The US Has Always Been at War with Ghana

America's Future Enemy: Ghana!Earlier today, Glenn Greenwald took “reasonable” Republican David Frum to task for his revisionist look back on Iraq, David Frum on the Rhetoric of Iraq. In particular, he demolishes Frum’s claim that he was never that impressed with Ahmed Chalabi. But somehow the unimpressed Frum wrote of Chalabi in 2004 in The National Review, “Compared to any other possible leader of Iraq—compared to just about every other political leader in the Arab world—the imperfect Ahmed Chalabi is nonetheless a James bleeping Madison.” But who knows? Madison believed in democracy and Frum is a Republican, so maybe Frum isn’t that impressed with Madison.

What I took away from the article, however, was Greenwald’s statement, “Americans are quite good at regretting their past wars but quite poor at applying the lessons to newly proposed ones.” To document this, he links to two recent articles. First, one in The Hill that discusses a Gallup poll that showed that people think we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq:

Fifty-three percent say their country “made a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq,” according to a new Gallup poll released on Monday. Forty-two percent say the decision was not a mistake.

Second, an article from CBS News that discussed a CBS News/New York Times poll that shows that people think we should start a war with Iran:

The poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 adults nationwide between March 7 and 11, showed that 51 percent of Americans would support U.S. military action in Iran for purposes of stopping the country from developing a nuclear weapon. Thirty-six percent say they would oppose such action, and 13 percent say they are unsure.

Imagine it: March 2023! In Newsweek, a prominent Obama speechwriter would publish, “Jon Favreau on the Rhetoric of Iran.” In it, he would write something like, “It seems amazing to people today, but ten years ago, everyone thought Iran had a nuclear weapons program. How could we have known?” At the same time, Gallup would release a poll that showed that most people think it was a mistake to start a war with Iran. But CBS News would report that most Americans think we should go to war to stop that dangerous Ghanaian Navy!

Attorney General to Appeal Milke Case

Debra MilkeAs I reported last week, Debra Milke’s conviction for the murder of her son 23 years ago has been overturned. So of course the Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has decided to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

The statement from Horne is typical of these people. He doesn’t defend the conviction at all. Instead, he dredges up the tragedy of the boy’s death as though he thinks that the wrongful conviction and continued punishment of the boy’s mother will somehow bring him back. We all understand how horrible the crime was; that doesn’t make his mother a murderer.

It seems likely that the Supreme Court will not take the case. But Horne’s efforts in this regard show that his only real intent is to save face for the Arizona justice department. It has only been a couple of days since Milke’s conviction was overturned. There certainly hasn’t been sufficient time for him to look at the case anew and determine that it should be appealed.

This is very easy. We have a broken criminal justice system. It is a system that rewards police and prosecutors for punishing innocent people. And even when the innocents are exonerated, these same people are not only allowed to continue in their careers, they are allowed to make public statements about how they just know that this or that person is guilty. Because in their minds, everyone is guilty. It’s good for business.


Note that Tom Horne is not calling for a retrial. How could he? The state has no case. Instead, he wants to appeal so that Milke can be put to death on the bad evidence that convicted her in the first place. I wonder: if everything went wrong and she was to be put to death, would Obama have the courage to pardon her? I doubt it.

Bing Still Losing Big to Google

Bing NoThis is just pathetic. I am inundated with commercials for Bing. As you may remember, I took the “Bing it on” challenge and Google won 4-0-1 (one tie). But with the constant Bing commercial assault, I question myself. Maybe I was unfair. So I’ve gone back three more time, putting in more and more unusual searches. And the result? Google always wins. This most recent time, I searched for: cashew chicken recipe; 47% video; St. Patrick; lightning rod; and Reinhard Hardegen. Google won this time 5-0-0.

What I try to do is avoid looking at the images and other presentational elements. Instead, I look at the results and ask myself, “Which list provided the data I was actually looking for?” And the closer I look, the better Google looks. Bing has a strong tendency to turn every search into a shopping trip. When I searched for “lightning rod,” the third result Bing provided was some place selling lightning rods. I suspect that only one out of a hundred people searching for this were looking to purchase one.

I can see what Microsoft is up to and why they think they can offer the “Bing it on” challenge. Bing generally does a better job of presentation. There are more images, for example. But even in the short time that I’ve been doing these challenges, Google seems to be changing its output to be more pleasant to look at. That’s to be expected. It is a relatively easy matter to present data more appealingly. Improving the actual data is much harder to do.

After four challenges, all of which Google won overwhelmingly, it is clear that Bing has fundamental problems that no amount of marketing will fix. As I’ve said before: Bing is far better than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean that much in this comparison. People are used to Google. Bing will need to offer something distinctly better than Google before people will switch in large numbers. Thus far, Bing isn’t even matching Google.

Republicans Blind to Racism

Tea Party Racists

There was a racist dust up at CPAC on Friday during a K. Carl Smith session sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots on how to get African Americans to vote Republican. Smith’s talk was filled with divisive and irrelevant lines like, “I’m not going to join the KKK. The Democratic Party founded the KKK.” During the question period, Voice of Russia radio host Kim Brown apparently asked how many black women were at CPAC and the whole session went off the rails.

