On Saturday, 30 years will have elapsed since the last American diplomats were airlifted out of Saigon, ending the decades long Vietnam War. Let me make myself very clear: Vietnam was an abomination. It had no redeemable qualities. It cost the United States 60,000 people, Vietnam 2 million, and the United States government immeasurable prestige internationally. It gave us nothing. But these are just numbers. If we truly want to see what a horror Vietnam was, watch Hearts and Minds. Daniel Ellsberg explains that there was basically no Vietnamese support for the operation; Ho Chi Minh was universally admired as a national liberationist, and we were going it alone against him. William Westmoreland illustrates the racism that drove the war; he claims that “the Orient puts a much lower value on life than the West”. But perhaps the most articulate of all the speakers was Randy Floyd, a former Navy fighter pilot. An interviewer asks him whether or not we will learn from the experience; Floyd replies that “we’re trying not to. I’m trying not to.” The sad thing is that, 30 years later, the same thing is true. We’re once again in a war across the globe, against an enemy that is labeled as part of a larger international conspiracy, justifying ourselves as humanitarians, but really opposing the vast majority of the people we’re supposedly freeing. It’s become a cliche to compare the two conflicts, but this film reveals that the similarities are real and frightening. We’re trying not to learn, and we’re wasting countless lives in the process.

Parental Notification

The core of the “pro-life” movement has always been based on a disregard for the rights and dignity of women; as avid opponents of feminism, these activists were perfectly happy giving women second-class citizenship. However, they have always prided themselves on their sensitivity to “children”, their word for tiny clumps of insentient cells. The passage by the House of Representatives of a parental notification has exposed this for the B.S. it is. While it is debatable as to whether a day-old embryo constitutes a child, there is no dispute over whether or not teenagers are. Thus, the House has just decided to force children to raise other children, whether they are ready or not. Additionally, there is no dispute over whether these fetuses are children once they are born. Thus, the House has also decided to force children to be raised in an astonishingly inadequate environments. The implications for children don’t stop there. Many girls are beaten or otherwise abused by their parents when they tell them they are pregnant; this gets even worse when the topic of abortion is raised. Thus, the House has voted to not allow teenage girls to protect themselves from abuse. Also, many teenage pregnancies are caused by fathers. As these men presumably would not submit to the abortion of their offspring, the House has voted to allow thousands of children to be born through inbreeding, ensuring a worse quality of life for them. That pro-lifers have the sheer nerve to say they are for children is frightening.

Parliaments vs. Presidents

Matt Yglesias has an interesting post pointing out that, despite the fact that the U.S. has a strong, independent executive, most of the governments it helps form, from Japan to Germany to Iraq, have parliaments and a weak presidency. While this seems strange, it actually speaks quite well of the U.S. government. Nations with parliaments tend to be much more stable than those with strong presidents. According a June, 2004 Economist article, which is a must-read for those who want to know just how messed-up Filipino politics is, 80 countries became independent between 1945 and 1979. 41 of these chose to have a parliament, and 39 chose to have a strong presidency. Of those with parliaments, 15 were still Democratic during the ’80s. None of those with presidencies were. I’m actually quite impressed that our government is competent enough to realize the benefits of this model when it comes to newly democratic states.

Hypocrisy: Politicians’ Favorite Pastime

You’ve got to love Tom DeLay. He’s somehow capable of making you incredibly offended and horrified, and make you laugh out loud at the same time. Taegan Goddard has the goods on the latest outrage relating to the Hammer:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) railed against legislation to loosen sactions against Cuba last year, saying “Every dime that finds its way into Cuba first finds its way into Fidel Castro’s blood-thirsty hands… American consumers will get their fine cigars and their cheap sugar, but at the cost of our national honor.”
Now, Time has photos of him “smoking one of Cuba’s best — a Hoyo de Monterrey double corona, which generally costs about $25 when purchased overseas and is not available in this country.”

Again, humorous yet horrible: the hypocrisy is mind-blowingly funny, but his anti-Castro quote is just frightening. Anyone who thinks that sanctions are going to bring Castro down is deluding themselves; they’ve been in place for over 45 years with absolutely no effect. On the other hand, once we opened up borders with Taiwan and South Korea, those nations’ dictatorships started to crumble. This is going to be especially true in a communist country; once the populace realizes the benefits of the free enterprise that is blossoming as a result of trade, they will turn against the government. The moral argument is absurd; we can’t trade with Cuba because they’re communist, but trading with Vietnam and China is just hunky-dory? The only way to beat Castro is to engage him; sanctions have failed.

Is Mfume DOA?

It appears that former Congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume’s Maryland Senate campaign may be dead, despite the fact that it only began a few weeks ago (and that the election is more than a year away). The Washington Post reports,

Allegations detailed in a confidential NAACP report claim that Kweisi Mfume gave raises and promotions to women with whom he had close personal relationships while he was president of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
The 22-page memorandum, prepared last summer by an outside lawyer, did not accept as true the claims lodged against Mfume by a female employee but determined that they could be “very difficult to defend persuasively” if she filed a lawsuit.

Via Taegan Goddard. Nothing sinks a campaign quite like a good old-fashioned sex scandal. The question now, however, is who the Democrats will run for Paul Sarbanes’ open seat. Rep. Ben Cardin is already running; while he certainly comes off as cerebral and competent, he’s nothing to get excited about. However, another Congressman who has said he’s considering the race is: Chris Van Hollen. Hollen is much less experienced than Cardin; he will have had two terms in 2006, whereas Cardin will have had ten. But Hollen has something that few politicians do: real principles. As Samantha Power recounts in her brilliant , Van Hollen, along with Peter Galbraith (who, yes, is the son of John Kenneth), investigated Saddam Hussein’s genocide in Iraq in 1988 on behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; their final report was highly influential, leading Congress to limit Iraqi exports (though Bush I, humane guy that he is, overrode this). Hollen is truly committed to stopping genocide, the prime moral mission of our time. You’ve got to respect that.

Bainbridge Strikes Again

Steven Bainbridge is back and as crazy as ever – this time arguing that voting against radical fundamentalists in court positions is religious discrimination. This is absurd. Do I oppose people like William Pryor because they’re religiously conservative? Of course; their religious bent threatens fundamental rights, such as those to abortion and contraception. But if that is discrimination, then so is voting against a person because you disagree with them. Religion is a cultural entity; religious conservatism is an opinion. And if opposing an opinion is bigotry, then anyone who actually cares about anything is a bigot. Bainbridge’s logic sure is impeccable, isn’t it?

Non Sequitor

Via the Carpetbagger Report, the final version of the Duelfer report has been released. Here’s what’s new:

U.S. investigators hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have found no evidence that such material was moved to Syria for safekeeping before the war, according to a final report of the investigation released yesterday.

Although Syria helped Iraq evade U.N.-imposed sanctions by shipping military and other products across its borders, the investigators “found no senior policy, program, or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD.”

Presumably, this puts the final nail in the coffin of the WMD theory. However, the administration sees things, er, differently:

Administration officials have emphasized that, while the survey group uncovered no banned arms, it concluded that Hussein had not given up the goal of someday acquiring them.

Hussein “retained the intent and capability and he intended to resume full-scale WMD efforts once the U.N. sanctions were lifted,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday. “Duelfer provides plenty of rationale for why this country went to war in Iraq.”

Yes; and the fossil record provides plenty of evidence for creationism. It’s one thing for the administration to spin facts to benefit them. But taking a document and claiming that it supports a claim that it thoroughly debunked is just crazy. Yes, the document said that Saddam wanted WMD. But when many other rogue states were actually developing such weapons, the fact that Iraq only wanted them shows the administration’s case to be astonishingly weak.

