Monday, February 26, 2007

Ah. I see that the intellectual de-gentrification of the New Republic proceeds rapidly.

I last noted big Bob Woodward fan[1] David Greenberg joining in the National Review Yahoos' attack on left-wing peacenik professors who don't teach military history properly, including the hard-working and well-regarded Steve Zdatny of West Virginia University, who responded thus:

Steven Zdatny: I object to [National Review's] implication that I am personally suckering students in to a popular course on war and then filling them up with socialist-feminist-fashion propaganda, instead of blood and guts.... [W]e have just finished reading Ernst Junger’s Storm of Steel, discussing... Verdun, and seeing... "Westfront 1918." Next... John Keegan’s chapter on the Battle of the Somme in his brilliant military history The Face of Battle. I believe that [National Review's] Mr. Miller would like those classes, filled with trenches, generals, and Big Berthas. If he had bothered... to check... he would have discovered that the class fit... his own conception of what... [it] should look like. Mr. Miller, however, like a soldier dispatching wounded enemies on the field, seems to have more ardor than integrity...

Back then Greenberg was lamenting that he could not list the battles fought by Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 in order (Kernstown, McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys, Port Republic).

Now he is calling Jimmy Carter an anti-semite:

Open University: Alan [Wolfe did not] persuade me that calling Israel's most strident critics anti-Semitic is censorship or censorious or even such a bad thing. Mind you, it should be done with care and precision.... [S]ome those who employ the anti-Semitic epithet... are seeking to shake the scales from the eyes of naifs who imagine that likening Israel to Nazi Germany or to apartheid South Africa... might somehow be done in good faith and a spirit of honest intellectual exchange...

I don't know whether Jimmy Carter is correct in likening the regime that Ariel Sharon's settlements have created on the West Bank (not, notice Israel proper) to the apartheid one. I do know that Jimmy Carter is writing in good faith, that he is not an anti-semite, and that he is a friend to Israel.

By contrast, David Greenberg--and all the others who resist calls for the evacuation of Israeli settlers from the West Bank--well, you can all them many things, but you can't call them friends of Israel. Every day the settlers remain on the hilltops Sharon settled them on is a day that Israel grows weaker and less secure.

[1] For the full Woodward treatment, read his The Agenda (which Greenberg worked on), then read his Maestro, contemplate how one and the same person could use the Third Person Omniscient to write both contradictory accounts of the making of Clinton economic policy without ever breathing a hint that the same author wrote a book with an opposed message, and collapse to the floor in helpless laughter.

The Poor Man is shrill, and a national treasure:

: Blognerds are probably well aware that, at long last, someone in a respectable publication has pointed out that Glenn Reynolds is completely insane. The article in question - by one Paul Campos - compares Reynolds to Ward Churchill, who, if you don't know, is -- um, I don't know who he is, either.... But, if you moved in Fox News circles a couple of years back, he was big, big news, which gave them something to talk about besides, you know, reality, and, as an added bonus, probably boosted his lecture fees above the $0.00 level.... The comment that got him in trouble - that the government should be murdering Iranian scientists and religious leaders, because we have been continuously at war with them for thirty years - was a bit blunt, but wasn't really unrepresentative of his views.

Why should this be getting attention all of a sudden? Fans of his oeuvre could probably think of a handful of crazier comments right off the top of their head - in fact, I immediately thought of that time in 2003 when Prof. Christmas opined that, seeing as we were already at war with France and all, we should probably start some nice proxy wars in Africa.... He was riffing on Thomas L. F------ Friedman, September 2003, NY Times:

It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy. If you add up how France behaved in the run-up to the Iraq war (making it impossible for the Security Council to put a real ultimatum to Saddam Hussein that might have avoided a war), and if you look at how France behaved during the war (when its foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, refused to answer the question of whether he wanted Saddam or America to win in Iraq), and if you watch how France is behaving today (demanding some kind of loopy symbolic transfer of Iraqi sovereignty to some kind of hastily thrown together Iraqi provisional government, with the rest of Iraq's transition to democracy to be overseen more by a divided U.N. than by America), then there is only one conclusion one can draw: France wants America to fail in Iraq. France wants America to sink in a quagmire there in the crazy hope that a weakened U.S. will pave the way for France to assume its "rightful" place as America's equal, if not superior, in shaping world affairs.

Of course, this is the same Tom Friedman who was telling us at the time that we needed to invade Iraq because we just had to kill some Arabs. We just had to, OK? Something about a bubble or something, too - you had to be there, man, it all made perfect sense. I know it seems weird now, man, but it was this magical time, like the Golden Age of Athens or some shit - The Summer of War! - when we all just knew we were going to change the world. All that stuff our parents told us about Vietnam and all that shit? We were just going to blow that away, man, just tear down their world and build it all up new, like better than ever, like nothing you'd ever seen before! Reynolds was the man...

Glenn Greenwald is shrill:

Glenn Greenwald - Salon: Following up on the posts here about David Broder's most recent column -- in which he proclaimed that "President Bush is poised for a political comeback" and heaped all sorts of praise on the President -- the Post's Dan Froomkin highlights why Broder's columns are so significant and, more importantly, how they are used by an appreciative White House (see "Broder Speaks" section): Say what you will about Washington Post reporter and columnist David S. Broder, but he is the dean of the Washington press corps and his columns are often an accurate reflection of the temperament of Washington's top political reporters...

