The Sunday ski report - it was colder than a vodka-tonic out there today. However, I led a coalition of the willing (and unwitting) out for a day on the slopes. No songs from the kids today, so I will steal this verse:
Call me gutless, but I live just outside of Manhattan, and my nerves have snapped. I know I am letting Osama herd me like a sheep, but I am fleeing with my family to Vermont on Friday morning. Yes, I know, on the one hand, if I can't stand tall in my own (duct-taped) home, the terrorists win. On the other hand, I can beat the traffic and go skiing Friday afternoon.
Jay Caruso is arm-wrestling with various commentators who think that the Dems under Leahy were not obstructionist with Bush nominees.
Oh, if I had time and knowledge, I would rally up some cool tables proving all sorts of things. Hey, next time!
Meanwhile, here is a DOJ website which links to this cool chart showing judges confirmed in the first two years of Presidents going back to Carter. As a companion, here are the nominees returned. You will need to remind yourself that Bush I and Bush II were the only two facing a Senate controlled by the opposite party in their first two years.
Now, here is an American Prospect article describing the Democrat strategy of delay. A bit dated, but the wisdom is timeless.
Carter : 100% Circuit / 91% District
Reagan: 95% / 100%
Bush I: 96% / 94%
Clinton: 86% / 91%
Bush II: 53% / 84%
Does anything stand out in that table?
Now, we don't have Clinton for 1999-2000, but that is sort of a faux comparison, since we expect a late term stall by the other party while hoping for a change in control. So we would like to see Clinton 1997-1998, from the Leahy table. However, this gives us the number confirmed, but not total nominees. Bother. Info on vacancies might also be useful, although possibly confusing - if vacancies occur late in the Congressional term, the President may not have time to nominate replacements.
Well, I am not convinced that the Dems were as good as we are being told. Slug it out, gents!
UPDATE: Despite his deplorable lack of ethnic sensitivity, Michael Kinsley seems to make a good point about judges declining to disclose their casual, unstudied views. Is there a devastating rebuttal out there?
My casual attempt would be to take this snippet from Estrada's testimony and say, look - if a nominee expresses his/her non-fully informed opinion, people will howl if he later takes in more evidence and delivers a "surprise" ruling.
SEN. FEINSTEIN: Do you believe that Roe was correctly decided?
MR. ESTRADA: I have -- my view of the judicial function, Senator Feinstein, does not allow me to answer that question. I have a personal view on the subject of -- of abortion, as I think you know. And -- but I have not done what I think the judicial function would require me to do in order to ascertain whether the court got it right as an original matter. I haven't listened to parties. I haven't come to an actual case of controversy with an open mind. I haven't gone back and run down everything that they have cited. And the reason I haven't done any of those things is that I view our system of law as one in which both me as an advocate, and possibly if I am confirmed as a judge, have a job of building on the wall that is already there and not to call it into question. I have had no particular reason to go back and look at whether it was right or wrong as a matter of law, as I would if I were a judge that was hearing the case for the first time. It is there. It is the law as it has subsequently refined by the Casey case, and I will follow it (italics added).
Sen. Carl Levin, in today's WaPo, is not happy with the level of cooperation between the CIA and the UN inspectors in Iraq:
CIA Director George J. Tenet, meanwhile, faced a storm of criticism from Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee who charged that the administration has sabotaged the U.N. weapons inspections by not fully cooperating with the United Nations. They also accused Tenet of misleading them about the intelligence on Iraqi weapons that the CIA had turned over to the inspections teams.
In testimony before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, Tenet surprised senators by saying that the agency had given U.N. inspectors all the information it had on weapons sites of "high" and "moderate" interest, meaning those sites that are likely to contain weapons or remnants of weapons. Today, Tenet told the Senate defense panel that he had been wrong. In fact, he said, there are "one handful of sites which may not have been known" to the U.N. inspectors.
Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, have pressed the Bush administration to provide timely and accurate intelligence on Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons sites. U.S. officials maintain that they have, although the inspectors have raised questions about the quality of some of the U.S. intelligence.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) challenged Tenet's statements in an interview after the testimony, saying the CIA director continued to mislead lawmakers on the extent of the agency's cooperation. Levin cited classified letters from the CIA dated Jan. 24 and Jan. 28 in which the CIA said it had not shared information about what he characterized as "a large number of sites" of "significant" value. Levin said the CIA informed him on Tuesday that it planned to hand over more information within the next few days. "When they've taken the position that inspections are useless, they are bound to fail," Levin said. "We have undermined the inspectors since the beginning."
I suppose I ought to read UN Resolution 1441 again. But I have the apparently silly idea that it was Saddam that was meant to disclose his weapons to the UN.
Indulge me, if you will, and let me work up to my point. First, who do you suppose said this, in a recent State of the Union address:
...Keep in mind, the same technological advances that have shrunk cell phones to fit in the palms of our hands can also make weapons of terror easier to conceal and easier to use. We must meet this threat by making effective agreements to restrain nuclear and missile programs in North Korea, curbing the flow of lethal technology to Iran, preventing Iraq from threatening its neighbors...
NO, it was not the Axis of Evil speech! It was Bill Clinton, in his 2000 SoTU.
Oh, we are rolling now! Who said this:
I also want to say that America must help more nations to break the bonds of disease. Last year in Africa, 10 times as many people died from AIDS as were killed in wars--10 times. The budget I give you invests $150 million more in the fight against this and other infectious killers. And today I propose a tax credit to speed the development of vaccines for diseases like malaria, TB, and AIDS. I ask the private sector and our partners around the world to join us in embracing this cause. We can save millions of lives together, and we ought to do it.
C'mon, it was CLINTON AGAIN! Get the wax out of your ears, Richard Gere!
Oh, we are having fun now. But what prompts this stroll down memory lane? Well, Mickey linked to a wide-ranging Katie Couric interview with Mr. Clinton. Media bias is covered (the Right owns talk radio, so that settles that question), but what caught my evil eye was the following:
Couric: “When it comes to terrorism, do you ever kick yourself for not doing more about Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden while you were in office?”
Former President Bill Clinton: “I don’t know what else I could have done. I did everything I thought I could. And if you talk to our people we talked about bin Laden four out of every five days for the last three years I was president. It’s interesting, that some of the people say I should have done more, now, were ridiculing me for doing too much then, and saying I was obsessed with bin Laden. I had the same level of obsession with bin Laden that I think a lot of the current administration has with Saddam Hussein. And I thought then, and I think now, that Al Qaeda’s the number one security problem in the world.”
Oh, you know I added that emphasis, and why would I not believe him? Evidently, however, the State of the Union address consistently fell on the fifth day, when the "Enough with Osama, already" blackout was imposed. I have done a word search for "Osama" and "Laden" for his SotU speeches from 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000, and come up with a grand goose-egg. With this many strikeouts, it's like watching Mariano!
Oh, don't start - I know that "Osama Bin Laden - Alive?" seems to have become an anagram for "Lord Voldemort", aka, "He Who Is Not Named" in the Bush White House, at least until this week. Still, this must have been one of Clinton's many secret obsessions.
MUCH LATER: Groan. Here is "Usama bin Ladin", appearing in 1999:
As we work for peace, we must also meet threats to our Nation's security, including increased dangers from outlaw nations and terrorism. We will defend our security wherever we are threatened, as we did this summer when we struck at Usama bin Ladin's network of terror. The bombing of our Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania reminds us again of the risks faced every day by those who represent America to the world. So let's give them the support they need, the safest possible workplaces, and the resources they must have so America can continue to lead.
