Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blagojevich to name Obama successor


Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected Tuesday to name former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, CNN affiliates the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV reported, citing sources familiar with the decision.

Burris' appointment would fill President-elect Barack Obama's former Senate seat. Blagojevich is to announce his choice at a news conference at 3 p.m. ET.

Burris, 71, is African-American. According to the newspaper, he expressed interest in the Senate seat shortly after the November 4 election.


I suspect the gold that Blagojevich hopes to get out this appointment is an acquittal on charges of trying to sell the seat.

Jim Geraghty


First thought: Is Blago testing Harry Reid's pledge that he would never seat anyone named by the tainted governor? Does Reid have the guts to reject the seating of an African-American who, at first glance, appears untainted by this particular scandal?

UPDATE: Jim Warren of the Chicago Tribune says he's "dumbfounded." He describes Burris as "a political machine hack, with no great achievements beyond being the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois... a very, very uninspired selection." He later adds that he thinks that Harry Reid is going to have a very tough time with his pledge to not seat anyone Blagojevich named.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Awesome - he's a Blagojevich donor who has worked as a lobbyist in Springfield for Blagojevich allies...

I think Blagojevich's impeachment lawyer and defense attorney probably had some input in this pick.

Here is the Chicago Tribune story on the expected appointment. The Chicago Sun-Times indicates the Illinois Secretary of State intends to block the appointment by not certifying it.

Senate Democrats have said they will not seat the Blagojevich appointment.

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Rocket that hit Beersheba made in China



The army official said the rocket that struck the school in Beersheba was manufactured in China, is heavier than the Qassam and can "potentially cause much greater damage." He said the rocket contains metal pallets that can spread out across a radius of up to 100 meters (about 328 feet) from the point of impact.
This likely a missile that came through the tunnels into Gaza. It is one reason why Israel has focused so much attention on bombing the tunnels. Another reason is the concern that Hamas leaders might use them in an attempt to escape.

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Interfaith Dialogue on Poverty

Pleased to inform that Klang MP Charles Santiago will hold an 'Interfaith Dialogue on Poverty' to highlight the issue of poverty and civil society's effort to deal with it and to encourage inter-religious interaction.

The keynote speech will be delivered by Dr. Hermen Shastri.  The other participating speakers are:
  • Islam : YB Khalid Samad (MP Shah Alam), Mr. Ismail Arsat (YDP PAS Klang)
  • Christian : Father Lawrence
  • Hindu : Mr. Kanapathy
  • Taoism : Mr. Wong Boon Chuan
  • Sikh : Hargopal Singh
  • Buddhism : To be confirmed
  • Bahai : To be confirmed
The details of the event are as follows:
Date : 20th Dec 2008 (Sat)
Time : 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Venue : MP Klang Community Centre, 2A, Jalan Bayu Tinggi 8/KS6, Batu Unjur, 41200 Klang
 This is an open event, anyone can join and invite others to join.. please call Yap (016-2026300) or Sarah (016-6267797) to confirm your attendance or if you have any queries.

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Paskini's Second Law of Pressure Groups

"Paskini's Second Law of Pressure Groups, which runs as follows: Any organisation which spontaneously comes up with the example of the objectivist pensioner who resents the need for the state pension is not one which can credibly claim to speak on behalf of ordinary taxpayers."

(The first law is here).

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Considering The Genesis Of Anti-Religious Hostility

Have a read over Obama's new buddy Rick Warren's fawning praise of Nigerian Anglican Bishop Peter Akinola:

On April 30, 2006, pastor Rick Warren wrote an op-ed, for Time Magazine, which lavished praise on Akinola, likening the cleric to Nelson Mandela:

"Akinola personifies the epochal change in the Christian church, namely that the leadership, influence, growth and center of gravity in Christianity is shifting from the northern hemisphere to the southern. New African, Asian and Latin American church leaders like Akinola, 61, are bright, biblical, courageous and willing to point out the inconsistencies, weaknesses and theological drift in Western churches."

