Friday, October 31, 2003
Is this a real story?
The top national story in today's Chicago Tribune, "War contractors are big donors," is about the correlation between those firms receiving reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the political contributions such firms made. Here's the first few paragraphs:
If you want to see the whole report, it's available here.
Sounds pretty damning? Well, yes, until you consider the following facts:
Is that how the Center for Public Integrity or the media sees it? Nope. Here's the Washington Post paragraph:
This is mathematically true, but overlooks the fact that the overwhelming majority of these contributions come from only three of the firms on the list -- Bechtel, Dell, and Kellog, Brown & Root (yes, they're a subsidiary of Halliburton).
More on this soon.... and now it's here.
UPDATE: While the allegations of systemic corruption appear to be bogus, that doesn't mean that the reconstruction process is being efficiently managed. This Newsweek story (hat tip to mc_masterchef for the link) suggests that incompetence is a much bigger problem than malfeasance when it comes to reconstruction. The first two paragraphs:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire has a newsbreak on another Center for Public Integrity study.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
A note on civility
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has an update on the Atrios/Luskin episode that contains a slightly different take.
So you're dissing your own readers now?--ed. Actually, no, because A) 99% of the comments have been civil; and B) None of the readers agrees is on "my side" consistently enough fall into this category. If I had Glenn's traffic, though, I'd probably abstain from having a comments section as well.
Andrew Northrup has a good post on this as well.
Wesley Clark, whipping boy of the blogosphere
David Adesnik and Josh Marshall go after Clark with a vengeance today.
Meanwhile, Josh Marshall, who was at the speech where Clark made his accusations, has a different beef with the candidate:
UPDATE: Marshall has more on Clark.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman thinks Adesnik's off base:
Are gray skies clearing up?
You could say that the economy picked up a little in the last quarter. The Associated Press reports:
Reason for celebration? Absolutely. Does this mean the economy is going to start generating more jobs? Slate's Daniel Gross is skeptical:
Irwin Stelzer also sounds some cautionary notes.
I understand their wariness, but a closer look at the third-quarter data suggests that much of this concern is misplaced. For example, on the role of government spending, the AP report observes, "Federal government spending, which grew at a 1.4 percent rate, was only a minor contributor to GDP in the third quarter. Spending on national defense was flat."
Clearly, the tax cuts played a more important role, but the Financial Times suggests that business investment is just as important:
Is 7.2% growth sustainable? of course not. But, if the FT is correct that "growth is expected to cool to about 4 per cent in the final quarter of the year," that is sustainable.
Hey, if Brad DeLong is optimistic, then so am I.
UPDATE: James Joyner makes a great point that really applies to all presidents:
Nation-building in Afghanistan
The Chicago Tribune reports on the latest success in restoring stability to Afghanistan, courtesy of a British-led Provincial reconstruction team. The vital grafs:
This follows up on previous Tribune reports indicating that PRTs can succeed in the nitty-gritty of stabilization.
For those readers skeptical of nation-building -- think of it as town-building.
Catching up on my correspondence
Two quick notes for today (go read this Mark Kleiman post for some background):
What I said last week about anonymous blogging?
Daniel W. Drezner
Dear Donald Luskin,
But dude, you need to chill. Legal action and the blogosphere do not mix well. At this point, your criticisms of Krugman are so over-the-top that they are counterproductive. Take a day off. Get some perspective.
Daniel W. Drezner
P.S. I've glanced through your blog. Intellectually, yes, you're stalking Paul Krugman.
That's stalking!! STALKING, STALKING, STALKING!!!
Goldberg tries to explain Luskin's actions as a result of being new to the medium:
Goldberg is right about Krugman but dead wrong about Luskin. He's not new to the web. In fact, today is the one-year anniversary of Luskin's blog. In terms of the blogosphere, that's a pretty long time to be around. Long enough to know the very simple rules of the game -- no tears, no legal action.
Camille Paglia's grandstanding narcissism
Camille Paglia's latest interview in Salon must be consumed in its entirety to appreciate the title of this post.
At one point, she characterizes Maureen Dowd as "that catty, third-rate, wannabe sorority queen." I can't read that without a chuckle, because Camille Paglia is Maureen Dowd gone to grad school.
I mean that with all its positive and negative implications. Paglia's rants are riveting when she talks about celebrity. When she talks about politics the first two adjectives that come to mind are "inane" and "dyspeptic."
Oh, and here's her take on blogs:
It is truly breathtaking to see someone take down the genre she claims to have invented. Paglia joins Darrell Hammond as the only people to successfully mimic Al Gore. Or, to use the pungent prose Paglia prefers:
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Inside the numbers on U.S. foreign aid
Tyler Cowen at the Marginal Revolution links to Carol Adelman's new Foreign Affairs essay, "The Privatization of Foreign Aid: Reassessing National Largesse." The key paragraph:
Longtime blog readers are aware that I agree with much in quoted paragraph, which was why I took the Center for Global Development (CGD) to task for calling the U.S. a miser earlier this year. However, my Tech Central Station article on this -- which did get results from the Center for Global Development -- did not mention the factoring in of private aid flows as a measure of generosity. On this, Adelman says:
Was I just thick-headed in not raising this point? Well, no. If you read p. 32 of the primary technical paper that supported the CGD rankings -- they do deal with this:
Now, the key question is whether private aid flows are in the $15-23 billion range -- which don't seem to affect the rankings all that much -- or are nearly double that at $35 billion -- which one would expect to have a more appreciable effect. I went to the referred source, USAID's "Foreign Aid in the National Interest," specifically Chapter 6, p. 146. What I found is that Adelman's figure is accurate if you include foreign remittances, and the CGD's figure is correct if you don't include them.
Remittance flows are clearly important, but counting them as examples of American generosity strikes me as a bit off-kilter. Americans aren't remitting this money -- foreign nationals are. The U.S. deserves a measure of credit for permitting foreign workers into the country and sending money back -- indeed, I agree with Tyler Cowen that remittances are, "the most effective welfare programs ever devised." However, this policy is of a different kind than either public or private aid.
I don't think Adelman is incorrect in her core thesis. But lumping remittances in with charity flows exaggerates the generosity of Americans as a people.
Links on Latin America
Wondering how I know what I know about Latin America in my latest TNR Online piece?
For my gloomy mood on the Bush administration's foreign economic policy, see my previous TNR Online column on "hypocritical liberalization." On the current state of the WTO, Philippe Legrain sounds a pessimistic note (subscription required).
A good source on Brazil's behavior during the WTO and FTAA talks is Peter Hakim's Financial Times op-ed on Brazil's trade policy from a few weeks ago. Hakim is the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, which is a fine source on the politics and economics of Latin America. For example, their report on "The Troubled Americas" is typical of the concern mounting about Latin America's direction. On the rise of more market-suspicious leaders, see this St. Petersburg Times news analysis.
On Bolivia being an example for the anti-globalization movement, see this New York Times article, from earlier this month, entitled "Bolivia's Poor Proclaim Abiding Distrust of Globalization." Here's an even more effusive account from earlier this year.
Here's a link to the Washington Post editorial cited in the column. The information on Mexico came straight from Virginia Postrel's first-person account of a speech by former Mexican Finance Minister Francisco Gil Diaz.
Finally, Winds of Change has a link-rich briefing on the latest in Latin America. Go check it out.
Remember Latin America?
All those readers who suspected that I'd lost track of the global political economy while refereeing debates on Iraq will feel better by checking out my latest New Republic Online essay. It's on globalization and Latin America. Go check it out.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Defending the idle rich?
My evidence? Consider the imminent onslaught of popular culture devoted to the idle rich. According to Newsweek:
Maureen Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune that there's an excellent reason for this new-found attention:
Another example: this faux Hilton sisters blog -- at least, I think it's a faux blog.
These pop culture sneers do reveal a libertarian dilemma: to put it delicately, defending the right of the idle rich to inherit their wealth in its entirety is one of the knottier positions to advocate in public. This resentment of the inheriting class is particularly acute during a slow economy. It's easy to defend property rights in the abstract. It's harder to defend the property rights of those who are perceived to be dumb-ass dilettantes.
Take me. Readers of this blog know that I think concerns about economic inequality are misplaced. However, whenever I see a promo for the Hilton sisters on television, I find myself reflexively muttering under my breath, "they'll be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes." [Even when they're dressed like this?--ed. Bad, distracting editor!! Besides, they don't hold a candle to my celebrity of choice.]
Beyond the philosophical arguments in favor of property rights and against double taxation, are there pragmatic reasons to say that the sneering towards those who inherit vast sums of money is misplaced?
Oddly enough, Timothy Noah provides a partial answer in a series of Chatterbox columns during the debate over the estate tax, posted here, here, here, and here. I say this is odd because Noah starts off saying:
However, as Noah dug deeper into the question, he found mixed evidence for this assertion. There is limited evidence that inherited wealth contributes to social and psychological dysfunction. However, Noah also quotes the following from The Millionaire Next Door:
One final thought: after watching "Born Rich," it was harder to sneer at these people. Of the 12 individuals in the "Born Rich" documentary, I saw one raging asshole, three or four obnoxious but potentially redeemable personalities, and seven or eight nice but slightly withdrawn individuals. Drag a random dozen people in off the street, I'm betting you get the same distribution. It's true that the inheriting class has done nothing to "earn" their millions. But the people off the street haven't either.
There are valid arguments in favor of keeping an estate tax, and I'm not unsympathetic to all of them. However, part of me wonders if those sympathies are driven in part by our culture's occasional tendency to ridicule the idle rich.
Just a thought.
UPDATE: Jay Drezner has some thoughts on this issue.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Rumsfeld gets results from Ray Odierno!!
At one point in the much-discussed Rumsfeld memo, the Secretary of Defense asks:
From the Associated Press:
Thanks to Tom Holsinger & Trent Telenko for the link.
Alex Massie has further thoughts on the subject.
Drezner to the right: stop whining about media bias
Now, this is a frequent lament for those on my side of the aisle. And it will not be an easy one to give up when it ceases to be true.
So I suspect that conservatives will encounter some trepidation reading the latest City Journal article from Brian Anderson, "We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore." The first paragraph:
You should read the whole article, but to suym up: Anderson's three seismic changes are:
For good measure, Anderson adds the following:
So does this mean that conservatives need to quit whining about media bias? Not exactly. Anderson's closing:
I'm too suspicious of a free lunch to be told that I can bitch about media bias even though things are improving in my favor. However, I'm sure we will find such cake-eating in our trusty comments section.
Why I'll never be the RNC chairman
Last night I participated in an online interactive chat at John Hawkins' Right Wing News. The other participants were Steve Martinovich, the editor and chief of Enter Stage Right, Bryan Preston from JunkYardBlog, and Mike Hendrix from Cold Fury.
Here's the link to "A Blogger Symposium On The 2004 Election." Go check it out.
You might notice I'm the most pessimistic of the bunch. Bearing in mind my track record on predicting elections, however, I'd listen to the others more carefully.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The division of labor in the blogosphere
The problem with this debate is that it's not an "either-or" situation. A while back I wrote that there were two types of blogs:
A glance at the Blogosphere Ecosystem suggests this division of labor is more stable than Cowen's post suggests. Consider the top ten blogs:
I'd characterize five of these blogs (Instapundit, Atrios, Daily Kos, N.Z. Bear, and LGF) as primarily portals or focal points. The other five (Marshall, Sullivan, Drum, Den Beste, and Volokh) are more commentary than portal. [C'mon, Atrios and Glenn offer commentary!--ed. Yes, but I'm using a simple dichotomy. Drudge would be an example of the perfect portal, but beyond him most blogs have a mix of links and commentary.] Given that by definition one would predict portal blogs to be clustered among the top ten, it looks like commentary blogs aren't going anywhere.
If you think about, this makes sense, and like most divisions of labor improves the productivity of both sides. Without commentary blogs, there would be less of a demand for the skills required to be a portal blog. Without portals, those specializing in commentary would face higher search costs in developing their topics and arguments.
Baude is also correct that newcomers to the blogosphere will have to go the commentary route. For example, here's a new blog that's worth checking out, especially for Californians. I particularly like this post critiquing Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Some minor historical revisionism
Peter Wallison has an op-ed in today's New York Times exhorting George W. Bush to be like President Reagan (Wallison was Reagan’s counsel in 1986 and 1987). The key sections:
Three thoughts on this:
1) Wallison doesn't need to worry about Bush acting like Reagan on sticking to his principles. As I pointed out in August, stubborness is simultaneously Bush's greatest strength and greatest weakness as president.
2) Wallison also engages in a bit of revisionist myth-making. It's certainly true that Reagan stood firm on foreign policy issues. However, in the wake of deficit projections in 1982, Ronald Reagan signed the largest tax increase in history a year after enacting the largest tax cuts in history. In other words, Reagan didn't stick to his principles as much as Wallison alleges.
3) Wallsion's advice is of cold comfort to Bush. Reagan's low point came at the midway point of his first term. Two years later, in 1984, the economy had recovered to the point where Reagan was able to win 49 of 50 states. The point is, Reagan's trough came early enough in his presidency to ride out.
For Bush, the window for such a turnaround is shorter. The current election is only a year away. While the economy is growing, net job creation remains anemic at best. My hunch is that the economy will pick up steam, but that may be too late for it to be an asset to the Bush campaign.
The aftermath of a brilliant military victory in Iraq is proving messier than many thought, and the economy is still sluggish. At this point none of the Democratic contenders looks like a particularly formidable candidate against President Bush. However, winning primaries can often generate gravitas on its own.
