Archive for the 'Lee's Page' Category

Implications of the Pletka Purge

Roland picks up an interesting piece by Jacob Heilbrunn for the National Interest, describing an ongoing purge of neoconservative intellectuals from the American Enterprise Institute, allegedly instigated by Vice President Danielle Pletka. So far Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht are gone, with Joshua Muravchik soon leaving. Others are said to be soon in following.

This could signal the reemergence of an old conflict over machtpolitik and just war doctrine, which used to exist in Republican security policy circles (ie, coercion-for-values vs. coercion-for-interests). If Pletka is indeed purging with intent, we may even expect AEI to shift its attitude toward the Middle East, Asia and Africa, given how much more amenable authoritarian regimes tend to be to interest pressure.

And the idealism of the AEI departed is considerable. Gerecht for instance wrote a fascinating but bizarre book I read in the late 1990s under the pen name Edward Shirley, in which he smuggled himself into Iran in the trunk of a car, essentially for the romance of it.


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Getting Drunk with Oilfield Trash

I was sitting in an airport lounge yesterday and got to chatting with a member of the self-described “oilfield trash” who was bound for Lagos, and then for an FPSO in the Gulf of Guinea. These are rough and ready guys who lead the sort of perilous commercial-adventurer lifestyle that one has the mistaken tendency to think went extinct with the age of empires. Thus it’s always an interesting conversation when you run into them…and invariably, an intoxicated one. To form, I was soon quite drunk.


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Oral Nonsex

I recall it being reported at the height of the sordid and tedious Monica Lewinsky scandal, that Bill Clinton personally felt he had not violated his wedding vows because in his view, receiving fellatio did not constitute adultery. Evidently Clinton had researched the topic at some length and found a kind of tortured reinforcement for his perspective in the Bible itself. At the time I thought it seemed a rather instructive example of the essential convenience of Clinton’s morality, as well as providing a further lesson that one can find divine justification for almost anything in scripture if they look hard enough.

But in 2003 it was revealed that the New Hampshire Supreme Court had grown to share Clinton’s view as a matter of law. And today, it seems the idea may have trickled into youth culture, as a survey of students at Montrose High School in Colorado revealed a majority of them didn’t consider oral sex to be sex at all. Which may of course provoke lament from those enrolled in the increasingly pessimistic venture of social conservatism, but causes even more distress for our shared language. That’s because if oral sex isn’t sex, what then should we call it? Fellatio, analingus and cunnilingus are cumbersome and particular words after all.

Having consulted the online thesaurus for advice, some social conservatives will perhaps be pleased to learn that in failing to find a suitable synonym it asks, “did you mean irreligious?” But this of course won’t do for the rest of us.

Taking a cue from the dictionary, we might call it “oral stimulation.” However, this may tend to unnecessarily confound the boundaries between a blowjob and an interesting conversation.

Therefore, I propose the use of “oral nonsex” for its utility in both complying with the children’s liberalized definition, and preserving the capricious nature of public morality for the prize of irony. Also, social conservatives disappointed by the purposes of redefinition itself, could be comforted with a gifted advantage over their adversarsies. After all, anyone contending that “oral sex is nonsex”, has a certain literal and yet ridiculous argument on their hands.

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Armies of the Obsolete

Light and infrared targeting devices for games. (Photo by Rob Stradling | website)

Al Qaeda technicians have apparently pioneered the use of electronics in old SEGA game cartridges for bomb detonators. A smaller precedent than the use of the airliner as suicide missile, but no less remarkable as a demonstration of the the transnational terrorist group’s acumen and artistry at the reuse of civilian technology for military purposes.

The West, having derived its military advantages from the possession of advanced technology for centuries, has been preoccupied with the security risks of technology transfer perhaps since the classical Greeks. But the emergence of massive civilian technology transfers from modern to relatively underdeveloped cultures, and the accelerating pace of Western technological advance, presents a new challenge that promises only to expand in risk and complexity.


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Against Galt

Synova wrote a little post that gets halfway to where I would come down on this perennial parlor game of  the John Galt general strike. Sy recognized that to be successful, such a revolt would realistically be a miserable experience for a society, resulting in bloodshed and economic ruin. But she does not depart from Rand in assuming that the eventual outcome would be desirable. I’d advise the ancient wisdom that if the means are clearly evil in a political project, one should become immediately skeptical of the alleged justice of the ends.

