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Game 6: Let’s Open Some Thread Here

[ 0 ] November 5, 2009 |

Surely, even we opponents of the death penalty can agree that the rack should be brought back for any Yankee fan whining over how it’s been nine long years since their last championship.

…I believe it was Aristotle who said, “if you find yourself with Chad Durbin on the mound in the 5th inning, you might as well just go home and put the game out of its misery.”

Gutty effort by the Flames to get the 2 points in Dallas even if they benefited from a blown call in OT, and…wait, is there another game on somewhere?

…Congrats to long-suffering Yankees fans on finally winning a World Championship.

…To search for something positive to say, Matsui is that rare Yankee that even I can’t hate; if anyone had to deliver the fatal blows

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Wingnuts hand seat to Democrat, Republican leaders apologize for trying to stop them

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

In today’s “Newt Gingrich Letter”, a publication that occasionally appears uninvited in my inbox:

In retrospect it is clear Dede Scozzafava should never have been nominated because she was far too liberal to be acceptable.

Republican leaders in New York must recognize that Mike Long and the Conservative Party in that state have to be consulted before decisions are made. The national conservative movement is a force that has to be recognized and respected.

Tea-V-Parties

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

It must have been difficult to be a conservative last night. On the one hand, you threw your muscle behind your perfect candidate and he lost a district which last went Democratic back before the Half-Breeds and the Stalwarts fought for control of the GOP; on the other, you got a television show made especially for you! The remake of V is an exercise in allegorical drift-correction: the original series was supposed to be based on Sinclair Lewis’s novel about creeping government fascism, which was itself an allegory about demagogic dangers posed by the likes of Huey Long and Father Coughlin, who were themselves perceived to be homegrown Hitlers, but then Star Wars happened and the network demanded Space Nazis, so the fascists became lizards and, instead of wanting to rule America, they wanted to eat Americans, meaning they cured diseases for the same altruistic reasons we pump cattle full of antibiotics. That, as they say in the business, is some mighty powerful drift, and it requires some equally unsubtle mastery to correct course.

In the original series, the Nazi parallel was made palpable via regalia and youth groups; in the remake, they do so via a Maddow-esque Scott Wolf asking the leader of the Visitors if they offer universal health care. Note the slight shift in the assumption required to move from alien to fascist? The expert in fictional fascisms did:

I simultaneously loved the “universal health care” line and thought it was a bit hamfisted. I do like that it all bothers Jonathan Chait so much, but I think they could have been a bit more subtle. However, it’s worth recalling that the visitors in the original series promised to cure diseases as well. I think Chait goes overboard too when he says the show is a loveletter to the Tea Party movement.

Jonah Goldberg is, it goes without saying, wrong, but in this case his error is understandable because he was instrumental in creating the conditions that made it possible. The only people for whom universal health care signals a creeping fascism are 1) people who were convinced by the “arguments” proffered in Liberal Fascism, and 2) people who believe Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are the future of the Republican Party. Granted, there is a substantial overlap between those camps, but my point is that unless you share core beliefs with, broadly speaking, the Tea Party movement, that reference fails to refer. The allegory only works if universal health care is a link in the chain that secures space lizards to fascism.

UPDATE: Over at my place, todd. makes a suggestion and (with one minor revision) I heartily agree. From now on, “JGIGWOSIW” it is. (If only because that’s the noise my brain makes when I read something he’s written.)

Today In Kaplan Test Prep Weekly

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

Shorter Charles Colson: Without religious belief, it’s difficult if not impossible to have the kind of consistent moral compass that allows you to become a convicted felon on behalf of a lawless, disgraced president.

It’s The Turnout, Stupid

[ 1 ] November 4, 2009 |

As I feared, breathless, fatally flawed analysis follows the election results in NJ, VA, and to a lesser extent, NY-23.

Most of this article is remarkably sound, but the first paragraph sets the wrong tone:

The Republican victories in the races for New Jersey and Virginia governors put the party in a stronger position to turn back the political wave President Obama unleashed last year, setting the stage for Republicans to raise money, recruit candidates and ride the excitement of an energized base as the party heads into next year’s midterm elections.

