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Archive for March, 2006

Vlad and Ben

[ 0 ] March 27, 2006 |

Ben Domenech and Vladimir Putin have something in common. Via Rodger:

Two scholars at a research institution in Washington have accused Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, of plagiarizing a management textbook by two professors at the University of Pittsburgh in a dissertation for which he received an economics degree, The Washington Times reported on Saturday. According to the scholars, Mr. Putin copied substantial portions, including tables and diagrams, from a 1978 book, Strategic Planning and Policy, by William R. King, now a professor of business administration at Pitt, and David I. Cleland, now an emeritus professor of industrial engineering.

The lesson for Ben? Achieve quasi-dictatorial power before you get caught.


Tournament Challenge Update

[ 0 ] March 27, 2006 |

We are now near the end.

The only two competitors who still have a chance at victory are Keith Adams, managed by K. Adams, and FlangeGonad, managed by F. Gonad. The situation is relatively simple, as F. Gonad wins if UCLA wins the championship, and Mr. Adams wins under any other eventuality. Notably, only four of the 31 competitors can still gain any points at all. No one, as far as I can tell, had George Mason in the Final Four.

In other news, I have created a Baseball Challenge group. Last year’s winner was the illustrious Dave Noon of Axis of Evel Knievel, and I know that some within our community have been sharpening the knives since October.

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

UPDATE: Here are some stats from ESPN:

3000000+ entries
284 have George Mason winning
1853 have George Mason in the Final Four
66% have no remaining Final Four teams

And Josh Levin of Slate has the #4 entry.

The Great Centrist Regulatory Non-Sequitur

[ 8 ] March 27, 2006 |

Garance Franke-Ruta has followed up her terrific article demonstrating the lack of pro-choice women on the op-ed pages of eventheliberal New York Times by making two excellent additional points. The first–that not a single “pro-life” group takes a position in favor of contraception–is, of course, extremely telling about the purposes of the criminalization lobby. Her second point is that this abortion discourse is dominated by wishy-washy nominally pro-choice but also pro-regulation men, who use rhetoric that tends to be very hostile toward women who actually get abortions, and make a number of dubious assumptions. In a way, the prevalence of this opinion is evidence of elitism on the nation’s major op-ed pages, although in a different way than is commonly assumed. It’s not that the pro-choice position is more popular among elites than mass opinion; this is the one cultural issue for which this isn’t true. It’s that the “centrist” position on abortion is, in and of itself, highly elitist. Most people aren’t quite as bald about it as Richard Cohen, but there’s something particularly appalling about the “no women I know will be affected if Roe is overturned, so what do I care?” argument. The centrist position on abortion–whether of the center-left or the center-right–is the ultimate in moral self-gratification: it allows men to display their moralistic bona fides, while the burden falls almost exclusively on poor rural red-state women, as opposed to the women who travel in the geographic and social circles of the affluent blue-state men who generally write centrist op-eds.

There is a further problem here, however: the complete disjuncture between the purported goals of abortion “centrists” and the actual effects of the regulations they support. It’s important to make a distinction between the moral and legal position of abortion centrists, which they constantly blur to disguise the fact that there’s no rational connection between the two. It’s defensible, whether one agrees with it or not, to believe that some abortions are more morally problematic than others, and that it varies based on context. But abortion regulations have nothing to do with that. In some cases, they’re openly contradictory: Patterico argues that “many of us who are uncomfortable with abortion become more so as the fetus advances in age”–a common argument among both the center-right and center-left–but of course creating regulatory obstacle courses makes later-term abortions more likely. But even when there isn’t an obvious contradiction, there’s no rational connection between the regulations and the moral position (and in the case of arbitrary bans on medical procedures given scary scientifically meaningless names, no rational connection with any purpose.) Abortion regulations don’t inscribe “centrist” moral positions into law: they just give more decision-making power to third parties for no good reason, and make abortion access more inequitable. Lizardbreath recently made this point very effectively:

(1) Regulations of this sort don’t discourage abortion in any targeted way. If you believe that abortion is always a wrong decision, regardless of the woman’s individual circumstances, I’m not talking to you right now – go over and sit with the committed, consistent pro-lifers. If you think that there are circumstances where a woman should be able to decide for herself whether to have an abortion, whatever you think those circumstances are, you have to recognize that these regulations aren’t going to preferentially discourage the abortions you disapprove of. Regulations requiring waiting periods are going to discourage poor women, who can’t get consecutive days off from work or can’t afford an overnight stay near the provider. Spousal notification regulations are going to discourage women with bad or fearful relationships with their husbands. Nutty “safety” regulations (such as those requiring an abortion clinic to have a written transfer agreement with a hospital to accept emergency patients — what, the hospital would otherwise refuse to accept emergency patients because they came from an abortion clinic?) raise the costs, travel and otherwise, of abortions, and so discourage poor women. None of them are going to preferentially discourage women who don’t take abortion seriously, women who use abortion as birth control, or any other category of women whose abortion decisions you disagree with.

