Friday, April 09, 2004
Back to WorkFrom a WaPo piece nominally about Colin Powell, Dana Milbank (obvious) writes about Bush's vacation in Crawford:
This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.I'm not convinced that presidential retreats make for Super Nintendo time and SNES time alone, but on the other hand, there's be a reason presidents like to break away from the White House, right? And after all, the Bush administration still claims that the newest insurgent wave amounts to a handful of Iraqis behaving badly—if that's the case, might as well vacay. Maybe Cheney just likes to have the Office to himself.
But I didn't post this just for the partisan knock, though President Bush really ought to come into work next week. What's very clear from this article is that the Washington Post is going to explode. They have one of the more conservative editorial boards on the block, and then a squad of reporters (like Milbank and Robin Wright and Mike Allen) who would snipe at the Bush administration from the Style section, if necessary. A paper for a partisan world. Does itself some sincere discredit though by not getting the Darkness.
We will rock across the aisle.
posted by kriston at 1:55 PM........
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
War is HellSorry to say that I've been intensely busy for the last few days, which is why bloggage has been light. Still, I've been able to pick at a newspaper during the meager pittance of a lunch I take in my workday, and what I'm seeing of course is that a shitstorm is raining across Iraq. It seems that we've more or less hit critical mass, and any option on the table portends an even worse state of affairs. "Quagmire," yes, but "fu-ucked" is more like it.
You've heard that already, but I picked up an item or two today to share:
John Quiggin elaborates on the latter idea over at Crooked Timber, though I must say, I don't understand why it's essential to him that the Kurds be given their own state. Keeping nations like Turkey out of this conflict is pretty high-priority.
Then again, more nations in the flux probably can't make the situation too much more hopeless.
posted by kriston at 11:34 PM........
Which Right Makes Wrong?I popped my head up from a New Yorker short (print only) on the Pennsylvania Senate race between Arlen Specter and Patrick Toomey just long enough to see that the debate in comments below between Rob and Walsh touches on some similar points. In the case of the debate, I think Rob is calling himself a "lowercase-c conservative," meaning (I presume) that he identifies more emphatically as an economic conservative than as a social liberal. (I've met a number of libertarians here who default as lowercase-l liberals; incidentally, and I don't know exactly how this factors in, those I've met seem to object to Ayn Rand's figurehead status within the party/orientation/whatever.) It will be interesting to see which side of the libertarian coin will fall face up in November, and I'd recommend Megan McArdle (c) or Julian Sanchez (l) if that curious creature called the libertarian piques your curiosity.
Now that Specter/Toomey race, there's a fascinating contest. It's become a microcosm for the direction of the Republican Party, especially in the absence of a primary season. To summarize, here you've got Specter, a seasoned Senator who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is poised for a prestigious Senate Judiciary committee seat—and happens to be pro-choice. Not only that, he's voted against the capital-C Conservative platform a number of times: He helped block Robert Bork, he groomed Clarence Thomas, and he rubberstamps all sorts of awful pork-packed appropriations bills. His challenger for the Republican slot of the contest is Patrick Toomey, a young Penn congressman with far less experience but far purer ideologically. Toomey's consistently voted against important aspects of Bush's platform, particularly the spending and entitlement stuff. Grover Norquist adores Toomey; the Bush administration is pushing Specter.
I can't decide which one I'll be rooting against. Specter's sided with the liberals on a number of social issues, but he's a ranking conservative who's influence is only going to be enhanced by a placement on the Judiciary Committee. As Philip Gourevitch puts it in the article I can't link to, that seat is "the sort of political real estate that should make winning renomination in a primary a cinch." A vote against Specter means that the Pennsylvania Senate seat is more likely to come into contest (and Democratic hands), if not now, then later.
On the other hand, Toomey is a pencil-dick.
Suffice it to say, the right is a less monolithic body than it sometimes seems, and I'll settle on rooting for the Democratic candidate, the less-hyped Joe Hoeffel.
All this writing about conservatism, I've got to go wash my hands.
posted by kriston at 10:30 PM........
