Saturday, February 28, 2009

too many potential chiefs

this is pretty amusing:
Already in conflict with his party’s leaders, Sen. Jim Bunning has reportedly said privately that if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his resignation.

The Kentucky Republican suggested that possible scenario at a campaign fundraiser for him on Capitol Hill earlier this week, according to three sources who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of Bunning’s remarks.

The implication, they said, was that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement — a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

"I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor," one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.
with the senate this close to the magic number 60 (especially if franken ever gets seated), it occurs to me that senator bunning isn't the only one who can make these kind of threats. the following are republican senators from states with governors that are democrats:
lamar alexander (TN)
john barrasso (WY)
chris bond (MO)
sam brownback (KS)
jim bunning (KY)
richard burr (NC)
tom codburn (OK)
susan collins (ME)
bob corker (TN)
michael enzi (WY)
chuck grassley (IA)
judd gregg (NH)
james inhofe (OK)
mitch mcconnell (KY)
pat roberts (KS)
olympia snow (ME)
arlen specter (PA)
george voinovich (OH)
(i made this list on my own. let me know if i missed anyone)

that's 18 senators, almost 1/2 of the republican caucus. some of them, like pat roberts or mitch mcconnell, are such creatures of their party, i can't imagine them making such a threat. but there are still a lot of people who are in a position to extract serious concessions from the GOP if it wants to hold all its republican seats. and what if different senators start demanding different mutually-exclusive concessions?

that would be fun to watch, which means that it probably won't happen. but the potential is there. all it takes is a couple more senators who really want something.

that al-haramain case

it's good to see that the obama administration is losing the right court battles. i was disappointed when they adopted the bush administration's position in that case. but if they keep losing whenever they do something like that, i suppose it will suffice.

ADDING: empty wheel has a good post on the importance of the ruling.

and on a related note, every time i see a story about the charity involved in that legal battle, al-haramain islamic foundation, i think: why would anyone give money to a charity called "the two thieves"? today i finally bothered to look up the original arabic name. not surprisingly it's not spelled that way. i guess the world doesn't exist for my entertainment after all.

mccain vs. mccain

john mccain calls obama's 19 month withdrawal timetable "reasonable" and says that he's "cautiously optimistic that the plan as laid out by the president can lead to success."

last august, john mccain said that obama's 16 month withdrawal timetable meant that obama would pursue "a path of retreat and failure for America."

those extra three months must be really awesome.

Friday, February 27, 2009

the announcement

i criticized the obama withdrawal plan yesterday because of the residual force issue. but that shouldn't obscure the fact that this is still a great step forward, one i've been hoping to see for the past 6 years.

what's really surprising, pleasantly surprising, is that the plan is getting a lot more criticism from the left than from the right. the "stay the course" brigade has largely vanished. i'm not sure where they went. maybe all this shouting about how awesome the surge was has convinced too many conservatives that there's nothing left for u.s. troops to do over there. or maybe now that bush is gone they don't feel the need to mindlessly defend his positions anymore. or maybe the fact that bush agreed to a timetable for withdrawal at the very end of his presidency means that now they're only interested in mindlessly defending that.

who knows why? the bottom line is that with "stay the course" out of the mix, the debate will be between those who want a 35k-50k residual force, those who want a smaller residual force and those who want none. not only does that legitimize the "no residual force" position (which only a year and a half ago was reserved only for marginal presidential candidates), it also leave open the possibility that number of troops in iraq after august 2010 will be lower than what obama is talking about now. that's all good news as far as i am concerned.

batman vs. superking

i love the super-crappy costume. i'm not completely sure that adam west is drunk, as suggested here. he just seems to be winging it badly.

(via where else?)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

residual force

i still don't get the appeal of leaving a residual force in iraq. it still strikes me as being the worst of both worlds. a lot of the remaining violence is driven by the presence of u.s. troops in iraq. u.s. troops will be just as capable of inspiring violence whether there are 150k or 50k soldiers there. leaving only a residual force just means there will be fewer troops to fight back. a reduced presence will still be expensive, still needlessly risks the lives of american soldiers, and still will feed the violence in the country.

nancy pelosi says "I don’t know what the justification is for 50,000... I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000, a little more than a third, 15,000 or 20,000." but what's the justification for 15k or 20k? if this country is not going to completely leave iraq, why isn't anyone trying to explain what a reduced military presence is supposed to achieve? sometimes i think that endorsing a residual force is nothing more than a mark of moderation, letting the proponent chart the middle path between a total withdrawal and staying the course. but the middle isn't automatically sensible. there needs to be some justification why that number makes the most sense.

