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Home Page --> September 2007

A Truly Open Left

What does it look like?

Earlier this week, I proposed a new "-ism" for the blogo-lexicon, one intended to describe the numerical obsessions and policy aversions held by the neo-progressives. The point was to poke at the new breed of so-called progressives, those who speak on and on about progressive values, progressive Democrats and progressive everything. Confusing instances of electoral success for policy success, these neo-progressives believe that 2006 somehow entitles them to legislative fiat, and party purity. They tolerate dissent, as long as it adds to their numerical majority in Congress. However, once those dissenting voices begin to buck their narrowly defined "progressive" values, it then becomes necessary to profile, protest and ostracize the dissidents. Their opinions become moot, and primary challenges become necessary.

I call this logic Stollerism.

In response to my post, Mike Lux of Open Left makes the following complaint:


But I just have to say this about the Kevin Sullivan post on "Introducing the Stollerism": what a stupid piece of drivel. In it, Kevin Sullivan announces that a Stollerism is to "declare all debate on a subject over" and "purge the Democratic Party of all dissenting voices."

His evidence? He links to the Bush Dog campaign. The Bush Dog campaign has been a campaign to point out that many Democrats support Bush on a range of issues, and encourage activists to challenge them on those votes. In a few specific cases (very few, actually), Matt or Chris or I have suggested that supporting people running in primaries against Bush Dogs would be a good thing to do. Yeah, that's really purging dissent.


Lux goes on to suggest that I get over myself, and for whatever reason accuses me of red-baiting. I find this characterization to be a bit unfair, particularly since Lux disregarded the bulk of my post (which mostly pertained to the neo-progressive folly on Iran), and instead makes it all about the Bush Dog Campaign. While I most certainly have my issues with such a cheap and shortsighted tactic, it in fact represented just one component of Stollerism. The broader point is one about tone, tactics and the value of dissent in a two-party system.

But for Lux, this was instead an opportunity to stick up for his friend Matt Stoller. While I can certainly appreciate the sentiment, I believe he has missed the point. My initial post could've just as easily been titled "The Kosism," or "The Greenwaldism" (please note that I referred to Greenwald in my post).

If Stoller or Lux would like to debate what a "progressive" approach to Iran might look like, I'd be very "open" to it. However, since Lux brings up the Bush Dogs, let's talk about the Bush Dogs.

According to Matt Stoller, the following qualifies one as a "Bush Dog":


Currently, we're using the capitulation vote on Iraq back in May, 2007, and the disgraceful vote to give Bush warrantless wiretapping powers as proxies for Bush Doggedness. We think that if you voted for both of these, you are an enabler of Bush's policies.

We've made an exception for Brian Baird (WA-03), who voted correctly on FISA. Upon getting back from Iraq, Baird, in the face of all the evidence, touted the surge's success and explained that opposition to the continuation of the surge was borne of partisanship and a lack of concern for American moral authority. Using the right-wing media to attack core progressive values is a quick route to becoming a Bush Dog.


1. Who anointed Matt Stoller, or Open Left, or the readers of Open Left as the arbiters of what makes one a good or bad Democrat? From what platform, speech or policy paper are they deriving these "core progressive values"?

2. What was the decision process in making these two votes the criteria for revoking one's progressive pool pass?

Aside from these questions, I have my concerns about the utility in these silly profiles. Take for example, Rep. Heath Schuler of NC-11 and Rep. Nick Lampson of TX-22. Not voting nearly "progressively" enough for the shadowy Politburo at Open Left, they have included them in a working list of Democrats that are enabling President Bush.

Were I a Republican (which I am not), I would welcome such party suicide in 2008. Both of these seats are traditionally competitive, and 2008 will undoubtedly pose a challenge for these two freshmen (in the case of Lampson, it'll be his first re-election bid for the 22nd). NC-11 went back and forth for years between James Clarke and Bill Hendon, before ultimately becoming a comfortable seat for "Chainsaw" Charlie Taylor. It had been Red since 1991. In Lampson's case, he won over Tom DeLay's Sugar Land stronghold, a seat once considered to be safely Red. His district will undoubtedly be in play in 2008.

Schuler and Lampson are just two freshmen facing arguably their toughest race, their first re-election bid. Name ID is still low, and voters are down on Congress. It's elected officials like Schuler and Lampson who enable the likes of Stoller to talk about 2006 mandates, and what voters were "telling us" on election day. Once again--as long as they serve their numerical purposes, we will embrace the notion of an Open Left. However, once they govern according to their principles, they must be targeted, ostracized and demonized. They must be profiled.

Lux maintains that it's Stoller's right to organize against the politicians he disagrees with. I would agree, but let's call this what it really is. Targeting specific districts, because hey, they owe you, doesn't strike me as terribly "open" behavior. Feeling entitled to a particular congressman or congresswoman's legislative agenda because you paid for it, well, doesn't seem very "open" to me.

It instead reminds me a lot of the very narrow and rigid behavior exhibited by groups like SEIU and the NRA. It really resembles the behavior of an interest group, representing a very tiny microcosm of American thought, exerting its authority and power through money and intimidation.

So while Lux chose to defend his friend Matt Stoller, I prefer to defend the democratic choices made by the voters living in NC-11 and TX-22. In fact, I believe if you're going to second-guess their decisions, you are thus deserving of scrutiny and profiling yourselves. An Open Left would honor the values held in these districts, and instead work to build consensus with them, rather than purging them for the sake of strict party discipline.

But people like Matt Stoller are done with consensus building, and they're spent on policy debates and discussions. They want power, and they want to win, dissent be damned.

This, my friends, is Stollerism.

(Cross posted at the RCP Blog)

Eteraz: Careful What You Wish For

Ali Eteraz has started a fascinating series for The Guardian on the notion of "Islamic Reformation." The case is often made (indeed, as I have done) that Islam is in need of its own kind of reformation, similar to the kind Luther and Calvin brought to Christians around the world.

Eteraz believes we have the wrong idea, and the second piece in his series on The Islamic Reformation explains why we should be leery of more fundamentalism couched in the rhetoric of reform. He hints at some alternatives:


While there has been some attempt by the Salafis - such as Tariq Ramadan and Salman al-Audah, Bin Laden's former (now repentant) mentor - to contain the excesses of this "total" Wahhabism, they have proven unable to do so. Not only that, but the best that even the moderate wing of the Salafi organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood can do is turn a jihadist into an Islamist - ie someone who wants to have the power to veto all legislation under the authority of a certain kind of Sharia.

That simply won't do. Not when Islamist organisations (except for the anomalous one in Turkey) have exhibited no compatibility with international human rights norms or dominance-free communication or for that matter learning pluralism.

So now that we know how extremists came to dominate Muslim dissent (and Salafism failed to check it) what are we to do about it? Three things.

First, reject all juvenile calls for so-called reformations.

Second, consider the necessity of a Sunni Pope.

Third, consider the possibility of a liberal literalism (a sort of ideological inverse of extremist literalism).


