I'm going to be joining the big boys at Crooked Timber. I don't have a Ph.D and I'm not an academic, so I'm going to be the Peter Criss to their rest of KISS. My first post is up, and it's really long.
If you haven't blogrolled Crooked Timber yet, what a great time to start!
The gang at Crooked Timber sink their teeth into the same Randy Barnett column ("Left Living a Lie?") that I did, and it is beautiful. (Randy Barnett has an update here, which is hard to summarize; I think he wants to maintain a reputation as a reasonable righty without actually admitting that he was wrong about anything.)
Eugene (Volokh) attacks a Slate column which argues that conservatives in general — Ann Coulter, right-wing intellectuals, the White House, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all — are a monolithic unit differentiated only by their willingness to say what they really believe... Eugene is properly outraged that someone would be so stupid or spiteful as to lump responsible conservatives like him in with Ann Coulter. He persuasively argues that when someone does this “it’s hard to give much credit to the rest of his moral — or logical — judgment.” Too true, Eugene. You should send Randy an email with a link to your blog or something — he’d really benefit from reading it.
(Demolishing lame essays that ask "Why is the Left Old and Busted While The Right is Fresh New Hotness?" are a Kieran specialty. He's got two my favorite blog-related quotes here:
Daniel says his story is “developing”. I will stay tuned for further installments, which I imagine will include such pressing questions as, “Why are Conservatives More Fun than Liberals?”, “Why does the Left Score Lower on IQ Tests than the Right?”, and “When did the Left Stop Beating its Wife?”
Big Dumb Generalizations like Barnett’s have two dead give-aways. First of all, they talk in grand terms about the Left (or the Right) as if it were some sort of groupthink monolith, where all speak for one, and one speaks for all. This rhetorical trick allows them to take some fringe notion advanced by an Indymedia crackpot as incontrovertible evidence that everyone to the left of Barry Goldwater is living on Pluto. Second, as Kieran makes clear, their tendentious generalizations are usually reversible so that it’s trivially easy to swap around the “good” Right and the “bad” Left. For example, a leftie could just as easily write an agitprop article about how “the Right” was living in a dream world in which the administration hadn’t made false claims about Iraq’s nukes and al Qaeda links, Bush had won a majority of the popular vote, John Lott had real figures to prove that more guns equal less violence, &c; &c.;
The point isn’t that rightwingers do this more than leftwingers; the blame falls pretty evenly on both sides. Nor is it that myths shouldn’t be deflated. It’s that tendentious generalizations about either “the Left” or “the Right” as collectivities of the brainwashed, labouring under false consciousness, are themselves harmful mythologies. They’re precisely a means to avoid confronting the arguments of the other side, so that you don’t have to acknowledge that your intellectual antagonists may sometimes have good points.
Henry and I are on a similar wavelength. For what it's worth, here's an email that I sent to Randy Barnett:
I just posted something about your essay, "Left Living a Lie?" on my blog. I personally am on the liberal side of the spectrum, and as you might imagine, I didn't think much of it.
I'm sure that you could imagine a similar essay written by, say, Eric Alterman. Alterman might start with the premise that conservatives live in a socially constructed world. He might list some beliefs that he attributes to conservatives but personally believes are incorrect.
For example, he might write, "Bill Clinton's administration was more corrupt than Ronald Reagan's administration. Ronald Reagan proved that supply-side economics work; after he cut taxes, revenues doubled. The Bush administration doesn't need to explain how CIA analyst Valerie Plame had her cover blown by senior administration officials. We should be spending billions on missile defense as an anti-terrorist strategy. Joe McCarthy was a decent and effective anti-Communist."
You might agree with some of these propositions, and think some are very unfair. But the point is not to be fair, or even accurate; the point is to show a cartoon version of conservatism that liberals could feel superior to. Alterman wouldn't bother to argue with these supposed conservative propostions; he'd just assert that they are lies. He could go on to speculate about how conservatives are deluded liars, just as you did. It wouldn't be especially illuminating, and I can't imagine that it would change your beliefs in the slightest. But I'm sure that he'd get a lot of appreciative emails from liberals who love to have their beliefs affirmed.
Ann Coulter's success shows that there's a market for writers who show contempt for their political opponents. But they do very little to advance and elevate political discourse. I wish that you would aim a little higher.
You may have heard of Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr., the newly-famous ex-aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. He was fired for emailing an obnoxious, poorly spelled, expletive-laden rant to his ex-girlfriend.
Tripplehorn's e-mail, titled "you suck," featured such literary gems as: "I was planning on ruining your career by making phone calls to all of my parents [sic] friends and have you blackballed from the workplace as well as every prestigous [sic] law school in the country, but then (lucky for you) I decided not to do that because you are a sad sad person and I will just let your life self destruct right before my eyes. . . . I am sorry, I don't care how big of [a] sadistic [expletive] crush you have on me but people like me simple [sic] don't date people like you."
Just a few points. (I swear, I can quit any time...):
- If I could wipe one meme out of lefty blogs and media, it would be this: "The mission that killed Saddam's sons was a failure because it killed them instead of capturing them." In a perfect world, we would have captured these guys alive, and it would have been a major intelligence coup, and I would be living large off of the $30 million reward I got from the Nigerian heir who just emailed me.
In the real world, we're losing one or more soldiers in Iraq every day. One of the most important ways of keeping the body count down is to avoid unnecessary risks. If a group of our soldiers are surrounding a house with Saddam's sons inside, they couldn't confidently know how many people are inside, what arms they have, if the place is booby-trapped, etc. I see no reason to assume that they'd let themselves be captured.
Invading a house full of armed killers and trying to take them alive is insanely dangerous. The commanders made the choice to reduce the threat to their troops by killing the enemy, and I see no reason to second-guess them.
- This essay, "Left Living a Lie?" by Randy Barnett, is one of the most useless things I've read in weeks.
