THE SADDAM DOCS

Hard to disagree with Bill Kristol on this one. We haven’t really had a thorough investigation of the documents from the Saddam regime that may or may not confirm Saddam’s extensive relationship with international terrorists. They’re not classified. Maybe there’s so much that it would take an age for government officials to comb through them. So here’s an idea: throw them to the blogs! Have the army of Davids scramble through every detail. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, we should all want to find out the truth, no?

SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOODBYE

Well, thanks once more to Andrew, both for his kind words and for subjecting all of you to my rambling for these past weeks. And, of course, to Ross, with whom I never did get to fight about his natalist impulses—which is probably just as well, as it likely spared me the embarassment of having my clock cleaned. Combining a Catholic conservative and a libertine libertarian was, in retrospect, probably a rough approximation of Andrew’s own Herman’s Head–style internal dialogue, but it’s time to let the elevator door close on the Muzak version and restore the Andrew Philharmonic. It’s been a blast folk; feel free to come visit here or here next time your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder.

—posted by Julian

JULIAN AND ROSS

It’s been a privilege. I don’t think there’s much doubt that Ross Douthat and Julian Sanchez are among the brightest minds in their generation, and I’ve been honored to have them aboard, while I concentrate on book-writing. The debates we’ve had illustrate, I’d like to think, how diverse the “conservative” world is now, and also how we can debate civilly without being boring. Don’t miss them in their usual homes, Ross here and Julian here. Thanks for being so welcoming to them and indulgent of my extra-curricular work.

BOOKS AND BLOGS: Thanks too for helping me write the book. Virginia Postrel recently noted how some “mainstream journalists” see bloggers as people who don’t read books. Ahem. We also write them, as Virginia has shown and as Glenn will soon prove. What I’m finding in my own book-writing is how much the blog has helped inform the book, how it has become a treasure trove of information and comment and ideas from all over the place. When looking to buttress a particular point or hunt down a piece of evidence, I find myself searching my own blog for links and data. The readers – that’s you – have also helped me immensely. Take the recent discussion of zygotes and dispensationalists. They are minor parts of the book, but I’ve gained a huge amount from your input. Not only is blogging compatible with book-writing, it may be helpful. The main problem is finding long spaces of time to wander around in your own thoughts. Books need that. Blogging makes it very hard. But that’s the only real conflict I’ve found.

FLAT-LINING: After a small bounce in November, Bush’s ratings are stuck in the low 40s. Mystery Pollster has the goods.

– posted by Andrew.

WHISPERS FROM THE NSA

I’ve got an interview with NSA whistleblower Russell Tice just up at Reason. He’s got to speak in pretty general terms or hypotheticals for most of the conversation, but I did want to flag this bit:

That would lead one to ask the question: “Why did they omit the FISA court?”

I would think one reason that is possible is that perhaps a system already existed that you could do this with, and all you had to do is change the venue. And if that’s the case, and this system was a broad brush system, a vacuum cleaner that just sucks things up, this huge systematic approach to monitoring these calls, processing them, and filtering them–then ultimately a machine does 98.8 percent of your work.

A huge, computerized “vacuum cleaner” system that already existed, but that needed its “venue” changed for domestic surveillance, huh? That sounds a hell of a lot like the Echelon program to me. It seems like it would’ve been very tempting—and, I imagine, relatively easy—to just turn a system developed for mass analysis of foreign communications inward.

—posted by Julian

SIGNING OFF

I was going to write a gala farewell post that somehow linked zygotes, big-government conservatism and maybe Brokeback Mountain in a marvelous bloggy pastiche. But it’s a sleepy Friday afternoon, and I’m sleepy myself, so I’ll confine myself to thanking Andrew for being generous enough to let a member of the theocratic RightTM like me hang out here and spar with him – and Julian for sparring as well, and for handling all that complicated civil liberties stuff.

And if this whole fancy-pants, white-wine-and-caviar Time Magazine” schtick starts to go to Andrew’s head, you know where to find me . . .

-posted by Ross

NOW, EVIDENCE OF COVER-UP

New FOIAed docs from the military, procured by the ACLU, suggest attempts to cover up and destroy evidence of abuse and torture. The good news is that many of the worst incidents do seem to have been investigated and culprits punished. The bad news is that many weren’t, many were actually ignored, and others actively covered-up. There’s a lot here and I haven’t had a chance to examine them yet. You make your own mind up.

– posted by Andrew.

THE CAP SMEAR

I have to say that Senator Kennedy’s attempt to smear Samuel Alito with an article in a magazine he never even read, an article that was apparently meant as satire, was about as low as it gets. It was a smear. In some ways, it was a symbol of how some Democrats think of people like the Alitos, people with obviously conservative leanings, but also the kind of people who would never engage in the basest of ethnic or sexual slurs. Kennedy hurt himself more than anyone. But it was disgusting nonetheless – not that, after Kennedy’s performances in other hearings, it was particularly surprising. I’m not a Kennedy-hater. He’s done some good things in the Senate, and I’m close to members of his family. But this tactic was crude, inappropriate in a judicial hearing, and completely counter-productive. It reminded me again why, for all my alarm at what has happened to Republicanism, the left is always there to remind me why I couldn’t ever be a Democrat. I don’t think I’m the only one.

– posted by Andrew.

