Monday, April 30, 2007

Grim Old Party - New York Times

David Brooks says that Newt Gingrich is the Republicans' savior. Rather odd, because Newt was the person who defined Republicans as hard-right tax-cutting fundamentalists in the 1990s:

Grim Old Party - New York Times: The Republicans suffered one unpleasant event in November 2006, and they are headed toward an even nastier one in 2008. The Democrats have opened up a wide advantage in party identification and are crushing the G.O.P. among voters under 30. Moreover, there has been a clear shift, in poll after poll, away from Republican positions on social issues and on attitudes toward government. Democratic approaches are favored on almost all domestic, tax and fiscal issues, and even on foreign affairs.

The public, in short, wants change. And yet the Republicans refuse to offer that. On Capitol Hill, there is a strange passivity in Republican ranks. Republicans are privately disgusted with how President Bush has led their party and the nation, but they don’t publicly offer any alternatives. They just follow sullenly along. They privately believe the country needs new approaches to the war against Islamic extremism, but they don’t offer them. They try to block Democratic initiatives, but they don’t offer the country any new ways to think about the G.O.P. They are like people quietly marching to their doom....

The party is blessed with a series of charismatic [presidential] candidates who are not orthodox Republicans. But the pressures of the campaign are such that these candidates have had to repress anything that might make them interesting.... Mitt Romney created an interesting health care reform, but he’s suppressing that.... Rudy Giuliani has an unusual profile that won him a majority of votes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, of all places, but he’s suppressing that.... John McCain has a record on taxes and spending that suggests he really could take on entitlements. But... he suppressed that.... Fred Thompson may enter the race as the Authentic Conservative, even though deep in his heart he’s no more George Allen than the rest of them.

The big question is, Why are the Republicans so immobile? There are several reasons. First... the conservative movement has grown a collection of special interest groups that restrict its mobility... the Club for Growth and Americans for Tax Reform. Anybody who offers unorthodox social policies gets whacked by James Dobson.... Second... the corrupting influence of teamism... sticking together with other conservatives, not thinking.... Third, there is the oppressive power of the past... the sacred parameters of thought.... Fourth, there is the bunker mentality. Republican morale has been brutalized by the Iraq war and the party’s decline. This state of emotional pain is not conducive to risk-taking and free and open debate. In sum, Republicans know they need to change, but they have closed off all the avenues for change.

The tale is not entirely hopeless. McCain seems now to be throwing off his yoke. Newt Gingrich is way ahead of his colleagues when it comes to new ideas and policies. The libertarians and paleoconservatives have been losing for so long they are suddenly quite interesting. There are even a few of us who think it is time to revive the Alexander Hamilton-Theodore Roosevelt legacy. Change could, miraculously, come soon. But the odds are it will take a few more crushing defeats before Republicans tear down the self-imposed walls that confine them.

Condi Rice, Stupidest Woman Alive

This would drive anybody shrill:

The Raw Story | Rice backs off Iraq 'imminent threat' claim, then redefines term George Stephanopoulos asks Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice if Iraq ever posed an "imminent threat" to the United States. "I think that -- an imminent threat. Certainly Iraq posed a threat," Rice responds. "The question was, was it going to get worse over time or was it going to get better." Rice goes on to say that the Bush administration assessment was that the threat from Iraq was "getting worse" and had to be dealt with.

"But [Iraq was] not an imminent threat," presses Stephanopoulous.

"George, the question of imminence isn't whether or not someone will strike tomorrow, it's whether you believe you're in a stronger position today to deal with the threat or whether you're going to be in a stronger position tomorrow," replies Rice. "It was the president's assessment that the situation in Iraq was getting worse from our point of view."

Rice's redefinition of the term "imminent threat," comes just over a month after former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton appeared on CNN claiming that the President never made the argument that Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent threat." As RAW STORY reported last month, a number of Bush administration officials used the term in the run up to the Iraq war.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Glenn Greenwald Watches Journamalist Adam Nagourney

And Glenn is not a happy camper:

Suburban Guerrilla » Eat the Press: I’m not one who subscribes to the view that our Beltway culture is so irredeemably vapid and broken that the entire political system is doomed, but those who do believe that were bequeathed several new gifts today for use in support of that claim, including:

(1) This article by The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney, in which he recounts the central role he and the Times played in the “John-Edwards-Loves-His-Hair-Like-a-Sissy” story, by publishing anonymous “Breck Girl” smears back in 2004. The smears were from what Nagourney back then called “Bush associates” (but which he today describes as people at “senior levels of the Bush political operation”). That article granted anonymity to “Bush associates” to call Edwards a girl and to say that John Kerry “looks French.”

