Friday, April 30, 2004

Isn't it a big deal that, according to Joe Wilson, Iraq actually did try to get uranium from Niger?

Writing an op-ed in the Times is a dick thing to do and, although I don't think it excuses anyone from perhaps breaking the law by blowing Valerie Plame's cover, it sort of puts the smear against Wilson in perspective.
I barely read Bob Herbert's columns, but for whatever reason I noticed today's column, "From Dream to Nightmare," which includes this charming lead: "At least 10 more American soldiers died yesterday in George W. Bush's senseless war in Iraq."

Uh, yeah. More barstool blather. I just wish Herbert would stick with what he knows and back off the national security beat. I know it's tempting for Vietnam-era columnists to get out ahead of this quagmire and salvage their prescience, but it doesn't make for edifying reading. Herbert's in Maureen Dowd territory today.

His unnoteworthy column is all the more noteworthy following yesterday's Times scoop that the Pentagon believes the insurgency is being led by Saddam's secret service, who planned it even before the war. You can almost see Iraqi war planners sitting around last March thinking that they couldn't compete with the U.S. in a straight-up battle, that it would be better to melt into the populace and try their luck in a guerrilla insurgency afterwards. They could easily have added, "A year from now, Bob Herbert will be shitting himself!"

But this twist obviously diverges from the quagmire script. They really hate us, they really do.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

From the sublime to the ridiculous, or perhaps ridiculouser and ridiculouser: "Israeli-born spoon bender" Uri Geller is suing ABC, claiming that the network stole his idea to allow five couples to compete for the right to adopt a baby.
Whether you think Nightline's idea to show pictures of all the troops killed in action is a blatant politically charged statement against the war or a touching tribute to those who defend our freedom, it doesn't escape the fact that it will be boring to watch Ted Koppel read names for half an hour. PBS's The News Hour already does this each night, and it's mroe than enough to make you consider the human costs of war, as Koppel argues.

Wouldn't it have been more appropriate -- and interesting -- to focus on a few lives? Pat Tillman, who in a sense most of us "knew," would have been a good place to start. But then again, he was killed in Afghanistan, not Iraq, and it's not clear that Koppel links Afghanistan to what I think his larger point is about Iraq.
ABC's amazing new feature called Noted Now (channeling wonkette.com here), reports on John Edwards' visit to John Kerry's favorite radio personality Don Imus: "When asked Edwards he has spoken to Kerry about being his running mate, Edwards said: 'You know I'm not supposed to talk about this' (laughter). To which Imus responded: 'That means yes.'"

Of the three people supposedly being interviewed and/or vetted for VP (John Edwards, Gov. Tom Vilsack and Rep. Dick Gephardt), Edwards is the best, I think. Still no John McCain, but . . .

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Jen and I are two operas into Wagner's Ring Cycle, currently at the Met. (We're seeing it as Wagner intended -- all four within a week.) Last night we wondered whether one had to be large to sing opera. It turns out that this is sort of a confusing myth. Slate's Explainer explains, for example, that:

"Despite the success of a few far-from-slender singers—Luciano Pavarotti being the most conspicuous example—there is no scientific evidence to suggest that greater mass allows for better range, breath control, or projection without microphones. Nevertheless, heavy opera singers tend to believe their weight aids them. And since singing, like any other human talent, is greatly affected by the performer's comfort and state of mind, a soprano who believes that her heft helps her with tricky arias may actually give a better performance."

The Guardian takes up the story of Deborah Voigt, who was recently "sacked" by the U.K.'s Royal Opera House for being too large.

To that point, after last night's Die Walküre I couldn't get the images of the eight buxom Valkyries out of my head. Hubba hubba.
The Religious Policeman, a blog from Saudi Arabia. It's the next Salam Pax . . .
. . . this Syria stuff sounded weird.
Or up is up!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

BREAKING NEWS! EXCLUSIVE! SEE HERE NOW: "On the Friday before his MEET THE PRESS appearance, Dem presidential hopeful John Kerry flew his Washington, DC hairdresser to Pittsburgh for a touch-up, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned..."
It's too bad that Gregg Easterbrook has decided to stop writing Easterblogg. Although he'll continue to write online columns (I'll be disappointed if they are behind the subscription-only firewall), Easterblogg has been a good daily read.

Monday, April 26, 2004

CNN Breaking News notes, "Jordanian authorities say they broke up alleged al Qaeda plot to unleash deadly chemical cloud in heart of Amman."

