Ezra Klein

And Don't Tell Me Different

Will the prime minister be Jafari? Chalabi? A third candidate? I don't know, but I know who to ask : A close aide to al-Sistani, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the alliance leaders will visit his office in Najaf to get his blessing for their choice for prime minister. If they cannot agree, al-Sistani will decide. You know what this doesn't sound like? Iran. Nope, not in the least.

Wanted: Cold-Blooded Networkers With Democratic Loyalties

Mark Schmitt's post on the narrow missions of foundations reminded me of something Nick Confessore wrote a few weeks back in his New York Times Magazine expose of Bush's tax plans (behind the archive so no link): Within Republican circles, Norquist's job is to organize other organizations, making sure the different branches of conservatism are moving in the same direction, at the same time, to the greatest extent possible. His particular genius is for persuading one organization to reach beyond its own agenda to help out another -- for getting, say, the cultural traditionalists at the Eagle Forum to join the business libertarians at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in opposing fuel-economy standards for automobiles by convincing the traditionalists that, as Norquist once explained to me, ''it's backdoor family planning. I know lots of lefties who wonder why we lack a Grover Norquist-like enforcer, but not enough who wonder why we lack movement chieftains with his talents. A few...

Vote George

This is a very, very stupid poll . If George Washington came back from the dead and tried to capture the presidency, I'd vote for Bush as well! Why? Because he knows who Osama bin Laden is. And he has likely heard of the internet, not to mention Medicare. And his context isn't centuries old. The poll's only interesting feature was that Bush won among Republicans and Washington won among Democrats and Independents, proving that we've reached the level of polarization needed to make an Encino Man candidacy viable.

Squeeze the Right

You should read Ed Kilgore's comments on the latest salvo in the abortion battle, wherein Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life Committee firmly rejected Hillary Clinton's call for compromise. As Ed notes, hardcore anti-choice folks don't see a moral difference between birth control and abortion procedures, forcing them to explain that publicly drives a wedge in their colaition. But at the end, Ed writes that: Hillary Clinton has just given us all a textbook case of what it really means to "seize the center": it does not mean "moving to the right," it means moving to higher and stronger ground. I'm starting to think that it's the whole concept of a "center" that messes up progressive politics. Conceptually, you can only occupy so much ground, so if you're seizing the center you're not covering the left. But Hillary's not seizing the center, she's squeezing the right. Her framing pushes them out of a whole range of positions they formerly inhabited and leaves room only for those...

Such Innocence

Now be honest. Is there anything cuter than a freshman Republican Senator? Because Isakson's adorable comments sure make me want to tickle him under the chin.

Outsourcing's Next Target

Well this is brilliant . We're outsourcing the war to incompetent soldiers from poor countries with shoddy human rights records. And, just like with regular outsourcing, the manpower is being massed through a byzantine web of contractors and subcontractors and no one can figure out what country's laws, if any, these guys fall into. In addition, our contact point was Custer Battles, the same Custer Battles that defrauded us out of $15 million by, among other shenanigans, providing security to an airport that wasn't in use. Excellent.

The Carter Agenda

Matt's asking the big questions: If Jimmy Carter is truly a traitor, yet as an ex-president he still gets top-level intelligence briefings, is the Republic safe? I expect that George W. Bush is feeding him misinformation so Carter will mislead his superior (code name: Jesus), but how can we know the tricky devil isn't seeing right through it? Indeed, are we giving him access to confidential memos on CIA agents? If so, has he done anything to blow cover, like pose nude for homosexual websites or offer his services as a male prostitute? Has anyone looked into that Sunday school Carter has been teaching for decades? Maybe he's a pedophile! These questions must be answered, and quickly. While the Democrats stonewall, Jimmy Carter plots and Americans slumber on, dangerously unaware of the 80-year old ex-president and his similarly aged wife massing on their border.

Campus Progress

If you haven't been already, you should really be checking out the newly-launched Campus Progress . As the kids say, it's the shizzle. Update : While you're there, you really have to check out " So Speaks Some Guy With a Website ". Brilliant.

