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Archive for November, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

[ 0 ] November 26, 2008 |

The revised manuscript.

By the way, has Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser “gone John Galt” yet? It’s difficult to see how the country could be sustained with a reduction in wingnut blogging, but during times of crisis sacrifices are sometimes necessary.

More on Turkey

[ 0 ] November 26, 2008 |

This is right. Admittedly, traditions being self-justifying is less harmless when it comes to one meal a year as opposed to, say, when Antonin Scalia uses this logic with respect to the 14th Amendment…

Plus, of course, everyone knows that the history is erroneous.

Also, Al Gore is Fat…

[ 0 ] November 26, 2008 |

In my darker moments at the end of the semester, I sometimes find myself complaining to no one in particular that kids these days lack basic research skills and that their written work often reads like mediocre paraphrasing of Wikipedia entries.

Then again, it could be worse. Politico, for instance, should be lucky enough to hire reporters who actually know how to use Google. If Erika Lovley had even bothered to looked at the wiki entry for her major piece of “evidence” of growing scientific doubt about global climate change, she’d have discovered that the “31,000 scientists” on the laughable Oregon Petition included “Perry Mason,” “Geri Halliwell,” and someone by the name of “Redwine, Ph.D.” For the sheer fun of it, I just might sign the petition and stuff it in the late afternoon mail, thus blending my skeptical voice with fellow Alaskans “Edward M. Dokoozian” (a “Certified Safety Professional”), “Monte D. Mabry” (a staff geologist for ConocoPhillips), and dozens of other folks whose existence on the internet consists, so far as I’m able to tell, entirely of having “signed” the petition….

No word on whether “Ronald Ruck, Ph.D.” and “Rickey Rouse, DDS” have added their names to the list.

The rest of the piece is equally pathetic and weird. Did you know the Farmer’s Almanac “predicted that the next year will see a period of cooling”? If you’re the sort of person who doubts the predictive wisdom of the FA, you’re probably the sort of person who doubts that “if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it will rain for 40 more”. It’s scientifical!

Cities of the Plains

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

I’m not sure I’m convinced by this argument:

Economic geography tells us that market potential is important. If you want to be a rich place, it helps to be close to other rich places. This is one of the problems with the Rust Belt. Individually, Rust Belt cities are weaker than cities on the east coast — they have smaller economies and less human capital. This is complicated by the fact that they’re fairly isolated. The rich cities of the northeast corridor are squeezed together, while Rust Belt cities are far apart — from each other and from the rich cities of the east coast. This means that they have less to work with, and they’re less able to leverage that strength in a regional economy. For this reason, I’ve argued that it’s important to invest in individual cities in the Rust Belt, but it’s also important to improve connections between the cities. To effectively bring them closer together.

High-speed rail would, in other words, turn Rust Belt distances into northeast corridor distances, while also shifting the Rust Belt closer to the northeast corridor. It would increase the return to doing business in every city in the region. It would be the Erie Canal and the original railroads on steroids.

I like the high speed rail idea, but I’m not sure I buy the argument that distance is the real problem in the Rust Belt. Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver really aren’t that close to each other by Midwest standards, yet they all seem to be doing fine. Denver is very far from anything of consequence, yet is typically regarded as a wealthy city. I haven’t done any research, and so my thinking could be all wrong (maybe Cincy and Cleveland are richer than Seattle and Portland in some non-obvious way?) but cities that aren’t really close to other cities would also seem to benefit from being regional centers of consumption. Maybe there’s some kind of upside down bell curve, such that close proximity and relative isolation are good for growth, while middling distances are a problem? Or perhaps the experience of the coastal cities of the West isn’t transferable to the Midwest (this wouldn’t apply to Denver, though)?

Via Ezra.

German Intelligence Did What Now?

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

Somebody explain to me how this makes sense:

A small explosion in Kosovo is quickly growing into a much bigger incident after the authorities in the capital, Pristina, arrested three Germans, alleged to be intelligence operatives, in connection with an attack on the building that houses the European Union’s special representative there.

A judge in Kosovo remanded the three men – who media outlets there and in Germany have reported are members of the German foreign intelligence agency, the BND – to 30 days of investigative custody Saturday. On Monday in Berlin, a government spokesman, Thomas Steg, called the charge that Germany was involved in terrorist attacks abroad “absurd,” but declined to comment on whether the men were intelligence agents or, as has also been alleged, members of the German Army, the Bundeswehr.

