Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rapidly Becoming the Most Untrusted Name in News

A clown suit would fit Lou Dobbs really well:

Truth, Fiction and Lou Dobbs - New York Times: The most common complaint about him, at least from other journalists, is that his program combines factual reporting with editorializing. But I think this misses the point. ... The problem with Mr. Dobbs is that he mixes opinion and untruths.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Dutiful Toady Works for the Czar

Robert Scheer is shrill:

Worse Than Watergate, by Robert Scheer, AlterNet: …But don't blame Gonzales; he's just another lightweight zealot exploited by the Cheney White House. Not that Gonzales isn't a thoroughly loathsome character deserving of Senate rebuke and worse. He has been party to dragging this nation down in the eyes of the world, ordering and justifying torture while shredding the limitations on imperious governance that have been the hallmark of American liberty.

Yet while the man has been associated with a pernicious assault on our freedoms, he has never been the independent actor, but rather a dutiful toady carrying out the wishes of a tightly monitored White House with the blessings of the president.

Rising Hegemon Is Shrill!

It writes:

Rising Hegemon: Maximum Wanker: William Kristol and Fred Kagan ladies and gentlemen, together in what can only be described as the ickiest long-term companionship ever!

Congressional battles calling into doubt our commitment to winning in Iraq have been the major threat to progress since the president began pursuing the right strategy in January. The president, supported by congressional Republicans, has beaten back that threat. Now he needs to deal with his own administration, which has not made up its collective mind to support the president's strategy wholeheartedly. Mixed messages from Bush's advisers and cabinet undermine the efforts of our commanders in the field.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Duncan Black Watches Tom Friedman on Youtube, and Is Shrill!

Here is Duncan:

Eschaton: Deep Thoughts From Tom Friedman: 05/30/03 on Charlie Rose: I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.... We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.... What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.O kay.That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.

And Duncan comments:

Ladies and gentlemen, America's premier foreign policy columnist. I'm sure there's more there, but there are limits to the sacrifices I will make for blogging. (thanks to Janeane the Acerbic Goblin)

And comments further:

When I was a younger lad man, there was no one around to tell me that Tom Friedman was an utter buffoon. I'm sure someone I knew thought he was a buffoon, maybe many people, but as Tom Friedman unsurprisingly wasn't the central subject of many conversations it wasn't too likely to come up. Obviously he must be a very serious person, as he writes bestselling books on very serious things, has a very influential column in the New York Times, is treated reverentially when he goes on the teevee, etc... I'm not quite sure when I realized that little Tommy was a buffoon. I did force my students to read one of his books (among others of course) and by the end I think we'd all decided he was a buffoon. I think that if there's one contribution to humanity that liberal blogs have made it's the fact that they have greatly increased the number of people who understand that he is a buffoon.

The New York Times Editorial Board Is Shrill!

NY Times: "We Have Grown Accustomed to This President’s Disconnect from Reality" -- The ITT List: From the NY Times editorial “War Without End”:

Never mind how badly the war is going in Iraq. President Bush has been swaggering around like a victorious general because he cowed a wobbly coalition of Democrats into dropping their attempt to impose a time limit on his disastrous misadventure. By week’s end, Mr. Bush was acting as though that bit of parliamentary strong-arming had left him free to ignore not just the Democrats, but also the vast majority of Americans, who want him to stop chasing illusions of victory and concentrate on how to stop the sacrifice of young Americans’ lives. And, ever faithful to his illusions, Mr. Bush was insisting that he was the only person who understood the true enemy.

[...] [W]e have grown accustomed to this president’s disconnect from reality and his habit of tilting at straw men, like Americans who don’t care about terrorism because they question his mismanagement of the war or don’t worry about what will happen after the United States withdraws, as it inevitably must.

The really disturbing thing about Mr. Bush’s comments is his painting of the war in Iraq as an obvious-to-everyone-but-the-wrongheaded fight between the United States and a young Iraqi democracy on one side, and Al Qaeda on the other. That fails to acknowledge that the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq is not a democracy and is at war with many of its own people. And it removes all pressure from the Iraqi leadership — and Mr. Bush — to halt the sectarian fighting and create a real democracy.

Chris Matthews Is Shrill!

Don't be worried. Some viewers were shocked when you changed shape before their eyes and grabbed the Bush-defending guests with your suckers and rent them into shreds and gobbets with your parrot-like beak. But ratings are up:

Crooks and Liars » Matthews Gets Fired Up: On yesterday's "Hardball" Chris Matthews was in rare form and fired up about Iraq, Immigration and fact-free Republican Presidential candidates. During his interview with Democratic Presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) he slams President Bush for his Iraq rhetoric and playing the terror card when it suits him, but his main target was Republican Presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani. Matthews questions why Giuliani has been allowed to spout off the wall , fact-free talking points and nobody has stepped up to challenge him. I think this quote to Biden after watching a clip of Giuliani says it all: Matthews: "Absolute B.S., Senator. Absolute B.S."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Brian Beutler: John Dickerson Self-Parody Edition

UPDATE: John Dickerson and "Jerry" protest that Dickerson is not parodying himself, but trying to maintain a nuanced position: to the extent that children inject themselves (and to the extent that Bush and Cheney inject them) into the echo chamber, they lose their zone of privacy.

John Dickerson could drive anybody shrill:

John Dickerson: Political families: The president and Dick Cheney should have a wide zone of privacy when it comes to their families. Their daughters didn't ask to enter the political echo chamber, and so they shouldn't be forced to live in it. (Though, the Bush twins did speak at the 2004 Republican convention, and a Cheney daughter worked at the State Department.)

Brian Beutler succumbs:

Allow me to suggest that the Bush twins weren't forced to speak at the Republican convention against their will and that Liz Cheney probably had some "help" getting the job that she "asked for" at the "State Department". And that, on top of all that, Mary Cheney has worked publicly on behalf of her father, who heads what some might call an atypical family (vice-president and whatnot)...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Podesta Is Shrill

John Podesta, establishment Democrat, is shrill!

Bill Clinton's former chief of staff says "Congress must oppose toothless supplemental": ThinkProgress, the blog for the Center for American Progress (CAP), the organization run by President Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta, published a stern commentary today in opposition to the Iraq war supplemental agreement negotiated by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. ThinkProgress notes that "this victory for President Bush is a defeat for the American people." They go on to say that congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, "need to live up to their word," and that "anyone who supports accountability for President Bush’s Iraq policy must reject this blank check for war."

ThinkProgress wouldn't take this bold a position on the most important legislation in America today, in opposition to the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, without the Center for American Progress's approval. And you'd better believe that the Center isn't going to approve of such an important statement of policy without John Podesta personally signing off. The man was the former White House chief of staff - we can assume he doesn't miss details. Things get even more interesting when you consider that inside the beltway CAP is perceived by many, rightly or wrongly, as a front for Hillary's presidential run. And there is no way, in my view, that CAP's position on the supplemental helps Hillary (who would prefer to remain perpetually obtuse when it comes to Iraq).

Podesta is a big deal in Washington. If he's not happy with this "compromise," to the point of publicly challenging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and putting Hillary in an awfully uncomfortable position, then that means discontent with the way the Democratic party leadership is handling Iraq goes far deeper than a few "crazy" bloggers or the party's supposedly-liberal base.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Steno Sue Schmidt Calls Andrew Sullivan a Man of the Left

Five years, *Washington Post.* Five years:

Ashcroft's Complex Tenure At Justice - washingtonpost.com: the account of a nighttime hospital confrontation between Ashcroft and Bush aides -- provided Tuesday by Thompson's successor, James B. Comey, to the Senate Judiciary Committee -- prompted something of a reappraisal of Ashcroft by some on the left last week. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised his "fidelity to the rule of law." The Wonkette Web site posted the headline: "Ashcroft Takes Heroic Stand." Under a similar headline, "John Ashcroft, American Hero," Andrew Sullivan expressed astonishment on his Atlantic magazine blog that "John Ashcroft was way too moderate for these people. John Ashcroft"...


