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Archive for February, 2006

The joy of humiliating aspiring fascists

[ 0 ] February 28, 2006 |

This has to be the most joyful humiliation of a blustering aspiring fascist since it became public knowledge that Sir Roderick Spode, leader of the “blackshorts” (the black shirts were on back order) enjoyed a lucrative sideline career as a designer of a line of women’s silk undergarments.

Civil War

[ 0 ] February 28, 2006 |

If this isn’t civil war, then what is it?

Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.

Torture D-Ho

[ 0 ] February 28, 2006 |

The clowns at Horowitz’s vanity site have re-set their silly poll, so by all means Go! What I missed most from the first poll is the second-tier-at-best performance of Ward Churchill. I tell ya, phony wingnut obsessions have a short shelf life these days; one day you’re the face of the left, the next day you’re an also-ran who can’t get within 100,000 votes of an obscure Oregon sociologist on a survey at one of the ten thousand most influential right-crackpot sites on all of the intarweb! I’m also a little puzzled that Melissa Gilbert isn’t getting more support; some of those TV movies were pretty awful crimes against humanity…

Finally, The Important Issues

[ 0 ] February 28, 2006 |

King Kaufman notes the most important insight to be derived from the Olympics:

It never occurred to me how important the horizontal stripes on the stockings are to the aesthetics of a hockey uniform before I got a load of the Nike-designed suits worn by most of the teams in these Olympics.

Yeah, I don’t know what Nike’s labor practices are like these days, but those socks deserve at least a 6-month boycott. However, it could be worse. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Cooperall:

Image hosting by Photobucket

Image hosting by Photobucket

And the Flyers haven’t won anything since the Ford administration, and the Whalers were forced out of the Nutmeg State. Coincidence? I think not!

While at the NHL level those things only lasted a year on two teams, at lower levels it lasted longer. At least half of my minor hockey league teammates wore the things for several years. It’s nice that sheer inertia prevented me from committing grievous aesthetic crimes for once…

Lamest Excuse Ever

[ 0 ] February 27, 2006 |

At the end of October 1907 [...] the Kaiser- ordinarily eager to travel, especially to England- faced an English trip he dreaded… Then, on October 31, William telephoned Chancellor von Bulow to say that he had had an accident. An attack of giddiness had forced him to stretch out on a sofa; there he had fainted and rolled onto the floor. “My head hit the groud so hard that my wife was alamred by the noise and came to me, terrified,” he told Bulow.”Because of this, he continued, he could not possibly think of undertaking the exhausting trip to England; already he had wired this news to King Edward. Robert K. Massie, Dreadnought

First reaction; this would easily be among the lamest excuses I’ve ever received for missing class. Second reaction; replace “Kaiser” and “William” with “George W. Bush”, “King Edward” with “Tony Blair”, “Chancellor von Bulow” with “Secretary Rice”, and 1907 with 2007. Then see if the story makes sense.

Buck McCoy

[ 0 ] February 27, 2006 |

Looks like four. I didn’t really think very much about Dennis Weaver before I saw Duel last year, my main knowledge of him coming from his role as Sam McCloud. In Duel he played a middle class salesman taken out of his depth by a confrontation with a psychotic trucker. He begins to self-destruct as he realizes that the implicit social contract that has governed his life and, really, priviliged him within his universe has started to collapse. Weaver was perfect for the role because he exuded a kind of semi-toughness, an earthiness that makes the disintegration of his carefully managed existence deliciously uncomfortable to watch.

It’s a pity that he got stuck in a particular kind of role for the last half of his career. Nevertheless, he did good work.

What other purposes does a 2×4 serve?

[ 0 ] February 27, 2006 |

From USS Mariner:

[Mariner's manager Mike] Hargrove said. “Then, you got a little tired of it. Sometimes when a cow won’t let you milk her, you have to snap her on the head with a 2 by 4.”

Is that true?

Even if so, is it something you want to hear from your manager?

2005 Top Ten List

[ 0 ] February 27, 2006 |

Apparently 2046 was in Lexington for only a two day engagement, which I, of course, missed. In retrospect, seeing 2046 on Sunday instead of Munich would clearly have been the right choice, although in my defense Munich will be out of Lexington by the end of the week, as well.

You can call me pretty underwhelmed by the year in film. I recall having a lot less trouble filling out my top ten last year. I suppose it’s possible that the top of this year’s list is a little better than last years (although I love both Sideways and Eternal Sunshine), but I think last year had more depth.

As always, in no particular order:

The New World: Reviewed here.

Match Point:Reviewed here.

The Squid and the Whale: As Scott has pointed out, it’s just way too easy for me to see myself in the Jeff Daniels role, or perhaps more in some combination of the father and son; I certainly have gone through periods in which I was way, WAY too fond of Pink Floyd.

Capote: Capote was remarkably good, but didn’t quite catch my imagination. I felt a little bit cold when I left the theater. The movie is well done, so it might have been my mood, or some idiosyncrasy of mine that prevented me from fully engaging with it. However, I don’t hesistate to recommend it; Hoffman was outstanding.

I Walk the Line: It was a weak year. Reese Witherspoon was an outstanding June Carter and the music was great, but I found it far too formulaic for my taste.

Jarhead: I seem to have liked Jarhead a lot more than most. There’s no doubt that Sam Mendes has lost a fair bit of goodwill since American Beauty, a film that is dreadfully flawed, hopefully overrated, yet still compelling in a number of ways. Gyllenhaal was good in Jarhead, but I felt most attracted by the narrative, which captured the boredom of war as well as any picture I’ve seen, and avoided most of the war movie cliches by leaving the protagonists hanging.

A History of Violence: I liked History of Violence much more the second time I saw it. I don’t tend to care for Cronenberg all that much, although I must have seen The Fly ten or fifteen times when I was a kid. The end was weak, but the main body, and especially the first fifteen minutes (through the coffee shop scene) were excellent. Ed Harris was good in a supporting role, but I didn’t care for William Hurt.

Broken Flowers: I found this movie very depressing.

Downfall: Goddamn, this was a depressing movie. It takes some talent to show Nazis in all of the horrific awfulness, refuse to apologize for them one bit, and yet still render them human and understandable. It’s not quite right to say that the audience is intended to sympathize with Goebbels, but some empathy seems possible, which is a remarkable achievement.

Brokeback Mountain: Probably the strongest film of the year. I don’t hold to the new Sullivan-Kaus line that Brokeback really isn’t that good; it’s a very, very strong film without any serious flaws.

Notable exclusions include 2046, Nobody Knows, Memories Murder, March of the Penguins, and Grizzly Man, none of which I’ve seen.


[ 0 ] February 26, 2006 |

Following up Scott’s post on Stephen Green

Christianity was a violent religion until the Thirty Years War. That war lasted so long, and killed so many people (the population of Germany was reduced by a third), that Christendom lost its bloodlust. Freedom of conscience was born on the battlefields of central Europe. The Middle East hasn’t suffered that kind of loss; they haven’t yet had their fill of blood; they haven’t yet become disgusted with tyranny. I’d like to think that the Middle East can do what the West did, without all the suffering. But if it takes regional fratricide, then so be it.


The Seven Years War: 1.3+ million dead
The Napoleonic Wars: 2.5+ million dead
World War I: 8.9+ million dead (although you can exclude the 300000 Turks if you’d like)
World War II: 63 million dead (you can exclude about 20 million non-Western casualties if it suits you)

Now, if you want to claim that neither Germany nor Russia were Christian countries during World War II, feel free; the argument is less absurd for the Soviet Union than for Germany, as the Communists were genuinely anti-Christian while the Nazis relied heavily on a Catholic base. Of course, that gets us into trouble with Green’s other claim, that the Christian West somehow became averse to tyranny after 1648. To put it gently, the evidence would seem to problematize that assertion…

I suppose it could also be argued that, since the above wars weren’t specifically about religion, they don’t challenge Green’s argument. That would certainly be an odd contention; the Christian aversion to murder, tyranny, and slaughter was so great that it had no meaningful effect on limiting brutality, murder, tyranny, and slaughter in overwhelmingly Christian countries.

The above does not, of course, note systematic Christian brutality in the colonial world after 1648, including 10 million dead in Congo alone between 1880 and 1908.

A curious thing, this religious war in Germany between 1618 and 1648 that was so awful that it expunged tyranny, war, brutality, slaughter, and (presumably) ring-around-the-collar from the soul of the West for all of time.

If You Liked "Flypaper Theory," You’ll *Love* Endless Civil War…

[ 0 ] February 26, 2006 |

Shorter Verbatim Stephen Green: “If we’re looking at an Islamic civil war, then vast numbers of good people will die, from Libya to Oman. Luckily, they won’t have to be our people. In the very worst-case scenario, the Middle East could blow up — and we could bug out, pronto.” This is the good news?” you ask. Yes, and I’ll explain why.”

