Standing up and being counted:
Not Only That, But Remember When He Stole The Enterprise And Took It To The Genesis Planet?
Tearing Down That Great Firewall?
Standing up and being counted:
Not Only That, But Remember When He Stole The Enterprise And Took It To The Genesis Planet?
Tearing Down That Great Firewall?
Filed under Smatterings Of Nothing
In a stunning display of self-unawareness, The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg pointed to last week’s forced “resignation” by Dave Weigel from The Washington Post as evidence that the Post, “in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training.” Goldberg then solemnly expressed hope that “this episode will lead to the reimposition of some level of standards.” Numerous commentators immediately noted the supreme and obvious irony that Goldberg, of all people, would anoint himself condescending arbiter of journalistic standards, given that, as one of the leading media cheerleaders for the attack on Iraq, he compiled a record of humiliating falsehood-dissemination in the run-up to the war that rivaled Judy Miller’s both in terms of recklessness and destructive impact.
Except unlike Miller, who was forced to leave the New York Times over what she did, and the NYT itself, which at least acknowledged some of the shoddy pro-war propaganda it churned out, Goldberg has never acknowledged his journalistic errors, expressed remorse for them, or paid any price at all. To the contrary, as is true for most Iraq war propagandists, he thrived despite as a result of his sorry record in service of the war. In 2007, David Bradley — the owner of The Atlantic and (in his own words) formerly “a neocon guy” who was “dead certain about the rightness” of invading Iraq — lavished Goldberg with money and gifts, including ponies for Goldberg’s children, in order to lure him away from The New Yorker, where he had churned out most of his pre-war trash.
One of his most obscenely false and damaging articles — this 2002 museum of deceitful, hideous journalism, “reporting” on Saddam’s “possible ties to Al Qaeda” — actually won an Oversea’s Press Award for — get this — “best international reporting in a print medium dealing with human rights.” Goldberg, whose devotion to Israel is so extreme that he served in the IDF as a prison guard over Palestinians and was described last year as “Netanyahu’s faithful stenographer” by The New York Times’ Roger Cohen, wrote an even more falsehood-filled 2002 New Yorker article, warning that Hezbollah was planning a master, Legion-of-Doom alliance with Saddam Hussein for a “larger war,” and that “[b]oth Israel and the United States believe that, at the outset of an American campaign against Saddam, Iraq will fire missiles at Israel — perhaps with chemical or biological payloads — in order to provoke an Israeli conventional, or even nuclear, response,” though — Goldberg sternly warned — “Hezbollah, which is better situated than Iraq to do damage to Israel, might do Saddam’s work itself” and “its state sponsors, Iran and Syria, maintain extensive biological- and chemical-weapons programs.” That fantastical, war-fueling screed — aimed at scaring Americans into targeting the full panoply of Israel’s enemies — actually won a National Magazine Award in 2003. Given how completely discredited those articles are, those are awards which any person with an iota of shame would renounce and apologize for, but Goldberg continues to proudly tout them on his bio page at The Atlantic.
Despite all of those war-cheerleading deceits — or, again, because of them — Goldberg continues to be held out by America’s most establishment outlets as a preeminent expert in the region. As Jonathan Schwarz documents, Goldberg is indeed very well-“trained” in the sense that establishment journalists mean that term: i.e., as an obedient dog who spouts establishment-serving falsehoods. That’s why Goldberg is worth examining: he’s so representative of the American media because the more discredited his journalism becomes, the more blatant propaganda he spews, the more he thrives in our media culture. That’s why it’s not hyperbole to observe that we are plagued by a Jeffrey Goldberg Media; he’s not an aberration but one of its most typical and illustrative members.
Jeffrey Goldberg responds:
It turns out that the left-wing commentator Glenn Greenwald doesn’t like me (who knew?). In a rather long posting, he accuses me of many different sins, mainly, though not exclusively, having to do with my early support for the Iraq war, and for my reporting from pre-invasion Iraqi Kuridstan. (Greenwald has always been vehemently opposed to the invasion.)
As it happens, I was e-mailing yesterday with the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Barham Salih, and I mentioned Greenwald’s critique. I explained that Greenwald believes the invasion was a criminal act, to which Salih responded by asking if Greenwald had ever visited Iraqi Kurdistan. I said I didn’t know, not having too much contact with him, on account of him hating me. So Salih asked me to extend an invitation to Greenwald to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. So, Glenn, you are hereby invited to visit Iraqi Kurdistan. I’m happy to go with you (I’m actually a pretty good travel companion — even Matt Yglesias says that I can be both “funny” and “charming,” though, to be fair, he also says I can be “dangerous” and “inaccurate”). But if you didn’t want to go with me, I’m sure I can find someone to go with you.
The prime minister said we could invite Kurds from different political parties and media outlets to a big, public forum, and Glenn could explain to them his position that the invasion was immoral, and the Kurds could explain why they supported the invasion. (Of course, we would try to find some Kurds who opposed the invasion, and there are, indeed, some out there, to meet with Greenwald as well). We would also be able to visit Halabja, and the other towns and villages affected by Saddam’s genocide, and I’m sure we could arrange meetings with other Kurdish leaders and dissidents.
Obviously, I think this is a good idea, because I view the subject of Iraq as a complicated one, and I think that Greenwald has an overly simplistic, black-and-white view of the situation. If he were to meet with representatives of the Kurds — who make up 20 percent of the population of Iraq and who were the most oppressed group in Iraq during the period of Saddam’s rule (experiencing not only a genocide but widespread chemical gassing) — I think it might be possible for him to understand why some people — even some Iraqis — supported the overthrow of Saddam. Also, as a bonus, I’m reasonably sure we could meet with Kurdish intelligence officials who could explain to him why they believe Saddam was secretly supporting an al Qaeda-affiliated Kurdish extremist group, and, if we have time, I could also arrange a visit to Najaf or the equivalent, where Greenwald could meet with representatives of the Shi’a, who also took it on the chin from Saddam.
This is a sincere offer from a very important Kurdish official, and I hope Glenn Greenwald takes it seriously.
Glenn Greenwald responds:
Jeffrey Goldberg responded yesterday to my post detailing his long list of journalistic malfeasance by telling me that he and the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kuridstan would like me to travel there to hear how much the Kurds appreciate the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Leaving aside the complete non sequitur that is his response — how does that remotely pertain to Goldberg’s granting of anonymity to his friends to smear people they don’t like or the serial fear-mongering fabrications he spread about the Saddam threat prior to the invasion? — I don’t need to travel to Kurdistan to know that many Kurds, probably most, are happy that the U.S. attacked Iraq. For that minority in Northern Iraq, what’s not to like?
They had foreign countries (the U.S. and its “partners”) expend their citizens’ lives and treasure to rid the Kurds of their hated enemy; they received semi-autonomy, substantial oil revenues, a thriving relationship with Israel, and real political power; the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives were snuffed out and the millions of people displaced by the war were not Kurds, and most of the destruction took place in Central and Southern Iraq away from their towns and homes, while they remain largely free of the emergent police state tactics of the current Iraqi government. As Ali Gharib put it to Goldberg: “there are at least 600,000 Iraqis who, I imagine, are not too thrilled about the way it all turned out and with whom Greenwald will never get a meeting.”
Goldberg apparently thinks that if you can find some citizens in an invaded country who are happy about the invasion, then it demonstrates the aggression was justifiable or at least morally supportable (I suppose I should be thankful that he didn’t haul out the think-about-how-great-this-is-for-the-Iraqi-gays platitude long cherished by so many neocons, though — given the hideous reality in Iraq in that realm — that’s now a deceitful bridge too far even for them). I’m not interested in an overly personalized exchange with Goldberg, but there is one aspect of his response worth highlighting: the universality of the war propaganda he proffers. Those who perpetrate wars of aggression invariably invent moral justifications to allow themselves and the citizens of the aggressor state to feel good and noble about themselves. Hence, even an unprovoked attack which literally destroys a country and ruins the lives of millions of innocent people — as the U.S. invasion of Iraq did — is scripted as a morality play with the invaders cast in the role of magnanimous heroes.
It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used. That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors. Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, while leaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about. Did that make those German invasions justifiable? As Arnold Suppan of the University of Vienna’s Institute for Modern History wrote of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia (click on image to enlarge): And, of course, German citizens were told those invasions were necessary and just in order to liberate the repressed German minorities. To be a bit less Godwin about it, many Ossetians wanted independence from Georgia and thus despised the government in Tbilisi, and many identified far more with the invading Russians than their own government; did that make the 2008 Russian assault on Georgia moral and noble? Pravda routinely cast the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as one of protection of the populace from extremists. I have no doubt that one could easily find Iraqi Sunnis today who would welcome an invasion from Hamas or Saudi Arabia to liberate them from what they perceive (not unreasonably) as their repressive Shiite overlords; would Goldberg therefore recognize the moral ambiguity of that military action? If, tomorrow, China invaded Israel and changed the regime, there would certainly be many, many Palestinians who would celebrate; would that, in Goldberg’s view, make it morally supportable? Saddam himself, in FBI interrogations after he was captured, was insistent that many Kuwaitis were eager for an Iraqi invasion and that this justified his 1990 war; if he were right in his facutal premise, would that render his actions just?
As Jonathan Schwarz wrote in 2007, responding to similar war-justifying claims from Christopher Hitchens that he saw Iraqis giving “sweets and flowers” to American and British soldiers:
The strange-but-true reality is that throughout history, whenever one country has invaded another, there have always been some people within the invaded country who’ve welcomed the invaders. Sometimes it’s because they’ve been oppressed by their own government, are similar ethnically or religiously to the invader, or just know what side their bread is buttered on.
At the same time, those within the invading country who support the invasion have always seized on tales of the welcome they’ve received and declared it demonstrates the justice of their cause. And this is rarely pure cynicism. Human beings — even (or especially) the worst of them — need to believe they’re moral.
To underscore the point, consider these photographs of ethnic Germans in Lithuania handing flowers to invading German soldiers, and citizens of Ukraine and Poland doing the same, all from the BBC documentary, Nazis: A Warning from History (click on photogaphs to enlarge):
As Schwarz wrote: “I don’t know who took this footage, but I would bet a lot of money it was the Nazis themselves, and that they rushed it back to the home front to demonstrate the extraordinary morality of their cause.” And just to bolster the point a bit more, compare the propagandistic photograph on the right (below) used by Germans in 1941 to show that Lithuanians welcomed their invasion (depicting citizens pulling down a statue of an oppressive Communist ruler, likely Lenin), to the virtually identical, iconic photograph on the left of the staged scene of Iraqis “celebrating” the American invasion by pulling down a statue of Saddam:
It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions. It may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant. The point is that every nation which launches even the most brutal, destructive and unprovoked wars of aggression employs moralizing propaganda to claim that their aggression engenders magnanimous and noble ends, and specifically often points to segments of the invaded population which welcome the violence and invaders. Pointing to the happy and rewarded Kurdish minority no more justifies or legalizes the attack on Iraq than similar claims do for any of those other cases.
Jeffrey Goldberg responds:
Glenn Greenwald Compares the Iraq War to the Nazi Conquest of Europe
Yes he does.
Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:
To be sure, lazy, corrupt journalism happens; always has, always will. But Goldberg’s work is quite the opposite: rigorously reported, beautifully written and fiercely honest. Indeed, Jeff’s willingness to be candid about lessons he learned along the way created a book that Greenwald rarely, if ever, mentions: Prisoners, a memoir of Jeff’s time as a member of the Israel Defense Forces when he served as a prison guard and developed a close, difficult and unresolved friendship with one of his Palestinian prisoners. This is the sort of work that Greenwald, locked in the sterile prison of his ideology, is completely incompetent to understand.
And now, Greenwald–who, so far as I can tell, only regards the United States as a force for evil in the world–has laid out the incredible notion that the liberation of the Kurds, which Jeff celebrates (and so do I, and so do civilized people everywhere) as a happy byproduct of George W. Bush’s dreadful war in Iraq, can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland:
It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used. That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors. Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, whileleaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about.
This is obscene. Comparing the Kurds, who had been historically orphaned and then slaughtered with poison gas by Saddam Hussein, with Nazi-l0ving Sudeten Germans is outrageous. Comparing the United States to Nazi Germany is not merely disgraceful, but revelatory of a twisted, deluded soul. And, once again, we need to stand back and remember how this started: a dispute over whether the Post should have fired Dave Wiegel. Wow.
Greenwald will probably come after me now, armed with the same three or four quotes he routinely uses as evidence of my moral and professional dishonesty and dissipation. For Greenwald, it seems, any honest political disagreement always winds up with charges of corruption and decadence. I wonder why that is. But fine, Glenn, go for it. I’m going back to my vacation.
Update: A commenter–a Glennbot, clearly–notes that Greenwald finagles this caveat:
It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions. It may or may not be, but that’s irrelevant.
No, it’s not irrelevant. If he’s going to compare the U.S. in Kurdistan with Nazi Germany in Sudetenland, Greenwald can’t just slink away by saying those actions “may or may not be comparable.” He can’t plead ignorance, can’t get away with a litigator’s trick. And if he truly is ignorant–it certainly seems so–perhaps he should take the time to study up on the situation, or perhaps take up Jeff’s invitation to visit Kurdistan, before he goes off comparing Kurds to Sudeten Germans. But then, that would involve…reporting, wouldn’t it?
Actually Joe, you’ve completely missed the point.
Let’s put this in words Joe can understand- If Israel were to be attacked, occupied, and have millions of her citizens murdered or killed in an invasion by Egypt, six years from now, it would not be ok to point to that immoral invasion and say “But look how happy the Palestinians are!” Which is precisely what Goldberg was doing, and exactly what Greenwald was pointing out. Even worse, Klein needed a reader to point out the very fact that Greenwald himself insisted the invasion of Iraq and the Nazi invasions are not the same. Now that’s some close reading of something that really upset you!
Joe noted that he was interrupting his vacation for this outburst- for his sake, I hope it was written from the hotel bar, because he completely missed the point. And for the record- I really like reading Joe Klein- most of the time.
*** Update ***
We’ve now got the spectacle of two prominent journalists, one for Time, one for the Atlantic, willfully misinterpreting someone’s remarks and screaming that person is a Nazi lover and hates America. Godwin wept.
Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:
Glenn Greenwald wrote a column about Jeff Goldberg, the Iraq War, and the moral issues surrounding invasions of countries, in which he mentioned Germany’s invasion of the Sudetenland, among other examples. Quote: “It should go without saying, but doesn’t: the point here is not that the attack on Iraq is comparable to these above-referenced invasions.” Time’s Joe Klein responded: “And now, Greenwald—who, so far as I can tell, only regards the United States as a force for evil in the world—has laid out the incredible notion that the liberation of the Kurds, which Jeff celebrates (and so do I, and so do civilized people everywhere) as a happy byproduct of George W. Bush’s dreadful war in Iraq, can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland.” Joe Klein is the world’s best reader.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum
UPDATE #3: Jeffrey Goldberg
David Knowles at Politics Daily:
After an FBI investigation spanning several years, ten people were taken into custody on Sunday across the northeastern United States and have been charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. Attorney, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.
