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Archive for November, 2006

Work! Fight! Breed!

[ 0 ] November 26, 2006 |

Mark Steyn is channeling Madison Grant again, first in his latest column, in which he explores the Passing of the Great Race:

The “realists” think that “containment” and “stability” are wise strategies. In fact, they’re the absence of strategy. The fertility rate in the Gaza Strip is one of the highest on earth. If you measure the births of the Muslim world against the dearth of Bishop Kate’s Episcopalians, you have the perfect snapshot of why there is no “stability”: With every passing month, there are more Muslims and fewer Episcopalians, and the Muslims export their manpower to Europe and other depopulating outposts of the West. It’s the intersection of demography and Islamism that makes time a luxury we can’t afford.

. . . and then at Powerline, where he responds to Ralph Peters, who believes that Europe’s superior record of genocide and ethnic cleansing will render Steyn’s predictions of “Eurabia” irrelevant. Steyn doesn’t disagree with Peters that fascism will rear its head again — indeed, he defends his ability to foresee the re-emergence of fascism in Europe. Rather, Steyn merely insists that the adherents of the new fascism will be too old and feeble to Do What Needs to Be Done:

As I’ve said innumerable times, the native European population is split three ways: some will leave, as the Dutch (and certain French) are already doing; some will shrug and go along with the Islamization of the continent, as the ever-accelerating number of conversions suggests; and so the ones left to embrace Fascism will be a minority of an aging population. It will be bloody and messy, as I write in America Alone, but it will not alter the final outcome. If you don’t breed, you can’t influence the future.

If we ever had any doubts that the “Islamofascist” ululations of Steyn, Instaputz, the Powerlineans, Hugh Hewitt and others are mere projections of their own tormented, illiberal souls, “debates” like this pretty much settle the hash. As always, Steyn is positively mournful at the thought that young Episcopalians (among other groups) won’t be adhering to their eugenic responsibilities, while the dysgenic Muslim hordes overwhelm a complacent European continent. Utterly convinced that fascism will return, his only apparent concern is that it will be too little, too late.

. . . and for the truly far gone, there’s now Powerline Forum, which appears to maintain the same logical coherence of Little Green Footballs, albeit with fewer grammatical and spelling errors. Genocidal hilarity ensues:

(1) I am afraid my friends, that the vast majority of Americans have also decided to go supine…God, I hope I am mistaken.

(2) Nothing that’s happened in the last several years indicates that today’s Europe has any stomach for the type of conflict that it will take to overcome the Muslim hordes that are pouring in (and then, as Steyn points out, multiplying at a far faster rate wherever they are settled). . . . No, if Peters’ theory is to have any credibility, Europe needs to get off its collective ass in about, oh, the next 10 minutes.”>

(3) Historically, I’d say Peters is right, but I’m not so sure this time around. Europe seems to have lost the will to fight or survive. What will first have to happen is that the people of the various countries will have to toss out their existing governments, dissolve the EU, and then be willing to get their own hands dirty. I’m not very optimistic.

(4) When the time for serious killing arrives I think the Europeans will rediscover the darker side of their nature. They are a splendid and resourceful people who have survived precisely because of that darker side. Make the acquaintance of some African people of European origin if you haven’t a clue what I am talking about. As a Jacksonian American I am never out of touch with that side of my nature so I have no reason to deny that it exists in others and am not fooled by protestations to the contrary.

It’s so good to finally know what goes on in the minds of Powerline readers….


Thoughts on IRV

[ 0 ] November 26, 2006 |

Hostility toward the recent shift to “pick-a-party” primaries in Washington has resulted in a Charter Amendment in Pierce County(a well populated county immediately south of Seattle’s King county, with some conservative rural-flavored outer suburbs and the urban, working class Tacoma) That will end the primary for several local offices, and replace them with one Instant runoff election. At least a few scholars of voting behavior of my acquaintance have long been proponents of IRV. Some of the advantages seem obvious to me; for one thing, it will allow those who fetishize voting their conscience to do so without disastrous results. It also strikes me as a more efficient and accurate aggregator of traditional first-past-the-post elections. The most obvious lines of critique, it seems to me, are 1) Voters won’t understand it, and 2) it removes significant power from the parties. The latter would not be a net negative in the eyes of many; I’m undecided on this front. Had I been a citizen of Pierce County, I’d have thought a lot harder about how I felt about this, but I suspect I would have joined the majority and voted for the Amendment. The former is indeed a problem, but a solvable one and not in itself a reason to avoid such a change.

