Re: GA WTF?

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WE WANT WAR WAR WAR WAR WAR !


Posted by: OPINIONATED NEOCON | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:10 AM
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The changing demographics of the Atlanta metropolitan area are making the state increasingly competitive for Democrats at the national level. However, the legacy of racially charged politics is not quickly forgotten, and gerrymandered Congressional districts serve to harden the racial polarization of politics, as white Republicans do not have to appeal to significant numbers of Blacks to win, and vice versa.

Does that help?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:11 AM
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This is an excellent analysis.

And this is disappointing.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:16 AM
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This guy seems to be generally well informed. He's a relative of the CT Farrells, and was linked by Maria when the shit first hit the fan. Beyond that he writes a lot and quite coonfidently, I've no idea of the bullshit ratio of course.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:22 AM
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o


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:23 AM
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Never get involved in a land war in Asia! Sweet bleeding Christ. Do these people know nothing?


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:23 AM
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All politics is local. There's an insight.

One of the facts that interested me over the last week is that most of the Russian "peacekeepers" and Russian soldiers that were attacked by the Georgians in Tkinshvili(?) were Ossetians.

Also. One of the few thing Wiki doesn't seem to provide is quick access to maps:local, roads, & relief. My understanding is that South Ossetia is a single valley with a road bisecting it leading to a tunnel thru mountains into North Ossetia. I do not know what is on the other side of the tunnel; and how mich the South Ossetians & North Ossetians, divided by a mntn range, really have in common and differ.

But that is where I like to start. I have been trying to understand or empathize with a Georgian or Ossetian with a small farm 5 miles South of Tkin-etc, his offenses and complaints, and then work up from there. The level of "Great Game" struggles among the powers is the last thing I would look at.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:24 AM
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WRT news accounts about the thing: Trust no one.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:24 AM
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Weirder how, Becks?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:24 AM
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What I've gleaned from NPR while doing other things:

1. Both sides have been goading each other for some time

2. The fact that the US has also been goading Russia with things like BS missile defense systems was also a contributing factor.

3. Media outlets that have been reporting this as a Russian invasion are misleading. In fact, the Georgians sent troops into South Ossetia first, but this wasn't considered newsworthy, because in some technical sense S. Ossetia was still Georgian territory.

4. The Bush administration knows one diplomatic move, sabre rattling, and they will do this even when everyone knows we are bogged down in other wars and can't do shit.

5. Sarkozy may be conservative, but he at least knows how to respond to a crisis with real negotiation.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:25 AM
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[fixed the link in 4]


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:27 AM
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3: notice he didn't say "NATO membership". The "Membership Action Plan" looks like the canonical punt:

The nine NATO aspirants that are participating in the MAP are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia(*). Croatia is expected to present its first annual national programme in autumn 2003. After the Prague Summit, the MAP will continue to serve both aspirants and those countries invited to begin accession talks with the Alliance.

I think he's essentially saying "we should definitely let Georgia run around in circles in a futile attempt to gain NATO membership."

No reason to antagonize them by not letting them do that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:27 AM
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weirder was a bad choice of words. Just escalated/more fucked up.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:29 AM
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No reason to antagonize them by not letting them do that.

Is there a reason to antagonize Russia by letting them do that?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:29 AM
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I started with "what the fuck is an Ossetian?" and then read from there.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:30 AM
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Oh yeah, there was a guy on NPR yesterday who said that Russia was "offending 21st century sensibilities" by "waging war purely for geopolitical advantage" and in general acting like a "19th century power, " unlike, presumably, the rest of the world for the last 100 years.

WTF?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:30 AM
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We can start the countdown now until the Food section in one of the Sunday papers features a story by a Deeply Saddened contributing editor lamenting that conflict has overtaken a land with such a remarkable culinary heritage. Bonus points if the author describes making a particular dish with an old Babushka in a village that has been destroyed by shelling, and notes e-mails to said Babushka have not been returned, so the author is left to wonder and hope.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:31 AM
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Sarkozy isn't remotely conservative by American standards. He is, however, passionately concerned with French interests, which currently include a lot of trade with Russia that he doesn't want to see disrupted. He will therefore do his best under the circumstances.

Much as I sympathise with the US volleyball players being felt up by Bush, they can takke comfort that they're taking one for the team on a scale they never dreamed of by distracting the drunken old fool from more important mistakes he could be making.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:31 AM
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Sarkozy isn't remotely conservative by American standards.

Disagree; his instincts are really quite neoliberal with a big slug of French National Greatness; he's constrained, however, by the reality of having to get elected in France.

Meanwhile, I still think that the 2000 Georgian troops who were airlifted back from Iraq are chuckling to each other and going "say what you like about Saakashvilli, he got us out of the war".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:34 AM
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14: rephrasing your question as "is there a reason for NATO to continue to exist?" I would answer "no."

Given that it does, on the other hand, making Georgia feel like Slovenia gets to do all the fun stuff and they just get invaded seems like a good way to make them actively hostile to the US.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:39 AM
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Like Basra or Kirkuk

Just to make shit up:South Ossetian Farmer (SOF) has a Georgian Famer(GF) as neighbor. SOF pisses over GF's fence, fence "accidentally" breaks and GF's cows eat SOF's veggies;SOF's shoots GF's cows and GF burn SOF's barn. SOF calls his peacekeeping friends in from TKin (his 2nd son is wearing a Russian uniform) and they burn GF out. GF & family run to Tblisi and Saakashvili approves a rocket attack.

War is as simple & stupid as that? This ain't simple, this is politics, and stupidity goes all the way down.

On one level McCain is callng for a New Cold War but it is at least partially about a couple voters with defense jobs in a suburb of Atlanta.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:39 AM
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Meanwhile, the Times has tired of subtle inaccuracy and moved on to The really obvious errors:

There were unconfirmed reports that a column of Russian tanks had left Gori and was on the road toward Tblisi, the Russian capital.

Not yet it's not!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:41 AM
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I just can't wait for the inevitable drunken Hitchens' column decrying the betrayal of...some ethnic people. I'm not sure if he'll pick the Georgians or the Ossetians. Any chance it could somehow be seen as a betrayal of the Ingush?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:42 AM
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I'm not sure if he'll pick the Georgians or the Ossetians

Whichever one is less religious, I'd wager.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:44 AM
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Disagree; his instincts are really quite neoliberal with a big slug of French National Greatness; he's constrained, however, by the reality of having to get elected in France.

What in "by American standards" did you fail to understand? In American, neoliberals are The Left.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:46 AM
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I recommend this for more substance and less snark.


Posted by: swampcracker | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:47 AM
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According to the Beeb, Gori is being sacked by Ossete irregulars, while the Russians are demolishing the Georgian military installations there; they also have some tanks parked on the road to Tblisi, which is tactically obvious, but nobody knows if the so-called "column heading towards Tblisi" exists, or, if so, where it's actually going.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:50 AM
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16: Rob, that's almost word-for-word Kagan from the Wa Post the other day. There's something pure about the way that Kagan thinks - his musings are completely unadulterated by any trace of reality. Here's the quote you're describing:

Russia's attack on sovereign Georgian territory marked the official return of history, indeed to an almost 19th-century style of great-power competition ... even -- though it shocks our 21st-century sensibilities -- the use of military power to obtain geopolitical objectives.

Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:57 AM
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The Russian response to the Georgian attacks on South Ossetia is exactly what everyone should have expected. Saakashvili most likely recieved dubious advice on the potential for such a response and/or the American protection on offer. MIC type thinking in a country as small and poor as Georgia is an almost retarded level of blunder, allowing your troops to be anything other than even handed when fighting civilians is another one. If most of the world will allow the massacre of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, why would anyone fret over a few thousand dead Georgians?

No one has the ability/desire/super-crazy to step into a shooting conflict with Russia, especially over Georgian territorial integrity. Nor should they. Only a fool fights out numbered and outgunned. Any fighting in Georgia would surely be of this character, merely as a matter of geography and current troop commitments elsewhere. One would seriously hope that there are not enough war-mongers with buttons would ever consider escalating such a fight so as to save face. Politics being what they are though....

More importantly, Russia is doing what is in her own best interest. With the current shape of NATO(and it's recently expanded mission statement to include nation building and occupation) it forms a major threat to Russia, especially as long as conservatives in the mold of GWB and McCain have influence. Striking back at the Georgians is a more viable response to increasing pressure from the west than bombing the potential missile shield sites or reactivating missile subs to restore some degree of parity to the nuclear standoff. Georgia in NATO is unacceptable. Missile defense sites in former Warsaw Pact countries is unacceptable. A show force conflict is a reasonable way to show that you are prepared to stand up to protect yourself without crossing some line in the head of the crackpots guarding the biggest nuclear stockpile in the world.

Hopefully some cooler heads will realize that playing around in the Russian backyard is just as provocative as if the Russians were to try and do the same in the anywhere in the Americas, let alone in Mexico, Canada, or (nostalgia!) Cuba.


Posted by: Andrew | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 7:59 AM
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I actually know a little bit about this, historicall though not currently.

First, the Caucasus might be the most ethnically complex area in the world, with 100 or more languages and three distinct religions (plus Communism). In some areas there's ethnic mixing, but the tendency is for the map to be divided up into ethnically-homogeneous pockets of verious sizes.

Second, the Soviet policy was to divide ethnic groups rather than uniting them, in order to block nationalist movements. N. and S. Ossetia have been in different political units (one in Russia, one in Georgia) for a long time. The Ossetes have little intrinsic infinity with either Georgians or Russians, but seem to prefer Russians.

As a result of all this, an ethnic nation state is essentially impossible in this area, unless the dominant peoples (Georgians, Azeris, Armenians) subjugate all the other peoples.

And as a result, the Russians can easily work mischief in any of these states. There will always be a discontented minority.

Current events: Russia is using the Kosovo example as an excuse for dismembering an existing state, and also taking advantage of America's lack of credibility (and inability to respond) owing to the Iraq war.

My immediate judgment was that the Georgian leader was hoping to leverage American support through his ties to the American right, the way the Israelis have been doing for a decade or more. Screw that.

McCain has a Georgian agent on his staff -- Schoenemann (I think that's the name). "Agent" is not hyperbole.

McCain has no other cards in his hand and probably will wave the bloody shirt. I think he will fail; Americans are burned out on wars, war is not a possible option, and even some of Bush's people think that's stupid.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:00 AM
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||

I could tell you what my first thought was reading this, but of course it would be illegal to do so.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:06 AM
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McCain has a Georgian agent on his staff -- Schoenemann (I think that's the name). "Agent" is not hyperbole.

Randy Scheunemann. It's troubling to me that Obama can't seem to take advantage of this fact politically. I don't doubt Obama's political judgment on this, though. The media would go berserk if Obama started describing Georgia's lobbyist accurately as a foreign agent, and would cast Obama as favoring the Russian menace over the freedom-loving Georgians.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:07 AM
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Surely Kagan deserves credit for comparing Russia's actions to something other than Nazi Germany? The fact that his tune was off-key is merely due to the fact that it's the first time in ten years he's played a different one.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:10 AM
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What depresses me is the number of people who start off their articles by saying "It is incomprehensible why people are fighting over South Ossetia, a rugged, mountainous and sparsely populated province etc etc".

the point being that if the border between two hostile countries is formed by a more or less impassable mountain region, it's often a matter of really quite considerable interest to the military community whether the actual border falls on your side of the mountains, their side of the mountains or the top of the mountains. why don't people think, even a little bit?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:11 AM
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31: You've already hit-and-run a motorcyclist; why stop now?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:11 AM
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32: MY had something yesterday about how the phrase the Obama campaign was using, "conflict of interest," didn't get at the heart of it, along the lines of what you're saying here. CofI is pretty much the only blunt instrument a campaign has, apparently.

(using comment #s in hope here, although current practice of deleting a troll when it's the last comment and dashing it to hold place when not is very sensible)


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:12 AM
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why don't people think, even a little bit?

Busy. Eating.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:13 AM
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31. Jesus Christ, Sifu. Not saying it doesn't get you off the hook. You're still guilty of thoughtcrime - and inciting thoughtcrime, too, because your link led me to the same thought.

Do you think they'll let us comment from Guantanamo?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:13 AM
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Thank God there aren't (AFAIK) electorally significant numbers of ethnic Georgians in any swing states. There's plenty of Armenians, who share a certain historical bond with Georgia over their shared hatred of Russians and Muslims, but at least they are concentrated in safely blue states.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:15 AM
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Agree with 29. But...

I do feel the various energy and pipeline issues major strategic and political concerns. Denmark may be approaching energy self-sufficiency, but Poland has a long way to go, and I can understand Poland (etc) being uncomfortable with its dependence on the Russian northern pipeline. The S pipeline is of far more import than just bucks to Israel & Chevron; so much so that I am conflicted about how much support we should offer Ukraine &Georgia. Saakashvili understood that US support was not only bullshit but represented real strategic interests.

There is a possibe scenario where at some point Russia can sell most/all of its energy to China;shut the N pipeline down; control the S pipeline; and put Eastern Europe into the frozen dark. I think Russia has enough political/economic ties to its West (and worries/antagonisms to its East) that it won't do that unless provoked


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:17 AM
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33: Sorry, JRoth. When Kagan goes to the drive-thru window and they mistakenly give him the small fries instead of the large ones he ordered, he figures that's just what the Nazis would do. From the link in 28:

The details of who did what to precipitate Russia's war against Georgia are not very important. Do you recall the precise details of the Sudeten Crisis that led to Nazi Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia? Of course not, because that morally ambiguous dispute is rightly remembered as a minor part of a much bigger drama.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:18 AM
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28: That's the dude! What planet does he live on?

Apparently he has a whole book, published by an actual publisher, arguing the same sort of thesis: there has been a sudden reappearance of countries using war for their geopolitical interest, even (gasp!) fighting over resources.

There's this whole little world where you are only allowed to talk about US foreign policy from one of two perspectives (1) our policy is based entirely on promoting Goodness, Freedom and Democracy, (2) we need to temper our quest for Goodness, Freedom, and Democracy with a little pragmatic self interest. Using the word "imperialism" around these people announces that you are Not Serious.

If you are allowed into this little world, you get to publish as many books as you want. It looks like Yglesias has been let in, I think its because he went to Harvard.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:22 AM
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Thomas Friedman's Golden Arches Theory dies a sudden death.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:27 AM
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That should have been "no more masturbating to Thomas Friedman's Golden Arches theory," but I'm still in the process of caffeinating myself.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:28 AM
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What depresses me is the number of people who start off their articles by saying "It is incomprehensible why people are fighting over South Ossetia, a rugged, mountainous and sparsely populated province etc etc".

