Saturday, January 27, 2007
One of the grandest -- and most frustrating -- things about carrying on the great democratic conversation via blog is finding out how many of your fellow citizens (including many who are nominally on your side) turn out to be looking at the world from a completely different set of assumptions than you are. In fact, there's simply nothing like the Internet if you want to be thrown together with people who have ordered their entire lives around fundamental propositions that would never have occurred to you if you lived to be 100. Behold your fellow earthlings, in all their bizarre and twisted glory….
You often find these meta-level disconnects at the core of online flame wars. There used to be a general rule of thumb that said if a comment thread exceeded sixty posts, you could pretty much bet that the thread had devolved into a pissing contest between two people who were now simply shouting past each other. Mercifully, most of the major blogs seem to have moved past that (and thoughtful people have learned to avoid reading the comments at the ones that haven't); in fact, we haven't had a decent flame war around here in ages (and, speaking of the devil, where did Paul Donnelly go?).
A goodly number of these online disagreements are based in our fundamental assumptions about how change happens. Believe it or not, different people can look at the same situation, and come to completely different conclusions about what's likely to happen next. These assumptions are among the things they train futurists to look for. Since they're such a perennial source of both online and IRL misunderstanding, I thought I'd offer a short taxonomy of the various assumptions people bring to their thinking about what drives social change.
My professors have, over the years, boiled the basic change drivers down to about nine. (There may be others; I'm open to suggestions.) In brief, here are the main assumptions people use to explain why change happens:
1. Progress. Change happens because humans want to improve their condition, and apply ingenuity and good problem-solving to create progress. The people with the best handle on the future are the optimists, though individuals have a lot of control over what will happen. Over the next 20 years, the social and economic conditions of the world will consistently get better, just as they have improved on a ever-rising linear path throughout history.You can go through almost any comment thread on this blog (or any other) and find several of these assumptions at work. It can also be very instructive to spend some time thinking about the ones that make the most sense to you, personally. Most of us have two or three dominant ones that we think explain just a whole lot about the world; and another one or two that we find genuinely distasteful. I've noticed that whenever I write about my own views on change (which pick and choose from the whole menu, though I'm particularly partial to cycle theories and think that #1, linear progress, was pretty much refuted by the Dark Ages), I'm sure to hear from partisans of other theories.
2. Development. Change happens because people want to build a decent life, which naturally leads societies toward increased specialization and complexity. Individuals don't have much control over this process; the real change masters are social engineers -- mostly experts, academics and political leaders of various sorts -- who direct the pace of development. Improvement occurs when people build relationships; over the next 20 years, we will continue to see networks of expert change agents emerge to manage increasing complexity.
3. Technology. Change happens because humans are motivated to solve problems, which requires the creation of new technologies, which in turn drive progress and social change. The real masters of the future are the scientists and technologists who will solve our current problems; and people participate in this change to the extent that they adopt and apply these solutions. Progress depends utterly on the amount of support we give to research and development efforts. Over the next 20 years, biotechnology will create the biggest changes in how we live.
4. Ideas. Change happens when culture changes through the dissemination of new ideas. One good idea has the potential to change the world. The real power to create change belongs to the media, which edits, frames, and disseminates ideas. As individuals adopt these ideas, they participate in the creation of change, and experience personal growth as well. Progress depends on how effectively we work to change people's thinking. Over the next 20 years, better ideas will be promoted by greatly improved media. The world will become more enlightened as human consciousness grows.
5. Markets. Change happens because people seek to acquire creature comforts -- desires which push entrepreneurs and industries to innovate. Industry leaders and economists are the leading experts here, but consumers and their choices are the main change drivers. Progress depends on encouraging people to produce, trade, and consume freely. Over the next 20 years, the world will generally continue to become more consumer-driven as standards rise in less-developed countries (though there may be bumps along the way).
6. Cycles. Change happens according to predictable patterns, which can be discerned by studying history. These patterns are usually seen as cycles or waves, with periods of great change alternating with periods of rest and recovery. ("History doesn't repeat itself -- but it rhymes," said Twain.) In this view, change is viewed as a natural process, with a lifecyle that includes birth, maturity, and death; and people have limited influence on how this cycle plays out. The greatest insight into these patterns belongs to historians and theorists who have studied them. Progress depends on our ability to learn from the past, and use that knowledge to surf the change waves as they come. Over the next 20 years, long-wave theories call for very large energy, technology, and political shifts.