She was shouted down and told she wasn’t wanted there. But then a young white supremacist spoke. He said that all this outreach to blacks was just going to alienate young white males. Smith responded with what I think is a non sequitur about how Frederick Douglass forgave his slavemaster. The young man replied, “For giving him shelter? And food?” At that point the session exploded.

Benjy Sarlin reported all of this for Talking Points Memo. After the whole thing was over, he talked to a number of people who had been at the event. And they were all angry. But not at the white supremacist. They were angry at the young black woman, Kim Brown. The session speaker Smith later released a statement saying Brown “rudely interrupted” him. But all he could say of the white supremacist was that he made a “racially insensitive” comment but that they “left as friends.”

This illustrates what is wrong with the Republican base. Smith isn’t trying to get the Republican Party to be more appealing to African Americans; he is just trying to brand the Democratic Party as racist. On the details, he’s right: the Democratic Party has a long history of racism. But for my entire life, the Republican Party’s main electoral power has come from its implicit and explicit appeals to white racial resentment. If it were 1850, I would almost surely be a Republican. Is that really all that the Republican Party has to offer?

Of much greater concern is the reaction of the attendees to the white supremacist. No one would say that he was wrong or that his statement was repugnant. Instead, they made excuses for the remarks. When asked if he was offended by the white supremacist, one of the few blacks at the event even said, “No they were just telling the truth.” There is a strength in this kind of behavior: Republicans apparently stick by each other no matter what. That helps in their quest for power. But there is obviously a very dark side to this. And what’s more: it seems that the reason the Republican Party claims not to be racist is that they don’t even know it when they see extreme examples of it.

Naive Democrats Make it Easy for Republicans

Kyrsten Sinema

Ah naivete! If it is authentic, it can be charming. But if it is inauthentic, it is just annoying. Yesterday morning on Up with Chris Hayes, Kyrsten Sinema was on the panel.

She is a member of the “Gang of 32” — the bipartisan group of new House members who are getting together to solve those problems they can agree on.

That’s all fine. But at one point she said, “This may surprise you, but our Gang of 32 statement—the very first thing we talk about is protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare.”

After she says that, Sam Seder almost jumps out of his chair. Here’s the question: is she naive or just stupid?

Republicans Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

Can Sinema really think that when Republicans say they want to “protect and strengthen” entitlement programs that they mean literally that they want to protect and strengthen entitlement programs? Because that is most definitely not what they mean.

Republicans have been very clear on this point. In fact, it was a big deal in the last presidential election. Republicans want to savagely cut entitlement programs so that the programs will be around in the coming years.

The theory is that we just can’t afford the entitlement programs so we must cut them. Then we will be able to have some shadow of the programs in the decades to come—with the same name!

Block Grants

The best example of this is the block-granting of Medicaid. The idea here is that the federal government will give each state a block of money to support healthcare for the poor. The states can do with this money as they please.

But the big aspect of it is that the money will not keep up with the increasing price of healthcare. Eventually, Medicaid will be so starved for funds that it will be irrelevant as a program. But it will still exist! And in its uselessness, it will be robust!

With Pros Like Sinema

Yesterday, Jonathan Bernstein asked why it was that the “neutral” press was so in favor of cutting the budget deficit. If professional Democratic politicians like Kyrsten Sinema don’t understand the subtext of Republican claims to “strengthen” entitlement programs, how can the mainstream press, much less the average voter?

I fear that Sinema is both naive and stupid.

Image cropped from Kyrsten Sinema by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last U-Boat Captain Reinhard Hardegen—See Update

Reinhard HardegenSome interesting if not exactly likable politicians were born on this day. Slavery apologist John Calhoun was born in 1782. Not my favorite president Grover Cleveland was born in 1837. And good man at the wrong time Neville Chamberlain was born in 1869.

George Plimpton, a writer I like more than I should, was born in 1927.

Brad Dourif is 63 today. I find him a very likable actor. He has made me happy in parts as diverse as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Doc Cochran in Deadwood. He was also really great in Ragtime, which kind of makes up for the incredible job he did as the bigot Deputy Pell in Mississippi Burning.

The man of the day, however, is the last surviving U-boat captain Reinhard Hardegen. He is celebrating his 100th birthday today. After World War II, he spent 32 years as an MP in West Germany as a Christian Democrat. There is one very interesting part of his life story. After the end of World War II, he was arrested because he had the same last name as an SS officer. It took him a year and a half to prove that he was a different guy.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Update (18 March 2013 7:27 pm)

According to Hans in the comments: Hardegen is not the last surviving U-boat captain, just the oldest surviving. I have no way of knowing if he’s right, but given he took the time to comment, I’ll bet he is. So there you go. The main thing is that Hardegen is the only U-Boat captain to turn 100 today. (I haven’t checked, but I feel pretty confident in that one!)