Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Week (and beyond)

Just a quickie, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to thank Senator Jim Webb of Virginia for taking the sentry post in the U.S. Senate these two weeks. His presence in that hallowed hall prevents "recess" appointments which would wreak further havoc in the body politic.

If Mr. Bush wants to appoint someone to a position which needs Senate consent, he should make the nomination. He shouldn't make "recess" appointments.

Perhaps the nominees are persons of high caliber, but it's best to Trust, but Verify.

We appreciate Senator Webb's service in this rather thankless job.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Townhall Follies v 11.22.07

Over at Take That, I'm fond, Dear Gentle Reader(s), of using a mild epithet for much of the thinking presented at In the interest of promoting civility in my political discourse, I shall not use the same language here at Trust, But Verify. (I might privately be thinking it; I will abjure using it...and I'll offer up the resulting goodness points for the poor souls in Purgatory. [modest blush]) That said, I have a notion or two to offer:

Jared Lorence: The ACLU and Its Allies: Standing in Need of Prayer
The ACLU?s perennial lawsuits attacking our nation?s religious heritage are backfiring, and that?s something for which you can give thanks this year. Note that the ACLU has never attacked "our nation's religious heritage." It has attacked many attempts to have some government entities "establish" some sort of religious recognition.

Victor Davis Hanson: With Iraq Improving, Will Neocon Ideas Return?
More than seven months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., claimed that Iraq was ?lost.? But that was hardly the case. In fact, Sunni insurgents were just beginning to turn on al-Qaida and join us. Two points here--is V.D. implying the "neocon ideas" deserve to return? On what possible grounds, that they were so worthy? So effective? So well developed?; is it really the case that Iraq is not "lost?" By what criteria? Have Sunni insurgents really "joined" us? Is a mutual pact to diminish effectiveness (!) of the death dealing "other" insurgents really a joining with long term possibilities?

William Rusher: What's Wrong With a Flag Pin in Your Lapel?
I am an American who wears a small American-flag pin in my lapel. Few people have ever mentioned it to me, favorably or otherwise, but I am aware that some individuals are quietly offended by the practice. Nah. The lapel pin is fine; one might question the motive of pundits who support an administration which has had a long history of various assaults on the Constitutional system of checks and balances. What's that old saying, Patriotism is a refuge of scoundrels? If it's not a saying, this might be a good time for it. It's not the pin in the lapel; it's whose lapel, and for what reason is the pin in the lapel?

Patrick J. Buchanan: Freedom vs. Equality
It began thus: "The House on Wednesday approved a bill granting broad protections against discrimination in the workplace for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Poor Pat--still carping about giving his gay relatives the same job and other civil protections which he enjoys. What's that other old saying...? "Doth protest too much..."?

That's enough. You, DGR(s), get my drift.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Whom to Believe?

Living in the Coachella Valley in Southern California gives a progressive a unique opportunity to view the right wing's media from two perspectives, The Desert Sun, headquartered in Palm Springs, and The Press-Enterprise, located in Riverside.

Here's an interesting juxtapositioning of views: TDS has this main headline today: "Iraq bombings hit GIs, kids." The subhead reads, "U.S. military blames al Qaida in Iraq, maintains violence down 55 percent." (An AP story by Kim Gamel follows--sorry no web link available from the paper's website.)

The Press-Enterprise, on the other hand, has this as its main headline: "U.S. touts downturn in attacks," with the subhead, "Iraq: For the third week in a row, violence nationwide is at levels not seen in almost two years." (A New York Times News Service story by C. Buckley and M.R. Gordon follows.--Again no web link on the paper's website.)

Notice the difference? TDS presents the good news about the downturn in violence, but tempers it with the tragic news of six deaths. TP-E story does not mention the six deaths at all. Nowhere in the print edition could I find any mention of any of the bombings in either Iraq or Afghanistan, although there are mentions of Afghani bombings on the paper's website. Furthermore, the NYT story gives us a favorable quote from one Michael O'Hanlon, a whose recent op-ed piece in The Times about Iraqi "successes" has been called into question because of a certain amount of "truthiness."

In case you haven't figured it out, I think The Press-Enterprise is much more of a Republican Committee house organ than The Desert Sun. But not by much.

It's good to have the number of death-dealing incidents down. It is not good to present them in such a manner that one fails to think of the deaths which are yet occurring.

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Misfiring Cannon?