7. Conflict. Change happens when groups of people engage in a struggle to improve their lot. Those who understand change best are Marxists, union leaders, and social justice advocates; people succeed in creating change only if they're willing to fight for it. Progress occurs when we pursue our own interests to the fullest. The next 20 years will be dominated by conflicts between developing countries and the Western nations who are trying to impose their values on them.
8. Power. Change happens when powerful people and groups decide to alter the status quo to further increase their power. Nobody really understands the future unless they're part of this elite; and the majority of us will have no say in their machinations. (Some will argue that it's better just to let these well-connected people make the decisions anyway.) Over the next 20 years, they will continue to consolidate their control over nations and industries.
9. Evolution. Change happens when the physical environment changes, and organisms adapt in response to those changes. Ecologists have the deepest understanding of change; the rest of us are co-participants, but nobody really knows what will ultimately come of our efforts. Our best chance of progress lies with our ability to understand the world around us, and find the most appropriate ways of responding to emerging issues. Over the next 20 years, we will either come to terms with our responsibility to nature, or risk extinction. Global warming, mass extinction, and the rise of virulent, drug-resistant organisms are among the biggest concerns.
That's a good thing -- as long as we don't let it devolve into arguments, either online or in the real world. Part of the strength of the liberal worldview lies in our diverse views of how change happens. Most of these aren't mutually exclusive, though we shouldn't be afraid to have reasoned debates about which model most accurately fits the situation we're discussing. In fact, making sure we're working off the right change model is critical if we want to make plans that will actually get us where we want to be.
Market theory, left in a vacuum, looks pretty good. Put it alongside the limits of nature, and it looks like a recipe for disaster. Evolutionary thinking explains much about nature, and Dawkins argues persuasively that it may also work for cultural ideas; but when you apply it to social issues, you can easily end up with social Darwinism (which is implicit in the Power model). Not good. And so on. Each model has its appropriate uses, its explanatory strengths, and its limits. The key to making good guesses about the future is to choose your model carefully, stay mindful of its drawbacks, and be sure it actually fits the circumstances of the scenario at hand.
I'm offering this in the hope that it will help make some peace in the progressive camps. It's tempting to dismiss people as clueless idiots who just don't get the point, when all they're really doing is interpreting events through a different change assumption. And maybe yours is better, and maybe theirs is wrong; but that's a discussion reasonable people should be able to have without resorting to ad hominems.
by Matthew Yglesias
As you can see here there have been some persistent attempts by someone at the Council on Foreign Relations to scrub the Max Boot Wikipedia page of some unflattering information. Boot, of course, is a fellow at CFR and a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. What information? Well, as you can read here on Altercation, what this is about is the fact that Boot is involved in some scandalously corrupt backstory. Before he was a prestigious military policy writer, Boot was simply a generic rightwing hack at The Wall Street Journal's hack-laden editorial page. While there he, among other things, wrote an editorial attacking public health officials that was edited by tobacco lobbyist Steven MIlloy.
The only reason we know anything about this is that it happens to have come up in tobacco-related litigation. It's possible, in principle, that when Boot was writing rightwing regulatory policy journalism for the Journal he just so happened to let one of his pieces be edited by a lobbyist and that that piece just so happened to have come up in a lawsuit. Much more likely, however, is that he did this on various occasions and there just so happens to have been a lawsuit that uncovered this.
And now Boot, or someone working on his behalf, is trying to keep this incident hushed up. I wonder why he's bothering. In case Boot hasn't noticed, he's a conservative. The rules of the media game are clear -- no jobs for the left, no accountability for the right. Corrupt or not, Boot seems like a smart, perceptive guy . . . surely he's picked up on this.
Friday, January 26, 2007
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney exerted "constant" pressure on the Republican former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee to stall an investigation into the Bush administration's use of flawed intelligence on Iraq, the panel's Democratic chairman charged Thursday.
In an interview with McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia also accused President Bush of running an illegal program by ordering eavesdropping on Americans' international e-mails and telephone communications without court-issued warrants.
In the 45-minute interview, Rockefeller said that it was "not hearsay" that Cheney, a leading proponent of invading Iraq, pushed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to drag out the probe of the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
"It was just constant," Rockefeller said of Cheney's alleged interference. He added that he knew that the vice president attended regular policy meetings in which he conveyed White House directions to Republican staffers.
Republicans "just had to go along with the administration," he said.
In an e-mail response to Rockefeller's comments, Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea McBride, said: "The vice president believes Senator Roberts was a good chairman of the Intelligence Committee."
Roberts' chief of staff, Jackie Cottrell, blamed the Democrats for the investigation remaining incomplete more than two years after it began.
