Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Franklin Foer

A couple of weeks after Peter Beinart's discussion of the future of liberalism appeared, Franklin Foer has published a sort of parallel piece on the fate of neoconservatism. I think one of his hyptheses, that the neoconservative impasse over Iran is a manifestation of the end of any cohesive neoconservative movement, may be a bit strong, but in general he is right on. The troubles on the ground in Iraq cannot be separated from the neocons losing the war of ideas re American foreign policy; namely, that we could easily fight a new type of war on the cheap, that our brand of democracy would be easily exportable in the Muslim world, that Western imports such as Chalabi and Karzai would be embraced in their respective 'home' countries, etc. Neoconservative foreign policy (a.k.a. neoconservatism) is being seen for the vacant promise that it has always been. The article ends on a priceless note: many neocons are insisting that there was never really any such thing as neoconservatism to begin with, that it was a creation of the media and the paranoid left. Hmm, maybe the death knell has sounded after all.

There is one aspect of neoconservatism which has always been assumed to be true among writers on the topic, and it is something that I pretty strongly disagree with: namely, that there is a sharp dichotomy between realists on the one hand and idealists or democratic globalists on the other. When people refer to neoconservatism's Trotskyite roots, they are thinking in terms of democratic globalism, analogous to Trotsky's global revolution. Democracy should be seeded everywhere by the American hand. In contrast, the realists believe that the U.S. should only strive to create democracies where the situation is compatible with our strategic interests. Here's the rub: I don't think the former camp truly exists. It's a long time since Irving Kristol and Company's 'road to Damascus' experience, and more is made of the Trotskyite idealism than should be. I'm not so cynical as to say that neoconservatives are all realists to the extent that they are only concerned with, for example, petroleum interests, but they are far from idealistic crusaders. To them, democracy should be seeded where and when it can help American interests in general, but not solely because it does help American interests. It's too bad, because their ineptitude could more easily be explained by calling them pie-in-the-sky idealists, but I truly think there are few of those in the neocon camp.

Charles Krauthammer, a self-described realist, derided U.S. intervention in Bosnia as "social work," and I think that the apparent neocon disinterest in the Sudan shows how aligned most of them are with Krauthammer's realism, despite the incessant debates about the neocon division. There is maybe a 1% faction of idealists among them.

2004 Political Essays

David Brooks has a list of important political essays from the past year which is worth checking out. It's in two parts, here and here.


I just really liked the title of this New York Times article. When the G.O.P. regained control of the House after decades of Dem control, they rode in among claims that they were going to clean the place up and be the party of reform. It's been said already, but it's worth reiterating upon reading this article that Washington conquered the G.O.P. rather than vice-verse.


My old friend Joe Bridge and his girlfriend Lisa are in India at the moment, and you can read their first-hand account of the tsunami at their weblog.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Victory is his. Besides my obvious pleasure at seeing a pro-Western, pro-reform candidate win in the Ukraine election, my other reaction is a strong curiosity as to how this will affect Russo-American relations. Too soon to tell, but it must chafe Putin that the heavy international monitoring left little room for trickery.

Flight 93

It seems like too much is being made of Rumsfeld's recent quote while visiting Iraq, regarding the downing of Flight 93 on 9/11:

Here's what Rumsfeld said Friday: "I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten – indeed the word 'terrorized' is just that. Its purpose is to terrorize, to alter behavior, to make people be something other than that which they want to be."

My first thought was that if the plane had been shot down, that Rumsfeld would be equating the military pilots with terrorists carrying out bombings in Mosul and Spain, which is certainly not what he was intending. He meant the people who had hijacked the plane, of course. The suggestion of the article cited above is apparently that his reference of terrorists shooting down the plane could be a slip of the tongue caused by the supposed fact that the plane had been shot down by the military. This seems like a stretch not only because it is reading so much into a single quote, but also because the evidence surrounding the events of 9/11 does not support the idea that Flight 93 was shot down. The 9/11 Commission looked at the evidence and concluded that this was not the case. Cheney admitted that authorization had been given, albeit too late. This leads to an essential point: the administration was willing to admit that it had given the authorization, and had they used the authorization then I am convinced that they would level with the American people about it, as most people would find it completely understandable that a single plane be shot down to avoid potential catastrophe in DC. I give the administration the benefit of the doubt in this respect.

Friday, December 24, 2004


Rumsfeld got in a few jabs at the press while visiting with troops in Iraq, when asked why the media coverage of the war seems to be so negative (which, by the way, might be due to an unnecessary war that has unleashed months of mayhem with no end in sight). His response:

"I think the country does understand that we lost 3,000 people on September 11th and the fact that those people were operating in this part of the world ... You've seen the evil up close and personal, you know the danger that this poses."

By "this area of the world" he must mean east of France and west of Thailand. And how big of him to note that he "thinks" that Americans know we lost 3000 people on September 11th.


Media Matters has a helpful look back at 2004, from the vantage of the nuttiest of the nutty right-wingers. And in the spirit of Christmas, enjoy these warm, yuletide thoughts from the Very Revolting Pat Robertson. My eggnog suddenly tastes bitter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Two victories for Gregoire today: even without the 700+ disputed votes, she would apparently win by 8 votes. Second, the state Supreme Court has ordered that the 700+ votes be included in the recount, votes that will most likely favor her. An earlier version of the P-I article had a quote from a state GOP spokeswoman saying that Gregoire would not be a legitimate governor if she won the recount by such a small margin. Funny, they were willing to declare Rossi the winner when he had a forty-odd margin of victory. After the article was updated at 4:13 PST that quote is no longer in the article. One valuable outcome of this election has been learning how ethically-challenged the WA GOP is. Concern for disenfranchisement? Nope. Intent to honor the outcome of a democratic election? Nope. I'm curious if the local newsstations will finally stop referring to Rossi as "governor-elect." He never was, by the way.


This is an example of me being a bit nitpicky, but anyhow, I don't understand why newpapers on both sides of the Atlantic regularly do unnecessary alterations to stories that come from overseas. This recent story of the Northern Ireland bank heist is a perfect example. All American news outlets are reporting that "$39 million was stolen," when in fact it was 20 million pounds sterling that was stolen. If you are discussing somebody's wealth or a company's net worth, then I can understand converting it to the currency of the country that the newspaper serves, because it is easier for readers to understand the amount and all that is important is the value anyway. But in this case, the amount stolen should refer to the actual items stolen, which in this case were pounds. So unless the thieves stole 20 million pounds from the vault and then walked over to the bureau de change and enquired as to the conversion rates, it's a mistake to be referring to $39 million being stolen. You might as well say that they stole 39 million Lotto tickets or 39 million copies of the NYT.

I've noticed an analogous trend in British newspapers, wherein quotes from American officials are often peppered with Britishisms that you know weren't in the original quotes.

The Service on Mars

Another Christmas miracle ?

8 Votes

Democrats who have been receiving daily recount tallies are claiming that Gregoire will win by 8 votes . The state GOP is saying that they reserve all their options if the original result is overturned (i.e. they won't accept Gregoire winning the recount without a fight).

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Washington Recount

State GOP chairman Chris Vance has basically taken to character assassination in his attempt to disenfranchise hundreds of voters whose ballots were mistakenly rejected during the first tabulation and recount. He has said things along the lines of "I am trying very hard not to call King County election officials 'liars'," and hints that they might be pulling off vote fraud at the worst, and in the least are changing the rules midway through the election process. He's making these personal attacks because there is little legal wiggle-room for trying to disenfranchise voters, and the best he can do at this point is to spread conspiracies about deliberate, partisan fraud. Now we find that it is not unusual for counties to include ballots that were rejected the first time around. Isn't this precisely what recounts are for? It is actually hilarious that Vance would argue otherwise, for recounts exist precisely to make sure that the process was carried out thoroughly and fairly. What he wants to ensure at all costs is that the result doesn't change from the first time around. What then, Mr. Vance, is the point?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Iraq Arrangements

I haven't seen any other blogs or commentators pick up on this thread from yesterday's Meet the Press, but Richard Lugar's response to Tim Russert's question about the impending Iraq elections was a bit disturbing. Russert suggested that the Iraq elections might result in an Iran-sponsored Shiite government that ends being more theocracy than democracy:

So the United States loses 1,200 men, 10,000 injured, and the Iraqis vote for someone who is sponsored by the Iranian government next door.

