Baghdad used to be home to a large Jewish community that mostly emigrated to Israel in the late 1940s and early 1950s after the climate for Jews in Arab countries turned frigid. But a small number remained through the decades, and were able to keep at least one synagogue open until Meir Tweg “was closed in 2003, after it became too dangerous to gather openly.” Now there’s just a handful left, profiled by The New York Times‘s Stephen Farrell.
Farrell doesn’t make a big deal about it, but the upshot of the factoid about the synagogue seems to be that the U.S. invasion actually turned Iraq into a less hospital place for Jews than was Saddam Hussein’s rabidly anti-Zionist rapacious dictatorship.
Azadeh Moaveni writes about how Iranians are increasingly disenchanted with the failed policies of their current regime and are generally well-disposed to the United States. That said, “Starting in about 2005, Iranians’ historic esteem for the United States gave way to a deep ambivalence that is only now ending.” It seems to me that the ideal way for us to take advantage of this situation is for the United States to elect a president who thinks it’s funny to joke about launching an unprovoked war on Iran, and who deems all efforts at diplomacy aimed at improving U.S.-Iranian relations as tantamount to appeasement.
People love being threatened with air strikes, there’s no more endearing way for a nation to behave on the world stage than to threaten them frequently — ideally in a light-hearted manner that involves a Beach Boys reference.
As we attempt to document the reasons carbon dioxide concentrations are currently 945 ppm and rising 5 ppm a year, the FHA has a few questions we hope you can answer for us. It seems like every time the United States contemplated legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you and other major media outlets allowed your — we believe you called them conservative columnists, but we call them Delayer-1000s — to ridicule any serious action using claims that would never have passed a ninth grade science teacher with access to Google.
[There is some controversy today at the FHA as to whether major media outlets of your time actually had access to Google, given the stream of disinformation you kept printing.Can you clear that up for us?]
Your most famous Delayer-1000s, are, of course, Charles Krauthammer and George Will. Please let them know they were among the original inductees enshrined in the “Climate Destroyers Hall of Fame” in 2045. We were especially amused that you printed Krauthammer’s claim that Newton’s laws of motion were overthrown, since we used those laws to launch a photocopy of all his columns into the sun in commemoration of his tireless contributions to raising average temperatures in the inland United States 15°F while claiming the warming was all due to sunspots. Do let Dr. Krauthammer know that thanks to people like him, we are not only rationing energy, but food, water, arable land, and dartboards featuring his face.
Of course, Dr. Krauthammer is hardly remembered today compared to Delayer-1000 George Will, perhaps because Will is now seen as an unappreciated humorist of your time. We know many readers of your time actually took his favorable review of Michael Crichton’s State of Fear seriously, butmany in the FHA have concluded your newspaper never would have let somebody that uninformed publish regular serious columns. If you have information to the contrary, please let us know. You might consider having “categories” for columns that include “humor,” as we understand that was popular with certain of your time’s … we believe you called them climate bloggers, but we call them Cassandras.
In a June 1, 2008 column your website titled, “Keep your hands off my Carbon” [you guys kill us with your ironic headlines -- no literally, you kill us, as the carrying capacity of the planet is now down to 4 billion], Will began
A bipartisan group of 54 former state attorneys general from across the country has filed a federal appeals brief supporting former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s bid to overturn his criminal conviction.
Saying the prosecution and sentencing of Siegelman “raised serious First Amendment concerns,” the brief asks the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Siegelman’s conviction.
Will Wilkinson rails against relativistic defense of Thomas Jefferson’s slaveholding that posit that it was somehow okay to be a slaveholder in the late eighteenth century because a lot of other people were doing it too:
Now it seems to me that you actually do want to incorporate a slightly relativistic approach to evaluating people. If you compare a dictator like Francisco Franco to a dictator like Charles V, I think it’s got to be relevant that in Franco’s time there was a viable and well-known alternative to dictatorship. As soon as Franco passed from the scene, a morally responsible leader like King Juan Carlos was able to shift the country to democracy rather than simply try to rule as a good dictator. But to blame the sixteenth century heir to a multinational empire for not embracing fundamental liberal political reforms seems silly as such reforms just weren’t part of the consciousness of the time — it wasn’t within the realm of the possible.
Somewhat similarly, when you look back at the record of Abraham Lincoln he said and believed a lot of stuff that would count as unforgivably racist were you to say or believe it today. But he lived in the middle of the nineteenth century and his views were clearly progressive ones relative to the times in which he lived as reflected in the fact that his policies were a boon to African-Americans even though the underlying sentiments didn’t always reach the standards of contemporary egalitarianism.
But this, to me, is really where Jefferson starts to look terrible. The idea that chattel slavery was morally wrong was in wide circulation in Jefferson’s time. Outside of the southern states, it was conventional wisdom that this was a bad institution. And Jefferson was not only aware of the view that slavery was bad, he appears to have found the evidence convincing. But he was too selfish, personally, to make the sacrifices that would have been involved in freeing his slaves and he was unwilling to take any meaningful political risks on behalf of the anti-slavery cause.
