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Archive for February, 2008

Big Tanker News…

[ 14 ] February 29, 2008 |

This is rather a surprise….

Northrop Grumman and European partner EADS, parent company of Airbus, beat out presumptive favorite Boeing for the U.S. Air Force’s $40 billion, 179-plane tanker deal, according to industry sources.

The Northrop team’s A330 variant, referred to by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb as the KC-45A, reportedly beat Boeing’s militarized 767 in four of the five criteria used to measure the bids and matched in the fifth, according to one source close to the decision.

Hope everyone dumped their Boeing stock this morning.


Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] February 29, 2008 |


“First he came for Cookie Monster, and I did not speak out, because I was not the Cookie Monster….”

Elmo has barricaded himself in the closet with a pack of smokes, a sawed-off shotgun, and a year’s worth of Snickers bars.

This is the way the world ends

[ 9 ] February 29, 2008 |

Some claim that robots will arise and destroy their makers; others fear the irrepressible menace of flesh-gobbling zombies.

Daniel Nexon, however, has been tracking a danger that just may outstrip them all.

And now that the Seed Vault of Doom has opened, the silence from our presidential candidates indicates nothing less than their total complicity. Even Nader has refused to address the Svalbard Threat.

We’re through the looking glass, people.

Or Maybe No Deal…

[ 0 ] February 29, 2008 |

This was quick; maybe rumors about Kitty Hawk were being deployed strategically?

India and Russia have ended a protracted dispute over the cost of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier which will be now sold at a higher price to the Indian navy in 2011, officials said Feb. 28.

Indian Defence Secretary V. K. Singh, returning from Moscow, said a new undisclosed price had been agreed upon for the 44,570-ton Admiral Gorshkov.

Russian export firm Rosoboronexport in 2004 signed a deal to refurbish the carrier for $970 million but last year demanded India pay an additional $1.2 billion.

Singh declined to give details of the negotiations but conceded “there will be a substantial increase in the “reworked estimate” for the modernization of the 30-year-old ship.

I have to think it’s unlikely that either a) the Indians will back out of a deal that they made yesterday, or b) that the Indian Navy will want to deploy two carrier battle groups (likely with different aircraft) in the near future. So I’d have to say that the chances of the transfer look dim.

As Astute a Judge of Music As Politics

[ 75 ] February 29, 2008 |

Brad actually lets the most amazing thing about Richard Cohen’s column slide:

She seems unknowable, and there is that melancholy Billie Holiday air about her — all those songs about a suffering woman. Most of us would prefer Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),” the upbeat theme of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign.

Apparently, this is supposed to be…an insult to Clinton? Wow.

Where Is The Next Liberal Justice Coming From?

[ 34 ] February 28, 2008 |

Jeffrey Rosen brings up an interesting point about the judicial options for the next Democratic president. The recent Republican dominance of the White House leaves the Democrats with a very small group within the most desirable target candidates (relatively young, female or Hispanic, significant appellate court experience.) This will especially be true if the President has to appoint a justice quickly and doesn’t have time to install a future candidate as Bush did with Roberts. I definitely like the idea of perhaps going outside the appellate courts for a first nominee; as Rosen notes many fine justices have come from that background. Rosen also usefully reminds that Elena Kagan, a potentially strong candidate, “was nominated to the D.C. Circuit at the end of the last Clinton administration and never got a hearing.” Why, it’s almost enough to make me think that the Deeply Principled Republican arguments that Teh Constitution!!!!111One!!!1! requires nominees to get an up-or-down vote were a cynical ruse.

This is also an interesting point:

But a choice like this might be controversial among Democratic activists in the John Edwards wing of the party, who feel the current Democratic justices are already too sympathetic to business. The statistics here bear them out. On the Roberts Court, both Democratic and Republican justices have been remarkably pro-business: The Chamber of Commerce won 13 of the 15 cases in which it filed friend-of-the-court briefs last year, many by near-unanimous margins. In light of this, some Democratic interest groups may prefer a more populist candidate without an extensive resume as a corporate lawyer.

Yesterday’s oral argument in the Exxon Valdez punitive damages case starkly revealed Roberts’s slavish pro-business tendencies, but Breyer — who has joined (and written) opinions finding limits on punitive damages in the due process clause — at times also appeared sympathetic to Exxon’s arguments. Cases involving business interests is an area where the relative moderation of the current Court’s more liberal faction is particularly important.

Can’t Say This is for the Gipper

I agree with everything Jill says here. This is about the most brazen campaign ad I’ve seen yet. And I don’t think it’s doing Hillary Clinton any favors (see Jill for more on that), especially given how different Hillary Clinton and Ann Richards really are. Where Richards was profane, Clinton is tight-lipped. Where Richards was a rabble rouser, Clinton looks to smooth ruffled feathers. Where Richards spoke her mind, Hillary speaks her tactics.

Also, it’s not as if Richards left the kind of statement that Molly Ivins did to speak from beyond the grave. Who’s to say Ann Richards wouldn’t have agreed with her fellow Texan? Certainly not the Clinton campaign.

Kitty Hawk to India?

[ 0 ] February 28, 2008 |

Last August I wrote:

It’s unclear whether the Indians will keep Viraat around for another three years or accept a carrier deployment gap. It’s kind of interesting to me that, in spite of our newfound tight friendship with the Indians, I haven’t heard a peep about selling India one of the six supercarriers the US currently has rusting in mothballs. Although five of the six have been stripped down (Kennedy is just beginning the process), I can’t imagine that they’re in much worse condition than the Russian ship, and even though older, the US carriers are much larger, more effective platforms than the Russian Gorshkov will ever be.

And now, via Drum:

As reports begin to suggest that Russia and India are too far apart to agree on the Gorshkov refit, speculation grows that the USA intends to solve India’s problem with a stunning offer during Defense Secretary Gates’ imminent visit to india. instead of retiring and decommissioning its last conventionally-powered carrier, the 81,800 ton/ 74,200t USS Kitty Hawk [CV-63, commissioned 1961], would be handed over to India when its current tour in Japan ends in 2008. The procedure would resemble the January 2007 “hot transfer” of the amphibious landing ship USS Trenton [LPD-14], which become INS Jalashva. The cost? This time, it would be free. As in, $0.

As a number of sources point out, this is a multi-pronged move that would achieve a number of objectives all at once. First, the offer removes all Russian negotiating leverage over India by removing the issues of sunk costs, foreign possession of the Vikramaditya, and any danger of being left without a carrier. The Indian Navy would be greatly strengthened, and its ability to police the Indian Ocean from the Straits of Malacca to South Africa would take a huge leap forward. Any additional work to upgrade or refurbish the carrier could be undertaken in India, providing jobs and expertise while maintaining full national control over the refit. The USA gains financial benefits of its own, as the Navy avoids the expensive task of steaming the Kitty Hawk home and decommissioning it. Americans would almost certainly receive maintenance contracts for the steam catapults, and possibly for some new electronics, but those economic benefits pale in comparison to the multi-billion dollar follow-on wins for Boeing (Super Hornet), Northrop Grumman (E-2 Hawkeye), and possibly even Lockheed Martin (F-16 E/F, F-35B). All of which works to cement a growing strategic alliance between the two countries, and creates deep defense industrial ties as well.

In short, pretty much everyone wins. Except for the Russians; they lose.

…I probably should actually explain why I think this is a good idea. On the US side, it makes good fiscal sense; the Kitty Hawk would be expensive to tear down and put into reserve, so giving her to the Indians actually saves money. The F/A-18 deal (or whatever fighter aircraft we sell) also makes a fair amount of economic sense, and down the road India may be another F-35 customer. The US also wins, I think, from an increase in Indian naval capacity; an extra carrier in the Indian Ocean makes for more secure sea lanes, etc. On the Indian side, I think it’s fair to say that the Kitty Hawk is significantly more capable than the Gorshkov is likely to be, even with the Russian refurbishment. Indeed, in a stroke India will have the second most powerful carrier fleet in the world. I’ve seen some concerns regarding the state of the Kitty Hawk; the JFK was newer, but in terrible condition when she was finally decommissioned. Again, this is basically a comparison issue, and I find it hard to believe that Kitty Hawk will be in worse condition that the Gorshkov. The Kitty Hawk will represent a leap forward in Indian naval aviation capability.

On the political side, the issues are with Pakistan and Russia. Of the latter, I could care less; the Russians promised to deliver the Indians a carrier at a certain time and at a certain price, and have failed utterly. If the Indians tell the Russians to fuck off it’s their own business, and not ours. The Pakistanis are more of a concern; as a direct military contribution the Kitty Hawk wouldn’t make that much of a difference in an Indo-Pakistani War, but it does send a message that we’re solidifying a relationship with India. But I’m okay with that; if we can solidify a friendly relationship with the world’s largest democracy without gutting the NPT, it’s a good thing.

We Rock – and We’re Racist! Woo Hoo!

Picking up on Rob’s earlier post about our ever-growing prison population, it’s worth noting that not only do we now have more than 1 in every 100 people incarcerated in the U.S., but we also have greater-than-ever racial disparities in whom we imprison. From Liptak:

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

That one-in-nine number is shocking. The high rate of incarcerated black men is no doubt due in large part to the war on (some classes of people who use some) drugs; this also accounts (at least in part) for the difference in incarceration rates for white women and black women.

Besides being racist, our prison policy is counterproductive. It doesn’t ensure community safety. It’s crushingly expensive. It doesn’t “rehabilitate” people. And as Marie Gottschalk argues in her book The Prison and the Gallows, prisons have become our alternative social “safety net” — how we deal with social problems like poverty that we don’t have the political will to actually address. Instead of providing social services and restructuring our educational system, we lock people up.

A Million Years?

[ 13 ] February 28, 2008 |

And when did the Weekly Standard start hiring twelve year olds?

We Rock!

[ 21 ] February 28, 2008 |


Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

I’m proud to be a citizen of a country tough enough and free enough to imprison 1% of its adult population.

Let freedom ring, baby.


[ 0 ] February 28, 2008 |

Feral Mom admits to having conversed from time to time about books she hasn’t actually read.

[A]s I reflect on my literary sins, I have to admit that Pride and Prejudice is just the tip of this fraudulent iceberg. There’s all sorts of books that I’ve fronted like I read–so effectively, in some cases, that I’ve even fooled myself–for years now. Books I always intended to read, hell, books sitting on my goddamn shelf, that I just haven’t gotten around to reading.

The sad part is? I’m an, erm, English major. Hell, I have an advanced degree in literature. Should I be stripped (heh heh) of my degree? You be the judge. In any case, confession is good for the soul, so I present for your perusal the Fraudulent Five. These are all books that I’ve talked about in mixed company and have never actually read–in some cases, haven’t even cracked the cover.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Crime and Punishment, and Moby Dick make the list, among several others.

I’m not sure I could come up with a similar list, mainly because I’ve successfully persuaded most people that I’m illiterate. I did eventually get around to reading Crime and Punishment in college, three years after writing a high school term paper about Raskolnikov’s tortured conscience; same thing for Huckleberry Finn and Inferno, both of which served as the basis for my junior thesis. As for Moby Dick, I started reading that eleven years ago and have been about 100 pages from finishing ever since. Meantime, I’ve forgotten everything about the book, which means I’d pretty much have to start all over. Screw that. I’m just going to assume he gets the goddamn whale.

Nevertheless, during the ordinary course of lecturing, I occasionally mention books I’ve never seen or picked up. I don’t necessarily make any direct claims, but I imagine students actually think I’ve read them. Last week, for example, I discussed James Peck’s Freedom Ride, which I can discuss for about 45 seconds only because I’ve read about it via second-hand sources. It’s a short book that I really should read, but like Feral Mom, I’d guess the likelihood of that happening is somewhere beneath 50 percent.

By far the strangest unread book I discuss in class is The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, a notorious specimen of anti-Catholic propaganda/soft porn from the mid-1830s. I spend a couple of minutes on it during conversations about antebellum nativism. A slightly edited version is apparently available through Google Books, so I really have no excuse now.

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