Friday, January 30, 2004
Another correction. Last week, I said "Dean has way too much money to be counted out." But that was completely wrong. [FN1] Holy crap, man. from 41 million to 4.5 in a month. They spent way too much money on some really bad television. They are broke, and swinging into the phase of the campaign where money is most important. All eyes on the "comeback bat", folks; if Dean's getting back into this, that's how he'll do it.[FN2] But latest polls have him at single digits in South Carolina, and that was before the New Hampshire debacle. He's also started to shed some of the more fickle of his early-bandwagoneering superdelegates.
So where are we? Hard to say. I don't get to vote, anyway - I moved into DC too late to vote in our meaningless primary, and I moved out of Virginia too early to vote in theirs. It might be time to make peace with this fellow Kerry, despite the faint Dukakisian whiff he gives off. Oh, well.
Hey, aren't there some Senate races or something going on this year?
[FN1] I stand by the rest of that post, though. I really don't want to think about what happens if labor detaches from the democrats.
[FN2]And he's not going to do it.
Monday, January 26, 2004
Alarming. From the Hindustan Times on Friday comes the following report:
CIA warns of possible civil war in Iraq
Press Trust of India
Washington, January 23
Iraq may be on the verge of a civil war to trifurcate the country into three states -- Kurdish, Sunni and Shia -- the CIA has reportedly warned US administration officials.
The Central Intelligence Agency's bleak assessment was delivered orally to Washington this week, according to the Carnegie Foundation.
It starkly contradicts the upbeat assessment President George W Bush gave on Iraq in his State of the Union address three days ago.
The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which has until now grudgingly accepted the US occupation, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing its demand for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.
These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national security aides and the chief US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, officials said on condition of anonymity.
Now, I couldn't find the referenced report on the Carnegie Endowment's website; just a link to this story from the Jacksonville Daily News, which does not mention a briefing by the CIA to the administration, so this could be a phantom, but, if true, it makes explicit as an imminent threat something that had been lurking in the background since before the war began. Bears watching.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Whoa. I am taking a couple of days off from the site to get some work done this week, but just a few quick observations about the Iowa surprise.
First, last night's results in Iowa bring an important lesson home about the Democratic primaries - they start small. Iowa and New Hampshire are not about messages to the millions, but to the thousands, sometimes the hundreds. They force a candidate who may be strong on stage to get strong on the ground, and it gives a great platform for relative newcomers like Edwards to show early strength, because they can make a national reputation based on a hundred days of avuncular behavior at county fairs. If you've got that thing, that Clinton shake-my-hand-look-me-in-the-eye-and-I-don't-care-what-party-you-are-you're-going-to-vote-for-me thing, you can get a national profile out of Iowa. And that's a good thing, because it gets strong players out of the farm leagues when they're ready for the show.
Second, Dean has way too much money to be counted out. But he has had an absolutely horrible few weeks. I think that the media and his co-candidates taking front-runner-size bites out of his ass really had an impact. And I think that Dean didn't really counterpunch well; I heard him make a number of lackluster, boilerplate remarks over the last couple weeks, at a time when he should have been using the increased attention, negative or positive, to make his case as forcefully and eloquently as he could. And he didn't do that. I just hope that the waning of Dean's star and the fall of Gephardt's doesn't alienate the unions from the process. We need them. We need their money and we need their organization. As much as we used to? Probably not. But don't kid yourself - the Democrats need the capabilities and engagement of the 16.1 million Americans that pay dues to a union.
Third, way to go, John Kerry! From the middle of the pack and fading to the frontrunner, in a week. Now go forth and use your power for good. I heard his acceptance speech, and I have to say, I was not bowled over by flat lines like "When I am President, I will appoint an Attorney General who is not John Ashcroft!" Well, duh. You gotta do better than that, buddy.
Fourth, I would very much like to see Edwards in a debate with Bush. Edwards is very smart and extremely articulate. He's a lightweight in terms of his experience in government, so I think that he would have to get a crash education on foreign affairs, but I think he would just fillet Bush. He's a trial lawyer, man! It's what he does for a living. And he does it so well, it made him rich. That would be pretty fun.
On to New Hampshire, where Clark awaits. Wonder what he's been up to while everybody else was knocking heads in Iowa? Hopefully more posting later in the week.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Spalding Gray is missing. Apparently monologuist Spalding Gray has been reported missing by his wife, who told police that he has not returned to their New York home since before the weekend.
I really hope that this all turns out to be a mix-up, a misunderstanding, or a flight of whim for Gray, who is one of the most consistently engrossing performers I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to see him perform "Monster in a Box" live in Washington years ago, and I swear, I didn't even remember the time passing. His voice, whiny and nasal in isolation, took on such an absorbing cadence as it spooled out his detailed, ironic anecdotes that it literally felt as if you were watching the events he was narrating.
As I said, I hope it's a mistake, but it's hard not to be nervous for him when you read this:
In recent years Gray has battled a severe depression, linked to a near fatal car crash in Ireland in 2001. He has been hospitalised twice and was reported to have attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge in Long Island in October 2002.
Anyway, fingers crossed.
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Trickster at Tacitus asks an excellent question:
Guests Without an Invitation?
OK. So now Ayatollah Sistani has "demanded that any agreement for American-led forces to remain in Iraq be approved by directly elected representatives." Sistani has also "intensified his campaign to force speedy, direct elections," using Baghdad newspaper advertisements, press releases, and veiled threats to Washington.
It looks as if Sistani wants to put the question to the U.S. If he truly leads a bloc that has a clear voting majority in Iraq, can we resist his demands while still waving the flag of democracy?
According to the Administration's timetable, sovereignty will be transferred to a transitional Iraqi government in June 2004. What will happen if and when those Iraqis turn around and ask the Americans to leave? Of course, Iraq would be left militarily defenseless in that case, but wouldn't Iraq's Arab neighbors be willing to sign mutual-defense pacts with Iraq's new government in exchange for a promise to expel the invaders?
Would we be willing to give up the "huge prize" we won with the invasion, a Middle East basing alternative to Saudi Arabia, especially now that we have withdrawn our troops from the Saudi Kingdom? And if we're not, how will we explain ourselves and what new principle will we purport to uphold?
Priceless. No time today, so I'll fall back on my old habit of ripping off Josh Marshall:
Number of days between Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.
Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.
Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical goons ... priceless.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Probably unfair to Kerry, but in the wake of Dean's recent pickup of Bradley and especially Harkin (to say nothing of Gore), this endorsement is, shall we say, underwhelming.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
Gay marriage and religion. Howard Dean has begun to fashion a response to a growing theme among his critics - namely that he is too secular, and that to win over the increasingly religious American public, religion must be seen as the foundation of a candidate's moral judgements. Percolating through snarky op-eds and purported "analysis" pieces, the judgment is that Dean is not serious about his faith, and is dressing up his beliefs for presentation to the rubes south of the Mason-Dixon line. Let's be fair - Dean himself is to blame for a lot of this; I mean, it's generally pretty dumb to telegraph a shift towards religion in such a transparent way, even if you are sincere, especially when such a shift can be easily spun by your opponents as a conversion of convenience. And, in fact, I don't know that it is sincere - Dean strikes me as an utterly secular guy, who is being forced to make mountains out of a relatively slim religious background to please what is seen as an essential constituency.
That's unavoidable; you have to do what you have to do, I suppose. And Dean's secular nature is fine with me. I've had my fill of these yapping fundies and their smug, poisonous politics. These guys have a philosophy as ironclad as anything envisoned by Lenin, Stalin, or Mao - These despots made the unthinkable thinkable by placing every moral concern ("is it right to kill this man?") against the overwhelming good of "the masses," a contest that no individual moral choice could ever win; thus the inevitability. The problem, of course, was the elites within the communist party who acted as the mediators and interpreters of the mass will, serving their own ends while affecting a pious transparency - "We are merely conduits for the people's will." The fundies are exactly the same. They blend Jesus and "the American People" into one huge red, white, blue, bleeding crucified icon, hanging from a cross pounded into Jefferson's head on Mt. Rushmore, F-14's streaking across a high blue sky in the background, The Star Spangled Banner blaring from loudspeakers hidden in Roosevelt's nose. Then they just go and do whatever the hell they want to do; whenever they are questioned, they say they are servants of god, or the people, or both, and, wave a hand at their South Dakota Calvary. How can anyone argue with that?
So, what was I talking about? Oh, right, gay marriage. Dean has made some recent statements that seem to be part of his attempt to rehabilitate his image as a man of faith, and demonstrate that his faith does indeed inform his politics. He said that it was his religious beliefs that made him realize that gays were entitled to equal rights under the law:
Democratic front-runner Howard Dean said Wednesday that his decision as governor to sign the bill legalizing civil unions for gays in Vermont was influenced by his Christian views, as he waded deeper into the growing political, religious and cultural debate over homosexuality and the Bible's view of it.
"The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, substantial genetic component to it," Dean said in an interview Wednesday. "From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people."
This is a pretty interesting argument. The Bible is all about choice. In the Bible, people have free will in a Manichaean universe where good people are rewarded and bad people burn. Now, assuming that the Bible is revealed truth, which I will offer no opinion about, and further assuming that gays are humans and free agents under this revealed system like everybody else, the issue of genetic sources of homosexuality becomes incredibly important. The fundies certainly believe that homosexuals are human actors in the system, as they believe homosexuality is a choice to be punished by hellfire. Sane people believe the evidence of five millennia of history and the most recent advances in science and believe that homosexuality is an inherent and unavoidable trait, carried where all such traits are carried, in the genes. If the latter is true, then it would be unspeakably cruel for God to create a being into this black-or-white decision matrix called the world that was incapable of choosing salvation. Even if a homosexual supressed his sexual identity his or her entire life, their thoughts and desires are transparent to God, right? So they are fucked either way.
I know, I know, this gets us all into hopelessly deterministic, frightening territory, where lurk the larger questions of genetic engineering to "breed out" gays, drug addicts, the violent, the crippled. Too big a topic. I won't get into that today.
The point is that (a) The right has spent so much time making moralistic and religious objections to homosexuality that I think it is refreshing (and great politics) for Dean to make an unabashedly religious counterargument, and (b) this counterargument depends entirely upon homosexuality being a genetic, unavoidable trait. Since this is precisely the thing that is strenuously denied by the other side, Dean's not likely to convince anyone in the solid republican base. Nor is he likely to piss off anyone among the solid democrats. But this might be the kind of argument moderates respond to - religious conviction without judgment or hatred.
Interesting. But what do I know. I haven't cracked a bible in almost 15 years.
Oh, yeah, and Mike Wilbon has more on why Joe Gibbs will crush all of our enemies and scatter them before us.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
Halle-fucking-lujah. Joe Gibbs to return to Washington. Better article on ESPN.com, from hometown boy Tom Friend:
You think the game's passed him by? Please. Take a look at Dick Vermeil, Parcells. They're just as ancient, and look what they did this year. I'm guessing Gibbs will bring old buddy Joe Bugel back as his assistant head coach, and I bet he'll bring Russ Grimm back from Pittsburgh and groom him to be his successor. He'll also probably hire former Bills coach Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator, and I bet he'll work smoothly with Snyder's personnel director, Vinny Cerrato (Vinny's mentor is Lou Holtz; he's been around legends before).
He'll have to get used to free agency and instant replay, but don't think for a minute he'll tolerate the cell phones and the eccentricities of today's young players. When I covered the Redskins for the Washington Post in the 80s, Joe Gibbs had his hand in everything. He was a control freak who slept at the office and who wanted lunch pail, work ethic players. At the same time, he knows how to deal with egos. He had Riggins and Theismann and Dexter Manley eating out of the palm of his hand. He's a people person.
And now the rivalries will fire up again. Back then, Giant Week was as bad as Cowboy Week. He was always afraid L.T. would kill his quarterback, so sometimes he'd only send one receiver out in a pattern and use everyone else to block. You think Patrick Ramsey's gonna get killed this year? Forget it.
He's more of disciplinarian than you'll ever know. He'll run three-hour practices in pads. Free agent Champ Bailey will want to stay now. LaVar Arrington will stop freelancing. If Ramsey thought Steve Spurrier knew quarterbacking, wait until he gets a load of Gibbs.
Gibbs is also the master of adjustment. At halftime, he'd always come up with some new wrinkle, and he'll adjust to the new NFL, too. I found it amusing how people say that Spurrier came to the NFL to see if his Fun 'N Gun would work and then quit when he realized it wouldn't. What a loser! Gibbs came to the Redskins in 1981 with the same reputation as a gun-slinging coach, straight from the Air Coryell Chargers. But after an 0-5 start, he looked at his roster and adjusted, became a run-first offense behind Riggins. He didn't quit, he didn't run off to play golf. It took guts to do what change everything, but Joe Gibbs is no dummy.