Wallison wants everyone to think it's 1982 all over again. The problem is, it may be 1991 instead.
UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Bruce Bartlett!!
Friday, October 24, 2003
On the radio again
Tonight from 9:00 -- 11:00 CST I'll be on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg on WGN radio 720. The other guests are Karen Alter from Northwestern University's political science department and legendary Chicago journalist Dick Ciccone.
According to their calendar, the topic will be our take on, "the California recall, the Valerie Plame leak scandal, the recent events in Iraq and Israel and much, much more."
The shots across Don Rumsfeld's bow
Is it my imagination, or is the Beltway souring on Don Rumsfeld faster than a postseason bullpen collapse?
True, a lot of defence policy wonks were never thrilled with him in the first place. Right before 9/11, the scuttlebutt about Rumsfeld's impotence as SecDef was so loud that Tim Noah started the Rumsfeld Death Watch at Slate. Of course, Rumsfeld's performance after the September 11th attacks silenced those murmurs.
Today's first example is this New York Daily News story:
Josh Marshall points out that the administration source is likely, "some Bush One type at or in the orbit of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" who's close to Daily News reporter Tom DeFrank.
However, this New York Times report suggests that Rumsfeld's problems go beyond Bush I types. The story mostly quotes people in the legislative branch, but there's more:
Check out Eleanor Clift's Newsweek analysis as well. The Daily News story insists that Rumsfeld's job is safe because, "sacking Rumsfeld would give the appearance of admitting that Iraq is as big a mess as his critics contend." Still, if I was Tim Noah, I might want to crank up that death watch meme again.
Debating the Cuba embargo
The New York Times reports a growing split within Congress on the merits of the Cuba embargo:
David Adesnik certainly thinks this the travel ban should be lifted:
As someone who can plausibly claim some genuine expertise on this issue, I'm mildly in favor of lifting the embargo. First, it's clear that forty years of the embargo has not succeeded in overwthrowing Castro. Given that record, trying the engagement track can't make things any worse.
Second, anyone who thinks that engagement will have a dramatic effect on the situation is fooling themselves. The difference between Cuba and China is not just one of size -- it's also a difference in regime. What I wrote earlier this year in reference to North Korea holds with equal force in dealing with Cuba.
This gets to the distinction between a totalitarian and an authoritarian state. China or Singapore fall into the latter camp -- political dissent is stifled, but in other spheres of life there is sufficient breathing froom from state intervention to permit the flowering of pro-market, pro-democratic civil society. North Korea is totalitarian, in the sense that the state control every dimension of social life possible.
In authoritarian societies, the introduction of market forces and international news media can has the potential to transform society in ways that central governments will not be able to anticipate. In totalitarian societies, reform can only take place when the central government favors it. These societies have to take the first steps towards greater openness before any outside force can accelerate the process. Usually, such societies turn brittle and collapse under their own weight....
For the past decade, the DPRK [and Cuban] leadership has been completely consistent about one thing -- it prefers mass famine and total isolation over any threat to the survival of its leadership. Uncontrolled exchange with the West will threaten that leadership. I have no doubt that Pyongyang [and Havana] is enthusiastic about the creation of segmented economic zones where foreign capital would be permitted -- so long as the rest of North Korean [and Cuban] society remained under effective quarrantine.
So, why support a change in policy? On the off chance that I'm wrong and the Castro regime falls. A regime transition with the U.S. already on the ground in Cuba will be much smoother than a regime transition without any such interaction.
The Onion weighs in on Valerie Plame
What's scary about this Onion story is that it's not much of a tweak from a real news story. The highlights:
The Yglesias-Lowry smackdown
The American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias and The National Review's Rich Lowry are having a war of words over the prescience of conservatives regarding the Clinton administration's antiterrorism policy.
Lowry has published Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years. In it, he writes:
In a Q&A on NRO, Lowry elaborates:
On Tapped, Yglesias points out that Lowry's National Review failed to levy these attacks before 9/11. He concludes:
Two thoughts on this contretemps:
Yglesias may or may not be correct on this point -- off the cuff, I suspect he's correct in nailing the National Review as fundamentally realist in orientation, and the realist recommendation during the 1990's on dealing with terrorism was essentially to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East.
However, just because the National Review did not criticize the antiterrorism policies of the Clinton era during the Clinton era does not mean no conservative publication failed to do so. It's worth re-reading Tom Donnelly's prescient October 30, 2000 cover story in the Weekly Standard. It was written in the aftermath of the USS Cole bombing. The relevant highlights:
Note, by the way, that the uniformed services come in for as much criticism as Clinton's foreign policy. Criticism that remains relevant today.
UPDATE: I was chary in my praise of the Weekly Standard on this score. The same issue that had Donnelly's cover story also included Reuel Marc Gerecht's spot-on criticism of Clinton's antiterrorism policy. Go check it out. Meanwhile, David Adesnik is going after Yglesias on another matter.
ANOTHER UPDATE: For those interested in reading a defense of the Clinton administration's foreign policy, click here.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
DanielDrezner.com is huge in India!! HUGE!!
My favorite part of the movie Singles -- one of Cameron Crowe's lesser works -- is when Matt Dillion tries to console himself at his band's poor reputation in the Seattle music scene by repeating the mantra, "We're huge in Belgium!!"
Well, now I get to say, "I'm huge in India!!"
[So, to carry the Singles analogy to its logical conclusion, does this mean you have a poor reputation in the blogosphere?--ed. I don't think so. I just love the "We're huge in Belgium" line.]
Wesley Clark, meet Nora Bensahel
Clark's running for president, and one can't begrudge the fact that this is both a good and salient line of attack.
However, it's worth exploring Clark's own policy positions to see how they're holding up. Consider the role of NATO. One of Clark's mantras since 9/11 has been that the Bush administration has slighted NATO and other multilateral fora in fighting the global war on terror. Here's an excerpt from Clark's May 2002 Senate testimony:
However, Patrick Belton links to a new RAND study -- The Counterterror Coalitions: Cooperation with Europe, NATO, and the European Union, by Nora Bensahel [FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Nora from graduate school -- we both attended Stanford]
The following is from the report summary:
Bensahel is a policy analyst, while Clark's actually run significant NATO operations. Clark may still be right. Still, this contradicts a key position of his, and -- once he's done with Rumsfeld -- I'd be curious to see how he would respond.
The verdict is in for the European Union
Chris Lawrence writes the following:
Pieter Dorsman has more on small country reactions to this decision. Chris concludes:
Weeeellll....... I wouldn't go that far. The difference between French behavior in the EU and French behavior in a multilateral organization that includes the U.S. is that France is a great power in the context of the former and only a middle-range power in the context of the latter. When the U.S. is a member, France's ability to defect from the rules carries much greater costs.
Although the media tends to focus on instances in which France makes life difficult for the United States, there are a welter of organizations and clubs -- the G-7, for example -- in which France plays a constructive role.
A final thought on the European Union. It has been pointed out by many that the macroeconomic rules that France is breaking are pretty stupid. This is undoubtedly true. However, two points in response. First, as I pointed out here:
Second, instead of actually changing the rules, France is simply flouting them. Neither the European Commission nor the European Council seems prepared to punish France for defecting.
In other words, at present the European Union, for all of its supranational characteristics, remains an ordinary international organization.
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Should I take this as a compliment?
There's been a rash of denial of service (DoS) attacks on various blogs. Andrew Sullivan and Roger Simon believes these were conscious attacks on warblogs. Joe Katzman has a thorough discussion of this over at Winds of Change.
Since I was among those who experienced a series of blog outages over the past 72 hours, I guess I should take this as a compliment. The thing is, I might just be an example of collateral damage. I've noticed that whenever InstaPundit faces a DoS attack, so do Calpundit and myself. I wouldn't exactly label Kevin Drum as a warblogger, so this might just be the result of all three of us using the same hosting service.
So, from now on, if a DoS attack incapacitates this blog for longer than 24 hours, you can find me at my old Blogger site. The address is: http://drezner.blogspot.com. For those who really need a daily dose of Drezner [You poor sods--ed.], bookmark the backup.
The Defense Department moves down the learning curve
Virginia Postrel links to this USA Today story about a leaked memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that paints a more sober picture of current progress in the War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The memo states:
Postrel is completely correct [UPDATE: so does Josh Marshall], and bravo to Rumsfeld for putting it down on paper. It's the job of our leading policymakers to ask uncomfortable questions, plan for worst-case scenarios, and adapt to new facts and new situations.
That's why this week's Sy Hersh story in The New Yorker is so disturbing -- if true, it suggests that the DoD did none of these things in it's planning for postwar Iraq. Here's the part that raises alarm bells:
As I said before, bravo to Rumsfeld for raising the big, thorny questions.
You're finally moving down the learning curve on policy planning.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has a ton of links on the Rumsfeld memo.
Falsifying Paul Krugman
Here's why Krugman's hypothesis is wrong:
1) There is no domestic flank to protect. Mahathir's speech was to the Organization of the Islamic Conference -- an international body -- on the current state of the Muslim world. There was no domestic component to his intended audience. [But surely Mahathir knew that media coverage would lead to his domestic flank becoming aware of the speech!--ed. Yes, except that since Mahathir is stepping down as Prime Minister at the end of the month, he doesn't really need to be concerned about the domestic flank. Indeed, in his comments to the brouhaha, it's clear he thinks he was speaking truth to power. If that's the case, why the anti-Semitic rhetoric? Maybe, as Chris Lawrence suggests, Mahathir plans to pull strings from behind the scenes, a la Deng Xiaoping or Lee Kuan Yew--ed. Even if that's true, there's no need to protect a domestic flank, since this kind of power exercise does not need a popular domestic base.]
2) The dependent variable has taken this value before without the presence of the independent variable. Mahathir's exhibited this behavior prior to the current administration taking power. As Krugman and I have pointed out, Mahathir used similar rhetoric during the Asian financial crisis, which was in a pre-9/11 world. Krugman takes this to mean that whenever Mahathir faces domestic pressure, he'll resort to anti-Semitism, and that in 2003, the domestic pressure emanates from the Bush administration.
The problem with this logic is that the pressure that Mahathir faced in 1997 was far stronger than anything he's facing now from the United States. Indeed, as David Sanger pointed out yesterday, until recently, Mahathir warmly embraced the U.S.-led war on terror, and the Bush administration embraced Mahathir right back:
Where, exactly, is the emprical evidence that supports Krugman? Where are the street protests in Kuala Lumpur over U.S. support of Israel?
I'm sure Krugman believes that the Bush administration's foreign policy can explain any negative outcome in world politics. From someone with Krugman's ideology, it's a compelling argument. In this case, he's flat-out wrong.
The context: in 1999, Krugman receives and accepts an invitation from Mahathir to visit Malaysia, because Krugman had also disagreed with the IMF's policy recommendations. By the time of the visit, Mahathir has little reason to throw "red meat" to the Muslim majority:
So Mahathir has no need to worry about domestic discontent with his regime, and the external pressure from the crisis had faded considerably. So, Mahathir would have little need to resort to anti-Semitism to speak truth to power. Here, however, is Krugman's description of Mahathir's speech at a forum held in Krugman's honor:
Krugman describes this as, "an unfortunate emphasis." He doesn't say in the article that Mahathir said that the big speculators were Jewish, but I'd bet a fair amount of money that such a sentence was uttered.
So, in 1999, with no Bush administration in sight, with little domestic or international pressure on Mahathir's political position, does he change his tune? Nope.
FINAL UPDATE: Brad DeLong weighs in.
The best twenty movies from the last twenty years
Roger Simon has posted his favorite twenty films of all time. It's a good list -- but at the end, he observes, "What interest me is there isn't a single movie on this list made in the last twenty years."
Anyone who's been to my personal page knows that I'm a movie buff, and that I like older movies a great deal. However, in defense of my generation's moviegoing habits, I feel it necessary to counter Roger's list with what I think are the twenty best movies from the past twenty years.
In chronological order:
1) The Purple Rose of Cairo -- Woody Allen (The ending is so heartbreaking that I've never watched it through to the end a second time).
2) Bull Durham -- Ron Shelton (Everyone mentions the big speech Kevin Costner's character gives about what he believes. That's actually the worst part of the movie. Everything else in the film gets the rhythm of baseball, sex, and the mysteries of success perfectly).
3) Say Anything -- Cameron Crowe (The amazing thing about Crowe's movies -- anyone with more than three lines of dialogue is a fully-formed, three-dimensional character).
4) Do the Right Thing -- Spike Lee (Gorgeous photography by Earnest Dickerson, a screenplay that spends 80% of the movie walking the fine line between comedy and tragedy, and an ambiguous ending).
5) The Fabulous Baker Boys -- Steve Kloves (Dave Grusin's soundtrack is divine, and Michelle Pfeiffer's performance defines sultry. The Bridges brothers were good, too)
6) The Silence of the Lambs -- Jonathan Demme (What's amazing, in light of Demme's later trend towards the pedantic, is the subtlety of the direction here. Oh, and the scenes between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are pretty good).
7) Reservoir Dogs -- Quentin Tarantino (The dialogue is great, but it's often forgotten that Tarantino cut the camera away at the moments of horrific violence in this movie. Plus, the ending puts the lie to the notion that "nothing matters" in Tarantino films).
8) Groundhog Day -- Harold Ramis (Something I never thought possible -- a heart-warming Bill Murray movie).