It’s difficult to argue that the Republicans are not in a stronger position in general, but as I argued yesterday, these elections had precious little to do with either Obama or national politics. The Democrats lost those two gubernatorial elections because they were either unpopular, ran lame campaigns, or both. It wasn’t a newly energized base that swung the races; rather it was a combination of independents breaking R and a good chunk of the “Obama coalition” staying home.

Which we knew they would all along. Minorities, the young, the less wealthy, new voters do tend to stay home in odd years (and while I anticipate an uptick in turnout amongst these groups in 2010, it won’t come near the level of 2008). These were the demographic categories that largely put Obama (way) over the top in 2008.

This, of course, is simply bollocks:

CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger says that the projected GOP win in the Virginia gubernatorial race – and exit polls showing independents voting overwhelmingly for Republican Bob McDonnell – could be a problem for the president.

“This is a signal to this White House they have some problems right now – particularly on the economy and on the deficit,” she said.

The White House did have a problem in Virginia: they knew that the Democrats had a mediocre candidate, which is specifically why they didn’t invest too much time there. While this will be played up as a “signal” to the White House, it simply isn’t. As several sources are reporting, the electorate that turned out in Virginia last night went 51%-43% for John McCain; in 2008 Virginia went 53%-46% for Obama.

The same was largely true in New Jersey. While the exit poll data do not appear to have asked vote choice in 2008, Obama’s approval rating amongst those who voted in 2009 in NJ is 57%: yet 27% of those approving of Obama’s job performance voted against Corzine.

In some ways, I think that there is more good than bad in these results for the Democrats. In New Jersey, for example, the 18-29 age cohort voted for Corzine by a fairly decent majority of 57% — the only cohort to give him a majority (granted that cohort only represented 9% of the electorate, which is not terribly surprising given what I’ve been suggesting the past two days). While this did not hold in Virginia, of those that did turn out, the younger cohorts were more supportive of Deeds than the older cohorts. It would appear that a greater percentage of the “Obama coalition” did turn out in New Jersey whereas in Virginia they were more likely to stay home, which is a further nail in the coffin of those who argue that Obama has no pulling power. He campaigned heavily (for a sitting President) in New Jersey, and basically ignored Virginia.

And then there’s NY-23. While it has been argued that NY-23 voted for Obama, therefore is not as Republican (or at least as Conservative) as conventional wisdom suggests, I suspect that the same patterns of turnout applied there as well as in NJ and VA. This one is the only one of the three that perhaps touched on national issues (though I’ll stick to my original analysis that it was going to swing on local politics all along) as it ended up being a confrontation between a moderate Democrat and a Palinesque Republican. That the wingnut lost in a traditionally Republican district in an election where turnout patterns would strongly favor the Republicans if they ever do suggests that the ‘return to core conservative values’ model of reform in the Republican Party is not a winner, at least in non wingnut constituencies, and that perhaps 2009 was more about the Republicans than the Democrats / Obama all along.

UPDATE: and of course, leave it to the Brits to get it hilariously wrong:

Major Republican victories in two states last night left the fate of President Obama’s signature health reforms in doubt and Democrats licking their wounds a year before the 2010 mid-term elections.

. . .

A year ago, Mr Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years to carry Virginia in a presidential race. This time voters expressed concern about major Obama initiatives on energy and stimulus spending as well as healthcare. Exit polls showed that independents broke heavily for Mr McDonnell.

. . .

“This reflects a sea change in the electorate,” said Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Sigh.

Two Points on COIN

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

First, I don’t think that there’s quite enough appreciation of this:

But the choice between a mindset that says “the main purpose of the military is to scare China & Russia” or a mindset that says “the main purpose of the military is to intervene effectively in third world backwaters” has very real implications for what kind of hardware purchases look cost effective. The 2017 budget deficit or the potential economic impact of a manufacturing plant closure in Georgia is not the kind of thing a lieutenant, captain, or major serving in the field is going to think about. But it’s still, in an objective sense, quite important and senior Pentagon figures are not mistaken to treat it as such.

