News Brief, Bigmouth Strikes Again Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer.

Defense & The War

  • Daniel Drezner proves just how fun it is to work off stereotype and assumption. The FSOs in the comments offer much needed context to the debate over the current row at the State Department.
  • Roger Cohen makes the strong case that we should be watching al-Jazeera to better our counterinsurgency. He’s absolutely right, although we should be wary of what the channel is saying in Arabic. Funny game, that. Also, what’s with all the kleenex at Arab summits?
  • I will confess to being intrigued by the prospect of being a ‘Global intelligence and threat analyst” for, uhh, The Walt Disney Corporation. Yes you read that right. But seriously—Burbank? Yuck.

Around the World

  • Almost as if God herself were showing why pipelines that bypass the Bosporus are necessary, a tanker split in the strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Avoz. I ask questions, at
  • Also there, I review Roseann Klass’ memoir of a beautiful and kind Afghanistan in the 1950’s, dig into some of the thinking about alternative livelihoods in Afghanistan, try to figure out why the U.S. won’t play Russia’s gas games, and wonder why Charles Krauthammer still has a job.
  • Central Asia is not the only place Russia is intimidating: the Baltic states also fear the rebirth of Russian imperialism, this time with oil instead of tanks.
  • “Culture is capital,” says Nitin. He is right, which is why the blown-up Buddhas in the former tourist heaven of Swat are an ongoing crisis. ABC actually posts some top-notch reporting from Swat itself, a ballsy move by White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. I was under the impression pretty blond women with white skin were handled violently these days.
  • And do NOT forget the looming problem of LBD in Peshawar.
  • Meanwhile, India’s much under-reported Maoist insurgency (the one in Nepal gets more press, and even then it’s sketchy) results in—what else?—misery for all.

Back at Home

  • Big congratulations to my friend Meg, now unmasked as the Anonymous Lobbyist and the new Associate Editor of Wonkette. Umm, I am maybe kind of partially responsible for those trashy pictures, but the bathtub was totally Lisa’s idea. Also, that’s my hand. Heh. Goooood girl, now I have squeezed greatness. Just wait until you see her beaver (no, I’m serious).
  • While privacy may be truly gone in all but name, does Donald Kerr really think we will lovingly entrust the protection of our no-longer-private information to the likes of Yahoo and the NSA? The man is fooling himself. Meanwhile, the AT&T whistleblower is making AT&T look really bad, and the NSA look like power-mad villains.
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New Friedman Interview

A fantastic interview with Milton Friedman recorded in 2005, but just released, with Richard Fisher of the Dallas Federal Reserve can be found here, along with a wealth of other Friedman material, including a series of discussions of Friedman by:

Here are a few clips from the full interview:

Milton Friedman Interview: A Productive Global Economy

Continue Reading »

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Writing on the Wall in Iraq??

Hmmm, first al Sadr calls for a cease fire. Now he is actively seeking out those of his ‘army’ who are ignoring his orders.

Now, does this sound like a man who’s winning the war? Sounds more like someone who now believes you’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem, and problems get healthy doses of American soldiers attention. Take up arms, and you’re the enemy. Take up words, and you’re the political opposition.,2933,310697,00.html

Top U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has met with representatives of Muqtada al-Sadr, once one of the top enemies fueling the insurgency against the elected Iraqi government, FOX News has confirmed.

The general has not met personally with al-Sadr, the military said, but the meetings come as the Pentagon is softening its approach to the firebrand Shiite leader who recently eased his hard-line stance with a ceasefire call last August.

Al-Sadr’s aides have been quietly working with U.S. military officials to discuss security operations.

“Gen. Petraeus has not had any direct engagements or meetings with Muqtada al-Sadr. The command has indeed had direct engagements with some of his people that are within the organization. Mainly that has been via the Force Strategic Engagement Cell or FSEC as part of the overarching efforts to assist with reconciliation efforts,” Petraeus spokesman Col. Steve Boylan said in a statement provided to FOX News.

First reported over the weekend in Newsweek, U.S. commanders said the pullback of al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been a major factor in the decrease in Baghdad violence. They also said U.S. forces and Sadr’s forces now have a common enemy: so-called “special groups” that once were aligned with Sadr but have splintered from the main organization.

Those groups, Newsweek said, are allegedly funded through Iran, and al-Sadr has formed a new unit to go after the special groups — which are ignoring the ceasefire.

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Iran and the Great Pumpkin

Like poor Linus in the pumpkin patch, they keep claiming it will happen, and it still does not. With great confidence we heard it asserted that the tanks would roll once the elections were over last fall. The insinuations keep coming, but the dang war they pine for to prove once and for all how we are run by some evil cabal out to “kill more muslims” just won’t rise up for all to see:

The Pentagon is not preparing a pre-emptive attack on Iran in spite of an increase in bellicose rhetoric from Washington, according to senior officers.

Admiral William Fallon, head of Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, told the Financial Times that while dealing with Iran was a “challenge”, a strike was not “in the offing”.

McQ has further thoughts.

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Oh, To Be a Fat Cat

The New York Times has a nice piece on the latest health research on the impact of weight on health. Of course, like most nutrition and weight related research we should approach it with some caution as John Tierney has discussed at great length (or breadth?)

I actually enjoy the social history in it the best. Somewhere in all my study of history I missed this little tidbit:

Dr. Brown is among those social scientists who say that being thin really isn’t about health, anyway, but about social class and control.

When food was scarce and expensive, they say, only the rich could afford to be fat. Thus, in the 19th century, well-do-do men with paunches joined Fat Men’s Clubs, which gave rise to the term “fat cat.”

I also found this amusing:

Dr. Brown, the Emory anthropologist, related how in the 1950s, white South African public health officials tried to warn people in a Zulu community about the dangers of obesity. They put up two posters.

One showed a fat woman standing next to an overloaded truck with a flat tire. “Both carry too much weight,” the poster said. The other showed a thin woman sweeping up dirt under a table while a fat woman stood nearby, leaning on the table for support. “Who do you want to look like,” the poster asked.

The Zulus thought the first poster showed a fortunate woman, so rich that she was fat and with so many possessions that her truck was overloaded. As for the second poster, they thought the thin woman was the servant, working for the obviously affluent fat woman.

Well, if fat is not as big a problem as previously thought, then I am in the right state.  Plenty of overweight people and food that makes you not care. I think that means Gumbo for lunch.

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Bob Herbert and Rolling Eyes

Brad Delong should head this up:

[T]he most popular measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, does not include the cost of energy or food, “the two most significant aspects of the increased cost of living for the American people.”

[Delong comments:] Yes, it does.
How has the New York Times managed to pick Bob Herbert out of the 75 million liberal adults in America? It is a mystery.

Heh, well I feel for you Brad. I nominate you to replace him. Meanwhile, read the whole thing.

And for the rest of the story, please see Jon Henke:

Editorial pages may be the least accountable bastion of the Fourth Estate. Day after day, columnists and editors climb that pedestal and vomit forth errors, myths, and journalistic malpractice, yet they demand self-correction approximately as often as President Bush admits mistakes.