9) Schindler's List -- Steven Spielberg (A meditation on the mysteries of good and evil).
10) Four Weddings and a Funeral -- Mike Newell (The last ten years have been lean for romantic comedies, but this one can hold its own. Not a word out of place).
11) Courage Under Fire -- Ed Zwick (In terms of acting performances, the most underrated movie of the past ten years. Denzel Washington, Meg Ryan, Matt Damon, and Lou Diamond Phillips are all outstanding).
12) Saving Private Ryan -- Steven Spielberg (The first movie I cried at since ET: The Extra Terrestrial).
13) Election -- Alexander Payne (The best movie about politics ever made. That's right, I said ever).
14) Run Lola Run -- Tom Tykwer (A perfect exercise in plot minimalism. Plus, a kick-ass soundtrack).
15) The Matrix -- The Wachowski Brothers (The only other movie that left me this awestruck at the power of movies was Raiders of the Lost Ark).
16) Toy Story 2 -- John Lasseter (The first one was great -- the second one was a perfect mix of poignancy and hilarity).
17) The Insider -- Michael Mann (This movie shouldn't work, in that there are only two moments of decision in the entire film. It's to Mann's credit that the entire film is gripping).
18) Mulholland Drive -- David Lynch (This man's films scare me like no others. Plus, it has the most erotic scene put on film in the past twenty years).
19) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- Ang Lee (The martial arts!! The music!! The joy of discovering Zhang Zhiyi!!)
20) Monsoon Wedding -- Mira Nair (Gorgeous photography, great music, and an interesting exploration of tradition and modernity in India).
Looking over the list, I'm intrigued to see how much action and music played a role in my decisions.
Let the debate commence!!
UPDATE: Damn, lots of good movies that commenters and other bloggers have raised that I didn't think about when I composed the list -- This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Lone Star, L.A. Confidential, Zero Effect, and High Fidelity. Maybe I would take one of these over Courage Under Fire, but otherwise I'm still comfortable with the list.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
An apology to Gregg Easterbrook
I've been informed by both Brad DeLong and Gregg Easterbrook that the e-mail was a fake, so I'm crossed it out from my post.
My apologies for getting suckered. It was a disservice to you, the readers, as well as to Easterbrook. Gregg's cool with it -- as he put it in an e-mail, it's "the nature of a new medium." For those readers who prowl other blogs, if you see it there, let the blogger know it's a fake.
We'll return to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow.
UPDATE: See the comment below by John Hinderaker of the Power Line. All I can say is that I'm going on what DeLong and Easterbrook have told me via e-mail.
Monday, October 20, 2003
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- my decision
It's time for my decision. I'd like to congratulate Holsclaw and Schwarz for the effort they put into their arguments. I'd also like to congratulate Jerry, who easily made the silliest argument -- pro or con -- of all the commenters.
The question, to review, is:
So, with my criteria clear, the winner is....
Here's my reasoning:
1) Schwarz is correct to point out that the administration redefined imminent threat in its 2001 National Security Strategy. As Schwarz quoted:
So, the Bush administration's concept of imminent threat encompassed more situations than prior definitions. For this administration, the combination of hostile intentions and WMD-delivery capabilities is sufficient to be labeled as "imminent." Note, by the way, that this also clears away all the underbrush generated by the Thesaurus Wars.
2) On the capabilities question, Schwarz wins. His quotations from Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all characterize Hussein's capabilities as both pre-existing (with regard to chemical or biological weapons) and growing over time. The quotes also indicate that the administration argued at various points that Hussein would use terrorist groups as his delivery mechanism. Holsclaw, in characterizing the Cheney quote, acknowledges:
3) The above quote also indicates that Holsclaw accepted that Cheney, at least, thought Hussein's intentions were hostile. Interestingly, neither debater really delved into the question of Saddam Hussein's intentions. This was actually the key argument behind the realist opposition to the war -- that Saddam's intentions were not fundamentally aggressive. However, given Bush's description in the SOTU of Saddam as "evil", and his statement in same that, "trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option," I'm assuming both of them will stipulate that the administration argued that Saddam had malevolent and hostile intentions.
4) Holsclaw's best argument is this much-cited paragraph from the State of the Union:
Here, it seems that Bush makes a distinction between the conventional definition of "imminent threat" and what weas articulated in the National Security Strategy. Holsclaw concludes from this statement:
This is where the "complete fabrication" part of the statement works against Holsclaw. It doesn't matter if Bush makes the clear distinction between in the SOTU, if he or other principals in the administration blurred the distinction at other points in the debate over Iraq. And here, the preponderance of the evidence favors Schwarz. From the National Security Strategy forward, the administration argued that:
Was it a complete fabrication that the administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq? No, it was not.
Congratulations to Jonathan for winning the $100. As a consolation to Sebastian -- who I think faced an uphill battle due to the framing of the question -- let me take the opportunity to encourage those who agreed and disagreed but respected his line of argumentation to go check out his new blog.
[So, you're saying that Schwarz wins, but that in winning he doesn't vindicate the bulk of the anti-war criticisms. Were you trying to alienate all sides?--ed. I believe that is the technical description of "referee."]
Last thoughts on Easterbrook
The New Republic's editors have just posted their response to the Easterbrook donnybrook. Worth a read. A key paragraph:
Mickey Kaus' post on the subject strikes a similar tone:
Finally, The Power Line reprints an e-mail from Easterbrook that is making the rounds of the blogosphere. [UPDATE: Easterbrook says this e-mail is not genuine. See this post for more.] Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in.... Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)
Yesterday I was told to expect to be fired by ESPN. It hasn't happened yet, but seems likely [he has since been fired by ESPN]. Friday the top officers of ESPN refused several orders from Michael Eisner, the head of Disney, that I be fired. By the end of the day it seemed likely they would give in....
Yesterday I was told by an ally within Disney corporate that Eisner has assigned people to try to destroy the book [The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse] -- to get Time to drop the serial, to keep me off interview shows, even to get Random House to kill the book. In a published body of work that now extends to millions of words, I have written three foolish and wrong sentences. Now I've not only lost reputation and half my income (ESPN): what matters to me most in all the world, my book writing, is in jeopardy at the worst possible time. And I'm up against one of the richest, most vindictive men in the world. (emphasis added)
As I've said before, Easterbrook must bear the costs of exercising his right to free speech. However, if this is true, then Eisner is enggaging in mass overkill.
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh gets a response to his letter from ESPN. Go read it for a concrete example of the term "Orwellian."
Odds & ends on anti-semitism
In no particular order:
Thanks to DanielDrezner.com's trusted South Asian correspondent A.A. for the link.
Solomonia points out that this thank-you has unnerved Chirac to the point of being more explicit in his condemnation. He links to this Haaretz story reporting that Cirac has sent a personal letter to Mahathir that contains the following paragraph:
Yourish reports that Easterbrook's firing has had significant costs, since his ESPN payments were, "a huge chunk of his income." Howard Kurtz quotes Easterbrook saying, "This nuclear-bomb response is dramatically disproportionate to the offense,"
Now, I think ESPN erred in what they did, but I have to wonder whether Easterbrook's comments now contradict his comments from two years ago (thanks to Don Williams for the link) on the costs of free speech:
Maybe the cost of Easterbrook's speech in this incident was excessive. But to extend his analogy, if a bookstore has the right to not promote a book, then ESPN has the right to not promote Easterbrook.
However, Atrios concludes his last post by saying, "I find the rallying around him rather creepy." You know what I find creepy? Anonymous bloggers hypocritically lambasting Easterbrook and other bloggers with the guts to write under their own name.
A hypothetical: what happens if Atrios had posted something equally offensive? Does he lose his day job? No, because of his anonymity. He clearly prefers it this way, and I'm not saying that bloggers must out themselves. However, the cloak of anonymity does give Atrios a degree of insulation that other bloggers don't have. Say what you will about Easterbrook -- at least he put his real name on his posts. It's not clear to me that Atrios is willing to bear the real costs of free speech that have now entangled Easterbrook.
UPDATE: Will Baude writes:
I wasn't trying to imply that at all. I was trying to imply that the kind of schadenfreude Atrios takes from Easterbrook's current plight strikes me as hypocritical.
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Gregg Easterbrook, anti-semitism, and ESPN
Despite yesterday's post about the Malaysian Prime Minister's graceless remarks, I don't blog all that much about anti-Semitism. Alas, this will have to be the second post in the last 48 hours on the subject.
I just learned about the accusations of anti-Semitism against Gregg Easterbrook for his tirade against Miramax, Quentin Tarantino, and "Kill Bill" on his TNR blog.
Having read the controversial post, I concluded:
What genuinely puzzles me is that Easterbrook is hardly a novice in his writings on religion. He is, however, a novice blogger, which might be the best explanation. Andrew Sullivan phrases it nicely in his Inside Dish:
Eric Alterman makes a similar argument:
[Easterbrook should have taken your advice!--ed. Well, that post also recommended blogging about religion, so maybe he did.]
As a big fan of Easterbrook's writings in general, and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN in particular, I've never come across anything else in his voluminous set of writings that even hinted at anti-Semitism. When someone without a track record of these utterances apologizes, I tend to think that's the end of it.
However, according to Roger Simon, Easterbrook has been fired from ESPN for what he wrote on his blog. Glenn Reynolds has a collection of responses across the blogosphere, as well as ESPN.com's Orwellian response. Meryl Yourish -- who has been unrelenting in flogging Easterbrook for his screw-up -- thinks ESPN has screwed up.
I tend to agree. This situation is not analagous to Rush Limbaugh's. Easterbrook's gaffe does not appear to have been on ESPN, and he's apologized. Limbaugh made his statements on ESPN, did not really apologize, and then refused to appear on Sportscenter to defend himself.
[A side note: the above graf is based on Glenn Reynolds assertion that this decision was, "especially bizarre given that the whole flap was about something that wasn't even published at ESPN." I'm not completely sure that's true -- a lot of Easterbrook's initial posts at Easterblogg appeared in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback posts. However, since ESPN has erased all of his posts, I can't check on my own and will assume that what Reynolds says is true. UPDATE: I just found the cached version of the last two TMQ columns at Google -- and "Kill Bill" is not mentioned in either of them.]
Think ESPN screwed up? Let them know about it.
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- the final chapter!!
I'm putting Holsclaw's reply first because it's shorter -- to go straight to Schwarz, click here.
Now to Holsclaw:
As the debate comes to a close, I realize that I have said most everything I wanted to say. Schwarz came up with his best quotes, and I showed that in context they were not arguments for an imminent threat. Barring quotes that I haven't been able to respond to, the case that Bush was arguing for an imminent threat is amazingly sparse considering that the Bush administration was making its case for more than a year. So, for a change, I'll try to make a brief summary. The question is did the Bush administration argue that Iraq was an imminent threat. They clearly participated in arguments where people like Kennedy and Byrd thought that the question of imminent threat was important. They did not however present imminent threat as their own argument for the war. From the very beginning, questions of imminent threat were used by opponents of the war, because everyone understood that an imminent threat threshold was too high to justify a war against Iraq.
Again and again the Bush administration argued that Saddam was a serious threat because of his past behaviour. Constantly the Bush administration argued that Saddam was a growing threat because of the impossibility of indefinitely sustaining an inspection regime. Bush always argued that Saddam was an important threat, a threat that would get worse with time, and a threat which ought not be left to fester. 'Imminent threat' however was a term with a very specific meaning in the debate. Bush understood that his administration couldn't meet the burden of 'imminent threat'. That is the reason why he resisted Byrd's attempt to add 'imminent threat' to the Senate's authorizing language. Link
A complete fabrication does not have to be wrong in every single particular. If I said about Howard Dean: "He is a man with no real experience in government, who wants to surrender to our enemies and destroy the engine of our economy," this would be a complete fabrication even though certain parts are totally true. He is a man. His formal position is not exactly the same as stated, though Roget's thesaurus says that 'surrender' is synonymous with abandon. He has no experience in federal government. Parts of the statement have some association with the truth, but the statement as a whole is a complete fabrication.
Bush did not argue that Iraq was an imminent threat. Even with the cherry picked quotes which Schwarz uses it is apparent that the administration was arguing for a serious threat but not an imminent one. This is even more true if you analyze the debate as a whole.
Bush in fact, during the most public possible speech on the subject, specifically argued that the imminent threat standard was an inappropriate standard for choosing whether or not to wage war against Iraq.
It is a fabrication to characterize this as Bush's administration arguing that Iraq was an imminent threat.
And now to Schwarz:
1. I'll begin my final post with an excerpt from the official National Security Strategy of the United States, signed by George Bush on September 17, 2002:
Given this, there are only two possible interpretations of the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq:
(A) The Bush administration was arguing that, by its own definition, Iraq fell under the concept of an imminent threat;
By this point I wouldn't be surprised if some people would endorse the second possibility, as preposterous as it is. But in any case, this clearly invalidates Sebastian's claims about how imminent should be defined for this bet.
For much, much, much more, see below.
2. To be honest, I wish I hadn't felt I had to cite a thesaurus. The reason I did is because debate about this issue seems to have an Alice in Wonderland quality, in which words have no agreed-upon meaning. "Moptop" really embraces this beautiful Humpty Dumpty spirit in his comment, "Gathering does not mean Imminent no matter what the thesaurus says."
Weirdly, in Sebastian's remarks about thesauruses he takes us further down the rabbit hole -- since he contends that synonyms are merely a "range of somewhat similar meaning words."
I'm sorry, this is just not so. I hate to have to do this, but here are four definitions of "synonym":
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Cambridge International Dictionary of English
If we are going by the dictionary meaning of synonymous, it cannot be argued that the Bush administration did not use words having the same or nearly the same meaning as "imminent threat." Therefore, if we are going by thesauruses and dictionaries, it is not a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued Iraq was an imminent threat.
3. To be fair, of course, this is not the main sense of Sebastian's argument. Rather, he is explicitly arguing that in the context of the debate regarding Iraq, everyone agreed that "imminent" was being used with a non-standard, particularly narrow definition.
He writes, "phrases have different meanings in different contexts." In a direct email to me, he fleshed out this point:
This could, in theory, be a good argument -- if everyone discussing Iraq had in fact agreed that we were all using a "specific," "ridiculously narrow" definition of imminent.
Obviously, this is not the case at all. First of all, Sebastian provides no evidence of any kind that opponents of the war were using a special, ridiculously narrow definition. Here are the relevant quotes from the sources he cites:
Even more significantly, of course, none of the available evidence about what the Bush administration meant by imminent indicates they were using an unusually narrow definition. In fact, exactly the opposite: it indicates they were using an unusually broad definition of imminent.
As I initially cited, Bush's official National Security Strategy states: "We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries."
Next, here is Condoleezza Rice, speaking about Iraq and the new National Security Strategy on October 1, 2002: "new technology requires new thinking about when a threat actually becomes 'imminent.'"
Here is Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed on November 14, 2002. Note that Rumsfeld himself here uses "immediate threat" as a synonym for "imminent threat":
Here is Paul Wolfowitz speaking on November 15th of last year:
Here is Donald Rumsfeld answering a reporter's question on this issue -- the day after the State of the Union address:
Since we're talking about context, let's closely examine the context of this. George Bush had said in the one of the most high profile speeches on earth that Iraq might "bring us a day of horror like none we have ever known." The very next day, Rumsfeld explained that the meaning of imminence "changes depending on the potential lethality of the act."
Finally, since Sebastian brought up Just War theory, it's worth noting that the Bush administration invited Michael Novak to come to the Vatican and present an address arguing that an invasion of Iraq was in accordance with Just War doctrine.
So, to repeat: Sebastian argues that when discussing Iraq everyone had agreed upon a non-standard, very narrow definition of "imminent threat." Yet not only does he provide no evidence that this was the case, the Bush administration explicitly argued for a broad definition of imminent.
This leaves us with the State of the Union address. I think it would be justified to ignore Sebastian's remarks about it, since the context in which Bush was using the term "imminent" was nothing at all like the one Sebastian claims.
Nonetheless, I think it's worth examining, because Sebastian's parsing of its meaning is such pure gobbledygook. First, he agrees it's "correct that Bush states that we cannot know whether the threat is imminent." Then he writes that Bush was equating a threat that has fully emerged with a threat that is imminent: "[Bush says] that if we permit the threat to fully emerge, if we allow the threat to become imminent, we have waited too long."
In other words, by Sebastian's logic, Bush meant that even at the point when a threat has "fully and suddenly emerged" and "all actions, all words, and all recriminations" are too late -- which can only mean the point when the terrorists and tyrants have struck and an attack has actually occurred -- we may be unable to perceive it. Somehow we may not notice "a day of horror like none we have ever known."
I suggest it is this rhetoric of Sebastian's which is tortured, not mine. Let me therefore repeat and elaborate on my straightforward, commonsense interpretation of Bush's statement:
Bush was not using an extremely narrow definition of imminent. He wasn't equating an "imminent threat" to a threat that had fully and suddenly emerged and about which it is too late to do anything. Rather, he was saying that Iraq could be an imminent threat for a period of time without our perceiving it as imminent -- as we were unaware in August, 2001 that Al-Qaida would soon destroy the World Trade Center. Then the threat from Iraq might fully and suddenly emerge, just like the Al-Qaida attacks fully and suddenly emerged on September 11th. So Bush wasn't saying that imminence was not the correct standard to use -- ie, that we should still invade Iraq even if we knew it wasn't an imminent threat.
To sum up: Sebastian has provided no basis in reality for his claim that we should be employing a "specific," "ridiculously narrow" definition for imminent threat. Indeed, reality points in precisely the opposite direction.
So, we can use the meanings found in thesauruses and dictionaries. Or we can use the more expansive definition of imminent suggested by the Bush administration. Either way, the idea that the Bush administration argued that Iraq was an imminent threat is absolutely not a complete fabrication.
4. I hate to go into any more detail, but I feel like I have to.
Sebastian's treatment of the Fleischer quotes exacerbates my feeling we're in a situation in which words can mean anything at all.
For instance, Sebastian states that in both quotes, the "imminent threat" portion of the reporters' questions was a "mere preface to the substance of the question."
This is just not true. In the first Fleischer quote, the "imminent threat" portion is not a mere preface, but an absolutely critical part of the question the reporter is asking. Without it the reporter's question makes no sense whatsoever. And Fleischer answers in the affirmative:
The meaning of Fleischer's statement is not a mystery. The only plausible interpretation is that he means: Yes, the president has been saying the threat is so imminent that we have to act now. The president is acting now to make sure there are inspections that aren't thwarted. If there are inspections that aren't thwarted then the threat may diminish. Without inspections, or with inspections that are thwarted, the threat will remain imminent.
In the second Fleischer quote, the "imminent threat" portion again is not a "preface to the substance of the question." Indeed, again, it is the substance of the question:
It's beyond me how Sebastian can claim that Fleischer is not here agreeing that the U.S. said "these weapons were a direct and imminent threat to the United States." To understand how ridiculous this is, let's imagine a parallel question and response:
Sebastian would then argue that it was a complete fabrication that Fleischer confirmed that "we said that these beanie babies were really cute and we wanted them."
Lastly, I note again the contradiction between Fleischer's behavior and Sebastian's claim that the Bush administration "strenuously avoided labeling" Iraq as an imminent threat. Here's another example in which exactly the opposite happened:
Yup. Fleischer told a reporter: "You have your judgment [that there is no imminent threat from Iraq] and the president has others."
Contrast this to what happens when White House press secretaries truly are strenuously avoiding labeling a country an imminent threat. On those occasions there's no question what they mean:
5. Regarding Radio Free Europe, Sebastian is incorrect when he says we are not talking about third party characterizations. It's true they don't have a bearing on what the Bush administration argued, but they do on the issue of "complete fabrication." A quick Nexis search shows there were dozens if not hundreds of articles before the war saying the Bush administration was claiming Iraq was an imminent threat. Yet, Sebastian claims (1) everyone had agreed upon and was using a specific, narrow definition of imminent, and (2) this was a definition of imminent that Bush had not invoked. So to win this bet, Sebastian must argue that all of these news outlets, including one funded by the U.S. government itself, quite consciously engaged in a complete fabrication.
6. Regarding Rumsfeld's "immediate threat" statement, I'd first like to note that Sebastian writes that "we suspected Saddam had biological and chemical weapons at the very time of Rumsfield's report." I think a better way of putting this would be that "we stated over and over and over there was no doubt whatsoever that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons."
In any case, as I noted above, Rumsfeld himself when talking on another occasion about the danger posed by Iraq used "immediate threat" as a synonym for "imminent threat." So Sebastian is arguing that it is not only a complete fabrication to go by the standards of dictionaries and thesauruses, it is a complete fabrication to go by Rumsfeld's own usage.
7. Regarding Bush's Cincinnati speech, Sebastian does not address the fact that Bush said Iraq was "a threat whose outlines are far more clearly defined" than Al-Qaida's were on September 10, 2001. I think he's wise to avoid this -- because unless Al-Qaida wasn't an imminent threat on September 10, the only meaning of Bush's words is that Iraq was an imminent threat.
Sebastian of course acknowledges Bush said Iraq could choose "any given day" to help terrorists attack the U.S. But, says Sebastian, Bush would only have meant this was an imminent threat if he'd stated "we have intelligence reports showing that Saddam is about to give some of his longstanding stocks of chemical weapons to terrorists."
This is an interesting standard to require. Because in that very same speech, Bush said, "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases."
At last, something on which he and I can agree.
Friday, October 17, 2003
The state of Islam -- 2003
Post -- 9/11, there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth about the role that Islam plays in the promotion of terrorism and general hostility to the West. It is often stressed that Islam encompasses more than the Arab Middle East, and should not be conflated with the ideology of Osama bin Laden or his cronies. Surely, true Islam is not fundamentally anti-Semitic, for example?
So, let's go to what outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad said yesterday in his welcoming speech:
When the European Union -- which knows from anti-Semitism -- declares that the speech is anti-Semitic, you know a line has been crossed. [UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan points that the French weren't that upset]
A few thoughts:
The scary and pathetic thing is, Hamid Albar is correct -- relative to a lot of Muslims, Mahathir's position is moderate. He's not advocating the use of violence to exterminate the state of Israel. He's advocating the use of brainpower -- to exterminate the state of Israel.
Mahathir embodies the moderate face of Islam. To his credit, he was at the helm as his country indistrialized. He was smart enough to appreciate the importance of the rule of law and the role of markets in fostering economic growth. He bucked the IMF's advice and imposed capital controls during the Asian financial crisis and lived to tell the tale. He pursued a number of policies designed to ameliorate ethnic tensions between the poorer but more numerous Malays and the wealthier ethnic Chinese. These feats are not easy for a developing country leader to pull off.
And yet, this man, the best that moderate political Islam has to offer, is rotten with flaws. Mahathir subverted his country's democratic traditions to suit his political purposes. He jailed his anointed successor for having the temerity to question whether the IMF might actually be correct. And the anti-Semitism is hardly new -- he blamed the Jews, specifically George Soros, for causing the Asian financial crisis.
There is actually a powerful critique of Islamic fundamentalism in this passage -- but over means and not ends.
What Mahathir wants is for Islamic countries to embrace modernization without Westernization and its tacky "Jewish" traits of human rights and democracy. However, it's no coincidence that the peak of Islam's power and influence came at a time when the religion was tolerant to scientific and religious views outside of the Quran. Although Samuel Huntington and Benjamin Barber disagree, I side with Jonathan Rauch in believing that it's impossible to embrace modern science without embracing the tolerance for free thought that is at the core of Western liberal thought.
I could very well be wrong, however. This is the trillion-dollar bet for the West for the next century. The state of Islam in 2003 does not make me sanguine.
I partially agree with the Egyptian Foreign Minister -- the speech should be read it in its entirety.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Words I never thought I would write -- Drezner gets results from the New York Times editorial page.
My last baseball post for a while
Well, it looks like I'm going to have to follow my own advice. So....
Congratulations, New York Yankees. You showed a lot of grit in Game 7, coming back against the toughest pitcher in the American League. By the smallest, but most crucial of fractions, you were the better team last night.
[That's it?!! No venting about how the Sox choked?--ed. But they didn't choke, no matter what the Boston Globe says. They won Game 6 when everyone thought they would lose it. Pedro Martinez outpitched Roger Clemens in Game 7. The Sox committed no baserunning or fielding errors -- indeed, the much-maligned defense of Todd Walker kept the team in it for two innings. Even the New York Post said, "The Sox provided the heroics where they were needed." Yes, one can certainly question Grady Little for leaving Martinez in for so long. But remember that Little also had the guts to go against conventional wisdom and have Derek Lowe pitch to Adam Melhuse rather than walk him in the deciding game of the division series against Oakland. Had Little not done that, it's entirely possible that the Sox don't make it to the ALCS. No, the Sox played the 2003 regular season and playoffs with grit and poise. I'm proud to call myself a Red Sox fan.]
Even as the game ended, the impartial spectator in me was also pleased that baseball has had such a great playoff season, in terms of the increased TV ratings and, more important, the caliber of the games themselves.
Of course, the partial spectator in me found this to be cold comfort. But after the game was over, I turned off the television and lookied in on the parts of my life that matter in a more profound way than games played by boys in stadiums. And all was well.
Well, there's always next year.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Drezner gets results from the Philadelphia Inquirer
The bureaucratic politics meme scores another news story. Somehow, I have to think that Joseph L. Galloway and James Kuhnhenn were giggling hysterically when they wrote the first few grafs of this story:
OK, I don't care what your partisan affiliation is, that last graf is just damn funny.
These paragraphs, on the other hand, should prompt more concern:
The post-war debate on the pre-war rhetoric, part IV
Sebastian's claim that the Bush administration "strenuously resisted labeling" Iraq an imminent threat is misleading.
The Bush administration rarely addressed the question using this specific language.
On some occasions, they skirted around the issue, neither saying Iraq was an imminent threat, nor that it wasn't, nor that it might be but we couldn't know for sure:
On some of these occasions when they were directly asked using this specific language, as I noted, Ari Fleischer happily assented that the administration claimed Iraq was an imminent threat.
On another occasion, the State of the Union address, the administration (as I also noted) did not, as Sebastian claims, "specifically reject a need for an imminent threat before attacking Saddam's regime." Bush did not say "Iraq doesn't need to be an imminent threat for us to attack it." Rather, he rejected the idea that we could accurately perceive whether the threat was imminent.
Therefore, a more accurate description of what happened is this:
During the runup to the war, many people questioned whether Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. However, except on a few occasions, the Bush administration avoided engaging the issue using this exact language. Instead, they made many extremely alarming claims that used synonymous language and terms. When the exact "imminent threat" language was used, the administration sometimes agreed that Iraq was an imminent threat; sometimes didn't address the question; and sometimes said we couldn't know whether or not it was an imminent threat.
