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Archive for May, 2006

Kentucky 3rd

[ 0 ] May 8, 2006 |

Due to the generosity of the folks at Drinking Liberally: Louisville, I was able to attend a debate between the four Democratic primary candidates for the Kentucky 3rd Congressional District this evening. The district, which includes Louisville and normally votes Democrat in Presidential elections, has been held for the last ten years by Republican Ann Northrup. If you’re particularly interested, the debate will be available shortly here, and will replay on KET1 at 2am on Wednesday morning.

Three of the four candidates seemed to be serious about contending. I haven’t seen any polling data, so I haven’t the faintest who is likely to win the nomination next week. One of the candidates was Andrew Horne, a retired Marine who is one of the Fighting Dems. Northrup has won very narrow victories the last two times out (and has never won more than 53% of the vote), so there is most definitely an opportunity for a pick up. From the debate it was difficult to tell who the strongest challenger would be, although I think that Horne and John Yarmuth would have to be considered the strong candidates, the latter for money and the former for biography. I was mildly surprised at how little I cared about any question other than that of electability; they all seemed fine to me. Here’s an analysis at Bluegrass Report that degenerates (in the comments) into a fair amount of bitter recrimination. Daniel at Kentucky Democrat has a poll from April that puts Yarmuth well ahead, and has endorsed Yarmuth.

Baseball Challenge Standings, Week 5

[ 0 ] May 8, 2006 |

The Kentucky Bearded Ducks have taken what I can only assume is an insurmountable lead. The “system” espoused by Loomis lies in tatters.

1 Kentucky Bearded Ducks , R. Farley 1514
2 I Love Technology , E. Loomis 1468
3 titleixbaby , P. Smith 1436
4 Bolts from the Blue , R. Payne 1394
5 The Stugotz , B. Petti 1362
6 Axis of Evel Knievel , D. Noon 1289
7 Eephus , J. Schroeder 1262
8 green weinies , W. Bell 1251
9 Shangri-La Coelacanths , J. Daw 1246
10 Seattle HemiCats , M. Bruneau 1233
11 Sector 7G Carbon Blobs , S. Meredith 1214
12 St. Louis Cardinals , D. Solzman 1206
13 deez nuts , m s 1133
14 Axis of Evel Knievel , d. noon 1063
15 Moscow Rats , I. Gray 1062

Too Democratic?

[ 0 ] May 8, 2006 |

Matt makes an important point here:

A new theory is gaining steam — problems are due to Hollywood and the entertainment media which has failed to produce enough propaganda movies rather than the news media.

In part, this is just low partisanship. I think, however, that it also reflects a real ideological error. The dominant political movement in the United States seems to genuinely believe that democracy itself is a series of potentially intolerable impediments to American national security.

The first response to almost any difficulty is to decide that we need to chuck one of the system’s building blocks overboard. Democracy makes it harder to cheat on international agreements, free speech is a threat to morale, legal restraints on the intelligence apparatus are holding us back. Such things as legislative oversight of the executive and the existence of a professional bureaucracy are intolerable. When disaster relief efforts go poorly, the solution is domestic deployment of the military. Even political competition itself over questions of national security policy is a form of aid and comfort to the enemy.

Kingdaddy reinforces the point that this is not a new tendency:

Back in the good old days of the Cold War, when national security was merely a question of figuring out how to keep a global thermonuclear war from erupting, some pundits who had stared into the abyss of the Soviet Union found themselves questioning the foundations of Western democracy. Case in point: Arnaud de Borchgrave, the conservative author of, among other things, a few lamentable essays in the 1980s about the “ungovernability” of Western democracies. Books like The Crisis of Democracy became faddish in circles where a certain breed of conservative worried that Soviet totalitarianism was proving to be a more organized, efficient, and competitive form of goverment than the sloppy, disputatious liberal democracies. I’m sure that everyone who contributed to this intellectual fad is now embarassed, having seen the “competitive” totalitarian model crumble under the weight of corruption, disaffection, and illegitimacy.

Perhaps we have to be a bit forgiving of Arnaud de Borchgrave and his fellow travelers. After all, until the very end, the USSR put on a very brave face. If you watched the May Day parades of military might, you might conclude that the Soviets remained a determined threat, even while it slowly transformed itself from the tyranny that built Potemkin villages, to the ethnically distinct villages that grew tired of the Potemkin regime.