We should also be skeptical of the social assumption for Galt, that there is a definable and rigid division among men into a minority of Platonic creative guardians, and an empowered majority of proletarian oppressors and their craven political servants — and that these factions could have accurate self-recognition of their social roles. I would contend that anyone who thinks of the majority of the people as disposable abstracted parasites, under a constitutional order that explicitly derives its governing powers from the majority consent of the governed, is never selling you anything that’s going to arrive in a happy place.


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A Man Without a Season

Stéphane Dion, leader of the defeated Canadian Liberal Party, has rather ignominiously resigned his position today. Thereby he becomes the first Liberal Party leader since the 19th century to have never become Prime Minister of Canada. Given his dismal political skills, it might seem somewhat mystifying how he ever even became a national party leader. According to Dion himself, that’s not a minority opinion:

“In my consultations it became very clear, that in the door-to-door canvassing, my colleagues, my friends were told, ‘We don’t like your leader.’”
(National Post)

Unflattering as it is, the print does the statement a certain justice. Dion’s grasp of the English language often seemed rather more tenuous than it reveals.

For the international observer with no stake in the outcome of the election, it was often amusing to watch Dion’s struggles with common conversations. Something that doubtlessly would have been a little more troubling for Canadian voters with a very real stake in the results. For example, here’s an entertaining flashback from just prior to the election:

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Christopher Hitchens & Political Irresponsibility

interrogating Christopher Hitchens over his rather weakly supported endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

Hitch’s primary position in this chat is that Obama should be supported because he is “evolving” toward support of a more aggressive policy against international terrorism. Hardly the most persuasive pitch to say the least. Perhaps all those years of arguing for evolution through natural selection may have given him too much of a preference for the word itself.

His auxillery case is that McCain has become senile and temperamentally unfit for leadership. That’s something which is supposedly entirely and exclusively demonstrated by his “irresponsible” selection of Sarah Palin for vice president. Hardly more persuasive.

But in reading Hitchens’ recent writing on this matter, one tends to think that last point is what is actually driving the others (something Laura instantly zeroes in on). There is a certain reflexive personal hostility to Mrs. Palin in Hitchens’ writing, which is far closer to a definition of political irresponsiblity than McCain’s selection of her allegedly is.

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The Folly of Heroes

What a day for indignity. Just when I’d stopped shaking my head at the image of Paul Krugman accepting the Nobel Prize, I read two of my most cherished heroes offering rather embarrassing endorsements for bad things.

Christopher Hitchens, always aloof from the elderly McCain, has been pushed into a categorical and insulting rejection in Slate, animated mostly by a festering hatred of Sarah Palin that seems to grow more infected by the day. It’s not quite an Andrew Sullivan endoresement in that it lacks the enchanted fascination with Obama, but it’s still advocacy that makes you wince at the superficiality.

But worse is yet to come. Francis Fukuyama, in his most aggressive Obama endorsement yet, reboots history in The Times (adapted from the Newsweek piece) by denouncing the entire edifice of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution for capitalism and democracy as destructive and driven by uneducated American swing voters, who are stupid enough to endorse the philosophy he once championed as the endgame of civilzation itself.

Sad affairs. I suspect I shall have to become an antiquarian for these men’s opinions in order to remain a fan. Their current thinking seems only demonstrative of the strangely stupefying effect partisanship for Obama can have on otherwise able minds.

(ht: Ghost of a Flea)

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John McCain and Sarah Palin: Fairfax Gallery

Ron Hilton caught some great shots at the McCain/Palin rally in Fairfax, Virginia. He was gracious enough to let us post them here for you:

Sarah Palin Virginia rally


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Obama and the Fate of Criticism

Tattered Hope, Barack Obama posters
“Tattered Hope” by Nathan Rupert

Jason at postpolitical and I often get into testy email arguments about Barack Obama’s alleged “arrogance.” He is quite Greek in the sense that he thinks hubris is the fatal flaw at the heart of all political downfalls. I don’t entirely agree with that, nor with his contention that Obama represents an emblematic example of arrogant leadership. At least no more so than any other politician.

On this matter Jason is of course much more in line with majority opinion on the right than myself. Many conservative bloggers have argued for Obama’s arrogance for so long, it once was merely a kind of premonition.


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A Clear Blue Sky

WTC attack from space

Today is the 11th. The unwelcome anniversary. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard. I was awoken by a phone call on the day. “The country’s under attack!” the phone said. You wake up rather fast when that’s yelled into your ear early in the morning.

Shortly after that I was glued to my television set with a client on the phone yammering about God knows what. It hadn’t sunk into her yet what was happening. It was 9:59EST when the South Tower collapsed and she started screaming. I guess I hung up.


