Political Animal

Political Softball

POLITICAL SOFTBALL….Amy Sullivan reviews Eric Alterman’s What Liberal Media? today for The American Prospect, but the best part is actually the opening paragraph, which has nothing to do with the book:

Everyone knows that conservatives win when they play hardball. But they also win at softball. Among congressional staff in Washington, the hallowed summer tradition of softball games on the National Mall is, in many ways, a microcosm of the larger political struggle between liberals and conservatives. Liberals let everyone play, even if it means benching their home-run hitters while the guy who whiffs every pitch gets a turn. Conservatives pick their nine strongest players and send everyone else out to buy beer. Liberals often have four or five women on the field. Conservatives play only the required three and sometimes even insist that different rules apply to women. Liberals have such fierce team names as Jeffords’ Vermont Saps or the Daschle Prairie Dogs. Conservative teams are more likely to follow the lead of the Helms Hitmen.

Practically anything can be a metaphor for politics, can’t it?


RUMMAGING….The Telegraph has been rummaging around burned out Iraqi ministry buildings and come up with evidence that MP George Galloway accepted millions of dollars from Saddam Hussein. A few days later, after more rummaging, they came across evidence that Saddam had connections with al-Qaeda.

The London Times, meanwhile, has been doing its own rummaging and discovered evidence that France had been giving Saddam regular reports on its dealings with America.

This is all very interesting, but I have a couple of questions:

  • What are these guys doing rummaging around Iraqi ministries? Shouldn’t the coalition forces be carefully scouring those buildings themselves?

  • And even if rummaging is permitted, where’s the American press? Three big scoops for conservative British newspapers, but the Americans, with many more reporters on the ground, haven’t come up with anything. What’s the deal with that?

Am I the only one who thinks there’s more here than meets the eye?

UPDATE: In comments, Brad Johnson points to this Guardian article indicating that British intelligence doesn’t think there’s much to these stories.

Just Trying To Be Patriotic Here, Folks

JUST TRYING TO BE PATRIOTIC HERE, FOLKS….I missed this a few days ago, but apparently the Pentagon is under pressure to break a contract with a German company to supply it with paint. As usual, the demand comes from a congressman who wants to the contract awarded to a local firm.

The war with Iraq sure has been good for constituent services among our congressmen, hasn’t it?

UPDATE: And Matt Yglesias points to a TAPPED post reminding us that one of the companies that won a rebuilding contract in Iraq is part-owned by the bin Laden family. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

A Remarkable Retraction

A REMARKABLE RETRACTION….Take a look at this rather extraordinary retraction printed in this week’s Economist. You need to read the whole thing to get the full flavor:

In our article ?Nigerian Scams: Sharia Shenanigans? (December 14th 2002) we reported that Chinonye Obiagwu went on a fund-raising drive through Sweden falsely claiming to be the lawyer for Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman sentenced to death for adultery, and had received money from people in Sweden on the basis of this false claim. The article also suggested that Mr Obiagwu’s behaviour was comparable to fraudulent Nigerian ?scamsters? and the ?biggest crook of all?, Nigeria’s former dictator, Sani Abacha. This was quite wrong. Mr Obiagwu has never claimed to be Ms Lawal’s sole legal representative and has never sought or received any money from anyone in Sweden or anywhere else in respect of Ms Lawal’s case.

Mr Obiagwu is a respected human-rights lawyer working both in Nigeria and internationally and is National Co-ordinator of the Legal Defence and Assistance Project in Lagos. As part of his activities in promoting the cause of human rights in Nigeria, Mr Obiagwu is a member of a group of lawyers who provide legal insight and other support to Ms Lawal’s case. Mr Obiagwu was in Sweden at the invitation of a Swedish non-governmental organisation to give seminars on impunity and Sharia law.

The Economist apologises to Mr Obiagwu and deeply regrets any embarrassment or distress caused to him by the article. The Economist also regrets the delay in publishing this apology.

This is remarkable. It’s not just a misquotation, or an incorrect fact or figure, it’s an admission that, basically, the entire story was made up out of whole cloth.

As usual for these kinds of things, the Economist corrects what it said but doesn’t explain just how this all happened or why it took four months to print the apology. I’ll bet there’s an interesting story of some kind behind that.

UPDATE: Ah, here’s the background. Sounds like almost bloglike sloppiness on the part of the Economist.