Posted by Adam @ 6:06 pm on April 30th 2007

CEO remuneration

Even easier than populist calls to soak the rich are calls to control the pay of board-level executives, particularly CEOs. There aren’t very many of them, after all, some of them get paid an enormous amount of money and no one really likes their boss, let alone their boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. So, there’s an article in the CSM today describing the current pressure for governmental intervention in CEO pay.

First of all, this is restricted to publically traded corporations; they are regulated by government already in various ways. But why on earth should government interfere with how much people actually get paid? There is a big concern about the ‘income gap’ (try googling on it and see how many stories appear), these concerns are often illustrated by looking at the compensation packages of top CEOs, and concerns are almost invariably accompanied by calls for government action. The government should act, right?

Well, I don’t think so, certainly not by imposing caps on how big salaries can be (which someone suggested during coffeetime discussion earlier this week). Even if such plans weren’t end-run by inventive accounting, it would just be another government attempt to push water uphill by opposing market forces. It’s not likely to achieve much, except perhaps driving corporate governance abroad.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 4:19 pm on April 30th 2007

The Hagel Candidacy

So, I was going to post this just as a comment directly to Red State Eclectic, but I had been kicking around a response to the Sully bit anyway, so I’ll just post a ramble here.

Laura at Red State Eclectic has a post up ruminating a bit on Andy Sullivan’s recent post declaring that it’s about time for a Chuck Hagel candidacy.

I think Sully’s post–which I agree with quite a bit–is less that Hagel is the one to lead the party, and more that Hagel represents a facet of it that deserves a voice in the presidential race, from the Republican side. He is, of course, discounting Ron Paul entirely, but the point is still well taken.

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 1:36 pm on April 30th 2007

Music Video of the Week

Something snazzy and jazzy for your Monday. A tad overplayed, the song, but the video is great.

Michael Bublé — Feeling Good

Posted by Brad @ 1:35 pm on April 30th 2007

The Olmert Report

Sully flags the official report on the Israeli prime minister’s handling of the war in Lebanon, and notes the obvious parallel, which I’ll leave unspoken:

“The prime minister made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one,” the report said. “He made his decision without systematic consultation with others, especially outside the IDF, despite not having experience in external-political and military affairs.”

Olmert was also censured for failing to “adapt his plans once it became clear that the assumptions and expectations of Israel’s actions were not realistic and were not materializing.”

“All of these,” the report said, “add up to a serious failure in exercising judgment, responsibility and prudence.”

UPDATE: For a much more in depth analysis of the political conditions surrounding the report, Captain’s Quarters has an excellent post on the subject. Morrisey’s conclusion is that Olmert won’t survive this, particularly when the more comprehensive report comes out in July. I tend to agree.

Got to hand it to the Israelis, though, from the perspective of swift navel-gazing (in the good way) and accountability.

Posted by Brad @ 12:32 am on April 30th 2007

The Great Satellite Radio Antitrust Smackdown

I posted about it before, but the proposed XM/Sirius merger continues to interest me, as an intriguing test case in the new technological business dynamics.

Vedran Vuk (not a professional wrestler) has a persuasive case about the insanity of not allowing the merger to go through, but mostly he examines why XM and Sirius are likely to fail to appease the political masters of the market. It has less to do, in Vuk’s estimation, with the genuine case against monopoly (Vuk finds that unpersuasive, given that both companies are bleeding money hand over fist and haven’t had a profitable quarter yet), and more to do with the stations’ previous ill-advised pledges towards anti-trust compliance, the political teeth of the National Association of Broadcasters, and mainly, like Microsoft, their inability to grease the appropriate palms.

The conclusion?

Using antitrust laws to slam down two failing companies desperately attempting to create a profitable innovative service for consumers is a blatant and disturbing display of what antitrust law really means, coercion and intimidation.

I tend to agree.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:30 pm on April 29th 2007

Privacy doomedness update

It’s been a while since we’ve gone into a panic over the technological demise of privacy. Far too long, in my mind. So, to that end, a few tidbits which a tech-minded friend threw at me recently.

