Friday, June 30, 2006

Do We Want More Power? (Interesting Juxtaposition)

Tony Snow during today's White House press briefing:

QUESTION: Is this [Supreme Court decision] a setback in terms of the broader goal of this administration to expand executive authority?

SNOW: I don’t think it’s ever been the goal of the administration to expand executive authority. In a time of war, the president has tried to act in a way that meets the needs and obligations of a commander in chief against a dispersed and highly unique kind of enemy.

But we don’t have expand executive power sessions. So nobody thinks in terms of, How do we expand executive power?

Cheney on 12/20/05:

I believe in a strong, robust executive authority. And I think the world we live in demands it…I think you’re right, probably the end of the next administration, you had the nadir of the modern presidency in terms of authority and legitimacy, then a number of limitations that were imposed in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate. But I do think that to some extent now, we’ve been able to restore the legitimate authority of the presidency.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summers Exit Costs Harvard $115 million

Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has decided not to give Harvard University a planned gift of $115 million, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

Ellison canceled the gift because Lawrence H. Summers stepped down as Harvard's president this month, Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said. Summers announced his resignation in February, after being embroiled in controversy throughout 2005. Wynne said Ellison began to reconsider his donation when it appeared that Summers would step down.

"It was really Larry Summers' brainchild and once it looked like Larry Summers was leaving, Larry Ellison reconsidered," Wynne said. "It was Larry Ellison and Larry Summers that had initially come up with this notion."

Soccer: Capitalism or Nihilism?

Capitalist Soccer vs. Socialist Football


Nil, Nil: The Nihilism of Soccer

I think the facts of the case rest squarely with Sergei Boukhonine at LRC, and the ignorant Weekly Standard folks are just embarrassing themselves once again.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Q&A with Dahr Jamail on the Coverage of the Iraq War

We are now heating up for mid-term elections that will be taking place in November. A number of people are using this as their platform to aspire to become the next Commander-in-Chief. Hillary Clinton has stated that she is disappointed with Bush's handling of the war. But yet she is still proud to support the war, proud that she voted for it, and she stated that she is also against a timeline for pulling out. Are we beginning to see the formation of a new South Korea being set up in Iraq?

Well, we already have it. We can bypass the word "beginning" because, as we speak, we have a U.S. so-called "boot city" being constructed. I say "so-called" because it is an embassy that's going to house 8,000 government employees. It's an embassy of 21 buildings with a school there. So what kind of embassy would be built for that many people with a first-run movie theater; the largest swimming pool in the country; a vehicle maintenance garage; and when it's complete, it's going to be two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington D.C.

That's just the embassy being constructed in Baghdad. Then we have a bare minimum of six of these permanent bases, on up to as many as 14 that are absolutely massive. They're larger than, some of them much larger than, camp Bondsteele, which is in Kosovo, which prior to Iraq was the largest U.S. military installation not on U.S. soil. And the bases in Baghdad are much larger than that.

You have a base like Camp Anaconda for example, in Ballad, just outside of Baghdad, a little bit to the northeast of Baghdad. And this one base by itself has 20,000 soldiers, fewer than 1,000 of whom never leave the base whatsoever. It has 250 of its own aircraft. It has its own first-run movie theaters, swimming pools, a Hertz Rental Car Agency, Popeye's Fried Chicken, a 24-hour Burger King, a Subway sandwich shop, a Starbuck's Coffee outlet. So, this is the type of base being built in Iraq. They are being constructed by Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old company, and this base in particular has so many Kellogg, Brown, and Root employees that they have they're own little apartment area there called "KBR Land."

So that's just one base to give you an idea that the situation is permanent. You are correct to say that rather than troops being withdrawn from Iraq we actually, less than two weeks ago, had 1,500 more troops sent into Iraq from Kuwait. So the troops are going in the wrong direction. I think they would like to see a drawdown in the number of troops down to something like we have in Afghanistan now, but that is a very big number if we talk about drawing down troops vs. a total withdrawal.

This administration -- and I think any Democrat of the ilk of Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman or someone like that -- they have absolutely no plans whatsoever of a total withdrawal from Iraq.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Watch Us Spin The News

CNN reports on a telephone poll of 1,001 adult Americans that was conducted June 1-6 by Harris Interactive with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The headline CNN chose was:

Poll: Clinton gets high 'no' vote for 2008

47 percent of respondents said they would "definitely vote against" Hillary Clinton.

But, these headlines would've fit equally as well:

Poll: Jeb Bush gets highest 'no' vote for 2008

63 percent of respondents said they would "definitely vote against" Jeb Bush (higher than Clinton).

Poll: Al Gore gets high 'no' vote for 2008

48 percent of respondents said they would "definitely vote against" Al Gore (higher than Clinton).

Poll: Kerry gets high 'no' vote for 2008

47 percent of respondents said they would "definitely vote against" John Kerry (equal to Clinton).

