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Ain’t Small Town Life Great?

[ 0 ] February 11, 2006 |

Call me an elitist snob, but…

When Wendy DeVore, the drama teacher at Fulton High here, staged the musical “Grease,” about high school students in the 1950′s, she carefully changed the script to avoid causing offense in this small town.

[...]

A month after the performances in November, three letters arrived on the desk of Mark Enderle, Fulton’s superintendent of schools. Although the letters did not say so, the three writers were members of a small group linked by e-mail, all members of the same congregation, Callaway Christian Church.

Each criticized the show, complaining that scenes of drinking, smoking and a couple kissing went too far, and glorified conduct that the community tries to discourage. One letter, from someone who had not seen the show but only heard about it, criticized “immoral behavior veiled behind the excuse of acting out a play.”

Dr. Enderle watched a video of the play, ultimately agreeing that “Grease” was unsuitable for the high school, despite his having approved it beforehand, without looking at the script. Hoping to avoid similar complaints in the future, he decided to ban the scheduled spring play, “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller.

Isn’t the act of banning the Crucible some kind of super cliche, so densely packed with cliche-matter that it threatens to draw in everything around it?

[ 0 ] February 10, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

That word, I do not think it means what you think it means

[ 0 ] February 9, 2006 |

Matt is quite correct; Rich Lowry ought not be allowed to appropriate the term “neorealist”:

Rich Lowry’s trying to coin a term “neo-realist” for that brand of foreign policy thinker who just so happens to mix and match their realpolitik and their idealism to match up with roughly whatever George W. Bush is doing in any given situation. He notes that The Wall Street Journal used “neo-realist” as a description for Condoleezza Rice and her circle earlier this week. It’s a trend!

It’s a trend and it’s got to stop. “Neorealism” already has an established meaning in international relations jargon — the people who, following Kenneth Waltz, have sought to formalize and systematize the earlier “classical realism” of Hans Morgenthau, etc.

Lowry wants to think that a neo-realist is someone who combines the idealism of neocons (chuckle) and the hard-headedness of realists. Since neorealism has been a functioning term of international relations theory since 1979, and since several of its proponents are prominent in both academic and public circles (particularly Mearsheimer and Waltz), and since (especially) neorealism as it stands means almost precisely the opposite of what Lowry would have it stand for, I think that Lowry should give it some thought and try to find a new phrase.

May I suggest “neocon with a hangover”?

Save Neorealism.

I Hate Them So Much!!!!

[ 0 ] February 8, 2006 |

Shorter Mickey:

Sometimes my need to pretend I’m a Democrat conflicts with my visceral hatred of all actual Democrats.

In Defense of my (Weak) Defense of the Secretary of Defense

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |

Nick has called me out. That was quick…

Elsewhere, I must respectfully dissent from Robert Farley’s faint praise for Rumsfeld’s effectiveness at the Defense Department. His utter contempt for post-war contingency planning has left an insufficient number of soldiers in harm’s way with insufficient body armor or armored Humvees. The Military Police still don’t get enough respect to match their efforts in Iraq. Meanwhile, despite the obvious importance of the Army and Marines, procurement plans for the expensive F22 fighter and DD(X) destroyer go unchecked. I’m all for a strong defense, but I think we’ll have enough lead time to build new ships and planes should China suddenly get very bellicose. I Eeven the small things have gone wrong; DARPA has moved away from longer-term, blue sky research towards short-term work for defense contractors. The DoD continues to fight increases in pay and surivor benefits. And so on, and so on.

A couple of points to be made:

First, I didn’t (and didn’t intend to) defend Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq War. This is, and will in the future, be the central measure of his tenure, and he has failed utterly and repeatedly to handle the war in an effective fashion.

As for the DD(X), it replaced a previous advanced design that projected the construction of 32 ships. In 2001, the expectation was that 12 ships would be built. Now, the projection is 7, and there are serious questions as to whether more than the initial 2 will ever be constructed. This is hardly a vision of a program gone “unchecked”. Now, it could be reasonably argued that Rumsfeld has not played a crucial role in reducing the DD(X) program, but it can also be argued that he hasn’t pushed very hard for it. A similar story could be told about the F-22. The Clinton administration expectation for F-22 production was 339 aircraft. That number is now 183, and again may drop.

