The Victory Caucus

NZ Bear – who was the catalyst for Porkbusters, and may have single-handedly triggered the ‘no entitlements’ revolution, is at it again. he’s apparently started (I say apparently because I haven’t talked to him in a while) “The Victory Caucus” which intends to focus the energy of people who – well, believe in winning the war as an option.

I’ll make some time and talk to him about it, but will suggest that he’s showing the power of doing stuff while many of us spend far too much time worrying about stuff. A lesson I need to think about for a bit, I think.

Bush And Iran – Full House or Ace-High?

I want to raise a heretical notion: I actually think that Bush is playing a bad tactical hand well in Iran.

Look, there is no way in hell that he’s going to undertake meaningful military action against the Iranians. A few shells may get lobbed at boats that approach the fleet too closely, and I have no doubt that our Special Ops community is doing whatever it is they do in situations where they don’t get to “blow shit up and kill people.” But the political cards within the US are dealt, and Bush’s hand does not include an “Invade Iran” card.

That doesn’t mean things aren’t happening, or that we should be paying close attention. many sources have commented on the increasingly fragile grip on power of the populist nutjob Ahmadinejad. Having three carrier groups offshore has to be a source of internal pressure, as does unanimous UN resolutions cracking down on international finance, a declining oil sector, etc. etc.

From Global Voices, some Iranian opinions:

[Fa] says US Foreign Secretary Condoleeza Rice’s trip to Middle East was successful enough to unite small and large Arab countries against Iran. The blogger says when the US was in Middle East, Iranian President took a useless trip to Latin America. The blogger adds Iranian people are confused about the current situation.
According to Pouya

on one side their instinct tell them that all these warship and military prepration in the Persian Gulf cannot only be a game and other side the Iranian regime makes propaganda that it is all a game…Maybe the regime welcomes a limited war to fortify ther position inside and outside country….a few billions of damage due to bombings would be covered by selling oil.

Haji Washington [Fa] says Iran should not be afraid of the US as Arab countries in the Persian Gulf are the bigger threat.The blogger adds there is an international coalition against Iran and western banks are pressing sanctions while Japan is reducing its economic activities.
Ali Mazroi [Fa], a reformist politician, talks about Iran’s miscalculation in handling its nuclear crisis. He says the US was not in a rush to send the Iranian nuclear case to the Security Council. According to the blogger, the US convinced all countries that the only solution for the Iranian nuclear crisis was the Security Council.

Ali Mazroi says,as a citizen:

I am worried to see that the governing institutions in Iran are pushing the country and Islamic Republic into an endless hole.

View from Iran writes with sarcasm about a conversation between friends about the coming war; I sure hope Iran doesn’t use any Shahab missiles. If they do, it will be the start of WW 3, a friend says. Why do you think that? They’ll hit everything but their intended target. A missile aimed at Israel will hit Saudi Arabia or Russia or some other country. Everyone laughs. Everyone goes about their daily business: hoarding saffron and tuna fish.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist politician and blogger, says former presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani as well as Karoubi, the former Iranian Parliament Speaker, have organised several meetings with former heads of states and foreign affairs officials to discuss these very dangerous circumstances.

Abthai reports that according to Mr Sadr, a former vice foreign affairs minister, Iran cannot count on Syria because when they feel they are in danger they will make a deal with US. He adds that it is the first time there are international sanctions imposed against Iran.

From the Financial Times:

The sanctions contained in the Resolution have limited direct effect but they come at a moment when the economy is performing poorly, partly because of Iranian mismanagement. Ahmadinejad is under criticism because of rising inflation – officially at 12 per cent, in reality closer to 20 per cent; economic growth around 5 per cent per annum is not keeping up with the need for job creation. Foreign investment has all but dried up, partly because of the nuclear issue and associated action (e.g. restriction on Iranian banks, greater caution of export credit agencies). Without new investment, Iran risks being unable to maintain medium-term oil production, currently 50 per cent of government income [emphasis added].

From the Guardian:

Iran’s beleaguered president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is facing a powerful challenge from his fiercest political rival for control of the country’s nuclear and economic policies.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative defeated by Mr Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election, believes Iran may have to yield to western demands to suspend uranium enrichment to save the country’s Islamic system from collapse.

He is trying to persuade the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in state matters, that further negotiations are essential to avoid a potentially disastrous conflict with the US or Israel.