Here is the first part of Lugar's response:

SEN. LUGAR: Well, that column is joined by others who feel that somehow we are not sufficiently involved in a politically savvy way in trying to arrange the election, the list, how it may come out. Now, others are writing -- equally distinguished columnists -- that we already are deep in the weeds, that the CIA is manipulating the various parties and so forth. Both cannot be right at the same time, and the knowledge about what we are doing is interesting.

Lugar doesn't give, and can't give, a direct answer as to the extent we are manipulating the process, but if the likely outcomes of the election are a) an Iran-sponsored Shiite theocracy, or b) an American pick, then it is not going to be unsettling merely for those who anticipated a "Jeffersonian-Madison" type of democracy, but for those who expected fair democracy at all.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Half of Us

The closing of the American mind:

Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll.

The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.

Update: It reminds me of this .

Several politicians — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a liberal MP of Somali origin and van Gogh’s co-producer — were forced into hiding after death threats from Islamic extremists, and a poll revealed that 40% of the Dutch now hope their 900,000 Muslim neighbours no longer feel at home. Some 80% want tougher policies against immigrants.

GOP History

Let's see how proud the party of Lincoln is regarding their supposed favorite son. They failed to carry the mantle of Lincoln for most of the 20th century, so what's to suggest that they would do so now?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Gregoire vs. Rossi

King County's Canvassing Board has decided to include 573 mistakenly rejected ballots in the present recount. Here's the position of the state GOP chairman :

"At some point it just lacks credibility that they keep finding ballots," Vance said. "None of these ballots should be counted."

I'm not sure that the party wants to take a pro stance on the issue of opportunistic rejection of people's voting rights, but I'll let them hang themselves.

The Rumsfeld List

It's the hottest thing this Christmas season, and everyone's clambering to get on the Rumsfeld List: the non-partisan list of high-profile politicians calling Rumsfeld inept and undeserving of a second term in his position. These are the ones I'm aware of:

John McCain
Chuck Hagel
Norman Schwarzkopf
Joe Biden
Jon Corzine
Susan Collins
Trent Lott
William Kristol

Monday, December 13, 2004

Silent Killer

Defend this , Bill O'Reilly!

Richard Clarke

The Kerik soap opera sure gets more entertaining by the minute. McClellan says that they will be interviewing (and vetting) several people for the position, and it got me thinking about who the best choice is. No doubt about it, it's this guy - and he doesn't have a prayer. After reading through the 9/11 Commission Report, Clarke comes off seeming like an astoundingly solitary hero in the very early days of the fight against al-Qaeda. He was eerily prescient about the group as far back as the early 90's and experienced frustration after frustration as those around him didn't take the threats as seriously as he did. In a perfect world, one where presidents are big enough to take a little criticism and learn, Clarke would be the new homeland security secretary.

Still No Confidence After All These Days

McCain said it again to make sure that we heard.

"I have strenuously argued for larger troop numbers in Iraq, including the right kind of troops — linguists, special forces, civil affairs, etc.," said McCain, R-Ariz. "There are very strong differences of opinion between myself and Secretary Rumsfeld on that issue."

Linguists, special forces, civil affairs...reminds me, why is the biggest item in the intelligence budget a a satellite system that will duplicate existing technology and not work at night or in cloudy weather? Couldn't we spend 9.5 billion a little more efficiently? We could form an army of one million kung-fu kicking robo-sapiens for that kind of jack. I bet those boys work at night; Amazon gives 5 stars for durability.

Gregoire vs. Rossi (still)

Here's an interesting development that could swing the whole thing around.


It seems to be the case that, since the election, the Christian right has been working itself into a lather with the conviction that 99% of their countrymen share the same moral beliefs and that the other 1% is a sort of obscene minority that needs to be dealt with via legislation "promoting traditional values." They have an extreme amount of motivation at the moment, and the fact that they are perhaps the best-organized constituency in the country is what allows them to believe that they represent the vast majority. I am wondering how long it will be until we see a well-organized backlash against this fundamentalist movement, for it is truly only the lack of an organized opponent that prevents them from seeing that the nation is not, in fact, a Christian monolith. There are so many people who are fed up with Michael Powell's FCC, with Brent Bozell's nannying, with anti-gay legislation, with the attack on reproductive rights, and there simply needs to be better organization so that we saturate the media in the same way that Bozell saturates the FCC. The Christian right sees itself as one tent of people fighting the good fight, and it's time that their victims started seeing themselves as one group rather than as disparate besieged entities.

Read it and weep.

Here are the choice bits:

"It's like when the hijackers took over those four planes on Sept. 11 and took people to a place where they didn't want to go," she added. "I think a lot of people feel that liberals have taken our country somewhere we don't want to go. I think a lot more people realize this is our country and we're going to take it back."

So, half the people in the country are just like the 9/11 terrorists?

In 1999, the Kansas board voted to erase any mention of evolution from the state science curriculum, opening the door for the teaching of creationism. That was reversed in 2001, after three board members who supported the move were defeated in a Republican primary. Kathy Martin, a newly elected member of the board who favors teaching alternatives to evolution, said the board would probably take a different route this time, like introducing the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the development of the universe and earth was guided at each step by an "intelligent agent."

From what I've read, teaching "intelligent design" does not violate the prohibition of promoting religion in the classroom, apparently because it is just generic enough. The agenda is plenty clear, though.

The Christian right, of course, believes it has a monopoly on morality, but...

But Mr. Romero of the A.C.L.U. said that beyond filing legal challenges, liberals needed to appropriate the language of morality from Christian conservatives to capture the popular imagination.

"Lawsuits are about telling stories, and we need to talk about why we picked this case and why it's important," he said. "For instance, we need to ask, where is the morality when a partner of 20 years is denied hospital access because a state doesn't believe in gay marriage? Where is the morality in forcing a teenage girl into a back-alley abortion?"

What's impressive about the politically-active Christian right is how they so successfully portray themselves as being under attack, from gays, from feminists, from the media, from Hollywood, from the ACLU, you name it, when they are so clearly in the driver's seat in this country.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

No Confidence

How long can Rumsfeld really last? With the election over and nothing to lose, even the hawks are turning on him and calling out his incompetence for what it really is. The criticisms from McCain, Biden and Hagel can't be dismissed as partisanship or potshots from some lunatic fringe. They all supported the war and have all voiced votes of no confidence. If Bush is smart he'll cut this albatross from around his neck; how many people on the right have to wake up to the Defense Secretary's ineptitude before Bush realizes that he is being tainted by association every day that Rummy stays in office?

Update: Biden made a really good point here, in response to Rumsfeld's quote about how "you go with the army you have, not the army you wish you had":

The truth is, as I believe Senator Hagel would agree with me because we have been there four times together, we did not go with the army we had. We had an incredibly heavy mechanized army we left at home.

When the history books discuss the Iraq War, they will note that Rumsfeld stubbornly insisted that he could fight a new type of war that did not involve a number of boots on the ground that would normally be expected. He locked horns with the generals about this and he was proved wrong as the war unfolded. Once the decision to go to war was made, whatever you might think about that original decision, Rumsfeld failed in execution and commitment. It's as simple as that.


