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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.]

The New Narrative

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

As a predictable outgrowth of the O’Pollahan “fierce war critics who have always supported the war still support the war” useful idiot-ed, the “even war critics see progress in Iraq” narrative is gaining steam. The fact that most of the cherry-picked individuals either aren’t war critics or don’t see substantial progress in Iraq will be beside the point.

As Of Now, It’s Romney

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

What I took to be the banal claim that Mitt Romney is the Republican frontrunner generated a lot of dissension in comments recently. But while this is fairly trivial in itself, it accurately reflects the underlying dynamic. McCain is obviously DOA. (And while Kerry’s win may tempt some to think that it’s possible to come back from the dead, in addition to the fact that it’s the exception that proves the rule I would note that there was no faction of the Democratic Party who hated John Kerry. Kerry’s comeback was predicated on him being vaguely acceptable to most Democrats after Dean imploded.) The argument for Giuliani seems to be that authoritarianism and militarism are far more important to the GOP base than anything else. The problem here, however is that 1)among GOP primary voters I think that’s actually quite questionable, and 2)Romney can also give them authoritarianism and militarism without being pro-choice. I think Romney is also a better campaigner. At any rate, social reactionaries are very powerful within the GOP primary, and they’re just not going to accept a social liberal. If a pro-choice Republican won, this would be particularly devastating, particularly given the shallow commitment of the GOP pro-business elite to these issues. If Giulani is the alternative, Romney’s Mormonism won’t be a major factor (except that it makes his conversion to social conservatism more credible.)

So I repeat that while Thompson might beat Romney, those are the only two serious candidates. Giuliani’s national poll numbers don’t mean much more than Leiberman’s lead in the last cycle.

I Predicted This! (OK, in 2002, but still…)

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

I suppose the fact that the Mariners are, for one fleeting moment, are first in the AL wildcard race. As Dave Cameron implies, the key win being driven by Ibanez, Vidro and Guillen is sort of winning the battle and losing the war, but what the hell. I still think the division is the only real possibility; the Mariners are over their heads, but I also, stubbornly, remain manifestly unimpressed by the Angels. The real upshot of the Indians’ and Tigers’ recent runs of suckitude is that the Yankees are now a mortal lock to make the postseason…

On Subways

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

Eric Martin makes a good point here. Given the poor level of funding, mass transit in the United States involves tradeoffs, and given these tradeoffs New York’s is plainly better than the alternatives. D.C.’s subway is cleaner, but its coverage is more limited and is shuts down early. New York’s wider coverage and (more importantly) 24/7 operation makes it very much preferable. Having to pay for cabs if you stay out much after midnight is a pain in the ass. (The El in Chicago is 24/7 too, right?) Having said that, Paris — which combines NYC coverage and times of operation with D.C. cleanliness — is on a whole other level.

Although, of course, it would be nice if large parts of New York’s system didn’t shut down for nearly a day because of a rainstorm. (And, to be parochial, can someone explain why the G train has been effectively eliminated as a useful alternative at precisely the same time that western Queens and Brooklyn are producing an ever-expanding variety of economical alternatives for conviviality? Does the V train accomplish anything you couldn’t do about as well by restoring the fully restoring G train service and having the F stop at Queens Plaza? I don’t get it.)

The New Aesthetic Stalinism

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

A good summary from Reed and Edroso. (The “liberal” Fletch versus the “conservative” Animal House remains my favorite.)

I see that Fox, knowing where to find Republicans with no taste but not when to stop throwing good money after bad, has started to advertise the 1/2 Hour News Hour on Al-Yankeezera. The thing is, even the ads (which presumably try to cherry pick the best material) aren’t nearly as funny as the endlessly repeated ad where some company tries to sell some kind of hair paint because, hey, why would Gary Busey’s hairstylist try to sell you a shitty product? (“I’m Giuseppe Franco!”) 1/2 Hour is so bad it’s not even capable of being unintentionally funny.

"If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Benjamin Wittes urges Alberto Gonzales to resign “to make possible a serious discussion of the future of FISA.” I think — at least in a fantasy world in which Congressional Democrats didn’t live in a permanent fetal-position defensive crouch on foreign policy and civil liberties issue — something like the opposite is true. As awful as his ongoing presence in office is in every other respect, Gonzales is serving a salutary purpose: a reminder that arbitrary executive power cannot be limited to wise, virtuous, and self-abnegating leaders but will sometimes be in the hands of people like Alberto Gonzales and George Bush. If you don’t want to give Gonzales de facto unlimited powers to engage in warrantless surveillance of any communication allegedly involving one individual outside the United States, then you shouldn’t give it to anybody. To respond that grants of arbitrary power would work more effectively with better people in office is no response at all unless a way of inserting a “only when there’s an administration we like” proviso, and certainly the United States Constitution is not based on the premise that the executive does its best work when exempted from any scrutiny from other institutions. Indeed, this of course goes beyond Gonzales — I wouldn’t want a Clinton or Obama administration to have these powers earlier.

Having said that, it’s not clear exactly what harm Gonzales is doing to Wittes’s objectives, given that (as he concedes) the Dems gave Bush everything they wanted anyway. You would have to be extraordinarily optimistic to think that the legislation will improve (from an anti-arbitrary power perspective) after it sunsets during a presidential election year.

Dahlia Lithwick has more.

756, Hold the Asterisk

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Yglesias proclaims all-time HR leader Barry Bonds “the greatest offensive player in the history of baseball.” I don’t actually think that this is true. Ruth and Williams, as you can see, have decisively higher EQAs, and I think any good offensive metric will show the same thing. You can still make a case for Bonds — because of Ruth’s first career as a pitcher and Williams’s military service, Bonds has a longer career, and his 02-04 peak is almost certainly the highest level of offensive performance ever reached. But overall, I still have to rank Bonds slightly below Ruth and Williams as a hitter. (Bonds was certainly a better all-around player than Williams, and clearly remains behind Ruth, given that the latter was at least comparable offersively and also a great pitcher.)

Of course, the other case for Bonds is that because it’s harder to dominate modern baseball than baseball in the 20s or 40s he should be moved ahead. I can’t argue with that; at some level, these discussions rest on unfalsifiable assumptions about the quality of play. But in terms of dominance of their era, I would still rank Bonds slightly behind Ruth and Williams.

Only 100?

[ 0 ] August 7, 2007 |

Otherwise, this is clearly the greatest list in the noble history of list-making. [Via Ze Editors.]


[ 0 ] August 7, 2007 |

Even without the picture, I think the title alone would justify a link

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