“Before the sanctions, Rafsanjani hoped Iran could obtain its enrichment objectives through mutual understanding with the west. But now he thinks we have reached a dangerous point and that a step should be taken backwards in the hope that two forward can be taken later,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, a respected political commentator and associate of Mr Rafsanjani.

“He doesn’t see negotiation as a sign of weakness. He wants to limit the impact of the sanctions and get Mr Khamenei and the government to accept that if Iran faces mounting sanctions or a military attack or any crisis which damages the economic life of the people, then there is a possibility of the whole system collapsing.”

The Guardian reported last week that Mr Ahmadinejad’s authority was under pressure from critical MPs and an increasingly concerned Mr Khamenei. The re-emergence of Mr Rafsanjani contradicts widely held assumptions that his presidential defeat had diminished his influence. His increasing prominence comes after he won the most votes in elections to the experts’ assembly, an important clerical body.

So Bush is – against the odds – raising pressure on Iran, and as a result may wind up getting what he wants, which is the fangs temporarily pulled on the worst actors in the Iranian government.

That won’t solve our problems with Iran – not by any means. But it’s an impressive play of a weak hand, and I don’t think anyone is giving Bush the credit he deserves for it. Anyone can take the pot with aces over kings. But to stand your ground playing ace-high is an achievement and we’d all be better off – including those who oppose Bush – for recognizing that.

Having said that, I think we’re still misplaying strategically.

I’ve said in the past that we ought to be talking to the Iranians. Not necessarily in a craven “what have we done wrong, how can we make you like us” mode that many take entering talks to mean. But in the Clint Smith sense of

“You better learn to communicate real well, because when you’re out there on the street, you’ll have to talk to a lot more people than you’ll have to shoot, or at least that’s the way I think it’s supposed to work.”

I fail to see how sitting down with the Iranian leadership and laying out what they’re doing that we want them to stop, and asking them what it would take to get them to do so, and telling them what’s in the realm of possibility (no, Israel will not dissolve itself) and what isn’t, is not in the best interests of the US. Simply being able to clearly state such a set of US interests vis-a-vis Iran might itself be a good thing – a clarifying exercise as it were.

I think that we’ve buried negotiations in the Middle East in complexity and nuance and the speech of diplomacy, and that it’s time for some frank – and clear – thinking and speaking on our part and on the part of our allies.

One Thing I Like About Obama

…the man is just damn quick on his feet.

John Howard, the Australian PM, slammed Barak Obama by name in a speech on Australian TV.

“If I were running al-Qaida in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats.”

I’m really not very thrilled about foreign (ahem-Saudi) nations (like the Saudis) meddling too deeply in our internal politics. I thought Howard stepped cleanly over the line with that remark.

He could have said that he was deeply concerned that US political leadership continue in its role in opposing terror, or something of that ilk which would have made his point without choosing teams.

I stuck that into the ‘to blog’ queue (which is long, BTW) and then pulled it out when I read Obama’s brilliant retort:

“I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1400, so if he is … to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

“Otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric.”

Point to Sen. Obama, I’d have to say…now I have a longer post in the queue about him and the Democrats, and the struggle within my very soul over what to do in ’08. But he gets props for that reply.

Robespierre And Ecstatic Communalism

Here’s something that bugs me…

…about the current state of left intellectualism (not the Euston folks…). From the L.A. Times review (yes, not the book, and a cautionary note must be inserted) of Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book “Dancing In The Streets

…[her] rhetoric reaches a fever pitch in her description of France in 1790; she gets caught up in the public celebrations on the first anniversary of the revolution, and her unabashed intellectual enthusiasm electrifies these pages. “With the shared wine and food, the dancing that wound through whole cities and out into the fields, this has to have been one of the great moments, in all of human history, to have been alive.”

Yup. 1790 in Paris. One of the great moments in human history to have been alive. See also ‘Romanticism and Terrorism’…

Arkin Steps Out Of The Closet

Deborah Howell, the Post ombudswoman, has a piece up on l’affaire Arkin.

It’s a reasoned, establishment take on blogging, is appropriately critical of Arkin – even though she understates the loathsomeness of what he said – and includes one gem that needs to be held up and examined.

Arkin is unrepentant about two things: He works for The Post. Period. And he said he is “probably one of the best-known and respected anti-military military bloggers.”

