Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Sonia. This isn't the best video out there of her, but it was the only one I could embed.


Evening Fashions of 1952

... as imagined in 1883. From the brilliant, beautiful, essential blog Paleo-Future, a living monument to humankind's 20-20 tunnel-vision.

[Hat tip: Eve-Tushnet]

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rush to Judgment

[posted by Callimachus]

I have no idea what Rush Limbaugh says or thinks, because I don't listen to him and don't intend to start. But the transcript from his show as presented on the alarm-ringer post that sent the left-side bloggers scurrying to their keyboards seems to me to leave his latest notorious remark open to variant readings:

CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

From there, the next dot connected was active-duty soldiers who have written and spoken eloquently in their criticism or condemnation of the reasons and tactics of the U.S. effort in Iraq.

But it is not at all clear to me from that jumbled conversation that Limbaugh didn't mean proven "phony soldiers" who have been embraced and touted by the anti-war movement, like Jesse Macbeth. Whatever he meant (we'll never know) in that moment, Limbaugh at least has that cover to shelter behind.

Still, it's a warning shot to those who thoughtlessly backed the MoveOn scolding resolution. That dog bites both ways. This post overreaches its case based on the vagueness and off-the-cuffness of the Limbaugh quip.

The amendment, offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), expressly stated that the Senate would condemn “any effort to attack the honor and integrity” of “all members of the United States Armed Forces“:


On his radio show yesterday, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh attacked the “honor and integrity” of some members of the Armed Forces. Limbaugh attacked troops who hold a different viewpoint than his own as “phony soldiers.” Iraq war vet Jon Soltz writes that Limbaugh’s comments are directed at “the majority of troops on the ground in Iraq” because they “do not back the President’s failed policy.”

For all the Senators who rushed to make political hay over an empty resolution, the spotlight is on them. Will they now enforce their “sense of the Senate” and condemn Rush Limbaugh?

But if you don't believe an authentic match to the MoveOn stupidity is lurking out there somewhere, waiting to trip off the tongue of some right-side commentator, you're in for a rude surprise. And what will you do then?

UPDATE: 9/29/07, 2:46 p.m. (timestamped to give the comments a correct context) If this transcript is accurate, Rush L. did introduce Jesse MacBeth as the sort of "phony soldier" he had in mind in the same conversation in which he used that phrase. In which case the objection to his words is completely off-base and counts as a smear. Hat tip BCB.

(As was, I might add, the allegation in the Congressional resolution that the MoveOn ad impinged the honor of all the troops in service in Iraq. It still bothers me more when the elected U.S. Congress does that than when a lot of damned fool private citizens on the left do it.)

Letters to America

This new blog lets the world say things to our faces. It's a good idea -- at least you know the people who write these things will be addressing you, not someone in their homeland. But take your blood-pressure medicine anyhow. It will teach you how far behind we are in presenting ourselves to the world. There's more than one cause for that, of course. But I'm beginning to wonder if it's coincidence that the people with the most dour and cynical views of America all protest that they love Hollywood movies and American television -- which tend to offer up a consistently dour and cynical view of America. I'm aware of the argument that says the ability to write, speak, film, and publish that way about your homeland is one of the great advertisements to the world of our freedoms. That it is. But when that's all you've got, how is that different than peeing in the public pool?


Good-Bye to All That

[posted by Callimachus]

A historian bids farewell to the American Historical Association:

... I've neither seen nor heard anything from the AHA regarding standing-up for the profession other than when it is against the Bush Administration and an Imperial Presidency. Nothing about the Clinton's stonewalling the release of records or of their former crony Web Hubbell absconding with historical documents from NARA. No hue and cry about the history lost. Oh, they reported it in one of their "Inside Washington"-type columns, but didn't see fit to decide or "resolve" over it. I guess actually stealing and destroying documents isn't as bad as putting a hold on them while we are at war. I'm sure the AHA was all over FDR for the same things.

Anyway, enough is enough. I'm letting my membership lapse and am discontinuing my affiliation with the AHA. I'm fed up with their inability to resist immersing themselves in ideological politics while under a veneer of doing so to safeguard the "values necessary to the practice of our profession." Sure, there are other, practical ($) reasons why I'm checking out of the professional side of the, er, profession. Basically, the services the AHA offers an "Independent Historian" like me (basically, access to book reviews and a few articles in AHR) are easily found (for free!) here on the web. Frankly, because I wasn't going to be going for a PhD or teach any time soon, it was never a perfect match to begin with. Face it, the AHA is of, for and by the PhD's, all of their wailing and gnashing of teach about the "role of the MA" or "public historians" aside. And that's fine, but ain't for me. No harm, no foul....and no more money from me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carrots, Sticks, Poisoned Apples

[posted by Callimachus]

If you read the left-side blogs, the steady screech is that Bush and Company are marching America headlong into police-state fascism.

If I could lay a bet with any chance of collecting on it, I would wager the Bush II administration will be remembered as a temporary step back from that poisoned apple in America's garden of temptations. Because it tried to advance that game so recklessly, and managed every aspect of governance so poorly, it exposed the trick.

The goal is to advance the authority and control of the federal government and especially the executive branch. The game is to concentrate power there. The trick is to do it in such a way that it seems to be the only way to solve urgent problems, or to do it with such concessions to individual liberties and the popular sort of freedoms that it masks the power creep.

As some of the more awake left-siders note, the drift is much older than George W. Bush. Some pick one 20th century date, some another, for when it began. This is the fallacy of the Golden Age. There never was one; the danger is original. The warnings are woven into the fabric of everything the Founders wrote that was meant for us to still read. But we've stopped reading.

And the Founders were the first to succumb. The first crisis came in John Adams' reign, when America was not sure yet what it was, when it might have bloomed at once into an authoritarian, centralized state. The Federalist clamp-down on the brink of an undeclared war looks clumsy only in retrospect. And it is a false model of how authoritarianism comes to America. The right people learned the lesson at once -- Monroe, for instance -- and rarely has anything so naive and naked ever been attempted again.

Thomas Jefferson did it in spite of himself when tempted by sweet Louisiana and adventures in the Mediterranean. He turned back the Alien and Sedition Acts of the previous administration (but one of them remains on the books today) and pardoned those prosecuted under them, and thus the people felt more secure in their liberties because they felt they could say any bad thing they liked about the government. But Jefferson's use of executive power left footprints that presidents after him followed. It left the federal executive that much stronger.

He had luck. The acquisition of the Great Plains for American settlement turned out to be undeniably a good thing to the people. No one today would wish it otherwise. But only Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans in 1815 cemented the ownership in the eyes of the world and spared the United States the agony of having to fight to keep what it purchased so, seemingly, cheaply.

Every president felt the temptation; most surrendered to it at some time. Jackson understood the game intuitively and was a master at it: Expand democracy at the same time you ramp up executive potency. Polk in forty-six figured out a key strategy: how a president personally can steer America into a war in spite of checks and balances. Lincoln, then in Congress, scorned him for it. Fifteen years later, President Lincoln did exactly the same.

The Civil War that followed burst the dam. In the name of saving a union still alive and flourishing, the federal government took on enormous unintended authority. Under the silken purr of Lincoln's rhetoric and trembling with rally-round-the-flag patriotism, the people handed over every right they held. After the war, the courts handed back most of the visible personal ones -- habeas corpus, press autonomy -- but the federal government now controlled the banks and had the power to tax every income and draft men directly into military service.

Those who saw it coming and warned of it were tangled in the partisan issues and personalities of their time. They also too often believed the social and economic relations between the races in the United States ought to be ordered and ordained. (Many people today still think so, in a different sense.) They did not foresee that within a few generations this unobjectionable -- at the time -- view would taint all their opinions and make them untouchable. Their vicious partisan obsession with Lincoln and the Black Republicans was a great gift to their enemies, over time.

And so on through the 20th century -- Wilson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, abetted in most cases by pliant or partisan Congresses.

Every now and then a clumsy player takes the White House and overplays the game -- Andy Johnson; Nixon; the late, leaderless, stroke-crippled Wilson Administration. Then the alarm sounds for certain individual rights, and the courts or the Congress advance them. In some cases it's a genuine advance: Americans on the whole now are more free to say and do as they wish on a day-to-day basis than at any time in history. But in the matter of reigning in federal and executive authority, what's restored is often a fraction of what was taken.