Monday, April 05, 2004
Andalusia, Wanna Grow Up to Be a DebaserKeep your eyes on Juan Cole for quite informed commentary on Iraq, if you're not already. He's describing the Spanish-led contingent of the Coalition that (until now, it would appear) oversees the Najaf region:
Ash-sharq al-Awsat also reports that the gunfire at Najaf broke out when demonstrators began throwing stones at Spanish-speaking troops and Iraqi police, and the latter replied by firing at the protesters. The Salvadoran troops that were involved probably had no training in crowd control, and the Salvadoran military has a poor human rights record, so the US decision to deploy them there may have been a big political miscalculation.That's one element of Bush's broadly multinational Coalition that hasn't been discussed—compromising on the minimally acceptable human-rights standard for a nation to contribute means that the Coalition's military directors must be mindful. Sort of a macrocosm of the whole private/mercenary security groups and how they (don't) fit in with the structure of the US military
Not that there's even a shred of usefulness to this thought. The Coalition is fighting both Sunni and Shia forces now and we only need the Kurds to hop in to call it a trifecta. What's it called when the third shoe drops?
Fucked, I think?
posted by kriston at 1:11 PM........
Homonculus RisingThe pro-choice camp was dressed down from all corners last week over its inability to get over ideology and realistically consider the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Cathy Young's article at Reason is a good example:
Refusing to recognize a full-term unborn baby as a person is an extreme position that flies in the face of reality. But "Laci and Conner's Law" goes to the opposite extreme, recognizing the fetus as a person throughout the pregnancy and, at least in theory, enshrining the notion that life begins at conception.I think that the problem is that pro-choice forces have been so adamant for so long about staving off this perceived slippery-slope that were a reasonable compromise to show up, we'd call it a Trojan horse. It's assumed that if you give an inch on some gesture that might be construed as a right for a fetus and blast, lift-off: Life and rights scale back to conception, Roe is undermined, clinics around the nation close down—dogs and cats, living together. For me that concern has only been confirmed by debates with pro-lifers in which, if I recognize that an 8.9999 month-old fetus is sort of close to a baby, my argument is a house of cards and I clearly endorse murder, infanticide, the Holocaust, the New York Yankees, ex-girlfriends and all manner of bitter, leafy green vegetables. It doesn't help that people like Kathryn Jean Lopez have shamelessly trumpeted the pregnant Lacy Peterson murder case as an urgent justification for the Unborn Victims of Violence legislation, suggesting the bill be named the Conner Peterson bill and that it be passed "before Conner Peterson's memory gives way to another news cycle." (No agenda at hand, just her deep affection for little Conner, I'm sure.)
To make a crude analogy, the Lacy Peterson case makes for the sort of intractable moral ground that the left has with the hypothetical rape-pregnancy. I expect a very pregnant woman (who very much wanted to be pregnant) would feel exceptional loss from a forced miscarriage and I'm willing to put all the ontological baggage aside for a moment and say, of course, let's not hurt pregnant women because they're pregnant. The Peterson case is actually a bad example since it's already murder, which you shouldn't be doing regardless—consider a beating of a pregnant woman, etc., where maybe the crime might come with surprisingly few pentalties but the ramifications would be great.
Here's the deal: I think you can have these rational laws on the books and still keep your ontology intact. A fetus isn't a child just by our recognizing that the forcible termination of a pregnancy ought to be penalized. For many of the bill's supporters the goal might be to force the courts to recognize that a zygote is actually a homunculus. (Fighting not against legislation or officials but against semantics, the words themselves.) Faced with a bill that wasn't wrong and the weight of the abortion debate, the pro-choice faction administered the ideological purity test and accordingly failed to accomplish anything. Maybe compromise was impossible with the moral righteousness of Lacy and Conner standing with the right, but it would've been worth the effort to try for actually good legislation.
Note: I wrote this about a week ago with the intention of fleshing it out; here it is with not a lot changed.
posted by kriston at 8:21 AM........
Sunday, April 04, 2004
You Tell Me IIWashington Monthly editor Paul Glastris:
It is clear to me, and to at least some people close to Kerry, that the single best thing Kerry could do to win is pick John McCain as his running mate. In fact, this seems so obvious to me as to be nearly beyond debate. With McCain as veep, we win, period.Something like that. I think that your enthusiasm about a McCain nod depends more on how empty or full your glass is than on anything McCain does or does not bring to the table. Since I think voters tend to follow shiny objects more closely than issue consistency, I'm looking for the option with the biggest bang. He's the one.
For all the liberal programs on the airwaves or pundits on cable, the Democratic Party hasn't yet shown that it understands the message behind the medium. McCain's not the key to victory, but he's closer than anyone else.
Answer me this: What else does McCain have to gain from vocalizing his frustrations with W?
posted by kriston at 7:08 PM........