The question is where these chemicals came from; last week there were the tantalizing reports from less-than-reliable news sources that the chemicals came into Jordan from Syria, leading one to conclude that they were part of the Iraqi stockpiles. Who knows . . . stay tuned . . .
I think abortion is a giant red-herring issue and don't pay a lot of attention to it in Presidential elections (Democrats are pro-choice, Republicans are pro-life; who cares?), but Teresa Heinz Kerry's thoughts on abortion were interesting:

"'My belief - and I maybe am very wrong - is that women, generally speaking, do not want to have abortions,' Heinz Kerry said."

Huh, you think? I always assumed that women loved to "[stop] the process of life."

So what does Kerry have to say about his right-wing nut of a wife?

"Asked if he shares his wife's views, Kerry told Newsweek, 'I do not know the answer to that. We've never - she's never had to vote.'"

I think that most people probably have a pretty good idea about where their spouse stands on certain issues, even if he or she has "never had to vote." What does that mean, by the way? One doesn't have an opinion on the abortion issue unless he or she has to vote on it in Congress?

And I know I'm reading this out of context, but just so you know, this culture war is the Beatles' fault:

"Both husband and wife agree that she is more traditional in her values than the Massachusetts senator, owing to the fact that she's five years older.

"'He's of the generation of the Beatles, and that's the line of demarcation,' Heinz Kerry said."

Teresa must be a Pat Boone fan . . .

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals saftey and Arizona State alum who gave up a multi-million dollar contract to save civilization, has died in Afghanistan. That's really depressing.

UPDATE: Actually, it's really, really sad. The more I think about it, the sadder it is. What a guy . . . here's an article about his decision to join the Special Forces.

FURTHERMORE: If Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell wanted to do something really classy he would name the team's new stadium for Tillman. Fuck the sponsorship possibilities. Maricopa County taxpayers should demand it.

MORE: Arizona Republic columnist John Gambadoro writes:

"And while I don't trust the Cardinals in anything they do football related, I do trust that they will do the right thing when it comes to honoring Tillman. And while naming the new stadium after him would be a nice gesture, it is somewhat unrealistic.

"But Pat Tillman Field. That is the right thing to do. That way every time we walk into the new stadium we can remember our hero."

I still think it should be a stadium, but . . .

AND: This article from the Arizona Republic is also very good, and it speaks a great deal about his character.
Foreign policy expert Paul Krugman writes about Bush's dismal failure in Iraq today. I was going to be snide and say "stick with what you know," except that he actually tries to stick with what he knows, pinning the defeat on Bush's dogged free-market ideology:

"Sure enough, the administration was unprepared for predictable security problems in Iraq, but moved quickly — in violation of international law — to impose its economic vision. Last month Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator of Iraq, told the BBC that he was sacked in part because he wanted to hold quick elections. His superiors wanted to privatize Iraqi industries first — as part of a plan that, according to Mr. Garner, was drawn up in late 2001."

Uh, yeah.

In summary, he notes that Condoleezza Rice's upbeat report to members of Congress is "very bad news," explaining that "[t]he mess in Iraq was created by officials who believed what they wanted to believe, and ignored awkward facts. It seems they have learned nothing."

Isn't this kind of an ironic twist? Couldn't the same be said for op-ed writers who, never having gone to Iraq and never studied foreign policy, spout partisan propaganda twice weekly? In other words, maybe the mess in Iraq was created by pundits who believed what they wanted to believe, and ignored awkward facts. It seems they have learned nothing.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today is Newman's Day at Princeton. The premise is to drink a beer an hour for 24 hours. It is derived from a supposed Paul Newman quote: "24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not."

Although no extra medical personnel are on hand today, Paul Newman himself is urging the university to ban the practice.
I buy it, and it's well worth reading.
3,000 killed? Wow. Also, the Dear Leader himself was at the train station just hours before. Wow . . .
Party on, dude:

"Italian investigators have found a link between Islamic militant groups and the Camorra, one of Italy's main organised crime groups, a top anti-Mafia investigator said on Monday.

"'We have evidence that groups of the Camorra are implicated in an exchange of weapons for drugs with terrorist groups,' Pierluigi Vigna, Italy's national anti-mafia prosecutor, told reporters at the foreign press club."

(Original link found here.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Coordinated attacks in Riyadh and Basra . . . children in school buses, the Saudi security services . . . very bad news . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I kind of want to read Bob Woodward's new book -- it sounds interesting, but not necessarily for the "explosive" charges, which seem to be being spun in conspiratorial ways. Take, for example, Matt Yglesias' post in TAPPED that centers on David Frum's spinning of the charge that Prince Bandar allegedly promised to keep oil prices low before the election: "Bob Woodward's allegation in Plan of Attack that the administration struck a deal with Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar to keep oil prices high and then drop them just in time for the 2004 election threatened to take cognitive dissonance to new heights."

