July 31, 2003
VIETNAM VS. IRAQ....Is Iraq a quagmire like Vietnam? Hell, according to John O'Sullivan at NRO, even Vietnam wasn't a quagmire like Vietnam:
It was all just media spin? Talk about revisionist history.
1967 was the year of the "light at the end of the tunnel." LBJ and Robert McNamara kept telling us that North Vietnam was on the ropes, that the war was winding down, and that our boys would soon be coming home.
Then came Tet. It was indeed, as everyone agrees, a military debacle for the Viet Cong, but although the Tet Offensive did little objective damage, it did show that North Vietnam had plenty of fight left. Public opinion turned not because of media spin, and not because anyone mistakenly thought it was a massive defeat for U.S. forces, but because it demonstrated that our leaders had seriously deceived us about the course of the war. We had been led to believe the war was almost over, but in fact it was just getting started.
And the lesson? Wartime leaders need to tell the country the truth about how things are going and how long our troops are going to be fighting. If there really is a parallel between Vietnam and Iraq, that's where it lies.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (85)
POINDEXTER TO RESIGN....The infamous futures market in terrorism may or may not have been a good idea, but it turns out that it's had one positive effect: the resignation of John "Technically I'm Not A Felon" Poindexter from his position as head of the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office.
It's about time. After all, just how often to you have to demonstrate appallingly poor judgment before the Bush administration finally decides you're no longer welcome?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:13 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (31)
DEAN AND ISRAEL....As long as I'm kicking Howard Dean, there was one sentence in his speech that just floored me:
Momentum? WTF was Dean smoking when he said that?
Look, I give Clinton credit for doing everything he could to make the 2000 summit work, but he failed. The intifada was in full swing by the time Bush took office and Sharon beat Barak bloody in the Israeli elections just a couple of weeks later. Things spiraled completely out of control in the ensuing months.
Maybe Bush should have engaged earlier, but the only momentum bequeathed to him by Clinton was barreling headlong in the opposite direction of peace. So what was Dean talking about?
UPDATE: OK, I'm maybe half convinced that I overstated things. I well remember the last ditch Taba negotiations right before Clinton left office, but my impression of them was that they were pretty hopeless and Clinton was just keeping them going because — well, because why not? The horse might learn to sing, after all. However, perhaps there was more progress being made there than I thought.
On the other hand, I think some of the commenters on this thread might be remembering those negotiations a bit too fondly. It's possible they were going a little better than I recall, but I honestly don't think there was a whole lot of serious momentum there. What's more, once Sharon got elected I'm not sure there was an awful lot Bush could do. The whole situation sure seemed pretty hopeless to me at the time.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (50)
HOWARD DEAN ON NATIONAL SECURITY....Yesterday I noted in passing that while the DLC attacks on Howard Dean were probably misguided, I think the DLC is basically right that Dem candidates need to have a better national security story if they want to have a chance of beating George Bush. Matt Yglesias responded with a suggestion that in addition to good policies, Dems also need some good sound bites.
Now, I've made casual comments like this before about the Democrats in general and Howard Dean in particular, and have gotten a number of comments in return telling me that I really ought to go look at Dean's official position statements before I criticize him. This is obviously a fair comment, so today I hopped over to his website and did just that.
Luckily for me, Dean gave a major address to the Council on Foreign Relations just a few weeks ago that outlined his thinking on national security. Unluckily for Dean supporters, my reaction is short and pungent: it stinks.
(I'll explain this, of course, but first a note to Dean's legion of fans before they descend on my comment section: I admit that my reaction might be unfair. It might also be overly harsh. But I am a veritable Mary Poppins compared to the gang of Republican fixers and spinners who are going to light into Dean if he wins the nomination, so consider this nothing more than a popgun shot across the bow.)
I'm going to focus on one part of Dean's speech. After a long warmup that includes some moderately effective rhetoric about the challenges we face and how Bush has muffed them, he finally gets around to specifics:
Already I'm skeptical. It's not that I disagree about points 2-4, it's just that I don't think they make a very credible national security presentation. What people want to know is what are you going to do about terrorism during the next four years?
In fairness, that is Dean's #1 point, so let's take a look at how he expands on that:
I'm sorry, but this is just pathetic. A few pro forma words about being responsible and working with our allies, and that's it? Followed by a quick jump to homeland security?
What does he think about military transformation? Relations with Saudi Arabia? The neocon domino theory? Reform of the CIA? Etc. etc.
Fairly or not, Dean more than anyone has to prove that he's not just a squishy peacenik who doesn't really know anything about national security issues. And while I realize that campaign speeches aren't white papers, this was a major address to a serious audience, so I assume he put a good deal of thought into it and consulted with foreign policy experts in its preparation. If he had any major proposals for actively fighting terrorism he would have mentioned them, but I don't see much there, and I don't see any sound bites that he could extract from this speech either.
This kind of thing might sound good on the blogosphere, but if Dean wins the nomination he's going to get pummeled on this stuff starting next summer — and BushCo's phasers are going to be set firmly on obliterate. He'd better have a bit more to say than this, or else we'll be scraping him off the floor come November.
POSTSCRIPT: All the usual disclaimers apply. It's early days. This speech was for a professional audience, not the general public. Dean might propose other ideas and hone his prose over the next few months. The mood of the country might move in Dean's direction if postwar Iraq bogs down. Bush might get involved in some major gaffe. And it's not fair that Republicans largely indulge in platitudes themselves and it doesn't seem to hurt them.
All true. I just wouldn't count on any of these things actually producing a victory, that's all.
UPDATE: And please don't tell me that George Bush sounded similarly clueless in 2000. I know that. But national security wasn't front and center in 2000 and it is today — and Bush has plenty of credibility on the subject, whether he deserves it or not. Them's the breaks, and you'd better have some real firepower if you want to fight back.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:11 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (50)
YOUR RAISE: NADA....THE BOSS' RAISE: 84%....The Guardian reports that even over in socialist Britain executive pay is up. Way up:
Too lazy to do the math to figure out what that means? No problem, that's what I'm here for: that's an 84% increase over the past three years.
And this is during a time when the share prices of these companies have fallen by 50%, workers are being laid off to cut costs, and corporate earnings have been anemic.
When are shareholders and workers going to start seriously revolting against this kind of obscenity? Isn't the law of supply and demand — not to mention being paid for performance — supposed to apply to executives too?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (20)
A DIFFERENT VIEW ON THE WMD HUNT....Yesterday the Washington Post reported that we were making no progress on finding either WMD or WMD programs. Today, presumably based on different sources, CNN takes a somewhat more optimistic view:
So who's right? Stay tuned.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (29)
HOW FAST IS THE ECONOMY GROWING?....The BEA announced today that GDP increased 2.4% in the second quarter. That's better than predicted and generally good news.
However, General Glut points out an interesting anomaly. First, here's how the increase was calculated:
But here's an interesting factoid: the war in Iraq provided a one-time spike in defense spending (and therefore GDP) of about $40 billion, all of it deficit spending. Without the war, GDP would have increased by only $16 billion, an annualized rate of .67%. That's not so hot.
So, um, are we going to have another war this quarter to keep the numbers up?
UPDATE: As it turns out, this crude analysis overstates the effect of the war. More details here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (56)
GAY MARRIAGE AMENDMENT....Glenn Reynolds wonders whether a smart politician would really want to put his reputation on the line over a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:
I think I would guess differently. Although passing a constitutional amendment would be difficult, social conservatives must realize that this is their last chance since public opinion is obviously trending against them. Right now they control the House, the Senate, and the presidency, and if they're ever going to pass a gay marriage amendment, now's the time. Ten years from now it will be out of the question.
So....I wouldn't be surprised if there's a big push for this. Whether President Bush will end up supporting it I don't know, but luckily for him he doesn't have to take any official action on it and thus might be able to weasel around on it.
UPDATE: Of course, canny politicians might also decide that it's
just a good grandstanding move. There's only a miniscule chance of such
an amendment passing, since all it would take is
UPDATE 2: Jay Caruso and I sort of agree on this. Hey, there's a first time for everything!
What's ironic is that, as Jay points out, I've been saying for a while that gay rights are a winning issue for Democrats. But what I really said was that gay rights of all kinds are a winning issue with the single exception of gay marriage.
So what do we get as an issue? Gay marriage. Go figure.
(For what it's worth, my view is that the Democrats should all oppose gay marriage but favor civil unions, which gives them a good reason to oppose a constitutional amendment. I think civil unions are a perfectly good compromise, and the battle really ought to be fought on grounds of insurance benefits, inheritance rights, etc. If we can leave the emotionally charged issue of "marriage" out of it, I still think all this stuff favors Democrats.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (53)
July 30, 2003
HOW MANY CANDIDATES?....We still have ten days to go before the filing deadline, and already 123 people have taken out papers to run for governor in the recall election.
Time for a pool: how many people will be on the final ballot? I've got dibs on 300. The glory of a prominent mention here on Calpundit goes to whoever gets closest.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (87)
IS TONY BLAIR A WAR CRIMINAL?....Via Michael Totten, the Telegraph reports that the Athens Bar Association has filed a lawsuit in the new International Criminal Court against Tony Blair accusing him of "crimes against humanity" in connection with the Iraq war. (George Bush was not named because the United States is not a signatory to the ICC treaty.)
This is little more than idiotic grandstanding, and the Telegraph warns us not to take it too seriously:
As we know all too well here in America, pretty much anyone can file a lawsuit, and courts have to review them all regardless of how frivolous they are. My money says this suit and others like it get dismissed pretty quickly.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:42 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (58)
THE HUNT FOR WMD PROGRAMS....Terminology update: we're no longer looking for weapons of mass destruction — that was all just a misunderstanding, apparently — we're looking for weapons programs. But apparently that's not going too well either according to officials who have been briefed on the progress so far:
Before long, George Bush is going to be reduced to saying that what we're really looking for is evidence of "a strong desire on Saddam's to start thinking about weapons again someday."
Unfortunately, it's a poor jest. At the end of the day, if it turns out there's no WMD and there isn't even any credible evidence of WMD programs, then just what the hell were our intelligence agencies doing? I can't think of another intelligence failure of this magnitude anytime in recent history.
Why do I have the sinking feeling that someday, when the definitive histories of this era finally get written, it's going to turn out that the sum total of our WMD evidence was the say-so of Ahmed Chalabi and his buddies? Man oh man oh man, I sure hope there was more to it than that, I really do....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (41)
CARNIVAL OF THE VANITIES....The 45th edition of Carnival of the Vanities is being hosted this week by Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. Check it out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (0)
BUSH FALLING IN POLLS....There are a few bits of interesting polling data that have come out recently. First off is the July poll from PIPA (Program
on International Policy Attitudes), which shows some dramatic changes
in attitudes toward the war over the past three months:
Overall, Bush is still getting modestly positive ratings for his handling of Iraq, but those ratings are clearly declining and the recent controversies seem to be part of the reason.
In another report based on the same data, PIPA reports that "swing voters" are much more negative than the overall populace:
This is important stuff since it's those centrist voters that are going to make the difference in the 2004 election. Needless to say, these attitudes will change once Bush starts campaigning, but overall it's still positive news for Democrats.
It's important that the polling deficit on foreign affairs and Iraq continue to drop. However, to really make any headway is going to require the Democratic candidates to offer up some good, positive proposals on national security and foreign affairs, and so far I haven't seen it.
A note to my more liberal readers: The DLC may be taking the wrong tack in its criticisms of Howard Dean, but we shouldn't let that blind us to the essential correctness of their views on national security. Dean and the others really need to get their act together on this if they want to have any chance of beating George Bush in 2004.
POSTSCRIPT: As usual, take all these poll results with a grain of salt, especially the PIPA survey, which is done over the internet. (Their methodology is sound, but it's still an internet poll.) These polls represent good news for Democrats, but there are a few bits of bad news in there as well and the results are far from conclusive. In any case it's a long time until election day.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:56 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (26)
THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS TO THE PRESS....So what does our president think of gay marriage? Not much, of course, but here's a more specific reply from his press conference today:
Um, "one way or the other"? I mean, I appreciate the New Testament warmup and all, but exactly what kind of codification are you thinking of? There's only one kind I can think of that's likely to pass constitutional muster.
And then there was this about Saddam's WMD:
Apparently (a) it's official that we're only looking for weapons programs, not actual weapons, and (b) we're only going through the motions to placate critics, not because we really think it's any big deal. Glad we got that straight.
And then there's this
I'll leave analysis of that as an exercise for the reader.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (55)
TIMES OPENS COMPLAINT DESK....Based on the recommendation of a team that included three outside journalists, the New York Times has agreed to hire an ombudsman who will have "license to write about issues of our coverage, and to have those independent, uncensored commentaries published in our pages."
Finally, someone for Andrew Sullivan to direct his complaints to.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:11 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (9)
HOW ARE THINGS GOING IN IRAQ?....Tacitus links to an optimistic report of how the occupation is going in the town of Fallujah:
Generally speaking, I think hawks are off base when they complain that the media present an overly bleak picture of how things are going in Iraq. Overall, things really have been pretty bleak and confused for the past few months, and reporters are just passing along what they see. The hawks may not like this, but they shouldn't kid themselves that things are really hunky dory and it's only media bias that prevents us from seeing how great things are.
Still, it's worth noting that there are plenty of positive stories about Iraq too. I linked to a couple of them last week, and this is another one. Overall, things are bound to be pretty dicey in the immediate aftermath of any war, and it's important to judge our progress by a fair metric. This means not pretending that every American death is a sign of impending doom, but also not pretending that the media is deliberately hiding the joy of the Iraqi people at being invaded by a Christian superpower that they've hated for decades.
It's hard enough figuring out the right thing to do even if we try to stay objective about the facts on the ground. We shouldn't make things even harder by deliberately avoiding them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (89)
PERVERSE INCENTIVES....Instapundit weighs in with a typically sober assessment of the Pentagon's decision to kill its "terrorism futures market":
Since no one in the pro-war camp seems to understand the actual issue here, let me take a stab at it. The problem isn't that the Pentagon's idea wouldn't work — that's an empirical question that can only be answered with actual research — the problem is the perverse incentives it supplies. Suppose, for example, that a terrorist killed Dick Cheney and a couple of days later there was a photo of some guy in the New York Times grinning because the government had just sent him a check for $10,000 thanks to his shrewd investment. Does it still sound like a good idea?
Do we really want to create a government sponsored market that creates a whole class of people who are actively rooting for terrorist events to occur? Remember, there are some things that are bad ideas even if it turns out that they work well for their ostensible purpose. It's the law of unintended consequences, something that Paul Wolfowitz apparently understands better than the blogosphere.
(And given his recent experience with it, I suppose that comes as no surprise....)
UPDATE: Brad DeLong has some expert commentary, although it's more about whether the plan would actually work, not about the issue I raised.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (78)
July 29, 2003
OSAMA VS. SADDAM....Via Tom Spencer, an NBC report suggests that as early as spring of 2002, only a few months after the defeat of the Taliban, the war against al-Qaeda was already being compromised by preparation for war in Iraq:
Food for thought. It's hard to say how much of this was the result of normal duty rotation and routine force deployment decisions, but Leverett's descriptions are disturbing.
It's been apparent for some time that much of al-Qaeda — and possibly Osama bin Laden himself — escaped capture because we committed too weak a force to Afghanistan, but that kind of criticism is always all too easy to make in hindsight. However, if that weakness was actually the result of a deliberate decision to refocus on Iraq before the job in Afghanistan was finished, it displays astonishingly poor judgment. I hope we see a followup to this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (51)
VALERIE PLAME UPDATE....We all remember Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose cover was blown by two "senior administration officials," right? Well, what exactly was her job, anyway? Josh Marshall adds a few details today in his column in The Hill:
Josh mentions that a couple of senators have asked for an investigation, but wonders if that's really necessary:
Good question.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (21)
"FUCK" VS. "APPLE PIE"....I admit it: I have a weakness for the word "fuck." Today, via Unfogged, I learn of the 2003 Legal Document of the Year award from The Smoking Gun, awarded to Colorado public defender Eric Vanatta for his brief in defense of a high school student accused of calling his principal "a fucker, a fag, and a fucking fag." It apparently so impressed the Smoking Gun judges that they decided to announce their winner even though, technically, there are five months left in the year.
In his brief, Vanatta appeals to history, linguistics, popular culture, Google searches, legal opinion, and, finally, to appropriateness:
As they say, read the whole thing.
POSTSCRIPT: I am in no way defending the right of high school students to swear at their principals, or of their right to be defended using tax dollars better spent defending murderers and crooks, or anything else for that matter. OK? But it's a pretty funny document and Eric Vanatta deserves a wider audience than just a local judge.
In any case, the kid copped a plea and Vanatta never got a chance to argue his motion. But I'll bet the judge had a laugh or two.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (31)
MICHAEL VS. ARIANNA?....You know, usually when people get divorced they confine themselves to arguing over custody of the kids and who get the cuisinart. Here in California, they run against each other for governor.
Sheesh.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (15)
GAY MARRIAGE....Eve Tushnet writes to draw my attention to MarriageDebate.com Blog, which, while it has the disadvantage of sounding like a failed dotcom, has the non-dotcommish virtue of being clear in its mission: to debate marriage. In particular, gay marriage.
The site is run by Maggie Gallagher, and although Maggie herself opposes gay marriage Eve suggests that the site is "about 50/50 pro-con" and "passionate but respectful." I'm not sure I can agree with the 50-50 description, since with the exception of one valiant trooper named Dale Carpenter the posts seem to be pretty heavily opposed to gay marriage, but the tone is indeed sober and nonconfrontational. Check it out for yourself if the topic interests you or if you want to contribute.
As for me, I don't blog on this kind of thing much because it's hard to think of anything to say that's not just a gussied up emotional reaction. Basically, I favor gay marriage because it just doesn't bother me and I can't think of any good reason to deny it to anyone. There's no telling why, really, and I'd have a hard time trying to invent an intellectual superstructure to justify my instinct.
Conversely, even among social conservatives it's considered gauche these days to say flat out that homosexuals are yucky, but to my ears the arguments against gay marriage mostly sound like attempts to search out plausible intellectual arguments that, at their core, say exactly that. Gay marriage is bad because (a) it will lead to polygamy, (b) gays make lousy parents, (c) it will make marriage less attractive to virile straight guys, (d) it violates a biological imperative, etc. etc. These mostly seem rather desperately plucked out of the air, rather than the result of any serious analysis.
In a nutshell, social conservatives argue that gay marriage will rend the fabric of society in various ways, but it strikes me that this is one of a handful of issues in which, ironically, the actual damage is not caused by some objective harm to society but by the very fact that conservatives themselves insist on fighting the change tooth and nail. Just as the civil rights movement of the 60s turned sour largely because southern conservatives fought so bitterly against it, the same thing is happening here.
On the other hand, if they could just relax and realize that gay marriage or no, the kids will be fine, the institution of marriage will be fine (despite the, um, rather substantial damage it's taken from heterosexuals for the past few decades), and bridal magazines will continue to publish thousand-page spring issues, then, in fact, everything would probably turn out fine.
Not that I think there's any chance of that happening, mind you....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (42)
CALIFORNIA DREAMING....Justene Adamec emailed last night to draw my attention to Tom McClintock, a Republican candidate for governor in the recall election. Justene warns that he "swings right" on social issues, but for now I'm willing to ignore that and just examine what he has to say about the budget. After all, that's issue #1.
Justene says she likes his specifics, and here they are:
Mark me down as unimpressed. Item #1 will actually widen the budget deficit. Item #2 depends on the judge ruling in our favor, which isn't likely even if McClintock does take the bold step of criticizing his predecessor, and will be tied up in appeals for years in any case. So it does nothing. And item #3, while it addresses an important issue, has very little to do with the budget.
Then, in another speech, he sets out in more general terms his can-do credentials for fixing the budget:
Earth to McClintock: that's been the Republican position since last June and it hasn't worked. McClintock is surely right that the budget process is seriously broken and we need to start fixing it now, not continue putting it off forever. But I would take his toughminded stance a lot more seriously if it was accompanied by a proposed budget that included no tax increases, no borrowing, and $38 billion in spending cuts. If you're a straight talking guy and that's your position, after all, then let's see your straight talking budget. As far as I'm concerned, if you talk big but don't have the courage to show us your plan, warts and all, and then base your campaign on it, you're just another Sacramento shill.
UPDATE: On the other hand, let's give equal time to Democratic shilling. This column by Daniel Weintraub suggests that despite appearances the current budget plan actually includes virtually no spending cuts at all. For example, due to arcane allocation rules, the vehicle fee increase has been counted as a spending cut. (No, I refuse to try and explain. Read Weintraub if you want to know more.)
I just hate California politics. I always have. National politics is bad enough, but Sacramento is just a cesspool, and it seems virtually impossible to ever get a straight answer about anything. I can't figure out what's really going on with the budget, but for the record here's my best guess: (1) spending really did skyrocket starting around 1998-99, (2) the dotcom bust hurt us worse than most states for obvious reasons, and (3) we lost a fair chunk of change due to gaming of the energy system. But I might change my mind tomorrow if I learn something new.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (40)
NATIONAL SECURITY?....OR WHITE HOUSE CONVENIENCE?....Gee, it looks like everyone wants the classified portion of the 9/11 report to be declassified:
The Saudis want it declassified, Congress wants it declassified, and congressmen who have seen the classified section don't seem to think there are any legitimate national security reasons not to release it.
That leaves the White House all alone. What are they afraid of?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:05 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (29)
PATRIOT UPDATE....Here's some good news. It looks like PATRIOT II is dead:
In addition, an amendment that would eliminate the "sneak and peek" searches authorized in the original PATRIOT Act seems to be gaining ground. As one unnamed Democrat put it, "I had no idea that we had so many Republican friends on this issue. It shows a lot of discontent on their side."
Good for them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (11)
July 28, 2003
Here's what clicked. A few days ago I linked to a Dan Drezner post in which he suggested that the attack on Uday and Qusay Hussein was good news because it was evidence of a "shift in intelligence-gathering" that would serve us well in the future. His optimism was prompted by this Washington Post story:
These stories were both written by Thomas Ricks.
This is, to say the least, disappointing. At first we're led to believe that we're gaining ground in Iraq due to a simple shift in tactics, but a few days later we learn that what this really means is that we're kidnapping families and holding them hostage in order to increase the "quality and quantity of intelligence." This may seem like a good idea in the world of 24, but in the real world it's a war crime. It should end right now, and I hope everyone who linked to the first article links to the second as well and denounces these tactics as unworthy of us. The world should know that we're better than this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:42 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (76)
FIGHTING TERRORISM....Over on Winds of Change recently I left this comment in response to Michael Totten:
Michael replied, "Yes I very much agree that we need to go far beyond using only the military."
