A mostly political Weblog.
April 21 2003 4:36 AM

They Got the Memo

Plus: Euromoronism

Monica, honest and upfront: Monica Lewinsky's official Fox bio:

Lewinsky graduated from Lewis and Clark College in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. For the past few years she has been designing an exclusive collection of handbags and accessories that are available at Raised in Los Angeles, Lewinsky currently lives in New York City and is considering a future career in law.

So that's why they gave her a TV show! ... 10:47 A.M.


Future Democratic stump line: President Bush has finally come out for universal health care ... in Iraq! ... [You're playing catch-up to David Broder on Meet the Press-ed. My version's punchier. It was use it or lose it.] 12:31 A.M.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Too Good to be Too Good to Check: Boy, do I wish someone other than Judith "my story got busted for a fishy quote just two weeks ago" Miller had gotten the big Iraqi WMD/Al Qaeda scoop (which, incidentally, reconfirms kf's eerie prescience that Saddam would destroy his weapons, not use them.) ... P.S.: Here's the direct link to the suddenly-relevant  NYT correction of the questionable quote. [Last item.] The Times' editors don't identify Miller by name. But her byline, along with Douglas Jehl's, was on the story. ... 11:56 P.M.

They got the memo: "We asked for just a few soldiers at each building, or if they feared snipers, then just one or two tanks ..." At least somebody in the U.S. government seems to be pissed off that the oil ministry was protected before the National Museum. The Washington Times  unearths the inevitable unread memo  from Jay Garner's Iraq-reconstruction office to the coalition's military commanders. "The museum was No. 2 on a list of 16 sites that [Garner's office] deemed crucial to protect." The oil ministry was last in priority. The military apparently ignored the advice. ...


P.S.: I don't see why it gets the U.S. off the hook if the looting was an "inside job." You can protect against inside jobs too, by preventing things from leaving the building -- like priceless statues that take ten men to lift. The issue isn't who did the stealing, but whether or not we screwed up and failed to do what we could. To the extent that our forces were taking fire from the museum and unable to safely protect it, we obviously didn't screw up. To the extent our forces didn't even know for several days that there was a museum there to protect (but did know there was a bank), or to the extent they decided to protect water storage facilities and other infrastructure rather than art work, it was a screw-up. Islamic terrorists twenty years from now won't be wooing recruits with the story of how the evil Americans smashed a water storage facility. They will be telling them about how the Americans burned ancient copies of the Koran and destroyed the heritage of the Arab world. ...

P.P.S.: There'a Unified Rumsfeld Critique emerging, which is that he waged the war well, as a war, but made mistakes when it came to winning the war in a way that would allow us to win the peace. Count #1 in this indictment is his failure to provide enough boots on the ground to provide order immediately following a military victory. Count #2 is his failure to read the memo from Garner's office and give priority to protecting Islamic cultural treasures. ... In Rumsfeld's defense, it can be said that a) he clearly tried to wage the war as humanely as possible, precisely for these long-range political and strategic reasons, and b) he made nine right decisions for every wrong decision. On the other hand, if you advocate a war policy that requires you to get 10 out of 10 things right if it's going to work -- i.e. if it's not going to produce more terrorism than it stops -- than you can properly be faulted if you only bat a brilliant .900. ... Rumsfeld should admit the mistakes instead of continuing to make weak don't-look-at-me-I'm-not-responsible excuses ("Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting.Stuff happens!"). ...

P.P.P.S.: Michael Barone properly credits the Goldwater-Nichols military reorganization for forcing a more unified command structure on the Pentagon's competing services, a "jointness" that worked to seemingly stunning effect in Iraq. ... Someone should also credit military reformers, such as the late Col. John "40 Second" Boyd, for championing the doctrines of flexible maneuver warfare that seem to have actually been embraced by the bureaucracy after our Vietnam defeat.  ... We might even give some thanks to ex-Sen. Gary Hart, before he humiliates himself again by running for president -- since it was Hart, among others, who brought Boyd and his co-conspirators to prominence in the Senate and the (Eastern, liberal, etc.) media. ... 11:04 P.M

$$$ for Art Update: The Met's Phillipe de Montebello gets behind the proposal  (made in the WSJ  by Hershel Shanks) proposal to offer "immunity and compensation" for return of Iraqi art. He says Karl Rove agrees. So it's done, right? ... 10:46 P.M.


A stopped clock is right twice a day but kf is right three times a day! Eerily prescient kf item of March 18, 2003:

If Saddam was smart, and was really concerned with making himself look good and the U.S. look bad after he's deposed, then his strategy wouldn't be to use his chemical weapons. It would be to destroy his chemical weapons, and the evidence of their existence, wouldn't it? [Thanks to alert kf reader D.J.] ...

Today's up-to-the-minute report from the LAT's Greg Miller:

Analysts at the CIA and elsewhere are increasingly examining the possibility that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's inner circle carried out elaborate plans to escape and leave little or no incriminating evidence behind, U.S. intelligence officials say. ...[snip]

Among the surprises were the regime's disappearance April 9, its failure to use any chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops, and the fact that key ministries and facilities being searched by U.S. forces appear to have been "professionally" scrubbed by the departing regime. ... [snip]

Officials said CIA analysts are also exploring the possibility that Hussein's strategy never was to use chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. and that when war became inevitable, the regime focused on hiding whatever evidence hadn't already been destroyed or disguised.

"His last trick may have been to pour the remaining stuff down a rat hole," one former CIA official said. "What is the worst he could do: fire off a round at us, or have us come in and find nothing? Clearly, find nothing." [Emphasis added]


Finally, those sources from my stint in the CIA came in handy! ... More: See also Time, which seems to ignore the possibility that the weapons (and evidence of them) were destroyed. 9:39 P.M.

Paul Krugman was excellent on ABC's This Week today. It turns out that when he's in a room with high-status people who disagree with him he tones down his hyperbolic Bushies-are-evil last-angry-man foaming. Make him a regular! It's obviously good for him to get out of the house. ... [Link to This Week?--ed. Website is pathetic. No transcripts, unlike Meet the Press.] 6:21 P.M.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Useful Madrick column on the failure of the Congressional Budget Office's various "dynamic" scoring models to reduce estimates of the Bush budget deficit by more than "15 percent or so" (although Alan Murray had the basic story a month ago).  Did I miss the furious, cannibalistic counterattack by supply-siders? Bruce Bartlett's critique  is strikingly even-tempered. He argues the problem is all the non-supply-side things in the Bush budget -- including some "non-supply-side tax cuts." ... 5:04 P.M.


Thursday, April 17, 2003

Intel Dump speculates on the meaning of what Rumsfeld and Meyers let slip at their briefing -- that the "heavy" 1st Cavalry has been cut from the deployment queue and will stay in Texas. ... 2:04 A.M.

Insanity defense: Is this a great deal or what? If you're a militant activist, you can assassinate the leading candidate for prime minister in your country and change the course of European history -- have a bigger impact, in other words, than most activists could dream of in ten lifetimes -- and you only have to spend 12 years in a Dutch jail (which, I suspect, is not likely to be a hellhole). ... Volkert van der Graaf was given this ludicrous, Euromoronic sentence for killing Pim Fortuyn, the idiosyncratic anti-multicultural Dutch politician. The Dutch three-judge panel, according to the NYT, said they were "persuaded that Mr. van der Graaf was not likely to repeat his crime." But isn't the relevant question whether someone else very much like Mr. van der Graaf is now likely to repeat his crime? ... Among the lessons the twentieth century teaches us, one is surely that assassinations work -- maybe not in the long-term (centuries), but in the medium term (decades). You're not supposed to say this. It's a bit like admitting that most great popular music is made on drugs. But Oswald, Sirhan, Ray, Amir, van der Graaf -- name five other men who have done more to alter the course of history (for better or, in this case, worse) in their lifetimes. You'd think the Dutch judges would recognize this and adjust the punitive calculus accordingly. Instead, they've made an offer many ineffectual-yet-earnest activists may find hard to refuse. ... 1:07 A.M.

2A-Pb=IQ: If I hadn't drunk all that unfiltered tap water in my youth I'd now realize just how significant this well-written LAT story is:

Lead levels now widely believed to be safe in children actually produce a severe impact on intellectual development, researchers report today.

This is one of those dramatic findings that will set the course of policy for decades, if it holds up. Today (but not tomorrow) the "safe" level of lead in the blood is set at 10 thingamajiggs (micrograms per deciliter). Reducing that to 1 in kids translates into 7.4 I.Q. points! If you raise the lead level to 30, in contrast, and you only lose two to three points. So it's the first little bit that does the damage.... Did you know: a) When lead was removed from gasoline in 1976, the average blood level in children was 15. Now it's 3. Still too high apparently -- but who said government regulation can't accomplish anything? b) "[L]ead abatement in old houses would cost about $32 billion"? I'd always figured it would cost trillions, and stir up a lot of lead while it was happening. ... P.S.: What about guns? Don't they introduce lots of lead into the environment? When I went shooting with Prof. Volokh, there was actual lead smoke in the air in the shooting range, and even the no-nonsense gun types patronizing the place were instructed to wash their hands after their firing sessions. This can't be good. The Second Amendment says there's a right to bear arms. It doesn't talk about a right to lead. Will the EPA accomplish what Michael Moore can't? ... Bonus question: Did Phil Spector spend a little too much time with his ammo? ... 12:30 A.M.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Post-regime change tristesse: If you're like me (or Instapundit), you're now caught in a vicious postwar bind. You're completely sick of the war -- sick of watching cable, sick of reading the paper. The military campaign's basically been won. The adrenalin is leaving your body. The overwhelming urge is to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to normal life, only more so: normal life minus current events. Yet this is just the moment when it's probably most important to pay attention to what is going on in the Middle East, because these are the weeks when we will or won't make the mistakes that will cost us the benefit of all the sacrifice of life and treasure. We always knew we'd win the war, after all. But we still don't know if we'll a) help establish a decent government in Iraq; b) handle the various ethnic, religious and political conflicts in a way that wins over Iraqis instead of pissing them off; or c) handle b) and the Arab-Israeli dispute in a way that doesn't encourage more terrorism than we've deterred. ... I have an interim solution for this dilemma:Slate's "Today's Papers" feature, created by the late Scott Shuger. The crack TP staff -- meaning Eric Umansky or someone just like him -- reads the newspapers closely every morning and tells you what you need to know without trying to cheer up or depress (though today the details are somewhat sobering).  Then you can ignore the papers and the tube for the rest of the day, day after day --  until you get your appetite for news back. ...  It's the transitional journalistic technology for the post-Saddam era! ... 11:19 P.M.

Correction: Mark Cunningham, op-ed editor of the N.Y.Post, emails to say the Post did run a little signed piece (by Dale McFeatters) criticizing Castro's crackdown on April 7. It didn't appear online, and it's not on NEXIS, but it did appear, Cunningham says. Fair enough. My apologies to Cunningham and his colleagues.... But, even counting this short 180-word item, the Post's Castro coverage has been startlingly light. Have there been any news stories? The Post usually makes an obsession of this sort of thing. ... 10:59 P.M.

Buy art or buy trouble: Here's a piece assessing the bleak prospects for retrieving looted Iraqi art using the current approach -- which involves hunting for the art and declaring its possession or sale or resale a crime. It turns out we've tried this approach before. It doesn't work, apparently:

Of the 4,000 artworks taken from museums during the Persian Gulf war of 1991 "maybe two" have been recovered, said McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist and authority on Iraqi art at the University of Chicago.

Criminalization may be a good way to deter future looting, and might normally still be the course to pursue. But here the looting has already taken place. We need to get as many of these things back as we can. The most effective way, as suggested by Hershel Shanks in the WSJ, is probably simply to buy them back. (I'm generally skeptical of efficient free market solutions that reward bad behavior -- amnesty for illegal aliens, for example, or Milton Friedman's "guaranteed income." But this seems like an exception because it's a one-shot deal -- encouraging bad behavior in similar situations is a second-order consideration. One hopes there won't be any other similar situations.)

Shanks notes that the "time to buy, if that is what we are going to do, is now, or as soon as things quiet down" and what's left in the museums is secured. We want anyone who has a 7,000 year-old vase to know, immediately, that he should preserve it because he'll get paid for it (as opposed to prosecuted for it).  Call it a "finder's fee" and don't ask too many questions.

Who should pay for the art, and who should get it? That seems pretty clear. We should pay for it -- we launched the invasion, as a war of choice, and destroyed the government that was protecting the art. And we failed to protect it ourselves. All those actions and inactions might have been amply justified -- but if that's true we should be happy to cover the incidental costs (just as we're paying to rebuild water lines, roads, etc.).

Who should get the artifacts? Shanks waffles a bit on this question, but obviously any recovered art should be returned as quickly as possible to museums in Iraq. Or else the image of American troops protecting the oil ministry while letting Iraq's cultural heritage get sacked -- the sort of thing terrorists talk about at recruiting meetings -- will be something we'll be dealing with for a long time. ... 5:06 P.M.

The looting and burning of important Iraqi museums and libraries wasn't just a very bad thing in itself (a thing more troops would have helped prevent). To the extent that a future Iraqi democracy will depend in part on tourism, it was also a blow to the economy we are supposed to be trying to put back on its feet. Are tourists going to come to Iraq to look at oil wells? ... P.S.: Let's hope that most of the artifacts were taken by professional thieves. Then they are presumably less likely to be destroyed or damaged. ... 3:37 A.M.

Win Diesel II: The new diesel engine rules  aren't the only pro-environment Bush administration action in the paper today.  Here's another  (undertaken in defiance of a big oil company). ... P.S.: The diesel decision might be "the biggest public health step since lead was taken out of gasoline more than 20 years ago," according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That doesn't mean it makes the front page of the NYT!... 2:54 A.M.

The good news: Rupert Murdoch's New York Post finally lets its readers know about Fidel Castro's quickie execution of three men who tried to flee Cuba on hijacked ferry (though not about Castro's imprisonment of activists who dare speak out for democracy).  The bad news: The Post does this on its Page Six gossip page! While discussing a Montreal clothing firm named "Fidel"! ... Maybe that's good news too, actually, since Page Six is probably the best-read section of the paper by far. ... Note: The Post no longer has the excuse that it's too busy covering the Iraq war. The war is winding down -- there are plenty of non-war stories in the paper. Just nothing on Fidel's repression. ... Obvious joke: What's the difference between Castro and Murdoch? One's a dictator who governs by whim! The other one's  ... 2:18 A.M.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

'The Fourth Quarter Belongs to Us... Would You Believe the Final Two Minutes?' Not a great opening last-period drive for beloved Coach Raines of the NYT (who has modeled himself on Alabama's Bear Bryant). First, the Pulitzer committee showers prizes on the rival LAT, staffed largely with refugees from Raines paper. One prize even went to Kevin Sack, a reporter Raines chased away just last year. ... Then, Martha Burk of NOW turned up all of 40 demonstrators  to protest at the all-male Augusta National golf club, the focus of Raines' absurdly overblown -- and censorious -- journalistic crusade.  Not exactly Selma II. (The NYT had actually nominated its Augusta coverage, sure to be studied in journalism schools as an example of the toxic effects of editorial self-righteousness, for the Pulitzer.) ... Meanwhile, the exodus of talent from the NYT has continued, with the departure of Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter Tim Golden, which Sridhar Pappu reported onlast week. Now the Village Voice's Cynthia Cotts fleshes out a key point  I'd missed when reading Pappu's story: Golden seems to have quit in large part because Raines spiked investigative pieces about New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli that would have run before Torricelli pulled out of his re-election race on September 30, 2002Golden's sources subsequently turned to a TV station, which ran the stories that finally appeared to drive Torricelli from the race.

It seems likely that the Times, not WNBC, would have delivered Torricelli's coup de grâce—had Raines not killed key stories in the heat of the election campaign.

Remember -- and, I agree, it seems like six years ago rather than six months -- that at the time control of the Senate was hanging on a single vote. Retaining Torricelli's seat was considered vital for the Democrats. So Raines spikes stories that might have tipped the Senate to the Republicans (just as he or his henchpeople spiked Augusta columns he disagreed with). According to Cotts

editors asked Raines to spell out his complaints about the spiked pieces, but he declined, citing only his aversion to "piling on" or to giving prosecutors too much credence.

If there weren't a war on -- against CNN! -- I suspect the Right would be trumpeting this evidence of Raines' coincidentally pro-Democratic idea of "objectivity." And it's not clear why the Right wouldn't be right. Yes, Golden is said to be a difficult fellow, and I'm reluctant to  bet the vast prestige of kausfiles on Cynthia Cotts' reporting. But she and Pappu have at least made a prima facie case against Raines. If there's another side to the story, let's hear it. ... Alternative Explanation: Raines wasn't trying to protect Democrats. He just doesn't care about investigative reporting. The key departure, in this respect was Doug Frantz, who ran the Times investigative unit. Once Frantz left for the LAT (folllowing investigative editor Stephen Engelberg, who fled to the Oregonian), it was clear that difficult-yet-productive diggers like Golden had no protectors left. That's the theory anyway. If true, it's a rep that could hurt Raines -- respectable media bighsots tend to be defensive about "liberal bias," but they all at least say they love investigative reporting. If people conclude the NYT has gone Lite, they may start dropping little hints to "Pinch" Sulzberger at cocktail parties. ... Alternative Explanation #2: You have a brighter future as a McCain supporter in the Bush White House than as a Bill Keller supporter at the Raines Times. ... More: Luskin gets his licks in. ... 2:27 P.M.

Monday, April 14, 2003

No Yoko: Kausfiles hears that, in the event, Yoko Ono did not turn up on the trip of N.Y. VIPs to Cuba (which has now taken place). ... Kausfiles gets results? Probably not. (I suspect it's more like 'Yoko has a brain.') But I will let you know more if I find out more. ... Update: I've now talked with Michael Holtzman of Brown Lloyd James, the outfit that put together what turned out to be a highly embarrassing "Executive Mission to Cuba." Holtzman says that Ono was "never on the trip" -- she was only extended a "notional invitation" by Cuba and wasn't ever a "confirmed participant" or even "scheduled to be" on the trip.  Hmmm. Then why did people who were on the trip expect her to be on the trip as late as the night beforethe trip? .... Holtzman also says there was "no meeting scheduled ever" with Fidel Castro because meeting with Castro "wasn't what this trip was about." Then why am I staring at an itinerary from Brown Lloyd James (complete with color photo of the Hotel Nacional) that has been circulated fairly widely in New York by the trip's participants -- and that has this as the final entry for April 11:

7pm: Dinner at a Plantation (President Castro invited)

Holtzman admits that you don't ever nail down a meeting with Cuba's maximum leader much more tightly than that -- Castro doesn't RSVP and confirm his planned attendance at such events. He's Castro! He just decides to meet or to not meet. (In a later version of the itinerary, I'm told, the dinner with Fidel was switched to a lunch.) .. Upshot: Was I born yesterday? My guess is that meeting with Castro was indeed "what this trip was about," but the anticipated meeting was scotched because somebody, on one side or the other, got embarrassed (or outraged). Kausfiles (and, more importantly, the WSJ) may have gotten some results after all. .... 5:20 P.M.