So, too, people looking at pre-invasion Iraq might conclude that the Ba’athist regime was far more menacing than it was. However, it’s not necessary to be all that forgiving, since the signs of Soviet and Iraqi weakness were there. Instead, you might conclude that a certain kind of pundit or politician wanted to believe in a greater threat than the real USSR or Iraq. The neo-conservatives who peddled their anxious fantasies to anyone who would listen never seemed to have paused to ask themselves, “Is Saddam Hussein as dangerous as we think?”

The willingness to believe in the Iraqi threat, bordering on an eagerness to believe, is what made the abyss fascinating to the point of distraction. It generated fears about our own lack of “competitiveness” that led to excessive secrecy, crackpot theories about the “unitary executive,” and a willingness to gamble on an extremely risky venture. Fearing that it might fall into the abyss involuntarily, the Bush Administration and its supporters felt that jumping into the abyss of our own volition was somehow preferable.

Right. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was conveniently forgottent that many conservatives (including the Team B types) believed that the Soviet capacity to mobilize its society would prove too much for the United States to handle. Democracy was great in the abstract, this line of thought went, but was insufficient to meet the threat of a totalitarian foe. The idea has a long pedigree in conservative circles; Carl Schmitt argued, essentially, that democracies were simply inadequate to the demands of the international system. Hans Morgenthau, in a more qualified, less direct way, made the same argument in Politics Among Nations. The unimaginable and almost certainly unstoppable power of the Soviet Union was a critical theme in the first half of the Reagan administration, and found its way into pop culture via Hollywood. Red Dawn and Rocky IV, for example, are both about an inhumanly powerful Soviet threat, one that can only be overcome by American pluck, commitment, and, I daresay, Will.

And now, again, we see the conservatives begin to suggest that we fail in Iraq because of fundamental flaws in our way of life. Our propaganda isn’t good enough, and our media has too much freedom, our national security apparatus allow too much difference of opinion, and our generals are allowed to criticize after retirement. Finally, our democratic system has made us too soft and too weak to do the things that need to be done.

Democracy: Great in the abstract and a useful bludgeon, but don’t let it slow you down.

CIA and Team B

[ 0 ] May 8, 2006 |

In the wake of this…

The CIA is supposed to work for the president. It was created in 1948 to be the president’s civilian, non-partisan, non-policy intelligence arm. Its job is to provide an accurate picture of facts and trends so that decision makers can formulate good policy. Too often the agency has performed that job miserably, the greatest example being its gargantuan miscalculations about the Soviet Union. In retrospect, this is perhaps unsurprising. The CIA has always had a leftist bent, well represented in its upper echelons even under directors of staunchly anti-Communist and pro-national-security orientation.

It’s important to link back to this…

Today, the Team B reports recall the stridency and militancy of the conservatives in the 1970s. Team B accused the CIA of consistently underestimating the “intensity, scope, and implicit threat” posed by the Soviet Union by relying on technical or “hard” data rather than “contemplat[ing] Soviet strategic objectives in terms of the Soviet conception of ‘strategy’ as well as in light of Soviet history, the structure of Soviet society, and the pronouncements of Soviet leaders.”

And when Team B looked at “hard” data, everywhere it saw the worst case. It reported, for instance, that the Backfire bomber “probably will be produced in substantial numbers, with perhaps 500 aircraft off the line by early 1984.” (In fact, the Soviets had 235 in 1984.) Team B also regarded Soviet defenses with alarm. “Mobile ABM [anti-ballistic missiles] system components combined with the deployed SAM [surface-to-air missile] system could produce a significant ABM capability.” But that never occurred.

Team B found the Soviet Union immune from Murphy’s law. They examined ABM and directed energy research, and said, “Understanding that there are differing evaluations of the potentialities of laser and CPB [charged particle beam] for ABM, it is still clear that the Soviets have mounted ABM efforts in both areas of a magnitude that it is difficult to overestimate.” (Emphasis in original.)

But overestimate they did. A facility at the Soviet Union’s nuclear test range in Semipalatinsk was touted by Gen. George Keegan, Chief of Air Force Intelligence (and a Team B briefer), as a site for tests of Soviet nuclear-powered beam weapons. In fact, it was used to test nuclear-powered rocket engines. According to a Los Alamos physicist who recently toured Russian directed-energy facilities, “We had overestimated both their capability and their [technical] understanding.”