For some entirely indiscernible reason, it appears that Nagourney woke up recently and was hit with the realization that maybe one of the reasons why such petty and vacuous stories dominate our political discourse is because he and his esteemed colleagues at The New York Times eagerly offer themselves up as instruments for disseminating such personal smears. Announces Nagourney, as though he has discovered some sort of complex, previously unknown Truth:

"Our story may have had the result of not only previewing what the Bush campaign intended to do, but, by introducing such memorably biting characterizations into the political dialogue, helping it."

Really? So if the New York Times uncritically publishes petty, anonymous personal smear quotes about Democratic candidates in its front page section without printing any response or critical analysis of any kind, that actually has the effect of helping to introduce such smears into our political discourse? Apparently, it took Nagourney three years to discover that novel journalistic insight.

Most amazingly of all, Nagourney still is incapable of making the connection between his stories with the “Edwards-is-a-Girl” theme and the comments last month from Ann Coulter that everyone — just everyone — agreed were so very, very wrong. Other than the fact that Coulter used a prohibited word and Nagourney (and Maureen Dowd and The Politico and on and on and on) did not, the stories are precisely the same — both in design and in effect.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Daily Background: Double Plagiarism at CBS News

The Daily Background watches as journamalist Katie Couric commits double plagiarism:

The Daily Background » Blog Archive » Double plagiarism at CBS News: By Arlen Parsa: Welcome, Raw Story and Reuters readers! Please consider subscribing to our RSS feed for more content like this...

Katie Couric’s news team has admitted to committing plagiarism... with an almost wholesale copy and paste job of a commentary written for the Wall Street Journal. Couric has a daily webcast segment which CBS calls “Katie Couric’s Notebook” which is regularly promoted on their website as well as an official YouTube account. The segments (typically lasting about a minute) are portrayed as Couric’s own personal opinions on various relevant topics. She signs off each one by saying “I’m Katie Couric, and that’s a page from my notebook.” On the CBS website, they are posted under the name “Katie Couric.”

But last week, Couric read nearly word-for-word a commentary piece published in the Wall Street Journal about libraries. The network promoted Couric’s segment as her own work- not the work of a producer or the Journal. “Only On The Web: Sales of juvenile books have risen dramatically in recent years, as kids skip the library and head for the store. Katie Couric says the local library still has much to offer,” a promotional description read. It turns out that Couric does not even write her own commentaries; CBS has admitted that they are written by her team of producers in first person to make it seem as though she is sharing candid thoughts. A CBS producer has been fired for plagiarism, although the company has not released the producer’s name.

Obviously, this type of situation would never have happened in the first place had Couric bothered to write her own brief commentaries instead of reading someone else’s work from a TelePrompTer.

Ironically instead of only portraying someone else’s work as hers in the library “Page from my notebook” as she normally does, Couric portrayed someone else’s work which was already being portrayed as someone else’s work: a double case of plagiarism.

Matthew Yglesias on General Petraeus, Plan F, and Phil Carter

Matthew Yglesias writes this:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Big Heel: Phillip Carter's coverage of Iraq continues to be enlightening, though his rhetorical pitch is far too kind. Consider this:

Gen. Petraeus and his brain trust have devised the best possible Plan F, given the resources available to the Pentagon and declining patience for the war at home. But the Achilles heel of this latest effort is the Maliki government. It is becoming increasingly clear to all in Baghdad that its interests—seeking power and treasure for its Shiite backers—diverge sharply from those of the U.S.-led coalition. Even if Gen. Petraeus' plan succeeds on the streets of the city, it will fail in the gilded palaces of the Green Zone. Maliki and his supporters desire no rapprochement with the Sunnis and no meaningful power-sharing arrangement with the Sunnis and the Kurds. Indeed, Maliki can barely hold his own governing coalition together, as evidenced by the Sadr bloc's resignation from the government this week and the fighting in Basra over oil and power.