As an aside, I should note that unlike most of my fellow Washingtonians, I had no problem whatsoever with a switch to the pick-a-party primary; making voters declare a party affiliation for the purposes of participating in the parties primary seems profoundly reasonable to me–it wouldn’t even prevent me from messing with the GOP primaries, as long as I was willing to forgo participating in my own party primary. This seems like a reasonable trade-off to me, but the fetishism of independents reacted strongly against it. If preference aggregation is done through the two party system prior to the general, I’ve got no problem with the parties exercising a little more control than the open primary granted them. But at the end of the day, I’ve got no strong commitment to preference aggregation taking place through the parties first.

It’s not surprising the both major parties opposed this, but this Seattle Weekly article is just weird. It contains a fair amount of alarmist rhetoric about the coming IRV revolution, how Democratic party activists aren’t taking this grave threat seriously enough, etc etc. Perhaps the reason Democratic Party Activists (as opposed to politicians and other insiders) aren’t too concerned about this is because they are democrats as well as Democrats and have interests beyond the party they work for. In effectively one party constituencies like Seattle one can certainly understand the sentiment. But while it’s clear Democratic party officials might not welcome IRV, the article seems to want us to think the rest of us should be worried as well. The only real effort to give a reason for this concern is found in this passage:

But IRV could have undesired results for voters and candidates, says Matt Barreto, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington. He points out that in IRV elections with a high number of candidates, a spoiler effect could still prevail.

Imagine a mayoral race with eight candidates where the bottom four candidates’ votes have to be harvested to create a majority. What if the candidate in third tends to be the second choice of those who voted for the bottom four? He gets all those votes. That would mean the person who got the highest number of first-choice rankings could lose, while the guy who initially came in third takes the election.

Missing: an account of why this hypothetical outcome would be worse than the alternative. Is the implied premise that those who choose an unpopular candidate as their first choice shouldn’t have their votes taken into account? We’d abhor that logic if applied to a multi-election primary process, and rightly declare it undemocratic. There strikes me as no a priori reason to prefer a candidate who is strongly preferred by a plurality and disliked by the majority to a candidate who has a broad base of moderate support.

Two final thoughts:

1) I’m strongly opposed to plebiscitarian policy making, for all the obvious reasons, which have been well covered on this blog over the years. But this is one area where plebiscitarian reforms make sense; fair, accountable elections offer a source of legitimacy for legislative outcomes, but how can the rules of voting be legitimate? Voting on voting systems occasionally hardly solves the legitimacy puzzles at the heart of democracy, but it makes a non-trivial effort to address it.

2) I’m siding here with the position of that noted LGM bete noire, The Green Party, as well as other third parties. This is partly because I think their position on this is basically correct, but also because I think they may be dissapointed by their fate under such a system. I expect they’d get more votes, but a number of the unsupported claims third party types are inclined to make regarding the ways in which two party dominance disguises a wellspring of hidden would-be supporters for their views and platform. I strongly suspect this isn’t true, but if it turns out to be the case I’ll admit my mistake. IRV might well bring about put up or shut up time for the Greens, which they and I welcome for very different reasons.


[ 0 ] November 26, 2006 |

I have it on good authority that some law professors are deeply sympathetic to Ezra’s position on social science students and law school. I recall that, during graduate school, the template refrain for “what if this political science thing doesn’t work out?” was “I’ll go to law school”. Still, while the endless flood of twenty-somethings without clear life goals would understandably be irritating, law professors must realize that they by and large owe their jobs to this miasma of post-graduate confusion…

How Did Bush v. Gore Matter?

[ 0 ] November 26, 2006 |

In light of some of the comments to this post, I should clarify what I meant when I said that Bush’s election was inevitable by the time Bush v. Gore was decided. There are two points, I think, we can all agree on. The first is that Bush v. Gore was a legal abomination that permanently disgraces the record of every judge who joined it. The second is that a clear majority of Florida voters intended to vote for Al Gore, and a rational recount that could address both undervotes and overvotes would almost certainly have determined this fact.

