Thursday, June 29, 2006

The race card and political discourse

Alan Nathan criticizes the tendency to apply group norms to individual political disagreements. He focuses on the tendency to use charges of racism when two debaters of differing races disagree on a political argument. Nathan writes that trying to kill an opponents arguments with charges of racism and other great sins detours the conversation away from the merits of the original argument:

Somebody says something that another dislikes and too easily the listener can falsely claim a perceived offense regardless of the speaker’s content. Perceptions are illegitimate without corresponding foundation. You can’t say, “I perceive, therefore it is.” This very often allows those with weaker arguments to get the upper hand by fallaciously attaching to the speaker ulterior agendas having not the least infinitesimal relevance to the alleged slight.

And this disease is not restricted to matters of race. Those on the far-Right and Left are guilty of it when protecting their favorite passions. From the Right’s perspective, if you’re against the Ten Commandments on the walls of school, it’s because you’re more anti-religion than for the separation of church and state. From the Left’s view, if you oppose partial birth abortion (dilation and extraction), it’s because you’re more against women than pro saving a life that’s already 85 percent out of the mother when the termination is performed.


I agree with Nathan's approach. Two reasonable people can disagree sharply. While they believe in the principles of their arguments strongly, in the end they are discussing ideas not their feelings.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ann Coulter: tie-dyed in the wool Deadhead

Through Andrew Sullivan I learned that Ann Coulter is a Deadhead. In an interview with Jam Bands, Coulter explains her love of the Dead, which dates back to her high school days in Connecticut. When pressed to name her favorite Dead show, Coulter wouldn't bite, but she did describe one from her days while matriculating at Cornell:

I fondly remember seeing the Dead when I was at Cornell. It was the day of the fabulous Fiji Island party on the driveway “island” of the Phi Gamma Delta House. We'd cover ourselves in purple Crisco and drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and dance on the front yard. Wait – I think got the order reversed there: We'd drink purple Kool-Aid mixed with grain alcohol and then cover ourselves in purple Crisco – then the dancing. You probably had to be there to grasp how utterly fantastic this was.

I found Sullivan's take on the article akin to that of a lemon-sucking school marm. I thought it was a great break from politics, a fun piece.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Calling robust campfires raging forest fires

Dennis Prager takes the American left to task for overusing and misusing phrases describing abhorent behavior to the extent of numbing the public:

When you hear the words "oppression," "genocide," "racism," or even "torture" or "rape," do you immediately recoil as you always did? I don't. While I hate those evils as much as ever, I no longer assume the term always describes the reality.

He contends that labeling the abuse at Abu Ghriab as torture weakened the fight against hideous acts of torture:

It undermined the war against torture to characterize what some Americans did to some Iraqis in the Abu Ghraib prison -- actions that were indeed sick, un-American and shameful to our military -- as "torture." Labeling abuses as "torture" filled me with pity for all the people around the world who had experienced real torture.

I kept thinking about those whose bodies were burned, whose fingernails were torn out, who were hung by their arms in a way that broke their shoulders (a common Chinese communist torture), who were put into human shredders (in Saddam's Iraq) or who had burning hot steel rods shoved into their rectums. How did these poor souls react to seeing the Western media routinely describe humiliating and frightening naked men for the sadistic amusement of guards as "torture"?

Prager has more to say about other topics as well.

The credulusness displayed by the left in its tendency to equate American bad behavior with the most heinous acts in history puzzles me. Name another society in world history where leftists are free to say what they want and still live a free and peaceful life? Then again, maybe that concept is not too important to the left.

Asheville manager discusses tirade

The Citizen-Times posted a couple of stories today on Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulic's antics after being tossed out of a game in Lexington, KY Sunday night. The second story contains all types of video links, including the managers performance. Mikulik's side show was all over ESPN yesterday and other national media wanted a word with the manager. However, the Tourists' parent club, the Colorado Rockies, put the nix on the interviews:

After spending much of Monday morning either conducting interviews or lining up plans for talking to the media, Mikulik was somewhat silenced by the Rockies, the Tourists’ parent club and Mikulik’s employer.

Rockies officials told Mikulik to stop talking to the national media.
That canceled plans for Mikulik, a Candler resident, to do live interviews this morning with


Good Morning America, MSNBC and Inside Edition.

“It takes me 23 years to get on (ESPN’s) SportsCenter, and this is how I do it,” he said with a subdued smile.

I got a kick out of Mikulik's show. Decide for yourself how he stacks up against this crew:

Most Times Ejected, Manager, All-Time
1. John McGraw... 131
2. Leo Durocher... 124
3. Bobby Cox... 117
4.Earl Weaver... 98
5.Frankie Frisch... 86
6. Paul Richards... 80
7. Tony LaRussa... 73
8. Lou Piniella...71
9. Clark Griffith... 67
10. Bill Dahlen... 65
11. Joe Torre... 64

The list is from 2004. Cox is still gaining ground on McGraw and Durocher.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Peters: Feds got it right in Miami

Ralph Peters writes that the feds who worked to nab the Miami 7 deserve thanks from the American people. He reaches back to recent US History to offer a little advice for those who want to dismiss the seven as harmless wannabees:

Now consider how Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols & Co. would have come across had they been popped for conspiracy three or four months before the Oklahoma City bombing - namely, as nuts with delusions of grandeur. Jobless and living on the edge of poverty, McVeigh and Nichols would've seemed pathetic, not deadly. Losers. Like the perps in Miami.