The White House press office was so delighted with Broder's column that it sent it out to the entire White House press corps this morning at 6:44 a.m., under the heading: "In Case You Missed It. Compare that fact to Broder's denial, during last week's " online chat," that he has helped to "prop up" the Bush presidency. Broder boasted: "You will find no one in the White House or on the Republican side of the House or Senate who thinks I have been propping up the Bush presidency." How about the White House official excitedly disseminating Broder's column?

There are invariably commenters and e-mailers who insist that these Beltway pundits can be ignored because they have no real following and nobody listens to them. It may be true that there are relatively few members of the public who listen directly to David Broder, but the shallow tripe he churns out is read -- and respected -- by most Beltway media elites, whose views are shaped by people like Broder and whose media coverage and mindset is as well.

Mark Kleiman is a shrill unbalanced critic of America's press:

The Reality-Based Community: Right from the start: I agree with Andrew Sullivan: it's now clear that Barack Obama was right when he and I were wrong about invading Iraq. And Obama was right for the right reason: he asked some very penetrating questions about the likely aftermath of an invasion. As an Illinois State Senator, he knew about the risk of civil strife among Iraq's Shi'a, Sunnis, and Kurds.

And this is the guy the press is trying to tag as too ignorant of foreign affairs to run for President? Try again.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oliver Willis is shrill:

In Which I Make Peter Beinart's Life Easier [Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid]: Like a lot of the inside-the-beltway crowd, The New Republic's Peter Beinart suffers from the disease of saying in 1,000 words what you can say in two. Case in point: his essay explaining what made him make the wrong decision to support the Iraq war.

Repeat after me: "Because I was f---ing stupid."

That goes for people I dislike, people I admire, etc. You supported the war because you were dumb. I've done dumb things too, trust me, more than you can imagine. But the one thing I do know is that I never made the dumb decision to be in favor of this horrible war.

Chris Bertram is shrill:

: I made the mistake of surfing over to Jeff Weintraub%u2019s blog earlier, which is currently featuring lengthy coverage of Andrei Markovits%u2019s book Uncouth Nation . Markovits argues that all the social strata of Europe are in the grip of a pervasive anti-Americanism, and that this is closely related to anti-semitism. Evidence for this thesis includes the fact that British sports journalists often moan about the Americanization of soccer. You know, I%u2019m puzzled. Does this mean that those Budweiser ads which mocked American commentators for their poor grasp of football during the World Cup were borderline anti-semitic? Were the people who produced them self-hating Americans? And could I get funding to write a book about the pervasive anti-Europeanism of America and cite as evidence disparaging remarks about European sport from US commentators? And would blogospheric and op-ed moanings about the European welfare-state, immigrants, old Europe and cheese count as good evidence for such a thesis? And could I get a leading European intellectual to come up with a quote for the cover saying that anti-Europeanism is %u201Cthe cousin%u201D of Islamophobia? And if I had tenure in the political science department of a leading European university, would such a book enhance its research reputation? Just wondering.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Unqualified Offerings is shrill:

: Glenn Reynolds = Ward Churchill


By Mona

Finally, a MSM organ (The Rocky Mountain News) is highlighting the extremists on the pro-Bush right, in this case Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds’ outrageous advocacy that the United States assassinate Iranian civilians--scientists and religious leaders. In an RMN op-ed, Law Professor Paul Campos denounces Reynolds as a right-wing equivalent of Ward Churchill, and rightly so.

So what does Reynolds have to say about Campos’ exposure of his (Reynolds’) extremist and barbaric views? Why, the perfessor claims we’ve been at war with Iran since 1979, so killing their people is righteous. This “defense” of his obscene remarks is twaddle, of course, for many reasons but not least for one set forth by Anonymous Liberal (links omitted):

...if we’ve been at war with Iran since 1979, then President Reagan, then-Vice President Bush, and the rest of the Reagan administration are necessarily guilty of high treason. During the Iran-Contra affair, they illegally sold arms to Iran (via Israel), including thousands of BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) anti-tank missiles. Iran subsequently reverse-engineered these missiles and now produces its own version, called the Toophan, which Hezbollah reportedly used against Israeli tanks in the recent conflict in Lebanon. If we were “at war” with Iran at the time of these arms sales, is there any non-treasonous interpretation of this conduct? I don’t think so...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Matthew Yglesias is shrill:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: One thing to consider about the Glenn Reynolds / Hugh Hewitt assassination strategy for coping with the Iranian nuclear program ("we should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists") beyond the obvious is how we once again see conservatives (or in Reynolds' case "libertarians") displaying an almost childlike faith in the competence, honesty, and efficacy of the federal bureacracy insofar as that bureacracy is tasked with dishing out lethal force that they would never in a million years ascribe to, say, the people in charge of the Endangered Species Act.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Andrew Sullivan is shrill!