George W. Bush is shaped in the Andy Johnson mold. The Congressional Republicans today are the Federalists of ninety-nine. Bill Clinton at the height of his persuasive skills and with a more capable team than he actually had (thanks to too many years of Democratic wandering in the wilderness) could have gotten away with all this and more, and made you want to thank him for it.

Americans still yearn for legal pleasures, favors for their own sects, tax structures that lean harder on someone else, and savvy politicians know the use of the carrot as well as the stick when they drive the mass of voters enfranchised in Andy Jackson's day. More of us can vote than ever before -- some even clamor to allow illegal immigrants into the polls. More can vote, but the votes matter less and less.

Labels: , , ,

Bed-Wetter Nation

[posted by Callimachus]

That's what they call the United States over on the left when some of us find some reason to be angry about an Ahmadinejad or a bin Laden.

Now when a bad guy crosses our threshhold, America becomes a pants-piddling mess.

Iran's president speaks at a great American university. That university's president, in the act of introducing his lecture, whines like a baby bereft of his pacifier that his guest is a big meany poopy-head. ... Now they go on cable TV and whine about what a "travesty" it would have been to visit a site which properly should belong to the world. Hundreds of foreign nationals died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 (maybe even some of the Iranian!). Yet we have to systematically repress that — as if our national ego would crack like fine crystal if we were forced to acknowledge the mingling of American blood with that of mere foreigners.

... How cowardly our conservative Republic of Fear has made us. How we tremble at the mere touch of a challenge.

And it has become de rigueur it invoke Khrushchev's visit in 1959 as a comparison, to recall a time when real Americans had the guts not to be tizzified by a visiting enemy dignitary. They then tend to boast how "we" dealt with the Soviets.

And it never occurs to them to wonder what they would have been writing and saying had they been commenting then. Whose side they would have been on, what they would have been criticizing.

Perhaps it's a clue that even the ones who don't confess to having a crush on the little guy from Iran spend more time laughing along with his Bush lines than standing up to his brand of fanaticism.

There's also a curious tendency to mistake indignation and pride for fear. I don't know whether this is a peculiarity of the left, or what accounts for it.

I genuinely don't understand the quaking fear over Ahmadinejad's interview at Columbia. When did America become so weak, so insecure, that we mistrust our capacity to converse with potentially hostile world leaders?

So, world leaders who lead cheers of "Death to America" as they reach for nuclear weapons are just monsters in the closet of right-wing cowards.

Fortunately, the same Web sites are around to courageously point us to the real threats in the world today, the real and legitimate objects of bed-wetting fear:

O’Reilly, Coulter, Hannity, Malkin—we often treat them as jokes, but they are not amusing. They are translators of a vicious language that would not have a place in the public sphere were it not for their careful redesign.

And so forth. As ever. Who would these people have been in 1959?

Malkin, natch, has something to say on the topic.

Forked Tongue

What al-Qaida says to the West gets a lot of attention in the West. What it says to Muslims doesn't. It should:

It soon became clear why these particular documents had not been directed to the West. They were theological treatises, revolving around what Islam commands Muslims to do vis-à-vis non-Muslims. The documents rarely made mention of all those things — Zionism, Bush's "Crusade," malnourished Iraqi children — that formed the core of Al Qaeda's messages to the West. Instead, they were filled with countless Koranic verses, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the consensus and verdicts of Islam's most authoritative voices. The temporal and emotive language directed at the West was exchanged for the eternal language of Islam when directed at Muslims. Or, put another way, the language of "reciprocity" was exchanged for that of intolerant religious fanaticism. There was, in fact, scant mention of the words "West," "U.S.," or "Israel." All of those were encompassed by that one Arabic-Islamic word, "kufr" — "infidelity" — the regrettable state of being non-Muslim that must always be fought through "tongue and teeth."


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Watchers Council winners for the week of Sept. 21 have been posted.

First place in the council went to Is War With Iran Now Just a Matter of Time? by Right Wing Nut House.

Votes also went to Freedom, But From What? by Bookworm Room; "Surge a Failure, Democrats Tell General" by Big Lizards; California Legislature Intent On Violating California Constitution by Rhymes With Right; LA Times: "No Blood For Oil" Lackey by Cheat Seeking Missiles; and Exploitation? by The Education Wonks.

Outside the council, votes heavily concentrated on two posts: Dead Eyes at Acute Politics, which won in a tiebreaker over Iraq the Model by Dean Barnett.

The former is a brief and luminous post in the genre that's come to be called milblogging. Here's how it begins:

It wasn't a good night to have a new LT on patrol. Our LT was was out with us, of course - the new guy would be leading the platoon coming to replace us. We were on a mission that could easily turn bad - as it happened, everyones night but ours was bad. We waited around at a Combat Outpost for hours for our Marine attachments to resolve some equiqment issues, cleared our route, and went home. One of our sister platoons ended up MEDIVACing two men on a helicopter after an IED strike, while another route clearance team out of Falluja was hit multiple times, and an EOD team hit a bomb that flipped a Cougar and sent two techs to the hospital.

The writing is assured, weary, compelling -- authentic. His commenters are right: This soldier needs a book deal.

The second is a rallying cry for continued attention to Iraq, and a reminder of the cost of failure -- but also of the chance and hope of success, something heard less and less even in posts urging sustained effort.

More than anything else, Iraq is ground zero in the current war of ideas. If the Iraqis decide to edge away from modernity and instead embrace genocide and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, it will serve as a clear signal that the war of ideas is lost and that a real war is inevitable. If, however, democracy and tolerance can take root in Iraq, then quite literally it can happen anywhere.

Partly for its difficulties, the Iraq war is providing a blueprint for winning the war of ideas. That of course assumes we win in Iraq and something resembling a modern, peaceful nation arises from the enormous American and Iraqi sacrifices made to date. If we lose, then those who claim to so piously desire peace will really have something to weep about.

Votes also went to Taking Away Rights and Calling It a "Right" by Classical Values and "al Qaidastan" Rising by ZenPundit.

Because They Have Nothing Else to Do

Monday, September 24, 2007

History They Probably Didn't Teach You

Two Lullabyes; Or, Life Is What It Is

[Posted by reader_iam]

White coral bells
Upon a slender stalk:
Lilies of the Valley deck my garden walk.

Oh, don't you wish
That you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing.

You know, exposure to music--intensively and of a wide range--was imbued in me from the start, perhaps even in the very sperm and egg and amniotic fluid from which I was sprung and hatched and nurtured. It is, very much, what it is.

Well, as an extension of that, there never was any part of life, being raised up, from start until off-on-your-own (and beyond that, but that's irrelevant to this post), when we weren't audiences of perpetual concerts: the preparations, the actual, the debrief. Life = music. The fluid in which all day-to-day life swam.

So it was never necessary to have separate sessions and markers of music in our lives, at the end of day or before naps or whenever. And my parents weren't vocal musicians. Still, my mom made a point of singing to me, very early on, at odd, precious times, a very specific small handful of songs, two of which have always meant a tremendous lot to me. I just shared those particular two.

This one is in honor of my mother (though it's extremely likely she'll never see it, because she doesn't know I blog and would hate it if she did).

And, by the way? Can I just say that I'm very ... a lot-of-stuff ... about what appears will likely be her fate, in terms of the end-game (and that the "better" alternative ain't so great)? It's gonna be a long week.

Anyway. Enough.

Added: Decades ago, my mom and I watched, many times, the film from which the clips in that YouTube video came. A shared love: the movie, the director, the score; the genre, the scores, and etc. We also loved Doris Day's girl-singer-with-big-band days, which--well, those who care will know the chronology; those who don't--why bore them?

Labels: , , , , , , ,

The Pain in the Ass Is in Your Head

Scientists say:

Fake acupuncture works nearly as well as the real thing for low back pain, and either kind performs much better than usual care, German researchers have found.

No Illusions

“I think some of the guys in the 2nd PSF battalion were insurgents, mostly nationalists who got tired of Al Qaeda. Some were Baathists or belonged to the 1920s Brigade. Al Qaeda started killing them off so they switched sides. One PSF guy in particular knows a little too much about taking IEDs apart. He knows exactly how to dismantle these things, as if he built them himself. I asked him how he knows so much and he said he used to be a TV repair man.” He laughed and shrugged. “But, hey, he’s on our side now. We call him the TV Repair Man and don’t worry too much about it.”

