Tag Archives: Scott Johnson

F Is For Fake, Is For Fraud

Charlie Langton at Fox:

Two former leaders of the Oakland County Democratic Party are facing a total of nine felonies for allegedly forging election paperwork to get fake Tea Party candidates on November’s ballot.

“It is not a partisan statement, and we need to make that very clear,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.

Former Oakland County Democratic Chair Mike McGuinness and former Democratic Operations Director Jason Bauer face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

“Some of the people didn’t even know they were on the ballot till they began receiving delinquency notices of filings that were required as a candidate,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

The sheriff says 23 statewide races had questionable Tea Party candidates on the ballot and the investigation may go beyond Oakland County.

Instapundit

Ed Morrissey:

The charges involve forgery, fraud, and perjury. The prosecution alleges that the two signed candidacy materials under false pretenses, forms which require people to acknowledge that they are under oath to provide truthful and accurate information. If they signed the forms themselves under the names of people who didn’t know what the two Democrats were doing, those charges should be easy to prove in court. The two will face years in prison.

The question will be whether this was part of a larger operation to dilute the ballot to help Democrats, a scheme that failed anyway. If McGuiness and Bauer end up facing the long end of a 14-year sentence, they may be highly motivated to tell prosecutors about any wider plans in Michigan to defraud voters. Fox notes that the grand jury continues to probe this even after the indictments against the two Oakland County Democratic Party leaders, which might mean more indictments will be forthcoming. We will definitely keep an eye out for further developments.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

To the best of my knowledge, we’ve never had a blogger indicted for election fraud before. The trailblazer in this case is Oakland County, Michigan Democratic Chair Mike McGuinness (along with Operations Director Jason Bauer); they’re charged with forging election documents to get fake “Tea Party” candidates on Michigan ballots. Up to twenty-three statewide races may have been affected by the fraud: the authorities are definitely looking into just how far the rot goes in the Michigan Democratic party.  The two have been charged with nine felonies: if convicted, McGuinness and Bauer face up to 14 years in jail.

I’m not being entirely nasty by calling this a milestone, by the way: this is a pretty significant indication that blogging has become a way for people to enter the political world and take positions of some power and influence there.  After all, McGuinness, as Gateway Pundit helpfully reminds us, was until 2008 a blogger for the Michigan Liberal site; the fact that McGuinness was also (allegedly) just another corrupt progressive suckweasel who (allegedly) defecated all over the very principles of free and open elections that he (allegedly) supported shouldn’t deter other people from also getting involved in politics on the local and state level. Just don’t be a corrupt progressive suckweasel, that’s all.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Look for the state-run media to bury this story before morning.

For the record…McGuinness was a progressive blogger at Michigan Liberal blog.

UPDATE: The Michigan Liberal blog wrote in with this. Apparently, Democrat McGuinness was not being honest about his life as a blogger.

My name is Eric Baerren. I’m the editor of Michigan Liberal. I just caught your blog post about Michael McGuinness, where you asserted that Mr. McGuinness was somehow ever a representative of Michigan Liberal.

I’ve been the site’s editor since 2007, was involved in its operation for a year before that, and know well its history. For the record, Michael McGuinness has never been a blogger at Michigan Liberal. He had an account there, as do people at lots of websites, but the tone of your sentence makes it appear that he had a much larger role than he ever did (it would be like my asserting that someone who comments on your blog who is arrested and charged with child molestation is somehow a representative of Gateway Pundit). In fact, the story you linked to in Michigan Messenger that mentioned that Mr. McGuiness was a liberal blogger never in fact mentioned where he blogged.

My response:

Dear Eric Baerren,
Thanks for the information. It’s a shame that Mr. McGuinness did not blog at Michigan Liberal. I’m sure he would have fit right in.
Sincerely,
Jim Hoft

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

I wonder if this story will get the attention it deserves. The story more or less speaks for itself, though one element left unexplained in the story is the offices involved in the scheme. It involves local leaders of the Democratic Party in Michigan and their creative efforts to split the anti-Democratic vote in the 2010 election

Robert Stacy McCain:

Democrats in several states did similar things. “Independent” candidates had an interesting way of popping up in key Massachusetts congressional races, as I recall. But apparently these Michigan Democrats were so careless they actually broke the law.

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Filed under Crime, Politics

Buy Your Canned Goods Now!

Associated Press:

Wholesale prices jumped last month by the most in nearly two years due to higher energy costs and the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the Producer Price Index rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent in February — double the 0.8 percent rise in the previous month. Outside of food and energy costs, the core index ticked up 0.2 percent, less than January’s 0.5 percent rise.

Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 1974. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. That was the most in almost a year. Meat and dairy products also rose.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

I believe that food inflation is in the midst of its greatest run-up (by one measurement of a basket of basic foodstuffs) since 1974. The lead story on Drudge reports on the most recent data.

Under the rubric of QE2, the Federal Reserve Bank is engaged in the venture of increasing the money supply with the goal of moderately increasing inflation. I fear that this venture is misguided and destructive. I believe it will result in inflation exceeding the Fed’s goal, if it has not done so already, and that the Fed will apply the brakes well after the damage has been done, as is its style.

What sayeth the Fed?

Ed Morrissey:

Scott cleverly titles his post, “Let them eat iPads.”  I’m not sure I’d draw a line between QE2 and what has happened in food and oil prices, at least not as a primary factor.  The effect of QE2 will be to weaken the dollar, which will hike the cost of imports, to be sure, and that may account for a little of the large price jump.  If it was the main factor — if the dollar had been weakened to that extent — then prices would be up across the board, especially on imports.  At least according to today’s report from the BEA on the trade deficit, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

The real source of this problem is America’s continuing refusal to exploit its own energy sources.  We remain too dependent on imports for energy while deliberately sidelining at least hundreds of thousands of potential high-paying jobs by refusing to extract our own oil and natural gas.  When the unstable countries that produce oil go through political paroxysms, it spooks investors and sends commodity prices soaring on the increased risk to distribution.  Those price increases mean higher transportation costs, which impacts all goods and services that require transport to get to consumers.  It’s a multiplier factor that we have seen a number of times over the last four decades, and which our political class continues to pretend doesn’t exist.

Ron Scherer at Christian Science Monitor:

In the year ahead, expect to see the largest food price increases in the protein group: chicken, beef, and pork, as well as dairy items. One key reason: The price of corn, used as feed by ranchers and farmers, has doubled in the past year. But vegetarians won’t get off easy: Produce and orange juice are rising sharply, as well.