Loot, loot, loot for the home team: WaPo's Anthony Shadid describes how Shiite clerics are moving to fill the void left by U.S. forces' failure to establish order in the wake of their ouster of Saddam Hussein. Maybe this sponataneous governance is what Donald Rumsfeld has in mind when he talks about Iraqis deciding for themselves how they want to be governed -- and I'm not being snide. There's nothing inherent in government-by-imam that would necessarily produce terrorism or otherwise be horribly inimical to U.S. interests, and it has the virtue of being home-grown rather than imposed by us. But a) power in this situation goes at least in part to the men with the guns; b) remember the Taliban? c) wasn't there some fancy theory about how separation of church and state was the key to modernization? -- and d) the following comments by one of the warlord/clerics should at least temper any hawkish triumphalism that would have Americans being actively embraced by Iraq's oppressed Shiites:

"The Americans asked to talk to me, but I refused," [Sayyid Sadeq] Aalaq said, sitting in an office at the mosque. Overhead was a portrait of Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law whom Shiites believe was his rightful heir. "If I met with them, my popularity would collapse."

P.S.: The most interesting thing I've heard about our failure to prevent a period of anarchy and looting after Saddam's fall was WaPo reporter Dana Priest's suggestion, on Washington Week in Review, that the failure wasn't simply the consequence of having too few troops in Iraq. Rather, Priest said, the failure was intentional-- that Washington anticipated and wanted a period of anarchy in which local Iraqis would kill Saddam loyalists without us having to take responsibility for it. But is that what happened? My impression is that the looting, especially of the National Museum of Antiquities, has badly (and rightly) damaged our reputation. But I haven't heard about lots of Baath party thugs being strung up. Maybe we're just not being told about it. Or maybe the post-Saddam anarchy was a screw-up after all -- just a different kind of screw-up. ...

P.P.S.: Yes, this is the first time in my adult life that I can remember actually hearing something suprising, interesting, and important on Washington Week. Note to WETA: See that this doesn't happen again. ...

Update:  In WaPo, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith denies vigilantism is "something we want to happen," but Bush defense adviser Richard Perle doesn't seem too unhappy about it. Jonathan Weisman's story reports:

Months before the invasion of Iraq, Pentagon war planners anticipated the fall of Saddam Hussein would usher in a period of chaos and lawlessness, but for military reasons, they chose to field a light, fleet invasion force that could not hope to quell such unrest when it emerged, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

In other words, If Rumsfeld is going to take credit for the military success of his decision to go in "light," he also has to take criticism for the civic downside of that decision -- the current period of semi-anarchy. Which might explain why he's been somewhat testy on the subject. ... 2:19 A.M.

It's Not Our Fault! Was Fidel Castro's clampdown provoked by American envoy James Cason's anti-Castro activities (as the Hollywood lefties seem to believe)? Ann Louise Bardach, who broke the story of the ill-timed Yoko Ono-led pilgrimage to Havana, has another theory: Castro's cracking down because Miami's Cubans were suddenly getting more reasonable.

However, while Washington has hardened its views, Cuban exile groups in Florida have moderated theirs. According to several recent polls, a majority of Cuban exiles in South Florida now say they favor negotiations with Havana. The most influential exile group, the Cuban American National Foundation, is for the first time advocating a more pragmatic policy of limited engagement.

This created the real possibility that the embargo against Cuba might be lifted or relaxed, which is what really seems to terrify Castro. Bardach details how Castro has derailed all previous efforts at greater interaction between the two countries. ... P.S.: Isn't it annoying when people (on the left and in the center) euphemistically describe the potential opening of Cuba as a "dialogue."  The idea isn't to have a dialogue! It's to end dictatorship in Cuba by swamping Castro with American goods, American culture, and an opening wedge of capitalist freedom. Unfortunately, Castro seems to be smart enough to realize this.  ... 12:28 A.M.





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