Since the Fourth Estate refuses to be any more accountable than the “three estates” they watch, the only accountability remaining is public censure. Bob Herbert is a shameless hack, and his colleagues should be embarrassed to share a newspaper with him.

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“Constitutional Scholar” Follies

Noted constitutional scholar, conspiracy theorist, sock puppet and all around frustrated guy, Glenn Greenwald, has a melt down over the spinelessness of the Democratic majority. Not to disagree with him, I agree they are spineless, but this little diatribe is profoundly silly.

First of all, if the Democrats had a spine Mukasey would have been confirmed by a much larger margin. Many Democrats only voted against him to appease the likes of our little ragged piece of footwear, much like the last spineless attempt to appease the net-roots by impeaching Cheney. Let me quote Bilby to refresh your memory:

Okay, so to get things started Steny Hoyer introduced a resolution to table (kill) the resolution. At first it looked as if the motion to table would pass handily, with all the Republicans and enough Democrats voting that way. Then the Republicans got sneaky. A bunch of them decided to change their votes to stop the motion, thereby giving Kucinich, and presumably the rest of the Democrats who voted his way, what they wanted; for the matter to be debated. The vote ended up 251-162 against tabling the resolution. Yay! The moonbats should have then been ecstatic! Finally the House would debate impeaching Cheney for allegedly lying us into war. But no. A short time later another motion was introduced by the Dems to send the resolution back to committee, which as mentioned is almost as good as killing it. Guess what happened? 81 of the Democrats who voted against tabling the resolution when they were pretty sure they would be on the losing side turned around and voted for sending it to the Judiciary Committee. Ouch! They wanted to make it appear they were all for bringing impeachment up for debate (and appeasing the nutroots), but when it looked like it would really happen they ran to stop it!

The key is they didn’t want to try and impeach Cheney, they just wanted to have it off the table, but their vote on record so the netroots would be appeased. A point Greenwald can’t seem to get his mind around is that the positions he champions are not as popular as he has convinced themselves they are. The same thing with Mukasey. Voting against him plays well with he and his clique, but not so well, or even noticed, by the rest of the country.

More pathetically, our constitutional expert is all confused about the whole 60 vote majority requirement in the first place:

The so-called “60-vote requirement” applies only when it is time to do something to limit the Bush administration. It is merely the excuse Senate Democrats use to explain away their chronic failure/unwillingness to limit the President, and it is what the media uses to depict the GOP filibuster as something normal and benign. There obviously is no “60-vote requirement” when it comes to having the Senate comply with the President’s demands, as the 53-vote confirmation of Michael Mukasey amply demonstrates. But as Mukasey is sworn in as the highest law enforcement officer in America, the Democrats want you to know that they most certainly did stand firm and “registered their displeasure.”

McQ dances on the sock puppet’s hamper:

Of course. Or it could have something to do with regular legislative business in the Senate requiring 60 votes and judiciary committee nominations, by agreement, not requiring them. How soon we forget all the talk about the “nuclear option”, the “gang of 14″ and the difference between a judicial filibuster and a legislative one.

Heh, well, I guess Mr. Greenwald won’t be putting that post as a link on his resume. Read the rest of McQ’s post if this didn’t remind you of how the senate works.

Andrew Sullivan takes him seriously, Alex/Thoreau seems to miss the point as well. Sadly, as Bilby notes, Marty Lederman even ran with it, though he certainly should have known better. I think he woke up pretty quick to his lack of judgment in paying attention to a sock rather than thinking about it for himself and just plain old pulled the post. Not that that is how such misgivings should be handled, but it is certainly preferable than Greenwald’s course, which will be to ignore it because his fans will not care, or come up with a weaselly explanation. Marty however, is an expert on constitutional law, a good mind, and possessed of a good bit of integrity, so no way is he going to keep something like that up. I think a simple ‘hey, quick post, not enough coffee, ignore anything to do with that issue I wrote” would suffice, but I get it. A warning about the dangers of even experts following the lead of a paranoid puppet made from old socks would probably be a service to his readers, but we cannot all take up that cross.

Update: Buck Naked Politics, The Booman Tribune, and Cernig miss the flaw in Greenwald’s analysis as well. Michael here at A Second Hand Conjecture is rather scathing.

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More Greenwaldean Nonsense

It’s almost too easy.

McQ ably tackles Greenwald’s attempt to play dumb as to how Judge Mukasey could be confirmed by the Senate without having to face a Democratic filibuster.

Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they “tried”), the excuse they gave was that they “need 60 votes in the Senate” in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general “60-vote requirement” for everything.

How, then, can this [confirmation of Mukasey] be explained?

Of course, the shortest answer to Greenwald’s mock confusion would be “Gang of 14″, but McQ spells it all out anyway:

However a different agreement for judicial nominations has been in place since the 109th Congress, which, of course, would apply any nomination coming from the Senate judiciary committee. That agreement was forged by a group known as the “Gang of 14″ who have, in effect, agreed that Rule 22 for judicial nominations won’t apply by refusing to become party to filibusters against nominees. In the closely divided Senate, the refusal of 7 Senators on each side to participate in judicial filibusters (which have been described by many as unconstitutional anyway) has effectively nullified thee use of the filibuster there. Thus there is no 60 vote requirement for a cloture since there is no cloture vote. Consequently all judiciary committee nominees can be confirmed with a simple majority.

Aside from the feigned ignorance comprising the bulk of Greenwald’s missive, there was one small portion that seemed to perfectly encapsulate much of what Lance has been on about in his posts regarding the “Politics of Bad Faith“; first the passage from Greenwald:

Now, “torture” is not only something we openly debate, but it’s something we do. And the fact that someone is on the wrong side of the “torture debate” doesn’t prevent them from becoming the Attorney General of the United States.

The clear implication is that “torture” is not even debatable, and that unless one comes out as unequivocally opposed to it (whatever “it” is) in all circumstances, and in every situation, one is on the “wrong side of the debate.” Such a standard for what is debatable or not has the benefit of being both entirely nebulous and yet having a defined “good” and “bad” side. Torture is bad, so failure to oppose it makes one evil.

But how do we decide what torture is if we don’t debate it? Waterboarding may or may not be (although, it seems to be pretty clearly illegal), and again, how do we decide without debate? What about loud music or stress positions? In short, without debate, there is no way to decide what constitutes torture. Which is exactly what Greenwald and his minions want.

You see, it’s really easy to simply take a stance that appears moral on its face without applying it to any actual situations. Anti-war? OK, then what about the Revolutionary War, or WWII? Anti-child labor? Great, but how about those families who have no better option (you know, like all of our ancestors at some point in the past)? Anti-torture? Fantastic, but where do you draw the line between necessary coercive tactics and over-the-line acts? The moral preener won’t answer these questions because to do so undermines his exalted position. Instead, he throws up his hands in disgust at even having to consider the topic, and casts aspersions on all those wrong-thinkers who do not capitulate to his obvious moral superiority.

