Monday, January 5, 2009
05 Jan 2009 09:11 pm
The legs of the body of one of three Palestinian siblings from the Al-samoni family, killed by an Israeli tank shell, are seen in the mortuary of Al-Shifa hospital, on January 5, 2009 in Gaza City. Seven members from the Al-samoni family were killed including the mother, three children and a baby, when an Israeli shell struck their house south of Gaza city. By Abid Katib/Getty.
05 Jan 2009 08:32 pm
A reader writes:
05 Jan 2009 08:25 pm
"I always liked Panetta. He served in the Army and is openly proud of it. He seems to be a good lawyer (oxymoronic though it may seem). He's a good manager. And he's going to watch Obama's back at a place that's full of stilettos and a track record for attempted presidential assassination second to none. But Italians know all about political assassination; you may remember Julius Caesar. Or Aldo Moro. The self-proclaimed cognoscenti will deride his lack of "spycraft," and he's never worked in the intel bureaucracy or, for that matter, in foreign policy or national security. But he's been chief of staff, which involved all that stuff. I think it's a smart move," - Michael Ledeen, NRO.
Joe Klein comments here. Others, like Goldberg and York, peddle the line that no one who has operated in the "real world" of intelligence could agree with Obama's attempt to move the US past the torture era. No: a huge majority of intelligence professionals agree with Obama on effective interrogation. But after eight years of a CIA tainted with torture and presidentially-sanctioned lawlessness, drawing a bright line under the recent past is critical.
That's why the Panetta pick is inspired. The more I think about it, the more that seems true. This is change we can believe in. And in this necessarily secret area, public trust is vital. For the first time in a long dark patch, we will regain it.
05 Jan 2009 07:15 pm
05 Jan 2009 07:13 pm
In discussing this with a colleague, and thinking how reasonable it is for Israel to expect that its own citizens should have exactly the same freedom from fear and terror as those in other Western countries, I could not help but recall the great Onion headline from their classic book, "Our Dumb Century." It's from 1948:
05 Jan 2009 06:37 pm
Christian Califano of France rests during the third motorcycle stage of the 2009 Dakar Rally between Puerto Madryn and Jacobacci, in Argentina, on January 5, 2009. Marc Coma of Spain won the stage and keeps the lead of the race. By Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty.
05 Jan 2009 06:14 pm
Marc Lynch's take on Gaza:
05 Jan 2009 05:25 pm
Ross catches up on Christmas blogging.
05 Jan 2009 05:20 pm
A reader writes:
05 Jan 2009 05:19 pm
Yaacov Lozowick tries to answer the question:
A mite over-optimistic, if you ask me. But who can say?
05 Jan 2009 04:56 pm
A reader writes:
05 Jan 2009 04:20 pm
A mashup of Billboard's top 25 songs from 2008:
05 Jan 2009 04:07 pm
Petra Marquardt-Bigman notes what the term means for Jihadists:
05 Jan 2009 04:00 pm
Way, way better than Brennan, and, significantly, detached from the torture regime and its apparatus in a way that anyone involved in the CIA in the last eight years would not be. As my colleague Marc Ambinder just said, the man who has had every job in Washington now has the most thankless task in Washington. But this appointment and Johnsen's are extremely encouraging for the restoration of Constitutional order after the Bush-Cheney protectorate. Then this:
05 Jan 2009 03:49 pm
"Here is a partial answer to my own question of how should we behave, directed especially to the next president and members of his or her administration but also to all of use who will be relieved by the change: We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure," - Dawn Johnsen, the new head of OLC.
05 Jan 2009 03:20 pm
It looks as cool as this.
05 Jan 2009 03:07 pm
05 Jan 2009 02:45 pm
More fat cars by artist Erwin Wurm here.
05 Jan 2009 02:38 pm
A promising start at Obama's OLC. Imagine: a presidency concerned to uphold the rule of law. Only a couple of weeks left of the protectorate.
05 Jan 2009 02:25 pm
Marc Lynch analyzes Maliki's trip to Iran:
05 Jan 2009 02:22 pm
Bob Kaplan is unillusioned about the huge risks involved but says we have no choice but to go along and hope for total destruction of Hamas as leverage for future negotiations with Iran. I have to say that the logic of his broader argument strikes me as a good one for containment, not aggression. But there are many factors in play - elections in Israel, Iraq and Iran soon - that will doubtless force all of us to keep re-thinking.
05 Jan 2009 02:11 pm
05 Jan 2009 02:07 pm
A strategy to make all of New England a marriage-equality zone by 2012.
