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Missile Defense and Iran

[ 0 ] December 6, 2007 |

Michael Goldfarb dissents from my conclusions on the implications of the NIE on missile defense, and further asserts that liberals should love missile defense:

And finally, liberals fundamentally misunderstand the effect of deploying a missile defense system–it would decrease the likelihood of conflict, not increase it. Missile defense would provide decision makers with one more option in a world where options are the scarcest commodity.

Imagine the U.S. intelligence community, or more likely their Israeli counterpart, is able to determine with some degree of certainty that the Iranians are mere months away from an operational nuclear capability. Right now, they’d have two options: bomb or do nothing, aka diplomacy. But if those leaders could have some confidence in their ability to shoot down an Iranian missile, wouldn’t this strengthen the argument for doing nothing–the argument Farley would most certainly be making. As it is, the American people would likely demand military action, but missile defense would give liberals a fall-back position–’it doesn’t matter if they build a nuclear missile, we can shoot it down.’

Uh… no.

Let me explain the concept of “deterrence”. Deterrence means the creation in the mind of on adversary the belief that the costs of an action will outweigh the benefits. In this specific sense, it means creating in the mind of the Iranians the belief that they’ll suffer drastic consequences for doing things like firing nuclear missiles at other countries. Now, I tend to think that the dramatic military supremacy of the United States over Iran in any conceivable military confrontation is enough to deter Iran from firing nuclear missiles at random European targets. As such, I reject Michael’s premise; because of deterrence, we don’t need to overly worry about the threat of Iran committing national suicide by firing a nuke at Paris or Berlin. Indeed, this has pretty much always been the liberal position on missile defense; even the job it purports to do can be done better by deterrence. Of course, it’s been a wingnutty article of faith that the leaders of Iran are not sensitive to costs, but whatever else it has to say, I think that the NIE has put that argument decisively to bed. Backing me up on that I have no less august authority than Victor Davis Hanson, who noted recently that Iran is not a suicidal state and is sensitive to costs. Now, a sensible reader might reply “but isn’t Victor Davis Hanson an unredeemed hack who can’t be trusted to supply reliable information about his academic specialty, much less the decision-making process of the Iranian state?” The answer is yes, but the point still holds.

So, since in my world liberals are against throwing money away on weapon systems that have dramatic and unsolved technical problems, that agitate foreign countries (while it might be objected that Russia is already irritable, that’s no reason to poke it with a sharp stick for no good reason), that are extremely expensive, and whose flimsy strategic rationale has vanished like an April frost, I’d have to say that liberals like myself are quite rational in our belief that missile defense is a pointless waste.

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Depressing Hockey News (With Bonus Feminism!)

[ 14 ] December 6, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

“I was only following orders!”

According to court documents, the contract on Steve Moore, leading to Todd Bertuzzi’s near homicide, was put out by fellow scumbag Marc Crawford, backing up what many had long assumed. I don’t think this provides the slightest exoneration for Bertuzzi — he wasn’t told to sucker-punch Moore in the head, and a player could even have chosen to interpret Crawford as ordering a hard but clean and legal hit (such as, say, Moore’s hit on Naslund.) But it’s clear that the disgraceful circus was also created in large measure by Crawford.

Elsewhere, the charity created by the wives of the Ottawa Senators is donating a third of its proceeds to “crisis pregnancy” centers. As Stacey May points out, fans who purchase charity raffle tickets (I’ve certainly contributed to similar things) reasonably expect their money to go to innocuous charities, not to organizations distributing forced pregnancy propaganda. No wonder the Senators have lost seven straight!

“See You On The Links, Marc!”

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Classics In the History of Wingnuttery

[ 9 ] December 6, 2007 |

With respect to Mike Huckabee agitating for the release of serial rapist and future murderer Wayne DuMond because of pressure from anti-Clinton conspiracy nuts, a commenter chez Yglesias helpfully points us to a reprint of a 1996 Steve Dunleavy column about the horrible injustices perpetrated on the poor, poor, pitiful serial rapist by Bill Clinton. You see, one of the rape victims “is Bill Clinton’s cousin. And her mother worked as part of Clinton’s inner circle when he was governor.” Well, I’m convinced! (According to Gene Lyons, the DuMond’s defenders were also wrong to take DuMond’s claim that he was castrated by intruders as face value.)

