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Archive for December, 2006

New Year’s Greetings

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

The oppressive demands of fatherhood have guaranteed that this will be my most sedate New Year’s Eve since 1984. Unlike 1987, I probably won’t be arrested; unlike 1989, I won’t squander the night reaching (unsuccessfully) beyond the threshold of my romantic caste; and unlike 1999, I won’t welcome in the New Year by rescuing my youngest brother’s head from his own toilet. My wife and I will quite likely be shit-canned by midnight — my daughter being one of the most reliable sleepers in the history of infancy — but I will be considerably less debauched than usual. All things considered, I suppose it could be worse. Juneau being a sort of Island of Misfit Toys, New Year’s Eve can be a scary time to venture beyond the comforts of home.

That being said, Happy New Year to everyone in the Eastern Standard Time zone and beyond. I’m still mired in 2006 and will be for the next four unendurable hours. This year is beyond redemption, the worst in human history since 2005. I doubt 2007 will be much of an improvement, but the soft glow of alcohol makes anything seem possible, at least until morning.


And I hear Manzanar is nice this time of year

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

Victor Davis Hanson assumes the Virgil Goode position on immigration:

Remember that many of the 9/11 terrorist murderers had lived for long periods in the United States — dressing, talking, and entertaining themselves like Americans, as they despised the very culture they apparently enjoyed.

The father of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb, developed much of his hatred of Western culture — Jazz, informality between the sexes, casual dress — through his residence in the United States. The Third Reich recruited terrorists to attack Americans from those Germans who grew up in the States.

Those imperial Japanese generals and diplomats who fought the most fiercely against the Untied States — Admiral Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, General Kuribayashi of Iwo Jima infamy, and the pro-Nazi Foreign Minister Matsuoka — were precisely those who had lived in the United States and attended its universities.

In this regard, would it not be wise for a variety of reasons, and until this war is over, not to let thousands into the United States from the Middle East? They may well end up hating us more, not less; and they may think there is to be no penalty for the extremism of their governments. I’d like to see fast track admission for allies like the Poles, British, or Danes, and no-track for the Pakistanis, Saudis, Syrians, or Egyptians.

He forgets, of course, to mention that an astonishingly high percentage of slave revolts were led by people of African descent who — having dwelled for long periods of time in the British colonies and the United States — came to despise the very culture they apparently enjoyed.

But the Nationals were due!

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

Last night Davida and I took in the Harlem Globetrotters-New York Nationals tilt down at the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. We didn’t make it through the whole game, but I came away with the following questions:

1. How much do the New York Nationals make? The Globetrotters are well compensated ($50000 minimum, $200000 average), but I couldn’t find any data on the Nationals.

2. How quickly does the organization burn through Nationals? It’s all entertainment, but I suspect nevertheless that Nationals players freak out at good clip.

Trevino: Find the Near Enemy

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

A guest post by Livy

Question: is any major event not fodder for the online right’s complaints about the insufficient patriotism of progressives? They are, to be sure, by and large obsessive cultists in form and effect; but surely reason may kick in at points. One gets the impression of a class of people who wake up, drink their coffee, go to shave, cut themselves, and promptly curse the damn, dirty hippies. The monomania simply does not end — and the execution of Saddam Hussein is no different. I have already expressed my dislike for dictators: but I also retain the bare capacity for rationality that allows me to understand that the process through which Saddam Hussein found his way to the gallows was fundamentally evil.

The rightist “wingnuts”? Not so much.

Standing out among the rightists obsessed with ferreting out traitors on the Left is Josh “Tacitus” Trevino. Guest blogging at Hugh Hewitt’s site, Trevino (apparently without a sufficient sense of the ironic) denounced several left wing bloggers for excessive partisanship and insufficient patriotism in reaction to the execution of Saddam Hussein. Although Trevino agrees that Saddam’s ouster wasn’t worth the bones of a single Prussian [Pomeranian-ed] Grenadier, that the execution will have no effect on the course of events in Iraq, that his trial should have been conducted according to international standard, and that the death penalty is inappropriate, he argues that saying any of these things indicates a lack patriotic feeling or good sense.

