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Archive for May, 2006

Drunk

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

Interesting social experiment by Harry over at Crooked Timber. Write a thoughtful post about childrearing, family life, demographic trends, and so on, and make a throwaway observation at the end about how you’ve never been drunk. What sort of comments does such a post attract? People writing in to report one of two things: that they’ve also never been drunk (or only once or not for 30 years or some such thing), or that they’re drunk right now.

For the record, I have been drunk on several occasions, but I’m not at all drunk at the moment (although I’ve been writing for the better part of the last nine hours so I’d really like to be), which is probably why I didn’t comment.

Vacation

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

I’m outta here. My itinerary includes Las Vegas, Seattle, and Fort Collins.

Generously filling in for the next two weeks will be Drs. Dan Nexon of Duck of Minerva and Steve Gimbel of Philospher’s Playground. Expect the quality of discourse on this blog to increase significantly.

I’ll be back on Friday, June 16.

Happy Birthday to Us!

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

Today is the second anniversary of LGM.

Thank you very much.

SD Abortion Referendum Coming

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

Interesting:

An abortion rights group Tuesday submitted more than twice the number of the signatures needed to hold a statewide vote in November on whether to repeal South Dakota’s ban on abortion.

The Legislature earlier this year passed the strictest abortion law in the nation, banning all abortions except those necessary to save a woman’s life. The law, scheduled to take effect July 1, makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

The measure was aimed at sparking a court fight that supporters hope will lead to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established the right to an abortion.

The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families said it turned in more than 38,000 signatures for a statewide referendum. The South Dakota secretary of state’s office will check the validity of the signatures and determine whether the measure qualifies for the ballot.

Jan Nicolay, co-chairwoman of the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, said she believes it would be the nation’s first statewide election on abortion since Roe v. Wade. Opponents of the ban decided to pursue a popular vote instead of filing a lawsuit.

Despite the fact that the abortion debate tends to inexplicably assume that public opinion directly manifests itself in legislative outcomes, if polls are any indication this will be a close vote, and the new law might very well lose. If that happens, remember that the draconian law passed the legislature overwhelmingly, and remember that the next time a nominal pro-choicer is sanguine about what would happen in legislatures if Roe is overturned.

Happy Jutland Day!

[ 0 ] May 31, 2006 |

This is the fifth and final post in a series commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.

Part I: SMS Lutzow
Part II: HMS Lion
Part III: SMS Friedrich Der Grosse
Part IV: HMS Iron Duke

These ships also participated in the battle:

HMS Barham
HMS Warspite
HMS New Zealand
HMS Canada
HMS Invincible
SMS Ostfriesland
SMS Schleswig-Holstein

The battle is counted as a tactical German victory and a strategic British victory. British losses (3 battlecruisers, 3 armored cruisers, 8 destroyers, and 6097 sailors) were heavier than German (1 battlecruiser, 1 pre-dreadnought, 4 light cruisers, 5 destroyers, and 2551 sailors), but several German ships were very badly damaged, and the High Seas Fleet did not play a significant role in the rest of the war. Allied surface naval dominance would continue to increase, and the Germans would turn to the submarine to win the naval war. Moreover, while it’s easy to imagine scenarios in which the British inflict much more damage on the High Seas Fleet, it’s hard to see how the Germans could have done much better than they did.

I’ve already suggested that I don’t think that a British decisive victory would have significantly changed the course of the war. What about a German decisive victory? Let’s assume that Scheer had managed to pull of a Nelson at Trafalgar. Let’s say that the High Seas Fleet manages to destroy 20 of the 28 British dreadnoughts and six of the nine battlecruisers, while only suffering losses of one battleship and one battlecruiser. That’s wildly implausible given the technology of the day, but we’ll accept it for the sake of argument. The Germans had one dreadnought in reserve, bringing their total to 16 dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers. The British had two dreadnoughts and one battlecruiser in reserve, giving them 10 dreadnoughts and 4 battlecruisers. This would seem to leave the Germans with a substantial, and potentially war-winning, advantage.

