Agent Zero’s going to be out for three months.
In his “My Word” segment this afternoon, Fox News pundit John Gibson applauded the White House’s decision to blow the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame. “I’m the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal,” Gibson said. “And if it was Karl Rove, I’d pin it on him myself.” Gibson argued the outing of Plame was justified because “this was about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA” that needed to be “rooted out.” Watch it:
Given the standards that Bush has set for medals (see Norman Podhoretz, George Tenet, and Paul Bremer), it certainly wouldn’t be outside the bounds of White House ethics to find a way to reward “the most insidious of traitors.”
UPDATE: After revealing Bush was “involved” in distributing “false information” about who leaked Plame’s identity, Scott McClellan was doing some damage control today. Peter Osnos, the founder and editor-in-chief of Public Affairs Books, which is publishing McClellan’s book in April, told NBC that McClellan “did not intend to suggest Bush lied to him.”
A good observation from Henry Farrell:
As an aside – one of the most aggravating things about Saletan, Sullivan, Douthat etc’s embrace of the scientiness of race and IQ is that they seem to have convinced themselves that they are bold truthsayers fearlessly committed to challenging commonly accepted falsehoods etc etc etc.
Quite so. In particular, Saletan and my bloggy colleagues seem to have convinced themselves that there’s overwhelming opposition in public opinion to the view that whites are intrinsically smarter than blacks and also that there’s strong scientific consensus in favor of that hypothesis. As best I can tell, however, neither is true. The “black genes make you dumb” crowd is siding with widely-held popular prejudice against what most researchers believe.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean the racialists are wrong. It’s entirely possible that the sort of views about black inferiority that were sufficiently widely and strongly held as to provide key ideological support for centuries of enslavement, imperial conquest, Jim Crow, etc. and had public support for desegregation in the low thirties and trending down as recently as 1978 are correct. Maybe the slave-owners, white supremacists, imperialists, etc. were right all along about the facts of the matter but simply drew the wrong normative conclusions. Maybe the scientific consensus over the past handful of decades is a mistake — an ideology-driven overreaction to an ethical backlash against white supremacists.
But if that’s your hypothesis, it should be seen as what it is, the hypothesis that a long-established widely-held popular prejudice is correct and the more recent expert consensus is mistaken. And of course one wonders why it is that Saletan is saying things like “I’ve been soaking my head in each side’s computations and arguments. They’re incredibly technical.” Is Saletan a technical expert in the relevant fields and therefore felt a need to adjudicate? No. So what’s the prurient interest in race science? And I say it’s a prurient interest precisely because Saletan doesn’t go on to draw any sweeping white supremacist conclusions.
Indeed, he concedes that there’s evidence of a trend toward a narrowing of the black-white IQ gap that may in the future close the gap to zero, he just offers the opinion — speaking as a non-technician whose decided to enter a debate he regards as highly technical — that it probably won’t. So he’s not entirely sure he’s right that blacks are genetically inferior, and he doesn’t think this fact has any clear implications for public policy or how we should interact with individuals we encounter in our daily lives, but he just thinks it’s really important to go on record with the view that blacks are inferior. Why? Given the source, the diagnosis of knee-jerk contrarianism run amok seems most appropriate but it’s pretty odd.
Here’s a fun story from Politico — it seems John Boehner wants to fire two of the top staffers at the NRCC, but NRCC Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) says he’ll resign before firing the dudes. This in the context of poor NRCC fundraising, and poor candidate recruitment. Given the generally adverse political climate, if you ask me it’s very important to Boehner’s future that he not get his way on this issue. That’ll set up Cole and his key guys as useful scapegoats in case the Democrats make big gains.
In his second inaugural address, President Bush stridently declared that his administration would not compromise on its demand for basic human rights:
We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend…that women welcome humiliation and servitude.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to these goals as the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.” But a recent Saudi court decision has shown the administration very willing to fold when this rhetoric is tested.
A week ago, a Saudi appeals court increased the punishment for the female victim of a gang rape. The woman, who had been appealing her original sentence of 90 lashes, was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes after her appeal.