But today, via Matt Yglesias, I see that Michael has a TechCentralStation column in which he explains his skepticism about the Middle East "road map" and suggests a different approach:
Since all it would take for the PA to fail its "one last chance" is a single extremist lunatic, I think we can take it for granted that Michael's alternate plan would quickly come into effect — and he knows it. And while Michael does say that there would be subsequent phases in which we would dictate the terms of a Palestinian democracy, that only comes later. In the here-and-now, there's little question that his plan relies entirely on a massive application of military force, and the followup depends on a continuing military presence as well.
So back we come. It's one thing to simply disagree: perhaps hawks like Michael think fighting terrorism is primarily a military operation and perhaps I don't. But why say that you agree that we should "go far beyond using only the military" and then write a lengthy piece in which you advocate a solution that includes nothing else?
I keep running into this problem when I engage with hawks. I'm moderately hawkish myself, but that doesn't make me blind to the reality that massive military force is neither practical nor sufficient to solve the problem of terrorism — unless you're advocating a war of total annihilation. Most hawks say they aren't, and claim that of course they understand that there are important non-military aspects to this fight and that I shouldn't make a straw man of their arguments. But when they put words to paper, all I ever hear about are plans for massive military reprisals if terrorism doesn't stop right now.
If Michael thinks the solution to Palestinian terrorism is a replay of World War II — all-out war followed by a lengthy occupation in which we impose a system of government and dictate national boundaries — fine. But let's not pretend that's anything but a purely military solution, OK?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:54 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (71)
DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS....Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has broken his promise to abide by the tradition that it takes a two-thirds majority to debate a bill in the Texas Senate. What a surprise. I always thought conservatives were supposed to cherish traditions, like the one that says redistricting is done once per decade, for example, but they seem rather unfond of tradition these days.
Anyway, leaving the state to prevent a quorum is a Texas tradition, and since Governor Rick Perry has called yet another special redistricting session and Dewhurst has thrown in his lot with the Tom DeLay brigade, the Democrats have all decamped to Albuquerque.
It's not just California that's having all the fun these days.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:13 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (29)
RECALL ROUNDUP....For California readers, here's the latest on the recall:
Next up: with Arnold out, will Richard Riordan run?
Or how about me? All I need is either (a) 100 people to chip in $35 apiece or (b) 100 people to collect 150 signatures apiece. But before anybody gets started on this, my first order of business to to change my name to Arnold Schwarzenegger....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (25)
DO NOT PASS GO....TalkLeft reports today that a full 1% of American adults are in prison. What's more, 10% of the country's black male population between the ages of 25 to 29 is in prison.
Lovely.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (56)
NO, REALLY, I THINK DACHSHUNDS ARE REALLY CUTE....Asta, a half-dachshund who is the official mascot of AtlanticBlog, has declared war on me over this post. But it's just a misunderstanding. I didn't mean that dachshunds were dispensable, just that baby dachshunds are really small. I mean, if that fish had swallowed a German Shepherd, then I would have been impressed.
The killer fish in question was German, by the way, and anywhere else in the world perhaps a vicious giant catfish would have been hunted down and destroyed. However, as AtlanticBlog points out in another post, the Germans are really, really serious about protecting their, um, wildlife.
Marian would definitely not be pleased if this particular regulation ever made its way to Irvine.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (14)
GEORGE BUSH VS. THE WORLD, PART 2....By coincidence, South Knox Bubba points today to a Joe Klein column in Time on the same meme I mentioned last night: George Bush's lack of interest in actual facts. As Klein says, it's not that Bush lies, it's "weirder than that":
Yes, I realize this kind of analysis is completely subjective, but Bush's ability to unblinkingly endorse policies that simply won't do what he (says he) wants them to do is hard to explain any other way.
What originally brought this to mind was a conversation I had a few days ago about my old company. It turns out they're shuffling their board of directors around and decided to add a financial analyst to the board, apparently because they remain convinced that their low stock price is a purely financial phenomenon. If they can only get better analyst coverage or repackage their story a bit, the stock price will go up.
It's a remarkable bit of self-deception, since even a nodding familiarity with the company (and the world at large) would convince you that their stock price will go up only when the actual performance of the company improves. But they just refuse to accept that.
And this reminded me of George Bush. He is incurious about the real world and surrounds himself with people like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes who feed his preconceptions and decline to challenge him. He famously decides whether he likes people within minutes of meeting them, and convinces himself that anyone who disagrees with him is not worth listening to. And he is stubborn to the point of bullheadedness, refusing to ever admit that a plan isn't working or that a different approach might be necessary.
If it were only tax cuts at stake here, I wouldn't be that worried. Tax cuts can always be repealed if things get out of hand. But it's more serious than that, and conducting the war on terror as if facts on the ground don't matter is not something that can simply be repealed in a few years by a more openminded administration. By then it might be too late and instead of a few thousand Americans dead, it might be a few hundred thousand or a few million.
We've been lucky in the past. FDR was able to moderate Churchill's stubborness and insist on opening a second front. JFK kept his advisors calm during the Cuban Missile crisis. In this administration Colin Powell appears to be the voice of reason, and I hope he's enough. The stakes are simply too high to keep ignoring the real world. Way too high.
UPDATE: A corollary to this is the Bush administration's well known dislike for scientific information that conflicts with its policy desires. Tapped has a good post about this today.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (36)
DARPA MEETS NOSTRADAMUS....What's the best way to predict the likelihood of a terrorist event? Amy Sullivan reports that the Pentagon thinks the market can tell us:
Jeez, talk about faith in the power of the free market. In the same vein, maybe instead of employing civil engineers to design our bridges, we should just let the public pick a design via auction. That's assuming, of course, that you don't mind your bridges being suspended by an invisible hand.
As Amy points out, DARPA is famed for funding rather, um, experimental projects. But even so, aside from the fact that markets are generally thought to be best suited to allocating resources, not predicting the date of World War IV, surely they realize the diplomatic implications of this? "Wonder how the King of Jordan is going to feel when he finds out his American buddies are letting people buy shares in the possibility that he will be overthrown?" Amy asks.
Well, we could ask him. Then again, maybe we could just run a market to predict his answer.
Amy promises more on this later. I can't wait.
That's true, and even though I already knew that I guess the chance to make fun of DARPA was too good to pass up. However, the article actually raises an interesting question: what if the DARPA plan works? What if it actually provides better predictions than expert analysis?
The New Yorker points to several markets that apparently do work better than the experts, but I note that in all these cases the experts continue to make their own predictions regardless. Why? Maybe the lesson of all this is that we need to have fewer experts....
UPDATE 2: More on this from AP.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (32)
JUSTICE IN INDIANA....Darnell Williams is on death row in Indiana, and his attorneys want to perform a DNA test to try and establish his innocence. Last week the Indiana Supreme Court said no:
Oops, did I say his attorneys? I meant the prosecuting attorney:
The resistance of the legal community to making DNA testing routine is simply astonishing. This man is on death row, both the defense attorneys and the prosecuting attorney agree that a DNA test ought to be performed on a piece of critical evidence, but the court won't let them. It would probably take all of a week or two and cost a few thousand dollars.
Nor is there a chance that allowing this will open the floodgates for every prisoner in the state to demand DNA testing. After all, everyone knows that the tests are reliable and highly accurate, so there's not much point in demanding a test if you know that you really are guilty.
DNA testing is routine in active cases, and there's no reason not to use improved modern techniques in older cases as well, especially capital ones. After all, what are they afraid of? That they might find out he didn't commit the crime after all?
UPDATE: Unlearned Hand adds something I didn't know: if you are exonerated of a crime, your felony conviction still isn't expunged. So even if you've been found actually innocent, you still have a criminal record.
That's unbelievable. If a court finds you not guilty, regardless of whether it's now or 20 years from now, you shouldn't have a felony conviction on your record. How on earth does a rule like that stay around?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:08 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (40)
July 27, 2003
As the article notes, "These men are no longer in the picture."
Now, everyone has an ideology, and everyone has preconceived notions of what works and what doesn't. That's just part of being human.
But a hallmark of good managers is that they are willing to look at real-world data honestly and eventually adjust their thinking if the data requires it, even if it's painful or embarrassing to do so — which it usually is. In my business, that means cancelling a product that was your idea in the first place, or admitting that sales was right about that trade show you made them go to. If you're the president of the United States, it might mean reconsidering the notion that bankrupting the country is a good idea.
Bad managers are either unwilling or afraid to do this. They either insulate themselves, or ignore the data when it's given to them, or deliberately choose to interpret the data in perverse ways. This is how George Bush strikes me. He simply doesn't care about whether things really work or not, or what the true effect of his plans is going to be, or what the data says. He just charges ahead because he's absolutely sure that his instincts are all he needs.
The real world eventually has its way, of course. The only question is how long it takes, and how much damage gets done in the meantime.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (27)
SHORTER KIERAN HEALY....James Joyner summarizes Kieran Healy's review of The Elements of Mentality thusly:
Another dream shattered.
MAKING RACE GO AWAY....Jeanne d'Arc brings to my attention something about the Gray Davis recall that I heard in passing yesterday but didn't quite absorb:
However, since we now have an election scheduled for October, the Connerly initiative has been moved up.
As Jeanne points out, although the initiative sounds superficially appealing, its actual result is to make racism disappear as if by magic — regardless of whether it's really gone or not. Racial profiling? Gone! Pay discrimination? Never happened! Driving while black? Prove it! Like Winston Smith attempting to change reality simply by altering records, Connerly apparently thinks that race problems can be made to go away simply by forbidding the government to talk about them.
Jeanne also wonders about the effect of this initiative on the recall itself: "Will the threat to affirmative action bring out progressives who won't rush to the polls only to support Davis?" That's one possibility, but another is that it might bring out the angry white males who hate Davis in even larger numbers.
In any case, it certainly changes the political calculus of the election.
POSTSCRIPT: There are some things the initiative won't do. The LAPD, for example, tracks race every time it stops someone as part of a federal consent decree designed to reduce its history of racial profiling. Since that's a federal agreement, it would not be affected by the initiative.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:54 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (41)
SAUDI BASHING....Matt Yglesias thinks Glenn Reynolds is right to "consistently point out that the Democratic Party could get a lot of mileage from criticizing the Bush administration's coddling of Saudi Arabia." Bob Graham has been pushing this line pretty hard, and the idea that we should get tough on Saudi Arabia seems to have considerable support on both the left and the right on the blogosphere. This is an issue I need to learn more about.
The problem is, I can't help but think that as emotionally attractive as this idea may be, it's fundamentally barroom talk. It's like that hardy election year perennial, promising to "get tough" with China, which magically disappears whenever a challenger takes office and starts seriously looking at the upsides (minimal) and downsides (substantial) of actually doing anything to make good on his promise.
Now, there's no question that we would all like Saudi Arabia to stop
subsidizing Wahabbist extremism and do more to clamp down on terrorist
activity within its borders. On the other hand, "getting tough" with
Saudi Arabia might have just the opposite effect:
With the exception of the GCC states, which are small and mostly take their cues from Saudi Arabia anyway, the United States has no friends in the Arab world. And while we may be powerful, I really don't think we can take on the entire Middle East all by ourselves if every single country in the region is our sworn enemy.
Saudi bashing might feel good, but my instinct tells me that it's mostly uninformed and counterproductive, and I'd just as soon the Democrats avoided it. It truly would be purely partisan posturing that accomplishes nothing except undermining U.S. objectives.
Of course, there are various levels of getting tough, and some may be more workable than others. I think I'll read up on this subject a bit more.
UPDATE: Speaking of Bob Graham, did you know that he's one of the Washington Post Grahams? I didn't.
UPDATE 2: In comments, John points out that Jordan and Egypt are both friendly powers. I'm not entirely convinced of the reliability of either of these countries, but it's a fair point.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (62)
ANOTHER CONSPIRACY THEORY....I've been emailing with Tom Maguire quite a bit over the Valerie Plame affair, and he's made the point to me that perhaps the media isn't really very excited about looking into the whole thing. After all, what's in it for them to track down a leaker in the White House?
I told him I didn't think much of this, figuring that the thrill of breaking a good story was more than enough compensation for the temporary chilling effect it might have on off-the-record sources.
Yesterday, however, Mark Kleiman, who's also been following this story closely, edged toward agreeing with Tom:
Since Josh Marshall is part of the DC journalism community, I think it's time for him to weigh in with an opinion. My theory is that getting a good story pretty much trumps any other concern, and the relative silence on this one has simply been because no one has managed to track anything down. But it's been the better part of two weeks now, and it does seem a bit peculiar that the combined forces of American journalism haven't been able to come up with anything. How about it, Josh?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (16)
July 26, 2003
WINNING BY A HAIR....With one ceremonial stage to go, the Tour de France has covered 2,109 miles and Lance Armstrong is leading Jan Ullrich by 76 seconds.
In other words, Lance Armstrong's average speed for the entire race has been 26.35 mph and Jan Ullrich's has been 26.34 mph. That's what I call a close race.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (34)
FLOODING THE ZONE....Matt Yglesias thinks it's odd that the usual crew of New York Times bashers are oddly uninterested in the fact that during the runup to war Judith Miller hyped WMD stories endlessly and has turned out to be completely wrong. Why, one might even conclude that Miller was flooding the zone with this stuff simply as a personal vendetta, rather than doing her job as an objective reporter.
Matt is too gentlemanly to name names, but presumably he's talking about blogosphere stars Glenn, Andrew, and Mickey, who have indeed pretty much ignored Miller's obsessive reporting. Shouldn't they be calling for her resignation?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:30 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (44)
DE LAY OF DE LAND STAYS THE SAME....FOR NOW....Hey, it looks like Tom DeLay's effort to redistrict Texas so it's more to his liking has failed. Apparently it couldn't get enough Republican votes to pass, so everyone is going home.Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (10)
NO MORE CHADS: IS ELECTRONIC VOTING THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE?....Bev Harris at Black Box Voting has been leading the charge against electronic voting machines for quite some time and linked recently to this "scathing" report on the risks of electronic voting from computer scientists at Johns Hopkins and Rice universities. The report also got some coverage in the New York Times a couple of days ago, and it looks like the issue might start getting some more mainstream attention.
The basic problem is this: if voting is completely computerized, how do you know if the computer makes a mistake? This has given rise to some conspiracy theorizing that doesn't strike me as very serious, but conspiracies aside it is true that complex computer systems inevitably have bugs and security holes. For this reason, I'm skeptical of electronic voting even if I don't think the Republican party is surreptitiously buying up voting machine companies and deliberately corrupting their software.
Glenn Reynolds thinks the answer is simple: sure, get rid of punch cards, but replace them with paper ballots that are read by specialized scanners. I agree with him. This is known as "mark sense" technology, which I have a lot of experience with (it's basically the same as the Scantron cards used for multiple choice tests), and it's robust, simple to use, and highly reliable. What's more, it leaves behind paper ballots that can be checked in case a manual recount is needed or if someone suspects that the computer has miscounted.
But I'll also add one other comment, especially since I took a shot at this last month: if we do move toward completely electronic voting, I can't think of a better candidate for open source software. Legislation should mandate that the source code for these machines — or at least the critical portions of it — be open for inspection. This has become fairly common in security applications, where it's generally agreed that the best way to ensure there are no security holes is to let a legion of experts try to find them. If you can't hack the system when the source code is public, then you just can't hack the sytem.
UPDATE: South Knox Bubba, who knows from computers, says we should support the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003. Write your congressman!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (28)
THE NEOCON ARGUMENT....A quick addendum to the post below. Former CIA director James Woolsey is a charter neocon, and in the Guardian on Sunday he outlined at length the basic neocon argument about the Middle East. Here are a couple of excerpts about how he views the war on terrorism:
I'm excerpting this not because I agree with everything Woolsey says, but because he summarizes the neocon case pretty well and because I think he correctly emphasizes that military power — as in the Cold War — should be used infrequently. The main weapon in this war is influence, not tanks.
But I'm also linking to it to make the point that it's George Bush who should be giving speeches like this, and giving them frequently. Will it make things harder in some ways? Yes. But if — if — this is truly what Bush believes, then he needs to forthrightly try to convince America and the world that it's the right thing to do.
If you think the neocon formulation is an abomination, you should be in favor of Bush putting his cards squarely on the table because it gives you your best chance of fighting it. However, if you agree with Woolsey's general argument you should also be in favor of having the president make the case personally and passionately. Everyone can tell the difference between someone who genuinely believes in a cause and someone who doesn't quite have the courage to risk saying what he really means. It's only the former who can rally long-term commitments from their countrymen and the world.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (56)
THE REAL REASON FOR WAR....I promised I was going to comment on the "Bush lied about the real reason for war" argument that Dan Drezner brought up the other day, and today is the day. Here's the background: basically, Dan pointed out that there is a moderate consensus of both left (which disapproves) and right (which approves) that the real reason for war was not WMD or UN resolutions or any of that. The real argument for war was the neocon contention that the Middle East is an economic backwater ruled by medieval theocracies that has become a breeding ground for high stakes terrorism. Someone needs to set them on the path to democracy, tolerance, and economic growth, and that someone is us.
Dan has since weighed in on this himself, and it turns out that he's written almost exactly what I would have written. Almost, but not quite, that is, so let me amplify.
First, Dan correctly identifies two concerns about all this: (a) is it ethical, and (b) is it practical?
On the ethical question, he says that there were a lot reasons for war, so Bush really didn't do anything wrong by emphasizing one aspect over another. I think that's close to right, although I also think he carries the argument a bit too far in two ways. First, he cuts Bush too much slack on the "other" reasons for war, namely Saddam's WMD making him a serious threat to the United States, since this has turned out — so far — to be largely unfounded. Second, I think he gives Bush too much credit for occasionally talking about the "real" reason. He never explicitly did, aside from infrequent and pro forma praise of democracy and freedom.
If it turns out that Bush flatly lied about Saddam's WMD, that's inexcusable. But assuming he didn't, then emphasizing a simple argument like that versus the more complex neocon one isn't exactly uncommon in politics. Given what we know now — which, admittedly, could change — I can't get very excited about the proposition that he did anything seriously wrong here.
Then there's the practical aspect, and on this I think Dan is exactly right: by not leveling with the public about his goals and the difficulty of reaching them, he risks losing support for them in short order.
It doesn't take much historical hindsight to see this point. In World War II, for example, our goals were clear: unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. Everybody knew it, the public bought into it, and we were willing to stick it out until we accomplished it. Likewise, in the Cold War, presidents from Truman forward were explicit about our long-term goals of containment and were consistent in their argument that we were fighting an entire worldview, not just a single country. They were honest about this argument because they truly believed it and thought it was right, and despite the fact that it probably made the conflict more difficult for the United States it was this honest conviction that made the Cold War widely accepted. Because of this we kept up the fight for over 40 years and eventually won.
Compare that to Vietnam. The goals were never clear and successive presidents misled the country about how long we would be there, how hard it would be, and what it would take to win. The result is that public support eventually waned and in 1975 we pulled out in defeat.
This is why supporters of the neocon agenda should be very, very nervous about the fact that George Bush never explicitly talks about their plan. It means that either he doesn't really believe in it himself, or that he thinks the public wouldn't support it if they knew about it. If either of these is true, there is virtually no chance of pulling it off.
This is, unfortunately, the worst of all worlds. I think the neocons in general are woefully naive about the limits of American military power to reshape the world, but at the same time I have considerable sympathy for their general view that the only answer to 21st century terrorism is economic growth and liberalization in the Middle East and Africa. The neocon plan might work, but it will certainly fail if the American public loses interest in the project because it never knew that's what it was signing up for in the first place.
As Matt Yglesias points out, there's no way to know for sure what Bush himself thinks, but if he does view this as a multi-decade struggle, he'd better take to the airwaves and start preparing people. My best guess right now is that he thinks it's a long-term fight but the American public thinks we were over there just to get rid of Saddam Hussein. That's a potentially deadly combination.
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, it's worth mentioning that I most definitely don't accept Steven Den Beste's crude view that the president shouldn't tell the American public about his larger goals because "They don't need to know, and can't be trusted to know." This is not a specific operational aspect of war that needs to be kept secret from our enemies, it's an argument about the overarching principle behind American policy and America's place in the world for the next several decades. If the American public — and the world — can't be trusted with that, we should just pack up and go home. Steven should be ashamed of himself for writing such a thing.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy is unimpressed with Dan's argument. If Bush lied about WMD then I think Kieran's argument is absolutely correct. However, although he may have pushed the envelope harder than he should have, and should properly be held to account for that, I think Bush truly did believe that Iraq possessed large quantities of WMD. Time will tell.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (9) | Comments (61)
IRAQ AND AL-QAEDA....A few days ago I referred to a UPI story claiming that the congressional 9/11 report had concluded there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Today, UPI published a retraction:
Huh? They didn't ask that question? Doesn't that seem like something they should have expressed an interest in?
And who the heck was UPI's source? What kind of source makes an error like that about a document that's going to become public the next day?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:03 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (16)
July 25, 2003
MAN BITES DOG....Actually, fish bites dog. Sort of:
It was a only a dachshund? And a puppy at that? So what's the big deal?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (32)
HOUSING BUBBLE?....We all like weird little economic mysteries, don't we? Especially when they include the opportunity for some crude Republican bashing?
The graph on the right, courtesy of the Progressive Review, shows that housing appreciation has been far higher in states that voted for Gore compared to states that voted for Bush. We already know that blue states tend to have stronger economies and generate more tax revenue than red states, and now it turns out that your housing investment does better in blue states too.
Why is this? Perhaps because appreciation is higher in urban areas, and urban areas tend to vote Democratic? Because liberal states tend to generate higher income growth, which in turn means that more high income families are bidding for houses? Because liberal states have artifically restricted the growth of housing stock, thus driving up prices?
Or maybe it's just because skyrocketing home prices are un-American?
I don't know either, but like the Progressive Review, I welcome your theories. In the true spirit of petty partisan demagoguery and amateur asset pricing analysis, I know we can solve this mystery.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (57)
BAKER HEADING TO IRAQ?....More changes due for Iraq?
I was mulling over this story during lunch, trying to figure out what it means, and I'm having a hard time. Baker is obviously a very senior guy, he has lots of international experience, and he's practically the Bush family consigliore, so in some way it makes sense that he might be chosen to head up Iraq.
The problem is, he's not being chosen to head up Iraq. He's being chosen for a very specific role: "physical and economic reconstruction." As far as I know, Baker has no expertise in this area at all, so it's hard to see what he brings to the table. Wouldn't a better choice be some high profile executive who's actually had a lot of experience bossing big infrastructure projects? Or maybe a Wall Street economic guru?
