|the talking dog|
JANUARY 2003 ARCHIVES
The United Nations weapons inspectors are imposing their own pre-conditions for renewed talks with Iraq regarding the inspection regime, in particular, private conferences with Iraqi scientists (who we understand are either (1) under threat of death for themselves and families if they cooperate; or (2) are Iraqi intelligence officers masquerading as scientists). Much as this appears ďsame old, same old,Ē this is actually very significant. If not even the UN weapons inspectors can provide cover for Saddam, then I would have to say that the odds are in favor of US military action in the shorter term (before spring this year). American insistence (without proof) that Iraq has weapons it is hiding is one thing; the refusal to cooperate in the investigation by Iraq is quite another. My geo-political/Machiavellian instincts tell me this is all part of Saddam's sense of theatre: he will now "see the light", and, probably via some dispatch through Kofi Annan, will suddenly be much more cooperative. If something like this doesn't happen by, say, next Wednesday, go long on oil, baby.
Sharon and Mitzna are to meet on Monday; in the interim, Sharon met with Shinui leader Tommy Lapid, as he courts other parties to try to form a coalition. Mitzna continues his vow to sit out this government; I can see one exception, and that would be something along the lines of a labor/Likud deal way back in the '80's involving Peres and Shamir ďrevolvingĒ premierships. I doubt that Likud, with 37 seats, however, to Labor's 19, would consent to such an arrangement. Look for a governing coalition involving Shinui, but not Shas or Labor.
And just as Ariel has stepped it up in Palestinian territories, Israeli Air Force fighters are buzzing around deep inside Lebanon. Any guesses why?
Its kind of a banner day here the the talking dog, in that I get to welcome SO MANY great new blogs to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM).
We'll start with a fellow canine, Greg Hlatky's blog, A Dog's Life; as you'll see from Greg's site, and his bio, Greg and his spouse are big Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) aficionados. Its a dog's world out there, baby!
A hearty welcome to Lynn B.'s blog, In Context; Lynn has many thoughtful things to say, and has been devoting a lot of attention to the Middle East lately (like you know who), including a nice critique of the draft Palestinian Constitution.
Another great addition is John Smith's Lincoln Plawg, a political and legal perspective from over in the UK. Lincoln Plawg asks the musical question here of why doesn't the President have to meet his legal obligations (in this case reporting) under the blank check, er, authorization, Congress gave him vis a vis Iraq? Great question!!!
And now on with the opera! Israel's state president Moshe Katsav has called on Labor and its leader Amram Mitzna to reconsider joining a national unity coalition, which Mitzna has vowed not to do (you go, Amram!) It appears that Tommy Lapid of Shinui has said that in the event of a war, Shinui would be willing to serve with religious parties in a government in an "emergency" unity coalition. I'm going to guess that (as predicted by...me) Shinui will act in its won interests, and break its pledge not to serve with Shas -- and some sort of rightie -- center government will be cobbled together. Meanwhile, the IDF has stepped up operations in perennial trouble spot Hebron. And Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has contacted Sharon (after that win) and the two have agreed to hold talks.
Several European nations have voiced their support for America's (Bush's actually; l'etat ain't Bush, as our friends at Unqualified Offerings are fond of saying) position on Iraq. In an apparent rebuff to France and Germany's reluctance to approve military action, the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic said Baghdad must not be allowed to violate United Nations resolutions. (I suppose those countries don't have major contracts with the Saddam Hussein government!). Well, this is still a barn-burner; the Bush disinformation program continues unabated.
Finally, a personal note. By profession, your TD is a New York City lawyer specializing in commercial litigation, especially involving construction. Last night, several members of my law firm went to a construction industry event. The guest speaker was ex-Georgia senator Max Cleland. Cleland gave an inspirational speech, congratulating the New York area construction community, who, in the face of terror and danger and against evil bastards who only want to DESTROY, have the courage to go forward and BUILD THINGS, a big F-U to those who mean us harm in the post 9-11 world.
A man of courage exhorted others forward, and congratulated them on their courage. Cleland, as you will recall, former VA secretary under Carter and 2-term senator (D-GA) was defeated by the loathsome Saxby Chambliss (who can go to hell -- I mean that) for his Senate seat. Among the things Cleland has given in service to our nation are both his legs and his right arm (a grenade explosion in Vietnam, where Cleland was a captain in the army). In the chicken-hawk frenzy that was the 2002 election, Chambliss portrayed Cleland as some kind of coward for his stance on homeland security (which, ironically, Cleland voted FOR, and Chambliss voted AGAINST!) Georgia seems to have been tied up over its Governorís position vis a vis a new state flag, and Cleland may have fallen victim to this. All I can say is Cleland is a good man. Georgia did itself and this nation a gross disservice by voting him out.
Welcome to Gail Davis' Blog to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM).
What could be funnier than Libya's Colonel Qaddaffi as head of the international human rights commission? How about Iraq's Saddam Hussein as chairman of the international disarmament organization; the United States has vowed to block it, though the chairmanship rotates monthly and alphabetically, and it is indeed Saddam's turn at the end of May. Stay tuned!!!
Iraq, meanwhile, preemptively denies its links to al-Qaeda, just as our fearless President, promises "evidence" of such links (along with other things) next week (by which time, it is hoped, most people will have moved on to other things like the Pro Bowl and Groundhog Day, and will be sufficiently distracted when the actual "new evidence" looks remarkably like the "old evidence").
The final results are just about in, and even with his huge (37 seats for Likud) win, the current and future PM, Ariel "Arik" Sharon sets about coalition building; first he will try Labor (19 seats) and failing that, Shinui (15 seats). Why? Because 37 seats is great; 61 are needed to hold a government together. Haaretzís "coalition building" analysis is here. Several charts make things more helpful, laying out Sharon's options as a narrow, hard-right coalition dependent on the mercurial religious parties, a slightly broader secular center-right coalition involving Shinui, or a much broader national secular coalition involving Labor and Shinui. Sharon has said he would call new elections quickly if he cannot cobble together a government he is happy with (presumably including Shinui or Labor). This will be a true test of Mitzna's resolve here. I personally hopes he holds his line, as unlike the Israeli electorate (who polls show favor Mitzna's plans, but think only Sharon will be able to carry them up), I think Sharon is not the man Israel needs right now. And Mitzna might be.
At least one analyst noted that Sharon may have scored a Pyrrhic victory, as Yoel Marcus tells us here, Sharon will probably be forced to rely on the intractable far right parties, who would not be happy about any conciliatory moves towards resolution with the Palestinians, and as a result, greatly tie Sharon's hands (or even force him to call for immediate new elections).
We'll see. As I've said before (maybe I haven't): if you don't like the Israeli political landscape, wait five minutes.
We are a government of solutions. To solve problems of health care: cap malpractice suits at $250K. To stimulate the economy: cut taxes for the rich, NOW! (Accelerate those cuts, damn it!) Dependence on foreign oil? We'll have an energy program emphasizing pie in the sky hydrogen power while proposing tax breaks for SUVs. Faith based initiatives? We got 'em. The WHOLE SPEECH requires blind faith in some miracle dispensing deity!
As to Iraq, let's re-read the same carefully worded legal disclaimers (Saddam had MATERIALS CAPABLE OF BEING MADE INTO WMDs -- not WMDs themselves). Iraq is a bigger threat than North Korea because North Korea ALREADY HAS ďnucularĒ (can we get the White House speech writers to write "really big bombs", or "atomic", if this inarticulate 5-K specialist refuses to pronounce the word correctly?) weapons. Plaudits to our military men from a &^%$ DESERTER (you didn't have to report for 14 months of duty when your Dad was a Congressman, did you Mr. President?). Lookit: as to the War, no one's mind was, or will be, changed by the speech. Congress defaulted on its Constitutional duty, and gave him a blank check; he'll do what he will, and other people will suffer for it. What else is new?
The rebuttal consisted of Governor Locke of Washington delivering the pathetic, feckless Democratic class warfare response, featuring the pandering to old people rebuttal. The Yalie calling the other Yalie on class warfare. &^^%$% that, damn it! (And don't bring out Joe Lieberman, either). Call Bush outright, on the 800 pound gorilla called Iraq. Can't someone say it: your father was a &^%$% pussy who PUT US IN THIS MESS, and you are a &^%% pussy WHO MADE IT WORSE. You HAD Saddam last year at this time, you left him there for over a year, and you'll leave him another year. YOU failed to commit whatever resources necessary to bring Osama bin Laden YOU are the enemy of freedom in the United States, Sir (let's make suspension of habeas corpus PERMANENT -- along with those tax cuts for the rich). Saddam is merely a bogey man. Evil? He was OK with your Dad in the '80's, when he was our buddy, until your Dad double-crossed him after green-lighting the Kuwait invasion. (Yes, yes, I'm not running for anything, except President -- vote talking dog -- America's best friend; my running mate Bruce Moomaw brings the necessary foreign policy gravitas).
To sum up the State of the Union? I often find that laughter is the best medicine.
The state of this blog, however, is stronger than ever. I am proud to welcome blogging deity Atrios to the dog run, the best damned links section on the InternetTM. And speaking of deities, God bless the United States of America. And may God help us all.
First, we welcome Nobody Knows Anything to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM). Then we welcome BACK the first Israeli government to be reelected for a while as Haaretz and others report that Sharon's Likud Party can expect 35 seats, with the right wing bloc garnering 67 seats; Labor a pathetic 18 seats; and its left wing bloc only around 35 seats (the centrist bloc has around 20 seats for those trying to add up to 120 seats). A pretty damned decisive Sharon victory, if you ask me. George W. Bush has GOT to be heartened. Sharon is pursuing policies credited for (1) destroying his nation's economy, (2) jeopardizing its security and (3) giving it ongoing international pariah status, for which his party is voted in landslide fashion!
Mitzna announces that his intention is not to join the Likud governing coalition, but...to replace it. Some in Likud are hopeful Labor will join a unity government, rather than sit in opposition. Me? I think Mitzna is a wild man, and I think it helped cost him this election, though he was a long-shot no matter what. In the end, if he sticks to the pledge, I like him MORE because of this; if he can hold the party together and doesn't sell out for a shortcut to some power, he can rise to what Israel needs now more than ever -- a statesman of the highest order of the caliber of Rabin or Begin or Ben Gurion, capable of leading Israel to where it must go, if it is to break out of where it is now.
Itís still a race to see who breaks their pledge, Mitzna's of refusing to join a Likud-led coalition, or Tommy Lapid's Shinui Party's pledge not to join a coalition in which ultra-religious Shas sits, a pledge reiterated by Lapid, whose party garnered an amazing 15-17 seats. If neither join Likud, Sharon can still govern, with the support of the rightist bloc, but will be dependent on more "extremist" parties, and unquestionably, the mercurial Shas party. In my opinion, itís in Mitzna's interest to stay out of this, and itís in Shinui's interest to break its pledge. We'll see who blinks first!
Well, I would lighten up: there will probably be another Israeli election sooner, rather than later, if history is any guide!
We also welcome the President's State of the Union Address around 2100 EST tonight, where for the umpteenth time, the President will sell Midwestern Swing-State-istan on the evils of the Iraqi regime. (Evil EmpireTM, Axis of EvilTM, Tax Cuts for the RichTM -- does anyone see some emerging themes and memes?). We would also welcome, oh, FACTS, such as the proposed release of US intelligence showing that Iraq is actively concealing WMD programs.
Notice that the "proposed release" is next week. Why not immediately? Say right now, with Blix in town and all?
Because there will be no such release, and if there IS such a release of "proof" of Iraqi WMD programs, it will, in fact, prove no such thing. (All part of the strategic campaign of disinformation that IS the Bush Administration. Just a guess on my part.)
We send our condolences to Douglas Anders of The Agora who recently lost his father.
I got a rather pleasant e-mail from Zack of Zack and Amber's blog Procrastination, which just happens to be the newest addition to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM). Zack asked me to provide links to two of his favorite TD diatribes, which happen to be two of my own favorites, Club Med for DictatorsTM (itís in there, just keep reading), and the Ten Most Evil Men of the Twentieth CenturyTM (for those wondering who they are, it is in two groups, the first five mandatory (Adolf Hitler, Mao Tze-Tang, Josef Stalin, "Dr." Henry A. Kissinger, Pol Pot), and the next five to be selected at the whim of the reader out of these ten: Benito Mussolini, John Mitchell, Richard Nixon, Idi Amin, Kim Il Song/Kim Jong Il , Hafez Assad, Slobodon Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini and "The Rwandan Hutus" (a committee effort). Notice the close affinity with the current Bush Administration insofar as both the Axis of EvilTM AND the Nixon Administration are BOTH well-represented!
Everybody, take out your scorecards: today's the day, kiddies, for that big report from the UN inspectors regarding Iraq and its WMDs. We can expect resistance against immediate military action against Iraq from its homies on the Security Council, France, Russia, and of late, China. Recall that France and Russia have extensive contractual relationships with Iraq, and are not above acting in their own national interests. Both also have UN Security Council vetoes. It is inconceivable that the United States would actually put up a use of force resolution without clearing ahead of time that it was not vetoed by the aforementioned, and indeed, unlikely that it would not pass the UNSC as a whole (which now includes friendly-to-our-actions Spain as well as permanent member Britain) and less-than-helpful Germany (see above re: lucrative contracts with Iraq). Your TD's bet is a "hold"; increased US troop presence in an attempt to force Saddam into exile (your TD is convinced that even if Saddam's son Uzay and/or the other Ba'ath butchers remain in power, removing the bogey-man Saddam himself will be counted as a complete victory, for purposes of Midwestern swing states), with no military action this year while the inspectors get additional weeks, or perhaps months, to not find Iraqi WMDs. I make no warranty as to the scripted outcome; President Rove has not let me in on the script. Hans Blix has given Iraq less than rave reviews, noting that it was cooperating in form but not in substance. My assessment
Haaretz's latest poll gives Likud 30-31 seats and its right-wing governing coalition around 66-67 seats. And Labor leader Mitzna is confident of victory...next time! (Itís not just sports, but Israeli elections where "there's always next year; the best guess is that Labor will get 20-21 seats). So we approach the election from the perspective of where we originally thought it would go: a strong Labor in opposition, preparing for eventual victory (and maybe something approaching eventual peace). Well, man can I dream!
Your TD is delighted to welcome The Agora to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM). Itís well worth your time and attention.
Here is a story that your TD was unlikely to miss: a report on Israel's Tiberias Marathon, run on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (and the article does note the suggested short cut of simply walking ON the water). The story reminds me a bit of the now-legendary 2001 New York Marathon (the one where Frist beat me by like an hour): a quasi-surreal experience. Then again, I'd imagine that many things in Israel these days have that quality.
It seems in answer to a recent query I made, Sharon intends for there to be little or no pre-election retaliation over the Gaza incursion, by sealing off Palestinian areas from Israel, until after the elections. Politically, of course, Likud is asking the electorate for a landslide of at least 37 Knesset seats -- to ensure that there is a stable enough led Likud coalition to preclude yet another election within a year or two, as Israel has gone through 4 elections in 4 years.
For his part, Labor's Amram Mitzna is telegraphing what he thinks of his own chances: he was seen over at the Western Wall in Jerusalem praying for an electoral miracle. We'll see: I think Mitzna made some beginner's tactical mistakes -- though the mistakes did NOT include his wildly bold proposed peace initiatives.
Scorecards out? Good. Now the "word" is that the United States will give UN arms inspectors at least 4-6 weeks to complete their task of seeking out Iraqi WMD's. That should take us to March, by which time, arguably, it might be too hot in Iraq for the contemplated military action this year, which will take us into the beginning of '04, just in time for military action to upstage the New Hampshire primary. Time will tell...
Coming three days before the national elections, I suppose Israeli voters could envision no starker contrast between Labor's Amram Mitzna's proposals vis a vis Gaza (unilateral withdrawal) and that of the soon-to-be-reelected Sharon government (occupy and as necessary level). One wonders what, if any, pre-election reprisals the Palestinians will mount. For those of us who look for Machiavellian patterns, this signifies that the unilateral, quasi-legal, American-led incursion into Iraq is at least three weeks away, as Sharon would under no circumstances be allowed to stir up this kind of hornets nest if the invasion were imminent.
Just a guess.
And welcome to PLA, A Journal of Politics, Law and Autism. Another great addition to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM).
I am proud to welcome Groupthink Central and Ruminate This to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM), as the best just gets better. And a belated welcome to Nathan Newman, who has been on the dog run for a little while now. Check' em all out!
Wouldn't it be neat if there were still newspapers that could report live from the perspective of the Wild West? I give you Pravda; this article confirms Chris Hitchens' view: despite the general consensus of the regional players (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, etc.) that Saddam should be offered an exit and an amnesty, the State Department insists that Saddam must be tried.
While telling us of bears in Moscow apartment buildings and the construction of a large "snow penis", Pravda reports that a Taliban commander in Pakistan reports that Al Qaeda (re-grouped across the Afghan frontier in a country that cooperated with North Korea to develop its nuclear program) is alive and well -- and clearly more dangerous than contained Iraq. Note that Spain apparently foiled a major Al Qaeda operation in that country last week.
And this Pravda piece diagnoses an America sick with bloodlust -- eager for its super high tech weapons to perform an execution of the largely innocent-of-the-actions-of-their-horrible-government people of Iraq.
And from the Wild West, we go to the Far East, where People's Daily reports that PRC and DPRK officials (that's China and North Korea) seem to be talking in hopes of a peaceful solution; I consider such talks good news, as only Chinese involvement will ultimately defuse the North Korean "non-crisis" crisis. More good news: the PRC is apparently pushing for "peaceful" cross-Taiwan Straits communication links (trade, transport, postal), as opposed to the usual language of belligerence. I don't know: it seems like good news to me if China is signaling that it will behave like a grown-up. What do I know?
Everyone, take out your scorecards: today's official USA policy: "patience on Iraq" -- we will "assess the UN inspection reports", etc.
Chris Hitchens, who as long-time readers know shares an anathema of all things Henry Kissinger with a certain talking dog, offers us his reasons here why "justice" must be done, and no deals with dictators (such as Saddam Hussein) for amnesty, even if it leads to their peaceful exeunt, stage left.
Sorry, Hitch, you're just wrong. Unqualified Offerings has pointed out the REAL problem with Club Med for DictatorsTM (see, I figured I'd better add the "TM"). Itís a practical problem: PEOPLE LIKE CHRIS HITCHENS, who would insist on "trials" for the likes of Augusto Pinochet, notwithstanding deals for their exits from office that included amnesties reached with THEIR OWN COUNTRIES. This is a bad trend, it would lead to idiocies like our REFUSING to make amnesty deals with the Saddam Husseins and Kim Jong Ils of the world, greatly increasing the price of their removal.
I will now double my pledge (to $20) to whoever wants to set up the first Club Med for DictatorsTM, and I urge our readers to join the crusade.
Israeli blogger Imshin offers us Israel's version of lefty media bias by revealing just how difficult it seems to have been for Haaretz to report any details of corruption scandals involving Amram Mitzna (arising from his service as mayor of Haifa, of course). Of course, Mitzna's exposure to this sort of thing should have encouraged a more statesmanlike stance by Labor on the whole Likud scandal situation, in 20-20 hindsight. BTW, Mitzna denies having taken a bribe from the contractor in question, though at this point, WHO CARES, AMRAM?
Further, the "leaker" of the Sharon loan scandal, Leora Glatt-Berkovich, can expect to be prosecuted by her employer, the Attorney General of Israel. Bet she's unhappy. Even Likud is unhappy: LIKUD wants Labor to get at least 20 seats, to allow that party to hold together to form a national unity coalition (which Mitzna ruled out, setting the stage for Labor's collapse). Jeez, no one is happy!
