The Ukrainian Military’s Losses

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:18pm

They’ve been heavy:

As Simon Saradzhyan, a Russia expert at Harvard’s Belfer Center, notes, if Ukraine continues to suffer troop casualties at its current rate, it would “surpass 1,560 per year. That would be more than what the Russian army acknowledged losing in the deadliest year of the second Chechen war.” In view of the increasing casualties on the horizon, Ukraine’s parliament has just approved a call-up of a further 50,000 reservists and men under the age of 50, just 45 days after its last mobilization. But just how long Ukraine’s cobbled-together military will be able to sustain increasing casualties is questionable at best — especially if they suddenly find themselves up against more qualified Russian soldiers.

Throughout the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russian troops have watched from just over the border, implicitly threatening intervention. Since the beginning of the rebellion, Russian troops have been conducting maneuvers and setting up the logistics network that would be needed for an incursion. Things have ramped up in recent days, with Russia conducting large-scale exercises with some of its most advanced helicopters. The threat hasn’t been lost on Kiev.

Janine Davidson worries Putin is preparing t0 invade. She wants to send arms to the Ukrainian government:

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Who (Or What) To Blame For Libya?

Jul 31 2014 @ 3:03pm

Libyan Rebels Sieze Control Of Tripoli From Gaddafi Forces

Christopher Stephen paints a picture of a country where deeply entrenched corruption and factionalism have rendered good governance impossible and fueled the pseudo-civil war tearing the country apart today:

With the economy moribund, the only growth industry has been militias. In all some 168,000 members have registered at the government’s Warriors Affairs Commission, which was set up to take control of the various militia brigades—but that’s at least four times the number of militia members who actually fought in the civil war. Now they’re all getting state pay packets. “I don’t care about Islamism, but they pay me 1200 dinars [about $800] a month to guard the base twice a week,” said Hassan, a Benghazi teenager employed by the city’s Islamist Libya Shield brigade.

Today all those victorious militias are at war with each other. The militias from Misrata, a city 120 miles east of the capital, and Zintan, a mountain town 90 miles south west, did the hardest fighting of the revolution, surging into Tripoli together to liberate it in August 2011. Their units never left, and since then the Misratans and Zintanis have increasingly fallen out as claimants to the spoils. … In the confrontational atmosphere in congress, the political parties began funding militias that were sympathetic to them, rather than dissolving them as parliament was supposed to do. Misrata and Zintan, the two most powerful militia groupings, broke along the political divide — Misrata for the Islamists, Zintan for the nationalists.

Peter Dörrie names Khalifa Haftar, the former general with previous links to the CIA who now leads a coalition of Zintani fighters and other nationalist militias, as the primary instigator of the ongoing conflict:

Publicly, Haftar claims to fight against Islamist militias for a secular Libya, but his political ambitions are obvious.

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The View From Your Window

Jul 31 2014 @ 2:41pm

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, 12 pm

John Brennan’s Latest Lie

Jul 31 2014 @ 2:21pm

The torture-defender and CIA loyalist insisted earlier this year that the CIA never deliberately hacked the Senate Intelligence Committee to undermine its vital report on war crimes under Bush and Cheney. Here’s what he said:

When the facts come out on this, I think a lot of people who are claiming that there has been this tremendous sort of spying and monitoring and hacking will be proved wrong.

Really? So here are the facts on this:

An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program. In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency’s inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers. The statement said that John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, had apologized to the two senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he would set up an internal accountability board to review the matter.

Brennan apologized this week to Senators. I doubt he will ever apologize to the American people.

Andrew Asks Anything: Rich Juzwiak

Jul 31 2014 @ 1:55pm

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If you ever read Gawker, you know who Rich Juzwiak is. Yesterday he came out with a new piece revealing how he’s not just taking Truvada again; he thinks almost every gay man should be on it too:

In my first piece on Truvada, I said that I thought most sexually active gay men should at least consider going on it. That was not strong enough: All sexually active gay men who are negative should go on it, at least those who are in the highly populated gray area that I find myself in—guys who either have casual condomless sex from time to time or who are “always safe” but still burdened by the fear of HIV.

If you know that you don’t need Truvada, I trust your judgment. If there’s a shred of uncertainty, just take the fucking pill.

I try to be as nonjudgmental as possible when it comes to the behavior of other gay men (though I cannot refrain from judging those who judge). We are all in different places in life; we all enjoy different things. That variety is, in fact, what makes gay culture so vibrant. The choices at the disposal of those who are privileged enough to live in areas where gay is OK and where same-sex marriage is legal—these are part what make being gay so wonderful. But if you cannot deal with taking a single pill every day, you need to get a grip and reevaluate your life. After you do that, then just take the fucking pill.

