Category Archives: War on Terror

All Politics Linkorama

All political links today, I’m afraid:

  • More on why our evil drug companies aren’t so evil.
  • I have to agree with Saletan. The Democrats won big over the last two years, getting huge pieces of legislation passed. Elections are temporary; big government programs are forever. By the same token, I think the GOP really lost in 2000. They won an election but completely screwed the pooch on policy. Unfortunately, much of the current GOP leadership can’t tell the difference.
  • Michael Bloomberg: soup nazi.
  • I really don’t know what to make of payday lending. The arguments against are obvious. But Reason point out that banning them may simply be making things worse.
  • This sort of thing, in which a reporter waxes rhapsodic about how romantic the Communists are, drives me nuts.
  • Torture update: the Brits say Bush is full of it; but Obama says he won’t go after agents who concealed it
  • If the Democrats sided with a foreign government against the President, I imagine we’d be seeing a different reaction.
  • 400 Win Linkorama

    Non-Political Links:

  • The list of things we are afraid of but shouldn’t be continues to grow: add Halloween and BPA.
  • Is this political? I shouldn’t think so. I don’t think there’s much politics in thinking it’s disgusting when debt collectors break the law.
  • Political Links:

  • I agree with this rant to some extent. People who say “our country should take care of the poor/sick/infirm/etc” need to explain why we can’t do so with the $6 trillion we’re already spending. In the end, restraint on government spending is going to have to come from the Left (as it did in the 90’s). Because we can’t help people if we’re just burning money to no good end. We have to prioritize.
  • I think Eddie Izzard got it right. California is quickly becoming the Nanny State. Soon they’ll be going to the libraries for a wild time.
  • Charles Johnson describes how he came to view waterboarding as torture and as wrong. My progress was identical.
  • Ooops. This is one of those times, like with the CDCs bullshit obesity statistics, that I wonder if someone made the mistake deliberately in order to get a bogus meme into circulation. How many lefties do you think will site the bogus statistics without correction?
  • More horrors from the CPSIA, one of the stupidest laws to ever pass our Congress. Keep in mind while you read: Mattel, the company that poisoned our toys in the first place, was given a federal waiver to do their own internal testing.
  • Labor Day Linkorama

  • Now this study must be 100% accurate.
  • While this is about politics, I mainly link to it for the inspiring story of Sam Meas, running for Congress three decades after his family was butcher by the Khmer Rouge.
  • Political Links:

  • Why do I like Anne Applebaum, apart from her amazing book Gulag? Because she’s admitting she was wrong on Iraq. I think half the problems in this country would go away if people could admit when they’re wrong.
  • You’re Full Of It Watch: Joe Biden.
  • Daily Kos has a fit because the deficit commission is likely to recommend “cuts” to Social Security (see previous postings on the nature of these “cuts”). The idea, here, however, is supposed to be compromise. If we get spending cuts, I’ll acquiesce to tax hikes.
  • How can illegal immigration be going down? Obama is turning this place into a welfare state and not enforcing the border, right? Shouldn’t that be drawing more of them in, complete with anchor babies?
  • more on the ridiculous CPSIA.
  • A double whammy from Lenore Skenazy. A horror story of Zero Tolerance stupidity; and why these measures are stupid to being with.
  • The dim bulb legislature in California condemns the FTA that would open markets to their products.
  • Russ Roberts tackles the myth that WW2 ended the Depression.
  • Boortz On Rauf

    How crazy have people gotten over this mosque? Neal Boortz has a rant today in which he accuses Imam Rauf of wanting to … God, I don’t know. Impose Sharia on the country or something. His evidence? The title of Rauf’s book. He hasn’t read the book, of course. And isn’t familiar with anything Rauf has said other than elided quotes the Right Wing is dragging around. But he knows Rauf is an Islamist who is going to subject the entire nation.

    I feel like I’ve fallen into an alternate universe. I am shocked with how rapidly the Right Wing (and “libertarian” Boortz) have descended into unthinking shrieking fear and terror.