Higher food prices have wide economic ramifications and are being watched closely by the Federal Reserve. From a business standpoint, food producers – from agricultural giants to the corner pizza parlor – must raise prices or watch their profit margins evaporate. Many middle-class households are financially stretched to the limit, so any extra expense for such basics as milk or bread makes their life even tougher. Organizations that help the poor with food, moreover, find they can’t help as many people because their dollar doesn’t go as far.

“The more you have to spend on a loaf of bread and a pound of ground beef, the less you have to spend on everything else,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pa. “It’s like a tax increase, although it’s not quite as bad as rising oil prices, since at least the revenues go to US farmers, truckers, and ag-equipment manufacturers.”

The US Department of Agriculture expects the average price of food in 2011 to be 4 percent higher than last year. Some private forecasters say that, by December, prices could be as much as 6 percent higher than in December 2010.

“If food inflation comes in at 6 percent, it would be the most dramatic increase since 1982,” says William Lapp, a consumer foods economist with his own firm, Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. “We had a 10-year period, from 1972 to 1981, when annual food prices rose sharply – including a two-year period when increases averaged 8.7 percent.”

Mark Huffman at Consumer Affairs:

When you factor in crude foodstuff and feedstuff to food costs to producers, food prices rose at the fastest rate since 1974, when the U.S. economy was in the grips of what was known as “stagflation.” Prices were rising rapidly despite little or no growth in the economy.

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Filed under Economics, Food

Cheddar Revolution: Moldy Yet?

Kris Maher and Amy Merrick at WSJ:

Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators.

The Republicans rejected the idea that the legislation would hurt the GOP. “If you think this is a bad bill for Republicans, why didn’t you stand up in the chamber and debate us about it three weeks ago?” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “People think it’s absolutely ridiculous that these 14 senators have not been in Wisconsin for three weeks.”

The Wisconsin standoff, which drew thousands of demonstrators to occupy the capitol in Madison for days at a time, has come to highlight efforts in other states to address budget problems in part by limiting the powers and benefits accorded public-sector unions.

Sen. Mark Miller said he and his fellow Democrats intend to let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair” bill, which includes the proposed limits on public unions’ collective-bargaining rights. The bill, which had been blocked because the missing Democrats were needed for the Senate to have enough members present to vote on it, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.

Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo:

A return to Wisconsin at this juncture would appear to give the green light for Walker’s legislation to pass — that is, a win for Walker’s efforts to pass legislation when numerous polls show the state disapproving of Walker, and saying he should compromise. However, at this juncture it is unclear just what is going on.

In response, Miller spokesman Mike Browne released this statement, saying only that they were continuing to negotiate towards an outcome that does not strip the bargaining rights of state workers:

“It is true that negotiations were dealt a setback since last Thursday when Governor Walker responded to a sincere Democratic compromise offer with a press conference. However, Senate Democrats have continued to reach out to the Governor and Republicans through the weekend.

Democrats remain hopeful that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans will, in the near future, listen to the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who believe they should come to the negotiating table in good faith to reach an agreement that resolves our fiscal issues without taking away worker rights and without hurting programs that help provide health insurance for working families and prescription drugs for seniors.”

In addition, state Sen. Chris Larson released this statement:

Sen. Miller’s comments are taken out of context in the Wall Street Journal article just released. Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans. Unfortunately, the WSJ fished for the quote they wanted, skipping this key step in logic: we won’t come back until worker’s rights are preserved.

State Sen. Jon Erpenbach also told WisPolitics that Democrats are not planning to return. State Sen. Bob Jauch, who has been one of the lead negotiators, also said of Miller’s comments: “I think he’s speaking the truth that at some point – and I don’t know when soon is – at some point we have to say we’ve done all we can.”

Christian Schneider at The Corner:

The Wisconsin politerati is all atwitter today at a WSJ report indicating that senate Democrats might soon end their Illinois exile. In the article, Democratic senate leader Mark Miller says recent polls show Walker’s budget-repair bill to be politically “disastrous” for the governor, which he says will give Democrats more leverage to negotiate portions of the larger budget bill in the weeks to come.

If this is what Miller thinks, it seems like a suspect strategy — a variation on the rarely seen Let’s capitulate to our opponent because the public currently doesn’t like what he’s doing plan. How many congressional Republicans rooted for Obamacare because they thought it would show the public once and for all how unpopular government health care could be? What if Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in an interview before the Super Bowl, “Maybe it won’t be so bad if the Steelers win — imagine how sick of Ben Roethlisberger the public will be”? It sounds like Mark Miller, in today’s parlance, has convinced himself that he’s “winning.”

Perhaps Miller’s quote was a trial balloon, meant to gauge the opposition he’ll get from his base, which has spent three weeks screaming itself hoarse on the steps of the state capitol. It would be reasonable to expect some displeasure: If Democrats do return and vote on the bill without any changes — as they had indicated they would never do — cops, firefighters, and teachers are likely to ask, “Why did I just spend three weeks in the capitol pressed up against a hippie?” Indeed, within hours of the story being published, Miller was rebuffed by some members of his own caucus.

On the other hand, it is possible that Scott Walker really has waited them out. (On his last physical, does it say “Blood Type: Tiger”?) In the past three weeks, Democrats and public-sector unions (but I repeat myself) have thrown everything they have at Walker, and he hasn’t budged. (And I do mean everything: They even tried to embarrass him by exposing the fact that in high school he had a mullet and was nicknamed “the Desperado” — unaware that in Wisconsin, this is likely to increase his approval rating.)

It seems a little short-sighted for senate Democrats to believe Walker has damaged himself irreparably. Several polls show Walker’s approval rating to be in the low 40’s, but Walker almost certainly expected to take some kind of public-relations hit when he entered this standoff.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

You see, we tend to forget that politicians are not identical, like potatoes: these fourteen men and women are just that – men and women – and it’s easy to believe that they’re getting tired, sore, and fuming about how they’ve somehow become the surrogate whipping boys for a national debate on public sector unions. Some of them might even be thinking that they didn’t actually sign up for this, that this wasn’t in the job description, and that the people urging them to exile in Illinois might not really give a tinker’s dam about them or their problems. And that this situation that they’re in is getting old. Oh, sure, no doubt a few of the AWOL senators are having a ball… but some of them are not, and the loss of message discipline in the last few days shows that.

And it only takes one AWOL senators to end this nonsense.

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Jason Stein at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The leader of Senate Democrats hiding out in Illinois is seeking a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Scott Walker and the Senate GOP leader.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said in a letter sent out Monday that he wants to meet with Republicans “near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to formally resume serious discussions” on Walker’s budget repair bill. Two other Democratic senators met with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) last week in Kenosha.

Democrats have been holed up south of the state line since last month to block action on Walker’s budget repair bill, which would end most collective bargaining for public employee unions in the state.