According to the D.O.J., eight of the accused were involved in what it termed as “long-term, deep-cover assignments” for the Russian government. Two of the defendants were arrested for participating in the covert Russian operation. Nine of those picked up were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The defendants, some of whom may go by and assumed alias, include: “Richard Murphy” and “Cynthia Murphy” of Montclair, N.J., Vicky Plaez and “Juan Lazaro” of Yonkers, N.Y. Anna Chapman of New York City, “Michael Zottoli,” “Patricia Mills,” and Mikhail Smenko of Arlington, Va., and “Tracey Lee Ann Foley” and “Donald Howard Heathfield” of Boston, Ma.
“Christopher R. Mestos” remains at large, the D.O.J. said.
Daniel Foster at The Corner:
This on the heels of President Obama’s happy-go-lucky meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in D.C.
Five years for conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government? What’s going on here — Mr. McCarthy?
The details are still a little fuzzy. It’s not clear if these are Americans who were recruited by the Russians, or if these were Russians living in America, or a mixture of both.
The story seems to indicate that at least some of them were Russian. This may explain why all those hot Russian chicks willing to marry dumpy, balding, middle-aged American men. They’re all Russian spies!
As some of you know, I spent a year studying in Russia under the theory that the Cold War would be back, and when it does — job security, baby! Is it time for Rusty to break out the old resume?
When it comes to human intelligence, the Russian Federation has a leg up on the U.S. in terms of the vestiges of the Cold War great game. The arrest today of 10 Russians for spying is a case in point: none of them were diplomats or had official cover. All of them were what the old Soviet Union used to call “illegals” — regular folks living and doing regular jobs, but serving as cutouts and go-betweens for other case officers and agents.
The CIA still spies on Russia, but/and I’m not exactly revealing secrets here, most of them have some sort of official cover — usually, the more bland sounding title in the embassy, the better.Russian counterintelligence services have known this for decades. And for decades, the CIA has made efforts to field its version of illegals — NOCs — spies operating under “non official cover,” but fewer than one in ten of its case officers are NOCs, according to current and former officials. This makes the job of a case officer difficult. It’s even more difficult to establish a NOC — a cover story must be provided — a “legend” — that is trackable and verifiable. These days, it’s easy to Google someone and discover whether they are who they say they are, so if a Mr. Leonard Panerta were to become a teacher in Moscow, the Russian FSB, which does counteintelligence, can check pretty quickly.What type of information is valuable to Russia these days? It’s no longer nuclear weapons information, really, or war plans: it’s proprietary information, trade secrets, technical specifications of satellite and ballistic missile technology…also political intelligence and economic intelligence. The FBI still has squads of counterintelligence (CI) agents that follow Russian embassy officials in Washington, but it does much less CI work than it did before the age of terrorism. The US has much better signals intelligence capabilities than the Russians, but Russia also quietly outsources some of its spying to other countries, including countries that are ostensibly friendly to the U.S.
Noah Shachtman at Dangerroom at Wired:
Moscow communicated with a ring of alleged spies in America by encoding instructions in otherwise innocent-looking images on public websites. It’s a process called steganography. And it’s one of a slew of high-tech and time-tested methods that the deep-cover agents and their Russian handlers used to pass information — from private Wi-Fi networks to buried paper bags.
Steganography is simultaneously one of the oldest methods for secret communications, and one of the more advanced. The process dates back to the fifth century B.C., when the Greek tyrant Histiaeus shaved the head of one of his servants, tattooed a message on his head, and waited for his hair to grow back before sending the messenger out. When the courier arrived, his head was shaved and the missive was read, giving information about upcoming Persian attacks. Later on, secret inks were used on couriers’ backs. Morse code messages were woven into a sweater that was worn by a courier.
As information went digital, steganography changed. Messages could be hidden in the 1s and 0s of electronic files — pictures, audio, video, executables, whatever. The hidden communications could even be slowly dribbled into the torrent of IP traffic. Compression schemes — like JPEG for images or MP3 for audio — introduce errors into the files, making a message even easier to hide. New colors or tones can be subtly added or removed, to cover up for the changes. According to the FBI, the image above contains a hidden map of the Burlington, Vermont, airport.
Both before and after Sept. 11, there were rumors in the media that al-Qaida had begun hiding messages in digital porn. That speculation was never confirmed, as far as I can tell.
The accused Russian spy network started using steganography as early as 2005, according to the Justice Department’s criminal complaint against the conspirators, unsealed yesterday in Manhattan. In 2005, law enforcement agents raided the home of one of the alleged spies. There, they found a set of password-protected disks and a piece of paper, marked with “alt,” “control,” “e,” and a string of 27 characters. When they used that as a password, the G-Men found a program that allowed the spies “to encrypt data, and then clandestinely to embed the data in images on publicly available websites.”
The G-Men also found a hard drive. On it was an address book with website URLs, as well as the user’s web traffic history. “These addresses, in turn, had links to other websites,” the complaint notes. “Law-enforcement agents visited some of the referenced websites, and many others as well, and have downloaded images from them. These images appear wholly unremarkable to the naked eye. But these images (and others) have been analyzed using the Steganography Program. As a result of this analysis, some of the images have been revealed as containing readable text files.”
These messages were used to arrange meetings, cash drops, deliveries of laptops and further information exchanges. One of the steganographically hidden messages also directed the conspirators to use radiograms — a decades-old method to pass information, long discredited in spooky circles.
Jen Doll at Village Voice:
The FBI obtained the following decrypted message from Russia’s intelligence headquarters in Moscow:
Your education, bank accounts, car, house etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US and send intels to the Moscow center.
CBS News reports that agents would have been highly trained in “foreign languages; agent-to-agent communications, including the use of brush-passes (covert hand-offs of secret information); short-wave radio operation and invisible writing; the use of codes and ciphers, including the use of encrypted Morse code messages; the creation and use of a cover profession; counter-surveillance measures” and more.
This is creepy, but we’re suddenly less afraid of spies because we knew they did all of that stuff already! Really, short-wave radio? Invisible writing? Morse Code? Guys, that went out with magic decoder rings and camera cigarette lighters. Come on, even China is onto the hacking game.
Still, maybe in some small way, it’s nice to hear that Russia still considers us worthy of being spied on. And it’s good to know the FBI is on this shit. Let’s not go getting all Cold War or anything.
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
News accounts don’t make clear when Russia first placed these agents. But from today’s perspective we can say: what a waste! The Russians thought they needed spies with “ties in policymaking circles” to gain intelligence about American policy, or, best case, possibly even influence it in a direction adverse to American interests. Those were the good old days. In today’s America, our “policymaking circles” are as antipathetic to American interests as the Russians could possibly have hoped to make them through spycraft.
Jim Newell at Gawker:
Hooray, the Cold War is back and awesome.
There are many things that confuse me in life — Manhattan parking rituals, the proliferation of rotaries in Massachusetts, the appeal of most reality television, and so forth. I think I’m going to have to add the Russian spy ring to this list.