You can read the first part here, and check out Ali's blog here.

Who Won?

You might not know there was a debate last night, judging from the relative silence about it on the Left.

It might just be debate fatigue, or, simply frustration. When cornered on their plans for withdrawal from Iraq, not one of the leading candidates for president would commit to a full withdrawal by 2013.

So who won the debate? Captain Ed declares General Petraeus the victor:


Americans don't like to lose wars, and given the successes that Petraeus has generated, more Americans see an opportunity to persevere in Iraq. Leading Democrats realize now that running as the party of defeat when we continue to gain ground may sound good in the primaries, but will be disastrous in the general election.

That's why the frontrunners at last night's Democratic debate couldn't promise an end to combat deployments in Iraq for another five and a half years, a year longer than we've had troops in Iraq up to this point. Petraeus moved the playing field for the Democrats, and last night saw the first attempt to catch up to reality. The rest of the Democrats may have trouble keeping pace.


If you're just catching up this morning, Reid has a great wrap-up posted on what went down last night in New Hampshire.

Practice What You Preach

View From Iran on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:


He promised yesterday to invite professors and students at Columbia to Iran to say whatever they want to say. Why doesn't he make that same offer to Iranian professors and students? Hearing him talking about lack of democracy and human rights in the west is just another way of avoiding the realities in Iran. Mr. President, Iranians are dying for basic human rights and for basic democracy: to say what they want to say; to do what they want to do: even within the confines of Islamic law. For the past 2 years in Iran, I saw bright people leave Iran because they just could not take it Iran. Crime is not going down even with all the executions. People have given up hope for the future because they see that the government is now a military government that acts like a 1970s military junta. You said it yourself: this kind of pressure cannot be maintained forever.

If he is really for peace and love he should start that at home. Since he became a President with his military buddies, the number of ngos dropped and human rights activists have been harassed. Ahmadinejad talks about women in parliament; what about women in prison.

This government has created a situation where millions of Iranians who love the country and want to help build a nation do not even dare to step foot into the embassies, let alone the country.

I am really mad because he dares to think that the world stage is a place to lecture the rest of the world about utopian ideals that he cannot even put into place in Iran.

Live-Blogging Ahmadinejad, Day 2 (Updated)

Please read here for a full recap of yesterday's event's in NYC. Today, having made headlines with his speech at Columbia University, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad goes before the UN General Assembly to speak in the afternoon. Hot Air has video up of yesterday's protests, and you can watch the video of Columbia Law President Lee Bollinger's opening remarks from yesterday here.

Meanwhile, Matt of Think Progress attempts to figure out what the heck Duncan Hunter is thinking, and Matt Yglesias wonders why so much emphasis has been placed on Ahmadinejad's supposed right to speak at Columbia:


I'm a little confused by the framing of the decision to extend an invitation for Mahmoud Ahmadenijad to speak at Columbia University as "free speech." Everyone, including Ahmadenijad, has a right to speak his mind in this country, but nobody has a right to a specific platform at a major university. I, after all, haven't been granted such an invitation and there's no particular reason he should have gotten one either. For all the reasons Ross cites a lot of the right's reaction to this has been overheated, but it's still fundamentally odd to decide that a maniac should participate in a debate with a university president as part of a bizarre publicity stunt whose main purpose is to exaggerate the importance of both men.


Check in for updates all throughout the day on Day TWO of Mahmoud takes Manhattan.


UPDATE:


Malkin points out that on the day President Ahmadinejad is scheduled to address the UN, the Islamic Republic has released another American-Iranian activist. Note the timing.

Elsewhere, Jules Crittenden notes the lessons that came out of yesterday's events:


Some lessons for today. Phony relativism and neutrality provide shelter for despots, and do not represent any kind of academic virtue. There are absolutes in this world. Despite the prevalence of PC free-speech restrictions and the promotion of distorted history and world views on American university campuses today, despite the role they have played in recent decades providing moral support and cover to brutal dictatorships, attempting to thwart legitimate efforts to advance the cause of freedom in the world, universities can still play an important and constructive role in the life of our nation. But it takes bold, unflinching leadership.

Let's hope Bollinger himself is among those who have learned this lesson, and that he does in fact emerge as a leader. Bollinger's Columbia bio is down for renovations, which is interesting. Here's Wikipedia. He's a free-speech scholar who was "criticized for taking a neutral public position on controversies in 2004-5 regarding intimidation of students by professors in the Middle East Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department alleged by the pro-Israel advocacy organization The David Project." Sounds like, in this case, he's ditched the neutrality.

Live-Blogging Ahmadinejad (Updated)

Today could prove to be an interesting day in blogtopia with the arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Word is that protests have already begun at Columbia University in anticipation of the Iranian leaders's arrival, and the grist has already been added to the proverbial mill with last night's 60 Minutes interview. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak at Columbia later today, and before the UN General Assembly tomorrow.

We expect a busy couple of days here at RealClearBlogs, so stay tuned throughout today and tomorrow for frequent updates and news on Mahmoud's visit to Manhattan. Hot Air, Malkin and Gateway Pundit are already typing at the bit, and will no doubt have updates all day.

Roger Kimball of The New Criterion gets us started, and throws the salvo at Columbia University:


President Bollinger's sophomoric conception of free speech is precisely the sort of supine intellectualism that, if consistently embraced, would make free speech impossible. President Bollinger primly lectures us that "It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas," etc. But he is quite wrong about that. By providing a madman like Ahmadinejad with a platform at Columbia University, President Bollinger has in effect welcomed him into the community of candid reasoners. He has granted him a patent of legitimacy that no amount of "dialogue and reason" can dissipate. In this case, "listening" is indeed tantamount to an endorsement. It reduces free speech to a species of political capitulation and renders dialogue indistinguishable from a suicide pact.


UPDATE:


"Mahmoudapalooza" over at Malkin's place.

Memeorandum has all kinds of wonderful links on the developing story, and Michael Rubin has a thought on the academics at Columbia University:


The issue we see with Columbia is deeper than freedom of speech but rather the inconsistency with which university faculties choose to support it. If men like Richard Bulliet and Lee Bollinger, and women like Lisa Marie Anderson cared about freedom of speech, they might want to enable those who don't have it, rather than celebrate the men who have taken it away.

Meanwhile, a statement has been released by David M. Schizer, the Dean of Columbia Law.

Jason Steck of The Van Der Galiën Gazette points out the strange irony in Ahmadinejad's ability to speak freely in th U.S.


UPDATE II:


TalkLeft:


It gives the public an opportunity to hear him and, if Columbia is doing its job, ask him questions that enables him to attempt to explain his nation's supporting terror in Iraq and maybe elsewhere and why he denies the Holocaust. Indeed, if he attempts to answer questions, he will harm his own cause because he can't rationally answer some questions.


Hopefully, the Columbia Police will not Taser questioners for asking too tough a question of him.


