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Archive for October, 2006

And Then What?

[ 0 ] October 30, 2006 |

I have a lot of problems with Amy Sullivan’s recent piece about the opportunities allegedly presented by David Kuo’s new book. First of all, I reject her entire premise that Democratic politicians don’t reach out to religious believers, and since she never mentions the names of prominent Democrats who treat believers with contempt it’s impossible to evaluate her claims. Second, Sullivan’s claim that liberal bloggers have “spent so much time fear-mongering about American theocracy that a book illustrating the opposite simply makes no sense to them” is belied by the fact that what is surely the most-discussed liberal book of the second Bush era makes the well-known case that evangelicals are being played for suckers by the business elite that really holds the power in the GOP. Kuo’s revelations aren’t so shocking as to be incomprehensible to knowledgeable liberals, but are rather banal.

But my biggest problem with Sullivan’s argument continues to be that she’s frustratingly vague about how, exactly, Democrats should “reach out to disaffected evangelicals.” My understanding is that she’s not saying that Democrats should sacrifice core principles such as reproductive freedom. But if that’s the case, I don’t know what more Democrats can do. Sullivan seems to think that there are large numbers of voters who 1)like Democratic economic policy more, 2)vote Republican because of social issues, but 3)would stop voting Republican on social issues, not because of substantive shifts in Democratic policy but because of shifts in rhetoric. I suspect that these voters could fit in a good-sized walk-in closet. I think most voters who vote on cultural principle care about substantive positions, and with the Roberts and Alito homeruns they’re being rational to vote Republican no matter how much Karl Rove disdains them.

Another point to keep in mind is that a concern for social justice doesn’t necessarily translate into support for Democratic economic policy. Consider this from the recent New Yorker profile of Michael Gerson, the Bush speechwriter often cited as a true “compassionate conservative”:

Gerson defends Bush’s tax cuts, which the President’s critics believe not only favor those with the highest incomes but have also left less money for important domestic programs; Gerson believes that free markets and free trade are the best means of lifting people out of poverty, and that lower taxes stimulate both. “The part of Mike I have the most trouble understanding, perhaps because we simply disagree, is how he can square his support for pretty substantial spending for the very poorest among us with a defense of Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest people,” Dionne said. “Maybe Mike just buys supply-side economics in a way that I don’t, but most supply-siders don’t think like Mike.”

The fact is that most Republican evangelicals are strongly committed to Republican policy positions, and it’s condescending to think that they can be persuaded by subtle rhetorical shifts (and Sullivan concedes at one point that depressing turnout is more likely than actually convincing the religious right to vote Democratic.) What Democrats can do to broaden their base–run more socially conservative candidates in more conservative states, and claim that religious values support progressive goals and solutions–they’re already doing. So I just don’t see what talking more about David Kuo is supposed to accomplish.

Horses are Big in Kentucky

[ 0 ] October 30, 2006 |

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is an odd entry into the pantheon of Kentucky heroes:

Most of them, however, know him as Sheik Mo, a horseman who for nearly 25 years has arrived each year at Blue Grass Airport by private jumbo jet and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on horses.

Although the sheik and the company his family controls encountered security concerns and had to abandon an attempt to run six United States port operations in March, he is treated like a fellow horseman here in Lexington, home of his thriving racing and breeding business.

In a relatively short time, Sheik Mohammed and members of his royal family have joined the ranks of the blue-blooded Phipps family and the more commercially driven Overbrook Farm as fabled names in horse racing in the United States.

You wouldn’t think that a plane that big could land at Bluegrass Airport until you see it sitting there.

Jonah Goldberg, What is Your Major Malfunction?

[ 0 ] October 30, 2006 |

Brad’s Battlestar Galactica article reminded me of this gem (discovered by Scott) from Jonah Goldberg,written in response to episode 2-17:

In a society scientifically so much more advanced, it seems to me that the issue would no longer be controversial one way or the other. Either contraceptive technology would have “solved” the problem. Or moral dogma about abortion’s acceptable parameters would have been long established.

I’m left to wonder exactly what Jonah is thinking about when he’s imagining a technological fix for the abortion problem, but that’s not really the funny part. Ron Moore has left us some subtle hints indicating that he’s not optimistic about the ability of technology to solve basic societal problems. These hints include the low level of much Colonial technology, the vulnerability of high tech equipment to Cylon attack, the emphasis on religion as an enduring element of the human experience, and, last but not least, the fact that he’s produced a show about KILLER ROBOTS WHO OVERTHROW AND TRY TO EXTERMINATE HUMANITY. This speaks to a certain skepticism regarding the impact of technological progress on human happiness…

Cross-posted at Tapped.