besides, a residual force idea isn't compatible with the SOFA agreement. under that agreement, the u.s. is obligated to remove all forces, whether combat troops or non-combat troops, by the end of 2011. assuming the u.s. won't break the agreement, we're only talking about the residual force remaining between august 2010 and december 2011. what is the point of that?

it's all volapük to me!

mapping incomprehension.

liz/kenneth '12!

given that i've only seen 2 or 3 episodes of 30 rock and missed jindal's speech tuesday night, i've been really curious about the ubiquitous kenneth comparison (93,200 hits as if this writing). you can see it for yourself here.

i wonder which cast member the next rising star of the conservative movement will resemble. i don't know the show, are there any obvious choices?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

the le bad republican response

as i said yesterday, i've long thought SOTU addresses were bad. and as i said last year the response by the opposition party is often even worse, bordering on pathetic. but i really am blown away by just how bad the reviews of bobby jindal's response have been.

i'm still not sure if i could have sat through the whole thing. but it sounds like jindal achieved a so-bad-it's-good level speech. maybe he can be the next buckaroo banzai! jindal's ironic fans will throw parties where they shout at the screen what exactly "volcano monitoring" means. who knows? maybe jindal's best shot for the presidency will be to assemble a coalition of members of his cult following and the christian right. he's already an exorcist. that puts him halfway there even before last night's speech.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

state of the union

it's kind of an annual tradition, but let me just reiterate my long-held hatred of state of the union speeches. or maybe not, just click the links and be dazzled by my last five years of whining.

it's not even a real state of the union speech this year. in inauguration years the president doesn't technically give a SOTU address. but these presidential people just can't resist speechifying so obama's doing a pretend SOTU address tonight.

or did. i guess it's over now. even if it's not a real one, i still skipped it. i went to drinking liberally but cut out before the video came on.

no thank you

i understand that urine is sterile. and i think that a do-it-yourself kit that converting human urine to fertilizer isn't a bad idea, though it may strike some as a little gross when they use it on their house plants. and i realize that the process may also produce drinkable water in addition to the fertilizer.

but the image of the woman sitting on the toilet and drinking from a fountain that draws its water from the bottom of that same toilet does not make me want to buy this product. it doesn't matter that there's a non-dead fish swimming in the water under the peeing woman. the fact that the fish doesn't look ill doesn't make me any more anxious to take a sip. i realize it's not completely rational, but you're just not selling me with your drinkpee advertising campaign.

i'm just saying.



ordinarily i'd be all in favor of the president trying to reduce the deficit. but i gotta agree with robert reich, it doesn't make sense to do it now.

the administration has decided that it will try to spend its way out of the financial crisis. good for them! that's what i think should be done too. but spending your way out means you got to resign yourself to increased deficits until the crisis is over. it doesn't make any sense either logically or politically to push for both increased spending (and thus additional debt) and for less debt. the two goals are directly contrary to one another. trying to do both will only serve to undermine your own efforts.

putting the G in GOP

i'm pretty sure they don't mean that kind of "coming out party." but even if they did, i still predict it would be too boring to watch.

not working

the republican strategy of opposing everything that obama does doesn't seem to be working. it's still early, of course, but marching in lock step in opposition to a popular president with popular proposals while presenting no coherent program of your own seems like madness to me. but that's just how the modern republican party works. the pragmatists have mostly left the party, leaving just the ideologues. blind adherence to ideological positions in the fact of an economic crisis like this looks like political suicide. but frankly, given who makes up the remainder of the party, i guess they don't have any choice.

but on the plus side for the elephants is our two party system. with only two parties, each gets defined in opposition to the other. eventually, obama and/or the democrats will make some major blunder or otherwise get the american people to sour on them. when that happens, the republicans will rise again, just by virtue of being the not-democrats. it doesn't really matter how discredited their policies are. if the other side screws up, whatever they push will get recredited. that's how the american political system works. the only real question is whether the GOP can maintain ideological purity long enough for the next upswing in their fortunes. there's going to be a lot of pressure in the meantime for individual republicans to break ranks. at least there will be if these poll numbers continue to hold up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

modeling bin laden

the other day thomas gillespie and john agnew, a pair of geography professors from UCLA claimed to have found osama bin laden. well, not exactly "found". rather they used models for tracking the spread of animal species to conclude that bin laden is probably in one of three walled compounds in parachinar, a town in the FATA of pakistan.

if he's right, that's a pretty cool trick. the problem is that professor murtaza haidar is from that area and he notes that parachinar is a highly unlikely place for bin laden to be hiding. parachinar is a predominantly shia town, something that gillespie et. al. could have discovered themselves from reading the wiki entry. considering bin laden's hostility to the shia and the recent sectarian violence in pakistan, that makes parachinar a pretty bad choice. as haidar says, "I find it hard to believe that after having hundreds, if not thousands, of Shiites murdered by the followers of Osama bin Laden, the Shiites of Parachinar would like to aid and abet Osama bin Laden."

i never heard of parachinar before this week. but if haidar is right, it seems like the UCLA team goofed pretty badly on this. haidar characterizes their report as "This is yet another example of technical analysis devoid of any understanding of the local socio-cultural and political contexts." maybe there's a problem with applying models designed for tracking animals to track a human being.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

test threat

the concept of a threat to test a weapon system strikes me as a little funny. "get back," says north korea nervously, "take another step and we'll run a test to see if this weapon that i have actually works!"

i get where this is coming from. whenever a country like north korea successfully tests a new missile, the world reacts. that reaction is real even if the test itself is just a test. but it's funny that NoKo would use the disruptive nature of a successful missile test as the threat. they're not threatening to shoot anyone with the missile. they're threatening to show that they have an intercontinental missile, releasing knowledge upon the world that will cause a freakout that will disrupt things internationally.

the disruption really wouldn't be because of the test. it would be because the world would know what NoKo has. but isn't knowledge better than ignorance? i mean, either NoKo has a working ICBM system or they don't. isn't it worse not to know their capability? shouldn't we let just them test?

facebook owns this blog

or so it seems if i'm understanding the new TOS agreement correctly. the link in question has even been deleted. that may not matter.

drinking liberally

i've been sluffing off on writing my weekly drinking liberally post. okay, so they haven't appeared for a few weeks but that doesn't mean i'm not still with the center city drinking liberally crowd (almost) every tuesday. in fact, i'll be there tonight:
triumph brewing co.
117 chestnut street
philadelphia, PA
6 p.m. until ? (we're usually upstairs)
come join us to meet your favorite blogger. plus, i'll be there too!

Monday, February 16, 2009

the fix

the thing that bothers me most about the venezuela referendum is that it brings up my years old beef about these kinds of referenda. when there's an issue that closely divides an electorate, opinion polls will fluctuate by a couple of percentage points over time. that means if you keep referenduming it, eventually it will pass.

even if this vote otherwise met the gold standard of "free and fair", the referendum was a fix. a year ago, chavez lost a referendum that would have removed the term limits on his presidency. if he had won that vote last year, there wouldn't have been another one. but because he lost, he did it again. and if he lost this time, he probably would have done it a third time, and a fourth, fifth or sixth, if necessary. it's like "heads i win, tails we flip again." the two sides in the vote were not on equal footing. it's simply not fair to the people who wanted to keep the term limits.

i write this post as a person who isn't particularly concerned with chavez, thinks that right blogistan greatly overreacts to a guy who is more of a clown than threat to the u.s. (although their overreaction can be funny sometimes), and generally doesn't believe in term limits. the issue for me isn't about chavez or term limits, it's about what is a real election and what seems like a fix. this seems like a fix.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

pakistan imposes sharia, twenty-nine years after it imposed sharia

according to the guardian, the pakistani government will impose islamic law in a portion of the country to "placate extremists." the story caused a small splash on memeorandum, with bloggers breathlessly claiming that pakistan had "surrendered" or writing that "the cancer of Sharia Law has infected the body of Pakistan."

i'm no fan of any religious-based legal code, but it's worth pointing out that pakistan has had "sharia" in its legal system since at least 1980. the guardian article isn't all that clear what exactly the change will be to the courts in malakand. all it says is that: "Religious experts, known as a qazi, will sit in the court, alongside a regular judge, to ensure that the rulings are in compliance with Islam." but isn't that what the existing federal shariat court of pakistan does? maybe they're creating a local equivalent to the federal sharia court? the article doesn't say. indeed, the article doesn't give any indication that there was sharia before the change.

actually, the real problem is the concept of "sharia" is badly understood in the west. to a lot of westerners, the word is a shorthand for the oppressive taliban version of sharia. a lot of countries have elements of sharia in their legal system, often limited to certain areas, like family law or contracts. there's also several different schools of sharia (four for sunni islam and one major one for shia islam), each with its own rules. the bottom line is that sharia is a lot more complicated than the scary stereotype that triggers these kinds of freakouts.

beware the ides of february

ah, what the hell? i think i'll make it a tradition:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

another post cribbed off the explananda pants candy jar

i don't know why i think this is so hilarious.

(via, well, you know)

Friday, February 13, 2009

conflict of interest

summer salary here we come?

i hope he loads the zombies application

because i totally want to kick his zombie army's ass.

another windy day

i hope someone stocked up on the barf bags.

NO LONGER ON THE TRAIN UPDATE: now that i'm here, there's no swaying and creaking sound. maybe i can actually get some work done today what with the lack of queasiness and all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


i really couldn't see the point having judd gregg as commerce secretary. at least not over the last week or so.

when it was first announced, it seemed smart move. aside from running the census, the commerce secretary doesn't do all that much. but the appointment looked like it would get the dems another senate seat. putting a third republican in the cabinet is a P.R. bonus without giving up a very powerful position, plus obama's party gets another senator in the process. that seemed like a good deal to me.

but then there was that deal where a republican would be appointed to replace gregg. i understand why gregg would want to make that a condition of accepting the job. i just didn't get why the obama team would accept it. the compromise took away the only real benefit to gregg's nomination. so why bother? the ebst i heard is that with an incumbent like gregg out of office, it would be easier for the dems to capture the seat in two years. but a lot can happen between now and then. and an easier time maybe winning the seat in the future didn't seem like enough to make it worth it.

maybe obama realized the same thing. or maybe this is payback for abstaining on the stimulus bill. or maybe gregg himself decided he didn't want the job after all (it's being reported as gregg's withdrawal, not the president's, although reports of whose withdrawal it is never are that reliable). i don't know why anyone would want to be commerce secretary instead of senator, especially in these troubled times. and gregg didn't even like the position to begin with. good riddance.

UPDATE (2/13/09): i wrote the above post when just the first reports of the demise of the gregg nomination came out. i no longer think all of the maybes are true. it's pretty clear now that gregg himself initiated the withdrawal and seemed to surprise the obama people with his decision. that will teach me to do a quick first impression-type post.

glad i didn't have a big breakfast

another rockin day at the office.


it seems that "lost" in the only tv show that i'm currently watching in real time (i.e. as it airs, as opposed to on DVD months or years afterwards), so i can actually comment about the show without seeming like a guy displaced in time.

and speaking of being displaced in time, the problem with "lost" is that it has never really made sense if you thought about it too much. but in prior seasons the nonsense was always off to the side. the plot happened in the foreground and so long as you didn't look over at the margins (or think about them too much), the contradictions wouldn't necessarily interfere with the overall show.

this season, in an effort to have the series come together with a tidy bow, they've turned their focus directly on margins and are charging headlong in. so you can't ignore that it doesn't really make sense anymore. the nonsense is the entire plot. but no one wants to admit that it doesn't make sense, because that would imply that you're not smart enough to follow all the contortions of the plot. and so we all keep watching.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


i realize that i am not the perfect messenger for this complaint, but sometimes i wish that arabic script had capital letters. when so many arabic names also are meaningful words, it can be really confusing to read an article and try to figure out which words are names and which words are just improper nouns. that's especially true when you don't already know the cast of characters.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

kadima leads

wow, can kadima really pull it off? originally i thought that likud would trounce them. even when the polls started narrowing over the last few days, i still thought they wouldn't narrow enough for kadima to make up the gap. but the exit polls suggest that the undecideds are breaking for livni.

maybe all the press about yisrael beitenu's rise scared people back to kadima. or maybe lieberman sucked too many crazy rightwingers away from likud. or maybe both. or maybe i'm just bad at predicting these things.

but even if kadima wins, bibi can still end up being prime minister. the team of likud-yisrael beitenu will be about the same size as kadima-labor, which leaves the smaller parties as the kingmakers. it would be delicious irony if the two arab parties that lieberman unsuccessfully tried to ban got to decide which faction rules. (it's pretty unlikely that will happen though. the most deliciously ironic stuff never does)

