Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Today's Sign of the Apocalypse: George Bush, Action Hero

I don't know what's more wrong, that someone made this thing, or that people can't get enough of them..

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Discussion: But there's more

You have got to be kidding me:
"America is a nation that understands its responsibilities and keeps its word. And we will honor our word to the people of Iraq and those in the Middle East who yearn for freedom."

It's sad that Americans are really that ignorant of recent history that President Bush can get away with that line. But most Iraqis still remember this one: "Sure, go ahead and revolt against Saddam. We support you 100%. Our troops will be right behind you..."
Discussion: Bush Wisdom

From today's speech to the American Legion Convention in St. Louis, discussing national security and the situation in Iraq: "Our recent military operations have included almost 200 raids, netting more than 1,100 detainees."

Mr. President, are you sure that is net, and not gross?
Discussion: Undermining Abbas

No matter how many angles I look at the Israel/Palestine conflict from, it seems I always come back to the conclusion that the Israeli government is completely divorced from reality. Hamas, a group that I generally regard as being politically astute, made a serious error with their last bus bombing. By the brutal calculus of this conflict, they were entitled to some degree of retaliation after Israel continued their assassinations after Hamas agreed to a cease-fire. However, it seemed they had accomplished that in a proportional way after a couple of minor bombing attacks that only killed 2-3 people. Then they followed that up with an attack killing a score of people and wounding scores more. It was obviously out of scale and not justified, and necessarily would trigger a response from Israel. I wonder if the last assassination did some real damage to Hamas' leadership, as the man assassinated was regarded as a leader in the political side of things and one of the architects of the cease-fire. His death, and the manner of it, may have pushed control into the hands of more militant and aggressive elements of the organization. I hope this is not the case, as the apparent mainstreaming and politicization of Hamas over the last 3-5 years has offered, I believe, the best opportunity for a resolution to this conflict.

In any case, it is the current response of Israel that concerns me. From the beginning of the roadmap they have insisted that Abbas not work cooperatively with Hamas to disarm them, but that he aggressively dismantle the organization. And now they are demanding this in stronger terms and they are making an effort to do it themselves at the same time. This is having the effect of causing a rebellion within the Palestinian Authority against Abbas as they do not want to participate in this action under these terms, and maybe not under any terms. Abbas now has the two great pillars of political power in Palestine, Arafat's faction of the PA and Hamas, both set against him, with Israel, backed on this matter by the US, not willing to budge on anything. Abbas was hand-picked to lead the Palestinians by Israel and the US. He was elected as Prime Minister by the Palestinian parliament simply because the US and Israel insisted that no negotiations could take place unless this was done. He has no military or police power to speak of, and no clear political mandate from the Palestinian people. He has no tools with which to combat Arafat's faction, which controls what little military capability the PA has, nor Hamas which has their own military force. Alienating him from these two groups leaves him as a powerless figurehead. And yet that is what Israel appears to be intent on doing. It strikes me as bizarre that they would set up their own chosen leader of the Palestinians for such prominent failure. They cannot be so blind as to not see what they are doing, and yet I can figure no rational reason for them to do it...

Hamas, I believe, is the key to this whole situation. I do not believe that a real resolution can be negotiated by Palestinians in a position of complete weakness, as Abbas is. Nor without strong support from the public and the militant groups, which I don't necessarily think Abbas has. Hamas has strength and has the support of a Palestinian public sick to death of feeling powerless and disenfranchised for that reason. Despite massive, desperate, efforts by the Israeli military to put Hamas out of business they remain as dangerous as ever. They have, in recent years, become more involved in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people, running hospitals and schools and the like. And they have backed off their initial stated goal (the complete destruction of Isreal) and become more willing to participate in negotiations. They are the foremost militant organization, and their word would carry substantially more weight with the other militants than does Abbas. I believe they have all the necessary elements to negotiate a real settlement with Israel. They have the strength to negotiate as equals, the support to bring the public on board and the power and creditibility to make the other militants fall in line. The US needs to insist that they be brought to the negotiating table, rather than setting up Abbas for obvious failure by insisting he do battle with them. Unfortunately our over-the-top rhetoric against terrorism makes this impossible, and will doom any efforts by the Bush administration to resolve this conflict.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Discussion: International Plea Bargaining

I had similar thoughts when I heard about the push to prosecute Mr. Taylor after getting him out of Liberia. I worry, however, that letting him go free could also set a bad precedent. If the punishment does not fit the crime, are we in danger of partially condoning Taylor's past actions? Furthermore, might this send a message to other would-be dictators and tyrants that detestable actions on their part are not likely to be checked by the international community? I can clearly see the argument both ways and confess that I am undecided on the issue.
Commentary: God Bless the U.S. of A.