Team B’s failure to find a Soviet non-acoustic anti-submarine system was evidence that there could well be one. “The implication could be that the Soviets have, in fact, deployed some operational non-acoustic systems and will deploy more in the next few years.” It wasn’t a question of if the Russians were coming. They were here. (And probably working at the CIA!)

[...]

Team B hurled another brickbat: the CIA consistently underestimated Soviet military expenditures. With the advantage of hindsight, we now know that Soviet military spending increases began to slow down precisely as Team B was writing about “an intense military buildup in nuclear as well as conventional forces of all sorts, not moderated either by the West’s self-imposed restraints or by SALT.” In 1983, then-deputy director of the CIA, Robert Gates, testified: “The rate of growth of overall defense costs is lower because procurement of military hardware–the largest category of defense spending–was almost flat in 1976-1981 . . . [and that trend] appears to have continued also in 1982 and 1983.”

In short, the CIA was wrong about Soviet military capacity; it overestimated that capacity in almost every case. The CIA was wrong about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; it severely overestimated Iraqi capabilities. The cause of these severe overestimates, problematic not because they were wrong but because they failed to support a right-wing ideological line, is the presence of radical leftists in the Agency.

*Ahem*

You know what the problem is today with America? Our conservatives are too goddamn stupid. Democracy requires a minimal level of responsibility from all participants, and American conservatives have systematically abandoned even the pretense of interest in the public good.

Man-Hating Anti-Feminism

[ 0 ] May 8, 2006 |

One of the most misunderstood things about feminist thought is the idea that identifying patriarchy is about “hating men” or “blaming men for the world’s problems” or whatever. But, of course, patriarchy is bad for everybody, even if men benefit more. An excellent example of this is, as Amanda notes, is this risible Washington Post article. And what’s really amazing is that its typical attempt to find some way to blame feminism for banal human problems is even worse than most. You can’t really blame airheaded style-section thumbsuckers for relying on random anecdotes and cherry-picked quotes; that’s the coin of the realm. This article can’t even do that right.

Now, in fairness, it starts according to the rules of the genre so well that I suspect Caitlin Flanagan not only of putting them up to it, but of ghostwriting it:

Adam Skrodzki, a tall, redheaded senior at the University of Maryland, bench-presses a respectable 280 pounds. He fights fires in Howard County as a volunteer and plans to join the Secret Service in the fall. In short, he’s a man’s man.

Or so he thought until last fall, when he hooked up with a sophomore — at her urging.

The girl really wanted to make a go of it with him. On learning earlier that he had no interest in pursuing a relationship, she had offered to be his “friend with benefits,” and he had agreed. In his mind, that decision was a no-brainer.

But on this night, their first in bed, his body was telling him something else. She used every trick she knew, with no success. Adam panicked.

“I’ve had no problem with this before,” he thought. “What if this gets out? What if she tells her girlfriends? My reputation will be ruined.”

Skrodzki is far from alone. It seems that for a sizable number of young men, the fact that they can get sex whenever they want may have created a situation where, in fact, they’re unable to have sex. According to surveys, young women are now as likely as young men to have sex and by countless reports are also as likely to initiate sex, taking away from males the age-old, erotic power of the chase.

Ah, perfect. Just like Flanagan’s assertions that sex was better than the 50s (omitted: how the hell she would know), we have an assertion that one person unable to get it up once is not an example of a perfectly ordinary human problem but some widespread social trend, using the nicely vague phrase “it seems.” Then, in a remarkable non-sequitur, we immediately leap to the fact that women are more likely to initiate sex! What’s the link here? After a Weezer lyric (!), we have the key expert quote: “One can argue that a young woman speaking her mind is a sign of equality. “That’s a good thing,” says Sawyer, father of four daughters. “But for some guys, it has come at a price. It’s turned into ED in men you normally wouldn’t think would have ED.”" Um, what “kind of guy” would one think not have ED? (What’s particularly funny, remember, is that the article starts out with how much a guy can bench press, which I respectfully submit may not be a perfect correlation. “Like, last night I was with this guy who had a huge head, huge triceps, and lots of back acne, and he couldn’t get it up! I can’t explain it–must be feminism.”)

