There’s nothing I love more than letting overcovered controversies simply slide through the crosshairs of this blog. I like to imagine some historian from 500 years in the future reading through all this and appreciating how little I focused on the small stuff. But the Ukraine invasion is not a small thing, and given the general tenor of the commentary I feel I have no choice but to respond (much like Putin, amiright?).
I really do not understand why many in the media are running with variations the “Putin’s gone nuts” line (and I do consider comparing him to Hitler to be a variation on that). He hasn’t gone nuts. Nothing he’s done is insane. The things he’s saying might be insane but talk is cheap, who cares. In fact, while I disapprove of his actions, there is indeed some logic to them (though they are obviously overly emotional and clearly panicked). Consider these:
- Russia’s attachment to Crimea. They’ve fought a number of wars over it, not just The Crimean War, but also another mini-Crimean War in the 1870s, and even to some extent WWI. It was not lost on some Russian politicians during the WWI era (Milyukov, namely) that gaining Crimea and Constantinople was a plausible outcome in the event of Allied success and a good reason to keep on fighting. The “Russian fixation on warm-water ports” is one of those surface-level truisms that everyone’s heard but it’s really true, and reflected in all sorts of interesting ways (Russia keeping the port city of Kaliningrad after the Soviet Union split-up, even though several countries are between it and Russia). The Crimea also happens to be the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet. Russia’s attachment to Crimea is historical, psychological, religious, and also practical. They’ve done a lot to acquire it over the years and they’re fanatical about keeping it.
- Russia sees Crimea as, essentially, part of Russia, and Crimeans generally see themselves as essentially Russian. Which it arguably is (and they are): the head of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (in this case Krushchev) notably transferred Crimea to the Ukrainian Republic as a “present,” whether this was as an apology for the mass starvation of the Stalin era or because Krushchev was Ukrainian himself, or both, who knows. But obviously he figured the USSR would exist as a single unit indefinitely, so this was merely a gesture and a minor administrative change. Heh. It became part of a new, independent Ukraine after the USSR collapsed, as a de jure reality. Putin is notoriously bitter about how the dissolution of the USSR went down, after all.
- The most recent Ukranian Revolution (lest we forget) dumped a solid Russian ally in a country with significant Russian interests, and could well lead to a Yulia Tymoschenko presidency. Given that Tymoschenko has refashioned herself as something of a Ukrainian nationalist and foe of Russia you can see the heartburn this might cause. You know, over the Crimea question.
I oppose the violation of sovereign borders (and as an early Iraq War opponent I might have some credibility here), but it’s not hard to see the logic here. Putin has acted not to occupy all of Ukraine, or even all the Russian-leaning East. He moved only to take Crimea, Russia’s biggest interest in the country. Showing a strong sense of priorities and (for the moment anyway) clear restraint in pursuit of objectives aren’t usually traits we associate with madmen, are they? Wrong men perhaps, even maybe panicked men, but not madmen. Putin was deeply afraid of losing one of his most important military and cultural assets and panicked. It’s an overreaction but not divorced from reality.
What’s more, the ending of this seems obvious. Putin is not going to remove his troops and nobody can make him. The Crimea as part of Ukraine is over, de jure as it may always have been. So long as Putin takes no further aggressive action (and indeed I suspect he will not, given that nobody believes his army capable of holding Eastern Ukraine and he’s gotten what he wanted most), it seems like a pretty easy problem to solve: plebiscites in Ukrainian areas with large amounts of Russians allowing them to choose which nation to belong to, which would undoubtedly lead to Crimea and large tracts of Eastern Ukraine becoming part of Russia and leaving behind a smaller but more coherent Ukraine that would be free to orient itself more toward Europe if it liked (and a Russia that gains some territory, formalizes what was previously a de facto arrangement and consolidates its major interests). This would be win-win for the most part, and perhaps overdue. You can probably chalk this all up to the haphazard way in which the USSR fell, and the breakup fell along the old quasi-national borders that didn’t reflect how actual communities were distributed. I am not at all a fan of Vladimir Putin, and do not approve of military occupation, but the issues here are deep and historic, and the question more complicated than, “Is he crazy?”
At the end of a short and friendly interview, I asked Paul whether the darker associations of Ron Paul, his father, could be used against him. If Republicans were looking to tar him, couldn’t they bring up the racist newsletters published under Ron’s name, or the donations from white supremacists that Paul never solicited but declined to give back?
It was like an arctic blast came through my receiver. I don’t see how anyone could think that, Rand Paul said. That has nothing to do with this campaign. [...]
As long as Paul’s in the Senate, as long as he’s a fascinating, quotable, and potentially successful libertarian iconoclast, stories about his associations and his movement will be relegated to the think-piece pile. If he’s a credible presidential candidate? The jackals run loose, and they know where to hunt. Years of experience and evidence tell us that Paul can be rattled by that. His potential opponents know this.
