Saturday, January 31, 2004

Air marshals 

Re: This Times article on the grounding of six more flights.
Does anyone out there understand why European pilots seem so uncomfortable with the idea of air marshals, while American pilots seem to accept the idea? I'm making no judgement on who's right, but it strikes me as odd that there's such a difference. Of course, maybe the American pilots have just been told to keep their traps shut.


have been added. Go crazy.

Humanitarian intervention 

Human Rights Watch has issues a report arguing that the Iraq war wasn't justified on humanitarian grounds (not that that's why we went in the first place). Basically, HRW argues that such interventions are only justified in cases of "ongoing or imminent genocide" (imminent? uh oh).
Of course, HRW isn't a group the Bush administration is likely to pay a lot of attention to. But their basic point is worth considering. Humanitarian interventions are risky, complicated, and bloody things, not to be toyed with. They should only be tried where the risks are outweighed by the rewards.
(link via MaxSpeak)

ADDENDUM: Hinted at in HRW's report, but not discussed directly, is a key point: global opinion matters a lot more in humanitarian interventions than it does in defensive wars. Why? Because if we're attacked, we will, and should, defend ourselves. Getting international support for that kind of war is good, and potentially very useful, but it shouldn't stop us from defending ourselves. But humanitarian interventions only have legitimacy if they're supported by a good chunk of the global community. Otherwise, they look a whole lot like imperialism. Now, if millions of people are getting killed (i.e. genocide), then maybe you don't have the luxury to wait for the rest of the world to line up behind you. But bad as Saddam was, this wasn't that sort of situation. Even if you believe the war was justified on humanitarian grounds (and I don't), we should have waited to gain more support.

Budget buster 

A little late on this, but guess who's telling Dubya that his budget won't cut the deficit? Why, the Republicans, of course.
Note to George Bush: if your own party thinks you're being irresponsible, you may be in som trouble.
Of course, he is unelectable.

Whitewash (ergate?) 

I've tried to stay away from the whole Hutton Inquiry issue to some degree, only because everyone else is far more on top of it than I could hope to be. But I did find this story from London's Telegraph interesting. Apparently, 56 percent of the British public consider the report a "whitewash."
Of course, Blair's own Labor Party says the same thing.
(links via Cursor)

Musharraf vs. Khan 

The Times reports today that Pakistani pres Musharraf is ousting Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and a revered figure in Pakistan.
It is unquestionably a good thing that Pakistan is finally getting serious about cracking down on weapons proliferation (these are, after all, actual weapons of mass destruction). But you have to be worried about what could happen if this brings Musharraf into conflict with the military. The possibility of a coup, or another assassination attempt is real. And we can bet that whoever replaces Musharraf won't be as friendly toward the U.S. as he has been.


What a difference a year makes... 

Guess what? A lot of the "evidence" cited in Powell's UN presentation last year (yep, even them fancy pictures) was wrong or misinterpreted. Fancy that.
Look, I'll say it again: I don't care whether the intelligence was "sexed up" or politically motivated. You can't go waging preemptive war based on intelligence that could easily turn out to be wrong. And you can't tell everyone that you're sure, when in fact, by the very nature of intelligence, you can't be.

Sarek's Miracle Tonic! 

Michael Specter's article in this week's New Yorker is a great example of why government regulation is important and necessary. (and yes, I'm only now getting to this week's New Yorker. If it didn't come out every dang week, I wouldn't keep falling behind)

Match test 

Speaking of AOL's test, does it strike anyone else that all of the questions are phrased to presuppose a conservative viewpoint? For example, they ask if we should outlaw partial birth abortions, not whether we support a woman's right to choose. Just found it interesting (though hardly surprising).

ADDENDUM: For the record, the test says I should support Kucinich, then Sharpton, then Kerry, Dean, Clark, Edwards, Lieberman, Bush. Not quite where I'm leaning, but at least they got the last two right.

Blind Andy 

So Andrew Sullivan took AOL's Presidential Match test and found out that--guess what?--Dubya should be his last choice for pres. Of course, he takes this as evidence that the test is flawed, not that he shouldn't be supporting a president who believes he's going to hell. But that would be too much to ask.


This post from CJR's invaluable Campaign Desk (which you should definitely check out if you haven't already) is unvelievable. Apparently, no one in the media has yet tried to figure out just what a Weapons of Mass Destruction-related program activity is, or what one would look like:

A search of LexisNexis shows 336 references (it keeps growing) to the term since the President addressed the nation. (Rest assured, nobody strings together a phrase like that in any other context.) Yet, no one in the media has done the logical thing: Demand a definition. (For the record, Jon Stewart did ask "Weapons of mass destruction related program activities? What the f--- is that?" on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" on the 21st, and Jac Wilder VerSteeg of the Palm Beach Post nominated the phrase for the "Weasel-Word Hall of Fame.")

It gets better:
At the same hearing, Sen. Mark Dayton (D., MN) asked Kay "how many countries ... would you say in the world today would qualify under the category of developing weapons of mass destruction and related program activities, or having such activities?"
Probably about 50, replied Kay.

So we invaded a country based on programs that 49 other countries had as well, and no one in the media sees fit to mention this?


Getting worse 

You know Bush won't like this (link via Atrios). Casualties have actually increased since Saddam's capture. But of course, we're all safer now that he's gone.

Fiscal discipline 

So, Bush is backing off some of his spending proposals (not the tax cuts, of course, wouldn't want to touch those). Obviously he's worried about the Democrats' attacks on h is deficits.
But you have to love this quote, from the Times:

"To assure that Congress observes spending discipline, now and in the future, I propose making spending limits the law," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. "This simple step would mean that every additional dollar the Congress wants to spend in excess of spending limits must be matched by a dollar in spending cuts elsewhere."

Um, Mr. President? Wasn't it you who threw spending discipline out the window?

Hearts and minds 

I'm not quite sure what to say about this Times article. Clearly catching these people is a good thing, but you have to wonder if we're not just creating more like them in the process.

Intelligence failure 

I had a nice big post all written outlining how the media are missing the point over this whole intelligence failure debate, and then blogger went and ate it. I don't have the energy to recreate it all now, but the short version is this:
Let's say, hypothetically, the CIA went out and did its thing and decided that Saddam had WMD, and let's pretend that Bush believed the CIA, and that politics played no role whatsoever (yes, it's a stretch, bear with me here). Bush would still be to blame. Why? Because this is exactly why everyone said preemption was such a bad idea. Intelligence is murky, intelligence can be wrong. That's why you don't invade someone based on intelligence, even seemingly clear-cut intelligence.
Of course, the intelligence in this case was far from clear-cut. But my point is that even if it were, preemption would still be a bad idea.

Um, Joe? 

No one is happier than I am to see Joe Lieberman's campaign go down in flames. He's the worst of the appeasement Democrats (appeasing the Republicans, that is), and we never would have won in November with him as the nominee.
But I have to admit to being a little disappointed in Lieberman's insistence that he's still in this race. He's always seemed like a decent, well-meaning guy, and it's more than a bit sad to see him in such denial (this is a guy who's campaign spokesman actually said his fifth-place finish in New Hampshire was "within the margin of error" for third place. Um, Joe? This was the actual vote. There is no margin of error).
Moreover, Lieberman was never a Kucinich/Sharpton type candidate. He was actually in this race to win. So the only reason he could be staying in is that he really thinks he still can. Couldn't his campaign manager take him aside for a little reality check? I mean, this is just painful to watch.

Special interests and the Dems 

This Times story discusses how the Democratic candidates are taking special interest money, even as they rail against said interests. John Kerry and John Edwards, apparently, take the most money from big corporations, even as they deride Bush for serving those companies' interests.
Hypocrisy? Maybe slightly, but the Times story overlooks two key things: first, no Democrat has a chance of getting elected without fundraising up a storm. Even as it is, the nominee, whoever he will be, is going to be outspent by Bush. And the reality is that big corporations have more money to give than, say, millworkers.
But more importantly, the Dems aren't just railing against Bush for taking special interest money. They're railing against him for serving those interests. He established tarriffs to help the steel industry, gutted environmental regulations to help the oil/power/logging/automobile/... industries, and gave no-bid contracts to Halliburton, to name just a few. If the Dems do what they claim they'll do, then big business won't be cheering. And by and large, the votes the candidates have cast and the policies they've advocated while in office (Clark's lack of a record notwithstanding) have been consistent with their claims.
Getting money out of politics is a worthwhile goal. But money's been around a long time, and there's never been a president as influenced by special interests--most of them personal or family friends--as this one.

Four months later... 

And we're back. Possibly for real, though I can't promise anything.

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