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Circle Jerk II, the Quickening

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

Oh, Jesus. Here we go again.

Like many of the fingerpainters in Right Blogistan, Bob “Unemployment Line” Owens at Treason-in-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee is flush with self-proclaimed glory over the Beauchamp affair. Now, as a full-time member of the Wingnut Junior Detective Division, he’s apparently decided that Scott Horton — Columbia law professor and Harper’s correspondent — must have been fabulating when he suggested last week that an unnamed neoconservative was making shit up last spring when describing the pacific conditions along Haifa Street in Baghdad. Here’s what Horton wrote:

One example: back last spring, when I was living in Baghdad, on Haifa Street, I sat in the evening reading a report by one of the core Neocon pack. He was reporting from Baghdad, and recounted a day he had spent out on a patrol with U.S. troops on Haifa Street. He described a peaceful, pleasant, upscale community. Children were out playing on the street. Men and women were out going about their daily business. Well, in fact I had been forced to spend the day “in the submarine,” as they say, missing appointments I had in town. Why? This bucolic, marvelous Haifa Street that he described had erupted in gun battles the entire day. In the view of my security guards, with which I readily concurred, it was too unsafe.

(This, of course, was before the wildly successful surge of bears and pumas — designed by the strategists at Sadly, No! — brought order to the region.)

Owens — displaying the rich irony of which only a “Confederate Yankee” is apparently capable — is feigning outrage that such an optimistic, transparently false report could have been published. And of course he wants Horton to provide him with names, dates, hotel receipts and serial numbers. Following his usual protocol, he’s sending e-mails to Horton; checking the CY Sitemeter to see if anyone from Harper’s is reading; fatuously proclaiming his own disinterest in anything other than The Truth; banning the stray commenter who dares to suggest that his arguments are crap; and belching into the ether about journalistic ethics, carrying on like a street-corner evangelist with whom no one wants to make direct eye contact.

And all of this is because Owens can’t bring himself to believe that — bear with me here — a neoconservative might have conveyed anything about Iraq inaccurately.

Oi!

Surrender, Surrender, And Give The Constitution Away

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

On a more substantive note, I think this scenario is all too plausible:

…my best guess is that Bush will go out of his way to pick somebody fairly controversial — someone whose confirmation liberals will find outrageous — and then start loudly and immediately declaring that each hour’s delay in confirming his nominee is putting thousands of lives at risk. The hope would be to generate one of these situations where all the Republicans plus maybe a dozen Democrats vote to confirm, and then progressives spend the next month arguing with themselves over it, and even the Democrats who reliable agree to surrender on anything terror-related get criticized in fall ’08 for being soft on terror.

Moreover, I’m not sure why Bush wouldn’t try to do that. Tom Tomorrow’s parable is relevant here.

Underestimating Our Ability To Combine Wankery With Gambling

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

These kids today. Why, when I was a boy walking five miles uphill each way in a raging blizzard to school where I could try word processing on a Packard Bell, we had hockey pools that used nothing but total points! Not that I don’t enjoy formats that take advantage of modern technological advances in the field of onanism, but really there’s no law saying you have to use a complex scoring system.

It Was You, Fredo

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

A few thoughts on the at-long-last end of a rags-to-fascism success story:

  • One of the few contrarian arguments ever to turn out to be right was Yglesias’s qualified defense of John Ashcroft. The Bush administration has not only pursued poor-to-catastrophic policy outcomes, but is also frequently unable and/or unwilling to carry out the basic functions of government, adhere to the law, etc. Ashcroft was, at least, competent and unwilling to push the Bush administration’s lawlessness past a certain point. Gonzales failed utterly on all counts. And whether or not he was personally more moderate than Ashcroft, it certainly didn’t discernibly affect the policy agenda of his office. All that matters is whether you’re willing to carry out the administration’s dirtiest work, and he certainly was. Maybe this is the best way of summarizing Gonzales: he’s the man who could make you miss John Ashcroft.
  • Evidently, Gonzales’s reign will be be most remembered by his further facilitating Yoo-generated theories of arbitrary executive power and his dissembling before Congress. But firing otherwise well-evaluated U.S. Attorneys because of their unwillingness to pursue bullshit “vote fraud” cases or for actually believing that Republicans should be subject for the law is also a definitive example of modern Republican governance.
  • Even more scary: the GOP base considered Gonzales too moderate to be appointed to the Supreme Court, largely because he was willing to construe a law permitting minors to obtain judicial bypasses as actually permitting judicial bypasses to be issued, a conservative no-no. So he did get more lawless as time progressed. On another Republican-statist note, the one positive thing I can say about Michael Chertoff is that he’s mildly more civil libertarian than Bush’s most recent lifetime Supreme Court appointment. I’m pretty confident that his old-fashioned belief that the police actually need valid warrants before strip-searching people in their own homes will be abandoned if he’s willing to take the AG’s position, though.
  • I’ll give the final word to Jack Balkin: “As for Mr. Gonzales, he was a disgrace to the office. There are many roles he could have competently filled– and did fill– in his career. The Nation’s chief law enforcement officer was not one of them. He abused his office for political gain, repeatedly misled Congress under oath –and probably out and out lied on more than one occasion– and turned a once proud institution of government into an object of deep suspicion.”

[Also at TAPPED.]

In Case You Haven’t Heard…

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

…Gonzo is joining Turd Blossom and stepping down.

Thoughts on replacements? CNN’s money (so far as I could tell at the gym) is on Chertoff. His appointment would be a great way to honor the 2 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Thoughts on a Small City Tragedy

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

Today is the first anniversary of the crash of Comair 5191, bound for Atlanta out of Lexington. The aircraft, a CJR-100ER, took off from the wrong runway at Bluegrass Airport and crashed briefly after leaving the ground. Everyone on board was killed except for the first officer, who was pulled from the wreckage by rescue workers. He suffered a collapsed lung, many broken bones, and brain damage; eventually one of his legs was amputated. The NTSB has determined that pilot error was the proximate cause of the crash, and that the sole survivor, who was at the controls during take off, bears considerable responsibility.

I first heard about the crash early on August 27, which was a Sunday. My immediate thoughts regarded my boss, whom I knew was leaving on a flight for Atlanta either Sunday or Monday morning. I called, and fortunately found that his flight left on Monday; apparently he had already received half a dozen phone calls from other concerned parties. Later that day while hanging out with a group of friends that at least two had acquaintances who had been on the plane. At that point the casualty list still wasn’t public, so we only had bits and pieces of information that would drift in over the course of the next couple of days.

It turned out that about 30 of the 49 victims were from Lexington or nearby towns. The University of Kentucky lost an associate dean and an former Wildcats baseball player. For the next few days, the crash would dominate conversation around Lexington. I’m told that the sense of depression amongst the staff at Bluegrass Airport was palpable. I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but of course I had probably met at least a couple during the normal course of life in Lexington.

There are several events today observing the one year anniversary of the crash. It seems that for most tragedies of this kind, the first anniversary marks the end of catharsis. Of course, the relatives of the victims are still hashing out the legal situation with the airline and the aiport, a process which will continue for a while.

Laura Sessions Stepp

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

is still very, very annoying. Although admittedly I don’t think her latest entry is quite as bad as her eternal classic “the fact that a weightlifter who subsists entirely on a diet of Red Bull and cocaine once couldn’t get it up around a woman he didn’t find particularly attractive proves that feminism is destroying teh sex!!!111!!!!!!!1″…

Trainwreck Media Never Deserved Him Anyway

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

Sadly. Max Sawicky is stepping down. But you have one more chance to look at the classic Vicious Instapundit Blogroll Contest.

"I’ll Take Your Money, But I’m Not Going to Respect Your Due Process."

[ 0 ] August 27, 2007 |

A classic tale from the War (on Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs:

Anastasio Prieto of El Paso gave a state police officer at the weigh station permission to search the truck to see if it contained “needles or cash in excess of $10,000,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the federal lawsuit Thursday.

Prieto told the officer he didn’t have any needles but did have $23,700.

Officers took the money and turned it over to the DEA. DEA agents photographed and fingerprinted Prieto over his objections, then released him without charging him with anything.

Border Patrol agents searched his truck with drug-sniffing dogs, but found no evidence of illegal substances, the ACLU said.

[...]

