Just when you thought the Federal Election Commission had it out for the blogosphere, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it up a notch and announced yesterday that it will soon vote on a city ordinance that would require local bloggers to register with the city Ethics Commission and report all blog-related costs that exceed $1,000 in the aggregate.I have two words for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: bite me.
Blogs that mention candidates for local office that receive more than 500 hits will be forced to pay a registration fee and will be subject to website traffic audits, according to Chad Jacobs, a San Francisco City Attorney.
The violent demise on March 8 of Aslan Maskhadov, former president of Chechnya and supreme commander of the Chechen militant forces, is President Vladimir Putin’s short-term gain, but it may be Russia’s long-term loss. Now the war in Chechnya will further lose its “national liberation" character and the pretense of Chechen independence, which Maskhadov symbolized, and Moscow will confront the deadly face of Islamic extremist terrorism.You should read it all, it's an excellent analysis of the threat in the Caucasus and why it's in the best interests of the U.S. to be involved. After Maskhadov: Islamist Terrorism Threatens North Caucasus and Russia
As the crisis in the North Caucasus develops, the Bush Administration should follow the situation closely. This can be done through a dialogue with the Russian government and contacts between non-government experts, including representatives of North Caucasus indigenous communities.
Washington should cooperate in tracking and intercepting financial flows, terrorists, technical expertise, and training capabilities. The U.S. and Russia should develop models of identifying, monitoring, and rendering ineffective radical Islamist centers of incitement for violence and terrorist activities—such as mosques and religious academies—without causing casualties among innocent civilians or widespread popular dissatisfaction. The Administration should also assist in strengthening traditional, local, moderate Islam, including support for educational, cultural, spiritual, and media activities in the region.
Finally, the U.S. should cooperate with the federal and local governments in the area, as well as business communities and non-governmental organizations, to apply models of free-market–based economic development and enhancement for the role of women in local societies, which would neutralize the influence of the radical Islamists who are likely to come to power after Maskhadov’s death.
Conclaves have a checkered, colorful past that belies the air of sanctity and solemnity surrounding modern papal elections.
The first time cardinals were locked up until they elected a pope was in 1241. The Holy See was in a state of virtual war with the German emperor, Frederick II, who held two of the 12 "princes of the church" prisoner.
Anxious for a new pope, the ruler of Rome had the remaining 10 cardinals confined in a squalid, crumbling palace. It worked. After a relatively short 60 days, they elected Celestine IV.
But Celestine lived just 17 days and a long and anxious interregnum of 18 months followed.
Another even longer interregnum came after the death of Pope Clement IV. By the fall of 1271, the Throne of St. Peter had been vacant for three years. Again, the people locked up the cardinals, this time putting them on a diet of bread and water. The roof of the papal palace was also ripped off, exposing the cardinals to the elements.
Again, extreme measures worked. Within three months, the cardinals had elected Pope Gregory X, who decided to institutionalize the practice of the conclave, a word that literally means "with a key."
Gregory's rules were tough — the cardinals' rations were slowly reduced over the course of the conclave — but they worked. The next few papal elections were quick.
Conclaves weren't just tough, they were often hotbeds of political intrigue and corruption.
In his memoirs, Pius II, one of the Renaissance popes, recalled with distaste the unsavory plotting at the 1458 conclave in which he was elected. Most of it took place in the privy, he said, calling it "a fit place for such elections!"
The 1484 conclave wasn't much better. The man who became Innocent VIII bribed electors by signing their promotions in his cell the night before the decisive vote.
The bribery was even more naked in the 1492 election of the Borgia family pope, Alexander VI. A worldly and ruthless Spaniard who had at least eight illegitimate children by three women when he became pope, he handed out dozens of plums — abbeys, fortresses, towns, bishoprics — to nail down votes.
Secular interference was often as blatant as the corruption. For centuries Europe's Catholic monarchs claimed the right to veto candidates and it eventually became routine for their ambassadors to attend conclaves.
The last veto was exercised as recently as 1903 by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Hungary. The new pope, Pius X, then abolished the royal right of "exclusion."
How can we forget the fact that in 1983 a Hezbollah suicide driver crashed a one-thousand-pound bomb into the Marine Barracks in Beirut and killed 241 of our best and brightest? What about the hostages they took and tortured? What about the CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley who they kidnapped and slowly drowned to death by forcing a pipe down his throat and flooding him with water? They made tapes of his agony and sent it to the CIA. I'm told that former CIA Director William Casey almost went crazy when he heard them, and this propelled him to Iran-Contra, to try to free the hostages.But I guess having put all that in the past, Washington policy makers are now facing another dilemma: what to do when the terrorists become the politicians. The Hizballah Conundrum
Hizballah’s armed and terror capabilities must be addressed within the context of freeing and democratizing Lebanon. The best way to pressure the organization, which is highly sensitive to its domestic standing in Lebanon, is to maneuver it into making a choice between its domestic and regional agendas. If it chooses the domestic agenda, it will be restrained and pressured to disarm; if it chooses the regional, it will lose vital domestic support. Some practical policy recommendations follow:
• The removal of the armed Iranian presence, together with the heavy military equipment it shares with Hizballah (such as rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles), should be an integral part of the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. With Israel and Syria out of Lebanon, Iran should not be permitted to remain as the only foreign armed presence. The next stage for implementing Resolution 1559 would be the disarmament of Hizballah’s remaining substantial military capabilities, some of which were provided by the Syrians.
• Syria should be pressured to end any further arms shipments to Hizballah, either directly or through Syrian territory. Concurrently, the international community should consider placing international monitors at critical entry points to Lebanon (e.g., international air and sea ports and the main crossings from Syria) in order to monitor possible arms shipments to Hizballah.
• The European Union (EU) would do well to announce that unless Hizballah lays down its arms, the group will be added to the European terrorism list, and the EU will refrain from dealing with Hizballah politically. Presenting Hizballah with a stark choice—acceptance if it renounces violence, political shunning if it continues to engage in terrorism—will more likely enhance Hizballah’s will to play a responsible role in Lebanese politics.
• While Hizballah is trying to fuel Palestinian terrorism below the international radar screen (acting behind the scenes and keeping a low public profile), it is important to shine the spotlight on any of its persistent terror activities (including the recruiting, funding, and launching of Palestinian terrorists) meant to destroy the current Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire (to which even Hamas has agreed).
• The international community must energize the Lebanese opposition on the issue of Hizballah’s heavy military weapons. The opposition should be encouraged to place this issue on the agenda of a national dialogue, specifically at this moment critical to Lebanese national unity. To illustrate the price Lebanon is paying for Hizballah’s dark side, the international community could present a substantial aid package to Lebanon conditioned on the advance of this front (U.S. assistance to Lebanon in 2004 amounted to approximately $35 million).
• The international community could tie an additional assistance program to the Lebanese army’s deployment in southern Lebanon. This kind of package, designed to strengthen the Lebanese army, would substantiate international pressure to deploy the army in the south with the task of asserting Lebanese sovereignty and preventing cross-border attacks. The move would deny Hizballah armed control of this area under its traditional excuse of protecting Lebanon against Israel.
Frank-not really! :-) I remember the conversation about atheism/ agnosticism well. In it I held that saying you're agnostic is a much bolder statement than saying you're an atheist. The core agnostic belief is that whether there is a God or not is unknowable, that human beings are incapable of truly ever knowing. Being human is pretty crappy, but it's not so crappy that we're incapable of knowing whether God exists. I say I'm an atheist because I don't believe in God right now, and I say it because I'm convinced if there is a God, we're capable of knowing Him. I'm not unwilling to entertain the possibility of God's existing, and I find much of value in Christianity and Judaism.
He enjoys berating "red staters" for their stupidity, but after Bush's 2004 State of the Union address -- which was before my resignation from the mailing list on which the Web Friend and I used to converse -- his idea of analysis was: "Bush didn't even answer any of the questions! And could we please have a President who can get his subject-verb agreement right? And it's NOO-klee-ur, for fuck's sake!" I have long resisted linking on DL or LGF to his blog or those of my other former super-liberal friends, because I don't want to hear accusations that I've urged my evil Rethuglican cronies to spam their comments section. But now I don't care anymore -- I just need to vent about the people I used to associate with. He is a decent guy at heart, despite his tragic case of Bush Derangement Syndrome, so if you visit his blog, please heed Hanlon's Razor, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity," and Throbert's Corollary to Hanlon's Razor, "Never attribute to innate stupidity that which can be adequately explained by honest ignorance."
Or, paraphrasing someone else -- "Forgive him, he knows not what he writes."