First, the IRS has left their wireless networks to wander around bare-ass naked like some meth-head’s toddler. Which means that all of your most sensitive financial data is now in the hands of pirates, thieves, and telemarketers, probably.

I suppose I should say your tax data, not all your financial data. The IRS wouldn’t have access to your on-the-job records, for instance. No, that information would have to be obtained from elsewhere, like from the laptop that some dunderhead at Bank of America left lying around.

At least your MEDICAL privacy is safe, right? Well, yours might be, but Brad’s sure isn’t, as dingbats in Pittsburgh apparently decided to post a website full of patient medical records on the internet. Brad should really get that mole checked out, don’t you think?

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s all well and good, but at least nobody knows about all that porn on my hard drive, right?” Ha! We’ll have that soon enough, for the process of purging your hard drive is a quest which makes Frodo’s journey into Mordor look like a pleasant trip to the corner store.

And here I am stupidly thinking that I can conceal my identity behind a mere pseudonym. Who am I kidding? I’ll bet 90% of you know my eye color, blood type, and account password. Of course, if the government knew everything about me, they’d have dragged me away in chains by now, so I suppose I must have some privacy left, somehow. Either that or I’m just not important enough to be worth the prison space and feeding expenses.

Posted by Brad @ 4:38 pm on April 29th 2007

Debate Tag Clouds

Sunday afternoon back-reading. Sort of old by now, but Mystery Pollster has the tag clouds for the Democratic debate (a visual representation of what words each candidate used most often).

Also, a total wordcount for each candidate:

* 1,872 – Senator Obama
* 1,766 – Senator Clinton
* 1,518 – Senator Edwards
* 1,281 – Governor Richardson
* 1,180 – Representative Kucinich
* 961 – Senator Biden
* 912 – Senator Dodd
* 753 – Senator Gravel

Which is, not unironically, about the exact relative order I would predict for them for the actual election.

To my discredit, I also didn’t report that the polls of the debate had Obama winning in most voters’ minds by several points at best, or all but tied with Clinton at worst. That probably doesn’t hold up once the post-debate spin spun, but still worth noting.

Posted by Adam @ 3:21 pm on April 29th 2007

Jack Straw talks up Britishness

Jack Straw has an article on Britishness. Straw, former British Foreign Minister, has been into this for a while. For example:

We have to be clearer about what it means to be British, and to be resolute that what comes with this is a set of values that have not just to be shared but accepted.

What a load of utter bollocks. Being British is precisely not ramming Britishness down the throats of British people. He is right that segregation is a problem, if there is much of a problem at all, but his morally superior tone might carry more weight if it wasn’t Blair’s government, of which he was part, that exacarbated the growth of regional/national identities, that he also identifies as a problem, with their intellectually bankrupt devolution policies. But no, Jack is looking forward to exactly the sort of solution that New Labour have adored:

Other countries that do better than ours in defining their sense of citizenship – again, the US is the best example – do so by heroic stories of, for instance, how America came to be America. We must do the same, bringing out the freedom that lies at the heart of the story.

Frankly, Jack, keep your plans for nationwide brainwashing, augmented by a moralistic bowdlerisation of history, to yourself. And as for this:

A large part of what we describe as Britishness in our story traces back to our own civil war, its resolution in 1688 – and the Treaty of Union in 1707 – but we have not had a crisis of identity like that since, and it shows in the lack of precision of what it means to us to be British.

Jesus wept. The best things about being British are the exact bloody things that don’t admit precision, thing that we don’t introspect and legislate over. Straw’s just not outgrown the New Labour desire for flashy solutions applied, with little forward planning, to unquantified problems, almost as if change is good in and of itself. What the nation doesn’t need is preaching to from a fallen New Labour hack.

Posted by Adam @ 2:25 pm on April 29th 2007

TheCrossedPond kills blogosphere?

You have probably seen this story already but it does raise some interesting points. They are right to point out that the vast majority of people don’t have a blog, even allowing for group blogs like this one. Thank Christ for that.

More interesting would be how many people read blogs.

Posted by Rojas @ 11:41 am on April 29th 2007

Shi’ite, Sunni, Kurd and Sith?

Some net content is immesurably improved by poor translation. This page, for instance.