The problem is that I don't think Woodward actually says that the Saudis intend to keep prices high and then drop them just before the election, just that they intend to increase production: "Woodward, in the interview about his new book, said Bandar, a long-time Bush family friend, pledged that 'over the summer, or as we get closer to the election, they could increase production several million barrels a day and the price would drop significantly.'"

And, in fact, Woodward came out more forcefully later on Larry King clarifying the story: "'I don't say there's a secret deal or any collaboration on this,' Woodward told CNN's 'Larry King Live' Monday. 'What I say in the book is that the Saudis ... hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That's what I say.'"

Seems like Yglesias is trying to infer something that just isn't there. Kerry, too, as a matter of fact. (Then again, I don't blame Kerry, who has to stump in hyperbole while running for President.)
Doesn't it seem like he's bending over backwards to sound balanced today? Weird . . .
Hitchens writes a powerful non-apology for his stance on Iraq, in discussing the "flavor of the week" topic: "What I got wrong about Iraq." "There was no way around our adoption of Iraq, as there still is not," he concludes. He makes sense.

My favorite Bush transgression pundits glibly trot out and expect you to see how it's so self evident (Josh Marshall is great at doing this) is that de-Baathification was somehow a mistake. It may have had some significant downsides, but it's plain that it was a very tricky prospect either way. Hitchens notes the possibilities had the opposite happened.

Other navel-gazing I've seen in the last couple of days that it was the right war and the wrong time. When would have been the "right time"? This argument never made any sense to me.

Think about it less about Bush and more about the U.S. and the whole thing makes more sense . . .
This makes me feel a lot better about Kerry, actually. It's the old Hegemonic U.S. thing that Nader and Chomsky sort of tap into: "Warmongering will be worse under Kerry than under Bush and real peaceniks should therefore vote for Dubya." Beautiful . . . (Original link found here.)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Even if Russia is unwilling to get to the bottom of the U.N. Oil-for-Food kickback scandal, maybe world opinion will want to do something about Oil-for-Terror:

"The issue is not simply how much Saddam pilfered, or even whether he bought up half the governments of Russia and France — but whether, under the U.N. charade of supervision, he availed himself of the huge opportunities to fund carnage under the cover of U.N. sanctions and humanitarian relief."
If Russia is unwilling to get to the bottom of the U.N. Oil-for-Food kickback scandal, maybe world opinion will want to do something about Oil-for-Terror:
Letting Sistani emerge as a real power broker makes a lot sense in terms of why we should let the negotiations with Sadr run their course.
"Denmark reveals Iraq arms secrets."
James Lileks is fisking Andrew Sullivan's call for an increase in the gas tax. I generally agree with him that the consequences of raising the gas tax are more widespread than Sullivan perhaps suggests, but I wonder about one thing: what if there were a surcharge at the point of purchase for vehicles that don't meet the government's MPG standards? You could raise the MPG standards but allow car companies and consumers the discretion of buying cars that meet a realistic standard. In other words, let the free market do what it wants in terms of MPG, but treat it like a luxury tax, like the NBA does with its salary cap.

Although I am sympathetic to the simplistic notion that SUV owners cause terrorism (well, sort of -- I like these sort of root causes ideas but I'm not all Arianna about it), I don't really see how getting 18 or 20 miles to the gallon instead of 24 or 25 really causes that much more terrorism. If I were in the market for a car I'd want one that gets good gas mileage, but I'm not out putting stickers on SUVs saying "I caused 9/11." Our economy depends on cheap gas. So don't penalize the consumer -- let people waste gas by using SUVs, but just tax them for it. Just don't do it at the gas pump where it really is a regressive tax.
Check out the list of charges against him. What a dick! When will the negotiations end?

And this doesn't help, either: Al-Sadr hails quick Spain pullout. I imagine that's the kind of press the new Spanish Prime Minister would like to avoid!
I've noticed that internet commentary seems to have become rather polarized, especially as we near the election. Amateurs like Little Green Footballs and Daily Kos have received a lot of criticism for this recently, and I've stopped reading a bunch of sites that I think are just too shrill.

That's why Opinion Duel looks so promising. A joint presentation of National Review and The New Republic, it refocuses weblogging in the hands of the experts, which I think is a good thing generally. Both publications have gotten good at blogging -- National Review more so than New Republic, but the latter publication has come on strong in the short time they've been writing online content.
"U.S. intelligence officials have uncovered evidence of a potential terrorist attack," according to ABC's World News Tonight, which goes on to say that the intelligence, "received a week ago but secret until now, is from known Muslim extremists who suggested an attack — possibly in the U.S. — was imminent, and that operatives were already 'in place.'"

