Concerning the concerned

Jeff Sharlet has a good piece focused on Concerned Women for America.

It’d be easy to dismiss CWA as fundamentalists, fringe characters without the influence of even Jane. But to do so would mean overlooking CWA’s Washington lobbying power. Worse, it would mean ignoring how groups such as CWA control and define terms such as “evangelical,” “Christian,” “family,” and even “woman.” Officially, CWA says that such terms cut across racial, class, and ideological boundaries; but the aesthetic the organization puts forth presents a different picture, one that is white, affluent, married, “free market,” and “concerned” most of all about sex — how to stop it from happening. 

Worth reading.  Hat tip: Crooks and Liars



Valuing education

Yglesias at TPMCafe

There’s not a stark either/or choice between the hard cases and the easy cases, but at some level you do need to make a decision about priorities. Insofar as we’re serious about educational equality, that will to some extent involve shortchanging the best and the brightest. Insofar as we’re serious about taking the most talented as far as they can go, that will involve shortchanging equity. The former strikes me as more desirable than the latter, especially for people who want to think of themselves as being on the left.”

Jedmunds at Pandagon

If we as a society our going to make decisions concerning prioritizing scarce educational resources, it makes sense to me, for us to consider what kind of output we desire. Do we want to, for example, mazimize the number of future American Nobel prize winners and enjoy the fruits of the breakthroughs that our most gifted can achieve, or do we want to maximize the educational level of the median American worker? Both results have great value, and if we were to quantify them in terms of dollars, I’m not sure which one would prove to be of greater value to society. But I think these are the questions we should be discussing. And that devoting our resources to maximizing the future opportunities of our least educationally apt children for the sake of doing so, without examining the costs, is fuzzy-headed. Which may or may not be a liberal value. But as liberals we do acknowledge that society is not just a collection of disparate competitive individual maximizers, but that we live in a community where cooperation is also an important value. And that maximizing the strength and resources of that community is itself a liberal value.

It’s a good discussion.


Worst of the worst

All Things Beautiful has issued a generic challenge to the blogosphere to list the ten worst Americans of all time.  She has links to many of the lists out there, and it’s worth your time to read through some of them. 

Off the top of my head, my list (in no order) is:

J Edgar Hoover

Jimmy Carter

Nathan Bedford Forrest

John Walker Jr.

Michael Newdow

Antonin Scalia

Noam Chomsky

Bull Connor

Rodger Taney

Dick Cheney

Far and away, one of the best lists I’ve seen is at Captain’s Quarters.  Check it out – it’s a real list, not a political pissing match.


There’s no place like home

The Associated Press reports that Farris Hassan, 16, of Ft. Lauderdale, is returning home.

Using money his parents had given him, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.

Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father’s background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in. 

But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth — he speaks no Arabic — his true nationality would have betrayed him.

Wow!  Part of me is impressed by the cojones on this kid who took “immersion journalism” far beyond anything his teachers imagined.  You’ve heard the phrase, “fortune favors the foolish?”  Certainly someone upstairs was watching out for this kid who by all rights should be dead given his adventures. 

His mother is threatening to never leave him alone in the house again, and he’s admitted that in retrospect his trip was completely nuts and he’s lucky to be alive.  But his adventures did give him some perspective on the situation there.  From an essay he submitted to his teacher from Kuwait City:

“There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction,? he wrote.

“Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice’s call for help. Unfortunately, altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will.?

“I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress,? he wrote. 

Naive and idealistic, but I like this kid.  If he survives to adulthood, he could go on to great things.

The snark du jour seems to compare Farris to Ferris, as in Ferris Bueller.  Not being a fan of Ferris I have to admit the comparison completely escaped me.  But when the shoe fits…

Randy Thomas


Sister Toldjah

Brutally Honest

Flying Lumberyard


US gulags

Courtesy of John Aravosis.  Read the whole thing, I’ve not copied it all.

Markos has the story, and I’m repeating the gist of it here to help get it out there. Feel free to copy and paste this entire post on your blog.

Basically, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is livid about the fact that the US and the British governments have been gladly accepting information from Uzbekistan procured by torture. You may remember that Amb. Murray was none too pleased with the horrendous human rights situation in Uzbekistan – the country is one of the most repressive on the planet – and as a result the Tony Blair, most likely with some US nudging, had Amb. Murray removed from his job. (You can read a chilling speech by Ambassador Murray detailing the Soviet police state that we are supporting in Uzbekistan.)

Well, today Ambassador Murray gets his revenge.

Amb. Murray has published a number of confidential British government documents proving that the US and the UK were conding torture in that abominable country. Tony Blair is now striking back, pulling down Amb. Murray’s Web site. UK bloggers responded by doing a coordinated leak to get the documents out to the public. Markos has republished the docs to make sure they remain public, and I’m doing the same below.

Our government is sanctioning and benefiting from torture in one of the most repressive regimes in the world. A regime that we openly embraced after September 11. A regime that many of you will recall was torturing gay journalist and human rights advocate Ruslan Sharipov (the Uzbek government arrested Ruslan for being a human rights advocate, then, after beating him, threatened to rape him with a bottle and inject him with AIDS). These are the people that George Bush has buddied up to to fight this honorable war. The worst governments on the planet – people who make the Soviets look downright nice.

And who else do you think personally was sucking up to the Uzbek dictator just a couple of years ago? Donald Rumsfeld. The same man who sucked up to Saddam Hussein before we decided he was evil.

Crossposted to UNCoRRELATED

A matter of perspective

Thanks to Bring it On for bringing the following ACLU ad to our attention.



Will “the wingnuts be pissing red”?  Somehow I doubt it. 

In a way I find the ad unfortunate because the connection to Nixon is artificial and distracts from the very real constitutional concerns here.

As The Bull Moose observed this morning:

 There are strong arguments that the President should have sought authorization from the FISA Court for the surveillance. However, in the Moose’s view, it is out-of-bounds to suggest that the President was attempting a tyrannical seizure of power. Contrary to the not too subtle suggestion in the fevered ACLU ad in today’s New York Times, this is not Watergate. Aging baby-boomers don’t need to get their fraying Impeach Nixon shirts out of the closet just yet. There is no evidence, for instance, that President exploited the program to spy on domestic opponents or to assist in his re-election. If he did, it would be an entirely different matter.

He’s right.  The war formerly known as on terror is not election tampering.  But he’s still too easy on Bush. 

The detection of phone calls between terrorist suspects and contacts in America constitute legitimate war activities in this new type of conflict. Establishing probable cause and justification might have been impracticable with the need to immediately mine hundreds of calls and electronic communications. And there are certainly precedents for warrantless searches.

Kind of.  When speed is of the essence, it’s well established that they can tap now and file the paperwork afterwards.  Carte blanche data mining is precisely what the law prohibits which is why the administration wanted to circumvent the process to begin with.

National support for the administration’s policy is overstated.  Yeah over 60% favor it as defined in a recent Rassmussen poll, but all they asked was whether it was appropriate to monitor communications between terrorists overseas and people in the US.  Were you to ask about generic data mining of American citizens you’d be getting a different answer.