Saturday, January 19, 2002

SHAMED DOGAN QUESTIONS my questioning of George Will (and other's) anti-Daschle statements. In brief, while I don't expect conservatives to agree with Tom Daschle's policies any more than liberals agree with Bush's, the problem with Will's piece was in imputing liberal policies specifically to Tom Daschle and acting as though they were incredibly novel rather than just part of a longstanding policy debate.

Similarly, anyone who criticized Daschle's obstructionism should check what they said when Republicans were obstructing. Consistent dedication to procedure over substance is foolish, but at least credible.

THE ALWAYS ENTERTAINING Bull Moose has a nice post on how Enron's campaign contributions helped create the regulatory environment that made their massive fraud possible. At the end of the day, that is a scandal in and of itself.
SCORE HALF A POINT for the forces of reason and progress. The National Academy of Sciences has decided not to let superstition stand in the way of treating the sick. I tend to agree with them that cloning full-grown humans isn't a really good idea, but just because I can't see what worthwhile things it would let us accomplish is no reason not to let people try. If it turns out that there are no worthwhile applications of cloning, then no one will do it. If the technology takes off, then that will be because it does something useful.
BY WAY OF EXPLANATION for my lack of recent posts, I'm in England visiting my girlfriend who's studying at Oxford for the semester. Incidentally, those of us inclined to get down on the American professoriat for its defeatism and strange pro-Taliban thinking will be glad to know that the situation is much, much worse here in the U.K.

I attended a lecture yesterday on American foreign policy that consisted of nothing but anti-American insinuations and repeated claims that our days as a great power were numbered. In the course of an hour-long talk he mentioned only three actual events in US history -- the Vietnam War, Watergate, and McCarthyism -- and found time to work each of those in four or five time. It was disgusting.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

SCORE ONE FOR CHUCK! I've been wondering how my senior Senator (and former summer boss) Charles E. Schumer was going to handle his receipt of gobs and gobs of Enron cash (far more than any other Democrat). Now it seems he's found a way donate the money to a charity benefiting former employees who had their savings wiped out. Looks to me like chuck's CD has found a pretty inspired way to do a little negative press jujitsu here.
THE MORE I READ ABOUT Enron the more I'm reconsidering my opposition to the death penalty. What's the big deal? I've said it before and I'll say it again: The administration's defenders are right to say that there's no political scandal yet. The political scandal will be if the government doesn't come down hard on Enron's execs. But why wouldn't they? Haven't Ashcroft and other administration figures with Enron ties already recused themselves? What would you do if your boss told you to investigate a company and said he couldn't do it himself due to his close financial and personal ties with the company? Wouldn't you get the message?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

EVERYONE MUST READ Joe Conason's brilliant rejoinder to critics of the Clinton administration's anti-terror record. He doesn't even point out the most salient fact: The only Clinton appointees that Bush kept on were his CIA Director, his anti-terrorism National Security Advisor, and his Secretary of Transportation.
BRUCE GOTTLEIB MAKES a good point about the much-maligned military tribunals: what kind of a fair trial could bin Laden get in civilian court? None at all. He seems to take this as evidence in favor of the tribunals plans, but I think it just makes us wonder more and more why the administration thinks it's necessary. My guess -- they're trying to set a very bad precedent and undermine our criminal justice system.
MANY ON THE RIGHT are hoping that Bob Rubin's small role in Enrongate will deflect blame from the Republicans, but Mickey Kaus actually think's Rubin's behavior was defensible.
Rubin was, in essence, conning his employer. Citigroup was paying him, presumably handsomely, under the false impression that he was willing to trade on his former position on their behalf. And all they got was good government!
That seems possible to me. Maybe.
REASONABLE PEOPLE CAN disagree as to whether or not there's a political scandal in the Enron debacle, but it's pretty clear that there's a whopper of a business scandal. On that note, I encourage everyone to take a look at Josh Marshall's hilarious top ten innocent explanations for Arthur Andersen's document shredding.