Friday, April 16, 2004

It's simple: Rumsfeld's so-called surprise at the situation in Iraq gets major play while Bush's non-apologies languish in the meta-commentary of pundits and "news analyses." It's no wonder why Bush "refuses to admit a mistake."
Isn't it notable that Bush is supporting Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania's contested Republican Senatorial primary? Bush is ahead in the polls there . . . at least as of a couple of weeks ago (more research needed?) . . . notable since that's a state he lost in 2000. The conservatives (look at the National Review, for example) have gone after Specter. This show of support for moderates is a good thing, right?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Noam Scheiber notes John Kerry's not-quite-Sister Souljah moment with the antiwar guy yesterday:

"I would have preferred that Kerry be more emphatic about how irresponsible it would be to leave Iraq now. And I would also have preferred that Kerry not strive so hard to find common ground with someone so, er, irresponsible. (You can practically see Kerry trying to override his instinct to pander--and failing, if only briefly.) But Kerry did stick to his story under what looks like intense pressure, in a pretty hostile environment, and he deserves to be commended for it."

Maybe Kerry wasn't as emphatic as he could have been, but Kerry has set such a low bar for being principled that it's significant nonetheless. But seriously, I totally agree -- the Democrats need to get this kind of LaRouchian tendency out of their system in order for the 95% of the country who aren't concocting silly imperialist conspiracies to take them seriously. Like I sort of alluded to before, the best thing for Kerry to do is take this issue away from Bush, not challenge him on it.

That said, I don't know what to make of this Reuters lede: "Democratic White House challenger John Kerry accused President Bush on Thursday of manipulating fears about security and terror for political gain and said he would launch a new ad blitz to introduce himself to voters."

If you read the story, I don't get the sense that's exactly what he was saying but of course I wasn't there and sometimes it's hard to tell what his message is!
"EU Rejects Bin Laden's Offer." It reads like an Onion article, too!
This is a small blog-related comment, but why is it that Juan Cole's blog is so tedious to read when he comes off as such a smart guy on television? I try to read it to get a take on what's going on in Iraq, but it so often comes off as unnecessarily contrarian -- stuff that the anti-Bush people eat up.

Take this post on the President's press conference, for example -- why is he wasting his time parsing a political speech? It's the policy we care about, not the spin.
There are the fat and lazy among us who sneer knowingly at anti-drug ads that highlight the connection between drugs and terrorism, but Spanish authorities say this is exactly what happened in the case of the Spanish 3/11 bombers: "The terrorists behind the Madrid train bombings financed much of their operation with sales of hashish and Ecstasy, even bartering drugs for the explosives they used in the blasts, Spain's interior minister said Wednesday."

Perhaps governments will never get a handle on the war on drugs until they are legalized, which makes it all the more important for us in the interim to take personal responsibility for our choices. If it's easy to stop wearing Nikes as long as that company uses sweatshops, then we should be using the same calculus to stop propping up a trade that, more and more, is showing some unseemly links to real violence.
The problem with constantly spinning is not necessarily that it's tedious -- even though that's problem enough for me -- but also that it just misses the point entirely. The hermetically sealed bubble is not a good thing. See: spin versus trying to be objective about what it might all mean. He's got to get out of the election bubble -- party politics is so over!
A bunch of people are linking to Ann Louise Bardach's Q&A with Oliver Stone in Slate and it's totally worth reading -- it sounds like it's out of the Onion. Oliver Stone has been a bad man for a while now -- since at least JFK -- and this just confirms it. Talk about having blinders on.
I wonder/worry how this will be spun, but perhaps it will make it clear to Iran the importance of a stable Iraq. Then again, it's always possible there's way more to the story. The Times' John Burns reports that a "senior Iranian diplomat" was shot and killed in Baghdad. Although the diplomat apparently was not part of the Najaf negotiating team, Burns notes that "the killing could complicate the mission of an Iranian government delegation that is in Iraq trying mediate the standoff between American troops and a rebel Shiite cleric." Scary stuff . . .
Paul Berman writes a sensible and powerful op-ed in today's Times about the need to clarify our collective position against theocratic fascism (that's Hitchens' phrase, but I think Berman agrees with it).

And when he writes that it should be a collective response, he's talking about the entire civilized world, and since Bush has bungled the task, the Democrats need to step up and take responsibility for the fight. I don't think Bush can be blamed for taking the route they took -- the WMD argument was a necessary argument to make in the context of going to the U.N., for example -- so I'm not as down on the President as he is, but I will say that I won't mind if we can accomplish what we need to do in Iraq and the Middle East using Berman's good cop/bad cop theory. Let Kerry shine -- I don't care who does it as long as it's done.

