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BSG wins the Buffy

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

Battlestar Galactica has won Salon’s prestigious “Buffy” award for television’s most underappreciated show. Previous winners include The Wire and Veronica Mars. This bit is particularly nice:

Ten reasons not to watch “Battlestar Galactica”:

1. No light sabers. Not a one.

2. The gripping, conflicted experiment with democracy aboard Galactica seems too unrealistic. Politicians make good decisions and elections are always fair!

3. Where’s the fat, goofy husband?

4. The personal crises on the show — breast cancer, loss of loved ones, the brutal disillusionment of loving someone you can never have — are unbelievable. They live on a spaceship! Now, if they lived on Wisteria Lane …

5. I don’t want a President Roslin, with her clear-eyed pragmatism and steely political instincts, when I can have the portentous speechifying of President Bartlet!

6. A woman president? Come on, it’s already science fiction, why tip over into the realm of fantasy like “Commander-in-Chief”?

7. The Cylons (the terrorists!) seem to exhibit real emotions and possibly humanlike feelings, creating constant existential crises for the Galactica staff. That’s silly. In real life, the good guys are always clearly distinguishable from the bad guys.

8. There’s too much realistic adventure and too many pulse-racing fight scenes; I don’t like to get that excited.

9. William Shatner hasn’t made a single guest appearance!

10. I like my science fiction peopled with multi-nostriled characters sporting thick, blue, leathery skin. Too many of the “Battlestar Galactica” characters are preposterously hot, and stubbornly refuse to ooze green, viscous liquids. Who wants that?


Better France than Italy

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

Yglesias points to this excellent article on Italian and French military capabilities. In brief, “thanks, but no thanks” is probably the best response to an offer of Italian military support and leadership, especially when other options are available. The French military has consistently displayed a high level of expertise in peacekeeping and other low intensity operations (Rwanda notwithstanding, which suffered from problems more political than military in any case), and are probably the best choice for Lebanon.

A great book has yet to be written on why some states and some cultures seem to do well at the tasks necessary to maintaining a capable and efficient modern military organizations, and others don’t. Resources and wealth don’t do such a great job explaining such variation. I would suspect that the determinants vary for different kinds of operations and different organizational structures. Stephen Rosen’s book asks some of the right questions, but he unfortunately wades into a not-terribly-useful set of case studies that ignore the very real differences between modern and ancient military organizations.


[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

This reminds me of this.

Unsurprisingly, the Mahdi Army Claims Victory

[ 0 ] August 26, 2006 |

More evidence that Bill Petti is right. We cannot dictate how Iraqis will interpret a withdrawal from Iraq.

The British withdrew from Camp Abu Naji near Amara. They only gave the Iraqis one day notice. This short notice suggests that the evacuation was done under considerable duress; one suspects that the British position was becoming untenable because of repeated Shiite guerrilla attacks (there were only 1200 British troops there). When they left, they left behind nearly $300,000 in equipment, intending that the Iraqi police should have the use of the base.

Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers on the provincial Governing Council crowed that the Mahdi Army was the first Iraqi group to force a substantial withdrawal of Coalition troops from an Iraqi territory, according to Amit Paley. The LA Times says that the Mahdi Army boasted of having forced the British troops to leave so abruptly.

As Petti notes:

More importantly, the problem with signaling a reputation for resolve (and any other kind of signaling for that matter) is that your opponent will draw whatever conclusions (mostly favorable) they want from your actions. There is little one can do to ensure that the target of their signal gets the right message. The question I would ask the President and supporters of his policy is what outcome, short of utopian style democracy and stability in Iraq or staying forever, would ensure that our enemies do not draw negative conclusions about our resolve? It appears to me that a host of outcomes would leave much to interpretation. And if we know anything about terrorists groups (and any political actor for that matter) we know they thrive on and are schooled in the art of spin.

The claim that we need to stay in Iraq in order to demonstrate our resolve to the terrorists is garbage. It is simply not the case that the United States can withdraw “on its own terms” because we are not the ones who determine the interpretation of our actions. When the US leaves, be it in 2007 or 2031, Iraqi militants and international terrorists will declare victory and argue that the United States is weak.

Minor Template Edits

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |

You may notice a couple of small changes in LGM. I’ve added a few rotating picture files in the left sidebar, and moved 3.0 Blogads to the top of the right. 3.0 is, I’m led to believe, niftier and all-around super better than 2.0, or whatever we had before. The most notable change is the addition of three more subheadings under the “Best of LGM”. These include collections of our anti-Nader screeds, our book reviews, and (by request) our rotating images.

[ 0 ] August 25, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

Ok, Lee, Now is the Time to Step Away from the Computer…

[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |

Self-parody cannot describe the place that Lee Siegel has gone. I must admit that I now have deep sympathy for anyone working in the offices of the New Republic. Watch out for the crazy old man, Brad, and this time I don’t mean Marty Peretz. We now learn that the Democrats are out of power because, apparently, they condone pedophilia…

Is it any wonder that conservatives run the country when liberals respond like growling Pavlovian dogs to any suggestion that people cannot indulge their every sexual appetite?


And all the liberal automatons, these clueless knuckleheads, who have been programmed by some Woodstock genome to applaud any sexual impulse, praise Kincaid’s concern for children, and for innocent citizens persecuted by the law.

In his rage, Siegel has forgotten to provide even a hint of evidence that James Kincaid condones pedophilia, nor does he bother to show that liberals are inclined to “applaud any sexual impulse”. All he can manage in inchoate rage, lashing out at imagined demons. But it gets worse:

I hope I won’t upset anyone’s world-view if I say that in regard to fucking and to various other sexual practices, I am an unbridled, even unrestrainable, enthusiast

This is exactly the last piece of information that I ever wanted to receive about Lee Siegel. I thought that “Descent” was kind of scary, then I come home and find Siegel ranting on about his raging libido. Not good. Not good at all.

This last paragraph I just couldn’t make out at all. It seems like a group of unrelated sentences strung together. I leave it to your interpretation:

I also believe that progressive politics or social attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with open sexual expression. Some of the biggest creeps I’ve known screw with total abandon, and some of the most decent people I’ve known are not sexual at all. Do you want a Democratic president, and a Democratic Congress? Cut the cord between progressive politics and the ethics of cultural abandon. The tortured debate over abortion isn’t about the biological status of a fetus. It’s about the limits of sexual permissiveness. Which, in the case of pedophilia, is about commodifying helpless persons.

If I’m reading the last part right, Siegel is not only confirming Scott’s argument that opposing abortion is really about constraining female sexuality, but is suggesting that this is the only meaningful justification for abortion laws, and, moreover, is arguing that abortion and pedophilia are more or less the same. Did I get that right, or am I misinterpreting?

UPDATE: Ezra has done some remarkably rich research. Apparently Lee remains troubled that he did not become aroused in the face of a flirtatious, 16 year old Uma Thurman.

Happy Birthday

[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |

Happy 107th, Jorge.

My favorite Borges is The South.

They went outside, and while there was no hope in Dahlmann, there was no fear, either. As he crossed the threshold, he felt that on that first night in the sanatorium, when they’d stuck that needle in him, dying in a knife fight under the open sky, grappling with his adversary, would have been a liberation, a joy, and a fiesta. He sensed that had he been able to choose or drean his death that night, this is the death he would have dreamed or chosen.


[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |


Not going spelunking anytime soon. No no no…

Good Riddance, Tiny Pluto

[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |

I, for one, welcome Pluto’s expulsion from the family of planets. Why don’t I think Pluto should be a planet? Because it’s obviously not a planet; it’s very small, way out there, a lot like a bunch of other non-planet objects, and has a weird orbit. Weird space object? Yes. Planet? No.

