A Quick Note

I just checked my google mail account (which is where all mail from this domain is forwarded) for the first time since last week, and I had 772 new e-mails and 4561 spam messages in the spam filter.

I read the first fifty, and then just got overwhelmed/disgusted by the volume and deleted everything. If you had something important to tell me, and sent me an e-mail, if it is still important, send it again.


Tinkerbell Died

Glenn Greenwald has his finger on the growing Iraq meme in the rightwing blogosphere – Iraq failed because the lefties didn’t clap loud enough.

Hear that, moonbats? Criticizing the president has consequences. To wit, it’s your fault if the negative consequences that you predict turn out to be true.

Via Atrios, an excerpt from Bremer’s book that suggests that even Iraq itself may have helped to kill the president’s buzz:

The President’s directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as “we’re not going to fail” and “pace yourself, Jerry.” In Bremer’s account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq’s ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: “It’s important to have someone who’s willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.” According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush’s candidate for president of Iraq’s interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had “been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition.”

The president wasn’t the only Republican not feeling the love (Knight-Ridder 6/30/05, links dead):

The coalition government relied heavily on a revolving door of diplomats and other personnel who would leave just as they had begun to develop local knowledge and ties, and on a large cadre of eager young neophytes whose brashness often gave offense in a very age- and status-conscious society. One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man’s audacity that he finally challenged him:

“You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.”

“Yes, I did,” the young American replied proudly. “I thought so,” said the Iraqi, “because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.”

Clearly we also failed to give sufficient applause to the inexperienced ideological hacks put in charge of important aspects of Iraq’s reconstruction.

You can bet folks will respond to Glenn and my posts with the old ‘rooting for failure’ dodge. Why not? The natural consequence of the tinkerbell argument is that the entire country consists of two high school cheerleading squads. One roots for Team A, which is the president, and the other roots for Team B, which is evil. The Left, in all its composition-y goodness, obviously roots for B.

Call me crazy if you like but here’s an alternative model. Discounting nutbars like A.N.S.W.E.R. (righties who want to discount violent terrorists such as Operation Rescue can simmer down) the few who opposed Iraq basically said that the neocon objectives were unrealistic and likely to fail. After neocon objectives proved unrealistic and began to fail the same folks, shockingly enough, said ‘told you so.’ In a fair world one earns intellectual credibility by correctly forecasting the likely outcome of events that haven’t yet taken place. If so, and I’m looking forward to the arguments against, then the few prewar critics who correctly forecast what would happen, Howard Dean among them, have immense credibility on the issue and the rosy-scenario crowd has little to none.

It isn’t hard to imagine why somebody would point out that they have credibility on the Iraq issue. The war is an ongoing problem and people who regularly got it right maybe have a more realistic sense of what to do than the people who got every single thing wrong. The long-term question hasn’t worked itself out yet, true ehough, but the folks whose short-term projections proved so inept (WMD, AQ links, we’ll be greeted as liberators, reconstruction will pay for itself, bureaucracy will go back to work right after the war, candy and flowers, drawing the troops down to 30k within months, ‘last throes,’ no sectarian problems to worry about) will have a hard time convincing most people that their long-term vision is on the money.

The ‘rooting for failure’ stuff won’t stop anytime soon; when you’ve got a meme giving you that warm feeling of escaped responsibility you’ll flog it until maggots take the bones. Just bear in mind that they can’t pound the law, and they can’t pound the facts, so they’re pounding the table.

The Port Deal

I haven’t been paying much attention to the port controversy, because it seems to me that what the UAE will actually be doing is not very ‘controversial.’ I admit that I also reflexively cringe at the notion of a company owned by a foreign country operating our ports, but there is a word for that- xenophobia.

I understand the Coast Guard had some concerns, but I am not sure that their ‘concerns’ will be everything they will be made out to be in the next few days (rest assured, the blogosphere will be hysterical, as will the shrill wings of both parties). The Coast Guard, after all, is supposed to have concerns about border security and the security of our ports. That is their job- to be concerned about those issues so you and I do not have to be concerned with them.

It appears that xenophobia and hysteria still sell, as coalitions that range from Michelle Malkin to Peter King to Chuck Schumer are standing around screaming that we are all going to die if the UAE takes over the daily operations of some ports. If anything, the make-up of the most vocal opposition to the port deal assures me that this really isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be.