Iraqian helmets, exact reproduction of commercialized like Darth the Vader. By this photo not yet too much information was obtained.

Believe me, that’s putting it mildly.

Posted by Adam @ 8:29 am on April 29th 2007

Fred Thompson: timing

Not actually being declared yet seems to be working well for Fred Thompson. He gets to express opinions on just about everything (latest: American football) and cast them in the light in which several varieties of conservatives wish to see them. For whatever reason (contacts, friends, impressed journaists and pundits, whathaveyou) he seems to have plenty of ability to get his opinions into print (more than, say, Brownback is able to, despite Brownback being a sitting Senator). In a field where the high-profile candidates have problems with conservatives, he gets to establish conservative credentials before even forming an exploratory committee, gets to announce his cancer nice and early and, meanwhile, Law and Order is in syndication with him playing the role of Republican posterchild for ‘tough on crime, favours judicial restraint’.

So, when does he actually announce? At some stage, I guess that Law and Order episodes with him in can no longer be broadcast (and I gather that he has to sort out contractual issues with the Law and Order team, although perhaps he has done that by now) and once he’s in, muckdredging begins (all I’ve heard suggested so far is that he didn’t bust a gut working hard and that, as a single divorcee, he liked the laydeez; he was, however, a DC lobbyist for quite a long time) and perhaps he gets less soapbox time in print. I think that most people assume that he is going to run; when has he done as much of this softening-up as he can without actually starting to actively campaign and raise money? Whose money-raising is going to wilt as a result of Thompson having a fundraising effort?

Posted by Brad @ 3:10 am on April 29th 2007

The American Breed

We talk about demographics here sometimes (well, I don’t, but Adam does (still waiting for an answer, Steyn)), so here’s a bit of late late night reading.

Will Wilkinson takes a look at a nice article from American Interest on American exceptionalism in a demographic sense. Americans, unlike some “Old World” European countries, don’t have a breeding problem, or, really, an immigration one, and thus, contrary to some claims that we’re being Mexicanized (or that we’re entropying), America is actually doing quite well relative to most other affluent first world nations in terms of their demographics (simply put, “white Americans produce more children than their European counterparts”). The AEI article, which is quite good, posits several reasons why that might be, many of which are hard to pin down but worth considering. Things like the fact that Americans tend to be more optimistic than Europeans, more nationalistic, more religious.

Anyway, Wilkinson takes a look at a number of reasons in the AEI article, and provides some commentary of his own. Good reads, both.

Posted by Rojas @ 10:20 pm on April 28th 2007

“As simple as possible…but no simpler.”

Brad and I have been slapping each other around here on the question of “metrics” for the Iraq occupation. I’ve been thinking about it over the weekend, and I’m increasingly convinced that the problem isn’t the effect of such standards on this situation, but rather, the idea of the very existence of objective benchmarks in this context.

Short version of the debate: one of the ideas being pushed by the Democrats recently (and by Brad at this blog) is the idea of a specific set of defined goals for the Iraq operation, either with or without an accompanying date by which they must be accomplished. The concept is that if these goals aren’t met, we will collectively decide that the Iraq occupation is not worth pursuing. If they are met, we will presumably set new benchmarks.

The underlying thesis is that we need an objective, neutral standard by which to determine whether our occupation of Iraq is worth continuing. I reject that thesis entirely. I believe that we should not make a policy decision of this sort based on a single set of arbitrary goals and an equally arbitrary guideline; I believe we should, instead, evaluate the situation subjectively, taking all factors into account, when deciding whether to stay or whether to leave.

Albert Einstein suggested that “everything should be made as simple as possible…but no simpler.” I think that the setting of benchmarks and deadlines is an attempt to impose artificial simplicity on a complex policy decision. The situation in Iraq is complicated and fluid. You cannot wrap fluid up in a neat package (at least, that’s what the Red Cross keeps telling me when I send them blood donations by mail).

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 7:35 pm on April 28th 2007

The Vietnam Question

(this post is not about Iraq)

Finally. Every once in awhile you come across something that you’ve been meaning to write for ages, only to see that somebody else has, and you’re glad.