I love the last paragraph too. “Sure, you were completely right about everything, but…we won a narrow victory in 2004 Presidential elections based on the utterly fallacious premise that the Iraq war would bring stable liberal democracy to the Middle East!” Now that the strategy of shouting “who won the election? Nyah Nyah?” when you’re thoroughly dismembered in an argument on the merits has migrated from reactionary commenters to major reactionary bloggers there really should be a term in the Wingnut Debate Dictionary for it, but I can’t come up with a snappy name off-hand…

(via TBogg.)

South Dakota: Aftermath Round-Up

[ 0 ] February 26, 2006 |

–In comments to this post, commenter Joe uncovers a remarkable fact about the SD ban on abortion: “In passing the bill, the Senate amended it to make it even more pro-life, adding a sentence to state that the due process clause of South Dakota’s constitution ‘applies equally to born and unborn human beings.’” If applied seriously, the absurd effects of this claim would be immediately manifest, starting with state micro-regulation of a woman’s pregnancy. Every miscarriage would have to be the subject of a significant policy investigation. And…I can’t go on, it’s too silly. See other commentary about the law from Jill, PFH, and ReddHedd.

Jack Balkin says that “Because the law bans almost all abortions, it will be immediately challenged in a declaratory judgment action, and a preliminary injunction will issue. That injunction will be upheld by the 8th Circuit, and the Supreme Court will deny certiorari. And that will be the end of the matter.” Sounds reassuring, especially since on its own terms the argument is obviously correct. However, note the caveat: “I am assuming that Justice Stevens will not retire in the next two years. If he does, then there will be only four votes for retaining Roe and Casey, and all bets are off.” I think this is, as Ian Faith would say, considerably more than minor. It is certainly true that as long as Stevens stays on the Court and the Republican’s don’t control the Senate and the White House in 2008, the Supreme Court probably won’t even hear the case, let alone overturn Roe. But it’s not as if these are trivial possibilities: Stevens will soon be 86, and who knows what will happen in 2008, but the GOP have to be heavy favorites to maintain control of the Senate and at least small favorites to retain the presidency. I don’t mean to be unduly pessimistic, but one thing that scares me about Stevens is the precedent of Byron White. There’s a tendency to think that Stevens, who casts the court’s most liberal votes, will hang on until 2009 unless he’s just physically unable. But Stevens is, after all, a Republican; a kind that scarcely exists any longer, but a Republican. White was a very conservative justice (he dissented in Miranda and Roe) on all issues except civil rights and federal power, but he was still a Democrat, and he waited until Clinton captured the White House to retire. Stevens might make a special effort to hang on even if he or his wife encounter serious health problems–but, myself, I wouldn’t bet on it.

To me, the only silver lining of the South Dakota legislation is that is brings the fact that the goal of the death-by-a-thousand-regulations strategy is to gut and then overturn Roe into the open. If I understand correctly, this is why some pro-life groups have objected to the SD law. The strategy is more likely to fail if its desired endpoint is made wider knowledge.

–Speaking of which, I assume most of you have already read Lance’s thoughtful post on the issue. Since I have already written at considerable length about the centrist position Lance stakes out, I will largely outsource the commentary to Barbara and jedmunds. It will not surprise you to know that even in the abstract I don’t think abortion regulations serve any useful purpose and have all kinds of bad side effects. I also don’t think the comparison with the other forms of regulations Lance points out that progressives favor will fly, since abortion (at least from a pro-choice perspective) lacks the structural differences in bargaining power and collective action problems and negative collective externalities from rational individual choices that make, say, some economic and environmental regulation desirable. It seems to me that in light of the uncertainty Lance discusses, it is all the more imperative to leave the decision to the woman’s judgment rather than trying to make subtle and highly contestable moral distinctions using the inevitably more crude coercive authority of the state.