It is speculation, but (I believe) quite plausible, that the Bush administration was trying to have it both ways. It was difficult for them to claim that Iraq in fact was an imminent threat to the U.S., and they certainly did not want to have to assert explicitly that it was an imminent threat in order to wage war. But they also couldn't say straightforwardly that Iraq was not an imminent threat, because it would undercut support for a war. Hence a frequent avoidance of the exact language, combined with repeated references to the "clear peril" and "gathering danger" that was "more clearly defined" than Al-Qaida and could strike on "any given day."
Is it about the schools?
Josh Marshall vents his spleen on whether the reconstruction of Iraq is going well of not. At the end of the post, he says:
As fate would have it, John Sviokla and Marvin Zonis have a Chicago Tribune op-ed today that says we should be in Iraq to reopen schools. The highlights:
To be fair to Marshall, he ends his post with, "to come soon on this issue of the schools." I'll be sure to update this post when Marshall explains himself more fully.
The substance of academic style
Here's a link to the actual Hamermesh and Parker paper.
A few serious and not-so-serious thoughts on this:
Wait a minute -- an N of 6 on judging looks?!! On matters as subjective as attracyiveness, I'm going to want to see a larger number of raters -- get these style mavens on the task, stat!!
Should professors care about this? Damn straight. Teaching is all about capturing the attention of the student. Every little bit helps. [So, you're advocating that professors should dress like this to keep the students focused?--ed. Obviously, that would be distracting. However, a proper sense of style can attract attention without it morphing into something inappropriate.]
Adam Smith's advice to Cubs fans
What can one say? Surprisingly, for someone who knew nothing about baseball, Adam Smith gives some pretty good advice on this subject in his other classic, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:
Tough words to live by, I must confess.
He's still right, though.
UPDATE: For those who find Smith of little comfort, Julia Keller has a nice article in the Chicago Tribune. The highlights:
Indeed. Andrew Sullivan's boyfriend can relate.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- part III
Holsclaw responds to Schwarz:
First, I would like to dispose of the thesaurus arguments. Do we really have to stoop to this? A thesaurus gives you a contextless range of somewhat similar meaning words. In the context of the debate about the war against Saddam the words 'imminent threat' were used by opponents of the war to set an extremely high threshold of intelligence about Iraq. This is not a context that allows 'imminent' to be freely exchanged with words like 'gathering threat'. This is especially not a context where 'immediate' is interchangeable with 'imminent'. The French have an immediate capability to attack us with nuclear weapons, but no one in their right mind would argue that the French nuclear capability is an 'imminent threat'.
This disagreement is about the actual content of the administration argument about the war. One of the most public and most forceful administration arguments about the war is the 2003 State of the Union Address . I hate to belabor it, but I really don't think I can overstate the importance of such a publicized speech to a disagreement about the administration’s case.
Your rhetoric regarding these paragraphs is tortured. You are correct that Bush states that we cannot know whether the threat is imminent. But the conclusion you draw from that is not supported by the actual text, nor is supported by the context of the debate about war against Saddam. He is arguing that the concept of imminent threat is inapplicable to the problem of Iraq. He is saying that we cannot know if the threat is imminent, but that given what we do know about Iraq, it doesn't matter. He then immediately goes to show why it doesn't matter by saying that if we permit the threat to fully emerge, if we allow the threat to become imminent, we have waited too long. He then mentions that Saddam has already used such weapons on his own people--a fact which has no bearing on an imminence question, but which is deeply important if your case for war is not concerned with an imminent threat. You attempt to divert the discussion into a question of knowledge. You seem to indicate that Bush might be saying that the threat is imminent. Bush brings up the problem of knowledge to show that an imminent threat analysis leaves you too exposed to the imperfections of the intelligence networks. He is arguing against the whole 'imminent threat' way of looking at things because it foolishly assumes perfect intelligence about Iraq. You focus on the fact that Bush neither confirms nor denies an imminent threat. You seem to think that Bush might secretly suspect that there is an imminent threat. Perhaps he did have such a secret suspicion. But he argued that we should act even without an imminent threat. The administration argument is what is in question.
If the imminence of the threat was in fact part of the administration case, I would have expected you to find far better quotes than the ones you have:
Point One, regarding the State of the Union Address, I dealt with above.
Point two is a context-free thesaurus reading exercise.
Points four and six, the Fleischer quotes, are responses to reporter questions in which the 'imminent threat' portion of the question is a mere preface to the substance of the question which Mr. Fleischer answers. In your point four, Fleischer is clarifying the US demands about UN Inspector access. In your point six, Fleischer is responding that one of the reasons for going to war was worry about weapons of mass destruction. Construing his yes to a substantive question about one issue as an affirmative administration argument in favor of an incidental reporter declaration of 'imminent danger' is exactly how one engages in a good fabrication. You take things that are near the truth, and change them into something else entirely. The other problem with point six is that much of it relies on third party characterizations. We are not talking about third party characterizations. The question is: what did the administration argue? Radio Free Europe's funding does not transform its characterizations into administration arguments.
Point Seven is an argument well after the fact. The Bush administration knows that the idea of 'imminent threat' is important to some people. If they believe that they can win these people over by showing evidence of an imminent threat after the fact, that is just good politics. That says nothing however about the administration’s arguments before the war.
That leaves us with only two points that are even remotely relevant to the discussion.
Point three is the Rumsfield quote. Rumsfield says two things. First, he says that intelligence is uncertain. Once again he is pointing out a problem with waiting for intelligence of an imminent threat. He offers some evidence for those to whom an imminent threat argument is important, but he does not argue that such a threat is necessary. He then goes on to talk about the biological threat. In this context 'immediate threat' means that we suspected Saddam had biological and chemical weapons at the very time of Rumsfield's report. The threat isn't imminent, because Saddam has had those weapons for years and you wouldn't talk about a 15-year imminent threat. It was an important threat because he was a self-declared enemy who had actually used such weapons against his enemies before. He was a scary threat because he was Saddam and not Chirac. But none of that constitutes an argument that Saddam is an imminent threat.
Point 5 suffers exactly the same problems. Cheney points out the capacity of Iraq to cause trouble because it has a long history of causing trouble. 'On any given day', refers to its present capacity. It means that if Saddam chose to do so, he had the capability to cause a great amount of mischief. This isn't an imminent danger of the 'we have intelligence reports showing that Saddam is about to give some of his longstanding stocks of chemical weapons to terrorists'. This quote points out Saddam's capability, and our knowledge about Saddam's willingness to use such capabilities makes it disturbing that he should continue in power indefinitely. This speech was made in the context of the prospect of an indefinitely long UN inspection period so it makes perfect sense in that context.
The problem at this point is that you equate all arguments that Saddam was a threat as if they were arguments that Saddam was an imminent threat. Of course Bush argued that Saddam was a threat. But he never fell into the trap which Kennedy and Byrd tried to set when they wanted an authorization predicated on an 'imminent threat'. Bush and his administration argued that Saddam was threat that would get worse over time. They argued that he was a threat that could not be deterred forever. But they did not argue that he had something in mind to attack us right now, they did not argue he was an imminent threat.
The essence of fabrication about someone's political position is to take a kernel of truth and apply so much distortion as to turn it into a lie. That is exactly what is going on here. Those who are engaging in this fabrication take Bush's position that Saddam was a threat and twist it through the anti-war rhetoric of Senators Kennedy and Byrd. Then they contrast this mischaracterization against the lack of evidence that Saddam was an imminent threat and use this contrast to suggest that Bush lied about Saddam's imminent threat. A fabrication is asserted as true, when it in fact is not true. It is not true that Bush's administration argued for the invasion of Iraq by saying that Iraq was an imminent threat. The very few quotes you can find which come even close to that all stress that Saddam is a dangerous threat, but none of them approach the level of 'imminent threat', especially as used in the very real debate about the war against Saddam. Phrases have different meanings in different contexts. 'Pro-choice' and 'Pro-Life' have much narrower meanings in the context of the abortion debate than they do in other situations. That is why it always sounds so silly when people say 'how can you be pro-life and eat meat?', or 'how can you be pro-choice and support a ban on cocaine?' In the context of the debate about the war against Saddam, 'imminent threat' became the anti-war phrase which set an extremely high burden of proof for an attack. Instead of trying to meet that burden, Bush argued that it was an inappropriate burden, and that we should attack Iraq on other grounds. To characterize this anti-'imminent threat' position as arguing that Saddam posed an imminent threat, is to twist the argument so far as to make it the opposite of what it actually was. That is why I feel free to characterize such a position as a fabrication.
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- part II
Jonathan Schwarz's opening statement on the question: "It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."
"It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."
Jonathan will be arguing in the negative:
I concede that no Bush administration official ever said -- as far as I'm aware -- the precise words "Iraq is an imminent threat." However, the evidence clearly shows that the idea that the Bush administration argued there was an imminent threat from Iraq is not completely fabricated. (Indeed, I believe any fair reading of Bush administration statements shows that indeed they did clearly claim Iraq was an imminent threat. However, for the purposes of this bet, I need merely show that the idea that they argued Iraq was an imminent threat is not made up out of whole cloth.)
For easy reference, I've numbered the parts of my argument below.
1. First I'd like to address the most frequently-cited evidence that the statement at issue is true. That is this section from the most recent State of the Union address:
Some, such as Charles Krauthammer, claim this means that "in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush plainly denied that the threat was imminent".
This is incorrect. Bush here did not deny that Iraq was an imminent threat. Rather, he was making the argument that we could not know whether or not Iraq was an imminent threat. In other words, the implication of what Bush was saying was that indeed Iraq might be an imminent threat.
(While this is somewhat off-topic, my speculation is that Bush's speechwriters wrote this section of the State of the Union as they did because they were in a difficult position. They knew people were claiming that we should only attack if Iraq were an imminent threat to the US, and that that idea had a great appeal to many people. And they knew that the idea that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US might appear far-fetched. But at the same time, it wasn't politically feasible to say explicitly that Iraq wasn't an imminent threat. So they finessed it, while elsewhere trying to make the threat sound as alarming as possible.)
2. Next, let's turn to Bush administration claims on other occasions before the war -- claims that clearly show that the idea that they argued Iraq was an imminent threat are not completely fabricated.
On June 6, 2002, Dick Cheney referred in a speech to the "gathering danger" of Iraq. At the United Nations last year on September 12, Bush himself stated that "Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger".
According to Roget's Interactive Thesaurus, "gathering" is a synonym of "imminent."
3. In testimony before Congress on September 18 last year, Donald Rumsfeld stated that:
Here Rumsfeld says that he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraq may be an imminent nuclear threat. More significantly for our purposes, he states that Iraq has biological weapons and that they are an "immediate threat."
According to Roget's Interactive Thesaurus, "immediate" is also a synonym of "imminent."
4. On October 16 last year, the following exchange with Ari Fleischer took place at a White House press briefing:
I believe this speaks for itself.
5. During an October 7 speech last year in Cincinnati, Bush stated that:
Later, in the State of the Union, Bush said that terrorists armed by Iraq could "bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
In other words, Bush was arguing that Iraq could on any given day help terrorists bring the U.S. a day of horror like none we have ever known -- and that Iraq was a danger comparable or greater than Al-Qaida, which everyone would agree is an imminent threat to America.
6. Next let's examine three significant interpretations of the Bush administration's Iraq claims.
Radio Free Europe's headline after Bush's speech was "Iraq: Bush Tells Americans Saddam Is An Imminent Threat". Many other news outlets made such claims, but Radio Free Europe's is particularly noteworthy because it is funded by the U.S. government itself.
After the war on this past June 8th, William Kristol -- obviously one of the prime journalistic supporters of the war -- stated on Fox News Sunday that "Bush and Blair certainly articulated" "the case for urgency".
Also after the war, Ari Fleischer was again asked whether the United States claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. Again he agreed:
7. Finally, the blog on the official Bush/Cheney reelection campaign website approvingly cites columnist Kathleen Parker's "judgment that Kay’s report does indeed prove that conditions in Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States and the world."
It's worth examining the implications of this closely. George Bush's official website is promoting the idea that David Kay's findings prove that Iraq was an imminent threat. Yet what Kay found was far, far less than the unequivocal claims by the Bush administration before the war -- that Iraq possessed biological and chemical weapons and was actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
Therefore, by the Bush campaign's own standards of what constitutes an imminent threat, it logically follows that the Bush administration was arguing that Iraq posed an imminent threat. After all, Iraq could hardly have been more of a threat with what Kay has discovered than it would have been with what the Bush administration said they definitely had.
In conclusion, let me summarize what Sebastian must argue:
Yes, Bush and Cheney did state that Iraq posed a "gathering danger," which is a synonym for "imminent threat." Yes, Rumsfeld did state that Iraq's biological weapons were an "immediate threat," which is a synonym for "imminent threat." Yes, the President's press secretary agreed when asked, both before and after the war, that the Bush administration claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. Yes, Bush said Iraq was as much of a threat as Al-Qaida and could on any given day give terrorists the means to bring us a day of horror like none we've ever known. Yes, a news organization funded by the U.S. government believed Bush was saying Iraq was an imminent threat, and William Kristol understood Bush to mean that the case for war was urgent. Yes, according to the standards of Bush's own official website, the Bush administration argued that Iraq was an imminent threat.
Nevertheless, it is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq.
I believe this cannot be judged to be a tenable argument -- and that therefore I have won this bet.