On the other side:

Poll: Clinton gets highest 'yes' vote for 2008

22 percent said they would "definitely vote for" Hillary Clinton.

Poll: Giuliani gets high 'yes' vote for 2008

19 percent said they would "definitely vote for" Rudolph Giuliani.

I don't endorse any of these outcomes, but it just goes to show how easy it is to manipulate the results of any poll with a simple headline.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Justice O'Connor, We Miss You

The Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for police to barge into homes and seize evidence without knocking or waiting.

The court, on a 5-4 vote, said judges cannot throw out evidence collected by police who have search warrants but do not properly announce their arrival.

It was a significant rollback of earlier rulings protective of homeowners. Dissenting justices predicted that police will now feel free to ignore previous court rulings requiring officers with search warrants to knock and announce themselves to avoid running afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.

Sandra Day O'Connor was still on the bench in January when the case was first argued. She asked: "Is there no policy of protecting the home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?"

What Ever Happened To That $9 Billion?

Follow the Money - If You Can... (via

Justin Raimondo reports:

Remember that $9 billion that somehow got “lost” in Iraq? Boxes of cash were shipped from the Federal Reserve to Iraq, where a former Coalition Provisional Authority official testified that our guys were playing football with blocks of $100 bills and an investigator described the atmosphere as “a free-fraud zone.” The U.S. government was supposed to follow up on that somewhat dismaying discovery with an audit — but that has now been nixed by President George W. Bush, who recently issued a presidential “finding” that heads off an investigation at the pass:

Title III of the Act creates an Inspector General (IG) of the CPA. Title III shall be construed in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authorities to conduct the Nation’s foreign affairs, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The CPA IG shall refrain from initiating, carrying out, or completing an audit or investigation, or from issuing a subpoena, which requires access to sensitive operation plans, intelligence matters, counterintelligence matters, ongoing criminal investiga-tions by other administrative units of the Department of Defense related to national security, or other matters the disclosure of which would constitute a serious threat to national security.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Day in the Life of the DPRK

Web designer Artemy Lebedev (of Optimus Keyboard fame) took a trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and came back with a surplus of surprising photos. Many of them forbidden by authorities (don't miss page 2). It is a photo journal full of evidence of the depravity of communism, dictatorship, and the devastation due to the lack of free market policies. Here is the Russian text.

Laurel and Hardy?

The photo above of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Communications Director Daniel Bartlett riding in a military helicopter for their six-minute ride from the Baghdad airport to the U.S. embassy in the Greenzone is the photo that most people saw. But, maybe the photo below gives a more accurate portrayal of their emotional state.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

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How Could We Ever Live Without These Taxes?

The AfRR has a great list of the taxes that have piled up over the last one hundred years:

Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
Social Security Tax
Medicare Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax
School Tax

Sales Taxes (State and Local)

Real Estate Tax
Property Tax
Building Permit Tax
Well Permit Tax
Septic Permit Tax
Utility Taxes
Severence Tax

Corporate Income Tax
Accounts Receivable Tax
Privilege Tax
Inventory Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel permit tax

Inheritance Tax
Interest Expense
Capital Gains Tax
IRS Penalties
IRS Interest Charges

Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes

Marriage License Tax
Service Charge Taxes

Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
Telephone state and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax

Vehicle Sales Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Trailer registration tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
Toll Bridge Taxes
Toll Tunnel Taxes
Watercraft registration Tax

Gasoline Tax

Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)

Dog License Tax
Fishing License Tax
Hunting License Tax
Cigarette Tax

Not one of these taxes existed when our nation was the most prosperous on earth. So what happened?

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Absence of Free Speech in Academia

No get-out-of-jail-free cards or promises of remaining friends for academics when discussing a hot political topic...

A Hot Paper Muzzles Harvard

By Eve Fairbanks

Controversial "Jewish lobby" paper raises nary a peep on the cowed campus. By Eve Fairbanks

Did you think there was a controversy in academia over "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," the paper by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer contending that a shadowy "Israel Lobby" — including everyone from the New York Times and Hillary Clinton to Pat Robertson and Paul Wolfowitz — has seized control of American foreign affairs? I did too, but let me tell you: We were wrong.

When professors Walt and Mearsheimer (of Harvard and the University of Chicago, respectively) went public with their paper in the London Review of Books on March 23, it seemed the whole world started screaming. From columnists Richard Cohen and Max Boot to historian Tony Judt and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, public figures battled in the pages of the major papers. Accusations of anti-Semitism and divided loyalties flew. The magazine I work for published three articles on the paper in a single week.

Of course, if the paper caused such uproar in the public sphere, you'd think academia (and particularly the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where Walt is the academic dean) would be, as the Harvard Crimson put it, the ultimate "field of battle." And as far as conspiratorial rumors and unexplained reversals go, it has been.