It only took a pile of cheap fertilizer, an old vehicle and one committed killer to bring down the Murrow Federal Building, kill 168 people and shatter thousands of lives. And it wouldn't have taken very much for those half-baked fanatics in Miami to kill hundreds, if not thousands.

Well said Col. Peters.

NC Dems hope national issues bring out their local voters

North Carolina Democrats closed their state convention in High Point over the weekend confident that national issues such as the war in Iraq and the Jack Abramoff scandal will motivate their voters to help the party regain a majority in the state's congressional delegation. The GOP currently enjoys a 7-6 advantage in the state's US House delegation. Democrats believe Republican incumbents Charles Taylor and Robin Hayes are vulnerable. A loss by either combined with the Democrats holding what they already have would do the trick.

Some pro-life delegates to the convention left disappointed. An amendment which would have deleted language supporting state-funded abortions for poor women and the availibility of emergency contraception while still supporting a woman's right to choose was defeated in a voice vote.

The N&O also reports that convention did not discuss NC House Speaker Jim Black's troubles and Gov. Mike Easley stayed away. I guess that state helicopter is incapable of navigating westward.

It's hard to say how national trends will benefit or hurt the Democrats. At the state level, NC Republicans have historically fallen short in gaining control of the NC General Assembly, despite the best efforts of their Democratic rivals.

I knew it would be good for the lawyers

One year after legalizing gay marriage, Spain now has its first gay divorce. Custody of the dogs seems to be a top issue:

The claimant is asking for the right to stay in the marital home and to take custody of their pets. The suit added that his ex-partner would be granted visiting rights to see the animals, a report on the website of newspaper El Mundo said.

Bruno RIP

The first wild bear spotted in southern Germany in over 100 years will now scavenge through the big dumpster in the sky. The bear, called Bruno, made his first appearance in Bavaria last month, the first wild brown bear sighting there since 1835.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Seeking good karma

Heading up to Ashe County and the New River tomorrow. Hope the weather holds up.

Bubba's in the saddle

Thanks to Joe Guarino, I just learned that Bubba has expanded his sphere of influence, a very noteworthy moment. He's been working hard this week, but that didn't stop him from commenting on a few of my posts. I appreciate it. I like this, especially the comments.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Voting Rights Act vote stopped

The political struggle over illegal immigration helped stop a US House vote on the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The move by many Republicans caught the GOP leadership, who publicly endorsed extension of the act, by surprise. Southern Republicans who believe the act has achieved its purpose were joined by fellow party members from other regions who balked at multilingual ballot requirements the extension requires:

But many Southerners feel the law has achieved its purpose and become more nuisance than necessity in several respects. They have aired those arguments for years, but yesterday they got a boost from Republicans scattered throughout the nation who are increasingly raising a different concern: They insist that immigrants learn and use English.

Of course any mention of stopping renewal of the act will attract a harsh debate. Here's a taste from a director of a civil rights group:

Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said in a statement, "We are extremely disappointed that the House did not vote today to renew and restore the Voting Rights Act because a small band of miscreants, at the last moment, hijacked this bipartisan, bicameral bill."

This would be an explosive show capable of capping off any Independence Day celebration. I would like to see how the feds determine if voting complaints made in southern states merit continued federal puppeteering of the election process. Voting Rights Act advocates claim voting abuses have occurred. However, I haven't seen the evidence. The multilingual ballots may easily create an avalanche of cumbersome burdens for those conducting elections at the local level.

I say have the debate. In 1965, there can be no doubt that black voters in the South needed intervention in gaining the right to vote. There was little hope of gaining these rights from state and local institutions. In the passage of more than 40 years, the political landscape is certainly less a mine field for black southerners. They get elected to office and represent a key voting bloc in most elections. Abuses may well occur, but that's something that's happened for a variety reasons in elections throughout history.

While the Voting Rights Act achieved a noble purpose, it is still a federal law at heart. Once it accomplishes its original goal, it may well become a tool for faraway bureaucrats and politicians to foist unnecessary burdens onto local elections. For example, one reason the GOP leadership is willing to pass along the extension is the advantage it's given them in congressional and legislative redistriciting. Republican leaders will gladly create a couple of majority minority districts in return for whiter more GOP-friendly districts elsewhere in their respective states. Betsy Newmark has an example of this angle.

