Friday, November 11, 2005

 

Does Santorum Stand Pat -- or Evolve?

Pat Robertson warns Dover, PA: Voting out school board members who pushed teaching the "intelligent design" critique of evolution is inviting the wrath of God.

Great.

It's a three-fer: In one fell swoop, Robertson manages to 1) Attack a local community for exercising its own electoral rights; 2) Imply that local communities shouldn't determine what is the best curriculum for their children; 3) Demonstrate that his God is wrathful and destructive, rather than forgiving and loving.

While we're making lists, let's keep track:

1) This would be the same Pat Robertson who -- with Jerry Falwell -- said
that 9/11 happened because God no longer was protecting America because of feminism and lesbianism. File under: "America Deserved It -- Right Wing Variety."

2) This would be the same P.R. (what great initials) who recently wondered why the United States
doesn't assassinate Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. He first suggested that he was misunderstand. Alas, the public rightly understood that "Take him out" was not Robertson simply mishearing the lyrics to that damn Franz Ferdinand song. He apologized.

So, what does Keystone State Sen. Rick Santorum do? Stand by his Dover constituents -- or Robertson and the socially conservative he represents? Santorum has previously been favorably disposed to ID:

“intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.” An I.D.-friendly amendment that he sponsored to the No Child Left Behind Act—requiring public schools to help students understand why evolution “generates so much continuing controversy”—was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate.
This summer, Santorum pulled back:

"I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has
suggested," Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S. Senate, told National Public Radio. "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom."
And now Robertson "damns" a small Pennsylvania town over this issue -- at a time when Rick is facing disastrous poll numbers against Democratic challenger Bob Casey. If Robertson thought that his comments might ultimately be helpful to Santorum, well, let's just say that this was not the most intelligent design.

UPDATE: John Cole appropriately links P.R to Friday's "Really-Stupid/Ignorant Comment" winner.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

 

Liberte! Equalite! Intifadeh?

Two views on the French crisis:

1) Defense and national security expert Tom Barnett identifies the problem of the
political disconnect in French culture:

Estimates of these Muslim slums are that 40% of the families there are dysfunctional in some way, leading to dropouts, drug abuse, crime, etc. It's the 12-year-old on the street at midnight that drives too much of this.

Fools will rush in with promises of crackdowns of all sorts (like Chirac), but we'll also get the separatists from among the Muslims who argue that salvation is cultural apartheid, a view that will get your serious cancerous tumors within your society, unless the Martin Luthers are replaced by the Martin Luther Kings.

In short, we need more than Reformation. We need political connectivity.
2) Paul Belien in the new blog-ish Brussels Journal examines the Frenchman at
the center of the crisis -- no, not Jacques Chirac -- the Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy:

Sarkozy...is a second generation immigrant, the son of a Hungarian refugee and a Greek mother. “I like the frame of mind of those who need to build everything because nothing was given to them,” he said a few months ago about his upbringing.

The experience of his youth has made Sarkozy not only the most pro-American French politician, but also virtually the only one who understands what second generation immigrants really need if they want to build a future.

More important than the so-called “social benefits” – the government alms provided by welfare politicians like Chirac, Villepin and their predecessors – is the provision of law and order. This guarantees that those who create wealth do not lose it to thugs who extort and rob and burn down their properties.

Sarkozy’s decision to send the police back to the suburbs which had been abandoned by previous governments was resented by the “youths” who now rule there. That this would lead to riots was inevitable. Sarkozy knew it, and so did Chirac, Villepin and the others. Sarkozy intended to crack down hard on the rioters. If the French government had sent in the army last week, it would have been responding to the thugs in a language they understand: force. And the riots would long have ceased.

What happened instead was that Sarkozy’s “colleagues” in government used the riots as an excuse to turn on the “immigrant” in their own midst. Paris is well worth a mass, King Henri IV of France once said. Bringing down Nicolas Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa is well worth a riot, King Chirac must have thought. Contrary to the normal French policy in dealing with trouble makers, the authorities decided to use a soft approach.

