Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Friday, May 16, 2003

Shouting Down Pennsylvania Avenue

Tony Adragna
Hey, I got an invite to participate in this morning's discussion on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, giving me 8:15 as an approximate time, and I accepted. Then, I wake up this morning to see Shouting being talked about, and I get all excited. Next, I check my email for any update from the C-SPAN folks, and find out that they probably won't be able to get to me.

Of course they wouldn't have time for the Quasipundit -- Instapundit was hogging it all! Glenn even instascooped what comments I had planned to make, using almost the exact same language...

I thought having a fellow Navy veteran hosting the show mighta got me in — sheesh, what's a guy gotta do to get a break in this town...

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Partisan Redistricting, the US Supreme Court, and Texas

Tony Adragna
I really don't like what's happening in Texas right now.

On the one side, the Texas GOP is advancing a redistricting plan meant to improve the party's position in that state's Congressional delegation. I recall the words of my absent partner who said,"redistricting, not too much money, is the problem with our political system", and I agree wholeheartedly.

But what can you do when the Supreme Court has said that intentional political party-based discrimination in the redistricting process is not unconstitutional unless " the electoral system is arranged in a manner that will consistently degrade a voter's or a group of voters' influence on the political process as a whole." Davis et al v. Bandemer et al.478 US 109, 132 That is, if all the plan does is make it harder for Democrats to get elected, but doesn't make election impossible, nor does it "consistently degrade" the ability to have influence in ways other than holding office, nor is it impermissibly race-based and it passes the test for "Traditional Districting Principles", then what's happening is perfectly legal.

The Texas GOP's plan being legally defensible — if it is — the Texas Democrats have two choices: Fight a forlorn hope in the state legislature & ensuing legal challenge, or find a way to block action on the plan. We all know how chose the Democrats, and that choice has me conflicted. I'd like to see the Democrats win this redistricting fight, but I'm not happy 'bout the way they've chosen to fight.

See, if the Democrats could look me in the eye and believably argue that the illegal action [n.b. not the original walkout, but refusal to attend a compulsory quorum call] serves a higher moral principle, then I'd be cheering on the "bravery" of these dissenters. What's more believable is that these Democrats are just as motivated by partisan political interests as are their GOP colleagues. My advice would have been to "Remember the Alamo" — a forlorn hope that rallied folks around the cause, and larger success was achieved.

I'm not happy with either party to this dispute — not the GOP for its power grabbing manipulation of the redistricting process & attempted mau mauing the opposition into acquiescence, nor the Democrats for their hypocrisy & refusal to close for battle.

A pox on both your houses!


Chapter 6 - Partisan Gerrymandering of "Redistricting Law 2000" from the Redistricting Task Force of the National Conference of State Legislatures

Texas redistricting plans:
PLAN C 01000 - US Congressional Districts 107th Congress



PLAN 1180C - HOUSE REDISTRICTING CMTE CSHB 3398 - ADOPTED - CMTE RPT [also in the Texas Senate as SB 9]

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

"She said she wouldn't have joined the Army 'if I'd known this was going to happen.'"

Tony Adragna
That's quoting Phyllis Schlafly quoting Army Spc. Tamekia Lavalais re "leaving behind her 21-month-old baby whose father is already in Iraq."

Schlafly heaps scorn on the usual suspects — militant feminists and spineless politicians, generals, & journalists — but conspicuously absents from any criticism the people most responsible for the presence of women in the military: Women who join the military.

For instance, why no word on how Spc. Lavalais seems to have thought that she could join the US Army and be at the same time immune from any overseas deployment that would separate her from her baby? How could she have not thought that something like her deployment to Iraq could happen? Did she think it possible to derive the benefits of service without fulfilling any of the concomitant obligations? If that's what she thought, then she definitely shouldn't have joined the Army.

But, there are plenty of women who do approach military service conscientiously — understanding & accepting the risks that come with obligations the fulfillment of which obtain personal benefits in recognition of service. Why should the knuckleheadedness of a Lavalais stand as the example arguing for a ban on women in military service?