The Voting Rights Act shouldn't be treated differently than any other political issue. It's alright to disagree. If the debate continues, let's hope we can rise above the level of placing opponents of the extension in a "band of miscreants."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Iraq and the election of '06

It seems a bit absurd as we bask in the balminess of summer solstice '06 to focus on a late autumn day. However, if you're a sucker for political news, it's hard to avoid all the analyses for this November's elections. During the spring, conventional wisdom led us to believe that all the Democrats had to do was stand on the sidelines, wait for GW Bush and the Repubs to sink in a quicksand mixture comprised of Iraq and high gas prices and start planning the pre-Thanksgiving celebrations. Events of the past couple of weeks seem to suggest that gamblers maybe should hedge on that bet.

Recent developments in Congress show that the Democrats will likely have to do more than sit on the sideline and sip cocktails while watching the Wicked Witch of the West melt into a watery heap. The Democrats sense that the American people want to see an Iraq end game, but they seem divided over whether to cut and run or cut and jog. If Democrats want to capitalize on Republican weakness on Iraq, they'll have to offer a plan of their own. They don't have to all agree, but there must be a clear Democrat alternative on Iraq in the minds of the American people.

This leads me to question just where does the American public stand on Iraq. Ed Cone generated some interesting comments with his post on Josh Marshall's calling Tony Snow out on a comment he made about polls and WWII's Battle of the Bulge. Snow contended that a 1944 poll would show disgust with the war effort. Marshall pulled out an actual poll from the era showing overwhelming support for the war effort despite the bloodbath at the Bulge.

Thanks to Google, I found a wonkish, but thankfully brief, analysis by MIT political science professor Adam Berinsky, who takes on the notion that mounting casualty counts lead to more war opposition. As a counter, Berinsky points out that in World War II, American elite opinion united in favor of the war effort from about 1942 onward, while it split on domestic issues. In Vietnam and Korea, elite opinion never unified behind or against the war efforts. For those of us who can't stray too far from the internet, it's obvious that elite opinion divides sharply over Iraq.

Maybe what we see with Iraq is not a sharp division among the entire country, but a division among those who take the time to educate themselves about Iraq and other current political events. For all we know this split may be reflected in election '06 or we may be confounded again. With that said, don't be surprised if you go to bed November 7 knowing that the GOP managed to hold onto a congressional majority, but once again, unless you're a committed gambler, you might want to wait until at least Labor Day before placing that bet.

Update: Upon reading the post again, I realized I left out something I intended to write concerning the "bloodbath at the Bulge." Much of the initial success of the German advance could be attributed to the mistakes of American and Allied military commanders.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Some on left still hold out hope for Iraq's My Lai moment

Despite an LA Times report that the general in charge of investigating the investigation of the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha by US Marines has said no cover up occurred, some still insist on comparing the incident to My Lai.

John R. MacArthur calls Haditha the Marines My Lai moment and surmises that Haditha moments take place all over Iraq and American History:

Indeed, it may be inaccurate even to call the Haditha massacre an atrocity. As Phillip Knightley wrote, in his essential book on war reporting, "The First Casualty," My Lai was nothing special, "at least, if it is argued that an atrocity is taken to be something freakish, something quite apart from the normal events coming before and after it. My Lai, on the contrary, was an unusually pure example of the nature of the war in Vietnam, and departed little _ if at all _ from common American practice."

Deepak Chopra has visions of My Lai in Mesopotamia too and no matter what the investigation concludes it will be a cover up:

There's shock in the aftermath of the revelations about Haditha and the My Lai-like rampage that apparently occurred there. Millions of Americans are too young to remember My Lai, but this scandal seems to be following the same path. Heartrending photos of butchered brown people appear. Then we hear rumblings about a cover up, countered by reassurances that a few soldiers under intense pressure briefly lost control. The promise of a full investigation rings hollow; we know the military instinctively protect their own, and much of the public believes they should.

Rhonda Chriss Lokeman admires the political courage of John Murtha, who called Haditha cold-blooded murder:

The former Marine recently condemned alleged atrocities committed by Marines in Haditha and suggested a possible cover-up of the massacre last November.

"They killed innocent civilians in cold blood," Murtha said.

Lokeman manages praise for the guts of Bobby Byrd too.

An investigation not completed, but it seems that some on the left hold out hope for a true Haditha Massacre. Very open-minded indeed.

Riding the championship bandwagon

Loved riding that Carolina Hurricanes bandwagon all the way to the Stanley Cup.

The N&O's Ned Barnett paints the Cup victory as a tribute to the Canes teamwork.

The Carolina victory sends the News and Record's Ed Hardin down Tobacco Road hockey memory lane.

Off Wing Opinion, a Canadian hockey blog, has all kinds of links surrounding the Canes' celebration on ice, including this video clip giving you some idea of how loudly the fans in the RBC Center expressed their joy.

OWO links to the Acid Queen, but I had to single out her celebration late into Monday night.

Sam Hieb has a post on the Canes' stolen goal. Bubba provides a dead-on picture in the comments.

The American Hockey Fan praises Carolina and its new school style of play.

Life is good in the state of champions.

Update: Eric McErlain emails to remind me that he blogs from Reston, VA, not Canada. Thanks for the correction and good material.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

U of North Dakota president sends NCAA scorching letter over nickname

Sam Hieb got me on the trail of the controversy developing between the University of North Dakota and the NCAA over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname.

