The Reason I Read Matt Yglesias

Is for stuff like this:

The truth of the matter, of course, is that there is no liberal war on Christmas. Speaking personally, I think that’s too bad — I actually do hate Christmas and don’t think “euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage,” etc. are bad ideas at all.

Wouldn’t it be great if politicians were this honest and/or right? Except about Christmas. I mean, the presents.

Bad News From Iraq

There seems to be plenty to day, as there is every day. First this:

A military vehicle carrying three congressmen overturned on the way to the Baghdad airport, injuring two of them, the U.S. Embassy said Sunday.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany for an MRI on his neck, and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., was sent to a Baghdad hospital for evaluation, said Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., who was also in the vehicle but was not hurt when it overturned Saturday.

However, both Murphy and Skelton seem to be in good condition. The victims of this aren’t:

“A ‘trophy’ video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet,” the Sunday Telegraph reports. “The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.”

The tape isn’t confirmed as authentic yet. But if it is, our international reputation’s going go down about ten notches. I just hope that the S.O.B.s are subjected to the fairness of the Iraqi court system.

Staying Changing the Course

This is certainly interesting:

The White House for the first time has claimed possession of an Iraq withdrawal plan, arguing that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator was “remarkably similar” to its own.

The statement late Saturday by White House spokesman Scott McClellan came in response to a commentary published in The Washington Post by Joseph Biden, the top Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he said US forces will begin leaving Iraq next year “in large numbers.”

“Today, Senator Biden described a plan remarkably similar to the administration’s plan to fight and win the war on terror,” the spokesman went on to say.

Well, if it’s anything like Biden’s plan, it can’t be half bad. Biden’s plan gets us most of the way out of Iraq by the end of 2007; I’d prefer now, but it’s better than nothing.

Murder, Incorporated

As ashamed as I am to admit it, I haven’t actively followed the ongoing Jack Abramoff scandal. Frankly, it was too complicated and typical of Washington to interest me. Until I read this at Josh Marshall’s place:

You know that when the casino boat line SunCruz was owned by Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan, the company paid the men who blew away SunCruz founder Gus Boulis.
Now it turns out they also had the company pay the National Republican Congressional Committee (the House GOP election committee) $10,000 on behalf of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH). That was in exchange for Ney’s putting anti-Boulis remarks in the congressional record that helped Abramoff and Kidan pressure Boulis to sell them SunCruz.
The guy who helped arrange Ney’s anti-Boulis-trash-talking and the later pay-off was none other than Mike Scanlon, who later did public relations work for SunCruz, in addition to going into the Indian gaming bilking biz with SunCruz owner Abramoff.
Scanlon is the guy who just agreed to testify against, well … everybody in the Abramoff cases.

Unless I’m reading this wrong, which I really hope I am, Abramoff, Scanlon, and a prominent U.S. Congressman were all involved in a murder for hire. Now, bribes, payoffs, embezzlement – that I expect from politicians. But calling hits on people is positively Nixon-esque. And considering that Scanlon was an aide to DeLay, this could bring him down farther than he already is, especially considering all the speculation that the TRMPAC charges will be dropped. This has gotten a whole lot more serious.


I’ve previously expressed concern over Sam Alito’s former membership in the white supremacist and misogynistic group, Concerned Alumni of Princeton. This commentary by hilzoy, who attended Princeton while CAP was active, just confirmed my worries. Here’s just a taste of how bad the group was:

CAP is generally described as ‘a conservative group’. But this is as misleading as calling the John Birch Society a ‘conservative group’ would be. There are lots of conservatives who are thoughtful and intelligent, and who have real intellectual integrity. Conservatives like this did not tend to join CAP. CAP was dedicated to finding outrages that it took to be caused by the horrible fact that women and minorities were being admitted to Princeton. The need to find outrages generally came first; any encounter with facts came later. For this reason, CAP tended to attract not conservatives per se, but the sort of conservative who is forever getting deeply hysterical about some perceived threat to a supposed previous golden age, who sees such threats everywhere, and who is willing to completely distort the truth in order to feed his (and it generally was ‘his’) obsessions.

It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

Miscellaneous Ezra Blogging

GAH! Kevin Drum has commented on the exact same two Ezra Klein posts that I was going to! Damn you, Drum!
In any case, Kevin is right, and Ezra is wrong – “banal” rhymes with “anal”, not with “canal”. It simply rolls off the tongue better. It seems that whenever anyone pronounces it like “canal”, it takes too long to say, is overly accentuated, and thus makes for hampered speech.
However, they are both wrong about Christmas music. I mean, c’mon. The melodies tend to be canned, plodding, or both. The lyrical content is by its very nature banal (ha!) and unsophisticated. Even good Christmas albums – Aaron Neville’s, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’, and the Temptations’ come to mind – grow tiresome after too many listens. And why no Hanukkah albums? I mean, there’s so much more to talk about there. It’s the Son of God being born vs. a small religious minority overthrowing the leader of a Middle Eastern monarchy. C’mon.

Sharon Quits Likud

It’s more than a bit odd to quit a party one formed. But I’m not complaining. Sharon has certainly had a shaky past. His semi-complicity with the massacres at Sabra and Shatila nears the level of war crimes, and there’s a certain poetic justice to the fact that he know has to remove the same settlements that he helped found and encouraged as Agriculture Minister in the ’70s and ’80s. But he has shown a real commitment to peace in recent years, and the Gaza withdrawal was both blatantly necessary and politically courageous. This further shows that he really does want to seek a path that is less hardline than Bibi’s or Natan Sharansky’s. However, more is needed. The wall between Israel and the West Bank has to be torn down; it is destroying Palestine’s economy, by stopping transport to Israel to work, and along with the checkpoints that slow movement within the territory itself, this leads Palestinians to seek financial help through groups like Hamas. Sharon needs to embrace a role for Palestine as an economic partner of Israel, just as Mexico is to the United States. Israel needs cheap labor, and Palestine needs any jobs it can find; the two need to work together. Perhaps with such a strong economic incentive as that, ethnic and religious hostilities could calm to a manageable level.