Faulty Memory

Bill Whittle admits being a little hazy on McCain family history:

I knew McCain’s father and grandfather were admirals. I did not know his grandfather was on the USS Missouri, came home, and died the next day after giving everything he had for his country. That’s powerful.

Uh huh. I bet he also didn’t know that the senator’s grandfather helped Bull Halsey sail TF38, the Navy’s World War II carrier strike force, into typhoons, twice, with significant loss of life in one and damage to several carriers in the other. Halsey, by that time a Navy icon, kept his job. The elder McCain got sent to the beach (he was about to be relieved by Admiral John Towers when the Japanese surrendered). There were many in the task force who thought both Halsey and McCain Sr. were past it by that point in the war.

And in the Crimea …

Differing takes on what’s been going on in Sevastopol. Russian Navy Blog has an account (translated from Russian) of street protests and harassment when the Coasties from the USCGS Dallas went ashore during their recent port visit. 

Meanwhile, the Kiev Post takes a look at the ethnic politics in the city, finds calm amongst the citizenry but lots of potential for discord. The article really highlights how dependent Sevastopol is, economically, on the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. I can’t help but think that that implies a lot of sympathy for the Russians even amongst local Ukrainian speakers.

Elsewhere in the Post, US-based analyst Roman Kupchinsky notes that the Ukrainians have a difficult balancing act to perform, both short- and long-term. He sees the Crimea as a potential flash point:

The prevalent speculation in Ukraine and in the West is that “liberating” the Crimean Peninsula’s Russian population will be the next pretext for Russia to expand its grip on the post Soviet space and gobble up Ukraine.

It is a scenario which needs to be carefully examined since it is feasible, but not probable, in the short run. 

He recommends not antagonizing the Russians as NATO support is by no means certain.

I wonder again, what genius thought it was a good idea for the Dallas and the Pathfinder to visit Sevastopol at this moment, and why.

Thai Government Marks Time

The Financial Times reports on the Thai PM’s plan to buy more rice from farmers as a way of shoring up his support:

Political analysts expressed scepticism that the unusual gambit would resolve the crisis.

“It is part of the government answering the offensive by the PAD and continuing to legitimise itself in a democratic way,” Giles Ungpakorn, a Chulalongkorn University political scientist, said of the referendum plan. “But if the government wins the referendum, will the PAD shut up and go home? No! They are not in a mood to compromise.”

True enough. All this maneuvering seems like a calculated effort to buy time while the government figures out whether it can find a way not to compromise with, split or use force against the PAD. It has no obvious way onto any of those paths.

But Does It Sell Software?

Back in my college days, I sat in on a presentation from a Miller Brewing marketing person who was explaining the thinking behind company’s then-popular “less filling, tastes great” ad campaign. The ads were noteworthy for their light touch (the George Steinbrenner/Billy Martin spot remains a classic) but the Miller rep’s takeaway point was that cute can never be an end in itself. The key question to use in evaluating any spot, especially the cute ones, she said, is “does it sell beer.”

Whoever’s working on the new Microsoft ad campaign featuring Jerry Seinfeld didn’t get that memo:

Weird beyond all immediate description.

Sharpening Divides

David Frum offers up a letter from an anti-abortion independent:

Obama’s campaign has been premised on an appeal to voters exactly like me -– voters who want a politics that does not so obviously delight in wallowing in the mud.  If there are a lot of Independents like me, Palin is a disaster.  She’s just performed what it is that is driving us from the Republicans.  She’s running against hope and the notion that we need civility in our political life.  She’s running against the notion that we ought to hold our fellow Americans in respect whether they come from small towns or big towns. 

I’m hearing some of the same concerns from swing voters in my circle. They heard from the GOP false notes, and far too many claims that implied a divine right to rule.

Meanwhile, my own read on Palin’s Wasilla career is coming around to a sense that she’s a pure opportunist. More on that over the weekend.

Executive Presidents

Lisa at Ramblings of a Pseudo-Intellectual is going through the list of the country’s presidents and trying to judge whether their particular background, experience-wise, contributed to superior performance in office. So far she’s through Fillmore. Her most controversial judgment so far would have to be her conclusion that Andrew Jackson was not a good president. The mere fact ol’ Andy told John C. Calhoun to get stuffed tips the meter to the “good” side for me.

Afghan Mission Doubts

The Times of London smells a rat in regard to the timing of the recent convoy battle:

[British commanders] understood that the plan was fraught with political and military problems at the highest levels. The knowledge left many Nato commanders wondering whether the lives of their men were being risked for the sake of little more than American political expediency.

UPDATE: The British defence minister responds:

We cannot afford to wait for complete security to be established before development begins. The need to combine the two is one of the challenges of Afghanistan, which both we and NGOs are grappling with to support the Afghan government.

New Arrival in Sevastopol

The USNS Pathfinder has followed in the wake of the USCGS Dallas and docked in Sevastopol. Has someone in the Bush administration given some thought to whether it’s such a good idea to stir up the Russian-speakers in that city? Oh, wait …

Time Takes On Thailand

Time magazine tries to unravel the mess in Bangkok:

At stake is nothing less than Thailand’s political future. Will it continue as a fragile democracy attempting, in however flawed a manner, to allow voters to choose their leaders through the ballot box? Or will it return to a past where the upper class took it upon itself to decide what is best for Thailand?

McCain Reaction

James Poulos:

This convention has relied on one drab, perfunctory speech after another to repeat a mantra that wears precious thin after the first listen: because McCain was a prisoner of war back then, he is a hero today, and because he is a hero today, he should be President tomorrow. …

The humility that makes John McCain a hero has been buried by his own campaign. His message of respect and admiration for Barack Obama grates sharply with the style and tone of his ads, assembled and produced by Bush men. On that and related points (including his appeal for Americans to stop shouting at each other), McCain’s rhetoric, which sounded so sincere, like the real McCain, pales in comparison to the snide and smug feel of the McCain campaign — which has taken on a life of its own that somewhat dwarfs and diminishes its candidate.