We must work to keep terrorists from disrupting computer networks. We must work to prepare local communities for biological and chemical emergenices, to support research into vaccines and treatments.
We must increase our efforts to restrain the spread of nuclear weapons and missiles, from Korea to India and Pakistan. We must expand our work with Russia, Ukraine, and other former Soviet nations to safeguard nuclear materials and technology so they never fall into the wrong hands. Our balanced budget will increase funding for these critical efforts by almost two-thirds over the next 5 years.
WARTIME LOYALTIES....Chris Bertram has a terrific post today about wartime loyalties. The bottom line? During the Falklands War America's support was tepid at best, while in many ways "Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies."
Our petulant demands that everyone support our wars wholeheartedly would be a little more credible if we were willing to do the same for our allies. But we aren't, are we?
OK, following the links takes me to Junius, who has this on offer:
[Begin Excerpt] So, the Americans gave every assistance to the United Nations and every other mediator - Brazilian, Mexican and the rest - to bring about a negotiated settlement, on terms which would have been seen as a surrender in the United Kingdom. Then, in the closing stages of the conflict, when we had already lost many ships and men, they leant heavily on us - aided by telephone calls from Reagan to Thatcher - to find some way of saving Galtieri's face. "Magnanimity before victory" became their watch-phrase.
In many ways, Mitterrand and the French were our greatest allies. They had supplied the Argentines with Mirage and Super Etendard aircraft in the earlier years; but, as soon as the conflict began, Mitterrand's defence minister got in touch with me to make some of these available so that our Harrier pilots could train against them before setting off for the South Atlantic. The French also supplied us with detailed technical information on the Exocet, showing us how to tamper with the missiles. " [End Excerpt]
Hmm, I don't quite remember it that way. And, continuing to follow the links, I see that the former British Defence Minister Sir John Nott also said this:
Margaret Thatcher had, I believe, made up her mind at the outset that the only way we could regain our national honour and prestige was by inflicting a military defeat on Argentina. [Note: from reading the full piece, the Minister clearly did not, at least initially, share this view] But this did not prevent the painful and endless negotiations for a diplomatic settlement - led by Al Haig, the American Secretary of State.
These negotiations not only produced personal clashes within the Cabinet but also strained Britain's relationship with the United States. At least they filled a horrible vacuum while the task force made its long, long voyage towards Antarctica.
The issue of America's involvement in the crisis is a crucial one. Certain Americans, of course, such as Casper Weinberger, the US Defence Secretary, were splendid from the outset.
But the State Department, at this time, was dominated by Latinos who saw President Reagan's Latin American policy going down the drain....
It took weeks of determined diplomacy by Sir Nicholas Henderson, our ambassador in Washington, before the White House was prepared to declare itself on the side of the British. Moreover, it did so, I suspect, only because Congress and American public opinion had come down heavily on our side. By doing so, it destroyed the support of the South American dictators for Reagan's anti-communist crusade in Central America.
As the Falklands conflict developed, America stopped arms sales to Argentina, but was unwilling to take more effective economic measures. Nicholas Henderson reported that the Americans were not prepared to "tilt" too heavily against Argentina; to do so, they said, would deprive them of their influence in Buenos Aires.
They did not want the Argentine dictator General Leopoldi Galtieri to fall - whereas we saw him as an outright fascist and aggressor. For the Americans, he was a central pillar of resistance to communism in South and Central America - and all the efforts of Reagan and the State Department were concentrated on the crisis in El Salvador.
The United States, it seemed, did not wish to choose between Britain and their interests in Latin America. Indeed, apart from Weinberger and the Pentagon, the Americans were very, very far from being on our side.
If Washington had been in the hands of the East Coast Wasps (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) instead of the West Coast Americans, with their overriding concern for the Americas, things might have been different.
But the State Department, the White House security staff and the president himself were, privately, never wholly committed to our cause. For all Margaret Thatcher's friendship with Ronald Reagan, he remained a West Coast American looking south to Latin America and west to the Pacific. Sometimes, I wondered if he even knew or cared where Europe was.
Emphasis added. And I suspect that, by the end of the 80's, even Sir John may have had some confidence that Reagan could find Europe on a map, since so much of it was newly-liberated.
Now, as part of the public, I remember public opinion being strongly pro-British, in contrast with the prevailing sentiment in Britain or France today with respect to America. In fact, I recall one of the classic Newsweek covers showing a photo of the British fleet with the headline "The Empire Strikes Back".
I also can pitch in this review of the John Nott's book by this Tory backbencher, link provided from an old Nielsen Hayden blog. This fellow was also surprised by how limited the US assistance was, and how obstructive our State Department was.
Many Britons point to the Falklands war as an example of how, when the chip are down, the Americans can be counted on to help Britain. It is certainly true that Britain would have found it much harder to re-conquer the Falklands without American intelligence. Yet it is often forgotten that for a month after the Argentine invasion of March 2 , 1982, while a diplomatic solution seemed possible, American help was limited.
During that month, according to a former British DIS officer, America did no pass on high-quality satellite photos. "The Americans said there were 'technical' problems with the satellites, during Al Haig's shuttle diplomacy, " recalls the officer. General Haig tried to negotiate a compromise package that would have allowed the Argentines to withdraw in a face-saving manner. "The US gave us the good photos only after Argentina rejected Haig's compromise. If Argentina had accepted that compromise, and Britain had rejected it, I doubt the Americans would have wanted to help us. In the final analysis they will always do what is good for the US - and therein lies the core of the UK's problem."
This article says good things about French help for the Brits during the Falklands, as well.
So, my point - we were not nearly as unreliable an ally as that excerpt, or the full article, makes us appear. The Brits had problems with the US State Department? Gee whiz, our own Pentagon has problems with the State Department, which has only recently swung to a hawkish stance on Iraq, if we believe Powell's late conversion. The idea that US diplomats would defer to British admirals in an affair involving South America seems hopelessly over-optimistic, and Sir John himself seems to have been initially skeptical about the military option. Yet, at crunch time, we seem to have made ourselves useful, and public support for the British was unquestioned.
CalPundit: "...People like Falwell, Robertson, and Ann Coulter aren’t even taken very seriously by conservatives, and yet they end up on TV. How does that happen?"
Alterman: "Well, I spent a lot of time in the book on Coulter. I used to work with her and I don’t like her. We were both hired to be pundits on MSNBC when it first began. We were both there the very first day it was on the air, and the stuff that was coming out of her mouth, I couldn’t believe my ears.
But MSNBC kept her back then, simply because she was good looking, and she was a woman, and she was conservative, and they loved the idea that a woman was conservative, just like they love the idea that they had all these black conservatives...."
Let's see. For a conservative commentator to get on television, they need to be black, or a hot blond, but in either case, shrill and eccentric. But that does not strike Mr. Alterman as demonstrating the least bit of media bias?
Oh, whatever. The interview also includes a fascinating, but regrettably brief, bit of history:
Alterman: "...I’d say the turning point was probably 1978, midway through the Carter administration. That’s when conservatives got the upper hand in both politics and media."
CalPundit: "What caused that? Why 1978?"
Alterman: "A couple of things caused it. One is that the conservatives invested an enormous amount of money in an infrastructure of ideas beginning in 1964, when Richard Mellon Scaife figured out that they couldn’t win just by putting up a candidate. I think that investment in the intellectual superstructure started to pay off 14 years later.
I also think the world became more conservative. Vietnam was a catastrophe and it was a liberal catastrophe, and the war on poverty was a catastrophe, and that was a liberal catastrophe, and even though it’s kind of unfair to blame liberals in both cases, everybody did.
And then the Soviets got much more adventurous around that time, and the whole civil rights movement, the whole “We Shall Overcome” period in American history became transformed into the black power moment of history, and that black power moment of history didn’t really work for anyone, particularly liberals. So liberalism was kind of exhausted by that period, it didn’t have any answers, and the conservatives were ascendant and self confident, and journalism just picked up on it."
OK, toss in the collapse of the Soviet Empire under Reagan and Bush, and the ludicrous inability of the quasi-socialist European states to provide for their own defense, create jobs, absorb immigrants, or invest in health care such as pharamaceutical research and development, and we have a glimmering as to why the left is just a little bit discredited.
Regrettably, the unasked question is this: Just when did the left go through an intellectual re-vitalization and emerge with a coherent political vision? Take away identity politics, abortion rights, and a commitment to a batch of failed Euro-policies on labor, taxes, and health care, and what remains on the Democratic side?
But my question also reflects my own ignorance - as to the timing of the Democratic renewal, I was out to dinner last night - maybe I missed it.
UPDATE: For one reader of Alterman's book, it was deja vu all over again. Who borrowed a Jackson Browne lyric and set the left half of the blogosphere atwitter? Some chick Andrew Sullivan digs, darn, I can't remember. Name has an "N" in it. Someone will remember.
Far be it from me to characterize Ereic Alterman on the basis of his interview with the Calpundit. However, the Altered One seems to be surprised to learn that on television appearances, discussions are often oversimplified, and sound-bites rule. If we had a front page, I would tear it out.
But that is not what nearly blew up my Evil Excerpter. No, it was this quote from Alterman, which I think ought to be put on the head of his blog:
"I don’t even really believe in the idea of facts..."
Oh, how great is that! And how convenient for me - if he doesn't believe in facts, then I don't believe I will bother to rebut whatever fantasy he is presenting in his book debunking the myth of a liberal media.
Nag, nag, nag. OK, let's put in context. Surprisingly, it spoils my fun less than you might think:
"CalPundit: Some people think that we should just give up on the whole idea of an objective media, go to the European model....
Alterman: Yeah, I said that in Sound & Fury. I still believe that. I don’t even really believe in the idea of facts or opinions. I believe in context. I believe there are certain things you need to know to understand the story, and they’re not necessarily factual and they’re not necessarily opinion, but they could be either one.
To tell you the truth, I think Fox does a better job of covering the news than CNN or MSNBC, because they have a context, it’s understandable, it makes some sense, whereas at MSNBC and CNN the news just comes at you as if from outer space, it’s news from nowhere. I don’t watch cable news, but if I did I would watch Fox. Assuming there was nobody with a context that I share.
Dr. Manhattan reads the NY Times story about Ken Lay and sets the blogosphere on fire. Ken Lay not a dastardly, deceitful villain? Mickey, Andrew, and Donald Luskin concentrate on the suspect reporting at the NY Times. In fact, Mr. Luskin points us to a NY Times story describing the "margin loan" defense that was published just three days after the Times first aired its suspicions about Mr. Lay's stock sales. The Man Without Qualities reprises P Krugman's greatest hits on Enron, in this post and this follow up.
So, is Ken Lay innocent? In the oft-repeated words of Gene Hackman, innocent of what? I am not a securities lawyer, so let me offer you my opinion about securities law. There seem to be two separate issues here - did Ken Lay lie to the public, and did he believe his own lies? Suppose, as the the Times reports, Mr. Lay never wavered in his confidence in the long run prospects for Enron. He might still have tolerated a bit of financial chicancery to ease the company past a temporary glitch, or what he might have perceived as a brief soft spot in the financial markets. However, I don't believe that securities law allows for a "white lie" defense: "Hey, I was sure the shares would recover eventually, I knew you would thank me later, so I lied to you now".
This Business Week article mentions Ken lay's legal challenges without any reference to his own sale of stock, which certainly suggests that the public statements and his personal stock sales are separate issues.
Now, his personal stock trading pattern may be indicative of a state of mind, and lend support to the position that he did not know about the accounting situation at Enron. Certainly, a prosecution would be easier if Mr. Lay had been selling shares frantically, rather than reluctantly. A case against Mr. Lay was always going to be problematic, since he could point to legal and accounting opinions validating the various corporate transactions in question. Take away the notion that this was a scheme designed for his personal enrichment, and what is left? But his pattern of stock sales is not definitive proof that Mr. Lay believed that nothing was wrong at Enron - it may simply demonstrate his belief that the problems would eventually be overcome. If ham sandwiches can be indicted by a motivated prosecutor, why not Lay's potato chips?
Incredibly, it seems, from the examples cited, the Krugman may be able to skate over this thin ice to claim vindication. Groan. From the Krugman examples offered at the "Man Without Qualities":
Time magazine's persons of the year are three whistle-blowers: Sherron Watkins of Enron, Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom and Coleen Rowley of the F.B.I. They deserve to be celebrated. After all, thanks to Ms. Watkins ... Ken Lay .... ha[s] been indicted.... Oh, I'm sorry. None of that actually happened. ... Time seems to be celebrating what should have been, not what was.
Enron executives may have deluded and defrauded their shareholders without actually breaking the law. ... [T]he absence of Enron indictments, demonstrates just how much self-enrichment corporate insiders can get away with while staying within the letter of the law."
And again, time will tell.
[T]he use of "split-premium" life insurance policies ... give[s] executives largely tax-free compensation (you don't want to know the details) — is an even sweeter deal for executives of companies that go belly up: it shields their wealth from creditors, and even from lawsuits. Sure enough, reports The Wall Street Journal, former Enron C.E.O.'s Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling both had large split-premium policies.
OK, I'm back for a day and defending Krugman against both The Man Sans Q and Andrew Sullivan. Fortunately, I am due for another vacation soon.
In my unlikely role as French Strategist and Deep Thinker (you don't suppose there is a language requirement? Non? C'est bien!), I would offer the following motivations:
1. Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. NATO is a military alliance with many new entrants that do not remember Germany fondly from WWII, and do not remember France as the nation that liberated them from the Soviet Empire. France can influence NATO, but never lead it.
2. Re-shuffle the deck: The US has blessed the creation of the Rapid Reaction Force, provided it is not simply a shuffling of NATO assets. Hmm, new troops, new equipment, new money? No way. If the RRF is vital to creating a European military capability that can give them their own voice, then ending NATO may be the cheapest way to create it. France will be one of the big fish in this puddle.
3. Let's talk Turkey: Turkey will never be admitted to the EU, which has no desire to add to its unassimilated Muslim population. Still, Turkey keeps offering the tired arguemnt that they have been a loyal member of NATO for fifty years. Well, let's end NATO and end this discussion.
That's it - three strikes, and we're out! Ooops, sorry, that is very American.
Retired General Schwarzkopf created a bit of a stir prior to the State of the Union address with a WaPo interview that was widely taken as "give peace a chance". However, as we suggested would happen in this space, he has since rejoined the Bush team, based on his "Meet The Press" appearance:
MR. RUSSERT: General Schwarzkopf, let me show you what you had said to The Washington Post two weeks ago and get the sense of your current thinking. “Norman Schwarzkopf wants to give peace a chance. The general who commanded U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War says he hasn’t seen enough evidence to convince him that his old comrades Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Paul Wolfowitz are correct in moving toward a new war now. He thinks U.N. inspections are still the proper course to follow. He’s worried about the cockiness of the U.S. war plan, and even more by the potential human and financial costs of occupying Iraq.” Is that still your current thinking?
