Ben Brody presents “the definitive glossary of modern US military slang,” noting that well-known terms like “chopper” and “GI” are out of date. Brody writes that “soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.” Some examples:
Bird: Helicopter. “Chopper” is rarely used, except in movies, where it is always used. A chopper is a kind of motorcycle, not an aircraft.
FAN: Feet, Ass and Nuts. Used to describe a smell common to military tents and barracks.
Groundhog Day: From the Bill Murray movie, the phrase is used to describe deployments where every day proceeds the same way, no matter how the individual tries to change it.
Gun: A mortar tube or artillery piece. Never used to refer to a rifle or pistol. Military-issued pistols are usually called 9-mils.
Kinetic: Violent. Example: The Pech Valley is one of the most kinetic areas in Afghanistan.
Meat Eater: Usually refers to Special Forces soldiers whose mission focuses on violence, as opposed to those whose mission focuses on stability and training.
Moon Dust: The powdery, flour-like dust that covers everything in southern Afghanistan and much of Iraq.
Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone: A military doctrine or political process that appears to exist in order to justify its own existence, often producing irrelevant indicators of its own success. For example, continually releasing figures on the amount of Taliban weapons seized, as if there were a finite supply of such weapons. While seizing the weapons, soldiers raid Afghan villages, enraging the residents and legitimizing the Taliban’s cause.
In his ruling, [Judge Stephen] Rhodes turned away arguments that the bankruptcy violated the federal constitution. The use of federal mechanisms for resolving municipal debts does not violate the tenth amendment, he said, citing the Supreme Court case of US v Bekins. Then he turned to the state constitution, which protects the pensions of public workers, except in the case of bankruptcy. Mr Rhodes ruled that those constitutional protections “do not apply to the federal bankruptcy court” and that pensions ought to be treated like the city’s other debts.
Scott Shackford praises the judge’s decision to allow pension cuts:
Rhodes’ comments on pension cuts may well prove to be extremely important not just for Detroit, but for any city currently in bankruptcy or considering bankruptcy. Chad Livengood of The Detroit News tweeted quotes from the judge as he delivered the ruling. The judge said that pensions are no different from other contracts under federal bankruptcy laws and “not entitled to any heightened protection in bankruptcy.” That’s a big deal. Pension protectors have been trying to argue that public employee pension benefits can’t be cut back and are protected by state laws or within state constitutions. Federal bankruptcy courts don’t have to care. Cities like Stockton and Vallejo, Calif., have resisted trying to change their pension plans even while in bankruptcy. Maybe this ruling will give city leaders the political courage to address one of their biggest sources of budget debt.
David Cay Johnston worries about the precedent:
A reader writes:
I hope this thread takes off with reader comments like many of your others! There is a lot of room to maneuver between the cruel, artless, and deliberately upsetting lies encouraged by the revolting Jimmy Kimmel and the cold, unblinking presentation of reality to children. Indeed, I find bullshitting one’s children is a singular and abiding joy of parenthood! For example, I have insisted for years to my now seven year-old son that (a) chocolate milk comes from brown cows, and (b) dogs can drive. He has never really believed me, but I have stuck to my guns with increasingly unlikely embellishments (e.g. not just any dog – only those that can pass a special driving test).
I believe there is value for children in sniffing out and articulating why certain massive whoppers peddled by their normally-trusted parents are untrue. In this way, healthy skepticism is developed without making children distrustful (as perhaps you should be if your parents will reduce you to tears just because a second-rate comedian told them to) or naive (believing adults always tell the truth).
Another is on the same page:
Count me as yet another defender, and practitioner, of lying to one’s offspring. When done right, it is good for their souls. I refer to the paradoxical cults of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.
Sargent touts the Medicaid expansion:
The larger story is that the Medicaid expansion is emerging as an early Obamacare success — a rare area where the law may already be putting Republicans on the defensive. A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that over 1.4 million people in October were deemed eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP. There was a far larger jump in applications where states are expanding Medicaid than where they aren’t — another sign Obamacare may benefit far more people in states where GOP governors are not trying to block the expansion.
Last week, Alex MacGillis argued that the politics surrounding the Medicaid expansion are shifting:
Drawing upon Rumsfeld’s memoir, Bradley Graham’s Rumsfeld biography, and The Unknown Known (which director Errol Morris discusses above), Mark Danner tries to get inside the mind of the former defense secretary:
Having watched from the Oval Office in 1975 the last torturous hours of the United States extracting itself from Vietnam—the helicopters fleeing the roof of the US embassy in Saigon—Rumsfeld would be condemned to thrash about in his self-made quagmire for almost four years, sinking ever deeper in the muck as nearly five thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. He was smart, brash, ambitious, experienced, skeptical of received wisdom, jealous of civilian control, self-searching, analytical, domineering, and he aimed at nothing less than to transform the American military. The parallels with McNamara are stunning.
