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?