I hadn’t seen that before, but it pretty accurately sums him up, doesn’t it? So – two questions fall out from that exposition. How in the world can the LA Times or other news media justify calling him ‘a military analyst’ (as opposed to ‘an anti-military analyst’)? And what an interesting story he himself must be. Someone who has built a career and spent his life closely studying something he seems to hate so much. And what is it that he opposes? Note that his commitment isn’t general – to the issues of appropriate or inappropriate French or Russian military policies or actions. It’s not about demilitarizing the world. It’s aimed squarely at diminishing the role and effectiveness of the U.S. military.

Two Americas, Indeed

There are two charities that I typically support – the St.Joseph Center in Venice, CA, which does incredible work with low-income families and the homeless (for now, at least…), and the Long Beach Opera, where I serve on the board.

Each charity typically does an annual fundraiser and auctions off random items, and I typically buy random things depending on my enthusiasm, solvency, how closely TG is monitoring me, and how much free wine I’ve had to drink.

Two years ago, I bought a gift certificate at a men’s store in West Hollywood (and yes, I deducted the cash value of the certificate from my donation when I took credit for it year-end). It was for $500, and I figured I could get a couple dress shirts and a tie, or a blazer, or something.

Yesterday, in an effort to broaden my clothing choices from black Gap polo shirts, Royal Robbins pants, and Vans – something TG and others have teased me for quite undeservedly – I went to the store.
And was ushered into quite another world. My $500 certificate would buy me one – that’s one (a single) dress shirt. I went from counter to counter, my level of amusement rising at each stop. They had unremarkable (although finely made) dress shirts for $400.00; sale blazers for $1,100, etc. etc. I wasn’t going to let the certificate go to waste, so bought some fine sport shirts and a tie – and burned a nice little divot in my debit card on top of the gift certificate in doing so.

But I’ll be a well-dressed blogger, for sure.

Anyone who has met me knows I’m the wrong person to talk with about fashion. Someone why buys black Gap polos by the half-dozen every four months isn’t someone with a highly developed fashion sense. Back in the day that I had to wear suits and such, I was lucky that a very good tailor used to come to our offices and basically dress us with custom suits and shirts (made in Hong Kong or India, and actually quite reasonable – I’d love to find another one like him). In current dollars, I used to pay $200.00 for a shirt that was the fashion and quality equivalent of the shirts this store wanted $400 for…made to measure.

…so how does this boutique stay in business? It’s a puzzlement to me, because I encounter businesses like this all over – but only in the major cities – Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco. Is it only there that there is a large enough body of insecure strivers? Or it is just that the population of fashion obsessives is high enough there?

I’d love to know what you think about that. Bites The Dust…

So the archives of my old Armed Liberal blog are apparently gone forever. I’d been hosting for free with a friend who neglected to mention that he was stopping payment and shutting the server down. Yes, he should have said something to me – but yes, I should have backed it up. We’ll share the blame once I stop being so irritated.

I’ll see what I can reconstruct from saved files now that I control the domain. If you participated in a comment threat there, my apologies – I owed you more care than that.

Crooks, Liars, and the Unfair

Nicole Belle, over at John Amato’s Crooks and Liars has a brief look at l’affaire Arkin, and springboards from there to a look at Internet argumentation and to make a plea for civility.

Not on Arkin’s part, mind you…ad hominem, slander, and dishonesty on his part are summed up as:

A little background: After watching an NBC Nightly News report that had troops bemoaning the lack of support at home Arkin posted that the soldiers should be grateful that we do respect them, even if we don’t support the mission.


Apparently the masochist, Arkin responded again



1500 comments and another closed thread later, Arkin had been insulted in every possible way. Never one to back away from a fight, Arkin takes issue with the ad hominem used in lieu of debate:

Belle says

So what do you think? Arkin’s plea for civility (one I share – you commenters can be brutal and seem to forget that there are real people behind the words you’re reading) suggests that a civilized exchange is a lost art. Is it the anonymity of the internet? Is it that certain topics are just too provocative to discuss calmly? Or have we collectively forgotten our manners?

The problem, of course is that Arkin deliberately used inflammatory language, deception, and slurs to make his original point – that the troops needed to be taken aside and told to STFU – and in my view lost whatever standing he had to complain that the audience “was mean to him”. A better writer and thinker than Arkin could have raised parallel points – which are important ones – about the relationship between troop opinion and public opinion, and the role of each is establishing the other. He could have asked about the cost of a polarizing political dialog that excludes the people spoken about. He could have done a lot of things. But then again, he’s Arkin.

Belle makes a plea for civility, but fails to make an even-handed one. He must not have more than one child.