America persistently complains that Iran seeks "regional dominance." This, as noted in the past, is pretty funny given the fact that America has the nations on either side of Iran under military occupation. Rather more hilarious is a country that has for two centuries invoked and enforced the Monroe Doctrine (and the Roosevelt Corollary and the Clark Memo) getting sniffy about regional dominance at all.
Friday, June 12, 2009
In Iran you've got to get approval from the Ayatollah to run for president. In America, you have to raise a billion dollars. Which is harder? Who knows! Iranians seemed eager to vote, but should probably have just stayed home, since, as Elliott Abrams is eager to remind us, they did not have the opportunity to vote for the candidates and parties that most closely matched their extended families' historical ethnoreligious affinity group identities, unlike the Lebanese, who did. But at least, says Abrams, "the majority of Lebanese have rejected Hezbollah’s claim that it is not a terrorist group but a 'national resistance.'" Unlike the last election, in 2005, when . . . the results were almost identical to the results this year. I suppose Abrams and the gang at CFR are free to view this as a national referendum on Hezbollah's legitimacy, but to a more reasonable observer it seems plain that the same people and districts which voted for Hezbollah last time voted for Hezbollah this time, a pattern broady repeated across the parties in both the governing and opposition coalitions. But it was all very free and fair, whatever that means.
While it remains unfortunately popular to view the Iranians as the great boogety-boogety, it turns out that Iran is a great big country full of fairly ordinary people with jobs, homes, and worries about their economy. Their political system is insane, cracked, corrupt, and impenetrable, but try explaining the American electoral college to even an educated, politically observant European and see if you won't say more or less the same about our own. If we have mistaken Iran for our nemesis, perhaps it's because we see an uncomfortable likeness in the Iranians, a religious people who may not be quite so religious as popular assumption would have it, struggling with their own odd and idiosyncratic version of democracy.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Victor Davis Constantius Hadrian Thatcher Hannibal Procrustes Martel Rommel Scipio Hanson spends a whole column listing Obama's historical distortions. Okay. Then he says:
Obama also stated: “For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.”I will suggest, and I do hate to judge before all the facts are in, that some . . . portion of those 600,000 died for a rather . . . different . . . cause.
With all due respect to our president, this assertion is again not fully accurate. The only thing that ended slavery in the United States was the Civil War, which saw some 600,000 Americans — the vast majority of them white — lost in a violent struggle to ensure that nearly half the country would not remain a slave-owning society.
Sarah Palin is fair game for most kinds of mockery, from Tina Fey's "I can see Russia from my house" to harsher fare. But not her kids. Her kids ought to be off-limits.Good god, why? This fecund little critter is on every magazine cover in CVS, expostulating on the horrors of her sitcheeayshun, explainalating to fellow youngsterettes that if they allow the needle to pass through the eye of the camel into heaven, then they, like her, will be afflicted with a horrible illness typified by an enormous, fast-growing tumor that will literally burst out of their bodies through the vagina! She's like what would happen if they made Britney Spears the spokesperson for Gilda's Club.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
For the Defense Department to merely tread water, a good rule of thumb is that its inflation-adjusted budget must grow about 2 percent a year (roughly $10 billion annually, each and every year). Simply put, the costs of holding on to good people, providing them with health care and other benefits, keeping equipment functional, maintaining training regimes, and buying increasingly complex equipment tend to grow faster than inflation. This is, of course, no more an absolute rule than is Moore's law about changes in computing capacity. But like Moore's law, it tends to hold up remarkably well with time, especially when downsizing the Defense Department's force structure is not really an option, and it is not today.Moore's Law is of course not a "rule," but rather an attempt at formulating a natural law in the manner of the physical sciences, which is to say descriptive, not proscriptive. Although there are presumptive upper limits to its applicability, it has so far proven to be an accurate description of the rate of expansion of the capabilities of digital electronic devices.
How this is applicable to military spending is beyond me, and probably beyond O'Hanlon, who betrays no evidence of having ever written a budget or looked beyond the pie charts to the line items. Hell, he doesn't appear to know the difference between operating and capital expenses. Meanwhile, I know the Pentagon is fucked, but I find it hard to believe that they don't fund depreciation. I know that the forever wars require infinite expansion of military expenditure, and so does the Augustus of the West, Barack Obama, which is why he keeps throwing more money at the military. Meanwhile, if we froze defense spending now and China, the next biggest spender, were to institute 10% annual expansion in military expenditures, it would still take them twenty-five years to reach our level of annual outlays. Just sayin.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
These arguments for suppressing torture photos and other evidence of government abuses are grounded in the worst aspects of the Bush/Cheney mindset.Greenwald isn't sculpted in the same dull partisan mold as the Digbies and Kosses of the world, but nonetheless persists in dropping the dually fallacious description, "the Bush/Cheney mindset." Roughly translated, this means an expansive, secretive government with power centralized in the executive branch. Since the precedent long predates George Bush and Dick Cheney, and since it has found clear continuation in the administration that follows, it seems curious to give them pride of name here.