And month after month in his arrogance and tenacity he would deny an insurgency had taken root. Month after month, as the shortcomings of the army he had sent into Iraq—too small, too conventional, not configured or equipped or trained to fight an insurgency and thus fated in its impotent bludgeoning to make it ever worse—became impossible to deny, he would go on denying them, digging in his heels and resisting the change he had to know was necessary. And even as it became undeniable that Rumsfeld’s war, far from deterring or dissuading prospective terrorists, increasingly inspired and fostered them—that the image of strength and dominance he sought had become one of bumbling and cruelty and weakness—the power of his personality and of his influence over the president meant that for month after month, year after year, he was able to impose his will—and define the world we still see around us.
I think it’s worth comparing – even though the differences are as stark as the similarities – the response to failure in Iraq in Bush’s second term with the response to the failure of healthcare.gov in Obama’s. Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney simply refused to acknowledge any failure at all. They were incapable of it. But more important, their fellow Republicans absolutely refused to break ranks or air criticism. The neocons knew their central project had collapsed in the sands of Mesopotamia and in the tortured gulag of black sites around the world, but they sure as hell weren’t going to rock the boat before the mid-terms. Bush was famously asked to name a failure of his in his first term in the 2004 debates – and couldn’t. In his second Inaugural, instead of reflecting on the catastrophe in front of everyone’s eyes, he upped the ante to the goal of using force of arms to wipe all tyranny off the face of the earth!
Now compare Obama, who swiftly copped to a massive error, allowed himself to be knocked about like a punching bag at a press conference, squarely explained why in his mind he had not actively deceived Americans about not losing their plans, and pivoted to fixing the error.
Bob Shlora of Alpharetta, Ga., was supposed to be a belated Obamacare success story. After weeks of trying, the 61-year-old told ABC News he fully enrolled in a new health insurance plan through the federal marketplace over the weekend, and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it. But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Shlora said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan.
Why this is happening:
The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month. The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.
Sarah Kliff has been unable to get much information about these errors from the administration:
Reviewing the recently released Orwell: A Life in Letters, David Pryce-Jones bizarrely calls the question “a puzzle that none of his biographers or critics have been able to solve.” His own answer? That a “sense of enjoying unfair advantages was enough to make rebels of a good number of Eton scholars,” including Orwell, which led to the “social masochism” that Pryce-Jones goes on to describe:
In the intensive effort to be déclassé, he well and truly put himself through it. Changing his real name of Eric Blair to George Orwell suggests the manufacture of a new and different personality fit for writing. A disturbing glee emerges from the accounts he gives of the hack journalism and flawed novels he is obliged to publish, all the while sinking lower and lower among down and outs. Cheap housing, grime and dirt, bad smells, and horrible duties in a kitchen are to him what country house settings and their trappings were to Jane Austen. Describing how close to death he was at one point in a Paris hospital, he makes sure that the reader is more attentive to the slumminess of the ordeal rather than the fact of his survival.
Uncomfortable and deprived of basic amenities, the houses he lived in were riddled with health hazards to someone with chronically weak lungs. Wherever he settled in the countryside, he set about growing vegetables and raising hens—Was this out of a genuine feel for nature, or role-playing about being poor and needy? Did he enjoy fishing for the sport, or because it is supposed to be how English proletarians spent their leisure time? As to money, he wrote to his friend the social anthropologist Geoffrey Gorer, “it will always be hand to mouth as I don’t see myself ever writing a best-seller.” Meeting up with him, [Cyril] Connolly was appalled that hardship had left “ravaged grooves that ran from cheek to chin” on his old school-friend’s face.
And, of course, he died far too young of untreated bouts of pneumonia that all but destroyed his lungs. But Pryce-Jones, I think, is being absurdly obtuse. There’s no mystery here at all. Orwell made it plain why he was a socialist in countless articles and reviews and books.
That tweet reminds me again of how anti-Christian contemporary Republicanism is. The notion that racism can “end” misreads a core Christian truth about human nature. Our vulnerability to hatred, condescension, fear of others, resentment, and generalizations about “the other” are intrinsic to what it means to be human. Racism, like greed or envy or pride, will never end. We are all always susceptible to these flaws, to what Christians have called “original sin,” and which is perhaps better expressed in the concept of the “The Human Propensity To Fuck Things Up.” Of course, these core sentiments that are part of our primate inheritance can wax and wane, they can be unleashed or restrained, and they can be instantiated in institutions and laws and customs, or not. But hatred is for ever. It knows no geographical or historical boundaries. It is intrinsic to being human, which means it is intrinsic to being American.