If you think that abortion is always a difficult moral decision, but is sometimes the least of the available evils, regulations like this don’t bear any relationship to discouraging abortion when it’s the wrong decision and allowing it when it’s the right decision. All they do is serve as obstacles, making abortion available for affluent women in comfortable circumstances, and closing it off for poor women or women in difficult family situations. This isn’t right, and it isn’t just.

(2) Taking these regulations at face value, people who favor them don’t trust women. If we take mandatory counseling, waiting periods, and spousal notification regulations at face value as regulations intended to address the concerns of moderate pro-lifers (rather than assuming that they are cynically favored by pro-life absolutists who know that they can’t pass absolute abortion bans, and so favor any regulation, however irrational, making abortion more difficult to obtain) they reflect a mistrust of women as moral decision-makers.

The nominal goal of such regulations is to make the woman concerned consider additional information and opinions or spend additional time thinking about whether she should or should not have an abortion. Isn’t it clear that this reflects an opinion that women, if unregulated, will make abortion decisions flippantly or thoughtlessly? It’s not a simple case of saying that the woman involved has interests that are opposed to those of the fetus, and that she therefore, as an interested party, can’t be permitted to make the decision. These regulations still leave the decision in the woman’s hands – they just assume that women, as a class, can’t be trusted to inform themselves of the relevant facts and make abortion decisions thoughtfully and after moral deliberation. That assumption, made by someone who has considered it explicitly, reflects a profound contempt for women as moral decision makers.

Both of these points are exactly right. First, abortion regulations do nothing to ensure that women will only have abortions under conditions that either Patterico or Will Saletan will find acceptable (leaving aside the question of why their opinion on a highly contestable moral choice should matter more than the woman whose life is actually at stake in the first place.) Rather, as I’ve argued before, the effect of these regulatory obstacle courses is abortion-on-demand for affluent women in urban centers and highly restricted abortion for other women (even if these women are having abortions for reason Lord Saletan finds tolerable.) And the elitism here is again manifest: some women can be trusted with the decision, but others cannot. And, second, the effect of many of these regulations is to transfer decision-making authority from women to doctors, again for no good reason. Pro-lifers are right, in a sense, to say that the vague language of health exemptions mean that the decisions are really ethical, not medical decisions. But the problem is, if the decision is moral or ethical (as opposed to medical), why should doctors, rather than women, be entrusted with the final decision? It doesn’t make any sense. The “centrist” moral position on abortion is potentially defensible, but the regulatory schemes that have been grafted on to this position to make these centrists feel better about themselves have no connection whatsoever to the underlying ethical argument.

Mickey Kaus is a %%$%@ Moron, Part XLVIII

[ 0 ] March 27, 2006 |


The Plano Con, Coda: Remember Plano, Texas, the Mid-American city where Brokeback Mountain’s ticket sales so impressed Frank Rich and others with the film’s hard-core red-state appeal? When Wal-Mart decided to open a new experimental “upscale” store, featuring a sushi bar, an espresso bar, $500 bottles of wine–but no guns–guess where they decided to do it? … Reports A.P.: “[I]f plasma TVs, microbrewery beer and fancy balsamic vinegar sell in Plano, those items could be added to stores in other affluent communities.” … Plano is in fact an affluent Dallas suburb. … [Thanks to reader G.B.] 10:20 P.M.

Plasma TVs, microbreweries, and fancy balsamic vinegar are sooooo gay, and it’s not surprising that a bunch of effeminate affluent Dallas suburb lefties would go and watch Brokeback Mountain.

Plano, Texas is part of Collin County, Texas. It is genuinely affluent, with a median income of over $75000. In 2004, Collin County gave 71.2% of its vote to George W. Bush, and 28.1% to John Kerry, a percentage that exceeded Bush’s margin in Texas as a whole. In other words, Collin County is conservative for Texas.