I go off now and then when people (including my co-bloggers!) trumpet the “America thinks Vietnam was a decent thing that could have been won had the Democrats not mucked it up” canard (or some variant) that gets pushed forward so often when matters of war and peace come up. It drives me nuts because it’s so clearly not true, but continues to be an operating precept of the people that currently rule the country, it continues to get trotted out.

Here is a 2004 study going to the Library of Congress for 30+ years worth of evidence and finding…

America is not — emphatically not — divided over Vietnam….

Public opinion on this question couldn’t be clearer. There is no great Vietnam divide. Americans are more divided over carbohydrates than they are over Vietnam.

And at TPMCafe, Todd Gitlin makes the correct synthesis.

There are a lot of reasons why the Democrats have not been trusted on national security and issues of war for awhile (though, again, they are MORE trusted at present than the Republicans), and Vietnam I’m sure has something to do with it. But the public doesn’t “blame” the loss in Vietnam on the anti-war crowd. There’s no evidence ever uncovered to that effect, and mountains and mountains of it to the contrary.

Like Iraq (I lied!), the VAST majority of America (in the Vietnamese case, by a three to one margin at least) think it was a mistake from the get-go (unjust). In fact, the MOST divisiveness on the Vietnamese question is whether it was “fundamentally wrong and immoral” or a “well-intentioned mistake” (And even that’s 52-43). Nobody, in retrospect (or AT THE TIME), seems to think the anti-war crowd was wrong.

It’s one of those cases of phantom polling, where more people believe that people believe in something, than there are people who actually believe in said something.

Posted by Brad @ 5:45 pm on April 28th 2007

On Iraq and Terror

Sort of a theme over the last few days (credit the Democrats?)

Two items of interest (several, actually). First:

The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.

In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.

That prospect would entail a dramatically longer commitment of frontline troops, patrolling the most dangerous neighborhoods of Baghdad, than the one envisioned in legislation that passed the House and Senate this week…

On Friday, during an appearance with Japan’s prime minister at Camp David, President Bush said that he would invite congressional leaders to the White House on Wednesday, immediately after his expected veto message, to talk about a “way forward.”

The title, when that bit was flagged over at dailykos, was “Playing Out the Clock: Day 1458”. I don’t think that’s unfair, at this point. Josh Marshall says it more plainly:

It is a milestone in the Bush Administration’s public spin of the war, marking the first official acknowledgment that the surge and all the attendant fuss were nothing more than an elaborate stop-gap intended to buy time so that the colossal failure of the President’s foreign policy can be pawned off on the next president.

(more…)

Posted by Adam @ 3:59 pm on April 28th 2007

Buckley on Iraq and the GOP

Where does the internet end and Andrew Sullivan begin? He seems to live on the net. Anyhow, he promptly links this article by William Buckley, positing that Iraq might take down the GOP, a little over an hour after it was posted, while the rest of us were out shopping or doing whatever it is that normal people do on Saturday.

After speaking somewhat approvingly, as many of us do, of General Petraeus, Buckley ends:

The general makes it a point to steer away from the political implications of the struggle, but this cannot be done in the wider arena. There are grounds for wondering whether the Republican party will survive this dilemma.

I sort of feel that if he found himself in the mainstream, Buckley would say something to get himself excluded (or maybe that’s me) but I do think that he’s picking out a real danger, that Iraq won’t merely be a vote-costing unpopular policy but will, in fact, be an agent of severe lasting structural damage to the Republican party. They’re spending like drunks, their ‘small government’ credentials are largely gone and many of them look more corrupt than the Democrats they displaced; being at war might be the only thing holding the boat together and if the war doesn’t suffuse them with a victorious glow, they could be going down*. Karl Rove might have helped steer the country towards a permanent Republican minority and that’s not good; firstly because I’m a conservative and a coherent Republican party is the best chance of conservatism having a seat at the Table of Government and, secondly, because the implosion of one party, whilst benefiting other parties, doesn’t do the country any good. Handing electoral victory to one side makes that victory too cheap, requiring of the victorious too little accomodation to the actual desires of the electorate because there was no real choice offered. I am not sure that the best bet for the GOP is to hand on and hope that the electorate is going to come back around to them.

I, for one, don’t welcome our New Democrat Overlords. They’ll pry the badly-chosen, overused and overstretched metaphors from my cold, dead hands.

*I believe that here I am supposed to make a comparison to some famously fragile boxer, or possibly a Duchess of Drury-Lane.

Posted by Adam @ 10:55 am on April 28th 2007

Hookergate?

Randall Tobias has resigned from the State Department over utilising the services of a madam. He claims that he had her send girls around to give him a massage, but that they didn’t inhale.

Firstly, I don’t think that prostitution should be illegal, in general. Even leaving aside his somewhat unconvincing denial, however, it is illegal and, thus, makes people who avail themselves of such services vulnerable to blackmail (of course, it could make them vulnerable to blackmail even if it were legal, but the risks would not be much worse than those from more conventional adultery). For government officials, that’s obviously a Bad Thing, so, for as long as paying people for sex remains illegal, government figures should refrain from doing it. Oh, legion are the sacrifices made in service of the Public Good.

How many more people of importance in DC might get caught up in this?

Posted by Brad @ 11:49 pm on April 27th 2007

“Congressman Ron Paul Visits My Dorm Room”

You read that right. You want retail politics? Ron Paul got your retail politics right here.

The YouTube descriptor:

The first-ever interview with a Presidential candidate held in a college dorm room! This happened on April 26, 2007.

Republican Presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul visits James Kotecki’s dorm room to discuss his views foreign policy, the Constitution, and the impact of the internet on his Presidential campaign.

I’ll be posting the full 30-minute interview to my “JamesKotecki” channel on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/JamesKotecki

Thanks again to Congressman Paul and his excellent staff for making this happen.

http://www.RonPaul2008.com

http://www.JamesKotecki.com

Part 1 of 4. Check out his channel for the rest. Unabashedly charming (and substantive!)

Hit tip: Lew Rockwell.

Posted by Brad @ 11:41 pm on April 27th 2007

Mike Gravel Barred From CNN Debate

Old news (the decision was made March 16th), but salient now that Gravel actually had…well, I don’t want to say “good”, but certainly a showing in Thursday’s debate. In any case, CNN and the New Hampshire Union Leader left the door open for reconsideration. I suppose they have to put the cut-off line somewhere, but if you’re interested.

I post that to post this, Fox News also reserves the right to only invite the “leading contenders” in the Republican party to their debate, the second GOP one. One wonders if Ron Paul gets included or not.

Posted by Brad @ 10:56 pm on April 27th 2007

A Few Words on the French Election

Posted by Adam @ 6:37 pm on April 27th 2007

Fred Thompson dabbling in some rabble-rousing

Michael Ledeen recounts this account of student protests over the imposition of strict dress codes. He then repeats, approvingly, Fred Thompson’s more general comment on the possible US actions regarding unrest in Iran, from which this is the key quote:

Many Iranians don’t like their government, “and I think we ought to capitalize on that,” Thompson told The Associated Press. “There is a chance they may mobilize themselves, and we need to assist them if that happens.”

I think that this is pretty unwise. Absolutely, help them along, but I don’t think that announcing the intent in advance is very helpful. One of the points in the recent Peter Hitchens article (on which I made some general comments here) is that US action has the potential to bring Iranians together behind the regime. The bluster isn’t helpful; a case can be made that it might encourage some sort of rebellion, but as the US isn’t really going to step in and go to war over it, the risk is that a rebellion would be brutally crushed and the US accused of promising more help than they delivered, as happened in Iraq before now.

I don’t much like sabre-rattling by candidates, or potential candidates, and I am disappointed to see it from Fred.

Posted by Adam @ 4:15 pm on April 27th 2007

Yingling attacks the Generals

One assumes that Paul Yingling is not too attached to his career; in this article in the Armed Forces Journal (which I first saw linked by Sully), he lays into the leadership of the US military despite being on active service.