UPDATE: as i've trolled around the israeli blogisphere, it looks like many of the smaller parties are pledging their support to likud. if the exit polls hold up, livni will get the first chance to form a government because she's the head of the party with the plurality. but if these pledges hold up, her efforts will fail and israel will end up with the bibi-led crazy rightwing regime i was predicting before the election took place.


i was up in the northlands this morning, but i got to hear geitner's bank bailout plan on the ride back.

man, what a steaming piece of shit that was. at best all i can say is that they're trying to make it more transparent than what bush-paulson did with the TARP money. but better than bush-paulson? talk about setting a low bar!

i understand why having another series of financial institutions failing would be bad enough that the federal government should act. but seriously, we can bail out the institutions without bailing out the directors and shareholders. they screwed up getting into this mess, there's no reason why they shouldn't take the hit for this.

i still don't get why we don't just follow the swedish model. the rumor is this is all geitner's doing, but that's not where the buck stops. obama could have overruled him. everyone seems to be just pretending that it's dumping a bunch of money into banks or nothing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

star wars: retold (by someone who hasn't seen it)

vimeo link

as funny as it is, i still think this one is even better.

(via dave via FB)

bang for your buck

james galbraith published the below chart showing how much each dollar spent puts back into the economy as compiled from congressional testimony. as many have pointed out before, the things that are most stimulating tend to be things that give money to poor people. the poorer you are, the less likely you are to save the money you get and the more likely you are to spend, which puts it back in the economy. furthermore, if you're poor you tend to spend on a business whose customer base is poor and thus the business is also less likely to be able to save. the more times a dollar is spent, the more that single dollar stimulates the economy. ideally any stimulus package would try to maximize this "echo" effect.

(click to enlarge if the print is too small)

but the fact that the best spending is directed at poorer people causes a knee-jerk anti-welfare reaction among conservatives. which is why the compromise pushed through by "moderates" targeted mostly those things, even though the data suggests they are the most effective ways to spend money. it's ideology, not data, driven.

(via steve bates)

secretary of state

does anyone know why the u.s. calls its foreign minister the "secretary of state"? i understand that all the members of the cabinet are called "secretary", but why "state" instead of "foreign affairs" or "foreign relations."

it seems like a complete misnomer to me. "state", if anything, implies something internal and domestic, not foreign. and the "secretary of state" of individual states (pennsylvania, illinois, etc) tend to deal with issues that are "domestic" to the state, like issuing drivers' licenses, registering corporations, et cetera. you'd think the federal level "secretary of state" would be the federal equivalent to the state job, but instead it's completely different.

and yeah, i read the history section of the wiki entry. it doesn't fully answer my question. apparently the position used to be called "secretary of foreign affairs", but then it was changed to "secretary of state" when the job got some domestic responsibilities. the entry doesn't explain what those responsibilities were, only that they were "transferred to other agencies." why didn't they change the name back when those domestic duties went away?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

this shit's getting way to complicated for me

via the explananda link candy jar, i found this:
If you’ve ever read President Obama’s Dreams From My Father, good for you. I couldn’t get past the foreword.

I wish I had. Because today I discovered that there’s a fairly juicy little subplot in the book, involving one of Obama’s high school friends.

Ray, a fellow classmate of Obama’s, was also bi-racial, and also trying to define himself. But what set him apart was his colorful manner of self-expression. Ray cursed like a motherfucker.

This would all be snickerworthy enough, but it turns out that Obama actually read the audiobook version of Dreams From My Father.

And that means he read Ray’s quotes.

And that means you’re about to hear the President of United States using language that would finish Cheney off once and for all.
click the link if you want to hear the president of the united states curse like a motherfucker. going viral in three, two, one...

(the techno remix version is already here!)

conference committee

every once in a while i'm struck by how weird the idea of conference committees are. the constitution says that the same bill has to pass both the house and senate. that sounds like you would need is single vote to pass a bill in each chamber. but instead, the two always pass different versions, then it goes to a committee that slips all this stuff in the final version of the bill, then both chambers vote a second time on the final version. you'd think there would be a better way to do this. but i can't come up with anything that would work.

Friday, February 06, 2009


the blogger formerly known as aardvark has listed the highlights of a public opinion survey of palestinians taken after the recent gaza offensive. the full poll report isn't up yet at the JMCC web site yet, but it looks like it will be pretty interesting.