Oliver Willis:


what exactly is there for the cons to be so afraid of him coming to the UN or to Columbia University? Seriously. Cons push this image of them as the tough ones and us supposedly fey liberals are to be the wilting flowers who faint at the drop of a hat. But it is indeed the right that wets its pants every time Fox puts up a TERROR ALERT graphic. It is the right who freaks out when the Justice Department arrests the latest gang of nincompoops they call a "terror cell". And it is the conservatives who think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the UN and a college to... talk should prompt a round of "Oh no!!!!" again and again.


9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America:

Mass murder is what the 9/11 hijackers conducted on 9/11, not an "incident." Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to pay his respects at Ground Zero to the 19 hijackers who murdered 3,000 innocent people on 9/11. According to the 9/11 Commission, "8 to 10 of the muscle hijackers" passed through Iran from October 2000 through February 2001 without their passports being stamped so as to avoid alerting security officials of other nations latter. Other sources say they were escorted by Iranian intelligence.

His regime is a root cause of terrorism. Iran supplies weapons and training to murder America's son and daughters in Iraq. There they continue a 28 year tradition of directing or assisting terrorists against the "Great Satan."


UPDATE III:


Mike Gravel weighs in at Huffington Post:


Today Iran is Afghanistan's principle trade partner and according to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Iran "has been a helper and a solution" in his fight against the Taliban. I trust Karzai's assessment of his relationship with Iran much more than I do George Bush's claims that Iran is a destabilizing force in Afghanistan.

Do we have grievances against the Iranian state? Of course, the 1979-80 hostage crisis was a gross violation of international law. Right now anti-American elements in Iran are supporting the Iraqi insurgency that kills our service people. But remember, our record with Iran is far from clean. Our government overthrew Iran's democratically elected, secular government under Mosaddeq in 1953. Over the subsequent decades we supported the oppressive Shah and trained his brutal secret police, the SAVAK. Right now we are once again orchestrating covert operations to undermine the Iranian government. Both our countries have legitimate grievances against each other. But we can either dwell on our past or work to avoid future bloodshed.


UPDATE IV:


Pajamas Media has a fantastic roundup on blog & media reaction, thus doing my job for me!

Meanwhile, Allah points out that you can watch a live-feed of Ahmadinejad's speech here.

Other snippets:


Dan Riehl:


I'm watching via CBS - would someone tell the windbag from Columbia this isn't about him? Geesh. He's gone on so long in his intro, however demeaning to Mahmou-mou, it'll be that much easier for him to dodge.


Macsmind:


Bollinger apparently trying to quell things went into bad cop mode on Ahmadinejad launching into a 30 minute "blistering introduction". Why am I not convinced of his sincerity. Would he have done the same to Hitler?


Taylor Marsh:


Mr. Ahmadinejad is unlikely to fall into any traps. Sociopaths rarely do, especially if they've already got the limelight, and Mr. Bush has made sure that's the case. After all, Ahmadinejad is not O.J. But will this visit make it less likely that the U.S. will go to war with Iran?

UPDATE V:


Apparently, there are no homosexuals in Iran.

Also, Matt Stoller of Open Left tells us why he thinks conservatives are in a frenzy over Ahmadinejad's NYC field trip. I share my thoughts on this at The Gazette.

Please check out Day 2 of Live-Blogging Ahmadinejad!

On Rather

Mary Mapes comes to the defense of Dan Rather at Huffington Post:

Dan Rather is a legendary reporter who has spent decades doing his job like few others -- while bullets flew past his head, or while he was tied to a tree in a hurricane, or when he was chasing down big stories, sometimes on foot. He helped guide the country through communal catastrophes like the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, and 9/11. He has paid his dues.

And at 75 years old, Rather still has more reportorial testosterone than the entire employee roster at FOX News. It is a tremendous injustice to journalism that he has to go to court to be treated with respect.

Courage, buddy. Courage to us all.

Big Mullah on Campus

Scott from Power Line on "Columbia's Disgrace":


Columbia and President Bollinger are a disgrace. They welcome to their campus a man who is a ringleader in the seizure of American hostages, a terrorist, the president of a terrorist regime, and the representative of a regime responsible at present for the deaths of American soldiers on the field of battle. Columbia's prattle about free speech may be a tale told by an idiot, but it signifies something. And President Bollinger is a fool who is not excused from the dishonor he brings to his institution and his fellow citizens by the fact that he doesn't know what he is doing.


The Newshoggers respond:


I would want to ask the President of Iran why it is that men in his part of the world like their women docile. Why his government chooses to literally grab women off the street and beat them if they are dressed inappropriately, and whether his government doesn't have anything better with which to occupy its time than harassing attractive people when they walk outside.

And why would I want to ask these questions? So that my fellow Americans could listen to this self-righteous thug prattle on about all his justifications for all the 12th century behaviors he wants to inflict on the very modern society he governs. I think it would be a fine opportunity to consider our own state of affairs, and the justifications our leaders (political and religious) use when pushing anti-gay amendments and other crap legislation designed exclusively to divide us.

But Scott Johnson misses the teachable moment that a forum with Ahmadinejad offers. He thinks Americans have a duty to stick their fingers in their ears and shut their eyes tight, and since Columbia isn't playing along, he screeches out names for them: disgrace, fools, dishonorable. I think they're brilliant, and I hope the students of Columbia don't hold back in their questions, and that Ahmadinejad's self-assured, self-righteous answers are broadcast for all Americans to see.

Table Talk in Saudi Arabia

John Burgess guest blogs at Foreign Policy Watch, in the second installment of a series on women and reform in Saudi Arabia:


The government keeps pushing forward the role of women through various meetings and symposia. More usefully, it is pushing for the expanded employment of women and has opened nearly all professions to women. The government, if not supporting, is not blocking the move to permit female lawyers to represent their clients before Sharia Court judges. The government has also authorized women to obtain their own ID cards, a significant move that give women autonomy and takes them out of some of the control of male family members.

Reform has a long way to go in Saudi Arabia, in large part because there is so much ground to be covered. Incremental reform is happening. Whether it's happening widely enough and fast enough are yet to be seen. The government does not have an unlimited time span in which to effect reforms, but neither can it make Saudi society accept reform faster than it can swallow. If the government had the leisure to address reform in a one-by-one, systematic manner, things would be much easier.

Chamberlain Diplomacy

BooMan on Ahmadinejad and "diplomacy":


The whole world knows that neo-conservatives, including the vice-president of the United States, are frothing at the mouth to bomb this man's country into the stone ages. The world does not agree with that plan. The world is deeply, deeply unsympathetic to that plan. And here this man comes, to make an ostensibly good-faith gesture and to pay respects to our dead. Maybe he wants to help himself understand the magnitude of the tragedy so he can better understand why his country is under such a threat.

Is it really a 'good faith' gesture? Maybe not. Maybe it is just a stunt to make him look good. One thing is for sure...denying him the opportunity doesn't make us look good.

It's one thing to thank him politely for the kind gesture and then deny him the trip on security grounds. That's diplomacy. People would understand that. But to have all the presidential candidates lining up to outdo each other in their outrage at the mere suggestion? It's gross. It's ugly. It's the worst of America.