Less than a week after Russian President Dmitri Medevedev’s burger date with U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. Justice Department has busted eight Russkies in an espionage ring so heinous, they’ve been charged with…. “conspiracy to act as unregistered agents of a foreign government.”
Um…. so, in other words, the Russians are accused of some combination of illegal immigration and impersonating Jack Abramoff?
Seriously, this story is the most bizarre foreign policy/international relations episode I’ve seen since the Sandy-Berger-let’s-stuff–classified-documents-down-my-pants episode.
UPDATE: Daniel Drezner and Megan McArdle at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #2: Marc Ambinder
Benjamin Weiser, Colin Moynihan and Ellen Barry at NYT
UPDATE #3: Bruce Bartlett
Charlie Savage at the NYT:
Stymied by political opposition and focused on competing priorities, the Obama administration has sidelined efforts to close the Guantánamo prison, making it unlikely that President Obama will fulfill his promise to close it before his term ends in 2013.
When the White House acknowledged last year that it would miss Mr. Obama’s initial January 2010 deadline for shutting the prison, it also declared that the detainees would eventually be moved to one in Illinois. But impediments to that plan have mounted in Congress, and the administration is doing little to overcome them.
“There is a lot of inertia” against closing the prison, “and the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supports the Illinois plan. He added that “the odds are that it will still be open” by the next presidential inauguration.
And Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who also supports shutting it, said the effort is “on life support and it’s unlikely to close any time soon.” He attributed the collapse to some fellow Republicans’ “demagoguery” and the administration’s poor planning and decision-making “paralysis.”
The White House insists it is still determined to shutter the prison. The administration argues that Guantánamo is a symbol in the Muslim world of past detainee abuses, citing military views that its continued operation helps terrorists.
Polls suggest that the majority of Americans want Guantanamo Bay to remain open in the wake of the attempted terrorists attacks on Times Square and a Detroit-bound airliner. Congress, according to the White House, hasn’t moved quickly on its plan to move detainees to an Illinois prison. And Attorney General Eric Holder’s initial decision to hold the trial for alleged 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York even upset top White House adviser Rahm Emanuel, who argued that such a trial would alienate Republicans and prevent the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
Confronted with these problems — as well as the McCrystal flap, worsening economic numbers, and the ongoing Gulf Coast oil spill — the White House may have decided to simply punt on Guantanamo after all. Top officials told The New York Times that the president’s ‘magic wand’ was incapable of providing the administration any other alternative.
The “wave a wand” gripe should elicit loud peals of laughter from both sides of the aisle. Barack Obama’s critics on his Gitmo position made that very same point repeatedly, both before the 2008 presidential election and after Obama made his order to close Gitmo his first official act as President. Any such move required the President to find a different and yet still suitable detention facility, one where foreign terrorists captured by military and intelligence personnel would have separate adjudication from Americans in normal criminal courts, and one which could be secured properly for its purpose. It would then have to contemplate the costs and benefits of such a move when in the end the detainees would end up using the very same processes they currently have for adjudication.
If Congress has dragged its feet, it’s only because no one can really explain how closing Gitmo while retaining the military commissions systems justifies the costs and the risks. The issue the Left has with Gitmo isn’t its geographical location, after all. When Obama committed to using the military commissions system to process the rest of the detainees in Gitmo, he himself mooted the necessity of closing it. And for good reason — the use of criminal courts to try foreign terrorists in military or intel contexts would either result in botched prosecutions, or in changing the rules that protect American residents against undue prosecutorial power in criminal court.
The only one waving a wand on Gitmo was Obama himself. And now he hopes to wave another wand in a Friday night news dump to keep his Left from erupting in outrage over Obama’s white flag on Gitmo. Best of luck with that, Mr. President.
So that appears to be a consensus: Guantanamo — the closing of which was one of Obama’s central campaign promises — will still be open as of 2013, by which point many of the detainees will have been imprisoned for more than a decade without charges of any kind and without any real prospect for either due process or release, at least four of those years under a President who was elected on a commitment to close that camp and restore the rule of law.
None of this is news to anyone even casually watching what’s been going on, but there are several aspects of this article which are so noteworthy for illustrating how this administration works. Let’s begin with this: Obama officials — cowardly hiding behind anonymity as usual — raise the typical excuse which they and their defenders perpetually invoke for their “failures” to fulfill their campaign positions: it’s all Congress’ fault (“They blame Congress for failing to execute that endgame,” Savage writes). It’s true that Congress has enacted measures to impede the closing of Guantanamo, and threatened to enact others, but the Obama administration’s plan was never so much to close Guantanamo as to simply re-locate it to Thompson, Illinois (GTMO North), in the process retaining one of its key, defining features — indefinite, due-process-free detention — that made it such a menace in the first place (that’s the attribute that led Candidate Obama to scorn it as a “legal black hole”).
The only meaningful way to “close Guantanamo” is to release the scores of detainees whom the administration knows are innocent and then try the rest in a real court (as Pakistan just did with Americans they accused of Terrorism). Imprisoning only those people whom you convict of crimes is a terribly radical, purist, Far Leftist concept, I know — the Fifth Amendment is so very un-Pragmatic and pre-9/11 — and that is something the administration therefore refused from the start even to consider.
Let’s stagger down memory lane to Day Three of Hope and Change:
President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said.
Gitmo was a deplorable symbol of this and that, until actually resolving the situation became too complicated. Anyway, it’s the thought that counts:
In any case, one senior official said, even if the administration concludes that it will never close the prison, it cannot acknowledge that because it would revive Guantánamo as America’s image in the Muslim world.
“Guantánamo is a negative symbol, but it is much diminished because we are seen as trying to close it,” the official said. “Closing Guantánamo is good, but fighting to close Guantánamo is O.K. Admitting you failed would be the worst.”
The bottom line is that this is just very hard. It’s debatable as to whether the Bush Administration should ever have transferred jihadists and alleged jihadists from Afghanistan to Gitmo. But, once they did, reversing it became very difficult.
Filed under GWOT
Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:
With the Wall Street reform legislation agreed to by House and Senate negotiators now in serious doubt in the Senate, what happens if the final bill can’t muster the votes? At his weekly press availability this morning, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hinted that they may have to make some changes.
“We’re trying to work with the Senate to ensure that we both take up a version that does in fact have 60 votes,” Hoyer said.
But the conference report, passed late last week, can not be amended on the House or Senate floors. It’s an up-or-down, yes-or-no proposition. If they need a new ‘version’ that has 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, they’d have to reconvene the conference committee, strip the language that offends Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and try again.
In the wake of a historic economic collapse caused largely by a financial industry allowed to run rampant, Sen. Russ Feingold (D–Wisc.) has decided to vote in favor of doing nothing at all to address this:
As I have indicated for some time now, my test for the financial regulatory reform bill is whether it will prevent another crisis. The conference committee’s proposal fails that test and for that reason I will not vote to advance it. During debate on the bill, I supported several efforts to break up ‘too big to fail’ Wall Street banks and restore the proven safeguards established after the Great Depression separating Main Street banks from big Wall Street firms, among other issues. Unfortunately, these crucial reforms were rejected. While there are some positive provisions in the final measure, the lack of strong reforms is clear confirmation that Wall Street lobbyists and their allies in Washington continue to wield significant influence on the process.
Can I vent for a minute? I know Feingold is proud of his inconoclastic reputation. I know this bill doesn’t do as much as he (or I) would like. I know the financial industry, as he says, continues to have way too much clout on Capitol Hill.