The point about Achilles' heel, as you'll recall, is that he was invulnerable everyplace else. What Carter's talking about here is as if Achilles were a totally normally person. A nice guy, smart maybe, kind to kids and his "Achilles heel" was that he dies if you stab him. Political reconciliation isn't part of Petraeus-style counterinsurgency, it's the whole thing. His counterinsurgency field manual is all about trying to design military operations that can effectively support an effective political process. The "surge" is, at best, such a military operation. But if the political process isn't effective -- which, by all accounts, it isn't -- then there's nothing there.

Words of Power: Election Fraud As Information Warfare, And A National Security Issue

I have never seen a Republican explanation of this:

Words of Power: Words of Power #22: Election Fraud As Information Warfare, And A National Security Issue: In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent - a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.(39) "When you look at the numbers, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the supposition of election fraud," concludes Freeman. "The discrepancies are higher in battleground states, higher where there were Republican governors, higher in states with greater proportions of African-American communities and higher in states where there were the most Election Day complaints. All these are strong indicators of fraud - and yet this supposition has been utterly ignored by the press and, oddly, by the Democratic Party." The evidence is especially strong in Ohio…. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Was The 2004 Election Stolen?, Rolling Stone, 6-1-06

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Frank Hoffman gets really medieval on Edward Luttwak:

Luttwak's Lament (SWJ Blog): Dr. Luttwak’s specious article. Dr. Kilcullen is too much of a gentleman to suggest that someone has not taken their medication.... Dr. Luttwak may long for the gruesome effectiveness of “the Roman model,” but he has badly misdiagnosed the disease and his overemphasis on kinetic solutions reflects poorly on his grasp of history and a bad use of history out of context. The Romans were smart enough to minimize their footprint and maximized local leadership and control over government, taxes, and religion. The benefits or “carrots” of Roman rule were more obvious than its costs, but clearly the “stick” (more accurately the gladius and pilum) was available when necessary. >But to overlook the lessons of Algeria, Vietnam, and various Middle East conflicts is remarkably selective use of history. Now that’s malpractice in my book.... What [the Field Manual] does not do is justify the need to “out terrorize the terrorist” because we recognized that such an approach is utterly incongruous with modern environmental conditions, in particular, a global media presence and an enemy that is facile enough to exploit even the perception of excessive violence to its twisted ends.... >The introductory chapter mentions religious identity and “religious extremism” as a modern day complication. But the manual offers few indications that our Classical approach, the product of the anti-colonial Revolutionary War era remains just as valid without any change. The manual alters its emphasis on non-kinetic factors and its numerous admonitions about violence with the admission that “killing extremists will be necessary.” This does not satisfy the blood lust of Dr. Luttwak apparently...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mark Kleiman: "Conservative" = "Lying racist"? Who Knew?

Mark Kleiman trashes Ross Douthat and company:

The Reality-Based Community: "Conservative" = "Lying racist"? Who knew?: 1. Professional racist Steve Sailer writes a dishonest, bigoted anti-Obama screed for The American Conservative, in which he grossly misrepresents Obama's Dreams from My Father. 2. Assistant editor Alex Koznetski, having failed to convince his bosses not to print a piece of lying trash, quits The American Conservative in protest. 3. Ross Douthat makes fun of Koznetski:

If you're not at least somewhat conservative, you probably shouldn't go to work for a magazine called, um, The American Conservative. And if you do, you probably shouldn't get all outraged and resign in protest when they turned out to be, um, conservative.

So telling racist lies is a natural and expected part of being, "um, conservative"? (Douthat doesn't challenge Konetzki's careful account of the falsehood of Sailer's review, or Sailer's own solidly racist credentials as a contributor to the VDare website.)

Am I missing something, or did Douthat just imply that "conservative" connotes "lying racist"?

If I were a non-racist, non-lying conservative, I'd be offended. It will be interesting to see if there are any still around.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Remove the "Almost", Jason

Jason Zengerle writes:

The Plank: it seemed like some conservative commentators were almost hoping that the murderer was an Islamic terrorist. He wasn't. But that hasn't stopped some of these conservative commentators from trying to link Cho Seung Hui to Islamic terrorism. Witness Charles Krauthammer's performance last night on Fox News (via The Corner), during which he discussed the pictures Cho sent to NBC:

If you look at that picture, it draws its inspiration from the manifestos, the iconic photographs of the Islamic suicide bombers over the last half-decade in Palestine, in Iraq, and elsewhere. That's what they end up leaving behind, either on al Jazeera or Palestinian TV. And he, it seems as if his inspiration for leaving the message behind in that way, might have been this kind of suicide attack, which, of course, his was.

