Andrew Sullivan, unreliable narrator.

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 29 2007 5:39 AM

The 'Excitable Embedder'

Plus--How "comprehensive immigration reform" is like the Iraq war!

I'm stunned by Deborah Orin-Eilbeck's death. I didn't know she was fighting cancer. She sent me an email only a couple of months ago cheerfully and sensibly disputing something I'd written arguing that Gov. Vilsack's candidacy would let Hillary skip the Iowa caucuses. (She wrote: "If Vilsack is running at the bottom of the Iowa Poll, as he was, he isn't a replay of Tom Harkin and doesn't give anyone a pass out of Iowa, methinks. ... And besides, Hillary being Hillary won't get a pass anywhere.") Orin was almost certainly right, as usual--where did Hillary spend last weekend, again? ...

I only met Orin-Eilbeck a few times--mainly through the hospitality of her friend Mary Louise Oates, in whose house she was surrounded by Democratic friends. I'd heard she had a rep as a driven, badger-her-sources reporter, but everytime I met her she was funny and warm and sharp. Also: beautiful dark eyes!  Her New York Post writing was almost hygienically unaffected by whatever wishful, respectable (and typically liberal) CW was blowing around Washington. Her pieces were also typically short, pointed and (therefore) fun. Like most good political reporters, she pursued the latest political intelligence with a relentlessness hidden to the outside world, including to most bloggers. I was just thinking Orin would be the perfect person to ask a prickly question I've been avoiding--did the immigration issue really hurt the GOP in 2006? If she'd have said yes, the answer is yes.

None of us will know her thinking on that or any other issue in the coming two-year presidential fight. That's a narrow concern, I know. But it will be hard to make sense of it all without her.

Lucianne has a tribute thread. 1:34 A.M.

Unionism Is Too the Problem: Labor costs--and specifically work rules--are part of what's killing all the unionized auto manufacturers while their non-unionized competitors thrive building cars in the U.S., according to CNN Money. The famous $1,400/car health care burden is only a piece of it:

Other labor costs add to the bill. Contract issues like work rules, line relief and holiday pay amount to $630 per vehicle - costs that the Japanese don't have. And paying UAW members for not working when plants are shut costs another $350 per vehicle.

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Sorry, Comrade Kuttner! [via Autoblog ] ... P.S.: I guess we need to abolish secret ballots--requiring only a card check--in order to help bring Detroit-style productivity and business success to America's other industries. It can't be that workers look at how the UAW--a relatively clean, democratic union--has poisoned its industry and decide they don't want to organize. It must be "employer coercion." ... 2:17 A.M.

I didn't realize that Andrew Sullivan also broadcast his misinformation about that British video--i.e. that it showed Iraqi troops beating "civilians"--on the Chris Matthews Show,on national television. ... P.S.: The Matthews producers seem to think that gathering five journalists who all agree about Bush, the "surge," and pretty much every other topic makes for a lively dialogue. ... 7:05 P.M.

U.S soldiers watching as their Iraqi Army colleagues - Shia - brutally beat Sunni civilians to near-death, as U.S. soldiers hoop and holler in support.

The video shows Iraqi troops beating three men who'd been caught with a bag full of mortars in their car. I don't defend the beatings, which at least one American tries fecklessly to stop, but calling people captured with mortars "civilians" is a bit of a distortion, no? Nor do they appear to be beaten "to near death"--that's just a Sullivanian embellishment.** Does he even watch the videos he hosts? ...

**--Nor can the Iraqi soldiers hear the Americans hooping and hollering in their vehicle many yards away--a non-trivial distinction, when you think about it. When I first read Sullivan's description I thought the American's were actually spurring the Iraqis on (as opposed to keeping their distance, doing nothing, and hooping amongst themselves, which may be bad enough). The one American who we're told actually has contact with the Iraqis appears to be the one who tries to get them to stop.

Update 1/27: Sullivan's response--Civilians, insurgents. Unarmed, mortars. Minor details! ("The insurgents are civilians inasumuch as they are not in the Iraqi Army ..." Huh?) I've missed the point:

The whole point of the video and the posting, however, was that it illustrated how almost exclusively Shiite forces are ... clearing Sunni neighborhoods, with tacit U.S. support."

Except the video doesn't show that. It shows Shiite forces capturing and roughing up armed Sunnis, of the sort who are terrorizing civilians in other parts of town. It doesn't show soldiers chasing Sunni residents from their homes. ...

P.S.: Sullivan declares, of the beating victims, "they are residents of the neighborhood." But of course he doesn't know that. They were in a car, after all (with mortars!)--that's all the video shows. Sullivan also writes that one of them was thrown "into an airless car trunk." The "airless" is another little Sullivan enhancement.  I don't know how much air gets into a HumVee trunk--but neither does Sullivan. The man can't help himself. ...

P.P.S.: Sullivan says that I'm not "much concerned with Iraq." This is not a charge that can be levelled at him, unfortunately. To see Sullivan abjectly apologize for his thoughtless, bullying cheerleading for the Iraq war, see this video. ...

P.P.P.S.: Actually, he doesn't apologize for the "bullying." I added that! ...

More: Is there a structural problem with the use of YouTube clips or rather a problem when you have an "excitable embedder." Leigh Hunt sees both. I see only one. ... 1:51 A.M. link

What Liberal Alterman? Neo-neoliberal Eric Alterman takes on a pro-teachers'-union blogger  who accused him of opposing New York teachers' unions on a "lefter than thou" basis (i.e., because they sometimes endorse Republicans):

[M]y displeasure with the teachers union has nothing whatever to do with political policies. Rather, it is as the parent of a New York City public school child who finds the union's frequent inflexibility and resistance toward what looks to my admittedly non-expert eyes to be common-sense reforms self-defeating in the extreme, as well as a significant barrier to badly needed improvements. This explains why the author is so confused about the citation of my views by the DLC fellow.** I do agree more with the DLC than with the union. [E.A.]

Alterman opposes teachers' unions. ... He's agreeing with the DLC. .. He's  turned against race-based affirmative action. ... Next he'll be for means-testing Social Security! ... Make him a contributing editor of The New Republic. ...

P.S.: Why does the pro-teachers' union blog read like something a General Motors executive might have written in, say, 1985? Our cars are as good as any in the world! The critics all have evil motives! ...

**--The "DLC fellow" would be Eduwonk, who mischievously provoked the dispute. ... 5:11 P.M. link

Will Blacks Vote for Obama, Part II: Bob Wright makes a good point about Obama and blacks  in our most recent bloggingheads session: Black voters who are lukewarm on Obama may not be responding to his unconventional biography--Kenyan father, no slavery or Jim Crow or civil-rights fights in his background--but rather that he seems "culturally kind of white." After all, Wright argues, you wouldn't expect ordinary voters to be all that familiar with the details of Obama's life. ... To the extent Wright is right, Obama's black problem might be harder to overcome (when it's learned that his cultural affect is reinforced by his life story). Or it might be easier to overcome (if black voters only care about the affect, which can be modified, and not the life story, which can't).  But I'm not sure Wright's right: Black voters who know about Obama might well know the basics of his story by now, and they also know if their local opinion leaders--who almost certainly know the details--are talking him up. ... And aren't there plenty of black leaders whose cultural affect is mainstream--Julian Bond, Andrew Young, Harold Ford--who have no problems obtaining black support? ...

Update: kausfiles  Tuesday, WaPo Thursday!** The Post's Michael Fletcher suggests a) black voters get to issues of both heritage and cultural authenticity very quickly, and b) that Obama nevertheless succeeded in establishing a base of African-American support in his "mostly" black South Side Chicago constituency. ...

**-- OK, Salon Monday. ... 1:34 P.M. link

Bold , Decisive Disasters: The conventional view of Tuesday's State of the Union speech  is this: Bush's invasion of Iraq has turned nightmarish. He got beat in the midterms. He's reacted by changing his approach on the domestic front--reaching across the aisle to make bipartisan, centrist compromises on domestic issues like "comprehensive immigration reform."

But it seems to me the invasion of Iraq and "comprehensive immigration reform" actually have more in common than you might think. Far from being a sensible centrist departure from the sort of grandiose, wishful, rigid thinking that led Bush into Iraq, "comprehensive immigration reform" is of a piece with that thinking. And it's likely to lead to a similar outcome. Here are ten similarities:

1. They're both ideas Bush had when he came into office. Bush speechwriter David Frum has written of his first Oval Office meeting with Bush, a few weeks into his presidency, at which the president explained his "determination to dig Saddam Hussein out of power in Iraq." At about the same time, Bush was meeting with Mexican president Vicente Fox to try to hammer out an immigration deal that would combine a guest worker program with some legalization of existing illegal Mexican immigrants. (Plans for such a broad deal were put on hold only after 9/11 made immigration a national security issue--but Bush diligently resumed pursuit of the deal, just as he diligently resumed pursuit of his pre-election plans for Social Security.)

2. They both have an idealistic basis. Bush was sympathetic to the way Middle East democrats had been frustrated by "realist" foreign policies, and he's clearly sympathetic to the problems of poor immigrants who come to the U.S. to work and feed their families only to be forced to live "in the shadows."

3. They both seek, in one swoop, to achieve a grand solution to a persistent, difficult problem. No "smallball"! The Iraq Project would begin the transformation of the Middle East, an area that had frustrated president after president. "Comprehensive" immigration reform would, as the name suggests, resolve in one bold bill the centuries-old immigration issue--including a) devising a way to keep out illegal workers while b) providing business with legal immigrant workers, plus c) deciding what to do with illegals who are already here. It would, as Bush said Tuesday, be "conclusive."

4. In both cases, they envision a complicated, triple-bank shot chain of events happening just as Bush wishes it to happen. Iraqis were going to be grateful to their American liberators, come together in peace and give us a stable "ally in the war on terror." Hispanics, in the happy Rovian scenario behind Bush's immigration plan, would be grateful to Republicans for bringing them out of the shadows, etc., ensuring a large and growing GOP Latino vote for decades to come.

5. Both have an obvious weak spot, depending crucially on pulling off a very difficult administrative feat. In Iraq, we had to build a nation in the chaotic vacuum of sectarian post-Saddam Iraq--which came to mean training a national army and police force from scratch with recruits who were often sectarian loyalists or insurgent infiltrators. "Comprehensive" immigration reform requires the government to set up an enforcement mechanism that can prevent millions of impoverished foreigners from sneaking across thousands of miles of unprotected borders--and prevent America's millions of self-interested employers from hiring them.

6. In both cases, the solution has failed before. We had failed to "stand up" a democracy in Vietnam. We failed to establish a stable, trans-factional governing structures in Lebanon and Somalia. Similarly, the grand, bipartisan Simpson-Mazzoli immigration reform of 1986 had promised, and failed, to establish an effective immigration enforcement mechanism.