Chirac and his designated crown prince Villepin blamed Sarkozy’s “disrespectful rhetoric” – such as calling thugs thugs – for having detonated the explosive situation in the suburbs. Dominique de Villepin stepped in and took over the task of restoring calm from Sarkozy. While the latter was told to shut up and keep a low profile, Villepin began a “dialogue” with the rioters. As a result the riots have spilled over from Paris to other French cities. Do not be surprised if this French epidemic soon crosses France’s borders into the North African areas surrounding cities in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The entire post -- as are Belien's subsequent ones -- is well worth reading. Key lesson is something that can be gleaned also from Barnett: While a rising Muslim population is problematic, that is not the sole -- or even major cause -- of the French riots.

Instead, arguably, the uprising's spark can be gleaned in France's apparent inability to absorb two realities that America confronted on both national and local levels in the '90s: the importance of welfare reform as a major social policy tool and the "broken windows" theory of policing urban areas.

The first reality recognized that
family structure is important to welfare reform; government should promote family unity and responsible behavior and discourage dysfunctionality.

The second reality -- the
"broken windows" theory of policing popularized by Rudy Giuliani and the NYPD -- recognized the importance of setting up societal standards. It understood that cracking down on even slight deviations from the norm -- such as graffitti artists -- sends a signal throughout an urban environment that a social compact exists and will be defended.

(Continued commitment to that theory and the results it produces -- now going on eight years since Giuliani faced the voters -- is one major reason that Michael Bloomberg won an historic re-election Tuesday night.)

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 

Holding Serve...

Democrats retain governorships in Virginia and New Jersey.

Michael Bloomberg wins handily here in New York City (though not by the 30-pt. margin of the various polls).

So, as usual, most of these things come down to internal state dynamics -- with little to do with national trends.

That said, it wasn't exactly smart of the White House to do an 11th-hour campaign jaunt in Virginia with GOP candidate Jerry Kilgore. It just gives greater salience to the Democratic talking point of this being a repudiation of Bush personally.

But, that's the breaks.

Congratulations to the winners -- and a tip of the hat to those on the other side for their contributions to democracy.


UPDATE. A Virginia Republican e-mails: "Kilgore should never have run away from Bush in the first place. Bush's Virginia was quite pissed off at Kilgore for turning away from the President until his clearly contrived 11th hour death bed conversion. Republican candidates swept all state offices that were down ticket (Lt Governorship and Attorney General) in Virigina. So, Kilgore's defeat wasn't a lack of Republican Party appeal (or President Bush appeal). It was caused by a lack of Jerry Kilgore appeal."

Fair point. One sure rule in politics: Bad candidates tend to make all external factors null and void.


UPDATE II: Karol has a much more comprehensive take on yesterday's results -- infused with the passion of someone who was involved with a local campaign.

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Strange, Um, Bedfellows

Spencer out on the Left Coast notes the interesting diversity politics of the Texas same-sex marriage debate. Talk about a "Rainbow Coalition"!

On a related note, something tells me that Texas Klansmen and minorities won't be rushing to see this
"Oscarfront-runner" either.

UPDATE: Lone Star State voters pass initiative in a landslide! Big surprise!!

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Dubya, Dick -- And Dick Again...

A Republican with an almost encyclopedic memory when it comes to political history sends along a simple e-mail with the subject-header, "Eeerie echoes":


"I am not a crook!"
Richard M. Nixon (11 months into his second term, November, 17 1973)

"We do not torture!"
George W. Bush (11 months into his second term, November, 7 2005)
Now, the juxtaposition of the two quotes doesn't mean that Bush is leaving office by summer of next year. The political dynamics are very different: For one thing, Republicans control both houses of Congress and aren't likely to open an impeachment inquiry to a president of their own party.

I'm not exactly a fan of the current administration, but I hardly think that decisions made heading into war reach the impeachment level (others may respectfully disagree). However, there is one clear clear similarity between the two statements. Both are reflections of a president feeling the need to reassure the public in the face of the steady drip-drip-drip of stories that undermine the president's credibility -- personal and organizational. Finally, they are also words that you don't want to hear coming out of any president's mouth: They fall into the "If you're explaining, you're losing" category of political lessons: Just having a president utter those words guarantees them greater prominence in media coverage of whatever the underlying issue may be.