It’s a latent and undiscussed problem, exacerbated when Paul criticizes Hillary Clinton because of her husband’s infidelties with a White House intern. “In re-invoking Bill Clinton’s track record,” writes Carl Cannon. “Paul seemed to serve notice that the checkered pasts of other (male) Democrats is fair game as well.”
True. But the Clintons have put up with decades of reporting and embarrassment about their pasts. When Paul’s received the same treatment, it hasn’t gone very well.
In a word: nerves. Which I think is true, but above and beside that I really have to question the basic sanity of the notion that Paul is the frontrunner. How on Earth does this guy get the nod and enthusiastic backing of such a resolutely hawkish party? The Kristols and Krauthammers and Cheneys of the party almost certainly have veto power over who gets the nomination, and they will shiv him every chance they get, and if it gets down to it and he wins I’d be almost positive they’d try to steal the nomination away from him the same way it happened the last time a relatively dovish Republican rightly won (i.e. 1952). After all, allowing that would be like letting the Russkies, er, I mean Islamofascists win! And I wouldn’t bet against their ability or willingness to do it. Rand Paul mocked their idol, Chris Christie, before everyone was doing it, and while he’s hardly a pacifist he’s a few notches too reticent about “leadership.” He might try to mend fences but there’s a pretty good reason why in 2008 and 2012 even the minor candidates sounded just like Bill Kristol.
I do suspect that Paul will build on his father’s core following and might even be able to garner enough clout to make some changes to the party platform. Undoubtedly he’ll be able to shape the debate a bit, and this could in fact be very interesting in both bad ways and good. But party nominations are the result of consensus of party actors and not necessarily of fame and the ability to fundraise. We’ve seen plenty of candidates with either or both of those coming way short. Paul’s connections in and of themselves might not doom him among the faithful–he could just say something about how the media should have spent more time vetting Barack Obama and he’ll win South Carolina–but the crazy extreme connections and the crazy extreme domestic policy positions might draw people to make connections between the two that Republican officials likely do not want accentuated. The connection between neo-Confederate ideology and, say, an opposition to the Voting Rights Act is clear enough but a Paul nomination would inevitably take the connection to a new level of explicitness, to where this might actually become a public conversation, as opposed to an intra-progressive one. Really, it would probably become unavoidable were he nominated, so the GOP will have every interest in keeping him from getting the nod.The only way Paul wins is if the Republican Party has changed in a way that no credible observer has noticed, and has changed to such an extent that his less orthodox positions are no longer radioactive. This might be plausible in the future but my guess is: not in 2016.
The Post-ABC survey affirms those projections, showing Republicans in a stronger position than Democrats in the states with Senate races this fall and more than holding their own in the battle for control of the House. In the 34 states with Senate races, 50 percent of voters say they favor Republicans and 42 percent favor Democrats.
Another way of saying this is that almost all the Plains and Southern states (namely Texas) have Senate races this year, while the big blue states (namely New York and California) do not. There’s no denying that Democrats have a tough Senate challenge, but statistics like this obfuscate more than illuminate.
This is incidental, but something to keep in mind as the election approaches: the vast majority of incumbents win elections. So when you read articles about how Republicans have a good chance of gaining the Senate if only they knock off four or more incumbents, keep in mind that while this is in fact possible, just going by the fundamentals, it’s not incredibly likely.
I think the main reason why hawks are falling over each other trying to pressure Pres. Obama into DOING SOMETHING in Ukraine is because the strategy of spending lots of time calling loudly for Obama to DO SOMETHING (ultimately, to use military force) has had a pretty good record of success. Not always, mind you–Obama’s Iran negotiations are encouraging, and he’s not only ignored these people, he’s actively used his influence to beat theirs’ back. But generally speaking, foreign uprisings have gone in the same way every time: Obama initially stakes out a vaguely “no involvement” position. Hawks clamor for him to speak out. He does. At which point, either the thing over which he spoke out fizzles before further pressure can matter (e.g. Iran’s Green Movement), or the thing Obama said makes life much more difficult for him (e.g. Syria, Libya). And then, if he can get past domestic obstacles, then the bombing can commence.
I do think that Obama would personally prefer to avoid these entanglements. But it’s impossible not to conclude that he also is very disinclined to simply tell the hawks to piss off, that America will not use military force to respond to this week’s foreign uprising. This is probably due to some calculation of keeping options open but it’s actually just a different kind of prison, since hawks have learned that maximum volume often works in moving the needle from “vague no” to “tortured yes” with the key ingredient of time. The absolute best thing for Obama to do at this point would be to flatly rule out any sort of military intervention in this case, and challenge the hawks to explain why money and lives would be best spent getting in the middle of yet another foreign dispute in a country where we have nothing at stake, where public support would likely again be nonexistent. Given that Obama’s tragic flaw is that he assumes goodwill and rationality of all people this would be somewhat unusual, but it would demonstrably make him “stronger” because hawks would have to realize they could not push him around so easily.
