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Archive for March, 2005

America’s Worst Blogger

[ 0 ] March 24, 2005 |

Who is America’s worst blogger?

Some parameters:

1. Partisanship cannot, in itself, be evidence of bad blogging.

2. The blogger must be “major” as in commonly read and referrred to.

The two names that leap to mind for me are Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus. Reynolds, in fairness, plays an important role as the nervous system of the right side of the blogosphere. When pressed, he can also string a sentence together.

That leaves Mickey, who may be the most inept hack ever to commit words to a hard drive. It’s not just that any blogger worth naming could do more with the Slate spot; I think I could pick any student at random from any of my classes and still get more coherent commentary.

Thoughts? Other nominees?

UPDATE: FMguru comments on Kaus: “It’s like David Foster Wallace and Hunter S. Thompson had a love child – and then raised it on a steady diet of lead paint chips for 18 years.”

Funniest thing I’ve read all day.

UPDATE 2: Other nominees. . .

Hugh Hewitt
Kaye Grogan
Katherine Lopez
Keith Burgess-Jackson
Andrew Sullivan
Jeff Jarvis

And Terri Will Be Carried Away on the Back of a Magic Dolphin

[ 0 ] March 24, 2005 |

Amanda Marcotte and Roy Edroso find whatever connection Peggy “Mr. Reagan would not have dismissed the story of the dolphins as Christian kitsch” Noonan had with rationality permanently severed.

Permanent Settlements

[ 0 ] March 22, 2005 |

Matt Duss has an excellent series on Israeli moves to consolidate gains in the West Bank, all happening with nary a peep from the United States.

The fox is guarding the chicken coop.

Mountain

[ 0 ] March 22, 2005 |

Excellent post from Erik at Alterdestiny on mountain top removal in West Virginia.

It takes a mere fraction, maybe 1% or less of the people it used to take to mine coal to do it today. Many residents of Appalachia feel that the coal companies are on their side, much as the loggers of Oregon feel that way about Weyerhaeuser and Georgia Pacific. But of course it’s not true. The companies are on the side of profit and they will push for that without regard to the fate of their employees or ex-employees. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Ever.

Erik does a lot of good work debunking the myth that labor and environmental advocates need to be at odds with one another. Read the whole post.

Seattle Drought Update

[ 0 ] March 22, 2005 |

It’s another stunningly beautiful day in Seattle. To reiterate, January, February, and March usually aren’t like this. We’re two inches short for January, three inches short for February, and 2/3rds of the way through March, we’re at about 1/4 normal monthly rainfall.

Things have gotten a little better since this article was originally published, but not much. Being a selfish bastard, I’m still wondering how the drought will affect me, as I neither ski nor farm.

Blogging from me will be light for a couple days, as I continue to lose in my war against my cable modem.

Why I Just Can’t Bring Myself to Care…

[ 0 ] March 21, 2005 |

…about Terry Schiavo:

  1. Nobody will remember any of this in 18 months. Those who do were going to vote Republican anyway.
  2. “Saving” Terry Schiavo is probably the least evil thing that the Republicans will do this week.
  3. I really don’t see this case leading to a pattern of abuses of power, regardless of whether the bill is constitutional or no. Let the Republicans win, and the worst thing that will happen is that Mrs. Schiavo will live as a vegetable for another thirty years, now and again “smiling” at her parents and at Tom Delay.

Yeah, the grandstanding bothers me, and to refer to the media as “whores” really misses the fact that they’re giving it away for free. But, we knew that the Republican party didn’t stand for anything other than deep pockets and moral outrage before this. I’m unexcited.

Beinart Busting

[ 0 ] March 21, 2005 |

Michael Berube channels Rick Perlstein:

Besides, as Rick Perlstein pointed out to me a few days ago, there’s something very, very troubling about the whole Beinart analogy between anti-Islamism and anti-Communism, and “principled realists” ought to be much more wary of it than they are. Yes, the Americans for Democratic Action met at the Willard Hotel in 1947. Yes, they announced their opposition to Communism “because the interests of the United States are the interests of free men everywhere” and America should support “democratic and freedom-loving peoples the world over.” And yes, they had a better sense of totalitarianism than did their critics on the left at the time. But it doesn’t seem, in retrospect, that this managed to inoculate American liberals and progressives against McCarthyism over the course of the ensuing decade. A fat lot of good it did, actually. When the shock troops of the Right broke down your door fifty-odd years ago, searching for spies and softies and fellow travelers and people who’d voted for Norman Thomas in 1932 and people who knew someone who’d just denounced the Taft-Hartley Act, and when you insisted, as you were being led away, that you were in fact an anti-Communist, you remember what the reply was: they didn’t care what kind of Communist you were.