For Nixon, it was Watergate; for Bush, it is Iraq and the other various tangential issues associated with it -- including the torture policy.

There's hardly a stronger voice for Bush's War on Terror than Heritage Foundation fellow Peter Brookes. However, he basically says that
John McCain is right -- and Dick Cheney is wrong on the issue of congressional oversight on how detainees should be treated under control of the United States. And, the president is suddenly placed in a public position of playing "good cop" when it comes to the United States and torture -- while the vice president plays "bad cop."

However the issue is resolved, the very fact that there even appears to be a public debate going on within an administration is troubling in and of itself.


UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru over at NRO also comes down on McCain's side.

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Voting Day, 2005!!

Residents of New York City, New Jersey & Virginia, please go out and exercise your civic responsibility -- especially since two of those three locations could have really close results.

I leave it to my incredibly wise readers to figure out for themselves which WON'T be classified as a "nailbiter!"


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Nerves of Steele...

After a fortnight of commentary, it's good to actually hear from Michael Steele himself on the racial politics of a U.S. Senate race that won't be decided for a year. In particular, he goes after the Maryland Democrats who've adopted the "by any means necessary" approach to electoral battles -- including racial taunts against the black Republican:
"The fact that my values are outside the black community... will come as a surprise to my mother, who raised me with those values," said Mr. Steele, whose widowed mother raised him in the District working as a minimum-wage seamstress and refused welfare.
"When I have opponents like that say that I am anti-black, [I say] show me in my rhetoric where I have been anti-black, tell what I have said that has been anti-black," he said.
"When I talk about empowering my community and all communities, not just African-Americans but everyone, when I talk about giving your business a fair opportunity, a fair shake, giving your child a fair shot at a good education, giving your community a fair shot at re-establishing itself and growing again, I don't know where that becomes anti-anyone."
Mr. Steele commended Kweisi Mfume, a candidate in the race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, for criticizing fellow black Democrats who approve of racial attacks. Mr. Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was joined by members of the Congressional Black Caucus in saying that Baltimore lawmakers in the General Assembly should "cease and desist" from making racial comments about Mr. Steele.

I think an ideological battle between an Mfume and a Steele -- despite some of the recent ugliness -- could be one of the better things to happen to politics. Here you have two very serious, successful, black men, neither of whom had an "easy" upbringing with very different approaches to politics. This is not the Alan Keyes farce of a year ago.

Two further observations on this continuing story:

1) So Maryland has the largest African-American population of any non-South state and blacks are the most loyal part of state Democrats' base (as they are nationally). So, isn't it interesting that not only is Republican Steele the first black to be elected statewide (albeit as a running mate) but Mfume is struggling pretty mightily in the Democratic primary?

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Steele has raised more money for his Senate bid than any other candidate except Mr. Cardin. Mr. Steele had raised more than $400,000 for a campaign and has about $350,000 in cash on hand, while Mr. Cardin had raised $837,000 in the past three months and has $1.5 million in the bank, the Associated Press reported last month.
Money isn't everything but fundraising demonstrates where the various "big-money" interests in a political party are placing their bets. Democrats in Maryland seem to be looking more favorably at the Senate candidacy of Mfume's white rival U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin. This is the case, despite the fact that Mfume has had a long career as a member of Congress, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and, finally, president of the NAACP -- leaving the organization in much better financial shape than he found it.

Is there an issue
of a relationship with a staff member? Yes, but should that be enough to make Mfume completely radioactive in this heavily Democratic state? The "loyalty" issue can go both ways. If Mfume continues to struggle on the money-raising side, will blacks start wondering if Democratic party money leaders will return the loyalty to viable black candidates?

2) Was the Steele-Sambo controversy the first real "Blog breakout" story? There have been several stories that bloggers first raged about -- Trent Lott in '02 and Dan Rather in '04 -- before the MSM got into it. But, as far as I can tell, Steve Gilliard's posting is the first time that one blog post -- absent a outside event -- set off a series of dominoes that rippled into two statewide races (one a year away) and may have further ramifications.

Hmmm... could be.