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Buying Tymoshenko

As the European Union commendably attempts to pull Ukraine closer into the safety of the West, Russia has reportedly earmarked $1 billion to fund suddenly pro-Kremlin Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, against heroically pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko in the 2010 presidential election.

One billion. If true, it seems Russia is ready to make an enormous commitment to the subversion of democracy in her neighbor…and it’s a frighteningly expensive investment to allow to fail.


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Ruining Ramadan in Egypt

My Camel in Giza

Ramadan always means new soap operas in the Arab world. I learned today it also means not even thinking about masturbation. A small thing to you perhaps, but in a repressive sexual society where the curves of the female figure are a matter of imaginative mystery, this is a serious lifestyle sacrifice for young men.

For me, Ramadan always means sharing a cigarette on a dirty floorboard outside Cairo. I’d offered my driver my last smoke in the midst of the holy month when he’d picked me up from a camel train. I’d held it out with an appeal that God was after all merciful. Tobacco is haram, forbidden, during the daylight hours of Ramadan. He’d stared at it for a long time. ‘Western devils and their temptations’ might have been in his thoughts. Finally he said “Yes. But not here.”

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Mixed Economies: Efficacy Without Moral Narrative

(photo: Ian Murchison | website)

The nationalization of Fannie & Freddie is often presented as a crisis of faith for the political right, due to its manifest incompatibility with the advertised belief in the “free market.” However, Sunder Katwala at NextLeft cleverly recognizes that it also presents a challenge to orthodoxy on the left, given that the insisted purpose of the nationalization isn’t government ownership, but to rescue businesses for a stable return to the private sector.


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A Shattered Idol in the Black Garden

Baku skyline
(photo: Rahim Alizadeh)

In Verdi’s opera Nabucco –the namesake of the western gas pipeline to Europe that holds the promise of partial independence from Russian energy reliance– the Jewish patriots take the daughter of the Babylonian king hostage, in order to compel his charity for Jerusalem. Today, after the Georgian invasion, Azerbaijan is a victim of a not dissimilar hostage-taking by example, and it’s just as perilous.

So much a captive to the gambit is Azerbaijan, that it had to be seen embarrassingly consulting with the Russian president, while the American vice president was left to rant to reporters in their captial. Cheney wanted a Nabucco pipeline endorsement from Azerbaijan, although he didn’t get the rejection portrayed in the press, he didn’t get approval either. He got the thing Dick hates most: strategic ambiguity.

Sympathy for the Azeri position here is mandatory. Their heart is with the United States, but their survival instinct forces them to withdraw into balance. An overt endorsement of a pipeline under American pressure would have potentially been against every instinct for a country that has been playing the game of pacifying powerful neighbors for far longer than the Americans have even been aware of the region. Any pipeline threaded through Turkey to Central Europe –which Iran has been refused access to, and is designed specifically in order to bypass Russia– has long promised the Azeris hostility from her two invidious and lethally powerful neighbors. (more…)

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Immunizing Sarah Palin

(photo: Tom LeGro)

Christopher Hitchens notices a pattern with anti-Palin rumors: their troubling tendency to turn out highly exaggerated or entirely fabricated, in a very short turn.

[A]s often as I have forwarded some alarming e-mail about her from a beavering comrade, I have afterward found myself having the sensation of putting my foot where the last stair ought to have been and wasn’t.

Hitch gets close to what’s happening there by recalling Walter Dean Burnham’s prescient 1960s prediction that Ronald Reagan would one day be president, based on Ron’s inability to exude hostility and thus not attract it. This is slightly misdirected. Reagan attracted as much hostility as any politician in the modern era from the political left, save perhaps Nixon. The trouble consisted in that the product of that hostility, criticism, didn’t seem to stick. Or even worse, seemed to possess a counterproductive property.


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Medvedev’s Caribbean Dream

A depressingly confused analogy from Medvedev on US aid to Georgia:

“I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes.”

We’d welcome that. It’s distressing that the Russian government hears only our resistance, without our reasons for it. And here again, there is a certain naiveté to Medvedev that always makes one think it might someday be possible to penetrate the reality distortion field of Putinism that imprisons his imagination.


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A Fine Figure of a Republican

The title is what Time Magazine labeled New Jersey’s Senator William Warren Barbour in 1940. The expression takes on a better curve for Sarah Palin, but it fits the occasion of a very partisan and frankly rather phenomenal speech tonight (transcript).

I suppose I’m surprised by the surprise in so many media reactions I’m seeing. Then again it’s a reminder that we on the pro-Palin political right have been following Sarah for over a year now, and this sort of thing is still very much an introduction for others.

