Today's Blogs

Spy Vs. Spy

Bloggers are considering Vladimir Putin’s acid remarks on America, debating if Iran is interfering in Iraq, and evaluating this year’s Grammys.

Spy vs. spy: Russian President Vladimir Putin railed against the United States for “overstepp[ing] its national borders in every way” in a speech at a security conference Saturday in Munich. Putin’s complaints included America’s unilateral war-making and disdain for international law. Defense Security Robert Gates brushed off the criticism during his turn at the podium the next day. “One cold war was quite enough,” he said, adding later “[a]nd, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking.”

Some are still feeling the chill. “Nikita Khrushchev’s shoes were unavailable for comment,” quips conservative Steve Gilbert at Sweetness & Light. “[I]t feels as if Putin has inherited his speechwriters from Brezhnev,” writes Kiev-based blogger Veronica Khokhlova at Neeka’s Backlog, before chiding the American government for not being tougher on Putin. “The look on the faces of the American folks in there was pretty sour. When will they all learn to be like him, too? To bite him in the ass in person - and in public? To get rid of all that ‘Vladimir my friend’ bullshit? To ask him about Anna Politkovskaya and Chechnya with more chutzpah.”

Republican and Tufts prof Daniel Drezner gives kudos to Gates for his response: “It’s been so long since an American official reacted so correctly to empty bluster that I’d almost forgotten how it should be done.” Liberal Kevin Drum responds to Drezner at the WashingtonMonthly’s Political Animal. “[D]on’t you hate it that George Bush has run such a disastrous foreign policy that even a guy like Putin manages to score a few telling points now and again?”

“Screwy Hoolie” at liberal Scrutiny Hooligans also sees some truth in Putin’s speech: “Putin is in the business of selling weapons to nations frightened of the United States. His remarks may just be a great way to drum up business in the middle east, but whether you’re rootin’ for Putin or disputin’ Putin, this sentiment is a testament to the ham-handedness with which this Bush administration has managed our role in world affairs.”

At PM Carpenter’s Commentary, the Missouri-based liberal finds that Putin’s comments should prompt some soul-searching among Americans. “One could respond anemically with an irrelevant, ad hominem ‘poisoning the well’ argument, as Senator and wannabe president John McCain did … But what, item by agonizing item, of Mr. Putin’s points? Ah, there’s the rub.”

Brit Perry de Havilland at Samizdata is unsure of Putin’s importance on the world stage. “The Russian GDP is about $1.7 trillion … i.e. slightly less than Italy… and does anyone really loose much sleep over what the President of Italy thinks? Still, it seems a bit perverse for a man who seems keen to sell technology to Iran to be complaining about all those things the pesky Yanks are doing which are not in his interests.”

Read more about Putin’s Munich speech.

IED=Iranian explosive device? An article in Saturday’s New York Times by reporter Michael Gordon claims that Iran is supplying specialized roadside bombs to Iraq’s Shiite insurgents. The officials cited also stress that both Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have been providing on-the-ground assistance to these groups. Iran has denied these claims of meddling.

Many are criticizing the Times’ account, accusing the reporter of blindly believing anonymous U.S. government sources. Lawyer Glenn Greenwald smells another Judy Miller in Gordon: ” [Gordon] is in Pravda Spokesman mode throughout the entire article – offering himself up as a megaphone for administration assertions without the slightest amount of scrutiny, investigation or opposing views. … Why would the New York Times just offer itself up again as a mindless vessel for what are clearly war-seeking accusations by the administration? Have they learned nothing?”

Middle East history prof Juan Cole picks apart the reporter’s math. “This NYT article depends on unnamed USG sources who alleged that 25 percent of US military deaths and woundings in Iraq in October-December of 2006 were from explosively formed penetrator bombs fashioned in Iran and given to Shiite militias … This claim is one hundred percent wrong. Because 25 percent of US troops were not killed fighting Shiites in those three months. Day after day, the casualty reports specify al-Anbar Province or Diyala or Salahuddin or Babil, or Baghdad districts such as al-Dura, Ghaziliyah, Amiriyah, etc.–and the enemy fighting is clearly Sunni Arab guerrillas.”

At Captain’s Quarters, conservative Ed Morrissey is troubled by reports of Iranian involvement in Iraq: “The White House needs to make its case and present as much of the evidence as possible, under the circumstances. There will be skeptics, and they will ironically call for a review of the intelligence in much the same manner that the White House asked for the same from Douglas Feith. … In any event, nothing should delay the national understanding of our true enemy in Southwest Asia.”

Read more about Iranian arms in Iraq.

Grammy revenge: The Dixie Chicks snagged five awards at the Grammys on Sunday, showing up those who shunned them for their anti-Bush rhetoric. The trio shared the spotlight with Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.

At US Weekly’s Celebrity News blog, the Chicks’ wins are celebrated, their fashion choices ridiculed: “Look, Chickiepoohs, this isn’t your prom, and it’s not 1985 anymore. Natalie Maines take thee back to the Club MTV closet. … You’re too good for this. We applaud you for rising above the George W. controversy, but this is seriously pushing it, ladies..”

Mike Osegueda of the Fresno Bee live-blogged the evening’s festivities in a snark-laden post: “10:18 p.m.: Geez, Christina. It was interesting the first time we saw you belt away like you were birthing a child. But, at this point, we’ve seen, heard it and our ears are tired of it. Sing like a human please. Nobody wants you to be the next Mariah Carey.”

Read more about the Grammys.