What Parks and so many others did was chip away at the legal architecture of institutionalized hatred and loathing. This matters – because we humans are an impressionable herd and can be encouraged to acts and thoughts of great evil by authoritative permission. So slavery was not just an evil in itself; but an incalculable fomenter of evil. Ditto segregation.
The last two days have apparently seen a surge in ACA enrollments on Healthcare.gov – in two days as many new Obamacare beneficiaries as in the whole of October. David Corn sees Obamacare’s introduction as make or break for both parties:
[W]ithin months, it may well be that abstract arguments over the nature of Obamacare will be trumped by the realities of the Affordable Care Act. Eventually, there will be stats and facts to consider: how many people receive insurance through the exchanges, what happens with premiums, the direction of health care costs, customer satisfaction, and the like. Though the results may be open to debate for a while, it is distinctly possible that one side or the other will be proven right (or wrong). If the website functions, millions sign up, and the health care market doesn’t crash, and premiums don’t zoom up—and this will be on top of the already existing benefits of Obamacare, including removing preexisting conditions restraints, allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ policies, reducing out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for seniors, and forcing insurance companies to devote a higher percentage of premiums to health care coverage—where will the Republicans be? Not only will they be failed doomsayers; they will have lost the No. 1 item on their why-you-should-vote-GOP list. Their anti-government crusade will be derailed. They will be a train without a motor.
Should Obamacare not work, then Obama’s vision—which reflects the progressive tradition of the past century—will be a flat tire. He will no longer be able to advance the cause of government activism. Expand Head Start? Create an infrastructure bank? Why should government be allowed (or trusted) to increase its reach? He can talk about helping the middle class. But how? The failed rollout of the website was a problem in so many ways but especially because it suggested that government cannot perform competently. A more extensive failure with Obamacare would suggest that government cannot be used in the manner Obama wishes to see it utilized.
What’s at stake in this never-ending debate over Obamacare are the foundational premises of each party. The success of Obamacare could be close to a death blow to the GOP. Ditto for Obamacare and the Democrats, should it collapse.
Yes and no. I don’t really want to see government expand from its current size and cost and ambition. I’m not a progressive and backed Obama because of his pragmatism. The reason I support the ACA is partly moral – if I can’t in good conscience employ anyone without health insurance, I can’t in good conscience acquiesce to a system that leaves millions out in the cold; part fiscal – I don’t believe in free-riding and see the need to reform a system that has close to no effective cost controls; and part because of all the possible proposals to end the cruelties of the past – bankrupting people with pre-existing conditions, yanking insurance from people just when they need it – Obamacare squares the most circles. So I wouldn’t mind very much if Obamacare both addressed these core problems better than the past and nonetheless prevented liberalism from going after any more lofty progressive objectives. In fact, that would be my ideal result. But, of course, I may be a parish of one again.
Drum, for his part, is optimistic for his side:
Politico is still acting like a politician riding out a scandal by refusing to engage it, rather than a newspaper dedicated to transparency. Allen’s fusion of advertizing clients and personal relationships and puff pieces – a veritable nest of conflicts of interest – is apparently beyond reproach because, well, er … just because. Jim Vandehei’s latest reluctant defense of Allen is elegantly summed up by Chait: “a comical stream of evasive tripe.” It is indeed.
Reviewing a number of new books on Machiavelli, Michael Ignatieff argues that the author of The Prince was “hardly the first theorist to maintain that politics is a ruthless business, requiring leaders to do things their private conscience might abhor.” So what set him apart?
He believed not only that politicians must do evil in the name of the public good, but also that they shouldn’t worry about it. He was unconcerned, in other words, with what modern thinkers call the problem of dirty hands. The great Princeton philosopher Michael Walzer, borrowing from Jean-Paul Sartre, describes the feeling of having dirty hands in politics as the guilty conscience that political actors must live with when they authorize acts that public necessity requires but private morality rejects. “Here is the moral politician,” Walzer says: “it is by his dirty hands that we know him.”
Walzer thinks that we want our politicians to be suffering servants, lying awake at night, wrestling with the conflict between private morality and the public good. Machiavelli simply didn’t believe that politicians should be bothered about their dirty hands. He didn’t believe they deserve praise for moral scruple or the pangs of conscience. He would have agreed with The Sopranos: sometimes you do what you have to do.
But The Prince would hardly have survived this long if it was nothing more than an apologia for gangsters.