Michael Crowley for instance calls Palin’s speech “alarmingly strong” and describes emails from liberal colleagues as “panicked.” I think that’s probably an ungenerous assessment. There is afterall a reason so many on the left have been trying to destroy her these past few days. You saw it this evening. Sarah does have a certain magic. Even when she fumbles in a long speech as she can, it tends to amplify her humanity. A characteristic interestingly shared with Barack Obama and almost totally alien to wizened veterans.

The amplitude of the attention and the stress of the experince is of course very new for Sarah, but you’d never know it from looking at her tonight. I realized I’d become a little emotionally invested in this candidate over the course of the week, with its grotesque slander and innuendo campaigns in the press. When the Republican party in assembly gave her a near endless welcoming ovation I kept saying “don’t cry, don’t cry,” which was slightly sexist for Sarah and slightly for my own sad benefit.

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Declinism as Exceptionalism

Francis Fukuyama argues in the Financial Times that the United States should have traded European missile defense and/or Kosovar independence in order to pacify a resurgent Russia. This strange proposal of strategic charity work for the Kremlin, is animated by his belief in an inevitable diminution of American moral authority by course of the Iraq War, and alleged American provocations of Russia which have in his view, inaugurated a decline of American global power.

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China and Provincial Secessionism

Extremely interesting post from Seth Weinberger on the opportunity for pulling China in the pro-Georgia camp, after the SCO failed to endorse Russian actions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Seth is as mystified as I am that the Russian foreign ministry could possibly have believed it would persuade China to endorse ethnic separatism and provincial secession. If there is such a thing as an enduring Chinese ideology from ancient times, it is the idea of struggle against separatist disorder and provincial independence. A fear that is only amplified to extraordinary degrees by the prospect of other great powers assisting in the dismemberment of traditional territorial unity.


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Black Signs at the Exhibition

The IMF has come through for Georgia in an enormous way, approving a $750 million credit line for the beleaguered republic. Beyond the much needed aid, it’s a powerful political reminder for Russia of the gargantuan economic advantage the West maintains.

But in that article notice the black banner in the feature photograph. It’s a promotional piece for the slick SOSGeorgia site, written in very literate English and produced by a Georgian IT firm. Have you noticed how much better the Georgians are at appealing to world opinion than the Russians? Granted, theirs is the far more sympathetic cause, but there is some native skill involved in the marketing that may have something to do with the country’s cultural, political and commercial orientation toward the West. I hate to speculate too deeply on it, but it’s possible that disconnection from the West simply leads to bad public relations strategy. At least when you need to persuade the West, as both the Russians and Georgians do.


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The Scent of the Scene

I don’t think I’ve bought a bottle of air-freshener in at least five years. With my parents unexpectedly in town, I felt the need to conceal cigar smoke and the general bachelorness of the joint. So I bought a bottle of “Febreze: Rocky Springs and Cool.” My house now smells like a nightclub. This stuff must come standard-issue with a liquor license. It’s the exact smell of a thousand dance clubs. So much so I had to fight the urge to put up track lighting and spin Paul Oakenfold.

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Minor Scandals Can Help

Apparently the teenage pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol has excited social conservatives even more about the candidate (for the when-it-counts demonstration of opposition to abortion). According to Grover Norquist, the soc-cons are “over the moon” in their support.

That’s interesting. It reminds me that historically a minor or unfair scandal that is politically survivable (as this one most certainly is), can often help a young candidate, as it compels his or her supporters to circle wagons and commit to advocacy, as well as forcing his or her opponents to commit to opposition and be proven either wrong or very petty and vindictive. It should also be said that it can have more obvious benefit in stripping the candidate of any illusions about comity in national politics.


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To be the King of Libya

When Muammar al-Gaddafi was a student at the Benghazi Academy in the 1960s, he swore to destroy monarchism in Libya. In September 1969, when his military coup finally overthrew the monarchy, Libya was proclaimed a republic by Gaddafi. Shortly thereafter, he sought to unify pan-Arab nationalism with Marxist theory, in an anti-monarchist hybrid ideology he called “Islamic socialism.” Well, until this weekend that is.

On Saturday, Gaddafi appeared in public wearing a regal crown and carrying a scepter, for the formal signing ceremony of a reconciliation pact with Italy. In tow was his son, Seif al Islam, designated as his dynastic successor to rule the republic or kingdom. All of this followed a meeting in which 200 tribal leaders conferred the title of “King of Kings” upon the once anti-monarchist revolutionary. How strangely the world turns.