Now that we have a highly dubious assumption of a social trend, based on the paper-thin reed that men at a couple universities are more likely to talk about sexual problems than they were 30 years ago (which, of course, means that the problems must not have existed then!), the next step should be clear: deploying the random anecdote. Maureen Dowd, trying to buttress her thesis that men won’t sleep with her successful women because she they are just too beautiful, intelligent, and charming, can scrounge up some studies of men born in 1874 and a couple of anecdotes about how shallow assholes turn out to dump their wives for 25-year-old maids. (The lesson, of course, is always “feminism is bad for women!” rather than the more obvious “broaden your social circles beyond shallow assholes.”) Jennifer 8 Lee can at least dig up a couple of homophobic yuppie wankers who are obsessed with what might happen if they order wine at a dinner with a male friend. This article can’t even do that. What do the experts say?

In certain young men, impotence can be a result of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other organic problems. But for students such as the ones Brodie and other mental health professionals see, experts point to lifestyle. An increasing number of students arrive on campus taking antidepressants, some of which reduce libido and sexual function. They consume larger amounts of alcohol at one time than in years past, killing performance. Smoking, lack of exercise and anxiety also may be factors.

“We get reports of increased stress levels starting at younger ages. These are kids living on the extreme, drinking caffeinated Red Bull and beer and working very hard,” says Thomas Jarrett, chief urologist at the George Washington University Medical Center.

Seems pretty convincing! But maybe the men involved in this story think that somehow women wanting to have sex is making them flaccid?

Peter Schneider, a sophomore at GW, had been sleeping with a girlfriend for several weeks freshman year when, one night, he failed to respond. The next night, the same thing happened. The morning after that, he woke up thinking, “This better not happen again.” But it did.

Schneider, who lost his virginity at 15, was bewildered and upset. Almost two weeks passed until one afternoon, he plopped down on his bed, “torn up inside,” and began thinking about his lifestyle. He was smoking cigarettes and marijuana, popping Adderall in order to work through the night to finish his econ papers. He was drinking a lot and not getting any regular exercise. His body was simply worn out.

He decided to drop his bad habits for a while, start taking walks outside and working out at the gym. He sat down with his best friend, Josh Rolf, and spilled his guts. Rolf told him no one is a stud every time. Almost immediately, his talents returned.

The most obvious conclusion to this story, then, is “young men, as they always have, suffer from impotence, which can result from unhealthy habits, and a natural anxiety about pleasing sexual partners. People in caring relationships can generally work through it.” But if you can’t blame feminism for something, there’s no story! And note that the anti-feminist approach is also much more contemptuous of men that the better-defended null hypothesis. Despite the inability of this article to cherry-pick them very effectively, there are certainly men who are threatened by female sexuality and want to dominate their partners. But what we see here for the most part are not young men complaining about women who want to have mutually pleasurable sex–indeed, they seem to like it–but simply have utterly ordinary problems and insecurities. The tendency of style writers to turn such banalities into something that can be blamed on feminism, and doing so in ways that also make the men in question look worse, is just bizarre.

-(Minority Strands Of Conservatism) !=Liberalism

[ 0 ] May 7, 2006 |

A crucial point by Glenn Greenwald, who takes on the persistent annoyance of attempts to define statist conservatism as liberalism (or not-conservatism):

2) Goldberg’s claim that Bush can even remotely be described as a “liberal” is premised on two separate fallacies: (i) that someone who deviates from conservative doctrine or violates conservative principles of government (and therefore is not a conservative) is, by definition, a “liberal”; and, more importantly, (ii) that someone who advocates increased government power or new federal domestic programs is, by definition, a “liberal.” Those two flawed premises lead Goldberg to conclude that because Bush has expanded the scope of government power and created new government programs, he is “liberal.”

A liberal is not merely someone who advocates increased government spending or new government programs, but instead, is someone who does so in order to achieve specific goals and ends. For that reason, to describe a president as “liberal,” it is woefully inadequate to simply demonstrate increased federal spending and increased federal power. One has to know the goals and ends of this expansion.

George Bush has drastically expanded the reach, scope and power of the federal government (something which is un-conservative, at least in theory), but that power has been applied in plainly un-liberal ways, and towards decidedly un-liberal ends. For instance, his administration has run roughshod over federalism and states’ rights principles and has sought to expand the scope of the Commerce Clause in order to increase the scope of federal power at the expense of the states (clearly the opposite of the crux of small-government conservatism), but has done so in order to achieve goals which are the opposite of liberalism.

