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Monday, February 27, 2006

Turnabout is fair play

Apparently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knows hypocrisy when he sees it. From an AP story:
Iran's president said Monday that his country supports calls for making the Middle East a nuclear arms-free zone, but he also urged the United States and Russia to give up all their atomic weapons as a threat to the region's stability.
I've mentioned this before, but this is Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
How's that working out?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Civil war in Iraq

Wednesday, at dawn, the Golden Mosque in Samarra was bombed. Since that attack on the sacred Shiite site, more-and-more analysts (and Iraqis) have worried that this could event could trigger the civil war in Iraq that many have long feared.

Sectarian violence and reprisals have apparently escalated all over the country since the attack, curfews have been imposed, and the Iraqi government is contemplating something akin to martial law.

The historical analogies being tossed about are not hopeful:
"Iraq is in a Weimar period like Germany in the 1920s which will either end with the country disintegrating or in an authoritarian government taking power," said Ghassan Atiyyah, an Iraqi political commentator.
This Reuters report includes some additional scary quotes:
Iraq's most prominent Sunni cleric, blaming Shiite police for attacking his home, said live on pan-Arab television during the gunbattle: "This is civil war declared by one side."
More:
"If there is a civil war in this country it will never end," Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi, a minority Sunni Muslim in the Shiite-led interim government, told a news conference.

"We are ready to fill the streets with armoured vehicles."
Events on the ground might now be out of America's power to control them.


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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Quack

One of my New Year's resolutions was to post completely different content for this blog and the international relations group blog, The Duck of Minerva. So far I'm living up to that, though every now and then I point readers of one site to something I've written for the other.

This is one of those posts, though I'd first like to mention some good news about the Duck.

The Duck of Minerva has been nominated for a couple of 2005 Koufax awards, which identify the best "lefty" blogs on the internet: Best New Blog and Best Group Blog. Voting begins soon!

Now, to the self promotion...

Over at the Duck, I today posted "Anarchy in the UK?" -- an update on my prior reporting on this blog about Tony Blair's proposed identity card program.

Last week on the Duck, I posted "Dangerous IR Scholars?" concerning David Horowitz's campaign to limit academic freedom.

February 9, I posted "Politics of Eulogies" at the Duck, in response to the brief controversy surrounding the Coretta Scott King funeral.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Will: NSA spying is obviously illegal

George F. Will recently reminded his readers that no genuine conservative could really ever embrace what the administration is arguing in the domestic spying controversy, unless they favor a government of men and not of law:
perhaps no future president will ask for such congressional involvement in the gravest decision government makes -- going to war. Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges from the administration's stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president's inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was written to regulate wartime surveillance.
Will lambasts the administration for "incoherently" arguing that FISA was superceded by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

He also points out how the administration, in the context of Supreme Court appointments, criticizes judges who would find unstated legal authority outside the text of the constitution or statutes.

Sheer hypocrisy.

Will references "the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws 'necessary and proper' for the execution of all presidential powers" (emphasis in original).

This critique is obviously gaining some traction, because the administration now says it wants Congress to authorize what it has already been doing. A number of Republicans in Congress, including Senators Lindsay Graham, Pat Roberts, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter, are leading the charge.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Close Abu Ghraib Now

Hey, here's another very good reason to close the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It's apparently an advanced school for terrorists.

NY Times, February 14:
American commanders in Iraq are expressing grave concerns that the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison has become a breeding ground for extremist leaders and a school for terrorist foot soldiers.

..."Abu Ghraib is a graduate-level training ground for the insurgency," said an American commander in Iraq.
Another unnamed officer called Abu Ghraib "Jihad University" (not to be confused with the "Open University of Jihad").

The US is holding nearly 15,000 people in Iraqi "detainee facilities," almost one-third at Abu Ghraib.

Forget the Vietnam analogies that some war opponents apply to Iraq. The conclusion of this article compares the situation to Soviet-era Afghanistan. The radical Islamists drawn to the fight are networking and learning to do all sorts of nasty things.


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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another anti-Bush Reaganite

The NYT of February 13 had a brief feature about Bruce Bartlett, former domestic policy aide to Ronald Reagan and deputy assistant treasury secretary under President George H.W. Bush. His new book is Impostor: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy:
Although "Impostor" is flamboyant in its anti-Bush sentiments — on the first page Mr. Bartlett calls Mr. Bush a "pretend conservative" and compares him to Richard Nixon, "a man who used the right to pursue his agenda" — its basic message reflects the frustration of many conservatives who say that Mr. Bush has been on a five-year federal spending binge. Like them, Mr. Bartlett is particularly upset about Mr. Bush's Medicare prescription drug plan, which is expected to cost more than $700 billion over the next decade.