The Saudi judges more than doubled the punishment for the victim because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.” The Saudi Justice Ministry confirmed that the stiffer sentence handed out on appeal stemmed from the fact that the victim had gone to the media with her story. “Media may have adverse effects on the other parties involved in the case,” a statement said.
Asked to offer the administration’s position on the court ruling, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday that the administration was “astonished,” but had “nothing else to offer“:
QUESTION: A very quick question also from this morning. Your comment, please, on — in reaction to the young Saudi woman having her sentence more than doubled the –
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, yeah. I saw the news reports and I guess the first thing to say is, while this is a judicial procedure, part of a judicial procedure overseas in the courts of a sovereign country, that said, I think that most would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happened. So while it’s very difficult to offer — you know, offer any detailed comment about the situation, I think most people would really be quite astonished by the situation.
QUESTION: Would you like the Saudi authorities to reconsider it or do you encourage them to do that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you know, again, I can’t get involved in specific court cases in Saudi Arabia dealing with its own citizens, but most — I think most people here would be quite surprised to learn of the circumstances and then the punishment meted out.
QUESTION: Does that mean that the State Department is astonished by it, too?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll leave the answer where it –
QUESTION: Well, what does “most people” mean? I mean, most of who?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just leave — I don’t have anything else to offer.
Yesterday, McCormack was asked if the administration’s silence was “driven by a desire not to offend Saudi Arabia as a close ally.” “No, it’s — no, that’s not it at all,” he claimed, but then acknowledged the administration has yet to convey its “astonishment” directly to the Saudis. “I am not aware of any direct contact with the Saudis on this issue,” he said.
Apparently, there is some negotiability in Bush’s demands for human freedom.
UPDATE: The Muslim American Society Freedom called the court ruling “a clear violation of the compassion and mercy taught by the religion of Islam.”
UPDATE II: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) states, “I urge President Bush to call on King Abdullah to cancel the ruling and drop all charges against this woman.” In a letter to Condoleezza Rice, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) wrote, “I strongly urge the Department of State to condemn this ruling.” Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and John Edwards released statements expressing their outrage.
The good news for Obama, however, is that it gave him a chance to tweak Hillary yet again about Iraq. I don’t know for sure if that’s a winning strategy, given that his forward strategy for withdrawal isn’t very different from HRC’s, but it’s a helluva lot better than Social Security. If he wants to disinguish himself more sharply from Hillary, this is the place to do it.
This is all true, but it’s worth going non-meta here. Hillary Clinton’s past support of invading Iraq doesn’t really tell us anything about her forward-looking Iraq policy. And it’s true that both candidates have left enough vagueness in their forward-looking Iraq policies that it’s hard to say if they’d do things any differently. But past conduct vis-a-vis Iraq isn’t a predictor of forward-looking Iraq policy but it does offer a glimpse at various other issues.
The thing that I feel people who want to discount the Iraq issue or write it off as some kind of teenage foible are missing is that the Iraq debate had actual content about the appropriate shape of American foreign policy. In particular, after 9/11 a lot of people — Matt Yglesias, Hillary Clinton, Kevin Drum, George W. Bush, John Edwards — decided that it was important for the United States to become more willing to engage in preventive war to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Obviously, I’m not going to stand here and tell you that that was an unforgivable mistake, since I made it myself. But since I’ve decided that that was a mistake — not just Iraq, but the change of heart about preventive war that led me to support Iraq — I’d like to find a candidate who didn’t make that mistake (Obama) or who like me now thinks it was a mistake. Hillary Clinton, as best one can tell from her record, her public statements, and the views of people associated with her campaign, doesn’t think that was a mistake.
Ballard — the Canadian fuel cell company that once hoped to be the Intel inside of the hydrogen car revolution — has sold off its automotive fuel cell business to Daimler and Ford.
You can listen to a good CBC radio story on it, which includes an interview of me (click on “Listen to the Current,” Part 2). You can read Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton on the story here. A Financial Post post piece headlines the story bluntly:
The story has a keen interpretation of the sale’s meaning from Research Capital analyst Jon Hykawy:
Yesterday’s post taking a brief look at the politics of civil rights in the 1950s serves as a reminder that the much-derided polarization of the contemporary era is in many ways a good thing.