Apparently it's "diplomatic" to to allow one of the biggest sponsors of global terrorism to traipse around one of terror's greatest crime scenes. Huh. Who knew.

I'll bet the families of the 9/11 victims would agree. Hey, suck it up...it's diplomacy.

And just so I don't lose all hope in humanity as a result of such logic, here's Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House to summarize the absurdity:


I've been wracking my brain trying to think of what anyone could imagine would be a bigger insult to the dead of 9/11. Yassar Arafat laying a wreath in Shanksville? How about Nasty Nasrallah being invited to tour the new wing of the Pentagon, rebuilt after the attacks?

There is no imagining what would be a bigger insult because there wouldn't be one. The fact is, there is no more wrenching, rage inducing, fist-through-the-wall event that could take place in this day and age than allowing the President of a state that equated the 9/11 attacks with our attack on Hiroshima to visit Ground Zero.

It would be no different than if we had allowed Tojo to visit the Arizona Memorial.

Krugman 2.0

Yesterday, we mentioned that the NYT has decided to scrap its TimesSelect paid feature, instead opting to open up their Op-Eds and archives for all of the online masses to enjoy. Today, we watch as the Grey Lady lurches even closer to the New Media, with the unveiling of Paul Krugman's brand new blog.

How does a Paul Krugman blog read? Well, a lot like a Paul Krugman Op-Ed:


Most people assume that this rise in inequality was the result of impersonal forces, like technological change and globalization. But the great reduction of inequality that created middle-class America between 1935 and 1945 was driven by political change; I believe that politics has also played an important role in rising inequality since the 1970s. It's important to know that no other advanced economy has seen a comparable surge in inequality - even the rising inequality of Thatcherite Britain was a faint echo of trends here.

On the political side, you might have expected rising inequality to produce a populist backlash. Instead, however, the era of rising inequality has also been the era of "movement conservatism," the term both supporters and opponents use for the highly cohesive set of interlocking institutions that brought Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich to power, and reached its culmination, taking control of all three branches of the federal government, under George W. Bush. (Yes, Virginia, there is a vast right-wing conspiracy.)


Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute pokes a little fun at Krugman, noting that the good old days weren't always that good (to paraphrase Billy Joel):


Well. Krugman wants to return us to a happy place we reached by way of war and depression, a place where minorities and women could not work, and where illegal immigrants toiled in the fields but nowhere else. And he wants to pretend that is not how we got there, and not where we were. Good luck.

Dry Milk and Blog Favors

John Aravosis on Progressive back scratching:


My point isn't that the blogs should be bought, or can be bought. My point is that the blogs should be supported by the larger progressive community, and they're not. Liberal non-profits, political operations, and companies interested in reaching either a progressive audience or an inside-the-beltway crowd wouldn't think twice about spending $60,000 on a Washington Post ad, spending a good chunk of change on an ad in The Hill or Roll Call, or paying a PR firm a $20,000+ a month retainer to get their news on the blogs, among other venues (NOTE: the very best way to get me NOT to cover a story is to have a PR firm contact me). But the notion of spending $800 (or hopefully, several thousand dollars) on a blog ad gives them serious pause. Then they turn around and expect favors.

There's an old trite saying: "Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?" Well, the milk just dried up.

Tasergate

Melissa McEwan asks the question--at what point should John Kerry have intervened in the tasering of a questioner during his speech?

Was that auditorium so huge that Kerry couldn't grasp what was happening? I mean, you can see the edge of the stage in the video clip.

If Meyer was being annoyingly, undeterrably disruptive (which, given the scattered applause that erupts as he's detained, he likely was), it's understandable that the police would attempt to remove him. But when they start threatening to employ weaponry against him, and certainly when they do and the kid starts yowling in pain, that's when it's time to intervene. If those cops had been kicking the *beep!* out of him, I can't imagine everyone would have stood idly by.

World Could Abide Blogger Double Standards

If the blogosphere had been around in the early 1980's, would we have fewer nuclear weapons in the world? While some have kind of humorously blamed Jane Fonda for global warming, it would appear that the Left has come to terms with nuclear armed regimes.

According to retired Army general, and former CENTCOM commander John Abizaid, the world could abide the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. Left-Wing bloggers have jumped all over this, agreeing (for some reason) with the general's partial assessment.

I say partial, because here is what Abizaid actually said about our options in preventing the Islamic Republic from going nuclear:


"We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it,"


Some bloggers on the Left have disregarded this component of the general's statements, instead taking the general's comments as a dose of international "realism."

However, Carl of Israel Matzav warns us not to assume that a nuclear-capable Iran would be the same as a nuclear Soviet Union:


The problem with Iran is precisely that it is an undemocratic state with a government that is not a rational actor. As I have noted previously, the reason why nuclear deterrence between the US and the Soviets worked in the 1960's, 70's and 80's was because with two rational actors, mutually assured destruction gave both sides an interest in not setting off a nuclear war. Iran is not a rational actor and its leaders' statements must be taken seriously and at face value and not discounted.

Several months ago, I blogged an article in which I explained why the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel is "madder than MAD," with MAD being mutually assured destruction, which is what kept the US and Russia from going after each other in the 1970's.


Non-proliferation is apparently too passé for the Netroots these days. But why is it that when one general talks policy he's accused of political hackery, yet when another talks policy he's applauded for being a "realist"?

Is it a double standard?

On Manilow, Elisabeth and Hatred

Will Hinton weighs in on Barry Manilow snubbing The View, and how it sadly displays our new political ethic:


Of course Barry's statement is no different than conservatives calling liberals "soft on terror", defeatists, anti-Christian, or other such epithets.

As long as we believe that our political opponents are evil and only want bad things, we are never going to see real change and progress in this country. We are going to continue seeing insane political rhetoric and demagoguery.

Why did the Civil Rights Movement succeed? Because people like Martin Luther King Jr. believed that his political opponents deep down wanted justice just like he did - they just didn't know what it looked like. MLK Jr. knew that his political opponents were made in the image of God and that they would eventually recognize injustice for what it is.

I am now utterly convinced that noted conservative David Horowitz is wrong in his book The Art of Political War. Political war is ultimately a self-defeating strategy that is demeaning and only sees the worst in humanity.

The (NY) Times, They Are a Changin'

Bloggers are taking the opportunity this morning to mourn the passing of the paid access feature at the New York Times. In addition to scrapping their TimesSelect feature, the Grey Lady has even decided to open up archives dating back to 1987 for free, in addition to releasing archives that date back all the way to the Civil War.

The blogosphere is, well, slightly ambivalent. However, some are pleased to see the shackles of oppression lifted from the likes of Dowd and Rich:


The fact that this decease comes to liberate the one part of the Times that really has been "liberal"--Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, occasionally Maureen Dowd when she isn't just flipping her hair and being impressed with herself--just at the moment when it's clear the tornado has dropped a house on the Wicked Witch of Washington, aka the Bush administration, I am sure is sheer coincidence.