"Senator Rockefeller's allegations are patently untrue," she said in an e-mail statement. "The delays came from the Democrats' insistence that they expand the scope of the inquiry to make it a more political document going into the 2006 elections. Chairman Roberts did everything he could to accommodate their requests for further information without allowing them to distort the facts."
"I'm not aware of any effort by the vice president, his staff or anyone in the administration to influence the speed at which the committee did its work," said Bill Duhnke, who was Roberts' staff director.
Rockefeller's comments were among the most forceful he's made about why the committee failed to complete the inquiry under Roberts. Roberts chaired the intelligence committee from January 2003 until the Democrats took over Congress this month.
The panel released a report in July 2004 that lambasted the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies for erroneously concluding that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was concealing biological, chemical and nuclear warfare programs. It then began examining how senior Bush administration officials used faulty intelligence to justify the March 2003 invasion.
Robert promised to quickly complete what became known as the Phase II investigation. After more than two years, however, the panel published only two of five Phase II reports amid serious rifts between Republican and Democratic members and their staffs.
Rockefeller recalled that in November 2005, the then-minority Democrats employed a rarely used parliamentary procedure to force the Senate into a closed session to pressure Roberts to complete Phase II.
"That was the reason we closed the session. To force him" to complete the investigation, he said.
The most potentially controversial of the three Phase II reports being worked on will compare what Bush and his top lieutenants said publicly about Iraq's weapons programs and ties to terrorists with what was contained in top-secret intelligence reports.
In the two reports released in September, the panel said that the administration's claims of ties between Saddam and al-Qaida were false and found that administration officials distributed exaggerated and bogus claims provided by an Iraqi exile group with close ties to some senior administration officials.
Rockefeller said it was important to complete the Phase II inquiry.
"The looking backward creates tension, but it's necessary tension because the administration needs to be held accountable and the country . . . needs to know," he said.
Rockefeller said that he and the senior Republican member of the committee, Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., have put the frictions behind them and agree that the committee should press the administration for documents it's withholding on its domestic eavesdropping program and detainee programs.
Under the eavesdropping program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans' international telephone calls and e-mails without court warrants if one party was a suspected member or supporter of al-Qaida or another terrorist group.
Rockefeller charged that Bush had violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain permission to eavesdrop on Americans from a secret national security court.
"For five years he's (Bush) has been operating an illegal program," he said, adding that the committee wants the administration to provide the classified documents that set out its legal argument that Bush has the power to wiretap Americans without warrants.
Rockefeller is among a handful of lawmakers who were kept briefed on the program after it started following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he told Cheney in a handwritten note in July 2003 that he was deeply concerned about its legality.
In the interview, Rockefeller said the committee needs more details about how the program worked before it considers amending the eavesdropping act to give the administration the flexibility it says it requires to be able to track terrorists.
"How do we draw something up if we have no idea about what the president sent out in the way of orders to the NSA? What about the interpretation of the Department of Justice?" he asked. "Americans . . . should want us to discern what the facts are, what the truth is."
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Over at what Keith Olbermann now calls Fox Noise Channel, they just can't back away from their attempt to slime Barack Obama. Not only did John Gibson repeat the lies long after they'd been debunked, he also repeated the bogus "it came from Hillary" assertion.
And since Fox follows the Bush administration's golden rule "when you're in a hole, dig faster," they've also gone after CNN's Anderson Cooper for calling them on their lies. Hilariously, Fox spokesperson Irena Briganti demeaned Cooper's reporting ability and called his correction of Fox's errors "a cry for help." Coming from a network whose sole purpose is whining, Cooper should take this as unvarnished praise.
The Obama lies are a model for the off-key moaning of the right's media machine. Fox ran the lies on two shows, and plastered it on Papa Murdoch's king of yellow journalism, the New York Post. From there it was picked up by right wingnut talk show hosts who pitched in to keep the swift boats sailing. This included Dan Caplis, who not only repeating Fox's false accusations about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but adding his own dash of nuttery by calling Obama's elementary school a "Muslim seminary."
As usual, no one on the right seems to be interested in facts when they've got a good character assassination underway, especially if they can sling mud at Obama and Hillary at the same time. Stopping now would be slander interruptus.
Weighing in today Barack Obama's office delivered his own verdict on the Fox follies.
"Insight Magazine published these allegations without a single named source, and without doing any independent reporting to confirm or deny the allegations. Fox News quickly parroted the charges, and Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy went so far as to ask, 'Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a Madrassa?'
