SPEECHLESS. In the weirdest, scariest, and most hopeful story you'll read today, Scott Adams , the creator of Dilbert, has been functionally mute for the last year-and-a-half. He contracted Spasmodic Dysphonia, a rare, poorly understood affliction where the part of your brain that governs speech simply shuts down. You can still sing, and do public speaking, and talk to yourself, and engage in various other activities related to, but not using the same neural pathways as, normal speech. But you can't speak. No one has ever gotten better. As of today, Scott is the first. He did it by remapping his own brain. --Ezra Klein

    GET OUT OF AL-ANBAR, AND GET OSAMA. I'll take a stab at Ezra's call for reactions to this op-ed by Peter Bergen . Bergen writes: Instead, we should focus on a minimalist definition of our interests in Iraq, which is to prevent a militant Sunni jihadist mini-state from emerging and allowing al-Qaeda to regroup. While withdrawing a substantial number of American troops from Iraq would probably tamp down the insurgency and should be done as soon as is possible, a significant force must remain in Iraq for many years to destroy al-Qaeda in Iraq. I agree with Bergen that we should prevent such a bad thing from happening, but I disagree on the means. Fortunately, the emergence of a "militant Sunni jihadist mini-state" is not as likely as Bergen thinks. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is actually fairly unpopular even in Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces, to the extent that the police chief in Baquba has said that they have been "driven out and finished off." What's more, General Casey is now openly admitting...

    CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION. Here's Rep. Jean Schmidt , being stupid on the subject of a videotape on which she was, earlier, really stupid . It is devoutly to be hoped that, if it does nothing else, a Democratic sweep in the upcoming elections might disenthrall the Republicans from the notion that they can collect anyone off the steam-grates of their party's boulevards, dress them up, and throw them out there to plague and pester the rest of us. Among its other effects, the " Gingrich Revolution" created a framework in which an incredible passel of fools, lightweights, mountebanks, kinky libertines, and public omadhauns managed to get themselves elected to Congress. I mean all of that as a compliment, by the way. It takes a formidable political machine to inflict on the rest of us such an unholy combination of The Story of O and Horse Feathers . --Charles P. Pierce

    WHAT ZALMAY FORGOT. While checking in on Steve Clemons' Washington Note , I came across this list from 2005 entitled "Ten Lessons for Nation-Building." I have a lot of respect for its author, Zalmay Khalilzad , as I think he's a pragmatic and able diplomat in a tough job (though he should have stayed in Afghanistan, where he was most effective). Nevertheless, if you peruse Khalilzad's list you'll note a gaping hole: nowhere does he list the most important job of an occupying power, which is to provide security for the populace. Is it just a coincidence that the U.S. has never, in fact, been able to provide the safe and secure environment that the Army's new counterinsurgency manual (PDF) stresses is essential to winning popular support? Priorities matter. -- Blake Hounshell

    MORE TROUBLE FOR SHAYS. Yesterday I doubted whether Rep. Chris Shays' challenger Diane Farrell had the deadlocked race sewn up now by her endorsement in The New York Times . Well, now Garance has a piece in The New Republic that should deliver a death blow to Shays. Apparently Shays has taken to bragging about his first venture into Iraq, leaving out the part about how, stopping en route in Qatar, a small middle-Eastern monarchy, he told an audience: "This nation, like my small state, has always played a large role in advancing participatory democracy, civil discourse, and stable commerce." But the scandal wasn't his royal ass-kissing -- it was how Shays, with his famously holier-than-thou stance on ethics, got there in the first place. According to Garance: ... despite his record of pushing for meticulous record-keeping, Shays's privately sponsored trip to Qatar was notably absent from his own annual federal financial disclosure form, filed in May 2004, in violation of House rules...

    WINGER WEEK. Following up Pierce -- the president and vice president have said all sorts of great stuff to conservative journalists and commentators this week. --Sam Rosenfeld

    DEPLORABLE. It is deplorable -- deplorable, my friends -- that political parties might use illness or the misfortunes of others to score political points, and it is exploitative -- exploitative, my friends -- that they would use videotaping equipment to bring this deplorable exploitation into our living rooms. And how do we know they're not faking it? It's either one, my friends. Why, if we let something like that happen, then who knows ? A president might have to interrupt only the 43rd vacation of his administration to get back to work, and an actual doctor might use his professional credentials like a cheap tin drum, thereby rendering himself personally ridiculous, and his nascent presidential run a sad little circus act. Deplorable, my friends. Can't have that. --Charles P. Pierce

    WHAT AL-QAEDA WANTS. Peter Bergen , who probably knows more about al-Qaeda than just about anyone else alive, argues in today's New York Times that withdrawal from Iraq would, indeed, be giving the terrorist group what they want. Al-Qaeda's aim, he argues, is to acquire a slice of territory that they can control. The likeliest spot is in the Sunni-dominated areas of central and western Iraq. To pull out would be essentially ceding those spots to al-Qaeda, and would fit the group's master narrative of American weakness. It's worth noting that this is just one more way in which Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq was manna from heaven for bin Laden . Had Zawahiri mastered Manchurian technology and installed his controllable surrogate in the White House, he could hardly have done a better job. Not to engage in nostalgia for tyrants, but Saddam Hussein , for all his crimes, neither had WMDs nor any interest in ceding portions of his country to jihadists. That said, the situation is what it...

    THE MAJORITARIAN DIFFICULTY. Glenn Greenwald makes a very important point about yesterday's judicial decision in New Jersey: The decision today is entirely consistent with the democratic will of New Jersey residents. The New Jersey legislature already enacted a domestic partnership bill two years ago which recognizes, and grants a whole array of marital rights to, same-sex couples. But the way the laws were written, some rights were still assigned only to "married" couples. The court decision today simply requires that those same-sex partnerships have all of the rights which are given to married couples. But New Jersey voters, through their representatives, already approved of recognition of same-sex relationships two years ago. Those who see a major backlash from the judicial ruling seem to assume that such decisions are counter-majoritarian. But civil unions have majority support in the country, and in New Jersey civil unions are supported by an almost two-to-one margin . Whether...
  • A SLIP?

    A SLIP? Which of these are actually bad , and which are bad merely for the Republican Party? Other developments were not encouraging, such as the bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad, the fact that we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and the continued loss of some of America's finest sons and daughters. As Rodger Payne notes, the failure to find stockpiles of WMD is actually a good thing, given that it means Iraq didn't have any WMD, and that a strategy of diplomatic and military containment can be wildly successful against rogue regimes. Then again, it's of course possible that President Bush cannot distinguish between the phrases "good for America" and "good for the Republicans". --Robert Farley