Via Power Line, here's a copy of a letter UND president Charles E. Kupchella has sent to the NCAA office informing them of their intention of seeking legal action over the latter's banning of the Fighting Sioux. Kupchella rakes the NCAA over the coals for arrogance and hypocrisy:

The NCAA’s organizational arrogance extends to the innovative and abusive use of the English language. You indicated that Florida State University was exempted because it has a “special relationship” with the Seminoles. At the time you said this, Florida State enrolled just four Seminole students. We have one-hundred times more Indian students here, yet FSU’s is a “special relationship” while ours, you say, is “hostile and abusive.”

Kupchella offers up an interesting hypothetical:

Imagine a scenario in which we bow to the NCAA and remove every vestige of our connection to our traditional nickname, and we earn the right to host one of the exempted schools, say Florida State, in a championship game. Your policy would allow Florida State to come into town with its logo and nickname proudly displayed, led by someone who paints himself up like an Indian “on the warpath” and carries a flaming spear. He could ride into our stadium on a horse and lead FSU fans in a tomahawk chop and an Indian chant. This, while our fans, then the obvious victims of an unfair and irrational policy, seethe in rightful anger.

Go get 'em Fighting Sioux.

You can hear Kupchella dicussing the suit with the Power Line guys on their Northern Alliance Radio show here if you read this before 1:30 pm est.

Joe Lieberman campaign toon

For those of you who can't get enough of this summer's Connecticut Democratic US Senate primary between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont, here's Lieberman's animated jibe at Lamont and old foe Lowell Weicker. Maybe you'll find it cute. (Via Town Square)

Friday, June 16, 2006

What to make of the Dixie Chicks and southern self-loathing

Word is out that the Dixie Chicks are now considering cancelling or restructuring some dates on their US tour later this summer. Ticket sales are lagging badly, especially at venues in the South and Midwest. On the other hand, ticket sales are brisk in the northeast and the band has added dates in Canada.

I think the Chicks are a a great country act. I couldn't get enough of "Wide Open Spaces" and "Fly." I looked forward to the release of their third album, "Home." However, it didn't hit home with me. Something was missing. I figured it out when I watched part of their NBC special that aired just after the release. I found the performance somnambulant. To me, much of the drive behind their music was provided by a Maines. Not lead singer Natalie, who is a great vocalist, but her dad, Lloyd. I love his steel guitar playing on the first two albums. It's missing on "Home" and he didn't even break out the pedal steel during the NBC special.

I haven't listened to the new album, "Taking the Long Way." I understand they move away from country with the latest offering. They also seem to be taking advantage of the controversy created by Natalie Maines's comments about GW Bush and Iraq and the fan reaction to it. Maines has taken back her apology for the comment and seems to revel in her new found celebrity outside the country music fan base. If that's how she wants it, fine with me.

However, Maines will get no kudos for her courage from me. While I haven't listened to the new music, I did read the lyrics to one of the tunes, "Lubbock or Leave It," and it's not a sentimental journey through Maines's hometown. I find the lyrics quite bitter, which convinces me of something I've assumed for the past few years, Maines is a self-loathing southerner. It's seems every public statement she makes is geared to reject many of the cultural traits of southerners, including patriotism. I suspect she is trying to establish her bonafides with a non-country audience by completly breaking with her past. Anyway, if I've learned one thing in life it's if you're not happy with where you live, it's not necessarily the town that's the problem.

If Maines and the Chicks want to move into a more pop/rock oriented genre, I wish them luck. Maines's backing vocals on Sheryl Crow's "Abeline" helped make it one of my favorite Crow tunes, but I don't know if the Robison sisters have the ability to hang instrumentally outside country. We'll see how works out. I'm sure down the line they'll be welcomed back if they want to return to country. I'm sorry they felt it necessary to try and blow up the bridge at Remagen.

All is not dour and sour in this tale. Lubbock-born musician Billy Briggs wrote a quirky reply to "Lubbock or Leave It," entitled "Trouble in the Henhouse." Even though he now lives near Dallas, his Texas Panhandle upbringing didn't seem to scar him as it did Maines. Here's the tune and lyrics.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Greensboro makes sweaty top 50

Greensboro ranks 46th on Old Spice deodorant's list of 100 sweatiest cities in the US for 2005. The Gate City finished between Atlanta and Charlotte. Phoenix ranks as the sweatiest, with Las Vegas second. Raleigh ranked as NC's sweatiest at number 32. (Scroll down to see the entire list.)

Break out the lemonade and use your deodorant, please.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Marine says song a joke

A Marine stationed at Camp Lejuene explained that a play on the lyrics of a song from the movie "Team America" led him to compose a tune called "Hadji Girl" that was videotaped and eventually posted on the internet.

The episode has landed Cpl. Joshua Belile, 23, in what may be the latest flap from Iraq. The Council on American and Islamic Relations (CAIR) posted an email it sent the Marine Corps complaining that the video was offensive and insensitive.

