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"First you didn’t want me to get the pony, now you want me to take it back, make up your mind!"

[ 0 ] January 14, 2007 |

Via Yglesias, we see that “liberal hawks” (at least as defined as liberals who think that replacing a bad dictatorship that posed no security threat to the United States with an Islamist quasi-state was a great idea) are as capable of being pathetic Bush dead-enders as any conservative. Michael O’Hanlon:

But it would still be counterintuitive for the president’s critics to prevent him from carrying out the very policy they have collectively recommended.

Jeffrey Herf:

Now that Bush wants to send more troops to fight with a different strategy, this chorus of critics rejects the policy. It is irritating and depressing to see the uniformity with which Democrats reject or even fail to recognize the new thinking in the military and the new thinking that is reflected in Bush’s proposals even when at last the President agrees with the criticisms of some of his critics.

This is so childishly obvious I can’t believe it needed to be pointed out even once, but to put it in concise terms:

  • It is entirely possible in both principle and practice for a political leader to switch from one bad policy to another bad policy. Criticizing the first bad policy does not require one to support the second bad policy.
  • In more specific terms, supporting a very large troop presence in 2003 does not logically compel someone to support a relatively minor and temporary troop increase in 2007. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite; the underpinnings of the former argument make quite clear that the latter strategy will not work. It should also be noted that it is a waste of everyone’s time to discuss whether a much larger escalation would work (aside from the fact that it probably wouldn’t), because 1)the necessary troops don’t exist, and 2)Bush isn’t going to support such a thing anyway.

In fairness, Herf does provide us with some comic relief:

If the Democratic party’s national leadership continues in its opposition to the strategy Bush has just announced, and if, against expectations, that strategy is successful, Democrats may look forward to another decade or more of losing Presidential elections.

Absolutely. And what if the movie scripted by Jenny McCarthy had gone on to make more than the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies combined? Boy, would the executives who passed on it look stupid! Clearly, the company that financed it did the right thing.

Seriously, what’s wrong with these people? Somebody needs to convene the remaining “liberal” supporters of the war and explain the concept of sunk costs.

NFL Quick Picks

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

More a pretext for an open thread, but–team I would pick in bold:

Indianapolis (+3 1/2) at Baltimore: Like a Yankees/Dodgers World Series or a Canucks/Maple Leafs Stanley Cup final, a true “the only good result is two plane crashes” bowl, as the result of the two most odious franchise shifts in history face off. For some reason, now that they’ve been written off, I think Manning might have a good playoff game in him.

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-5): I’d like to see the old Stampeder star Jeff Garcia do it one more once, but to use Bill James’s phrase while it’s fun to believe in Cinderella you have to believe in midnight too. Of course, the Saints are a fairy tale in their own way, but with Brees and Bush they’re also really good (for an NFC team.)

Seattle (+9) at Da Bears: Since they get no respect despite being defending conference champions, I’d actually like to go whole hog and pick the Seahawks outright. And you can make a case: Grossman is even less well-positioned to take advantage of the Seahwaks’ temp secondary than Romo, and the Bears have gotten steadily worse. I can’t quite do it with the Bears at home and Alexander considerably less than 100%, but that line is way too steep.

New England at San Diego (-4 1/2): OK, if you had actual money at stake, could you justify betting on world-historical playoff choker Marty Schottenheimer and a rookie QB against Bellichik and Brady? You’d probably be better of wagering that Democrats will sweep the electoral college in the Deep South. And yet, my gut says that Rivers is for real, New England’s win over the Jets was less impressive than the score, and while MS has done a lot of stupid things he’s also had a lot of bad luck; it’s not like he told Byner to fumble. I think this year he may catch a break.