The big winner: the Shinui Party, which will come very close to Labor, possibly even passing it, and making it a huge wielder of influence. Still, you wonder if even Shinui leader Tommy Lapid is unhappy!
By the way, Labor now has 26 seats in Knesset to Likud's 19 (Shinui now has...6); Sharon "won" a direct prime ministerial face-off against Barak, under a system now withdrawn. The "new" system, which is the "old" system before direct PM elections, is that the President of Israel will invite the leader of the party most likely to be able to form a government; in this case, that will also be the likely largest party, Likud. Recall that about a month ago I predicted around 65 or so seats for the Likud led coalition, and around that number of Israeli dead in pre-election terrorist violence; at the moment, I have (thankfully) overestimated Israeli casualties (though not by that much) though three IDF soldiers killed in Hebron add to the grim totals. And now...
I'm shocked Ė SHOCKED -- to hear that Sheikh Amid Yassin, the "spiritual leader of Hamas" has said that Yasir Arafat's Palestinian Authority has done, well, nothing, to stop Hamas from carrying out acts of violence against Israeli citizens. Perversely, Sheikh Yassin has some credibility: Hamas' reputation is rabid, bloodthirsty and crazy -- but honest.
Finally, the British are showing how they feel about the Sharon government, sending their Mid-East Envoy Lord Michael Levy to meet with PA officials, WITHOUT TELLING ISRAEL IT WAS DOING SO! The diplomatic tit for tat goes on...
Speaking of diplomatic tiffs...the United States adds Iraq's new refusals to permit private meetings with its scientists to its list of grievances against that nation. Well, lookit people: the stock market is off, like 2, 3% today, so let's stay on message. Tax cuts for the rich, invade Iraq.
Somewhere in the last 24 hours, I passed 10,000 discrete (discreet?) hits on the Site-Meter. This is actually more impressive than the 20,000 total hits recently passed below, as my understanding is that it represents distinct users on a given day, and has been up for far less time than the bigger-number-generating hit counter. (I am delighted at the larger total as well, even if my merely hitting the refresh button several times can drive up the hits!). While both of these numbers represent, perhaps, a bad afternoon for Professor Reynolds or Mr. Sullivan or Mr. Kaus, I would nonetheless like to stop and thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to come here and read the dreck that regularly makes its way onto this site, some after googling for "Nordic Dog Sex" or "Madeline Toogood" (whatever happened to her, anyway?), some because you clicked over from many of the fabulous blogs that have chosen to link here, or some because you have (somehow) become a regular fan and/or reader of this site (don't worry; I may not know who you are, but rest-assured, Admiral Poindexter, the IAO and the other proper authorities do).
I blog (neologisms 'r us) to satisfy my vanity (I make no secret of that), and lemme tell you: I just have to send a big heartfelt thank you to all of you. Thank you readers. Thank you bloggers who have permanently or occasionally linked to me. Thank you all.
Although I have no comments section (I think the great Colby Cosh addressed that issue here, although with a three-year-old child, I actually DO have a graffiti wall section in my house!), you may always e-mail your thoughts to email@example.com, and I usually get back to everyone (when I feel like it; as they say about my favorite diner, 24-hour service, sometimes sooner).
I look forward to hearing from you. God bless you all.
It should come as a surprise to exactly no one that, according to Reuters, our government has decided to crack down on foreigners (defined as those hailing from Mexico and the Middle East who might have access to or near Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego as the two NFL teams that sport piracy-related themes representing the third-largest city in Florida and the sixth largest city in California prepare to square off in the "Grudge over Gruden" game). Dozens of arrests are reported.
The Super Bowl is the type of event that warrants extraordinary security measures, of course, and I have no idea whether the measures being taken fall into the realm of "unreasonable", let alone "unconstitutional". As always, however, I'm disappointed that this (along with the INS detentions arising from the new Mid-East male registration requirements) does not seem to be a more major story in the American press.
IDF forces, using bulldozers, flattened around 60 shops and businesses in the Tulkarm area in the West Bank, for "permit violations" (that should make everyone feel better!); query whether the inevitable retaliatory suicide bombings will take place before, or after, Tuesday's elections. Meanwhile, various Palestinian terror factions meet in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian initiative for a cease fire with respect to the intifada, which Egypt believes will lead to a political resolution; historically, none of these types of initiatives have worked before, always managing to fuel further resentments and charges of "failing to heed ceasefires". There's a first time for everything, but the Egyptian initiative seems somewhat less promising at ending violence within Israel than, say, the big fence being built. Oh, and Hizbollah has decided to attack Israeli positions near Lebanon, just to keep things interesting.
Interestingly, Israeli prosecutor Leora Glatt-Berkowitz admitted that she leaked details of the Ariel Sharon campaign loan scandal for her own personal, political reasons (in her case, fear over a family member about to enter the military and a desire to discredit the sitting government). This is unlikely to hurt Labor any more (itís polling at around 18 or 19 seats, probably representing its core base in any event).
It does, however, point out how Mitzna and the Laborites misplayed this, especially since (as charged by Sharon) the leak of the loan scandal was, in the end, politically motivated. It is now safe to surmise (Monday morning quarterback alert) that had a statesmanlike stance been taken by Labor ("though we have our political differences, we trust all involved are honorable, we will let justice take its course and hope all are cleared", etc.) AND the "mere accusation is not enough to cause us to consider abandoning a possible unity coalition in a time of national crisis", etc., Mitzna would likely have held his position (in the mid-20's seat-wise), with an outside chance of passing Likud. Instead, Mitzna, whose peace initiatives were so bold, and whose personal story (dovish ex-general; mayor of Haifa and popular among Arabs) should have made him refreshingly different, has (in conjunction with Sharon and the other parties) apparently managed to restore (or at least to maintain) cynicism and apathy among the Israeli electorate.
With electoral matters in Israel seemingly so in hand for Sharon that he can appear in public with his arch-nemesis (no, not Arafat, BIBI NETANYAHU), in the best tradition of imitation blawgs (or law related blogs, of which this site was once, probably through quirk or accident, but nonetheless was once, the NUMBER ONE MOST INFLUENTIAL LAW BLOG), I will take an easy one today, the thirtieth anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Polling shows that less than 20% of the population supports the GOP agenda (absolute ban on abortion in all circumstances), over twice that supports virtual unlimited "abortion on demand" (near as I can tell, the Democratic Party agenda), with the rest supporting a middle ground of legal abortions, with restrictions (reminiscent of Bill Clinton's "keep abortion safe, legal and rare").
I will say that the Roe v. Wade outcome, permissible bans on abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, permissible restrictions in the second, and no permissible restrictions in the first, has a certain logic to it. Since there is no consensus on the issue (see above), including a consensus on "when human life begins", the High Court reached an uneasy compromise. In many ways, this is similar to what some of the more liberal state legislatures in the late '60's and early '70's were doing, as nationally, abortion restrictions were being lifted at that time in the United States.
Just one little problem: the unelected Supreme Court is NOT supposed to be a super-oligarchy making up new laws. It is a COURT, meant to decide individual cases that come before it, on the basis of existing laws, and the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Court at times goes "off" into "activism". Activism has plagued both "liberal" and "conservative" courts, in many ways, the current Court is the most irritatingly activist (as well as atavist) in history, willy-nilly striking down laws of the people's elected government at its whim, with the scantest of legal authority for doing so. Roe v. Wade followed other tenuous acts of activism of a more liberal court, following up on the "right to privacy" line of cases from Griswold v. Connecticut and others, culminating in Roe v. Wade. No one can point out the Constitutional provisions permitting the "right" to abortion (or for that matter, the "right to privacy"). Similarly, no one can point out the constitutional provisions PROHIBITING the ability to legally obtain an abortion, either.
And there's the problem! How has the GOP managed brilliantly to convey this issue to its advantage, with their position appealing to only a small minority (and affirmatively offensive to a large majority)? And how have the Democrats, with polling showing a vast majority supporting abortion to remain legal at least under some circumstances, managed to have this issue become an albatross around its neck? Correct! A small number of Republicans and activists have put the Democrats into a siege position: Democrats are forced to draw the lines at some of the least defensible forms of abortion (such as so-called partial birth abortion, which, BTW, no state has yet figured out a way to outlaw that was not unconstitutionally vague), because it is feared that ANY restriction on abortion of any kind will become a slippery slope leading to a complete ban. So, small (and arguably, otherwise meaningless) victories for Republicans (such as collateral bans on effective family planning funding, which, as ably noted by William Burton, will of course, INCREASE the number of abortions performed) are magnified, and the GOP "base" is further emboldened.
The abortion issue cheapens virtually every federal judicial nomination into a one-issue circus; often, candidates that should be given far more pause are reduced to one-issue consideration, for better or worse (invariably for worse). Again, bad for Democrats, because each "pro-life" judge that gets confirmed is deemed a "loss" . Of course, the views of lower federal court judges generally do not matter to the abortion issue, they are bound by Roe. The Supreme Court, of course, is not. It made up Roe; it can make up something else to replace it. It CANNOT (without starting a revolution, I suppose) outlaw abortion on its own, though it can certainly permit states to do so (which, after all, had been the law for nearly 200 years). And we know that, for the most part, the Gore/Blue states would continue to keep abortion legal, and the Bush/Red states would probably take up the opportunity to ban it.
Despite my own support (albeit, uncomfortably; see Mario Cuomo) for keeping access to abortion legal, I think Roe was wrongly decided, and it would be better politically for everyone, but especially FOR DEMOCRATS, if it was reversed, and this issue dumped back in the hands of state legislatures. Three decades of the will of a black-robed oligarchy is enough. For TRULY messy issues, democracy works best. Yes, some states would prohibit abortion (though abortion is unattainable in over 80% of the counties in America NOW). But for most, things would be little different than they are now, except that a divisive issue that shouldn't even BE in the federal realm and distracts from other important issues that should will be made a matter of the will of the people as expressed through their legislatures.