Monday, January 14, 2002

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Bill Clinton and Congressional liberals were responsible for the intelligence failure of September 11. The truth: Congressional Republicans forced the CIA to change their threat assessments and bring them in line with the political needs of the right.
DAVID BROOKS HAS AN amusing takedown of Richard Posner's absurd project of public intellectual ranking.
I'm not sure I'm qualified to review this book. Starting on Page 209, there is a chart of the top 100 public intellectuals for the years 1995-2000. I'm all the way down at No. 85, whereas Richard A. Posner, the man whose work I'm supposed to be evaluating, is up at No. 70. It's true that on paper I should be able to satisfy reader demand better than those poor saps who are mired in the 90's (Noam Chomsky, James Q. Wilson, David Frum, William Butler Yeats and Lani Guinier). But there's just no way I'm going to be able to offer the kind of intellectual firepower you would get from, say, the big brains at rankings 72 through 76 (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Lillian Hellman, Ann Coulter, David Horowitz and Albert Camus).
Frankly, based on what I've read this book alone should be grounds for impeachment.
9/11 CONSPIRACY THEORIES abound on the internet and in the media, says Alexander Cockburn but they're wrong. More important is to remember the true story of America's mistakes in the region.
THE TIMES OF LONDON has an insensitive yet fascinating (if it's true) piece about the Pashto practice of relationships between men andashna, young boys used as sexual partners in what sounds to me like something akin to ancient Greek practice.
Kandahar's Pashtuns have been notorious for their homosexuality for centuries, particularly their fondness for naive young boys. Before the Taleban arrived in 1994, the streets were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationship.
I hope Sullivan comes up with something about this.
JOSHUA MARSHALL GETS conspiraturial as, Talking Points Memo speculates that Phil Gramm's retirement from the Senate may have been linked to the Enron debacle. Marshall notes that Gramm's wife is on the audit committee of Enron's board and thus might well have discovered the troubled before the rest of us. He also notes that late-summer retirement speculation regarded a Gramm departure as unlikely.

Proof? Hardly, and even if it were true it's not clear what it would mean, but interesting scuttlebut -- methinks yes.

Marshall also mentions the surprise disappearance of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, also of Texas.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

I DUNNO IF ANYONE CARES about Cornel West anymore, but the NY Times has a devastating attack on his recent behavior that only gains power from being relatively measured.
THE PRINCE OF POT! We hear now that Prince Harry of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a boy of seventeen, has -- horror of horrors --smoked marijuana.

To this, a reasonable person might say, "so what," but not or the Royal family.

They sent the kid to a rehab clinic -- for Marijuana! -- it seems that he'd "experimented" with the stuff "over a two-month period." Sounds like a guy with a major problem to me.

The story also contains this bizarre paragraph:

Clive Goodman, of the News of the World, told CNN: "These were were no usual teenage high spirits. This was a young lad drinking under age ... taking pot, which is illegal."
. If memory of my teenage years serves (and it was only six months ago) that sounds exactly like "usual teenage high spirits."

Needless to say, even though they're going way harder on the poor prince than they should, he's getting off much easier than a poor person stuck in the same situation would.