Over at The New York Times, Lou Cannon has entered the fray about Ronald Reagan's alleged racism and the "misstep" of the famed Neshoba County Fair speech in Mississippi.

There is precious little to indicate Mr. Reagan was a racist--virtually nothing, if the examples Cannon gives are trustworthy.

That, however, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is somewhat beside the point. Reagan's personal biases aside, the real issue is the rise of the Republican Party in the late 20th century, and the part played in that rise by the Republican politicians utilizing the "Southern Strategy" devised, originally, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, by Barry Goldwater.

As reported by Cannon, this Reagan comment: At the fair, Mr. Reagan told a cheering and mostly white audience, “I believe in states’ rights” and that as president he would do all he could to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them” is the source of the allegations against Reagan.

The key words are "states' rights." These two little words in virtually any other section of the country would mean education, water, roads, forestry, etc.

In the South many felt they meant a continuation of segregation, a meaning which Cannon disputes. Ask a Democrat, and they mean veiled racism; ask a Republican, and they mean education, water, roads, forestry, etc.

About two-thirds of the way through his column, Cannon has this to say: "The Neshoba appearance hurt Mr. Reagan with these voters in the target states of Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania without bolstering his standing among conservative Southern whites."

Really? In the 1980 presidential election, of all the Southern states, only Georgia sent its electoral votes to Mr. Carter. The political Reagan benefitted from this misstep; the Southern Strategy became an institution for the next political generation.

Mr. Cannon chooses to write that Mr. Reagan's success was based on a repudiation of Carter policies, and that could well be true. In the South, however, that "states' rights" comment carried just as much weight as economics--because it was based, in part, and in the South, on class (which is economics).

If one wasn't a member of the Southern body politic in the 20th century up until, say, 1970, one really doesn't have a clue about the class divide and how race affected it.

Trust Mr. Cannon if you must, but verify.

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Um...Psst! Andrew!

Andrew Sullivan had a lot of fun last week hashing and re-hashing the Tip Gate story (did the Clinton campaign stiff a wait staff?).

On Saturday morning, Scott Simon told Dan Schorr that NPR had been shown a credit card receipt which indicated that the tip had, indeed, been paid.

Stay tuned...Is the receipt real???...Will Andrew apologize?...How many people outside of the blogosphere care???

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Good News at Last....but...

Military news out of Baghdad is good, and there are accounts of it all over the media, including, "Iraq Rocket, Mortar Fire at 21-Month Low."

Any lessening of death, injury, and destruction in Iraq is good news.

This story, by AP writer Lauren Frayer, includes some analysis about the reasons for this "low." Included are remarks by Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch,"commander of U.S. forces south of the capital."

Here is a money quote: "[General Lynch] attributed the sharp drop in attacks to the American troop buildup, the setup of small outposts at the heart of Iraqi communities, and help from thousands of locals fed up with al-Qaida and other extremists."

Dear Gentle Reader, please note the first "reason:" the American troop buildup. Let us hope the good general, as well as the general American public, will keep in mind that another American General, Eric Shinseki, called for a massive troop buildup prior to the invasion of 2003. For his temerity in suggesting the need for more peace keeping troops than the Administration was willing to deploy, Shinseki was effectively shunted aside.

One can only speculate what our position in Iraq would be now had the Administration followed the advice of the General. For certain, the "surge" has had some positive effects.

Good. Why did it come so late in the game? Who will be called to account?

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

It ain't pulling fingernails, folks.

The trouble with the discussion of waterboarding is that it is generally done in the abstract. In today's Los Angeles Times Tim Rutten has a piece in which he quotes from a posting on by Malcolm Nance, Waterboarding is Torture… Period.*

Reading Rutten's piece is alarming, what with its description of the physical realities of the "American model" of waterboarding, but Nance's piece is downright frightening in its implications. A quote:

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.
Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.
Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

This is what we have done/could do/ would do? In the name of the United States?

Senator John McCain said people lie under torture. What lie would you or I offer under these circumstances, Dear Gentle Reader?

We are told some of our service personnel undergo a simulation of this procedure in order to prepare them against the eventuality they might be subjected to it. What on earth good would training do in this situation? How could one possibly deal with the possibility that the procedure would, in any certainty, stop?

What honor could accrue to the United States if we were to engage in such?

*There are also, at this web site, responses to Nance's post which take a totally different tack and speak in support of the procedure.

Trust, but verify.

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