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[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

Amanda says most of what needs to be said about Michael Skube. But this is a pretty amazing punchline:

Not long after I wrote I got a reply: “I didn’t put your name into the piece and haven’t spent any time on your site. So to that extent I’m happy to give you benefit of the doubt …”

This seemed more than a little odd since, as I said, he certainly does use me as an example — along with Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and Kos. So I followed up noting my surprise that he didn’t seem to remember what he’d written in his own opinion column on the very day it appeared and that in any case it cut against his credibility somewhat that he wrote about sites he admits he’d never read.

To which I got this response: “I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples … “

And this is from someone who teaches journalism?

Perhaps I’m naive. But it surprises me a great deal that a professor of journalism freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he’s never read.

Actually, if you look at what he says, it seems Skube’s editor at the Times oped page didn’t think he had enough specific examples in his article decrying our culture of free-wheeling assertion bereft of factual backing. Or perhaps any examples. So the editor came up with a few blogs to mention and Skube signed off. And Skube was happy to sign off on the addition even though he didn’t know anything about them.

For comparison, shorter verbatim Michael Skube: “[s]ometimes argument — a word that elevates blogosphere comment to a level it seldom attains on its own — gains from old-fashioned gumshoe reporting.” Indeed. For instance, one could — to pick an entirely random example — actually read some blogs prior to writing an LA Times thumbsucker about them…

"Curtis LeMay Without the Experience"

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

I think this sums up Rudy pretty well…

Happily Ever After

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

First an update on the stitches (not so happily ever after). They came out today but the gash isn’t closed, so I’m steri-stripped for the next week. Hopefully they will impede my typing less than the stitches.

In happier – and bigger – news, there’s a follow-up to the rare story on rehabilitation through prison that I flagged the other week. I wrote about Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd. He helped her through heroin addiction from prison, where he was serving a life sentence for killing a drug dealer. They fell in love. After he was paroled (because he was, in a surprise turn, rehabilitated), their relationship continued and they were planning to marry.

And marry they have. In a nice change of pace from the country club set, the New York Times Vows column today features a report on their wedding. The cast of “The Wire,” Andrews’ defense attorney, and the prosecutor who put him away were all in attendance.

Sometimes these stories do have a happy ending.

For Crying Out Loud….

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

Setting aside the question of whether or not a “clerisy” exists in economic or environmental policy (although I’ve heard from a lot of people who believe that just such a “clerisy” exists in both foreign and domestic economic policy, and that it plays precisely the same role there that the “foreign policy community” does), what the hell is this supposed to mean:

Still Dan Drezner is very serious and we should be listening to him. He’s been right about so many things, and he’s got the number of that patchouli stinking Greenwald.

Really, what am I supposed to take away from that? Sure, Drezner has been wrong on plenty of things; does it therefore follow that I am never again to read his blog? Or that I can read his blog, but simply ignore the places in which he disagrees with Glenn Greenwald? If I disagree with Glenn (which I’ve certainly done in the past) and agree with Dan, should this be a moment of deep introspection, and cause me to reconsider my whatever political positions I hold? It would seem that the sensible position would be to read both and evaluate the strength of the arguments, which is, I think, what I did here. Now, if I had made an argument from authority while relying on Dan Drezner, I think there would be fair reason to critique, but I defy anyone to argue I was invoking Dan’s authority rather than quoting Dan’s blog post…

Today From the Asylum

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

Shorter Verbatim Michael Ledeen: “Washington diplomats have steadfastly refused to see the Iranian regime for what it is: a relentless enemy that seeks to dominate or destroy us.” Um, I’d have to say it’s not doing much of a job. Although since their public officials are capable of asserting power from beyond the grave, maybe they’re capable of anything!

Just to frighten you a bit, I’ll cite this passage from Supreme Discomfort:

…But then one night in February 2001, Bailey was channel surfing and caught [Clarence] Thomas on C-SPAN givng the keynote Francis Boyer lecture at the American Enterprise Institutes’s annual black tie dinner.


