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Archive for July, 2009


[ 0 ] July 25, 2009 |

The hospital we’re staying at is right next to a Planned Parenthood Clinic. Every day, we drive past the assortment of freaks holding up pictures of dead fetuses, and every day I flip them off. I do sometimes wonder if the protesters understand that I’m flipping them off, rather than the clinic, but it’s the thought that counts. In any case, the experience only serves to increase my admiration and appreciation for these folks.

H/t Elise.


How Did Urch Die?

[ 0 ] July 24, 2009 |

It’s certainly possible that Neanderthal X died in a violent confrontation with modern humans. However, I think that there’s always a danger in reading our own social understandings into a historical record. There are innumerable scenarios under which the Neanderthal in question could have died, and while “genocidal no-holds-barred Human-Neanderthal throw down” is one of them, it’s not the only or even the most compelling. Perhaps the most interesting question is why we seem to leap to the genocide explanation. What alternative narrative of the death of Neanderthal X can we imagine? Hmmm…. What can we imagine….

Cast of Characters:
Throg, Chairman, Neanderthal-Human Friendship Committee
Steve, Chief Executive, Neanderthal-Human Friendship Games
Urch, Gold Medalist and Record Holder, Spear Toss
Chuck, Silver Medalist, Spear Toss
Githrak, Drunken fan

Scene: Neanderthal-Human Friendship Games, Year of the Sea Pig

Throg: Ah, Chuck; good to see you again. Games are going well. Excellent work this year.
Steve: Many thanks, Throg. Couldn’t have done it without the support of the committee as a whole.
Throg: Ah, time for the Spear Toss. Urch, planning to break last year’s record?
Urch: Going to give it 110%.
Steve: I notice you’re competing for the human team this year. That’s quite a shift.
Urch: Well, there were some sponsor issues.
Steve: Of course.
Throg: Hope that the change in teams doesn’t make you go soft, Urch. Chuck here has been hungry for this for a long time.
Chuck: Oh, no worries. I don’t think that Urch is going to take it easy on me.
[Hearty laugh all around]
Steve: Alright, on my mark….1…2…3… Urch Go!
[Urch throws spear]
Chuck: Damn.
Throg: That was one hell of a throw.
Urch: Got all of it. [Urch runs to retrieve spear, as Chuck prepares]
Githrak: [carrying 44 oz beer, slurring speech] Damnnnn. Ain’t nuthin, Chuck. You gots it.
Steve: Think that’s a record, Throg?
Throg: Maybe so!
Githrak: Go Chuck. Go Chuck. Go Chuck!! CHUCK GO!!! [Chuck throws spear, hitting Urch]
Throg: Oh, gods no!
Chuck: Urch…. my friend…. oh no….
Urch: [gasps] Chuck…. why? [gurgles, and expires]
Throg: This is horrible! Who could have thought that spear tossing would lead to tragedy?
Steve: This event is bound to shake the sport of Spear Tossing to its very foundations, Throg.


Readers are invited to develop their own scenario in comments.

The Triad

[ 0 ] July 24, 2009 |

Via Ezra, this is an interesting post from Gordon Adams:

For a major program to emerge, thrive, and survive, it takes basically three players: the service that wants and will advocate for the program, a contractor for whom the program is major business, and members of Congress who either sit on the key committees that decide on the program or represent the district or state where the program, or parts of it, are made. In a word: the Iron Triangle for the program….

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates withdrew support from the F-22, he clearly persuaded the Air Force to withdraw the military leg under the F-22 stool. When the Air Force went public about its official view, the stool started to wobble.

Even a second leg became less sturdy. Lockheed-Martin, the contractor, announced it would not lobby (hard) for the program, perhaps because it has many other equities in other programs at DOD. This reduced the pressure on the third leg, the Congress. Key members – some from key states and districts, some from key committees – fought hard for the program. But a two-legged stool is weak, and a one-and-a-half legged stool even weaker.

What’s interesting to me is that many within the Air Force very clearly wanted to continue procurement of the F-22; support for the project among both the brass and the rank and file seemed pretty strong, in spite of the official position dictated by Gates. Indeed, it seems to me that the institutional part of the stool has two distinct parts. The first is the service itself, which has a variety of ways to fight for a project despite the official position of the Pentagon. The second part of that stool is the SecDef and the White House. Even if the SecDef wants to kill a project, he may not be able to override service opposition, especially if the service is willing to mobilize support in Congress and in industry.

In this case, Gates has enough cred (relative success in Iraq, bipartisan credentials) that he was able to crush service opposition. I have serious questions, however, about whether a weaker SecDef could have successfully imposed his preferences.

