Friday, July 27, 2007

book notes

Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Cheney, Rumsfled and Feith kept the State Department experts out of post-invasion planning because the CIA and State were anti-Chalabi, and Cheney wanted Chalabi to be the new president of Iraq (in addition to Cheney's bureaucratic war with Powell + worry that, if State got info, it might leak it and might leak it and undermine the propaganda campaign to sell the war. )

When the former West Germany worked to privatize the state-owned companies in the former East Germany, it needed a staff of 8,000. For the similar American effort in Iraq: 3 guys

The CPA immediately lifted the 100% tax of imported cars. In the first nine months of the Occupation, according to the CPA, the number of cars in Iraq doubled, to 1 million. The result has been gas shortages and huge traffic jams that endanger military convoys.

Lots of interesting stories about highly qualified individuals being pushed aside for Bush political hacks with zero experience in post-war reconstruction or humanitarian relief (in some cases, no experience in anything at all, except college). In CPA official in charge of the Health Ministry was initially an MD with a master's degree in public health administration. He was replaced after one week by a GOP-connected social worker with no experience in foreign countries except religious proselytizing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Arabic translator expelled from military

Prisoner convicted of doing indecent act in Broward jail cell -- South Florida

Prisoner convicted of doing indecent act in Broward jail cell -- South Florida "Although masturbation, a common jailhouse occurrence, violates most jail and prison rules, it doesn't often result in criminal charges. It is generally dealt with internally with a disciplinary write-up and temporary loss of phone or recreation privileges, Florida jail and prison officials said.

To discourage the behavior in Broward jails, the Sheriff's Office encourages deputies to file criminal charges, said Elliot Cohen, the agency's spokesman.

Deputy Coryus Veal seems to have taken that mission to heart: She has brought similar charges against seven other inmates in six months."

Blame the gays!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why George Bush-types suddenly love Big Government

EconLog, Redistribution: Blocking the Revenge of the Nerds?, Bryan Caplan: Library of Economics and Liberty: "It's suspicious - and if you combine the Jock/Nerd Theory with some evolutionary psych, it makes sense. When the best hunter in the tribe gets rich, his neighbors will probably ask nicely for a share, if they dare to ask at all. But if the biggest nerd in the tribe gets rich, how long will it take before the jocks show up and warn him that 'You'd better share and share alike'?

Punchline: Through the lens of the Jock/Nerd Theory of History, the welfare state doesn't look like a serious effort to 'equalize outcomes.' It looks more like a serious effort to block the 'revenge of the nerds' - to keep them from using their financial success to unseat the jocks on every dimension of social status."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Religion beat became a test of faith - Los Angeles Times

Religion beat became a test of faith - Los Angeles Times: "TBN's creed is that if viewers send money to the network, God will repay them with great riches and good health. Even people deeply in debt are encouraged to put donations on credit cards.

'If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed … you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven,' Paul Crouch, co-founder of the Orange County-based network, once told viewers. Meanwhile, Crouch and his wife, Jan, live like tycoons.


I spent several years investigating TBN and pored through stacks of documents — some made available by appalled employees — showing the Crouches eating $180-per-person meals; flying in a $21-million corporate jet; having access to 30 TBN-owned homes across the country, among them a pair of Newport Beach mansions and a ranch in Texas. All paid for with tax-free donor money.


I tried unsuccessfully to get several prominent mainstream pastors who appeared on TBN to comment on the prosperity gospel, Hinn's "faith healing" or the Crouches' lifestyle.

Like the Catholic bishops, I assumed, they didn't want to risk what they had.

Peanuts kill more Americans than terrorists

A sensible policy approach to the problem might be to stress
that any damage terrorists are able to accomplish likely can be
absorbed, however grimly. While judicious protective and
policing measures are sensible, extensive fear and anxiety over
what may at base prove to be a rather limited problem are misplaced,
unjustified, and counterproductive.

For all the attention it evokes, terrorism actually causes
rather little damage and the likelihood that any individual
will become a victim in most places is microscopic. Those
adept at hyperbole like to proclaim that we live in “the age
of terror.” However, while obviously deeply tragic for those
directly involved, the number of people worldwide who die
as a result of international terrorism is generally only a few
hundred a year, tiny compared to the numbers who die in
most civil wars or from automobile accidents. In fact, in
almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who
die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the
world is not much more than the number who drown in
bathtubs in the United States.