UPDATE: i found the official report of the poll. english. arabic. both links are pdfs.

stupiding while rome burns

what matthew yglesias said. the "debate" on the stimulus bill has been pretty disappointing. with one side claiming we must pass something immediately or else the sky will fall without doing a very good job explaining why that something is so important, another side simply declaring that anything they don't like is "not stimulating", and a third group which is really doing the same thing as the second group, only they're pretending that what they want is a sensible compromise between the first and second group.

the whole thing is pretty mind-numbing, especially since i basically think the first group is right. it's just frustrating to see them completely unable to articulate their position in a forceful way. you'd think with the world economy collapsing around us they'd be able to find some example of why we need this kind of stimulus bill.

on the other hand, the haggling over the stimulus bill has not yet reached this level of stupidity. the only thing dumber than last week's articles reporting that president obama takes off his suit jacket in the house where he lives is making some intern pour through eight years of archive footage to prove that the last tenant of the same house also took off his jacket at least once. maybe that will at least stimulate the newspaper intern job market.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

the random ten, in memorium

remember when all those bloggers used to write posts listing ten random songs that came up on a shuffle on their ipod? i just realized that no one seems to do that anymore. i guess they've been replaced by youtubes of music videos.

dark days ahead for gaza

the moment that israel might actually lift lift the blockade on gaza has passed. the israeli public is about to elect the most radical rightwing government in the history of the jewish state. given the mood of the country, it would be political suicide for kadima to ease the blockade in these final days before the election. and once they lose, the next government is even less likely to do anything to ease the suffering of the gazans.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


that dead industrial zone along the train tracks in southern jersey is really beautiful when framed by a toxic sunrise and covered in snow.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

how can i be in two places at once when i'm not anywhere at all

i'm pleased to announce that i no longer have two hearings tomorrow at the same time in completely different states. woo-hoo!

i still have one hearing though. i'd take the antelope freeway, but i'd never get there in time.

typhoid joe

first, mccain made him the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, just weeks before that campaign tanked at the polls. then last month he became a war correspondent for pajamas media, just weeks before pajamas media collapsed.

now he's attending political strategy meetings with the GOP.

this should be good.

heavy metal in elizabeth

it looks like these guys are just up the jersey turnpike from me now.

small world. after all.

Monday, February 02, 2009

انا اريد متفي

i was trying to figure out what this cartoon means. i got the bottom two words, but i couldn't figure out what the letters on the top meant. hans failed me, but google translate wins.

it's pretty impressive that google could get that one. (but it can't get the title to this post)

not extraordinary after all

i don't approve of rendition, extraordinary or otherwise. but it appears that the LA times was punked when it wrote yesterday this week that obama is continuing (or even expanding) bush's extraordinary rendition program. in fact, through his executive orders, obama has ruled out extraordinary rendition. he just hasn't ruled out the non-extraordinary kind.

as i said above, i don't like rendition with or without the adjective. it's essentially state-sponsored kidnapping. there's a legal process, i.e. extradition, that a country can use to legitimately get custody of a criminal. "extraordinary rendition", that is kidnapping plus secret detention and torture, is much worse than regular old rendition, but the fact that the bush administration made rendition worse doesn't make old-fashioned rendition right. while getting rid of the extraordinary is a good step, i really wish our country would fully commit to the rule of law and rule out non-extraordinary rendition as well.

UPDATE: hilzoy says in the comments that rendition just means the transfer of a person from one jurisdiction to the other. thus, extradition is a form of rendition. fair enough. but i'm trying to make something more than a semantic point here. put another way, i'd still rather that obama swear off any extra-legal form of rendition. it's extradition or nothing.

hilzoy's critique of the original LA times story is here.

groundhog day

the thing that bothers me about blogroll amnesty day is not that people want to publicize obscure blogs that others may not have heard of. i can certainly get behind that. what i don't like is the notion that there's a right way or wrong way to maintain one's blogroll. individual bloggers can have different ideas of what a blogroll means. there's nothing wrong if any blogger decides to add or subtract a link from his or her list because the blogroll no longer reflects what the blogger thinks a blogroll is about.

