Peace through victory - the American way.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Regime Change Without Boots On The Ground

The linked story makes the point that western money, specifically US money, to help build civil society and to fund independent newspapers was critical to helping the opposition take over the country of Kyrgyzstan.

The newspaper that printed stories that fueled the revolt in Kyrgyzstan received funding from the United States and printed its story on a printing press financed by the American government and operated by an American human rights organization.

The United States has been sending money to the former Soviet republic since 1992 to develop democracy and build a civil society. Thirteen years later a popular revolt succeeds, helped by an infrastructure created by that money. Edil Baisolov, a leader of a coalition of NGOs in Kyrgyzstan attributes the revolt's success to the foreign help. "It would have been impossible for this to have happened without that help."

Several conclusions suggest themselves. First, building a democracy takes time. So don't look for us to get out of Iraq any time soon. Second, Western non-military support of democracy can help to bring about regime change. And third, the United States is able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The focus on Iraq is not preventing the US from midwifing the birth of democracies elsewhere in the world.



China: The Global Hegemon Wannabe.

Here's another story about China's below the radar moves to establish itself as the next global superpower. This one describes the inroads the communist dictatorship is making in Africa. China's relations in Africa are not just focused on economics and getting access to natural resources. As the story explains, "In Africa, as in many other parts of the developing world, China is redrawing geopolitical alliances in ways that help propel China's rise as a global superpower."

A few months ago, this story revealed China's plans for navy bases from its homeland to the Middle East.

The conventional wisdom about China used to be that its strategic ambition was to assert itself as a regional power in East Asia. Its actions in recent years suggest it has ambitions much greater than that. If China were a democracy this wouldn't matter. But it's not and so it does. Much of the debate in the United States over defense needs for the 21st Century has focused on so-called asymmetric and unconventional warfare associated with failed states and terrorism. The ambitions of China's communist dictatorship are a reminder that future threats to the United States will come from traditional armies and navies as well. Which makes France's long-term strategy of strengthening its ties with China to create a counter-weight to the United States all the more reprehensible.



Monday, March 28, 2005

Media Hypocrisy Hunt: Day 8

It's been 8 days now since President Bush signed the legislation passed by Congress, under the leadership of Tom DeLay, aimed at obtaining a de novo federal court hearing for Terri Schiavo. During those 8 days the media and their Democratic colleagues have hunted for stories designed to expose the Republican leadership as hypocrites for supporting the bill.

It took only two days for the media hypocrisy talking point to emerge on President Bush with the Associated Press story about the Texas law that Bush signed as governor which permits a hospital to stop treatment against family and patient wishes.

It took The Los Angeles Times five more days to provide the ammunition for partisans to fire the hypocrisy charge at Tom DeLay with its story about the death of DeLay's father.

The charges against DeLay and Bush are spurious. In Bush's situation the law he signed established Advanced Health Directives in Texas but it included the provision that permits hospitals to stop treatment of patients with terminal illnesses and irreversible conditions. What isn't reported much is the background of the bill.

As this post reveals the situation facing patients in Texas was worse before Bush signed the Advanced Health Directives legislation. Before the law hospitals in Houston were unilaterally terminating treatment for patients with only three days notice and without any provision for judicial review. Bush vetoed a bill that didn't outlaw that practice but the best that could be had after negotiations was the law he signed that extended the time to 10 days, maintained the status quo during those 10 days, and, most importantly, specifically provided for judicial intervention. Rather than being a hypocrite for signing that bill and later Terri Schiavo's bill, Bush has been consistent in signing legislation that provided additional court hearings for patients about to have their life-saving treatment terminated.

The DeLay hypocrisy charge also misfires. Unlike Terri Schiavo, who was not dying from her brain injury, DeLay's father was. Not only was his father irreversibly brain damaged, he couldn't breathe without a ventilator and his organs were failing. The two situations are not comparable. In the case of DeLay's father, the decision not to continue so-called heroic measures was made because the man was dying. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the decision to remove her feeding tube was made despite the fact that she was not dying. There is no hypocrisy in permitting nature to take its course in one situation and opposing the deliberate death by dehydration in the other.

Yet the charge of hypocrisy is a useful tool for partisans who don't wish to discuss the issue but want to use the issue to attack their opponents for partisan advantage.

So don't be surprised if a similar story taken from Senator Bill Frist's career as a doctor gets twisted and told soon.



Friday, March 25, 2005

Climbing out of the Blood Baath.