I thought you might enjoy this commentary by Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. It appeared in today's Wall Street Journal. I fail to see how Thompson's ruling bans the acknowledgment of God in the public sector. It simply calls for neutrality, neither acknowledging nor disavowing God. Would Mr. Moore like it if he walked into a public building with a monument stating that God is a big fat hoax?


In God I Trust


MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The battle over the Ten Commandments monument I brought into Alabama's Supreme Court is not about a monument and not about politics. (The battle is not even about religion, a term defined by our Founders as "the duty we owe to our creator and the manner for discharging it.") Federal Judge Myron Thompson, who ordered the monument's removal, and I are in perfect agreement on the fact that the issue in this case is: "Can the state acknowledge God?"

Those were the precise words used by Judge Thompson in his closing remarks in open court. Today, I argue for the rule of law, and against any unilateral declaration of a judge to ban the acknowledgment of God in the public sector.

We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment.

By telling the state of Alabama that it may not acknowledge God, Judge Thompson effectively dismantled the justice system of the state. Judge Thompson never declared the Alabama Constitution unconstitutional, but the essence of his ruling was to prohibit judicial officers from obeying the very constitution they are sworn to uphold. In so doing, Judge Thompson and all who supported his order, violated the rule of law.

Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and my fellow justices have argued that they must act to remove the monument to preserve the rule of law. But the precise opposite is true: Article VI of the Constitution makes explicitly clear that the Constitution, and the laws made pursuant to it, are "the supreme Law of the Land." Judge Thompson and the judges of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have all sworn oaths which bind them to support the Constitution as it is written -- not as they would personally prefer it to be written.

By subjugating the people of Alabama to the unconstitutional edict by Judge Thompson, that public officials may not acknowledge God, the attorney general and my colleagues have made the fiat opinion of a judge supreme over the text of the Constitution. While agreeing with me that the Constitution is supreme, and that the opinion of Judge Thompson was contrary to the Constitution, the attorney general has argued that he must follow an order he himself believes to be in direct violation of the supreme law of the land.

One of the great influences on the Founding Fathers, common law sage William Blackstone, once pointed out that judges do not make laws, they interpret them. No judge has the authority to impose his will on the people of a state, and no judge has the constitutional authority to forbid public officials from acknowledging the same God specifically mentioned in the charter documents of our nation, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

My decision to disregard the unlawful order of the federal judge was not civil disobedience, but the lawful response of the highest judicial officer of the state to his oath of office. Had the judge declared the 13th Amendment prohibition on involuntary slavery to be illegal, or ordered the churches of my state burned to the ground, there would be little question in the minds of the people of Alabama and the U.S. that such actions should be ignored as unconstitutional and beyond the legitimate scope of a judge's authority. Judge Thompson's decision to unilaterally void the duties of elected officials under the state constitution and to prohibit judges from acknowledging God is equally unlawful.

For half a century the fanciful tailors of revisionist jurisprudence have been working to strip the public sector naked of every vestige of God and morality. They have done so based on fake readings and inconsistent applications of the First Amendment. They have said it is all right for the U.S. Supreme Court to publicly place the Ten Commandments on its walls, for Congress to open in prayer and for state capitols to have chaplains -- as long as the words and ideas communicated by such do not really mean what they purport to communicate. They have trotted out before the public using words never mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, like "separation of church and state," to advocate, not the legitimate jurisdictional separation between the church and state, but the illegitimate separation of God and state.

The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson's order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution.

Not only does Judge Thompson put himself above the law, but above God, as well. I say enough is enough. We must "dare defend our rights" as Alabama's state motto declares. No judge or man can dictate what we believe or in whom we believe. The Ninth and 10th Amendments are not a part of the Constitution simply to make the Bill of Rights a round number. The Ninth Amendment secured our right as a people. The 10th guaranteed our right as a sovereign state. Those are the rules of law.

Mr. Moore is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama.
News: A (Mixed) Blow to the Digital Rights Movement

As Findlaw reports here, the California Supreme Court reversed the state Court of Appeals decision that lifted an injunction against posting the DeCSS software because it clashed with the First Amendment. The California Supreme Court decision, which may be found here, isn't quite as bad as the Findlaw article makes it sound. The court found that, assuming the injunction was properly issued, it would not violate the free speech protections in the Constitution, but remanded to the Court of Appeals to conduct a more rigorous inquiry.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Discussion: International Plea Bargaining