Regardless, Bush has taken another hit in the polls (how do you go down from rock bottom?), and there is no doubt that this issue was mishandled by the administration. However, Richard Cohen notes that the entire country is taking a hit overseas:

We are in an odd era of symbolic news events. The Dick Cheney shooting was treated as if it were of cosmic political importance. Some pundits even called on the vice president to resign, while others merely saw everything the Bush administration had gotten wrong — an almost inexhaustible list — as distilled in a single bad shot and the resultant pout. Now it is the port controversy. But if the Cheney story was about everything else — including, of course, the taciturn and slippery Cheney himself — then this port controversy is really about security anxiety and a dislike of things and people Arab. The deal may not be perfect, but it is a long way from a Page One story.

America has many friends in the Arab world. You can go to Saudi Arabia, for instance, and talk “American” at a dinner party — banter about the Washington Redskins or California real estate prices or, of course, politics. The region is home to many people who have gone to school in the United States and admire it greatly. They are not the majority by any means, but they are important and influential — and they are being slowly alienated by knee-jerk insults and brainless policies that reflect panic and prejudice. The true security cost of the Dubai deal has already been inflicted.

Hearts and minds, indeed.

Back To It

Starting to feel better- around 65-70%, and now I am coping with the mountain of stuff to get done that piled up in four days. The good news is the sickness sure helped the diet out.

What A Difference

What a difference a 24 hours and modern antibiotics make- I feel like a new man. Don’t get me wrong, I still fell like crap, but compared to yesterday, I am not the same person. As I was telling Tim, it makes you think- if this were 1906 or if I was basically a citizen of a non-industrialized country (and let’s face it, not white), I would have been dead today. Instead, I am posting on the internet how I feel better. Pretty neat stuff, if you think about it.

Consider this your open thread for the day.

BTW- Jones Diet Green Apple Soda = tasty ymmy goodness.

Friday Beer Blogging – The Best Beer You’ve Never Heard Of

Colorado has an almost obscene density of microbrewers, brewpubs, homebrewers and any other kind of small-batch brewing you can imagine. You’ll find some incredible gems if you poke around long enough, or anyhow the poking around itself is fun enough to put a positive burnish on the whole experience. It’s no surprise then that, insofar as you can even call brewing a competitive sport, unknowns from Colorado periodically walk off with major awards.

Credit goes to Dierdre at the Oakland Mad Mex in Pittsburgh for turning me on to the award-winning Dale’s Pale Ale made by Oskar Blues in their brewpub/restaurant in Lyons, CO. Served on tap Dale’s pours clear amber with a satisfying light-brown head that lingered for the half-hour that it took me to drain the beer. Pleasantly hopped (read what the pros say here), Dale’s has a depth of flavor that I don’t remember from great pale ales like Sierra Nevada. If there is a ‘Colorado taste’ – aggressively hopped, woodsy with a hint of pine – Dale’s gets it right.

(We’ve exceeded our server upload limit so you’ll have to settle for a link to pics of Dale’s in its natural habitat – aluminum cans)

Dale’s took the New York Times by storm:

Although we all said we preferred the subtler style, our top selection, Dale’s Pale Ale, made by Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons, Colo., was one of the more aggressive ales in the tasting, with assertive floral and citrus aromas. But the ale was so well balanced, so lively and dry, that its extroversion simply did not matter. The same was true of our No. 3 beer, the Flying Dog Classic Pale Ale, which was clean and precise, yet with great personality. By contrast, our No. 2 pale ale, from Otter Creek, was subtle and complex, though also with that distinctive bitter signature.

Here a problem that I hadn’t heard of before – bottle aging.

In our tasting, ales from well-regarded brewers like Stoudt’s, Dogfish Head, Bear Republic and even some that made our list showed signs of poor handling. One possible solution to the light problem, at least, was staring us in the face right after the tasting, when the identities of all the brews were revealed. Our No. 1, Dale’s Pale Ale, came in a can.

A can! Not long ago, cans represented all that was wrong with the assembly-line American beer industry. No craft brewer worth a copper brew kettle would even consider putting his precious ale in a can. But times have changed, and some brewers say that cans are lighter and easier to recycle than bottles, and offer complete protection against light.

Rumor has it that the crunchy folks at Dale’s bought a Canadian small-scale canning system so that they could have good beers when they went biking, backpacking or golfing. Having done two of three there’s no doubt that with my own brew pub and startup capital I might have considered doing the same thing. Among other outdoor advantages cans don’t shatter, they cool faster when you sink them in a stream and you can crush them when the beer’s gone. The other advantages – and it looks like there are plenty – apparently came up later. That doesn’t mean that Oskar Blues is a bit shy about selling their technological superiority over the rest of the microbrewing world:

[T]here’s no reason why big beers can’t live and thrive in cans, said Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis. Ratebeer.com bears him out: Oskar Blue’s Old Chub is the top-rated Scottish ale on that Web site, and Dale’s Pale Ale is the No. 8 American pale ale.

“Cans eliminate light damage,” he said, “and they hold far less oxygen than bottles. So our beers stay fresher longer — plus cans are less fuel-consuming to ship and recycle and they make it possible to enjoy great beer outdoors.”

Light damage and oxidation are two enemies of packaged beer. According to Beeradvocate.com, ultraviolet light destroys hop-derived molecules called isohumulones, and creates sulfur compounds — the reason that light-struck beer is called skunky.

…Oxidation is caused by air trapped during packaging. It creates a stale, wet cardboard flavor in the beer. Although air trapped in a can could actually oxidize beer more quickly than in a bottle because of the greater contact area, modern canning systems purge air with a blast of carbon dioxide or nitrogen before the can is filled and the lid crimped on. In recent tests of Dale’s Pale Ale, the levels of dissolved oxygen were too low to be accurately measured by the test being used.

Jim Mills of Caldera Brewing is impressed with the difference between even mass-market beers in bottles and cans. “Taste a Heineken from a bottle and then from a can,” he said. “The malt and hops are so much more present in the canned beer. When a friend first tried canned Heineken against bottled, he said, ‘Whoa! That’s not Heineken — but I like it.’ ”

Canned beer? Boxed wine? If you don’t pick up anything else from Balloon Juice, you’ll pick up the idea that conventional wisom is usually hooey. Try a Banrock Station Shiraz (2003 was particularly tasty) or a Dale’s Pale Ale and I’m sure that you’ll agree.

Spygate – Get Involved

Minds have pretty much made themselves up regarding the ongoing NSA scandal – either you think that the president has the right to disregard the law in “wartime” (according to Gonzales we’re not actually at war) or you don’t. Actually it surprises me how many rightwingers, Republicans and “conservatives,” not necessarily the same thing, have expressed serious concern about the isse. It’s not just loose cannons like Arlen Specter – Michael Savage can’t stop ranting about the dangers of, say, Hillary Clinton using the same powers to round up talk-radio critics in the interest of ‘national security.’ He’s right. The appropriate comparison for George Bush isn’t Hitler but an earlier Chancellor and very much non-Nazi named Friedrich Ebert. German history buffs will know what I’m talking about, for everybody else I’ll get into the significance in a later post. Read here for more on Republicans who’ve expressed serious reservations about the program. There’s more, but you get my point.

Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher have a new/old approach to this issue that’s worth commenting on. Using the newfagled tools of blogging and teh oldfangled approaches of talk radio call-in and LTEs they’ve decided to use Congressional oversight of the wiretapping issue as a test case for a general approach to blog-based activism. I think that the old-fashioned approaches are a great idea because, admit it, most people don’t read blogs. Harrassing the media directly is fun and gets results, but at the same time it creates an combative atmosphere that leaves reporters with the sense that both left and right bloggers are a bunch of raving loons.

Blogs come in as a way to fine-tune the message and get it out effectively. The general idea, again not necessarily new, is to focus attention on the ‘pressure points’ of this scandal. Based on their representation in the Senate, seven states came up:

(1) Pennsylvania (Specter & Santorum)
(2) Kansas (Roberts & Brownback)
(3) Maine (Snowe & Collins)
(4) Nebraska (Hagel)
(5) South Carolina (Graham)
(6) Ohio (DeWine)

The first step is Kansas. Everything that we know about Roberts suggests that he’s a lost cause, but the local press has already begun the Roberts roast without any help from us. No doubt sensible press outlets like the Wichita Eagle could use some positive encouragement.

As a card-carrying believer in the balance of government powers I’m more than happy with this project as it stands right now. Bloggers can email Jane if you’re interested in contributing; Being a Pittsburgher I plan to link through to any PA bloggers who get involved so email me or leave a comment if you’re from the keystone state and want in.