We Don’t Want To Punish Women, We Just Don’t Think They’re Citizens Responsible For Their Actions

[ 3 ] March 27, 2006 |

I see Patterico, in an extremely rare move, has actually tried to defend the transparently indefensible GOP abortion platform. Alas, it is a complete failure, as generally tends to happen when you make arguments on behalf of claims that are self-evidently wrong. His arguments defending abortion regulations I’ll pick up in a follow-up post tomorrow. (UPDATE: it’s here.) And with respect to his claim that not equating abortion with murder (which was, of course, the focus of Amp’s original post) “doesn’t mean that we are happy about abortion. We would like to see fewer of them,” it’s remains unclear why pro-lifers would focus on criminalization, which is a highly ineffective and inequitable way of reducing abortion rates. Bans on “partial-birth” abortions are, of course, simply irrational, and since they don’t save a single fetus but do endanger women’s lives, they can’t even be defended in “half-a-loaf” terms. But let’s focus on the his attempt to defend the pro-life tactic that gives away the show, the argument that abortion is a serious crime when doctors do it but not when women pay them to perform one:

Even when the policy is expressly designed to accomplish the exact opposite of punishing women, this guy employs sophistry to make the policy appear to be designed to punish women. For example, in his very first example, he argues that abortion bans which protect the mother from any legal consequences are designed to punish women, even though they are expressly designed to protect women from punishment. Meanwhile, they are inconsistent with equating abortion with murder, because you wouldn’t punish a contract killer and not the person who hired them.

Of course, the guy misses the fact that sensible people would rather not haul women into court and prosecute them for abortions. Morally blameworthy or not, these women are often more pathetic and desperate than the doctors who kill dozens or hundreds of babies a year. Given that juries may well nullify if forced to judge the guilt of such women, it makes perfect practical sense to pass a law targeting the doctors but not the women.

With respect to the claim that this policy doesn’t actually “punish” women, Neil and Amanda have already taken care of it. So let’s discuss the many other reasons this is abject nonsense from A to Z:

  • There’s nothing “sensible” about not wanting to haul women into court given pro-life premises. It’s simply can’t be a serious crime when doctors perform them but not when women choose to get them. The quantity is beside the point; 100×0 is still zero. The contract killing analogy remains 100% accurate. There is simply no rational justification for making abortion a criminal offense but refusing to apply any sanctions at all to the person who has the greatest moral responsibility for the action.
  • And, of course, giving away the show is the “pathetic or desperate” excuse. First of all, it is facially asinine–if we can’t prosecute people who are “pathetic or desperate,” the jails are going to get pretty empty. And, of course, we’re right at the heart of the matter: women who get abortions don’t really bear responsibility; after all, if they were rational they would obviously agree with Patterico. But we can’t hold these silly, hysterical women responsible for what we consider criminal acts as we would anyone else. The sheer contempt for women here couldn’t really be more obvious; again, it’s not an accident that the exclusion of women from punishment under abortion laws is a relic of the 19th century. (And, of course, since as we know Patterico seems to think that the state has exactly the same interest in regulating children and adult women, this isn’t surprising.)
  • And the jury nullification argument won’t fly, because barring a serious injury juries have typically nullified attempts to prosecute doctors too, even when social mores against abortion were stronger. And moreover, if abortion laws are going to be arbitrarily enforced, what does that tell you about the pro-life argument? Obviously, that the number of truly principled pro-lifers are a very small minority.
  • Finally, all of this remains true whether or not abortion is exactly the same as murder. Let’s say it’s more like manslaughter. (I don’t see how, since it’s premeditated, but let’s say.) The argument still immediately collapses. How can it be manslaughter when a doctor performs one, but not even a parking ticket when a women hires someone? Again, at least if you consider women rational, rights-bearing individuals it’s simply indefensible. Either you prosecute doctors and women for the crime, or accept that most people disagree with you and leave the criminal law out of it altogether. Period–no other solution is remotely defensible, and fatally undermines the only rational reason for the legislation in the first place.

Now, with respect to his argument that some pro-lifers “believe that they have a lot more to gain through persuasion, education, and peaceful protest,” well, hey, fine with me–that’s your privilege. But as soon as the criminal law–whether through outright (but hopelessly arbitrary) bans or regulations that affect only the most powerless class of women (more later)–gets involved, then we continue to have a problem. Create a social consensus, develop an actually coherent and rational set of policies, and until then keep the goals of the forced pregnancy lobby out of the statute books.

Koufax Voting Ends Tonight

[ 0 ] March 26, 2006 |

Just a reminder that voting for the Koufax awards ends tonight. If you’re so inclined, you can vote for L, G & M for best series, but make sure to check out all the categories and cast your ballot!

Sunday Battleship Blogging: Strasbourg

[ 1 ] March 26, 2006 |

France’s early efforts at battleship construction suffered from slow building, full slips, and a concentration on the more pressing issues of World War I. Accordingly, early French battleships were not competitive with their foreign contemporaries. The Washington Naval Treaty allowed France to build 70000 tons worth of battleships, but the French wisely deferred construction during the immediate postwar period.

Germany suffered under far more serious restrictions that France. Germany was allowed to construct no battleships of over 10000 tons, which should have limited them to coastal defense vessels. The Germans, however, were not content with this plan, and developed the “pocket battleships”, a trio of cruiser size ships with battleship armament and very long ranges. Each of the pocket battleships carried 6 11″ guns in two triple turrets, could make about 29 knots, and had diesel engines that gave them ranges ideal for commerce raiding. Upon the construction of the pocket battleships, France began to design ships that could destroy the German vessels. The result was the Dunkerque class fast battleships.

The Dunkerque’s and their successors, the Richielieu class battleships, were exceptionally well designed vessels. Dunkerque and Strasbourg each carried 8 13″ guns in two quadruple turrets, could make 32 knots, and displaced 26500 tons (slightly higher for Strasbourg, due to extra armour). These ships were sometimes described as battlecruisers, but they were armored against 11″ shells, which essentially made them light battleships. Strasbourg, like the later Richielieu, also devoted an enormous percentage of her displacement to armor. Although exact figures differ a bit and depend on interpretation, Strasbourg devoted between 41% and 44% of her displacement to armor, making her one of the best armored battleships ever built, for her size. Armor took up roughly 33% of the displacement of a typical modern battleship, althought the Richielieu class also achieved a percentage in the low 40s. The French were able to achieve such numbers through excellent, efficient design work and also through the practice of quadruple turrets, which significantly reduced the weight of the main armament. The armor was well distributed, and Strasbourg also had excellent underwater protection and a fine anti-aircraft armament. Altogether the French battleship construction effort was much more impressive than that of the Germans or the Italians, and on a ton for ton basis was competitive with that of the Royal Navy.

Strasbourg’s activities at the beginning of World War II involved convoy escort and the pursuit of German commerce raiders. Strasbourg was more than capable of catching and destroying a pocket battleship, and I think she would have fared well against the German Scharnhorst class, although the latter is controversial. In any case, Strasbourg never caught a German ship, and the French surrender found her at the harbor of Mers El Kebir.

The French fleet, by and large, hoped to sit out the war following the French surrender. The Germans wanted the French fleet, and Admiral Darlan, an important naval official, had fascist sympathies, but there was considerable resistance in the French Navy to giving ships to the Germans. Winston Churchill, however, felt that the French fleet was too great of a threat to let lay, and decided to take vigorous action. He deployed a squadron including HMS Hood and two older battleships to Mers El Kebir in order to capture or destroy the French squadron. The squadron included two old battleships (Provence and Bretagne), but the main British concern was with Dunkerque, Strasbourg, and six large, modern French destroyers. The French destroyers and fast battleships could have made a significant addition to either the Italian or the British fleet, and their disposition might have had important consequences for the course of the war.

The negotiations between the French and British naval officials at Mers El Kebir went poorly, and the British ships eventually opened fire. Strasbourg was handicapped by the fact that her entire main armament (2 quadruple 13″ turrets) were forward, and could not fire to the aft, where the British happened to be. Nevertheless, Strasbourg managed to get underway, and with five of the six destroyers made a break for the open sea. The rest of the French squadron did not fare so well, with Bretagne exploding and Dunkerque and Provence beaching themselves.

HMS Hood was the only ship that could have caught Strasbourg, and a battle between the two would have been interesting. Hood was much larger and carried a heavier armament, but Strasbourg was newer and better protected. She was also faster, and Hood injured herself trying to pursue. Strasbourg and the five large destroyers made their way to Toulon, where they sat, inactive, until November 1942. They were joined by Dunkerque, which had received serious but not critical damage in the British attack.