    (Boortz is getting unreadable these days. Every item is some shrieking rant about how Obama is destroying the country. Today’s notes are:

    1) Obama is “dismantling” America (screaming hysteria)

    2) The Mosque is being built by Islamists (screaming factually-challenged hysteria)

    3) School choice (legitimate issue)

    4) The pension bailout (legitimate, if unlikely issue)

    5) Obama seizing 401ks (screaming hysteria Boortz has been flogging for about 15 years)

    Moroever, it’s laced with enormous amounts of angry invective (referring to Obama as “the Community Organizer” instead of the President, for example). It’s tiring to read. How can people wallow n such a morass of anger and hatred? What happened to the movement that was so vibrant and fun when it opposed Clinton?’

    Update: Dave Weigel reminds us of the last time this thing erupted. And it was a Democrat driving the hysteria.

    Update: So this.

    Party Like It’s 2004

    An analogy occurred to me today that I’m surprised took so long. I was reading the latest rantings about Park51, the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” when it struck me.

    The Ground Zero Mosque is to 2010 what gay marriage was to 2004.

    Allow me to elaborate.

    During the Bush years, the Republicans decided to throw the gays under the bus of their political ambitions. They rallied behind things like the Defense of Marriage Amendment because their political strategists, e.g., Rove, told them it was the path to political victory.

    At the time, I thought it was monumentally stupid. Apart from my own opinions on both gay marriage and bus-throwing-under, it was a bad long-term strategy. While polls showed that the majority of Americans (and massive numbers of conservatives) opposed gay marriage, the long term trend was in favor, especially among the youngest voters. For a temporary political gain, the Republicans sacrificed long-term strategy, turning off moderate Democrats, independents and young voters. Like so much under the Bush Administration, the future was sacrificed to the present.

    Indeed, as the link above notes, many Republicans had misgivings among themselves at the time. And in recent years, they’ve been backing away from that position, supporting civil unions in increasing numbers. Hell, even Glenn Beck is not opposed to gay marriage any more.

    I fear the GOP is about to run down an even more dangerous culture war dead end with this Cordoba House business. In the last week, the campaign has only intensified, especially now that Obama has voiced his support for religious freedom. Now the mosque opponents are accusing Obama of standing with the 9/11 hijackers, a statement that truly vile (especially in light of the President’s increasing efforts to destroy terrorists). This disgusting line is now showing up in the political ads of major Republican figures.

    But the parallels to 2004 and gays are eerie:

    1) Both involve stomping on a small minority.

    2) Numerous moderate — or at least non-stupid — conservative are staying away. I’ve noticed a number of blogs and a handful of politicians being conspicuously silent on the issue (although unwilling to call the GOP out). They realize how dumb this but are unwilling to go against their own tribe.

    3) In both cases, the root emotion may be understandable uneasiness with changes to our culture: increasing acceptance of gays in 2004 and increasing religious diversity in 2010.

    4) In both cases, the Republicans were on the side of the opinion polls of the moment — majorities opposed gay marriage in 2004 and the majority oppose Cordoba now.

    5) In both cases, the Republican position will only become less popular with time.

    The latter, to me, is very obvious. The Ground Zero Mosque is a fabricated issue. Salon runs down how this controversy evolved. Objections were fairly muted until it came to the attention of anti-Islamic bigot Pamela Geller. Now the GOP is going full bore, riding the whirlwind. In time, however, passions will cool and people will wonder what the big deal was. And when that happens, the GOPs complicity in this will not go unnoticed.

    (This is also why I disagree with the people praising Obama for his political courage in defending the mosque against popular opinion. We’ve seen time and again that Obama is smarter than the GOP. While they are focused on the tactics of the moment, he is focused on the long term political strategy. In time — I’m guessing by November 2012 — the mosque will be forgotten. But Obama’s stand with a religious minority will not be.)

    But there’s more than just politics to this. I feel that, to gain a temporary political advantage, the Republicans are unnecessarily undermining the War on Terror. Mark Halperin:

    Up until now, you have restricted yourself as much as possible to an economic message, eschewing social issues and foreign policy as you try to establish contrasts for the electorate between your brand and the Obama-Pelosi-Reid record. This is a smart, straightforward strategy, since worried voters chiefly are concerned about unemployment and the nation’s future financial prospects.

