Monday, October 28, 2002

Another quick note from the note:

Two more key graphs from the Journal: "Other Democrats say any such benefit will be marginal, and in any case Republicans quickly signaled a willingness to fight back, the tragedy notwithstanding. On NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich blasted the undeclared candidate Mondale as a politician 'with a long history of raising taxes' and warned that Democrats will run 'an emotional campaign' that tries 'to ensure that nobody thinks about who Walter Mondale is or what he stands for.'"
I actually watched that piece. I don't know what the Journal saw, but I saw a house speaker that was parroting Republican talking points ad nauseum, and having all the blasting effect of one of those medical nitroglycerine pills. I realize they have to talk up their boy, but I think Carville (who was also on) was just sorta bored by the lightweight opposition. Don't blame him. I know that if I were in that position, I'd start missing Tucker Carlson real fast.
Ok, hopefully this one will work. For some reason I've been having an enormous amount of difficulties actually getting blogger to, well, blog. Don't know why, but there you go. Probably tied into the continuous "503 couldn't load template" problems I've been having that are resisting the usual fixes.

Anyway, just one quick note about this tidbit on the Note:

Let's see how much national coverage Tuesday night's memorial service gets. There are no indications that it is being planned for maximum political effect, but if the tributes to Senator Wellstone, which have flowed since Friday, are any indication, we'd imagine that there will be at least a 24-hour Democratic high.
Anybody else getting a Transmetropolitan-spawned chill down their back? For those that don't, ask someone that has read it about Vita Severen and "the Year of the Bastard".

Let's just hope that none of the rest of that scenario turns out to be Ripped From Today's Headlines.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Thanks to those who have given me information and advice about the computer thing. It still isn't up yet, but probably will be next week.

In the meantime, rather a lot has happened.

First, they got the sniper. I'm glad that it's finally over, and that people can actually walk around in the open in Maryland again.
That being said, I'm not exactly as glad that some people appear to be fixating on one aspect of the guy's identity as a determinate factor in all of this. Yes, he was a member of the Nation of Islam, but that doesn't exactly make him a Wahhabi fundamentalist, and it certainly doesn't imply that this was some sort of organized action, despite the silly little gotchas (like the date of the registration of his van) that the Anti-Islamic Blogger Front are pulling out. You can be both a member of the NOI and a lone nut; the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Actually, the identity of the actual sniper isn't really quite what I think anyone had in mind. He isn't middle eastern, isn't white, doesn't appear to be an Islamic fundamentalist (although he is a member of the Nation of Islam), and although a former military man and trained in marksmanship in the military:

"...defence officials at the Pentagon said Muhammad earned an M-16 expert marksman badge during his service in the U.S. Army, the highest level of expertise given by the military"

he wasn't really immersed in right-wing gunnuttery. He probably wasn't driven to it by playing Doom, either. I think Oliver Willis made a good point:

InstaPundit and its attendant readers/bloggers seem to be getting into a lather over the media's failure to link Muhammad's muslim background with his shootings. This seems to be an issue in search of a problem. So far, he fits the pattern of your ex-military wacko who has gone off the deep end. It so happens that he's Muslim rather than Christian, but it doesn't seem to be the motivation in his killings. You know, even after 9/11 psychos are just crazy sometimes.
Actually, the most disturbing theory that I've read about (but unfortunately don't have a link for) is that this sort of reaction is a psychological manifestation of Gulf War Syndrome. If true, that's scary as hell.

Last (but not least) is the news that Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash.

There's really only one proper response to that:


Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Blogging has been light lately, I know. As I've said before, it's because I've been busy. Blogging will likely remain light, however, for a much more overriding reason:

My computer went "blooie".

Well, not actually "blooie". There was no black smoke or explosions or anything like that. What there is is a computer that rebooted randomly for no particular reason, kept on rebooting every time it booted up into windows, and now will only turn on for a few seconds before it turns off again and refuses to turn back on.

It got to the desktop those first few times, so I don't think my data is dead, but I'm rather anxious to find out exactly what is. Suggestions would be appreciated. In the meantime, however, I'll only be able to blog when I'm on a different computer somewhere else. That may be infrequently, as I'm usually doing something else when I'm at a computer somewhere else.

In any case, I'll try to keep at least an entry a day going.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Yet more proof, courtesy of David Ehrenstein, that "fisking" is hardly the property of warbloggers. His takedown of Dan Savage is, well, worthy of the target's family name.

It does raise one issue, though... did not a single gay man read David Brock's book and think "gee, maybe I should rethink neoconservatism"?

Oh, and for those who are wondering, the paypal account was taken down because paypal, while nicely efficient and speedy, isn't remotely concerned with those who value their privacy. Any suggestions for alternate solutions would be appreciated. (Perhaps, a business account?)

And no, Amazon ain't an option.

Friday, October 18, 2002

As some (or most) of you have noticed, I've added one of those little paypal donation gizmos to the side of the page.

As to why, that's a somewhat more difficult question. As everybody who has read this site for any length of time has probably figured out, I'm not much for autobiographical details, and actually spent rather a lot of time and effort defending that stance. I still believe in the concept and necessity of pseudonymity. That being said, it probably isn't an enormous admission to say that I'm not exactly wealthy, and that I have other activities that (by necessity) drain away both time and energy that I could be using on the site. Like most bloggers, this is fundamentally a hobby. Unlike most bloggers, I tend to spend rather a lot of time writing lengthy posts (cue the groans of agreement), so it's not really something I can do "on the sly" in between or during other activities.

(Yes, this is part of the reason why I don't futz around with my template much.)

Plus, I'm a liberal, not a socialist. I have no problem at all with the prospect of "selling out", nor any beef with those that do. I rather like the idea of people having patrons; that's one of the reasons I make a point of saying that the problem with Scaife et al isn't that they exist, but that nobody has stepped up on the other side of the field and said "if he can do it, I can do it". I've always considered the online donation idea a brilliant one, so am not particular averse to benefiting from it.

Hence the button. Feel free to donate, or not, but rest assured that it would be appreciated and noted. Those who are actually generous enough to donate a significant amount (Significant amount being defined as one that will provoke a whistle and perhaps some surprised profanity; not as much as you'd think) and leave their names will be recognized on the site (I'll put a "Donors" thing below the Bloglist).

And yes, I'll consider changing the template if enough paying customers ask me for it.

Edit: Nevermind. I'll have to change account types first. Should be back up in a day or two.
Ok, perhaps I spoke too soon... This piece by Josh Marshall might warrant an asterisk or two in some future history textbook. As Atrios said, go read it NOW.

(The sad part isn't that it's a story about outright journalistic fraud. The sad part is that it's totally unsurprising.)
You know, when people look back at this administration and this time in history... at what's happening, what has happened and what's going to happen, the name "Paul Krugman" is going to be absolutely ubiquitous. And this column is one of the reasons why.

It's kind of sad, though, that the journalistic profession seems to have sunk so low that it takes an economist (of all things) to do it for them.
Despite the headline, France and Russia Considering U.S. Offer on Iraq, it would appear that it was the U.S. that came around to the French position on Iraq:

In an effort to end a five-week impasse among the permanent members of the council, the United States, supported by Britain, dropped a demand that a resolution explicitly authorize military force against Iraq.

The new offer was designed to win support from the other three permanent members of the council -- France, Russia and China -- which want to give Iraq a chance to cooperate with weapons inspectors without the threat of force...

