Women's pro soccer is back!

A women's pro soccer league is set to launch in 2008 with 6 teams, expanding to 8 in 2009. The first 6 teams will be in Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Washington, and one location to be determined. They'll be partnering with MLS teams... which makes you wonder whether ever-present rumors of the Kansas City Wizards moving to St. Louis might be true - otherwise the St. Louis team would have no team to partner with.

And now for the obligatory (when talking about American women's soccer) Brandi Chastain picture.

The narrative in action

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman has an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal today. The closing line is:

However tired, however frustrated, however angry we may feel, we must remember that our forces in Iraq carry America's cause--the cause of freedom--which we abandon at our peril.

That's the basic narrative that Michael Vlahos talks about in his piece in the American Conservative that I wrote about yesterday. In the rest of his OpEd, Lieberman basically accuses Democrats of "undermining General Petraeus before he has been in Iraq for even a month" and argues that Congress shouldn't talk about Iraq until this summer, by which General Petraeus says he'll know whether or not success is possible.

In terms of Lieberman's credibility, it's useful to compare his recent piece to his November 29, 2005 piece, also in the Wall Street Journal. Glenn Greenwald sums it up:

How can Joe Lieberman claim today that we previously lacked sufficient troop strength to hold neighborhoods after they were cleared, when he insisted a year ago that we were holding neighborhoods -- he saw it himself -- and that we were therefore on the verge of success?
The same basic question of credibility can be asked of a majority of columnists and pundits today, from Bill Kristol to Tom Friedman.

Two interesting articles

The Fall of Modernity, by Michael Vlahos, in The American Conservative

If God is talking to you, too, Mr. Cameron - don't listen
, by Michael Portillo, in the Sunday Times

Michael Vlahos outlines the narrative Bush has constructed in the Global War on Terror/the Long War/the existential struggle for civilizations of the United States versus some guys in a cave:

In the president’s own words, it is nothing less than “the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history,” pitting “progress” and “freedom” against a “mortal danger to all humanity,” the “enemy of civilization.” Moreover, “the call of history has come to the right country,” and “the defense of freedom is worth the sacrifice.” Ultimately the “evil ones” will be destroyed, and “this great country will lead the world to safety, security, and peace,” a millennial world where “free peoples will own the future.”

He then highlights the three key weaknesses of this narrative:

First, the American war narrative rejects modernity’s future constituents: its message is that we are foreclosing on them. We do this knowing that American modernity cannot long survive repossessing its promise of a universal vision for humankind.
Second, American modernity loses authority because our war promotes alternative and resistant communities. Demonizing them elevates them, and their new stature creates competing alternatives to modernity.
Third, the American war narrative shows modernity helpless in its own defense. Military failure becomes a literal stripping of our world authority, actually pushing the global future away from us.

Portillo's column in the Sunday Times shows what happens when leaders drink their own Kool-Aid and believe this narrative. Tony Blair, who was seen in the 1990s as a reasonable fellow, is now rightly seen as a total nutcase who is responsible for British soldiers staying and dying in Iraq
"because Mr Blair finds it too embarrassing to end what has become a symbolic presence and withdraw them." He also spent $30,000 on psychics to try to find bin Ladin and Iraqi WMD. He, like Bush, cared more about what God thought about invading Iraq than his electorate.

It should be absolutely unacceptable for any politician in a democracy to justify policy based on what voices they hear in their head. It's disappointing that nobody in the U.S. media talks about this (you'll notice almost all the links are to the British press). To me, Bush and Blair's obsession with Christianity shows two things:

1) There's no conscious effort to create a narrative or information strategy that will favor the United States over al Qaeda. The United States accepts al Qaeda's and Sam Huntington's "clash of civilizations" narrative naturally, apparently partly due to the religious faith of our leaders. The lack of a coherent information strategy is something repeatedly raised by guys like John Nagl and David Kilcullen. Maybe that failing is due to the fact that, on the core issue of "what is the conflict between the West and al Qaeda all about", some of our leaders actually agree with al Qaeda's viewpoint. (Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” Kilcullen said.)