    But please don’t [make an issue of the Mosque]. There are a handful of good reasons to oppose allowing the Islamic center to be built so close to Ground Zero, particularly the family opposition and the availability of other, less raw locations. But what is happening now — the misinformation about the center and its supporters; the open declarations of war on Islam on talk radio, the Internet and other forums; the painful divisions propelled by all the overheated rhetoric — is not worth whatever political gain your party might achieve.

    It isn’t clear how the battle over the proposed center should or will end. But two things are profoundly clear: Republicans have a strong chance to win the midterm elections without picking a fight over President Obama’s measured words. And a national political fight conducted on the terms we have seen in the past few days will lead to a chain reaction at home and abroad that will have one winner — the very extreme and violent jihadists we all can claim as our true enemy.

    The Republicans do not need this issue to win in November. And the people who will be most delighted by Bloquing the Mosque will be Osama bin Laden and other radical jihadists who will be able to claim that America is not what she claims to be; that Islam is oppressed in the West; that this is a religious conflict.

    Look, I’m not a completely insensitive prick (just mostly). I understand why a mosque might bother some people. But we’re talking about a fundamental liberty at a moment when we are faced with an enemy who is desperate to turn their violent lunacy into a global religious conflict. We do not need this.

    (And, yes, I am aware that Harry Reid has waffled on the mosque. All the more reason for that asshole to go down in flames, even if that means pig-headed Sharron Angle in he Senate for six years. But Obama is the de facto leader of the party. His support for the mosque is he party’s official position, just like Sarah Palin’s is the official position of the GOP until larger political figures say otherwise.)

    Update: Unbelievable. The mosque opponents are now claiming victim status because they’re insulted by being portrayed as prejudiced. Welcome to the Modern GOP. If they can’t say or do whatever they like, they’re being oppressed.

    Update: More evidence that this will be political poison for the GOP in the long term: while the majority of Americans opposed the mosque, the majority of Americans also believe the Muslims have a right to build it. In other words, they oppose it personally — but they don’t want the government to get involved. That’s certainly a more reasonable point of view.

    Terror Babies

    A perfect example of how insane parts of the GOP have become is this rant about how we need to end birthright citizenship because Middle Eastern women might have babies in this country. And those babies will grow up to be terrorists who can come back to this country easily and blow things up.

    Destroying this idea is the work of seconds. To wit: we have plenty of people in this country, born to citizens, who grow up to be terrorists all on their own — John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla, Timothy McVeigh, eco-terrorists. It’s plenty easy for terrorists born in other countries to legally enter the US and blow things up (the first WTC bombers, the 9/11 terrorists, the Undie Bomber, the Shoe Bomber, etc.). And terrorists, almost be definition, do not think long term.

    In short, we’re being asked to deny citizenship to millions of people because … someone someday might become a terrorist. This is the most vile nativist thing I think I’ve ever heard. It pointlessly insults millions because of a hypothetical and thus far mythical danger.

    But moreover, it represents the diseased thinking that infests every aspect of the War on Terrorism. The way to deal with terror threats is:

    1) Figure out what the threat is;

    2) Figure out how much it would cost to mitigate that danger, in time, money and lost liberty;

    3) Deal with the threats that have the greatest danger against the least inconvenience. If something is a minimal threat and could only be dealt with by a tremendous amount of effort (and suffering to innocents), suck up and deal. Trust in the American public to defend us.

    Screening airline passengers is an example of this thought process gone right. It’s something of a burden but there is a very real danger in not screening passengers. Air marshalls are another example. It costs some, but the potential of stopping an attack is good.

    The above thought process is so obvious, I feel like an idiot even typing it out. But this straight-forward policy seems to be beyond the ken of most politicians, who prefer to deal with terror threat like so.

    1) Imagine a threat;

    2) Declare that we must do whatever it takes to mitigate that danger, no matter what the negative consequences.

    From three ounce limits on liquids to torture, our policies are based not on an objective analysis of reality, but upon someone sitting around and thinking about things that might happen. We are not asked to think about how likely it it is to happen nor the cost of dealing with it. We are just told that must sacrifice treasure, freedom, lives and our national principles to deal with any danger, no matter how remote it is.

