Politics: May 2004 Archives

Day two of the 2004 Washington State Republican Convention was far more boring than day one. And a bit more angering.


We had a keynote speaker today, RNC Deputy Chairman Maria Cino. She noted how important this year's election is, especially in the State of Washington. There are few races expected to be close in the Senate and House, but three of them are in WA. Further, WA is one of the few "battleground" states for the Presidential election.

She talked a bit about how well the GOP is doing these days, having a majority not just in the House and Senate, and not just holding the Presidency, but Laos having a majority of houses and senates in the states, and a majority of governorships. The Democrats really are losing this country. They really are the minority party in every sense of the word, all across this country. But it is close enough that this could all change, this year.

Voting, and Losing Again

As I suspected, I didn't get a chance to speak on my own behalf. There were 124 candidates for at-large delegate, and only 11 spots (plus 11 delegates). I got some support, but not nearly enough to win.

One person moved to allow each candidate to speak for 30 seconds. This would require close to two hours of our time, it was estimated. We compromised and had each candidate file in front of the podium, after having the chairman speak their name.

The slates that had been removed from the ballot by amendment to the rules were on a separate piece of paper today, as they should have been. The initial plan was to use punchcard ballots, but they were tested the previous evening and the machine broke. Back to pen and paper.

The first ballot turned up only three winners (candidates being named on a majority of the ballots) of 11 spots. So we voted again, this time getting seven more. Most of those selected were on the slate. We were about set to vote one more time to get the final delegate, when someone moved we suspend the rules to just take the next candidate who had the most votes, from the last ballot. The motion passed.

Then we voted on alternates. This time, a motion was made to suspend the rules to take the top 11, regardless of majority. It passed. Later, we also voted for the two electors, along the same lines.

Unfortunately, the above voting process took several hours. It was entirely ridiculous. At least, while they were counting the first vote, we were able to get the platform passed without much discussion. Indeed, a motion was made to adopt the platform without any amendments, and it was passed. I've never seen a platform adopted so quickly.

More Speakers

So then we split for lunch, and when we came back, they were still not done counting. Two hours later, about three hours after voting, we were still doing nothing. So we listened to some more speakers: people running for Congress.

My district, as mentioned previously, has three Republicans running for Congress: Suzanne Sinclair, Glenn Coggeshell (the sword dude), and -- the man whose name I could not recall the last time -- Larry Klepinger. Larry and Suzanne spoke in the congressional district caucus on Day One, and Glenn and Suzanne spoke on Day Two.

I got to speak briefly to Larry and Glenn. I like them both, but I think maybe Suzanne has the best chance against Democrat Rick Larsen. Larry would make a fine candidate, and in some ways a better one, but I think his ideas -- which I largely agree with -- are just too extreme. I will likely vote for him in the primary, though. Glenn is just too unpolished, I think. But he thinks he can get enough grassroots support from young people. We'll see.

I think Glenn read what I wrote last time (and he might read this). He said he thought I wrote I didn't like him. As you can see, I said I wasn't impressed. Those are very different things, to me. I don't dislike him, I just think his campaign lacks what it takes to win this sort of a race. "Unpolished" was the main reason why at the county convention, and it's the main reason why today.

More Voting

After the platform, we still had to pass the resolutions. But after an hour of doing nothing and another hour or more listening to more speakers, we were still waiting, and it was getting late. Some of us tried to get to the resolutions, but the chair, for some reason, decided we couldn't, because we were in the middle of the (on hold) voting process. But if we could pass the platform while the voting was on hold, why not resolutions?

We finally got to to the resolutions. They were split up into three sections: those the platform committee recommended, those it made no recommendation on, and those it recommended against.

The first resolution was to propose to change the state law so that Washington electors would be granted by popular vote by congressional district, not the state (except for the two at-large delegates, which would continue to be awarded by the statewide count). On principle, I like this better, although several valid objections were raised, including the weakening of WA's status as a battleground state. It passed.

The next resolution was, despite initially being recommended, rejected because it was considered redundant and unnecessarily negative. It was about unions, trying to express support for union members while not supporting all the goals of the unions themselves.