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Minxin Pei on A Nation of Laws & Nation Building

Tony Adragna
I watched part of this morning's Washington Journal during which Mr. Pei observed that since the US is a "nation of laws", and Americans consider that a good thing, then we ought be in the forefront of making the world a world of laws. But, he says, US rejection of international frameworks like the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol set a bad example. And, of course, this in in the context of criticizing Bushian unilateralism.

In response, a caller semi-correctly points out that the Kyoto Protocol was rejected by the US Senate prior to Mr. Bush's election. I say "semi-correctly" because the US Senate never actually voted on the Protocol itself, which Mr. Clinton never submitted for ratification
Signing does not legally commit the United States to implement theProtocol. The Protocol would become binding only with the advice andconsent of the U.S. Senate. President Clinton has made clear that the United States regards the Kyoto Protocol as a work in progress, and that it will not be submitted for ratification without the meaningful participation of key developing countries in efforts to address climate change.[emphasis added] — Excerpt from November 12, 1998 statement by White House Press Secretary
"[T]he meaningful participation of developing parties" — or, as is the case, non meaningful participation — is one of two issue that S. RES. 98 [Report No. 105-54] dealt with by advising the president that
(1) the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter, which would--
(A) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex I Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period, or

(B) would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States; and

(2) any such protocol or other agreement which would require the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification should be accompanied by a detailed explanation of any legislation or regulatory actions that may be required to implement the protocol or other agreement and should also be accompanied by an analysis of the detailed financial costs and other impacts on the economy of the United States which would be incurred by the implementation of the protocol or other agreement.
What the Senate was objecting to at item (A) is that the "law" there doesn't apply equally to everybody, and that's not what we here in the US mean when we talk about being a "nation of laws". That Resolution was agreed to on a 95 - 0 Roll Call Vote — about as unanimous as the Senate ever gets.

So much for the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol being an example of Bushian unlateralism.

And I still can't figure out why [actually, I do know why, but I'm being rhetorical] rejection of the Protocol is always thrown up in our faces, yet never do I hear about the other states that haven't ratified[pdf]

* Countries included in ANNEX I OF THE CONVENTION are "developed" countries
In fact, fewer countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol than ratified the Convention itself: 108 versus 188. Is this evidence of Bushian unilateralism?

Well, I guess it is if you present it with the right twist, like Mr. Pei and co-author Sara Kasper do in their policy brief "Lessons from the Past: The American Record on Nation Building"[pdf]. Now, there are some things I agree with there, but I'm going to focus right now on something I take exception with, because it's a glaring ommission that makes me wonder just how useful is this scholarly paper.

So, go to page 4 and look at Table 1. There listed are 16 instances of US intervention that meet the authors' criteria for classification as "nation building". You see Cuba listed there 3 times, the first instance being 1898 — that's our war against Spain. Wait a minute... the war against Spain, and Cuba is listed, so somebody else should also be listed, but isn't.

Figure it out yet? Let's see... that same year we pushed Spain out of Cuba, we also took Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. 'Course "US direct administration" of the Philippines lasted much longer than in Cuba, but the Philippine Commission
[S]et up the fundamentals of a national government, including a judicial system, legal code, civil service, and police force. Elections were held for municipal and provincial governments, and political and bureaucratic positions were opened to Filipinos. In 1907 an elected legislative assembly became the lower house of a bicameral legislature....
If that's not "nation building", then I don't know what is. The exclusion of the Philippines while including Cuba is for some reason that I don't comprehend, but then I don't really agree with how the authors define "nation building"...

Monday, May 12, 2003

Cheese Sandwich Wrapper Redux

Tony Adragna
Last time I used the "cheese sandwach wrapper" reference, I was looking at Rwanda as an example of how the UN and its Security Council are oft enough feckless when it comes time to act in furtherance of "international humanitarian law".

We all know, I hope, about Gen. Dallaire's experience in Rwanda. There was plenty warning of what was going to happen, but nothing was done.

Then, a year later we had the Dutch "peacekeepers" in Srebrenica — 350 lightly armed troops who couldn't have done much. Notwithstanding suggestions that the Dutch were more interested in saving their own hides, the troops on the ground did push for more support, and Mr. Annan admitted in '99 that the UN failed in its role.