In For Out

This may be a blessing in disguise . The Muslim Scholars Association, a hardline, highly-influential Sunni group, has offered their participation in the government if US troops set a timetable for withdrawal. It's a demand we obviously can't meet as is, but were the Shi'as and Kurds to announce that the path was now for the Iraqis to chart and a united, clearly-autonomous Iraq was necessary for that, it'd leave us with no choice in the matter. Indeed, the best thing that could happen to us would be for the democratically-elected government to offer us a dignified withdrawal in the context of proving their autonomy, maybe pairing a timetable (for Sunni dignity) with conditions for implementation (for American dignity). We're too hardheaded to leave any other way, and the Sunnis are too defensive to join a government that we're involved in, so it may fall to the Iraqi-elect to chart a middle path between our competing egos. That, after all, is what governments are for, right? I should...

Horrible Hugh

So I thought it was a good idea. You know, a fun one. I'd write a review of Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog , get a byline and a check, go home happy. I mean, the book isn't really long or anything, is it? Well, no, it's not. But it certainly the most distasteful piece of waste I've handled since maturation imbued me with the good sense to stop handling garbage. I think I was three years old, then. Why is Hugh so bad? Well, aside from the towering egotism and the blistering partisanship, the guy is constantly lying. Here are three, just from the introduction: On October 1, 2004, more than 130,000 internet users visited HughHewitt.com. They did so because the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry was conducted on the night of the thirtieth, and folks wanted my take as well as my continually updated analysis of the debate that took place. I believe George W. Bush had won the debate, and that John Kerry had committed incredible blunders. Very few pundits agreed...

The Flight of the Consultant Class

Well this is positive : Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the Democratic leaders of the Senate and House, plan to shake up the Democratic political consulting community and break the grip that a small number of consultants have had on strategy and contracts, party sources say. The Democratic leaders want to bring in new people with track records of success and innovation and look beyond the Beltway for message smiths to help guide the party. ... A Democratic leadership aide said, “There’s general agreement in both chambers and at the House and Senate political party groups that we need to rethink our relationships with consultants [and have] more accountability for results. Amy Sullivan should be proud .

Iran and the Bomb

Justin's thoughts on my post arguing the merits of the EU's lead role in Iran deserve a quick response. The world, he argues, is more complex than I give it credit for, mainly because the EU has no credible military force nor the appetite to introduce sanctions and our threats don't matter because they've been spoken aloud. I'll grant him the EU's military impotence, but nobody's talking about an invasion of Iran. The most violence being considered are surgical air-strikes, and even they're out of favor given the spread and secrecy of Iran's nuclear facilities. With America straining terribly to occupy Iran's weaker neighbor, there never was a credible threat of our force in the first place, so I wouldn't worry so much about that. Sanctions are a bit trickier. As Justin rightly notes, Europe has shown no interest in sacrificing trade to punish Iran during past transgressions, what reason is there to believe they'll behave differently now? This, in a sense, was the point of my original...

Waiting for Wampum

Hosting the Koufax Awards has obliterated Wampum's server. If they don't get some scratch, a good deed they tried to do for the lefty blogosphere is going to end up backfiring and driving them off the net. That'd really be a shame, we should support our own better than that. So if you can chip in a bit to help them back up, do so .

The Indispensable Nation No More

The Kyoto Pact takes effect today . Without us. In some ways, it's more symbolic than anything. Sans our involvement, it'll barely make a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions. But our opposition neither killed nor derailed it, and that in itself was meant to send a message. It's worth noting that, in this too, Bush was for it before he voted against it: Bush, who campaigned before his first term on the promise that he would regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, changed his mind after taking office and withdrew from the Kyoto talks in 2001, advocating voluntary steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Didn't Bush's favorite philosopher say something about the merit of faith without works? And why is it that Bush is so scared of appearing anti-environment, doesn't his platform enjoy a broad mandate? And while we're being moral, is there any chance that Easterbrook will finally give a mea culpa on his quadrennial prediction that Bush will lead the world on global warming? Or...

AIDS 2.0

This is the worst news we've had on HIV in a long while : On Friday, New York City health officials issued this chilling announcement: A man is infected with a form of the AIDS virus that is not only resistant to three of the four classes of anti-HIV drugs, it is apparently so virulent that it causes full-blown AIDS in a matter of weeks rather than the usual decade or more. It will be super-difficult to treat, and it may be a super-fast killer. New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden first heard of the case on Jan. 22. Tests showed that the man had been infected for only a short time. Frieden prudently had samples of the mysterious virus assessed by two independent labs. Both labs confirmed that it is resistant to all three of the classes of pill-form HIV drugs and that it attacks its victims with what are called CX4 cellular receptors, which are typically found only in those infected with HIV for a long time and in advanced stages of AIDS. There is more bad news. The man is...