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The Pollack Evasion Strategy

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

A classic example [via MY] of foreign-policy-writer-who-would-be-wholly-discredited-in-any-rational-universe Kenneth Pollack expressing optimism about Iraq by carefully evading the substantive issue:

Do you find the electric power is on more continuously?

We found there had been a real shift from trying to repair and defend the national power grid, which was extremely difficult to do. There now is a shift away from that toward helping the Iraqis essentially get their own local generators and bring local businesses and houses into those local generators.

Now, you’ll note what Pollack doesn’t do: actually address the question directly. Rather, he talks about the change in strategy rather than characterizing the substantive effects of the strategy, presumably because the power isn’t on noticeably more continuously. And call me crazy, but I suspect that industrialized nations generally have national power grids rather than local generators because the latter can’t generate sufficient electricity to run a modern economy.

At any rate, the key here is that Pollack is trying to put an optimistic spin on the fact that we have now essentially given up on protecting Iraq’s national power grid, with obvious devastating consequences for building a stable state and economy. This is not an analyst trying to give a sober, clear-eyed assessment of the situation in Iraq, but someone desperately trying to gin up a potential pony farm to salvage his reputation. For this reason, his subjective judgments cannot be trusted at all. (And the possibility that he could have influence in a Clinton administration is sufficient reason for me to oppose her in the primaries.)

How Did the Dems Do?

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Last night was the first ever presidential debate focused on LGBTQ issues. Dems and Republicans were both invited. Unsurprisingly, none of the Republican candidates attended.

Bill Richardson didn’t win any new gay rights fans.Jeralyn thinks Obama flubbed it, Edwards continues to fumble toward supporting full equality, and Hillary did pretty well.

What do you think?

Beef: The New Solution to your Dating Woes

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Continuing with my food posting….though this time connected to feminism.

There’s been a lot of e-ink spilled around the blogosphere about yesterday’s truly offensive NY Times Style Section article telling ladies that the new way to snag a good man (or any man) is to eat meat. I know it’s the style section, and it’s not the first time that the Times has woven a little misogyny into its food writing, just for good measure, so what do I expect? Well, better than this.

There’s a lot that’s hair pulling frustrating about this article, not to mention that it’s so beef-o-philic that it sounds like the reporter is a shill for the beef industry.

But I think it’s Zuzu who gets to the heart of what’s irksome about this article: fat phobia and gender stereotyping.

For the record, I do eat beef. But I don’t like people praising me for “not eating like a girl” when the order is a burger and beer or assuming that my vegetarian male partner is the one who ordered the burger, when indeed the salmon turns out to be for him. To see the Times not only buy into but also glorify that impulse makes me lose my appetite.

Reverse Midas Touch

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

Indeed. It really doesn’t seem to have dawned on the administration that explicit American support may not actually help more liberal factions in countries with strong anti-American sentiments, although the point seems to trite as to barely be worth pointing out.

Rudy Giuliani: Utter Fraud

[ 0 ] August 10, 2007 |

An absolute must-read article by Wayne Barrett in — I swear it, I guess for a week they decided to get away from the escort-ads-plus-Nat-Hentoff-and-Michael-Musto format they’ve been essaying for the past year — the Village Voice systematically destroying the myth of Rudy Giuliani, Terrorism Fighter (TM).

Barrett addresses several different categories of dishonesty: for example, he disposes of Giulani’s attempts to evade responsibility for the idiotic decision to put the emergency command center directly next to the city’s most obvious terrorist target, and points out in response to Giuliani’s attempts to blame the EPA for the exposure of many people to toxic air in the wake of 9/11 that “[t]he city had its own test results, of course, and when 17 of 87 outdoor tests showed hazardous levels of asbestos up to seven blocks away, they decided not to make the results public.” But perhaps most relevant to his presidential campaign os Barrett’s exposure if Giuliani’s completely inept preparation for a potential terrorist attack, which resulted in a substantial number of preventable deaths:

‘I don’t think there was anyplace in the country, including the federal government, that was as well prepared for that attack as New York City was in 2001.’ This assertion flies in the face of all three studies of the city’s response—the 9/11 Commission, the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), and McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm hired by the Bloomberg administration.


Instead of being the best-prepared city, New York’s lack of unified command, as well as the breakdown of communications between the police and fire departments, fell far short of the efforts at the Pentagon that day, as later established by the 9/11 Commission and NIST reports. When the 280,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters recently released a powerful video assailing Giuliani for sticking firefighters with the same radios that “we knew didn’t work” in the 1993 attack, the presidential campaign attacked the union. “This is an organization that supported John Kerry for president in 2004,” Giuliani aide Tony Carbonetti said. “So it’s no shock that they’re out there going after a credible Republican.” While the IAFF did endorse Kerry, the Uniformed Firefighters of Greater New York, whose president starred in the video, endorsed Bush. Its former president, Tom Von Essen—currently a member of Giuliani Partners—was the fire commissioner on 9/11 precisely because the union had played such a pivotal role in initially electing Giuliani.

The IAFF video reports that 121 firefighters in the north tower didn’t get out because they didn’t hear evacuation orders, rejecting Giuliani’s claim before the 9/11 Commission that the firefighters heard the orders and heroically decided to “stand their ground” and rescue civilians.

On the other hand, he looked good carrying a megaphone after the fact!

[Via The Plank.]

"Fight like a rock"

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

Wow. What a maroon. I mean, I know Chris Matthews really enjoyed Bush’s codpiece back in May 2003, but to gush like this over a press conference that offered exactly zero moments of novelty on the subject of Iraq and the Global War Against People Who Resemble in Some Vague Way the People Who Carried Out the 9-11 Attacks . . . well, OK, that’s to be expected from Matthews.

My favorite moment, of course, came when Matthews compared Bush to that “great neo-conservative mind” of Paul Wolfowitz. By sheer coincidence, I began reading Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco yesterday and was struck by the observation by Paul Arcangeli — a former Army medical officer who spent time in Iraq — that Wolfie impressed him as “crack-smoking stupid.”

I’m not sure if that’s what Matthews meant when he predicted Bush will “fight like a rock” from now on, but there you have it.

The New Narrative

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

As a predictable outgrowth of the O’Pollahan “fierce war critics who have always supported the war still support the war” useful idiot-ed, the “even war critics see progress in Iraq” narrative is gaining steam. The fact that most of the cherry-picked individuals either aren’t war critics or don’t see substantial progress in Iraq will be beside the point.

As Of Now, It’s Romney

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

What I took to be the banal claim that Mitt Romney is the Republican frontrunner generated a lot of dissension in comments recently. But while this is fairly trivial in itself, it accurately reflects the underlying dynamic. McCain is obviously DOA. (And while Kerry’s win may tempt some to think that it’s possible to come back from the dead, in addition to the fact that it’s the exception that proves the rule I would note that there was no faction of the Democratic Party who hated John Kerry. Kerry’s comeback was predicated on him being vaguely acceptable to most Democrats after Dean imploded.) The argument for Giuliani seems to be that authoritarianism and militarism are far more important to the GOP base than anything else. The problem here, however is that 1)among GOP primary voters I think that’s actually quite questionable, and 2)Romney can also give them authoritarianism and militarism without being pro-choice. I think Romney is also a better campaigner. At any rate, social reactionaries are very powerful within the GOP primary, and they’re just not going to accept a social liberal. If a pro-choice Republican won, this would be particularly devastating, particularly given the shallow commitment of the GOP pro-business elite to these issues. If Giulani is the alternative, Romney’s Mormonism won’t be a major factor (except that it makes his conversion to social conservatism more credible.)

So I repeat that while Thompson might beat Romney, those are the only two serious candidates. Giuliani’s national poll numbers don’t mean much more than Leiberman’s lead in the last cycle.

The Value of Friendship

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

There’s a really interesting Defense News article from last week on how the Royal Navy is relearning carrier operations. It appears that the UK is going ahead with plans to construct two full deck, 65000 ton aircraft carriers. Details on the modified third member of the class, which is supposed to go to France, remain a little bit more murky. The British, however, haven’t had a full deck carrier since 1978. Their current carriers all operate VSTOL aircraft, and while the new Royal Navy ships are expected to carry the F-35B, there’s still a considerable separation between that fighter and aircraft the Royal Navy has living memory of. Running a modern, full deck carrier is extraordinarily complicated, and the British have lost most of the relevant experience.

To solve the problem, the British are relying on a little help from their friends. They’re embedding Royal Navy officers on French and American carriers in order to gain experience with modern aircraft handling and operations, and they’re also bringing the French and Americans aboard existing VSTOL carriers with an eye towards reforming operations. This may all seem like common sense, but it’s an option that’s not available to several other carrier-aspiring navies, including China and Russia. The Chinese are learning carrier operations the hard way, with a rusty, stationary Russian carrier and a new coat of paint. The Russians have been forced to learn on their own as well, and for various reasons it’s not thought that they’ve advanced very far. I’m not sure about the Indians; they currently operate a VSTOL carrier, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they get some help learning carrier operations from either the US or Russia if they ever manage to acquire their new carrier.

There’s a larger point about friendship and alliances that deserves to be made. Alliances don’t serve just to aggregate capabilities, or to bind us in unpleasant ways. Rather, alliances can have a transformative effect on both legitimacy and military capacity. Ask David Petraeus; everyone agrees that the Australian David Kilcullen has had an important impact on the development of US counter-insurgency doctrine.

I Predicted This! (OK, in 2002, but still…)

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

I suppose the fact that the Mariners are, for one fleeting moment, are first in the AL wildcard race. As Dave Cameron implies, the key win being driven by Ibanez, Vidro and Guillen is sort of winning the battle and losing the war, but what the hell. I still think the division is the only real possibility; the Mariners are over their heads, but I also, stubbornly, remain manifestly unimpressed by the Angels. The real upshot of the Indians’ and Tigers’ recent runs of suckitude is that the Yankees are now a mortal lock to make the postseason…

On Subways

[ 0 ] August 9, 2007 |

Eric Martin makes a good point here. Given the poor level of funding, mass transit in the United States involves tradeoffs, and given these tradeoffs New York’s is plainly better than the alternatives. D.C.’s subway is cleaner, but its coverage is more limited and is shuts down early. New York’s wider coverage and (more importantly) 24/7 operation makes it very much preferable. Having to pay for cabs if you stay out much after midnight is a pain in the ass. (The El in Chicago is 24/7 too, right?) Having said that, Paris — which combines NYC coverage and times of operation with D.C. cleanliness — is on a whole other level.

Although, of course, it would be nice if large parts of New York’s system didn’t shut down for nearly a day because of a rainstorm. (And, to be parochial, can someone explain why the G train has been effectively eliminated as a useful alternative at precisely the same time that western Queens and Brooklyn are producing an ever-expanding variety of economical alternatives for conviviality? Does the V train accomplish anything you couldn’t do about as well by restoring the fully restoring G train service and having the F stop at Queens Plaza? I don’t get it.)

Ooooh! Hewitt Quiz!

[ 0 ] August 8, 2007 |

Pasty McChaste, in re Saving Private Romney:

A question for lefties in love with [the chickenhawk] meme: Have you denounced The New Republic‘s and Private Beauchamp’s slanders? Have you talked up the virtues of serving in uniform in time of war? Or do you dispute that we are in a war, and find it convenient to focus on alleged war crimes and other misdeeds of the military? Do you accuse the Administration of fighting for oil, or of misleading us into war? Are you tearing down the military and yet condemning people for not serving in it?

That’s, um, five questions? But I’m bored, and the Red Sox seem intent on ruining another evening for me, so I’ll bite.

(1) No. But I’m one of those nutters who’s disinclined to believe the Weekly Standard when it claims without verification that something — say, an author’s “signed recantation,” or a stockpile of WMD — exists. So if by “slander” you mean “impossibly ambiguous, conflicting claims about several stories of minimal overall consequence,” the answer is still . . . no.

(2) No. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no abstract virtue that automatically inheres to military service (or to teaching, or to brokering stocks, or to tending animals at a zoo). And in the context of a specific military adventure promoted and designed and administered by people who seem lacking in either shame or virtue, I’d advise anyone — as Al Swearengen might put it — to stay far fucking afield of a war like this.

(3) Huh? Hold on a sec — oh, crap! Can’t the Sox hold a lead this month? Jesus. Where was I? Oh, right. Stupid quiz.

(4) A little from column A, a little from column B, but mostly from the column labeled “A Pig’s Breakfast of Incoherent and Contradictory Reasons, None of Which Have Been Validated by Actual Events But All of Which Knocked Iraq Into a Cocked Hat.”

(5) Not as far as I can tell. I mean, I’ve tried “tearing down the military” — really, who hasn’t? — but I discovered it was almost as difficult as “smashing the state.” Then I realized that if I actually wanted to “tear down the military,” I’d probably start by committing it to an open-ended, poorly-conceived adventure in a country that had nothing to with the attacks in 2001. Seriously, Hugh — have you forgotten about 9/11?

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