Saturday, May 19, 2007

David Frum Is Shrill

He's shrill in a right-wing Neanderthal conservative-Republican way, but it's still shrillness, and it's still impressive:

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online: Immigration Thoughts: With the immigration * compromise * in the Senate, President Bush and the Senators have detonated the slow-motion trigger on a Republican debacle in 2008. Let's count the ways:

  1. The typical (median) American worker has seen his income stagnate under George W. Bush. Immigration is not the only reason for this wage stagnation, but it is certainly one of the reasons. With this immigration bill, the GOP is telling hard-pressed workers: Go look to somebody else to help you.
  2. As complicated as this immigration deal is, it rests on a simple compromise: The Democrats get the amnesty they want - in exchange for the Republicans getting the guest-worker program they want. By identifying the guestworker program as the GOP's highest immigration priority, the deal also identifies the GOP as a party that in the crunch puts employers' interests first.
  3. Even before the deal, Democrats entered the 2008 cycle unified and energized; Republicans, divided and demoralized. The president and the senators have now managed to divide and demoralize their party even further.
  4. The deal scrambles the 2008 race, in ways deeply unhelpful to the party. The deal has wounded all three of the GOP front-runners: McCain because he is deeply implicated in it; Giuliani because he has tacitly endorsed it; Romney because it has added one more flip-flop to his already too lengthy list of reversals. The deal helps the two undeclared Republicans, Gingrich and Thompson - both of whom, alas, are much less electable on a national ticket than the three declared front-runners
  5. The White House/RNC defense of the deal only enrages Republican voters. When Tony Snow delivers a speech to the Council on National Priorities arguing that George W. Bush has been tougher on illegal immigration than any president ever... well, he invites jeers and derision. Of the 35 million foreign-born people in the United States, some 8 million have arrived since 2001. Of the 12 million estimated illegals in the United States, some 4 million have arrived since 2001.
  6. As we have seen in both the Harriet Miers fight and the Dubai ports deal, this White House's first instinct when faced with dissent in the ranks is to insult and abuse its strongest supporters. "Sexist"; "elitist"; "registered bigots" were some of the terms cast during the previous fights. Brace yourselves for much, much worse. This is no way to win friends and influence people. And triggering an internecine party conflict on the eve of a difficult and dangerous election is no way to re-elect a damaged incumbent party.
  7. And unfortunately the White House's second instinct when confronted with dissent is to revert to incompetent spin. Unlike the Clinton administration, which lied with a fluency and bravado that will impress PR hacks for decades to come, the Bush administration stumbles, flusters, and eventually disheartens even its staunchest supporters. Or, as my friend Bill Walsh puts it, they cannot even tell the truth convincingly.
  8. The deal will worsen Republican prospects among Hispanic voters. Over the years, the Republicans have done not too badly with Hispanics, typically winning about 35%-40% of the Hispanic vote as compared to under 10% of the black vote.

Republicans have done so well because until now, the highly diverse Hispanic population has not voted as an ethnic bloc. Now we ourselves are forcing that to change. It's as if this Republican president and these Republican senators have said, "Hmm. Can we invent an issue that will teach Cuban-American doctors, Honduran day laborers, and Mexican-American army officers to think of themselves as a unified ethnic group? Can we then provoke a fight that all of them (whatever their diverging practical interests) will treat as a symbol of acceptance in American society? And can we then stage-manage this fight to ensure that two-thirds of our party will have no choice but to fall on the wrong side of it?" Nice work, guys.

We should pursue whether, next year, we can get David Frum out here at the West Coast satellite campus of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill--halftime at the Hoover Institution and halftime here at U.C. Sunnydale.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oliver Willis Is Shrill!

It's the fault of CNN's John King:

The Media Hides Iraq Reality [Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid]: CNN's John King. “If we showed people the full extent of what we see every day in Iraq, we would either have no one watching us because they couldn’t stand to see the pictures, or we would get so many letters of complaint that some organization would come down on us to stop.” If you're not doing your job, you're complicit.

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

Atrios reminds us of one of the *New York Times's* many fine, fine moments:

Eschaton: Mission Accomplished Day: Another look back.

Elisabeth Bumiller: WASHINGTON, May 1 -- President Bush's made-for-television address tonight on the carrier Abraham Lincoln was a powerful, Reaganesque finale to a six-week war. But beneath the golden images of a president steaming home with his troops toward the California coast lay the cold political and military realities that drove Mr. Bush's advisers to create the moment. The president declared an end to major combat operations, White House, Pentagon and State Department officials said, for three crucial reasons: to signify the shift of American soldiers from the role of conquerors to police, to open the way for aid from countries that refused to help militarily and -- above all -- to signal to voters that Mr. Bush is shifting his focus from Baghdad to concerns at home.... "This is the formalization that tells everybody we're not engaged in combat anymore, we're prepared for getting out," a senior administration official said...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

More Journamalism from the New Republic to Drive You Shrill

It has never been clear to me whether the Wall Street Journal is, on net, a force for good or a force for evil. The excellence of the news pages is offset by the atrociousness of the editorial pages. Plus the editorial pages gain additional weight and power by their association with the excellent news pages. Would the world be a better place without the Wall Street Journal? Unclear. Would the world be a better place if the Wall Street Journal's news pages were replaced by news pages of the quality of, say. Murdoch's New York Post? Probably not--but even on this I am still a bit uncertain.

Franklin Foer of the New Republic and his homies, however, have no dobts whatsoever. They say the Wall Street Journal is a mighty force for good, and its editorial page--well, they can't bring themselves to even hint that the Wall Street Journal has an editorial page.

Craven. Mendacious. Journamalists.

Frank Foer and Company: This should be a pivotal moment for liberals--a time to dial back their relentless hostility to newspapers and start crusading for them: We don't mean to sound naïve about the shortcomings of these institutions.... But you need only consider the contributions of the Journal to understand the stakes of the present moment... the great chronicler of capitalism... one of the most important checks against its excesses. The paper has regularly exposed important failings of the market--from the leveraged buyouts and insider trading of the 1980s to the stock manipulation of recent years. In the era of deregulation, it's hard to imagine that the government would have uncovered these epic cases of malfeasance.

Sadly, these great feats haven't won the newspaper business liberal love. There are many, especially in the blogosphere, who can't wait to dance on the graves of the crusty old MSM "gatekeepers." They champion the rise of "citizen journalism," as techno-enthusiasts like to describe the bloggers and their Wikipedia model of media: Unlike the MSM brontosaurs, bloggers will actually report the truth without fear of losing access to Washington cocktail parties or pressure from corporate bosses....

But there's a problem with the new order they imagine... bloggers chasing Truth without the shackles of objectivity. You can always dismiss a blogger, or a partisan paper like the New York Post.... But... [with the] Wall Street Journal... this complaint... rings so empty. The MSM makes an earnest (albeit occasionally flawed) effort to achieve a neutral understanding of events, and that's the source of an authority and prestige that even its harshest critics... must respect....

While the MSM's authority and prestige persist, they are in peril.... Newspapers themselves have squandered the sense of self-confidence that they once oozed.... [T]he timidity that characterized prewar WMD reporting and led the Times to sit on its domestic wiretapping stories for a year....

How can newspapers recover their mojo? For starters, they should stop sounding apocalyptic.... [P]rofit margins at most papers remain high.... The crisis in newspapers relates more to perceptions than the actual bottom line. While the Times, the Post, and the Journal are still run by their founding families... they must answer to investors who continue to demand cost-cutting that boosts share prices but undermines their mission.

As stewards of their papers, the Sulzbergers, the Grahams, and the Bancrofts have exuded the best spirit of Progressive-era elites, a commitment to reform and independence...

A less craven and mendacious New Republic would say that the Bancrofts have betrayed the Progressive spirit of reform by refusing to take steps to generate a reality-based editorial page. And as for Donald Graham--I have a stack of emails from print Post reporters telling me what they think of his commitment to whitewashing the Bush administration.

The Defenders of Paul Wolfowitz: A Rogue's Gallery

A remarkably scurvy crew. Encountering any of them should drive you shrill:

Isaac Chotiner: [I]t's ridiculous people would make policy judgments based on the compensation deal [Wolfowitz] worked out for his partner.... [C]laiming that Wolfowitz's actions regarding his companion give an accurate window into his actual feelings on poverty and corruption seems like a pretty simplistic way to look at how human beings work...

Isaac Chotiner: I have no idea whether Paul Wolfowitz broke The World Bank's ethics rules (although the Times' report on the subject today makes the charges against him seem pretty sketchy)...

James Kirchik: [T]he fecklessness of those who somehow claim that Paul Wolfowitz's alleged intervening to help out his girlfriend undercuts the World Bank's anti-corruption campaign.... [L]iberals are increasingly adopting the "no enemies on the left" strategy.... The corollary to this is that there must be "no friends on the right."... Wolfowitz's critics could care less about the fact that there is little to no evidence of wrongdoing. What they care about is that he was a Republican who was an architect of the Iraq War, which has no bearing on the good job he's done at the World Bank...

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page: This is the same kangaroo court that last month leaked its guilty verdict to the Washington Post before Mr. Wolfowitz even had a chance to plead his case. Our sources who have seen the committee's report tell us it is especially critical of Mr. Wolfowitz for daring to object publicly to the committee's methods and thereby bringing the bank's name into disrepute. The Europeans running this Red Queen proceeding prefer that they be able to smear with selective leaks without rebuttal.... If the Bush Administration now abandons Mr. Wolfowitz as he faces a decision from the bank's board of governors, it will not only betray a friend but hand the biggest victory yet to its audacious enemies in the George Soros axis.

Martin Peretz: I have my differences with Paul Wolfowitz, serious differences, in fact. But I also know some of his critics, many of whom are really just his tormentors. For the obvious reasons, one of which is not that he tried to give a pay boost to his girlfriend. After all, the lady was at the Bank before him. Was she to be punished because her boyfriend became head of the Bank? The pros at the World Bank measured their success by whether they got the cash out of the building, not whether the money did any good. The Bank's governors and staff are part of the enormous economic development bureaucracy that sups as if they were managers of a very successful hedge fund. Who are they to criticize Wolfowitz or Shaha Riza, his companion, because he slated her to get what is merely an upper middle class pay raise?...

Marin Peretz: I've had a feeling all along that Wolfowitz's new troubles were hatched by his political enemies in the World Bank because he has been trying to make it more effective, more honest, and less politicized. These are complicated matters, and he has addressed them clinically with the intention to get results and not only install new procedures. You can imagine how a bloated and pampered bureaucracy would resent a truly practical person who makes practical judgments being at its head. The resentment of him within the Bank also derives from his role in the Iraq war...

