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Russia Annexes South Ossetia?

[ 20 ] August 31, 2008 |

Caveat emptor, President Kokoity.

The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to be signed on Tuesday.

Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia.

The declaration came only three days after Russia defied international criticism and recognised South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region of Abkhazia as independent states. Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia’s leader, agreed that it would form part of Russia within “several years” during talks with Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian President, in Moscow.

I have no doubt that the South Ossetians will soon experience the same degree of freedom and prosperity that every nation in the Russian embrace enjoys…


[ 102 ] August 30, 2008 |

I appreciate Jerome Armstrong’s schtick (everything is good for the Republicans, bad for the Dems) but seriously, the idea that Palin is a “gamechanger” in a good way for McCain is laughable. If Palin ends up a net positive for the Republicans, I’ll turn in my Pundit (Blogosphere Division-Class C) License without a fuss.

It’s far too much to hope for, but it would be nice if this pick also helped the media to understand just how anti-choice the Republican Party is. I probably concede too much by thinking that John McCain just doesn’t care very much about abortion, and that his strong anti-choice record is a product of disinterest and political calculation. But the nomination of Palin ahead of the plainly more qualified Kay Bailey Hutchison is only intelligible in the context of the GOP’s anti-choice base. In other words, it doesn’t really matter what John McCain thinks about abortion; it only matters how he will act, and the culture of the modern GOP restricts him to only the most anti-choice options.

The choice of Palin over any number of vastly more qualified women on the Republican side also tells us a bit about how McCain interprets the candidacies of both Clinton and Obama. McCain thinks that Clinton and Obama are both, essentially, affirmative action hires; they rose to prominence not because of qualification or talent, but rather because the one is a woman and the other is black and the Democrats go for that kind of thing. The antidote? A woman; any one will do, since (in the Republican view) you’re already throwing qualification to do the job out the window when you eschew a gnarly white dude.

Krauthammer Befuddled

[ 18 ] August 30, 2008 |


The Palin selection completely undercuts the argument about Obama’s inexperience and readiness to lead — on the theory that because Palin is a maverick and a corruption fighter, she bolsters McCain’s claim to be the reformer in this campaign. In her rollout today, Palin spoke a lot about change. McCain is now trying to steal “change” from Obama, a contest McCain will lose in an overwhelmingly Democratic year with an overwhelmingly unpopular incumbent Republican administration. At the same time, he’s weakening his strong suit — readiness vs. unreadiness.

The McCain campaign is reveling in the fact that Palin is a game changer. But why a game changer when you’ve been gaining? To gratuitously undercut the remarkably successful “Is he ready to lead” line of attack seems near suicidal.

It’s just a tactical complaint now, but I, for one, can’t wait until Chuckie comes to the full realization that John McCain is planning to put a disciple of Pat Buchanan in the vice-president’s chair. Sorry, Chuck; there’s no puzzle here. This was the danger of tying neoconservative fantasies to evangelical movement Protestantism; at some point in any alliance tough choices have to be made. The very best that neocons can hope for is that Palin is a George W. Bush-esque non-entity who, if she happens to ascend to the Presidency, could be shaped in a sufficiently imperial direction. That may be the case, but it may not…

…and regarding the bridge to nowhere, it seems to me there ought to be a presumption that when one can illustrate a point with Ozzy, one should do so:

Palin: Favors Wasteful Spending — If It’s Your Money

[ 12 ] August 30, 2008 |

Brad Plumer has the goods on claims that Palin was opposed to the Bridge To Nowhere. She favored it, in the fine Alaska Republican tradition of joyous lunches at the federal trough:

…it sure looks like she was fine with the bridge in principle, never had a problem with the earmarks, bristled at all the mockery, and only gave up on the project when it was clear that federal support wasn’t forthcoming.

Being opposed to ridiculous boondoggles only if you have to pay for them is, er, not “anti-pork.”

As two separate friends mentioned to me today, one thing to take from picking Palin is that McCain’s internal polling must be terrible. Just as Biden is a good frontrunner pick, Palin only makes sense if you think it’s worth a considerable risk that your pick will be a complete catastrophe because with a safe pick you’re going to lose anyway, so you might as well be “bold” and hope you catch lightning in a bottle. I’m not saying that’s a good reason, but they can’t be optimistic.

Does Residence in Alaska Convey International Relations Expertise?

[ 29 ] August 29, 2008 |

Evil Empire, just a few short miles away… Via B&P.

Quick Thoughts on Palin

[ 79 ] August 29, 2008 |

I’m supposed to be finishing my tenure file today and writing syllabi, but seeing as how my presence here as an Alaskan makes me undeservedly relevant for the next ten minutes, I’ll offer some a few local observations about Palin.

  • She’s likable and — for what little it’s actually worth to say this, given the political clown show this state has become — has been a decent governor. I don’t know how much this will actually matter to people in the lower and western 49, since “Alaska” has of late become synonymous with “corruption.”
  • Speaking of which, Palin’s being investigated for pressuring her Public Safety commissioner to fire her sister’s ex-husband, who is a state trooper; when the commissioner didn’t comply, she canned him. Or at least that’s how it appears, since no clear alternative reasons have been offered for his firing. Several of her staffers evidently made calls to the commissioner’s office, insisting that he get rid of the trooper in question; Palin’s husband — who, incidentally, resembles a B-list porn actor — is also alleged to have made calls to the same ends.
  • I don’t think this scandal (if we can call it that) will have much traction nationally, for the same reasons it doesn’t have much traction here. By most accounts Palin’s former brother-in-law was, to use a term of art, a douchebag — and though it looks like she might have abused her office, it’s not as if she was allowing oil executives to remodel her house. Unless we learn that Palin was threatening to have the commissioner’s scrotum turned into a dice bag, no one is going to be driven away from the ticket because of this.
  • The real strike against Palin is that she’s Bobby Jindal without the exorcisms. She’s fanatically anti-choice and believes my wife’s colleagues in the public school system should be teaching their kids to doubt the existence of dinosaurs. Which is of course why she’s with McCain right now in Ohio. She’s not going to yank any women from the Democrats; she’s there to mobilize the nutter base of the Republican party. But since the nutter base of the Republican party will be mobilized enough by the knowledge that Barack Obama drinks pureed fetus each morning before throwing himself prostrate to Mecca, I don’t see how Palin is going to accomplish anything more along these lines.
  • I know this won’t excite DJW, but she puts the lie to McCain’s support for alternative and renewable energy. Palin got a gas pipeline deal — which everyone knew would happen one way or another — but hasn’t departed from the Alaskan motif of sucking everything from the ground before the communists come to snatch our guns away and turn the entire state into a park. She’ll be a boon to the Drill Now/Drink America’ Milkshake sloganeering that McCain will continue to push until November.
  • Sarah Palin is profoundly, staggeringly ignorant about foreign policy. It’s impossible overstate this. When President McCain strokes out over some third-tier international crisis, the erstwhile Mayor of Wasilla will be responsible for bombing Iran, maintaining our century-long imperial project in Mesopotamia, and delivering the severed equine heads to Vladimir Putin’s bed. When it comes to foreign policy, this is one of the great throwaway VP picks in recent American history.

….for those who care to score these things, this is the funniest Powerline post ever….

Operation Chaos

[ 0 ] August 29, 2008 |

I think Rob hits it below–the Palin pick can be seen as a way to try to attract disaffected women, like his attempt to float the possibility of a pro-choice running mate to sucker especially gullible media rubes. And like Rob, I don’t see it working. Especially after the convention PUMAs are a tiny constituency most of whom were going to vote McCain anyway. This undermines Mcain’s experience argument and it’s hard to see what else she adds to the ticket.

Now we need Noon to fill us in on the corruption allegations…


[ 28 ] August 29, 2008 |


Well, I guess maybe that secures Alaska’s 3 electoral votes for McCain. It should also play well in British Columbia. If McCain is picking Palin (and we should note that this hasn’t exactly been confirmed) in order to appeal to PUMAs, then I have to wonder whether the folks at Confluence, Corrente, and No Quarter haven’t done Barack Obama a fantastic favor…

Rules of the Game

[ 0 ] August 29, 2008 |

China isn’t comfortable with the rules Russia wants to play with.

A summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a seven- nation security alliance that includes China and four former Soviet republics, yesterday declined to back its recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions. China expressed “concern,” said Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

As Doug suggests, territorial integrity is a value that Russia really shouldn’t have expected China to have a sense of humor about. In every international forum worth the name, China has fought for the supremacy of territorial sovereignty over the right of self-determination, and Russia is invoking the latter in defending its actions in South Ossetia.

I also think it would be correct to say that China and Russia don’t share the same approach to international society as it exists in 2008. Part of Russia’s point in using excessive force against Georgia was to thumb its nose at the West; it wanted to indicate that the rules that purport to govern relations between sovereign states in the rest of the world don’t apply to the Russian near abroad. Rather, a different set of rules, closer to a nineteenth century realist understanding of spheres of influence, should (and will) dictate how Russia relates to its neighbors. While China has certainly engaged in belligerence toward some of its neighbors, there is no pattern of coercion similar to Russia’s neighborhood behavior. Trade relations are conducted pretty much above board, and territorial disputes a)typically have some good cause, and b)don’t seem to poison the rest of the relationship. China even manages to have dense and intricate trade ties with Taiwan. Moreover, I think that China has determined that it can better pursue its national interest (which amounts to the survival of the CCP) within the current international normative framework than outside it. Being within that framework also allows China to manipulate the normative structure to some degree, such that the norms of internal sovereignty and territorial integrity supercede certain other norms that the West might want to pursue.

Finally, Matt is correct to point out that there is no emerging “League of Autocracies”. Russia and China are quite distinct in governance structure, economy, and security interest. They both have some cause to resist certain initiative of the US, but we shouldn’t expect that they will present a unified front against United States. China is now far more deeply integrated in the international economy than Russia, and one consequence of that integration is that China has little interest in rocking the boat for its own sake.

Slow Thursday Night?

