Sunday, December 31, 2006

Post Watch Girl!

We've got a slow internet connection this morning, so I haven't checked Post Watch yet. I wonder what he'll make of this "news" story covering the Bush family vendetta against Saddam Hussein by Peter Baker. Let's go to the headline:

Conflicts Shaped Two Presidencies
U.S., Iraq Continue to Experience Aftereffects of Their Confrontations
Alrighty. Whatcha got?

Paragraph two:
It took nearly 16 years, but he's finally gone. And with Hussein's execution in Baghdad, so is the chief nemesis [Note: no attribution] of the Bush family, a man who bedeviled father-and-son presidents and in different ways dominated both of their administrations.
Saddam has been hanged. Paragraph three opens up
If there is a feeling of euphoria, or satisfaction, or perhaps just relief, neither Bush is expressing it publicly this weekend. President Bush went to bed Friday night without waiting for the execution and left it to an aide to release a statement praising the Iraqi people for "bringing Saddam Hussein to justice." His father remained silent. But Hussein's death removed only the man. The forces unleashed by the epic struggle remain as powerful and crippling as ever for two countries. [I don't know that it's crippling to either country. It's certainly a difficult time].
We then have a few paragraphs of named people close to the Bush's denying there was a personal vendetta, but writes Baker, "the history of animosity between the Bushes and Hussein is hard to ignore." He then writes of how Hussein survived the Gulf War and that Iraqis tried to assassinate Bush 41, but
"Some later questioned the seriousness of the assassination attempt [like who?] or its connections to Baghdad. But the incident clearly was a searing moment for the Bush family. [No attribution.]

By the time the younger Bush ran for president, he appeared [love that word--appeared!] determined not to repeat the mistake he believed his father made with Hussein. "No one envisioned him still standing," the candidate told BBC in November 1999. "It's time to finish the task."
That last quote by Bush 43 is pretty weak. I'd like to hear the question that preceded it. There's no antecedent for "him" and "It's." Baker wants me to read the quote thusly, "No one envisioned Saddam still standing. It's time to kill him."

But Baker's not gaining my trust very well so far, so I'm skeptical. Finally he uses a named source two graphs down. Of course, it is preceded by unnamed sources:
At Bush's first National Security Council meeting after taking office, he seemed to some aides to be ready to go. "From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," Paul O'Neill, Bush's first treasury secretary, later told CBS News. In Ron Suskind's book, "The Price of Loyalty," O'Neill was quoted as saying that Bush told aides to prepare to remove Hussein: "That was the tone of it, the president saying . . . 'Go find me a way to do this.' "
And here comes a second named source (remember, we're on page two of this story!).
Others on the inside came to a similar conclusion. In a memo in March 2002, Peter Ricketts, a top British official, sounded skeptical of U.S. motivations: "For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam."
This is all followed by a few graphs of Bush 41 quotes and Bush 43 quotes about their hatred for Saddam, but the hatred is not vetted. Bush 43 mentions that he (Saddam) gassed his own people. Bush 41 notes that Saddam hates "us," another pronoun with no antecedent. "Us" could be us, Americans, or us, Bushes.

In any case Baker closes with a quote from a named Bush insider saying that Bush 43 didn't act like Saddam's capture was any big deal and upon hearing the news kept the day "businesslike" and then:
Still, in his White House study, the president keeps a memento -- the pistol taken from Hussein when he was captured. If there ever was a duel, it is now over.
Got that? The fight between the Hatfields and McCoys the Bushes and Saddam is over. Can't believe we went to war on that.

Come to think of it, Baker doesn't mention the national security threat of assassination attempts on ex-presidents. Maybe it was in the original draft but got cut to make room for all the speculation from his unnamed sources.

Class dismissed!

Updated correction: Baker, not Parker. Thanks, Mike!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Two Worlds Collide or "How do I know that I'm not sitting at a table full of racists?"

Two of my favorite bloggers have a diavlog on bloggingheadstv and don't get along! What am I to do?

The diavlog comes after they both attend a Liberty Fund conference in which panels discussed libertarian and co-founder of National Review, Frank Meyer (1909-1972). Meyer apparently supported states rights not to desegregate schools back in the day. The other panelists creeped Althouse out:
I am struck -- you may think it is absurd for me to be suddenly struck by this -- but I am struck by how deeply and seriously libertarians and conservatives believe in their ideas. I'm used to the way lefties and liberals take themselves seriously and how deeply they believe. Me, I find true believers strange and -- if they have power -- frightening. And my first reaction is to doubt that they really do truly believe.

One of the reasons 9/11 had such a big impact on me is that it was such a profound demonstration of the fact that these people are serious. They really believe.

