Last month, the State Department announced that it would order “U.S. diplomats to take posts in Iraq next year” in “forced assignments.” The announcement was met with “anger and frustration” by several hundred diplomats. The AP reports that the State Department has now dropped the plan because “volunteers have filled all 48 vacant positions.”
Robert Toll of the Toll Brothers’ home building firm blames the media for the poor state of the housing market:
“Perhaps as the presidential campaign heats up and moves to the front page, negative articles about housing will move off the front page,” he said. “Then, hopefully, the positive underpinnings of low interest rates, low unemployment and a decent economy will raise new-home-buyer confidence.”
That to me indicates that the market has a good deal further to fall. If this is the best hope of an industry insider, then he obviously doesn’t have much on which to pin his hopes. If anything, the media’s role in this has been the reverse — as the bubbles was inflating, papers seem to have done a lot of cashing-in through ad-heavy and cheerleading-oriented special real estate sections that I think helped obscure how unusual the then-happening price trends were.
Yesterday the Center for Global Development launched a new interactive map entitled Carbon Monitoring for Action, a.k.a. CARMA.
The data-packed project maps global power plants and includes information on how large and how clean they are, which you can search by region, and even as specific as your city, metro area, or congressional district.
I’ve only just begun to explore it, but it looks like it’s going to be quite useful! And I can’t help but dwell on the irony of it’s name – CARMA – one letter off from karma, sanskrit for “the concept of ‘action’ or ‘deed’ in Indian religions understood as denoting the entire cycle of cause and effect.”
We often run into the “Law of Karma” disguised in every day phrases like:
Over Bush administration objections, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a permanent update to FISA today, which states that “the nation’s intelligence services do not need to request a court warrant to monitor foreign-to-foreign communications involving suspected terrorists.” The committee is expected to vote later today on whether to grant retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that provided clients’ private information to the government.
I was Googling for something else and found this 2005 Robert Atkinson article about inequality:
While there is considerable agreement among economists over what has happened, there is much less consensus over why inequality has worsened, whether it is a problem and what, if anything, governments should do to address it. Many on the right see growing inequities as actually a spur to growth. Many on the left blame the New Economy’s dynamism and competition and pursue a Don Quixote-like effort to resurrect the old economy.
New Economy aside, I think Atkinson should abandon his quixotic effort to convince us that “Don Quixote-like” is a phrase people should be using.
In an East Room ceremony this morning, President Bush awarded “the recipients of this year’s National Medals of Arts and National Humanities Medals.” Among the scholars and artists recognized by the President was military historian and author Victor Davis Hanson, who received the National Humanities Medal.
The National Humanities Medal is designed to honor those who “deepen” and “broaden” the humanities in America:
The National Humanities Medal, inaugurated in 1997, honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.
In his presentation of the award, Bush complimented Hanson on his “scholarship” and “wisdom”:
Victor Davis Hanson for his scholarship on civilizations past and present. He has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times.
Hanson, who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a regular contributor to National Review Online, clearly has a long and distinguished career in the humanities as he’s written or edited 16 books and has received various awards.
But, with Bush’s contention that Hanson deserves the award due to the “wisdom for our times” he has offered, it’s important to look at exactly what some of that “wisdom” has been:
- After Donald Rumsfeld was forced to resign last year, Hanson rushed to his defense, saying the resignation doesn’t “help” the “country” because he “was on the right track” at the Pentagon.
- This summer, Hanson wrote that the “real problem” at Abu Ghraib wasn’t the “American mistreatment” — which he said was the work of a “single rogue jailer” — but the “serial release” of Iraqis, whom he calls “Islamic murderers.”
- On the Hugh Hewitt show, he claimed America needs to get “beyond talking” with “paper tiger” Iran and consider “starting to forget where the border is and taking out some of these training camps.”
With “wisdom” such as that, it’s surprising that Bush didn’t give the award to Bill Kristol as well.
UPDATE II: Another National Review contributor, Stephen Balch, also received a National Humanities Medal today.
Last night during the House floor debate on the Iraq redeployment legislation, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) nearly broke down in tears. Boehner paused, choked up, and his voice wavered as he tried to get out this sentence: “For my kids and their kids, success in Iraq is critically important.” Watch it:
Larry Bartels emails Ezra Klein some data about his research on the impact (in terms of statistical correlation) of perceptions of different candidate attributes on voting behavior: “The analysis was based on survey questions asking voters to rate presidential candidates on a variety of dimensions. Here are the estimated effects of those evaluations on voting behavior, averaged over elections from 1980 to 2000. (The numbers are not directly interpretable, but the relative magnitudes are.)” I turned the numbers into a handy chart, showing the average on the left and the 2000 result on the right:
I’m not really sure what to make of this, though, as I sort of feel like people may tailor the characteristics they say they’re looking for to suit the candidate they’re going to vote for. Mainly, you want to be strong yet caring. Or caring yet strong.
While I was out of town, The Atlantic seems to have secretly added a Clive Crook blog to the website and not told me. He says Hillary Clinton’s baby bonds plan was a good idea and it’s too bad it wound up getting dumped, and I agree.
In a new interview with ABC News, Rudy Giuliani states that he decided to run for president after 9/11, “while leading [New York City] through the crisis”:
Toward the end of his 7½ year tenure as mayor, New York City was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. At some point while leading the city through the crisis, he decided he wanted to be president.
During the crisis, he realized just how much his term as mayor had prepared him for catastrophe. “I remember having this sense that I can do this. You know, I’m not going to do it perfectly. I’m going to make a certain number of mistakes. But maybe in some ways, it’s fortunate I’ve been mayor for 7½ years.”
Giuliani has constructed a grand narrative about how 9/11 not only changed the country, but also his outlook on the world and his political ambitions. He even invoked 9/11 to explain why he rudely answered his cell phone while giving a speech to the National Rifle Association.
But Giuliani was considering running for president long before 9/11. According to a Nov. 20, 1998 New York Daily News article, Giuliani was thinking about running for president in 2000:
Mayor Giuliani yesterday pledged he won’t wait until “the final hour” as former Gov. Mario Cuomo did to decide if he’ll launch a White House run.
Offering the first tiny clue to his timetable, the mayor said he will decide “sometime next year” if he’ll vie for President or senator or bow out of the political fray altogether. [...]
Asked when he’d make up his mind, Giuliani said, “Sometime next year we’ll focus on what happens to me in the future, whether I decide to be a candidate and for what.“
Yet earlier this year in September, Giuliani told CNN that the reason he quit the Iraq Study Group in 2006 was because he was thinking of running for president:
I knew, that ultimately, I could very well be running for President of the United States. I wasn’t sure at the time. And had I stayed on that group, their report was put out just around the time I announced for President, and I would have totally politicized it. It was a mistake to join in the first place.
So did Rudy decide to run for president in 2001? Or was it 1999? Or post-2006? Whatever the date, it’s clear that 9/11 is more of a convenient symbol than a truly transformative experience in this case. TPM has more on Giuliani’s exploitation of 9/11.