Goodbye, Pluto. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Write Some More About the Baseball Caps, Lee

[ 0 ] August 24, 2006 |

Via Ezra, Lee Siegel denounces James Kinkaid for daring to wonder why so many people find the Jon Benet Ramsey story so fascinating. Siegel writes

Like a lot of academics who had their heyday in the theory-ridden eighties, Kincaid thinks that the more media attention something gets, the less reality it has. He apparently has never tried to imagine what kind of society would let the murder of a little girl pass without massive amounts of attention and anxiety.

which is about the least helpful thing that someone could write about JonBenet Ramsey; as Ezra correctly points out, and as James Kincaid pointed out in his Slate piece, thousands of children are killed and molested every year, and virtually none of them received the kind of attention that this case did. It’s obvious that something else is going on (Ezra suggests class and race, Kincaid suggests a cultural fascination with child sexuality), but Siegel would prefer not even to think about the question of why the Ramsey story, rather than some other tale of child-rape and murder, has gripped the media.

It gets worse. Siegel goes on to suggest that Kincaid (who has done a lot of academic work on the sexualization of children) is in favor of adult-child sexual relationships. He doesn’t consider Kincaid’s main point, which is that there’s something more to the public fascination and disgust with child beauty pageants than we’ve been willing to let on. Kincaid:

As many as 800,000 are beaten horribly. Even more are subject to emotional abuse and neglect. How much attention do they get? Instead, we focus our attention, almost all of it, on stranger-danger: things like abductions, of which there are between 100 and 200 annually. Our carefully controlled outrage is generated for our own purposes, certainly not to protect the children.

And when kids are indeed abused, who is doing it? Mom and Dad and Uncle Ted and Aunt May. As little as 2 percent of child abuse is committed by strangers. Again, why are we exercised over JonBenet?

The case does many things for us, of course. It makes us feel both titillated and virtuous; it makes us feel smart. Most centrally, it makes flattering distinctions between good parents (us) and bad parents (the Ramseys). Even if the Ramseys didn’t kill their daughter, they exposed her to lascivious eyes in beauty contests, which is about as bad. Notice how much press is directed to abusing the Ramseys, to suggesting that (unlike us) their relationship to their child was unhealthy, vicious, exploitative.

Right. It doesn’t take a genius to note that we are as a culture obsessed with child sexuality, and that the child beauty contest represents a space on the continuum of that obsession rather than something radically alien to a “healthy” culture which would never, ever, ever display children in an even mildly sexualized fashion. Nor is it absurd to say that we derive a certain joy from seeing people like the Ramsey’s get what they “deserve”, just (as Kincaid points out) we get immense satisfaction from the depiction of the distinction between the normal and unhealthy at the end of Little Miss Sunshine.

None of this is to say that child beauty pageants aren’t bizarre and troubling, but the story isn’t nearly as simple as Siegel would like to believe.

UPDATE: Siegel has moved past simply suggesting that Kincaid might be a pedophile, and is now asserting that, in fact, Kincaid IS a pedophile. The evidence? A quote from Kincaid’s work taken, out of context, by the NAMBLA website. The quote:

It is possible that the pedophile’s marginal position alerts him not only to self-interest but the pains suffered by all the outcast. This is not a necessary consequence of pedophilia, of course, any more than virtue is of poverty. Still, that passion for helping the child is so strong in relations [between men and boys] that even the police acknowledge it.

If you’re Lee Siegel, writing the above is definitive evidence that you like to screw little boys. If you’re sane, the above is obviously about the motivation and self-justification of the pedophile, and is hardly surprising; of course the pedophile thinks that he’s doing the kid a favor, and of course the police take such self-justification into account.

Christ, where does the TNR find such people? Say what you will about blogofascism, but I don’t recall Kos ever casually tossing around allegations of pedophilia…

Where’s Jake?

[ 0 ] August 23, 2006 |

Did I miss something, or has Jacob Weisberg curiously disappeared since his anti-Lamont tirade two weeks ago? Usually he posts to Slate pretty regularly, but I haven’t seen anything lately. On vacation, or maybe the mean bloggers got to him?

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