Or maybe the picture draws its inspiration from a South Korean movie. Or maybe there was no "inspiration" at all for what Cho did--other than his clearly severe mental illness. But I guess it would be unfair to expect Krauthammer--who only was once a practicing psychiatrist--to consider that possibility.

Michael Kinsley bears a very high karmic burden for inflicting Charles Krauthammer on an unsuspecting and innocent America. I'm just sayin'.

Journamalism Watch: Colbert King Sucks Up to Fred Hiatt

Colbert King's farewell memo:

Washington City Paper: The District Line: Colby King's Farewell Memo: A Post editorial stands for something, even when the desired action does not occur. A Post editorial is an expression of the considered opinion and collective wisdom and values of the best minds in the business. It is not the special province of any writer, no matter how prolific or dogmatic he/she may be in his/her views. Allow a Post editorial become the vehicle for the expression of one person's point of view--or a minority of the board's point of view--and the editorial loses its value, even though it might be selected to lead the page. I offer this thought because Fred has assembled a first rate staff--good minds that produce great work when they all contribute to an editorial, even though there may be one writer. Editorials simply must not be used to advance one individual's causes or views. That's what columns are for

So why doesn't he dare say the truth: the work Fred Hiatt's "first rate staff" has produced on Iraq in particular and on the Bush administration more generally has been a disgrace and an embarrassment, harmful to the profession of journalism and to the country.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dan Froomkin on the Journamalism of Matt Cooper

From Froomkin's White House Watch:

Dan Froomkin - White House Blocks E-Mail Delivery - Cooper's Tale: Former Time reporter Matthew Cooper writes in his new magazine about his own personal travails as a witness in the Scooter Libby case. He evidently sees himself as quite the martyr. (At one point, describing his thinking about the possibility of going to jail to protect sources Libby and Rove, he writes: "I could do the full Mandela.") Cooper describes all sorts of tensions involved in being a celebrity reporter for a corporate behemoth, caught between a special prosecutor and promises of confidentiality to top presidential aides. But he doesn't seem to have been the least bit troubled by his failure to do his job -- if you consider the job of a journalist to inform the public, or at the very least not willfully misinform the public. There is no sense in this piece that Cooper ever felt the urge to report his way out of his bind -- and find some way to tell the public what really happened. By contrast, in this October 2003 story, for instance, his magazine reported: "White House spokesman Scott McClellan said accusations of Rove's peddling information are 'ridiculous.' Says McClellan: 'There is simply no truth to that suggestion.'" Cooper (along with at least two of his fellow contributors to that story) knew that to be an utter falsehood. But they printed it anyway, without any context or -- as far as I know -- any qualms.

Glenn Greenwald on Modern Journamalism

He writes:

Glenn Greenwald - Salon: none of this is substantive criticism. It is just petty, cheap personality-based mockery of the strain that dominates (and degrades and destroys) our political discourse -- it is Al Gore inventing the Internet and claiming to be the inspiration for Love Story, and John Kerry wind-surfing and speaking French. It is all just mindless gossipy shorthand intended to fuel right-wing caricatures and platitudes that have nothing to do with substance and everything to do with demonizing the personality of these political figures in order to render them ugly and embarrassing -- hence, Edwards is a girlish fop and Obama is an intellectual lightweight who relies on empty fancy-sounding buzzphrases in lieu of substance.

What is notable here is not so much the specific petty attacks, but the method of how they are disseminated and engrained as conventional wisdom among our Really Smart Political Insiders. This is the process that occurred here, and it is the process that repeats itself endlessly:

STEP 1: A new right-wing gossip (Ben Smith) at a new substance-free political rag (The Politico) seizes on some petty, manufactured incident to fuel personality caricatures of Democratic candidates.

STEP 2: The old right-wing gossip (Drudge) uses his old substance-free political rag (The Drudge Report) to amplify the inane personality caricatures.

STEP 3: Right-wing hacks with pretenses of respectability -- like Mickey Kaus and others -- follow the script by "analyzing" the gossip and embracing it.

STEP 4: National media outlets -- such as AP and CNN -- whose world is ruled by Drudge, turn the gossip into "news stories."

STEP 5: Our Serious Beltway Political Analysts -- in this case, the very somber and smart Substantive Journalists at The New Republic -- mindlessly repeat all of it, thereby solidifying it as conventional wisdom, showing that "even Democrats and liberals are embarrassed by their candidates."