“Did the average Iraqi here switch sides or were most of them always against Al Qaeda?” I said.

“The average Iraqi post-Fallujah was not very happy with us being here,” he said. “If the insurgency only attacked Americans, the people of Ramadi would not have been very upset. But Al Qaeda infiltrated and took over the insurgency. They massively overplayed their hand. They cut off citizens’ heads with kitchen knives. The locals slowly learned that the propaganda about us were lies, and that Al Qaeda was their real enemy. They figured out by having dinner and tea with us that we really are, honest to God, here to help them.”

More fresh good stuff from Michael J. Totten.

The consensus among the people he talks to on the ground over there is that the turning is authentic. Not a marriage of convenience. Both the Iraqis and the Americans want it to work. The less-good news it, it probably can't work as a template for Baghdad or the Shi'ite regions of the country. But in those three largely rural Sunni provinces, Americans and Iraqis have a great chance to start doing what we wanted to do from the beginning.

If you're stuck here at home but still want to help, this might be a good time to revisit Spirit of America which has experience in just the right kind of projects that can build on this rare opportunity. It was active in Ramadi and Fallujah before things fell apart there, and it is back with a spate of new projects. Donations are tax-deductible.

And don't forget to throw a few bucks Michael J.'s way while you're at it.

The Meaning of Soul

Wilson Pickett, live in Africa

Labels: ,

Teh Freedom of Speech!

Worth printing whole:

Those who sharply criticized Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs President Lee C. Bollinger for inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak owe him a galaxy sized apology. You know who you are so I’m not naming names/blogs/media outlets. Lee Bollinger’s opening statement and questions, along with many of the students’ questions reduced President Ahmadinejad to a melted ice cream cone on a hot sunny day.

Watching President Ahmadinejad squirm around on questions and deliver some downright silly answers today was amusing, embarrassing (for him), and at times weird. His only “somewhat point” was why Palestinians have to suffer for the Holocaust (referring to their displacement). We can talk about that intelligently in another forum with DIFFERENT people with REAL answers. Not you President Ahmadinejad.



See What Happens

When you only read headlines and news stories? Until now I thought George W. Bush really did think Nelson Mandela was dead.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena Six

[posted by Callimachus]

Jeralyn attempts to cut through the tangle of shaky and conflicting narratives of the Jena Six case.

While I still can't make judgments as to much of the story, I have no problem declaring the case one of prosecutorial over-charging and abuse of a system that allows prosecutors discretion in charging juveniles as adults. I think the only reason the kids were charged with such serious felonies was to get Mychal Bell, then a juvenile, into adult court.

Which agrees with the few conclusions I can draw about it, and why it reminds me in one key way of the Duke lacrosse rape case: prosecutorial zeal.

No matter the background, the young men facing punishment did not face their harassment with the aplomb and determined self-control that earned many civil rights figures of the previous generation the admiration of the world. They hit back -- six to one. That's fine, but let's not mix the two experiences as though they were equal.

You might get me out to a rally for Genarlow Wilson, on the other hand.

Marcel Marceau

[posted by Callimachus]

I can't say I was a fan. But then I read this in the AP obituary, which gave me reason to respect:

A French Jew, Marceau escaped deportation to a Nazi death camp during World War II, unlike his father who died in Auschwitz. Marceau worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children, and later used the memories of his own life to feed his art.

Also, further down in the obit, this potentially mind-blowing path-crossing of the 20th century:

Because he spoke English, he was recruited to be a liaison officer with Gen. George S. Patton’s army.

Yes, Patton. If anything in that era could leave you speecheless, it might be an encounter with Patton.

No Friend Left Behind Update

[posted by Callimachus]

USAToday weighs in, editorially:

The problem, when it comes right down to it, is not intent but bureaucracy. Iraqis seeking to immigrate must navigate a Kafkaesque maze. Except for some employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, they can't apply in Iraq. They have to flee and join about 2 million Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries. They must then establish refugee status with the United Nations, which takes months. Finally, they must submit to separate rounds of interviews with officials from the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which is looking out for would-be terrorists. That takes more months.

The story of one family that made it illustrates the problem. Translator Khalid Abood al-Khafajee, 60, managed to get to Jordan. He might have languished there for years but for a grateful U.S. Marine, Capt. Zachary Iscol, who credits Abood with keeping dozens of Americans safe in sometimes-tense situations. Iscol pushed Abood's case so relentlessly it became a focus of a congressional hearing. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., quipped that perhaps "1.7 million hearings would bring 1.7 million people out."

But the figures are no joke. The Bush administration was slow to recognize the refugee crisis, which undermines its assertions that the invasion was the right decision and that Iraq is on its way to stability. Since 2003, the United States has admitted just 1,232 Iraqi refugees. In February, the State Department promised to admit 7,000 by the end of this month. It reduced that to 2,000 but might not even achieve half of that.

Seven-Year Hitch

What do you think?

Gabriele Pauli, who is running for the leadership of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union party, suggested this week that marriages should last just seven years.

During the launch of her campaign manifesto in Munich on Wednesday, the twice-divorced Pauli proposed the seven-year limit, with couples being given the option of renewing their commitment to each other or allowing their union to dissolve automatically.

"The basic approach is wrong," Pauli told reporters. "Many marriages last just because people believe they are safe.

"My suggestion is that marriages expire after seven years."

Discuss, if it can be done without breach of the peace in your home. Being a non-religious person, I find a renewable license with a seven-year expiration makes sense as a general idea (there would need to be caveats and quid-pro-quos), as it only acknowledges what seems to be a biological reality.

And I absolutely would renew mine.

I'll Be Damned

[posted by Callimachus]

Looks like the New York Times gave a sweetheart deal on that Petraeus ad after all.

"We made a mistake," Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, told the newspaper's public editor.

I'll say you did, sister. The screechy preachy left's reaction? attack the messenger, but when that falls apart and the Times itself admits error, claim it's all just a deliberate, coordinated, Rovian distraction from the unwinnable quagmire that is Iraq. Which reaction ought to be getting stale by now, even over there, but I doubt it ever will.

Meanwhile, the socialist, Chomskyite, Chavez-loving left carefully explain why their minions should not say a word against Iran's racist, fundamentalist, misogynistic, warmongering president, no matter what he does:

A rally where each speaker denounces Ahmadinejad's reactionary policies and just a few call explicitly for military action will still be perceived, on campus and around the U.S., as pro-war. The right-wing media, from Fox News to the New York tabloids, has already jumped on the event, and will spin it to favor their cause. Conservative organizations with no affiliation to Columbia's campus, such as the David Project, have already signed on to the rally on Facebook, and are likely to distribute hundreds of warmongering flyers and picket signs. The rally will seem to be a sea of pro-war demonstrators -- and the more people who attend it and the more organizations that endorse it, the more powerful this disastrous message will be.

A brief search of the magazine's archives suggests this is the first time it has ever advised its followers not to protest something. In every other case, protest was the absolute and most direct way to accomplish necessary change in the world. No matter how you felt about the other people doing it and their shadowy backers:

As far as the fighting between UFPJ and ANSWER -- I cannot speak for all of SDS, but ANSWER tends to have more anti-imperialist politics like that of SDS. There was an open letter to UFPJ written recently that was critical of the call that they put out for a protest in NYC on March 18th -- the day after the ANSWER March on the Pentagon and during the planned encampment in DC. Some SDS activists signed on to that letter and I agree with it. I oppose any kind of efforts to divide the anti-war movement.

Emphasis added. A conservative site finds a retort to this sort of squirm and other nonsense in a 1962 speech by William F. Buckley:

[F]ight the tyrants everywhere; but do not ask them to your quarters, merely to spit upon them: and do not ask them to your quarters if you cannot spit upon them: to do the one is to ambush a human being as one might a rabid dog; to do the other is to ambush oneself, to force oneself — in disregard of those who have died trying to make the point — to force oneself to break faith with humanity.

UPDATE: Joe Gandelman makes the case for the discount rate being a business error, and it may well have been one. That the advertiser was quoted a conditional rate that was presented without the caveat that it was not a guaranteed rate (the advertiser sought a guaranteed placement) seems to be generally agreed upon, and the consensus is that that was a mistake.