Then, the fireworks started. There were two more recommended resolutions, one expressing support for the war, and another expressing support for changing laws to give both parents equal rights regarding their children (apparently, some laws are skewed toward granting more rights to mothers than fathers). Then there was one resolution with no recommendation: expression of support for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Now, in some ways, this amendment was redundant. The adopted platform says the WA GOP supports "an amendment to the United States Constitution defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman." But the resolution went further, calling for an amendment that would explicitly ban the states from recognizing gay marriages, and appears to me to even ban the granting of civil union rights. It also demanded the state party send a copy of the proposed amendment to the President, congresspeople, and more.

One delegate moved to adjourn the meeting, which would have the effect of adopting the last two recommended resolutions, and rejecting the ones with no recommendations, or negative recommendations. Seeing this as a clear ploy to avoid debate, many of us rose in objection. However, it was noted that our business was not done: we needed to hear the results of the previous delegate and elector voting. Someone else noted we didn't need to hear those results; but someone else noted we still needed to vote to approve the district electors voted on in the districts on the previous day.

So, the motion was withdrawn, and I told the person next to me that as soon as we voted to approve those electors, she would re-introduce the motion, which she was about to do, but someone apparently convinced her not to. I'm not sure what happened. She left soon afterward.

The next two resolutions went quickly, to my dismay. It was close to 6 p.m., and no one was interested in discussing anything. It made me quite angry, because we had wasted so much time during the day, when we could have been doing something useful. This is how bad laws get made. Thankfully, we were not doing anything nearly as important as legislation.

The pro-war resolution, I wished to amend. I didn't get a chance, because someone called for the question before I had a chance. Basically, the resolution had one phrase where it our "freedom gives misguided dissenters in America and other free countries the right to protest this war all they like." I wished to strike the word "misguided." Further, it said, "politically motivated attacks upon President Bush and the military serve only to assist the enemy by encouraging hatred of the United States," and I wished to strike that whole section.

But, at 6 p.m. on Saturday night, no one wants to hear it.

After the two resolutions were passed, another motion was introduced to adjourn. This time, it unfortunately succeed.

As some of you reading this know, I am against a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. I am against that plank of the platform. I am even more against what was stipulated in this resolution. But refusing to allow debate on it -- taking procedural actions to take away someone's voice -- is unconscionable to me.

It sickens me, really. The party leadership should apologize for running the day poorly, such that we wasted so many hours and were put into that situation (maybe they did it on purpose?), and the members who intentionally took an end run around democracy should apologize for being anti-democratic tools.


Betty Neighbors, the wife of our county vice-chairman told me she had just been interviewed by Fox Q13 news about the Log Cabin Republicans. I TiVo'd the 10 o'clock news, and just watched it. It started off saying, "State Republicans are meeting in Bellevue this weekend, and their new platform is stirring up a lot of controversy." (emphasis theirs) It was about the plank stating support of a gay marriage amendment.

I watched the story, and saw the state party chairman Chris Vance say, "The Log Cabin Republicans are good, loyal Republicans. They disagree with the President and the majority of the party on this one issue. And that's fine."

Then Betty said, "I believe the Republican party offers a big tent, and we are inclusive of other people."

Then a member of the Log Cabin Republicans said, "The great thing about the Republican party is that you can have an open debate, you can disagree with people, but you come together on things that really matter," like taxes, education, and limited government.

The report also noted that the platform was adopted with no amendments, no complaints. So where's all the controversy the news anchor was lying about^W^Wreferring to? I see almost none, and she said there was a lot of it. I see disagreement, but they showed no controversy in their story, and I saw no controversy while I was there.

Welcome to Seattle, pudge. slashdot.org

Ayad Allawi

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Ayad Allawi was nominated by the Iraqi Governing Council today to serve as the next Iraqi Prime Minister, until elections next year. Now, I barely know Ayad Allawi from Adam. The one thing I do know is that he was the one who propped up a very dubious link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

I don't know enough to condemn the man, but the memory of another pro-West Iraqi exile that the U.S. government funded, who propped up bad intelligence to us, is still fresh in my mind. The U.S., meanwhile, has kept its distance from the IGC move, saying it was looking to Lakhdar Brahimi to make his recommendations. Just over one month to go ... slashdot.org
Day one of the 2004 Washington State Republican Convention -- the next step after the county convention -- was an eventful one. It was my first.