He is unhappy, too, with the president's education and campaign finance bills and his proposal to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, which many Republicans call a dressed-up amnesty plan. The book, to be published by Doubleday on Feb. 28, also criticizes the White House for "an anti-intellectual distrust of facts and analysis" and an obsession with secrecy.
This quote probably won't go over well in the average Republican household:
"The Clinton people were vastly more open and easier to deal with and, quite frankly, a lot better on the issues."
In fact, in October Bartlett was fired from his position as a senior fellow at the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis.

About 10 days ago, I blogged about another former Reagan Treasury official, Paul Craig Roberts, who is even more vehemently anti-Bush. There are links in that article to still more entries about other Republicans who are outraged by Bush. I forgot to link to this one, however.


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Friday, February 17, 2006

Cheney's power to reveal all

The man often thought to be behind the curtain gave an interview to Brit Hume of Fox on February 15:
HUME: Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a vice president has the authority to declassify information?

CHENEY: There is an executive order to that effect.

HUME: There is.

CHENEY: Yes.

HUME: Have you done it?

CHENEY: Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order —

HUME: You ever done it unilaterally?

CHENEY: I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president.
It's great to know that the Veep believes in transparency.


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Sureshot Cheney

I received this in an email, but the source seems to be The Borowitz Report.
Vice President Dick Cheney revealed today that he shot a fellow hunter while on a quail hunting trip over the weekend because he believed the man was the fugitive terror mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Mr. Cheney acknowledged that the man he sprayed with pellets on Saturday was not al-Zawahiri but rather Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old millionaire lawyer from Austin, blaming the mix-up on “faulty intelligence.”

“I believed I had credible intelligence that al-Zawahiri had infiltrated my hunting party in disguise with the intent of spraying me with pellets,” Mr. Cheney told reporters. “Only after I shot Harry in the face and he shouted ‘Cheney, you bastard’ did I realize that this intelligence was faulty.”

Moments after Mr. Cheney’s assault on Mr. Whittington, Mr. al-Zawahiri appeared in a new videotape broadcast on al-Jazeera to announce that he was uninjured in the vice president’s attack because, in his words, “I was in Pakistan.”

An aide to the vice president said he believed that the American people would believe Mr. Cheney’s version of events, but added, “If he was going to shoot any of his cronies right now it’s a shame it wasn’t Jack Abramoff.”

At the White House, President George W. Bush defended his vice president’s shooting of a fellow hunter, saying that the attack sent “a strong message to terrorists everywhere.”

“The message is, if Dick Cheney is willing to shoot an innocent American citizen at point-blank range, imagine what he’ll do to you,” Mr. Bush said.
I've quoted virtually the entire piece.



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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Library in crisis; scores at 11

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about university priorities, divided as they sometimes are between education and athletics.

Groucho Marx, as Professor Wagstaff, once reportedly said something like this:
"We want a university our football team can be proud of."
The line is often mistakenly credited to former University of Oklahoma governor and university president David Boren. Even at Oklahoma, however, former school president George Cross said it first, in the 1950s.

If one has access to the right database, this history is noted by R.J.Lambrose, "The Abusable Past" Issue 80, Spring 2001, Radical History Review (p. 159).

Ah, about those databases. Irony time.

My school's student Louisville Cardinal reported on February 14 that the university's libraries face massive debt and may have to cut journal database access:
Rising costs of subscriptions for both hard copies and electronic versions of scholarly journals and research databases have created budget woes for the library, which is now $500,000 - $600,000 behind in subscription payments, said U of L Dean of Libraries Hannelore Rader. While no subscriptions to scholarly journals have been permanently deactivated, if funds are not identified soon, cuts will have to be made, she said.

...Rader said that access to popular research databases Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe and JSTOR were recently suspended for about a day. However, Rader was able to identify additional funding that allowed the library to pay those subscriptions — at least for a while. “This year we thought, ‘Oh my God, can we get any more money?’” she said. “In order to pay for these in years to come, our base budget needs at least another million dollars.”
As my readers know, however, my university now has a new Elaine Chou auditorium, part of a $14 million library construction project. Indeed, anyone who visits the campus can readily see a fair amount of new building construction lately.

Where is the cash for the ideas? The books, the faculty, the journal databases?