Still, McQ has his doubts if NYT online will be able to regain all of those eye balls:


Prior to the Times Select debacle, people would go to the NYT regularly. That was eyes on the page, for which the NYT could charge premium online ad rates. Times Select killed that traffic, and what was left, people who kited in via Google, couldn't see the pages...so they left, killing the ad rates for banners, etc.

Now, the question is whether or not the NYT web site can reclaim those regular readers by exposing their columnists to the public again.


It'll be like meeting John Tierney all over again.

How Did Alexis Debat Lie So Well?

Editor's Note: Today we are happy to host a guest post by AJ Strata. AJ has diligently covered issues ranging from the War in Iraq, to tales of espionage and scandal in Russia. Because of this, he has made The Strata-Sphere one of the best conservative blogs on the web. We proudly offer a sampling of his voice today, in our continued effort to provide RCP readers with the finest that the blogosphere has to offer.
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How Did Alexis Debat Lie So Well?
By AJ Strata, The Strata-Sphere

Everyone is wondering how Alexis Debat could lie so well, and fool so many people for so long? How did Joe Wilson lies work so well? Easy, they were laced with enough factual basis to hide the lies and fool the media into thinking he was legitimate. Recall Wilson went to Niger to supposedly debunk rumors of Saddam's quest for WMD materials. Wilson claimed to have exposed Niger documents on a suppsed deal with Niger and Iraq, claiming also that Bush knew the documents were fakes.

It took years to learn the truth - that Wilson could not have debunked the forgeries because they would not show up at his wife's place of work for 6 months after his visit. His wife sent him to Niger, and supposedly she told him of the forged documents. But the fact is Wilson was sent to confirm HIS OWN initial reports from his 1999 visit to Niger for the CIA. Joe Wilson was a sock puppet for disgruntled intelligence officials. So disgruntled they decided to rig Presidential elections while working for the Democrat candidate (something the media NEVER repeats anymore).

Debat is much more skilled than Wilson - who was a blabber mouth and buffoon who couldn't keep his stories straight. Debat fooled a lot of people, as this retrospective notes:

How did Alexis Debat, a self-proclaimed expert on terrorism, manage to build such a career for himself -as a regular contributor to the foreign affairs reviews Politique Internationale and National Interest, as a consultant for ABC News and an analyst of the prestigious Nixon Center attending conferences with the cream of the crop of American foreign policy circles?

...

Over the years, Debat was a source for many ABC News scoops: on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan... Like its competitors, the network has strict ethical rules, with a director of "standards and practices". Information is supposed to be vetted or reliably confirmed. But fact-checking was not easy with Debat's scoops as they were always attributed to anonymous sources hiding from within the shadowy world of secret services in Pakistan, France or the US.

In my first reaction to this news, and reviewing Debat's writings, I noticed a clear pattern to his work. He would begin his pieces with amazing details about what was going in behind security doors, thus giving the impression of someone in the know and tapped into the highest levels of the administration. For example, take this lead-in from one of his writings I analyzed:

On March 19, the second anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq, a 38-year-old Egyptian computer expert detonated his explosives-laden Land Cruiser inside the compound wall of the Players Theater in the Farij Kulaib neighborhood in Doha, Qatar, setting off a massive explosion that killed one British national and wounded twelve other attendees of the play. The name of the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing was Jund as-Sham, "Soldiers of the Levant."

This little-known organization first surfaced on the global terrorism scene in 1995 as a splinter from the Palestinian terrorist group Asbat al-Ansar ("League of the Followers"), a small, salafi-inspired network loosely affiliated with Al-Qaeda and based in the Ayn al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, in southern Lebanon. Following a string of assassinations of Lebanese religious leaders and small-scale bombings in the early 1990s, the group split into three factions: Asbat al-Nour, Jama'at al-Nur and Jund as-Sham, the latter retaining only a small part (no more than thirty) of the group's original members and operational capabilities.

According to Jordanian government sources and European intelligence documents, Jund as-Sham and many of its members then resurfaced in Afghanistan in 1999, when the group was given $200,000 of Al-Qaeda's money and placed by one of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants, Abu Zubaydah, now in U.S. custody, under the command of fellow Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Amazing background detail - something that cannot be made up. If it were there would be reactions in the intel community about what a joke this guy was. Word would get out. So we must assume these details are fairly accurate - and I would suspect broadly known in the intel community so that sources couldn't be easily tracked down. So these are the real facts that set the stage for Debat's exaggerated BS. After paragraphs of amazing detail Debat pulls a U-turn and claims, in essence, all is lost:

But while this increased pressure on Al-Qaeda's leadership both in Pakistan and Iraq could signal a very encouraging tipping point in the ongoing campaign against the organization, it may also emphasize a set of harsh realities for the not-so-distant future of America's War on Terror. By opening a new front in the global jihad, which serves as the lifeline of Al-Qaeda's ideological staying power, the Iraq War, despite its many accomplishments, has provided the organization with a much-needed replacement for its Afghan base. There is ample evidence that the same magnetic force that drew so many jihadis to Afghanistan in the 1990s has re-emerged in Iraq, with greater stealth and amplitude, as well as potentially deadlier consequences. At any given moment, these young recruits will return to their home countries in Europe and the Middle East with not just the crude and generic guerrilla training the was dispensed in Afghanistan, but a deep, battle-tested knowledge of urban terrorist operations and a far greater understanding than their predecessors of clandestine network management, the opportunities presented by the privatization of mass destruction capabilities, and the techniques of a deadlier, stealthier and more global societal warfare.

He builds his bona fides by exposing exquisite details that can only come from CIA or equivalent files on these group an players. Then, at the end, he declares the futility of all this by claiming this shows a resurgent al-Qaeda. The pattern is the same in all his works. He summarizes his writings by parroting leftwing lines or views. So why is the man an accomplished liar with detailed intel at his fingertips. Well, that is a good definition of a clandestine operative: an accomplished liar with detailed intel and friends in high places which can help him keep his cover. Debat is not a fraud like Pvt Scott Thomas who made things up about our brave military. He apparently has access to a lot of top secret intel. The question is are the people who gave him the intel his sources, our are they his masters? The strings are there, is there a puppet master at the end of them?

Blogging Bling

Andrew Sullivan turned some heads this weekend with a blog post on the consumption patterns of minorities in Industrialized nations. Citing this study, Sullivan quotes the following snippet:


Using nationally representative data on consumption, we show that Blacks and Hispanics devote larger shares of their expenditure bundles to visible goods (clothing, jewelry, and cars) than do comparable Whites. We demonstrate that these differences exist among virtually all sub-populations, that they are relatively constant over time, and that they are economically large.


This phenomenon, according to Sullivan, is loosely referred to as bling. This caused Ann Althouse to raise an eyebrow, who thinks the study (and Sullivan's post) stinks of racism:


That looks like racism -- really old-fashioned racism. If you think you've found a serious economic study that has some connection to present day policy, add some substance to the post and justify bringing up this disturbing subject. This is not material for a silly post put up for laughs and what seems to be a triumphant reference to an earlier assertion. What's going on here?