Sounds like a job for the Sandbaggers.

A Lack of Doctors

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

Via Megan Carpentier, Patricia Meisol has a very interesting article about the small number of medical practitioners who choose to become aboriton providers. One factor is the fact that the skills are not easily acquired at many medical schools (“Even in Maryland, where about 61 percent of voters approved a referendum guaranteeing abortion in 1992 and which has the fourth-highest abortion rate in the country, abortion is not taught in any formal lectures at the state’s flagship medical school.”) Another important factor is the lingering effects of the terrorism directed at abortion clinics in the 80s and 90s:

Regardless of specialty, doctors who perform abortions sign up for a lifestyle unlike any other in medicine, a subculture replete with drawn blinds, shredders, and security guards at professional conventions. Violence against abortion providers has declined markedly since the 1980s and ’90s, when several doctors were killed or injured in shootings across the country and scores of clinics were torched or bombed, according to abortion federation data.

Myron Rose, a longtime College Park abortion provider who spoke at the seminar Lesley attended, wept as he described the difficult search for new office space after his clinic was firebombed in 1984. But that, he assured Lesley and the other medical students, was “antique times.”

Even so, those involved with abortion remain extremely cautious. Doctors take cover in the anonymity of large hospitals and debate whether to take their spouses’ surnames and how best to protect their children. Some avoid speaking publicly about abortion.

It is true that the legislation passed during the 90s was very effective at curtailing violence, but the precautions that abortion providers still have to take continues to have a chilling effect on the number of doctors willing to provide the service. Somehow, I’m inclined to think that the ongoing effects of this much more recent and successful terrorist campaign is more relevant to contemporary politics than Bill Ayers.

Proper Use Of Incentives

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

Yglesias commenter “hupcapiv” is making sense:

I’ll bail out out [any] writer who promises not to use the tiresome Friedman-esque phrase “it’s not X, it’s X on steroids.”

I continue to endorse this idea. Some other fine choices here, although were he to write it today I’m sure the Editors would include “under the bus,” “close the deal [at least in political context],” and “game changer.”

The Arrival

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

Peter the Great has arrived in Venezuela:

The flag of Venezuela already flies on the mast. It is naval tradition to fly the flag of the countries in whose port you are conducting a friendly visit. Today the sailors checked out the missile tubes. The Peter the Great’s armament will be shown to the presidents of both countries.

What is there to show? The Peter the Great is the largest non-aircraft carrier warship in the world. Two hundred and fifty meters of steel with dozens of missile tubes. And beneath each of these three ton hatches lays the main battery – the Granit nuclear anti-ship cruise missile (RNB comment – Huh! Well how about that!). As opposed to American cruise missiles, the Granit flies to its target at supersonic speed like a fighter jet. There is no ship as powerful as the Peter the Great in the world.

After finishing exercises with Venezuela, Peter the Great and his task force will head to India. After that, Galrahn speculates they might be on their way to Somalia.

That Sounds Like a Terrible Idea

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners thinks that a blockade of Somali ports would be more effective against pirates than shipping escort. The European Community Shipowners Association thinks that air and cruise missile attacks on pirate bases would be even more effective. And the Russians, apparently, believe that direct land-based attacks on pirate strongholds are necessary:

NATO, the European Union and others should launch land operations against bases of Somali pirates in coordination with Russia, the Russian ambassador to NATO said on Wednesday.

Dmitry Rogozin said the view of Russian experts was that naval action alone, even involving a large fleet of a powerful nation, would not be enough to defeat the pirates, given Somalia’s geo-strategic position.

“So it is up to NATO, the EU and other major stakeholders to conduct not a sea operation, but in fact a land coastal operation to eradicate the bases of pirates on the ground,” he said.

Let’s take these in reverse order. The idea of a NATO/EU/Russian invasion of Somalia (which is what ground based attacks would amount to) strikes me as crazy. David Axe:

Please recall that the last time Western troops had a large presence in Somalia, in 1993, 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalis died in a brutal gun battle. And much of the bloodshed in Somalia today is an outgrowth of a brutal Ethiopian occupation. Somalia is not the kind of place you invade lightly, and certainly not just to kill a few pirates.