The linked story from the Financial Times of London describes the efforts by Sunnis to bring the insurgency to a halt and join the political process begun with the January 30th elections.

About a month ago Osama Bin Laden pleaded with al-Zarqawi to attack the United States mainland, evidence that the Islamists recognized they were bogged down in Iraq and were seeking a way out. (See post here.) Now it looks like the former Baathists are beginning to realize that they too are fighting a losing battle in Iraq.



Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Europe to China: "Cool it for a while, will ya?"

The European Union has decided to keep its arms embargo on China for a while longer. United States' pressure alone was unable to achieve this change of heart. Instead, the EU reconsidered its plan to lift the embargo because of China's passage of the anti-secession law which threatened the use of force against Taiwan. Here's what an unnamed senior European official said:
"Europe wants to move forward on the embargo, but the recent actions by China have made things a lot more complex. The timeline has become more difficult. The timeline is going to have to slip."
So there you have it. It's not that Europe doesn't want to sell arms to China and it's not that they won't eventually. They're just going to wait until things cool down a bit and people forget the threats China has made against Taiwan. Then the Europeans will argue that it's safe to sell weapons to the dictators in Beijing. The sales will be made and one day European weapons will be used by China's military to kill American military personnel.



Friday, March 18, 2005

McGwire Tries Anti-McCarthyism.

Mark McGwire appears to have gone into yesterday's hearing intending to play the hero who stands up to a witch hunt and refuses to name names. His testimony yesterday included the following quotes:

"My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family, or myself. I intend to follow their advice."

"I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates."

Back during the Cold War some Americans were brought before Congress to answer questions and name names about alleged involvement with the Communist Party. As evil as Communism is, membership in the party is protected by the First Amendment's Freedom of Association clause so people who stood up to Congress back then were defending a principle of freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.

No such principle is at stake today. Congress's steroids investigation is not an attack on the Bill of Rights. It's an investigation into whether Major League Baseball countenanced criminal wrongdoing by its players and whether it's doing enough now to attack the problem. The only things at stake are whether professional baseball will be able to continue not regulating itself and whether athletes who use drugs will continue to get away with it. That's why McGwire's lame attempt at anti-McCarthyism failed.



Baseball's Anti-Trust Exemption

The linked title goes to ESPN's excellent explanation of the history of baseball's anti-trust exemption.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Fool me once, twice, three times you're out.

Mark McGwire today refused to say whether he used steroids when he broke the single-season homerun record in 1998. He was never forced to take the Fifth on the issue so he was saved the PR hit of a video showing him declining to answer to avoid self-incrimination. But now we know how he did it. McGwire is not the issue, though.

The money quote from the hearing today didn't come from McGwire, it came from Commissioner Bud Selig's comment on Major League Baseball's new penalties for steroids use: "That's the best we could do in collective bargaining. The penalties would be tougher if I had my way."

And there's the problem. Baseball is pretty much left alone by Congress to govern itself because of its anti-trust exemption. The US made steroids use illegal in 1991. Yet it took baseball 11 years until 2002 to ban the use of steroids by its players. And then it took another two years before baseball implemented a system for testing and penalizing players for steroids use.

And even now baseball's steroids policy is weak compared to other sports. The National Football League, for instance, suspends a player for 4 games for a first violation. A comparable baseball policy would suspend a player for 40 games without pay. When baseball announced its new policy it claimed first-time offenders would be suspended for 10 days without pay. The hearings have revealed that the suspension is optional along with a $10,000 fine.

Buried in this story from last year are two quotes that reveal the sentiment behind Congress's current play on steroids in baseball. Last year, when Congress and President Bush were pressuring baseball to take action against steroids use, Senator John McCain warned Selig to take action: "Your failure to commit to taking this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies. We will have to act in some fashion unless the major league players union acts in the affirmative and rapid fashion, and I very, very, very much regret that, because I don't think we have any business doing that." And Senator Byron Dorgan, perhaps more mindful of the Constitution's Commerce Clause than Senator McCain, said, "I just don't understand why this is even part of collective bargaining."

Under pressure from the government, but given room to maneuver by Congress, baseball amended its collective bargaining agreement to strengthen its steroids policy in 2004. But Congress has now learned that baseball hardly did anything at all.

Major League Baseball is used to sticking it to its fans with impunity. It knows that fans love baseball and will keep coming back to the game no matter how badly they are treated. Now baseball has been caught trying to do the same to Congress. It should be interesting to see who wins this battle.