“I assure you that Democratic state senators, despite our differences and the vigorous debate we have had, remain ready and willing to find a reasonable compromise,” Miller said in the letter.

Neither Miller nor Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie could be reached immediately for further comment. Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse had no immediate comment.

The Wall Street Journal spurred hopes of compromise Sunday with a story citing Miller and saying the Democrats would be back “soon.” But that same night Democrats knocked that down, saying that they hoped to return soon but that there was still no development to make that happen.

Miller spokesman Mike Browne said Monday morning  that he knew of no plans for Democrats to return later in the day. The senators were scheduled to meet later in the morning or early afternoon, he said.

One of the Democratic senators, Tim Cullen of Janesville, said in a phone interview Sunday that there were no developments toward a possible compromise with Republicans and no talks scheduled for this week.

Two other Democratic senators — Jon Erpenbach of Middleton and Chris Larson of Milwaukee — said Sunday their group had no plans to come back to the Capitol until Republicans addressed more of their concerns with the budget-repair bill.

“I can tell you for a fact that nothing has changed down here,” Erpenbach said.

On Monday morning, a small, dedicated group began to chant in protest of Walker’s budget-repair bill in the Capitol rotunda.

Outside the Capitol, there is little or no sign of the mass protests that have engulfed the Capitol square in recent weeks.

On the streets surrounding the Capitol, the number of satellite trucks has dwindled to two. And the only sign of an organized-labor presence is the sight of two Teamsters semi-trailers.

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Filed under Economics, Legislation Pending

Egypt, In Our Eyes

ABC News:

We’ve compiled a list of all the journalist who have been in some way threatened, attacked or detained while reporting in Egypt.  When you put it all into one list, it is a rather large number in such a short period of time.  (UPDATED as of 2/4 – send us more stories if you get them)

APTN had their satellite dish agressively dismantled, leaving them and many other journalists who rely on their feed point no way to feed material.

 

ABC News international correspondent Christiane Amanpour said that on Wednesday her car was surrounded by men banging on the sides and windows, and a rock was thrown through the windshield, shattering glass on the occupants. They escaped without injury/ (wires)

Another CNN reporter, Hala Gorani, said she was shoved against a fence when demonstrators rode in on horses and camels, and feared she was going to get trampled/ (wires) 

A group of angry Egyptian men carjacked an ABC News crew and threatened to behead them on Thursday in the latest and most menacing attack on foreign reporters trying to cover the anti-government uprising. Producer Brian Hartman, cameraman Akram Abi-hanna and two other ABC News employees / (link)

ABC/Bloomberg’s Lara Setrakian also attacked by protesters

CNN’s Anderson Cooper said he, a producer and camera operator were set upon by people who began punching them and trying to break their camera. Cooper and team were targeted again on Thursday. “Situation on ground in Egypt very tense,” Cooper tweeted Thursday. “Vehicle I was in attacked. My window smashed. All OK.” /  (wires)

A photojournalist for CNN-IBN, Rajesh Bhardwaj, was detained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the site of bloody clashes between supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. He was taken away by the Egyptian Army and later released, but only after his identification card and tapes were destroyed / (link)

 

 

Fox Business Network’s Ashley Webster reported that security officials burst into a room where he and a camera operator were observing the demonstration from a balcony. They forced the camera inside the room. He called the situation “very unnerving” and said via Twitter that he was trying to lay low    / (wires)

Fox News Channel’s foreign correspondent Greg Palkot and producer Olaf Wiig were hospitalized in Cairo after being attacked by protestors.

CBS News’ Katie Couric harassed by protesters   (link)

CBS newsman Mark Strassman said he and a camera operator were attacked as they attempted to get close to the rock-throwing and take pictures. The camera operator, who he would not name, was punched repeatedly and hit in the face with Mace.  / (wires)

CBS News’ Lara Logan, was detained along with her crew by Egyptian police outside Cairo’s Israeli embassy. / (link)

Two New York Times journalists have been arrested. (A Times spokeswoman said that the two journalists were “detained by military police overnight in Cairo and are now free.” )     (link)

Washington Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl wrote Thursday that witnesses say Leila Fadel, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief, and photographer Linda Davidson “were among two dozen journalists arrested this morning by the Egyptian Military Police.  They were later released.”   /   (link)

Max Fisher at The Atlantic:

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose overthrow the U.S. began actively seeking exactly one week after deploying Vice President Joe Biden to publicly defend him, is not the first national leader to lose U.S. patronage. Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos alienated Jimmy Carter and then Ronald Reagan with years of brutal rule. Indonesia’s Suharto, Zaire’s Mobutu Seko, and others found that the Americans stopped returning their calls once there was no more Soviet Union against which they could act as bulwarks. Perhaps most famously, South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem ended up in the back of a military personnel carrier where he and his brother were shot, stabbed, and photographed as part of a sudden and U.S.-approved military coup. In all of these cases, the client leaders fell without their patron. But Mubarak, of whose rule U.S. support has been a pillar for 29 years, could yet cling to power. If he does, it’s impossible to know how he will behave, but the rapidly changing internal and external pressures are likely to transform his foreign and domestic policies, and probably not for the better.

The Obama administration, by first calling for Mubarak’s “immediate transition” and then working with the Egyptian military to make that happen, has gone from the Egyptian president’s most important foreign ally to his greatest threat. If Mubarak holds on, he will reemerge into a diplomatic climate nearly the polar opposite of what it was only a week ago. Many in the U.S. and Israel are rightly concerned about where the Muslim Brotherhood, were it to come to power in a post-Mubarak democracy, would steer Egyptian foreign policy. But Mubarak, for whom the U.S. now poses a direct and possibly mortal threat, is virtually guaranteed to move away from the pro-U.S., pro-Israel policies that have been so central to his leadership.

If anything, Mubarak will be tempted to seek out other pariah states and anti-U.S. actors — fortunately for him, the Middle East has a few — to help him bolster against the West’s efforts for his removal. Mubarak could look to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is working to suppress the country’s own protest movement, which he is likely concerned the U.S. might support if it comes close to his ouster. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has shown some support for the Egyptian protesters, calling them an “Islamic uprising” in the unlikely hope that’s what they will become. But if Mubarak holds on, some sort of Egypt-Iran partnership could serve the security and economic of both states. If Israel starts to look like a threat, Mubarak could push back by opening its border with Gaza, making it easier for groups such as Hamas to import whatever supplies it might be seeking.

Barry Rubin:

Consider the following chart:

Who in the Middle East could the United States depend on five years ago to support its basic policy goals?
Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey

Who in the Middle East can the United States basically depend on today?
Israel, Iraq (?), Jordan (until next week?), Saudi Arabia

Who in the Middle East is likely to oppose basic U.S. policy goals today?
Egypt (soon), Gaza Strip (Hamas), Iran, Lebanon (Hizballah), Libya, Sudan, Syria. Turkey

Might there be a trend here?