I need to be more vigilant.
Now, this is before the diavlog--and Goldberg responds:
We will be chatting for bloggingheads in the near future, so I will ask her about all of this soon. But I will say here I find this — to put it in as civil terms as I can — odd. I would note that Ann really believes some things too. Moreover, so do those people in Madison, Wisconsin — which is, I might add without fear of contradiction, far from an oasis of empiricism, realism and philosophical skepticism. But more importantly, the notion that stong conviction — AKA belief — is scary in and of itself can be the source of as much pain and illiberalism as certitude itself. Indeed, it is itself a kind of certitude I find particularly unredeeming. Anyway, more soon, I am sure.
So, I finally got to watch the diavlog a few days ago, and am finally posting on it. I thought they both made good points, but if I have to choose sides, I'll choose Jonah's. In the diavlog he repeatedly says that no one at the conference was defending Meyer's views of racial politics, and that in fact, they all think he was wrong. Here's more, writes Jonah:
But what bothers me is the assumption that conservatives need liberals to tell us about how to be racially "enlightened." It seems to me — and this is just my theory — that because a roomful of people who were not trying to persuade any audience or play to any constituency didn't perform the usual liberal rituals about how terrible Jim Crow was, Ann interpretated this as a lack of commitment. Morevoer, she thought the people in the room were woefully out of touch with racial reality and therefore need moral tutoring from a liberal who really understands these things. Maybe at a similar conference full of liberals there would be much gnashing of teeth and teary-eyed condemnations about the legacy of Jim Crow. But, if that's the case, mightn't that be a sign of how liberals embrace liberalism to feel good about themselves and morally superior to others? There's a certain Sorkinesque aesthetic to liberalism, full of self-congratulation and righteous grandstanding, that assumes the world needs liberals to tell everyone else what's right and wrong.
This rings entirely true in my world. Jonah further writes:
Conservatives were, broadly speaking and with more exceptions than the conventional narrative allows, on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. That goes for National Review, too, by the way. But the left has used this fact to put the mark of Cain on conservatives ever since. It's amazing to me how eager liberals are to say that intellectual history matters when it's inconvenient conservative intellectual history. But whenever you try to to turn the subject to liberal intellectual history, all you get back is eye-rolling. One small example: Recently, I wrote that liberals had a long love affair with Fidel Castro. This is simply factually true. And yet, I was deluged by liberal readers and lefty bloggers whining about how either that never really happened or that was old news, hardly applicable to liberals today. Well, liberal and leftwing fawning and excuse-making for Castro is far more recent than conservative support for Jim Crow, thank you very much.
Althouse, of course, gives a lengthy response, parsing his. Here's part of it:
But it's not just a matter of wanting people to acknowlege that race discrimination is bad. I (almost) always assumed that everyone would say: Of course, it is. We all know that. As I wrote in that earlier post, I see something wrong with the style of thinking that entails latching onto ideas as ideas. I have a problem with the fundamentalists and ideologues who don't keep track of how their ideas affect the real world and who don't maintain the empathy and the flexibility to adjust and correct their thinking in response to what they see. I kept trying to ask why people were finding the ideas of Frank S. Meyer so enthralling. One theory is that they actually like where the ideas would take a person, but no one wanted to talk about that. I'm willing to believe you don't want to go where he went. Another theory is, you just like the ideas as ideas, and if you concede that, you have the other problem, that you're an ideologue, and I find that dangerous.
Well, the whole conversation was too abstract for her. But wait! Another panelist at the conference has weighed in at Reason magazine!
Some of my tablemates at dinner told her that I had provoked a spirited debate (lasting perhaps and hour and a half) about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I had asserted that state-sanctioned racial segregation was so egregious a violation of the rights of black citizens that it was absolutely necessary for the federal government to intervene to smash it. The whole political point of libertarianism is to strictly limit the power of the state over individuals. Mandating racial segregation via state power (as was done in the Southern states) is precisely the kind of state tyranny that libertarians detest. In any case, I think she found my view of the Civil Rights Act agreeable. During the discussion in the hospitality suite, absolutely no one defended state-sanctioned segregation and all agreed that Federal intervention was necessary to outlaw state-enforced Jim Crow segregation.

Once the topic had been broached over dinner, I turned to another tablemate who is a fervent Catholic intellectual to discuss some bioethical stuff. We had brought up transhumanism during one of the sessions earlier in the day. The two of us were having a perfectly civil conversation about the moral status of embryos. Anyway next thing I know, Ann Althouse is shouting at two of our dinner companions demanding that they prove to her (Althouse) that they are not racists! She kept asking over and over, "How do I know that I'm not sitting at a table full of racists?" This was completely bizarre! It should go without saying, but I will say it: No one at the conference could even remotely be accused of being racist.

