Archive for December, 2007

Can we please just mind our own fu*king business on Pakistan

Friday, December 28th, 2007

As lots of smart people have already noted (Krugman, Marshall, Atrios, Benen, Greenwald), we don’t own Pakistan.  We haven’t even rented it, notwithstanding our shipping wheelbarrows full of poorly accounted for money in that direction. 

And whatever the neoconservative worldview may dictate to the contrary, we don’t get to tell Pakistan what to do — which may be just as well, given that whenever we do try to force other countries to run themselves the way we like (a/k/a Iraq), we tend to fu*k things up.

As Krugman notes, one particularly disquieting aspect of all this is the lunacy of the current crop of presidential candidates (on both sides) arguing over who among them would be better able to deal with the crisis surrounding Bhutto’s assassination.

Earth to would be rulers of the world: it ain’t ours to fix.

(NY Times) It’s not about you

To all the presidential campaigns trying to claim that the atrocity in Pakistan somehow proves that they have the right candidate — please stop.

This isn’t about you; in fact, as far as I can tell, it isn’t about America. It’s about the fact that Pakistan is a very messed-up place. This has very bad consequences for us, but it’s hard to see what, if anything, it says about US policy.

You know, after suffering through seven miserable years of George W. Bush’s presidency, I’ve about decided that the one attribute I care about above all others in a would be Commander in Chief is the ability to learn from history.  And given our consistently disastrous experience over the last 50 years in trying to micromanage other nations, one might think that a little learning on this topic in particular would be in order.

Alas, there is little in the words of our current bunch of Caesar wannabes to show they’ve even begun to learn this lesson.   

Sorry about delay in getting the comments up

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

A series of unfortunate events, to rip off a movie I’ve never seen, kept me away from the café leading to an inexcusable delay in getting comments up.  Please accept my apology.  This should hopefully not happen often in the future.


Café proprietor and unofficial scribe of The Three Wise Men

Has anyone really decided who they support?

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

I have to tell you, in talking to Democratic friends and acquaintances, I have yet to run into anyone who’s made a firm decision on who they support.  To be honest, I get the sense that many of us, in our heart of hearts, aren’t all that unhappy that the decision is likely to have been made before we get a chance to have any input (we’re not an early primary state).  Don’t get me wrong: we’re not dissatisfied with the available candidates (although some of us still pine for Al Gore), we’re just surprisingly conflicted when it comes down to specifically who should get the nod.

We want a winner.  We want an inspirational leader.  We want an instrument of real change.  And we want a fighter.  And while we like aspects of all of the leading candidates, and most of the not so leading ones, we can’t decide which one comes closest to putting the whole package together.

If this highly unscientific sampling of Democratic voters — one made up of people with nothing better to do than talk to me — is accurate and representative of the country as a whole, this thing is still wide open whatever the polls show.     

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Post Christmas question of the day: if the toy your (grand) child (niece, nephew ext.) desperately wanted was only at Wal-Mart would you . . .

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

(a) Stand on principle and give the little bundle of joy a lump of coal;

(b) Buy the gift at Wal-Mart, but then hide the bag before anyone sees it;

(c) What’s your problem anyway?  I love little yellow dots and union busting.

As for my answer, color me . . .

(b) all the way.  Hey, blood (and avoiding temper tantrums) is thicker than politics.  I’ve got the rest of the year to boycott Wally World.

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Exhibit “A” that our economic order is screwed up

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

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This can’t be good

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Just because it’s a nice Christmas story

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Although it’s also a good reminder, at a time when politicians regularly use the threat of small scale terrorist attacks to frighten people for political gain, that there was a time — not so long ago — when expressions of terror often had to do with the all too reasonable fear of wholesale nuclear annihilation.

A little perspective can be a good thing.

(AP) Caroline Kennedy remembers JFK letter

Over the years, Caroline Kennedy sometimes wondered about a third grader who wrote to her father, President Kennedy, worried that Russian bomb tests at the North Pole would kill Santa Claus.

Kennedy finally got to meet her during a segment of ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Monday about Kennedy’s recent best-selling book, “A Family Christmas,” which includes the letter from an 8-year-old Michelle Rochon.

That girl, now Michelle Rochon Phillips, recounted what prompted her to write the October 1961 letter. She said she sat down to write the letter after hearing her parents talking at the dinner table about nuclear testing at the North Pole.

“I thought well, Santa Claus,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview. “And so I ran, sat down at the footstool and wrote the letter.”

*  *  *

The president wrote back, and closed his note by saying, “You must not worry about Santa Claus, I talked with him yesterday and he is fine.” He added, “He will be making his rounds this Christmas

Merry Christmas in Taserville

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Continuing with our new holiday tradition (see the Thanksgiving edition here) of discussing questionable examples of police taser use, today we visit lovely Daytona Beach, the home of world famous car racing and 23 miles of beautiful beaches.

Use of Taser on disruptive store customer questioned (via Hullabaloo)  

DAYTONA BEACH — Can running your mouth off at a police officer during a confrontation in a crowded store get you blasted with a Taser?

It happened last month when a Daytona Beach police officer stunned a yoga instructor. The officer used her Taser when the teacher refused to pipe down inside the Best Buy store on West International Speedway Boulevard.

Some human rights and civil liberties experts say a Taser, and the 50,000 volts its twin projectile probes deliver, should never be used in a situation like that. But Daytona Beach’s police chief said the verbal lashing his officer got and the way her commands were ignored gave his officer every right to use her weapon.

The incident reflects a growing international debate over Taser use. Last month, after six people who were stunned died in the United States and Canada, a United Nations committee said the use of Tasers can be a form of torture. Law enforcement advocates counter that stun guns are safe, essential tools that save officer lives and protect the public.

This is becoming a major civil liberty issue.  When used in self-defense, tasers can save lives, reducing the risk of injury or death to innocent bystanders, the officer and even the suspect.  But when used, instead, as instruments of coercion, tasers become nothing less than a method of torture.   

As I’ve noted before, there are lines you simply don’t cross in a liberal democracy, like, oh, say, torturing suspects (yeah, I know).  And allowing the government to use high-voltage electrical shock as a method of compelling compliance to its dictates is one of those things.  You can’t do that and still use words like republic and democracy to describe yourself as a nation: They just don’t fit anymore.    

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The GOP field just keeps getting scarier

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

It turns out that Mitt Romney is every bit as desirous of becoming the functional equivalent of a dictator as is Rudy Giuliani.  I guess that must be what today’s Republicans mean by their mantra of limited government — that all governmental power should be limited to just one man.

Check out this superb Boston Globe article.

Check out Glenn Greenwald’s excellent discussion.

Then (consistent with the hyper-religious theme of this year’s campaign) pray for the constitution.  Pray hard.

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They despise us, they really despise us

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

The netroots need to face the disappointing truth about why the Democratic Party establishment ignores us in matters of policy: it isn’t simply that they dismiss us as a disorderly bunch of rank amateurs, although they do; it isn’t just that they’ve bought into the Beltway “wisdom” that our mythical extreme liberalism will lead the party to disaster, although they have; and it isn’t just that our partisan “shrillness,” as compared to the David Broder play nice and lose theory of politics, turns them off, although it does.

No, establishment Democrats ignore us (aside from wanting our money, of course) for a more basic reason: they despise us.  

But then, why wouldn’t they?  Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, Beltway denizens tend to be first and foremost Villagers (Washington insiders).  And if Villagers agree on anything, it is that they are far better and wiser — nobler even — than the rabble beyond the gates.

When not safely ensconced behind the closed doors of exclusive Georgetown parties, Villagers can usually constrain themselves from overt demonstrations of their feelings of Beltway superiority and contempt for the politically unwashed.  But every now and then, they let their guard down.  And as it happens, this occurred a lot during the Monica Lewinsky scandal a decade ago.

The aforementioned Mr. Broder, the so-called dean of Washington punditry, for example, famously said of Clinton’s indiscretions, “He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.”   But if Broder’s indignant (or is the word prissy?) words remain the most famous artifact from that not so long ago day when the Village totally misread the nation’s reaction to the Lewinsky dustup, Sally Quinn’s almost as famous (actually infamous) column in the Washington Post is even more informative (as an insider’s description of the thought processes of the Beltway crowd).