Tag Archives: The Nation

It’s Been A Good Long Time Since We’ve Had A Nice Internet Fight

Glenn Greenwald:

On June 6, Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter of Wiredreported that a 22-year-old U.S. Army Private in Iraq, Bradley Manning, had been detained after he “boasted” in an Internet chat — with convicted computer hacker Adrian Lamo — of leaking to WikiLeaks the now famous Apache Helicopter attack video, a yet-to-be-published video of a civilian-killing air attack in Afghanistan, and “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records.”  Lamo, who holds himself out as a “journalist” and told Manning he was one, acted instead as government informant, notifying federal authorities of what Manning allegedly told him, and then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning’s detention.

On June 10, former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, writing in The Daily Beast, gave voice to anonymous “American officials” to announce that “Pentagon investigators” were trying “to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks [Julian Assange] for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security.”  Some news outlets used that report to declare that there was a “Pentagon manhunt” underway for Assange — as though he’s some sort of dangerous fugitive.

From the start, this whole story was quite strange for numerous reasons.  In an attempt to obtain greater clarity about what really happened here, I’ve spent the last week reviewing everything I could related to this case and speaking with several of the key participants (including Lamo, with whom I had a one-hour interview last night that can be heard on the recorder below, and Poulsen, with whom I had a lengthy email exchange, which is published in full here).  A definitive understanding of what really happened is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source:  Lamo himself.  Compounding that is the fact that most of what came from Lamo has been filtered through a single journalist — Poulsen — who has a long and strange history with Lamo, who continues to possess but not disclose key evidence, and who has been only marginally transparent about what actually happened here (I say that as someone who admires Poulsen’s work as Editor of Wired‘s Threat Level blog).


Actually, over the years, Poulsen has served more or less as Lamo’s personal media voice.  Back in 2000, Poulsen would quote Lamo as an expert source on hacking.  That same year, Poulsen — armed with exclusive, inside information from Lamo — began writing about Lamo’s various hacking adventures.  After Lamo’s conviction, Poulsen wrote about his post-detention battles with law enforcement and a leaked documentary featuring Lamo.  As detailed below, Lamo is notorious in the world of hacking for being a low-level, inconsequential hacker with an insatiable need for self-promotion and media attention, and for the past decade, it has been Poulsen who satisfies that need.

On May 20 — a month ago — Poulsen, out of nowhere, despite Lamo’s not having been in the news for years, wrote a long, detailed Wired article describing serious mental health problems Lamo was experiencing.  The story Poulsen wrote goes as follows:  after Lamo’s backpack containing pharmaceutical products was stolen sometime in April (Lamo claims they were prescribed anti-depressants), Lamo called the police, who concluded that he was experiencing such acute psychiatric distress that they had him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for three days.  That 72-hour “involuntary psychiatric hold” was then extended by a court for six more days, after which he was released to his parents’ home.  Lamo claimed he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a somewhat fashionable autism diagnosis which many stars in the computer world have also claimed.  In that article, Poulsen also summarized Lamo’s extensive hacking history.  Lamo told me that, while he was in the mental hospital, he called Poulsen to tell him what happened, and then told Poulsen he could write about it for a Wired article.  So starved was Lamo for some media attention that he was willing to encourage Poulsen to write about his claimed psychiatric problems if it meant an article in Wired that mentioned his name.

It was just over two weeks after writing about Lamo’s Asperger’s, depression and hacking history that Poulsen, along with Kim Zetter, reported that PFC Manning had been detained, after, they said, he had “contacted former hacker Adrian Lamo late last month over instant messenger and e-mail.”  Lamo told me that Manning first emailed him on May 20 and, according to highly edited chat logs released by Wired, had his first online chat with Manning on May 21; in other words, Manning first contacted Lamo the very day that Poulsen’s Wired article on Lamo’s involuntary commitment appeared (the Wired article is time-stamped 5:46 p.m. on May 20).

Lamo, however, told me that Manning found him not from the Wired article — which Manning never mentioned reading — but from searching the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, which led him to a tweet Lamo had written that included the word “WikiLeaks.” Even if Manning had really found Lamo through a Twitter search for “WikiLeaks,” Lamo could not explain why Manning focused on him, rather than the thousands of other people who have also mentioned the word “WikiLeaks” on Twitter, including countless people who have done so by expressing support for WikiLeaks.

Although none of the Wired articles ever mention this, the first Lamo-Manning communications were not actually via chat.  Instead, Lamo told me that Manning first sent him a series of encrypted emails which Lamo was unable to decrypt because Manning “encrypted it to an outdated PGP key of mine” [PGP is an encryption program].  After receiving this first set of emails, Lamo says he replied — despite not knowing who these emails were from or what they were about — by inviting the emailer to chat with him on AOL IM, and provided his screen name to do so.  Lamo says that Manning thereafter sent him additional emails encrypted to his current PGP key, but that Lamo never bothered to decrypt them.  Instead, Lamo claims he turned over all those Manning emails to the FBI without ever reading a single one of them.  Thus, the actual initial communications between Manning and Lamo — what preceded and led to their chat — are completely unknown.  Lamo refuses to release the emails or chats other than the small chat snippets published by Wired.

Using the chat logs between Lamo and Manning — which Lamo provided to Poulsen — the Wired writers speculated that the Army Private trusted Lamo because he “sensed a kindred spirit in the ex-hacker.”  Poulsen and Zetter write that Manning confessed to being the leaker of the Apache attack video “very quickly in the exchange,” and then proceeded to boast that, in addition, “he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables” to WikiLeaks.  Very shortly after the first chat, Lamo notified federal agents of what Manning told him, proceeded to speak to Manning for the next several days while consulting with federal agents, and then learned that Manning was detained in Iraq.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Here’s how it worked in the Manning case: Manning first contacted Lamo by IM on May 21st. On May 24th, Lamo called Poulsen to let him know about the potential story, but witheld details. Lamo began working with the feds to nab Manning. On May 26th, Manning was arrested. The day after Lamo learned of Manning’s arrest, he told the whole story to Poulsen, who drove miles to pick up a zip drive with the chat logs, according to the CJR. Poulsen wrote the post and published June 6th.

We see here how Lamo functions essentially as an informal stringer for Poulsen. Lamo told the BBC that he had even told Manning he was a journalist. That Lamo then turned on his source is a pretty blatant violation of journalistic ethics, but never mind; Poulsen gets his story and Lamo gets his name in the papers.

In typical hyperbolic fashion, Wikileaks has been Tweeting allegations that this means Wired was in collusion with Lamo and, thus, the US government. Really, what’s going on doesn’t differ much from any source-journalist relationship.

But Wired’s role is indeed colored by Poulsen’s strong relationship with Lamo—and the fact that Lamo turned Manning into the authorities. When hackers come to the media with, say, evidence of a massive iPad security flaw, they usually demand some sort of anonymity. Manning didn’t have this option, since, technically he wasn’t speaking with a journalist. But the fact that Lamo presumably intended from the beginning to dish to Poulsen complicates things.

The exact role of Wired in this—and the extent to which Lamo misled Manning to think he was a journalist—could presumably be answered by looking at the full chat logs Lamo gave Poulsen. But Poulsen told Greenwald that Wired didn’t release the full transcript because it detailed “personal matters” or sensitive government information. Bullshit. Poulsen and Lamo have been working as an informal hacker-journalist unit for years. It’s time to get some Wikileaks-style transparency on how it all works.

More Greenwald:

Poulsen’s concealment of the chat logs is actively blinding journalists and others who have been attempting to learn what Manning did and did not do. By allowing the world to see only the fraction of the Manning-Lamo chats that he chose to release, Poulsen has created a situation in which his long-time “source,” Adrian Lamo, is the only source of information for what Manning supposedly said beyond those published exceprts.  Journalists thus routinely print Lamo’s assertions about Manning’s statements even though — as a result of Poulsen’s concealment — they are unable to verify whether Lamo is telling the truth.  Due to Poulsen, Lamo is now the one driving many of the media stories about Manning and WikiLeaks even though Lamo (a) is a convicted felon, (b) was (as Poulsen strangely reported at the time) involuntarily hospitalized for severe psychiatric distress a mere three weeks before his chats with Manning, and (c) cannot keep his story straight about anything from one minute to the next.

To see how odious Poulsen’s concealment of this evidence is, consider this December 15 New York Times article by Charlie Savage, which reports that the DOJ is trying to prosecute WikiLeaks based on the theory that Julian Assange “encouraged or even helped” Manning extract the classified information.  Savage extensively quotes Lamo claiming that Manning told him all sorts of things about WikiLeaks and Assange that are not found in the portions of the chat logs published by Wired:

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.

He said the special server’s purpose was to allow Private Manning’s submissions to “be bumped to the top of the queue for review.” By Mr. Lamo’s account, Private Manning bragged about this “as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.”

Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them. Mr. Lamo described them from memory in an interview with the Times, but he said he could not provide the full chat transcript because the F.B.I. had taken his hard drive, on which it was saved. . . .

It has been known that investigators were looking for evidence that one or more people in Boston served as an intermediary between Private Manning and WikiLeaks, although there is no public sign that they have found any evidence supporting that theory. . . .

“At some point, [Manning] became satisfied that he was actually talking to Assange and not some unknown third party posing as Assange, and based on that he began sending in smaller amounts of data from his computer,” Mr. Lamo said. “Because of the nature of his Internet connection, he wasn’t able to send large data files easily. He was using a satellite connection, so he was limited until he did an actual physical drop-off when he was back in the United States in January of this year.”

Lamo’s claim — that Manning told him that he physically dropped off a disk with classified information to WikiLeaks’ “intermediaries” in Boston — is nowhere to be found in the chat logs released by Poulsen. And while there are a couple of vague references in the chats to Manning’s interactions with Assange, there is also little in the released portions about Assange using an “encrypted Internet conferencing service” to talk to Manning or specially creating a “dedicated server” for Manning to use.  Yet here is Lamo, on the front page of The New York Times, making these incredibly inflammatory accusations about what Manning supposedly told him — accusations that could implicate both WikiLeaks and numerous individuals in the Boston area, including MIT students who (due at least in part to Lamo’s prior accusations) have been the subject of WikiLeaks-related probes by the FBI.

Whether Manning actually said these things to Lamo could be verified in one minute by “journalist” Kevin Poulsen.  He could either say:  (1) yes, the chats contain such statements by Manning, and here are the portions where he said these things, or (2) no, the chats contain no such statements by Manning, which means Lamo is either lying or suffers from a very impaired recollection about what Manning said.  Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.  Any true “journalist” — or any person minimally interested in revealing the truth — would do exactly that in response to Lamo’s claims as published by The New York Times.

But manifestly, those descriptions do not apply to Kevin Poulsen.  It’s been almost two weeks since Savage wrote his story in which he prominently pointed out that Wired has the evidence — but has not released it — which would confirm whether Lamo is telling the truth about these vital matters, and Poulsen has said nothing.  Moreover, I sent Poulsen an e-mail two days ago — here — expressly asking whether or not the chat logs contain what Lamo says they contain about WikiLeaks and Boston-area “intermediaries,” and he has ignored the inquiries.  This is not the behavior of a journalist seeking to inform the public, but of someone eager, for whatever reasons, to hide the truth.

Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen at Wired. Poulsen:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

We took the high ground and ignored Greenwald and Salon the first time they pulled this nonsense. Now it’s time to set the record straight.

If you’re just tuning in, Wired.com was the first to report, last June, on the then-secret arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning. I learned of the arrest from Adrian Lamo, a well-known former hacker on whom I reported extensively from 2000 to 2002. It was Lamo who turned Manning in to the Army and the FBI, after Manning — isolated and despondent — contacted him online and began confiding the most intimate details of his life, including, but by no means limited to, his relationship with WikiLeaks, and the vast databases he claimed to have provided them.

Co-writer Kim Zetter and I followed up the story four days later with a piece examining Manning’s motives. The Washington Post had just run a fine story about Manning’s state-of-mind: At the time of his discussions with Lamo, he’d been through a bad breakup and had other personal conflicts. But I felt — and still do feel — that it’s a mistake to automatically ascribe Manning’s actions to his feeling depressed. (For one thing, his breakup occurred after the leaking.) There’s an implicit political judgment in that conclusion: that leaking is an aberrant act, a symptom of a psychological disorder. Manning expressed clear and rational reasons for doing what he did, whether one agrees with those reasons or not.

So we went into the logs of the chats Manning held with Lamo — which Lamo had provided Wired and The Washington Post — and pieced together a picture of why Manning took his historic actions, based on his own words (“Suspected Wikileaks Source Described Crisis of Conscience Leading to Leaks“). As a sidebar to the article, we published excerpts from those chat logs.

We’ve had several more scoops since then, reporting new information on Manning’s history in the Army, and revealing the internal conflict his alleged disclosures triggered within WikiLeaks.

But those first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking. We’ve led the coverage on this story, and we would gain nothing by letting another scoop simmer unreported on our hard drives.

The debate, if it can be described as that, centers on the remainder of Manning’s conversations with Lamo. Greenwald argues that Wired.com has a journalistic obligation to publish the entirety of Manning’s communications. As with other things that Greenwald writes, the truth is the opposite. (See the statement above by Wired’s editor-in-chief.)

Greenwald’s incomplete understanding of basic journalistic standards was first displayed in his earlier piece on this subject, last June, titled “The Strange and Consequential Case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks.” This is where he first claimed that Lamo and I have “long and strange history together.”

That “history” began in 2000, when, while reporting for the computer security news site SecurityFocus.com, I contacted Lamo to use him as an expert on security issues at AOL. I sought him out because he’d been quoted in a similar capacity in a Salon.com article the year before.

Later, Lamo began sharing with me the details of some of his hacking. Lamo was nearly unique among hackers of that period, in that he had no evident fear of discussing his unlawful access, regardless of the inevitable legal consequences. He cracked everyone from Microsoft to Yahoo, and from MCI to Excite@Home. And he freely discussed how he did it, and sometimes helped the victim companies close their security holes afterward.

This came at a time, prior to the passage of California’s SB1386, when companies had no legal obligation to reveal security breaches, and hackers, facing tough criminal sanctions, had a strong disincentive to reveal it themselves. Lamo’s transparency provided an invaluable window on the poor state of computer security.

Using little more than a web browser, he was able to gain sensitive information on critical infrastructure, and private data like Social Security numbers. He changed a news story on Yahoo — at the time the most-trafficked news source on the web — undetected. In the intrusion that finally resulted in his arrest, he cracked The New York Times intranet and added himself to the paper’s internal database of op-ed contributors.

Some people regarded him as a hacker hero — Kevin Spacey narrated a documentary about him. Others argued he was a villain. At his sentencing, Lamo’s prosecutors argued he was responsible for “a great deal of psychological injury” to his victims.

To Greenwald, all this makes Lamo “a low-level, inconsequential hacker.” This conclusion is critical to his thesis that Lamo and I have something more than a source-journalist relationship. Greenwald’s theory is that Lamo’s hacks were not newsworthy. But, this line of thought goes, in exchange for the chance to break the non-news of his intrusions, I reported them — getting Lamo attention among the readers of SecurityFocus.com.

What he fails to report is that those same breaches were also covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, Wired magazine (well before my tenure at Wired.com), cable news networks, every tech news outlet and several national newspapers, and that Lamo spoke freely to all of them.


Last night, Wired posted a two-part response to my criticisms of its conduct in reporting on the arrest of PFC Bradley Manning and the key role played in that arrest by Adrian Lamo.  I wrote about this topic twice — first back in June and then again on Monday.  The first part of Wired‘s response was from Wired.com Editor-in-Chief Evan Hansen, and the second is from its Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  Both predictably hurl all sorts of invective at me as a means of distracting attention from the central issue, the only issue that matters:  their refusal to release or even comment on what is the central evidence in what is easily one of the most consequential political stories of this year, at least.

That’s how these disputes often work by design:  the party whose conduct is in question (here, Wired) attacks the critic in order to create the impression that it’s all just some sort of screeching personality feud devoid of substance.  That, in turn, causes some bystanders to cheer for whichever side they already like and boo the side they already dislike, as though it’s some sort of entertaining wrestling match, while everyone else dismisses it all as some sort of trivial Internet catfight not worth sorting out.  That, ironically, is what WikiLeaks critics (and The New York Times‘ John Burns) did with the release of the Iraq War documents showing all sorts of atrocities in which the U.S. was complicit:  they tried to put the focus on the personality quirks of Julian Assange to distract attention away from the horrifying substance of those disclosures.  That, manifestly, is the same tactic Wired is using here:  trying to put the focus on me to obscure their own ongoing conduct in concealing the key evidence shining light on these events.

In a separate post, I fully address every accusation Hansen and Poulsen make about me as well as the alleged inaccuracies in what I wrote.  But I’m going to do everything possible here to ensure that the focus remains on what matters:  the way in which Wired, with no justification, continues to conceal this evidence and, worse, refuses even to comment on its content, thus blinding journalists and others trying to find out what really happened here, while enabling gross distortions of the truth by Poulsen’s long-time confidant and source, the government informant Adrian Lamo.

The bottom line from Hansen and Poulsen is that they still refuse to release any further chat excerpts or, more inexcusably, to comment at all on — to verify or deny — Lamo’s public statements about what Manning said to him that do not appear in those excerpts.  They thus continue to conceal from the public 75% of the Manning-Lamo chats.  They refuse to say whether Lamo’s numerous serious accusations about what Manning told him are actually found anywhere in the chat logs.  Nor will they provide the evidence to resolve the glaring inconsistencies in Lamo’s many public tales about the critical issues:  how he came to speak to Manning, what Lamo did to induce these disclosures, and what Manning said about his relationship to WikiLeaks and his own actions.  Every insult Wired spouts about me could be 100% true and none of it changes the core fact:  Wired is hiding the key evidence about what took place here, thus allowing Lamo to spout all sorts of serious claims without any check and thus drive much of the reporting about WikiLeaks.

To defend this concealment, Hansen claims that they “have already published substantial excerpts from the logs.”  But the parts they are concealing are far more substantial:  75% by their own account, and critically, the person who played a key role in hand-picking which parts to publish and which parts to conceal is the person whom BBC News accurately describes as “Mr Lamo’s long-term associate Kevin Poulsen.”  Poulsen claims he “either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking,” but that begs the key question:  is everything — or anything — that Lamo has been claiming about Manning’s statements found in the chat logs or not?  Why won’t Wired answer that question?  Below, I set forth what Lamo has claimed that is not in the chat logs and why it is so vital to know if it’s there.

Hansen’s defense principally relies on a total strawman:  that I’m calling for the full, unedited release of the chat logs.  Hansen insists that Wired cannot do this because of privacy concerns for Manning.  He titles his response “The Case for Privacy,” and claims “that the logs include sensitive personal information with no bearing on Wikileaks.”

But neither I nor anyone else I’ve read has called on Wired to indiscriminately dump the chat logs without any redactions or regard for Manning’s privacy.  Back in June — once Poulsen’s claims that they were withholding only private information and national security secrets was proven false by TheWashington Post‘s subsequent publication of chat excerpts that fell into neither category — this is what I called on Wired to do:

Wired should either publish all of the chat logs, or be far more diligent about withholding only those parts which truly pertain only to Manning’s private and personal matters and/or which would reveal national security secrets. Or they should have a respected third party review the parts they have concealed to determine if there is any justification for that. At least if one believes Lamo’s claims, there are clearly relevant parts of those chats which Wired continues to conceal.

Then, on Sunday, I noted several important events that transpired since I wrote that June article: most prominently the fact that Wired‘s source, Lamo, had spent six months making all sorts of public claims about what Manning told him that are nowhere in the chat excerpts published by Wired. Moreover, the disclosures by WikiLeaks gut Poulsen’s excuse that Wired‘s concealments are necessary to protect national security secrets (an excuse Hansen did not even raise).  As a result of those developments, this is what I wrote on Sunday that Wired should do:

What they ought to do, at the absolute minimum, is post the portions of the chat logs about which Lamo had made public statements or make clear that they do not exist. . . . Poulsen could also provide Lamo — who claims he is no longer in possession of them — with a copy of the chat logs (which Lamo gave him) so that journalists quoting Lamo about Manning’s statements could see the actual evidence rather than relying on Lamo’s claims.

For anyone who wants to defend Wired here, I’d really like to know:  what possible excuse is there for their refusal to do this?  Even if you trust Poulsen — despite his very close and long relationship to Lamo — to conceal some parts of the chats on privacy grounds, what justification is there for Wired‘s refusal to state that either (a) Lamo’s claims about what Manning told him are supported by the chat logs (and then publish those portions), or (b) Lamo’s claims are not found in the chat logs, thus proving that Lamo is either lying or has an unreliable recollection?  While Adrian Lamo runs around spouting all sorts of serious accusations about what Manning supposedly told him that are not found in Wired‘s excerpts — claims which end up in the world’s largest news outlets — and while he issues one contradictory claim after the next about these events, how can anyone claiming to be a journalist not inform the public about whether those stories are true?  For Wired defenders: what justifies that obfuscatory behavior, that refusal to say whether Lamo’s claims are true or false based on the chat logs?


Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

I love a good blog fight as much as anyone, but after reading several thousand words of accusations and counter accusations being slung between Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald and Wired‘s Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen, I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out what, exactly, this particular dispute is all about.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, first of all: congratulations. Second, here’s a quick synopsis: On June 6, Poulsen and his colleague Kim Zetter broke the sensational story that a young Army intelligence officer, Bradley Manning, had been arrested for disclosing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a video showing a U.S. helicopter gunship killing three civilians in Iraq and more than 250,000 State Department cables. Wired‘s main source was Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who says he turned Manning in to U.S. authorities after the latter confessed to the deed in a Web chat. As Lamo explained his motivation: “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger.”

Four days later, Poulsen and Zetter published a new article on Manning, as well as an incomplete transcript of Lamo and Manning’s chats, which had begun on May 21 and continued for a few days. “The excerpts represent about 25 percent of the logs,” they wrote. “Portions of the chats that discuss deeply personal information about Manning or that reveal apparently sensitive military information are not included.”

That same day, the Washington Post published its own article on Manning’s arrest, quoting from the logs, which the paper said it had received from Lamo. Some of the quotes do not appear in Wired‘s excerpts. Wired also continued to follow the story.

On June 18, Greenwald wrote a long blog post raising questions about Poulsen’s scoop and about Lamo. He said he found the story “quite strange,” called Lamo an “extremely untrustworthy source,” and accused Poulsen of being “only marginally transparent about what actually happened here.”

What was curious about Greenwald’s post was that he didn’t challenge any specific facts in Wired‘s reporting; he just pointed to what he saw as inconsistencies in the story, as well as Lamo’s account, and condemned the ex-hacker’s actions as “despicable.” He didn’t suggest outright that Manning had not actually confessed to Lamo. He didn’t try to argue that Manning hadn’t broken the law. He didn’t say the log excerpts were fabricated. He did, however, complain that Lamo had told him about conversations with Manning that were not in the chat-log excerpts published by Wired, and called on the magazine to release them. Poulsen said he wouldn’t be doing so, telling Greenwald: “The remainder is either Manning discussing personal matters that aren’t clearly related to his arrest, or apparently sensitive government information that I’m not throwing up without vetting first.”

Still with me?

Then, on Monday, several weeks after the cables had begun trickling out, Greenwald again returned to the issue. In a torqued-up post titled “The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired,” he excoriated the magazine and Poulsen for refusing to release the full logs, calling Poulsen’s behavior “odious” and “concealment” of “key evidence.” Greenwald appears to have been motivated to weigh in anew by Firedoglake — a left-leaning website whose members had been obsessively trolling the Web for stories about Lamo and Manning, and even pulled together a handy, color-coded expanded transcript from the logs — as well as by a flawedNew York Timesarticle reporting that the Justice Department was trying to build a conspiracy case against WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange. Presumably, the logs would be an important part of the prosecution’s argument.

Wired responded to Greenwald Tuesday night with twin posts by Hansen, the magazine’s editor in chief, and Poulsen. Greenwald fired back with two angry posts of his own today (1, 2). Long story short: Wired reiterated its refusal to release the logs (Poulsen: “[T]hose first stories in June either excerpted, quoted or reported on everything of consequence Manning had to say about his leaking”), Greenwald rejected that explanation, and both sides traded some nasty barbs about each other and made competing claims about the nature of Poulsen’s relationship with Lamo.

What still remains a mystery to me is what, exactly, Greenwald thinks is being covered up here. What is he accusing Wired of doing, and why? Does he think that the full transcript of the logs would somehow exonerate Manning, or prove Lamo a liar? And if he catches Lamo telling a journalist something that wasn’t in the logs, what then?

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

8:20 For a good running twitter debate on Greenwald vs. Wired (see below), check out @felixsalmon and @penenberg.   And Jeff Jarvis tweets:  “Now I need a journalist (& FDL) to cut through personal, professional invective among @ evanatwired, @ kpoulson, @ ggreenwald to answer Qs.”

Karl at Patterico’s:

More to the point, Wired gets even in a two-part article by EIC Evan Hansen and Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen.  The latter writes:

On Monday, Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald unleashed a stunning attack on this publication, and me in particular, over our groundbreaking coverage of WikiLeaks and the ongoing prosecution of the man suspected of being the organization’s most important source. Greenwald’s piece is a breathtaking mix of sophistry, hypocrisy and journalistic laziness.

That’s the tip of an iceberg that includes an undisclosed conflict of interest and more than one major factual error.  But is it breathtaking?  Perhaps the folks at Wired never noticed until now that inaccuracy, sophistryhypocrisy, free-floating rage and undisclosed conflicts are Greenwald features, not bugs.

Significantly, Hansen and Poulsen include Salon in their critique.  Granted, if Salon was serious about maintaining some minimum level of integrity, they wouldn’t have brought Greenwald on board in February 2007, as he had already been exposed as a egomaniacal sock-puppeteer.  It is nevertheless a timely reminder of that lack of standards on the part of both Greenwald and Salon.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Over the past few days, FDL readers have worked hard to transcribe every available recorded interview with Adrian Lamo, and their work has made manifestly clear that Lamo consistently makes contradictory claims for what appears in the chat logs. Further, Lamo has made statements that contradict Wired’s own reporting on the matter.

I’m proud of the citizen journalism here at FDL that was used by Glenn Greenwald to meticulously document many of the inconsistencies in the Wired narrative, and which will no doubt continue to be used as the Lamo-Manning story evolves over time.  I hope at the very least it has put an end to outlets like the New York Times using Lamo as a source for front page stories without going back and looking at what Lamo has said (or hasn’t said) in the past, because there is no excuse now.

Here are the chat logs, here are the previous Lamo interviews, and here is a timeline of events.  Any journalist writing on the subject can easily make themselves familiar with the history of what has been said and written, and they should be responsible for making sure that anything they produce is contextualized within that.

I’m not sure why Hansen thinks transcribing interviews and logging articles qualifies as “discrediting Lamo.”  Lamo’s own words and actions are responsible for any indictment being made in the press, and Wired’s decision to sit on the chat logs makes them an active participant in whatever claims Lamo makes about their contents.

If Hansen doesn’t think the credibility of the key source for Wired’s reporting on this story can hold up when simply compared to his own words, I’d say they’ve got bigger problems than Glenn Greenwald.

John Cole:

What is particularly odd is that this is an online journal that should know better about this sort of thing- the logs will eventually come out. Maybe some of you were right about Wired, that it is basically People magazine for the online set, and I should find better sources in the future. At any rate, all we can do for now is keep the pressure up and refuse to visit Wired or any affiliates until they come clean. Hit em in the statcounter, I guess.


Filed under New Media, Technology

What Happens If We Publish This On Our Cover

Richard Stengel at Time:

Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival. (See pictures of Afghan women and the return of the Taliban.)

I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME. First, I wanted to make sure of Aisha’s safety and that she understood what it would mean to be on the cover. She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban. We also confirmed that she is in a secret location protected by armed guards and sponsored by the NGO Women for Afghan Women. Aisha will head to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organization in California. We are supporting that effort. (Watch TIME’s video on photographing Aisha for the cover.)

I’m acutely aware that this image will be seen by children, who will undoubtedly find it distressing. We have consulted with a number of child psychologists about its potential impact. Some think children are so used to seeing violence in the media that the image will have little effect, but others believe that children will find it very scary and distressing — that they will see it, as Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, said, as “a symbol of bad things that can happen to people.” I showed it to my two young sons, 9 and 12, who both immediately felt sorry for Aisha and asked why anyone would have done such harm to her. I apologize to readers who find the image too strong, and I invite you to comment on the image’s impact. (Comment on this cover.)

But bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them. In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening — and what can happen — in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban’s treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan.

Meenal Vamburkar at Mediaite:

This reasoning follows what many might agree is the definition and purpose of good journalism. The things that are hard to look at are often the things that are most necessary to look at. Whether readers think the cover is bold or too graphic, the shock value cannot be denied. Without diminishing the value of telling a difficult story about a seemingly endless war, it’s hard not to wonder how the shock value will translate in terms of newsstand sales.

Mark Finkelstein at Newsbusters:

The risk that Afghanistan might once again become a staging ground for al Qaeda attacks on the US?  Meh.

The danger of cross-border raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan that could lead to nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists?  Yawn.

But a US withdrawal from Afghanistan that would lead to a setback for women’s liberation there?  Now you’ve got the liberal media concerned!  Rick Stengel of Time gave a perfect illustration of the phenomenon on today’s Morning Joe.  As is his Friday wont, he unveiled the new Time cover, which portrays the heart-rending image of a young Afghani woman who had her nose and ears cut off for fleeing an abusive family and husband.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

The story contains this: “As the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, the need for an exit strategy weighs on the minds of U.S. policymakers. Such an outcome, it is assumed, would involve reconciliation with the Taliban. But Afghan women fear that in the quest for a quick peace, their progress may be sidelined…. For Afghanistan’s women, an early withdrawal of international forces could be disastrous.” So… which is it? That sure sounds like an argument—and, you know, a very moving and affecting one!—for something like a permanent or at least extended occupation. Making things a little more complicated? The new issue also has an article by expert-without-portfolio Joe Klein, which goes: “Afghanistan is really a sideshow here. Pakistan is the primary U.S. national-security concern in the region.” So now what am I supposed to think while I’m not going on summer vacation because it makes our children stupider?

Irin Carmon at Jezebel:

Such stories are obscene, not at all uncommon, and need to be told. But there is an elision here between these women’s oppression and what the U.S. military presence can and should do about it, which in turn simplifies the complexities of the debate and turns it into, “Well, do you want to help Aisha or not?”

While Aryn Baker’s story features the voices of many Afghan women who worry that the likely compromise with the Taliban vis a vis a possible U.S. exit will curtail their new freedoms, it doesn’t actually forcefully make the case that American military presence is the only solution to their problems. (That’s probably because Baker is a reporter, not a commentator, and it’s the job of headline writers to grab readers at almost any cost.)

There are, however, conflicting signals about how seriously committed U.S. officials are, in the context of an exist plan, to pushing back at the resurgence of the Taliban as it affects women in the country. One anonymous diplomat tells Baker, “You have to be realistic. We are not going to be sending troops and spending money forever. There will have to be a compromise, and sacrifices will have to be made.” On the other hand, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told reporters that women’s rights are a “red line” that won’t be crossed: “I don’t think there is such a political solution, one that would be a lasting, sustainable one, that would turn the clock back on women,” she said, after relative quiet on the issue last year.

As David Petraeus put it in his remarks upon assuming command in Afghanistan: “We must demonstrate to the Afghan people, and to the world, that Al Qaeda and its network of extremist allies will not be allowed to once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on the Afghan people and on freedom-loving nations around the world.” That doesn’t say anything about what happens to young girls who flee from their in-laws. Protecting them was not among the things he exhorted his troops to do. And when he addressed himself to the people of Afghanistan he didn’t mention anything along these lines either:

Finally, to the people of Afghanistan: it is a great honor to be in your country and to lead ISAF. I want to emphasize what a number of our country’s leaders recently affirmed – that our commitment to Afghanistan is an enduring one and that we are committed to a sustained effort to help the people of this country over the long-term. Neither you nor the insurgents nor our partners in the region should doubt that. Certainly the character of our commitment will change over time. Indeed, Afghans and the citizens of ISAF countries look forward to the day when conditions will permit the transition of further tasks to Afghan forces. In the meantime, all of us at ISAF pledge our full commitment to help you protect your nation from militants who allowed Al Qaeda sanctuary when they ruled the country. Moreover, we see it as our solemn duty to protect the innocent people of Afghanistan from all violence, whether intended by the enemy or unintended by those of us pursuing that enemy. And we stand with you as we all work to defeat the enemies of the new Afghanistan and to help create a better future for you and your families.

Defend Afghan allies from being targeted by the Taliban. Check. Avoid accidental killing of Afghans by NATO forces. Check. Women’s rights? Not so much.

And you can see this time and again if you look at statements about US policy in Afghanistan from George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, etc. We are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus, emphasizing that the Taliban is a group of bad people is often a rhetorical point of emphasis. The Taliban’s poor treatment of women often comes up as a sub-point here to illustrate the theme that the Taliban are bad. But actually altering social conditions in southern and eastern Afghanistan isn’t on the list of war aims.

Greg Mitchell at The Nation:

I  have to ask:  In Time‘s mission to really “illuminate what is actually happening on the ground” has it ever put on its cover close-up images of  1) a badly wounded or dead U.S. soldier  2)  an Afghan killed in a NATO missile strike  3) an Afghan official, police officer or military commander accepting a bribe from a Taliban war lord.  Alison Kilkenny has her own examples here.

No one makes light of the plight of women and children in Afghanistan under the Taliban–and, contrary to Stengel’s claim, many Americans do know about it.  Indeed, liberal women’s groups in the U.S. have raised the issue often and expressed mixed feelings about staying (or even escalating) in Afghanistan because of it.  It’s a serious issue.  And please see the response to Time by the Feminist Peace Network.  Jezebel with another good take here.

But I’d propose here a few alternative, or at least additional,  cover images, all showing Americans here at home,  that Time might go with an upcoming cover on “What Happens If We LEAVE Afghanistan.”  Please supply your own ideas  in the Comments section below.

— A student in a high-tech classroom.

— Workers streaming into a newly re-opened factory.

— A poor black or Hispanic  woman examined by a doctor in a first-class facility.

— A returning soldier embraced by his wife and two kids.

— Solar panels being erected on a huge office building.

Well, you get the idea.  Contribute or take issue below.

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Mainstream

Ocean’s Eleven.com

Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. Huffington Post coverage

Philip Rucker at WaPo:

For all the talk of a splintered GOP base, with “tea party” conservatives squaring off against establishment Republicans, the Democrats have serious divisions of their own.

Democratic officials were hoping that after 18 months of deep frustration by many in the party’s liberal base over what they believe is President Obama‘s watered-down agenda, the prospect of losing ground in the November midterm elections would be enough to heal wounds. But as Netroots Nation, a conference of 2,100 liberal activists, opened here Thursday, it was clear that anger among some prominent progressives is still raw — and it could imperil some Democrats this fall.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos blog and an organizer of the first such annual conference five years ago, said he and his followers are disinclined to help Democratic candidates simply to preserve the party’s big majorities.

“There’s a lot of Democrats I’ll be happy to see go,” Moulitsas said in an interview. “I’ll celebrate when Blanche Lincoln is out of the Senate. There is a price to be paid for inaction and incompetence. We’re not getting much done with 59 [Democratic senators], so if we’re down to 54, who cares?”

Moulitsas went on to suggest that a smaller Democratic majority in the House might be better for advancing a more progressive agenda. “If 20 Blue Dogs lost their seats, nobody’s going to care,” he said. “That’s their problem and I’m not going to cry about them. To me, a more cohesive caucus might be a better deal moving forward than one in which the Blue Dogs need to be appeased.”

His bold statement came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) are scheduled to address the convention Saturday and take questions from the audience. Obama is not planning to speak to the conference. The lone administration official dispatched here is Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former congressman and the only Republican in Obama’s Cabinet — a fact that was not lost on attendees.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

WiFi has seemed to come around here in Las Vegas, allowing me to deliver LIVE EXCLUSIVES about the Netroots Nation convention. Actually, I don’t have a whole lot to say. Here are some tidbits:

• Ran into Lt. Dan Choi yesterday, when he learned he was officially discharged. He still hasn’t seen the documents yet, but they are with his family. Choi was in jail a couple days ago for shutting down Las Vegas Boulevard protesting Harry Reid for not bringing ENDA to a vote in the Senate. He said it was odd to not be in his military uniform in jail.

• Bill Halter appeared on the morning panel, and I got to steal a few minutes with him. I asked him about the difficulty running against candidates who “progressive-wash” themselves. Blanche Lincoln came out with this derivatives title that she “wrote” right before the primary, blunting Halter’s message of Lincoln as a Wall Street fighter. Halter said that the complexity of the specific issue made it even harder to counteract the message – it was hard to wrap Arkansans heads around the fact that Lincoln left a big loophole in her Section 716 of the bill, for example, or that she didn’t filibuster the bill when Maria Cantwell was doing so precisely because her derivatives title became unenforceable. This is something that progressives need to figure out, because incumbents have done this over and over again to inoculate themselves from criticism from the left.

• Elaine Marshall’s campaign manager announced that internal polls show her leading by 2 points over Republican Richard Burr. The numbers are 37-35. Marshall, the more progressive candidate in the primary, is winning her general election campaign, or is at least very competitive; Blanche Lincoln, the more corporate candidate, is getting blitzed, even in her own internal polls, in the general election. These are both southern states, so it’s close to an apples-to-apples comparison. Says something about what type of candidates can be more effective. (This is actually a good rundown of the Halter panel, and the progressive determination to force primaries and get better Democrats.)

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

Van Jones, the former Obama “green jobs czar” who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he signed a petition calling for an investigation into whether the Bush administration deliberately allowed the Sept. 11 attacks to happen, was given a standing ovation by liberal activists here at the Netroots Nation conference.

In a video introduction, former DNC chairman Howard Dean called Jones a “hero.”

During his speech, Jones said that he threw himself a long “pity party” after his exit from the administration, but compared his own struggle to the larger state of the nation. He made the case for investing in new energy technologies, and dismissed concerns about the deficit.

“There’s plenty of money out there, the only question is how to spend it,” Jones said.

In an onstage Q&A following the speech the Nation‘s Ari Melber said that the only reason Jones was targeted was that he was black and progressive.

Melber also told Jones, “You’re popular here because you get stuff done, but also because you’re cool.”

Ari Melber at The Nation:

The fifth annual Netroots Nation kicked off in Las Vegas on Thursday, as liberal bloggers and activists gathered to organize and assess an Obama administration that continues to disappoint key planks of the left. One of the first panels, scheduled months ago, could have been ripped from today’s headlines about Shirley Sherrod: “Fighting the Right Wing with Racial Justice.”

James Rucker, the cofounder of a netroots civil rights organization, told attendees that media personalities like Glenn Beck had to be “undressed” and combated in a platform that they don’t actually control. Rucker lamented that racial provocateurs like Andrew Breitbart, who does submit to interviews with traditional journalists, manage to get free press while escaping factual accountability.

An early, unscientific sampling of liberal conference attendees suggested a sour mood for the politics of the day. Across the hallways of The Rio, a bright, off-strip hotel that is budget but clean, people seemed pretty fed up with the entire Sherrod imbroglio. While the administration’s mistreatment of Sherrod does not meet the scale of foreign policy or financial reform, of course, the rushed, reflexive capitulation to disingenuous opponents dovetails with a caricature of Obama’s governing playbook, at least among some progressives.

Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left:

Here is a chuckle to start your morning:

The panelists gave voice to lingering disappointment over Halter’s failed bid. Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, had particularly harsh words for Bill Clinton, whose full-throated endorsement of Lincoln is credited with helping her win. “It’s tough to see someone you’ve believed in betray you in a big way,” Green said of the former president. “We need to pick our heroes. . . . I think it would be sad if we went through this entire conference without calling out Bill Clinton for what he did.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Heh. Harsh words for Bill Clinton from a blogger? Now that’s never happened. I wonder if Bill Clinton felt like he was being treated as a “hero” when he was called a racist during the 2008 primaries. Oh by the way, President Obama endorsed Lincoln too.

Of course the real problem is having politician “heroes” in the first place. Pols are pols and do what they do.


This, by the way, should be a lesson to the Tea Party folks on why taking over the party from the ground up is important. If you control the state committee, they can’t just ignore you they way they can if you’re solely a bunch of outsiders.

Dan Riehl:

It appears if the progressive-leftist activists of the Netroots have their way, what happens in Vegas is not going to stay in Vegas. They want it to play out at ballot boxes across the country in November, resulting in the Democrats losing seats in Congress. Obama has never been that openly kind to the Lefty bloggers. Rahm being in the WH hasn’t helped. Actually, the Netroots was more powerful in 2007, than it is today. The Democrats can only have one deliverer, after all. And it’s now Obama, not Markos Moulitsas.

Between their loss in stature and various policy riffs, and with Democrats already poised to take a beating, would it empower them to get all fired up for what will likely be big losses in the fall? From the Netroots perspective, the better bet might be to sit this one out so they can say, see we told you so after November. Hmm. Finally, this news alone could hurt Democrat fundraising. Given all that – Go Kos! We got your back, dude. Where would you like us to plant the knife?

Leave a comment

Filed under New Media

Not Every Explosive Tape Contains Mel Gibson Melting Down

Andrew Breitbart at Big Government:

We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.

In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer.

Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.

Ed Morrissey:

Actually, if Sherrod had a different ending for this story, it could have been a good tale of redemption. She almost grasps this by initially noting that poverty is the real issue, which should be the moral of the anecdote. Instead of having acted on this realization — and perhaps mindful of the audience — Sherrod then backtracks and says that it’s really an issue of race after all. It certainly was for Sherrod, who admits that “I didn’t give him the full force of what I could do.” Notice that the audience doesn’t exactly rise as one to scold Sherrod for her racism, but instead murmurs approvingly of using race to determine outcomes for government programs, which is of course the point that Andrew wanted to make.

Andrew has a second video, which is more relevant to the out-of-control expansion of the federal government than race. Sherrod in the same speech beseeches her audience to get work in the USDA and the federal government in general, because “when was the last time you heard about layoffs” for government workers? If Sherrod is any example, it’s been too long.

Doug Powers at Michelle Malkin’s:

We interrupt this “Tea Partiers are so incredibly racially biased” broadcast for the following update:

Days after the NAACP clashed with Tea Party members over allegations of racism, a video has surfaced showing an Agriculture Department official regaling an NAACP audience with a story about how she withheld help to a white farmer facing bankruptcy — video that now has forced the official to resign.

The video posted at BigGovernment that started it all is here if you haven’t seen/heard it yet.

Breitbart claims more video is on the way.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled “Tea Partiers are so incredibly racially biased” broadcast.

Tommy Christopher at Mediaite:

As it’s being presented, the clip is utterly indefensible, and the NAACP was quick to denounce Sherrod:

We are appalled by her actions, just as we are with abuses of power against farmers of color and female farmers.

Her actions were shameful. While she went on to explain in the story that she ultimately realized her mistake, as well as the common predicament of working people of all races, she gave no indication she had attempted to right the wrong she had done to this man.

The clip that’s being promoted is obviously cut from a larger context, and while this is often the dishonest refuge of radio shock jocks, in this case, it makes a real difference. Here’s what Sherrod told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

But Tuesday morning, Sherrod said what online viewers weren’t told in reports posted throughout the day Monday was that the tale she told at the banquet happened 24 years ago — before she got the USDA job — when she worked with the Georgia field office for the Federation of Southern Cooperative/Land Assistance Fund.

Sherrod said the short video clip excluded the breadth of the story about how she eventually worked with the man over a two-year period to help ward off foreclosure of his farm, and how she eventually became friends with him and his wife.

“And I went on to work with many more white farmers,” she said. “The story helped me realize that race is not the issue, it’s about the people who have and the people who don’t. When I speak to groups, I try to speak about getting beyond the issue of race.”

Sherrod said the farmer, Roger Spooner of Iron City, Ga., has since died.

It doesn’t seem that Ben Jealous or Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are aware that Sherrod wasn’t working at USDA when this occurred, or that she did, in fact, help the farmer in question. That changes everything about this story, including the reaction of the crowd. The entire point of the story is that her actions were indefensible.

If what Sherrod says is true, this is not a story about grudgingly admitting that even white folks need help, but rather, a powerful, redemptive cautionary tale against discrimination of any kind. Both the AJC and Mediaite are working to locate a full video or transcript of the event.

This incident is being posed as the right’s answer to the NAACP resolution against “racist elements” in the Tea Party. This story also comes at a time when the New Black Panther Party has been thrust into the spotlight by Fox News (with predictable results), and debate rages over an Arizona immigration law that many say encourages racial profiling.

This is precisely the danger of ideologically-driven “journalism.” It is one thing to have a point of view that informs your analysis of facts, but quite abother when that point of view causes you to alter them.

David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo:

The 82-year-old wife of the white Georgia farmer who was supposedly discriminated against some quarter century ago by the black USDA official forced to resign this week — if the video released by Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and re-run by Fox is to be believed — is now confirming that in fact Shirley Sherrod saved her and her husband’s farm from bankruptcy and is a “friend for life.”

CNN also spoke with the farmer’s wife and with Sherrod. Rachel Slajda has more.

Kevin Drum:

In a second video, BigGovernment.com says “Ms. Sherrod confirms every Tea Partier’s worst nightmare.” Although this is ostensibly a reference to a joke she made about no one ever getting fired from a government job, that’s not really every tea partier’s worst nightmare, is it? On the other hand, a vindictive black government bureaucrat deciding to screw you over because you’re white? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

This is just appallingly ugly, and the White House’s cowardly response is pretty ugly too. This is shaping up to be a long, gruesome summer, boys and girls.


One of the under reported stories of the 90s was just how much Starr’s merry band of lawyers totally fucked over relatively lowly White House staffers in the Great Clinton Cock Hunt. That was largely through subpoenas and lawyer bills, but lacking subpoena power the Right has now turned to a credulous news media and the power of selectively edited video to go after random government officials.

Apparently Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart rule Tom Vilsack’s world. Heckuva job.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Andrew Breitbart: the heir to Joseph McCarthy, destroying people’s reputations and jobs based on deliberately distorted allegations, while the rest of the right wing blogs cheer. Disgusting. This is what has become of the right wing blogosphere — it’s now a debased tool that serves only to circulate partisan conspiracy theories and hit pieces.

UPDATE at 7/20/10 8:33:55 am:

Note that LGF reader “teh mantis” posted a comment last night at around 6:00 pm that made exactly these points about Breitbart’s deceptive video, in this post.

UPDATE at 7/20/10 9:00:01 am:

It’s disturbing that the USDA immediately caved in to cover their asses, and got Sherrod to resign without even hearing her side of the story; but also expected. That’s what government bureaucrats do. And they didn’t want the USDA to become the next ACORN.

But it’s even more disturbing that the NAACP also immediately caved in and denounced this woman, in a misguided attempt to be “fair.” The NAACP is supposed to defend people like this. They were played by a con man, and an innocent person paid the price.

UPDATE: Rachel Slajda at TPM

The Anchoress at First Things

Caleb Howe at Redstate


Tom Blumer at The Washington Examiner

David Frum at The Week

Erick Erickson at Redstate

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Jamelle Bouie at The American Prospect

UPDATE #2: Dan Riehl at Human Events

Noah Millman at The American Scene

Scott Johnson at Powerline

Victorino Manus at The Weekly Standard

Andy Barr at Politico

UPDATE #3: More Johnson at Powerline

Jonathan Chait at TNR

Bill Scher and Conor Friedersdorf at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #4: Eric Alterman at The Nation

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Legal Insurrection

Ed Morrissey

UPDATE #5: Ben Dimiero and Eric Hananoki at Media Matters

UPDATE #6: Bridget Johnson at The Hill

UPDATE #7: Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time


Filed under Political Figures, Politics, Race

The Week That Was Landon Donovan’s Goal

USA Today:

Here’s a video that marvelously compiles the national reaction to Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal at the World Cup yesterday, from Nebraska to Arizona to New York, and even to “some dude in Arkansas.” Look closely, you might see someone you know.

Charlie Corr at ESPN:

Emotions built as the clock ticked away Wednesday during the United States’ final Group C match against Algeria in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Which way would the tide flow for the U.S.? Would the Americans fall short once again from advancing through the group stage, or could they pull off the miracle goal?

In the 91st minute, the U.S. found that long-awaited clutch strike as Landon Donovan’s second-half stoppage time goal carried the Americans to a 1-0 victory over Algeria and first place in Group C.

The U.S. could not afford a draw, because also on Wednesday, England advanced through the group stage with a 1-0 win over Slovenia.

“It’s a match where both teams need to win, so it turns into a very wide open game,” former Chicago Fire and current U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said in the postmatch news conference. “Algeria is a very good team, skillful and well-organized, but the game now takes on a different tone just because of the need for both teams to win.”

If you were attempting to watch the two Group C matches simultaneously, there were some key sequences to pay attention to on both screens.

In the 20th minute of the U.S.-Algeria match, the Americans were involved yet again with another disallowed goal. Clint Dempsey was called for offside before striking the ball into the back of the net. But replays showed that he was level with Algeria’s back line.

Flip over to England-Slovenia, and in the 23rd minute England garnered a much-needed goal from Jermain Defoe to take a 1-0 lead. If things stood that way, with England topping Slovenia and the U.S. level with Algeria, that meant England and Slovenia would advance.

Back to the split-screen, in the U.S. match in the 57th minute, Dempsey hit the post off of Jozy Altidore’s cross. While that was going on, England’s Wayne Rooney had the ball one-on-one against Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the 58th minute. But Rooney’s strike hit the left post after the ball ever-so-slightly deflected off of Handanovic’s finger tips.

Aside from a near disaster at the start of the match — almost allowing a 6th-minute goal to Algeria — the U.S. created the better chances of the two teams. But the Americans were unable to finish.

From the U.S. viewers’ standpoint, they were grasping for any advantage, whether it was the U.S.’s match or Slovenia hoping to find an equalizer against England. Even if it meant an Algerian booking — Dempsey took a knock to the face from Antar Yahia in the 81st minute and Altidore was fouled from behind by Medhi Lacen in the 82nd, but neither foul (Yahia’s was not even called by the official) had any bearing on the match. Around the 90th minute of the England-Slovenia match, Slovenia had a few attacking moments to try and level things up.

But that little bit of assistance would not come. The Americans had to overcome this obstacle on their own, and Donovan came through with the tally.

Tommy Craggs at Deadspin

David Roth at The Wall Street Journal:

In the short run, the repercussions of Landon Donovan’s game-winning goal in the 91st minute against Algeria are pretty clear – the U.S. won its group and sealed a knockout round date with Ghana, the team that eliminated the U.S. from the 2006 World Cup. And yet focusing on the short run falls dramatically short of capturing the moment’s significance. More to the point, the goal was pretty awesome, and judging by the response to it – it nearly broke the internet and launched millions of high fives – Donovan’s improbable goal might’ve accomplished another improbable goal in turn: finally turning recalcitrant American sports fans into soccer fans.

“This was huge,” George Vecsey writes in the New York Times, “not because it put that foreign sport over the top, which is never the point, and not because it meant anything less about Algeria — a smaller nation and a skilled, competitive team — but because it felt like a sporting event that could unify America for a few screaming moments.”

All true, all well put, but perhaps most important of all: It was seriously, seriously exciting. “Remember June 23, 2010: the day the lame old ‘Soccer is Boring’ argument finally died in the U.S.,” the Journal’s Jason Gay cheers. “If you weren’t completely, utterly thrilled, exhausted and satisfied by Wednesday’s 1-0 Team USA World Cup thriller over Algeria, you’re a lifeless sports corpse.”

Stefan Fatsis at The New Republic:

The guy standing near me was crying, too. It was my new best friend, Ian Ainslie of the fan group American Outlaws, and after the fourth Foer brother — tell me that Landon and this blog’s editor aren’t separated at birth — scored the most important goal in American soccer history (later, Paul Caligiuri), tears were streaming down his face. Streaming, I tell you. Ainslie borrowed my notebook and wrote, “I don’t even have words.” I really think he couldn’t speak.

Inside Loftus Versfeld Stadium, the 90 minutes before bedlam were an anxious and frustrating referendum on US soccer. We had seen this movie before: the sloppy defending, the missed sitters. Jonathan Bornstein? Seriously? Here were my worries: a three-draw exit, capped by a nil-nil result, would rearm the wingnuts and the Reillys. More important, it would buzzkill what I gather is genuine hype and excitement — and good ratings — back home. Sunil Gulati told me before the Slovenia game that, while he doesn’t believe in tipping points, this likable team, this seriously ESPNed tournament and a bid-in-progress to host a World Cup presented a rare opportunity for the sport. I’m in the bag for Sunil, whom I’ve known for a long time. Backdated to 1984, he talked about a 50-year plan for American soccer; I’ve been yapping about a 20- to 30-year one for a while now. Fucking Jozy, I said. How do you not just tap that ball in?

And then it happened. Sunil cried, too. And he woke up this morning to escort Bill Clinton and shake the trees for votes from FIFA’s 24-member Politburo for that 2022 World Cup bid. (Clinton is the bid’s honorary chairman; he got a big cheer when his face appeared on the video board last night.) ESPN was assured another weekend of USA-fired ratings. And given that we’ve landed for the first two knockout rounds in the best group since the Beatles, the possibility for advancing further than any modern US men’s national team is real. Project 2010, anyone?


Anyone with a dust speck of knowledge of US soccer’s place in the world understands that the euphoria surrounding Donovan’s goal and the prospect for the US in this World Cup have nothing whatsoever to do with reinforcing American cultural might and everything to do with celebrating a long-time-coming (and still-not-there) American ascendancy in the rare place it hasn’t existed. Those chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” aren’t an expression of American superiority. They’re a foam finger in the world’s eyeball from a historically and justifiably overlooked, disrespected, disregarded second-rate soccer country. It’s all about redemption on the field, not politics off of it.

Daniel Drezner:

The USA’s thrilling, last-minute victory over Algeria yesterday seemed tailor-made for pushing the popularity of the sport in this country to the next level.  Americans like winners, but they really like last-minute, come-from-behind winners, and this American team seems to excel in that area.

On the other hand…. I’m not sure I really want Americans to care that much about what happens on a soccer field football pitch.  To see why, consider this Steven Erlanger story in the New York Times about how the French elite has reacted to that country’s ignominious exit from the World Cup:

The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who has often criticized the failures of French assimilation, compared the players to youths rioting in the banlieues, France’s suburban ghettos. “We now have proof that the French team is not a team at all, but a gang of hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia,” he said in a radio interview.

While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as “scum,” “little troublemakers” and “guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain,” according to news reports.

Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team’s loss had become racially charged.

“There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened,” she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing party, according to news reports. “Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation.”

She criticized Mr. Sarkozy’s handling of a debate on “national identity,” warning that “all democrats and all republicans will be lost” in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. “We’re building a highway for the National Front,” she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen….

Mr. Sarkozy himself called a meeting on the disastrous result on Wednesday, summoning Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot and Rama Yade, the junior sports minister. In a statement, he said he had ordered them “to rapidly draw the lessons of this disaster.”

Now, to be fair, there have been a few moments in the past when a US team has performed so abysmally on the global stage that it prompted a minor, ugly political kerfuffle (I’m thinking of the 2000 Olympic men’s basketball team).  Still, in order, here’s what I don’t want to see happen in the United States:

1.  Philosophers using a national team’s sporting performance to opine about the state of the union;

2.  Any politician blaming the performance of a national sports team on the country’s government;

3.  A Minister of Sport;

4.  A head of state summoning the head of government and other policy principals to discuss the broad socioeconomic lessons that can be drawn from the failures of a f***ing football team.

David Zirin at The Nation:

I personally felt almost a little drunk at the excitement of it all (which unfortunately may have come across on air.) The United States is not my favorite team by a long stretch. I’m an Argentina guy, myself. But I was reminded of the words of Eduardo Galeano, author of Soccer in Sun and Shadow, who said, “Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”

Yet after the show, I was reminded about why when the United States wins in international tournaments, it can bring a nasty undercurrent in its wake. I was listening to a DC sports radio show called the Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro (Loverro writes a sports column for the Washington Times). Loverro was dismissive about the quality of the victory, saying, “When I think of Algeria, all I think about are terrorists and Abbott and Costello movies.” (Given what Algeria suffered at the hands of French occupiers, they probably have a different definition of terrorism.) The two then debated whether United States vs. Algeria was “a Grenada game” or “a Vietnam game,” comparing the soccer game to the two wars—Grenada of course being the easy win and Vietnam the tragic loss.

It reminded why these kinds of international competitions can leave me with such a sour taste. Why can’t we just recognize that Algeria played gallantly against a better US team, which won by the skin of its teeth? Why must an insanely miraculous athletic victory also be a reinforcer of cultural supremacy? It’s yet another reminder why it is so important for progressives to not just thrill to the joys of sport but be conversant in the politics of sports. The right will forever try to pump the worst kind of racist, nationalist garbage through our play, even at moments that by all rights should be above and beyond politics and just about the electric thrill of the moment. Especially given the right’s (and Loverro’s) contempt for “the beautiful game”, soccer of all things shouldn’t suffer the curse of being a cheap, political football.

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary:

In the NPR universe, the reluctance of the vast majority of Americans to embrace the so-called “beautiful game” is a symbol of our Bush-like arrogance and refusal to march to the same drummers as those enlightened soccer hooligans from Europe, South America, and even North Korea (whose representatives made the 32-team final in South Africa). For soccer lovers who see the sport’s minor-league status here as an affront to their globalist sensibilities, the World Cup is the quadrennial chance to boost its status, so the fortunes of the American team are a matter of deep concern to them. If the Americans succeed, as they have so far in this World Cup, then they hope that somehow this will translate into more prestige for U.S. soccer or at least a chance that the sports manifestation of American exceptionalism is in decline. Notwithstanding our sympathy for the boys running around the fields of South Africa in red, white, and blue, that is an outcome we should not desire. Soccer is just a game (albeit a boring one), and there’s no need for patriots to abuse it or its fans. But let’s just say that as long as Americans don’t share a common sports culture with Algerians and Iranians or even Europeans, we need not fear for the future of the republic.

But there’s the rub for hardcore leftists like Zirin, who hope that one day we will be no different than the rest of the world. Zirin wrote last week that the real reason that most Americans don’t like soccer is racism and looked forward to Glenn Beck’s dilemma when America was a World Cup favorite, as the right-wing broadcaster would have to choose between supporting the flag and his anti-soccer faith. But American successes, such as yesterday’s U.S. victory, provide Zirin with his own problem. In order for soccer to do well here, he’s got to root for the American team against Third World victims like Algeria (he admits he’s really an Argentina fan) and be subjected to jingoist soccer rhetoric about America’s “cultural supremacy” on sports talk shows. He confesses that is why international competitions leave him “with such a sour taste.”

While I find Zirin’s soccer evangelism as well as his aversion to rooting for his own country risible, he’s actually right about that last point even if he doesn’t follow it to its logical conclusion. While I wish the American World Cup team well, as I would any endeavor in which my fellow citizens represent our country, the business of wrapping team sports in national flags is sheer humbug. Which is why I despise the World Cup in the same way I detest other instances of sports globaloney, like the Olympics or our beloved national pastime of baseball’s own World Cup, whose absurd out-of-season international tournament has produced little interest here the two times it was played. It is far better to leave this nonsense to the denizens of Old Europe, unstable South America, and the despotic Middle East, whose one democracy, Israel, is not allowed to compete against its neighbors in soccer but must instead play against the powerhouses of Europe to get into the World Cup, and thus has never been allowed to participate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Still I Look To Find A Reason To Believe

Brad Thor at Big Government:

Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody.

According to the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program there is a bounty of up to $10 million on Omar for sheltering Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks as well as the period during and immediately thereafter.

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately.  From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.

When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States Intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise. No one, though, is going to be more surprised than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  It seems even with confirmation from the Pakistanis themselves, she was never brought up to speed.

Jed Babbin at Big Government:

If the report is correct, and if Omar is persuaded to talk (which is not at all assured) the information he has could reduce the Taliban networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan to a level at which – for a time – they were no longer an existential threat to both governments.  And, equally important, he could expose the details of the Iranian support of the Taliban, naming people in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan who give and receive arms, funding and training.

But let’s not celebrate too quickly.

First and foremost, we need to get the Pakistanis to delay giving him into US custody.  That is contrary to our normal instincts, but this man – taken alive and brought to any US detention facility other than Guantanamo Bay — would be Mirandized and pushed into the civilian criminal justice system where he, and his ilk, manifestly don’t belong. We would be forfeiting months of probable success in interrogating him.

The other reason to keep Omar in Pakistani custody is the Iran question.  The Obama administration still hasn’t formed the so-called “high-value detainee interrogation group” promised as the alternative to the now-banned “enhanced interrogation techniques” which proved so valuable in the Bush era.

If Omar can be persuaded to give up information on Iran, it should be either to CIA or US military intelligence personnel or to the Pakistanis.  US civilian interrogators would be more susceptible to Administration pressure to ignore information about Iran which might put them in the position of having to do something serious in response to the information.  Obama wants no inconvenient truths interrupting his “open-hand” strategy to Iran.

CIA and military US interrogators – perhaps working with the Pakistanis in a Pakistani jail — can better question Omar on matters such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ involvement with the Taliban, what other sources of funding and support come from other Islamic countries, and what involvement do Russia and China have? (We know from the Pentagon report on Afghanistan released a week ago that the Taliban receive funding from many Islamic countries).

And then there is the question of Usama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Omar is reported to be close to them both, and if anyone could lead us to them, it is probably Mullah Omar.

Omar is, at the very least, a co-conspirator in the 9-11 attacks.  If we have him – or the Pakistanis do – he must not be allowed to escape.  He should face trial in a military commission at Gitmo as soon as the intel folks have bled him dry (figuratively speaking, more or less.)

If Omar has been captured, there is a time window in which he must be questioned and the information he gives up acted upon.  If the Pakistanis – or we — have Omar then the Taliban and al-Qaeda know we do.  And they will change as much of the way they operate, their funds flow, the location of their people and supply trails as they can.

The Jawa Report

Greg Pollowitz at NRO

Dan McLaughlin at Redstate:

If Thor’s sources pan out, this is excellent news, and a moment for real vindication for everyone – from the military brass to Republican leaders and conservative commentators to, yes, President Obama – who argued for pressing on for victory in Afghanistan and not abandoning the region to the Taliban. Of course, I’m guessing that if Mullah Omar has been held for some time now by Pakistani authorities without public disclosure of that fact, he’s probably been under questioning. Without being read any Miranda rights by the Pakistani government, one assumes. But doubtless we’ll learn more about what has happened and when, in due time.

Marc Ambinder:

The Internet is abuzz about a report from BigGovernment.com’s Brad Thor (not a nickname!) that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has been captured in Pakistan. Official sources cast doubt on the claim, although there’s a chance that news of his capture would be highly compartmentalized. Nonetheless, these sources are advising extreme skepticism in a way that suggests Omar is not in U.S. or Pakistani custody.

Ed Morrissey:

Any reasons to believe? Well, (a) like Hillary said yesterday, it’s entirely plausible that jihadi double-dealers inside the Pakistani government know where this guy is. Picking him up isn’t so much a question of ability as a question of will. (b) Remember, they nabbed the Taliban’s number two back in February along with a bunch of other capos. Things got quiet after that, but there were suddenly a lot of people in custody who would have a good idea exactly where Omar is. Someone might have rolled over on him. (c) This could explain why the Taliban was keen to have Shahzad hit the U.S. homeland. A catch that big warrants a big reprisal.

Any reasons not to believe? Yeah — namely, how come this hasn’t leaked? Nothing against Brad Thor, but this is so tippy top secret that he knows about it when the NYT, WaPo, and even Hillary Clinton don’t? Five weeks seems an awfully long time to keep something like this quiet. Also, why wouldn’t the White House or Pakistan or even the Taliban itself have announced the capture? I can explain the latter two — the Taliban doesn’t want to discourage jihadis in the field and the Pakistanis don’t want to draw their wrath — but The One has an obvious political incentive to put it out there. Maybe he’s holding back because Karzai and the Taliban are negotiating some sort of reconciliation deal behind the scenes and a formal announcement of the capture would explode the deal? If that’s what’s going on then the question turns to why Pakistan brought him in. Are they trying to force him to make a deal with the Afghans or are they actually trying to prevent it? Mullah Baradar, the Taliban number two, was allegedly keen on reaching an agreement but I’ve never heard that about Omar.

No answers right now but it’s worth putting this on your radar screen. I have an e-mail out to Bill Roggio to see what he knows.

Update: A commenter wonders where we plan on holding him if the rumor turns out to be true. Bagram seems awfully risky. If only we had a special prison somewhere outside the theater designated for jihadi enemy combatants.

Update: Roggio e-mails to say that he’s heard not a single peep from anyone, U.S., Taliban, or otherwise.

Frances Martel at Mediaite:

Unsurprisingly, Big Government isn’t getting much support from the mainstream media. In fact, even among default allies like RedState and Hot Air, there seems to be a level of skepticism. RedState reported it with a question mark and made sure to point out Thor’s credentials as a “best-selling novelist.”Allahpundit at Hot Air went through a list of reasons to believe the story— namely that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had commented that she believed Pakistani authorities had information on the Taliban they were refusing to share— and reasons not to believe the story (“how come this hasn’t leaked? Nothing against Brad Thor, but this is so tippy top secret that he knows about it when the NYT, WaPo, and even Hillary Clinton don’t?”). Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic also reported it with extreme skepticism, but other than these sites, no one seems to have picked the story up.

Reporting the story is a peculiar decision to make on the part of the Big sites (Big Journalism ran it, too), as they usually stay away from major foreign policy journalism. Not to mention that by Brad Thor breaking it, he is putting professional provocateur Andrew Breitbart’s reputation at risk, as well. Breitbart’s sites have rarely broken a story without video evidence, and the Big sites usually shy away from news from outside the US, with the exceptions of denouncing Che Guevara’s war crimes or updates on Hugo Chavez’s crackdown on the Venezuelan media. If he’s right, Breitbart will have branched out as a legitmate source on military intelligence and beaten all of the mainstream media to the punch; if he’s not, he just gave all of the media– not just his enemies– carte blanche to ignore anything and everything he says, a risk that doesn’t seem to be worth the short-term increase in web traffic.

UPDATE: Jeremy Scahill at The Nation

Oliver North at Big Government

Allah Pundit

1 Comment

Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT

He Was Against It Before He Was For It

Greg Sargent:

In a big get for House Dems, Dennis Kucinich just made it official: He’s voting for the Senate bill, making him the first member to go on record fliping his vote from No to Yes.

“In the past week it’s become clear that the vote on the final bill will be very close,” Kucinich, who voted No last time because of the lack of the public option, said at a presser moments ago. He acknowleged that he’d be voting “not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is.”

“However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi” and others, Kucinich said, “I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.”

Kucinich’s stance was being closely watched by both sides, partly as a test of President Obama’s ability to corral the support of reluctant Dems. Obama wooed him directly with a lift on Air Force One and gave a big health care speech in his district earlier this week.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

I spoke with Dennis following his speech, and his campaign will return the money to those who have donated in support of his pledge to vote against any health care bill that does not have a public option.  It’s the honorable thing to do.  While he shouldn’t be expected to carry the weight of the health care bill on his back when the other 64 members of Congress have abandoned him, it is both disheartening and illuminating to realize that the progressives in Congress have no true commitment to anything but putting on a show.    Rep. Edwards and her fellow members of Congress should follow Rep. Kucinich’s lead and return the $430,000 they collected from donors for their part in the House kabuki as well.

Ed Morrissey:

Obviously, having one former no vote swing to yes doesn’t mean Nancy Pelosi can pass the bill.  It does, however, create a sense of momentum.  Kucinich, as one of the most loony of the progressive caucus, provides cover for those progressives more connected to reality to follow suit and switch their votes to yes.  Despite Kucinich’s insistence that Barack Obama didn’t offer him any deal to convert, other Democrats may decide it’s better to be on board and get something rather than end up empty-handed on the losing end of the vote anyway.

On the other hand, Blue Dog moderates who already don’t want to be linked to Nancy Pelosi in upcoming midterms may find being linked to Kucinich even less palatable.  We’ll see.  In this case, the real test may not be Kucinich’s switch but who will be the first to follow him.

John Nichols at The Nation:

Obama knows Kucinich well. When both were bidding for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, the pair maintained a steady conversation on their personal cell phones, regularly joking with one another and comparing notes from the campaign trail. With Kucinich’s encouragement, his backers provided Obama with critical support in the Iowa caucuses.

So there is mutual regard and respect between the two men.

Obama understood that he could not merely demand Kucinich’s vote and get it; he recognized that the Ohioan was serious about the flaws in the bill as it is now written.

The case Obama needed to make was a specific one, which acknowledged that the current legislation is imperfect and portrayed it as a foundation for developing a more equitable and fiscally-sound health care system.

Obama flew to the Cleveland area to make that case earlier this week, telling a crowd at a senior citizens center in Kucinich’s district that the legislation is a necessary step on the road to any sort of broad reform.

At the rally, someone in the crowd shouted, “Vote yes!”

Obama asked Kucinich if he heard the call.

Kucinich did.

Philip Klein at The American Spectator:

The media will make a lot of noise about this because Kucinich is the first “no” vote to publicly switch to “yes,” but we shouldn’t be surprised that a single-payer advocate would support a bill that’s such a major step toward government-run health care.

As I’ve said all along, the question is not whether, with this one piece of legislation, liberals achieve their dream of a government-run health care system. The important point is that it moves the United States in that direction. The bill puts the infrastructure in place by providing government subsidies to individuals to purchase government-designed health insurance on government-run exchanges. It imposes a raft of new taxes and regulations, and mandates that individuals purchase government-approved insurance policies. Over time, the government can shift more people to the exchanges, tighten its control over insurance policies, impose more cost controls (i.e. rationing), and add a public option – all of which will keep moving us toward a system of total government control.

Brian Beutler at TPM:

“I left [our previous meeting] with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he’s going through,” Kucinich said. “We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It’s not an easy burden that he has taken up.”

“One of the things that has bothered me,” Kucinich added, “has been the attempt to delegitimatize his presidency. That hurts the nation when that happens. He was elected…this is a defining moment for whether or not we’ll have any opportunity to move off square one on the issue of health care…. I think it’s important that–we have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.”

Kucinich insisted that he was given no assurance that Obama would push for a public option after the bill passes, and said that he was offered no favors in exchange for his support.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending, Political Figures

Bringing It All Back Home Or Back To The Iraq Future

Tom Ricks in the NYT

Whether or not the elections bring the long-awaited political breakthrough that genuinely ends the fighting there, 2010 is likely to be a turning-point year in the war, akin to the summer of 2003 (when the United States realized that it faced an insurgency) and 2006 (when that insurgency morphed into a small but vicious civil war and American policy came to a dead end). For good or ill, this is likely the year we will begin to see the broad outlines of post-occupation Iraq. The early signs are not good, with the latest being the decision over the weekend of the leading Sunni party, the National Dialogue Front, to withdraw from the elections.

The political situation is far less certain, and I think less stable, than most Americans believe. A retired Marine colonel I know, Gary Anderson, just returned from Iraq and predicts a civil war or military coup by September. Another friend, the journalist Nir Rosen, avers that Iraq is on a long-term peaceful course. Both men know Iraq well, having spent years working there. I have not seen such a wide discrepancy in expert views since late 2005.

The period surrounding the surge of 2007 has been misremembered. It was not about simply sending 30,000 more troops to Iraq; it was about using force differently, moving the troops off big bases to work with Iraqi units and live among the people. Perhaps even more significantly, the surge signaled a change in American attitudes, with more humility about what could be done, more willingness to listen to Iraqis, and with quietly but sharply reduced ambitions.

The Bush administration’s grandiose original vision of transforming Iraq into a beacon of democracy that would alter the Middle East and drain the swamps of terrorism was scuttled and replaced by the more realistic goal of getting American forces out and leaving behind a country that was somewhat stable and, with luck, perhaps democratic and respectful of human rights. As part of the shift, the American commander, Gen. David Petraeus, also effectively put the Sunni insurgency on the American payroll.

Looking back now, I think the surge was the right thing to do. In rejecting the view of the majority of his military advisers and embracing the course proposed by a handful of dissidents, President Bush found his finest moment. That said, the larger goal of the surge was to facilitate a political breakthrough, which has not happened.

All the existential questions that plagued Iraq before the surge remain unanswered. How will oil revenue be shared among the country’s major groups? What is to be the fundamental relationship between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds? Will Iraq have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? And what will be the role of Iran (for my money, the biggest winner in the Iraq war thus far)?

Nir Rosen at Rick’s place at Foreign Policy has a different point of view:

It’s been frustrating to read the latest hysteria about sectarianism returning to Iraq, the threat of a new civil war looming, or even the notion that Iraq is “unraveling.” I left Iraq today after an intense mission on behalf of Refugees International. My colleague Elizabeth Campbell and I traveled comfortably and easily throughout Baghdad, Salahedin, Diyala and Babil. We were out among Iraqis until well into the night every day, often in remote villages, traveling in a normal Toyota Corolla. Our main hassle was traffic and having to go through a thousand security checkpoints a day. Stay tuned for our report next month about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq (which deserves more attention than political squabbles) and the situation of Iraqis displaced since 2003. Stay tuned for my own article about what I found politically as well. And finally stay tuned later this year for my book on the Iraqi civil war, the surge, counterinsurgency and the impact of  the war in Iraq on the region.

From the beginning of the occupation the US government and media focused too much on elite level politics and on events in the Green Zone, neglecting the Iraqi people, the “street,” neighborhoods, villages, mosques. They were too slow to recognize the growing resistance to the occupation, too slow to recognize that there was a civil war and now perhaps for the same reason many are worried that there is a “new” sectarianism or a new threat of civil war. The US military is not on the streets and cannot accurately perceive Iraq, and journalists are busy covering the elections and the debaathification controversy, but not reporting enough from outside Baghdad, or even inside Baghdad.

Iraqis on the street are no longer scared of rival militias so much, or of being exterminated and they no longer have as much support for the religious parties. Maliki is still perceived by many to be not very sectarian and not very religious, and more of a “nationalist.” Another thing people would notice if they focused on “the street” is that the militias are finished, the Awakening Groups/SOIs are finished, so violence is limited to assassinations with silencers and sticky bombs and the occasional spectacular terrorist attack — all manageable and not strategically important, even if tragic. Politicians might be talking the sectarian talk but Iraqis have grown very cynical.

When you talk to people they tell you that the sectarian phase is over. Of course with enough fear it could come back, but Shiites do not feel threatened by any other group, and Sunnis aren’t being rounded up, the security forces provide decent enough security, and they are pervasive, there is no reason for people to cling to militias in self defense and besides militiamen are still being rounded up, I just don’t see enough fuel here for a conflagration — leaving aside the Arab/Kurdish fault line, of course. (Though if Maliki went to war with the Kurds that would only further unite Sunni and Shiite Arabs.) The Iraqi Security Forces like Maliki enough, even if they prefer Alawi. The Iraqi army will not fall apart on sectarian lines, it would attack Sunni and Shiite militias, if there were any, but these militias are emasculated. They can assassinate and dispatch car bombs but they can’t hold ground, they can’t engage in firefights with checkpoints. The Iraqi Security Forces might arrest a lot of innocent people, but they’re also rounding up “bad guys” and getting a lot of tips from civilians. The Iraqi Security Forces might be brutal, sometimes corrupt, but they no longer act as death squads, they take their role very seriously, perhaps too seriously, but these days anything is better than the recent anarchy and sectarian massacres.

Kimberly Kagan and Frederick Kagan in WSJ:

Success remains possible, but only if the Obama administration abandons the campaign rhetoric of “end this war” and commits itself to helping Iraqis build a just, accountable, representative government. It needs to establish long-term security ties that will bind our two states together, including the continuing deployment of American military forces in Iraq if the Iraqis so desire.

Many fundamental questions will be answered this year about how Iraq is to be governed that will shape its development for decades. Is the election free, fair and inclusive? Do all communities emerge from it with leaders who they feel represent them? Is there a peaceful transition of power? What is the relationship between the central government and provincial governments? What role will the military play in the evolving political system? Does Iran get to vet Iraqi political candidates? What relationship will the U.S. have with Iraq over the long term?

Tehran seems to know what answers it wants regarding Iraq’s future. Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, worked doggedly in 2009 to rebuild the coalition of the three major Iraqi Shiite parties that had run in 2005 as a bloc. That effort failed when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to join.

The Iranians then actively but unsuccessfully lobbied for Iraq’s parliament to pass a closed-list election law in October 2009 in which the people could not choose particular candidates, seeking to increase their control of political parties and thus electoral outcomes.

On Jan. 7, 2010, when Foreign Minister Mottaki visited Iraq, the Accountability and Justice Commission (which was established in August 2003 to vet individuals who might serve in the government for links to the Baath Party) announced that it was banning more than 500 candidates from the upcoming parliamentary elections. They included some of the most prominent Sunni leaders who had been running on cross-sectarian lists.

Ahmed Chalabi, a leading member of the Iranian-backed Shiite list, helped drive the ban through the commission. So did Ali Faisal al-Lami. Mr. Lami was arrested in 2008 for orchestrating an attack by the Iranian proxy group Aseeb Ahl al Haq (AAH) that killed six Iraqis and four Americans in Sadr City. AAH splinters re-activated its military activities, after a year long cease-fire, by kidnapping an American contractor on Jan. 23. AAH is nevertheless running candidates such as Mr. Lami for parliamentary seats.

But politics is by no means Tehran’s only sphere of influence in Iraq. The Iranian armed forces violated Iraqi sovereignty on at least two occasions in 2009—U.S. forces shot down an Iranian drone in Iraqi territory in March 2009, and Iranian troops ostentatiously seized an Iraqi oil well in December 2009 as the Iraqis completed a round of international oil bids.

Jackson Diehl in WaPo:

How odd, then, that Iraq — where the United States has invested $700 billion and the lives of more than 4,300 soldiers over the past seven years — is no longer a top priority for the White House, the State Department or nearly anyone in Congress.

Two Americans who understand how big the stakes are — U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and top commander Gen. Raymond Odierno — were in Washington last week to explain. Iraq’s March 7 election and what follows it, Hill said, will “determine the future of Iraq . . . and also the future of the U.S. relationship with Iraq.”

Said Odierno: “We have an opportunity in Iraq today that we might never get again in our lifetimes . . . to develop a democratic Iraq that has a long-term partnership with the United States.”

Compare that with Obama’s account of Iraq in his State of the Union address: “We are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. . . . We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.” That pledge means that even while Iraq passes through this crucial turning point, U.S. forces will be reduced from 98,000 now to 50,000 on Sept. 1.


First among these is Iran, which has a simple strategy for the coming months: Turn the elections into a bitter sectarian battle — and thereby ensure that the next government will be led by its hard-line Shiite allies.

To an alarming extent, the campaign is succeeding. Tehran’s leading agent, as both Hill and Odierno noted, is Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite who in 2002 played a major role in persuading the Bush administration to go to war. Now he has managed to have hundreds of candidates eliminated from the election on the mostly bogus grounds that they were or are loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party. His targets are not just Sunni leaders but secular nationalists — the two most important banned candidates are leading members of cross-sectarian alliances. The success of those tickets would be a triumph for Iraqi democracy — and a huge setback for Iran.

Chalabi aims to become prime minister of the next government, which would be a disaster for Iraq and for Washington. And worse outcomes are possible. Also angling for power are Bayan Jabr, a Shiite who oversaw the interior ministry when it was infamous for torture and death squads; and Ibrahim Jaafari, who as prime minister oversaw the eruption of the sectarian war of 2006-07.

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

The headline here is that General Odierno is planning contingencies for slowing down U.S. drawdown plans, but I don’t actually think that’s much of a story.  Of course he is — it would be irresponsible to not plan for contingencies. But I’ve seen little indication that the Obama administration, or for that matter Gen. Odierno, has been anything but committed to the drawdown from Iraq. That commitment has been clear, and that’s all the the good.

There’s been a mini-boom of late in commentary urging Obama to delay his timeline for drawing down U.S. forces, or at least to “do more” —  the Kagans are shocked, shocked to discover that Iranians are influential in Iraq, Jackson Diehl just wants Obama to care more about Iraq (without any hint of what policies might follow). They should be ignored. The administration is handling Iraq calmly, maturely, and patiently,  has demonstrated in word and deed its commitment to its drawdown policy, and has tried hard to thread a devilish needle of trying to shape events without triggering an extremely potent Iraqi backlash. It is possible, if not likely, that there could be slippage on the August deadline of getting to 50,000 troops, mainly because the elections slipped all the way to March. That’s one of the reasons I always was skeptical of pegging the drawdown to the elections, but that ship has long since sailed. But the SOFA target of December 2011 for a full U.S. withdrawal is a legal deadline, not a political one. It could only be changed at the request of the Iraqi government, and not by American fiat. While Iraqi politicians may say in private that they may be open to a longer U.S. presence, very few will say so in public — because it would be political suicide in a nationalist, highly charged electoral environment.

The drawdown will probably matter considerably less than people expect. With the new SOFA-defined rules of engagement, U.S. forces have already stopped doing many of the things associated with the “surge.” The Iraqi response to American efforts on the de-Baathification circus demonstrate painfully clearly that the nearly 100,000 troops still in Iraq gave very little leverage on an issue which the U.S. at least publicly deemed vital — a point made very effectively by Ambassador Hill at the Council on Foreign Relations last week. The sharp backlash against even the measured criticisms by U.S. officials offers an important lesson:  Doing the sorts of assertive things which may please Obama’s critics are highly likely to spark a negative reaction among Iraqis, generating more hostility to the U.S. role without actually accomplishing anything. The U.S. is wise to avoid them.

That doesn’t mean that things are rosy. The de-Baathification circus has demonstrated the fragility of Iraqi institutions, and helped to reignite sectarian resentments and fears (many Sunnis feel targeted, while many Shia are being treated to an endless barrage of anti-Ba’athist electoral propaganda). There’s very much a risk of long, drawn-out coalition talks after the election. It isn’t certain how a transition from power will go, should Maliki’s list lose, given the prime minister’s efforts to centralize power in his office over the last few years. There may well be a spike in violence by frustrated losers in the elections. If there’s massive fraud on election day, things could get ugly. The elections, already marred by the de-Baathification fiasco, may well end up producing a new Parliament and government which doesn’t really change much. There are big, long-deferred issues to confront after the elections, such as the Article 140 referendum over Kirkuk.

But none of those issues would be resolved by an American effort to delay its military drawdown. They generally fall into the “sub-optimal” rather than the “catastrophic” category. An American decision to delay the drawdown would not likely be welcomed by Iraqis in the current political environment. Nor would it generate more leverage for the U.S. over internal Iraqi affairs. Iraq’s future is not really about us, if it ever was — not a function of American military levels, commitment, or caring, but rather of internal Iraqi power struggles and dynamics.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

First of all, Odierno has no power to decide whether troops stay or go. He is bound, as the United States is bound, by a standing agreement on the status of forces with Iraq, and any stay beyond the dates contained therein would represent a violation of international law. Second, “if something happens” is far too broad a category to make a determination on troop levels. Something will happen, as it has been happening in Iraq ever since the invasion, as it will continue while groups jockey for power. It will happen with 100,000 US troops in the country or 50,000 troops or 5 troops. Our presence has no impact on that whatsoever.

I’m getting very nervous about this. You’re starting to see the very serious people demand we stay in Iraq, in one case using the circular argument that we must remain to stop Ahmed Chalabi, who was instrumental in us invading Iraq in the first place, from becoming Prime Minister. Our foreign policy establishment can only conceive of starting wars, not ending them. We are currently occupied with two of the three longest wars in American history – and if some neocons have their way, a third will follow soon. It’s time to leave Iraq to its people, as the President has consistently stated. No election or act of violence can change that.

Spencer Ackerman on Odierno:

Here’s the transcript. Odierno starts his Q&A with the Pentagon press yesterday by noting that after 2011 the U.S. military presence, by mutual agreement, will be “what we’d usually have at a normal embassy, a military contingent that would help to support Iraq.” Iraq will have to request any additional military presence, and Odierno says he’d probably expect some requested help with all the U.S. weaponry we’ll continue selling to Iraq. Later on, long after the contingency-planning line — which occurs in the context of his recent anti-Chalabi comments about Iranian influence in Iraq — he says that he expects the drawdown to 50,000 troops by September to hold “probably somewhere through the middle of 2011, and then we’ll begin to draw down to zero.” Zero. Unless there’s some request by the Iraqis and the Obama administration accedes. Big difference between 96,000 troops (where we are now) and a bunch of guys to help Iraqis use an American tank.

Peter Feaver at Foreign Policy:

Senior figures in the Defense Department and U.S. military leaders on the ground in Iraq have signaled that they are watching closely to determine whether conditions on the ground will permit sticking with the withdrawal timetable negotiated by President Bush in the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement. Apparently, they still estimate that conditions will allow a responsible withdrawal, but the mere fact that they are signaling concern should be, well, concerning for our political leaders.

The desire of the political community to put Iraq in the rear-view mirror is understandable, but misguided. The national security challenges that are receiving front-burner attention — especially Afghanistan and Iran — are integrally linked to the policy trajectory in Iraq. Since the fateful surge decision, the Iraq policy trajectory has been far more positive than anyone, academics or practitioners, thought likely. But the progress remains reversible and if Iraq unravels, then all of the other national security problems will get that much more difficult to address.

The theme of the academic conference was bridging the gap between academics and practitioners. In taking the collective eye off the ball on Iraq, it seems academics and practitioners may be unfortunately all-too-much in synch.

Spencer Ackerman, riffing off Feaver:

Over the last several years, there’s been a lot of head-nodding in foreign policy circles that we have to put our shoulders to the grindstone and take Seriously the fact that we’re waging two prolonged wars. Now, as a statement of fact, if you find yourself in two wars, ignoring at least one of them is obviously undesirable. Alternatively, ending at least one of them — particularly if one of them isn’t in the national interest — is a good idea. But when people started saying that Iraq distracted from Afghanistan, I’m not sure if the full implication was really absorbed. I remember the Bush administration, implausibly, pushing against it, saying this-or-that combat brigade or intelligence asset might be in Iraq but that didn’t mean Afghanistan was shortchanged.

But perhaps the right lesson is to replay that war is too complex and demanding to have to compete with a whole other war simultaneously, for any sustained period. It’s not just a question of launching discrete military strikes — your occasional Hellfire missile — or having X-number of troops or X-amount of money. It’s that you only have so many exceptional officers. You only have so much time in the day. You only have so many creative intelligence analysts. You only have so much mental ability to process complex and ever-changing amounts of data that mean the difference between life and death and the protection of national interests. There’s only so much human beings, organized into groups for the purposes of accomplishing a task, can do. War is hard.

Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan

Ricks responds

Sullivan responds

Ricks responds

1 Comment

Filed under Iraq

“What Would Brian Boitano Do?”

Pareene at Gawker:

Despite the fact that this is essentially an ad for a Viacom product that also promotes a GE-sponsored celebration of nationalism, this Shepard Fairey poster for Stephen Colbert’s Olympics trip is pretty cool. So go paper Vancouver with it, kids!

Matthew Yglesias:

I love any good high-level sports competition, so I’ll be watching some winter Olympics even though it’s definitely worse than the summer games. Hockey, curling, and short-track speed-skating are, in my view, the best of the winter offerings. The various figure skating and ice dancing events are pretty dull if you ask me. I think the games could be improved by shifting some of the indoor summer activities to the winter, particularly some of the fighting sports that wind up getting lost in the summertime shuffle. Is there some particular reason judo can’t be a winter sport? I don’t think so.

That kind of move would also make the winter games less white. Speaking of which, any time I think of the winter Olympics I think of Reihan Salam’s great article from four years ago “White Snow, Brown Rage”.

Reihan Salam‘s old piece in Slate:

Mind you, I am rooting for the United States. I am pleased to see that a generation of would-be ski bums are putting aside the Propecia, the Jack Daniels, and “the doob” in the hopes of becoming Olympic contenders. And though I spent my childhood winter vacations eating chipped lead paint, I don’t begrudge those of my compatriots who were off drinking hot cocoa with Muffy, Buffy, and Tad. Still, I can’t help but wonder: What if there had been chocolaty role models taking the slopes by storm when I was but a young pup?

Like the Augusta National Golf Club, the Winter Olympics is “exclusive.” Paul Farhi, writing in the Washington Post, has described it as “almost exclusively the preserve of a narrow, generally wealthy, predominantly Caucasian collection of athletes and nations.” Growing up, I forsook the lily-white Winter Olympics for the multi-culti Summer Games. I still vividly recall the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, when my middle sister and I cheered on every wiry, diminutive American athlete of a darker hue. When you squint, a fearsome Latino bantamweight looks not unlike one of the burnt ochre Salams.

Now, let’s compare that image of a powerful brown-skinned pugilist with that of my Winter Olympic role models. In 1988, we of course had the Jamaican bobsled team, immortalized in the classic film Cool Runnings. Given the team’s lackluster performance, Stool Runnings might have been a more apt characterization. Pluck and determination count for something, to be sure. And yes, Jamaica has no snow, leading some softhearted types to give its Winter Olympians a pass. But even as an 8-year-old, I was hoping for something more. Specifically, I was hoping to see this Third World band of brothers humble their colonialist oppressors with furious bobsled action. Instead, I was told that merely finishing the race was a “triumph of the human spirit” for these stumbling boobs. Meanwhile, pasty and perfumed Hanz and Franz were high-fiving each other on the medal stand. Call it tribalism of the basest sort, but I will never apologize. I want some brown sugar, on ice.

Chuck Klosterman at Esquire:

In order to enjoy the Olympics, you can’t think critically about anything. You just have to root for America (or whatever country you’re from) and assume that your feelings are inherently correct. It’s the same kind of antilogic you need to employ whenever you attend a political convention or a church service or movies directed by Steven Spielberg. When Savannah power lifter Cheryl Ann Haworth tries to clean and jerk the equivalent of a white rhino, we (as Americans) will be obligated to pray for her success, despite the fact that we know nothing about her or any of her foes. We’re all supposed to take inspiration from Sada Jacobson, who (I’m told) is the world’s number-one female saber fencer, which is kind of like being the world’s number-one Real World/ Road Rules Challenge participant.1 In a matter of weeks, everyone is going to be ecstatic about the prospect of Michael Phelps winning as many as eight gold medals in swimming, even though I have yet to find a single person who knows who Michael Phelps is.

This is what I can’t stand about the Olympics, and it’s also what I can’t stand about certain sports enthusiasts: the idea that rooting for a team without any justification somehow proves that you are a “true fan.” All it proves is that you’re ridiculous, and that you don’t really consider the factors that drive your emotions, and that you probably care more about geography and the color of a uniform than you do about the sport you’re ostensibly watching. I have a sportswriter friend who constantly attempts to paint me as a soulless hypocrite because I adored the Boston Celtics in 1984 but am wholly ambivalent toward them today. His argument makes no sense to me. I have no idea why my feelings about an organization twenty years ago should have any effect on how I think now. The modern Celtics have different players, a different coach, a different offense, different management, different ownership, and play in a different arena; the only similarities between these two squads are that they both wear green and they both use the same parquet floor.

I’m not rooting for flooring.

Stephen Messenger at Treehugger:

While the Eastern seaboard of the US faces whiteout conditions, the host city for the Winter Olympics, set to open this Friday, is finding itself strangely short on snow. Since organizers realized that none was on the way, they have been scrambling to do all they can to ensure there’s enough of the stuff to support the games. The problem is that temperatures during January were the highest on record and snowfall has been sparse. Conditions are so balmy, in fact, residents have been seen wearing shorts.

Nature is Not Providing Any More Snow
According to a report from The Guardian, after learning they weren’t going to be delivered any snow by nature before the start of the games, organizers have been working tirelessly to procure the stuff other ways. Helicopters have been bringing snow every five minutes, trucks have been driving it in from far away, while snow cannons have been blowing constantly.

On the mountainside, organizers are cooling what little snow there is with dry-ice to try to keep it from melting in the unseasonably warm weather.

For Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, this would be his death. In an accident so grisly and horrific that Canadian TV stations suggested viewers turn away, the young athlete died shortly after flying too fast through the 50-50 Curve, losing control on the final 270-degree turn, hurdling projectile-like over an icy wall and slamming into an unpadded — yes, unpadded — steel pole. A rescue crew tried to revive him trackside by pumping his chest and giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but there was no hope. Kumaritashvili was dead, a victim of a sport gone mad and organizers who weren’t paying enough attention.

So sadly, for a subtle country that aches to show its might and efficiency, Canada already has its defining moment of the XXI Winter Games. Regardless of Vancouver’s beauty or how spectacular the competition turns out, how are we going to forget that a luger perished because a bunch of morons built the track too fast? A full house of Canadians, trying to make the best of an awful situation, mustered cheers and energy Friday night during the Opening Ceremony inside B.C. Place. But frankly, they should have postponed the Ceremony for a night out of respect to the fallen athlete, even if NBC protested and had to air Conan O’Brien reruns. Only seconds into the proceedings, the public-address man announced somberly that the ceremony was being dedicated to Kumaritashvili’s memory. No matter how many lights sparkled, how many times they played the stirring “Oh, Canada,” how many athletes tried to smile and how many native singers entertained — Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan and k.d. lang among them — thousands of us sat inside the downtown dome and thought only about the senselessness of it all.

Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash among those lighting the Olympic cauldron at night’s end? Didn’t faze me. I was numb, thinking about the crash and a young man’s family. And I sat disgusted by what I heard from Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC. At an afternoon news conference, he struggled to hold back tears when speaking of the tragedy. “This is a very sad day. The IOC is in deep mourning,” he said. “(Kumaritashvili) lost his life pursuing his passion. I have no words to say what we feel. It clearly casts a shadow over these Games.”

But when asked why the safety warnings weren’t heeded or addressed, Rogge suddenly grew abrupt. “I’m sorry, this is a time of sorrow. It’s not the time to ask for reasons,” he said. “That time will come.”

That time is now, Jacques. Shame on you for not answering the question with more care. We need to know why the track was so dangerous, why no one listened to the lugers about safety. We need to know why some of these Winter Games events are too life-threatening, why we’re seeing too many accidents like the one that left Shaun White eating the halfpipe while performing his dangerous Double McTwist 1260, or the late-January wreck that dislocated the hip of U.S. skier Daron Rahlves and might knock him out of the Games. I realize we’ve bemoaned the growing irrelevance of the Winter Olympics and have urged IOC officials to light a spark.

The Funeral competition was not what we had in mind.

Milton Kent at Fanhouse:

NBC may have intended to throw a big party for Friday’s opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, but the events of the day, to wit, the death of a competitor, forced the network to call a temporary halt to the fun and frivolity.

The network eschewed the expected opening panoramic shots of Vancouver and its surroundings set to the Olympics theme, “Bugler’s Dream,” to go right into coverage of the story of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger who died Friday during a practice run before the official opening of the Games.

Off the top of the broadcast, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, on hand to anchor the ceremonies at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, launched a solid eight-minute block of coverage into Kumaritashvili’s death.

The reporting, smartly handed off to the network’s news department, was probing, but sensitive, noting the questions that had been asked about the safety of the course, as well as documenting the crashes that had taken place before Kumaritashvili’s fateful practice run.

Still, the tone of the coverage seemed aimed more at explaining the accident through the prism of the inexperience of the 21-year-old athlete rather than calling attention to what the viewer could obviously see.

Namely, the wall over which Kumaritashvili slid over seemed perilously low, and his crash into an unpadded concrete support beam appeared inexplicable, yet it took to near the end of the report for news anchor Brian Williams to raise those questions.

John Nichols at The Nation:

Not to be too tough on the organizers of the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics, but how come someone else had to sing the Leonard Cohen song?

Of course, there was going to be a performance of “Hallelujah,” the passable Cohen song that has achieved iconic status thanks to cover versions by Jeff Buckley and so many others.

But why have k.d. lang sing it?

Why not Cohen?

After all, if the Olympics opening ceremonies are about anything akin to cultural authenticity — a suggestion that organizers take seriously, even if savvy critics find it amusing — then any not have the writer and original singer (and the man who, upon his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was aptly described by Lou Reed as having entered “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters”) of the song perform. True, Cohen is 75 and he’s got an ailing back, but something tells me he could have made it to Vancouver for this show.

His performance, perhaps as a duo with lang (a longtime Cohen fan whose performance Friday night was riveting), would have been far more powerful than what we got.

And what of the obligatory version of “O Canada”? Was it really necessary to have a talented young artist, June Award-winning jazz stylist Nikki Yanofsky,” mutate the national anthem into a cringe-worthy power ballad. If the organizers really thought the song needed to be punched up, they should have just gone for it and had Rush perform. (A note here: The full band, not just Geddy Lee.)

Better yet, have Joni Mitchell perform “A Case of You” and then break into “O Canada” where her lyrics reference the song.

Even better, how about War Party morphing their aboriginal hip-hop anthem “This Land Was Ours” into “O Canada”?

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Oh Canada. After much speculation about who would light the flame, tonight’s very lengthy, very Canadian, Winter Olympics 2010 opening ceremony ended with a, shall we say epic, passing off of the Olympic torch: from Rick Hansen, to Catriona Le May Doan to Steve Nash (yes, he’s Canadian) to Nancy Greene Raine, to the Great One Wayne Gretzky (was there ever another choice?). It was perfect. Then things got a bit tricky. It’s a moment perhaps best enjoyed via Twitter (video below):

@cherwenka: Uh oh. We forgot the cauldron.


@rachelsterne: “Truth be told, they may be experiencing something of a mechanical failure here.”

: omg gretzky’s face. omg. please work, whatever is supposed to work. also, i’m sorry for laughing.

@cherwenka: Anyone else thinking about spinal tap right now? #olympics

@MajoratWH: An OC “door malfunction.” How discreetly Canadian.

@raywert: Wayne Gretzky doesn’t look happy.

@eahanks: Someone is getting fired right now, in very angry French, I imagine. #van2010

@raywert: How many Canadians does it take to light an Olympic torch? #toosoon #Olympics #badjokes

@dceiver: Okay, so apparently, Gretzky is going off to do this again with Chief Justice John Roberts, and everything will be fine.

@cherwenka: RT @colleenlindsay: This just in: Olympic torch pillars being recalled by Toyota. #olympics

@MajoratWH: Anyone can do harmonically balanced, 4 pronged indoor ice crystal. 3 legged one, so unconvetional, arch, unique. #torchexcuses

Fear not, the flame was eventually lit. The Winter Olympics 2010 have officially begun.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Beefs Are Gettin’ Quite Nasty Up In This Blogosphere

Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic:

“Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy.” On June 2, 1944, W.H. Auden penned that sentence in a letter to Ursula Niebuhr. On January 26, 2010, Andrew Sullivan posted it as the “quote for the day” on his blog. Displaced and unglossed quotations are always in some way mordant, and bristle smugly with implications. Let us see what this one implies.

Auden was at Swarthmore when he wrote his letter to his friend. He began by thanking her for her admiration of a piece about Kierkegaard’s Either/Or that he had recently published in The New Republic, and then reported that he had just finished, “after writing it four times,” a review for the magazine of Charles Norris Cochrane’s book Christianity and Classical Culture, which had in fact appeared four years earlier. His trouble in completing the piece to his satisfaction was what prompted the remark that Sullivan finds so pleasing and repercussive. Auden’s intense and idiosyncratic theology was flourishing in those years, not least owing to the impact upon his thinking of the friendship and the teaching of Reinhold Niebuhr, Ursula’s very remarkable husband. The Cochrane piece, which barely mentions Cochrane at all, is a fine example of Auden at his most philosophically grandiose and amateurish. “The distinctive mark of classical thought is that it gives no positive value to freedom and identifies the divine with the necessary or the legal.” “A monolithic monotheism is always a doctrine of God as either manic-depressive Power or schizophrenic Truth.” And so on. On metaphysical themes, Auden’s original formulations could sometimes be very obscure. Perhaps that was why my predecessor at this magazine held the article for many months, until late September. “At last, The New Republic has printed my now months’ old piece on Cochrane’s book,” Auden wrote to Ursula in October, “—they’ve cut it about a bit but I’m really quite pleased with it.”


When Auden joked to Niebuhr that the Trinity could hardly be understood in The New Republic, he was lightly lamenting the spiritual shallowness of the liberalism of his day. He was not alone in this lament, to be sure. The 1940s were the years of the inner deepening of American liberalism, under the influence of Niebuhr, and Schlesinger, and Trilling. Perhaps Sullivan is posting his “quote for the day” to make the same point–except that in his present incarnation he is himself a bizarre kind of liberal, and The New Republic today, a liberal magazine, is not known only, or in some quarters mainly, for its liberalism. It is hard to escape the impression that Sullivan is not liberal-baiting here. No, when he piously implies that the orbit of The New Republic is immune, or hostile, to the eternal verities of Christianity, he is baiting another class of people, and operating in the vicinity of a different canard.

Consider some squibs that Sullivan recently posted on his blog. “Most American Jews, of course, retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities (Jews, for example, are the ethnic group most sympathetic to gay rights),” he declared on January 13. “But the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing–that celebrates and believes in government torture, endorses the pulverization of Gazans with glee, and wants to attack Iran–is something else. Something much darker.” Michael Goldfarb is the former online editor of The Weekly Standard, about whom the less said, the better. Charles Krauthammer is Charles Krauthammer. I was not aware that they comprise a “wing” of American Jewry, or that American Jewry has “wings.” What sets them apart from their more enlightened brethren is the unacceptability of their politics to Sullivan. That is his criterion for dividing the American Jewish community into good Jews and bad Jews–a practice with a sordid history.

As far as I can tell, Krauthammer’s position on torture is owed to a deep and sometimes frantic concern for American security, and his position on the war in Gaza to a deep and sometimes frantic concern for Israeli security, and his position on Iran to a deep and sometime frantic concern for American and Israeli security. Whatever the merits of his views, I do not see that his motives are despicable. Moreover, Krauthammer argues for his views; the premises of his analysis are coldly clear, and may be engaged analytically, and when necessary refuted. Unlike Sullivan, he does not present feelings as ideas. Most important, the grounds of Krauthammer’s opinions are no more to be found in, or reduced to, his Jewishness than the grounds of the contrary opinions–the contentions of dovish Jews who denounce torture, and oppose Israeli abuses in the Gaza war, and insist upon a diplomatic solution to the threat of an Iranian nuclear capability–are to be found in, or reduced to, their Jewishness. All these “wings” are fervent Jews and friends of Israel. There are many “Jewish” answers to these questions. We all want the Torah on our side. And the truth is that the Torah has almost nothing to do with it.

Sullivan is hunting for motives, not reasons; for conspiracies, which is the surest sign of a mind’s bankruptcy. These days the self-congratulatory motto above his blog is “Of No Party or Clique,” but in fact Sullivan belongs to the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt (whom he cites frequently and deferentially), to the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington. Sullivan might have a look at the domestic pressures–in lobbies and other forms–upon American diplomacy toward China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Cuba, and give a thought or two to the elaborate and sometimes exasperating nature of foreign-policy-making in a democracy; but he prefers not to dive deep into the substance of anything. It is less immediately satisfying than cursing and linking. Does Sullivan think that Obama’s engagement with Iran–which, accurately described, is an engagement with the Iranian dictatorship and not with the Iranian people–is paying off? Does he believe that the Israeli war against Hamas was an unjust war, or that Israel should have continued to absorb Hamas’s rocket attacks–which were indisputably criminal–and not acted with force against them? His answers may be inferred from his various ejaculations–“the pulverization of Gazans,” for example, is a phrase that is calculatedly indifferent to the wrenching moral and strategic perplexities that are contained in the awful reality of asymmetrical warfare–but they are not so much answers as bar-room retorts; moody explosions of verbal violence; more invective from another American crank. Worst of all, the explanation that Sullivan adopts for almost everything that he does not like about America’s foreign policy, and America’s wars, and America’s role in the world–that it is all the result of the clandestine and cunningly organized power of a single and small ethnic group–has a provenance that should disgust all thinking people.

And this is not all that is disgusting about Sullivan’s approach. His assumption, in his outburst about “the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing,” that every thought that a Jew thinks is a Jewish thought is an anti-Semitic assumption, and a rather classical one. Bigotry has always made representatives of individuals, and discerned the voice of the group in the voice of every one of its members. Is everything that every gay man says a gay statement? I will give an example. On October 15, 2001, when the ruins of the World Trade Center still smoldered, Sullivan published a piece in the Times of London called “A British View of the US Post-September 11.” In this piece he accused Bill Clinton of “appeasement,” and praised George W. Bush for assembling “the ideal team” for a “task” that “cannot be done by airpower alone,” and had kind words for America’s “world hegemony”–the politics changes, the fever remains the same–and also included this unforgettable sentence: “The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead – and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.” A fifth column! It is a genuinely sinister sentence. I wish to emphasize two features of Sullivan’s  comment. The first is that it is an exercise in demonization: it divides the American people into good Americans and bad Americans. The second is that it is in no way an expression of Sullivan’s homosexuality. It must never be said that when Sullivan lauded the bellicosity of Cheney and Rumsfeld–which wing of American Christianity, by the way, shall we blame for them? –he exchanged the company of the good gays for the company of the bad gays. To say that would be homophobic. Here is what such homophobia would look like: Most American homosexuals, of course, retain a respect for art, and compassion for the other, and support for minorities. But the Sullivan-Shmullivan wing of American homosexuality–that celebrates and believes in torture and war, and endorses the pulverization of Afghan villages with glee, and wants to attack any country where Al Qaeda may be found–is something else. Something much darker. Get it?

Andrew Sullivan’s first response:

It’s been fourteen years since I left TNR and Leon Wieseltier is still obsessed with his long-standing and at this point tedious personal vendetta against me. I will try and defend myself from these dark insinuations of anti-Semitism one by one in due course (allow me a little time to respond to a 4,300 word ad hominem). But just for the record, let me grapple with Leon’s first claim that my citation of W H Auden’s letter to Ursula Niebuhr represented some dark and ugly attempt to convey anti-Semitic tropes and code.

Now it’s impossible to refute mere insinuations about my true motives for posting a random quote. But really: does Leon really believe I was making a swipe at the Jewish faith? To give just one of countless examples of my own passionate defense of the Jewish people from Catholic bigotry, see my review here. But as luck would have it, I have the email trail that gives the full context of this one-line post, so you can make your mind up yourself.

Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator:

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t stop myself from posting a rebuttal of some argument Sullivan’s made or some falsehood that he’s promoted. And that’s true of everyone here at TAS: if you didn’t hold back, the blog would devolve into a catalogue of his errors and misstatements. Especially when Sullivan writes about the pope or Catholicism, I, as someone who knows the first thing about it, am always shocked by his craziness. Wieseltier’s topic is Sullivan’s treatment of Israel and American Jews, and it’s pretty damning.


LEON WIESELTIER: Andrew Sullivan has a serious problem. “Sullivan is hunting for motives, not reasons; for conspiracies, which is the surest sign of a mind’s bankruptcy. These days the self-congratulatory motto above his blog is ‘Of No Party or Clique,’ but in fact Sullivan belongs to the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt (whom he cites frequently and deferentially), to the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington. . . . And this is not all that is disgusting about Sullivan’s approach. His assumption, in his outburst about ‘the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing,’ that every thought that a Jew thinks is a Jewish thought is an anti-Semitic assumption, and a rather classical one. Bigotry has always made representatives of individuals, and discerned the voice of the group in the voice of every one of its members. . . . Having demanded that the Jews behave apologetically in America, Sullivan now demands that the United States behave apologetically in the world–that it adjust its relationship with Israel to the preferences of the Muslim peoples. This is a little like decrying the election of a black president because it will inflame white racists. . . . To me, he looks increasingly like the Buchanan of the left.” Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: On consideration, I don’t think this gets it quite right. Andrew certainly has a lot of hate, but unlike Buchanan he seems less . . . fixed in exactly who he hates at any given moment. I think it’s more of a frog-and-scorpion kind of thing and not a traditional idee fixee hatred like anti-semitism.

Dan Riehl:

For all it’s depth and artfulness, ultimately, Leon Wieseltier’s critique of Andrew Sullivan is myopic. Certainly, all the signs of anti-semitism are there with Sullivan. But that’s because he hates, first and foremost, and simply disagrees.

Via Google, the words hater and Andrew Sullivan go hand in hand and have throughout his various political transmutations. He’s capable of hating almost anything, or anyone. Right now, Sullivan hates everything from a single uterus, to the Christian faith and Zionism, among other things. Two years from now, he may be hating something else because, to know whatSullivan hates at any particular time, is only to know that which he opposes, not which he truly loathes.

Matthew Yglesias:

My understanding is that Leon Wieseltier and Andrew Sullivan have some kind of personal beef dating back to when Sullivan was editor of the New Republic. Wieseltier basically runs the back-of-the-book autonomously, which is a setup that often leads to friction with the nominal editor of the magazine, and in the case of the Wieseltier/Sullivan situation it was especially bad for some reason. That’s the backdrop for this bizarre Wieseltier hit-piece on Sullivan.

Like most of TNR’s very worst work, it suffers deeply from schizophrenia about the idea of flinging around baseless charges of anti-semitism. On the one hand, the charges are baseless so the writer hesitates to fling them around. On the other hand, flinging baseless charges of anti-semitism is the essence of the magazine’s commentary on Israel. For the purposes of intimidation, after all, baseless charges work better than well-grounded ones. Nikolai Krylenko, Bolshevik Minister of Justice, said “we must execute not only the guilty, execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more.” And it’s much the same here. If you call anti-semites anti-semites, then people who aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism will figure “hey, since my political opinions aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism, then I’m safe.” The idea is to put everyone on notice that mere innocence will be no defense. But relatively few people are actually goonish enough to execute the strategy properly, so instead Wieseltier’s piece beats around the bush and doesn’t really come out and say what it’s saying.

Daniel Larison:

For his evidence, such as it is, Wieseltier first establishes that Andrew does not agree with and does not care for Michael Goldfarb and Charles Krauthammer. Even though Andew stipulated that these people are in no way representative of American Jewish opinion, he made clear that he loathed the ideology these individuals have embraced. Who wouldn’t? They cheered and defended all the worst aspects of the previous administration, and they routinely endorse destructive, inhumane policies. Andrew is not “hunting for motives” when he describes their appalling views; he is stating his opposition to those views. Unlike Wieseltier, he does not speculate about someone’s supposed undisclosed animus against an entire group of people on the basis of a few quotes and fragments.

As far as I know, Andrew does not subscribe to Walt and Mearsheimer’s actual arguments contained in their writings on the Israel lobby. Imagine how much less he agrees with the completely distorted, despicable misrepresentation of those views that Wieseltier presents! If he agreed with Walt and Mearsheimer’s actual arguments, that would mean that he supports Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself, and he would believe that the U.S. should guarantee its security. In fact, Andrew is arguably much more of a Zionist than this, and this comes through in numerous posts in which he, like many other Western Zionists, expresses his sorrow at what certain political forces inside Israel, especially Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, have been doing to the country and its reputation abroad. My impression is that it is his sympathy for Israel that makes him so critical of the mistakes he believes its government has been making.

Andrew will sometimes overstate things, and he has an Obama loyalist’s tendency to attack Obama’s opponents in very harsh terms. One post that Wieseltier cites is one that I criticized at the time, not because Andrew was all that wrong on the substance of the state of U.S.-Israel relations or Israel’s fraying relationship with Turkey, but because he did not set recent events against the background of the last several years. No reasonable person could conclude that Andrew’s statement was anything more than a strong criticism of another government that he correctly saw as an opponent of Obama’s policies. As for his remarks about jihadism, Andrew was commenting on a discussion begun by Marc Lynch, who made the argument with which Andrew was agreeing.

Alex Pareene at Gawker:

The crime is not that Sullivan is a conspiracist who thinks a cabal of Jews controls American foreign policy—that is insane. The crime is that Sullivan fucking criticizes Israel at all, without being a Jew. (Wieseltier is allowed to say mildly critical things about Netanyahu and call the settlers fascists because he is a member of the Tribe and he writes for The New Republic, which will only criticize Israel in occasional asides in the middle of articles on Those Terrible Liberal Antisemites or Those Terrible Muslims.) And you can accuse Andrew Sullivan of being emotional, inconsistent, and generally goofy (and you can complain about his hysterical post-9/11 writings, which Leon brings up purely to find something actually objectionable to object to, or the egregiously racist bullshit he published as editor of The New Republic, which Leon does not bring up), but to say that because he thinks the settlements should be dismantled and he finds Charles fucking Krauthammer objectionable that he is an antisemite is bullshit of the highest order. (Not that we’re surprised! Leon Wieseltier is a first-class bullshit artist! He consistently provides totally quality zingers slathered in the finest aged bullshit.)

Meanwhile, TNR publisher and on-again, off-again owner Marty Peretz posts something racist enough to make Tom Tancredo blush almost weekly. Like, explicitly so. You don’t actually need deep readings of his extensive archives to find evidence of implicit racist motives. He just lets it all hang loose.

UPDATE: Reihan Salam

Jonathan Chait at TNR

Glenn Greenwald

Brad DeLong

UPDATE #2: Andrew Sullivan responds

Heather Horn at The Atlantic has 19 pundit responses

Mike Potemra at The Corner

More Sullivan

UPDATE #3: Leon Wieseltier responds to Sullivan

Eric Alterman at The Nation

DiA at The Economist

UPDATE #8: Matthew Yglesias and Glenn Loury at Bloggingheads

Andrew Sullivan responds to Chait

UPDATE #9: Chait responds to Sullivan

Sullivan responds to Chair


Filed under Mainstream, New Media, Religion