Rich and I sat down a little while ago to talk about sex and love and gay men’s lives today. The resulting podcast can be a little racy and provocative at times. Hey, it was a real conversation. We actually talk about the sexual adventurism of gay men – a subculture where no women restrain sexual desire – as an often wonderful thing, regardless of the judgment that so many, including gay men, have made about it. There may be a measure of mutual respect, friendship, democracy and brotherhood in a sexually liberated gay male world – that is perhaps unavailable to heterosexuals:


The whole conversation is up on Deep Dish now for subscribers only. Check it out. If you haven’t subscribed yet, do so here – you only need to spend $1.99 to download the whole thing. And you’ll also get access to my unfiltered conversations with Dan Savage and Hitchens, among many others.

Our first big screen-printing is underway and more orders for t-shirts and polos keep pouring in. If you haven’t decided on your shirt yet, full details about options and sizing are here. Or just go here to purchase now. A hesitant customer:

I am pretty much the last person to buy a “band t-shirt” at this point, but I may actually buy one of the polos (prolly navy) with the customary alligator replaced by the dog. It’s super subtle and pretty adorable. Most people will just think it’s a cool shirt, but those in the know will get it.

That reader soon followed up: “Caved, bought one.” Another reader:

So glad there are T-shirts and polos – thanks. It will be fun for me and other Pacific Northwest fans to recognize one another – kind of like a secret handshake. But when I go to BustedTees, they offer me 30% off my order for giving up personal information, and then I learn that I cannot apply the discount code to my Dish product because of a “stipulation of our agreement” with The Dish (a quote from the online chat in which I tried to figure this out). Grrrrr.

The Dish’s privacy policy is different than BustedTees’, and they offer a different kind of shirt than we do, so their coupon agreement isn’t compatible with our shirts. But after buying your Dish shirt, definitely look around the rest of the BustedTees’ site to check out their own shirts and offers. Some Dish faves:

BT

Update from a reader: “Surprised you didn’t give a shout-out this one, on account of the beard! Another:

The shirts do look beautiful, congratulations and hope you sell a lot because I am a big fan of your blog. I will unfortunately be abstaining because I am allergic to polyester and can only buy all natural fibers – cotton, all linen or rayon mix, etc. Can’t please everyone I guess, but you made them in America! How great!

Many readers have inquired about a 100% cotton option, so we are discussing with BustedTees a way to have that option within the next month or so. We certainly don’t want to exclude readers because of allergies. Another reader:

I just bought two T-shirts. But the checkout had no security icon. Is that site secure?

Very secure. We confirmed with Jerzy, our point-man at BT: “Our certificate is updated and we’re totally clean in terms of security.” And this verification is displayed throughout the site:

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Another:

I’m a loyal Dish subscriber and I love the shirts and will be ordering a couple for myself. If youth sizes were available you might see my kids in them as well.

We’re on it. But for you moms and dads, you can buy your shirt today. Thanks for all the feedback and keep it coming. And send us a pic of your shirt when it arrives. Though maybe not from this reader:

I just read that you’ll be at Burning Man! Brilliant! Our camp, Listen (dedicated to the proposition that really being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can’t tell the difference) is at 7:15 and Ephesus. I’ll be the one in the Dish t-shirt. Given the venue, it may be the only thing I’ll be wearing.

Update from another Burner:

I just ordered a t-shirt (the one with the howling beagle of course). And I will be wearing it at Burning Man. I read that another one of your readers is also wearing a Dish shirt at BM. I will be at a camp at 7:15 and Gold and most probably will be wearing just the Dish t-shirt and sensible footwear.

Perhaps we need to set up a Dishhead camp next year.

Israel’s Moral Morass

Jul 31 2014 @ 1:17pm

Joe Scarborough – a former Republican member of Congress who has “always been a 100 percent supporter of Israel” – turns sharply against Netanyahu’s government:

Like Chait and many other American Jews on the left, Ezra Klein, who cares about Israel “personally, rather than abstractly”, has become more pessimistic about the Jewish state:

There’s an … argument that’s made by Israel’s supporters: that people like me, who write about our disappointment with Israeli policy, are “blaming Israel first.” But it’s not about blame. If interest in geopolitics was driven by outrage and horror Israel and Palestine would spend less time on the front page. The suffering there is immense, but the death toll is dwarfed by the slaughter in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Syria. I pay unusual attention to what Israel does because, for family and cultural reasons, I am unusually invested in Israel. Focusing on Israeli policy is a byproduct of focusing on Israel itself.

For these reasons, I used to write about Israel often. It felt, even a few years ago, that peace was a live possibility, that Israel had choices — and that some of them might even turn out well. But Israel seems to have made its choice, at least for now, and the results are painful to watch. I haven’t become less pro-Israel. But I’ve become much more pessimistic about its prospects, and more confused and occasionally horrified by its policies. My sense is that’s happened to Chait, too. I notice he writes about Israel less these days, also. My sense is it’s happened to a lot of us.