I was checking out the website for Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council , the group responsible for about 99% of FCC complaints, and they have this listing of supposedly the best and worst shows on TV. I just thought this item from the description of The Tracy Morgan Show was a bit odd:

Even though many of the jokes are racially driven, they always preserve a certain level of decorum.

In other words, Tracy Morgan may be black, but he also manages to be respectable. Wow. Thanks, Bozo.

And this is just funny:

Offensive content is very minimal on this program, but there is some mild innuendo. Tracy owns a garage where he employs his friends Spoon and Bernard. In one episode Spoon tells them that he made love on a train.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Beinart Fallout

Peter Beinart recently published a piece in The New Republic about the need for the Democratic Party to fully commit itself to being a party which prioritizes the fight against global terrorism to the extent that they are willing to root out those elements of the party who do not take the cause seriously. From what I have gathered in the week or so of aftermath, the piece was well-received on both sides of the spectrum and has generated an enormous amount of discussion in the blogosphere. I say it is well-received in the sense that people feel it is a discussion worth having and that Beinart's contribution was thoughtful and made some interesting historical parallels, but you can read some interesting critiques by Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum .

Marshall's main quibbles seem to be with Beinart's historical parallels to the early days of the Cold War. For the details, read Josh's post, but suffice it to say that his argumentation leads to the point that it is neither necessary nor helpful for the party to start purging people who do not believe the war on terror should be a top priority. On a practical note, he points out that the Dems got 48% last month and can't afford to be purging anyone at this juncture, but his reasoning isn't only pragmatically based. I think it's a well thought-out post and worth the few minutes to read.

The Kevin Drum post left me a bit worried, however. If I give him the benefit of the doubt I would say that he was trying to make a couple of the same points as Josh and used careless wording, but it's hard for me to defend blunt statements like this:

That's the story I think Beinart needs to write. If he thinks too many liberals are squishy on terrorism, he needs to persuade us not just that Islamic totalitarianism is bad — of course it's bad — but that it's also an overwhelming danger to the security of the United States.
Bottom line: I think the majority of liberals could probably be persuaded to take a harder line on the war on terror — although it's worth emphasizing that the liberal response is always going to be different from the conservative one, just as containment was a different response to the Cold War than outright war. But first someone has to make a compelling case that the danger is truly overwhelming. So far, no one on the left has really done that.

Beinart has done the party a great service, but there is certainly going to be a great load of squeamishness in the near future while the party airs its "dirty laundry" and endures some infighting. Kevin Drum is not even on the left fringe of the party, and yet his comments epitomize the challenge that the party faces if it cannot convince more of the party base and those even further to the left of the base that the war is worth waging. If Kevin Drum is a centrist, then this could end up being 40 years in the desert.

And if you're wondering, here's the view from the right . I would say it's pretty devastating.

Update: The Base fires back [Pierce via Eschaton]. And more Atrios here. I will say that not a lot of elections will be won by defending Michael Moore at all costs. Not that I necessarily support Beinart's purge proposal, but there are plenty in the Democratic Party who have had it with disingenuousness on both sides.

A Matter of Physics

I wasn't surprised when Drudge started focusing heavily on this story about the Tennessee reporter suggesting that some soldiers he was embedded with ask Rumsfeld about the lack of armor for their vehicles. In classic Drudge style, it was an attempt to deflect a scandal by focusing on a small detail that should be irrelevant to the larger issue, but which nonetheless ends up getting picked up by the rest of the media. It was especially troubling to see people trying to sweep soldiers' legitimate concerns under the carpet by pointing out that their questions had been encouraged by a journalist, but, like I said, I expect these things from Drudge.

But check out the shocking way that Yahoo/IBD reports the story, beginning with the headline "Setting up Rummy":

Setting Up Rummy

Thu Dec 9, 7:00 PM ET


Media: A GI confronts Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld in Iraq (news - web sites) -- a story that somehow made major newspapers' front pages. Only problem: It was staged.

The GI was reportedly irate over a lack of adequate armor for military Humvees. His question played well to the media's basic bias, showing a clueless Rumsfeld left stammering for an answer and finally deferring to a three-star general to respond.

The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among others, gave it front-page play. TV networks and National Public Radio gave it prominent airtime. Quite a coup for a lone questioning GI.

Except, as it turns out, the question wasn't authentic.

That's right, it wasn't an authentic concern - not for the soldier who asked the question nor for the hundreds of gathered soldiers who clapped and hollered in approval. There's more:

What was portrayed as soldiers' genuine anger was, in fact, a staged media event.

Those soldiers really had us going! The idea that they would be angry about the lack of equipment, which can lead to more horrific injuries [warning: link very graphic]. Turns out that they can't actually think for themselves and that some small-beat reporter made them do it. Figures - liberal media.


The man in line to become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court had some interesting things to say about separation of church and state a few weeks ago; a shame that the media didn't report more widely on these controversial remarks:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Monday that a religion-neutral government does not fit with an America that reflects belief in God in everything from its money to its military.

"I suggest that our jurisprudence should comport with our actions," Scalia told an audience attending an interfaith conference on religious freedom at Manhattan's Shearith Israel synagogue.

This coming from a self-described originalist, i.e. someone who believes the constitution should only be interpreted as it was written, not in any contemporary context. You only have to go as far as the first item on the Bill of Rights to get Scalia the only answer he should need :

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

But this part of Scalia's speech displays an even more dangerous ignorance:

In the synagogue that is home to America's oldest Jewish congregation, he noted that in Europe, religion-neutral leaders almost never publicly use the word "God."

But, the justice asked, "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America? I don't think so."

I guess when you're raised Catholic like Scalia was that they don't teach you about the Catholic church being complicit in the Holocaust. I wonder if any Jewish leaders in the synagogue where Scalia was speaking brought this up. And for the life of me I have no idea what the thinking behind his argument was.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Dealing with the Minority

Just as crazy, Bill O'Reilly:

That's why nobody sticks up for Christmas except me. Did Peter Jennings stick up for Christmas last night? I don't believe he did. How about Brian Williams, did he? Did Rather stick up for Christmas? How about Jim Lehrer -- did he? Did Larry King -- hello -- I love Christmas -- did he? No.

Hilarious. This is the kind of kookiness that has always made me think that O'Reilly is essentially harmless: he's a blowhard, a bit off his rocker, and good for a laugh, but the seemingly anti-Semitic comments he made and the fallout from that scandal are distressing. One might have expected an apology for careless remarks or something along that line, but you get this:

Remember, more than 90 percent of American homes celebrate Christmas. But the small minority that is trying to impose its will on the majority is so vicious, so dishonest -- and has to be dealt with.

Not even his professed love of Barbara Streisand can get him out of that hole.

On a more general note, I am guessing there must be many other people who find it odd that there seems to be so much overlap between the people who are repeatedly stressing that we live in a Christian nation and those who consider themselves more patriotic and more American than many of their countrymen. Are freedom of religion and separation of church and state unAmerican?

Coulter and Carlson

Two bat-shit crazy Republicans have a go at Canadians while the cameras are rolling.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Rummy Q&A

For an administration that hates dissent, being on the receiving end of blunt criticism from its own army members must be quite uncomfortable, as the usual response of "these critics just hate America" somehow doesn't cut it.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.

Now that Rumsfeld has somehow managed to resolve his own job security issue, maybe he can get around to some other miscellaneous security issues.


Joe Conason has some good commentary on the issue of Republicans taking advantage of the oil-for-food scandal as an opportunity to completely discredit the UN. I think that John McCain makes the point as concisely as it can be made, when asked about Senator Norm Coleman's demands for Annan's resignation:

Asked whether he believes that Mr. Annan should step down, the Arizona Republican and outspoken hawk replied, "No. I think that we should have a full and complete investigation and then make decisions like that. Am I disturbed when I hear that his son was on payroll? Of course I’m disturbed about it, and apparently Kofi Annan was [disturbed] also." He added, "I think Coleman is kind of a symptom of some dissatisfaction within Congress about the U.N.—but no, I think we need a full and complete investigation, and there’s plenty of time to decide whether people should keep their jobs or not."

The key phrase there is "a symptom of some dissatisfaction within Congress about the U.N.". I am very much in favor of investigating the oil-for-food scandal to its fullest, particularly regarding the alleged bribery payments from Iraq to French officials, but the Republican outrage is not a new one and it does not have its basis in the oil-for-food scandal; this is a decades-old manifestation of GOP anti-internationalism, which is why I made the comparison to John Birch below. The idea that Annan has been proven to have done something meriting his resignation is ridiculous and dishonest.

More $

The Onion has some helpful information about the decline of the dollar.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Scary stats for the buck here, especially against the euro and pound. When I lived in Dublin the dollar and the euro were equal. It wasn't that long ago that the pound was worth about $1.60 as opposed to the nearly $1.95 that we're seeing now. The really frightening thing is that the dollar probably won't continue to devalue at a gradual pace, but rather it could plummet dramatically if people begin to dump their dollar holdings and opt instead for the euro. From what I understand, the Asian markets alone can determine this.


The Economist discusses the plight of the dollar .

The Financial Times discusses how many conservatives in the US are trying to use the oil-for-food scandal to destroy Annan and the UN itself. The GOP, John Birchers through and through.

Krugman's back when you need him most, this time rhapsodizing on Social Security.

Fear the Crackdown

So baseball is set to get serious about the steroids problem, and it shouldn't be hard to improve on the soft guidelines currently in place, which are something along the lines of:

First offense: no reading on team flights
Second offense: zerbert from Dusty Baker

More commentary here and here .

Monday, December 06, 2004

Iranian Youth



I see a future in niche credit cards. A card that won't work in Wal-Mart? That won't make an online donation to the Republican party?

The Beeb

After seeing the Musharaff quotes with full context in that interview, I have to say I'm pretty dismayed. The line about him "agreeing with the BBC" is pretty accurate. The interviewer said something along the lines of "what with Iraq and Abu Graib, the irony is that the war on terror has made the world less safe," to which Musharaff replied "absolutely" and gave the quotes in the post below. Again, he's right that the war on terror has not adequately addressed the causes of terrorism, and that the war in Iraq has made the world more dangerous, but the war in Iraq does not equal the war on terrorism. The Iraq war was a blunder that from even a strictly strategic point of view doesn't make sense for the US and its allies, as it is depleting our resources for fighting terrorism and is turning into a quagmire. The disappointing thing is that Musharraf himself didn't differentiate between the two struggles, as he is a key ally in the war on terrorism who obviously sees the Iraq war as a dangerous distraction.

As for the interviewer, her ostensible statement of fact leaves a looming question that has probably entered many people's minds when coming face to face with someone who opposes the war on terrorism as a whole: what would you have us do?

3 Years

Musharraf made waves during his recent visit to the US by stating that the war in Iraq has made the world less safe and by admitting that the Pakistani government has no idea where bin Laden is. Visiting London today, he has apparently stated that the war on terror has made the world less safe. When I first saw this headline I thought that the newspaper had got the quote about Iraq wrong, but no, it's from a BBC interview to be broadcast tonight:

Visiting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf agreed with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) here on Monday that the war on terror had made the world less safe and was not addressing the underlying causes of conflict.

In an interview with the BBC Newsnight that will be broadcast late on Monday, Musharraf used the word "absolutely" when it was suggested to him that the world was less safe partly due to the campaign against terrorism.

I don't have a problem with his answer in the sense that he was just pointing out that the focus of the war on terror has not been on terrorism's underlying causes, which is true, but I was more shocked to read that Musharraf "agreed with the BBC" that the war on terror has made the world less safe. I'll withhold further comment till I see the context of the Q&A, but I'll make the general note that I wish my TV license fees were going toward something a little more even-handed. The show should be available here after 22:30 BST.

The comments Musharraf made while in the US made me think back to the Fall and Winter of 2001 and the war in Afghanistan, a war which I supported but strongly criticized in terms of its carrying out. At the time I wondered why the US and coalition countries were not interested as much in putting boots on the ground and specifically using more special forces along the Afghani/Pakistani border as they seemed to be in destroying infrastructure from the air, causing much collateral damage. In the short-term, the strategy they used seem to be sufficient, in that the Taliban was overthrown and a new government was put in place without a protracted battle as we are seeing in Iraq. In the long-term I think that my criticisms still hold, as bin Laden and his associated are still hiding, the Taliban still exists in pockets of the country and Karzai has been said to be "the mayor of Kabul." The US moved on to "shock and awe" in Iraq and has never been able to fully commit to stabilization in Afghanistan. It's too bad that of the two wars Bush has waged, we are mired in the one that was unjustified to begin with.


"That is clearly a disappointment," [Rumsfeld] said looking back at his first term.

It's been made clear over the last few weeks that no amount of incompetence can get you fired from the Bush administration if you are blindly loyal to the president and never admit a mistake, so the worst elements of the last four years will just get carried over into the next four years. Bush doesn't realize that people might actually respect him if he showed signs of learning from his mistakes. But then, he can't remember any.

Christmas Numbers

From Newsweek :

"I don't want to be too simplistic, but our faith is somewhat childlike," says the Rev. H. B. London, a vice president of James Dobson's conservative Focus on the Family organization in Colorado Springs. "Though other people may question the historical validity of the virgin birth, and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we don't." London's view has vast public support. A NEWSWEEK Poll found that 84 percent of American adults consider themselves Christians, and 82 percent see Jesus as God or the son of God. Seventy-nine percent say they believe in the virgin birth, and 67 percent think the Christmas story—from the angels' appearance to the Star of Bethlehem—is historically accurate.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Who We Are, What We Do

There seems to be an argument developing in the US, roughly along partisan lines, about whether the US has incurred the wrath of so much of the Muslim world because of our actions and policies or whether it is simply because of who we are and the principles we stand for. It's no secret that Bush takes the latter point of view, espousing the much-derided post-9/11 view that "they hate us for our freedom." Sidney Blumental, bolstered by a new study by the Pentagon, adheres more to the former view. Many scoundrels on the right would no doubt argue that such a viewpoint is tantamount to justifying terrorist actions against us, which it in no way is; in fact, such criticisms perfectly exemplify the weakness of the neoconservative conversation in the US. Think of Fukuyama being labelled an anti-semite by Charles Krauthammer for arguing that many neoconservatives see US foreign policy through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and you begin to understand that such a movement - the neoconservative movement - has ceased to be a serious intellectual school of thought when merely broaching such topics is considered at best taboo and at worst deserving of such personalized scorn and hatred.

As far as the issue of why many Muslims see the US they way they do, I think it is something of a cop-out to say they hate us solely for who we are. It suits the right-wing agenda to say that that is the case, because of course when someone hates you for who you are there is nothing you can do to change that relationship, there is no way you can lessen that hatred because it supposedly stems from something inherent in you; thus there would be no need for self-reflection. I am completely supportive of the war on terror (not to be confused with the war in Iraq) and believe that there is much anti-West sentiment in the Muslim world that is not related to such tangible issues as the Palestinian conflict, but to pretend that terrorism is never motivated by policies or actions taken against Muslim populations is simply naive and, of course, dangerous.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Positive Freedom

This commentary by Julian Baggini is helpful in its depiction of two types of freedom and how American-style conservatism /libertarianism is limited in its conception of freedom to only one type. The ideal of "negative freedom" is actually an aspect of conservatism that I respect to a point, but read Baggini's commentary to see what is missing. His take on the British left starting to sound like the American right is pretty original too.