DEA agents told Prieto he would receive a notice of federal proceedings to permanently forfeit the money within 30 days and that to get it back, he’d have to prove it was his and did not come from illegal drug sales.

They told him the process probably would take a year, the ACLU said.

The ACLU’s New Mexico executive director, Peter Simonson, said Prieto needs his money now to pay bills and maintain his truck. The lawsuit said Prieto does not like banks and customarily carries his savings as cash.

“The government took Mr. Prieto’s money as surely as if he had been robbed on a street corner at night,” Simonson said. “In fact, being robbed might have been better. At least then the police would have treated him as the victim of a crime instead of as a perpetrator.”

Nice little theft-by-tautology racket the DEA has going there: cash is the basis for the search, and then you can confiscate the cash even if there’s no other evidence of a crime, and the burden of proof reverts to the person whose cash was seized despite said lack of corroborating evidence. At least in the landmark case Reed v. Big Old Cop before the cop said he’d “keep all that money for evidence” they actually saw them shooting craps…

[via Mona.]

Tales of the Sea: The Orzel Incident

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

In February 1917, the German Navy resumed unrestricted submarine warfare after a two year break. The campaign was launched in an effort to drive Great Britain out of World War I. Weak British tactics helped produce enormous early successes for German U-boats. For a time, British supply lines from the United States were seriously threatened. The entry of the United States into the war, however, and the development of convoy tactics staunched the bleeding for long enough to allow an Allied victory in France. Although the German submarine offensive of World War I failed to force Britain out of the war, it succeeded in threatening the Allied war effort.

Like the rest of the German Navy, the surviving U-boats were scrapped post-war or distributed among victorious allied navies. Some efforts were made to restrict submarines in the inter-war period, but in the end no significant action was taken. Remarkably, apart from Germany most interwar navies did not strongly consider the possibility of another major submarine anti-commerce campaign. Rather, submarines were valued for the threat they posed to enemy capital ships. Both the United States and Japan, for example, envisioned submarines as part of a Mahanian trans-oceanic campaign. Weapons of the weak, submarines could help equalize the odds for small navies.

Poland had one of these small navies. After two centuries of subjugation to foreign powers, Poland had regained its independence at the end of World War I. The primary military threats to Poland were the Soviet Union and a potentially revanchist Germany. In 1920 and 1921, Poland fought a war against Soviet Russia, finally defeating a major offensive led by Mikhail Tukhachevsky at the gates of Warsaw. Victories in the Polish-Lithuanian War and the Polish-Ukranian War helped expand the borders of the new state. Although land warfare represented the most dangerous threat to Poland’s existence, the new Republic nevertheless began development of a navy.

In February 1939, the Polish Navy took delivery of ORP Orzel, an 1100 ton submarine built in the Netherlands. Orzel could make 19 knots surfaced, 9 knots submerged, and carried 12 torpedo tubes. Although the Poles planned to use her for coastal work within the Baltic, she was actually a bit large for the envisioned mission. Orzel (meaning Eagle) was accompanied by her sister Sep (meaning Vulture). Due to Dutch fears of a Polish-German War, Polish sailors were forced to essentially steal the nearly complete Sep during trials in April 1939. Bad feelings between the Dutch and the Poles were smoothed over by full payment and the return of the two Dutch specialists who had inadvertantly been kidnapped along with the boat.

By September 1939, the Polish Navy had grown to include five submarines and four destroyers. Unfortunately, this force was no match either for the Kriegsmarine or the Soviet Navy. German threats against Poland had grown through 1938 and early 1939, and in late August 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop ensured Soviet neutrality in the event of a Polish-German war. A secret part of the agreement divided Eastern Europe between Russia and Germany, with Germany to control Lithuania and much of Poland, and the Soviets to control Finland, part of Poland, and Estonia and Latvia. Eventually Lithuania would be traded by the Germans for more of Poland. In any case, the agreement left Germany with a free hand against Poland, apart from the threat of intervention by France and the United Kingdom.