Slouching Towards a Daddy Blog…

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

Welcome Sarah Palin Farley and Michelle Bachmann Farley Diplomacy Patterson Farley and International Commerce Farley Proctor Gamble Farley and Skyline Chili Farley Elisha Fiona Farley and Miriam Belanna Farley to the world. Mother and daughters are doing well.

Girls, if this post is still up fifty years from now, I want you to know that I am absolutely not disappointed by any failure on your part to become a Cabinet Secretary, an Admiral, or a professional athlete. Any two out of three will be just fine.

Voting Against G.W. Bush until 2050?

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |
On the erosion of the racial gap in turnout.

I’ve wanted to say something about this since yesterday.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to give it a proper analysis (nor do I now, really), and a cursory perusal of other blogs had not, as of last night (PDT), anything.  If it holds, it is not good for the burnt-out shell of the Republican Party.

Turnout is, in general, habitual, and it’s a habit that is either formed or not formed young — usually the first three election cycles one is eligible to participate in.  The decision to or not to vote in the initial opportunity can be influenced by many conditions, such as the competitiveness and/or salience of the election, or the presence of a particularly attractive candidate.  
I’m not going out on a limb when I speculate that the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S. featured the latter, especially in relation to certain racial categories.  The question that many will ask is whether or not these new voters hold.  This will make the 2010 Congressional elections informative for several reasons.  My suspicion is, backed by what we know from past elections, that the surge in turnout the youth cohort demonstrated in 2008 will hold.  It will fluctuate, of course, but it will hold in the main.
The problem that this presents for the Republicans is two-fold.  First, voters tend to maintain the party loyalties that they establish in their first few elections.  Again, this is on average, and there are anecdotal exceptions to the rule, but it is a general principle.  Second, the surge in turnout in the young cohort was not limited to African-Americans, but also Latinos and Asians.  If the Republicans continue pandering to their open-minded, inquisitive, generously tolerant Palinesque base, they’re only going to solidify these voters as Democrats.  
In other words, keep digging deep, suckers.
I’d expand upon this and link up a bunch of the literature, but I don’t have the time.  The L.O.M.L. and I are off to the Oregon Brewers Festival, where I understand beer can be purchased and consumed.
Final note: warm congratulations to Rob and Davida.

Men at hack work

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

For egregious data dredging in the service of intellectual dishonesty it would be hard to top this: : “If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade.”

Thus does George Will quote noted climate scientist Mark Steyn in the pages of the increasingly discreditable Washington Post.

The idea, if you want to call it that, is because 1998 was the single hottest year on record there hasn’t been any global warming since then, even though this decade has on average been hotter than the 1990s, which in turn was hotter than any previous decade. (The ten hottest years on record include 1997, 1998, and every year since 2000).

h/t Yglesias

Do they Wear Pantsuits to Primary School in North Korea?

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

Kessler, via Drezner:

The war of words between North Korea and the United States escalated Thursday, with North Korea’s Foreign Ministry lashing out at Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in unusually personal terms for “vulgar remarks” that it said demonstrated “she is by no means intelligent.”

The Foreign Ministry statement attacking Clinton also amply demonstrated the North Korean mood. “We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to North Korean media. “Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.”

In fairness, Clinton did compare the North Koreans to unruly toddlers and teenagers. Nevertheless, the Nork rhetoric vaguely reminds me of Daily Kos threads from the early days of the 2008 Democratic primary…

Rethinking Chem-Bio Capabilities

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

Al Mauroni argues that we’re bringing third-generation thinking to a fourth generation fight:

Military analysts and politicians continue to view NBC weapons and CBRN hazards in terms of third-generation warfare. Any use of chemical, biological or radiological weapons, no matter how small, is considered a mass-destruction situation.

Terrorist groups and insurgents rely on locally available materials and nonstate-affiliated personnel to acquire conventional weapons. At best, terrorist attempts to employ CBRN hazards as weapons will result in small-scale, single attacks with limited casualties.

There is no better example than Iraqi insurgents’ failed use of chlorine tanks within vehicle-embedded improvised explosive devices. Those insurgents stopped employing this tactic because it didn’t work, yet military analysts point to this singularity and call it the beginning of terrorist WMD ambitions.

It is not easy to obtain military-grade CBRN material, to make military-grade CBRN material or to effectively disperse such agents. Without access to tons of CBR material and a good dispersion system, the capability to cause mass casualties decreases dramatically. If terrorists attempt to develop a WMD-like capability, they will attract much more attention and are liable to be interdicted at multiple points in the process of executing their plot.