I’m sorry but I find this position pretty lame. What Ezra is suggesting is that when Israel does things you cannot really countenance, the correct response is silence or avoidance, because it just gets too personal, when you have family etc. But that’s been the whole problem with the American discourse about this for a while, what Peter Beinart called “an epidemic of not watching.” American Jewish liberals have been intimidated or censored themselves into silence, which has only made matters worse. The reason is the need to somehow credentialize yourself as “pro-Israel”, and any criticism is immediately interpreted as being “anti-Israel”. That’s essentially a loyalty test that impedes reasonable debate – and is designed to. Waldman rightly encourages everyone to step out of this credentializing and posturing:

Once you stop worrying about whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you can judge the Israeli government’s decisions, developments within Israeli society, and other questions related to the country each on their own terms.

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Sponsored Content Watch

Jul 31 2014 @ 1:03pm

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A reader sends the above screenshot:

Perhaps this has already become the style at other prestigious media outlets, but I think it’s somewhat remarkable that the editors at The New Republic didn’t see fit to tell readers upfront that the article is sponsored content. (I apologize if I’m late to the party on this particular advertorial start on the part of TNR.) There’s no real differences in terms of front style or size with the only real tip-off being the lack of a byline. But I’ve interacted with enough smart people online to know how rarely readers, who aren’t themselves writers in some capacity, actually pay attention to, much less search for, the author to an article.

The sponsored status of the “article” is a little more obvious on the front-page:

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Foreign Policy As Machismo

Jul 31 2014 @ 12:45pm

Gopnik ponders calls for Obama to be tougher:

In the current crisis over the downed Malaysian plane, all the emphasis is on how it looks orGERMANY-CARNIVAL-ROSE-MONDAY-STREET-PARADE how it might be made to look—far more than on American interests and much less on simple empathy for the nightmarish fate of the people on board. The tough-talkers end up grudgingly admitting that what the President has done—as earlier, with Syria—is about all that you could do, given the circumstances. Their own solutions are either a further variant on the kinds of sanctions that are already in place—boycott the World Cup in Russia!—or else are too militarily reckless to be taken seriously. Not even John McCain actually thinks that we should start a war over whether Donetsk and Luhansk should be regarded as part of Ukraine or Russia. The tough guys basically just think that Obama should have looked scarier. The anti-effeminate have very little else to suggest by way of practical action—except making those unambiguous threats and, apparently, baring your teeth while you do.

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Israeli attack kills Palestinian kid in Jabalia Camp

It’s a very long piece – or, rather, a speech annotated with qualifications – an interesting way to put your thoughts down on a screen. And it’s well worth your while. The gist of it is that because Hamas is an almost text-book example of nihilist theocracy and Israel isn’t, Israel is on the right side of the defining struggle of our times – and so not a country Harris will criticize. A related, central point is that the use of human shields by Hamas puts them in an utterly different moral universe than the IDF, in whose interests it is not to kill Palestinian civilians.

This is a crude summary – for there are qualifications on so many points that the piece is almost an explosion of nuance. So, for example, in Sam’s view, Israel cannot be absolved from war crimes either; and should not even exist as a Jewish state. That last point is a pretty huge one – and it comes at the very start of the piece. But if Israel should not exist as a Jewish state, it should not exist at all. This is its core justification – and one of the issues the Israeli government has put at the center of any possible two-state solution. Get rid of the Jewishness of Israel … and you will soon have a Middle Eastern state pretty evenly divided between Jew and Arab and in which future immigration ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-GAZAwould easily tip the demographic balance toward Islam. And this is where, I’d argue, Sam’s argument begins to unravel almost as soon as it begins: because it is overwhelmingly an abstract statement of abstract principles which fails to account for history in all its particular twists and turns. So he ends up refusing to criticize a state he really doesn’t believe should exist and yet then goes on to criticize it quite potently. You can call that original if you want. But you might also call it incoherent.

Still, Sam is unquestionably right about the theocratic extremism and despicable anti-Semitism of Hamas and its allies. It is much more extreme and central to Hamas than theocracy and anti-Arab racism is to Israel. He’s right that Hamas’ preference for building underground tunnels for war rather than underground bomb shelters for civilians makes them complicit (though far from solely responsible) in the horrifying carnage of the last few weeks. He’s also right about the difference between what Israelis would do if they had all the power and what Hamas would do in the same boat. Israel, with overwhelming power, gives many Arab citizens political rights even as it has penned a huge number into segregated bantustans, curtailed their travel, blockaded them (in Gaza), and surrounded them with theocratic Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Hamas would, in contrast, just kill every Jew it could find as soon as it could. That is an important difference.

But that’s why I absolutely do not support Hamas, and never have. Nor is there any excuse for their war crimes. But the issue here is not one of a choice between Israel and Hamas; it’s between the possibility of a two-state solution and the Israeli government’s refusal to take any of the off-ramps toward it if they would curtail the bid to settle and annex the West Bank. Much of Sam’s argument would hold water if the Israelis had been in earnest about peace, and in earnest in supporting moderate Palestinian forces on the West Bank, and in earnest about taking Obama’s proposals seriously this past decade. But they haven’t been. Settlements are much more important to them than peace. And the settlements are motivated by exactly the kind of theocratic zeal that Sam normally opposes.

But the settlements – themselves a standing war crime under Geneva – do not figure prominently in Sam’s account. And when they do, he offers an unconvincing defense:

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