But then, Trevino and his ilk don’t think the real enemy is the man who hung yesterday. That is their peculiar madness: an inability to see in anything but the starkest shades, and a terrible fear of complexity. Trevino thinks it a function of his power of perspicacity, but it is nothing more than the very thing that drove the dead man himself: the marriage of persistent paranoia, and enduring hate.

Tales of the Sea: HMAS Sydney

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

The Washington Naval Treaty ended competition between the big naval powers in capital ships by invoking a ten year “naval holiday” in which battleship construction would be sharply limited. The Treaty also determined that anything over 10000 tons or with guns larger than 8″ would be defined as a battleship. This determination had the effect of limiting, but not eliminating, naval competition. Led by Japan, the various navies of the world soon began to lay down “Washington Treaty” cruisers, ships of about 10000 tons with between 6 and 10 8″ guns. The London Naval Treaty of 1930 sought to manage even this competition, and limited the number of heavy cruisers (ships with 8″ guns) allowable to each navy. The British, in particular, hoped that this new limitation would bring some sanity to naval construction, and began laying down classes of small light cruisers, each carrying between 6 and 8 6″ guns and displacing between 5000 and 7500 tons. The Royal Navy believed that cruisers were critical to maintaining the trade linkages of the Empire, and that a large number of smaller, cheaper units would better serve this role than a few powerful ships. The Americans and the Japanese, undaunted, responded to the new limitations by laying down “light” cruisers of 10000 tons, carrying 15 (!) 6″ guns in five triple turrets. The Royal Navy felt compelled to respond, and eventually laid down the Town class light cruisers, each carrying 12 6″ guns. HMS Belfast, the last Town class cruiser, is a memorial in London.

HMAS Sydney was a genuine light cruiser. Last of the Leander class, she displaced about 7500 tons, carried 8 6″ guns in four twin turrets, and could make 32 knots. Originally called HMS Phaeton, she was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy during construction and renamed Sydney. Commissioned in 1935, Sydney was one of six cruisers (two heavy and four light) owned by the RAN. Although this was a formidable force for a second tier power, Australia’s fate continued to depend on the machinations of great powers. Australia, like Canada, declared war on Germany in September 1939, and deployed the bulk of the RAN to the Mediterranean as soon as Italy declared war on the Allies. On July 9, 1940 Sydney helped sink two Italian destroyers at the Battle of Calabria, a battle that also involved a gunnery duel between Giulio Cesare and Warspite. Ten days later Sydney and a flotilla of destroyers sank the Italian light cruiser Bartoloneo Colleoni at the Battle of Cape Spada. Later in 1940 Sydney particpated in the Crete operation, and attacked Italian convoys to various destinations in the eastern Mediterranean.

German raiders were becoming a problem in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, so Sydney departed the Med for Australia in January 1941. Increased tensions with Japan also played a role in the redeployment of the light cruiser, as the Australians were nervous about leaving their main units under Royal Navy control when their own coasts might require defense. Between February and November, Sydney carried out convoy escort duty without major incident. In February she also acquired a new captain, Joseph Burnett. Although lacking the battle experience of Sydney’s previous captain, Burnett had seven months to work with his crew.

On November 19, 1941 HMAS Sydney sighted a merchant ship to the west of Shark Bay. The merchant responded to Sydney’s challenge as the Dutch freighter Straat Malakka. Captain Burnett was apparently unhappy with the response, and wanted a closer look at the Dutch ship. Guns trained, HMAS Sydney closed from 20km to less than 1000 meters, far closer than an escort would normally get to a questionable merchantman. Captain Burnett’s reasoning remains unknown, because neither he nor any of the other 644 men onboard Sydney would ever be heard from again.

To be continued….

"Pur-raise Gawd fur vittory!"

