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At Crazy George’s, EVERYTHING MUST GO!!!!

[ 0 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dan Nexon has a good post about the frenzy of dealmaking that the Bush administration is pursuing in an effort to “lock in” policy preferences before the transition to a new administration. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is aware that the United States holds Presidential elections every four years, that Barack Obama is currently the favorite, and that even if John McCain wins his administration will like be 10-15% less incompetent than that of his predecessor.

Jeff Lewis notes three negotiations on which the President’s “lame duckitude” is having an impact:

  • India is seeking to cement its nuclear relationship with the United States. Under the assumption that Bush’s successor might actually have a non-proliferation policy, the Indian government is risking fractures within its governing coalition in order to nail down an agreement with the US (and the IAEA) now, rather than in six months.
  • Poland is trying to shake down the Bush administration for extra cash and goodies. While the Czechs have been happy to play ball, the Poles are apparently banking that Bush’s fear of an Obama presidency will make America more generous. I’m guessing that they’re right; Obama hasn’t evinced any excitement about missile defense, and after all the trouble that Bush has gone to on this question he almost certainly wants to leave with a robust agreement in hand.
  • Iran is trying to put off any major diplomatic activity until after the election. I doubt this will matter much, since I still don’t see either a US or an Israeli attack on Iran in the cards, and I doubt that either Obama or McCain (in spite of the former’s professed willingness to meet with the Iranian leadership) will be flexible on the Iranian nuclear program. The elections also won’t slow multilateral efforts to push Iran towards more nuclear transparency.

Nexon concentrates on a fourth, which is Iraq. Matt Duss has some good reasons to take the Iraqi skepticism over the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) seriously, including the apparent support of Sistani for a full American withdrawal. At the same time, I’m inclined to agree with Dan that Maliki really wants a more favorable agreement with the United States, which will perhaps include a timetable but will certainly preserve a tight military relationship between the two countries. The reason for this is obvious; Maliki’s military control over his country is tenuous, and Iraq is utterly incapable of protecting its borders. Still, I suspect that Maliki could get a pretty good deal on military cooperation from Obama, and I suspect that Maliki knows that such a deal is available; as such, he’s willing to play hardball with Crazy George.

Long story short, in a number of areas the Bush administration is going to be pushing (and being pushed) for deals while at a disadvantageous bargaining position. In one case (the Indian) the other side is just as desperate as Bush is, but in the others the lame duck situation is going to damage our standing. Now, as it happens I think that the Bush administration’s foreign policy goals tend to be insane and destructive, and as such I’m hoping that we don’t come to an agreement with India, Poland, or Iraq before (hopefully) the beginning of an Obama administration. Nevertheless, Jeff Lewis make the excellent point that lame duckitude sans obvious successor, while in some ways enabling an administration to pursue the policies it wants, can be a severe handicap in some diplomatic negotiations.

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Holy Land Trivia of the Day

[ 32 ] July 9, 2008 |

This is a view of what, from where?

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Yglesias vs. Kirchick

[ 18 ] July 9, 2008 |

The main point here seems to be that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says many things about Israel, and that the sum total of these things is incoherent contradiction. As such, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to credit what he says to one audience (the Iranian people) more than what he says to another (the international community), given that he may have incentive to deceive both. Of course, Ahmadinejad’s statements about Israel certainly call for some scrutiny, but I doubt that Kirchick credits the Iranian president’s statements about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Moreover, the “You’ve criticized Dick Cheney 103 times, but haven’t mentioned Attila the Hun even once; is Cheney really worse than the Scourge of God?” construction is just about the most useless talking point that Kirchick could have invoked.

The other point seems to be that Yglesias needs to regrow the beard.

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Against EthnicType

[ 20 ] July 9, 2008 |

Dennis Farina? Not much of an Irishman.

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Um, Yes.

Current TV’s funnywoman Sarah Haskins is the smart woman’s (and person’s) answer to all the crap that popular culture throws at us. And unlike so many others in Hollywood, she is willing to admit that she is a feminist. She says:

Yes, I’m a feminist. It is an extension of my lifelong war against pantyhose. To me it means that as women we are individuals before we are gendered people and that we’re not defined by our gender except in the ways we chose to appropriate that definition. We’re in a weird generation, right? Our Moms were forced to grapple with that definition more immediately, and I think it’s changed as we’ve grown up. The core issue “how do I fight bias against me because of my gender” is still there but has gotten more complicated and wrapped into all kinds of identity issues about how you present yourself as a woman and I pretty much think it’s your choice and fuck pantyhose.

More of her genius can be seen here (just click the link if you’re having trouble with the embed):

Indeed. And, oh yeah, take that Hitchens.

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A Thousand Points of Servitude

[ 49 ] July 8, 2008 |

It seems appropriate that on the same week the National Review is claiming that support for apartheid and white supremacy represents “one particular vision of civil rights,” Jonah Goldberg is claiming that Barack Obama “vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.” Apparently, this is because of Obama’s plan for setting goals for volunteer work, which indeed is analogous to slavery in exactly the same way in which Jesse Helms supported any vision of civil rights.

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Ooh! A Helpful Chart!

[ 45 ] July 8, 2008 |

Is Iran a threat to the existence of the United States? Joltin’ Joe Lieberman says yes:

Obviously Israel is first in the line of Iranian fire. And it represents an existential threat to Israel. But you know who is next? The Arab countries in the Middle East and they’re worried about the Iranian program and want us to ask strongly to stop it. And we’re next! Because Ahmadinejad in Tehran constantly leads the mobs in shouts of death to America. And they mean it.

