Friday, August 31, 2007

I'll say this much for Republicans: the bad news from Iraq has done nothing to damp the vigor and enthusiasm of their spin. Talking Points Memo cites the following:

At one point, [visitors from Congress were] trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons.

When [Rep. James] Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled.

[Rep. John] Porter [R-NV] confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity.

"I don't disagree it was an odd moment, but I did take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, at least they are using the latest technology, and they are monitoring the world,' " Porter said. "But, yes, it was pretty annoying."

Well, we might dispute whether this was, in fact, the latest technology --- though perhaps "tele-vision" actually is still new in the wilds of Nevada. But the guy wasn't monitoring the world. He was monitoring a children's TV show.

This, at any rate, is the Iraqi administration that was supposed to use the security provided by the "surge" to get its political house in order. But never fear, they'll have more time. TPM also notes that Sen. Harry Reid, the jelly-kneed leader of the Senate Democrats, has backed off any notion of a timetable for withdrawal, in hopes that he might get a few more Republicans to vote in favor of a bill opposed to administration policy if it's totally toothless and doesn't mean anything at all.

The willingness of this Congress to effectively oppose any new, ill-advised military adventure, like the bombing runs on Iran that are widely rumored now (though the signs were visible earlier) is left as an exercise for the reader. It shouldn't keep you busy long at all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One of the mysteries of our Iraq misadventure is gone: We finally know how the totally unheralded L. Paul Bremer wound up in total control of Iraq for his disastrous year there (in which he, among other bad moves, dissolved the former Iraqi army, whose troops instantly became the nucleus for the nascent insurgency). Writes Roger Cohen, the original plan was to have Bremer there solely as an administrator, while Zalmay Khalilzad saw to future political arrangements.

“We had cleared both announcements, with Bremer to run things and me to convene the loya jirga, both as presidential envoys,” Khalilzad told me. “We were just playing with a few final words. Then the game plan suddenly changed: we would run the country ourselves.”

What occasioned this shift. which took both Colin Powell and Condi Rice by surprise?

The volte-face came at a Bush- Bremer lunch that day where Bremer made a unity of command argument to the Decider. “I put it very directly to the president: you can’t have two presidential envoys running around Iraq,” Bremer told me.

Better one guy, even if he knows nothing at all about the culture or the region. It's the manly-man theory of, well, just about everything: you need to get one guy in charge. Which hasn't thrilled me; if having a "czar" was the cure to every problem, then the Romanovs would still be ruling Russia.

When Apple finally announced the iPhone, many potential customers were stunned to hear that (unlike most other "smart phones") there would be no supported way to run new programs on the device. If you want to add functionality to the iPhone, the official way to do that is to make it a web application, run through a web browser. Why on earth, people were asking, would Apple cripple their own device like this?

Terms of Apple's contracts with European telecom providers for iPhone support are now public. Every time somebody runs one of those webapps, Apple gets a cut on the data traffic.