"All of the claims about Senator Obama raised in the Insight Magazine piece were thoroughly debunked by CNN, which, instead of relying on unnamed sources, sent a reporter to Obama’s former school in Jakarta to check the facts.
"If Doocy or the staff at Fox and Friends had taken [time] to check their facts, or simply made a call to his office, they would have learned that Senator Obama was not educated in a Madrassa, was not raised as a Muslim, and was not raised by his father -- an atheist Obama met once in his life before he died.
To think, some folks actually laughed when Hillary first talked about the "vast right wing conspiracy." Her office also provided a comment on the affair.
"This is a textbook example of how the other side works. A right-wing rag makes up a scurrilous charge and prints it with no real attribution. The smear gets injected into the atmosphere and picked up by talk radio. In this case both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton were victimized."
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
This blog post was put together by a number of people in the progressive movement who believe that journalism matters and that Fox News Channel does great disservice to the institution of the media (perhaps intentionally) by pretending to be legitimate members of the press (hence, I agree completely with this post, but this is not solely my work):
Therecently-debunked "madrassa" smear against Barack Obama shows that it's time for serious journalists, news consumers, and Democratic politicians to send a clear message to the "Gang of 500" - ABC's term for the all-knowing consultants, strategists, pollsters, pundits, and journalists who guide Washington DC's conventional wisdom.
The message: Fox News is not a real news organization! It is not a source of journalism and it is not remotely credible, so stop treating it that way. Fox is the television equivalent of The National Enquirer and deserves zero respect as a news outlet.
At the end of this post, I ask you to share your ideas on how we can send that message. Should Democratic politicians refuse to go on Fox? Should news viewers pressure the White House Correspondents' Association (202-452-4836) to deny membership to Fox? Should the DNC (202-863-8000) deny Fox floor rights at the 2008 convention? Should Fox advertisers be denied our dollars?
As you ponder those questions, I'll give credit where credit is due - to Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz for being among the first of 500 to directly call out Fox for "raising questions about journalistic behavior."
Moonlighting on CNN this Monday, Kurtz reported that "a little-known conservative magazine" published a story "based entirely on unnamed sources" alleging that Senator Obama was schooled in a Muslim madrassa. "Fox News channel touted the claims on two programs," Kurtz said and showed a clip of Fox talking about the "outing" of Obama's "madrassa past."
"As we now know, there is no madrassa past," Kurtz concluded. "This, unfortunately, is how the media food chain works. A bogus charge appears on some magazine or on some website and works its way up to bigger news outlets - all based on little or no evidence."
He was so close to getting the story 100% right. But, Howard, Fox is not a "bigger news outlet." That would require it to be a news outlet. Next time, try "bigger tabloids posing as news outlets."
Wolf Blitzer came on screen and made up for Kurtz's mistake, saying, "CNN did what any serious news organization is supposed to do in this situation - we actually conducted an exclusive first-hand investigation." You can view the video for yourself to see the playground and classrooms Obama went to as a 6-year old, and the school's administrator talking about religious tolerance.
One final note: Kurtz reports that "Fox News executive Bill Shine says some of the network's hosts were simply expressing their opinions." But if you watch those hosts' fake mea culpa on Monday, one says "We were reporting a story from Insight magazine" and another says, "That's what it says in Insight magazine, so we reported that..."
The third host says, "Senator Obama was on our show when his book came out and we would love to have him back...Come back, Senator Obama." Should he? How do you think we should send a meaningful signal that Fox is not a real news outlet? Share your thoughts here...
State of the Union
In an interview in GQ Magazine, Hagel reveals that the Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East — not just in Iraq — in the fall of 2002. At the time, Hagel says, the Bush administration presented Congress with a resolution that would have authorized the use of force anywhere in the region:
HAGEL: [F]inally, begrudgingly, [the White House] sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.
GQ: It wasn’t specific to Iraq?
HAGEL: Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.
GQ: They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?
HAGEL: Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.
Asked about his vote in support of the final Iraq war resolution, Hagel told GQ, “Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.”
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Norah O'Donnell is asking Andy Card and Leon Panetta if the president is going to have to ask Dick Cheney to resign as a result of what's being alleged at the Libby Trial. (They both punted.)
If that's the beltway chatter, look for the Republican noise machine to go into high gear. I'll be expecting to hear rumors of Patrick Fitzgerald's affinity for bestiality starting tomorrow --- mostly from Mary matalin, Dick Cheney's most vicious attack dog, who will be snarling like a caged beast over this (and thus will show herself an expert on the subject.)
