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Distinction Without A Difference

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

Jacob Weisberg:

The disputed dates and details go to the most interesting larger issues about what went wrong during the Bush years. Did Bush’s own innocence and incompetence drive his missteps? Or was it the people around him, most importantly his vice president, who manipulated him into his major bad choices? On so many issues—the framing of the war on terrorism, the use of torture, the expansion of executive power—it was Cheney’s views that prevailed. Yet at some point, perhaps around the 2006 election, Bush seems to have lost confidence in his vice president and stopped taking his advice.

I suspect that in the short-term, attempts to defend Bush (especially by liberalish pundits who inexplicably saw him as an essentially harmless moderate in 2000) will fall along the lines of “he wasn’t really that bad, although he had some bad people around him.” The kinds of distinctions that Weisberg is drawing above, though, strike me as trivial; in any case, the responsibility rests with Bush and exemplify Bush’s incompetence. First of all, he selected these people. And second, he was structurally superior to all of them (and Cheney, in particular, has essentially no meaningful institutional authority the president didn’t grant him, as Weisberg’s last concession reflects.) It’s not clear what difference it makes if he was “manipulated” by people he chose to appoint and then allow to set policy or if he reached his administration’s bad ideas independently. It seems pretty obvious that it’s some from column A and some from column B, but it doesn’t matter. A president works through his administration; to speculate about how a president would have fared with different people is to wish for a different president. Cheney, Rumsfeld et al had their authority for a reason and Bush is fully responsible for their actions. The whole game of trying to abstract some kind of abstract independent president who is a different figure than the one reflected when embedded in a staff of his choosing is a strange and not very productive one.

"Trust me. It was an important game."

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

This is funny. However, I feel confident in asserting that the AutoZone Liberty Bowl was substantially superior in this respect to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, where UK played in 2006 and 2007.

Ht Evan.

Karma, Dude

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of people:

Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized, a pirate and a relative of one of the dead men said Saturday.

Galrahn wonders:

Considering all the pictures of the money drop on the US Navy website, what are the odds that we were watching the pirates flee the tanker? Pretty good I’d bet.

In other words, the coalition forces were almost certainly watching the pirates and saw the accident occur, then intentionally decided for whatever reason not to offer any assistance. Is it inhumane to let pirates drown? Did we intentionally not help them knowing that we would end up with pirate prisoners? Don’t dismiss that last part, the political and legal framework is so confusing it is probably an easy decision for a Naval officer to let pirates drown and die than rescue them and put them in jail.

This last bit is particularly complex. I’ve argued before that we should take steps to arrest pirates after paying a ransom, as the French have done on several occasions. If that’s not the plan, however, then it’s really unclear at which point a warship should “render aid” to ransom carrying pirates in distress, given that it would be absurd NOT to arrest such pirates once they’re actually on board.

Also, I’m not as familiar as I should be with the international law regarding rescuing sailors shipwrecked or otherwise in distress. Certainly, practice in World War II varied widely.

Oh, and this is really, really stupid.


[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

As of now, it appears that most of the bugs with the comment system have been worked out. One remaining question is of comment counts; when I open the page in Firefox, I just see the word “comment” with no number after it. When I open in Explorer or Safari, I see the count, and when I open in Firefox on another computer, I see the count. The technicians also see the count. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t see the comment count?

Hopefully a Quick End to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |


As part of the transition team’s “Open for Questions” project, press secretary Robert Gibbs responded to questions posed online and voted on by visitors to The final inquiry: Is the new administration going to get rid of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy?

Gibbs responded, “Thaddeus, you don’t hear a politician give a one-word answer much, but it’s yes.”

FWIW, I’ve been told by people in the military that there’s almost no stomach to fight for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and that in any case the retention of Robert Gates has been so popular that Obama has an enormous reserve of political capital. Then again, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has never been just about the military; even if the officer corps was strongly in favor of scrapping, Republicans could still be relied upon to demagogue it.