It's about how the left has "socially constructed" a reality. Mr. Barnett can tell this because, unlike the right, the left believes things that he doesn't agree with. Barnett has prepared a long string of statements that he's sure represent the thinking of the 100-150 million Americans who represent the "left". Some are fair, some are strawmen, some are fringe positions, and some are just nuts. (I know a lot of people on the left, and I don't know a single one who thinks "the 'homeless' problem immediately vanished when Clinton took office". I don't know anyone who thinks Cuba is a better place than the U.S. I don't know anyone who thinks Alger Hiss was innocent. Etc., etc., etc.)
He doesn't deign to argue with these positions. Instead, his argument proceeds from the proposition that "Given that these positions are all lies, what does it say about the people who believe them?" Left-wing positions, you see, are not honest differences of opinion, and they're not matters of interpretation. They're lies. (Ironically, he writes this whole essay in defense of the truthfulness of Bush's State of the Union speech. After some frantic parsing from the President's defenders about what the word "lie" means, it seems that Mr. Barnett has an answer: A lie is what a liberal says.)
With unblemished confidence in his premises, Mr. Barnett logically comes to the conclusion that we're all insane, and wonders about the toll that living these lies must have on us lefties.
How can intelligent people sustain these false beliefs seemingly indefinitely? This must take some toll on them inside. But what exactly is the price they pay internally or emotionally for living in an artificially constructed reality? Perhaps it is actually easier, rather than more difficult, to live in a world of facts that reinforce one’s predilections.
In my experience, people who hate liberals should avoid writing essays about "what liberals think"; likewise with conservatives. They always say more about the person writing them than the intended target. At their best, they are spectacularly unconvincing. (I can't imagine that Mr. Barnett would be enlightened by a list of "conservative beliefs" prepared by, say, Hesiod.) At their worst (see above), they're Coulterish exercises in self-deception.
If you want to argue with cartoons, stay home and yell at SpongeBob.
- Dwight Merideth has two sterling posts (here and here) about the conservative belief that can control the deficit without raising taxes if we just cut out frivolous spending on pork-barrel projects. It can't be done. Pork-barrel spending absolutely should be cut. But the deficit is larger than the sum of all non-military discretionary spending. If the federal government did nothing but fund the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt, we'd still be in deficit. (That's obviously assuming that all discretionary spending has no effect on revenues, which is a little silly.)
- Mark Kleiman is the place to go for updates about the Valerie Plame case. (If you're conservative and have never heard of Valerie Plame, don't worry. In your socially constructed world, nothing happened.)
Parting is such sweet sorrow that Andrew Sullivan can't bear to do it. Today he publishes a letter from a reader who imagines how the NY Times would have played the deaths of Qusay and Uday were the dreaded Howell Raines still at the helm...
When, I ask, will we finally be free from the bias inflicted by make-believe liberal elites?
And Sven has a brilliant follow-up comment:
That's funny, because I just finished reading the imaginary Times story about the emerging Valerie Plame scandal.
I have some very good news. I got an attractive job offer this week. I need to speak to a few people, but odds are that I'll be taking it and going back to work very soon.
I want to offer my sincere gratitude to bloggers and readers who helped get the word out; it was a tremendous networking asset. I have to offer special thanks to Instapundit for his help, especially as it came after some pretty harsh criticism from me.
If I forgot anyone, I apologize and will update this as soon as possible.
I also got some invaluable advice and networking help from a number of commentators, especially Barry, Bill, and Aziz Poonawalla.
Now the bad news. I strongly suspect that that I'm going to severely cut back on my blogging, possibly to nothing. I could see running this blog like, say, PLA, posting something a few times a week. I could also see stopping entirely. Right now, there's not a lot that I could say that isn't being handled better by Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Billimon, and a dozen other hard-working bloggers, so that's no big loss.
UPDATE: I'd also like to say that Bob Somersby is an amazingly principled commentator, and we're lucky he's willing to put up the Daily Howler every day. I don't actually think that he's right, for reasons I may or may not get to, but I'm glad to see that he's thinking critically.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden has an incredibly good point in the comments to this post:
By the way, he said to nobody in particular, I wouldn't support a political movement that I felt was constantly telling me that most Americans are fools and knaves.
The thing about democracy is that, if you pay a lot of attention to current events, you will find yourself in disagreement with "most people" a great deal of the time. This is because "most people" have other things on their minds. If you want to conclude from this that they're mostly "dittoheads," "attack dogs," or "underinformed", well, you're free to, even though this is exactly the kind of talk Karl Rove likes to see coming out of liberal mouths. Demonstrating patent contempt for one's fellows isn't really a very effective way of convincing anyone of anything.
Politics is work. Part of the work involves being "happy warriors," including when we don't feel like it. A reliably salient characteristic of work is that if we don't do it, the opposition will.
That's it from me for a few days. Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July, everyone. No matter what happens, we're still lucky to live in the greatest country the world has ever seen, so whoop it up.
There are times when I genuinely hate blogging, and wish that I'd never heard of it. This is not one of those times. I'm very, very grateful for the support from people reading this site. Both your kind words and (especially) your specific leads mean a lot to me.
As I've been reminded, the Chinese character for "crisis" combines the characters for both "opportunity" and "losing your house." Here's hoping that this crisis represents more of the former, less of the latter.
I've had a few requests that I keep folks informed about how I'm doing, and while this isn't a personal blog, I'll try to do that. Already I've had some promising feedback from prospects, and I feel pretty good about the future. However, I've got to concentrate on the job search for the immediate future, and I'd already planned a Fourth of July trip before I was laid off. So regular blogging will have to be on hold for a little while.
Here's a teaser. I've called the National Review, American Prospect, New Republic, Weekly Standard, and the Nation to find out how they do fact-checking. I'll let you know what they said next week.
If you know of anyone in the Houston area who would be interested in a quantitative analyst with experience in health care, commodities and market research, with skills in SPSS and SQL (for example), don't hesitate to contact me at edwardbarlow at aol.com
Could Anthony Scalia be any gayer? Why isn't he posting in the Corner -- he's that gay.
