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Archive for January, 2008

And I Hear He Once Killed a Bear with His Bare Hands

[ 0 ] January 17, 2008 |

David Petraeus and I wear the same running shoes, but the similarities end there. Runner’s World, via Danger Room:

Today, he arrives for his workout at precisely 6:30 a.m., ready to hit the road in his New Balance 992s and an Army T-shirt. The subject quickly turns to running. “When we bring a new guy in, I take him out for a run,” says Petraeus. “I’ll go out hard, then ramp it up around five miles to try to waste him”… Of the 21 soldiers who began the 5.7-mile loop, only four (including Nordby and Martins) hang with Petraeus to the finish. He comes in at a pace under six minutes per mile, impressive for a guy with a metal plate in his pelvis and a gunshot wound on his chest (courtesy of a training accident).

I often force my graduate assistants to hold to a grueling 6 minutes per kilometer pace, sometimes for as long as two kilometers…

…comment of the day from Treb: “Please tell me he’s wearing pants.”


Cross of Gold

[ 0 ] January 17, 2008 |

Stupid question here from someone whose knowledge of markets is roughly equivalent to his comprehension of particle physics:

Why, as I’m listening to right-wing radio — which I do more often than I care to admit — do I constantly hear advertisements urging me to sink my fortunes into gold? It’s uncanny. I understand that gold prices have risen and the dollar is teh suck, but when I hear someone pitching gold on AM radio, I can’t help but think I might as well be considering an investment in magic beans.

In Case You Weren’t Aware, Prison Is a Bad Place for Women

[ 15 ] January 16, 2008 |

This shouldn’t come as a surprise: prison is not a fun place to be for anyone, but especially not for women. Why is it so bad for women, you ask?

Well, for one thing, because of drug war policies that have a disproportionate impact on women, more women than ever are ending up in America’s prisons and jails.

And once they’re there, the conditions are even worse than the horrid conditions in men’s prisons. In some states, there is so little room available in women’s prisons, that women are being randomly assigned to men’s prisons, where they are segregated, their freedom of movement is even more limited, and they face other discrimination with regard to the availability of education, job training, etc.

But wait! There’s more! Around the country, incarcerated women face being raped and sexually abused by the men “guarding” them. As detailed in a recent RH Reality Check column (reposted on AlterNet), guard-on-prisoner sexual assault occurs frequently. Sometimes, the guards do not even seek consent. Other times, the guards bribe women for sex, allowing them to have cigarettes, books, and other privileges. In those situations, though there may be “consent,” there is no real consent because the women have no real option other than to say yes. “No” could mean retaliation including (but not limited to) loss of privileges and embarrassing searches. And should a woman report that she has been assaulted, she is often placed in solitary confinement “for her own protection.”

To make matters worse, birth control and emergency contraception are rarely available to incarcerated women, abortion can be difficult (to impossible) to obtain (barring a lawsuit), and children are – almost without exception- removed from their incarcerated mothers immediately after birth (which, itself, often happens in shackles).

All of which is to say this: as long as we’re incarcerating women in such great numbers (which I obviously think we shouldn’t be, but that’s for another post), we have got to be more attentive to treating them better. Just because they’re hidden away behind barbed wire and guard towers doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Bush to Whales: Drop Dead

[ 0 ] January 16, 2008 |

Sonar kills whales, but the Navy wants to use sonar in exercises to prove strike group readiness, because sonar also (indirectly) kills submarines. Some discussion of this came up last year in response to a Marc Kaufman article on the effects of sonar on whale populations. Specifically, the Navy wants to conduct sonar exercises off the coast of Southern California, because of some coastal conditions and because the multiple bases and airfields in Southern Cal afford the opportunity for particularly intense exercises.

Because of the potential threat to whale populations, the exercise plans came into some conflict with the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Protection Act. Earlier this month, a federal court established strict restrictions on the Navy’s ability to conduct these exercises. The President, however, has determined that these restrictions threaten national security. Accordingly, the Navy doesn’t have to abide by them.