UPDATE: Holsclaw responds.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric -- part I
I've been asked to referee a debate among two frequent commentors at Calpundit -- Jonathan Schwarz and Sebastian Holsclaw -- on the following question:
The winner gets $100 from the loser. [Why are you the referee?--ed. According to Schwarz, they both respect my "intellectual integrity and judgment." Suckers!! So you already have an opinion formed?--ed. Let's just say I'm open to having my mind changed. If you want to know what my take on this question has been in the past, click here, here, here, here, and here]
Holsclaw -- who will argue in the affirmative -- gets the first shot:
In light of our failure to find large scale evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), there has been much talk about Bush's administration lying about Iraq's imminent threat. It is certainly disturbing that we have not found WMD in Iraq. But those who want to accuse Bush of lying about the Iraq's 'imminent threat' are confusing their own rhetoric with the case actually put forth by the Bush administration.
Here is the charge:
There is a major problem with this charge. The Bush administration did not in fact argue that there was an imminent threat. In fact they strenuously resisted labeling it as such.
In 2002 there was a Senate debate on the authorization of war against Iraq. Senators Kennedy, Byrd and Kerry all argued that war could not proceed against Iraq without an imminent threat. Kennedy, Byrd, and Kerry (saying that he wouldn't vote for an authorization without an imminent threat right before he does in fact vote for such an authorization.) In fact Byrd offered an amendment which would have replaced the actual language of the authorization, "the continuing threat posed by Iraq", with an authorization only allowing attack if there was an imminent threat. These deliberations and wranglings were widely reported with the 'imminent threat' argument repeated in news stories and op-eds across the country. The actual resolution requested and obtained by the Bush administration does not refer to an imminent threat despite numerous attempts by opponents of the administration to include it.
Kennedy and Byrd wanted us to wait until our intelligence services could verify that Saddam was just about to gain nuclear weapons before we acted. Considering what we now know about our intelligence activity in Iraq, that proposition looks even more ridiculous now than it did then. Considering the failure of our intelligence services in discovering the North Korean nuclear capability before it was active, it was silly even then.
The 'requirement' for an imminent threat lost out in the 2002 debate. But Bush himself continued to address the argument. In his 2003 State of the Union Address, an address which is one of the most widely reported speeches in the free world, he said:
Here, in one of the most widely reported speeches in the world, Bush specifically rejects a need for an imminent threat before attacking Saddam's regime.
He also argues the humanitarian case for destroying Saddam's regime.
Kennedy, Byrd, and many of the opinion writers in the nation argued that an imminent threat was required to attack Iraq. It certainly did not escape their notice that the US did in fact attack Iraq. They seem to believe that they won the debate about 'imminent threat' and that since Bush attacked Iraq, he must have argued that there was an imminent threat. This quite simply a fabrication, or at best a self-imposed illusion. They lost the debate in 2002. They had their theory specifically repudiated by Bush in the most public speech available. Bush did not lie about an imminent threat because he absolutely did not argue there was one.
UPDATE: Part II is now available.
The difference between Red Sox conservatives and Cubs conservatives?
Well, to tell the truth, I became a Red Sox fan because, even as an eight-year old, I believed in balancing behavior. Everyone else in my family pulled for the Yankees, so I started instictively pulling for the Red Sox. The rest is history. Painful and gut-wrenching history.
I generally don't think there's any correlation between political persuasion and favored sports teams. However, George Will thinks otherwise.
The Chicago Tribune has an amusing story about the Emil Verban Society, a DC-based organization of Cubs fans whose namesake epitomizes the dilemma of the Cub fan: In 2,911 career at-bats, Emil Verbanhad only one home run.
Buried in the story is this little nugget from George Will:
Will all due respect to George Will, I'm a conservative but I derived a different philosophy rooting for the Red Sox. While life can indeed be nasty, brutish, and short, the worst sin is to respond to the cruelties of existence by giving up hope. The spectre of defeat is ever present and must be acknowledged. However, the optimism that comes with the prospect of next season is never extinguished for the true Red Sox fan. And only by nurturing such optimism can one truly appreciate the joy that comes from the occasional triumph.
On the other hand, maybe baseball has nothing to do with politics -- the most optimistic conservative of them all was also a Cubs fan and proud member of the Emil Verban society.
UPDATE: Well, David Brooks disagrees with me as well:
To which I say, what the f#$% does Brooks know? If he ain't going to declare which team he's rooting for, I have no use for him on this subject except to admire his prose style from a bemused distance.
UPDATE: Reader A.M. e-mails an interesting point -- that even if there is little correlation between political and sports affiliations in the United States, there is a strong correlation in other parts of the globe:
Monday, October 13, 2003
Why the Red Sox should win it all this year
In my last Red Sox post I confidently predicted a World Series victory this year for Boston's team -- and got an earful from myriad Sox fans convinced I was jinxing them. So, I had silently vowed to stay mum on the subject until the Red Sox actually won.
Well, I'm sticking to that vow -- but I must link and quote others who comment on this topic. First, there's Seth Stevenson's hysterically funny Slate essay explaining why the Red Sox deserve to win the World Series more than the Cubs. It starts as follows:
Yeah, that's about right (though, to be fair, Williamson was pitching his third straight day on the game in question).
What's really funny, though, is Stevenson's last few grafs:
Living in Chicago, there's no way I can entirely endorse Stevenson's amusingly blinkered logic, but to quote Chris Rock, "I understand."
In contrast to either the Cubs or the Red Sox, consider what Jay Drezner has to say about being a Yankees fan:
Yeah, life really sucks for my brother the Yankee fan.... grumble, grumble.
[C'mon, you're not going to comment on the Game 3 incidents?--ed. No, but I will link to David Pinto and say that even as a Red Sox fan, I agree with most of this statement:
Rob Neyer offers a counter to Pinto, but this issue is almost besides the point. The key to this year's Red Sox team has been their ability to overcome the distractions created by Pedro and Manny while exploiting their prodigious talents. As this Providence Journal story indicates, the team realizes this:
Drezner gets results from the Washington Post
The management of bureaucratic politics that I touched on in my last TNR essay is the subject of a page one story in yesterday's Washington Post (link via Patrick Belton). Greg Djerejian and Atrios have additional commentary.
Everyone interested in U.S. foreign policy should read the whole thing, but I'll highlight two sections from it. First, on the process:
Three thoughts on this:
The second part of this story sends a shiver down my spine:
If I was oh, let's say, a Democrat running for president, this would be my angle of attack on the President's foreign policy. Forget the WMD question -- ask the president to articulate U.S. policy towards the other members of the Axis of Evil. Oh, wait.....
Bob Blackwill is the man for the job, but he's got his work cut out.
For a cogent rebuttal, check out Jonathan Rauch's latest in Reason. I think Rauch is making a virtue out of a clear vice, but I hope I'm wrong and he's right.
One-stop shopping for the Plame Game
Alex Parker has managed to assemble the major news stories over the past five months about the Plame Game. It's not comprehensive -- Paul Krugman's July essay is not included -- but it hits all of the high notes.
Go check it out. If you think something's missing, e-mail Alex with the link.
Sunday, October 12, 2003
What do Iraq and the Democratic Party have in common?
When a policy is perceived as not working out, there are two explanations usually given:
However, as Matt Bai points out in today's New York Times Magazine, the Democratic Party is undergoing a similar debate about it's own future. The story discusses former White House chief of staff John Podesta's efforts to create a liberal think tank to rival the right-wing triumvirate of the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, and American Enterprise Institute. The key grafs:
So, is the Democratic Party's problem that it needs to fix media misperceptions or that it needs to generate new policies?
Bai seems to answers his own question at the end of the piece:
As a member of the opposition who nevertheless truly wants to see this project succeed in part (click here for why), I'd suggest that Podesta may be aiming too high. Part of the reason the right-wing think tanks have thrived is not just their willingness to take on the Republican establishment, but to take on each other. Cato and Heritage hardly see eye-to-eye on all matters, and I'm sure that there are different strands of the Democratic party that feel the same.
The key is not just to fund the construction of new ideas -- it's to encourage competition among new sets of ideas.
My advice to Podesta -- one think tank can't house every strand of the Democratic party -- aim for ideological coherence first, and then try to wipe the floor with other think tanks that lean Democratic.
What Nicholas Kristoff said
Of all the New York Times op-ed columnists, I've found Nicholas Kristoff to be the most unpredictable. I disagree with Bob Herbert 99% of the time, Krugman and Dowd 75% of the time, Brooks and Friedman only 33% of the time. Kristoff is at the 50% level -- I either think he's hit the nail on the head or I find him to be dead wrong.
Yesterday he hit the nail on the head:
Indeed (link via Tom Maguire).
UPDATE: Today's Washington Post story has more info. Most important, the key source behind September's revelations makes a new appearance:
So, this doesn't change my "nasty and partisan, but not intentional or malevolent" theory of events.
Friday, October 10, 2003
The best get-rich-quick cyberscam yet
I'm sure everyone who reads this blog has received an e-mail message from a Nigerian lawyer claiming -- in the strictest confidence, of course -- that s/he represents an ousted Nigerian despot and needs some bank account information so s/he can transfer lots of money to your account. I've also received Filipino versions of this cyberscam.
The latest permutation just landed in my inbox:
I am so going to write this guy back.
My oh-so-lazy Fridays
Little work is being done today, because my son's day care center closed at noon, so I have him for the rest of the day. Such are the occasional inconveniences of modern parenting.
I mention this only as an excuse to quote the last few grafs from this very funny post from Laura McK**** at Apartment 11D:
Actually, I think Laura might be overstating things a bit. Of course I signed on for the unpleasant or annoying parts of parenting -- it's just that before one has children, the mundane tasks are never the aspects of parenthood that one visualizes.
I also enjoy shopping at Target.
A step up for the Nobel Peace Prize
I defended last year's decision by the Nobel committee to award its Peace Proze to Jimmy Carter. That said, this year's recipient -- Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi -- is a decided improvement. Here's her official Nobel bio, and the official announcement. The key grafs:
Patrick Belton has a host of links up about her over at OxBlog.
Here's the terse announcement over at the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Meanwhile another IRNA story suggests that Iran is warming up its relations with that other exemplar of human rights, Cuba.
UPDATE: Slate has a nice explanation of the decision-making process behind the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thursday, October 9, 2003
Yet another plea to media professionals
The traffic on the blog has been pretty high as of late, so here's another plea to those who work in the media -- please take five minutes out of your busy schedule to answer five simple survey questions that are a curcial part of a joint project on the power and politics of blogs.
To date, I've received 80 proper responses, including reporters, producers, and editors who work for The New Republic, Economist, Time, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, and Foreign Affairs. I'm gunning for an N > 100. You, Mr. or Ms. Media Professional, could be the one that pushes the response number to three digits!!
Let me also note that there are an awful lot of important media institutions not on this aforementioned list -- Slate, The American Prospect, Weekly Standard, National Review, Washington Post (Howard Kurtz, I'm looking in your direction), USA Today, NBC, CBS, and Fox News.
Shame, shame -- no links to you!! [Oh, yeah, they're quaking in their boots.--ed. Shhh... you're blowing the illusion!] Particularly for CBS News -- if you guys are going to reprint my TNR Online columns, at least answer the survey questions!!
UPDATE: OK, The Weekly Standard is back in my good graces.
Criticizing and defending Krugman
Now, although this blog is not in the habit of defending Paul Krugman, I'd say that Kling is overstating the case a bit. Krugman uses both types of arguments. If you take a look at his NYT Magazine article on taxes, for example, Krugman does marshall consequential arguments to support his argument -- but he uses motivational ones as well.
Krugman, although not yet a Nobel winner, ain't a dumb bunny when it comes to economics or methodology. I'd posit that he slides from Type C to type M arguments under two sets of circumstances -- which happen to mirror the two flaws I identified last December in his op-ed columns. First, he'll switch to type M when he's run out of ways to reiterate the type C argument about an issue. Second, and more disturbingly, he'll use type M arguments more in areas where his economics expertise is of less use -- namely, politics and foreign policy.
This, by the way, is Peter Beinert's conclusion at the end of his NYT book review of Krugman's The Great Unraveling:
Note that this is a type T argument -- theoretical supposition -- with only a small dose of type C support.
UPDATE: Chris Lawrence makes such a good comment that I'm linking to it here. Chris is completely correct that type M arguments are a valid form of social science. Perhaps the refinement would be to suggest that Krugman's type C arguments are at their weakest when used in support of type M hypotheses.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Brad DeLong weighs in with some cogent points.
To repeat: no coherent narrative
Given the latest suicide bombing in Iraq, it's going to be easy to claim that the place -- and U.S. policy -- is an abject disaster. And there are certainly some problems besides violent attacks in the U.S. administration of Iraq.
However, consistent with my no coherent narrative meme, there is also some good news. The New York Times reports that it should be very easy to fulfill Iraq's aid needs for the next year -- about $6 billion -- in part because it will take some time for the country to have the necessary institutional infrastructure to absorb even more aid. Some cheering grafs:
Even more heartwarming is this Chicago Tribune story on the effects that U.S. aid are having on the Iraqi people. The highlights:
Really, you need to read the entire article.
One new and potentially intriguing part of the Iraqi coverage is that the Bush administration recognizes it needs to get more of the positive stories coming from Iraq into the media. [Why does this matter beyond the 2004 election?--ed. Because if the American people become convinced that Iraq is a miserable failure, then they're going to start demanding a withdrawal, which would be catastrophic for regional stability] This Chicago Tribune story on Condi Rice's latest speech suggests a new White House plan on this front:
Wednesday, October 8, 2003
Tom Maguire gets results from Newsweek!!