Democracy, anarchy — whatever, dude

[ 0 ] October 30, 2006 |

I understand that the presidential taint-tasters at Powerline are beyond rescue, but is it so unreasonable to expect a trio of hacks at least to agree on some sort of basic narrative about what the United States is supposed to be pursuing in Iraq?

Here’s Assrocket, just making shit up on October 15, 2006:

In fact, as we have often noted, if you listened to any of the speeches President Bush gave on Iraq in 2003 or read the Congressional authorization on the war, every rationale that has ever been discussed is there. And, as I have often said, bringing reform and democracy to the Arab world was perceived by me, and by many if not most of the war’s early supporters, as the most important goal.

And here’s Paul Mirengoff, exactly two weeks later, perhaps researsing his own apology for a US withdrawal, just in case it ever happens:

At the same time, our interest in preventing anarchy seems less powerful than our interest in combatting an insurgency. The latter phenomenon could lead directly to a state within a state which anti-American terrorists then could use as a base of operations against our interests. Anarchy in Baghdad poses no direct threat to our security. To be sure, a resolution of the anarchy that brings anti-American terrorists to power would threaten our security. But that resolution seems unlikely — to the extent that an al Qaeda type element is part of the free-for-all in Baghdad, its prospects aren’t good.

Tomorrow: Scott Johnson explains why constitutional monarchy was really the goal all along.

Erick Erickson: A New Low

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

John Cole notes a profoundly embarrassing installment in the conservative war on aesthetics by Erick Erickson, who mocks the “‘it’s just fiction’ defense” of Jim Webb.” (Next, those crazy liberals might claim that Vladimir Nabokov isn’t a pedophile, and Thomas Pynchon isn’t an 18th century surveyor!) Radley Balko says that “I met Erickson at a CPAC a couple of years ago. He is every bit as impressive in person as you might guess from the post linked above.” That’s pretty impressive, if only on the grounds that I wouldn’t think that anybody capable of turning on a computer could be as dimwitted and mendacious as Erickson, but evidently I’m too optimistic.

This reminds me of my favorite Erickson moment. In the midst of a truly pathetic defense of wingnut plagiarist Ben Domenech, Erickson claimed that poor Ben’s actions “appear suspicious, but only because permissions obtained and judgments made offline were not reflected online by an out dated and out of business campus newspaper.” Needless to say, a two-second Google inquiry could falsify Erickson’s claim, but the contempt that hacks of this stripe have for their audience is boundless (and, frankly, given that Erickson can still show up on the front page of Red State, may be partially justified.)

Defeatists

[ 1 ] October 29, 2006 |

Via Juan Cole, we read of a minister from Houston who is running around the country insisting that Republicans need to be defeated because George W. Bush is delaying the Second Coming; this runs upstream against the usual premillennialist insistence that the End Times are nigh and that the American war in Iraq is greasing the rails for the Rapture train. K.A. Paul, who runs something called “Gospel to the Unreached Millions,” insists that God is “angry” with the United States and specifically enraged with Bush himself, who is inexplicably (according to Paul) denying Christian missionaries the opportunity to work in Iraq, Iran and Syria.

I doubt this is much of a trend, but it’s interesting at least in an anecdotal way. Most Christian prophecy writers are still, as near as I can tell, fully on-board with George W. Bush and his Middle East policies, which they interpret primarily through the lens of Biblical clues about the coming of the Last Days. My subscription to the Left Behind Prophecy Club expired — and I’m not kidding about this — at least a year ago, when my research had to be put on hold for various personal and professional reasons. Up to that point, however, the Left Behind circle — especially Tim LaHaye, one of the Original Gangstas of the Moral Majority and co-author of that wretched series of “novels” — were still utterly persuaded that Saddam Hussein, while not specifically the Antichrist, was at least a good indication of the kind of demon with whom a man like George W. Bush would have to contend as human history swirled in ever tighter circles toward the drain. I’m not sure where these folks stand at the moment on the war, but I imagine they, like Jack Van Impe and John Hagee, have not been deterred in their conviction that the Bush administration is doing all it can to fulfill Biblical prophecy.

It goes almost without saying that these people are unhinged, particularly when one recalls that the completion of these prophecies can only take place with (a) the rise of a dreaded One World Government (conventionally understood to be the United Nations or the European Union); (b) a multinational invasion of Israel led by the armies of the AntiChrist; and, depending on whom you talk to, (c) the destruction or marginalization of the United States, whose God-fearing millions will be spirited away by the Rapture, leaving the rest of us to flail away helplessly as the globe descends into war. Since instability and violence are absolutely essential to the premillennialist vision of the End Times, I suppose it makes complete sense for these lunatics to press forward on behalf of their President.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS Arkansas

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

USS Michigan represented more of an evolution of the pre-dreadnought type than a revolution in the sense of Dreadnought. The next four classes of American battleships took the lessons of Dreadnought to heart, combining all big-gun armaments with speeds in excess of 20 knots. USS Arkansas, second of the Wyoming class, carried 12 12″ guns in six twin turrets, could make 21 knots on direct drive steam turbines, and displaced about 28000 tons. Like all American battleships, Arkansas was relatively well armored and carried a well distributed centerline armament.

USS Arkansas’ first action was off Vera Cruz in 1914, where she bombarded Mexican positions and landed four companies of men to participate in street fighting. Upon American entry into World War I, Arkansas’ first duty was defense of the East Coast. In July 1918 she was deployed to Scotland to serve with the Sixth Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, but saw no action apart from an unconfirmed U-boat sighting. Arkansas was one of the eighteen battleships retained under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, and received a light modernization in 1926 that removed her aft cage mast and increased her anti-aircraft armament.

The 1930 London Naval Treaty further reduced the battleships fleets of the world, cutting US strength to 15 ships. Arkansas was the oldest ship retained under the Treaty. The reduction of fleets meant that only the most modern units were kept. Consequently, Arkansas became one of the oldest active battleships in the world. Unfortunately, apart from the Brazilian battleships, some old French and Russian battleships, and the older Italian dreadnoughts prior to reconstruction, Arkansas was completely outclassed by any ship that she might conceivably meet in combat. The US Navy saw little point in further modernizing Arkansas, and for the rest of the 1930s Arkansas was relegated to training duties. In 1937 she was placed in reduced commission.

Arkansas’ operational tempo increased as the war in Europe heated up. She engaged in several more training cruises, including exercises with New York and Texas, which had also been withdrawn from the main battle line. She covered landings in Iceland in the summer of 1941, and served as an accomodation ship for a conference between FDR and Churchill. When war came in December 1941, no serious thought was given to transferring Arkansas to the Pacific. Along with Texas and New York, she remained in the Atlantic and underwent an overhaul that further increased her AA armamament and replaced her forward cage mast. Demonstrating that obsolescence is in the eye of the beholder, for the next three years she escorted convoys and carried out shore bombardment operations, including support for the D-Day landings in Normandy and Operation Anvil in southern France. In late 1944 she made for the Pacific, where she bombarded Japanese positions on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The USN remained committed to keeping Arkansas as far away from Japanese ships as possible, and she was excluded from a group of older battleships detailed to defend against HIJMS Yamato in April 1945.

USS Arkansas’ final mission was to help determine the effect of atomic weapons on naval vessels. Anchored in Bikini Atoll, she survived the first blast but was in very close proximity to the second, which reportedly flipped her end over end and quickly sent her to the bottom. Three other US battleships (Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New York) survived the blasts only to be later sunk as targets. HIJMS Nagato joined Arkansas at the bottom along with dozens of other US, German, and Japanese ships.

Trivia: What dreadnought class carried the fewest guns in its main armament?

Yet More On Gender-Segregated Education

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

The more I read, the more I’m dubious about the apparent coming increase in gender segregation in K-12 schools. Neil reminds us of The Happy Feminist’s terrific post this summer on the subject, in which she points us to some of the underlying theoretical claims of the Louisiana program being challenged:

54. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax states that because of biological differences in the brain, boys need to practice pursuing and killing prey, while girls need to practice taking care of babies. As a result, boys should be permitted to roughhouse during recess and play contact sports, to learn the rules of aggression. Such play is more dangerous for girls, because girls are less biologically able to manage aggression.

57. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax urges that boys be taught in competitive, high-energy teams. In contrast, teachers should assure that girls are relaxed in class. For instance, girls should be encouraged to take their shoes off. Also, girls should never be given strict time limits to complete tasks. Stress makes boys perform better and girls perform worse, according to Dr. Sax.

59. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax explains that literature teachers should not ask boys about emotions in literature, but should simply focus on what actually happened in the story. In contrast, teachers should focus on emotions rather than action in teaching literature to girls.

62. In Why Gender Matters, Dr. Sax explains that “anomalous males” — boys who like to read, who don’t enjoy competitive sports or rough-and-tumble play, and who don’t have a lot of close male friends — should be firmly disciplined, should spend as much time as possible with “normal males,” and should be made to play competitive sports.

