Tribal Leaders and the Future of Afghanistan

APTOPIX Afghanistan Opium

Peter Tomsen, who once served as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and who published in 2011 what many consider to be the definitive book, thus far, about the war there, has a review in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs of three recent books on the same subject. The review and the books (War Comes to Garmser by Carter Malkasian, The Wrong Enemy by Carlotta Gall, and No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal) are thoughtful works by deeply informed writers, and all are worth a read.

On the way to providing some interesting proposals for future international policy in Afghanistan, Tomsen considers the question of what has gone wrong thus far. His discussion of the most recent book—Gopal’s—is particularly interesting.

Terrible Political Cartoons, #GamerGate Edition

Terrible GamerGate Cartoon 2

A few months back, Andrew Ferguson* wrote a rather scathing takedown of a HBO documentary on the notoriously dreadful cartoonist Herbert Block. Block’s biggest weakness, Andy wrote, was that, well, he couldn’t really draw. To make up for this talent deficit, Block would simply label all of his cartoons with the points he was trying to make. Here’s Andy:

Kay Hagan’s Net Worth Has Jumped 37 Percent Since She Took Office


Becoming a U.S. senator can be great way to increase your personal wealth. Just ask Kay Hagan, whose net worth has increased almost 40 percent since getting elected.

According to CQ Roll Call, which tracks the wealth of members of Congress on an annual basis, Hagan’s minimum net worth (figures are provided in broad ranges on financial disclosure forms) was $6.67 million when she took office in 2009. As of this year, Hagan had a minimum net worth of $9.12 million, which amounts to a 37 percent over her Senate career.

Ellison’s Must Read of the Day

Ellison must read

My must read of the day is “Republican Tillis is lone NC Senate candidate on live program initially billed as debate,” in the Associated Press

Marvel’s Civil War Is Not a Crazy Right Wing Story—But Maybe It Should Be!

Marvel Civil War

Marvel Studios recently announced that Captain America 3 will revolve around the “Civil War” storyline from the comics that ran between 2006 and 2007. The storyline, crafted by Mark Millar—a self-professed liberal who has described Sarah Palin as “terrifying”—was a thinly veiled allegory for the war on terror and a critique of the Patriot Act. The short version of the storyline goes something like this:

A group of untrained and out-of-control superheroes takes on a team of super villains and their battle results in the deaths of some eight or nine hundred people. As a result of this tragedy, the Marvel Universe’s version of the CIA/DHS*, SHIELD, pushes for the power to control and train superheroes. They get their way and a law is passed requiring those with superhuman powers to reveal their secret identities and register with, and work for, the government. Those who don’t work with the government are imprisoned indefinitely and without trial in the Negative Zone**. Tony Stark (Iron Man) supports the law; Captain America opposes it. After a bunch of fighting, Captain America, realizing he has lost the support of the American people, surrenders. While standing trial for violating the Patriot Act Superhero Registration Act, Captain America is killed by a sniper, a martyr in the war on terror Civil War.

Remember, this story was conceived and published in the darkest days of the Bush presidency. It’s not hard to see the parallels to the arguments against Gitmo and government overreach in the name of keeping people safe. Here’s how the New York Times described the series:

Democratic Senator Appears to Want Kids to Smoke

Senator Richard Blumenthol (AP)

Like Paul Krugman, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) knows a nefarious conspiracy when he sees one. Blumenthal has called on the National School Board Association to end its recently announced partnership with Right Decision Right Now, a program designed to prevent youth tobacco use.

That sounds like a good thing, right? Why would Blumenthal oppose the partnership? Well, because Right Decision Right Now was founded by R.J. Reynolds, a tobacco company that obviously wants children to smoke (or something). He called the partnership a “deadly deal” that must be stopped.

The Media Bubble, Redskins Edition

The spear makes it less offensive, right?

Matthew McConaughey, American Icon, believes that the Redskins should not change their name or logo. Writing at Uproxx Sports, Andy Isaac argued, “McConaughey will likely get killed for this, as his opinion is far from mainstream.” This is, quite simply, wrong. In September, the Washington Post reported on a poll showing that 71 percent of respondents believe the name should not be changed. Earlier this week, the Post reported on another poll that showd 83 percent of respondents believed the Redskins “should not” change their name. In other words, Matthew McConaughey is firmly in the mainstream.

So, as I said, Isaac was wrong. He quickly realized his mistake and corrected his post; I’m not interested in rubbing his nose in it. It is worth briefly highlighting, though, because he was wrong in an interesting way. I am not surprised that Isaac believed that McConaughey is out of step with the mainstream. That’s because within Isaac’s area of interest—the universe of sports writers and writing—McConaughey undoubtedly is out of the mainstream. He is out of step with the nation’s major columnists and websites. He wouldn’t fit in with the Deadspin bros. At some point in the last 18 months or so, a critical mass of sports journalists have decided that it’s totes terrible to use a name that’s been used for decades without a peep. And the rest of the sports journalists have been made to realize that they need to keep their mouths shut if they disagree.

As Bryan Curtis noted at Grantland, this is the golden age of the liberal sports writer: