The Patterson School’s new summer reading list is out. I’ve recently finished the Kilcullen and the Bacevich, both of which are quite good; reviews pending. Also, David Wescott of Business Lexington has a column up about our recent pirate related policy simulation. On a related point, I just finished Martin Murphy’s Small Boats, Dirty Money, which is a fantastic primer on piracy and martime terrorism.
Roger Eugene Ailes, president at the odious Fox News Network, was born 69 years ago today in Warren, Ohio. (In a remarkable convergence of douchebaggery, Warren would also host the unfortunate birth of Hugh Hewitt, who was coughed into the world sixteen years later.)
A broadcasting major at Ohio University, Alies moved into a career as a television producer during the 1960s, ultimately landing a position with The Mike Douglas Show, which he helped turn into a national success. After striking up a conversation with Richard Nixon — who appeared on the show in 1967 along with a boa constrictor-wielding belly dancer named Little Egypt — Alies was offered a job with Nixon’s presidential campaign. He accepted the position, divorced his wife, and turned to the task of marketing Nixon (as Joe McGinness famously described it) “like a can of peas” to a nation that has never quite recovered from the sale. Working with other young conservatives like Pat Buchanan to remake the GOP into a juggernaut of spite, Ailes helped refine the campaign’s cynical, two-pronged strategy of expressing open contempt for (vaguely-defined) “elites” and somewhat more coded loathing for poor black urban denizens.
At the same time, Ailes achieved what nearly every mortal assumed to be an impossible goal: making Dick Nixon seem genial. His specialty was producing campaign events that employed what he called the “arena concept” — a forerunner of the now-ubiquitous town hall format — that simulated regional campaign events, bringing Nixon together with loyal audiences and panels of voters who served the candidate with questions that were predictably unchallenging. Difficult questions, if they were posed, usually came from reporters or professors, two groups that Nixon and his advisers were, in any event, eager to portray as liberal elites who were unpatriotic and insensitive to mainstream American values — and thus, by extension, to Nixon himself.
While Ailes did not invent so much as mediate this novel right-wing formula, he did so for a succession of political clients including Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush, the latter of whom benefited from the historically grotesque management of Lee Atwater. And when Ailes dragged his jowly carcass back to television during the 1990s, he brought his Nixonian paranoia and anti-liberal contempt with him. From CNBC, Ailes moved to the short-lived and idiotic “America’s Talking” network before agreeing to head up a new cable news channel that would eventually distinguish itself as the viewing destination of choice for Americans who preferred to be misinformed about nearly everything. From its inception in 1996, Fox News and Roger Ailes rode with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, the 2000 Florida recount, the War on Terror and the candidacy and election of Barack Obama — to the pinnacle of the cable news market, demonstrating along the way the possibilities for success in a profession one actually loathes.
I have some thoughts about the widely trumpeted but not terribly meaningful new surveys here. (Short version: talk to me if this persists for at least a year and shows up in surveys with better questions.) See also Sarah Posner on why it’s a bad idea to cede moral ground to advocates of abortion criminalization, not least because their positions tend, in fact, to be a moral, legal, and ethical shambles.
Shorter Charles Krauthammer: “I have an open-and-shut case for a “ticking time bomb” scenario that justifies torture. In this case, there was no ticking time bomb, and the torture didn’t work. See?”
See also. Man, this is pathetic stuff. But when you try to justify torture, this is the quality of argument you get…
It looks like as long as the New Hampshire legislature is willing to add some superfluous religious freedom exemptions, John Lynch will sign the legislation. Works for me. And I think there’s a strategic lesson here: just add some language to legislation ensuring that things that nobody was going to do anyway can’t be done, and there goes the emerging silly pretext for opposing SSM. Ironically, I think that this argument is going to do more to provide a reason to justify flip-flopping than to actually maintain discrimination.
OK, I’m officially disappointed in my President.
It was bad enough that he failed to decisively end Bush’s extraordinary rendition program (claiming he’ll only make sure it’s no longer abused); and that he blocked prosecutions for top-level officials who authorized torture. Now, Obama has decided to block the release photos depicting US troops engaging in brutal acts against detainees:
President Obama said on Wednesday that he is seeking to block the release of photographs that depict American military personnel abusing captives in Iraq and Afghanistan, worrying that the images could “further inflame anti-American opinion.”
Look, it’s not pictures that inflame anti-American opinion. Brutality has done that already. And trying to cover up that bad behavior only makes it look as if the new Administration is complicit. In short, this is the worst tactical decision I’ve seen Obama make so far, and I fear the grave consequences of associating his administration with the worst excesses of the past eight years.
The explanation given by the White House is no better than the decision itself:
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said that the president met last week “with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the D.O.D. photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops.”
This logic makes so little sense I cannot believe it is the genuine rationale. First of all, as Gary Bass has exhaustively documented, the appearance of punishing those who are actually guilty is the best way to forestall collective punishment: it’s doing the reverse, obstructing genuine justice, that encourages vigilantism against all US soldiers. Second of all, even if they are put in even greater danger by their comrades’ ill-deeds, won’t this be the best possible deterrent for war crimes in the future? Studies of variation in war crimes demonstrate that militaries who commit the fewest abuses are those where there is strong peer pressure within fighting units to behave properly, and the best way I can think of to create this kind of culture is to allow all US troops to worry about the indirect consequences of being associated with those “few bad apples.”
So what is the actual logic here? Someone, enlighten me, because apparently our “rule of law” President would like to keep us all in the dark.
That’s Rick Hasen’s prediction. And actually, that would be fine with me; she seems very impressive and more liberal than anybody on the current Court. Jan Crawford Greenburg, on the other hand, suggests increasing internal support for Kagan. Again, that would also be a strong pick. I find Hasen’s logic a litte more convincing but Greenburg is presumably getting some info from White House sources, so who knows. Except for Karlan apparently not being strongly considered, the process looks likely to produce a good choice: all of the justices on the alleged short list seem like decent choices (although I’m not sure about Granholm — tought to evaluate a governor in those kind of circumstances, and her proescutrial background worries me, but then so did Earl Warren.)
Some professors in Canada are attempting to “bridge the theory/policy divide.” 125 Canadian academics circulated a statement last week calling on the Canadian government to spearhead efforts to resolve the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka.
The group makes a compelling case:
“Most independent observers estimate that more than 200,000 Tamil civilians, many already displaced multiple times, have been under siege in the tiny coastal strip with at least 50,000 still there. Confirmed reports indicate that more than 6,400 civilians, including 700 children, have been killed since January 2009.
Displaced persons who have managed to flee the fighting have been placed in de facto detention camps by the Sri Lankan government where they are denied freedom of movement, in contravention of international standards. There are over 40,000 displaced people being held in 13 sites in the Vavuniya District in overcrowded conditions without adequate access to healthcare, food and water. There are reports of rape, torture and killings in the camps (Medico International, Germany, April 16, 2009). Civilians who are suspected of LTTE ties have been taken into government custody, leading to fears of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, tactics the government and its allied militias have employed in significant numbers over the past few years (Amnesty International, ASA 37/004/2009).
Recent artillery attacks by Sri Lankan forces have indiscriminately targeted civilians and civilian objects, in contravention of international humanitarian law. There are credible reports that the Sri Lankan army may be using illegal cluster bombs as well as thermobaric bombs in the safe zone with high civilian casualties. There have been more than two dozen incidents of artillery shelling or aerial bombardment on or near hospitals, in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions. The presence of wounded combatants in hospitals does not turn them into legitimate targets. Deliberately attacking a hospital is a war crime. At the same time we deplore the LTTE’s forcible recruitment of civilians, including children, for untrained military duty and for labour in the combat zones as well as its practice of forcing civilians to retreat with its forces, deliberately preventing civilians under its effective control from fleeing to safety. Nevertheless, violations of the laws of war by one side to a conflict do not justify violations by the opposing side. They do not permit the indiscriminate use of force by the Sri Lankan forces in response (Human Rights Watch, 20 Februrary 2009).
Amen. However, reading this left me with a few questions about this group’s strategy. First of all, while most of the claims above are indisputable, a few leave me wondering, and for a statement prepared by academics, there is a dearth of sources cited (a few parenthetical citations give too little information for me to follow sources online so that I could link to them in this post).
What, for example, is the authors’ “credible source” on Sri Lanka’s use of thermobaric weapons? I have seen this concern raised (e.g. here) and (the LTTE has also been accused of using thermobarics as long ago as 2005). But these do not strike me as particularly credible sources, especially given the authors’ misperception that thermobaric weapons are banned in international law (they should be, but they’re not). And David Hamblin at Danger Room points out that none of these claims are verifiable - not that they should matter, slaughter is slaughter, thermobaric or not. Anyway, I’d have expected the academics writing this statement to distinguish between clear-cut facts and the variety of claims out there, or at least provide a citation to some independent report of which I, and more importantly their target audience, might simply not be aware.
I completely support this group’s aims. But I worry that failing to distinguish facts from claims and provide documentary evidence of such statements undermines these scholars’ very worthy case, and more importantly their value-added as academics.
Which leads to a different question. Were these concerned citizens really writing as academics or as Canadian citizens, and what’s the difference if anything? In a statement to the press, Sherry Aiken who initiated the petition said:
“The fact that so many Canadian Tamils are continuing to lose family members and riends in the ongoing crisis is what prompted us as concerned Canadian academics to stand in solidarity with them.”
I wonder if you need to be an academic in order for such concerns to have resonance. And I wonder whether academics should be taking stands as academics on issues that concern them primarily for personal reasons.
OK, lots of different issues raised here, comment away.
Right. At the very least, Reid need to actually get senators on the record with a cloture vote. If Snarlin’ Arlen wants to filibuster an eminently qualified nominee because she’s…pro-choice, make him do it on the record. And head into a Democratic primary with no support from unions or reproductive freedom groups. Good luck with that!