05 Jan 2009 01:50 pm
In defense of Somalia's pirates.
05 Jan 2009 01:38 pm
05 Jan 2009 01:33 pm
"Some people are p-ssed off at [Americans for Tax Reform President] Grover [Norquist]. Some people are p-ssed off at the Conservative Steering Committee. Some people are p-ssed off at [current RNC chair] Mike Duncan. Some people are p-ssed off at social conservatives. The social conservatives are p-ssed at leaders in Congress. Everyone is basically p-ssed," - a Republican consultant who has worked with the RNC on the leadership contest.
05 Jan 2009 01:23 pm
From the front page of the Boston Globe:
And a display ad on the NYT front page.
05 Jan 2009 01:22 pm
Appleyard reports on the recession's silver lining:
05 Jan 2009 01:02 pm
My preliminary take from this morning is here.
05 Jan 2009 12:58 pm
"Dominic Holden, news reporter at The Stranger, regrets that in an attempt to spell out the word “brassiere” in a Slog post, he mistakenly spelled it “brazier,” which actually means “barbecue.” He further regrets that upon trying to amend his error, he spelled it “brassier,” which, if anything, means “more brassy.” Holden recognizes that, as a homosexual, he should avoid subjects related to women’s undergarments." - The Stranger.
05 Jan 2009 12:37 pm
That was what Jett Travolta was dealing with, unmedicated, according to the Travolta lawyers. One anti-seizure drug had been used in the past but was stopped because of ineffectiveness and side-effects. No other treatments are cited.
05 Jan 2009 12:28 pm
Portland, Oregon, 3.06 pm.
05 Jan 2009 12:14 pm
Larison makes his case against marriage equality:
"My Big Fat Straight Wedding" argues the opposite. I think allowing gay couples to marry does strengthen the institution, because it ensures that everyone in a family has access to the same civil rites and rights, and so the heterosexual marriages are as affirmed as effectively as the gay ones. (It is not my experience that the straight siblings and families of gay people feel their marriages affirmed by excluding some of their own.) By removing the incentive for gay people to enter into false straight marriages, which often end in divorce or collapse, wrecked childhoods and betrayed spouses, heterosexual marriage is also strengthened. And the practical alternative to marriage equality - civil unions for straights and gays - presents a marriage-lite option for everyone that clearly does threaten traditional marriage in a way that gay marriage never could.
Serious conservatives understand that these are the three practical options on modern America: including everyone in civil marriage; creating a two-tiered system of civil marriage and then lesser civil unions for straights and gays; or simply resisting any change and using the government and law to perpetuate the stigmatization of homosexuality. If those three are the choices, my view is that the first is easily the most authentically conservative. I suspect that the impact on those states that now allow such inclusion will prove it in due course.
05 Jan 2009 11:58 am
05 Jan 2009 11:56 am
A reader writes:
05 Jan 2009 11:44 am
Kinsley also made the case recently. I've long been on board.
05 Jan 2009 11:25 am
This is instructive:
From 2-1 to 100-1 in six years is a big gain in killing efficiency. Just so long as the Israelis never expect any actual relationship with any actual Gazans, it works after a fashion. But does it deny Hamas a psychological victory?
05 Jan 2009 11:16 am
Andy Warhol really was ahead of his time, wasn't he?
Boing Boing asks the necessary:
05 Jan 2009 10:51 am
Yglesias worries about "catastrophic success in Gaza":
05 Jan 2009 10:25 am
Conor goes out on a limb and makes one:
I have a little less hope for Palestinian society than I do for Iraq in the foreseeable future. But I assume there is some distinction between a Hamas mafia boss and the average Gazan. Of course, that distinction has largely been erased - for the time being - by Israel's aggression. And the blockade and destitution within Gaza - and its emergence as an isolated, battered terrorist-run township - may also have elided the distinction further. But I don't believe the distinction has never existed or cannot exist. Larison, meanwhile, contrasts the Georgia and Gaza conflicts:
05 Jan 2009 09:36 am
Noah Pollak asked me to provide some framework for a discussion of proportionality and just war theory with respect to the Israeli attack on Gaza. In re-reading my Catechism and brushing up on just war theory, I am struck first of all by how alien the context seems for the current war. The asymmetric nature of the threat and the emergence of failed states run by mafioso religious fanatics makes everything more complicated. You could argue that this makes just war theory more important, rather than less, since we are in danger of having the rules of war dictated by barbarians. Or you could argue, along with the neocons, that Jihadist barbarism demands a response in kind. I favor the first view. And it is nonetheless fair to say, I think, that Israel's actions in Gaza fail every traditional just war justification.
