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Archive for May, 2009


[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Good Christ, the idiocy is flowing like wine this morning from the right. It’s hardly surprising that right-wing bloggers can’t tell the difference between the argument that a) North Korea won’t test another nuke, and b) a North Korean nuclear test doesn’t matter; they are, by and large, morons. In fairness to John Bolton, he was as critical of the Bush administration as he has been of the Obama, but that’s why he’s viewed as a crazy person by the greater portion of the American foreign policy community. It wasn’t that difficult to predict that North Korea might test a nuclear weapon; I predicted such on May 7, fully thirteen days before the oracular John Bolton made his pronouncements in the Wall Street Journal. The question is, and has always been, what the US can and should do about North Korea’s weapons program. The answer that the Bush administration discovered and that John Bolton never grasped is this: Not much.

That “not much” is the answer is pretty clear from this garbage by Bahukutumbi Raman at Forbes. North Korea has tested another nuclear device, we learn, because Obama is weak like Jimmy Carter. That Raman notes himself that North Korea pursued precisely the same strategy under the Bush administration doesn’t dissuade him from this conclusion. Raman’s policy recommendation? The US needs to be more supportive of Israel and India. That’ll teach the North Koreans that we mean business, and how!


Gangsters and Weak States

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Last week I spoke with Vanda Felbab-Brown of Brookings about gangsters, pirates, insurgents, and weak states. Here we talk a bit about the violence of the Mexican drug cartels:

Vanda also has a paper on the Mexican drug cartels from Brookings that’s worth your valuable time.

No Karlan For You!

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

Not that anyone expected otherwise, but it remains unfortunate. I do suspect, though, that there’s at least some political positioning going on here, emphasizing the moderation of even pretty liberal picks. Wood, in particular, seems definitely better than Breyer, and has a more liberal record than Ginsburg did when she was appointed. Similarly, I’m not really bothered by Geoffrey Stone’s claim that she would be “an “incrementalist” not inclined to take on broad structural changes in the law.” Broad structural changes, after all, can only happen with 5 votes. I’ll say more about this issue tomorrow, but let’s just say that I think most progressives would be overjoyed with a liberal Alito, but Alito prefers incrementalism to broad pronouncements. If they’re in the right direction, incrementalism and broad strokes can be nearly indistinguishable, as the first terms of the Roberts Court should teach us.

Things That Make Me Feel Old

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

The Only Championship Team I Will Ever Cheer For won its only championship 20 years ago today. (The last remaining member of the team hung it up this year too.) Since I’m a Flames fan, though, it feels even longer than 20 years…

Mission Accomplished!

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

A writer for the Weekly Standard begins with the premise that opposition to same-sex marriage is not always motivated by anti-gay bigotry or fundamentalist nonsense. He then goes on to make a case against SSM consisting almost exclusively of…creepy misogyny. So I suppose you’d have to say that he proved his point; there really are a multitude of indefensible reasons for supporting marriage discrimination…

…the great sky-blue satan IDs another choice quote.

…and see also Echidne and Mr. T. Bogg.

…Chotiner hands out more rope.

My Brain is Hanging Upside Down

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Ronald Reagan received well-deserved scorn in 1985 for visiting Kolmeshöhe Cemetery, where several dozens of SS members were buried; even so, the circumstances of that visit could at least be rendered moderately sensible, given the incompetence that preceded the trip in the first place (e.g., Michael Deaver’s inability to realize who were buried there) and the political conditions that Reagan claimed had boxed him in (e.g., Kohl’s earlier support for missile deployment). The fact remains, though, that Reagan’s gesture of “reconciliation” was a disaster that subsequent presidents have wisely elected not to repeat.

By way of comparison, I have no idea why US presidents continue to honor the memory of soldiers who died fighting for the rights of white people to own black people.

A little over 140 years ago the residents of the American south rose up and began brutally slaughtering thousands of their fellow citizens to defend a despicable system of slavery. They chose to kill and destroy instead of recognizing that the tide of history had finally turned against them. Yet the memory of these traitors and murderers is honored, the reasons for their crimes santized. Deserters from the US military – men who took and then broke an oath of service to the Constitution of the United State – are given memorials and characterized as men of honor.