Ruth Wedgwood: In 2005, the ethics committee surprisingly denied Wolfowitz's written request that he be allowed to recuse himself from all decisions touching on Riza's status because of their relationship. Then it disqualified her from remaining at the bank yet insisted that she be compensated for this disruption to her career. Next, it insisted that Wolfowitz re-enter the chain of command to execute its advice concerning Riza. And now, board members apparently have criticized Wolfowitz for doing exactly what the ethics panel directed...

Bret Stephens: [I]t has also gone mostly unnoticed that among the letter's signatories is former HR vice president Richard Stern... [who] resigned from the bank in 2000 when his brother, Nicholas, was appointed chief economist.... At the time, then-bank President Jim Wolfensohn... [said] that while "you can't have brothers and sisters [working together at the bank, as president] you are entitled, under Article 5, to run the business as you want, and if you want to vary the rule, you can."... Much has also been said about the role of Xavier Coll, the vice president for HR, who is supposed to have allowed Ms. Riza's raise and promotion without actually "approving" it.... But if Mr. Coll really believed the terms of Ms. Riza's package violated bank rules, he had a fiduciary responsibility to object and even resign. That he did not says nothing about Mr. Wolfowitz but everything about Mr. Coll...

Kenneth Anderson: Why such animus against Mr Wolfowitz? Some say it reflects hostility to reforms and others point to the interest of European contributors in a chance at the bank presidency.... [T]he real scandal does not centre on Mr Wolfowitz. The real scandal is the arbitrariness of an ethics committee and its muddled advice... an ethically dubious venture to bring down the president. None of this speaks well of the bank’s internal processes, or the likelihood of effective internal reforms...

Tim Haab is Shrill

Tim Haab says all politicians are STUPID:

All politicians are idiots and other obvious thoughts on high gas prices, by Tim Haab: I'm angry. I can't believe we're right back where we were a year ago. Gas prices are rising and Congress is trying to do something about it. Eighty-two Democrats and 3 Republicans in the House have proposed the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act (H.R. 1252) otherwise known as the FPGPA, pronounced STUPID. So let's take a look a the STUPID price gouging bill...

The STUPID price gouging bill will make it a federal crime to:

...sell crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, or petroleum distillates at a price that is unconscionably excessive or indicates the seller is taking unfair advantage [of] unusual market conditions (whether real or perceived) or the circumstances of an emergency to increase prices unreasonably.

Unconscionable excessive? Unfair advantage? Increase prices unreasonably? Yikes.

Allow me to interpret. The STUPID bill makes it a federal crime to:

...sell crude oil, gasoline, natural gas, or petroleum distillates at a price that makes my constituents complain because they are too lazy to drive less at higher gas prices.

There are two possible explanations for the Democrats proposal of the STUPID bill. 1) They think the public is too stupid realize they are trying to "do something" by proposing a STUPID bill, or 2) They are idiots. Since Env-Econ readers obviously represent a cross-section of the public, and since Env-Econ readers are smart enough to know that this bill is STUPID, I have to conclude that 1) is logically impossible and therefore, 2) must be true. So we've now proven that Democrats are idiots. We're halfway there.

In looking into the STUPID price gouging bill, I came across the Republican Study Committees reports on the STUPID price gouging bill. In it, they list a set of alternative proposals for lowering gas prices. They are:

  • Streamline the environmental hurdles to building new oil refineries.
  • Make it easier for small refineries to increase capacity.
  • Allow more offshore (e.g. Outer Continental Shelf) and inland (e.g. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) oil drilling.

In other words...screw the environment and roll back new source review.

  • Temporarily suspend the gas tax.

...because driving more is always a good short-term solution.

  • Temporarily suspend the gas tax and temporarily suspend spending on all transportation earmarks in the most recent surface transportation reauthorization bill.

...because driving more on crappy roads is an even better short term solution.

  • Permanently reduce the gas tax.

...because driving more on crappy roads is an even better LONG term solution.

  • Waive or repeal gas formulation (e.g. oxygenation) requirements under the Clean Air Act and related regulations.

...because somehow removing solutions to environmental externalities is what everyone wants.

  • Encourage private-market projects to recover usable energy from oil shale and to otherwise increase production of renewable/alternative fuel sources.
  • Strengthen the existing investment tax credit for Enhanced Oil Recovery (using modern technology improvements to extract oil from previously unavailable sources) in section 43 of the IRS Code.

...because we like free-markets especially the kind that subsidize our buddies.

  • Waive the tariff on imported ethanol and waive regulations that limit refined gasoline imports.

...I actually like this one because it removes an inefficient policy.

So the Republican solution is to remove all of the policies that are designed to capture the external costs of driving whcih in turn would increase the social costs of driving. Hmmmm...lower the individual cost of driving which will actually increase the overall social cost of driving. Republicans are idiots.

Since independents don't matter, I conclude my proof. All politicians are idiots.

Look, in all seriousness. High gas prices are NOT an economic or political problem. They are the result of the natural workings of markets. There is nothing wrong with the market--and no reason, other than self-preservation and the false appearance of being able to do something, for politicians to intervene. Supplies are decreasing--both temporarily through unexpected refinery shut-downs and permanently through stock depletion. Demand is increasing--both in the U.S. and worldwide. Both of these will cause gas prices to rise and that's good. If gas prices don't rise, we will consume gas even faster and run out sooner. Higher gas prices encourage conservation and encourage investment in alternatives. High gas prices might be uncomfortable while we search for viable long-term solutions, but they're more comfortable than the alternative: no gas and no solutions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The American Enterprise Institute Would Drive Anybody Shrill!

Yes, it is Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute:

Does Economic Success Require Democracy?: When Kenneth Arrow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1972, one of the contributions the awards committee cited was his miraculous "impossibility" theorem. Decades from now, Arrow’s theorem, originally drawn in his doctoral dissertation, will be viewed as the 20th-century idea that best anticipated the 21st century.... A government is really just a mechanism that makes collective decisions for a large number of citizens who have different preferences.... In the U.S., we send signals with voting to help the government aggregate preferences.... [N]o voting scheme can be devised that will create a government that has rational preferences, where rationality is defined precisely by Arrow as meeting a number of conditions. Democracy might be a form of government that many prefer to live under, but there is nothing theoretically compelling that suggests that it is the form of government that best reflects the underlying preferences of citizens. As a result, democracies will not necessarily outperform other types of mechanisms for preference aggregation as a route to economic prosperity. Democracies will not always win.

In the latter half of the 20th century, this observation seemed irrelevant. The United States, with its free markets and democracy, defeated the Soviet Union, with its centrally planned economy and party dictatorship. But in the 21st century, things look different. Dictatorships, as in China, appear to have learned from the failure of the Soviets. While they continue to oppress political opponents, they allow a high level of economic freedom within their borders. So far, this approach is working, and in a big way.... [T]he countries that are economically and politically free are underper­forming the countries that are economically but not politically free.... [U]nfree China had a growth rate of 9.5 percent from 2001 to 2005. But China was not the whole story--Malaysia’s GDP grew 9.5 percent from 1991 to 1995, Singapore’s GDP grew 6.4 percent from 1996 to 2000, and Russia’s grew 6.1 percent from 2001 to 2005.... Dictatorships are not hamstrung by the preferences of voters for, say, a pervasive welfare state.

So the future may look something like the 20th century in reverse. The unfree nations will grow so quickly that they will overwhelm free nations with their economic might. The unfree will see no reason to transition to democracy. Meanwhile... it seems unlikely that free citizens will choose to reduce their own political freedoms. Democracies will stay in the game, but, as Arrow showed long ago, their victory is not assured.

Ummmm... Kevin, the democracies are a lot richer than the non-democracies. Doesn't that indicate that democracy is a superior form of government? Even to try to enunciate your idea that Russia's economy today is "outperforming" the econonmy of the United States--well, let's give the mike back to Kevin Hassett:

[T]here is nothing theoretically compelling that suggests that it is the form of government that best reflects the underlying preferences of citizens.... Russia’s [economy] grew 6.1 percent from 2001 to 2005.... Dictatorships are not hamstrung by the preferences of voters for, say, a pervasive welfare state.

There is nothing to be done but to collapse onto the floor in helpless laughter.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

President Ahmednijad, Osama bin Laden, and Morton Kondracke

President Ahmednijad, Osama bin Laden, and Morton Kondracke: all three want to see the U.S. intervene in Iraq on the side of the Shiite ethnic-cleansing militias. Ahmednijad because he wants Iraq to be Shia rather than mixed; Osama bin Laden because he thinks a Shia Iraq will radicalize the world's Sunnis and swing them to his side.

And Morton Kondracke because--well, he gives no reason, other than that his heart is two sizes too small, and his brain is at least four sizes too small as well:

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Plan B For Iraq: Winning Dirty: By Mort Kondracke: Without prejudging whether President Bush's "surge" policy will work, the administration and its critics ought to be seriously thinking about a Plan B, the "80 percent solution" - also known as "winning dirty."... The 80 percent alternative involves accepting rule by Shiites and Kurds, allowing them to violently suppress Sunni resistance and making sure that Shiites friendly to the United States emerge victorious.

