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Friday, March 18, 2005
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Schiavo and Husband to Appear Before the Senate?!

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:39 am

Via Bloomberg: Senate Committee Asks That Schiavo Appear at Hearing

A U.S. Senate committee has asked that Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, and her husband appear at a hearing later this month in the hopes of preventing the removal of the feeding tubes keeping her alive.

[…]

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Mike Enzi sent a letter to Schiavo and her husband Michael, her legal guardian, asking them to appear at a March 28 hearing to “review health-care policies and practices.'’

You have got to be kidding me. They are going to make a woman, who while not technically brain dead is, for all practical purposes mentally absent and her husband appear before Congress?!?! And I thought the baseball steroids hearings were a farce…

What are they going to do, determine for themsevles that she can’t speak? Grill the husband who lost his wife and life partner to a terrible accident?

Utterly, totally, insanely remarkable.

The issue to me here is what the patient would have wanted and the husband insists that she wouldn’t want to be kept alive in this state (a contention her parents dispute). However, unless the man is lying, it would seem to me more likely that the husband would know his wife’s mind more on this (and any number of topics) than would parents.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with House Panel Seeks to Keep Schiavo Alive
Shocking Revelation of the Day

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:49 am

If one is almost never in class (so much so that you aren’t even familiar to your professor when you show up on exam day) you almost certainly bomb your exam.

Who’da thunk it?

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On Schiavo and Congress

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:52 am

I haven’t made any comments on the Schiavo case to this point. I know two things for sure: 1) I wouldn’t want to be kept alive under similar conditionds and 2) the politicization of the entire thing have been distateful.

I think James Joyner hits the latest foray of Congress into the siutation squarely on the head:

The Schiavo case is complicated and heart wrenching. It is not, however, the province of the legislature, let alone the Federal legislature, to decide individual cases. Lawmakers rightly decry judges overstepping their authority to strike legislation perfectly within the constitutional power of the legislature. In cases like this, though, the legislature is trying to usurp the legitimate role of the judiciary to weigh the facts and apply the law in complicated cases. Legislatures should set public policy; judges should apply the law to specific cases.

Indeed.

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  • Our Life linked with Abuse of Power
When Legislating Gets to be too Hard, Just Appoint a Commission! (And Other Tales from the Legislature)

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:35 am

Via the NYT: In Blow to Bush, Senators Reject Cuts to Medicaid

The House and Senate passed competing versions of a $2.57 trillion budget for 2006 on Thursday night. The two chambers provided tens of billions of dollars to extend President Bush’s tax cuts over the next five years, but differed sharply over cuts to Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor.

The votes, 218 to 214 in the House and 51 to 49 in the Senate, set the two chambers on a collision course. The House budget included steep cuts in Medicaid and other so-called entitlement programs. But in the Senate, President Bush’s plans to reduce the explosive growth in Medicaid ran into a roadblock when lawmakers voted 52 to 48 to strip the budget of Medicaid cuts and instead create a one-year commission to recommend changes in the program.

Sure-why face this year what you can put off on a commission? I can’t speak to whether the House version is indeed an improvement, although I am inclined to think that slowing the growth of the annual increases (which is usually what “cut” means in this context) is a necessary step. The federal budget, if left on its current trajectory, will eventually be wholly consumed by entitlement spending. Something has to be done, and just putting it off on a commission is a joke. Given that Congress itself is one big commission, after a fashion, this kind of shunting off of responsibility always hacks me off.

And you have to love this:

By 10 p.m., after the vote on tax cut measures, some senators appeared a little confused about what they had done. The measure, sponsored by Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky, passed 55 to 45, with five Democrats backing the plan and five Republicans breaking ranks to oppose it.

“I think I did vote for this,” said Senator Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota. But Mr. Coleman said he thought the vote was mostly symbolic, a statement of opposition to the Social Security tax, “which has been a sore point for a long time.”

Of course this just underscores what I have long known to be the case: they often don’t know what they’ve voted for. It certainly is the case that they frequently vote for and against complex pieces of legislation the contents of which are basically unknown to them at the time of the vote.

Overall the Senate didn’t deal with the Medicaid issue, passed mosre tax cuts than the President requested, and restored the cuts to urban grants.

So much for fiscal responsibility and dealing with the deficit.

Filed under: US Politics | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
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Thursday, March 17, 2005
Progress in Iraq

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:43 pm

Via the AP: Groups Make Progress on New Iraq Gov’t

Kurdish and Shiite politicians said Thursday they made headway in solving new disagreements in their deal to form a coalition government, nearly seven weeks after Iraqis took to the polls, but it remained unclear when that new government would be announced.

[…]

Thursday’s discussions focused on whether to allow the Kurdish peshmerga militia to remain in Kurdistan as part of the Iraqi security services and army, and on setting a timetable for the Kurds to assume control of oil-rich Kirkuk and allow the return of its nearly 100,000 refugees. Those conditions were included in an interim law that serves as a preliminary constitution.

“Negotiations were very constructive and the differences in the interim law and peshmerga were solved. We have agreed that some peshmerga will join the Kurdistan police and some will be part of the Iraqi army, with the same equipment and salaries and take orders from the defense ministry in Baghdad,” Azad Jundiyan, a spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, told The Associated Press.

That is the political party of Jalal Talabani, who probably will become Iraq’s next president.

But Jundiyan added that announcing a new government could come after Kurds celebrate their new year next week.

“I think that the new government will be announced on March 26 after the end of Nowruz,” he said.

Filed under: Iraq: Global Politics | Comments(3) | Trackbacks (1)
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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Arab misc
Yeesh

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:35 pm

Forget killing all the lawyers, how about the bureaucrats?

Rick of Red State Lawblog provides some reasons.

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Letterman Kidnapping Plot Foiled

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:03 pm

Via the Montgomery Advertiser/The AP: Man in Montana Arrested in Letterman Plot

Authorities on Thursday charged a man in what they say was a plot to kidnap David Letterman’s toddler son and nanny from the talk-show host’s Montana home.

Kelly A. Frank, 43, was being held on a felony charge of solicitation, among others.

Montana Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sally Hilander said the plot was uncovered when someone whom Frank had approached about the plan informed local police.

Insane.

Filed under: Pop Culture: Criminal Justice | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)
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  • Signifying Nothing linked with Dave attracts another crazy person
Myers Clears Judicial Committee (Again)

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:13 pm

Via Reuters: Renominated Judicial Nominee Clears Senate Panel

William Myers on Thursday became the first of seven judicial nominees blocked by Democrats and renominated by President Bush to win the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On a party-line vote of 10-8, the panel sent the nomination of Myers back to the full Republican-led Senate for another chance to be confirmed to a seat on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

And so the stage is set for either the Dems to blink or the Reps to go “nuclear".

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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Judiciary / Filibuster update
Headline Reaction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:14 pm

Via Reuters: Jurors See Michael Jackson’s Porn Collection

Via me: Ick.

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My Little Slice of Madness

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:00 am

I am not a huge college basketball fan, but what the heck:





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Farm Subsidies Must Go

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:46 am

Via the Brimginham News: State farmers lobbying against cut in subsidies

The Alabama Farmers Federation opposes the cuts, noting that farm subsidies account for less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget and are critical to keeping farms in business, especially when prices drop. Their members are in Washington this week meeting with members of Congress.

If it is the case that the only thing keeping certain farms from goig out of business is government subsidies, I would argue that that is a prima facie case that those businesses are not needed, because they aren’t supported by the market, and therefore there is no need for the subsidies in question.

Further, the reason that prices often plummet is because of too much supply. Again, I submit: there is no need for these subdies. We will all have plenty of food without them.

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  • Diggers Realm linked with The Case For Farm Subsidies
Resource on Texas Politics

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:31 am

For anyone looking for a fantastic online resource concerning Texas state politics, check out Welcome to Texas Politics, a project of the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services progam at the University of Texas.

Calling ABD and Ph.D.s in IR

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:42 am

If you are an ABD or a Ph.D. in polisci with expertise in International Relations, and especially if you have expertise in IPE, and you are potentially looking for a position in 2005-2006, drop me an e-mail at sltaylor -at- poliblogger.com.

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  • Signifying Nothing linked with Referral
First Phase of Syrian Withdrawal Complete

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:39 am

Via Reuters: Syria Withdraws 4,000-6,000 Troops from Lebanon

Syria completed the first phase of its troop pullout from Lebanon on Thursday, bringing Damascus closer to meeting U.S. and Lebanese opposition demands that it quit the neighbor it has dominated for three decades.

[…]

All Syrian troops and intelligence agents in Lebanon have pulled back to eastern Lebanon or crossed into Syria under a two-stage withdrawal, a senior Lebanese security source said.

“It roughly ended,” he said, referring to the first phase of a pullout plan announced on March 5. “There are just some logistics left. But the people went, all of them.”

The source said 8,000 to 10,000 Syrian troops remained in the eastern Bekaa Valley while 4,000 to 6,000 had returned home. A joint Lebanese-Syrian committee was expected to meet in early April to discuss the future of the troops in the Bekaa, he said.

Witnesses said the last two Syrian intelligence centers in the coastal city of Tripoli were completely emptied at dawn. They were among the last to be vacated in northern Lebanon.

Of course, I keep thinking as to how one knows that all intelligence officers have pulled out? Just because they’ve closed their offices doesn’t mean all their operatives went with the secretarial staff.

  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Mid-east update
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Headline Reaction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:40 pm

Clark Plans to Stay at Forefront of Debate.

Well, considering I haven’t heard anything from him in six months and I suspect most of us have all but forgotten about him, I’d say that he isn’t doing a very good job of it.

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Riley Likely to Run for Re-election

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:39 pm

Via the Montgomery Advertiser: Stickers portend Riley run

Bumper stickers and buttons proclaiming “Riley 2006″ are starting to appear across Alabama even though Republican Gov. Bob Riley has not said officially whether he will seek a second term.

House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, a longtime friend of Riley’s, said the governor hasn’t told him anything officially, but “I think he’s going to run.”

Such has always been my guess.

The rest of the likely GOP field:

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore and Greenville businessman Tim James, who ran for governor in 2002, have said they are considering entering the Republican primary for governor in 2006.

James has no shot, and wouldn’t even be listed if he dad hasn’t been governor. Moore-Riley, if it materilizes, will be serious fight.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with Alabama Governor's Race 2006: Moore v. Riley
ANWR Drilling Stays in Budget

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:53 pm

Senate votes to allow Arctic drilling

The Senate, by a 51-49 vote, rejected an attempt by Democrats and GOP moderates to remove a refuge drilling provision from next year’s budget, preventing opponents from using a filibuster %u2014 a tactic that has blocked repeated past attempts to open the Alaska refuge to oil companies.

The action, assuming Congress agrees on a budget, clears the way for approving drilling in the refuge later this year, drilling supporters said.

More on Summers

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:38 pm

The has more details about the vote: Summers gets vote of no confidence.

First, here’s the text of the first resolution:

The motion, stating simply that ‘’the Faculty lacks confidence in the leadership” of Summers, passed by a secret ballot vote of 218 to 185, with 18 abstentions.

and the second:

The text of the second motion, introduced by Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology, read: “The Faculty regrets the President’s mid-January statements about women in science and the adverse consequences of those statements for individuals and for Harvard; and the Faculty also regrets aspects of the President’s managerial approach as discussed in recent meetings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The Faculty appreciates the President’s stated intent to address these issues and seeks to meet the challenges facing Harvard in ways that are collegial and consistent with longstanding faculty responsibilities in institutional governance.”

And, interesting:

Skocpol said some of her colleagues told her they voted for the no-confidence motion but not her resolution because they found it too conciliatory.

An interesting number:

Over 800 people had the right to vote yesterday, according to a Harvard spokesman, but nontenured professors rarely attend faculty meetings or vote at them because their position at the university is less stable.

And, indeed:

Several professors defended the president at the meeting.

‘’As someone who went into the academic profession 50 years ago in the days of Senator McCarthy, I said this is very menacing and would set a terrible precedent,” said Stephan Thernstrom, a history professor. ‘’It is a very bad blow to the conception of academic freedom.”

Although, I will note, Summers isn’t a member of the faculty and the issues go beyond those of his utterances. Still, I will agree that the witch-hunt element of this, as linked to his gender comments, shouldn’t be taken place on a university campus.

Also interesting:

Morton Keller, coauthor with his wife, Phyllis, of ‘’Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University,” said last night that he knew of no vote of no confidence in a Harvard president at least since the Civil War, although he said there had been talk of such a vote against James Bryant Conant in the 1930s, when he fired some popular instructors.

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In Case You Care

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:29 pm

I break my silence on the Laci Peterson saga to note: Judge Upholds Death Sentence for Peterson.

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The History of No Confidence Votes at Harvard

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:43 am

Professor Blogger has uncovered other Harvard votes.

Ouch

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

Click

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  • Overtaken by Events linked with Not Going Back to Cali
Harvard’s College of Arts and Sciences Slaps Summers Hard

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:58 am

Via WaPo: Faculty Group Rebukes Harvard President With Vote

Harvard University’s faculty of arts and sciences delivered a strong and unprecedented blow to the school’s president, Lawrence H. Summers, on Tuesday, endorsing a motion proclaiming a “lack of confidence” in his leadership and another critical of both his management style and his recent controversial remarks about women in the sciences and engineering.

In a secret ballot, professors voted 218 to 185 in favor of a motion that read simply, “The faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers.”

A second motion stated that the faculty “regrets” aspects of Summers’s “managerial approach,” and his statement to an academic conference in January that intrinsic aptitude partly explained why so few women advanced in certain disciplines. It carried 253 to 137. There were 18 abstentions in both votes.

While the whole thing is non-binding, it will put pressure on Summers and make his job less pleasant. Indeed, I suspect that the drumbeat against him since his remarks about gender has been a constant source of stress.

Clearly the gender-remarks provided an excuse for open criticism of Summers, who has not been all that popular with some in the faculty.

Some of my students will find it amusing and interesting that, as James Joyner noted yesterday, Theda Skocpol is at the center of much of this process.

Here is a lengthy, and well-linked entry on the subject by Lubos Motl, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Harvard, who attended the meeting.

From his description, the meeting was driven by the gender question:

As another speaker has pointed out, this symbolic vote was not really about Lawrence Summers who is an extremely bright and kind of successful guy anyway - and who will not get lost: it was about the professors of FAS themselves and they have failed miserably. No doubt, most of the votes supporting the shameful declarations came from humanities and social sciences - especially the people who think that they can determine the scientific truth by a vote (and a couple of politically powerful friends). Those who believe that the objective truth (and objective science) cannot exist and all opinions reflect the political power - and the people who are living their lives trying to prove this point.

Via the Boston Herald we get this run-down: Harvard passes no confidence vote in Summers

Summers has now met three times with the FAS since the beginning of an uproar over his remarks arguing that intrinsic differences in ability partly explain why there are fewer women in the pool of applicants for top science jobs. He has also reportedly met extensively with smaller groups of faculty, and established two faculty task forces to recommend steps for addressing issues concerning women faculty at Harvard and women in science generally.

The dispute began with Summers’ remarks - off-the-record, he believed - arguing that intrinsic differences may play a role in explaining why fewer women are in the pool of applicants for top-level science jobs. The comments prompted angry criticism from many faculty, students and alumni, though others defended Summers, saying he was simply engaging in a legitimate academic debate.

But the criticism over his comments quickly expanded into a broader attacks on his allegedly blunt management style and his vision for the university, including major projects to expand Harvard’s campus across the Charles River in Boston and his ideas about what direction scientific research should take.

While it is clear that the gender issue is the sole motivator for many, and the main motivator for others, I wonder as to the degree to which is it an excuse to attack Summers-as he clearly rankled many of the faculty over the way he ran the university. Further, there is a natural antagonism between faculty and administration that is certainly part of this tale.

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Iraqi National Assembly Opens Session

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:32 am

Via the NYT: Iraqi National Assembly Convenes for the First Time

Seven weeks after Iraqis defied insurgent threats to take part in the country’s first free election in decades, and as a series of explosions shook the heart of the capital, members of the constitutional assembly convened here today for the first time.

The members of the 275-seat newly elected National Assembly walked quietly into the heavily fortified convention center on the west bank of the Tigris River, with little pomp but with a solemnity indicating they understood the gravity, and the immense difficulty, of their duties. As a body, they represented the diverse nature of Iraqi society, with clerics in black turbans taking seats alongside Western-educated men in pinstripe suits and women in full-length robes.

Certainly an historic event.

Of course, the fact that a governmet has not yet been formed looms large:

Because of the protracted talks between the Shiites and Kurds, the assembly meeting today was largely ceremonial, and several senior Shiite leaders said the body was not expected to elect a president, two vice-presidents or speaker of the assembly, contradicting what Iraqi and American officials had announced on Tuesday. That afternoon, the officials had put out a news release saying the appointments would take place.

“There is broad agreement on the principles of the democratic process,” Dr. Hussein Shahristani, a senior members of the Shiite bloc, said to reporters before the assembly meeting began, trying to sound upbeat. But negotiations are still taking place, he said, and it will take, at the very least, “a few days time” before the government is formed.

While I remain optimistic that they will manage to form a government, they need to pick up the pace.

  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Favorable signposts for foreign policy
ANWR Drillig Set to Pass?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:26 am

Via Reuters: Senate to Vote on Alaska Refuge Oil Drilling.

The bottom line of the story is that a drilling provision has been inserted into the budget resolution, which cannot be filibustrered. As long as 50 Senators are willing to leave the language in the bill, it will stay, which is how it appears to be working out.

Of course, the effects of ANWR drilling won’t be felt at the pump for some time:

Interior Secretary Gale Norton said, if Congress opens ANWR to energy exploration, the refuge’s oil would begin flowing into the U.S. market in 7 to 10 years.

There is little doubt that the House will approve the measure.

  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Thar's oil in them thar hills!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The Coming Nuclear Constitutional Option?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:48 pm

Via the Boston Globe: GOP sees momentum in ending judicial filibusters

Republicans believe they have enough votes to end the filibustering of judicial nominees, a landmark change in Senate rules that would clear the way for President Bush to get conservative judges confirmed but could draw a forceful reaction from minority Democrats, who have threatened to use procedural moves to shut down the chamber in retaliation.

Republican activists working on the issue say they have one last obstacle to making the change - their second-ranking Senate leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is said to be reluctant to take such a radical step. As majority whip, McConnell wields considerable power over the Republican caucus and members would be hesitant to proceed without his approval.

Supporters of the change say McConnell has argued in closed-door leadership meetings that there was not sufficient public clamor for the change. Conservative leaders plan to pressure him while activists work to raise grass-roots anger at Democratic filibusters, procedural maneuvers that have blocked votes on 10 of Bush’s most conservative nominees to federal appeals courts.

Intriguing. I am increasingly of the opinion that not only is this necessary, that the Democrats are foolish for pushing the Republicans to this point.

I remain amazed that the Democrats don’t see the political opportunity here: to allow some of the high profile nominees to have a floor vote, and then use that “reasonableness” to bludgeon the GOP on the other nominees, and further, be in a position to go into the almost certain Supreme Court nomination process as the “reasonable party.” They are, instead, going the other direction, in my opinion.

To wit (via Bloomberg): Democrat Reid Threatens to Block Senate Action Over Rule Change

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid threatened to bring the Senate to a halt if Republicans try to change the chamber’s rules to prevent the minority party from blocking President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

In a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist, Reid wrote that Democrats, who have 44 seats in the 100-member Senate, would refuse to cooperate on any legislation not related to the U.S. military presence in Iraq, national security measures and other “critical government services.'’

“Beyond that very limited scope, however, we will be reluctant to enter into any consent agreement that facilitates Senate activities, even on routine matters,'’ Reid wrote.