Althouse wonders why Sullivan didn't bother to elaborate on the study's findings, instead opting to post a humorous video making fun of the bling phenomenon. However, Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute reminds Ann of one tiny tidbit related to the study, while providing his own take:


Well. Kerwin Charles, one of the authors of this hateful study, is himself black, so maybe it is not quite so hateful.

For myself, I thought that a point of emphasizing racial diversity in, for example, college recruiting was to celebrate cultural differences. Is that a sham, or do we expect that there are in fact some cultural (NOTE - I'm not saying genetic!) differences amongst races?

And if there really are cultural differences, do we really expect each and every one of them to reflect well on each race as viewed through the eyes of another? Or might there be moments when a cultural difference to which one group might object can be documented?

And a final rhetorical question - what does Prof. Althouse have against bling? Maybe white folk are under-spending on conspicuous consumption, or spending on different types of conspicuous consumption, or spending on something inconspicuous but otherwise detrimental to their well-being. Is there some objective measure by which she has been able to determine that "comparable" whites were spending an amount on bling that was closer to optimum, or is she simply projecting her own cultural pre-dispositions onto this data?

Honeymoon over?

Is the Right-Wing Blogosphere's honeymoon with President Bush coming to an end? Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House wrote a scathing review of the president's national address last night, claiming that the Iraq he told us about last night simply doesn't exist:


Even the gains in Anbar and elsewhere have been exaggerated now and war supporters have latched on to them like a dying man grasping a leaky life preserver. Contrast Petraeus's calmly rational assessment of those gains with many on the right who believe the "Anbar Awakening" is going to sweep across the country and bring "victory." I may be mistaken but even George Bush has stopped talking about "victory" in Iraq and has substituted the word "success." Even that term is a stretch. When we depart, I hardly think we will be able to claim the Iraq we leave behind will be a success. It will be a mess. But I think the best we can hope for at this point is that it won't be an unmitigated disaster. That result is worth fighting for because it is necessary to our national security that Iraq not be a failed state and Iran not be rewarded for its meddling.

I always expect too much from Bush which is why I'm always disappointed. Perhaps because in these perilous times, I think we should expect more from our presidents than the rhetoric of the stump. Bush is not a bad man nor is he stupid. He is simply inadequate.

That may be the most damning thing you can say about any president.

President Petraeus?

The buzz this morning is over a report coming from The Independent on the apparent(?) presidential aspirations of General David Petraeus. According to a former official in the Allawai government, Petraeus may be keeping his sights set on the 2012 race.


Despite Josh Marshall's reservations about the source, others seem to think this makes sense. According to Chris of AMERICAblog, this is to be expected from the party that "still loves Oliver North":

Is this the kind of person we want to rely on for something as critical as whether or not to stay in Iraq? Let's hear more about the success of his Iraqi Army training programs, and about what happened to the US taxpayer funded military equipment, before we listen to Petraeus' reasons for why we need to stay in Iraq. When someone has been part of the problem, why should we suddenly expect them to be part of the solution?

AJ Strata has another take on it, and reminds Democrats of their own military fetish:


I would say it might actually be the right time, if things turn around. The idea hit me when I was wondering where would the country turn given the abysmal performance (and basic cowardice) of the current crop of Dem and GOP leaders. The Dems want to run from al-Qaeda and the GOP purity war is making them run from each other. The logical choice for America is to look outside DC to the top leaders who have performed well beyond expectations (this knocks out General Wesly Clark who is best know for ordering an attack on Russians in the Balkans, and order ignored by our EU commanders who knew better).

Batting Around Patrick

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick served up a softball to conservative bloggers when, at a 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony yesterday in Boston, he said:

"Among many other things, 9/11 was a failure of human understanding. It was a mean and nasty and bitter attack on the United States. But it was also a failure of human beings to understand each other, to learn to love each other."

Among those who took a rip at the Governor, Sister Toldjah responded:

Huh? You mean to tell me that if I could have learned to "understand" and "love" Islamofascists like Mohammed Atta, that maybe the US could have been spared the "mean and nasty and bitter attack" that took place six years ago, Governor?

Likewise, Allahpundit also took a hack:

He's right, 9/11 was a failure of understanding. So was the argument I had with the barista the other day at Starbucks when he gave me the wrong change. So was, and ever will be, every conflict, large or small, between human beings until the end of time. If you can't distill anything more concrete about the attacks than the lesson plan for day one of Psych 101, I dare say it's time to hire a new speechwriter.

Fatigue on an Anniversary

Shaun Mullen wonders if we suffer from "9/11 fatigue" on this sixth anniversary of the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks, or, if we're perhaps too wrapped up in other things:

I would be remiss if it didn't put my oar in the water on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks if only to remember the men and women who died on that horrible day and the families and other loved ones they left behind. As well as note in passing that I was in New York City the other day and the Twin Towers still were gone -- something I don't think I'll ever be able to accept for as long as I live.

Judging from the relative paucity of 9/11-related posts today in a blogosphere dominated by the Petraeus progress-report testimony and Brittney Hume's exclusive interview with the general on Fox News, a lot of folks have 9/11 Fatigue. I myself see no purpose in yet again recounting my own experience on that day.


Drum-ming Up Chaos

Kevin Drum asks if "chaos" theory is really the natural progression for Iraq:

Having admitted, however, that the odds of a military success in Iraq are almost impossibly long, Chaos Hawks nonetheless insist that the U.S. military needs to stay in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Why? Because if we leave the entire Middle East will become a bloodbath. Sunni and Shiite will engage in mutual genocide, oil fields will go up in flames, fundamentalist parties will take over, and al-Qaeda will have a safe haven bigger than the entire continent of Europe.

Needless to say, this is nonsense. Israel has fought war after war in the Middle East. Result: no regional conflagration. Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest wars of the second half the 20th century. Result: no regional conflagration. The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration. The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration. Algeria fought an internal civil war for a decade. No regional conflagration.

"Conflagration" is the word of the day!

That's a whole lot of conflict squeezed into one little paragraph. But is the Algerian civil war, or the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, really all that comparable?

Obama's Bedside Manner

Jeralyn of TalkLeft suggests that we "turn the page" on tidbits such as these from Michelle Obama:


Referring to their daughters, Mrs. Obama says: "We have this ritual in the morning. They come in my bed, and Dad isn't there -- because he's too snore-y and stinky, they don't want to ever get into bed with him. But we cuddle up and we talk about everything from what is a period to the big topic of when we get a dog: what kind?"


Jeralyn explains:


Mrs. Obama thinks these sorts of disclosures will prevent Obama from being deified and then knocked down. I think it's information I'd rather not know. I'd also rather not wonder whether the comment means they sleep in separate beds ("my bed" -- "he's not there") -- some things should stay private and that's one of them.


Hear, hear!

