Thursday, May 31, 2007

Upside-down is Right-side-up

Via Andrew Sullivan, here is a link to a page on Ambigrams. Here is my first exposure to this concept, from way back in the 70s:

Look at the logo... now stand on your head and look at the logo.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thompson's In

Fred Thompson has announced his intention to run for the Presidency. I do think he has an excellent shot, since conservatives are dying for an alternative to Rudy McRomney. One good thing about it from the Democratic view: if Thompson wins it completely removes the only serious liability of our most likely nominee, Barack Obama: the Republicans will not be able to say that Obama is not experienced enough: Thompson has only eight years in the U.S. Senate and no executive experience. (Also, about 17 years as a lobbyist which will no doubt provide ample grist for oppo dirt.)

But just so that you don't think I'm in Obama's pocket (at least not yet,) here is a biting comment from Kevin Drum's comments section on Obama's recently unveiled health care plan: "The audacity of blah!" Yep, that about sums it up.

Dobbs Checking

Finally! The New York Times takes on the factually challenged Lou Dobbs.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Framing a Withdrawal Timetable

I have to disagree with Kevin Drum disagreeing with Swopa (although I don't agree with Swopa either.) Swopa argues that we should emphasize our death toll in Iraq to win the argument, but Kevin counters:
The reason we should leave Iraq isn't because the war is costing lives, but because the war isn't critical to our national security.

Trouble is, the area is critical to our national security. Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, for God's sake. It could draw its Arab neighbors into a fracticidal Sunni-Shia regional conflict. And it could draw our NATO partner Turkey to move against our stalwart Kurd allies.

Those who favor withdrawal can't be seen to be promising flowers and sweets, like the administration did before the war. When we leave, things probably will get worse. But (and here is the rhetorical frame, which also happens to have the virtue of being true): Iraqis are the only ones who can sort this out... and they can do it better by themselves.

Why? A number of reasons:

1) Civil wars are only over when one side knows it has lost. Sunnis see both Republicans and Democrats saying they want to leave; they are aware of American domestic political pressure. The Sunni insurgency will not lose hope until they can take on the Shiites solo, without American interference. Until they do so a Shiite government will not have credibility of force.

2) Any Iraqi government which depends on the protection of the Americans will not be seen as a sovereign government, thus hurting its credibility with the Iraqi people and its neighbors.

3) An Iraq government that has to cater to American desires is handicapped in building its own Iraqi constituency, which inevitably will have contrary desires to America's.

4) Only a portion of the violence in Iraq is anti-American in motivation, but it is not an insignificant portion. By disengaging in the short term and promising to withdraw in the medium-term America would be diminishing an element of opposition. Al Qaeda has very little political support in Iraq. They are thriving only because of the American presence and the anarchy present there. Once a stable government arises, Al Qaeda in Iraq will be crushed.

We have to warn the public that violence will probably get worse, and the resulting government might not be to our liking, but also make it clear that if we stayed we would probably be turning a 2-year civil war into a 10-year civil war.

In other words, we need to talk to Americans like grown-ups.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum responds by e-mail:

Points taken, but I didn't say the area wasn't critical to our national security. I said the *war* wasn't critical to our national security. In fact, I think it's detrimental. I hope this doesn't seem like nitpicking, since I think it's a pretty important difference.

I agree about the possibility that Iraq will get a lot worse once we leave. In fact, I've blogged about this a few times before. It's hard to say exactly how politicians should address this, but I agree that, one way or another, those of us who oppose the war need to prepare the public for this.

Actually, as near as I can tell, we pretty much agree with each other. If there's any real disagreement, it's pretty small.

Substantially, I think our positions are pretty close. And perhaps I didn't characterize Kevin's position fairly. But my quibble was regarding rhetorical emphasis: it's the difference between saying "the war isn't important to us" and "we aren't helping by staying." I think Americans can instinctively grasp the concept that meddling sometimes makes things worse.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Brooks on Immigration

David Brooks makes the best point I've heard about the new immigration bill (unfortunately, the article is behind the TimesSelect curtain):
Harvard is tough to get into. To be admitted to a school like that, students spend years earning good grades, doing community service and working hard to demonstrate their skills. The system has its excesses, but over all it’s good for Harvard and it’s good for the students beginning their climb to opportunity.

The United States is the Harvard of the world. Millions long to get in. Yet has this country set up an admissions system that encourages hard work, responsibility and competition? No. Under our current immigration system, most people get into the U.S. through criminality, nepotism or luck. The current system does almost nothing to encourage good behavior or maximize the nation’s supply of human capital.

Which is why the immigration deal reached in the Senate last week is, on balance, a good thing. It creates a new set of incentives for immigrants and potential immigrants. It encourages good behavior, in the manner of a demanding (though overly harsh) admissions officer. It rewards the bourgeois virtues that have always been at the heart of this nation’s immigrant success, and goes some way to assure that the people who possess these virtues can become U.S. citizens.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Remember the clucks of disdain when Silvestre Reyes, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, failed a simple quiz about Al Qaeda?
When asked by CQ National Security Editor Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda is one or the other of the two major branches of Islam -- Sunni or Shiite -- Reyes answered "they are probably both," then ventured "Predominantly -- probably Shiite."

That is wrong. Al Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden as a Sunni organization and views Shiites as heretics.

What a doofus, huh? But wait a minute... what's this Gingrich is saying on Meet the Press this morning?

And I think we have dramatically expanded the excitement and incentives of the terrorists, both in the Iranian-funded Shia wing and the Saudi-funded Sunni wing of Al Qaeda. [My Tivo-aided transcription]

And he sounded so professorial saying it too. I wonder... when will the guffaws start?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Catch-22, Iraqi-style

Josh Marshall writes that "the occupation itself is the cause of the unrest and violence in [Iraq]." I think that's partially true, but more importantly, the occupation is thwarting any resolution of the conflict. Civil wars end when one side knows it has lost. As long as we are in Iraq the insurgency will not know that it has lost. Both Republicans and Democrats say they want the U.S. leave -- Iraqis realize that the occupation isn't forever. Until the U.S. has left, hope will still live in the hearts of the Sunni fighters. The Iraqi government, already cheated of sovereign legitimacy, will not be able to establish its own credibility of force.

It's Catch-22, Iraqi-style. The U.S. can’t leave Iraq until its government can stand by itself. The Iraqi government can’t stand by itself while the U.S. is propping it up.

UPDATE: Check the link... Josh has kindly posted my response to him.

Exactly Backwards?

Via Kevin Drum, here is a Pew Poll diagram on the perceived ideology of the Presidential candidates (click to enlarge). What jumps out at me is that the perception of the Republicans is more or less correct, while the perception of the Democrats is way, way off. In fact, if you reversed their order on the ideological spectrum you would get a closer approximation of the truth: Hillary and Bill are moderates, while Obama and Edwards are the more leftward options. What does this say? I think part of the answer is that it's early and the public doesn't know the candidates well, but I also think the Democrats have lost their old ideological structures and are in the midst of finding new ones. No one is quite sure where any one stands because there are no set measuring sticks quite yet.