Thomas extolled the work of leading right-wing intellectuals — Gertrude Himmelfarb, Michael Novak, Michael Ledeen — and seemed to remove his judicial robe for the night and take up arms as a conservative movement combatant.

A guy who thinks it’s a serious possibility that Iran could militarily “dominate” the United States isn’t just some crank with a blog on a fourteenth-rate internet media outfit, but is an actual Respected Conservative Intellectual. It tells you all you need to know about the contemporary American conservative movement.

Dipping My Toe…

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

I’ll have a couple of longer comments on the “foreign policy community” scrum later this week, but right now I wanted to highlight this from Drezner, on Greenwald:

During the latest contretemps, Greenwald wrote:

The Number One Rule of the bi-partisan Foreign Policy Community is that America has the right to invade and attack other countries at will because American power is inherently good and our role in the world is to rule it though the use of superior military force. Paying homage to that imperialistic orthodoxy is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to maintaining Good Standing and Seriousness Credentials within the Foreign Policy Community.

Let’s excise some of the adjectives and rephrase the wording a bit:

The number one rule of the bi-partisan foreign policy community is that America can invade and attack other countries when vital American interests are threatened. Paying homage to that orthodoxy is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to maintaining good standing within the foreign policy community.

I suspect that anyone who accepts the concept of a “national interest” in the first place would accept that phrasing. As a paid-up member of the Foreign Policy Community (FPC), I certainly would. And I also suspect that Greenwald would not accept this formulation — it would contradict both his pacifism and his very strange definition of imperialism. Indeed, I’m not entirely sure that Greenwald would accept the concept of “national interest,” period.

First things first, I don’t think that Greenwald is quite right about the “foreign policy community,” because I suspect that members of the community don’t think about such questions in the way that Glenn frames them. As Drezner hints at, experts and scholars in this area don’t really think in terms of the “right to intervene”, or whether US policy is “inherently good”. They sometimes think about the greater good, but they more often think about US interests. It’s also true, as Dan notes, that the people who debate interventions have to accept, at the very minimum, that intervention is a subject worth debate. Pacifists have one answer to this question, and this is why pacifists don’t get invited to the debate. I’m less certain that Dan about what Greenwald thinks about some of these questions, and I’d add that it’s entirely reasonable to question whether there is such a thing as the national interest, while allowing that it’s not surprising that those who think there is a national interest get privileged in debates about maximizing it.

Something else Glenn wrote made me uncomfortable:

Not only, according to this Democratic foreign policy expert, were there “good arguments” for attacking and invading Iraq (a country which neither attacked nor threatened to attack us), there are also now what Cohen calls “good arguments” for starting wars against two more countries (at least) that have also not attacked us (or anyone else for that matter).

Call me crazy, but I think there were good arguments for invading Iraq; they were simply outweighed by a series of much, much more compelling arguments for not invading Iraq. Indeed, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that there were no good arguments for invading Iraq (or Iran, or North Korea); this strikes me as only an argument that a pacifist would make, and Dan’s characterization aside, I really don’t think that Glenn Greenwald is a pacifist. Indeed, the whole point of a critique on the foreign policy community is that, in the case of Iraq and perhaps in a number of other cases, bad arguments have won out over the good. I read Glenn here as saying that there are no legitimate arguments for intervention, which I suspect isn’t quite what he was meaning to say, but I’ll leave it to him to clarify. The “attacked us or anyone else” portion is quite troubling, in my view, because it poses far more questions that it answers. More on that in another post.

Finally, I’m quite troubled by this:

But, more to the point, yes “a foreign-policy clerisy is unjustified, anti-democratic, and pernicious.” Does this point even need to be argued? There isn’t actually an “economic policy clerisy” or an “environmental policy clerisy” or a “housing policy clerisy.” Instead we recognize that, expertise aside, there are people with competing agendas on all of these topics. Some are more honest “experts” than others, but even if we all have the same facts at our disposal we can come to widely different conclusions about what policies should be implemented. This is because we disagree about stuff.

