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Both Ways

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

Lovely post from Wolcott on intelligent design and the neocon right. Long and utterly unsurprising story short, there’s plenty of evidence, usually from their own mouths, that many of the intellectual poobahs of conservative world don’t give a rat’s ass for God apart from His ability to keep the unwashed masses in line. The story has been told before, but Wolcott and the pieces he links to retell it well. Derb may be one creepy as hell guy, but he does occasionally manage to display a shadow of genuine intellectual integrity. Not often, but he’s good when he’s good.

However, it seems to me that this misses out on part of the story. There are many genuine evangelicals who are bright people, and who can certainly appreciate the transparent, winking duplicity of Irving Kristol, Robert Bork, and their ilk. Certainly there are strategic reasons for an alliance between the two groups, but you would expect some tension to emerge from the poorly disguised contempt that guys like Kristol hold for actual believers. In short, nobody likes to be a tool. The more I think about it, though, it seems clear that modern conservatism is based on a double betrayal. The intellectuals think that religion is useful for keeping the saps in line, especially as they continue to vote Republican. The evangelicals understand this, but aren’t too worried about it. They know, after all, that when the day comes the faithless intellectuals will be headed straight to Hell.

In other words, the Republican party works because everyone can be comfortable with the knowledge that the guy next to him is getting screwed.

Low Turnout

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

Good and bad news for Hugo Chavez:

Venezuela (Reuters) – Parties allied to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez won 89 percent of votes counted in a preliminary tally of nearly 80 percent of the ballots for the National Assembly, electoral authorities said on Sunday.

The National Electoral Council said turnout was of 25 percent of registered voters. Main opposition parties boycotted the poll, accusing electoral authorities of favoring the populist leader and manipulating electronic voting machines.

25% turnout is not good, especially as it would seem to indicate support for the boycott and, further, concern about the legitimacy of the election.

Yes, I know that Chavez is trying to build “participatory democracy”. I just wish that he and his allies would demonstrate more concern for old fashioned constitutional electoral democracy. The two are not necessarily in conflict, and disregard for the latter suggests that the former doesn’t hold great promise.

Via Fruits and Votes.

Chri$tma$

[ 0 ] December 4, 2005 |

Adam Cohen makes short work of Faux News’ campaign for Christmas.

This year’s Christmas “defenders” are not just tolerating commercialization – they’re insisting on it. They are also rewriting Christmas history on another key point: non-Christians’ objection to having the holiday forced on them.

The campaign’s leaders insist this is a new phenomenon – a “liberal plot,” in Mr. Gibson’s words. But as early as 1906, the Committee on Elementary Schools in New York City urged that Christmas hymns be banned from the classroom, after a boycott by more than 20,000 Jewish students. In 1946, the Rabbinical Assembly of America declared that calling on Jewish children to sing Christmas carols was “an infringement on their rights as Americans.”

The Christmas that Mr. O’Reilly and his allies are promoting – one closely aligned with retailers, with a smack-down attitude toward nonobservers – fits with their campaign to make America more like a theocracy, with Christian displays on public property and Christian prayer in public schools.

Quite. I tack between thinking that the Gibson and O’Reilly-led campaign for Christmas is the end of conservatism’s moment, the lie so absurd that not even the most virulent liberal haters could buy into, and worrying that even this might not be too far, and that too many people are willing to believe that there is some over-arching secular humanist conspiracy to destroy Christmas. The answer is probably somewhere in between. In any case, the Gibson/O’Reilly crusade demonstrates beyond doubt how little the doctrines and debates of Christianity actually animate the “Christian” Right. In the end, it’s really all about the persecution complex. That, and the cash.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS New Zealand

[ 0 ] December 4, 2005 |

Recall that in the early 1910s Canada considered contributing three Queen Elizabeth class battleships that would be owned and crewed by Canadians but serve in the Royal Navy. Winston Churchill’s response to this entreaty was “Well, we’ll take your money, but you can’t have any ships.” The Canadians sensibly declined this gracious offer. The Kiwi reply was “Hey, that sounds like a great idea! Can we also purchase the optional all weather primer? And do you offer any kind of extended warranty or service plan?” Three years and 1.7 million pounds later the battlecruiser New Zealand joined the Royal Navy.

New Zealand displaced 19000 tons and carried 8 12″ guns, disposed of in two centerline and two wing turrets. Like all battlecruisers, New Zealand could make a decent speed (26 knots), but lacked the heavy armor of dreadnought battleships. New Zealand and other battlecruisers were designed to hunt and kill armored cruisers and to act as forceful scouts for the main battlefleet. New Zealand’s two sisters were named Indefatigable and Australia. The Australians, presumably having more refined negotiating skills, managed not only to purchase the Australia but also to own it, and HMAS Australia served both in the Royal Navy and as the flagship of the Royal Australian Navy. The Royal Navy kindly allowed the HMS New Zealand to visit New Zealand in 1913, at which point roughly a third of the entire population of the country toured the ship.