The rest of the essay is also very good. Read it.

Kennan, Realist?

[ 0 ] March 21, 2005 |

Dan Drezner is correct to dispute David Adesnik’s claim that George Kennan was a realist. Kennan certainly had much in common with realists. He believed that foreign policy should be conducted by impassionate professionals, and should be insulated from the popular will. This accords very nicely with the 18th century world of European power politics that modern realism is derived from. However, Kennan central point in Sources of Soviet Conduct was that Soviet foreign policy was driven by the internal contradictions of the authoritarian communist state, not from a systemic imperative.

This places Kennan outside the modern school of realism. Of course, that’s not the whole story, because prior to Man, the State, and War the lines that defined realism were not as clear as they are today. Carr and Morgenthau, for all their virtue (and the former has considerably more than the latter) could be quite sloppy in assessing foreign policy determinants. Kennan’s realism was more of the traditional conservative variety than the modern systemic form.

Proliferation

[ 0 ] March 21, 2005 |

Via Laura Rozen comes a very nice profile of Kenneth Waltz from the Boston Globe:

Waltz is not a crank. He is not a member of an apocalyptic death cult. He is perhaps the leading living theorist of the foreign policy realists, a school that sees world politics as an unending, amoral contest between states driven by the will to power. His 1959 book, ”Man, the State, and War,” remains one of the most influential 20th-century works on international relations.

In fairness, it’s probably possible to be both a crank and one of the leading living theorists of the realist school. Not that Waltz or John Mearsheimer or Christopher Layne ever say anything crankish. . .

Tales of the Sea: The Goeben, Part III

[ 0 ] March 19, 2005 |

Part I

Part II

Two Royal Navy admirals had a chance to stop, or at least slow, Goeben and Breslau. Admiral Archibald Milne had under his command the battlecruisers Inflexible, Indomitable, and Indefatigable. None could match Goeben, but together they should have been more than enough to stop her. Shortly after Goeben bombarded Phillipeville, Indomitable and Indefatigable made contact. Unfortunately for the British, war had not yet been declared, so the two battlecruisers did not engage. After shadowing for a while, they lost her in the dark. Later, Milne had the opportunity to engage Goeben and Breslau outside of Messina, but declined to do so.

Admiral Milne decided not to continue the chase with his battlecruisers, and drew them back in order to protect the French transports crossing from Algeria. He believed that his primary mission was to protect the channels of communication. Of course, destroying Goeben would also have protected those channels, and the French Navy had assets in the area capable of defending the transports. Milne’s career was later destroyed because of the Goeben fiasco. Had he continued the pursuit with Indomitable and Indefatigable, he might well have been able to force a battle with Goeben. While three British battlecruisers could certainly have handled the German ship, I’m less certain of the chances of only two. German gunnery was vastly superior to British, Goeben was larger than either of the British ships, and British battlecruisers later proved remarkably fragile, while German ships could undergo an immense amount of punishment. It’s possible that Goeben could have destroyed one or both of the Royal Navy ships, although the German vessel would have certainly suffered some damage. In any case, Goeben escaped, and the British battlecruisers retreated.

At the mouth of the Adriatic, another Royal Navy admiral had a chance to engage. Admiral Ernest Troubridge commanded four armored cruisers, Defense, Warrior, Black Prince, and Duke of Edinburgh. Armored cruisers are slower and less heavily armed than either battleships or battlecruisers. Jackie Fisher, First Sea Lord and father of Dreadnought, designed the battlecruiser class specifically to hunt and kill armored cruisers. Battlecruisers could outgun and outrun armored cruisers, meaning that the former could destroy the latter at range without difficulty. Troubridge, however, had four ships to Admiral Souchon’s two. His ships displaced around 13000 tons and carried 9.2″ guns to the 11″ weapons of the Goeben. However, if he could close the range sufficiently, his ships might be able to cripple or even sink Goeben.

Troubridge closed with the German ships, but lost his nerve at the last moment. Rather than engage, he drew his cruisers off and allowed Goeben to escape. He reasoned that the German ship would devastate his cruisers without the possibility of an effective reply. Although Robert Massey disagrees, I believe Troubridge made the right decision. Goeben was not operating at her fullest possible speed, but could still outpace the British ships. The extraordinary accuracy of German guns would likely have finished off one or more of the British ships before they had any chance to bring Goeben within range. Even had they managed to draw close to Goeben, the 9.2″ shells may not have had much of an impact on the German armor. My guess is that Goeben would have sunk or crippled two or three of the British ships, then continued on her way to Constantinople. Lots of British sailors would have died for no good reason. Although the Court of Inquiry decided that Troubridge’s decision was justified, the decision effectively ended his career.