No one has publicly advocated this Plan B, and I know of only one Member of Congress who backs it - and he wants to stay anonymous. But he argues persuasively that it's the best alternative available if Bush's surge fails. Winning will be dirty because it will allow the Shiite-dominated Iraqi military and some Shiite militias to decimate the Sunni insurgency. There likely will be ethnic cleansing, atrocities against civilians and massive refugee flows.... Winning dirty would involve taking sides in the civil war - backing the Shiite-dominated elected government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ensuring that he and his allies prevail over both the Sunni insurgency and his Shiite adversary Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now Iran's candidate to rule Iraq....

Bush wants to establish Iraq as a model representative democracy for the Middle East, but that's proved impossible so far - partly because of the Sunni insurgencies, partly because of Shiites' reluctance to compromise with their former oppressors and partly because al-Qaida succeeded in triggering a civil war. Bush's troop surge - along with Gen. David Petraeus' shift of military strategy - is designed to suppress the civil war long enough for Iraqi military forces to be able to maintain even handed order on their own and for Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite politicians to agree to share power and resources. The new strategy deserves a chance, but so far civilian casualties are not down, progress on political reconciliation is glacial, and U.S. casualties have increased significantly....

Prudence calls for preparation of a Plan B. The withdrawal policy advocated by most Democrats virtually guarantees catastrophic ethnic cleansing - but without any guarantee that a government friendly to the United States would emerge. Almost certainly, Shiites will dominate Iraq because they outnumber Sunnis three to one. But the United States would get no credit for helping the Shiites win. In fact, America's credibility would suffer because it abandoned its mission. And, there is no guarantee that al-Sadr - currently residing in Iran and resting his militias - would not emerge as the victor in a power struggle with al-Maliki's Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Iran formerly backed the SCIRI and its Badr Brigades but recently switched allegiances - foolishly, my Congressional source contends - to al-Sadr, who's regarded by other Shiites as young, volatile and unreliable. Under a win dirty strategy, the United States would have to back al-Maliki and the Badr Brigades in their eventual showdown with al-Sadr. It also would have to help Jordan and Saudi Arabia care for a surge in Sunni refugees, possibly 1 million to 2 million joining an equal number who already have fled.

Sunnis will suffer under a winning dirty strategy, no question, but so far they've refused to accept that they're a minority. They will have to do so eventually, one way or another. And, eventually, Iraq will achieve political equilibrium. Civil wars do end. The losers lose and have to knuckle under. As my Congressional source says, "every civil war is a political struggle. The center of this struggle is for control of the Shiite community. Wherever the Shiites go, is where Iraq will go. So, the quicker we back the winning side, the quicker the war ends.... Winning dirty isn't attractive, but it sure beats losing."

Matthew Yglesias Is Driven Shrill by the New Republic

Trained professionals may be called to the scene:

Matthew Yglesias: It's no surprise to see that James Kirchick, assistant to New Republic editor in chief Martin Peretz, shares his patron's passion for the cause of keeping Paul Wolfowitz in office at the World Bank. Kirchick says Wolfowitz's critics are making baseless charges: "As Jon Chait noted in his excellent Netroots article, liberals are increasingly adopting the 'no enemies on the left' strategy that the right has used so effectively for decades to police its own ranks . . . Wolfowitz's critics could care less about the fact that there is little to no evidence of wrongdoing. What they care about is that he was a Republican who was an architect of the Iraq War, which has no bearing on the good job he's done at the World Bank."

That's preposterous. Kirchick is talking about a Sebastian Mallaby column. Mallaby wrote for The Economist for over a decade, supported the Iraq War, and is the author of a recent book about the World Bank. He doesn't dislike Wolfowitz as bank president because he can't abide by Republicans or Iraq War supporters. He dislikes Wolfowitz because he thinks he's a bad choice to run the Bank. And Mallaby, unlike Kirchick or Peretz, knows something about the World Bank (Chait is no doubt thrilled to have his work cited favorably in this context by a fellow bold seeker of the Truth like Kirchick).

More surprising is Isaac Chotiner's post below in which he doesn't understand why Wolfowitz's corrupt dealings would undermine World Bank anti-corruption efforts. The reason is that said efforts are taking place in the world of power-politics rather than the world of abstract logic. The Bank is in a position to try to use its financial clout to force developing world governments to alter their policies. How well something like that works will have something to do with whether people in the developing world are inclined to believe that coercion is being deployed out of honest concern for their well-being or else if it's some kind of imperialist scam. Wolfowitz's behavior, and the Bush administration's tolerance of it, makes it highly non-credible that his anti-corruption stance is motivated by sincere concern for good governance. And when people doubt the motives of would-be reformers, that makes it very hard to achieve reforms.

The Bush Administration Threatens to Go too Far

Let me join Atrios in warning the Bush Administration: It would be inappropriate and dangerous for them to use nuclear weapons against Paul Wolfowitz:


Ezra Klein Is Driven into Shrillness by the Mad Jihadist Fantasies of Paul berman

Afghanistan and Iraq as just "places to begin":

Ezra Klein: Dispatches From When The Country Went Crazy: Kill 'em All Edition: While writing this post yesterday, I came across this gem from Paul Berman, writing in a January 2004 Slate forum reconsidering the Iraq War.  "[The] largest of facts," he wrote, "is the rise of a certain kind of political movement—movements animated by paranoid hatreds, by apocalyptic fantasies, and by the fanatical desire to kill people en masse. These have been the big totalitarian movements, Nazism, Fascism, Stalinism, and a few others—movements whose greatest goal was to destroy liberal civilization...The totalitarian visions live on. Only, instead of being called fascism or some other name from the past, the visions of the present are called radical Islamism and Baathism and suchlike, with doctrines duly descended from their European progenitors—the totalitarianism of the modern Muslim world."

I forget the elegant disingenuousness with which the war was often sold.  Notice how Berman recasts a fight against Saddam Hussein as a war against a unified totalitarian ideology.  This despite the fact that the Baathism, under Saddam's Iraq, and radical Islamism, under Khomeini's Iran, had spent over a decade killing each other (with America arming not one, but both).  Notice how these movements are ripped of positive -- which is different than "good" -- goals and recast as a mindless attack on "liberal civilization."

But that's just the start of the crazy.  Remember, here, that Berman was the author of the hugely influential liberal hawk manifesto Terror and Liberalism, and a main character in George Packer's The Assassin's Gate.  He goes on to write: "Sept. 11 did not come from a single Bad Guy—it was a product of the larger totalitarian wave, and the only proper response was to comprehend the size and depth of that larger wave, and find ways to begin rolling it back, militarily and otherwise—mostly otherwise. To roll it back for our own sake, and everyone else's sake, Muslims' especially. Iraq, with its somewhat antique variation of the Muslim totalitarian idea, was merely a place to begin, after Afghanistan, with its more modern variation."

Iraq and Afghanistan were just places to begin!  We were supposed to take on every country with a whiff of autocracy and a useable set of prayer mats!  It's staggering stuff.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Anxious Masculinity

Pandagon is shrill:

More on the tide of anxious masculinity that engulfs the nation, or at least the punditry at Pandagon: There are roughly two stories about Democratic politicians in the media: Girly Men and Uppity Bitches. On a gut reaction, I’d say they prefer the mainstream media prefers to giggle at the Girly Men and the right wing prefers to feed them stories about that, but if need be, they’ll go with Uppity Bitches. In fact, they stories are kind of boilerplate in what the “hook” that excuses calling someone a Girly Man or an Uppity Bitch is, usually a completely unfair accusation of excessiveness that Republicans will never, ever get dinged for.

Compare, if you will, the boilerplate attempts to raise a stink about Democrats using official planes. When Clinton first went into office, the big non-story had something to do with Air Force One and an airport hold-up and was basically a big non-story, but the entire point of it was to get it into the media that Bill Clinton Has His Hair Cut Professionally Like A Woman. Granted, if he didn’t get regular haircuts, he’d start to resemble the long-haired hippie that wingnuts sincerely think he was, but no matter. The main thing is pushing the narrative in the media at every opportunity that Democratic politicians are Girly Men. In comparison, they tried the same damn stunt on Nancy Pelosi—pushed a non-story about her use of official planes but this time the main point is to raise horror that an Uppity Bitch thinks she gets to use official planes, as if she was the Speaker of the House or something. Apparently, she was expected to walk around wide-eyed saying, “Shucks, y’all, a little ol’ girl like me doesn’t deserve this. I’ll walk, thanks. I could probably use the exercise.” (Punctuate with a giggle).

Liberals hear these non-controversies and our minds get stuck on the class issues, because there are legitimate questions about how much money there is in the top echelons of government these days, but make no mistake, the mainstream media pundits under their piles of make-up and hairspray and the right wing operatives who push the stories in an effort to win elections so they can cut taxes for the very rich do not give a flying fuck about the class issues. Everything is about implying being a liberal man makes you a pussy and liberal women just need someone to show them the pimp hand.