Duncan, who has been on this for a while, had another example here, this time with Dunleavy claiming that Clinton’s “worst crime” was…putting a serial rapist in jail. (Worse even that an obscure money-losing land deal or getting a blowjob? That’s hard to believe!) He also reminds us that not all anti-Clinton wingnuttery was on the right, pointing to this Village Voice article.

Even if you lived through this recent era, it’s hard to believe it happened. And if Clinton is the nominee in ’08, progressives had better be aware of what kind of stuff is going to come out of the woodwork and be prepared to deal with it.

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Now 3% Clearer! The Real World Effects of Ab Only

[ 0 ] December 6, 2007 |

In 2006, for the first time since 1991, the teenage birthrate rose in the United States. The rate went up three percent. The increase was highest among black teenagers, but there were increases among white and Latino teens as well. What’s more, the U.S. rate remains far higher than other industrialized countries. Looking at the numbers and making some logical deductions makes it easy to see why:

“[T]eenage sex rates have risen since 2001 and condom use has dropped since 2003. Abortion rates have held steady for a decade, although numbers from 2005 and 2006 are not available.”

So, abortions hold steady, condom use goes down and sex rates are up. Seems like a no-brainer that such a situation would lead to more pregnancy.

But it’s not. Because, despite the Democratic Congress, the U.S. still spends about $176 million annually on abstinence only “education” programs that don’t work. Abstinence only programs don’t keep teens from having sex, and, what’s worse, they leave kids (who are still having sex) without the tools to prevent pregnancy and STDs. The Heritage Foundation helpfully calls blaming abstinence only education for rising teen pregnancy rates “stupid” (they prefer to blame the women themselves). But it’s not stupid. It doesn’t take much to be able to see that there might – just might – be a connection between not teaching kids how to use a condom and a rising pregnancy rate. We need to stop living in a la-la-land where teenagers’ hormones can be tamed (or should be tamed) and get back to reality. Sex isn’t bad. Kids need to know how to have sex safely. Because teens are going to have sex. As much as they can.

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The Wingnuttiest Era Ever?

[ 34 ] December 6, 2007 |

In re the Omaha shootings, it took exactly eleven comments at Little Green Footballs before question of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome” interrupted the nibbling of cucumber sandwiches and crumpets:Fortunately for all, the question received swift and thoughtful attention.

And so on.

And so forth.

Until reasonable voices took over and floated alternative hypotheses.

All of this makes me wish that blogs had been around during the Cold War. Jumping Jesus, that would have been a good time….

All of which raises the unanswerable question of whether we are in fact living through the wingnuttiest period of American history. I’m inclined to argue that if we correct for certain factors like the per capita distribution of parents’ basement apartments, bagged snack foods and technology — assuming, for example, that blogs either didn’t exist today or, conversely, did exist “back then” — we are not yet living in the most purely wingnutty epoch of all time. If pressed, I’d have to argue that the period from about 1848-1856 would take the prize. Why?

Several reasons. First, I’m working from the assumption that wingnuttery thrives in the humid gap between perceived and actual peril; the greater the disparity between the two, the greater the magnitude of wingnuttiness.

Second, it’s obvious that during the two years prior to 1848, the US was in fact embroiled in a controversial war with Mexico, and from 1856 onward the Civil War was lurching toward inevitability — e.g., the revocation of the Missouri Compromise and the subsequent splattering of east Kansas, the Dred Scott ruling, the John Brown raids, etc. So while the general level of insanity was quite high during those years, the period between 1848-1856 was characterized by unprecedented national derangement — incoherent expressions of Southern paranoia; wasteful, fantastic plots to steal Cuba from Spanish control; and a wave of anti-Catholic zealotry that helped destroy both major parties while producing its own genre of pornography to boot.

With all due respect to the great wingnuts of today, they’ve a long way to go to match the accomplishments of their pre-civil war ancestors.

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Defining Liberalism Down

[ 0 ] December 5, 2007 |

Dave Weigel claims — plausibly — that Huckabee has gotten soft coverage because reporters like him. He also claims — rather less plausibly — that this is because of Huckabee’s “liberalism.” I guess this is the flipside of arguments that George Bush’s statism makes him a liberal (as opposed to the statist conservative he actually is), but it’s a strange assertion. Unless anybody who doesn’t believe that tax cuts are the appropriate response to every conceivable fiscal situation is a liberal, then fiscally Huckabee governed as a moderate conservative (in the context of a strongly Democratic legislature), and he’s campaigning as a right-wing crank on fiscal matters by making a regressive, unworkable national sales tax his centerpiece. In addition, of course, liberals tend not to believe that abortion is a “holocaust,” support amending the Constitution to make gays and lesbians second-class citizens, etc. He may not be the first choice of the powerful Donald Luskin wing of the GOP, but he’s not a liberal in any sense.