You Know You’re In Trouble When *Peretz* Is The Sane One…

[ 1 ] January 12, 2007 |

Reading about Peter Beinart’s attempt to turn pre-war discourse into a giant pissing contest (via Ezra) reminded me about some gossip from Spencer Ackerman. I–like I suspect most people–had always assumed that the New Republic‘s fatally ridiculous endorsement of Joe Lieberman was a Peretz special all the way. Apparently not:

It’s a common misconception about Marty and Lieberman. Without speaking for Marty, I can tell you that he absolutely did not endorse Lieberman in 2004. This was mostly a Peter decision, as I believe he explained on CNN when the endorsement came out. It’s not for me to say who Marty actually backed, but it definitely wasn’t Lieberman.

Beinart felt so strongly that he went against the publisher to endorse that feeble clown. It’s amazing.

While were engaged in TNR-related snark, I’ve mentioned before the sales of Beinart’s book would not seem to justify a $600,000 advance–as of last week, it had moved fewer than 10,000 copies (and I don’t think this is just second-guessing–it’s not as if outside the pundit class liberal hawkery is a huge market.) But that’s nothing. You know how Lee Siegel inexplicably got a deal for a book about politics and the internet? His recent book Falling Upwards has moved…304 copies. But I’m sure his expanded-to-book-length argument about why people who disagree with you on blogs are just like Mussolini will be much more successful!

Your Straightforward Reading Of The Plain Meaning Of My Words Is Proof Of Your Lack Of Reading Comprehension!

[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

Josh Trevino claims that “[t]here’s little to be done for the reading comprehension of the online left,” and that his bringing up the Boer War was “not to make a policy prescription but to conduct a thought-experiment to demonstrate the insufficiency of the President’s ‘surge.’” Of course, nobody thought that Trevino favored the President’s plan–which is precisely what makes his claim that Bush exists on a “higher moral plane” so transparently idiotic. But is it unfair to claim that Trevino is advocating Boer War-style tactics? As a commenter at TAPPED also notes, obviously not:

  • Trevino, first of all, asks us to ignore not only his argument while the tactics used in the Boer War were “cruel” and that “I endorse cruel things in war–to eschew them is folly” but his subsequent claim that Bush is on a “higher plane ” because he realizes that losing is unacceptable. The only logical reading of the post is that, while he doesn’t endorse Bush’s specific plan, he does support Boer War-style scorched-earth tactics: if we can’t lose, and the deployment of cruelty is the only way to win…there’s only one way this argument can go.
  • And, of course, Trevino is not writing in a vacuum. Previously, he has written the following: “The ability of a society to see through grinding conflicts like the Philippines Insurrection or the Boer War augers well for its future, lest it lose the mere capacity to conquer, and be susceptible to humiliation by any small power with no advantage save mental fortitude. It is indeed difficult to imagine now the methods that transformed the Philippines for us, and South Africa for the British, from bitter foe to steadfast friend being applied in Iraq. Would that they were.” [my emphasis.] So this is at least the second time he’s made the argument that while the U.S. may not use brutal military tactics, it should. Again, it couldn’t be more explicit.
  • And, wait–he’s also written (scroll down to “the road untaken”) that “[c]onceptually, the Algerian-style sealing of Iraqi borders coupled with Boer War-style civilian control measures are workable and even just. [my emphasis]” although “their imposition would mean the implicit repudiation of the very mythos of the war.” Do you see a pattern here? Again, the U.S. probably doesn’t have the fortitude to exterminate all the brutes–but it should.

So the idea that the problem here is a lack of reading comprehension on the part of Trevino’s critics is absurd. At least three times (and who knows how many examples there were be if his primarily online venue still had available archives) he has explictly endorsed the desirability of Boer War style tactics. It is true that he has also said that Bush will be unlikely to use them, but this is beside the point (and, indeed, just makes his support of Bush and initial support of the war incoherent.) The fact that he seems to want to back off from the plain implication of his words isn’t his critics’ problem. If he doesn’t want to be accused of supporting Boer War-style tactics, he should stop saying that he supports them.