And it is possible that the ad happened to fit into the paper anyhow, so MoveOn never would have needed to pay the full rate. But that can never be known now, without recreating the fluid decision-making of the people in the department that constructs the paper and break up the newshole every day for the next day's edition.

As that Monday's paper was being blocked out, was anyone aware of the MoveOn ad and what it said and what terms it had been sold under? About the only quantifiable answers I can think to seek are: Was the ad-to-copy ratio that day in line with what it usually is in the Times? Were other ads run that Monday that had been taken out on a conditional basis? Were ads held?

As news media outlets know so well in other contexts, the appearance of impropriety alone is damnable. As the Times' own reporting of the kerfluffle makes clear, they have become aware that much if not most of the public regards the media as players in the game, not merely observers of it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


[posted by Callimachus]

This blogger, who seems to have learned his capitalization skills from Faulkner, mocks Giuliani for suggesting NATO be expanded into the Pacific.

giuliani's comments that NATO should be expanded to include israel, japan, australia, india and singapore (singapore?!?!) is ripe for ridicule. as steve jokes, rudy doesn't seem to be aware of where the north atlantic is.

but all kidding aside, giuliani's comments raise a real issue: what is NATO for? it was created to counter and deter the soviet union. when the soviet union collapsed it's purpose was over. i don't really know why the alliance wasn't just dissolved at that point. the members could still be allies, they just should have renegotiated a new arrangement that reflected the state of the world then, rather than the one that existed in 1949.

Which is how you write when you don't read much history. Not that this blogger deserves to be singled out for that fault. And at least he's read his Faulkner.

NATO never worked right. European Defense Force never materialized. 12 armies duplicating effort. The admission of Italy soon after the plan began geographically unjustified. Little to contribute and a likely drain on resources, but did not want to isolate it with volatile politics.

Never reached a level capable of countering a Soviet ground thrust into Western Surope. Never needed after the Eisenhower-Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation became the main deterrent.

Enormous effort that went into getting an agreement in the first placde, then getting a war-weary American people and a truculent U.S. Congress to agree to commitments to Europe. Wary to pull that apart and start over.

Laughing at the Sings is another sign you don't know enough to write this post. They have one of the smartest and best-equipped navies in the region. When the U.S. warships went to Sumatra after the tsunami to bring relief, Singapore was one of a very few other nations that showed up as promptly, and with help that wasn't mere duplication or too shabby to be of use. That was no mistake. It has crafted its armed forces to fill niches. Which is how things now quietly work in the Straits region, with Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. In effect, it's a seagoing version of what NATO was meant to be.

It could be expanded and made official -- Thailand, Philippines, Australia, and India.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's a Shame

[posted by Callimachus]

Neo-Neocon reads Mary Mapes (Dan Rather's partner in journalistic crime) so you don't have to. Mary:

These critics blathered on about everything but the content. They knew they would lose that argument, so they didn’t raise it. They focused on the most obscure, most difficult to decipher element of the story and dove in, attacking CBS, Dan Rather, me, the story and the horse we rode in on—without respite, relentlessly, for days.

That "most obscure, most difficult to decipher element of the story"? The plain evidence that the documents in question were recent forgeries.

"You keep complaining that this deed I've sold you to the Brooklyn Bridge is a fraud, and you're just not paying attention to the fantastic deal I gave you on the property. You're not being fair to me. I'm a victim."

Hey, Iowa Readers

[posted by Callimachus]

Here is, verbatim, the entry for "Des Moines" in the authoritative and academic "Native American Placenames of the United States":

From French Rivière des Moines, which could be interpreted as 'river of the monks' or 'river of the mills.' In fact, however, Moines is here an abbreviation used by the French for Moingouena (Eng. Moingwena), an Algonquian subgroup (Vogel 1983). The Native American term is /mooyiinkweena/, and it was a derogatory name applied to the Moingouenas by the Peorias, another subgroup. Its meaning, as an early French writer said is, 'visage plein d'ordure' -- or in plain English 'shit-face' (Costa 2000:45).

Blonde Like Me

[posted by Callimachus]

There's something creepy about this.

For American parents looking for donor sperm to produce blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian babies, the search just got a little trickier.

A ban on sperm from all European countries with exposure to mad cow disease means U.S. sperm banks are running low.

The May 2005 decision by the Food and Drug Administration effectively blocked donors from Denmark to the United Kingdom. And while some sperm banks have had enough frozen stocks to cope with demand, they are now facing shortages.

"We still have a little bit left, but not much," said Claus Rodgaard, manager of Cryos International, a Danish-based sperm bank with an office in New York.

Leaving aside the silly scientific bureaucracy of the ban (mad cow cases have turned up in Canada, too, but you can still import any sort of bodily fluid you please from there), the story incidentally reveals what is perhaps a natural human drift toward eugenics, accelerated by technology.

"We're not here to promote people to have blond, blue-eyed babies, but if those are the kinds of characteristics you're looking for, then Danish sperm is good for that," Rodgaard said. "That's all we have in Denmark."

It makes me think of this piece, one of the few I've seen recently to try to frame an ethical debate on this subject (though addressing principally pro-choice groups):

Like it or not, pro-choice groups, then, will be compelled to take a stand. They will have to distinguish their concept of reproductive rights from that advanced by neo-eugenicists and to decide whether and how to endorse regulation of reproductive technologies without jeopardizing already tenuous rights. But along with these challenges come opportunities. By incorporating concerns about the abuse of reproductive technologies into a pro-choice platform, the movement can shift away from an individual-liberties paradigm toward a social justice orientation; move away from a single-issue focus on abortion toward a more comprehensive agenda; and form coalitions with other segments of the left.

Not that I think that's a good tactic, but at least someone's trying to think about it.


[posted by Callimachus]

I once heard Mary Matalin speak, and she described how it was to get romantically involved with James Carville when they worked for rival presidential campaigns. At certain media feeding frenzy events, they'd start out across the room, but the pack pressure on them would gradually push them in till they found themselves back to back in the middle of the room, making opposite points.

Check out Big Tent Democrat dressing down fellow netrooters who blasted Democrats who voted for the Senate's resolution:

This conflation of criticism of Move On's ill advised ad ... with support for continuation of the war is ridiculous.

with what was written here dressing down the right-siders who wanted to equate a vote against the resolution with complicity in the "betray us" smear:

To vote against a negative resolution is not automatically to support the thing being condemned. There are all manner of good reasons -- sound conservative reasons, even -- to vote against such a resolution, including the one that it ought not to be the job of Congress to condemn advertisements or public political speech.

Just one of those odd moments of recognition across the trenches. Not that I'm suggesting love is in the air or anything.

"Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."

FWIW: Words To Consider?

[Posted by reader_iam

To MoveOn, with regard to its "ad":
"When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and, being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure. This however was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, "Don't give too much for the whistle;" and I saved my money."
To the U.S. Senate, with regard to its "resolution":
"Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech; which is the right of every man as far as by it he does not hurt or control the right of another; and this is the only check it ought to suffer and the only bounds it ought to know. . . . Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech, a thing terrible to traitors."
To both, for--well, you figure it out:
"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly."

Labels: , ,

Friday Cat Blogging

And now for something completely different.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Know Better

[posted by Callimachus]

Captain Ed, who usually knows better, falls into a Manichaean fallacy:

The Senate passed the Jon Cornyn amendment condemning the ad that called General David Petraeus a liar and potential traitor, 72-25. All 25 Senators who voted in support of these smears against an American military commander that they unanimously promoted to four stars came from the Democratic Party. It includes two declared presidential candidates and the top leadership of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

No, and as someone on the right side of the political aisle, he ought to know that. To vote against a negative resolution is not automatically to support the thing being condemned. There are all manner of good reasons -- sound conservative reasons, even -- to vote against such a resolution, including the one that it ought not to be the job of Congress to condemn advertisements or public political speech.

It's the same bad logic that says a vote for tax cuts is a war against poor people, or a vote against a gay-marriage bill is homophobia.

This, after all, is a Congress that couldn't be bothered to vote on a declaration of war -- one of the things it is supposed to do.

What Do Wahhabis Want?

[posted by Callimachus]

Victor Davis Hanson on What Does Bin Laden Want?

In 2004, bin Laden objected to our logical conclusion that he instead hated the West simply for its freedom. He posed this rhetorical question: "Contrary to what Bush says and claims -- that we hate freedom -- let him tell us then, 'Why did we not attack Sweden?'"

I think we can now answer that by pointing out that al-Qaida has just put out a $100,000 murder bounty on a Swedish cartoonist who was a little too free in his caricatures of Islam. Note that Sweden has no troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, lets in plenty of Middle Eastern Muslims and wants no part of George Bush's "war on terror."

But then radical Islamists have also threatened Danish cartoonists, Dutch filmmakers, German opera producers, and the pope. All have nothing to do with Iraq or Afghanistan or Israel -- but simply do things that radical Islam finds blasphemous.

So aren't these constantly changing gripes of al Qaeda's just pretexts for bin Laden's larger hatred of Western-inspired freedom?

Of course what bin Laden wants doesn't amount to a hill of catshit if he doesn't have millions of donors in mosques around the world, thousands of angry young men willing to take up arms or go undercover in his crusade, and a well-placed handful of Choam Nomskys to be his useful idiots in the West. Without all that, he's just as pathetic as some impotent loner sitting in his apartment obsessively watching the hit meter on his Youtube videos.

And I'm willing to bet many, if not most, of those people who work for or enable bin Laden don't share his quixotic caliphate dreams. They get to his camp by a mix of paths, personal, political, psychological, or otherwise. Global and local, tribal and doctrinal.

And not just devout Muslims. American college students, for instance.

At the same time, Osama bin Laden presents many good arguments against the president and many of his reasons for disapproving of Bush are similar to those of anti-Bush Americans. Would it be wrong to assume that there is some kind of connection between feelings of the American people and those of Osama bin Laden? As I would love to make this connection, I ultimately cannot because of the actions of our president. If I were to say I agree with bin Laden, that would mean that I agree with a terrorist; under the Patriot Act, I could be labeled a potential terrorist and my phone could be tapped, and every move I make could be watched and analyzed.

This one has just taken the first step. Adam Gadahn went the distance:

A Californian heavy metal fan, who converted to Islam and became the first American to be charged with treason in half a century, has been fingered as the author of Osama bin Laden's latest video lecture - which left the terror chief sounding like an anti-globalisation protester.

The al-Qaeda leader's first video message for three years featured a bizarre rant against America, with references to global warming, "insane taxes", the US mortgage market meltdown and rising interest rates.

American spy chiefs were quick to name Adam Gadahn, the head of al-Qaeda's English language media operations, as the author of large sections of bin Laden's broadcast.

Last October, the 28-year-old "loner" became the first American charged with treason since 1952, for appearing in a succession of al-Qaeda videos under the guise of "Azzam The American", in which he condemned globalisation and made American cultural references.

... A former senior US intelligence official said: "It has Adam Gadahn written all over it." Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the tape left bin Laden with "the title of biggest gas bag in the terrorist world."

No wonder it resonated with the progressive college kid.

Ultimately, for every day he lives, bin Laden draws to him the collective energy and weight of support of every person deeply resentful of anything about America and Americans collectively or individually, of every force in world history currently represented most potently by America, and of every trait projected onto America by some kook's internal psychodrama.

Periodically, circumstances allow this swirling sludge of resentment to gather like a boil and rise up in a corporeal form. It did so in the time of Stalin, and many people rushed to be his supporters, in spite of every ethical and logical objection. Whatever bin Laden is or wants, he's already become much more than that. And, like Stalin, he's learned to tune his broadcasts to lure more moth-brains to his flames.

Labels: , ,

Welcome, Thursday

[Posted by reader_iam]

I had one weird-ass night last night, in multiple ways. Sheesh! One for the books. I swear I woke up today with my eyebrows in the cocked position. They are gradually working their way back to normal, as I putter about, trying to catch up on a few things between just hanging with my son, who's home sick.

And you out there: how is your Thursday? Anyone got a good joke or story? Do tell.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Honey White

Whatever it was, whatever you call it, the bright arc of popular music that lifted over the horizon with Elvis and Chuck Berry (after a twilight down into slavery and up the Cumberland Road) had a dazzling sunset in the early 1990s.


[posted by Callimachus]

In a move that has stunned New York, the Bloomberg administration is in discussions to escort the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to ground zero during his visit to New York next week, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said today.

The Iranian mission to the U.N. made the request to the New York City Police Department and the Secret Service, which will jointly oversee security during the leader's two-day visit. Mr. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to arrive September 24 to speak to the U.N. General Assembly as the Security Council decides whether to increase sanctions against his country for its uranium enrichment program.

Sure, let him visit. But make sure the city police who escort him are comrades of those who died in the towers, and who were on duty there that day, and by sheer luck and grace, survived it. And in place of Secret Service, how about a few relatives of the people on those two jetliners?

Surely he'd be safer among them. Any "Reich-wingnut" who might want to squeeze off a round in his direction would hold fire in consideration of the company.

And while the comrades and the families are listening, perhaps he could be asked to explain to us how, exactly, (in the words of the Supreme Commander of his Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) the CIA and Mossad pulled it off.


Get Your Pirate Name

My pirate name is:

Bloody Roger Cash

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. You're musical, and you've got a certain style if not flair. You'll do just fine. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

One of several options for this diversion.

Blackwater Editorial

[posted by Callimachus]

OK, so assigned to write a newspaper editorial on "the Blackwater thing," here's what I came up with. Remember, the tone is the voice of the editorial page (but I like to toss in a few flourishes), the opinion expressed is conformable to what my co-workers would accept, and the range and depth is strictly bound by the space on the page.

I may agree with all of it, or none of it, or parts of it but not others, or parts of it more strongly than others. The last, obviously, is true, which means it's probably useless as a final statement of what I would be willing to uphold or defend here.

The United Kingdom — the second-ranking power in the coalition that overthrew Saddam Hussein's tyranny —made moves this month to withdraw the last of its 5,000 troops from Iraq. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, thanked them for their help.

But when the Iraqi Interior Ministry vowed this week [Sept. 16] to ban security contractor Blackwater USA from operating in the country, a shudder shot through the U.S. government. Within a day, a cobbled compromise kept Blackwater in Baghdad.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 private contractors — the rough equivalent of six U.S. Army brigades —work for the U.S. military in Iraq. They far outnumber the Queen's Owns. Whose own they are is anyone's guess, and everyone's concern. It is remarkable that Iraqis, not Americans, finally moved this issue to the front burner.

Blackwater is a poster child for the trend of military outsourcing — hiring private companies to do jobs that used to be done by troops. The trend in the U.S. dates to the end of the draft in 1973 and the rise of an all-volunteer military. It accelerated with the military cuts at the end of the Cold War.

It began snowballing in the Clinton Administration, where large-scale operations in Bosnia and Kosovo were run entirely by private firms. Under the current administration, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld pulled out all the stops on outsourcing.

At some point in this process, the list of tasks being outsourced grew from washing dishes and building airstrips to interrogating prisoners and piloting armed reconnaissance planes and helicopter gunships.

"This is a sea change in the way we prosecute warfare," said Peter Singer, a security analyst at the Brookings Institution. "There are historical parallels, but we haven't seen them for 250 years."

And it has happened largely without public debate or legislative action. It has crept so slowly and so far that no one, even the Pentagon, now can answer for sure what are the status, rights, and responsibilities of private military contractors, who supervises them and what nation’s laws and codes of justice they are accountable to.

The Constitution says little about the military, but that little is clear. The president is commander-in-chief, but Congress administers the armed forces. It has the power to declare war. It has the responsibility to fund the armed forces — or not, and thus cut off presidential adventurism.

Declarations of war are out of fashion now. That kicked one prop out from under the constitutional check. Now, with the increasing use of private contractors to do military jobs, the executive branch has begun to shake free of the other one.

Blackwater describes itself as "a turnkey solution provider for 4th generation warfare." On such a matter it may feel quaint to cite a Constitution written in the age of sail and black powder, but the Founders knew well what follows from the untrammeled temptations of kings, and they knew the long, bloody history of Europe that testified to it. Battlefield technology has changed a great deal since then; human nature less so.

Pas de Deux

Just because you've defected, don't think it's over, or that you won. A cold war memory.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blackwater and the Holy Grail

[posted by Callimachus]

Doing research on private military contractors, I found myself on the Wikipedia page on the topic. And I read this:

Many theorists consider these private military factions as the equivalent of the Knights Templar during the Crusades, raking in huge coffers by assisting the Christians against the Muslims.

Whew. Every time I think they've finally turned the corner and become usable for honest research. Oh, and the "external links" section on the topic includes a Sean Penn article.

But the entry is sprinkled with warnings that the information is unsourced and may need to be revamped to meet Wikipedia policies. Which I suppose embraces a claim of "many theorists" and a citation of none. So that's progress.

For the Next Edition of Bartlett's

John at Op-For says this quote was in "Fiasco," which I haven't read. Marine General James Mattis, to Iraqi tribal leaders:

I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I'm pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I'll kill you all.

Shock and Awe

[posted by Callimachus]

“It was nothing we did,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Drew Crane who was visiting for the day from Fallujah. “The people here just couldn’t take it anymore.”

What he said next surprised me even more than what I was seeing.

“You know what I like most about this place?” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“We don’t need to wear body armor or helmets,” he said.

I was poleaxed. Without even realizing it, I had taken off my body armor and helmet. I took my gear off as casually as I do when I take it off after returning to the safety of the base after patrolling. We were not in the safety of the base and the wire. We were safe because we were in Ramadi.

Michael J. Totten's latest dispatch is up.


Filed under "Mirages"

Go see more.

Filed under "Helicopters and tailgates don't mix"

Go see more.

Council Winners

[posted by Callimachus]

Watchers Council winners have been posted for the week of Sept. 13. It was the week that saw the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, so naturally posts on that topic dominated the voting, taking the first spots and one of the tied-for-seconds.

The winner was 2001 -- Our Own Odyssey Began On 9/11 by ‘Okie’ on the Lam, which notes the grim coincidence of that barbaric attack and the hopeful date of Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction novel about man's future in space. Also getting votes was The Way We Were at Right Wing Nut House, a rumination on mementos of the days before Sept. 11, 2001.

Both posts, in their different ways, address the same theme. Six years have turned since the event. "Forever changed" was one of the first mantras to emerge from the smoke and ruin, but it's been long enough now to feel the gathering distance between where we are going and where we thought we were going before it hit. And to mourn that, and remember a little sadly who we thought we were going to be in this century. Or that this century was somehow going to be different than the 20th, or than the 13th.

As a history writer, I've had to be alert to that; had to get back into the minds of people in some long-dry year and seen the world as they saw it, including what they thought they were making out of it. Usually some year before some catastrophe makes a wrenching shift in the life-course of a nation.

After the initial hellish newsroom shift on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, most of my colleagues took home copies of the paper we had made, as it came damp off the press, with the front page consisting, like everyone else's, of the one big picture and the one big word. I didn't. I'd built more pages of that paper than anyone, and I'd seen enough. I reached into the recycling bin and pulled out a copy of the paper we had made the night before, with a slow sunny day's stories spread over the page and a not-too-big picture of a local high school marching band. Somewhere I still have it. I'm waiting for a front page to look like that again. I believe now it never will, while I'm alive.

Also getting votes were 50 Million Intellectuals Can Be Wrong by Bookworm Room, Osama's Real Message by Joshuapundit, who has the good sense to read the transcript rather than the snippets offered up by the media; and Voter Racism Must Be Condemned! by Rhymes With Right, a piece that artfully plays with one of my favorite tactics: Invert the terms of a statement someone supports in the name of fairness and see how it looks to him.

Outside the council, the winner was When the Left Cares, and When It Doesn't by Denis Keohane at American Thinker, about the anti-Iraq War Brian DePalma film I slammed here.

Also getting votes were Iran Plan for Iraq at Counterterrorism Blog; The Self-Righteous (Religious) Zeal of the "Outers" by Gay Patriot; and Apples and Oranges by Logosphilia, an excellent and valuable analysis of some recent statistics.

Also, I overlooked winners for the week of Sept. 7.

First place in the council went to Contemptible from right here. Seems I most often win when I get shirty.

Votes also went to The War To Remember 9/11 at Right Wing Nut House; Civilian Deaths in Iraq Are Up, But They're Really Down by Big Lizards; One Year by Soccer Dad; Why I Support Israel by
Bookworm Room; and Thoughts On Mother Teresa and Religion Bashing By the MSM by ‘Okie’ on the Lam.

Outside the council, the winner was Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt by Small Wars Journal; The State Which Must Not Be Named at Thoughts By Seawitch (hint: Which U.S. state took a direct hit from Hurricane Katrina in 2005?); Iraq Big and Small by Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog; and The Big Picture(s) at Protein Wisdom, an extensive overview of the establishment media coverage of the conflict in Iraq.

Parrots of the Caribbean

Check it out. The writing there is almost too good to be in a newspaper, even that one.

Song Of The Week

[Posted by reader_iam]

Labels: , ,

Debate Debat

[Posted by reader_iam]

Are any of you paying attention to the story of Alexis Debat? Doing any serious research? Going beyond the obvious and easy (though deserved) ABC meme?

And--hey!--anyone questioning why any outlet so involved this past summer in theoretical discussions about the foreign policy establishment/elites/experts could be so slow in independently commenting, even if it were only to say "we're investigating... "?

Damn interesting, that. Could it be that this is not a comfortably partisan story, down deep? Cosy, on the other hand, is a whole different question.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why He's Not President

So a journalism major student gets up to ask Sen. John F. Kerry a question-turned-rant about why Democrats didn't contest the 2004 election and why Bush hasn't been impeached.

So does Kerry rise to the challenge? Does he take the reigns of this runaway rant and shake it back to reality? Does he use his personal authority to bring sanity and order to the situation? No, apparently he lets it go on until university cops gang-tackle and Taser the student and haul him out screaming, and then he calmly and rationally answers the question after it does no good.

Michael Mukasey

[posted by Callimachus]

A good thing or a bad thing?

The administration has so lowered the competence bar that you can praise it for making a good choice and really mean it avoided making a terrible one. In this case, I hope, it really made a good choice. Gonzales was slammed for allowing the Justice department to be too much the handmaid of White House politics. Mukasey and Bush hold similar views on most of the questions of the day, it seems, but Mukasey is not, as Harry Reid put it, “another partisan administration insider.”

The darling of the conservatives was Ted Olson, a candidate qualified by ability and experience, but also a partisan and ideological conservative. Many no doubt looked forward to him unleashing his rhetoric on the sort of flabby pseudo-liberal pontification that characterizes Senate hearings. But the battles are won in the voting, not the talking, and “Olson would’ve been a bloodbath,” one Senate aide said.

Dodging a fight it would not have won, the Bush administration may have earned a concession it does not deserve. Democrats in Congress should not be mollified by this apparent deference and in a reciprocal gesture drop their insistence on learning more about the firings of certain U.S. attorneys, allegedly for political motives, under Gonzales. Those charges, having been raised, need to be investigated and answered — one way or another — or they hang as a political cloud forever.

The U.S. attorney general is a cabinet official who serves at the pleasure of the president. I expect such a public servant to be roughly politically aligned with the president. At the same time, he has to be even more committed to the Constitution and the process whereby it governs America — even unto telling the president that what he wants to do is unconstitutional, if that is the case.

Also, as head of a large department in “disarray” (Arlen Specter’s word) with employees of every political stripe, Mukasey will have to be an effective leader and morale-builder. Early assessments from those who know Mukasey suggest he has the legal skills, the administrative skills, and the independence of mind to do this job.

Perhaps the most hope-inspiring assessment was this one, by a political opponent: “He knows how to separate and he does separate his own political views from what the law says. We haven’t had an attorney general like that in quite a long time.”

Personally, I found these two Mukasey quotes worth a cheer:

First, in the department of understatement: "Like any other act of Congress, the Patriot Act should be scrutinized, criticized and, if necessary, amended. But in order to scrutinize and criticize it, it helps to read what is actually in it."

Second, on the ludicrous fact that "U.S. PATRIOT Act" is in fact an acronym: "You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit."

Maliki's Gauntlet

"Depending on whether the Blackwater security firm stays in Iraq will inform us whether Prime Minister Maliki has any power or is just a U.S. puppet."