No shit. What respectable constituency is served by this annual rite of national humiliation? That anyone would mourn the confederate dead is beyond my range of comprehension; it’s unfortunate enough that William McKinley ever set in motion the process that eventually brought tens of thousands of Southern corpses under the care of the US government, when the nation would have been more properly served by stacking them on barges and launching them onto the North Atlantic current. But I’m kind of an asshole that way. The scandal here, however, is that Obama and his predecessors have specifically granted legitimacy to a memorial that — as a heap of scholars properly note — is nothing more than an ode to white supremacy and Lost Cause mythology. It continues to serve as a beacon to neo-Confederates who believe the South was engaged in a divine struggle against evil and that its founding principles have been vindicated over the past century and a half. Unless the wreath Obama sent to the memorial happened to be attached to a jackhammer, the effort was surely wasted.

Isn’t that Just Like the French…

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

…to go after a fraudulent religion just because it comes from the United States:

The Church of Scientology’s French branch went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud, in a case that could lead to the group being dissolved in France.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The French branch of the group said on Monday religious freedom was threatened.

Brief Memorial Day Baseball Thought

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Performance this year notwithstanding, this is a beautiful picture for any Mariner fan:

The Effective Case Against Kagan

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Made by Charlie Savage:

Most of the half-dozen or so candidates Mr. Obama is weighing have little by which to gauge whether their appointment might create a majority with greater sympathy for the White House.

But one, Judge Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has expressed doubts about claims of sweeping executive powers in national security matters. Another, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, has a history of advocating for presidential powers in domestic matters, along with a mixed record of statements on counterterrorism issues.

I’ve become more and more convinced that Wood is the best candidate on what seems to be the short list. And given the Court’s current makeup, a significant possibility that a judge could join the Court’s reactionary wing on arbitrary executive power cases should pretty much be a disqualifying factor.

UPDATE: More from Evitar and Wheeler.

Nork Nuke the Next

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

The catchy title is intended to obscure the fact that I have nothing useful to say on North Korea’s second nuclear test. Seems to have gone better than the first one. Will probably make the Japanese even more twitchy.

Can the Washington Nationals do anything right?

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

The answer, of course, is “no.” While it’s true that Theodore Roosevelt favored spelling reform, one assumes he wasn’t thinking of his own name as a candidate for revision.

This wouldn’t have happened if the team still played in Montreal.

Hackery By Rote

[ 0 ] May 24, 2009 |

As always, this Robert Samuelson column is an utter embarrassment, starting with his typical indefensible conflation of Medicare and Social Security to pretend that they’re both poised to blow up the national budget. And to compound the idiocy, say that the possibility that the Social Security trust fund may stop fully funding benefits in 2037 means it’s about to go “bankrupt,” an unusual way of describing a situation in which dedicated taxes would still fund most of the outlays. (I hate to tell you, Robert, but apparently our defense spending is “bankrupt” right now — I mean, if it’s not fully funded by dedicated taxes throughout eternity, it’s by definition unsustainable!) And it would be really great if the Social Security trust fund were to go “bankrupt” tomorrow, because this would force us to make immediate draconian cuts! And the fact that this won’t in fact happen for decades (and may not happen at all, assuming that the economy becomes more productive) shouldn’t change anything. One illogical assertion piled on top of another, the Samuelson trademark.

In addition, you have to like the way that Samuelson poses as a brave truth-teller, proposing tough but specific policy proposals. And yet, his policy proposal for Medicare — which is the source of most of the fiscal problem he identifies — consists of “a fundamental overhaul of Medicare.” What would this consist of? Your guess is as good as mine (although I suspect Baker has it about right.) But wait — Obama does, in fact, have rather ambitious health care proposals. But that doesn’t count, because “Obama’s plans to expand government-paid health insurance might increase Medicare spending by aggravating medical inflation.” Or, conversely, expanding government insurance might decrease health care costs the way it does in, you know, pretty much every other liberal democracy. Maybe it would work differently in the U.S. — but Samuelson shows no sign of recognizing the fundamental issues here.

And what’s worst of all is that Samuelson has written the same idiotic column, what, six billion times? Isn’t it time for some new blood?

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