When’s the last time you saw Werner Herzog’s Stroszek? Yep, that’s too long. Having not seen all of his work I can’t say it’s his best, but it’s my favorite of what I’ve seen, and certainly a powerful answer to the Chamber of Commerce-approved narrative of immigration to America.
This is just wild speculation, but if I had to guess what happened it would go something like this:
- Religious right lobbyists write the bill and pass it to sympathetic Arizona lawmakers.
- Bill is described to colleagues with Republican-friendly buzzwords: you know, “freedom” and “entrepreneurs” and the dreaded “homosexual agenda.” Nobody reads it.
- Bill passes.
- Uproar! For which the dumbasses who voted for the thing are wholly unprepared because they don’t know what’s in it and can’t defend it. Some of them even claim they wouldn’t have voted for it if they knew what’s in it, which is both mockable and sadly believable.
- Jan Brewer bails them out with a veto.
What’s surprising about this is…oh wait, there’s literally nothing surprising about it. It seems like a prime example of Jonathan Bernstein’s “post-policy GOP” thesis, which fundamentally states that the Republican Party has no real interest in policy, but rather in punditry and media types of things. All the details point to this, and are eerily reminiscent of the regrettable “forcible rape” bill the House passed in 2011, which went through exactly the same cycle. How could these guys be completely unaware of what they’re passing? I don’t buy the “this bill is longer than fifteen Bibles” or whatever dumb-populist stuff the right uses to reject bills, because reading the text of them is like trying to read binary code. The people voting for the ACA knew the gist of what they were voting for, and defended it. These guys…have no idea.
The scary part of this episode is that elected legislators were beside the point at all times: this was a squabble between the religious right and business, with minor roles for politicians. It’s almost as though the putative decisionmakers on the Republican side are utterly unimportant except to validate what the lobbyists want.
Ralph Nader became a parody of himself when he endorsed a Mike Bloomberg third-party bid in 2012, but evidently St. Ralph is now working even harder to convince everyone not to take him seriously with a list (and a lengthy one!) of super-rich people he wants to help combat money in politics cynically use to hurt the Democratic Party indirectly elect the next GOP president run for president! It’s sort of a strange list, really, mixing your expected financiers and Silicon Valley hotshots with a couple of bizarre celebrity entries (Ted Turner, lol). About all they have in common is that, you guessed it, they would spend a lot of money and that they would take votes away from Democrats and thus elect the next Republican president. Notably, things these folks don’t have in common include: ideology (Tom Steyer seems to be genuinely quite liberal, Thomas Siebel seems to be extremely reactionary, most seem to be colorless moderates and I have no idea what Oprah’s politics are). Also, name recognition. Or, any sort of political base at all. If megabucks alone were enough, then President Romney and Governor Whitman would be sipping tea in the Rose Garden right now. They are not, though ardent campaign finance reformer Nader ironically has not learned this, nor does this list reflect any kind of overarching philosophy Nader wishes to advance, it’s much too schizophrenic. It feels more like he just copied and pasted some Forbes list because he forgot to do his homework. The only real surprise is that Donald Trump isn’t on it, though I suppose St. Ralph wouldn’t want to invite comparisons with anyone as politically clueless and egotistical as himself.
I’m not sure which is more puzzling at this point: how someone with such poor understanding of politics as Ralph Nader has has managed to keep himself relevant in the world of politics for decades, or exactly why Nader seems to hate the Democrats so much that he’s rededicated his life to electing Republican presidents in order to teach Democrats some lesson that nobody can articulate. I’ve read that he’s still bitter about getting shut out of Jimmy Carter’s White House after the ’78 midterms–no idea if that’s actually true, but given his long-term petty vindictiveness it really does fit with what we know of the man.
Also: apparently you can be too racist for FOX News:
- Personality crisis: Balloon Juice
- Give ‘em the boot, you know I’m a radical: Balloon Juice
- It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me: Balloon Juice
- Page 18 - Christian Chat Rooms & Forums: "LGBT RIGHTS"
- Page 4: The Most Powerful Man In The Free World
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- Rand Paul’s Long Road (2)
- Still Looking For The Next Hitler (1)
- Personality crisis: 30;] Never mind that Nazism didn’t occur in vacuum. Lev from Library Grape: […]
- What’s Wrong With Kansas Now? (1)
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- Fox News Has a First Amendment Right to Lie – Updated
- Massive Illogic
- Oregon Ducks Win First Rose Bowl Since 1917
- Quote of the Day: Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged
- Ralph Nader Is Still Politically Stupid
- Still Looking For The Next Hitler
- Oh, Come ON! You Stereotypical Gays.
- Exploring How Identical Twins Can Have Different Sexual…
- TownHall’s List Of Racist Liberal Quotes As Pathetic…
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