Those articles are mostly written by Californians who can't fathom why anyone lives elsewhere. The idea of actual fighting over non-California locations is unfathomable to them (True Fact: South Ossetia produces no strawberries whatsoever).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:30 AM
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California has rugged, mountainous, sparsely populated areas that don't produce strawberries.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:31 AM
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Shorter 42: Did you know that there is a Washington foreign policy establishment?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:32 AM
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California grows subpar tobacco.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:33 AM
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43: Apparently, it actually died in 1999. Or so claimed someone in comments. I continue to maintain that the theory is more properly tied to the tallow used to produce the fries.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:35 AM
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42:I also toss the word "Empire" around, but as a fact, not a choice.

Ukraine, Georgia, & Ossetia really do want help & protection. If they become part US/EU's Empire/hegemony it is largely because it is in their interests and of their choice.

Or ours, I suppose. But the point of Hegemony/Empire is that the geo-political interests become subordinated to the economic interests. I think once you have the conditions for Empire you are pretty much stuck with maintaining one.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:36 AM
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California has rugged, mountainous, sparsely populated areas that don't produce strawberries.

Even so, they are populated by wonderful condors and rattlesnakes which make the dangerous animals in your part of the country look as sad and pathetic as you yourself.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:37 AM
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California grows subpar tobacco.

They make up for it with the weed, though.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:40 AM
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Randy Scheunemann. It's troubling to me that Obama can't seem to take advantage of this fact politically.

Really, though? Is it really troubling?

From what I understand Scheunemann has in fact been on the phone with Georgia helping on the Nato response, which has maybe helped to curb Medvedev/Putin from pressing any further into Gori than they did. Despite the fact that McCain is a jackass, that tidbit doesn't trouble me.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:46 AM
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From what I understand Scheunemann has in fact been on the phone with Georgia helping on the Nato response, which has maybe helped to curb Medvedev/Putin from pressing any further into Gori than they did.

I think I'd want to see substantial evidence for every part of that sentence after "understand." It's not like the NATO countries weren't bitching from the start.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:49 AM
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There's plenty of Armenians, who share a certain historical bond with Georgia over their shared hatred of Russians and Muslims....

The Armenians, like the Greeks, are heavily specialized in Turks. I doubt that they're anti-Russian at all, though I'm not sure about that.

If you ever find yourself thinking that modern Greeks are sane, read one of their English-language publications on the topic of Macedonia. The face they choose to present to the world is so bad that I don't even want to know what their real underlying beliefs are.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:53 AM
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California is full of cougars.

The NYer piece on FL's Strawberry Queen said most US-grown strawberries come from that flat state.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:54 AM
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But the point of Hegemony/Empire is that the geo-political interests become subordinated to the economic interests. I think once you have the conditions for Empire you are pretty much stuck with maintaining one.

I don't think that either statement is true. Hegemony / Empire can be economically costly (the USSR was). As for the second statement, it's a truism of the foreign relations establishment, based on nothing at all, as far as I know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:56 AM
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The Armenians and Greeks have recent (on a Zhou Enlai scale) cause to be concerned about the Turks. The Macedonian thing frankly defeats me. The ancient Greeks spent most of the 4th century denying the Macedonians claim to be Greek, and only conceded it when the Macedonians overran them. Do their modern equivalents think that nobody reads history?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:59 AM
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You'd think that some faction of our politicians would be cultivated by Albanian interests, who share the hatreds of all their neighbors but none of the alliances. Albanian people I know tend to hate Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and Slavs of all kinds. And for some reason, Kurds. But not Iranians.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 8:59 AM
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Do their modern equivalents think that nobody reads history?

For all practical purposes, that's probably a safe assumption.

If you ever find yourself thinking that modern Greeks are sane, read one of their English-language publications on the topic of Macedonia.

You can also substitute "Turks" for Greeks and "Kurdistan" for Macedonia in that sentence. It helps me to appreciate how the rest of the world must view American public opinion on, say, Cuba.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:06 AM
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54: Fair enough, Timbotnik. It's secondhand reporting but the source is reliable (if biased toward the welfare of GE) and a friend to the Mineshaft and definitely not a ticketholder on the Straight-Talk Express. More generally, I think it would be weird for McCain to say, "People in my campaign have close connections to the government in Tbilisi, therefore I'm sitting this conflict out." (Though of course not half as weird as what he has said on the matter.)


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:06 AM
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61: For what it's worth, I think McCain's irresponsible activity related to Georgia is really natural for him, and probably not the result of employing a Georgian agent. Still, one day I'd hope that irresponsible rhetoric and policy proposals would be politically punishable - and focusing that punishment on the foreign agent involved would seem natural and reasonable in that far-off hypothetical future.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:20 AM
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This word "agent" needs some further basing before I'm going to take it as freehand.

AFP is now reporting that Ossetians/separatists and Russian troops are looting and pillaging in Gori, where the column of tanks and armored vehicles that arrived today is not at all an occupying force, and to suggest otherwise is to fearmonger like a neocon.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:24 AM
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Irony, of course, being that Gori was Stalin's home town.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:26 AM
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Getting $800,000 from Georgia doesn't make you an agent? Since May Scheunemann has recused himself in some meaningless way, but is still part of the company that represents Georgia.

Scheunemann was an open agent and not a secret agent, so there's nothing conspiratorial or underhanded, but what else can you call him but an agent?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:29 AM
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I think "lobbyist" imparts all the useful and accurate information whereas "agent" reads to me as having conspiratorial connotations. 62's "employing a Georgian agent" really sounds like infiltration and I don't think that's what's going on here.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:35 AM
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to suggest otherwise is to fearmonger like a neocon.

The Russians are committing atrocities and Saddam gassed his own people. It's all pretty awful, but it's reality and must be acknowledged.

The neocon part is promoting brinksmanship as an appropriate responses.

This word "agent" needs some further basing before I'm going to take it as freehand.

This morning's Washington Post:

Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser prepped his boss for an April 17 phone call with the president of Georgia and then helped the presumptive Republican presidential nominee prepare a strong statement of support for the fledgling republic.

The day of the call, a lobbying firm partly owned by the adviser, Randy Scheunemann, signed a $200,000 contract to continue providing strategic advice to the Georgian government in Washington.



Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:37 AM
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Albanian people I know tend to hate Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and Slavs of all kinds. And for some reason, Kurds.

"Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Muslims, and everyone hates the Jews!"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:39 AM
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I think "lobbyist" imparts all the useful and accurate information whereas "agent" reads to me as having conspiratorial connotations.

This is why Democrats lose elections!

"Agent" has a specific legal meaning. If Scheunemann is a registered agent of a foreign power, we should gleefully hurl the word around. It's a lot more intellectually honest than "madrassa" was. In fact, I'd love for someone to ask McCain point blank to confirm or deny that his foreign policy adviser "is an agent of a foreign government, as determined by the U.S. Department of State".


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:42 AM
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but I'm still in the process of caffeinating myself.

I saw a sleep specialist yesterday, because my insomnia and sleep cycle has been so bad. (I am such a drain on our healthcare system.) The head of the unit was, I think, pushing me to give up caffeine entirely. I already don't drink caffeinated coffee after noon, though I am fond of diet coke. (I swear that decaffeinated diet coke doesn't taste the same.) I don't know how I'm supposed to manage without caffeine.

Next thing you know, she'll be telling me not to look at computer screens after 7PM. If they try that, I'll have to order the annoying orange lenses that block out blue light.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:43 AM
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KR gets it exactly right in 69.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:44 AM
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A lobbyist works for the person who pays him and negotiates with people who don't pay him. Who is Scheunemann working for, Georgia or McCain? "Wearing two hats" doesn't work.

Having lobbyists on a campaign staff is a very bad sign too -- e.g. Mark Penn, who played a major, almost dominant role on the Clinton campaign even though for him it remained second in priority to his lobbying. It was like he was doing Hillary a favor.

"Lobbyist" is bad enough, but a lobbyist for a foreign government is a level worse.

Imagine that it was a country no one likes: Iran, Burma, or Zimbabwe. Imagine that it was Israel or the PLO. Imagine that it was Russia or China. Even imagine that it was a relatively uncontroversial, low risk country like Japan, Korea, or France.

Our system is so disgracefully corrupt and so colonized by malefactors it's hard to say any given detail makes it worse, but I'd say that having Scheunemann working for McCain at a time like this is a step further down.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:47 AM
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Albanian people I know tend to hate Greeks, Turks, Arabs, and Slavs of all kinds. And for some reason, Kurds.

For the reason that the Turks employed Kurdish tribes to do a lot of their dirty work during the genocide.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 9:58 AM
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On preview, I see I'm mostly pwned by KR, but I'll add that Scheunemann was registered as a Georgian agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It won't let me link to the page with the details of his registration, but you can find it under "Orion Strategies" and his own name.

If I'm reading it correctly, he registered on 04/06/2004 and terminated on 03/01/2008. Alas, the actual registration isn't online, and to get it you have to go to the FARA public office to get it.

This Internet thing, by the way, is a pretty cool way to find information.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:00 AM
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Was there an Albanian genocide somebody's not telling us about, OFE?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:01 AM
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Albanians played a mercenary role during the Ottoman Empire in their own right, though. Call it Orientalism, but sectarian and ethnic politics in the Middle East is historically nasty, and they have a lot of ethnic groups to work with.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:02 AM
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75. Sorry, read it as Armenian. Who also hate the list in question.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:07 AM
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As for the second statement, it's a truism of the foreign relations establishment, based on nothing at all, as far as I know.

Well, that's a long story, but based on common sense informed by history, if nothing else.

The freedom of movement and freedom of contract with an empire creates networks of dependence and mixed loyalties. Scheunemann, Saakashvili amd the Georgian/Israeli Defense Minister are both bugs & features.

I guess we could have dragged Daniel Boone(?) back thru the Cumberland Gap, but following him with an army seems almost inevitable.

What does "Scheunemann = Georgian agent" mean? Means he has made a bunch of people lots of money, or served them in some other way.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:10 AM
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Come on Bob. All truisms are common sense informed by history. Common sense is plural and can prove lots of things, and so is history.

What does "Scheunemann = Georgian agent" mean?

Well, it means that he was registered as a foreign agent for four years, as a part of a futile attempt to monitor external influences in American politics.

Nixon was talking backchannel to some of the Vietnamese in 1968, and most famously Reagan was talking backchannel to the Ayatollah. Georgia isn't quite as sinister as these two, but they seem to be trying to bump American foreign policy into a track more advantageous to them than to Americans.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:17 AM
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I should add that the Washington Post obviously relied on Scheunemann's registration as a foreign agent for many of the details in its story, but the newspaper scrupulously avoids using the word "agent," preferring "lobbyist."

So 'smasher's admonishment in 66 is squarely in line with the sensibilities of the editors of The Washington Post.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:19 AM
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This Internet thing, by the way, is a pretty cool way to find information.

Well, polifootball, you can go to hell, but as I said above I'm open to the term if it's warranted in a distinctly legal sense but I think that context needs to be made clear since its use certainly imparts a lot of connotations that are not warranted even given his continued lobbying connections. And I think it's clear that the whole point in advocating that Obama use the term is to score political points off these connotations, not as a mere technical point-of-order in correcting inaccurate use of State Department assignation terminology.

I think that Obama could do much better than rise to the occasion of responding to McCain and his neoconservative backers in the press, and so could Yglesias and others who seem content to view this through the election campaign lens alone and play defense against Republican outrageousness. The facts remain: Russia's role before this conflict was as peacekeeper/mediator vis-a-vis Georgia and Ossetia, a role it abused to shore up the breakaway region with passports and tanks. Saakashvili—aided and abetted by U.S. advice or not, it's really hard to say given conflicting reports— made a real clusterfuck of the situation and Russia is going to continue to press its advantage unless and until it meets real resistance.

For interests that I remain convinced are not financial, McCain has been vocal publicly while his campaign has been active behind the scenes, to mostly deleterious effect. Mostly as a jumping-off point to criticize Obama. These attacks are childish, but I do wish I knew whether Obama would have a more active response if he weren't in Hawaii.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:27 AM
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Whenever I hear the name of the current Russian president on the radio it sounds like "Nyeb-Nyeb-Nyeb."

This admission makes me seem provincial, even xenophobic, I know. Still, the name sounds so funny to me that I can't resist commenting on it.

Nyeb-Nyeb-Nyeb

It's like the noise the Sesame Street aliens make.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:29 AM
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So 'smasher's admonishment in 66 is squarely in line with the sensibilities of the editors of The Washington Post.

No further questions, your honor. The prosecution rests its case.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:30 AM
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|| Hey 'smasher, you ever going to update your facebook list? |>


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:34 AM
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wait, facebook s/b flickr in 84

Stupid conversation in the room intruding on your typing effect. (what do you call that sort of psch effect anyway?)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:35 AM
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Georgia isn't quite as sinister as these two, but they seem to be trying to bump American foreign policy into a track more advantageous to them than to Americans.

It behooves us to be clear about which Georgians we're talking about here. Scheunemann didn't represent the people of Georgia, he was an agent of the Saakashvili regime. (OK, OK, I mean he was a lobbyist for the Saakashvili administration.)

Saakashvili is a sympathizer with American neocons, and seems to ape their approach to dealing with conflict. Saakashvili doesn't have the interests of the U.S. at heart. (Nor do the neocons, but that's another story.)

It isn't some weird conspiracy theory to propose that Scheunemann might have been acting against the interests of the United States. It was his professional responsibility to put his client's interests first.

Which brings me back to my own 32: "It's troubling to me that Obama can't seem to take advantage of this fact politically."


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:37 AM
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|| Yeah—I'm back home and ready to live up to the duties of deggofnU admin. (I'm guessing you meant Flickr, not Facebook.) |>


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:38 AM
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Which brings me back to my own 32: "It's troubling to me that Obama can't seem to take advantage of this fact politically."

...and against an opponent whose slogan is "Country First"! Jeez, Louise, do they want the attack ad to arrive wrapped in pink ribbons or something?


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:44 AM
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Nixon was talking backchannel to some of the Vietnamese in 1968, and most famously Reagan was talking backchannel to the Ayatollah

You really do think "top-down", don't you? Like an Empire is an Emperor and the soldiers he kills.

