Anyway, I am checking it out, so for a sneak preview of what is very likely to become my new blog site, go here.
So far, I seem to have hit on an earth-tone shade that is uncomfortably reminiscent of Al Gore. I'm nothing without Magenta. I am also tussling with the importation of the blog-roll, so don't take offense if you aren't there yet.
UPDATE: Ahh, the winter colors have arrived! I am going to switch to the Movable Type site linked above, so please, check it out. And the Blog-roll is still resisting my efforts. Futilely.
Glenn Reynolds guides us to a Dave Kopel NRO piece, where Mr. Kopel is doing a bit of Times bashing. Excellent! Maybe I can join in - I know what side I am on.
Or do I? Here we go, from the NRO:
...the Times's credibility when it comes to guns is about equal to that of the National Enquirer's reporting on celebrity romances: Some of it is true, a large part is false, and much of the rest is presented in a significantly misleading way.
Go get 'em, Dave - any examples? Here is his first:
In an Oct. 21, 2001, article observing that many people were thinking about gun policy in light of the 9/11 attacks, Butterfield concluded the piece: "Meanwhile, in Seattle, a sniper killed a federal prosecutor, Thomas C. Wales. The motive was not immediately clear, but investigators took note that Wales made many enemies as a strong gun-control advocate." Presumably, there were people who didn't like Wales because of gun-policy disagreements, but those people had won overwhelmingly at the ballot box, defeating a 1997 initiative that Wales had promoted. Sometimes federal prosecutors make mortal enemies by prosecuting real criminals.
It's time to revive our old slogan - how many trees must die before the NY Times gives P. Krugman's space to Michael Lewis?
It must be "back to school" week at Princeton, because the Earnest Prof could not have spent five minutes on his latest effort.
The column opens with some padding in which the Prof rambles senselessly about Iraq, and we will be asking his supporters to help us with one of his assertions. Eventually, he arrives at what seems to be his central point, on the subject of Bush's ineptitude vis a vis job creation:
[Bush has] decided to plead with the Chinese for help.
Admittedly, it didn't sound like pleading. It sounded as if he was being tough: "We expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade. . . . And we intend to keep the rules fair." Everyone understood this to be a reference to the yuan, China's supposedly undervalued currency, which some business groups claim is a major problem for American companies.
By the way, even if the Chinese did accede to U.S. demands to increase the value of the yuan, it wouldn't have much effect unless it was a huge revaluation. And China won't agree to a huge revaluation because its huge trade surplus with the U.S. is largely offset by trade deficits with other countries.
Still, even a modest currency shift by Beijing would allow Mr. Bush to say that he was doing something about the loss of manufacturing jobs other than appointing a "jobs czar." And so John Snow, the Treasury secretary, went off to Beijing to request an increase in the yuan's value.
But he got no satisfaction. A quick look at the situation reveals one reason why: the U.S. currently has very little leverage over China. Mr. Bush needs China's help to deal with North Korea — another crisis that was allowed to fester while the administration focused on Iraq. Furthermore, purchases of Treasury bills by China's central bank are one of the main ways the U.S. finances its trade deficit.
Nobody is quite sure what would happen if the Chinese suddenly switched to, say, euros — a two-point jump in mortgage rates? — but it's not an experiment anyone wants to try.
There may also be another reason. The Chinese remember very well that in Mr. Bush's first few months in office, his officials described China as a "strategic competitor" — indeed, they seemed to be seeking a new cold war until terrorism came along as a better issue. So Mr. Bush may find it as hard to get help from China as from the nations those same officials ridiculed as "old Europe."
The fellow who hopes to collect a Nobel Prize for his work on currencies managed to devote about one paragraph to the economics of an undervalued yuan. The rest was politics.
Did P. Krugman know that on the subject of the undervalued yuan, Bush was actualy leading a multi-national coalition? Apparently, the IMF, the head of the European Central Bank, and ministers from Japan, Canada, and France, among many others, have a problem with the current Chinese exchange rate.
