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Archive for October, 2009

EU Report on South Ossetia War

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

The EU report on the South Ossetia War has been released, and it apportions some blame to both sides. The Georgians started the war, but the Russians created the underlying tension in the area, and went too far in prosecuting the conflict.

There can be no question regarding the first element of the condemnation of Russia; Russian bad behavior enabled South Ossetian separatists to build their quasi-state, and created conditions under which tension between Russia and Georgia was inevitable. This doesn’t justify Saakashvili’s adventurism, but it does help to explain. On the second point I’m less convinced. It’s certainly true that by some construction of jus in bello Russian actions in Georgia were excessive. The invasion of Georgia was not strictly necessary, nor was the destruction of Georgia’s fleet, or the various air attacks across Georgia. At the same time, I think it has to be noted that the scope of Russia’s assault against Georgia was really trivial when compared to the scope of Israeli activity towards either Hezbollah or Hamas, or of US air attacks against Serbia during the Kosovo War. This is to say that the Russian attack looks positively restrained when compared with the intensity of the assaults against Serbia, Lebanon, or Iraq. Questions of moral equivalency aside, Georgia suffered far less, by any metric, in its war against Russia than Serbia suffered in its war against NATO. Now, it may be fairly argued that Russia is constrained by capabilities rather than intent; the Russian Air Force is simply not capable of carrying out a large scale assault of the same type that we saw in Kosovo or Lebanon, and as such Russia’s deserves no kudos for restraint. I’m not sure that I agree 100% with that, since it does seem that Russia was at least somewhat sensitive to international opinion during the war. Nevertheless, we’d do well to keep in mind that Russian “brutality” was in fact far less brutal in effect (if not intent) than has become the norm for military intervention in the last decade.

And no, I am not in the pay of the Russian government….


NORKs Ditch Communism, Adopt Monarchy?

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

Well, this is something:

North Korea has revised its constitution to give even more power to leader Kim Jong-il, ditch communism and elevate his “military first” ideology, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Monday.

Though there is little doubt over the 67-year-old Kim’s power, secured by his role as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the new constitution removes any risk of ambiguity.

“The chairman is the highest general of the entire military and commands the entire country,” according to a text of the constitution enacted by the reclusive North in April and only now released by the South Korean government.

The chairman is now the country’s “supreme leader.” Though the position had become the seat of power under Kim, the previous constitution in 1998 simply said the chairman oversees matters of state….

It was also then that word reached outside the secretive state that Kim appeared to have picked his third son as successor to the world’s first communist dynasty, whose rule is underpinned by a personality cult.

But the Unification Ministry said the new charter removes all reference to communism, the guiding ideology when Kim’s father Kim Il-sung founded North Korea — of which since his death in 1994 he has been eternal president.

Often in its place is “songun,” the policy of placing the military first and which has been Kim junior’s ruling principle.

Korea, of course, lacks the “Spiritual” trait, meaning that it should experience some anarchy when changing Civics. I guess Kim Jong-Il must have stolen the Cristo Redentor when somebody wasn’t looking…

Via Frosty.

Talent Does Not Mean Good Political Thought

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

In case the Polanski itself doesn’t convince you that good politics/morals and major artistic talent have much to do with each other, I note that while people like Martin Scorsese, Ethan Coen and (natch) Woody Allen are on the wrong side of the issue, the likes of Luc Besson and Jewel haven’t decided to become ad hoc rape apologists. Although it’s nice to see cases where major artistic talent and intelligent moral and political analysis go together, it wouldn’t be wise to expect it.


[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

Greenwald, on Fred Hiatt criticizing “French” and “Hollywood” defenses of Polanski while ignoring the defenses of Polanski on his own op-ed page:

But the last thing that ought to be surprising is to find defenses of morally depraved acts on the Op-Ed page of the Post; that is, after all, its essence.