But my bigger objection to Lance’s argument is related to his argument that “because I believe that most people advocating other restrictions are arguing in bad faith doesn’t mean that I can’t see the point in certain restrictions.” This, I think, is my single biggest problem with the centrist pro-choice argument; I simply cannot go along with debating these issues discretely and in the abstract. You can’t have a meaningful debate while ignoring what these regulations are designed to do, and how they will be enforced and what effects they will have; whether they would make sense in some alternate universe in which a woman’s reproductive rights were taken for granted and access very secure and the regulations not carefully designed to have a cumulative impact is simply beside the point. It’s like liberal hawks who wanted to debate the Iraq War while positing a competent administration who shared their goals; even if you might support the war they were defending, it had nothing to do with the actual war being proposed. Any genuinely progressive analysis, I think, has to at least address the issues that PZ dramatizes so effectively. All of these regulations have a trivial effect on affluent women in stable families who live in urban centers, but all of them severely exacerbate the geographic and class inequities that are very difficult to resolve even under a good legal regime. Maybe some of these regulations justify the effects, although I sure can’t see it. But if we’re going to effectively deny some classes of women access to safe, legal abortions, I think they’re entitled to a better explanation than a sort of inchoate sense that abortion makes one queasy and discomfort about the fact that freedom might permit other people to make choices that you wouldn’t.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: SMS Szent Istvan

[ 0 ] February 26, 2006 |

Szent Istvan was the only dreadnought battleship constructed by Hungary. Befitting her unique status, Szent Istvan was named after King Stephen I, the first Christian king of the Magyar people, who lived between 975 and 1038. Szent Istvan carried 12 12″ guns…

What’s that you say? A Hungarian battleship? Hungary has no coast? Hungary, indeed, does not even appear to be close to any coastline? Did they build the ship on a river? Did they build it with wheels? Am I pulling your leg?

All fair questions. SMS Szent Istvan was one of a class of four dreadnoughts built by Austria-Hungary shortly before World War I. The Compromise of 1867 had created a dual administrative structure in the Empire, giving the Hungarian nobility substantial control over their own lands, and making Franz Joseph both King and Emperor. As a precondition of incurring the expense, Hungary demanded that one of the ships be built in a Hungarian yard and be manned by a Hungarian crew. Hungary today has no major naval shipyard (neither does Austria, of course), but the jurisdiction of the Hungarian half of the Empire extended to Fiume, now known as Rijeka in modern Croatia.

SMS Szent Istvan carried 12 12″ guns in four triple turrets, an extremely heavy armament for a ship of her size. The guns were disposed in the modern fashion, with two superfiring turrets at either end. This meant that Szent Istvan and her sisters combined a very heavy broadside with excellent end-on fire. Szent Istvan displaced about 20000 tons and was designed for a speed of 21 knots. The dreadnoughts were very well arranged, with respectable armor for their time period. The major flaw in the design was an almost complete lack of underwater protection; combined with the top heavy armament, this made them very vulnerable to torpedos.

Sadly, the shipyard at Fiume lacked experience with a ship as large as Szent Istvan. While her Austrian sisters entered service between 1912 and early 1914, Szent Istvan was not completed until late 1915. The quality of construction wasn’t quite up to par, and Szent Istvan couldn’t make the same speed as her sisters. This was not a great handicap for most of the war. The Austro-Hungarian Navy rarely left port, instead serving as a “fleet in being” designed to tie down Allied naval forces. In practice, this meant that the French and Italian navies spent most of their time waiting for the Austro-Hungarian Navy to sortie, freeing the Royal Navy up for confrontation with the German High Seas Fleet. This made for a boring war in both theaters of operation.

In February 1918, Emperor Karl I appointed a man named Miklos Horthy Commander-in-Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Admiral Horthy was not the sort to let the fleet lie in harbor while there was a war on. He authorized the fleet to sortie from Pula in an effort to attack a line of mixed naval defenses known as the Otranto Barrage. Szent Istvan and her sister left Pula on June 9. Unfortunately, it turned out that the workmanship on Szent Istvan had been particularly poor, and she began to vibrate and overheat when ordered to make over 16 knots. The effort also produced an inordinate amount of smoke, which attracted a pair of Italian torpedo boats. Szent Istvan was struck by two torpedos and capsized, although most of her crew was rescued. A film crew on her sister, Tegetthoff, witnessed and recorded the destruction of the ship.

Thus ended the sole major sortie of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and Hungarian naval power more generally. Miklos Horthy returned to Hungary a war hero, and played an important role in crushing the 1919 Communist revolution. Horthy was named Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary (Karl was not recalled), and ruled until 1944. He helped lead Hungary into World War II on the side of Nazi Germany but, to his credit, resisted German demands to deport Hungarian Jews. He died in Portugal in 1957.

Trivia: What was the first dreadnought battleship sunk by aircraft?

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