Because the Detroit Pistons have been in the mix for so long, there’s a certain sentiment of finality around the squad once again falling short in the Conference Finals. But it does seem worth pointing out that their future actually looks pretty bright. They have no bad long-term deals on the books whatsoever — they’re two highest-paid players (‘Sheed and Billups) are their two highest-paid players, and the two guys on long-term deals (Billups and Tayshaun Prince) are the ones you want on long-term deals. They have several talented young players in Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, and Amir Johnson who it’s reasonable to expect to see improve and who could probably step up to play a bigger role if necessary.
Consequently, can plausibly afford to trade part of its current core (most likely ‘Sheed or Rip Hamilton) if a good opportunity comes along but can also plausibly afford to say “no” to potential offers and hold out for a better opportunity. All things considered, the extent to which this franchise has been well-managed continues to impress. One can’t, however, help but wonder how things might have turned out if not for their unfortunate 2003 draft choice.
Earlier this week, speaking in Wisconsin, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) falsely claimed that troops in Iraq are down to “pre-surge levels.” “I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding,” he said of the surge. “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.” In reality, there are now 155,000 troops in Iraq, far more than the 130,000 before the surge.
Today on ABC’s This Week, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said McCain’s misreading of the troop levels is an irrelevant issue, claiming it simply reflects the “stupidity of Blackberry politics.” Ultimately, McCain has been “right” about Iraq, he said:
BROOKS: Yeah, this is the stupidity of Blackberry politics. They get caught in this day to day. No one’s going to care what John McCain says about the fact levels. What they care is fundamentally who was right about Iraq. And there I think McCain has a pretty strong case. I mean, the Iraq war is going a lot better.
The troop levels comment wasn’t McCain’s only misreading of “the fact levels” in Iraq that day. In the same town hall, McCain said that the city of Mosul in Iraq is now “quiet,” just as a powerful suicide bomb erupted in the city.
Contrary to Brooks’s claim that “no one’s going to care” about McCain’s reading of troop levels in Iraq, the issue is critically important. As Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) noted, “If you don’t know the number of troops it’s very difficult to make a judgment on if they are over-extended.”
Brooks claimed that McCain has a “pretty strong case” that he has been “right” about Iraq. But McCain’s gaffes are the latest in a series of ignorant comments about Iraq that raise questions about a candidate who has staked his campaign on the war.
Clark Hoyt, New York Times public editor, has a devastating rebuttal to the NYT‘s Edward Luttwak op-ed on Barack Obama being a Muslim apostate:
I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them said that Luttwak’s interpretation of Islamic law was wrong. [...] Interestingly, in defense of his own article, Luttwak sent me an analysis of it by a scholar of Muslim law whom he did not identify. That scholar also did not agree with Luttwak that Obama was an apostate or that Muslim law would prohibit punishment for any Muslim who killed an apostate. [...] Luttwak made several sweeping statements that the scholars I interviewed said were incorrect or highly debatable [...] All the scholars argued that Luttwak had a rigid, simplistic view of Islam that failed to take into account its many strains and the subtleties of its religious law, which is separate from the secular laws in almost all Islamic nations.
As a blogger, I’m hardly in a position to dispute Luttwak’s right to opine on matters about which he knows nothing. But if I were the editor of an op-ed page and I were interested in publishing a provocative opinion piece grounded in an interpretation of Islamic law, I would try to get a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence to write it. But of course if I were the editor of an op-ed page, I would think that one of my goals was to publish articles that inform, rather than mislead, my audience. The actual op-ed editors at the NYT and Washington Post have, however, made it abundantly clear over the years that they see misleading their audience as fine — hence men like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer get hired as columnists.
It does, however, make you wonder what these institutions are for. As means of acquiring information, they’re useless — the editors are indifferent to whether the author’s purpose is to inform or to mislead. As entertainment, they’re not very entertaining — even a terrible movie like Crystal Skull is more fun than an op-ed column. Are they important profit centers for the failing businesses in which they’re embedded? That seems unlikely.
In his explosive new memoir, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan claims that on Sept. 27, 2003 he asked Karl Rove “an unambiguous, unqualified catch-all question” about whether he was involved in “any way” with the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. “Karl replied categorically, ‘No. Look, I didn’t even know about his wife,’” writes McClellan.
On NBC’s Meet The Press today, host Tim Russert asked McClellan about the discrepancy between his and Rove’s stories, pointing out that “one of you is not telling the truth.” Rove’s story is “pretty disingenuous,” replied McClellan. McClellan then added that he said the same thing under oath to a grand jury:
MCCLELLAN: But, let me mention this, that question, when I said, “were you involved in this in any way” and he categorically said, “no.” That is absolutely true. It is what I said under oath to the grand jury. It is what I told investigators. And, secondly, that is the same question I asked Scooter Libby. The very same question I asked Scooter Libby.
Later in the interview, Russert asked about whether President Bush should have fired Rove after his involvement was revealed. Recalling his own statement on behalf of the administration that “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration,” McClellan said, “I think the president should have stood by the word that we said”:
RUSSERT: But you believe Rove should have left?
MCCLELLAN: I think the president should have stood by the word and that meant Karl should have left.
As McClellan notes, “the bar was moved” by President Bush when it was revealed publicly that his top adviser was involved in exposing an undercover CIA agent. “He said we were going to set the highest of standards, we didn’t live up to that,” said McClellan.
Yesterday, MoveOn launched a petition calling on former White House press secretary Scott McClellan to donate the proceeds from his new book to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This morning on NBC’s Meet the Press, McClellan promised to give a portion of the profits to these men and women. Watch it: