Sunday, April 29, 2007

Appeasement meant something different then.

Neville Chamberlain -- so seemingly upright and straightlaced in old photographs -- tapped telephones, conducted surveillance and played dirty tricks on opponents within his own party. He reveled in gathering political intelligence against his foes, who were, he boasted, "totally unaware of my knowledge of their proceedings. I [have] continual knowledge of their doings and sayings." In an important by-election in 1938, the Chamberlain machine smeared an anti-appeasement incumbent by sending fake telegrams saying, "Greetings from Moscow." They were signed, "Stalin."
Jon Meachem, "Friends of Wisdom," a review of Lynne Olson, Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, The New York Times Book Review 15 (April 29, 2007).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

An odd choice of reviewer?

Friday, April 27, 2007

What Digby said.

I had forgotten about Ashleigh Banfield, and I never paid much attention to her in the first place, but this is quite worth reading. We get the media we deserve.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It has to be about the other guy.

Democratic presidential candidates and their press secretaries should be forced to read this.

Is this an unrealistic stage dagger I see before me?

The policy already has been reversed, but in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings Yale University decided to ban realistic stage weapons in theatrical productions. According to the Yale Daily News (via Eugene Volokh), Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg justified the policy's rationale as follows:
I think people should start thinking about other people rather than trying to feel sorry for themselves and thinking that the administration is trying to thwart their creativity. They're not using their own intelligence. We have to think of the people who might be affected by seeing real-life weapons.
When I go to see a play by Anton Chekhov, I expect to see a gun on the wall in the first act, and I expect to see it go off before I leave the theater. Do Yale students not learn this?

Investigative infrastructure on the Hill.

The Washington Post's Elizabeth Williamson wrote yesterday about congressional Democrats' efforts to build the infrastructure to conduct proper investigations:
Since Democrats assumed control of Congress in January, they have hired more than 200 investigative staffers for key watchdog committees. They include lawyers, former reporters and congressional staffers who left oversight committees that had all but atrophied during the six years that the GOP controlled Congress and the White House. They have already begun a series of inquiries on subjects ranging from allegations of administration meddling in federal scientists' work on global warming and the General Services Administration's alleged work for Republican campaigns to how disproved claims that Iraq had purchased nuclear material from Niger evolved into a case for war. . . .

New investigative subcommittees and staffers add oversight heft to the House Armed Services, Science and Foreign Affairs committees, and even to the Senate's Special Committee on Aging. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis.) is retooling his investigations staff, which Republicans gutted last year. Waxman's panel, previously known as the Committee on Government Reform, changed its name to Oversight and Government Reform. It backed up its renewed focus with 12 new investigators on the Democratic side and a dozen new inquiries since January. The committee wants to question Rice on several issues, including the fabricated claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, and Card on the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and on allegations of security violations at the White House. . . .

With the Democratic ramp-up comes a dire need for practical experience in investigations. The Democrats' former minority status had left them short of seasoned staffers. Before new investigators came on board, some Hill staffers resorted to using Google to search for documents, oblivious to Congress's power to demand them.

"One of the first things that was brought to my attention was that Congress doesn't have to use FOIA," said a House staffer, 32, referring to Freedom of Information Act requests, an approach used by the public that can take months to yield a response. She spoke on the condition of anonymity because, she said, her questions were "embarrassing."

The stagecraft of hearings -- finding convincing witnesses, targeting questions -- can baffle young staffers who may never have seen a full-fledged inquiry, except on television.

Quietly, a cadre of seasoned investigators have been training inexperienced staffers in the nuts and bolts of holding the executive branch's feet to the fire. Every month, about 30 staff members attend workshops held on the Hill by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight. The topics have included a crash course on government contracts, investigating private companies, and earlier this month, "Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers."

The workshops began late last year, after the group's investigators kept running into young aides whose elementary questions reflected the loss of "old-guard Hill warhorses who had been doing oversight over the years," said Executive Director Danielle Brian.

The project's written tips for "The Do's and Don'ts of an Oversight Hearing" include: "Keep an eye out for the example that will put a human face on the problem. . . . Find the Department of Defense's $640 toilet seat" and "Don't book it in the afternoon -- and especially not on a Friday. By the afternoon, most press deadlines have passed. On Friday, the hearing risks getting bumped off the news broadcast in lieu of another celebrity adoption."

Seemingly improbably moments in American history.

In 1832, Sam Houston (that Sam Houston), then a private citizen, assaulted Ohio Rep. William Stanbery as Stanbery was walking home in Washington, D.C. According to Stanbery, Houston was indignant over something that Stanbery had said in a floor debate. Stanbery reported the assault to the House, which ordered its sergeant-at-arms to "take in custody, wherever to be found, the body of Samuel Houston; and the same in his custody to keep, subject to the further order and direction of this House." Houston was arrested and brought before the House, where he was represented by Francis Scott Key (that Francis Scott Key). After a monthlong trial, he was reprimanded and sent on his way.
Josh Chafetz in Slate.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pretty fly.

An update: This is how Cheney, um, rolls.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Asimov tried to warn us.