But not so fast. France had seven dreadnoughts that weren’t doing anything particularly vital in the Mediterranean. It’s likely that these would have been immediately incorporated in the Grand Fleet. The six Italian dreadnoughts were plenty to counter the four Austrian ships, leaving the Allies in control of the Med. British construction was also more advanced than German. Two battlecruisers and three battleships would enter the Royal Navy in 1916, compared with one battlecruiser and two battleships for the German fleet. By the end of 1916, assuming no further losses on either side, the Grand Fleet would have consisted of twenty dreadnoughts and six battlecruisers, while the High Seas Fleet would have had eighteen dreadnoughts and five battlecruisers. In short, having won one Trafalgar, Scheer would have had to win another Trafalgar to achieve a decisive superiority over the Royal Navy. This would have had to be done before US entry into the war (which might well have been accelerated by a German victory at Jutland), and the commitment of twelve additional dreadnoughts (not including the slow Michigan and South Carolina) to the Allied cause. Also, had the Allies needed them, the two Brazilian dreadnoughts almost certainly would have been put into service more quickly than they were. Finally, Japan had four battlecruisers and six dreadnoughts that the British attempted to lease during the war. Japan eventually committed a naval squadron to the Mediterranean, and it’s not wholly unreasonable to think that a disaster at Jutland might have forced the British to make concessions necessary for additional Japanese assistance.

Of course, this doesn’t include the effect on British morale, which might have suffered dramatically from a German decisive victory. Then again, British morale didn’t collapse at the height of the U-boat campaign. The fall of France in 1940 might be counted as a reasonably similar event, and it didn’t result in a British collapse. It’s possible that a German victory could have driven Britain from the war, but unlikely.

It’s strange that a battle of this caliber, representing so much investment from both sides, had so little impact on the course of the war and involved so little damage to the belligerents involved. Jutland would be the only major conflict in either war between fleets of dreadnought battleships. Battleship combat in World War II would never involve more than one or two ships on either side, and the aircraft carrier, especially in the Pacific, would come to dominate naval warfare.

Other Jutland Resources:

Wikipedia
World War I Naval Combat
Battle of Jutland.com
Daily Mirror/BBC

"You’re Not Artistic, And You Have No Integrity."

[ 1 ] May 30, 2006 |

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wow, what a surprise that an “Online Integrity” campaign spearheaded by Josh Trevino would turn out to be a complete farce. [Details of Goldstein’s scumbaggery here.)

And, of course, this is even less surprising if you just look at how the thing was written:


Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior. [emphasis retained from original.]

To state the obvious, the “as much as is reasonable” provides a gaping loophole that can be used to justify outing someone in virtually any context (and of course the de facto definition of “misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior” among most OI signatories will be “being a liberal that says something mean about me.”)

People who (like me) don’t believe in outing those who are pseudonymous don’t need to sign a meaningless pledge to just not do it, and signing it places no meaningful constraint on those who do. As we can now see…

(Picture via Matt Weiner.)

…From Lindsay in comments:

The Online Integrity Pledge is a little power trip Tacitus, a blogger on the downhill slide. Here’s how it works:

1. Draft set of resolutions that are so reasonable that only a total dickhead would disagree with them. Malicious “outing” bad. Democracy good.
2. Build in so many caveats and exceptions that any signatory can excuse any bad behavior whatsoever.
3. Invite your corrupt buddies to sign.
4. Browbeat anyone who refuses to join you. Claim that refusal to join your club implies disregard for principles at stake.
5. If anyone from the other side signs on, you now have a license to browbeat them as traitors and hypocrites. You made up the rules. You and your friends interpret them. You know who’s going to get the benefit of the doubt, and it’s not the fair-minded suckers who signed on because they agreed with the nominal principles at stake.

A similar dynamic is at play with the whole Euston Manifesto “controversy.”

Mmm… Carnitas

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

The uncontrolled giggling you may have heard since the President’s speech on May 15 has come, in large part, from defense contractors. As Gordo at Liberal Avenger noted, the Secure Border Initiative will prove to be a porktastic contractors delight. Armchair Generalist commented here. The lead article in this week’s Defense News is about how the major defense firms have gone positively giddy at the prospect of selling high tech equipment to the government in an effort to “secure” the southern border:

Now the makers of stealth fighters, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors, analytical software and other technologies are preparing to turn in bids May 30 on a multibillion dollar program that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security hopes will secure US borders by 2012.

Defense contractors hope this program, the Secure Border Initiative, signals the long-awaited emergence of a lucrative market for homeland security technology.

George W. Bush will never, ever forget to reward his real base.

Twenty Years

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

Defense News just recently published its twentieth anniversary issue. Of particular note to me was an article on the difference that twenty years has made in naval procurement. In 1986…

583 ships
14 CV
217 surface warships, including 3 battleships
101 SSN

In 2006…

281 ships.
12 aircraft carriers
91 surface warships
54 attack submarines

And all of those numbers are likely to go down in the next ten years. Defense News is good enough to remind us of why this happened:

Soviet Navy in 1986…

Nuclear Attack and Cruise Missile Submarines: 142
VSTOL Carriers: 6
Cruisers: 32, including 2 battlecruisers
Destroyers: 74

Russian Navy in 2006…

SSN and SSGN: 22
CV: 1
Cruisers: 5, including 2 battlecruisers
Destroyers: 17

And that probably overstates Russian naval strength, since the fleet is so poorly maintained that much of it is unable to leave port.

Fascinating times. I know of no other case in which a navy has cut itself in half, yet managed to increase its global dominance. My guess would be that the Royal Navy had a roughly similar experience after 1815, but I don’t know enough about naval procurement policies in the first half of the 19th century to say for sure.

For Expanding State Power, Just Add Strip Search Sammy

[ 1 ] May 30, 2006 |

George Bush’s drive to consolidate power and squelch dissent from dissenting professionals in the civil service got a boost today, as his appointment of Alito paid immediate dividends:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it harder for government employees to file lawsuits claiming they were retaliated against for going public with allegations of official misconduct.

By a 5-4 vote, justices said the nation’s 20 million public employees do not have carte blanche free speech rights to disclose government’s inner-workings. New Justice Samuel Alito cast the tie-breaking vote.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the court’s majority, said the First Amendment does not protect “every statement a public employee makes in the course of doing his or her job.”

The decision came after the case was argued twice this term, once before Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired in January, and again after her successor, Alito, joined the bench.

The ruling sided with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office, which appealed an appellate court ruling which held that prosecutor Richard Ceballos was constitutionally protected when he wrote a memo questioning whether a county sheriff’s deputy had lied in a search warrant affidavit.

Ceballos had filed a lawsuit claiming he was demoted and denied a promotion for trying to expose the lie.

Dissenting justices said Tuesday that the ruling could silence would-be whistleblowers who have information about governmental misconduct.

Souter has a detailed and powerful dissent. He’s particularly strong on the potential implications of this new doctrinal creation; as he notes, “[t]his ostensible domain beyond the pale of the First Amendment is spacious enough to include even the teaching of a public university professor, and I have to hope that today’s majority does not mean to imperil First Amendment protection of academic freedom in public colleges and universities, whose teachers necessarily speak and write “pursuant to official duties.” Stevens has a short dissent summing up the issues:

The proper answer to the question “whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties,” is “Sometimes,” not “Never.” Of course a supervisor may take corrective action when such speech is “inflammatory or misguided.” But what if it is just unwelcome speech because it reveals facts that the supervisor would rather not have anyone else discover?

As Justice Souter explains, public employees are still citizens while they are in the office. The notion that there is a categorical difference between speaking as a citizen and speaking in the course of one’s employment is quite wrong. Over a quarter of a century has passed since then-Justice Rehnquist, writing for a unanimous Court, rejected “the conclusion that a public employee forfeits his protection against governmental abridgment of freedom of speech if he decides to express his views privately rather than publicly.” We had no difficulty recognizing that the First Amendment applied when Bessie Givhan, an English teacher, raised concerns about the school’s racist employment practices to the principal. See id., at 413–416. Our silence as to whether or not her speech was made pursuant to her job duties demonstrates that the point was immaterial. That is equally true today, for it is senseless to let constitutional protection for exactly the same words hinge on whether they fall within a job description. Moreover, it seems perverse to fashion a new rule that provides employees with an incentive to voice their concerns publicly before talking frankly to their superiors.

While today’s novel conclusion to the contrary may not be “inflammatory,” for the reasons stated in Justice Souter’s dissenting opinion it is surely “misguided.”

We cannot be sure, of course, how O’Connor would have voted. It’s worth nothing that she did dissent in Rust v. Sullivan, the abortion “gag order” case that the majority cites (albeit on statutory grounds.) Since Souter, who regrettably joined the majority in Rust, didn’t think that it has the broad implications that the majority claims, however, and given that the dissent’s First Amendment reading is the kind of balancing test that O’Connor was fond of, it seems very likely that she would have been a fifth vote the other way.

…UPDTE: More from Balkin and Lederman.

Christy: “That the decision came down as I was reading this LATimes story about dissenters in Russia being institutionalized in large numbers again is ironic at best.”

What Happened to the Genocidal Fanatics You Could Reason With?

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

Shorter Marshall Wittmann: Containment cannot possibly work with Iran, because their “leader” (who doesn’t actually control Iranian foreign policy, but never mind) isn’t a modest, entirely rational leader who never makes belligerent statements in public, unlike Mao, Stalin, Khrushchev, or Kim Jong-il. And we still would have been in deep trouble if it wasn’t for the brilliant deterrence capabilities of Star Wars!

Again, I just can’t imagine why nobody takes the DLC seriously.

The Powerful Iraqi "State"

[ 0 ] May 30, 2006 |

Responding to my point in comments that it was ridiculous to claim that the U.S. “established” a democratic government in Iraq, because (in addition to the fact that there hasn’t been a succession under the new Constitution) the state didn’t have any substantial coercive capacity, one Jon Kay says:

In any case, people are arrested regularly by Iraqi police all the time. Bzzt!

I trust that the idiocy of the claim that because the police make the occaisonal arrest that Iraq therefore has the coercive capacity of a functioning state is self-evident, so I won’t dwell on it. What might be useful, however, is an inquiry into the nature of the police force that is boldly upholding order and the rule of law:

Jon Villanova had just arrived in Basra last spring to help build a police force in southern Iraq when bodies began piling up. Twenty or more Iraqi civilians were dragged from their homes, shot in the head and dumped in the streets.

The evidence pointed to some of the very people he and his team of foreign police advisers were struggling to train: a cluster of senior officers working out of a station called Jamiat.

But local officials resisted efforts to prosecute the officers. By the time officials in Baghdad intervened nine months later, the corruption in Basra had gotten so bad that the 135-member internal affairs unit, set up to police the police, was operating as a ring of extortionists, kidnappers and killers, American and Iraqi officials said.

“There we are, trying to build a police force that people can believe in, and they are committing murders,” Mr. Villanova said. “It was a quagmire.”

So was much of the rest of Iraq. An initial effort by American civilians to rebuild the police, slow to get started and undermanned, had become overwhelmed by corruption, political vengeance and lawlessness unleashed by the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

There is, of course, no serious functioning state in Iraq, and the fact that some of the sectarian militias that hold the actual power nominally wear police unifroms obviously doesn’t change that:

Even in a country beset by murder and death, the 16th Brigade represented a new frontier.