And part of the subtext of the Afghanistan debate is that as a matter of bureaucratic warfare, it makes enormous sense for the currently ascendant COIN faction to try to press its advantages—to exaggerate the extent of what was achieved in Iraq in 2007, and to overstate the strategic significance of achieving some kind of comprehensive success in Afghanistan.

The battle against the Taliban isn’t the only fight taking place in Afghanistan. We’re also, as Matt suggests, seeing serious combat between two visions of warfare, and two factions within the greater defense community. The broad, and sometimes hyperbolic, claims about the potential effectiveness of COIN should be understood in this light, as should much of the pushback. One faction, broadly speaking, wants a military organized around the possibility of conventional combat. The other has been skeptical of this approach for some time, and has found an unexpected opportunity over the past six years to press its case. The Surge was a huge gamble for this faction; conditions didn’t favor its success, forces were insufficient, and the top brass didn’t care for the approach. In spite of all this, and assisted by a number of other factors, the Surge enjoyed surprising tactical and operational success. It didn’t solve the strategic problem of Iraq, but it was a huge bureaucratic victory for the COIN faction, and it created major problems for the more conventionally oriented factions in the military. The heart of the fight over COIN in Afghanistan is, I think, about whether this bureaucratic victory will be consolidated or rolled back.

I’m of two minds on this fight, because while I’m very skeptical that ground forces of the United States will be required to fight a conventional war against a peer competitor during my lifetime, I’m increasingly skeptical of the mission in Afghanistan. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for the intellectualism of COIN proponents, and an equal degree of contempt for right-critics of COIN like Ralph Peters. Along these lines, I think it’s important to push back on a particular line of COIN critique:

In addition, the doctrine of counterinsurgency virtually assures long-running military campaigns in other hot spots, even as we’re engaged in combat and rebuilding operations in Afghanistan. “We’re going to be involved in this type of activity in a number of countries for the next 15 to 20 years,” said Lt. Gen. David Barno, a COIN advocate who served as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

I’m pretty skeptical of this line of thinking, and I’d like to see that quote in full context; I’m not convinced that Barno is making the point that Dreyfuss wants him to make. There’s no question that COIN can be a critical part of the imperial project; indeed, for really successful territorial imperialism in the modern age a COIN oriented military would be absolutely necessary. The roots of COIN clearly lie in the age of empire. However, I think that warnings about how the adoption of a successful COIN doctrine and orientation will lead to additional counter-insurgency campaigns is fundamentally wrong-headed, for two reasons. First, the United States didn’t need capable COIN to become involved in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. A conventional military doctrine did nothing to prevent any of these wars, and there’s no indication that it would do so in the future.

More importantly, I think that COIN skeptics underestimate the degree to which the dominance of the conventional faction was necessary to the war in Iraq (and perhaps also to the war in Afghanistan). The motivating concept behind the invasion of Iraq was the idea that potential enemies of the United States could be terrified into submission by a cheap, quick, and technology-laden war of conquest. The invasion was intended to frighten Syria, Iran, North Korea, and others. In the end it failed to do so, because no one believed that the United States would be willing to devote all of the blood and treasure to Iran or Syria that it was expending in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, I suspect that many of the fiercest advocates of war would have opposed the conflict if they’d had an idea how long it would last and how expensive it would be. In particular, there’s not a shadow of doubt in my mind that Don Rumsfeld would have bitterly opposed the war if he’d had a sense of where it was going; he loathed COIN, loathed nation-building, and loathed the idea of the US being bogged down for an extended period in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The war would also have been less attractive to a number of other prominent neoconservatives.

Winning quickly and leaving, perhaps with a few major bases and oil contracts, was the point of the war. Public support of the conflict was more or less premised on this outcome. Winning quickly and leaving, however, is something that COIN advocates can never promise. The way of fighting that COIN proponents advocate doesn’t lead to the sort of war that American hawks like, or that is very palatable to the American public. The kind of war that COIN advocates want is the kind of war that the US is least likely to engage in if the COIN faction becomes dominant. In the American political context, an appreciation of the costs of COIN means fewer wars, not more.