OK, it's a terrible sentence that changes its mind about where it's going before it's got three words out. But what do you expect from the "if you're not angry you're not paying attention" left? If you're thinking while you're writing, you're just not angry enough. Tool.

What I'm interested in is the assertion that's being made, however poorly. It didn't have to be such a test. The incident could have been treated in isolation, justly or not, and handled that way. But the PM has put his credibility on the line and made an absolute assertion that he cannot back out of without admitting to the world he has no real power.

Or can he? Is that interpretation of the situation just an imposition of absolutist Western power politics and electoral machismo onto a non-Western political culture with its own rich and fluent vocabulary of gestures and style of negotiation?

No Friend Left Behind Update

[posted by Callimachus]

Crocker's warning:

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq warned that it may take the U.S. government as long as two years to process and admit nearly 10,000 Iraqi refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement to the United States, because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.

In a bluntly worded State Department cable titled "Iraqi Refugee Processing: Can We Speed It Up?" Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker noted that the Department of Homeland Security had only a handful of officers in Jordan to vet the refugees.

Bush administration officials in Washington immediately disputed several of Crocker's claims.

Still, the "sensitive" but unclassified memo, sent Sept. 7, laid out a wrenching, ground-level view of the U.S. government's halting response to Iraq's refugee crisis. Human rights groups and independent analysts say thousands of desperate Iraqis who have worked alongside Americans now find themselves the targets of insurgents and sectarian militias, prompting many of them to seek residency in the United States or Europe.

Although the subject was little addressed during Crocker's and Gen. David H. Petraeus's public testimony to Congress last week on the state of the war, the envoy has raised the issue in two cables in the past two months. The subject is likely to be discussed when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets this week with congressional leaders to outline the administration's refugee admissions goals for 2008 and when the Senate resumes its Iraq war debate.

... Each DHS case officer in Jordan can interview only four cases a day on average because of the in-depth questioning required, and just a handful of officers were in the region, partly because Syria refuses to issue visas to DHS personnel, Crocker said. "It would take this team alone almost two years to complete" interviews on 10,000 U.N. referrals, he estimated.

As more Iraqis flee, he noted, delays are "likely to grow considerably."

"Refugees who have fled Iraq continue to be a vulnerable population while living in Jordan and Syria," he wrote. "The basis for . . . resettlement is the deteriorating protection environment in these countries."

Meanwhile, shame in Britain:

It is six weeks since the Government promised an “urgent review” of the situation of Iraqis whose lives are in danger because of their work as interpreters for the British Army. During that time, the 5,000 British troops have pulled back from central Basra to the airport, mainly for their own safety. Nothing has been done for the interpreters. Several have already been tortured and killed. Some have received death threats from militia thugs who accuse them of collaboration. Their homes are unprotected and their families live in terror. Out of loyalty and honour, they remain at their posts, helping British troops understand the dangers and the confusion. In return, they have been contemptuously brushed aside, as though they were trouble-makers demanding special favours. This is utterly shameful.

And with good cause for it:

Nine or ten masked men went to the home of Moayed Ahmed Khalaf in the al-Hayaniah district of Basra and beat him in front of his wife and mother, four sources told The Times. They then dragged him away, telling the frantic women that they would bring him back shortly. Khalaf’s body was found on Al Qa’ed Street later that night. He had been shot multiple times, according to Colonel Ali Manshed, commander of the Shatt-al-Arab police station.

A cousin, a close friend and two other interpreters all told The Times that Khalaf, 31, had worked for the British at their Basra airport base. Colonel Manshed said that everyone questioned by the police had said Khalaf was an interpreter, adding: “He was a good man, everyone liked him and there was no other reason to kill him.”

However Major Mike Shearer, a spokesman at the airport base, said that the army could find no record of Khalaf having worked for the army.

The Times (London) has been dutifully covering the fates of the Iraqi interpreters and others who helped them in Basra, now that the British have withdrawn. It's not a pretty picture.


Making Soup

[Posted by reader_iam]

On Saturday...
CARACAS, Venezuela -Venezuelan officials claimed a world record Saturday for making the largest pot of soup, a giant cauldron of stew prepared by President Hugo Chavez's government.
Oropeza called it "Bolivarian stew" , a play on the name of Chavez's socialist movement, named in honor of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar....
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to close or take over any private school that refuses to submit to the oversight of his socialist government as it develops a new curriculum and textbooks.

"Society cannot allow the private sector to do whatever it wants," said Chavez, speaking on the first day of classes.
All schools will be bound to "subordinate themselves to the constitution" and comply with the "new Bolivarian educational system," he said, referring to his socialist movement named after South American independence hero Simon Bolivar

Labels: ,

What Did I Miss?

[posted by Callimachus]

Whenever I get a week off work, unless I know I'm going to travel, I intend to keep posting here. That's because until it starts I forget how I need to unplug myself from the media/information machine.

I forget how much I hate this. Hate current events, hate keeping up, hate arguing about it, hate spilling thousands of words a week on topic that will be irrelevant next week. Hate beating my head against the same unchanging heads, in a midfield scrum in a game where only the final score will be noted.

I'd much rather spend my days lost in the labyrinths of research, or reading poetry, than doing this. And some of you would invite me to do that. But reality intrudes. It chases the scholar from his carrel and rousts the quiet man from his armchair and drags them to the filthy barricades. Reality is interested in you.

But still I loathe the daily word-battle. Some people love it. Our friend Kat loves it. But she also loves to swordfight in tournaments. Mark Twain in "Innocents Abroad" wrote about some character he met on the ship who so loved arguing that he'd take up a debate at the drop of a hat, and if the interval between them grew irksomely long, he'd drop the hat himself. I'd rather lie under the autumn sun on a clear blue day and dream of perfections. But beautiful September skies, however seamless to the eye, always bare a scar now. An old white slash across a lover's breast.

I literally read nothing for a week. Since I'm dropped back into the stream, here are a few things I see that look good to me. Perhaps you've already seen them:

The global warming debate really is three debates: Whether it is happening (probably); whether human agency is a significant cause (perhaps); whether the solutions proposed by the people who first latched on to absolute "yes" answers to 1. and 2. are good solutions, if those people turn out to be right about their guesses. This is by no means certain. Cassandra is not Nestor.

“We could spend all that money to cut emissions and end up with more land flooded next century because people would be poorer,” Dr. Lomborg said as we surveyed Manhattan’s expanded shoreline. “Wealth is a more important factor than sea-level rise in protecting you from the sea. You can draw maps showing 100 million people flooded out of their homes from global warming, but look at what’s happened here in New York. It’s the same story in Denmark and Holland — we’ve been gaining land as the sea rises.”

Dr. Lomborg, who’s best known (and most reviled in some circles) for an earlier book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” runs the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which gathers economists to set priorities in tackling global problems. In his new book, he dismisses the Kyoto emissions cuts as a “feel-good” strategy because it sounds virtuous and lets politicians make promises they don’t have to keep. He outlines an alternative “do-good” strategy that would cost less but accomplish more in dealing with climate change as well as more pressing threats like malaria, AIDS, polluted drinking water and malnutrition.

If you’re worried about stronger hurricanes flooding coasts, he says, concentrate on limiting coastal development and expanding wetlands right now rather than trying to slightly delay warming decades from now. To give urbanites a break from hotter summers, concentrate on reducing the urban-heat-island effect. If cities planted more greenery and painted roofs and streets white, he says, they could more than offset the impact of global warming.

Except the chemicals released by the paint would be ... oh well. White asphalt and fewer seaside McMansions sounds a lot more coherent than dismantling the global economy.

I doubt any American voter in the past wondered how Calvin Coolidge or Millard Filmore would handle a major international crisis that changed America's entire perception of its place in the world. I doubt they wondered that about Franklin Roosevelt, either. But he got one. And every president since him (except the lucky Eisenhower and Clinton) has had one. Some -- Kennedy, Reagan -- seemed to covet them. Others (Carter, Johnson) seemed utterly discomfited by them.

Now, though, we know it's coming. We don't know which one it will be, but it will happen.

What is so extraordinary about this political season is just how many storms are brewing around the world, any number of which could plausibly grow into Category 5 game changers. That's largely the price of a protracted war that is deeply unpopular both at home and abroad. Historically, wars are game changers in their own right, and Iraq has shown the pernicious tendency to exacerbate or ignite other crises, as evidenced by an increasingly unstable Middle East and an escalating confrontation between the United States and Iran. Similarly, the fate of the American intervention in Afghanistan and the fight against Al Qaeda are closely tied to the deteriorating situation in neighboring Pakistan.