The brigade, a 1,000-man force set up by Iraq’s Ministry of Defense in early 2005, was charged with guarding a stretch of oil pipeline that ran through the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dawra. Heavily armed and lightly supervised, some members of the largely Sunni brigade transformed themselves into a death squad, cooperating with insurgents and executing government collaborators, Iraqi officials say.

“They were killing innocent people, anyone who was affiliated with the government,” said Hassan Thuwaini, the director of the Iraqi Oil Ministry’s protection force.

Forty-two members of the brigade were arrested in January, according to officials at the Ministry of the Interior and the police department in Dawra.

Since then, Iraqi officials say, individual gunmen have confessed to carrying out dozens of assassinations, including the killing of their own commander, Col. Mohsin Najdi, when he threatened to turn them in.

Some of the men assigned to guard the oil pipeline, the officials say, appear to have maintained links to the major Iraqi insurgent groups. For months, American and Iraqi officials have been trying to track down death squads singling out Sunnis that operated inside the Shiite-led Interior Ministry.

But the 16th Brigade was different. Unlike the others, the 16th Brigade was a Sunni outfit, accused of killing Shiites. And it was not, like the others, part of the Iraqi police or even the Interior Ministry. It was run by another Iraqi ministry altogether.

Such is the country that the new Iraqi leaders who took office Saturday are inheriting. The headlong, American-backed effort to arm tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers and officers, coupled with a failure to curb a nearly equal number of militia gunmen, has created a galaxy of armed groups, each with its own loyalty and agenda, which are accelerating the country’s slide into chaos.

Indeed, the 16th Brigade stands as a model for how freelance government violence has spread far beyond the ranks of the Shiite-backed police force and Interior Ministry to encompass other government ministries, private militias and people in the upper levels of the Shiite government.

Sometimes, the lines between one government force and another — and between the police and the militias — are so blurry that it is impossible to determine who the killers are.

But at least the Bush administration did all it could, right?

Up to then, the police training had been handled largely by civilian contractors. In March 2004, the Pentagon handed control of the effort to one of its generals.

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton was already working to build a new Iraqi Army when he got the job. Instead of getting more resources to train the police, his $2.2 billion budget was cut by a fifth, General Eaton said.

“You just look to the money, look to the people sent over to do it, the numbers to do it, you just have to conclude this wasn’t important in their minds,” said General Eaton, who is now retired and has become a critic of Mr. Rumsfeld’s handling of the war.

This isn’t to say, though, that even a competent administration could have created a functioning state in Iraq; it was always an extremely bad candidate for a forced democratization. But to pretend that there’s a functioning democratic state in Iraq you have to be living some kind of double life.

Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 9

[ 0 ] May 29, 2006 |

The Kentucky Bearded Ducks remain in first place. Loomis falls farther behind only a week after making a reckless, narcotic fueled boast that I Love Technology would leave the Bearded Ducks in the dust by the All Star Break. Bolts from the Blue suffer a poor week and fall into fourth place; peaking too soon?

Kentucky Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 2512 98.1
I Love Technology , E. Loomis 2421 96.0
titleixbaby , P. Smith 2371 94.4
Bolts from the Blue , R. Payne 2273 90.3
The Stugotz , B. Petti 2135 81.3
green weinies , W. Bell 2098 78.0
Axis of Evel Knievel , D. Noon 2086 76.8
Shangri-La Coelacanths , J. Daw 2007 67.9
Seattle HemiCats , M. Bruneau 1973 63.6
deez nuts , m s 1949 60.3
St. Louis Cardinals , D. Solzman 1909 55.0
Sector 7G Carbon Blobs , S. Meredith 1883 51.3
Eephus , J. Schroeder 1859 48.0
Moscow Rats , I. Gray 1846 46.4
Axis of Evel Knievel , d. noon 1739 33.6
GeorgeWCarpetbagger , P. McLeod 691 5.1

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