First: I would point out that the last politician to shut down the government was Newt Gingrich, and it didn’t work out all that well for him.

Second: I would note that the last Senate Minority Leader to be associated with obstructing judicial nominations was Tom Daschle, and it didn’t work out all that well for him.

Third: I would also underscore that most people won’t notice if the Senate only does the bare minimum. If McConnell thinks there is no clamour for stopping the filibuster, there is likewise no outcry for the Senate to pass a bunch of laws. Indeed, most people are unaware as to what the Senate does on a daily basis anyway. (Indeed, I personally would kind of like it if they onyl did the bare minimum…)

I really think that the Democrats are radically miscalculating here. As I have noted numerous times: they lost Senate seats in 2002 and 2004 and yet have not changed their approach. This makes no sense.

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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Reid's filibuster temper-tantrum
  • Don Singleton linked with Make them do it
Treky Coolness

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:15 pm

If you are a long-time Trek fan, you will find this to be most cool.

If you couldn’t care less about Trek, move along, there’s nothing more to see here.

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Hmmm

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:01 pm

‘Lord of the Rings’ to Take to Stage as Musical

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Rehnquist Sighting

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:59 pm

Via Reuters: Chief Justice Presides Over Judges Meeting

A smiling U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer, presided on Tuesday over a meeting of the federal judiciary’s policymaking group with humor and received two standing ovations, a judge in attendance said.

Good to know that he is able to get about. Still, I expect him to retire at the end of the current session.

UN: Cocaine Prices Set to Rise

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:31 pm

Via the NYT/AP: U.N. Predicts Rise in Cocaine Prices

A top United Nations anti-drug official predicted cocaine prices in the United States and Europe will rise next year, reflecting the fruits of a six-year, U.S.-funded effort to eradicate drug production in Colombia.

Last year was a record-breaking year in the fight against drugs in Colombia. Authorities destroyed more than 340,000 acres of coca, the plant used to make cocaine; nearly 150 tons of cocaine were seized; and 1,098 clandestine cocaine-making factories were discovered and burned down, according to the Colombian government.

[…]

A rise in cocaine prices would silence critics of U.S. drug policies who point out that despite the notable progress in the expensive fight against drug production in Colombia, the cost for the drug on city streets remains unchanged, a sign there is no shortage.

Somehow I doubt a rise in the price of cocaine will silence the critics.

I, for one, have several questions:

1. Assuming the price does go up significantly, how high will it go? (My guess: not that much, relatively speaking)
2. How long will it stay up? (My guess: not that long-it will down in a few years, tops)
3. Will the price increase lead to diminished consumption-the real issue. (My guess: not substantially)

and

4. How many dollars spent on erradication to make the street price for kilo to go up a dollar? (My guess: far too many).

The real irony is that the likelihood is that if price goes up, it will incentivize the producers to make more, as higher price means higher profits. Hence, one would expect that if price does go up, supply will quickly follow suit as producers attempt to cash in on the increased price.

It is what Bertram, et al. call the “profit paradox":

These high profits have a paradoxical effect: they provide a steady incentive for drug suppliers to remain in the trade and for new suppliers to enter.

Because the drug war raises profits as it raises prices, the stick of the law enforcement that is intended to discourage suppliers on the black market simultaneously creats a carrot of enormous profits-which encourages suppliers (13).

So, color me skeptical as to the idea that a) this will silence critics, because b) I sincerly doubt it will ultimately mean much in terms of concrete success.

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Classic

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:17 am

Click.

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Online Writing Resource

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

Someone (I think I remember who, but am not sure) was looking for writing resources via my academic web site-and several of the my links have rotted.

However, for that person, or anyone who is interested, here’s a great online resource: The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing.

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Quote of the Day

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:28 am

Via Newsday/the AP: Scalia Slams Juvenile Death Penalty Ruling

“If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again,” Scalia told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. “You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That’s flexibility.”

“Why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers?” he said.

Indeed.

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  • JackLewis.net linked with Give ’em hell, Tony
Missed Him by That Much…

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:44 am

Via the BBC: Pakistan ‘lost’ Bin Laden trail

Pakistani forces had their best chance of capturing Osama Bin Laden last year, but they lost the trail, President Pervez Musharraf has told the BBC.

Gen Musharraf said the intelligence services had their strongest indication about the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts eight to 10 months ago.

He said the “dragnet had closed” along the border with Afghanistan, but Bin Laden fled.

Lovely.

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Musings on SS Reform

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:39 am

I am not at all surprised by the sentiments expressed in this WaPo piece: Skepticism of Bush’s Social Security Plan Is Growing.

I am, in principle, in favor of Social Security reform and in the concept of privatization. I have not gotten particularly up or down on the President’s plan, because I am not convinced that we really yet know what the actual choice is.

I generically like the idea of taking as much of my payroll tax as possible and moving it into a personal account, although it does not seem to me that that is an actual fix to the system.

I don’t think that the President has been radical enough in his proposals. I would prefer a move that truly privatized the investments made in the system, but not one that has the individual citizen actually managing the account (I don’t think most people have any idea how to invest). This is how the Retirement System of Alabama works, and how other states run their teachers retirement systems and/or their overall retirement systems. In most cases one is putting in as much, or perhaps a bit less, into the retirement system per month as one is putting into Social Security, yet one will certainly get more return from the state system than one will get from Social Security.

The reason is quite simple: systems like RSA grow the monies deposited into them at a far faster rate than SS because they invest that money in a variety of conservative private sector investments along with government bonds. Further, the funds are not raided like the alleged Social Security Trust Fund has been for decades.

Still, the bottom line is: to make such as system work the money has to grow and there are far, far, far better ways to grow that money than the current system employed by the feds.

As I have noted before: if one is skeptical, ask yourself where you think your retirement funding will come from: your 401k or similar program or SS? I think we all know what the answer is.
If that is the case, why not transform SS so that everyone can enjoy a similar situation?

I know the argument is that its “risky"-but, quite honestly, if the economy collapses to the point that a properly managed investment system would lose its funds, then the economy will be in such a horrid state that there won’t be any money to pay SS benefits either.

The main problem with this idea is, of course, the transition costs. At a minimum I would like to see a serious debate on this idea, but none has been forthcoming.

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Syrian Intelligence Agents Start Beirut Pullout

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:06 am

Via Reuters: Syrian Intelligence Agents Start Beirut Pullout

Syrian intelligence agents began evacuating their headquarters in Beirut on Tuesday, partially meeting a key U.S. and Lebanese opposition demand for an end to three decades of Syrian tutelage over its neighbor.

Witnesses said the Syrians were loading equipment from the headquarters in the Ramlet al-Baida district onto two pick-up trucks and removing pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his late father Hafez from around the building.

Syria’s often feared intelligence presence has been a key element in its political and military influence on Lebanon since its troops first intervened early in the 1975-90 civil war.

For now Syrian intelligence retains its Lebanon headquarters in the Bekaa Valley town of Anjar, but the closure of the Beirut office indicated that Syrian forces have almost completed the first phase of a withdrawal from Lebanon announced 10 days ago.

More progress.

  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Tuesday's Lebanon roundup
Monday, March 14, 2005
Hughes Nominated as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:06 pm

Via CNN: Hughes to spread U.S. message abroad

Declaring the United States “must do better job of engaging the Muslim world,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice introduced former presidential adviser Karen Hughes Monday as the Bush administration’s choice for a State Department post designed to change Islamic perceptions about America.

Hughes, pending confirmation by the Senate, would become undersecretary of state for public diplomacy with the rank of ambassador.

Interesting. She certainly did a good job communicating Bush’s domestic agenda. One wonders if she will have equal success on the world stage. She has always struck me as intelligent and resourceful, so I am guessing she will do a good job in the role.

Two other tidbits:

Also in attendance at the ceremony was Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born former White House aide who is slated to be a top aide to Hughes.

[…]

She is also a former Texas television reporter. She has continued to advise the president from her home in Austin. Although not a diplomat by training, Hughes had a hand in several foreign policy initiatives during Bush’s first term, including efforts to promote democracy and improve the lives of women and children in Afghanistan.

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Movement Towards a Feast?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:28 pm

Perhaps so: George R. R. Martin reports on progress on his latest book.

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Intriguing

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:17 pm

D.C. Fontana and Walter Koenig return to Trek.

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Not Yet There, nor Back Again

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:11 pm

I’m with Bainbridge.

Too bad.

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CA Court Rules Against Gay Marriage Ban

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:05 pm

Via Reuters: Court Rules California Cannot Ban Gay Marriages

In a victory for gay rights groups, a California Superior Court judge ruled on Monday that the state’s voter-approved ban on homosexual marriage is unconstitutional.

[…]

“The denial of marriage to same-sex couples appears impermissibly arbitrary,” wrote San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. “Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before.”

Referring to California legal code, Kramer added: “This court concludes that both sections are unconstitutional under the California Constitution.”

In his ruling, the judge said creating benefits for same-sex couples without allowing marriage was not sufficient and referred to the landmark 1952 civil rights decision of Brown v. Board of Education.

“The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts: separate but equal.”

This not a surprise, nor is it over-the fight will, no doubt, end up in the CA Supreme Court (and maybe beyond).

I also am not surprised by the equal protection argument, although it is unclear from the Reuters story as to the exact nature of the Judge’s legal logic.

Update: James Joyner has more.

  • The Jawa Report linked with California Court Rules that California Constitution is Unconstitutional
  • Vote for Judges linked with These chickens haven't hatched
  • Truth. Quante-fied linked with Same Sex Marriage in California
  • The Moderate Voice linked with Gay Marriage Thrown Back Into The Political Cauldron
  • JackLewis.net linked with California judge declares himself dictator
It’s Official: Mfume to Run

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:25 pm

As speculated about on Saturday, the AP reports Former NAACP Leader to Run for Senate

“It is with great pride and deep humility that I announce to you today my candidacy for the Senate of the United States,” Mfume said at a news conference in Baltimore.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with Kweisi Mfume Running for Sarbanes' Senate Seat
Shocking

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:01 pm

This is not especially surprising: Study Shows U.S. Election Coverage Harder on Bush

The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.

Only 20 percent were positive toward Bush compared to 30 percent of stories about Kerry that were positive, according to the report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study looked at 16 newspapers of varying size across the country, four nightly newscasts, three network morning news shows, nine cable programs and nine Web sites through the course of 2004.

What is amusing is that to listen to some people talk (whether it be Al Gore and friends or last night’s Boston Legal) you’d think everyone gets their news from Fox (which, is, of course, ultra-biased).

And, as far as bloggers are concerned, there’s this nugget:

The study noted a huge rise in audiences for Internet news, particularly for bloggers whose readers jumped by 58 percent in six months to 32 million people.

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Sheer Genius

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:44 am

Tice admits scalping SB tickets this season:

“I probably shouldn’t have sold my tickets,'’ Tice told SI.com on Thursday. “I made a mistake. I regret it. I’ll never do it again. I’m going to be in trouble. I’ll probably get slapped with a big fine.”

Gee, ya think so?

Photos from Lebanon

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:41 am

From WaPo, I found the following photo worth posting:

Here’s the WaPo version of the story, which comes from Reuters.

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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with People strike back in Lebanon
A Harvest of Authoritarianism

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:01 am

Via the NYT: Kurds’ Return to City Shakes Politics in Iraq

Kurdish leaders call Kirkuk their Jerusalem, saying they should control it - and its oil fields - because it was historically Kurdish. The Kurds are pushing Shiite leaders like Dr. Jaafari to help quickly give property back to Kurdish returnees, evict Arab settlers and employ more Kurds at North Oil, the only major government institution here that the Kurds have been unable to dominate since the American invasion.

The Kurdish political parties have huge leverage. Kurds turned out in large numbers to vote on Jan. 30, securing more than a quarter of the seats in the 275-member national assembly and making themselves a necessary partner for the Shiite bloc that won the largest number of seats.

But with the oil in Kirkuk at stake, the Kurdish and Shiite parties have been unable to agree on how to carry out Article 58 of the interim constitution, which provides vague guidelines for settling the property disputes here. Equally vexing is the question of who will administer Kirkuk - the national government or the autonomous regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In the 1960’s, Baath Party officials began packing Kurds and, to a lesser degree, Turkmen into trucks and evicting them from Kirkuk. As the displacement continued, the Kurds who worked for North Oil, like Mr. Ahmed, rose to the top of the relocation list. The government, dominated by Sunni Arabs, imported mostly Shiite Arabs from the impoverished south into the Kirkuk area.

Kurds began returning in large numbers nearly two years ago, when the Hussein government was toppled. Some Arab families fled, but most heeded the reassurances of American soldiers who, trying to avert an ethnic war, urged them to stay and urged the Kurds to await a legal solution.

Not only is this clearly an extremely difficult political problem that needs to solved, but it is also a direct reminder of Saddam’s legacy.

Protest/Counter-Protest: Another Anti-Syria Rally in Lebanon

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:51 am

Via Reuters: Hundreds of Thousands in Lebanon Protest Syria

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in central Beirut on Monday in the largest anti-Syrian protest in Lebanon since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri exactly a month ago.

[…]

Unlike previous anti-Syrian opposition protests since a bomb blast killed Hariri on Feb. 14, many Sunni Muslims joined Druze and Christians in taking to the streets. Hariri was a Sunni.

The opposition rally came a day after huge crowds turned out in the south for a anti-U.S. demonstration organized by Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim Hizbollah group, an ally of Syria.

Interesing if only to demonstrate that the anti-Syria segment of the populace wasn’t cowed by Hezbollah’s demonstration last week.

Sunday, March 13, 2005
On Judicial Nominations and Poor Arguments

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:23 pm

One of the arguments regarding the President’s judicial nominations vis-a-vis Senate Democrats and their filibustering ways is that the Senate has confirmed 200-some of Bush’s nominations, so what’t the big deal about blocking ten?

The main reason I find the argument annoying is because it lumps district court nominations in with appeals court nominations. They aren’t the same thing. To lump them together is like saying a particular high school produced 50 professional quarterbacks, and then learning that 48 of them play in Arena League and two played in the NFL. Aggregations of unlike, albeit related, categories obfuscate what a given set of numbers mean.

Another reason I find the argument annoying is that it really isn’t an argument. Just because the Senate has approved X, and has not approved Y, does not mean that the approval of X justifies or explains the rejection of Y, even if X is far larger than Y. In short: the citation of such numbers is diversionary, and does not address the issue at hand.

I have also found that it is harder than it should be to find out exactly how many nominations Bush made in each category, and whether they were confirmed or not. After some digging I found the following:

  • USDOJ: OLP: Judicial Nominations, the 109th

  • USDOJ: OLP: Nominations, the 108th
  • USDOJ: OLP: Judicial Nominations, the 107
  • And here’s another list from the 108th Congress and the 107th.

By looking at the lists (and in some cases having to count), we find that in the 108th 34 nominations were made and 18 were confirmed and in the 107th it was 32 and 17. The success rate for Bush’s Appeals Court nominees is, therefore, roughly 53%.

For the 107th Congress, his succes rate for District Court nominees was about 84%-and hence you can see how the aggregate numbers inflate the success rate. I don’t have the 108th Congress’ figures on District Court nominees, as the DOJ page only has the list and no summary table and I am not in the mood to count.

All of this is interesting, of course, but as I noted above, it still doesn’t really tell us much, one way or another, about the merits of the Democrat’s blockage of a significant number of Appeals Court nominees. Nor, for that matter, does it tell use anything about the merits of the GOP position.

I will grant that some historical data on success rates would be interesting as well, but I am too tired at the moment, so maybe later.

I would also note that the general lack of reporting on these numbers, but rather the lazy citation of the approvals (i.e., the 200+ figure) versuse the rejections (i.e, 10) bespeaks of the poor quality of reporting and research on this story.

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  • JackLewis.net linked with Getting the right judges
Correction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:21 pm

In my Mobile Register column today I wrote that Pryor had been given a temporary appointment to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. That is an error; he was appointed to the 11th.

Condi: “I Won’t Run”

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:20 am

On MTP, in a somewhat amusing interchange between Russert and the SecState, he got her to state “I won’t run.”

Only the most optimistic (or cynical) parsers of words could take away from the interchange the idea that she actually is planning to run in 2008, but is being coy.

So, sorry Bill Sammon, nice try, though.

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  • Arguing with signposts… linked with Condi to MTP: I won't run
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Condi Rice: I Won't Run. I Won't.
  • Myopic Zeal linked with Diversity in the Blogosphere?
Voter ID Clash in Georgia Legislature

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:14 am

Via the AP: Voting Bill Leads to Walkout in Ga. Senate

The state Senate’s Democratic caucus, led by the chamber’s black members, walked out of the Legislature Friday after an emotional vote on voting rights.

Immediately after a 7 p.m. vote that would eliminate 12 of the 17 forms of identification that may be used at Georgia polls, a majority of Senate Democrats, including all black members, left the chamber.

[…]

The bill, which passed 32-22 along party lines, would require a photo ID to vote.

It would remove other forms of ID, including a Social Security (news - web sites) card, birth certificate or student identification, from the list.

Democratic critics compared the effort to the poll taxes, literacy tests and other laws aimed at suppressing black votes during segregation. They said poor and minority voters are more likely to be without photo ID than other voters.

“What’s happening today is just an updated form of Jim Crow,” said Fort, referring to segregation-era laws that suppressed black voting. “You may be more polite about it … but we know who’s going to be disenfranchised.”

[…]

the bill allows anyone, even non-drivers, to apply for a state ID card from Georgia’s motor vehicles department. He said people who can’t afford one may request one for free.

Understanding fully that there were radical and inexcusable abuses of voter id in the South during the pre-Civil Rights Era, I just don’t get the basic objection to requiring voters to have adequate identification. I’m sorry, but a birth certificate or a Social Security card can’t identify anything or anybody.

I could see an objection if there was no provision for a free state ID. However, the story indicates that the bill provides for non-driver state IDs and a method of providing one at no charge to poor citizens.

I have wondered in the past if it wasn’t time for states to simply require all citizens to have an ID to help deal with exactly this problem.

Regardless, it often seems that many in the Democratic Party think that we are still in 1960, rather than 2005. I wholly acknowledge that the problems of race remain, but we are no longer in an era where there are rampant, systematic attempts at stopping people from voting-and therefore there is no cause for legislators to react to legislation as if we were.

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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Some people...
Iraqi Talks Collapse, Reuters Can’t Write Stories, Film at Eleven

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:09 am

Via Reuters: Talks on Forming Iraqi Government Collapse

Officials from the Shi’ite alliance that won the most votes and the Kurdish bloc that came second said Sunday they had failed to agree on two sticky issues - distributing top cabinet posts and extending the Kurds’ autonomous region in the north.

Parliament is due to meet Wednesday, more than six weeks after a landmark election that gave many in Iraq hope that a new authority would clamp down on suicide attacks, car bombs and execution-style killings by mainly Sunni Arab insurgents.

My guess is it the issue of Kurdish autonomy that is the real sticking point, more so than the cabinet posts. Given that they all need one another, I am betting something gets worked out, but perhaps not before the parliament meets.

Unrelated to the issues in Iraq, I am getting increasingly annoyed with the way that the AP and Reuters write these Iraq stories (indeed, as the Ranting Professor, a.k.a Associate Professor of Communication, Cori Dauber of UNC Chapel Hill, the NYT is quite guilty as well-for example, click here). For some insane reason these stories jump around, paragraph to paragraph, as to what they are talking about. And this one isn’t as bad as some.