Notably, Cohen’s opposition to Polanski’s punishment (“it’s alright with me if Roman Polanski is freed”) matches almost verbatim his similar defense of Casper Weinberger (“Cap, my Safeway buddy, walks, and that’s all right with me”). That, in turn, is entirely consistent with Cohen’s outrage over Lewis Libby’s prosecution for obstruction of justice (“As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off”) and his demand that Bush torturers and war criminals be similarly protected from consequences. The opposition to Polanski’s arrest by these Post columnists is, in one sense, merely a natural extension of their general view that criminal prosecution and prison is for the dirty masses but not for elites like themselves.


For every brutal, lawless and amoral act, there is a defense of it to be found on the Washington Post Op-Ed page.

That pretty much nails it.

That’s not a Doctor of Journalism. This is a Doctor of Journalism.*

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

Our arrival was badly timed. Most of the pigs from The American Spectator had already arrived. I saw this at a glance. They were just standing around trying to look casual. It was a terrifying scene.

“I thought you should know about this,” the boy said finally.

“Know? Me? Know about what?” I asked.

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Just that this guy . . . this white supremacist guy . . . he says he’s you.”

My brain locked up. I couldn’t think. The drugs were taking over. “Is he?”

“No . . . I don’t think . . . but he did say something about guns and booze.”

“Guns and booze? Guns and booze? Must be me.” Jesus. What a terrible thing to lay on somebody with a head full of acid. Alright, I thought.

“Alright,” I said. “This Nazi me with guns and gin, where . . .”

“No gin . . . he’s just talking about gin like you talk about it when you . . .”

“Look,” I said. “I’m a Doctor of Journalism. If I can’t minister to my own sober self, what good am I?” I demanded the boy take me to myself.

He led me to a dense thicket of birches fit for Frost and introduced me as Manuel. “Well,” I said. “Pleasure to make my acquaintance.”

That me looked at this me confused. Something there is that loves a wall, I thought, and ain’t that bastard something.

There he was, talking about my Samoan attorney, and here I was, looking at myself talking about my Samoan attorney . . . but what white power me said made no sense.

“Wherever you find guns, cigars and whiskey, good-looking womenfolk are sure to be flocking ’round, and I had my camera handy for the occasion.”

“Flocking ’round”? Sounds nothing like me. Strange memories of nervous nights on who knows what I can handle . . . but this was an impostor. No . . . a robot.

I was being impersonated by a robot. Programmed to say what I say but like I was Rhett Butler. To trick it would require saying something it wouldn’t expect me to . . .

“All this white shit on my sleeve is LSD,” I heard myself say. Shit. I stole a glance at myself and saw his face turn white. I noted the effort it took for him to keep up my façade. Not that he didn’t try.

“Folks around Sperryville won’t go anywhere near the place at Pig Roast time, what with the rumors of cannibalism, human sacrifice, bizarre pagan rituals and so forth.”

“And so forth?” I asked. “And so forth?”

“Wherever you find guns, cigars and whiskey, good-looking womenfolk are sure to be flocking ’round, and I had my camera handy for the occasion.”

“You already said that you fucking robot!” I threw myself at the robot but must have licked my arm on the way there because the next thing I remember I was in a bathtub surrounded by six angry pairs of Dockers.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” one said.

“Stacy is delicate,” said another. Fuck, I thought. I’d attacked some poor girl.

“Sorry,” I said. “I went after the robot.” They shot me looks I deserved. Calm down. Learn to enjoy pain. The important thing now is to leave with my balls intact.

“Stacy is not a . . .”

Intact and where they should be. My balls. Fuck would I miss them.

“Stacy wants you to apologize.”

“Send her in.” Don’t run, I thought. They’d like an excuse to shoot you. Menacing vibrations . . . I felt them all around me. The door creaked open and there she was . . . there he was . . . there I was . . .

“Some fucking robot you are!”

“Get back here!” he shouted, but I knew she couldn’t catch me.

*Written in honor of the lamest Thompson impersonation I’ve ever read . . . and I spent four years teaching literary journalism to starry-eyed undergraduates who idolized Thompson, so I know of what I speak.

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