The song tells of a Marine who meets an Iraqi girl who takes him to her house. Upon entering, her father and brother are waiting with AK-47s. They start shooting. The Marine hits the floor in time, but the girl is shot and killed. Then the girl's sister appears. The Marine grabs and puts her in front of him. Once again, father and son kill the girl, but the Marine survives to kill the men. Some of the lyrics are explicit in their description of violence. Here's the video. The Marine Corps has issued a statement giving Belile a bad review and condemning his actions.

Belile tells his side of the story:

"This is in no way, shape or form related to the events that happened at Haditha,” he said. “The song was written long before the events happened. The song reflects nobody’s viewpoint. It’s completely made up, it’s completely fictional.

“I think it was a joke that is trying to be taken seriously,” he said. “I think it’s a joke, and anybody who tries to take it seriously knows it’s a joke. People can’t just laugh at it and let it go.”

Belile is a member of a the Jacksonville band Sweater Kittenz, which has a performance scheduled this weekend. Belile said he will not perform his tune then or ever again.

If you want to criticize Belile for poor taste and poor judgment, that would be fair game. His actions should be addressed, but it would be hard to justify harsh punishment. Just remember the moments of your own youth. I do. Some of my acts of poor judgment went unnoticed. On the ones where I was called on it, I'm sure it help make me a better man.

However, for those who want to use this as another way to point to the failure of the war in Iraq, you may have a hard time finding a foothold on firm ground. Marines yukking it up with dark humor is a far cry from a bunch of trigger happy stressed out killers on the verge of snapping because they're trapped in a hopeless quagmire.

_

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

NC gets F in World History

The North Carolina course of study for World History received a grade of F in a report conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Institute researchers reviewed the standards for teaching world history in all 50 US states. Only eight states received an A and NC was one of 33 states receiving a grade of D or F. National Review has more background on the study.

The institute's conclusion says NC's standards sound good on paper, but fall short in practice:


It sounds good, but in practice the approach doesn’t work
so well. North Carolina, unlike other states, sequences its
world history curriculum by region rather than time in the
middle school years. So students are introduced to Canada,
Mexico, and Central America in fifth grade; South America
and Europe in sixth grade; and Africa,Asia and Australia in
eighth grade. This approach is supposed to prevent teaching
overlapping material, but in fact it breeds repetition
and discontinuity. For instance, students would need to
study the ramifications of the Cold War each year in order
to gain an understanding of this or any other transformational
historical event of global importance.

As a seventh-grade social studies teacher, (the report places the study of Africa and Asia in eighth grade, it's actually taught in seventh), I find little fault with the study's assessment. There is too little time in a school year to devote much time to the cultures of India, China, Japan, Korea, the Arab World and Middle East, the continent of Africa, and if time allows, throw in Australia and New Zealand. You may see what teachers are up against. After I started teaching seventh grade, I became increasingly fascinated by the history of India and South Asia. We're talking about a culture that covers at least 5,000 years. I have about two weeks tops to interpret the events of that time frame into something 12 and 13-year olds can somehow relate to. By the time I get on a roll, it's time to move to China.

I think teaching history through time makes more sense. For example, teach the ancient years at fifth grade and bring them through current times by the seventh or eighth grade. It would be better to stay stuck in the way distant past for an entire course rather than racing through several thousand years of history every couple of weeks.

I don't expect to see any change in the NC standards. The concentration on reading and math at the elementary and middle school levels, which needed to happen, sucks up all the oxygen at the Department of Public Instruction. As long as you can reinforce math and reading skills through the social studies curriculum, content or context doesn't seem to matter much. I'm more than happy to gear my lessons to integrating math and reading into social studies. In fact, I believe it's helped me become a more effective teacher. However, it would be nice to have a less cumbersome framework with which to work.

BTW: Three of our four neighboring states, SC, VA and GA, aced the study, each scoring an A. The fourth, TN, needs to join NC for after-school tutoring sessions.

Here's the pdf of the entire study.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Steelers fans react to Roethlisberger accident

Just read a transcript of an online chat Pittsbugh Post-Gazette sportswriter Jerry Micco had with Steelers fans on the condition of Ben Roethlisberger following his motocycle accident this morning.

Some fans were cutting Big Ben no slack even as he lay in surgery:

SouthernSteel: Unbelievable... how can someone who the franchise depends on be so irresponsible? Maybe now hillbilly boy from NW Ohio can think about wearing a darn helmet. Thank god for the Steelers that he should be fine after the short-term. He could have easily been killed.

Others were concerned who will start at QB if Roethlisberger is not ready to go this fall:

JeorgeD: What are Steelers options for quarterback, I know it's too early. But are we going to have to look for a possible trade?

Others had the big picture in mind:

Rick_: I can't believe Ben was in a bad accident and people are talking about contracts and legislation. How about we just hope he will be ok?

I'm not a Steelers fan, but I do like Roethlisberger. He impressed me when saw a few Miami of Ohio games on ESPN a few years ago. I hope he's back a full strength when the Steelers come to Charlotte in December.