In the Reuters story linked about the first three paragraphs are about the goverment formation talks, then it jumps in the fourth paragraph to a suidicade bomb attack in Sharqat, the fifth paragraph is about an attack in Mosul, then it gets back to the issue of government formation in the seventh. From there the story highlights Kudish demands, which is related to the main story, and then, without even a new header, goes into a discussion of the group responsible for last week’s attack on a Shi’ite Mosque, which isn’t related to the main story.

Would it kill them to break this stuff out into individual stories, or, at least, subdivide the stories and better organize them? Did anyone ever teach these people about transition sentences?

Brian Nichols News Round-Up

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:51 am

For those looking for all the new from the last several days on the Atlanta courthouse shooting and the subsequent manhunt, Jeff Quinton has it all.

PoliColumn: Byrd and Filibusters

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:33 am

From today’s Mobile Register:

Democrats’ history on filibusters belies their current stance
Sunday, March 13, 2005
By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
Special to the Register

The re-election of President Bush has set the stage for “Confirmation Wars II: Return of the Nominees.”

As we may recall, the Democrats in the last Senate were actively engaged in a conflict with President Bush, wherein they were using the Senate’s filibuster rule (i.e., the right to unlimited debate) to block 10 of President Bush’s nominations to the U.S. Courts of Appeal. Among that group was Alabama’s former attorney general, Bill Pryor, who received a temporary appoint to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal that expired at the end of President Bush’s first term.

The entire piece is here.

  • Hennessy\’s View linked with You Must Read This
  • bennellibrothers.com linked with More on the filibuster
Saturday, March 12, 2005
More Churchill: Buyout on the Horizon

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:45 pm

Meanwhile, the Denver Post reports: Churchill buyout near

Embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill has reached an agreement with the school on the dollar terms of a buyout proposal - now both sides have to decide whether they can accept the implications of making a deal, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Three people close to the negotiations between lawyers for Churchill and CU said the sides had agreed to a dollar figure “much less” than $1 million and, perhaps, less than $500,000.

But in addition to the money, Churchill wants to make sure his reputation isn’t impugned as he leaves CU and that the university puts out no statement denigrating his scholarship or his right to free speech.

Well, clearly he has his speech rights-and indeed, if all that had come out had been his ridiculous Eichmann comments, he would still have a job. It is the rest of his “resume” (so to speak) that have caused his problems.

And I would note that he needn’t worry about CU impugning his reputation—he has done a great job of that on his own.

He will, no doubt, have no trouble getting a job once all of this is done, amazingly enough.

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  • JackLewis.net linked with The continuing CU saga
Churchill Accussed of Plagiarism

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:38 pm

Via the Rocky Mountain News: Prof accused of plagiarism

Officials at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia sent CU an internal 1997 report detailing allegations about an article Churchill wrote
“The article . . . is, in the opinion of our legal counsel, plagiarism,” Dalhousie spokesman Charles Crosby said in summarizing the report’s findings.

Churchill did not return calls to his home or office Thursday seeking comment.

Dalhousie began an investigation after professor Fay G. Cohen complained that Churchill used her research and writing in an essay without her permission and without giving her credit. Although the investigation substantiated her allegations, Cohen didn’t pursue the matter because she felt threatened by Churchill, Crosby said.

Crosby said Cohen told Dalhousie officials in 1997 that Churchill had called her in the middle of the night and said, “I’ll get you for this.”

Cohen still declines to talk publicly about her experience with Churchill, but she agreed the Dalhousie report could be shared with CU officials, Crosby said, because “whatever concerns she may have about her safety are outweighed by the importance she attaches to this information getting out there.”

I really don’t know what CU’s legal option are with Churchill, but it is exceedingly clear that if he is guilty of all he has been charged with, the University has to get rid of him. And again I would reiterate that whomever was responsible for his hiring and granting of tenure demonstrated gross incompetence.

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  • JackLewis.net linked with The continuing CU saga
Cali Cartel Boss Extradited to the US

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:47 am

Via the BBC: Cali cartel boss extradited to US

The former head of the Cali drug cartel, once one of the most powerful drugs traffickers in the world, has been extradited to the US.

Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, having exhausted all possible appeals, was handed over to agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

He faces charges of drugs trafficking and money laundering.

[…]

At 61 years old and facing more than 20 years in prison, he may never see Colombia again.

Miguel, along with his brother Gilberto, who was extradited last year, headed the Cali drug cartel and built it up into a billion-dollar enterprise, shipping hundreds of tons of cocaine to the US.

Miguel was captured in 1995, when extradition was banned in Colombia.

It was reinstated in 1997, and to get their hands on the Cali drug lord, the DEA had to prove that Rodriguez Orejuela continued to run his criminal empire from prison.

While not as well know, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers were every bit as big as Pablo Escobar in the Colombian cocaine business.

The continued extradition of major players in the Colombian drug business represents an ongoing signal of the willingness of the Uribe administration to work with the United States and also, as I have noted before, underscores Uribes’s popularity in Colombia. There have been circumstances in the past where such extraditions would have caused huge problems for Colombian presidents, who would have been seen as weak and as acquiescing to the Yanquis for sending Colombian citizens abroad for justice.

  • Diggers Realm linked with Around The Blogosphere #22
Evil in Africa

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:37 am

I know many blogged this story last week, but I thought the following from the CSM to be noteworthy in case one missed the initial reporting:On the way to freedom, Niger’s slaves stuck in limbo

More than 7,000 slaves owned by Arissal Ag Amdague, a Tuareg tribal chief, were due to be released at a desert ceremony last Saturday in the village of In Atès, 175 miles northwest of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

A new law that came into effect last year was supposed to finally punish masters, who had long held slaves with little hassle from the government. Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights group, billed the event as unlike anything seen since the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

Instead, no one was freed.

[…]

Slavery is widespread across the Sahel Desert region, in countries that include Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Sudan, according to rights groups. Anti-Slavery International (www.antislavery.org) and Timidria, a local rights group, calculate there are at least 43,000 slaves still in Niger. Slavery dates back centuries but was outlawed at independence from France in 1960, however the Constitution carried no penalty, and the postcolonial administrations turned a blind eye.

It is horrid enough that such practices existed in the past, but it is beyond words to note that such continues to be the case today.

Isn’t it Obvious?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:16 am

As the oldest, this is patently obvious to me.

Via Reuters: Older siblings are smarter

Note: this post is a test to see if, in fact, my siblings read my blog like they say they do.

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  • Mark A. Kilmer linked with The Natural Order
Sarbanes to Retire

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:04 am

Via the NYT: Senator Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, Will Retire in ‘06

Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, said on Friday that he would not seek re-election in 2006, becoming the second Democratic senator to announce his retirement after this term.

Mr. Sarbanes’s decision opens the door to a possible run by Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic congressman from Maryland who recently resigned as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Even before Mr. Sarbanes’s announcement, Mr. Mfume had sparked speculation about his candidacy by declining to rule out entering the race. Maryland voted solidly for Democrats in the last two presidential elections as well as in recent Senate races, suggesting that potential Republican challengers may face a tough fight. The Republicans, however, did get Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. elected governor in 2002, making him the state’s first Republican governor since Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned in January 1969 after he was elected vice president.

[…]

Republican Party officials said that Michael S. Steele, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, might be a candidate for the seat. He is one of the highest ranking African-American Republicans in a state government and he played a high-profile national role in President Bush’s campaign for re-election, including speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Intriguing. One would expect that Mfume would have an excellent shot at the seat, although an Mfume-Steele race could be interesting.

These means that there are now two open seats for the 2006 Senate contests: Maryland and Minnesota.

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Friday, March 11, 2005
Remember When ‘Gridlock’ Was a Negative Term?

By Steven L. @ 8:37 pm

I saw a link to an interesting article on Dale Franks’ Q&O blog.

Following it to the New Republic Online site, I found the talking points that we may expect to see on the Social Security debate.

Despite conservatives’ insistence that Social Security faces a “crisis,” in reality, the fiscal threat is distant and manageable, while the political threat is immediate and dire.

Number One, of course, is always that the problems can be put off. Granted, the serious fiscal problems do not become what I think of as “dire” until around 2040, but I fail to see the intrinsic benefit of putting off doing anything until we’re right at the precipice. There may be some conservatives that claim we are at a ‘crisis,’ but the main argument seems to be, rather, that we should act before it reaches the ‘crisis’ stage.

This rhetorical device - arguing about whether it is a crisis - seems reminiscent of the claims about whether Iraq was an ‘imminent’ threat - and is being used in exactly the same way.

I don’t care if it qualifies as a crisis or merely a problem - how does relabeling it as a ‘non-crisis’ remove the problem? This is simply renaming the issue and hoping that no one notices that the 800 lb rabid gorilla ithat you’ve now labeled a ‘non-crisis’ is still outside the front door, waiting for you to peek out. Naming the gorilla Fluffy does not help you because sooner or later, you still have to poke your head out.

So here, let’s all agree there is no crisis, yet. Now what? Because that does not actually solve the problem. And the problem here isn’t Republicans or Neocons or even Karl Rove’s mindrays ™. the problem is math.

People are living longer. The baby boom generation is going to retire. There will be fewer and fewer workers available to pay for higher and higher amounts being given out as benefits. These are facts - and renaming the facts or wishing them away will not affect them. We can quibble about whether it starts flying apart in 1038 or 2042 or 2050, but the end result is completely inevitable unless we do something.

So the question is: why not decide what to do now, rather than then?

Part Two of that same comment asserts that the problem is “manageable.” It’s a nice word, manageable. Unfortunately, you have to wait another 21 paragraphs to find out what that means: higher taxes and lower benefits. That part is sort of skipped over quickly, when we are assured that “[m]ore likely [than having to do nothing], the benefit cuts or tax hikes required to keep it in the black will be less severe than currently projected.”

So the alternative being offered (in a passive-aggressive, look for it kind of way) is the following: (1) do nothing and hope everything goes well; and (2) more likely, raise taxes and cut benefits, and hope everything goes well.

So the author (Jonathon Chait) advises democrats to block the reform/privitization effort. the reasoning behind that appears to be that once people are “given” rights by the government, they are reluctant to give them back away.

As conservatives well understand, once a group of voters has been given a property right by Washington, they will never allow it to be taken away. The individual rights will be a ratchet, one that can be expanded but never contracted.

I wish. First of all, the entire premise is a bit dodgy, as voters willingly trade away property freedoms or rights for ’security’ to the government on a regular basis. From my (admittedly conservative, with a dash of libertarian) viewpoint, the ratchet works the other way: give government control over anything, and it expands and grows out of control, sending out tendrils like a giant, mutated squid in a late-night horror flick.

But lets place that aside for the moment. There is an even more fundamental problem: rights are not granted to the people from on high by the government.

Mr. Clait, however, fears that people who are given a chance to save their own money and spend it as they see fit - especially if they manage to obtain higher returns - might (gasp) be reluctant to hand that control back over to government. That could lead (swoon) to having the entire retirement system run by the people themselves, and not the federal government.

Note: the original argument against this “risky scheme” (to borrow a phrase from Al Gore) was that it would not work and would place people’s retirement at risk. People must be protected from themselves. Now, it appears the problem might be a fear that people would do too well to return to the fold.

[This reminds me somewhat of the early school voucher arguments, when I would regularly see letters to the editor explaing that private schools would not be able to educate our children as well as the public schools, and that public schools would have to shut down, as they could not compete. These arguments would be in the same letter.]

Mr. Clait continues (I have excised a few sentences):

In light of all this, it should be clear how critical it is to block private accounts.

Indeed. If, that is, you want to retain control of the people’s money and feel that allowing people control over their own finances is a bad idea.

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Kevin Drum Analyzes Left-Right Blogs

By Steven L. @ 3:34 pm

Click here for a look at Kevin Drum’s look at linkages between and among various sites perceived as either Left or Right.

I am sure that some of the classifications can be argued about, but the article contains a lot of useful data and Kevin has obviously put some work and thought into the article. It is worth a read.

[Edited to add: Bryan of Arguing with signposts correctly notes in the comments that Kevin’s article is based on the legwork done by Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance. My apologies for leaving that out, as the background data and much of the math comes from their research. Mea cupla - there’s a reason I am only a part-timer.]

I am a bit disappointed that the article - a golden chance for some thoughtful discussion (and even argument) about what the numbers might mean - was met with what appears to be knee-jerk dismissals in the comments. Thankfully, this last point applies only to some of the commenters, and not the majority.

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Steven2

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:48 pm

I will be doing very light blogging over the next several days, so look for Steven L. to be pitching in (as he did some yesterday). So before you give credit or blame for brilliance or idiocy of a given post, note who the author is (last time some people just saw “Steven” and got a bit confused). It’s all even more confusing given that my name is Steven L. Taylor (what’s worse is that his Dad’s first name and my Dad’s first name are the same as well-creepy, ain’t it?)

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Some Syrian Troops Actually Leave Lebanon

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:00 pm

Via Reuters: Syrians Quit North Lebanon, Crisis Threatens Polls

The last Syrian troops in north Lebanon left for home on Friday, underlining Syria’s diminishing role in its neighbor as a worsening political crisis threatened the timing of parliamentary polls due by May.

Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles streamed across the Syrian border after an overnight pullout. By noon the Syrians had vacated all army posts in the north, witnesses said.

Some intelligence offices were evacuated, although one was still manned in the city of Tripoli, a security source said.

And the story continues to develop,,,

Amusing Grading Quote of the Day

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:51 am

From an exam:

Afghanistan, for example, has minimal natural resources, except poppies for the production of heroine.

Which raises a question: given the misogynistic ways of Afghanistan, have they been suppressing the natural cultivation of heroines? And, further, is that the root of their development problems?

Three Shot to Death at Georgia Courthouse

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:15 am

Via the AP: Three Shot to Death at Ga. Courthouse

A judge presiding over a rape trial was shot to death Friday along with two other people at the Fulton County Courthouse, authorities said. A fourth person was wounded and a search was under way for the suspect, the defendant in the trial.

Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor confirmed that Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and his court reporter were killed. He gave no other details in announcing the deaths in the state Senate. A deputy died later at a hospital, while a second deputy had minor wounds, police said.

The judge was shot on the eighth floor of the courthouse, while one deputy was shot on a street corner just outside the building, said Officer Alan Osborne with the Atlanta Police Department.

Witnesses said the gunman carjacked a car and authorities were searching for a green Honda Accord that was hijacked from a newspaper reporter.

Fulton County Sheriff’s Lt. Clarence Huber identified the suspect as 33-year-old Brian Nichols, who was on trial on rape and other charges stemming from an incident in August. It was not immediately known how the suspect got a gun.

The reporting now states that he took the gun from a law enforcement official in the courthouse.

Jeff Quinton has much more.

A tragic and frightening event, to be sure.

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  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Manhunt for shooter who killed 3 in Atlanta
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Saturday Nichols Manhunt Updates
Highway Funding: a Uniter, not a Divider

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:08 am

How to Unite Congress: Spend Billions on Projects for Roads

The usually fractious members of the House of Representatives on Thursday found something they nearly all shared: an appetite for millions of dollars for home-state road, bridge and transit projects.

On a vote of 417 to 9, House members approved a $284 billion, six-year measure that would pay for transportation upgrades around the nation, including more than 4,000 projects sought by individual lawmakers at a cost of more than $12 billion.

All Politics may not be Local but an awful lot of it clearly is. And if there is anything that is clearly bipartisan, it is agreement on spending on roads.

The near-unanimous vote in the often bitterly divided chamber demonstrates the popularity of the bill with most lawmakers, who see it as one of the best ways to turn federal money into tangible results back home. Besides the overall allocation of federal gas tax dollars to state and local transportation offices, the bill is jammed with projects ranging from individual bridges and highways championed by lawmakers to equestrian and bike trails, parking garages and even museum improvements.

Certainly these bills are a pork-o-rama:

The group Taxpayers for Common Sense tallied 4,128 so-called “earmarks” included in the measure at the request of individual lawmakers at a cost of $12.4 billion. An official of the taxpayer’s group portrayed this as a spending spree at odds with the current Congressional calls for restraint.

“Instead of tightening their fiscal belt, Congress had instead decided to fund horse trails, museums, interpretive centers and water taxis,” said Keith Ashdown, vice president for policy at the watchdog group.

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A Nice Change of Pace: Fatwa Issued Against Bin Laden

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:55 am

Via Reuters: Spanish Muslims Issue Fatwa Against Bin Laden

Spain’s leading Islamic body has issued a religious order declaring Osama bin Laden to have forsaken Islam by backing attacks such as the Madrid train bombings a year ago.

The Islamic Commission of Spain timed its “fatwa” for Friday to coincide with the first anniversary of last year’s attacks, which killed 191 people and were claimed in the name of al Qaeda in Europe.

The commission’s secretary general Mansur Escudero said the fatwa had moral, rather than legal weight and would serve as a guide for Muslims.

“We declare … that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization, responsible for the horrendous crimes against innocent people who were despicably murdered in the March 11 terrorist attack in Madrid, are outside the parameters of Islam,” the commission said.

The commission said the Koran barred Muslims from committing crimes against innocent people.

Kudos to the Islamic Commission of Spain.

Remembering 3/11

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:54 am

Via Reuters Spain Marks March 11 Attacks with Bells, Tributes

Spain commemorated the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings on Friday with church bells and silent tributes to the 191 people who died in al Qaeda’s worst attack in Europe.

Thankfully, there have been no other such attacks in the past year.

Thursday, March 10, 2005
Cat Shoots Owner: I Told You So.

By Steven L. @ 9:22 pm

Link AP (Mich.)

A man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun onto the floor, discharging the weapon, Michigan State Police said.

This - THIS - is why I am a “dog” guy. The cat is taking the position it was an accident, but I have my doubts.

Don’t trust ‘em. Remember, if they were big enough, they’d eat you. Example: Tigers.

The prosecution rests.

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Dubya@AUM Blogging

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:08 pm

As noted earlier today, President Bush visited Montgomery and spoke at Auburn Univeristy, Montgomery. I was able to attend, which was nifty at a minimum because one rarely gets the chance to see a President of the United States live and in person.

The start of the process was, of course, much waiting. We had to wait about an hour a half to get through the security checkpoint. I took a few pictures, but today reminded me how woeful my digital camera is, and reinforced my decision to buy a new one.

At any rate, here’s part of the line with the numerous satellite trucks in the background.

Once inside the arena was filled (over 4000 persons) and it was, not surprisingly a very friendly crowd (there was quite a roar when Bush appeared.

Bush actually started the speech on the theme of freedom, and highlighted various recent elections (Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, etc.).

The Social Security portion itself was mostly all stuff I had heard before, and while I do think that the folks on the stage with Bush, aside from the econ prof who travels with him, were speaking basically off the cuff (although as per an NPR story I heard this week, the Bush people find these folks ahead of time and, obviously, know what they are going to say). The fact that this was a campaign event of a sort was wholly obvious (not that I thought otherwise).


(Yes, that’s the President in the middle of the picture-trust me)

The President was quite at ease, and seemed to be enjoying himself. In fact, it dawned on me today that he has seemed at ease since his re-election, with the last time he seemed awkward and stiff was back during the debates.

At any rate, he joked with the crowd (indeed, seemed to crack himself up with his own jokes). Precisely what effect this tour will have is unclear to me, given that the folks most likely to attend are pro-Bush (although there were some there who clearly opposed the plan). Of course, part of the strategy may be to bolster support with his base, especially in poorer states where elderly voters may put pressure on their Republican congressmen and perhaps this tour will change some of those minds.

There was one, very anemic protest down the street as we were leaving-maybe about twenty kids with peace flags, “say no to the draft” signs and another anti-SS reform banner/sign. It was amusing more than anything else.

At any rate, I am pleased to have gone, and have now upped my total of Presidents I have seen live to two (I have also seen President Carter).