2) It also shows that either deterrence is falsely linked with rationality, or that deterrence is a myth. After all, a leader who believes that he's John Belushi on a mission from God is hardly "rational" in the traditional sense. Crazy leaders aren't particular to Bush or the United States - Reagan had his astrologers and psychics, Mao was usually high on barbiturates, Hitler did speed and cocaine on a daily basis. Reagan and Mao both successfully practiced deterrence. So, given that the "irrationality" of Saddam was a major factor given for why we had to invade Iraq, because he couldn't be deterred, and that irrationality is also given as reason to invade Iran in the future, perhaps we should reexamine whether deterrence is based on a rational cost-benefit calculation, or a simple unreasoning terror of unknowable consequences.


Why is Giuliani taken seriously as a Presidential candidate? Oh right, he was mayor when something bad happened in his city.

Sometimes the Onion sums up everything perfectly.

Read the Mahablog for stuff you should know about Giuliani if you are considering voting for him. Parts one and two.

Interesting poll

Gallup just did a poll asking people whether they would vote for a Catholic, a Mormon, a Jew, a Black person, a Hispanic, a woman, etc. Here's the data:

If Your Party Nominated A Generally Would You Be Comfortable
In Voting Well-Qualified Candidate For WH '08 For A WH
'08er Who Was ___, Would You Vote For That Person?

Yes No
Catholic 95% 4%
Black 94 5
Jewish 92 7
A woman 88 11
Hispanic 87 12
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42
A homosexual 55 43
An atheist 45 53

Apparently there are 159,630,450 Americans who would never vote for me for President based purely on my lack of religious faith. To me it's strange that the most people would never consider voting for an atheist, yet atheists aren't historically as persecuted as gays, Jews, or a lot of the groups in that list; gays, Jews, blacks, etc. have been murdered for being gay, Jewish or black, but I'm unaware of any of that happening to atheists.
I am reminded that, in terms of national politics, we have Catholic, Jewish, black, Hispanic, female, Mormon, divorced, gay and old Congressional Representatives, but no atheists yet. I'm disappointed they didn't ask about Muslims. That would be a fascinating data point to track over time.

If only we could all shut up, like World War Two

War ain't going so well? Baghdad Bill says "Clap harder!"

Glenn Greenwald was on Alan Colmes' radio show yesterday along with Frank Gaffney. Frank Gaffney wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times that was based on an entirely fabricated Abraham Lincoln quotation about how Congressmen shouldn't question their President during wartime. Podcasts of Alan Colmes' show are available here in parts one, two and three.

In part two, Jeff from Evansville Indiana said "Had we had done this in World War Two, you'd be speaking German now and you'd probably be in [unintelligible]."

Frank Gaffney replied "I think Jeff's absolutely right, that's the kind of accountability I think people ought to be held to."

Apparently there is this myth that nobody criticized the government in World War Two. In fact we had an election in 1944 in which Thomas Dewey "campaigned vigorously" against FDR, accusing him of abusing his authority as President and questioned FDR's fitness to be President.

There was also extensive debate over FDR's prosecution of the war in general. Senator ALbert B. Chandler of Kentucky, William Randolph Hearst, and Charles Lindberg all believed that the United States should not have gotten involved in the European theatre for a variety of reasons. Chandler thought the danger of Japan forcing China out of the war was an even greater danger than that of Germany forcing the Soviet Union out. Lindbergh on the other hand was isolationist, claiming "The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration."

Opponents of the "Europe First" strategy (designed to knock out Germany first, as it posed an immediate existential threat to the UK and USSR) organized as the "America First Committee." According to Wikipedia its membership included Lindbergh, Gerald Ford, Sargent Shriver, Potter Stewart (future Supreme Court justice), the chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co., Sinclair Lewis, e. e. cummings, and Gore Vidal. On the Senate Floor, Senator Chandler and Senator Arthur Vandenberg from Michigan publicly criticized FDR's strategy Europe First strategy in 1943, and probably many others did as well (I'm working from some sources I collected for a paper in undergrad and kept around on my computer. See the end of my post for a list of them.)

Another interesting twist in comparing World War Two to the current conflict is looking at who was calling for self-censorship when. In the current conflict, The Nation has repeatedly criticized people like Frank Gaffney and Bill Kristol who call for silencing dissent: examples here, here, here, here, and I'm sure there are many other examples. However, in 1943, The Nation wrote that while the final responsibility for determining the amount of forces to commit to each theater of war rests with the President, “he may justly ask that its weight be not increased by irresponsible propaganda either in Congress or the press.” (Planes for the Pacific. The Nation, APril 24, 1943, pages 579-580.) Contrast this to Arthur Krock of the New York Times, who wrote that the press "was being barred by armed American soldiers from that access to the sources of legitimate news which is the custom of democracy and the guaranteed privilege of responsible journalism." (Arthur Krock. "Strategy Senate Issue." New York Times, May 19th, 1943, page 4.) Of course others in the Times called the debate "reckless" and "irresponsible." (Callender, Harold. “Churchill Takes Part in a Congress Debate.” New York Times, May 23rd, 1943, page E3.)

So basically, the next time somebody spouts the old "In World War Two, everybody got on board! If Howard Dean was around in World War Two, we'd all be speaking German!" shtick, please shoot them down. It is a false and dangerous narrative.

I'll leave you with visual proof of domestic dissent in World War Two. Cecil Jensen, a cartoonist for the Chicago Daily News, explicitly criticizes the Europe First strategy by showing an Allied soldier chasing after Hitler while giving merely a passing glance to a bomb with a lit fuse, labeled "Japs" (the caricaturization is pretty racist, but it was 1943, even Bugs Bunny was racist). The cartoon was published in the New York Times on May 23rd, 1943.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Callender, Harold. “Churchill Takes Part in a Congress Debate.” New York Times, May 23rd, 1943, page E3.

“Debate on Strategy.” New York Times, May 19th, 1943, page 24.

Krock, Arthur. “Strategy Senate Issue.” New York Times, May 19th, 1943, page 4.

“Planes for the Pacific.” The Nation, April 24, 1943, pages 579-580.

“Senate Debates ‘Beat Japan’ Cry.” New York Times, May 18th, 1943, page 5.

Steele, Richard W. “Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Foreign Policy Critics.” Political Science Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 1, 1979, pages 15-32.

Trussell, C. P. “Congress Pleased by Churchill Talk.” New York Times, May 20th, 1943, page 3.

Dos a Zero

The USA beat Mexico 2-0 again last night. A couple remarks:

a) Even better than the win was finally seeing Landon Donovan play well. He took people on 1v1 and frequently beat them, and he took his goal well too.

b) It was disappointing that Chris Rolfe started ahead of Taylor Twellman, as I think when Donovan plays well, he would be a perfect strike partner for Twellman. With Landon and Chris Rolfe up top the US had no physical presence, which is why we played poorly for the first half and were lucky that Jimmy Conrad scored off a corner kick against the run of play.

c) Chris Albright is not good enough to play at this level.

A few random Wes Clark links

Matt Stoller at MyDD talks about how Wes Clark has been one of the few public officials with something to lose to speak out against the Administration's hysterics about Iran.

A video from Clark's 2004 run where he talks about his domestic credentials.

Another video from the 2004 run where he talks about the foundations of the current wave of terrorism.

In both those videos, he fielded unscreened questions, off the cuff, something our current President rarely does, for good reason.

And one last video:

"We're five percent of the world's population. We're taking twenty-five percent of the world's consumable resources. And that's an unsustainable condition in the long term."

Imagine a President who can think of the long term.

Me & Wes Clark, just hanging out

I went today to the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting 2007 at the Washington Hilton. The format was a bunch of speakers at the big stage, followed by a meet & greet in smaller rooms.

I got there at about 7.30am to be sure to get a seat (most were reserved for official members, the press, etc.). I wandered around, picked up a free Wes Clark for President t-shirt, got some buttons, talked to a few people, got a few business cards, etc.

The speechifying began a little after 9am, with Howard Dean saying a few things, basically "I'm only talking right now because Harry Reid called and told me to stall for him because he'd be late," then handed it off to Harry Reid when he showed up. Then Dean gave a speech of his own. Of the two, Dean is definitely the better public speaker. It was also nice to see Reid and a lot of other Democrats give Dean the respect and credit he deserves for the recent midterm election victories. Then all the candidates gave seven-minute speeches, although Biden, Richardson, Gavel (Alaskan Senator, I had never heard of him before today) and Vilsack are speaking tomorrow.