Yeah, if there’s any problem that we currently face, it’s that men are reading too damned much!

None of this is to say this is an inherent characteristic of single-sex education; it doesn’t seem to describe the school that Becks attended, for example. It’s all in the details. But given the competence and commitment to women’s rights of the current administration…

No Brainer

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

Waterboarding–now officially endorsed by the Vice President of the United States (whether his lackeys lie about it or not)–is, in fact, torture. Lederman and Balkin explain in detail.

I also like Sully going all rhetorically McArdle on Hugh Hewitt:

I do not make an argument in the book about Planned Parenthood. I just use it because I think that’s a beautiful statement of the freedom of individual conscience, and the freedom of the individual liberty, of the individual person, which you, of course, disagree with profoundly, and want the executive to be able to pluck people off the streets and jail them without charges. That’s your position, right?

HH: You see no inconsistency in quoting from an opinion…

AS: I see inconsistency in someone who calls himself an Evangelical Catholic supporting torture, like you do.

To be clear, supporting the Republicans, 2006 edition, means supporting the arbitrary power of the executive to pick up people and torture them without charges or recourse to the courts. Full stop.

What Would We Be Without Wishful Thinking?

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

K-Lo’s attempts to convince herself that Rick Santorum can win are pretty sad. Still–particularly since she seems to realize its futility on some level–I don’t think that she can hold a candle to Time-Approved Real Clear Politics’ prediction of the 2000 elections on November 6, 2000:

We continue to see a landslide of over 400 electoral votes and a Bush win by 7-10 points. We will have to wait until tomorrow to see whether the “tightening polls” may have worked to save Illinois, California, Minnesota and a few others for the Vice President.

Yep–California and Illinois in the “leaning Bush” pile. Now that’s hackery.

Hitch, and Writing (Unlike Hitch In 2006) Worth Reading

[ 0 ] October 29, 2006 |

Erik identifies the most objectionable thing offered up by a Hitchens in his New Yorker profile; he’s become pathetic enough that it’s hard to dislike him entirely. I like Mimi Smartypants’s take on his claim about the four most overrated things in life. On the first read, I nodded my sweaty, mid-eliptical head in approval, especially since he offered it as a guest brought a bottle of champagne–particularly when you consider the quality of red wine you can buy for what a decent bottle costs, it’s like, I dunno, wine for people who don’t like wine. And I can really do without outdoor eating. But somehow the combination of the four ruins the effect–a picnic involving lobster, champagne, and anal sex…sure beats vacuuming, one has to admit.

I should note at this point that M.S. is a blog I don’t link to often, because she’s not really a “political” blogger and because I (thankfully for all non-insomniacs) generally avoid blogging about my daily life, but it is a blog that you should be reading because she can flat write. This is a minor example, but I like this take on bad Trader Joe’s liquor:

Recently the whole family went to Trader Joe’s. This store seems to inspire a sort of carnival, devil-may-care attitude in me—although I am normally a very careful, stick-to-the-list shopper, there is nothing I truly NEED at Trader Joe’s, and thus we just sort of wander the aisles, me with my basket and Nora driving her child-sized cart, and randomly throw intriguing items into our respective containers. One of the intriguing things we bought was a canned beer called Mountain Creek. It already sounded dubious, because mountain creeks usually contain moose urine instead of delicious alcohol. In very tiny print on the can, the Huber brewing company claimed responsibility for producing Mountain Creek, but none of their websites will publicly say so (another red flag). However, the Mountain Creek was so cheap it was practically free, free like a freethinking Unabomber type who wanders out from his electricity-less cabin to scoop up mouthfuls of a mountain creek, so we decided to give it a try.

Don’t you make the same mistake. I am a fan of shitty beer, and I willingly lap up all the dollar Pabst and Schlitz and American that this city cares to throw at me, but Mountain Creek tastes like melted gummy worm with some sort of weird herbal undertone; melted gummy worms simmered gently on the stove with some bay leaves thrown in. Although now that I type that it sounds kind of good (keep in mind I am high on Dayquil). I hope it all remains hypothetical for you, however, because I don’t wish Mountain Creek on anyone.

Plenty as good and better where that came from. Recommended.

Birthday Boy

[ 0 ] October 28, 2006 |

I think I can speak for nearly everyone in wishing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a happy 50th birthday (which he would be celebrating, of course, if he abided by the Gregorian rather than the Islamic calendar).

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