When we first arrived at the convention center, we saw four protesters holding up signs about torture, wearing black hoods and electrodes. C'mon, I thought the Seattle area could do better than this. I was hoping for more.

Inside, there were many tables filled with bumper stickers and t-shirts and flyers. We chatted with Jay from the Log Cabin Republicans, who was urging people to not amend the Constitution to exclude gay marriage. We agreed that equality was the important issue, and that people should be working on a way to provide equality, not to prevent it.

We also agreed that people are much more than their sexual proclivities: if you agree with the Republicans on most issues, why should you oppose them just because of the one issue where you don't? But then again, many people feel strongly enough about one issue to be a single-issue voter, especially when that issue is so core to their beliefs. But then again, it is sometimes better to work within the system than against it.

Anyway, we went inside for the convention. The convention seating is broken down by county (or in the case of King County -- by far the most populous, accounting for nearly a third of the 1000 delegates from 39 counties, by my count -- which was further broken down by legislative district (e.g., districts for the state legislature). Later, when we would caucus for selecting delegates, we would split up by congressional district (e.g., districts for the federal Congress).


Most of the morning was taken up by candidates for office, and other VIPs, giving speeches. Washington has 11 federal congresspeople, including the two Senators, and three of them are Republicans: Representatives Jennifer Dunn, Doc Hastings, and George Nethercutt. Dunn, who is retiring from Congress, spoke first, followed by Hastings and Nethercutt, who is running against Patty Murray for the Senate.

Next came the other big candidate in the state, Dino Rossi, the candidate for governor. He was followed by the only two Republicans in statewide office in WA, Secretary of State Sam Reed and Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland.

They were followed by others chasing statewide office: Rob McKenna (the favorite) and Mike Vaska (the outsider) for attorney general, Jim Wiest for lieutenant governor, and Curtis Fackler for insurance commissioner.

I really like Rossi and Fackler. Wiest seemed not entirely there, to me. I like Vaska a lot, but McKenna wasn't bad either. I plan to vote for Vaska in the primary, but I think McKenna is going to win, and I think he'll be fine too.

Richard Sanders was the only nonpartisan candidate to speak. Rarely are nonpartisan candidates allowed to speak, but in the case of the state supreme court, if the party executives decide a candidate is worth endorsing, then they do endorse him and allow him to speak. I'm not big on electing judges, but whatever.


The one statewide candidate I left out is Reed Davis. I left him out, because the state party did. You see, the state party requires that candidates wishing to speak sign the so-called 11th Commandment, popularized by Ronald Reagan: thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican, under pain of a $5,000 fine. Davis refused to sign it, so was refused access to speak.

The notion of the 11th Commandment is a fine one, but the idea that it should be a rule is nonsense. Reed Davis is running in large part because he thinks Nethercutt would not make a good Senator. If he thought Nethercutt would make a good Senator, he wouldn't run. So to ask he refrain from criticizing Nethercutt is patently ridiculous.

Further, the party broke their own rules by endorsing Nethercutt, a candidate in a contested primary. And who decides whether or not a criticism of another candidate amounts a violation of the 11th Commandment? The exact same people who endorsed Nethercutt decide whether to fine someone for criticizing him. The process lacks any integrity whatsoever. And this is why Davis didn't sign it: he would be signing onto a sham.

After the candidates -- sans Davis -- spoke, the convention was officially opened and the rules were proposed. The very first motion was to amend the rules, allowing a candidate to speak without signing the 11th Commandment. The arguments against the amendment amounted to two specious claims: first, that Davis violated the rules and therefore should not speak; the second, that we should not have candidates attacking each other.

I already addressed the second, but let me add that one woman complained that when she heard Davis speak at her county's convention, she was offended that he spoke ill of Nethercutt there. I heard what was likely the same speech at my county's convention, and I had a very different impression. Maybe I am more open to conflict than she is.