To give 'em hell or not to give 'em hell

Katrina Vanden Heuvel offers her thoughts on Peter Beinart's plea for a 21st century Harry Truman in the Democratic Party. It's not ringing true with her. Instead, she reaches back into the 1930s and pulls out Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy as a guideline for a new Democrat-led American foreign policy:

Of course, liberals need an effective national security strategy. But can we please stop with all the hurrahs about Harry Truman and his liberal national security achievements? What we need to do is reclaim another liberal, internationalist and eminently (as well as ethically) "realist" foreign policy tradition. It is the "Good Neighbor" policy crafted and championed by Franklin Roosevelt.

A "Good Neighbor" policy stresses the need for a community of nations to keep the peace and to promote economic dignity and prosperity for people in the developing as well as developed worlds. This liberal internationalist tradition rejects unilateral dominance and favors developing a "community of power" to keep the peace; It gives priority to a system of international law and governance over "preemptive" wars and unilateralism; It understands that to be effective, our foreign policy must work in tandem with reforms at home--to improve security, quality of life and basic rights; It considers military power to be a complement to, not a substitute for, economic power and diplomacy; and it gives a more central role to spreading economic prosperity to ensure peace and stability and environmental sustainability.

It should come as no surprise that the editor of the Nation reaches back to the 1930s, the heyday of American leftism. If I'm not mistaken, the Europeans bent over backwards to be good neighbors with that Hitler guy, but he just couldn't be appeased. A Good Neighbor Policy works best when all parties are good neighbors to begin with. One especially bad neighbor can make the whole neighborhood miserable. You may ignore him for a while, but what can you do when he becomes too overbearing and starts berating you about how your wife and daughter dress and condemns you to hell for owning a dog?

I find Beinart's foreign policy fare more palatable than Vanden Heuvel's. If the Democrats happen to regain control of foreign policy in '08, I'd prefer his side wins out in the Democratic infigting. However, I hope I don't have to worry about it.

Buddha's 2,550th and spiritual tourism

India seems intent on becoming a modern nation. Tourism authorities there hope to attract Buddhists who want to celebrate the 2,550th birthday of Buddha. A spokesman said this won't be an ordinary compeletly world-bound type of tourism:

The emphasis will be on "spiritual" tourism that is "aimed at uplifting the soul and finding peace by following in the footsteps of the Buddha," said a top Indian tourism official, Amitabh Kant.

Few Buddhists outside India have visited various holy sites because of poor infrastructure. The country is spending $1 billion dollars to improve transportation routes and shrines. India is home to Buddhism's most sacred shrine the Mahabodhi Temple.

May the karma be good.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

I'll see that bet

My post earlier this week on Rudy Giuliani's '08 presidential prospects led Ed Cone to question my skills as a political forecaster. I'll see the bet. I'll go for it despite Charlie Cook, a good pollster, conceding a chunk of Giuliani's support to John McCain from a recent poll he conducted. Cook doesn't think Giuliani will run. I may prove prescient or continue toiling along in obscurity as a political pundit.

Holes in the Haditha coverage

The Sweetness & Light blog has raised questions concerning Time's reporting on Haditha. It appears Time relied on video provided by the Hammurabi Human Rights Group. As it turns out, the HHRG consists of a grand total of two members, one of whom has spent time in jail for his ties to insurgents. Time has run two corrections to its original story on how it described the Hammurabi group.

While this doesn't disprove something outside the rules of combat occurred at Haditha, it at least shows the "Haditha Massacre" headlines may be premature. We don't know fully what happened there.

Rice, others to attend SBC Convention next week

Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice will visit Greensboro next Wednesday to address messengers at the annual Southern Baptist Convention. The speech should be interesting. Rice is a Renaissance woman and a southerner and I would expect her to be quite at ease with her Baptist audience.

While Rice will be a welcome guest, another group of visitors probably won't get a spot on the dais. The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS has announced some of its members will picket the convention and the unveiling of a Billy Graham statue. The church is built around Fred Phelps and his angry message. The members of the church are mostly his family members. The group first gained nationwide noteriety when it picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard. Currently it has boycotted funerals of soldiers and marines killed in Iraq. The church members claim the deaths are God's punishment of America for its laxity concerning homosexuality. The Westboro website name says its all.

Reading the Wikipedia entry on Phelps kept me from getting the chores started today. It seems that since his conversion as a teenager in Meridian, MS, he has used his interpretation of Christianity as a way to direct his vile anger on the rest of the world. He's put as many people in Hell as Parker and Stone. As hateful as his current campaign is, I believe Phelps would turn the Salvation Army into a hate group if he happened to lead it.

If you care to, keep an eye out for the Westboro protestors if you're driving past the coliseum next Tuesday and Wednesday.

BTW: Here's the Westboro take on the death of Abu Musab Zarqawi.

