Monday, July 31, 2006

New Age?

A bold claim from Mark Schmitt:

"the era of interest-group politics is dead, and the strong party that the netroots advocates foresee will take its place, and while that won’t be without some disruptions, it will be to the good."

The whole post is interesting.

Hagel on Middle East

Chuck Hagel gave a speech a few days ago at Brookings, which hasn't really gotten a ton of blogospheric coverage. Here's the transcript, courtesy of The Washington Note. Steve Clemons' in-short description: "Chuck Hagel: Israel vs. Arab Nations A False Choice for U.S."

The Dark Side of the West Wing

Atrios already linked to this, so you've probably read it (yes, I felt a little queasy writing that sentence). But it really is a must-read. How the top Dem consultants really are on the wrong side.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Toy Soldier Genocide

Many thanks to Jeremy for stepping up to the plate. I'll try to have something more substantial to say sometime in the near future, but for now, nothing expresses what I'm feeling more aptly than Atrios's pitch-perfect characterization of the war party's contortionism in attempting to dismiss the plain facts that the US has lost the war in Iraq and that the middle East is unevenly but steadily spiralling out of control:
Every time they worry they're going to lose their little game of risk, they dream of dropping a basketball on the board to end the game.
Meanwhile, perhaps even more of a wonderful surprise than the NYT's endorsement of Ned Lamont in his primary campaign against Martin Peretz and Lee Siegel Lee Siegel Lee Siegel (just ask them), is Fareed Zakaria pulling off the kid gloves in describing Donald Rumsfeld's lack of fitness for his position:
He seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he’s living in a different world, not a different country.
Back in the actual world, the US government has no foreign policy whatsoever; the Bush administration does maintain a public relations policy in the form of foreign policy pronouncements, but now that the two goals (bolstering the administration's image and reaching a not-civil war resolution of the Iraq crisis) have become irreconcilably opposed, we face the prospect of two and a half more years of government by incompetent dullards who are determined to let the world go to hell for the sake of their own pride. Over to Glenn Reynolds for why this is Bill Keller's fault.

"Sustainable Cease-Fire"

Just to be clear, that's one more linguistic representation of the insane brutality of our current American government. There is no such thing as a sustainable cease-fire. You either keep firing or you stop. If you are Israel, you either keep murdering children or you stop. If you are Hizbullah, you either keep murdering children or you stop. If you are America, you either keep pursuing the deaths of hundreds of thousands or you stop.

This is nothing more than an addendum I guess to my previous post. But one of the greatest failures of human civilization, and indeed perhaps an eternal indictment of it, will be its incapacity to learn from the twentieth century, to mourn it, and to begin again. Our tolerance for cold-blooded murder is the gravest moral failure of the new millenium. Our nation, which is so strong, so oppulent, so gifted and blessed, to march across the globe with blood dripping from its teeth, craving more, is an abomination. And our generation and our children's will suffer dearly for it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fighting a Just War

Michael Hirsh has a generally good peice in Newsweek about the series of strategic, tactical, and ethical stupidites that have constituted American involvement in Iraq. The piece allows me to make a quick point which I intended to pursue in the context of Michael Walzer's recent just-war analysis of Israel-Lebanon in The New Republic, but was too inarticulate and tired to make. Hirsh, in describing the nightly raids on Iraqi civilians by American soldiers, carried out on poor intelligence, crudely, and needlessly, in order to exemplify the failure of American commanders to correctly win the hearts and minds of civilians, a strategic error, writes:

"Like [Thomas] Ricks, The Washington Post's first-rate Pentagon correspondent, I don't really fault the soldiers on the ground for the mistakes made. These young men and women were in a hellish situation, and as warriors they performed superbly."

It seems that the general liberal critique of the Iraq war, often made not just in the name of attacking Bush, but in defense of a bold secular humanist tradition of reason and moral clarity, presents "war" or "just war" as a goal almost accomplished, but disastrously missed. These descriptions of our current conflicts in the Middle East seem to suggest that the empirical war = "war" + unfortunate aberrations, where "war" is the just war that we all want our boys and girls over there to fight. This talk, which seems to be the most level-headed around, is only a cruel and foolish form of utopianism.

If I had a large audience, and charisma that I lack, I would dedicate myself to convincing folks, any folks really, that perhaps war is the aberration itself. That we keep trying to fight this just war, and we get all these bad side effects. These side effects are nothing other than the expression of war itself. Only an absolutely unreformed idealist could argue otherwise. Where are the empirical contours of the non-aberrant war? In major newsmagazines and books mostly.

But back to the soldiers. What I really wanted to say, and this is a thing that one doesn't feel that comfortable saying, is that the heart of the problem, the heart of our continuing infatuation with the pursuit of proper war, is the sort of statement I quoted above.

If the 20th century has not taught us that following orders is a purely individual choice, and in order to maintain the very integrity of any concept of the human, we must insist that one chooses to follow orders, and is thus culpable, I don't know what further civilizational failure will teach us.

I am writing from a comfortable apartment on a nice Dell laptop. I studiously avoid violence out of fear. I certainly do not have the courage of those who fight. But I am not ready to accord their courage an uncritical positive evaluation.

In what brutal pax romana do we live in that the idea of warriors performing superbly is a replacement for moral judgement? What kind of vaunted church-state separation is there if at the heart of our concept of state is that at anytime its abstract authority wishes it may absolve men and women of any and all crimes. This is crucial. All the rhetoric of the past 5 years about rogue states and terrorists is essential to the continuation of any sort of just war ideation. Because we believe, along with Hirsh et al. that as long as the invisible "state" bestowed as it is with a sort of amoral goodness, orders war, then its human subjects no longer act in a moral context. The soldiers' sins become mistakes, misfirings of the war machine. But this amoral field can only be allowed to certain invisible forces, and thus we invent "state" versus "non-state" putatively freeing our citizens who choose to fight of the grotesque moral baggage their allegience entails.

But of course the freedom only accrues to the amorality of the state. The soldiers will be haunted by their actions. They, or most, will have to reckon with their brutality. But by then they will have returned into the interior of true freedom, which does not offer a license to kill, but only the pain of regret and the weight of self-appraisal.

There may come a time, and it will mostly likely not be at the behest of either political party, that people come to realize that supporting the troops during a war is a fatuous exercise, because the war is waged as much against the guilty as the innocent, and that rather than supporting "troops" you must support the humans that they actually are. The only way to do this is to disarm them and keep them home.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Michael Ledeen's Wet Dream

A play in one act:
Liebermaine: Hold thee, Cheney; wear two imperial crowns;
Think thee invested now as royally,
Even by the mighty hand of Liebermaine,
As if as many kings as could encompass thee
With greatest pomp had crown'd thee emperor.

Cheney: So do I, thrice-renowned man-at-arms;
And none shall keep the crown but Liebermaine:
Thee do I make my regent of Persia,
And general-lieutenant of my armies.--
Michael Oren, you, that were our brother's guide,
And chiefest counsellor in all his acts,
Since he is yielded to the stroke of war,
On your submission we with thanks excuse,
And give you equal place in our affairs.

Michael Oren: Most happy
emperor, in humblest terms
I vow my service to your majesty,
With utmost virtue of my faith and duty.

Cheney: Thanks, good Michael Oren.--Then, Cheney, reign,
And govern Persia in her former pomp.
Now send embassage to thy neighbour kings,
And let them know the Persian king is chang'd,
From one that knew not what a king should do,
To one that can command what 'longs thereto.
And now we will to fair Persepolis
With twenty thousand expert Soldiers.
The lords and captains of my brother's camp
With little slaughter take Michael Oren's course,
And gladly yield them to my gracious rule.--
Gonzales and Addington, my trusty friends,
Now will I gratify your former good,
And grace your calling with a greater sway.

Gonzales: And as we ever aim'd at your behoof,
And sought your state all honour it deserv'd,
So will we with our powers and our lives
Endeavour to preserve and prosper it
.

Cheney: I will not thank thee, sweet Gonzales;
Better replies shall prove my purposes.--
And now, Lord Liebermaine, my brother's camp
I leave to thee and to Marty Peretz,
To follow me to fair Persepolis;
Then will we march to all those Indian mines
My witless brother to the Secularists lost,
And ransom them with fame and usury:
And, till thou overtake me, Liebermaine,
(Staying to order all the scatter'd troops,)
Farewell, lord regent and his happy friends.
I long to sit upon my brother's throne.

Michael Oren: Your majesty shall shortly have your wish,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis.
[Exeunt all except Liebermaine, Marty Peretz, Podhoretz, and Anusrocket.]

Joe Liebermaine: And ride in triumph through Persepolis!--
Is it not brave to be a king, Podhoretz?--
Anusrocket and Marty Peretz,
Is it not passing brave to be a king,
And ride in triumph through Persepolis?

Podhoretz: O, my lord, it is sweet and full of pomp!

Anusrocket: To be a king is half to be a god.

Marty Peretz: A god is not so glorious as a king:
I think the pleasure they enjoy in heaven,
Cannot compare with kingly joys in earth;--
To wear a crown enchas'd with pearl and gold,
Whose virtues carry with it life and death;
To ask and have, command and be obey'd;
When looks breed love, with looks to gain the prize,--
Such power attractive shines in princes' eyes.
So in the Lord's Prayer,
"Thy will be done In Earth."

Liebermaine: Why, say, Marty Peretz, wilt thou be a king?

Marty Peretz: Nay, though I praise it, I can live without it.