HEADS UP

Next Monday night, we switch servers to our new home at Time.com. So this is the last (sniff) non-holiday weekday that I’ll be blogging from this site, with its current design. It’s been a tough week ironing out glitches and figuring out how to operate the new site, but I think it’s a big improvement. I know you’ll let me know. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank one of my oldest and dearest friends, Robert Cameron, who, from the get-go, worked tirelessly and diligently in creating this site, managing it, re-designing it, handling all the finances, fixing tech problems, and so much else. He’s the one who suggested I blog in the first place – way back in the spring of 2000. Sometimes people ask me why I say “we” when I mention this site. It’s not a royal prerogative. This venture has been run all the time by two of us; and one great advantage of the new home will be allowing Robert to be free of most of his current responsibilities, all of which he did gratis. I couldn’t have begun to do this without him; and, amazingly, our friendship has survived intact. We’re looking forward to hanging together in the future without mentioning bandwidth, blogads, server glitches, and on and on. Thanks, Robert. For everything.

GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER: He’s the key figure in the decision to introduce torture and abuse of detainees in the U.S. military. He’s the one who set up the abuse program at Guantanamo Bay and was then sent by Rumsfeld to “Gitmoize” Abu Ghraib. He’s the one who told General Karpinski to treat detainees “like dogs.” He’s the one who organized the framing of Muslim chaplain James Yee, after once confiding in Yee that he had problems with Muslims in general. As usual, the Bush administration has done all it can to protect Miller, because he could explain who, higher up in the administration, sanctioned torture and abuse. Secure that no one in the real chain of command would contradict him, Miller has, in the past, cooperated with Pentagon investigations. Even so, the Fay report concluded that he had recommended policies that contravened the Geneva Conventions, which were supposed to apply in Iraq. But now, he’s gone silent. Hmmmm. Money quote:

General Miller’s decision to invoke his right not to incriminate himself came shortly after Col. Thomas M. Pappas, whose military intelligence unit was in charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib, was granted immunity from prosecution and ordered to testify in the dog handlers’ coming courts-martial. Major Crawford said she and General Miller were not aware that Colonel Pappas had immunity protection when General Miller invoked his military Article 31 rights.

Yeah, right. The good news is that, with painful slowness, even the military investigatory apparatus may eventually uncover the high-level policies that crafted the abuses at Abu Ghraib, and then blamed them on a few reservists. And hold someone accountable. Higher up, I hope, than General Miller.

– posted by Andrew

STRIP POKERS

One of the more frustrating things about the many questions asked about Judge Alito’s dissent in Doe v. Groody [PDF], which concerned whether law enforcement officers were liable for searching for drugs persons not explicitly included in a warrant, is that they kept hammering, for rhetorical purposes, that the officers had strip-searched a 10-year-old girl. A ten year-old-girl. Strip searched. Strip searched! A ten. Year. Old. Girl! (I eventually started hearing the sing-songy refrain of Walter from The Big Lebowski in the back of my head: “Yeah, yeah… they’re going to kill that poor woman“)

Again, rhetorically, I suppose that emphasis made sense. But focusing on that aspect allowed Alito to respond, perfectly correctly, that there’s no special Fourth Amendment for ten-year-old girls, and that it’s a damn good thing, since if there were criminals would have even more incentive to stash all their contraband on young children. There’s no question that, had the warrant explicitly granted officers permission to search anyone they found on the premises, as well as their suspected drug dealer, that it would have been perfectly proper.

But, of course, that’s not the point—or ought not to be. The point is that Alito bent over backwards to squish in some kind of tacit approval for a broader search than the explicit text of the warrant sanctioned. And that’s troubling whether the subect was a 25 year old man or a nonagenerian hermaphrodite. I’d have liked to have seen less senatorial fixation on nude prepubescents and more on whether Alito takes a fast and loose, “so long as they meant well” approach to the Fourth Amendment.

—posted by Julian

LIES, DRUGS, AND ALCOHOL

A friend who’s spent some time grappling with alcoholism passes along this quote, from AA’s Big Book, which seems appropriate for the case of James Frey:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty.

In a similar vein, Seth Mnookin’s Slate piece on Frey is worth a read. This passage, in particular, sums up the case against Frey’s anti-self-help self-help book:

. . . because A Million Little Pieces-one of the best-selling books about drug addiction ever written-has been trumpeted as an unflinching, real-life look into the world of a drug addict, it has helped to shape people’s notions about drug abuse. Ironically, the very abundance of its clichés has likely helped make it a runaway best seller: People, after all, like having their suspicions confirmed. For nonaddicts, Pieces reinforces the still dangerously prevalent notion that it’s easy to spot a drug addict or an alcoholic-they’re the ones bleeding from holes in their cheeks or getting beaten down by the police or doing hard time with killers and rapists. For those struggling with their own substance-abuse issues, Pieces sends the message that unless you’ve reached the depths Frey describes, you don’t have anything to worry about-you’re a Fraud. And if you do have a problem, you don’t need to necessarily get treatment or look to others for support; all you need to do is “hold on.” In building up a false bogeyman-the American recovery movement’s supposed reliance on the notion of “victimhood”-Frey has set himself up as the one, truth-telling savior. In fact, it seems clear that Frey would have been well-served by taking the kind of unflinchingly honest look at his own life that most recovery programs demand.

This makes me want to take back my earlier quasi-praise for Frey’s tough-guy writer act. Poseurs can be harmless; poseurs who cast themselves as experts on how to beat addiction are bad, bad news.

– posted by Ross