And there are many interesting economic issues. How, given China's somewhat closed and controlled economy, do we even know if the yuan is undervalued? If it is undervalued, how will that affect China, the US, and the rest of the world? How much impact on jobs in the US might we see if China revalued? Why do the Chinese (and other East Asian countries) hold so many dollar reserves?
All of this is glossed over by P. Krugman in yet another rant against Bush. And we get the benefit of Prof. K, game theorist and international economist, toying with intellectual diversions such as:
Nobody is quite sure what would happen if the Chinese suddenly switched to, say, euros — a two-point jump in mortgage rates? — but it's not an experiment anyone wants to try.
Well, nobody is quite sure what would happen if China moved troops and ships to their coastal areas opposite Taiwan, fired a few missiles, and announced a blockade of Taiwan. And it is certainly not an experiment anyone wants to try.
But, as with the question of China switching their reserves to Euros, one wonders - why don't they? Is it in China's national interest to crater the dollar and, quite possibly, disrupt the world's trading system and trigger a global recession?
If China did sell dollars for Euros, must the dollar weaken dramatically, or could the Chinese persuade the world this was simply an information-free portfolio rebalancing?
If the dollar plunged and the Euro soared, would that tip Europe into recession? How might they react?
Would a weaker dollar spur US exports to places like Europe? Might that mitigate the impact of higher interest rates?
Is anyone really worried that, if we discuss problems with China about their possibly under-valued currency, they will have a temper tantrum and smash the world's trading system?
All of these seem like reasonable questions for an international economist. Oh, well, I guess he ran out of space.
However, he had enough space for this claim, and hence, my question to his supporters: would anyone care to substantiate this:
Mr. Bush seems to have a serious case of "l'état, c'est moi": he impugns the patriotism of anyone who questions his decisions.
I would think any ardent Bush-basher would have suitable examples at hand; I, however, suspect this is just Krugman making the sort of sound I hear from my tea-kettle as it approaches the conclusion of its task.
Any help would be welcome. He did say "Bush", so please, no recycling of Ari's old "people have to watch what they say" gaffe.
...But the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago and particularly a year ago after September 11. They regrettably, and even clumsily, complicated their own case. The events of September 11 created new understanding of the terrorist threat and the degree to which every nation is vulnerable. That understanding enabled the administration to form a broad and impressive coalition against terrorism. Had the administration tried then to capitalize on this unity of spirit to build a coalition to disarm Iraq, we would not be here in the pressing days before an election, late in this year, debating this now.
Now, I am not a genius who went to Yale (John Kerry did!), so I may not be deciphering this correctly. When he says "the administration missed an opportunity 2 years ago", I presume he is saying that, in response to the bombing of the USS Cole in October of 2000, President Clinton should have attacked Iraq. That certainly would have been an October surprise, since the Cole bombing was widely viewed as an al-Qaeda operation, although perhaps Sen. Kerry has superior insight.
Kerry's subsequent meaning is crystal clear - if Bush had rallied the world against Saddam immediately after 9/11, the world, and Kerry too, would have gotten on board. At that point, only P. Krugman would be left behind.
But wait - now, US officials, speaking on deepest, darkest background, explain that the US had abandoned its previously stated policies and was, in fact showing a new flexibility at the recent talks:
U.S. Said to Shift Approach in Talks With North Korea
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 — President Bush, in a significant shift in his approach to North Korea, authorized American negotiators to say last week that he is prepared to take a range of steps to aid the starving nation — from gradually easing sanctions to an eventual peace treaty, senior officials today.
The proposals were described to the North Koreans at the talks, which were held in Beijing last week. They constituted a major departure from the official White House statements earlier this year that North Korea would see no benefits from a new relationship until it shipped all its weapons out of the country and dismantled all of its nuclear facilities.
