Archive

  • NO CREDIBILITY.

    NO CREDIBILITY. As the Iraq War continues to get more and more hopeless, we're sure to start hearing more of the tautological trump card inevitably played by the dead-enders of ill-conceived wars: we need to maintain a ruinous war in order to preserve American "credibility." As Daniel Davies pointed out in comments about Michael Novak 's particularly insane version of this argument, this would seem to be the �if something is not worth doing, it has to be done at ruinous cost� theory of deterrence. Or, as he put it in his more extensive discussion of why this doesn't work even as abstract game theory, "It is certainly true that one of the benefits of doing something stupid is that it saves you from having to spend money on maintaining your reputation as an idiot. However, is the reputation of an idiot really worth having?" As our colleague Rob has pointed out in detail , the idea that one should keep fighting a ruinous war to preserve "credibility" or "reputation" is one of the dumbest...
  • HOPE IS A...

    HOPE IS A PLAN. IT IS IT IS IT IS! Jonah Goldberg , amid a column bashing the ISG report for a lot of good reasons, takes an ill-advised whack: Nowhere does the commission ever seriously consider how to win the war in Iraq. Why? Because winning is no longer a possible consensus position. And pulling out isn't a consensus position either. So rather than a real strategy about Iraq, we get Laodicean tripe about how the Iraq Study Group is our last best hope to unite Americans. I'm sorry, but that wasn't its mandate. This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the report. Indeed, the only serious thing it considered -- and pronounced on -- was the possibility of winning the war in Iraq. And the absence of such a strategy isn't because winning isn't a "consensus position," it's that it no longer appears a realistic outcome . The ISG essentially concluded that the war was lost, and the question was how to lose most quietly. That's not because the members didn't want to break out the...
  • NON-PROLIFERATION AND BRITISH NUKES.

    NON-PROLIFERATION AND BRITISH NUKES. In the non-proliferation community there's some tension between the goals of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It's often argued, not wholly unreasonably, that convincing Iran, North Korea, etc. to eschew nuclear weapons is pretty difficult when the great powers refuse to give up their own nukes. The NPT includes a formal commitment to disarmament, which the recognized nuclear powers have largely ignored. Thus far, nuclear disarmament has occurred only in a few debatable and highly unusual cases, including the decision of Ukraine to give up Russian weapons on its soil, and the dismantling of South Africa's atomic weapons shortly prior to the end of apartheid. I've been pretty skeptical of disarmament both as a practical possibility (hard to put the genie back in the bottle), and as a policy focus for non-proliferation efforts. I find it almost impossible to imagine a situation in which the major nuclear powers would be willing to give up...
  • NOT REALLY A...

    NOT REALLY A JOKE. Wonkette 2.0 Alex Pareene joked on Tuesday that John Edwards 's new hire and potential presidential campaign manager David Bonior will be "key in the important race to determine which white dude will win the support of the powerful 'won�t vote for a negro or a lady' bloc." He was being snarky, and using that as cover to get at this obvious but somewhat politically awkward-to-mention probability: If Barack Obama really does run for president, the race for the Democratic nomination in '08 moves from being about Hillary Clinton and the TBA anti-Hillary into a three-way contest between Hillary, Obama, and whoever is able to beat out the rest of the contenders for the role of credible white man. That's the spot Evan Bayh , John Edwards , Joe Biden , Tom Vilsack , and possibly Wesley Clark will all be vying for, hoping to make the campaign a three-way contest where the more centrist first-ever candidates (Clinton and Obama) wind up somehow either destroying or cancelling...
  • FCS TRIMMED.

    FCS TRIMMED. Future Combat Systems, the integrated, high tech system that the Army has been pursuing for the last few years (sort of the eqivalent of the F-22 or the Zumwalt destroyer, and more likely to be used than either) has taken a significant hit in the latest Army funding request. Land Warrior, a system designed to make individual infantrymen part of a high-information network, has temporarily been shelved. For those interested in the latest zombie fighting techniques, Land Warrior featured prominently in a chapter of Max Brooks' World War Z . Anyway, Defense Tech has a good discussion, including some speculation that the cut is strategic and that the Army expects to get everything back from the incoming Congress. --Robert Farley
  • How Not to Find Bias in the Media

    Austan Goolsbee used his monthly column to report the findings of a study that sought to examine bias in the media by seeing whether they use Republican or Democratic phrases. For example, in the case of President Bush's plans for Social Security, the Republican phrase would be "personal accounts," while the Democratic phrase would be "privatization." I say nice try, but no cigar. This analysis may be useful for a very narrow notion of bias, but as someone who has been commenting on economic reporting for more than a decade, I would say it misses the real story. How about comparing the number of articles that refer to the Social Security "crisis" or the need to fix Social Security, relative to the number of stories that refer to the need to fix the country's health care system? I don't know any economist who does not believe that the health care system poses a far more serious threat to the country's economy and the federal budget, yet the media give health care reform a small...
  • HITCHENS ISN'T FUNNY

    HITCHENS ISN'T FUNNY . I'm disappointed in myself for allowing Christopher Hitchens' idiotic "provocation" to, um, provoke me. If you don't want to bother reading the whole convoluted essay, I'll summarize his key point: Women are nothing but baby-makers. For this reason, they are serious about everything and have deeply impaired senses of humor. I guess this is to be expected from a straight white dude who is all in favor of using racist, sexist and heterosexist slurs . And I'm used to reading this sort of shit on Men's News Daily, World Net Daily and other crazy, largely ignored websites. But this "provocation" appeared Vanity Fair . An established and respected publication. Ugh. Echidne has a nice takedown . Also, when I first looked at this article I thought it was Christopher Hitchens who was pictured, not some "humorless woman." Turns out, I wasn't that far off. Check it out: --Ann Friedman
  • TAIL-BETWEEN-THEIR-LEGS CONSERVATIVES. Kevin...

    TAIL-BETWEEN-THEIR-LEGS CONSERVATIVES. Kevin Drum notes that a number of administration appointees plan on high-tailing it out of Washington in advance of the coming Democratic congressional investigations. The American Conservative Union, meanwhile, is massively tweaked about Republicans who've put their tails a bit lower. From a web-based letter-writing campaign they're hosting, which I was notified of by good old GOPUSA (remember them?): Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senate Republicans could have played hard-ball. They had the power to bring the nomination out of committee and to the Senate floor, where Bolton would have been easily confirmed. Yet they did NOTHING. They cringed behind their desks, determined to sneak out of Washington this week, tails between their legs! Last month, the American people went to the polls, turned about two dozen RINOs OUT OF office and DEMANDED conservative government! And unfortunately in the process, the GOP lost its majority and a few good men...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: NO MIDDLE GROUND. As Spencer promised below, here's his take on the Iraq Study Group's confused report -- and why Heidi Klum could teach this commission a thing or two. --The Editors
  • WHY, BAYH? ...

    WHY, BAYH? Luckily for Evan Bayh, John Judis 's savage recounting of his role in the 2001 Bankruptcy Reform bill has been obscured by the release of the ISG. But it really deserves a bit more publicity: Feinstein offered a very mild amendment to the bankruptcy bill. It capped the debt limit on credit cards for minors at $2,500 unless they could obtain parental consent or proof of financial independence. Dodd 's amendment was somewhat tougher. Companies could only sign up minors if their parents co-signed the credit card agreement or if the minors could prove financial independence or agreed to take a financial management course. Both amendments lost--Feinstein's by 55 to 42 and Dodd's by 58 to 41. The great majority of Democrats voted for these amendments, but not Bayh. He joined the credit card companies and the Republicans in opposing both. Bayh, during this period, was 10th in the Congress for credit company donations. But forget merely voting for their reprehensible bill, Bayh...

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