On September 1, 1939, German forces invaded. Polish forces were outflanked and overmatched. The Poles fell back to the east, but their position was rendered hopeless by the invasion of 800000 Soviets across the Polish-Ukranian frontier. The Poles, nevertheless, exacted a significant price on the German invaders. Before the battle ended in early October, 140000 Polish soldiers escaped to either Romania or Lithuania, with most fleeing from their to the West. These troops served in Allied supplied and organized units for the rest of the war. The Poles who failed to escape would suffer some of the most devastating atrocities of the Second World War. Including Jewish deaths in the Holocaust, over 18% of the pre-war Polish population would die between 1939 and 1945.

The Orzel was among those to escape. After slipping through a German minefield, she broke into the Baltic, and began hunting German targets.

To be continued…

"Through the dancing poppies stoleA breeze most softly lulling to my soul."

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

After they finish helping the Mariners, there’s perhaps more work to be found for O’Pollahan in Helmand province, the “Taliban stronghold” located in southern Afghanistan. To the untrained eye, and to those who lack the kind of exclusive perspective dispensed by EvenLiberalWarCritics(TM), the situation looks well-nigh shitty. Behold:

Here in Helmand, the breadth of the poppy trade is staggering. A sparsely populated desert province twice the size of Maryland, Helmand produces more narcotics than any country on earth, including Myanmar, Morocco and Colombia. Rampant poverty, corruption among local officials, a Taliban resurgence and spreading lawlessness have turned the province into a narcotics juggernaut.

Poppy prices that are 10 times higher than those for wheat have so warped the local economy that some farmhands refused to take jobs harvesting legal crops this year, local farmers said. And farmers dismiss the threat of eradication, arguing that so many local officials are involved in the poppy trade that a significant clearing of crops will never be done.

Rest assured, though — the US is on the case:

Loren Stoddard, director of [USAID's] agriculture program in Afghanistan, cited American-financed agricultural fairs, the introduction of high-paying legal crops and the planned construction of a new industrial park and airport as evidence that alternatives were being created.

Mr. Stoddard, who helped Wal-Mart move into Central America in his previous posting, predicted that poppy production had become so prolific that the opium market was flooded and prices were starting to drop. “It seems likely they’ll have a rough year this year,” he said, referring to the poppy farmers. “Labor prices are up and poppy prices are down. I think they’re going to be looking for new things.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Stoddard and Rory Donohoe, the director of the American development agency’s Alternative Livelihoods program in southern Afghanistan, attended the first “Helmand Agricultural Festival.” The $300,000 American-financed gathering in Lashkar Gah was an odd cross between a Midwestern county fair and a Central Asian bazaar, devised to show Afghans an alternative to poppies.

Under a scorching sun, thousands of Afghan men meandered among booths describing fish farms, the dairy business and drip-irrigation systems. A generator, cow and goat were raffled off. Wizened elders sat on carpets and sipped green tea. Some wealthy farmers seemed interested. Others seemed keen to attend what they saw as a picnic.

True, the United States has blown $600 million on a counter-narcotics program in Afghanistan — a program so wildly unsuccessful that the religious maniacs who uprooted the country’s poppy fields in the late 1990s have now re-emerged as the world’s opium kingpins. The good news is that opium cultivation is so vast, and its benefits so thoroughly entwined with local governments, that scorched-earth eradication efforts are a non-starter.

But with enough goat raffles, meager financial incentives that attract only the most prosperous farmers, and burnt offerings to the free market, this is a war on drugs we just might win.

Wankers Unity ’08!

[ 0 ] August 26, 2007 |

You’ll be shocked to know that David Broder is thrilled about the prospect of a ticket that represents “post-partisan leadership” composed of two moderate Republicans (OK, one is not technically a Republican anymore.) As Benen says, “The column reads like a daydream of a writer who believes a liberal independent and a very conservative Republican will join forces, solve all of our problems, and ‘get something done.’ Get what done? It doesn’t matter; it’ll be something.” But taking explicit policy positions is so vulgar!

On a related note, I saw about 20 minutes of the even-more-atrocious-than-you-would-expect Robin Williams vehicle Man of the Year on HBO recently. The comedian was running on an exciting platform: he would transcend partisanship, you see, by denouncing “special interests” and explicitly supporting “getting something done” about education and the environment. Broder must consider that the greatest film made since Capra died. (And for a talented director, boy has Barry Levinson directed some crappy films.)

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