Josh Marshall also picks up on the careful parsing of the White House denials.
There's one other reason this version of events makes sense -- the "senior administration official" who leaked the original Post story has not come forward with any more blockbuster leaks to advance the story. Maybe this is because the original leak served its purpose -- I don't know.
Does this excuse Bush's lackluster statements about pursuing the leak? Yes and no. If the Maguire theory holds and Bush knows this as true, then it may explain why he's not exercised about the issue -- he knows that there was no criminal intent. However, as Maguire and I have pointed out repeatedly, Plame's NOC status means that even if there was no criminal action, this was a serious breach of ethical boundaries, not to mention a threat to intelligence operations. For someone who's supposed to bring honor and integrity back into the White House, Bush's approach remains cavalier.
[So do you think the left half of the blogosphere, like, just overhyped this?--ed. Not necessarily. First, the Newsweek theory of events rests crucially on the notion that the official who leaked the story to the Post made an important mistake. If you still accept the Post story as 100% correct, outrage is still justified. Second, Bush's lackadaisical response to the damage that has emanated from the leak has opened him up to justifiable criticisms -- proving once again that the response to the scandal is always more damaging than the scandal itself. So does this mean you're going to switch parties?--ed. No, in the sense that the original Washington Post story erred in asserting that the original Plame leak was widely shopped around, intentional, and therefore malicious. If this version of events turns out to be accurate, the post-leak White House behavior qualifies as nasty, partisan, and inept, but not malevolent. On policy grounds, well, let's just say that Noah Shachtman might need to give me a call.]
UPDATE: Mark Kleiman finds this theory "hard to swallow," but does not dismiss it out of hand. Tom Maguire also weighs in. Glenn Reynolds, as usual, has tons of links. Atrios alertly points to one piece of contradictory information.
The Democratic primary gets ugly
I thought the "puke politics" of the California gubernatorial election were bad -- that's nothing compared to the accusations flying between the Dean and Kerry camps:
OK, mostly I think this is amusing, but a semi-serious question -- what does it say about the state of Kerry's campaign that he's perfectly willing to piss off millions of Democrats who root for the Yankees, just to get a leg up in New Hampshire?
Capital market liberalization and publishing
My latest Tech Central Station column is up. It's on how economic liberalization beyond trade politics can and should be proceeding. Go check it out.
Oh, and for those interested in whether blogging can lead to writing as a career, Maureen Ryan has a story in the Chicago Tribune on the possibilities and pitfalls of such a trajectory. Various bloggers are quoted.
Level of outrage rising rapidly
On Monday, President Bush sounded tough on the Plame Game:
Link via Josh Marshall. The most generous thing I can say about this statement is that it's factually correct. All Bush is saying is what Jack Shafer said last week about the likelihood of finding leakers.
The thing is, Shafer's just a reporter -- Bush is the boss of whoever leaked the story. Exactly what kind of message does Bush send to that person in saying this to the press? Basically, that you'll never get caught. What does this message say to the FBI investigators? Chill out, we don't expect you to find anything.
Developing... and not in a way that I like.
UPDATE: In a lot of the comments on my Plame Game posts, there's a suggestion that Bush could find out who the leaker was with a thorough grilling of his senior staff. Mark Kleiman (who's moved off blogspot, I see) makes a similar suggestion).
Eugene Volokh provides a straightforward reason why this is not likely to be the case. Note that Eugene's post assumes that the leaker did violate the law. If Tom Maguire's "colossal but unintentional blunder" theory were true, Volokh's logic is slightly weakened (the leaker may be convinced that even if he did not violate the law, he'd get railroaded given the press attention this has received).
Note that this does not excuse Bush's statements from yesterday, however. The leaker's incentive structure doesn't matter -- Bush should be making clear what his preferences are on this issue. And yesterday's statement indicates that he's not all that worked up about it. Shame on him.
Tightening the reins?
Here's one indication that the White House has decided that it may be tolerating too much "creative tension" among the key bureaucracies when it comes to Iraq. From Knight-Ridder: President Bush has tapped national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to chair a new Iraq Stabilization Group amid increasing Democratic criticism of administration fumbling in postwar Iraq, congressional questioning of the president's proposed $87 billion Iraq spending package and the chaotic postwar situation in Iraq's effect on his approval ratings.
"Some might see this as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said one senior administration official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, "But it is a serious attempt to make the National Security Council more functional and remove some of the elements that have made it dysfunctional."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with the backing of Vice President Dick Cheney, has long run roughshod over the NSC, the State Department, the CIA and other government agencies, and at times even the wishes of the president himself.
"With this new system you can control and dampen some of that and make it much more apparent when someone is meddling with policy," the official said, adding, "That way the White House can run policy instead of this unholy alliance."
Here's a link to the Chicago Tribune story as well.
One sign that bureaucratic politics have spun out of control -- when cabinet-level officials talk about "unholy alliances."
UPDATE: Another sign is the following from the Washington Post:
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
The merits of faculty retreats
Michael Froomkin and Eric Muller are having an amusing debate on the relative merits of faculty retreats. Michael votes thumbs down [UPDATE -- Froomkin contests this description], while Eric believes them to be the epitome of Habermasian discourse.
I gotta go with Michael on this one. The idea of a faculty retreat sounded good the first time I heard it -- probably because I thought it would be held at some secluded lake somewhere with generous coffee breaks. In actuality, the retreats I've attended (all before I was at the U of C) were day-long marathons of bad pizza, bad flourescent lighting, and bad pontificating.
This gets to the nub of why I'm pessimistic about retreats. It's not that I don't respect my colleagues -- I respect and admire the erudition they all bring to the table. However, at the risk of destroying the glass structure that houses this blog, academics as a group are prone to liking the sound of their own voices way too much.
[Cue sound of glass tinkling!! Most of your colleagues aren't so egotistical as to have pontificating blogs!--ed. Yes, but reading my blog is optional for Internet users. Listening to colleagues at an all-day retreat is usually mandatory.]
The post-war debate about the pre-war justifications
Andrew Sullivan has an excellent post on this topic and on the efforts by all sides to frame the pre-war debate in the manner most favorable to them. The money quote
Go check it out.
Oh, right, there's an election today
I believe that Californians are voting on some governor thing.
Clearly, I'm not up on all the details. However, Robert Tagorda appears to be channeling all of his frustrations with the Dodgers into a non-stop blogathon about the election today, so go check him out.
Hey, we can do statebuilding
The Chicago Tribune has a good story on successful U.S. efforts to rebuild the state in Afghanistan, one town at a time. The key grafs:
Go read the entire article for an excellent account of warlord politics in Afghanistan, and the need to eradicate as many of them as possible before elections planned for 2004. The Guardian reports that the U.S. plans on sending troops to support another PRT to Kunduz.
Here's an idle thought -- why doesn't NATO create even more Provincial Reconstruction Teams? This is definitely an area where other countries can contribute -- indeed, this is an area where our allies may have a comparative advantage. New Zealand is already taking over one PRT. According to the Miami Herald, however, there is a problem with the European members of the coalition:
Indeed. [But why should the Europeans help us? Aren't we too belligerent for their tastes?--ed. This ain't Iraq, it's Afghanistan. This is the country for which NATO invoked Article V and for which the Security Council unanimously approved force. So our interests coincide in Afghanistan. From a purely self-interested perspective, however, our European allies have a strong incentive to demonstrate the utility of their armed forces to the U.S. government and the U.S. public. The more useful their military units, the greater demand for their services. The greater the demand for their services, the more leverage they have in affecting American foreign policy.]
Monday, October 6, 2003
No blogging until after sundown Monday night. Right now, it is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The ten days between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur are the Days of Awe, during which we are supposed to repent our myriad sins from the past year.
It is particularly important that we apologize and forgive our fellow man. On the Day of Atonement God always forgives one’s sins against the Almighty. However, God cannot forgive the transgressions committed against other human beings -- only those people can.
Because of the immediacy of blogging, and the frequently anonymous exchanges that take place on the World Wide Web, my various flaws are on full display every day on this site for all to read. So, to all readers, as well as those I’ve written about – let me apologize for the displays of pride, pettiness, slander, belligerency, cruelty, and offensiveness – be they intentional or not.
Wow, that feels good.
Sunday, October 5, 2003
A point worth making again
I asked on Friday what evidence there was that Bush and his senior White House staff knew about the Plame Game in July. This is an important point, because many liberals -- Mark Kleiman, Brad DeLong, Paul Krugman -- have argued that they must have known. If true, this would mean that the Bushies sat on this for 11 weeks without taking any action, which I agree would be pretty damning.
Brad DeLong was kind enough to comment on this post:
Let's break this down into the two possible mechanisms -- that the (non-leaking) White House senior staff finds out via Justice or via Tenet.
I doubt Justice contacted the White House in July. The first thing they did when they received the CIA request was to go back to the CIA for more information, as was the proper procedure. Furthermore, it's telling that according to the New York Times, the first place the FBI decided to ask questions was -- again -- the CIA. Perhaps someone at Justice gave a heads-up to the White House about the investigation. However, Justice's standard operating procedure suggests that until they were convinced of the need to open a proper investigation, there was no contact.
Now we go to Tenet. I actually thought this to be a decent assumption on Brtad's part -- until I read today's New York Times story on Tenet. Two salient sections. The first one comes at the end:
Nothing in there about Tenet formally notifying the White House. The Washington Post story on Tenet today takes this a step further:
Now, take a look at this section of the NYT story:
If Tenet didn't raise the Plame Game with Bush this Thursday, what makes anyone think that Tenet raised it with anyone else in the White House in July?
There are a lot of disturbing implications about the Plame Game and its ensuing fallout, and this is only one dimension to this issue, but it's an important one -- the extent to which Bush and his chief subordinates sat on the issue back in July. Many on the liberal side of the spectrum believe there was an eleven week pattern of malevolence that only became public in late September.
They could be proven correct, but at this point I don't see any facts to support this assertion.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman has a post today that does an excellent job of constructing the proper timeline. I have one quibble with it, and two areas of agreement. The quibble is minor -- Kleiman neglects to say that Time's follow-up to the Novak story was only in its online version. It never appeared in print.
However, Kleiman's version of events otherwise seems pretty accurate, and the comments below suggest that McClellan was briefed when facing the press on July 22nd. So I'll concede there's a high probability that Bush's senior aides knew about this in July. As for Bush himself, Kleiman acknowledges that he's got no evidence either way. Given Tenet's behavior cited above, I'm inclined to think he didn't know.
Saturday, October 4, 2003
Adam Smith on outsourcing
One of the perks of teaching at the University of Chicago is that the school requires much of its faculty to teach beyond their area of expertise. I'm teaching in one of the "core sequences" at the University of Chicago this quarter, entitled Power, Identity, and Resistance. You can access a copy of the syllabus here or on my teaching page.
We're currently immersed in Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. There are many great qualities about the work, but what strikes me today is its topicality -- like all great works in social science, Smith's observations are constantly relevant.
For example, consider this passage from Book I, Chapter X, Part II -- "Inequalities occasioned by the Policy of Europe":
William Kristol weighs in on the Plame Game in the Weekly Standard -- and he hits the nail right on the head in two ways.
First, they put the import of the scandal itself in the correct perspective:
Their second good point echoes the one I made in The New Republic Online -- that this incident is endemic of a larger problem:
Indeed (link via Kevin Drum).
Friday, October 3, 2003
Your weekend reading
Arvind Panagariya has an excellent essay in Foreign Policy that points out the true costs and benefits from free trade. You should read the whole thing, but here's what Panagariya says about who benefits from the removal of agricultural subsidies:
He also makes a cogent point about which group of countries are protectionist:
Give it a look.
THE COMPLETE ONLINE ARTICLE ARCHIVE
"Bush the Bumbler" -- December 17, 2003
"Fables of the Reconstruction" -- November 3, 2003
"More Harm Than Good." (review of William Easterly's The White Man's Burden) -- Wall Street Journal, March 16, 2006
"Globalization Without Riots" (review of Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization) -- New York Times, April 18, 2004 (and see the follow-up exchange in the Letters section here)
"Trade Off" -- June 25, 2004
"Fail Proof" -- May 27, 2004
"Up is Down" -- April 28, 2004
"Cornered" -- March 31, 2004
"Hash of Civilizations" -- March 3, 2004
"History Channeling" -- February 4, 2004
"Transparent Move" -- January 7, 2004
"Domestic Disturbance" -- October 29, 2003
"Barely Managing" -- October 3, 2003
"Protection Racket" -- September 3, 2003
"Illiberal Imagination" -- August 6, 2003
"A Credible Alternative" -- July 9, 2003
"An Ounce of Prevention" -- June 11, 2003
"Et Tu, Kristol?" -- May 14, 2003
"Friendly Fire" -- April 9, 2003
"Democracy by America" -- March 12, 2003
"One for All" -- February 12, 2003
"About That Commission Report..." -- June 28, 2004
"The State of Islam -- 2003" -- October 20, 2003
"Against Sedentary Lifestyles" -- October 8, 2003
"What Might Trip Up the WTO" -- September 19, 2003
"What's New About Global Trade" -- September 9, 2003
"Let Them Eat Subsidies" -- July 17, 2003
"Great Responsibility" -- May 6, 2003
Drezner's Hollywood minute for geeks
The University of Chicago campus is abuzz over the location filming of Proof, U of C alum David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play!! Why, earlier this week, your intrepid blogger had to dodge multiple cast trailers parked right outside your correspondent's office!!
