Monday, July 31, 2006

Duke lacrosse update

“This case remains a Durham problem, and it demands a Durham solution.”

-- Durham district attorney Michael B. Nifong on the guilt or innocence of 3 Duke lacrosse players.

"No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

-- The 14th Amedment

One of Iran's proxies in Iraq

From Frank Rich in NYT:

The most dangerous figure in Iraq, the home-grown radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, is an acolyte of neither Osama bin Laden nor Saddam but an ally of Iran who has sworn solidarity to both Hezbollah and Hamas.

He commands more than 30 seats in Mr. Maliki’s governing coalition in Parliament and 5 cabinet positions. He is also linked to death squads that have slaughtered Iraqis and Americans with impunity since the April 2004 uprising that killed, among others, Cindy Sheehan’s son, Casey. Since then, Mr. Sadr’s power has only grown, enabled by Iraqi “democracy.”

That the latest American plan for victory is to reposition our forces by putting more of them in the crossfire of Baghdad’s civil war is tantamount to treating our troops as if they were deck chairs on the Titanic.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The future of Iraq

"What else are the Shiite militias in Iraq gradually seizing the levers of government in Baghdad but a version of Hezbollah?"

-- Andrew Sullivan

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Where's the Hezbollah boogeyman?

Whenever there's a big conflict, the U.S. government-media propaganda machine trots out some nasty-looking bad guy that we can get upset over, like Al-Zarqawi in Iraq.

In the Isreali slaughter of the Arabs in Lebanon, I've wondered why we don't have a bad-guy poster Arab for Hezbollah.

I think the answer is right here. The head of Hezbolla, Hassan Nasrallah, is just too darn telegenic to make into a propaganda monster.

So, unlike the constant pictures on TV of Al-Zarqawi, you'll never see a picture of this guy.

The system works!

Just earlier this month, I cited a Wall Street Journal editorial on why the courts should remain neutral on gay marriage, which said, among other things, "leaving the debate to legislatures will also mean politicians will have to come out of the closet themselves, so to speak. They will have to declare themselves on the issue rather than hiding behind the courts."

Now, a day after the Washington State Supreme Court decided to stay out of gay marriage, here's the state's governor:

After years of declining to state her personal views on the matter -- and without using the words "civil union," -- Gov. Chris Gregoire said at a press conference a few minutes ago that the state should provide gay and lesbian couples with the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexuals, but without actual marriage.

"As to my personal beliefs, Mike and I received the sacrament of marriage in the Catholic faith," she said. "State government provided us with certain rights and responsibilities, but the state did not marry us."

"I believe the state should provide these same rights and responsibilities to all citizens. I also believe the sacrament of marriage is between two people and their faith; it is not the business of the state."

Who needs to know Arabic anyway?

  • A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed from the U.S. Army under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, though he says he never told his superiors he was gay and his accuser was never identified.
  • Bleu Copas, 30, told The Associated Press he is gay, but said he was "outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • An eight-month Army investigation culminated in Copas' honorable discharge on Jan. 30 - less than four years after he enlisted, he said, out of a post-Sept. 11 sense of duty to his country.
  • Copas said he was never open about his sexuality in the military and suspects his accuser was someone he mistakenly befriended and apparently slighted.
  • Among questions posed to Sgt. Copas by an Army investigator attempting to confirm his gayness: are you now or have you ever been involved in community theater.
The number-one rule of counter-insurgency is to establish good relations with the local population. Hard-working U.S. soldiers are attempting counter-insurgency in Iraq without speaking the language. Of the precious few U.S. soldiers trained in Arabic, the Pentagon has expelled 55 of them soley for being gay.

Meanwhile, to meet recruiting quotas, the military is accepting recruits with criminal histories. One of them is Steven D. Green, the former Army private accused of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and murdering her family.