When Abortions Don’t Quite Work

Joe Gandelman is unusual among bloggers in that he adds tabloid-esque stories, with political elements, into his blog. Today he posts one on the unfortunate case of a British woman whose doctors committed malpractice when performing her abortion, and left her with a child to raise. Gandelman quips that the woman “might also ponder what she plans to tell her child about personal responsibility”. It’s one thing to argue against abortion because you believe a fetus has a soul. But arguing against it because of “responsibility” just proves that you’re an idiot. Gandelman presumably thinks that banning abortion will make people more “responsible” with sex. There are only two negative aspects to sex: unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Presumably, Gandelman wants to ban abortion so as to reduce these two things. The former would, by definition, be reduced more by abortion than by this method of “deterrence”. The latter would likely only be reduced very slightly; after all, banning abortion, while encouraging birth control, doesn’t necessarily encourage condom use specifically. So, Gandelman is basically arguing that we should ban abortion to slightly decrease STD infection rates. Wow.

Popular Culture and Elections

The Progressive Policy Institute, via Taegan Goddard, has issued a study showing that Bush won the votes of people who are married with children by a margin of 19 points. The PPI, the think tank arm of the DLC, believes it knows how to get them on our side:

Democrats will not do better with married parents until they recognize one simple truth: Parents have a beef with popular culture. As they see it, the culture is getting ever more violent, materialistic, and misogynistic, and they are losing their ability to protect their kids from morally corrosive images and messages. To be credible, Democrats must acknowledge the legitimacy of parents’ beef and make it unmistakably clear that they are on parents’ side.

The only thing I‘ll make unmistakably clear is that I am not on the parent’s side. The Democratic party has a history of non-intervention in social matters. This goes back to the birth control movements, and continues today with our hands-off approach to consensual sex and abortion. While those three all have implicit Constitutional bases, the issue with popular culture deals with an issue with a very explicit Constitutional basis: free speech. If we are to say that artists, even misogynistic and violent ones, are not allowed to express themselves because some of us find it offensive, we’ve basically put the First Amendment into the shredder. We wouldn’t have a First Amendment if it only applied to popular views; then it would be pointless. It was placed in the Constitution specifically to protect the rights of the unpopular. Even if we put the Constitution aside, it is entirely irrational to support regulating speech. As J.S. Mill argued in On Liberty, the government exists for the people; therefore, if one’s right to do what they wish doesn’t harm others, the government shouldn’t intervene. I’m not saying that popular culture isn’t violent or chauvinistic; significant parts of it, specifically rap culture, are. But this isn’t an argument about whether or not the music is offensive. If our society gives a damn about the freedom of speech, then any onslaught on expression, offensive or otherwise, must be stopped.

Wolfowitz’s First Endeavor

While I was initially skeptical of Paul Wolfowitz’s appointment as World Bank president, judging as he had no development experience and the job that he was qualified for, deputy defense secretary, he performed horribly at, it appears that his first project may be, in fact, a good one:

The World Bank announced on Sunday it will expand its fight against malaria, one of Africa’s biggest killers, because global efforts in the past five years have failed.
The global development lender said in a report that the new strategy includes a special task force to ensure that anti-malarial efforts are part of its lending programs for poor countries.
It also includes additional funding to replicate in other countries anti-malarial programs that have been successful in Brazil, Eritrea, India and Vietnam, the report said.

As someone who has long argued for increased malaria funding, this is very good news. To quote the article,

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that kills more than 1 million people a year and sickens many more, mostly children under the age of 5, the bank estimated. There are 500 million new cases a year, it said.

1 million people year. Terrorism has never broken 5,000, and yet counter-terrorism gets hundreds of billions in financing while this next zilch in comparison. Malaria is a preventable, yet devastating diseases; only increased funds for treatments, along with the partial repeal of DDT regulations to allow the chemical’s use against mosquitos, can stop it. While this won’t stop the onslaught, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.