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Archive for January, 2007

I Guess it’s an OC Thing…

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

The town of Oregon City is by no means progressive. Although nominally a suburb of very liberal Portland, it lies at the edge of the metropolitan area, on the border between very leftish urban Oregon and very conservative rural Oregon. Among Portland suburbanites Oregon City is known as a redneck town, last outpost before the domain of the hill people.

Strangely enough, Oregon City also boasts one of the nation’s best high school girl’s basketball teams. Since 1990 the Pioneers have won sixteen league championships, ten state championships, and three national titles. Although the football team tends to be quite respectable, girl’s basketball is invariably the number one game in town. Having gone to high school in this context, it was with great curiosity and some surprise that I read this article on sports gender equity in cheerleading:

Whitney Point is one of 14 high schools in the Binghamton area that began sending cheerleaders to girls’ games in late November, after the mother of a female basketball player in Johnson City, N.Y., filed a discrimination complaint with the United States Department of Education. She said the lack of official sideline support made the girls seem like second-string, and violated Title IX’s promise of equal playing fields for both sexes.

But the ruling has left many people here and across the New York region booing, as dozens of schools have chosen to stop sending cheerleaders to away games, as part of an effort to squeeze all the home girls’ games into the cheerleading schedule.

Boys’ basketball boosters say something is missing in the stands at away games, cheerleaders resent not being able to meet their rivals on the road, and even female basketball players being hurrahed are unhappy.

In Johnson City, students and parents say they have accepted the change even as they question the need for it. Several cheerleaders there recalled a game two years ago, long before the complaint, when the squad decided at the last minute to cheer for the girls’ team because a boys’ game was canceled. The cheers drowned out directions from the girls’ coach, frustrated the players, and created so much tension that the cheerleaders left before halftime.

Although it’s been fourteen years and my memory starts getting fuzzy around the two month mark, I seem to recall that the cheerleaders were at every girl’s basketball game at OC that I attended. This never seemed odd to me, but I am now wondering if this is perhaps not the norm…


Welcome Back!

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

A hearty welcome back to Alterdestiny, which was felled for three weeks by unknown and frustrating technical problems.

Bad Cold War Ideas, vol. MMCXXIV

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

Nuclear landmines.

The seven-ton Blue Peacock consisted of a huge steel casing containing a plutonium core surrounded by high explosives. Its yield was about ten kilotons, and the plan was to bury and submerge ten such landmines around key targets in Germany in the event of an invasion. The mines would be set to detonate after eight days using a mechanical timer, or alternatively they could be exploded remotely from up to five kilometers away. Once armed, there was also an anti-tampering system which would detonate the bombs within ten seconds if they were damaged or disturbed. The mines were intended to cause massive destruction, and leave radioactive contamination over a large area to prevent subsequent occupation by Soviet forces.

One bizarre proposed design called for a casing capable of housing chickens, with the intent to use their body heat to prevent the electronics from being disabled due to winter’s cold. For this reason, the Blue Peacock is sometimes referred to as the “Chicken powered nuclear bomb.” Another design called for more traditional fiberglass insulation.

Two prototypes of the Blue Peacock were constructed and tested, though never detonated. In July 1957, British army leaders ordered ten Blue Peacock mines, which they planned to station in Germany under the cover story that they were atomic power units. But the project was cancelled before the order could be filled; hiding nuclear weapons in an allied country was deemed “politically flawed” by military leaders, and the risk from radioactive fallout would have been “unacceptable.”

One aspect of the Cold War that never ceases to amaze me is the way in which the nuclear age generated such fantastic combinations of the apocalyptic and the mundane — nuclear land mines warmed by chickens, or (as a friend of mine once discovered in the Smithsonian archives) serious conversations in the US about how mail might be delivered by cruise missile. In an 1954 civil defense film that I usually show in my survey course, Americans are urged to keep their yards neat and their houses freshly painted because such homes are more likely to survive nuclear firestorms and tornados. It’s an unbelievably daft little film, but it only underscores just how disempowered ordinary civilians were in the wake of the second world war, which had perversely enough been sold as a war in defense of democratic institutions.

I’m pretty well convinced we’re all going up in flames eventually, but when I read about nuclear landmines it seems quite remarkable that we’ve survived this long. If historians are ever granted access to the documents of the current administration, one wonders how much farther around the bend we’ll find we’ve traveled.

NFL Quick Picks

[ 0 ] January 13, 2007 |

More a pretext for an open thread, but–team I would pick in bold:

Indianapolis (+3 1/2) at Baltimore: Like a Yankees/Dodgers World Series or a Canucks/Maple Leafs Stanley Cup final, a true “the only good result is two plane crashes” bowl, as the result of the two most odious franchise shifts in history face off. For some reason, now that they’ve been written off, I think Manning might have a good playoff game in him.

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-5): I’d like to see the old Stampeder star Jeff Garcia do it one more once, but to use Bill James’s phrase while it’s fun to believe in Cinderella you have to believe in midnight too. Of course, the Saints are a fairy tale in their own way, but with Brees and Bush they’re also really good (for an NFC team.)

Seattle (+9) at Da Bears: Since they get no respect despite being defending conference champions, I’d actually like to go whole hog and pick the Seahawks outright. And you can make a case: Grossman is even less well-positioned to take advantage of the Seahwaks’ temp secondary than Romo, and the Bears have gotten steadily worse. I can’t quite do it with the Bears at home and Alexander considerably less than 100%, but that line is way too steep.

New England at San Diego (-4 1/2): OK, if you had actual money at stake, could you justify betting on world-historical playoff choker Marty Schottenheimer and a rookie QB against Bellichik and Brady? You’d probably be better of wagering that Democrats will sweep the electoral college in the Deep South. And yet, my gut says that Rivers is for real, New England’s win over the Jets was less impressive than the score, and while MS has done a lot of stupid things he’s also had a lot of bad luck; it’s not like he told Byner to fumble. I think this year he may catch a break.

The Peculiar Desires of George W. Bush

[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

The conservative punditocracy jumped the shark long ago, but this week marks a special low, particularly if the latest column by Jonah Goldberg is any indication. Proceeding from the false dichotomy that Americans are divided between those who “want the war to be a success” and those who “want the war to be over,” Goldberg congratulates the preznit on his insatiable desire to win. On Goldberg reading, the infantile nonsense spilling forth from George W. Bush’s mouth — namely, his defiant insistence that everything is unacceptable — somehow makes him more credible or (to invoke Josh Trevino’s diagnosis) places him on a “higher moral plane” than the rest of humankind. And the fact that Bush’s plans gang aft agley only makes Goldberg more upset with the Democrats:

He may be deluding himself, and his plan may not work, but he at least has done the nation the courtesy of saying what his position is, despite an antagonistic political establishment and a hostile public. What is maddening is that the Democratic leadership cannot, or will not, clearly tell the American people whether they are the party of “end it” or “win it.”

This is beyond pathetic. Goldberg finds such “stubborn emphasis on victory” to be courageous — “wise,” in fact — and so Bush’s desire for victory immunizes him somehow from responsibility for what happens from here onward.

I hate to be uncharitable toward Goldberg, but one gets the sense that if Bush were discovered in a pasture somewhere, babbling about “victory” while giving a horse the handjob of his life, Goldberg would wonder why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid weren’t offering free reacharounds to his stablemates.

“Look how much Bush wants to win!” he’d cry. “Where are the Democrats? At least we know what Bush stands for! Sure, the horse might be a little chafed tomorrow, but look how badly the president wants to win!”

[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson


[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

By grotesque coincidence, two of the central actors in the German Third Reich squirmed loose into the world on 12 January 1893 — the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of Sicily’s entire Jewish population. Reichsmarschall Herman Goering — a Bavarian who eventually rose to be Hitler’s second in command during World War II — and the Estonian racial theorist Albert Rosenberg shared fifty-three birthdays on this earth, although Rosenberg managed to outlive Goering by a single day.

As it happened, both were scheduled for execution by hanging on 16 October 1946, as set forth by the judgments of the Nuremberg court. Goering, however, somehow came into possession of a small dose of potassium cyanide, which he ingested the night before his date with the gallows. Abandoned by the man with whom he shared a birthday, Rosenberg nevertheless had plenty of company in his last moments and may not have missed Goering at all. Instead, he ascended the scaffold with Hans Frank (Governor-General of occupied Poland), Wilhelm Frick (Interior Minister), Alfred Jodi (chief of the armed forces operational staff), Ernst Kaltenbrunner (head of the Gestapo), Wilhelm Keitel (chief of staff for the armed forces high command), Joachim von Ribbentrop (foreign minister), Julius Streicher (anti-Semitic editor and Reich propagandist), Arthur Seyss-Inquart (who oversaw the deportation of Dutch Jews), and Fritz Sauckel (whose labor bureau forcibly conscripted millions of unfree workers to advance the cause of the German people). By the time his former colleagues’ necks snapped at the end of a rope, Herman Goering had been dead of a massive cardiac arrest for hours.

Far from Nuremberg on the southern cape of Africa, Pieter Willem Botha — a racist Afrikaner who had grown disillusioned with the Nazis he once openly admired — turned 30 years old that day. A lawyer by training, Botha was only two years away from entering the South African parliament as a representative from the town of George. In 1978, Botha assumed the title of Prime Minister, defending the apartheid system with a noxious zeal that was at times described as “reformist” and “pragmatic.”

In an almost completely unrelated matter, January 12 also happens to be the birthday of Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. Known at earlier points in his radio career by such quasi-porn star names as Rusty Sharpe and Jeff Christie, Limbaugh roared ass-backward into the embittered, revanchist ideological climate of the early 1990s. His derisive style made him a star, though his wealth was never sufficient to secure his heart’s true desire — enough Oxycontin and Vicodin to keep him in a perpetual state of drooling self-satisfaction. Long an advocate for “family values,” Limbaugh has wheezed his way through a trio of failed marriages, none of which brought forth the fruit of his shriveled loins.

(cross-posted to Axis of Evel Knievel, where I failed to mention that someone else is celebrating her birthday today as well.)

You Know You’re In Trouble When *Peretz* Is The Sane One…

[ 1 ] January 12, 2007 |

Reading about Peter Beinart’s attempt to turn pre-war discourse into a giant pissing contest (via Ezra) reminded me about some gossip from Spencer Ackerman. I–like I suspect most people–had always assumed that the New Republic‘s fatally ridiculous endorsement of Joe Lieberman was a Peretz special all the way. Apparently not:

It’s a common misconception about Marty and Lieberman. Without speaking for Marty, I can tell you that he absolutely did not endorse Lieberman in 2004. This was mostly a Peter decision, as I believe he explained on CNN when the endorsement came out. It’s not for me to say who Marty actually backed, but it definitely wasn’t Lieberman.

Beinart felt so strongly that he went against the publisher to endorse that feeble clown. It’s amazing.

While were engaged in TNR-related snark, I’ve mentioned before the sales of Beinart’s book would not seem to justify a $600,000 advance–as of last week, it had moved fewer than 10,000 copies (and I don’t think this is just second-guessing–it’s not as if outside the pundit class liberal hawkery is a huge market.) But that’s nothing. You know how Lee Siegel inexplicably got a deal for a book about politics and the internet? His recent book Falling Upwards has moved…304 copies. But I’m sure his expanded-to-book-length argument about why people who disagree with you on blogs are just like Mussolini will be much more successful!

Your Straightforward Reading Of The Plain Meaning Of My Words Is Proof Of Your Lack Of Reading Comprehension!

[ 0 ] January 12, 2007 |

Josh Trevino claims that “[t]here’s little to be done for the reading comprehension of the online left,” and that his bringing up the Boer War was “not to make a policy prescription but to conduct a thought-experiment to demonstrate the insufficiency of the President’s ‘surge.'” Of course, nobody thought that Trevino favored the President’s plan–which is precisely what makes his claim that Bush exists on a “higher moral plane” so transparently idiotic. But is it unfair to claim that Trevino is advocating Boer War-style tactics? As a commenter at TAPPED also notes, obviously not:

  • Trevino, first of all, asks us to ignore not only his argument while the tactics used in the Boer War were “cruel” and that “I endorse cruel things in war–to eschew them is folly” but his subsequent claim that Bush is on a “higher plane ” because he realizes that losing is unacceptable. The only logical reading of the post is that, while he doesn’t endorse Bush’s specific plan, he does support Boer War-style scorched-earth tactics: if we can’t lose, and the deployment of cruelty is the only way to win…there’s only one way this argument can go.
  • And, of course, Trevino is not writing in a vacuum. Previously, he has written the following: “The ability of a society to see through grinding conflicts like the Philippines Insurrection or the Boer War augers well for its future, lest it lose the mere capacity to conquer, and be susceptible to humiliation by any small power with no advantage save mental fortitude. It is indeed difficult to imagine now the methods that transformed the Philippines for us, and South Africa for the British, from bitter foe to steadfast friend being applied in Iraq. Would that they were.” [my emphasis.] So this is at least the second time he’s made the argument that while the U.S. may not use brutal military tactics, it should. Again, it couldn’t be more explicit.
  • And, wait–he’s also written (scroll down to “the road untaken”) that “[c]onceptually, the Algerian-style sealing of Iraqi borders coupled with Boer War-style civilian control measures are workable and even just. [my emphasis]” although “their imposition would mean the implicit repudiation of the very mythos of the war.” Do you see a pattern here? Again, the U.S. probably doesn’t have the fortitude to exterminate all the brutes–but it should.

So the idea that the problem here is a lack of reading comprehension on the part of Trevino’s critics is absurd. At least three times (and who knows how many examples there were be if his primarily online venue still had available archives) he has explictly endorsed the desirability of Boer War style tactics. It is true that he has also said that Bush will be unlikely to use them, but this is beside the point (and, indeed, just makes his support of Bush and initial support of the war incoherent.) The fact that he seems to want to back off from the plain implication of his words isn’t his critics’ problem. If he doesn’t want to be accused of supporting Boer War-style tactics, he should stop saying that he supports them.

Yeah, she’s that dumb

[ 0 ] January 11, 2007 |

I doubt that President Bush has any capacity to inspire Americans about the war in Iraq. I vaguely wish that he could. He’s made his decision, and I think people need to support what he’s doing and not undercut him by revealing to our enemies that we can be worn down and demoralized. Yet it doesn’t bother me that much that Americans are not fired up by presidential speeches. We don’t like war, and we especially don’t like to live with a long war that doesn’t reward us with distinct successes from time to time. We express our dissatisfaction, but I think most of us realize it’s the President’s responsibility to get us through this. Electing Democrats to Congress can be read as an expression of dissatisfaction, but does it also mean that we expect or even want Congress to interfere with the President’s plan?

Ann Althouse, 11 January 2007

Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

Britney Spears, 3 September 2003

Operation Margarine

[ 0 ] January 11, 2007 |

She’s now in Iraq, where the quest for Jamil Hussein has morphed into a search for “pockets of success and signs of hope amid utter despair.” Examining her photos and maudlin captions, one would think Malkin is unaware of the fact that the United States has been in Iraq — handing out soccer balls and blankets and “meeting” with displaced families — for nearly four goddamned years now. For Malkin, the “slums of Baghdad” are useful only as a squalid prop, summoned front and center in a narrative that depicts the United States and its armed forces as if it were in a state of eternal arrival, bearing absolutely no responsibility for the conditions they’re alleviating with stuffed animals and candy corns and tiny American flags.

Not to dignify Malkin’s work in any way, but all of this reminds me of Roland Bathes’ essay on margarine:

One can trace in advertising a narrative pattern which clearly shows the working of this new vaccine. It is found in the publicity of Astra magazine. The episode always begins with a cry of indignation against margarine: “A mousse? Made with margarine? Unthinkable!” “Margarine? Your uncle will be furious!” And then one’s eyes are opened, one’s conscience becomes more pliable, and margarine is a delicious food, tasty, digestible, economical, useful in all circumstances. The moral at the end is well known: “Here you are, rid of a prejudice which cost you dearly!” It is in the same way that the Established Order relieves you of your progressive prejudices. The Army, and absolute value? It is unthinkable: look at its vexations, its strictness, its always possible blindness of its chiefs. The Church, infallible? Alas, it is very doubtful: look at its bigots, its powerless priests, its murderous conformism. And then “common sense” makes its reckoning: what is this trifling dross of Order, compared with its advantages? It is well worth the price of immunization. What does it matter, after all, if margarine is just fat, when it goes further than butter, and costs less? What does it matter, after all, if Order is a little brutal or a little blind, when it allows us to live cheaply? Here we are, in our turn, rid of a prejudice which cost us dearly, too dearly, which cost us too much in scruples, in revolt, in fights, and in solitude.

The Lowest Plane

[ 0 ] January 11, 2007 |

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The latest effusions of Josh “A Wingnut Leaves the Door Ajar As He Swings A Whip From the Boer War” Trevino, already linked below, are a treasure trove of lunacy. There’s also this:

What was good about the President’s speech? He remains committed to victory. Whether he will achieve it or not is a separate matter; the mere fact that he seeks it sets him on a moral plane above the mass of the American left that thinks defeat a wholly palatable option.

Yes, the fact that the President would really like to win (not that his plan might lead to victory, mind you, but that he thinks some kind of undefined “winning” would be nice) puts him on a “different moral plane” than people impertinent enough to point out that our continuing presence in Iraq is making things worse and therefore ipso facto want America to lose (which is particularly strange when Trevino says that a “desire to win is small consolation without the means to win”–without the McCarthyism, Trevino seems to have the same position on Bush’s plan as the evil, anti-American liberals.) But what makes this risible even for Tacitus is that he delivers this pompous jingoism after explaining that–as part of an invasion of a country that didn’t attack and posed no significant security threat to the United States–our military should put innocent women and children in concentration camps so that men can be indiscriminately slaughtered. Trevino and I are on “different moral planes,” all right.

…Yglesias is rather more astute about how to read the President’s empty banalities about victory:

The point of view from which the hail mary metaphor makes the most sense is if your primary concern is not the interests of the United States of America but the reputation of George W. Bush and other leading architects of war. From that point of view, the difference between initiating and then losing a war at great cost and initiating and then losing a war at even greater cost really is minimal, much like in a football game. From Bush’s point of view, conceding that his Iraq policy has failed is so catastrophic to his ego and reputation that it makes perfect sense to ask other people to bear any burden and pay any price for even the smallest sliver of a hope of even deferring the problem successfully. For the country, though, it doesn’t make sense at all.

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