On November 10, 1942, the Germans decided to abrogate the armistice with France, and occupied Vichy controlled areas. The French Navy decided to retain its honor, however, and on November 27, 1942, scuttled itself. Strasbourg’s military equipment was destroyed and she settled on the bottom of the harbor. Her hulk was refloated in 1943 by the Italians, and was transferred several times between Italy, Germany, and the skeleton of the Vichy state. In August 1944, Strasbourg was hit by eight American bombs, and was grounded to prevent capsizing. The French refloated her in 1946, and considered, but rejected, converting the hulk into an aircraft carrier. She was used for explosives tests before finally being scrapped in 1955.

UPDATE: Attentive reader Davida asks why the French didn’t just sail from Toulon to an Allied port instead of scuttling their ships. I don’t have a great answer; I assume that it was in part because of the bad feelings left over from Mers El Kebir, and in part because not all of the fleet was seaworthy. Any insight out there?

Trivia: What battleship holds the record for scoring the longest ranged hit on another battleship in combat?

"But I’m Not Gonna Plow Your Driveway"

[ 0 ] March 26, 2006 |

(Admittedly Not Much) Shorter Glenn Reynolds: You illegal immigrants can keep your phony-baloney marching. We’ll take your labor, but when you make unreasonable demands on the polity like “not having a significant chance of baking to death when you cross the border” and “not be deported and denied the most basic protections by a nation that structurally depends on your labor,” forget it. And Mickey Kaus’ analysis of anti-immigration politics in California is remarkably astute–remember how Pete Wilson turned California into a hardcore Republican state? This will be even better for conservatives!


[ 0 ] March 25, 2006 |

Exciting game, but arrrrrrgh. It’s been a bad three months: two Seattle teams in crucial games, both outplayed their opposition, but lost based on key plays by the opposition, bad mistakes in key situations and catastrophically bad officiating. Granted–as Art Thiel, unlike most of the Seattle media accounts I’ve read, identified–the real key play of the game was the stupid foul Jensen took on Williams’ last-minute layup, and that call was certainly legit. But between a gaping foul disparity that wasn’t remotely justified by the play, the missed goaltending call in OT, and (by far the most important) the farcically ticky-tack T on Roy–UW was robbed like a student leaving their laptop unattended next to Marcus Williams.

And what’s worse is that I wouldn’t say it was the worst I’ve seen in this tournament. I’m surprised that Yglesias didn’t mention it (and I certainly don’t agree with his premise, or for that matter pretty much any defense of the NBA on any level), but even by NCAA standards the officiating in this tournament has been unspeakably atrocious. There have to be some good college officials somewhere. Doesn’t there?

…via Pooh in comments (who offers his own take on the officiating), Deadspin suggests that Calhoun should pour himsef a delicious frosty mug of shut the fuck up. And like me, will be cheering for George Mason, who if they win will be forgiven for employing the man who wrote the worst law review article in world history.


[ 0 ] March 25, 2006 |

Norbiz: “Well, at least he went down swinging like the craven, blame-shifting, pre-programmed, privilege-laden reactionary douchebag we know and love.”

As Marshall says (as well as Fontana Labs), one’s initial impulse is pity; fifteenth-rate plagiarist hacks have families too, etc. But then you remember that he not only threw his old editors and current pals under the bus after the jig was obviously up (and remember, he’s accusing his old editors of extremely serious breaches of journalistic ethics), but continues to blame them, issuing feeble, ludicrously implausible non-denial denials that do not take the slightest shred of responsibility. (Admittedly, he is getting the hang of it–many fewer falsifiable claims this time, with more “I could explain all this but those evil libruls would never believe me” crap.) And he wraps it all up the way he started his awful blog: by smearing the patriotism of his political opponents. So, the only way to conclude the sorry chapter of a sorry wanker and the clowns who inexplicably hired him is by reminding Marshall of Ambrose Bierce’s crucial amendment:


…In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

Friday Random Ten!

[ 0 ] March 25, 2006 |

Well, now that I have an I-Pod I guess I have enough I-Tunes to do one of these things. Since my uploading of CDs has tended to old favorites, this will be so old-fartish as to make an audit pointless, so I’ll get right to it:

The Rolling Stones, “Parachute Woman”
Sonny Rollins, “St. Stephen”
Drive-by Truckers, “Ronnie and Neil”
Mission of Burma, “Einstein’s Day”
Low, “Cue the Strings”
Leonard Cohen, “Memories”
Pavement, “Ann Don’t Cry”
Warren Zevon, “The Indifference of Heaven”
PJ Harvey, “This is Love”
Miles Davis, “Yesternow”

Not bad, all things considered…

[ 0 ] March 24, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson

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