The Lowest Plane

[ 0 ] January 11, 2007 |

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The latest effusions of Josh “A Wingnut Leaves the Door Ajar As He Swings A Whip From the Boer War” Trevino, already linked below, are a treasure trove of lunacy. There’s also this:

What was good about the President’s speech? He remains committed to victory. Whether he will achieve it or not is a separate matter; the mere fact that he seeks it sets him on a moral plane above the mass of the American left that thinks defeat a wholly palatable option.

Yes, the fact that the President would really like to win (not that his plan might lead to victory, mind you, but that he thinks some kind of undefined “winning” would be nice) puts him on a “different moral plane” than people impertinent enough to point out that our continuing presence in Iraq is making things worse and therefore ipso facto want America to lose (which is particularly strange when Trevino says that a “desire to win is small consolation without the means to win”–without the McCarthyism, Trevino seems to have the same position on Bush’s plan as the evil, anti-American liberals.) But what makes this risible even for Tacitus is that he delivers this pompous jingoism after explaining that–as part of an invasion of a country that didn’t attack and posed no significant security threat to the United States–our military should put innocent women and children in concentration camps so that men can be indiscriminately slaughtered. Trevino and I are on “different moral planes,” all right.

…Yglesias is rather more astute about how to read the President’s empty banalities about victory:

The point of view from which the hail mary metaphor makes the most sense is if your primary concern is not the interests of the United States of America but the reputation of George W. Bush and other leading architects of war. From that point of view, the difference between initiating and then losing a war at great cost and initiating and then losing a war at even greater cost really is minimal, much like in a football game. From Bush’s point of view, conceding that his Iraq policy has failed is so catastrophic to his ego and reputation that it makes perfect sense to ask other people to bear any burden and pay any price for even the smallest sliver of a hope of even deferring the problem successfully. For the country, though, it doesn’t make sense at all.

Against MLK Revisionism

[ 0 ] January 10, 2007 |

Via Ben, Rick Perlstein performs a valuable service by preempting the inevitable attempts this weekend to claim MLK on behalf of reactionaries who hated him then and still oppose his principles to the maximum extent possible:

Others demurred. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond wrote his constituents, “[W]e are now witnessing the whirlwind sowed years ago when some preachers and teachers began telling people that each man could be his own judge in his own case.” Another, even more prominent conservative said it was just the sort of “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”

That was Ronald Reagan, the governor of California, arguing that King had it coming. King was the man who taught people they could choose which laws they’d break–in his soaring exegesis on St. Thomas Aquinas from that Birmingham jail in 1963: “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. … Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.”

When King was shuttling back and forth to Memphis in support of striking garbage workers, Tennessee Governor Buford Ellington typified the conservative establishment’s understanding of him: He was “training 3,000 people to start riots.” What looks today obviously like transcendent justice looked to conservatives then like anarchy. The conservative response to King–to demonize him in the ’60s and to domesticate him today–has always been essentially the same: It has been about coping with the fear that seekers of justice may overturn what we see as the natural order and still be lionized. But if we manage to forget that, sometimes, doing things that terrify people is the only recourse to injustice, there is no point in having a Martin Luther King Day at all.

Saint Reagan? Kindly Ol’ Strom Thurmond? I’m so disillusioned!

The Purse and the Sword

[ 0 ] January 10, 2007 |

Marty Lederman argues (correctly) that the Constitution plainly gives Congress the formal powers to prevent the senseless escalation of the Iraq conflict. Matt brings up another question: would the courts actually provide a remedy if Bush simply decided to ignore a Congressional enactment preventing the escalation? Unfortunately, history strongly suggests that the courts would defer to the President. The most obvious recent example is Vietnam, when William O. Douglas spent years trying to convince his colleagues that the escalation of the war was illegal. By the early 70s, there were probably several justices who thought this argument was defensible as a legal matter, and certainly a majority of justices were opposed to the war (at least before Harlan and Black were replaced by Nixon appointees.) But Douglas couldn’t even persuade his Brethren to grant cert, and surely one reason for this is that if they had told Nixon to bring back the troops, and he refused, there was nothing the Court could have done. And such strategic deference has an extensive history–as many of you know, in the first case in which the Court struck down an act of Congress, Chief Justice John Marshall carefully structured the decision so that the Court did not issue a writ that Jefferson and Madison certainly would have ignored.

The Supreme Court has not, of course, been uniformly deferential to the executive in wartime–but cases where the courts have acted haven’t involved withdrawing troops in the field. Regrettably, if Bush wanted to defy the will of Congress with respect to his proposed escalation, there is unlikely to be a judicial remedy in the offing. If a Court that had the four last great liberal justices on it refused to act during Vietnam, there’s almost no chance of this happening today.

…Atrios is right, however, that Congress can send an important political message even if it can’t stop Bush from continuing the fiasco.

[Also at TAPPED.]

"When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire."

[ 0 ] January 10, 2007 |

Above: Pajamas Media (#5)

I urge you to read Eric Boehlert’s meticulous decimation of the fake AP scandal, which does a particularly good job of nailing down the evasive goalpost-shifting now going on. My only objection is the title; I don’t think Malkin’s credibility could have died when it was stillborn, and then it was dug up and killed again just to make sure.

Meanwhile, Dennis the Peasant presents XFL Media’s incredible scoop about people giving speeches today having died 5 days ago in the form of a movie script.


[ 0 ] January 9, 2007 |

Running errands and fighting a cold yesterday, I forgot to comment on this Ryan Lizza thumbsucker. But Lizardbreath, Ann Friedman, and Tracy Clark-Flory dismantle the argument with great effectiveness.

Meanwhile, to save me yet another post Jill deals with the idiotic idea of putting BMI stats on report cards. Leaving aside the fact that it seems to rest on the bizarre assumption that people won’t be made aware of the fact that they’re fat, that the BMI is an almost wholly worthless measure, that at a young age even the correlation between body type and health habits is extremely loose (and will result in a particularly high number of false negatives), and that the implicit cost-benefit analysis involved is insane, it’s still a bad idea. Lindsay has more.

Great Moments in the Passive Voice

[ 0 ] January 9, 2007 |

The hapless Joe Klein tries to get himself out of the massive hole he’s dug for himself by claiming that “Just because [dirty, smelly hippies who agree with me for what I assume without a shred of evidence to be the wrong reasons are] right about Iraq, and about this escalation, it doesn’t mean they won’t be blamed by the public if the result of an American withdrawal is lethal chaos in the region and $200 per barrel oil.” Matt has the obvious response, which is that if this happens it will be largely because clowns like Joe Klein focus the blame for the war’s failure on everybody but the people who conceived, executed, and supported it. The other thing to add is that it’s not the Iraq War’s contemporary opponents, but Joe Klein, who insists on wedging everything into the framework of Vietnam. Yes, opposition to the Vietnam War was in many respects even more unpopular than the war itself–but the situations aren’t remotely comparable. There are no urban or campus riots, for example. There’s no reason to think that the same thing will happen. (And as Ana Marie Cox points out, it’s still not clear what Klein is arguing. Does this mean that liberals shouldn’t oppose the war? That only Joe Klein can? That the Weather Undergound shouldn’t provide the keynote speaker for the 2008 Democratic convention? God, this is an asinine argument.)

C’est Au Revoir, Pas Adieu, J’espere

[ 0 ] January 9, 2007 |

A titan departs the liberal blogosphere. What’s worst about it is that it will reduce the amount of blogging on the most pressing issue of the day–NHL hockey–to, er, me alone…

…I should also mention that he did weigh in on the crucial Charlie Watts question before hanging it up. (I also thought it was Mandel who played the solo on “Hand of Fate” for some reason…)

Also: The Detroit Lions Are Terrible, and Carrot Top Isn’t Funny

[ 0 ] January 8, 2007 |

Here’s a surprise:

Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.

The study, by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, also shows that tax rates for middle-income earners edged up in 2004, the most recent year for which data was available, while rates for people at the very top continued to decline.

It’s almost enough to make me lose faith in the intellectual integrity of Glenn Reynolds.