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[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Shorter Treason-In-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee: Those idiots in the MSM can’t even fact-check transparently obvious one-liners to establish their empirical validity! How can anybody take anything they say seriously? LOL!

Next week: Beauchamp writes that Iraq in the summer is “hotter than a blast furnace.” TIDOSY conducts an extensive investigation and finds, in fact, that a blast furnace is hotter than Iraq, further embarassing the illiterate editors at TNR.

. . . addendum from d: Bob Owens’ update is a true classic in the genre:

The first experience most of us had with Beauchamp was with his last article first, and his allegation that he verbally assaulted a burn victim. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch from abuser of the burned to robber of the dead, so I took his comments at face value as a real claim.

I completely understand. My first experience with Bob Owens was when he claimed that Google was deliberately pushing “Baby Jesus Buttplugs” on Christmas. From there, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to conclude that he’s an idiot.

50%+1 < 60%

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

One of the key grafs from the Atlantic article about Rove is this one, which contains the explanation for why Rove’s ambitions to create a McKinley-like realignment were always doomed (leaving aside Mayhew’s entirely correct point that realignments are longer-term and more complex processes than are usually assumed):

One of the big what-ifs of his presidency is how things might have turned out had he stuck with it (education remains the one element of Rove’s realignment project that was successfully enacted). What did become clear is that Rove’s tendency, like Bush’s, is always to choose the most ambitious option in a list and then pursue it by the most aggressive means possible—an approach that generally works better in campaigns than in governing. Instead of modest bipartisanship, the administration’s preferred style of governing became something much closer to the way Rove runs campaigns: Steamroll the opposition whenever possible, and reach across the aisle only in the rare cases, like No Child Left Behind, when it is absolutely necessary. The large tax cut that Bush pursued and won on an almost party-line vote just afterward is a model of this confrontational style. Its limitations would become apparent.

It should be noted that, for the first term, the “50%+1″strategy was, in fact a very effective governing tool. Bush was very successful at getting his agenda through Congress despite his narrow “victory” precisely because he ignored vacuous invocations of “mandates” and realized that your power in domestic policy is about how many votes you can get in Congress, and simply getting the minimum necessary coalition allowed for the maximum policy gains. But this strategy is entirely incompatible with a long-term realignment, which requires adding allies rather than simply paying off existing ones. Social Security, among some other New Deal policies, worked for FDR precisely because they created the large coalition of supporters (although this meant not getting some things he wanted and making some horrible compromises with Southern Democrats.) And because of this existing constituency, privatizing social Security was never going to be broadly popular or an effective coalition-building device. Seeking the minimum possible winning coalition is never going to be compatible with engineering a major realignment, and Bush’s historically narrow victory as a wartime president with a decent economy makes clear. And even worse for Rove, 50%+1 becomes a lot less effective as the President becomes less popular, and hopeless on domestic policy when you’ve lost Congress.

The Big "L"

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Marcy Wheeler lays out some theories for why Rove is leaving. I don’t want to discount the possibility that he’s resigning before scandal brings him down, but I suspect the “he’s a loser” variable in quite important. His reputation as a political genius has always been spectacularly overblown. (And it’s not just 2006; his win in 2004 was exceptionally unimpressive for a wartime president with a decent economy against a candidate nobody regards as particularly strong.) After 2006 and Social Security, however, the jig is up. I think the potential scandals wouldn’t weaken him much if he still had his unmerited reputation as a mastermind, but with that having evaporated everything else is enough to push him out. (More on this when I have a chance to read the Atlantic article.)

Thompson Out!

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Well, OK, it was Tommy.

I have a strange fascination with utter no-hope races for the presidency. This one, actually, seems somewhat explicable to me; Thompson used to be discussed as a potential nominee, and he probably thought of himself as one, so why not make the electorate tell you “no.” “Unintentional comic relief” was probably not how he wanted his career to end, though.

One of the most inexplicable runs was Orrin Hatch’s late entry in 2000. His platform, if I recall correctly, was pretty much “I agree pretty much entirely with George Bush and think he’s great, but I chiared the judiciary committee.” Oh.

Color Me Unimpressed

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

I was informed that the Yankees would quickly start losing as soon as they encountered the formidable Tribe, and I certainly wanted this to be true. Admittedly, such arguments would be more convincing had they, say, identified any aspect in which the Indians were better than the Yankees (the 2007 Indians, I mean; I’ll concede that the Yankees have a worse rotation than the 1954 Indians, although I’m not really persuaded that this is a relevant criterion.) I suppose some would say defense, but you would be incorrect. In fairness, however, the Indians have established unquestioned supremacy in the field of “getting picked off first base with the bases loaded.”
On to the wildcard!

Heartbreaking Ineptitude

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

The foreign policy stylings of George W. Bush:

But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.

The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.