GEN. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: No, I don’t any so, not anymore. I think that given the information that’s come forward, particularly Colin’s presentation to the Security Council, I am sort of with the other 72 percent of the American people that said that I found it very compelling and I found it a very, very good rationale.
The story of Ronald Dixon has been covered. Rachel Lucas has links, and Clyde Haberman of the NY Times recently had a column on it.
Briefly, Dixon, a 27 year old ex-Navy computer technician, shot and wounded an intruder at 2 AM on the second floor of his residence in Brooklyn. The intruder has a criminal record, but now Dixon is in trouble as well - the gun he used for self-defense was not registered in NY. Dixon faces possible jail time on a plea deal, but his attorney seems to be relying on public pressure and a sensible jury to free his client. Jury nullification - we want to come back to that.
So, parallel justice - here is a story about a homeowner in Queens. Two would-be intruders rang the front door bell of the Santos home at 9:50 AM. When no one answered, they walked around to the side of the house and used a crowbar to force their way in. But, surprise! Mr. Santos, alerted by his wife, was waiting for them with a handgun. He chased them into the front yard, one of them stopped and raised what seemed to be a pistol, and Mr. Santos, a former air marshall, fired and killed him.
Well, so he says. The second intruder drove off, and no gun was recovered at the scene. Police are still investigating, but, fortunately, Mr. Santos has a permit for his gun. At this point, all seems well, and no charges are contemplated.
Now, I am not sure that this was a proper deadly force incident - the intruders were fleeing, so chasing them may have been a bit overzealous for a civilian. However, I have had friends do stranger things, so we will let that pass.
But something is not right here - Santos killed a guy who was, broadly speaking, in retreat. (I presume that the fellow was not shot in the back, and I suppose he could have circled around and returned for a second attempt, but still, Santos did not seem to face an immediate threat other than of his own making.) Dixon shot a man who was rushing towards him in his own hallway (so he says, but no one disputes it). So, Santos is OK, but Dixon goes to jail? Wrong answer.
UPDATE: Brooklyn, Queens, and now the Bronx: during a hold-up attempt, an employee grabs an unlicensed gun and shoots the would-be burglar. The DA is going to pass this to a grand jury, which will almost surely not indict.
Paul Krugman rises to defend the French today, creating what might be the most target-rich environment in the history of the blogosphere. Regrettably, he leaves himself a bit of separation, imagining the French position for our edification and enlightenment, but not really endorsing it or taking it as his own. But I will not let feeble literary ploys deter me! Roll the tape:
Meanwhile, here's how it looks from Paris: France was willing to put ground troops at risk — and lose a number of soldiers — in the former Yugoslavia; we weren't. The U.S. didn't make good on its promises to provide security and aid to post-Taliban Afghanistan. Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?
And French officials have made no secret of their belief that Mr. Bush wants to invade Iraq not because he is truly convinced that Saddam Hussein is a menace, but because he'd rather have an easy victory in a conventional war than stick to the hard task of tracking down stateless terrorists. I'm not saying they're right; I have no idea what Mr. Bush is really thinking. But you can understand their point of view.
In the days ahead, as the diplomatic confrontation between the Bush administration and the Europeans escalates, remember this: Viewed from the outside, Mr. Bush's America does not look like a regime whose promises you can trust.
Oh, my goodness, are we talking about Yugoslavia? Well, here is how it would look from, let's say, Dayton, Ohio, if I were a middle American living there. Europe spent years dithering diplomatically, then sent in troops to do a job for which they were not equipped. The US had the peculiar notion that, since this was happening inside of Europe, that our allies ought to be able to handle it. Eventually, they begged us for more assistance, which we reluctantly but effectively provided.
And I promise you, if I ever have the bad fortune to be near a Frenchman who questions the courage of American troops by saying "Those Americans, they are very brave when it comes to bombing from 10,000 meters, but they expect other people to clean up the mess they make, no?", I am going to say "1917! 1944! Acthung, schiesskopf! Now, slap yourself silly!"
I expect that will take care of it. And for refreshment afterwards, a glass of Vichy water.
NO! And the Krugman-bashing will be over eventually - just not yet, I am still warming up. As a late hit, I feel obliged to point out this highlight from his latest column:
"...And the U.S. commentariat, with few exceptions, describes Mr. Bush as a decisive leader who really gets to grips with problems."
Wow. First, he was too modest to write it himself, so I will present the sentence as it actually formed in his mind:
- "And the U.S. commentariat, with a few courageous exceptions... "
Second, this pronouncement as to the US commentariat seems to represent a bit of bad news for the blogosphere. In earlier columns, P Krug had enodrsed the blogs of B DeLong, Atrios, and J Marshall. Have they fallen from his favor? Or perhaps their embrace of Bush as "a decisive leader" has escaped my attention. Well, "few" is vague, so they might represent "the few, the proud, the disenchanted". And don't forget courageous.
But, more alarmingly, one wonders who in the world P Krug is reading, and what is he smoking?. We already have evidence (see below) that Mr. Sulzberger is not reading Ms. Dowd. One presumes that P Krug has also followed that path of wisdom. But has he also abandoned Bill Keller, who writes:
The president will take us to war with support — often, I admit, equivocal and patronizing in tone — from quite a few members of the East Coast liberal media cabal. The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club includes op-ed regulars at this newspaper and The Washington Post, the editors of The New Yorker, The New Republic and Slate, columnists in Time and Newsweek.
Emphasis added. Bush viewed as a decisive leader by the US commentariat, with few exceptions? I would love even a few examples. Otherwise, I am with Keller - the lefty commentators who happen to find themselves in agreement with Bush are quite clearly uncomfortable about it.
"Sure, we'll consult you, President Bush told the world in his State of the Union address, "but let there be no misunderstanding": we're going in with you or without you. "
Gee, is that what he said? I think that, despite the best efforts of the Times, there has been a misunderstanding after all. My impression was that we the US would work with the UN to disarm Iraq, but, if that failed, the US would make its own decisions. Which, I'll grant, means we would go in - but as a last choice, not a "next choice". The relevant portion of the speech seems to be here:
America is making a broad and determined effort to confront these dangers. We have called on the United Nations to fulfill its charter and stand by its demand that Iraq disarm. We are strongly supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its mission to track and control nuclear materials around the world. We are working with other governments to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union and to strengthen global treaties banning the production and shipment of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction.
In all of these efforts, however, America's purpose is more than to follow a process. It is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world.
All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks, and we're asking them to join us, and many are doing so. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.
Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.
Or perhaps it was this:
The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies.
The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's--Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.
We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
For the President, at least, war does not seem to be inevitable, and there are still choices to be made by all parties. For the Times, the world is evidently much simpler.
"Power corrupts, but so does weakness," said Josef Joffe, editor of Germany's Die Zeit newspaper. "And absolute weakness corrupts absolutely. "
Well, call me a redneck yahoo, but I would find a lecture on the ethics of pacifism and unilateral disarmament more impressive coming from Clint Eastwood, rather than from Woody Allen. In renouncing force, many of these European nations are simply making a virtue of necessity - given their limited capability, force is not an option.
As the Brothers note:
"In Munich and Paris they may dismiss Mr. Friedman's latest ("He's one of them, don't you know"), but when the foreign policy voice of the Times--the Pravda of the liberal establishment--dismisses your nations and notions outright, you've gotten yourselves seriously out of step with your most important ally. "
Saturday February 1, 2003
In the mode of Basil Fawlty, I've tried not to mention the war. I know that Guardian readers are massively opposed to any action against Saddam Hussein, as are 90% of the people I love and respect both personally and professionally. But I am in favour of war against Iraq - or, rather, I am in favour of a smaller war now rather than a far worse war later. I speak as someone who was born and raised to be anti-American; I know that, even in my lifetime, America has behaved monstrously in Latin America, Indo-China and its own southern states. I was against the US because, whenever people sought autonomy, freedom and justice, it was against them. But that narrative is ended now and a new configuration has emerged....