This is all correct. The overriding fallacy is identifying “conservatism” with “small government,” which elevates what has always been a junior partner in the conservative coalition. Using a powerful state to advance nationalism, coercively (and selectively) enforce reactionary social values, and (especially) to advance business interests has been the rule, not the exception, of actual functioning American conservatism. To call expansions of federal power “non-conservative” is to posit a powerful, consistent “states’ rights” movement that from the Fugitive Slave Act to the Tennessee Valley Authority to Terri Schiavo has never in fact existed. It’s not that there aren’t ways in which George Bush isn’t conservative, but there are multiple forms of conservatism, and Bush fits the ones typical of American conservatism quite well, and he’s certainly no “liberal” of any kind.

One more thing to add is that when pundits like Goldberg try to retroactively read George Bush out of the conservative movement (and to blame his collapsing popularity on his supposed deviations from conservative orthodoxy), they tend to cite things (especially the Medicare drug benefit) from his first term, in which he stayed popular enough to win re-election. In his second term, however, his popularity has cratered–while he has pursued an aggressively conservative agenda. His post-election centerpieces, remember, have been 1)social security privatization, 2)appointing two statist reactionaries to the Supreme Court, 3)assertions of arbitrary executive power, and 4)staying the course in Iraq. What we have there is a conservative, indeed the most conservative president in many decades. While it is true that #3 and #4 are completely indefensible in terms of the most useful strands of conservatism (Burkean incrementalism and libertarianism), most actual Republicans have only a marginal relationship to these two conservative strands, and certainly Bush’s conservative defenders generally cite his foreign policy as the most important reason to support him. To say that because what Bush does is inconsistent with some theoretical strands of conservatism he’s therefore not a conservative is as silly as pretending that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas aren’t conservatives because they’re not conservatives in the Souter/Harlan mode. It’s a useless tautology to claim that people who consider themselves conservatives, and most American conservatives consider conservatives, are actually something else because there are other forms of conservatism. And the same goes, of course, for George Bush. The fact that he’s been a terrible president, and the fact that he’s not an anti-statist conservative, doesn’t mean that he’s not a conservative, and it’s ludicrous to pretend otherwise.

Lima Time!

[ 0 ] May 7, 2006 |

Maybe it’s me, but shouldn’t a fairly well-capitalized organization have pitching options that don’t involve the guy who holds the worst-ERA-evah record in both leagues?

Anyway, if the Braves can’t win this matchup it’s safe to order the flowers and prepare the eulogy…

Sunday Battleship Blogging: SMS Lutzow

[ 0 ] May 7, 2006 |

Part I of a four part Jutland Series, in honor of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland.

German shipbuilding was deeply affected not only by the construction of Dreadnought, but also by the construction of the battlecruiser Invincible. Although the debate between a cruiser navy and a battleship navy had largely been settled in the favor of battleships by 1906, Germany wanted to keep a respectable cruiser fleet. HMS Invincible, in response, was designed to hunt down and kill enemy armored cruisers. The Germans learned of the construction of Invincible, but German intelligence, unfortunately, misreported her armament as consisting of 9.2″ guns. The German response was the cruiser Blucher, a hybrid design that, because of her small guns and insufficient speed, was utterly outclassed by Invincible.

Nevertheless, German battlecruiser design advanced very quickly. Six German battlecruisers were complete by mid-1915, and most could be regarded as superior to their Royal Navy counterparts. Only five battlecruisers were available to the High Seas Fleet as the sixth, Goeben, had constituted the bulk of the German Mediterranean squadron. The German Navy learned at important lesson at the Battle of Dogger Bank (which did not incluede Lutzow) when Seydlitz almost exploded from a magazine fire. From that point forward, the Germans took extreme care with their magazine spaces, ensuring that no single hit could destroy a ship. The Royal Navy, sadly, would not learn this lesson until 1916.

