Thursday, June 14, 2007

We're Kidding You

Ah, the smell of shamelessness in the morning.

From the June 12 press gaggle:

When asked if the indefinite detention of combatants at Guantanamo undermined the President's push for democratization, Snow answered:

Are you saying that detaining people who are plucked off the battlefields is an assault on democracy? Are you kidding me? You're talking about the people who were responsible for supporting the Taliban, somehow detaining them is an assault on democracy?

To which Scott Horton has an entirely reasonable reply:
The battlefield that Al-Marri was “plucked off of” was an apartment complex in West Peoria, Illinois, where he had been living, under constant observation, for many months. He was a computer science student at Bradley University at the time.
So this is the true state of the union here. Just so we're clear here (since this is a fairly important point), the president now has the power to define where the battlefields are (even if the battlefield is your bedroom), who the enemies are (including American citizens - see Padilla - and terrorists' 8 year old children), and is allowed to detain them for as long as he wants and with no due process of law, up to and including Verschaerfte Vernehmung (i.e., torture). In fact, the preliminary evidence shows that Al-Marri may have been reclassified as an enemy combatant because doing so would make it easier to torture him. Topping all of this off, I want to mention the fact that Guantanamo is only the public face of Bush's entire corruption of justice. Obscured in all of this is the existence of secret CIA prisons (black sites) scattered all over the world. Toss in a little destruction of habeus corpus and I'd say we're at about September of 1983. Only 3 months to go.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today's Must Read

Andrew Sullivan on the roots of the term "enhanced interrogation techniques".

His post is way beyond essential reading. If you want to get a grasp on how future historians may look at our torture policy then read the entire thing and digest. Point by point, the evidence is damning.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Congratulations, San Antonio Sterns

Wilbon agrees with me:

If the NBA is going to demand that its players not retaliate, that they refrain from taking the eye-for-an-eye revenge that traditionally characterized athletic competition since the beginning of time, then the league is obligated to protect the aggrieved party. ...
But after having their all-NBA center Stoudemire and valuable reserve Boris Diaw suspended for running 25 feet or so toward where their teammate, and two-time MVP, had been tossed through the air like a Nerf ball, why would the Suns trust the NBA to protect them again? What's the incentive to not retaliate if the league won't be proactive and stand up to the instigator before something truly regrettable happens?

I posted on this a few days earlier:

Second, and more important in my view is the complete failure of the NBA front office to protect Steve Nash throughout this entire series. This failure directly led to the emptying of the Suns bench. In this series, Nash has been (in order): given stitches in his nose because of a headbutt by Tony Parker, kneed in the groin by Bruce Bowen, and finally flagrantly flung from the sideline into the scorers table. The second offense was investigated by the league and no further action was taken.
So the failure of the league to send a clear signal to Bowen that henceforth his tactics would be severely punished must have sent a correspondingly clear signal to the Suns: going forward, if the NBA won't protect Nash then we have to. Hence, Amare and Boris on the floor.

I'm still too angry to write any further, just hoping that a Stern resignation meme picks up steam. I'm probably asking for too much.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

David Stern should resign

That's the conclusion I've reached after watching the Suns give it their all and come up short in Game 5. This series, while not completely over, nonetheless is now heavily tilted in favor of the Spurs. Stern has always been a notoriously heavy handed dictator (see the Joey Crawford incident), but this is probably the most egregious example of injustice in the NBA that I can remember. I've lost pretty much all faith in Stern and his ability to be an honest broker for the players and the league. His actions have seriously undermined fan support in the US and abroad.

The Spurs have been playing an extremely provocative style of NBA basketball, where they couple borderline dirty defensive tactics with a style of play on the offensive end that can best be described as a FlopFest. This Bowen-Ginobili style of play is almost guaranteed to eventually cause a blow-up by an opposing team, one that will be much worse than the mild tickle fight seen in Game 4. A team can only take so much abuse on both ends of the court (with no corresponding corrective actions taken by the league), before that team is going to lose its composure.

This is actually kind of ironic, since it means that Stern is pretty much encouraging and inciting that which his strict interpretation of the rulebook is trying to prevent. This also means that when this future brawl occurs, the team starting the fight will be punished more heavily than the Spurs. Once again rewarding the team using questionable (dirty) tactics. This kind of stuff is once again dragging the NBA down, making it very hard to continue watching games without feeling a mild sense of disgust. After rising out of the cellar in the early 2000s, the league now has a chance to remain a truly great league again. So David Stern, fix it or get out.

Pretty amazing op-ed blasting torture in the WaPo today from a former Marine commandant and a former CinC CENTCOM. There's really no need for me to elaborate on it, other than point out that 1) they're pretty strongly against torture for all the right reasons (moral and strategic concerns being the 2 strongest arguments), and 2) they're pretty obviously not terrorists or freedom-haters. What gives? Maybe these guys really are Al-Qaeda.

(Note: I was going to make a really snarky comment about joining the John Birch society so I could have the necessary tools to infiltrate the military and root out terrorist sympathizers, so I went to their website to gather some info. Turns out they're not exactly pro-torture either. See here, here, here, and especially here (follow the link on the page to see what waterboarding is really like). So I guess JBS gets crossed off my "Assumed Hypocritical Conservative" list, in fact the more I read the more I liked the JBS' espousal of reduced executive branch authority.)

(Note 2: Charles Krulak is the son of Victor "Brute" Krulak, a pretty famous Marine general during the Vietnam era. He is famously described in Neil Sheehan's "A Bright Shining Lie", I highly recommend it.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Suspension.... frankly a load of horseshit.

I'm speaking of the now infamous suspension of Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. The two Phoenix Suns players were each suspended one game for leaving the bench after Cheap Shot Rob delivered a body check to Steve Nash:

The NBA has a (supposedly) very strict rule on players leaving the bench during a fracas. Plain and simple: if you leave the bench, your ass is going to sit the next game. This rule is applied regardless of a players intention, whether they're off the bench to see if their player is OK or whether they plan on giving a collective Claw to the entire opposing team.

Their are several problems with the NBA's decision in this case.

First, apparent from looking at the video, Stoudemire and Diaw never made it anywhere near the other team before they were caught and escorted back to their bench. No harm, no foul - especially since the player who was manhandled was Steve Nash, two-time MVP not to mention the heart and soul of the Suns team. Which leads me to the second problem.

Second, and more important in my view is the complete failure of the NBA front office to protect Steve Nash throughout this entire series. This failure directly led to the emptying of the Suns bench. In this series, Nash has been (in order): given stitches in his nose because of a headbutt by Tony Parker, kneed in the groin by Bruce Bowen, and finally flagrantly flung from the sideline into the scorers table. The second offense was investigated by the league and no further action was taken. Once again, let's go to the tape:

Very subtle, no? You may argue that it was inadvertent. Could be - however, the player in question is Bruce Bowen. That in itself should warn you that his ballcrusher move was indeed intentional. Bowen wouldn't be Bowen if he didn't practice his wares with a subtle hand. It's like saying that a master thief couldn't have stolen something because he didn't leave any prints behind. Of course he didn't -that's why he's a master. So the failure of the league to send a clear signal to Bowen that henceforth his tactics would be severely punished must have sent a correspondingly clear signal to the Suns: going forward, if the NBA won't protect Nash then we have to. Hence, Amare and Boris on the floor.

Third, the behavior of Tim Duncan clearly leaving the bench in the 2nd quarter was never fully addressed by Stu Jackson. As seen below, after Francisco Elson dunked the ball he fell over the top of James Jones. Duncan comes wandering out onto the court until Bowen (of all people) can herd him back to the bench. According to Stu Jackson,

"Both players got up," Jackson said. "There was no altercation, and they ran down to the other end of the court."
This is a factually correct statement, but it completely ignores the possibility that Tim Duncan may have been looking to start an altercation where one didn't exist. Is it likely he was looking to brawl? No - but that is why the rule was put in place - to remove any ambiguities about a players intention. This strict reading of the rule book is why Diaw and Stoudemire were suspended, and following this same logic leads to the conclusion that Bowen and Duncan should also be suspended. Posing a hypothetical, suppose Raja Bell had been in that corner when Duncan came off the court. Chances are very high that Bell (or any Sun in the corner for that matter) would have taken his move as an escalation, possibly leading to a brawl. Looking at it from a different angle, using the NBA's own corrupted logic, while Duncan was on the floor Boris Diaw could have turned around and slapped him in the face, thereby causing an altercation and the automatic suspension of both him and Duncan. This would basically be a Diaw-for-Duncan tradeoff, one that any Sun would take in a heartbeat. Such is the state of discipline in the NBA, where teams can make morally dubious tactical decisions that the league will then reward.

New Version 2.0

Technically not new, since she was born over six weeks ago. Gabriella is her name, filling diapers is her game.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Too Good to Pass Up

Via Balloon Juice, from the "Bashing Celebrities Feels Sooooo Good" Department:

Madonna getting upset with her daughter for dressing too slutty is like Mr. T getting upset with his son for pitying too many fools. I think there was a period in Madonna’s life where all she wore was spaghetti pasta and condoms.

Read the full post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cuz It's The Final Countdown

Welly, Welly, Welly. We're down to the final 5 week stretch for Project Make-Babytime. And none too soon, as the wife is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Ankles, neck, back, neck and back, you name it - this kid's a behemoth. Anyways, say hello to Slogger 2.0:

Friday, February 23, 2007

A great article today in the Times profiling Gov. Bill Richardson. Read it. I have to say, this guy's got probably more overall experience (local/state, foreign policy, domestic) than any other candidate on either side of the aisle. He's very slick, and just seems to have a knack for getting things done while keeping animosity towards him to a minimum. The latter quality is going to be useful come 2009 - Congress is starting to look more and more like Iraq with all of the sects, tribes, and blood feuds.

It's too bad the Ob-ilary juggernaut will most likely doom his chances, I would have liked to see him run in a general election. He gives the Dems a good voice in the South, and the blue states are all going blue anyways so he can't cause any damage there.

Via Andrew Sullivan comes this interview between Gen. William Odom and Hugh Hewitt. The entire thing is absolutely fascinating. I have to admit, I came away from this very enamored of Gen. Odom. His candor, obvious intelligence, and manner of speaking all reinforce for me the basic belief that (at least in regards to the armed services) the country is in good hands. If America is producing soldiers like this (including Gen. Petraeus, our current commander in Iraq), then at least we can consider their types to be a buffer to a President seemingly intent on displaying the size of his cojones (even if said cojones are in the process of being snipped).

Side note: Petraeus is an extremely intelligent and able commander with a real grasp of the techniques and strategies needed to fight an entrenched insurgency. He just so happens to be trapped in an unwinnable situation - on the home front trapped between the intense partisan bickering. And on the actual war front, at all costs he must maintain morale (i.e., not admit outright that we're failing) and balance that with the need to appear connected with the reality of the situation (i.e., recognize the fact that we're failing). We could have really used his abilities back in 2003-2005 (when his talents could have actually made a difference).

I almost forgot to mention this, in the linked interview check out Hewitt's final attempt to get in the last word. Check this out:

H: Last question, General, do you believe you could be wrong about all this?

WO: Of course.

HH: I thought…I knew as a professional you’d say that. Thank you for your time, General William Odom, and for your service.

WO: Okay, right. Bye.

End of interview.

Hewitt dribbles around..with time running out...he throws up a desperation fadeaway from halfcourt...and scores!! Final score: D.C Partisan Hacks - 3, Appeasing Freedom Haters - 0. That was a close one, I sure am glad that he just saved America.

Does he think this kind of "gotcha" moment is actually productive? Does he actually believe that his views could be wrong (especially after just getting those views skewered by an ACTUAL military officer)?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our Man In Baghdad

A Sunni woman reports that she was raped by member of the Iraqi National Police (Shiite-dominated, BTW). Once again, the country is torn along sectarian lines - Shiites are disbelieving and Sunnis outraged (I'm presuming the Hatfields and McCoys are not happy about the situation either). Certainly, this is a moment calling for tact, understanding, and above all a desire to not inflame the situation any further. Enter Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki wearing Iraq-style kid gloves. His solution:

  1. Call for a thorough investigation.
  2. End said investigation after a couple of hours.
  3. Denounce Sunni rape victim as liar, issue arrest warrants against her.
  4. Reward (!) 3 Shiite officers accused of being rapists:
    Only hours later, however, Mr. Maliki reversed himself. His office released a second statement after midnight, that one calling the woman a liar and a wanted criminal and going on to praise the officers involved.
    “It has been shown after medical examinations that the woman had not been subjected to any sexual attack whatsoever, and that there are three outstanding arrest warrants against her issued by security agencies,” said the second statement. “After the allegations have been proven to be false, the prime minister has ordered that the officers accused be rewarded.”
  5. Using steps 1-4 as a template, create Western style democracy free from sectarian and ethnic tensions.
This is the man we're depending on to stabilize Iraq. I'll freely admit that this woman could be lying (she was initially detained on suspicion of providing aid to insurgents). But is this really the best way to go about handling the situation? Couldn't he wait a few days or a week, let the Iraqi wheels of injustice spin for a bit, let the bribes and tribal blood feuds die down, then denounce her?? What about a little something called damage control?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

If A Civil Liberty Falls In Cuba.....

