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6 months, 4 weeks ago
  • Inform my ignorance

    “…the ultimate decision as to what happens next with the election is now up to a judge.”

    I’m not from down there, so I don’t know myself, but people from MS have blogged that because this is a party primary, it’s the R Executive Committee for the Great State of Mississippi that would decide any election contest in this case. True? Not true? Please jump in, anyone who knows.

    Illegal voting would be another question. Folks bribing or being bribed to vote one way or another would be a matter for the courts. But such illegal voting, even if proven in a court of law, only affects the election result insofar as the R state party authorities determine it will, at least to my understanding.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 12:58:29View | Delete

    You mean that the Maidan only happened because Nuland spread some cash around? Really? That’s a whole lot of respect for the people of the Ukraine you’ve got there.

    There would not be any talk of Ukraine joining NATO had Putin not torn up the Budapest Accord. To be sure, NATO membership won’t happen in the immediate future, out of fear that that would set the tanks rolling for Kiev. But Putin’s action created the possibility of that happening the next time Russia is not in a position to set the tanks rolling.

    Russians who felt threatened by the Ukrainian “threat” in Crimea, are like Americans who saw an existential threat from Saddam’s regime. Hallucinations cannot be used to justify invasions.

    If Russia were actually threatened by Western “encroachment”, only measures that actually would help stop that encroachment would be justified. How did sending more troops to Crimea help stop encroachment of any sort, military or economic? Militarizing whatever conflict already existed didn’t help Russia’s side in all this. Militarily they were dominant in the area before, they still are, with no improvement at all in their position. In terms of soft power influence in Ukraine, they blunted all their advantages in that respect by sending in the troops.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 12:41:45View | Delete

    Well, if you’re fighting against “fascism”, you indeed have set one of those Sisyphean tasks for yourself. Sort of like setting out on a Global War on Terror.

    But I’m not sure that I can see anything but perhaps nationalism and particularism in Ukrainians not wanting Yanukovych running their country, even insofar as their reason for that preference was that Yanukovych wasn’t sufficiently pro-West (and perhaps we flatter ourselves in imagining that Maidan was all about us). I can’t see that being pro-Russian in the Ukraine isn’t pan-Slav nationalist and particularist. No doubt nationalism and particularism pursued unscrupulously can reasonably be characterized as fascism, but that applies to any national identity, very much including our own.

    If you’re going to toss around the fascist label, you should probably have some actual fascistic pursuit of nationalism to point to. Anything the new regime in Kiev has done that beats sending in troops to keep ethnic Russians in the Crimea from imaginary persecution? That was the excuse for annexing the Sudetenland, wasn’t it, those damn nationalist Czechs persecuting the German minority.

    Does that comparison add anything to understanding Putin’s actions? I think those actions are sufficiently contemptible to fall on their own. Does the comparison you’re making add anything to understanding the Maidan, or the regime in Kiev at this moment? That regime has to be stamped out, right now, lest fascism spread like some zombie plague?

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 12:19:00View | Delete

    The contemptible nature of this sort of adventurism lies largely in its domestic political effect. If you really hate the US or Russia, want to poison their politics for generations, by all means the thing to do is to get the electorate used to identifying patriotism with invading foreign countries. Set an example for future politicians of getting out of tight spots on the public policy front, by staging another phony security crisis. It’ll be generations before the bills come due, in the form of a society wrecked by inattention to public policy, wildly extravagant levels of military funding, and the hatred and mistrust of the rest of the world, so it’s all good.

    Yes, this invasion of the Crimea did have that “advantage” for Russian domestic politics.

    I certainly hold no brief for “our” side in this, if only because we have legitimate interests here. But it seems to me that sensible people on our side, having so recently experienced, and still living with the poisonous after-effects of, Dubya adventurism in particular, and our whole post WWII foreign policy career in general, should have more sense than to fail to recognize the same disease in Russia and Putin.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 10:29:10View | Delete

    Are you suggesting that some equivalent of blackshirts were on the march in Crimea, and only Putin sending in more troops stopped them?

    I actually agree with that character in Z who says, “Always blame the CIA. Even when you’re wrong, you’re right.”. But I generally wait until there’s actually something to blame the CIA for. Even if the CIA in any sense aided and abetted the Maidan protests which sent Yanukovych packing, does it seem at all likely that the CIA was in any way likely to try to foment similar in Crimea? And if they were, if the CIA can whip up something like Maidan out of a majority Russian population, whose Ukrainian minority didn’t seem at all disaffected, why would the CIA want to do that? Putin already had enough troops in Crimea to deal with any pro-Ukraine coup attempts against Crimea. Any such attempt would only have served to justify changing Crimea’s status. A successful such coup would not have installed a govt capable of threatening Russia in any way militarily, just as the new regime in Kiev is no such threat. And finally, even if we take your fears and the analogy very seriously, this is a case in which Victor Emmanuel had already sent in quite enough troops to handle any blackshirt eruptions.