Like Sully, I can’t comment on the technical details; I imagine that Yingling will be portrayed as bitter and out-of-step and maybe that’s true. This Townhall article points out that ublic criticism of this sort is unusual from active duty personnel and it’s certainly a very scathing attack. I imagine that some retired personnel will come out either way, in response to this, and most of the active-duty personnel will criticise Yingling or say nothing. Something that I found interesting is this:

Finally, Congress must enhance accountability by exercising its little-used authority to confirm the retired rank of general officers. By law, Congress must confirm an officer who retires at three- or four-star rank. In the past this requirement has been pro forma in all but a few cases. A general who presides over a massive human rights scandal or a substantial deterioration in security ought to be retired at a lower rank than one who serves with distinction. A general who fails to provide Congress with an accurate and candid assessment of strategic probabilities ought to suffer the same penalty. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war. By exercising its powers to confirm the retired ranks of general officers, Congress can restore accountability among senior military leaders.

I confess, I don’t know what consequences generals do face other than getting a bad name. Crappy postings, I guess, or forced retirement? I can’t see that Congress is going to want to get into an official name-dragging-through-mud process on senior generals, though, unless they really screwed up. It’s a lot safer to attack the political leadership (who do have overall responsibility) than be attacking military officers over matters that are likely to be relatively vague and eminently arguable. It is interesting to see Yingling not going for the political leadership but, rather, for the military leadership.

Posted by Brad @ 1:55 pm on April 27th 2007

What Are We Losing or Trying to Win in Iraq?

It’s a fundamental question, and one that I don’t think a lot of people have a good answer for. What exactly is the goal of our surge? What are we holding out for? What are we trying to prevent, and more to the point, how do we actually prevent it, rather than just sitting on it?

Biden last night made a good point that the War in Iraq, as talked about 99% of the time, is an exercise of completely talking over the issue. It’s a false choice, that we’re going to “win” or “lose” and that our options are to either stay (presumably indefinitely; I guess the notion is “until Iraq is a stable functioning democracy aligned with US interests that can take charge of its own security”, but I’m coming to think more and more that even that conceptualization is all in how you define the goalposts, and is becoming a little like the goalposts of the “war on terror”, in that when you strip back the rhetoric, there really are none, or at least none in any meaningful sense of it), or to leave right now and throw Iraq entirely under the bus (absolutely none of the Democratic plans save maybe Mike Gravel’s offers this alternative–almost all are measured, pretty reasonable views of keeping a lid on things as best we can without permanently stationing half our military there).

This is sort of a continuation of Adam’s post below, but the terms of the debate, and even the reality (or unreality) of our goals in Iraq belie a certain vapidity at this point that I think is a lot more important than we give credit to. There are a fair few people who have no idea how a continuation of present policy might render a positive solution (“win”) in Iraq, or even have any real notion of what a positive solution would entail, or even look like, and yet who support it anyway just because of the sense that “we owe it to them” or “it’s too important to not do”. I guess the notion is that if we just hang around long enough, maybe something will spontaneously generate under our noses. We don’t even know what that thing might be, but maybe it’ll be good, and the only way that might possibly happen is if we stay in a holding pattern until it happens (that corollary, of course, is when do we decide that it isn’t going to happen, with no timetables or yardsticks or units of measure or even, well, goals, beyond faint, undefined “hopes”)? If you can’t define success, you can’t really define failure either. And so you just sit around, hoping for one or the other to define itself for you, which of course it never well, and try desperately to herd the rhetorical cats into this or that paradigm so you can win or lose the day’s news cycle, and repeat next week. Such has been our Iraq policy since about six months after the military intervention there.

The more I think about this, the more I have no idea what pro-war advocates or the present military and political leadership of America’s role in Iraq are even proposing we wait for, or what THEY think they’re waiting for. What most recently spurred this line of thinking, in addition to last night’s debates, is this meandering but sharply honest opine from Josh Marshall. For the last few years, whenever I hear almost anybody talk about Iraq, it all coalesces into this vague rhetorical space in my head that seems more and more meaningless the longer it goes on, while the reality on the ground seems to be almost exactly the same now as it was two years ago. We can’t win OR lose Iraq, at this point, because we don’t have any objectives or measurements whatsoever. When you don’t even have a goal, how can you succeed, or fail?