Ask it with me - if we made what sounds like a major break from our past position, why the non-response from the North Koreans? Why the cool words from the Chinese?
After Mr. Kelly laid out the American proposal, the North Korean delegation said the United States was seeking to strangle North Korea, and was secretly considering a pre-emptive strike.
Russian officials who attended the talks suggested that the North Koreans had not been listening to Mr. Kelly's presentation.
"Sometimes their script seemed to be couched in assumptions about what we were going to say," an American official said, "not what we did say."
In recent days China has publicly chastised the Bush administration for not showing enough flexibility. China's vice foreign minister, Wang Yi, who acted as the host of the six-nation talks, said earlier this week the United States "is the main obstacle" to any settlement.
In private, American officials insisted that the Chinese were simply trying to demonstrate to the North Koreans that they were willing to pressure both sides.
Well, that is reassuring - the North Koreans can't pay attention, and the Chinese are posturing. Those inscrutable Asians. The NY Times does not fully explore a third possibility, that this is a new Administration spin offensive. Certainly, this story seems connected to the "Powell up, Rumsfeld down" leaking of the Iraq coverage.
If this new information is part of an Administration attempt to charm us, I should not make light of the sourcing. The WaPo buries the same story on page A18, and tells us that it was a "senior State Department official, briefing reporters yesterday".
Republicans Rally For Evolution - Democrats Demand "Intelligent Design"
The ever-shifting debate continues. It has been a long, ghastly summer for the foreign policy hardliners in the Bush Administration. The NY Times describes the roll-up:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 - Few administrations enjoy making midcourse corrections in their foreign policies, much less admitting to making them. But this week it has become unmistakable that President Bush's team has had to rethink its approaches on Iraq and North Korea after a succession of setbacks and pressures at home and abroad.
In Iraq, the deadly bombings of late summer spurred a longstanding effort by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, bubbling under the surface since July, to widen the roles of the United Nations and American allies in the increasingly troubled occupation of Iraq.
On North Korea, the administration, which initially had insisted that there would be no concessions to the government of Kim Jong Il until a complete dismantling of its nuclear program had been accomplished, now says a step-by-step process could yield interim benefits for the North. Again, State Department officials who had long advocated a more conciliatory approach appear to have strengthened their hand.
Even as they declare that both these changes are evolutionary, administration officials acknowledge that after a grueling war in Iraq, a pendulum has begun to swing in the direction of diplomacy. "When negotiations start to meet reality, positions have to evolve," a senior administration official said today.
Democrats, as you have already figured out, would prefer policies that were intelligently designed at the outset.
The surprise entry of John Kerry into the Presidential race prompts us to look, once again, for his speech during the Senate debate last October authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Surprisingly, it does not seem to be at his website (or at least, I can't find it). However, it is available at Independents For Kerry.
I can only say, I am so relieved that George Bush did not give this speech, because I could never defend it. Let's note that Kerry spoke on October 9, 2002; the National Intelligence Estimate (made famous due to the 16 Words) was available October 1).
Let the fun begin:
...With respect to Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, we must ask ourselves a simple question: Why? Why is Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons that most nations have agreed to limit or give up? Why is Saddam Hussein guilty of breaking his own cease-fire agreement with the international community? Why is Saddam Hussein attempting to develop nuclear weapons when most nations don't even try, and responsible nations that have them attempt to limit their potential for disaster? Why did Saddam Hussein threaten and provoke? Why does he develop missiles that exceed allowable limits? Why did Saddam Hussein lie and deceive the inspection teams previously? Why did Saddam Hussein not account for all of the weapons of mass destruction which UNSCOM identified? Why is he seeking to develop unmanned airborne vehicles for delivery of biological agents?
...I believe the record of Saddam Hussein's ruthless, reckless breach of international values and standards of behavior which is at the core of the cease-fire agreement, with no reach, no stretch, is cause enough for the world community to hold him accountable by use of force, if necessary. The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons.
He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation.
Whose fingerprints are on the latest Bush Administration effort to involve the UN with the Iraqi occupation?
The Washington Post says it is Secretary of State Colin Powell, colluding with the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Josh Marshall, Dan Drezner, and Fred Kaplan, with varying degrees of skepticism, seem to agree.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I will extract this from Josh Marshall:
...this [Washington Post] article in Thursday's Post seems to say that an end-run is pretty close to what took place -- if not around Rumsfeld precisely, then the bulk of the civilian leadership at the Pentagon.
Reluctant as I am to arm-wrestle three wise men simultaneously, I wonder if they would care to comment on these remarks by Donald Rumsfeld, made on August 25:
Q: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, I'm Major Dawn Stay (sp) from Wilford Hall Medical Center. Circumstances are necessitating an expanded role of coalition forces in the Middle East and throughout the globe. What is the likelihood that U.S. military troops would be fighting under the orders of the U.N. or other countries' commanders?
Rumsfeld: The -- I'd say two things. One, we do need coalition forces, and the Department of State and the Department of Defense, John Abizaid, the combatant commanders, and others, the Joint Staff, have been talking to something in excess of 60, 70 countries, about bringing assistance in. I think the number currently is somewhere around 40 countries are participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom in one way or another. We do need international support and assistance. It's a big help. Full stop.
Second question, what is the likelihood of our forces serving under a blue-hatted United Nations leadership? And I think that's not going to happen. (Applause.)
That seems to be the current US position - UN involvement, but US troops under US command. Mr. Rumsfeld also addressed the need for more non-US troops in a press avail that day:
Rumsfeld: My position is that we ought to have as many forces in the Middle East as is appropriate. And if we're going to make an error, we ought to have too many, rather than too few. And that is the position of the president. It's the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the vice chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff completely, all of them, and the combatant commander. John Abizaid's the combatant commander. He has indicated that he has the level of forces there, U.S. forces, that he believes is appropriate at the present time --
Q: (Off mike.)
Rumsfeld: -- for the tasks that he has.
He has also said that we need to increase the coalition forces. And we've been working to do that, and they're flowing in now, in larger numbers.
And a bit more on the end-run of the JCS around the civilian leadership. I excerpt Paul Wolfowitz, testifying before a Senate committee on July 29:
Mr. Chairman, in my written statement, I go on at some length about the question of how many troops we need. We can into that in questions.
But I would like to say something that's very important here, because the most -- we don't need more American troops. At least our commanders don't think we do. What we need most of all -- we need international troops, yes. We need actionable intelligence, yes. But what we need most of all are Iraqis fighting with us. The Iraqi people are part of this coalition, and they need to be armed and trained to participate.
...At this stage, it is impossible to estimate what recover action will cost. What we do know is the resources will come from a variety of resources and the costs of recovery in Iraq need to be shared widely. The international community has a vital interest in successful recovery in Iraq and should share responsibility for it.
The international community has recognized its responsibility to assist us in peacekeeping efforts. Nineteen nations are now providing more than 13,000 troops on the ground, and more are on the way, and we are in active discussions with a number of very important countries, including Turkey and Pakistan, about further possibilities.
Now, I am not pretending that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz led the charge for greater UN involvement. In fact, folks scoring at home are almost certainly correct in calling this a win for Powell. However, the idea of international troops seems to be something Rumsfeld supported, rather than opposed. Figuring out how to deliver the international troops is actually Powell's job at State - if he concludes a UN resolution is needed, well, so be it. But I'll bet the JCS would never push for a UN resolution that put US troops under UN control.
That is my current alternative view. The idea that the JCS and Powell executed an in-house coup against Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld with this UN effort does not seem to square with their public pronouncements.