Statewide Blog Beat: Arizona

The hot topic in Arizona this week is illegal immigration and "sanctuary cities." The controversy was started earlier this week when E.J. Montini wrote a piece in the The Arizona Republic arguing that immigration politics are here to stay, and that Phoenix is in fact a sanctuary city. All of this in the wake of Senator Jon Kyl's piece in the National Review this week, condemning state and local governments around the country for not doing enough to crack down on sanctuary policies.

However, Stephen Lemons of Feathered Bastard takes issue with Montini, arguing that new partnerships with I.C.E. have improved conditions in Phoenix:


Tell it to Virginia Gutierrez, the 18-year-old honors grad, who when she tried to get her car out of impound from the PHX PD, was popped for allegedly using a fake Mexican I.D. Forgery is a Class 4 Felony. And because of Prop 100, which exists to deny bail to illegal immigrants, when suspects are booked, Phoenix cops now fill out an extra piece of paperwork, where they have to answer two questions: 1) "Is the alleged offense a Class 1, 2, 3, or 4 Felony or a violation of A.R.S. 28-1383 [D.U.I.]?"; and, 2) "Has the person entered or remained in the United States illegally?"

This is completely contrary to the concept of sanctuary, in which police officers are often forbidden by their municipality to inquire after the immigration status of an individual or make it an issue. Moreover, as the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is the jailer for the PHX PD, and since Sheriff Joe has no problem with turning undocumented migrants over to ICE, there is certainly no sanctuary for them once inside Joe's facilities.

In the case of Gutierrez, ICE was notified when she was booked into jail, they convinced her to sign voluntary deportation papers, and she was on a bus to Nogales less than one week after her initial stop. Does that sound like "sanctuary" to you? Montini asserts only violent offenders need worry. Yet, Gutierrez was originally stopped for not having her headlights on while driving. Her car was impounded because she was driving without a license. PHX PD arrested her when she attempted to get the car back with what they say was fake I.D. Whether you agree with what happened to Gutierrez or not, you cannot assert that her violation was a violent one.

Nor can you assert that she benefited from Phoenix being a "sanctuary city."


In other Arizona political news, Sonoran Alliance may have solved the problem with Senator John McCain's faltering presidential campaign: "It's Your Temperament, Stupid!"

Cricket Sounds: Bush and WMD's

While combing the blogosphere every day, for countless hours, we here at RealClearBlogs often notice that blogging resembles a loose ball or fumble in football (the American kind, sorry soccer fans). A story will drop, and one side's team will scramble to cover it up and own the thing.

Call it "things not said," or "Partisan Pile On"...either way, it's usually an interesting sight, and often humorous. Thus is the case with the latest Sidney Blumenthal piece at Salon. According to Blumenthal's CIA sources, President Bush "squelched" intelligence and research stating anything contrary to the WMD narrative.

The Left-Wing blogosphere has of course jumped all over this loose ball. Jill of Brilliant at Breakfast and Mustang Bobby assume the president lied to us, thus exonerating the members of Congress who supported the war. Emptywheel thinks otherwise however, and suspects that the timing of this Blumenthal piece should be considered suspect:


That is, on the eve of a debate about whether or not we should continue this godforsaken war, this article sure seems to support the argument of those who claim they had no clue that the whole justification for the war was a lie, and therefore whatever decision they make is one made, once again, with a clear head.


And a clear campaign message. Emptywheel reminds us that Blumenthal advises the Clinton campaign, hence adding to his suspicion.

So did President Bush know there were no weapons, or does he still to this day believe they're there? Ron of Liberal Values poses that very question.

But perhaps the real question: Why no Rightroots response to this? Is it even necessary, or can this be chocked up to more "tin foil hat" antics from the Left?

FEC Protects Bloggers

Dr. Clarissa tells us the story at TMV:


John C.A. Bambenek (no relation to Bambi Bembenek, whom some think of as a folk-hero who was convicted of murder in 1982) complained to the FEC about Daily Kos, its LLC and its founder/owner, alleging they were in fact a "political committee," which is thereby to be regulated by the FEC's rules.

But the FEC reviewed the case, and asserted that Daily Kos, et al, was a recognizable "media entity," and thereby is exempt from FEC regulation. Thus, Mr. Bambenek's allegation failed to gain traction.

Why should we care? Well, for one, who ever would have thought the blessing of being "media' would come from Uncle Sugar? Proof that not all government is lying port aground like some derelict Ironsides.

Aside from the fact that few hold the genius, that is, the angelito born into the man with one of the most Rococo names: Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of Daily Kos... it means that expressing opinion for or against a political candidate, taking up advertising for same, or giving advertising opportunity in trade, is NOT regulated by the FEC... this avers continuing expression of political ideas and thoughts.


Read the rest here.

Civilian Deaths in Iraq Up, But They're Really Down

(Editor's Note: In our continued effort to provide RCP readers with the best debates, discussions and insights that the blogosphere has to offer, RealClearBlogs is proud to cross-post and promote the following piece by Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards.)

I have a difficult argument to make. Your natural impulse may be to roll your eyes and accuse me of special pleading... but one's first impulse is often naive.

AP reports, with much fanfare and not a little gloating, that "civilian deaths rose" from 1,760 in July to 1,809 in August. AP's explicit conclusion is that this is a terrible setback for the counterinsurgency:

Civilian deaths rose in August to their second-highest monthly level this year, according to figures compiled Saturday by The Associated Press. That raises questions about whether U.S. strategy is working days before Congress receives landmark reports that will decide the course of the war.

But they embargo a critical fact until later in the article, a point that makes all the difference to their central thesis: The August total includes the huge triple-bombing on August 14th that killed 520 Yazidis (AP's count). The attack occurred far away from the counterinsurgency forces, up in Kurdistan on the Syrian border.

Were it not for that single incident, the civilian death toll would have dropped to 1,289, by far the lowest level this year. So what looks to the naive eye like bad news is, in fact, very good news; the situation is complex and you cannot use a simplistic metric.

Here is where Democrats would doubtless scream foul; but you cannot logically expect that U.S. forces in one part of the country will be able to stop suicide bombings in a completely different part of the country two hundred miles away. When the counterinsurgency expands into Mosul, then will be the time to ask whether we're decreasing the violence there. Until then, the question is not what's happening outside the counterinsurgency but what is happening inside it.

And it was an anomalous attack: Nothing like it had been done before, and it's not likely to be repeated anytime soon. By analogy, suppose you decide you must decrease your monthly expenses. In January, you took home $4,000 and you spend $3,900; in February you spent $3,700; in March it was $3,500. By July, your expenses are down to $3,000.

But then in August, your car's transmission seizes up, and it costs $1,200 to replace it. Your total expenses that month are $3,700; should you wail and moan because you're right back up to where you were in February? No, just the opposite: You should revel in the fact that, were it not for the unexpected car-repairs, you would have spent only $2,500 in August -- a big decrease from July and a huge drop from January.

