Friday, November 30, 2007

Cautious Optimism, Versus Cynical Opportunism

Christopher Hitchens, on the good news coming from Iraq. Good all the way through, and a somewhat hyperbolic, but nonetheless valid argument at the end:

As I began by saying, I am not at all certain that any of this apparently good news is really genuine or will be really lasting. However, I am quite sure both that it could be true and that it would be wonderful if it were to be true. What worries me about the reaction of liberals and Democrats is not the skepticism, which is pardonable, but the dank and sinister impression they give that the worse the tidings, the better they would be pleased. The latter mentality isn't pardonable and ought not to be pardoned, either.

True dat.

There's Bad Journalism, and Then There's Really Bad Journalism

You know what, I generally don't go out of my way to watch these debates, yet despite my belief that these debates end up becoming silly exercises in well, silliness, I find myself drawn to watching them. I missed Wednesday's GOP/YouTube debate on CNN when it was live, but I did catch the replay and a lot of the post-debate coverage. Most people should know about this by now, but there's been some question-planting going on again (HT: Pajamas Media), as the retired gay general asking the question about gays in the military was a Clinton staffer.

And, it doesn't stop there.

The thing is, this has to be a world-class embarassment for CNN. I don't really buy into the Vast Left-Wing Media Conspiracy meme, but this is one of those examples that righties will shove in the faces of liberals like me in order to make their case. I read this as systemic, world-class incompetence on the part of CNN. I don't think Anderson Cooper knew, but are you telling me, that after this same problem happened last time, on the same network, that no one in the mothership thought to do a little vetting of the questions, so they wouldn't be embarrased on the air by Bill Bennett, and a handful of righty bloggers? It makes you wonder how you can trust them as a journalistic outfit after this foolishness.

Joe Scarborough calls bullshit as far as CNN not knowing about this beforehand is concerned, but I have problems believing CNN even has the attention span, let alone the smarts to execute such a scheme. Who knows. A half-assed web search could've solved this straightaway. CNN, your internet kung-fu is weak.

This cannot be good for Hillary. One wonders if CNN really is smarter than we think, and they're simply in the tank for Obama?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is This How the Pentagon Supports the Troops?

PFC Jordan Fox served his country proudly in Iraq. He joined the Army, served as a sniper, and survived heated machine gun battles and an IED. As is the nature of war, he was wounded. You'd think Fox would've gotten a medal, or a purple heart, but instead, the DoD sent him a bill, for the repayment of his signing bonus.

No, I'm not making this up:

The injury forced the military to send him home. A few weeks later, Fox received a bill from the Department of Defense, saying he owes the military nearly $3,000 from his original enlistment bonus because he couldn't fulfill three months of his commitment.

"I tried to do my best and serve my country and unfortunately I was hurt in the process and now they're telling me that they want their money back," Fox told CBS station KDKA-TV.

This is apparently not an isolated bureaucratic foul-up. The military is allegedly demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

PFC Fox's case has been settled for the most part, but the fact that is still happening, or that it happened at all is an outrage. President Bush, and Secretary Gates need to kill this thing at the root, and see that those who guard us while we sleep are not screwed over when they're wounded on the battlefield, and return home.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Robots Are Horrible Racists!!!

Or at least, profoundly incompetent, according to Google. I missed this story, but apparently, there was a glitch in Google's image-based news search, that linked Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, and Merrill-Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal, to a photo of rhesus monkeys. Frankly, their explanation still smells like bullshit, and their almost dismissive indifference on the matter rubs me wrong.

I'm staying on this story.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

“Why do you think you didn’t give a speech like this in, say, May or June of 2004?”

Asks E.J Dionne, in response to these recent comments by John Kerry on abortion, and the Democratic Party's position on life issues:

I think we have been guilty in the party and individually at times of being overly pro-choice and this is the way it is and we’re not going to do x, y or z, without honoring the deeply held beliefs that are legitimate that go to the question of the killing of a human being, depending on what you believe. And I understand it depends on what you believe. But if you believe it, I think you do have an obligation to say so in terms of wanting fewer abortions, of trying to say abortion is not good, it’s not a good alternative, and what we need to do is make sure people have other alternatives and other options. That’s where you can find a lot of common ground because there are 1.3 million abortions in this country, and I don’t think anybody would disagree that that is too many.