Now, it could be argued that Rumsfeld should have done a better job of killing these two programs, but is that terribly realistic? The Secretary of Defense is not an autocrat. He cannot simply kill defense programs. The services want the DD(X) and the F-22 badly. Their supporters in Congress want the DD(X) and the F-22 badly. Let’s not have unreasonable expectations about the capacity of a SecDef to do this job. Killing those programs is simply not on the table, at least not thus far.

On the question of pay and survivor benefits, I do not know enough about them to be able to comment usefully on the appropriateness of those critiques. It’s certainly possible that survivor benefits are too low, and that Rumsfeld is responsible. On the other hand, survivors will invariably request higher benefits, and Departments of Defense will invariably oppose such requests. This process does not necessarily indicate anything about competence. The question of pay is quite similar, except that it’s even more complicated. There are a fair number of people who argue that no military pay gap exists, or at least that other benefits (material and social) make up for that gap. In any case, the debate over military pay began in the 1990s, prior to Rumsfeld’s tenure.

A couple of final points: Nick argues that the Pentagon has erred in focusing more money toward short-term research projects, but it’s not clear to me that this is a mistake, given that the US is currently engaged in a couple of wars. Also, I am not nearly as willing as Nick to believe that the elimination of position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict is a bad thing; the elimination of a bureaucratic layer does not necessarily reflect a lack of interest in that project. AG says:

Here we have Rumsfeld pissed off at his SO/LIC policy office. For what, it’s hard to say, because USSOCOM is one of his favorite children. If I had to guess, I’d say that the ASD(SO/LIC) office has screwed the pooch in their failed attempts to come up with a successful combating terrorism strategy. Combined with the lack of ability to manage a counterinsurgency campaign in the Middle East and inability to articulate a combating WMD terrorism policy, maybe he lost patience and told The Dark Prince (Cambone) to fix it.

Really too interesting. Of course, the real funny stuff is that Rummie thinks he can imperially wave his hand and make this office disappear without Congress raising the issue with him.

Indeed, I find it very difficult to believe that Rummy has given up his infatuation with special ops or his more recent interest in low intensity operations. Again, I can’t argue conclusively that this is a good idea, but I can’t conclude that it’s a bad one, either.

Token Reds Blogging

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |

Ugh.

This year, it looks as if the Reds will trot out the worst defensive center fielder in baseball. He will be accompanied by the worst defensive right fielder in baseball. Fortunately, the Red also have terrible pitching and play in a hitters park, so it’s not as if I’ll notice.

Catblogging: Special Tuesday Edition

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |


Say hi to Starbuck (black) and Nelson (orange). Starbuck is a nine month old female, Nelson a four month old male.

Visualizing Defense

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |

Came across this graphic while reading the QDR (this does not mean I’m being productive; it’s easier than working on my article), and thought it was kind of nifty.

It’s interesting and, I think, largely accurate. I do wonder how far the Rumsfeld Defense Department has pushed toward the upper right quadrant; not terribly far, I’m inclined to think.

Something to remember, though, when you read the QDR or spend time with Defense Department professionals (there were a few a Wilton Park) is that these people are, well, professional. Regardless of their ideological preferences, the people who work at Defense tend to be good at what they do, and it’s hard not to respect competence. The Rumsfeld DoD will be historically interesting, because there is no question that Rumsfeld is leaving a very large footprint. I suspect that Rummy was perhaps the wrong Secretary at the wrong time; his handling of the Iraq War is almost criminally inept, but his energy and focus have pushed DoD in the right direction in other areas. Making the Pentagon move is an onerous and difficult task, and Rummy should not be subject to too much criticism for his inability to force the services to accept new missions and new priorities. Certainly, one of his enduring accomplishments will be bringing the brass to heel after the borderline insubordination that became common in the Clinton years.

And that’s the LGM “Kind word about a Bush appointee” for 2006. Come back for another in 2007.

Easterbrook Misses the Point

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |

FMGuru points us to this:

Yours truly thinks the “intelligent design” idea is being given the short shrift by the mainstream media. Yes, some intelligent design advocates want to use I.D. as a Trojan horse to put religious doctrine into public schools — forbidden by the First Amendment, and wisely so in the opinion of this churchgoer. And some intelligent design advocates believe young Earth creationism, a nutty idea for which there isn’t one iota of scientific evidence. But as they mock the notion of intelligent design, the mainstream media are systematically avoiding a substantial question mark in evolutionary theory: it does not explain the origin of life. That organisms evolve in response to changes in their environment is well-established — anyone who doubts this doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. But why are there living things in the first place? Darwin said he had no idea, and to this day science has little beyond wild guesses about the origin of life. Maybe life had a natural origin that one day will be discovered. Until such time, higher powers or the divine cannot be ruled out. Exactly because I think intelligent design is a more important concept than the mainstream media will admit, I really wish right-wing screwballs would stop advocating I.D. — they’re giving the idea a bad name!