7. Both were promoted by Bill Kristol!  

8. In both cases, some Bush plan enthusiasts may not really mind a chaotic end result.  Iraq war foes argue that some important neocon supporters of the Iraq war weren't really bothered by the prospect of Sunni-vs.-Shiite warfare--even seeing divide-and-conquer advantages. (That might help explain the lack of attention paid to planning the post-war occupation.) Similarly, Kristol has said he isn't really bothered that the enforcement parts of the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli law failed:

I'm not cavalier about illegal immigrants. ...[snip]... What damage have they done that's so great in 20 years? The anti-immigration forces said 20 years ago, there was an amnesty, which there sort of was, the Simpson- Mazzoli bill, which was pushed by the anti-immigration people, that Ronald Reagan signed. What's happened that's so terrible in the last 20 years? Is the crime rate up in the United States in the last 20 years? Is unemployment up in the United States in the last 20 years?...[snip] ... I am pro-immigration, and I am even soft on illegal immigration.

9. In both cases, less grand--and less risky--alternatives are available. Bush could have kept "Saddam" boxed up while he planned regime change through other means, built alliances and pursued the more manageable war in Afghanistan. ("Smallball" in 2002. Sounds good now!) Similarly, Bush could put "enforcement" mechanisms in place, and make sure they work, before he potentially stimulates a huge new wave of illegal immigrants by rewarding those illegals who already made it across the border. As a stopgap measure, he could establish modest "guest worker" program and even enlarge the quota of legal immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.

10. In both cases the consequences of losing Bush's big bet are severe. On Tuesday, Bush described the "nightmare scenario" his Iraq plan's failure (on point #5) has made plausible: The Iraqi government "overrun by extremists on all sides. ... an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaida. ... A contagion of violence could spill out across the country. And in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict." Plus Al Qaida would have a "safe haven" in Iraq that it hadn't had before. 

The equivalent disaster scenario in immigration would go something like this: "Comprehensive" reform passes. The "earned legalization" provisions work as planned--millions of previously undocumented workers become legal Americans. But the untested "enforcement" provisions (point #5) prove no more effective than they've been in the past--or else they are crippled by ACLU-style lawsuits and lobbying (as in the past). Legal guest workers enter the country to work, but so do millions of new illegal workers, drawn by the prospect that they too, may some day be considered too numerous to deport and therefore candidates for the next amnesty.  Hey, "stuff happens!" The current 12 million illegal immigrants become legal--and soon we have another 12 million illegals. Or 20 million. As a result, wages for unskilled, low-income legal American and immigrant workers are depressed. Visible contrasts of wealth and poverty reach near-Latin American proportions in parts of Los Angeles. And the majority of these illegal (and legal) immigrants, like the majority in many parts of the country, are from one nation: Mexico. America for the first time has a potential Quebec problem,** in which a neighboring country has a continuing claim on the loyalties of millions of residents and citizens.

In one sense, this second grand Bush plan failure wouldn't be nearly as disastrous as the first--tens of thousands of people wouldn't die. In another sense, it would be worse. We can retreat from Iraq. We won't be able to retreat from the failure of immigration reform--no "surge" will save us--because it will change who "we" are.

**--Worse than a Quebec problem, maybe. At least France isn't on Canada's border. 12:06 A.M. link

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Car name of the day: They're unleashing the  Melling Hellcat! ... 2:57 A.M.

Note: A giant, case-reinforcing update has been added to the "Will Blacks Vote for Obama?" post below. ... 12:28 A.M.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NBC--House of Bland CW Hackery: Conor Friedersdorf disputes the "imperious" Tom Brokaw's "indisputable" points  about immigration, the residue of Brokaw's recent skiing tri ...sorry, hard-hitting Murrowesque documentary on illegals in, er, Aspen and Vail. ... 9:52 P.M.

SOTU points:

1) Shaping? "It is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle." Modest! Yes, the President also said "let us... turn events toward victory." But turning things toward victory isn't the same as .. victory. Rhetorically, was Bush setting the stage for a sloppy outcome--with the "surge" only making that outcome a bit better than it otherwise would be? Just asking! ...

2) Stealth? When Sen. Obama was queried by Anderson Cooper about the areas where the Dems and Bush might cooperate productively, Obama ticked off energy and health care. He did not mention "comprehensive immigration reform." Perhaps this is a sign that "comprehensive immigration reform" is less popular among Democrats--at least Democratic voters, or Democratic primary voters--than some have assumed. ... That doesn't mean Bush's "comprehensive reform" (i.e.. semi-amnesty) won't pass. Democratic leaders may still want a Bush-style bill. It does suggest that publicity--actually reminding voters what is on the table-- will be the enemy of Bush-style reform. Its best chance for passage would seem to be quietly, in the dead of night. The more the MSM hypes immigration as a wonderful area of bipartisan cooperation, the less chance there is of that cooperation succeeding. It will be interesting to see if respectable, Tancredo-scorning, pro-comprehensive reporters and editors get with the program and start downplaying the immigration issue. ...

3) The Clash: Still too much talk about the "decisive ideological struggle ... generational struggle ... the defining struggle of our time" against the "Islamist radical movement." I would think Bush's best strategy for shoring up war support would be to calm things down while Gen. Petraeus does his work, not to remind voters he hears an apocalyptic tocsin they don't. Certainly this isn't new rhetoric. If voters even notice the "struggle of our time" save-get phrase anymore, I suspect it will rightly alarm them, starting with Peggy Noonan. ...

7:58 P.M. link

Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute flags the First Plame Bombshell--at least what passes for a bombshell in mediacentric circles. ... NBC's David Gregory, whose appeal has always escaped me--he never says anything!**--could have some 'splainin' to do. ...

**--Maybe he's good on Imus. I haven't heard him there.But on the Nightly News and Chris Matthews he's an opinionless Prof. of the Obvious. ... 3:20 P.M. 

Can Barack Obama Appeal to Blacks? I wanted to write an item a few weeks ago predicting--after Stanley Crouch wrote a widely-derided Barack's-not-black-like-me column--that Obama would in fact have trouble appealing to many African-Americans in the primaries because he's not a "native" African American who can trace his roots through slavery, the South, emancipation, Jim Crow, civil rights, etc.. He's an African African American. His family journey from Kenya to Harvard was recent and shortcutted a lot of American black culture and politics. ... I got zero positive feedback for this thought from my friends and dropped it. But there's at least some possible support for the theory in  this Newsday report on the ABC-WaPo poll:

Clinton now holds a commanding 41-17 percent lead over the Illinois senator among Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken before her announcement, and after Obama's Jan. 16 campaign kickoff.

Strikingly, Clinton did even better among black Democratic voters, amassing a 26-point lead over Obama. [E.A.]

In other words, Obama does better among whites than blacks. Maybe Crouch was on to something. ... There are other possible explanations for the discrepancy, of course--e.g. black Democrats are especially loyal to Hillary's husband, they have fewer doubts that she can win, etc. Still  ...

Update: Several emailers note that the difference between the Hillary-Obama margin among blacks and among whites would seem to be within the ABC-WaPo poll's margin of error. That may be true, but you'd expect Obama to be actually winning among blacks, no? However, I've looked further into the issue, and the case for differential black hesitance about Obama isn't as strong as I'd thought. It's stronger! For one,  as Mystery Pollster has noted, Hillary's differential advantage among blacks is larger than my original post suggests. Here are the numbers from the full ABC release:

Hillary over Obama among whites: 35 to 17

Hillary over Obama among blacks: 53 to 27**

In other words, Hillary's 26 point lead among blacks compares with a mere 18 point lead among whites. More important, the ABC result has now been confirmed in a second, CBS poll, which included an "oversample" of blacks to minimize error. The CBS result: Obama's losing by 14 points among whites but by 24 points among blacks. ...

Mystery Pollster favors a relatively mundane explanation for Obama's failure, so far, to capture the black Democratic vote: loyalty to Hillary plus lack of knowledge of Obama. MP speaks from experience:

Having polled for one of Obama's primary opponents in 2004, I can tell you that whatever doubts Illnois African-Americans may have had about Obama prior to the 2004 primary race, they faded fast as he began to run television advertising, move in the polls and receive routine coverage on media outlets (read local TV news) that reached real voters. The same could happen nationally should he score an early victory in Iowa or New Hampshire.

For a contrary view, see Debra Dickerson's tumultuous and near-profound Obama-isn't-black essay, which makes about a half dozen fresh, difficult points while seeming to try to have it both ways on whether black leeriness of Obama is a good or bad thing:

Obama isn't black.

"Black," in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves. Voluntary immigrants of African descent (even those descended from West Indian slaves) are just that, voluntary immigrants of African descent with markedly different outlooks on the role of race in their lives and in politics. At a minimum, it can't be assumed that a Nigerian cabdriver and a third-generation Harlemite have more in common than the fact a cop won't bother to make the distinction.

Dickerson has great fun mocking the civil-rights establishment's forthcoming attempt to put Obama in their debt. ("Never having been 'black for a living' with protest politics or any form of racial oppositionality, he'll need to assure the black powers that be that he won't dis the politics of blackness (and, hence, them) ... "). She only veers off the rails when, after explaining how Obama's lack of slave ancestry hurts him among blacks, she tries to flip the blame and "point out the continuing significance of the slave experience to the white American psyche; it's not we who can't get over it. It's you." How's that?

Ben Smith has a nice, nasty anti-Obama quote from an unnamed "Clinton adviser" that dovetails with Dickerson on a shallower level: "He's not built to be the black candidate. ... His youth and inexperience play against him in that world -- he's the young whippersnapper who didn't pay his dues." [E.A.]

See also this 2004 NYT piece on the divide between African-Americans and African-Americans. ...  [Thanks to readers EV, JS1, JS2, TM]  3:54 A.M.  link

Raise the Titaaron: Aaron Sorkin seems to have responded to critics of his now-rejiggered Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip with the same wit and class he  displayed responding to Rick Cleveland. ... 2:55 A.M.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not Another Mommy: Anne Kornblut on Hillary--

Instead of campaign rhetoric, Clinton focused on the specific theme of health care for children, locking hands with a little girl who joined her onstage. In so doing, she signaled that she will use her uniqueness as a woman -- and more specifically as a mother -- to stake out her ground in the crowded presidential field at a time when Democrats across the board are putting children at the center of their imagery and message.

It's not clear that Mommyism is the best antidote to Hillary's image as a scold who knows what's good for us and is willing to use government to make us do it. Is state maternalism any less annoying or demeaning than paternalism? ... Update: Dean Barnett blames George Lakoff. ... My own attack on Lakoff's conflation of politics and parenting is here. ... [via Driscoll2:07 A.M.

The Cafe Milano Candidate: Would he make a good pick for the VP slot? Bill Richardson skirts the issue! ... Update: Steve Clemons brings up a "touchy" subject. ..  1:33 A.M.

Big problem for pollsters: The rapid growth of cell-phone-only households. ... It's less clear that, if polls are increasingly suspect, it's a problem for the rest of us. ...1:05 A.M.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Former U.S. senator George Smathers died on Saturday at age 93. Wasn't there a rather famous non-public photo of Smathers and JFK on a fishing boat somewhere? Do we ever get to see it? WaPo might ask Ben Bradlee. ... All the A.P. obit  says is:

 He and Kennedy, who was elected the same year, shared similar affluent backgrounds, wartime experiences and a passion for golf -- and women.

Monkey business? ... 2:08 P.M.

Missing from the Kremlin Wall: Andrew Sullivan, in a typical self-deprecating post that leaves you convinced you've gotten the full story, discloses his departure from Time for The Atlantic. He sucks up to everyone in sight at both magazines--except Ana Marie Cox. ... Hmmm. ... 12:30 P.M.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mohammed of Iraq the Model thinks the surge has a chance, and he lives there. But some of his suggestions** might not please the Iraqi chapter of the National Rifle Association. ...

**--"Yes, having a weapon for defensive use is a justified need at this time but registering those weapons is of great importance to security." 4:16 P.M.

Doesn't Bill Kristol know that at this point he's a negative brand? That is, if he endorses something that makes other people less likely to endorse it. The headline of his latest co-bylined editorial--"All We Are Saying ... Is Give Petraeus a Chance"--roughly reflects what I think. But I'll be damned if I'm going to agree with someone who's been so wrong** and caused so much damage! And not just on the war. ... It would help Kristol's causes if he just stopped writing for a couple of years. Maybe a world cruise? The next subscriber-fleecing Weekly Standard voyage, just leave him on board and pick him up in 2008. ... P.S.: If the goal is to remove Kristol from the public eye, and if he can't quit completely, signing him to write a column for Time seems like a plausible Plan B. ...

**--See, e.g., this 2003 NPR interview at the 9:18 mark. ... 2:15 P.M.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Time to cash out of the Bush administration?  Jenna's doing it. The owner of Impeachbush.com is doing it. One more and it's a trend. In a few months, after all, people might not care. ... 10:54 P.M.

Too Good to Check: Rent-a-demonstrator. ... Update: Alert reader T. claims this is nothing new. ... But now it's online! ... And these European demonstrators are "good looking," identifying themselves by

skin color and "appearance type," which can be for example "European," "African," "South American," or "Asian."

according to Spiegel Online. ... They're not cheap, though, by U.S. protest-rental standards. ... 9:39 P.M.

" Oklahoma Professor Calls for Immigrant Voting Rights," which apparently includes both documented and "undocumented" immigrants. This from the  Aztlan News Network, which promises to be a reliable provider of backlash-inducing pro-immigrant immoderation in the months ahead. If you are Tom Tancredo, you want to bookmark this site. ... 3:10 P.M.

Those Iranian Election Results in Full: NY Post columnist Amir Taheri doesn't seem to be reporting on the same local Iranian elections  we read about last month in the U.S. press. Yes, they were a rebuke of President Ahmadinejad, but the resemblance ends there:

Dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad was partly reflected in the recent local government elections and elections for the Assembly of Experts, where candidates closely identified with the president did poorly.

Overall, however, the radical factions of the Khomeinist movement (of which Ahmadinejad is a product) did very well. In the local elections, the radicals ended up with 83 percent of the votes; they also did well in the Assembly of Experts' voting.

In other words, although Ahmadinejad's personal brand of radicalism suffered a setback, the Khomeinist movement as a whole remains in radical mode. [E.A.]

P.S.: Here's how a NYT editorial ("Saner Voices in Iran") characterized those same results:

The main gainers came from two very different opposition groups, one aligned with former President Ali Rafsanjani, an establishment conservative, and the other with remnants of the cautious reform movement led by former President Mohammad Khatami.

Someone would seem to be cocooning, or spinning. 12:32 P.M.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on Barbara & Condi & Laura: Compare Barbara Boxer's line of attack on Condoleezza Rice last week with Charles Peters' seemingly similar Washington Monthly attack  on the insulation of the powerful. First, Peters:

Many of those making between $100,000 and $500,000, especially those who live in large cities, worry far more about getting their children into the right private schools or into an elite university than  they do about fixing the public schools. And almost all of them, like the congressmen, have generous health insurance of their own that means health care for others doesn't tend to be one of their imperatives. Finally, because their sons and daughters, with rare exceptions, are not in the armed forces, they could support sending other people's children into the war in Iraq. [E.A.]

And here's Boxer:

"Now, the issue is who pays the price. Who pays the price?  I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family.  So who pays the price? The American military and their families."

See the problem? As Peters points out, even those who have sons and daughters are usually insulated from the costs of war because we have a volunteer military. Boxer's riffing about her children and grandchildren (and Rice's lack of "immediate family") isn't relevant to whether, as Boxer later put it, those who make Iraq policy "will pay the price for this escalation" because people who have military-age children don't pay the price for war either unless those children volunteer. And most don't.

So why did Boxer bring up her irrelevant children and grandchildren? Why not simply point to the insulating effect of the volunteer army? I don't know. But if I were a) allergic to poll-tested liberal rhetoric, and b) slightly paranoid--two small "ifs"--I might note that Boxer's illogical detour allowed her to not-so-subtly advertise her motherhood in line with the reigning mommy-rhetoric of the Pelosi Era, in which "the gavel" is in "the hands of America's children."

The "it's all about children" meme must focus-group really well, because Democrats keep trotting it out (most famously to justify welfare payments for "children," even though it's adults who get the checks). I don't remember Mommyism winning any national elections, though--especially during a war.

Boxer also managed to leave the implication that if only her children were of the right age, they would of course be volunteering to serve their country in the military.  I don't know Boxer's childen, but I'm skeptical.

Verdict: Guilty, guilty, guilty!

P.S.: In my earlier post, I also characterized Laura Bush as unfeminst for asserting that "[y]ou need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job" [of President], after Bush noted that Rice "is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child." Technically, of course, Bush was suggesting that both single women and single men would have a hard time being president. That may still be objectionable. It may also contain a germ of truth. But isn't it possible for singles--even single only children, and even single only children whose parents are deceased--to build networks of "friends" that do the work of a family? I know people who've managed that. The snarkiest dimension of Laura Bush's comment, then, isn't the reasonable argument that it helps to have a network at your back, but the apparent assertion that Rice has no "supportive friends." ... 12:21 A.M. link

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What Liberal Liberalism? Eric Alterman comes out against race-based affirmative action. (He'd base preferences on class, Kahlenberg-style). If Alterman, a man of the left, author of What Liberal Media?, blogger  for "progressive" site Media Matters, is now against race preferences, who's for them again? Aside from the entire establishment, I mean. ... P.S.: Alterman even suggests that Martin Luther King would have settled on class-based preferences  had he lived. ... 12:47 A.M. link

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pelosi=Amnesty Update: 

"The new Democratic-controlled Congress is likely to give President Bush the immigration legislation he wants, congressional leaders of both parties said."

That's from the Chicago Sun-Times.** Meanwhile, the border fence that Congress passed last year is in jeopardy, according to the CQ Midday Update email:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will reconsider a plan to build a fence along the southwestern border between Mexico and the United States.

"I think the fence will be revisited," Hoyer told reporters today.

**--In fact, Hoyer didn't quite say this in the Fox interview cited. Do Democrats who just won seats in marginal or populist districts really want legalization of illegals (in exchange for untested border controls) to be the new Dem majority's signal achievement? ... 3:13 P.M.

Scooter-Scoop Reminder: As the Libby trial opens, the major drama of course is watching to see a) if kausfiles' big scoop about what "Scooter" Libby told Tim Russert gets vindicated, and b) if it's vindicated, how will the MSM handle the touchy subject matter (charges of anti-Semitism)? ... Early indicators: You won't even find Russert listed in MSNBC's interactive roster of key "players," though he is one. ...And the Washington Post publishes the following:

The plainspoken Russert will be a star government witness. He has told Fitzgerald that Libby fabricated parts of a conversation with him. He has said that when he spoke with Libby in mid-July, Plame never came up as Libby complained that MSNBC host Chris Matthews had an antiwar slant. [E.A.]

Er, no. Not "anti-war," unless "anti-war" and "anti-Semitic" are now synonymous (if reporting on the prestigious kausfiles blog is to be believed). No doubt the "plainspoken Russert" will eschew such controversy-avoiding euphemisms. ...

P.S.: Everyone expects Tom Maguire to be the  Go-To-Blogger on Libby. Those sorts of expectations can be a burden. What if he's gotten tired of Plamegate? Update: Not to worry. ...  

P.P.S.: I second Maguire's transpartisan (even trans-Plame) statement of support and best wishes  for relentless firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher, who's about to undergo cancer surgery. ... 2:50 P.M. link

Paparazzi catch hot Buick wearing see-through bra! ... 12:25 A.M.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Dr. Rice, who I think would be a really good candidate [for President], is not interested. Probably because she is single, her parents are no longer living, she's an only child. You need a very supportive family and supportive friends to have this job."

Yikes. Single women can't be president! Move over, Barbara. ... P.S.: Does Laura Bush's intra-party sneer  get Sen. Barbara Boxer off the hook? Or--by suggesting some powerful subconscious urge of married mothers to condescend to single women--does it make it even clearer that Boxer is guilty? Bush's comment certainly doesn't make the Boxer incident seem like a better episode for feminism. ... 1:04 A.M.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Against the War, For the Surge: I was throwing out some newspapers and came across something I'd forgotten:  Michael Gordon's November 15 NYT piece describing how General Anthony Zinni, a trenchant and consistent critic of the decision to go to war in Iraq and of the prosecution of the war, supports something that looks an awful lot like President Bush's surge:

Anthony Zinni, who used to head the U.S. Central Command and was among the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, argued that the reduction of American forces was more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than avert it.

''The logic of this is you put pressure on Maliki and force him to stand up to this,'' Zinni said in an interview, referring to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister. ''Well, you can't put pressure on a wounded guy.'

'There is a premise that the Iraqis are not doing enough now, that there is a capability that they have not employed or used.

''I am not so sure they are capable of stopping sectarian violence."

Instead of taking troops out, Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to ''regain momentum'' as part of a broader effort to create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.

Logic says we should be able to separate support for the war from support for or opposition to the surge, as H. Kurtz has noted. But politics seems to often dictate surge-bashing as a sort of emotional and political make-up call for failure to oppose the decision to go to war in the first place. (Just watch Hillary!) I find Michael O'Hanlon persuasive on the surge issue:

Critics rightly argue that it may well be too little, way too late. But for a skeptical Congress and nation, it is still the right thing to try -- as long as we do not count on it succeeding and we start working on backup plans even as we grant Bush his request.

P.S.: I wonder how much of the blame for the "too late" part will turn out to fall on Karl Rove. It seems highly likely that Bush knew many months ago that a new Iraq plan was needed, but delayed for fear of disrupting his overconfident Republican strategist's flat-footed midterm election strategy--even though, it seems clear now, declaring this new initiative seven months ago might have saved the Republicans in the election. ... 10:43 P.M. link

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's the Hassle:Washington Monthly's Charles Peters mocks the "new proletariat" of Americans in the "$100,000-$500,000 income range," especially their agitation against the Alternative Minimum Tax. ... My impression is the main complaint against the AMT is not the extra tax it extracts but the extra paperwork hassle it imposes on those who essentially have to calculate their tax two times, using different sets of rules (or, almost as annoying, pay an accountant to do it for them)  ... I would think the anti-bureaucratic Wash. Monthly would join in the fraternal struggle against unnecessary government-imposed complications--realizing that Washington could probably collect a lot more tax money, indeed more money from the complaining top 20%, and if only it did so with less hassle. ... Similarly, I think the hassle factor--the hassle of figuring out which insurance company is going to screw you in what way, of reading the fine print and artfully filling out forms and switching plans and negotiating with gatekeepers and getting pre-op approval and worrying about treatments that won't be covered--is why even the well-insured 'new proleteriat' will ultimately care about universal health coverage (contrary to what Peters suggests in his last item). ...

Update: Ann Althouse, who uses Turbo Tax, says it's the money, not the hassle. ... Instapundit wonders "if Turbo Tax isn't a friend of Big Government." [link omitted] ... I wonder a) if the AMT effectively eliminates the tax benefits of the home mortgage deduction and b) more and more affluent Americans are going to be subject to the unindexed AMT, then c) the resulting decline in utility of the tax deduction will produce a corresponding fall in the price of high-income homes. ... Update/Correction: AMT payers still get the mortgage deduction if it's for buying, building or improving a home. But they don't get to take it for home equity loans. [Thanks to reader J.L.]

P.S.: My anti-hassle argument is simply that we shouldn't have to do two tax calculations. I'm not saying there's not a good argument that, of the two, we should keep the AMT and ditch the deduction-riddled regular tax code. That may be where we are headed already--as more Americans are obviously going to have to pay the AMT, they eventually may not bother with the regular tax code calculation at all, no? Result: Back-door slow-motion tax reform. ...  10:26 P.M.

Hagel's Hyperbole: Like most people--including, perhaps, most supporters of the "surge"--I don't expect it to work.  But (assuming we don't initiate a new war with Iran or Syria) I don't quite understand why, if it fails, the U.S. will  be in all that much worse a strategic position than it is now in Iraq. This doesn't seem like a doubling down. It seems more like raising the bet 15%. So when Sen. Chuck Hagel calls Bush's latest plan

"the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out"

that seems a bit odd. If the surge fails, surely the 'most dangerous foreign policy blunder' will be not the surge but the initial invasion of Iraq. Hagel voted for that, remember. ... Perhaps not just publicity-seeking political ambition but guilt is at work behind Hagel's hyperbole. ... P.S.: On Charlie Rose, Hagel equivocates, Kerry/2004 style,  not quite being able to bring himself to say he was wrong on the Iraq war vote. He also defends his hyperbole, citing both the strains of increased troop deployment and the possibility of conflict with Iran and Syria. But note that Hagel's own plan, as he outlines it, would involve putting our troops on Iraq's borders with Iran and Syria, which might not exactly reduce the possibility of conflict ... 8:08 P.M.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Auto Snow: Not So Fast, Comrade Kuttner! [Note: It may actually save you time to watch the accelerated video version of this rant.]

The shift lever falls readily to hand for one R. Kuttner, who road tests the Pontiac G6. He doesn't like the door-lock releases. Or the steering. Kuttner concludes the problem wiith GM isn't its workers--or unions--it's GM's incompetent designers and executives:

You might blame GM's woes on poor American workmanship or the cost of American labor. But Japanese total labor costs are comparable, even with Detroit's higher health insurance costs. Increasingly, Japanese cars are being assembled in the USA, and the quality holds up just fine.

So what's wrong with GM? The cars. GM is famous for being run by bean counters and ad men. Toyota is run by engineers.'

This is a common viewpoint, I've found, among my Democratic friends--Jon Alter, this means you!***--who would never actually buy a Detroit product but who want to believe the UAW can't be blamed. The argument seems to be roughtly this: a) American cars are now reliable enough, having closed the gap with the Japanese brands, so b) the workers are doing their job; therefore c) if Detroit cars like the G6 are still obviously inferior--tacky and cheap, with mediocre handling--it must be because they're designed badly by white collar professionals, not because they're built badly by blue collar union members.

The trouble with this comforting liberal argument is labor costs. When Kuttner says "Japanese total labor costs are comparable, even with Detroit's higher health insurance costs," he is--as is so often the case--talking through his hat. Look at this chart. GM pays $31.35 an hour. Toyota pays $27 an hour. Not such a big difference. But--thanks in part to union work rules that prevent the thousands of little changes that boost productivity--it takes GM, on average, 34.3 hours to build a car, while it takes Toyota only 27.9 hours. ** Multiply those two numbers together and it comes out that GM spends 43% more on labor per car. And that's before health care costs (where GM has a $1,300/vehicle disadvantage). 

If you're GM or Ford, how do you make up for a 43% disadvantage? Well, you concentrate on vehicle types where you don't have competition from Toyota--e.g. big SUVs in the 1980s and 1990s. Or you build cars that strike an iconic, patriotic chord--like pickup trucks, or the Mustang and Camaro. Or--and this is the most common technique--you skimp on the quality and expense of materials. Indeed, you have special teams that go over a design to "sweat" out the cost. Unfortunately, these cost-cutting measures (needed to make up for the UAW disadvantage) are all too apparent to buyers. Cost-cutting can even affect handling--does GM spend the extra money for this or that steel support to stabilize the steering, etc. As Robert Cumberford of Automobile magazine has noted, Detroit designers design great cars--but those aren't what gets built, after the cost-cutters are through with them.

Look at the big  Ford Five Hundred--a beautiful car on the outside, based on the equally attractive Volvo S80. But thanks to Ford's cost-cutters it debuted with a tinny, depressing interior that would lose a comparison with a subcompact Toyota Scion. Ford wants $30,000  for the Five Hundred. Forget it!

Is it really an accident that all the UAW-organized auto companies are in deep trouble while all the non-union Japanese "transplants" building cars in America are doing fine? Detroit's designs are inferior for a reason, even when they're well built. And that reason probably as more to do with the impediments to productivity imposed by the UAW--or, rather, by legalistic, Wagner-Act unionism--than with slick and unhip Detroit corporate "culture."

P.S.: If Detroit can only be competititive when the UAW makes grudging concessions, isn't it likely the UAW will only concede enough to make GM and Ford survive, but never enough to let them actually beat the Japanese manufactures? I try to make this point here.

Update: But UAW President Ron Gettelfinger is right about Ford's botch of the Taurus. ...

**--Non-union Toyota's productivity, in terms of hours per car, has actually been growing faster than GM's, according to the Harbour report cited by NPR. So--thanks in part to Toyota's lack of work-rule bottlenecks?--GM is not catching up. It's falling further behind.

***--Update:Alter denies the charge that he'd never buy a Detroit product. He says he "had a Taurus a few years ago." And he doesn't remember the conversation--about the relative culpability of the UAW vs. Detroit design--that I remember. ... 1:57 P.M. link

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Who's Surge Is It, Anyway? In this video from AEI, Frederick Kagan and Gen. Jack Keane,  originators of the "surge" strategy, make it as clear as can be that they do not intend for surging U.S. or Iraqi troops to go after on Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army or to attempt to enter and clear out the vast Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City.**  Yet in his speech tonight, President Bush said (without mentioning Sadr's name) that Iraqi prime minister al-Maliki had given U.S. forces the "green light" to do just that--and news accounts played up the anti-Sadr angle. ... Either Bush's surge is some other kind of surge from the Kagan/Keane surge, or there's some Kabuki goin' on (e.g., al-Maliki doesn't really mean it, and perhaps the Bush administration knows al-Maliki doesn't really mean it, but wants a) Iraqi Sunnis, b) Americans, c) Sadr or d) himself to think he means it). ...

P.S.: Kagan and Keane also wrote:

It is difficult to imagine a responsible plan for getting the violence in and around Baghdad under control that could succeed with fewer than 30,000 combat troops beyond the forces already in Iraq.

Bush is sending "roughly 20,000" additional U.S. troops, according to the NYT. ...

Update: Juan Cole has an idea what the Kabuki is:

  I would suggest that PM Nuri al-Maliki's warning to the Mahdi Militia to disarm or face the US military is in fact code. He is telling the Sadrists to lie low while the US mops up the Sunni Arab guerrillas. Sadr's militia became relatively quiescent for a whole year after the Marines defeated it at Najaf in August, 2004. But since it is rooted in an enormous social movement, the militia is fairly easy to reconstitute after it goes into hiding.

But if this is the case, is that a problem for the U.S. strategy, or the key to its implementation--i.e., if "lie low" means the Mahdi Army stops sectarian killings without the U.S. having to attack it?

**--Kagan and Keane want the troops to patrol "Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods," in part to convince Shiites they don't need Sadr's militias, which is different from taking them on.  Attacking Sadr in Sadr City, Kagan says, would be a "very bloody opertation" that would "look something like Fallujah." (See video  at 9:58.) While we would "win," he argues that it would have the political effect of "driving all of the Shia parties together to oppose us." 11:27 P.M. link

The old Pelosi is back: How do you go in a week from appearing to be a moon-faced 45-year old  to looking your age  (66). I'm still mystified. ... 10:24 P.M.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

"It's Over:" Kate Hudson's people must be paying US Weekly to feature her breakup on the cover. I contend nobody actually cares about Kate Hudson's romantic life. Do you? She's no Ron Burkle! ... 5:21 P.M.

Looking in a crowd for friends: Supporters of welfare reform have seen caseloads drop dramatically and a employment rise, but we're still looking for unmistakable signs of a dramatic improvement in the culture of ghetto poverty, especially for black men. Jill Leovy's Salon piece on the murder rates for black men seems to offer a potentially significant bit of evidence:

The reality is that blacks in 1976 were almost twice as likely to die from homicide as blacks in 2004, and the disparity between black and white rates was 20 percent higher than today.