...Despite the U.S. offer, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-David Levitte said Thursday that France was sticking to its demand for a first resolution to empower inspectors -- and a second to authorize action if Iraq obstructs their work.
Other parts of the article highlight that Russia appears to be a little warmer to the U.S. position than it was before, and this is true, but it would still seem to be the case that we're much more likely to end up with the French two-resolution solution than the American single-resolution one.

And why not?

Honestly, outside of those who say "inspections can't work" (a position really grounded only in the belief that this is somehow 1994 and that Iraq hasn't the faintest idea that the U.S. is poised to invade and panting at the opportunity), this should be a logical way of approaching this issue. We're not sure if disarmament through inspections is going to work or not, but most of free world agrees that, if successful, it's infinitely preferable to an invasion. The French solution allows for the possibility that Iraq might be as good as its word out of sheer self-preservation. If it isn't, then the Security Council can give the go-ahead and the U.S. can let loose the dogs of war; secure that the questions of multilateral legitimacy and the U.N. Charter that a unilateral American invasion posed are answered.

(To a point... I still don't buy that enforcement of resolutions can allow a government to violate the Charter and would prefer that the U.S. focus on enforcement rather than the disturbing doctrine of "regime change", but it's better than nothing).

And from the looks of it, the resolution won't be a WWI-style ultimatum, either:

In addition, the United States was prepared to drop some demands on a new weapons inspections regime, including armed escorts, an idea inspectors oppose. Inspectors also believe a U.S. idea to fly Iraqi scientists outside of the country for interviews is unworkable.
Again, inspectors aren't stupid, and probably understand the situation on the ground better than most U.S. administration officials... certainly more than any blogger. If they don't think something can work, and if they think that they can do the job without it, then that belief should be respected. A lot of the demands and rhetoric that was bundled into the proposed resolution were clearly set up in order to ensure that the U.S. could find an excuse to invade no matter what Iraq did, and it's encouraging that saner heads are prevailing.

Still, the question remains: if Iraq does happen to be as good as its word (again, not out of benevolence but because of self-preservation) and the inspectors get to work in earnest, will the U.S. be willing to stand down from an invasion that it believes is all but certain? Is it politically viable, especially for an administration that has hung so many of its foreign policy goals and so much of its political capital and reputation on the prospect of the invasion, occupation, and pacification of Iraq?

I'm not sure... but then again, I didn't think the U.S. would go along with the French, either. Maybe now they're hoping that they can give Iraq enough rope to hang itself. Heck, they might even be right.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

On the National tonight, a U of T analyst called the news that North Korea is either in possession of nuclear weapons or soon will be a "nightmare for the Bush administration". I'm inclined to agree, although I'm not quite sure whether that "Bush administration" rider is really necessary... it's just scary through and through. (The link is to the NY Times, BTW, not said analyst.)

But another official said, "We're not certain that it's been weaponized yet," noting that North Korea has conducted no nuclear testing, which the United States could easily detect.

The idea of a North Korean arsenal immediately alters the delicate nuclear balance in Asia and confronts the Bush administration with two simultaneous crises involving nations developing weapons of mass destruction: one in Iraq, the other on the Korean Peninsula...

At a meeting today of the National Security Council, President Bush and his aides, who have been seeking to rid Iraq of the weapons of mass destruction it is believed to possess — by United Nations mandate if possible, and by force if necessary — decided to handle the North Korean matter through diplomatic channels.
This is a curious decision in some respects, especially for those who have been tracking the relative portrayals of Iraq and North Korea in the popular and elite media for a while. While the notion that Saddam Hussein is irrational is a fairly new one, largely developed as a response to those (like myself) that believe that Saddam is no more or less rational than any other dictator, the idea that the North Korean leadership is irrational or just plain nuts has been pretty consistent throughout the past two decades at the very least, and there's considerable doubt that diplomatic solutions would work for the erratic North Korean government.

They have dispatched two senior officials to China and other nations in the region in hopes of defusing the situation. One senior official said today that North Korea was "belligerent," rather than apologetic, in its declaration and that it would not end its program.
Not surprising; North Korea has precious little to gain from cooperation and contrition on this issue, and belligerence isn't exactly a new thing for Kim Jong Il. The real question is how a nuclear arsenal in the North will affect the relations of the two Koreas and, of course, whether the North will attempt to use its newfound abilities to try to take over the South by force. I don't think that it will, at least not yet; I remember Stratfor clearly laying out the case for North Korea's random behavior being a sophisticated bluff in order to keep its opponents off guard, off balance, and guessing at what the "mad Koreans" will do next, and I'm inclined to agree.

Then again, there's a simpler problem of what to do with the damned things. Any government, whether Korean, Iraqi, or whatever that tried to use nuclear weapons in order to bolster a conventional campaign would runs up against the simple fact that to use a nuclear weapon invites a nuclear response that would make the conventional campaign pointless- the leadership (and decent chunks of the military) would soon find themselves dead. There's little doubt of this; the response would be required for nuclear actors with an interest in the region to retain their credibility, and there's little doubt that world opinion would turn so heavily against any government that dared to perpetrate a "first strike" that any appropriate response would be seen as legitimate and the definition of "appropriate" would be enormously broad. Even tactical theatre weapons would probably provoke a response, although it would more likely consist of massive retaliation by America and its allies as opposed to the eradication of Pyongyang. (Or, say, Baghdad.) If there was a nuclear attack on that retaliation, of course, then we'd get to see what radioactive glass really looked like.

See, that's always been the problem with nuclear weapons: all they can really do is prevent others from either attacking with said weapons or conventionally effecting some sort of "regime change". As long as a government isn't faced with extinction, it's not going to use them, because to use them is to face extinction. They're simply too powerful, too dirty, and too dangerous for any other role and pretty much always have been.

(While it's possible that a government might consider some other goal more valuable than its own continued existence, there are precious few examples of that, if any, and it's safe to say that even if individual leaders wouldn't mind martyring themselves they would want their governments and states to continue on after they were gone. After all, without a people, how can you be a legend?)

The analyst wasn't just talking about the danger of a nuclear North when she mentioned that "nightmare", though, as the article goes on to make clear:

The administration's decision to keep news of the North Korean admission secret for the past 12 days while it fashioned a response appears significant for several reasons. Mr. Bush and his aides have clearly decided to avoid describing the situation as a crisis that requires a military response at a time when dealing with Iraq is the No. 1 priority.

"Imagine if Saddam had done this, that he had admitted — or bluffed — that he has the bomb or is about to have one," one senior official said. "But there's been a decision made that the system can take only so much at one time."

The response also has much to do with the vulnerability of America's allies. Every American administration that has considered military action against North Korea has come to the same conclusion: it is virtually impossible without risking a second Korean war, and the destruction of Seoul in South Korea. North Korea maintains a vast arsenal of conventional weapons and hundreds of thousands of troops.

But dealing with the problem diplomatically will be a tremendous challenge, at a time when the administration is already at odds with many of its closest allies over how to deal with Saddam Hussein.
This is a huge problem for the Bush administration: the rationale for attacking Iraq has just been significantly undermined. Considered in isolation, the case for or against attacking Iraq hasn't really changed, but that matters little in how people are going to see the issue of these two governments, and it presents a powerful dillema for the Bush administration. The fact that the U.S. has to deal with a nuclear-armed North Korea leaves Bush doubly screwed: not only does he have to figure out a diplomatic solution to the situation, but any diplomatic solution he does come up with will be thrown back in his face as a challenge to his assertions that an nuclear-armed Iraq will be impossible to deal with diplomatically. If it were any other government then he might be able to argue that Iraq is worse and Saddam is nuttier and therefore somehow different, but this is North Korea we're talking about. The American people wouldn't buy it, let alone the U.N., world opinion, or the world's other democratic governments.