Now we get this
There were no details about casualties, although two UN soldiers were said to be wounded. With only 600 troops in Bunia, a town of about 350,000 in the east of the war-ravaged country, the UN has been unable to control the rapidly deteriorating situation.

"We can't do anything," a peacekeeper said by telephone from the UN compound. "We do not have enough manpower. We do not have a mandate. We have sent repeated warnings that this was going to happen. We have asked for reinforcements. Every request was ignored."
In fact, the Security Council noted in its Resolution 1468 (20 March 2003)[pdf] continued fighting and non-cooperation with MUNOC in the Ituri province, and specifically the town of Bunia
8. Expresses its deep concern over the heavy fighting in Bunia, demands that all parties to the conflict in Ituri immediately cease the hostilities and that all
parties sign an unconditional ceasefire agreement, stresses that they must cooperate with MONUC to set up without further delay the Ituri Pacification Commission, and also stresses that the necessary steps must be taken to restore public order in Bunia, in accordance with the agreements reached among Congolese parties and within the framework of the Ituri Pacification Commission;

9. Requests the Secretary-General to increase MONUC’s presence in the Ituri area, as security conditions permit, in particular military observers and human rights personnel, to monitor developments on the ground, including the use of airfields in the Ituri area, and also requests MONUC to provide further support and assistance to humanitarian efforts as well as to facilitate the formation of the Ituri Pacification Commission and assist the work of this commission as consistent with MONUC’s current mandate, in consultation with all the Congolese parties to the conflict;
"As security conditions permit"? Why not send in a force large enough to provide security? Or, are we going to wait around again 'til after the the bloodlust has been satisfied by, oh, somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 killed?

"Killed" doesn't even seem appropriate — butchered gets closer to the horror of what's happened...

I recently heard Gore Vidal make a lame criticism of US critics of France. We should be more respectful of that older culture, he said. Sure, he continued, America did invent cellophane — to wrap up bad pieces of cheese. How ironic is Vidal's cheese wrapper reference — the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are mostly US inventions, and both now are being used to wrap up particularly bad cheese, only the cheese being wrapped isn't that processed stuff we invented...

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Iraq Reconstruction Watch: Grandpa Leo's Night Visit

Tony Adragna
Wake up, boy! All these things are happening, and you've got nothing to say? Jesus, Joseph, Mary and St. Francis! You scared the wits outa me, Nonno! Watch your mouth, boy — your Nonna's around here somewhere, and she'll have you on the knees saying a novena to the Blessed Virgin if she hears that kinda language.

So, what's got you visiting me after all these years? I wanna know why Mr. Smarty-pants "Quasi-pundit" all of a sudden went quiet on this Iraq thnigy. Well, you know, I wrote all I had to say on the subject. The only thing left is to crow over being right on some things. So crow, boy! Aw, you know I'm not like that, Grandpa. Yes, I know, and that's why you'll always be "quasi"-pundit.

But, I wasn't totally right, Nonno. My timing is off — it looks like Mr. Bush is going to wait for the situation to get a bit more pregnant. Oh, yes, timing and pregnancy — your Nonna supposedly had that all worked out, but your papa came along anyway. Sheesh, Grandpa, I don't need to hear about that. Anyway, I thought Mr. Garner — the retired general — the best man for the job of leading an occupation. I thought we'd find these prohibited weapons by now.

I thought a lot of things, and I guess I was wrong.

No, boy, don't say that! You were right all along about the best argument for bringing down that Saddam punk — he was a thug, trust me, I know thugs. I woulda liked to see him on a meathook in place of that statue they pulled down. That's what we did with Il Duce, and him and Saddam are of a kind.

So what, Nonno. It wasn't a great intellectual exercise, the thinking of and writing that point. All I had to do was look at the "authentic tradition" of liberalism, and the answer was self-evident — well, to me, anyway.

Now I'm just gonna sit back and see what happens, maybe think of some other issues to tackle. 'Til then, I'm going back to sleep... thanks for stopping by, and give Nonna my love...