There's an interesting diplomatic, legal, and ethical question raised in this CS Monitor editorial regarding Charles Taylor. The editorial advocates for Taylor's prosecution for war crimes, primarily on the grounds that not doing so sets a bad precedent and that his continued presence in the region will hinder rebuilding in Liberia. Personally, I feel that pursuing prosecution against Taylor would itself set a bad precedent. Taylor's exile in Nigeria was, after all, arranged at the urging of the US, the UN, the African Union, and ECOWAS. I see it as a form of international plea bargaining. It was critical to foreign intervention that outside forces come in as peace keepers and not as agents of regime change as the US was in Afghanistan and Iraq. The support did not exist to mount that sort of aggressive operation. In order to create the necessary environment to end the conflict, this offer of safe haven was extended to Taylor, with full knowledge of the charges against him. This strikes me as an important tool in the arsenal of the international institutions in their efforts to make and enforce peace. Prosecuting Taylor after he agreed to the terms set out would effectively remove this option for future interventions. It is clear that the exact details of the offer were never hammered out, nor does it appear the deal ever given any legal force. There is still room to negotiate exactly what the terms are, with regards to Taylor's freedom of movement and his contact with former associates. I think there are steps that can and should be taken to make the conditions of his stay in Nigeria more restrictive. But to my mind it is more important that the basic terms of the deal are upheld than it is that Taylor is brought to justice.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Discussion: Insert Lame One-Liner Here

"If Arnold is elected, you know who I'd feel sorry for? The people on death row. Imagine, you're about to be executed, the governor calls, you think it's your reprieve, and you hear 'Hasta la vista, baby.'" —Jay Leno

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Discussion: Insert Lame One-Liner Here

I hope Arnold wins so he can kick the asses of all those evil terminator robots from the future who are trying to purge our humanity. Of course, he'll have his work cut our for him. The Bush administration is full of them.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Article: Lessig As Presidential Moderator

This past week, Dennis Kucinich followed Howard Dean as a guest writer on Larry Lessig's blog. I think he did a good job with his posts. I was most impressed by the one regarding John Gilmore (founder of the EFF) and his airport experiences. Where Dean's stuff looked more or less like he could have cross-posted the same material anywhere, Kucinich clearly took the time to at least poke around Lessig's site and see what it's about. And his comments on the GPL reveal surprising cluefulness as well. It's too bad he hasn't been able to generate the same sort of buzz that Dean has..

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Article: Insert Lame One-Liner Here

I'm sure this will be all over the news, but here's the BBC story on Arnold signing Warren Buffet on as part of his economic team. I have two reactions to this. First is that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be the next governor of California. He was already the front-runner, simply by means of his name recognition, tremendous free publicity, and the money he has to throw behind his campaign. This gives him a huge boost in legitimacy. Buffett is a fricking genious, and if this is the calibre of people that Arnold will have working for him, that will serve to reassure many of his doubters. Buffett directly addresses the biggest criticism that has been leveled at Scharzenegger, his inexperience in handling California's economy (or the "World's Fifth Biggest Economy" as people have decided to officially title it now).

My second reaction is that I don't think I will mind if Arnold does win. Arnold's positions have already been widely publicized, and it is clear that he is pretty moderate. This week's TIME Magazine featured a cover story on Schwarzenegger and I was impressed. He is pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control, clearly not part of the religious right, and clearly not a fan of the neo-con brain-trust. My biggest worry regarding him was that he is, after all, a Republican and who knows who he would bring to office with him. Take George W Bush, for instance. Obviously the guy is a moron, and a born-again Christian, but on his own I don't think he would be nearly as offensive as his administration has turned out to be. The problem is that he filled his staff with folks from a radical faction of the extreme right. Buffett is a moderate, a Democrat, and a very smart person for whom I have a great deal of respect. That reassures me considerably about Arnold. It is possible they are trying to use him the way Colin Powell was used. But I think Buffett would not fall into that. Buffett is not a team-player like Powell. He is fiercely independent and not easily used by anybody.

When this whole political mess blew up I was quite cynical about Arnold. My only political association with him was when we worked as the fitness advisor or some such thing for Reagan/Bush. That and the obvious parallels to Reagan gave a me negative gut reaction to the idea. Now I'm seeing more parallels to Jesse Ventura, of whom (and I know I'm in the minority on this) I am an admirer. Who knows, maybe this thing will work out for the best. And if not, well, Arnold being an immigrant, at least we don't have to worry about him running for President.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Article: Still Afraid of the Dark-Skinned Savages

There is a fanastic editorial on CSM today. I think people should be beaten over the head with this on a daily basis. I'm frequently disgusted about how dehumanizing coverage of 3rd world conflicts is, particularly when compared with the sickenly melodramatic treatment that disasters in industrial nations get. I went a few rounds over this issue not so long ago regarding the appalling coverage of the Nigerian beauty pageant riots...