"...Akinola has the strength of a lion, useful in confronting Third World fundamentalism and First World relativism."

"...I believe he, like Mandela, is a man of peace and his leadership is a model for Christians around the world."

Then, consider what Akinola hath wrought in Nigeria:

Peter Akinola, who earlier that year had thrown his substantial political weight and religious authority behind draconian Nigerian anti-gay legislation to, among other strictures, "make it illegal for gay men and lesbians to form organizations, read gay literature or eat together in a restaurant."

Although I missed it at the time, the proposed legislation was apparently denounced, according to the current Wikipedia writeup on Akinola, by the US State Department: "The proposed legislation was formally challenged by the United States State Department as a breach of Nigeria's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."

That law, incidentally, is even worse than the Nazi's initial 1935 anti-gay law, known as Paragraph 175. (The documentary by the same name is a riveting and traumatizing look at the sheer inhumane brutality of the Nazi regime and its enablers.)

Consider that a large number of Anglican parishes are breaking away from the US Episcopal Church to join up with Akinola as one of their top leaders. Consider that the only people who have taken either (or both) Warren and Akinola to task have either been in the media, or international human rights activists based in London like Peter Tatchell or my friend Brett Lock.

Then consider the religious angle to this. As long as the dominant religious voices of the age remain silent over these sorts of brutal violations of human rights, those who are victimized by such predation tend to connect the brutality to religion itself and walk away. If organized religion wants to save others, it needs to start to save itself by taking decisive steps to address these sorts of situations -- and not leave the tough work exclusively to activists and HuffPo bloggers.

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Roland Kirk, Circular Breathing, and Amazement

Roland Kirk plays, "I Want to Talk About You," a piece earlier done beautifully by John Coltrane. Kirk was blind since a young age and often played several reed instruments at once. He could be his own horn section. This is why he looks like he just got off the airplane--loaded down with equipment. On this piece, he sticks to the tenor. He plays most of the ballad without stopping to breathe. This is done by using a technique called circular breathing, and Kirk was the master of it. So, be initiated into the strange world of Roland Kirk (d. 1977).

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Batgirl fights for Fair Pay (check out the video)

It's a hectic day. I just got through reading through the penultimate round of Mojo Mom copyedits for the new edition. So I just have enough brainpower left to share this must-see video, courtesy of Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner on She is wondering if you know how Batgirl, fair pay, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce mix.

I just have to point out that the Batman TV series ran from 1966-1968...before most of us were born. And Batgirl's problem is still our problem 40+ years later. Find out more about a simple step you can take to support fair pay. It could be worth $434,000 for you to get involved.

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US going for zero interest rates

It seems the US is going towards a zero-interest rate policy . However, given some of the reckless lending that has been going on - and the fall in demand and prices for US homes - it seems to me that this may not be enough to stop a fall in US GDP. The limits of monetary policy have been reached. Fiscal and other measures will be needed.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy the presents! We'll see ya Monday...

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See: Grandeur, Delusions Of.

Scenes From a Mall screenwriter generously absolves Nobel laureate:

I will forgive Harold Pinter his political excrescences on his death.

As often happens when I dip into Pajamas Media, once again I am forced to reconsider my otherwise staunch opposition to the death penalty.

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The disproportionate argument

David Aaronovitch:

Let's have a pointless discussion about Gaza and begin it by talking about whether Israel's bombing is “disproportionate”.

To illustrate the meaninglessness of such a debate let us attempt to agree what “proportionate” would look like.

Would it be best if Israel were to manufacture a thousand or so wildly inaccurate missiles and then fire them off in the general direction of Gaza City? There is a chance, though, that since Gaza is more densely packed than Israel, casualties might be much the same as they are now, so although the ordnance would be proportionate, the deaths would not. Of course, if one of Gaza's rockets did manage to hit an Israeli nursery school at the wrong time (or the right time, depending upon how you look at it), then the proportionality issue would be solved in one explosion. Would you be happy then?