[ 0 ] December 31, 2006 |

Each time public opinion data is released, disclosing that roughly a third of all Americans continue to believe George W. Bush is doing a fine job, I think to myself, “Who are these people? Where do they spend their days? And when they’re alone with their thoughts, do they hear calliope music — or do their minds sound more like an old Brian Eno record?”

Making his case for the former, this idiot challenges liberal bloggers to “Convert to VICTORY” by announcing their support for . . . actually, I’m not really sure what they’re supposed to endorse. In exchange for declaring their affection for VICTORY (a word he nearly always capitalizes, or emboldens, or italicizes), those who accept “Red Stater’s” challenge can expect to read kind words about them on his blog. Near as I can tell, these declarations are supposed to “unite” the nation somehow. What’s brilliant about the challenge, though, is that it’s premised on exactly the sort of fantasy of potential that Scott wrote about earlier:

Disclaimer: Supporting victory does not mean you believe that victory is assured or that you even believe we are in a war, (or that you like Bush) but does mean that IF we are in a war, and IF victory is possible, that you support said victory. ie: Victory in Iraq.
(I can’t make it any easier than that.)

It’s like Schrodinger’s cat, I suppose. In any event, Red Stater has been harrassing Rodger Payne for several days about this; Rodger, unwilling to enter the parallel universe in which the cat isn’t dead, has bravely tried to answer RS in complete sentences, to no evident avail.

New Frontiers in Authoritarian Gibberish

[ 0 ] December 30, 2006 |

Following up on Josh Marshall’s take, Jim Henley notes:

And it’s also true that the US and its Iraqi allies chose to try Saddam on one of his relatively minor crimes because if they did so they could get him safely hung before they had to try him for the major ones, the gas attacks and massacres that happened during The Years of Playing Footsie with the United States. The Dujail reprisals were a war crime, no doubt about it, a bigger sham of justice than Saddam’s own trial, by two orders of magnitude. They were also the sort of war crime that people like Ralph Peters and a hundred other pundits and parapundits think the United States should be committing. Every time you read a complaint about “politically correct rules of engagement” you are reading someone who would applaud a Dujail-level slaughter if only we were to perpetrate it. Those are the people who are happiest of all about tonight’s execution. Smells like – victory! It’s the pomander they don against the stench.

And, as if on cue, Jeff Goldstein shows up to claim that the fact we haven’t stopped sectarian violence is “the fault of a military strategy that has been too introspective and politically circumspect.” If only we had learned more from Hussein before he was executed! This is followed up by his familiar stab-in-the-back routine–apparently Iraq would look like Belgium if only the United States were a little less democratic and showed a little more uncritical reverence for a failed President’s catastrophic policies–but my very favorite part has to be this:

Let them, for one brief moment, bracket their partisan aggressions and reflect on what the US and its allies have done in removing this butcher from power—which, contrary to received wisdom, has made Iraq a far better place, if only for the moment potentially.

And as the year ends, I will reflect on and celebrate the fact that I made a trillion dollars this year, if only for the moment potentially.

A Passing Unmourned

[ 0 ] December 29, 2006 |

Enjoy sharing the hotseat with Augusto Pinochet. In fairness, you made the General look like a rank amateur.

… to pre-empt misunderstanding, I don’t think his ouster was worth the bones of a single Prussian Grenadier, I’m sure that his execution will have no effect on the course of events in Iraq, I wish that his trial had been conducted according to international standard, and I don’t believe in the death penalty. Nevertheless, I celebrate his passing with the same enthusiasm as I did the good General from Chile.

C.D. Alston Day

[ 0 ] December 29, 2006 |

Chris Bray at Historiblogography urges us to celebrate December 29 as C.D. Alston Day, in honor of the Air Force Brigadier General who predicted confidently one year ago that Iraqi insurgents were unlikely to be able to sustain their attacks for much longer. As Bray points out elsewhere, C.D. Alston’s remarks are worth recalling

Because it appears that, in the coming weeks, we will be watching as the administration and its subordinates in the military make their inherently political argument about the positive effects of a so-called “surge” of U.S. forces in Iraq. In this spectacularly obtuse Dec. 2005 announcement, we have a simple piece of evidence that clearly shows the emptiness of American political rhetoric about the course of the war. What our leaders say has nothing to do with what happens on the ground in Iraq, and this year’s confident pronouncements are likely to be just as correct as last year’s. Our leaders are irrecoverably lost, and it doesn’t hurt to keep pointing it out.