Who Would Win in a Fight?

[ 0 ] January 10, 2009 |

Clay Davis vs. Rod Blagojevich?

…speaking of which, apparently there’s corruption in the Baltimore mayor’s office. Who could have guessed?

Separated at Birth?

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

Huh. Has anyone ever seen Olbermann and Poe in the same room?

I’m hoping this guy wins the nomination next year, if for no other reason than to freak Palin out on a daily basis.

I Can’t Argue With That Logic!

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

America’s Worst Columnist says that “there are only two possible endgames: (A) a Lebanon-like cessation of hostilities to be supervised by international observers, or (B) the disintegration of Hamas rule in Gaza.” It will not surprise you that he advocates for (B). Alas, it will also not surprise you to know that he doesn’t seem to consider the question of what exactly Hamas would be replaced by should these aims be achieved. The assumption that a lengthy, destructive Israeli bombing campaign will produce a government more sympathetic to Israel and less sympathetic to Iran is so transparently idiotic that I think we can assume it’s the one that Krauthammer is working with.

Deep Thought

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

The fact that more than two and a half million jobs were lost in 2008 proves that upper-class tax cuts are great economic policy. And thank God we took the advice of the great Alan Greenspan and didn’t pay down the debt too quickly; that was always a serious risk and we sure couldn’t use that money now.

If Tim Tebow and Tiger Woods had a baby, would that baby be Superman?

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

Actual quote from Thom Brennamen last night: “If you are fortunate enough to spend five minutes with Tim Tebow your life will be better.”

Bowl Mania Final Standings

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

The Knows Pickers win it! If the winner would furnish me with an address, I will furnish s/he with an appropriate prize. I’m almost (but not quite) inclined to give a prize for last, too; 9-25 is impressive in its own right.

1 Dr. Squid Knows Pickers, C. Carrell 20-14 402
2 Ain’t That Pretty At All, R. Cobeen 17-17 368
3 Foggy Bottom Line, S. Scott 19-15 356
3 long time lurker, J. DeLange 18-16 356
5 enelson44, E. Nelson 18-16 354
6 Cookie Monsters, J. Lobasz 18-16 353
7 Schwyzer, H. Schwyzer 20-14 341
8 Bishus, O. Bishus 18-16 333
9 Gaw, C. Gaw 21-13 331
10 g, s g 21-13 330
11 Evan, E. Robertson 19-15 329
12 gj manatees, b. junge 17-17 320
13 Tha Crusha, T. Militano 16-18 319
14 Seals, C. Seals 18-16 310
15 penasquito, W. Wyatt 15-19 299
16 husker doo, c. rasmussen 17-17 291
17 Kooistra, K. Kooistra 18-16 282
18 Samoan Napoleon Trefoil, J. M 16-18 281
19 Minnesota Venturas, J. Fecke 15-19 278
20 jmack, J. Mackin 13-21 271
21 Jshinola, J Shinola 16-18 270
22 Smith, P. Smith 16-18 269
23 B, J B 15-19 264
24 The Usual Suspect, E. Gomez 16-18 261
25 Drunken Warthogs, S. Ehrlich 15-19 259
26 Go green, go white, W. Chum 12-22 258
27 Girding the Nittany Loins, D. Stefanon 14-20 252
28 Pootie Tang, D. Raskin 13-21 248
29 EV_Debs, B. Alpers 12-22 240
29 Dr. Awkward, Z. Keane 14-20 240
31 Fraud Guy, E. Cerevic 15-19 233
32 Cincinnati Bearded Ducks, R. Farley 16-18 231
33 Stay Classy, C. M 15-19 225
34 With the Russians, too, D. Merrill 15-19 224
35 Ottawa Rough Riders, K. Witter 13-21 191
36 kodos423, k. crockett 12-22 179
37 smith, m. smith 11-23 148
38 Ducking Minerva, M. Power 9-25 128

[ 0 ] January 9, 2009 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck