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Archive for October, 2010

Friday Daddy Blogging

[ 6 ] October 29, 2010 |

Friday Daddy Blogging… Miriam and Elisha


Obama Won’t Enforce the Child Soldier Prevention Act

[ 9 ] October 29, 2010 |

I may be a fan of Obama’s performance on Comedy Central, but I’m no fan of this:

In 2009, the government of Chad conscripted refugee children for unlawful use as guards and combatants in its desert battles against rebel forces; the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo forced children to carry ammunition and supplies through the jungle, and some died under their weight; hundreds of boys and girls were forced into the army of southern Sudan, despite a commitment to release them; and in Yemen, children as young as 14 make up perhaps half the ranks of both the government’s forces and the rebels opposing them.

Despite those findings, in an annual State Department report on human trafficking, the Obama administration is allowing American military aid to continue to the four countries, issuing a waiver this week of a 2008 law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, President Obama said he had determined that the waiver was in “the national interest.”

By this, the Administration apparently means that continuing to train these militaries in counter-terrorism work takes precedence over human rights concerns (I’m shocked); but they do also make a human-security-related argument: that these countries are likelier to actually end child soldiering with help from the US rather than by having aid withdrawn entirely. Not sure how to assess that one. Josh Rogin has more detail.

There may be another element at play here: enforcing the law on other countries could make the US look hypocritical for allowing military recruiters into middle schools and blasting military recruitment ads in movie theaters during PG films. While recruiting children isn’t the same as actually deploying them, the child soldiers treaty actually bans both.


[ 3 ] October 29, 2010 |

North and South Koreans are shooting at each other.


[ 34 ] October 28, 2010 |

He should have said “yes we can, and” instead of “but.” But in general, I don’t buy the criticisms of Obama’s appearance on the Daily Show last night. Some of them seem down-right contradictory: Dana Milbank claims Obama “didn’t try to connect with his youthful audience” in the same paragraph as he claims that he should have been humiliated by Stewart calling him “dude.”

I saw the opposite: a President whose very presence on the show demonstrated a connection to the audience, who was able to laugh both at himself and with Stewart, while speaking even-handedly about his record.

To my mind, his body language was masterful.* He towered over Stewart as he entered, sat forward like a tiger ready to pounce while Stewart worked up the courage to ask tough questions, and was genial, gentlemanly and Presidential especially when he was putting Stewart firmly in his place. In short, it was refreshing to see Obama display the backbone that Colbert and Stewart often (rightly) accuse him of lacking. This doesn’t make him “defensive”; it proves he’s still got much-needed punch. It was also a pretty slick maneuver to force Stewart into 2 minutes of overtime by refusing to let him control the ending of the show. Obama doesn’t need to worry about whether someone calls him “dude.” Read more…

Another Reminder That Even Odious Politicians Can Be Subject To Misogynist Attacks

[ 45 ] October 28, 2010 |

I have to agree (as even another part of Gawker Blogpost Production Enterprises LLC that was forced to run a prominent link to  the story largely concedes) that the Gawker non-story about an attempted Christine O’Donnell hookup provides substantial evidence that the would-be hookupee is a gold-plated asshole (“She was a ‘cougar’!”   “Who didn’t have a bikini wax, which is ‘obviously’ unattractive!'” It goes on like that…) but provides nothing of interest about O’Donnell.   Evidently, if this involved a male politician the chances that this would be a story are less than nothing.    Worst of all, it doesn’t even have the flimsy “hypocrisy” angle that is usually used to justify this kind of trivia, since she apparently wanted to remain a “born-again virgin.”

No link to original, but allow me to summarize to discourage you: a single woman who is now running for Senate once made out with some guy, and then they didn’t see each other again.   He would very much like to you know that she was into it but he considered himself far better than that.    Article fails to make a convincing case for the latter proposition, although I do not (to put it mildly) have a positive impression of the future candidate.   The end.

…see also Amanda and Tracy Clark-Flory. Amanda elaborates effectively on why the “hypocrisy” charge is pretty feeble. Besides, as a general rule I’m inclined to believe that unless there’s something wrong with the underlying behavior, when it comes to outing the private acts of public figures “hypocrisy” is (to paraphrase Robert Christgau) an excuse for anything and a reason for nothing.

…more on the web outlet apparently being edited by the late Bob Guccione here, here and here. I’ll give the final word to Weigel: “Hey Gawker, I hope a one-day SEO term victory is worth the sleaziest piece of shit story in memory.”

Divided We Will Fail To Govern

[ 6 ] October 28, 2010 |

As Matt notes, David Mayhew — argbuably the country’s most important Congress scholar — has shown that while divded government affects the type of legislation passed, it has had suprisingly little effect on the quantity of legislation passed.   (You can see a quick summary of his reserach in this symposium.)   It’s always important to remember, though, that past patterns never guarantee future results in politics.    The relative similarity of united and devided government is a contingent result of certain norms and partisan alignments that for the most part don’t obtain.    Looking at Seyward Darby’s analysis of the (non)prospects for bipartisan education reform, for example, it’s clear that Senate Republicans in particular take their self-conscious obstructionism seriously, and since from a cold. self-inererested perspective their read on the incentives are correct, I’m not sure what’s going to stop them.    And even granting that the normalization of the filibuster does allow for an enormous amount of minority obstruction in periods of nominally unified government, I still find it implausible under current norms that the Republican takeover of the House won’t have much effect on the ability of Congress to pass legislation implausible.    I think the next Congress is where we see the patten Mayhew idenfitied start to break down.