Update: To be clear -- the Republicans have to go after Fitzgerald, not Libby. He's holding a cudgel over Cheney and Rove's heads and they are not in much of a position to hit back at him. The GOP will try to stir up the shit and distract everyone with an attack on the prosecutor to discredit the whole case. It's really the only move they have.
By MATT APUZZO
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorneys for former White House aide ``Scooter'' Libby said Tuesday that Bush administration officials tried to blame him for the leak of a CIA operative's name to cover up for Bush political adviser Karl Rove's own disclosures.
Attorney Theodore Wells, in the opening statements of I. Lewis Libby's perjury trial, said Libby went to Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 and complained that the White House was subtly blaming him for leaking Valerie Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak.``They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,'' Wells said, recalling the conversation between Libby and Cheney. ``I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.''
Monday, January 22, 2007
Divorced from the reality of what's going on in Iraq. Wedded to a deluded perception of the war. Unwilling to acknowledge widespread and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Sound like anyone you know? No, I'm not talking about President Bush -- though it's certainly true of him as well. I'm talking about the mainstream media, and their relentless depiction of the Iraq war as a left/right issue, even as the facts give lie to this hoary framing.
According to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, 60 percent of Americans oppose Bush's escalation of the war, and 65 percent want to "withdraw right away" or "withdraw within a year." Other polls reach the same conclusion: Iraq is simply not a right vs. left issue.
But you'd never know it from watching the pundits on television.
Here's Howard Fineman on Countdown with Keith Olbermann: "...that's the tension that people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden are caught in as they try to move to the left on the war without taking themselves out of the mainstream of the country."
Of course, what Fineman means by "left on the war" is being in favor of ending the war, and against Bush's handling of it. No Democrats need worry that taking those positions will take them out of the mainstream.
But don't tell that to Candy Crowley. Here was her cobweb-covered analysis of Ted Kennedy's anti-escalation measure: "What Senator Kennedy is going to do is lay down the liberal view of things, which is to say, he will say, look, no additional troops and no additional money for additional troops, unless Congress approves."
The "liberal view of things"? More like the view of things of almost two-thirds of the nation.
Likewise, Judy Woodruff on Meet the Press, saying Iraq is "a huge problem for the Democrats. Their base wants the United States out of Iraq yesterday." So anyone who wants out of Iraq belongs to the Democratic base? Someone should give Howard Dean a raise for doubling the size of the party.
What makes this moldy messaging so disturbing is that ferreting out the truth of the matter wouldn't involve complex analysis. It would just require a glance at Capitol Hill.
Is Chuck Hagel, co-sponsor (along with Carl Levin and Joe Biden) of the Senate resolution condemning Bush's surge plan, a "liberal?" Is he "left on the war"? Is he "part of the Democratic base"? Is he "out of the mainstream"?
Or how about North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones? After enthusiastically supporting the war, Jones has become a harsh critic of Bush's Iraq policy. According to the media framing, that would make Jones a "liberal," right? But he's actually the proud owner of a 93 percent rating from the American Conservative Union for his seven-term voting record.
Then there's Sen. Sam Brownback, who, upon returning from Iraq earlier this month, announced, "I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer. Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution." This flaming liberal has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, and is considered one of that group's "Best of the Bests." On Monday, Brownback will speak at the second annual conference of pro-life bloggers in Washington. Boy, are the pro-lifers going to be shocked when someone as "liberal" as Brownback shows up.
When the macro framing of the war is so warped, it makes productive discussion of how to deal with Iraq even harder. The encouraging thing is that while so many in the mainstream media continue to believe that being in favor of ending the war means you're a "left-winger" and "out of the mainstream," a growing number of politicians don't.
How long will it take for the media to recognize reality and drop their outdated, obsolete, and thunderingly inaccurate framing of the war debate?
Iraq is not about right and left. It's about right and wrong -- and the vast majority of the public clearly knows this. It's time for the media to catch up.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
from Think Progress:
In October 2006, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for “another 20,000 troops in Iraq.” In January 2007, President Bush accepted the idea and announced he would send 21,500 more soldiers into the middle of Iraq’s civil war. McCain quickly endorsed the strategy.
Since that time, McCain has been slowly back-pedaling from the escalation plan, offering numerous reasons for why the strategy will not succeed. He has argued the Pentagon was “dragging its feet” in implementing the strategy. Now, he is arguing that the escalation is too small.On NBC’s Meet the Press, McCain said, “I would have liked to have seen more” troops sent to Iraq. He added, “If it had been up to me,” more U.S. troops would be on their way into Baghdad.