The AP reports, “Zalmay Khalilzad, the plainspoken dealmaker and Republican insider who has won praise and criticism for attempts to broker Sunni political participation in Iraq’s fragile government, is likely to quit his post as U.S. ambassador in Baghdad in the coming months, a senior Bush administration official said Monday.”
I’m afraid to say I agree with ChristyCash that episode 45 was, relative to The Wire‘s usual high standards, a relatively weak offering. I share some of her concerns about the scene in the teachers’ lounge which struck me as unduly schematic and suffering from a “show me, don’t tell me” kind of problem.
What I found really problematic, however, was the scene between Rawls and Carcetti which I’ll happily admit was, on its own terms, a well-staged and compelling scene. The problem was that Rawls’ actions didn’t really make sense. Surely Rawls (who’s always been portrayed as a smart guy and a canny political operator) understands that Carcetti is already inclined to want to fire Burrell, that Rawls himself is Burrell’s logical successor, and that Rawls’ whiteness is, under the circumstances, the main political impediment to giving him the job. Under the circumstances, why would Rawls decide that acting like a huge racist in front of Carcetti and Carcetti’s black chief political advisor is a good idea? He needs to be trying to do the reverse and convince Team Carcetti that he can somehow minimize African-American political anger at his potential appointment.
Yesterday, the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal announced that Saddam Hussein had been found guilty and would be sentenced to death. But it didn’t release the official verdict. NBC News has the story:
The full verdict, a document of several hundred pages, explaining how and why today’s judgment was reached was not released. U.S. officials said it should be ready by Thursday. So why issue the verdict today? U.S. court advisors told reporters today it was delayed mainly for technical reasons.
The court was created by the administration-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority and the administration still exercises considerable control over the court. The New York Times reports, “American influence…has been undeniably pervasive, with about 90 percent of the $145 million in annual costs for the court and associated investigations paid for by the United States Justice Department, and lawyers sent by Washington acting as advisers.”
(HT: Talking Points Memo)
A Tyler Cowen correspondent wants to know what would happen, politically, “if everyone knew as much about economics” as Tyler does. Questions abound! “Would libertarianism remain a defensible political position?” Even better, “Would a moderate left-leaning position such as Matt Yglesias’s suddenly become much more tenable?” More tenable compared to what, I wonder?
My instinct is that enhanced voter knowledge of economics wouldn’t actually change things very much. Political decisions aren’t made throught the deliberations of benevolent actors aiming to achieve an agreed-upon conception of the common good. Normative questions are highly contestable and highly contested. People who “know economics” disagree about a great deal, including economics. Most of all, though, interests matter politically. Consider, say, the example of trade.
I’ve traditionally done my on-leave work from Mocha Hut on U between 13th and 14th, which is an excellent spot but whose WiFi service is a bit unreliable. They had an outage this morning, so I took the opportunity to check out 14U, which opened last week just south of the intersection of 14th and U. The sign outside advertises “great ambiance” and certainly the funky furniture is pretty cool and certainly a step up ambiance-wise from the rather steril Hut. On the other hand, the place has — as of right now at least — absolutely no customers besides me, which is a bit of a problem ambiance-wise.
In June, Hoekstra unequivocally claimed that WMD had been found in Iraq. From a press conference with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), 6/21/06:
Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons.
Hoekstra and Santorum went on a media blitz, telling anyone who would listen that WMD’s had been found. (The pair seized on a report describing abandoned, degraded pre-1991 munitions that were already acknowledged by the White House’s Iraq Survey Group and dismissed.) Yesterday, Hoekstra reversed course, saying it he didn’t know whether there was WMD or not. CNN, 11/5/06:
HOEKSTRA: Well, you know, there’s 48,000 boxes of documents that we’ve acquired. I think it’s important to declassify as much of the information. I don’t know whether there was WMD or not. But what we should do is make sure that we go through the process and fully explore what Saddam was capable of doing.
It was Hoekstra’s insistence on declassifying documents found in Iraq that lead to the publication of a document describing how to build a nuclear weapon on a government website.
The truth is that there has been an exhaustive search for WMD in Iraq. None were found. Nevertheless, “Hoekstra is still pressing U.S. intelligence agencies to look for possible weapons of mass destruction in Iraq–even though intelligence officials say further work is unlikely to reveal anything new about Saddam’s WMD programs.”
Shadi Hamid makes an obvious yet weirdly neglected point about Democratic efforts to look “tough”:
The problem is that many Democrats fall into the trap of “overcompensation,” that, fearful of being painted as soft on security, we take public positions that appear contrived, because they are in fact contrived, a function of our obsession with polls and focus groups more than a function of deeply-held liberal values. [emphasis added]
This is not to be naïve and just say that any genuine position of conviction is going to be sellable. Nevertheless adopting positions that are obviously motivated by narrow political considerations doesn’t do much to improve things. “Appearing to be principled” is an important part of politics as well. What’s more, it’s helpful to at least understand principles so that when you need to talk about Topic X in July you don’t wind up saying things that will be inconsistent with what you say when Topic Topic Y suddently becomes hot in September.
FBI Criminal Division chief James Burrus says “the bureau is ramping up its ability to catch crooked politicians and might run an undercover sting on Congress.” He expects an emphasis on rooting out public corruption “for many, many, many years to come.”
House Speaker Hastert’s (R-IL) future “is in doubt even if the Republicans retain control of the House” because of unease over his handling of the Foley page scandal and “what a House ethics committee investigation might conclude about him,” the Washington Post reports.
A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marraige in South Dakota is too close to call. Forty-seven percent say they are opposed to the amendment while 46 percent support it.
Federal prosecutors rejected 87 percent of the international terrorism cases brought by the FBI during the first nine months of fiscal year 2006. Prosecutions fell from 118 defendants in fiscal year 2002, to 19 defendants from Oct. 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006. The Justice Department disputed the findings.
“The U.S. government conducted a series of secret war games in 1999 that anticipated an invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, and even then chaos might ensue.” Read the full study HERE. Read more
“President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow,” oberserves the ever-shrill Paul Krugman, “But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office.”
One is hardly allowed to speak of such things in the United States, but the dynamic of this election is a reminder that it would really be better to have a parliamentary system. A head of government who’s both a huge objective failure and has become wildly unpopular ought to be removed from office and replaced by someone else. In a proper democratic system Bush either would be on the ballot tomorrow or else the GOP would have dumped Bush as leader and ran under the banner of a different standard-bearer. As things stand, though, the best you can do is try to put into place a Democratic congress that’ll do hearings and oversight and subpoenas and so forth. Even if the Democrats succeed, however, it’s not as if we’re going to simply get oversight. Instead, there’ll be “a cataclysmic fight to the death” as the White House seeks to evade congressional oversight.
Then’ll come to Broderish fainting spells about “partisan wrangling” and “ugly tone” and so forth. And it’ll be true, the tone really will be ugly and people really will be spending time on wrangling rather than coping with the issues. But Democrats will have no choice — this is a White House out of control and it needs to be restrained. Better institutions of government, however, would let us avoid the whole dynamic.