Overheard

by Ted on July 14, 2005

Is there anyone on Earth who heard that Aldrich Ames had uncovered our CIA assets and said, “Hold on. What did their spouses do to deserve it?”

Odyssey cancellation

by Henry on July 14, 2005

I’m very sorry to see via “Sean Carroll”:http://preposterousuniverse.blogspot.com/2005_07_01_preposterousuniverse_archive.html#112119788542529522 that Chicago Public Radio has cancelled Gretchen Helfrich’s “Odyssey”:http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/odyssey/ show. I appeared on it together with Eugene Volokh a few weeks ago, talking about blogging. Over the last half-year or so, I’ve done several radio/tv appearances and often found the medium and the level of questions pretty unimpressive. _Odyssey_ was the exception; Helfrich was an exceptionally well informed and intelligent moderator/interviewer, and the hour-long format allowed for real conversation. After appearing, I began to listen to the show regularly on the web. I’ll miss it.

The Church of England is currently having a vote about the advisability of ordaining women as bishops. Apparently up to 1000 clergy are thinking about leaving the C of E over this issue. While pondering this grave crisis in the spiritual life of the nation while watching Newsnight last night (it was my turn to take the bins out), I came up with the following theory, which I think has some predictive power.
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Why is Karl Rove more appalling than Richard Nixon? There are actually any number of answers, but Kevin Drum has a good one.

Another bite at the apple

by Ted on July 14, 2005

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy has joined the chorus of right-wingers whose interest in Joe Wilson outstrips their interest in anything else. He demonstrates how an intelligent mind can be seriously misled by restricting his sources to PowerLine (13 cites), the WSJ editorial page (6 cites), and single news story containing a significant error (5 cites).

Lindgren writes:

As the Washington Post reported: “According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.” So Wilson had found evidence that tended to confirm the substance of the sentence in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Quite a lot of the PowerLine/WSJ/Lindgren argument rests on this slender reed, but it’s not correct. The Washington Post has since printed a correction to that story- it was Iran, not Iraq.

Republicans have tried to argue that Wilson lied about the forged documents. The WSJ writes,

The same bipartisan report also pointed out that the forged documents Mr. Wilson claimed to have discredited hadn’t even entered intelligence channels until eight months after his trip.

This is misleading at best. Wilson didn’t claim that he discredited the documents- he didn’t even claim to have seen them! Wilson actually wrote,

As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there’s the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.

Lindgren is correct that Wilson has falsely claimed that his wife had nothing to do with suggesting that he make the trip to Niger.[1][2] He is also correct to claim that the Senate report said differently. I’m pretty sure that the Senate report is correct, Wilson was lying, and Wilson deserves criticism for this.

However, Lindgren writes:

The Wall Street Journal says that Wilson had started lying to the press and public about how he was hired before his wife was outed, in part by Rove. (my emphasis)

Maybe I’m not reading carefully enough. But as far as I can see, the Wall Street Journal doesn’t actually claim this, and the charge itself isn’t true. Wilson’s editorial told the truth about how he was hired in his original New York Times column. He correctly identifies the people who sent him only as “agency officials.” Republicans have seriously misrepresented what Wilson said after his wife was outed (here, the RNC talking points claim that Wilson falsely asserted that Cheney sent him. In the very same interview cited by the RNC, Wilson said, “it’s absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. Rice nor even George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.”)
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Economics of live music?

by Chris Bertram on July 14, 2005

On Tuesday night I went to see the “Bottle Rockets”:http://www.bottlerocketsmusic.com/ , supported by “Romney Leigh Getty”:http://www.romneygetty.com/ , play at the social club attached to my local RC church. Very good they were too (review “here”:http://tinyurl.com/9uzw3 ). But I write not to praise the Bottle Rockets but to wonder how the whole thing makes economic sense. Here are four guys, who have travelled to Europe from St. Louis, Missouri (plus the two Canadians in the support act). They have to meet their expenses, pay their entourage, agent, manager etc. They have to pay the cost of travel. The people who run the club have to break even, etc etc., the bar has to sell enough beer. My guess is that there were 50 people in the audience who all paid 10 pounds (and some of them bought CDs for another tenner). Maximum income for the night is therefore 700 pounds. Sure, touring sells CDs and builds name recognition, but how much difference does it make? Enough? This is the sort of thing which “Tyler Cowen”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/ has probably got an opinion on.

One Week On

by Kieran Healy on July 14, 2005

London and many other places will “observe two minutes of silence”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4679681.stm at noon GMT today for the victims of last week’s bombings. The debate has already begun (“see below”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/07/14/battle-lines/) about the right political and legal response to the attacks. Besides policy and law, though, Britain and Ireland have suffered long enough from terrorism to have produced literature about it. Below the fold I reproduce a powerful poem from the late “James Simmons”:http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/20century/topic_4/simmons.htm. It commemorates one of the earliest, and worst, atrocities of the Northern Ireland conflict, the IRA bombing of Claudy town in July of 1972. The circumstances of that event were different from last week’s attacks, but some things were the same. I don’t know of anything else that conveys them nearly as well.

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Battle lines

by Chris Bertram on July 14, 2005

Following the London bombings, the British “left” pro-war sites “are”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2005/07/apologists_amon.html “busy”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/07/14/kingdom_of_the_blind.php “drawing”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/archives/2005/07/14/the_problem_we_face_in_a_nutshell.php “battle lines”. The line they are concerned to draw is between themselves and the likes of Seumas Milne of the Guardian. David T at Harry’s Place goes so far as to call Milne a Quisling. (Given who Quisling was, I think this would make David T a Holocaust denier if the argument of “this”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/11/talking_down_th.html Eve Garrard post at normblog were correct. But since it isn’t, it doesn’t.)

“Dickhead” and “idiot” are two of the politer epithets I’m inclined to apply to the hapless and unpleasant Milne and those like him such as our regular commenter abb1, but since there are lines to be drawn, and it is important that we do so, I’d prefer not to draw them there. We now know, that there are Muslim extremists in the UK who are willing to kill us in large numbers. If we are to stop them we need a politics that isolates them from their co-religionists rather than providing them with an environment to swim in. That means talking to, and trying to include on “our” side, all kinds of figures from within that community. That means doing what the Metropolitan Police have done in inviting Tariq Ramadan to speak. That means engaging with a whole bunch of people who have repellent views on topics from Israel to homosexuality. We should say what we think of those views, but we should talk, we should include. Because an isolated and frightened Muslim community, unwilling to talk to the police, unwilling to engage with wider British society would provide a place for the real nutters to hide and recruit, whereas a Muslim community with whom bonds of trust exist provides our best means of fighting the crazies. Ken Livingstone has come in for a lot of flak for his meetings with Sheikh al-Qaradawi. Maybe some of it was justified. But Ken, with a political sureness of touch that eludes the bloggers I mentioned at least know both that we need to draw some lines and draws them in the right place: between those who are disposed to plant bombs on the tube and those who can help us to stop them.

Addendum:
Norman Geras and Eve Garrard, in the course of treating us to “a lecture on drawing battle lines against Milne et al”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2005/07/apologists_amon.html , also attempt a lesson on blame and moral responsibility. Since I agree with them that the terrorists who planted the bombs are responsible for those bombs and that Blair is not, I am reluctant to quibble overmuch. But as a general rule it seems to me wrong to rule out a priori that those who create the conditions under which bad things are done share responsibility for those bad things. One of their examples concerns rape. Of course rapists are responsible for what they do, but suppose a university campus with bad lighting has a history of attacks on women and the university authorities can, at minimal cost, greatly improve the night-time illumination but choose not to do so for penny-pinching reasons. Suppose the pattern of assaults continues in the darkened area: do Geras and Garrard really want to say that the university penny-pinchers should not be blamed for what happens subsquently? At all? I think not.