But the first argument, while at first glance seems reasonable, really lacks any merit. Note that I said we were addressing the proposed rules of the convention. The convention had no rules until we, the delegates, voted to adopt them. He had not violated any rules, because there was no rule to violate. It's begging the question.

Unfortunately, after lengthy debate, the amendment was defeated, and Davis was not allowed to speak. Davis was disallowed from speaking under the auspices of unity, but it surely resulted in increased disunity. That's what happens when you don't allow people a voice.

Slate Voting

There was only one other proposed amendment to the rules, relating to slate voting. The Bush campaign selects the people which it thinks we should vote for, for delegate to the national convention, and puts them on a slate. That's fine, but what isn't fine is that these slates end up on the ballot itself. There's one box you can check that chooses an entire slate, or you can vote for delegates individually.

It's similar to the party-line ballots some states have, where you can check one portion of the ballot to choose all Republicans, or all Democrats. But this is different. In the case of party-line ballots, you are consolidating information that is already on the ballot: party endorsement/affiliation. Here, they take a private endorsement that wouldn't otherwise be on the ballot, and promote it to a privileged position.

I can understand why people do this: it makes the voting process more expedient. But what I can't understand is how people can't understand how undemocratic this is. People actually stood up and said this wasn't undemocratic, and emphasized, over and over, that you can vote for people not on the slate. They proved how much they don't get the point. They couldn't see how putting someone in that privileged position on the ballot itself is inherently undemocratic.

Thankfully, this amendment did pass.

Voting, and Losing

We then retired to our nine congressional district causes, to vote for delegates to the national convention. I was one of about 15 people who was up for three delegate and three alternate spots.

The first round we voted for delegates (the ballots had been preprinted with the slates at the top, which had now been torn off, as per the adopted rules), and several of the people said they only wanted to run for alternate, so were excluded. We each spoke a few words about ourselves. I thought I might, at 30 years old, play the "I'm the youth of this party" card, but the person directly before me was 21. And wore a nice suit. And had a Tom Cruise smile.

So, I tried a different tactic. I told them I was from Massachusetts, the home of John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, the Democratic National Convention, and the Boston Red Sox, who were going to sweep the Seattle Mariners this weekend in a three-game series in Fenway Park. I thought that would win them over, but I did not get 20% of the voting, and was eliminated.

One needs 50% of the vote to be elected, and only two received 50%. Anyone more than 20% and less than 50% -- four people -- were in a runoff. No one got 50% on the second ballot, and only three of the four got 20%, so we went to a second ballot with three. Then a third, again with three: Tom Cruise, the senior member of the state rules committee, and a young Army veteran who was going back to school and becoming more involved in politics.

We heard from each candidate again, and on the fourth, we finally had our man, Mr. Rules. I'm glad, even though I voted for Army Guy, because he would then have the opportunity to serve on the national rules committee, apparently.

Then we went to alternate voting. I spoke again, and thought, hey, maybe I wasn't convincing enough about my qualifications. So I said:

Voting is a funny thing. I don't how many of you are baseball fans, but a few years back, one guy voted for Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra 40,000 times. Do any of you remember that? Well, that was me. Really, it was. I'm a computer programmer, and it was just a little hack I wrote. So, I've voted more times in my life than anyone else here. Please vote for me. Thank you.

I got a lot of laughter and smiles, but still, I came up short. But then again, I was up against the county chairwoman, Tom Cruise, and Army Guy. I didn't really have a chance, although from the feedback I received, it seems like I might have been close behind.

It's not over: on Saturday, the party will select 11 at-large delegates and 11 at-large alternates. But maybe next time I should change my tactics. Maybe I won't use the word "hack." Or "Massachusetts."

We finished up the day by selecting an elector for the electoral college. Remember, you have one elector for each state representative to Congress, which means one for each congressional district, and two statewide. So tomorrow we will also choose two statewide electors, in addition to the additional delegates.

