Blogs

Follow Up On Kristol - Man, Is He Wrong a Lot

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 9:42 PM EST

To follow up on my post from yesterday re: Kristol's hiring at the NYT, here's a post from Glenn Greenwald's old site listing all the different times Kristol has been flat wrong about something. A sampling:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular." [April 4, 2003]
Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress. [March 7, 2005]
Last week the Bush Administration's second-term bear market bottomed out. [November 7, 2005]

If pundits were judged on how often the they are correct or incorrect, Bill Kristol would be the worst pundit in the country. He'd be out of a job. But he's not. Somehow, there are other criteria used in judging pundits—criteria clung too so strongly that no degree of wrongness can invalidate them.

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"Mr. Ten Percent:" Bhutto's Party Picks Her Widower, Son as Successor

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 6:51 PM EST

Here's the NY Times ten years ago, on January 8, 1998, on the alleged extraordinary corruption of Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, named today as the caretaker co-chair of the Pakistan People's Party until their 19-year-old son Bilawal is old enough to take over.

A decade after she led this impoverished nation from military rule to democracy, Benazir Bhutto is at the heart of a widening corruption inquiry that Pakistani investigators say has traced more than $100 million to foreign bank accounts and properties controlled by Ms. Bhutto's family.
Starting from a cache of Bhutto family documents bought for $1 million from a shadowy intermediary, the investigators have detailed a pattern of secret payments by foreign companies that sought favors during Ms. Bhutto's two terms as Prime Minister.

Romney Pulling Huckabee Down in Iowa

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 2:10 PM EST

Want proof negative advertising works? From MSNBC's First Read:

After nearly two weeks of Romney airing TV ads in the this state criticizing his records on immigration and crime, Huckabee's standing in Iowa has slipped, according to the latest MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon poll. In the survey, Romney now leads Huckabee, 27%-23%... Three weeks ago — before Romney began his contrast ads — the poll had Huckabee comfortably leading Romney, 32%-20%.
One of the reasons for Huck's decline: His lead over Romney among self-identified born-again Christians has dropped from 42%-8% to 34%-27%. And among weekly churchgoers, it has decreased from 38%-15% to 28%-27%.

Mitt's anti-Huckabee ads are after the jump.

Babel: How Racism Can Build Bridges

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 11:50 AM EST

Andrew Sullivan posted this hilarious clip from a Brit named Catherine Tate, somebody or other. Never heard of her. Don't watch telly, you know, cuz I'm so cerebral. It cracked me up, aside from her comedic skills, because it reminded me of one of those 'signifigant emotional event' deals I had as a young adult.

I was originally trained as a Korean linguist during my GI days (USAF, of course.). In the beginning of our year long language training, we had a Mrs. Ahn, who was amazing but so serious. Koreans, like most Asians, take education beyond seriously. She was sweet but for six months, six hours a day that woman never sat down and never stopped moving around the classroom to interact with us and try physically to implant her love for her language into our thick skulls. That's how hard core, albeit maternal and loving, she was. If you're out there Mrs. Ahn, you da bomb. That poor woman, trying not to laugh, or die of shock, when we'd use the levels of politeness she'd just taught us to happily address her as if she were either a child or a shoeshine boy when a teacher is all but a god in Asia. Or when we'd try to wheedle the names of body parts out of her (she never broke) or free style sentences like "There's a land mine in my pocket."

Selling His Foreign Policy Experience, Thompson Mispronounces Musharraf

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 10:24 AM EST

This Sunday morning, the Iowa presidential race hits the television talk shows. Most of the leading candidates of both parties are appearing on one of the Sunday gabfests. Fred Thompson chose Fox News Sunday. In comparing himself with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, who both lead him in the iowa polls, Thompson repeatedly cited his foreign policy experience, noting that he had served on the intelligence committee during his eight years in the U.S. Senate.

But there was one problem with this sales pitch: Thompson mispronounced the name of Pakistan's leader. He called Pervez Musharraf "MOO-SHA-rav." The right way to say his name, according the Voice of America's Pronounciation Guide, is "moo-SHURR-RUHF." If Thompson is hoping for a late surge on the basis of his purported experience in national security matters, he ought to be more careful when drawling about current foreign policy crises.

Boy Oh Boy - Bill Kristol Hired by NY Times

| Sat Dec. 29, 2007 4:36 PM EST

bill_kristol.jpg Uber hawk Bill Kristol has just been signed up by the New York Times as an op-ed columnist, according to the Huffington Post. Here's a collection of some of Kristol's greatest neocon hits (also here, but suffice to say, the man's approach to foreign policy is that no problem can't be solved with an air strike or two).