Friday, March 11, 2005

The devil you know is still a devil.

Whether you think things are going well or badly in the world now, read the linked official explanation from Wang Zhaugou, a Chinese government official, on China's proposed new anti-secession law. The proposed law is aimed at preventing Taiwan from using democratic means to declare its independence from China and to justify the use of force by China. Armed conflict is coming to East Asia in the not too distant future and it'll involve China and the US. The tragedy is that the regime we face in China could have been gone by now.

Many conservatives blame President Clinton for every difficulty we face. But on issues of freedom versus stability Clinton sits with Presidents George W. Bush and Reagan on the side of freedom. Clinton intervened in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo on the side of freedom over stability. Our current president's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, too often sat on the side of stability. Bush 41's administration with its realist advisors, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, helped to create the problems we face today with the decisions they made to preserve stability at the cost of freedom.

What's not widely known is how close the Chinese Communist government came to falling in 1989 when the Tiananmen Square uprising occurred. That uprising was not limited to the students who were demonstrating in Beijing's square. There were uprisings throughout the country involving millions of people. The government was split over whether to use force in order to save itself or to side with the demonstrators.

And what was the message of the 20th Century's guarantor of freedom, the United States of America, at the time? The US said it was not in its own interest to see major instability in either China or the Soviet Union. This, at a time when freedom was rising in Eastern Europe and was about to engulf the Soviet Union itself. Read James Baker's explanation and weep: "the United States supports democracy and the freedoms of speech and assembly, but that it was also very important, in the present situation, that the United States not be seen as in any way inciting political unrest." (See p. 243 of "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025" by Ambassador Mark Palmer, for this description of events and quote's attribution. Indeed, Palmer's book is a must read for this era. It offers a specific plan of action for attacking the world's last dictators that does not necessarily require the use of military force.)

Baker's quote demonstrates the rule that in politics the most important word is "but." Anything before the word means nothing; it's only what follows the word that matters.

Palmer makes the further point in his book that dissidents and their oppressors both pay attention to what the United States says. When the US speaks up for dissidents it gives them courage and hope to fight on. When the US is silent or speaks against them, it emboldens their oppressors.

Reagan understood this. So throughout his administration he spoke truth to Soviet power by describing that regime as evil. Freed dissidents since have all spoken of how Reagan's words inspired and encouraged them. He also pushed that regime into defeat with his insistence on increasing our military budgets and on pressing back against the Soviets in Europe with his Zero Option, on arms control in general, and in Central America. As a result the Soviets were unable to maintain their empire and their regime changed.

What might instability in East Asia have brought the world if the US had spoken up for the Chinese dissidents in 1989 instead of cautiously supporting stability? We know for certain that the former Soviet bloc countries of Eastern Europe are some of America's strongest allies in our Global War on Terror. Imagine further the stability that might have come to East Asia by now if China had been democratic since 1989 or 1990. Taiwan might even have been reunited with a democratic mainland by now.

The Bush 41 administration was not just on the wrong side in Tiananmen but elsewhere. Baker's quote illustrates that point because he included stability in the Soviet Union as a US interest. Bush 41 is notorious among conservatives for his so-called Chicken Kiev speech. In that speech to the Ukrainian Parliament, Bush 41 warned the Ukrainians against "suicidal nationalism" that could come from seeking independence from Russia.

Bush 41 was also wrong about Iraq. When the administration had achieved its victory by ousting Iraq from Kuwait, the United States was perfectly situated to move on to Baghdad and remove Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. Instead, the US retreated and did something even worse. Bush 41 encouraged the Shiites and the Kurds to revolt and when they did, rather than helping them, the US sat and watched them get slaughtered.

This is one danger that dissidents face when they begin to rise up against their oppressors and hear words of encouragement from the United States. The question they face is whether the US means what it says at that time and is willing to help. The Shiites and Kurds were led to believe they would be helped by the Americans. When they weren't they died. Indeed, those who advocate a quick withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are betraying the Iraqis again as much as Bush 41 did when he refused to help the uprising. How different might the Middle East be today if Bush 41 had put his faith in freedom over stability and acted differently?

The US made up for its fault to a degree when it patrolled no-fly zones in Iraq until the liberation. This benefited the Kurds more than the Shiites as the Kurds, under this protection and behind the protection of their own armed militias, enjoyed significant autonomy for much of the 1990s. The US has made serious payments on its debt to all Iraqis with the liberation in 2003. And the most important payment the US is making now is in our President's determination to stay in Iraq until we have achieved a full success.