The only thing I can figure out that's unique to Baker is that he's completely loyal to the Bushes. There must be something about Bremer that Bush doesn't like, so he wants to get somebody over there that he completely trusts, someone that he knows won't be pursuing an agenda of his own.
That's the best I can come up with at the moment anyway. Unless, of course, Bremer is just completely screwing things up and Bush is getting set to throw him overboard.
Aside from the obvious jokes about sending Baker over there to supervise Iraqi elections, does anyone have any other ideas?
UPDATE: In the ten minutes it took me to write this, the Washington Post replaced this story with a completely different version that (a) doesn't include my excerpt above, (b) plays down the whole Baker angle, and (c) suggests that Baker's role would be focused only on restructuring Iraq's debt.
Now I'm even more confused....
UPDATE 2: Uggabugga has both the original Post story and the updated version here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:09 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (30)
I'LL ONLY GO AWAY IF YOU ADD A FEW MORE ZEROES....Ampersand has a cartoon up today that shows enormous insight into the way American CEOs are compensated these days. Check it out.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (2)
HOWLING AT THE PRESS....Today, Bob Somerby manages to write an entire column without once mentioning Al Gore's treatment in the 2000 campaign. On the other hand, he does continue his odd crusade against the press for making a big deal out Uranium-Gate:
What to say about this? Of course it might be true, but that's not the point. We now know that George Bush's own head of intelligence sent multiple memos and made at least one call to the White House last October telling them that the claim wasn't true. That's a lot of effort, and Tenet must have been pretty serious about this to follow it up repeatedly and in writing.
It's really not plausible that over the course of three months everyone who saw those memos just forgot about them, and this means that, regardless of whether the claims eventually turn out to be true, the White House decided to put them in the State of the Union address despite the fact that at the time the CIA felt there was nothing to them.
Why did the president ignore the advice of his own head of intelligence? Why did he feel that it was so important to include a paragraph about nuclear weapons in the speech, even though the CIA thought there was nothing to it?
Why?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:04 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (24)
KEEPING AN EYE ON LIBERALS....Hmmm. Maybe this is why Atrios stays anonymous:
The article says that in addition to keeping a "no-fly" list of potential terrorists, documents released in a recent court case indicate that the TSA keeps a second list of "selectees" who are subject to strict security checks. Nobody know what it takes to get on this list, nobody keeps track of how often the wrong people are hassled (because there's "no pressing need to do so"), and there's no way to get taken off the list.
For all my right wing buddies out there, this is why we liberals distrust the Bush administration's balancing of civil rights with necessary law enforcement. It's not that we don't agree that increased vigilance against terrorism is reasonable, it's just that this doesn't seem to be the real motivation behind a lot of the things law enforcement does these days.
The FBI has a long history of keeping secret lists like this, and oddly enough it's mostly liberal activists who end up on them. Better keep your head down, Atrios.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:19 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (46)
WATER SHORTAGE....The Talent Show points out today that Ann Coulter's grasp of reality has apparently taken such a beating that she doesn't realize that, yes, it is possible to run out of water.
Trust me, Ann, you learn these things living in California.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:38 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (41)
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING....Over on the left is Inkblot in his favorite postion: rolled over on his back waiting for someone to come along and scratch his tummy. It usually works. On the right, Jasmine is also showing off her tummy to the world, but her attitude is look-but-don't-touch when it comes to belly rubbing.
Poor Inkblot is spending most of his time this week trying to escape from his mean parents who keep sticking a mean eyedropper into his mouth and squirting mean refrigerated liquid into him. HE...DOES...NOT...LIKE...THIS. But it's for your own good, Inkblot! (And how many times have you heard that before?) Ah, well, it's nothing serious though, and he'll be better in no time. The medicine, oddly enough, seems to smell like bananas. Why couldn't they make it smell like tuna?
BONUS CAT: Head on over to Late Night Thoughts and read all about Lost-and-Found. It's the all too common story of how a cat worms its way into your heart despite your best efforts.
July 24, 2003
MORE ON THE MISSING WMD....So what really happened to the WMD? Here's Bill Clinton a couple of days ago:
Digby blogged about this a couple of days ago, but it didn't really sink in until I read this transcript: maybe the 1998 bombings destroyed all the WMD that was left at that point. And maybe Saddam never reconstituted his WMD programs.
This poses a perplexing problem. Donald Rumsfeld has already admitted that we didn't really have any new intelligence about Saddam's WMD programs, and it's possible that we destroyed all his existing stocks in 1998. So when we demanded that Saddam account for the missing WMD, maybe he really couldn't, because he wasn't the one who destroyed it. We were.
Clinton thinks we did the right thing in Iraq because we didn't know for sure, and in a post-9/11 world we couldn't take any chances. Maybe. But if the president's case for war had relied on (a) the mere possibility that some amount of WMD had survived the 1998 attacks and might not have deteriorated by now, (b) a lack of evidence one way or the other about any ongoing programs, and (c) the proposition that we couldn't take any chances over this even though we didn't know much of anything — would he have gotten much support?
Again, maybe. You never know. But it sure would have been a lot dicier, wouldn't it?
UPDATE: Then again, this guy says all the WMD was taken to the Beka Valley in Lebanon a month before the war, and we're going to dig it up right before the elections. Works for me.
UPDATE 2: Or this: maybe it really doesn't matter because WMD wasn't the reason for the war anyway. Dan Drezner says he's going weigh in on the merits of lying about the reason for war tomorrow, and I might too. It's an interesting topic.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (63)
LOGIC 101....The Catholic Church opposes abortion. The Pope opposes abortion. So it stands to reason that if someone opposes abortion, and you oppose their nomination to the appeals court, you must be anti-Catholic.
No, really. Tapped has the story.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (71)
DECONSTRUCTING THE BLOGOSPHERE....Randy Barnett has — what? Retracted? No. Clarified — yes, that's it — clarified his suggestion that liberals live in a socially-constructed fantasy world. Today he admits that his examples of this weren't too good, pleads time pressures, and promises to do better in the future. Oh, and the right does pretty much the same thing.
I'm glad we've got that squared away since I'm pretty sure the computer I'm typing on right now is, in fact, a product of consensus reality. But his piece reminded me of an observation about political blogging (and reading political blogs) that I've been meaning to make for a while: namely, that it can warp your view of the world.
On a broad scale, of course, there is the banal, but still true,
observation that blogging is overwhelmingly dominated by educated white
men and therefore not a very good reflection of society in general. But
in addition, there are three very specific observations I'd like to add
about political blogging:
So what's my point? Just this: reading lots of blogs can (a) convince you that your opposites are all absurd extremists, (b) give you the vague impression that libertarian views are the natural starting point of most political arguments, and (c) prevent you from really noticing that the Christian right is a major force in the political universe.
I'd argue that Randy let all these things affect his judgment. He has easy access to plenty of extremely liberal blogs, and therefore sees nutball opinions just often enough to convince him that they're common. He has libertarian leanings, and therefore doesn't notice that a lot of libertarian-oriented arguments sound pretty weird to ordinary people. And he never sees the Christian right on the blogosphere, and therefore doesn't see the nutballs on that end of the spectrum on a daily basis.
Bottom line: don't let this happen to you! Whenever you get depressed/depairing/royally pissed off from reading blogs, take a walk and have a chat with your neighbors. The comment threads of LGF and Atrios may not quite be solipsistic fantasies, but they're a poor mirror to the real world.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (81)
VALERIE PLAME: HERE TO STAY?....Via the MinuteMan, we get some sharp criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Valerie Plame affair from an unexpected source. Donald Luskin, NRO's resident Paul Krugman stalker, says it's a big deal, whether conservatives want to admit it or not:
Luskin must be dead serious about this: he even mentions Paul Krugman in a tone that is — barely — non-derogatory. (Of course, he wrote several hundred derogatory words about Krugman's mention of Plame in a previous post, and then later had to add several hundred more saying, essentially, that Krugman was probably right. So maybe he'd already had his fill of Krugman bashing for the day.)
I'm surprised this story isn't getting more attention, although I can see that unless you have some very good sources it's probably pretty hard to add anything new. But I agree with Luskin: I don't think it's going away, and the longer the White House stonewalls, the worse it's going to get. Something big is bound to break on this story sooner or later.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias reports that Chuck Schumer is also on the case, and since he's got a big mouth that should help things along nicely.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (39)
JOSEPH WILSON ON THE DAILY SHOW....I am informed via email that Joseph Wilson, the man at the heart of the uranium scandal — and, incidentally, Valerie Plame's husband — will be on the Daily Show tonight. Jon Stewart is a better interviewer than most of the alleged pros out there, so it might be worth watching. Check your local listings.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:44 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (29)
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: A CONVERT TELLS HER STORY....Like many states, Florida is in the grips of the dreaded medical malpractice "crisis," so their legislature is holding hearings. But with a twist:
Via the Bloviator, we learn that Medpundit, who used to read this kind of stuff and dismiss it as partisan propaganda, is taking a second look (link bloggered; look for "Road to Damascus Moment"):
Indeed they haven't.
It's puzzling to me that the medical industry is in bed so tightly with the insurance industry. I mean, I realize that doctors are naturally going to hate trial lawyers, but these periodic malpractice crises are so obviously manufactured, and the premium increases so obviously unrelated to actual increases in payouts, that surely more doctors ought to be suspicious that maybe the insurance companies really aren't their friends? It does indeed strain belief to think that payouts have spiked so viciously just in the past year that an insurance company would have to raise rates 150% in the course of two months.
Doctors need to wake up. And legislatures ought to make testifying under oath standard practice.Permalink | TrackBack (5) | Comments (43)
TIME FOR A NEW GOVERNOR?....The whole Uday/Qusay story was practically ignored by the LA Times today, overshadowed by a banner headline announcing that the recall campaign against Gray Davis has officially qualified for the ballot. It looks like we'll have an election sometime around the end of September.
Which means I now have to come to grips with what to do. On the one hand, I'm inclined to vote against the recall because it's a lousy piece of partisan hackery and I really don't want people to get the idea that they can mount a recall campaign anytime a governor has low approval ratings.
On the other hand, it's a done deal now and Davis is a dork, so why not go ahead and kick him out and vote for whoever I think is best?
Of course, it's possible that Republicans will make it easy for me by not running anyone worth voting for. Say, Darrell Issa, just to pick a name out of a hat.
Too bad it looks like Dick Riordan won't run. I would have voted for him in the general election, and he probably would have won. But Davis was way too crafty to let me have that choice. Maybe Arnold, then? I wonder how T3 is doing?
Decisions, decisions....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (5) | Comments (100)
July 23, 2003
SHIT, MEET FAN....If Josh Marshall and Chris Nelson are to be
believed, the shit is about to hit the proverbial fan this week. After
two weeks of softening up George Bush's credibility via African uranium
and the ever changing explanations for it, we're now set for brand new
battles on two fronts:
Stay tuned.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (141)
DEAD OR ALIVE?....I guess I'm not the only one asking why helicopter gunships and rockets were used to annihilate the Hussein brothers instead of tactics designed to take them alive:
I don't have the expertise to have an opinion on this, but the whole thing does seem a bit peculiar.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (88)
CASUAL RACISM....Hey, remember that judge who asked a Lebanese-American woman if she was a terrorist when she appeared in court to fight a pair of parking tickets? Rob Dougherty brings us the good news that he's accepted a lifetime ban from the bench.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:15 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (11)
BUY LOW, SELL HIGH....More evidence that Steve Case really is (or was, anyway) the smartest man in the tech industry.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:52 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (3)
WHO TURNED IN UDAY AND QUSAY?....One of the curious things about the killing of Saddam's two sons was that they were hiding out in Mosul, a city right on the border of the Kurdish north and probably not the best hiding place in the world for Saddam loyalists. So why were they there? The Washington Post has the story:
But sometimes disasters can turn into blessings:
That sounds about right. Live by treachery and corruption, die by treachery and corruption.
It does bring up a question, though. Granted, this is not the kind of operation you can second guess from six thousand miles away, but I'm a little surprised we didn't make more of an effort to take them alive. If it really was Zaidan who betrayed them, surely it would have been possible for him to allow special ops teams into his house to take the the Hussein sons without a fight? You'd think it would have been worth trying since they surely would have been worth interrogating at length.
I imagine there's a story behind that. Perhaps we'll hear it sometime over the next couple of days.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:45 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (46)
TAP DANCING ON THE GREENS....Hey, how about some of that good old time Green Party bashing? Here's Michael Tomasky today:
You know what? He's probably right.
By happenstance, I just finished that biography of Henry Wallace that I've been reading, which means I just finished reading about the 1948 election. We all know that Strom Thurmond ran in that election — and what a pity that he didn't win, eh? — but Henry Wallace also ran that year. He was the head of the Progressive Party and ran on a pure liberal New Deal platform, but one that also advocated engagment with the Soviet Union instead of a Cold War.
Here's what happened: Harry Truman, who was unloved, unwanted, and considered too soft on communism, was able to spend a good deal of his time attacking the Progressives. Result: by having an ultra-liberal party to his left, he was able to paint himself as a moderate and, more importantly, as tough on communism. Looky there, he said, all the appeasement loons are in Wallace's party! We Democrats repudiate them and have no place for them.
In the end, all but a million people who had planned to vote Progressive ended up voting Democratic instead, and Truman won the election. Lesson: having a party to your left can actually help by buffing up your centrist credentials even if you run on a basically liberal domestic platform (which Truman did). However, for this to work you have to attack the lefty party and clearly disassociate yourself from them.
As Tomasky puts it, having a Democrat do a Sister Souljah moment on the Greens could be a terrific move. Anybody listening?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:20 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (77)
PROGRESS IN IRAQ?....So was the death of Saddam Hussein's sons good news? Or will it just bring on more terrorist attacks than ever? Dan Drezner is (apparently) agnostic on the question of its immediate effect, but thinks there's some very good news hidden in the backstory:
That's an interesting point, and I hope he's right.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:11 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (9)
TORT REFORM....Frivolous lawsuits? Dwight Meredith says that, in fact, most of them never see the light of day: "They lose on motions to dismiss. They lose at summary judgment. They suffer directed verdicts. They lose before juries and they lose on appeal."
However, sometimes frivolous suits can serve a purpose even if they have no chance of winning, and today he provides a couple of good examples. Oddly, they don't come from the usual ambulance-chasing suspects....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (37)
DEFERRED TAXES UPDATE....Last month I mentioned an analysis that suggested Social Security wasn't really in big trouble because we would soon start benefiting from $12 trillion in tax revenues from baby boomer IRA accounts. There was plenty of money for Social Security without raising taxes.
Sounds good, but via Max Sawicky I see that Michael Boskin, the author of the analysis, now says that a programming error led to a "considerable overstatement" in the first draft of his study.
Easy come, easy go.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:56 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (5)
VALERIE PLAME STORY HEATING UP....The Valerie Plame story started slowly but is now finally picking up steam. Bush Wars has a good roundup of the latest:
The good news is that this story is finally breaking into the open, which means it's likely to get further investigation.
In the meantime, Mark Kleiman has a lot to say about this, including a call for a special prosecutor, and the MinuteMan has a timeline of the whole affair. And the news pages of the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post? So far, nada. Time to wake up, guys.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:29 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (42)
July 22, 2003
"SEXED UP"....I wrote a longish post last night about the whole Andrew Gilligan/David Kelly/"sexed up" dossier affair over in Britain, but I ended up deleting it. It just turned out to be too hard to figure out any kind of reasonable point to make about the whole thing.
However, today the Guardian answered a trivial — but eminently blogworthy! — question that piqued my curiosity while I was doing some of my research: where did the term "sexed up" come from?
The words "sexed up" were never used, and yet every single news articles uses them, and even puts them in quotes. Why?
I guess that answers that.
There's really not much meat to the whole controversy, by the way. Gilligan says that in his May 29 broadcast he accurately quoted Kelly, a Ministry of Defense official who was involved in writing the September dossier that had allegedly been "sexed up." When questioned, Kelly said he didn't really say exactly that, but since he's now dead there's no way of proving it one way or the other.
On the other hand, one thing this kerfuffle shows, yet again, is that coverups and shifty explanations are usually worse than the initial misdeeds themselves. Nobody can ever prove that Gilligan misquoted Kelly, but thanks to a raggedy defense by the BBC they can prove that the BBC lied about several specific claims: among other things, prior to Kelly coming forward, the BBC said that Gilligan's source was a "senior intelligence official," denied that he worked for the Ministry of Defense, and implied that he had been one of the primary writers of the dossier. All of those things are false.
Best guess at this point? (1) Gilligan probably quoted Kelly accurately. (2) Kelly tried to downplay it when he was questioned. (3) The government acted abysmally in fingering Kelly and putting him under an unnecessary spotlight after he came forward. (4) The BBC shot itself in the foot very badly in their various defenses of Gilligan.
Of course, none of this matters, since the entire affair is simply a proxy for whether you think the BBC is either (a) inexcusably biased against the Iraq war and this is just one of a thousand examples, or (b) the BBC was the only news outlet with the integrity to report the war honestly, free of the propaganda spewed forth by the U.S. military. Take your pick.
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, other news outlets have also reported that the September dossier was beefed up under political pressure. What really made the difference in this case was that Gilligan also claimed that Kelly told him the name of the person who insisted on the beefing up: Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of communications. It was this allegation that really started the war between Blair and the BBC.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (33)
THE STARS ARE LIKE GRAINS OF SAND....REALLY....We now know how many stars there are in the universe:
Ah, excellent. I woudn't have tried to count every individual star either. Especially given this:
My first thought was that surely no astronomer would actually say something like that, but it turns out he did, sort of:
Who thinks that? Last I heard, the best guess for the number of protons in the universe was 1076. Surely there can't be more stars than protons, right?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (31)
MORE URANIUM FALLOUT....Another warm body walks the plank. Condoleezza Rice's deputy is taking the blame for the State of the Union fiasco:
Gee, I wonder if they searched Condi's office to find out if she got those memos?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (22)
BIDEN VS. DEAN....Ezra Klein has an analysis over at Not Geniuses of the possibility of Joe Biden running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and emails to wonder what I think of it.
Basically, Ezra thinks that Biden, as a nice hawkish centrist, would be able to beat the rest of the mainstream field early on and then duke it out with the good doctor down the stretch as the Anybody-But-Dean candidate. Biden thinks he would be able to beat Dean in such a contest, while Ezra thinks Dean would kick his ass. (And Ezra better think that, since he's working for the Dean campaign.)
So what do I think of that? Beats me, really. I mostly just have a dim memory of Biden running in 1988, and while I imagine that 16 years is long enough to put paid to the whole plagiarism scandal that sunk him that year, my recollection is that he wasn't really setting anyone on fire that year anyway. If I can be a bit mean, he's sort of like the Lamar Alexander of the Democratic party: he seems good on paper, but on the campaign trail he somehow ends up looking a bit ridiculous for some reason.
Anyway, check out Ezra's post and decide for yourself. I'd be curious to hear what commenters old enough to remember the 1988 campaign think about all this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (36)
REPUBLICANS FINALLY STAND UP FOR GAY RIGHTS!....Fox News reports that Republicans — well, "one Republican" anyway — is outraged over Pete Stark's homophobic outburst last week:
Oh please. Everybody knows that "cocksucker" is just a codeword that allows baseball managers to be ejected from games. And "fruitcakes" — well, those are the guys with the tinfoil hats, which seems to be a fairly accurate description of Bill Thomas, the guy it was directed at. In fact, apparently even Republicans are now "quietly whispering" that perhaps Thomas is something of a fruitcake.
And who is this Republican who's so eager to see a gay slur in all this? Why, none other than Palm Beach congressman Mark Foley, who, as we all know, is a wee bit sensitive about the proposition that being gay is a slur. Time to get a new schtick, congressman....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:13 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (48)
PAUL KRUGMAN AT PLAY....I don't really have any good reason for posting this, but since all us liberals love Paul Krugman, I thought I'd post this picture of what he looks like when he's not writing shrill and wildly unfair attacks on Republicans for the New York Times.
Anyway, that's PK and his wife Robin on their vacation this year, a walking tour of France. Doesn't he look relaxed? And like a really nice guy too? Don't you wish you could take an economics class from someone like him?
And yet conservatives seem to hate him so. I guess appearances can be deceiving....
UPDATE: uggabugga has the real story behind Krugman's vacation.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (54)
TELEMARKETING SCHIZOPHRENIA....Tyler Cowen, who consistently writes posts over at the Volokh Conspiracy that I have a hard time making sense of, has one today about a possible downside of the telemarketing Do-Not-Call list recently started up by the federal government:
I'd venture to guess that on virtually every subject imaginable a lot of us have conflicting feelings. Every once in a while I feel like killing someone, for example, but I'd just as soon not let the market sort out my conflicting feelings on that. (Actually, more to the point, I'd just as soon not let the market sort out your conflicting feelings on that.)
Anyway, to answer Tyler's question: yes, that's exactly right, and it's why telemarketers hate the Do-Not-Call list. It's well known in the sales world that people with low sales resistance go out of their way to try and avoid salespeople, and those are precisely the people you most want to talk to. The telemarketers are well aware that the Do-Not-Call list is going to cost them millions of their very best prospects.
I think I can live with that. Unfortunately, via the Conservation of Annoyance Law, I imagine they'll make up for it through a massive increase in internet pop-up ads or something similar....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (38)
SQUAWKING....I skimmed through the paper pretty quickly this morning without finding an awful lot of interest, but for fellow Californians — or anyone interested in random political idiocy — a bunch of Democratic legislators had a nice long discussion yesterday about deliberately holding up the California budget because it might help them politically. Unfortunately, they were talking into a live microphone:
I guess the advanced technology of a "squawk box" was a little too much for them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (33)
SADDAM'S SONS DEAD?....U.S. troops may have killed Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, in a firefight today.
Does that mean we're getting closer to Saddam himself?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:43 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (50)
July 21, 2003
NORTH KOREA UPDATE....It looks like we're finally ready to talk to North Korea:
You know, I'm glad to see that we're finally making moves in the right direction, so I guess I shouldn't complain. But "we will not...grant inducements for the North to live up to its obligations"? North Korea has been asking for a nonagression pact forever, and if we give it to them that's definitely an inducement to live up to their obligations. The ability of the Bush administration to call black white and up down — and get away with it — is truly astonishing.