In this way, the moral preener lords his moral superiority over others and yet never has to actually clarify that stance. Regarding torture, that means simply shouting down or dismissing as evil any who challenge the political orthodoxy without ever even attempting to come to terms with what it is that’s being discussed. Accordingly, “torture” means whatever is being proposed by the political enemies of the moral preener. Any rational debate of the issue is immediately dismissed as “defending the indefensible” and challengers likened to Nazis and fascists. Anti-torture is the only permissible position, and any questioning of its underpinnings is strictly verboten upon pain of otracization.

People like Greenwald and his minions aren’t interested in debate, you see, they just want to be holier than thou. Those of us who prefer rational discourse to political gamesmanship are therefore deemed evil warmongers who support authoritarianism in all its forms. No right-thinking person would dare consider pondering the questions we raise because it is just not reasonable to dissent from Greenwald’s teachings. Oh yeah, and somebody or other who is some muckety-muck whom everyone should simply bow down before as an authority on the issue agrees with Mona. So there!

Of course, the moral emperor has no clothes, and his platitudes and righteous outrage are mere political theater. The whole point to Greenwald’s charade is to cast anything Republican as the second coming of Hitler himself, thus clearing the way for an electoral shift to the left. How far left I can only guess, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be in any libertarian direction since debate is just not allowed in Greenwald’s brave new world. Every issue, every topic and every post from Greenwald is loaded with moral indignation and yet comes devoid of substantive debate or discourse. In what way is that “libertarian”?

It’s not. And neither is Greenwald.

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The Key To US-French Relations

Newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy just completed a diplomacy visit with President Bush to much critical acclaim. As part of his playing host, Bush escorted Sarkozy to Mt. Vernon, the estate of Pres. George Washington, which is located about 20 minutes south of D.C., right at the end of the GW Parkway. By all accounts it was a lovely visit.

Writing at This Ain’t Hell, John Lilyea noticed something profound about Sarkozy visiting Mt. Vernon that was left unmentioned elsewhere:

The BBC also reported that Mr. Sarkozy was at Mount Vernon yesterday discussing events with President Bush (press conference video here). That’s particularly significant to me because of what resides there (besides George and Martha Washington). On the wall in the entranceway to Mount Vernon hangs an ancient key.Bastille Key

It’s the key to the west portal of the Bastille prison, where many of the French monarchy’s political prisoners were held. The storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789, to the French, equates to our own Boston tea party or the skirmish at Boston Commons. It was the opening salvo in their own fight for liberty.

In 1790, General Lafayette sent the key to the Bastille to George Washington - to me, that key represents France’s indebtedness to the United States for influencing their own struggle for freedom….

Lilyea’s observation is quite apt considering a persistent theme of Sarkozy’s visit:

At Congress earlier, the current resident of the Elysee Palace was cheered for more than three minutes before he even began his 45-minute address….

Mr Sarkozy devoted much of his speech to expressing gratitude for US heroism on French battlefields in World War II, and to praising American values, spirit and culture.

“America liberated us. This is an eternal debt,” he said, adding: “I want to tell you that whenever an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American army did for France.”

The Marquis de Lafayette, whose 250th birthday was celebrated during Sarkozy’s visit, was also kept front and center through much of the pagentry:

Indeed, Sarkozy seemed to fancy himself a modern-day Lafayette, retracing the steps of the French noble who became Washington’s aide-de-camp. This cast Bush in the supporting role of Washington, a performance Bush was delighted to give. The result was an extended historical reenactment by the two world leaders.

“In 1777, another George W. welcomed to America another Frenchman; his name was Lafayette,” Bush said Tuesday night in a toast to Sarkozy. Sarkozy answered with an anecdote about John Quincy Adams, “who was welcoming Lafayette in these selfsame walls, in this selfsame house.”

Both countries were forged in struggles for liberty, each taking an interest in the plight of the other. It therefore seems fitting that the entourage should visit the place where the Bastille Key is kept. However different the paths of America and France after their respective Revolutions, that key symbolizes, as well as anything, the common ideal of freedom from tyranny that was held dear to both nations at the close of the 18th century. Since then, each has explored methods of government that are in almost perfect diametrical opposition. Perhaps a new found affinity for one another, focused on the most immediate enemies of freedom and dangers to the world, will rekindle that ideal — both in France and here at home.

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Christmas Cards for Any Wounded Soldier

Recently an email similar to the following was sent around. I contacted the Public Affairs officer at Walter Reed to check on this, because I’ve heard for a few years that they do not accept anonymous cards or packages.

If you want, the Lieutenant Governor of Indiana is accepting cards till Nov 16th, and is going to be sending them to Iraq.

Please pass this back to anyone who has sent you this email. Thank you.

>Subject: Xmas Cards
>>When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please
>>include the following:
>> A Recovering American soldier
>> c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
>>If you approve of the idea, please pass it on to your e-mail list.
>>Have a great day!
>> >>

Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to ‘Any Wounded Soldier’ or ‘A Recovering American Soldier’ that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting “Any Service Member” or “A Recovering American Soldier” letters or packages. Mail to “Any Service Member” that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the “America Supports You” website,

Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded service members and their families include:

For individuals without computer access, your local military installation, the local National Guard or military reserve unit in your area may offer the best alternative to show your support to our returning troops and their families. Walter Reed Army Medical Center will continue to receive process and deliver all mail that is addressed to a specific individual.

As Walter Reed continues to enhance the medical care and processes for our returning service members, it must also must keep our patients and staff members safe while following Department of Defense policy. The outpouring of encouragement from the general public, corporate America and civic groups throughout the past year has been incredible. Our Warriors in Transition are amazed at the thanks and support they receive from their countrymen.

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News Brief, Caribou Edition

Cross-posted to The Conjecturer.

Defense & the War

  • While recognizing the horror of Blackwater’s atrocities being so common they’re… common, Mountain Runner points out the very real, very messy problems that arise when the Iraqis start to raid contractor compounds. As he said, “Phase out contractors or bring under our wings, don’t let them hang outside because things will get ugly fast as both contractor and opportunist escalates to defend or attack.”
  • Getting over the Hitler analogy, or why Norman Podhoretz needs to familiarize with Godwin’s Law and get over his curious decades-long obsession with homosexuals.
  • Oh, so there is a perverse logic to suicide bombing in Halo 3? Of course there is—prospect theory has spent the past thirty years unraveling the calculus behind risk taking, and is apt at explaining why some causes resort to suicide bombs (i.e. operating in a domain of loss). Pretending it’s illogical, or totally irrational, is a mistake… which is why we also tend to critically misjudge the enemies we face. Congratulations, Clive Johnson, on discovering something the much-hated liberal disconnected academic elite has been exploring for longer than I’ve been alive. Maybe someone will actually listen to you.
  • Well, I suppose the anti-intellectual cant is understandable in the context of the anthro-freakout over the Human Terrain System.