...Over Bosnia, Kosovo and over Afghanistan, voices on both the Left and Right have been consistently raised to object to the use of force. Where these voices have belonged to pacifists, they have my respect, but most often they have belonged to the purely selfish, the pathologically timid, or to those who somehow believed that however bad things were in Country X, the Americans were always worse.
In last week's edition of the New Statesman, one of the latter, John Pilger, takes this newspaper to task for allowing that it might be right to depose the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, by force. Even suggesting such a thing, he said, was a betrayal of the great traditions of the newspaper....
Nothing about Iraq is hard for Pilger. He was opposed to using force to get Iraq out of Kuwait, opposed to the containment of Saddam through the enforcement of the no-fly zones, dismissive of the threats to the Kurdish people of the North. Many in his camp were in a favour of sanctions when the alternative was force, and were against sanctions when the alternative was nothing.
It isn't like that here. In the offices of this newspaper, as you turn left out of the lift, just by the pigeonholes, is a photograph of a dead Observer journalist, Farzad Bazoft, who was hanged by Saddam Hussein in 1990. Bazoft's photo always has flowers beneath it, placed there by his family and friends. As the journalist Robert Fisk subsequently commented, it was characteristic of Saddam that the first Bazoft knew about his imminent execution was when a British diplomat turned up at his prison to say goodbye. Saddam joked that Mrs Thatcher had asked for Bazoft to be returned and now he was being returned 'in a box'.
...I don't believe that Saddam is a major backer of al-Qaeda (though he gives support to other groups) and I think it quite likely that he has had no effective nuclear programme for years. He would if he could, but he can't. But I want him out, for the sake of the region (and therefore, eventually, for our sakes), but most particularly for the sake of the Iraqi people who cannot lift this yoke on their own. If they could, that would be best; if he would agree to go into exile, that would be just dandy. The argument that Saddam's removal will of necessity lead to 'chaos' or the democratic election of an unsuitable Islamist government is worthy of Henry Kissinger at his most cynical. It is pretty disgusting when heard in the mouths of 'left-wingers'.
The Iraqi people, however, can't shift their tyrant on their own. Again, it would be preferable if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force, spearheaded by the Rowan Williams British Brigade. That's not on offer. It has to be the Yanks.
I think the Yanks are coming, buddy. It seems to be what we do. But if anyone can find examples of formerly "pro-liberation" types switching sides, do let us know.
Jim Dywer will be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, I expect. In this story, he is impatient with the "we will never know" crowd (of which I am a part), and presents suggestions that support the theory that Reyes acted alone.
The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its citizens is a familiar part of the debate. The piece of hard evidence most frequently brought up concerns the gassing of Iraqi Kurds at the town of Halabja in March 1988, near the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. President Bush himself has cited Iraq's "gassing its own people," specifically at Halabja, as a reason to topple Saddam Hussein.
But the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds....
OK, the author is NOT saying, "Saddam did not gas the Kurds". He IS saying "Saddam may not have gassed the Kurds at Halabja". Rather than commence screaming at Bush, Hesiod noted the distinction and found links to other stories of Saddam gassing the Kurds.
Regrettably, denial did not last long following the news of Columbia. Right, then, it's time for anger, and much as I hate to blog in a bad mood, away we go.
Let's start with A Sullivan. Presumably he did not check the news, perhaps his computer crashed, or maybe the dog ate the modem. But, two hours after the Columbia crash, here is what we find at his site:
HOME NEWS: Big month for the site. 1,262,000 separate visits; 311,000 unique visitors; 1,772,000 page views. Our previous record was the election month of November, with 1,065,000 visits. Many thanks. Stay tuned for the email newsletter for subscribers beginning soon. It's taken a while to set it up, but it'll be worth it. One other thing: you'll have noticed the Book Club in suspension. Until this war subsides again, I'm going to concentrate on the Dish. But the Book Club will return, when I get some more time and mental space.
- 11:06:25 AM
Oh, that is just great to know. I hope it's just bad timing. Maybe he is in England, blogging on local time, and I certainly hope there has not been some personal disaster in his life, but for now, media critic, criticize yourself - this looks terrible.
Now, a bit of content. Mr. Sullivan finds an anti-war tilt to each of three NY Times stories. OK, I will not contest stories one and three. But the second story concerns the mood of the local Iraqis - Hot (for our blood), or Not? The NY Times sends an intrepid reporter to meet the locals of Baghdad. Naturally, all conversations have an official Iraqi "minder", so what can the locals really say? Andrew's version:
The second anti-war piece informs us that "In two days of interviews [in Saddam City], there was no outward suggestion — not the subtlest arch of an eyebrow — of anything other than complete unanimity in support of Mr. Hussein." Hmmm. I wonder why. That still doesn't stop the Times from leading the piece with this inflammatory quote: "We are ready to confront the United States," said Halima Nebi, 57. "We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands." Yes, the piece acknowledges the presence of a police state that makes any interviews with ordinary Iraqis a farce. So why run the piece at all? Stupid question, of course.
Iraqi Slum Vows to Fight U.S. but It Couldn't Be Friendlier
OK, not a totally defeatist headline.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 31 — Even in the huge slum of Saddam City, where a filthy tide of sewage laps the streets, where swirls of human hair and animal intestines pile up as garbage on a soccer field, where Saddam Hussein's portrait is not much seen in a poor place named after him, there is no crack in the official line.
"We are ready to confront the United States," said Halima Nebi, 57, matriarch of a family forced by poverty to pack 21 people into one apartment in Saddam City. "We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands."
So it comes as a surprise to American visitors here, only days or weeks before United States warplanes will most likely begin bombing near homes again, just how nice everyone is. Mrs. Nebi and her husband, Abdul, graciously served "the enemy" tea. They offered lunch repeatedly along with praise for the American people, if not their leaders. It is not just the Nebi household: no one here seems the slightest bit hostile.
And the story continues in that vein: "Yes, if the crazy Americans attack, we will feed their livers to the hungry dogs and throw their eyeballs to the crows. Oh, my, your glass is empty - would you like some more?" I thought the article was quite clearly meant to be a headscratcher, as the headline suggests. Bad job on this one, Andrew.
Prof. Volokh began the fun with this post, and has MANY follow-ups; scroll up. The subject is the principled stand taken by a professor in Texas:
If you set up an appointment to discuss the writing of a letter of recommendation, I will ask you: "How do you think the human species originated?" If you cannot truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer to this question, then you should not seek my recommendation for admittance to further education in the biomedical sciences.
Emphasis added - it is not clear exactly what this means, but it seems to go beyond "understand", and require full acceptance, or endorsement. And, because life is art, the profesor is named "Dini", pronounced, pehaps, "De-ny". Dr. Deny - how about that?
Well, is Dr. Dini prof acting as an individual, free to say (or not say) what he chooses in letters of recommendation? Is he an agent of the university, forbidden to engage in religious discrimination? Is this religious discrimination, anyway - is there formal doctrine on this point amongst the major religions? These puzzles and more are addressed by E. Volokh and others.
