Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snow (Hey Oh!) Roundup

We're fine over here in the wake of the Snowpocalypse. School was canceled yesterday and today, but folks are finally starting to dig out, and we'll be back to normal tomorrow.

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Utah State Rep. wants to ban gay families from participation in all public programs.

Republicans drop "forcible rape" language from their new anti-abortion bill.

Republican presidential candidates graphed on basis of their sanity and their Mormonism.

Meanwhile, Ed Kilgore measures Jon Huntsman's 2012 chances, and finds them severely wanting. He's like Romney, but even easier to call a conservative apostate.

An interview with Dos Equis' World's Most Interesting Man.

Behavioral economists, poor people, and the broken social safety net.

Max Boot chides his fellow right-wingers for pretending there's a viable alternative to ElBaradei.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Liberalizing Effect of International Military Interchange Programs

One of the key inflection points in any revolution is the ultimate decision by the armed forces as to whether they will fire on the protesters. Generally, any decently-entrenched regime with a powerful military can survive street protests if the military continues to back it. If the military decides to stand down, however, things get a lot more interesting. This is one of the key differences between Egypt in 2011, and Iran in 2009. Iranian military and paramilitary forces were effectively deployed against the protesters, and demonstrated a willingness to crush the demonstrations. Moreover, Iran had a layer of redundancy built in -- even if the army wavered, the army had to fear the Revolutionary Guard, which is fanatically loyal to the existing regime.

So what is it that made the Egyptian army different? Though not as tied into the state apparatus as the IRC is in Iran, it certainly was known as relatively loyal to President Mubarak. Enter a really interesting argument by Mark Thompson:
Ever since the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, promising Egyptian military officers have come to U.S. military schools, including the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., the Army’s Command General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. Inculcated there with U.S. ideals on lawful civilian control of military, such an education has helped act as a “safety” on the firepower of the Egyptian streets now massing in Cairo and in other cities.

“This new generation of Egyptian officers has been exposed to the American military and has had a very favorable impression of not just the way we fight our wars but also about the relationship between the military and society,” says Robert Scales, a retired Army major general who served as commandant of the Army War College where he launched the international fellows program. “One of the reasons for the army’s reluctance to follow Mubarak’s intent and squeeze the population in Cairo has to do with the Egyptian military’s exposure to the U.S. military.”

A little self-serving, perhaps -- particularly given the less than stellar record regarding human rights such interchange programs have assembled in the not-so-distant past. Nonetheless, there is some broader empirical research finding such a liberalizing effect correlated to U.S. military-to-military contacts. So it certainly isn't out of the question.

Definitely an interesting dynamic, if true. H/T: LGM.

From the River to the Sea

I oppose all radical clerics who advocate a "one-state" solution in Israel. Mike Huckabee is no exception.

As Jon Chait observes, Huckabee's objection in principle to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank is a position not even taken by the Likud Party (indeed, it's not even taken by Avigdor Lieberman's extreme-right Yisrael Beiteinu party). Virtually the only folks who share Huckabee's views are those who expressly advocate Israel's dissolution, or the fringe-of-the-fringe settlers who likewise have expressly stated that they care not whether Israel lives or dies. Just so we know his bedmates.

Barbara Bush Comes Out in Favor of Gay Marriage

Barbara Bush (Dubya's daughter, not his mother) has just appeared in an HRC video spot promoting marriage equality in New York.

In terms of Bush's actually influence, this isn't all that important -- Bush is only a political figure because of who she's related to; she's expressed little interest in entering the public sphere on her own terms (even less than, say, Meghan McCain -- another gay marriage supporter). But what it does demonstrate is that, even among Republicans, the youth are just gone on this issue. Support for marriage discrimination is nearly solely the province of older Americans. It's barely even a partisan issue amongst the young. I'm dubious that the leaders of the "Christian right" can arrest the inevitable here -- I'm wondering if even they are beginning to feel some fatalism on the subject.

In any event, it's only a matter of time.

Monday, January 31, 2011

PPACA Bump Roundup

The decision by a federal district judge to strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the big, if ultimately irrelevant (this law is going to be decided at 1 First Street), news of the day. But other stuff happened too! Let's round it up.

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Eric Alterman gives a solid memoriam of Marty Peretz's tenure at the helm of the The New Republic.

Who would have guessed that the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the GOP there's rape and then there's rape bill would be
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL)? I can't quite figure out how he avoids a primary defeat each year -- he really is among my least favorite congressional Democrats.

Okay, a quick foray into PPACA: Brian Galle has an interesting, brief paper up on the constitutionality of PPACA under Congress' taxation powers.

The Realistic Dove has a good appraisal of how Israelis are reacting to the democratic revolution in Egypt. Their putative opposition has been greatly overread -- while a few pro-Israel voices in the US have been acting like dicks, by and large it is better to describe them as "anxious" than hostile. Turmoil inside a country that is now one of your few regional allies but with which you've fought three wars against in living memory will do that to a country.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has an interesting post on the development of stereotypes with respect to Blacks and Jews in athletics. I want to be nicknamed "the intellectual assassin" one day.

Given the awful argument being made by, most prominently, ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) that Black people like President Obama are traitors to their racial heritage and the abolitionist movement insofar as they don't necessarily oppose abortion rights, this post, which actually examines the role abortion played amongst enslaved Black women in the American South, is a desperately needed corrective.

Huntsman '12?

Former Utah Governor, current ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R) may be gearing up for a 2012 presidential run. At the very least, he's not shooting down rumors that his ambitions lie in that direction.

I've previously identified Huntsman as a leader of the "not insane" wing of the Republican Party -- possibly its last man standing, with the immolation of Charlie Crist. So I have a lot of respect for him. But I can't fathom how the Socialist Kenyan regime's ambassador to the Socialist Chinese regime plans on getting through a Republican primary. I'm baffled as to why Huntsman -- who will only be 56 in 2016 -- wouldn't wait until then for what I'd imagine to be a much cleaner shot at the White House.

Eat Less Chikin

It's a shame that Chick-fil-A is so closely tied with anti-gay forces. They make delicious fast food.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The CPMAJO Stooges

An incredible cheap shot by Malcolm Hoenlein on former IAEA head and Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. He calls him a "stooge" for Iran. Regardless of how one evaluates ElBaradei's tenure as head of the IAEA, there is zero support for that accusation. ElBaradei pushed for inspections of Iran's nuclear program, albeit not as aggressively as some might have liked, and was a vociferous opponent of military confrontation with the state, which certain more hawkish sorts very much did not like. But even taken to their fullest, these are policy differences, and should remain such. Acting as if ElBaradei in his role as leader of a unified Egyptian opposition is simple a front man (or useful idiot) for Iran is deeply offensive, and beneath the dignity of the CPMAJO or any other organization.

What we have is a simple slander against the most promising secular leader of the Egyptian opposition. Let's call a spade a spade -- it's one that likely flows from Hoenlein's fear that an Egypt not led by an autocratic thug like Mubarak will be an Egypt less amenable to Israel and America's interests. Which is a descriptively legitimate fear (while many of the same pressures which keep Egypt in America's camp will still be present in any new regime, they'll be countered by a newly salient need for democratic accountability toward a populace deeply -- though not blindly -- suspicious of both nations) -- but not one that normatively justifies kneecapping the Egyptian quest for self-governance, much less slandering the man who may prove pivotal in bringing democracy to the nation.