Liebermaine: What say my other friends? will you be kings?

Podhoretz: I, if I could, with all my heart, my lord.

Liebermaine: Why, that's well said, PodhoretzTechelles: so would I;--
And so would you, my masters, would you not?

Anusrocket: What, then, my lord?

Liebermaine: Why, then, Anus, shall we wish for aught
The world affords in greatest novelty,
And rest attemptless, faint, and destitute?
Methinks we should not. I am strongly mov'd,
That if I should desire the Persian crown,
I could attain it with a wondrous ease:
And would not all our Soldiers soon consent,
If we should aim at such a dignity?

Marty Peretz: I know they would with our persuasions.

Liebermaine: Why, then, Marty Peretz, I'll first assay
To get the Persian kingdom to myself;
Then thou for Parthia; they for Scythia and Media;
And, if I prosper, all shall be as sure
As if the Turk, the Pope, Afric, and Greece,
Came creeping to us with their crowns a-piece.

Podhoretz: Then shall we send to this triumphing king,
And bid him battle for his novel crown?

Anusrocket: Nay, quickly, then, before his room be hot.

Liebermaine: 'Twill prove a pretty jest, in faith, my friends.

Marty Peretz: A jest to charge on twenty thousand men!
I judge the purchase more important far.

Liebermaine: Judge by thyself, Marty Peretz, not me;
For presently Podhoretz here shall haste
To bid him battle ere he pass too far,
And lose more labour than the gain will quite:
Then shalt thou see this Scythian Liebermaine
Make but a jest to win the Persian crown.--
Podhoretz, take a thousand horse with thee,
And bid him turn him back to war with us,
That only made him king to make us sport:
We will not steal upon him cowardly,
But give him warning and more warriors:
Haste thee, Podhoretz; we will follow thee.
[Exit Podhoretz.]
What saith Marty Peretz?

Marty Peretz: Go on, for me.
[Exeunt.]
Adapted freely from Marlowe's Liebermaine the Great.

Render Unto Caesar

This is beyond surreal. Money shot:
For years, he has claimed that he is employed by God and has no income or property because everything he owns belongs to God. He believes man and dinosaurs inhabited the earth together and has offered a $250,000 reward to anyone who can offer him satisfactory proof of evolution.

Hovind's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kafahni Nkrumah, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis at a hearing Monday that his client did not want to enter a plea because he does not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office "have jurisdiction in this matter."
Thing is, I'm inclined to think that Hovind is not trying to weasel his way out of paying taxes, but genuinely believes he owes none.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Journalistic Courage

Walter Pincus has a great little essay on the subject. Money shot:
A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the President's statements when he -- or any public figure -- repeats essentially what he or she has said before. The Bush team also has brought forward another totally PR gimmick: The President stands before a background that highlights the key words of his daily message. This tactic serves only to reinforce that what's going on is public relations -- not governing. Journalistic courage should include the refusal to publish in a newspaper or carry on a TV or radio news show any statements made by the President or any other government official that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public.
Pincus is limited by space constraints, but his closing graf is really only step 1. Step 2 involves, I dunno, having the balls to run the headline "President Reserves Right to Break 750 Laws," when the president, in fact, reserves the right to break 750 laws.

Lamont-Lieberman-Lee Siegel Lee Siegel Lee Siegel

Okay, the most salient feature of the Lamont-Lieberman primary election, despite what the staff of TNR seems to think, is not a pissing match between the left-wing blogosphere and TNR (too many links to wade into it; try a google search for "blogofascism"), but Holy Joe's apparent determination not to win the Democratic nomination. For example: using the most well-known pro-Bush (well, anti-Kerry) slogan from the 2004 race in his advertising. Does Joe think Connecticut Democrats are going to be inspired to vote for him by his ripping-off of a Karl Rove one-liner? He's not that stupid. [Yale BA, Yale JD -- ed.] Which leaves two possibilities: 1) Lieberman is delusional; 2) Lieberman is intentionally setting himself up to lose the primary. Either way, he seems to believe --- did you catch the debate by any chance? --- that his senate seat is a personal fiefdom. Which attitude is, frankly, anti-democratic. Surprised? Anyone who would say this:
It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.
is unworthy of the office of New Haven county dogcatcher.

Bonus Round: Improve this:
Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel ... Oh! There you are.
Hmmm. Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lee-sie-gel: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lee. Sie. Gel. Perfect.

Bonus Round 2: Dear Jonathan Chait, It's just you and me here. Off the record. Marty's out yelling at anti-war protestors to get off his lawn. Jason Zengerle is inventing e-mails. Aren't you a little embarrassed for/about being associated with Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel, Lee Siegel?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Happy 60th Birthday President Bush!

You'll live to see the rapture yet. Have a piece of yellow cake.

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