As Bill Clinton framed it, I thought so effectively, in 1992, it ought to be rare, legal and safe. Rare has been missing from the debate. I think we need to figure out how we’re going to do that, and do it in a more effective way.

I still remember vividly that third debate between Kerry and Bush, when he answered that question on abortion. It was like watching an animal being tortured. I felt literal pain watching that. This is still somewhat nuanced and clunky, but a quantum leap from the fall of 2004. It's much too late at this point (which was Dionne's point), but he does get a lot closer to full coherence this time.

UPDATE: I should mention that for all intents and purposes I am a pro-life Democrat, so I still have some issues with this position, but I still think it is a big step compared to his last statement on the issue.

Friday, November 09, 2007

No, It's Not LIke That At All

In an nonetheless interesting article, the oft-wrong-on-the-war-but-usually-thoughtful Glenn Greenwald gets it really wrong:

We took a country that was relatively stable and a sworn enemy of, and an important check on, Iran. We turned it into a cesspool of violence, instability, displacement, sectarian strife, Iranian influence, and rule by militia.

The best we can hope for is to reverse some of the damage that we did so that a Shiite regime far more loyal to Iran than to the U.S. can rule with some semblance of order. And to "achieve" that, we squandered hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians (at least), and almost every ounce of credibility and influence we built up over the last six decades. That's the best case scenario. But still -- we are hearing now -- the people responsible for that grotesque debacle and who cheered it on are going to be in a "powerful" position, and the people who thought doing that was all a bad idea will be in big, big trouble.

The problems with his analysis are highlighted.

First off, I respect honest disagreements on the war policy, but I feel the need to bust two myths wide open. First off, Iraq wasn't really that stable under Saddam. The state was bound for collapse, not to mention a state sponsor of terror, and a rogue-state human rights nightmare, to say the least. Saddam was a murderer and a butcher. His regime was collapsing around him, and bound to be replaced by a worse regime. The idea was to replace Saddam's regime with a democratic alternative. Things obviously didn't work out quite like we planned, but the real progress we've made isn't some fantasy. Secondly, it's hardly fair to lay the blame squarely on ourselves for the violence there, as if al-Qaeda, the militias, and death squads somehow don't exist. I'm just sayin.'

Oh, yeah, and I'm with Althouse (thanks for the H/T, BTW). What is up with that metaphor?

The Art of Seeing Things As They Are

I put off blogging on this for a while, as other issues took precedence, but I was brought back to this after reading a two-week old Newsweek article on Hillary and Iran. I've noted elsewhere that there seems to be an almost obsessive fear with regards to Iran--not so much from the threat Iran poses, but from the possibility that we may have to engage that threat. The anti-war Left, a lot of the Democratic leadership, and many in the press seem to abide under a constant fear of a war with Iran. Let me say that I don't want to go to war with Iran if we don't have to, and I think that view is shared by all but the most hardened hawks on the right. The thing is, whether some of us refuse to admit or not, Iran is a real threat, and we may have to engage that threat down the line.

The anti-war Left has gone after Democrats whom they feel have not done enough to oppose what they feel is a march to war with Iran. They have piled on Lieberman for basically pointing out that we may have to engage Iran, and they have recently piled on Hillary (and other Dems) for backing the Kyl-Lieberman resolution. At the last debate, the other Democratic candidates hammered Hillary over this. Edwards said it "was written by the neocons." Obama, Biden, and others attacked her. Hillary defended herself by asserting her commitment to dealing with the threat of Iran honestly. Here's the thing, whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton's political motivations for voting for the resolution that effectively declares the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, one thing ought to be clear: The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a terrorist organization. If Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda are terrorist organizations (no one is disputing that, are they?) then by what I've read, the Quds force is as well.