I'M GOING TO JUST STOP WRITING about Enron and direct interested parties to BuzzFlash's large collection of damning information.
MATTHEW MILLER'S COLUMN IN today's LA Times is in tune with what I've been hearing from a lot of liberals around here, namely that the democrats should push a more ambitious agenda. This all strikes me as completely misguided. History seems to indicate that we'll pick up seats in 2002, and a replay of the 2000 Presidential election would seem almost guaranteed to result in a democratic victory (Floridians will be very careful not to vote for Pat Buchanan).
I think that this is the time to relax and just make sure nothing terrible happens.
WHANT TO BELIEVE THE WORST about Arthur Anderson's role in the Enron collapse? Read this incredibly damning Time piece. As I say, people had better go to jail. It seems to me that the real political influence scandal may not have even happened yet, but may involve well-connected businessmen avoiding the hangman's noose after engaging in totally outrageous behavior.
IT APPEARS THAT SOME NICE South Korean gentlemen are preparing to give usbooze we can chew, a development that should make it much easier to quit smoking in the future.
MY DISCOVERY OF THE DAY is the War Liberal site which quite correctly states "Now these [Enron] guys, they should go to jail." I'm just afraid that they might not.
TALKING POINTS MEMO LIVES up to its title for once with this analysis of what's wrong with current Democratic Party strategy and what the dems should do about it. Josh Marshall's point is simple: The Republicans are in power, the fiscal situation is a mess, hence the Republicans made a mess of the fiscal situation. They said they could manage the budget responsibly and then they didn't follow through. This is about trust and responsibility and values. The democrats shouldn't even be offering solutions, just pointing out problems. The out of power party is allowed to be hyper-critical like that.
FORMER CRIMSON REPORTER Josh Gewolb has a letter in today's NYTimes that perfectly sums up Larry Summers' performance:
Mr. Summers is bringing strong leadership back to Harvard, and the university, used to passive, politically correct administrators, is scared.
How right he is. The only question is: Will Summers tame the beast, or will it tame him?
TOM FRIEDMAN'S NEW column makes an interesting observation about the situation in Kabul:
This is a travesty. Afghanistan needs a quick infusion of cash. (Maybe the Muslim world, which was so worried about Afghan civilians when America was bombing here, could send some cash now that the bombing is over and people need to eat?)
Anyone think the rich Gulf oil sheikhs will do it? Anyone think they'll give money to help alleviate poverty in the West Bank or Gaza? I don't think so. Anyone think money will come pouring in for extremist mosques and hate groups? Unfortunately, I think the answer will clearly be "yes" unless the administration can bring itself to put its love of cheap gas aside and go after the Saudis. Iraq is neat, but it's really something of a sideshow.
HENRY KISSINGER, AS ONE WOULD expect is grossly over-pessimistic in his assessment of the prospects for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. He's not really wrong in anything he says: We should try and overthrow Saddam quickly, we should come up with a plan for what we hope to see afterwards, and we should try and get a lot of allies to help us.

Where he goes wrong is in predicting some kind of disaster should we fail to do these things. A long war, he says, could become a battle of Islam vs. the West, but there's no reason to think that a war against Iraq would be long, and the West could beat Islam in a war. Why would the Muslims of the world even try to take us on? Maybe they're just that crazy -- I personally don't think so -- but if they all want to kill us, then we'll just have to kill them all. No one should be needlessly antagonized, but there's no need for us to be paralyzed with fear.

GEORGE WILL HAS PUBLISHED SOME dishonest crap in today's Wash Post about how the democrats have been "Daschlized." He states several democratic party positions on issues, repeats the administration's bizarre lies about tax policy, then alleged that all of this is due to Daschle, and that it's all liabilities.

It's one thing for Will to believe in conservative politics, but it's another thing altogether to participate in the White House-ordered demonization of Tom Daschle just in order to improve the Republicans' chances in 2002. A journalist should be an advocate for what he believes in, but he should do it honestly. To think that Will is supposed to be the "intelligent" rightwing pundit.

TIM RUSSERT HAD THIRD-PARTY psychopaths Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan on Meet the Press this morning (no transcript is available yet). They're really astounding. Nader again denied that there was any difference between Bush and Gore. Then conceded that Gore wouldn't have pushed for such a large tax cut. Then was asked if that wasn't a significant difference. Then he back-tracked on the tax cut comment, saying "who knows what would have happened?"

Everyone in the universe not named "Ralph Nader" knows what would have happened. A smaller tax cut focused mainly on "targeted" tax credits that phase out at high income levels. I suspect that the libertarianish sentiments of the blogging community will lead most readers to think that that would have been a bad thing. I think it would have been a good thing. Either way, it takes a strange sort of dementia to think that it just doesn't matter.

Pat Buchanan, on the other hand, seems to suffer from two different all-too-common forms of dementia. On the one hand he's got a blame America first view of terrorism, and on the other a racist and comically ill-informed attitude toward trade and immigration. I can't believe I used to agree with him on the latter two, but in my defense, I was only seventeen.

ANDREW HOFER HAS SOME LEGITIMATE commentary on Bill Keller's rant over here -- he's also allegedly paid to de-adify this site, for which I thank him and will be including a permanent link to his More Thank Zero. The Yalies seem to dig me, for whatever reason.
I'M WATCHING DON EVANS on Meet the Press right now, and he's sounding overly-evasive to me, especially because I can't imagine what sort of wrongdoing could possibly be attributed to him. I'm glad to see that Tim Russert isn't actually a right-wing loon as I thought during Monica-gate, he's obviously just a foolish scandalmonger with no sense of decency or proportion.