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Upward Mobility

[ 16 ] December 5, 2007 |

TBogg is dead — long live TBogg!

Adjust your RSS feeds accordingly.

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Another Reason Why Judicial Review Is Necessary

[ 45 ] December 5, 2007 |

The Washington Post has a story today about Murat Kurnaz, a German man of Turkish origin who wasted away in Guantanamo for four years despite conclusive intelligence reports that he is not an enemy combatant or a terrorist. He was finally released in May 2006. His story brings into sharp relief what’s at stake in the Boumediene case the Supreme Court will hear today.

Despite clear statements from the intelligence community that Kurnaz posed no threat to the United States, he was kept at Guantanamo for four years based on the conclusion of a brigadier general in a memo on which members of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) that determined him to be a combatant relied. The memo included these tidbits, based on which one – I guess – could surmise (or did surmise) that Kurnaz was an enemy combatant:

the tribunal members relied heavily on a memo written by a U.S. brigadier general who noted that Kurnaz had prayed while the U.S. national anthem was sung in the prison and that he expressed an unusual interest in detainee transfers and the guard schedule. Other documents make clear that U.S. intelligence officials had earlier concluded that Kurnaz, who went to Pakistan shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to visit religious sites, had simply chosen a bad time to travel.

This was enough to keep a man at Guantanamo for four years. A 19-year-old, no less. Based on this, and on other quotes and context provided in the Washington Post article alone, one would be hard pressed to conclude that the CSRTs and the military tribunals in Guantanamo are operating in a way even close to just. The Court’s decision in Boumediene won’t necessarily fix this, but it could ensure that the courts are available as an important (and, it seems, necessary) check on the executive run amok.

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The Unserious Huckabee

[ 26 ] December 5, 2007 |

A couple of things:

  • Melissa McEwan makes a good point with respect to Huckabee wanting to have it both ways when it comes to religion and politics. You can’t not only repeatedly stress your background as a preacher and your religious values and muse about teaching the non-science of “intelligent design” in public science classes and then complain when people ask about the latter.
  • Both Yglesias and some commenters here are advancing the claim that Huckabee’s surge should be seen as evidence that Huckabee is a serious contender for the nomination. I still think the original bank-shot conventional wisdom — that Huckabee could inflict serious damage on Romney but not actually win — remains correct. In the course of explaining why claims that someone is “peaking too early” don’t make much sense and distinguishing between Obama and Huckabee, Publius makes the key point. As Huckabee’s apparently not having heard about N.I.E report on Iran or understanding its implications makes clear, he just doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure for a serious bid. After Iowa and New Hampshire Huckabee’s exceptional retail campaigning skills become virtually irrelevant, and he just doesn’t have the organization to take advantage of an early victory. Even worse, the fact that the Hair Club For Growth and other pro-business factions within the party are strongly opposed to him means that not only is he not going to get the resources to quickly build an organization, but whoever emerges as his strongest opponent will be lavishly funded. I suppose the race remains too fluid to completely rule out anybody who can win Iowa, but I still rank Huckabee a distant fifth among GOP candidates in terms of their chances of winning the nomination.
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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 33

[ 16 ] December 5, 2007 |

Strom Thurmond, one of the US Senate’s greatest sexual profligates and enduring racist icons, was born 105 years ago today.

As the Democratic governor of South Carolina, Thurmond joined fellow Negrophobe Fielding Wright — a Democratic Congressman from the governor of Mississippi — in a protest campaign intended to unseat fellow party member Harry Truman from the presidency in 1948. Truman, hoping to keep liberal voters from migrating to Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party, had nudged the Democrats ever so gently away from its 19th century herrenvolk roots, mostly by establishing a presidential commission to investigate the condition of civil rights in the US. Fearful that Truman would devote a second term to more specific, concrete devaluations of white privilege, nearly three dozen party delegates left the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and recast themselves under Thurmond’s leadership as the States’ Rights Democratic Party.