When I think of Scheunemann & Georgia, I immediately think of the MacDonald's in Tblisi, an whoever sells that McDonald's beef, buns, packaging. And of course Chevron and arms dealers, the people who work for them, all the way down.

I really do think "bottom-up" When I think of Empire I think of the local in Britannia or Dalmatia or South Ossetia who put on the uniform of the Empire because it was a pretty decent job. That guy has a pretty strong interest in what the Emperor does.

Georgia isn't just about Bush/McBush waving his dick at Putin. There are a lot of people, millions, who have an interest in Georgia.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:45 AM
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No further questions, your honor. The prosecution rests its case.

That was a cheap shot, I know, but I couldn't resist.

Anyway, as far as nasty trolling goes, it wasn't as bad as what Emerson did earlier today over at EOTAW. He suggested that an SEK post was reminiscent of George Will.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:48 AM
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Saakashvili is a sympathizer with American neocons, and seems to ape their approach to dealing with conflict. Saakashvili doesn't have the interests of the U.S. at heart. (Nor do the neocons, but that's another story.)

I don't think this is helpful. Beyond the fact that Georgia was the greatest contributor to the Iraq war after the U.S. and U.K., politics in Tbilisi don't scan as neocon-vs-realist or liberal internationalist. Georgia has been an ally to the U.S. and though there is reasonable question over what that should mean I do not believe that there is great consensus that the alliance is a pernicious thing.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:48 AM
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Scheunemann might have been acting against the interests of the United States.

The interests of the United States (which can only have any meaning when deconstructed) are not monolithic, but, are in fact divided and conflicting.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:50 AM
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And yes, Megan, I do take credit for your new, improved persona. Welcome to the troll community! It's us against the world -- and often enough, each other!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:51 AM
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Have no idea what you're trying to say, Bob. I was talking about foreign policy, which is top down.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:52 AM
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85 -> 87 . Ok, thanks. I left you a msg/request/whatevertheycallit then.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:54 AM
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I think that Obama could do much better than rise to the occasion of responding to McCain and his neoconservative backers in the press, and so could Yglesias and others who seem content to view this through the election campaign lens alone and play defense against Republican outrageousness.

I don't quite get this, Smasher. At a minimum, the Russian behavior seems on par with that which we'd expect from any reasonably size regional power, and the Russians have pretty good reasons to think better of themselves than that. Their behavior might be bad, but it doesn't seem unexpected or even exceptional for the situation.

Further--and this might be the neocon abhorrence talking--but I'm not sure why it's anathema to think of neocons conspiring toward better ends for foreign players and against what most rational human beings would see as the interests of the US. Isn't that the story of Chalibi?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 10:57 AM
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Have no idea what you're trying to say, Bob. I was talking about foreign policy, which is top down.

And I see foreign policy, like almost all other policies, as being driven by a leader's constituencies more than his personal whim.

So I guess we will have trouble understanding each other.

It was pretty sad last night to read, in my Manet book, that the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 was a French national stupidity as much as a catastrophic mistake of Louis Napoleon's. It was a popular war, and Bonaparte was trying to prevent it up the last minute.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:07 AM
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91: I submit that in this conversation we should consider two fruits of the U.S.-Saakashvili relationship, and that both are properly thought of in terms of a neocon-Saakashvili alliance.

1 - Saakashvili provides international cover - "coalition of the willing" and all that - for Iraq.
2 - U.S. neocons offer lots of encouragement to Saakashvili (and the Georgian people who elected him) to overreach vs. the Russians.

These are both pernicious things, and I find it impossible to believe they are unrelated. Likewise, both were encouraged by a worldview and interests shared by Saakashvili and U.S. neocons - specifically the neocons, mind you.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:10 AM
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7559252.stm


Seems ... unwise.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:13 AM
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"Who wants us in Georgia? Swinging dick neocons"

...is just silly, and will run into problems explaining Obama's policies.

We aren't sending 3 brigades ionto Georgia, but we aren't going to abandon it either. The pipeline is too important.

90 got me. I went over to look for the fight. Cute.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:19 AM
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"We expect Russia to honour its commitment to allow in all forms of humanitarian assistance," he said.

No way that could go wrong. Christ.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:20 AM
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I'm basically agreeing with Emerson here, but in more detail.

To wit: back in the day, the Russians spun out some Soviet Socialist Republics to keep various large minority ethnic groups happy. While some large minority groups (but by no means all of them) were given their own SSRs, the SSRs only loosely followed lines of ethnic division. Minority groups inside the perimeter SSRs were often given their own 'autonomous oblasts' inside the little SSRs. Stalin came for Georgia, and for reasons of geography and Georgian chauvanism, Georgia happens to be about the only former SSR that contains almost all the members of the ethnic group the SSR is dedicated to. (The only Georgian-dominated areas not in Georgia are in Turkey, near as I can tell.) Which means that Georgia also contains lots of bits of other ethnic groups as well. That makes Georgia a midget Russia - that is, a country containing lots of other ethnic groups that would really prefer not be dominated by the majority group.

The map you want to see to help make it clear is right here.

When the Soviet Union self-dissolved, all the little SSRs kept their boundaries and there have been various bubbling hotspots since. So after the dissolution, Georgia had lots of fratricidal warfare; the Abkhaz kicked out the Georgians from their area, while the Ossetians tried to ejects the Georgian from their areas and the Georgians were ejecting Ossetians. From the description I heard, the Georgian campaign against Ossetian areas was quite nasty - as nasty as the Russian campaign against Chechnya.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the end of the cold war apparently resulted in the decision that the cold war should continue ('New World Order'), except that the US would adopt the policy advocated by neo-cons - rollback. Rather than starting a war, this rollback would consist of a peaceful cloak-and-dagger campaign. Your deracinated rootless cosmopolitans of Belgium (aka Eurocrats) decided this would be an excellent plan, as it would enlarge the area controlled by Eurocrats. The Russians, recall, wanted to join NATO and were refused. Which gets us right to the bombing of Yugoslavia, which made the Russians very unhappy, as they have long-standing ties with the Serbs. Seen from Moscow, that event taken together with the expansion of NATO, looked an awful lot like what Napoleon AND Hitler got up to before they invaded Russia. That's because it was... what Napoleon and Hitler got up to. So the Russians started pushing back locally. In particular, they supported the Abkhaz & Ossentian against the Georgians, and let us not forget Chechnya.

Meanwhile, come 911, the US suddenly decided that the most important thing was killing Muslims, because Muslim == terrorist. So for about a year and a half, the US adopted a policy of Great Power cooperation against any and all Muslims. Chechnyans are mostly Muslims, so they made the shit list and everybody decided it was ok if the Russians beat on them some more. Similarly the US suddenly decided to back the Chinese against the Uighers, which is how Uighers wound up in Gitmo. That's what the right hand was doing.

The left hand was, zombie-like, continuing the policy of rollback. So when the US insisted on invading the Iraq and insisted on adding new bases in places like Georgia and Romania and Bulgaria, the Russians looked around and noticed that the encirclement rollback demanded was more or less complete. That was the point at which they start pushing all the former SSRs to get the Yankee bases the hell off their turf. Which of course has produced lots of protests from the US about Putin being anti-democratic and blah de blah blah. That was also the point at which the Russians decided to step up their support for Iran's nuclear program.

After the 2004 election, apparently our many chuckleheads who practice foreign policy in the US decided they had a free hand to do whatever they like, so the CIA intervened in the Ukraine & Georgia against the Russians to um, promote democracy. No one who got elected appears to be much of a democrat, but they want to slurp Americans and apparently that was good enough. So now the Russians are just actively pissed and selling arms to the Iranians and opposing the US where ever.

Back to Georgia. Basically we fed them a bunch of weapons to build a big army, and their goal was to retake Ossetia and Abkhaz. However Russian peacekeepers have been on the ground in both places (I believe the Russians have a naval base in Abkhaz that they've since the end of the USSR) and this has sort of put a damper on the Georgian plans.

Last week the Georgians apparently signed a treaty recognizing the independence of South Ossetia (in exchange for the abandonment of claims to Ossentian territory outside the old Oblast?). Then they turned around and attacked South Ossetia, which includes attacking the Russian peacekeepers.

The thing is, is that the Russians have a rather large army to hand not 50-75 miles away in Chechnya, and they have that naval base in Abkhaz so they said 'Oh, no, you will fucking NOT!' and proceeded to kick the shit out of the Georgians. The news reports suggest that they have stopped at the Georgia-Abkhaz boundary... on the Georgian side of the line. Taking Gori in the center tho, would have to be done if they intend to occupy ALL Ossetian territory in Georgia... because Georgia is basically a big valley with a river running down the middle, and there are Ossetians in the hills above the river on both sides.

(And here's the relief map!)

Of course, the entire reason the Georgians have been dedicated to taking all of Ossetia, is that if that territory were independent or occupied by the Russians, it would split Georgia in half. (Whereas Abkhaz is peripheral, so the Georgians have never tried to retake it after the Abkhaz said fuck off in 1999.)

In any event, in a world where treaties, territorial integrity and/or ethnic cleansing are valid justifications for going to war, it looks an awful lot like the Russians are on the side of the angels here, regardless of their behaviour elsewhere.

max
['That took a long time to type.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:21 AM
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99: Those are humanitarian and medical supplies. Is there a better way to get them in? They are clearly needed.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:21 AM
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the Russian behavior seems on par with that which we'd expect from any reasonably size regional power

In a lot of ways the Ossetia case is unique. Russia served as mediators to the GE-SO argument, a role that has (obviously) since been stripped by the OSCE, and didn't really push it until Georgia was vying for Nato membership. Then, it seems fairly clear, Russia stressed preexisting tensions over Ossetia, using its role as mediator to exacerbate the situation and (some will argue) force Saakashvili to take some kind of action. I'm not so far out yet that I'm ready to believe that Russia staged a DNS dress rehearsal but the passports, the soldiers, the recruitment in Abkhazia, it was all there. The response to the Georgian move into Ossetia, of course, quickly got out of hand, but only could have gone that way if Russia were pretty fairly prepared to mobilize.

So, I don't know, maybe this is just bad behavior but it seems pretty exceptional to me as a proxy battle over Nato. It's going to continue to come up if the United States continues to consider Nato an important safeguard to U.S. interests since 1) Nato is expanding and 2) Russia abhors Nato. As I understand it, that's the extent to which the McCain campaign's Georgian loyalists were advising Tbilisi—about whether and how Nato could become involved. And since Georgia is a U.S. ally I don't see positions supportive of Georgia as necessarily contrary to U.S. interests.

McCain wants to go to war with Russia no matter what, remember. It's McCain who's contrary to U.S. interests.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:24 AM
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Yes, we will make meaningless gestures and perhaps send a sternly written letter.

AFAIK the S. Ossetes would prefer to be absorbed by Russia and united with the N. Ossetes.

I do not grant that as a general rule wars are caused by popular demand. In most cases I doubt that popular demand is even a serious cause at all. I grant that popular anti-war feeling is consistently less powerful and less effective, than one would hope.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:24 AM
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re: 103

The US should stay the fuck out, I think. US troops on the ground seems world-historically stupid.

There are plenty of other countries who could do it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:25 AM
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98:Saakashvili's decision (and neo-con encouragement) looks so stupid that I am not willing to take the surface story at face value, and am looking for other possible explanations.

Saakashvili may have been sacrificed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:26 AM
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Thank you max. That helps a lot.

I do not grant that as a general rule wars are caused by popular demand. In most cases I doubt that popular demand is even a serious cause at all. I grant that popular anti-war feeling is consistently less powerful and less effective, than one would hope.

War is one of those things people leave to the judgment of the government. Are we at risk from the iron fist of the Soviets? Does the government say we are? Well then, we'd better fight back. I guess this would be knee-jerk anti-pacifism, but it is the logical thing to do if you assume that your government would rather protect you than hurt you. Therefore it is the #1 way governments manipulate people.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:27 AM
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US troops on the ground seems world-historically stupid.

Luckily, I think they're all busy right now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:27 AM
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re: 109

Well, Bush has said he's going to send some.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:34 AM
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102: Hey max, that was really informative. Thanks. (Although I'm never going to agree that a nation using military force is on the side of the angels.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:35 AM
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I do not grant that as a general rule wars are caused by popular demand

I said "constituences", not popular demand.

Could Saakashvili have retained power internally, or as much power, without attacking S Ossettia? Not sure.

Lincoln? McKinley? Wilson? LBJ? Bush I? The point is that most leaders have concrete, not ideological, reasons for war. Or think they do. The French were cocky, disappointed about Mexico, pissed off about Alsace/Lorraine/Rhine Valley, and the Republicans had won some seats and were demonstrating. The economy was bad and there was a drought. Louis Napoleon had some pressures.

102:Max I really appreciate the maps. But the rest of it feels like you are describing a game of Risk.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:43 AM
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(Although I'm never going to agree that a nation using military force is on the side of the angels.)

Kick-ass angels, rob, not those fairies with the flowing gowns and harps.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:44 AM
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So, I don't know, maybe this is just bad behavior but it seems pretty exceptional to me as a proxy battle over Nato.

I hope I don't sound as if I'm being purposely dense--any denseness isn't intentional--but I'm not seeing what's exceptional about a proxy battle for regional influence. We all accept that Iran dicking around in Iraq is unexceptional, if not what we'd hope for, right?

And since Georgia is a U.S. ally I don't see positions supportive of Georgia as necessarily contrary to U.S. interests.

I'm not sure what the formal nature of that alliance is. Also --perhaps people better versed in the details of US foreign policy history (Apo) can weigh in--but I think we roll over on allies all the time when it suits us. Just as they do to us. Nature of the beast. And when people accuse others in the US of acting in the interests of a foreign power--the USSR near or at the end of WWII, Chalibi, Israel and Pollard or whomever, etc.--isn't that foreign power often nominally an ally? That seems to be, by memory, a pretty standard initial defense.

Maybe "necessarily" is the important word? If so, then I guess it's a question of the initial default assumption: should that neocon fuck have to prove his actions are in the US interests, or should we assume it so and force the other side to prove that they aren't? Eight years in, I comfortable starting with the assumption that the neocons are wrong and acting with disregard (as opposed to antipathy) for American interests. But I really am willing to be corrected in this case. (I suppose I'm willing to be corrected on neocons, generally, but at this point, it's going to take a hell of a lot of evidence.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:47 AM
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Bob - here's my understanding. In April Russia really beefed up their military presence in Abkhazia and dug in solidly. They also formalized ties with Abkhaz officials (ie, essentially recognizing them as if they were an independent country). Tbilisi saw that they were about to lose Abkhazia if they let those military positions be taken, but exercised "restraint". I believe that the Saakashvili administration considered that the same thing was about to happen in South Ossetia based on the escalating events of the last few weeks and various movements of personnel/equipment etc. They felt they needed to move now, or maybe lose S.O. for good.

They blew it, obviously, fantastically. Even if the U.S. or somebody DID intend to come in, which of course they did not, the Georgian army didn't even hold out long enough for reinforcements. In one report I read, Russian soldiers made jokes about the Georgians being American-trained in "running away."


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:50 AM
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Are we back arguing how there is no such thing as agency? Please let the answer be no.

Sometimes a leader is taking initiatives, sometimes he's just struggling to stay on his feet. My guess is that Saakashavili once the most important initiators here, and that Putin was in charge and following a carefully thought out plan, and that Scheunemann was working with Saakashvili and joined up with McCain on the correct assumption that McCain would be naturally receptive, and that while McCain is totally sincere he's almost certain to try to milk it politically too. Which to me means that a rather small number of players have managed to fuck thing up in that part of the world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:52 AM
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LBJ could have avoided war in Vietnam. FDR could have avoided war in WWII. Both of them had to work pretty hard to get support.

Both would probably have had to have canned some top advisers and top generals, but that's how you do those things.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 11:56 AM
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The ethnicities map in 102 is fascinating. There's a weird little enclave of Armenians in Krasnodar all off by themselves, and on the Georgia-Armenia border two little enclaves of Greeks(!)


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:04 PM
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LBJ could have avoided war in Vietnam.

And you know I how I analyze this.

LBJ could keep some Northern Republicans on Civil Rights and the Great Society, but not if he pulled out of Vietnam. Those Republicans would have faced primary opposition and been forced to move to the Right on domestic issues. Dirksen was always working his caucus.

When was LBJ gonna pullout? Freedom Summer 1965? 1966 midterms?

If LBJ "lost" Vietnam, he would probably have lost 1966 even worse than he did. Who knows 1968? Goldwater redux?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:15 PM
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91

"... Georgia has been an ally to the U.S. and though there is reasonable question over what that should mean I do not believe that there is great consensus that the alliance is a pernicious thing."

It's obviously pernicious in that it is not in the interest of the US to have such alliances. Such alliances have little upside and huge potential downsides.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:20 PM
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I think we roll over on allies all the time when it suits us. Just as they do to us. Nature of the beast.

Yeah, of course. I don't bet that war with Russia and rolling over on Georgia are the only two options that will come forward but the rolling over one sure sounds pretty likely. Still—more than we have a stake in checking Russian incursions into Georgian territory, we have an interest in keeping Moscow at the international table and suggesting that they not do shit like this in the future. Russia wants a greater role in global organizations, not to be kicked out of a bunch of them over a weird premeditated war in Georgia.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:20 PM
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At the end of his life Johnson told someone that his career was ruined because he trusted the generals. He seems to have thought that he had a choice, and that he took the wrong one. He was a domestic guy and trusted the international relations geniuses assembled by Kennedy.

If he had failed to escalate in 1965 he wouldn't have lost Vietnam. Things would have dragged and dribbled. I'm not even sure that Republicans were gung-ho hawkish.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:21 PM
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Are we back arguing how there is no such thing as agency? Please let the answer be no.

Agency? I think I am talking politics. You apparently are attacking strawmen.

It always takes a nation to wage a war.

Bush had a base and contributors. HRC thought her vote would gain more than lose. Kerry & Edwards thought they could get a pass. To understand Iraq you need to go at least one level below those four people. To stop the next one you probably need to analyze two levels down.
...
We will see if Saakashvili survives this war. On the one hand, I think he had the support of his people. OTOHH, he lost.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:25 PM
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Jamie Galbraith, ably defending his thesis and his father's career and insights at TPM this week, convinced me a few years ago that JFK had taken steps to pull the plug on Vietnam, at a meeting then taking place in Hawaii, and that certain of his advisers, like the Bundys and some forgotten early-war generals who disagreed promptly put it back on track before Johnson got up to speed.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:28 PM
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While there are certainly Georgian hawks, I think a lot of Georgians are pretty fed up with Saakashvili and are not glad he got them into this mess. But of course, that's a pretty distant second on the list of concerns compared to the Russians sitting in Gori. I am also uncertain as to what happens to his support after this settles down (inshallah).


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:30 PM
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Needn't get sarcastic, Bob. I was begging for the answer "No".

I'm not sure what your point is any more. Leaders have constituencies and have to take the established bureaucracies into account, so they have no autonomy at all and never do anything? If you're saying that they aren't individually autonomous but function of the public faces of the constituencies they get support from, call it metonymy. "Bush" means "the Bush faction". It all looks too much like the decrepit old bullsht about how leaders never do anything, since everything is the result of Objective Forces, and there are no turning points, since everyhting is inevitable.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:33 PM
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we have an interest in keeping Moscow at the international table and suggesting that they not do shit like this in the future.

Hard to disagree with that. I suppose it depends on whether "this" takes in our dicking around on the Russian periphery and what is at least being reported as local desires in S. Ossettia and Abkhazia to be associated with the Russians.

I guess that's really part of the issue: how to characterize the Russian actions and therefore what predictions we can reasonably draw about future Russian action. Perhaps because of our trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Russians' prior trouble in the latter, I tend to assume that large powers believe it to be expensive to take and hold a place where the people do not want them, so the justification for doing so has to be pretty good. Perhaps that belief is wrong. But a lot of the commentary--pundit commentary, not yours--seems to be driven by a strong version of the opposite assumption that the Russians are hellbound to rebuild their physical empire.

All of which seems pretty tangentially related to how we regard and/or portray Scheunemann. Though perhaps the reason Obama isn't particularly doing anything about this is that he has a similar problem. (There's Red and Blue, and then there's lobbyist green, and I know which I believe to be the tie that binds.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:38 PM
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max's account is spot on. I see our jock-sniffing president at the Olympics prancing around while athletes offer their asses for patting and feel the sadness I feel when watching The National's Fake Empire video.

The US has no moral standing at all. Putin sits next to Bush while starting a war against an ally. Talk to China about human rights, and they say Guantanamo Bay while laughing. Most Americans probably realize this already. Georgians were delusional in believing Americans would send troops to save them. In a sense, this is good.

I wonder how oil geopolitics plays here. The Russian economy is anemic but has spiked with higher oil prices. Now that crude oil prices down 30% in recent weeks, I wonder if Russia is secondarily motivated to use the military to prop up prices. I suspect not.


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:41 PM
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Tim, not to get all bogged down in endless Caucasus minutiae, but it seems part of your point is that it may be the case that South Ossetia and Abkhazia really want to be associated with Russia.

Just to add a little complexity: SO, unlike Abkhazia, is really patchwork. Lots of Georgian villages, lots of Ossetian villages. Both have pretty different ideas as to who has their best interests at heart. That makes it tricky.

Abkhazia is much more homogeonous ethnically, and thus in their support for Russian ties. But then, that's a function of the ejection of the majority Georgian population in the war (resulting, yes, from ill-advised Georgian maneuvers.)


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:47 PM
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(Sorry, "in the war" is the civil war in the early 90s)


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 12:49 PM
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not to get all bogged down in endless Caucasus minutiae

I appreciate it, if you don't mind providing it. I don't know how much of a pain in the ass it feels like to you, though.

part of your point is that it may be the case that South Ossetia and Abkhazia really want to be associated with Russia.

Something like that. Mo' better might be "S. Ossetia and Abkhazia don't prefer Georgian rule to Russian rule." That is, it's less clear that the Russians are imposing their will on an unwilling local population, or at least that the population considers itself worse off than it was before. I wouldn't say that's a determinative factor, but it seems like one that might have both moral and prudential (for the Russians, and therefore for our estimations of the Russians) weight.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:15 PM
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Ok. And I'd say that's a fair assumption for the Abkhaz population, although they are looking for independence, not annexation to Russia (practically, of course, it would be pretty similar). The trick has been that it sets a nasty precedent that to get recognized as independent, all you have to do is violently rid your territory of anyone different from you. (For the record, I sort of think Georgia ought to cut its losses w/r/t Abkhazia, but it is true that you've got to do something with the 150K Georgian refugees from Abkhazia...)

You can't really say the same with South Ossetia. Again, it's just too mixed, and lots of Georgians living there.

Russia, along with the rest of the world, has until very recently always stuck to the official line that they recognize these territories as officially part of Georgia.


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:22 PM
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Susan!!!!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:24 PM
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I was wondering when you were going to show up, Ben. I was feeling lonely.


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:25 PM
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As soon as I saw your name in the sidebar, my dearest.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:28 PM
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Great. Just like old times.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:46 PM
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Back off, pal. We know what she thinks of you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:48 PM
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oookay, back to separatist enclaves?


Posted by: susan | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:50 PM
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:(


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:53 PM
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Sanctions for ben w-lfs-n.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 1:58 PM
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oookay, back to separatist enclaves?

Quite right. 'Smasher, back to Abkhazia, Ben you lay low in Ossetia, and no more bickering.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 2:03 PM
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My huddled mass has been suffering under sanctions for a long time already, Armsmasher. It's downright inhumane.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 2:04 PM
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There's plenty of Armenians, who share a certain historical bond with Georgia over their shared hatred of Russians and Muslims, but at least they are concentrated in safely blue states.

I believe the current Armenian government is actually Russia sympathetic (or maybe Russia-allied), partly relating to Russia's support for their position over the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is officially part of Azerbaijan.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 3:12 PM
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That may be wrong on details, but this says Armenia is pro-Russia.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 3:17 PM
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I agree that 'provision of aid' is way of formally introducing the US flag into the arena, and as such is more escalatory than I expected. Maybe we'll see a repeat of this episode.

It's certainly going to be interesting. However, I haven't noticed much in the way of escalatory rhetoric from the Russian side, so maybe they are cool with everything. Then again, I'm not convinced that the Russian leadership in this situation speaks with one voice.

I'd tentatively suggest that Rice's performance earlier today was not so bad. Russian tanks hanging around the road to Tbilisi is bullshit.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 3:36 PM
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The Russians have justified their excursions from SO and Abkhazia as necessary to demilitarize GA forces in territories adjacent to SO and Abkhazia. GA itself is a territory adjacent to SO and Abkhazia, so I guess the Russians have granted themselves a very wide remit.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:05 PM
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Aren't the Russian actions basically the twin of the Israeli actions in Lebannon: go in, kick the shit out of part of the country, try to destroy any infrastructure that might be used for future attacks, and wait for international cat-calls about "overreaction"?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:14 PM
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Well, I just heard the Russian representative to NATO on the BBC saying that reports of Russian APCs moving in and around Gori were 'propaganda'. But the BBC people in Georgia actually filmed the incursion earlier in the day.

Maybe it's all down to that 'fog of war' thing: i.e. the Russians don't really know where their army is; at least, not at that level of detail. For all we know, they haven't issued their troops with maps, let alone GPS units.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:20 PM
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McCain is on the phone every day with Saakashvili, and now he's sending Lindsay and Holy Joe over as a "delegation." How's this for a conspiracy theory: Scheunemann and McCain ginned up this situation in order to get McCain elected, with the promise to Saakashvili of plenty of goodies from the Americans once McCain is in.

Under this theory, there was still a miscalculation - the Georgians weren't supposed to get their asses kicked - but it's still on track. I don't know how the public will respond, but I would imagine that the press is lapping this shit up - "McCain sure looks presidential, what with him basically running his own foreign policy in the Caucasus."

Does this qualify as nutbar conspiracy theorizing? Or will I be proved fucking right?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:22 PM
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149: I dunno. If this were all a campaign ploy, wouldn't McCain have picked a country about which Americans gave a shit? Is the press even going to be talking about this in a week?


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:24 PM
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In my fantasy America of the future, it would be *completely obvious* to the public that the U.S. has no interest in a war between two authoritarian states halfway around the world about local issues. And foreign policy "experts" would be totally unable to sway them using arguments about which is the Bad Mean Evil country this week, or even, for your somewhat more sophisticated crowd, elaborate domino-effect type scenarios.

Fucking around with Russia, the whole assumption that what Russia does in its near abroad is automatically our business because Everything in the World Is Our Business is just imperialist, Great Game thinking. In general, such thinking does more harm than good to the world we are trying to help.

Russia has been very nice in allowing us to just pull Eastern Europe and the Baltic states into the European orbit. By the standards of great power etiquette they deserve some freedom of action locally. Great power etiquette is important because conflict between great powers is bad.

Disappointed in Obama´s rhetoric so far -- he seems to be signalling an agreement to the "rollback" policy Max described so well in 102. I think this was a moment where Obama could have broken through to the public with a common sense message of me peace-monger, McCain war-monger. In general, Obama has seemed unwilling to question DC "centrist/serious" think-tank wisdom. Almost a little unsure of himself somehow.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:26 PM
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Also is "McCain is the president who's really super-duper desperate to get us into a foreign war -- any foreign war" really such a good strategy in the first place?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:28 PM
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151: so are you for 'great game' politics or against it?

Personally, I don't much like the idea of the Russian army moving around inside Russia, let alone their 'near-abroad'. We might get another Grozny.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:32 PM
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If this were all a campaign ploy, wouldn't McCain have picked a country about which Americans gave a shit?

I'd say no - if Americans cared, they'd be harder to cow (are there any ethnic Georgian enclaves in the US?). Instead, you want a simple, black-white scenario - Russian Bear bad, plucky, Freedom-loving Georgians good.

Plus, of course, you meddle in the international powderkeg you've got (and with Scheunemann, you've got it - or it's got you), not necessarily....

Also is "McCain is the president who's really super-duper desperate to get us into a foreign war -- any foreign war" really such a good strategy in the first place?

McCain has to shoot the moon to win this one - he can't do it by normal means. Also, on the same note, wouldn't you say that Bush wouldn't want an Osama tape to surface days before the election, b/c it reminds everyone he failed to catch him? But that's not how boogeyman psychology works - and Osama won the election for Bush.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:33 PM
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In general, Obama has seemed unwilling to question DC "centrist/serious" think-tank wisdom. Almost a little unsure of himself somehow.

I think it turns out that the DLC-neolibs are a fuckload stronger than people (I) thought. (Silly on my part.) Which is one reason we might get a Bayh in the VP slot. And one reason that Obama is going to have to reassure people like Bayh who worry that Iraq has turned us off of war.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:33 PM
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How's this for a conspiracy theory: Scheunemann and McCain ginned up this situation in order to get McCain elected, with the promise to Saakashvili of plenty of goodies from the Americans once McCain is in.

My theory from the beginning. McCain and Saakashvili are the suckers, Scheunemann is the entrepreneur / con man.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:39 PM
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155: This supports McManus's theory, which I ridiculed, that no individual officeholder can really change anything.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:41 PM
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157: Not overnight, and not before he's elected, anyway. And even absent that, it would take time. But the first thing to do is to get someone pointed in the right direction. And Obama remains the best bet for that. So it's not all doom and gloom.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:44 PM
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so are you for 'great game' politics or against it?

Shouldn´t it be obvious that I´m against it? Great game politics is the very opposite of great power etiquette -- as I understand it the "great game" refers to the practice of constantly fucking around in other countries spheres of influence in the hope of hitting some improbable triple-bank shot to win some godawful place halfway around the world to "your side". Whatever that means or is supposed to do. Great power etiquette involves respecting their sphere of influence.

I think it turns out that the DLC-neolibs are a fuckload stronger than people (I) thought. (Silly on my part.)

Perhaps this is sentimental of me, but I sort of felt like their empire was hollow and starting to rot and Obama could have knocked a chunk off it, but didn´t because he truly hasn´t had the necessary epiphany about them. He seems rather respectful of credentials.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:47 PM
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Obama is going to have to reassure people like Bayh who worry that Iraq has turned us off of war

Does anybody else remember George Will worrying in 1991 that Ken Burns' Civil War series on PBS might have this effect, just when we needed to go to war in Iraq?

This way of thinking has Americans as isolationists and peaceniks, who have to be dragged kicking and screaming into wars, and basically have to be tricked into thinking we've been attacked. As if Jeannette Rankin and Cynthia McKinnon were representative figures. If only.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:50 PM
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Obama could have knocked a chunk off it, but didn´t because he truly hasn´t had the necessary epiphany about them. He seems rather respectful of credentials.

I agree, and it very sad.

I'm pretty well committed by now to the right-wing populis idea that the Democratic Party belongs totally to the New Class. Credentialism runs the show. And the New Class is easy pickings for an uncredentialed guys like Karl Rove who are smarter than they are. Karl Makes a move that's not in their textbooks, and they wet their pants.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:55 PM
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The time for a Democratic presidential candidate to pick a fight with the foreign policy establishment is not the months between winning the nomination and Election Day. Wait and see what appointments Obama makes *if* he's fortunate enough to get in a position to make them.


Posted by: Gabriel | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 4:56 PM
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I'm pretty well committed by now to the right-wing populis idea that the Democratic Party belongs totally to the New Class.

I think I half am, too. But I don't think that's the characteristic of the party that's giving Obama problems. Sixteen years is a long, long time, career-wise. Some networks of people necessary to winning elections--local machines, money people, media, whomever--are or agree with the DLC and are dug in deep.

That doesn't mean it's hopeless. But it's going to take longer, and there are going to be some things done along the way that are likely to anger you and are otherwise inexplicable. Sucks, but there it (probably) is.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 5:33 PM
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If you enjoy comment threads, This could be a fun place to spend the evening. Sadly No and his commenters rip Yggles to shreds.

DLC shit. I remember reading Jonathan Scheur around 1982 and wondering why Tip O'Neill and his buddies were paying for Reagan's nukes.

I still think Obama, like Klein & Yggles, is a problem because of the reflexive hippie-hatin.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-13-08 6:29 PM
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If yáll want to know more about the conflicgt, I've only been blogging about it since Saturday, so please click the link. It would make a break from all the people coming over looking for Sharron Davies' nipples. (don't ask)


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 1:07 AM
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I've been getting redirected from the sadlyno site to some "omninoggin" bullshit for says now, does anyone else have this problem? I thought maybe they'd been hacked by aggrieved wingers.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 3:31 AM
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159: Maybe. But 'great power etiquette' as you describe it nonetheless rings of 'great game' politics, in that it pays homage to the idea of a 'sphere of influence', in the sense that a larger nation has an entitlement to hold sway over its smaller neighbours. I'm not sure that we should give currency to a view of the world where large, powerful nations are insulated from each other by layers of small, inert nations. After all, if your country were deemed to be the geopolitical equivalent of a polystyrene packing chip, how would you feel about it?

With respect to Georgia, some people have argued that if, say, Mexico were suddenly to up in arms against a contingent of US 'peacekeepers' who happened to be stationed just across the Mexican border (or within a hypothetical disputed part of Mexico), then we would expect the US to invade hell for leather and depose the Mexican government. What's more, it is argued, the US would have greater entitlement to do this in the case of Mexico than in the case, say, of Argentina; Mexico being more within America's 'sphere of influence'. So in this light, Russia's actions should be seen as natural, proportionate and moderate.

However, I don't agree with any of that. It should be possible for countries to tolerate differences with near neighbours without escalation to war. If the 'sphere of influence' line of thinking had prevailed during the Cuban missile crisis, for instance, we would have seen an invasion of Cuba.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 3:53 AM
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166. Works for me. Probably not worth worrying about though, if you've got some paint you could watch drying or something exciting like that.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:15 AM
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some people have argued that if, say, Mexico were suddenly to up in arms against a contingent of US 'peacekeepers' who happened to be stationed just across the Mexican border (or within a hypothetical disputed part of Mexico), then we would expect the US to invade hell for leather and depose the Mexican government.

Well, yeah, of course.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:22 AM
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re: 165

'Nipplegate' was 2004, I thought?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:25 AM
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170. Apparently Martin is still getting traffic from some reference at that date (although he doesn't appear on the first two pages of a google search for the glands in question, so there must be some seriously determined pervs out there).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:30 AM
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Heh. That's pervs for you, I 'spose.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:39 AM
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If you enjoy comment threads, This could be a fun place to spend the evening.

Or not. I'm all for putting Yglesias in his place, mostly because I'm all for putting anybody in his or her place, but the post and comments just seem dumb - based on a deliberate misunderstanding of the Yglesias post, and geared largely toward uninventive ad hominem.

Worse than that, it all displays the kind of proud "I'm too virtuous to be part of a majority" thinking that is a proper cause of loathing for the dirty fucking hippies.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 4:53 AM
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The Sadly No! comments section is probably not the place to look for the next JK Galbraith (or indeed, for anything other than comments section shite really), but I do think there's an element to their outrage that needs to be taken seriously; although I never expected anything else as a born cynic, I can see how people who expected more out of blogs and new media might be really quite disappointed to see the big tickets in blogging going to the normal Meeja Kids - decent universities, student journalism etc - rather than realising what we all thought was a real potential to bring in some previously marginalised voices.

pushy stockbrokers writing in the guardian is completely different, btw.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:58 AM
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Sphere of influence', in the sense that a larger nation has an entitlement to hold sway over its smaller neighbours.

The alternate proposal on the table is that there's only one sphere of influence, and it's ours. The monopolar world of American preponderance.

From the beginning I've thought of this episode as an attempt by an adventurist leader to leverage his connections with the American far right into substantial American military support, just as Likud has done. The particulars of Russia, Georgia, and Ossetia are of secondary importance. All I can say is that the Ossetes and the Georgians are among the many unlucky peoples in the world today, but not the unluckiest, and that's too bad. The US has neither the capacity nor the will (I hope) to do much of anything, and if the US tried the Georgians and Ossetes might well end up unluckier still, because we'll do things our way and not their way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:08 AM
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I might repeat, as I've been saying everywhere, that without extensive cleansing there really will never be successfulnation states in the Caucasus. That area may be more ethnically diverse than anywhere else in the world, the various peoples are not separately arranged on neat little nation-sized parcels of land, and while the historical mutual hostility there is sometimes be exaggerated, there's a lot of it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:13 AM
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For me, Yglesias is the marker of a mild improvement in American conventional wisdom. I've followed him since the beginning (2002 or 2003), and back then he was a neoliberal and almost a neocon. I was really surprised when he went to The American Prospect rather than to TNR.

So for me the glass is half full. Americna conventional opinion will always be far to my right, but it's crept a bit closer in the last few years. (As I say, "As a wrong-thinking person, I'll always be grateful to the Bush administration for forcing the right-thinking people to admit that they were wrong".)

I still haven't seen a well-developed proposal within the Democratic Party for an American foreign policy other than realism or neocon adventurism. The Ron Paul / American Conservative wing has one, but it's tied to pretty intense racism. My ultra-left anti-globalist friends, as far as I know, cannot imagine the US being much better than it is; they seem purely reactive and oppositional (not to say that they're wrong).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:23 AM
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175:

The alternate proposal on the table is that there's only one sphere of influence, and it's ours. The monopolar world of American preponderance.

From a European perspective, another alternative seems to be in effect: multilateral cooperation, in which all players broadly agree to adhere to the same, non-minimal set of rules. This is one reason why Iraq has been seen as a major setback.

Yesterday, Rice referred several times to "the international system". Now that can sound a bit creepy, depending on how you're disposed to take it, but it's hard to think of another name for what's been achieved in the way of institution building since 1945.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:56 AM
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"As a wrong-thinking person, I'll always be grateful to the Bush administration for forcing the right-thinking people to admit that they were wrong".

Excellent.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:17 AM
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So for me the glass is half full.

Me too. To the extent that Yglesias is an anti-war careerist, then that's a good thing.

As long as liberals need to rely on virtuous individuals standing up against the power structure, we're fucked. If the Sadly No! folks ever become right about this, and the media power structure starts rewarding opposition to military misadventures, I'd be pretty goddam happy about it, and wouldn't begrudge the sycophants the prosperity they achieve thereby.

I can see how people who expected more out of blogs and new media might be really quite disappointed to see the big tickets in blogging going to the normal Meeja Kids

This was a bit of a surprise to me, too. Emerson mentioned that he was reading Yglesias in '02 or '03, and so was I. Why should that be?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 8:00 AM
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I'd love to see Digby or Billmon get a real-money writing job. Or Max Sawicky. There really are a lot of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:05 AM
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Am I imagining it, or has Digby been getting less linkage since she came out as female? It seems as if I've seen fewer reactions to her posts in the last year or so.

Globally, it seems like there were a whole bunch of blogs that were influential in the first couple of years of political blogging, and the ones that have stayed big were the ones with fairly conventional professional-writer credentials and connections.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:12 AM
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Yes, nipplegate was 2004, and while I got the occasional perv ever since looking for Sharron's "JCB starter buttons" as one of them called it, once the Olympics started last Friday traffic started to rise and rise. Fun fact: many are Everton fans.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:19 AM
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182.2 seems right to me too


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:20 AM
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Am I imagining it, or has Digby been getting less linkage since she came out as female? It seems as if I've seen fewer reactions to her posts in the last year or so.

I think this is a real effect, but I think part of it had to do with (some of the particulars of) her support for Clinton, Obama supporting blogs being unlikely to link to her on the topic of Obama. Krugman probably lost a bit of traffic in the same period, due to the same thing.

I personally think my co-blogger should get a pro writing gig, but yeah, nobody's just handing those out unless they know you personally or you're willing to, you know, put some work in, seems like.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:21 AM
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Digby, Huffington, and Hamsher all have Hollywood-type connections, but they're all outsiders in the pundit / print world.

I learned from my own experience that to be successful at blogging, you had to think professionally (which I didn't). Put out consistent product, develop a few specific areas of expertise, get totally on top of the available technology, write for an audience, develop a network of supporters and allies.

None of which I did. I got started at the bottom in eraly 2002, and probably was sort of middle level for awhile, but I couldn't consistently write enough good stuff and veered into self-expression too often. (You have write for an audience, not yourself). I liked to say that I was a liberal blogger with a conservative (Den Beste, Charles Johnson) temperament.

I was commenting on Atrios when he was nobody. I was one of many encouraging Digby to start his/her own blog because of her Atrios comments.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:24 AM
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Globally, it seems like there were a whole bunch of blogs that were influential in the first couple of years of political blogging, and the ones that have stayed big were the ones with fairly conventional professional-writer credentials and connections.

Yeah, the latter only came along once Atrios and Demosthenes and Avedon Carol and the Nielsen Haydens and a sled load of others had shown the way.

Ezra and Matt and Kevin and their ilk were already bound for the beltway and they were the ones shrewd enough to realise the power of blogs early enough that it gave their careers a boost it normally wouldn't have had. Then you had others like Josh Marshall and Eric Alterman who were already established and also recognised what blogs could do for them. By the time Kos came along it was all over and any chance that liberal blog anger could morph into a real grassroots political movement was gone.

Remember the blogroll purge "scandal" of a year or two ago? That was the real signal the Beltway didn't need grassroot blogs anymore.

As for worthy bloggers going unrecognised, I still miss Aaron Hawkins, who said everything the Sadly No commentators are saying about Matt Y. now, but four years ago.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:32 AM
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But really, should we be surprised that blogging didn't overturn a largely racist and sexist old boy network? That the people who succeeded are the nice cleancut not too ethnical young male asslickers?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:34 AM
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"Not too ethnical" is a nice typo, there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:35 AM
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Demosthenes and Hesiod. Miss those guys.

Www.bartcop.com was there first, and never got much credit at all. Does not appeal to the New Class. Wish there were more like him. He was strong for Hillary and he's too hawkish, but he's strong where most Democrats are puny.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:38 AM
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Actually, I find Kevin Drum's career path a little mysterious. As centrist Democrats go, I think he's great -- generally very sensible, albeit somewhat depressingly subject to conventional wisdom. But if I understand his trajectory right, he started blogging as a mid-forties not-particularly journalism-connected guy; I'm not clear what the story is for why or how he turned pro.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:38 AM
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It's of course not true that nobody who's nice a nice, clean-cut, non-ethnical white dude succeeded; Marcotte and Valenti have both done relatively well for themselves, at least in terms of remaining prominent voices. But yeah, the ones you might have imagined wanted to be pundits... are now pundits.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:39 AM
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191: I think he actually has a lot more journalism background/connections than are necessarily obvious; he worked in tech, but if I understand correctly his education was in journalism.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:40 AM
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Add a "not" to 192, if you please.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:41 AM
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Marcotte and Valenti have both done relatively well for themselves, at least in terms of remaining prominent voices.