The first presidential contender to speak was Chris Dodd. I honestly hadn't given him a second thought, but he is a good public speaker. He basically said "The Bush administration has screwed up by doing A, B, and C. I will do X, Y, and Z." He got the crowd riled up and had a lot of supporters waving Chris Dodd signs as well. You can watch the video here.

After Dodd was Barack Obama. He got multiple standing ovations for showing up and giving his standard "The other side aren't bad people, let's not be cynical and all work together" speech. I started out skeptical, not being a fan of the way Obama defines himself against the Democratic Party ("Democrats are this negative stereotype, but I am different!"), and remain so. His speech was long on rhetoric about being a great nation and not being cynical and this and that. He had a great line, something like "Now some have said that you need specific policy proposals. Well I say we need hope!" That didn't exactly cure me of my skepticism as to how he would actually govern ("Well Mr. Director of National Intelligence, you just need to hope the North Koreans don't sell nuclear weapons!") You can watch the video here. He also had a large number of fans waving posters.

Clark came after Obama. Frankly Clark is nowhere near as good a public speaker as Obama or Edwards, however his seven minutes had a lot of meat. After he introduced himself and gave a brief personal history, the first half of his speech was basically "I stopped a war in Korea, ended a war in Bosnia and won a war in Kosovo, with zero combat fatalities. I will know what I'm doing as President." He then transitioned to talking about domestic policy, and how he thought we needed to return to the values of justice, fair play, etc. His first line on domestic policy was "where is then justice when a woman still makes seventy-seven cents on the dollar compared to men?" That drew some surprised applause - I don't think anybody thought they would hear a professional soldier from Arkansas say that. He also talked about poverty, etc. Because Clark is the only candidate who hasn't actually declared yet (other than Gore if he runs, but he's not scheduled for this winter meeting thing) Clark didn't have the standard imported 100 people waving signs - me and a couple other people were the only ones wearing Clark t-shirts. Clark's video isn't up yet, but you can check out videos of him speaking at www.securingamerica.com.

After Clark, Edwards spoke. He is, along with Obama, a fantastic public speaker. He quoted Martin Luther King, saying that silence is betrayal, and then used that over and over about Iraq, health care, Darfur, and poverty. He kept asking "will you stand with me?" as a cue for a standing ovation and for his 100 supporters to wave their Edwards signs. There were also a bunch of Code Pink people there who generally came off as rude and mentally unbalanced. I generally think movements like that are stupid and egotistical, as they focus your attention on the people themselves ("Look! We're wearing pink! We're against the war and we're WOMEN!") rather than the actual issue of the war itself (Mahablog talks about this really well).

After Edwards, it was Kucinich. He came off as a bit of a joke. He talked about how he visited Lebanon and saw some of the villages that Israel destroyed in the recent war. He then started talking about how all we need is peace, and how that he has the perfect plan for Iraq that will lead to immediate withdrawal and stability and peace in the entire Middle East. I almost choked when he said that.

Hillary Clinton was the last speech of the day. Another good public speaker, but I still am not voting for her in the primary. Her basic gist was that she's been a winner her whole life and she will win the Presidency. Hillary had the largest group of imported cheerleaders waving signs. She had one great line, "If I was President in October of 2002, we would not have gone to war in Iraq!" That was a stunner, considering that she voted for the war and as recently as February of 2005 was saying "It's going great, clap louder!"

After Clinton's speech I left immediately to try to get to the meet & greet part of the day. Somebody up at the mic as I was leaving the big chamber said that the first hour was only for DNC members. I asked one of the people staffing the Clark table outside the auditorium if this was true, and she said "Pssh. I doubt Wes would stand for that." I took that as my signal to act like I belonged and just walk into the room where Clark was hanging out. Operation Infiltration proved a success, and I got free hot dogs and soda as my reward. I waited around to talk to Clark, shook his hand, talked to him for 10 seconds "I'm a student at Georgetown and my professor is [So & So]" "Oh, [So & So]! He's my favorite person in Washington, tell him I said hello!" Then I saw one of the guys I had met before the speechifying had a camera, so I went to Clark again and got my picture taken with him - hopefully it'll be on facebook shortly. Then I ate another hot dog (free food!) and left. 'Twas a good morning.

Clark '08!

Update: Here's the video of Wes Clark's speech.