I’m also less than convinced by the airstrike option. Pirates may have offices and known operation centers like everyone else, but I doubt that much organizational capital is tied up in fixed land infrastructure; rather, I suspect that the capital is in ships, human expertise, and organizational/tribal loyalties, the last two of which cannot be easily destroyed with cruise missiles. Striking pirate motherships in port might make some sense, if you could reliably differentiate them from normal shipping. But any such strike would run the risk of civilian casualties, and the piracy problem just isn’t serious enough to take gambles like that.

I don’t know about the close blockade concept; my hunch is that there are too many points of egress on the Somali coast and too few ships to carry out a full blockade. A close blockade would also put naval vessels at risk of attack from small boats; it’s very unlikely that we’d see suicide attacks off Somalia, but I expect that the various navies would be too paranoid about the idea to actually go for it.

Axe gets it right, I think:

Ending piracy means encouraging Somalis to establish law and order on their own territory, while deterring pirates with naval patrols in international waters. An armed invasion would be counter-productive, by exacerbating the present nationalist insurgency and prolonging the country’s instability.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

[ 0 ] November 25, 2008 |

Hinderaker, via Dave Weigel:

Obama thinks he is a good talker, but he is often undisciplined when he speaks. He needs to understand that as President, his words will be scrutinized and will have impact whether he intends it or not. In this regard, President Bush is an excellent model; Obama should take a lesson from his example. Bush never gets sloppy when he is speaking publicly. He chooses his words with care and precision, which is why his style sometimes seems halting. In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders he has committed. If Obama doesn’t raise his standards, he will exceed Bush’s total before he is inaugurated.

I am struck speechless.

Bad ideas in the form of constitutional law

[ 0 ] November 24, 2008 |

Sandy Levinson, a professor of law and political science, has been arguing for several years now that academics pay way too much attention, relatively speaking, to the rights provisions of the Constitution, and not nearly enough to what he calls its hard-wired structural features. One reason this is so is obvious: the hard-wired features don’t produce any litigation to argue about.

A nice example is the 20th amendment. 73% of law professors and 99.95% of normal humans can’t tell you anything about it, but what it did was, among other things, close the gap from the presidential popular vote to the inauguration from 4 months to two and a half. Four months made a certain amount of sense in the 18th century, before Blackberries and Wi-Fi, but can anybody come up with an argument for why, in 2008, in the middle of a severe financial crisis, etc. etc., it’s a good thing for us to be stuck with two and a half more months of George W. Bush in the lamest of duck blinds, while Obama “signals” this and “hints” at that?

It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s in the Constitution so we’re stuck with it, more or less. Like a lot of other stuff.

Hunting Humans

[ 0 ] November 24, 2008 |

I think Kim du Toit has been reading The Corner lately:

[A]n increasingly large cohort of America in the lower 48 (and probably Hawaii) are p—-ies. They have no clue where their food comes from, they don’t hunt, they don’t fish, so they get to act all high and mighty about scenes like [the Sarah Palin "Faces of Turkey Death" video].

In Alaska, they have critters that consider humans food. Absent high powered rifles, humans are not at the apex of the food chain in Alaska. That will tend to give people a different perspective than the silk pantywaists in the lower 48.

I wish people would stop with this sort of nonsense, but surely they won’t. For the record, there are no “critters in Alaska that consider humans food” unless — like the unmourned Timothy Treadwell — you defy every sensible piece of advice and hang around famished grizzly elders who would (and did) kill you after all the dead salmon had been harvested. It’s true that polar bears would gobble a human or two — but here again, only under conditions of extreme ecological duress, such as the disappearance of summer ice in the Arctic (which, I remind everyone, our governor doesn’t seem to think is a problem.) Even this, though, would place maybe 1% of Alaskans at risk of being gnawed on by a starving, rogue bear who would much rather eat your dog or your garbage than you.

But here’s the bottom line: so far as animals are concerned, humans are not terribly appealing as a source of food. I suppose there’s a species of conservative who derives an extra surge of adrenaline from the claim that people aren’t at the top of a regional food chain, but these are apparently the same people who equate hunting and fishing with stuffing a turkey into a killing funnel…

(via Ahab)

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