If you pay very close attention to the way Democrats and liberals are dismissed by the right and in the mainstream, you’ll notice that it’s the same set of dismissals issued to silence and discredit women out of hand. Despite all indicators that we marched off to war because a bunch of neocon wingnuts watched way too many war movies in the 80s, the idea that liberals are ruled by emotions and conservatives are rational still has play (look at any Sensible Liberal® defending his support for the war, and you’ll see that myth played out). Luckily, the self-evident nonsense that posits that the wonk-heavy side of the aisle is a bunch of hankie-clutching sobbing babies (women), but the side that harbors people who vote because they don’t like being told they’re a monkey, who have conflated gun control with having their peckers sawed off with rusty knives, and who rushed to war on the basis of having a flag snapped in their face one too many times—they’re the “rational” ones. And it’s all because Republicans have been coded as masculine, and the Democrats as feminine, and thanks to sexism, we believe that masculine is more rational than feminine, regardless of piles of evidence to the contrary.

Republicans I know in real life and our conservo-bots who show up here to clog the comments with regurgitated propaganda love the saying, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you’re not a conservative when you’re older, you have no brain.” Or some variation therein. If you actually expend a moment’s thought on that saying, it becomes obvious how stupid it is, particularly if you’re a member of any group that conservatives have targeted to be misused, which is to say if you’re not white, not rich, not male, not fundamentalist Christian or not straight. But the reason it seems like it makes sense is it’s a fancy way of saying liberalism is feminine, childish and irrational.

Ideological Idiocy in Iraq

This is ridiculous. Because some diplomats in Iraq see reopening of factories as "Stalinist," they oppose and are actively impeding steps that might help to reduce the horrific violence in Iraq. I am going to count to ten while you read this:

Defense Skirts State in Reviving Iraqi Industry, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post: Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense, has been called a Stalinist by U.S. diplomats in Iraq. One has accused him of helping insurgents build better bombs. The State Department has even taken the unusual step of enlisting the CIA to dispute the validity of Brinkley's work.

His transgression? To begin reopening dozens of government-owned factories in Iraq. Brinkley and his colleagues at the Pentagon believe that rehabilitating shuttered, state-run enterprises could reduce violence by employing tens of thousands of Iraqis. Officials at State counter that the initiative is antithetical to free-market reforms the United States should promote in Iraq.

The bureaucratic knife fight over the best way to revive Iraq's moribund economy illustrates how the two principal players in the reconstruction of Iraq -- the departments of Defense and State -- remain at odds over basic economic and political measures. The bickering has hamstrung initiatives to promote stability four years after Saddam Hussein's fall. ...

"There has been a surprising degree of venom and hostility" between the departments, said a senior U.S. government official involved in Iraq policy.

The dispute between State and Brinkley has become so pitched that he has effectively stopped working with the U.S. Embassy and is setting up his office elsewhere in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. ...

Disagreements among Americans about how to deal with Iraq's government-run businesses began shortly after U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad in April 2003. The first U.S. adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Minerals, retired ambassador Timothy Carney, wanted to reopen many of the country's 192 state-owned factories, which, according to the World Bank, employed more than 500,000 people before the war.

But the U.S. occupation administrator, L. Paul Bremer, deemed that to be bad economic policy. Many factories had produced substandard goods before the war and had since been looted. Fixing them would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Bremer wanted private investors to buy the factories, even as workers continued to be paid to stave off hardship.

But the hoped-for private investors never arrived. Factories remained shuttered, and the Iraqi government whittled down the payroll subsidies. Some former workers found new jobs. Others, U.S. military officials believe, joined the insurgency.

In the early months of the occupation, the State Department wanted to resuscitate the state-owned enterprises; the Pentagon's civilian leadership, dominated by neoconservatives, rejected the idea of supporting government-run industry. By last year, the positions had been reversed. Military commanders began arguing to restart the factories... Because State was now running the show in the Green Zone, its opposition carried the day.

Then Brinkley arrived in Baghdad. ... Brinkley's initial mission last summer was to simplify Defense Department contracting to give Iraqi firms a better chance of providing goods and services to the U.S. military. While he was in Iraq , ...[he visited] a bus and truck factory south of Baghdad that had a modern assembly line, talented managers and skilled employees. All but 75 of 10,000 employees had been laid off because the Iraqi government ... was no longer buying the vehicles. Many furloughed workers had joined the insurgency, the factory manager told Brinkley.

"It was clear that the approach we as the United States government had taken toward state-owned enterprises was a mistake," Brinkley said. "We were pretty direct and vocal about it."

The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates that nearly half of Iraqis are unemployed or work fewer than 15 hours a week, but those figures do not include hundreds of thousands who once worked for state-owned enterprises and continue to collect about 40 percent of their original salaries. If they are counted, Brinkley believes, the true figure for unemployed and underemployed Iraqis may approach 70 percent. ...

After touring more than 50 facilities, Brinkley's team deemed about 20 worthy of repair, including factories that made car parts, textiles, leather goods, fertilizer and hand-woven rugs.

But when Brinkley ... revealed his plans to officials at the embassy in Baghdad last fall, they bristled. ... Brinkley said embassy staffers called him a Stalinist bent on restoring a command economy. Another told him that if he rehabilitated factories, Iraqis "are going to use those machines to make more complicated weapons to kill our troops with." ...

Embassy officials warned Brinkley that if he opened factories in Sunni areas first, he risked angering Shiites. Moreover, the electricity needed by production lines would mean less for residences. Would people really be happier, embassy officials asked, if they had jobs but less power at home?

The embassy's in-house think tank, the Joint Strategic Planning and Assessment Office, also joined the fray, issuing an internal memorandum declaring that "trying to give these enterprises a new lease on life will make Iraqis poorer without reducing the violence." The memo, written by an economist from the Rand Corp. working on contract for the embassy, added that "resuscitating state-owned enterprises is a bad idea."

State asked the CIA to assess the link between employment and attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, two U.S. government officials said. The CIA's subsequent regression analysis found no statistically significant tie between the two phenomena, the officials said. The CIA also told State that the vast majority of insurgents questioned by U.S. interrogators in Iraq claimed to be employed, one official said.

Brinkley ... countered with an analysis from the military's Joint Warfare Analysis Center, which asserted that a slight increase in job satisfaction among Iraqis led to as much as a 30 percent decline in attacks on coalition forces...

Embassy opposition was not Brinkley's only problem. His plan to have Iraq's Finance Ministry pay for repairs at the factories ran counter to Bremer's edict, issued in 2004, that prevents the Iraqi Central Bank from funding state-owned enterprises. Brinkley arranged for two Iraqi banks to provide $5.6 million in loans to six factories, and he plans to announce a second round of loans totaling about $20 million.

The White House was enthused enough about Brinkley's initiative to ask Congress earlier this year for $100 million to underwrite his efforts. Congressional appropriators scaled that back to $50 million, but Brinkley believes even the lower amount would still put about 100,000 Iraqis back to work. ...

Despite persistent violence and the slow pace of reconciliation among Iraqi leaders, Brinkley said, he continues to believe the United States can help stabilize Iraq. ... As his profile has risen in Washington, his critics in Baghdad have become less strident. But, he added, he still does not "have people from the embassy jumping onboard to help."

There are people dying by the scores daily and some stupid ideological battle between government agencies is getting in the way of attempts to do something that might, just might, help by putting Iraqis back to work. Slap whatever feel-good, right-wing radio appropriate name you want on it, "Operation Seeds of Capitalism," whatever, put the propaganda people on it, but this idiocy needs to stop. Right now Iraq needs stability and if this can help, then set free-market principles aside and do what's needed to help get Iraqis working again.

Where's the leadership? Somebody - the president comes to mind - needs to step in here, quit wasting our time, our money, and most of all quit wasting lives, and make a call one way or the other. Stop the stupid bickering among government agencies, get rid of anyone who won't cooperate or isn't capable, and get everyone united and moving in a common direction. That's what leaders do.

How many Iraqis could have been hired with the money wasted by the CIA to run some stupid regression with data that can't possibly be reliable to produce results that nobody is going to believe anyway, or with the money used to hire the Rand economists to write a memo so that one government agency can fight with another. We can't even measure employment here reliably, so how did the do it in a war zone with few formal labor markets that nobody travels to? Phone surveys?

How about this. Instead of the president going on vacation all those times since the war started, or instead of going on any more, how about working a day or two more, getting briefed on this problem and making a call so that everyone can work toward a common goal. That's not too much to ask when people are giving their lives in this effort. But if that's too much for the president to handle, then at least give someone else the authority to make a final call. But to continue bickering over these ideological issues for years is inexcusable. And it wasn't all ideological, some was financial. "Fixing them would cost hundreds of millions of dollars." Yeah, but how much did it cost not to fix them?

Open the factories and support the farms as needed. It if takes government subsidies, there are worse things in the world to worry about. That won't provide enough employment, so hire the rest of the unemployed to do something, anything, let half dig holes, then hire the other half to fill them back up, do public works, anything at all, but get the Iraqis employed to the extent possible. It may not work to stop the violence, it probably won't work at this late date, but it's still worth a try.

If that's too Keynesian or Stalinist for the president, if he insists on free-market principles, then he should get everyone united behind that. Yesterday would not have been too late. But I hope he remembers this. The free market approach may work in the long-run, and if the country ever gets stabilized, I hope we can move Iraq steadily in that direction over time. But reminiscent of Keynes' admonition "In the long-run we're all dead," we can't wait any longer. We need to do something now.