basically, what happened two years ago is that atrios decided to trim his blogroll. he has his own view of what his blogroll was suppose to represent and he decided that the current version no longer matched that vision. so he changed his links, which included cutting some links to blogs who had been there before. other big-name bloggers followed suit and also reworked their blogroll. some of the people who got cut, notably skippy, got pissed off that they were no longer on some big named blogrolls. so he and others launched a jihad direct against "A-listers" (which seemed to mostly directed at atrios and kos) claiming that duncan and markos trimmed all the smaller blogs from their blogroll. that accusation was false, but skippy nevertheless insisted that everyone follow his own blogrolling philosophy, specifically reciprocal blogrolling. (that is, if a site blogrolls you, you should blogroll that site back)

two years ago i found skippy's tirade to be particularly ironic for two reasons, first, skippy seemed to be completely unaware that this was not the first time that the controversy about being left out of big-named blogrolls had reared its head. it had happened at least twice before. those earlier instances were apparently beneath skippy's notice because at that time he was on all the big blogrolls. it seemed to me that being left off an "A-listers" blogroll only became a problem when skippy himself was off the list. it didn't occur to him to care before that happened.

and the second reason is that skippy only made up his reciprocal blogrolling philosophy after he got cut from the big-named bloggers' blogrolls. i had been linking to skippy for years, he didn't link back to me until i pointed it out to him in his comments on the first "blogroll amnesty day." and skippy can't claim that he wasn't aware of my blog, because he said hello to me over a year before that.

anyway, i didn't mean to bust on skippy as much as i already have in this post. and i am glad that skippy, and jon swift and blue gal have worked to turn the day from a gripefest about other people's blogrolls into a positive way to highlight otherwise unknown sites. the only reason i bring up this sordid history is because skippy still can't resist dropping quips like the "morass of exclusion" in his otherwise constructive post.

i'm tired of rehashing the argument over whether people are allowed to do whatever they want with their blogroll each year. it's pretty tiresome. but on the plus side, each year it seems to be a little less necessary. each time the emphasis seems to be more on promoting others than griping about being cut. maybe some day we can talk about blogs that deserve greater attention without any gripes about the "one true blogrolling philosophy." then maybe i would be able to sign onto blogroll amnesty day without any of these reservations.

for what it's worth, i like and recommend the following:

the black iris

blood and treasure

dagger aleph


tower of dabble

i didn't include any of the non-political blogs i read, you can find them on my blogroll if you care. and i don't know whether the above blogs "have traffic less than my own" because i don't follow other people's traffic. i suspect that the black iris is significantly bigger than me. but maybe not in this country. and i linked to explananda in last year's post. i'm not sure if that's allowed under the official B.A.D. rules. but on the other hand, i can't say that i give a shit.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

nativism and SCHIP

i honestly don't understand hostility to immigrants. it really makes no sense to me. if you really believe that the u.s. is the greatest country in the world, as any of the nativists seem to, then why wouldn't you understand and sympathize with other people's desire to come here?

i do somewhat understand the hostility towards illegal immigrants. there is, at least, a rule of law/why penalize the immigrants who play by he rules type of logic behind it. while i personally am not bothered by the existence of illegals (to me they're just a symptom the the fucked-upedness of our current legal immigration system), i at least understand why others might be bothered by them.

but hostility towards legal immigrants seems completely illogical. at least it makes no sense for anyone to be hostile who isn't a native american. the rest of us are all children of immigrants. our very existence here in this country is dependent on the fact that people immigrate here.

which is why the republican leadership's opposition to the SCHIP bill last week because it would end the five year waiting period for legal immigrants to participate in the program made no sense to me. what's the point in not extending full coverage to legal immigrants? senator john ensign explained that the bill would give "more incentives for folks to come to the United States, not just to participate in the American dream, but to get on the government dole[.]" but the SCHIP program isn't "the government dole" like welfare is. it's a program to cover the medical care for children of working parents who don't get family medical insurance through their work but aren't so poor that they qualify for medicaid. if you exclude the children of legal immigrants from SCHIP, aren't you giving an inventive for immigrants to not get a job so that their kids can get coverage through medicaid? a system where legal immigrants can have medical coverage for their kids if they are on welfare but lose it for five years if they get a job, that's the system that has an incentive for people to come to this country to get on the government dole. and that's the system that senator ensign was trying to maintain when he opposed the end of the 5-year waiting period for legal immigrants.

furthermore, if a benefit like SCHIP is only available to legal immigrants, doesn't that also create an incentive for people who come to this country to go the legal route? isn't that what senator ensign would want?

luckily, senator ensign lost the argument. the SCHIP bill passed the senate by a 2-to-1 margin. it still has to pass the house, but i don't think there's much chance that it won't. but i expect that the opponents will center their argument around this weird hostility to legal immigrants, even if their arguments don't really make any sense.