Maybe it would be helpful if every candidate or even advocate, for or against (thought for or against what, I have no idea), were required to answer these three questions (there are surely better ways to phrase it and more questions to ask, but off the top of my head):

1. What, specifically, would success in Iraq look like? What positive outcome would allow us the luxury of withdrawing?
2. What, specifically, would failure in Iraq look like? What negative outcome would finally require us to declare our presence there as no longer being meaningfully helpful, or being more hurtful than it is helpful?
3. What responsibility does America have, if any, to setting conditions for its presence in Iraq, and what might those conditions be?

Posted by Adam @ 11:19 am on April 27th 2007

‘A moral responsibility’ to commit political suicide

Pat Buchanan lays in to Harry Reid.

Reid is not just saying the war is lost, but implying that Condi Rice, Bob Gates and probably George Bush know it, and are denying us the truth and cynically letting our soldiers be killed at a rate of 100 a month in what they know is a lost war.

If Reid believes this, he has a moral duty to vote to terminate any further funds for this war. Even the great Robert E. Lee, whose 200th birthday we celebrate, surrendered to stop the killing when his army began to disintegrate after the fall of Richmond in 1865.

God knows, there are plenty of avenues along which to attack Reid, but this is pretty weird. Robert E. Lee was the guy that had the authority to surrender. Harry Reid has to exist in the political environment of the Senate and in the wider environment of the US Government. Voting to cut off all funds for the war will lose all votes it is put to and, furthermore, would reduce the chances that the Democrats have to shorten the war. The idea that the belief that a war is lost means that the war should be ended immediately is bizarre; you still have an imperative, even if you believe the prior objectives unachievable and the war, thus, lost, to manage the consequences of losing.

I generally like Pat Buchanan on analysis. I wanted more troops in all along, I want more in now, and I oppose deadlines for withdrawal. I don’t have any enthusiasm for Harry Reid. This article, however, is just wrong on the responsibility of those that believe the war to be lost; ‘lost’ isn’t a pointlike state, it’s a landscape. The responsibility of those people that believe themselves to be constrained to that landscape is to find the best place to be within it.

The rest of the article appears to be based on the premise that war isn’t political. For someone that often makes the case that political forces are at play in military and strategic decisions, Buchanan appears to have taken a large intellectual detour.

Posted by Brad @ 8:48 pm on April 26th 2007

The Democrats

It was an interesting debate, I thought. I was surprised by my own reactions. You know, a lot of people almost have me convinced, from time to time, that I’m a liberal, to the point where sometimes it comes as a bit of a shock to me that no, I’m not.

Generally: I was surprised by my own reaction to the round of questions on Iraq and then more broadly the War on Terror. For the first forty minutes of the broadcast, it felt to me like 2004. In some senses that’s fine; it’s an early, Democratic primary debate, but I think the tone on Iraq isn’t going to fly when the campaign really matches up. It sounded…well, defeatist. A common, base critique, sure enough, and I don’t mean that in the sense that most Republicans do (in that I DO agree with Harry Reid, more or less, that Iraq is lost, or at least the smart money is against it, by pretty long odds), and I by and large agree with most of the Democrats substantively. However, the tone is just very 2004. I think the country is past “It’s Bush’s fault” and “the war was a mistake”, both of which are, by the way, true. But, tactically and rhetorically, it seems to me that spending the bulk of your time covering that ground isn’t going to have legs. At this point, somebody needs to start to put forward a 2008 strategy for Iraq. I kept waiting for somebody to say “So now we have an opportunity…” rather than continued intonation of the failures of the present administration. Some candidates feinted at that here and there. I liked Biden’s brief line about the “false choice” being pundited between leaving now and staying forever. I also liked Richardson’s answer, and some of Obama’s stuff about the need for a political solution. But the emphasis struck me as off; coasting, almost. It wasn’t just Iraq or Terror either, but kind of a broad criticism.

Specific candidates, in order of how they come to mind:

(more…)

Posted by Adam @ 6:38 pm on April 26th 2007

Begala on Broder

A few days ago, I read this robust criticism of David Broder and then this about Broder’s attack on Harry Reid and claims that Senate Democrats are going to stab Reid in the back in the near future.