For the sake of South Korea and Southeast Asia, I hope that this situation gets resolved. The resolution, though, is going to damage the credibility of Bush's arguments no matter how hard he tries, and this whole crisis will only further weaken his case for war in front of both the American people and the United Nations Security Council. Politically, this truly is a nightmare scenario.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Being permalinked on Michel Vuijlsteke's Weblog would be a heck of a lot more exciting were I to, um, actually understand a word being said.

Oh, well, I never have complained about a permalink before, and I'm not about to start now.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

It would appear that France may not be so ready to deal after all.

Really, it comes down to a conflict of economics (or political economy) and of national pride and the concept of multilateralism. Most of the arguments I've heard about France, Russia, and China bending are really economic. France and Russia just want their oil money, and China doesn't want trade with the U.S. to be hurt, so they'll deal. That's legitimate, but I've never been one to believe or argue that economics is the root of all human activity, just one of the aspects and manifestations of it. People and governments don't just think like "homo economicus"... they value other things as well, and are willing to sacrifice financial strength for those other valued things. In France's case, it'd probably be multilateralism, because the French government probably believes that France's strategic situation is far better off in a multilateral world of collective security than in a unipolar American world.

In Russia, on the other hand, the situation is a little more complex. There's a great desire in Russia to be a "player"; one of the most important issues to Russians right now is the incredible loss of power and prestige that came with the end of the Cold War, and the fall from superpower to mere regional power. While this means that the Russian government tends towards cooperation with the U.S. in order to enjoy alliance with the sole remaining superpower, there is still a fundamental conflict between a Russia that wants to be a player and a United States that wants to make sure that there are absolutely no threats to its military and strategic predominance. The question is where Iraq fits in there; as Iraq is the first manifestation of the Bush Doctrine it's possible that the Russians will say no so as to check that declaration of U.S. supremacy, but they might see that "the fix is in" and go with it.

Some argue that they might agree after some horsetrading over Georgia, but that might be counterproductive for the Russians. Not only do they have a border with Georgia and probably a much better case for "imminent threat" than Bush does, but Iraq has become a symbol of something much bigger than either Saddam or Dubya, and the Russians know that. To trade away that larger symbolic loss for the small gain of a conflict that they could probably engage in anyway would be extraordinarily foolish.

Vladamir Putin is not foolish.

There is more to the behavior of countries and peoples than money, and I'm not convinced that outside of the money question the interests of the U.S. and the other emmbers of the security council coincide. And let's not forget... according to the schedule, the preliminary inspectors go in tomorrow. For all the blather, invading while inspectors are on the ground would look really bad. Iraq knows that, France knows that, Russia knows that, and the U.S. government probably knows that. It's just a question of what they do about that.
As Atrios put it...Crap. To say that this is both disturbing and frightening is an understatement. The fact that this guy is going on 11 hits and still hasn't been found is really, really depressing, and makes me wonder how this will embolden others who were previously cowed by the fear of getting caught. I'd hate to see this become a trend, and it would appear to signify the return of the right-wing nut.

(Yes, it could be anybody. Still, gun culture and especially sniper culture isn't exactly a leftist thing, and it's even less akin to the kind of things that radical Islamic theocrats tend towards. Yeah, there was that "Gihad in America" sign in the dash of that white van, but that could just as easily be an attempt to throw investigators off his track.)

Oddly enough, however, that points out that there's an absence at the center of this. After Columbine, there was a great hue and cry about two things: media, and guns. Both somewhat petered out, but the point was that there was actually a conflict, and a bruising one at that. Now, however, the battle over guns that one would expect to have broken out is nowhere to be found. No politician wants to approach it, even liberal ones in liberal states, and most of the reportage has focused on the fear of the sniper's weapon, not why he has it and whether others should be able to have them too. I generally don't take a position on such issues, but the absence of the issues is perhaps one of the bigger stories.

Then again, maybe it's quite simple: guns prompt one-issue votes on behalf of their advocates and not on behalf of their detractors, so the votes simply aren't in it. Quite possible, although it prompts a puzzled question: why the hell are manifestations of so many important issues showing up right now, less than a month before the election?

Edit: A friend pointed out that this technically isn't the work of a real sniper rifle; the calibre of the bullets is nowhere near the size that you'd find in an honest-to-goodness sniper rifle. Point taken, although the comments about sniper (marksman?) culture remain valid, I think; Josh Marshall believes that the "from the facts at hand it really sounds like someone who has training as a sniper", and from what I've heard, I'm inclined to agree.

Friday, October 11, 2002

OK! I'm playing linker today, to three good pieces by people whose work I consistently admire.

First up is Dwight Meredith's piece on the question of disarmament vs. regime change. Yeah, it's about a week old, but I've been pretty busy lately, so I'll just play catch-up. It's not that Dwight's piece contains new and spectacular analysis or information, but it provides a great summary of the arguments for either. The only thing that I wish he could have added was the problem of invasion and regime change from an international law standpoint; not only is it directly against the U.N. charter, but it sets an example for other, less benign regimes to follow.

(I imagine that the Georgians are probably not big fans of the concept, for example.)

Second and third are a set of pieces by Jeanne D'Arc (here, and here) discussing the question of rebuilding in both Afghanistan and in Iraq. Jeanne brings a personal side to the question of Afghanistan:

The little yellow food packets were a symbol to me -- for a short time at least -- that there was a good chance that Bush understood the enormous human needs in Afghanistan, and recognized that meeting those needs was at least half the war effort. It was a token, of course -- but a good one. I took it as a promise that food, doctors, and medical supplies would be coming as soon as possible. And this time we wouldn't abandon the Afghans, because this time we understood how intimately our interests were mingled with theirs....

The essence of democracy -- whatever most people believe is true. Or all that counts anyway. George Bush obviously understood something about the American psyche that had whizzed right past my Catholic schoolgirl innocence: people in Afghanistan did not matter; what mattered was being able to tell ourselves that we are loved -- even by people we are bombing.

When Doctors Without Borders asked the administration to stop dropping the food because they were putting people's lives at risk, and making humanitarian workers' jobs harder in the long run, Bush didn't respond, and they kept dropping the food. What concerned DWB -- helping suffering people -- was irrelevant, and the issues they raised were not even worth responding to.

And if there was an implied promise to the people of Afghanistan in those packets, it has long since been broken.

The cynicism Bush displayed in manipulating humanitarian concerns (along with a similar cynicism in the exploitation of a genuine concern for women's basic human rights) and the failure to follow through in stabilizing the government of Afghanistan, continued to trouble me as I tried to decide whether or not to support war with Iraq.
That troubled thought is the subject of the latter post, where Jeanne correctly points out that if the U.S. neglects Iraq like it has Afghanistan outside of Kabul, the situation will be horrible and the region will be shattered.

And there are still more dangers. As James Fallows recently discussed in The Atlantic, a post-Saddam Iraq would be so chaotic it would make Afghanistan look easily governable in comparison. The US would have to make Iraq virtually, in Fallows' words, "the fifty-first state." We could not allow Iraq, with its arsenal, to become the kind of failed state that made Afghanistan a home for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But keeping it from doing so would require international support and a commitment to nation-building that dwarfs anything in our history, including the occupation of Japan.

That's a commitment that ought to give us pause and force some serious thinking, no matter who is president. But in Afghanistan, Bush demonstrated that he does not consider the commitment to re-building a part of his war strategy. If Karzai's government fails and Afghanistan falls back into anarchy, we face a threatening situation, but it is nothing compared to the situation we would face if Bush were to abandon Iraq after an invasion the way he has abandoned Afghanistan.
Again, that's the big question, isn't it? Not the invasion, but what happens after. Hopefully, it won't be the process of questing around for a new target. Hopefully, it'll be keeping Iraq from flying apart and rebuilding it properly, with the political and financial support of the United States.

Unfortunately, I'm not feeling particularly hopeful.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

I dunno about you folks, but when Martin Sheen plays a president on TV who is probably more popular than the real one, without the benefit of someone scaring the nation silly, I'd hesitate to call him a has-been.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

May I just say that I love links from non-blog news sites. 1200 visitors and rising.

Thanks, The Register!

For those who are coming in from the Register, the actual post where I mentioned that PigeonRank (tm) had somehow placed me at the top of the Google listings is here. In case you're wondering who I am or what this is about, just check out this piece, although I've moved away from rebutting neocon bloggers and more towards political analyses, simply because the rebuttal of neocons by intelligent, insightful, and wickedly funny liberal bloggers is practically a cottage industry nowadays. (Warms my heart, that does.)

One sad thing about reading that, though: At the end of that initial post, I said "don’t worry, most of my blog entries will not be this long." If I had only known.
This is classic:

Political Diatribe!

Blah blah blah partisan hoo-has! Blah blahdy blah the Administration blah blah. Bush & Cheney blah-blah-blah BLAH. And if you disagree you prove yourself to be an unpatriotic reactionary with no understanding of recent history, nor a grasp on the basic tenets of logical discourse.

Blah blah pinkos. Blah bla-bla blah Stalin! Blah blah blahdy blah Fascists!

Further, blah blah bla-bla-bla blah. Blah blah Bill Simon. Blah blah blah Gray Davis. Blah blah Jeb Bush. Blah blah blah Janet Reno blah Bill McBride!

Blah on Republicrat blah! Blah blah blah two party system!

Blah blah blah Saddam blah Weapons of Mass Destruction! Blah blah Hitler blah gassed his own people! Blah blah Al Qaeda. Blah blah blah Regime Change blah Weapons Inspections! Blah blah blah Destabilize the Region & blah blah blah Blood for Oil.

Blah blah Homosexuality blah Abortion blah Jihad blah Secular Humanists blah Fundamentalists blah Islamikazes blah Israelis blah Palestinians blah Neocons blah The New York Times!!!
I suddently feel superfluous.
By the way, Shout Out to Andrew Orlowski at The Register, who had this to say in regards to my Google ranking:

And one of my favorite b-bl-bl journals (an antidote to the armchair pugilists Governor Ventura calls 'Chickenhawks') had grabbed top spot in Google's page rank for "Demosthenes". Which as the author readily admitted was absurd, and not very helpful if you were doing a school project on ancient Greece.

Maybe I should link to And thanks for the compliment, it's always nice to hear.
Edit: mixed up something that has since been rectified. Also, closed a parentheses.

Well, as Uggabugga has been pointing out, the Usual Suspects are slamming the NYTimes/CBS poll as being flawed and biased in some respects. Not overly surprising, but what is surprising is just how weak the attacks are.

Firstly, we get constant streams of complaints that the NY Times didn't put up their questions or the responses. Fair 'nuff, but that doesn't mean that their interpretations are incorrect, just that they didn't feel the need to break down the responses to each question. Considering that there are 87 questions, I'd say that's a pretty fair cop, and CBS put up the info on their website. Since the Times does give credit to CBS as a co-sponsor of the poll and considering that anybody who was actually interested could easily find the poll (and did), it's kind of a non-issue.

Secondly, we get amateurish whining about the article and about the authors, where we have the neo-con or Rhino bias substituted in for whatever bias might actually exist. Not overly surprising, but still somewhat depressing.

Thirdly, we get complaints about the poll itself; the questions, and the analysis. For this I turn to the Weakly Standard, who made great hash about the analysis:

Question Three. "What do you think is the single most important problem for the government--that is, the president and Congress--to address in the coming year?" Nagourney and Elder write that voters answered they are "more concerned about the economy and domestic issues than with what is happening to Saddam Hussein." In fact, however, Times/CBS poll respondents identified "Terrorism/War/Security" as the one "most important problem" facing government (30 percent), with "Economy/Jobs/Stock Market" ranking second (26 percent). And even this result understates the truth: Listed third among the responses is an additional foreign policy category, "Iraq" (7 percent)--which means that voters principally concerned with international matters outnumber those who prefer to think about issues that "Democrats had hoped to capitalize on" by an almost 3-to-2 margin.
Look at this paragraph, but more importantly look not at what they did put in, but what they didn't. What they didn't include were all the other choices, which include: "Medicare/Social Security", "Education", "Poverty/Homelessness", "Health Care", "Budget Deficit/National Debt", "Business Ethics/Corporate Ethics", and "other". Yes, Iraq and Terrorism together trump the blanket "economy" figure, but they don't by any means trump all the other figures, and the only one that perhaps isn't directly an economic concern is "other". (Both Medicare/Social Security and Education are fundamentally economic concerns, and are hugely affected by the economic state of the United States.)

Indeed, if you look at the "independent" field, more independents care about Social Security/Medicare than about Iraq, and trying to tie together Iraq and terrorism doesn't wash; that's assuming a connection that the American people have not themselves made. Plus, there's about a dozen other questions that show that people really do care about the economy and are worried about it- questions that the Standard isn't bringing up.

Another example, and this time of gross lying on the part of the Standard themselves? Take a look:

Question Eighteen. "Which of these should be the higher priority for the nation right now--the economy and jobs, or terrorism and national security?" This, of course, is simply a forced-choice restatement of the more open-ended Question Three, above. And its results therefore speak more directly to the conclusion suggested by the Times' front-page sub-hed: "Poll Finds Lawmakers Focusing Too Much on Iraq and Too Little on Issues at Home." Trouble is, Question Eighteen's results flatly contradict that sub-hed. A full 50 percent of respondents said terrorism should be a higher priority than the economy. And only 35 percent said the opposite--again, a nearly 3-to-2 preference for foreign policy.
Unfortunately, question 17 does not. Question 17 is, of course, the source of the main "70%" headline, and it really does say that 70% of people really do think that there should focus more on the economy. (17% say "War with Iraq", and 13% say "Both"... since both are not being focused on right now, that's more like 83% in favor of more economic discussion.) The two questions are related, of course, but also look at the distinction (again!) between what's being asked here. One says "War with Iraq", and the other says "Terrorism". Yes, Americans say that the U.S. government should prioritize terrorism, but that does not by any means or by any standards back up the Standard's assertion that the Times is being remotely disingenous by saying that Americans are sick of the Iraq question. In fact, it shows the assumptions of the Standard (as I mentioned above) that the American people actually think that Iraq and Terror are synonymous, an assumption that they give no reason for.

Funny thing is, even if you do assume that, these two questions are "half-samples". Add them together and average them out, and you still get a massive call for more focus on the Economy on the part of the polled citizens, especially if you (logically) add in "Both" to the "Economy" side. By leaving out question 17 and the "half-poll" aspect, the Standard does a fantastic job of blowing apart its own critique.

To be honest, though, question-by question responses are unnecessary due to a simple fact. There are eighty-seven questions on this poll. Of all of these, the Standard could find three to criticize, two of which, as I've shown above, are perfectly credible. They didn't even address or mention the other questions, which again brings up the question of what exactly they aren't telling us. How many questions contradict the ones that they've pulled out? Why do they just keep on comparing it to the headline, instead of actual text in the article? Why leave out CBS, whose findings were substantially similar? As Holmes said, why didn't the dog bark?

In the end, the answer is clear. There's no reason to doubt the Times study on the key point of Economy vs. Iraq, and every reason to doubt its critics. Once again, the neo-cons (and Rhinos) prove that they're spinners and little else. Half-assed spinners at that.

(By the way, the .pdf of the study is here, for those who want to check themselves.)

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

This is the coolest thing ever.

Just hook this up with a HMD and I'd never forget a name again. Yeah, I'm for that.
Found on Eschaton:

BLITZER: Let me pick up on that point because we're getting flooded with e-mail. Mike, this one for you. "The Bush administration is
making Iraq its cause celebre (ph) and diverting attention from other issues like the economy. It is short-sighted to think that a war
with Iraq will solve all our problems with terrorism."

What do you say to Gila from California?

GALLAGHER: Well, Gila needs to remember that this is about national security. And Gila shouldn't have a short memory and forget
what happened September 11, 2001. And that's what this is about. If people want to play political games and already say -- have
Joe Madison sit there in Washington and say this won't be a slam dunk before hearing the first word out of President Bush's mouth,
tonight. That's because people like Joe and Gila are rooting against the president and against this country. And listen, I say to Gila or
to Joe, if you don't like what this government stands for, go over to Baghdad and be a loyal to Saddam Hussein like McDermott is.

MADISON: You know, I'm going to tell you something. Now, Mike, we are both, and spent some time in Dayton, Ohio, about 50 miles
-- I know it's true. And because I'm stating a fact, let me tell you, don't you ever question my loyalty to this country...

GALLAGHER: You're un-American. You're un-American.

MADISON: Don't...

GALLAGHER: hate America. And that's why...

MADISON: Well, this is not a ...

GALLAGHER: ... People like you are being deemed irrelevant. Madison. ... Debate. Now, it's name calling. GALLAGHER: It's true.

MADISON: I mean, this is...

GALLAGHER: ... You're un-American. You're either with us or with the terrorists.

BLITZER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Mike, let him respond (inaudible). You can't make an accusation like that
without giving him a chance to talk.

MADISON: He can't -- as a matter of fact, he can't make an accusation like that without knowing the person.

GALLAGHER: I do know the person...

MADISON: That's the best...

GALLAGHER: I know what you stand for, and that's why your whittling away and saying that you know President Bush won't
have a slam dunk tonight because you're hoping he doesn't. Listen, I asked a simple question...

BLITZER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. All right...

GALLAGHER: You're either with us or with the terrorists, Wolf. The president's (inaudible). Which side are you on, Joe?

I'd like to come out and say that, yes, I'm against Bush. Many people are, both inside and outside the United States. We don't want his agenda passed, we want his policy initiatives checked, we think that his (s)election was a sad mistake, we want the Democrats to take Congress so they can frustrate his attempts to remake America in the image of his neo-conservative handlers, and we think his foreign policy is deadly dangerous. We don't want him to be president a minute longer than he is constitutionally entitled to, and will bend our every effort that we legally can to ensure that he follows his father's legacy of a single-term presidency.

We are not, however, against the United States. If we were, we wouldn't work against him, and the harm he would do to the United States. We'd let him do it, and reap the rewards of the chaos, inequity, economic ruin and lowered standard of living that he could leave the United States in. Those inside the country could take power by taking the reins themselves and taking credit for the rebuilding, and those outside it could exploit America's weakness to become more powerful themselves.

We could, but we won't.

We won't because we like the United States, like Americans, and want both the country and its citizens to prosper and succeed. We think it has an important role to play in the world and a unique perspective on that world and on those who live within it. It is not necessarily a commanding role, but it is a key one, as the realities of the American experiment make almost inevitable.

Those who cannot parse that should get the hell off the airwaves. And, for that matter, the Internet. You're contributing nothing useful, and wasting everybody's time.
In some respects, it was a pretty good day for the Democrats yesterday. First, of course, is the news that the Supreme Court will not be hearing the N.J. case, which means that Lautenberg is pretty much a lock for the N.J. Senate seat; if not a lock, then certainly as strong a contender as the Democrats could hope for. (It doesn't hurt that Forrester has subconsciously given the impression that he can't handle the competition, either, thanks to the legal challenge.)

Second is the news that Americans are interested in more of a focus on discussion of domestic economic issues instead of merely Iraq. Most Democrats think will help their situation, especially considering that economic figures are dropping like stones. Not exactly a nice thing to contemplate, but it undercuts Republican efforts to say that there's a recovery going on, and helps Democrats in the charge that the Republicans aren't exactly competent economic stewards. (Paging Dr. Krugman...) Indeed, this new poll might demonstrate that there's been more of a focus on economics all along than many had previously thought, although it might not necessarily benefit the Democrats as much as they think it will. (Depends on whether or not the Republicans get associated with those figures. If this continues they undoubtedly will in 2004, but right now it's a tough call.)

There is, however, a third factor entering into all of this that's less positive towards the Dems: the new Bush speech tonight, which was obviously aimed at convincing the American public that this is the way to go. I didn't get a chance to watch the speech myself, but most of the media reports on it I read imply that it didn't really impart any new information- it just summarized and restated what arguments already exist. That's useful, of course, but most Americans would probably already be familiar with these arguments from any number of pro-war pundits and commentators, and therefore I doubt they'll be any more swayed than they were beforehand. Less, actually, if that new poll that says that support has dropped to nearly fifty percent holds steady after the speech.

Edit: I doubt it'll make much difference at all. Apparently only Fox and its affiliates (and, I suppose, CNN) actually carried the speech. Unless they consciously tuned in (which is doubtful), a large part of the American public didn't even watch the speech. They'll get the gist of it from the media, but judging by the reporting by the NY Times, Washington Post, and to a lesser extent CNN, even the positive reactions are going to be variations of "he strenuously stated what he already knew". That will work for direct viewers, but probably not in after-the-fact news reports.

(There's no doubt it also reinforced the international perception that there's no way that Iraq could possibly avoid the invasion. Austrio-Hungary prior to WWI and the drafters of the Versailles Treaty would be envious of Bush's terms. This may cause some issues, but again, they're probably not issues that don't already exist.)

The big question here is, of course, what will happen in the Security Council. I've talked to several people who think that the U.S. is going to horse-trade its way into compliance by China, Russia, and France, but I'm still not convinced that that's going to happen; they stand to lose a lot more than some petrodollars if the Bush doctrine eliminates the concept of national security and sovereignty. Remember, according to that unearthed think-tank document, China's a candidate for regime change. There's no doubt they know that. There's no doubt they know that this will make that easier. The only doubt is whether or not the Bushies are dumb enough to go for China. Considering that they wrote that paper in the first place... I wouldn't put it past them.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Five words:

Mo Rocca's magic Saddam heads.

(I'll link if and when it ends up on the comedy central site. Jon Stewart for Philosopher-King.)