The United States is running out of friends in the Middle East who it can overthrow. I’d love to use the 1930s Germany analogy but it is so excessively cited as to have lost effectiveness. So let’s go to the Soviet analogy. “We were overly spooked by the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Romania….” Well, you get the idea.

But wait! The United States is not refusing to allow “Islamists to participate in democratic society,” the local regimes are doing so. Perhaps they know something about their own societies.

But wait again! Islamists do participate in elections in Jordan. Of course, the regime there makes sure they lose. So perhaps the United States should step in anhelp the Islamic Action Front wins the next election, all the better to moderate them!  I’m sure (sarcasm) that it will keep the peace treaty with Israel. Then we can keep experimenting until there are no more victims left.

“Obviously, Islam needs to make its peace with modernity and democracy. But the only way this is going to happen is when people speaking for Islam take part in the system.”

Oh, obviously. Except that it is not necessarily obvious to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, and the Iraqi insurgents, nor to non-Islamist-member-of-the- pack Syria. Why should one believe that taking part in the system will make them moderate. Is there any evidence for this? Any at all? And, no, Turkey doesn’t prove that. Quite the contrary.

But what really riles me is when Westerners write a sentence like this one:

“It’s incumbent on Islamists who are elected democratically to behave democratically.”

Please contemplate those dozen words. What if they don’t? What are you going to do about it after they are in power? What if they take your concessions but not your advice? The United States conditioned the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in Egypt’s next government on that group’s abandoning violence and supporting “democratic goals.” There is no chance that it will meet those conditions and also no chance that the United States would try to enforce them.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

The Obama administration is promoting the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here, for example, is President Obama’s veiled reference to it in his remarks earlier this week on the “orderly transition” he is pursuing in Egypt: “[T]he process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.”

The Washington Post reports on the administration’s promotion of the Muslim Brotherhood in “U.S. reexamining its relationship with Muslim Brotherhood opposition group.” It is the Obama administration’s “smart diplomacy” in action, the kind that dismays friends (like Barry Rubin) and heartens enemies (pick your choice). Richard Cohen somewhat unrealistically advises that “Obama should just shut up,” but you get his point.

In his categorization of the types of regimes, Aristotle classifies tyranny as a degraded form of monarchy. The Middle East has thrown up refinements in despotism such as the hereditary thugocracy (Syria) and the mullahcracy (Iran). Indeed, Mubarak’s desire to engineer the succession of his son to the presidency was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. if there is a decent way out of here, it will not be assisted by the foolish optimism that Rubin mocks or by the willful blindness from which Obama suffers.

Juan Cole:

Recently appointed prime minister, Air Force Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, expressed regret for the violence on Thursday and seemed to blame it on partisans in the Interior Ministry of ousted domestic surveillance czar Habib El Adly.

Mubarak also said he was sad to see the violence, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour. Without a trace of irony he said he was ready to retire but was afraid that if he stepped down it would cause chaos.

How stupid do they think we are? Mubarak, Shafiq and VP Omar Suleiman almost certainly sat down in a room and authorized the Ministry of Interior to try out that brutal assault on peaceful protesters.

Proof 1: The Interior Ministry in a dictatorship doesn’t go off on rogue missions; these things are tightly controlled from the top.

Proof 2: The regular army stood aside and allowed the goons to attack the demonstrators, allowing them through checkpoints for their murderous mission. Soldiers do what they are ordered to do.

But, what the apologies do suggest is that the government is attempting to distance itself from the Ministry of Interior tactics.

Adm. Mike Mullen on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show referenced Shafiq’s ridiculous ‘apology,’ apparently delivered precisely so that the wool could be pulled over the eyes of the public. The usually canny and astute Stewart did not challenge the absurd ‘apology’ meme.

In an attempt to mollify dissidents, the Shafiq government did move against some former high-level officials, freezing their bank accounts forbidding them to flee abroad. Those former cabinet members (until last week) included Interior Minister Habib Adly, Muhammad Zuhair Girana, former tourism minister, Ahmad al-Maghribi, the former minister of housing, and Ahmad Izz, former high official in the ruling National Democratic Party (the name of which is made up of three lies).

Iason Athanasiades on Aljazeera is speculating that loyalists to these figures in the Interior Ministry and among the street gangs it runs were behind Thursday’s attacks.

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Usually, when mass uprising scrambles the politics of a U.S. ally, politicians blame the nation’s spy apparatus for missing the warning signs. Only when it comes to Egypt, the CIA isn’t having it, vowing that it’s had its watchful eye on potential destabilization for decades. They just might not have known what exactly it would take to loosen Hosni Mubarak’s hold on the country.

“The ingredients of upheaval were there for a long time,” says Paul Pillar, who was the intelligence community’s top Mideast analyst from 2000 to 2005, “but it was impossible to predict in advance what particular catalyzing events would set stuff off.”

Publicly available information, like rapidly expanding opposition Facebook pages, hinted that popular anger in Egypt was bubbling over. The CIA declined to tell Danger Room what specifically it told the Obama administration about the Egyptian protests before last week. But Stephanie O’Sullivan, a longtime CIA official nominated to be intel chief James Clapper’s deputy, told a Senate panel yesterday that the agency secret warned Obama last year that anger at Mubarak’s regime was growing.

Echoing Pillar, Sullivan told senators, “We didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be for that. And that [warning] happened at the end of the last year.” Back then, the agency concluded Mubarak was in an “untenable” situation.

Real talk: the spy service is supposed to provide big warnings when some huge geopolitical development is brewing. But it’s unfair to expect analysts to provide specific dates for when, say, Mubarak faces a breaking point. It also passes the buck away from the Obama administration, which is struggling to figure out exactly what its response to the upheaval is. If the CIA told Obama last year that Mubarak was going to have to fight to stay in power, the obvious follow-up question is what he did with that information.

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Filed under Middle East

The Smoked Salmon At Iwo Jima

Alexander Burns at Politico:

THE REVIEWS ARE IN – SNAP POLL FROM CBS: “An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of President Obama’s overall message in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News Poll of speech watchers. According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 92 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks, while only 8 percent disapproved. … Americans who watched the speech were generally more Democratic than the nation as a whole.” … FROM CNN: “A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 52 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32 percent saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15 percent with a negative response. … Those numbers indicate that the sample is about nine to ten points more Democratic than the population as a whole.” … AND FROM GQR, VIA POLITICO44: “The firm monitored the reactions of swing voters and unmarried women from Colorado as they watched the speech. According to the analysis, before the address, the test group’s approval of the president was 30 percent – by the end of the speech, the approval rating had gone up to 56 percent.” http://bit.ly/dMdVnT and http://bit.ly/fhBhgN and http://politi.co/ffVLil

Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:

The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.

I thought Obama explicated his idea about American unity better than he has in the past. The notion of unity has always sat in tension with the fierce ideological disagreement of American politics, and indeed the latter has served as a rebuke to the former. I thought Obama effectively communicated that the messiness of political debate is a part of what makes America great, to turn that into a source of pride. He simultaneouly placed himself both within and above the debate.

Ross Douthat:

If you were a visitor from Mars, watching tonight’s State of the Union address and Paul Ryan’s Republican response, you would have no reason to think that the looming insolvency of our entitlement system lies at the heart of the economic challenges facing the United States over the next two decades. From President Obama, we heard a reasonably eloquent case for center-left technocracy and industrial policy, punctuated by a few bipartisan flourishes, in which the entitlement issue felt like an afterthought: He took note of the problem, thanked his own fiscal commission for their work without endorsing any of their recommendations, made general, detail-free pledges to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent (but “without slashing benefits for future generations”), and then moved swiftly on to the case for tax reform. Tax reform is important, of course, and so are education and technological innovation and infrastructure and all the other issues that the president touched on in this speech. But it was still striking that in an address organized around the theme of American competitiveness, which ran to almost 7,000 words and lasted for an hour, the president spent almost as much time talking about solar power as he did about the roots of the nation’s fiscal crisis.

Ryan’s rejoinder was more urgent and more focused: America’s crippling debt was an organizing theme, and there were warnings of “painful austerity measures” and a looming “day of reckoning.” But his remarks, while rhetorically effective, were even more vague about the details of that reckoning than the president’s address. Ryan owes his prominence, in part, to his willingness to propose a very specific blueprint for addressing the entitlement system’s fiscal woes. But in his first big moment on the national stage, the words “Medicare” and “Social Security” did not pass the Wisconsin congressman’s lips.

Paul Krugman

Allah Pundit

David Frum at FrumForum:

What to like in Obama’s SOTU:

  1. The gracious congratulations to the Republicans and John Boehner.
  2. His reminders of the country’s positive accomplishments, including the country’s huge lead in labor force productivity.
  3. His explanation that the challenge to less-skilled US labor comes much more from technology than from foreign competition.
  4. Opening the door to firing bad teachers.
  5. Call for a stepped-up national infrastructure program. If only he’d explained how this would work.
  6. Call for lower corporate tax rates with fewer loopholes.
  7. Openness to amendments on healthcare reform.
  8. Endorsement of cuts to Medicare & Medicaid.
  9. Endorsement of malpractice reform.
  10. Bringing forth the designer of the Chilean miner rescue tunnel. Nice!

What’s not to like:

  1. The disingenuous suggestion that China’s growth is driven by superior Chinese education system. Don’t confuse Amy Chua’s kids with off-the-farm peasants in Chinese factories.
  2. The call for more creative thinking in American education. Creative thinking is good, obviously. But the kids who are in most trouble need more drill, not more questions about their feelings.
  3. The too clever-by-half slip from the need for government to invest in basic research (yes) to the value of government investment in development of particular energy technologies (a record of failure).
  4. The pledge to put electric vehicles on the roads. So long as 50% of our power comes from coal, electric vehicles are not “clean.”
  5. The pledge to reach 80% clean electricity by 2035. If this is done by neutral across -the-board means like carbon taxes, fine. If done by favoritism for particular energy forms – and especially by tax credits or subsidies – it’s national industrial planning and is bad.
  6. The misleading implication that bestowing more college degrees will address educational deficits. It’s the low quality of American secondary education that is the problem.
  7. The endorsement of DREAM – made worse by the total fuzz of the commitment to immigration enforcement.
  8. No mention of Colombia FTA in trade section of speech.
  9. Very backhanded comments on deregulation
  10. Repudiation of benefit cuts to future Social Security beneficiaries.
  11. Silly earmarks pledge 100% guaranteed to be broken.
  12. Graceless comment about restoring America’s standing: ill-judged from a president whose foreign policy becomes more continuous with his predecessor’s seemingly with every month.

Jennifer Rubin:

If you were expecting a moderate Obama or a bold Obama, you were disappointed, most likely, by Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. In a nutshell: Obama proposed a ton of new domestic spending, promised to freeze discretionary spending (attained by savaging defense), abstained from offering specifics on entitlement reform and largely ignored major foreign policy changes. Moreover, the delivery was so listless that this State of the Union address likely garnered less applause than any address in recent memory.

But the mystery is solved: There is no new Obama, just a less snarly one. But it was also a flat and boring speech, too long by a third. Can you recall a single line? After the Giffords memorial service, this effort seemed like Obama had phoned it in. Perhaps that is because the name of the game is to pass the buck to Congress to do the hard work of digging out of the fiscal mess we are in.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Obama’s domestic policy is big on “investments” — not yours, the government’s. That is, spending. It’s a throwback to the vocabulary of the Clinton era. “The kids” must not be far behind. And there they are. They need more of your dough for their education.

“We do big things,” Obama says. I think when he says “we,” he means big government. The speech is long on domestic policy cloaked in the characteristically disingenuous rhetoric designed to conceal the substance. Obama advocates some kind of a freeze in federal spending. I’m not sure how that squares with the call for more “investments.”

Obama acknowledges the tumult in Tunisia thusly: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” Where does the United States of America stand tonight with respect to the people of Iran? We’re still waiting to hear from Obama on that one, but I guess we can infer he supports their aspirations as well. The people of Iran are included in “all people.”

The speech does have several good lines. Here is one of them: “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” It’s a pity that Obama has to gild it with the usual gay rights boilerplate. This line also deserves a nod: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Unlike most of the rest of the speech, it has the advantage, as Henry Kissinger might say, of being true.

Obama’s advent gets the usual iteration tonight: “That [American] dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” And he includes Biden: “That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.” But Biden’s rise too is a tribute to the advent of Obama.” And he includes an uncharacteristically gracious salute to Speaker Boehner: “That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”

It’s a pity that Obama hasn’t found previous occasions to articulate American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has essentially denied it. Maybe he didn’t think it was true before the advent of the Age of Obama, or maybe he chooses not to share his innermost thoughts on the subject with his fellow citizens tonight.

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Much has been made of Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union.

For days the media has been playing this up as a major conflict within the Republican Party. In fact, a number of Republican leadership aides pulled out all the stops trying to get the networks to ignore Michelle Bachmann.

Kudos to CNN for its willingness to cover the speech in full.

I must admit I was deeply nervous about the speech, but I am delighted to say I was wrong. Michelle Bachmann gave the best speech of the night.