Of course, none of this would matter if we hadn't removed all possible wiggle room for ourselves with our macho posturing six months ago, but better late than never. At least we're talking. Maybe.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:43 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (60)
VALERIE PLAME UPDATE....A few days ago I blogged about a David Corn column in The Nation in which he suggested that the White House had exposed Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative in order to discredit Wilson himself. But Corn's column was hedged and it was unclear exactly who exposed Plame and exactly what Plame's role at the CIA was. Today, Wilson provides some additional information:
So according to Wilson, his wife was a covert operative, and it was White House officials who outed her.
If Wilson's charges are accurate, this is ugly, very ugly....Permalink | TrackBack (6) | Comments (112)
Nobody — and I mean nobody — thought that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapon at that time. The most hawkish possible analysis from anybody at that time suggested that maybe Saddam could have a nuke by the middle of this decade — if he got his hands on fissile material. And President Bush knew it.
So why was he pretending otherwise?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (32)
THE CASE FOR WAR....Dan Drezner says he's not too worked up about the uranium brouhaha because it wasn't a big part of the reason he supported the war. Kieran Healy says fine, but it was a big part of the reason the president supported the war, and if the president's case for war was built on a series of untruths then that's something we should all get worked up about.
Today, Dan decides to take the afternoon off and let other people defend him, but he does say this:
Now, Dan's skepticism on this point might be correct, although the Bush administration's apparently obsessive desire to make sure the word "nuclear" got into his speech even as all the evidence of Saddam's nuclear program was melting away leads me to believe that they thought it made a difference.
Still, there's a much bigger point that Dan doesn't address: we haven't found any WMD. I'd say that a significant fraction of both the American public and the legislative branch did support action against Iraq because they thought Saddam had chemical and biological weapons that posed a significant threat. The importance of the uranium controversy, therefore, is that it is slowly getting people to look behind the curtain of the broader WMD charges, and what they're seeing doesn't look too good. If it turns out that the entire WMD edifice was built on shaky and panicky non-intelligence, that's going to make all the difference in the world.
Of course, all the results on that aren't in yet, and we may yet find something. I'm willing to give it until September.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (48)
F-15s FOR ICELAND....The Bush administration wants to remove the last of our fighter jets from Iceland:
The background here is murky, and it could be that the Bushies really did screw up the diplomatic spadework on this. It would hardly be a surprise.
But surely I can't be the only one who thinks that if Iceland feels like (a) they are the weakest link in NATO, and (b) they need military protection, then maybe they ought to have a military of their own? I mean, I'm happy that they've pledged $4 million in reconstruction assistance to Iraq, but I'm sure we'd also be willing to sell them a few F-15s of their own if they really think they need them.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (32)
LIBERIA....Amy Sullivan reports that Tucker Carlson, Al Sharpton, Cornel West, and Alan Dershowitz are all headed to Liberia. That's quite an eclectic group. I wonder if they'll have anything interesting to say when they get back?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (18)
CHUCK HAGEL COMES ON BOARD....Via Tapped, I see that Chuck Hagel, a generally respected Republican, isn't happy with the administration's stonewalling over Uranium-Gate:
This whole controversy is about genuinely serious stuff, not just partisan bashing, so it's good to see that there are also Republicans who are concerned about whether our intelligence services are doing an adequate job, whether the NSC is doing its job, and whether the Iraqi threat was really as overwhelming as George Bush said it was.
Good for Hagel for being willing to raise these questions.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (24)
FIGHTING TERRORISM....I'd like to follow up a bit on my post earlier this morning about increasing the size of the Army. It actually gets right to the heart of one of my primary disagreements with the hawks in both the administration and the blogosphere.
My question is this: we have the biggest military establishment on the planet by far. We spend more on national defense than the rest of the planet combined. Our technology is almost infinitely advanced beyond anyone else and our lead is accelerating. If this isn't enough to fight global terrorism, what is?
See, I simply don't understand how conventional military force is supposed to win the war on terror. It's great for invading countries, but even the most hawkish hawks can't seriously suppose that we can increase the size of the Army enough to invade any more countries beyond Iraq, can they? Especially since they disdain the idea of cooperating with other countries.
But we still hear the usual arguments: we're desperately short of aircraft carriers. We spend less than 4% of GDP on defense and could easily afford to spend more. We're stretched thin in Iraq.
But in what way would another couple of carrier groups help the war on terrorism? Or a missile defense system that doesn't work? These kinds of things can help with conventional military assaults, but that's not primarily what we need to fight terrorism.
So why don't we hear about alternatives? If Donald Rumsfeld, for example, proposed a fifth branch of the military solely dedicated to fighting foreign terrorism, that might be an interesting idea. Special ops, intelligence, economic interdiction, and so forth all in one integrated command structure. I don't know that it's a good idea, mind you, but at least if I heard it I would think that he was truly trying to address the threat of terrorism, not just jawboning to build his empire and satisfy the appetites of the service chiefs.
This is yet another cultural gulf, I suppose. Conservatives seem to me to be stuck on the idea of building up our conventional military forces in the vain hope that we can somehow control the world and become safer through sheer force of arms. I, on the other hand, would like to calm down and hear some new ideas designed to truly solve the problem. Threatening to invade Iran might sound awfully muscular, but it's a pipe dream and it wouldn't work anyway.
How about some real suggestions? Both liberals and conservatives are welcome to propose some.
UPDATE: Tapped weighs in here, suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld's personnel reforms should be given a chance before we think about increasing troop strength. I'm OK with that, but I still have my doubts that using conventional military forces to invade countries is really an effective way of fighting terrorism in the first place.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:41 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (126)
PIGEONHOLING MICKEY....Is Mickey Kaus a liberal who provides a dose of tough love to fellow liberals? Or is he really just a conservative in sheep's clothing? LA Observed has some observations.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:24 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (26)
ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO?....Tacitus thinks we need to increase the size of the army:
Say, um, Tacitus, buddy, do you really mean that? My back-of-the-envelope guess for an invasion of Iran is about a million troops, and maybe another half a million for North Korea — assuming the South Koreans are on board. Are you seriously suggesting that we ought to be thinking about occupying these two countries in the near future?
Then again, why not? Apparently the Pentagon is thinking that way too:
I really wish you guys would keep this stuff to yourself. I like it a lot better when it's just conspiracy theorizing from the left.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (41)
July 20, 2003
POSTWAR IRAQ....If you're in the mood for some good news about postwar Iraq, the LA Times has a pair of stories today that you should read: one that says things are going pretty well in the Kurdish north, and one that says things are going pretty well in the city of Basra.
Unfortunately, the basic story here is that (a) things were going pretty well in the Kurdish north anyway, and (b) Basra is under British control. Still, good news is good news, and as the stories indicate, even if Baghdad is a different kettle of fish there are lessons that can probably be learned from these success stories.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:49 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (29)
GEORGE BUSH'S REAL PROBLEM....Do people really care whether or not George Bush manipulated intelligence to build a case for war? Bush supporter Emily Sims says no:
This trust in Bush is clearly at the core of his appeal, but despite Sims' enthusiasm that trust is slipping. The most dramatic evidence of this is the latest Zogby poll, which asked respondents if they were in favor of re-electing George Bush or electing someone new. In just the past five weeks, Bush's re-elect number has dropped from 49%-38% — a delta of +11% — to 46%-47%, a delta of -1%. That's a 12 point drop.
Why the dramatic decline? By themselves, the missing WMD and a few mistaken assertions are probably not enough to hurt Bush as long as his supporters continue to think that he was dealing with the American public in good faith. However, "good faith" is the key here, and what can hurt him are the ongoing revelations indicating that he's been choosing his words a little more carefully than an honest man should need to. More from Zogby:
This is important. The 75% who say the WMD doesn't matter are simply the hardcore Bush supporters and Bush haters. But of that middle 25%, 20% of them say they are less likely to vote for him if the WMD isn't found. That's a huge number when you consider that presidential elections are normally decided by only a few percentage points, and my guess is that it's based as much on questions of Bush's honesty as it is on the WMD itself.
That growing doubt about Bush's honesty is what the president's supporters are really concerned about, and that's why they pretend to think that Democrats are loons for continuing to press their doubts over George Bush's trustworthiness. Don't listen to them.
POSTSCRIPT: Just as a point of curiosity, why do you suppose that 5% of the country says that they would be more likely to vote for Bush if WMD is never found? Does that make any sense?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:42 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (5) | Comments (39)
FORGED DOCUMENTS UPDATE....So who was it that forged those Nigerien documents that started this whole mess? It's a bit of a sideshow, to be sure, but today we get a step closer to the answer. Apparently they came from an Italian journalist named Elisabetta Burba, although her ultimate source is still unclear:
I suppose Burba will talk eventually, or else someone else will ferret out the truth. Still, it gives you pause for thought that an Italian journalist who very much wanted to believe the documents nonetheless quickly concluded that they were fakes, while the CIA apparently didn't figure it out for several months — and even then not until the IAEA told them.
This does not give one tremendous confidence in the analytic powers of our intelligence services, does it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:27 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (26)
MORE ON KRISTOL....While complaining about Democrats' alleged lack of seriousness, Kristol makes this observation:
Um, is that the new standard for foreign wars these days? That they more than likely haven't made things any worse?
That seems like sort of a low bar to me.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:56 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (26)
THANKS FOR THE ADVICE, BUT....Conservatives are justifiably tired of the "Bush is dumb" meme, but they have a stale and self-serving meme of their own that they really ought to put to bed. It goes something like this: "Bush is unbelievably clever and all his missteps are really just part of a cunning plan to trap Democrats into self immolation."
Uh huh. Via James Joyner, I see that Bill Kristol plays this to the hilt in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard (the title of his piece is "Bush Suckers the Democrats"), in which he tries rather pitifully to pretend that the uranium controversy is solely about 16 little words in the State of the Union address, not about the broader issue of whether George Bush pushed us into war based on wildly inflated estimates of Iraqi strength. He ends with this:
Isn't it funny? Every time the Democrats actually attack vigorously and seem to be doing some real damage, why, they're completely missing the point! They really ought to be attacking something else! The usual candidates for attack — by some odd coincidence — are things that are even more hawkish and conservative than George Bush himself is willing to advocate (nuking Mecca, calling for the dismemberment of the UN, increasing the military budget 50%, etc.).
Sad, isn't it, that Democrats are attacking the president for the peccadillo of starting a war against a country that turned out to pose little or no threat to anyone? And sadder still that Democrats can't be an "intelligent, loyal opposition" like the Republicans always were when they were in the minority, isn't it? Sad indeed....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:44 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (31)
July 19, 2003
YET ANOTHER, UM, BREAKDOWN IN COMMUNICATION....Oliver Willis brings us a brand new example of a George Bush war claim that he didn't bother running by the CIA. I hardly need to add that it turned out not to be true, do I?
Something tells me that the nation's press corp is now busily engaged in reviewing every single speech that George Bush and the rest of his administration made from September forward. I wonder what they'll find?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (10)
WHAT DID DICK CHENEY KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?....Last week, while Time and Newsweek were featuring Iraq and Uranium-Gate on their covers, U.S. News & World Report decided to go instead with the 100th anniversary of the airplane. This week, in an effort to make up for this appallingly poor news judgment, their cover features....a ranking of the best hospitals in the United States.
Sheesh. On the other hand, they do have an interesting tidbit in the current issue about the person who, despite almost certainly being right in the middle of the uranium controversy, has so far managed to keep his hands remarkably pristine — Dick Cheney:
Puzzling indeed. If I were President Bush, I'd be pissed. Apparently Cheney and Libby figured that Powell was too smart to let the uranium claim sneak into any speech he was reading, but that Bush would happily recite whatever they put in front of him. That's not a very pretty picture, is it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (18)
AUSSIE INSULTS....The actual subject of this post over at Road to Surfdom is of no interest at all, but it did provoke a remarkably vitriolic comment thread. Today, commenter Geoff Honnor collected a definitive list of the insults exchanged amongst the participants, and I felt that it ought to be displayed and saved for posterity. Here it is:
This is a bit more colorful and sprightly than the average American insult exchange, don't you think? Thanks, Geoff, for performing this valuable piece of cultural anthropology for us.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:31 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (18)
HARASSED GAY STUDENT WINS SETTLEMENT....Here's some good news. Remember Thomas McLaughlin, the Little Rock teenager who was harassed by his teachers and made to read Bible verses after they discovered he was gay? The ACLU sued the Pulaski County School District and yesterday they settled the case:
This was a pretty disgusting case and I'm glad that the school district finally came to its senses. It's not quite up there with Lawrence v. Texas, but it's still a step in the right direction.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (23)
16 QUESTIONS....Howard Dean's "16 Questions for the President" is a clever play on the infamous 16 words, and it turns out it's a pretty good list too. Good for him for asking these questions, and good for him for keeping his eye on the bigger picture of the overall administration case for war.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:41 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (14)
I dunno. I take terrorism seriously, and I also take seriously the threat of terrorists and unstable states getting hold of weapons of mass destruction. But what can you say about this kind of talk? Do Lileks and the rest of the prowar crowd seriously think that Osama and his ilk have made it doubtful whether western civilization will endure?
To me that just sounds crazy, and I guess maybe that's at the core of the schism in America today. Lileks and his compatriots think the terrorists have the power to bring western civilization to its knees, whereas I think of them as simply a threat that we will rather quickly and efficiently dispatch. They may be scary, but in terms of actual power they are the merest flea on the back of the United States and the rest of the western democracies.
I wonder what it is that causes such vast gulfs in instinctive reaction between people who probably more or less agree on the actual nature of the threat itself?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:17 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (10) | Comments (133)
URANIUM UPDATE....Here's the morning roundup on uranium, along with a few comments:
By the way, in case you haven't figured this out yet, your best sources for Uranium-Gate information are the Washington Post and Josh Marshall. Between the two of them, you won't miss much.
And for your weekend amusement, below is a screen shot from the White House website showing President Bush hard at work reviewing the State of the Union speech line by line, word by word. Click for more!
UPDATE: How embarrassing — I didn't notice that I was originally using a picture from the 2002 State of the Union address. Everything is now fixed and fully up to date. Thanks, Howard.Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (32)
BALANCING THE BUDGET....Could we balance the budget if we just reined in all that wasteful spending so beloved of congressmen through the ages? Dwight Meredith says no.
He's right. I'm all for cutting back on pork and frivolous spending, but that doesn't even come close to balancing the budget. As Dwight points out, if you really want to balance the budget you can either raise taxes or you can make serious cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Everything else is just picking nits.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:58 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (56)
PROPERTY IS THEFT....OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?....The RIAA, following up on its ominous threats of a couple of weeks ago, is now issuing a blizzard of subpoenas compelling internet providers to release the names and addresses of people who have been making songs available for sharing over the internet:
This will undoubtedly set off a technology war as people try to keep their files online anonymously, but I have a feeling that, when push comes to shove, the RIAA strategy will be fairly successful. Why? Because it's going to scare people.
See, over at the Volokh Conspiracy a few days ago, Tyler Cowen was musing about why people think it's OK to steal music but not, for example, OK to steal food. This prompted much learned discussion, but I think this is a case where the correct explanation is also the simplest and most obvious one: it's because people don't think they can get caught stealing music. If it ever became clear that you could take bread from supermarkets with absolute impunity, the theft rate would skyrocket.
This is a dim view of human nature, I know, and most of you are probably sure that you wouldn't start stealing bread even if you had a cloak of invisibility, but I don't believe you. Sorry. Most of us might obey the law due to long and dreary socialization, but at the core of that socialization is the fear of being hauled off to jail by burly guys in blue uniforms. Those burly guys are apparently about to start showing up at your computer, and I suspect that socialization is not far behind.
(Not sure you want to take my word for this? According to the LA Times article linked above, 68% of teenagers say they would stop downloading music "if there were a serious risk" of being fined or jailed. Any further questions?)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:30 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (59)
ROMAN HOLIDAY....While discussing Howard Dean's electability, Matt Yglesias, tanned and rested and back from Italy, says:
Indeed, but what's the other half?
And speaking of Matt, it's good to see you back and blogging away about politics and war and yada yada yada, but, um, what about Italy? Are you going to tell us anything about your trip?
Did you get drunk on lots of Italian wine? Make love to beautiful Italian women? Leak forged Nigerien documents to Italian newspapers?
Don't worry, you can tell us. We'll keep it a secret.
UPROAR IN THE HOUSE....Just in case anyone missed this while giggling at the antics in the House yesterday, here's what started the fracas:
I'm curious: what do conservative bloggers and commenters think about this? In recent years, House Republicans have routinely prevented Democrats from seeing proposed legislation, and this was just a particularly egregious example. Surely no one can defend Thomas' action in demanding an immediate vote on a 91-page bill without even giving Democrats a chance to read it, let alone debate it.
Right?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:01 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (14)
July 18, 2003
TONY BLAIR'S SOURCE....Who was Tony Blair's "entirely separate and credible source" for the Niger uranium allegations? All we know is that according to one British official it was "based on intelligence from a third country that was reliable."
General Glut takes a look at the pieces and concludes that the most likely source is Israeli intelligence. I'm not sure if his case his convincing, but it's at least suggestive. Take a look and decide for yourself.
And as long as you're over there, check out this interesting post. According to Le Monde (quoting La Repubblica), Silvio Berlusconi personally called George Bush three days before the State of the Union address to hawk the Niger documents that we now know were forged. Maybe they can discuss it next week when Berlusconi is scheduled to pay a visit to the Crawford ranch....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (16)
JOSEPH WILSON ARTICLE....The original New York Times article by Joseph Wilson that kicked off the uranium scandal has now disappeared into the Times' archives. For future reference — and undoubtedly in violation of both U.S. and international copyright laws — I am reprinting it here. It seems like an important historical document, and I want to be able to refer to it in the future.
So here it is.
(Odd little note: I copied this from the International Herald Tribune site, and it's been slightly edited from the original: there's no mention of "drinking mint tea." Why do you suppose they cut that out?)
What the U.S. envoy who went to Niger didn't find
Joseph C. Wilson IV
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, I was a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990, as charge d'affaires in Baghdad, I was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam. (I was also a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait.) After Iraq, I was President George H.W. Bush's ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe; under President Bill Clinton, I helped direct Africa policy for the National Security Council.
Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That's me.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the CIA that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake - a form of lightly processed ore - by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990s. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story.
After consulting with the State Department (and through it with Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, the U.S. ambassador to Niger), I agreed to make the trip. The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the CIA paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the U.S. government.
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-1970's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late-1990's.
The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. The embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business, so I was not surprised when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq, and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival. I spent the next eight days meeting current and former government officials and people associated with the country's uranium business.
It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired. (As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors - they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government - and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.) In early March, I arrived in Washington and promptly provided a detailed briefing to the CIA. I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret in my report.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in U.S. government archives confirming my mission. They should include the ambassador's report, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and an answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally).
I thought the Niger matter was settled and went back to my life. I did take part in the Iraq debate, arguing that a strict containment regime backed by the threat of force was preferable to an invasion. In September 2002, however, Niger re-emerged. The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam and his unconventional arms posed an immediate danger. As evidence, the report cited Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from an African country.
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.
Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.
The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses. (It's worth remembering that in his March "Meet the Press" appearance, Cheney said that Saddam was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons.") At a minimum, Congress, which authorized the use of military force at the president's behest, should want to know if the assertions about Iraq were warranted. I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program - all of which were in violation of U.N. resolutions. Having encountered Saddam and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf war of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.
But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
The writer, U.S. ambassador to Gabon from 1992 to 1995, is an international business consultant.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:21 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (10)
THE CASE FOR WAR....Joe Rospars examines the current status of the case for war with Iraq. Unfortunately — and I say this as a former supporter of the war and one who still sometimes thinks it was a good idea — I'd say he pretty much nails it.
The evidence currently at hand suggests that Saddam Hussein was not a danger to the region but might have become one sometime in the next 5-10 years. But if the standard for preemptive war is merely that someone might become a danger in the next 5-10 years, we've got a mighty long list of countries to go after....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (38)
POLITICS IS A DIRTY BUSINESS....So you think politics has been getting steadily nastier for the past decade, do you? Well, check out this 1940 speech by vice presidential candidate Henry Wallace, who was, relatively speaking, a rather cerebral, nonpartisan, and gentlemanly fellow:
The headline in the Des Moines Register the next day was:
Hah! Take that, Republicans! And you thought Willie Horton was bad....
UPDATE: On the other hand, I have to admit that this really does seem to set a new standard for incivility.
Oh my.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (38)
RORSCHACH TEST....I had a (very short) conversation with a friend recently about parking spaces for compact cars. Horrible things, we agreed, a blight on western civilization. Whose fault are they?
My immediate reaction was that the answer was obvious: shopping centers are required by law to have a certain number of parking spaces, and compact spaces are a devious way of keeping parking lots small while still meeting the legal requirements.
My conservative-leaning friend had exactly the opposite instinctive reaction: he figured they were probably mandated by lefty city councils trying to promote the purchase of clean, economical compact cars.
Neither of us, of course, had any idea what the real answer was. What do you think?
UPDATE: A quick Google search suggests the correct answer. This article is typical.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:30 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (24)
WHERE'S THE WMD?....Asked about the infamous 16 words and how they got into the State of the Union address, White House press spokesman Scott McClellan asked everyone to take a step back yesterday:
That might be good advice, so let's ask the broader — and far more important — question: where is the WMD?
I'm reminded of this by a couple of things. First, I noticed this sentence about special ops teams in Iraq from Max Boot's article "The New American Way of War" in Foreign Affairs (summary only online):
I had forgotten about that, but he's right. In addition to the UN inspectors, who may have been doing an inadequate job in the view of the Bush administration, we had our own troops searching for WMD in Iraq for several months before the war. But they came up empty handed. Did that cause any doubts in Washington?
Today in the Globe and Mail, Canadian analyst Sunil Ram goes further and says directly that Iraq didn't have a nuclear program and didn't have chemical or biological weapons of any significance either. What's more, he said American officials had been told this in early 2001:
After 9/11, however, apparently the Bush administration no longer wished to believe this.
So: where is the WMD? In March Donald Rumsfeld said not just that Iraq had WMD, but pointed out their exact location:
So it's not the entire country we need to search, it's just the areas around Baghdad and Tikrit. Except that there's nothing there.
I have long thought that Saddam did indeed have chemical and biological weapons and that the Bush administration is genuinely surprised that we haven't been able to find them. But the more I read, the more I wonder about that. I wonder if the intelligence regarding those weapons was far less compelling than we've been led to believe and the Bushies aren't quite as surprised as they pretend to be.
This is indeed the bigger picture. But it looks no better for the Bush administration than the 16 words. In fact, it looks considerably worse.
