Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The answer is, Strong: I still don't watch the president's State of the Union speech. Here's a good rundown why. Newspapers, I deplore you to filter out the garbage and bring me the good stuff tomorrow. Good night.

Danger Ahead: Some conservatives have said here and elsewhere that there is no reason to worry. Even if the Supreme Court eventually overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion won't automatically become illegal. It will just be left up to the states.

Well, it appears that several states are already considering banning abortion outright, even though a pro-Roe majority still sits on the Court (that's even assuming Alito and Roberts vote to overturn).

Sure, most states would keep abortion legal, possibly enacting some further restrictions. But you will see several ban it completely. Keeping reproductive rights legal in most parts of the country is little solace to a poor woman who finds herself desperate and pregnant in a state that has outlawed abortion. This is why equal protection under the law should be available to all Americans, regardless of the Red State/Blue State demographic breakdown.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Patriotic Duty: In 2001, we were already down the path of an economic downturn. Then 9/11 happened, with our financial might the center target, and our economy took another significant hit. President Bush called on Americans to go to the mall and spend, so that we might soften the blow of the recession.

Now, post-Katrina, New Orleans needs help. I'd like to see Bush call on Americans to take a pilgrimage to the Big Easy for the annual Mardi Gras celebration. New Orleans needs our dollars. And it's up to all of us to go down there, get drunk, and earn some plastic beads.

If you've gone before, then you know how important it is to keep the tradition alive. And if you've never been, you're missing out. And now you have the best excuse ever to participate in the debauchery. Your country needs you.

Sign of the Times: Nothing major has happened, but it looks like there have been some small violent skirmishes among the Palestinians since the elections. As much as I normally enjoy watching groups of terrorists go after each other instead of innocents -- like Israelis, Iraqis, or us -- I'd rather see more respect for the democratic process.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Interesting: Now that the Hamas shockwaves are settling, I'm finding opinions on the Left and the Right that are urging everyone to calm down -- saying this is not a big deal, and in fact could be good.

Left-winger Robert Wright tells Mickey Kaus (where is Mickey on the spectrum nowadays?) in this video that the status quo has been stagnant, and Hamas has grown in power in the process. With Hamas involved in the political process, they may be forced to moderate their positions. Of course, they didn't have to moderate their views much to get elected. But now that they're in power, they have the responsibility of the Palestinian people in their hands, and they might actually think before they act.

Rush Limbaugh takes a they're-all-the-same track by pointing out that Fatah was neck-deep in terrorism as well. Now that the Palestinian government is officially run by terrorists, government leaders can't deny knowledge of or influence over future terrorist attacks. Even if Hamas doesn't ease up on the attacks, Israel can rightfully hold the Palestinian government responsible for anything that happens in the future.

I guess we have to wait and see. Lots of world leaders are condemning the elections, promising not to work with Hamas if they continue to sponsor terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Then again, Iran has long sponsored terrorism and the destruction of Israel, so we should be used to this sort of thing by now. I'm worried that Hamas will take their new power as an opportunity to funnel more money and organization to their terrorism operations. Regardless, I don't expect anything to improve soon in that area. Hopefully that means nothing will get much worse either.

That seems to be the theme of this advice (via Kevin Drum).

For America, I think it's extremely important right now to handle this right: honor the will of the people, demonstrate a commitment to democratic process, and see what happens. Give Hamas the chance to prove its intentions. Don't get too upset about the inevitable bursts of objectionable rhetoric by excited victors — test deeds, not early words. Above all, don't give the Islamist hardliners the winning argument they crave about American hypocrisy. Refusing to deal with Hamas right now could effectively kill American attempts to promote democracy in the Middle East for a generation.
That seems to be what President Bush is doing so far. I still think democratizing the Middle East is the best approach. Unfortunately, it can't solve everything.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Good Morning: The Hamas terrorist group won the Palestinian elections. So much for democracy fixing everything in the Middle East. Needless to say, I'm not in a good mood now. (Then, Blogger crashed all morning)

I'm trying to remember the last time the Palestinian people did something that didn't piss me off. From dancing in the streets on 9/11 to voting for a terrorist group that wants to kill off Israel, I find little reason to be sympathetic for them at all. I'm glad to see that the Bush administration to continue its hard stance against Hamas, demanding that they give up terrorism before being treated as a diplomatic equal.

Now I'm sure the Palestinians are good people (some, at least). And part of the reason that they voted the Fatah out were concerns of rampant corruption. And the Hamas ended up being the strongest alternative.

