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To Kill the Fish, Drain the Sea

[ 0 ] July 22, 2007 |

In addition to buying weapons (in defiance of UN sanction) from North Korea, Ethiopia has also decided that starving rebel regions is appropriate behavior:

The Ethiopian government is blockading emergency food aid and choking off trade to large swaths of a remote region in the eastern part of the country that is home to a rebel force, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation, Western diplomats and humanitarian officials say.

The Ethiopian military and its proxy militias have also been siphoning off millions of dollars in international food aid and using a United Nations polio eradication program to funnel money to their fighters, according to relief officials, former Ethiopian government administrators and a member of the Ethiopian Parliament who defected to Germany last month to protest the government’s actions.

While I’m sure that “More Rubble, Less Trouble” Reynolds and Ralph Peters believe that this is a great (the only!) way to deal with rebel groups, I’d like to think that the US should be reluctant to support countries that intentionally starve significant elements of their population. Maybe I’m overly hung up on moral clarity, but sending weapons and investing in a quasi-alliance with a state that would engage in such tactics seems, well, bad.

I mean, really, it doesn’t occur to anyone that it might be a bad thing to support a country that invades its neighbors, brutally oppresses ethnic minorities, and defies the international community? Or should we simply think of this as laying the groundwork for a US led “war of liberation” in 2020, or so?

Further Evidence of The Weekly Standard’s Impeccable Credibility

[ 0 ] July 22, 2007 |

So Dean Barnett is speaking in tongues again:

In the 1960s, history called the Baby Boomers. They didn’t answer the phone.

Confronted with a generation-defining conflict, the cold war, the Boomers–those, at any rate, who came to be emblematic of their generation–took the opposite path from their parents during World War II. Sadly, the excesses of Woodstock became the face of the Boomers’ response to their moment of challenge. War protests where agitated youths derided American soldiers as baby-killers added no luster to their image.

Few of the leading lights of that generation joined the military. Most calculated how they could avoid military service, and their attitude rippled through the rest of the century. In the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, military service didn’t occur to most young people as an option, let alone a duty.

I’ve highlighted the key phrase here, the one that essentially announces that ungrounded, ahistorical fantasy is about to spring forth, like the Kool-Aid guy, from the skull of Dean Barnett.

Where to begin? For starters, the fact that there is a type of boomer who became generationally “emblematic” owes a lot to the efforts of right wingers — ancestors of Barnett’s — who developed a pernicious, cynical, and enduring narrative to discredit domestic opposition to the American war in Vietnam. (The most obvious political manifestation of this narrative can be seen in Nixon’s “Silent Majority” speech; culturally, Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” works as an analogue to Nixon’s speech.) Regardless of the relevant historical and sociological facts — all of which are easily retrieved from one’s local library — conservatives pretended that opposition to the war was a simple function of youth, drugs, and cowardice, the last of which was supposed to be an unintended and unfortunate side-effect of post-WWII affluence, which boomers allegedly took for granted. It’s horseshit mythology that takes about five minutes of actual inquiry to discredit, but when you’d rather spend those five minutes re-telling the same fables about hippie draft-dodgers and cracking wise about the moral depravities of Woodstock, I suppose we’re not talking about people who genuinely care to get their facts in order.

The rest of this passage lands even farther beyond the frozen side of stupid. As Roy Edroso points out, during the 1960s the “call of history” for hundreds of thousands of Americans came in the form of a draft notice, made necessary by the horrendous decisions of their elders, whose “leading lights” made the epic mistake of believing that every skirmish of the cold war was a replay of World War II. If military service failed to impress “most young people as an option, let alone a duty,” perhaps the relevant lesson is that ill-conceived, wasteful conflicts are not the best recruiting advertisement for military service.

. . . link to Roy is fixed . . . (new tag: “d’s butchery of HTML”)

Idiot Windbag

[ 0 ] July 21, 2007 |

Fred Hiatt really is a marvel. His latest seems to contain every idiotic possible argument for defending Bush’s perpetual war while pretending not to: willful blindness about Bush’s actual position, wails about “partisanship” (that, of course, are entirely directed at Democrats), the Petraeus dodge, etc. In other words, pretty much what you’d expect from an editorial board shocked to discover that Sam Alito is a conservative.