The student newspaper article quotes an administration spokesperson, John Drees, saying that the university is underfunded by $52 million compared to average benchmark institutions.

The university athletic teams, by contrast, have a brand new Natatorium (2005), even newer multi-sport indoor practice facility (2005), a new baseball stadium (2005), a new women's softball stadium (2000), a new field hockey stadium (2000), a new soccer and track facility (2000), a new football stadium (2000), and not-at-all old tennis center (1994).

Oh, and how could I forget the very recently opened Cardinal Club Golf Course?
The Cardinal Club also offers every amenity associated with the world's most prestigous private clubs.
No wonder the jealous basketball fans are demanding a new arena, eh?

Dammit, we must have skyboxes!

What about that half million for journals at the library?


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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

McConnell's pork

I haven't seen this in the local papers, but the Washington Post of February 3 had news about my university. Note the last sentence:
Mark the date! Earmark Feb. 20 for the opening of the $14.2 million library wing at the University of Louisville.

No private fundraising was needed for this one, a university source said. It's all from the federal government, an earmark by an alum, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). And the new library's auditorium is to be named for his wife, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Hat tip to Tom at Functional Ambivalent for the link.

The University's web story about the opening does not mention the new Chao auditorium by name.

Indeed, today's search of the University's entire website yields zero hits for "Elaine Chou." I get the same result after a search of the library's website too.

Thus, I'm posting in the service of transparency.


Correction: Avery pointed out in an email that I've spelled "Elaine Chao" incorrectly in my search. Apparently, the local newspaper covered this issue a year ago (while I was on sabbatical in Boston), after the university made its decision and announcement. Noted local conservative (and Board of Trustees member) Bill Stone calls Chao the "most significant Labor secretary of the past two generations." I hope that clears up this issue.

The correct search still yields zero hits at the library website.


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Monday, February 13, 2006

UN: US Tortures at Gitmo

The UN says the US should close the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This report is from the BBC:
Treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay constitutes torture in some cases and violates international law, a leaked UN draft report says....

The Los Angeles Times published the draft report in its paper on Monday and spoke to one of the authors, the UN special raporteur on torture, Manfred Novak.

"We very, very carefully considered all of the arguments posed by the US government. There are no conclusions that are easily drawn. But we concluded that the situation in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture," Mr Nowak told the LA Times.
Officially, the report won't be out until the end of the week. The LA Times had this excerpt:
"In their view, the legal regime applied to these detainees seriously undermines the rule of law and a number of fundamental universally recognized human rights, which are the essence of democratic societies," the report said.
The US government is criticizing the document because the authors didn't actually go to Cuba. Of course, they've wanted to visit the prison since 2002:
The five experts had sought invitations from the United States to visit Guantanamo Bay since 2002 and three were offered a visit last year. But they refused in November when they were told they would not be allowed to interview detainees.

The United States believes that the International Committee of the Red Cross is the body that should handle that duty. However, ICRC reports are generally confidential, while the U.N. experts usually make their findings public.

"Fact-finding on the spot has to include interviews with detainees," said Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture and one of the experts. "What's the sense of going to a detention facility and doing fact-finding when you can't speak to the detainees? It's just nonsense."
Remember, kids, the US is spreading liberty and democracy...


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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Where the big bucks go

A couple of years ago, I taught a course called "Globalization (and Baseball)." It was fun, focusing on lots of interesting issues -- such as the working conditions in baseball's minor leagues in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, remittances from baseball players to their home countries, stadium security in the age of globalized terror, migration and identity issues, etc.

I've long been interested in baseball and enjoyed the class, but I've never really devoted much time to baseball-related research questions.

Maybe I should.

Consider this factoid:
More public and private money is spent on sports and multi-purpose facilities than on any other kind of building.
That's from an article about the Kansas City architectural firm HOK, which has done $12 billion in stadium business.

Why do Americans want to spend so much public money on stadiums and other similar facilities?

My community is considering a huge downtown Louisville arena to replace Freedom Hall as home to the local college hoops team. Coach Pitino's view on this:
"I was down the road (Lexington), and I know what the perception of Louisville is: Louisville is an island — it's not part of the state of Kentucky. They don't look at it like Nashville or Indianapolis. They look at it as an island where they wear red instead of blue.

"I have never paid any attention to it. It's never going to get voted in. It's a waste of time; it's a waste of energy; it's a waste. I'm very excited about our new practice facility we're going to start building in May. So hire all the consultants you want; do whatever you like — it's not going to happen."
The guy might be overpaid, but I hope he knows something about local politics.