So far, we agree. The problem is that (contrary to what the commenters seem to believe) is that these two points don’t contradict my premise:

  • Gore would have won a fair recount, but whether he would have won the recount that would have been conducted had Bush v. Gore been correctly decided is another matter. It’s inherently unknowable, but as far as I can tell the best evidence is that Bush probably would have retained his lead, given the recount that was actually taking place.
  • But let’s say for the sake of argument that Gore would win the recount ordered by the Florida courts. The Republicans made it clear that they would not recognize the legitimacy of any count that went against Bush, and they controlled the Florida legislature. Even had Gore won, Florida would have have had two sets of electors sent to the electoral college.
  • And given a disputed election, the dispute would have been resolved by the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Even if you have a lot more respect for the Fraud Caucus than I do, you can’t seriously think that the outcome is in significant question.

So, by the time of the Supreme Court’s lawless intervention, Bush was going to become President one way or another. Does this mean that the Supreme Court’s decision didn’t matter? No–the Court certainly legitimized Bush’s election–a transparently political appointment would have made the anti-democratic circumstances of Bush assuming office much more publicly apparent. And while we can’t know, this could plausibly have affected many aspects of Bush’s term in office, including his re-election. But in terms of Bush actually assuming power per se, a variety of factors–Ralph Nader, the purging of the voting rolls, election laws that undercount votes in poor districts, bad ballot designs, the fecklessness of the Democrats who hauled Warren Christopher out of a cryogenic chamber somewhere to act as a sponge in a knife fight–were considerably more important. As is often the case, the Supreme Court’s intervention is more important for what it symbolizes than for its actual causal impact.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: USS California

[ 1 ] November 26, 2006 |

The first American battleship built on the West Coast was USS Oregon, commissioned in 1896. USS Virginia, USS Massachusetts, and USS New York were built in their nominal states. The first and only battleship built in its own state on the West Coast was USS California, second ship of the Tennessee class, and second of the “Big Five.” USS California, commissioned in 1921, displaced 33000 tons, carried 12 14″ guns in four triple turrets, and could make 21 knots. As a member of the Big Five, USS California carried the honor of being one of the most powerful battleships in the fleet, and suffered from the decision of the USN to delay the reconstruction of the Big Five as long as possible.

On December 7, 1941 USS California was sitting at anchor somewhat south of Battleship Row. Preparing for inspection,
California was not ready for underwater attack. Struck by two bombs and two torpoedos, California was abandoned prematurely in fear of a burning oil slick advancing off of the other damaged battleships. Upon their return, the crew could not control the flooding and she settled onto the harbor floor. She was refloated in March 1942 and sent, in June of the same year, to Puget Sound Naval Yard for reconstruction. Instead of returning USS California to service as soon as possible, which might have taken three months or so, the USN decided to rebuild California and two of her sisters (Tennessee and West Virginia) completely, such that they visually resembled the South Dakota class rather than their erstwhile sisters USS Maryland and USS Colorado. USS California emerged with a modern superstructure, an advanced anti-aircraft armament, new radar, and a wider beam (chubby enough that she could not advance through the Panama Canal). The time, cash, and material spent on the reconstruction of these three old battleships must be brought into question, as the expansion of their capabilities was relatively modest given the roles that the played in the Pacific War.

California reactivated in early 1944 and deployed to the Pacific in a shore bombardment capacity until October. She was present at the Battle of Surigao Strait, where she and the other two “Big Three” members (West Virgnia and Tennessee) detected and opened fire on Yamashiro well before their unmodified comrades. The purpose of the American task force was to seal off the area around Leyte from any Japanese naval forces coming from the south. The northern approaches were supposed to be covered by the fast battleships attached to Admiral Halsey’s carrier task forces. Admiral Oldendorf’s battleships and cruisers easily overwhelmed the squadrons of Admirals Nishurima and Shima. If, however, the larger force led by Admiral Kurita had taken the southern route, the situation might have become more interesting. American air and submarine attacks sank or turned away a battleship, three cruisers, and two destroyers, but Kurita still had a respectable force. Had Kurita’s force met Oldendorf’s, the balance would have been six battleships, twelve cruisers, and twenty-nine destroyers on the American side against four battleships, nine cruisers, and eleven destroyers on the Japanese. Assuming that the lighter ships cancelled each other out (although the American advantage would have weighed over time), the encounter would have come down to the confrontation of battle lines. The Japanese had the most powerful ship in either fleet (Yamato), but the next three most powerful were the Big Three. USS Maryland was probably roughly equivalent to Nagato, and Mississippi and Pennsylvania were clearly superior to the battlecruisers Kongo and Haruna. The American line had a substantial advantage in guns and armor, especially as the Japanese battlecruisers could not have expected to last long under accurate fire. However, the Japanese line had 5-6 knots on the Americans, which might have allowed them to pull off a replay of Tsushima, where a faster Japanese line twice crossed the Russian T. I suspect that, given local US air superiority and the need for the Japanese to escape before the return of Halsey’s battleships, that the encounter would have been fairly brief. The Japanese might well have lost one or both of the battlecruisers, but Nagato and Yamato probably would have escaped, although not before heavily damaging several of the American ships. Had Musashi survived the air attacks prior to the battle, the story might have been different.

California participated in several other shore bombardment operations before the end of the war, although a kamikaze attack delayed her arrival at Okinawa. After the end of the war, she supported occupation landings in Japan and elsewhere, before returning to the United States. Placed in reserve in 1946, California and the rest of the Big Five were retained for thirteen years in case of a need for shore bombardment ships. As the Korean War did not even justify the activation of the much newer North Carolina and South Dakota classes, the rationale for the retention seems questionable. California was sold for scrap in 1959.

Trivia: What was the last American battleship to be built with reciprocating machinery?

I ate two Thickburgers in 30 minutes once, but this is pretty cool as well

[ 0 ] November 26, 2006 |

As of Thanksgiving, the war in Iraq has now stretched on longer than the United States’ involvement in World War II. To mark the occasion, the Washington Post decided to ask a bunch of genuinely significant people to reflect a bit on the meaning of that war for our own historical homent. Inexplicably, they asked me to contribute something to the conversation. Really, I’m just honored to find my words sandwiched between those of Henry Hyde and Ted Stevens:

Without question, the Second World War serves as a kind of default symbol for national virtue, and every president since that conflict has attempted to justify major domestic and international initiatives by evoking its memory. Our memories of World War II often emphasize the collective efforts of ordinary Americans to improve the world, to bring into existence a vision of social justice and international law in response to the utter breakdown of the global order. In its sloppiest form, though, the World War II analogy is used to inflate threats, to name enemies, and to elide distinctions between groups or historical forces that should not be confused with one another. We could easily make a list, for example, of a dozen or more figures who have been sold to the American public as the “next Hitler” since 1950, and we have only to look at the concept of “Islamofascism” — quite possibly the most ahistorical neologism I’ve ever encountered — to see how some commentators pretend to understand the complexities of political Islam by summoning up the most frightening images of the 20th century.

I’m hoping this validates my budding credentials as a “defeatist” or a “backstabber.” I’m not sure if it supports my claims to membership in the “Hollywood Left” — claims that are already weak, seeing as how I’ve never been to Hollywood, and haven’t seen a film since May — but I suppose one can always dream.

My favorite line from the whole piece, though, comes from Senator Intertubes, who recalled that “I lived with my grandmother [during World War II], and I remember we were asked to collect the grease from cooking. Everybody did something to help. No one’s doing anything like that now.”

Save your bacon grease, for chrissakes. No wonder we’re losing.

[ 0 ] November 25, 2006 |

Belated Friday Cat Blogging… Mamacat

On The Latest Florida Election Scandal

[ 0 ] November 25, 2006 |

Big Tent Dem questions Paul Krugman’s analysis of the election in FL-13, which (for whatever reason) clearly thwarted the will of the voters. I should say, first of all, that he’s absolutely correct about 2000–the poor ballot design by Democratic officials was crucial to Gore losing the election in which a majority of voters intended to vote for him; indeed, it was much more important than Bush v. Gore, which legitimized the inevitable rather than creating it. The problem, however, is that the flaws in the 2000 ballot constitute most of his argument for why Krugman is wrong–but this is a non-sequitur. The fact that there was a horribly designed paper ballot in one district in 2000 is neither here nor there in terms of whether there was a badly designed electronic ballot in another district in 2006. And, at least in this post, BTD fails to explain the reasoning behind his assertion that the ballot design in the FL-13 was the crucial factor. As far as I can tell, the potential flaw is that the House race is at the top of the second page, while the Senate race is on the first page. But I don’t see how that can be an explanation in light of this:

The group of nearly 18,000 voters that registered no choice in Sarasota’s disputed congressional election solidly backed Democratic candidates in all five of Florida’s statewide races, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of ballot data shows.

Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat — agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland — outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes.

Maybe this is my fault, but I can’t see how voters couldn’t find the House race on the second page, but could find all the other statewide races on subsequent pages. The ballot design might explain why people voted for Senate and not House, but not this. As far as I can tell, Krugman’s inference remains the most probable one. Machine malfunction doesn’t prove fraud, but that’s not the most important issue. What matters is that an exceedingly crappy election system has thwarted the will of the voters again, and it seems that we’re headed for yet another post-election process controlled by Republican hacks (which, admittedly, is all too appropriate in this particular election.)

The most important thing, of course, is that the American electoral system is broken. If we keep up the local control fetish and the lack of an effective recount process (which is exacerbated by electronic voting), it’s not a question of if we’ll get another 2000, but when.

Big Media Darcy

[ 0 ] November 25, 2006 |

I note that the upcoming gig (Thursday, Bowery Poetry Club) of friend of (and frequent commenter at) L, G & M Darcy James Argue has been touted in the august pages of the New York Times:

DARCY JAMES ARGUE’S SECRET SOCIETY (Thursday) As the name implies, this big band is calibrated for maximum intrigue, with a style that genuflects to Steve Reich minimalism as well as to orchestral jazz in the descent of Bob Brookmeyer.

Finest Hour

[ 0 ] November 24, 2006 |

Iain Ballantyne notes a discussion of Britain’s “Finest Hour” regarding the relative value of the contribution of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to Britain’s survival in 1940 and 1941. Ballantyne:

Certainly the German fleet was not up to the job of fighting off half a dozen British battleships, scores of destroyers and dozens of submarines. The battle-hardened Royal Navy would have ripped the German invasion ships to pieces.

I am deeply sympathetic to this perspective. Even with only partial fighter cover, the Royal Navy could easily have disrupted a German invasion fleet. Ballantyne notes that most of the heavy units of the Kriegsmarine had been damaged by the Royal Navy in early 1940, and would not have been available for action in Sea Lion. Any German invasion fleet would have faced not only the capital ships of the Royal Navy, but groups of cruisers and destroyers that might have proved an even more dire threat to any amphibious landing. Every Allied amphibious assault, Atlantic or Pacific, enjoyed massive local naval superiority, and only the invasion of Normandy would have rivalled the requirements of a German invasion of Great Britain.

The Royal Air Force certainly played a critical role in defending the United Kingdom from attack in World War II. But it was the Royal Navy that prevented invasion, just as it had in the Napoleonic Wars and so many times before.

Even if the Real Thanksgiving Was Last Month…

[ 0 ] November 23, 2006 |

I’m off to bucolic New England for Thanksgiving, so happy holidays to all L, G & M readers. While I’m gone, enjoy this amusing cartoon about the most irritating rhetorical trope in American politics.

So Long, and Thanks For All the Material

[ 0 ] November 23, 2006 |

Two good posts at Broadsheet on this Thanksgiving eve. First–and truly reason to be thankful–is that walking evidence for the sometimes-forgotten fact that terrible, shallow ideas expressed in good prose are still terrible, shallow ideas Caitlin Flanagan has been told by the New Yorker to publish her irritating essays elsewhere, hopefully in a magazine I don’t read. About the merits of La Flangan’s work, I’ve already said more than enough. Two additional things from the article. First–and I thought the quality of the magazine had improved–Flanagan hasn’t appeared in the New Yorker since an article she wrote about Mary Poppins received a complaint from a a Poppins expert that “Ms. Flanagan had drawn over-heavily on her work, without adequate credit.” Second, according to agent, “She’s rewarded extremely handsomely for her book-writing, and no magazine can compete with that. Any work she’s doing for a magazine, she’s doing for charitable purposes.” Charitable to whom? Anyway, I’d be interested as to whether her sales justifies these allegedly high advances. To Hell With All That is already down to the low 50,000s on Amazon. One wonders if editors might just be projecting their interest in Flanagan’s complacent, upper-class anti-feminism onto a public that is rather less interested. If anybody with access to BookScan would like to let me know what the numbers have been…

In addition, I’ve been meaning to address this Bill O’Reilly rant about Kansas abortion provider George Teller, but Jessica Arons does the job with great effectiveness.

…a little birdie emails me that To Hell With All That has moved all of 8700 copies. In other words, if there was a six-figure advance we’re well within wingnut welfare territory…

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