I think she was upset that they didn't disavow private-sanctioned discrimination, not that they supported it either as far as I can tell.

By now, reader, you are surely asleep, but not me! This is a grand soap opera in my life, a fascinating reality show of blogosphere intellectuals.

Importantly, I've learned a lot, and I have new questions about states' rights and gay marriage. Should we allow some states to vote down gay marriage or civil unions, while others allow it? Is it a civil right? Is it a right at all? If it is, shouldn't it be federally protected? How do we define what's a right and what's not?

What? Read the what? The Consti-what?

Isn't there anything on television that will help me with these questions?

There are all kinds of philosophical and moral questions about whether we should allow gay marriage, but what about the legal ones? I don't even know how to ask them.

Update: This is news to me! From Radley Balko:
I think the tremendous downside that stemmed from Heart of Atlanta and like cases that forced private businesses to desegregate is that we're now faced with an interpretation of the Commerce Clause that gives the federal government far too much power over local affairs, from telling cancer patients they can't smoke marijuana to ease the bite of chemo, to stopping hospitals from being built in order to protect some obscure, endangered, cave-dwelling insect. (I actually think the south could have been desegregated by way of the 13th Amendment -- but that's another discussion entirely).
Huh. Can't comment on that. But this sounds sensible:
Discussing these types of issues is the very reason groups like Liberty Fund sponsor events like the one Althouse and Bailey attended in the first place. But it's supposed to be just that -- a discussion. Invitees are selected to provide for an interesting, provocative debate. It means you may possibly encounter ideas that are foreign to you, or that you disagree with.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life!

I'm feeling very George Baileyish today, which is never a good time to post because it reveals the sappy person that I am.

Husband has given me the greatest gift of all this morning by taking the kids shopping so I can have a few minutes of peace and get the house in order before we head north to Oklahoma.

The drive to Oklahoma is not distinct in natural beauty, but it does have a few things that make me laugh along the way. First there are the Arbuckle Mountains, or should I say "mountains." Some how they qualify, though even to my flatlander eyes, I barely notice an ascendancy in elevation.

The other thing that gets my fancy are the signs promoting small towns. See Purcell! is one of them. And each sign generally lists the following: Historic Downtown, Shopping District, and....I can't remember what else--that's how memorable they are.

It would be fun to do a coffee table book of small town signs that advertise small towns, which are trying not to die out. Trying to stay alive is worth a sign or two for sure.

My other coffee table book idea is a book of churches taken on our drive from North Texas to South Texas. The churches we pass vary from megachurches, such as the one near a local mall--as big as the mall, really--with huge lettering FELLOWSHIPCHURCH.COM. Then the further south we get and the further away from big cities where churches are always gorgeous, we find churches with aluminum siding, churches of thin wood, churches made of turn-of-the-century stone, churches that look that they were built when the Spaniards first came to Texas.

But all that's for another day. Today, we're packing up the car. I'll distract the children while Gene puts Santa's unwrapped gifts in the back-back, then we'll stuff all the wrapped presents behind it and if there's still room, we'll bring our luggage.

Merry Christmas, Bystander readers!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Conservatives need to realize that something is not dubious just because it’s reported by the New York Times"

Rich Lowry says :
The “good news” that conservatives have accused the media of not reporting has generally been pretty weak. The Iraqi elections were indeed major accomplishments. But the opening of schools and hospitals is not particularly newsworthy, at least not compared with American casualties and with sectarian attacks meant to bring Iraq down around everyone’s heads in a full-scale civil war.
A very fair point! Here's some really good news in Newsweek that I've been aware of for a long time, but not because of the MSM:
Civil war or not, Iraq has an economy, and—mother of all surprises—it's doing remarkably well. Real estate is booming. Construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are healthy, too, according to a report by Global Insight in London. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports 34,000 registered companies in Iraq, up from 8,000 three years ago. Sales of secondhand cars, televisions and mobile phones have all risen sharply. Estimates vary, but one from Global Insight puts GDP growth at 17 percent last year and projects 13 percent for 2006. The World Bank has it lower: at 4 percent this year. But, given all the attention paid to deteriorating security, the startling fact is that Iraq is growing at all.
Newsweek also notes: "there's a vibrancy at the grass roots that is invisible in most international coverage of Iraq." Yes, well, you have to dig sometimes to get a bigger picture. Until he stopped doing his round up of good news, I used to read Arthur Chrenkoff.

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" But the poor lemmings are stuck with their Psycho soundtrack and deathwish reputation."