Roomba violates all three laws of Roombotics.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

My only post about the Imus thing.

Joe Klein says Imus was a scapegoat in the ancient sense.

Old, but new to me.

China Mieville is not a fan of J.R.R. Tolkein:
Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clich�s - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

Politicizing Justice.

From an interview with Daniel Metcalfe, a career attorney with the Justice Department who recently retired:

Q: You began in the Justice Department during the Watergate years. How would you rank Alberto Gonzales in terms of politicization of the department in comparison to the other AGs you have worked for?

A: Actually, I began earlier, in the first Nixon administration, as a college intern in 1971. But I was there again in the Watergate era, when I worked in part of the Attorney General's Office during my first year of law school in 1973-1974, and then continuously as a trial attorney and office director for nearly 30 years. That adds up to more than a dozen attorneys general, including Ed Meese as well as John Mitchell, and I used to think that they had politicized the department more than anyone could or should. But nothing compares to the past two years under Alberto Gonzales.

To be sure, he continued a trend of career/noncareer separation that began under John Ashcroft, yet even Ashcroft brought in political aides who in large measure were experienced in government functioning. Ashcroft's Justice Department appointees, with few exceptions, were not the type of people who caused you to wonder what they were doing there. They might not have been firm believers in the importance of government, but generally speaking, there was a very respectable level of competence (in some instances even exceptionally so) and a relatively strong dedication to quality government, as far as I could see.

Under Gonzales, though, almost immediately from the time of his arrival in February 2005, this changed quite noticeably. First, there was extraordinary turnover in the political ranks, including the majority of even Justice's highest-level appointees. It was reminiscent of the turnover from the second Reagan administration to the first Bush administration in 1989, only more so. Second, the atmosphere was palpably different, in ways both large and small. One need not have had to be terribly sophisticated to notice that when Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey left the department in August 2005 his departure was quite abrupt, and that his large farewell party was attended by neither Gonzales nor (as best as could be seen) anyone else on the AG's personal staff.

Third, and most significantly for present purposes, there was an almost immediate influx of young political aides beginning in the first half of 2005 (e.g., counsels to the AG, associate deputy attorneys general, deputy associate attorneys general, and deputy assistant attorneys general) whose inexperience in the processes of government was surpassed only by their evident disdain for it.

Having seen this firsthand in a range of different situations for nearly two years before I retired, I found it not at all surprising that the recent U.S. Attorney problems arose in the first place and then were so badly mishandled once they did.

The interview is much longer, and well worth reading. (Hank agrees.)

Block that metaphor!

Or whatever it is. To learn how Vice President "Cheney's rocking the terducken of air travel," read this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurdistan: The Rough Guide.

Hitchens goes to Kurdistan:
Liquor stores and bars are easy to find . . . .
Res ipsa loquitur.

Not in the South.

Christopher Hitchens has indispensable advice for D.C. cocktail parties:
In my hometown of Washington, D.C., it's too easy to hear some expert hold forth about the essential character of any stricken or strategic country. (Larry McMurtry, in his novel Cadillac Jack, has a lovely pastiche of Joseph Alsop doing this very act about Yemen.) I had lived here for years and suffered through many Georgetown post-dinner orations until someone supplied me with the unfailing antidote to such punditry. It comes from Stephen Potter, the author of Lifemanship, One-upmanship, and other classics. Wait until the old bore has finished his exposition, advised Potter, then pounce forward and say in a plonking register, "Yes, but not in the South?" You will seldom if ever be wrong, and you will make the expert perspire. Different as matters certainly are in the South of Iraq, the thing to stress is how different, how very different, they are in the North.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Orin Kerr:
When it's such a major challenge for an Attorney General to testify truthfully about what he himself did, it's probably time to get a new Attorney General.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"I closed the barn doors, but look: no horses!"

Charles Krauthammer in tomorrow's Washington Post:

Remember the great return to multilateralism -- the new emphasis on diplomacy and "working with the allies" -- so widely heralded at the beginning of the second Bush administration? To general acclaim, the cowboys had been banished and the grown-ups brought back to town.

What exactly has the new multilateralism brought us? North Korea tested a nuclear device. Iran has accelerated its march to developing the bomb. The pro-Western government in Beirut hangs by a thread. The Darfur genocide continues unabated.

The new multilateralism also made the sun disappear a few hours ago.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Guy Smiley takes his audience to lunch.

Utah values.

Some students and faculty on one of the nation's most conservative campuses want Brigham Young University to withdraw an invitation for Vice President Dick Cheney to speak at commencement later this month.

Critics at the school question whether Cheney sets a good example for graduates, citing his promotion of faulty intelligence before the Iraq war and his role in the CIA leak scandal.

The private university, which is owned by the Mormon church, has "a heavy emphasis on personal honesty and integrity in all we do," said Warner Woodworth, a professor at BYU's business school.

"Cheney just doesn't measure up," he said.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

If not now, when?

In the spirit of the day, check out The Art of the Prank.

He's not a fan.

Perhaps you were wondering what Snoop thinks of Bill O'Reilly:

Via Matt Yglesias.

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