The Daily Dish: In Front Of Our Nose: The alternative explanation is that Cheney was scared - so scared he took a huge risk that eventually led to the loss and public humiliation of his most trusted aide, Scooter Libby. But why would he be scared? The most plausible inference is that he knew he had deliberately rigged the WMD evidence to ensure that the war took place. He knew, even if the president was blithely convinced otherwise, that the WMD evidence was weak, and his success in distorting the evidence was threatened by Wilson. Not that Wilson had all the goods - Cheney must have known this was a minor matter. It was the danger that journalists or skeptics pulling on the thread that Wilson represented could get closer to the much bigger truth of WMD deception. This is a huge deal for one single reason: if true, it means that the White House acted in bad faith in making the case for war. There is no graver charge than that. In fact, if true, it's impeachable. I don't want to believe it. But I find it increasingly plausible that this is what Patrick Fitzgerald smells in the Libby case. He can't prove it yet; he may never prove it. But he's getting warmer; and he won't give up.

I don't understand why Andrew Sullivan "doesn't want to believe it." Paul Wolfowitz said that WMD was an argument put forward as the public reason for bureaucratic reasons, not because it was the real reason to attack Iraq:

DefenseLink News Transcript: Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Sam Tannenhaus, Vanity Fair: Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into --

Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- hold on one second.... [T]here have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. Sorry, hold on again....

Wolfowitz: To wrap it up. The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia --

Wolfowitz: I was. It's one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don't understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East. I understand what they're thinking about. I'm not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It's as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed. The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting -- the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check -- I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they'd say that's not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Over at Slate, Seth Stevenson writes about Tim Russert's testimony in the Libby trial:

Tim Russert takes the stand: Twelve minutes after calling Russert to the stand, the prosecutor has no more questions for him. Russert's testimony is clean and simple: He never talked about Valerie Plame with Scooter Libby. Ever. And with that, Russert--a compelling, likable witness if there ever was one--may have buried Libby. Libby has said in his testimony, again and again, that Russert mentioned during this call that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and that "all the reporters" knew it. Now Russert is testifying, with obvious conviction, that Libby invented this part of the conversation. The jurors will have to decide who to believe. This is the most pointed he said/he said dispute of the case.

Let's assume for a moment that Libby made up his story. Why on earth would he have done so? Here's the prosecution's theory: Libby really learned about Valerie Plame from Vice President Dick Cheney (and other government sources). And he then passed Cheney's information on to various reporters (including Matt Cooper of Time and Judy Miller of the New York Times). Libby worried that this leak constituted a crime (revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent), and that both he and Cheney might face criminal charges for it. So, when the FBI questioned him about it, he said he was simply passing on a tidbit that he'd learned from Tim Russert. If it came from Russert, and not Cheney, there would be no problem. (Fitzgerald describes this as Libby switching the story from "an official to a non-official source.")

Why did Libby think he could concoct a fake conversation with Russert, yet never have Russert contradict him? Because Libby assumed that Russert, as a member of the press, would protect Libby as a source. And in fact Russert did try to get out of testifying--fighting his subpoena on the grounds that testifying would have a "chilling effect" on his ability to get sources to talk to him. Unfortunately for Scooter, Russert lost this battle. And now he's here in court, calling Libby a liar...

And then Stevenson plays what I can only regard as a game of journamalistic three-card monte:

But now let's imagine Libby's telling the truth--that he did talk about Plame with Russert, and that Russert is just misremembering their phone call. Can you imagine how nightmarish today must be for Libby, if this is the case? He's watching Russert throw him under the bus as the result of nothing more than a faulty memory. Russert is stubbornly standing by his hazy recollection of one three-year-old phone call. And Scooter might go to jail over it.

I'm not a journalist. If I were a journalist, I would at this point act differently than Stevenson. I would at this point remind my readers that the case is not about one single he said/he said dispute to which there were no witnesses. It's not about whether Fitzgerald can show beyond a reasonable doubt that Russert accurately remembers this phone call and Libby is lying. According to the indictment, Fitzgerald's case is that Libby has told a story different from all of:

  1. An Under Secretary of State
  2. A senior officer of the Central Intelligence Agency
  3. The Vice President of the United States
  4. Libby's own notes of his meeting with the Vice President.
  5. A briefer from the Central Intelligence Agency.
  6. Libby's then-principal deputy.
  7. Judith Miller.
  8. Tim Russert.
  9. The White House Press Secretary.
  10. The Counsel to the Vice President.
  11. The Assistant to the Vice President for Public Affairs.
  12. "White House Officlal A".
  13. Matthew Cooper.

As I said, I would feel honor bound to remind my readers of this if I were a journalist.

But I'm not a journalist.

Stevenson doesn't remind us. He leaves us with the image of Scotter Libby living a nightmare--"watching Russert throw him under the bus as the result of nothing more than a faulty memory... his hazy recollection of one three-year-old phone call."

Dan Froomkin Meets the Journamalists: And in spite of everything he knows and has seen, Dan Froomkin seems shocked at the extent of the feckless corruption of the Washington political-news press corps. Informing their readers and viewers is simply not on their agenda.

Froomkin watches Tim Russert:

Dan Froomkin - Washington Journalism on Trial - If you're a journa[mal]list, and a very senior White House official calls you up on the phone, what do you do? Do you try to get the official to address issues of urgent concern so that you can then relate that information to the public? Not if you're NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. When then-vice presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby called Russert on July 10, 2003, to complain that his name was being unfairly bandied about by MSNBC host Chris Matthews, Russert apparently asked him nothing.

And get this: According to Russert's testimony yesterday at Libby's trial, when any senior government official calls him, they are presumptively off the record.That's not reporting, that's enabling. That's how you treat your friends when you're having an innocent chat, not the people you're [covering]....

Many things are "on trial" at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse right now.... Libby's boss, along with the whole Bush White House, for that matter, is being held up to public scrutiny as well.And the behavior of elite members of Washington's press corps -- sometimes appearing more interested in protecting themselves and their cozy "sources" than in informing the public -- is also being exposed for all the world to see.

For Russert, yesterday's testimony was the second source of trial-related embarrassment in less than two weeks. The first came when Cathie Martin, Cheney's former communications director, testified that the vice president's office saw going on Russert's "Meet the Press" as a way to go public but "control [the] message." In other words... Russert could be counted on not to knock the veep off his talking points -- and, in that way, give him just the sort of platform he was looking for.

Russert's description of how he does business with government officials.... [D]efense attorney Theodore Wells sounded incredulous that Russert wouldn't have asked Libby some questions. After all, former ambassador Joseph Wilson had gone public just four days earlier with his provocative charge that the administration manipulated intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq. Wilson had done that in a New York Times op-ed -- and on "Meet the Press" itself. "You have the chief of staff of the vice president of the United States on the telephone and you don't ask him one question about it?" Wells asked. "As a newsperson who's known for being aggressive and going after the facts, you wouldn't have asked him about the biggest stories in the world that week?"

Russert replied: "What happened is exactly what I told you."

Froomkin watches Howard Kurtz carry water for Tim Russert:

Howard Kurtz writes in today's Washington Post that Russert "emerged relatively unscathed yesterday." But I think Kurtz was more dead-on in his CNN show on Sunday when he broke from the role of neutral moderator and said: "Well, here's my two cents. I mean, anonymous sources are absolutely vital for investigative reporting for the exposing of corruption, health and safety problems, and that sort of thing. But journalists have gotten so promiscuous on granting anonymity on routine political stories that it makes us look bad."

It doesn't make you people "look bad," Howard. You are bad. Own it.

And Froomkin watches Arianna Huffington:

Arianna Huffington had this to say on after Russert's testimony:

This assumption that somehow any conversation with a government official is automatically assumed to be highly confidential... gives the sense to the average citizen that this is a kind of club, to which government officials and major news reporters belong. And that anything discussed between them is automatically off the record, no matter whether it is of public interest or not...

It doesn't "give the sense to the average citizen"; it, rather, informs the average citizen of the reality.

This is important: The elite political news journalists of Washington have known since 2000 of the fecklessness, incompetence, disconnection from reality, mendacity, and malevolence of George W. Bush and the highest levels of his administration. They have heard the same stories as I have--and they have heard more of them. I have listened to some of them dine out on those stories. Yet the number who have worked to incorporate what they know from whispered off-the-record conversations into what they report to the public is very small indeed.

In their New York Times story, Neil Lewis and David Johnston do challenge Russert--in the twenty-sixth and final paragraph of their article:

As Neil A. Lewis and David Johnston write in the New York Times, Wells "also challenged Mr. Russert about initial efforts to avoid testifying. Mr. Russert had said in an affidavit that it was a matter of journalistic principle to refuse to divulge his conversation with Mr. Libby. But Mr. Wells, who also displayed this affidavit on-screen, noted that when Mr. Russert was first reached by telephone by an F.B.I. investigator, weeks before the affidavit, he spoke freely about it."

More journamalism! Irony is dead! Duncan Black sends us to the amazon page for Jonah Goldberg of National Review's forthcoming book:

Jonah Goldberg (2007), Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton: Availability: This title will be released on September 18, 2007. Pre-order now...

And Duncan also sends us to Jonah Goldberg today:

The Corner on National Review Online: I've "matured" or "grown up." And the truth is I have.... I'm basically burnt out on the smash-mouth stuff.... I don't do that stuff very much any more because it's cliched and boring to me (in much the same way I dropped most of the Simpsons and French-bashing stuff the moment it threatened to become a catch-phrasey schtick).... Simply as a writer, when I see the nasty stuff now, on both the left and the right, my first reaction is to think how easy -- and therefore uninteresting -- it is.... That's why I harp so much lately on the issue of good faith in writers.... I'm more interested in arguments than posturing for your own side.... I have a similar attitude toward the highchair pounders on our side like, say, Michael Savage (assuming he's still alive)...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Arthur Silber is shrill:

Once Upon a Time...: This is the moment we've reached: many of us, including those who seek to influence our government's actions and who continue to have an alarming degree of success, are monsters. They acknowledge it openly (see Krauthammer for another example), and they maintain becoming monsters is "necessary" for the success of our "noble" efforts. That such monsters continue to be regularly published in major U.S. newspapers is a national degradation that will not be ameliorated for decades, even if we were to reverse course tomorrow. The views of people like Boot and Krauthammer are considered a legitimate part of our "respectable" national discourse.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Stuart Taylor drives Chris Hayes and Prometheus 6 shrill:

Here come the racists in earnest | Prometheus 6:

Stuart Taylor makes a bid with an utterly inane column. He writes:

Yes, a shamefully large percentage of black children do not get good educations. But that is not because of residual white racism. Indeed, some of the nation's worst -- and most lavishly funded -- schools are run by black-dominated local governments. Nor is "white privilege," to borrow the jargon of race-obsessed professors, a major obstacle to black success today....

Obama's soaring success should tell black children everywhere that they, too, can succeed, and they do not need handouts or reparations. It should tell those white Americans who still don't get it that people with African blood can and regularly do achieve at the highest levels. It should not take an Obama presidency to drive home these lessons. But the myth of continuing African-American victimhood still has the power to wilt the hopes and aspirations of more children every day.

One reason for the power of the myth is that, for many, it represents an understandable inference from the fact that America remains racially stratified, with disproportionate numbers of blacks at the bottom in terms of education, wealth, and income. The inference is mistaken. Even if all traces of white racism were to vanish, racial stratification would persist until more poor African-American children get enlightened parenting and good educations.

Got that? America is racially stratified because poor black people are bad parents and black kids get bad educations. The bad parenting and bad education is not the result of racism or white privilege (obviously!), but rather the result of black people spending too much time sulking about slavery, wallowing in their own victimhood. If Barack Obama is elected president, he will show every black child in America that there is no such thing as racism and instead of spending all their waking hours being bad parents and whining about slavery, they should go out and achieve, achieve, achieve!

One thing that was really amazing about Hurriance Katrina was the way it brought all these very, very old-school (a polite euphemism) racial attiudes front and center. I'd fooled myself into thinking they'd been largely banished from elite white opinion, but nope. Well, apparently the candidacy of Obama is playing the same role, giving a lot of really ignorant white folks ample opportunity to say some awesomely foolish things.

Each day that the Washington Post publishes Anne Applebaum diminishes its longevity by a week. Here she drives Kevin Drum into shrill unholy madness:

The Washington Monthly: IT'S A NEWSPAPER, NOT A MIRROR....I'm really tired of this kind of thing. Here is Anne Applebaum's sneering column today about the latest IPCC report on global warming:

"Worse than we thought." The headline in the British Guardian newspaper on Saturday was almost gloating about the bad news. The tone of the article that followed was no different....Among the coastal cities threatened by the higher ocean levels caused by melting ice caps, the paper noted -- not without a degree of satisfaction -- are London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

"Almost gloating"? I defy you to read either the headline or the Guardian's brief report (here) and find even a hint of gloating. Sure, the news they're reporting is dismal, but that's because the IPCC report was pretty dismal and they're reporting what the IPCC report actually said. As for the melting ice caps, the Guardian summarizes the likely consequences of a 4 degree rise in global temperature at the end of the piece. Here's the full paragraph on flooding:

Sea levels rise by up to 59cm. Bangladesh and Vietnam worst hit, along with coastal cities such as London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Calcutta and Karachi. 1.8m people at risk from coastal flooding in Britain alone.

This was reported "not without a degree of satisfaction"? She must be kidding. That's as telegraphic a style as you're ever likely to see in a modern newspaper. I recommend that in the future Applebaum leave the faux psychoanalysis to Charles Krauthammer. It suits him better.

The Washington Monthly: GLOBAL WARMING, TAKE 2....Now that I've vented my annoyance with Anne Applebaum's mind reading performance in today's Post, a reader suggests I should follow this up by mentioning that her substantive position is actually perfectly reasonable:

Any lasting solutions will have to be extremely simple....Fortunately, there is such a solution....It's called a carbon tax, and it should be applied across the board to every industry that uses fossil fuels, every home or building with a heating system, every motorist, and every public transportation system. Immediately, it would produce a wealth of innovations to save fuel, as well as new incentives to conserve. More to the point, it would produce a big chunk of money that could be used for other things.

Quite so, and virtually every serious analyst I've read agrees that a carbon tax is one of the primary building blocks for any effective global warming policy. Considering the results of this poll (see page 2), it's especially welcome to hear this kind of sensible talk from a conservative.

Of course, this makes the mockery in Applebaum's opening paragraph even more inexplicable. If she agrees that global warming is real, and that it may have catastrophic consequences, and that serious action is justified to fight it, why was she so dismissive of a newspaper report that implied the exact same thing? Very mysterious.

Oliver Willis is shrill:

David Broder Libels Democrats [Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid]: David Broder, the most insider of Washington insiders, perpetuates a lie and smears the Democratic party in "reporting" on this past weekend's meeting of the DNC.

One of the losers in the weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of "Duty, Honor, Country," forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military.

That's just a boldfaced lie by Broder, no two ways about it. I happened to be in attendance at the speech in question, just a stone's throw away from General Clark when he gave it. What David Broder is saying here is an absolute lie. The crowd in attendance stood on their feet, clapped their hands loudly and strongly time and time again when speakers - including Gen. Clark - invoked the service and sacrifice of America's fighting men and women.

In fact, in the very speech Broder cites as his reasoning for Democrats not supporting the military, Gen. Clark asked for a moment of silence (see the video here) to reflect on the sacrifices being made by the troops currently serving. The auditorium was silent, and many bowed their heads in prayer.

David Broder is a filthy liar, and the Washington Post ought to correct the slander he's published in their pages. For too long the Republican party and the conservative movement has smeared Democrats and liberals as not supportive of the troops, when time and time again it is the right who does not look out for their interests as Democrats and liberals time and time again fight for good foreign policy, veterans benefits, and the basics of body armor for our troops.

Again I say, David Broder is lying.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ex Majority Leader Dick Armey is shrill:

Armey reflects on Iraq, DeLay and election :

Q. Your views on the Iraq war?

A. I'm not sure that it was the right thing to do. You might say removing Saddam from power was a right thing to do. Maybe it was, but was that necessarily then our responsibility to do that? And was it our responsibility to do that by invading a country that had no way declared any war on us?

Q. You voted for the resolution to go to war.

A. I did, and I'm not happy about it. The resolution was a resolution that authorized the president to take that action if he deemed it necessary. Had I been more true to myself and the principles I believed in at the time, I would have openly opposed the whole adventure vocally and aggressively. I had a tough time reconciling doing that against the duties of majority leader in the House. I would have served myself and my party and my country better, though, had I done so.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Frank Rich is shrill:

Why Dick Cheney Cracked Up - New York Times: The White House went berserk when Mr. Wilson published his Op-Ed article in The Times in July 2003 about what he didn't find in Africa.... The explanation for the hysteria has long been obvious. The White House was terrified about being found guilty of a far greater crime than outing a C.I.A. officer: lying to the nation to hype its case for war. When Mr. Wilson, an obscure retired diplomat, touched that raw nerve, all the president's men panicked because they knew Mr. Wilson's modest finding in Africa was the tip of a far larger iceberg. They knew that there was still far more damning evidence of the administration's W.M.D. lies lurking in the bowels of the bureaucracy.

Thanks to the commotion caused by the leak case, that damning evidence has slowly dribbled out. By my count we now know of at least a half-dozen instances before the start of the Iraq war when various intelligence agencies and others signaled that evidence of Iraq's purchase of uranium in Africa might be dubious or fabricated. (These are detailed in the timelines at The culmination of these warnings arrived in January 2003, the same month as the president's State of the Union address, when the White House received a memo from the National Intelligence Council, the coordinating body for all American spy agencies, stating unequivocally that the claim was baseless. Nonetheless President Bush brandished that fearful "uranium from Africa" in his speech to Congress as he hustled the country into war in Iraq. If the war had been a cakewalk, few would have cared....

What we are learning from Mr. Libby's trial is just what a herculean effort it took to execute this two-pronged cover-up after Mr. Wilson's article appeared. Mr. Cheney was the hands-on manager of the 24/7 campaign of press manipulation and high-stakes character assassination, with Mr. Libby as his chief hatchet man....

In a replay of the run-up to the original invasion, a new National Intelligence Estimate, requested by Congress in August to summarize all intelligence assessments on Iraq, was mysteriously delayed until last week, well after the president had set his surge.... [E]xisting troops lack the guns and ammunition to "effectively complete their missions." Army and Marine Corps commanders told The Washington Post that both armor and trucks were in such short supply that their best hope is that"five brigades of up-armored Humvees fall out of the sky."

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of Colin Powell's notorious W.M.D. pantomime before the United Nations Security Council, a fair amount of it a Cheney-Libby production.... Mr. Bush said that Iran was supplying "advanced weaponry and training to our enemies," even though the evidence suggests that Iran is actually in bed with our "friends" in Iraq, the Maliki government. The administration promised a dossier... but that too has been delayed twice....

[W]e can't push the parallels too far. No one died in Watergate. This time around our country can't wait two more years for the White House to be stopped from playing its games with American blood.

The DCeiver is shrill:

The DCeiver: The Politico: Harnessing the Interwebs in the Manner of Junior High School Nimrods: Hey! Great work, Politico! This is what? Your third week? You guys are already proving that what the political discourse needs is a heavy dose of time-honored internet tradition....

Today, Mike Allen had the opportunity to file a story about Barack Obama, and of all the things he chose to talk about, he decided in his infinite wisdom that Mike Allen Was The Story and that The Big Scoop in Politics on this very day was how Obama hurt his precious little feelings! Awwww. Someone needs a hug, and Allen makes it pretty clear that Hiwwary Cwinton always makes him feel special and nice....

The money shot is his line: "I chuckled, thinking he was kidding." That Obama was clearly not kidding is reason enough to give him your vote! If it turns out that Barack wouldn't know Allen from a hole in the ground, then I'm cool with letting him replace freaking Santa Claus...

We do remember Mike Allen as the most eloquent definer of one of the many forms of modern journamalism:

Matthew Yglesias: He Said / She Said: News pages, I said, aren't so much giving a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to reporting. Rather, they're trying to act as neutral arbiters between contending parties. Oftentimes this means there will be political controversy about a basically factual subject ("what's the effect of X on the deficit?") that goes unresolved by a news writer. Instead of giving us the facts, the news writer gives us a set of meta-facts -- "Joe says 'X' but Sam says 'Y.'"...

Allen took issue with that characterization of what news writers are doing. He said that news writers are trying to present both sides' points-of-view, hence the "he said, she said" quality to it, but that they're trying to present these points-of-view in such a way so that a discerning reader can tell who's right based on reading the story....

A good news reporter [I said]... tries to "lead a horse to water."... [Allen] seemed happier with that restatement.... I, as I reader, [often] find myself annoyed that the reporter didn't come out and say so[-and-so is lying]. I think... a higher proportion of news writing really is pure "he said, she said" than Allen seemed willing to say....