    The idea that the CIA was about to turn Crimea NATO is one that tends to discredit those of us who always blame the CIA.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 10:04:53View | Delete

    Congress is pushing through aid right now. It wouldn’t have absent Putin’s military move in Crimea. Even if the terms end up being harsh, that only tends to push Ukraine back in Moscow’s direction. But sending more troops into Crimea, changing Crimea’s status from autonomous republic to independent, only makes it harder for any regime in Kiev to move in Moscow’s direction.

    Creating a militarily unnecessary military dimension to this matter by sending troops to Crimea only served to weaken Russia’s soft power position. However weak you imagine that soft power position to have been, it’s even weaker now because of the use of troops, and that without any military gain whatsoever.

    The US was not made safer, from terrorism or anything else, by invading Iraq. Russian interests, against NATO, or the EU, or the US, or Ukraine, were not in any way done anything but damage by sending in the troops to Crimea.

    This thing Putin did was as senseless as the US invading Iraq. It was all theater, to “show resolve”, or some such drivel. It’s as contemptible when Putin does it as when Dubya did it.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 09:48:50View | Delete

    Russia didn’t need any more troops and ships than it already had in Crimea to insure that no NATO or “Maidan terrorist” threat would have the slightest chance of taking over the Crimea, or to ward of any Ukrainian military threat to the Crimean people determining their own affairs.

    Even if some neocon conspiracy did overthrow Yanukovych in hopes that this would provoke from Putin some overt action like sending more troops to the Crimea, why would Putin play along and provide the overt act? The Russian position in Crimea was not in any way threatened. He didn’t have to do any overt act. Russian forces already have the situation in hand in the region. The Russian army could be in Kiev in two days, and neither Ukraine nor NATO could stop them. They didn’t need to add anything to that situation to augment or improve their military position in a region they already dominate.

    Putin did this to prove he can, to throw some crappy little ex-Soviet place against the wall to teach the whole extent of ex-Soviet places that Russia is not to be trifled with, that there’s more of that ready for whoever crosses Russia. So, no, he’s no stupider than Friedman and the neocons, but he is that stupid, and we should not pretend differently.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 09:36:15View | Delete

    Letting Ukraine experience the embrace of the vampire squid would have been the surest way of pulling it more tightly into Russia’s orbit. The IMF, etc, would have done some combination of demanding economy-cratering austerity as a condition of the loans, plus not being very strict with looting by the Ukrainian oligarchs. Ukraine would soon have reached the point of needing to default on the vampire squid, at which point Putin steps in with any help needed by Ukraine for credit in the aftermath of the default.

    It seems to me that people who see acceptance of loans from the West as some sort of thin end of the wedge of NATO or EU political control of Ukraine, are falling prey to the same error made by people who imagine that too much Chinese holdings in US sovereign debt would mean that China would control the US govt. The reality is that holding debt creates anywhere from zero to negative control. Even for private borrowers, the rule is, “Owe someone a thousand, and they control you. Owe them billions, and you control them.” Sovereigns are hard to control even if they only owe you a manageable size debt. You can’t bring them to law, so they will choose to pay you even the manageable debt only insofar as defaulting would create more trouble than it’s worth. Give a sovereign an alternate source of credit, and creditors have no hold over it, because that’s the usual price of defaulting, that creditors don’t trust you, for a while (though, frankly, we’re awash in cash looking for any “investment”, however dubious, so an Argentina doesn’t suffer too long or extensive a credit drought after it defaults). The IMF would be just giving Russia an easy play in Kiev by lending Ukraine money. The Western creditors would force their govts to treat Ukraine like a leper after it defaults, and Russia’s hold would be increased.

    Putin’s invasion of the Crimea weakened that weapon considerably. Now the West will offer sweetheart terms on it loans to Ukraine, and no matter how irresponsibly Ukraine blows through the cash, the govts of the West will not now treat it like a leper.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 09:02:19View | Delete

    Crimea was already in control of its own fate, at least if you assume that the people of the Crimea want pretty much what Russia will allow then to do. They were already an autonomous republic within Ukraine. Russia already had more forces in place than would have been needed to brush aside the Ukrainian forces stationed there, or the forces any independent Crimea might raise.