But seriously: WTF? This is the final report of a conference committee. There’s no more negotiation. It’s an up-or-down vote and there isn’t going to be a second chance at this. You either vote for this bill, which has plenty of good provisions even if doesn’t break up all the big banks, or else you vote for the status quo. That’s it. That’s the choice. It’s not a game. It’s not a time for Feingold to worry about his reputation for independence. It’s a time to make a decision between actively supporting something good and actively supporting something bad. And Feingold has decided to actively support something bad.
Scott Brown, the junior Senator from Mass:
Dear Chairman Dodd and Chairman Frank,
I am writing you to express my strong opposition to the $19 billion bank tax that was included in the financial reform bill during the conference committee. This tax was not in the Senate version of the bill, which I supported. If the final version of this bill contains these higher taxes, I will not support it.
It is especially troubling that this provision was inserted in the conference report in the dead of night without hearings or economic analysis. While some will try to argue this isn’t a tax, this new provision takes real money away from the economy, making it unavailable for lending on Main Street, and gives it to Washington. That sounds like a tax to me.
I have always strongly opposed a bank tax because, as the non-partisan CBO has said, costs would be passed onto the millions of American consumers and small businesses who rely on major U.S. financial institutions for their checking, ATM, loans or other services. This tax will be paid by consumers who will have to pay higher fees and the small businesses that won’t get the funding they need to invest and create jobs.
Imposing this new tax is the wrong option. Our economy is still struggling. It is wrong to impose higher taxes and ignore the impact it will have on our economy without considering other ways we might offset the costs of the measure. I am asking that the conference committee find a way to offset the cost of the bill by cutting unnecessary federal spending. There are hundreds of billions in unspent federal funds sitting around, some authorized years ago for long-dead initiatives. Congress needs to start to looking there first, and I stand ready to help.
Senator Scott P. Brown
John Carney at CNBC:
Democrats on Tuesday planned to strip out a controversial tax from their landmark financial reform bill in order to win the swing votes needed to pass it through Congress.
With crucial Republican moderates threatening to withdraw their support, Democrats were weighing alternative ways to fund the most sweeping rewrite of the Wall Street rulebook since the 1930s.
Though a supposedly final version of the bill had been hammered out last week, Democrats in charge of the process called a fresh negotiating session, which got under way shortly after 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday.
Democratic lawmakers and aides said they planned to remove a $17.9 billion tax on large financial institutions. Instead, they would cover most of the bill’s costs by shutting down a $700 billion bank-bailout program.
“I haven’t talked to everybody, but I gather from a number of people they like this option,” said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, one of the lawmakers in charge of the bill.
The bill had been expected to pass both chambers of Congress this week in time for President Obama to sign it into law by July 4. But supporters have been forced to scramble for votes in the Senate, putting that goal in jeopardy.
Analysts said while that timetable may slip, the bill was still likely to become law.
“We believe that this legislation will pass, timing and the bank tax remain the final question marks,” wrote FBR Capital Markets analyst Edward Mills in a research note.
Jay Newton-Small at Time:
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd stood an hour ago in the Senator’s Retiring Room off of the Senate floor in an intense conversation with Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown – one of surely many they will have today. Dodd is trying to get Brown, one of four Republicans who voted for the Senate version of financial regulatory reform, to pledge his support for final passage. House and Senate negotiators last week worked out a deal to combine the two measures only to find that Brown couldn’t support $18+ billion in new bank fees. To complicate matters, Democrats are now down a vote due to the untimely death of Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.
Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and House Financial Service Chairman Barney Frank are planning on taking the unusual step of reopening the conference committee this afternoon. Lucky for them it wasn’t formally closed or reopening it would’ve taken votes from both chambers of Congress. They have been negotiating with the four Republicans – Brown, Maine Senators Olympia Snowe Susan Collins and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley — on new offsets for the $18+ billion. Dodd says that 90% of the $18+ billion would now be paid for by the immediate end of TARP, the unpopular bank bailout fund due to expire October 3. The additional offset would come from raising fees the banks pay to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, exempting all small banks under $10 billion capitalization (Dodd says he’s spoke to Sheila Bair on this and she’s fine with it). Some Republicans still have reservations that such a move, though, wouldn’t prompt the banks to pass the cost on to consumers. “Repealing TARP definitely appeals to me,” says Snowe, who met with Dodd in her office last night and again this morning. “At this point other issues are not related to the TARP part, we’re still looking at how you replace those fees. So things are still in motion here, there are a lot of conservations developing.”
Brown, emerging from his meeting with Dodd, says he’s waiting to see the final product and hasn’t made any decisions yet. Brown sent Dodd and Frank a letter this morning announcing his opposition to the $18+ billion in fees, prompting today’s dramatics. Collins told reporters she was pleased with her meetings with Dodd but that she also had made no final decision. Grassley was nowhere to be found. “I gather there were a number of people who were uneasy with the earlier pay-for who like this alternative and so the present plan is to probably reconvene the conference this afternoon,” Dodd said, heading into a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s offices. If all four Republicans sign on, Dems should have enough votes to pass the Senate as they race to finish the legislation by the end of the week.
Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent:
Rather than charging the hedge funds and big banks considered most responsible for the financial crisis a reasonable fee for implementation, the conference committee will settle for ending a government stability program and spreading the pain around to all federally insured banks — including small community-focused banks — to satisfy the demands of one Republican. So it goes in Washington.
It would be a fiasco of tragic proportions if the banks managed to remove these taxes from the final bill, essentially absolving themselves from cleaning up after their own mess. The arguments against the taxes are weak indeed: either you simply oppose all taxes on principle (which seems to be the Scott Brown stance, and which is fiscally disastrous), or else you’re forced into John Carney’s corner.
Carney is worried that we don’t know exactly where the tax will be applied — but that’s a feature, not a bug. Setting up the tax in great deal ex ante is essentially just asking banks to spend millions of dollars on tax consultants who can help them skirt the new levies. And as the risks in the system evolve and change, so to should the way that they’re taxed. It’s right and proper that the newly created Council for Financial Stability will be charged with taxing systemic risk, rather than having a bunch of politicians try to do so at the beginning and then watch as the banks and other financial institutions nimbly sidestep the new taxes.
An increase in the FDIC premium would be a gift on a platter to banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley which don’t have insured deposits — not to mention non-bank players like Citadel which are systemically very important. I’m unclear on what exactly this Republican “procedural hurdle” is — I thought that after reconciliation, you just needed a simple majority to pass a bill. But I’m getting very annoyed about it.
UPDATE: Russell Berman at The Hill
UPDATE #2: Eric Zimmermann at The Hill
Noam Scheiber at TNR
Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending, The Crisis
Red Family, Blue Family, Yellow Family (Wait, That’s Just The Simpsons)
Has Anyone Thought Of Asking Pixar To Fix The Oil Spill?
James Joyner Did The Joke Already: David Weigel To Be Replaced By David Petraeus
Filed under Smatterings Of Nothing
Dana Milbank at WaPo:
Oppo researchers digging into Elena Kagan‘s past didn’t get the goods on the Supreme Court nominee — but they did get the Thurgood.
As confirmation hearings opened Monday afternoon, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took the unusual approach of attacking Kagan because she admired the late justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked more than two decades ago.
“Justice Marshall’s judicial philosophy,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, “is not what I would consider to be mainstream.” Kyl — the lone member of the panel in shirtsleeves for the big event — was ready for a scrap. Marshall “might be the epitome of a results-oriented judge,” he said.