Around the World

  • Not to brag, but at, we are ahead of the curve. I was one of the first to be discussing the very real steps Iran is taking to gain a dominant position in Central Asia, and I’m getting some inside news on what’s bubbling in Kabul after the nasty suicide attack at Baghlan. Even better? Nathan was able to scoop all the major news organizations about the brewing presidential crisis in Georgia. Sorry for glowing about this, but I’m proud of that. Oh, and don’t miss our take on the latest machinations in Pakistan, either.
  • Matthew Eckel, writing for Foreign Policy Watch, explores what it could mean if we used cannabis as an alternative livelihood crop in Afghanistan. Though he hedges far too much (what policy realist wouldn’t happily trade pot for heroin as a social ill?), he is generally right on. We’re left with trying to mitigate the problem while causing the least amount of pain to ordinary Afghans. The grey market is a good idea.
  • It’s a familiar story to regular readers: Bush’s diplomatic… err, infantilism cost us dearly with Iran.
  • How a band of Russian bloggers broke a predatory scam on pensioners.
  • I don’t know about you, but this Kazakh gangster film looks pretty damned sassy. I hope they subtitle it, and release it region 1, please.
  • Quote of the day? “Hey, if I were introduced to him as a urologist, I wouldn’t hesitate to let him stick his finger up my butt.” That was GQ’s Style Guy, Glenn O’Brien, discussing who else but Pervez Musharraf.

Back at Home

  • Prerna Mankad at Foreign Policy seems to think Pluto is 6 light years away—making it further away than Alpha Centauri, Barnard’s Star, and almost as far as Wolf 359 (site of that infamous Star Fleet battle with Locutus-of-Borg). Umm, Pluto is really, at its utmost, 50 AU from the sun, or about 4.5 billion miles (or about 5.4 light-hours). A single light year is 5.87849981 × 1012 miles, which is like, a lot more than that. Six lightyears? Well, you do the math—Mankad clearly didn’t.
  • Okay, Mankad updated the post. Even so, I liked my Star Trek reference.
  • I want one of these, because without it I cannot continue to be hip and indie and… well, we’ll stay with ‘hip’.
  • Imagine that: changing business models to deal with piracy, as opposed to scattershot suing relative bystanders and treating all customers like criminals.
  • The State Department hates your passports.
  • Like anyone worthwhile in this damned town, Anthony Bourdain loves the Ben’s Chili Bowl.
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Staying In The Game

One of the unique things about top-notch athletes that makes them so popular is their ability to not only withstand pain, but to play through it and still be effective. Hockey players are routinely stitched up during games (sans anesthesia); football players oft times play with broken and separated appendages; and some athletesLance Armstrong survive deadly illnesses to accomplish unrivaled heights in the mastery of their sport.

This quality of dogged determination, grit, and indomitable spirit is as inspiring as it is truly difficult to appreciate. Who can forget Ronnie Lott finishing not just the game, but the season with a crushed finger, and then choosing to have the tip of his finger amputated just so he could play in the following season.

Or the image of Byron Leftwich being scooted down the field by his lineman to the next line of scrimmage, or else risk a delay of game penalty, because their field marshalLeftwich - Field Marshall was hobbled with a broken shin.

That same quality found on the ball field is also found on the battlefield:

Troops in Iraq and elsewhere have tried to avoid being pulled out of combat units by cheating on problem-solving tests that are used to spot traumatic brain-injury problems, military doctors say.

New versions of the tests were sent into Iraq late last month to prevent the cheating, says Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Jaffee of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in Washington, D.C.Soldier

“With highly motivated individuals, be they athletes, be they our servicemembers in harm’s way, there is a motivation to stay with the unit and stay on the job or stay in the game,” he says.


“We know what they are doing,” [Army Col. Stephen Flaherty] says. “We’re just trying to protect them, make sure they are healthy and get back to fully functional status as soon as possible.”

Earlier in the war, Jaffee says, military physicians noticed some cheating, particularly among Marines at Camp Pendleton in California, where testing started in 2004.

Playing hurt is not always the best option, and it can put your teammates in peril if you are not on top of your game. But that grit and ears-pinned-back attitude demands admiration.

James Taranto notes:

The military has come up with new versions of the test to thwart the cheaters, who had memorized the answers to the old test. And well it should, for cheating is not only dishonest but dangerous. Jaffee says soldiers who fight despite brain injuries risk being “exposed to a second concussion or mild traumatic brain injury. It could have more devastating effects not only on their health, but on the mission’s success, or perhaps on the safety of the people on their patrol.”

Yet while the cheaters’ actions are wrong, their determination is admirable. Their eagerness to serve their country in combat belies the liberal stereotype of soldiers as victims–a stereotype that might have had considerable truth in the era of conscription but that, like much of what passes for liberalism these days, has long been outdated.

That eagerness also belies the “support the troops but not the mission” fallacy. Obviously these soldiers are professionally and personally interested in accomplishing their mission. The lengths that they will go to, and the pain they are willing to endure in order to succeed should give anyone pause who claims to support the troops while hating the war.

In any case, if you’re looking for inspiration, you can hardly do better than our men and women in uniform. You can start with QandO’s Project Hero.

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Sotheby’s Stock Drops Sharply After Disappointing Auction- Van Gogh still on the shelf

Is art the next asset to start reversing?

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Powerful Imagery

Michael Yon captures a moment on film that in a world with a meritocratic media would surely garner a Pulitzer:

Raising the cross

A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Infantry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.

The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers. (Videotape to follow.)

Kevin, at The Smallest Minority, has the same thought as me regarding the first comparable image that came to mind:

Both, I think, mark a crucial turning point in their respective wars. The Iwo Jima photo was responsible for a resurgence of support for the war in the Pacific after more than three years of war, rationing, shortages at home, and an endless stream of Western Union telegrams. The battle for Iwo Jima lasted from February 19 to the end of March, 1945. In less than two months U.S. forces lost 6,825 killed and over 20,000 wounded on that tiny island alone.

We’ve been at war in Iraq for not yet five years. Current U.S. casualties are 3,857 dead and some 28,000 wounded.

Will this photo inspire America to continue its support for the war? Maybe, if it receives circulation. But that doesn’t fit the template of today’s media, so most probably it won’t.

The phrase “turning a corner” has become hackneyed in application to Iraq, but can we at least agree that the turn signal is on, the light is green, and the traffic seems to be co-operating?

HT: Instapundit, who has lots more links and comments.

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I Didn’t Know High School Kids Were So Smart

We are apparently a couple of reading levels below QandO.

cash advance

I’m thinking that the writing here at ASHC is so clear and understandable that all you need is a high school education to comprehend it … yeah, that’s the ticket ;)

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Andrew Sullivan in Full Intellectual Meltdown

First, here is the entire post:

A great idea. The man is a war criminal, and has done more to undermine our Constitutional balance than any man since Richard Nixon. Secretive, incompetent, belligerent, contemptuous of the rule of law, there is barely a bad decision this president has made that doesn’t have Cheney’s fingerprints on it. Of course, the Democrats are scared of taking on this man. But they are, by and large, a bunch of empty suits (and one botoxed empty pant-suit). I’m delighted the Congress is finally tackling the issue of the vice-president’s attack on the constitution. If done right, it could help air the fundamental indecency that Cheney represents. But, of course, it won’t be done right. Which is why I remain someone who, abandoned by the current Republicans, still can’t even think of identifying as a Democrat.