Whoa; that’s, like, pretty scary. We should stop Ahmadinejad before he marches into the Rhineland. But can we? Is it too late to prevent the emergence of this new world power? Fortunately, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has prepared a helpful chart:

Population 303,824,646 65,875,223
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $13.8 trillion $0.75 trillion
Defense spending fiscal year 2009 $711 billion $7.2 billion
Total troops 2,580,875 895,000
Main battle tanks 8,023 1,613
Reconnaissance vehicles 348 35
Armored infantry fighting vehicles 6,719 610
Armored personnel carriers 21,242 640
Artillery units 8,041 8,196
Helicopters 5,425 311
Submarines 71 6
Principal surface combatants 106 5
Patrol and coastal combatants 157 320
Mine warfare ships 9 5
Amphibious ships 490 21
Fighter aircraft 3,538 286
Long-range bomber aircraft 170 None
Transport aircraft 883 136
Electronic warfare/intelligence aircraft 159 3
Reconnaissance aircraft 134 6
Maritime patrol aircraft 197 8
Anti-submarine warfare aircraft 58 None
Airborne early warning aircraft 53 None
Nuclear warheads ~5,400 None

Er… Joe? There seems to be, uh, a discrepancy…

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The "PC" Dodge

[ 0 ] July 8, 2008 |

I suppose that this line from the National Review’s heartwarming tribute to unreconstructed white supremacist, homophobe, and enthusiastic supporter of brutal authoritarian governments Jessie Helms was inevitable: “Helms’s real offense was a stubborn and victory-making political incorrectness.” I’m not sure if I know of a better example of the current wingnut definition of “politically incorrect,” which seems to mean “bigoted arguments we’d prefer not to defend on the merits but want insulated from any criticism.”

Elsewhere, Jonah Goldberg claims that the “liberal line” on Helms isn’t true, although for some reason he can’t be bothered to actually refute the extensive and unambiguous evidence concerning Helms’s bigotry. Perhaps he can start by giving the non-racist explanation for his penchant for whistling “Dixie” around Carol Mosley-Braun. That sure was “politically incorrect!”

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Blog Away, Dude

[ 0 ] July 8, 2008 |

This March, I spent $4 on Milton Bradley in our fantasy baseball auction. He has rewarded my faith with a .439 OBP, .605 SLG, 17 home runs, 52 runs scored and 54 RBIs. Congrats, man, on reaching the All Star Game.

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India Gets an Akula, But China Doesn’t

[ 12 ] July 8, 2008 |

In 2009, India will begin leasing a Russian Akula class attack submarine. The Chinese wanted one, but it turns out that concerns about Chinese intellectual property policy have made the Russians reluctant to transfer new advanced equipment. This is the second nuclear powered submarine that India has leased from the Russians, the first being the INS Chakra, which the Indians operated from 1988-1991.

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My Hope….

[ 23 ] July 7, 2008 |

Please, please, please let John McCain believe that he can win the Presidency by promising to “reform” Social Security; I don’t know if there’s a single issue (even the war) on which the conservative elite consensus diverges so dramatically from the electorally possible.

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The Late-Term Abortion Diversion

[ 10 ] July 7, 2008 |

Professor B provides some useful data about late-term abortions in light of Obama’s dumb (and I guess now clumsily partially retracted) comments about abortion policy. Admittedly, the policy consequences of what Obama is proposing would probably be negligible; as long as the decision rests with individual doctors rather than a panel, the precise definition of a health exemption makes very little difference on the ground. (Pre-Roe, some states with very strict-sounding statutes had relatively easy access to abortion in practice, while other state with broader access on paper had limited access in practice.) Of course, this cuts both ways: because most women don’t choose to get post-viability abortions and most doctors won’t perform them, there’s no “problem” that needs to be solved here by changing the law.

So as Jill, Amanda, and Jan Crawford Greenburg point out, the problem with Obama’s statement isn’t so much a policy issue as that it plays into right-wing frames about the abortion issue. As Greenburg notes:

History shows that those proposals — offered and embraced by legislators who would call themselves “pro-choice” — have been seized by conservatives who oppose abortion. As Dailard wrote, the attacks on the mental health exception have had “significant repercussions beyond that significant issue, seriously reviving a legislative attack on abortion rights that largely has been dormant for two decades.”

Given the unpopularity of the Republican position of banning pre-viability abortions, it’s obviously in their interest to focus on the tiny minority of (already restricted) post-viability abortions, and pretend that women routinely seek them for frivolous reasons. The appropriate Democratic response is to note that the vast majority of abortions are pre-viability and there’s no reason to believe that the ;aw restricting the tiny fraction of post-viability abortions don’t work. The Democrats have to stop playing on Republican turf, and Obama’s comments show that he doesn’t seem to understand that. As with foreign policy but with even less reason, national Democratic politicians seem to think that the Permanent Defensive Crouch is the way to go.

And since this isn’t the only place I’ve seen the conflation, I suppose I should note yet again that 1)bans on “partial birth” abortion apply to some pre-viability abortions, and 2)don’t prevent any abortions at any stage of gestation from being performed, but rather require doctors to perform abortions with methods that aren’t as safe. And hence, not only do such bans have nothing to do with restricting post-viability abortion, they are facially irrational.

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