The overall record of cruisers against battlecruisers is, to be fair, mixed. Invincible and Inflexible destroyed the German armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau without great difficulty at the Battle of the Falklands in late 1914, although they did expend a considerable amount of their ammunition doing so. The Exeter and two British light cruisers forced the Admiral Graf Spee to scuttle herself off Montevideo in 1939, although the Graf Spee was, in fairness, an armored cruiser more than a battlecruiser. Finally, a group of US Navy cruisers and destroyers managed to force the Japanese battlecruiser Hiei to scuttle off Savo Island in 1942, although they were helped by US aircraft. Anything can happen in a battle, and by forcing action, Troubridge might have been able to damage or cripple Goeben, preventing Admiral Souchon from reaching his eventual destination.

In any case, Troubridge did not engage, and Souchon proceeded to Constantinople. At the mouth of the Dardanelles, Goeben halted. Turkish fortresses guarded the entrance, and the Ottoman Empire remained neutral. Milne had resumed pursuit with his battlecruisers, which were not far behind. From inside the Dardanelles, Turkish destroyers approached. The Turks had, as yet, given no indication as to whether they would allow the entrance of Goeben, or prevent the entrance of the British battlecruisers. Souchon, his ships, and his men faced the possibility of fighting hostile Turkish shore batteries along with hostile British warships.

To be continued.

The Battle Against Evolution

[ 0 ] March 19, 2005 |

Irrational Robot has a great post on the “intelligent design” movement. Upside, they haven’t made as much progress as they’ve claimed. Downside, they’re trying very hard.

The geeky negative angle: In the middle-earth of public school academia, we’ve been letting Mordor gather power for too long, and can’t rely on Gondor (Kansas Citizens for Science) to hold the fort forever. Mordor is well-funded, well-organized, and has new tricks we haven’t seen yet.

For those playing at home, here are the core arguments of the bad guys:

1) Grond, the hammer of the underworld: “Academic Freedom. When there is an active controversy in science, it is irresponsible to only teach one side of the story. Let the kids decide.” Grond is supposed to knock in the gates so that the orcs of the Discovery Institute can discuss these issues on a level playing field with the tired knights of the public schools.

2) The Nazgul, the ringwraiths leading the army: Philip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial, who can be slayed by no scientist, as he is a lawyer), Jonathan Wells (author of Icons of Evolution), William Dembski (author of a bunch of books no one has read, and holder of a bunch of PhDs from Baylor), and a handful of others.

3) Sauron, the mysterious shadowy evil that looms over middle-earth: The scientific controversy, and the fear that “there is something to all of this intelligent design stuff.”

4) Saruman, the power that betrayed us to the shadow in the East: Anthony Flew, a rather unimportant atheist philosopher who announced rather suddenly that he read a science book he didn’t understand and concluded that the universe must have been designed. Once the troops marched to his door for an interview, and he confessed that he thought the universe had been designed by a “cosmic Saddam Hussein,” we left some giant tree-people in the philosophy community to tend his garden and the forces of Mordor became a little embarrassed.

Via Redbeard.

Culture of Life

[ 0 ] March 19, 2005 |

Ed Kilgore makes an excellent point:

If supporting the “culture of life” in one case in Florida requires an emergency congressional session, then perhaps when John Bolton’s nomination for ambassador to the U.N. comes up, Senators should ask him about his manifest contempt for human life
outside our borders. After all, Bolton has consistently argued that the murder of innocents in strategically unimportant places like Bosnia, Kosova, and Africa, is not a concern of the United States, and should not be a concern of the U.N., either.

Sure, in every country the lives of their own are pre-eminent. But in an administration that trumpets its commitment to universal concepts of human rights, there should be something of a consistent policy towards the right to live of one person in Florida who subisides in a vegetative state, and the right to live of millions of fully living, thinking beings in places like Sudan.

In this particular case, there’s no doubt what Jesus would do. And unless he eats crow and bends the knee, there’s no doubt John Bolton has fatally defied the Culture of Life.

Holding the neocons to their own rhetoric is the first step in shutting them down. Bolton doesn’t fit with the neocon program perfectly, but when you lay with dogs you wake up with fleas.

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