A Few Million Man Hours

In an article on the issue of removing dams to protect endangered salmon, this passage jumped out at me [my emphasis]:

"Endangered fish, the opinion said, can be protected by a variety of measures, including carrying fish around dams and building weirs - a new type of weir that works like a water slide - to ease young fishes' journey through dams as they swim downstream to the ocean."

Is this part of Bush's job creation program?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Looks like Belfast, but it's not Posted by Hello


The ongoing negotiations with Iran would be slightly humorous were the stakes not so high. The Iranian negotiators are either not the savviest or else they are completely confident that no serious action will ever be taken against them. To recap: they initially refused to end their nuclear weapons program, then agreed to, then said that they would continue to keep centrifuges for a nuclear power program, then under pressure said that they would cancel this as well, and now have announced that the cessation of uranium enrichment is temporary, possibly lasting for only a few months, for the duration of negotiations with Europe. The idea of coming to an agreement that is only valid until people leave the negotiating table doesn't quite add up from my point of view.

And why does this growing scandal still not penetrate European papers? I wonder if, for example, France sees this as an important issue?

Monday, November 29, 2004


I've got enough ambition for several New Year's resolutions this year, and one of them will be to no longer mince my words when dealing with Christian fundamentalists of this variety:

Cass wants a U.S. Supreme Court that will outlaw abortion and gay marriage. "Do you want to take your children to a National League baseball game for instance and have homosexuals showing affection to one another? I don't want my kids to see that," he said.
Asked about the millions of Americans who are not Christian, or have a different interpretation of Christianity, Kennedy said with another laugh: "I couldn't care less. It's true."

Disgusting and infuriating. The least I can do is make these kind of people uncomfortable in my company, and so I will. If they won't use reason or common sense, I won't use an unwarranted amount of respect for their "moral values."

Thanks to Atrios for the link.

Complaints and Questions

Donald Rumsfeld on NPR, on the subject of NATO countries refusing to send troops to Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers (I'm paraphrasing):

"It's like you have 5 basketball players training together for weeks, and all of a sudden two of them raise their hands and say "you know what, I don't feel like playing today.'"

Fair enough, but it makes me wonder how many our problems in Iraq might be due to an over-reliance on basketball analogies.

On an unrelated note, I have my Blogger settings set to Greenwich Time Zone, and yet my post timestamps have no relation to reality. I might post at 12:25 and it says 1:15 or 1:56, who knows. I can only surmise that Blogger doesn't realize there is a systematic way of determining the time in another time-zone outside of the US, relying instead on a random number generator or, in the happiest part of my imagination, a dartboard.

Advice We are Expected to Ignore


You can elect Bush, Kerry or Satan himself, it doesn't matter to us," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.

Are those supposed to be in descending order?

Also in the videotape, Al-Zawahiri apparently criticized Egypt for humans rights abuses,

Happy to be Paid in Pounds

Oh man, how did I miss this? I had been wondering how long I'd have to wait till Scott McClellan proclaimed a strong-dollar policy, but I didn't even have to settle for words from the minion. Mr. Bush, I salute you for your consistency.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Is There a Bigger Son of a Bitch in the US?

Quotes from Jerry Falwell from today's Meet the Press:

"And I think it's unthinkable that we're debating what a family is, a man married to a woman. They've got that right in the barnyard. We've had that for 6,000 years and to think that we're trying to redefine families."


In the midst of the values talk, Tim Russert, the moderator of "Meet the Press," quoted from a recent Newsweek article that states that Marc Cherry, the creator of the hit television series "Desperate Housewives," is "a somewhat conservative, gay Republican."

Dr. Falwell said, "Well the fact that he's a gay Republican means he should join the Democratic party."

2 Deep 4 Me

I Heart Huckabees was the dumbest movie I've seen in a while, though I admittedly have not seen a lot lately. Surprisingly, I read quite a few good reviews in advance of seeing it, but the whole thing was a let-down, full of lazy quasi-philosophy that lead to an asinine conclusion. It had its comic moments, but otherwise was too full of itself. I think that David O. Russell was trying to work in the vein of Wes Anderson while lacking Anderson's subtlety and general lightness of touch, opting instead for heavy-handedness and some cheap laughs. Anderson's best work, in contrast, never seems like it has to try to hard to be incredibly funny and moving at the same time. I'm counting the days until The Life Aquatic.

But maybe it's just the shallow American in me, as Joe Queenan seems to think the film was just too deep for Americans. Oh, Europe, if this qualifies as deep then I despair for you. But I'm not losing hope; after seeing it last night, I read this mauling in the Observer this morning:

David O Russell's deeply disappointing I Heart Huckabees is a lesser product of 'the new whimsy', that school of surreal, absurdist comedy to which Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson belong.

Any of those directors would I'm sure be embarrassed to be associated with this product. It's obviously derivative of their various styles, but you can't lump it into "the new whimsy" school when it is so self-consciously trying to be important and big. I hope that Russell sticks with what he does best, as in the excellent Three Kings.


Incidentally, the Toledo Blade link came off the wires and has this paragraph:

Although the amounts involved in this trade dispute are modest compared with other recent cases, the WTO's decision about the Byrd amendment is unusual in that it involved several countries taking action against one.

The International Herald Tribune story is simply by Paul Meller and has this:

Although the amounts involved in this trade dispute are modest compared with other recent cases, the Byrd Amendment decision is unusual in that it involved several countries taking action against one.

You tell me, babies. How hard is it to write "Paul Meller and wire services"?

When Conservatives Were Conservatives

Hey, why do the Republicans hate free trade? And why does Robert Byrd?

The administration signaled it would accept the penalties short term but warned that the United States would aggressively protect its own trading interests and expects fair treatment from the WTO.

Well, let it not be said again that the WTO is merely an arm of the U.S. government.

If any of you considers yourself to be a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, I'd encourage you to examine which traditional conservative beliefs the Republican party still stands for:

1) Fiscal responsibility? Nope. Deficits don't matter.

2) Cautious and strategic foreign policy? Nope. Democratic realism is surpassed by democratic globalism, the Trotskyite legacy of the neoconservative movement. Worldwide revolution, comrades!

3) Free trade? Clearly not.

4) Protection of civil liberties? Was Ashcroft just a dream?

I wonder how the Clinton presidency would fare with these questions.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

St. Paul

While this is generally an interesting article on the relationship between Hmong and whites in St. Paul, I do have a particular problem with the piece. I'm obviously in no position to know whether or not Mr. Vang's claims about being called racist names and being shot at are true, and even if true they would in no way justify what he did, but the article really gives short shrift to the possibility that Mr. Vang didn't start the altercation, without any firm evidence for discounting the idea offhand:

Some said they wondered whether there was more to the case - and thought they might have gained some understanding when they learned Mr. Vang had told the police that the local hunters used ethnic slurs against him and fired at him before he started shooting. A police statement by a hunter wounded in the incident makes no mention of ethnic slurs.

Well, if the white hunter didn't mention any racist slurs, I guess it's case closed.

But people in Wisconsin said that complaints by some Asian hunters of insults or harassment from white hunters were exaggerated. "I haven't heard any anger against the Hmong," said Patty Behrndt, manager of a bookstore in Rice Lake, the main town in this part of the North Woods.

I can't even begin to see the relation between the first sentence and the supposedly supportive quote. Accusations of racism can't be swept aside so easily, and it is lazy journalism to use a random man-on-the-street quote in an attempt to do so. The writer is understandably walking on eggshells in an attempt to respect the dead when there is not yet any evidence to dishonor their names, but the end result is pretty atrocious.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Malenkaya Kholodnaya Voyna

(or "little cold war," continuing on the Scoop Jackson theme...)

Ah, the good ol' days, when international crises simply meant a tug-of-war between Russia and the West regarding influence in the Eastern bloc. After Powell escalated the rhetoric a couple of days ago, Putin responded in kind yesterday:

But Putin warned the international community against interference and said only Ukrainians could decide the winner of their election.

Oops, he'll be pissed when he realizes he was tricked into admitting that! What ever happened to Russian message discipline?

Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, Washington State Senator, 1952-1983 Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004


"Free men are engaged in a bitter contest with powerful and resourceful adversaries. The responsibility of America is to defend vital national interests, promote the economic well-being of the nation, and to use its power and influence with the good sense that marks a great nation. This is no easy task.

If our country is to stay the course until the world finds a way to assure peace with justice, then the Presidency, and the State and Defense Departments, as well as other national security agencies, must measure up to the highest standards of competence. And members of Congress, too.

Americans have a healthy distrust of the concentration of power. I say 'healthy' because it is so easy for a man to confuse his possession of power with the possession of wisdom. The tendency to this confusion is difficult to resist, as every parent knows. Wisely, the American people suspect claims to omniscience."

Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, The National Security Council, 1965

Better Planning in State and Defense

"One point seems beyond argument. Today, effective national security planning depends on intimate day-to-day contact between the diplomat, the soldier and his civilian colleagues, the scientist, the economist, and others.

Many believe that the planning process in State and Defense would be improved by enlisting the talents of officials experienced in a wider variety of fields than is now the case. They also seeks ways of encouraging planning cross-fertilization through greater use of planning teams whose members represent diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.

These questions follow:
1. Should officials with more diverse backgrounds and experience be brought into the policy-planning process in State and Defense?
2. Is there need for a joint Planning Staff for the State Department, Defense Department, and Joint Chiefs of Staff?
3. Can greater use be made of ad hoc interdepartmental task forces on special issues of national security policy?
4. What is the proper relationship between the State and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and/or the Joint Staff of the JCS)? Should a representative of the Secretary of State participate in discussions of the JCS when appropriate?"

Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, The National Security Council, 1965


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Poisoning the Challenger

I have to admit that I am impressed by the stand that the Bush administration is taking against the fraudulent election in the Ukraine. The reason is that it is no secret that Russia wants Moscow-friendly Yanukovich in as president, and for the last few years the US/Russia relationship has consisted of a lot of looking the other way so as to maintain friendly relations. In fact, Putin said just before the US elections that he favored Bush because Bush didn't meddle in Russian affairs. The Ukraine is obviously not an internal Russian affair, it is its own affair, but anyway it is impressive to see Powell speak out so boldly against "Moscow's candidate."

Coming in from the Cold

The Goss-era CIA exodus continues:

A former intelligence official described the two as "very senior guys" who were stepping down because they did not feel comfortable with new management.

These guys were at the very top of CIA covert operations: the heads of the Europe and Far East divisons.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Confidential to Bill

Here is the full text of the 9/11 Commission's recommendation on moving covert actions to the Defense Department, including motivations for said recommendation:

Recommendation: Lead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department. There it should be consolidated with the capabilities for training, direction, and execution of such operations already being developed in the Special Operations Command.

  • Before 9/11, the CIA did not invest in developing a robust capability to conduct paramilitary operations with U.S. personnel. It relied on proxies instead, organized by CIA operatives without the requisite military training. The results were unsatisfactory.

  • Whether the price is measured in either money or people, the United States cannot afford to build two separate capabilities for carrying out secret military operations, secretly operating standoff missiles, and secretly training foreign military or paramilitary forces. The United States should concentrate responsibility and necessary legal authorities in one entity.

  • The post-9/11 Afghanistan precedent of using joint CIA-military teams for covert and clandestine operations was a good one. We believe this proposal to be consistent with it. Each agency would concentrate on its comparative advantages in building capabilities for joint missions. The operation itself would be planned in common.

  • The CIA has a reputation for agility in operations. The military has a reputation for being methodical and cumbersome. We do not know if these stereotypes match current reality; they may also be one more symptom of the civil-military misunderstanding we described in chapter 4. It is a problem to be resolved in policy guidance and agency management, not in the creation of redundant, overlapping capabilities and authorities in such sensitive work. The CIA's experts should be integrated into the military's training, exercises, and planning. To quote a CIA official now serving in the field: "One fight, one team."

  • So what Safire terms "radical" is really a move towards consolidation, eliminating redundancy, improving training, and generally removing the turf mentality of the current intelligence setup. I have plenty of problems with the Defense Department, especially under Rumsfeld - as the Commission states earlier in their report, the Defense Department has become an empire, with a budget larger than the GDP of Russia. They have their own in-house "state department" and intelligence gathering operations which help to keep them insular, bloated and generally uncooperative with other governmental agencies, but I don't think that transferring covert operations to the Defense Department will worsen this problem. Taken together with the other Commission recommendations, the Pentagon will go back to being what it is supposed to be: one cog among several working together, with new central oversight and less redundancy. "One team, one fight."

    All of the Commission's reasons for this move seem irrefutable to me.

    Replacing Bill

    What with Safire leaving his Op-Ed podium (though staying on with the 'On Language' bit), rumors and suggestions are flying around regarding the impending replacement. My first thought was Andrew Sullivan, and apparently a lot of others had the same idea . The main assumption is that Safire will be replaced with another conservative, which I think is a good idea. Brooks and Friedman fall to the right, but the rest of the NYT Op-Ed contributors could be considered centrist or left-leaning.

    My number two choice is Christopher Hitchens, who is not exactly a conservative but has nonetheless been one of the most prominent hawks in the commentariat these past few years.

    My third choice is Francis Fukuyama, an intellectual with impeccable neocon credentials who also has demonstrated the ability to point out when the emperor has no clothes . And what with the very public fallout between Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer, it could make for some interesting shots across the bows of the NYT and the Post.

    Op-Eds of the Day

    William Safire seems to think that the real heroes are those who stood up to this insidious intelligence reform. One point he singles out seems particularly erroneous, however:

    I'd like the next Congress to take a hard look at a radical notion in the current bill - to strip the C.I.A. of its covert-action arm and assign that function to the Pentagon. That calls for all-out war or no action at all - when sometimes it is wise to operate in the gray area of plausible denial.

    So...if the Pentagon is in charge of covert actions, then there's no such thing as covert actions? Safire is probably choosing a good time to be stepping down from his post at the old gray lady.

    Kristof, meanwhile, takes on a worthy target in the Left Behind book series:

    The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."

    Gosh, what an uplifting scene!

    If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.

    I worked at a library for quite a while and was always amazed -- and disgusted -- at how popular these books are with young kids. I can't imagine that the best way to instill true Christian values in young kids, if that is one's goal, is via the fire and brimstone route. But how can you argue with guys like this:

    Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the co-authors of the series, have both e-mailed me (after I wrote about the "Left Behind" series in July) to protest that their books do not "celebrate" the slaughter of non-Christians but simply present the painful reality of Scripture.

    Arguing with fundamentalists has never been less fun.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004


    So it's not that Rumself opposed the intelligence reform legislation in the House necessarily, it's just that, in his own words, 'What they're in is a very complicated negotiation up there.'

    Pessimistic Approval?

    These polls differ by a few points, but it's pretty interesting how news organizations spin a relatively small difference in polling numbers into widely different headlines:

    Poll: Majority Give Bush Good Job Approval Mark

    Americans Show Clear Concerns on Bush Agenda

    Well, they're both right. Bush's approval rating is between 51% and 54%, but both polls show concern that the Iraq war was a mistake and, regardless of whether respondents approved of the war to begin with, nearly 75% are worried about the way things are going there now. Two-thirds of all those polled in the NYT/CBS poll, including a majority of Republicans, believe that cutting the deficit is more important than cutting taxes.

    Monday, November 22, 2004


    Strange that neither CNN nor MSNBC feel that the events unfolding in the Ukraine merit front-page coverage.

    Did They Check the Yellow Pages?

    So when U.S. troops finally found al-Zarqawi's command center, it was basically a matter of following the signs:

    According to CNN's footage, the suspected al-Zarqawi command center was in an imposing house with concrete columns and a large sign in Arabic reading "Al-Qaeda Organization" and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

    (thanks to Wonkette for the link)

    Artest the Idiot

    I'm now taking suggestions on how the US military could best put Ron Artest's surplus of energy to good use. He's got several months of nothing to do, so let's put him to work.

    Iran Games

    It seems that recent Pentagon simulations regarding the stopping of Iran's production of atomic weapons involve military strikes against the country. More on such war simulations here and here. All I know is that if these war simulations are at all similar to the game Global Power which I have on my PC, then I know how all of this will end: with me losing.

    I would support limited strikes against Iran, as it is a clear danger in the region, but it is sobering to think how limited our options are now because of the misguided war in Iraq. David Sanger has the details:

    With roughly 130,000 troops stationed in Iraq for a while - and hundreds of thousands more supplying them, training to replace them, or just coming off duty there - Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice lack the kind of flexibility to deal with crises around the world that they had four years ago...
    The result is that "we may have maxed out on hawkishness for a while,'' said Daniel Benjamin, who served on the National Security Council under President Clinton and was deeply involved in the first, unsuccessful, efforts to curb Al Qaeda in the 1990's. There will be "many opportunities to sound hawkish'' on North Korea and Iran, said Mr. Benjamin, but Mr. Bush has limited options in both places.

    It is difficult to imagine getting many other countries on board. The bright side is that Iran may be coming to its senses on its own.

    Sunday, November 21, 2004

    House of Horrors

    In other twisted news out of the House of Representatives, a bill that would enact recommendations of the 9/11 commission has been stalled because of a lack of support among some conversative Republicans. The bill does have pretty broad bi-partisan support, but certain factions on the right who are apparently operating at the behest of the Defense Department are stalling. It basically boils down to the territorial nature of the existing intelligence agencies, who are unwilling to relinquish a degree of control (especially budgetary control) to a national intelligence overseer.

    Speaking of the 9/11 commission, I can't recommend enough the 9/11 Commission Report, which I am currently making my way through. I dragged my feet on reading it for a while, as we were hearing long before its release that it was a compromised document as far as willingness to lay blame in the places where blame needed to be doled out, but it seems about as comprehensive as I could have hoped for. If you don't want to pay for it (though it's cheap), you can download it for free (but it's lllloong).

    When these fellas ride into town, the locals scramble under the boardwalks.  Posted by Hello

    GOP Watch

    Man, you can't take a vacation without the Republicans first trying to slip something past you. And by you, I mean the House Democrats. First it was the insertion of an anti-abortion provision into the spending omnibus. Regardless of your views on abortion, this isn't how the government is supposed to work, folks. Just before voting on said omnibus, Democrats discovered that a Republican representative from Oklahoma had inserted a provision making anyone's tax returns available to Congressional staff: see link above. Deeply embarrassed Republicans claimed that the insertion was a mistake and that that provision of the omnibus stands no chance of going into law.

    When a document is 1630 pages and is a must-pass piece of legislation such as a spending omnibus, the situation is simply too ripe for abuse, as certain House Republicans have demonstrated. There is simply no way for congressmen who received a copy of the omnibus in the early morning to have it thoroughly read by the evening vote. As John McCain notes, this shows how broken the system really is. It's reminiscent of the Patriot Act, another piece of legislation that congressmen could've spent a little more time reading, to say the least.


    As many of you will know, the governor's race in Washington has still not been decided and a mandatory recount is underway to determine whether Rossi's very slim lead over Gregoire holds. Republicans are trying to prevent many votes in heavily-Democratic King County from being recounted, because they are not machine-read ballots. So much for "every vote counts." This isn't about equal protection under the law, it's about employing any means to the end. Meanwhile, Democrats are asking that Republican counties be required to recount their ballots by flashlight with one arm tied behind their back.

    Update: I forgot to mention, California Representative Barbara Boxer was going to stall on the spending omnibus until the anti-abortion provision was removed, but she relented when Senator Bill Frist promised that the Senate would hold a separate vote on the issue in the Spring. So we have a long Winter ahead of wondering how good Frist's word is.

    Saturday, November 20, 2004


    Check out Dexter Filkins's excellent first-hand account of the battle for Falluja in tomorrow's NY Times.

    Guardian Bonus

    This is the intro to a profile of Condoleeza Rice:

    OK, so she likes invading countries, killing thousands of innocent civilians, and imposing US-style capitalism across the globe. This modern-day Boudicca is probably the most evil woman the planet has seen since Margaret Thatcher. But, that aside, you have to admit it: Condoleezza Rice is one helluva lady.

    Pretty impressive combination of sexism and general simple-mindedness.

    The Guardian and the US

    As David Letterman would ask, is this anything?

    I noted before about the Guardian reporting on stories from the US with wording suspiciously similiar to American newspapers or wire services. Something caught my eye again today. This time the subject is a securities fraud prosecution in California, and the Guardian article is very similar to the SEC legal brief itself. At first it was a similarity of wording I noticed, but then I realized that the logical structure of the two sources is almost identical in certain points. For convenience sake I put the relevant sections of the SEC document and the Guardian article below, respectively, with similar portions highlighted:

    According to documents filed by the Commission in the federal court for the Northern District of California, Tri-West Investment Club ("Tri-West") and Alyn Waage, a Canadian citizen residing in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, may have raised more than $30 million from investors in the U.S. and abroad. The Commission's complaint alleges that Tri-West, through its website, solicits a minimum $1,000 investment in a "bank debenture trading program" secured by "certain key International `Prime Banks.'" Tri-West claims to guarantee a 120% annual rate of return with no risk to investors. In fact, according to the Commission, the securities offered by Tri-West are entirely fictitious; "bank debenture trading programs" and other purported "Prime Bank" instruments do not exist.

    Tri-West's website further claims that the "bank debenture trading program" is managed by Haarlem Universal Corporation, purportedly "one of the largest and most prestigious trading companies in the world" with a thirty year history of generating high returns for investors.

    According to the Commission, however, Haarlem is not a registered investment company, and has been in existence only since the scheme began in 1999.
    The scheme ran from 1999 to September 2001, using a website to solicit investments promising guaranteed returns of 120% in a "bank debenture trading programme".

    According to the site, which has been closed, the investment was managed by Haarlem Universal Corporation "one of the largest and most prestigious trading companies in the world" with a 30-year history of generating high returns for investors.

    The company was not a registered investment company and has been in existence only since the scam began in 1999, the court heard.

    The extracts themselves are unedited, i.e. the three paragraphs of the Guardian article are adjacent to each other as are the paragraphs from the SEC document. This is all obviously complicated by the fact that both the article and the SEC brief quote the same website, but that really only explains the direct quote about it being a large and prestigious company.

    It seems clear to me that the author of the Guardian article used the SEC document as the basis for this article, but even then I am not certain it is plagiarism. The document is clearly a primary source and not another newssource, but it stills seem dubious to use the wording and logical structure of that document without acknowledgment and direct quotes. The author of the Guardian article, by the way, was David Teather, with whom I'm not familiar.

    Nightly News

    I sometimes wonder about Brian Williams, Brokaw's impending replacement. I always found him amiable and funny on his many appearances on Conan, but over the last months some of his comments in interviews have raised my eyebrows a bit. The first I remember is after Reagan's death, when the networks began a two-week orgy of hagiographical coverage, and even some network anchors were admitting that the country had long since reached the Reagan saturation point. Williams was very vocal about how it certainly was appropriate to dedicate constant airtime for two weeks to the death of this man, and basically that there was nothing to apologize for.

    Williams was just on Leno and he made a peculiar jab at blue-staters that Leno sort of let slide with an "ooookay" and a change of subject. Talking about the need for red-staters and blue-staters to start a national conversation so as to end the polarization in our country, he added that some people just "can't understand why a family would send their son to Falluja to fight so hard". First of all, I don't think that disillusionment with the Iraq war is split down partisan lines, though if that were his only argument I would let it go. It seems to be a more general type of cheap shot at people on the left, i.e. that red-staters are up for fighting the good fight and that liberals are home biting their pillows. To put it another way, that liberals aren't even familiar with the concept of sacrifice for ideals. Make up your own mind by watching it here, and let me know what you think. This guy is about to become the anchor of the highest-rated news program in the country.

    Friday, November 19, 2004

    I Put My Faith in the Dollar Bill...

    I'm taking bets on how long till White House Spokesman Scott McLellan maintains that the administration has a strong-dollar policy.

    Two Weeks

    Nov. 2 - Theo Van Gogh murdered by Islamic fanatics in Amsterdam.

    Nov. 3 - Nov. 17 - More than 20 attacks and counterattacks involving mosques, other Muslim targets, and churches in the Netherlands. Poll reveals that 40% of Dutch hope that their Islamic countrymen no longer feel at home in the Netherlands.

    Nov. 17 - An Orthodox Jew is shot dead in Antwerp, Belgium . Still unknown if the attack was anti-Semitic.

    Nov. 17 - Spanish football fans hurl racist abuse at England's black footballers.

    The Third Way

    I came across this list of reasons for Democrats not to move to Canada and was pretty astounded at number seven:

    7. Say so long to the DLC. Barry Goldwater suffered a resounding defeat when he ran for president against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but his campaign spawned a conservative movement that eventually gained control of the Republican Party and elected Ronald Reagan in 1980. Progressives should see the excitement surrounding Dean, Kucinich, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton during the primary season as the foundation for a similar takeover of the Democratic Party.

    Any Democrat who believes that Kerry's defeat means the end of the centrist element of the party is going to be sorely disappointed, and deserves to be disappointed. The Democrats were at their strongest under the Clinton/DLC mold and the party would do well to remember its own history. Not surprisingly, Clinton tells it best:

    America has two great dominant strands of political thought -- we're represented up here on this stage -- conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barrier that are no longer needed or should never have been erected in the first place.

    It seemed to me that in 1992 we needed to do both to prepare America for the 21st century: to be more conservative in things like erasing the deficit and paying down the debt and preventing crime and punishing criminals and protecting and supporting families, and enforcing things like child support laws and reforming the military to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

    And we needed to be more progressive in creating good jobs, reducing poverty, increasing the quality of public education, opening the doors of college to all, increasing access to health care, investing more in science and technology, and building new alliances with our former adversaries, and working for peace across the world and peace in America across all the lines that divide us.

    Now, when I proposed to do both, we said that all of them were consistent with the great American values of opportunity, responsibility and community. We labeled the approach "New Democrat." It then became known as the third way, as it was embraced by progressive parties across the world.

    Then go check out what New Donkey has to say about the false dichotomy of the Democrats having to either move to the right on the major social issues or cut our losses as far as appealing to voters who have been voting Republican.


    Has the debacle of Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress taught us nothing? Powell's claims about Iran developing nuclear missile capabilities were apparently based on a single "walk-in" source, and the information was not even meant to be shared with allies at this point, let alone the press. This begs some interesting questions about how a person can come in off the street with a handful of drawings, and a week later Powell is making bold claims about the country based solely on this. I don't doubt that Iran is the biggest threat of the region, but Powell seems intent on shredding his last bits of credibility.

    Thursday, November 18, 2004


    Just a quick note to say I think Andrew gets it wrong here . First off, what is his basis for saying that Clinton would never promote a black woman to such a position? Second, almost every piece on Condi has noted that she is the first black woman to fill the position, which may not be praise in itself but could nonetheless be construed as giving Bush credit. It is at least recognition of the fact. I'm not sure where he gets this idea that the left has ignored the fact that Bush has named women and minorities to his cabinet. Do we really need to heap praise on every such move Bush makes, when after all it is simply the natural and right thing to do, to provide equal opportunities?

    I think Sullivan is more even-handed than many of his critics on both sides give him credit for, but every once in a while he comes out with an outlandish attack on the left (think of his post-9/11 attacks on the "fifth column").

    Fsyo Normalna

    Because of publishing problems, there are a couple of posts below from yesterday that just went up now. I think everything is sorted now.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    The Powell Doctrine

    "I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud." I didn't think it was possible, but my dislike of Michael Powell just doubled. As FCC Chairman he has basically acted as an overpaid nanny for the country, believing it is his duty to impress his prudish values on us all in the condescending belief that we don't know any better. It's hard to convey how ridiculous the Janet Jackson incident seemed from a British viewpoint, when late-night TV in the UK is regularly more risque and yet still the British people haven't turned to pillars of salt.


    Just got back from a series of presentations wherein first-year PhD students had to give an overview of their intended research. Keep an eye on this guy, as one of his interests is the automatic detection of bias in news. Imagine how such an objective criterion of bias could change journalism. Rupert Murdoch would have to go back to peddling magazines out of his van (or whatever).

    The Election Isn't Over... Washington. Rossi (R) leads Gregoire (D) in the race for Governor by only 19 votes, two weeks after election day. Actually, make that 18 votes, as my vote for Gregoire is a late-arriving overseas vote that probably hasn't been counted yet. We'll be seeing a recount no matter who stands in the lead by the end of today.


    As part of the GOP pro-crime agenda, House Republicans move to prevent leaders from having to step down if indicted in a felony . Was it worth it, Tom? Having increased the GOP majority in the House by a few seats, I suppose a couple ethical admonishments and an impending felony indicment are nothing really.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    The Guardian and the US

    So I've read The Guardian pretty much daily for the last three years, since the first time that I moved to Europe, and I have to say that my disenchantment with the paper also grows daily. The things that I love about it are now pretty much restricted to the arts (esp. Alexis Petridis), Steve Bell, and some political commentary, but the actual journalism and editorial management of the paper can be infuriating. The obvious complaint, which is much-noted, is that the paper harbors strong anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment - blindly so. With the obvious exception of pop culture coverage, the number of stories that portray the US in a flattering light are neglible.

    I've picked up on something more disturbing about The Guardian's journalism in the last year or so, however. The correspondents in the US, especially Gary Younge, Julian Borger, and Suzanne Goldenberg, cover stories in the US with prose that is eerily similar to that which comes off the AP wires or from other American newssources, but without any acknowledgment of other news services in the byline. My first recognitions of this were very casual, just having a general feeling that the wording in a given story appearing in the Guardian was very reminiscent of the same story's coverage that appeared the previous day or so at CNN or the NY Times. I had that same recognition again today, and decided to pursue my hunch, with startling results.

    As some of you may know, the rapper O.D.B. died yesterday. First check out how the AP described his rap style, and then check Gary Younge's appraisal:

    With his unorthodox delivery - alternately slurred, hyper and nonsensical - O.D.B. stood out even in the nine-man Clan, and as a solo artist he released hit singles such as "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Got Your Money."


    On stage ODB's performance was unorthodox - alternately slurred, hyper and nonsensical - but in the studio he was productive, releasing hit singles such as Shimmy Shimmy Ya and Got Your Money and appearing on remixes with artists such as Mariah Carey.

    The byline is simple 'Gary Younge.' Unfortunately, this is the first piece of evidence I have bothered to collect after having such a recognition, but I'll be keeping an eye on the paper's US coverage.

    Not that I Will Avoid The Mariners Completely

    Well, it's less high-falutin' than ombudsman, and besides, I don't mean it in a solely media-critical sense. The title is ambiguous enough to suggest that I might be so ambitious as to edit the public. I guess we'll see. After writing a baseball blog for a while, I think that a wide-ranging, vague charter is just what I need.