That Had to Hurt…

[ 16 ] October 27, 2010 |

This is like watching a puppy getting hit by a truck, except that the puppy pretty much deserved it.

What’s the Base?

[ 22 ] October 27, 2010 |

Just a note of mild irritation in response to a number of recent tweets on the subject; while failure of outreach to his base may have been a significant strategic error for the Obama administration, that’s not really the message of this poll:

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Republicans have wiped out the advantage held by Democrats in recent election cycles among women, Roman Catholics, less affluent Americans and independents. All of those groups broke for Mr. Obama in 2008 and for Congressional Democrats when they grabbed both chambers from the Republicans four years ago, according to exit polls.

To be clear, “base” does not equal “everyone who voted for Obama in 2008.” Base, by any reasonable definition, is a subset of that total; politicians win by motivating their base in addition to chipping off bits and pieces of the opponent’s coalition, as well as by winning the very small sliver of genuine independents.  According to the poll, as far as I can tell, the losses from the Obama coalition include two of the most conservative segments (Roman Catholics and “independents”) as well as women, and I’d argue that the latter is too large and diverse a category to be appropriately termed part of the “base.”    In other words, I suspect we’re seeing the loss of the most conservative parts of the Obama victory coalition, rather than the base.  Although Obama could have done more both to shore up his base and to convince swing elements to remain in the fold, loss of these elements is entirely predictable in context.

Becoming Mark Millar

[ 21 ] October 27, 2010 |

My feelings about Mark Millar (with one notable exception) have been rehearsed often enough that you’ll probably be surprised that I allowed my students to talk me into teaching Kick Ass (the book and film) in my American Manga courses.* I hadn’t seen the film yet but knew from having read the book what to expect: a premise that’s not nearly as clever as Millar thinks it is (ahem Nemesis ahem) would be presented as if it were a brilliant counterfactual (ahem Red Son ahem) only to be violated when the opportunity arose to “cleverly” twist the narrative with no regard for the logical or moral implications such a twist entailed (ahem The Ultimates ahem).  A quick diagram of Kick Ass would work something like this:

  1. an unclever premise (what if superheroes were real?)
  2. presented as a brilliant counterfactual (they would regularly get their asses kicked! in extremely graphic ways! by amoral people!)
  3. whose logic would be violated at the first opportunity (superheroes do exist!)
  4. to “cleverly” twist the narrative (but they’re sympathetic 10-year-old girls who like to say the word “cunt”!)
  5. with no regard for the logical (supereheroes can’t exist! but they do!) or moral (Hit Girl is a sympathetic sociopath!) consequences such a twist entails

As I’ve already discussed his fascination with the word “cunt” and he’s since named his magazine after the old printing pun

Read more…

The Expected Utility is High

[ 8 ] October 27, 2010 |

Not as funny as the law school bit, but just as accurate:


Getcher Definitive World Series Predictions Here!!!

[ 21 ] October 27, 2010 |

I dunno… let’s say, Rangers in six? I do know that Josh Hamilton’s health will in some way be decisive in the outcome, unless Roy Hallday’s pitching is more important.

Where are My Missiles?

[ 12 ] October 27, 2010 |

So, the Air Force is still having problems with its nuclear weapons:

The Air Force swears there was no panic. But for three-quarters of an hour Saturday morning, launch control officers at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming couldn’t reliably communicate or monitor the status of 50 Minuteman III nuclear missiles. Gulp.

Backup security and communications systems, located elsewhere on the base, allowed the intercontinental ballistic missiles to be continually monitored. But the outage is considered serious enough that the very highest rungs on the chain of command — including the President — are being briefed on the incident today.

A single hardware failure appears to have been the root cause of the disruption, which snarled communications on the network that links the five launch control centers and 50 silos of the 319th Missile Squadron. Multiple error codes were reported, including “launch facility down.”

Whatever the specific cause of this incident, the wider pattern speaks to an organization no longer particularly interested in this mission. ICBMs are no longer sexy; the best officers go into other fields, training and recruitment suffer, and maintenance becomes a problem. Further incidents like this are inevitable.

Moreover, I fail to see the logic of this:

The incident comes at a particularly tricky time for the Obama administration, which is struggling to get the Senate to ratify a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. In conservative political circles, there’s a distrust of the nuclear cuts — and a demand that they be matched with investments in atomic weapon upgrades. Saturday’s shutdown will undoubtedly bolster that view.

Really? The failure of the Air Force to maintain control over 50 ICBMs will bolster the view that the United States needs to invest in a new generation of nuclear weapons? You’ll excuse me if I fail to see how we get from A to B on that one. The nuclear warheads atop the missiles did not fail; communications to the delivery systems did. Having the spiffiest RRW in the whole darned world wouldn’t have mattered a bit, and indeed would have been a profound waste of money if the missiles hadn’t fired. I wasn’t aware that we had to buy into the “This is excellent news for John McCain!” trope every time the Air Force screwed up. New START opponents may well invoke this incident, but there’s no reason that sensible people should pretend to take them seriously.

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