The problem many have with this resolution is that in their view, it gives Bush legal ammunition to further a casus belli for Iran. I am, for all intents and purposes, a supporter of the Iraq war, but I understand the concern of rushing too quickly into another war, without sufficient planning, or without sufficient public support. To call Iraq a controversial war is the acme of understatement. I reject the idea that this war was doomed from the start, and still cling to hope even now, but many assumptions were proven wrong about this war, and I understand the rational fear about these things.

I just don't see this resolution as necessarily leading to war. I'd been hearing a lot about this resolution, so I read it myself. The whole thing. Frankly, I see nothing to really be alarmed about, unless one totally rejects the idea of identifying threats. Consider this:

(b) Sense of Senate.--It is the sense of the Senate--

(1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;

(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and

(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.

The way I see it, all this does is acknowledge the threat, and says that we should do all we can to stop it. Diplomacy, economic pressure, and IF NECESSARY, military force. The fact is, we know that Syria has terrorist ties. We've had several resolutions stating this fact. Have we moved any closer to war with Syria as a result? Of course not. I'll say again, that only the most hard-line hawks are calling for strikes against Iran right now, but only fools delude themselves into thinking that all of Ahmadinejad's talk is bluster, and that the threat of nuclear Iran is not real.

OK, whew. That was longer than I'd thought it would be.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why Do So Many Hollywood Lefties Love Hugo So Much?

Anne Applebaum has a good theory:

"In fact, for the malcontents of Hollywood, academia, and the catwalks, Chávez is an ideal ally. Just as the sympathetic foreigners whom Lenin called "useful idiots" once supported Russia abroad, their modern equivalents provide the Venezuelan president with legitimacy, attention, and good photographs. He, in turn, helps them overcome the frustration John Reed once felt—the frustration of living in an annoyingly unrevolutionary country where people have to change things by law. For all his brilliance, Reed could not bring socialism to America. For all his wealth, fame, media access, and Hollywood power, Sean Penn cannot oust George W. Bush. But by showing up in the company of Chávez, he can at least get a lot more attention for his opinions."

For a regrettably large number of Hollywood big shots, the reality of life in a repressive dictatorship is lost on them. They are easily deceived. This is why a guy like Hugo Chavez can cast himself as a man of the people and a friend of democracy, (much like Che continues to cloak his true bloody legacy even long after his death), while Penn, Redford, Danny Glover and others manage to miss the persistent details of reality.

She continues on:

Most of all, Venezuela's leader not only dislikes the American president—so do most other heads of state—but refers to him as "the devil," a "dictator," a "madman," and a "killer." Who cares what Chávez actually does when Sean Penn isn't looking? Ninety years after the tragedy of the Russian revolution, Venezuela has become the "kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer" for a whole new generation of fellow-travelers. As long as the oil lasts."

Certainly seems that way.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Anti-Gay, America-Hating Kooks Get Their Comeuppance

That's the only title I could come up with to describe this victory:

A federal jury in Baltimore awarded nearly $11 million in damages yesterday to the family of a Marine from Maryland whose funeral was disrupted by members of a Kansas-based fundamentalist church.

One of the defendants said the civil award was the first against the church, whose members have stirred anger across the nation by picketing at funerals for service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, often carrying placards bearing virulent anti-gay slogans. The church maintains that God is punishing the United States, killing and maiming troops, because the country tolerates homosexuality.

Unrepentant Fred Phelps is somehow undeterred, and continues to somehow see in the First Amendment the right to disturb private military funerals with hate speech:

"It was a bunch of silly heads passing judgment on God," he said. "I don't believe anyone in the courtroom knows what the First Amendment is. Religious views are expressly protected by the First Amendment. You can't prosecute a preacher in civil law or in criminal law for what he preaches."

Fred Phelps and his ungodly coterie miss the mark big time, but the family of Lance Cpl. Snyder sets them straight:

"The fact of the matter is, a funeral's private," said one of their attorneys, Sean Summers. "There was no public concern when [church members] showed up with a 'God Hates You' sign."

Exactly. This is open and shut for me. Not only are these rogues utterly hateful in their rhetoric, they do not have the right to invade private funerals with their rhetoric. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why the ACLU has taken sides with the Phelps, although if you ask some people, they'll tell you it makes perfect sense.