And he'll do it again. It won't be easy to win, not without a defensive line, but I bet they make a run at free agent defensive end Darren Howard or Jevon Kearse. And I bet Gibbs won't quit until he has his Redskins, his one and only Redskins, back in contention. The only coach who seemed to have his number in the old days was Parcells, but now he'll get another shot at the Tuna -- twice a year! I only wish Spurrier hadn't gutted his backfield, hadn't run Stephen Davis out of town. Because that would've been something to see … Stephen Davis running 50-gut.
But that's okay. Joe Gibbs won with a scat back named Joe Washington, and he'll win with a scatback named Trung Canidate.
Can we play at RFK?
Tuesday, January 06, 2004
90 days same as cash! No money down! The New York Times reports that Pakistan's premier nuclear laboratory has not just been selling, but unabashedly marketing nuclear weapons technology to an . . . er . . . interesting array of clients over the past 30 years. Seriously - check out the brochure, complete with suggestively mushroom-shaped graphics. The vacuum centrifuges shown on the cover are critical for production of highly enriched uranium, and have few, if any, other uses.*
As I am never one to pass up an opportunity to turn a genuine security issue into a chance to bash the President, I was particularly struck by this passage from the article:
President Bush, who regularly talks about nuclear dangers, has never mentioned Pakistan's laboratories or their proliferation in public — probably out of concern of destabilizing President Pervez Musharraf, who has survived two assassination attempts in December.
"He's been a stand-up guy when it comes to dealing with the terrorists," Mr. Bush said of General Musharraf on Thursday. "We are making progress against Al Qaeda because of his cooperation." He dismissed a question about the vulnerability of Pakistan's own nuclear weapons, saying, "Yes, they are secure," then changed the subject.
Yet when President Bush talks about the horrors that could unfold if a nuclear weapon fell into the hands of terrorists, it is Pakistan's combustible mix of expertise, components, fuel and fully assembled weapons that springs to the minds of American and European intelligence experts. In public, the White House says it has received "assurances" from Pakistan that if there ever were nuclear exports they are finished.
"There is this almost empty-headed recitation of assurances that whatever Pakistan did in the past it's over, it's no longer a problem," said one senior European diplomat with access to much of the intelligence about proliferation. "But there's is no evidence that it has ever stopped."
Moreover, it seems that Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father of the Pakistani bomb" after whom the above-mentioned nuke lab is named, and who remains a leading figure in the Pakistani nuclear program (and whose picture graces the sales brochure linked above) shares some of the Islamist, anti-Western beliefs that animate al Qaeda and its ilk:
Dr. Khan, a fervent nationalist, has condemned the system that limits legal nuclear knowledge to the five major nuclear powers, or that has ignored Israel's nuclear weapon while focusing on the fear of an Islamic bomb. "All Western countries," he was once quoted as saying, "are not only the enemies of Pakistan but in fact of Islam."
Fantastic. Pakistan has been linked directly or indirectly with the dissemination of critical centrifuge designs to such stand-up guys as China, North Korea, Libya, and Iran. But these connections have only been discovered or confirmed because either (a) the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency has gotten a glance or two at the technology held by each of these nations, and it has been tracked back to Pakistan, or (b) an interception was made somewhere along a long black market route (as was the case for Libya, possibly initiating the current round of concessions from that country). Al Qaeda, on the other hand, as far as we know is situated within Pakistan (no significant smuggling trail), and isn't inviting the IAEA over anytime soon.
I have no wry summary of this, it's just really bad and frustrating. Musharraf has been, by dint of geography, inclination, and several high-profile police actions, a good ally against terrorists. However. We know perfectly well that he, like the Saudis, has had to make concessions to the radical Wahabbists in his population and his government in order to maintain power, and to get the people to swallow his close association and cooperation witrh the Americans, specifically and especially the U.S. military. And we all remember how well that worked out last time.
Article via Calpundit.
* Update: In the comments to the Calpundit post, "s at January 5, 2004 05:29 PM" writes a long comment claiming that the machines shown on the brochure are "common as dirt" and could be purchased from a dozen supply catalogues in the U.S. I don't really have the expertise to sort this out - but the Times article is not really about the brochure, but about the proven proliferation links of Pakistan and its leading nuclear scientist to some pretty fucked-up regimes. The brochure is just gravy. And look at it for god's sake - that's a mushroom cloud or I'm a monkey's uncle.