Waiting for the hair samples…

A woman claims to have seen a sasquatch in northern Saskatchewan. Her uncles have sent in hair samples.

Tom Biscardi, a sasquatch researcher for 33 years, says [Shaylane] Beatty definitely saw some sort of primate.

The footprints are impressive evidence of the creature’s northern wanderings, he added.

Beatty’s uncles sent Biscardi a hair sample for analysis.

Jeff Meldrum, a professor of anatomy at Idaho State University and author of Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, said three sasquatch sightings have been recorded in Saskatchewan.

“As long as there’s forest cover and an area is sparsely populated, there is space to harbour any number of creatures,” Meldrum said.

What we already knew about Israel

As Spiegel put it, “Israel’s official position has long been that of ambiguity — when asked, the response has always been ‘Israel will not be the first country that introduces nuclear weapons to the Middle East.’ Indeed, since the fateful interview, which began making headlines on Monday, [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and a number of other members of his government have been repeating this formulation ad infinitum.” But it has been well known for a while now that Israel has nuclear weapons, a fact Olmert appears to have confirmed in an interview, when he listed Israel among nuclear powers. He said, “Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons as America, France, Israel, Russia?”

But “Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison for revealing secrets about Israel’s nuclear program” and Israel’s previous refusal to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons has spared politicians in Europe and the United States from having to face non-proliferation treaty complications. Olmert just blew all that. Now, of course, Olmert is trying to cover his tracks, and European politicians are feigning outrage. Spiegel seems to think it might be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle, but I bet they manage to do just that.

Evangelists in Prison, But They’re Running the Asylum

Today, in the New York Times:

The cells in Unit E had real wooden doors and doorknobs, with locks. More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms.

But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress.

Even a Catholic felt hostility towards his faith. Courts seem to be finding these programs unconstitutional, yet the programs are proliferating.

For example, the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison management company, with 65 facilities and 71,000 inmates under its control, is substantially expanding its religion-based curriculum and now has 22 institutions offering residential programs similar to the one in Iowa. And the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs at least five multifaith programs at its facilities, is preparing to seek bids for a single-faith prison program as well.

Iraq Study Group Report

The Iraq Study Group has released its report; it is available on line in at least two locations:

The executive summary begins:

The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved.
In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected.
The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability. The Iraqi people have a democratically elected government, yet it is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. Pessimism is pervasive.
If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized.
During the past nine months we have considered a full range of approaches for moving forward. All have flaws. Our recommended course has shortcomings, but we firmly believe that it includes the best strategies and tactics to positively influence the outcome in Iraq and the region.

Antonia Juhasz, on Democracy Now!, points out that the recommendations include selling off Iraq’s oil industry:

All told, the report calls for privatization of Iraq’s oil, turning it over to private foreign corporate hands, putting all of the oil in the hands of the central government, and essentially, I would argue, extending the war in Iraq to ensure that US oil companies get what the Bush administration went in there for: control and greater access to Iraq’s oil.

Lawrence Korb criticizes the recommendations as “only a first step. In truth, they do not go nearly far enough to get us out of the mess that the Bush administration has created.” He argues that the recommendations do not place enough pressure on the Iraqi government:

The proposal that we threaten to withdraw troops and financial support if Nouri Al Maliki’s government does not meet certain benchmarks is not strong enough. The report merely says that, if Iraqis do not meet the benchmarks, we could withdraw–not that we should by a specific date. In fact, to put real pressure on Maliki, we must begin to withdraw under a fixed timetable. If the Iraqi leadership knows we will be gone by a specific date, it will know that, if it hasn’t made the necessary compromises by then, it will have to deal with the consequences alone.

It’s worth commenting here, that there is no satisfactory evidence that the Iraqi government is even capable of meeting these benchmarks. Korb correctly observes that there is a problem with motivating Iraqi forces to establish security.

Finally, by not setting a date for a complete withdrawal of all of our military forces, we embolden the insurgents (and their supporters), because they see us as occupiers who will never leave. Nearly 80 percent of the Iraqis believe that our presence is fueling the violence, and 60 percent think it is acceptable to kill Americans. And, what’s more, without a complete withdrawal, we will not get the help we need from the countries in the region.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who continues to argue for more troops in Iraq, complained, “There’s only one thing worse than an over-stressed Army and Marine Corps, and that’s a defeated Army and Marine Corps.” It is unclear how adding more troops when, as Korb put it, “[n]early 80 percent of the Iraqis believe that our presence is fueling the violence, and 60 percent think it is acceptable to kill Americans,” will do anything but further exacerbate the situation.

I was talking with a professor, Dr. Agha Saeed, whom I haven’t talked with in a while, last evening. I need to talk with him more often. (He can be seen on Global Forum TV.) Though we broadly agree on many issues, he, being of Pakistani origin, can take whatever perspective I bring and turn it on its head.

Where I argue that we are seeing the end of U.S. hegemony, he believes we are headed for a multipolar world. Where I worry that when the metaphor of a “shining city on the hill” is no longer viable, that someone here might go nuts with all our weapons of mass destruction, he points out that someone here has already gone nuts–at the cost of over 655,000 Iraqi lives. Yeah, I need to talk with him more often.

“Libertarians should ditch the Republican Party in favor of the Democrats”

The Cato Institute daily e-mail newsletter highlights an article published in the New Republic by its vice president for research, Brink Lindsey, arguing that “[t]he old formulation [supporting a ‘fusionist’ alliance between Republican traditionalists and libertarians] defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government.”

Libertarian socialists will likely consider their capitalist counterparts rather slow in reaching this conclusion. George Bush ran on this platform and has been in power for just under six years. There is only one major issue on which the Bush administration and libertarian capitalists have agreed: global warming, which the Cato Institute continues to attribute to natural rather than man-made causes on the rare occasions its even willing to admit that it is happening. Libertarians, whether socialist or capitalist, have largely disapproved the Iraq war, the destruction of civil liberties, and the imposition of the evangelical Protestant social agenda.

Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

The problem with libertarian capitalists is that they embrace economic authoritarianism; their idea of freedom is for wealthy property-owners to be able to do what they want with their money and their property at the expense of social and environmental interests.

To date, Democrats have made inroads with libertarian voters primarily by default. Yes, it’s true that Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos fame caused something of a stir by proposing the term “Libertarian Democrat” to describe his favored breed of progressive. And the most prominent examples of his would-be movement–first-term Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, fellow Montanan Tester, and Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb–have sounded some libertarian themes by being simultaneously pro-choice and pro-gun rights. At the same time, however, their anti-NAFTA, Wal-Mart-bashing economic populism is anathema to free-market supporters.

But Lindsey also points to common ground:

Both generally support a more open immigration policy. Both reject the religious right’s homophobia and blastocystophilia. Both are open to rethinking the country’s draconian drug policies. Both seek to protect the United States from terrorism without gratuitous encroachments on civil liberties or extensions of executive power. And underlying all these policy positions is a shared philosophical commitment to individual autonomy as a core political value. . . .

The basic outlines of a viable compromise are clear enough. On the one hand, restrictions on competition and burdens on private initiative would be lifted to encourage vigorous economic growth and development. At the same time, some of the resulting wealth-creation would be used to improve safety-net policies that help those at the bottom and ameliorate the hardships inflicted by economic change. . . . Shift taxes away from things we want more of and onto things we want less of. Specifically, cut taxes on savings and investment, cut payroll taxes on labor, and make up the shortfall with increased taxation of consumption. Go ahead, tax the rich, but don’t do it when they’re being productive. Tax them instead when they’re splurging–by capping the deductibility of home-mortgage interest and tax incentives for purchasing health insurance. And tax everybody’s energy consumption. All taxes impose costs on the economy, but at least energy taxes carry the silver lining of encouraging conservation–plus, because such taxes exert downward pressure on world oil prices, foreign oil monopolies would wind up getting stuck with part of the bill.

Of course those safety-net policies could only be implemented through larger government. Lindsey answers that “[w]ith millions already dependent on the current programs, and with baby boomers beginning to retire in just a couple of years, libertarians’ dreams of dramatically shrinking federal spending are flatly unrealizable for many years to come.” But with costs set to explode, he argues that liberals will have no choice but to rethink current programs.

Perhaps so. But libertarian capitalists have a simple-minded faith in an economic system that can only enhance elite privilege at the expense of everyone else. The only real growth in employment in recent years, especially as “free trade” policies have been implemented, has been in low wage, abusive jobs. Capitalism has no answer for this other than a false claim that it hasn’t been tried, a claim which ignores the history of industrialization in the late 19th Century and ignores more recent history with an increasing gap between rich and poor. A highest capitalist value of return on investment requires the exploitation of everything and everyone possible; it cannot be reconciled with any concept of social justice.

But Democrats, barely distinguishable from Republicans, will hardly care. While Lindsey points to progressive views as obstacles to a new “fusion,” he ignores the fact that Democrats pay only lip service to progressivism. Libertarians, I think, will find a deal easy to make, should they choose to make it.