(I have posted this in today’s OTB Traffic Jam)

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  • Arguing with signposts… » President blogging linked with a pingback
UN “Chides” Bush: Democracy Was OUR Idea.

By Steven L. @ 8:57 pm

LINK

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)’s top aide said on Thursday that he slightly resented the suggestion that “somehow democracy is President Bush (news - web sites)’s invention.”

“I kind of think there are 42 other American presidents who might resent that as well,” Mark Malloch Brown, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s chief of staff, told a news conference. “Democracy has a lot longer roots and a lot more friends than just the current campaign of President Bush.”

I’m not sure who suggested that democracy began and ended with President Bush. It would be nice if these comments, correct though they doubtless are, began with something like “We certainly applaud and agree with the spread of democracy,” or something similar to at least give partial credit to Bush and America for trying to walk the walk here?

As this reads, they jump stright into resenting any credit being given whatsoever to Bush’s policy. Yes, everyone is for democracy. Now.

But many voices at the UN were the ones talking most loudly about not upseting the “stability” of the region not too long ago.

[Chilean officials] said democracy cannot be imposed from outside and is best promoted by many nations, not one. “We must also remember that democracy develops from within the people,” Chilean Vice President Jose Miguel Insulza told the gathering.

“While the international community can play a key role in its defense and promotion, as was the case in my country, the primary responsibility lies with the societies and institutions of each country,” he said.
President Bush has made the advance of freedom, particularly in the Middle East, a central theme of his second four-year term in office.

I’d like to invoke the well-worn, but still useful “So what?” defense here: So What?

Yes, conditions have to be right in a country for Democracy to take root. Yes, the people in the country have to be ready to take on the burdens and responsibilities that come with the rights and benefits. Yes, they - and this applies to Afghanistan and Iraq - deserve great credit for what they are doing.

But so what?

What does that have to do with whether we - as the “West” (or what the West used to be) support democracy and take action against despots and/or dangerous regimes?

Why does this feel like finger-wagging in the face of those dangerous cowboys who look like they might get some credit if we don’t move quickly enough to stop that?

“Democracy is better promoted collectively,” Chilean U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz told a news conference on the conference sidelines. If promoted by an individual nation, there could be “a hidden agenda,” he said.

Both Munoz and Insulza later told a reporter the remarks were general and not aimed at Washington.

Riiiiiight.

Some people should think longer before talking to reporters at an international event and looking like jerks.

Steven L. later told Poliblog readers that his remarks were general and not aimed at either Munoz or Insuza.

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Off to see the CINC

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:22 pm

As some may know, President Bush is coming to Montgomery today and will be speaking on SS reform at Auburn Univerisity, Montgomery.

Thanks to a student I have acquired a ticket to the event and will be leaving shortly. I hope to have pictures and an account of the events later this evening.

However, this also means no blogging until this evening at the earliest.

I have sent a notice to my occasional guest blogger, but don’t know if he will jump in or not.

The Power of Blogrolling

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:12 am

While it appears that Blogrolling is now back up and running, it has been down all morning (and, I assume, part of last night as well). As a result my traffic is waaay down for the day-I easily lost 2/3rds of my normal traffic to this point in the day. Further, I know that I haven’t made my normal rounds in the Blogosphere, because I rely on my Blogroll to do so.

Certainly sans the power of the Blogroll, and its ability to show who is updated and who isn’t, the surfing of blogs would be a very different affair.

It may well be the most important blog tool out there in terms of shaping the traffic patterns of the Blogosphere. As significant as Techorati and the TTLB may be, neither affects hour-to-hour traffic the way Blogrolling does.

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  • Arguing with signposts… linked with Blogrolling workaround for WP
  • Arguing with signposts… » Blogrolling workaround for WP linked with a pingback
Blast from the Past: War Motivations.

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:13 am

This post by Ann Althouse made me think back to my own views on the war and the motivations to action. While I was wholly convinced of the existence of WMD in Iraq, I also believed that the war could lead to a positive liberalization in Iraq.

To wit, here is a column I published in the Birmingham News on March 23, 2003 (the first column I ever had published, in fact):

Liberation faces test in Iraqi experiment

03/23/03
STEVEN L. TAYLOR

At approximately 5:35 a.m. Baghdad time on Thursday, the military action to oust Saddam Hussein from power began. This war is primarily being waged for reasons of national security; however, a very important second element is present: the idea of liberation (and, indeed, liberalization of their way of governing). This concept, articulated by both the American and British administrations, now takes the form of a great, and grave, experiment in Iraq.

The war that has come contains within it a test of the fundamental tenet of classic liberalism: That the natural state for human beings is liberty; that regardless of where one is born and under what culture one was raised, one is free. This is the very idea that is embodied in our Declaration of Independence, which asserts that “men are created equal” and that their very birth provides them with “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is to say that the human being have rights not because governments grant them, but because of the very fact of their own existence. To be human is to have rights, and that government, more often than not, takes away rights rather than protects them.

These types of assumption, often unconscious, undergird American political culture and American political thought. And, therefore, the calls for the liberation of the people of Iraq are not hollow sloganeering. We do, fundamentally, believe that humans ought to be free.

Indeed, success in this war is, in large measure, based on the core belief that human beings, including the citizen of Iraq, desire freedom and that freedom is the birthright of all.

Liberators:

There is a belief at the center of policy-making in Washington that the U.S. military will be greeted and celebrated by the Iraqi people as liberators, not conquerors. Success, after the bombing stops, is based on this assumption that the people of Iraq want to be free, will welcome being free and will be able to act freely once the tyrant has been removed.

As such, the conflict is a great experiment on the question of what human beings are born to. It is a weighty experiment, one that will be furthered by violence.

Of course, freedom has its own problems, not the least of which is that humans are self-interested and often use freedom to seek the wants of self, rather than of the community. And, further, not all cases of democratic experimentation succeed. The current turmoil in Venezuela, once considered the most democratic country in Latin America, is a good example. It is also noteworthy that Lebanon was once considered a successful democratic state.

So, even if the experiment in liberty is successful, a second experiment will unfold, and that will be finding a way to structure the relationships among free peoples Kurds, Shiites, Sunni and so forth in an institutional structure that both promotes freedom and dulls the impulse to self-interested behavior.

Two claims:

However, to say that Iraq is not suited for democracy is to make one of two claims.

The first claim would be that we are wrong liberty is not the birthright of humanity, and therefore it is the luck of the draw that allows some humans to live free, while others are in chains. As such, it would mean our political culture is predicated on a falsehood.

The second is that liberty simply isn’t for everyone; that some are born to freedom and others are not. This would imply that some human beings are superior to others in their capacity to live free, a proposition filled with hubris and based, at a minimum, in ethnocentrism and, at a maximum, in racism of the worst sort.

There have been many cases in the recent past in which it was assumed that democracy “could not work.” Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, post-Soviet Eastern Europe, or even much of Latin America in the mid-1970s were all cases in which democratic governance seemed impossible. Yet, somehow, democracy took hold.

There is existing empirical evidence to back the claim that we are born to freedom. Iraq, and indeed the whole Middle East, is the new testing ground for that proposition.

This entire affair is, as Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has noted, a major gamble. I concur it is a gamble worth taking, and one that has potentially very positive results.

However, it is a monumental undertaking, the scope of which has not been fully appreciated by many observing the events that are unfolding. The events of the next several months are going to set the stage (indeed, the turmoil in the United Nations has already set the stage) for international relations for decades to come.

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Amusing

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

(Of couse, I have an odd sense of humor).

Via the BBC Paris strike hits Olympic visit

France is in the grip of a one-day general strike, just as Paris hosts a team of inspectors from the International Olympic Committee.

[…]

The strike has brought much of the public transport system to a halt, while tens of thousands of protesters are due to stage rallies.

That should made the folks in NYC happy.

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I’ll Take “Massive Wastes of Money and Time” for $1000, Alex

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

Reports the Boston Herald: Kerry fortifies war chest, keeps momentum for 2008

Kerry huddled with his top fund-raisers Monday night in his Georgetown mansion, preparing a massive money push aimed at keeping the defeated presidential nominee’s ambitions alive.

“He wants to keep his team together,'’ said one member of Kerry’s national finance team. “He’s looking ahead. He will be a strong voice in the party.'’

Strategists say Kerry will use his new political action committee, Keeping America’s Promise, to promote his agenda, help party causes and keep his army of 2.7 million supporters together.

From the article (brief as it is) it would appear that Kerry thinks that if he keeps active, it will keep him “relevant” and therefore will be a front-runner in 2008.

However, it would appear that he didn’t get the memo: he lost. And f one reads down the memo one finds that it has been decaded since a part re-nominated the loser in the next cycle.

  • Villainous Company linked with KerryWatch®: Keepin' It Relevant
Some Syrian Troops Already Leaving?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:00 am

Via Reuters: Lebanon: Thousands of Syrian Troops Returning Home

Thousands of Syrian troops are already leaving Lebanon under a two-phased pullout plan, the Lebanese defense minister said on Thursday.

“The first stage of the (Syrian military) redeployment could involve 6,000-7,000 troops out of 14,000,” Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Mrad told Reuters. “Most of those withdrawing are going to Syrian territory.”

Interesting, although words lke “could” and “most” are not as reassuring as one might like.

Further, one wonders as to the degree to which the Syrians are engaging in partial withdrawal now so as to bolster pro-Syrian Lebanese politicos as they try to form a new government and then, once the appropriate persons are in power, if the Syrians won’t then drag their feet on withdrawing the rest of their forces.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005
On Bolton

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:47 pm

James Joyner notes some interesting commentary on Bush’s nominee for UN Ambassador John Bolton.

(Now, if I could just get the image of Michael Bolton out of my head even time I see the name “Bolton"…)

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Hayworth Won’t Run for AZ Governorship

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:36 pm

Via the AP: Rep. Hayworth Won’t Run for Ariz. Gov.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., announced Wednesday he will not challenge Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2006, saying he will seek another congressional term instead.

Hayworth, a six-term congressman who had been regarded as a leading candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, said he believes another Republican can regain the governorship the party lost when Napolitano was elected in 2002.

Perhaps. I don’t know too much abotu AZ politics, even though my parents and one of my siblings resides there. However, my impression is that Napolitano will be somewhat difficult to unseat.

As Expected: Matsui Wins Late Husband’s Seat

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:34 pm

Via the AP: Matsui Wins Late Husband’s House Seat

With all precincts reporting Tuesday, Matsui had nearly 72 percent of the overall vote and 88 percent among Democrats in a race marked by low turnout. She is expected to be sworn in Thursday.

Matsui, a lobbyist and former Clinton White House official, completed what her television ads called a “uniquely Sacramento story.” Succeeding her husband, the late U.S. Rep. Robert Matsui, she becomes the nation’s 45th congressional widow since 1923 to assume the seat of her spouse. She is the third to win in California under such circumstances since 1998.

No surprise at all. On the one hand, I fully understand why widows often run for their late husband’s seats. However, on the other it always seems a bit odd to me-especially when they then stay in office for a while. It is almost as if they have been bequeathed the seat rather than winning in outright and that smacks of aristocracy, not democracy.

  • Diggers Realm linked with Doris Matsui Becomes My Congresswoman
Adios, Dan

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:55 pm

As we all know: Dan Rather Set to Leave ‘CBS Evening News’.

To be honest, I don’t think I have ever seen an entire broadcast of the CBS Evening News, so, quite frankly, I am not really going to notice Dan’s absence after tonight. From a child until I stopped watching the network news back about 1997/98 I was always an ABC guy.

On balance, I share Lorie Byrd of PoliPundit’s view:

My first thought on the subject- it’s been a long time coming. It is a bit tragic, too, though. Even with Rather’s well-documented history of biased reporting, he could have gone out on a somewhat respectable note if he had only admitted what was so incredibly clear to all but the most seriously deluded- the documents were obviously fake. That Dan Rather could not admit that publicly, and possibly refused to even admit it to himself, is what I will most remember about Dan Rather. That is incredibly sad, even for someone like me who was never a Rather fan.

Yup.

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Volokh on Anti-Semitism

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:15 am

Eugene Volokh on anti-semitism:

The most powerful country in the world, America, is one of the ones that has been most open to Jews. Look at the most anti-Semitic countries in recent history: Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Arab world. Right up there at the forefront of civilization and power, aren’t they? Is it all the workings of The Conspiracy? Or is it just that the sorts of idiots who hate Jews do other idiotic things, too?

Indeed.

BTW-don’t click on the links to the anti-semitic web forum he provides if you have just eaten lunch.

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Comment Moderation

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:07 am

S0me of you may have noticed that comments this morning were not directly posted. A commonly used item (i.e., a space) got accidentally inserted into my list of spam words, meaning every comment was stuck in the moderation cue.

All were approved and should now be in place.

This is the Best They Can Do?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:20 am

The Democrats have joined the debate on SS reform.

How you ask?

Why, they have a new slogan:

Strengthen Social Security - Fix It, Don’t Nix It.

It warms the heart to see the level of debate so enhanced.

It ain’t exactly “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” now is it?

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Hylarious

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:10 am

Once (and future) PoliBlog guest blogger Steven L. was the winner in the most recent Outside The Beltway Caption Contest.

His caption was, IMHO, classic.

Lebanon: Pro-Syrian ex-PM to Become PM Again?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:52 am

So it would seem: via Reuters: Lebanon Set to Name Outgoing Karami as New PM

Lebanon’s president looked set to ask the outgoing pro-Syrian prime minister to form a government on Wednesday, a step sure to anger the anti-Syrian opposition who pressured him to resign in the first place.

President Emile Lahoud, buoyed by a mass rally in support of his Syrian backers, began consultations with MPs that were likely to preserve Syria’s political grip on its much smaller neighbor.

Speaker Nabih Berri’s bloc named Omar Karami as prime minister, as did the deputies of guerrilla group Hizbollah. Karami resigned as prime minister last week after huge anti-Syrian protests in Beirut but stayed on as caretaker.

Other pro-Syrian MPs were expected to follow, making it all but certain Karami would be reinstated.

And now the test gets even harder for the anti-Syrian opposition. Will they be cowed by the numbers from yesterday? Will there be more protests? Will they remain peaceful?

It would appear that the Hezbollah/the pro-Syrain elements in Lebanon think that they have recaptured the momentum. It will be interesting to see if there is a counter-move by the opposition.

Corpses of Likely Terror Victims Found in Iraq

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:45 am

Via the AP/NYT: Iraqis Uncover 35 Corpses

Iraqi officials said Wednesday that 35 bodies - some bullet-riddled, others beheaded - have been found at two separate sites and they believe some of the corpses are Iraqi soldiers kidnapped and executed by insurgents.

[…]

Twenty of the corpses were found late Tuesday in a field near Rumana, a village about 10 miles east of the western city of Qaim, near the Syrian border, police Capt. Muzahim al-Karbouli said.

Each of the bodies had been riddled with bullets - apparently several days earlier. They were found wearing civilian clothes and one of the dead was a woman, al-Karbouli said.

South of Baghdad in Latifiya, Iraqi troops on Tuesday made another gruesome discovery, finding 15 headless bodies in a building inside an abandoned former army base, Defense Ministry Capt. Sabah Yassin said.

The bodies included 10 men, three women and two children. Their identities, like the others found in western Iraq, were not known.

The story also details some bombings today-no details as yet, and other Iraq-related news. In typical AP-fashion in lacks good organization and interweaves topics from paragraph to paragraph.

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Leno’s Pinch Jokesters

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:41 am

I noted last week that Jay Leno, a possible witness in the Michael Jackson freak show trial had asked fro legal clarification from the judge in the case as to how the gag order affected his monologue. Later it was reported that Leno had been making a gag of the situation by having other comedians do his Jackson jokes.

Now, the NYT has the whole story: New Gag for Leno: Keeping Mouth Shut, wherein we find that

an NBC official who has been briefed on the matter, and who insisted on anonymity because it is a legal issue, said the network did not believe that Mr. Leno was bound by the order and thus felt he could tell “whatever joke he chooses.”

Mr. Leno, the official added, “is just poking fun at the situation.”

Imagine that.

Although, it does appear that there are, in fact, some legal wranglings over the issue:

Nonetheless, the matter is serious enough that Mr. Leno’s lawyers have filed a motion before the trial judge, Rodney S. Melville of Santa Barbara County Superior Court, asking that he clarify that the order was not relevant to a “public personality” like Mr. Leno.

Although my favorite part of the story is from a brief from Jackson’s side, which apparently would like Leno to nix the Jacko jokes (no shock there):

“Mr. Leno is an accomplished entertainer and, usually, a genuinely funny man,” Robert M. Sanger, a lawyer for Mr. Jackson, wrote. “However, while the prosecution of Michael Jackson might be a convenient source of material, it is hardly crucial commentary on important political or social issues.”

A hearing before the judge on the matter is expected to take place today.

I love the “usually” part.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005
An Odd Tale

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:32 pm

How often does a story somehow tie-in Stan Lee of Marvel comics fame, another guy with two first names, stock fraud, campaign finance rules and Bill and Hillary Clinton?

Not often, that’s how often.

Nevertheless, via Reuters: Yahoo! News - Ex-Stan Lee Chief Pleads Guilty to Stock Crime

Stan Lee Media co-founder Peter Paul on Tuesday pleaded guilty in New York federal court to a charge of manipulating his now-defunct company’s stock.

Paul faces more than 10 years in prison but said he has made no deal to cooperate with prosecutors in an unrelated investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by a member of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s staff.

[…]

Paul, who founded an online entertainment company with comic book legend Stan Lee, said he donated nearly $2 million to Sen. Clinton’s campaign after then-President Clinton promised to work for Stan Lee Media upon leaving office.

Paul claims in the lawsuit that Clinton did not honor the agreement. The company collapsed in 2000.

The former president has denied having a contract with Paul, and both Clintons have asked a California appeals court to dismiss his lawsuit.

Bush Ratchets up the Rhetoric

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:28 pm

Via Reuters: Bush Demands Syria Out of Lebanon by May

President Bush on Tuesday demanded Syria pull troops out of Lebanon before Lebanese parliamentary elections in May and give way to a democracy movement providing hope in the broader Middle East.

“The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring free of intimidation,” Bush said.

He actually made the May demand last week as well, but this seems to be a more forceful statement than the one I heard before. It is good to see him keep the pressure up-and much more is needed.

I do think that Lebanon needs increased attention by the administration-it democracy won’t work in a place where the basics are already in place, it will far harder to make the sale in the rest of the region.

Speech Police?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:24 pm

Bryan S. of Arguing with Signposts has more on the FEC/BCRA/blogs business.

He rightly notes that despite protestations to the otherwise, the FEC is in the speech police business.

Of course the problem is that no one should be in the speech police business.

Yeesh.

Clinton to Additional Heart Surgery

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:53 am

Via ABC: Bill Clinton to Have Scar Tissue Removed

Former President Clinton, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery in September, will undergo a medical procedure Thursday to remove fluid and scar tissue from his left chest, his office announced.

The procedure, which happens occasionally as a result of open-heart surgery, will take place Thursday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. He will remain in the hospital for three to 10 days, his office said in a statement.

Doesn’t sound like much fun. Hopefully all goes well.

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Italians Rethinking Hostage Policy

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:15 am

Via the New York Post: ITALY MAY END RANSOM DEALS:

Italy may abandon its secret, controversial policy of paying huge ransoms for hostages held in Iraq, in the aftermath of last week’s tragedy following the release of an Italian journalist.

“We have to rethink our strategy in dealing with kidnappings,” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was quoted as saying by the newspaper Il Messaggero yesterday.

Berlusconi was reacting to widespread reports that his government paid millions of dollars to Iraqi thugs to free journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

The Italian leader has repeatedly denied making payoffs to Iraqi kidnappers %u2014 a policy the Bush administration says only encourages kidnappers and provides money to terrorists.

But Lucia Annunziata, former president of state television RAI, said yesterday government sources estimate Italy has paid kidnappers nearly $15 million for hostages in the past year.

[…]

Ten Italians have been abducted in Iraq in the past year. At least three, including Sgrena, have been freed in apparent ransom deals.

Even setting aside the whole fact that paying ransoms encourages further kidnappings, how could it possibly be wise to allow terrorist organizations access to millions of dollars? What in the world were the Italians thinking?

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An Unfortunate (?) Headline/Ad Juxtaposition

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:30 am

I was about to close the window when I noticed the following:

Not only amusing, but also quite apt, it would seem…

(Update: Part of today’s OTB Traffic Jam)

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Gore no More?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:16 am

The Political Wire reports that according to Chris Matthews:

“The 2008 Presidential campaign will not include Al Gore…I’ve been given this scoop from a perfect source who informed me that the purpose of this disclosure at this time is to end speculation about a campaign that will never occur.”

To which I ask: what speculation? I have heard mucho Hillary speculation, a good deal of Kerry and Edwards speculation, and even a fair amount of Warner discussion, amongst other. I have heard essentially no Gore speculation.

Could it be that someone, somewhere feels like they have been ignored of late? Indeed, the fact that this info was released makes me think that maybe he is contemplating a run, and is wondering what the reaction will be to this leak.

I will say that the smart thing would be not to run-you basically get the one shot these days (are you listening Senator Kerry?)

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More on Hoffman

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

From the NYT version of the story: University President Resigns at Colorado Amid Turmoil

She said in a telephone interview that the Churchill case was not the impetus for her resignation, but that it had become a distraction that was hindering her ability to address what she called a more serious problem, a budget crisis at the university over a shortage of state financing.

“It was becoming increasingly difficult to be strong on the issues that were important in the long run because it kept coming back to questions about me,” Dr. Hoffman said, “so I decided I had to take my future, my job, off the table.” Dr. Hoffman, 58, was named the university’s president on Sept. 1, 2000, after serving as provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The irony is that the Churchill thing is overshadowing some very serious problems (I’m sorry as vile as Churchill’s ideas are, the situations in the football program are, if anywhere near true, literally criminial).

Indeed, the truly amazing thing is that it may allow the university to escape scrutiny on these issues, as some will argue that all the ciriticisms are anout Churchill, especially when you get professors saying things like:

Margaret LeCompte, a professor in the school of education who has spoken in support of Professor Churchill, said she believed that a “concerted attack on the university by the right wing” was a factor in Dr. Hoffman’s resignation.

I think Hoffman could have easily weathered the Churchill storm, since she played no role in his hire or his promotion. However, as I noted below, her direct oversight of the football program was something that was going to catch up with her sooner or later.

Indeed, were it not for the Churchill situation, one guesses that the more left-leaning faculty who may now feel the need to protect Hoffman to some degree, would instead be calling for her head about now:

Some faculty members said Dr. Hoffman probably also lost support on campus over her handling of accusations last year that the university’s football program had used sex and alcohol to lure top high-school players.

Many critics, on campus and off, said the investigations into the scandal failed to root out the problems of big-money college sports and national competition for players that they said created an environment ripe for recruiting abuses.

Reports of wild weekends, proffered sex for football recruits and sexual assault of women also fed the university’s reputation as a party school where alcohol abuse is tolerated as a part of the undergraduate culture.

Last fall, a freshman died of alcohol poisoning after chugging whiskey and wine as part of an initiation ceremony with fraternity brothers, raising concern among administrators that parents might start to steer their children elsewhere because of worries about safety.

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CU President Resigns

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:15 am

Given that I have commented widely on the Churchill business at CU, I figure I ought to weigh in on the resignation of CU President Elizabeth Hoffman. I actually don’t think that the Churchill situation really had all that much to do with her decision, but rather the ongoing football scandal is undoubtedly the catalyst:

Just last week, a grand jury said two female trainers alleged they were sexually assaulted by an assistant coach and that a “slush fund” was created with money from coach Gary Barnett’s football camp, according to a report leaked to the media.

The grand jury, which finished meeting Aug. 19, handed up a single indictment accusing a former football recruiting aide of soliciting a prostitute for himself and misusing a school-issued cell phone.

The Churchill thing simply adds to the university’s PR problems, and therefore to Hoffman’s general difficulties. I don’t think anyone should construe this resignation as some sort of triumph in the Churchill siutation-rather, this is about a remarkable set of problems in the football program (and other issues), something that would be in the direct responsibility of the university president, while the situation with Churchill would not be.

Bryan S. at Arguing with Signposts comments as well and righlty notes:

as is often the case in the business world when a company starts going south - the leader should probably step aside as part of the clean-up process.

The Rocky Mountain News has the details of a bad week for Hoffman (Hoffman steps down from CU presidency):

Hoffman’s resignation followed a disastrous week in which just about everything that could go wrong did for the embattled president.

It began last Monday, when 9News broadcast the sordid details of a leaked grand jury report produced by a panel of citizens last summer investigating allegations that CU used booze and sex to lure star football players to the school.

The secret document, according to 9News, included previously unreported allegations that student female trainers were sexually assaulted by an assistant coach and harassed by players and recruits demanding sexual favors.

Media coverage of the grand jury findings dominated the news until Wednesday, when Hoffman called a news conference at the Capitol in hopes of rallying support for the school, asking critics, including Owens, to meet with her and discuss their concerns firsthand.

But that message was all but lost when Hoffman abruptly ended the news briefing, walking out with several regents and administrators in tow after a series of tough questions not about her message, but about her handling of the football scandal.

As reporters shouted that they had more questions for her, a lone regent - Michael Carrigan - was left behind to face some two dozen journalists shouting questions, including asking if Hoffman’s refusal to face hostile questioning indicated a problem with CU’s leadership.

That evening, Hoffman enjoyed one of her few bright moments in recent days - celebrating popular CU women’s basketball coach Ceal Barry’s last home game.

But Thursday, speaking to about 40 members of the CU-Boulder Faculty Assembly, Hoffman fired up her critics again. During an impassioned defense of academic freedom, she warned professors about a “new McCarthyism,” referring to blacklisting of people in the 1950s in a movement led by U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

Critics lashed back at Hoffman, indignant that she would compare their criticism of Ward Churchill and his likening of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to an infamous Nazi and his purported calls for violent overthrow of the U.S. government to McCarthyism.

“I can point to two bright shining moments where (Hoffman) made a fool of herself,” said KHOW radio legal analyst Craig Silverman. “It was Wednesday when she held that abortive press conference, which was a waste of gasoline for everybody who drove there to cover it.

“Then, Thursday when she talked about a new McCarthy era, I would have liked to have asked her if she was talking about Charlie McCarthy, since it was such a ‘dummy’ statement to make,” he said.

And, then there’s:

Also looming over Hoffman’s week were a lawsuit filed by the CU Foundation, the school’s $780 million fund-raising arm, against 9News, and a notice of intent to sue the state attorney general’s office, alleging that both have mischaracterized the foundation’s actions.

It would seem also that there were some issues of the state budget and tuition hikes.

Indeed, if one reads the entire piece (and notes the timeline at the end) in the News as well as this companion piece, one will come to the obvious conclusion that Churchill had really very little to do with her decision.

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Money for Speech for Me, But Not for Thee

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:30 am

If one wishes to understand the farce that is campaign finance reform, look no further than the following from the NYT, McCain Allies Want Reform (and Money)

In a small office a few miles from Capitol Hill, a handful of top advisers to Senator John McCain run a quiet campaign. They promote his crusade against special interest money in politics. They send out news releases promoting his initiatives. And they raise money - hundreds of thousands of dollars, tapping some McCain backers for more than $50,000 each.

The bottom line is that the Institute is esentially doing waht McCain-Feingold supposedly wnats to curtail: riasing large sums of money in large chunks, for example:

Donors said the institute had become more aggressive in recent months in its push for money. Though it is not required to do so, the institute lists all its donors on its Web site. This year, the organization began breaking them down by ranges of contributions, which showed the vast majority of its hundreds of contributors gave $500 or less. About 40 gave between $500 and $5,000, 8 gave up to $50,000 and 12 contributed above that level.

to use said monies to seek to influence public policy:

This may look like the headquarters of a nascent McCain presidential bid in 2008. But instead, it is the Reform Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to overhauling campaign finance laws and one whose work has the added benefit of keeping the senator in the spotlight.

The institute has drawn little notice, but it offers a telling glimpse into how Mr. McCain operates. In the four years since its creation, it has accelerated its fund-raising, collecting about $1.3 million last year, double what it raised in 2003, a sizable sum for a group that exists to curb the influence of money in politics.

Mr. McCain, the institute’s most prominent spokesman, defended the large donations as a necessary part of advocacy work, and drew a distinction between the progressive agenda of the Reform Institute and political efforts to which campaign finance laws apply. The institute is different, he said, “because it is nonpartisan and issue-oriented.”

You see, money in politics is good when it is raised and used for “good” things and that money is bad when it is raised for “bad” things.

Got it?

Of course-and since we mere mortals can’t tell when money is good or bad-we should let Congress make up more and more arcane rules to figure it our for us.

Here’s an idea: why not just let everyone raise as much money as they want and spend it on speech and then we could all, you know, listen to the debate and think about it and stuff and then make up, like, our own minds?

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The Next Big Test in Lebanon

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:43 am

Via Retuers: Hizbollah Rally to Underline Lebanese Rift on Syria. Here’s where it could get both dangerous and ugly:

Pro-Syrian demonstrators gathered in Beirut on Tuesday to denounce what they see as Western interference in Lebanon at a rally highlighting deep divisions in the country over Damascus’s role.

The gathering, called by the Shi’ite Muslim Hizbollah group and its allies, is expected to attract tens of thousands of people to a central Beirut square only 300 meters from where opposition protesters, largely Christian, have held daily rallies to demand a complete Syrian withdrawal form Lebanon.

It will be interesting to see how the Hizbollah demonstration goes (my guess is that it will be quite the contrast with the pro-democracy, anti-Syria demonstrations that have been taking place in “Freedom Square"). It will also be telling as to how the groups react to one another.

Certainly it isn’t hard to tell who to root for, so to speak:

Buses and cars were ferrying supporters of Hizbollah and its allies from across Lebanon. At the Riad al-Solh square itself, Hizbollah members were setting up loud speakers and putting up Lebanese flags and banners.

Bearded young men in black were looking after security, searching streets and even drainage holes for suspect objects.

“Thank you, Syria’s Assad,” a large banner said. “No to foreign interference,” another said. Nasrallah had urged demonstrators to carry only Lebanese, not party, flags. Pictures of Assad and Lahoud were also hoisted.

“No to foreign interference"-quite the ironic little banner, no?

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Monday, March 7, 2005
The Italian Hostage Story

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:20 pm

First off: it is quite sad that the Italian intelligence officer was killed so unnecessarily.

Second: I confess to not have followed the story all that closely.

However, I find it basically impossible to accept the accusation that the US military targeted that car on purpose, as if the US military had wanted the occupants in the car dead, dead they would be.

Utterly Incomprehensible

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:28 pm

Via the AP: Tens of Thousands Said Raped in East Congo

Marauding gunmen gang-raped children as young as 3-years-old, and often raped women and young girls-some to the point of death-as their families helplessly watched, the report said.

At least 10 women were being raped every day in the tiny, embattled town of Bunia as recently as October 2004, according to the report.

Warring ethnic Hema and Lendu militia continue to terrorize Bunia-kicking down doors in the night and snatching girls in the fields %u2014 despite the presence of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers based there.

Peacekeepers in Bunia have also been accused of raping young girls living in the town’s sprawling camp for those displaced by fighting, or trading sweets and pocket change for sex.

Hideous. It boggles the mind that people can behave like this.

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¡¡Por Fin!!

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:51 pm

For those who remember this, I just got my car back-55 days later.

All seems well at this point.

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The Amazing Things Kids Will Argue About…

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:50 pm

Tonight: Oldest Son and Middle Son in a death-defying conflict over who got the pork in the pork-n-beans.

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Hacking Me Off

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:43 pm

Have I ever mentioned that I despise plagiarism?

Further, don’t students understand that if they can use Google, so can I?

Update: Oops, didn’t properly close the ital tag. Fixed now.

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Happy Blogiversary

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:55 am

The Galvin Opinion is a year old.

Congrats to Tom.

New Alan Parsons

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:34 am

For the few who might care, Alan Parsons has released a new album: A Valid Path.

I just happened across the fact, and know little about the album, except that it is apparently a divergence from Parsons’ previous work (either with Woolfson or by himself). it seems that the last remnants of the Project (Bairnson and Elliot) have gone their own ways and this album is “electronica.”

The official AP site describes the album as

A leap into the world of computers and electronic music, A Valid Path is filled with polyrhythmic drumbeats and soaring guitar solos (provided in part by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour), and sees a number of fascinating new collaborations, including The Crystal Method, Shpongle, Jeremy Parsons, Uberzone, The Nortec Collective and PJ Olsson, who also now sings with the Alan Parsons Live Project.

In time-honored Alan Parsons style, A Valid Path merges cultures, sensibilities, instrumentation, and artists in a unique but completely natural blend. Dance loops and heavily processed vocals fuse with stylish chord progressions. Experienced players with young guns. Acoustic instrumental lines with computer-generated algorithms.

The album’s official site is here.

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Frist Visits New Hampshire

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:06 am

Taegan Goddard notes: Frist Visits New Hampshire and draws the obvious 2008-linked conclusion.

I must admit, I have a hard time seeing Frist win the Presidency.

The ‘Net Rocks for Political News

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:04 am

Via Reuters: Internet Passes Radio for Political News -Survey

The Internet surpassed radio as a source for political news in the United States last year as more people went online to keep up with the presidential election campaign, according to a new report released on Sunday.

Twenty-nine percent of U.S. adults used the Internet to get political news last year, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. That’s up from 4 percent in 1996 and 18 percent in 2000.

Not particularly surprising. Also not surprising is the fact that TV continues to dominate and, according to NPR’s version of this story, the most-visited news web pages are major media sites.

And one cool thing about 2004 versus 2000 for political news: the news site didn’t crash under the strain of traffic in 2004 the way they did in 2000. And while I had a internet account inf 1996 (dial-up with a certain number of hours per month) I don’t recall checking the web for election news at all on election night or generically using the web as a major news source at the time.

Update: James Joyner has much more.

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The Byrd-o-rama Continues

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

Professor Bainbridge notes this article (PDF) from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy in which the authors, Gold and Gupta, outline the options at hand for changing the filibuster rule, and specifically points out that Byrd threatend the so-called “nuclear option” himself in 1979. Bryd stated:

[I]t is my belief—which has been supported by rulings of Vice Presidents of both parties and by votes of the Senate—in essence upholding the power and right of a majority of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate at the beginning of a new Congress (208).

The more one learns, the more remarkable the whole tale becomes. Bainbridge has additional quotes and comments that are worth reading.

Meanwhile, Pennywit suggests a real filibuster.

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Trouble in Bolivia

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:25 am

Via the AP: Bolivian President Offers Resignation

President Carlos Mesa said he would submit his resignation to Congress after 17 months in office, warning that growing protests against Bolivia’s oil and gas laws could soon block the country’s highways and isolate its main cities.

If lawmakers accept his resignation, Mesa would be the second leader driven from office by popular protests in less than two years in South America’s poorest country. In October 2003, Mesa succeeded President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who resigned in the wake of bloody street protests that took the lives of at least 56 people.

[…]

Since taking office, Mesa has been hounded by a series of protests. They included calls for autonomy by Bolivia’s wealthiest region, protests demanding lower fuel prices and demands for increases in taxes levied on foreign oil companies from 15 to 50 percent of their sales.

Mesa’s announcement came after Evo Morales, an Indian congressman and leader of the nation’s coca leaf growers, announced a nationwide road blockade unless lawmakers pass a law raising the taxes foreign oil companies would pay — a law that Mesa says the international community wouldn’t accept.

Morales was significant in the last set of protest that brought down the previous president.

It should be noted that there is legal coca growing allowed in Bolivia (hence the somewhat casual mention that he represents the nation’s coca leaf growers).

Of course, the coca issue is what makes Bolivia of interest to the US (and the coca issue was a significant part of the last round of protests): U.S.-backed eradication of Bolivia’s coca leaf, the base ingredient of cocaine, depends on a moderate government like Mesa’s. Many of the president’s would-be challengers decry meddling by the United States and say the coca crackdown has deprived thousands of poor farmers of their livelihoods.

Indeed, it is easily argued that a portion of the instability in Bolivia is a direct result of the drug war.

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Sunday, March 6, 2005
Who Would You Rather Be Friends With?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:18 pm

Glenn asks: which crowd would you rather hang out with?

Check out the pics and get back to me (although the choice should be clear).

h/t: The Bennelli Brothers

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Headline Reaction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:49 pm

Lawyers: BTK suspect says he’s depressed.

Hmm. Well, if I were in jail accussed of being a vicious serial killer, I think I’d be depressed, too.

Syria Gives Hamas and Islamic Jihad Leaders the Boot

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:31 pm

Via the Jerusalem Post: Report: Syria expels terror leaders

Bowing to international pressure, Syria has ordered head of Hamas politburo Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah to leave Damascus, The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday.

Islamic Jihad was behind the March 25 suicide bombing in the Tel Aviv ‘Stage’ nightclub, in which five Israelis lost their lives and over 50 suffered injuries.

[…]

Mashaal had left for Qatar, while Shallah was being sheltered by Hizbullah in Lebanon, he said. “The government has closed their offices, cut off their phones and shut down their email,” Fahum said. “I know this from both sides.”

If all of this is the result of the failure of the Bush foreign policy, can you imagine what success would look like?

h/t: Jeff Goldstein

  • bennellibrothers.com linked with Fruit of Bush Doctrin in Syria
More Byrd Blogging

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:28 pm

Here’s a round-up of others blogging on the Senator from West Virginia and his love affair with the filibuster.

  • Paul at Wizbang! discusses The “Other” Nuclear Option
  • Jon Henke at QandO: Filibusted
  • Bill Hennessy comments on Robert Byrd: A History of Abuse of Congressional Power
  • Ed Morrissey notes that John Cornyn Has Robert Byrd’s Number.
  • Casey notes some relevant history from the House.
  • James Joyner and Chris Lawrence also comment.

If you have a Byrd post, or know of one worthy of attention, please link up. I scanned around for other posts, especially looking at more left-of-center blogs but didn’t see anything. My search was, however, quite unscientific and I infer nothing from the lack of posts.

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  • bennellibrothers.com linked with More on "Sheets" Byrd and the filibuster
Not Comforting

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:15 pm

Via the 2008: Al-Qaeda ‘has 200 on UK streets’

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens says up to 200 Al-Qaeda “terrorists” are operating in UK and the threat of attacks is real.

Not what one wants to hear, to be sure.

Of course, this is in the context of legislative debate over an anti-terror bill, so it is difficult to know how much is politics and how much is pure law enforcement assessment.

The Constitution and Changing the Rules in the Senate

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:06 am

There was a time when I wasn’t so sure that the Republicans ought to change the filibuster rule, as I was concerned as to precedent and as to ramifications. Of course, I also thought that the Democrats would seek a less rigorous opposition post-election (I still think that the smart move for the Democrats would be to allow some of these nominees to pass, and then be in a position to appear reasonable and then block the others). However, such an outcome appears not to be in the cards, so I see no option but for the Republicans to seek to eliminate the filibuster as it pertains to nominees to the courts.