Which is why, I think, we are so interested in see our presidential contenders each, one by one, caught in a campaign crisis that threatens his or her viability. We'll endure months of namby-pamby speechification for the sale of that one "gotcha" question or dirty laundry episode. We want to see them tested, in the old style of Greek tragedy, before we commit to them.

Kurt Andersen also wants to shake the Christmas present to get a hint of what's inside before he opens it.

All that needs to happen for the partisan rebranding to complete itself is for the independent-minded middle third of the electorate to be convinced, once and for all, that they can really trust Democratic leaders to do whatever’s necessary to keep us safe. Bill Clinton did okay on foreign policy, but given the peaceful slough over which he presided — after the Cold War, before 9/11 — those eight years now seem like the Democrats’ national-security dress rehearsal. A majority may have come to see the old daddy party as half-assed and reckless, but in this jihadi era, they need to feel in their gut that the Democrats are Jodie Foster mommies, shrewd and steely and perfectly willing to kill bad guys.

In Hillary Clinton, an actual mommy, the metaphor and reality are finally united. Which is, of course, her particular Catch-22 as a candidate for president: It’s her unfeminine coldness that turns people off, even though heart-on-her-sleeve shows of (Bill Clintonian) emotion — or “apologizing” for her vote in 2002 to authorize the war — would make her seem too soft and girlie to be commander-in-chief.

When it comes to most candidates’ positions on Iraq, and certainly hers, it’s impossible to parse out precisely the mix of motivations — how much is a good-faith struggle to figure out a nuanced, least-bad policy and how much is a political calculation to maximize votes?

Meanwhile, it's always good to see Europeans write like this:

You can argue about the surge. The evidence is encouraging that the increased US military effort, together with a change in tactics, has reduced the violence in Iraq. On the other hand there are legitimate questions about the long-term viability of the strategy. But if America is to emerge from Iraq with a renewed sense of its global role, you shouldn’t really debase the motives of those who lead US forces there. Because in the end what they are doing is deeply honourable – fighting to destroy an enemy that delights in killing women and children; rebuilding a nation ruined by rapine and savagery; trying to bridge sectarian divides that have caused more misery in the world than the US could manage if it lasted a thousand years.

It is helpful to think about Iraq this way. Imagine if the US had never been there; and that this sectarian strife had broken out in any case – as, one day it surely would, given the hatreds engendered by a thousand years of Muslim history and the efforts of Saddam Hussein.

What would we in the West think about it? What would we think of as our responsibilities? There would be some who would want to wash their hands of it. There would be others who would think that UN resolutions and diplomatic initiatives would be enough to salve our consciences if not to stop the slaughter.

But many of us surely would think we should do something about it – as we did in the Balkans more than a decade ago – and as, infamously, we failed to do in Africa at the same time. And we would know that, for all our high ideals and our soaring rhetoric, there would be only one country with the historical commitment to make massive sacrifices in the defence of the lives and liberty of others, the leadership to mobilise efforts to relieve the suffering and, above all, the economic and military wherewithal to make it happen.

That’s the only really workable analogy between the US and Rome. When Rome fell, the world went dark for the best part of a millennium. America may not be an empire. But whatever it is, for the sake of humanity, pray it lasts at least as long as Rome.

And finally, breasts.

The most recent breasts supposed to have inspired champagne coupes belong to the American model and photographer Lee Miller. As she cut a swathe through 1930s Paris as the lover of surrealist artist Man Ray, Miller was widely regarded to have the most beautiful breasts in the city – thus, it’s said, inspiring a French glass company to model a new coupe on her form. Miller’s lovely figure appeared in many Man Ray images, but was discreetly hidden when, as a war photographer in 1945, she posed naked in Hitler’s bathtub in liberated Munich.

Labels: , ,


I'm curious what you would do if you were told, as I have been, to "write an editorial about O.J." I'm frankly stumped. This is a mainstream newspaper, so there's only so many things I'm permitted to say. And you guys regularly have better ideas than I do, though I suspect it will take five or six comments to get the irresistable snark out of the system.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Who Died And Made Her Head God?

[Posted by reader_iam]

Jane Hamsher Speaks stentorianly from Mount Olympus to Elizabeth Edwards:
So here’s the rule. You never repeat right wing talking points to attack your own, ever. You never enter that echo chamber as a participant. Ever. You never give them a hammer to beat the left with. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

I wrote about this last year when Hillary Clinton went after John Kerry for that stupid joke:

I can see we’re going to have to set up some sort of “Democratic PR school” soon. They’ve become so accustomed to being George Bush’s whipping posts they no longer recognize it when they have the advantage, and as the John Kerry incident demonstrates they are in sore need of a few remedial lessons on how to press it when they do.

First of all — I don’t care if John Kerry was eating live babies on TV, one week out from an election you do not repeat GOP talking points. Ever. ...
The war is a desperate mess. When offered the opportunity to cudgel your own side, you pivot and attack. How about, “glad you mentioned that…I think an ad is about as relevant to George Bush’s growing collection of toe tags as a haircut is to the problems facing this country.” Or, “thanks for the opportunity to discuss this, Chris. I personally would not choose the word “betrayal” to characterize General Petraeus’s lack of judgment or skewing of the facts to perpetuate the war, but I do think we should be looking at the fact that this was the bloodiest summer ever in Iraq and asking ourselves if the assessment we’re being given about the situation is realistic…”

There are any number of ways you can answer that question well and none of them involve attacking MoveOn. They’re out there on the left so you can look “moderate.” They’re saying what needs to be said, opening the conversation up so John Edwards isn’t considered the left-wing fringe loon that nobody should listen to. ...

Ooooh, she told you, Mrs. Edwards. Next time, just shut up and pop a live baby into your mouth. That'll go down much better with the Olympians.

Labels: , , , ,

Animating Second Thoughts

[Posted by reader_iam]

I'd forgotten how sadistic the cartoons of my youth could be:

Initially, the following seemed so wrong to me, somehow, but I think I've revised my opinion:

Suddenly, and even if it's just for today, I'm feeling a lot more forgiving of modern-day Disney than I ever thought possible.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh, Great, Just What We Need!

[Posted by reader_iam]

Alan Keyes announces his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Does this mean I'm going to have to take that quiz again?

Er, no.

(I will say that the man is possessed of fine verbal skills. He's going to participate in Monday's Republican debate, reportedly. I'd definitely rather listen to--if not vote for--him over some others I won't mention.)

Via Memeorandum.


I Should Vote For Barack Obama!

[Posted by reader_iam]

At least according this quiz. Who knew? My fall-backs, apparently, are Ron Paul, 61.96% (gulp); Joe Biden, 57.61% (oh, man, what is this, destiny's smile?--longer term readers will get the implied chuckle); and Christopher Dodd, 56.52% (what the--?).

Well, maybe it's not all THAT clear-cut (rats, I can't just link to the results, and now I'm going to have go back and append percentages to the guys already mentioned, too, and change the punctuation of my series; huff, huff):
Middle of the Pack:
If your top choices aren't in the running, keep an eye on these candidates in 2008.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) - 56.52%
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) - 54.35%
Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (D) - 54.35%
Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo (R) - 53.26%
Businessman John Cox (R) - 51.09%
Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (R) - 51.09%
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) - 48.91%
New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D) - 47.83%
Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) - 47.83%
Arizona Senator John McCain (R) - 36.96%

Bottom of the Barrel:
You won't be getting on the campaign trail with these candidates anytime soon.
View/Hide Bottom of the Barrel
Former Tennessee Senator Thompson (R) - 36.96%
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) - 33.70%
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) - 32.61%
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) - 31.52%
Well, the bottom-of the-barrel list is mostly right, at least, though I confess to suprise over where Huckabee fell, and I haven't seriously thought about Fred Thompson yet (because, well, it's a bit hard to do so, and he just got around to declaring, after all.)

But overall? Sigh. I guess this means I'll just have to keep struggling through this election process the old-fashioned way. No shortcuts for me!

Hat tip, QC Examiner.

Update: Not sure how this ended up back in draft. It wasn't intentional.

Labels: , , , , ,