This is not about proportionality. Let us instead express outrage and, perhaps, illustrate it with pictures of crowds of similarly outraged protesters in Damascus, Amman or Indonesia. Let half of us concoct round-robins of suddenly active professors, Gallowegian politicians and unthinking actors, expressing hyberbolic rage at “genocide”, describing Gaza as Israel's Guernica and demanding sanctions, while the other half wonders why no petitions ever get launched against the funders and organisers of, say, the suicide bomber in Khost at the weekend, who blew up his vehicle beside a group of passing Afghan schoolchildren; or against the Taleban cleric threatening last week to kill female students in Pakistan for their un-Islamic desire to learn.


Hamas is a product of a dysfunctional Muslim society. That is not Israel's fault. Dealing with dysfunctional people is difficult anytime. When they are profound religious bigots who want only your destruction, then negotiations are not a viable answer to dealing with them. Ultimately Hamas must be destroyed for the Palestinians to have peace.

James Robbins has more on the "excessive force" argument.


Regarding Israel’s excessive use of force (which Gen. Sec. Ban Ki-moon, and others, have alleged), one might ask for a definition of "excessive." If the definition is "more than necessary to be effective," then Israel has actually used insufficient force, since Hamas is still launching rockets (though nowhere near the “thousands” they threatened).

That is a good argument.

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Sam Huntington

It appears that Sam Huntington has passed. Soldier and the State is a fine book. Many of his other works I can't stand, to the point of repugnance. It's fair to say, though, that virtually every graduate student who has passed through a political science department had to deal with Huntington in some fashion.

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Posting is slow again as I've been undergoing some medical treatments that slow me down.

But over the last couple days I've succumbed to another social networking tool: after news librarians, and then my college classmates, set up Facebook groups, I decided it was finally time to join up.

I've enjoyed using LinkedIn to keep in touch with work collegues and thought that was all I wanted to participate in, but now I've seen the light and have discovered how much fun it is to be able to converse with friends on Facebook, as well as see their photos, etc.

Not to take it too seriously, but I admit it's amazing how, among school, work, and family contacts your Facebook lists can grow. I've only been on a day and already have a full platter there.

Posting here should resume a more normal schedule in a few days.

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Why We Should Avoid Celebrity Gossip

For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.--2 Corinthians 12:20

While some godly people are very well known, and might be considered celebrities, most very well known people of today--I do not mean giants of history such as Winston Churchhill--possess almost nothing worth us knowing about. As Daniel Borstin said, "They are well-known for being well-known." Their biographies--or factoids--are vanity of vanities. Their makeovers, their cars, their idiosyncrasies are not worth knowing about.

Yes, they are made in God's image and need Jesus Christ's righteousness for eternal life. In that sense, they are valuable. But how much weight they have gained, whether or not they are pregnant, who they are sleeping with, is mere gossip. And gossip, the Bible tells us, is sin. Sin should be repented of, in order to please God and free us up to do God's will in his power.

Moreover, celebrity watching wastes time. Listen to Moses, from Psalm 90:

10 The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span [a] is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.

16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Life is short, a vapor. Eternity is long, an infinity. Life should be lived under the audit of Eternity, not in terms of celebrity gossip or any worldly thing (1 John 2:15-17). As Pascal said, our passionate interest in the trivial and our lack of concern for the eternal, evidences a very strange disorder. Let us repent and live for what matters most.

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An early Happy New Year ... parsing the Washington Post on American military intereventionism

Reading between the paragraphs is a fun exercise, but I think that people too often don't have the resources to do it.

So, for fun, when I read this WaPo article by Ann Scott Tyson at, I thought I'd give it a try.

After all, the devil is in the details, and--far too often--people who take the time to read the papers and journals think they are getting the whole story:

The Army needs to add at least 30,000 active-duty soldiers to its ranks to fulfill its responsibilities around the world without becoming stretched dangerously thin, senior Army officials warn.