The jackals are circling Mitzna and Labor now, with some of the more frustrated Laborites stepping up their call for Mitzna to step aside in favor of Shimon Peres (who, to his credit, says he is behind Mitzna), because some polls show that a Peres led Labor party would garner as many as 29 Knesset seats, from the probable 18-20 level that Mitzna is at now. Given how rapidly Labor fortunes have waned, waxed and waned again, the fact that there is a full week to go will keep things interesting. For some excellent horse race analysis, I suggest MYDD and Head Heeb.
Meanwhile, just to keep things interesting, Hizbollah has decided to shell Northern Israel, leading to the usual retaliation from the IDF. This comes just as Hamas and Islamic Jihad balk at Egyptian efforts for a unified cease fire and cessation of Intifada related violence. While the Islamist maniacs are nominally under no one's control but Allah's, the issue remains whether Palestinian leadership (that's Yasir) likes the current electoral hand, which is an almost certain Sharon reelection. If the answer is yes, then there will be no major acts of terrorism until the election...we'll all just have to wait and see...
Finally, the power of the Internet is revealed as a website attributed to OBL and Al Qaeda urges followers to abduct Zionists wherever they may be found on the long and happy road to universal jihad and imposition of Sharia law... At some point, one might ask why Dubya should not be held to account for not capturing and/or killing OBL. How about now?
Happy Martin Luther King Day to all. And happy "halfway through Bush II's term" day. As we know from the last two years, a full biennial is an eternity, and one with the power to do so can do inordinate damage to the public fisc, the public safety, the public confidence, and the Constitution, in such a period all too easily, if one cares not for the consequences of their actions.
Iraq seems to have considered some consequences of its inactions, and reached a "ten-point agreement" with UN arms inspectors, among whose tenets will include "private" meetings with Iraqi scientists without other Iraqi officials present. Recall that originally the United States wanted the ability to conduct such interviews outside of Iraq, with the ability to, if necessary, relocate such scientists and their families outside of Iraq to avoid Saddam's inevitable retaliation. This sort of thing was opposed by Iraq's champions in the security council, such as France, and is not actually part of the inspection regime, as I understand it. We can conclude from this agreement that (1) Saddam has now had a talking to with his scientists, and they know what to tell the inspectors; (2) Saddam fears the military buildup around him, and is trying to show the appearance of cooperation with the inspectors to buy more time, one of his favorite tactics; (3) Saddam knows that the scientists to be interviewed have no idea where he is actually hiding the WMD's; or (4) some combination of the above. Perhaps Bush's incessant Gulf military build-up (ably assisted by Blair) will have the effect of forcing Saddam to take the exile route, thereby avoiding a costly military operation. Or it might not. Certainly, disinformation is part of a "military strategy" to keep the enemy guessing. In our case, itís part of the Bush governance strategy in general.
The Israeli electorate needn't guess, as the big parties started into their closing sprint before next Tuesday's elections going after the around 20% of the Israeli electorate that is undecided. In a parliament where the biggest party may have 32 seats, even a 3 or 4 seat change can have enormous consequences. Most observers still believe this one is over, and the best Mitzna and Labor can do now is forge a strong opposition coalition. Ironically, this is what I said around a month ago, before the unlikely rise and fall of Mitzna.
Some Labor-ites are calling for Mitzna to step aside in favor of the tried and true technocratic former Labor leader, Foreign Minister and more-than-one-time Prime Minister Shimon Peres. While tossing around issues is what a democracy is all about, this doesn't seem like the greatest of ideas to me. Peres, while a noted statesman and quite possibly the best prime minister Israel has ever had, is impressively unpopular when put to the electoral test. He has never been elected directly into the premiership, but only came in to power as part of a national unity deal with Likud (alternating with Shamir), and after the death of Rabin.
There's still a week to go; certainly, the Laborites willing to propose conditions to join a unity coalition seem better-advised than those ruling it out altogether. Mitzna is compelling in his own right: an ex-general, super-dove, with ideas on unilateral withdrawals and peace negotiations, and very popular among Arab constituents as mayor of Haifa. Alas, he is a neophyte in the national stage, and as noted, has made some huge blunders. But, I think if the next week is properly managed (and more things aren't taken off the table!) he and Labor can recover nicely to perhaps 23 or 24 seats against 29 or 30 for Likud, and Likud can govern with a very narrow majority, which may even include Labor. We can only hope that Arafat and his thug minions and allies like this status quo, and do not unleash a wave of violence, something that can never be ruled out.
A hearty welcome to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM) to Max Sawicky's MaxSpeak and Charles Kuffner's Off the Kuff. The best gets better, as we add more great blogs to an already great list. (The blogosphere is so huge that, while we aspire to get in ALL of the great ones, in practice, we just do the best we can. If Rome were built in a day, we'd have hired their contractor.) Max posts his musings on yesterday's peace march here. Ten degrees plus wind chill, empty streets, and of course "Justice for the Plastinians" as reported by the dean of libertarian bloggers. All in all, staying home and nursing my dislocated shoulder seems not unreasonable.
Iraq's in trouble... A UN official notes that documents discovered at the home of an Iraqi scientist disclose laser aided plans to enrich uranium, part of the means and methods of making a nuclear weapon; the official of course notes this is NOT a "smoking gun". (A little semantic aside. Let me say this about the "smoking gun" analogy: the gun is smoking AFTER IT IS FIRED. When and if Iraq launches a WMD at an American target, THEN we can have a "smoking gun". Until that time, we are looking for "solid circumstantial evidence". Everybody have that?)
UN Chief Inspector Clouseau...er, Blix has called on Iraq to "step up its cooperation" because "war is not inevitable"; instead, Iraq remains "defiant". If you ask George Bush, he will tell you itís all up to him (you know what we mean, itís up to KARL) so that we don't misunderestimate him, regardless of what Saddam does. I am on record as having predicted about 14 different outcomes, though the one I would take credit for involves NOT having a war (some sort of face-saving Saddam exit, EVEN if it means his son Qusay taking over). Time will tell, and polls will dictate!!!
Gil Hoffman tells us the obvious: Mitzna and the current campaign are now a lost cause; he offers several explanations, and only lists the decision to rule out a national unity coalition is number 4. I put it at number 1, it was THE momentum killer, announced just as some polls put Labor at within 3 seats of a scandal-damaged Likud Party. Hoffman criticizes the politicization of the Likud scandals, which may also be a valid point: Sharon will likely survive, and there's plenty of dirt for everyone. In any event, things are SO bad for Labor that a new Likud poll showing that Labor (Israel's ruling party for all but around 10 years since the State's inception) is now in danger of falling to third place, behind Likud and Tommy Lapid's centrist Shinui Party.
Indeed, Sharon's hand seems to be freed up to the point where he can comfortably dismiss the so-called "quartet plan" (reminiscent of "Oslo to Mitchell to Tenet to Espo... he shoots! he scores!). Note that official American war-monger Paul Wolfowitz said in a statement that the US will "deal with Israeli settlements after the Iraq war". Ominous? We report...you decide...
At some point in the last 12 hours or so, this site crossed the long-elusive 20,000 hit barrier; this comes after around 3 1/2 months after hitting 10,000 hits, which in turn took over a year. Someone is reading this. Admiral Poindexter knows who you are. On this occasion, some of you are even suggesting that your TD run for President himself. Well, I'm a classic Northern tax and spend liberal, with many heretical libertarian-leaning views. While I'm no good at fundraising (and hence dead in the water), I predict that if I DID run, I would finish somewhere behind Al Sharpton...and somewhere ahead of Dick Gephardt.
It seems to be "peace protest day" all over the place. While SOME people have a clue as to what they are doing, such as our friends at Unqualified Offerings who offers the most important cinematic advice ever (from Animal House: "my advice to you is to drink heavily") others will morph into the usual of "we hate progress, civilization, White People and Jews, free Mumia, etc." nonsense. Just because many of these people are idiots does not mean that our President is NOT an idiot (he happens not to be, but he doesn't want most of you to know that), or that he is right on this.
Damn, just when we need him most, the flyboy goes off into space! Israel's Colonel Ramon is apparently a veteran of the mission that destroyed Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981. Maybe HE knows where the WMDs are?
Ten days to go, and Labor-ites are calling on that most effective electoral strategy: praying. Labor's polling positions are fading fast; the consensus is that Mitzna's decision to rule out a Likud coalition was a disaster. We're back where we started: with a damaged, but in-power, Sharon-led sorta center right government poised to resume power.
In the "huh?" department, Time reports here that the Saudis are supporting the idea of an internal Iraqi coup to oust Saddam Hussein in lieu of military action. Apparently, voluntary exile seems less likely, and the thought is that Iraqi generals would be the most expeditious means of ousting Saddam. I still like Club Med for Dictators, myself. At this point, given the scope of our deployment to the Persian Gulf, we had better hope that Canada or Mexico doesn't decide to invade us.
Al Jazeerah reports here that Mitzna's blanket refusal to consider joining a Likud led national unity government has backfired; Labor is down to 20 mandates (Knesset seats) from a high of 24; Likud back to 32 from a low of 27. Apparently, the Israeli public would have preferred a relatively stable, centrist "national unity" government working together with the impending crisis triggered by unilateral at best quasi-legal American action against Iraq (I report, you decide...) and the ongoing crisis associated with the intifada. Meanwhile, the home demolitions go on...and on...Sharon has clearly outflanked Mitzna on this "play well and get along with others" thing. Still 11 days, an eternity, to go. Maybe Mitzna can modify his stance, if Labor and Likud together can get close to, or over, 61 seats, this could lead to more stability than a government dependent on the whims of more "out there" parties. Better to be foreign minister or defense minister of a less than perfect government, Amram, than pure opposition in a crazy one. Just one talking dog's opinion.
One if by land...Hamas claims "credit" for a booby trapped raft off the Gaza coast, which the IDF managed to detonate without casualties. Hamas has no shortage of imagination, I'm afraid. Hamas is consistent, as it also refused to accept an Egyptian proposal to halt suicide bombings targeted at Israeli civilians. Oy vay.
