Archive

  • CRUELTY AND SILENCE.

    CRUELTY AND SILENCE. The New Republic fired me before it published its Iraq symposium. Oh well -- it had been made clear to me that I wouldn't have been invited to contribute anyway. So now I take up my new role: foul-weather critic of its latest spineless Iraq editorial. (In TNR-speak, a "lede.") Among the most annoying of TNR tropes is the flight to meta-analysis as soon as the recognition dawns that the magazine can't win an argument. And here, it pains and saddens me to say, TNR embraces it like a security blanket. First, TNR concedes that nothing it can possibly desire is likely to occur: "The U.S. presence in Iraq will not last long. Perhaps this new political reality will serve as shock therapy, scaring Iraq's warring factions into negotiations that can prevent the worst sectarian warfare. But perhaps not." The "perhaps not" is an intellectual prophylactic: it changes the subject before one can ask what in the world the U.S. could tell the Sunnis and the Shiites that could make...
  • CATASTROPHE KEEPS THEM TOGETHER.

    CATASTROPHE KEEPS THEM TOGETHER. Never let it be said that CIA Director Michael Hayden isn't shrewd. Knowing that media coverage of yesterday's Senate testimony will focus overwhelmingly on General John Abizaid's call for eternal war in Iraq , he discreetly dropped this bombshell about al-Qaeda : Hayden said [al-Qaeda] had lost a series of leaders since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But the losses have been "mitigated by what is, frankly, a pretty deep bench of low-ranking personnel capable of stepping up to assume leadership positions." OK, so on the one achievement that Bush can claim about the war against al-Qaeda -- the percentage of al-Qaeda's leaders killed and captured -- the director of the CIA finally acknowledges that the measurement is meaningless. The Post piece on that ran on page 22. Arrgh. --Spencer Ackerman
  • Retail Sales Beat Expectations?

    Yes, that is what the NYT headline said about the 0.2 percent decline in sales reported for October. The consensus forecast was a 0.4 percent decline. Of course, September sales were revised down from a drop of 0.4 perrcent to a drop of 0.8 percent. This means that October sales were 0.2 percent below the consensus forecast. This is beating expectations? --Dean Baker
  • A DISAPPOINTING START....

    A DISAPPOINTING START. Joe Conason is right : The race between Murtha and Hoyer present two astonishingly unappealing options. Murtha is hawkish, corrupt, conservative, and a dear friend to the defense industry -- year after year, he's the top congressional recipient of their donations, and he repays them in full. His brave comments on Iraq were aberrational rather than characteristic, and his emergence as the progressive choice is evidence of some very short Democratic memories. Hoyer, however, is fetishistically centrist, corporatist, and at odds with Pelosi . His elevation is likely to make for a profoundly dysfunctional Democratic majority. My personal view is that this is basically an early referendum on Pelosi. Murtha is a loyalist, and a vote for him is a vote for her. That said, for those expecting the Democratic majority to last for a little bit, new wars will emerge, new issues will arise, and new progressives will be required. There's always the hope that Murtha has bought...
  • HEATH SHULER: ACTUALLY A DEMOCRAT.

    HEATH SHULER: ACTUALLY A DEMOCRAT. As the invocations keep coming, I rise to defend Congressman-elect Heath Shuler , who must be getting damned sick and tired of having his marvelous underdog win characterized by the side that got skunked last week as a de facto win for its principles, and even by his own , winning side as a shrewd tactical abandonment of its own. Here's a very good local account of Shuler's win. Shuler didn't win because he was slightly less conservative than Charles Taylor , the Republican he whacked. He won because the party Mr. Taylor represented has so revolted the American public that the "R" next to someone's name was enough. (And God help anyone if the actual Republican president brought his leprous public image by to call.) This was how Taylor lost in Asheville and Lincoln Chaffee lost in Providence, and it's the only thing that those two have in common. Democrats won last week because they were Democrats and also because they were reckoned by most of the...
  • THE POPULIST. ...

    THE POPULIST. Jim Webb 's Wall Street Journal op-ed today is a full-throated blast of up-with-the-people populism. He spends four paragraphs fiercely decrying "our society's steady drift toward a class-based system," attacking out-of-control CEO pay and decrying the middle class squeeze. But the really fascinating bit comes when he settles into the fight and picks his targets. This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education...
  • YOO TWO: IN THE NAME OF LOVE.

    YOO TWO: IN THE NAME OF LOVE. The ACLU is trying to get its hands on something we lowly national-security reporters have tried for years to obtain. That's something known colloquially as Yoo Two -- Yoo as in John Yoo , the torturer from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the first Bush administration. And Two as in a second memo in or around August of 2002 about torture. The first memo -- and here "first" is a statement about when it was released, not necessarily when it was written -- is the infamous August 1, 2002 memorandum on torture, which radically redefined torture as anything approaching severe organ failure or death, meaning anything short of that standard -- and maybe even that itself, Yoo argued -- was permissible under the president's commander-in-chief powers during a time of war. But we've long believed there was a second memo, Yoo Two: a piece of paper that specified in detail what the CIA could do to detainees in its custody. And according to Dan Eggen...
  • SHALL WE DANCE?...

    SHALL WE DANCE? Well, since the Dems waltzed into the House and did an elaborate tango into the Senate, I confess I find myself a bit shamefaced for having doubted their ability to take the lower chamber. But now, a week later, I'm ready to put all that behind me to focus on the the intramural dramas now gripping both political parties. A pal at the blog Blue Jersey who goes by the handle JRB points up a charming irony in the choice of Senator Mel Martinez of Florida to chair the Republican National Committee. Like New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez , Martinez is a Cuban-American who recently voted to table an amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act that would have prohibited immigrants convicted of document fraud and identity theft from receiving Social Security benefits -- a vote for which Menendez was villified in a television spot run by his Republican opponent, Tom Kean, Jr. . JRB asks if the righties will take Martinez to task for, as the Kean ad states it, "want[...
  • MORE OF THESE PROBLEMS

    MORE OF THESE PROBLEMS : Trent Lott -- your new Republican (in a word I hesitate to use in this context) whip. Red State has to be happy about Jeff Sessions 's chances now! -- Scott Lemieux
  • STALKING.

    STALKING. Last month , a Chinese Song class diesel electric submarine approached , apparently undetected, to within 5 nautical miles of the USS Kitty Hawk, well within both missile and torpedo range. The submarine then surfaced, and was reported by a recon aircraft. What's going on here? Diesel electric submarines are remarkably difficult to detect, but I'm nonetheless kind of surprised that one was able to get so close to a USN supercarrier. Kitty Hawk has an escort group and multiple recon aircraft whose job it is to detect approaching submarines. Indeed, a carrier battle group normally includes a nuclear attack submarine specifically to deal with undersea threats. Even if, as PACOM chief Admiral Fallon has suggested, the group was not conducting anti-submarine exercises, they have to be embarassed by the failure to pickup the Chinese sub. I'm also a bit surprised that the Chinese sub was of the indigenously built Song class rather than of the newer and quieter Russian Kilos. It's...

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