Sunday, September 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I mean to blog on this earlier in the week, but it slipped my mind, but Mona of Unqualified Offerings reminded me to do so.

While I was critical of Limbaugh’s simplistic view of all things political, I think that Congressional resolutions condemning Limbaugh are just are vacuous as the one aimed at Neither is an appropriate usage of Congressional time or power and both smack of nothing more than the scoring of cheap political points.

As Mona correctly notes:

It is not the proper role of our federal legislative body to pass on the commentary of political activists and/or pundits.

Amen to that.

There is plenty of more pressing business for the Congress of the United States to address than whether this commentator or that group has said something that offended someone in uniform. Indeed, last I checked, they are still behind on passing this year’s budget…

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Ecuador votes for new assembly

The people of Ecuador are choosing a new constituent assembly designed to radically alter how the country is run.

President Rafael Correa wants the 130-member body to dissolve Congress and cut traditional parties’ powers.

Mr Correa, who came to power in January, says the assembly will bring politics back to the people after years of corrupt and inept governments.

One may recall that this is the result of a referendum from back in April after a series of confrontations between the president and the congress (see here, here and here).

If anything, there appear to be some, um, colorful candidates:

Among the candidates are several former beauty queens, a long-haired monk who walks the streets urging voters to take from the rich and a masked crime fighter known as The Punisher who says his face is covered because he is allergic to corruption.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Tom Friedman’s piece in this morning’s NYT
(9/11 Is Over) is going to make a lot of people mad, I suspect (some examples already here and here). While I do not agree with every sentence in the piece, and think some of his comparisons towards the end are strained, his fundamental point is sound:

We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

(All italics from the original).

Many will take substantial umbrage at being called “stupid” and will similarly show outrage at the suggestion that the war on terrorism isn’t any less than a true threat to our very existence. There is also the fact that those who wish to see the threat as existential also like to use the phrase “9/12 mindset” (or other similar formulations) to indicate their point of view, so Friedman is not only contradicting their views, he is appropriating their rhetoric.

Nonetheless, Friedman’s basic point seems to me to be threefold: 1) we are overly focused on the actual day and the events of 9/11, 2) this has led to an overly zealous approach to fighting terrorism, and 3) this has ultimately affected our own national progress and our place in the world.’

In regards to the first point, the bottom line is that overly focusing on that day, those events and the tragic deaths of that days is unhealthy. Like someone who loses a spouse to a violent crime, there comes a time where one has to let go and move on. Holding the anger, the fear and the need for revenge in one’s heart is poisoning over time. Many continue to allow the events of 9/11 to so thoroughly traumatize them that they haven’t moved on. Yes, we should remember. Yes, there were very important lessons to be learned, but at some point the past has to be the past, no matter how traumatic and tragic that it was.

The second point follows on from the first: if one remains too much in the tragic moment, it colors the way one acts. We have overreacted and continue to overreact. Clearly we launched the Iraq war for the wrong reasons. The fact that the war could only have been launched in the context of a focus on 9/11 illustrates this fact. Further, we have moved to substantially empower the government in a way that has substantially increased the ability of the government to damage the liberties and privacy of innocent American citizens.

On the third point, I know many will say that we shouldn’t care about what others think. However, one of America’s greatest strengths has long been its values and its image. We have seriously damaged that image. That has long terms political and economic implications that we shouldn’t ignore. The numbers on tourism that Friedman cites are alarming. Sure, tourism may not seem like that big a deal, but we are talking about millions of dollars in the economy, and Friedman’s point about contact between the US and the rest of world is not a small one.

Further, along those lines, one may scoff as Friedman’s suggestion that we have infrastructural and other problems, one has to admit that the billions and billions of dollars that has gone to fight the Iraq war in particular represents national wealth being drained away from other uses, be they governmental or private.

In terms of the “stupid” claim, it is noteworthy to point out, that 1 in 3 Americans believe that:

“Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2024, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”


Four in 10 Republicans still hold this view, compared with 32% of Independents and 27% of Democrats.

The poll of 1,035 adults was taken Sept. 4 to 8.