Trying to regain discipline, but not too fast

For anyone who has spent time in middle school education, you'll know how tricky the end of school may be. Students reach a point where they've had enough of discipline and all the rules that enforce it. They don't go into open rebellion, but they're ready for a change of pace. They care little if its day 170 instead of day 180. The trouble for me, is that I feel that tug too and usually succumb to it. I'm always able to muster enough to keep the kids pacified, but it takes it toll on life after school. Motivation has been building more slowly than expected. I've managed to get the computer turned on most days, but blogging has been sporadic. I also face a sinkful of dirty dishes and a rapidly growing jungle in my very small back yard. We'll slowly get it back together and I don't have to be anywhere Monday morning.

But hey, it's summer time and I'm going to try to devote energy to appreciating the 20-day stretch of the longest periods of daylight we'll see this year. Last night, you could still detect a little bit of light in the sky well after 9 o'clock. Not nearly as much as I saw last July around 9:45 pm in Montana and Idaho, but still enough to fascinate me. The lightning bugs are fired up and all the signs of summer and renewed energy give some hope. I also got my first good whiff of magnolia blossoms last night in Lake Daniel Park. I had to stop in take it in, much to the chagrin of my hard-charging dog who was denied a Thursday walk. The mimosa is popping out too.

It's all going to be alright.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Don't bet against Rudy

At least that's what Richard Baehr has to say. Baehr points out that Rudy Giuliani, "America's Mayor," holds a strong hand going into the 2008 race by touting leadership as the key issue to electing the next president:

Giuliani's message is about leadership, not just competence. Leadership is all about communication, and one of the biggest issues Republicans have with the current administration is its inability to successfully communicate a message on the stakes in Iraq, the success of the economy, or new policies on immigration and energy independence.

However, he devotes the most space handicapping Giuliani's chances to secure the GOP nomination in 2008 through his ability to appeal to the three major factions within the Republican Party. Baehr divides Repubs into the national security, big buisneess and social conservative wings. He doesn't believe Giuliani will have too much trouble winning support among the first two, but will have to work to convince the third group he is a bonafied conservative.

To win social conservatives, Baehr writes that three approaches are available. Some social conservatives have suggested that Giuliani simply change his position on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, an approach Baehr rejects as insincere and likely to fail. A second approach calls for Giuliani to meet with leaders in the conservative evangelical movement, something Giuliani is already doing. The third approach, the one Baehr sees as the most effective, is to announce his praise of George W. Bush's appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court and vow to continue appointing similar justices if he gets the opportunity.

For the most part, I believe Baehr gets it right. Many dismiss Giuliani's prospects because some of his socially liberal beliefs. Staying in harmony with the current tide of judicial appoinments would assure many social conservatives that Giuliani did not represent a radical change in GOP presidential candidates. To go beyond Baehr's point, I believe Giuliani would also be able to convince most social conservatives of his sincerity. He shouldn't have a Damascus Road conversion to socially conservative positions. That would be pandering. He only needs to show that he respects the position of social conservatives instead of treating them like a bunch of rubes who threaten to reverse years of social progress. Minus skeletons in the closet, Giuliani for president '08 is a serious prospect.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Haditha: the unknown is what's really important

The town of Haditha seems ready to take its place in history. However, if Rowan Scarborough's sources prove right, it may be two more months before the probe of the actions of US Marines in Haditha last November is completed.

There's plenty to be concerned about. Many on the left seem convinced that we know enough to label the events at Haditha as war crimes. The Nation has heard enough and so has Rep. John
Murtha. The Age of Australia also seems to think the story as we currently know it is dead on:

There is little doubt that the accounts are accurate. One of the members of the marine patrol who was not involved in the killings has said that his fellow marines must have "snapped" and that it was hard to describe just how tough the conditions were for the marines around Haditha.

Rosario Terrazas, the aunt of Miguel Terrazas, the Marine corporal split in half by the IED that set off the Haditha shootings, didn't appreciate the fact that Murtha and others have been quick to label the Marines' actions as murder:

"It's especially hurtful when certain people make statements that may be opinions but come across as facts," she added. "It's a little difficult to hear people making statements indicating that these allegations are true. There's an ongoing investigation and nothing has been concluded to this point."

I'll leave Murtha et al to Terrazas and others. I find their stances anything but surprising. I'm more concerned with the responses of George Bush and Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I thought Bush gave a Richard Brodhead-like response when answering a question on the matter the other day:

``I am troubled by the initial news stories,'' Bush said in response to a question at the White House after meeting with Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame. ``I am mindful that there is a thorough investigation going on. If in fact the laws were broken there will be punishment.''

Bush's statements and those made by Pace strike me as a "the vast majority of us aren't anything like that" stance. It seems tailored to appease those skeptical of the war in Iraq and of the exertion of American power. It tells me they want to distance themselves from the Haditha Marines. It makes me wonder if the Marines at Haditha will get a fair shake from either side.

The events at Haditha also have the mainstream media speculating a My Lai redux. I don't think anything we know yet proves Haditha falls into the same category. Joe Guarino warns against jumping to that conclusion and I find nothing to quibble with concerning his assessment.