Beutler compares Obamacare to abortion:
An astute friend remarked to me on Tuesday that the GOP’s position on Obamacare is coming to resemble its position on abortion in one key way: loudly, consistently, uniformly opposed, but ultimately not really driven to eliminate it. The backlash they’d face would be brutal, but they might stand to gain by fighting it on the margins and keeping the issue alive.
So many questions unanswered about Diane. In 15 minutes I will post the photo and hopefully we can resolve all this
— elan gale (@theyearofelan) December 3, 2013
Here is Diana sitting in a chair pic.twitter.com/OE5q7j8dhr
— elan gale (@theyearofelan) December 3, 2013
Whoops. Meant Diane. Great time for a typo
— elan gale (@theyearofelan) December 3, 2013
Over Thanksgiving, TV producer Elan Gale live-tweeted a lengthy, outrageous confrontation with a fellow airplane passenger. It became a viral sensation, understandably amped up by Buzzfeed’s viral algorithms. Pity the entire thing was a complete hoax, designed, according to Gale, to prove that whether something is, you know, true or not matters little in the era of lucrative viral posts. He got his proof. Buzzfeed got 1.3 million pageviews on the hoax. Which is why I’m relieved that Dave Weigel is happy to take a tiny bit of time to wonder why no one checked the story at Buzzfeed, and when the hoax became obvious, why they simply switched out their previous story with another post praising the “epic” scam. Weigel notes:
This is fairly fucked. Yes, people on the Internet want to believe salacious stories. Reporters want to publish stories that people read. If there’s a great reward, and little downside, to be had in publishing bullshit, the Internet’s going to get more bullshit. As one of my colleagues put it, “‘Too good to check’ used to be a warning to newspaper editors not to jump on bullshit stories. Now it’s a business model.”
It sure is – and, along with advertizing deliberately designed to deceive readers into thinking it’s editorial, it could bring $120 million in revenue next year for the entertainment and public relations site. In due course, it appears Buzzfeed came up with a response to Dave. Money quote from BuzzFeed news director Lisa Tozzi:
We used the word “claiming” to describe Elan’s tweets, and updated our post several times as it appeared to unfold—but we should have make that skepticism clearer. We’re not in the business of publishing hoaxes and we feel an enormous responsibility here to provide our readers with accurate, up-to-date information.
Well that’s a relief, until you think some more about it. By gleefully running unchecked hoaxes, and then insisting that they really do care about truth, Buzzfeed muddies the waters still further. What’s striking to me about Buzzfeed is that they haven’t really sufficiently thought through what it means to deliberately deceive readers by running advertizing as editorial, or what it means to be both an instant entertainment provider whose success is measured in jumping on viral waves seconds before their competitors, and to claim to be journalism.
Margaret Talbot’s premiums are increasing significantly:
I’m not happy to be paying more in the short term, and it may be a struggle at times. I wish other self-employed people didn’t have to shoulder so much of the burden. I wish we had a single-payer system, but that seems wildly unrealistic. And the new health-care law exists for the common good, not just the individual consumer. Vaccination provides more effective protection—so-called herd immunity—when more of us are vaccinated. Universal health insurance works in something like the same way: we are better off as a society—more compassionate, but also healthier—when we can all get the care we need.
So yes, I’ll subsidize someone else’s prenatal coverage, in a more effective way than I’ve been doing by default under the current system, in which too many pregnant women show up in emergency rooms without having had such care, creating problems for themselves and their babies, and all sorts of costs for taxpayers. And I’ll remember to be relieved that my own access to health care is guaranteed. But they had better work out the problems with the A.C.A.; if they don’t, and it doesn’t fulfill its promise of insuring the uninsured, I’m really going to feel like a chump.
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the male body was crucial to academic painting, anchoring the ideals of ancient Greek and Roman aesthetics. One of the more compelling works early in this show is Jacques-Louis David’s Patroclus (1780). David, the icon of early 19th century Neoclassical painting, used heroic, naked males in many of his historical paintings, composing large canvases filled with muscled subjects, their crotches often covered in subtle ways, all rendered with realist precision. Unlike David’s more crowded historical scenes, this work offers a quiet intimacy between viewer and the subject sitting on the ground in a weakened state, his torso twisted away from us, leaving us gazing at him from behind. In Homer’s Iliad Patroclus was the comrade of Achilles fighting alongside him in the Trojan Wars where he was killed. Their relationship has often been considered a romantic one. The painting conjures the beauty of Patroclus’ body as something idealized, as if David is asking us to gaze upon the defeated warrior in the same loving way as Achilles himself might have done. But beauty and nakedness here serves another purpose as well: a heroic ideal that captures not just our attraction but also our empathy.
(Image of Jacques-Louis David’s Patroclus, 1780, via Wikimedia Commons)