UPDATE: Tim Dunlop suggests that Sunil Ram's recollections are not entirely accurate. After looking at a transcript of the conference's keynote address, he says:
He also thinks that the Bushies really did think their suspicions about WMD were correct and really are surprised that they haven't found any yet. Despite what I said above, I imagine he's probably right about that.Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (33)
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING....My mother just got back from Hawaii — where she apparently spent most of her time trying to lure cats into her room with saucers of milk — so in honor of her return this week's cat blogging features the CalMom's cats: a rare photo of the reclusive Lucy (on the left) and a not-so-rare photo of the lovely Cadbury preening in front of the piano (on the right).
BONUS CATS: First, for the over-18 crowd, we have Live Nude Cats. Don't say you weren't warned. Then we have the heartwarming tale of Gizmo, a 6-week-old kitten rescued from solitary confinement after being arrested by the New York transit police. Finally, CNN reports on the latest consumer electronics fad from Japan: a device that translates meows and purrs into human language.
BONUS DOGS: We're all for equal time for the opposition here at Calpundit, so for you dog lovers out there we have Pathological Dog Adoration Alert from Rachel Lucas today. And Stephen Green, taking a break from his cookbook, has pictures of his 17-week puppy Xander. Even for a cat guy like me, Xander is almost intolerably adorable.
I'm off for some more blood tests and an X-ray now. Back later.
WMD GOSSIP....Nothing really new this morning on the WMD front, but we do have some gossip:
However, if you're in the mood to send an email to the White House to complain about this, you might want to think twice.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (63)
July 17, 2003
WHITE HOUSE IN "BATTLE MODE"....Man, the press is finally calling them the way they see them. This is from Friday's Washington Post:
Sure, it's only on page A12, but it's a start! Read the whole story for more.
And prepare yourself for an epic blizzard of "additional facts" coming from the White House over the next few days. Should be fun.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (38)
WE'RE #1....James Joyner thinks we've finally reached the point where we're spending more on defense than the entire rest of the planet combined, and he's got the numbers to prove it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:49 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (23)
TIMELINE UPDATE....In a story dated yesterday, AP reported that the CIA didn't get hold of the forged Niger documents until after the State of the Union speech in January.
Today, the Washington Post reports that that isn't quite right:
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm having trouble keeping up with the changes to the party line. It seems to change hourly.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (21)
"MYSTERY OFFICIAL" REVEALED....So who is the "mystery official" who insisted on including the uranium allegation in the State of the Union address even though the CIA said it was dubious? The invaluable Josh Marshall, who subscribes to the invaluable Nelson Report, says that Chris Nelson knows the answer.
That answer is here, along with some speculation that (a) the CIA is really fed up, (b) Tenet is no longer willing to take the fall alone, (c) Condi Rice now has some difficult questions to answer, and (d) even Republicans are now starting to take this seriously.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (29)
LEFT HAND, MEET RIGHT HAND....What the hell? Apparently part of the campaign to discredit Joseph Wilson's Niger report is to point out that he never even mentioned the notorious forged documents in his report. What a boob! Time magazine puts it this way:
So which is it? Is Wilson a boob for not checking out the documents, or did we not even get our hands on the documents until February 2003?
If the order of the day is to discredit Wilson, shouldn't these guys at least be checking with each other first to make sure they keep their stories straight?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:56 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (18)
BACK FROM ITALY....Matt Yglesias wishes the world to know that he is back and blogging up a storm. Consider the world notified, Matt.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (10)
NAACP UPDATE....The three Democratic candidates who were blasted by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume for missing a forum on Monday have been pounded into submission after being allowed to make amends on Wednesday:
I'm sorry, but regardless of whether the candidates were right or wrong, this is revolting. A display of raw power is one thing, but publicly treating presidential candidates like small children — "does the congressman need to say something else?" — is beyond the pale. They should be ashamed of themselves.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:06 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (97)
WHO'S THE "MYSTERY OFFICIAL"?....Things seem to be closing in. CIA chief George Tenet testified before a Senate committee yesterday and said, first, that he was out of the loop:
But then he said he was in the loop and knows who was pushing to have that sentence in the speech in the first place:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded by basically calling Durbin a liar.
So: Tenet didn't know the uranium claim was dubious, but he did argue to have the claim watered down and does know who he was arguing against.
This is becoming a very tangled web.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (4)
July 16, 2003
"NOT BEYOND THE BOUNDS OF POSSIBILITY"....Remember that little misunderstanding about Iraq buying uranium from Niger? Sure you do. Well, the CIA may have backed down from that claim, but Tony Blair is sticking to his guns:
That's reassuring, isn't it? I guess "not beyond the bounds of possibility" is now the standard for arguments in favor of going to war.
Tony Blair is in a lot of trouble.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (49)
QUESTION OF THE DAY....What's the largest U.S. city that's not part of the interstate highway system? Answer here.
NOTE: This answer comes us to us courtesy of the residents of this benighted city themselves. I have no independent verification of whether they are correct or not. Alternate candidates with populations over 440,000 are welcome.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (43)
ABUSE OF POWER....Valerie Plame is an energy analyst for a private firm. She is also the wife of Joseph Wilson, the former diplomat who sparked off Uranium-Gate ten days ago with a New York Times article saying that he had investigated the Niger uranium claims last year and found them wanting.
This just gets uglier and uglier, and I hope the mainstream press — having finally smelled blood — will follow this up. If Corn's accusations are true, this is an appalling abuse of power by the administration that not only blows an agent's cover, but reduces the effectiveness of an important CIA program and makes it harder for the CIA to recruit similar agents in the future.
I hope they think it was worth it.
UPDATE: Time magazine has more background on the White House campaign to discredit Wilson here.
UPDATE 2: Mark Kleiman ruminates a bit on what this might all mean, and he's not pleased at the possibilities.
You know, GM would have survived Ralph Nader's crusade against the Corvair if only they hadn't sent a private investigator after him and then lied about it. I have a feeling the Bush administration might not have learned this lesson.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:35 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (11) | Comments (71)
"MISTAKEN ESTIMATES"....Speaking of Kenneth Pollack....
Pollack has an article about Persian Gulf security in the current issue of Foreign Affairs and I note with amusement the following paragraph:
UPDATE: This has been corrected based on an email from Foreign Affairs. The online version — from which I originally copied the excerpt — says "within a decade." The print version, which is correct, says "within five years." (The online version has since been corrected.)
This is actually kind of ironic since I first read it in the print edition but cut and pasted the text from the online edition. I didn't even notice that they were different.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:12 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (11)
OUT OF IRAQ BY NEXT YEAR?....Paul Bremer is ready to move on:
I don't want to make too much out of a single quote, but this really doesn't sound like the kind of thing Bremer should be staying. I don't think there are any serious analysts who believe that the United States can successfully rebuild a stable Iraq within a year, and I don't understand why Bremer would be building false hopes that this might be the case.
I hope this isn't motivated by a desire to be largely finished with the occupation before next year's election.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:47 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (43)
But as Timothy Noah points out in Slate, at the time Bush made this statement the actual number of usable stem cell lines was....one.
At least it wasn't zero. That means he was closer to the truth with stem cells than he was with Iraq's WMD....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (44)
NO KUFFNER TODAY....Charles Kuffner emails to say that his site is down due to a domain registry screwup. He'll be back eventually, but there's no telling when....
UPDATE: He's back!Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:36 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (3)
THE IRAQI NUCLEAR BOMB PROGRAM....Josh Marshall reminds me today to link to this very interesting analysis by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post today. You should read the whole thing carefully, since you have to pay attention to really follow the argument, but the gist of it is that evidence for Saddam Hussein's nuclear programs kept dwindling away last year as the various allegations were checked out. By the time George Bush gave his State of the Union address, the African uranium and the aluminum tubes were all that were left, so despite the fact that both pieces of evidence were highly questionable, they stayed in the speech.
Pincus' timeline is provocative, but it also piqued my curiosity: even if the specific evidence in the State of the Union speech was dubious, what was the general prewar assessment of Saddam's nuclear bomb program? Should George Bush have been talking about it at all?
So I pulled my copy of The Threatening Storm off the shelf and reread the section on nuclear weapons (pp. 173-175). It's unequivocal: writing in late 2002, Kenneth Pollack says there is a "consensus" that Iraq has an active nuclear program; it employs as many as 14,000 workers; experts "unanimously" agree that Iraq is working to enrich uranium; and Iraq might be able to build a bomb as early as 2004.
But unlike chemical and biological weapons, which might yet be found, a nuclear program is too big to hide. If we haven't found it by now, it just doesn't exist, and that means that something that was "unanimously" agreed upon in late 2002 has turned out to be flatly wrong.
By the end of January, with UN inspectors roaming freely around Iraq, the evidence for a nuclear program was dwindling fast. For some reason, though, Bush's advisors felt that chemical and biological weapons weren't enough for his State of the Union speech, so they seized on what little was left in order to keep the threat of nuclear bombs alive. That's bad enough, but even worse is how the collective intelligence agencies of the world misjudged what was happening in Iraq so badly. This isn't a small point of interpretation, it's a case of absolute certainty about a massive technical and industrial program that turned out to be complete fiction.
How did that happen?
THE NUANCES OF GEORGE BUSH....Max Boot writes about the uranium scandal today in the LA Times. We get the usual talking points — intelligence is by nature fragmentary, Clinton bombed an aspirin factory, it was only 16 words, etc. — and then this:
Don't you just love the oh-so-careful wording here? The implication is that Bush never oversold the case against Iraq at all and certainly never claimed the United States was in any real danger from Saddam Hussein. Unless, of course, you count things like this from the now infamous State of the Union address:
It's undeniable that Bush never flatly claimed that an attack against the United States was only days away, but surely Boot's statement is, um, just a teensy bit disingenuous anyway? Does anyone seriously doubt that George Bush was the cheeleader-in-chief for the notion that that United States and the world were in grave and immediate danger from Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction?
Conservatives sure are getting good at Clintonian levels of hyper-legalistic word selection, aren't they? Care to try again, Max?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:29 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (65)
July 15, 2003
MORE SPINNING....Oh, please, not again:
Well, I'm fed up, that's for sure. What the hell is going on in the Bush administration?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:56 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (78)
SENDING TROOPS OVERSEAS....In what might be a first for me, I recommend "Rules for Intervention," an article by National Review editor John O'Sullivan. Aside from a couple of gratuitous swipes at liberals — it is National Review, after all — it's a pretty good summary of how we ought to judge whether or not to intervene in foreign conflicts. I don't agree with every single thing he says — in particular, I think I'm a little more open to purely humanitarian interventions than he is — but overall he seems to hit the right tone.
UPDATE: On the other hand, this nitwit at NRO seriously thinks that we ought to put Ronald Reagan on the $2 bill. I've got no problem with the aircraft carrier — in fact, I think it's appropriate given Reagan's support for the military — but dumping Thomas Jefferson and putting Reagan in the same company as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson? Have these people no shame at all?
UPDATE 2: Greg Wythe offers his own views on O'Sullivan's article and asks for some debate. So head on over and give him some.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (51)
NORTH KOREA UPDATE....Is North Korea close to building a nuclear bomb? The White House says no:
I hardly need to say that it's difficult to know what to make of this. Given the administration's obvious willingness to publicly spin intelligence information, should we believe this or not? Are the North Koreans really bluffing, or is the administration downplaying the North Korean threat because that's the convenient thing to do?
In either case, while Bush fiddles, former defense secretary William Perry, who has stayed quiet until now, thinks Pyongyang is burning:
Unfortunately, this sounds plausible. The unwillingness of the administration to do anything — even talk — with North Korea really does seem to be based more on personal pique than on a sober assessment of what's best for the United States.
Why has Bush gotten a pass on this from the conservative establishment? Hell, even Clinton did something, while Bush has literally done almost nothing for nine months now, seemingly happy to let the situation fester away until eventually we will be backed into a corner with no options left.
Is that what he wants?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (53)
CLAM CHOWDER WITH DICK....Kris Lofgren had dinner — sort of — with Dick Gephardt today and blogs about it here. Kris is definitely a true believer in the Gephardt freight train.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:58 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (6)
DEFICITS FOREVER....The OMB released new estimates for this year's federal budget deficit today. Here's the lead from the New York Times story:
This is followed by a torrent of figures showing that this deficit is one of the biggest ever. However, while the fact that OMB estimates have changed so drastically in only five months might be a bit disturbing, the size of the deficit really isn't. In fact, considering the continuing flatness of the economy, a bigger deficit than expected is probably good news.
For the real news, you have to go to the Washington Post:
This is the real problem, especially since I assume that even these figures are based on the usual overoptimistic growth projections. By 2007 the economy should be booming and the government should be planning to run modest surpluses to cool things down a bit. Instead, it's deficits forever, because seemingly nobody in this administration cares a whit about anything beyond the next election.
That's the real problem. The Post got it right.
PARALLEL LIVES....I'm currently reading a biography of Henry Wallace, the New Deal acolyte who ran for president in 1948 on the short-lived Progressive Party ticket. Earlier in his career he was editor of a popular farm journal and Secretary of Agriculture for FDR.
Farming, which had been in crisis in America throughout the 1920s, became catastrophic during the Depression, and as Secretary of Agriculture Wallace was convinced that the only way to solve the crisis was to reduce output so that prices would rise. To do this, he implemented a (then radical) plan to pay farmers to take acreage out of production.
However, he was also a corn researcher (sort of a corn obsessive, actually), and was the original promoter of hybrid corn, an invention that boosted corn yields from 24 bushels per acre to 31 bushels per acre and eventually to over 100 bushels per acre. Hybrid corn was a wild success, and by 1999 the company that Wallace founded was purchased by DuPont for nearly $10 billion.
So Wallace the politician was dedicated to cutting farm output, while Wallace the businessman was dedicated to increasing yields. As the book finally notes on page 150, "He recognized the paradox. But he could never resolve it."
It's an interesting example of the way that we all compartmentalize our lives.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:30 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (11)
"A VITAL PART OF THE CULTURE OF AMERICA"....Adam Kushner tells us today about Bob Graham's latest attempt to win red state votes. I have a feeling it's not going to work.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:06 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (17)
THE HUMAN BRAIN: OBSTACLE TO SUCCESS?....I was browsing through this week's issue of the Economist over lunch and read a long essay about the current state-of-the-art thinking on what makes great companies great. This has been a recurring and favorite topic among business management gurus for at least the past two decades.
(The essay is here, but don't bother clicking on it unless you're a subscriber. Yes, that means you, you slack jawed yokel, you.)
Ahem. Anyway, it turns out that while trendy management technologies are all very well, which trendy management technology you adopt doesn't really matter. However:
Aha! So that's what I've been missing. Gotta get me some of the flawless execution. Unfortunately, in the next paragraph my betters at McKinsey explain what my problem is:
Yep, the human brain. That's the kind I have, all right. (Unless Brad DeLong decides to upload my consciousness into a canary someday, of course.)
Once again, this essay confirms my belief that there is actually not one single thing that great companies have in common. In fact, this essay could almost be a Harvard Case Study in the use of the phrase "on the other hand." There is practically nothing in it that isn't either contradicted or hedged within a couple of paragraphs.
So save your money on all those business books out there and just follow Kevin's ever-so-simple rules of good business: manage for profitability, treat your employees as if someone were filming a documentary of you, don't let your hopes and desires color your view of distasteful reality, and never ever put off difficult decisons just because they are going to be personally painful.
Now go out and make some money.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (23)
DISRESPECTFUL OR JUST OVERBOOKED?....NAACP President Kweisi Mfume is upset that not all the Democratic presidential candidates showed up at an NAACP forum Monday:
That's pretty over-the-top rhetoric, and the LA Times story has some interesting background to all this, especially the complaint by the candidates that it's simply impossible to attend all these events:
OK, I can buy that, but I still have a couple of questions for the no-shows:
The Times mentions that this is just part of a larger issue that blacks are feeling increasingly taken for granted by Democratic party leaders. That's a story I'd like to hear more about.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:29 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (52)
REVISIONIST HISTORY....I gotta tell you, it's hard to keep up with things right now. Take off a couple hours for a visit to the doctor and you miss stuff like this from our president yesterday:
What does he mean, Saddam "wouldn't let them in"? I'm trying to figure out some charitable interpretation of this, but I just can't. What the hell is he talking about?
James, this is why I think the president should speak to the press a little more often. Sure, the press plays gotcha too often, but, like you, I want to know what Bush thinks in very broad terms. And it really does make a difference if — in very broad terms — the president of the United States is under the peculiar impression that there were no inspectors in Iraq.
Doesn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (67)
The Italians deny it too.
In a sense, though, it really doesn't matter where the information came from or whether the British are standing behind it. The CIA has already said they don't believe it, and they didn't believe it back when the president made his State of the Union claim either. So regardless of what the British think, the fact remains that the president of the United States ignored the conclusions of his own intelligence service because he was desperate to scare the American public into thinking Saddam had a nuclear bomb program.
So what else should we take a jaundiced look at, now that it's clear how the Bush team was operating? The LA Times puts it well in their lead editorial today:
That's exactly right: knowing what we know now, would the American public have supported this war? That's starting to look more doubtful every day.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:20 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (31)
PARSING THE PRESIDENT....Megan McArdle has a warning for the president's critics:
I think there's some truth to this. A certain amount of guffawing over the administration's hyper-technical word parsing is certainly justified, and there's nothing wrong with pointing out that their "explanations" for the uranium gaffe seem to change almost hourly. However, we should all keep in mind that the primary issue is the overall pattern they have shown of justifying a preemptive war on what now looks like very dubious intelligence. That's a real issue, it's an important issue, and it should stay front and center.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:40 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (130)
July 14, 2003
THE 20TH HIJACKER....Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker," was arrested prior to 9/11 on immigration charges. He had been taking flying lessons throughout 2001 and has admitted to being an al-Qaeda member. And although he adamantly denies that he was involved in the 9/11 hijackings, the government says he was.
Is he guilty? Maybe. But since it's not a sure thing by any stretch, Moussaoui ought to have a chance to prove his innocence.
Today, however, concluding a long-running dispute, the government refused a judge's final order — upheld by an appellate court — to allow Moussaoui to call a witness in his defense: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the self-described planner of the 9/11 attacks, who is currently being held in an undisclosed location overseas. bin al-Shibh is critical to Moussaoui's defense because the government claims that he's the one who wired money to Moussaoui and other 9/11 hijackers.
The upshot is that the judge is likely to dismiss the charges against Moussaoui and the government will move the trial to a military tribunal, where the rules are more to their liking.
I understand that the government has legitimate national security concerns here, but it's still hard for me to believe that this is happening. He might not be guilty, after all, and that's what a trial is supposed to establish. But if he truly isn't guilty, how can he possibly prove it if he's not allowed to call the witnesses that are part of the government's own case?
This whole thing is way too much like the Salem witch trials for my taste, where guilt is preordained and nothing a defendant can say will prove otherwise. I don't have much sympathy for Moussaoui, who's certainly an al-Qaeda terrorist of one kind or another, but considering what we've learned lately about the quality of U.S. intelligence in matters like this, I'm also not inclined to simply accept the government's word that he was a participant in the 9/11 conspiracy. Moussaoui should be allowed a fair trial.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:19 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (68)
ORANGE COUNTY GETS ITS 15 MINUTES....Check it out! Fox has a new series coming soon:
Yep, that's what it's like here. Eat your hearts out, everyone else.
POSTSCRIPT: In real life, though, here's what it takes for us to get mentioned on CNN....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:24 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (15)
BLOGGING OR BANJO PRACTICE?....YOU MAKE THE CALL!....Instapundit writes today:
Sam Heldman, whilst pondering whether to give up blogging for good next week, demurs:
Jeebus, Sam, you call yourself a lawyer? Why look right here in the seventh paragraph:
See? Ross — "a friend of mine," according to the author — vaguely implies that "unrealistically low speed limits" might cause some bad stuff to happen. Maybe even death! It's right there in black and white.
I dunno, Sam, I think you'd better keep blogging for another year until you get the hang of it. It's obvious you need more practice.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (47)
WORLD OPINION....Last week the Pentagon was moving forward with plans to finally bring the 3rd Infantry Division home from Iraq. Not anymore:
I'm not sure what happened between last Thursday and today, but maybe this had something to do with it?
I know the warhawks delight in mocking the rest of the world and insisting that we don't need their permission to invade other countries, but there's a price to be paid for this attitude. This is it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (29)
CAKEWALK?....I forgot to blog this article from the Kansas City Star this weekend, so I'll make up for it now. The basic story: unlike World War II, in which "American planners plotted extraordinarily detailed blueprints for administering postwar Germany and Japan," Pentagon planners for Gulf War II didn't bother with all that fiddly planning stuff because they were convinced that postwar Iraq could be quickly brought under control by their pet exile, Ahmad Chalabi:
Read the whole story to get the background on the intense level of mistrust between the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House that led to this fiasco. And then say a little prayer that the ideologues have truly been sidelined and Paul Bremer can pick up the pieces and put Iraq back together again.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:51 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (41)
AVOIDING THE PRESS....Nick Denton makes a small but illuminating point today:
It's true. I know that all presidents try to avoid the press when something embarrassing is going on, but Bush's inaccessibility is simply stunning. The only time American reporters ever get to talk to the man is when he's in a foreign country.
With that, I will now take the opportunity to repeat my suggestion for a constitutional amendment from last March....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:21 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (42)
POSTMODERN INTELLIGENCE....Adam Kushner at the Flibuster alerts us to this line in a Wall Street Journal editorial today about the uranium scandal:
It's hard to understand the mindset of someone who would write something like this. To be sure, policymakers are the ones who direct intelligence agencies, but that's not what's at issue here. The question is, once they've been directed, and once they've come back with a judgment, and once they've thrashed everything out time and again and nonetheless stuck to their guns on that judgment — should policymakers then override them? Because that's what happened in this case.
It's almost beyond belief that the WSJ pretends that it's the Bush administration critics who are politicizing intelligence in this case. That is, it would be beyond belief to anyone who's unfamiliar with the daily assaults on intellectual honesty that make up the WSJ editorial page. After all, today's editorial finishes up with this:
How much plainer can they be? Policymakers unhappy with the truth need to be willing to "help" intelligence analysts question their assumptions. The Orwellian overtones are hard to miss.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:44 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (38)
NEW TIMES EDITOR....Bill Keller, who lost out to Howell Raines for the editorship of the New York Times a couple of years ago, is about to get his star turn. He was named executive editor today.
I wonder how long it will take before Andrew Sullivan turns on him?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:14 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (20)
July 13, 2003
GOOD NEWS IN IRAQ?....Tacitus thinks the inauguration of the Iraqi governing council this weekend is good news and speaks well for Paul Bremer's ability to get all the important parties in Iraq to work together. Time will tell, of course, but he makes a good case.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:11 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (56)
I get it: he was just relying on the President of the United States! It's not really fair to hold him accountable for that, is it?
Now, this would be just an amusing little cheap shot except for the fact that the push to oversell the uranium story almost certainly came from the intelligence analysts at the infamous Office of Special Plans. And the Office of Special Plans, as we all know, works for none other than Donald Rumsfeld.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (39)
WHY THE URANIUM MATTERS....The fundamental conservative response to Uranium-Gate has been that anti-war partisans are blowing a single sentence out of all proportion. As Condi Rice put it:
She's right, of course, but at the same time she's rather studiously missing the point. The uranium story is important not because it was a linchpin of the administration's argument for war, but simply because it's a smoking gun.
In 1987, with Iran/Contra closing in, Ronald Reagan and his advisors were genuinely afraid of the possibility of impeachment. And why not? After all, no one seriously doubts that Reagan knew what was going on. But in the end, John Poindexter took the fall, no smoking gun was ever found, and the Democratic Congress never brought charges.
Flash forward to 1998. Conservatives had been convinced for years that Bill Clinton lied and abused his position relentlessly. But their furious assaults went nowhere until they found a stained dress. Then, despite the fact that sex with an intern was surely the least of all the charges against him, impeachment became a reality.
In both cases, everyone who was paying attention knew what was going on. Both Reagan and Clinton lied about what they did and didn't know. The only difference was the smoking gun.
Likewise, Bush's problem is not that a single 16-word sentence of dubious provenance made it into his State of the Union address. His problem is that he promised us that Saddam was connected to al-Qaeda, he promised thousands of liters of chemical and biological weapons, he promised that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program, and he promised that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators. But that wasn't all. He also asked us to trust him: he couldn't reveal all his evidence on national TV, but once we invaded Iraq and had unfettered access to the entire country everything would become clear.
But it didn't. We've had control of the country for three months, we've had access to millions of pages of Iraqi records, and we've captured and interrogated dozens of high ranking officials. And it's obvious now that there were no WMDs, no bomb programs of any serious nature, and no al-Qaeda connections.
So while the uranium is only a symbol, it's a powerful one. George Bush says we live in an era of preemptive war, and in such an era — lacking the plain provocation of an attack — how else can the citizenry make up its mind except by listening to its leaders? In the end, we went to war because a majority of the population trusted George Bush when he presented his case that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States and the world.
Uranium-Gate is a symbol of that misplaced trust. If George Bush's judgment had been vindicated in Iraq, a single sentence in the State of the Union address wouldn't matter. But it hasn't, and he deserves to be held accountable for his poor judgment by everybody who believed him.
And that's why those 16 words matter.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (5) | Comments (84)
WOLF AND CONDI....Josh Marshall caught Wolf Blitzer's interview with Condoleezza Rice this morning. His verdict: "pathetic."Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:52 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (16)
It's an online poll, of course, and doesn't really mean much, but I'm still surprised by the results. My first thought was that maybe Army Times polls are magnets for feisty liberals who like to skew the results, but a quick look at the results of previous polls doesn't bear that out. The results seem more or less legit.
I never served in the military, but I would have expected that most military folks would kinda like "bring 'em on" as a sign of defiance and fighting spirit. But maybe not. Maybe those soldiers out there are really professionals who want to do their jobs, avoid stupid risks, and know that their enemies shouldn't be mocked or taken lightly.
And maybe Bush should knock off the macho posturing. It might be making him fewer friends than he thinks.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 01:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (26)
WHO WANTS TO RUN CALIFORNIA?....With the recall seemingly a done deal, should a Democrat run against Gray Davis? After all, lots of Republicans are running and Davis is unpopular enough that he could well lose.
Personally, I still can't figure out why anyone would want to be governor of California at the moment, but hey, that's just me. So who should run? Mark Kleiman has a very good rundown of the Dem possibilities and Virginia Postrel adds her choice here (and incidentally defends her from charges of being a bitch).
Any other ideas?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:45 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (32)
URANIUM-GATE LIVES!....Ouch. This is the cover of Time magazine this week. And here's the text:
The cover of Time ought to shove this whole sordid mess right into the faces of Mr. and Mrs. America, shouldn't it?
Please forget everything I said about this controversy lasting only a few more news cycles — it's got legs aplenty now. Thanks, Time.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:08 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (29)
TIME TO PARTY!....Dotcom bust? What dotcom bust?
How to explain this? According to William Cockayne, a Silicon Valley think tanker, "Part of the advantage of Silicon Valley is that it has no memory. That's how it can continue to innovate. But that's also its Achilles' heel — it will continue over the next 10 years to do the same things wrong again."
Sure, but they've forgotten already? I mean, we've had plenty of tech booms and busts before, but they've been spaced out approximately once per decade. This boom seems to be starting up before the 2001 crash is even cold in its casket.
Still, I guess optimism is a good thing, and the additional capital gains taxes will certainly help out California's budget crisis. Being the cautious guy that I am, however, I think I'll hold onto my wallet just a little while longer.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (11)
MORE ON BRIGHTS....Dean Esmay appropriately chooses Sunday to defend the "bright" meme. "I quite like having a single word with positive connotations that doesn't carry so much baggage," he says.
I don't really have a dog in this fight, but since "bright" got trashed so thoroughly in my comments yesterday, I figured it was only fair to link to the case for the defense. One thing in Dean's post did catch my eye, though, and that was his annoyance at Daniel Dennett's claim in his original article that politicians like President Bush engage in "bright bashing." He wants some examples.
Glad to oblige. Here's one:
That's George Bush Sr. in 1987, but I assume he counts as a politician "like President Bush"?
Granted, that's one guy and he was probably provoked by the reporter for American Atheist, but it does go to show that there's not much political downside to bashing nonbelievers. On a more general note, anyone even roughly my age or older will remember that for a long time "godless communism" was such a common phrase in America that it was almost as if "godless" was communism's first name. There was never much doubt about where atheists stood in the conservative pantheon.
I've certainly never felt browbeaten because of my (non) beliefs, but that's because I usually just stay quiet about the subject — and Dennett's whole point is that perhaps we shouldn't have to. What's more, I have to say that I've been prosyletized many a time by friends and neighbors and silently wondered how they would react if I turned the tables and started aggressively passing out atheist tracts and begging them to reconsider their faith. I'm guessing that while it's luminous faith that motivates them, they would consider me "smug and arrogant." At least, that's what they seem to think of Daniel Dennett....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (29)
July 12, 2003
YUMMY SACRAMENTO POLITICS....Hard as it is to believe, it looks like the California legislature is set to make a budget decision even worse than anything they've done yet: no tax hikes (yay Republicans!) but no further program cuts either (yay Democrats!). Everyone wants to go home, so instead we'll just borrow the money! All $10 billion of it. The kids can pay it back eventually, right?
Come on, Joel, don't hold back. Tell us what you really think....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:31 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (27)
SADDAM AND OSAMA....Enough about the uranium. The real reason we invaded Iraq was because of Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda, right? Umm....
Considering that Iraq is a big, Arab country that hates the United States, the thing that's always struck me is how little connection there was between Saddam and al-Qaeda. My guess is that the CIA has a pretty thick dossier on al-Qaeda connections for practically every country in the Middle East, and while there was almost certainly some al-Qaeda activity in Iraq, the astonishing thing is that it was so miniscule.
Back to the drawing board, I guess. It sure would be helpful for W and the gang if they could actually dredge up a bit of WMD out in the desert somewhere, wouldn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:21 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (36)
SPEECHWRITING 101....So how did all this speechwriting stuff really go down, anyway? Here's a best guess from Ray McGovern, a longtime CIA analyst who is now a part of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity:
This is part of a long interview, and the whole thing is worth reading. McGovern is pretty unhappy about the politicization of the intelligence agencies under George Bush.
POSTCRIPT: By the way, note that McGovern apparently thinks that CIA knew the Niger documents were forgeries back in October. However, this appears to be just speculation on his part.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:44 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (9)
TIMELINE UPDATE....Did Tenet/Powell/Cheney/Rice/Bush really believe the Niger story? Ever? It looks like probably not:
So what happened? How come it magically reappeared in January?
Yep, just your typical bureaucratic snafu. Nobody was actually pushing to having this in, you see, it was just something that got lost in the shuffle. Except for this:
Cheney? Dick Cheney? Oh yeah, maybe he did have something to do with it. Guess we should look into that. We'll let you know if anything turns up....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:35 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (3)
TAXING TIMES....Two years after leaving her previous job, Marian finally got the closing payout from her 401(k) account today. It came to $4.94.
But: the feds withheld 99 cents of that, leaving us with only $3.95, barely enough for lunch at McDonalds. I'm telling you, we are taxed to death in this country, just taxed to death.
Where do I sign up to become a conservative?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:21 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (5)
URANIUM-GATE TIMELINE....I'm a little confused about something. Remember those forged documents showing that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger? Here's a quick timeline:
So here's what I'm confused about: did Colin Powell really believe the documents were genuine when they were handed over to the IAEA? Did anyone?
The story we're being told is that everyone thought the documents were genuine until March, when the IAEA discredited them. But if that's the case, then why did the CIA's October 2002 report say that the uranium claims were "highly dubious"? And why didn't Powell mention them in his UN speech in February? If those documents were for real, surely they were enough of a smoking gun that the CIA would have considered the uranium allegations credible, right?
Can anyone help me out here?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:13 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (6)
MILITARY TRIBUNALS....A table is worth a thousand words. From this week's Economist, here's a comparison of the Pentagon's new military commissions with various other courts. Not a very pretty picture.
And don't forget: even if a suspect is miraculously acquitted in one of these courts, they still won't be released. That is a "separate determination," according to the folks running these show trials.
This is disgraceful. Our children are going to look back on this the same way we look back on Japanese internment camps and McCarthy-era loyalty oaths.Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (36)
DOES URANIUM HAVE LEGS?....Maybe I spoke too soon. Even after George Tenet's Shogun-like dive onto his sword yesterday, the question remains: who put the uranium sentence into the State of the Union speech in the first place? Here is what Tenet says, after a bunch of background material explaining that for the entire previous year the CIA had known the uranium claims were highly suspect:
As a number of bloggers have noted, if the CIA, both in its official National Intelligence Estimates and in private conversations was saying that the uranium sentence didn't belong in the speech, then who was arguing to keep it in? As the New York Times says today:
That's exactly right, and it's important to remember that while the uranium claim is only one small detail, this entire scandal hinges on the much larger problem that no WMD has been found in Iraq. If it weren't for that, nobody would care.
But the fact is that there's no WMD, and that calls into question the Bush administration's entire argument for war. We need some more answers about that.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:15 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (41)
SPEAK LOUDLY AND CARRY A SMALL SCHTICK....The LA Times has a profile of Howard Dean this morning that focuses on Dean's centrism:
I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more of this as Dean tries to get the message out that just because he's anti-war doesn't make him a lefty radical. Luckily, there's plenty of time left to do this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:17 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (18)
July 11, 2003
BRIGHT....It looks like this "bright" meme is going to get a serious airing here in America. That is, if having an op-ed in the New York Times counts as a serious airing. Daniel Dennett writes:
There's also a call for "bright rights," a euphonious phrase if ever there was one.
Anyway, I'm ready to sign up, but if "bright" goes the way of "gay" and "queer," we'd better think up some other word for "lots of light" since this one will shortly become useless in its traditional meaning. But I guess that's the least of our problems, no?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (7) | Comments (85)
TENET TAKES THE FALL....CIA Director George Tenet has officially taken the fall for Uranium-Gate:
That's probably the end of the controversy, and if they'd fessed up earlier this whole thing never would have gone anywhere in the first place.
Now, it's still the case that the administration's arguments for war were exaggerated, and it's equally the case that the CIA is the last agency that should take the blame for this, but none of that matters. Others in the administration — possibly including Bush — probably knew that the uranium charges were bogus, but with Tenet taking the bullet there will never be a smoking gun to prove it, and that's what it takes. Anything less will inevitably be written off as just the usual partisan bickering.
Unless something big turns up, this controversy will now die and Bush is off the hook.
Well, we already know who, and we know why. And while that kind of stuff is interesting to news junkies, it's pretty meaningless to the general public. I just don't think there's enough oxygen left to keep this going.
UPDATE 2: I guess I'd better clear up my meaning here. I'm not suggesting that (a) I'm never going to write about this story again or (b) that the general topic of missing WMD and how Bush led us into war is a dead letter. I'm just predicting that Tenet's confession will take the air out of the sails of this particular story and it will die. I hope I'm wrong, but my rational side tells me that it has only a few news cycles left.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:38 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (7) | Comments (50)
MORE TROOPS....EVER MORE TROOPS....The LA Times is reporting today that Donald Rumsfeld has ordered a radical shift in miltary manpower, telling the service chiefs to reduce their dependence on reserve troops so that they can mobilize for a major war within 15 days. This is apparently a reaction to the growing problems in postwar Iraq:
The good news is that the Bush administration seems to be slowly accepting the fact that the neocon fantasy of liberating a joyous Iraqi population was just that — a fantasy — and is now showing a willingness to stick it out in Iraq in large numbers. That's good to hear.
But the bad news is in that second paragraph: their acceptance of the difficulty of nation building doesn't seem to have dimmed their enthusiasm for using the U.S. military to solve all the world's problems. I realize that Republicans are supposed to be the party of steely eyed confrontation with harsh reality and all, but even so their lack of nuance these days is just scary. Got a domestic problem? Write an IOU! Got a foreign problem? Throw troops at it!
It's pretty clear, I think, that the neocons were wrong about the ease of rebuilding Iraq and equally wrong about Iraq being the domino that would topple dictatorships throughout the Middle East. So why do they have any credibility left on their more basic contention that we can fight terrorism with regular army tactics, and the more the better? It's baffling.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:39 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (18)
GENERAL CLARK....I've been skeptical about Wesley Clark for a while now, unsure of why he was generating so much buzz even though his policy leanings are close to a blank slate. Somehow, just being a leftish-leaning general didn't seem like enough to me. So when reader Kevin McCormack recommended Tom Junod's profile of Clark in this month's Esquire, I decided to print it out and read it over lunch.
Now, the profile itself, I thought, wasn't really very good. It's written in what I've come to think of as "glossy magazine standard," meaning that it's bright and absorbing and fun — but after you're done you realize that you didn't learn all that much. It's sort of like a heavily padded term paper, except the padding is done by an extremely talented and experienced pro.
That aside, however, there were a couple of excerpts that I found interesting. First is this one, which is basically why I haven't taken Clark seriously so far:
That's exactly what I think will happen, and I have a feeling that Republicans will be able to paint him not as a toughminded former general, but as a general who turned sort of soft and batty and had to put out to pasture. The question is, can Clark overcome that?
The second excerpt has nothing to do with his political chances, but I found it both insightful and refreshing:
This isn't brilliantly original or anything, but it is well put and shows an appreciation of reality, not just partisan slogans. I like that a lot.
I also like the fact that Clark understands the single most important aspect of American culture today: fear. We are afraid of so many things, frequently with little reason, and our media and our politicians feed this fear relentlessly. If Clark is able to meet that head on and run a campaign built on fighting fear instead of giving in to it, he might be able to tap into something truly potent.
Still, I think healthy skepticism is in order. Junod acknowledges the Clark buzz but never really provides a good sense of what causes it and whether it has any sticking power. After all, it's easy to be enthusiastic about somebody who gives a good speech and hasn't yet said anything you disagree with, but eventually Clark will have to propose a healthcare plan and a tax plan and a dozen other plans, and each one of them will reduce his support a bit and give his opponents new handles with which to attack him. So for now, I'll wait and see.
POSTSCRIPT: If you're wondering what I mean by "glossy magazine standard," this is it:
At first, you just skip past this stuff, but when you actually think about it you start to wonder how the hell do they make this stuff up? Seriously, can you imagine yourself ever looking into somebody's eyes and coming up with that paragraph to describe them? Me neither.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:55 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (75)
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING....No, I don't know what they're looking at, but Inkblot and Jasmine are clearly intent on something in these pictures. A small bug? A small stick that their peanut sized brains have interpreted as a bug? Who knows.
Today's bonus cats come from Rob Booth, a libertarian Republican from Houston. He's not all bad, though, because he's also a tech writer and a "little nutty" about cats. Hey, me too! Anyway, Rob has four cats for us today, ranging from about the size of a small peach to the size of a large meatloaf. And there's a story, too!
SOCK PUPPETS....Charles Kuffner has dug up the photograph he was looking for on Monday. Here's the caption:
Go take a look.
If you're a Democrat, it's hilarious. If you're not, it's yet another
example of the breakdown of civil discourse in modern society and the
juvenile antics of liberal handwringers.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MEMORIES....Jim Capozzola writes a bit sadly today about the closing of the first Christian Science church in New York. The congregation has been dwindling — he says 20 attendees was a good showing back when he attended — and they are joining forces with the Second Church of Christ, Scientist down on 68th Street.
I know how he feels. Christian Scientists have never been proselytizers and their ranks have been shrinking for years. The branch I grew up in, First Church of Garden Grove, was sold years ago and is now home to a Korean congregation of some kind. My mother is still an active member of the church, but my teenage relations with Christian Science theology were a bit, um, contentious, and I stopped attending around age 16 or so through sheer force of obnoxiousness. I've only attended once since then, on the occasion of my mother's maiden service after she was elected First Reader. (No clergy in Christian Science churches, just a First Reader and a Second Reader. Very democratic.)
Christian Science is a pretty radical theology — though hardly original — once you figure out what it is, and in my case I didn't figure it out, despite years and years of Sunday School, until my father explained it sort of accidentally one day. Frankly, I'm not sure which was worse: knowing or not knowing.
In any case, none of it stuck. But I can still name the Seven Synonyms for God. Most of them, anyway....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:16 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (30)
IT JUST NEVER ENDS, DOES IT?....Republicans are proposing yet more tax breaks for those who need them least, but you have to read the fine print to learn about it. Nathan Newman has the details.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (2)
AIDS FUNDING....Here's a minor little example of why it's so important to understand motivation in politics:
What to think? If you believe that Bush is sincere, this makes perfect sense. Maybe we really can't ramp up spending that fast without wasting a lot of it.
But if he's not, then it's just a cynical effort to get public credit for being compassionate without having to follow through on it.
Which is it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (16)
July 10, 2003
ANYONE KNOW A GARDENER?....This is totally off the wall, but....
Do I have any readers in the general vicinity of Irvine who could recommend a gardener? I'm told it should be someone who knows perennials, but at this point I have a feeling we'd settle for anyone.
If you know of someone, please leave a comment or send me email. Thanks.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:53 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (8)
BLOGGING POLITICIANS....The Guardian reports today on Stuart Bruce, the first local councillor in Britain to start a weblog:
A blog with comments sounds like a terrific idea for a local politician. I wonder how many local politicos in America do this?
Like so many of us, Bruce has recently switched off Blogspot. His new blog is here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (6)
I would take the idea of pain and suffering caps in malpractice suits a lot more seriously if:
Pain and suffering are very real, and as Kinsley points out, very few of us would voluntarily trade the money for the pain if we were given a choice. But even so, since James' solution doesn't seem to be in the offing, I don't think I would have a real problem with caps if they were calculated fairly and truly designed to make equitable payouts to all. Unfortunately, demonizing juries and portraying victims as opportunistic greedheads seems to win more votes than genuinely trying to solve the problem.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:59 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (43)
YET MORE ON THE NIGER URANIUM....I didn't really intend to become obsessed with the WMD hunt this evening, but the news just keeps rolling in. The latest comes from David Martin of CBS:
Once again, we have the White House acting like a five-year-old. No, scratch that. More like a too-clever-for-his-own-good 15-year-old. "All we did is say that the British said it, and they did, so technically it's completely true."
What's the definition of "is"?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:23 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (79)
DEMOCRATIC BALLS....Over at Needlenose, Swopa notes that the Democratic presidential candidates seem to have grown some cojones recently, and wonders if it has anything to do with the surprising second quarter fundraising success of Howard "I'm Mad As Hell" Dean.
Maybe so, maybe so. Of course, I imagine that the ongoing problems in Iraq combined with the public unraveling of the administration's WMD stories might have something to do with it too....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:19 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (24)
THE LATEST WMD EXCUSE....I am slowly detecting a new meme developing in the great WMD debate. The latest from the Wurlitzer is that no, there was no real evidence of WMD after all, but Saddam used to have WMD so we figured he still had it.
Over at NRO James Robbins continues the meme, telling us that maybe Saddam didn't try to buy uranium from Niger anytime recently, but he sure did it back in the 1980s:
Tony Blair makes a similar claim here. And Glenn Reynolds links approvingly to Right Wing News, which tells us that Saddam had WMD programs back in 1998 and that pretty much everyone agreed that he must therefore still have had them in 2003. So why pick only on President Bush?
Glenn himself, on the other hand, takes a much more direct approach to the whole thing:
Hmmm, all the probative evidence has gone missing — all of it — and the fact patterns increasingly indicate that the administration knew that its testimony was, um, something less than the whole truth. You'd think a law professor might indeed think that deserved to be taken seriously.
Given this latest batch of explanations, it looks like we're being told that we went to war based not on any particular evidence, but rather on the simpleminded inference that because Saddam was a bad guy who built WMD five years ago, then he must have been building WMD last March too. For chrissake, folks, a five year old child could do better than that. The administration's story must really be on the verge of crumbling if this is what they're reduced to.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:47 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (71)
YELLOWCAKE-GATE UDPATE....It's getting awfully hard to keep up with the Niger-Uranium story. Here is Colin Powell's version from earlier today:
This is getting ridiculous. Powell's statement is only open to three interpretations:
I don't think anybody believes #1, but if that's the excuse then I think we all deserve to hear a bit more about what supposedly happened during that week to weaken the intelligence. #2 is barely credible either, since the speech was vetted by the CIA, Pentagon and State Department, and in any case seems almost as bad as deliberate deception. So that leaves #3.
The noose is tightening.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Tony Blair is hanging tough, claiming that Britain has evidence that the United States doesn't:
It would be nice to know just what evidence they have, wouldn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:49 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (33)
THE TRUMAN SHOW....This is interesting: a librarian at the Truman Library has discovered a previously unknown diary that Truman kept in 1947. Here's the entry for July 25, recounting a conversation with Dwight Eisenhower:
Different times. Is it even conceivable that a president today would voluntarily step down because he doesn't much like being president and it might be best for the country anyway? Nope.
