Bile? You’re choking on it!

by Ted on April 14, 2004

John D. Negroponte is apparently expected to be appointed to the position of ambassador to Iraq after June 30 handover to whoever. (The “D.” stands for “Death squads”). Matthew Yglesias has links and commentary here, here, here, and here. I’d be surprised if Beautiful Horizons didn’t have something on it soon. Me, I’ve got to spend the morning washing my hands over and over and over again.

UPDATE: Grammar Police has more. Also, check comments on this post for an especially good one from Keith M. Ellis.

Wednesday morning quarterback

by Ted on April 14, 2004

Ezra Klein has a take on Bush’s press conference that seems right to me:

Bush stood up there for an hour and ran for President the same way he did 4 years ago; as if he wasn’t the President. The advantage of being the challenger is you get to talk about visions and ideals and intent and desire. When you’re President, you have to defend a record. That apparently isn’t so with George W. Bush. He stood there for an hour answering questions as if no policy he put into place required an honest defense, no consequences from his actions merited note. Rather, he casually threw aside whatever the situation was, expressing sympathy for the suffering contained therein and reiterating how much he loved freedom and how the bad guys don’t.

To me, the most dismaying Q&A wasn’t the part where Bush couldn’t come up with any mistake he had made, or his inability to explain why he and Cheney were insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission. It was this:

QUESTION: Mr. President, who will we be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30th?

BUSH: We’ll find that out soon. That’s what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He’s figuring out the nature of the entity we’ll be handing sovereignty over.

That’s the whole answer, and it’s not good enough. June 30 is 77 days from today. Both of these statements cannot be true:

(1) We don’t know who we’re handing soverignity to on June 30.

and

(2) We have done a reasonable job of planning Iraq’s transition to a stable, democratic state.

Finally, I’d like to register my disgust for this little song-and-dance:

BUSH: Some of the debate really centers around the fact that people don’t believe Iraq can be free; that if you’re Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can’t be self-governing or free. I’d strongly disagree with that.

I reject that. Because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

I expect that kind of slur from instant pundits, not from the President of the United States. Appalling.

JSTOR

by John Quiggin on April 14, 2004

Just a note that anyone interested in the issues of intellectual property and the Internet could usefully look at JSTOR: A history by Roger Schonfeld. JSTOR was the first big attempt to put complete series of academic journals (including back issues) online and free[1]. Despite a lot of missteps, JSTOR survived and prospered while well-funded commercial ventures failed. I’m pleased to say the economics profession played a prominent role, with the American Economic Review, Econometrica and others being among the early participants.

The success of JSTOR is an illustration of the proposition, put forward most clearly by Clay Shirky that the economics of the Internet favour the free provision of content by those seeking fame (taken generally to include anyone who has something to say and wants others to read it) over fee-based content created by those seeking fortune.

fn1. Quite a few commentators have pointed out that JSTOR isn’t free or easily accessible to individuals, though it is non-profit and the charges for library subscriptions are modest – less than a single commercial journal in many cases.

Fair and Balanced

by Belle Waring on April 14, 2004

I laughed when I saw this AP headline: “Bush Speech Elicits Applause, Dread.” I guess that about sums it up.

Breaking the circuit

by John Quiggin on April 14, 2004

Since the situation in Iraq seems to have stabilised momentarily, this might be a good time to think about measures that could prevent a renewed downward spiral. An essential starting point, and a relatively easy measure, would be to dump both Bremer and Chalabhi. Every major decision Bremer has made has been a disaster, from the dissolution of the Iraqi army to the failed attempt at rigged elections based on “caucuses” to the decision to pick a fight with Sadr. The cumulative result is that the Coalition is stuck with a promise to hand over power on June 30 and no-one remotely credible to hand it to.

The other party in all of this is Chalabhi, who is still apparently Bremer’s preferred candidate, despite the fact that he has zero credibility in Iraq or, for that matter, anywhere outside the Pentagon. It might not be feasible to remove him from the Governing Council, but he should be dumped from any administrative position he holds, and particularly from his role in the disastrous de-Baathification campaign.

My suggestion for the next step would be to send Powell to Baghdad to take personal charge of the proposed transition. Although he’s been compromised like everyone else in the Administration, he’s by far the most credible person they have.

[click to continue…]

News from Abroad

by Kieran Healy on April 14, 2004

I’m getting my first sustained dose of UK-based broadcast news for a while, and it’s interesting to watch the coverage of recent events in Fallujah and Bush’s press conference last night. Round-the-clock coverage of “David Beckham”:http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2002390000-2004171473,00.html notwithstanding, the higher quality of the news — in everything from the evident literacy of the reporters to the standard of graphic design — is obvious. A chunk of warbloggers in the U.S. and elsewhere routinely bellyache about the bias of the BBC, so let’s leave Auntie aside. “Sky News”:http://www.sky.com/skynews/home is owned by Rupert Murdoch but doesn’t much resemble Fox, its American counterpart. Reports from Iraq have sounded pretty cynical: propaganda footage of a firefight was presented with the comment “This is what a ceasefire looks like in Fallujah,” and the Pentagon’s statement that the city “was not yet under control to our satisfaction” was called, I think, a “typical piece of understatement.” Meanwhile, though Sky’s report on Bush’s press conference reduced the President’s performance to soundbites, the reporter said something like “By his standards this was a relatively assured performance,” and we got a good chunk of the floundering response to the question, “What was your biggest mistake after 9/11?” On the other hand, “some suggest”:http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,6903,1168743,00.html that Murdoch himself isn’t too happy with this sort of attitude.