I don't mean for any of this to be construed as a reason for staying in Iraq any longer than absolutely necessary, we need to leave as soon as we possibly can and our obligation to help the Iraqis is independent of that decision. But no matter what the majority of us want, it looks like we're going to be in Iraq for as long as the president remains in office and doing what we can to help the Iraqis to rebuild and reopen farms and factories to provide employment and produce essential goods is one way to make the best of time we have left.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Jesus Christ-Hating Conservatives of Conservapedia Attack!

John Quiggin reads the Jesus Christ-hating conservatives at Conservapedia, and his head explodes. Here is what he finds:

Essay: Adultress Story - Conservapedia: Increasingly many Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, are reciting, teaching and popularizing the Pericope de Adultera... [the Woman Taken in Adultery] set forth at from John 7:53-8:11.... Bartleby's quotations include its famous line, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"; and sermons are increasingly based on it. Arguments against the death penalty often cite this passage.... Nearly all modern scholars agree that this Pericope de Adultera is not authentic. Bruce Metzger, a leading biblical scholar, put it this way[1]: "The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as Papyrus66.75 Aleph B L N T W X Y D Q Y 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193..."

Amid this scholarship, why is the emphasis on this passage increasing? The answer lies in its liberal message: do not criticize or punish immoral conduct unless you are perfect yourself. But one need not be perfect before he can recognize and punish wrongdoing in himself and others. Civilized society may not depend on stoning to deter immoral crimes, but it does depend on retribution enforced by people who are themselves sinners.

Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor couldn't have put it better than the authors of Conservapedia do here.

[1] Of course, what Metzger says is not that the passage is un-Christian, but that it is non-Johannine, not that it is non-Christian: "The account has all the earmarks of historical veracity. It is obviously a piece of oral tradition which circulated in certain parts of the Western church and which was subsequently incorporated into various manuscripts at various places. Most copyists apparently thought that it would interrupt John's narrative least if it were inserted after 7.52..."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tenet Produces Most Jaw-Droppingly Stupid Paragraph In Human History

A Tiny Revolution is shrill:

A Tiny Revolution: Tenet Produces Most Jaw-Droppingly Stupid Paragraph In Human History: In George Tenet's new book, he touches on the 1998 incident where the CIA failed to predict India's underground nuclear tests. A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, David Jeremiah, headed a commission to examine how this happened. Tenet writes:

One major conclusion of the Jeremiah report was that both the US intelligence and policy communities had an underlying mind-set that Indian government officials would behave as ours behaved. We did not sufficiently accept that Indian politicians might do what they had openly promised—conduct a nuclear test, as the incoming ruling party had said it would. The lesson learned is that sometimes intentions do not reside in secret—they are out there all to see and hear. What we believe to be implausible often has nothing to do with how a foreign culture might act. We would learn this in a different way years later with regard to Iraq. We thought it implausible that someone like Saddam would risk the destruction of his regime over noncompliance with UN resolutions. What we did not account for was the mind-set never to show weakness in a very dangerous neighborhood—particularly in regard to a growing Iranian military capability. Relying on secrets by themselves, divorced from deep knowledge of cultural mind-sets and history, will take you only so far.

I don't think my jaw had ever literally dropped before I read this.

There is so much extraordinary human dumbness in it I'm going to have to rest a while before getting into it.

Michael Barone: Threat or Menace?

Michael Barone: is it stupidity, or is it mendacity?

He clearly remembers predicting, decades ago, that shifts of American population out of the northeast would create permanent Republican dominance, because people who moved to the Republican sunbelt would turn into Republicans:

[P]olitical analysts grasped the implications of the vast movement from Rust Belt to Sun Belt, a tilting of the table on balance toward Republicans...

And he remembers that it didn't work out that way:

[W]ith California leaning heavily to Democrats, that paradigm seems obsolete...

Although it is the case that "obsolete" is a strange way to say "wrong."

But never mind that. Today Michael Barone is back, making a very big deal of the difference between Los Angeles and Orange counties--part of the sinister, liberal, un-American coastal megalopolis of Los Angeles which real Americans are fleeing--and Riverside and San Bernardino counties--the heartland-American nuclear-family-friendly wholesome metropolitan area of the Inland Empire to which real Americans are moving:

OpinionJournal - Featured Article: [T]he Coastal Megalopolises... [show] a pattern you don't find in other big cities: Americans moving out and immigrants moving in, in very large numbers, with low overall population growth. Los Angeles... had a domestic outflow of 6% of 2000 population in six years--balanced by an immigrant inflow of 6%.... This is something few would have predicted 20 years ago. Americans are now moving out of, not into, coastal California.... High housing costs, high taxes, a distaste in some cases for the burgeoning immigrant populations--these are driving many Americans elsewhere....

Coastal Megalopolises are increasingly a two-tiered society, with large affluent populations happily contemplating (at least until recently) their rapidly rising housing values, and a large, mostly immigrant working class working at low wages and struggling to move up the economic ladder.... Los Angeles is starting to look like... Mexico City and São Paulo. Democratic politicians like to decry what they describe as a widening economic gap in the nation. But the part of the nation where it is widening most visibly is their home turf... where, in exquisitely decorated Park Avenue apartments and Beverly Hills mansions with immigrant servants passing the hors d'oeuvres, they raise most of their money.

The bad news for [Democratic politicians] is that the Coastal Megalopolises grew only 4% in 2000-06, while the nation grew 6%...

While Barone says that this is "bad news" for Democratic politicians "in exquisitely decorated Park Avenue apartments and Beverly Hills mansions with immigrant servants passing the hors d'oeuvres," he says that it is good news for Republicans:

You see an entirely different picture in the 16 metro areas I call the Interior Boomtowns (none touches the Atlantic or Pacific coasts).... Domestic inflow has been a whopping... 15% in the Inland Empire (California's Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, where much of the outflow from Los Angeles has gone).... Domestic inflow was over 200,000 in the Inland Empire.... The Interior Boomtowns generated 38% of the nation's population growth in 2000-06...

That's a huge weight to place on the spreading-out of Los Angeles--for it is all Los Angeles. The full megalopolis, Greatest Los Angeles--Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties--grew faster than the country as a whole from 2000 to 2006, increasing in population by 1.4 million between 2000 and 2006 to 17.7 million (with Inland Empire Riverside and San Bernardino accounting for just over half of that increase).

But, says Barone, the spreading-out of Los Angeles into Riverside and San Bernardino counties is going to make a huge difference:

What's now in store is a shifting of political weight from... Coastal Megalopolises, where both secular top earners and immigrant low earners vote heavily Democratic, toward the Interior Megalopolises, where most voters are private-sector religious Republicans.... House seats will shift from the Democratic coast to the Republican Inland Empire and Central Valley. Demography is destiny...

Michael Barone: stupid, or mendacious? We report, you decide.

Fish Rots from the Head! (Stanley Fish, That Is): Hoisted from Mark Thoma's Comments

Over at Mark Thoma's http://economistsview.typepad.com/, Bruce Wilder writes:

Economist's View: Spinning in Circles: Spin is making statements of fact, which encourage a particular judgement by suggesting a narrative analysis, favorable to one's own point of view and values. The fact that the statements of fact are selective, and the selection favors a particular narrative, is, by itself, legitimate. Political affairs necessarily involve contests in which conflicts are resolved, conflicts where the goals and desires of opposing groups are mutually exclusive. Rs want lower labor cost; Ds want higher wages. There might be resolutions, where both get some of what they want, but such happy solutions are not privileged or guaranteed.

The classic and definitive example of BushSpeak spin is certainly the infamous 16 words. Here is an analysis by Tristero of Hullabaloo:

For many of us, it was quite clear from the instant they were uttered that the famous 16 words were a bald-faced lie of monumental proportions:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Why were we positive Bush was lying? Because no one who is telling the truth talks like this about such a serious subject. Notice the first five words. It's not that Saddam recently sought significant quantities yadda yadda, but only that "the Briitish government has learned." If there was any real evidence, and if Bush had any real confidence in that evidence, I assure you there would be no qualifications. Nevertheless, the impression created - via context and sentence structure and possibly even verbal emphasis when delivered - was not that the British government reported something the US couldn't confirm despite the obvious importance of doing so, but rather that Saddam was acquiring nuclear bombs. Notice also the utterly superfluous but rhetorically important "significant" - as if the acquisition of even a single grain of uranium by Saddam would be anything less than totally alarming to an American public that had been told to expect the next Sept 11 as a mushroom cloud. No. An honest president with legitimate concerns for America's safety would have begun, "The US government has learned," and then proceeded actually to spend some time describing how and what we learned. The State of the Union is exactly the place to lay out such a case, if there was any legitimacy to it.

Therefore, it was clear that no one in the Bush administration - including Bush himself, or he surely would have approved a stronger statement that was less carefully hedged - believed for a second that Saddam had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. They just wanted you to believe it, and they were prepared to lie about it.

Now, it is certainly possible to look at the 16 words, and confirm that they are perfectly truthful, and, therefore, Bush was not "lying". Here is the analysis by factcheck.org. But, of course, factcheck.org is missing the deliberate deception, which Tristero (correctly, imo) immediately detects.

Brad's claim is like Tristero's, and Fish's claim is like that by factcheck.org.