The elector we elected wasn't in attendance, but two respected party men spoke on her behalf, noting that George Bush calls her at home, and calls her his "second mom." Her opponent was well-respected in the party, but it's hard to be the President's mom. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Kerry Nomination

It's been floated that John Kerry may not officially accept the party nomination until weeks after the Democratic convention, because the longer he waits, the longer he can spend his pre-nomination money. That's how the campaign finance system works.

I have no problem with this at all. Certainly, he has practical problems to overcome if he chooses to do this -- especially how to say "I accept your nomination" at the convention without actually accepting it -- but beyond that, I don't mind.

David Broder, on Meet the Press, noted that this move marks another step in the Democrats process of "destroying institution after institution of political significance by this preoccupation with chasing money." I don't disagree, but the problem is that I dislike those institutions -- our current campaign system, including the primaries and the caucuses and the conventions, and how the campaigns are funded -- and wouldn't mind seeing them destroyed.

He also noted that while we used to say Republicans were driven by money, that now, "it's the Democrats who are allowing money to drive everything." They moved the primaries up to have more time to raise money, and are thinking of moving the nomination forward to have more time to spend it. I don't have a problem with any of that: more power to them. I have a problem with any systems that require such maneuvers in order to maximize the efficiency of the organization. The primary system, the nominating conventions (which our tax dollars pay for), and all the rest are a joke to begin with, and this proposed action doesn't destroy them, it highlights their flaws.

Snake Oil

John Kerry gave his party's response to George Bush's radio address this weekend, and he talked about oil, essentially trying to blame Bush for high oil prices. Of course, there is almost nothing a President can do about oil prices, except try to get increase supply, or decrease demand. Kerry attacked on both fronts.

He gave lip service to alternative fuel sources, something Bush also gives lip service to. Why should we trust Kerry on this? And Kerry criticizes Bush for a supposed quid pro quo to get supply increased (one that there's no evidence ever happened), and for attempts to get more oil out of American land.

And he made no mention of the announcement that the Saudis are planning to increase oil production next month, which is exactly what we need in the short term.

And while I am on that subject: a lot of people seem to think the Saudis and OPEC just willy-nilly increase or decrease supply. If the price of oil gets too high, people stop buying it as much, and the supply goes high anyway, which forces the price down. Similarly, if they let the price get too low, then supply would run out, which would drive the prices back up. OPEC wants to be able to control prices rather than have events like these control prices.

Like any other market, it's a balancing act, and while I don't know why prices are so high right now -- in particular, I don't know why OPEC decreased production in February -- I do know that our oil prices have been very stable since the 70s, and OPEC deserves much of the thanks for that.

Ahmed Chalabi

Hoo-boy, this is gonna be interesting to watch. Chalabi, former pro-west Iraqi golden boy, is being accused of passing classified information to Iran. I have no real comment on this. I've never had much of an opinion about Chalabi, and that's not changed. I've never felt I understood him enough to have an opinion about him. But I feel a series of books, and maybe a TV movie, in the making here.

Sovereignty Revisited Again

Does anyone really think the Iraqi government that takes over in July would ask the U.S. troops to leave? If our troops leave, the government won't even be able to protect itself from its own people, let alone potential attacks from Iranians, Syrians, and terrorists.

Especially considering that the stated goal of UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to put technocrats in place, it just seems extremely unlikely that our troops will be asked to leave. Technocrats are the ultimate pragmatists in government, and to ask our troops to leave would be suicide. It isn't going to happen.

"Jeffords" as a Verb

There's open talk now about the possibility of John McCain jumping ship, joining the John Kerry ticket, "Jim Jeffords"-ing the Republicans. I don't see it at all. McCain is a hawk, he's pro-life, he is for small government and low taxes. The only good thing about him, from a Democrat perspective, is that he is a respectable Republican who speaks out against the President. Is that enough to build a candidacy on, especially when he is actively campaigning for President Bush? The whole idea is ludicrous.

Nancy Pelosi

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said this week:

The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back. ... The situation in Iraq and the reckless economic policies in the United States speak to one issue for me, and that is the competence of our leader. ... I believe that the President's leadership in the actions taken in Iraq demonstrate an incompetence in terms of knowledge, judgment and experience ...