Its responsibilities around the world? This is code for maintaining our foreign network of over 750 military bases in other nations, which provide the logistical framework to be able to project American troops unilaterally into virtually any region on the planet.

"You can't do what we've been tasked to do with the number of people we have," Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said in an interview last week. "You can see a point where it's going to be very difficult to cope."

Note this what we've been tasked to do is different from our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Already, the Army lacks a strategic reserve of brigades trained and ready for major combat, officials said, and units being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving new soldiers at the last minute, meaning they have insufficient time to train together before crossing into the war zone.

The original US Army doctrine of the Reagan years was to be able to fight and win two regional wars simultaneously. Clinton pared that down to fighting one regional war and deterring another simultaneously (based on the now unfortunately disproven idea that no American president would be stupid enough to fight two regional wars at a time by choice). Now that we're fighting two regional wars (and damn near losing the one in Afghanistan), we've got precious little left beyond nukes and saturation bombing even to deter a third flashpoint.

But the demand for soldiers extends beyond those countries, with the Pentagon creating new missions that require troops trained in cyber-warfare, homeland defense, intelligence-gathering and other areas, Ford said. "We have five to 10 new missions, and we are already stretched now."

New missions? Surprise, surprise: the Pentagon (and the incoming Obama administration--remember his debate comments about the need to stop genocide wherever it occurs) is planning to do more, not less in the way of military operations over the next decade.

The Army is currently on track to grow to 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the war. But Ford and other Army officials say that, with rising demand for ground troops for Afghanistan and other contingencies, the increase is insufficient.

We've already increased the size of the army by 65,000 troops; we need the other 30,000 to finish out what is known as the Gates' Plan. I'll let you go find it yourself [or check my archives and also note that Barack Obama has endorsed this plan]. What, by the way, are the other contingencies?

The service needs 580,000 soldiers "to meet current demand and get the dwell time," Ford said, referring to the amount of time soldiers have at home between deployments to train, rebuild and spend with families. "You can run a machine without oil for so long, and then the machine ceases," he said. "The people are the oil."

Note that this paragraph contradicts what was said above. Earlier, the Pentagon needed new troops for new missions. Here, the Pentagon needs new troops to meet current demand. It's tough to keep the talking points consistent.

Ford's remarks come two years after Donald H. Rumsfeld resigned as defense secretary, removing from the Pentagon a powerful opponent to expanding the Army. Rumsfeld opposed a permanent increase in the size of the Army and instead devoted much of his tenure toward turning it into a more agile force, an agenda that met with objections and dismay from senior Army officers.

A wonderful case of writing a usable historical narrative, by blaming Rumsfeld for not wanting a larger army. Rumsfeld, for all his other faults, wanted a shift in the structure of the Army, a reduction in the necessary logistical base, and a move toward a brigade-based organization--all of which would have meant a much larger Defense Budget, but about the same manpower.

The Army is also benefiting from the weakened economy, which has improved the service's ability to recruit and retain soldiers. Despite well-publicized recruiting problems faced by the Pentagon in the early years of the Bush administration, the Army has met its recruiting goals for the last three years, and it continues to see benefits from its $1.35 billion, five-year "Army Strong" advertising campaign launched in 2006.

Which is another reason nobody will cut the Defense Budget too much during the first two years of the Obama administration: the military is steady if dangerous work with great benefits.

But President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has signaled that the incoming administration will look to cut the Pentagon budget, of which military personnel costs are a rising share.

This is BS, plain and simple. Obama will make cosmetic cuts that lengthen R&D expenditures, and he'll probably go the neophyte route of cutting back some heavy air and armor weapons production (while granting exemptions to allow McDonnell Douglass et al to sell their overage to our friends), but he won't cut back on personnel, operations budgets, or benefits. He will (see below) use both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy to hide a significant amount of military spending.