According to the NCAA's figures, Louisville is consistently in the top 5 in college basketball attendance. And stadiums, of course, are poor uses of public funds.


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Friday, February 10, 2006

Libby and his Superiors

This has been widely reported, but I wanted to save a copy of this quote on the blog. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wrote the following in a January 23 letter to Lewis Libby's attorneys. AP, February 9:
"We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors,"
Libby's lawyers deny that such a defense is planned, nor do I think it would be especially relevant since Libby is not charged with leaking classified information.

He's charged with obstruction of justice, making false statements (2) and perjury (2). Five counts in all.

In any case, for the record, Libby's immediate superior was Vice President Dick Cheney, though he also worked as an Assistant to President George W. Bush. Presumably, some of Bush's top aides were viewed as superiors to Libby, who was the Veep's Chief of Staff.


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Thursday, February 09, 2006

The "culture of life"

AP, January 18, 2006:
Having suffered a heart attack back in September, [Clarence Ray] Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.
The story mentions that Allen was legally blind, nearly deaf and had diabetes.

Hat tip to Dale Jamieson on the GEP-ed listserv.


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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Over the line

Puppy drug mules?
Colombian drug dealers turned purebred puppies into drug couriers by surgically implanting them with packets of liquid heroin, US authorities said today....

DEA investigators said they believe the Medellin, Colombia-based ring used the puppies and other methods to conceal millions of dollars worth of heroin on commercial flights into New York City for distribution throughout the US East Coast.

"It just demonstrates what lengths drugs dealers will go to to get drugs into the country," [John] Gilbride [head of the DEA's New York office] said.
At least six puppies were victimized...but at least 10 others were rescued in a raid.


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Housekeeping

OK, I've posted twice recently about "feeds" and some of you are probably tired of the topic -- or mystified. However, for those who have some idea of this topic, whatever site reader you might be using, could you please change your settings to use the feedburner feed?

Unlike blogspot's atom feed (and other sources), Feedburner allows me to track the number of feed readers. I've probably signed up for at least half a dozen feed services over the past few years, and many of you may be using one or more of those feeds, so please switch now.

Don't worry, the service doesn't provide any other identifying information about you or your browsing habits.

OK?

Thanks

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Now this is dissent

The following was written by Paul Craig Roberts, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was previously an Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. Those credentials make him a real conservative. This shows that he's not at all happy with the current crowd in the White House:
Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.

Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.

The United States is undergoing a coup against the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself. The "liberal press" has been co-opted. As everyone must know by now, the New York Times has totally failed its First Amendment obligations, allowing Judith Miller to make war propaganda for the Bush administration, suppressing for an entire year the news that the Bush administration was illegally spying on American citizens, and denying coverage to Al Gore's speech that challenged the criminal deeds of the Bush administration.

The TV networks mimic Fox News' faux patriotism. Anyone who depends on print, TV, or right-wing talk radio media is totally misinformed. The Bush administration has achieved a de facto Ministry of Propaganda.

The years of illegal spying have given the Bush administration power over the media and the opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local press with their names attached. Only people willing to risk such disclosures can stand up for the country.

Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are not our protectors. They undermine our protection by trashing the Constitution and the civil liberties it guarantees. Those with a tyrannical turn of mind have always used fear and hysteria to overcome obstacles to their power and to gain new means of silencing opposition.
There's a lot more and I encourage everyone to read the entire piece. Hat tip to Dave and Thomas at Seeing the Forest.

William Safire accused the administration of seizing "dictatorial power by replacing the rule of law with military kangaroo courts."

Actually, I've often blogged about the administration's conservative critics, so I won't go on about that right now.

Key question: When will it end?

I keep waiting for the American people to wake up and realize that they cannot be paralyzed by fear. While they are cowering, people in the current administration are posing an unprecedented threat to basic liberty. And in Orwellian fashion, they brag about protecting and spreading democracy.

It's truly obscene.



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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Feed update

I recently discovered that my RSS feed has been stuck in mid-December for many feed readers. I think that's fixed now...and hopefully will be reflected in my Feedburner reader box tomorrow. As I understand the stats Feedburner provides, dozens of people are subscribed to my feed. I wouldn't click either if the content hadn't changed in six weeks.

Sigh.

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The academy

Back in December, I was asked to join "The Academy," which is a community of scholars linked together at The Truth Laid Bear. Steven Taylor, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Troy State, and writer of PoliBlog is the group's administrator.