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Another issue that I hadn't addressed is Ted Barlow's piece and Rob Lyman's response on the issue of namecalling between the left and the right. Ted thinks that the right has been going too far, whereas Rob points out that the namecalling exists on both sides. Fair enough, it does; the question is who's doing it. Most mainstream Democrats (or liberals) are being almost painfully fair to the Republicans (or conservatives), and the same is not true in the reverse direction. Examinations of the neo-conservative right are pretty clear on this point: relatively centrist or not, they have a complete disdain and loathing of their opposites that simply doesn't exist going the other way- and they're at the core of the current conservative movement.

Yes, there are people on the "far left" who criticize conservatives. By and large, however, they're usually focusing on specific issues or on some sort of political-economic indictment of the "elites" and the "system"... not on conservatism itself. That's a leftist thing, rooted in their belief that the system shapes the attitudes, not the other way around. It's one of the reasons why the larger left is so damned incoherent- this laser-focus on specific issues and broader focus on the system instead of the individuals means that they have trouble being electorally effective and having much of a say in this system. (No, those two points are not contradictory.)

I don't agree with Lyman's point that:

So the point is not that Quick's post or Coulter's columns are good or meaningful contributions to the debate. They are not. But neither are they simply insults tossed out because the author is motivated by hate, bile or because the author is a cornered weasel. They are abbreviations, placeholders; they serve to tell the faithful "I am making argument #421(c) in response to opposing arguments #117(b-f)." In this way the lazy or busy can pile hundreds of pages of philosopy, political science, opinion research and ideology into a few sentences. (In some cases, of course, they are simply all an ignorant author knows how to write.)
I think there's far too little of that going on for it to be a credible explanation, and far too few people who can call up all that stuff in order to see where everything's going. While participants may see political debate as a chess match (although, oddly enough, it seems a lot more like Go than chess), other people derive their opinions from it, and the vast majority of the audience of these debates do not either know about or understand all these background tidbits. It's questionable as to whether anybody could; opinion research changes by the day, and political science is a field that is pretty badly misunderstood by far too many people, including those who spend a significant part of their lives discussing politics. (Witness Den Beste and proportional representation, or Chomsky and I.R. realism, or the Lyman-linked article by Jonah Goldberg and the problem of unintented consequences, the element of trust in I.R., the importance of collective security, the real arguments of internationalists, and several other boners that imply that either Goldberg hasn't the faintest clue why the U.N. was invented in the first place or simply doesn't care if ignoring them will assist his argument.)

And finally, to say "we're all just partisans anyway" gets dangerously close to a kind of PoMo. To say that bias and perspective exists is perfectly valid. To say that means that all sides are equal... isn't the right kind of against that kind of thing?

Still, all of that isn't really what I was getting at. (Yeah, I know, but I hate breaking things up into two different posts when they're thematically consistent and come from the same source.)

Ok, as a response to all of that, Ted offers, among other things, this:

If I was going to write a long reply, which I can't do right now, I would state that I wasn't being facetious when I said "so what?" about Bill Quick's post. I think it was way over the line, and I think that it's worth arguing about. But in the grand scheme of things, bloggers don't really matter. Bill Quick doesn't matter, Counterspin doesn't matter, and Ted Barlow sure as hell doesn't matter. If you want to find extremists of any sort in self-published web sites, you will find them.

On the other hand, pundits kind of matter, and elected officials definitely matter. And I just don't often see major liberal pundits or elected Democrats engaging in the same kind of personal, insulting attacks. I don't see prominent liberals denying the intelligence of all conservatives, or attacking their colleagues as unpatriotic, or whatever. You sure don't see elected Democrats treating Bush with the same personal venom that elected Republicans treated Clinton, even before Lewinsky. When Ted Kennedy starts shooting pumpkins in his backyard to establish that President Bush is a murderer, I'll apologize.
As to the main point of this (the pundits on the right are far meaner and nastier) I'll heartily agree; nobody who watches CNN for any significant amount of time will fail to notice that right-wingers are much more aggressive (outside of Crossfire, but Begala and Carville are noticable largely for their uniqueness) and that they tend to use much nastier rhetoric about their ideological opponents. Anybody who compares leftist and rightist magazines will have this conclusion proven pretty damned quickly as well; the Weekly Standard and the American Prospect differ not just in perspective, but in practically everything else.

As to bloggers not mattering, though; well, that depends on how you define a blogger. The vast majority of us typing into the night... yeah, we probably don't matter. The general public certainly doesn't pay attention, nor are they likely to; political bloggers usually run their discussions on a pretty elite level, and usually cater to those who already know something about politics and economics and the like. It ain't the Academy by any means, and it isn't ever close to the level of knowledge that Lyman asserts, but those who don't have much of a clue what's going on won't hang around. This is pretty much the same audience political magazines cater to; the politically-involved minority. It's also no doubt true that these magazines do have an influence, although more on the right side... an article that starts in the Weekly Standard might end up in Republican talking points a few months down the line, and I still wonder where the "chickenhawk" meme got started in the current quasi-debate on Iraq, because I doubt it was at the DLC. Finally, some blogs do have influence- MWO's popularity offline is proof of that, and I imagine that it largely exists within the Beltway, not outside of it.

More important than all of that though, is the posibility of "graduation". That coincidence of audiences and methods means that bloggers have an opportunity to both be taken seriously by the magazines and media and eventually become become part of them. Online this is already pretty common; Eugene Volokh's article on NRO, the numbers of guest editorials on the Fox News website, and the linkages back and forth between bloggers and other media shows that there is a strong possibility that right-wing bloggers might end up writing for right-wing media. (This doesn't exist on the left yet, but give it time... somebody is going to realize just how good, say, James Cappozola is and is going to capitalize on that.) Plus, there's a possibility of ideas travelling back and forth.. a blogger comes up with an idea, someone with more influence picks up on it and either uses it directly or refines it for broader discussion, it's picked up by the mass-market and pretty soon it's everywhere.

The most worrisome (or interesting) influence, though, is the possible policy influence, especially on the right. There are tight linkages between the right-wing media and the right-wing policy community (the latter practically created the former), and that process of idea adoption and refinement need not stop at the individual columnist or journalist. If Richard Perle or Grover Norquist see something good in, say, the Weekly Standard, they're going to no doubt use it; and if they manage to bend the ears of somebody in the administration or the legislature(which is assuredly not difficult for either), it could easily become policy or, perhaps, the core of a new law. Indeed, it need not be as direct as this; the talking point simply being trotted out could prompt action from those who aren't even quite sure where it comes from.

Do I think this is common? Hardly; there are thousands of political bloggers out there and "graduation" remains incredibly rare. The whole "blog" concept has huge barriers to this as well: A "linker" wouldn't really get a shot at having ideas filter upward, and there's so much replication and repetition of ideas and concepts that individual bloggers wouldn't really get the credit for it unless they're either exceptionally lucky, exceptionally well-placed, or through sheer strength of rhetoric and knowledge make their presence known. Even if the idea is good and well-presented, it might be ignored unless it catches someone's eye, and that's often remarkably arbitrary: the post that prompted my highest number of daily hits was a fairly minor thing compared to the larger articles I write that get largely ignored. I'm not exceptional in this, either; lots of bloggers complain about it.

Still, Ted, the possibility remains for bloggers to get noticed and get read, and I think that as the dust settles and people move on to something else (as usually happens online), those that remain will become more integrated into the policy community as blogging stops being a fad and starts becoming a normal part of the political landscape. Heck, at one point, the ideological makeup of bloggers might even start resembling the United States as a whole, and might become truly international instead of incredibly U.S. focused.

It'd be a nice change.