One should note here that Step 5, the Final Stage, is almost always sponsored by those who endlessly proclaim how irresponsible and substance-free and unserious political bloggers are, and who thereafter write pieces which do nothing other than repeat the latest Drudge gossip.

James Fallows on Paul Wolfowitz

Fallows writes:

James Fallows | Author and Journalist » Blog Archive » Wolfowitz = Swaggart, chap. 1: I was wrong to suggest that Paul Wolfowitz was like Robert McNamara. That is disrespectful to McNamara. The better comparison is to Jimmy Swaggart. Let me explain, through the roundabout medium of Norman Podhoretz....

That is, [Podhoretz] could end up agreeing with my specific arguments if he believed I was, deep down, in favor of American strength.... But he might think something different if he suspected that I was merely grabbing another argument to denigrate the military. That is: first he’d figure out whether I was with-him or against-him. That would tell him whether to agree or disagree with my analysis. He didn’t put it quite that bluntly — and he was perfectly affable about it — but that was the point.

Everybody is like this to some degree. But in modern U.S. politics, I think the neocon/Bush comb is more “tribal” in its thinking than anyone else is. If you’re on the team, it’s very hard for you to do or say anything wrong. If not, the reverse. For instance: no organ of either the “mainstream” or the actually leftist press is as disciplined about propping up allies, no matter what, and shooting enemies on sight as are the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and most of what’s on Fox News....

This brings us back to Paul Wolfowitz. A natural extension of the in-group/tribal approach to life is the inability to ask or wonder: how would this look if the other side did it? How will it look to people who mistrust us or don’t automatically believe that everything we do is for a higher cause? This is a kind of political autism — an inability to sense or imagine other people’s reactions — and it runs the gamut. How would we feel about someone else “water boarding” our prisoners? How would we feel about the other political party intercepting our phone calls or emails? How would we like it if there were no right of habeus corpus? What would the world be like if everyone did what we are doing now?

The question Wolfowitz apparently failed to ask, is: given that I am basing my entire tenure at the World Bank on a crusade against corruption, how will it look if I extend special favors to a handful of political confidantes plus my girlfriend? Considering how many speeches I have given about those who use public office to do private favors, can I afford to dole out favors this way? Do the words “Caesar’s wife” ring any kind of bell? Or the name Jimmy Swaggart?...

And that’s why cozy self-dealing is such a problem for Paul Wolfowitz. He has said he is sorry, which is more than Cheney, or Rove, or Rumsfeld, or Gonzales has managed to choke out. But — already in a complicated position at the Bank, because of what he calls “my previous job” — he has guaranteed that no subsequent speech on his central topic, the evil of self-dealing, will ever be taken seriously by anyone he hopes to convince. Say this for Robert McNamara: he has lived his post-Vietnam life with an awareness of what he can and cannot say or do. Paul Wolfowitz, you’re no Robert McNamara.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eunomia · The Nationalist Lectures A Bishop On Catholicity

Good Law write:

Eunomia · The Nationalist Lectures A Bishop On Catholicity: "I replied that I expected the Vatican to proceed in a more catholic manner than that." -Michael Novak. This from the man who went as the lackey of Mr. Bush to tell Pope John Paul II what just war really meant (because Novak & Co. had the better understanding of the matter)!  Talk about audacitas!  So it took Novak two whole days to spit at Pope Benedict’s Urbi et Orbi address?  He’s clearly starting to lose his anti-Vatican reflexes.

Novak is, of course, attacking Pope Benedict for saying, “Nothing positive comes out of Iraq.”  Because so many “positive things” come from Iraq.  This is partly true, if you count Christian and other Iraqi refugees as ”positive things.”  This reminds me of one First Things contributor attacking Pope Benedict last summer for saying that “war is the worst solution,” because, well, it is.  Even though what the Pope said was true and consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, as I tried to show at the time, it was too wobbly of a statement for our jingo friends at First Things.  Naturally, there would hardly have been reason for folks at First Things to comment on the Pope’s remarks in that case had the war going on at the time not involved Israel or the United States. 

This week, Fr. Neuhaus at least manages to dismiss the Pope’s opinion without piling on with quite so much obvious hypocrisy, but he did have this unintentionally amusing remark:

Admittedly, it is galling when Catholics and others who are usually blithely indifferent to church teaching seize upon a papal opinion with which they agree and, suddenly becoming hyper-infallibilists, elevate it to dogmatic status.