Planning is underway at the Pentagon to add at least 20,000 more U.S. troops to the force in Afghanistan, but the Army is facing pressure to supply not only combat brigades but also the thousands of support soldiers required to facilitate operations in Afghanistan's austere terrain.

Ah, I already told you this, two weeks ago [again, go check the archive; I'm not feeling chartiable with links tonight]. There will be no significant Iraq Dividend, because supporting 60-80,000 troops in Afghanistan will cost every bit as much as supporting 130,000 in Iraq.

"Logistics issues in Afghanistan are just stunning," Ford said.

No shit. Who would have thought fighting a major war in a land-locked country surrounded by Iran, Pakisten, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and one other whatever-stan whose name I forget would be ... logistically difficult? Where did you think the supplies were going to come in from?

And in Iraq, even as the total number of U.S. troops declines, more support forces are likely to be required, in part to assist the Iraqi military, Army officials say. "As you draw down in Iraq, you're going to need more sustainment and aviation," said Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which has been deployed to Iraq three times.

Ah, good old Tony Cucolo, always a man too honest for his position. For every five combat soldiers we take out of Iraq over the next 18 months, we're going to have to send in two new technical specialists. Nobody else is mentioning that, huh? Wonder why?

The demand for soldiers extends beyond the war zones, as commanders in other regions request troops, Ford said. "It's a real challenge. It's not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea," Ford said, referring to the U.S. Central Command, Northern Command, African Command and Pacific Command.

Centcom is fighting two wars; I'll give it a break. Northcom wants new soldiers available in case YOU start rioting about current economic conditions. Africom needs to be ready for the new Obama Doctrine of consistent intervention in humanitarian crises. PaCom is worried about North Korea, Taiwan, and the Spratley Islands.

The shortage has serious implications for the Army's preparedness for other major contingencies, because constant rotations leave too little time to train for anything but the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the officials said. The Army last week unveiled a new training doctrine that requires preparation for "full-spectrum" combat, but service officials estimate it will take about three years before combat brigades have enough time at home between tours to carry out that training.

So what are we training full-spectrum combat forces for, if not for Iraq and Afghanistan? No, we're not planning any more interventions. Of course not.

"We need at least 18 to 24 months" at home for training, said Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, the Army's deputy chief for operations. "If we get beyond 18 months, we can start building the full-spectrum capabilities back," he said. "We can start moving towards that within the next three years."

Note the level of almost hysteria here. What exactly are we worried about during the next 18-24 months? Has the Pentagon in fact learned through SecDef (for life, apparently) Gates that the Obama administration has new visions for (dare I say it?) a New World Order?

Yet the Army is constrained in its ability to increase time at home, because of a constant need to rotate forces overseas and the Pentagon's limit on the length of deployments for active-duty soldiers, as well as the mobilization time for reserve and National Guard soldiers.

Once they get the extra 30,000 active-duty troops, look for a push to add at least 50,000 to the Army National Guard.

The Army's current growth plan involves adding six active-duty combat brigades over the next three years, which will ease the rotational strain somewhat. At Fort Stewart, Ga., the 3rd Infantry Division, which now has 20,000 soldiers, will add 5,000 soldiers, including a fifth brigade by late next year, according to Brig. Gen. Tom Vandal, the division's deputy commander for support.

This is the scariest paragraph in the story. At 25,000, with five brigades, 3rd Infantry Division will be simultaneously (a) the largest division in the US Army; (b) the division with the most experience in no-holds-barred urban fighting; (c) the commander who is reputedly one of the most "take no shit" generals in the Army; and--get ready for it--the division already announced as the US Army's force trained for direct domestic intervention in times of emergency and/or civil unrest, posse comitatus be damned.

One of the primary aspects that separates a real republic from a bannana republic (aside from glossy mailers offering discount clothers) is that in real republics the active-duty military is not used for domestic intervention.

Start peeling.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Tne new New Deal