That determination is bearing fruit as we have seen the elections in Iraq, in Palestine, in Saudi Arabia, and the uprising in Lebanon. Indeed, Walid Jumblatt, has famously given credit to Bush's liberation of Iraq and the subsequent vote there for Lebanon's Cedar Revolution.

Creating instability to promote freedom is a risky venture. Preserving stability at the cost of freedom is just as risky and has dangerous consequences itself. At this time, more instability is what this country should stand for because it's what this world needs.



What Martha Stewart could teach Major League Baseball.

The 20th century saw the rise of the anti-hero in American culture: in film, in literature, and in art. Lately, the anti-hero has made its mark in the biggest field of American culture: sports.

American culture is not limited to the arts. It finds its best expression in sports, professional sports specifically. This is why so many critics who complain that the arts don't get funding but sports do are wrong. In the United States, sports is culture too.

The anti-hero is dominant in basketball and less so in football. Where it has not been dominant is in baseball, Barry Bonds notwithstanding. The steroids controversy promises to change all that as the successes of many of baseball's best players will be questioned because of the steroids allegations.

America has a troubled relationship with its heroes. Perhaps it's our ingrained democratic nature that creates the ambivalence. In our democratic view we are all equal so why should even heroes be better than anybody else? We love to have heroes and to look up to them, but at the same time we constantly probe them for weaknesses and revel when we find their feet of clay. Bringing down heroes is one of America's national past-times.

The smart hero in the situation baseball players now find themselves does what Martha Stewart just did. She took her punishment, became a little bit humble, and threw herself on the mercy of the forgiving nature of the American people to take her back. And what has it gotten her? Renewed respect and even more money than she had before she went to prison.

Baseball could do worse than following her example.



Thursday, March 10, 2005

Spring has sprung, is baseball hung?

Somebody needs to get tough with baseball and if it takes a Congressional investigation to do that, then so be it. Yesterday, local sports scribe Nick Canepa penned a column on the futility of Congress getting involved. According to Canepa, Congress shouldn't act because there are so many other problems to deal with, like Iraq, Afghanistan, terror, the budget, AIDS, gas prices, North Korea, Iran, and so on.

Fortunately for the nation, Congress figured out long ago how to do more than one thing at a time. It's called committees. Committees are what give Congress the capability of chewing gum and walking at the same time.

Canepa concludes that Congress shouldn't get involved in this issue because "Baseball is trying. It hasn't done enough, but it's trying. Nothing, absolutely nothing will be solved on the hill."

Meanwhile, baseball itself has decided to fight Congress on the steroids issue. Although Donald Fehr, baseball's union rep, and Rob Manfred, an executive vice-president of Major League Baseball, have agreed to testify before Congress on baseball's steroids policy, the organization intends to fight any subpoenas issued by Congress.

Institutional transparency is universally a good thing. Baseball has decided on opacity in how it deals with steroids.

Here's how Major League Baseball's lawyer put it in his letter to Congress. "As you also know, you have also asked certain witnesses to testify about not only the drug testing policies of Major League Baseball but also 'knowledge regarding the use of steroids ... both past and present, in MLB.' ... From the standpoint of MLB and the MLBPA, that would necessarily involve a violation of confidentiality provisions carefully written into provisions of the drug testing policy contained in MLB and MLBPA's Basic Agreement."

One reads this quote and can't help but wonder, who do these guys think they are? Baseball players and executives shouldn't have to testify about steroids use before Congress because it would violate the contract between Major League Baseball and the Players Association? Perhaps baseball needs a little reminder that the anti-trust exemption it enjoys could be removed by Congress if it chooses.

If Congressional hearings do nothing else but help bring these guys down a peg or two it will be worth it. Baseball executives and players have given fans the shaft for a long time now. Rising ticket prices, skyrocketing salaries, threats of strikes, and now we're told it's none of our business if some of the best players in baseball have achieved their success by using steroids. As a fan, I want to know if that is the case. Barry Bonds, to pick a name out of the blue, is likely to pass Babe Ruth's homerun mark and has a chance to break Hank Aaron's record too. Those of us who love this game deserve to know whether Bonds is going to achieve that goal, in part, because he pumped himself up with artificial substances.

Jose Canseco helped bring this about with his tell-all book, in which he charged many of baseball's best players with using steroids. Canepa jokes at the prospect of Canseco demonstrating before Congress how he supposedly injected McGwire's behind with steroids. But putting Canseco under oath will force him to tell the truth about the charges he has made against many of baseball's best players. It would help clarify things to hear whether he says the same things under oath that he wrote in his book.

Canepa further suggests that Congress should be issuing subpoenas to the "hundreds -- OK thousands -- of coaches at nearly every level of athletics who have turned their back on drugs for the sake of winning and continued employment."

Well, that's not how it works. You don't accomplish something by diluting your effort. You pick the biggest, high-profile target you can, make an example of that target, and let that example persuade the lesser targets to fall into line.

Baseball is the big target. It's America's national sport with franchises across the country and fans around the world. There is bound to be a salutary effect on lesser sports if Congress forces baseball to come clean and put its house into order in a way that is transparent. Let the hearings begin.



Tuesday, March 08, 2005

That Other Neo-Con President

A hallmark of the current administration's neoconservative foreign policy thinking is the belief that peace is advanced by democratization because democracies don't make war on each other. The administration has been criticized for seeking to impose democracy on other people. Neoconservative foreign policy is also criticized for being out of the American mainstream.

Let's see what President Clinton had to say about democracy and peace in his 1994 State of the Union speech:

"Ultimately, the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere. Democracies don't attack each other."

A second criticism of the Bush Administration has been that it acts without U.N. approval. Yet the Clinton Administration went to war against Serbia over Kosovo without U.N. approval. In Bosnia, the Clinton Administration in April 1994 decided to permit the Iranians to break the U.N. mandated arms embargo on the Balkans despite official U.S. policy to abide by and to enforce the embargo at the time.

A third criticism of the Bush Administration has been that it goes to war without Congressional approval. Yet President Clinton did not obtain prior approval from Congress before he sent U.S. troops to either Bosnia or Kosovo or on his other major military intervention, Haiti.

President Clinton was right to intervene in Haiti on behalf of democracy even if our guy Aristide turned out to be not much of a democrat. He was right also to ignore international law by circumventing the U.N. arms embargo in the Balkans, which had the effect of keeping the Bosnian victims of Serbia weak. He was right to join with NATO in supporting Croatia's and Bosnia's ground forces against the Serbs. And he was right to free Kosovo from Serbia despite not having a U.N. mandate to do so. In each instance, American hard power was used in support of democracy and human rights against tyranny and oppression.

The Bush Administration's foreign policy continues that tradition. Promoting democracy with force, acting unilaterally, flouting U.N. resolutions, and committing U.S. troops to combat without prior Congressional approval did not start with the Bush Administration or neoconservatives. So what's all the fuss really about?

The difference in this era is that the stakes are much higher for the United States so the commitment in forces is much higher. President Clinton's major military interventions happened during a decade when the United States was essentially at peace. So he had the luxury of using American power to intervene in small-scale conflicts with limited strategic value to the United States. Since 9/11, when the reality of the Islamist war against the United States was brought home, President Bush has made major interventions with large strategic goals. War will do that. The fuss is all about the fact that some people still don't believe we really are at war.



Sunday, March 06, 2005

A cynical use of Iraq casualty figures to make an anti-war point.

The linked AP article that claims to tell the story in Iraq by the numbers is a classic example of how bias in the media frames the debate and pushes an agenda while purporting to simply report the news.

The article begins with the following sentence: "The conflict in Iraq can be told in numbers and milestones, from the more than 1,500 troops who have died to the number of weapons of mass destruction found - zero." The story then goes on to detail the casualties and highlight the costs of the war.

But there are a few numbers glaringly missing from the story. Here they are:

The number of people liberated from Saddam Hussein: 25,000,000.

The number of Iraqis who voted in a free election: 8,000,000.

A fair article that purports to tell the story in Iraq by the numbers would have included these statistics.

But that wasn't the purpose of the article. Instead the article was a cynical exercise designed to create the impression of failure by focusing entirely on the cost of the war in Iraq while ignoring the successes there. Cynical is an apt description for it. As Oscar Wilde famously said, "A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."



Saturday, March 05, 2005

NPR begins assault on life without parole for juveniles who murder.

The ink is barely dry on the United States Supreme Court's decision that declared the death penalty for juvenile murderers to be unconstitutional and already one of the flagships of the liberal media has fired the first salvo in the next battle: whether it's right to imprison murderers for life without parole who commit their crimes while under age 18.