Imagine how much more galling it is to watch those who claim to defend adherence to the entirety of church teaching justify “preventive” war to “prevent” some theoretical future threat.  It is not only “preemptive war” that cannot be found in the Catechism.  Then there is that bothersome “last resort” qualification, which the FT crowd seems not to understand.  For them, it would seem as if all that you need to have a just war is a convenient pretext that there may be some future threat of aggression from another state (of course, using this dubious moral reasoning, terrorist attacks against the U.S. are just anticipatory strikes against the people who would try to attack them later anyway–emptying just war of all meaning cuts both ways).  By the same sort of thinking, Iran would be justified in launching preventive strikes against Israel’s preventive strikes that are designed to prevent Iran’s preventive strike, and on and on it would go ad nauseam–all in the name of perfectly just self-defense, of course.  It turns an admirable aspect of the Christian moral tradition into a respectable cover for the brutal logic of rival mob bosses racing to off each other.  Pretty clearly, this talk about “defensive” preventive war simply repackages whatever is about to happen as self-defense (not unlike what the Germans did when they invaded Belgium in 1914) and the person saying it will then take umbrage at the suggestion that this is all a lot of propagandistic nonsense.  In a world where everyone is theoretically a potential aggressor (except maybe Liechtenstein and Vatican City), it no longer matters who actually strikes the first blow or provokes the conflict, and so it also no longer matters whether the supposed threat from the other state is even real.  It might be real, and that is good enough for the quack court theologians of this administration.  With every state a potential aggressor (with only the likelihood of aggression preventing us from, say, ”defensively” occupying Canada), every war can become more or less justifiable.  The horrors that this sort of perverted reasoning could lead to are not hard to imagine: if you believe a hostile state is developing nuclear weapons with the intent to use them against you, how long before it becomes the respectable First Things position that the “preventive” and “defensive” use of “tactical” nukes against that state is justified?  Depending, of course, on the “prudential judgement” of the magistrate, that is!     

Nobody is more blithely indifferent to Catholic teaching on war than Catholic neoconservatives.  His creative and, it seems to me, dishonest description of George Weigel’s awful article defending the just war merits of preventive war is a small contribution to this bad old tradition of indifference.

Now Novak isn’t satisfied with describing the address as a “low point.”  He wants you to know just how much good news there is in Iraq:

Under Saddam, scholars say there were between 75-125 murders of civilians every day. Bad as the murders are now under sectarian vengeance, the numbers of dead every day rarely reach that total, and most days are considerably below it.

Leaving aside the total lack of sourcing for this claim (”scholars say” is the laziest citation in the world), let’s think about those latter claims.  This murder rate presumably refers to all of Iraq in the Saddam era.  In Baghdad alone during the past year, there have routinely been 2,000-3,000 deaths per month that have been counted and reported, which means approximately 66-100 dead per day in Baghdad, at least during the last year.  (Incidentally, violent sectarianism has gone hand in hand with the politicisation of sect and ethnicity in the elections, which makes it unclear how those elections can be credited as something genuinely positive.)  I believe these figures do not normally include the victims of car bombs, which might raise it still higher.  That means that sectarian killings and other murders in Baghdad easily account for much of this supposed pre-war murder rate for all of Iraq, and this may hardly scratch the surface of what is happening elsewhere in the country (for which we have far less reliable numbers). 

Of course, the threat of random catastrophic violence of the car-bombing type automatically makes life in Baghdad worse than it ever was before the war.  It is bizarre to suggest otherwise.  Add to that the tens of thousands (or perhaps more) of civilians who have been or are being slain during combat operations, and you obviously have a significantly worse situation, before you even take into account deteriorating living conditions and so forth.  Millions of Iraqis, who are usually the educated professionals who have the means to get out, have fled this country that is apparently enjoying a Giulianiesque recovery from a rabid Saddam-era crime spree.  Our open borders friends usually like to talk about how immigrants are “voting with their feet” when they come here in droves, but watch as they switch gears and pretend that millions of people fleeing a country tells us nothing about the horrible state of that country when we are talking about Iraq. 

And, yes, Novak has actually cited the Sadrist rally protesting the occupation as proof of something good coming out of Iraq.  Why, look, they’re free!  Well, yes, I suppose they are after a fashion, and look how many of them have chosen to use that freedom.   