While the President sputniked and Paul Ryan went off on some high minded rhetoric, Michelle Bachmann kept to nuts and bolts. Her speech was based on actual economic data with actual, substantive policy suggestions for change.

Paul Ryan’s speech was okay. His blood shot eyes and Eddie Munster, Jr. haircut could have used some work. But he was good. Michelle Bachmann, however, shined in an easy to understand speech with a common man touch.

I’m glad I was wrong. And it just goes to show that the narrative of concern, built up in the media in large part by nervous Republicans, was silly. It yet again shows the GOP is unwilling to seriously treat the tea party movement as a legitimate player.

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

Rep. Michele Bachmann made history tonight–not just for being the first representative of the Tea Party to give a State of the Union response, but also for flatly refusing to look America in the eye.Bachmann, who came equipped with charts and Iwo Jima photos, began her speech looking slightly off camera. As Bachmann spoke, viewers–including the former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann–took to Twitter to ask a simple question: “what’s she looking at?”

As Olbermann tweeted, “Why isn’t Rep. Bachmann LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA?” He added later, “Seriously, somebody at the Tea Party needs to run on the stage, grab her, and POINT TO WHERE THE CAMERA IS.”

On CNN, Erick Erickson reported that Bachmann mistakenly focused on a camera recording the speech for the Tea Party Express, instead of the other camera capturing the speech live for the entire country. Jeepers.

Compared to President Obama’s traditional SOTU speech, and Rep. Ryan’s response, the Bachmann speech was unique. It had charts and multimedia, and it had the weird vibe of listening to a person who seems to be talking to somebody else.

Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

He still loves his wife. But after 25 years of marriage, he has lost his enthusiasm for sex with her. Still. It is Valentine’s Day. And she has been hinting. So he takes her to a nice dinner, uncharactertistically orders an after-dinner drink, and feels extra discouraged when it only makes him more tired. He is 55. And so tired. Upon returning home, he wants more than anything to just fall asleep, but damnit, he makes the effort. He surprises her with a gift, lights candles, and dutifully makes love to her in the fashion he thinks that she will most enjoy.

It is with similar enthusiasm that some responses to the State of the Union are penned. Everyone expects that it will be covered by political bloggers, newspaper columnists and magazine writers. Especially at movement magazines on the left and right, lots of people are going through the motions,  feigning passionate intensity that isn’t there. In marriage, it is perfectly understandable for one partner to occasionally perform despite not being in the mood. Sex is built into the expectations. Justifiably so. But I’m skeptical about the system of expectations in political letters. Fresh insights are nice. I’ve read good stuff about last night’s SOTU. We’ve linked some of it here. What I find pointless is the completely predictable boilerplate that gets published. The banal right-leaning editorial inveighing against the speech. The left-leaning editorial vaguely extolling its virtues. If every possible reader will agree with everything in a piece what exactly is the point of writing it?

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Today We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 2009

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic with a round-up. Reeve:

House Republicans will vote to repeal the health care law Wednesday–a vote widely expected to go nowhere, because the Senate won’t pass repeal, and if it did, President Obama would repeal it. But is the vote more than symbolic? It certainly won’t be the last we hear of the health care debate, The New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear report. Not by a long shot. Lawmakers will be fighting for the next two years over the government’s proper role in the health care system, and so will 2012’s presidential candidates.

The House began debating repeal Tuesday. Republicans argue that the Congressional Budget Office is underestimating the future cost of the law. Democrats say the CBO might be overestimating the price tag, because the law is meant to improve the delivery of care and thus slow the growth of its expense. Another major point of contention is whether the law will create or destroy jobs.

Andrew Stiles at The Corner:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) continues to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to take up the Republican repeal of health care reform in the Senate once it (presumably) passes the House, where a vote is currently scheduled for 6:30 this evening.

“We have [s]aid that we are going to be a results driven Congress,” Cantor told reporters this morning. “So I have a problem with the assumption here that somehow the Senate can be a place for legislation to go into a cul-de-sac or a dead-end.”

“The American people deserve a full hearing,” he continued. “Let’s see the votes.”

Reid has said he has no plans to bring repeal to the Senate floor, in part because it has no hope of passing. Cantor has urged the Democratic leader to put his money where his mouth is. “If Harry Reid is so confident that the repeal vote should die in the Senate, then he should bring it up for a vote, if he’s so confident he’s got the votes,” Cantor said Tuesday.

Jennifer Rubin:

The conventional wisdom (i.e. the consensus of wishful-thinking, generally liberal elite opinion makers) is that it then goes nowhere. But don’t be so sure. Senate leadership advisers tell me there is always a way, through amendments and other procedural efforts, to get votes. They point out that filibusters also can be mounted. That is precisely why filibuster reform is going nowhere.

The Republican Senate leadership does not expect any Senate Democrats to flip sides on the vote for an out-and-out repeal. The consolation prize is that Democratic senators such as Jim Webb, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson and Bill Nelson will have to defend those votes in 2012.

On votes on discrete issues, there is a high likelihood that some provisions — e.g. the massive paperwork burdens on business — will draw Democratic votes. Likewise, there may be difficult votes for Democrats on everything from Medicare Advantage to the individual mandate.

Red state Democrats up for re-election in 2012 will have a very tough time of it — back the president or help their own re-election prospects? And as this goes on, the House will be holding hearing after hearing on ObamaCare to, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, find out what is in it.

Jimmie Bise:

For reasons I can’t quite fathom, progressives have decided that one of the big stories this week should be whether or not Speaker Boehner will change the name of the “Repealing The Job Killing Health Care Law Act”. Apparently, “job killing” is now verboten speech, lest some barely-hinged right winger mistake a Democrats for a job and kill…wait…mistake a Democrat for Obamacare and…

…okay, I’m baffled here. I don’t know why this is a story except that it involves the word “killing”, which is violent rhetoric, and violent rhetoric is wrong.

To Boehner’s credit, he toyed around with a few alternate phrasings, such as “job crushing” and “job destroying”, but they didn’t send the requisite tingle down Chris Matthews leg so he went back to the original name.

However, I am in possession of a super secret, ultra-classified list of names the GOP had considered to replace the “Repealing The Job Killing Health Care Law Act”. At the risk of running afoul of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton Ninja Death Squads, I will share them with you now.

5) The “We’re Not Going to Grind Gramma Into An Edible but Nutritious Slurry Act”.
4) The “Sarah Was Right; There Really Are Death Panels Act”.
3) The “Dear God in Heaven, What Were We Thinking Act”.
2) The “We’re In Charge, So How Do You Like Us Now Act”.
1) The “Happy Cuddle Puppies Nuzzle Wuzzle Act”.