    Of the many things that turned me against liberalism, one of the greatest was the tendency to defend massive expensive intrusive social programs by claiming they were “worth it” if they only helped a single person. (To be fair, conservatives do this too on drug policy). This always seemed massively irrational to me. If a program costs a billion dollars and helps one person, that’s a gigantic waste of resources. Give me a billion dollars and I’ll help more than one person. And in the 90’s, that thinking began to infiltrate our government in such things as setting limits on how much regulations could cost industry against how many lives it saved. The thinking was that saving one life at a cost of ten million dollars wasn’t worth it. Putting ten million dollars into a hospital would be a better use of resources.

    This idea — cost-benefits analysis — used to be the domain of Republicans. No longer. The menace of bearded maniacs has filled them with such pants-shitting terror thatno price is too high to pay to remove whatever potential threat they’ve conjured up in their imaginations. For people who like to quote Thomas Jefferson about sacrificing essential liberty, this is truly depressing.

    PS: I actually am not sure that even Gohmert believes this pile of shit. This is probably just a justification for removing birthright citizenship because of the mythical anchor baby menace. He’s invoking the threat of terrorism as cover. But, in a way, that’s even worse.

    Thursday Linkorama

    Non-political links:

  • Hey, it’s no surprise to me that one of the most religious nations on Earth is also the biggest consumer of porn. What do you expect when every woman in a ten mile radius is covered with the living room drapes?
  • Fecal transplants. No, that’s not a mis-spelling.
  • Yep. Celebrities are stupid. Unless they’re conservative, of course.
  • Political Links:

  • One thing I like about Andrew Napolitano: he’s consistent. A few weeks ago, he blasted Arizona’s immigration law as unconstitutional. Today he said Bush and Cheney should be indicted for committing torture and eavesdropping. I agree. Our treaty obligations say that we must investigate allegations of torture and prosecute those who authorized it. And under our Constitution, a signed treaty has the power of federal law.
  • Radley Balko writes a brave column defending Johannes Mehserle.
  • Yet more reasons I’m glad I left Texas. That’s two cracked links in one linkorama.
  • I already posted on it at the other blog, but this Black Panther business is just ridiculous.
  • So now Google joins Microsoft and Paypal as companies that are getting trust-busted because they wouldn’t play politics.
  • Friday Linkorama

    Non-political Links:

  • Is this what we’ve come to? Death threats against psychic cephalopods? Have we no decency?
  • Scott Adams imagines a cashless world. Maybe. But it makes me nervous. Sue and I recently went to a cash basis for most our spending. It has really forced us to economize and stick to a budget. Credit cards are too great a temptation.
  • The latest on the fight between Jezebel and the Daily Show. I have only seen one of Olivia Munn’s segments but she seems pretty funny, hot or not.
  • I rarely actually laugh out loud at something on the internet. But Catalog Living has caught me twice. Here’s a good one.
  • Political Links:

  • God damn it. What is it with government know-it-alls continually flunking basic economics.
  • The media stopped calling torture by its name when Bush began to dispute whether things like waterboarding were torture. They still called it torture when China did it. Well, not any more.
  • Climategate is now five for five in investigations of scientific fraud. They are also five or five in being rebuked for asshole behavior and a lack of transparency. The response of the Right? Call it a whitewash.
  • My unending question: what is the post of having liberals around if the most liberal court in the nation decides that being innocent does not get you out of jail if you filed your motion too late?
  • Sarah Attempts Foreign Policy

    Sarah Palin recently put up a facebook note that is being hailed in some quarters as her first brilliant foray into foreign policy.

    Bullshit. It’s nothing but slogans and talking points nailed and glued together. Clever quips that mean nothing and Right Wing dog whiste blowing. She doesn’t say anything original or, indeed, accurate. This is what the GOP has come to: a speech that Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t open his show with on a bad day shows someone is a serious politico.