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Welcoming the World to Wasilla

photo: Michael Levesque

It seems the international media is crawling all over the tiny town Sarah Palin began her political career in. Being fond of leaders for whom membership in the general public is a recent memory, I think it’s great to see.

Although, how strange it must be for the residents of Wasilla to suddenly have the Los Angeles Times looking for perspectives on leadership in the Mocha Moose Cafe, or The Guardian speculating on the size of their town, or Deutsche Welle trying to divine foreign policy perspectives from their suddenly famous neighbor’s vacation travel.

Has to be fun.

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Blog Graphics Retrospective

I was searching for an image on my backup drive today and came across a cache of header graphics I’d thrown together for posts over the years. The diversity of subjects was kind of interesting as a gallery. Here’s a few rather random selections:

The HIV Epidemic:
The HIV Epidemic


Slobodan Milosevic:
slobodan milosevic

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An Unacceptable Acceptance

Well, here is an embarrassing prospect. It seems the Republican leadership may boycott the Republican convention in Minnesota, for fear of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

The top elected Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was already boycotting. But now we learn that President Bush is said to be unlikely to attend, whilst Senator McCain may deliver his acceptance speech via satellite.

One would hope someone could prevail on both the president and the senator that this would represent egregious folly after a flawless, unifying Democratic convention, with its leadership in attendance. Evidently that’s something of a fortuitous luxury when the wind blows these days.

It should be plain that only an appearance of fear and disarray could possibly be conveyed by the abstention of Arnold, Bush and McCain from their own convention. The Republicans wouldn’t have hesitated to level such charges, had such a similarly ridiculous plan been proposed by the Democrats for Denver.

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Sarah Palin – Kuwait Gallery

Here at ASHC we get an enormous amount of traffic from people looking for Sarah Palin photographs. My friend Jason over on postpolitical says he’s experiencing the same phenomenon on his blog, and we took to calling it the hunt for “Palinporn.” Toward that, my favorite keyword from this hidden web image search also comes from Jas: “A MILF we can believe in.”

Of particular interest I’ve found, are those lovely pictures of casual Sarah in the Kuwati desert visiting Alaskan National Guard troops. So here is a gallery of all the pictures we have of that, culled from public-domain government websites, some of which appear to be no-longer publicly accessible.

Sarah Palin in Kuwait, army, Alaska National Guard, airfield, Blackhawk helicopters


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War of Conquest

A couple of days into Russian-declared, universally unrecognized independence (excluding Hamas and Belarus), South Ossetian officials have expressed their desire to be annexed by Russia. The brave new defenders of Russian imperialism on the American Left have thus suddenly found their arguments for fake Ossetian self-determination on Georgian soil dealt a sudden blow.

Apologizing for Russian foreign policy ventures is historically always a tricky business. The sensibility of which is perhaps now restricted to the brief thaw of Yeltsin’s dream of a benign commonwealth of trade and friendship. A dream now sustaining an excruciatingly painful death on the world stage.

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The Rise of the Governess

Way back in February 2007, when I was still writing for postpolitical, an obscure little blog popped up pitching Sarah Palin for the Vice Presidency. At the time few were that familiar with Sarah’s record or wise enough to predict its national electoral implications. Yet despite the novelty of the idea, I thought then and since that it was an inspired choice. I’ve since journeyed further toward that prescient blog’s recommendation and concluded it was the only choice. Thus it’s fun to finally see Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President reveling justifiably in the moment.


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Eyewitness at Ohio Airfield Possibly Identifies Palin

Ah, the fever of speculation. This is an interesting report from a local paper in Ohio, which found an eyewitness to the alleged Palin plane:

According to Rich Bevis of B&B Aero, the fixed-based operator at Hook Field, the jet, a Gulfstream IV which has the flight range to fly from Alaska to Europe, landed at about 10:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28.

Bevis said the woman “was a real close match to Palin” and added that the flight crew that’s based in the Seattle area was told to fly to Anchorage to pick up their party and fly to Middletown.

Bevis said the jet had a woman, two teenagers and two men on board and that a couple of white vans met the plane, gathered their gear and took the party to an undisclosed location

And yes, Palin has two teenage daughters (Bristol & Willow).

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Rumors from the Necrocracy

Kim Jong Il as Colonel Sanders by Jonathan Barnbrook (photo: acb | The Null Device)

North Korea is already a formal necrocracy (government by the dead), given that Kim Il-sung –who has been dead since 1994– remains the titular head of state there. But according to Waseda University professor Toshimitsu Shigemura in Japan, Kim’s son and successor in power Kim Jong Il has been dead himself since 2003. Shigemura has a number of family contacts which might validate a rumor which has been circulating since a period of peculiar diplomatic activity which attended Kim the Younger’s alleged death.

According to Shigemura, the role of leader is being filled by a number of body-doubles in an elaborate international charade which would seem unlikely in any other country. However, such a ruse seems completely plausible in the hermit kingdom, in which even more ludicrous fantasies are routinely employed to justify government policy and loyalty (for instance the state maintains that the birds of the country sang praise in Korean, when Kim Jong Il was born).

Evidently Japanese intelligence was concerned enough that former Prime Minister Koizumi had held a summit with a body double in 2004, that they considered voice-printing Kim and the suspected double. Only the prospect of political embarrassment for Koizumi made them hold off. With Koizumi out of office, I wouldn’t mind them doing as much now to clarify the issue.

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Ethnostatism Fails

The movement of “ethnic studies” curricula from colleges to public schools, is something that troubles many of us who have experienced such classes in modern times. Ethnic studies programs are often called “multiculturalist,” but since they tend to be monoethnic and extremely political rather than cultural, I prefer the term “ethnostatism.”

In defense of the migration, the claim is often made that improving student self-esteem by submerging them in intensely ideological and highly sectarian programs, benefits overall student academic performance. For opponents the claim is a non sequitur, similar to excusing the political dimension of education in a fascist country, by claiming the students there had good math scores. Ideological indoctrination isn’t validated as worthwhile, even if it did help students do trigonometry somehow.


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The Vandalism of Russian Occupation

Ceasefire be damned,* the Russian army reportedly destroyed the Metekhi-Grakali railway bridge. The bridge was used by Georgian refugees fleeing the mayhem in the Russian occupied zones given that the highway is controlled by the Russian army, which has naturally acquired a rapacious reputation among Georgians. Thus it could expand the humanitarian crisis in Western and Central Georgia.

Oddly, the Russian military has denied it destroyed the bridge, which is perhaps further evidence of factional schizophrenia in Russian policy, given that the bridge is in fact destroyed (photo).

In reaction to this and continued Russian occupation of Georgia, Secretary Rice said that the Russians are “perhaps” just liars. That’s news to no one at this point, but there’s reason to assume command-and-control is fantastically weak within the occupation army (much less within the state).

There’s also an energy oligarch-faction corruption rationale for a Russian action on the bridge, as it was the conduit for Azeri oil export which has now had to cease.

* Edit: Attack was coordinated to occur a couple of hours before Medvedev signed the agreement.

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Russian Imperialism and the Election

(photo: Chris Dunn)

John Bolton argues that the future of Russian imperialism in Eurasia rides on the outcome of the US presidential election. Unsurprisingly, he pitches McCain: “First reactions, before the campaigns’ pollsters and consultants get involved are always the best indicators…McCain at once grasped the larger, geostrategic significance of Russia’s attack.”

That’s evidently a sentiment shared by the American electorate.


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NATO Protection only for Perfection?

Alex Harrowell reminds us that NATO wasn’t always so timorous about conflict risk exposure:

[I]f we assume that Georgia, and specifically Mikhail Saakashvili’s version of it, wasn’t sufficiently responsible (adult, civilised, possibly even white?) to play, how do we explain that Germany got to join in 1955, when a whole great chunk of it was in the other side’s hands? Or Turkey and Greece, who despite being profoundly NATO-integrated regularly use their NATO-standard air defence infrastructure to play cowboys and Indians over the Aegean? One of the reasons for extending membership of NATO, and the EU, has been to reach out first; that it’s better to offer membership, and hope the requirements shape some country’s thinking, than to wait forever for perfection. If this was good enough for Germany, surely it can be good enough for Georgia.
(Fistful of Euros)

A fine and troubling point. If the division of Germany between 1945 and 1955 wasn’t an unresolved ideological version of a “frozen conflict” at perpetual flashpoint risk, then do tell me what it was.

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A Unity of Black Hearts

Russian Major General Vyacheslav Nikolaevich Borisov, in command of occupied Gori, has finally received orders to do something about the Russian allied irregulars who are rampaging in Georgia committing atrocities:

“Ossetians are killing poor Georgians, this is a problem and we are trying to deal with it”. He said his troops had been ordered to stop the abuse and arrest those responsible. Most of the atrocities occurred in Georgian enclaves in separatist South Ossetia and villages in Georgia proper outside Gori.
(The Independent)

One might hope. The atrocities that are beginning to come to light reportedly include systematic ethnic murder, the rape of children, the incineration of the elderly and other egregious crimes, evocative of the wars for Yugoslavia.

Thomas de Waal, Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting tells Tony Halpin that the Russian army’s attitude toward such acts has thusfar been largely acquiescent:

“The Russian Army can’t be bothered to bring the paramilitaries under control. Its attitude is ‘let them have their revenge’”
(The Times)

The long puzzling capacity of the Russian government to excuse and ignore identically inhuman conduct by Slobodan Miloševic’s criminal army, is perhaps no longer so mysterious.

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Georgian Wine Solidarity and Other Things

Estonians and Latvians are apparently buying up all available Georgian wine in a demonstration of national solidarity with the beleaguered republic. Particularly popular is the consumer label Old Tbilisi (order here).

Sandra Saakashvili, First Lady of Georgia, is weathering the storm with her children in Ukraine, as the guest of Kateryna Yushchenko. Foreign Notes wonders what effect the Georgian experience at the hands of Russia is having on public attitudes toward NATO membership there. Public sentiment was opposed to Ukrainian entrance prior to the war. An essential question for a number of countries really.

Why wait on the West BTW, why not establish an Eastern European NATO? Get everyone on board, you might even have a more formidable fighting force against Russia.

Meanwhile, Estonians have arrived to put their lives on the line in Georgia. Their outfits will hopefully stand out in identifying them as humanitarian workers at distance. Perhaps it will dissuade a Russian (or worse, separatist) sniper.

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Korski’s Horse Race of Horror & Overstaying Your Invasion

(photo: Vladimer Shioshvili)

Daniel Korski very prematurely calls winners and losers in the Russo-Georgian War. Too much to be decided yet for this to be a sensible exercise…and there is that small matter that Russian armor is now only thirty miles from the capital and appears to be advancing at last report. But it is always tempting enough to read conjectural outcomes. Among the projected Korski winners: Dmitry Medvedev, Donald Franciszek Tusk, John McCain, Nicolas Sarkozy. The losers: Mikheil Shaakashvili, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, the Georgian people.

On less reflective matters, Blake Hounshell is of course correct that Russia is in danger of abusing its advantages for a bridge too far, he’s only a bit late in the assessment…to such an extent, that overpressing the advantage might be purposeful at this point. Russia already dramatically overplayed its political hand the moment it started redefining its mission beyond the borders of South Ossetia, repeatedly contradicting itself on war aims and advancing as an occupation force on Georgia proper. I’d suggest that (relevant) international opinion is fairly unanimous on this matter and it’s only hardening by the hour.


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Estonia: Get Georgia and Ukraine in NATO Now

Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves says the West must act fast:

“They should take Ukraine immediately into NATO, and what is left of Georgia,” he told Reuters by telephone, adding that a decision this year not to give the two countries a road map to membership had persuaded Russia it had free hand in the region.

If only it could be done, especially for Ukraine. The crisis there is building and more strategically vital, as Victor Yushchenko has followed through on the threat to restrict Russia’s use of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

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Deny, Deny, Legitimize.

It seems Russia is increasingly leaning toward dismembering the Republic of Georgia, something previously denied, now legitimized. The predominant characteristic of Russian policy in Georgia up to this point actually.

In the same vein, Russia is finally admitting to being in Poti and low an behold, it turns out the presence was legitimate all along, even when it wasn’t happening:

Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of Russia’s general staff, told a news conference it was legitimate for Russian peacekeepers to be in the Georgian port town of Poti for intelligence operations.

The General Staff had previously denied Russian troops were in Poti.

How analysts continue to look at Russian behavior in Georgia and see cunning plans within plans is something of a mystery to me. This is a schizophrenic, factionally riven leadership that has overextended itself, and can’t decide what it wants to do in Georgia from one day to the next.

I said as much to a friend of mine yesterday (who is inclined to believe in this notion that all events involving Russia are the result of clever preplanned strategy by the Kremlin). Amusingly he said that was just what they wanted us to think and I was falling into their trap. It was all a plan you see, to look uncertain, incompetently lying, inconsistent and confused and thereby keep Georgia unstable. Sigh.

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Photos from the Front

89 amateur snapshots from the war in Georgia. Some are rather gruesome, so avoid this link if you’ve a weak stomach. It was good to see some US munitions and equipment in Georgian hands too.

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War Crimes Live

Georgian television reporter Tamara Urushadze gets shot by a Russian sniper as she delivered a live report near Gori. Tough girl, she finishes the report without a tear.

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Russia as Rogue

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says “the world can forget about” Georgia’s territorial integrity. Quite a remarkable statement from the former permanent representative to the United Nations. As a statement of purpose or justification in his country’s war, it is of course an explicit violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter.

Furthermore, Lavrov’s comments came at a meeting with separatist leaders from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, leading some to believe it’s increasingly likely that Russia will annex these regions. This would make the conflict officially an illegal war for the purpose of territorial conquest.

It would also represent a moment to begin considering a longer term international plan for the United States of disengagement from Russia and/or a more general alignment against her interests. Perhaps Cuba would recognize a falsely claimed Russian right to rule the territory it has conquered, but the world will not. If Russia attempts to do so, the country would have clearly self-identified as a definitional rogue state.

Despite Lavrov’s wishes, the world cannot “forget” Georgia’s territorial integrity and has not. Only Russia has done that, in violation of the mandate it is pledged to defend by membership in the United Nations. Principles it ironically appealed to very vigorously (and still does) in the service of Serbian irridentism.

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Going to Tbilisi?

Russian units are on the move again in Georgian territory, apparently in violation of the truce agreement. One Russian soldier in a large convoy shouted an ominous flirtation to a press photographer outside Gori, hopefully in jest or lust:

“Come with us, beauty, we’re going to Tbilisi.”

A week in a Caucasian foxhole will make any soldier promise a pretty girl the world, but it’s certainly likely elements of the Russian military leadership wouldn’t mind actualizing his advance.


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Saakashvili has a Future

Last night Joshua argued that Saakashvili, having quite obviously failed to recapture his renegade territories, is certain to be finished one way or the other. Either overthrown by the Russian army, or by the Georgian people at the ballot box. This is a bit of an analyst consensus as you look around the web. Not so fast, says me.

It should be said that the mere fact of the Russian demand to remove him has supplied a method for his political redemption — which is why it was so important for the United States to leak the Russian foreign minister’s views on this. If Russia fails to bring him down, he can easily emerge as a defiant patriot who defeated the one Russian objective they most desired, through force of personal will.

The trouble with pressing your advantages and changing your objectives to increasingly ambitious goals, is if you get to a point where you cannot (or will not) actualize the final measure, you can create the circumstances for a political defeat. With the world aware that the Russian goal is to remove Saakashvili, if they don’t do it now, that can (and probably will) rescue him as a political leader.

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Gori Falls

It’s looking increasingly as if the alarmists were right and Russia intends to drop all pretense. Georgian troops are pulling back to Mtskheta to defend the approach to the capital, if Russia pushes to conquer and subjugate the entire country.

To call this country an outright menace to democracy and world peace, is to speak too kindly of it.

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The Invasion of Western Georgia

Russia has invaded Western Georgia (proper) and captured Senaki, far from Abkhazia. It’s being billed by a Russian official as a preventive move against Georgian troop concentration. This being yet another new rationale invented on the fly to justify further incursion and murder. Remember when this was about South Ossetia peacekeeping?

For trivia, the military base at Senaki was where the 1998 mutiny against Eduard Shevardnadze was organized. Yesterday Wu Wei was amusingly speculating that he’d be dusted off by the Kremlin as Georgia’s eventual pro-Moscow puppet.

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So Ends the Kouchner Adventure

Russia wants Saakashvili gone and then categorically rejects the French ceasefire agreement Saakashvili signed. Even while the increasingly uncomfortable Medvedev says they’re all but finished with military operations. The humiliating exposure of Medvedev’s “presidency” is one of the more comical aspects of this episode.

Putin, the master of I’m-not-you-are school of geopolitical disputation, accuses the US of a “Cold War mentality.” I would agree, of course it does tend to happen when you start acting like the Soviet Union.

He’s also rather upset that the United States flew the Georgian contingent home from Iraq. Quite literally, the absolute least we could do. One gets the feeling that an IBM sales office in Tbilisi would constitute unwarranted American influence in Georgia for Putin.

And…Estonia “the other plucky”, speaks:

‘Russia’s military strikes in Georgia toll a knell for many of Europe’s hopes, such as the possibility of sharing common fundamental values with Russia,’ Toomas Sildam said Ilves told the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Sunday.

Enough to turn you green.

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Arms for Georgia

Evidently immune to the historical irony, Israel halted arms shipments to Georgia months ago due to fears of a Russian attack. As an IDF veteran interprets that:

“When we found ourselves in a similar situation, we expected the world to act differently.”

And the world did act differently, or at least the United States…and at far greater political risk and economic consequence than Israel would sustain now.

Armaments are a problem for Georgia. She must have a method in ample supply to neutralize Russian armor.


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