Matthew Yglesias: Dennis Ross Is a Little Insane

Matt writes:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: This is really much more Dennis Ross' field than mine, so I'd be interested to hear what others have to say about it, but I think the Israel-Palestine agenda he outlined in a column yesterday is a little insane.... This seems badly, badly flawed to me and indeed, overwhelmingly likely to produce the following outcome:

Olmert and Abbas make a cease-fire agreement. Someone from Hamas violates the cease-fire agreement. Israel re-occupies the territories. This discredits Abbas an ineffective in improving the condition of Palestinians. Hamas wins the election. Dennis Ross proclaims that conflict has been "transformed between a national conflict into a religious conflict" and America must get "out of the peace-making business for a long time. As Ross says, the upshot of this will be that "Islamists will be able to dominate the most evocative issue in the region." A great victory for Iran, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Israeli settlers, etc., unfortunate for Israel, bad for the United States, and terrible for the Palestinians. But so why is Ross proposing it?

Any conflict-resolution scenario needs to cope with potential spoilers, which is an intrinsically difficult task. The one thing you really can't do, however, is signal to the spoilers in advance that a single provocation is likely to derail implementation and derail it in a manner likely to bring the spoilers to power. You're just setting yourself up for failure.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Yes, Alberto Gonzales Was Out of the Loop

Marty Lederman:

Balkinization: this was a White House -- not a DOJ -- initiative, and its function was to remove U.S. Attorneys who were not acceptable to the President and his advisers. It makes sense, in that light, that Kyle Sampson would work closely with the White House on the process, and that the Attorney General would be inclined to go along with the White House's final decisions if he were satsified that there was a solid basis for them. So far, so good -- and it wouldn't be terribly out of the ordinary, either, except that it's increasingly clear that this was part of a much more extensive Rovian White House operation to use the mechanisms of government to skew elections to Republicans.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Robert Waldmann Names the Four Horsemen of the Stupidoclypse

He writes:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: Recognise the Four Horsement of the Stupidoclypse by one certain sign which they use as to signal membership, like Lassallians saying "the iron law of wages": They claim that the 2006 Democratic Senatorial victory was narrow even though only 9 Republicans were elected to the Seanate in the whole country.

Mickey Kaus


Charles Krauthammer

"The Democrats say they are carrying out their electoral mandate from the November election. But winning a single-vote Senate majority as a result of razor-thin victories in Montana and Virginia is hardly a landslide."

are horsement of the Stupidoclypse.

I think that Fred Barnes and Morton Kondrake are the other two, but as far as google tells me, they haven't confirmed it yet. Fred Fielding Tries to Save His Reputation?

Michael Froomkin writes: Fred Fielding Tries to Save His Reputation?: Heard an interesting snippet on NPR yesterday, and I found the transcript at NPR : Documents Show Justice Ranking U.S. Attorneys. Here’s the key quote:

In a letter Thursday, White House Counsel Fred Fielding told Congress he won’t budge from his original offer — to let Congress interview White House staffers privately, with no oath or transcript.Sources tell NPR that Fielding actually wants to negotiate with Congress about how the interviews will take place. But Fielding has not been able to persuade President Bush to go along.

Assuming this is accurate, the most likely back story to this leak is that Fred Fielding is trying to save his reputation. And that means there’s some really bad stuff lurking behind the stonewall. It also fits the public image of Bush as stonewaller-in-chief. (Shorter GW Bush: ‘Congress, read my lips, no Iraq withdrawal. But come on by for a chat and I’ll be happy to harangue you as long as you listen quietly.’)

An alternate explanation for this story is that someone, perhaps Fielding perhaps someone else, is trying to put pressure on Gonzales or the White House to see reason. But I think that’s less likely here. In previous administrations, leaks like this used to be salvos fired in internecine wars among the palace guard. That’s been remarkably not the case in this administration due to a combination of exemplary message discipline and know-nothing disinterest in both reportage and reality. Then again, Fielding earned his chops in two of those earlier administrations…

Just What Has Paul Wolfowitz's Lover Shaha Riza Been Doing at the State Department?

Steve Clemons writes:

The Washington Note: America Spent $35 million on Foundation for the Future Where Wolfowitz Lover Worked -- but State Department Does Not Know Where the Office is Located: Beyond the question of what Shaha Riza's compensation was and how she got it -- is what she has been doing and for whom. She was reportedly seconded to the multi-nationally supported "Foundation for the Future," which was really a part of America's public diplomacy game plan.