In its defense, the Navy does take some measures to prevent damage to whale populations, and its argument about the necessity of sonar training isn’t absurd on its face. I suspect, however, that the whales will draw little comfort from the fact that the sonar we’re killing them with is protecting their freedom.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

Limbaugh vs. McCain

[ 34 ] January 16, 2008 |

I agree with Ezra that Rush Limbaugh announcing a war against not only Huckabee but McCain seems significant — barring some miracle like Fred Thompson being discovered alive the GOP establishment is going to rally around Romney, although McCain’s background is substantially more conservative on balance. (McCain, apparently, can’t be forgiven his momentary dalliance with fiscal sanity and his offenses against the Bush cult.) While Romney should be favored for the nomination, I don’t think this settles the question: McCain would have no more chance against a credible establishment-approved orthodox conservative than he did in 2000, but remains alive because there’s isn’t one in the race.

All of this looks promising for the Democrats, even though I think that the negative effects of a long primary per se are overstated. If the establishment candidate wins, this is good because either Clinton or Obama should beat him easily, and if it comes to that he seems like the least bad president of the awful GOP field. If he doesn’t, McCain is a more viable nominee in theory, but he would win with many powerful elements of his party bitter about his victory; that seems like a pretty promising worst-case scenario for the Democrats.

Worst American Birthdays, vol. 37

[ 31 ] January 16, 2008 |

One of the great traitors of the Civil War era, John Cabell Breckinridge, was cut loose into the world on this date in 1821.

Born less than a year after the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in most of the Louisiana territories, Breckinridge came to despise the arrangement, believing it had unfairly prohibited slaveholders from transporting and enjoying their property wherever they chose. His views on state sovereignty were derived from his grandfather, for whom he was named. As a state representative, the elder John Breckinridge had introduced a famous resolution in 1798 asserting the fiction that individual states had a constitutional right to nullify federal laws. The Kentucky Resolution, along with its companion in Virginia, became one of the pole stars for states’ rights ideologues throughout the 19th century. Over the next several decades, the Breckinridge family itself divided into uncomfortable factions over this very issue. When South Carolina attempted to invalidate a federal tariff law in 1832, Robert Breckinridge — young John’s uncle — voted to condemn the act in Kentucky’s legislature, arguing in effect that his own father had been mistaken to assert the right of nullification.

As a member of the third generation of Kentucky’s royal family, John C. Breckinridge was an ambitious and successful lawyer who scaled the state’s political ladder to the US Congress, where he represented the 8th District during some of the more tumultuous years of the 1850s. In 1854, Breckinridge joyfully voted to approve the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the 1820 Compromise and turned the Kansas territory into a magnet for pro-slavery goons and abolitionist messiahs like John Brown.

Having done his part to further sectional hostilities over the extension of slavery, Breckinridge ascended to the executive branch, where he served as helpmate to James Buchanan, inarguably one of the worst presidents in the nation’s history. Less than a week after his inauguration to office as Vice President, Breckinridge yelped with glee as the Supreme Court issued its ruling on a case involving a slave named Dred Scott. Indeed, he was so thrilled with the court’s ruling that he paid to have copies of Roger Taney’s majority opinion printed and scattered across his home state.

Following his term as Vice President, Breckinridge and his pro-slavery Southern partisans cleaved the Democratic Party in two for the election of 1860. His futile campaign for the presidency assured Abraham Lincoln’s election. When his own state chose not to join the movement for secession, Breckinridge — by then occupying a seat in the US Senate — defied the majority sentiments of his fellow Kentuckians (including his uncle Robert) and vocally supported the Confederacy in its armed rebellion against the Union. In so doing, Breckinridge set forth the novel argument that “the United States no longer exists,” that the withdrawal of twelve states had “dissolved” the Constitution and that the federal government no longer had any power to conduct business. In disbelief that his state would not endorse or join the Confederacy, Breckinridge insisted that Kentucky had been taken over by pro-Union conspirators.

Predictably evicted from office by his Senate colleagues and made an “orphan” by the state of Kentucky, Breckinridge proudly accepted “the musket of a soldier” and fought in defense of chattel slavery. When the end of the war at last arrived in April 1865, Breckinridge held a dispiriting post as Secretary of War. As much as anyone in the Confederacy, John Breckinridge deserved to wear a hemp necklace; after several years of exile in Cuba, Canada and the UK, however, he received a grant of amnesty and returned home in 1869. Twelve years after his death, a statue in Breckinridge’s honor was cast in front of the Fayette County courthouse in Lexington.

