Archive

  • LOST BEFORE TRANSLATION....

    LOST BEFORE TRANSLATION. This is the sort of statistic that I simply cannot understand: Five years after Arab terrorists attacked the United States, only 33 FBI agents have even a limited proficiency in Arabic, and none of them work in the sections of the bureau that coordinate investigations of international terrorism, according to new FBI statistics. Counting agents who know only a handful of Arabic words -- including those who scored zero on a standard proficiency test -- just 1 percent of the FBI's 12,000 agents have any familiarity with the language, the statistics show. There is, of course, a why here, which has to do with the hiring protocols of the FBI: Gulotta and other officials said several factors limit the number of foreign speakers who can become agents at the FBI. Special agents, for example, must be U.S. citizens. They also must undergo background checks that are much more difficult to pass if the candidate has relatives or friends overseas. I once met a professor who...
  • STOP! THIEF!

    STOP! THIEF! I got your pre-emptive strike right here . With James Wolcott having declared war on this particular piece of soon-to-be-published-by-the-soulless offal, I feel it incumbent upon me to note that, if Dinesh D'Souza is passing off that cheap wisecrack about Tip O'Neill resembling the federal government ("big, fat, and out of control") as his own, he's not only a disreputable intellectual vandal, he's a dishonest one, as well. The line famously originated with John Leboutillier , a crackpot rightist legacy millionnaire from Long Island who served one term in Congress before the voters fired him, apparently on the very simple grounds that he was a horse's ass. This contemporary account contains the remark in question. Now, "The Boot" went on to nibble on even bigger lumps of the Crazy Cheese, as this story makes pretty plain. Nevertheless, his snarkery about O'Neill was probably his most lasting contribution to American politics, and he deserves better than having it...
  • AN ESTABLISHMENT OF...

    AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION. If you've yet to take in the extraordinary New York Times series on the business of religion that Scott flagged yesterday, I urge you to take a look before it gets locked up behind the Times 's pay-for-play archive walls. The multitude of exemptions enjoyed by religious organizations and their pastors that business reporter Diana B. Henriques has chronicled is truly amazing. Did you know that the Rev. Rick Warren (he of The Purpose-Driven Life ) enjoys a tax exemption on his housing? Pastor Warren argued that the tax break is essential to poorly paid clergy members who serve society. The tax break is not available to the staff at secular nonprofit organizations whose scale and charitable aims compare to those of religious ministries like Pastor Warren's church, or to poorly paid inner-city teachers and day care workers who also serve their communities. The great state of Florida seems to pop up time and again in the series. Henriques reports that Governor...
  • THE FORCED PREGNANCY...

    THE FORCED PREGNANCY JUSTIFICATION THAT DARES NOT SPEAK ITS NAME : Jill Filipovic finds noted crank Bill Napoli arguing that "[i]f you vote to repeal [South Dakota's unconstitutional abortion ban], you'll be voting for the death of 800 babies that didn't have anything to do with rape or incest" and "[i]f you love babies, and see those cute little babies in the park, grocery store, mall, or cafe, think very carefully about your vote to repeal." Napoli (of " sodomized virgins " fame) is trying to argue that -- while he supports a rape or incest exemption -- a draconian ban is better than no ban. But his defense of these positions is rife with the kind of gross illogic and internal inconsistency that are endemic to the American anti-choice movement . First of all, in terms of moral standing no fetuses (or "babies") have anything to do with "rape or incest" -- their mothers may be victims of these acts, but that's a different issue. (Which is reflected in the fact that nobody thinks that...
  • DEVELOPMENTS HOME AND ABROAD.

    DEVELOPMENTS HOME AND ABROAD. The biggest news on the international front of the North Korean crisis appears to be China's apparent willingness to think about strong punitive measures. I'm not sure what to read into this, as "tough measures" undoubtedly means something radically different in Beijing than in Washington or Tokyo. Nevertheless, China is one of a very small fraternity of countries with serious influence over North Korea, so any indication of willingness on their part to use leverage is good news. I doubt, though, that any set of carrots and sticks will get Pyongyang to give up its remaining weapons. Indeed, the current level of tough talk is likely to push them into another test. On the domestic front, the Republicans have settled on their narrative; Clinton did it. The point man here is John McCain , who, as Brad Plumer notes, is making noises that seem to indicate that he would attack North Korea if he were president. This is the perfect political opportunity for McCain...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PROBLEM POLITICS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PROBLEM POLITICS. Harold Meyerson writes about the GOP's penchant for ignoring real problems while concocting fake ones for political purposes. In the latter vein, he recounts a kooky subcommittee hearing in September discussing the dangers of "mixed unions": On September 28th, Texas Republican Sam Johnson (who regularly introduces legislation to repeal the 16th Amendment, which established the income tax) convened his subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations to examine the threat to civilization posed by the organizing campaign that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was conducting among the employees of Wackenhut, the venerable security guard company. SEIU also happens to be among the most politically active unions, usually on the Democratic side, in the land. �In the post 9/11 world,� Johnson intoned, "we cannot risk the potential for a lapse in security that could have disastrous consequences.� The hearing that followed was plainly...
  • 655,000 DEATHS.

    655,000 DEATHS. A staggering figure from Johns Hopkins University researchers assessing the number of deaths in Iraq caused, directly or indirectly, by the American invasion. These researchers, who published their findings in the British journal Lancet, are the same ones who did the controversial death count survey in late 2004 that also produced far higher numbers than people had expected. That survey came in for much drubbing from pro-war pundits and even folks like Fred Kaplan . That Kaplan piece seemed persuasive to me when I first read it, but then Daniel Davies eviscerated ( twice ) most of the lay critiques of the study and I ended up being de-persuaded by Kaplan and more than a bit ashamed at my innumeracy and statistical ignorance. If we see another round of debate about this research team's findings, those two Crooked Timber posts will be worth revisiting. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • NAVAL DOCTRINE.

    NAVAL DOCTRINE. Speaking of maritime issues, two days ago Kim Jong Il bequeathed a wondrous gift on the Navy and the Air Force. Because the Army is deeply engaged in Iraq, it has been requesting additional funds to the point that the fiscal division-of-spoils between the Army, Air Force, and Navy has been threatened. As Defense Tech and Arms and Influence point out, any military confrontation with North Korea would most immediately be handled by the USAF and the USN. A couple months ago in Armed Forces Journal , Frank Hoffman critiqued naval acquisition strategy and proposed an alternative approach. Hoffman's core point is that the Mahanian navy, built around a few powerful capital ships and intended to destroy the fleet of a peer competitor, is an increasingly anachronistic vision that is nevertheless held to by a considerable portion of the Navy. I'm not as comfortable with this argument as I once was, because the Navy has done some serious work increasing its littoral capabilities...
  • 1000 SHIP NAVY.

    1000 SHIP NAVY. Probably the biggest concern that the North Korean nuclear program presents is the problem of proliferation. One solution that's been floated (so to speak) is the establishment of a maritime inspection regime that will limit Pyongyang's ability to export nuclear technology. Any such effort would need to be multilateral. Coincidentally, the latest thing in maritime circles is the "1000 ship Navy" . This isn't an effort to triple the existing USN; the Navy is looking for 313 ships, and won't get that. Rather, the 1000 ship Navy envisions a global coalition of navies cooperating to fight terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, natural disaster, and any other ills that afflict the international system. The project is extraordinarily ambitious, but the rewards for developing a successful international coalition could be enormous. A lot of work that navies do can be thought of as constabulary. When not fighting each other (and high intensity naval warfare is...
  • ONE WHAT?

    ONE WHAT? As much as I hate to risk the wrath of the Tapped Grammarians again, I have to point out that this advertisement , which is causing a stir in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, is an even cheaper shot than it would appear at first glance -- and, at first glance, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kerry Murphy Cuchulain Tir na Nog Healey ought to be thoroughly ashamed of it. However, pay close attention to the last two lines, which say: "While lawyers have a right to defend admitted copkillers, do we really want one as our governor?" That "do we really want one" business is the problem. It's a rancid enough business to imply that a defense attorney who does his job too well is disqualified prima facie from being governor, but look a little deeper. That sentence also can be reasonably read as calling Deval Patrick a "copkiller," whom we don't want as our governor. Taken in at the lickety-split pace of television advertising, it certainly can be heard that way. (By the way, no...

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