And what is the motivation? Someone checked the professor's website, and found this:
Why do I ask this question? Let’s consider the situation of one wishing to enter medical school. Whereas medicine is historically rooted first in the practice of magic and later in religion, modern medicine is an endeavor that springs from the sciences, biology first among these. The central, unifying principle of biology is the theory of evolution, which includes both micro- and macro-evolution, and which extends to ALL species. How can someone who does not accept the most important theory in biology expect to properly practice in a field that is so heavily based on biology? It is hard to imagine how this can be so, but it is easy to imagine how physicians who ignore or neglect the Darwinian aspects of medicine or the evolutionary origin of humans can make bad clinical decisions. The current crisis in antibiotic resistance is the result of such decisions. For others, please read the citations below.
Good medicine, like good biology, is based on the collection and evaluation of physical evidence. So much physical evidence supports the evolution of humans from non-human ancestors that one can validly refer to the "fact" of human evolution, even if all of the details are not yet known. One can deny this evidence only at the risk of calling into question one’s understanding of science and of the method of science. Such an individual has committed malpractice regarding the method of science, for good scientists would never throw out data that do not conform to their expectations or beliefs. This is the situation of those who deny the evolution of humans; such a one is throwing out information because it seems to contradict his/her cherished beliefs. Can a physician ignore data that s/he does not like and remain a physician for long? No. If modern medicine is based on the method of science, then how can someone who denies the theory of evolution -- the very pinnacle of modern biological science -- ask to be recommended into a scientific profession by a professional scientist?
Random emphasis added.
Prof. Volokh has many interesting thoughts. The "Go, Prof - keep those close minded Creationists at bay!" side seems to have been taken by the CalPundit, who I am sure is very sensitive to possible religious discrimination in other contexts. Jesse at Pandagon is no fan of creationists either, and is finding support in his comments section.
Mark Kleiman weighs in on the side of tolerance, sensibly distinguishes between UNDERSTANDING a theory and BELIEVING it, and takes all the best lines. However, I have some thoughts as well.
Now, I don't even find this to be a difficult question. If the good Dr. Dini announced that he would not recommend anyone who was a table-pounding advocate for creationism, well, he would have a defensible point. But he seems to be saying something different - that understanding evolution is not enough, that you must renounce all alternatives. Is this really the scientific method in action? If "all the details" of man's evolution have not been established, who is going to be available to actually do the work needed to establish it - true believers in evolution, open minded skeptics, committed creationists, who? If this professor had his way, only true believers would be allowed into the halls of science, which seems odd.
SO, my hypothetical questions: suppose a candidate answers "The best available evidence indicates the following..."; presents a compelling, nay, brilliant, description of the theory of evolution as it relates to micro-organisms and humans; and closes with a stirring statement that, as a scientist, she will be guided by the best available science and diligently apply the scientific method. However, when asked if she actually believes in evolution, she replies, "As a casual Catholic, I am not deeply familiar with Church doctrine on ths point - pass". If I am reading the website correctly, she does not get a letter of recommendation.
How about if she answers: "Like many scientists, I separate my religious beliefs from day to day science, so I consider the question personal and irrelevant. As a matter of information, no, I believe that man was created in God's image. However, that belief is not helpful in understanding diseases, so I am guided by the theory of evolution in that area." Is there still a problem?
Or again: "I believe that humanity is inarguably a Divine creation, and that man was created in God's image. I also think that "in God's image" refers to the human soul, and I see no evidence whatsoever that the soul is evolving. I also think that most of Newtonian physics is "wrong", in the sense that it was later superseded by quantum physics. However, for practical problems here on Earth under normal conditions, Newtonian physics works fine, and I think the theory of evolution works fine too for understanding disease. However, I am open to the possibility, as I hope any scientist would be, that new evidence may emerge." Does she get a letter?
I am sure I could belabor this point further. As I said, the professor may have a more specific target in mind. Given our nation's glorious history with the Scopes Trial, and current efforts to modify or restrict the teaching of evolution in some schools, perhaps his objective is defensible. However, his criteria, as posted, seem to be hopelessly overbroad.
Now, as a final goad to those who argue that this is just about the science - that someone who believes in creationism clearly lacks the understanding of biology necessary to advance in the field - I suggest a few supplemental questions that the professor might want to review.
Basic Chemistry: explain the mechanism by which Jesus turned water into wine, or demonstrate that this is impossible;
Basic Physics - Conservation of Mass: explain the mechanism by which Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or explain that this is impossible;
Advanced Biology: explain the mechanism by which Jesus was dead for three days, and then came back to life, or explain why this is impossible;
Very Advanced Biology: explain where it is in the human form that we can find the soul, and describe its mass, physical properties, and mechanism by which it defies entropy and remains immortal; or explain why this is impossible.
I think it is not just Mary Poppins who tries to believe three impossible things before breakfast.
UPDATE: As I said, it is NOT just Mary Poppins, and I am embarrassed to have disclosed my personal conversation with her without permission; I thought her view was common knowledge. However, Google has a lot of support for the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, with some support for the White Queen, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts, and Alice herself. I stand uncorrected, and look to a glorious future posting lots of thoughts in the format of "Here's something this person didn't say." Sort of an Anti-Bartlett's.
UPDATE 2: We argue more and more about less and less. In an update, the CalPundit seems to move closer to M. Kleiman. He makes a strong case against the ardent creationists, but thinks that the thoughtful religious types should get recommendations. Well, OK, so do I. The missing piece of the puzzle - just what is Dr. Dini doing? But it is worth noting that he is a biologist, not a lawyer - he may not be accustomed to writing the sort of prose that can withstand a full pecking over by a flock of bloggers. My guess is that what he actually does is not as troubling as what he seems to have said, but who knows?
Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker was on CNN this morning, and was quite the star. I am paraphrasing from memory here, but he said roughly the following:
On the desirability of Saddam going into exile:
Well, obviously a peaceful settlement would be a good thing. But we have to be clear that Saddam must go somewhere where he will be out of sight and cannot stir up trouble against us. I would suggest the Phil Donahue Show.
And, on Bush's State of the Union address:
I thought the most implausible statement was that the U.S. economy is improving. Perhaps, instead of showing us proof about Saddam, Bush could show us proof about that - maybe a satellite photo of someone being hired.
Thank you, Andy. And, while channel-flipping, I saw the tease for a CNBC Special Report, hyping an interview with the German Ambassador to the US, which I paraphrase thusly: Why does Germany stand against the European Union, and how can it end its growing isolation? OUCH.
Tacitus is on this like sand on a beach, or in the desert, or something. He links to Cybercast News Service, describing the General's appearance on the Today Show. It seems to echo what I noticed when Schwarzkopf appeared on televison after Bush spoke Tuesday night. OK, enough self-referential links; I have to get over myself here.
And if a UN-basher told you this, you wouldn't believe it. Sure, you knew that Libya now chairs the UN Commission on Human Rights. But did you know that Iraq and Iran will chair the U.N. disarmament conference later this spring?
I am reminded of the old Mae West line, when she was being rambunctious during some odd criminal trial. Something she said outraged the judge, who thundered "Young lady, are you trying to show contempt for this court?". To which she cooly replied, "No, your Honor, I'm trying to hide it."
A prize to this charity for anyone who can answer my simple little quiz - who said it?
(a) ...whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
(b) Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
(c) Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.
We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
(d) Lately, Federal spending has taken a steadily increasing portion of what Americans produce. Our new budget reverses that trend, and later I hope to bring the Government's toll down even further. And with your help, we'll do that.
Having lost a straight party line vote in the Judiciary Committee, the Dems gear up to trash a Hispanic judicial candidate on the Senate floor. But it's OK!