Today, if you live in a state represented by a Republican incumbent, and the GOP controls congress, and you want policy to move in a more liberal direction, you can vote for the incumbent’s Democratic challenger who’s all-but-guaranteed to be more liberal than the GOP incumbent. And if the GOP incumbent’s defeat leads control of the congress to flip, then the GOP Majority Leader will be replaced by a more Democratic Majority Leader and all the Republican committee chairs will be replaced by more liberal Democratic committee chairs.
Back in the day, it wasn’t like that. Impacts were unpredictable. Booting a moderate northern Republican in favor of a liberal northern Democrat would shift things to the left. Unless, that is, it flipped control of the Senate in which case it might empower new Dixiecrat committee chairs who were more conservative — especially on civil rights issues — than were their GOP predecessors. Beyond that kind of unpredictability, voters were often confused as to what was at stake. In 1952 and then again in 1960 according to the National Election Survey just 50 percent of the public felt it could discern “any important differences in what the
Republicans and Democrats stand for?” In 1966 that fell to forty percent. In 1992 by contrast, it went up to 60 percent and it was all the way up at 76 percent in 2004.
Those, remember, are polls of people who actually voted. So while pundits may not like it when the parties draw clear distinctions, it seems to me that it’s clearly preferable for the voters to be put in a situation where they feel like they understand the stakes and there’s a relationship between votes cast and policy outcomes. A world in which the electorate is left perpetually baffled by the decisions they face and then the important issues are settled through arcane committee negotiations rather than on election day is just a means of empowering elites, not a path to better governance.
Yesterday, the blogosphere erupted in anger over the report that Pfc. Jordan Fox was being asked by the Pentagon to return some of his enlistment signing bonus because he was injured by a roadside bomb while in Iraq and did not have the opportunity to complete his full tour.
Appearing on Fox News this morning, Pentagon spokesman Michael Tucker announced that the Pentagon was reversing course and would not force Jordan to repay the bonus. “It doesn’t pass the common-sense test,” he said.
Jordan appeared on the same show an hour later to respond to the Pentagon’s decision. “That’s impressive,” he said, “but my next question is how many other mistakes have been made?” Last night, appearing on a series of cable news shows, Jordan said he’s heard of many other soldiers who have faced similar circumstances. He told MSNBC’s Dan Abrams:
I do have to say — this isn’t the end. This is just the beginning because it’s still a continuing problem amongst other men that maybe are too afraid to speak up. Well they need to speak up and we need to end this now.
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA), who has introduced the Veterans Guaranteed Bonus Act to prevent the Defense Department from penalizing wounded soldiers, put out this statement this morning:
I am heartened by Brigadier General Michael S. Tucker’s announcement of the Army’s policy that it will not ask for repayment of bonuses paid to those soldiers who are injured in the line of duty. However, I am disappointed that the policy does not go further by stating that wounded soldiers will also receive the remaining balance of future bonus payments. It is preposterous for our government to have a policy that says that a soldier who has sustained serious injuries in the field of battle has not fulfilled his or her service obligation.
While serving in Iraq, a roadside bomb knocked Jordan unconscious and blinded him in his right eye. He is now recovering a portion of his eyesight, but continues to have back pain. Jordan had received $10,000 as a signing bonus for enlisting. The Army originally demanded that he return $5,000, but reduced the amount to $3,000 after transferring his unused leave pay.
Jordan’s parents started Operation Pittsburgh Pride, a nonprofit organization that sends care packages to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In May, Jordan’s mother personally met President Bush. “I asked him to look in on the First Cavalry,” she said. “My son was injured on Sunday in Iraq. He has a concussion, and some issues with his sight in his right eye. I asked him to check on the Calvary, to make sure we had enough equipment.” Here’s Jordan’s mother shaking hands with Bush:
Our guest blogger is progressive radio host Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks.
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