Although if you match them up against, e.g., Yglesias and Klein, who's on the inside and who's on the outside is still very clear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:42 AM
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Sifu, we all know how Valenti made it.

All the women I named still have big audiences in their own names, but they haven't been picked up by big media.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:42 AM
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But really, should we be surprised that blogging didn't overturn a largely racist and sexist old boy network?

Not even a tiny little bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:42 AM
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195: well, sure. If you match anybody up against Yglesias and Klein, that's the case. But I agree with those above who said they were well on that path before starting blogging.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:45 AM
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I mean if you match e.g. Atrios up against Yglesias and Klein, same story.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:46 AM
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Marcotte and Valenti aren't as pretty as Klein.

Drum always had a Washington Monthly point of view. He's been a subscriber forever, and he genuinely thinks the way they do. He may even have had some kind of informal connection before he started blogging.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:46 AM
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Not even a tiny little bit.

Ya gotta follow the money. You cannot compete for long with the money if you have none, and as soon as you are on the payroll you are corrupted.

Simple as that.

And as far as Kevin Drum's career - he nurtured his commenters which increased his readership which got him his professional gig. He brought new readers to the Washington Monthly. I have no idea how many they retained though.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:48 AM
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Well, yeah. Success in blogging hasn't allowed anyone much to move into a media career who you wouldn't expect to have one anyway.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:48 AM
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It's really worse. Compare Yglesias to Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg's in the major media, Yglesias isn't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:48 AM
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188: well quite, but you can see how the SN! crowd get pissed off about it.

confession: I actually quite like Yglesias' blog. I do worry about all the things he doesn't know and he's so reliably conventional wisdom it's untrue, but at least he can write readable opinion journalism, and he makes some sort of effort to find out what he's talking about. Ezra Klein, I don't really have any concept of who he is - I think he writes mainly about American things that I don't care about so I never got into the habit.

OTOH, they do wind people up more than a lot by constantly rubbing the public's noses in it. It's bad enough that they are a little clique that big each other up and help each others' careers, but there was a period about a year ago when every second post on Yglesias' site was about him and his little clique and how this latest thing had been written by his mate etc etc. I mean "I just wanna introduce you to my close personal friend ..." is a bit annoying when Frank Sinatra does it to bring on Dean Martin, but in this case it was just ... unseemly.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:54 AM
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I would say Drum is the one exception to the rule in that he legitimately used the blog to get a media job he wouldn't otherwise have got and there was a time at which his site was pretty good, although it's another one that I don't read because I'm not American. I never quite understood the whole business model of "here's a painfully mild-mannered, parodically centrist columnist, and here's his readership of fifteen thousand crack-smoking psychopaths" though, and wonder how well the magazine understood what they were getting. The Kevin Drum site is just Alice in Wonderland - it's like if you went to see Joanna Newsom, in the knowledge that everyone else at the concert would look and behave like a fan of SlipKnot.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:58 AM
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Ezra's been off his feed a bit lately -- I can't think of much interesting in the last few months -- but has been a good source on health care policy. A lot of posting along the lines of, e.g., here are the candidate's plans, here are the differences between them, this is why this difference is unimportant and this is a big deal. Or here's the latest study on some health care related thing, this is the interesting finding, here are the policy implications.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 9:59 AM
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204: I really try not to listen to Retardo, even when he's got a point, because the dude is so f'in' hysterical about everything. Anybody who thinks casting my co-blogger or the freakin' LGM guys as History's Greatest Monsters is relevant to anything is missing the point pretty drastically.

But yes, the self-congratulatory aspect of "hey, look, our private school/Ivy League educations and connections paid off!" does get really tiresome, which is why I was relatively surprised and somewhat impressed at Yglesias's recent move; seems to me to indicate he's in it for more than the greater glory of pundit-ing.

Also, for all that he approaches every subject he's unfamiliar with as if it were new to everybody ("hey, did you guys know that transit's important?!?") he highlights a lot of important points here and there.

His taste in music and sports teams is uniformly dreadful, but hey, what can you do.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:00 AM
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And finally of course (this is a bit of an essay, but 200 comments down is the right place for it, lest it trigger a "whither blogging" borefest), the real, real problem with the Yglesias clique was that it included a whole lot of people like McArdle and Douthat whose politics were basically anathema. There really is something quite wrong about constantly giving the readership the "hey, of course it's just politics, it's not like, important or anything, at the end of the day we sit down and shoot some pool with these guys". I mean fair do's, everyone has to look after their career and the media's a small industry so I can see how it makes sense to remain on friendly terms with everyone, but that ought to be kept kayfabe - if you stick people's noses in it, it looks like you don't take the whole thing seriously and people are bound to feel like they're being made fools of.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:01 AM
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Yglesias and Drum have in common horrible coment sections. I have suggested to both of them that they monitor and delete, but for whatever reason they don't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:02 AM
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has been a good source on health care policy

ah yes, that's why I don't read him - the one or two times I did, it was an all right blog but he is "Mr Health Policy Guy" and therefore the equivalent of a baseball blogger as far as I'm concerned.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:03 AM
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200 comments down is the right place for it, lest it trigger a "whither blogging" borefest

Optimism is so winning on you, d^2. Of course it'll trigger that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:04 AM
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I started off razzing Yglesias as an Ivy weenie, but that theme got so nasty and stupid in his comments that I quit and started defending him.

Hopefully Yglesias left the Atlantic to get away from Douthat, McMegan, and Armbinder.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:05 AM
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208: if y'd been at unfoggedcon last winter you could have been friendly to McArdle your own self!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:09 AM
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While we're on the general subject, does anyone in the world think that excerpting a small-to-medium-sized error from the Washington Post, headling it "Why Oh Why Can't We Have A Better Press Corps?" and tailing it with a demand for the journalist to be sacked is:

a) charming
b) interesting
c) informative
d) anything other than a total waste of time?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:09 AM
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Yglesias and Drum have in common horrible coment sections. I have suggested to both of them that they monitor and delete, but for whatever reason they don't.

Bwahahahahahahaha. Oh, John, I'm sorry, but do you know how absolutely clueless that sounds?

I bet you told Apple how they'd go down the drain if they didn't have the fastest processors too.

And dsquared, your impression of 'crack smoking psychopaths' is wrong too.

How generally smart people can be so blind to reality is beyond me.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:09 AM
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213: the interesting thing is that although it would have been sufficient on its own, that's not even in the top thirty reasons I wasn't there.

215: in fairness, I can only offer an opinion of the Drum comments section at the time I stopped reading it.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:11 AM
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the top thirty reasons I wasn't there.

Put a lot of thought into the decision, did you?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:14 AM
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214:

e) Informative, assuming he actually explains why it is we do not have a better press corp.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:21 AM
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I have no idea what you meant, Tripp, but you seem firmly convinced that you do.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:28 AM
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214: Yes. I don't always love the choices or the language, but the pugnaciousness from someone who is clearly a centrist is pretty welcome. That seems like something you, too, ought to approve, d.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:29 AM
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I spent about a year explaining to DeLong (and also Somerby) that Graham and Sulzberger hire the kind of people they want, Kagan and Kristol and so on down the line, but they both have been unreceptive.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:31 AM
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221: And in fact, the Unfoggetariat was unreceptive to my message too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:32 AM
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218:He doesn't. Very few even try to analyze media or politics in anything but "bad guys to be replaced by good guys" fashion. This is why Crooked Timber remains on my blogroll.

Emerson's "New Class" is new to me. I don't know if it is so new, just another resurgence of wonks & technocrats, see McNamara, Jody Powell, Rubin & Allbright.

I absolutely predict problems in the Obama administration due to arrogant wonks like Goolsbee & Power. Different from the problems the rapacious Republican Huns create, of course.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:33 AM
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22:Still am, I'm afraid, John. More "top down" stuff. See the pattern?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:35 AM
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John,

You had great insight into your own blog in 186 but left out the comment section, which can also be important.

Consider what kinds of commenters you want to attract and then think about what those commenters want.

The authoritarian blogs want commenters that reinforce each other and will echo and amplify that party line. Those commenters want reassurance and reinforcement of what they already believe.

So what about centrist or left wing blogs? Commenters want reinforcement, sure, but mostly in-depth analysis and (many people ignore this) somebody who can take the bonehead authoritarians and slice them and dice them and show them for the idiots they are.

What dsquared saw as fifteen thousand crackheads was actually a couple authoritarians getting routinely take to the cleaners. You gotta let the loonies in so you can shoot them down.

Comment sections, left unmoderated, display well-known group dynamics and one can use those to one's advantage. In general there will be a hierarchical structure with unspoken rules about who can say what and what happens if they don't.

Perform this thought experiment. Say there is a comment section for a blog who's primary top dog has left. What happens then? What must an outsider do to become the top dog in the comments section? Should the blog owners support this, fight this, or look the other way?

What if the regular blog commenters insist that group dynamics do not apply to them because they are educated and know how things are supposed to be? Would that be ironic? Could be.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:43 AM
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Yes. I don't always love the choices or the language, but the pugnaciousness from someone who is clearly a centrist is pretty welcome

not when a) half the time it's either absurd nitpicking or a partisan point of his own and b) this is the twenty thousandth fucking time he's done the same post.

Also, there is something faintly disgusting about someone who has the protection of academic tenure constantly demanding that a worker who lacks this protection should be fired. Wishing unemployment on someone isn't something that should be done lightly (it's for this reason that I don't really endorse the "Fire Megan Mcardle" blog, although I would throw my support behind a blog advocating that she be given a less prominent role, preferably involving the cutting and pasting of agency copy).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:43 AM
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208

"... I mean fair do's, everyone has to look after their career and the media's a small industry so I can see how it makes sense to remain on friendly terms with everyone, but that ought to be kept kayfabe - if you stick people's noses in it, it looks like you don't take the whole thing seriously and people are bound to feel like they're being made fools of."

This doesn't make sense. If they pretended to hate people like McArdle to cater to their crazier readers while privately remaining on friendly terms, this would be playing people for fools. Being upfront about their lack of fanaticism isn't.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:43 AM
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The new class is an old and nebulous term. To me it means successful people who get their status from credentials and/or institutional affiliation. I've only recently fully realized the degree to which it dominates the Democratic Party, both internally and as a voting constituency.

I think that this accounts for the booming success of fake Republican populism -- the new class is savagely anti-populist. It also accounts for the Democrats' weakness in infighting, because for the new class, decisions are always supposed to be made civilly according to procedures and through channels.

Democrats also seem compelled to frame all disputes coolly and objectively before taking an actual position, and the actual position should preferentially be an ingenious, wonky evasion of conflict. As a result, Democratic polemical statements usually begin with a limp, empty preamble and often end with mush.

With increasingly many exceptions, praise the lord.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:44 AM
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Of course it is. Yglesias (during the nadir of the "whoo flophouse period; he has got better since) was basically spending every day telling people that issue A was important enough for them to make up their mind about voting in an election, or make political donations for and so on, but not important enouigh for he, Yglesias, to spoil his crazy golfing weekend over. That's the very definition of de haut en bas


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:46 AM
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224: I do see a pattern in your comments, Bob. As I understand, you're the bleeding heart of suffering humanity, and you also understand the objective forces of history and history's inevitable direction, whereas I'm not and don't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:46 AM
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226: it's all part of our secret plan to get reprehensible, dishonest halfwits and sycophants on board with progressive calls for wide-ranging, permanent welfare benefits for the unemployed, and you're going to ruin everything.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:47 AM
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Here's Thoma Palley, riffing off JK Galbraith's new book, The Social Origins of the American Corporate Predator State. Palley is a DC economist who posts maybe once every two weeks and has no commenters. He sends his stuff over to Thoma's seeking a larger audience, like Duy and knzn.

Palley is a good one.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:49 AM
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Tripp, D and Y's comment sections were routinely derailed by hack trolls who I'm pretty sure were paid. They were impossible to embarrass and impossible to drive out, because making discussion impossible was their goal.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:51 AM
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230:Nah, I am just not paranoid.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:54 AM
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Bob is another one who just doesn't want to see American capitalism as the source of the country's problems, but is comfortable with blaming the American people.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:58 AM
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Wishing unemployment on someone isn't something that should be done lightly

I think how lightly you think it is done is a function of how genuinely rotten the institutions at issue have become, and how important those institutions are to you. I think that the press institutions--WaPo in particular, but many of them--are surprisingly, distressingly rotten. So while I'm uncomfortable with the specific instances many times, for exactly the reason you identify, I'm not uncomfortable with the general idea and I can get comfortable with what I think of as his mistakes. Sometimes doctors take a fair bit of healthy tissue out when excising a tumor, just to be safe.

I do wish he had a "Promote that Guy!" category for the media, as I think most of them are trying to do and often doing a reasonably good job. And rebuilding the institutions is, one assumes, at least as important to him as cleansing them.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 10:58 AM
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229: What was especially annoying during that period was how often he would link to the other people's pieces in a neutral or even positive way, when the views expressed would've otherwise been repugnant and cause for snark. It came off as "well, here's something about why the problems with mass transit in the U.S. are all due to excessive subsidies... but I baked cookies with this person over the weekend and they came out pretty awesome, so I figure they've gotta have their head on straight about this."


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:01 AM
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We're not talking about people who would be going on food stamps if they were fired. These are people who've been promoted to the top, best-paid, most prestigious jobs in their profession, the journalistic equivalent of holding endowed chairs at Harvard. If they get fired, it will be, at worst, (to continue the metaphor) the equivalent of knocking down to teaching undergrad at the University of Minnesota. Still a pretty good job.

People the Times did fire: Molly Ivins, Seymour Hersh, and several others of almost equal merit.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:04 AM
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237: he's definitely gotten better, but I think there's still a fair bit more than one would like of "I'll link to this person that I read who's my friend, even though they never say anything correct or even intelligently wrong, and then gently point out the flaws in their argument."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:12 AM
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Bob is another one who just doesn't want to see American capitalism as the source of the country's problems, but is comfortable with blaming the American people.

American capitalism is the people. How many low six-figure couples bought second homes for rent, expecting to profit? Hell, how many in the next lower range bought houses as investments?

I linked to the Palley/Galbraith above for a reason.
Social origins of the Predator state.

Ya know, it's the ones who obsess on Daddy Warbucks who aren't comfortable with populist solutions. Blaming Warbucks or Nagourney gives them way too much power.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:12 AM
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DeLong has always been a neoliberal. He and Krugman both have wavered a little on globalization, but they haven't made dramatic turnarounds (as Stiglitz did).