UPDATE: Just a thought. In the most quoted line in Scalia's dissent, he said:
Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.
But if the court had signed on to the "so-called homosexual agenda," it would have embraced the equal-rights argument, rather than simply defining a zone of privacy around consensual sexual activity. Some people are arguing that the results could be used to assert a right for same-sex marriage. That's probably true. However, a decision based on an equal-rights argument would have unambiguously opened that door. Furthermore, it could be used to force the addition of homosexuality as a protected class to anti-discriminatory laws in hiring and housing. That's the homosexual agenda. Sodomy laws are an insult and a thorn in the side, but they're rarely invoked.
It's worth pointing out that Scalia was so angry about this that he took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench. It's also worth pointing out that Bush has described Scalia as his ideal Supreme Court Justice.
UPDATE: I shouldn't giggle this off just because a certain law professor's bad behavior. The buried nuclear plans are potentially a reasonably important piece of news, and if the story is still holding up in a few days I'll say something about them. My first thoughts are that these plans would not really provide support for the war as it was fought, and they wouldn't clear the Bush administration of charges of deceiving the public. I agree with Josh Marshall's assesment:
We knew the Iraqis had a pre-1991 nuclear weapons program. We knew there were probably parts from it hidden around the country in various stages of preservation or disrepair. If anything this finding seems to present some positive evidence that no effort to reconstitute the program was ever made -- though one would definitely want a lot more evidence to arrive at any conclusive judgment.
They would, on the other hand, provide support for a Kenneth Pollack-esqe argument that Iraq was eventually going to be a threat, and that a multilateral effort to take Saddam out would be in our interest. I don't think that it would provide enough evidence, especially considering what we seem to know know about the state of the Iraqi WMD program, but it would certainly strengthen the point.
(The senior administration official) said U.S. officials consider this a "significant development" that demonstrates the challenge of uncovering Iraq's weapons and programs. "We can't dig up every garden in the country," he said.
I'm making a "W" sign with my fingers right now, which signifies me saying "Whatever." Chemical and biological weapons need to be carefully climate controlled, quickly lose their potency, and have to be delivered via actual weapons. Otherwise, they're just liquids and gases of minor destruction. Nuclear weapons need an even bigger operation. We have nothing to fear from a WMD program that can be buried in a bunch of goddamn gardens.
As you may know, Michael Savage has sued a few small independent websites to harass them for making fun of him. Neal Pollack has encouraged as many websites as possible to make fun of Michael Savage today. To that end, I'm going to post Onion-style headlines as I think of them.
Michael Savage, Ann Coulter to be Crossbred to Create "Worst Pundit Ever," says Spokesman For The Initiative
New Michael Savage Book Nothing But String Of Ethnic Slurs
Hispanic Woman Who Spurned Michael Savage in 8th Grade Offers Tearful Apology To Nation
Michael Savage Cries Self To Sleep Over Photoshopped Picture of Self On FARK
Since it's a UN operation in the Congo, the French government isn't running it. I don't see how it can be interpreted the way you see it. It seems to me that he is saying that the soldiers on the ground are cowards who will run in the face of danger, and he knows this because they are French. It's a childish slur on a nationality, and a disgraceful insult to soldiers who are trying to stop a bloody civil war that we're ignoring. It really made me mad.
Etc., etc. You get my point- if Glenn Reynolds says Galloway was defending Saddam's interests, that doesn't mean anything. He says stuff like that about every opponent of the war.
If Galloway was taking bribes from Iraq to oppose the war, that's treason, and he should go to jail. If he wasn't, he was expressing a political opinion that was shared by the majority of British voters. To say that either scenario proves that he should never hold office in a civilized country is absolutely ridiculous.
UPDATE: I should point out that Kevin Drum, Andrew Northrup and Matt Weiner have comments that undercut this argument somewhat. (I know the comments say "0"; I can't explain it.) Kevin and Matt argue that you could make a reasonable point that Galloway has made statements supporting Saddam, and Andrew points out that the French soldiers in the Congo are not exactly UN peacekeepers, but more of "a French-led coalition a les willing (said with a comedy French waiter accent). "
Steve at Begging to Differ has a long, thoughtful analysis of the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision. There's a lot to chew on here. Although I disagree with Steve on the desirability of a totally race-blind admissions policy, I find myself agreeing with much of Steve's conclusion, especially this part:
While the Court shuns specific numerical goals and percentages, I wonder how else society is supposed to tell when the work of affirmative action is done. Won't we have to look at percentages to know when race preferences are no longer necessary? And if so, won't this create perverse incentives for opponents as well as advocates of race preferences to cook the books?
As I see it, this is the central problem with affirmative action jurisprudence today. Quotas are regarded as "patently unconstitutional," but we have to measure progress somehow. The Court implicitly notes that we must examine numbers and percentages by highlighting the "substantial numbers" of Asians and Jews who enroll at Michigan, thereby not requiring affirmative action.
For the record, Dick Gephardt said an enormously stupid thing:
When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day.
Quite obviously, nuh uh. The President doesn't get to issue executive orders to overrule the Supreme Court, and we should be damn glad he can't. The Supreme Court is designed to be more or less insulated from political pressures, while the elected Presidency is designed to be responsive to them. Our elected representatives, much as we revere them, have a history of passing popular but unconstitutional legislation. (I think Get Your War On put it best when it said "They'd hold a bald-eagle-fucking competition if they thought it would get them more votes.")
Gephardt has been in the federal government for hundreds of years now, so he knows this. I don't know if it was an off-the-cuff pander or a planned pander or a misstatment of another point (I can't imagine what), but it's the kind of thing that savvy politicans apologize for in a hurry.