Certainly, it is possible to obtain toxic inhalation hazards, develop small amounts of biological toxins, or gain quantities of radiological material and develop improvised methods to disperse them. Nonstate actors can employ improvised CBRN weapons, but these are not WMD capabilities. Nation-state WMD programs are still a significant threat, but we need to stop acting as if nonstate actors can duplicate that threat.

Relying on counter-WMD strategies and military defense equipment that anticipate terrorist use of NBC weapons will not protect the public or armed forces. We need to desegregate counterproliferation, counterterrorism and homeland security responsibilities and strategies. We need to focus on developing discrete capabilities that address the distinct threats of military NBC weapons and terrorist CBRN hazards.

Looking forward to the QDR….

A Defense Umbrella?

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

Here’s something that I don’t understand: The United States currently maintains 4 major proxies in the Middle East. Between Israel, Iraq, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia we’ve managed to cover a huge proportion of the region’s population, territory, oil reserves, and military capability. In addition to these four major clients, we probably have half a dozen minor clients. The “US client-to-state-ratio” in the Middle East has got to be the highest in the world. Given this, why is it always necessary to further proclaim defense “umbrellas”? Don’t patrons have clients for a reason? And don’t clients have patrons for a reason?

F-22 Still Clings Tenaciously to Life?

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

The F-22 has a faint heartbeat in the House of Representatives, but appears to be slipping away:

The committee voted July 22 to spend $369 million to buy another dozen F-22s, but Rep. David Obey, the committee chairman, said that has to change.

In light of the Senate vote and a threat from the White House to veto any bill that contains money for new F-22s, Obey said House appropriators must “recognize that conditions have changed” on the F-22.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said he tried to draft an amendment “to adjust for the F-22,” but he “couldn’t get it together fast enough” for the Appropriations Committee’s 9 a.m. markup and vote.

An aide said Murtha now plans to offer an amendment that would spend the $369 million on spare parts and engines for existing F-22s rather than on new ones, an aide said. The amendment would be proposed when the full House takes up the defense spending bill, probably July 30.

Two thoughts:

  1. If Murtha is moving to the acceptance stage of grief, then the F-22 is pretty much done.
  2. Given the fact that we actually do operate 187 F-22s, and that they apparently have ridiculously high maintenance costs, I’m curious about the spare part and engine proposal; does it simply accelerate already planned purchases? Or could it be a back door to further acquisition of new aircraft?

Seriously, Fred Hiatt is a Disaster

[ 0 ] July 23, 2009 |

Jeffrey Lewis gets shrill.

Hey, the Mariners Won in ’95 Without Griffey, Why Not England Without Pietersen?

[ 0 ] July 22, 2009 |

The gap of 10 days between the second and third tests of the 2009 Ashes series represents the longest such fallow period of the series.  This is a good opportunity to take a look at where the series stands.

As an aside, for the uninitiated, the Ashes, competed between England and Australia every two years (or so, as it’s home and away, and cricket is a summer game, adjustments have to be made) are considered one of sports all time (insert various cliche’ dripping adjectives here) rivalries.  It’s certainly a Big Deal in both England (and Wales) and Australia, and the way this series is shaping up sort of, when I’m not on my guard or paying close enough attention, makes me miss spending the summer in England.  One of the many weird rules of the sport and series is that if the result after five tests is a draw, the side currently holding the Ashes retains it.  Hence, while England are currently up with one win, one draw, and three to play, we still have to consider the Australians favorites to retain the Ashes.
For starters, this news can not possibly be spun as a positive for England.  Pietersen has not had a great series by his standards, but he remains England’s single biggest run scoring threat.  Granted, he was clearly playing injured, but any analysis of England’s chances for a series victory hinged on Pietersen to some degree.  Without a fit KP, it’s difficult to see how the weakness of this England side in scoring runs can be addressed.  The 2005 side had Pietersen well in form, Flintoff in form with the bat that he will never recapture, Trescothick, and Vaughan (who, while inconsistent, did hit for 166 in the first innings in the third test).  In 2009, Strauss had a sublime second test, and Collingwood has shown flashes, but batting has to be considered a weakness.  Losing Pietersen hurts (though Rob Smyth at The Guardian isn’t too concerned . . . )  Ian Bell appears the likely replacement, though there are other options.  Indeed, I agree with commenter Max Bartlett in response to the previous on The Times when he writes:

“The selectors should travel down to Taunton, go down on bended knee and beg Marcus T to come back. His form clearly makes him the best replacement for KP.”

The Pietersen saga has drowned out any other Ashes news today, but over at Ashes HQ, they have an excellent midterm report card on the performance of each player for each side in the first two tests.  Of course, that the writer covering Australia uses a 10-point system, while the writer covering England an A-F system, should be no barrier in comparing the two analyses.
On to football (soccer), all I can say about this is what the hell?
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