It was, to say the least, a curious strategy to go after Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer who successfully argued Brown vs. Board of Education. Did Republicans think it would help their cause to criticize the first African American on the Supreme Court, a revered figure who has been celebrated with an airport, a postage stamp and a Broadway show? The guy is a saint — literally. Marshall this spring was added to the Episcopal Church’s list of “Holy Women and Holy Men,” which the Episcopal Diocese of New York says “is akin to being granted sainthood.”
With Kagan’s confirmation hearings expected to last most of the week, Republicans may still have time to make cases against Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Gandhi.
Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:
The GOP in Texas pushed hard to get Thurgood Marshall removed from social studies textbooks, and today I watched in absolute disgust as the GOP in Washington actually smeared Thurgood Marshall during Kagan’s nomination hearing.
I often find Republican ideology to be rather twisted, but it simply never occurred to me that GOP senators would spend the first day of the confirmation hearings condemning one of the most venerated Supreme Court justices in American history.
But condemn they did. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) declared Marshall “a judicial activist.” So did Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Marshall’s approach to the law “does not comport with the proper role of a judge or judicial method.”
Better yet, this was a coordinated attack — Republican aides circulated materials to reporters during the hearing detailing all of the things the GOP doesn’t like about Thurgood Marshall.
Christina Bellantoni put together an interesting count — while President Obama’s name came up 14 times yesterday, Thurgood Marshall’s name came up 35 times.
It’s quite a strategy Republicans have put together here, isn’t it? Unable to come up with a coherent line of attack to undermine this nominee, the GOP has decided to turn its guns on an iconic civil rights attorney and one of the more celebrated American heroes of the 20th century.
And the Republican Party’s outreach to minority communities suffers yet another setback.
Various mystified parties are denouncing GOP attacks on Thurgood Marshall’s expansive judicial activism … on the bizarre grounds that his status as the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice has literally made him a saint and makes his positions unassailable* … and are wondering what any of that has to do with his former law clerk in the current Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. Though when you consider her own position — a sort of looking-glass support for discrimination vs. discrimination at Harvard — it gets to the heart of the matter. Does she in fact think some forms of discrimination are constitutional, and some political positions are not only above the law, but above the interests of national security in wartime, and as Harvard apparently thinks given its willingness to accept federal money and ROTC tuitions despite its active opposition to the military over the federal government’s congressionally passed, Clinton-signed DADT policy, that principles are principles and money is money, and one shouldn’t get in the way of the other?
* Milbank has a point, though. Hagiophobia will get the GOP nowhere in this case.
John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:
During questioning by Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy this morning, Elena Kagan defended the policy she upheld at Harvard of keeping military recruiters out of the office of career services.
“I’m confident that the military had access to our students and our students had access to the military throughout my entire deanship,” Kagan said. She defended the anti-military policy:
“This was a balance for the law school because on the one hand we wanted to make abo sure that our students did have access to the military at all times, but we did have a very longstanding, going back to the 1970s, anti-discrimination policy, which said that no employer could use the office of career services if that employer would not sign a non-discrimination pledge, that applied to many categories–race, and gender and sexual orientation, and actually veteran status as well. And the military could not sign that pledge … because of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.”
As many people have pointed out, the military’s policy on gays in the military is based on a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, for whom Kagan worked. Why were other federal government officials not similarly discriminated against by Harvard?
I’ve contributed some initial reactions to the Washington Post’s online “Topic A” feature on the Kagan nomination hearings. The general thrust of my remarks is that the Kagan hearings, thus far, are much like what we’ve come to expect in that she’s dutifully avoided revealing much about her personal legal views, despite her 1995 essay urging greater candor by nominees and more searching interrogation by Senators. I also note that Kagan, much like Sotomayor, has refused to defend a “progressive” constitutional vision, whether that articulated by the President or her onetime-mentor Justice Thurgood Marshall.
One of the other contributors to the feature, Walter Dellinger, has a contrary view. I suspect part of our difference comes from the fact that Kagan has not offered the stilted, almost scripted, responses to questions about judicial philosophy that made her sound like a John Roberts wannabe (and demoralized some liberal legal thinkers). Kagan has spoken more broadly about the judicial role, but without saying much that could be used to pin her down on her views of constitutional interpretation, let alone specific issues or cases. She’s also proclaimed that “we are all originalists” and that empathy should not play much of a role in judicial decision-making because “it’s law all the way down.”
The most interesting parts of the hearings to me thus far — and it’s still early — have been the exchanges discussing Citizens United and other cases she’s handled as Solicitor General. Here Kagan sought to discuss her decisions in these cases without revealing too much about how she might view similar cases that might come before the Court. I’ve found these exchanges more interesting than those on, say, her handling of the military at Harvard or her various White House memos.
Filed under Political Figures, Supreme Court
Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos:
A bit over two weeks ago, a group of statistic wizards (Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman) approached me with a disturbing premise — they had been poring over the crosstabs of the weekly Research 2000 polling we had been running, and were concerned that the numbers weren’t legit.
I immediately began cooperating with their investigation, which concluded late last week. Daily Kos furnished the researchers with all available and relevant information in our possession, and we made every attempt to obtain R2K’s cooperation — which, as I detail in my reaction post here — was not forthcoming. The investigators’ report is below, but its conclusion speaks volumes:
We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls.
The full report follows — kos
Since the moment Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman approached me, I took their concerns seriously and cooperated fully with their investigation. I also offered to run the results on Daily Kos provided that they 1) fully documented each claim in detail, 2) got that documentation peer reviewed by disinterested third parties, and 3) gave Research 2000 an opportunity to respond. By the end of last week, they had accomplished the first two items on that list. I held publication of the report until today, because I didn’t want to partake in a cliche Friday Bad News Dump. This is serious business, and I wasn’t going to bury it over a weekend.
We contracted with Research 2000 to conduct polling and to provide us with the results of their surveys. Based on the report of the statisticians, it’s clear that we did not get what we paid for. We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don’t know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can’t trust it. Meanwhile, Research 2000 has refused to offer any explanation. Early in this process, I asked for and they offered to provide us with their raw data for independent analysis — which could potentially exculpate them. That was two weeks ago, and despite repeated promises to provide us that data, Research 2000 ultimately refused to do so. At one point, they claimed they couldn’t deliver them because their computers were down and they had to work out of a Kinkos office. Research 2000 was delivered a copy of the report early Monday morning, and though they quickly responded and promised a full response, once again the authors of the report heard nothing more.
While the investigation didn’t look at all of Research 2000 polling conducted for us, fact is I no longer have any confidence in any of it, and neither should anyone else. I ask that all poll tracking sites remove any Research 2000 polls commissioned by us from their databases. I hereby renounce any post we’ve written based exclusively on Research 2000 polling.
I want to feel stupid for being defrauded, but fact is Research 2000 had a good reputation in political circles. Among its clients the last two years have been KCCI-TV in Iowa, WCAX-TV in Vermont, WISC-TV in Wisconsin, WKYT-TV in Kentucky, Lee Enterprises, the Concord Monitor, The Florida Times-Union, WSBT-TV/WISH-TV/WANE-TV in Indiana, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Bergen Record, and the Reno Gazette-Journal. In fact, just last week, in an email debate about robo-pollsters, I had a senior editor at a top DC-based political publication tell me that he’d “obviously” trust Research 2000 more than any automated pollsters, such as SurveyUSA. I didn’t trust Research 2000 more than I trusted SUSA (given their solid track record), but I did trust them. I got burned, and got burned bad.