...can VP Cheney just toss you down a black hole and claim it never happened??

You may remember the (false) sense of tension being generated as the Military Commisssions Act of 2006 was being debated. The noble 3 Senators - Graham, Warner, and Big Daddy McCain - were locked in an old fashioned cockfight for the soul of our great republic against the mad King George. At the last second, this noble trio pulled the USA back from the brink, saved the Republic, and most likely also got the girl. So now that everything is back to normal, how are things going on that whole detainee issue? Er..not so hot:

A divided judicial panel ruled this morning that about 400 foreign nationals who have been detained for as long as five years at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, do not have rights to challenge their indefinite imprisonment through the U.S. court system.

In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that Congress's 2006 Military Commissions Act firmly blocked detainees from trying to appeal the president's decision to hold them without charges and without any promise of release.

One more reason to actively oppose McCain in '08. His "principled" stand was actually a complete and utter capitulation, and the seeds from that poisoned plant are finally starting to bear fruit. The fact that he played it up as a victory for liberty makes it that much more disgraceful.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Straight Talk Express, Clinton-style

I just have to link to Yglesias on Clinton:

Hillary Clinton: "Some people may be running who may tell you that we don't face a real threat from terrorism. I am not one of those."
Whew. Where have all the straight shooters like Hillary been the last 6 years? Truly, if I could pick one threat facing America that's been really underreported, I would have to pick terrorism. There's been an appalling lack of interest in this subject, I would guess starting around September or October 2001.

In The Midst of War, An Unlikely Bro-mance Arose

From a biography of Ariel Sharon comes the following call to arms (a mini-Gettysburg if you will) from our Most Eloquent One:

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"
Of course, what two consenting male adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is none of my concern.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Big Al and Big Music == BFF

An Al Gore-Bon Jovi ticket? Despite my respect for Big Al's attention to the environment, I can't shake the feeling that Gore's desperately hoping to be recruited for another run at the Big P. I'm not completely opposed to this actually happening, I'm just not sure this sort of path to the presidency is still a possibility in today's society. I think this idea is doomed to failure, even with the immense power of the Kanye West lobby in your pocket.

Gore's apparent strategy (I'm going to take it as a given that he IS going to run at some point) is reminiscent of past candidates-in-waiting (Nelson Rockefeller, Adlai Stevenson, a half hearted attempt by LBJ in '68), who sit around waiting to snatch the nomination by means of a stampede at the convention. The only stampede in the modern era that was successful was Teddy Roosevelt's in 1908 (the fact that he declined the nomination does nothing to diminish the impact of the stampede itself, since the nomination was his for the taking).

The big difference today is that it's impossible to stampede a convention due to the 24 hour news cycle (where parties are now loathe to be perceived as not in harmony) and the decline of the party boss (who could twist arms - sometimes literally - to obtain necessary votes). Factor in the money angle (whoever has the most money/big name donors lined up is automatically perceived as a potential winner), and at the end of the day I think the later you declare the worse off you're going to be. This is especially important in the very crowded and high profile field for 2008 . Besides, Gore is probably barking up the wrong tree by appealing to the younger set - I'm not entirely convinced that the recent upticks in voter turnout (including younger demographics) aren't just due to the presence of an enormously unpopular sitting president.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Google Reader and RSS feeds

I've never been a big fan of RSS readers. RSS feeds are extremely useful (especially on non-PC type computing devices - mobile, TV, etc.) - the idea of an automatically updating stream of information delivered in one central location is very appealing. The execution of stream reader software has generally been very spotty though (IMHO). Sage was pretty interesting, but it ultimately ended up with the rest - bloating up my firefox extensions cuz I'm too lazy to remove it.
Enter Google Reader, the first feed reader software that I've actually used and didn't discard as an interesting novelty program. Labeling (which still needs some work), embedded audio streams, and especially the Quicksilver-esque keyboard shortcuts have all been executed very smartly, and I'm looking forward to using this in the future.