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Wednesday, April 4, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Drudge currently has a large photo of Speaker Pelosi wearing a headscarf on his front, and several bloggers are aghast and agog over the whole thing. (At right is a different photo of the event, courtesy of the AP).

According to some bloggers, somehow this is supposed to signal some huge propaganda victory for The Enemy, or, at least, some sign of surrender on Pelosi’s part.

First off, I have never been a big fan of members of the legislative branch making big state visits outside of cooperation with the executive branch, as foreign policy, especially of the diplomatic sort, is the proper constitutional purview of the president. That having been said, members of Congress have every right to make such visits should they choose to.

Second, do we really have to get in a knot over the headscarf? Pelosi was visiting a Mosque and showed the proper signs of respect for such a visit, just as a non-Jewish man might wear a yarmulke when visiting a synagogue . Further, as No More Mister Nice Blog notes, pre-Vatican II women wore headcoverings in church. I would further note that there are still some very conservative protestant churches where women still wear a veil to church services-indeed, there are a small number who require women to where something on their heads all the time.

So, really, enough with the “Dhimmi” business and such.

Somehow of all the problems we have these days, the fact that Speaker showed proper respect during a visit to a Mosque isn’t one of them. Are we really in such a tenuous position globally and so insecure that something like this is upsetting?

The AP notes the headgear in question here: Pelosi visits market, mosque in Syria

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) mingled with Syrians in a market and made the sign of the cross at a Christian tomb Tuesday during a visit to pursue dialogue with the country’s leader. President Bush denounced the trip, saying it sends mixed signals to Syria’s government.

[...]

Wearing a flowered head scarf and a black abaya robe, Pelosi visited the 8th-century Omayyad Mosque, shaking hands with Syrian women inside and watching men in a religion class sitting cross-legged on the floor.

She stopped at an elaborate tomb, said to contain the head of John the Baptist, and made the sign of the cross. About 10 percent of Syria’s 18 million people are Christian.

Technorati Tags: Pelosi, Syria, Hijab

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Monday, February 19, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Here’s an update on the McDonald’s explosion I noted yesterday (via the BBC): Explosion in Russian McDonald’s:

The cause of the blast was unclear, but police said their initial information suggested that it was caused by “an explosive device”.

However, they said they were treating the incident as “hooliganism” rather than terrorism.

That’s some nasty hooliganism, but may it be so (beats it being a more nefarious incident).

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Monday, January 15, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Fareed Zakaria provides a serious point of concern regarding the “surge” policy and possible Shia-Sunni politics in its aftermath(Even If We ‘Win’, We Lose):

Joint operations against Shiite militias are far less likely, and not only because of political interference from the top. Groups like Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army don’t generally start fire fights with the Americans or attack Iraqi forces. Their goals are different, quieter. Another U.S. adviser, Maj. Mark Brady, confirms reports that the Mahdi Army has been continuing to systematically take over Sunni neighborhoods, killing, terrorizing and forcing people out of their homes. “They’re slowly moving across the river,” he told Hastings, from predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad into the predominantly Sunni west. If the 20,000 additional American troops being sent to the Iraqi capital focus primarily on Sunni insurgents, there’s a chance the Shiite militias might get bolder. Colonel Duke puts it bluntly: “[The Mahdi Army] is sitting on the 50-yard line eating popcorn, watching us do their work for them.”

So what will happen if Bush’s new plan “succeeds” militarily over the next six months? Sunnis will become more insecure as their militias are dismantled. Shiite militias will lower their profile on the streets and remain as they are now, ensconced within the Iraqi Army and police. That will surely make Sunnis less likely to support the new Iraq. Shiite political leaders, on the other hand, will be emboldened. They refused to make any compromises—on federalism, de-Baathification, oil revenues and jobs—in 2003 when the United States was dominant, in 2005 when the insurgency was raging, and in 2006 when they took over the reins of government fully. Why would they do so as they gain the upper hand militarily?

In other words, if during this fight the Madhi army lays low while the joint US-Iraqi force takes on the Sunni militias, are we not therefore actually aiding in the further degradation of Sunni power while bolstering the Shia (and Sadr himself)? More disturbingly, will we ultimately be helping to purge Baghdad neighborhoods of Sunnis in general? While the policy will obviously not target civilians, if Sunni civilians feel insecure with the removal of their militias while the Shia retain theirs, the logical consequence of that action is for the Sunni civilians to flee Baghdad.

While the US goals will be to confront violent actors and to secure neighborhoods, there can only be confrontations if militias engage the military or otherwise engage in overt activity. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Shia militias have connections to the Iraqi police and military. So the idea that the Shia militias will survive the “surge” is quite likely.

Further, there are reasons to doubt Maliki’s intentions-not only has he needed Sadr politically and has made it difficult for US forces to combat the Mahdi army, he also just removed a Sunni general who would have overseen the Iraqi side of the surge with a Shiite. The Sunni general in question was seen as fair regarding the pursuit of militants regardless of sect. Whether this is true of the new general is unclear. The symbolism of the move is disturbing, however.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

A Judicial Watch press release (U.S. District Judge Who Presided Over Government Wiretapping Case May Have Had Conflict of Interest) notes the following:

According to her 2003 and 2004 financial disclosure statements, Judge Diggs Taylor served as Secretary and Trustee for the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (CFSEM). She was reelected to this position in June 2005. The official CFSEM website states that the foundation made a “recent grant” of $45,000 over two years to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, a plaintiff in the wiretapping case. Judge Diggs Taylor sided with the ACLU of Michigan in her recent decision.

According to the CFSEM website, “The Foundation’s trustees make all funding decisions at meetings held on a quarterly basis.”

“This potential conflict of interest merits serious investigation,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “If Judge Diggs Taylor failed to disclose this link to a plaintiff in a case before her court, it would certainly call into question her judgment.”

I don’t know enough about the rules of conflict of interest to know what to think about this in legal terms. At a first reading, however, this doesn’t look good.

It does strike me as unfortunate, as regardless of one’s position on the NSA wiretap program, one should acknowledge that it is an important issue that requires a serious hearing and discussion. So far this whole story has been overly focused on Judge Taylor and not about the serious questions of what kinds of powers the President should and should not have, and what constitutes adequate oversight of those powers.

Patterico find this to be a weak critique-calling it a “stretch” by Judicial Watch. Others are jumping on the story as a means to further criticize the ruling, of course.

File this one under “developing.” (Although, ultimately, I wonder if it really matters. This issue is far bigger than Taylor, her writing skills or her work on boards. While these issues may figure into the reasoning of the Court of Appeals, I can’t imagine that they would be major issues).

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

Ed at Votelaw points to a post at TPMmuckraker which notes:

After Tom DeLay dropped out last week, the Texas GOP was forced to try a Hail Mary, throwing their support behind a write-in candidate. But the candidate’s name — Shelley Sekula-Gibbs — may be a problem.

The problem is that spelling could be an issue in deciding whether to count a given vote in the write-in campaign, and moreover, that the 22nd uses an electronic device for voting (a picture of the device in provided in the post). The voting machine demo doesn’t even have enough spaces to fit “Shelley Sekula-Gibbs” onto the screen-although the story notes that the actual machines allegedly have enough spaces.

Nonetheless, the TPMmuckraker succinctly notes that:

Keep in mind that control of Congress may well hinge on this race. Which means the direction of the country could rest on whether or not enough Texas Republicans can remember a 20-letter hyphenated name and spell it using an awkward trackwheel device.

And the fun begins.

Of course, I still think that Lampson will win with sufficient votes to avoid SpellingGate in November.

I will predict this: a massive write-in campaign using “an awkward trackwheel device” will likely mean long, slow-moving lines in Sugar Land on election day.

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Monday, August 21, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I noted in my previous post the comments by Senator Kerry regarding Senator Lieberman on yesterday’s This Week. I found the comparison to Cheney to be an interesting, and in the context of Democratic politics, rather harsh comparison (i.e., Mr. Cheney is considered by many on the Democratic side of the aisle to be perhaps the worst of the worst in the GOP side-as such, it was hardly an inconsequential comment).

Still, it occurred to me this morning that I missed what the likely motivation was for the comment: as Kerry thinks about making another run at the Democratic nomination in 2008, he is doing his best to position himself as the anti-war candidate. As such, attacking Lieberman on Iraq in specific serves that purpose. Also, since Mrs. Clinton has yet to repudiate her own vote for the war, such statements help Kerry position himself to her left on this issue.

While I maintain that Kerry is toast in regards to being re-nominated, I also am more than willing to assume that he isn’t willing to admit that to himself.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via Reuters: Woman accused of heroin-soaked panties

A Chinese woman has appeared in court accused of transporting panties and long johns soaked in heroin, state media said Friday.

Ah, but were they waiting for a shipment of small, lemon-soaked paper napkins? (Sorry, an obscure joke intended for Steven L. to go along with the already bizarre heroin story).

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

A problems with the DNS config led to some downtime this afternoon.

All appears fixed now (thanks to Jeff at AlaHosting for getting to it).

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By Dr. Steven Taylor

I am off to UAB’s Department of Communications media conference where I will be participating in a panel that includes the topic of blogging.

If you happen to be there, stop by and say hello.

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Friday, August 18, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Junior Seau has reportedly signed with the New England Patriots (according to NFL Radio on Sirius).

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