Until 2001, far fewer Americans were killed in any grouping
of years by all forms of international terrorism than were
killed by lightning, and almost none of those terrorist deaths
occurred within the United States itself. Even with the September
11 attacks included in the count, the number of
Americans killed by international terrorism since the late
1960s (which is when the State Department began counting)
is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the
same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe
allergic reaction to peanuts.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Alimony provides a same-sex union test - Los Angeles Times

Alimony provides a same-sex union test - Los Angeles Times: "Ron Garber knew his former wife was living with another woman — and had taken her last name — when he agreed to pay her $1,250 a month in alimony.

What he didn't know was that the two women had registered with the state as domestic partners under a law that was supposed to mirror marriage law, Garber said.

State marriage laws say that alimony ends when the former spouse remarries, and Garber reasons he should be off the hook, given that domestic partnership is akin to marriage. But an Orange County judge has decided that registered partnership is cohabitation, not marriage, and that Garber must pay."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lady Bird’s Lost Legacy - New York Times

Lady Bird’s Lost Legacy - New York Times: "The obituaries for Lady Bird Johnson last week focused mainly on her advocacy for highway beautification, largely failing to note that nearly all of the 200 laws related to the environment during the Johnson administration had her stamp on them, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and many additions to the national parks system. She worked to protect the redwoods and block the damming of the Grand Canyon.

The environmental movement was just being born — Rachel Carson had published “Silent Spring” the year before Johnson took office — but it found in Lady Bird its most effective advocate. She hoped to leave the country more beautiful than she found it, and there is no doubt that she did so — beginning with her efforts at cleaning up the slums of the nation’s capital to the creation of the National Wildflower Research Center here in Austin."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sen. Mike Gravel: Why I Wasn't Invited to the Debate on Gay Issues - Politics on The Huffington Post

Sen. Mike Gravel: Why I Wasn't Invited to the Debate on Gay Issues - Politics on The Huffington Post: "According to a HRC spokesperson, I didn't raise enough money and therefore my candidacy did not meet their standard of 'viability.' But that's strange -- CNN, PBS, NBC and the NAACP invited me to their debates without evaluating my financial viability. Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn't invite me is that I'm too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians."

Friday, July 06, 2007

O'Reilly: Lesbian gangs terrorize countryside The Oh-Really Factor: "A 'national underground network' of pink pistol-packing lesbians is terrorizing America. 'All across the country,' they are raping young girls, attacking heterosexual males at random, and forcibly indoctrinating children as young as 10 into the homosexual lifestyle, according to a shocking June 21 segment on the popular Fox News Channel program, 'The O'Reilly Factor.'"

What Bono doesn't say about Africa - Los Angeles Times

What Bono doesn't say about Africa - Los Angeles Times: "This doesn't quite square with the sub-Saharan Africa that in 2006 registered its third straight year of good GDP growth — about 6%, well above historic averages for either today's rich countries or all developing countries. Growth of living standards in the last five years is the highest in Africa's history."

"Why do aid organizations and their celebrity backers want to make African successes look like failures? One can only speculate, but it certainly helps aid agencies get more publicity and more money if problems seem greater than they are. As for the stars — well, could Africa be saving celebrity careers more than celebrities are saving Africa?

In truth, Africans are and will be escaping poverty the same way everybody else did: through the efforts of resourceful entrepreneurs, democratic reformers and ordinary citizens at home, not through PR extravaganzas of ill-informed outsiders."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Search for an Enemy | TPMCafe

The Search for an Enemy | TPMCafe: "During a appearance with Robert Wright, Fukuyama says of Bill Kristol and his circle at The Weekly Standard that during the 1990s 'There was actually a deliberate search for an enemy because they felt that the Republican Party didn't do as well' when foreign policy wasn't on the issue agenda. The obvious candidates were either China or something relating to Islamic fundamentalism and, as Fukuyama notes, what they came up with was China. Then 9/11 changed things around, at least for a few years. "

The one good thing about Iraq

James Fallows: "At the first meeting, one Republican woman on the commission said that the overwhelming threat was from China. Sooner or later the U.S. would end up in a military showdown with the Chinese Communists. There was no avoiding it, and we would only make ourselves weaker by waiting. No one else spoke up in support.