As Dr. Taylor wrote back in June 2005, the community provides two functions:
1) the chance for readers to find a variety of posts from bloggin’ profs aggregated in one place, and 2) to hopefully encourage and facilitate intelligent conversation amongst academics of all stripes.
Sounds good, eh?

Check it out.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

skippy the bush kangaroo

skippy readers, welcome to this little part of blogtopia.

Today's google special: "kangaroo" at whitehouse.gov. This result is from a November 28, 2001 press conference:
Q In The New York Times, William Safire charges that the President has seized dictatorial power by replacing the rule of law with military kangaroo courts that can conceal evidence, make its own rules, and execute the accused with no review by a civilian court. He says these are similar to courts in the Soviet Union and current communist China. In your view, how are they different from those kangaroo courts?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President, obviously, completely disagrees, and so, too, do many people who have taken a look at this issue.
The Veep took up this issue a couple of weeks later.

William Safire said that in 2001! Dictatorial power...kangaroo courts.

Note: Safire isn't any happier about the NSA wiretapping...


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OTT: Iran edition

Does anyone else remember the cold war? Reuters, February 6:
In an interview with Reuters, [Israeli] Ambassador [to the US] Daniel Ayalon called Iran the most dangerous problem facing the world since World War Two but played down the possibility of Israeli military action.

...Iran was "probably the most dangerous problem since World War Two" and most countries, including Russia which is building Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr, understand that, he said.
Maybe we should be frightened, given some risks between 1945 and now.

Consider this from the inside cover from James Blight's The Shattered Crystal Ball: Fear and Learning in the Cuban Missile. Crisis:
In late October 1962, the threat of nuclear war was not only possible, but probable. The scenarios for nuclear war under discussion in the Kremlin and the White House were vividly concrete and terrifyingly real. Later, President John. F. Kennedy would estimate that the chances of avoiding nuclear war were no better than 50 percent.
On a related topic, Ambassador Ayalon said that Israel would not give up its nuclear deterrent.


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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Worse than oil-for-food scandal?

The bad news from Iraq continues to get worse. This is from The New York Times, Sunday February 5:
Ali Allawi, Iraq's finance minister, estimated that insurgents reap 40 percent to 50 percent of all oil-smuggling profits in the country. Offering an example of how illicit oil products are kept flowing on the black market, he said that the insurgency had infiltrated senior management positions at the major northern refinery in Baiji and routinely terrorized truck drivers there. This allows the insurgents and their confederates to tap the pipeline, empty the trucks and sell the oil or gas themselves.

"It's gone beyond Nigeria levels now where it really threatens national security," Mr. Allawi said of the oil industry. "The insurgents are involved at all levels."
An unnamed American official concurs, calling corruption a "very real threat to the new state."

Apparently, the corruption is quite organized:
The former oil minister, Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, told the London-based newspaper Al Hayat late last year that "oil and fuel smuggling networks have grown into a dangerous mafia threatening the lives of those in charge of fighting corruption," according to a translation by the BBC.
The oil-for-food program was corrupt, but it didn't fuel Saddam Hussein's wmd programs and thereby pose a threat to US security.

Not to worry though, February 19 begins the American-declared "Anti-corruption week."


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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Iran has been reported

Over at the Duck of Minerva, I have a new post that some reading here might find interesting: "Iran's motives and the IAEA." Earlier today, the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency referred the problem of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.

The UNSC ultimately could decide to impose economic sanctions or authorize the use of "all necessary means" (force) to compel that Iran disclose the full nature of its nuclear program and prove that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.



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Friday, February 03, 2006

This, you've gotta see

Go to google, click images, and then click advanced search. Put "whitehouse.gov" in the domain box.

Then, enter "Orwell" in the "related to all of the words" box.

Search.

One hit, right?

Now that's truth in government.

Spoiler for those too lazy to do this search.

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Blogging is, like, so 2004...

Or should that be...1984? You see, the administration's domestic spying and "data mining" might involve websurfing habits -- and blogging.

Blog readers have interests here too...

Actually, despite these worries about blog monitoring and reader tracking, big blogs are doing well. Indeed, the old "traffic concentration" problem seems to be getting worse, not better. Thousands and thousands of people are reading blogs -- but most of them are reading the same blogs.

Perhaps either the fear of spying or the concentration of blog traffic explains why readership is off on some sites -- or stagnant, as it is on the blog you're reading (though we're apparently getting more and more readers at the Duck, at least among other bloggers).

