We’re sorry the outage lasted a little longer than we expected. In the meantime, you were named Time’s person of the year.
It’s sad and horrible, but there’s something laugh out-loud funny about the headline “Military Taking a Tougher Line With Detainees”. You heard that right, it’s no more Mr. Nice Indefinite Detention Without Trial in Gitmo. “They’re all terrorists; they’re all enemy combatants,” says the facility’s commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr, though, as the article points out, many of the detainees have, in fact, been cleared for release. Your chilling Orwellian line of the day is “Guantánamo’s focus was shifting from interrogations to the long-term detention of men who, for the most part, would never be charged with any crime.”
Yes, yes. The long-term detention of men who will never be charged with a crime and who there’s no intelligence value in questioning. They’re just going to be detained. Forever, apparently. And now it’s time for a tougher line. Conservative hero Augusto Pinochet, unless I’m mistaken, just went in for extra-judicial killing when he decided he was through with torturing someone, so perhaps this is progress?
Following this post from Brad DeLong I’m growing less interesting in hearing more from Alan Reynolds about income inequality.
He was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq. How’s that go? Not so well. What’s he doing now? Well, on Thursday he took over as the number two military officer in Iraq. He’s psyched about the surge.
Mario Loyola spells out the logic of the puzzling “SCIRI will save the day!” theory of fixing Iraq:
A “Plan B” now being floated by Iraqis themselves seems to me a better idea, and has the virtue of presuming (unlike most ideas these days) that we can still largely succeed in Iraq. The idea is to form a coalition of national unity that includes the the largest faction from each of Iraq’s three main communities—the Shiite SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Revolution in Iraq), the Sunni Islamic Party, and the two main Kurdish parties—even if the resulting coalition rests on a parliamentary minority. The idea is to “deputize” the strongest player in each community, and make them a primary political vehicle for laying down the central authority of the state within each community. This will immediately pit SCIRI against the Sadr Organization, on the one hand, and the Islamic Party against the Sunni insurgents and Al Qaeda, on the the other.
Timed to coincide with the transfer of administrative control of the Iraqi Army to the central government (set to occur by early summer), this could really change things on the ground in Iraq. The violence might continue, but you would have achieved several vital things: (1) the leading party within each community would have declared its first loyalty to the central government; and (2) the central government will finally have a professional force with which to impose its authority; (3) the logic of sectarian conflict now threatening to tear the country apart would be replaced with the logic of intramural conflict (within the Shiite and Sunni communities) between those who support the state’s authority and those who oppose it.
Much more likely, the reverse will happen. The parties in the coalition will, in virtue of their participation in this venture, lose legitimacy and popular support. The Islamic Party and SCIRI will both be seen as handmaidens of occupation, SCIRI will be seen by Shiites as having sold out to the Islamic Party, and the Islamic Party will be seen by Sunnis as having sold out to SCIRI. Somewhat ironically, had we implemented this plan several years ago, one could imagine a scenario in which Sadr’s followers made common cause with Sunni rejectionists to form a unified anti-American nationalist front. Too many years of sectarian violence have probably passed since then for that to happen, so you’ll just get even more many-sided warfare.
David Kurtz reviews some myths and realities about the politics of Iraq. In short, George W. Bush is still the president and the country is still S.O.L. — he’s not letting polls or elections or congress constrain him. So we’re going to implement a “surge” into Baghdad which, as Henley notes is going to coincide with the normal seasonal decline in violence and thus be claimed as a victory. Victory, of course, will not be forthcoming.
This set of realities and not, say, Evan Bayh’s decision not to run is going to be the key factor in the 2008 Presidential election. A frighteningly large number of people seem to be counting on the idea that the war will be mostly over and the troops mostly withdrawn by 2008. But then again, people said Bush would “declare victory and go home” in time for the ’06 midterms. And they said he would do it in time for the ’04 election. But it’s not going to happen. The troops will leave if and only if a new political leader is elected and that leader wants to withdraw the troops.
Zengerle’s right — this is crazy. You have a Muslim woman originally from Jordan who enlists in the U.S. Army to be an Arabic translator. But even a six month stint at an intense English-language training program at an Air Force base wasn’t enough to get her up to the Army’s standard level of English proficiency, so now she’s out.
To review the basic shape of things, the US government has at its disposal way, way, way fewer Arabic speaker and Arabic translators than it needs. Normally the problem with taking someone and turning them into a translator is that they don’t know Arabic. In this case, the trouble is that the woman’s English isn’t good enough. But the need for translators isn’t going away. It’s not like the country is awash in highly qualified people who can obtain security clearances. And given our country’s large supply of English-speakers, it’s got to be far easier for us to train someone to speak English than to train someone to speak Arabic. Give her another six months in school! This kind of casual attitude toward language skills has been going on for years and years now, but it’s really absurd.
Went to the Heat-Wizards game last night. Like a lot of ticket package owners, I’d been looking forward to this matchup — a chance to break DC’s long losing streak to Miami — for months now. The actual game against a Heat squad lacking Dwyane Wade or Shaq (or, for that matter, White Chocolate) was something of a disappointment. I’ll take a win, of course, and I’m glad to see the streak snapped, but it seems incredibly crappy to achieve an important symbolic goal essentially through dumb luck. One thing that really came through is that Alonzo Mourning, despite age and everything else, is still an incredibly effective player. Without any other major figures on his team he wracked up 3 blocks, 8 boards, and 17 points on just 12 shots in 24 minutes.
Wizards players were clearly frightened by his presence on the floor, when he was out there, and, frankly, rightly so. If he were a starter somewhere, even were he only able to contribute about 20mpg, he’s still have to count as one of the top centers in the (admittedly, center-deprived) East. Meanwhile, Chris Quinn, who I’d never heard of but who I guess Miami got as an undrafted free agent, seems to have some game to him.
Via Tyler Cowen, Matthias Doepke and Martin Schneider look at “Inflation and the Redistribution of Nominal Wealth”. This is from the conclusion:
Our main result is that even moderate inflation leads to a sizeable redistribution of wealth. Within the household sector, the main losers from inflation are rich, old households, whereas the main winners are young, middle-class households with mortgage debt. Across sectors, inflation is a boon for
the government and a tax on foreigners. Lately, the net nominal position of the rest of the world has grown dramatically, increasing the potential for a large inflation-induced wealth transfer from foreigners to domestic households. We also find that the redistributional effects induced by surprising realized inflation differ from those induced by surprising news about future inflation. While knowing the size of nominal positions is sufficient to calculate the former, duration is needed to gauge the latter.
Interesting. It’s worth recalling that debates about the money supply were a persistent feature of American politics for well over one hundred years. Over the past couple of decades, that’s all been taken off the table.
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