Ogged at Unfogged is Iranian, with strong ties to Iran, and he has some things to say about what's going on. We'd do well to read them. For example:
Do not support the Iran Democracy Act. The people lined up for the money this bill promises are the Monarchists and the MKO. If someone proposes a bill to fund NITV and other Iranian stations, support that. If someone proposes a bill to fund human rights groups in Iran, support that. But Iran doesn't need external opposition groups. There are good and brave people aplenty in Iran. There are the ones you can see, in the streets. And there are the ones you can't see, who have been fighting the mullahs while the rest of us were going about our business. They are in the jails and this is their revolution.
There's a bunch of good stuff up at This Modern World, including two items that I'd like to think would drive libertarians away from the Republican party for a good while.
About the recent shift of a criminal suspect to "enemy combatant" status:
"You shouldn't be allowed to switch tracks like they're doing," Mr. Dunham said in an interview. "That's how you get into the abuse of threatening criminal defendants, suggesting that 'if you don't pleaded guilty to this charge or that charge, we're going to declare you an enemy combatant and lock you up forever.' " [Italics mine.]
The criminal justice system is good enough for Eric Rudolph. It's good enough for Iyman Faris. It was good enough for the Rosenbergs, Earl Pitts, Robert Hansson, "the Falcon and the Snowman," Aldrich Ames, Brian Patrick Regan, and five freshly-convicted Cuban spiesjust a few months ago, among others. We got this far just fine without destroying the basic precepts of the U.S. Constitution.
The dangers of the Bush adminstrations's invented policy of entirely extrajudicial, legally-fuzzed-over, non-criminal, non-POW, variably-defined "enemy combatant" status should be obvious.
About "free speech zones":
By definition, such enclosures make the rest of any such important gathering a non-free-speech zone. Protest that no one can see or hear is meaningless. (Just try to imagine the Civil Rights movement or Martin Luther King's speech outside the UN in an era of "free speech zones.") This cannot by any conceivable argument be the purpose of the First Amendment.
Horrifying enough, right? But at least in 2000, when I personally got hassled by police at both conventions for doing little more than walking past the "free speech" areas with a mic and a video camera in my hands, you weren't prosecuted for federal offenses merely for speaking your mind. You got a dirty look. Maybe, in a few cases, you spent a few nights in jail or even caught a rubber bullet or two. All plenty objectionable enough. But you didn't get charged with a federal f***ing offense.
That has changed...
If a guilty verdict gets upheld through the courts (I think hell will be raised first, but who knows), then -- seriously, this is the logical consequence, the line being drawn here -- anyone protesting Bush within his sight (if the Secret Service so chooses) could be imprisoned on federal charges for doing so outside whatever arbitrary zone they're supposed to be in.
I'm still getting re-adjusted to your Earth "gravity" and "sunlight". Back to regular posting soon, I'm sure.
I've got to say, Instapundit genuinely used to be better than this:
If Galloway was defending Saddam's interests because he was being paid off, or if he was doing so out of genuine sympathy for a mass-murdering dictator. Either way, Galloway seems unfit to hold office in a civilized country, and it surprises me that anyone on the left would feel moved to defend him.
You see, Galloway opposed the war on Iraq. So either he was bribed, or he feels sympathy for mass-murdering dictators, or.... yep, I guess Glenn's pretty well exhausted the possibilities!
You're eyeball-deep in The Way Things Ought To Be when you can say something like that with a straight face. Even if Galloway is completely innocent of any charges, the fact that he opposed the war means that he's "unfit to hold office in a civilized country." What touching faith he holds in representative democracy.
I'm going to be away from the internet entirely until Sunday night. Please enjoy the many fine blogs in the left-hand column.
Three links before I go:
- Buzzflash's interview with John Dean is highly, highly recommended. John Dean was Nixon's counsel during Watergate, and he recently published an article exploring whether Bush might be subject to impeachment if he was lying about Iraqi WMD. If I was a conservative, I'd be tempted not to read this. I think that you should.
- Arthur Silber has a long post about his frustration with the contemporary state of political discourse. I've recently realized that he's not in the blogroll, for which I apologize.
- Please welcome Screeching Weasel frontman and songwriter Ben Weasel to the blogosphere.
Readers may feel free to plug their blogs in the comments.
A family friend fought in WW2 as part of Merrill’s Marauders in Burma. Merrill’s Marauders was an all-volunteer fighting group that fought behind Japanese lines in Burma and India:
The Marauders were foot soldiers who marched and fought through jungles and over mountains from the Hukawng Valley in northwestern Burma to Myitkyina on the Irrawaddy River. In 5 major and 30 minor engagements they met and defeated the veteran soldiers of the Japanese 18th Division. Operating in the rear of the main forces of the Japanese, they prepared the way for the southward advance of the Chinese by disorganizing supply lines and communications. The climax of the Marauders' operations was the capture of the Myitkyina airfield, the only all-weather strip in northern Burma. This was the final victory of the 5307th Composite Unit, which was disbanded in August, 1944.
The Marauders’ experiences were unique and not often explained or portrayed in print or film like the European or Pacific Island theaters were. They fought exclusively behind enemy lines and only with airdrop support. Out of 2,750 men who started out at the beginning, only 200 were left for the final mission. They were joined by Chinese troops and native Kachin soldiers, and for the final mission replacement troops, but think of that, over 2,500 men killed or otherwise taken out of the theater within a mere 7 months. And then, being one of the survivors, Bob was sent to Europe.
As with most of the stuff I get by email, I promptly forgot about it, and I'm sorry. It's a good cause, and the world would be a a slightly better place if this movie was made. (And Tim is disappointed at the lack of reaction, which I can understand.) If I can be a (very) small part of helping it get off the ground, then I should do that.
Tim doesn't need my advice about how to make a movie; it looks like he's done it, and I haven't. However, if he hasn't read Joe Queenan's The Unkindest Cut, he might find it a good read. (Capsule summary: Joe Queenan sets out to try to make a movie for $7000, gets heavily involved with it, and ends up spending $100,000 by the time he's done.)
Nearly everyday, there's something written on the Internet about me that's flat out untrue. And I'm not alone. Nearly every famous person in the country's under siege... The reason these net people get away with all kinds of stuff is that they work for no one. They put stuff up with no restraints. This, of course, is dangerous, but it symbolizes what the Internet is becoming.