Today, National Public Radio interviewed former Michigan State Reformatory warden Pam Withrow for her views on the issue. It should come as no surprise that she believes it's generally wrong to send a juvenile offender to prison and throw away the key. The interview was a friendly one intended to present the view, presumably by an expert in the field, that life without parole for juveniles is wrong.

My liberal friends scoff at the idea that NPR has a liberal bias. But this story illustrates how bias in the media is used to frame the debate. I wonder which is the liberal and which is the conservative view on this issue. Hmmmm, I wonder. As an aside, when Air America came to San Diego it advertised its debut on the local NPR affiliate. Money talks in this country and where advertising money is spent says volumes. As a further aside, it's no coincidence either that Fox News attracts a more conservative demographic.

Much has been said by conservative commentators, columnists and radio talk-show hosts about the Supreme Court's decision on the juvenile death penalty. The useful commentary has focused on the Court's reliance on foreign law to interpret the American Constitution. It's useful because it looks forward to coming battles over the propriety of using foreign law to interpret America's Constitution. But much of the conservative criticism has been a rear-guard action complaining about the result. There's little point in that. The Supreme Court has settled the issue and conservatives would do well to move on to issues that flow from the decision.

One issue involves applying the death penalty to adults who recruit juveniles to commit murder. Passing such a law would address one potential consequence of the case that adults will use juveniles to commit murder. Such a law would be politically safe as it protects juveniles from being used by predatory adult criminals. It would be constitutionally safe because it punishes adults not juveniles.

I am as ambivalent about such a provision as I am about the death penalty itself. It should be unquestionable that the death penalty is constitutional. The 5th Amendment refers to capital crimes and also provides that the government may deprive a person of his life, but only after providing "due process of law." The 8th Amendment bars cruel and unusual punishment but to read that provision as a bar on the death penalty ignores the language of the 5th Amendment. Yet it would not bother me in the least if the death penalty were banned by legislation, popular initiative, or constitutional amendment. It seems to me that life without parole is a sufficient punishment, even for murder, and is an appropriate punishment, even for juveniles.

Life without parole may be interpreted by some as giving up on the juvenile. It's actually the death penalty that does that. Life without parole makes no value judgment on whether the offender will ever have something to offer society. It only limits where and how the offender will give something back. Rent Robert Duvall's movie, "The Apostle" to see what I mean. Duvall plays a minister whose flawed character takes him on a spiral to prison where we see him at the end of the movie witnessing to his fellow inmates. To make it plain, juvenile murderers committed to life in prison without parole can give back to society by doing the right thing in prison.

Why should their options be so limited? First, fairness requires that a murderer's options be more limited than those of a non-murderer. Even those of us who live outside prison's walls have a limited impact on society. Typically we measure our contribution to society in our affect on colleagues, friends, and family. Our impact is limited to where we live and who we know just as an inmate's is. Second, retribution demands it. It's no small thing to take a life. To make up for the value of the life taken, the murderer should be made to pay a large price in return. When the juvenile chose to commit murder he made the decision himself to give up on his victim's life. His victim will never offer anything to society again. Short of execution a lifetime loss of freedom is a proportional price to pay for that.

The NPR piece begins the argument over life without parole for juvenile murderers. This is likely to become a battle that will be fought out in the culture, in state capitals, and eventually in the United States Supreme Court.



Tuesday, March 01, 2005

And the Americano goes to ....

This post has been rated "R" for language. And for putting the image of puppets having sex in the mind.

"Team America: World Police." It's funny. It's topical. It's a musical with marionettes. It's got marionette sex. It skewers the Hollywood conventional wisdom. It's a great parody of an action movie. It's got a great soundtrack with songs like "America: F*** yeah!" "I'm so Ronery" and "Montage." (I defy anybody who has heard "Montage" not to think of that song when watching another movie with a montage scene in it. It can't be done. The song came unbidden to my mind during the montage scene in "Million Dollar Baby." I was the only person in the theater who laughed.)

Finally it's got a great speech on human nature in its final scenes about there being three (not two, three!) types of people in this world: "dicks, pussies, and assholes" and that because the world is an imperfect and dangerous place sometimes it needs a dick to f*** the assholes in order to protect all the pussies. The speech should be required reading for Europeans. They might finally say the two words they owe to the United States for the 20th Century and for taking out the Taliban and Saddam: "Thank you."


Labels: ,