Democrats... noted that Estrada was opposed by several Latino groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The Post has noted other Dem objections:
Democrats did not contest Estrada's legal credentials but accused both Estrada and the White House of trying to hide his views on sensitive legal issues in order to ease his way through the Senate. They complained that the administration would not turn over materials written by Estrada when he worked in the solicitor general's office and that Estrada declined to answer questions about his views during a hearing on his nomination last year.
Well, as to the materials written by Estrada while in the solicitor general's office, CNN points out that all seven living former Solicitors General opposed then-Chairman Leahy's request. The opinions of other former Solicitors General can be found here.
No doubt more objections will be forthcoming.
Here is a NY Times editorial, which drew comment from Matt Hoy and Paul Weyrich.
UPDATE: This is interesting, and, in a ghastly way, potentially revealing. Estrada was originally nominated back in May of 2001. Peter Beinart of TNR explains why the Dems need to oppose him, and it has nothing to do with any specific problem with Estrada. Beinart explains that the ongoing Republican tactic will be to appoint conservative women and ethnics (Clarence Thomas) and dare the Dems to reject them. "Stiffen up!", says Beinart.
Well, it is easy to get pretty cynical about this - first, decide to reject Estrada; then, find reasons. Whatever.
In a move that may signal the end of the "Reign of Raines", the NY Times seems to have quietly adopted the practice of re-printing White House press releases on their front page. Appearing below the fold on A-1, we find:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 — As one of the government's leading scientists, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci often visits the White House to talk about bioterrorism and vaccine research. But whenever he sees President Bush, Dr. Fauci said today, the president has the same question: "He says, `Tony, how's the AIDS program going?' "
That program, $15 billion over the next five years to fight global AIDS, caught many people by surprise when President Bush announced it Tuesday night. But while critics have long accused Mr. Bush of neglecting the epidemic, Dr. Fauci and other officials have been working on the initiative since June, they say, at Mr. Bush's explicit direction.
Mr. Bush's aides say the president has always been committed to the global AIDS cause, though not convinced that taxpayers' money could be well spent. But in recent months, a string of people from inside and outside the administration — including Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; and Bono, the Irish rock star — made a passionate case to persuade Mr. Bush that the time was right.
Among those most surprised by Mr. Bush's announcement were officials in 12 countries in Africa, which along with Haiti and Guyana will receive the money.
In the United States, the president's unexpected initiative has political ramifications, as well as humanitarian ones. With Republicans still smarting from racially charged remarks of Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican leader, Mr. Bush's initiative may help mend fences with African-American leaders in Congress.
Today, they held a news conference to express what Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, called "new hope" and "some skepticism."
OK, that is what appeared on the front page; the story is continued inside.
So far, from this story, the only "Democrat" who influenced the President, or the debate, is Bono, although the CBC is grateful. [Hey, I noted the "Trent Lott penance" on Tuesday! Cock-a-doodle-doo!]. Bush has been "committed", but wants the money spent wisely. The only thing missing is the word "bold". Let's press on.
And as Mr. Bush prepares for possible war with Iraq, his new commitment to global AIDS suggests an emerging geopolitical reality: if the United States is going to present itself as having a moral imperative to stop terrorism, it must also take up the cause of morality in a manner that that does not involve dropping bombs.
As one senior administration official, who was involved in the AIDS effort, said today, "The president often talks about not only winning the war, but winning the peace, and making the world a better place."
But some advocates say the program may not make the world all that much better. They complain that the money will not be parceled out quickly enough and that areas of the world where the epidemic is exploding, including China and India, are being ignored.
Others say that the program will give only $1 billion to a United Nations global fund to fight AIDS.
"The fund needs $6.3 billion over the next two years," said Anil Soni, a top fund official. "The president's announcement ensures that the administration is committed to $400 million."
Cheap shots from the UN. Does anyone expect a UN bureacrat to want less money? Abd still no Dem politicians heard from.
The seeds of Mr. Bush's initiative were planted as long as two years ago, at the start of his administration. Senator Bill Frist, the new Republican leader, who as a heart surgeon has volunteered on medical missions in Africa, said in an interview last year that he had been pressing Mr. Bush to do more to combat global AIDS since the first time the president invited him to ride on Air Force One.
"This president gets it," Dr. Frist said then.
But the president worried that the money would not be wisely spent, and did not want American tax dollars wasted. Jeffrey D. Sachs, an economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University who has advocated strongly for more money for global AIDS, today recalled his early meetings with administration officials, including Secretary Powell.
"There was great skepticism," Mr. Sachs said.
But over time, that skepticism began to ease, for several reasons. The price of AIDS drug cocktails dropped, as low as $300 per year for generics. The cocktails became simpler to take, easing administration concerns that poor African nations would not be able to administer them. Also, administration officials, including Secretary Powell, Dr. Fauci and Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, traveled to Africa and were deeply moved by the sight of so many people dying for lack of drugs.
Ahh, Bill Frist was involved too! The gang's all here.
Dr. Fauci, a top official with the National Institutes of Health, recalled briefing President Bush about his trip. "I told him that it was a great catastrophe. Babies were getting infected. Dying mothers were infected."
By last spring, support was also building in Congress, even in conservative circles. A critical turning point, Bono said, came when Senator Jesse Helms, the retired North Carolina Republican who frequently denounced foreign aid as "a rathole," called for more AIDS money.
Emphasis added - the first hint that liberals may have been on this already.
Religious leaders also took up the cause. Frank Griswold, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, said he met late last year with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to discuss the global AIDS pandemic. Bishop Griswold said he told Mr. Rumsfeld that AIDS was destroying and destabilizing armies across Africa and was leaving millions of orphans as a pool from which terrorist organizations could draw recruits.
"It is in our self-interest to address H.I.V./AIDS," Bishop Griswold said.
A central question, though, was how much money the administration should spend. Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, estimated that $10 billion a year was needed, and by last spring advocates for people with AIDS were demanding that the president pledge $2.5 billion a year. Dr. Frist, of Tennessee, along with Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced legislation that would have authorized roughly that amount. The bill passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House. Now, Dr. Frist is preparing to re-introduce it.
OK, I like the mention of religious leaders. Kerry is introduced as tagging along behind Frist; and we see that the bill cleared the Senate, but not the House. Even as an evil righty, it strikes me that the Times could go out on a limb and mention that the bill passed the Democratic controllled Senate, and stalled in the Republican controlled House. Tell me the truth, I can take it. Sometimes, anyway. Right, then, Onward, Christian Readers! KIDDING!
In the White House, Mr. Bush was not convinced by last spring that the United States should make such a large commitment. Last June, he announced a much smaller effort: $500 million a year for medicines that would prevent expectant mothers in Africa and the Caribbean from passing the AIDS virus on to their babies. Yet even as the president made the announcement, Dr. Fauci said, Mr. Bush made it clear to his top advisers that he wanted to do more.
"We all knew that it couldn't stop there," Dr. Fauci said. "The president had a vision and he wanted to do something that went well beyond mother-to-child transmission."
White House officials, Dr. Fauci said, asked him to devise a cost-effective plan and prove that it could work to treat the infected, and prevent new infections. He brought scientists from around the world, including Peter Mugyenyi, director of the Joint Clinical Research Center in Uganda, to the White House for a series of meetings. In Uganda, Dr. Mugyenyi is treating 5,000 people with AIDS medicines through a network of clinics that, while hardly sophisticated by American standards, is effective, Dr. Fauci said.
But Dr. Mugyenyi said today that he could treat many more people, if he had the money. "Our biggest problem is lack of funds, which has not allowed us to scale up," he said.