Instead of My Lai, Haditha takes my thoughts way beyond Vietnam to a conflict that didn't involve the US, the Boer War. The plight of Harry Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton, Austrialians fighting in the British army during the war, may prove more applicable here. Their story, told in the brilliant 1980 film Breaker Morant, revolves around the execution of Boer insurgents and the killing of a German missionary by members of the Bushveld Carbineers after the brutal death of their commander at the hand of the Boers. The three were all convicted of murder. Morant and Handcock were executed while Witton received a life sentence.

The men insisted that they acted on orders to take no prisoners that had come down from Lord Kitchener, the British Supreme Commander in South Africa and one of the most revered figures in British military history. Kitchener inserted himself into the court martial trial and had an officer in sympathy with him presiding. He appointed Morant, Handcock and Witton an inexperienced defense attorney one day before the trial opened. Despite making a spirited defense, Morant and the others were convicted with Morant and Handcock sentenced to execution. Kitchener conveniently left South Africa to makes sure he would not be available to hear any appeals for clemency. He always denied giving any order that may have led to the actions of Morant and the others.

The most important lesson of Breaker Morant is that it's been over a century since the end of the Boer War and there's nothing close to a consensus on what actually occured on the South African veldt, which brings me back to Haditha. We don't know for sure what happened November '05 on a Haditha street. The acccused certainly have a right to make a defense. Perhaps they did break the military's rules of engagement, but even if they did, their actions may not rise to the level of murder. We can't say what happened until the process has played out. I only wish our commander in chief and top military leader would say that like they mean it and those who insist on judging Iraq parallel to Vietnam would appreciate a little history.

Mounties get their men

An operation spearheaded by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested 17 terror suspects last night in southern Ontario. The raid netted over three tons of ammonium nitrate, the same fertilizer used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Mike McDonnell of the Mounted Police offered perspective:

"If I can put this in context for you, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people was completed with only one tonne of ammonium nitrate."

"This group posed a real and serious threat," he added. "It had the capacity and intent to carry out these acts."

Most of the suspects are either Canadian citizens or residents. Twelve adults arrested ranged in age from 19-43. Authorities also arrested five youths whose names were not released.

Luc Portelance of CSIS speaking on the background of the suspects:

"For various reasons, they appear to have become adherents of a violent ideology inspired by al-Qaida," Portelance said, although officials stressed there's no direct link between those charged to the terrorist network.

He also said he didn't believe the alleged plot had any relation to Canada's military role in Afghanistan.

Authorities also believe targets were already selected, but did not give any specifics.

A tip of the hat to our neighbors up north.


Tough spring for farmers in the arid West

While they may not swelter in the humidity out west, the comfort comes at a price. Earlier this week state officials in Colorado refused to approve an emergency plan that would allow farmers on the state's Front Range to tap into wells to irrigate their crops. The well water comes fron an aquifer that feeds the South Platte River. Three area cities and farmers who depend on surface water fought against the emergency plan. The region has been suffering through a spring drought.

Farmers who sought to tap the wells say they have already lost large chunks of this year's crops. Farmers who do not use the well say they have also suffered greatly from the dry spell and want to prevent a further drop in the South Platte's flow. To aid farmers, water has been brought into the region from cities on Colorado's Western Slope.

I hope things work out in the end. If you ever travel out west, you realize just how dry the entire region is. Sometimes we only associate the arid weather with places like Arizona, Vegas or Death Valley. From western Texas all the way up to eastern Washington it's one vast area of dry climate. A period of drought means much more than a brown lawn.

American Tour de France winners in the news

While most of the media attention focused on Lance Armstrong's clearing on a blood-doping charge, America's other Tour de France winner made the news this week as well. Greg LeMond, his in-laws and other business partners are suing the Montana-based Yellowstone Club and its owner, Tim Blixseth. Blixseth said he finds the suit a relief:

Blixseth said he was "pleased and relieved that they have filed the lawsuit. After many, many months of being threatened unless I deposit large amounts of cash in their accounts, I'm relieved that it will be resolved in a court of law by reasonable minds."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Loving hockey in June

I still don't understand much about hockey, but that had to be a hell of a game last night between Carolina and Buffalo. The Canes get another shot at the Stanley Cup, but the Sabres made them earn every bit of the trip. It may be the most unknown of the major professional sports, but a major league trophy coming to NC would be big news. I hope it happens.

The championship match up between Carolina and Edmonton will be the first between two clubs from the former World Hockey Association. The WHA burst onto the scene in 1971 and lured away top talent from the NHL by offering players more money than the senior league. The ultimate coup being the signing of Bobby Hull in 1972 by the Winnipeg Jets. The league folded after the 1979 season. Four WHA teams, Edmonton, the Hartford Whalers (now the Hurricanes), the Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg joined the NHL. Edmonton went on to win the Stanley Cup five out of seven years from 1984-1990. The Nordiques relocated to Colorado and became the Avalanche. The Avs have taken home two cups. Winnipeg is now the Phoenix Coyotes.

BTW: Here's the most stirring rendition of the Canadian national anthem I've heard. Before game five of Edmonton's series against Anaheim, the So Cal fans booed "Oh Canada." Watch the video to see the Edmonton response.