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Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Quote for the Day

Courtesy Mark Kleinman (sidenote: apparently it’s a Reality Based Community kinda day here at Ind. Union, w/ three posts linked to them in a day). But this is too good to pass up (my italics/bold).  Plus I’m in full on snark mode (no idea why but let’s go with it):

Andrew Sullivan says of Charles Krauthammer’s latest Two Minutes’ Hate directed at Barack Obama, “Krauthammer is better than this.” No doubt Sullivan is trying to be generous, but I have to disagree. For any possible value of “this,” it is not the case that “Krauthammer is better than this.” He is always “worse than this.” Krauthammer’s consistent vileness knows no lower bound.

We are speaking, after all, about a man who uses his professional credential as a psychiatrist to suggest that those with whom he disagrees are mentally ill.

It’s not everyone who can manage to be a disgrace to two professions at once.

Oh snap.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

McCain-Clark Smackdown

What Jonathan Zasloff said.

The Obama Camp pussed out on this one and the selling of Clark down the river is pretty pathetic. For all this talk (a la the Economist) about how this election represents the best of America, right now it’s a race to the bottom between Obi and Mac to see who can look and sound like the bigger spoiled brat/weakling. Somebody grow a pair. Jesus.

It’s a “radical theory” that Clark was propounding. Namely that John McCain is a war hero and has worked hard in his Senate career to help the military, proper respect and gratitude to him for his efforts, but he was not say a General who lead a bunch of troops into battle nor was a Vice President or sat on a Security Council (like Joint Chiefs of something) and was therefore never in intense/high level security decisions. Hence his experience as a soldier and Senator are not sufficient grounds to run his campaign on the idea that he (McCain) is this tried and tested national security leader in a crisis president. And that such a critique (which is actually correct) is not a denigration of his military service.

The quick rejoinder is that all that would apply to Obama as well. He doesn’t possess such experience. Which is completely correct. But of course the rejoinder to the rejoinder is Obama isn’t running on such supposed experience. Clark was only critiquing the disconnect between McCain’s rhetoric and his record. Not the record or the service itself.

That should be pretty obvious but it’s American politics so of course it’s an attack on him as a person and his war record (a la Swiftboated Kerry). Which of course it wasn’t.

All that said, I think Clark should have known that this is how it would go, and better left not said, even though I think on the merits factually accurate. I think the Democrats shouldn’t be afraid of national security talk but this wasn’t the way to go about it to make up that is for there “security deficit” and the image of them in the media as pansies.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 1:12 pm  Comments (4)  
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Rationality on Guns via Mayors

Very much line with the proposals Mark Kleinman describes (which I discussed here) a way too rational piece in the WSJ today from Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino (mayors of NYC and Boston respectively).

One of the potential upshots of the DC Heller case would be to finally focus on the real issue: cracking down on criminals with guns, illegal gun purchases. Instead of right-wing NRA mania about bans on assault weapons and hatred of any regulation the industry and left-wing “guns are icky” and a sign of cultural backwardness, ban them all position. Enough of the right and left culture wars in other words and finally build policy on safety of citizens. Evidence compiled to date suggests increased gun ownership among law abiding (non-mentally disturbed) citizens does not increase (pace the left) nor decrease (pace the right) amounts of violence & crime.

The issue is guns in the hands of criminals. The left has always said that guns kill people (focusing as they always do on exteriors only) while the right says that (bad) people kill people (focusing as they do only on the interiors). Of course both were half right/half wrong. Guns in the hands of bad people kill people. At a much higher clip (no pun intended) than say with fists or knives or clubs.

It is none too surprising that is it mayors, not gun rights/gun ban advocates, courts, or federal politicians, who put forward these ideas, given they don’t have the luxury to be so ideologically hidebound.  As the mayors points out their recommendations receive 80%+ approval including same numbers of approval among gun owners.  Shocking that the populace is actually intelligent on this issue and its the radicals in both parties, the interest groups with too much time, money, and ideology that prevent meaningful intelligent reforms.

The recommendations the mayors make are obvious (again too rational for US political discourse) ones:

1)Close the gun show loophole. Period. Everybody who buys a gun has to have a background check. Sorry NRA.

And this one, showing how insane current law on the subject is:

End gun-dealer fire sales. If the federal government shuts down gun dealers for selling illegally, it nevertheless allows those dealers to sell off their inventory without conducting the background checks that it normally requires them to do. Imagine if a liquor store was shut down for selling to minors. Would anyone support a policy that would allow the owner to sell off all the remaining liquor without checking IDs? Of course not.

WTF? I didn’t know about the gun dealer sales. That is f’ed up.

Other ones the mayors could have mentioned: the need for permit/licensing (like a driver’s license), you pass a test, get a gun. And shell casing laws–each gun sold is fired prior to sale, a casing with serial number of said weapon is kept in a database. Hence all guns can be traced in the criminal justice system if need be.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Iraq Double Bind

Perfectly described by Spencer Ackerman (italics in original):

(SOI=Sons of Iraq, the Sunni Tribes that the US Army is essentially bribing to not fight them and take out the so-called al-Qaeda in Iraq):

If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen — there are probably over 100,000 of them by now — then they have little incentive to keep their guns pointed away from U.S. troops, as the Maliki government has made it clear it distrusts them intensely. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we undermine the ability of the government that we still support to ever achieve a monopoly on the use of force, and put cash into the pockets of brutal men who, in many cases, promise to shoot their way to power. If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, al-Qaeda could reemerge in Iraq. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, the Shiites in the government will remain intransigent in terms of reconciliation, fearing that the armed Sunnis are getting ready to take a mile if given an inch. If we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we risk a resurgence of violence. If we don’t keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen, we risk a resurgence of violence. Any and all of these possibilities exist whether or not we keep paying off the SOI warlords/militiamen. Pick your poison.

The analysis as a meta point on news that one of the Sons of Iraq Abu Abed has fled to Jordan because he has been accused of murder by the Maliki gov’t.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hersh on Iran

Seymour Hersh is out with another eye-scorcher of an article in the New Yorker. In this one he details how the Democratic Leadership (Intelligence Comt. plus Reid and Pelosi) signed off on beefed up secret operations inside Iran. Presumably the rest of the Senate/House (the Democratic caucus) was not aware of this happening.

More distressingly, Hersh details that the firing of Admiral Fallon, former CENTCOM Commander (replaced by Gen. Petraeus) was left largely in the dark about these operations.  Take a guess who was behind that decision?  Rhymes with Rick Heney.

From the article quoting retired Gen. Jack Sheehan (a Fallon supporter):

“The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations,” Sheehan said. “If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can’t have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.”

Worse still the operations rely (stupidly) on the training/weaponizing of dissident ethnic groups in the country.  One problem with that strategy:

A strategy of using ethnic minorities to undermine Iran is flawed, according to Vali Nasr, who teaches international politics at Tufts University and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue,” Nasr told me. “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran.” The minority groups that the U.S. is reaching out to are either well integrated or small and marginal, without much influence on the government or much ability to present a political challenge, Nasr said. “You can always find some activist groups that will go and kill a policeman, but working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.”

And:

The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

What could possibly go wrong with this I ask?  For an answer check out pages 5 and 6 of the article where some special ops guys say that this could immediately erase all the gains they have made in Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.  i.e. funding an al-Qaeda like group in Iran to take away any leverage against the real al-Qaeda who attacked us in Pak/Afgh leading to a possible widening/escalation of the conflict and a third front in the War on Terror.   A conflict which if ignited would lead to US war in three adjacent countries (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq) creating what others have called a terrorist superhighway from Pakistan essentially to Israel.

I see the potential for this to end very badly.  Both Iran and the US are now working with other militias as well as using their own special forces to fight a proxy war against each other.  Iran’s goal being the expulsion of the US occupation in Iraq and its push for permanent bases in the country as a force projector in the region.  The US’ goal the overthrow of the Iranian regime.

The nuclear question is only the presenting issue at the moment for the war hawks/radicals in both countries to push the envelope and seek war.  Right now in this non-zero sum game each radical side (The Bushies and the pro-war Iranian factions, particularly in the Revolutionary Guard) are in a perverse and deadly game of mutually increasing each other’s influence.

Congrats Spain

Congratulaciones a Espana por su victoria en la Copa.

They beat Germany 1-0.  While it wasn’t the most captivating game to watch, it was near total dominance by the Spaniards (over my Germans).  They were amazingly fast and pin point precision passing.  Total team brilliance.

Hats off and congrats on your first win in 44 years in the European Cup.  Goat no mas.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grand Strategy Thread

There is a very good discussion of Grand Strategy over at Democracy Arsenal. The best I think is this post by David Shorr (with links embedded in his to the other discussions) as he manages to “transclude” [transcend and include] the other thinkers in the bunch.

Shorr’s discussion of a rules-based international order jives well with Barnett’s work.

While it is currently a time of intellectual ferment on the (heterodox) right on a number of fronts, foreign policy is not one of them.  For that, need to look to the liberals.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chilified McFloppery

Think Progress has a post entitled “After Trying to Steal Credit for Webb’s GI Bill, McCain Skips the Vote and Instead Chows Down on Chili in Ohio.” *** (see edit below)

The central point of which is that McCain opposed and voted against (first time) Sen. Jim Webb’s GI Bill. Now he is taken credit for the bill (which has passed but the president has threatened a veto). The sorry details here. John Cole correctly calls McCain the reverse Kerry.

Now all that flip-floppery aside, I have to take (partial) umbrage with the ThinkP piece.

He wasn’t just eating chili, dammit. He was eating Skyline. i.e. Cincinnati-style Chili, which yes is certainly in Ohio, but a Cincinnati-only creation. McCain was in my old haunts for a tele-conference with aggrieved Hillary supporters at Xavier University (go Jesuits!!!). He then went to eat at Cincy’s most trademark food creation.

I swear it’s in the water or something for us natives because we all are addicted to the stuff, but “fereigners” usually think it’s totally gross. [Wonder what McCain’s reaction was—photos in the Think Progres link]. It’s more soupy, with the ever-unknown secret ingredients (undoubtedly some nutmeg and chocolate), no tomatoes. Just mostly the meat. You then eat it on spaghetti noodles (3,4, or 5 way: noodle, cheese, chili, onions, beans) or on a hot dog/bun (coney). McCain appears to be having a 3 way similar to the one pictured above except I can’t see any onions or beans on his plate.

McCain may have also learned this the hard way but for the uninitiated stomach particularly–even a local like me who hasn’t eaten for awhile counts much less a newbie–Skyline often makes one run to the bathroom….once, twice, occasionally three times in rapid succession. And painfully so I might add. Call it Cincinnati’s Revenge aka “It’s Skyline Time.”

***In fairness to TP, they do acknowledge it is Skyline in the post.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Alasdair MacIntyre on the Supreme Court

In the last post, I highlighted Jack Balkin’s argument that the Heller case was a response via the Courts to grassroots political activism, party politics/ideology, and public opinion.  Part and parcel of the conservative movement.  He articulates a very perceptive (imo) way of observing and understanding this pattern of events.

But I was reading this passage this morning on the bus from MacIntyre’s classic After Virtue.  For an analysis of MacIntyre’s ethics/political philosophy here, see especially pts. 1-7. It struck home the meta point as to why the structure Balkin articulates is inevitably the case in a society in which there are no agreed upon first moral principles.  What MacIntyre predicts a court truly functions as (peacekeeper of the brutal war of domestic politics) is certainly the case in the end result of Heller.

The Supreme Court in Bakke as on occasion in other cases played the role of a peacemaking or truce keeping body by negotiating its way through an impasse of conflict, not by invoking our shared moral first principles.  For our society as a whole has none.

What this brings out is that modern politics cannot be a matter of genuine moral consensus.  And it is not.  Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means, and Bakke was an engagement whose antecedents were at Gettysburg and Shiloh.

MacIntyre then quotes Adam Ferguson:

We are not to expect the laws of any country are to be framed as so many lessons of morality…Laws, whether civil or political, are expedients of policy to adjust the pretensions of parties [Balkin’s point], and to secure the peace of society.

After Virtue, pp.253-254

[Edit:  No more Heller posts, I promise].

Published in: on June 27, 2008 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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