DeLong professes bafflement at the stagnation of wages and the increasing concentration of wealth in the top .1%, but these were policy goals of 5 of the last 7 administrations. He and Krugman have both suggested that maybe the reason is "power", though they don't say specifically what they mean by that. If I'm not mistaken, it's not an economic term, and to use it implies a rejection of some standard econ dogma.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:17 AM
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Yeah, it's Forces all the way down.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:18 AM
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239:The test case is Paul Krugman, who is not of, in, or for the Beltway. Does PK have perceived power in the Beltway? If not, then playing the Village, however corrupt it might be, could be imagined the only way for a blogger who wants influence to go.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:22 AM
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Wishing unemployment on someone isn't something that should be done lightly

I know that for dsquared, bombast and hyperbole are anathema, but I don't have any problem with Delong at all.

Folks who conduct their business in the public sphere are rightly subject to public criticism. And there's nothing more important to setting the U.S. right than detoxifying the media.

Yeah, sure, Delong paints with too broad a brush on his "Why oh why" posts, but so what?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:29 AM
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241:I sometimes think economists take a secret course in grad school that teaches them that any social disruption inevitably leads to totalitarianism. Anti-DFH sentiment is expecially strong in economics, because of like, the 20th century.

None of them (BDL, Krugman, Thoma) will use Galbraith's "countervailing forces" but as far as I can tell, all of them agree on the institutional causes of the recent inequality. I think they just realize how complicated the models can get and how quickly an economist can get marginalized for going off the reservation.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:31 AM
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OK, this may be redundant, because I'm skipping ahead from ~200, but:

It's kind of tautological that the bloggers who wanted to make a career about writing about politics have done so. Look at the paths some others have taken: Jesse Taylor took a ~4 year sojourn into actual politics (obviously boosted by his blogging); Sawicky took a gov't job (presumably despite his blogging); Marcotte - without doing anything insidery - has gotten a couple books published (entirely due to blogging?); Gilliard and Capozzola died (not that they were headed towards insiderdom, but they were important, outsider voices); Hesiod, Billmon, and countless others simply burned out.

Point being, if you want to talk about extra-blogospheric influence, it's necessarily going to be limited to careerists, because if you're not a careerist, then maximizing your influence will always take a back seat to your real job and, likely, your real life.

Within the blogosphere, I don't think existing voices have been marginalized as such; I think a lot of old ones have faded away, and it's harder than it used to be for new ones to get noticed. Which has the net result of intentional narrowing; I don't think it's a good thing, but I don't think it's sinister either.

One final, mini-thought on this: the only brand-new blogger I can think of who's gained a lot of influence in the last year is Kathy G, who came, AFAIK, out of nowhere to get blogrolled, linked, and guest spots on high-profile blogs. Ta-Nehisi Coates has been around longer (that I'm aware of), but seems to have come on like a train. I know his dad was political, but does he count as careerist or old-boy?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:34 AM
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You can only ask a rhetorical question so long when the question has an actual answer.

I also spent a year or two trying to convince people that some of the hundred of millions of dollars donated to TV stations every year in order to lose elections could be used to start up new national news media organizations. Instead of channeling money to TV / cable conglomerates who are unquestionably our enemies, we could do it ourselves (though we'd need a few hundred million).

To my knowledge, no one has ever showed any interest in this idea, not even at the lowly venues where I hang out. The hostile commercial media monopoly is apparently an ontological fact like gravity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:36 AM
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246:Greenwald & Jane Hamsher/Firedoglake are pretty new. Hamsher picked up some of the best "small bloggers" out there as a way to build her site.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:38 AM
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You can only ask a rhetorical question so long when the question has an actual answer.

But that--or at least your answer as the answer--is a point of contention, which I think you recognize.

DeLong believes in institutions. Good. But that belief is associated with, I think, a belief that building institutions is hard. The idea of building a new institution, like the idea of building a new Middle East, is something I think he'd prefer to avoid if possible. (This is also probably the reason that--assuming it's true--he doesn't like DFH.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:44 AM
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Calculated Risk is new, but pretty focused.

Thoma at Economist's View started late, and is now near the top. Thoma is I think very good with the software, and has almost an RSS feed of econblogs on his right column, in addition to a massive blogroll. Thomas posts lengthy quotations from a wide variety of sources, journal papers to Ezra Klein.

IOW, Thoma used the existing community, expanded it, help build and interconnect it, more than adding his own voice and original material.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:46 AM
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247: I wonder who bankrolls Josh Marshall. I know Media Matters has got some money-people behind it. Steps are being taken - never as many as one would like, or as quickly, but I'm hopeful.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:46 AM
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In 1940 or so both the populists and also the semi-populist pragmatists like Dewey opposed the war. People who supported the war got important jobs in the war government, funneled money to the universities, and took over the Democratic party.

Truly or not, it was also claimed that populists were by nature racists and anti-Semites.

Economics around 1950 was made into a positivist, technocratic science. Friedman and Samuelson both. Marglin's "The Dismal Science" and Nelson's "Economiucs as Religion", both by credentialed economists, both unsympathetically describe this transformation.

Defenders of economics, not just critics, point out how important it is for young economists to be tactful in presenting original ideas to the elders. If you seem to be affiliating with critical / heterodox approaches you risk being blackballed.

The elite of economics isn't just academic. They have global institutional power, and the dynamics of the profession can be quite different, for that reason, from the dynamics of anthropology or astronomy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:48 AM
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Ta-Nehisi Coates has been around longer (that I'm aware of), but seems to have come on like a train. I know his dad was political, but does he count as careerist or old-boy?

He just had a book published very recently, and probably rode the publicity wave from that into blogging. Up until about a week ago, I lived with one of his brothers.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:50 AM
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DeLong has never given attention to any answer to his rhetorical question. Mine or anyone else's.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:51 AM
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254: The answer to the question seems implicit in the category: because no one called the media on it on the past, the readers allowed the institution to be corrupted.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:56 AM
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247:1) Empirical evidence that progressive big media won't find an audience to sustain it.

2) The center as it moves left and liberals as they become progressive have always been subject to centrifugal forces. There was not one Union paper. Hell, there is never one Trotskyite paper. Every three Trotskyites create two factions, with confusing group names.

How many blogs have we gotten from DKos, all of whom appear to hate each other?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:57 AM
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243 is a really good point - insiders were still making fun of him long after he'd been proved right and the public had soured on Bush. But within the Village, PK was still a gauche outsider.

Who has been making the point lately that "Beltway insiders" isn't, properly used, a generic term? Just like "senior WH officials," it refers to an identifiable group with a limited member ship. I think it's JMM (speaking of people radicalized by Bush and blogging - he was always partisan, but he was comfortably Inside when he started; no longer).

Anyway, point being, it seems that there are literally just 50-100* people in DC who decide what is news, what are the bounds of acceptable thought. And those people aren't budging - McCain is an Honorable Man, Democrats are pussies, and Empire must be served (but don't dare call it one). It doesn't really matter what happens on the blogs - these people are impervious to outside influence. If Iraq won't convince them that they're wrong, what chance does digby have?

* The Note says 500, but I think they want to flatter a lot of people who are pure followers, even if influential in their own fiefdoms


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:01 PM
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229

"... That's the very definition of de haut en bas"

Normal people at any level don't apply a political litmus test when choosing their friends. You are asking Yglesias to go against his personal inclinations and professional interests to appeal to a purist minority of his readers.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:06 PM
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244

"I know that for dsquared, bombast and hyperbole are anathema, but I don't have any problem with Delong at all."

I agree with dsquared, Delong gets tiresome.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:09 PM
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Another interesting media comparison would be Phil Donahue vs Keith Olbermann.

I would contend, that contrary to the conventional wisdom (which is that PD was knifed by his editors), PD never had the audience. His rating were good, but the intellectual left saw PD as corny and ineffectual, and kinda old. He didn't inspire the passionate supporters that could have intimidated management. (Savage didn't have it, either)

OTOH, KO is way cool. Of course, times have changed and MSNBC management has changed, but we just like KO better than Donahue.

I remember KO was he was openly bored to tears over Lewinsky night after night. I think he could have beeen smart enough to have taken a break until the audience or conditions changed


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:11 PM
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255: That may be what DeLong thinks, but it's stupid. Something changed at the Times and Post, and it wasn't a response to a change in the readership.

256.1: It wouldn't have to be terribly progressive. Just accurate and centrist, like The Times is supposed to be.

My point isn't really that it can be done, but that it needs to be done. If it's it's empirically true that progressive big media will not find an audience, it's probably also empirically true that a progressive movement will inevitably fail, and we should just return to our needlework-and-masturbation regimes. In general, big successes are people who found a way to do something no one else thought could be done. Though of course, you get failures that way too. This is a high-risk ides.

I remain baffled at the universality of the lack of interest. Even contrarian Bob dismisses the idea.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:14 PM
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Greenwald and Calculate Risk are both good examples of something I wanted to mention, but couldn't immediately think of a good example of: the specialist. There's a lot of room in the blogosphere for the timely specialist, the person who owns a previously-neglected topic, and quickly rises to prominence for it. Sometimes it remains a narrow magisterium (like CR, although econ is so important right now that it's not marginal), but in other cases it can become the basis for real impact. Greenwald still focuses almost exclusively on civil rights, but that's such a broad and deep issue that he doesn't read like a minor reference. Heck, Hamsher came to prominence largely due to the Plame case, but has smartly parlayed that into a huge footprint in the blogosphere.

Oh, and I wanted to note that Sifu's response to LB about digby was almost exactly what I was going to say - she really took a lot of heat during the primaries, which really lined up as the cool Obama blogs vs. the stupid/lame HRC blogs. She was ostensibly neutral, but in a way that infuriated a lot of Obama supporters (if you'll recall, she had to shut down her comments a few times). But I think that, for most liberal blog readers, she remains a must-read (she certainly should).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:16 PM
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He just had a book published very recently, and probably rode the publicity wave from that into blogging.

Interesting. Did he have much of a high profile before the Atlantic gig? I only really read him when he guested at Yglesias', but I know I'd heard of him prior to that.

One thing on Ezra - other than health care, and general purpose wonkery, his other recent kick is on meat reduction, which is kind of a big deal coming from such a mainstream blogger, especially since it's explicitly not about vegetarianism as a moral choice (that voice gets tuned out, no matter how mainstream the source). TBH, his writing on it, plus some of the things he's linked (OK, plus a constrained budget) have actually led to a big meat reduction at the JRoth household.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:22 PM
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Olbermann had a very checkered career. I believe that he did leave MSNBC around 1998, partly because of the Lewinsky business. I believe that he hated doing the Britney-Paris stuff more recently, and once he became MSNBC's #1 guy that stuff disappeared.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:22 PM
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She was ostensibly neutral, but in a way that infuriated a lot of Obama supporters

I think I'd say she was explicitly neutral but ostensibly pro-Clinton. Which was the problem. I have no idea what know what her readership size was or is now, but if she took a hit, it was a deserved one.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:24 PM
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What I don't see reflected in this conversation about blogs and media and whatnot is 1) just how freaking big the blogosphere is these days and 2) how much work and worry and wierdness it takes to maintain a blog for longer than a couple of months. Taking a blog from a low-traffic, insider-y kind of realm into the klieglights doesn't actually seem that worth it, to me, and probably to a lot of people. If you want to have a limited influence in a specialised field, you don't necessarily have to manoeuvre up in the overall ecosystem; the wonks and the journalists will manage to find you.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:25 PM
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263: staff writer at Time and the Village Voice, I believe.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:26 PM
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Having a secret blog that nobody reads is actually pretty satisfying.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:27 PM
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268: Not true.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:28 PM
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269: shhh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:29 PM
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Tripp, D and Y's comment sections were routinely derailed by hack trolls who I'm pretty sure were paid.

I cut my teeth on usenet, and before that, forums linked together with the BBS. "Derailed" applied to the newbies, maybe, but the people with experience could skip over the BS fairly easily. They also learn the tricks and how not to take the bait.

Even the paid hacks are good for drumming up interest when you've covered the same subject many times and really have nothing more to say. Also, they give an indication of what your opponents are up to.

Police the forums and you'll kill the blog. Except for the authoritarian blogs like little green footballs. There tight control is essential.

For the record the last I looked Drum did have a moderator and participation has dropped. Partly I think it is the summer and also with the upcoming election people are finding better outlets for their political feelings but squelching controversy has also hurt the blog in my opinion.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:30 PM
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268: Except when you forget where it is and what your login was.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:31 PM
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Police the forums and you'll kill the blog.

Very much not the case.

forums linked together with the BBS

I don't think this phrase actually makes sense. But, since I am assuming I have correctly guessed you to be talking about Fidonet, I guess it doesn't matter.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:33 PM
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I like Klein & Yglesias, but I'm always disappointed by the lack of pure reporting among liberal blogs (with a few exceptions). No one touches Jeremy Scahill, for instance. In general, I prefer writers who pick a story & kind of gnaw on it to writers who write about stuff because everyone else is writing about it.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:34 PM
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272: oh, I think I have one like that, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:35 PM
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Oh hush Ari, your blog isn't exactly obscure.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:35 PM
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271:We trolls also serve.

269:When we are allowed to.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:36 PM
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Having a secret blog that nobody reads is actually pretty satisfying.

the word is "diary"


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:36 PM
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To my knowledge Drum and Yglesias are the only bloggers with comments who don't moderate at all (though maybe Drum has started). Many of the moderated blogs are extremely successful -- notably FDL, Aravosis, and Kos. Where do you get "Police the forums and you kill the blog?"

Obviously if 20% of your comments are from two trolls, if you ban them comments will drop 20%.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:37 PM
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Police the forums and you'll kill the blog.

And you say you're a Usenet veteran?


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:37 PM
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276: I wasn't talking about that one.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:38 PM
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Bob, you're not a troll, just an annoying motherfucker at times.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:38 PM
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Shit, we're in a forum that's being actively "policed" right now.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:40 PM
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Obviously if 20% of your comments are from two trolls, if you ban them comments will drop 20%.

and if 100% of your comments are from trolls, you can either kill the blog, or kill yourself.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:46 PM
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Ah, Fidonet. Turn-based flamewars.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:49 PM
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284: always save one last flame for yourself.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:50 PM
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and if 100% of your comments are from trolls, you can either kill the blog, or kill yourself.

And if you strap a piece of buttered bread to the back of a cat, then drop the cat off a roof, you'll have a levitating cat.