Hey guys, if you're not serious about winning the war, why should anyone else be?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The many health benefits of coffee

The importance of luck and context

From the New Yorker on Boeing's triumph over Airbus:
  • People are generally bad at accepting the importance of context and chance. We fall prey to what the social psychologist Lee Ross called “the fundamental attribution error”—the tendency to ascribe success or failure to innate characteristics, even when context is overwhelmingly important. In one classic demonstration, people shown a person shooting a basketball in a gym with poor lighting and another person shooting a basketball in a gym with excellent lighting assume that the second person hit more shots because he was a better player.
  • Because we underestimate how much variation can be caused simply by luck, we see patterns where none exist. It’s no wonder that management theory is dominated by fads: every few years, new companies succeed, and they are scrutinized for the underlying truths that they might reveal. But often there is no underlying truth; the companies just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Andrew on Al Gore's movie

Fruits and veggies

WSJ article on fruits and vegetables
  • The push to step up produce consumption is fueled in part by a growing body of evidence that fruits and vegetables offer even more health benefits than previously understood, and may play roles in preventing heart and eye disease, as well as stomach, colon and other cancers.
  • About 90% of the U.S. population does not meet the government's recommendation for fruit and vegetable consumption
  • People who eat fruits and vegetables more than three times a day reduce their risk of having a stroke and dying from cardiovascular disease by nearly a quarter, compared with those who eat them less than once a day, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study examining data from a national epidemiological survey. Many other studies find a similar inverse relationship between various chronic diseases and fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Scientists are increasingly exploring the benefits of compounds known as phytonutrients -- chemicals in plant pigment that can serve as antioxidants, battling free radicals that cause cell damage. Eating tomatoes and tomato products, which contain the phytonutrient lycopene, has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, and perhaps cardiovascular disease as well, according to several large epidemiological studies in humans.
  • People aren't eating enough dark green vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, which contain lots of vitamin C and many phytonutrients, or citrus, which is high in vitamin C and fiber, nutritionists say.

Documentation on that Yale reunion story

From San Francisco Chronicle: "Louise Casselman, who was at that White House Yale reunion with her husband, Kirk Casselman and a Bay Area contingent, says that although Yale was still all-male in 1968, one alum has since had a sex-change operation. "You might remember me as Peter when we left Yale," said the woman upon coming face to face with the president. George W. didn't pause for a moment, reports Casselman, grabbed the alumna's hand, and said "Now you've come back as yourself."

Also at this reunion were our friend Bob Morehouse (Yale '68) and his partner Noel May.

The inanity of the New York Times continues

"I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn't even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade."

- - Thomas Friedman, columnist and former Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times.

Book notes

Three generally disappointing reads on our July camping trip:

"Cross Country" by Robert Sullivan

  • Evel Knievel got his nickmane in jail in Butte, Montana, and the Sundance Kid got his nickname in jail in Sundance, Wyoming.
  • We stole glances glances at the corner, at the man who had jumped over lines of Greyhound buses, over rows of Mack trucks, who, not quite sixty at the time, had broken thirty seven bones, including one when he fell in a sand trap and another when he fell in a Jacuzzi.
  • Intersting discussion of the use of national parks and tourism to bring the American people closer together, sourced from "See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1840-1940"
"Cobra II" by Micheal Gordon and Gen. Bernard Trainor
  • On his military jet, Tommy Franks had four stars across the headrest of his seat and his wife had four hearts across hers.
  • It seems as though "Fiasco," which is just published, will be the military analysis of Iraq that "Cobra II" was not.
"House of War" by James Carrol
  • Makes a good case that Japan really wanted to surrender toward the end of WWII, and the primary reason we nuked them was to intimidate the Soviets.
  • Kennedy's phoney missle gap has an intersting parellel to Bush's phoney WMD's. Both were cases in which bad intelligance met political opportunism and in which a leader wanted to decieve his opponents into thinking he had weapons he didn't. Kruschev wanted to intimidate the U.S. with claims of many missiles, and Hussien wanted to intimidate Iran with claims of WMD's.
  • In January, 1961, the Air Force claimed the Soviets had at least 50 ICBM's and may have as many as 200. They had four.
  • "Now we have a problem to trying to make our power credible, and Vietnam looks like the place." -- John Kennedy
  • "They begin by lying to Congress and the public, all for the best of reasons; in this case they felt the necessity of containing Communism in South Vietnam. Next they lie to each other, concealing information and even private opinions that might introduce a note of discordant doubt. And finally, they lie to themselves -- having become so profoundly, psychically committed to the wisdom of their actions, having raised the stakes so high, that any admission of error would be a failure of unacceptable dimensions" -- an official describing Vietnam and Kennedy-Johnson.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another father of conservatives says Bush isn't one

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress. . .And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

-- William F. Buckley, Jr.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

American Authoritarianism

From a review of John Dean's new book, Conservatives With Conscience. Dean was Nixon's White House Counsel.
Dean contends, and amply documents, that the "conservative" movement has become, at its core, an authoritarian movement composed of those with a psychological and emotional need to follow a strong authority figure which provides them a sense of moral clarity and a feeling of individual power, the absence of which creates fear and insecurity in the individuals who crave it. By definition, its followers’ devotion to authority and the movement’s own power is supreme, thereby overriding the consciences of its individual members and removing any intellectual and moral limits on what will be justified in defense of their movement.