The hire bugs me for three reasons. First, it highlights the fact that there simply isn't any price to be paid in punditocracy for being WRONG. Kristol was as wrong as anyone could be on Iraq, and continued to insist the war was going well long after anyone with a connection to reality (even the Bush Administration!) had stopped claiming success.

Second, it demonstrates how extreme conservatism has a place in the mainstream press, but extreme liberalism doesn't. The man advocates military strikes on Iran, Syria, and Burma (of all places!). That's extreme by even today's conservative standards. Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert don't balance that out. But will Dennis Kucinich end up on the Times' op-ed page? Of course not.

Third, if the Times wanted a conservative voice, it could have hired someone who has something interesting to say about the struggles conservatism currently faces in this country. Instead it hired someone whose approach is to repeat the most ridiculous and discredited pablum of the right, so as to help legitimize the illegitimate. And Kristol's willingness to say the indefensible is obviously a career move. Every time two people share a "Did you see what Kristol wrote??" moment, the man's star burns a little brighter.

In short, Kristol is intellectually dishonest and almost comically extreme. He is a caricature. He contributes nothing but increased polarization to the national debate. And now his writing will sit in the most hallowed space in journalism.

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A (Partial) History of the Blog

| Fri Dec. 28, 2007 9:18 PM EST

This week NPR posted Timeline: The Life of the Blog, a history of the blog as we know it today.

It's a fun trajectory to ponder, from the formation of the Internet's oldest online communities in 1979 to the launch of Cleveland's community network for residents, Freenet, in 1986, to the emergence of homepages and online diaries in 1994—and beyond.

The timeline includes the birth of podcasting, and it also chronicles blogs' effect on political campaigns, but it does not explain how the blogosphere has changed journalism.

Ditching the Holiday Cheer With Mahjongg

| Fri Dec. 28, 2007 9:08 PM EST
mahjongg2.jpg

I love holiday music (Kenny Rogers' Christmas album is a family favorite. Seriously.) as much as the next person, but now that vacation is over, I'm ready to ditch the holiday cheer and get back to music that is rougher around the edges.

Mahjongg, a Chicago-based five-piece, is helping me do just that.

Ron Paul on the Theory of Evolution: "I Don't Accept It."

| Fri Dec. 28, 2007 7:40 PM EST

Another example why Congressman Ron Paul, a former obstetrician who is known as Dr. No for his penchant to vote against nearly every government spending bill to cross his desk, is a curious breed of libertarian. News of his take on evolution comes via the libertarian magazine Reason, which has proclaimed: "Say it ain't so Dr. No!"

In reality, Paul is just being himself, and Reason's surprise has more to do with the gulf between self-proclaimed Cosmopolitan Libertarians (typically secular Reason subscribers) and the more religious Paleolibertarians (acolytes of Lew Rockwell, Paul's former chief of staff). To make sense of this all, check out our recent feature on the Paul campaign, and our breakdown of libertarian factions.

Ultimately, it makes little difference whether Paul is a Creationist. As a libertarian he's opposed to any government funding for scientific or religious endeavors. And that partly explains why the Ron Paul coalition is so elastic.

Obama Presents His Closing Argument

| Fri Dec. 28, 2007 3:01 PM EST

obama-profile.jpg After months of delivering a remarkably consistent stump speech, Barack Obama broke out a brand new one for his "closing argument" to Iowa voters. (Its unveiling yesterday was overshadowed by the Bhutto assassination.) The spirit of the thing is the same as the speech he has been delivering, which is more or less the same as the speech he delivered on the convention floor in 2004.

A couple thoughts. First, the speech is filled with the gently-drawn contrasts that have characterized much of the Democratic race. Aside for a period where Edwards went full bore on Clinton, and a very brief time where Clinton open fire (disastrously) on Obama, the Democratic campaign has been filled with statements like, "Some believe you make change by hoping for it, some believe you make change by demanding it, I believe you make change by working hard for it." Lines such as these require listeners informed enough (Obama=hope; Edwards=fight) to understand their connotations.

Second, Obama has included one of the better lines of the entire campaign. Responding to Hillary and Bill Clinton's accusation that electing him would be a "roll of the dice," Obama says, "The truth is, you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience. Mine is rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. I believe deeply in those words. But they are not mine. They were Bill Clinton's in 1992, when Washington insiders questioned his readiness to lead."

And third, it's kind of amazing that Obama has been able to ride this "new kind of politics" message for so long. It really hasn't changed for years. You can either attribute that to years of fawning, unquestioning press coverage or to a centeredness that hasn't shifted or been shaken by doubts. Plenty of people have said you can't hate American politics and still win in them (i.e. that you have to play the game, just a little), but Obama hasn't compromised.

Things immediately get much, much tougher if he wins the nomination, however.