In the history of the West, the laws of war are clear enough. You do not launch a just war if it leads to greater evils than the status quo ante. There must be a reasonable proportion between means and ends. Both sides should be able to acknowledge common human values, even as they fight over territory or ideology. And yet Hamas has never done this; has no capacity for abiding by even minimal moral norms, believes it has a moral responsibility to eradicate the Jewish state, and certainly finds the universalist and liberal moral law embedded in Western and largely Christian culture meaningless outside Islamic hegemony. Israel, for its part, is on a different moral plane than Hamas. Its internal critics write op-eds; they are not taken out and shot. But, in the face of what is, essentially, a 60 year war against enemies on all sides and within, it has long since disappeared down the self-reflecting mirrors of survivalist logic and existential panic. It looks to me like a society in danger of losing its sense of restraint to the logic of violence. It is lashing out because it feels it can do no other and senses its long-term survival at stake. Even if violence does not solve the problem and may make it worse, war can seem a better option now than disappearing passively in the next couple of decades. The stunning near-unanimity of Israelis behind the Gaza attack is proof of this. In Israel, it seems, it is always America in 2002.
But the point of just war theory is to give us a vantage point outside any particular contingency. Even though I may provoke a Jewish-Catholic fight here, the Catholic Catechism has as useful and concise a statement of the right of self-defense as anyone:
Let's take each condition separately.
Taking the vantage point of the conflict from May 2007 on, Hamas has fired several thousand Qassam rockets with such imprecision that no distinction between civilian and military targets is meaningful (which is to say they were all war crimes). Until the recent conflict, Israel suffered 11 military deaths, 131 wounded, 8 civilian deaths and 83 wounded, with more than a hundred treated for shock. In a country of several million, these deaths and injuries were sustained within a relatively small and limited geographical area. (Gazans, in the same conflict, with a much smaller population and far more geographically concentrated, suffered 409 military deaths, 436 injured, and 92 civilian deaths - before the current outbreak even started.) The idea that the indefensible damage Hamas has inflicted on Israel makes an "all-out war" on all of Hamas and Gaza morally necessary in Charles Krauthammer's typically nuanced view, is obviously a non-starter. But one recalls that Krauthammer also believes in the moral imperative of torture.
At some level, this is meaningless with Hamas. It exists in order to wage total war on Israel. But it is also unclear if the brutal economic embargo on Gaza - imposed by Egypt, Israel and the West for more than a year - was not actually already weakening Hamas from within, and rendering it less popular. It's certainly a plausible reading of recent history. And under just war theory, any possibility that the goal of restraining Hamas or undermining it could be achieved by non-military means renders the current Israeli counter-attack illicit.
We will see. Perhaps the "don't fuck with the Jews" message will finally be heard and a profound shift will occur in the hearts and minds of Gazans. But the Middle East's history of the past two decades (and its culture of eternal revenge) is not exactly encouraging in this regard.
05 Jan 2009 09:26 am
The reason Steve Jobs says he's been losing weight.
05 Jan 2009 09:25 am
On cue as a Democrat becomes president, John Bolton and war criminal John Yoo rediscover their conservatism.
05 Jan 2009 09:02 am
Juan Cole has a long historical post on the origins of the Gaza conflict:
05 Jan 2009 08:26 am
Michael Goldfarb channels John Yoo:
Goldfarb favors a near-dictatorial presidency with the power to detain and torture. John Yoo was even prepared to countenance crushing the testicles of the children of terror suspects as inherent in the constitutional powers of the American executive. Yoo is a fellow at AEI, and Goldfarb was spokesman for McCain. This is neoconservatism, guys.
05 Jan 2009 08:24 am
Over the break, Noah Millman had a long, insidery post on ratings agencies and the financial downturn. It's worth a read.
05 Jan 2009 08:08 am
A reflection on what total war does to civilized people:
05 Jan 2009 07:19 am
Manzi explains the danger of government funded pharmaceutical research:
05 Jan 2009 12:41 am
Sunday, January 4, 2009
04 Jan 2009 10:04 pm
Today's atrocity claimed at least 40 lives, mainly Shiite pilgrims. Over 24 tribal leaders were massacred by one of their own in a suicide bomb attack Friday. On December 27, a car bomb killed 24. So in the last week or so, close to a hundred people have been murdered by terrorists in Iraq, with hundreds more wounded. This is occurring even with 130,000 US troops still in the country. And this, remember, is "victory."
People keep asking me for predictions for 2009. Here's one: we will either leave Iraq in a bloodbath or we will never leave Iraq.