My question: why should anyone care what a woman thinks?

Hillary Clinton

Speaking of women, Hillary Clinton was on Fox News Sunday this week. Yow!

Bush TV

Don't forget, Bush is giving a big address on TV tonight. 8 p.m. Eastern.

Washington State Republican Convention

I'll be a delegate to the convention this Friday and Saturday. I hope to give a report on it next week. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Senator Carl Levin was criticizing Donald Rumsfeld on Fox News Sunday, saying he took no action; we know this is false. When Chris Wallace asked if Levin took action in January when it was first announced, Levin said there was no apparent need, because it sounded routine. OK, Wallace said, what about in March when charges were announced? Levin replied, well, there was no need for the Senate to act, because they were told action was being taken. But action was being taken, and continues to be taken; what has changed between then and now that makes it OK for the military in March, and not OK in May?

What happened is that Levin and the rest of the Senate were made to look foolish because they didn't know about it. That's all that changed. Yes, they didn't know the abuse was as severe as it turned out to be, but why didn't the Senate try to found out if the problem was systemic? Why didn't they even ask to see the reports, which surely must have existed by then, if charges were being filed?

I am not trying to shift the blame. Clearly, the Pentagon messed up by not informing Congress sooner. But Congress had opportunity to request information, and should have done so, and did not. And as such, some of their complaints are very hollow.

Who's Winning

On the weekly Chris Matthews show, they ask who "won the week," Bush or Kerry. Unanimously amongst the pundits -- 12-0 -- it was said to be Kerry. I am unconvinced: sure, Bush is down right now, but I think what has happened this week, as well as recent weeks, very well could stregthen him long-term.

For example, because of the abuse scandal -- which hasn't directly hurt the President so far -- more people seem to be supporting Bush's June 30th deadline, and I imagine fewer people will be protesting the handover of power when it happens, because of the abuse.

Maybe, maybe not. You could come up with many ways this could help or hurt Bush long-term. My point is simply that trying to read things on a weekly basis is ridiculous, this early in the campaign, unless someone does something that directly, significantly, harms or hurts a candidate. So if it's me, I say every week has been a draw for both candidates, thus far.

In a similar vein, many Republicans are saying the good news about Bush's poll numbers -- which are the lowest they've been in a long time, if not ever -- is that they are not as bad as they could or should be. It may be true, but it has the distinct ring of desperation about it when said by a partisan.

But Bush's low poll numbers really don't matter right now, and neither have Kerry's. In most elections, one says, "a lot can happen between now and the election." That misses the point, this year. A lot certainly will happen between now and the election. Most obvious is the turnover of power in Iraq, which is huge. Only slightly less obvious than this land war in Asia is that either the economy is going to do something big: either it will recover, or it will not, or it will be caught in between. No matter what happens with the economy, the ramifications on the election will be huge.


The question of whether Iraq will be sovereign after June 30 has been batted around quite a bit for months. I noted in my March 20 entry, "Iraq will regain sovereignty on June 30; that necessarily means they can ask the U.S. forces to leave." I was attempting to draw the distinction between an occupation, where our forces are there against the government's wishes, and what happens in many countries around the world, where our forces are there by mutual agreement.

In the past few days, both Paul Bremer (head of the civilian authority in Iraq) and Secretary of State Colin Powell have asserted that indeed, our troops would leave if asked, and Powell asserted that this is what sovereignty means. Now, Bremer and Powell don't make those decisions, but their voices carry a great deal of weight (especially when added to mine :-).

This talk prompts talk of whether or not the new provisional government in Iraq will represent the Iraqi people. Some claim if the US chooses who the government is, then it will lack validity. This is a canard: absolutely any government that is not selected by the people will lack validity, but pretty much everyone believes we must get an Iraqi government in control now, while elections are being prepared.

Whether the US has a hand in choosing the government won't matter in the end, because the real test is whether that government will be a good one for the 6 months or more it is in power, and whether elections do happen. This is a temporary government. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to work for a short period of time. And if the US didn't have a hand in the selection of the government, and it went poorly, then the US would be blamed even more.