When a pissant little country like Belgium, with its own complicity for ongoing nightmares in places like Rwanda and Zaire decides it has got religion, and brings it upon itself to impose its court system as the universal arbiters of conscience, what shall we do? I am speaking of course, of the decision by the country that hosts both NATO and the EU to change its laws to allow an in absentia prosecution of international war criminal and PM of Israel Ariel Sharon for the Sabra and Shatila massacres (whether or not Sharon sets foot in Belgium). It would be one thing, of course, if Lebanon, the place where the alleged atrocities occurred, did this. Note that past investigations and a US court have cleared Sharon of intentional complicity, though not necessarily of negligence. Belgium?
This is a problem with so-called universal jurisdiction: itís not to right wrongs when no other means is available, but to score cheap political points. Some appropriate sanction should be leveled at Belgium if it insists on going this route. Ariel, undeterred, continues to order heavy IDF operations against Palestinians. At least three killed, including one mentally ill man. Sharon is playing to win Ė the election, that is. The Belgian action can only help with that, too!
Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli, will be that nation's first astronaut when the space shuttle Columbia blasts off with him aboard. Security is, shall we say, tight. Itís up, up and away. Mazel tov, Col. Ramon.
Day 3 of life as a left-hander...posts will be shorter, as typing is limited! A big hello to Saddam Hussein, who entertained UN arms inspectors at home today. It seems that Saddam lives in these big palaces; itís thought he may have WMDs at home, for protection. But he can't seem to remember where he hid them. The Unseen Editor points me to this indicating Saddam may be looking for asylum in a friendly country. Other countries urge time to allow the inspectors to finish their search. If that's the outcome, it will save many lives and much money. We'll see...
Hang around long enough and you'll see everything: the UN condemning Palestinians for the use of children combatants. What next? A UN declaration that murdering Israeli civilians is wrong?
Let me now jump to an aside, based on a recent conversation with the UE regarding Palestinian suicide bombers. I will say I understand, or at least acknowledge, the suicide bombers' desperation, and even how they might see themselves as freedom fighters, advancing their cause by the only available means (i.e. giving their own lives). Doubtless, they are taught, much as Mohammed Atta and company, that their enemies are less than human. The horrors of the tactic speak for themselves. The tactic has really damaged Palestinian civil society, and at this point, given that Palestinian elites DO NOT send their own children off to die, and the Israelis show no signs of packing up and leaving en masse (as if they had anywhere to go) , and when even the terrorist-sponsoring UNITED NATIONS questions the tactic, maybe itís time they tried something else (like an internal coup against Arafat and real diplomacy). Just a thought. Paradoxically, stopping the violence is the only way the Israeli electorate would comfortably elect someone like Mitzna who might actually make peace with them.
Finally, former defense minister David Ben-Eliezer may be trying to save Mitzna from himself, by suggesting conditions under which Labor would participate in a national unity government headed by Sharon. So much for party discipline!
Its day 2 of life with a dislocated shoulder, as a literal lefty! Let's start with Korea; the Unseen Editor ably points us to this analysis by Fred Kaplan in Slate, noting that so-called appeasement may ultimately the best of bad options. I don't know; I wish there were better options, I certainly wish I believed our government took the DPRK as seriously as it takes, say, Iraq right now. No question we need the other regional players, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan on board, and they're not on the same page as us. Still scary. Maybe these issues will be discussed at upcoming meetings between PRC and US State Department officials, as reported by the Peoples Daily. I readily admit I don't know the answers here; I have no doubt Bush is handling it badly, and needs to get a handle on this. Fast. This is a tough situation, and even I am not sure what will ultimately be the best answer; I AM sure that the correct answer is not cut taxes for the rich and invade Iraq.
Reality is setting in for Labor; new polling shows Mitzna and company down to around 20 seats, and Likud around 32, while Labor intends to focus its campaign on Sharon. Further, as Imshin notes here, Mitzna seems to be courting extreme left voters, and is foreclosing the likeliest coalition partners (such as...Likud), in a way that might have hurt Labor more than its opponents. A fortnight is still a political eternity, so we'll see how this shakes, but I certainly wonder about the tacit preemptive rejection of a national unity coalition at this stage (i.e., when Labor is still behind!)
Jordan is thinking ahead, and scheduling meetings with several parties about resuming peace talks after the election. At this point, it looks like Likud will be back...
At least one loyal reader (Bruce, you know who you are!) questioned what appeared to be my sudden 180 on the North Korean issue, i.e., I was jumping on the appeasement bandwagon. No, no, no! For my thoughts, look within the site, or read the great William Burton, that the DPRK, having shown they cannot keep deals they made, has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted and MUST BE REMOVED. ALL, as in 100%, of the troops now being sent to the Gulf should be sent to Korea, with other reinforcements, and clear negotiations: talk to us, abandon your nukes, or we will KILL YOU - while giving the leadership an appropriate series of incentives (Club Med for Dictators? General amnesty?) to leave peacefully.
My earlier post was intended as predictive: how Bush will justify AND PACKAGE a counter-productive (quasi-suicidal) sell-out and appeasement. Because that's what's coming out of this continuation of the most cynical presidency in American history, the Nixon-Bush-Bush legacy.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, freed from his pledge not to run against Al Gore, has announced his intentions of seeking the presidency, officially. I do not expect the Senator to get very far in his quest, but itís always possible he's running for vice president again. To his credit, Senator Daschle decided NOT to run for president.
Short answer is never say never, so I won't, but to call Lieberman a long-shot is to overstate his chances.
Much as I'm already a leftie, this morning's jogger blogger took me to a fall-down on a darkened Brooklyn draw bridge over the Gowanus Canal right shoulder first, rendering the use of my right arm "lessened" for several weeks (I am right handed by nature).
Many in the lefty blogosphere were pondering how the Bush Administration would get out of North Korea: that is, how do we appease them again without calling it appeasement. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly is hinting at just that: stop your nuke program and we'll "consider" fuel shipments. My own suggestion remains tying a free trade pact with North Korea and China along with a massive cash infusion and literally buying Pyongyang's nuclear program, and calling it not appeasement -- but about jobs and growth (if I could get a tax cut for the rich in there too, I just KNOW the President would do it).
Meanwhile, Ariel is in trouble: South Africa is investigating Cyril Kern, Sharon's old army buddy, about that $1.5 million loan thing. So, rather than bomb a Sudanese medicine factory or Afghan fields, Sharon and the IDF have stepped up military action, leaving at least 9 Palestinians and 1 Israeli dead in yesterday's clashes. We'll see if this "get tough" thing can hold off Mitzna, in light of the burgeoning electoral corruption issues. At least two Israelis were killed by terrorist gunmen in separate incidents yesterday as well.
Finally, in a move to draw support from smaller parties to Labor, Amram Mitza (nice picture in this link!) vowed not to join Sharon in a coalition government under any circumstances. Mitzna is a wild man -- he is not playing for second place!
Isn't Tony Blair just the little poodle who could? According to Al Jazeerah, Tony Blair plans on including PA officials in his London peace conference by telephone, thereby allowing their participation despite the post-Tel Aviv bus bombing travel ban. (Note the characterization of the "rogue state" of Israel). This as Al Jazeerah also reports that the Bush Administration, under private pressure from the little poodle who could, may be stepping back from the "war sooner" rather than "war later" posture. Of course, disinformation could just be part of the program. Tony is busy, busy, busy with things arguably of tangential interest to Britain! Well that's the way it goes.
Let's hear it for Pravda for giving us Kim Jong Il's "manual" on how to piss off the US of A, noting that the current US focus on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction which will be at best difficult to locate while North Korea flaunts nukes and ballistic missiles in front of us is a result of STUPID American policy. As I've said before: somebody's gotta tell it like it is, and Pravda seems to be stepping up.
What to do as your party's poll numbers collapse, while you are fighting for your political life in a personal corruption scandal? Well, some would accuse you, if you were Bill Clinton, or in THIS case, Ariel Sharon, of "wagging the dog": the BBC reports that the IDF is engaging in the largest military operation of the current Intifada (at least according to Palestinian sources) as a diversionary tactic against the corruption scandal. There are reports of several Palestinian dead in the current round of IDF operations. Of course, "getting tough" is a Likud campaign mainstay; the issue remains, will it be enough? We have a virtual political eternity -- 16 days -- until the election, and I do not think for a minute we have seen the last suicide bombing.
So we will see how this turns out; Ariel may win the war (I still believe Likud will prevail as the largest party in Knesset, but I think he may be forced into another variant of "national unity" government). Sharon is certainly losing battles left and right, such as his complaint over having his "explanatory broadcast" cut off as "too political". Perhaps Sharon can campaign on the basis of his (hitherto denied) role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres!
Perhaps the accusations of heavy-handedness by the wife of Europe's Central Banker will help Sharon. What is it with European political wives, be they Cherie Blair or Gretta Duisenberg -- why can't they make their HUSBANDS take the heat for their bald apologism for the murder of Jews? I sympathize with the Palestinians too, the overwhelming majority who DO NOT participate in the violence against innocent people, but just try to lead their lives as they are caught in the cross-fire between their "own" kleptocracy and Israel's politically-motivated counter-attacks. The killers can go to hell, as far as I'm concerned; they deserve no one's sympathy.
Finally, as a now-prominent legal blog, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the courageous decision of Illinois Governor George Ryan to commute the sentences of 156 death row inmates (and another dozen or so in the system but not yet on death row). What can I say? Itís a courageous decision, and as a result, I am sad to say, a courageous man is probably never going to get elected to anything ever again -- 'cause we LOVE our death penalty in this country, even when, as in Illinois, there are SERIOUS questions about whether innocent people are sentenced to death. But our current President made a name for himself by leading the nation in executions; his immediate predecessor rushed back to Arkansas during the campaign to ensure the execution of a mentally ill inmate.
For the record, I am "operationally opposed" to the death penalty. If we saved it for the McVeighs and bin Ladens (or in New York, for the "Wendy's killer"), and made damned sure these few monsters got an absolutely fair trial, then I would say -- execute away. But as a regular participant in the uneven legal system of a state widely regarded as having one of the BEST court systems in the country, and almost always only dealing with CIVIL matters, I can tell you, justice is dispensed far too arbitrarily for life and death decisions. Further, given that most death penalty recipients tend to have appointed counsel paid absurdly low compensation by the state ("if you can't afford an attorney one will be provided for you") that itís very hard to conclude the penalty is meted out on a basis that can reasonably called "fair". Better to adopt George Ryan's approach: commute 'em all, and let the courts sort 'em out.
Well, apparently some more technical glitches in the algorithms are being worked out, reality is setting in and the talking dog has been edged out of its number one most influential law blog ranking on Memufacture, having now fallen to the number two slot; current number one is the esteemed and professional blog of Philadelphia Lawyer Howard Bashman, How Appealing; the Volokh Conspiracy has moved to number three. Still, short-lived or not, your talking dog basks in whatever adulation is leveled at him!
The Jerusalem Post reports that Syrian state media issued an editorial stating that the United States is hell-bent on a war against Iraq, regardless of UN approval, whether WMDs are discovered, or anything else. This is close to the latest Al Thawra editorial in its English version; Al Thawra is one of our permanent links on the Dog Run, but the English version is not updated regularly, and those Arabic classes I've taken have been, well, imaginary. So I'll take the Jerusalem Post's word for it.
This is consistent with my own thinking, that the Bush Administration has ALREADY announced another tax cut for the well-off this week, leaving war with Iraq as its only other available policy prerogative. Unqualified Offerings tells us, that war is coming based on simple logic:
Bottom line, according to me, remains: The domestic political consequences to Bush of not conquering Iraq are substantial. The domestic benefits of not conquering Iraq are far less certain. Therefore: war.
I personally believe that the exploding federal budget deficit and increased price of oil and economic slowdown caused by widespread fear of travel (it happened just like that in Gulf War I) would wreck the economy and guarantee that Dub is a one-termer, but Dick and Donny WANT A FIGHT! Tough call, eh?
Speaking of fights, Haaretz reports that PA Chairman Arafat has called on Palestinian militants to cool it before the coming election. My God! If this means ARAFAT has lost confidence in Sharon, and PA-supported suicide bombings are coming to an end until the election, then Sharon and Likud are just about finished. Fortunately or unfortunately, like almost everyone involved in the Israeli-Palestinian fiasco, Arafat is inherently untrustworthy (well, he's MORE untrustworthy than most), and thus, I don't believe for a minute that he actually means a halt in attacks on Israelis. But if he does...
PA Minister of Local government Saeb Erekat tells the Jerusalem Times that Israel's current ad hoc regulations, no Palestinian under 35 may leave the territories, PA officials can't travel, etc., have turned the Palestinian territories into a "big jail". I hate to break this to Minister Erekat, but that's kind of the point. As far as I know exactly zero Israeli Jews have engaged in suicide bombings, and something like 100% of the suicide bombers have been Palestinian Arabs. I'm sure some very high percentage of the Palestinian population does not take part in terrorist activities and really doesn't deserve the collective punishment it is receiving, but the Israeli response is understandable, and even justifiable. In the short run.
In the long run, of course, it's unsustainable, wrong-headed, and pretty close to insane. But that's something else entirely.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the Israeli response is (ahem) politically motivated (as if the PA violence itself is not)! As to politics, Caroline Glick gives us her analysis of how this election cycle has been "dumbed down", and the Israeli voters more or less told to ignore security issues (such as, oh, the possible end of the Middle East as we know it based on the 27 January deadline of the UN Iraq weapons inspection report; Israel's election is on 28 January!) and focus on who will hit the religious harder (Ms. Glick asserts that the secular centrist Shinui party has benefited tremendously from this).
Having the perspective of 5,000 miles, and living relatively free of daily existential angst here in New York City (though I remind all that several times more people were killed at the hands of Arab terrorists here in New York in the last 18 months than in Israel, and I have yet to reconcile my own existential angst from having watched it from one city block away), I disagree. The day to day discourse and advertisements and press conferences in Israel may be as inane and stupid as American campaigns in the Bush-Clinton-Bush...Clinton(?) era, but unlike here, the Israelis HAVE A CHOICE, and I think they know it. Mitzna is a different animal: an ex-army general, mayor of Haifa, if anywhere, the one place in Israel where Jews and Arabs FREAKING GET ALONG. (And Mitzna gets action! Haaretz reports that Tony Blair has promised to try to lift Britain's non-embargo embargo on fighter jet parts, something he apparently WOULDN'T DO for Ariel!!!) Mitzna's proposed unilateral withdrawal plans, the effective end of "Greater Israel", are wildly different from anything Sharon is proposing.
It may be that Mitzna's proposals are as insanely wrong as they are insanely different. But, even if Israelis exercise their choice for seemingly trivial insular reasons (to punish Likudnik corruption, to stick it to the Shas party, or whatever), ISRAELIS HAVE A CHOICE. And in my humble opinion, as big and important a choice as any this generation.
Continuing my ongoing self-aggrandizing acknowledgment that this site (yes, THIS ONE) is the NUMBER ONE most influential law related blog (more influential, than say, featured links like the Volokh Conspiracy, even though Eugene, Sasha and friends get something like 50 times my traffic...but I digress!). INFLUENTIAL. (Listen, I gotta have SOMETHING, right?) (Maybe I'd better comment on some legal case, or something...see below re the Supreme Court...of Israel!!!)
As you know, this site was early to jump on Mitzna's bandwagon: his policies (Rabin...with a beard) are as bold and exciting as the candidate himself is dull and lackluster. Haaretz reports that in the latest polling (helped a great deal by the Likud electoral scandals, especially by Ariel's own troubles, which have shocked, shocked, I tell you, Likud's supporters. Ariel will now be forced to make a statement about that $1.5 million loan "problem"). Likud is currently polling at 27 seats to Labor's...24. You just have to read the last few weeks of this site to see how unlikely that was. In the "only in Israel" department, just as Sharon was defending himself of the corruption charges on television by blasting the Labor party, electoral authorities cut off the broadcast as too political!!!
Further, it appears that the recent Tel Aviv bus bombing has made Israelis concerned that the Likudniks may not do all that good a job in protecting them (or even as good a job as a Labor government might), a sentiment that if it becomes widespread, will land Amram Mitzna into the premiership in less than three weeks.
As if all that wasn't bad enough for Ariel, Messrs. Tibi and Mashara (two Arab candidates recently barred from running in the election by the electoral commission) have been reinstated by Israel's Supreme Court; this will probably increase Arab turnout, and Arab Israelis (or Israeli Arabs) ain't votin' Likud, now, are they? Ariel was counting on that boycott!
And as I have said here before, Hizbollah denies that it will launch strikes at Israel when the American invasion of Iraq (itís inevitable, right?) occurs. The players on the ground are all re-positioning themselves, against the coming USA onslaught. (Maybe).
Interesting times, people. Stay tuned on THE NUMBER ONE MOST INFLUENTIAL LAW-RELATED BLOG.
I have no idea how this happened, but Memeufacture has determined that the talking dog weblog, the one you are reading right now, is number one in its list of "most influential" law-related weblogs. Obviously, this is some sort of mistake, but it HAS NONETHELESS earned Memeufacture an esteemed place on the Dog Run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM), on one of the most basic laws of the universe: you kiss MY derriere... (for those of you out there with web logs seeking out additional links, hey, it works the same way!)
On the other hand, maybe itís NOT a mistake: this piece by Alan Bock posted at antiwar.com seems to, ahem, borrow heavily from other sources (such as this site, the one you are reading now). As deftly picked up by our friends at Unqualified Offerings here, noting that yours truly suggested the idea of an "exit with honor" by dictators into a "Club Med for Dictators" arrangement might make things easier in the world; this idea was duly refuted by Unqualified Offerings insofar as political realities of European do-gooders who want to have "trials" and "international criminal courts" and whatnot would NEVER let such an idea take hold (with probably millions of additional needless dead in military conflicts so that a few members of an elite get to have a show trial somewhere).
Well, enough inside blogball... what did YOU think about me?
Here is an editorial from Saudi Arabia's Arab News daily suggesting that the Palestinian militants responsible for this weekend's atrocity in which 23 people were killed are playing into the hands of the Israeli hardliners. Here are a couple of paragraphs (while the perspective is not mine, of course, the analysis is not dissimilar to my own, I believe the Israeli hardliners and Palestinian terrorists do have a perverse symbiotic relationship):
The last thing that the Israeli authorities want is a reformed Palestinian Authority, able to command respect in the world. They simply cannot afford to let Palestinian aspirations toward statehood take any positive steps at all. Therefore the Tel Aviv bombing was just what they needed to take a knotted rope to the caged-up Palestinian negotiators waiting to travel to Tony Blairís conference.
There is a sense in which Hamas and the other extremist groups are actually playing the Israeli game. They may even be driven by agent provocateurs within their midst. The Zionists want more bombs, not peace. However even if tomorrow, the hard men in the Palestinian community brought an end to their suicide bombing campaign, the Israelis know just what to do. After a very public international sigh of relief, they would recommence their needling campaign of humiliation to provoke just a few extremists to renewed attacks. And then the whole awful bloodstained circus could start over again, and the Zionists could turn to the world with a despairing shrug and say "We tried, but look how they rewarded us!"
Also from the Arab News, this call from the UN agency responsible for monitoring atomic weapons, calling on the United States to provide more detailed information on Iraq's supposed capabilities than so far provided (i.e., USEFUL information). This agency indicates its work will take MONTHS. (Of course, we're itchin' for a fight NOW! ) Since we're on the Arab News today, it also reports that the Saudis announced that they will consider joining a war against Iraq based on the findings of the UN inspectors. What the *&&^% kind of position is that?
Even as, post Tel Aviv bus station bombing, Israel tightens measures in the territories, such as prohibiting Palestinians under 35 from leaving the territories, or PA officials to leave their towns, PM Sharon fights off corruption charges. In Israel, the problem it seems, are not tough campaign finance LAWS, itís actually getting anyone to follow them. Perhaps this explains why the campaign ads (such as Mitzna's) are, well, bland and lackluster ("Mitzna is not Yossi Beilin with a beard, he's Yitzhak Rabin with a beard"; "he could use spontaneity lessons from Al Gore", etc.)
Just as I recently noted that Hizbollah was preparing for Israeli responses in the event of an Iraq war, it appears that Israel is concerned with Syrian and Hizbollah action as to the same scenario. And Herb Keinor in the Jersualem Post asks the musical question, why pick a fight with Britain? The answers include the non-embargo embargo of F-4 aircraft parts, the hosting of Syria's president recently, the refusal of Tony Blair to host Bibi Netanyahu while welcoming Amram Mitzna later this week. Much of this is reported here on the NUMBER ONE MOST INFLUENTIAL LAW-RELATED WEB LOG. (Come on, people, its all about ME. Like you didn't know that.)
The President has announced the outlines of another phase of tax cutting for the well-off, this time called a "stimulus package". My favorite part is the elimination of the tax on corporate dividends, the benefit of which will, as we all know, inure entirely to middle class and working people with children (who happen to have a net worth of several million dollars invested in income stocks).
As with the elimination of the estate tax, that both have had (and will have) perverse incentive effects on charitable donations, and states highly dependent on federal estate tax activity or their revenues (such as...Florida)...this particular move, coming at a time of massive state and local government deficits, will almost certainly force states and municipalities to increase interest rates on their borrowings to compete with suddenly tax-free dividend paying stocks. But, the President will get to take credit for a one-time 800-1,000 point increase in the Dow.
One must commend the President's ability to stay "on message" (even as it is announced that the '04 Bush coronating convention will seek to exploit Ground Zero and be held right here in the Big Apple). The answers to all of America's ailments always seem to come back to (1) invade Iraq and (2) cut taxes for the rich.
Dalia Shehori reviews a book called "The Morning After -- the Era of Peace-- Not Utopia". Ostensibly, the conclusion of the essayists in the book is that once "peace" breaks out with the Palestinians, it will be a cold peace, military might will still be required, and the "dividends" of expanded trade with the Arab world will take many years to kick in. I suspect most Israelis would be happy to know that suicide bombings were coming to an end, to be honest, but nonetheless, a not all that optimistic prognostication.
More woes for Ariel, this time as the Israeli State's Attorney's office investigates ties to a mysterious South African who apparently "loaned", "gave" or "supplied" $1.5 million to Sharon's sons Gilad and Omri, which in turn was used to obtain another loan at a time Sharon was raising money to seek the Likud leadership post. My feeling remains that given the climate of existential angst, the right wing parties, of which Likud will emerge as the largest, will hold a majority in the coming Knesset, but a much more narrow and tenuous majority than first thought.
Man, I would have loved to hear the alleged "heated conversation" between Jack Straw and Bibi Netanyahu (the foreign ministers of the UK and Israel, as if anyone reading this doesn't know that!); Tony Blair has stepped up and written directly to Ariel Sharon asking him to allow PA representatives to come to the scheduled peace conference in the UK. Here's two suggestions Tony: tie your requests to F-4 parts, or to campaign loans!
Meanwhile, according to the Lebanon Star, we have reports of Israeli jet flights over Southern Lebanon (fired at by Hizbollah), and this analysis of Hizbollah preparations regarding an American attack on Iraq (i.e., a coordinated Israeli attack on Southern Lebanon). Hence, even while the Bush Administration gives nary a second thought to collateral destabilizing consequences of its rhetorical war with Iraq, the players on the ground nearby seem to do little else. I assume Hizbollah's Syrian masters realize that their pita bread is buttered with sniping, OCCASIONAL rocket shots and guerrilla attacks; all out war with Israel is something to be avoided on that side of the fence, pretty much at all cost.
And if the possibility of World War III either in the Middle East or involving North Korea isn't bad enough, how about the fact that damned refs BLEW A CALL at the end of the Giants-49ers game, and the Giants should have gotten another try at a 41 yard game winning field goal!!! This sort of thing makes me angry, very angry indeed.
This analysis by Douglas Davis, coming one day after the horrifying twin suicide bombings that left over 20 people dead in Tel Aviv (including 20-year old female Staff Sergeant Mazar Al Kobi) is ALMOST right. He notes that Palestinian violence gets most intense just as "peace is in the air"; right now, of course, that would be the peace proposals of crazy man Mitzna (on whom Labor intends to focus its campaign, as does Likud.).
But, in focusing on why the Europeans are so in love with Arafat and his homies, Davis misses the point of WHY. He concludes that Arafat and the gang(s) scuttle peace with violence to make sure that they don't have a state so that they can continue to be the darlings of the world, go to State occasions, etc., rather than deal with the minutiae of arranging garbage collection in Gaza and road paving in Ramallah, Arafat wants to be a cool "revolutionary leader".
As regular readers know, this is WRONG! Arafat and company want to maintain their kleptocracies and protection rackets now without interference. "Peace" followed by accountability would be a disaster; Arafat is not a national liberation leader: he is a glorified mafia don, and, at an estimated net worth of over $1 BILLION, has to be rightly regarded as one of the most successful criminals in human history.
Among the dead from yesterday's atrocity in Tel Aviv were at least one Chinese national (four were injured); hence, the PRC expressed its outrage at the bombings, but urged Israel not to seek "an eye for an eye" in this People's Daily article.
China's renunciation of the attack (even as the Godless commies urge setting aside Biblical prerogatives) seems sterner and more sincere than, say, the EU's.
Among Israel's responses to the attacks (aside from bombing the crap out of Gaza) was to ban PA representatives from Tony Blair's (Not Talking) Dog and Pony "Palestinian Peace conference"; Bibi had the right idea (though he was outvoted by the cabinet): EXPEL ARAFAT NOW. Britain is upset with this decision of course: Tony was SO looking forward to hosting a big peace party! Of course, what can the UK do, have a non-embargo embargo on Israeli aircraft parts?
Well, at least Britain is on board in crazy lockstep with American warmongering towards Iraq. The problem is, the UN inspectors have found NO EVIDENCE that Iraq actually HAS WMDs!!! Bush can continue to insist on Iraq proving "its innocence" (and that Saddam "must be hiding something), but the investigating magistrate (CHOSEN BY PROSECUTOR BUSH) seems well on its way to clearing the defendant! Somehow, the brazen factual inaccuracies (or LIES, if you like) that the President has used for such things as getting his tax cut passed (or getting himself or his party elected) seem unlikely to be an appropriate basis to garner support for a war to remove Saddam's (so far, unavailing) WMD's. Pravda (IS there truth in Pravda these days?) reports (based on a Boston Globe story) that American special forces (and some British and Australian troops) are ALREADY in Iraq, as an advance team to a 200,000 strong force scheduled to invade in February.
We'll see how this plays out. God help us all.
The Unseen Editor and I recently discussed the subject of suicide. I suggested that being a suicide bomber might be one method that was pretty fast, and didn't hurt all that much (given that all of the explosive pressure was generated outward), though, given the nails and the shrapnel, was likely to be remarkably painful for others (which is part of the reason, a small part, the practice is so evil, and the Palestinians have deservedly cost themselves a great deal of international support despite some justifiable grievances by continuing the practice, such as today's horrifying twin blasts in Tel Aviv killing at least 20 people). The Unseen Editor disagreed, suggesting that suicide bombing seemed awfully painful for the perpetrator as well as the victims (and UE also asks whether the desperation of the Palestinians and the fact that the horrifying atrocities DO seem to get the world's attention and INCREASE the likelihood of attaining their political goals, when measured against Israeli heavy-handedness, may be closer to "moral equivalence" than we all care to admit; you say tomato...)
But still, the question of a painless method (Or relatively painless) looms.
The blogging format leads itself to this exploration of "pet topics", such as this primer (care of Google) on how to make an atomic bomb. Hence, the subject de jour...
Naturally, the first stop on this brief journey for a blogger would be our handy-dandy Google search, giving us 3890 responses, of which the majority (I hope) relate to SUICIDE PREVENTION. And by the way, this posting is PURELY for PRURIENT purposes, it is in no sense meant to be a primer. For those who are seriously considering suicide, stop RIGHT NOW, and go call 911, or your family doctor. You heard me: STOP NOW. Log off if you use dial up and call, or just call. For those of you who didn't listen, I offer you The Black Dog, a similar sounding site to this, from the Irish government.
Now, for the rest of you prurient SOB's -- let's first look at a chart of methods and relative lethality and painlessness, offered here. It certainly looks like, as I would have expected actually, that carbon monoxide poisoning has the high lethality and low agony counts that would make it the method of choice (if you asked me). The Unseen Editor and I discussed this very issue, and noted that this is just one more reason life in the City sucks compared with life in the suburbs (forgetting the congestion, the cost, the noise, and all the other reasons one might be more likely to WANT to commit suicide): the least painful method (CO poisoning) seems the least likely. Why? First, you have to have a car. Then, you have to have a garage you can seal up. And last, you have to find some garden hose. AND you have to do this in a quiet enough area so no one will discover you in time to stop you. The City sucks.
SO, let me take this moment to re-print the famous Dorothy Parker suicide poem:
Razors pain you;
Well, as we ponder another set of thoughts from the Church of Euthanasia on various methods, and this book review on the subject, let us once again realize, from Dorothy Parker's poem, why life (or even ending it) is SO much easier OUTSIDE of a big city than in it. Consider guns -- try to GET one in the City (of course, going to the neighborhoods one must go to in order to purchase an illegal weapon may itself constitute a form of suicide!). Pills? The doctors in the City are MUCH more likely to suspect what you're up to and try and stop you than suburban hacks, who will willy nilly prescribe whatever lethality you suggest. Even vehicular suicide is easier: more cliffs to drive off of, and everyone has a car, of course. And we discuss carbon monoxide above.