This production has attracted only the Hollywood A list!! It stars Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow!! Academy award nominee John Madden will direct!!
OK, enough channeling of the Access Hollywood prose style.
While the Entertainment Weekly reader in me is delighted that Gwyneth is in town, the geek in me is unsated.
Far be it for me to critique Paltrow's amazing acting chops. Clearly, she can excel at the New York socialite/period Briton roles in her own vavoom kind of way. However, the lead in Proof is supposed to be a tortured, brilliant daughter of another mathematical genius. Now I've seen Paltrow on the occasional talk show, and, well, let's just say it's debatable whether she ever absorbed some of the basic mathematical concepts, like, for example, prime numbers.
But who, you ask, could replace Paltrow at the last minute? Why, look no further than Danica McKellar, most widely known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. She's all grown up now, and has a recurring role on The West Wing. Judging by this picture, I don't think she'd drive away many moviegoers:
More importantly, she knows a thing or two about mathematics, as this Chicago Tribune story points out. The highlights:
Playbill has more!!:
Best of all, the reason McKellar is featured in theTribune and Playbill stories is that she is currently appearing in the West Coast production of Proof!!
Geeks of the world, unite!! Say it loud and say it proud!!
We want Danica!!
Danica!! Danica!! DANICA!!
Assumptions and facts
Yesterday, Mark Kleiman wrote:
This is the premise behind Brad DeLong's assertions that the Bush team has covered this up since July as well.
Here's my question: how are DeLong, Kleiman, and Krugman so sure that senior people at the White House -- besides the leakers -- knew about this? How do they know Bush knew about this? The stories by Novak, David Corn, and Time.com might not have been enough to register on the White House radar. A Lexis-Nexis search reveals that none of the major dailies (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, USA Today) mentioned Valerie Plame during the month of July in a news story. Krugman, to his credit, did raise the issue in his July 22nd op-ed, but I'm willing to bet that that Krugman is not considered required reading at this White House. [But Scott McClellan was asked about it at a White House briefing in late July--ed. Big deal -- do you think the senior staff becomes aware of every issue that Helen Thomas raises?]
Kleiman, Krugman and DeLong might be correct -- but I don't see any evidence confirming it. They're making an assumption.
UPDATE: Nick Confessore -- hardly an administration sympathizer -- blogs in Tapped the following possibility:
Link via Kevin Drum, who offers his own, more pessimistic, speculations.
The disgusting Los Angeles Times
In the past 48 hours, the Los Angeles Times has managed to commit two despicable acts on its pages. The first was the Arnold Schwarzenegger story, which Mickey Kaus predicted would happen if the Times thought Schwarzenegger had a chance of winning. [You saying the story is not relevant?--ed. I'm saying the story has been around since Premiere published parts of it two years ago. Schawzenegger has been a candidate for two months, and now they decide to run it?] The fact that Gray Davis has apparently done worse things goes without mention. Kaus points out the following irony:
I agree with Andrew Sullivan, by the way, that Arnold handled it appropriately by addressing the issue head-on and openly apologizing -- a lesson that would serve the Bushies well right about now.
The Schwarzenegger story, however, is piddling compared to the fact that the Times permitted Philip Agee to write an op-ed on the Plame Game (link via William Sjostrom). Agee published the names of several CIA covert employees during the 70's and now has Cuban citizenship.
I saw Agee in action fifteen years ago when he spoke at Williams College. I can honestly say that it may have been the only talk I have attended that made me physically sick to my stomach. At that talk, Agee, in respomding to a question from the audience, outright accused the CIA of having developed the AIDS virus as a way to destroy both African countries and African-Americans. This guy makes Noam Chomsky look like a hard-nosed conservative.
If the Los Angeles Times thinks Agee is the person to write an op-ed about the Plame Game, perhaps they'll contact Marc Rich the next time a questionable pardon is made. Shame on the op-ed page. [But they let Susan Estritch blast the Schawzenegger story on the op-ed page!--ed. Goody for them. That doesn't excuse publishing Agee]
UPDATE: COINTELPRO has more on Agee.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Taking a break
Over the past week, I've discovered something very important: scandal-blogging is exhausting. My brain needs a brief diversion.
For all of you who need a break as well, let me warmly recommend a surreal site called Positive Movie Reviews, run by a friend of mine who shall remain nameless. Let me also warn you that the humor in the reviews is of a decidedly bizarre nature, and may not be appropriate for those of you with an emotional maturity greater than thirty years of age.
For a sample, here is an excerpt from a review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace:
Go check it out -- if you dare.
UPDATE: If movie reviews don't float your boat, go check out David Adesnik's literary deconstruction of the Harry Potter series. It turns out they're all about sex [So that's why fundamentalists don't like the series--ed.]
Drezner gets results from Howard Fineman!
Fineman's Newsweek piece is the new "must read" on the Plame Game [Hey, he stole your line!!--ed. Get me Fox's lawyers, stat!!]. Lots of good stuff, but what I'm pleased about are these grafs:
This is basically what I said in my TNR piece from yesterday:
UPDATE: Chris Sullentrop makes a similar point in this Slate essay.
An interesting point on outsourcing
Irwin Stelzer has an interesting essay in the Daily Standard on how economic interdependence can constrain U.S. foreign policy. Buried within it is this nugget of analysis:
UPDATE: In September the U.S. economy shed another 17,000 jobs in manufacturing, according to CNN at the horrible cost of creating 74,000 new jobs in services, most of them in the "professional and business services" category. Oh, wait...
Today's Plame Game meter
Level of outrage rising slightly. Why?
Novak's statements this week directly contradict what he said three months ago. [UPDATE: Novak told Wolf Blitzer yesterday that the Newday reporters misunderstood what he said in July. However, in the same transcript, he acknowledges the accuracy of the above quote.]
I think this falls under the "unbelievably disturbing' category.
I'd be more comfortable if the White House directed a little more outrage at the leak itself and less about the peripheral issues. [But isn't this just an example of spin control, which all administrations do?--ed. Let's go to this Chicago Tribune story and compare and contrast, shall we?:
In both of those instances, the White House felt it necessary to take an active role. Now it's "slime and defend?"]
My suspicion is the White House strategy won't work. First, it doesn't jibe with the poll numbers. Second, it will alienate key Republicans. The Times sttory concludes with:
Cue Hagel in today's Washington Post:
[Hey, you haven't addressed Brad Delong's questions yet!!--ed. If I get a chance I will try to do so this evening. But your readers want a response now!--ed. Then they should read Eugene Volokh's post about the distinction between work and fun in blogging.]
Well, that didn't take long
Rush Limbaugh has resigned from ESPN's NFL Sunday Countdown. A furor erupted over the following remarks he made last Sunday about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb:
Limbaugh's statement today:
The statement of George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN and ABC Sports:
Five quick thoughts:
1) Limbaugh has a legitimate point about the Eagles defense being underappreciated last year.
2) His point about the media is absurd. There are now a lot of successful black quarterbacks in the NFL -- see Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Aaron Brooks, etc. The media focused on McNabb because he was good (I say this as a New York Giants fan) and looked great playing on TV. They want him to do well in the exact same way that they want Brett Favre to do well -- they like star QBs on winning teams.
3) According to this story:
Ducking that appearance strikes me as pretty lame.
4) Limbaugh lost me when he confidently predicted New England would beat Buffalo in week 1. [Yeah, but sports guys make dumb-ass predictions every day!--ed. In their first week?]
UPDATE: This is an excellent opportunity to plus Football Outsiders, a football blog dedicated to taking sabremetrics and applying them to the NFL. If you go to this 2002 page on QB value, you'll see that by their metric of rating quarterbacks, McNabb had a solid if unspectacular season last year -- and a really bad season this year. Sticking to 2002, these stats suggest that McNabb might have been overrated compared to say, New York Giants QB Kerry Collins -- but then again, so were Brett Favre, Drew Bledsoe, Tommy Maddox, and Kelly Holcomb.
Oh, and buried in this otherwise hystrionic King Kaufman piece is an amusing nugget about Howard Dean:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Allen Barra says that Rush Limbaugh was correct, at least in regard to Allen Barra.
Is it my imagination, or does Slate specialize in publishing mea culpas from liberals who say that conservatives are correct about something -- but only after a liberal result has been achieved?
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Drezner gets results from Republicans!!
There's been a small hue and cry on the left half of the blogosphere that Republicans aren't taking the Plame game seriously. However, this ABC News poll suggests that they do take it seriously. Among Republicans only:
The primary partisan difference is over whether the White House is fully cooperating -- Republicans think yes, Democrats no. Still, Republicans can't be accused of ignoring the issue.
For the full results of the poll, click here.
October's book(s) of the month
There are so many books worth reading, I've decided to highlight two books each month: one "general interest" book, and one dealing specifically with international relations.
The general interest book for October is Virginia Postrel's The Substance of Style, which I was inhaling right up until the quarter started, and I'm aching to get back to it. [Good thing you're hawking the book -- looks like she's having real trouble selling copies!--ed.]
Geek confession: I mark up every book I read, fiction and nonfiction. The Substance of Style is so stimulating that I find myself underline 50% of every page. Go go buy it and mark up your own copy.
The international relations book is considerably older, and, I'm sad to say, depressingly relevant for our times: Stephen D. Krasner's Structural Conflict. This 1985 book chronicled how, in the wake of the developing world's efforts to create a New International Economic Order, the major economic powers protected their own interests by shifting resources and authority to decision-making fora they controlled.
In the wake of the Cancun meetings, I strongly suspect this trend will repeat itself in the near future. In contrast to their agenda from 30 years ago, I have some sympathy with some of the developing world's current aims, particularly the elimination of all agricultural subsidies.
Go check them out!!
It's standard operating procedure to have sources
The David Brooks quote comes from this August 2000 article for Salon.
The postmortems on planning for Iraq are the du jour topic for the newsweeklies. John Barry and Evan Thomas have more dirt in the Newsweek story (this is where the Powell quote comes from), but Brian Bennett et al have some good stuff in their Time cover story, including the lack of communication on the state of Iraq's electricity grid.
On the Valerie Plame business, I've written a bit about it in recent days. You can access my posts in chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, and here. [Been obsessing a bit, have we?--ed. Look, some people care about the California recall, others about national security.]
For more general reading on Bush's decision-making style, check out this Richard Brookshier essay from the March 2003 Atlantic Monthly. Ryan Lizza's TNR piece from January 2001 is also worth reading, particularly the opening paragraph:
For more general reading on bureaucratic politics -- particularly in matters of foreign policy -- the classic source is Graham Allison's Essence of Decision. However, much more pertinent for today's world is Amy Zegart's Flawed By Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC. [Full disclosure: Zegart and I went to graduate school together]. To see bureaucratic politics as it played out in the Reagan administration, you could do far worse than perusing George Shultz's memoirs, Turmoil and Triumph.
The management of foreign policy
[So, Dan, you've been a bit preoccupied with this Valerie Plame business. So what's your TNR Online essay going to be about?--ed.]
Go check it out for yourself. It's mentions the Plame Game -- but it's about foreign policy management in general.
Martin Kramer weighs in
I've already had my say on this, but do check out Kramer's full post.
The Chicago Manual of Style and Microsoft Word
For those who were interested in my previous post on the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, the must-read for today is Louis Menand's review of it in The New Yorker. Menand's review is particularly useful because he discusses whether the style recommendations are compatible with the travails of using Microsoft Word, for which he has little love. Here's the most amusing part of his over-the-top rant:
Read the whole thing. Then, if you still have free time, do take the opportunity to read Menand's The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America.
My Plame mood today
There are two -- no, make that three -- inputs to my level of outrage at the Plame game. The first is the despicable nature intrinsic to the leak itself. On that score, I'm delighted to see some people on my side of the ideological fence catching on to what's happened. To quote Andrew Sullivan:
Better yet, to quote the source of Sullivan's outrage, former counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson speaking on Newshour (link via Atrios):
[You do know -- as Matt Drudge points out -- that Johnson also said that Plame was a CIA operative for thirty years even though she's only forty?-- ed. Yeah, but my suspicion is that was a misstatement during a live television broadcast. It would be nice if it was cleared up, however.] Heck, even the RNC chairman acknowledges that this is serious.
The second source of my outrage is a direct function of who leaked and that person's relationship to the President. On Sunday, I suspected that it was Karl Rove, which would put the leak very close to George W. Bush himself, which got me very mad. On Monday, Ambassador Wilson admitted that he had no evidence to back up that charge, and so my outrage level diminished somewhat. If this story pans out -- do consider the source -- then my dander will be rising again. UPDATE: Robert Novak goes out of his way in today's column to imply that Rove was not the source of the leak -- "no partisan gunslinger." Again, consider the source -- Novak continues to insist that Plame was not an undercover operative.
The third factor is how the Bush administration handles this emerging scandal -- do they go into denial/cover-up mode or do they address it forthrightly and clean it up? While Bush did say something constructive yesterday, I also think Josh Marshall is correct in pointing out how Bush is trying to reframe the issue. I still think Brad DeLong is overreaching, but we'll see what happens as more facts emerge.
ANOTHER UPDATE: ABC's The Note again manages to look past the morass of charges and counter-charges to get to the nub of the issue:
I respect the Post, by the way, which is why I take this story so seriously.