Archive

  • CHAPTER 9,472.

    CHAPTER 9,472. I am afraid that this is going to become something of a recurring theme over the next couple of years, but have I mentioned that there isn't an important issue these days on which John McCain won't pander to the worst instincts of the Haggard Base of the Republican party? Thanks, John. You can play a bigot on TV for a week. (Tip o' the cap to the AmericaBlog folks.) --Charles P. Pierce
  • DISMAL DEMOCRACY. ...

    DISMAL DEMOCRACY. Oh no. We're about to ruin Britain. Writing in The Guardian , Paul Harris surveys the American political landscape and decides his side of the pond needs ... more referenda: It is hard to argue that this is not a healthy thing for democracy. There is little doubt that watching most American politics, the issues are the last thing that ever get discussed. It is all about personality or the familiar litany of simple-sounding hot button issues -- abortion, Iraq, terrorism, tax cuts -- that result in slanging matches instead of reasoned debate. A referendum has a tendency to cut through the politics. It removes the middle man (the politician) and takes the issue straight to the public. In an era of low turnouts and widespread disillusionment with politics, special ballot initiatives almost always have the effect of getting more people to the polls. Yes. To vote against them, as in California, where voters turned out in 2005 to reject eight separate referenda. And it's...
  • NUCLEAR WINTER.

    NUCLEAR WINTER. Now that's the Republican Party I know and love! Hill GOPers and The Weekly Standard have long been on a crusade to declassify captured Iraqi documents in the hope that somewhere, there's a pony -- some sort of evidence of WMD programs -- amidst the manure. So now the Republicans in Congress, fresh from alleging on the basis of no evidence that the reason the CIA hasn't found WMD is because it's in league with al-Qaeda , lean on the intelligence community to do so, right before the election. What happens? But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq�s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb. Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. The IAEA is worried the documents, which go beyond...
  • BLOOD AND GUTS PETERS.

    BLOOD AND GUTS PETERS. Everybody's talking about Ralph Peters 's "give up on Iraq" bit , and I think that Glenn Greenwald and Spencer , among others, have demonstrated how dishonest and incoherent his new position is. Peter's previous argument is also worth some attention, as he summarizes what has come to be the new dodge on the war, the idea that we would have succeeded if we had just been more willing to massacre us some Iraqis . The argument has become quite common , and goes something like this: The war was lost because we won too quickly and too cleanly. If the Iraqis had suffered mass casualties on the same level as, say, the Germans or Japanese in World War II, they would have become quiet and docile. Domestic liberals and international organizations can be blamed for our failure since it is they who prevented us from using the necessary brutality. The argument is popular because it places the blame for defeat squarely upon those least deserving, the UN and the Democratic...
  • COUNTER-INSURGENCY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE.

    COUNTER-INSURGENCY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE. I think Matt is missing the point of the renewed emphasis on counter-insurgency doctrine in the U.S. military. Matt's focus is on the Iraq campaign, and he's making two arguments. First, not invading Iraq would have been a better idea than developing an outstanding counter-insurgency strategy. Second, bad counter-insurgency is one of the things that the "incompetence dodgers" most often mention when they want to explain why Iraq failed. I actually agree with Matt on both of these points, but the issue of counter-insurgency doctrine has implications that go well beyond the Iraq campaign. The United States military is completely dominant in high intensity warfare. Consequently, any potential foes are likely to develop asymmetric strategies, including insurgency campaigns and guerilla tactics. The next war that the United States fights, justified or no, is likely to be a counter-insurgency campaign. Given this, the military ought to be thinking...
  • EATING THEIR YOUNG.

    EATING THEIR YOUNG. While the talking heads make great hay out of the drubbing John Kerry has received this week at the hands of many fellow Democrats, it will be interesting to see if similar attention is paid to the utterances of religious right leaders about their former good friend and potential heir to the leadership of the religious right kingdom, Ted Haggard , who yesterday resigned the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals after a self-described male "escort" alleged, as reported here yesterday, a three-year, sex-for-money relationship with Haggard. Until yesterday, Haggard, who has temporarily stepped aside from the leadership of his 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, enjoyed a spot in the inner circle of the Bush administration's religious right advisers, participating in weekly White House phone conferences with the likes of Karl Rove , and often Bush himself. He's been a big player in the right's anti-gay activities, championing a...
  • SUPPORT THE IMAGINARY...

    SUPPORT THE IMAGINARY TROOPS. I've been struggling to articulate what most unnerves me about the Kerry flap for a couple of days, trying to figure out how to say this without it being ripped out of context mere microseconds after posting. Not easy. But let's start with the education issue: There are a lot of different estimates as to the education level of the troops in Iraq. The best conclusion you can draw is that they're relatively educated (and rarely un educated), working-to-middle class, and heavily Southern and Southwestern. In other words, they're not sons of privilege, but nor are they refuges from the streets. It's the American Dream with guns. But I loathe the tendency -- by politicians and pundits, liberals and conservatives -- to dreamily speak of the great sacrifice, magnificent courage, inspiring intellect, and extraordinary characters of our troops. It's bullshit. And it's bullshit designed to make us feel better, so we don't have to face what we've done to these young...
  • THE WAR'S LATEST CASUALTIES.

    THE WAR'S LATEST CASUALTIES. Of course, our own high chief, Harold Meyerson , is dead-on in his latest Prospect/WaPo piece about the conversion (finally!) of the North to blue. Indeed, the big story of 2006 will be the fulfillment of the partisan realignment that started with the Brown v. Board decision a half-century ago. That transformation started in the South at the presidential level, worked its way all the way down to sheriffs (see David Lublin 's compelling book, The Republican South ), and is now beginning to purge the Rust Belt of many of the remaining Ford - Rockefeller Republicans who found themselves playing second banana to the GOP's southernized, evangelized, big-government-conservatism wing. But watch for Republicans, and conservatives in particular, to paint 2006 as some validation of their principles by focusing incessantly on western North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler , or either Harold Ford or Jim Webb , should they win. (Or even if they lose.) These same folks...
  • Productivity Tanks, No One Notices

    Okay, that's not quite right, the Wall Street Journal came though with a front page story . But the reporting on the latest productivity data was buried near the end of a story on retail sales in the NYT and nowhere to be found in the Post or on National Public Radio. Just to get people's eyes on the ball, productivity growth is a big deal. In the long-run, it determines the size of the pie that we have to cut up. I take distribution very seriously (a bit less for Bill Gates and friends is a lot more for everyone else), but the world looks much better, both in ensuring decent living standards and dealing with environmental problems like global warming, if we can sustain strong rates of productivity growth. The Labor Department reported that 3rd quarter productivity growth was flat. The quarterly numbers are very erratic, but looking back over a year productivity growth was just 1.3 percent. Since the big upturn in productivity growth in the 2nd half of 1995, there were only two...
  • ARCTIC NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL?

    ARCTIC NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL? Joshua Kurlantzick's story in this month's Prospect was a fascinating look at how huge energy companies (including some that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to undermine the global scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that we are responsible) are rushing to lock up oil and gas resources in the Arctic region. Yesterday, however, energy consultants Wood Mackenzie and geoscientists Fugro Robertson released a joint study casting doubt on what Wood Mackenzie's VP called "the long-considered view that the Arctic represents one of the last great oil and gas frontiers and a strategic energy supply cache for the U.S." Most of the resources up there, moreover, are difficult-to-transport gas rather than oil. No doubt the report's findings will curb some enthusiasm for Arctic drilling among the oil majors. More here from the Houston Chronicle . I'd be interested to hear Kurlantzick's thoughts. --Blake Hounshell

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