I’m glad they stuck with the original.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

Of all the arguments liberals have been making during the health care debate, among the most tenuous is the idea that Republican members of Congress who accept government sponsored health insurance are being hypocrites for favoring repeal of government-sponsored health insurance for other Americans. Today, bloggers over at Think Progress post what they evidently think is a clever video of them challenging Republican members to explain why they accept government health care benefits.

The explanation for this is quite simple. Most Americans receive their health insurance through their employers, and members of Congress are employees of the government. Hence, the government helps pay for their coverage.

To extend the logic being used by liberals would mean that if Democrats were to propose a law in which the federal government sends $100,000 checks to every lower-income American, any Republican members who still collected their salaries would be hypocrites for opposing it.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

Here’s Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s latest defense of the administration’s health care overhaul: If it were repealed, according to the headline from an HHS press release yesterday, “129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage.” That’s roughly half of all Americans under 65 who might “be at risk of losing health insurance when they need it most, or be denied coverage altogether,” according to the release.

Or maybe it’s a little less. OK, perhaps even a lot less. The release quickly qualifies the headline estimate to indicate that it may be that as few as 50 million Americans—just 19 percent of the non-elderly population, rather than half—under 65 have “some type of pre-existing condition,” which apparently means everything from cancer to high blood pressure. It’s all rather hard to pin down, you see. 50 million. 129 million. It’s somewhere in there. With precision estimates like these, you know they’ve got the goods.

Fine. 50 million is still a big number. Should we seriously worry that almost 20 percent of Americans will lose their health coverage without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

Not really. As the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon points out, a 2001 study by none other than HHS noted that only 1 percent of Americans have ever been denied health coverage for any reason. And according to a just-published study in the health policy journal Health Affairs, “the fraction of nonelderly uninsured persons…who would be rated as actuarially uninsurable is generally estimated to be very small, less than 1 percent of the population.”

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Putting Obamacare out of its misery is the critical mission that must be carried out be Republicans in the coming years. It seems to me to raise in a profound form the question Lincoln asked regarding Douglas’s professed indifference to slavery: “I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.” The form of the question suggests that the answer is yes, as I believe it to be in both cases.

In “Buck up and stop Obamacare,” Dr Milton Wolf asserts: “Obamacare has become ground zero in the fight for America’s future.” And that’s the spirit in which the task of killing Obamcare must be approached.

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Mele WikiLeakmaka Is The Thing To Say

David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy:

The subtitle of this blog has been “How the World is Really Run” since the day it was launched, an editor’s play on the title of a book I wrote. But I am today inclined to lend that subtitle out to the publishers of the most recent tidal wave of information from WikiLeaks. Because the 250,000 State Department cables contained in the release offer up no single revelation as striking as the overall message they contain: The dark shadowy world of diplomacy and international intrigue is working just about precisely as you suspect it is.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Quote of the year: “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.” This from Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed in July 2009. And then there is this very astute comment from the Crown Prince: “‘Any culture that is patient and focused enough to spend years working on a single carpet is capable of waiting years and even decades to achieve even greater goals.’ His greatest worry, he said, ‘is not how much we know about Iran, but how much we don’t.'” Some of you recall the international kerfuffle that erupted when the U.A.E.’s ambassador to the United States told me at the Aspen Ideas Festival that a military strike on Iran may become a necessity. It turns out he was understating the fear and urgency felt by his government, and other Gulf governments.

3. Since we all know that only Israelis and their neocon supporters in America seek a military attack on Iran’s nuclear program, Bahrain must be under the control of neocons: “There was little surprising in Mr. Barak’s implicit threat that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. As a pressure tactic, Israeli officials have been setting such deadlines, and extending them, for years. But six months later it was an Arab leader, the king of Bahrain, who provides the base for the American Fifth Fleet, telling the Americans that the Iranian nuclear program ‘must be stopped,’ according to another cable. ‘The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,'” he said.

The Saudis, too, are neocons, apparently: The Bahraini king’s “plea was shared by many of America’s Arab allies, including the powerful King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who according to another cable repeatedly implored Washington to ‘cut off the head of the snake’ while there was still time.”

4. How does Robert Gates know this? In a conversation with the then-French defense minister about the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, the defense secretary “added a stark assessment: any strike ‘would only delay Iranian plans by one to three years, while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker.'” I am not suggesting that I know this is untrue; I’m just puzzled at how someone could reach this conclusion so definitively.

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Foreign potentates and diplomats beware: the U.S. wants your DNA.

If that chief of mission seemed a bit too friendly at the last embassy party, it might be because the State Department recently instructed U.S. diplomats to collect biometric identification on their foreign interlocutors. The search for the most personal information of all is contained in WikiLeaks’ latest publication of tens of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables.

A missive from the Secretary of State’s office in April 2009 asked diplomats in Africa to step up their assistance to U.S. intelligence. Not only should diplomats in Burundi, Rwanda and Congo collect basic biographical information on the people they talk to — a routine diplomatic function — but they should also gather “fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans.”

There’s no guidance listed on how exactly diplomats are supposed to collect the unique identifiers of “key civilian and military officials.” In recent years, the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan has built storehouses of biometric data to understand who’s an insurgent and who isn’t, all using small, portable eye and thumb scanners. But the State Department’s foray into bio-info collection hasn’t previously been disclosed.

Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast:

The hype-to-payoff ratio approximated Geraldo’s opening of Al Capone’s vaults. “Leaked Cables Uncloak U.S. Diplomacy,” hollered the headline on NYTimes.com. The latest WikiLeaks document dump, instructed the grey lady, offers an “extraordinary look at” American foreign policy that “is sending shudders through the diplomatic establishment, and could strain relations with some countries, influencing international affairs in ways that are impossible to predict.”

Then the Times began summarizing the documents, and the banalities began. Bullet Point 1: The U.S. is worried about loose nuclear materials in Pakistan but can’t do much about it. Bullet Point 2: American leaders are “thinking about an eventual collapse of North Korea” and hoping China will accept a reunified peninsula. Bullet Point 3: Washington is “bargaining [with various allies] to empty the Guantanamo prison.” Bullet Point 4: There are “suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government.” Bullet Point 5: The Chinese regime hacks into foreign computers. Bullet Point 6: Rich Saudis still fund al Qaeda. Bullet Point 7: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are tight. Bullet Point 8: Syria arms Hezbollah, but lies about it. Bullet Point 9: The U.S. tried to get Germany not to prosecute CIA agents accused of kidnapping. Bullet Point 10: Ireland is having financial trouble. (OK, I made that one up).

