Ezra Klein

Media Imprecision

Matt's observation that the media, in discussing Iraq's future, is conflating a pro-Iranian government with an Iranian-style government misses the point, I think. The conversation isn't really about the institution of velayet-e faqih (Khomeini's philosophy that only those steeped in Islamic jursiprudence can rule) or friendly relations with their Shi'a neighbor. The commentary on Iran is being used as a heuristic for the possibility of Iraq emerging as an anti-American government. That's what they mean by Iran-style, they may as well say "hostage-crisis style". And that's also the fuzziness Matt's picking up on. The media, invested in pro-democracy spin, doesn't want to publicly legitimize the potential for democracy to achieve an anti-American result, but they do want to discuss it somehow. Iran, despite having been instrumental in the success of our invasion, is useful in conjuring up images of Western-hating theocracies. So they keep name-dropping it, sometimes in context of who...

Forging Reality

I'm always amazed at the twisted logic, or at least outcomes, of Bush administration policies. When pushing policies that have no relation to reality, they change reality so it relates to their policies. They mismanage government finances and blow through a budget surplus creating what they call a "crisis" in Social Security, propose a plan that'll further explode deficits without helping the program, but then make that plan vaguely reasonable by warping the economy so we might have a heretofore unknown future of high stock returns and minimal wage growth. The list of man made crises fitting preexisting policy solutions is almost absurdly long. Iraq wasn't a roosting ground for terrorists, but it was once we invaded. The budget was in such surplus that the only responsible thing to do was offer tax cuts, at least until we went into recession and the only responsible thing to do was offer tax cuts. And on, and on. In some ways, it's quite impressive. They ignore criticism, they ignore...

The Hungry Man Theory of International Relations

Steve Clemons brings up a good point : Iran and North Korea know that America's bark is loud but bite is probably pretty soft right now. And the Europeans are doing their best to take on a global strategic dilemma -- their very first -- without the U.S. in the lead. The EU is in the beginning stages of superpower-dom, their ascension accelerating during a period of American decline. The Iran problem, which America has repeatedly failed to solve and generally made worse when they've tried, is the first dispute on which the EU can manifest their vision of a superpower that relies on diplomacy to defuse international threats. This is a proving ground for them, and they're going to do their damndest to succeed where we've failed, thus legitimizing their alternative vision of international relations. Considering how tricky a problem and serious a threat Iran is, that the EU's negotiators have something to prove is an unadulterated Good Thing.

Room to Run

I'm going to disagree with Jeff Dubner's assertion that the Bush administration has committed too much to pivot on Social Security reform. Indeed, they've committed virtually nothing. The plan we all attack is a phantom, a combination of leaks, divination, and reading between the lines. The President has repeatedly argued that he wants to see ALL options, and that he won't release a proposal because that would impede the debate. He's consciously given himself room to pivot if his imaginary plan appears DOA. That isn't to say he will certainly abandon the plan. As yesterday's WaPo article showed, the right's money-brokers have lined up to support privatization. But for the first time, the Democratic party has a cash answer to them, in the form of small donors, 527's, the ALF-CIO, AARP, the Phoenix Group, Kerry's unspent millions, and Dean's fundraising ability. And if Democrats push past the point of no return and it becomes clear that all the proposal will do is damage the...

Money Makes the World Go Round

As Justin Logan notes , Kerry's comment that we really had a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted" turned out to be spot-on, with the newly elected Bush administration no longer even bothering to hide the payoffs : The $80 billion war-funding request that President Bush plans to send Congress next week will include $400 million to help nations that have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland, a staunch ally in Iraq, is earmarked to receive one-fourth of the money. ... "These funds . . . reflect the principle that an investment in a partner in freedom today will help ensure that America will stand united with stronger partners in the future," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in a statement. "This assistance will support nations that have deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other partners promoting freedom around the world." Poland has taken command of a multinational security force in central Iraq that is made up of about 6,...

Never Forget An Anniversary

It was 16 years ago to this day that the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie. And, thanks to a kind reader who used my wish list, I actually found the offending tome, Satanic Verses , in my mailbox this morning. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of Khomeini's outrage. By the way, to those of you who've been generous enough to use my wish list, thanks much. I put that up as a lark (Typepad offers it as an option) hoping I might get a book or two over the life of the site. Instead, I've gotten four in the first few weeks. I really, really appreciate them, and I hope they'll leave my commentary more informed, and thus informative, for you. See? It's all for your benefit, really.

Rove's Future

I hadn't understood why Rove was promoted to deputy chief of staff, seemed like codifying what he already had, which would make no sense. Of course, I was looking for devious reasons when the actual rationale was obvious and mundane. Andrew Card is going to retire soon. When he does, the deputy chief of staff will become the actual chief of staff. And that'll be Rove. And no one will be able to argue because he was already the deputy. Duh.

Ballots Counted

With the Iraqi ballots counted and the results released, things look good. Sistani's list did well, but not well enough to act like democratically-elected dictators. They'll probably need to forge good relations with the Kurds, whose second place finish is karmically positive (after the endless oppression they've undergone, they deserve some power) and politically advantageous. As a secular minority group, it's to their interest to forge alliances and demand protection for secular minority groups, which is good for Sunni-Shia relations. That Sunnis did so badly as to not even be given their own spot on the vote totals is an obviously awful indicator, and one I'll say more about in a moment. Allawi and his list came in third, which means, if nothing else, that Americans did not fix or drastically affect the election. Not that I thought we would, but a better than expected showing for Iyad and his crew would've been very dangerous in the hands of anti-American demagogues. For Iraq's new...

Let 'Em Gloat

I hear that the weekend saw Eason Jordan resign? Really? Wow, I take a few days off and you guys totally drop the ball. As if. Is someone out there actually impressed by the Jordan's resignation? Yes, yes, I know Hugh Hewitt is going to print out a picture of a scalp and staple it to his wall, but if an egomaniac cackles and nobody cares, does he make a sound? I think not. Which is why I'm so nonplussed by the lefty bloggers lauding the remarkable takedown abilities of the right. Nailing public (or, in this case, semi-public) figures for absurd comments and getting them fired is a dance older than dirt. CNN will spend five minutes genuflecting, install his replacement, and move on with their lives. And Digby, who I generally agree with, is giving the wingers way too much credit for their waltz: If liberal bloggers' record of scalps is Trent Lott losing the leadership post that Bush wanted him out of anyway then we aren't even in the same league. The Right Wing Noise machine is a group...

The Passion of the Keyes

Maya Marcel-Keyes, daughter of Alan Keyes, has publicly come out of the closet. In response, her parents have stopped speaking to her, thrown her out of the house, and cut off payments to her college. You know, like good Christians.

But What Will I Do With All These Goats?

Like everyone else in blogland, I set aside a few minutes each day to sacrifice a goat to Google. But despite the enormous bloodletting conducted in their names, I often find them reasonably useless when I'm looking for very targeted information sets. Maybe I'm just not good at searching, but googling has served me better when trying to confirm information or find related data than when I've got an objective in mind. Sucks, I know, but what else is there? Well floor me with a feather, I discovered the wonder that is The Almanac . I had no idea so much blazingly useful information could be found in a single, physical, source. Expect more actual "facts" and"research" undergirding my usual from-the-hip-bullshit from here on out.

Arnold Impresses

Nixon might have gone to China a time or two, but Arnold's practically taken up residence. His persona has left him essentially invincible on questions of toughness, and he's used the freedom for pretty progressive ends. It wasn't long ago that he signed into law a needle-exchange program that Gray Davis, afraid of being demagogued by the right, vetoed thrice. Now he's reforming California's shameful prisons by shunning the all-powerful prison guards union and forcing a move towards rehabilitation. Next up? Redistricting .

Back to the Grind

So back to this blogging thing, huh? I'm 4,000 words into my Prospect critique and I think it's going well, but we'll see what the folks at the magazine think when the 8,000 word behemoth crushes their desks. In any case, many thanks to Steve for holding down the homefront. Seems like things were hopping here during the weekend. We'll see if I can keep up the pace in between bouts of criticizing my betters. P.S -- Happy Valentine's Day! That goes for you peeps in blog land, but especially for my girlfriend in banana slug land...

Thank you

Since Sunday is now coming to an end and therefore the weekend is soon over, I will no longer be posting. Ezra returns tomorrow, Monday, and I return to the comments section. After a weekend off, I'm sure he'll have much to say. But first I'd like to thank Ezra for inviting me to experience blogging. I had a lot of fun and I learned more in the last two days than I have in a long time. Also, I'd like to thank everyone out there who took time to read what I wrote and especially to those people who chose to comment. You guys and gals are the ones who made this experience fun and enlightening. Thank you. I'll be in the comment section. -- Steve Cieslewicz

My last post: horses and cocaine use

I'm a Chicago guy so that explains the Tribune referencing. For my last post, I'd like to suggest that everybody reads this article about testing race horses for cocaine. The nut of the question: "How much cocaine should be allowed in a racehorse...and whether to disqualify horses for trace amounts of the drug?" According to this report, some people are arguing that low traces of the drug don't indicate cheating, instead, it suggests that the horse's handlers are cocaine users - say, a cocaine user feeds the horse and transports traces of the drug from his/her hand to the horse's mouth. Interesting, right? Of course, there are the skeptics who believe people are giving cocaine to their horses for a competitive edge. Scot Waterman, executive director of the National Throughbred Racing Association's task force on drug testing, said there really isn't a more polarizing topic (I'm assuming he means in the horseracing community). I am perplexed. First, if any human being tests positive for...