    That’s my point. Russia sending in more troops makes no sense, served no real purpose. It’s theater; bad, malignant theater.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 08:55:08View | Delete

    How exactly was NATO going to go about this snatching, when Russia already, before Putin did anything, had troops in the Crimea on their bases, plus the whole Black Sea Fleet? If you assume that NATO can project power to the Black Sea to beat those forces, that it can take control of the Black Sea, then Putin made a terrible military error by sending more troops into the Crimea, where your imagined NATO naval control of the Black Sea means that they are now trapped there. The more of them trapped in the Crimea as you imagine, and the more quickly their food runs out and they are forced to surrender to NATO.

    You’re managing to make less sense than McCain and Gates, which is no easy trick. Even they recognize that NATO can’t come close to doing what your scenario of a NATO takeover in the Black Sea imagines it can.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 08:43:09View | Delete

    Why would the new regime in Kiev send in people to destabilize Crimea? You’re spouting Putin’s line, that it was necessary to send in Russian troops because ethnic Russians in Crimea were threatened with violence. But why would the new regime in Kiev want to give Putin an excuse to take over Crimea by creating a threat to ethnic Russians in the Crimea?

    If you assume that the CIA controlled the folks in the Maidan, the question becomes even harder to answer. How would it have been in US interests to create disorder in Crimea threatening ethnic Russians there, when all that would do would be to give Russia an excellent pretext to increase its hold on the place? Do you imagine that Maidan protesters working for the CIA could have taken over the Crimea, kicked out all the Russian troops already there long before Putin made his move, all to hand the Crimea over to NATO? If the idea is that Putin would have found it at all embarrassing to have his troops shoot people actually threatening ethnic Russians in Crimea, I don’t find that at all credible. He’ld have been happy for the excuse. He invaded the place in the face of no actual threat to ethnic Russians, and wasn’t deterred by embarrassment. Any actual violence against ethnic Russians, and the EU and NATO wouldn’t even be thinking about going ahead with any sort of response to Putin sending in troops.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Russia Likely To Keep Crimea

    2014-03-10 06:32:02View | Delete

    They grabbed something they already had. Big deal. Having troops sitting on top of a piece of ground is not usually the best way to control that piece of ground. They gained absolutely nothing militarily, that gameboard looks exactly the same as it did a few weeks ago, aside from tens of thousands more Russian troops now tied down sitting on a piece of ground that Russia already controlled before it decided to stage this piece of theater.

    Russian control of Crimea was not in the slightest threatened by the new regime in Kiev. The deal negotiated back in the 90s left Crimea an autonomous republic within Ukraine, and left the Russians with the right to station troops on a whole network of bases in Crimea. Russia already had quite enough troops sitting on the ground in Crimea before they sent in tens of thousands more. And even without their troops already stationed there, Russia was more than adequately guaranteed that Ukraine would not betray it in Crimea by the fact that Russian tanks would be in Kiev within a few days of any such military betrayal. A couple of tank divisions on the Don is all Russia has ever needed to control the Crimea.

    So, sure, the reaction our wingnuts are staging to this “rape of the Crimea” is their usual hysterics and histrionics. But the same can be said of Putin. His reaction to Yanukovytch being rid out of Kiev on a rail was every bit as hysteric and histrionic. He’s not an injured party, he’s an idiot, a dangerous warmongering idiot. He’s like Dubya, only with an apparently better work ethic — which is not a attractive quality in a dangerous warmongering idiot.

  • Yeah, the ones who regretted it tend to be dead, one way or the other.

  • gtomkins commented on the diary post Chris Christie needs a lawyer whose name isn’t David Samson by Masoninblue.

    2014-01-20 19:13:32View | Delete

    Maybe going to jail is just the thing Christie needs to win over the Teahadists. They would never trust him otherwise — too “librul”! But if federal prosecutors working for the Obama administration put him in jail, all merely ideological sins will be forgiven in the glow of martyrdom at the hands of the Kenyan [...]

  • If Brooks actually believed that continued criminalization makes a valuable moral point, he would turn himself in for criminal prosecution for his former drug use.

  • This will probably be the final showdown.

    The Ds think they won the last one by not backing down, so they won’t this time. The radical Rs think they only didn’t win because of their wets, and the ACA rollout troubles have reinforced the idea that the people are really with them, if only they hang tough enough. The moderate Rs and the Speaker have shown in the failed conference that they don’t want any particular real budget cuts or real “tax reform”, however adamantly they are for them in the abstract.

    That commitment in the abstract will lead them to follow their party’s crazies all the way over the cliff this time. They won’t have any actual compromise plan of real cuts to spending or tax loopholes to force on the crazies as a substitute for cliff-diving, so cliff-diving it will be. Cliff-diving into default will be the only way they will have to prove their loyalty to the cause.