    Going into this, I should say that while I think Sarah Palin is ignorant on the issues, I don’t think she’s stupid. I just don’t think she cares about the issues enough to look into the subtleties and trade-offs (see a point here about her criticism of fruit fly research). She speaks entirely in talk radio bullet points and has no interest in facts, details or philosophy. Indeed, the only time she had a chance to get involved in policy, as a governor, she quit to get a job spouting talking points on Fox News and the talk circuit.

    This is all a game to her, a game of Celebrity. The goal is to get attention, adulation and money, not to actually solve problems or help the country. (Politicians who want to help their state don’t generally quit the second it gets tough). And this “brilliant” facebook note is a perfect example — a diatribe so thin even a third rate blogger can take it apart.

    Continue reading Sarah Attempts Foreign Policy

    Thursday Linkorama

    This linkorama is brought to you by the letter H.

    Non-political links:

  • More on the horrific torture and murder of children in Nigeria on witchcraft charges. Worse: the lead witch-smeller pursuivant is being feted by people in this country.
  • Gun cliches. These annoy the heck out of me too.
  • I actually think the discovery of vast mineral reserves in Afghanistan could be bad for that country. Natural resources are frequently more of a curse than a blessing. Think of war-ravaged Africa on the one hand and the British Empire on the other.
  • Coolness. A direct image of an exoplanet.
  • Another study looks at why there are fewer women in science. I expect this will be an unpopular study — note what happened to Larry Summers. But hopefully it will stimulate some discussion. While I think the study makes some points, I’m not convinced we are in the interest-limited regime for women in physics.
  • Jesus. (H/T: Astropixie).
  • Political Links:

  • Bill Kristol, the delusional hack who denounced predictions of sectarian violence in post-war Iraq as liberal hysteria, is advocating for bombing Iran. I should really fisk the shit out of this one. Well, somebody already did.
  • Why I Don’t Like Big Government, Part 135: Apple is getting castigated and threatened for not genuflecting to Washington. We’ve seen similar things happen to Microsoft, Paypal and Google. If you become powerful, you have to give Washington their pound of flesh. There is no opting out of the lobbying game.
  • I remember Margaret Thatcher. I admired Margaret Thatcher. You, Sarah Palin, are no Margaret Thatcher.
  • You can add Denmark to Spain and Germany as countries that have lost jobs as a result of “investment” in green industries. Broad tax incentives, not subsidies, are the way to go here. Subsidized industries are almost always an economic drag.
  • Illnois educators are retiring well.
  • Yet more unintended consequences, this time from bank charge restrictions.
  • As I feared, Republicans want to fix healthcare by removing the insurance mandate but leaving everything intact. This would be the only thing worse than the current bill — it would destroy the insurance industry.
  • Afghanistan Long Ago

    If you read nothing else on the internet today, read this story about what Afghanistan used to be like before the country plunged into the depths of radicalism. I remember seeing pictures like this in the Helmand restaurant in Baltimore (an astonishing restaurant run by the Karzai’s brother).

    The amazing thing about Islamic countries is that, up until fifty years ago, they were much more secular than even parts of the west. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali pointed out, a decision was made to plunge the region into the abyss of Wahabism.

    Monday Linkorama

  • The Volokh guys have a point. Where should accused criminals live?
  • It’s only one guy claiming that Bush knew hundreds of Gitmo occupants were innocent. But given what we’ve found out in just that last two years, does it really sound implausible? Just one more reason I don’t mind the GOP being out of office.
  • Two more notes from the global warming front. First, a new report on glaciers disappearing from Glacier National Park. And then a nice, if snarky, debunking of Lord Monckton. Monckton is probably the worst of what I call “Bad Skeptics” on AGW. He is not interested in accurately assessing whether AGW is real or dangerous. He’s interested in using whatever tricks he can to claim it’s a hoax. The video mentions a “Good Skeptic” — the team analyzing satellite data at Alabama-Huntsville. They disagree with consensus — but do with real science and real data.
  • Lenore Skenazy has another great idea. Do we really want another generation of kids who need their parents to negotiate job benefits?
  • A wonderful article from Reason disputes the notion — now mantra among supposed conservatives — that we once had a golden age of liberty from which we’ve declined. In the words of Clarence Thomas, it doesn’t seem that way to black people.