New Zealand fought in most of the major battlecruiser engagements of the Grand Fleet in the First World War, including the Battle of Dogger Bank and the Battle of Jutland. At Dogger Bank Admiral David Beatty moved his flag from the battered Lion to New Zealand during the battle. David Beatty, much like Douglas MacArthur, had more of a gift for public relations than for military command. At Dogger Bank the disorder produced by sloppy signalling allowed some German ships to escape. At the 1916 Battle of Jutland the problem was more severe, and was exacerbated by the poor marksmanship of the vessels under Beatty’s command.

In April 1916, HMS New Zealand rammed HMAS Australia, severely damaging the latter. It is not known whether this was caused by residual Kiwi bitterness. However, the damage did keep HMAS Australia out of the Battle of Jutland. The German purpose at Jutland was to lure a portion of the Royal Navy into the teeth of the High Seas Fleet, and thus destroy part of the Grand Fleet without having to fight the whole. The German battlecruiser squadron under Admiral Hipper sortied into the North Sea in order to draw out the British battlecruisers. This operation was a partial success. The British did take the bait, and committed David Beatty’s six battlecruisers to interception of the German ships. The British also, however, committed four Queen Elizabeth class battleships (Malaya, Barham, Valiant, and Warspite) to the intial interception, and backed these two squadrons with the entirety of the Grand Fleet, including twenty four additional dreadnoughts and 3 more battlecruisers. In a sense the German plan worked too well; the British took the bait, but with too much force.

The fighting began on May 31 when the respective battlecruiser squadrons engaged each other. The Germans had five battlecruisers and the British six, including New Zealand. The Germans also had much better fire control than the British, and quickly scored hits on three of the British ships, including Beatty’s flagship Lion. The effectiveness of the German fire was enhanced by the fact that damage control aboard the British battlecruisers was wholly inadequate. Indefatigable, following New Zealand in line, was the first to explode and sink. A short time later Queen Mary, ahead of New Zealand in line, also exploded in sank, causing Admiral Beatty to remark “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”. New Zealand, remarkably, took almost no damage. Poor signaling by Beatty had delayed the arrival of the four Queen Elizabeth class battleships, but when they arrived the pressure on the battlecruisers was reduced considerably. Eventually, the entire High Seas Fleet would find itself committed against the entire Grand Fleet. New Zealand fired more shells than any other British dreadnought in the battle, and scored hits on several German ships.

The rest of the war was uneventful for New Zealand, although she did participate in the Second Battle of Helgioland Bight. In 1919, after the war, Admiral Jellicoe chose New Zealand as his flagship for a tour of the Dominions, and she once again visited her namesake country. Jellicoe would later serve as Governor-General of New Zealand. In 1922 New Zealand was decommissioned, and in 1924 she was scrapped in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty.

Quiz for next week:

1. Which two US battleships or battlecruisers were not named after US states?
2. Which two US states have not given their names to US battleships?

Scattered Ruins of the Lost Empire

[ 0 ] December 3, 2005 |

Good article on the escape from an Afghani prison of four members of Al-Qaeda. Addicted to secrecy, the Bush administration has of course not been as forthcoming as a reasonable person might expect. This is what fascinated me, though:

At the time, several officials said, construction crews had been working to expand and reinforce the prison, a cavernous aircraft machine-shop built by the Soviet military during its occupation of Afghanistan and converted by the American military into its primary screening center for terror suspects captured overseas. The breakout took place only days before a series of tougher security measures, including surveillance cameras and brighter lighting, were to be put in place.

Why does it seem that so much of the infrastructure of the War on Terror is built on the ruins of the Soviet empire? Air bases in Central Asia, secret prisons in Eastern Europe, Soviet financed prisons in Iraq, Soviet trained torturers in countries around the world, and old Soviet bases in Afghanistan. There’s certainly no intentionality to it, and I don’t doubt that each decision to use an old Soviet facility can be justified on its own merits. Nevertheless, it is fascinating and disturbing that the United States seems so ready and able to pick up and dust off the rusty tools of Soviet imperialism.

Blue Moon of Kentucky, Keep on Shining

[ 0 ] December 2, 2005 |

Given the staggering success of the “Red State” bureau established in Lexington, Kentucky by the Central Committee of Lawyers, Guns and Money last April, it has been decided by unanimous vote to continue the project indefinitely.

In related news news I have been offered and have accepted a tenure track assistant professor position at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. I have been very happy with my time here thus far, and I’m looking forward to continuing my work here over the next several years, at least. In particular, I have found the faculty and students to be exceptionally supportive.

UPDATE: Thank you all very much. I just hope that I’m not held responsible for this.

[ 0 ] December 2, 2005 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Bud

John Derbyshire: One Hell of a Creepy Guy

[ 0 ] December 1, 2005 |

Derb.

Conservatives, as I recall, are the ones who believe that “human nature has no history.” It follows that we are at ease with the fact that the human female is visually attractive to the human male at, or shortly after, puberty, and for only a few brief years thereafter.

And elsewhere:

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman’s salad days are shorter than a man’s — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20.