SMS Lutzow, displacing 27000 tons, carrying 8 12″ guns in four twin turrets, and capable of 26.5 knots, was the flagship of Admiral Franz von Hipper on May 31, 1916. The German plan was to force an engagement against a portion of the Royal Navy, thereby weakening the whole. Contemporary naval theory suggested (correctly) that material advantage in a naval battle was exponential, rather than additive. In other words, a larger force could be expected to perform much better than a small force; numerical superiority was more important than usual. The High Seas Fleet could never defeat the Grand Fleet in open battle, but could hope to destroy a portion of it without significant cost. German battlecruisers would try to lure out the British battlecruisers, which would then be attacked with the whole of the High Seas Fleet. The Grand Fleet (including 24 of the 31 British dreadnoughts) was based at Scapa Flow, in the far north of Great Britain, and could not arrive in time to save the British battlecruisers. The Grand Fleet would be further hampered by pre-positioned U-boats.

The German move successfully lured out the British battlecruisers. The situation was ideal for the Germans, as the British battlecruiser squadron had been weakened by damage to HMS Australia and the temporary transfer of three older battlecruisers to Scapa Flow. The Royal Navy battlecruiser squadron under David Beatty would intercept Hipper’s battlecruisers with six, instead of ten, ships.
The German advantage was reinforced by tactical conditions and by Beatty’s incompetence. Four battleships of the Queen Elizabeth class, largest, fastest, and most powerful in the Royal Navy, had been placed under Beatty’s command. However, the battleships trailed the battlecruisers by a considerable distance, and would not join Beatty as quickly as possible due to signalling problems. The German ships were also favored by mid afternoon lighting conditions, and were able to fire first upon the British ships.

The German fire was devastating. Two of the six Royal Navy vessels suffered magazine explosions. A third, Beatty’s flagship Lion, was saved only by extraordinarily heroism and luck. While the German ships suffered a battering, none exploded, and none were mortally crippled. Lutzow, Hipper’s flagship, suffered from the most severe damage. When the British finally solved their signalling problem, the German battlecruisers came under devastating fire from the four Royal Navy battleships. However, they maintained their place in line, and continued firing on the British battlecruisers until the Grand Fleet appeared on the horizon.

Because of excellent intelligence, the Grand Fleet had left port two hours before the High Seas Fleet, and, having suffered no U-boat damage, was in an excellent position to intercept the Germans. The lead ships in Grand Fleet were three Invincible class battlecruisers, which opened fire (with great accuracy) upon Lutzow. Lutzow and her sister Derfflinger hit the lead ship, Invincible, with several salvos, the last resulting in a magazine explosion. Lutzow, however, was too badly damaged to contine the battle. Admiral Hipper transferred his flag to a destroyer, and Lutzow was dispatched to Kiel. Having taken 24 hits, including at least 4 15″ shell hits, Lutzow took on a considerable amount of water, and sat too deep in the water to make it through the Kiel Canal. In what was probably a poor decision, Lutzow was scuttled at the entrance to the Canal estuary in order to avoid British capture.

Admiral Hipper was well regarded for his command of the German battlecruisers at Jutland. While the other three admirals (Beatty, Jellicoe, and Scheer) made identifiable mistakes, Scheer handled his ships very well against superior numbers. He was eventually promoted to command of the High Seas Fleet, although he failed in his effort to put down the Kiel Mutiny. He died in 1932, fourteen years into retirement.

Incidentally, if I haven’t mentioned it before this is an outstanding source of information on the Imperial German Navy.

Trivia: What was the first British battlecruiser to abandon wing turrets?

Or, You Know, Not.

[ 0 ] May 6, 2006 |

Shorter Eugene Volokh: The problem with sexual harassment and assault is that the victims get turned on.

I am speechless. So in addition to Belle I will outsource to Ann Bartow:

Like most women, I have been inappropriately touched by strangers, most commonly in the close quarters of a mass transit environment. My usual response to physical intrusions is to shout, “Get your hands off of me!” or “Stop touching me, you pervert!” very loudly. This usually scares the offender away, but most of the other people on the bus, platform or train will avert their eyes and move as far away from me as possible, as if I have done something scandalous. On a few occasions somone has asked me if I am okay, or if they can help, which has been very much appreciated. Gropers and frotteurs rely on the embarassment that victims often feel to keep them nonconfrontational. Any suggestion that victims derive sexual arousal, even involuntarily, from unwanted physical content, is not only wrong, it is utterly repulsive, and seems pointedly designed to further shame victims into silence.