Like Tristero's claim, Brad's turns on the speaker's genuine judgment being substantially different from the one he is trying to induce in his audience.

That the speaker should choose not to acknowledge some validity to the judgement of an opponent, not in the room, seems, well, par for the course...

I suggest a distinction between "spin" and "lies". When you spin something, you are attempting to get your reader or hearer to see it like you do. When you lie, you are attempting to get your reader or hearer to see it like you don't.

I also suggest a distinction between first-order and second-order lies. Rove is trying to get his listeners to see it like he doesn't. Fish it trying to convince his readers that Rove is just "spinning"--trying to convince them that Rove sees it in a way that Rove in fact does not.

The New York Times Editorial Page Is Shrill

Boy are they shrill:

Mr. Bush Alone - New York Times: If Mr. Bush hopes to salvage anything from his 20 months left in office, and, more to the point, if he wants to play a constructive role in the accelerating Iraq endgame, he needs to understand how much has changed in this country, and how tragically little has changed in Iraq. The American people are no longer willing to write blank checks of blood and treasure to an Iraqi government that has refused to stop rampaging Shiite militias, has failed to approve constitutional changes to bring estranged Sunni Arabs back into the political system, and has still not come up with a way to share oil revenues fairly. Now it wants to give itself a two-month summer vacation. Mr. Bush needs to face up to this grim reality and abandon his fantasies of ultimate victory and vindication. Otherwise, he could find himself, and America’s best long-term interests, run over by a bipartisan rush toward the nearest exit.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Higher Broderism Watch: Jonathan Alter

Jonathan Alter is one of the best reporters and commentators that the "mainstream media" has. He is author of an excellent book on FDR, which I hope to properly appreciate sometime. Which is why his willingness to go to the mattresses in defense of the Higher Broderism--to buy into the fake narrative that the journalists who have covered for the Bush administration tell themselves--is, I think, very instructive.

Jonathan Alter engages in some preliminary throat-clearing about how much he hates weblogs:

Jonathan Alter: There's one dimension of the blogosphere that never ceases to amaze me: Some people disbelieve nearly everything they read in the "mainstream media" -- and believe nearly everything they read online. Never mind that the ground-breaking reporting on which they base their opinions often comes from the MSM publications like Newsweek, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. That's because until now, few online publications have invested enough money to undertake original reporting, which is much more expensive than mouthing off at home...

And then Alter defends the Higher Bwodewiswm by attacking Jebediah Reed:

Reed is a bad reporter, and his bad reporting of a 30-second sidewalk conversation involving me, Edsall and former Sen. Mike Gravel is now rocketing around the web.... [E]n route to lunch, we passed [thomas] Edsall walking the other direction.... I don't remember [Edsall] calling Broder "the voice of the people," but if he did, it was said with a pleasantly arch tone, neither serious nor sarcastic.... [W]hatever disagreements we may have with recent Broder columns, he is an honest reporter and no ivy tower thumb-sucker.... I explicitly told Reed that [lunch] was off-the-record, and he explicitly agreed. (Not a good habit to get into, Jebediah, screwing with that one.) I should have known better than to trust a reporter I didn't know, but throwing him out of the lunch so that Gravel and I could talk didn't seem sporting. Reed quotes me as uncomfortably saying, "I have to get going," when one of Gravel's comments about the Bush daughters was supposedly too mind-blowing for the clueless pundit to absorb. The only problem with that rendition was that... I had to catch a plane.... I took my leave (paying for Reed's lunch, plus that of the Gravel entourage) at a different point in the conversation than reported in the story, but accuracy would not have fit Reed's thesis any better than it did in the case of the sidewalk chat.... Tom Edsall['s and my]... batting averages--and David Broder's--are a helluva lot higher than the Jebidiah Reeds of the world...

Reed responds:

Fresh Intelligence : Radar Online: The last thing I had in mind when I wrote that profile of Mike Gravel at the Columbia rally was getting into a Web tiff with you. I've read and enjoyed many of your columns. So when you called me out as a "bad reporter" in your HuffPo screed, it would have been traumatic if I wasn't sure my reporting from that day was bulletproof.... Tom Edsall did say that David Broder is the "voice of the people," and he did say it as I reported.... Gravel was accusing Broder of not believing in popular democracy.... Edsall, without changing the tone of the conversation, said: "He [Broder] is democracy. He's the voice of the people." It sounds like you might not have heard Edsall, but--scout's honor--it was not said archly.... [Y]ou're welcome to pop by Radar HQ and listen to the exchange on tape.

Accusing me of being a bad judge of tone is one thing--accusing me of being unethical is quite another.... You say the lunch was off the record and that I accepted those terms and then broke the agreement. Here's what really happened: I made arrangements with Mike Gravel's press agent, Alex Colvin, to meet up with the candidate.... When the rally was finished, Alex invited me to join the senator for lunch. That invitation was extended to me as a reporter, not as a friendly guest at an off-the-record sit-down with Jonathan Alter. Throughout the lunch, you might remember, I had my tape recorder running and sitting on the table as I was taking notes. The question of what was on and off the record came up precisely once: You were talking about a segment you'd done... and asked me not to use what you had just said, noting that the Edwards piece hadn't aired yet. I said no problem, made a somewhat exaggerated gesture of putting down my notebook, and, of course, abided by that agreement. I picked up my pad and started taking notes after the conversation turned back to Gravel...

I've got to score this one for Jebediah Reed.

Alter lacks credibility for three reasons. First of all, reporters shouldn't try to take conversations off the record or say that they tried to take conversations off the record--only sources should try to take conversations off the record, and reporters should let them do so only when they have the best of reasons for fearing unjust and unfair retribution. Second, Reed has a tape, and is either correct or is the best bluffer alive. Third, Alter pours gasoline on his remaining credibility and lights it afire when he makes his claim that:

[W]hatever disagreements we may have with recent Broder columns, he is an honest reporter and no ivy tower thumb-sucker...

As a tenured ivory-tower thumb-sucker myself, I am an expert on who is and who is not one.

Let's look at Broder's recent record:

May 10: The mad rush of states to advance their nominating contests in hopes of gaining more influence has produced something so contrary to the national interest that it cries out for action.... This way lies madness. Instead of there being a steady progression of contests, challenging and whittling the field of contenders in the wide-open races to select a successor to George W. Bush, it is going to be a herky-jerky, feast-or-famine exercise that looks more like Russian roulette than anything that tests who can best fill the most powerful secular office on Earth.... This crazy calendar sets up one of two scenarios -- both scary. If one candidate in each party wraps up the nomination... on Feb. 5.... The time from February to Labor Day will be boring beyond belief. But if nothing is decided by the night of Feb. 5, the chance of a quirky result from the oddity of the political geography of the remaining states will be greatly increased. Democrats will have to compete in Indiana and North Carolina, where they rarely win in November. Republicans will be judged in Massachusetts and Vermont, where their party membership is minuscule...

Broder's complaints are that things will either be "boring" or that we risk a "quirky result from the oddity of the political geography"--apparently forgetting that we have been getting quirky results from New Hampshire and South Carolina for quite a while now. This is thumb-sucking: the tongue is on the nail, and the digit is inside the mouth.

Let's continue:

May 6: In this moment, the commander in chief has a clear plan -- to apply more military force in and around Baghdad in hopes of suppressing the sectarian violence and creating space for the Iraqi politicians to assemble a functioning government. It is a high-risk policy with no guarantee of success. But it is a clear strategy...

No. It is not a clear strategy. A strategy would be a plan, for example a plan for how to create a fuctioning Iraqi government out of factions that are now trying to kill each other. What Bush has is a hope that a functioning government will somehow emerge. Hope is not a plan. This is thumb-sucking: not only is the tongue on the nail and the digit inside the mouth, but the lips are sealed around the base of the thumb, and there is definitely suction here.

And it goes on:

May 5: Giuliani... appeared stumped.... Chris Matthews asked... if the repeal of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision would be a "good day for America."... Giuliani offered an unenthusiastic, "It would be okay.... It would be okay to repeal. It would be [okay] also if a strict constructionist judge viewed [ Roe] as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision." "Would it be okay if they didn't repeal it?" Matthews pressed. "I think the court has to make that decision, and then the country can deal with it," Giuliani said.... Giuliani's equivocation was pointed up...

To be conflicted about abortion is an honorable position. But Broder doesn't see it that way: he sees Giuliani as engaging in "equivocation" and as "stumped." The base of the thumb has now been stuffed into the mouth, and there is a gagging sound.

And the next search result for "David Broder" at the Washington Post:

May 4: I have come to have deep respect for the wisdom of the American people, who, in 2004, chose to reelect George W. Bush as president. I have been very critical of his policies, economic, diplomatic and military. But I am unwilling to assume that I am so much smarter than the voting public that I will dismiss as worthless someone they have chosen as president of the United States.... My preference is for governors [as candidates for president]; I think running a government is good training for running a government. I also recognize that the current president makes that presumption harder to sustain...

Unable to remember that he had just said that we must respect the wisdom of the American people's choice of George W. Bush. The mouth is now locked around the wrist. The entire hand has now disappeared inside David Broder's mouth, and the slurping sounds are very unpleasant.