Dean relies on substantial social science data to illustrate the personality type that seeks out authoritarian movements.


Bush supporters want more spying, much more aggressive actions against investigative journalists and even domestic political opposition, more death and violence brought to the Middle East, more wars, and still fewer restraints on the President’s powers, to the extent there are any real limits left. To them, the Bush administration has not been nearly as extremist and aggressive as it ought to be in dealing with the Enemies. And that is to say nothing of the measures that would be urged, and almost certainly imposed, in the event of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil or in the increasingly likely event that our limited war in Iraq expands into the Epic War of Civilizations which so many of them crave.

Republicans love war (so long as they aren't the ones shot at)

"We stand for Israel because their war is our war too."

-- Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman addressing Christians United for Israel.

According to NYT yesterday:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

Born gay?

Tim Gill has put up a web site,, that ponders the question about how gay people come about.

The site includes a really interesting 60 Minutes segment which reaffirms my long-standing theory: that the primary driver of homosexuality is exposure to hormones during fetal development.

Hilariously, Lesley Stahl scores 100% with her "gaydar," accurately indentifying people in video tapes as gay or straight.

As Colorado approaches the silly season, with November ballot initiatives on gay marriage and domestic partnerships, it is great to see Tim trying to elevate the discussion into something from which people can learn and make informed decisions.

NYT's Kristof on the future of the Israel war

In the past, terror attacks spilled blood and spread fear, but they did not challenge the survival of Israel itself. At some point, though, militant groups will recruit teams of scientists and give them a couple of years and a $300,000 research budget, and the result will be attacks with nerve gas, anthrax, or “dirty bombs” that render areas uninhabitable for years.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hollywood's insanity continues

Great article in this week's New Yorker about Hollywood's nastiest lawyer, Bertram Fields, and the private investigator whom he often hired, and who, the FBI discovered, was conducting illegal wiretaps and mob-style threats on behalf of Hollywood psychos like Micheal Ovitz and Tom Cruise.

It really show that, even when blessed with wealth that far surpasses anything in history, humans will engage in the lowest behavior if they are placed in a enclosed culture that values winning above everything.

The insanity of the gay left continues

"Condoleeza Rice can't just tell Iran to stop executing gay people. We know now that bringing change in human rights means being globally sensitive."

-- Paula Ettelbrick, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, on the one-year anniversary of the execution by Iran of two teenagers for being gay.

With friends like Paula. . .
Colbert and Congress

My hero interviews the congressman from Boca Raton

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel's bombing of Lebanon: pics you won't see on TV

Conservatism and the limits of power

"It is not perverse to wonder whether the spectacle of America, currently learning a lesson - one that conservatives should not have to learn on the job - about the limits of power to subdue an unruly world, has emboldened many enemies."

-- George Will in The Washington Post, responding to Condoleezza Rice's characterization of the charge that the U.S. quagmire in Iraq has led to the current Middle East conflagration. She says that charge is "grotesque."

The Netflix paradox of abundance

"I could have bought that movie three times, I'm sure, for my rental fee"

Lisa Snider, who added "Hotel Rwanda" to her Netflix queue after it was nominated for three Academy Awards. But it sat for two months in her home before she mailed it back unwatched.
She was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about how many people order high-brow movies from Netflix and then never get around to watching them.

The article cites an experiment in which a "group of volunteers were asked to choose movies to rent from a list of 24 videos. Their options were a mix of what researchers termed "low-brow" movies -- including "My Cousin Vinny" and "Groundhog Day" -- and "high-brow" offerings, such as "Schindler's List" or the subtitled "Like Water for Chocolate." The researchers found that when people chose movies to watch the same day, they often picked comedies or action films. But when they were asked to pick movies to watch at a later date, they were more likely to make "high-brow" selections.

The frat-boy-in-chief

Commenting on Bush's boorish behavior at the G-8 summit, Maureen Dowd in today's NYT says:
Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He’s strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush. In snippets of overheard conversation, Mr. Bush says he has not bothered to prepare any closing remarks and grouses about having to listen to other world leaders talk too long. What did he think being president was about?

Another indication that, in the parlance of "Presidential Character" by James David Barber, Bush is an active-negative, like Nixon, LBJ, Hoover, and Wilson. Barber classified active-negatives as the most dangerous Presidential personality types.
He seems to have no clue that his own headlong, heedless actions in the Middle East have contributed to the deepening chaos there, and to Iran’s growing influence and America’s diminished leverage. Mr. Bush may resent the sophistication required of a president. But when the world is going to hell, he should stop chewing and start thinking.

On Bush's groping (or uninvited shoulder massage) of the Chancellor of Germany, Republic of T comments:

At best it’s assuming a familiarity that doesn’t exist between two people. At worst it’s a way of dehumanizing someone reducing them to a body part to be groped, and it’s a way of asserting dominance; an unspoken way of saying “I can put my hands on you any time I want, and there’s not much you can do about it.”

The difference between the president and most gropers, though, is that the rest are usually smart enough not to do it when there are cameras rolling.

Says Jon Stewart: "The chancellor of Germany disengaged herself from the president of the United States using a move she learned in date rape prevention class"

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The first 6 months of 2006: the warmest Jan-June on record

"It's not supposed to be hot like this. Lately there have been evenings when you could sit outside at 10 p.m. without a coat. All my life I couldn't do that."

-- Connie Clayton, 58, a lifelong resident of Frazier, Colorado, elevation 8,550 feet, in today's Washington Post.

A reality check for Bush

Bush in Russia at a press conference with Putin:
"I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion. I told [Putin] a lot of people in our country ... would hope that Russia would do the same thing. I fully understand, however, that there will be a Russian style of democracy."
Putin's response:
"I'll be honest with you: we, of course, would not want to have a democracy like in Iraq."

Friday, July 14, 2006

Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Jesus . . .Ken Lay

"Ken Lay was neither black nor poor as James Byrd was. But I'm angry because he was the victim of a lynching"

"This is not the first time somebody good has been falsely accused and even crucified."

"Just like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, my hope is that people will view Ken Lay in a much more positive light after his death."

-- Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church

The Liberal argument against gay marriage

From today's NYT, by Kenji Yoshino, a professor at Yale Law School:
What’s noteworthy about the New York decision, however, is that it became the second ruling by a state high court to assert a startling rationale for prohibiting same-sex marriage — that straight couples may be less stable parents than their gay counterparts and consequently require the benefits of marriage to assist them.


“Heterosexual intercourse,” the plurality opinion stated, “has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not.” Gays become parents, the opinion said, in a variety of ways, including adoption and artificial insemination, “but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse.”


To shore up those rickety heterosexual arrangements, “the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only.” Lest we miss the inversion of stereotypes about gay relationships here, the opinion lamented that straight relationships are “all too often casual or temporary.”
A real conservative, of course, would say that it's ridiculous to look at a citizen's rights as just another benefit doled out by the government.

A real conservative would also say that the government should not penalize responsible behavior and reward irresponsible behavior -- in this case, penalizing gays for making responsible parenting decisions by withholding the "benefit" of marriage.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A victory in disguise

While some gay people are upset that the New York State Supreme Court did not legalize gay marriage last week, the Wall Street Journal reflects my view exactly:

Contrary to the willful Judge Kaye, we suspect future generations may view last week's ruling as a blessing in disguise for gay rights. The last thing advocates should want is to have gay marriage imposed on a skeptical public by a judicial order that would inspire a political backlash and make compromise impossible. This is precisely what happened with abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court peered into the Constitution's "emanations" and "penumbras" and overturned 50 state laws in Roe v. Wade.

Leaving the debate to legislatures will also mean politicians will have to come out of the closet themselves, so to speak. They will have to declare themselves on the issue rather than hiding behind the courts. Already in New York, Democratic candidate for Governor Eliot Spitzer has announced his support for gay marriage, while Senator Clinton has angered some activists by saying she favors civil unions for gays but not outright marriage.