That argument struck a chord with the president, who cited it in his State of the Union address. While not mentioning Dr. Mugyenyi by name, Mr. Bush spoke of a doctor who told AIDS patients he could not help them. "In an age of miraculous medicines," Mr. Bush said, `no person should have to hear those words."
And a big finish with a compassionate George Bush.
Fine, Dr. Fauci is quoted all over this story. I have no doubt he is a great guy, but who is he?
And I need to check out the two reporters in the byline. The names don't ring a bell, but maybe I can ring theirs.
And anecdotal evidence proves not much, but let's add this story to the "Times bias" mix for Mickey and Andrew to ponder.
Mousetrap Me Once, Shame on You; Mousetrap Me Twice...
A party in disarray, or a party of principle and conviction? Or both? The Brothers Judd and Patrick Ruffini (No Do-overs) mock the call by some Democrats to have a second vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. I noted this suggestion by Kennedy in the previous post, and welcomed it. But only because I have an evil heart.
Look, Republicans will be delighted with a chance to reaffirm their support for Bush. But what will the Dems who supported Bush on the force authorization resolution in October do now? And I am specifically thinking of Presidential candidates Gephardt, Kerry, Lieberman, Graham, and Edwards, all of whom backed Bush. And Hillary, who needs to remember 2008.
Should they support Bush again, and further antagonzie their base? Or should they flip-flop, perhaps after pointing to Blix's report of Saddam's non-compliance, thereby prompting the rest of us to wonder about their constancy and judgement?
It seems as if the Dem leadership is planning to keep the lid on this experiment in self-destruction. Just as well - it is unlikely that "Hamlet 2004" is the winning ticket.
Free Floating Reactions To The State Of The Union Speech And Coverage
First, my prediction for soundbite of the night (all quotes from memory unless italicized, sorry): "Relying on the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."
OK, let's just jump in:
Bush wants an energy plan to promote conservation, help the environment, and secure our energy independence. Now, as Chris Matthews noted later, the Republicans are the party of the hydrogen car. And what took so long? Clinton's flair for stealing the other party's message has become a "lesson learned". As to how seriously we take this...
$15 billion, including $10 billion of new money, to battle AIDS in Africa - more slick triangulation. Later, Kerry complained that this was a Dem issue from last fall. Great, now John and three other Democrats know. Meanwhile, Bush is a hero to millions, including me. The question no one was gauche enough to ask, so I will - Trent Lott penance at work?
Iraqi liberation as a war aim - "we will bring food, medicine, and freedom to the people of Iraq". I like it, my wife insists that she, and much of the world, hates it - American arrogance and over-reach. I say, the people in Eastern Europe loved "The Evil Empire", and the reformers in Iran loved this speech. Wilson. FDR. The Four Freedoms. Tension. Well, until she gets a blog I get the last word - I bet the Brothers Judd loved it.
The rest of the Iraqi war segment - impressive, but no blockbuster news item.
Now, post-speech reaction:
For the rebuttal speech, why did the Dems pick the Senior Class President of Washington High? Chris Matthews was laughing out loud after the Governor of Washington (Grove?) was finished, as was Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA). Some other Repub. commentator wondered why the Dems picked as their spokesmen a Governor with a 30% in-state approval rating.
My reaction: most of these rebuttals are weak, but this one set a new standard. For a party that wants to show its relevance, and answer concerns that its leadership is in disarray and lacks a message, this rebuttal was brutal. OK, the Dems lost seats in the House and Senate while picking up Governorships, so I suppose the Governors felt it was their turn. Whoa, guess again!
Chris Matthews: this is his Oscar night, and he has taken the crystal meth to prove it. Man, is he pumped up. But having fun!
Pat Caddell can not speak in sentences and should not be on these shows. But evidently, Mexicans are killing dolphins. I think. Maybe he was auditioning for one of those annoying "It's the static" ads.
Brian Williams asked a guest about whether there was a cloud over the economy due to the prospect of a war with Iran. We knew what he meant. But if Brian pounces on a "Bush mis-speaks!" story, well...
Ted Kennedy - suggested that, since circumstances have changed (he mentioned Korea), we should have another Senate resolution on Iraq - is he a glutton for punishment, or just a glutton? Look, Republicans will welcome a chance to re-affirm their support for the President. And Democrats who supported the first resolution will do what? Support the do-over, and re-annoy the base? Or switch sides, and appear comically irresolute? One imagines Teddy to be a master staregist, but is "Hamlet 2004" a winning ticket? [More in the UPDATE below]
That said, Teddy, chatting with Chris Matthews, gave a good impromptu rebuttal to the President, with comments about the economy, education, the tax cut, health care, and Iraq. He showed the charm and charisma we presume exists when he was saying good bye. Matthews said, "I want to get you on the Hardball College Tour", and Kennedy lit up! He looked twenty years younger, he was animated, he pointed at he camera and said, roughly, "You're on! We're going back to school, buddy!". I liked it.
Lindsay Graham , on C-Span: asked to single out something in the speech he did not like, Graham picked medical malpractice reform. Why? States rights! He "did not come to Congress to tell each state how to reform their tort system - let's give them a shot at this first" C'mon "state's rights"? I see through this racist code.
Dick Armey: Retired, and having fun. Mentioned the "Clinton-Gore axis", called Ted Kennedy the "bell-cow of the Democratic Party", and smiled the whole time.
John McCain - victory in Iraq in three or four weeks of fighting.
Norm Schwarzkopf - agreed that a war in Iraq would be quick. "I don't want to put a time frame on it, whether it would be one week, or two weeks, or three weeks...". The reservations he mentioned in the WaPo were not evident on national television.
Media Bias: OK, I watched the various Congressfolk stand and applaud, or sit and look perturbed. My questions: when Bush called for tax cuts, I saw one lonely Dem right near the aisle join the Republicans by standing and applauding. Who was it?
Secondly, and here is the "bias" bit - could we please have a little consistency in the reaction shots? One of Bush's applause lines was a clear slap at the UN and the multilateralists - something like "we will not put our the national security of the American people in the hands of the Axis of Weasels". For that reaction, unlike most of the others, we got a shot of a part of the Republican side, which of course was standing. But the Dems? We will never know.
Big Finish: A strong speech, which craftily stole a lot of Dem ideas. Bush will not be faulted for lacking a domestic agenda. By contrast, following Desert Storm, Bush I used his State of the Union and huge approval rating to issue a clarion call for...Banking Reform! The beginning of the end for him.
Also, Bush seems much more confident than a mere three years ago. When does the pressure of the job begin the accelerated aging? Dems will reply, it's only pressure if you are aware of what is happening... is it true there is a macro generating all this repartee? When does the Matrix Reload?
On Ted Kennedy - he mentioned the Korean situation last night. He also mentioned concerns about Korea in the debate on the Iraqi resolution last fall. Furthermore, some critics (myself included) wondered how it happened that the Bush Administration released the news of North Korean violations after the vote on the force resolution. So, perhaps Ted is simply being principled and consistent, rather than crafty. But evidently, he means it.
An Alert Reader tells me that, according to The Corner, the lone tax cutting Dem was Red-Stater Max Baucus.
Tips for the Dems from Miss Manners. Hey, don't think of it as a speech - think of it as aerobic listening.
And for the quote board, if Blogger ever settles down: "Whatever the duration of this struggle and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men; free people will set the course of history."
Now the quiz: Was the speaker (a) Aragorn; (b) Elrond; (c) Samwise Gamgee; (d) George Bush?