The “foreign policy clerisy” apparently exists to close off public scrutiny of or wider debate about America’s appropriate role in the world, to limit the range of options which are “on or off the table” and which are open to public debate or discussion.

First things first, there is are an economic policy clerisy, an environmental policy clerisy, and a housing policy clerisy; I rely quite strongly on the second, for example, because I can’t be bothered to become up-to-date on the latest global warming science. I rely on experts about health care policy who are far more aware than I of the validity of comparative health care schemes. Indeed, I suspect that for every major policy discussion there are a series of experts who take each others arguments more seriously than they do those of outsiders; part of this is “insiderism” and part of it is the recognition that these people know more about their policy foci than others, and that their knowledge has been vetted in a series of non-trivial ways.

The “foreign policy community” it seems to me, should really be called the “military intervention” community, because they don’t really debate foreign policy. It’s Michael O’Hanlon’s job to think about military policy, not foreign aid or the value of the International Whaling Commission or what not. People who become part of this community tend to have expertise and military affairs, and people who develop such an expertise tend to think that the details of military affairs are relevant and important. I would say that there are two major problems with the “military intervention community”. The first is that its status has been raised by the media and by a set of bad political trends well above what it deserves to be. Whatever their other qualifications, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are poorly suited by training to discuss questions of international law, international organizations, and theories of democratization. Unfortunately, when George W. Bush first raised the idea of invading Iraq, it was the intervention community (already inclined to think about the world in military terms) that was allowed to respond, but this seems to be evocative of a number of problems associated with American political discourse that go well beyond the characteristics of the community itself. The second is that this intervention community did a very poor job in its own right; it failed utterly to sensibly weigh even the practical difficulties of intervention, which is what it should have been qualified to do. Questions of justice are fine and good, but in this case they were pointless, as the practical arguments weighed very, very heavily against the intervention. And here is where I disagree again with Atrios; I’ll detail my views more in the future, but I think that the ineptitude of the Democratic military intervention community has less to do with an intentional effort to forestall debate and create amity than with trends in academia (particularly in political science) in the 1990s that left us with what amounted to a very weak intervention community.

Anyway, this post is already far too long; more thoughts later.

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House of Al-Busaid

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

In 1505, a Portuguese naval expedition established control over the island of Zanzibar, long a trade destination in the Western Indian. Archaeological evidence indicates that the island has been used as a way station since Assyrian times. The first mosque was established in the 12th century. The Portuguese ruled the island for 190 years, until the Sultan of Oman pushed the Portuguese out and took control of Zanzibar. The island continued to be a commercial hub, now servicing mainly the clove and slave trades.

The Al-Busaid dynasty, descended from Yemeni tribal chieftains, achieved power in Oman in 1744. Zanzibar came to occupy an ever more important place in their empire, and in 1840 Said bin Sultan shifted his capital from Muscat to Stone Town. After Said bin Sultan’s death, several of his 36 children struggled over succession to the throne. In April 1861 the realm was divided, with Zanzibar going to the sixth son (Majid Ibn Said), and Oman going to the third.

Zanzibar controlled a fair portion of the close East African coastline, but German and the British slowly cut into this territory. The British in particular took a strong interest in Zanzibar, not only because of the cloves but also the slaves; the British Empire had taken it upon itself to destroy the slave trade. By 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate. A succession crisis in 1896 led to a brief war between the British and the Zanzibari, resulting in British victory and the formal end slavery in Zanzibar.