I’ve quoted Broder a few times, such as here (a somewhat infamous piece that was brought up again here) and here; I don’t have any particular axe to grind with him (not at present, at least). More than that, I don’t like Paul Begala much (although he’s better now than he was on Crossfire, which is true of Carville, Novak and Carlson, too); at the Huffington Post, Begala writes a robust piece that is part attack on Broder and part panegyric on Harry Reid here which, even though I don’t have any particular problem with Broder and am neither a fan of Begala nor of attacks nor panegyrics, is pretty entertaining.

This is almost the first really enthusastic piece about Harry Reid I’ve read, I think. For example:

Perhaps Broder’s bed-wetting tantrum against Reid was spurred by the certain knowledge that while Harry Reid has been telling hard truths, Mr. Broder has been falling hard for transparent lies.

and then:

I doubt very seriously that Harry Reid is bothered by Broder’s comments. Reid has faced down Vegas mobsters who planted a bomb in his family car. He’s unlikely to be intimidated by George W. Bush’s housebroken lap-dog.

Perhaps Reid secretly does have many detractors hidden amidst the Senate Democrats, but his supporters have certainly managed to produce a vehement defense. I don’t have much of an opinion on Reid (I’m certainly not a fan), except to say that I think that he’s a lot tougher than some Republicans would like to pretend.

Posted by Brad @ 5:16 pm on April 26th 2007

Hinky

I’m not sure that I mentioned before-the-fact, but I was away for the last six weeks or so, house sitting with no regular internet access, no cable TV, even my cell phone reception was spotty at best. But, starting today, I’m back at home at my trusty desktop, and it’s refreshing, being able to just read read read. I forget sometimes what a luxury having an infinite amount of information at my fingertips 24/7 is, or else I paint it as a curse (it certainly has trade-offs). So, expect more of me again, as I just spew random links, whatever happens to cross my path.

For example, here is a very interesting article about the debate over evidentiary standards of suspicion. Most of are more or less okay with people reporting things that they come upon that strike them as “hinky”, as well we should be when it works out. But, there’s a danger in drawing the line too broadly, or allowing too much murkiness to creep in as standards. The example that Jim Harper gives is “the hunch of an experienced officer”, which is allowed to pass in court more often than not as being something akin to probable cause. Harper is responding to an increasing tendency of the last few decades to begin to take more and more things being “hinky” as grounds for action, from citizen informers to police officers to surveillance to whatever. If something strikes you as odd, and you do something about it, should you, at some point (let’s assume that the person turns out to be innocent of anything, though that shouldn’t matter), have to actually give reason for the suspicion, or is “a hunch” enough, because one time out of a thousand it’ll work out well ( an example.)

This straddles an important line. Is it something we “can’t fully explain,” or something that feels wrong “before one can figure out exactly what”? My preference is that the thing should be explainable – not necessarily at the moment suspicion arises, but at some point.

I’m reminded of the Supreme Court formulation “reasonable suspicion based on articulable fact” – it was hammered into my brain in law school. It never satisfied me because the inquiry shouldn’t end at “articulable” but at whether, subsequently, the facts were actually articulated.

Posted by Brad @ 4:43 pm on April 26th 2007

Music Video of the Week Take 2

The last one flopped, not unpredicted. This one is sure to as well.

What this site really needs is some more British Top 40 pop. So, at the risk of seeming cool to British 16 year old girls:

Natasha Bedingfield – I Wanna Have Your Babies

To soften the cheap pop blow of it, some intellectualizing from Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker:

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 4:21 pm on April 26th 2007

So What Is the Democratic Iraqi Bill To Be Vetoed?

Marty Lederman gives it an honest read.

Posted by Brad @ 4:00 pm on April 26th 2007

Phantom Polling

One of the great irritants I get when watching talking heads opining on cable news programs is how often they assert what America thinks, and how, insanely, when enough pundits assert it, it becomes conventional wisdom, even when nobody asked America, or they did and America asserted quite to the contrary. Iraq is a big example of this over the last few years, but not the only one.

Here’s some (more) phantom polling conducted by Andrea Mitchell. Josh Marshall takes a whack at the softball, video-blogging style:

Next Page »