The Kennedy School pulled its name off the article, nervous to be associated with the argument that an expansive lobby is undermining American interests on behalf of the Jewish state. Bob Belfer, the fabulously wealthy (and Jewish) oil baron who endowed Walt's chair at the Kennedy School, was hopping mad. Angry donors reportedly threatened to retract gifts. Whispers began that faculty relationships were fraying, and gossip circulated that campus forces were plotting to oust Walt from panels and boards. Harvard had to deny that his decision to step down as dean had anything to do with the paper.

But something else happened at Harvard, something strange. Instead of a roiling debate, most professors not only agreed to disagree but agreed to pretend publicly that there was no disagreement at all. At Harvard and other schools, the Mearsheimer-Walt paper proved simply too hot to handle — and it revealed an academia deeply split yet lamentably afraid to engage itself on one of the hottest political issues of our time. Call it the academic Cold War: distrustful factions rendered timid by the prospect of mutually assured career destruction.

A couple of weeks ago, keeping in mind Henry Kissinger's famous aphorism that academic quarrels are so vicious because the stakes are so small, I began calling around Harvard, expecting to find a major fight flourishing. Spirited exchanges! A divided faculty! Parties canceled! Walt egged!

Instead, most people I spoke to assured me that, at Harvard, there is no controversy. Most everyone, they said, agreed about the paper. But what they all "agreed" on, hilariously, depended on whom I was talking to.

One anecdote illuminated the puzzle. At a faculty meeting, the paper came up, and the department head remarked that she was sure everyone had the same reaction when they read it — approval. One professor piped up: "No, this article is rubbish!" The room became very quiet. Finally, someone changed the subject. Through moments like these, a de facto consensus developed not to discuss the paper at all.

Most professors I reached wouldn't speak on the record about the flap because they didn't want their feelings to become known on campus. Walt ignored my requests for comment. Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, one of just a few professors who have conspicuously denounced the paper, says that when he was scheduled for a BBC face-off with Mearsheimer, the author mysteriously canceled moments before airtime.

Most fishily, one Kennedy School professor who had previously gone public with his opinions clammed up completely, explaining cryptically to me that even chatting off the record about the paper isn't "the right thing for me to do at this time." Another senior Kennedy School professor admitted that he was baffled by the dearth of discussion of the paper. "We debate everything else here," he said.

The closest we've gotten to open academic argument over the paper is an online petition circulated by Juan Cole, a media-hungry professor-blogger at the University of Michigan, condemning the paper's critics for "McCarthyite race-baiting." It has garnered nearly 1,000 professors' signatures.

But even Cole's petition — many signers of which haven't read the paper — exemplifies how, instead of knocking heads over the paper's core argument, it's become acceptable merely to debate drier questions of academic standards. Critics condemn the paper as shoddy scholarship; supporters, such as Cole, insist that the academic world's primary ethic is the right to say whatever you believe.

But make a list of how professors have come out on this divide and you'll find it is an awfully neat proxy for deeper ideological divisions. Those who dislike the U.S. relationship with Israel suddenly find themselves champions of free speech; those supportive of Israel are recast as defenders of high standards of scholarship. It's just that nobody can talk about that schism.

So is this collective campus lip-sealing evidence that Mearsheimer and Walt are right that the Israel Lobby squelches criticism? No, because professors fear taking a stand on either side.

Professors I spoke to offered various reasons they must tiptoe around the paper: That its style was too provocative. That they're skittish after witnessing Harvard President Larry Summers' ouster for making fractious comments. That the long-running PC wars have made them tired of controversy. That it's too "personal."

Most interestingly, they explained that topics related to the Middle East, though they provoke some of the deepest divisions in opinion between faculty members, are just too strewn with ideological landmines for them because academics are supposed to be above dogma — an explanation that also sheds light on why most Middle East studies departments languish in mediocrity and lack influential senior faculty.

And most sadly, professors admitted that academia's notorious office politics — in uniquely volatile combination with all these other reasons — interfere with natural reactions to the paper, resulting in a collective response that one described as "nervous laughter."

"A lot of [my colleagues] were more concerned about the academic politics of it, and where they should come down, in that sense," another Ivy League professor told me, ruefully.

But isn't this all a little bit ironic? Mearsheimer and Walt clearly wrote their paper to be provocative. They took pleasure in breaking a taboo — only to see another one erected around their work. And universities ought to be the centers of debate about ideas, right? "It's perhaps not a great reflection on academia — perhaps we should be more out there," mused Princeton's Andrew Moravcsik, who calls himself an "idealist" about his profession.


But it seems more likely that academic tempers will continue to boil on the inside, without any release valve.

One observer close to the debate was profusely sorry to request anonymity, explaining that he had opinions concerning the paper but feared professional retaliation no matter what he might say.

"People might debate it if you gave everyone a get-out-of-jail-free card," he said, "and promised that afterward everyone would be friends."