administration was working to kill the Darfur Accountability Act.

On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sudan had become an key source of intelligence information for the CIA and that Sudan's intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, a man widely thought to be responsible for directing military attacks against civilians in Darfur, had been brought to Washington for a meeting with intelligence officials aboard a CIA jet.

The LA Times report revealed that Sudan had provided valuable information regarding al Qaeda's operations, captured and handed over Islamic extremists operating in Sudan, and even detained militants moving through Sudan on their way to join forces with Iraqi insurgents.

There is no doubt that Sudan feels it deserves to be rewarded for this assistance and it remains to be seen what, if anything, the Bush administration intends to offer in return.

These new revelations raise complex questions about our priorities as a nation and serious questions about the future of Darfur. But what must not be ignored in this debate over realpolitik is that millions of people are still in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Thus, we ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we seek to raise money for organizations providing life saving assistance to the people of Darfur.

Cold Beat: Like many of us, Howard Kurtz is fed up with the continuing coverage of the runaway bride. Even when there was a suspected criminal element, the coverage of a woman's possible abduction was absurd. Now that we know that it was just a case of cold feet, we should let the family sort out their problems and leave them alone.

Yet the coverage persists. Is this the media's fault? Partly, but it's also the public's fault. They want to watch this soap opera, and demand begets supply. Cable channels and newspapers wouldn't be covering this trash if there weren't millions of people shelling out money for this story. The news media, however, could do the honorable thing and stick to real news and let tabloids follow this one. But don't hold your breath.

It's funny. The decrease in paper circulation and news viewership is forcing news outlets to cover this non-news for ratings. But putting all this crap on air is hurting their credibility, which hurts their numbers in the long run. Let's see how long it takes for them to figure this out.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A Modest Proposal: I was thinking the other day about that horrible, awful movie American Beauty. I don't know why, but I started mulling over Chris Cooper's character, who plays that bitter, militaristic, Nazi-obsessed, self-denying, homophobic, closeted homosexual (it's really okay to make the bad guy even a little sympathetic; it makes for a better narrative). Then I remembered that scene where the gay couple welcomes him to the neighborhood, but he gets stuck on the word "partner", asking, "What are you guys selling? ... What's your business?"

That struck me because I have always been a little confused why homosexual couples often call each other their "partner". The term sounds so cold, more like a business deal than a committed loving relationship. This type of thing is really none of my business, which is why I would usually just shut the hell up about such things. But in this case, I think changing the term of the one you love could have an impact on the whole same-sex marriage debate.

For one thing, the term fly over the heads of us heteros who may not catch on right away, a la Colonel Fitts. And the truly homophobic among us may not even take such relationships seriously.

Instead of "partner", saying "boyfriend" works. And if the relationship has moved past the boyfriend point, that would be a perfect time to start saying "husband" ("girlfriend" and "wife" for lesbians, of course). And by using the term regularly, even though most states don't recognize such relationships, people will become more used to the idea of two men being married.

Everyone knows what a husband is. He's the guy you're living with who makes you laugh but can drive you up the wall especially when he forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, again, even though you reminded him at least a million times, but you love him and you still plan to spend the rest of your life with him, despite his faults. Nobody can tell you who that person will be in your life, especially not the government.

Now, people shouldn't use the term arbitrarily, as that would have the opposite effect. But if you've been living with someone for 10 years and plan to spend the rest of your life with him, then no one can question your dedication. You deserve to use the term "husband" and shouldn't be stuck calling the person you love your "partner".

Words are powerful. By adopting the language of those people most protective of traditional marriage, the idea of same-sex marriage will become more accepted in society.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Learning About Sex with Mom: It's become a joke that parents pass off teaching their kids about sex to the schools. Instead of explaining the birds and the bees, Mom and Dad can avoid such awkwardness by letting junior watch some school-sponsored video made in the '70s.

And you know what? That's the way it should be. I realized that after seeing this article about a Maryland school district that is having to actively block parents from sitting in with their kids during sex-ed courses. Under most circumstances, any parent is allowed to join their kids for class so long as they ask ahead of time. Not in this case anymore.

God bless the school district for having common sense. I know that it's a problem that discussions about sex have moved away from the family and into the classroom. But mixing the two is not the answer. If parents want to talk to their children about sexuality, by all means, they should be encouraged. But that should be done at home.

When I was a youngen, my parents had the option of previewing the material ahead of time, separate from the students, in case they found anything objectionable. That makes sense. But can you imagine the chill that would happen to any frank discussion if Johnny's mother was sitting in the corner listening in on teens as they first learn about sex?

There are some things that health professionals know that parents don't. Let's educate children about sex. You parents have years to instill your values -- you don't need to infringe on a couple hours of independent learning. We need to keep family out of the schools.

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