No, as Powell said, you break it, you buy it. We're the ones who went in, and we are responsible for what happens, and we therefore should make the important decisions, until that time as Iraqis are able to do so: not because we want the control, but because we are the responsible party. It's the child who complains about not getting to make the decisions; it's the adult who is wary about having to. slashdot.org


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A lot of people having complained that Don Rumsfeld last week said, "My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. ... I don't know if the -- it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture."

The question asked of him is whether torture took place. He attempted to give a reasonable answer to the question. But many people say, how can it be anything but torture? Look at the pictures! Read the report!

Human Rights Watch quotes the Convention Against Torture, saying it defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession…." (emphasis mine)

That is to say, abuse must be inflicted for a specific purpose -- for example, extracting information -- in order to be called torture. It does not matter how bad the abuse is, or what the abuse is, it must have a specific purpose in order to be torture. That is not to say that torture did not take place, but it is wholly right to question whether abuse amounts to torture, which is something that the photographic evidence does not -- probably cannot -- show. In my reading of the report, it doesn't show it either. It suspects it, which is why further investigations are called for in said report.

That is to say, Rummy was absoultely right to question whether torture has, in fact, taken place. He was wrong to say it in a press conference where people wouldn't understand the relevant legal nuances, and where he might betray his own lack of understanding of the evidence.

From all the little bits of information that have been coming out, from the pervasive allegations that they were told to "soften up" the prisoners, it seems that this likely was abuse for a purpose that makes it amount to torture. But I have not seen enough evidence to convince me of that yet. I would be surprised if I didn't see that evidence eventually.

My only question is whether Rummy had enough evidence to call it torture at the time he said it, and if he has that evidence now. slashdot.org


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OK, everyone is ignorant, but some people are more obviously so than others. Case in point: Janeane Garofalo.

She was on The Daily Show the other night saying, "at this point wanting to vote for Bush should basically be considered a character flaw." Then she went on to say how people who vote for Bush are just doing it out of a sense of pride for their party leader.

I'll tell you what is, quite clearly, a character flaw: not being able to understand how -- or in her case, even *that* -- a reasonable person can disagree with you for good reasons.

She appears to honestly believe that no one could possibly have a rational basis for voting for Bush (unless, I suppose, they are evil). There are few words to describe this other than "ignorant." "Arrogant," of course, comes to mind, and it certainly is that. But arrogance doesn't imply that it is incorrect, and is therefore an insufficient description.

The only conclusion I can come to is that she doesn't get out much. Oh sure, she travels, but she only talks to people who agree with her, or who are extreme on the other side. She doesn't experience enough of the people in this country to understand the many reasons why so many of us think Bush is a good President.

I'd like to have her sit on my couch for a couple of hours and talk politics with me. At the end, she'd understand that reasonable people have reasonable reasons for wanting Bush to be re-elected as President. Either that, or she would wind up in a fetal position in the middle of the floor. Either way, her view of the world would change. And maybe, just maybe, she would shed some of her obvious ignorance. slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Books, Books, and More Books

President Bush said at Saturday's White House Correspondents Association Dinner that some people say he's not done much for the economy, but objected, saying that he's done a great deal of good for the book publishing industry.

The latest anti-Bush book comes from Joe Wilson, the ambassador who went to Niger to check out the uranium story, whose wife was "outed" as a CIA "operative" by Bob Novak, now has his own book. It seems a lot like the Clarke book, but with fewer facts, which isn't a good thing.

That is, in Clarke's book, his analysis was to be taken with a grain of salt -- because he was clearly so angry with and biased against Bush -- but he was there for so much of what happened, and knew so much of what happened, that the many facts he had firsthand knowledge of were, for the most part, to be trusted.

You could say the same thing about Wilson, except for the "many" part. When he was on Meet the Press yesterday, his most damning allegations about the Bush administration were complete hearsay. For example, an anonymous source tells him that the White House was out to "get him" in March 2003, months before his wife's name was released; another tells him that Novak said -- to a complete stranger -- some nasty things about Wilson and noted his relationship to Plame a week or so before the story broke in his column.