On December 10, 1963 Zanzibar received formal independence from the United Kingdom. Sultan Sayyid Jamshid bin ‘Abdu’llah became the first independent Sultan of Zanzibar in 73 years. However, his independent reign (he had come to the throne in July 1963) would last only one month. On January 12, 1964, a revolutionary government headed by former bricklayer John Okello deposed the Sultan and established control over the country. Okello, an odd duck in his own right, was shortly thereafter expelled from Zanzibar, and was probably murdered by Idi Amin in 1971. Okello ordered the Sultan to kill himself and his family, but the Sultan had already escaped to Britain. Three months later, Zanzibar would be annexed into Taganyika, the resulting state being called Tanzania. It is believed that roughly 5000 Arabs were killed during the revolution.

Jamshid continues to live in Great Britain, where he has seven children. The Al-Busaid dynasty continues to rule Oman, where the current occupant of the throne is Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Sa’id. Prospects for a return to the throne of Zanzibar appear grim. Oman had indicated neither the interest nor capacity to “take back” Zanzibar from Tanzania, and no apparent pro-monarchy groups exist in either Zanzibar or Tanzania.

Defining "Statesmanship" Downward

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

Cap’n Crunch is quite excited by Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit:

The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam’s former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he’s mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.

Um. Sadly, no.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the purpose of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s old home base) was to convince some tribal notables there to accept ministerial positions in his government. The main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accord Front, is boycotting al-Maliki’s government, and he is therefore desperate to find some Sunnis somewhere who would be willing to join his government. The problem is that although there are prominent Sunni Arab figures in Tikrit, they would not represent anyone but themselves if they joined the government. The Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats in parliament. A seat is 40,000 votes, so the IAF represents 1,760,0000 persons out of Iraq’s 11 million voters. Some son of a tribal sheikh in Tikrit represents no one but himself and maybe some close family members.

That’s some mighty effective statesmanship there. Did I miss the political “benchmark” that recommended gaining inconsequential support from tribal leaders whose memories of the departed regime are somewhat less than bitter?

The other piece of hilarity here is that the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council — one of the four parties that make up al-Maliki’s new (sub-majority) coalition — is almost universally perceived by Sunnis (correctly or not) to be an Iranian proxy, while the militias acting on behalf of the SIIC have participated in the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis throughout the southern provinces. I can’t wait to see how this “spectacular move” draws the Iraqi Accord Front back into the government.

Then again, Iraq’s football squad won the Asia Cup, so anything’s possible!

More on Silverstein To Come

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

The stitches come out tomorrow, at which point I’ll chime in with my two cents on Helena Silverstein’s book, Girls on the Stand, which Scott reviewed for The American Prospect yesterday. While I agree with much of Scott’s review, I think that a lawyer (to be) and a social scientist read Silverstein’s book very differently…

Kick Me Again!

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

The WaPo comes out for arch-reactionary Leslie Southwick. If I understand their criteria, the Senate has an obligation to confirm any nominee smarter and less overtly racist than Harrold Carswell, no matter how little the lily-white 5th Circuit needs another doctrinaire right-wing statist appointed by an exceptionally unpopular lame duck President.

Next year: an editorial expressing shock and outrage that Southwick always casts conservative votes. After all, Dianne Feinstein called him “circumspect,” just like that nice Sam Alito!

Publius has more, taking on the silly argument that the president can consider ideology in judicial appointments but the Senate cannot.

One of Them

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

I’m not going to link to her, but in case anyone is wondering, Althouse devoted an entire post today to the question of whether the NY Times was deploying subliminal messages to evoke sympathy for Jose Padilla. Strangely, she didn’t wonder why authorities didn’t drape Padilla’s head after the verdict to prevent him from blinking messages to the people who last saw him in 2002.

The comment thread, of course, is brimming with the sort of trigonometry that only someone of Althouse’s seriousness can attract. Fortunately, the the extremely desperate homeless person’s Robin Givhan has filmed the entire conversation for her next vlog.


OhMyGod, Gagne With A Spoon

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Speaking of bad trades — although in this case, of course, only ex post facto — the Gagne trade in turning into a catastrophe of Slocumbesque proportions (on the receiving end, at least.) Several teams must be happy that they didn’t “win” that particular bidding war right now…

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