[ 14 ] August 29, 2008 |

Let this serve as an open thread for the Stanford-Oregon State game. Or anything else you want to talk about…

Asking the Hard Questions

[ 6 ] August 28, 2008 |

Duss at Think Progress:

Earlier today, Think Progress contacted John Hagee Ministries to see if erstwhile John McCain endorser Rev. Hagee saw the Lord’s hand in reports that President Bush might not speak at the Republican National Convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Gustav.

Think Progress asked Rev. Hagee’s spokesperson, Kara Silverman, whether Gustav’s possible impact on the Republican National Convention might be seen as punishment against Republicans for their not having done enough to combat the “homosexual agenda,” or whether this storm could be attributed to some other divine wrath.

Ms. Silverman said Hagee had “no comment.”

C’mon, stick to your guns…

The March

[ 0 ] August 28, 2008 |

On this date in 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought several hundred thousand Americans together in the nation’s capital, where — depending on whom you might have asked — they had convened un support of national civil rights legislation, to chastise the Kennedy administration for its meandering commitments to racial justice, to summon young African Americans into action, or to dramatize the “Beloved Community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr., had so often spoken. Though united by a wish to rivet the nation’s attention to the cause of black freedom, the event’s organizers famously disagreed on nearly everything else. Indeed, the march has to be considered the symbolic high point of the post-war freedom struggle as well as the moment at which generational, regional and tactical fault lines began to slip.

Arguably, 1963 was the most consequential moment for the civil rights movement. In this, the centennial year of the Emancipation Proclamation, the SCLC and other groups won a crucial victory in Birmingham by stuffing its jails and forcing the city to defend its apartheid with a spastic display of police violence. The effects of “Project C” — as the Birmingham campaign was known — were transformative. It brought thousands of poor, working-class, urban blacks into the struggle, and it drew greater attention to the meshed relationship between segregation per se and the broader patterns of economic and residential inequality that shaped the likes of blacks nationwide. The “package settlement” that activists won from the city of Birmingham encouraged civil rights leaders to push for what Whitney Young called a “domestic Marshall Plan” for black America. Others in the movement saw Birmingham as a template for grassroots action. In the wake of Birmingham, groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) — which had pushed the tactics of the movement toward direct action and confrontation — hoped to spur a new wave of protest, especially in the urban North and West.

When President Kennedy announced his support for a federal civil rights bill in early June, a coalition of groups assembled to revive the notion — posed two decades earlier by labor organizer A. Philip Randolph — of a mass civil rights demonstration in the nation’s capital. The Kennedy administration, for its part, was terrified that “a big show at the Capitol” might accomplish precisely what its younger activists had hoped it might. Envisioning a city brought to its knees, and fearful that a march would cost him the support of whites in states like Michigan and Illinois, Kennedy pressured King to call the whole thing off. From the Justice Department Robert Kennedy and Burke Marshall warned King that he his “communist” associates were jeopardizing the bill and imperiling the President’s political future. Meantime, J. Edgar Hoover helpfully offered to tap King’s phones.

Somewhat belated, JFK at last endorsed the march in July — all the better to try and contain it. “If we can’t stop it,” he huffed, “we’ll run the damn thing.” And on August 28, they more or less did. The event was rigorously scripted, and the “march” itself consisted of a short, unobtrusive walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Mindful of the fact that CBS would be broadcasting everything, the White House sought to convert the march from a black protest to an administration pep rally. Organizers were instructed to lard the crowd with as many conservatively-dressed whites as they could find, and speeches — most notably that of SNCC’s John Lewis — were trimmed of their inflammatory barbs. (To some extent, the debate over Lewis’ speech was moot. If Lewis or anyone else had, in fact, shaken their fists too vigorously, administration aides were prepared to cut the microphone and play a Mahalia Jackson record instead.) The day was a triumph of moderation.

In the intervening 45 years, the march — and King’s synecdochal address at the Lincoln Memorial — has been converted into perhaps the most recognizable expression of American civic nationalism, a day-long ode to aspirations deferred and fulfilled, a colorblind vindication of the American creed, a Lincolnesque utopia from which angry Negroes and peckerwood throwbacks alike had been effortlessly dismissed. We’ve inherited comfortable, self-congratulatory and ahistorical mythology about that day, a story easily assimilated into liberal, minor-key tales of progress as well as the obnoxious, conservative efforts to claim Martin Luther King, Jr., as an opponent of multiculturalism and affirmative action. (King’s epic speech, with the perverse assent of his own estate, has even been used to shill for fiber optic companies that manufacture components for “smart” bombs and missile “defense” systems.)

To believe in the myth, it’s necessary to forget the intra-movement rivalries that only grew in intensity after the march (and to a great extent because of it); to forget that the march failed to sway Congressional support for the civil rights bill; to forget that the march did little to enhance local civil rights organizing; to forget that the event was bracketed by white supremacist violence throughout the South (including the assassination of Medgar Evers and the obliteration of four young girls at a Birmingham church); and of course to forget that King himself lived another five years, during which time he articulated truths about his country that remain a thousand times more relevant than any words he delivered 45 years ago today.

(cross-posted at EotAW)