Further, many still believe that Saddam’s WMD were shipped to Syria or are still buried in the desert. They base these claims on that notion since it is possible that such scenario could have happened, that they probably did–forget the fact that we have no empirical evidence whatsoever to confirm such theories, such views help validate the fact that the war had a real basis, so they ignore reality and hope that fantasy is true.

At a minimum, therefore, there is clear evidence of a lack of fuzzy thinking and conclusions based on faulty evidence out there. Another example of this is the notion that we face an ongoing and imminent threat of al Qaeda via our southern border, despite the fact that has been no evidence of such a threat. It just sounds good, so it must be so.

Let me confess that I, too, allowed 9/11 to make me stupid. Those events coupled with the still unsolved anthrax attacks made it appear at the time as if we had entered a new phase of global politics that allowed me to be more persuaded than I should have been by a number of policy proposals of the Bush administration–most especially the Iraq policy. I will note that the administration took those events of 2024 and did nothing but fuel the notion that we were, in fact, faced with imminent and repeated attack.

At some point we are all going to have to assess the world away from images of planes flying into buildings and the smoldering heaps they left behind. Politicians who seek to continually take us back to that moment as a way to stoke to fires of anger and revenge do us all a disservice. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have gone to that well quite often over the last six-plus years. Rudy Giuliani seems to have based roughly 95% of his campaign on the continual revisiting of those events. We need to move beyond those events.

I don’t mean that we forget them, or that we ignore the real threats that exist in the guise of al Qaeda and similar groups. There are real threats out there. But like my arguments concerning assessment of Iraq itself, we need candidates, and eventually a president, who will realistically assess these threats, not simply conjure images of 9/11 as if any minute another such event is going to take place. Policies based on rational and empirical assessments rather than fear would be a nice change of pace.

h/t: A&I for the polling story on Iraq and 9/11 linked above.

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Saturday, September 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Gingrich says no to White House bid

“Newt is not running,” spokesman Rick Tyler said. “It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president.”

No surprise, to be honest. His flirtation with the notion of running always seemed a tad disingenuous to me. At a minimum he is smart enough to know that the GOP is unlikely to win in ’08, so why expend the energy? He may even understand that his baggage is so vast that he is unlikely to ever win the office anyway.

Still, it would have provided some good blogging fodder, so out of self interest I should probably be disappointed at the news, but in all honesty, I am not.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Farc woman steals plane to desert

An armed female member of Colombia’s Farc rebel group hijacked a small plane to escape her “tortuous life” with the guerrillas, police have said.

The woman, who was identified only by her alias “Angelica,” took over the plane at an airstrip in Puerto Principe, in eastern Colombia.

Carrying a rifle, machete, knife and 150 bullets, she forced the pilot to fly her to the city of Villavicencio.


Police said the hijacker would not be charged with a crime and would be admitted to the government’s rebel rehabilitation programme.


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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: New protests on Rangoon streets

Several hundred people have held protests in Burma’s main city of Rangoon, despite three days of crackdowns on pro-democracy protests.


Burma has now seen almost two weeks of sustained anti-government protests, and three days of tough crackdowns on the protesters by the military.

The size of the most recent demonstrations appears to be smaller, according to the story.

And this is as an interesting tidbit in the life of anti-government agitation in the 21st Century:

Internet links, which the government cut to stem the flow of information about the protests, are reported to be working intermittently.

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Friday, September 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: 6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes

According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL’-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2024. This year health officials noticed a spike with six cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.

In Arizona, David Evans said nobody knew his son, Aaron, was infected with the amoeba until after the 14-year-old died on Sept. 17. At first, the teen seemed to be suffering from nothing more than a headache.

“We didn’t know,” Evans said. “And here I am: I come home and I’m burying him.”

After doing more tests, doctors said Aaron probably picked up the amoeba a week before while swimming in the balmy shallows of Lake Havasu, a popular man-made lake on the Colorado River between Arizona and California.

My word, that’s horrible.

And yes, I know these are very small numbers, but given things like snakes, leeches and other creepy things in fresh water swimming holes, I must confess I think I will stick to the chlorinated water.

The whole thing sound awful, especially from something as innocent as swimming:

The amoeba destroys tissue as it makes its way up into the brain, where it continues the damage, “basically feeding on the brain cells,” Beach said.