What's more, Leovy notes, "[s]ignificant progress has happened very recently. Over the last dozen years or so, the nation has seen a startling crime drops ... and black rates have dropped especially steeply." Hmm. What happened a "dozen years or so" ago? I can't remember. ... Leovy doesn't discuss the possible welfare-reform explanation,** though maybe she should. ...

**--In fact, she credits the continuing breakup of the black family with a decline in the murder of men by "battered wives, trapped and desperate," although she notes that this can't account for the whole drop. ... 4:58 P.M.

Give me 15 more inches of BarryAchenbachStein: Ezra Dyer's auto-show blogging comes in on the good end of Hearty Hack. ... 2:12 P.M.

Catching Up With ... NCLB! The estimable Eduwonk notes  that today's NYT coverage of the debate over the No Child Left Behind Act sees the story through the hack pre-neoliberal prism: "more money, less money, Republicans against Democrats." In fact, Eduwonk notes,

the NCLB tension evidenced in this story is less Republican and Democrat than differences between the Democratic committee chairs on the House and Senate education committees and their leadership. The money issue can be resolved in the context of a deal, the bigger problem is that while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks NCLB is punitive, George Miller and Ted Kennedy don't. [E.A.]

Does Sen. Kennedy mind that the Times cluelessly ignores his non-hack, non-anti-Bush role? Probably not, since the perception that he's in there fighting Bush for more money is what gives him the street cred** to play his non-hack role of warding off the education bureaucracies, including unions, that want to to water down the law's standards. ...

P.S.: Meanwhile. former NCLB enthusiast Mike Petrilli thinks the bold, risky Bush push into education is FUBAR and advocates withdrawal to the Kurdish stronghold. ...

P.P.S.: As a non-eduwonk, I would think if the NCLB were working we'd see the results by now in positive test scores--and if it isn't working, we should abandon the perestroika-like attempt to whip the education bureaucracy into shape with testing and "sanctions"--and move on to the dissolution of that bureaucracy through a proliferation of charter schools. But Eduwonk says, via email, that it's too soon to tell whether the NCLB will improve test scores, since the " law was passed in January of '02, states only had the testing really implemented last year and this year ..." ... .

More: For some broader Eduwonk takes--but still not the one-stop what-to-think-about-NCLB piece concerned citizens demand--see here and here. ... Also note this comment on the power of the anti-NCLB teachers' unions to reshape (i.e. gut) the law:

A Democratic majority doesn't hurt them but doesn't help them all that much either because there are bad feelings on both sides of the aisles about how the unions, especially the NEA, have approached the law since its passage. ...[snip] ... But if things start to look scary for Dems in 2008, the unions stock goes up.

**--that would be the "liberal street," otherwise known as Iowa. 1:29 P.M. link

Monday, January 8, 2007

NPR seems to have a new feature: "Pointless Stories from the Civil Rights Era." Apparently they've run out of the good ones.  Enjoy! 2:39 P.M.

Stupidest sentence in the LAT's big Gates Foundation takedown: After noting that Gates invests in oil companies in the Niger Delta, the Times team declares--

Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation's efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. [E.A.]

Presumably it helps Nigeria's economy to have an oil industry, and it helps Nigeria's workers to have jobs in that industry. If the oil workers (or soldiers) then see prostitutes, what exactly are the oil companies the Gates Foundation invests in supposed to do to stop it that they are not doing, short of pulling out of Nigeria? ... Maybe there is something, but the Times doesn't say, leaving the impression it's ready to blame Gates for ills that are an indirect byproduct of the sort of ordinary economic development most people would regard as legitimate and beneficial. ... [Many conflicts here: Gates' Microsoft used to own Slate. Former Slate editor Mike Kinsley, a friend, is married to a Gates Foundation official, etc. Still! ] 12:12 A.M.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Great Moments in Public Employee Unionism: Two L.A. traffic engineers have been charged with "sabotaging intersection signal lights" on "the eve of a two-day job action by members of the Engineers and Architects Assn., which represents 7,500 city workers," according to the LAT.  The Times says the two allegedly rigged computers to disrupt** signal lights at "four busy intersections."

Union officials were unavailable for comment Friday. Robert Aquino, executive director of the Engineers and Architects Assn., did not return repeated calls. But in an Aug. 21 interview with The Times about the pending two-day strike, Aquino noted: "Los Angeles is not going to be a fun place to drive." [E.A.]

P.S.: There is some logic to paying private sector employees according to how much disruption they can cause during a strike (which is roughly what U.S.-style collective bargaining does). There's a lot less logic to paying government employees according to how much disruption they can cause--that disruption is often immense, even when strikers don't resort to extralegal means. ... [via L.A. Observed]

**--Correction: Text originally said "disconnect." The Times now reports:

They didn't shut the lights off, city transportation sources said. Rather, the engineers allegedly programmed them so that red lights would be extremely long on the most congested approaches to the intersections, causing gridlock for several days ... [E.A.]

9:57 P.M.

Nancy is to Hillary as Arnold is to ______: Just as Hillary Clinton should maybe be worried that a poor performance by Speaker Pelosi will sour voters on women leaders,** should "maverick" Republican presidential candidates like John McCain and Rudy Giuliani worry that Arnold Schwarzenegger's example will sour GOP primary voters on maverick Republicans? ... In Pelosi's case, the worry (for Hillary) would be that she would flop. In Schwarzenegger's case, the worry (for McCain and Giuliani) would be that he'd be successful at implementing non-conservative reforms like his plan to provide guaranteed health care to all children in California including immigrant children in the country illegally. The message, for those conservatives who might be tempted to overlook McCain's semi-Democratic domestic ideas (like his pro-legalization immigration plan and campaign-finance schemes) for the sake of his muscular foreign policy, would be that a maverick Republican is much more likely to get those semi-Democratic ideas enacted than an actual Democrat. ... To Be Sure: This alarmist message might be distorted (the California legislature Schwarzenegger deals with is much more liberal than Congress) and wrong (Schwarzenegger's centrist health initiative, aside from the illegal immigrant part, seems worthy). But that doesn't mean Republican primary voters won't be alarmed. ... [Thanks to alert reader S.A.K.]

**--CW today, but not last October! 9:27 P.M. link

Page C5: The NYT sells moneymaking TV stations  to refocus on "synergies" between its struggling newspapers and "digitial businesses." .... "Synergies." Where' did I hear that word recently, in a media context? ... Now I remember. ...  P.S.:  Stock down 14%. Sell off of profitable assets. We're only just beginning to glimpse Pinch's visionary plan for victory! ... 8:22 P.M.

Naked cars: We read Autoblog for the pictures. The writing is hackwork--even worse than Road and Track, which is saying something. Today, Autoblog  sneers at the new Ford Focus, without bothering to explain why it "falls short." ... Maybe they're upset that it's built on the old Focus chassis and not the newer "C1" platform  used in Europe and shared with Mazda. But the tinny old American Ford Focus ZX3 hatch is fun to drive. The C1-based Mazda 3 isn't, at least at normal speeds (I think because so much of the design's weight is way up at the front).  ... 7:22 P.M.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

What You Mean "They," Kemo Sabe? Sen. McCain woos the GOP base!

"I'll build the goddamned fence if they want it."

[Thanks to reader R.H.] ... 1:58 P.M.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Some old-fashioned schmoozalism onObama, Hollywood and Hillary. ... 3:12 A.M.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Capt. Jamil Hussein, controversial AP source,   seems to exist. That's one important component of credibility! ... [via Lucianne4:48 P.M.

Are photo editors just choosing different shots, or has Nancy Pelosi changed her appearance? I can't figure it out.  In this picture for example, she seems almost unrecognizable, based on the photos I've seen previously. But some old photos of her look similar. ... 4:40 P.M.

Don't Leave with the One That Brung Ya: Andrew Sullivan says  a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would

doubtless lead to genocide and ethnic cleansing on a hideously cruel scale

but he's for it!... 1:19 A.M.

abiding paradox of contemporary Iraq that the Mahdi Army and the Sunni Arab guerrillas are slaughtering each other daily, but that young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (the leader of the Mahdi Army) has a better political relationship with Sunni Arab MPs and leaders than any other Shiite. [E.A.] **

Cole's post is concise--I won't try to condense it further here. It would seem to have some possible pessimistic implications (are we backing the wrong Shiite in trying to form a "moderate" coalition between Sadr's rival, al-Hakim of SCIRI, and Sunni MPs?) and some possible positive implications, the main one being this: If the Sadrist Shiites and the non-Sadaamist Sunnis can cut some sort of stable deal, then maybe we can withdraw from Iraq without triggering a Shiite vs. Sunni bloodbath.  Cole addresses this possibility as well. ...

**P.S.--It's more paradoxical than even Cole points out, given that the Mahdi army seems to be behind the killing, not just of Sunni Arab guerillas, but of ordinary Sunni civilians in mixed Baghdad neighborhoods. ...12:16 A.M. link

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

It's going to be a long "100 Hours."  10:24 P.M.

A WSJ-Harris "interactive" poll  purports to measure public support for various "issues that might be on the agenda of the new Congress." Here is how one of those "issues" is described:

Immigration reform to make it more difficult for immigrants to enter the U.S. and to stay in the U.S. for a prolonged length of time.

Huh? Which legislation, exactly, is this describing? (a) A proposal the Pelosi/Reid Democrats are actually planning to push? (Does it include legalization of many illegal immigrants already "in the U.S. for a prolonged length of time," thereby allowing them to stay a much longer time?) Or (b) the old enforcement-only Sensenbrenner bill? Sounds more like (b). ... The tough-sounding plan got 76% approval. ... 3:29 A.M.

Juan Cole relays non-critically an Iranian report  that has the main parliamentary Shiite bloc on in the Iraqi parliament in negotiations with Muqtada al-Sadr

intended to forestall an alliance of the Sadrists with Sunni Arab parties, which would have the effect of dividing the Shiites. [E.A.]

I obviously don't understand Iraq: Aren't the Sadrist militias the ones ethnically cleansing Baghdad by killing Sunnis? (I know Sadr has tried to make alliances with Sunnis in the past, but you'd think it would be beyond that point now, especially after the Sadrist mocking of Saddam on the gallows.)  Update: See Juan Cole's explanation. ... 2:44 A.M.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Mystery Pollster answers the call, delves deep into the competing methodologies of those crazily conflicting Iowa polls and discovers ... that the methodologies are pretty much the same. Which leaves him stumped along with everyone else, except for the possibility that "voters are not yet engaged in the race enough to have strong allegiances." ... kf's nominee for likeliest possible explanation (informed by an email from Iowa reader G.M.)There's a big difference between 1) asking voters if they "definitely plan" to go to the caucuses, and 2) asking voters if they actually participated in the 2004 caucuses. Lots of people say they "plan" to attend. That's normal!  But those who have attended are the sort of pathetically unrepresentative hard core activi ...sorry, committed citizens who make up the tiny sliver (6%) of Iowa voters who actually show up and choose the winner. ...  In this case, the merely aspirational caucusgoers pick Clinton, while the hard core goes for Obama--a result consistent with the idea that Obama is capturing those who think a lot about politics, while those who don't think as much about politics haven't yet been hit by the wave. ... P.S.: The Dem hard core would also be more anti-war, and thus anti-Clinton. ... P.P.S.: And the same strategic 'electability' worries that led the hard core geniuses to light on John Kerry in 2004 might cause them to reject Hillary now. ...

Update: MP says the theory is "plausible" and notes that more numbers from the competing pollsters--showing how many people their filters filtered out--might resolve the issue. 8:27 P.M.

Soft hothouse quirkiness pays off in Eat the Press'2006 Honorable   Mentions--much more fun than ETP's actual, predictable (except for Hodgman) Winners. ... P.S.: "What did you do this year?" is not a question we like to ask around here, though. ...  7:21 P.M.

Arguments that Only Work in a Cocoon Dept.: Another sneering op-ed arguing the Mexican border fence has an "effectiveness" problem because in San Diego, when 14 miles were built, people stopped crossing there! They went elsewhere to cross!

A little-noticed Congressional Research Service report issued Dec. 12 indicates that expanding the California wall makes little sense. After the San Diego wall went up, apprehensions in the area were reduced, the CRS reports. But "there is ample evidence that flow of illegal immigration ... shifted to more remote areas of the Arizona desert."

See? It won't work because where it's been tried it worked. Q.E.D.  ... 6:53 P.M.

If you can't lick the mob of salivating morons, join 'em! Even MSM-friendly blog victim Eason Jordan  is officially frustrated by the inability of anyone to locate the AP's mysterious key Iraqi source, Capt. Jamil Hussein:

But efforts by two governments, several news organizations, and bloggers have failed to produce such evidence or proof that there is a Captain Jamil Hussein. The AP cannot or will not produce him or convincing evidence of his existence.

It is striking that no one has been able to find a family member, friend, or colleague of Captain Hussein. Nor has the AP told us who in the AP's ranks has actually spoken with Captain Hussein. Nor has the AP quoted Captain Hussein once since the story of the disputed episode.

Therefore, in the absence of clear and compelling evidence to corroborate the AP's exclusive story and Captain Hussein's existence, we must conclude for now that the AP's reporting in this case was flawed.

To make matters worse, Captain Jamil Hussein was a key named source in more than 60 AP stories on at least 25 supposed violent incidents over eight months. [E.A.]

[via Confederate Yankee] 10:32 A.M.

Mohammed of Iraq the Model still sees the emergence of a "front of the moderates" in Iraq,  presumably excluding the Sadrists, as a possibility--followed by "early general elections towards the end of 2007" designed to weaken Sadr further. ... Have Sadr's Shiite rivals really abandoned the hopes for a military anti-Sunni solution, contrary to what Fareed Zakaria reported  two months ago?

The Shia politicians I met when in Baghdad, even the most urbane and educated, seemed dead set against sharing power in any real sense. In an interview with Reuters last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also said he believed that if Iraqi troops were left to their own devices, they could establish order in six months in Iraq. It is not difficult to imagine what he means: Shia would crush Sunni, and that would be that. This notion—that military force, rather than political accommodation, could defeat the insurgency—is widely shared among senior Shia leaders. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the single largest political party in Parliament, has made similar statements in the past.

Hakim, of course, is one of the Sadr rivals we are courting to join the "front of the moderates." ... 1:59 A.M. link

Monday, January 1, 2007

An ARG poll  of "likely  Democratic caucus goers living in Iowa" has Hillary Clinton beating Obama 31 to 10%.  But a  Research 2000 poll taken at almost the same time showed Obama beating Clinton 22 to 10%.  I find it difficult to believe these apparent wildly discordant results can be explained by ARG's possible use of a tighter 'likely caucus goer' filter.  Pollster.com 's commenters are perplexed too. ... Looks like a job for Mystery Pollster. ... P.S.--Alternative Resolution: Who cares what Iowa caucus goers think? They're the idiots who picked Kerry last time! [You're not allowed to say that about America's historic first-in-the-nation caucuses--ed Sorry. Momentary slip-up. Will care intensely about Iowa from now on.] ... Note: Hillary had a "non-trivial" decline in national polls over 2006 that began "before 'Obama-mania' took hold in late fall," according to Prof. Franklin. ... P.P.S.: What are the chances that Hillary pollster Mark Penn's numbers will show her in a bad light and convince her not to run? Wouldn't Penn be missing out on a lot of remunerative work plus celebrity and excitement if she bails out? Just asking!  ...  11:52 P.M. link

Fast: The Giugiaro Mustang, "out"  already? It only showed up a month ago--and it's not so badly done. ... 2:46 P.M.

Historic Hillary vs. Obama Clash looms over ... ethanol. Once again, the Iowa caucuses focus our nation's leaders on the big issues. ... P.S.: Clinton opposed allowing Sen. Coburn to continue practicing medicine because "she believes that senators should not have a second source of income." ... ?   ?   ? ... 1:49 P.M.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Good to see Ann Coulter defending the Black Panthers. ... 6:50 P.M.

Sen. Tim Johnson is still under sedation, and AP's report contains this alarming quote (missing from the version now posted  on WaPo):

Dr.Keith Siller, director of the Comprehensive Stroke Care Center at NYU Medical Center and assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, said it is unusual for a patient to be sedated after brain surgery for more than a few days.

"The two-week period is longer than I would be happy with," he said.

Siller is not the doctor on the scene, of course. Congressional Quarterly has some more encouraging stats  [via IP].  ... He said it:Only Slate 's Tim Noah, however, has had the balls to prematurely speculate  about a  partisan Schiavo do-si-do in which Tom DeLay suddenly realizes that 'quality of life' is what counts, while Democrats discover that maybe the Schiavo conservatives had a point.  ... Backfill: See also Ace of Spades:("Johnson's minor interaction with the world is enough to keep him in the Senate, but wasn't enough to keep Terry Schiavo alive. ... Democrats seem to have newfound respect for an occasional opening of the eyes.")2:35 P.M.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Crooks & Liars has4 of the top 10 blog posts of 2006, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics, which is pretty impressive. ...  3:20 P.M. link

Sunday Morning Sullivan: Bob Wright engages a Buddha-like Andrew Sullivan in intense theological discussion. Then I try to give Bob grief for not taking the obvious shots  at him. Bob takes this rather more seriously than I meant it--and that's always must-see TV! ... P.S.: The Great Plano Controversy comes up during this discussion (except I stupidly call it "Waco")--and I now realize I've never linked to Virginia Postrel's definitive resolution in Texas Monthly. The key point Postrel makes--which Sullivan ignores at his peril, if he thinks reducing the theological sway of fundamentalism is the key to winning red-state approval of gay marriage--is this:

[M]ost Planoites are not ...[snip] "wildly exercised about sodomy." These solidly conservative, mostly Christian families are not about to launch a pogrom against their gay neighbors. "I have yet to know somebody on finding out that an educator or volunteer was gay in to say, 'Oh, gosh, I can't have them working with my child,'" Kelly Hunter says. "I have known them to say that about the mom who drinks before she goes some place." By the standards of twenty years ago, and certainly by those of Peoria, Planoites are positively accepting.

[snip]

Plano residents aren't "wildly exercised about sodomy," notes a gay friend who last year moved from Dallas to Los Angeles, "but most anti-gay people aren't. They are wildly concerned with making sure their kids never hear the word 'sodomy'; never ask, 'Mommy, what's a drag queen?'; and never have to deal with anything even remotely related to sex. ...[snip]"

He exaggerates, of course. But Plano parents want to determine when and where they talk to their kids about sex, and they assume that explaining that some men fall in love with other men is "about sex."

"We don't have control over a whole lot in the world, but hopefully the education of our children is part of it," Hunter says.

Even in a highly Republican town like Plano, in other words, the religious objection to gay marriage isn't the crucial objection. Fear that moral entropy will envelop your family's children is the crucial objection. I don't see how that fear is addressed theologically. I would think it has to be addressed practically, over time, by repeat demonstration . But time is one thing a rights-oriented, judicial route to gay marriage doesn't allow. ... 1:13 A.M. link

Influence Peddler seesten House seats moving into Republican areas (from the Democratic Northeast, and from Iowa) after the 2010 census--for a potential net change of 20.** ... Doesn't that assume: a) the districts added in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Utah will invariably be Republican (your bailiwick, Barone); and b) "Republican" will mean the same thing in 2012 that it means today. ... Update: IP says he's talking about 10 new reliably Republican electoral votes for presidential purposes, not necessarily 10 Republican House seats. ...

**--Pelosi currently has a majority of  31. ... 12:33 A.M. link

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our idea doesn't work! Let's do it! According to Tamar Jacoby, the recent arrest of 1,300 suspected illegal workers at six Swift & Co. meat processing plants demonstrates the need for 'comprehensive immigration reform.' I don't understand:

1) "Comprehensive" reform is supposed to be a deal in which amnesty for current illegals (and a guest worker program) is coupled with a tougher workplace enforcement program to block future illegals.  Sounds good, but the last such "comprehensive" reform--the1986 amnesty--failed miserably when its workplace enforcement program turned out to be ineffective at stopping employers from hiring illegals.  The idea behind the current Bush proposal is that this time workplace enforcement will work. But, as the New York Times notes, Swift & Co. in fact particpated in the

the federal Basic Pilot program, a system of checking Social Security numbers that President Bush has touted as a way to crack down on immigration fraud.

How does it increase our faith in "comprehensive" reform if the sort of "reliable verification system" that President Bush himself touts failed conspicuously to stop so many illegals from getting jobs at Swift that they made up 10% of the company's work force?

2) Jacoby praises Swift for "trying to comply" with workplace enforcement laws. If this is the result that's achieved by a firm "trying to comply," how awful will the results in the future be with firms that are maybe not trying so hard to comply?

3) Jacoby notes that when Swift & Company "tried inquiring" more deeply into the backgrounds of job applicants, it was "sued for discrimination by the Justice Department." Couldn't President Bush--if he cares so much about workplace enforcement--have told the Justice Department to cut it out? If a conservative Republican president won't rule out crying "discrimination" when immigration laws are applied, why do we think a liberal Democratic administration will? And even if the government doesn't sue to block effective inquiries into illegal status, won't the ACLU and other "civil rights" groups? The ACLU just sued a Dallas suburb that passed a law against renting to illegals. Hispanic activists, including big groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) protested the Swift raids themselves.