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Paging Gregg Easterbrook!!

Something tells me that this high-brow tale of "Cheerleaders Gone Wild & Sapphic Love in A Bar" will be given its appropriate analysis early Tuesday afternoon.

It should be a particularly good one.

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Monday, November 07, 2005

 

Terrell's "Rush" To Judgment

On Saturday, the Philadelphia Eagles suspended star wide receiver Terrell Owens indefinitely for "conduct detrimental to the team." In addition to a controversial interview that Owens gave earlier in the week, it was reported that Owens had gotten into a physical altercation with former Eagle Hugh Douglas. Sunday evening, the Eagles lost to the Washington Redskins.

Now, the fight may have been the last straw for the Eagles, with whom Owens has been feuding for most of the season because of a contract dispute.

T.O. was asked to respond to the claim by ESPN commentator Michael Irvin (a former All-Pro wide receiver -- and one-time drug- and hooker-partaker -- with the Dallas Cowboys) that if current Green Bay QB Brett Favre were leading Philadelphia instead of Donovan McNabb, the Eagles would be undefeated. Owens said he agreed with that.


This was only the most recent Owens-initiated media attack on McNabb. During the Super Bowl, Owens could be seen screaming at McNabb. He later said that McNabb suffered a panic attack during the game. These were some of the comments that got Owens briefly sent home from training camp.

So, now back to last week's interview. First, Irvin's original comment was BS: Has he bothered to look at Green Bay's record? After Sunday, it's 1-7. The Eagles, given their Super Bowl appearance last year, are certainly a disappointment at 4-4, but at the time of the Irvin-Owens comments, the McNabb-led team was above .500. Favre's team would pray for .500 at this point.

But, there's an interesting, un-examined dynamic: Irvin, McNabb and Owens are all black; Favre is white.

Flashback: Two years ago, the Eagles were in the middle of another media-generated controversy when then-ESPN commentator Rush Limbaugh charged that McNabb was essentially overrated
because of race (click-through ad for full story):
I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.
A number of people disagreed with Limbaugh. Your humble blog writer thought Rush was wrong on the basic facts of the situation as it was circa 2003 -- and also faulted him for being the one to introduce race into a situation where it wasn't explicitly on the table.

At the risk of being found guilty of doing the same, I still have to wonder "What if...?"


Would there have been even more media intensity if a white ESPN analyst said the same thing about McNabb and Favre? Or if a white wide receiver was saying the same thing about his black quarterback (Owens has previously said that he wished Peyton Manning -- also white -- was his quarterback)?

Owens is a loose cannon and has a history of churlish behavior and turning on his teammates: After practically forcing a trade from the San Francisco 49ers, he later insinuated that former teammate Jeff Garcia was gay.

However, members of the media make certain judgments and observations everyday. It is not stretching the imagination to wonder how this story would be playing if the black quarterback was being criticized -- fairly or otherwise -- by "not his own."

So, would it be unfair to raise the question that would otherwise be asked: What is it about Owens and Irvin that makes them denigrate the accomplishments of the black quarterback in favor of a white one (who, incidentally, was largely responsible for the Packers' Sunday loss after his fumble was run back for a score and a later interception was subsequently converted into a touchdown)?

As Mr. Hall used to say, "Things that make you go hmmm...."

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Breaking News: Qaeda-Iraq informant A Likely Liar?

Democrats seem to think that this is some major scoop:


A captured al Qaeda operative who told U.S. authorities that Iraq had trained al Qaeda members to use unconventional weapons was identified as a probable liar months before the Bush administration began using his claims to make its case for war.

Declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document dated February 2002 said it was likely that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was intentionally misleading debriefers about Saddam Hussein's support for al Qaeda's work with chemical and biological weapons.
So, we're surprised that the guy might not have been telling the truth?

Look at the guy's name: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi!

Hello?

A first name beginning with "I" and a last name of "Libi" should raise some suspicions about the man's veracity when it comes to certain pre-war intelligence.

Isn't "al-Shaykh" just Arabic for "Scooter"?

Geez, folks, it's not that hard...


(Satire switch is now in the OFF position.)

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