I can not understand how he could have read the article in question and come to the conclusion that Congress is actually trying to tackle this issue. Of course, this is a man who thinks Glenn Reynolds has been silent on the drug war, so obviously he other doesn’t read what he writes about, or he has lost touch with reality. I am speechless that he has this so fundamentally wrong.

Thanks to Pejman, who followed the link in this post (I just missed it) we learn what Andrew thinks is something to celebrate. First Andrew:

The constitution stirs.

Wait and let your anticipation build for this stirring from the graves of Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Hamilton before you follow the link and find this:

Bush brushed aside significant objections from Capitol Hill, even from Republicans, in vetoing legislation that provides $23 billion for projects like repairing hurricane damage, restoring wetlands and preventing flooding in communities across the nation.


Bush objected to $9 billion in projects added during negotiations between the House and Senate. He hoped that his action, even though it is sure not to hold, would cast him as a friend to conservatives who demand a tighter rein on federal spending.

I’ll let Pejman take it from here:

Evidently, by protecting pork barrel water projects, Madisonian democracy is being preserved against the ravages of the neocons. I wonder if Sullivan is on autopilot when he blogs or whether he just thinks that none of his readers are energetic enough to do what he ought to have done in the first place and closely peruse the posts and stories he tries to make public.

The problem is that this kind of thing has become the norm.

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News Brief, Speak to Me/Breathe Edition

Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.

Defense & the War

  • Noah Shachtman wonders if any other federal agency has ever publicly rebuked its employees like the State Department has. I can’t think of any, not even in scandals, but that doesn’t mean much. It doesn’t remove the fact that many of those objecting (especially to poor mission clarity, and Condolizzle Rice’s haughty leadership style) aren’t invalid.
  • Bob Bateman on Victor Davis Hanson. I say catfight!

Around the World

  • The International Crisis Group is pissed.
  • I’m glad the Center for American Progress has woken up to the horrible reality now facing us in Afghanistan: a humiliating defeat (the bombing I mentioned the other day now can claim 41 innocent victims, whose crime, apparently, was not being crazy and touring a sugar factory). I just wish others had come to the same conclusion in, oh, I’ll go with 2004, when we first noticed the problem of years of broken promises, funding shortfalls, and personnel shortages thanks to the Iraq War. Alas. We find ourselves here today.
  • Over at, Nathan emerges from his undisclosed location to post on the mess in Georgia and those damned freaky riot police, and I take a peek inside some oil industry strategery. I didn’t mention in that post that I ran into the Bonnie Boyd and sat next to her, and snarked at all the posturing, and then made her promise to grab brunch with me soon, but I so did that.
  • Speaking of Ms. Boyd, she has a great post on the politics of bread in Uzbekistan. It is actually more interesting than it sounds, as the world-beloved wheatloaf might actually have a significant role to play in the country’s future.
  • Actually, Iran inspiring more nuclear proliferation in the Middle East doesn’t concern me very much at all. In fact, I think it will be an objectively good thing: nuclear weapons are fantastic conflict deterrents. Meanwhile, the moment Washington took a conciliatory tone toward Tehran, they seem ready to respond. Fancy that (Iran is still worth keeping an eye on, just not all the hyperventilating, ya know?).
  • Is Turkey’s speech policies keeping it out of the EU? Ehh, I’d say rather it’s their illegal occupation of the sovereign territory of a current EU and NATO member (Cyprus), their systematic persecution of the Kurds, and the fact that they have brown skin, and Europe just doesn’t do that.

Back at Home

  • Sweet, I got name-dropped on Jezebel! Also, they offer some sage advice on not crossing Martha Stewart. Umm, that is correct.
  • That’s strange—we used to consider waterboarding torture, like a hundred years ago. It would make us react in horror then. Except the Bush administration doesn’t. Telling, no?
  • I don’t know why I found this unbearably hilarious.
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The cost of not paying

Wilson Mixon notices a rather predictable, but nevertheless ironic aspect data on the cost of health care:

Russ Roberts provides a snapshot of how much third-party payments have grown since 1960.

My computations below are from the table from which he excerpts, with per-capita out-of-pocket expenditures computed and converted to real terms.

Year 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2003
PerCap $126 $301 $931 $2398 $3955 $4866
Paid $70 $119 $252 $540 $672 $779
RealPaid $235 $308 $306 $413 $390 $423
PaidPct 55.2 39.7 27.1 22.5 17.0 16.0

So, now that we pay 1/6 of the total cost, our out-of-pocket cost is about 80% higher than when we paid 55.2% of the total cost.

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Dershowitz on Waterboarding and the Democrats

In the WSJ:

Consider, for example, the contentious and emotionally laden issue of the use of torture in securing preventive intelligence information about imminent acts of terrorism–the so-called “ticking bomb” scenario. I am not now talking about the routine use of torture in interrogation of suspects or the humiliating misuse of sexual taunting that infamously occurred at Abu Ghraib. I am talking about that rare situation described by former President Clinton in an interview with National Public Radio:

“You picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some European capital in the next three days. And you know this guy knows it. Right, that’s the clearest example. And you think you can only get it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or waterboarding him or otherwise working him over.”

He said Congress should draw a narrow statute “which would permit the president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.” The president would have to “take personal responsibility” for authorizing torture in such an extreme situation. Sen. John McCain has also said that as president he would take responsibility for authorizing torture in that “one in a million” situation.

Although I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any president–indeed any leader of a democratic nation–would in fact authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory, the latter with typical political hypocrisy.

Reading just that might be misleading, so read the whole thing.

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The State Departments Disgrace

John Matel tries to set his colleagues straight about serving in Iraq at the State Departments official blog:

To my vexed and overwrought colleagues, I say take a deep breath and calm down. I have been here for a while now, and you may have been misinformed about life at a PRT.

I personally dislike the whole idea of forced assignments, but we do have to do our jobs. We signed up to be worldwide available. All of us volunteered for this kind of work and we have enjoyed a pretty sweet lifestyle most of our careers.

I will not repeat what the Marines say when I bring up this subject. I tell them that most FSOs are not wimps and weenies. I will not share this article with them and I hope they do not see it. How could I explain this wailing and gnashing of teeth? I just tried to explain it to one of my PRT members, a reserve LtCol called up to serve in Iraq . She asked me if all FSOs would get the R&R, extra pay etc. and if it was our job to do things like this. When I answered in the affirmative, she just rolled her eyes.

Calling Iraq a death sentence is just way over the top. I volunteered to come here aware of the risks but confident that I will come safely home, as do the vast majority of soldiers and Marines, who have a lot riskier jobs than we FSOs do.