"This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up," Democratic Party activist Carla Vela said. "Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?" [E.A.] **

Hmm. If enforcing immigration laws at the workplace before the passage of "comprehensive" immigration reform reminds Hispanic activists of Hitler, won't enforcing immigration laws at the workplace after the passage of comprehensive reform still remind them of Hitler?*** In both cases it will presumably be mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants who are caught in the net. Jacoby allows that the Swift raids "could be justified in the context of an immigration overhaul of the kind proposed by the president." But the reaction of Hispanic activists suggests they will continue to fight in the courts and legislatures to make sure that the enforcement mechanisms on which the immigration bill relies are as ineffective as possible.

None of this makes Bush's proposed amnesty-for-enforcement deal more credible. It makes it seem likelier that, as in 1986, the amnesty part will work but the enforcement part won't. Which may or may not be the real idea behind "comprehensive" reform.

P.S.: After the raids, the line of applicants at the Swift & Co. office in Colorado for the now-vacant jobs--jobs that, according to Jacoby, legal immigrants and Americans won't do-- stretched out the door.

P.P.S.: Kausfiles--Solution-Oriented! Why doesn't Congress simply pass a moderate increase in the unskilled legal immigrant quota from Mexico (and other Latin American countries) while an effective enforcement system**** is devised and tested. No amnesty, no guest-worker program. Then, once we know we have an enforcement scheme that actually works--and won't be crippled by lawsuits--Congress could revisit a "comprehensive" legislation that includes amnesty.

**--How come she gets to violate the Hitler Rule with impunity? No fair. ...

***--For example, according to the NYTeven the "comprehensive" legislation expected to be proposed in the Senate would deny amnesty to immigrants who "arrived after a certain date, perhaps 2004 ... ." But would it let the feds actually enforce the law against them? They'll be mostly Hispanics. It will look bad!

****--Including, I'd argue, the border fence Congress authorized last year. ... [Some links via The Corner] 12:59 A.M. link

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mo' bama: The kf enthusiasts commenting over at MatthewYglesias.com have a point, in that last week's skeptical Obama item  conflated two issues:

1) Has Obama grappled seriously and smartly with the big questions of the day; and

2) Has he, in the course of this grappling, told Dems something they don't want to hear, or demonstrated independence from Dem interest groups that enforce the party's line in unfortunate ways (e.g., teachers' unions impeding education reform, seniors unwilling to accept any Social Security cuts, populists who pretend bargaining-down drug prices will largely solve the problem of health-care costs, etc.).

You'd hope that even Dems who don't agree with the DLC-ish sentiments behind #2 would insist on #1. But, yes, Obama could do #1 without #2.

Has he done that? A few weeks ago, Obsidian Wings catalogued Obama's "wonky" efforts.** He's against loose nukes, avian flu and unregulated genetic testing! That's impressive, but follows a standard good-Senator's path of picking off a chewable, discrete problem and pushing a rifle-shot, programmatic solution (typically involving creation of a small new federal office to control nukes, prepare for avian flu, or establish gene-testing standards, etc.). It's not the same thing as confronting deeper, bigger, less easily addressed problems: How to structure the health care system, how to pay for entitlements, how to confront the terror threat, the rise of China, the problems of trade and immigration, the increase in income inequality at the top.

Josh Gerstein of the N.Y. Sun makes a better case: Obama listens to Samantha Power and Susan Rice on human rights, Gerstein reports. He wants to talk to Iran, he discounts the Chinese military threat but surprisingly, for an early  Iraq war opponent, he has said he'd favor "launching some missile strikes into Iran" if that was the only way to stop "having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons." (Does Iowa know this?) He's unpredictable as well on trade. What's less clear is whether that unpredictability reflects a developed world-view or ad-hockery that's fine in a Senator but in a president, not so much.

More talk on these issues, please. And no fair "transcending" them!

Unpredictablity of any sort is a plus when it comes to #2, of course. But so far Obama isn't close to meeting the Joe Klein Piss-Someone-Off Test, despite the efforts of his press boosters to claim he has. Tom Maguire points toa comical attempt by the New York Times, where a mini-profile by Jefff Zeleny declared:

He has demonstrated an occasional willingness to break from liberal orthodoxy, including his vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, which at the time infuriated liberals (13 Democrats opposed her).

Wow! As Maguire notes: "So Obama boldly stood with a mere 86 fellow Senators .... "  P.S.: What's the word for trumped-up contrarianism? Sister Fauxjah? ...

**--Thanks to commenter "Trevor" on bloggingheadsfor the link. 2:08 P.M. link

Sunday, December 24, 2006

On to New Hampshire! The mighty Hillary juggernaut closes its vise-like grip on the post of Senate Majority Leader. A Concord Monitor poll shows the same weakness as last week's survey from Iowa. RCP summarizes:

Just like in Iowa, Hillary loses to Rudy and McCain but beats Romney. And just like in Iowa, Obama beats them all. Edwards doesn't run as strong in New Hampshire as in Iowa - no surprise there - but he still manages a dead heat against McCain and Giuliani and handily beats Romney. So even though Hillary is clinging to a lead at the top of the field, she's once again giving off the "unelectable" vibe in comparison to her two most serious primary challengers. [E.A.]

P.S.: In light of these poll results, doesn't Dick Morris' theory--that if Obama now doesn't run he'll have done Hillary a favor by clearing the field--have a couple of holes: 1) Obama hasn't cleared Edwards out; and 2) If Obama decides not to run early next year, and Hillary's still this weak, there will be plenty of time for new challengers to jump in. ... P.P.S.: Why does Massachusetts' governor Mitt Romney do so poorly in 'neighboring New Hampshire'? 12:32 P.M. link

Hollywood Hates Obama? Juan Williams on Fox:

The question now is does Obama have any hope of raising money? I don't think he'll raise it out of the New York people, I don't think he's going to raise it out the Hollywood people, so where's the money going to come from for Barack Obama? [E.A.]

That's right, a charismatic black Iraq war opponent has  no appeal  out here! As always, the entertainment community demands more policy details! ... P.S.: Hello? Juan? You're making Lawrence O'Donnell  look like Edgar Cayce! "Hollywood people" will obviously swoon for Obama at least as easily as any other Democratic constituency. ... P.P.S.: Remember when Joe Lieberman was briefly said to be through, after his primary loss, because he wasn't going to be able to raise money? 12:53 A.M. link

kf's First Law of Journalism, Rigorously Applied: If, as Lawrence Kudlow claims, "the Fed has vanquished inflation," why do all the fancy restaurants that used  to cost $75 for two now routinely top $100? When the rich-who-are-getting-richer bid up prices, doesn't that count? Just asking. ...  P.S.: The food I've gotten for $100 seemed to taste better than the old $75 food. Maybe the statisticians take that into account. ... Update: Alert reader G.J. suggests fancy restaurants are simply victims of Baumol's Disease--they're a labor intensive business that's seen few gains in productivity. But in the rest of the economy productivity improvements could still be driving down prices. Good point. ...  12:15 A.M. link

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Clintonoia Breakdown: Isn't Samuel "Sandy" Berger's explanation for why he snuck classified documents out of the National Archives entirely plausible? Haven't you ever been in a library, reading non-circulating material in an uncomfortable chair under harsh lighting--all the while thinking you could just make sense of it if you could take it home and review it in more familiar surroundings? I faced this dilemma quite frequently at college and law school, and on more than one occasion my reaction was to stuff the papers in my backpack and smuggle them back to my dorm.**  You never did that?  ...

Sure, the Inspector General's report on Berger's misconduct--obtained and released by Pajamas Media--raises lots of potential questions, some of which are listed by the Pajamas editors here  and the Powerliners here. And I yield to noone when it comes to paranoia about possible extralegal skullduggery in the Clinton administration! Well, I yield to only a few. (My bona fides.)  It could be Berger was trying to destroy all copies of an early 2000 email that said "Al Qaeda, al Schmaeda. What could they ever do to us?"  But if you read through the IG report in a non-paranoid mood and look for facts that are at odds with Berger's plausible 'I-wanted-to-sort-out-this-stuff-at-home explanation,' you won't find much.

I did notice one jarring fact: When Berger is given a second copy of an email he's already taken home--#217--he takes that copy home too. That makes it look like he wanted to remove all copies of #217. But it's also consistent with the familiar last-minute-crammer's habit of wanting to make sure you've scooped up every little bit of material to study during the impending all-nighter. As long as you're stealing stuff, you might as well be comprehensive. Maybe Berger (as he apparently claims) wasn't certain the two copies of #217 were identical.

Meanwhile, in Berger's defense, we learn from the report that he read the documents in an office with an archives employee who was doing his own work, and whom Berger was reluctant to bother. Sounds like exactly the sort of arrangement that would stop me from getting any productive thinking done. Bad Feng Shui! Couple that with a)  the requirement that Berger couldn't even remove his own notes from this room and b) Berger's almost certain knowledge that many of the documents subject to these maddening regulations probably shouldn't really be classified in the first place, and you might easily conclude that the IG report does more to back up than to cast doubt on Berger's non-sinister explanation.

**--Admittedly, I didn't then cut them up and put them in the trash. But then, unlike Berger, I wasn't caught before I returned them. 10:51 P.M. link

D____ Cab for Cutie: The car that most impressed me, during my recent Gearbox phase, was the Scion Xb, which only recently went out of production. Perfectly-sized for the city, inexpensive, reliable, handles well, holds a lot, leaves a light footprint on the planet.  But jeez, before you buy one, take a look at this picture. Grim! [via Autoblog] 5:33 P.M. link

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thanks, Iowa? Hillary's big Iowa problem. She's running a strong fourth with 10%! ... P.S.: She can't blame lack of "name recognition." [Time for the contest to write her withdrawal speech?--ed We wouldn't want somebody else to steal that gimmick! But there's one way to guarantee that she won't need a withdrawal speech--if she decides not to risk a run that might end in humiliating primary defeat. She doesn't seem like the type who'd handle that well.] ... Caveat: Hillary can always note that Iowa Democratic voters are proven fools. ...  3:28 P.M.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Obama-- He's no Gary Hart! ... 1:08 A.M

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is that a photo  of Rick Stengel or the Madame Tussauds installation of Rick Stengel?  12:35 A.M.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Obama Problem: After reading up a bit on Barack Obama for a temporarily-aborted bloggingheads segment, my tentative working thesis is this: He's too damn reflective! And introspective. ... Maybe it's the writers, or the questions they ask, or the audience they think  they're writing for, but all the drama in the stories about Obama  comes from his "emotional wrestling match with his background,"  his overcoming of his "angry sense of racial displacement," his wrenching assessments and reassessments of how to live in "a world that is broken apart by class and race and nationality," etc.