Everything I knew about lemmings is wrong. They don't commit mass suicide:
Although lemmings migrate due to population pressures and are known to fall from heights and drown in water, they don’t fling themselves off ledges in stampeding hordes, as “Winter Wonderland” leads its viewers to believe. Disney’s crew seems to have faked much of the lemming segment: It was filmed in landlocked Alberta, which is not a native habitat for lemmings and does not touch the ocean, and the lemmings themselves were apparently driven off the ledges and into the water.
Why would Disney want us to believe that?
Reminds me of Giuliani

The Dallas police chief is dating a Dallas TV news reporter and anchor. Says the 56-year-old chief, just recently divorced for a fourth time:
“I do feel like I found a soul mate,” Kunkle says. “We connect emotionally, intellectually, in every way you can with another person that I never thought you could. All this stuff I never really knew existed. Things other people talked about that I couldn’t even understand, all of a sudden it made sense. This is the first time I’ve understood what it means to be in love.”
That's beautiful.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

We're one in 25!

Or ...we're number nine! We're number nine! Flower Mound makes BusinessWeek.com's 25 best affordable suburbs. (Via Pegasus News.) Click on the slide show to view a picture of ...Dallas! I think they should have published a picture of Flower Mound or the mound itself, but since they didn't I'm doing it for you. Notice the dark singe at the top. I think some teens were smoking up there and accidentally started a fire. If you can avert your eyes from the picture of the glorious mound for a moment, here are the stats of the town for which it was named:

Median Home Price: $211,700
Cost of Living Index: 108.3
Violent Crime Index: 48
Secondary School Test Scores Index: 104

Click on the link to find out what the indexes mean; I can tell you that homes built twenty years ago (uh, at least ours) are not selling for what's quoted above.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

[Insert clever headline here]

Here's an interesting post by Althouse (does my blog seem like All Althouse All the Time sometimes?) on why even though she's mostly a liberal she criticizes liberals more often than conservatives.
The key thing about me is that I am -- usually -- writing from my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin. My milieu is thoroughly liberal and even leftist and has been for more than two decades. Things in the news catch my attention because they resonate with my observations in my real world life. I know the way people talk about things around here. I have a sense of how liberal and lefty folks react to things, and I am used to reacting to them. I take them seriously. They are quite real to me. They irritate, amuse, and confound me on a daily basis. I feel the urge to push back.

Conservatives? I don't know them. I know a few, but they are very amiable, moderate souls who -- maybe because they are the ones who choose to live in Madison -- don't say things that resonate with the news stories I read and, consequently, I don't have as vivid a response to the thing I read about conservatives.
This rings true for me and perhaps for a frequent commenter here who likes to criticize conservatives (you know who you are!), but I can see why it gets on our partisan friends' nerves. Bob Wright loses it yet again (about a quarter of the way in--I'm technologically incapable of creating a dingalink) in trying to convince Mickey Kaus that he's a conservative, not a liberal. Thing is, with Mickey, he is living among liberals, so his need to criticize liberals does not stem from the same place as Althouse's. He says it's born of a natural curiosity.

Discuss.

[Updated to correct ridiculously bad editing!]

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merwy Chwissmas

A day when three Christmas cards arrive is a good one indeed. As I posted below, we decorated the tree last night. Today at our local library's Toddler Time, my two-year-old kept correcting a preschooler on the correct pronunciation of 'Christmas.'

She kept repeating saying, "Merry Kissmas," and he kept correcting her, "No! It's Merry Chwissmas!"

So, tonight, with the kids too little to watch prime time television, we're sitting around singing Chwissmas carols. Emma knows precisely three and Brendan only knows the Alphabet Song, so he keeps shouting, "No -- ABC's! ABC's!" Well, we indulged him finally and he refused to join in with us, just tapped his feet. Just tapped his feet!

Well, I don't have to take that, although it is better than his usual, "No singing, Mom," which recently prompted me to say to my husband that I'm going to have to join a church again so that I can join a choir and have a place to sing. I love singing. For me, it's a very soothing experience.

But enough about me--it's bedtime for the kids and ...The Office tonight!!!!!!!!

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The tree stands in all its glory

Here is how a two-year-old hangs ornaments on a tree. It was a nice evening. The kids were excited, but I'm not sure that tree branch is going to survive through New Year's Eve.

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If you can't take the heat...