Let's click on the next search result:

May 3: Thankless Bipartisanship: "There are issues that are too big for either party to solve by itself," [Lamar] Alexander told me. "Globalization and competitiveness are two of them. Immigration is the next one on the agenda. And then there is health care." He pointed out that the bipartisan breakfast sessions that he and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have been hosting regularly this year have included discussions of health policy. As a byproduct of the breakfasts, "10 of us, five Republicans and five Democrats, have written the president saying that we are ready to work with him on a bill that has two principles -- universal coverage and private markets. We hope he responds." Iraq looms as the supreme test, of course... Alexander... says "it was a mistake" for the president not to seize on the Baker-Hamilton commission recommendations as the basis for a bipartisan answer to the dilemma of the war.... Meantime, Alexander has a gentle reminder for the press that our mind-set means that "unfortunately, bipartisan success, even on the biggest, most complex issues, has an excellent chance of remaining a secret. Despite the size of the accomplishment, the passage of the 208-page 'America Competes Act' was barely noticed by the major media. This is not a complaint, merely an observation. More than ever, the media, outside interest groups and party structures reward conflict and the taking of irreconcilable positions. There is little reward for reconciling principled positions into legislation"...

The 'America Competes Act' was not passed into law. It simply cleared the Senate by an 88-8 vote. It channels an additional $10 per American to the NSF each year. Don't get me wrong--boosting the NSF budget by an extra $10 per American is a good thing. But in the context of a federal budget of $7,000 per American per year, GDP of $40,000 per American per year, and Iraq war costs $500 per American per year--this 'America Competes Act' is not an outsized accomplishment, no matter how much David Broder approvingly quotes Lamar Alexander's claims that it is one.

David Broder's lips are wrapped around his elbow. The thumb, the hand, the wrist, and the forearm have disappeared inside David Broder's mouth. And we're only at the bottom of the first page of search results.

I'm sorry, Jonathan. But until you admit that David Broder is the biggest noisily-slurping arm-sucker stalking Pennsylvania Avenue today, you have no credibility.

Ezra Klein Is Shrill, But Not Shrill Enough

Ezra Klein writes:

Ezra Klein: Interesting!!: Michael Kinsley offers this throwaway line in an otherwise fun review of Hitchens' new book:

Under the unwritten and somewhat eccentric rules of American public discourse, a statement that contradicts everything you have ever said before is considered for that reason to be especially sincere, courageous and dependable...

It's remarkable that prominent journalists will simply admit that an easy way to attract a reputation for intellectual independence is to engage in an endless series of ideological repositionings, and this does not appear to give them pause. All due acclaim to Kinsley for writing it, but this is actually a problem, not just an endearing quirk in a noble profession. Kinsley, in fact, goes onto explain how Hitchens has made a career out of exploiting this loophole...

Shrill, Ezra, but not quite shrill enough. For Kinsley explains how he also made a career out of exploiting this loophole, and then found himself with a problem:

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything - Christopher Hitchens - Books - Review - New York Times: At The New Republic in the 1980s, when I was the editor, we used to joke about changing our name to “Even the Liberal New Republic,” because that was how we were referred to whenever we took a conservative position on something, which was often. Then came the day when we took a liberal position on something and we were referred to as “Even the Conservative New Republic.” As this example illustrates, among writers about politics, the surprise technique usually means starting left and turning right. Trouble is, you do this once and what’s your next party trick?...

Get shriller, Ezra.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Local Paper is Shrill

Dead Canadians tell no tales. Or better, there are no tales about dead Canadians:

Find the dead Canadians, A Register-Guard Editorial Published: Thursday, May 10, 2007: Here's a suggestion for a way to troubleshoot the U.S. Senate's gutting of legislation that would have allowed consumers to purchase prescription drugs from Canada and other industrialized nations: Begin with a dragnet for dead Canadians.

The bodies ought to be easy enough to find. With more than 33 million residents exposed to prescription drugs that U.S. senators believe are too dangerous to sell to Americans, Canadians must be dropping dead by the dozens while waiting in line for hockey tickets. That's reason enough for Americans to continue paying the highest prescription drug prices in the world.

Thank goodness, 49 safety-conscious members of the Senate on Monday had the courage to keep the plague of dead Canadians from spreading south into the American heartland.

OK, as far as anyone knows, no Canadians actually have died from taking Canadian prescription drugs, many of which are made in the United States and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And the FDA acknowledges that it can't find a single American who's been harmed by taking drugs purchased from licensed Canadian pharmacies.

But that doesn't mean it couldn't happen. Still, it seemed as if the bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, took great pains to address safety concerns. ...

That wasn't enough for Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, who added a "poison pill" amendment...

The Cochran amendment wasn't really about ensuring the safety of imported drugs. It was about protecting the profits of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, one of the biggest contributors to political campaigns. Once again, those contributions have paid off handsomely.

Alberto Gonzales Would Drive Anybody Shrill

He "hasn't thought" about habeas corpus:

Think Progress » Gonzales: ‘I Haven’t Really Thought About’ Habeas Corpus: Under the Bush administration, U.S. citizens can be detained as enemy combatants and arrested without being charged of any crime. At today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales whether any U.S. citizens are “being held today, for over a month, who have been denied habeas corpus or access to an attorney.” Instead of giving an answer, Gonzales replied, “[Y]ou’re asking me a question I hadn’t really thought about.” Sherman then followed up and asked whether there any “U.S. citizens being held now by foreign governments or foreign organizations, without access to attorneys, as a result of rendition.” Gonzales again said, “It’s just — quite frankly, I hadn’t thought about this.”

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Final Friedman?

Republican Representative John Boehner says we must have progress in Iraq, or support will fade among Republicans. Looks like Republicans are finally starting to reluctantly accept that it's time to start considering alternatives:

Sunday Sampler Platter, By Brian Knowlton, The Caucus: The biggest news from the Sunday talk shows was probably the declaration of doubt by the Republican leader of the House, Representative John Boehner, about whether his fellow Republican lawmakers would continue to support President Bush on Iraq if no progress is evident by early autumn.

On “Fox News Sunday” today, Mr. Boehner, warned today that unless progress is evident in Iraq by early fall, many Republican lawmakers would begin losing patience....

Mr. Boehner ... told Fox News, “By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B?”...

How do we decide if we need to go to plan B, that is, how can we tell if there is progress? According to Boehner, we set benchmarks. From Crooks & Liars:

BOEHNER: …I'm clearly for benchmarks. I had a benchmark proposal I introduced in January with a number of my colleagues that laid out benchmarks.

It laid out a way to measure the progress in Iraq. It required the president to report to Congress every 30 days. And the idea behind it was to try to measure the progress, intervene when you need to, to try to ensure success.[..] ...

And that's the whole point. I'm for benchmarks that are for success. I'm not for benchmarks with artificial timelines, yanking funds, trying to ensure that there's failure in Iraq.

WALLACE: So you would oppose benchmarks with teeth.

BOEHNER: I just don't think that's something that makes a lot of sense here. I'm for benchmarks. Let's measure the progress. Every month, you know, the administration can figure out, "All right, how do we want to go here?"

That is a bit confusing, isn't it? We can use benchmarks to measure progress, but not failure? Think Progress has more:

Last week, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) compared the war to a Cardinals-Cubs baseball game. Reinforcing the notion that conservatives are deeply out of touch with the realities of the war, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today compared Iraq to the small plastics and packaging company he used to run in Ohio.

Boehner used his analogy to justify setting teethless benchmarks for the Iraqi government. “I owned a small business. I have benchmarks every month, but if I didn’t meet the benchmarks and if I missed the profit margin, I didn’t shut down the business. I didn’t yank the funds and close up the door.” ...

Let me see if I have this right. You set a benchmark. If you exceed it, you go to the airwaves and say "See, we were right, the surge is working!" But if you miss the benchmarks, no big deal, just reset them:

Mr. Bush acknowledges that these benchmarks are important. Yet he refuses to insist, or let Congress insist, that Baghdad achieve them or face real consequences. Each time Baghdad fails a test, Mr. Bush lowers his requirements and postpones his target dates — the kind of destructive denial Mr. Bush called, in another context, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Kevin Drum has an opinion:

No more Friedmans after September? That's what Jonathan Weisman and Thomas Ricks suggest in the Washington Post today...

When September rolls around Gen. David Petraeus is almost certain to report that things are tough but progress is being made on the ground. And he'll have metrics of some kind to back him up. What else is he going to do, after all? You can almost write his script right now.

But political progress? There are virtually no positive signs right now, and after 18 months of stalling it's unlikely that 18 more weeks are going to make a difference. What's more, I'm inclined to think that there are at least a handful of moderate Republicans who are genuinely serious about abandoning Bush this time around. This time, it looks like six months might really mean six months.

Artrios issues the shrill bottom line:

Friedman Forever: The WaPo is crystallizing September as the supposed Iraq drop dead date for Bush. But it won't be. A few more Republicans will be peeled off, but that's it. The major Republican presidential candidates will still be telling people that if we leave Iraq the terra ists will be hanging out at their local Applebees. Bush is going to cling to his pet war until the end. Movement conservatives will set up yet another stupid web site about victory. Bill Kristol and the rest of the conservative pundits will still be on board.

It ain't gonna magically end in September.

Unfortunately, I think that's probably right.