But maybe this isn’t fair. Maybe the cables, while mundane when taken in isolation, combine to provide a fascinating synthesis of America’s position in the world. Or maybe not. Overall, explained the Times, “The cables show that nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world…They depict the Obama administration struggling to sort out which Pakistanis are trustworthy partners against Al Qaeda…They show American officials managing relations with a China on the rise and a Russia retreating from democracy. They document years of painstaking effort to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon—and of worry about a possible Israeli strike on Iran with the same goal.” Valuable insights—if you’ve been living under a rock all century.

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist:

WikiLeaks’s release of the  “Collateral Murder” video last April was a pretty scrupulous affair: an objective record of combat activity which American armed forces had refused to release, with careful backing research on what the video showed. What we got was a window into combat reality, through the sights of a helicopter gunship. You could develop different interpretations of that video depending on your understanding of its context, but it was something important that had actually taken place.

Diplomatic cables are something entirely different. It’s part of the nature of human communication that one doesn’t always say the same thing to every audience. There are perfectly good reasons why you don’t always tell the same story to your boss as you do to your spouse. There are things Washington needs to tell Riyadh to explain what it’s just told Jerusalem and things Washington needs to tell Jerusalem to explain what it’s just told Riyadh, and these cables shouldn’t be crossed. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s inevitable. And it wouldn’t make the world a better place if Washington were unable to say anything to Jerusalem without its being heard by Riyadh, any more than it would if you were unable to tell your spouse anything without its being heard by your boss.

At this point, what WikiLeaks is doing seems like tattling: telling Sally what Billy said to Jane. It’s sometimes possible that Sally really ought to know what Billy said to Jane, if Billy were engaged in some morally culpable deception. But in general, we frown on gossips. If there’s something particularly damning in the diplomatic cables WikiLeaks has gotten a hold of, the organisation should bring together a board of experienced people with different perspectives to review the merits of releasing that particular cable. But simply grabbing as many diplomatic cables as you can get your hands on and making them public is not a socially worthy activity.

Conn Carroll at Heritage:

There is nothing positive that can be said about the release of more than a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables by the rogue hacker organization WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has recklessly and inexcusably put lives at risk. Any U.S. person who cooperated with WikiLeaks has committed a crime and should be prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.

That said, WikiLeaks is not the end of the world. The fundamentals of U.S. relationships with other nations remain unchanged. Leaks are not going to stop nations from cooperating with the U.S., or for that matter sharing secrets with us. Nations cooperate with the U.S. because it is in their interest to do so. And no leak will stop nations from acting in their self-interest.

But what is in our best interest? This has not been a good month for the Obama Doctrine: The President came home empty-handed from Asia, North Korea fired artillery at South Korea just days after revealing nuclear facilities no one knew they had, and Obama failed to get the G-20 to take any action limiting trade imbalances. It was not supposed to be this way. After apologizing for all of our nation’s sins, the world was supposed to swoon at President Obama’s unparalleled charisma. As American military power withered away, President Obama would use soft power and the United Nations to manage world affairs. But like Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter before him, this progressive foreign policy vision has failed.

Moe Lane:

Accused rapist Julian Assange* continued to justify the upcoming backlash against transparency this weekend by promising to illegally release more classified government documents on the notorious site Wikileaks. These documents in particular are apparently State Department diplomatic cables: up until, oh, today, those documents were typically much more blunt and ambiguity-free than the standard State Department bumpf, mostly because nobody out there considered that anyone would be insane enough to release them even if they had access. This will likely change – quickly – now that the diplomatic corps knows that its private communications are insecure; in other words, from now on the folks in the striped-pants brigade are going to be as mealy-mouthed in private as they are in public. As Allahpundit noted above, the Left should keep this in mind when trying in the future to boost State at Defense’s expense: Assange just made that harder for you.

And I will also note that, while I will happily ding President Obama for both his wrong actions and for not living up to his own side’s previously-established standards of behavior, this line of attack by Wikileaks is made up of pure garbage designed to weaken both my country and my government. The President needs his ambassadors to know what he wants; they need to be able to tell him what he can get. So it’s stupid to not be blunt and forthright in private about matters that require a softer public touch. It’s even more stupid for Wikileaks to keep publicly attacking the USA like this.

Because when the backlash comes, it’s going to splatter.

Steve Benen:

I would, however, like to know more about the motivations of the leaker (or leakers). Revealing secrets about crimes, abuses, and corruption obviously serves a larger good — it shines a light on wrongdoing, leading (hopefully) to accountability, while creating an incentive for officials to play by the rules. Leaking diplomatic cables, however, is harder to understand — the point seems to be to undermine American foreign policy, just for the sake of undermining American foreign policy. The role of whistleblowers has real value; dumping raw, secret diplomatic correspondence appears to be an exercise in pettiness and spite.

I’ve seen some suggestions that diplomats shouldn’t write cables that they’d be embarrassed by later if they were made publicly. I find that unpersuasive. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in the nuances of on-the-ground international affairs, but I am comfortable with the notion of some diplomatic efforts being kept secret. Quiet negotiations between countries can lead, and have led, to worthwhile foreign policy agreements, advancing noble causes.

If the argument from the leakers is that there should be no such thing as private diplomacy, they’ll need a better excuse to justify this kind of recklessness.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

The New York Times is participating in the dissemination of the stolen State Department cables that have been made available to it in one way or another via WikiLeaks. My friend Steve Hayward recalls that only last year the New York Times ostentatiously declined to publish or post any of the Climategate emails because they had been illegally obtained. Surely readers will recall Times reporter Andrew Revkin’s inspiring statement of principle: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”

Interested readers may want to compare and contrast Revkin’s statement of principle with the editorial note posted by the Times on the WikiLeaks documents this afternoon. Today the Times cites the availability of the documents elsewhere and the pubic interest in their revelations as supporting their publication by the Times. Both factors applied in roughly equal measure to the Climategate emails.

Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable. Perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work then, or are at work now. Given the Times’s outrageous behavior during the Bush administration, the same observation applies to the Times’s protestations of good faith.

Amanda Carey at The Daily Caller:

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin took to her favorite mode of communication Monday – Facebook – and harshly criticized the Obama administration’s response to the latest WikiLeaks release.

In a post titled “Serious Questions about the Obama Administration’s Incompetence in the Wikileaks Fiasco,” Palin wrote that the most recent WikiLeaks disclosure of previously classified documents raises serious concerns about the administration’s “incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.”

Palin went on to ask what steps have been taken since the first WikiLeaks release to stop the organization’s director, Julian Assange, from distributing even more harmful material. Palin barely paused long enough for any one of her fans to shout a loud “none!” at their computer screens before going on to classify Assange as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands”.

“Assange is not a ‘journalist,’ any more than the ‘editor’ of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist,’” wrote Palin. “His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

Megan Carpentier at TPM

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