Friday, October 04, 2002

By and large I've stayed out of the Torriceli flap, simply because I see it as both a tempest in a teapot and a rather sad commentary on the Republican party's ability or willingness to "win" elections without running to the conveniently friendly U.S. Supreme Court. (State's rights my ass.)

(Yes, this is a large reason why I haven't blogged since Wednesday, although it was also because I've been somewhat busy.)

Still, so far as I have an opinion on this subject, it matches
Joshua Micah Marshall's.

The real public good question, it seems to me, is just what harm anyone has suffered through this decision. I can't see one, save Doug Forrester's being forced to run against an actual candidate.
Yeah, that just about sums it up.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Interesting speculation on Conanson:

So the chances that the origins of this hoax will ever be revealed are now conveniently small. Was it the work of a pair of clever Turkish con men? (Swindling Saddam's agents sounds like a very unhealthy idea. Wouldn't they examine the goods before handing over the $5 million? Wouldn't they shoot someone who tried to sell them a handful of useless metallic dust?) Or was it a disinformation scheme concocted to further certain political aims?

A clue appeared two days ago in Kommersant, a Russian publication whose correspondent revealed what he had learned on the Debkafile Web site, which claims to have sources at high levels in various intelligence and military services (particularly the Israeli Mossad). According to Debkafile, "the uranium seizure resulted from a joint operation by the [Russian] Foreign Intelligence Service and the CIA which began at the start of August." How interesting. After they played this hoax so big, why aren't the media more curious about the perpetrators?
Well, Joe, my first guess would be that the news that the whole thing was a hoax is inherently uncomfortable for the media, considering how they hyped it, and they probably don't want to explore it any further. After all, if it isn't scaring somebody, why play it?

Then again, I'd also speculate that since the American media is rather big into the self-censorship these days, they aren't really going to chase a story that could possibly create the perception that there was an attempt by an arm of the U.S. government to deliberate misinform the people it is supposed to represent... or that said arm was so appalling incompetent as to get hoodwinked by a scam this lame. That's just me, though.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

For those (no doubt few) people who read my site and don't (yet) read tbogg, there's a great deconstruction of Sully over there regarding the whole "Reps in Baghdad" flap.

Here's a taste:

Andy:Congressman Jim McDermott has just accused president Bush of wilfully lying to the American people about national security threats from Saddam or Al Qaeda.

Looks like the International Atomic Energy Agency begs to differ. Guess it was just a mistake in the Cliff Notes that Condi prepared for him...or Bush lied.

Andy:He said this not on the floor of the House or in his district - but in Baghdad, the capital city of a despot who is on the brink of war with the United States.

Actually, it looks like the Bush is on the brink of war with Iraq, not the other way around. I haven't heard Saddam threatening "regime change" in the US. If he did, I'm sure the papers would have mentioned it.

Andy:At a time when the U.S. government is attempting some high-level diplomatic maneuvers in the U.N.

Bush: Either you go with us or we are gonna go anyway. Yup, sounds "high level diplomatic" to me.

My personal view has been that the Bush administration wouldn't be stupid enough to invade with inspectors packing up and getting ready to go, but I could definitely be wrong on that. They might indeed be that stupid.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Updated information on the U.N./Iraq talks:

The United Nations and Iraq have agreed on practical arrangements for the return to Iraq of UN weapons inspectors.
Announcing the deal - after two days of talks in Vienna - the head of the inspection team Hans Blix said Iraq accepted all inspection rights under existing UN resolutions.

Dr Blix said the inspectors would have unconditional access to all sites - but not to eight presidential palaces which are covered under a separate agreement between Iraq and UN.
Good news, although the presidential palace part will likely be a sticking point. Can anybody point me to the relevant agreement involving those palaces?

What this meant, of course, is that the U.S. had instantly lost a lot of the momentum to have the new resolution put in place. If Blix and co were going in, then the argument for the necessity of a new resolution (and the possibility of a related war) weaken considerably.

Why do I use the past tense?

Because there's more. Feast your eyes on this:

Another State Department official even went as far as to warn that the US will "thwart" the return of inspectors under the existing UN arrangements.

Washington - which wants to see Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein toppled - is pressing for a tougher Security Council resolution that would specifically mention the threat of military intervention should the inspectors be unable to complete their work.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W Bush had not made any decision to go to war in Iraq - he suggested the Iraqis assassinate their leader.



What the hell were they thinking? As if it didn't already look like the U.S. wanted to invade at any costs and under any circumstances, they have gone so far as to say they want to deliberately subvert the inspections regime? Do they even have the faintest idea how utterly this will discredit them in the eyes of world public opinion, and how absolutely valid that discrediting is? Even if this was their goal, to publicly go ahead and say it was so astoundingly stupid that I have to wonder how much desperation propelled it.

And (although not quoted) you're also saying (through Ari) that the only way to avert war is the exile or assassination of Hussein?

See, the Bushite's war would be in trouble already thanks to these inspection agreements , but this clinches it. Georgie, you might as well wave bye-bye to Chirac, the Chinese, and "Pootie-poot", because there's no bloody way that they're going to support the U.S. resolution now. They'd have to be absolutely daft, and that is one thing that they are not. Especially Putin. Hell, I wouldn't be overly surprised if Blair backs away too.

This was ludicrous. It's possibly the biggest and best example yet of just how incompetent at P.R. the Bushites really are, despite their cynical harnessing of 9/11 sentiments and their tight control over leaks. Neither helps if your "message" is so utterly moronic.

Looks like the only options remaining are giving up on the war or invading despite world opinion being aligned against you. Lovely. Just think- Americans have to suffer two more years of these idiots.

Atomic energy officials said Monday that a substance seized by police near the Syrian border was not weapons-grade uranium as Turkish officials first reported, according to the Anatolia news agency.

Atomic Energy Institute chief Guler Koksal said the material was harmless, containing zinc, iron, zirconium and manganese.

Police, acting on a tip, recovered the material in a taxi last week in Sanliurfa province, near the Syrian border. Two Turks who were trying to sell the material as uranium were released from custody.

The seizure alarmed intelligence agencies around the world when the Turkish police said it weighed 35 pounds last week. On Monday, police said the material weighed only 5 ounces.

The disparity occurred because authorities initially included the weight of the lead container in which the material was placed, police said.
Zinc, Iron, Zirconium, and Manganese!

Wonder if they were actually trying to smuggle some of that "gorgeous cubic zirconium" to the Shopping Channel? That stuff's red hot, you know.

So, lessee... IAEA proven as deliberately misinterpreted (or an out-an-out lie); IISS says that Iraqi nukes are years away at best; the Blair Dossier is a textbook example of embedding old and dubious information in new speculation; U.N. talks are going swimmingly and barring interference will likely get inspectors in by October 16; the U.S. resolution appears to be going nowhere; nobody has really dealt with the clear fact that Iraq is as deterrable as anybody else without being reduced to poorly-written science fiction; the "uranium" will likely make for a lovely necklace; and Rumsfeld is reduced to claiming that anti-aircraft missile launchers are actually breeder reactors in very clever disguises.

Massaoui could make a better case.

So, can we just drop the pretense and admit that this is all becuase the U.S. wants a League of Nations-style mandate in Iraq?
In the aforementioned Times article:

Rumsfeld said the fact that Iraq continues to fire on U.S. and British warplanes shows that Iraq's claimed willingness to open the country to weapons inspectors was ``patently false.''
Mind explaining that one, Rummy? I'm having a little trouble making the connection there.