And (from CT comments) Uncle Kvetch:

Um, this is the guy who once emitted a “thought experiment” in the form of “What if the theocrats are right, and gays really do ‘recruit’?” Correct? And I’m supposed to be surprised that he’s coughed up another gob of ugliness in the service of contrarianism, or of boldly going where no thinker has dared to go before, or something?

What’s really depressing/infuriating is that this is what passes for courageous thinking for so many people these days: What if the shared values that we take for granted are just so many P.C. liberal pieties that have rammed down our throats willy-nilly? Is torture really such a bad thing if the people being tortured are super-mega-evil? Was slavery really so bad? Do gay people really deserve equality under the law? What if straight white guys tend to own and run most of the world because they deserve to? Follow that path long enough and look where we end up: Face it honey, the only thing you’ve got against “sexual harassment” is that you might—God forbid—actually enjoy it!

Happy Derby Day!!!!

[ 0 ] May 6, 2006 |

Sadly, I lack the competence to make myself a mint julep. Pouring bourbon into a glass with ice, however, is well within my capabilities.

My bet? AP Warrior, at 10/1.

UPDATE: When you’re right 6% of the time, you’re wrong 94% of the time. Hopefully you put your money down on Barbaro…

Let’s Play "Draw The Logical Inference"

[ 0 ] May 6, 2006 |

Hmm, I’m sure it’s all a coincidence, just as it would be a coincidence if you gained a few pounds after going on a deep-fried-pizza and cheesecake diet. And as Hilzoy says, this isn’t an isolated case:

This administration has built up quite a track record of freeing people (or, in Jose Padilla’s case, bringing unrelated charges) just in time to render their appeals moot, thereby preventing the courts from finding their conduct illegal or unconstitutional.

They held Yaser Hamdi for years without charges, on the grounds that he was a dangerous terrorist who did not need to be tried, and then, when the Supreme Court claimed that he had a right to contest his imprisonment in a neutral forum, they abruptly released him to Saudi Arabia. After accusing Jose Padilla of planning to detonate a dirty bomb (but not charging him with that or any other crime), and after keeping him locked up as an enemy combatant, the government charged him with unrelated crimes just in time to avoid defending his detention before the Supreme Court.

In both cases, the government had claimed that it was vital to our national security to keep these men in prison without charges — so vital that it was worth scrapping both the plain meaning of the fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution and centuries of legal tradition in order to hold them as uncharged enemy combatants. Oddly enough, however, keeping Hamdi locked up and Padilla uncharged was less important than keeping the Bush administration’s supposed right to detain United States citizens without charges, indefinitely, from being challenged in court. It’s an interesting set of priorities.

Now, right before the Uighurs’ case comes before the DC Circuit Court, the government has found a way to moot this appeal as well. If the Bush administration’s lawyers and policy makers had the courage of their convictions, they would not be afraid to make their case in court, on the merits.

Let’s be clear: the constitutional definition of executive power being advanced by the administration is utterly farcical. They may be suitable for their most egregious lickspittles, but it can’t be sold even in very conservative appellate courts, and they know it. (They are also blurring distinctions between the laws of war and legal methods of combating terrorism to aid in this aggrandizement of executive power.) It’s a scandal.

"The Worst, Most Severe Way"

[ 0 ] May 6, 2006 |

Democracy on the march in Iraq!

Human rights groups have condemned the “barbaric” murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay.

Ahmed Khalil was shot at point-blank range after being accosted by men in police uniforms, according to his neighbours in the al-Dura area of Baghdad.

Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq’s most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Time for another Pajamas Media open challenge to human rights activists! Or perhaps another “link-rich refutation” of the idea that human rights was not the overriding reason fro the Iraq War! But, in fairness, who would have thought that installing an Islamic theocracy could have such results?

And, of course, as Tim points out, gay rights is one issue on which the Bush administration is willing to engage in some diplomacy with Iran:

Human rights organizations and the co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus protested on Thursday a decision by the Bush administration to back a measure introduced by Iran denying two gay rights groups a voice at the United Nations.

In a vote Monday, the United States supported Iran’s recommendation to deny consultative status at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council to the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians and the International Lesbian and Gay Association, based in Belgium.

But if you squint really hard, you’ll see that the war was really fought to help liberal hawks spread liberal democracy and freedom! Really, I can’t imagine why anyone may not have believed that this was Bush’s overriding priority…

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