People who are infected tend to complain of a stiff neck, headaches and fevers. In the later stages, they’ll show signs of brain damage such as hallucinations and behavioral changes, he said.

Once infected, most people have little chance of survival. Some drugs have stopped the amoeba in lab experiments, but people who have been attacked rarely survive, Beach said.

“Usually, from initial exposure it’s fatal within two weeks,” he said.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I have noted before that I am not prone to a lot of outrage, and I am not outraged by statements by Rush Limbaugh that service members who support U.S. withdrawal are “phony soldiers”, but I do think that it takes an awful lot of gall to make such statements after the over-the-top reaction to the “Petraeus or Betray Us?” ad, as I thought it was supposedly verboten to call into question the integrity of our men and women in combat. Indeed, if had called some of our soldiers in harm’s way “phony” one guesses that the same group who got up in arms over the Petraeus ad would be up in arms over this. (Not so much, it would seem).

None of this is surprising, but given the flap over the Petraues ad, it struck a chord with me.

Really, to me the more telling element of the whole affair is the basic dichotomization of the world into two camps (something Limbaugh excels at and has, sadly, inculcated/exacerbated in the minds of many of his listeners). The most obvious is the “real” soldier v. the “phony” soldier dichotomy, the notion that if any member of the military isn’t in lockstep with the administration, then they aren’t really soldiers (even if their only “crime” is that of having an opinion, yet otherwise doing their duty). The other dichotomy, also of the “for us or against us” type can be found if one reads the transcript. The first caller challenges Limbaugh on the notion that any Republican who wants to end the war isn’t really a Republican and is therefore a Democrat who “want[s] to lose the war.” Limbaugh dismisses the fellow and tells him that there is no way the fellow is a Republican.

Of course, part of the fallacy reasoning springs in the first place from the notion that what we have on the table are “winning” and “losing”–if only it was that simple…

On a political note, if Limbaugh really wants the litmus test for one’s Republican-ness to be full support for the war, he must not be interested in the party achieving majority status again any time soon, a if all those phony war critic Republican are ousted elections will be rather depressing events for the GOP for some time to come.

In regards to “phony” soldiers, Mona at Unqualified Offerings rather poignantly notes,
Apparently,”Phony Soldiers” Die, Too, as two of the members of the members of the 82nd Airborne who wrote a critical op-ed in the NYT died in Iraq recently. Too bad the enemy didn’t use phony weapons.

Update: Quite a bit more on this at OTB.

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Thursday, September 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor
You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me
-J. Peterman

One may be wondering as to the whole Burma/Myanmar business. It should be noted that the name issue is quite political, both in terms of internal and international politics. The name change took place because of a political decision by a military junta in 1989. As such the appropriate name has to do with who was (and is) in power. Of course, “Burma” as the country’s name also has origins in the colonial rule of the British, so there’s that angle as well. In terms of international political, neither the the US nor the UK recognize the usage of “Myanmar”.

James Fallows at the Atlantic has two very interesting posts on the subject: here and here.

Please forgive my whimsy at the Seinfeld quote above, but I can’t think about Myanmar/Burma without it coming to mind.

Indeed, below the fold (for your edification and entertainment) are all the Myanmar/Burma references from the Seinfeld classic, “The Foundation” (one of my all-time favorite episodes):


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By Steven L. Taylor

Often, politics.

Via the LAT: Tongue-twister names in the U.N.

when Bush announced new sanctions on the military regime in Myanmar, he purposely used its pre-overthrow name, Burma, signaling that the United States does not recognize the current government. The delegate from Myanmar called a point of order to object.

The president of the General Assembly, who is Macedonian, got a double taste of name trouble Tuesday. Srgjan Kerim introduced his president as being from the “Republic of Macedonia,” although that name is disputed by Greece, and the new country is officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM (pronounced officially as FY-rom).

Greece protested, saying that Kerim disrespected the institution over which he is presiding by not using the U.N.-sanctioned name. Kerim said, “I am a citizen of the state of Macedonia, so I decided to abide by my constitution and call it what we call it.”

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