One of those reassessments, according to Obama, came when a friend told him "you always think everything's about you." And he doesn't any more? Obama's favorite complexity still seems to be Obama--it was certainly a subtext of his 2004 convention address. ("We worship an awesome God in the blue states"). At the end of his early Obama profile, my boss Jacob Weisberg says Obama "would never be so immodest" as to compare himself to Lincoln. But a dozen paragraphs earlier, Obama had done just that:

"That kind of hunger—desperate to win, please, succeed, dominate—I don't know any politician who doesn't have some of that reptilian side to him. But that's not the dominant part of me. On the other hand, I don't know that it was the dominant part of—" his voice suddenly trails off as he motions behind him to a portrait of Lincoln, the self-invented lawyer, writer, and politician from Illinois. "This guy was pretty reflective," he says, offering a sly smile.

I'm a "character" voter, not an "issues" voter. But the way you reveal your character is by grappling with issues, not by grappling with yourself. Anguish is easy. Isn't it time for Obama to start being ostentatiously reflective about policies? That's what you want from a Harvard Law Review type.

And on the issues, what's Obama done that's original or pathbreaking? I don't know the answer. But compare his big speech on immigration reform with failed Dem Senate candidate Brad Carson's article on immigration reform. Carson says things Democrats (and Republicans) haven't been saying; Obama's speech offers an idiosyncratic veneer of  reasonableness over a policy that is utterly party line and conventional, defended with arguments that are party line and conventional.

OK, that's just one example. Maybe I'm an old-fashioned Joe Kleinish Clintonian self-hating Dem. But I'm not swooning until I hear Obama to tell Democrats something they maybe don't want to hear. Did I miss it?  12:21 A.M. link

Monday, December 18, 2006

Shane MacGowan of the Pogues on Kirsty MacColl, who was killed six years ago yesterday, and their song Fairytale of New York, which won a 2004 poll for best Christmas song. [via Gawker] ... My nominee for best Christmas song is something I've only heard once, The Wedding Present's ecstatically noisy version of "Step Into Christmas." ... P.S.: OK, I've now heard it twice. (It's here.) I stand by my position. ... 8:52 P.M.

And Johnson Walks? So Fannie Mae ex-CEO Franklin Raines may have to give back $84 million in bonuses he received from 1998 to 2004, while his predecessor Dem bigshot Jim Johnson--who apparently  got a bigger bonus than Raines did in 1998--doesn't have to give back anything? Hardly seems fair. ... P.S.: Johnson at one point had parlayed his position at the head of the Fannie Mae gravy train into the chairmanship of the Kennedy Center and the otherwise-reputable Brookings Institution. ... Yet even the conservative N.Y. Sun seems to have forgotten that Johnson, who also headed John Kerry's vice-presidential search, is involved in this mess. ... P.P.S.:  Here's my attempt to assess Raines' relative guilt or innocence. ... In any case, if Raines had taken kausfiles' 2004 advice--'give the money back now!'--he'd be better off, no? He could be the Tara Conner of overpaid CEOs! And he'd still have a political future. ... 7:15 P.M.

If Judith Regan lawyer Bert Fields' bite were as fearsome as his bark, wouldn't Susan Estrich own the L.A. Times? Just asking! ... 7:14 P.M.

Y.U.: William Beutler, eerily prescient. ... He claims Time magazine is just preternaturally predictable. [via Surber4:23 P.M.

"I am not in favor of doing that unless it's part of a larger plan," Clinton said. "I am not in favor of sending more troops to continue what our men and women have been told to do with the government of Iraq pulling the rug out from under them when they actually go after some of the bad guys." [E.A.]

Note to WCBS: This does not support the headline "Clinton Opposes U.S. Troop Surge In Iraq." It supports the headline "Clinton Fudges on U.S. Troop Surge in Iraq." On balance, I'd even say it's more supportive than not--any troop surge will clearly be presented as part of a "larger plan," after all. Clinton didn't even say, as Sen. Harry Reid did, that the "plan" has to include "a program to get us out of there ... by this time next year." .... 11:46 P.M.

"Are social conservatives stuck with a pro-golden shower candidate?" Ryan Lizza  goes into the hilarious details of Mitt Romney's not-so-long-ago tolerance of Bay State gay activism. ... What's shaping up, Lizza notes, is a battle between cynical inside-the-Beltway conservative pros who are willing to overlook Romney's "pro-gay, pro-abortion record" because "they need an anti-McCain," and actual outside-the-Beltway social conservative voters who might be horrified by state-sponsored fisting seminars and "Transgender Proms." ... P.S.:  Instead of trying to persuade social conservatives he's been secretly battling for them all along, wouldn't Romney be better off playing the conversion card? 'Nobody knows the evil of golden showers better than someone who ...,' etc., etc.. I would think it would pack a convincing frisson. ... 11:13 A.M.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Breast Cancer Rates Fallas Women Abandon Hormone Replacement Therapy. ... Moral: Don't get your medical advice from The New Yorker. ... 11:29 P.M.

Warner rethink: OK, that's enough time with my children! ... And if the need for family time is not the big reason why Mark Warner dropped out, as  rumor says it wasn't, what made him change his mind? ... Seems like there must be a story here, though maybe not the kind of story that ever comes out (except in novels). ... [via HuffPo via Goddard9:53 P.M.

Mohammed of Iraq the Model is cautiously non-pessimistic about the creation of an anti-Sadr majority coalition in Iraq, but doesn't expect it to move militarily against Sadr. ... Juan Cole, who's been right about Sadr before, argues that any military move will backfire:

The fact is that if provincial elections were held today, the Sadr Movement would sweep to power in all the Shiite provinces (with the possible exception of Najaf itself). It is increasingly the most popular political party among Iraq's Shiite majority. For the US to cut the Sadrists out of power in parliament and then fall on them militarily would just throw Iraq into turmoil. It would increase the popularity of the Sadrists, and ensure that they gain nationalist credentials that will ensconce them for perhaps decades.. ...

Neither thinks al-Maliki will be replaced as prime minister. ... 9:41 P.M.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

First Mark Warner, now Evan Bayh. The solid centrist Dem alternatives to Hillary are dropping out, one by one. Funny how that happens! ... 11:46 P.M.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Malkin and Alterman--Together Again: Lt. Col. Bateman's post on Media Matters ' Altercation--disputing Associated Press in the ongoing controversy over the alleged burning of six Sunnis in Baghdad--seems quite damning.  Eric Boehlert's response--'Hey, I'm not defending the AP on this, just attacking the AP's attackers!'--seems quite weak. And Boehlert, while blasting "unhinged" warbloggers, comes unhinged himself, I think, when in his  original, near interminable article  he writes:

I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that warbloggers want journalists to venture into exceedingly dangerous sections of Iraq because warbloggers want journalists to get killed.

[via Malkin] ... Update: But see ... 4:44 P.M.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fading Reyes? Hmmm. Looks like that big fight over the chairmanship of the House Intelligence committee was a fight over a committee that will soon lose--or at least have to share--a big chunk of its turf. ... It wasn't because of  the quiz, was it? ... 1:20 P.M.

Di Bug Bust: That official police report  on Diana's death appears to be a bust, as far as alleging spying by the Clinton Administration on Republican magnate Ted Forstmann. Byron York:

[T]he Lord Stevens report contains no mention of Forstmann and no description of anyone like him, nor does it have any evidence that anything like the Forstmann scenario took place. [E.A.]

But the U.S. may have caught Diana talking about hairstyles with her friend Lucia Flecha de Lima! (The report speculates they would have been overheard because we were eavesdropping on the Brazilian embassy in D.C.). ...

P.S.--Keeping Hope Alive: I should also note, at the risk of sounding like a raving conspiracist, that the Stevens report doesn't seem to say anything that would rule out a U.S. a bugging of Forstmann that turned up conversations with or about Diana**--though to be consistent with the NSA's account they would have to be "only short references to Princess Diana in contexts unrelated to the allegations" about her death being the result of a conspiracy. It's just that the Stevens report was what was supposed to substantiate the Forstmann angle, and it doesn't. It's not like there is a lot of other evidence for the Forstmann-bug scenario--unless the credibility-challenged Brit papers can produce some. ...

Still! Diana's apparently famous July 14, 1997 statement to the press--

"You're going to get a big surprise, you'll see, you're going to get a big surprise with the next thing I do"

does seem a lot more consistent with future plans  to hook up with a rich U.S. Republican who would run for president  than with plans to marry Dodi Al Fayed--whom, the report says, she hadn't yet met "that summer," doesn't it?

**--From WaPo:

[NSA official Louis] Giles said the NSA would not share the documents with investigators on grounds their disclosure could reveal secret intelligence sources and methods. Nor did Giles reveal whose conversations were being targeted by the NSA.

12:07 P.M. link

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bloggingheads bring sexy back! ... Plus Matt Yglesias does his best Muqtada al-Sadr impression. ... 5:32 P.M.

The Note writes that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is "looking for ways to sharpen his differences with McCain on immigration." That shouldn't be hard! ... Here comes one now. ... 4:58 P.M.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Is it possible those British press reports are completely wrong about the bugging of Ted Forstmann and Diana? (See below.)  Thursday's publication of the official Scotland Yard report on Diana's death should be near-definitive on the issue, since the Brit papers are supposedly merely offering leaks from that report. But, according to today's New York Daily News, Forstmann thought he was bugged:

A source close to Forstmann told the Daily News yesterday that Diana may have been overheard while traveling with Forstmann on his private plane, which Forstmann believed was bugged by the feds to listen in on his rich and powerful friends. [E.A.]

Note that the Washington Post's Source Close to Forstmann--who seems to know things only Forstmann himself would know--only says that "he had heard rumors that someone had planted listening devices in his plane to listen to the princess," not to listen generally to Forstmann's rich and powerful friends. Of course, targetting the princess is exactly what the Feds are busy denying. Which leaves open ... [via Drudge12:44 P.M. 

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Bloggingheads--Bob Wright's videoblog project. Gearbox--Searching for the Semi-Orgasmic Lock-in. Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides!  Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty.  Salon--Survives! kf gloating on hold. Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left.  Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Keller's Calmer Times--Registration required.  NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare!  Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog.  Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna's Huffosphere--Now a whole fleet of hybrid vehicles. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog.  B-Log--Blog of spirituality!  Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Eduwonk--You'll never have to read another mind-numbing education story again. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. John Leo--If you've got political correctness, he's got a column ... [More tk]