After the 2000 election, the Democrats could at least make an argument that Bush didn’t really have the full right to remake the courts via his nominations-certainly it was an argument that had some public sympathy (not one I really bought, mind you, but it could be made). Still, the fact that the Republicans gained in the Senate in 2002 and 2004, not to mention the fact that Bush was convincingly re-elected in 2004, utterly destroys whatever tenuous basis those arguments had in the first place.

In all honesty, despite whatever arguments that the Democrats may make, the Republicans are on firm Constitutional ground, and the Democrats only have tradition to fall back upon. Not only is it true that the filibuster rules have been changed before (and at the behest of Robert Byrd, no less), but there is nothing in the Constitution that guarantees the filibuster power.

Byrd, in his speech the other day, and in an editorial in WaPo made claims about the Constitution in connection with the current debate over the Democrats’ filibustering ways vis-à-vis Bush’s Appeals Court Nominees. To wit, in WaPo he wrote:

It starts with shutting off debate on judges, but it won’t end there. This nuclear option could rob a senator of the right to speak out against an overreaching executive branch or a wrongheaded policy. It could destroy the Senate’s very essence - the constitutional privilege of free speech and debate.

To which I say: that is an application of the slippery slope fallacy so bad as to make a college sophomore with any self-respect blush. Further, it is a load of rhetorical balderdash. By that logic the members of the House of Representatives have neither debate nor free speech because they do not have the right to unlimited debate.

The nonsense continues:

To understand the danger, one needs to understand the Senate. The Framers created an institution designed not for speed or efficiency but as a place where mature wisdom would reside. They intended the Senate to be the stabilizer, the fence, the check on attempts at tyranny. To carry out that role, an individual senator has the right to speak, perhaps without limit, in order to expose an issue or draw attention to new or differing viewpoints. But this legislative nuclear option would mute dissent and gag opposition voices.

He is correct about the basic design of the Senate in an abstract sense. However, there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the Constitution that dictates the amount of time that Senators can/should be allowed to debate. Indeed, there is nothing about changing the filibuster rule for nominees that would stop debate, or stop the filibuster option for other legislative matters. There is already a stricture against filibusters over the budget, does the Senator from West Virginia then suggest that there is a lack of “free speech and debate” over the budget and that in those case the opposition is gagged? What nonsense.

(And, note the “perhaps” in Byrd’s paragraph about debate).

Further, doing away with the filibuster for judicial nominees would not silence debate. Rather, it would allow one. The current situation is that the Democrats are blocking the nominations from being heard on the floor, and therefore there has been no floor debate on the nominees, just attempts to debate whether there will be a debate. The whole goal here is to get the nominees to the floor so that a debate and then a vote could be taken. Byrd is disingenuous at best when he cries “we can’t speak” in this process, when it is the very goal of the Democratic minority (the one that shrank at the polls last year) to obstruct the process.

Indeed, if all Senator Byrd wants is to protect debate, then the current situation would allow the Democratic minority to hold the floor until they were finished with their say, and then they could vote for cloture, which would allow for a vote on the nominee under debate. As such, they could employ their persuasive powers on the floor on the Senate to try and change the minds of some of the majority, or to use the press to transmit their views to the public in hope of the public, in turn, pressuring the majority. However, this is not about defending the right of the minority to debate (they have that now), it is about the right to outright block the President’s nominees (which they have been exercising for several years now). Since they appear to assume that their persuasive powers are inadequate, they have chosen to use the cloture rule as a blunt instrument that cuts off debate, rather than enhancing it.

If the Democrats simply want a debate, then all they have to do is negotiate with Republicans and state that they will allow a vote once debate is complete, however long that may take. However, they don’t want debate, they want the destruction of these nominations.

If we look at the actual U.S. Constitution we find that in regards to the internal workings of the Senate, the Republicans are right, and Senator Byrd is wrong, as Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 states:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…

As such the Republicans, as the majority, have the right to change the rules (a right Byrd himself acknowledged in 1979). Indeed, all Byrd has, constitutionally speaking, is Article II, Section 2:

Clause 2: […] and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States…

And Byrd is right: there is no guarantee of a vote implied here. However, to infer the right to filibuster from this clause is lunacy

In short: Byrd and his allies in the Democratic Party do not want to simply protect free debate in the Senate-they have that right now and could easily maintain it. Rather, they are simply manipulating the rules to their advantage to block Appeals Court nominees, which is fair enough. However, the Republicans have every right to, in turn, use the rules to their advantage and change the rule over extended debate for judicial nominees. This, too, is fair.

The Democrats need to decide if they are willing to acquiesce somewhat, or further diminish their own power and standing. It seems they prefer the latter route. And while they may think that a massive response to the so-called “nuclear option” will bring them positive press, I think that it will, in fact, feed to current perception amongst many in the public that the Democrats are the party of obstruction, and it will not help them either in the PR wars, nor at the ballot box in 2006.

h/t: Joe Gandelman at Dean’s World for pointing out the Byrd editorial.

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  • Outside The Beltway linked with Robert Byrd and the Filibuster
  • Wizbang linked with The "Other" Nuclear Option
  • Decision \’08 linked with Miscellanea: The Virus Spreads Edition
  • Hennessy\’s View linked with Robert Byrd: A History of Abuse of Congressional Power
  • QandO linked with
  • ProfessorBainbridge.com linked with Fisking Byrd
  • Arguing with signposts… » Sunday political talk linked with a pingback
  • Villainous Company linked with Blogjam
  • What Attitude Problem? linked with
Iraqi Assembly to Start Meeting, With or Without a PM

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:11 am

Via Reuters: Iraqi Assembly to Meet, Hopes for New Government

Iraq will hold a meeting of its newly elected National Assembly in 10 days with or without a new government, the deputy prime minister said on Sunday, hoping to instill a sense of order amid the daily violence.

[…]

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said he hoped politicians would end horse-trading over top posts before the meeting.

“The meeting will be on March 16 and we agreed to continue meetings (on a government) and hope to reach an agreement by then,” Salih told Reuters. “If we don’t reach an agreement then the National Assembly will begin its work and discussions will continue inside the assembly.”

Probably the right thing to do: not only will it light a fire under the PM-selection negotiations, it is time for the new government to start making some progress (not to mention actually bing visible).

Saturday, March 5, 2005
It Gets Better…

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:47 pm

Bill Hennessey e-mails to note the following from the House of Representatives’ web page: Senate Floor Procedures - Recent Developments in the Senate

At the convening of almost every Congress from 1961 until 1975, attempts were made to reduce the vote required to invoke cloture to three-fifths of Senators present and voting. On most of these occasions, opponents mounted a filibuster against a motion to proceed to consider a measure to change the rule. Supporters attempted to overcome these filibusters by asking the chair to rule that the Senate’s constitutional power to make its rules required it to be able to reach such questions by majority vote. Although they sometimes obtained favorable rulings, they were never able to achieve a change by using this argument.

During this time, several compromise proposals were developed, including: (1) applying the reduced requirement only to appropriation bills and conference reports; (2) reducing the majority required on each successive cloture vote; (3) requiring the needed majority to include a majority of each party; and (4) substituting a requirement of three-fifths of the full Senate (60 votes).

In 1975, this last proposal, originated by then Majority Whip Robert C. Byrd, was adopted for most measures, but the two-thirds requirement was retained to limit debate on measures changing the Senate’s standing rules. In addition, since 1959 motions to proceed to consider rules changes have been debatable even if offered during the “morning hour'’ when other legislative proposals can be brought up without a debatable motion. These provisions are intended to protect Senators against rules changes that might further restrict their prerogatives.

The man has cajones, I’ll give him that. Still, he is an hypocrtical as the day is long.

Speaking of Robert Byrd…

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:42 pm

Professor Bainbridge notes a Weekly Standard piece by Hugh Hewitt which contains the following gem“

Here is Byrd, from the Congressional Record, January 15, 1979 (courtesy of the blog Beltway):

“This Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past. . . The first Senate, which met in 1789, approved 19 rules by a majority vote. Those rules have been changed from time to time . . . So the Members of the Senate who met in 1789 and approved that first body of rules did not for one moment think, or believe, or pretend, that all succeeding Senates would be bound by that Senate . . . It would be just as reasonable to say that one Congress can pass a law providing that all future laws have to be passed by two-thirds vote. Any Member of this body knows that the next Congress would not heed that law and would proceed to change it and would vote repeal of it by majority vote.”

Indeed.

Bainbridge also notes notes that Howard Kurtz noticed, in his Friday column, that Byrd’s rant from Monday hasn’t gotten much attention:

By the way, I’ve seen nothing in the major papers, and only a few mentions on cable, of Robert Byrd appearing to liken GOP tactics to Hitler, which he now denies, even though Jewish groups have demanded an apology ("Hideous” and “outrageous,” says the ADL.) Why is the press giving Byrd a pass?

The even better question is: why does Byrd always get a pass? His KKK past is never mentioned, and any other politician (especially a Southern GOPer) would have been skewered for his “white n****r” comment six years ago.

So, why does he get off so easily? It really is remarkable.

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Trackbacks Back

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:04 pm

If you had trouble sending tracbacks earlier today it is because I turned them off during a spam attack this morning and I had forgotten to turn them back on.

They are back, so feel free to re-send them if you want.

Senate Rules: Inviolate and Sacrosanct, Right?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:21 pm

Well, maybe not. A quick glance at the Senate’s page we find some info on Filibuster and Cloture:

In 1841, when the Democratic minority hoped to block a bank bill promoted by Henry Clay, Clay threatened to change Senate rules to allow the majority to close debate. Thomas Hart Benton angrily rebuked his colleague, accusing Clay of trying to stifle the Senate’s right to unlimited debate. Unlimited debate remained in place in the Senate until 1917. At that time, at the suggestion of President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate adopted a rule (Rule 22) that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote - a tactic known as “cloture.”

The new Senate rule was put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Despite the new cloture rule, however, filibusters continued to be an effective means to block legislation, due in part to the fact that a two-thirds majority vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next several decades, the Senate tried numerous times to evoke cloture, but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to southern senators blocking civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds (67) to three-fifths (60) of the 100-member Senate.

So, changes are possible-whaddya know.

Since Senator Byrd is not only the self-appointed historian of the Senate and was the Majority Whip when this change took place, I would think that he could have worked some of these facts into his speech the other day.

Indeed, as Whip he would have been a central actor in the change from 67 to 60 votes for cloture. The irony and hypocrisy here are quite deep.

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  • Signifying Nothing linked with More from the Klansman
  • Hennessy\’s View linked with Senator (Grand Wizard) Byrd's a Hypocrite
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Robert Byrd and the Filibuster
  • QandO linked with
A Start: Syria to Redeploy Troops

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:42 am

Via the BBC: Syria to redeploy Lebanon troops

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced the redeployment of Syrian forces in Lebanon to the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Addressing Syria’s parliament, Mr Assad said Syria will not stay in Lebanon “one day” longer than Lebanon wishes.

Uh-huh, sure.

But, he said a withdrawal would not “mean the absence of a Syrian role".

And by what right, one wonders?

Blogs, The FEC and McCain-Feingold

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:38 am

Regular readers know of my general disposition towards McCain-Feingold and campaign finance rules in general (if not, click and scroll), so I am quite interested in the breweing brouhaha over the FEC and blogs that has been bouncing aroung the Blogosphere the last couple of days (it all started with this intereview on CNET).

First off, the suggestion that a link can be construed as a campaign contribution strikes me as patently absurd (of course, I think much of McCain-Feingold is patently absurd, so we call all take that for what it is worth). Still, how is a link any different than putting a campaign sign in your yard or a sticker on your car? Are we going to say that citizens promoting a candidate equates to an in-kind campaign contribution? I should think not.

Second, the only way, it seems to me, that McCain-Feingold could reasonably apply to blogs would be those that have direct connections to campaigns in a coordinated fashion-otherwise I can’t see, ultimately, blogs being treated any differently than a personally produced newsletter or pamphlet or general political speech. Indeed, there is no way to apply McCain-Feingold to opinion-based blogs who simply support a candidate. The only blogs I can think of that might be affected would be Daily Kos and Blogs for Bush and the like, because of direct linkages to campaigns.

Third, ALL of this (just the fact that we are having this discussion at all) demonstrates the insanity of laws like McCain-Feingold and underscores why there should be no restrictions whatsoever on political speech.

Michelle Malkin has a good round-up of links on this issue.

What Attitude Problem? rightly notes “Attention all bloggers! The sky is not falling! I repeat: The sky is not falling!” and also has a number of links.

He links (and quotes) The Campaign Legal Center: Setting the Record Straight: There is No FEC Threat to the Internet wherein we find:

Mr. Smith’s comments are obviously designed to instigate a furor in the blogosphere to pressure Congress to reverse the court decision requiring that paid political ads on the Internet should be treated like any other paid advertisements. Mr. Smith has a right to try to win converts to his anti-regulatory philosophy, but he has an obligation to present the issues fairly and forthrightly, and his comments to CNET fail both tests.

It is also noteworthy that Michelle notes three FEC members who have pubically disagreed with Smith.

So really, despite the fact that I will take any opportunity to diss BCRA (i.e., McC-F), there doesn’t seem to be anything to get crazy about here vis-a-vis blogs.

Look: it seems clear that the FEC is trying to deal with the role of campaign money and advertisement via the Internet. That does not mean that the the FEC is going to start regulating blogs.

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Coalition Building 101

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:03 am

*Sigh*-it really would be nice if reporters at the NYT understood some of the basic of comparative politcs before they started reporting on things: Two Legislators Withdraw in Impatience From Fragile Shiite Coalition

Two newly elected politicians announced Friday that they were withdrawing from the fragile political alliance cobbled together by the country’s most powerful Shiite cleric, marking the first notable fracture within the alliance.

The defections expose the vulnerability of the Shiite parties as they struggle to form a coalition government with other political groups, and showed the limits of the influence of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the cleric who assembled the alliance. The split signaled that any talks to form a new government would probably be protracted, as rivals to the Shiites try to take advantage of weaknesses in the alliance.

A) Two legislators does not a “fracture” make.

B) Just because they say they are withdrawing now, does not mean that they will remain withdrawn. This is as likely a negotiating strategem as it is a permanent rupture.

C) Any situation with multiple parties will result in protracted coalition building, especially when a super-majority is needed to select the PM and when there are highly charged political issues for the parliament to face.

None of this should be a surprise or warrant a grim assessment from the Times’ reporter.

To put it in simple terms:

a fragmented party system

+

a 2/3rds majority requirement to pick the President and PM

+

a new democracy lacking established political norms

+

complex issues
============================================
a protracted negotiation process and much horse-trading.

Is this really that hard to understand?

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Borders and Drugs: The Great White North

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:52 am

For those wo fixate on the 2,000ish mile US-Mexican border, here’s a reminder that we have 5,000ish mile border to the north via the NYT: Violent New Front in Drug War Opens on the Canadian Border

The drugs move across the Canadian border inside huge tractor-trailer rigs, pounds and pounds stashed in drums of frozen raspberries, tucked in shipments of crushed glass, wood chips and sawdust, or crammed into hollowed-out logs, in secret compartments that agents refer to as “coffins.”

Kayakers paddle them south from British Columbia across the freezing bays of America’s northwest corner, and well-paid couriers carry up to 100 pounds at a time in makeshift backpacks, hiking eight hours over the rugged mountainous terrain that forms part of the border between the United States and Canada. Small planes drop them onto raspberry fields and dairy farms in hockey bags equipped with avalanche beacons to alert traffickers that the drugs have landed.

Again we see the overriding power of markets: where there is demand, there will be supply:

This new wave of drug trafficking, with Northwest Washington and Seattle a major transit point, comes as an enormous challenge to United States law enforcement agents stationed along the often invisible northern border. They are already dealing with the threat of terrorism, the flow of immigrants and new human smuggling operations - some run by some of the Canadian criminal organizations that move the marijuana south and cash, cocaine and guns north, American and Canadian law enforcement officials say.

[…]

Wholesale, B.C. bud sells for about $3,000 a pound, though the price rises the farther from Seattle it is sold - $3,500 a pound by the time it reaches California. Marijuana smuggled across the southern border sells for $400 to $1,000 a pound in the Southwest United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The utter impossibility of sealing the US-Mexican and US-Canadian borders to drug trafficking should be manifestly obvious, nonetheless the likely reaction to this situation will be greater spending on a futile cause.

And this sounds oh-so-familiar:

Efforts to combat the flow can be seen vividly in places like Blaine, Wash., a tiny border town along the shore in the northwestern part of the state, where agents patrol the waters, mountains and airways in brand-new boats and planes. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, agents have seen their manpower and technological resources double or triple, helping them seize growing amounts of B.C. bud. Along the Washington border alone, agents seized 20,500 pounds in 2004, worth more than $60 million, up from 4,000 pounds in 1998.

But with possibly more than 1.5 million pounds coming south, according to the Canadian estimates, many acknowledge they are making a mere dent in what is coming across.

Really, it seems to me we would be far better off legalizing the stuff and spending on prevention and treatment for those who need it, not to mention focusing border security on counter-terrorism. I would argue that the societal threat from marijuana hardly justifies the spending in question.

The real irony is that all of the crime and violence is not the result of people tokin’, but of the black market that is created, and the commensurate violence required to protect turf and profits, not to mention to elude police. The story notes that Seattle fears growing violence and crime related to the drug trade, but if the substance was legal, there would be no turf to protect, and no need for gangs.

A companion piece also notes the following depressing facts about the Drug War sink hole: Stopping Illicit Drugs Is Still Uphill Battle, Report Shows

Twenty years after a federal law took effect authorizing the United States to penalize countries that do not control illicit narcotics production, the same countries, by and large, are producing large quantities of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other drugs, according to the State Department’s annual drug-trafficking report, published Friday.

Advertisement

The United States has been providing anti-narcotics aid to more than a dozen nations for more than two decades - roughly $1 billion a year in recent years. Each year the government reports large-scale eradication of crops and seizures of illicit drugs. But this year, as every year, reports of progress are overwhelmed by the weight of the problem.

For example, the State Department said in 1985 that in Peru, one of the world’s largest producers of coca leaf and cocaine products, the government had eradicated 7,500 acres of coca plants, which are used to make cocaine, but that narcotics trafficking was nonetheless “flourishing.”

The new report says Peru eradicated almost 25,000 acres of coca in the last year but acknowledged that “dense coca cultivation is increasing.”

[…]

Also, the report lauds Colombia for seizing large quantities of cocaine and eradicating many acres of coca plants and opium poppy. But it concludes, “Colombia is the source of over 90 percent of the cocaine and 50 percent of the heroin entering the U.S.”

We will never stop the production and consumption of illicit drugs, so by definition the “war” on drugs is unwinnable. We would be far wiser to find a way to manage the reality of the fact that there will be drug users, rather than fooling ourselves into thinking that we can actually eradicate the products being consumed.

Syria: More on the Withdrawal That Might Be

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am

Via the AP: Syria Expected to Announce Troop PullbackSyrian President Bashar Assad faced pressure to announce a full troop withdrawal from Lebanon, with President Bush saying anything less would be unacceptable. But officials said he was only expected to announce a partial pullback Saturday in a speech to parliament.

This is rich, given that the current situation isn’t in accord with the agreement. Indeed, Assad is fifteen years too late in terms of Taif:

Past redeployments, particularly since 2000, have seen some Syrian troops return, but Murad said Assad wants to keep some troops here long-term and conduct a complete removal after negotiating with Lebanon’s governments in line with the Taif Accord.

This kind of pressure will be key:

Syria has told Arab nations in behind-the-scenes diplomacy it wants to keep 3,000 troops and early warning stations in Lebanon, but Egypt and Saudi Arabia are pressing Damascus on a timetable to remove all troops by April.

