It has always been one of my tenets of analysis of the Bush Administration that Dick Cheney is perhaps the most overrated "intellectual" in American public life. There's no doubt he takes himself very seriously indeed, but it's also true that he's nearly always wrong.One of the most oft-cited examples from his errata sheet is his pronouncement that the insurgency was in its "last throes" right at the moment two or three years of nonstop mayhem in Iraq were about to begin, but that's just one of his credits. He was also dead wrong about his "no doubt" statement that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program. On and on. I suppose it's that growling gravitas he brings to all his nuanced utterances, all those prepositional phrases salted away in his long, intricate sentences, that give people the idea he's a trenchant thinker. Compared to Bush, who has trouble describing coherently what day of the week it is, Cheney seems like Sir Isaac Newton, but that's damnation by faint praise.
December 18, 2008
December 16, 2008
George W. Bush will remain the International Man of Mystery (how did he get where he is and why?) until the very end of his term, I suppose.. I thought his immediate reaction to having shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist was trademark bizarre: he described the size (10) and then characterized the assault as indicative of the growth of democracy in Iraq. It's probably true that a journalist would not have thrown his shoes at Saddam Hussein, so I guess that's something. Throwing shoes at someone, however, and not just in Arab cultures where it has a special significance, is not, strictly speaking, simply the exercise of some First Amendment right. The guy was trying to hit Bush with his shoes, not just make a point.
December 15, 2008
Presidential Order Opens the Door to Considering Aggressive Techniques (U)(U) On February 7, 2002, President Bush signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitled to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention. The President’s order closed off application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. While the President’s order stated that, as “a matter of policy, the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions,” the decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.
December 14, 2008
I came rather late to Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but it would be hard for me to recommend it too highly. A couple of well-read friends mentioned it at Thanksgiving. The book goes very deep; I can see why some people have suggested that Mr. Pollan should be Obama's Secretary of Agriculture, instead of the usual agribusiness shill from Monsanto or ConAgra.Perhaps there's hope. Barack's impending selection of Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy was nothing short of inspired, IMHO. It makes me wonder whether this can actually be the same country that gave us the Pre-Enlightenment Obscurantism of George W. Bush. The answer being, of course: No. As the Buddhists tell us, one can never step into the same river twice.