As diplomats, part of our work is to foster peace and understanding. We cannot always be assured that we will serve only in places where peace and understanding are already safely established.


If these guys at the town hall meeting do not want to come to Iraq , that is okay with. I would not want that sort out here with me anyway. We have enough trouble w/o having to baby sit. BUT they are not worldwide available and they might consider the type of job that does not require worldwide availability.

We all know that few FSOs will REALLY be forced to come to Iraq anyway. Our system really does not work like that. This sound and fury at Foggy Bottom truly signifies nothing. Get over it! I do not think many Americans feel sorry for us and it is embarrassing for people with our privileges to paint ourselves as victims.

He has got that right.

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Hugo Chavez and the path to mass murder II

Part I is here, but in The Ruin of Venezuela I wrote:

As we have seen with Mugabe and many others, once you go down this road it is very difficult to turn things around. As the situation gets worse, in order to keep socialism in place, more force is needed. A Revolutionary ideology cannot allow that the Revolution is wrong, that it cannot work. Scapegoats are found and as their oppression doesn’t solve things the net gets cast wider and wider. Chavez will either abandon his program (his personality seems to make that unlikely) or there will eventually be a bloodbath. My guess is the bodies will start piling up even faster within the next three years.

As McQ says, Now the killing begins:

Gunmen opened fire on students, killing at least one, as they were returning from a march Wednesday at which 80,000 people denounced President Hugo Chavez’s attempts to expand his power.

At least one person was killed and six were wounded, officials said.

Photographers for The Associated Press saw at least two gunmen — one wearing a ski mask and another covering his face with a T-shirt — firing handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd.

Terrified students ran through the campus as ambulances arrived.

National Guard troops gathered outside the Central University of Venezuela, the nation’s largest and a center for opposition to Chavez’s government. Venezuelan law bars state security forces from entering the campus, but Luis Acuna, the minister of higher education, said they could be called in if the university requests them.

The violence broke out after anti-Chavez demonstrators — led by university students — marched peacefully to the Supreme Court to protest constitutional changes that Venezuelans will consider in a December referendum.

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Courage Required Of Leaders

ED MORRISSEY: Waterboarding is torture and Congress should outlaw it. That would, however, require courage.

Hmmm, didn’t someone around here (and over there) say that recently??? OK, certainly not as eloquently, or verbosely, but it’s the same point all the same.

Congress should quit debating whether current law covers waterboarding and clear the issue up once and for all. As Nance says, detainees already released have spoken publicly about interrogation techniques, so publicly taking waterboarding off the list of options doesn’t really impact interrogations. As I wrote a few days ago, forcing an Attorney General to declare it illegal as the price of confirmation functionally does the same thing as an explicit law outlawing waterboarding — only it shifts responsibility for legislation from Congress to the AG and basically forces him to make up laws as he goes along.

And isn’t it interesting that the Democrats keep wanting to shift the responsibility, and the blame, to other people. Whether it’s the courts on social issues, or here, the AG on a legislative issue, they can’t seem to get the traction on their issues to actually get a law passed.

(H/T Instapundit.)

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It Must Be So

Bono says it is, so it must be so…

“There is an imminent threat,” says Bono. “It’s real and grave. It is as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism. Let’s not pretend it isn’t.” Exactly. Be afraid.

Well, maybe he’s just playing the politics of fear…

Jonathan Evans, in an extraordinary public appearance, reports his outfit is watching more than 2,000 terrorism supporters in the U.K., homegrown and otherwise, a number that is up exponentially over a year ago. And building. It’s clear, Evans says, that Al Qaeda masterminds are recruiting hordes of disaffected youngsters and have “a clear determination to mount terrorist attacks.”

Pooh, predictably yawns a member of Britain’s opposition party: nothing but “breathless talk.” There’s a lot of that going around. In America, for example, one presidential hopeful thinks any mention of Islamic extremism is just “the politics of fear.”

But if people who warn about Islamic extremism are just playing the “politics of fear,” then what are the alarmists who are warning about the extreme effects of global warming doing???

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Stupid Human Tricks

Here are things not recommended to try in Indiana.

A) Speeding through a construction zone. You see orange cones (which seems like all the time around here) slow down.
B) Running from the cops, after speeding through a construction zone. Generally, if cops want to pull you over, you should find a safe place to do it, and pull over.
C) Running from the cops, after speeding through a construction zone, with pot in your car. If you have something to hide, running from the cops is the last thing you should try and do. You are not the Bandit. You are not Tony Stewart. The cops have radios and helicopters. They will likely catch you, and be peeved off at you for running.

Was she high or what?

State troopers arrested a motorist who refused to pull over after being clocked speeding through the Eastside Super 70 highway project.

Mary Warren of Berkeley, Mo., led police on a chase that ended along Interstate 70 near Greenfield after police used tire-deflation sticks, said Lt. Jay Nawrocki, commander of the State Police post in Indianapolis.

Police said they found a small amount of marijuana in her white 2003 Pontiac Grand Am.

A Hancock County deputy used a “flash-bang device” – a noisy explosive used to distract suspects - after Warren refused “loud verbal commands” to exit her vehicle, Nawrocki said. After distracting the woman, police opened the vehicle’s door and removed her from the car.

Warren was driving 64 mph in a 45 mph zone when police attempted to pull her over.

OK, maybe, in which case she will add DUI to her list of charges. And if she had just pulled over, and taken the ticket, she probably would not be in the news.

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Zero Tolerance Idiocy

Hugging friends is equal to sexual harassment? What has replaced commonsense in school administrators these days? Risk aversion is one thing, defining a problem down to a list of “must not do” activities isn’t the way of solving it.

A 13-year-old junior high school student was given two days of detention after school officials spotted her hugging friends after school last Friday.

Megan Coulter, an eighth-grade student at Mascoutah Middle School, was hugging her friends goodbye after school Friday when vice principal, Randy Blakely, saw her and told her she would receive two after-school detentions.

The debate of public displays of affection in school is hitting home in Alabama. The mother of a student in Autauga County says her daughter was disciplined for simply hugging a friend.

And Autauga County isn’t the only one. Just last week, a school in Illinois disciplined a student for the very same thing. And a South Dakota student got in trouble for holding hands with a friend.

“It was made to be something ugly and it wasn’t,” Muir said.

She says the hug wasn’t meant to be sexual. She says her daughter was consoling a male friend who recently lost a parent.

Why is this happening? Well, blaming lawyers and our lawsuit happy society, is probably not inappropriate. But, there comes a time that the line needs to be refined so that, common everyday actions are not redefined as “sexual harassment.” What message is that sending to kids???

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled schools could be held liable by ignoring claims of sexual harassment. Some say the ruling puts schools between a rock and a hard place. By not identifying all suspect behavior, they risk liability. But when they do, they often hear complaints from parents.