More, via the BBC: Syria ‘to announce troop shift’

Syrian troops first entered Lebanon in 1976 and were backed by the Arab League as a peacekeeping force in the country’s civil war. When the civil war ended in 1990, some 15,000 troops and thousands of intelligence personnel remained, overlooking Beirut and in north-western regions.

UN Security Council members have been considering measures against Syria since issuing a resolution in September 2004 calling for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon.

A 1989 agreement that ended the Lebanese civil war calls for a phased withdrawal of Syrian troops, beginning with redeployment to the eastern Bekaa Valley.

Friday, March 4, 2005
On the B5 Movie

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:14 pm

Here’s the low down on the death of the B5 flick.

Not surprisingly, the bottom line was money.

A Start (Kinda)

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:30 am

The Syrians continue to kinda, sorta, maybe pull-out from Lebanon.

Via Reuters: Assad to Announce Lebanon Pullback, U.S. Wants More

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad prepared to announce on Saturday a partial pullout of troops from Lebanon, but President Bush warned nothing short of a full withdrawal would satisfy Washington.

The real test as to the depths of the “Cedar Revolution” will be leading up the elections in May-i.e., what will the issues be in the campaigns? What will the voters do to those who are perceived as pro-Syria or wimpy on Syria? Will the passion that ignited the protests last into that process? My guess is “yes” and that the new government will be empowered to further confront the Syrians.

Really, bolstering Lebanon would be a brilliant move for the Bush administration, as it already has democratic institutions in place and could become an example of Arab democracy, putting further pressure on the dictators in the region. As such, whatever the administration can do help, it should do.

Profiled

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

Norm Geras of normblog kindly profiles me today over at his site.

In case you don’t know, Norm does this weekly. I am Profile #76.

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China’s New Syndrome

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:44 am

Via the NYT: China Worries About Economic Surge That Skips the Poor

Chinese leaders open their annual legislative session this weekend trying to resolve a vexing pair of problems: the economy is growing too fast, and most people feel left out of the boom.

China’s bubbly economy, which expanded 9.5 percent last year despite efforts to cool it down, has produced a yawning wealth gap and fueled a surge of social unrest that top leaders worry could undermine Communist rule.

Communists? What Communists? Methinks that Communist rule in China was undermined many moons ago-however, the authoritarian government may, indeed, be in trouble (and, indeed, over the long haul I think that it is).

Although speaking of the old Soviet model, you have to love thee kinds of practices (it makes me nostaglic for my undergraduate days studying the governmental structure of the USSR):

The legislature, which has only one full session a year, each lasting about 10 days, has little practical authority and is generally used to ratify decisions made by party leaders. But delegates occasionally raise contentious local issues that the leadership has ignored.

At any rate, China’s recent growth has been phenomenal, and will have transformative effects on the state and society, not doubt. Still, as I have harped on before (both here and in class): the existence of a vast (quite vast) peasant population means that the transition to fully developed status is on indefinite hold until that issue can be resolved-and there is no foreseeable solution at this time.

Horrors in Pakistan for Women

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:36 am

Speaking of Pakistan and women’s rights, we have the following mind-boggling tale via the NYT: Village Gang-Rape Sentences Are Upset by Court in Pakistan

Five men sentenced to death in 2002 for their role in a gang rape that was approved by a council in a remote Pakistani village had their convictions overturned Thursday. A sixth man convicted in the case, which set off worldwide outrage, had his death sentence commuted to life in prison, lawyers in the case said.

[…]

According to the prosecution, the Meerwala council ordered the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, then 30, as punishment for the alleged illicit sexual relations of her brother Shakoor with a woman from the rival Mastoi tribe.

It was later revealed that he had been molested by Mastoi men who tried to conceal it by accusing him of illicit relations with a Mastoi woman. The Mastoi demanded revenge. That was delivered when the council approved the rape of Ms. Mukhtar.

Fourteen men were charged in the case and six of them - the leader of the village council, a council member and the four men suspected of carrying out the rape - were convicted and sentenced to death in September 2002. The convicted men appealed.

Two High Court judges, in their decision on Thursday, cited loopholes in the prosecution case and faulty police investigations, Pakistani news media reported.

The logic defies me: a man is accussed of some sort of fornication with a woman from another tribe and the sentence is that his sister is gan raped? My word, but can we say “pervesion of justice"? Yes, I think we can. Further, I think this is yet another example of how not all cultures and ideas are created equal.

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Echinacea: Not so Useful

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:26 am

Via Reuters: No Evidence That Echinacea Treats Colds

Most of the major studies on the effectiveness of echinacea for treatment of the common cold contain major flaws, suggesting that research has not yet established that this herbal medicine is effective, according to a new report.

Of nine studies evaluated, only two were well designed, and both showed that echinacea was not effective, study author Dr. Jack M. Gwaltney, Jr., told Reuters Health.

[…]

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Vernon Knight, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, notes that these findings suggest that people who buy echinacea are simply wasting their money. Echinacea appears to be a “major unjustifiable cost of health care at a time when legitimate health care costs are escalating,” he writes.

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He’s a Jolly Good Fellow

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:23 am

Via the AP: Edwards Among Harvard Institute Fellows

Democratic vice presidential candidate and former senator John Edwards will be among visiting fellows at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics this spring, the school announced Wednesday.

[…]

Other fellows are Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., and Michael Deaver, international vice chairman for Edelman Worldwide and former deputy chief of staff to President Reagan.

[…]

Typically, visiting fellows meet with student groups to discuss topical issues and their experiences in public and political service; give a public address in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum; and participate in a public policy class with students and Kennedy School of Government faculty.

Mad Minvera e-mails to point to the Harvard Crimson’s version of the story.

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Thursday, March 3, 2005
Freedom isn’t Exactly Ringing in Pakistan

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:25 pm

Via the CSM: Pakistani religious law challenged

Basira Jiskani is just one of thousands of women facing trial in Pakistan under the infamous Hudood Ordinances, religious codes which were passed under the military dictatorship of Gen. Zia ul-Haq. Unlike the system of “honor killing,” which is illegal but common in Pakistan, the Hudood Ordinances are the law itself. The ordinances stem from Islamic law, which stipulates severe punishments for hudood offenses ranging from adultery and premarital sex to alcohol consumption. Not all Muslim countries have adopted hudood penalties in their criminal justice codes, and Islamic scholars debate whether such laws are a correct interpretation of the Koran.

Many Pakistani politicians, including President Pervez Musharraf, say the laws should be reviewed - some say repealed - since they have a disproportionate effect on women and the poor. But in the past 26 years, the laws seem to have become as unalterable as the Koran itself, and activists say the only way to bring equal justice to Pakistani society will be through a sustained campaign of pressure and resistance.

“Pakistan is a patriarchal society, where the power of feudal lords and tribal leaders has ugly manifestations in controlling women, such as cutting off their noses or simply shooting them to protect the honor of the family or the tribe,” says Farzana Bari, director of the Women’s Study Center at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. “But with the Hudood Ordinances, the state becomes a partner in this.”

A remarkably sad situation-and not one that inspires optimism for the near term.

Syria Feeling the Heat

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:20 pm

Via the CSM: Syria seeks Arab solution in Lebanon:

In Saudi Arabia Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was told bluntly that Syria must withdraw all its troops “soon” from Lebanon. Mr. Assad promised to consider a partial withdrawal later this month, the Associated Press reported.

[…]

Assad traveled to Saudi Arabia with his foreign minister, Farouq al-Sharaa, who has already visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the past week.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit said on Wednesday after meeting with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, that they had discussed how to “find a mechanism to implement” last year’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls on Syria to withdraw from Lebanon.

“The Saudis and Egyptians are getting more and more angry after the assassination [of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri] and they are trying to avoid a total internationalization of the crisis and to provide an Arabic way to translate 1559 into some concrete steps,” Mr. Kassir says [a columnist].

It doesn’t look as if Syria really has any friends in this situation save for the Iranians, who can do nothing to help.

The Reactionary Party?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

It occurs to me that, rather ironically, the modern Democratic Party is exhibiting signs of becoming a reactionary party, despite their progressive self-image.

Examples:

1) Social Security Reform: Part of the arguments from the Democrats have been very backwards-looking, insofar as they see SS as part of FDR’s legacy-a legacy upon which the party is currently built in part, and one which is to be protected at all costs, it would seem. As such, many in the Democratic Party are looking backwards, not forward: a sign of reactionary thinking. This was well symbolized by the rally many Democratic leader in Congress had at the FDR monument earlier this year as a protest of Bush’s proposed SS reforms.

2) The Filibuster: One of Byrd’s basic arguments (and one other Dems have made) for maintaining the filibuster for judicial nominees is, essentially: we’ve always done it this way, and therefore you can’t change it!

3) Generically: I would argue that the Democrat’s main collective problem at the moment is the lack of forward-looking program in practially all areas of policy. Where’s their progressive vision for America?

Update: Further, it occurred to me later that in terms of having backwards vision, Ted Kennedy fits as well with his “all I need to know about Iraq I learned in the Viet Nam era” approach to foreign policy.

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The Sideshow Nature of the Jackson Trial

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:05 am

I would not want to diminish the serious nature of the charges that Jackson faces, but the following unscores the circus-like nature of this trial: Leno Wants Exception to Jackson Gag Order

Attorneys for the star of NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” said Judge Rodney S. Melville’s sweeping order barring anyone involved in the case from discussing it outside court “could be interpreted to limit Mr. Leno’s ability to publicly speak about the trial.”

In other words: if Leno testifies, he still wants to be able to tell Jackson jokes in his monologue.

More Demands on Syria

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:31 am

This time, notes Reuters, the demands are coming from the Russians and Germans: Russia, Germany Demand Syria Quit Lebanon

Russia and Germany joined an international chorus of demands for Syria to leave Lebanon, and President Bashar al-Assad was expected to travel to Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks diplomats said would focus on a pullout.

And so the pressure is ratcheted up a bit. It looks as if Syria will have to follow through on its promise to withdraw.

World Bank Politics

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:58 am

Tuesday, James Joyner noted: Wolfowitz on Short List for World Bank President.

However, now Reuters reports: Wolfowitz No Longer in World Bank Race-or so says outgoing President James Wolfensohn.

Yet:

However, a Republican source with close ties to the administration said Wolfowitz was still in the running along with U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, even though the Pentagon issued a statement suggesting Wolfowitz would remain in his job.

While clearly the lack of “wolf” in her name may be an impediment to Ms. Chao getting the job, one guesses she would be a less controversial nominee than would Mr. Wolfowitz.

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More on Byrd and Filibusters

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:39 am

Columnist Don Surber of the Chrarleston Daily Mail e-mailed me to bring attention to his column today, which is worth a read: Sen. Byrd should not bring this up (and it fits into my post on Byrd from this morning):

Bob Byrd gave a lengthy speech on Tuesday romanticizing filibusters. Byrd cited Frank Capra’s fictional masterpiece, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”

[…]

His real life experience is far more insightful. When Sen. Byrd went to Washington, it was not for the high-minded idealism of the fictional Mr. Smith.

On June 9, 1964, just before 8 p.m., Byrd began the longest speech of his career. For 14 hours and 13 minutes he spoke. At 49, he did not seem to need breaks.

Byrd and most Southern Democrats had succeeded for 102 days in abusing Senate rules to delay passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, just as they had delayed civil rights legislation in 1963, 1962, 1961 and so on.

On the one hand, this was over forty years ago, on the other, since Byrd’s own speech reached back well beyond four decades to make his selective points about the filibuster’s illustrious history, this strikes me as wholly fair game. Further, it does demonstrate that Byrd’s attempt to argue for the virtue of the minority against majority tyranny is not as simple as he would have us to believe.

  • Pajama Hadin linked with Stop the Filibuster
  • Signifying Nothing linked with More from the Klansman
Who Needs Fiction?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:25 am

Via Northern Ireland’s Newsletter: Colombia 3 Traced

Military intelligence sources in Colombia say they know where three on-the-run Irish republicans are hiding out.

The trio of James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly are under FARC protection in the jungle of Venezuela, close to border with Colombia, the News Letter has been told.

But amid a tense diplomatic stand-off between the increasingly communist-style Venezuelan regime and the Americanbacked Colombian government, the men are out of reach of Colombia’s army and police.

It struck me as to the various element here:

1) Three fugitives from the law (who are foreigners linked to the IRA and who were allegedly in Colombia to teach the FARC about urban terrorism) who are hiding out in the jungles of Colombia

2) They are under the protection of left-wing guerrillas

3) The national military treads lightly because of border tensions with neighboring Venezuela,

and

4) The tensions exists because Venezueal is governed by a left-wing, and somewhat unpredictable, populist dictator.

What screenwriter/novelist could come up with such a series of plot points?

Classic

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:14 am

WuzzaDem: Hardball With Jed Clampett.

h/t: OTB.

  • Wizbang linked with Hardball With Jed Clampett
  • Myopic Zeal linked with Hardball with Jed Clampett
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Hardball with Jed Clampett
More on Judicial Nominations

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:04 am

Along the same topical lines as the post below, James Joyner notes an editorial concerning the nomination of Bill Pryor and also a proposal to limit the tenure of federal judges.

All of it is worth reading.

James notes, correctly, I would argue, the following about Pryor (who, like James, I have met on a few occassions-indeed, mostly the same occassions, I think)):

The fact that the likes of Pryor are being fillibustered belies the argument that President Bush is sending up crazy ideologues who must be stopped by the most drastic means available.

I ma convinced that in the case of Pryor the only issue for the Democrats is abortion, given that Pryor is a devote Cathlolic. His record does not support the thesis that he would be an ideological activist on the bench.

Hitler, Byrd, Jimmy Stewart and Judicial Nominations

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:47 am

I had wanted to comment on this: Sen. Byrd’s Hitler Comments Draw Fire when I first saw the news clip about it Monday night, but there was not yet a transcript (or even an online news story) at the time. Then yesterday I was too busy to do a lengthy post.

However, there are fouor elements to the speech that require comment.

(The full text of the speech is here: March 1, 2005 ).

1) The Hitler Business

This is, of course, the thing that jumps out at people, as the above-linked news story would indicate.

Ed Morrisey and QandO deal with the general Hitler issue.

Quite frankly I am to the point with this Hitler-comparison/evocation business that I am beyond even asserting Godwin’s Law, but rather would assert Taylor’s Corollary to Godwin’s Law: If you are a public official who engages in Hitlter-comparisons in the context of mainstream domestic politics you are a cartoon—and a bad cartoon at that.

Perhaps we ought to endeavor to remember the significance of Nazi Germany, rather than diminishing it by making into a bad political cliché.

Ann Althouse, in an update to a post on Ward Churchill, aptly notes the following about language:

You know, the Nazis incinerated human beings, and the Republicans might incinerate the fillibuster. But if you think that’s outrageous, maybe we ought to stop referring to getting rid of the fillibuster as the “nuclear” option. Maybe we shouldn’t invoke the image of a nuclear holocaust lightly either. But we “nuke” our foods in the microwave. And there’s the “Soup Nazi.” So I’m thinking we shouldn’t be so prissy and easily riled about imagery.

She makes a legitimate point; although context matters (the Soup Nazi evokes the idea of harsh rules, while comparing people in government to Hitler evokes something far more sinister). Also, I will admit that the Democrats are greatly aided by the fact that a mere majority vote to change the filibuster rules has been dubbed “nuclear”—because while the aftermath of such a vote will no doubt be incendiary, the basic process is pretty mundane. However, by calling it “nuclear” it gives a public perception of a radical action.

2) The Filibuster Issue

Byrd actually starts his speech, and bases part of his argument, on a lengthy description (along with superfluous trivia concerning) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I’m sorry, Senator Byrd, but we are talking reality here, not fantasy. While a fine movie, an understanding of the process is hardly to be found there. For one thing, it is generically silly to try to take a fictionalized, romanticized as an example of a real process. For another, it isn’t as if Democratic Senators are staying on the floor of the Senate until they pass out to defend the Republic from these “out of the mainstream” nominees. Rather, this has been a wholly procedural, relatively pain-free process.

Yet, Byrd is arguing as if he and his fellow Democrats are Jimmy Stewart.

Further, as Ed noted in his post (as did Charles Krauthammer on Monday night): one of the most famous applications of the filibuster was in 1964 and the blocking of the Civil Rights Act—a filibuster that Robert Byrd participated in. Gee, Senator, why wasn’t that example in your speech along with Jimmy Stewart?

3) The Majority/Minority Issue

Said Byrd in his speech, quoting Senator William Ezra Jenner of Indiana from a 1957b speech:

Minorities have an illustrious past, full of suffering, torture, smear, and even death. Jesus Christ was killed by a majority; Columbus was smeared; and Christians have been tortured.

He went on to state

Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.
But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends.

And from there went into more Hitler-talk.

I would note that he didn’t mention the way in which the white majority exploited the black minority, and how an organization to which he once belonged, the Ku Klux Klan, participated in that activity.

Beyond the irony of that omission, I would ask the Senator: is he then arguing that majorities are bad and minorities should rule? Is he suggesting that for all legislation that we should have a 60% margin or 67% or higher? I mean, if majority rule is so dangerous, let’s have a 3/4th vote on all pork going to West Virginia.

4) On Rules

Byrd, and the other Democrats, are on tenuous (to be kind) logical ground top argue the sacrosanct nature of rules as rules. If the filibuster option for judicial nominees is sacred simply because it is a rule, then if there is a rule to allow for the changing of that rule, then it should have equal weight. After all, rules are rules, and by Byrd’s formulation, rules are sacred. What makes the wisdom of the Senate forefathers Perfect in regards to the filibuster, but makes it Evil in regards to the ability to change that rule?

Really, if the Democrats were smart, they would compromise on some of these nominees and put the onus on the Republicans to have to behave “reasonably”.

As it now stands, I see the Democrats putting themselves in the position of enhancing their image as the party of obstruction in the Senate.
The real irony is that while there has been talk in some Democratic circles that they should emulate Newt Gingrich as it pertains to the Republican Revolution of 1994, but instead they may be on track to be emulating Government Shutdown Newt of 95/96, and if we remember: that didn’t turn out too well for the GOP.

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Indonesian Cleric Cleared of Ordering Bali Bombing, Guilty of Conspiracy

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:53 am

Via WaPo: Cleric Found Guilty of Conspiring in Bali Nightclub Bombings

An Indonesian court sentenced radical cleric Abubakar Baasyir to two and a half years in jail for conspiracy Thursday in connection with the 2002 bombing of two Bali nightclubs but cleared him of more serious terrorism charges.

The verdict represented the second major setback for Indonesian prosecutors, who failed in an earlier effort to convict Baasyir, 66, on subversion charges for his alleged role as the spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiah, a militant underground linked to al Qaeda.

The five-judge panel ruled Thursday that prosecutors had failed to prove that the white-bearded preacher had ordered the Bali attacks, which killed 202 people, and that he had been involved a year later in the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, which left 12 people dead.

“Neither the defense witnesses nor the prosecutors’ witnesses said the defendant has planned or provoked other people to commit the bombings,” said Judge Mahmud Rochimi, reading the verdict. The judges noted that Baasyir was in jail at the time of the Marriott attack, awaiting his earlier trial.

In convicting him on the lesser charge, the judges said Baasyir had approved plans to attack the nightclubs in the heart of Bali’s entertainment strip. The judges cited a 2002 meeting in the Javanese city of Solo where two activists, later convicted of involvement in the bombings, allegedly asked Baasyir for his opinion ahead of the attack and he responded they should do what they thought best.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005
Headline Reaction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:20 pm

Slaying of Chicago Judge’s Family Raises Security Concern

Gee, you think so?

Locke Til You Drop

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:26 pm

Since we were discussing Locke’s Second Treatise today in my Political Theory class, I found the following from Crooked Timber to be rather amusing: 2nd Treatise Rap.