How Heartwarming!

[ 0 ] July 21, 2007 |

Winger icon Michael Yon sees an upside to the Isalmist quasi-state we’re killing hundreds of thousands of people and spending immense amounts of money to install in Iraq for no obvious reason: the insistence that “Allah u Akbar” be inscribed on the Iraqi flag reminds him…of the flags celebrating our own apartheid police states! Sniff.

I guess the point here — Yon’s thinking and writing are so muddy it’s hard to tell — is that if we can overcome our own Civil War and produce democracy in the South in only 100 years, why, it could happen after the Iraqi civil war too! And so it could. But Yon fails to explain why the secular authoritarianism the Iraqis already had isn’t an equally good candidate to become an actual liberal democracy long after we’re all dead.

Who Can Have a Parade Without Rain?

[ 0 ] July 21, 2007 |

Apparently there’s a book coming out today about a teenage wizard saving the world from Derek Jeter or something. People can discuss it here if they so choose.

Meanwhile, like LB I think it’s odd that Megan McArdle thinks that problems of internal logic are problems of bad economics, but otherwise I think she has a point; one reason that magic can be annoying is that it can be used to get the author out of traps in ways that are usually unsatisfying, like the L.A. Confidential problem where a carefully plotted noir just ends with a big shootout like in a Chuck Norris movie. There are exceptions to everything, but fantastical premises are generally interesting devices only when they follow their own internal rules. I can’t, of course, say whether LB and McArdle are correct in applying the accurate general premise to the Harry Potter books specifically.

Meanwhile, for those who want to be positive, um, why are you reading LGM? But, anyway, ogged has a counterpoint. I retain zero interest in reading them but, hey, de gustibus etc.

Why do the glaciers hate America?

[ 0 ] July 21, 2007 |

Erik Loomis delivers some modest thoughts on the question.

Glaciers are disappearing around the world at incredibly rapid rates. This can only be seen as an unadulterated good for humanity. That ice kept getting in the way of me climbing mountains. Plus, I’ve always had a dream for hitting golf balls off Mt. Kilimanjaro. Soon, my wish can be a reality.

I can only agree. Glaciers, like burdensome government regulations, only interfere with the free flow of water and sediment. If we can somehow find a way to release all that watery potential, we might bring irrigation to the most arid and uninhabitable regions of the planet, thus ending famine and malnourishment, about which liberals are constantly bleating. We could also replace the water we’ve already ruined, saving ordinary Americans valuable tax dollars that would have gone towards scrubbing our lakes, rivers and streams. Those savings, as I understand it from listening to conservatives, will immediately be recycled back into the private sector, which will rationally prioritize more research and development to discover new ways to unleash the power of glaciers.

Indeed, I believe the Founders would be spinning in their graves if they knew that we were still living in an unthawed world.

Meantime, here’s my dog Greta, watching sometime in early 2003 as the Mendenhall Glacier prepared for its annual retreat of 50-200 meters.

For the Defense

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |

Franklin Foer stands behind his anonymous diarist:

Whenever anybody levels serious accusations against a piece published in our magazine, we take those charges seriously. Indeed, we’re in the process of investigating them. I’ve spoken extensively with the author of the piece and have communicated with other soldiers who witnessed the events described in the diarist. Thus far, these conversations have done nothing to undermine–and much to corroborate–the author’s descriptions. I will let you know more after we complete our investigation.

And, really, although I’m sure this story will continue to be flogged by people with an anti-EMM ESS EMM axe to grind, obviously it’s not as if I or anybody else who wasn’t there but is suspicious can identify any factual errors in the piece. So we’ll see if the stories can be corroborated.

The other thing to note is that nothing of any larger political consequence turns on the veracity of this soldier’s account. The war would remain an indefensible disaster if every American soldier was a saint, and conversely a just war is not undermined because some individual soldiers do bad things. There are potential questions about journalism raised if the story doesn’t check out, but as d. says evidently such questions are to not to be taken seriously when raised by people who would, say, proudly invite Judy Miller to be the keynote speaker at the launch of their new blog aggregator.

Partisans and Politics

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |

This is low hanging fruit, but it’s important nevertheless:

Bush Says Democrats Are Playing Politics on Iraq
President Bush assailed Democrats anew about Iraq today, accusing them of choosing to indulge in a political debate over troop withdrawals rather than giving the troops what they need to carry out their mission. President Bush spoke in the Rose Garden today.

“It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field and give them everything they need to succeed,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden. The president said he was conveying a message from the veterans and military support organizations he met this morning.

Right, because war isn’t political, and the conduct of war shouldn’t be the subject of political debate. That’s a farcically absurd argument, but one that seems to hold some currency in contemporary political debate. If the President had said something like “Democrats are endangering our troops for partisan gain,” I’d disagree and accuse him of the most wretched hypocrisy, but would allow at least that it was a reasonable position to put forth. This is much worse, though; it’s an effort (not just by Bush, but by a long line of others) to try to place the most consequential activity that a state can engage in beyond the realm of ordinary democratic politics. While accusations of partisanship are ordinary democratic politics, arguing that war is beyond the political is almost fascist, in addition to being downright stupid.

This is why The Utility of Force is a useful book. A student read my review of it, and responded “It was interesting, but do you really need to read anything but the introduction? The rest is just Clausewitz.” I don’t think that’s quite right, but even if it were, the problem is that not so many people read Clausewitz; there is no meaningful way in which war and politics can be separated. War is inherently political, and as such every aspect of it ought to be subject to political debate in a democracy.

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |


Something Wrong? Blame it on Abortion!

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |

A bunch of months back, the a Republican-led panel of the Missouri state legislature released a report saying that abortion is to blame for the high numbers of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. I wrote about the report over at my old pad:

have discouraged Americans from working and have incentivized illegal immigration by leaving the unskilled jobs that Americans are not being forced to fill open to undocumented immigrants. The “logic” goes something like this: the U.S. allows immigration, and undocumented immigration, to fill the menial jobs that Americans won’t or don’t fill. But if there were 40-odd million more Americans (who do not exist because the fetuses that could have become those Americans were aborted), then we could just stop immigration and call it a day.

This ridiculous line of reasoning is not only GOP-approved. DINO Zell Miller is pushing the same crap. And now it’s back again, and this time the BS is coming out of the mouth of certified wingnut Tom DeLay. At the national College Republicans no less. According to Raw Story, DeLay picked up right where the missouri legislature left off:

“I contend [abortion] affects you in immigration,” DeLay told the Washington-area gathering. “If we had those 40 million children that were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn’t need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today. Think about it.”

Right. Putting aside for a second the blinding racism of this comment (brown people = scary; white Americans = good), are they seriously contending that those 40 million potential people would be the solution to so-called illegal immigration? Because good ol’ white boys just love those low-paying thankless unstable migrant jobs that undocumented immigrants take. The same jobs that enable them to buy cheap stuff at GOP-friendly Sam’s Club. I guess they’re being forced to shift their rhetoric away from blaming the American “safety net,” which increasingly pales in comparison to those of other countries, and toward the easy scapegoat: women.

Oy Indeed.

[ 0 ] July 20, 2007 |

Updated based on a commenter’s eagle-eyed correction to my original post.

Dana Goldstein is parsing the results of today’s New York Times poll results, which indicate that 80% of people think Hillary Clinton will be the Dems’ nominee and 60% of people think she will be the next Prez. From Goldstein:

One voter polled did call Clinton “socialist.” And another, a 59-year old woman who supported Bill Clinton, said she was “not ready for a lady president.” Oy. But among liberal women, a key Clinton constituency, voters expressed a changing view of the candidate. “I think some of that softening is coming through,” one 57-year old woman told the Times.

I don’t know what’s worse: that many baby boomers aren’t ready to see a woman in the White House or that the entire American political spectrum is so far to the right of most of Europe’s that Hillary Clinton is considered socialist.


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