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Levin and the shocking torture memo’s

Marty Lederman has a nice post up on the revelations of Daniel Levin about the development of the “torture memo’s.” Read the whole thing. I do have some caveats. He refers to Jack Goldsmith’s book which criticizes these memo’s and the way the Justice department was functioning at the time (and on a related note, Goldsmith’s book is featured prominently at Instapundit. Including an interesting podcast with Goldsmith himself. Of course the criticism’s implicit in all this laudatory coverage of the book are only imaginary I guess. If you would like to read them, go here.)

Yet the post is filled with shock and disbelief, and that is what I want to address. One would think this wouldn’t surprise him, because if he didn’t know how very believable such behavior is, he should know after reading the book. For example, I refer you to Geoffrey Stone’s review:

The following anecdote captures the mood: In spring 2004, Goldsmith informed Addington that the administration could not lawfully implement a potentially important counterterrorism measure. Addington, who “acted with the full backing” of the vice president and who routinely “crushed bureaucratic opponents,” exploded: ” ‘If you rule that way, the blood of the hundred thousand people who die in the next attack will be on your hands.’ ”

Addington’s response speaks volumes about the incredible and understandable pressure felt by the Bush administration to keep America safe. Every morning, the White House receives a ” ‘threat ma- trix’ ” that lists every threat directed at the U.S. in the preceding 24 hours. The matrix can be dozens of pages long. As Goldsmith notes, “It is hard to overstate the impact that the incessant waves of threat reports have on the judgment of people inside the executive branch who are responsible for protecting American lives.”

One of Goldsmith’s colleagues in the administration analogized “the task of stopping our enemy to a goalie in a soccer game who ‘must stop every shot,’ ” for if the enemy ” ’scores a single goal,’ ” the terrorists succeed. To make matters worse, ” ‘the goalie cannot see the ball — it is invisible. So are the players — he doesn’t know how many there are, or where they are, or what they look like.’ ” Indeed, the invisible players might shoot the ball ” ‘from the front of the goal, or from the back, or from some other direction — the goalie just doesn’t know.’ ” With such a mind set, it is no wonder that 9/11 generated a “panicked attitude” within the White House.

Exacerbating this attitude was a profound and little-noted transformation in the legal position of the executive branch over the last 50 years. In past crises, presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt faced extreme threats to the national security. But they enjoyed broad freedom to respond to the danger without meaningful legal constraint.

To illustrate this point, Goldsmith relates in some detail Roosevelt’s decision to intern almost 120,000 people of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor. Although Atty. Gen. Francis Biddle strongly opposed this action and advised Roosevelt that it was unlawful and unconstitutional, the president blithely ignored Biddle’s advice. Goldsmith writes:

“Having failed once to prevent a surprise attack by people of Japanese ancestry, [Roosevelt] did not think he could afford to ignore popular demands for security. . . .

“Roosevelt could think this way because the law governing presidential authority during his era was largely a political rather than a judicial constraint on presidential power.”

FDR was concerned “about the reaction of the press, the Congress, and most of all, the American people,” but he was not at all concerned “about being sued or prosecuted, or about defending his actions before a grand jury or an international court.”

Thus we get both a look into the enormous pressure the White House felt, and the past where far more egregious behavior occurred. Both speak to exactly why we should believe what we see here, why the Bush administrations response of trying to overcome the huge legal hurdles they faced led to solutions which Glenn Reynolds characterizes this way (the entire podcast is worth listening to/reading)

I’ve noticed something about the Bush administration’s legal arguments. And it doesn’t just relate to the war, it goes to all sorts of things. I mean, I wrote an article this summer about the — Dick Cheney’s office claiming, earlier this summer, that he’s a legislator not a member of the executive branch. And thus not under certain statutory duties that members of the executive branch are under. And, you know, you get these, sort of, clever but, sort of, over the top arguments that you might make to lighten the tension when you’re in the middle of a late night brainstorming session. And then everybody has a good laugh. And maybe you, sort of, bat the ball back and forth a few times. And then you return, sort of, to the more sober task at hand, only they actually make that their main argument. I mean, what’s going on with that?

Now I realize this is not a criticism of the administration, it just sounds like one to us rubes who buy Glenn’s schtick (see this comment thread) but it goes to the heart of how the administration has failed to stand up to the pressure of the moment.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this because that is what governments (or people in general) do in every area of our lives. The exact manner in which this is done may vary. If it isn’t pressuring lawyers to give cover, it is appointing judges who reinvent the Constitution to restrict the second amendment, herding legislatures and public opinion to ignore our Constitution to intern tens of thousands of Japanese, pack the court to destroy limits upon the Constitution’s restrictions on government power, develop legal theories which turn the commerce clause from a limit upon the authority of the state to a blank check to do almost whatever it wishes, or simply have the entire government ignore our own crimes, tortures and other brutal acts while we try our enemies under Roosevelt, and on and on and on.

So while Marty’s general analysis is sound, his shock and indignation should be the surprise, not the behavior itself, but of course it doesn’t.

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Republicans Back Impeachment of Cheney!

Well, sort of.

House Democrats on Tuesday narrowly managed to avert a bruising debate on a proposal to impeach Dick Cheney after Republicans, in a surprise maneuver, voted in favor of taking up the measure.

Republicans, changing course midway through a vote, tried to force Democrats into a debate on the resolution sponsored by longshot presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

The anti-war Ohio Democrat, in his resolution, accused Cheney of purposely leading the country into war against Iraq and manipulating intelligence about Iraq’s ties with al-Qaida.


“We’re going to help them out, to explain themselves,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. “We’re going to give them their day in court.”

I wonder if Sessions reads The Anchoress who said the following back in May:

Oh, I think it’s definitely time. Let’s do it - let’s impeach President Bush! In order to establish and investigate the articles of impeachment, let’s have all of this brought forward and get it all looked into, for real, let’s get it all entered into a real, actual record, instead of in someone’s book of dreams and opinions or in a convenient, “bumperstickeresqe” meme. Let’s get all the tawdry lists and narratives together and finally get them “on the record and testified to.”

Of course, the Democrat leadership doesn’t want this proposal to see the light of day for the various reasons the Anchoress highlighted in her post. But the frothy netroots activists hungrily salivate at the idea of legislatively hoisting Cheney’s head on a pike. With Congressional approval levels as low as they are, those activists may force Pelosi’s (Hoyer’s?) hand. As I noted in my commentary on the Anchoress’ challenge:

Invariably, debate with anyone on any topic concerning Bush is rife with tropes and conventional wisdom. Hacking through the tall grass of bumper-sticker arguments (”Bush lied! People died!”; “selected, not elected!”; “No blood for oil!”; etc.), and media-enhanced myths (”Bush was AWOL!“) is both tiresome and annoying. Unfortunately, those who most fervently push such arguments and myths comprise the netroots crowd, who happen to have a great deal of influence over the Democratic majority in Congress. Accordingly, the national legislative agenda is largely driven by the Hobbesian maelstroms emanating from those who seek to destroy their political enemies at the expense of their own country.