The methods available in the City more readily (jumping off things or throwing oneself in front of trains) are really quite painful, and less guaranteed to kill you (with likelihood of either a slow and agonizing death, or paralysis or other severe downsides). In short, even as life in the City DRIVES one more readily to suicide, one is less able to carry it out! Man...
For those of you who have read this far, and are at all interested in the above for themselves, try reading this from RuinYourLife.Com, exploring issues of human self-destruction. There will be a short quiz to follow...
I wish I were wrong in my predictions of an increase in Palestinian violence. Tragically and horribly, at least twenty were killed by two suicide bomb blasts at the old Tel Aviv bus station in that city as reported here and here. "Credit" is being claimed by both Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
PM Sharon used the occasion of a cabinet meeting (before the bombings in Tel Aviv) to blast Labor leader MItzna and former PM Barak, terming their peace plans as "irresponsible". The Israeli electorate will have to draw their own conclusions: whatever "vision" or "plan" Sharon has seems to be working wonders, at getting people killed, and devastating the Israeli economy (this report shows that average wages in Israel have declined to two-year lows last month). Nonetheless, the IDF goes on with house demolitions despite American criticism. Israel's Supreme Court tossed out a case by some purported terrorists to halt the practice. Much as I don't like the "cycle of violence" (for the same reason I don't like "moral equivalence"), PM Sharon continues to play it out in a way that keeps the Palestinians riled up. This should do wonders for his poll numbers.
The Israeli electorate doesn't have it easy: the Palestinians are well aware that existential fear drives the electorate to the right. They're counting on it actually. The question, given Likud's recent electoral scandals, is just how FAR right, and we'll know in less than four weeks. Further, Israel has to anticipate a likely counter-attack against it from Iraq (also in about four weeks, even as Russia's defense minister warns against an "unauthorized" (by the UN) attack against Iraq, and Israel is testing its own Arrow missiles to shoot down Scuds, among other things. No, they don't have things easy in Israel. Interesting times. Too &^%$ing interesting.
A good set of suggestions on dealing with North Korea is laid out by (featured link) Haggai's Place here. Meanwhile, a frantic South Korean delegation travels about with its compromise proposal: North Korea abandons its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees from...the United States. I like it. Very Tony Soprano. Even the DPRK (I often dyslexically conflate the letters!) official news service seems to be calling for a peaceful solution, albeit in code.
Somebody had better step up and not be bound by Axis of EvilTM crap and resolve this. Otherwise, we can count on a nuclear stand-off at least once a year forever more (recall the time last year when India and Pakistan were threatening to blow the crap out of each other), until eventually someone who will USE nukes gets hold of them (bin Laden?)
Yasir Arafat has called Israel's up and coming security fence a "Berlin Wall" around Jerusalem, and adds that it is another part of the Israeli campaign to strangle the Palestinians. Yasir interestingly notes that Israel is "cheating" with respect to the 1967 Green Line (query: is that's like "cheating" by stealing aid money?)
And in the "being a client state still sucks" department, the United States has expressed concern regarding the Sharon government's policy of retributive house demolitions, and will "look into the matter". As being a hawk means never having to say you're sorry, being a client state OFTEN means having to say you're sorry!
Well, 24 days to the big election...
If one of the things the United States should be doing to alleviate the North Korean crisis is to be nice to China to get them to lean on their buddies in Pyongyang, and the USA wants to ensure that Israel doesn't do anything to screw up the Iraq program, then one would be troubled by this report in China's People's Daily and in Haaretz that under American pressure, Israel scotched a weapons deal with the People's Republic of China. Yes, troubled.
Not content with scotching weapons deals, the United States also says it wants "broad participation" in the Knesset elections, and is especially monitoring the court cases of the recent Arab candidates barred from running. You know, this is why being a client state sucks. Part of the price of billions of loan guarantees is that you have to defer to your overlords, and at times, quite uncomfortably so. This is one of those times...
Compare and contrast our closest allies the British, who issue a "non-denial denial" that they are embargoing Israel with respect to F-4 Phantom jet spare parts, as a result of which, Israel will probably have to ground its fleet of these aircraft. Meanwhile, as Syria, Iran and Hizbollah conduct joint military exercises in Lebanon Britain's ambassador to Israel defended London's recent hosting of Syria's President Assad as likely to lead to engagement.
I'll say this for Bibi Netanyahu: as a policy matter, he felt that Israel should be more open to brazen capitalism and to expanding its own economy, dismantling some of its absurd socialist baggage, that, alas, continue to make it dependent on the kindness of strangers.
The recent vote buying and bribery scandals, (such as this report that police have enough evidence to indict Deputy Infrastructure Minister Naomi Blumenthal for electoral bribery alas, seem to be taking their toll on Ariel and the Likudniks, as this Haaretz poll shows a decline in support from a likely 41 seats all the way to 31. Likud, nonetheless, intends to continue to target Mitznah for rhetorical attacks. There is clearly SOME hope for the incumbents (who nonetheless remain well ahead of Labor, which has not been untainted by its own scandals) to hold on: the PLO has promised that terrorist attacks will continue. Oy vay s'mir.
Easy as 01-02-03? Thank God itís Thursday? An odd fortnight of two consecutive Wednesdays off, leading to mini-workweeks. I understand that our three ordinal holidays (4 July, 25 December and 1 January) must be celebrated on the day they fall on, but since our government has made virtually all other holidays the subject of long 3-day or occasionally 4-day weekends, the occasional Wednesday off just doesn't feel like a holiday.
Over in you know where, an eleven-judge panel is set to hear the appeals of MKs Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara and the Balad Party slate against their disqualification by the Central Elections Committee. A lot turns on this determination by the High Court, as a huge number of Israeli Arabs (or Arab Israelis, if you like, who constitute around 1,000,000 or a population a little over 6 million) who would vote for either Mitzna's Labor Party or else parties sympathetic to it have threatened an electoral boycott. Such a boycott seems perhaps the ONLY good news for Likud lately, and the damned Israeli High Court is likely to reinstate the Arab candidates, screwing even that up! Somehow, I still think Ariel and the Likudniks will pull it off...
Well, SOMEBODY in that part of the world can get along: Israel, Turkey and the United States declared their joint naval exercise near the Israeli coast "a success". As you know, I'm all over the place on whether we will have a war with Iraq (the first bombings of Iraq outside the quasi-legal no-fly zones will likely commence around Ground Hog Day, though I'm not sure of '03 or '04), but when the &^%$ hits the fan, these three countries (USA, Turkey, Israel) will have to work together again, big time, in the parlance of Vice President Cheney.
Hey, how many times must I say this, but I am shocked Ė SHOCKED -- I tell you, to learn of this report that Palestinian Authority officials in Gaza are stealing relief supplies, such as food and medicine, provided by the UNRWA and Arab countries, and selling them on the black market. Hey, I didn't get a harumph out of you!!!
And finally, in a brazen attempt to steal the headlines away from the Dallas Cowboys' hiring of Bill Parcells as their new head coach (maybe!), Senator John Edwards (D-NC) has announced that he is running for the Democratic Presidential nomination, bringing to three the number of Democratic candidates whose names consist entirely of first names (Howard Dean and John Kerry being the others). Edwards brings that telegenic charm of his into the race, and will likely benefit from the fact that many people will confuse him for a television celebrity who purports to talk to dead people.
Happy New Year to everyone! By my clock, the entire world has turned into the new year, and large parts of it are well into the second day of said year.
First, check out the Carnival of the Vanities, this week at both Solonor and Blogcritics. Your TD's entry for the first Carnival of '03 is the Prince Alalweed Extra. And speaking of vanity (hey, itís what this blog is about!), I thank the Academy over at Unqualified Offerings for inclusion in the "Unqualified Successes 2002" awards (your TD was named "best non-libertarian in a libertarian role", an award previously given to the great Mickey Kaus in 2001). I am both honored and humbled to be included in an illustrious group of award winners that include, among others, both Ariel Sharon and Amram Mitznah. (Although I'm not, at the moment, dispensing my own awards, UO would hands down win the "Lady Liberty's Little Bitch" Award, and you know that any award named "bitch" given by a talking dog is quite literally the mother of all awards. What I will say is that when UO and TD are both serving their indeterminate sentences at the President's whim as "unlawful combatants" in a naval brig, if its up to me, UO gets first choice of bunks.)
And now, on with the opera! Ariel Sharon seems to have sacked MK and Deputy Infrastructure Minister (and one of the better looking women in the cabinet) Naomi Blumenthal, for her continued refusal to cooperate in an investigation that she paid the hotel bills of Likud party activists in return for their votes (I ask you, was that...wrong?). While all of the election scandals seem like "death by a thousand cuts" for Likud (such as the resignation of activist Shlomi Oz from the party, amidst more scandal allegations), the Likudniks are still well ahead. Just 28 more suicide bombing days till the election. I hope I have grossly overstated the pre-election violence. I hope...
And over at Labor, Amram Mitznah is not without his own problems, as he seems to be implicated for having helped out a contractor who supplied his campaign with office space with help obtaining building permits; this all seems less serious than Likudnik vote buying, and the Labor-ites are laughing it off, but for a dry country, there's plenty of mud for everyone!!!
In the "don't let the &^%$ facts get in the way" department, the President laid out the dichotomy between North Korea (a situation where a country PROBABLY HAS nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of destroying two key allies and trading partners and hitting the United States) which can be resolved "diplomatically", and Iraq ("they tried to kill my Dad"), which by contrast, will almost certainly have to be resolved militarily. As in the case of executing Texas inmates, we can expect our President to ignore the appeals of the Pope, and of course, of the UN, which is nominally charged with determining Iraq's compliance -- the FAILURE of which would be a basis for military action. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told Israeli radio that there was NO BASIS NOW for war with Iraq, seeing as Iraq is cooperating with UN weapons inspectors.
Am I the only one who thought that this week's mirth and merriment over dueling cost estimates for the war in Iraq might be something the President pulls out later to show how much money he saved by NOT having this war (when he is later blamed for a soft economy)? Probably. But what else is new? Again, Happy New Year, everybody!
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