Being a Bush apologist in this area means that you can similarly be a Kerry apologist later on. It's intellectually dishonest to make this a partisan issue provided that the opposition doesn't make it a partisan issue. Kerry's statement in New York yesterday after being confronted by an anti-war guy was a strong and positive message -- cutting and running is not an option ("we are where we are, sir, and it would be unwise beyond belief for the United States of America to leave a failed Iraq in its wake").

I still stand by the idea that one shouldn't trust those who want to be President, but that only those who are or have been the President know what it takes to be the President. That said -- and call it Mickey Kaus' Pedro Martinez analogy or whatever -- as long as our leadership is serious about confronting what should be clear to everyone is the main threat to civilization, then as a voter I'm comfortable with whoever is in charge.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

What he said.
William Safire's speculation today about who might make up a Kerry cabinet noted one salient detail that deserves a little more attention, specifically that John McCain wouldn't accept a position as Secretary of Defense because Arizona's Democratic governor would then be able to appoint a replacement as Senator. (I accept that this is true because he wrote it, but I don't know the legal specifics.)

The same is of course true if McCain is seriously (not likely) considering a VP nomination, which sheds light on all the speculation about McCain. In this case, it's easy for Kerry to allow it to happen since it's such a remote possibility that McCain would actually step down (losing a Republican in a tight Senate would probably be a lot worse for the Republicans than the appearance of McCain jumping ship). Thus, the McCain story remains a win-win thing for Kerry. I still think, however, that he runs the serious risk of letting everyone down with the eventual VP pick, which will never be as surprising or noteworthy as McCain . . .
The cardinal rule of PR is never repeat the negative! Oh sure, it's hard to spin how an outspoken opponent of homosexual rights has a gay son, but you have to go beyond spin like this: "If my son is their latest 'hero,' we should wonder how many more of their homosexual leaders and trophies that they present as 'model citizens' have lives that are this unraveled."
Technology is cool.
Assuming you have a car, of course. What hath this technology wrought?
Assuming you have a dishwasher, of course. What hath this technology wrought?
Connecticut phenom Diana Taurasi is headed to Phoenix's WNBA Mercury franchise.
"Iranian envoy to Iraq upon U.S. request": Isn't Iran helping negotiate a conclusion to the Sadr thing a big deal? Like a really big deal? Like an admission by the Iranians that they are connected with Sadr, for one, and a big stepdown on the part of the U.S. in terms of using the Axis of Evil to help out here? More questions than answers! Keep your eye on this . . .

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

If al-Zarqawi is actually in Fallujah and the Marines have a chance to get him, that would be very big news, and would put the military's seemingly "disproportionate" force into big perspective.
Ashcroft vs. Gorelick: Explosive!
That said, take from this what you will:

"Other experts suggested that Osama bin Laden, who the United States believes was behind the bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 1998, comes from an ethnically Yemeni family and has influence there, as does Iraq. The American ships refueling in Aden, which are part of the Fifth Fleet, largely help enforce the sanctions against Iraq.

"'It's really too early to speculate, but you have to ask who is angry enough at us to attack an American target, and you may pick the Iraqis,' said Jerry Bremer, a former State Department terrorist expert who this year chaired a national commission on terrorism."
Take from this what you will: "Mr. Gore also began a campaign event at a packed Milwaukee park by asking the crowd 'for a moment of silence and prayer' for the American sailors who were killed. He drew cheers when he promised retaliation if the sailors had been victims of a terrorist attack, and declared, 'We will defend our country and we will defend our democracy.'"

If you're remotely interested in what the 9/11 Commission is talking about right now, follow the link and click on the related links . . . they're must, must reads.
Take from it what you will: "The Cole, on its way to the Persian Gulf to join a naval battle group involved in operations regarding Iraq, had just arrived in Aden when the blast occurred. It was scheduled to stay only about four hours, just long enough to refuel before resuming its journey."
Drudge is a big pain in the ass, I know, but this can't be helping the Kerry campaign:

"The call-to-arms fundraising ad, placed by the St. Petersburg Democratic Club in the current issue of the GABBER, a local St. Petersburg paper, asks readers to make an urgent donation to the John Kerry campaign.

"Club Vice President Edna McCall told the DRUDGE REPORT Tuesday morning: 'We want to get our country back. In Iraq, we're in deep trouble. If we don't try to get this situation cleared up, we are finished.'

"When asked if the ad was a challenge to inflict violence on Rumsfeld, McCall explained: '"Pull the trigger" means let Rumsfeld know where we stand, not to shoot him!'