The $1,200 in car repairs was not a regular expense... it was a one-shot that more than likely will not recur in September and later months. It's absurd to treat it as if it were a harbinger for a massively higher spending in subsequent months.

Getting back to the Iraq death toll, even the 1,809 figure is well below the deaths in November (1,967) and December (2,172), as is the worst month this year, May (1,901). Alas, I cannot find a link to AP's casualty count; but looking at Iraq Coalition Casualties' count of civilian deaths, August (1,598) is only the fifth deadliest month this year, behind (in decreasing order of death toll) February (2,864), March (2,762), May (1,782), and January (1,711): Different counts yield different numbers.

Taking the freakish Yazidi attack out of the equation, the August figure of 1,098 would be the lowest death toll since July 2006, more than a year ago.

To get almost offensively pedantic, considering that we're talking about human lives, the mean average for the first three months of 2007 was 2,445.67. August -- even with the Yazidi bombings -- was 35% below the early average; without the anomalous bombings, it's 55% below the early average.

This is hardly the picture of a "U.S. strategy" that has failed, is in disarray, or is even questionable; rather, it's exactly what a successful counterinsurgency strategy looks like: continued decreasing violence overall (the month to month may fluctuate, especially in response to individual acts of terrorism) -- with the worst violence being pushed outside the area in which we are fighting.

Then, as we succeed in pacifying more areas (such as Anbar and Baghdad), we will expand the counterinsurgency into areas like northwestern Mosul, where the Yazidis were hit.

There are several other nuggets of good news sprinkled through this article ("interred" would be more accurate). First, the Mahdi Militia -- called Jaish al-Mahdi, or JAM -- is losing some of its charm:

Many Shiites see the militia as their best protection against Sunni extremists, including al-Qaida, which have carried out similar attacks on Shiites.

However, Mahdi's credibility has been shaken by allegations of extortion, murder, robbery and other crimes committed by members who appear to be beyond the control of the youthful [Muqtada] al-Sadr, who said he would use the six-month hiatus to restructure the force "in a way that helps honor the principles for which it was formed."

Second, we appear to finally have a clue about the value of wartime propaganda, in this case directed against the "special groups" of the JAM; that is, those elements that are sucking from the Iranian udder:

Leaflets scattered around Sadr City urged people to report on Shiite militants who are cooperating with the Iranians, providing a cell phone number and an e-mail address for people to make anonymous tips.

"The criminal Iraqis who work with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are toys under Persian control," read one of the leaflets, which pictured a puppet dancing on strings. "Iranian Revolutionary Guards are interfering in Iraq's affairs while Iraqis are dying."

An excellent start; coupled with our stunning and continuing ascendency over al-Qaeda in Iraq, I'd have to say the war is going better than we have been told even by the White House. President Bush appears to be underselling our achievements there, perhaps giving the Democrats enough rope to tie themselves into a Gordian knot by November 2008.

Good news can be found most anywhere, if you're willing to spelunk for it.

The New Muckrakers?

We've discussed the role of the blogosphere here before, and it's a topic we're likely to revisit rather frequently. While many bloggers have addressed the notion of bloggers as journalists, today's WaPo piece on blogger and gay rights activist Mike Rogers proves that blogger journalism may have a much more traditional role.

Rogers made a name for himself last week for being the muckraking blogger who outed the recently disgraced Idaho Senator Larry Craig. The toe-tapping senator wasn't his first victim however, and according to Rogers, he "won't be the last":


In 2005, Rogers blogged about Mark Foley, months before his inappropriate instant-messages to male congressional pages became public and he was forced to resign. The former Florida congressman had a varied record, sometimes voting in favor of gay rights, but at one point voting against adoption by same-sex couples.

And last October, he says, he targeted Craig -- months before an undercover sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men's room, and before the Idaho Statesman started its months-long investigation. Two years earlier, Rogers notes, the three-term senator had voted for the failed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

"Hypocrisy," Rogers sneers, "plain, hate-filled hypocrisy."

In the coming months, he plans to post the names of "a few more" closeted Congress members on his blog, he says, all of them Republicans. There are 33 names on his published list, most of them men, 30 from the GOP. That fact reveals more about the Republicans, he says, than about him. Although a registered Democrat, he says he is bipartisan.


Terms like "MSM," Old Media and New Media get thrown around quite frequently these days. However, could it be that blogs will in fact reclaim the role once historically played by journalists as the shapers of ideas, as opposed to simply being news aggregators? The danger here is of course a reversion to yellow journalism, and a de-professionalization of the industry.

Patterico has another word for bloggers like Mike Rogers...thug:


Of course, to Rogers, any vote against gay rights is cast "to gain political points" -- because he can't conceive of such a vote being cast on principle.

And so, Rogers's message to politicians is simple and straightforward: if he doesn't like the way you vote, he will expose embarrassing information about you. If you toe the line, however, he will protect you.

That is the classic position of the extortionist.

Rogers is trying to influence politicians' votes with threats. I can't put it any more plainly.

Truth or Truther?

A post by Gypsy Taub at the blog Politics From The Heart has some bloggers poking fun this morning. According to "Gypsy," we should be concerned about Dick Cheney's role in the Minneapolis bridge collapse, the 880 highway in Oakland, and yes, 9/11. Oh, and keep an eye on the Bay Bridge...he may be up to something there.

But is this merely a brilliant parody? John Hawkins of Right Wing News regrettably doubts it, and points out what he believes is really the humorous (or the pathetic?) point to it all:


They used to stick you in an asylum if you were crazy enough, but these days, you just get a blog and wait for the traffic and calls from USA Today reporters to roll in.

The Purple President?

Marc Ambinder has a nice post up today on the Labor Day flag post, and how it represents a season for solidifying campaign messages. He does a nice contrast between Senators Clinton and Obama, explaining the following about Obama's "reason" for support:


Obama, speaking this morning in Manchester, has honed a sharp and distinctive counter-message. In a phrase, it's "Turn The Page." It means that real change requires something more than what Hillary Clinton (and even the Democrats) can offer. Obama's message is a dare to voters: if you want change, choose me. "As bad as George Bush has been," he said this morning, "it's going to take more than a change of parties in the White House to truly turn this country around." Special interest politics "was there before they got to the Washington, and if you I don't stand up and challenge it, it will be there long after they leave."

Obama said he's running for president because "to meet America's challenges, changing parties isn't change enough. We need something new. We need to turn the page."
He takes on his foil: "So let's be clear - there are a lot of people who have been in Washington longer than me, who have better connections and go to the right dinner parties and know how to talk the Washington talk. Well, I might not have the experience Washington likes, but I believe I have the experience America needs right now. "


Hint, hint...no more Clintons, no more Bushes! Andrew Sullivan often talks of Obama's ability to presumably grow the Democratic Party, in addition to Clinton's supposed inability to do so. According to Ambinder, we may find out in approximately four months:


Is it too early to predict that, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, if the political argument is about change, then Obama and John Edwards have an edge. If the argument is more complex; if it's about experience or something else, then Clinton has an edge?

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