Posted by: NickFranklin | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:52 PM
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Someone needs to be putting in the ToS's patented "--" logo though, instead of deleting, because the #s are screwed up now.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:53 PM
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I think I'd say she was explicitly neutral but ostensibly pro-Clinton. Which was the problem.

Agreed.

I have no idea what know what her readership size was or is now, but if she took a hit, it was a deserved one.

Disagreed. But as you all know, I was more HRC-sympathetic than most. I felt like, at some point, digby just said "fuck it, I'm getting whacked for HRC partisanship, I may as well embrace it." I still don't think that she was partisan in the way that, say, TalkLeft was, but I think that she decided that she was more concerned with exploring the discussion around HRC than she was with the one around Obama (and if she was reading a similar set of blogs to mine, I could see where she'd think that the Obama ground was well-covered - "How did HRC win any delegates, no one I know voted for her").


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:54 PM
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274:It doesn't bother as much. In this thread, max & susan (off the top of my head) showed up with useful knowledge. MY posts about backyards, and his commenters provide a lot of primary and secondary material about backyards. This is what I want to see, original reporting devolving to the people onsite, like riverbend. Eereybody else is aggregatin.'

The problem with solid original reporting is that it may not create controversy space for commenters. hilzoy just posted on the 2nd Circuit taking Maher Arar en banc, but I wouldn't know what to add in comments.

I think the usual pattern would be for other blogs to riff off the hilzoy piece with opinion pieces, and those blogs to get local conversations. In a sense, blogs are commenters to other blogs.

I don't object to Jack Balkin or Rodrik or Klein running a theme for months. Many mansions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:55 PM
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Shit, we're in a forum that's being actively "policed" right now.

Yeah, and I'd just like to note that, constantly over the last few days, someone has been mistakenly deleting all my most witty and insightful comments. I'm not ToS!

Really, it's a shame you all couldn't read what I wrote. Tolstoy would have wept, could he only have seen them (in a suitable translation, of course).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:59 PM
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Digby was one of many bloggers, etc., especially women, who may or may not have supported Hillary but were infuriated by some of the anti-Clinton stuff. Mary Catherine here is another. The ones I know aren the PUMAs who will refuse to vote for Obama, but there's still hard feeling.

Digby was at the top of my list before all that happened, so I had to pay attention to what she said.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 12:59 PM
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Yah. I never got the Digby bashing, and I never saw her neutrality as being a pose.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 1:02 PM
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Drunken free verse may not be your gift, JR.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 1:02 PM
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||

In high school, Olbermann compiled an extensive list of first and third base coaches in baseball history. This documentation now sits in the Hall of Fame, and is considered the definitive compendium of first and third base coaches in baseball history.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 1:03 PM
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As I surf, and back on topic, this analysis of the Georgian War is pretty depressing. American Leftist.

Richard had a good series on the war.

One example of this can be found in historian Bruce Lincoln's book, Red Victory, in which he writes about the period of Georgia's brief independence from 1917 to 1921, a time when Georgia was backed by Britain:
the Georgian leaders quickly moved to widen their borders at the expense of their Armenian and Azerbaijani neighbors, and their territorial greed astounded foreign observers. 'The free and independent socialist democratic state of Georgia will always remain in my memory as a classic example of an imperialist small nation," one British journalist wrote.... "Both in territory snatching outside and bureaucratic tyranny inside, its chauvinism was beyond all bounds."

Damn. the nested blockquotes worked.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 1:20 PM
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If you wanted the War Nerd's take (Mark Ames == War Nerd) then the Nation posted an article.

"Both in territory snatching outside and bureaucratic tyranny inside, its chauvinism was beyond all bounds."

I shoulda known: I thought it was long understood that Georgians are assholes. All the ones I've ever met have been, and of course there's always Stalin.

Anyways, the short summary: McCain and the neo-cons prodded whathisname into launching the stupidest act of aggression in the history of mankind, and are now running around trying to use it as an excuse to start World War III.

And the usual suspects are going along with it.

The fun part is, is that the neo-cons are apparently confident of winning, and intend to make the McCain ticket the ultimate avatar of neo-conservativism (which implies that, yes, Lieberman gets the nod!), and hope to carry the election by starting a war. (Hello, October Surprise, my old friend!) The downside (besides WWIII) is that should the neo-cons win it's dictatorship and war from here on out, and the usual people {cough} clinton {cough} DLC {cough} have every intention of going along with it.

The upside, of course, is that these guys can't fight their way out of wet paper bag, so it is going to take a truly disasterous performance to lose.

max
['Things, as they say, have gotten interesting.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:16 PM
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re: 297

Mark Ames isn't the War Nerd. The War Nerd is Gary Brecher. Ames used to edit the Exile [the publication that Brecher worked for].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:22 PM
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298: FWIW, many people believe that Gary Brecher is a made up character, and that Ames actually writes the pieces. I think wiki includes this argument.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:29 PM
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re: 299

Yeah, I went off and googled it after writing 298 and came across the same claim.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:35 PM
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I've heard him interviewed, and believe in his existence.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:40 PM
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I believe in the One True War Nerd.....


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 5:42 PM
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Wow, I'm actually liking The War Nerd. I hadn't heard of him before. It helps me accept his writing to thing that the persona is a put-on. But even if it isn't, its a great example of a type. Look at this:

A Pentagon spokes-thingy called Russia's response "disproportionate." What the Hell are they talking about? They've been watching too many cop shows. Cops have this doctrine of "minimum necessary force," not that they actually operate that way unless there are video cameras around. Armies never, ever had that policy, because it's a good way to get your troops killed needlessly. The whole idea in war is to fight as unfairly and disproportionately as possible. If you've got it, you use it. Thank God we never fought "proportionately" in Viet Nam.
There you have it, war nerdom.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:05 PM
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ooh, more from The War Nerd

See, this is the war that I used to see in the paintings commissioned by Defense contractors in Aviation Week and AFJ: a war between two conventional armies, both using air forces and armored columns, in pine-forested terrain....No racial overtones to get bummed out by--everybody on both sides is white! And white from places you don't know or care about!
Good stuff.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:11 PM
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Having read the War Nerd for nearly ten years now, I am pretty confident Mark Ames and Gary Brecher are the same person.

max
['One has to remember that Ames has spent most of this decade on various stimulants, so he talks a lot.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 6:48 PM
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Gary Brecher is some other guy who also writes for eXile. James Dolan, maybe?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:02 PM
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This is actually a pretty good rundown of the situation in Georgia.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:14 PM
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Obviously if 20% of your comments are from two trolls, if you ban them comments will drop 20% 40%.

263 is funny because I don't get the sense like Ezra is eating any less meat. If you appreciate his opinions on meat, you might like my steak.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:16 PM
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Saiselgy has said that he doesn't moderate because he doesn't want to take responsibility for what he doesn't wind up deleting.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:18 PM
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Brecher and Ames have the same home town, the same illnesses, when Ames gets overloaded, Brecher doesn't write a column, they have the exact same political views, etc. etc. It's Ames.

Even Stratfor says we've been encircling the Russians.

But what they say is belied by their own map.

All the Russians have there is one airborne (Speznatz!) regiment moving down the road in Abkhaz, and one airborne division, plus elements of two motor rifle brigades, in Ossetia. That's a scratch kamphgruppe (otherwise why use Speznatz?). Something you assemble with 12 hours warning, which they had.

And the Georgians still got their asses kicked. Ergo, Stratfor isn't quite right; the Russians had forces on station, the Georgians went on the offensive and the Russians moved up what units they had on hand. Nothing to see from the sky, since those units have been lurking around there for years. Apparently the McCainiacs bullshitted themselves into believing that the Georgians were way better than they actually are, or that the Russians are much worse. Probably assuming the Grozny experience was definitive... which overlooks the fact that the Chechnyans had a lot more time to prepare, more experience, the Russians were sending in second and third-line units, and anyways, Chechnyans still lost in about, what, a week? Ten days?

max
['Is there intelligent life in DC?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:24 PM
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There is only one true War Nerd, and he's Edward de Vere.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:27 PM
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It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes.

So says Stratfor. It was a McCain campaign event, his most successful so far (though not for the Georgians).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 7:31 PM
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263 is funny because I don't get the sense like Ezra is eating any less meat

Neither do I - for awhile, he was periodically putting up "I do too eat meat!" posts, because he was always talking about tofu. But since he's been on this kick, he always talks about how yummy bacon, et al., are, but how we should eat less of them - no meat for breakfast and lunch seems to be his mantra, although, logically, better to eat meat only at lunch (usually a lower consumption meal) than at dinner.

Anyway.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 8:52 PM
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174 - Thank you, d-squared.

177 - TNR would have been his natural element, as he was obviously one of those dreadful people, in the late 90s/early 00s inexplicably quite common, whose idea of the perfect pundit was Jon Chait. But then, to his credit, he reacted against the Peretz/Kirchik line on Israel and anti-Semitism. There went any hope of a place at TNR. So JMM hired him. Incidentally, this is another thing that annoys me to no end -- TNR's and Yggie's mutual hostility makes him appear more left than he really is.

180 - But one of my points is that he's not an anti-war careerist. Oh, he's a careerist all right, but then that's precisely why he's anti-war right now. Watch what happens if and when President Obama wants to bomb Iran or Pakistan. I'm saying Yggie's instincts haven't changed.

228 - John, I think that phrase was a Daniel Bell-Nathan Glazer creation, right? It meant to describe the exploding post-war bloc of upper middle class folks in various beurocracies -- education, law, civil service (as distinct from business types).

207 - This is twice in the last couple weeks that I've been linked somewhere in Unfogged and I find you here telling lies about me. Your co-blogger, who supported the Iraq War, continued to bash people who were always against it. I suggested, nicely, he stop. He blew up. I suggested, less nicely, that he stop. He called me an ignorant, uneducated hick and jumped all over Gavin, too. Then he de-linked us (in contrast, we've never de-linked you). So who was being hysterical?

I never pretended the LGM guys were Histories Greatest Monsters. Farley has said some stupid things about DFHs, Pinochet, and anti-Semitism. Scott and I disagree on Norman Mailer. Dave misunderstood -- and went ballistic over -- my post on Farley; and it's precisely because I *like* Dave that I never replied to him. It's true that I dislike Bean because he/she, in the Amptoons house style, throws around accusations of bigotry at allies far too easily and often -- as when he/she called the Dems' commercial on S-CHIP "racist" simply because it showed a white baby rather than a black one. But DGW and I had a long and civil discussion in my 'No, it's not anti-Semitism' post on Farley.

So stop misrepresenting these things.


Posted by: HTML Mencken | Link to this comment | 08-14-08 11:49 PM
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246 - KathyG, whose stuff I think is really good, is very connected. She didn't come out of nowhere.


Posted by: HTML Mencken | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 12:05 AM
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Having a secret blog that nobody reads is actually pretty satisfying.

Even better is having a nonsecret blog that nobody reads.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 12:19 AM
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315: If you're still around, I'd love to ask you a question about the post re. Yglesias you put up today.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 1:21 AM
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Ask away. I'll see it eventually.


Posted by: HTML Mencken | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 2:50 AM
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Although I do watch the news occasionally, I had absolutely no idea how this entire situation escalated. It seems quite archaic to say the least. I am honestly not sure what to make of the situation and I certainly do not know what Russia is trying to accomplish by exterminating the entire region. I just hope Bush does not put us into yet another war.

[edited by Becks to remove spammy URL]


Posted by: Propecia | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 6:48 AM
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I certainly do not know what Russia is trying to accomplish by exterminating the entire region.

If they were trying to do that, I wouldn't know either. But they're not. They have two war aims: to ensure that Abkhazia and S.Ossetia, which have been under their "protection" since they declared independence from Georgia, stay that way; and to give Georgia a sufficient seeing to that they won't try any funny business with the oil pipeline after the war and that other countries in the region don't get ideas.

Alex Harrowell, occasionally of this parish, has called it Ledeenisation: they have "picked up some crappy little country and thrown it against the wall to show they mean business".


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 6:59 AM
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Caucasian-minorities-related: I have been hoping to find an album called something like "The Golden Fleece II: Songs of Abkhazia and Adjaria".

Finding CDs or information on music online is one of the few things that became vastly more difficult between about 1999 and 2004, and now is almost impossible for someone like me who doesn't do it often. ?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 7:37 AM
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321: It seems to be called: "The Golden Fleece - Caucasus, Vol. 2: Songs From Abkhazia & Adzharia". Amazon lists it as unavailable. You could advertise for a copy?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 7:49 AM
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Seems to have been released on Pan records (a Dutch label).

http://www.arhoolie.com/catalog/pan.shtml

[See down the page, they list it as item 2009]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 8:04 AM
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Thanks! Now to see if that catalog may have been last updated ten years ago.

Pan Records itself does not seem to have a website at all.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 8:15 AM
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167: yeah, yeah, I would like a good international system for conflict resolution like anyone else. But that's been the legitimating excuse for a crudely unilateral pax Americana for too long now, we don't get to pretend that's what we're doing. Such a system would have to be genuinely multi-polar, and the Georgia thing is just a continuation of 15 years of our unilaterally dicking around post-Soviet Russia. We certainly didn't get UN approval for what we did to Russia's historical Serb allies.

Plus, the "sphere of influence" thing in Georgia's case has a certain reality to it, since Georgia really only became a nation-state through Russian suffrance in 1989. There are deep historical ties there and Russia could have held on to them. Now Georgia is trying to use U.S. backing to screw with ethnic Russians in Ossetia -- very impolite. Cruising for a bruising.

Everyone is bored with Georgia, though. Other stuff -- the War Nerd is without question James Dolan, who is a much better writer than Mark Ames. Dolan is a great book reviewer; he called "A Million Tiny Pieces" or whatever as a hoax over a year before any one else did. Wrote an entertaining book called "Pleasant Hell" about growing up geek in hippie late-60s California in which he more or less cops to his war nerd identity.

Oh, and ít really does bugs me about Yggles and some others that they won´t do reporting. I mean *any* reporting, not even a phone call or two or a google search. It´s literally like, hey I heard something and isn´t that cool? No effort to look deeper. As in Yglesias's embarassing forays on Western water policy, a truly interesting policy area with a real story and lots of outside-the-beltway experts, none of which he bothered to look into.

McArdle is the very worst at that -- she regularly makes egregious economics errors that would literally get her marked down in an econ 101 class, stuff that could be prevented by an hour or two of googling. But Yglesias has been showing his laziness more of late.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-15-08 5:31 PM
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