(The story also mentions some anti-semitic entries in the diary. However, I don't know enough about Truman to know if this is news or not.)
UPDATE: More excerpts here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (17)
LIBERIA....In today's Washington Post, noted conservative humanitarian Pat Robertson sticks up for Liberian strongman Charles Taylor:
But Steve over at Begging to Differ thinks Robertson is missing a teensy weensy little point and links to this article in the Post on December 30 of last year:
Why does Pat Robertson hate America?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:46 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (36)
WILLIAM PRYOR....Chris Mooney has a good post today about wingnut appeals court nominee William Pryor. I think he's right about the strategy behind his nomination, too: there's no way Bush can think that Pryor will ever be confirmed, but since Democrats can't filibuster everyone, his rejection will lead to an easier path for other conservative — but not quite insane — nominees.
And Sam Heldman links to an op-ed by conservative lawyer Bruce Fein lashing out at at Judge Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore for his refusal to admit that the First Amendment applies to states as well as Congress. Sam says:
Just remember: if Pryor gets confirmed he could be your next Supreme Court justice. Doesn't that thought send chills up and down your spine?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:52 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (23)
9/11 INVESTIGATION....Apparently Congress is just about ready to issue the 9/11 report that it's been fighting with the Bush administration over:
It's also going to provide further evidence for Saudi funding of terrorism.
Former congressman Tim Roemer says the report will be a "well-written narrative that will be summer reading for adults the way Harry Potter is for kids." I guess we'll see about that, won't we?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:04 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (23)
WE'RE #6!....Exciting news! Among cities with a population over 100,000, Irvine is the sixth fastest growing city in the country. I guess that helps explain the continuing buoyancy of housing prices here.
And how is your city doing? Complete details from the census bureau are here.
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:41 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (30)
July 09, 2003
THE LEFT WILL RISE AGAIN!....In the Washington Post today, David Von Drehle writes about the resurgence of the left in the Democratic party:
There's nothing really new here for blog readers, but it's a decent summary of what's going on and what the fight is about. And here's the good news:
When you clear away all the underbrush, I think this is far and away the most important thing that's happening right now. Regardless of whether a "progressive" Howard Dean or a "DLC" John Edwards wins the nomination, I think the mood of the party is to close ranks and vigorously support our candidate no matter what. That's something we haven't seen for a while, and it's well past time to see it return.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:44 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (52)
IS BUSH VULNERABLE?....Based on a new Pew Research poll, Amy Sullivan urges Dems not to give up in the face of the Bush juggernaut:
Unfortunately, the poll isn't quite as encouraging as Amy suggests. In fact, the subhead of the press release announcing the results is "Dem Candidates Stir Little Enthusiasm," and although it's true that only 23% say things in Iraq are going "very well," 75% say they are going either very well or fairly well. And there's this:
Whew! Sorry about that. I didn't mean to be discouraging, but it's always best to face up to what you're up against. And overall, I agree with Amy: it's still early days, and a lot of the issues that favor Democrats aren't going to start resonating until the primary season really starts heating up. As the Pew survey shows, Bush's numbers are heading down and he clearly has some weaknesses that can be exploited. If we pick the right candidate it's going to be a close fight next November.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:04 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (24)
Anyway, I can't make any sense of it, and I'm pretty sure that Canberra is the capital of Australia, but beyond that you're on your own. Uqbar is explained here.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (5)
THE LAKER DYNASTY....This is unbelievable. The Lakers, suffering from the ignominy of not winning the NBA title this year, are now ready to add Karl Malone and Gary Payton to their lineup. Both players are apparently willing to take pay cuts in the neighborhood of $30-40 million in order to play for a championship team.
So: Shaq, Kobe (assuming he's not in jail), Payton, and the Mailman. Crikey. I'm a Laker fan, and even I think that's unfair.
I guess that mean Phil Jackson is probably going to stick around for another season or two, eh? The rest of you poor saps should probably just stay home for the next couple of years.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 07:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (46)
YES, HE GETS IT....Tim Rutten writing in the LA Times today about Michael Savage and the SCLM:
Well said.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:44 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (8)
YELLOWCAKE UPDATE....Yesterday I wrote a post about a story in Capitol Hill Blue in which a "CIA advisor" named Terrance J. Wilkinson claimed that he was present at White House briefings where George Bush was told that the Niger uranium story was bogus.
"I'm not sure how seriously to take this," I wrote, and it turns out that the answer is, "Not at all." Writing in Capitol Hill Blue today, publisher Doug Thompson says, "I've been had big time." Wilkinson is a fake and the briefings never took place.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:36 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (43)
ANN AND MICHAEL....You know, conservatives have actually been pretty good over the past few days in their willingness to disown Ann Coulter and Michael Savage. They deserve credit for this.
Which makes it all the more unfortunate that media critic Brent Bozell had to ruin their streak with this childish "But they do it too!" column about l'affaire Savage. Says Bozell:
How pathetic.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:08 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (41)
GOLDEN IDOLS....Did you know that Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, has installed a golden statue of himself in his capital that rotates with the sun? Me neither.
UPDATE: In comments, Lisa Williams points out that he has also renamed the 12 months of the year, including one after himself and one after his mother.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:30 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (21)
LEGALIZING COCAINE....Mark Kleiman writes today that legalizing cocaine is a bad idea because it would put a lot of coke dealers out of work and would devastate the earnings of crack whores.
OK, OK, perhaps I'm oversimplifying a bit here, but he really does say that. Good thing he's not running for president, isn't it? Wouldn't you just love to be in charge of creating the TV ads for his opponent?
On a more serious note, Mark is basically making the argument that legalizing cocaine would cause cocaine use (and cocaine addiction) to rise, which is clearly a bad thing. He has certainly convinced me that this must be true, but it still leaves the basic cost-benefit analysis open since we don't know how much cocaine use would rise.
My problem is that the devastation and cost of our current drug regime is so bad that it's hard to imagine that legalization would, on balance, make things worse. That might just be a failure of imagination on my part — after all, no matter how bad things are, they can always get worse — but I still need some persuasion on this point. In fact, Mark himself, although he favors other policy measures, admits that:
Has anyone done a serious (but not too horrifically lengthy) policy analysis that compares the cost of increased cocaine use with the benefits of legalization? And is there anything close to a consensus view on this within the drug policy community? Back to you, Mark....
UPDATE: John Isbell reminds me to remind my readers that Mark is a public policy professor at UCLA and specializes in drug policy. I couldn't resist having a little fun with him, but his opinions on this subject should be taken seriously.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:10 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (49)
JESSICA LYNCH: FEMINIST PAWN OF THE WASHINGTON POST?....It looks like the Army is about to make it official. Tomorrow they are issuing a report about what really happened to Pfc. Jessica Lynch:
The original heroic version of the story was reported by the Washington Post, and Kathryn Jean Lopez of NRO asks:
Is that going to become the official conservative spin for this? That the Post was just promoting its radical feminist agenda?
Do conservatives have some gigantic brain trust buried deep inside a mountain near Cheyenne that comes up with this stuff? I mean, first we get David Warren's peculiar thesis that when George Bush said "Bring 'em on" he was really just trying to shoo terrorists away from civilization and over to Iraq. Now K-Lo absolves the military of misleading the media about Lynch by proposing a tortured right-wing fantasy about the Post's secret feminist conspiracy.
Sigh. I guess tomorrow we'll find out whether this trial balloon manages to spread throughout the blogosphere. I can't wait.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:59 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (111)
PROTESTS IN IRAN....Student leaders in Iran have called off today's demonstrations due to threats of massive reprisals, a fact that I learned only on the blogosphere. Jeff Jarvis comments, "There is surprisingly -- shockingly -- little coverage of the events," and I have to agree. A quick web check of the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN turned up nothing. I realize it's not necessarily the biggest story of all time, but you'd think they'd have something on their front pages about all this.
I've read conflicting reports over the past few days about how effective these protests are and whether foreign support for them is a good idea, and I have to confess that I don't know enough about the whole thing to have an opinion. It would be nice if the mainstream media helped me out a bit here.Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (19)
HYPER-NATIONALISTIC BLONDES....Via Asymmetrical Information, I learn that the original Axis of Evil is falling apart at the seams. Just a few days after Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi compared a German member of the European Parliament to a Nazi prison guard, a minister in Berlusconi's government has called Germans "hyper-nationalistic blondes" and accused them of being rowdy beach invaders.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reacted by cancelling his Italian summer holiday.
But here's the best part: the minister in question, Stefano Stefani, is the tourism minister. I predict a sudden uptick in German holidays in sunny Spain this year....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:50 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (13)
MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL, WHO'S THE NET SAVVIEST OF THEM ALL?....Chris Mooney points to today's Lycos 50 column, which is all about the Democratic presidential candidates and asks the question, who's the most popular on the internet these days? Why, Howard Dean, of course!
Hmmm, is that the best they could do? I mean, at least I've heard of Madonna and Dr. Phil, but who's Alyssa Milano?
Anyway, it's no surprise that Dean has "left his competition in the dust when it comes to online popularity," since he's the only one of the bunch who's really using the internet much at all. But the list also reminds me of what a tiny crowd we news junkies are: Dean may lead the presidential wannabe pack, but he doesn't even register in the overall Lycos Top 50, ranking behind Neopets, Metallica, FAFSA, and other pop culture icons. At this point, there really aren't very many people who care about anybody who's running for president.
The column doesn't give exact rankings for each of the contenders, but here's the list in order of internet popularity:
Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:25 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (21)
July 08, 2003
INTERVIEWS AND INTIMIDATION....Asked about efforts to root out Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction back in January, George Bush had this to say:
He was quite right to be concerned about intimidation from minders, of course, and later in the month, under pressure from the U.S. and the UN, Iraq began allowing private interviews.
Now let's flash forward to today, where former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean is in charge of investigating the 9/11 attacks. Apparently minders are now in vogue:
Indeed it can, as both George Bush and Saddam Hussein knew very well just a few short months ago. I wonder what it is that John Ashcroft is afraid of?
(Anyway, doesn't this whole business of "minders" sound a bit Stalin-esque? It kinda reminds me of all those "political officers" they had sprinkled throughout the military to keep an eye on the officers. Brrrr.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 06:45 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (42)
JOHN EDWARDS UPDATE....I've mentioned before that I think the Democratic race is down to Kerry, Dean, and Edwards, and apparently William Saletan agrees. In Slate today he makes the case for Edwards:
Of course, as Saletan notes, Edwards has been speaking pretty bluntly to the right recently too, and, like me, he thinks Edwards' themes resonate pretty well:
Edwards may not be absolutely everything I'd like in a candidate, but who is? Overall, he sounds pretty good to me, and I think he might sound pretty good to a lot of other people too.
Now, let's hear a bit more about his foreign policy, OK?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:25 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (61)
THE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CRISIS....Public Citizen, a consumer
group founded by Ralph Nader, helpfully takes a look at the latest
statistics on medical malpractice for 2002 compared to 2001. The highlights:
It's kinda hard to see the crisis, isn't it? And harder still to see the case for a massive intervention in the malpractice insurance market from the current gang of free market fundamentalists running the country.Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (29)
MUTUAL FUND MADNESS....The Economist writes about the dismal performance of actively managed mutual funds this week:
Now then, what was that you were saying about privatizing Social Security....?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:26 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (70)
TREASON....Via Tom Bevan at RealClear Politics — who laments the generally hysterical tone of political commentary from both left and right these days — I learn that even David Horowitz thinks Ann Coulter has flipped out. After listening to her dodge Chris Matthews when he asked her if John F. Kennedy committed treason, he says:
Actually, though, it's too bad to see that even conservatives are attacking Coulter since it means she'll probably have to tone down her next book. I was looking forward to the third volume in her series in which we learn that Democrats from FDR forward have all been secret child molesters. Now I'll never get to read it.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (69)
CROOKED TIMBER....What do you get when you combine Kieran Healy, Chris Bertram, Brian Weatherson, and two Farrells? Answer: Crooked Timber, a new group blog and the lefty answer to the Volokh Conspiracy. Update your bookmarks.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:53 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (10)
UPDATE: This story has turned out to be fake. More details here.
YELLOWCAKE-GATE UPDATE....I'm not sure how seriously to take this, but Capitol Hill Blue reports that Bush definitely knew the Niger uranium story was bogus before he used it in his State of the Union address:
I don't know who Terrance J. Wilkinson is, and a quick Google search didn't bring up anything relevant. Hopefully someone else will have a chat with Wilkinson and confirm whether there's anything to this story.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:28 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (5) | Comments (52)
YELLOWCAKE-GATE....In his State of the Union address in January, George Bush said:
This was based on some documents showing that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. However, those documents were crude forgeries, and in any case it now turns out that the CIA had sent Africa expert Joseph Wilson to Niger nearly a year before to investigate these claims. On his return he reported that there was nothing to the allegations:
Despite Wilson's conclusion, the administration's party line on African uranium has been (a) nobody knew about Wilson's report, and (b) there was other evidence about uranium purchases anyway.
Today, the White House finally admitted that the "other evidence" was bogus too:
That leaves only the implausible statement that even though Wilson was dispatched to Africa specifically to look into the Niger connection at the instigation of the vice president's office, in the entire year between then and the State of the Union address not one single senior administration official heard about his conclusions. Wilson doesn't think much of this possibility:
As usual with this administration, this question could be quickly answered by releasing the relevant documents. However, also as usual with this administration, they have refused to do this, based on the usual claims that it might endanger national security.
At this point, though, it's pretty obvious that national security has nothing to do with it and the only thing that an investigation into the Niger fiasco would endanger is the president's credibility and his reelection hopes. It's time for the Washington press corps to wake up and start doing some real reporting.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:23 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (50)
July 07, 2003
ANOTHER BRITISH INVASION?....My sister's favorite newspaper, the Guardian, is planning to start up a U.S. spinoff:
But after reading about the Guardian's plans and then reading all the commentary about it today, I'm left with one nagging question: exactly what kind of magazine is it supposed to be? Of course it will tilt leftward, but is it a news magazine, a sort of lefty Economist, or is it truly a political magazine, a British version of The New Republic?
This is an important distinction. A lefty Economist would be a useful addition to the American media scene, a serious newsweekly that provides lots of straight news but provides it from a lefty perspective. That's something we don't have. On the other hand, if it's mostly geared toward political analysis and opinion, I'm not sure I see the point. Aside from a bit of distance from the hurly burly and a more international flavor — neither of which seem all that useful in an American political magazine — I doubt very much that the Guardian can provide anything that we don't already get from the Nation, TNR, or the American Prospect.
A lefty (but nonpolemical) news magazine would be something to look forward to, but it's not clear if that's what we'll be getting. So for now, I'm going to hold onto my enthusiasm until I hear more.
POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, if they want to build up some buzz by inviting a few lefty bloggers to fly over for a look, my passport is up to date and my calendar is open....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:52 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (43)
HITLER™ VS. STALIN™....Who's faster, Superman or the Flash? Who's stronger, the Thing or the Hulk?
It's translated from the Russian (which might give you a clue about who the badder guy turns out to be), and the translators provide this warning:
Like Pandagon, I have no idea what this is about. But it provides a few minutes of mindless entertainment if you're in the mood for that kind of thing.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (26)
AND WE WANT TIME AND A HALF FOR....UM, ER....Need further evidence of the wide cultural and political divide between the United States and Europe? No, I didn't think so, but here it is anyway: Britain's GMB trade union is campaigning to decriminalize prostitution and unionize sex workers:
Yeah, that could be a problem.
I'm all in favor of decriminalizing prostitution, and hell, I suppose prostitutes would even be good candidates for unionization. But can you imagine a union — or much of anyone else — leading a campaign like this in America?
Me neither.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:48 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (29)
MICHAEL SAVAGE FIRED....MSNBC has finally fired Michael Savage. Charles Kuffner has the story.
Still, I'm confused. Apparently MSNBC's management decided that Savage had crossed a line when he told a gay caller, "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig." How exactly does that differ from his usual fare?
Oh well, I guess we should count our blessings regardless. Now he can go back to his radio cesspool and rant about how he's been a victim of the liberal media elites that are choking off free expression in this country. I'm sure his listeners will eat it up.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:34 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (44)
IS SADDAM BACK?....How did I miss this news on Friday? Apparently al-Jazeera has aired a tape that was purportedly recorded by Saddam Hussein a couple of weeks ago. It calls on Iraqis to resist U.S. occupation.
(Oh yeah, it was the 4th of July. I didn't bother reading any news that day.)
Anyway, like all these tapes, this one is filled with background noise and is of very poor quality. Nonetheless, the CIA says that "it's most likely his voice."
But why are these tapes always of poor quality? According to this latest one, it's just really hard to get good recordings of deposed dictators: "People have been asking why they haven't heard the voice of Saddam Hussein. We face a lot of trouble in getting our voice to you even though we have been trying."
What trouble? A $30 tape recorder will make a pretty good quality recording, and it's certainly easy enough to be sure to include some details in the message that make it clear when it was recorded. But they never do.
So I will remain mildly skeptical until we learn more. At the same time, however, it looks like the mere suspicion that Saddam might be back is causing problems:
Well, maybe. That's what Napoleon thought too, after all, and it didn't work out so well for him. Still, it would be nice avoid a rerun of Waterloo, even if we do end up on the winning side.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:22 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (3) | Comments (15)
OR, YOU COULD JUST LOOK AT MY PICTURE....Moshe Koppel says his software can determine if this blog is written by a man or a woman. How? Just by looking at the word usage:
There are many, many caveats to all this, so read the whole article if you're interested. In the meantime, I'm going to try and cut down on my use of post-head noun modifications with an of phrase.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (10)
CALIFORNIA BUDGET UPDATE....Speaking of the California budget....
Last night we had a super-special Sunday meeting of the legislature so that the Republicans could introduce their plan to close the budget gap without raising taxes. You see, they've been fighting their rear-guard battle against Gray Davis for months now without actually having a budget plan of their own to put to a vote, but last night they finally did. So what kind of cuts were in their plan? According to the LA Times:
At that point I just laughed. Of course it would. What else did I expect? Then:
They're proposing to eliminate dog food for blind people? I can see the TV ads already.
What makes this even more puzzling is that surely all this stuff can't add up to more than few hundred million dollars, compared to a budget gap of about $10 billion (I think). It sure would be nice if someone had a nice website somewhere comparing the various plans and showing what cuts and what tax increases had been proposed by the various sides. Does anybody know of one?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (45)
July 06, 2003
THE CALIFORNIA BUDGET CRISIS....The Hartford Courant ran an article yesterday that provides a pretty balanced look at the California budget crisis and what caused it. Basic points:
It's a good summary. But why do I have to go to the Hartford Courant to read it?
As for why we can't seem to resolve our budget mess, that's the result of a witch's brew of extremists safely ensconced in gerrymandered districts, term limits keeping a perpetual crew of amateurs in charge, a ridiculous two-thirds requirement to pass a budget, and the California Republican Party's insane hatred of Gray Davis. If you're interested, here's a pretty decent description of the Golden State's dysfunctional politics.
Don't you wish you lived here?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:48 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (21)
PRESCRIPTION DRUG HELL....Over at Eschaton, Lambert points to a USA Today article that demonstrates what a huge win the prescription drug bill is for the pharmaceutical industry. Naturally, pharmaceutical companies win because they get to sell more drugs, but they also win because the Republican plan ensures that the government won't do anything so nasty as trying to negotiate lower prices:
I still support the plan, because I think it's a lot easier to expand and fix it later than it would be to pass a better bill from scratch sometime in the unknown future. But it sure shows one of the (many) ways in which modern Republicans instantly roll over and abandon the principle of making government lean and mean whenever doing so might hurt one of their big corporate campaign contributors.
(And yes, the prescription drug plan might help George Bush's reelection, but we probably could have had universal healthcare 30 years ago if we hadn't been worried about Richard Nixon's reelection. If it's the right thing to do, we should support it regardless of whose plan it is.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:07 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (69)
BRING 'EM ON....The silliness over "Bring 'em on" is really getting out of hand. I mean, it was a dumb thing to say, but all Bush meant — using his usual frat boy phrasing — was that we're plenty tough enough to beat Iraqi guerrillas if they decide to take us on. Pretty clearly, the president of the United States wasn't issuing an invitation to terrorists to attack our troops.
At the same time, neither was his statement part of some clever master plan to redirect terrorists away from the United States and get them to play in Iraq instead, as Glenn Reynolds appears to believe:
I wonder if he even realizes how silly something like that sounds? Of course there were no terrorist attacks here this weekend. There never are. You can click here to see graphically just how rare terrorist attacks in the United States are, both pre and post 9/11.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:52 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (7) | Comments (75)
NEPOTISM....Writing in this month's Atlantic, Saul Bellow's kid says nepotism is good! As long as you follow the Three Laws of Compassionate Nepotism, that is.
Armed Liberal thought he must have been missing the joke, but he wasn't. Bellow is serious.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:02 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (10)
TAKING AIM AT THE DLC....A reader points to this article by Benjamin Ross in Dissent in which he claims that the DLC is repeating the mistakes of the McGovern coalition of 1972. I don't really know enough about the internal politics of the Democratic Party to be able to judge how good his argument is, but since the DLC has been writing memos going after Howard Dean for being a latter day George McGovern, it seems only fair for someone to return fire.
The article isn't all that long, so after you've read it come on back and leave a comment. Does Ross make sense or not?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (27)
MODERATION....Warning: this turned into a rather long and rambling post, and no, I'm not entirely sure what my point is. Sorry about that, but read on anyway....
Yesterday I blogged about an internet poll that matches up your policy preferences with those of the presidential candidates. The comments were enlightening, I thought, especially the conversation about what a "moderate" liberal is these days.
I described myself as being in the leftward 20% of the country, for example, which provoked two quite opposite responses. One commenter was "dumbfounded" that I thought of myself as anything but a centrist liberal, calling my positions "common sense," while another suggested that I'm "perceived as a left wing nut case by most American voters."
So which am I? Centrist or nut case? To answer this, let's take a look at a few distinctions that I think are important, as well as a look at the real world and where we bloggers stand in it.
First, there's a difference between policy moderation and rhetorical moderation. John Kerry, for example, is probably about as liberal as Howard Dean if you look at his actual policy positions, but Dean uses more fiery rhetoric. Likewise, aside from a regrettable weakness for sarcasm, my writing tends to be pretty sober compared to someone like Atrios. But on actual political positions, we're fairly close.