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Speech: Al Gore

Al Gore gave a recent speech to that echoes many of the observations by Kwiatkowski. One of his main points is a lack of checks and balances towards the executive branch. In short, he claims that a groupthink (to use Kwiatkowski's language) has maintained dominance over policy formation, excluding the entirety of information at hand and a healthy discussion of policy. I also can't help but see further parallels with the Johnson administrations policy that sucked us into the Vietnam war without full consideration of the facts at hand and the consequences of policy decisions. I highly recommend an account of this by H.R. McMaster in "Dereliction of Duty". It shows just how far an administration may go to maintain its ideology in the face of evidence that would dictate otherwise. It also shows how both the Congress and the American people were left out of the decision making process leading to Vietnam.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Article: Step Right Up to the Mic

I think we've got a volunteer for the next Senate hearing. Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski is a recently retired Pentagon insider. She wrote this damning account of the culture this administration has instilled there and its role in the funky intel reports we heard running up to the war.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Article: More On the Administration

Apparently I'm not the only one with the feeling that all is not well in the inner sanctum of the Bush administration. This article puts a lot of focus on Condi Rice, who has been mostly MIA for the last few months...

Monday, August 04, 2003

Article: It's Official

Powell will not stick around for a second term. No great shock there... At least Gingrich will be happy.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Discussion: Congressional Committee Records
Discussion: Unified Front Crumbling?

I was able to catch part of the hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Paul Wolfowitz regarding reources for the reconstruction of Iraq. Although there is some sentiment against Real, I would highly recommend viewing the Senators' questioning of Wolfowitz and others in the C-span video. These discussions are not on the Senate Foreign Relations website because they are not scripted, yet I found them very informative and interesting. Note that the questioning starts at 1:16:00 if you watch the video clip.

One very common them was evident from the questioning. Both Republican and Democratic Senators were very concerned that Congress and the American people are not being informed of the sacrifice needed for reconstruction of Iraq. The senators were very upset that there was not even a request for a conservative estimate of reconstruction costs in the 2004 budget which are likely to be substantial. In addition to financial sacrifice, there were complaints that the duration of stay of our troops and the sacrifice of American soldiers are not being adequately explained. It seems the senators are very concerned about losing the support of the American public over time, and this could prove disastrous for an effort that we must be tied into for the long haul. This was some of the most intense grilling of these individuals (especially Wolfowitz) that I have seen to date and suggests to me that Congress has been left largely out of the loop in the Iraq process.

I thought you guys might also be particularly interested in the comments of two senators. The first is from D-Chris Dodd from Connecticut. He pointed out that the outlined chain of command for Iraq proceeds from the President to the Sec of Def to Bremer. Notably absent, he pointed out, was the Sec of State. I found this partcularly interesting in light of Joe's comments of the Bush/neo-con attacks on Powell. It seems that the Sec of State has been left out of the command and decision making structure for Iraq with the exception of an advisory role to the President on the NSC. Dodd was quite concerned because the military is essentially running the show, and they are not likely the best qualified to address issues that would be better handled by the State Dept. While this may be a more efficient command structure, it leaves out the expertise of the State Dept. I also wonder if it isn't due to the likelihood of Powell stepping down after Bush's current term.

The second comes from our beloved Russ Feingold. Wolfowitz claimed in his statement that "In fact, the battle to secure the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the global war on terror". Feingold was very concerned that we are being misled and that American resources are not effectively being used in the "war on terrorism". Given the questionable links between Iraq and terrorist organizations, Feingold argued that our efforts should be focused heavily on areas such as Afghanistan and eastern Africa where the majority of the terrorists are.

Very interesting stuff... there are definitely some pissed off Senators out there.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Odds'n'Ends: /. Post of the Week

In a discussion relating to UK radio spectrum regulations that meandered onto the subject of the enforcement tactics used for the mandatory British TV licensing scheme:

Re:Government-controlled media (Score:4, Funny)
by misterpies (632880) on Friday August 01, @12:06PM (#6588847)

They sent an inspector to me too, but of course I was at work. So I wrote back saying they were welcome to inspect our place, but would they mind visiting after 6pm or on weekends since... surprise surprise, they never called back. I guess they're not _that_ keen...

At the time though I felt a twinge of sympathy for Saddam Hussein. The British government kept telling me that it knew I had banned equipment (an unlicensed TV set). When I denied this they told me they knew I was lying and were going to send in inspectors. And when I offered to cooperate with the inspectors (though on my terms - I'll be damned if I'll be subject to unannounced inspections of my home at any time of the day or night - though Saddam even agreed to that), they pulled them out.

Luckily for me the analogy stops there. Otherwise my flat would be occupied by government agents triumphantly brandishing my laptop as proof that I had a mobile TV-development laboratory that could be turned into a fully functioning device within 45 minutes by the addition of a simple TV tuner card, which they had documentary evidence that I was trying to purchase from Niger...