Even though the Agency for International Development has restricted distribution of reports by contractor Kroll Security International -- annoyingly pessimistic and negative reports, saying the number of daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq is increasing -- the weekly "Kroll Monitor" is still available, even online.
Last week's report says that "doubts continued to grow this week over whether elections can take place in January as planned against the current backdrop of relentless violence." (Note to AID: Either these guys get on message, or that contract will have to be terminated.) Election prospects, the report says, "receded this week," with Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani sounding pessimistic, a major Shiite party pushing for delay and influential Sunnis having "grave reservations."
"For the time being, however," the report continues, "the U.S. appears determined to proceed." Some officials suggest that places such as extremely dangerous Fallujah and Ramadi be excluded from the elections, the report says, "but such places could amount to 25 percent of the country, and that would severely undermine the credibility of the ballot."
"It is likely that the current U.S. firmness is tied to the November presidential elections, and that its stance could change after the U.S. vote, if George Bush is reelected. [Finally, something positive, backing the president?] A revised and perhaps more realistic timetable could then be adopted, especially as violence is expected to escalate further when the election board starts to register an estimated 12 million voters after Oct. 27."
This could be worse than Florida.
A Supremely Provocative Remark
The Harvard Crimson, arguably the nation's best college newspaper, raised many an eyebrow last week with an article saying that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia favored sexual orgies.
The newspaper quoted Scalia, speaking at a symposium Tuesday, as saying, "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tension and ought to be encouraged."
Nino? Who knew?
Turns out, though, Scalia didn't quite say that. A court spokesman said Friday the quote was "not only inaccurate but also taken out of context," a double whammy.
To set the stage, the Crimson reported that Scalia had ridiculed a decision by the European Court of Human Rights, striking down British law barring group gay sex on the grounds that the law intruded upon private life.
Scalia asked -- rhetorically -- how many individuals would have to be involved in a sex act for it to no longer qualify as "private."
"Presumably it is some number between five and the number of people required to fill the Coliseum," Scalia joked, according to the Crimson.
Someone in the audience asked Scalia "whether you have any gay friends, and -- if not -- whether you'd like to be my friend."
"I probably do have some gay friends," Scalia said. "I've never pressed the point." No answer to part two of that question.
But Scalia said his personal views on social issues have no bearing on his courtroom decisions.
No, he didn't quite say that "sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged." What he said was: "I even accept, for the sake of argument, for example, that sexual orgies . . . "
It was one of those "assuming arguendo" things that lawyers like to indulge in.
The Crimson, after reviewing the Kennedy School of Government's transcript, said it would issue a correction on Monday. The reporter didn't have a tape recorder, probably thinking back to a Scalia speech awhile back in Mississippi at which two reporters' tapes were confiscated.
"There had been a miscommunication on whether we could have a recorder," Crimson Managing Editor Elisabeth S. Theodore said. (Scalia's policy allows print reporters to use tape recorders to check accuracy.)
Speaking of the high court, let's have a belated Happy Birthday greeting to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who turned 80 on Friday.
Follow the Foreign Policy Money
The foreign policy fault lines these days don't go along political party lines, but rather on the more esoteric divide between the "realists," folks who tend to want to deal with the world on its own terms, and the more starry-eyed neocons, who believe foremost in the need to push change in the world by having democracy bloom and so on.
Nowhere is that divide more obvious than on the contributions list of the venerable Council on Foreign Relations, the quintessential foreign policy establishment club, populated by both Democrats and Republicans. This is not a "change-the-world" hotbed.
So among GOP members, those who contributed beyond simple dues, we find former president Gerald R. Ford, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former secretaries of state Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman.
Non-giving members include Vice President Cheney, new CIA chief Porter J. Goss and predecessor George J. Tenet, our Pentagon favorites Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen J. Hadley. President Bush, White House aide Karl Rove and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also passed.