Warning that civil rights was the first step toward the creation of a “Police Nation” in the US, Thurmond rallied the Dixiecrats, who insisted that the nation’s “racial integrity” be preserved through segregation and anti-miscegenation statutes. Warning that the “nigger race” would never be admitted into his theaters, swimming pools, homes and churches — he of course had little to say about the rules of entry to his bedroom — Thurmond called upon the federal government to cease its interference with “individual rights” by mandating equality, a principle the party adamantly rejected.

Although the States’ Rights campaign failed in 1948, it did manage to dislodge four states from the “solid South,” taking South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi and nearly tossing the presidency to Thomas Dewey. Over the next several decades, the 1948 Dixiecrat walkout would be duplicated on a wider scale. As the national civil rights movement crested with the support of Democrats like Lyndon Johnson, Thurmond himself switched to the GOP and campaigned for Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon. From the 1960s through the 1980s, disgruntled Southern white voters followed Thurmond and gradually migrated to the Republican Party, whose revanchist racial politics aimed to roll back the impact of a civil rights movement that Thurmond and others had been unable to prevent in the first place.

Over the rest of his career, Thurmond acquired an almost completely undeserved reputation as a convert to the mission of racial equality. Although he occasionally and vaguely congratulated African Americans for “developing” beyond the condition of menial servitude, he never actually repudiated his segregationist views, and his few moments of “enlightenment” — voting, for instance, to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., with a federal holiday — hardly compensate for his decades of sturdy labor on behalf of white supremacy.

During the summer of 2003, Thurmond at last ascended to the great Whites Only swimming pool in the sky, several months after the most notorious birthday party in his unnecessarily long life.

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If Only I Celebrated Christmas

[ 0 ] December 5, 2007 |

…I would definitely buy this little ornament (via Jill):

As if the ornament itself were not enough, there’s a hilarious (NB: and fake) product description that goes along with the beautiful little fetus:

Protect our troops – from the womb to the war. What if the fetus you were going to abort would grow up to be a soldier bringing democracy to a godless dictatorship?

Plastic replica of an 11-12 week old fetus, 3″ long, holding a firearm in its precious little hand, with an assortment of other military paraphernalia, encased in a translucent plastic ornament, with a patriotic yellow ribbon on top. Includes a metal ornament hanger. If only a womb were this safe, attractive and reasonably priced!

Show that you support the “culture of life” by buying and proudly displaying one of these patriotic unborn Americans.

Also available in a “Brown” model

The description is fake — or at least tongue in cheek. But the product is not. It is actually for sale. In both colors. The purveyor, Miss Poppy, is an “Adult Christian” shop run by a born-again Christian woman that sells “anti-masturbatory cream” (which you are to “keep applying until you get relief”) as well as upside down American flags intended to express the owner’s displeasure at the evisceration of civil rights. The thread that ties these products together under the banner of an alternative christian shop? Making Money. Because, as the website’s tagline informs us, “What a Trend We have in Jesus!” Religion…a great way to get rich!

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McCain is the New Kerry?

[ 0 ] December 4, 2007 |

“I’m waiting for pro-life voters to remember this guy named John McCain,” says Yglesias. Relatedly, Tom Schaller lays out the case that McCain could be the Republican Kerry, the guy who slips up the middle when the frontrunner implodes.

There are a couple things to be said for this. In terms of his opportunity, there’s no serious question; Romney is in a considerably more shaky position than Dean was at a similar time, and Guiliani and Thompson both have obvious problems. And logically, I agree that McCain (assuming that Huckabee can’t win) seems like the best choice for ordinary social conservatives; my opinions about that aren’t terribly relevant, of course, but actual social conservative Ramesh Ponnuru makes a persuasive case. The problem, however, is that — especially after what McCain said about various cultural conservative leaders in 2000 and for a couple years after — McCain is disliked by a lot of people within his own party, who (rightly or wrongly) seem to see him as a Republican Lieberman. And this is the biggest difference with Kerry. Nobody in the Democratic Party had any particular issue with him; he was ideally positioned as the plain vanilla liberal to take advantage after Dean’s campaign was mortally wounded in Iowa. McCain really isn’t in the same position. He has a lot of important enemies within the party.

Admittedly, I also thought Kerry was dead in 2003. And with Huckabee unacceptable to the most powerful faction in the GOP and Thompson seemingly campaigning from a hammock, there’s really no Kerry-equivalent plain vanilla conservative who’s both 1)a strong candidate and 2)lacks strong opposition. But I still think a McCain win is a real longshot, and I think Romney can survive losing in Iowa.

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