...get out of the kitchen!*

*Written from the burn unit of Blogger General Hospital.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Scarlett 'R'

Dr. Helen is wearing one.
Many times, people mistakenly call me a Republican although I am a right-leaning libertarian. Apparently, labeling one as a Republican gives ammunition to call one sexist, evil, mean spirited or just plain scum. How many times do you hear someone apologizing for having right leaning views -- "Oh, no, I am not really a Republican, I have other views etc." My question is, what if one is a Republican or right leaning. So what? Is that a crime?
It does feel that way, as I've noted similar discomfort before. On a related note, James Taranto observed that even though Republicans lost the mid-term elections, many weren't as unhappy as they thought they'd be before the elections when predicting a loss:

According to Gilbert and Vedantam, this is a normal pattern. People almost always feel less bad than they expect after suffering a loss--even something as horrific as the death of a child. That's because "when people are asked to predict how they will feel about something, they think about just that one thing instead of all the other things that make up everyday life." It's not that they don't feel the loss but that the demands and distractions of living keep them from focusing on it single-mindedly.

All of which seems quite sensible, but leaves one big question unanswered: How come the Angry Left deviated from this normal pattern?

So, what about the Angry Right? You don't hear much about them.

Added: I should amend that to I don't hear much about them. I imagine lots of Lefties do, and that gets them stirred up into saying something outrageous, which gets Righties stirred into outrage, and so on, and so on, and so on...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hello

No, I'm fine. I'm just very, very tired, thanks. Though he stayed in bed last night, my two-year-old has continued to wake me up most of this week, three times the other night.

I have picked up an editing job for a local magazine. It's freelance and part time and it's been great--a real growing experience. That's part of the reason you don't see posts for days at a time. The other part is that I have nothing to say or I'm busy examining old notions and can't put it into words.

My husband is home from work today (yay!) but I still have some editing to do (boo!) but if I finish quickly (yay!) I can get out and bum about town by myself and maybe take in a movie (yay!) but the piece I have to edit needs some real work (boo!) so that might be a while (boo!).

I think the above paragraph could use some editing (boo!). See ya!

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Alzheimer's

Your cats are at risk too. But it's Newt to the rescue! At least for the human form of the disease. He makes a pretty good argument on why the government should be spending more money on research now. It should save them money in the future. I'm all for that.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cowering before the Law of Unintended Consequences!

On changing the definition of gender:
“This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the [New York] city’s health commissioner. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”
Gee, ya think? Via Althouse whose remarks on the same city's outlawing of transfat says, "Of all the elitist regulations, this one takes the cake. And the pie crust."

Ahaha! It's a good day at the Althouse blog!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Things look a bit different on my end

For instance, I'm now able to label my posts. I may label this one musings (ala Peg Hill) or family or home stuff.

I have a few new buttons, but they do the same old thing. I'll check into the RSS feed, though, thanks for asking.

I had a fascinating way of describing my kitchen floor after it hasn't been swept for a few days, but now it seems less fascinating. I call it medieval floor because in all the period-piece movies I've seen, dining halls don't seem all that clean. The floor hits critical mass when I can't take two steps without hearing a crunching noise beneath my feet, and then no matter what, I sweep.

I don't mind the chore so much as I mind cleaning up after others. I want to be more than just a cleaning lady around here and I'm appalled that so much of early childhood mothering involves just that. It's my inner little sister rearing her freckled head. I did a lot of cleaning up after siblings when I was a kid and shirked it as a grown up.

But I also don't like nagging, so if my husband doesn't pick up his stuff, things tend to stay as they are until, well, as I'd said before, things hit critical mass.

Got a 4:15 wake up call this morning from my two year old. I woke up before he even put his hand on our door knob. Go back to bed! I said firmly. "Cos ...cos ...where my sof banket?" Oh, well, if his sof banket is missing, I'll get up and fill out a missing sof banket report and file it with the sof banket division of the local police department. Or just look under his other blankets and tuck him back in.

So, funny thing about waking up too early--you don't actually get that sleepy feeling again until thirty minutes before the alarm goes off. So you waste two hours willing yourself to sleepiness and by the time you get there, it's time to get up.

But you knew that already, and so did I, so I'll waste no more time here going on about it. It's time to get about the business of the day.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

FYI

For those of you who only get your news and news gossip via Bystander, the AP has defended its use of Capt. Jamil Hussein as a source, even though CENTCOM and the Iraqi government have no record of him. BOTW points to the AP letter:
The Associated Press denounces unfounded attacks on its story about six Sunni worshipers burned to death outside their mosque on Friday, November 24. The attempt to question the existence of the known police officer who spoke to the AP is frankly ludicrous and hints at a certain level of desperation to dispute or suppress the facts of the incident in question.
That's a little defensive, I think.
Anything different?

Blogger has been asking me for a long time to switch to their new beta version. I'm not sure, but I think I have accomplished that in the last few minutes. Same ol' digs around here.