    What happens next is less clear. Breach of the debt ceiling means that the administration will have no options left that don’t involve breaking laws.

    If they cross the Halys, a great empire will fall. And this time it sure looks like they’re crossing the Halys.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Filibuster Could Be Gone Permanently

    2013-11-22 11:36:30View | Delete

    The Rs didn’t have to pull the trigger in 2005. They got the Ds to allow their nominees through, the Ds knuckled under without making actual use of the nuclear option necessary.

    What the Rs managed in 2005 was the neat trick of a one-way filibuster, a filibuster that only Rs get to use, because Ds don’t dare use it under R majorities out of fear that the Rs will just yank the privilege if its assertion ever really bothers them.

    What happened yesterday wasn’t the end of any aspect of the filibuster. That ended back in 2005. What ended was the unilateral abuse of the privilege by Rs.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post Filibuster Could Be Gone Permanently

    2013-11-22 08:42:27View | Delete

    Too late

    The perceived norm that the minority gets to filibuster was destroyed eight years ago when the Rs successfully got the then-minority Ds to back off several judicial filibusters by threatening to nuke the filibuster. What we’ve had since then, these past eight years, has been a one-way filibuster, a filibuster that only Rs get to use.

    The Rs were never going to let Ds use the filibuster to keep Ernest off the bench. That was true even before the Ds used the threat of the nuclear option last May to get the Rs to lay off a few of their filibusters. Ds were certainly never going to be allowed any sort of filibuster after that, not by the Rs, not by people who think that a House majority entitles them to repeal the ACA. And now that Ds have actually killed, not just threatened but actually killed, just some aspect of the filibuster, the idea that the Rs would ever allow any kind of D filibuster is preposterous.

    So, yes, we might get Ernest on the bench as a consequence of losing the next election. Well then, let’s not lose the next election, shall we. And if that does happen, well, the electorate gets to see what happens when it is stupid enough to let the Rs in, and we win the next election after that. It’s called democracy. I for one am glad to see any sign that we might be getting back to it.

  • gtomkins commented on the diary post Saturday Art: Judith Beheading Holofernes Again by masaccio.

    2013-11-10 08:31:01View | Delete

    Good thing Judith is a Jewish heroine, otherwise we couldn’t say anything at all about this painting beyond denouncing it as glorifying Islamofascist terrorism.

  • gtomkins commented on the blog post “Games”manship

    2013-10-09 09:45:52View | Delete

    We may not be trying to eliminate the Rs, but we may just be succeeding, by holding the line on negotiating with the hostage takers.

    The threat Boehner faces from the right of his caucus has gotten all the attention since this crisis started. But those people really have no place to go but the GOP, at least in terms of controlling the House.

    The R moderates, though, could defect to form a coalition with the Ds to reorganize the House. There would be all sort of advantages to them in such a move.

    One of the R defectors would almost certainly be the new Speaker. That is how these coalitions usually work, because the defecting bloc demands it as a condition of defecting.

    They get to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, thus saving their reputations and thus perhaps their seats in 2014. Presumably the Ds demand, as a condition for forming the coalition and voting for a defecting bloc member as Speaker, that this person be someone who promises to bring a clean CR and ceiling raise to the floor.

    They get to either abandon the party that will primary them next year by turning D, or they can choose to retain the R name while in this national unity coalition and run as Rs in 2014. The bloc members can make this choice individually, depending on what move maximizes their chance of re-election in their individual districts.

    Abandoning the GOP and turning D will look more and more attractive the more the Teahadists trash the R brand. While the Teahadist wing of the R House caucus is deterred from any break with the party, and even from ousting Boehner in favor of a true Teahadist, out of fear of further hurting the R brand with nasty infighting, once a moderate R nears the tipping point, he or she actually benefits by further trashing the R brand. They plan to run next time as a D, against the Rs. It’s a bonus if they get to kick their ex-party on their way out with a nasty infighting scandal, because they have to run against it in their districts next year.

    Even these defecting moderates who plan to keep the R label, will benefit in the future for winning the intraparty struggle, for taming the Teahadist threat. Centrist cred is good with both moderate R and truly independent voters, and being the folks who slew the Teahadist dragon by forming a bipartisan coalition — led by Rs! — will bring tons of centrist cred even with voter still attached to the R label.

    If I were Boehner, I would be a lot more worried right now about being knifed by my moderates than by my Teahadists. The danger only grows, and grows more one-sided in its directionality, the longer this crisis goes on.

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