You see, we hurt him with our words, and then his shoes flew off. No, wait, that's the Jerky Boys.
The interesting thing to me is that Bill O'Reilly is a wildly successful conservative pundit. He has the top-rated show on Fox and has sold hundreds of thousands of books. He's a genuine player. And yet I can't think of a time that I've seen a right-wing blogger say something nice about him. From Stephen Green to Virginia Postrel to Glenn Reynolds to Eugene Volokh to John Cole to James Lileks, nobody seems to like him.
I'm almost certain to regret posting this link, but you can watch the lone music video, "Palabras", from my old band here. I was the lead singer (a.k.a., I'm the guy who's flat for half the dang song) so you'll get a lot of me.
Upon reflection, the Iranian government will likely conclude that a psychological war offers considerable advantages over the other kind. Indeed it seems possible that their desire to avoid the shooting kind of war will motivate North Korea and Iran to come to the table and agree to play nice, at least for a while. Such is the ham-handed reality of hyperpower diplomacy.
Where would we stand with the axis of evil if Bush had blinked on Iraq? While we may all agree in principle it is best to avoid war, in this instance winning one war may help us avoid two.
I emphatically don't buy the line that we've got two wars in the docket with the remaining Axis of Evil, but I'll let that slide.
I don't think that this argument will work with regards to North Korea, which actually has nuclear missiles that it can use as a deterrent. (Or so I've heard; I've got to start qualifying these statements.) We're not going to attack a nuclear armed state unless there's a mind-blowingly good reason. So the fact that we went to war in Iraq is probably not going to give Kim too many sleepless nights.
In Iran, there may be more of a case, but it probably depends on the next few months of occupation. If Iraq is the ungovernable tar baby that many of us are afraid of, it may not be credible to think that we'd want to grab more tar. If, on the other hand, we appear to be on the way to turning Iraq* into a relatively stable, democratic society, then the leadership of Iran should be ready to give us any damn thing we want if they were smart.
If you need a pick-me-up, and you have a high-speed connection, you could do worse than clicking here and watching the Avalanches video for "Frontier Psychiatrist." It's friggin' brilliant.
If you're feeling too lethargic, you might want to click on Arthur Silber's blog. I've commented before that Arthur Silber reads more like a prestige magazine than a typical chuckleheaded blog, so when he gets this angry, it makes an impact.
I am very bitter, and very, very angry -- but not surprised. It is long past time for many pro-war hawks to look in the mirror -- and to finally say what they have demanded endlessly of everyone who disagreed with them: I'm sorry.
I wonder if there's a way the blogosphere can help. Maybe some kind of "Freedom in Iran Day," where we all pledge to write about the struggle, link to Persian and Iranian websites and blogs, and generally send out a webby gesture of solidarity. This revolution may not be televised. But it sure will be blogged.
This strikes me not only as arrogant, but also kind of lazy. Imagine the blogosphere in civil rights era: "Hey, everyone, you've got to link to this article about lunch counter sit-ins!" Though I admit that I would have much preferred a blogosphere approach during, say, The Crusades.
To say that this sort of blog is "one of the most reliable forms of news out there," then, is a little like calling the person who delivers your pizza a great chef, or dubbing your librarian a prolific author.
Seven months later, Max Cleland can finally talk about it.
Oh please, just get over it.
I love the next paragraph
The former U.S. senator from Georgia likened his stunning re-election defeat to the moment in Vietnam when a grenade explosion ripped away his legs and part of an arm.
What, you mean that his losing the election reminded him of his tossing a handgrenade around like it was a toy? - Yes, that is how he got injured in Vietnam - he was P L A Y I N G with a grenade. Idiot. And then he spends the next 20 or so years playing off his injury as if he "earned" it while fighting for his country.
On April 8, 1968, I volunteered for one last mission. The helicopter moved in low. The troops jumped out with M16 rifles in hand as we crouched low to the ground to avoid the helicopter blades. Then I saw the grenade. It was where the chopper had lifted off. It must be mine, I thought. Grenades had fallen off my web gear before. Shifting the M16 to my left hand and holding it behind me, I bent down to pick up the grenade.
A blinding explosion threw me backwards.
I'm trying to think of something lower than mocking a triple amputee Vietnam veteran - calling him an "idiot" and a "fuck-off"- on the basis of a story that you can't be bothered to check. I can't.
Speaking of stupid lies about the Clintons, Joe Conason essentially called Dick Morris a liar on Thursday. Morris had recently published a story that said that Clinton had tried to beat him up in 1990. "You" in this passage is Hillary Clinton:
"Bill ran after me, tackled me, threw me to the floor of the kitchen in the mansion and cocked his fist back to punch me. You grabbed his arm and, yelling at him to stop and get control of himself, pulled him off me. Then you walked me around the grounds of the mansion in the minutes after, with your arm around me, saying, 'He only does that to people he loves.'"
As Conason points out, Morris had described the same incident in his 1997 book, and didn't mention a cocked punch, or the line about "people he loves":
"Clinton charged up behind me as I stalked toward the door, grabbed me from behind, and wrapped his arms around me to stop me from leaving. I slipped to the floor. Hillary helped me to my feet. The moment I stood up, Clinton became apologetic. 'Don't go, don't go, I'm sorry. Don't go, I'm sorry,' he said as I walked out the door, slamming it behind me. Hillary ran after me to calm me down. She put her arm around me and walked me around the grounds of the mansion. 'Please forgive him,' she pleaded. 'He's under so much pressure. He didn't mean it. He's very sorry. He's overtired, he hasn't slept well in days. He's not himself. He values you. He needs you,' she repeated."
Conason further explains:
In the 1997 book, Morris goes on to criticize competitors who tried to use the story against Clinton by distorting it. "I relate the Arkansas incident here not because it seems relevant to his ability to serve in office but because it did affect our relationship and because it's time to put the exaggerations to rest. By 1994, the story had been transformed to the point that Clinton was supposed to have punched me." In other words, he was ... setting the record straight.