In other words, the administration diverted resources from a country that it had the responsibility to build, and let a genuine threat to American security regroup and regain effective power in large parts of the country, in order to invade a country that posed no security threat whatsoever to the United States. Brilliant! Which leads us to another edition of What Hilzoy Said:

I remember hearing those speeches and thinking: oh, thank God. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, I was giving Bush the benefit of the doubt — I hadn’t thought much of him before, but 9/11 did seem to have concentrated his attention, and it truly seemed as though he had changed. (As indeed he had; just not in ways anyone anticipated.) I had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and I heard those words — Marshall Plan, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, we will not abandon Afghanistan — and thinking: we are really going to do something wonderful.

I think that some of the most inspiring moments in international relations are when serious, long-festering problems are actually decisively solved. When South Africa’s apartheid government handed over power peacefully to the ANC, for instance: South Africa still has enormous problems, but the ghastly ever-present nightmare of apartheid had actually gone away. When the conflict in Northern Ireland is finally laid to rest, it will be the same sort of glorious moment. Some problems aren’t solved all at once; still, you can see points at which things turn slightly from despair towards hope, and then, if you’re lucky, a point at which the process of transforming some problem that has haunted the world for what seems like forever into history starts to look irreversible.

Afghanistan had been one of those problems for decades. We weren’t in a position to do much about it earlier — naively, I believed that you don’t just go around invading countries out of the blue, ha ha ha — but suddenly we actually had a really good reason to invade, and there we were, the Taliban was in flight, the people seemed overjoyed, and I thought: dear God, we are actually going to do try to right by Afghanistan, whose people have suffered so much for so long. And back in that era of lost hopes, what gave me real confidence that we would do our best to actually help Afghanistan to transform itself from a failed state into a normal, functioning society was that for once, making a serious effort to do this wasn’t just a wild aspiration. It was feasible, it was the right thing to do, but most importantly, as far as its actually happening was concerned, it was clearly, obviously, overwhelmingly in our interest.

It still breaks my heart just thinking about it. Read the whole article and weep.

It’s infuriating because it’s true.

Who Says The U.S. Is Losing Its Influence?

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

Hey, Robert Mugabe likes the American move towards arbitrary executive power just fine!

The Invisible Women

[ 0 ] August 11, 2007 |

See Lauren and Jane Hamsher. Obviously, it’s a tough line to walk when you try to discuss the legitimate issue of the underrepresentation of women in the blogopshere without slighting the women who are there, but it seems to me that Goodman crossed the line into slighting. In particular, I think Lauren’s suggestion that “I suggest people venture out of their blogly cul-de-sacs and read some of the political blogs out there that don’t exclusively deal with electioneering” has considerable merit. But even among the more electoral politics-focused blogs, I definitely think that Jane and Christy and Joan McCarter (and the other Kos frontpagers) get overlooked in these kinds of meta-discussions.

…Commenters are right that, although she doesn’t strictly fit in the “electioneering” category, I shouldn’t have neglected the incomparable Digby.

Memo To The Indians

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Prove me wrong!

There seems to be some dissension about my claim that the Yankees will win the wildcard. And while “mortal lock” is obviously hyperbolic (if the Mariners can have a better record for 110 games the Indians are certainly capable of having a better record for 50) I think it’s obvious that the Yankees deserve to be heavy, heavy favorites. A few points:

  • As you can see, in terms of offense and defense the Yankees have clearly been the second best team in the league this year. Indeed, in terms of run differential they’ve been basically even with the Red Sox, although once you adjust for strength of schedule and other kinds of luck the Yankees are worse: they should be about 67-47 while the BoSox should be 72-42. The Indians, on the other hand, should be 62-53 and the Tigers 60-54. This isn’t surprising, since the Yankees clearly have the best offense in the league (and the gap between them and the Tigers is more likely to widen than narrow), and at least decent pitching. The Indians could be better than they’ve been, but this largely depends on Hafner, who isn’t even going to play this weekend.
  • Several people have pointed out that the Yankees don’t have a “solid” rotation, but by the definition people are using (which seems to involve having five above-average starters) nobody does (even, for most of the year, Boston.) Moreover, the biggest weakness in the rotation (Igawa) is unlikely to pitch a meaningful inning again this year. And certainly, the Indians don’t. I like Sabathia and Carmona more than Wang and Pettite, but it’s hardly a mismatch in terms of established ability, and you’d obviously rather have Mussina/Clemens/Hughes than Byrd/Westbrook/Lemon #5 starter. Even if you give a slight edge to Cleveland, there’s no way in hell it makes up for the much better offense in the Bronx. And then the Yankees have the best closer of all time recovering from a bad start to post 18 straight saves with a K/W of 50/5, while the Tribe have proof that almost any stiff can get 30 saves in the right context (and ditto the Tigers, although they might be getting setup help.) I don’t see any basis for claiming that Cleveland is better than the Yankees, and the fact that the Tigers are underachieving gives the Yanks two cracks at the playoffs. The odds are overwhelming that they’ll beat one of these teams.
  • The Mariners, as you can also see, have been pretty much a stone fluke; their expected record is under .500. I still think they have an outside shot at the division because the Angels also aren’t as good as their record, and the Mariners have the chance to improve somewhat if Jones can force the way into the lineup, Weaver gets his ERA to within at least a run of a major league pitcher, etc. But it’s pretty obvious that they’re not nearly as good as the Yankees.

Anyway, the Yankees are clearly the best team in the AL except the Red Sox, and one of the other three can get lucky and beat them and they can still make it. They’re going to the playoffs.

…I would also take the Mariners more seriously if they weren’t being run by abject morons.

The Pollack Evasion Strategy

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

A classic example [via MY] of foreign-policy-writer-who-would-be-wholly-discredited-in-any-rational-universe Kenneth Pollack expressing optimism about Iraq by carefully evading the substantive issue:

Do you find the electric power is on more continuously?

We found there had been a real shift from trying to repair and defend the national power grid, which was extremely difficult to do. There now is a shift away from that toward helping the Iraqis essentially get their own local generators and bring local businesses and houses into those local generators.

Now, you’ll note what Pollack doesn’t do: actually address the question directly. Rather, he talks about the change in strategy rather than characterizing the substantive effects of the strategy, presumably because the power isn’t on noticeably more continuously. And call me crazy, but I suspect that industrialized nations generally have national power grids rather than local generators because the latter can’t generate sufficient electricity to run a modern economy.

At any rate, the key here is that Pollack is trying to put an optimistic spin on the fact that we have now essentially given up on protecting Iraq’s national power grid, with obvious devastating consequences for building a stable state and economy. This is not an analyst trying to give a sober, clear-eyed assessment of the situation in Iraq, but someone desperately trying to gin up a potential pony farm to salvage his reputation. For this reason, his subjective judgments cannot be trusted at all. (And the possibility that he could have influence in a Clinton administration is sufficient reason for me to oppose her in the primaries.)

Reverse Midas Touch

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Indeed. It really doesn’t seem to have dawned on the administration that explicit American support may not actually help more liberal factions in countries with strong anti-American sentiments, although the point seems to trite as to barely be worth pointing out.

Rudy Giuliani: Utter Fraud

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

An absolute must-read article by Wayne Barrett in — I swear it, I guess for a week they decided to get away from the escort-ads-plus-Nat-Hentoff-and-Michael-Musto format they’ve been essaying for the past year — the Village Voice systematically destroying the myth of Rudy Giuliani, Terrorism Fighter (TM).

Barrett addresses several different categories of dishonesty: for example, he disposes of Giulani’s attempts to evade responsibility for the idiotic decision to put the emergency command center directly next to the city’s most obvious terrorist target, and points out in response to Giuliani’s attempts to blame the EPA for the exposure of many people to toxic air in the wake of 9/11 that “[t]he city had its own test results, of course, and when 17 of 87 outdoor tests showed hazardous levels of asbestos up to seven blocks away, they decided not to make the results public.” But perhaps most relevant to his presidential campaign os Barrett’s exposure if Giuliani’s completely inept preparation for a potential terrorist attack, which resulted in a substantial number of preventable deaths:

‘I don’t think there was anyplace in the country, including the federal government, that was as well prepared for that attack as New York City was in 2001.’ This assertion flies in the face of all three studies of the city’s response—the 9/11 Commission, the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), and McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm hired by the Bloomberg administration.


Instead of being the best-prepared city, New York’s lack of unified command, as well as the breakdown of communications between the police and fire departments, fell far short of the efforts at the Pentagon that day, as later established by the 9/11 Commission and NIST reports. When the 280,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters recently released a powerful video assailing Giuliani for sticking firefighters with the same radios that “we knew didn’t work” in the 1993 attack, the presidential campaign attacked the union. “This is an organization that supported John Kerry for president in 2004,” Giuliani aide Tony Carbonetti said. “So it’s no shock that they’re out there going after a credible Republican.” While the IAFF did endorse Kerry, the Uniformed Firefighters of Greater New York, whose president starred in the video, endorsed Bush. Its former president, Tom Von Essen—currently a member of Giuliani Partners—was the fire commissioner on 9/11 precisely because the union had played such a pivotal role in initially electing Giuliani.

The IAFF video reports that 121 firefighters in the north tower didn’t get out because they didn’t hear evacuation orders, rejecting Giuliani’s claim before the 9/11 Commission that the firefighters heard the orders and heroically decided to “stand their ground” and rescue civilians.

On the other hand, he looked good carrying a megaphone after the fact!

[Via The Plank.]

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