(Y'know, for an administration with a supposedly "ironclad case", they pull out an awful lot of really, really stupid arguments.)
In the Times:

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., and senior committee member Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on Monday circulated an alternative proposal that they said ``helps the president attract strong bipartisan support in Congress.''Their draft resolution would focus on authorizing the use of force against Iraq as opposed to the entire region and make clear that dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be the primary reason for using force.
Seems reasonable enough. The limitations fit a limited war in Iraq on the important issue of non-proliferation and the latter aspect is precisely what Blair has been advocating.

What was Bush's response, though?

``I don't want to get a resolution which ties my hands,''
Ties his hands how, exactly? In that it declares that WMDs are the primary reason, or that it authorizes the use of force against Iraq as opposed to, um, the...entire...region....

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner.

Yeah, this is just about Iraq and Saddam. Sure it is. I wonder who it's going to "just be about" next?
What He Said.

Speaking on US television, Mr Powell said the UN weapons inspectors might have to wait for Security Council guidance before any plans for going back into Iraq are finalised.

However, Hans Blix, the head of UN weapons inspectors, made it clear that he answered to the Security Council - not to the US.

"I'm asked by the Security Council to do this job, and I do it. I try to," Mr Blix said as he headed into a second and final day of talks with senior Iraqis at the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna.
There's little doubt that the Bush administration is trying to disrupt or discredit these talks- as I've said, they're probably the biggest obstacle (outside of maybe the French) standing between them and their war. If the talks go well and inspectors go in, the momentum for a new resolution stalls completely, and the Bush administration faces either the spectacle of invading despite the presence of inspectors or the embarassment of climbing down from war footing because of Bush's embrace of multilateralism. They can still hope that the Iraqis would screw around with the inspectors, but what little information is coming out of the talks implies that the Iraqis really were serious about letting inspectors in.

(It's not surprising, though. I've felt for a while that the Iraqi regime wants to preserve itself, even if it loses its WMDs. It's just that they don't want it to be a pretext for weapons targeting and for eventual war, as it would no doubt be under the terms of the U.S.-sponsored resolution.)

At this point the big question is whether a new resolution gets passed, and which resolution it will be. The apparent success of these talks seems to imply that it'll either be "no resolution" or the French compromise. Barring ugly horse trading or arm-twisting, I doubt that the U.S. resolution would get past China, Russia, and France at this point.

Actually, come to think about it, it probably wouldn't get past them either way.
While I'm quoting Jim Henley (who is recovering nicely from that weird library thing from a few months back) I'll happily point to this piece on the nascent "weapons of (some) destruction" debate... whether chemical and biological weapons really count as weapons of mass destruction.

Personally, I argue for a little nuance and complexity here. (Surprise.) There's no doubt that some chemicals and biological agents can theoretically be as deadly as an equivalent-sized nuke, but that isn't usually what we're talking about, and those are under best-case-scenario conditions. (Well, for the attacker.) Jim Henley's example of a fuel-air bomb as a type of WMD illustrates how illusory this definition can be, and brings up a very good point- what happens when "conventional" explosive weapons are just as effective? Dead is dead, after all.

It should probably come down to which chemical, and which bug. Some really should count as WMDs, and some shouldn't. Doesn't mean that banning them from the battlefield isn't a good idea anyway, but conflating them with nukes gets you in all sorts of trouble, especially once the whole argument gets broken down and starts looking somewhat suspicious. It's not necessary (the treaties that ban them don't worry about "WMDs", after all), so why bother?

(Well, unless you're pushing a sham justification for a war, that is. But that's a different story.)
Edit: other oopsie fixed. Bloody picky HTML hyperlinks. Leave out one bracketed "A" and the whole thing goes blooie.

Jim Henley lays out the possibilities on the Turkish Uranium debacle:

1) Some Turkish cops and some foreign reporters got way, way hysterical over what turned out to be nothing at all. Odds: Decent.

2) The US and Turkish governments have decided that, on second thought, they really don't want people worrying about this stuff right now. Why: If they know a bunch of stuff did get through, or if they realized that the Uranium was destined for someone decidedly other than an authorized villain. (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel all suggest themselves, though you'd think the Israelis could produce all the Uranium they need.) Odds: Decent.

3) They're playing the "released" smugglers, expecting to trail them back to their boss. Odds: Decent, but would be higher if we lived in TV.

4) This was a US/British covert op that went wrong. Odds: Non-negligible

5) This was an Israeli covert op that the US decided was ill-timed. i.e. Israel wanted to make it look like, oh, Bashaar Assad was smuggling Uranium into Syria (which is probably happening anyway) to get Syria moved up the invasion list. But the US just isn't ready for that. Odds: Small, but maybe better than the US/British op theory.

6) You and me actually ever find out what happened. Odds: Negligible.

Conclusion: Become a comics blogger instead. You get nice e-mails.
Hey, there's a reason I link to 8-bit theatre.

This, of course, is because the whole thing is becoming increasingly smelly- to the extent that now we are told that: "Former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright suggested the men could have been trying to swindle potential buyers. But he said investigators should try to determine both the source and the intended purchaser."

Um, yeah.

In related news, negotiations between Iraq and UNMOVIC appear to be plodding along well enough, and although there are still issues to be resolved, the negotiations are moving along and it appears likely that the inspectors will be going in on Oct. 15 as planned. This, of course, could end up as yet another blow to the U.S., after the twin setbacks of the Russian condemnation of the latest no-fly zone bombing and the French intransigence on the proposed new U.N. resolution gives new credence to the idea that the French will simply not allow a single resolution that both sets up the inspection conditions and authorizes military force if the conditions are breached.

The reason for this French position is apparent enough. a resolution like the one the Bush administration is proposing is tantamount to a declaration of war, as there is no doubt whatsoever that the Bushites would find some reason to find Iraq's actions lacking and use the resolution as cover for the invasion. The French propose instead...

a two-stage resolution: firstly demanding Iraq allow the weapons inspectors to do their work and then - only if Baghdad fails to comply - a second part authorising military intervention.
This is intended as a multilateral check on the Bush administration. The necessity of passing a second resolution returns the authority for action to the Security Council itself- while the U.S. could no doubt use an existing force provision in an existing resolution, the Security Council itself would be needed to pass the other one.

In some respects, though, where this goes will provide a valuable insight into the mentality of the Bush administration. It depends on how you see this. If you (and they) think that Iraq is going to comply with the current inspection regime (or a stronger-yet-reasonable alternative), then the Bushites would be definitely against this, as they need U.N. support to keep their domestic support up and to attempt to repair their tattered international relations. If they honestly believe that Iraq will try to end-run around the inspectors, then there's no reason why they couldn't accept the double resolution, because they know that they'll get their authorization in the end anyway. The BBC seemed to think that the U.S. might go for the French proposal, and I'm inclined to agree.

Still, if the negotiations are successful, then the French and Russians might go back to arguing that no new resolutions are required. It is true that the U.S. might horse-trade or buy them off, but I personally find that unlikely, because their own national security and domestic popularity could be hurt by this. (I know Blair's has.) That would be a huge victory for the Iraqis- invasion would be practically unthinkable if inspectors were on the ground in Iraq.

Unless, of course, the U.S. says "screw it" and invades anyway. That's possible- there's no doubt that the "debate" is entirely a sham, and that these U.N. machinations are solely because Bush stuck his neck out on the 12th and is trying to deal with ramifications of that perhaps rash decision. At this point, it's coming down to good old fashioned Realist conflicts of interests. Nothing surprising about that. That's what the U.N. is there for.