The same thing happened at the second meeting -- discussion from other commissioners about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, anarchy of failed states, etc, and then this one woman warning about the looming Chinese menace. And the third meeting too. Perhaps more.

Finally, in frustration, this woman left the commission.

'Her name was Lynne Cheney,' Hart said. 'I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today.' Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office. (My impression is that Chinese leaders know this too, which is why there are relatively few complaints from China about the Iraq war. They know that it got the U.S. off China's back!)"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The wild and crazy Gores

Al Gore's son busted for drugs in hybrid car | U.S. | Reuters: "The 24-year-old son of former Vice President Al Gore was arrested for drug possession on Wednesday after he was stopped for allegedly speeding in his hybrid Toyota Prius, a sheriff's official said."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Attempts Seen As Model for New Attacks On U.S. Soil -

Attempts Seen As Model for New Attacks On U.S. Soil - "The incidents in England and Scotland, counterterrorism officials said, coincide with recent U.S. intelligence indicating stepped-up movement of money and people from al-Qaeda camps in the ungoverned tribal areas of Pakistan, near the Afghan border. Several senior U.S. military officials were sharply critical yesterday of what they saw as the Pakistani government's unwillingness to move forcefully against the camps and the U.S. administration's failure to press Pakistan harder to curtail what one called a terrorist 'growth industry.'

Al-Qaeda's 'presence in the tribal areas has not been this secure since before 9/11,' one senior U.S. military intelligence official wrote in an e-mail."

The Scooter defense

Commuting Prison Term Is Implicit Critique of Sentencing Standards - New York Times: "“By saying that the sentence was excessive, I wonder if he understood the ramifications of saying that,” said Ellen S. Podgor, who teaches criminal law at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. “This is opening up a can of worms about federal sentencing.”

By yesterday morning, in fact, Mr. Bush’s arguments for keeping Mr. Libby out of prison had become an unexpected gift to defense lawyers around the country, who scrambled to make use of them in their own cases."

Libby's prosecutor on Bush

Patrick Fitzgerald:

We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.

We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

'Unusually frisky' deer blow lid on marijuana plantation [printer-friendly] | The Register

'Unusually frisky' deer blow lid on marijuana plantation [printer-friendly] | The Register: "Locals in Trento began telling tales of the abnormally high-spirited animals, while forest rangers began to wonder why the normally shy and straight-laced cervine population was letting it all hang out by day and 'making great leaps on the mountainside'.

Despite the seemingly damning nature of the prosecution's case, defence lawyers say the charges may yet be dropped since the deer had eaten most of the evidence. Reports that some Trento residents were awoken from their beds at 2am by pothead Bambis demanding bowls of Rice Krispies are unconfirmed."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

As the Romans Did

As the Romans Did: "The Romans were a supremely successful assimilationist state in that they were able to absorb many different kinds of people into their polity and make them into Romans. But they weren’t particularly good at figuring out the mentality of people who were truly beyond the pale. The fact that they referred to them as “barbarians” is an indication. As a result, they did land themselves in trouble time and again by not understanding and then underestimating the capacity of people outside their borders.

Some historians argue that the Romans never really understood the extent to which the very existence of Rome as a power actually had a unifying effect on the barbarians. That turned into a real problem down the road. And it’s not hard to see that the United States is doing something similar. It’s having a unifying effect on what had once been a scattered, dispersed group of enemies."

Rome - United States - July 4 - Empires - Imperialism - Politics - New York Times

Rome - United States - July 4 - Empires - Imperialism - Politics - New York Times: "In the early 19th century, one Maryland politician, lamenting his countrymen’s increasing love of “public shows and spectacles,” warned: “History records that the declining days of the Roman republic, upon which the throne of the Caesars was erected, was attended by banquets and revels, and marked by the exhibition of rhetoricians and gladiators.” The occasion of debauchery and depravity that inspired this outburst was, naturally, the 1817 inauguration of President James Monroe."

Gay left and religious right

Lexington | Out and proud parents | "The kind of gay activists who think you can't be authentically gay unless you are permanently in opposition to the mainstream find the prospect of gay assimilation appalling. So does the religious right. A black preacher named Wellington Boone, for example, has circulated a pamphlet entitled “The Rape of the Civil Rights Movement: How Sodomites Are Using Civil Rights Rhetoric to Advance Their Preference for Sexual Perversion”. But he is howling at the incoming tide."