Bad News In New England

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

Maine voters shamefully reject same-sex marriage law. Clearly, this proves that litigation doesn’t work.

Dems Take NY-23

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

According to MSNBC, Hoffman has conceded….

further confirmation. Obviously, this is excellent news for the Republican Party.

No, really! Erickson really does offer some of the finest comedy on the intertubes

why Owens won.

Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money

[ 0 ] November 4, 2009 |

I have a review of Martin Murphy’s Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money up at ID. Long story short, it’s the best single volume introduction to modern piracy and maritime terrorism that I’ve read.

Sometimes, I Wish the Tent Was a Little Smaller

[ 0 ] November 3, 2009 |

You probably won’t be surprised that some members of Congress are trying to use the necessity of health reform to not only continue to exclude abortion from the funding given to most ordinary medical procedures, but to prevent individuals from getting insurance that covers abortion on the private market if they’re eligible for subsidies. What may surprise you is what party the members of Congress the latest group trying to do what they can to limit reproductive freedom to affluent women belongs to:

While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its passage.

[…]

“I will continue whipping my colleagues to oppose bringing the bill to the floor for a vote until a clean vote against public funding for abortion is allowed,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said Monday in a statement. He said last week that 40 Democrats could vote with him to oppose the legislation — enough to derail the bill.

There’s a bizarrely widespread myth — often accompanied, to this day, by crying about the fact that Saint Bob Casey wasn’t able to use a platform at a Democratic convention to speak out against fundamental party values despite the fact that he didn’t endorse the party’s candidate — that the Democratic party is monolithically pro-choice and brooks no dissent on the issue of abortion. To which I can only respond: if only! For example, Bart Stupak — the ringleader of the faction that apparently would prefer no health care reform at all to women obtaining even private insurance that covers the procedure — sports a nifty 0% NARAL rating.

And while I wish I could say that this downgrading of women’s rights by some Congressional Dems was just an isolated instance, as Chart reminds us that’s not actually the case.

Claude Levi-Strauss

[ 0 ] November 3, 2009 |

R.I.P.

An anecdote from The Raw and the Cooked: During World War II, when the US Army approached the caves in which Roquefort cheese is fermented, they assumed the smell was of rotting corpses, and destroyed the contents with flamethrowers.

Like Grape Nuts, "Christian Scientists" are neither

[ 0 ] November 3, 2009 |

This is a terrible idea:

The measure would put Christian Science prayer treatments — which substitute for or supplement medical treatments — on the same footing as clinical medicine. While not mentioning the church by name, it would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual healthcare.”

It would have a minor effect on the overall cost of the bill — Christian Science is a small church, and the prayer treatments can cost as little as $20 a day. But it has nevertheless stirred an intense controversy over the constitutional separation of church and state, and the possibility that other churches might seek reimbursements for so-called spiritual healing.

Phil Davis, a senior Christian Science Church official, said prayer treatment was an effective alternative to conventional healthcare.

Except, of course, that it’s not. Holy shit. These are people who do not believe in germ theory and whose utterly deranged views on science and medicine actually produce demonstrably higher rates of mortality within their cohort. There are no epidemiological, clinical, or meta-analytic studies that support the efficacy of prayer as an alternative form of “therapy.” The two studies that prayer advocates usually cite — one from South Korea (2001) and one from Columbia University (2004) — represent legendarily awful science. The former study has more or less been withdrawn from the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, and both featured a co-author with a degree in parapsychology who has claimed elsewhere that amputated salamander limbs can be regrown by faith healers who wave their hands over the lonely stumps.

Regardless of the constitutional questions — which I think the LA Times article focuses on to an unnecessary degree — the protection of medical quackery flies in the face of what the goals of health care reform should be: (a) delivering access to the most effective methods of disease prevention and treatment; and (b) reducing health care costs across the board. I suppose “fully prying American health care from the embrace of medieval superstition” would be a reaonable goal as well, but with people like Tom Harkin in the Senate, I’m not holding my breath.

(Via Kevin Drum)