UPDATE: A more nuanced interpretation from the NY Times:
The harsh reality of Iraq, where the American military proved easily able to win a war but cannot yet fashion peace, has all but overwhelmed other calculations, not only in the administration but in Congress. Lawmakers entering a campaign season returned from summer recess this week after hearing constituents' questions about the casualties and costs that have mounted since the war.
The doubts and questions in Congress have enhanced the stature of Mr. Powell. Even Pentagon skepticism about the international approach waned as the strain imposed on the American forces by the occupation of Iraq became increasingly evident to military commanders.
The secretary was said by other officials to have seized on a delicate and painful moment to convince Mr. Bush in recent weeks that American allies are essential to paying the military and economic cost of securing and rebuilding Iraq, not to mention bringing troops home next year.
While Mr. Powell's hand has been strengthened, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hero of the successful invasion of Iraq in March and April, is now facing tough questions over why the United States seemed ill prepared for the postwar period.
Well, yes. But this is not quite the end-run the WaPo was so excited about.
Ms. Cornett grapples with a supporter of gay marriage. Let me see if I can summarize the supporting case - proper progressives deride marriage as an outmoded means of patriarchial oppression. However, they should support gay marriage, the better to destroy the institution from within.
I Sense A Certain Skepticism Amongst The Press Corps
The NY Times describes Briefings With Arnold, as the next Governor of California does his homework:
The education goes on daily, with an endless procession of policy experts traipsing to his headquarters in Santa Monica. Sometimes, they go to his home for coffee discussions or to Schatzi, his beachside restaurant, for dinner conversations.
People at the briefings say Mr. Schwarzenegger prefers to read along with his tutors' policy papers. An aide takes notes, and after hours of questions and answers, Mr. Schwarzenegger breaks down complicated issues into digestible catchalls like: "Special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento. Here's how it works. Money comes in, favors go out. The people lose."
Those words have made it into a new 15-second television advertisement with this coda, "We need to send a message: Game over."
Movie buffs will recognize "Game over" from the title of Spy Kids 3-D, starring Sly Stallone.
OK, this is not the Sunni triangle but it is heartening. It also suggests a vulnerability of Bush from the right - we have the best, most can-do troops in the world, but the civilian leadership has let them down.
The 101st Division's sense of mission is swiftly apparent at General Petraeus's command center inside a Mosul palace.
"We are in a race to win over the people," reads a sign. "What have you and your element done today to contribute to victory?"
The second story, about a local ACLU chapter, has an interesting "vengeance for me, but not for thee" twist:
Susan Watson, chairwoman of the local ACLU chapter, said her group plans to protest every execution from now on. It was just "irony," she said, that Hill's was the first execution since the chapter decided to stage protests.
"I think people are absolutely torn," she said. "The truth is, if anyone deserves the death penalty, it's Paul Hill. But no one deserves the death penalty."
Cox said it was tough for some ACLU members, and some didn't attend the protest because they knew the murder victims.
"It's a complex, emotional issue," he said. "He killed friends of ours."
The post below has the point I want to make on the James Barrett murder.
People Magazine had a profile of James Barrett after his death. If I recall correctly, his family members suspected he was pro-life, all though he was not expressive on that subject. He worked as an abortion clinic escort to help others protect their rights, and was not concerned about his personal safety, because he did not think a protestor would harm a 74 year old veteran.
LO: In the intro of “The Great Unraveling,” you mention how you came across an old book by Henry Kissinger from 1957 that you believe helps explain what’s happening in American politics today. How so?
PK: What Kissinger told me was not so much what the people running the country are doing, as why it’s so difficult for reasonable, sensible people to face up to what it is in fact dead obvious.
He talked in very generic terms about the difficulty of people who have been accustomed to a status quo, diplomatically, coping with what he called a “revolutionary power.”
The book is about dealing with revolutionary France, the France of Robespierre and Napoleon, but he was clearly intending that people should understand that it related to the failure of diplomacy against Germany in the 30s.