So he was lying then, or he's lying now.
Over the weekend, there was an exchange of letters posted at Salon between Morris and Conason. You're going to have to take my word for it, because I can't find the link anywhere. [UPDATE: Here it is.] Morris wrote in and said that in 1997 he was "covering for the Clintons." Which is to say, he's stated that he was lying.
I've actually read Blinded by the Right. Many on the right were eager to write Brock off, because he was an admitted liar. Fair enough. But in the whole book, there's only one time that he says that he intentionally put something in print that he knew was incorrect. (He said that Clarence Thomas didn't have a history of renting pornography, when he knew that he did.) That's the same number of lies that Dick Morris has admitted he has intentionally, knowingly made.
Would anyone care to make an argument about why Dick Morris is more trustworthy than David Brock?
The Daily Howler has been on a new book by Margaret Carlson (here,here,here,and here) that may be the most stupid and worthless recent political book not by Ann Coulter or Michael Savage. Here's my favorite part:
CARLSON (page 150): Hillary, too, could talk anyone into the ground. One night very late in New Delhi, Joe Klein, then at Newsweek, and I got a joint interview with the First Lady. She used up our time with chatter about the Taj Mahal and the ambassador’s gardens—all about as newsworthy as someone showing you slides from their summer vacation. About midnight, an aide showed us the door, literally. Our time was up. Valiantly, Klein reeled her back in with a question about health-care reform. As we descended into the swamps of single-payer insurance and Klein’s very own plan for universal health care, I leaned against the open door—and fell asleep. I woke up when my notebook clattered to the floor, embarrassed that jet lag had struck so hard, but unworried that any news had been committed.
The sheer stupidity of this anecdote simply leaps off the page. Just follow Carlson’s idea flow. First, she complains when Hillary doesn’t talk policy. Then, when Hillary does discuss policy, Carlson instantly falls asleep. When she awakes, she snidely says that she’s certain she didn’t miss anything. In this episode, Mrs. Clinton stays up well past midnight to speak with Carlson, but Carlson can only find fault with her conduct. As with other bizarre Clinton-haters who have made such a joke of our national discourse, Mrs. Clinton is damned in this book if she does—and Mrs. Clinton is damned in this book if she doesn’t. Amazingly, Carlson fails to see how stupid she looks in the process. Clinton “used up our time,” she sniffs, displaying her astounding hauteur.
My second favorite is the part where she criticizes Hillary for calling Chris Matthews, who was hospitalized for malaria, because she talked about malaria:
CARLSON (page 151): All that chatter helps Hillary take the personal and make it impersonal. Last summer, talk show host Chris Matthews was in critical condition at Sibley Hospital in Washington, stricken by malaria, and just after he was out of intensive care, Hillary called...
Let’s stop right there for a moment. As most readers know, Matthews had trashed Mrs. Clinton for years by the time of his illness last summer. During her New York Senate campaign, he behaved with exceptional rudeness to her press spokesman, Howard Wolfson, when Wolfson appeared on Hardball (12/7/99). He then misrepresented the things Wolfson said during a string of subsequent programs. But now Chris Matthews was sick in bed, and Mrs. Clinton was calling to wish him well. And Margaret Carlson knew what this showed. It showed Mrs. Clinton’s bad character!
CARLSON (continuing directly): But after a half-minute of personal conversation, she launched into a treatise on malaria, its causes and its cures, its prevalence in the Third World and what Congress should do about it. All this to a deathly ill man, who might have welcomed a joke, or two, or a piece of news from the cloakroom of the Senate. Not that he didn’t appreciate the gesture.
Is this an accurate account of the phone call to Matthews? Here at THE HOWLER, we don’t have a clue. After all, this is the same Margaret Carlson who doctored that quote by President Clinton; pretended that the Clintons got Webb Hubbell thrown in jail; implied that the Clintons caused Vince Foster’s death; and offered readers that curious account of Fake Hillary on her way to the Vineyard. Meanwhile, did Matthews appreciate the senator’s gesture? We can’t judge that either. But Carlson is now a stock Clinton-hater, and she used the senator’s phone call to launch some hackneyed propaganda. Her picture of Clinton’s lecturing call is straight from the Clinton-hater’s handbook. In this pointless incident, Hillary Clinton was nice enough to call a man who had trashed her for years. In response, the dogged Carlson got busy churning the latest “hate Hillary” foolishness.
Not all, but quite a few, conservative pundits have debased their coin with ridiculous or false stories about Hillary over the years. So when I have been seen that Hillary stories, time after time after time, are just stupid bullshit, I am far less motivated to listen. I just don't see the point in diggin through buckets of garbage to find the legitimate arguments. I avoid hearing some legitimate criticisms of her, which is bad. But I also avoid banging my head against the wall, which is good.
"The administration wasn't matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."...
"Counterterrorism is like a team sport. The game is deadly. There has to be offense and defense," Beers said. "The Bush administration is primarily offense, and not into teamwork."
In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that it won't be three days before Rand Beers, who served on the NSC under Reagan, Clinton, and both Bushes, is smeared. I'm going to go further out on a limb and guess that it won't be five days before we find out that the smears aren't true. And seven days later, the usual gang of idiots will still be repeating them.
Greg Beato has a very good post about Greg Packer, the guy who's been quoted as the "man on the street" over 100 times. He nicely captures why reading the big blogs, especially Instapundit and Kausfiles, may be worse that useless as a way to get your news.
UPDATE: The WSJ has a nice piece on Packer. Lacking the free reign that allowed bloggers Kaus and Reynolds to turn Packer's shenanigans into a boring blurt of keyjerk Times-bashing, WSJ reporter Matthew Rose was forced to present an accurate, interesting story. Advantage: Big Media!
- A number of conservatives have argued that the missing WMDs are a distraction from the real question. James Lileks says it as well as anyone:
In the long run, it's not what we don't find in Iraq. It's what doesn't happen.
No more mass executions. No new prisons for children. No bonus checks for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. No Terrorism 101 classes at Salman Pak. No electrodes applied to the daughter of a man who talked to CNN. No daily potshots at allied aircraft. No sudden sluice of fear in the hearts of the Kurds when the government trucks appear on the horizon. No miserable thuggish satrapy in the middle of the Middle East, thumbing its nose at the United Nations and the United States.
With the possible exception of the thinly- sourced "terrorism 101 classes at Salman Pak," these are all terrific benefits of the overthrow of Saddam. The problem is that these people don't like the answer to this question: "Did the Administration knowingly provide misleading or false statements about Iraqi WMDs to drum up support for the invasion?" They'd rather argue "Was it a good idea to overthrow Saddam?" But an argument for the second question doesn't answer the first question. Even if you supported the war, and even if you, personally, thought the war was justified on humanitarian grounds, that's not an answer to the first question.
Is it possible to excuse misleading the country if it's for a good cause? No, it really isn't. We are still a democracy, and our representatives are supposed to, you know, represent us. We the people should be determining what is a good cause, and we can't do it with misleading information. I've tried to write a counter-factual argument- "What if President Hillary used false numbers to justify a single-payer health plan", that sort of thing- but they don't work. They only underscores how dangerous, and how unique, any untrustworthiness based on military intelligence can be. On most issues, intelligent people can hear from experts on both sides and make up their own minds. That wasn't possible when it came to the debate about war on Iraq. We had to reassure ourselves that the Administration was seeing intelligence that we couldn't be allowed to see, and we had to trust that they were presenting it accurately. It seems bloody well clear* that they weren't.
If conservatives had a principled objection to the abuse of government power, this ought to be a big deal to them.
Other team leaders complained that most intelligence folders appeared to be based solely on analysis of satellite imagery. Again and again, the intelligence proved wildly off-base.
"The target folder for Uday's palace at Lake Habbaniyah was real clean," said U.S. Army Maj. Ronald Hann Jr., a highly decorated arms control expert who heads SST-6, referring to a complex for Hussein's older son. " 'There's the warehouse. There's the poison gas storage tanks.' Well, the warehouse was a carport. It still had two cars inside. And the tanks had propane for the kitchen."
A veteran U.S. intelligence official here said he is furious over the inaccurate intelligence reports that have sent weapons teams racing to a series of empty sites.
"I'm sitting here, and frustrated isn't the word anymore," said the official, who has a senior role in the hunt and spoke on condition of anonymity. "I feel almost duped."
A third of the American public believes U.S. forces have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll. Twenty-two percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons.
But such weapons have not been found in Iraq and were not used.
Before the war, half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001. But most of the Sept. 11 terrorists were Saudis; none was an Iraqi...
...Before the war, the U.S. media often reported as a fact the assertions by the Bush administration that Iraq possessed large stockpiles of illegal weapons.
During and after the war, reports of possible weapons discoveries were often trumpeted on front pages, while follow-up stories debunking the reports received less attention.
* My fiancee is going to kick my ass for allowing Britishisms to drop into the blog. You see the sacrifices I make for you people?
If you wanna change the world, shut your mouth and start this minute"- Cracker
I'd like to offer my unreserved admiration to Kos for the tremendous initial success of the Democratic fundraising effort ePatriots. In just the first seven hours, assuming that all contributors continue throughout the year, he's raised $20,000. I'm usually the first one to downplay the importance of bloggers, but he's actually doing something meaningful.
It should be surprising that the economics peddled by National Review is so awful. Why, in God's name, should this country's flagship conservative magazine be reduced to printing drivel by the likes of Bowyer (who genuinely does not know that the NAFTA tariff cuts were a very small fraction of the 1993 Clinton tax increases), Luskin (who can't be bothered to read a whole February 2003 CEA study using the Macroeconomic Associates model), Moore (who either does not understand the difference between nominal and real dollars, or is doing his best to give the impression of someone who does not understand the difference). Kudlow (who knows that he is a "monetarist", but has no clue which monetary aggregate the Federal Reserve should be trying to stabilize). There are, after all, lots of very good right-wing economists in this country. Why is National Review reduced to printing oceans of drivel?
Why not get some people who are smart, who know some economics, and who can count to write? Rich Clarida. Glenn Hubbard. Bob Topel. Kevin Murphy. Bob Lucas. Larry Christiano. Mark Bils. Virginia Postrel. Steve Postrel. Brink Lindsey. Bob Hall. That's eleven. All vastly, vastly superior to the current crop of clowns--people who think that the recent tax cut will create 500,000 new jobs each and every year for the next decade, who think that a millionaire in 1900 is comparable to a millionaire today, or that NAFTA was a bigger deal for the U.S. economy than the 1993 tax increase.
Maybe it's because I'm an immature jerk, but I never get tired of Corner parodies:
COLESLAW WITH YOUR CHICKENHAWK? [Jonah Goldberg] Ho-hum. Someone else called me a "chickenhawk." I remain unperturbed by all this chickenhawk nonsense. It’s like saying that anyone who’s never given birth should not teach lamaze. Or that deaf people shouldn’t have a say on noise ordinances. Check back later for more similes. Posted at 8:50 AM
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. military units assigned to track down Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have run out of places to look and are getting time off or being assigned to other duties, even as pressure mounts on President Bush to explain why no banned arms have been found.
After nearly three months of fruitless searches, weapons hunters say they are now waiting for a large team of Pentagon intelligence experts to take over the effort, relying more on leads from interviews and documents.
"It doesn't appear there are any more targets at this time," said Lt. Col. Keith Harrington, whose team has been cut by more than 30 percent. "We're hanging around with no missions in the foreseeable future."
Over the past week, his and several other teams have been taken off assignment completely. Rather than visit suspected weapons sites, they are brushing up on target practice and catching up on letters home.
Of the seven Site Survey Teams charged with carrying out the search, only two have assignments for the coming week - but not at suspected weapons sites.
Lt. Col. Ronald Haan, who runs team 6, is using the time to run his troops through a training exercise.
"At least it's keeping the guys busy," he said.
The slowdown comes after checks of more than 230 sites - drawn from a master intelligence list compiled before the war - turned up none of the chemical or biological weapons the Bush administration said it went after Saddam Hussein to destroy.
We have total control of the country, total access, hundreds of Iraqi captives to interview, and all of the intelligence that led us to accuse Iraq before the war. If we can trust this report, we've found two trucks with ambiguous purpose, and our guys have run out of sites to inspect. First warblogger to offer an apology to Hans Blix gets a free oven mitt. Come on, guys.
This is interesting. In 1950, Robert Heinlein wrote an article with 20 predictions for the year 2000. In December 1999, somebody checked his work, and found that he would have done better if he had reversed all of his predictions. Check it out here.
Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho is blocking the promotions of more than 850 Air Force officers, including young pilots who fought in Iraq and the general nominated to bail out the scandal-plagued United States Air Force Academy, in a rare clash between the Pentagon and a senior Republican lawmaker.
Mr. Craig's price to free the frozen promotions now awaiting final Senate approval? Four C-130 cargo planes for the Idaho Air National Guard.
Pentagon officials express outrage that for more than a month Mr. Craig has single-handedly delayed the careers of hundreds of officers and stymied important Air Force business for a handful of parochial planes. They are vowing not to give in to his pressure. Calling the move blackmail, one senior military official said, "If we say yes to this, Katie bar the door." The official, like others contacted for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from the senator. (my emphasis)
If you only read left-wing blogs, you'd think that Washington Post gossip columnist Lloyd Grove is basically a right-wing attack machine. Maybe he is; I don't really read him enough to know. But in the interest of fairness, let me point out that his sweaty-palmed Sunday's column, about Jenna and Barbara Bush getting drunk and having fun at a karaoke bar, is a goddamn embarassment, and I feel dumber for having read it. The twins are 21 years old, they didn't break any laws, and they didn't ask for any of this attention.
I think this deserves an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may or may not feel the same way.
I'm not sure how much usefulness there is in pointing out, for the one billionth time, that our current big excuse for invading Iraq is not the one that was originally offered, nor is it particularly likely. That excuse is: it was solely done to improve the lives of foreigners, excepting those who we accidentally carbonized but really had no choice about that, and that when we gave big speeches about "weapons of mass destruction" and "al-Qaeda ties" and "dangers to the US and the world" we were really speaking in a magical language where it sounds like we said that stuff, but only if you love Saddam and resent Iraqis being happy. But let's point it out again. The invasion of Iraq cost on the order of $50 billion, took several hundred thousand troops, 200 American and British lives, and several thousand (or tens of thousands) Iraqi lives, and required taking an enormous steaming dump on the United Nations, several long-time allies, and our own reputation. The French intervention cost far less than that by every measure, but we couldn't bothered to join in there at all. So either we really really really love Iraqis way more than Africans, or the post-facto elevation of a secondary motivation to the primary position is an attempt to cover up a foreign policy clusterfuck of gigantic proportions. It's a puzzler.
At some point in the future, I might try to come up with enough positive things to say about the documentary Spellbound, which tracks a series of kids from across the country who are going to the National Spelling Bee. For now, let me say that if it comes to your town, you'd be a fool to miss it. I haven't seen a movie which had such an emotional impact on me since I don't know when.
The Atlantic has a highly depressing, highly insightful article about the future legacy of the Bush tax cuts. Specifically, it discusses what it will mean in the 2008 elections when many of the tax cuts are due to expire, and what it will mean in the long term for the national interest:
By any definition, not acting now to narrow the gap between revenues and outlays is a dereliction of fiduciary responsibility. Cutting taxes in the face of it is willful recklessness. But this policy failure is a political success for the Rove/Bush strategy of keeping the sun from setting on the GOP era. Rove is open about the alchemy required. He laid it out for his Boswell, the invaluable Nicholas Lemann, of The New Yorker. Tax cuts and budget deficits will starve the government of funds for discretionary spending on things like after-school programs, health care, and public transportation. Receiving fewer services, Americans will demand tax relief. The idea is to create a permanent constituency for tax cuts, especially among poorer Americans, those "lucky duckies," in the words of a Wall Street Journal editorial, who pay little or no federal income taxes now. The Journal, the Administration's oracle on taxes, says the key to cutting government is to shift more of the tax burden on to the people at the lower end of the economic spectrum—those who work at Wal-Mart, who clean office buildings, staff nursing homes and school cafeterias. Since most state tax codes follow the federal template, the Bush cuts will trigger state income tax cuts, which will force more reductions in state spending and/or increases in state sales and local property taxes to balance state budgets. Sales and property taxes fall with painful severity on the less affluent. Piece by piece, under successive tax revolts, the regulatory responsibilities assumed by the federal government beginning a hundred years ago will be abandoned, and the programs of the Great Society (Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Aid to Education, Head Start, etc.) and the New Deal (Social Security) will be hollowed out, dismantled, or privatized.
Several readers note that the (London) Times story credits Lefty bloggers with Trent Lott's ouster. Well, it was Josh Marshall and Atrios who hit him first, but it's probably true that it was the attention from non-Lefty bloggers, who didn't find everything Trent Lott said outrageous on general principles, that really got the story off the ground. As with most Blogospheric successes, it was a collaborative effort.
1. I didn't forget to copy over the links to Josh Marshall and Atrios; they're not there in the original. Is it the new Instapundit policy that lefty bloggers don't get links? (I noticed that he mentioned Atrios without a link earlier in the week, too.) 2. Is it fair, useful or accurate to say that left-wing bloggers "find everything Trent Lott said outrageous on general principles"? Specificially, is it fair to say it about Josh Marshall? 3. Why do I read InstaPundit, again?