What's a small-time blogger to do? There are, of course, friendly suggestions on the web, like this -- or this.

Personally, I'm thinking of adding one of those lists of blurbs that some blogs feature. Readers, how do you like these actual recommendations from other bloggers?
"Rodger Payne, most definitely not a twat" -- helmut

"Payne is balanced and knowledgeable" -- Chris of Explananda

"Unlike many bloggers (including me), Rodger knows a whole lot about the subjects he discusses. Not reading his blog is a very stupid idea. So stop it right now." -- Dwight Meredith of Wampum
It's Friday afternoon, what do you want?


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Thursday, February 02, 2006

NSA spying is clearly illegal

A group of constitutional law scholars and former government officials, including at least one prominent conservative has clearly and briefly explained why the NSA spying is illegal. Hat tip to Bloodless Coup for the link to the NY Review of Books piece.

Here's a great paragraph:
With minor exceptions, FISA authorizes electronic surveillance only upon certain specified showings, and only if approved by a court. The statute specifically allows for warrantless wartime domestic electronic surveillance—but only for the first fifteen days of a war. 50 U.S.C. § 1811. It makes criminal any electronic surveillance not authorized by statute, id. § 1809; and it expressly establishes FISA and specified provisions of the federal criminal code (which govern wiretaps for criminal investigation) as the "exclusive means by which electronic surveillance...may be conducted," 18 U.S.C. § 2511(2)(f) (emphasis added).
The lawyers dissect and destroy the administration's argument that the spying was implicitly authorized in the September 2001 authorization of force by Congress.

Oh, and the White House apparently knows that it is acting illegally. Tuesday, Steve Clemons referenced a President Bush speech from April 20, 2004:
any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.
While the President was trying to reassure everyone about the Patriot Act, his sweeping language clearly speaks to the NSA spying as well.


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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union 2006

Over at the Duck, I've blogged about something important the President didn't talk about on Tuesday night. Heather Hurlburt noted several more missing items at Democracy Arsenal.

BTW, for the record, Heather didn't write President Clinton's most oft-quoted line -- and is tired of answering that question (which I didn't ask).

Note: January 26 was the 8 year anniversary of Clinton's denial. The President delivered his year six State of the Union address the following day. How time flies.


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Example #432, 873

It is not hard to explain why the Devil Rays are always bad. They typically make very bad personnel decisions.

Earlier this week, I saw this news and scratched my head:
The [Tampa Bay] Devil Rays and Travis Harper agreed to a one-year, $850,000 Major League contract Monday...

Harper, 29, led the Rays' bullpen with 73 1/3 innings pitched in 2005 while going 4-6 with a 6.75 ERA in 52 games.
Psssst, for those who know nothing about baseball....Harper's statistics (and his performance) in 2005 were awful. Truly bad, bad, bad.

And the Rays gave him nearly a million bucks, guaranteed.

By contrast, the Cincinnati Reds (who currently have only an interim General Manager) yesterday signed relief pitcher Rick White to a much smarter deal
White, a 37-year-old from Springfield, Ohio, will receive a $600,000 base salary with a chance to earn $300,000 more in incentive bonuses....

Cincinnati will be White's ninth big-league club. Last season with Pittsburgh, he posted a 4-7 record with a 3.72 ERA and two saves in a career-high 71 appearances.
For every nine innings pitched in 2005, White gave up three fewer earned runs than did Harper. They are both right-handed, so that's a wash.

Yet, the Rays are assured of paying Harper a quarter of a million dollars more cash in 2006 than what White is guaranteed.

Of course, White is not a star, he is 8 years older that Harper (which is bad, generally), and he could end up costing more money in 2006 (basically, if he is healthy and pitches a lot). Nonetheless, for his career, White has been a slightly above average reliever, giving up about 7% fewer runs than an average pitcher.

The Harper deal stinks. Yes, he was a pretty decent reliever in 2003 and 2004, but he gave up a lot of home runs last year and his strikeout rate collapsed. Those are bad signs for any pitcher. For his career, Harper has yielded almost 10% more runs than league average.

I'm not especially applauding the Reds -- just pointing out the obvious about the DRays. Tampa Bay (despite new management) does not seem to know what it is doing and is (again) overspending on mediocre talent that could be replaced at lower cost.

All that said, I think a number of Devil Rays are on the verge of some highly productive years (especially offensively) and the team could really surprise fans in the next year or two.

With that kind of convoluted analysis, can you tell that I'm almost ready for baseball season?


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