"'We are getting raped, and they are planning to steal the election again.'

"McCall said her club is in direct contact with John Kerry campaign.

"'We're all working together.'"

Forget the thing about shooting Rumsfeld -- or even the charming "raped" language (are they nuts?) -- doesn't the "direct contact" with the Kerry campaign violate campaign finance laws? This sounds like a Rovian setup to me . . .
Ralph Nader is a bad man. And I hope this isn't an example of Nader working with Kerry to coordinate some sort of message.
Arab terrorists targeting an Israeli official in Europe is a very, very bad sign. Like, very, very, very bad.
The criticism that the Bush Administration tried to do Iraq "on the cheap," as even his supporters allege, is among the most salient; David Brooks, after being slammed for his apologetic Saturday piece, follows with this. The idea that Iraq could be an experiment in democracy and an experiment of Donald Rumsfeld's ideas about faster, lighter fighting forces is beginning to appear like overreach. The lesson should be that you can't have it both ways; those against the war would have been against it regardless of whether you had 130,000 troops or 230,000 troops. At the same time, I don't think that those supporting the effort wouldn't have consented to it had there been this much more of a commitment.
This sure seems like an example of the danger of slippery slopes in terms of second guessing information that should probably be a matter of executive privilege: "Commission Seeks Author of Brief -- Interview With CIA Analyst Requested."

"The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, rebuffed once previously, asked again yesterday to interview the CIA analyst who wrote the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing given to President Bush on al Qaeda's threat to the United States, according to administration sources.

"'A new request from the commission has just come in, and it is being considered,' said a senior intelligence official, who requested anonymity because such negotiations are supposed to be conducted privately.

"The commission wants to interview the author of the article in the now-famous President's Daily Brief to determine her purpose in assembling the document and how much information she sought in doing so."

And I don't think that you have to be a Bush detractor or apologist to wonder whether this is a bad development. It's a big concern if you have analysts second guessing themselves on information they give to the President or their superiors on the chance that they'll be called to testify at a later date. Would you want to face Bob Kerrey now?
It strikes me as disingenuous to argue points like this:

"Clearly no one is saying that if the president got a warning at that late date that he should necessarily should have been able to roll up the plot. I don't think anyone expects him to have. But what's damning about this isn't that he didn't prevent what happened.

"I think what people would want to know -- having now seen the warnings the president received -- is that the White House snapped into action and was trying to put together every clue it had to get to the bottom of what was coming. After the attack came they could say to the public, 'There were some warnings something was coming. We put all the resources we could into it. We scrambled to turn over every stone. But we were in a race against the clock. We did our best. But we didn't figure it out in time.'

"The problem for the White House is it that it really doesn't seem like anything like that happened. 9/11 probably couldn't have been prevented at that late a date. But we'll never know."

So, if I'm reading this correctly, it's not that the President himself didn't prevent 9/11, it's that he then couldn't say that he "did his best" in preventing 9/11. Isn't this basically just figuring out how to cover your ass well enough? This isn't actually serious, is it?

Monday, April 12, 2004

I'm going to harp again on the notion, fueled by these guys, that Bush himself didn't do enough to stop Al Qaeda before 9/11. No one in government did, both because of lack of political will and simply because everyone got it wrong before then.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Do you really think that Rice shouldn't have doggedly stayed on message when the opposition is rapidly responding during her testimony? What do you expect here?
Gregg Easterbrook is exactly right: "An Alternative History": "On August 7, 2001, Bush had ordered the United States military to stage an all-out attack on alleged terrorist camps in Afghanistan. . . . Reaction was swift and furious. Florida Senator Bob Graham said Bush had 'brought shame to the United States with his paranoid delusions about so-called terror networks.' British Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the United States of 'an inexcusable act of conquest in plain violation of international law.' White House chief counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke immediately resigned in protest of 'a disgusting exercise in over-kill.'"

Read the whole alternative history; anyone who believes that the world would have excused Bush is a fucking idiot. And, although I mostly didn't mind Bob Kerrey's questioning, it sheds tremendous light on his specious statement (I'm paraphrasing from memory here) that there was a covert plan that Richard Clarke drew up that could have been implemented to take care of Afghanistan.

I'm listening to WNYC right now and Brian Lehrer's callers keep saying that the Administration dropped the ball. You know what? Fuck off.

It's stuff like this that makes me convinced that senseless navel-gazing excercises like Rice's testimony exhibit some of the worst aspects of the "democratic process."
This is exactly what I was talking about yesterday, by the way, and the media's preoccupation with her spin is in clear evidence in the New York Times' News Analysis of Condoleezza Rice's testimony, which harps on how she "stuck to the script."