In fact, that happens a lot in elections. Sometimes voters turn to an alternative party not so much for the platform but to teach the party in power a lesson. I think that partly explains the Conservative victory in Canada as well.

Of course, voters need something to vote for, and not just against. That's why I'm harping on the Democrats to put more hawks on the ballots. Letting the Republicans rule America uncontested is only going to let them get comfortable, which ineveitably leads to corruption (ie, Abramoff). That's not a shot against Republicans; that's just the nature of power. But if Democrats can't provide a viable alternative, then they share some of the blame as well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Change of Heart: A New Jersey police lieutenant who is a lesbian finally got approval from her town board to leave her pension to her life-partner. The cop, Laurel Hester, is dying of cancer and doesn't have long to live. But Republicans on the town board had refused to allow her to pass on her pension just as any other police officer could have to a spouse.

After months of pleading, and some regional and national attention, the conservatives on the board relented.

What I like about this story, besides the happy ending, is that as the public becomes more aware of discrimination against homosexuals, the more pressure the public puts on politicians to accommodate gays and lesbians. That means more media attention will eventually show the public that there is nothing to fear from same-sex marriage and domestic partner benefits.

No Bluffing: A left-leaning Washington Post editorial writer has taken notice that Karl Rove always tips his election-year hand -- by revealing the themes, talking points, and strategies Republicans will employ to win the election.

And still, each time, Democrats fail to capitalize.

It should be no surprise that Rove plans the focus of this year's theme to be, the War on Terrorism. He will try to convince voters that Republicans will keep America safer than Democrats will.

With this information already in hand, will Democrats counter that strategy by showing they can be tough on terrorism, too?

So far, it seems not. I couldn't help but laugh when I read Rush Limbaugh's synopsis of the Democratic national security agenda: "The Democrats' position on national security is to try to impeach George W. Bush."

I'm begging you, Democrats. Please come out strong on national security this election. After that, then I'll take your criticisms of President Bush more seriously.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Think Again: Science appears to have proven that partisans tend to respond emotionally, on a subconscious level, when confronted with political news. In short, political partisans often aren't very rational.

Using M.R.I. scanners, neuroscientists have now tracked what happens in the politically partisan brain when it tries to digest damning facts about favored candidates or criticisms of them. The process is almost entirely emotional and unconscious, the researchers report, and there are flares of activity in the brain's pleasure centers when unwelcome information is being rejected.
Of course, we all already knew this to be true. We enjoy hearing bad news about our political enemies and react very skeptically to any news that goes against our preferred candidates or political views. Hell, I got a big smile on my face when I read the article on this experiment. So that just makes me a partisan nonpartisan. (Hat tip: Centerfield)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Secret Weapon: Is it me, or is Laura Bush making a lot of public speeches lately?

In one comment, she bashes Sen. Hillary Clinton for that inappropriate "plantation" remark.

In another, she says this:

Many people are very, very sincerely anti-war, everyone is anti-war, the president is anti-war, no-one wants war, but no-one wanted what happened on September 11 either.
All in all, she speaks the truth. I can't help but wonder, however, whether Karl Rove may tap her as an ace in the hole for the 2006 elections. Not as a candidate, but as a GOP promoter. Laura Bush is extremely popular and well respected. After this election, any influence that she has in politics will diminish, so now would be the time to use her.

But Republicans need to be careful. The very reason everyone loves her is because she is so anti-politics. If she's seen campaigning too much, she'll lose that virtue.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

BFD: Blogging has been nonexistent because I'm sick and I've got a big project I've got to finish this week, so I've been cranking away on real work. But I'll throw this out just to put something new on the site.

What's wrong with lobbyists paying for congressional travel? If the lobbyists didn't pay for it, chances are we taxpayers would foot the bill. I know there's the concern of possible quid pro quo and that the traveling congressperson may feel obligated to vote for whatever legislation the lobbyist wants. But in many of these cases the lobbyist is going to get the legislation anyhow. And sometimes the lobbyist has a legitimate reason to want whatever he is seeking. If the bill is that bad, then we hold the congressperson responsible, not the lobbyist.

I guess I just don't feel as threatened by lobbyists and special interest groups as everyone else does.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cat Fight: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week criticized Russia for bullying Ukraine by charging high prices for a continued gas and energy supply. Dr. Rice called on the Russian government to play fair. This week, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky responded.

Condoleezza Rice released a coarse anti-Russian statement. This is because she is a single woman who has no children.
It gets better.

Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age.
Apparently this is a nobody politician in Russia who is well known to spout insane rants. So we needn't dwell on it. Still, it's entertaining to know that every country has its share of Pat Robertsons and Michael Moores who make ludicrous comments.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Enhancement: I'm behind the times, but I just figured out how to post photos on my blog. Someday I may add color to my page!

Anyhow, I like this picture of President Bush and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. It's almost as if they're looking at each other and realizing, "Hey, we're both getting lambasted for our response to Katrina. We're on the same side after all."

Of course, that's just wishful thinking on my part ...

Confirmed: I'm going to highlight this, because if the results had gone the other way, it would have been huge.

Virginia conducted a DNA test to determine whether a man executed in 1992 for rape and murder really was guilty. According to the test, he really was guilty.

There has not been a confirmed case of someone being wrongfully executed in modern times. Granted, there are few tests performed on convicts already executed, because time and money would be better spent determining whether someone currently on death row is guilty. But this supports my contention that, with so few executions being performed and each convict having years to go through the appeals process, the chance of someone being wrongfully executed is nearly nil.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Self Help: Some House Republicans are advocating that their party "clean house" amid the recent corruption scandals and indictments. They hope to show that they can fix their own mess to impress voters enough to keep the GOP in power come November. That's a nice thought, but politically I don't think it will work.

Voters, it seems, don't respond well when politicians admit that they've done something wrong. Voters tend to reward stubbornness over repentance.

Case in point: George W. Bush. Whenever he admits to a mistake, Democrats lambaste him for it repeatedly. But when el presidente holds fast, it almost makes him immune to criticism. Certain segments of the party faithful always stick with him until the end, that is unless he confesses that he goofed.

I'm not sure how voters are going to respond to the DeLay scandals. But I can't imagine a massive Republican leadership overhaul would be helpful to the GOP's election chances. If voters see a shakeup, that will send a strong indication that something is seriously wrong. Plus, voters like consistency. If the Republicans promise something new this year, then voters may have no problem voting Democrat, because there will be big changes either way.

I'm not advocating that the Republicans resist admitting mistakes. I'm just making an observation on the political reality.

The Democrats could have a golden opportunity here to regain control of Congress. All they have to do is create a more hawkish image in the War on Terrorism. Anything less than that, and they'll be on the losing end once again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Judicial Appeal: "Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said Tuesday he would deal with the issue of abortion with an open mind ..." just before he votes to outlaw it.

Is there any question that Bush has picked himself a pro-life judge? And is there any question that, were Alito to be voted down, Bush would find another pro-life judge?

I understand that the senators are excited that people are paying attention to what they're doing. But we can dispense with the manufactured mystery behind Alito's personal views and judicial philosophy.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Horns Up: Tom DeLay is calling it quits, no longer seeking his old post as House Majority Leader. What with the indictment and the numerous possible ethics violations, DeLay has become an albatross for Republican lawmakers heading into an election year, and they finally forced him to step down. Now hopefully Sugar Land can vote him out of office as well.

Horns Down: Vince Young is entering the NFL Draft. I hoped that he would see the lure of winning the Heisman and a chance at leading the Longhorns to a second straight national championship as reason to finish his fourth year of eligibility in the NCAA. Truth is, he's a hot commodity, he may have a chance to play for his home town of Houston, and he's going to make lots of money. Best of luck to you Vince. And thanks for the memories.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Like Wildfire: Somehow, the situation in Sudan is continuing to get worse than it already was. The Coalition for Darfur sends a message via e-mail.

This is not a good sign -- the situation in Darfur is worsening and has, in recent weeks, become tied to events in neighboring Chad.

In December 2004, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland warned that 100,000 people could die a month if humanitarian organizations are forced to suspend operations in Darfur.

In September 2005, Egeland warned "If (the violence) continues to escalate, we may not be able to sustain our operations for 2.5-million people requiring life-saving assistance. In Darfur, it (aid distribution) could all end tomorrow. It is as serious as that."

Now, the UN is pulling out all non-essential workers from parts of Darfur because this is exactly what is happening:


The United Nations has scaled back its staffing in parts of Sudan's war-torn western Darfur region following a buildup of forces along the country's border with Chad, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Tensions have soared on both sides of the border in recent weeks after Chadian rebels based in Darfur, joined by Chadian army deserters, carried out several cross-border raids.

Several rebel groups last week said they were banding together to topple Chadian President Idriss Deby.

Deby accuses the Sudanese government in Khartoum of backing them and has urged the United Nations to take over Darfur's administration. Khartoum denies any involvement.

The decision to restrict staffing "does not mean there will be an overall evacuation," U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"Essential life-saving humanitarian services delivered by the U.N. will continue, and the mission will monitor the situation and carry out a fresh security assessment of the area in the next two to three weeks," Dujarric said.

The move was "due to the increased instability in the affected areas, including a buildup of forces on ether side of the Sudan-Chad border, with increased potential for armed conflict," he said.

The border tensions have further complicated a debilitating civil war that has raged in Darfur since February 2003, pitting Sudanese rebels against government forces.

Tens of thousands have been killed and 2 million have left their homes for camps in Sudan and Chad to flee the fighting.

The area now hosts one of the world's largest humanitarian operations, with more than 11,000 aid workers struggling to feed, clothe and shelter inhabitants.

The Sudanese rebels began fighting to pressure the Arab-dominated central government to respond to the needs of Darfur's villagers. U.N. officials say Khartoum then armed Arab militias to fight the rebels, and that the militias launched a campaign of rape, killing and looting that continues to this day.

While the U.N. Security Council has demanded an end to the militia attacks, the government has yet to make real gains in doing so, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported last month. The council meets on Jan. 13 to discuss the situation.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Light 'em Up: I don't know if any bars in Arlington, Virginia, have public stock available. But if so, I recommend everyone put their money in Rhodeside Grill or Carpool stock.

Washington, DC, just passed a smoking ban, much like California's and New York's. The DC suburbs of Montgomery County and Prince George's County, Maryland, have already passed similar smoking bans, and they have seen many of their patronage flee to DC bars. Now that DC is smoke free, the only place left in the area to smoke is where I currently live, Arlington, Virginia.

Stroke of Bad Luck: Do you get the feeling that God himself does not want peace in the Middle East?

Anytime any progress heads toward peacefully resolving some situation there, something happens that blows the whole process up. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated. Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat dodged death for years while he murdered others, until finally God let him die. Now Israel's current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has suffered a major stroke.

Sharon had just created a political earthquake in Israel by moderating his stance and pledging to work more closely with the Palestinians. While nobody believed this would end the conflict outright, Sharon's plan held promise to make more progress on the road to peace.

Then he has a stroke, and he looks like his influence will be curtailed sharply -- and that's if he survives.

If I were a conspiracy buff (which I am), I'd be suspicious that Sharon had this incident so soon after announcing that he was leaving his conservative party and forming a moderate one. Now, just before the new party was to gain power, he has a sudden debilitating stroke. There are many poisons that can trigger such a reaction, especially in someone with a history of the illness. Obviously I have no evidence for this accusation, other than my own paranoia. But enough people in his own party were pissed off, that I wouldn't be surprised if something like that happened.

Update: Oh. Dear. God. I make a joke about God smiting those who dare try to bring peace to the Middle East, and lo and behold, conservative nutjob Pat Robertson seriously expresses this view. (via Volokh)

HOOK 'EM HORNS! My Texas Longhorns won the national championship over USC in a classic Rose Bowl game for the ages. Congratulations to my man, Vince Young, and the rest of the Horns!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bravo: The most admirable thing I think a liberal or conservative can do is to call out his or her own side for screwing things up for the rest of them. Lefty blogger Frederick Maryland takes Marion Barry to task for perpetuating the stereotype that liberals are soft on crime.

What I can't stand about partisanship is how likeminded people defend each other even when it is completely obvious that somebody messed up or is actively doing something wrong. When a political ally draws attention to somebody else's mistake by showing how it's hurting a shared cause, that person gains credibility. And that also usually leads to honest arguments about serious issues.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Rock Me Amadeus: Researchers may have discovered the skull of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They hope to confirm it by comparing its DNA with known DNA of Mozart's relatives.

The question is, What should we do with the prized skull if we can confirm it's his? I say we clone him. He was a musical genius, and I'd like to see what kind of music he would create were he alive today.

While we're at it, let's make new copies of other creative geniuses like Einstein, Edison, and Hendrix. If their genetics compel them to make more amazing discoveries, then who knows what they'll give us. And if they accomplish nothing their second time around, well, it would still be kind of cool to have their replicas around.

We have nothing to fear from clones, because they already exist (identical twins are genetic clones). We're not playing God. We're just noodling with the tools God uses. So we should have some fun with it.

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