Obama's continuation of the policies of his predecessors confirms what I and other said about them all along: that George Bush and Dick Cheney were not distinguished by unique bloodthirstiness, unique power-hunger, or unique Constitutional theories. They were certainly not distinguished by unique cunning, secrecy, or any Machiavellian instinct for maximizing the power of the prince. If anything made them unique among modern executives, it was obtuseness, a staggering lack of alacrity and acumen, and stumbling obviousness. They were stunningly unable to keep a secret, which made their bruited commitment to secrecy self-delusion and the press' commitment to describing the secretive nature of their administration mere self-flattery.
The ongoing attempts to suppress these supposedly damning photographs of torture at abu Ghraib and, perhaps, elsewhere around the globe are a sideshow in any event. The loudest proponents for their release engage in the same error as those who hope to quash them, namely in presuming that they will shock anyone into actions not yet taken, although in the case of Greenwald et al. it is the belief that they will shock the domestic polity into some act of principled opposition, while the administration conversely claims that they will shock the friends and neighbors of our torture victims to greater acts of violence. Neither seems particularly likely, as the friends and neighbors are already aware of what goes on in American prison camps, and the American public will under no circumstances extrapolate from photographic evidence, no matter how voluminous, that sexual torture is the policy of the American government and military.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I note without a hint of irony that there is as much evidence against Ling and Lee as there is against anyone in Guantanamo, and that they have in any case only been sentenced to an enhanced vocational education.
Without agreeing with its every conclusion, I endorse and commend to you Larison's thoughts on Obama's yappifying in Cairo, in particular his fine summary of a point I'd previously made here:
While I still think the Cairo speech failed, it failed because significant numbers of persuadable Muslims are not going to be won over by an appeal that urges a sort of satyagraha for the Palestinians at the same time that the bombardment of Lebanon and strikes in Gaza go unmentioned.Just so.
I am, in any event, more taken by Canadian reprobate David Frum, to whom Larison links, and whose, uh, pensées apparently incited Larison to the above-linked clarifications of his position. Frum is of course completely bonkers, a hack who churned out gloriously ridiculous, patriotic symphonies for Gee-Dub only to discover that the man was not an orchestra, but a kazoo. He has never forgiven George for being less than Augustus, but neither has that experience cured him of his manly longing for a maximum leader:
But the job to which [Obama] was elected was not that of impartial judge, but that of leader and champion of the American nation.While it is true that the Romans were able to continue hating kings with all their hearts even as they spent all those post-Augustan centuries extemporizing themselves the offices of the emperors, giving us a fine model for crafting our own "leader and champion," they never had the benefit of a Constitution quite like ours, which for all its faults is fairly plain in its description of the President as an administrator, not a god. I am long past the Gore Vidalian trick of appealing to the misty fields of yon Republic, peace be upon her, but at the same time I find this constant need of our ostensible ruling class to find an appropriate vehicle for their sycophancy to be deeply degrading and thoroughly embarrassing. Well, I have always had to turn my head at the awkward moments in movies as well.
Newt Gingrich is bitching about paganism, which suggests that someone's Bohemian Grove invitation got lost in the mail. Someone call Alex Jones. Hot tip: It was the grays. Where is Whitley Streiber when you need him. Molech, Molech, Molech!
Anyway, follow the links to the Virginia Pilot article wherein the Right Reverend Mike Huckabee retells the charming Biblical tale of Thomas Jefferson and the beanstalk.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Although it is a truth universally acknowledged that American Beauty is the worst movie ever made, one still, on occasion, runs across this sort of thing:
Perhaps the problem with this collaboration is that Sam Mendes' weaknesses as a director line up too perfectly with those of his screenwriters. Mendes is drawn to projects with a broad social scope, but his most memorable scenes are stand-alone lyrical moments, like the scene in American Beauty in which a plastic bag blows in the wind.Lyrical, perhaps, like an embarrassingly overwrought folk anthem, but certainly not stand-alone. American Beauty's titanic moral and aesthetic pretensions hinge on those moments of blowing bag, filmed in inexplicably poor digital video, although what precisely the bag represents in the overburdened metaphoric schema of Mendes' minimum opus is unclear. Ah, if only we took time from our cluttered, harried, precarious emotional lives to contemplate . . . a plastic fucking bag, borne on a parking-lot breeze. It helps to be stoned.
Aside from the auteur's own obvious confusion about what, if anything, the moment means, the plain problem emerges: a badly-filmed plastic bag blowing around in front of a wall is ugly, stupid, and unredemptive. Film, literature, and photography have long found startling beauty in the weeds growing through the cracks, so to speak, but this is emphatically not that. It is instead a scene of such utter banality that it finally does succeed as a metaphor, just not the metaphor its creator intended. It is a metaphor for a banal, exhausted, strip-mined movie, something so totally plain and commonplace that not even an honest-to-god stoner would take it for anything more significant.
I do, however, agree with Dana Stevens, that Dave Eggers blows.