What do you expect her to do? Even Bob Kerrey, just interviewed on WNYC, noted that she did a good job in her role as the President's NSA. That's the way it works!

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Tomorrow is the anniversary of Baghdad's fall; let's hope against hope nothing horrible happens there (or here, for that matter). Apparently there are rumors of something: "I was standing outside with neighbours yesterday afternoon gossiping when a car drove by, threw a couple of fliers at us, shouting 'read them, may Allah increase your reward'. The fliers were signed by a group which called itself Saif Allah Albattar (Allah's striking sword) at Ramadi, Fallujah, Adhamiya, and Diyala, which advised Iraqis to remain home on April 9th (the anniversary of the occupation), stating that they would not be responsible if anyone failed to do so." (Original link found here.)
(We're on familiar terms now, of course.) Final Point about this, for now -- another compelling argument she raised is that before 9/11 it was impossible to attack the Taliban with Pakistan supporting them. 9/11 afforded Pakistan and Musharraf the opportunity to disengage from the Taliban. That's probably the most salient point in explaining why it would have been difficult if not impossible to invade Afghanistan. And if the U.S. had attacked Afghanistan and Al Qaeda fled into the tribal regions of Pakistan, there would have been no chance of U.S. troops then invading Pakistan. To think this was a viable option before 9/11 is absurd.
Like I said, I found her compelling. (For a humorous and probably accurate assessment on statements like this, see here.) Richard Clarke's book meant that Rice was going to be grilled about how seriously the Bush Administration took Al Qaeda and what they could or should have done about the threat.

She couldn't quite come out and say it, but her statements certainly alluded to the idea that Bush would have been slammed by nearly everyone had he took office and immediately retaliated against, say, the Taliban for the U.S.S. Cole attack in October 2000. (Similarly, I buy into the notion that there was no way Clinton could have waged war on Afghanistan in the weeks before a Presidential election -- either possibility was a glaring non-starter).

In the same vein, Bush would have been excoriated -- that's actually too wimpy a term for what his opposition would have done -- had he suggested in the first months of his tenure that he was considering reconfiguring the FBI or merging the CIA and FBI or even suggesting that the CIA and FBI should work more with each other. Think about it -- when the ACLU shits themselves over the Patriot Act, do you really think Bush could have done this before 9/11 in response to a shadowy, seemingly non-threatening international terrorist threat? It's absurd to think he could have done this in four years, much less six or eight months after taking office.

Those were among the most powerful aspects of her testimony -- at least what I noticed off the bat.
After listening to Condoleezza Rice's testimony, which I thought was fascinating, I was struck by something that one of WNYC's Brian Lehrer's guests just said. The guest (I can't remember his name) was a journalist who said that Rice's testimony was indicative of how the Bush Administration is stubborn about staying on message -- in this case never admitting that they dropped any balls in the summer of 2001 before 9/11.

This would perhaps be psychologically satisfying, but I think the way Administration officials stay on message is more indicative of their understanding of the way messages in general play in the media. In the manic "24-hour news cycle," represented in a timely way on last week's West Wing, which we watched last night on tape, only the soundbites come through, so it's doubly important for them to stay on message -- especially during the circus-like atmosphere of Rice's public testimony to a commission created by popular (and perhaps Democratic opposition) demand.

This ties into what I harped on yesterday -- the public's superficial understanding of the ins and outs of issues like this demands that public testimony like Rice's be doggedly on message. So on the news coverage of the hearings tonight, we'll hear one or two of Rice's best soundbites -- and her staying on message means that there won't be a repeat of something like Richard Clarke's dramatic apology the other week.

This is the way stuff like this plays out. It doesn't mean that Rice will be able to spin her way through the 9/11 Commission, or even that some semblance of the truth won't come out, but only that Rice's highly anticipated testimony won't be respun on the evening news. Those who care about this issue will read the 9/11 Commission's report. Those who aren't interested, or don't have time to invest in it, will settle for the Administration's strict message. Again, more and more, it's this kind of campaigning that I'm interested in as we inch our way towards November.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Big props to Frank for filling in while I was away . . . good stuff, for sure.

Being away reinforced some ideas I've been having about politics, voting and the like and it's heady stuff. First off, from last Wednesday afternoon until this morning, I spent no time on the internet -- that means that there is a week of junk online that I either have to catch up on or, more likely, will be lost to cyberspace forever. Second, I read very little -- partly because I had better things to do while on vacation and partly because the local paper (The Arizona Republic) barely scratches the surface of news stories. Third, in short, for about a week there I actually had a life, which meant that I was hopelessly out of the echo chamber/loop of the chattering classes (or whatever belittling, condescending phrase you prefer).