He claims he has anonymous sources, but what reason do I have to trust him, or them? With Bob Woodward, we have not only 30 years of proven trustworthy use of anonymous sources, we have the actual sources themselves saying the facts are accurate (if not the characterizations). With Wilson, we have nothing at all.

That's not to say he is lying, or that his sources are. It just means that I can't bother to care about something I have no reason to believe. Just because you can get someone to pay you for a book doesn't mean you get my trust. You have to work hard for it, and it will take a long time. I wish other people had such reasonable standards.

Kerry : Medals :: Bush : Mission

Look, everyone who can be the least bit objective knows that the mission Bush was talking about on that aircraft carrier was the one about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. There's simply no reasonable question of it. Operation Iraqi Freedom was to overthrow Hussein's government. It was accomplished. He even said in that speech, "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous." He also said, "our coalition will stay until our work is done."

Similarly, everyone who can be the least bit objective knows that Kerry was not attempting to be dishonest about what he threw over what wall. Who cares whether he said "medals" or "ribbons"? The point is what he meant to accomplish: to protest the war by throwing some of the symbols of war away.

Both of them acted somewhat imprudently, but both of these little "scandals" -- same as the ones last week, and the weeks before -- are just partisan wastes of time to try to make the other guy look bad, to avoid talking about the issues. Can we please get back to the issues? Please?

Radio Address

Giving the Democratic Party response to President Bush's weekly radio address, on Saturday, was Army National Guard 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, a veteran of the current Iraq War. He made many excellent points -- including the fact that our military is being used for work they are not trained for (something Bush said he would not do in the debates with Al Gore in 2000) -- and his voice is one that needs to be heard.

But -- could you feel that coming? -- he was being less than honest, and it disturbed me. He actually sat on This Week and told George Stephanopolous he was trying to be as non-partisan as possible. This man, who sought out pro-Kerry veterans groups to see how he could get involved, who gave the response to the President on behalf of the Democrats, who accused Bush of misleading with the "mission accomplished" banner, and implied that Bush said the troops would return home by July 4 (which Bush did not do), said he was trying to be non-partisan. It was a ridiculous lie -- he is acting out the definition of partisan -- and it undercut his credibility.

He said, "I am not angry with our President, but I am disappointed."

Well, I am not angry with Paul Rieckhoff, but I am disappointed. I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but hey, I'm not the one who went on national television and radio saying he isn't partisan. If he actually had been nonpartisan, I'd have no criticism of him. If he had been partisan and owned up to it, I'd have only very little criticism, and probably wouldn't have bothered writing about it at all. But he was trying to have it both ways, saying he is not against the President, while at the same time campaigning against him, so I am calling him on it.


Rieckhoff also said, "I don't expect our leaders to be free of mistakes, I expect our leaders to own up to them." It's a valid complaint, but I urge people to not get hung up on Bush not admitting mistakes.

As proven last week by the heavy criticism Bush received for the *appearance* of a change of course in Fallujah (which never happened, according to General Myers), these days you lose more than you gain by admitting mistakes. You don't have to like it or agree with it, but it's the way it is. That also doesn't mean you can't make changes without publicly admitting mistakes, but we know that many adjustments have been made in the last year in exactly this way.

Different people feel strongly about different things, and this might be one of those things for Rieckhoff. I find no fault in that, though I hope he and others realize that not admitting mistakes in public is not the same thing as not realizing mistakes, or not working to fix them.

Prison Guards

I don't have a lot of substance to add to the story of the horrific abuse shown in the pictures that surfaced last week, that everyone else hasn't already said. Looking beyond the pictures, we can see a larger scandal brewing. It's been said that the U.S. guards were acting on orders from military intelligence, attempting to break their spirit so they can be more successfully interrogated.

And all I want to say about it is that we must exercise caution and wait for the information to come out, which it surely will. Feel free to push for the information to come out, but don't jump to conclusions about what happened. This applies to everything in life -- in my opinion -- but moreso at a time when we are dealing with one of the worst public relations disasters in our lifetimes, where we must do what we can to salvage the situation. Don't ignore truth, but don't pretend you know it when you don't, either. slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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