Then there are the various types of moderation. Here are a few:
So what does it all mean? Just how liberal am I, really? Here are a few answers:
So why talk about all this? I guess I just think that regardless of your political or strategic views (solidify the base vs. reach out to moderates, for example), it's important to understand electoral reality. A clear-eyed look at polling data puts my political views pretty far to the left, and if you think of me as only barely a liberal at all, that means you're even farther to the left. That's fine, but you should understand exactly what that means and whether it's likely that you can rally very many voters to your banner. A strategy for winning elections depends on an understanding of reality, not on wishful thinking about whether the rest of the country would really be on our side if only Bush & Co. would stop lying about us.
That's important, because right now I just want to get George Bush out of office. No third party has been successful for the past century and a half in America, and our electoral system makes it highly unlikely that one will be successful in the next century and a half either. That means finding a Democrat who's reasonably in tune with what we want but is still centrist enough to have a chance of winning a nationwide election given the realities of where the political center is these days. I may be more moderate than, say, Ampersand, Jeanne d'Arc, or the Daily Kos crew, but I'll make common cause with them any day. I hope they feel the same way.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:54 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (37)
BLOGGING KEVINS....Are Kevins taking over the world? Kevin Aylward has July's installment of Blogging Kevins so you can judge for yourself.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:47 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (2)
WIMBLEDON UPDATE....It's true that mixed doubles isn't especially competitive these days, but even so it was remarkable to watch 46-year-old Martina Navratilova team up with Leander Paes to win her 20th Wimbledon title today. She is truly one of the all-time greats.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:42 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (5)
July 05, 2003
WHAT UNIVERSITY WAS THIS, ANYWAY?....Steve Gilliard at Daily KOS yesterday:
Steve majored in Independence Day in college? Talk about your declining educational standards....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:04 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (22)
MORE HARRY POTTER....What's the difference between the British and American editions of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Via Charles Kuffner, here is an excerpt from page 205 of the British edition:
And here it is in the American edition (at the bottom of page 226):
Aside from typographical and spelling conventions, another big difference appears to be length: 766 pages for the British edition vs. 870 pages for the American edition. More pages means a higher printing cost, so I wonder why the publishers felt they had to use a larger type size in America than in Britain?
(It's worth noting that not quite every slightly risque passage got excised from the American edition. There was one passage that surprised me a bit in a children's book, but unfortunately I can't remember what it was. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, leave an excerpt in comments.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:50 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (22)
HANDICAPPING THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES....Via Julian Sanchez, here's a genuinely interesting little internet poll: you answer some questions about your policy preferences and it tells you which presidential candidates match your views most closely. Here are my results (restricted to major party candidates):
That's interesting. Pragmatist that I am, I don't really care how much I agree with Kucinich since I don't think he has a chance of winning either the nomination or the election, but the fact that John Kerry is the highest ranked of the major candidates makes me think I need to take a little closer look at him, even though he doesn't do much for me personally. At the same time, the candidates ranked #3-7 are bunched so closely that from a personal policy preference point of view there probably isn't much real difference between them.
All the usual caveats about internet surveys apply here, of course, and I don't know how accurate this one really is. However, I did have to shake my head at this question:
Who's going to answer "increased" to a question worded like that?
And finally, what's up with the 15% of issues that I supposedly agree with George Bush on? I wish the survey told me which issues those were so that I could be sure and change my mind about them....
UPDATE: It's worth mentioning that a high ranking for a candidate isn't necessarily a good thing here. I want a candidate who can win, and I'm well aware that my political views are pretty far from the political center. In that sense, the fact that Kerry matches my views so closely might actually mean he's less electable than people think.
UPDATE 2: Based on comments, it looks like something may be a bit fishy with this poll. Kucinich seems to come out awfully high for practically anyone to the left of George Bush, so the test might be skewed in his favor somehow. Take it with a grain of salt.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:10 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (9) | Comments (63)
GREENS....A couple of days ago I was reading a post by Ampersand in which he reprinted a memo suggesting that Greens needed to form a coalition with Democrats if they wanted to have any real influence in policymaking. Now, I'm not sure the idea of Ralph Nader as Secretary of Labor is going to fly, but it was this sentence from the memo that really caught my eye:
The California Green Party has a Galactic Ambassador?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:13 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (66)
HOT DOG EATING....For the sixth time in seven years, Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi has won the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest. What's worse, he won by an enormous margin and he wasn't even really trying.
It is disturbing that in a country of nearly 300 million people, a place where hot dogs are as American as hot dogs, hot dog eating has fallen to such a sorry state. And while it's true that this decline began under the Clinton administration, it is under the negligent handling of the Bush administration that it has been allowed to fall to its current catastrophic levels.
Democrats have proposed a toughminded and fiscally responsible $20 million program that would make our woefully outgunned hot dog eaters into a world class team once again, a sum that's easily affordable for a country as rich as ours. But the Bush administration, having passed over a trillion dollars of tax cuts since they took office, now claims that we can't afford this. The question they should be asking is, can we afford not to do this?
Hot dog eating is at a low ebb in this country, but there's no reason we have to accept mediocrity. The Democratic proposal is both affordable and necessary, a first step toward a time when our hot dog eaters can once again stand up and proudly say to the world, "Bring 'em on."
Call your congressman.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 10:01 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (15)
SILVIO BERLUSCONI UPDATE....Henry Farrell points us to the latest chapter in the Silvio Berlusconi farce today. The Germans say Berlusconi apologized (privately), Berlusconi says he didn't. In fact, not only didn't he apologize, he said, but he was the aggrieved party.
Then, in an effort to ensure that he looks as ridiculous as humanly possible in this little spat, he recast his suggestion that MEP Martin Schulz would make a good Nazi with a suggestion that he would make a good sitcom Nazi:
I'm not sure which is worse, the fact that Berlusconi compared the real Schulz to a fictional Schulz or the fact that the prime minister of Italy is familiar with Hogan's Heroes.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:39 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (10)
July 04, 2003
Plenty of bonus cats today, too. First, courtesy of frequent commenter Edub, is this worldwide map of library cats. My nearest cats appear to be Dewey, over in Mission Viejo, and Megan and ALIS, in Silverado Canyon. Click the map to find your nearest literary feline!
Elsewhere, Andrea Harris' cat likes her new shoes — although Andrea herself seems somewhat less sure about them. And Lance Arthur at Just Write begins this post with "I have pissed on my cat. There, I said it." Decide for yourself if you want to read the rest.
And since Independence Day brings out warm feelings in everyone — probably even in the Brits, who are happy to see the back of us — we'll finish up with a picture of Cleo, a beautiful black lab courtesy of Steve over at Begging to Differ. (See, Bill, there's room for everybody in the revolution!)
Happy 4th, everyone!
HARRY POTTER UPDATE....Having finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — which was pretty good, I thought, better than the previous two — I am confirmed in my belief that the most interesting character in the series is Severus Snape. I am very much hoping that by series' end JK Rowling will have provided us with a genuinely interesting (and non-cliched!) backstory for Snape.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:09 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (28)
SO COLD....The temperature in our freezer was down to -1º F this morning. Chilly in there.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:05 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (6)
TOO MANY SECRETS....Time to rev up the secret trials:
The government's position, of course, is essentially that if we knew what they knew, we'd agree with this decision. However, over at the Volokh Conspiracy Philippe de Croy points out that the Bush administration's track record of using secret information wisely has not been so good. "Sorry, fellas, but I’m fresh out of free passes," he says.
Me too.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:02 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (12)
July 03, 2003
DURABLE GOODS PURCHASES ARE UP IN JULY!....I may talk a good Bush-bashing game, but out in the real world I'm doing my best to pump up the economy and help our president win a second term. Last week I got a new air conditioner for my car — admittedly, not exactly a voluntary purchase on my part — and today our new refrigerator came. It's a high-efficiency model, which means it should pay for itself! In about a century or so.
Anyway, it recommends a temperature of 37 degrees for the refrigerator, which seems about right, and 0 degrees for the freezer. Zero? Do they control the refrigerator in Fahrenheit and the freezer in Celsius?
Nope, it's all in Fahrenheit. But doesn't 32 degrees below freezing seem awfully cold? Our old one sure didn't get that cold.
Oh well, I'm sure they know what they're doing. And while flipping
through the owner's manual to make sure this was all correct, I came
across the following list of "sounds that are normal":
That's good to know.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 05:01 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (19)
DO NOT CALL....On Tuesday I hopped over to the website for the National Do-Not-Call Registry and registered my phone number. I normally get about half a dozen telemarketing calls a day, but yesterday I only got two and today I've only gotten one. Is this just a coincidence, or does the registry really work that fast? If it does, hooray for big government!
If you haven't signed up yet, the website is here and it only takes a minute to register. Alternatively, you can call (888) 382-1222.
UPDATE: Hold on a second. After writing this post, I realized that I never got the confirming email you're supposed to get, so I re-registered. Sure enough, this time I got an email about 30 seconds later, clicked the link, and confirmed the registration. My registration on Tuesday probably didn't even take effect.
I guess that means "coincidence" is the leading candidate here....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (22)
BASHING BUSH....Over at Eschaton, Leah points to a Seattle Times article indicating that Paul Bremer has requested 50,000 more troops in Iraq. The Bush team, however, doesn't want this request to become public since it would make clear how badly they botched their postwar planning. Leah comments:
OK, I will. On this specific subject, I think that Democrats simply need to be very clear that they don't want to see us withdraw from Iraq, but that they do think foreign policy should be run by someone with a track record of good judgment. Say plainly that you want us to win this war and stamp out terrorism, but that Bush has shown that he's just not up to the job.
More generally, a significant part of any successful Democratic
attack on Bush has to go straight to the subject of judgment and
competence. It would look something like this, I think:
You can add your own favorites, but you get the idea. The message ought to be that even if you agree with Bush's goals, he's demonstrated over and over that his policies won't get us there. So instead of reelecting a guy who keeps making mistakes and trying to clean up after them, let's elect someone who can get the job done on the first try.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 04:14 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (46)
BUSH AND THE BOARD....Via Unfogged, the Progressive Review prints a transcript of a very amusing speech given by David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group a couple of months ago in which he explains how George W. Bush became a member of the Carlyle board of directors — as well as how he became no-longer-a-member of the Carlyle board of directors:
Of course, it's also worth mentioning that in 1990 George W. Bush was the son of the president of the United States, and three years later he wasn't. That might have had just a little something to do with the timing of both his hiring and firing, don't you think?
Still, this story gets straight to the thing that has always puzzled me the most about George Bush: how did he do it? I mean, in 1998 he had been (charitably) a mediocre businessman followed by four years as governor of Texas, a pretty undemanding position. Sure, he was named Bush, but even so, how did he become the frontrunner so fast? He wasn't even the most highly regarded member of the Bush family, for crying out loud.
It really is a mystery how addicted we Americans are to electing presidents with so little national experience. It's not clear that this has done us any harm, mind you, but it's still a bit odd.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:22 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (37)
BUSHONOMICS....Not for the first time, Brad DeLong is puzzled by the fact that the Bush administration is manifestly pursuing economic policies that won't help the economy much, despite the fact that a good economy would be a considerable benefit to their reelection hopes. (Oh, and good for the country, too!)
I figure there are five possibilities here:
I'm sure there are other possibilities too, but that's all I can come up with off the top of my head. The part I can't figure out is, which of these possibilities is the scariest?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:46 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (29)
"BRING 'EM ON"....I'm so used to President Bush making dumb
off the cuff remarks that I guess yesterday's dumb off the cuff remark
just didn't bother me that much. In fact, I really only have two
questions about the whole thing:
My own poll shows that the country is 100% disgusted with Bush's remark, but my poll consisted of watching Marian's reaction to the TV clip. So, you know, I'm hoping for something with a little less margin of error. Surely Fox News will do a poll about this, even if no one else does?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:57 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (95)
DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISING....Daily KOS has the lastest fundraising estimates for the Democrats, and it's nice to see it all in one place. There's only one thing he forgot to do: add it all up.
The individual numbers look awfully bad when you compare them to George Bush's easy fundraising romps recently, but the Democratic total for the quarter is a fairly healthy $30 million. There's no question that Bush and the Republican are going to outspend the Democrats by a lot, but even so, $30 million 16 months before the election isn't bad.
At this point, based on both the campaign trail and the fundraising numbers, I'm ready to join Brian Linse and declare that the serious field is now Kerry, Dean, and Edwards. Nobody else has a real chance.
UPDATE: By they way, does anyone know how that $30 million compares to the April-June time period in 1991? I don't know where to look that up, and I'm curious.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:54 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (30)
ANOTHER LOVE NOTE FROM THE DLC....A few weeks ago the DLC's Al From and Bruce Reed lit off a little nuclear torch aimed at Howard Dean, pissing off all manner of Democrats and assorted liberals in the process. Today in the LA Times they repeat almost exactly what they said back then:
Now, candidates of either party making the rounds of interest groups during primary season is hardly cause for alarm, and considering the positions that most of the major Democratic candidates have taken, it's hard to see why the DLC is so concerned about a return to McGovern style liberalism. What's more, even those 1996 polling numbers they cite aren't really that scary: they show that Democratic delegates are somewhat more liberal than Democrats as a whole, but not wildly so. I imagine that exactly the same is true on the Republican side.
I don't mind that the DLC is pushing on the Democratic candidate to be tougher on foreign policy. That's a perfectly defensible position, and one that makes sense. But what I do mind is that they seem unable to write an op-ed with the goal of bringing both activists and the rank and file together. Instead, their piece is overtly dismissive, seemingly telling activists to just get out of the party and go vote for Nader. What's the point of that?
Republicans do a much better job of supporting their activists and making them feel wanted, but without letting them take over the party. Why can't the DLC do the same?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:32 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (34)
GAY MARRIAGE....A couple of days ago I suggested that gay marriage was "political dynamite" and that both Democrats and Republicans probably wanted to avoid the issue altogether. Writing in the Los Angeles Times today, Nick Anderson reports that this is exactly what they're trying to do:
It's ironic, really: after several months of suggesting that gay rights was a great subject for Democrats in 2004, the only gay rights issue that's actually hit the mainstream is the very one that I sort of hoped would stay on the back burner.
Well, as Harold Macmillan said, the hardest part of politics is "events, dear boy, events," and if this is the subject du jour, then it's the subject du jour. So what to do about it?
It's easy for me to say this, since I'm not the one running for president, but with gay marriage now on the table I think there's only one principled stand for a candidate to take: this is a state matter and has nothing to do with me. Next question.
Heh heh, just kidding. Here's what I'd really like to hear from a Democratic candidate who expects my vote:
In other words, I'd like to see someone have the courage to come out in favor of permitting gay marriage. But the key to acceptance, I think, is to try and reframe the issue: it's not that big a deal, there's really nothing to be afraid of, we should act like adults instead of unthinkingly giving in to inchoate fears of "ickiness," and it's fundamentally unfair to deny legal protections to gay couples and their children.
Sadly, I don't expect to hear anything like this from any of the major candidates. Too bad.
UPDATE: In comments, Brent points to this NPR transcript in which Howard Dean comes within a whisker of saying the same thing as me:
I'm not sure how the gay community generally feels about this, but if "civil union" includes all the legal rights of marriage but is just called something else, then I'm fine with that. In popular parlance, it will become "marriage" pretty quickly.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:33 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (6) | Comments (66)
July 02, 2003
HOWARD DEAN....In the very best spirit of citizen bloggers, here is an account of a day with Howard Dean. It's written by Marc Levitt, who volunteered to chauffer Dean around New York a couple of days ago.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 02:24 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (24)
HOORAY FOR BILL!....Condoleezza Rice assesses Bill Clinton's foreign policy:
Hmmm, has anyone informed the VRWC of this new talking point?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:27 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (28)
THE ART OF DIPLOMACY....Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been on trial pretty much forever on various charges of bribery and corruption, but ever since he became prime minister he's been pushing through bills that would exempt him from prosecution. He succeeded in passing the last of these, thus making himself completely and entirely above the law, a few days ago, just in time for the beginning of Italy's presidency of the EU.
Happy days, right? Not quite. In his first appearance as president of the EU, a German member of the European parliament criticized Berlusconi's extensive ownership of Italian media companies and Berlusconi lost his cool:
What a disgusting thing to say. Italians everywhere must be cringing.
UPDATE: Henry Farrell has some additional background on this plus some analysis of whether it matters. Short answer: yes it does.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:43 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (57)
BUSINESS FRIENDLY HEALTHCARE....Who's in favor of the prescription drug benefit currently wending its way through Congress? Seniors, obviously, since they will have to spend less on drugs. And drug companies, of course, since they get to sell more drugs.
But it turns out that a big chunk of the business community is in favor too:
This doesn't surprise me at all. In fact, I've wondered for a long time why proponents of single payer healthcare haven't been more successful in getting the business community on their side. Sure, it's "socialized medicine," and God knows we hate anything that reeks of socialism in America, but healthcare is one of the biggest pains in the butt that American businesses have to put up with, and they hate it. Costs keep going up, regulations are fierce, employees gripe about it incessantly, administration costs are high, and the payback for all this is exactly zero.
I don't know the history of healthcare reform well enough to know the answer to this, but it sure seems as if some nice, moderate, business-friendly Democrat could craft a plan that would have widespread support in the business community and thus hive off some support from moderate Republicans as well. Of course, that's a perfect description of Bill Clinton, and he couldn't do it, so maybe there's more to it.
Whatever it is, though, I can't think of it. I'm surprised the business lobby hasn't been pushing on this all along.
UPDATE: Of course, it would need one of those cool names that Newt Gingrich was so good at coming up with. "The Socialized Medicine Act of 2003" wouldn't do, for example, but maybe "The Business Freedom and Health Bureaucracy Reduction Act of 2003" would play well. How about it?
UPDATE: James Joyner suggests that we might be closer to universal healthcare than we think:
As I recall, federal and state governments already account for nearly half of all healthcare spending in the country. We may not be quite 2/3 there, but we're halfway there anyway.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:21 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (4) | Comments (44)
ZIP CODE ANNIVERSARY....Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the ZIP Code, and the LA Times blurb about this reported the following postal fact:
So the population of the U.S. has increased 55% over this period but the number of addresses has increased 135%. That seems like a pretty big difference, doesn't it?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:57 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (26)
July 01, 2003
TIM HENMAN: THE HAROLD STASSEN OF WIMBLEDON?....The Guardian asks today about British tennis hero Tim Henman, "Can he do it?"
Short answer: no. Long answer: read the story and find out. The Brits sure are hard on their sports icons, aren't they?
(Looking at the current draw, he really ought to at least get to the finals this year. But he probably won't. The Brits may be hard on their sports icons, but they seem to be remarkably clear-eyed and resigned to the truth too.)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 08:33 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (12)
OPPOSITES....Do opposites attract? New science says no!
Well, that's fine, I never believed all that "opposites attract" nonsense anyway. But even so, check out the methodology for this study:
You've got to be kidding. These guys are pronouncing on "preference for long-term partners" based on a single self-reporting survey given to a highly nonrepresentative group of socioeconomically elite 20-year-olds? With not even a nod to what preferences people display in the real world and what the long-term outcomes of those preferences are?
Crikey. I could probably do research on my blog as good as this.Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 03:40 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0) | Comments (40)
THE GREAT WMD HUNT....This has been blogged all over the place, but it deserves every bit of attention it's getting. So here again, in case you haven't seen it yet, is Time magazine's description of the WMD hunt in Iraq:
The problem here isn't that Bush doesn't know who Stephen Cambone is, the problem is that he had no idea even in general terms who was responsible for finding WMD. Doesn't this make it pretty obvious that the WMD hunt is a bit less than a high priority for him?
After all the crap that Howard Dean got for not knowing to the nearest percent how many American troops were stationed overseas, you'd think a few more people would have picked up on this. But that would only happen if we had, you know, a liberal media....Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 12:03 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (48)
THE FREE MARKET AT WORK....Over in The Corner yesterday, Jonah Goldberg spent four or five posts desperately trying to find a "practical" solution to telemarketing calls that doesn't involve government regulation. He is "ideologically torn" here, acknowledges that "many Americans just want to make the phone stop ringing" here, continues to beg someone — anyone! — to provide a "politically workable solution" here, and agrees that the do-not-call registry is just another case of nanny-state-ism here.
Poor Jonah, all this angst over a minor government program that allows people to express their preference about the free market in junk telemarketing calls. You know, from watching The Sopranos I've learned that apparently there's also a "market" (in New Jersey, anyway) for "bumping off" people, and it works pretty efficiently. Unfortunately, the damn feds keep interfering in this industry, causing all manner of market distortions for Tony Soprano and his business associates. Damn shame, that.
Sarcasm aside, though, there's a serious point here and Goldberg himself realizes it:
The fact that Goldberg even bothers writing about this shows the ridiculous lengths to which conservative ideology goes in its efforts to deny that there is any legitimate form of human decision making other than free market forces. Yesterday's exchange is just a micro example of the bankruptcy of this view, and a rather desperate attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion that the easiest, best, and cheapest way to deal with this problem is, indeed, the ossified bureaucracy of the federal government.
(And I wonder if Goldberg knows it? A few days ago he suggested that social conservatives should just give up the fight on gay marriage, and now he's admitting that the free market doesn't seem to have a solution for everything. Perhaps the NRO Borg is losing its grip on him?)Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 11:47 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (2) | Comments (56)
EQUALITY FOR ALL....Mindles Dreck agrees that gays and straights should be treated the same. But since gay marriage is such a hot button, he suggests we take a different tack to achieve equality: let's get rid of straight marriage!
Something tells me that's not going to fly. Next.
OCCUPYING IRAQ....David Adesnik thinks things aren't as bad in Iraq as some people are making them out to be. He suggests that the guerrilla threat isn't really all that serious — which might be true — and then says:
But I think he may be missing the real point. In the same piece David suggests that the Washington Post's headlines on Iraq are rather too negative, so I wonder what he thinks of this one today?
It doesn't get much more negative than that, does it? But the story, I think, highlights the real problem: not the guerrilla warfare per se, but the fact that American reservists can't be kept in Iraq forever:
This is the real problem: the idea that they might be there for two years is just a "rumor." The usually plain spoken George Bush and the even plainer spoken Don Rumsfeld are unwilling to flatly tell the troops (and the country) that two years is pretty much the minimum time they're going to be there. Aside from vague pronouncements that we'll stay in Iraq "as long as it takes," Bush has simply been unwilling to prepare both the American public and the troops in Iraq for a long, hard occupation. The obvious conclusion is that he's not really committed to such a thing.
A reader wrote to me the other day, "I'm not worried about the commitment of the Bush team on this." I am. Why else would a two-year occupation be nothing more than a rumor?Posted by KEVIN DRUM at 09:48 AM | Permalink | TrackBack (1) | Comments (45)
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