Now, what did I learn?

First, most people have a very superficial understanding of current events. I say this not in a condescending way, but in a realistic way. Most people have real jobs, families and stuff to accomplish during the day, and it's all they can do to catch up a little bit with the news on radio or TV.

This is where the political ads come in. I was in Phoenix, and since Arizona is one of the so-called battleground states, I got to see a fair number of the campaign ads. These work not so much because they're effective but because they are the only thing people are seeing. Keep this in mind as we talk more about messages, etc. There is a lot of psychology going on here, and this is what is fascinating.

I started to think also about the way people engage each other in political conversation or debate, which is to say that in polite company, they don't. I have a strange feeling that this plays into the psychology as well. Especially that the country is (insert broad brushstroke here) so divided, you get the sense that people hold their political feelings inside. Who does this benefit?

I'm going way, way out on a limb and I want to posit that it benefits Bush. Bush, generally, has tapped into America's spiritual side while Kerry seems to be striking a stand-up-and-shout-about-it tone. Here's the "big idea": when the country is divided, and when, for civility's sake, we don't talk about politics in polite company, the tone Bush sets with quiet, individual, almost prayerful political ideas will win out. In other words, while Kerry and the Democrats are out in the streets, Nixon's Silent Majority is where the hearts and minds are at.

Think about it: I spent a week away from hardcore news consumption, missing however much of the drama, and all I have to take away from it is a vague recollection of dueling 30-second campaign spots. Kerry and the Democrats could have been all over the news and I wouldn't have known it. On the other hand, I think the Bush team is working at this (for lack of a better word) superficial level in ways that I don't totally understand and I'm beginning to think that this method works better for the type of news consumers we are nowadays.

I need to explore this more, and more clearly, but I feel like I've stumbled on to something. But then again, this vague epiphany may disappear too quickly now that I'm back in civilization. More later, perhaps.
I read the print version of this yesterday and I'm glad it's online -- Mark Bowden on what to do in Fallujah: "The Lesson of Mogadishu."

It's clear that Sadr guy is a fucker. I hope something good comes out of the fighting in Iraq . . .

Monday, April 05, 2004

Thank God we have the likes of Bill Kristol second-guessing our officers in Iraq:

It would be unfair to dwell on the lame comment by one American commander on the day of the atrocity: "Should we have sent in a tank so we could have gotten, with all due respect, four dead bodies back? What good would that have done? A mob is a mob. We would have just provoked them. The smart play was to let this thing fade out." Really? Unprovoked by the sight of a tank, terrorists in the Falluja area continued in the following days their assaults against U.S. troops and Iraqis working with Americans. In any case, the alternative to inaction on March 31 did not have to be a single tank. We could have sent many tanks, along with air support, to disperse the mob, kill those who didn't disperse, intimidate onlookers, and recover the bodies of the dead Americans. And we could immediately have put a price on the head of the killers and those who desecrated the bodies.

After a good rhetorical trick of "it would be unfair to dwell..." Kristol proceeds to dwell. And dwell he should! If only our field commanders had the intelligence of Bill Kristol, Iraq would be a flourishing democracy right now. At the very least, there'd be a lot more candy and flowers being thrown at American soldiers, instead of rocks and grenades.

P.S.: All snarkiness aside, Kristol's absolutely right that we must stand our ground on this issue. What irks me, however, is that we don't commit the same magnitude of response when the Iraqi police are targeted. In terms of the "coalition," a dedicated Iraqi soldier or police officer is worth 10 or 20 times a soldier from Spain, South Korea, or Poland. No offense to those countries, but the path to legitimacy lies in self-determination. I wish we would show the same wrath towards those who attack the fledgling Iraqi peacekeepers. I suppose that's a bit tough, after the U.S. army gunned down 8 of them in a tragic firefight several months ago. Still, I'd like to see every Iraqi police or soldier who dies or is wounded counted as a "coalition casualty," and met with the same response.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Michael Crowley lays it out in Slate today. Cleland was a mediocre senator, and the way the Democrat party is fawning over him shows them for the hypocrites they are. Check this graf:

What Cleland brings to Kerry's campaign is the emotional power of victimization—a throwback to the worst of old-time Democratic Party politics, to its emphasis on victimhood over ability and virtue. But whereas in the past it was specific interest groups—minorities, women, gays—who were the noble victims, today it is the Democratic Party itself.

Stop whining, you wankers, and give us some new ideas!
G'day DeskJockey readers -- Frank here, trying to fill Scott's neo-conservative cowboy boots. I'm going to try my hardest to be a good neocon over the next few days, but I might miss a beat or two. So here goes...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?