I can’t express enough my gratitude to Mark, Michael, and Jonathan for helping bring this to light. Sure, our friends on the Right will get to take some cheap shots, and they should take advantage of the opportunity. But ultimately, this episode validates the reason why we released the internal numbers from Research 2000 — and why every media outlet should do the same from their pollster; without full transparency of results, this fraud would not have been uncovered. As difficult as it has been to learn that we were victims of that fraud, our commitment to accuracy and the truth is far more important than shielding ourselves from cheap shots from the Right.
Soon, we’ll have a new pollster (or pollsters) to work with, helping us to fulfill our vision of surveying races and issues that are often overlooked by the traditional media and polling outfits. As for Research 2000, the lawyers will soon take over, as Daily Kos will be filing suit within the next day or two.
Justin Elliott at Talking Points Memo:
R2K president Del Ali tells TPMmuckraker in an email, “I have much to say, however, I am following my attorney Richard Beckler’ ESQ’s counsel and referring all questions to him. I will tell you unequivocally that we conducted EVERY poll properly for the Daily Kos.”
Beckler is the co-chair of the Securities Litigation, Government Enforcement and White Collar Defense practice at Howrey LLP in Washington. Kos, for his part, tell TPMmuckraker that Daily Kos is represented by Adam Bonin of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia. Bonin’s bio says he “represents clients in campaign finance, election law and lobbying compliance matters and has been a leader in efforts on behalf of the rights of online speakers.”
Kos has promised to sue R2K in the next day or two.
R2K is an extremely well-established pollster that has been employed and quoted by countless national and state-level newspapers as its website describes:
Some of our most active media clientele include the Bergen Record, The Raleigh News & Observer, The Concord Monitor, The Manchester Journal Inquirer, The New London Day, The Reno-Gazette, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Spokesman-Review, KCCI-Television in Des Moines, Iowa, WRAL-Television in Raleigh, North Carolina, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and KMOV-Television in St. Louis, Missouri.Our Polls can be seen on CNN’S “Inside Politics” and are also mentioned frequently in the National Journal’s “Political Hotline”, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Wall Street Journal
Kos said in a post today that R2K has not offered a substantive response to the statistical analysis. R2K President Ali is described in his bio as having “analyzed over 2000 political races for media as well as for advocacy organizations and businesses.
Late Update: Here’s more from lawyers for Kos and Ali.
Although I expect to proceed fairly carefully with respect to Research 2000, which Daily Kos will be suing for alleged fraud, I have suggested here and to at least one reporter that I had my own suspicions about Research 2000 which paralleled some of the findings in the study by Mark Grebner, Michael Weissman, and Jonathan Weissman. I want to be a bit more explicit about what I mean by that.
This is a copy of two e-mails that I sent to Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com in the wee hours of the morning on February 4th. Like the examples in the Grebner study, they point toward cases in which Research 2000’s data appeared to be other-than-random (although, as I declaim in the e-mails, not necessarily triggered by fraud).from Nate Silver [xxx@xxx] to Mark Blumenthal [xxx@xxx] Mark Blumenthal [xxx@xxx] date Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 4:17 AM subject Research 2000 weirdness mailed-by gmail.com Mark, Not to sound too conspiratorial, but to be honest I'm getting a little bit suspicious about Research 2000, or at least the polling they've conducted for Markos over the past two years. Do you know those guys at all? I'll keep this pretty brief. In part it's because of the occasionally really weird result they turn out -- for instance, they had only 27 percent of Republicans or something in favor of gays in the military whereas Gallup and ABC/Post have had those numbers in the 60s. There are two or three other examples like this I could point to. For another, their contact information and web presence is pretty sketchy relative to that of other pollsters and there's not a lot of detail about the scope of their operations. But mainly, it's that that their data feels way too clean for me. Take a look at the attached chart, for example: these are the age breakdowns in the Democratic vote share for the last 20 contests surveyed by R2K and PPP, respectively. The age breakdowns in Research 2000's numbers are almost always close to "perfect" -- in 20 out of 20 cases, for instance, the Democrat gets a lower vote share from among 30-44 year olds than among 18-29 year olds. PPP's data, on the other hand, is *much* messier -- which is what I think we should expect when comparing small subsamples, particularly subsamples of lots of different races that are subject to different demographic patterns. Likewise, take a look at their Presidential tracking numbers from 2008 (http://www.dailykos.com/dailypoll/2008/11/4). They published their daily results in addition to their three-day rolling average ... and the daily results were remarkably consistent from day to day. At no point, for instance, in the two months that they published daily results did Obama's vote share fluctuate by more than a net of 2 points from day to day (to reiterate, this is for the daily results (n=~360) and not the rolling average). That just seems extremely unlikely -- there should be more noise than that.
To his eternal credit, that evidence is being published by Kos himself. I wish more commentators were this forthright when they’ve been taken in by bad data.
I also wish he hadn’t been taken in by bad data, including this infamous poll which proves that Republicans are, like, the awfulest, stupidest people in the entire known universe. Given the patterns that the investigators who published on Kos have found, it seems like that poll is probably bunk–concocted or massaged to fit the thesis of the person who commissioned it. (Just to be clear, I don’t think Kos knew that this was happening. A customer who is told what he wants to hear is a customer who is happy to buy more polls.)
However, the fact that R2K has apparently been discredited will not prevent this poll from popping up, over and over, in the work of pundits and bloggers. The speed and openness with which Kos has exposed this problem is admirable. But we need to be even faster at sniffing out bad apples before they pollute the data barrel.
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner
Jim Geraghty at NRO:
Even worse for Markos Moulitsas, he apparently was working on a book, entitled “American Taliban” that relied heavily on a Research2000 poll of American conservatives.
UPDATE: Markos declares via Twitter, “No premises in American Taliban depend exclusively on R2K polling.”
On his site, he elaborates, “Of references to R2K, except in two instances where I couldn’t do so without affecting page count (too late for me to do that since the index was done), but those two examples also references other supporting polling, so my premise didn’t depend on the R2K results.”
Jim Geraghty is too polite to admit that he’s laughing his ass off at the thought that Markos Moulitsas is going to go sue R2000 for supposedly faking up the polls done for his website.
Did I mention that we’ve been calling these polls crap for a long time? And that no one with the sense that God gave a drunken wombat took these polls seriously?
Guess who was writing a book that relied on R2000 telling Markos everything that he wanted to hear about how awful we RepubliKKKans are?
Give Markos Moulitsas some credit for full disclosure, at least. It would have been very easy for dKos to quietly drop Research 2000 as their pollster and put their resources into a more worthy vendor without ever explaining why. That would have certainly cost them less than hiring attorneys to sue the pollster. Given the fact that the firm claims to be operating “out of a Kinko’s office,” it seems less than certain that Markos will ever see much of his money returned to him, assuming he can prove fraud, which is not an easy task.
I’m also not inclined to crow over the failure of dKos polling. That ship had sailed long ago anyway, and Markos knew it, which is why he launched an independent study of the data. Political campaigns commission their own polls and so do traditional media outlets. If Markos had the resources to do the same, why not? It allowed him to play with the bigger outlets, although in the end the task proved beyond his ability to manage it. Still, one never knows until one tries.
He also makes another good point:
Sure, our friends on the Right will get to take some cheap shots, and they should take advantage of the opportunity. But ultimately, this episode validates the reason why we released the internal numbers from Research 2000 — and why every media outlet should do the same from their pollster; without full transparency of results, this fraud would not have been uncovered. As difficult as it has been to learn that we were victims of that fraud, our commitment to accuracy and the truth is far more important than shielding ourselves from cheap shots from the Right.
Again, I’m disinclined to take cheap shots, mainly because Research 200o did have an existing clientele that lent respectability to their product. It’s also important to note that this is Markos’ take, and that the firm itself will probably have a very different position on the end of their relationship. But Markos is right when he warns that pollsters should provide full transparency for their surveys so that people can assess performance properly, such as sample size, question formulation, demographics, and so on. Without that information, polls can easily manipulate both respondents and readers alike.
The only criticism that comes to mind is the lawsuit itself. Why bother? Markos would be better advised to cut his losses.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent
Dan Amira at New York Magazine
UPDATE #2: Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right here and here
UPDATE #3: David Freddoso at Washington Examiner
Filed under New Media
Abstract from Rose McDermott, Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler:
Divorce is the dissolution of a social tie, but it is also possible that attitudes about divorce flow across social ties. To explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa, we utilize a longitudinal data set from the long-running Framingham Heart Study. We find that divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and coworkers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network. We also find that popular people are less likely to get divorced, divorcees have denser social networks, and they are much more likely to remarry other divorcees. Interestingly, we do not find that the presence of children influences the likelihood of divorce, but we do find that each child reduces the susceptibility to being influenced by peers who get divorced. Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected.
Vaughan at Mindhacks:
A completely fascinating study published on the Social Science Research Network looked at how likely a marriage was to survive depending on who else in the social network was getting divorced.
The study used data from the famous Framington Heart Study and found that while we tend to think of marriage as a ‘couple thing’ is turns out that even our most intimate bonds are deeply embedded into the social webs we weave.
There’s a profound conservative insight here, I think, about the social consequences of what can seem like purely individual choices. No-fault divorce laws were ushered in, in part, on the understandable theory that they would make it easier to end the small minority of marriages that were miserable shams or abusive hells, without affecting happier, more stable couples. And that theory endures today: In her recent Times op-ed on New York’s decision to join the rest of America in allowing no-fault divorce, for instance, Stephanie Coontz attributes the 1970s surge in marital dissolutions primarily to “pent-up demand for divorces” finally being met by a more accommodating legal system.
Certainly this is part of the truth. (And of course to some extent the legal changes in 1970s America were chasing the cultural changes, rather than the other way around.) But it’s also true that no family is an island, and by facilitating the divorces of unhappy couples we almost certainly changed the way that happier couples — or couples who had considered themselves happy, at least — thought about their marriages, and the possibility of ending them. (It’s telling, in this regard, that the liberalization of divorce laws coincided with an appreciable decline in the percentage of men and women describing their unions as “very happy.”) There’s no escaping peer effects: If your friends or neighbors or relatives get divorced, you’re more likely to get divorced — even if it’s only on the margins — no matter what kind of shape your marriage is in. And inevitably, the ripples keep on spreading, to the next generation and beyond …
No escaping? I have my own anecdotal evidence that ’80s divorces happened “because everyone was doing it.” But I just can’t be persuaded on the strength of one (intriguing) study that a significant percentage of husbands and wifes won’t react to the divorces of others with a greater resolve to stay married. Your read would make a person worry that everyone will succumb, as if to a plague of zombies. Possibly divorce is more like Ebola — very intimate contact with divorce might spike the likelihood of your own divorce, but less intimate contact might more likely scare that likelihood away.
Hey, everybody else is doing it, why can’t we?
Ross Douthat picks up on a study showing that an individual couple is likelier to get divorced if others in their peer group are getting divorced and comes away with a critique of no-fault divorce laws based off of a very strange conclusion. “If your friends or neighbors or relatives get divorced,” he writes, “you’re more likely to get divorced — even if it’s only on the margins — no matter what kind of shape your marriage is in.”
But that can’t be right: If you’re happy with your partner, if you wake up glad to see their face and go to bed glad to feel their warmth, the fact that someone in your social circle is getting divorced won’t lead you to file papers. I think Ross’s point might be that the availability of divorce changes your perceptions of your marriage because it gives you license to consider other options, but I think we really need to be careful about defining people as “happy” if the possibility of leaving their situation causes them to go through the emotionally and financially grueling process of fleeing. In that scenario, the prevalence of divorce doesn’t change the shape your marriage is in. It changes your willingness to face up to the shape your marriage is in.
Ezra Klein, responding to Douthat, suggests that the causal channel isn’t making people who are happy in their marriages divorce, but leading people to re-evaluate whether they are really happily married, by making it clear that there is an alternative to staying married. “The prevalence of divorce doesn’t change the shape your marriage is in. It changes your willingness to face up to the shape your marriage is in.” (In other words, Klein is suggesting that many people call their marriages “happy” only through the mechanism of adaptive preferences, a.k.a. sour grapes.) Klein has, deservedly, a reputation for being more clueful than his peers, and his response shows a modicum of critical thought, but he is still relying on Ross Douthat to do causal inference, which is a sobering thought.
Both of these gentlemen are assuming that this association between network neighbors’ divorces must be due to some kind of contagion — Douthat is going for some sort of imitation of divorce as such, Klein is looking to more of a social learning process about alternatives and their costs. Both of them ignore the possibility that there is no contagion here at all. Remember homophily: People tend to be friends with those who are like them. I can predict your divorce from your friends’ divorces, because seeing them divorce tells me what kind of people they are, which tells me about what kind of person you are. From the sort of observational data used in this study, it is definitely impossible to say how much of the association is due to homophily and how much to contagion. (The edge-reversal test they employ does not work.) It seems to be impossible to even say whether there is any contagion at all.*
To be clear, I am not castigating columnists for not reading my pre-prints; on balance I’m probably happier that they don’t. But the logical issue of running together influence from friends and inference from the kind of friends you have is clear and well known. (Our contribution was to show that you can’t escape the logic through technical trickery.) One would hope it would have occurred to people to ponder it before calling for over-turning family law, or saying, in effect, “You should stay together, for the sake of your neighbors’ kids”. I also have no problem with McDermott et al. investigating this. It’s a shame that their data is unable to answer the causal questions, but without their hard work in analyzing that data we wouldn’t know there was a phenomenon to be explained.
I hope it’s obvious that I don’t object to people pontificating about whatever they like; certainly I do enough of it. If people can get paying jobs doing it, more power to them. I can even make out a case why ideologically committed opinionators have a role to play in the social life of the mind, like so. It’s a big complicated world full of lots of things which might, conceivably, matter, and it’s hard to keep track of them all, and figure out how one’s principles apply** — it takes time and effort, and those are always in short supply. Communicating ideas takes more time and effort and skill. People who can supply the time, effort and skill to the rest of us, starting from more or less similar principles, thereby do us a service. But only if they are actually trustworthy — actually reasoning and writing in good faith — and know what they are talking about.
Filed under Families
That Memo Smokes Three Packs A Day
Shannen Coffin at National Review Online:
John Hinderaker at Powerline:
Yuval Levin at The Corner:
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator:
Byron York at The Washington Examiner:
UPDATE #2: Ross Douthat
Filed under Abortion, Political Figures, Science, Supreme Court
Tagged as Abortion, American Spectator, Ann Althouse, Byron York, Commentary, Jennifer Rubin, John Hinderaker, Joseph Lawler, National Review, Political Figures, Powerline, Ross Douthat, Science, Shannen Coffin, Slate, Supreme Court, Washington Examiner, William Saletan, Yuval Levin