For those interested, this is a pdf of the "Chair's Summary" from the "Third Forum for the Future" held November 30-December 1, 2006 at Dead Sea, Jordan. The roster of donors to the Foundation for the Future, launched with $56 million, included a seed grant from the U.S. for $35 million: United States: $35 million European Commission: 1 million euros Spain: $1 million United Kingdom: $1 million Switzerland: $1 million Denmark :$2 million Netherlands: $1 million Greece: $1.5 million Turkey: $500,000 Italy: TBD Hungary: In kind Jordan: $1 million Qatar: $10 million Bahrain: TBD

But strangely, few seem to know much about the Foundation for the Future at the State Department. To be fair, maybe some do -- but in this interesting exchange between a journalist and State Department Deputy Press Spokesman Tom Casey, it is clear that the Foundation for the Future is not a high priority at State.

Here is the interesting exchange highlighting that no one seems to know how to make a call to the Foundation for the Future -- (does Shaha Riza have an office or phone extension wherever this office may be?):

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you something kind of on the margins of the whole World Bank Shaha Riza matter, and that is that, as you remember, Secretary Rice announced the formation or at least the launch of this Foundation for the Future in, I think, November of 2005.

And at least as far as -- well, it's very hard to find this foundation. You go to their website. They have a website but there's no phone numbers, there's no address. They appear to have not given out any grants.

They haven't set up office, that at least one can find. And considering it was launched with some fanfare at the time, I'm just curious if you could bring us up to speed a little bit as to what this foundation consists of and where you -- where it seems to be going. I don't even -- it's hard to see how much money it is that the U.S. has put into this, for one.

MR. CASEY: Neil, I actually haven't, unfortunately, briefed myself on the latest activities from the Foundation. Look, as you know, this was something that has emerged out of the Forum for the Future process. It has an international board of directors representing -- with representatives from most of the participating regional countries there as well as an executive directorate. In terms of the amount of money involved at this point and some of the specific grant programs, I'll have to look into it for you. I just don't have that at my fingertips. Sorry.

QUESTION: Are you taking the question?

MR. CASEY: Yes, I'm taking the question.

QUESTION: But is Ms. Shaha a consultant or a fulltime employee of the board? What is her status?

MR. CASEY: My understanding is she is an individual seconded by the World Bank as an advisor to the board of directors of the Foundation for the Future.

QUESTION: But she's not on the board?


QUESTION: So her official title is advisor or consultant?

MR. CASEY: My best understanding is advisor to the board, yeah.

QUESTION: So what does she do as the advisor? I mean, does she help advise on grants, or do you know what her job is?

MR. CASEY: I do not have a job description for her, no. Again, I think that's a question you could ask some of the board members.

QUESTION: Do you know where the office is?

MR. CASEY: No, but I don't know where the office is for a number of parts of the State Department offhand, Matt. So I will get you -- I will get you guys more information.

QUESTION: Isn't there an agreement for the office to be based in Beirut?

MR. CASEY: I'd have to check. I honestly don't know the details on the specifics of the foundation.

One question beyond the Wolfowitz-Riza Scandal is how many "consultants" does the Department of State (or other Departments like DoD, DoE, and others) have along these lines?

Remember the odd case of Matthew Freedman working under then Under Secretary of State John Bolton's office? Few knew what he did or what his responsibilities were justifying his six figure consultant's salary -- which he maintained while consulting private firms that had business with the government.

How much of this is happening throughout the government?

-- Steve Clemons

Matthew Yglesias Gets Counterfactual!

Matthew Yglesias writes:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: Mallaby's Wolfowitz Dissembling: Sebastian Mallaby would win my "wanker of the day" prize were we to dispense such shrill awards here. Brad DeLong has the goods on his bizarre coverage of Paul Wolfowitz. For years, he slams Wolfowitz's critics and defends his actions. Today he concedes this actions are indefensible -- you can't alienate your staff, make anti-corruption your signature issue, and then be incredibly corrupt -- but won't call for Wolfowitz to be sacked or acknowledge his previous coverage of the issue....

A comment:

And yet he's one of the less creepy conservative writers out there, especially compared to other writers at the WP. Being a good conservative writer these days is like losing an ugly contest.