If gay activists want to persuade New Yorkers and other fair-minded Americans to come around to their view, there is a traditional way to do that: hard work and commitment to the democratic process.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Defense of marriage

Since marriage is legal for gays in Massachusetts, the Boston Herald reports:
Memo to Boston Globe gay and lesbian Guild employees: Get married or lose your domestic partner benefits.
Globe staffers have been told that health and dental benefits for gay employees’ domestic partners are being discontinued. Gay couples who want to keep their benefits must marry by Jan. 1.
As Andrew Sullivan points out:
And so the socially conservative impulse behind gay marriage is revealed - and proven in practice. This is the real slippery slope: of gay people sliding into integration and responsibility. And that's what many alleged conservatives want to prevent.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Real Inconvenient Truth

From "The Real Inconvenient Truth," Robert Samualson's column today in the Washington Post:
No government will adopt the draconian restrictions on economic growth and personal freedom (limits on electricity usage, driving and travel) that might curb global warming. Still, politicians want to show they're "doing something." The result is grandstanding.
Referring to the various state and local efforts in the U.S. to reduce CO2 emission, Samualson says:
None of these programs will reduce global warming. They're public relations exercises and -- if they impose costs -- are undesirable. (Note: on national security grounds, I favor taxing oil, but the global warming effect would be trivial.) The practical conclusion is that if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How about a Declaration of Independence from Israel?

“At the end of the day, the United States can live with Iranian, Pakistani, and Indian nuclear bombs—but for Israel there’s no Mutual Assured Destruction. If they have to live with an Iranian bomb, there will be a great deal of anxiety in Israel, and a lot of tension between Israel and Iran, and between Israel and the U.S.”

-- Martin Indyk, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who is now the director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, in a Seymour Hersh article in the New Yorker

The article reports that Bush and Cheney were seriously planning to drop a nuclear bunker buster on underground nuclear facilities in Iran, until the JCS Chairman, Marine General Peter Pace, put his foot down.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Happy 2nd of July!!

As most people do not know, the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the 13 British colonies of North America on July 2, 1776, not July4. Thomas Jefferson's manifesto to King George wasn't signed until August.

As an ode to the 2nd of July, the NYT published a cute catalog of other dates, historic yet unsong. My favorite was April 19, 1802, and not only because April 19 is my brother's birthday:

Napoleon had sent a formidable army under his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, to quell the rebellion of former slaves in Haiti.

On April 19, Leclerc reported to Napoleon that the rainy season had arrived, and his troops were falling ill. By the end of the year, almost the whole French force, including Leclerc himself, were dead of mosquito-borne yellow fever.

When Napoleon realized his reconquest had failed, he abandoned hopes of a New World empire, and decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

"Across a huge section of the American heartland, from New Orleans up through Montana, they ought to build statues to Toussaint L'Ouverture and the other heroes of the Haitian Revolution," says Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

While giving the U.S. a huge gift, the Haitian revolutionaries actually screwed Haiti. By killing all the white people on the island, the Haitians scared away European capital and technology, setting the stage for the political, economic, and environmental degradation that exists there today. It's documented really well in Jared Diamond's "Collapse".

A baby United States

From today's NYT magazine:
  • Total miles of Chinese highway have doubled in the last 5 years: at least 23,000, second now only to the United States's 46,000 miles.
  • 53,000 highway miles by 2035, according to Government plans.
  • Number of passenger cars on the road have more than tripled in 6 years: about 20 million today, from about 6 million in 2000.
Clearly, China is only at the very beginning of a car craze -- about where the U.S. was in the late 1940's. And the Chinese government will encourage highways and cars, despite their impact on the environment, gas imports, and government control, because a Chinese highway system will tie the country together. That's priority #1.

So here we are, at just the very beginning of a massive explosion in consumption, and Chinese pollution is already so enormous that it's affecting air quality in California!

We will eventually develop technology fixes for fossil fuels, CO2, and air pollution. But will it happen soon enough?

Was Communism, ultimately, a gift to the American lifestyle? By keeping more than 1 billion people in poverty for the last half Century, did it allow us our profligate ways?
An ebullient atmosphere surrounds the automobile in China. You can see the excitement continuing, even growing, as more people buy cars: China now has fewer than seven of them for every thousand people, roughly the same level as the United States had in 1915. Everyone expects the ownership rate to keep growing, which means there could be 130 million vehicles on China's roads by 2020. By 2030, according to one estimate, there could be as many as in the United States.