Last... the "horse to water" model... suffers from a lack of thought.... If you need to read something -- especially an A1 story that jumps to the inside -- all the way through to figure out what's going on, a very high proportion of readers aren't going to do that. They'll scan a few grafs and their takeaway will be "aha! the parties are engaged in a partisan dispute." Now how much can you blame newspaper writers for the fact that their readers are likely to be lazy and/or rushed as they read?

Clearly 100%. Reporters go to print with the readers they have, not the readers they wish they had.

Spencer Ackerman is shrill:

toohotfortnr: And I don't wanna get over you: There's a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq you might have read about. And it puts me in mind of the one written in 2002. Dafna Linzer points out in today's Post that CIA estimates done in January 2003 and summer 2004 hold up rather well in hindsight:

the 2003 estimate warned of an insurgency, and the 2004 estimate -- whose time frame ran into mid-2006 -- said the spectrum of political-security outcomes ran from "tenuous stability" to "civil war."

The 2002 NIE on Iraqi WMD was an embarrassment to the agency and to the United States. Linzer writes that:

After no such weapons were found, the intelligence community -- particularly the CIA -- significantly altered the way in which it would conduct future analyses, highlight uncertainty and acknowledge dissent.

But that's not really right. After all, the January 2003 estimate was completed months before the invasion, let alone the acknowledgment of phantom WMD. Linzer is, of course, right that the estimate process has changed significantly since the 2002 NIE, and she's also right that the specter of that NIE has driven those changes. But it's worth highlighting the differences behind the 2002 NIE and the 2003, 2004 and 2007 NIEs.

In short, what the 2002 NIE doesn't have is instructive. What it doesn't have, of course, is any assessment of Iraq post-invasion. That was by design. In the summer of 2002, Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, requested and received a letter from then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet spelling out, in balanced fashion, an assessment of both the threat from Iraq and what would happen during and after a war. Graham, knowing the debate over war was about to heat up, learned that there was no NIE on Iraq, and requested one be drawn up, hoping to inform the congressional debate. Tenet consented -- but he informed Graham that the NIE wouldn't cover Iraqi politics, and would only cover the Iraqi WMD question.

Why? Tenet understood what his bosses wanted, and understood it very well. An NIE that assessed Iraqi politics before the congressional vote on the war would be an NIE that predicted a fragile sectarian politics and Iraqi hostility to a U.S. occupation -- in short, an NIE that looked much like the January 2003 NIE would look. That, in turn, would jeopardize the prospects for the administration winning the war vote; and quite possibly jeopardize George Tenet's job. It was a pattern that had repeated itself throughout 2002. On the question of Iraq's relationship to al-Qaeda, the Directorate of Intelligence's Middle East analysts found no such evidence for collaboration, and a host of reasons to explain that case, but the counterterrorism analysts were more open to the idea. So, when it came time to write an assessment for the White House about Iraq and al-Qaeda in the spring of 2002 -- and compete with Pentagon analysts who insisted on a connection -- Jami Miscik, the head of the Directorate of Intelligence, simply gave the job to the counterterrorism shop. (Their product, still constrained by the facts -- it was subtitled "Assessing A Murky Relationship" -- was rejected out of hand by Doug Feith's analysts as being insufficiently alarmist.)

It's good that the intelligence community isn't bending over backwards to tell the administration what it wants to hear anymore. But no one should pretend that the 2002 NIE represented an honest, good-faith effort at understanding the truth about Iraq.

I AM SHRILL. Impeach Defense Secretary Gates. Impeach Him Now...

Everytime somebody who claims to be a reality-based Republican steps forward, they quickly become part of Bush's fantasy propaganda machine. Case in point: Defense Secretary Gates.

Here's the Bushies' plan:

War and Piece: : McClatchy's Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay report:

The Bush administration is stepping up its confrontation with Iran, accusing the Islamic regime in Tehran of supplying arms to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq for attacks on U.S. forces.

But the White House's failure to document its case, its acute credibility deficit, and a new U.S. intelligence finding that outside meddling is "not likely" a major cause of the bloodshed are raising questions about President Bush's intentions. Further, U.S. government data shows that Sunni Muslim insurgents commit most of the anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.

Moreover, the administration lacks proof that Iranian weapons shipments into Iran are sanctioned by the theocratic leadership or are being carried out by rogue elements, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates confirmed on Friday.

"I don't know that we know the answer to that question," said Gates.

And here's Gates carrying water nonetheless:

War and Piece: : Secretary Gates arranged a sentence today in a way that seemed to imply that Iranian supplied materiel is responsible for 70% of US casualties in Iraq. In his press conference today, he said:

I think the principal area where we have seen evidence of Iranian involvement is in providing these EFPs, these very powerful IEDs, to the -- either or both the technology and the weapons themselves that have been killing American soldiers. And so our effort is aimed at uprooting the networks that are providing these EFPs. We're also trying to uproot the networks that provide the IEDs as well that are being provided -- or being used by al Qaeda and others. These darn things account for about 70 percent of our casualties. And so there's a huge effort under way to try and uproot these networks and try and stop this. So that's the principal area.

Wow, so Iran is providing these EFPs, and EFPs are IEDs, and "these darn things" account for about 70 percent of US casualties.

But back up. Other sources have recently indicated that approximately 85% of US troop casualties in Iraq are attributed to the Sunni insurgency. And EFPs are only a subset of IEDs killing US troops in Iraq. Is Gates deliberately trying to suggest otherwise? Or was it unintentional, the likelihood that some listeners will mistakenly assume that 70% of US casualties are due to Iranian-supplied IEDs? The small matter of the failure to mention that he hasn't told you how many of the IEDs are allegedly Iranian-supplied EFPs?...

If you think such rhetorical devices are not effective, check out this USA Today piece from the other day. Entitled, "US blames Iran for new bombs in Iraq," it concludes:

IEDs are the largest killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. According to Pentagon figures through Jan. 20, they have killed 1,327 troops and wounded 11,861 others. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week, "We are trying to uproot these networks that are planting IEDs that are causing 70% of our casualties.

"Maybe next time Gates can point out that he doesn't have available at hand figures for how many of the IEDs are thought to come from Iran. Maybe he could even get Centcom to forward him an estimate.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Greg Djerejian is disgusted by David Ignatius's cheerleading for Condi Rice:

The Belgravia Dispatch: Ignatius on Rice: David Ignatius: "But as with any strategy, Rice's realignment idea has the virtue of offering a basis for discussion and careful thinking about a region perched on the edge of a volcano." Ignatius, sorry to say, is too easily impressed here. Snippets:

Rice said the new approach reflects growing Arab concern about Iran's attempt to project power through its proxies: "After the war in Lebanon, the Middle East really did begin to clarify into an extremist element allied with Iran, including Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. On the other side were the targets of this extremism -- the Lebanese, the Iraqis, the Palestinians -- and those who want to resist, such as the Saudis, Egypt and Jordan."

The Secretary of State, some day at least, is going to have to graduate beyond evangelically-tinged provost talk about "clarifying moments" and the like and grapple with the world as it is, not as her airy aspirational vistas would have it. Indeed, the narrative she sketches out is simply laughable in its gross over-simplifications. After all, likely at least a good 40% of Lebanese, well over 50% of Palestinians, and a plurality of Shi'a Iraqis too (back of the envelope number-crunching, but you get my point, I think), none of them would even begin to agree with her simplistic description that they are "targets" of Iran. And Cairo, Riyadh and Amman want to "resist"? Is Condi going to cheerlead the 'resistance' of Sunni autocrats to growing Shi'a influence in the region? Is this what America's Middle East policy has become? This is farcical stuff, in its blundering amateurism.


The Bush administration's thinking about realignment helps explain why it has resisted engaging Syria and Iran, as recommended by the Baker-Hamilton report. As Rice put it, "You have a 'pan' movement, across the region. The war in Lebanon crystallized it for everyone. You can't just leave it there. . . . If you concentrate on engaging Syria and Iran, you may lose the chance to do the realignment."

Pray tell, and forgive my ignorance, but what is the "pan movement"? And how was it "crystallized"? And too, what does it mean "to do the realignment"? Are we speaking here of stoking a decades long Shi'a-Sunni struggle? Or enlisting the Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians to help us contain Iran? If so, how?...

National Review drives Matthew Yglesias deeper into gibbering shrillness:

Matthew Yglesias / proudly eponymous since 2002: What Does it Take? . . . to become an economics commentator for National Review Online? Apparently, a sketchy command of the subject matter.

Larry Kudlow offers a "footnote to today's strong jobs support". Excellent. In particular, he promises "some new factoids to sink your teeth into concerning all the nonsense about wage inequality -- a subject that the brilliant Washington economist Alan Reynolds has debunked voluminously." Ah, yes, that Alan Reynolds. Also note that one can hardly debunk a subject. Nor is Reynolds' paper especially voluminous. Even better, though, the factoids Kudlow presents are . . . irrelevant to the question of wage inequality. He writes:

At $16.76, average hourly earnings are nearly 20 percent above year 2000 levels, and 44 percent above the $11.65 level in the fifth year of the Papa Bush/Clinton business expansion cycle.This is the fifth year of the GWB cycle.

Ah, yes, the old nominal figures gambit. But wait!

Even in inflation adjusted terms, real average hourly earnings are slightly higher than the 2000 peak, and nine percent above the 1995 fifth year average level.

In short, the critics are right! Median wage growth has been anemic. Or, as Kudlow triumphantly puts it, "real average hourly earnings are slightly higher than the 2000 peak. That's very poor performance. Meanwhile, high-end incomes have increased quite a bit. That's growing inequality!

NRO needs a higher caliber of hack. Alan Reynolds at least knows what he's trying to "prove."

But, Matt, a higher caliber of hack wouldn't be reliable: they might demonstrate line wobbles and an alarming degree of intellect.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Michael Froomkin is shrill!: Two Related Political Items: First, my Congressional Representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsed McCain for President. Second, McCain today embarrassed himself (or, if you prefer, further sullied the remaining shreds of his good name) at the confirmation hearing of Gen George Casey to be Army Chief of Staff, by buying into the BushCo line that although The Decider made all the decisions, it was the evil vizier, Gen. Casey, who is responsible for the debacle in Iraq.

McCain isn't going to be President. I don't even think he'll be the nominee, although I'm less sure of that. I am sure that they'll be nothing of him left by the time he gets the nomination, and that he'll have depleted his greatest asset--the press's infatuation.

Welcome, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, to the sinking ship.