Also Chris, in another post, points to Locke in modern English.

More on Roper v. Simmons

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:35 pm

Prof. Bainbridge excerpts a WSJ piece on the Roper v. Simmons that includes this nugget:

This idea of invoking state laws to define a “consensus” also runs up against any number of notable Supreme Court precedents, including Roe v. Wade. When Roe was decided in 1973, all 50 states had some prohibition against abortion on the books. But never mind.

Indeed.

The whole piece is worth reading, as he notes a number of salient points.

Ripples in Saudi Arabia?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:02 pm

Via the NYT: Saudi Shiites Look to Iraq and Assert Rights

The Shiite Muslim minority in this kingdom once marked their Ashura holy day furtively in darkened, illegal community centers out of fear of stirring the powerful wrath of the religious establishment.

But this year Ashura fell on the eve of the 10-day campaign for municipal council elections, to be held here on Thursday, and a bolder mood was readily apparent. Thousands thronged sprawling, sandy lots for hours to watch warriors on horseback re-enact the battlefield decapitation of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, in 680.

[…]

But the fact that Shiites, at least in this city, their main center, no longer feel the need to hide reflects a combination of important changes here and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The most important include the emergence of an elected Shiite majority government next door in Iraq, the campaign for municipal elections here in the country’s first nationwide polls and a relaxation in some of the discrimination that Shiites have long faced in the kingdom.

The limited municipal council elections scheduled throughout eastern Saudi Arabia are expected to earn Shiite candidates all five seats up for grabs in Qatif, an urban area of 900,000 on the Persian Gulf.

In a sight startling for Saudi Arabia, Sheik Hassan al-Saffar, a dissident Shiite cleric who has been jailed and spent the 15 years before 1995 in exile, spoke for an hour in one candidate’s campaign tent on the first big night of electioneering. Even limited elections are important, he said, “because they ignited in people’s minds the spark of thinking about their interests and aspirations.”

Sheik Saffar also drew parallels to Iraq, saying voting was the least Saudis could do, considering the risks their brethren had taken next door to exercise this new freedom. He took great pains to say it was a question for all Saudis, not Shiites alone.

Intriguing, to be sure.

The situation in the entire region seems to be confirming the idea that when oppressed persons see other oppressed persons gaining freedoms, that it excites a desire for freedom for themselves.

And yes, I am wholly aware that SA is a looong way from liberalization, but sometimes the first steps have to be baby steps.

B5 Movie Dead

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:41 pm

B5 Movie Falls Apart

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski told fans in a Usenet group post that a proposed B5 film, The Memory of Shadows, is on hold indefinitely. “The deal could not be put together, and it did not look as if that was going to change at any point in the foreseeable future,” Straczynski wrote in a Feb. 26 post on the rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated newsgroup, which is archived at JMSNews.com. “So the option has reverted, and to all intents and purposes, the project has dead-ended. Nor do I think this particular incarnation will arise again at any point in the future, though prognostication has always been a tricky art, especially if you have to do it without the benefit of hindsight.”

That’s a shame. Clearly I do not understand how the entertainment world works, as it seems like a Babylon 5 movie would make money. And if that is case, how could one not be made?

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I’ll Take “Bad Ideas” for $1000, Alex

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:12 am

Jackson May Testify in His Own Defense

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Greenspan Speaks

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:03 am

Via Reuters: Greenspan: Spending Cuts Needed

The U.S. economy is growing at a “reasonably good pace,” Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Wednesday, but he warned budget deficits must be fixed - and spending cuts are better than higher taxes.

Now the question becomes whether anyone will pay attention or not (I am guessing largely not).

Headline Reaction

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:54 am

Naked Man Threatens Neighbors With Sword

Immediate reaction: if one is going to threaten someone with a weapon whilst naked, I am not so sure a sword is the best choice.

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Evidence in Support of Tenure?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am

Via Michelle Malkin I noted the following: Suspended DePaul professor gagged and bound at news conference

Last fall, DePaul University professor Thomas Klocek was suspended without a hearing for challenging the viewpoints of certain Muslim students on campus at a student activities fair. He is now demanding a public apology from the university president in order to avoid litigation.

[…]

DePaul University released a statement Tuesday that said the “case is not one of academic freedom, but rather one of inappropriate behavior outside the classroom by a university professional. His attitude was threatening and disrespectful to students.”

DePaul student Ben Myer witnessed Klocek arguing with the group students for justice in Palestine.

“As I was walking over, professor Klocek was explaining to my colleagues that there was no such thing as Palestinians, that they don’t exist. He made aggressive gestures toward the students. He approached in a very confrontational way,” Myer said.

A number of professors and DePaul students support Klocek and believe he has been treated unjustly.

“I came to the conclusion that the administration has exercised rather poor judgment in this matter,” said Jonathan Cohen, DePaul University professor.

“This is an injustice. He is a man of integrity, a man of faithfulness and honor,” said Vanessa Summers, DePaul student.

Perhaps not the wisest issue to get into a fight with a student about, but, you know: free speech, ideas, academia and all that, right?

Notice something:

Klocek is an untenured adjunct professor. He has been with DePaul for 14 years. He was suspended with pay.

So, if one is untenured and one say something controversial and some students get upset, notice the ease by which the administration can silence one. Even if one has been with the school for almost a decade and a half.

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Churchill in Wisconsin

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:24 am

Sean Hackbarth has photos of the events surrounding Churchill visit to the frozen tundra.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005
Halting Byrd Droppings

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:29 pm

Via the Charlston Daily Mail: Bill would stop Byrd namings

Sen. Robert Byrd’s name adorns scores of highways, hospitals, rivers, roads and bridges, but his legacy in granite would grow no more if four Republican lawmakers get their way.

The House of Delegates members have introduced a bill prohibiting the naming of any government-owned facility for a living elected official.

“This is not to attack a political party; it’s not retribution,” said Delegate Linda Sumner of Raleigh County. “I think it’s a good bill, especially at this time when we’re talking about ethics.”

Sumner said the bill is pointed toward no one in particular and she has never referred to any specific name.

But, “enough is enough,” she said.

Byrd has directed billions of dollars in federal money to the state.

Over the years, West Virginia politicians, educators and others have honored him by attaching his name to scores, maybe hundreds, of buildings, highways and other programs and construction.

There’s the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Pocahontas County, the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Charleston and the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam across the Ohio River.

The Robert C. Byrd Expressway stretches through Brooke and Hancock counties. In Mineral County, there’s the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing. And Wheeling Jesuit University invites students to use the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center.

In a 2001 Taxpayers for Common Sense article, a writer wondered if the state’s name might be changed to “West Byrd’ginia.”

Amusing.

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Two Thoughts on Juveniles and the Death Penalty

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:43 pm

Two quick thoughts:

1) I keep hearing the news coverage refer to this situation as “the Supreme Court today banned the execution of juveniles today” which makes it sounds as if we are literally talking about states killing lethal injections to kids. Perhaps it is more cumbersome, but it strikes me that the reportage should be more accurate and note that the basic issue is whether 16 and 17 year-olds who commit especially heinous crimes might, as a result, face the death penalty and that said executions would not take place when they are still teenagers. It may be a hair-splitting issue, but clarity of language is important.

2) Understand that I am not, per se, arguing that executing offenders who committed their crimes while they were will underage is a good thing, per se, just that the decision making process for such a cut-off ought to belong to the state legislatures. That is where policy is made: in legislative bodies. I was continually struck, listening to the news, as to the degree to which this really isn’t understood by people who ought to know better.

Wow: 2,000 Demonstrate at Iraqi Bombing Site

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:15 pm

The AP, in an obvious patch-work piece dealing with multiple Iraq-related stories, has the following very intriguing occurence: 2,000 Demonstrate at Iraqi Bombing Site

More than 2,000 people demonstrated Tuesday at the site of a car bombing south of Baghdad that killed 125 people, chanting “No to terrorism!”

[…]

More than 2,000 people held the impromptu demonstration on front of the clinic, chanting “No to terrorism!” and “No to Baathism and Wahhabism!”

Wahhabism is a reference to adherents of the strict form of Sunni Islam preached by Osama bin Laden (news - web sites), while the Baath party was the political organization that ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The demonstrators also demanded that interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi step down.

This bespeaks of the fact that such attacks appear to be backfiring, which is an incredibly hopeful sign.

  • http://policypost.blogspot.com linked with Insurgent Attacks Backfiring?
  • Publius Pundit linked with 2000 PROTEST AGAINST TERRORISM IN IRAQ
Questions for Small Government Conservatives

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:09 pm

Allegedly, one of the hallmarks of the modern conservative movement (which I will grant is difficult to adequately define) has tended to be a sincere and deep distrust of government. However, of late, it seems that there are a lot of conservatives who wish to give the government radical powers.

Two cases come to mind:

1) Ward Churchill and Tenure/Academic Freedom: It would seem that there are a number of conservatives who, because of Ward Churchill, want to empower state legislatures, or some other, ill-defined body, to determine the quality and worthiness of speech. Setting aside whether or not they think Churchill should go, they have used the situation to attack tenure, professors and academic freedom. For example, Newt Gingrich (and alleged small “g” conservative) wants to empower somebody (it is unclear to me as to whom) with the ability to root out “anti-Americanism” in our universities.

Precisely how is empowering governmental entities, at whatever level, with the ability to police thought in any way construable as a small government conservative position?

2) Jose Padilla: There are many (including Rush Limbaugh on the radio today, another self-avowed small “g"er") who sees absolutely nothing wrong with granting the President the power to categorize a citizen, and then hold that citizen indefinitely without any due process. How can this not be seen as ultimately as anything other than a gross expansion of executive power? The answer, typically, has something to do with the fact that Padilla is a terrorist. Of course, the problem is, we don’t actually know with certainty that he is a terrorist until there is a trial or some type of substantive due process.

And in response to the idea that since the government says he’s a terrorist that means he mus tin fact be one, I would ask: remember Richard Jewell? Are we really that trusting of the government that just cuz they say a guy is guilty, that we accept that fact and move on?

How is that being a small government conservative?

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More on Padilla

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:46 pm

James Joyner has a lengthy, and interesting post on Padilla that squares with my position.

And Michelle Malkin has a lengthy and interesting post that doesn’t.

Part of the problem with Michelle’s argument regarding the Joint Resolution of Congress that she cited is twofold: a) as James notes, an item passed by Congress cannot conflict with the Constitution, and to apply S.J.Res.23 to US citizens arrested on US soil, one runs afoul of Vth, VIth and XIVth Amendments, and b) the Resolution is clearly aimed at the foreign policy/military actions that the President would take, not domestic law enforcement.

To read S.J.Res.23 as Michelle does would be to imbue the President with limitless power within the borders of the US to do whatever he deemed necessary if he thought it related to terrorism. Such an interpretation is an invitation to utter disaster.

  • The Jawa Report linked with Judge Orders Shoe Bomber Released or Tried in Civilian Court
  • Backcountry Conservative linked with Padilla must be charged or released
Roper v. Simmons

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:30 pm

My initial reaction to the headline about the juvenile death penalty was fairly ho-hum, insofar as I found it to hardly be a shock, and at first blush there is distaste to be associated with executing juvenile offenders in the first place (even when they are deserving recipients of the penalty).

Still, a little thought on the subject, and some knowledge now of the opinion, and I must admit, Law Professor
Stephen Bainbridge hits the problem on the head:

Once again, nine old men and women in robes have elevated themselves into a super-legislature in which they have exercised privileges they deny to our elected representatives.

Like it or not: there really is no constitutional basis for barring the various states from making their own laws on this subject. So, really, what we have here, is the idea that five individuals can supplant the opinions of the citizens of nineteen states with their own for no other reason than (ultimately) that they object to the practice.

As Scalia wrote in dissent:

“The court says in so many words that what our people’s laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: ‘In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty,’” he wrote.

And James Joyner rightly notes:

I’m not a big fan of capital punishment for minors but find it incomprehensible that it could suddenly be unconstitutional. The 8th Amendment was ratified in 1791. The fact that 19 states still allowed youth executions until this morning belies the argument that the citizenry considers the practice cruel.

Part of the problem is that many people think it is simply the role of the Court to say what the “right thing” is on a given issue, rather than to determine legality within a set of bounds. This is not, however, the role of the Court, which is to determine the constitutionality of the issue, or to interpret the meaning of a federal law, treaty, etc. and determine its applicability, amongst a few other tasks.

However, the Court seems to see itself as a moral arbiter, not a legal one, and hence we get decades-long fights, like the one over abortion, which belongs in state legislatures, not the courts.

FYI: the nineteen states in question are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia.

Filed under: Courts/the Judiciary | Comments(2) | Trackbacks(10)
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  • ProfessorBainbridge.com linked with OTB on Roper v. Simmons
  • Outside The Beltway linked with Supreme Court Overrules Death Penalty for Minors
  • damnum absque injuria linked with Supremes to Juvenile Thugs: Don't Pay No Mind, If You're Under 18 You Won't Be Doin' Any Time
  • Vote for Judges linked with Entirely predictable
  • Hennessy\’s View linked with The Supreme Court and the Death Penalty
  • New World Man - Matt? Matt\’s not here linked with We dissent
  • Diggers Realm linked with The Case For The Juvenile Death Penalty
  • Myopic Zeal linked with Scalia on Capital Punishment of Minors (Roper v. Simmons)
  • Signifying Nothing linked with Roper (not the guy who replaced Siskel)
  • Blind Mind\’s Eye linked with A challenge to social conservatives who are upset by the Supreme Court ruling on executing minors
Federal judge: Charge Padilla or release him

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:23 am

Federal judge: Charge Padilla or release him

Calling the case a “law enforcement matter, not a military matter,” a federal judge in South Carolina has ruled that the U.S. government cannot continue to hold “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla without charging him with a crime.

The ruling says the government has 45 days to do so or Padilla would be eligible for release. The government vowed to appeal the ruling.

[…]

Padilla, a 33-year-old American suspected of plotting with al Qaeda to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” and to blow up apartment buildings in the United States, was arrested in May 2002 upon landing on an overseas flight to Chicago.

I can’t disagree: the idea of holding someone, especially an American citizen arrested on US soil, indefinitely without charging that person strikes me as an indefensible position. Either there is evidence to charge the man, or there isn’t.

Further, the argument that the government appears to be making is one founded on possibilities (i.e., what the guy might do) and categories (he’s an “enemy combatant"). I am highly uneasy, to put it mildly, with giving the President, any President, the right to categorize a person by fiat, and then imprison that person sans charge because of the label that that person is given. Such an action is illiberal and violates the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

I would like, at a bare minimum, for the government to at least state why, aside from general allegations, that the man ought to be held.

And look: I am not in favor of letting him go if there is evidence that he is a threat, but I am also not in favor of the government being allowed to take a man’s liberty without due process of law.

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Mexican Police Arrested on Drug Charges

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:07 am

Via CNN: 27 cops charged with aiding drug ring

Prosecutors charged 27 state, federal and local police in Cancun with running a drug ring or aiding in the murder of their fellow officers, busting one of Mexico’s largest police-protection rackets and solving the mystery behind the killing of three federal agents in November.

The charges announced Monday illustrate how traffickers continued to infiltrate the area around the Caribbean resort, despite a crackdown following the 2001 arrest of the state’s former governor on drug charges.

Hardly a surprise, sadly.

What is Wrong with These People?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:48 am

Another case of a teacher and a student, via Reuters: Teacher Has Sex with Pupil While Baby in Car: Cops

A California high school teacher was arraigned on Monday at a Sacramento court accused of having sex with a student in a car as her two-year child was strapped into the back seat.

Margaret De Barraicua, 30, a teacher trainee, was charged with four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, a 16-year-old student. The married woman was caught having sex in the late afternoon last week in what was apparently a consensual agreement, officials said.

This is wrong on so many levels it boggles the mind.

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Speaking of the Middle East and Democracy…

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:19 am

James Joyner (and Dale Franks and Cori Dauber and Captain Ed and, no doubt, eventually, lots of people) note the following editorial in today’s NYT Mideast Climate Change, which acknowledges that 1) something serious (and good) appears to be happening in the Middle East, and 2) that the Bush administration deserves some credit for those changes.

And certainly the editorial board is correct in the following assertions:

this has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing.

[…]

And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power.

However, Ed is correct in noting that the piece does not give adequate credence to the fact that none of this would be happening sans the invasion of Iraq.

While I hardly would recommend triumphalism by the administration or its supporters, it is also true that its critics are now having to face the facts that while events in the Middle East and Central Asia have not turned out exactly as the Bush administration predicted (mostly post-war Iraq has been harder to managed than they thought it would be), it is also the case that the predictions of the anti-war coalition have likewise not come to pass. Indeed, the Bush view of the world has thusfar been far closer to accurate than the anti-war coalition’s view. For example: many argued that Mubarak and other regional dictators would be empowered by the US invasion, and that the presence of US troops would fan the flames of nationalism, and radicialism in unpleasant ways, however, to date, the opposite is coming to pass.

Middle Eastern Democratic Movement?

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:26 am

The NYT has and interesting analysis piece in today’s paper: Mideast Mix: New Promise of Democracy and Threat of Instability

Less than six weeks after President Bush’s Inaugural Address appealing for democratic reforms in the Middle East, the United States is coping with an unaccustomed problem: a region churning with fresh demands for democracy, fresh opportunities and fresh potential for instability.

Indeed.

Further:

Administration officials say Mr. Bush’s calls for democracy in the region have been secondary to the ripple effect of the elections, however imperfect, held by Palestinians and Iraqis in January, and the open, messy but still invigorating political jockeying among those peoples after the balloting.

“You can’t dismiss the argument that the themes we’re hearing from Washington are helping to cause changes in the Middle East,” a senior State Department official said. “But you have to give the main credit to the elections in Palestinian areas and in Iraq. The Iranians, the Syrians and the Iraqis have to be reacting to the elections.”

By almost any measure, there is an unusual amount of turbulence throughout the Middle East right now, and administration experts are not sure whether all of it will work in the United States’ favor.

While quite true, the instability angle is overplayed, insofar as clearly since no one knows how all this will play out that there are clear risks. There is no doubt that authoritarian regimes tend to be more stable than other regime types-especially in the developing world. Further, transitions from one regime type to another always contains inherent risk for degeneration into instability.

Still, if the thesis that ultimately that democracies lead to a more stable international environment, not to mention the fact that persons in democracies tend to live better lives, then all of this risk is worth taking. It isn’t as if the policy of preferring stability over democratization has exactly worked the way we wanted it to.

While the outcomes are unknown, and will likely be uneven (I hardly expect blossoming liberal democracies in the region in the short or even medium term, although moving toward electoral democracies is possible in many cases), the changes that are afoot in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon are all striking. Further, reform talk in Egypt is encouraging and once wonders what happens to the Asad regime in Syria should it lose its ability to act as a parasite on Lebanon’s economy.

Certainly the pictures and news of elections in Iraq, Palestine and the peaceful protests in Lebanon will have substantial impact on the rest of the Middle East who, heretofore, have only been taught obedience or violence.

Update: Parked in the OTB Traffic Jam.

BTW, Welcome to March

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:20 am

What the frickity-frak happened the February?

I mean, gee whiz, I wasn’t finished with January yet.

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Not Arafat

By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:44 am

Abbas contiues to demonstrate that he isn’t Arafat, which is a very good thing: Abbas Says Palestinians Need Peace Not Just Reform

Palestinian reform efforts must be backed by political progress toward peace with Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas told an international meeting in London on Tuesday.

As always, words only go so far, but actions rarely follow when the words aren’t spoken first. As such, these types of statements continue to provide me with hope that progress can be made, and is being made, in this process.

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