While I wholly endorse Bray’s suggestion and will be observing C.D. Alston Day with due gravity, I would point out that if we were serious about commemorating all the “spectacularly obtuse” statements offered up on behalf of this bovine war, the year would soon enough resemble the Catholic liturgical calendar.


[ 0 ] December 29, 2006 |

Read Loomis’ nice essay on Daniel Webster. Webster is among the most forgotten of the forgotten legislative titans of the 19th century, although I think that, outside of Lexington, even Henry Clay isn’t getting a lot of press these days. It’s certainly interesting to think about what would have happened if Webster had accepted the vice-presidency and thus assumed the Presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrison, and it’s hard to argue that things could have turned out worse for the United States (allowing, as always, that James K. Polk was at least competent).

Probably for related reasons, the 1941 version of The Devil and Daniel Webster, directed by William Deterle, seems to receive very minimal attention in discussions of the best films of the 1940s. After CK and a couple of others, it’s probably my favorite film from the era.

[ 0 ] December 29, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck

Cumulative Grievance

[ 0 ] December 29, 2006 |

In the Somalia comment section below, Eric Martin writes:

Now, do I think that fear of further inflaming Muslim opinion through our actions in the Horn should be our overriding and primary concern? No.

And clearly, an action such as the invasion of Iraq is going to have much more impact on such than our possible assistance to the Ethiopian/Somali government forces.

Still, even if not as polarizing as the Iraq invasion, these grievances are cumulative, and they should not be casually dismissed.

Mojo concurs, but I don’t. You don’t have to be a contributor to a LGF comment thread to doubt that grievances are cumulative; that, when evaluating friendship, alliance, war, what not, a state (or the people of that state) calmly add together all of the grievances on one side of the ledger and all of the credits on the other side, then compare to see which side wins. It’s been a while since I took my IR exam, but from what I recall of psychologically oriented IR, this model of evidence interpretation has almost no empirical support.

Instead of interpreting each new piece of evidence (say, US support for Christian Ethiopia in its war against Muslim Somalia) on its merits, people interpret evidence through the lens of pre-existing theories. At best, they tend to ignore or discredit evidence than runs against “what they know”. At worst, they reinterpret disconfirming evidence as support for their preconceived theories. As an example, consider how wingnuts view the media. The conservative assault on the media is political strategy, but that strategy has both internal and external components. On the one hand, it terrifies the media. On the other hand, it convinces conservative voters that the media is congenitally biased and thus utterly untrustworthy. The result is that, no matter how hard the mainstream media tries, it can’t convince conservatives that it’s not biased. Even in relatively clear cut cases where the media acts to the benefit of conservatives, the action is interpreted situationally; we “forced” the media to act in an unbiased manner. The evaluation of the media never changes.

DJW and I did some work on this a few years ago that’s never (hasn’t yet?) been published. It’s very hard to break through this kind of evidentiary interpretation, but there are ways to get around it. Really big events matter; 9/11 was probably an opportunity to revise these theories, and the invasion of Iraq the utter confirmation of them. Group identification isn’t static; Fox News has succeeded by redefining itself as part of the conservative movement rather than as part of the mainstream media. Finally, alternative group affiliations can be mobilized, producing different in-group/out-group constellations and thus different understandings of the world. The Concert of Europe escaped power politics for a time by redefining the international system as the setting of the struggle against revolution, rather than as the struggle between great powers.

So, I’m unconvinced that anything that happens in Somalia is going to have a significant impact on foreign opinion outside of, well, Somalia and Ethiopia.

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