Succumbing to those maelstroms will become ever more difficult to resist if the Democrats don’t do something, anything, to prove to their base that putting them in power was worthwhile. So the Republicans will give the Democrats enough rope to hang themselves with on impeachment, thus presenting them with a Hobson’s Choice: either allow a full debate on impeachment (and risk the consequences) or use parliamentary procedure to keep the issue off the floor against the most fervent and vocal wishes of the Democrats most fervent and vocal supporters. Or maybe that’s a Catch-22.

Whatever kind of choice it is, Kucinich has put the Democrats in the center ring, and the Republicans appear eager to sell tickets to the show. Although, as Don Surber notes:

I’d call it a three-ring circus in the Democratic Congress, but circuses are organized.

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News Brief, Psychocandy Edition

Cross-posted to The Conjecturer

Defense & The War

  • In the midst of petulantly crossing his arms and throwing a tantrum about the Future of Iraq Project, an anonymous FSO makes a really good point: “Sending officers into this failed, hideously violent exercise with no language training, no military liaison training, no arms or means of self-defense, no area training or expertise, no continuity of personnel, no internal support, and no post-deployment assistance of any substance is, in fact, as stupid as it appears to be. I would prefer that we have some senior officers speak out now, rather than begin our own collection of Ricardo Sanchezes who will say years from now, after many more dead and maimed, ‘I told you so.’”
  • Ouch.
  • It is not just the Air Force, Army, and Navy that has head shakingly ineffective contracting systems: the US Coast Guard does as well. Axe also discusses the same consequence of our misguided airpower campaign in Afghanistan that I do: massive civilian casualties, the mention of which to many pro-war types and soldiers tends only to elicit shrugs. Yet we persist in being surprised when they are decidedly apathetic about Bush’s freedom agenda.
  • Despite the much-welcomed recent downturn in American casualties, 2007 is the deadliest year in Iraq so far. To relate this back to the above items, here is this (so far, unconfirmed) jaw-dropping report from Iraq, alleging that the SOF teams are using excessive force and killing innocent people in Iraq, just like NATO in Afghanistan.

Around the World

  • Over at, I get really angry with how the Instapundit is characterizing the latest revolution in Pakistan. Surprise, surprise. I also talk a bit about the latest wave of Taliban terror in what were once peaceful regions in the north and west of the country (don’t miss the far more nuanced event coverage by Péter Marton). I also took a peek at the latest fun times surrounding Russia’s new World Bank for Enriched Uranium, the role Kazkhstan’s purchase of Westinghouse might play, and what it might all mean for Iran.
  • On the off chance you still listen to those jokers in the pundit-sphere who point to Kosovo as a successful model to be emulated, it is worth considering the very real dangers of upholding its bid for independence from Serbia… namely, a renewal of the war we bombed Serbia to stop.
  • Casting a wary eye toward the box on the Euphrates.

Back at Home

  • I’m brimming with confidence in the system: the FBI was going to snoop out falafel sales to catch Iranian terrorists? There are Iranian terrorists? In San Francisco?
  • Hrm. Maybe Yahoo will stop selling out democrats to the clutches of abusive fascist regimes? Maybe.
  • Woah. “How can the dishonorable convey honors?”
  • I want her. I want her now. “Damn girl, you sound like you are way too nice. I think it’s definitely time for you to become a member of the smack-a ho tribe. Foreal.”
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The Politics of Bad Faith II

I have been meaning to address the issue of Sullivan and other’s latest attack on Glenn Reynold’s. I intended it to be a follow up to The Politics of Bad Faith, and I may still have more to say on that, especially Jim Henley’s comment “In a corrupt political discourse, no label is much use.” But on this particular charge Eric Scheie has written it for me. So go ahead and read the whole thing, because like Glenn, those of us who are not as outraged as some are, about some things, must therefore support:

the permanent suspension of habeas corpus, the transformation of the executive branch into a de facto extra-legal protectorate, the breaking of laws by the president, the authorization of torture, warrantless wiretapping, a war based on intelligence that simply wasn’t there, and a ramping up of the drug war.

The idea that Reynolds has been silent on the drug war is so untrue as to be laughable. This enters the territory of a lie. Anyone who reads Instapundit knows that isn’t true. So either Sullivan is lying about what he has read, or he is lying by asserting he has read it enough to know. Either way, it is a lie.

On every subject above Reynolds has posts, which could be referenced if Sullivan wished to, but doesn’t, that discuss those issues. Sullivan has in the past used as a source on Reynolds a man who not only is a sock puppet but claims Glenn Reynolds holds to views which express a murderous sociopathic, bloodthirsty, downright frightening right-wing authoritarianism. Glenn is pure evil, a man with murder in his heart in these people’s world, but Andrew actually finds them credible?

What upsets Sullivan is that Reynolds isn’t as exercised and obsessed about these issues as he is, thus he seems to feel  he doesn’t have any responsibility to temper his diatribes with anything so inconvenient as the truth. This bothers me because of course I have been the subject of the same kind of complaint, and the same tactics, it is a pattern. Sullivan and others complain about the “Malkinization of the blogosphere,” but I have far more fear of the Greenwaldization of it. The reason is that at its heart it is a “take no prisoners” approach to politics (as his friend Mona has described their philosophy to me) that believes the ends justify the means. Eric some time ago took the time to analyze their philosophy in the Sock Puppets own words:

There are some people who treat our conflicts with the Bush administration and their followers as just a matter of basic, friendly political and policy differences–along the lines of “what should the rate of capital gains tax be?” or “what type of laws can best encourage employers to provide more benefits to their employees”–and therefore, we treat people who support the administration with respect and civility and simply have nice, clean discussions to sort out our differences among well-intentioned people.That isn’t how I see that, and nobody should come to this blog expecting that. I don’t think I’ve done anything to lead anyone to expect otherwise. I see the Bush movement and its various component parts as a plague and a threat, as anything but well-intentioned. My goal, politically speaking, is to do what I can to undermine it and the institutions that have both supported and enabled it.

When faced with a plague and a threat anything is justified. Thus the extreme statements about Glenn and many others from all of Greenwald’s clique.  He has a goal, not any desire for truth or fairness. Civility is to be despised, and nobody who disagrees with him can possibly be well intentioned.

Like Eric, as a longtime fan of Andrew’s, I hope this tack he is taking toward the Greenwald view of the world is temporary, but I am beginning to wonder.

Go let Eric tease some of the threads in that pattern out, it is well worth the effort.

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More Farm Policy Disgrace

Even if this kind of thing wasn’t true, our farm policy is disgraceful:

When the bill that would extend farm subsidies for five years goes to the Senate floor this week, eight senators will have special reason to pay close attention: They or their relatives collected about $3 million in federal payments from 1995 to 2005, according to government records compiled by a non-partisan environmental group. . . .

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., says the system works well. He and his family’s farming interests received almost $2.4 million in federal payments from 1995-2005, records show. His net worth in 2005 was $1.7 million to $6.6 million, according to his financial disclosure statement. “He has firsthand experience of how this really benefits farmers,” said his spokeswoman, Angela Guyadeen.

Gee, you think?

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