Um.

There’s really nothing I can say that could add to this. I suppose that I am leading a vile and unnatural lifestyle, as I have found myself rather attracted to numerous women above the age of twenty. I wonder, is that more or less unnatural than being attracted to men? Is there some kind of support group I can attend?

Via Tapped.

LGM Style

[ 0 ] December 1, 2005 |

Interesting.

I think that we are predominantly #3 (niche blogging) with some elements of #1 (meme du jour) and #2 (caterer) styles.

But the Tradition!

[ 0 ] November 30, 2005 |

You can count me among the utterly unsympathetic.

The flags from Southern states disappeared from the chapel. The ceremonial baton dedicated to a Confederate general who helped found the Ku Klux Klan vanished. The very name of the University of the South was tweaked, becoming Sewanee: The University of the South, with decided emphasis on Sewanee.

It all seemed eminently sensible to university administrators looking to appeal beyond the privileged white children of the South, who have long been the university’s base, and become a more national, selective and racially diverse university.

But the changes have sparked a passionate debate among alumni, many of whom view them as a betrayal of their history.

Some traditionalists say they fear that the name of the university’s guest house, Rebel’s Rest, will be next to go and that a monument donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy commemorating Edmund Kirby-Smith, a Confederate general who taught at the university for nearly 20 years, will be removed.

“I think they ought to leave it the way it is,” said Dr. David W. Aiken, an alumnus who is an orthopedic surgeon in Metairie, La. “I wouldn’t be for changing anything. I think they’re doing quite well. What is the purpose of making it a more national school? Do I want kids from California, New York coming there? Not really.”

If you ask me, the fewer monuments we have commemorating treason, the better.

Point of Order

[ 0 ] November 29, 2005 |

Point of Order is again available on DVD. I highly recommend it, and it’s a fair bit more interesting than Good Night and Good Luck. Army lawyer Joseph Welch is the star, and although the film includes the “Have you at long last no decency” scene, my favorite line is Welch’s indirect mention of Roy Cohn’s sexuality:

WELCH: Did you think this came from a pixie? …
MCCARTHY: Will the counsel for my benefit define – I think he might be an expert on that – what a pixie is?
WELCH: Yes, I should say, Senator, that a pixie is a close relative of a fairy. Shall I proceed, sir? Have I enlightened you?

Welch later appeared as the judge in Anatomy of a Murder, which is one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart films.

But, if you don’t trust me, then at least listen to esteemed reviewer jtpaladin, at Amazon.com:

This film is nothing but an attempt by left-wing degenerates to smear a great Senator who had the guts to stand up to communist infiltration of our government. Senator McCarthy used legal means and protected the innocent by giving those questioned an opportunity to meet in Executive Session and anyone found innocent, left without further issue. Sadly, the same can’t be said of the treatment that Senator McCarthy received. This film was edited in such a way as to make the Senator look bad.

The rest of his 106 reviews are genuinely fascinating; he combines a hatred of various gadgets and “left wing” books and films with a deep affection for Sex and the City and the Village People. I confess that I found this deeply reassuring.

"We burn the Poles"

[ 0 ] November 29, 2005 |

One of my few moments that I have truly enjoyed myself at a political science conference came during the late 1990s on a panel somewhere in Southern California. The topic of the panel was nuclear proliferation, and I seem to recall that I was giving some paper on the effect of Sino-American rapproachment on the Pakistani nuclear program. The chair of the panel took it upon himself to explain pre-emption to the audience (one young scholar gave a very bad paper trying to describe nuclear warfare as a game of Chicken) and got onto the topic of the use of nuclear weapons in Europe in the context of a NATO-Warsaw Pact general war. “In this scenario” he said, with a deep German accent, “we burn the Poles, the Hungarians, and the Germans; well, maybe not the Germans, and they burn the Belgians and the French, and hopefully we do not burn each other.” It occured to me at the time to think about how bizarre this truly was; we were thinking about using American nuclear weapons not just against Russian civilians, who, of course, could hardly be blamed for the behavior of their government, but also against Polish civilians whose only crime had been to be enslaved by the Russians. And the use of the word “burn” really brought the point home. Ethics and nuclear war don’t go well together.

This article reminded me of that panel. It seems that the Polish Defense Minister, irritated in some fashion by the Russians, has gone and decided to publish various Warsaw Pact plans for war against NATO. One plan in particular involved a Russian nuclear attack on Western Europe either in response to or in expectation of a Western nuclear attack on Poland. According to the article, this is supposed to embarass the Russians and cause a further rift in Russo-Polish relations.

I’ll confess that I don’t really see what the fuss is. Of course the Soviets contemplated war plans that would result in the destruction of their allies; so did we. Also, it’s hardly news that the Russians had somewhat less regard for and trust of their Eastern European allies than we did of out Western European friends. Nevertheless, it’s a mildly interesting bit of news, although really a lot less interesting than the revelation a few years ago that the central task of Polish forces in a general war would be the “liberation” of Denmark.

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