Last year, Raoul Vega — a sporadic blogger from the Lexington area — offered this sensible appraisal of the monument :

What I would like to see more than anything else would be the destruction, Saddam style, of the statue of Breckinridge. It might be replaced with some other worthy Kentuckian, or even with Abraham Lincoln, who was, after all, born in the state. Cassius Marcellus Clay, an abolitionist born in Kentucky and educated at Transylvania University, would be one option. Barring that, I’d like this added to his statue:



Annals of Obscurity

[ 20 ] January 16, 2008 |

I just sent off what I hope were the final revisions to an article that was graciously accepted for publication by a journal in my field. I wrote the initial draft from August-October 2004; completed and revised it in mid-2005; shopped it around to two different journals over the next two years; and received an acceptance with mild revisions in September. The article will likely appear sometime in early 2009, at which point at least a half-dozen people will actually read it.

Really, you’d think fascist academic types would be a little more nimble than this.


[ 11 ] January 16, 2008 |

Although Straight Talkin’ John McCain has to be considered the real winner of any Republican primary, winner 1A has to be Rudy Giulani, who has them right where he wants them. Why, he almost beat the dynamic campaign of Fred Thompson! (Although still a little behind a crank racist publishing mogul who places considerable emphasis on bringing back the gold standard.) Here were the final results among potential saviors of the Republican Party:

Amanda Hugandkiss 6%
Strom Thurmond’s decomposing corpse 5%
Frederick of Hollywood 4%
Oliver Clothesoff 3.5 %
Bea O’Problem 3.2%
America’s Mayor (TM), RudyNine GiulianiEleven 2.8%
Uncommitted 2.7%
Ted Nugent 2.4%

"You Don’t Favor Attacking Japan Today, But In Your Last Book You Say That You Favored It In 1942. Why Are You Such A Flip-flopper?"

[ 15 ] January 16, 2008 |

Appropriately enough, on the eve of what might have been the most asinine debate moderation since the immortal horse-race wankery of Ted Koppel, Ygelsias perfectly captures the vacuous, pointless, information-destroying interviewing style of Tim Russert:

Russert apparently meant this as a question. For some reason, we were supposed to be astonished that Richardson’s view of what would be good policy in the spring of 2007 wasn’t the same as his view of what would have been good policy in the winter of 2005. One imagines FDR getting a question about how he could favor the Normandy landings when he’d refused entreaties for operations in France just eighteen months earlier. “Now, I want to compare this invasion of France to what you said in your fireside chat in late 1942.

It’s not about the candidate; it’s about Tim. And don’t forget to buy his latest crappy book about his old man!

Mitt Mashes McCain in Matchup Over Michigan Mandate

[ 6 ] January 16, 2008 |

Seems to me to be good news.

Object of Desire

[ 17 ] January 16, 2008 |

If only my computer would die….now. Now? Anything? Nope. Damn.

"Judicial Activism": It Means Nothing

[ 22 ] January 15, 2008 |

Hopefully most readers of this site are well aware at this late date that “judicial activism” in ordinary political discourse means absolutely nothing more than “judgifying conservatives don’t like.” Still, claiming that it’s unacceptable “judicial activism” for judges to adjudicate breach of contract disputes takes things to a new level of vacuity. Apparently, according to many conservative bloggers the only thing you need to know about the institutional role of courts is that if Dennis Kucinich wins a case the courts are exceeding their authority irrespective of how central to a judge’s function the underlying case might be.

…Treason In Defense of Slavery Yankee offers this penetrating analysis of the breach of contract claim:

Second, MSNBC claims that an invitation does not constitute a contract.

Well, yes, obviously, if a defendant makes a bare assertion that the suit is without merit a judge’s job is over — case dismissed! Especially if the defendant uses italics! What kind of judicial activist would believe otherwise? I’m not sure why the Supreme Court failed to rely on this well-known doctrine in its holding today; it would have saved a lot of writing…

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