Slash and Burn

Here’s a grammar pet peeve of mine:

Peter Shapiro was bounding around Brooklyn Bowl one recent evening, showing off all that his new music club slash bowling alley would have to offer.

Why is the word “slash” written out? Didn’t we start using “slash” in spoken English as a way of pronouncing the “/” character used in written English? Why not just write “music club/bowling alley?”

What’s with that? I’d seen it written that way once in an alt-weekly before, but this is the New York Times. It must have passed muster with the copy editors. Weird.

Preach It, Brother

Alan Wolfe says all that needs to be said about Gov. Sanford:

The problems with Sanford lie elsewhere. He is by all accounts a somewhat typical product of what the Republican Party’s leadership selection process produces: a political extremist, a grandstander, a policy ignoramus, and a man of amazingly inflated self-importance. Those, to me, are vices. Hypocrisy pales in comparison to them.

American Enterprise Institute v Soccer

A strange, bizarre, and yet somehow pedantic rant from the increasingly irrelevant American far right:

… thankfully, Americans are not buying it. In spite of the fact that one can drive by an open field on Saturdays and usually see it filled with young boys and girls playing soccer, the game’s popularity has not moved anywhere toward being a major sport here in the United States.

… For sure, there may be a number of reasons that is the case but my suspicion is that the so-called “beautiful game” is not so beautiful to American sensibilities. We like, as good small “d” democrats, our underdogs for sure but we also still expect folks in the end to get their just desert. And, in sports, that means excellence should prevail. Of course, the fact that is often not the case when it comes to soccer may be precisely the reason the sport is so popular in the countries of Latin America and Europe.

Ah, I get it.  In America, only people who DESERVE to win, win.  People like Bill Gates, who inherited his money honestly before he conned his way to buying DOS.  Or, to use a sports analogy, people like Mark McGuire and Lance Armstrong, who certainly never ever would’ve ever taken any banned substances, no sir.

It’s sad that AEI is so far fallen that they’re reduced to rehashing these tired arguments.  I mean, at least say something original.  Or, better, read Franklin Foer (of Brookings) book How Soccer Explains the World.

What Obama Can (and Can’t) Do for Iran’s Protesters

On the podcast this week, we discuss the situation in Iran, and the president’s latest reaction.

“Moral” language crept into Obama’s rhetoric this week as he invoked Martin Luther King and gave encouragement (if not outright support) to the Mousavi voters who are protesting the election.

Many on the right are criticizing Obama for not being forceful enough with his rhetoric. They want him to align himself more forcefully with the protesters. See Charles Krauthammer’s column for more on this.

But to what end? To follow Krauthammer to his logical end would mean committing ourselves militarily to overthrowing the regime in Iran. Iran is twice the size of Iraq, and would probably require a million or so U.S. troops to pacify. The only way to get that many troops is to reinstate the draft. Krauthammer, of course, doesn’t have the balls to advocate for this, but it’s absolutely where his argument leads.

At the very least, the argument leads to covert ops and “Radio Free Persia”-type engagements, which have a mixed record at best.

Still, it isn’t a black-and-white issue. The U.S. has offered varying degrees of support to insurgents over the years, from the right-wing militias we backed in Latin America, to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, to the CIA coup in… well, Iran, we have often intervened or at least supported efforts to overthrow foreign governments.

Sometimes, this has been under the guise of spreading democracy, as with Eastern Europe during the Cold War (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”). But it was clear then that the Eastern Europeans were on their own. With two nuclear states squaring off, the stakes were a lot higher. Also, Reagan was simultaneously engaging the Soviets diplomatically (something conservatives conveniently omit in their retelling of the history).

It’s tempting to think the U.S. can “do” something to support the protesters. Sadly, the more we “do” for them, the easier it is for Ahmadinejad to paint them as tools of the U.S. government. That has a lot of resonance in Iran, a country where the 1953 CIA coup probably did more to lead us to where we are today than any other event.

Dylan Mathews has a useful post at TNR laying out previous U.S. interventions that have turned out less-than-well. It’s worth pondering as you watch the situation, and perhaps appreciating Obama’s cautious approach.