But I think it’s more generic than that. It’s actually the story about how confronted with people with some power, domestic or foreign, that really doesn’t play the rules, most people just can’t admit to themselves that this is really happening.
They keep on imagining that, “Oh, you know, they have limited goals. When they make these radical pronouncements that’s just tactical and we can appease them a little bit by giving them some of what they want. And eventually we’ll all be able to sit down like reasonable men and work it out.”
Then at a certain point you realize, “My God, we’ve given everything away that makes system work. We’ve given away everything we counted on.”
And that’s basically the story of what’s happened with the Right in the United States. And it’s still happening.
You can still see people writing columns and opinion pieces and making pronouncements on TV who try to be bipartisan and say, “Well, there are reasonable arguments on both sides.” And advising Democrats not to get angry – that’s bad in politics. And just missing the fact that – my God, we’re facing a radical uprising against the system we’ve had since Franklin Roosevelt.
Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan criticized Bush's aircraft carrier landing as looking, in retrospect, a bit premature. Well, he said it was "the dumbest political gesture of the last two years?", but we took his point.
But a new day dawns, and we are left pondering either the genius, or great fortune, of Mr. Sullivan. He revisits the aircraft carrier PR ploy, but this time, he calls it the "aricraft" carrier landing. A fine tribute to since-departed Ari Fleischer, who surely did take pride in his craft!
So, was this deliberate, or a lucky typo? Who's the genius, Andrew Sullivan, or noted socialist "Lefty" Gomez?
A secret report for the Joint Chiefs of Staff lays the blame for setbacks in Iraq on a flawed and rushed war-planning process that "limited the focus" for preparing for post-Saddam Hussein operations.
The report, prepared last month, said the search for weapons of mass destruction was planned so late in the game that it was impossible for U.S. Central Command to carry out the mission effectively. "Insufficient U.S. government assets existed to accomplish the mission," the classified briefing said.
The second report is from the CBO, and tells us that:
Pentagon May Have to Reduce U.S. Forces in Iraq - CBO
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration may have to cut U.S. troops in Iraq by more than half to keep enough forces to face other threats, a congressional agency said on Tuesday in a report that fueled calls for more international help for peacekeeping in Iraq.
The Congressional Budget Office said under current policies, the Pentagon would be able to sustain an occupation force of 38,000 to 64,000 in Iraq long term, down from the existing 150,000 that a number of lawmakers said is not enough to confront the spiraling violence.
Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat who requested the CBO study, said it showed that President Bush's policies in Iraq were ``straining our forces to the breaking point.''
OK, let's dispense with the first one first. The Pentagon didn't plan for a WMD hunt, or a post-war occupation? Well, then, I think we can quit criticizing the Bush plan, since it hardly seems fair to criticize what isn't there.
Not convinced? I am keeping my eyes out for a serious explanation - one wonders why Rumsfeld and Bush never asked for a plan, and why the Pentagon didn't produce one; surely it did not come as a complete surprise that the war would be followed by an occupation. Typical bureaucratic CYA? Or, maybe they are as dumb as the critics have said. Brrr.
Now, as to the CBO study, I have been mocking TAPPED and Paul Krugman for calling for a larger army. Does this report vindicate them?
NO, I stand by my mockery. My points were that, as proper liberals, they should have different spending priorities; that a larger army is a long term solution to a short term problem; and that they should be calling for fewer missions, not more troops.
So, based on the news report, we see that "The CBO said it would cost up to $19 billion and take three to five years to recruit, train and equip two more divisions with about 80,000 in troops and support personnel. Which strikes me as long term.
We also currently have troops deployed in Kosovo, Bosnia, Liberia, and Korea. Those requirements may vary over time.
Well, we have preferred to describe it as a corporate-statist relic of a 1950's Cold War mentality, but I suppose "fascist" works. So, Bill Parcells is not "The Tuna", he is "Il Duce". Google language tools missed that - I like "il tonno" better.