Where to start? First, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine how to define the “mainstream media” such that it doesn’t include Greg Easterbrook; he’s not exactly spent his career on the fringe. Nor, it should be said, can he compellingly argue that intelligent design hasn’t been treated more than fairly by the New York Times and similar organizations.

But the much bigger issue appears to be Easterbrook’s basic ignorance as to the foundation of the intelligent design movement. Saying that the right-wing screwballs are the problem with the ID movement is kind of like saying that the Republicans are the problem with the Republican Party; true, but irrelevant. There is no compelling need for a movement to argue what Easterbrook wants to argue, which is that the scientific record has gaps. Scientists themselves are more than aware of this, and most of them (along with, I think, a substantial percentage of the general population) accept that scientific and theological conceptions need not (and indeed, cannot) wholly contradict one another.

You don’t need a political machine like the one that invented ID to make the above point. The purpose of ID, which the movement craftily gives away in its name, is to indicate the necessity, rather than the possibility, of an intelligent creator. Moreover, Easterbrook seems not to understand (perhaps he simply has not made the connection) that for a scientist to assert an unknowable cause not susceptible to investigation (which is what an intelligent creator is) is to reject science.

Wedge

[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |

Read.

And read.

And the Wank Goes On…

[ 0 ] February 6, 2006 |

Read this, but make the following adjustments:

Replace every “Kanye West” with “Jonah Goldberg”.
Replace every other rap artist with a random conservative writer.
Replace “listening to rap” and similar phrases with “reading the National Review”
Replace “Grammy” with “election”.
Adjust as appropriate.

For example:

Jonah Goldberg is one in a long line of the canned rebels the National Review has been peddling to kids for years.

I’M IN NO position to judge the merits of Jonah Goldberg’s writing. I stopped reading the National Review when you could still find Gary Wills in its pages. These days I think it’s mostly just noise.

When people tell me, “Oh, but it’s technically very complicated,” or “You don’t understand how much work goes into it,” I’m reminded of a scene from “Don Quixote”: A man walks to the center of town and gathers a crowd for the show he’s about to put on. The man picks up a dog and inserts a tube into its rump. He begins to inflate the canine. The crowd watches, fascinated. The dog grows larger and rounder. Eventually, the man pulls the tube out and the air escapes loudly from the poor pooch’s rear as it runs away. The man turns to the crowd and asks: “You think it’s easy to inflate a dog with a tube?” Moral: Just because someone works hard at something doesn’t mean it’s great art.

That’s my disclosure for those who’d charge me with not “getting” the National Review: guilty as charged.

But I do think I understand marketing and public relations, and I am astounded by the naivete of young people — black and white — who actually buy the canned rebelliousness not just of the National Review but of most conservative literature.

And a bit further on…

IT’S ALL SUCH an obvious con game. We hear so much about how kids today are cynical, skeptical, media-savvy and so forth. But if they’re buying this hooey, they’re idiots.

When asked by the National Review if he’s worried that his outspokenness might cost him an election, Jonah replied, speaking in the third person: “Jonah is always opinionated and outspoken, and now that it’s election time he turns into a house nigga? Come on. That’s not even realistic.” Right, but the suggestion that a political movement that dominates every branch of government is a pariah, never mind suffering from Christlike persecution, is entirely plausible?

And…

As far as the American political scene goes, Jonah Goldberg is the man, but he won’t admit it. Instead, he sells himself as a victim of a society that can’t handle his truth. Millions of magazines sold and saturation adulation in the media suggest that it can handle his truth just fine.

The problem is, it ain’t the truth. It’s just a scam for kids too stupid to recognize they’re being played — again.

Want to be a real rebel? Read a book.

Hat tip to BBB.

Assertive Neighbors are Great, Except when they get Assertive

[ 0 ] February 6, 2006 |

Honeymoon over? Looking forward to a US-Danish coalition to control expansionist Canadian tendencies in Arctic waters?

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins clearly struck a nerve with prime minister-designate Stephen Harper when he criticized the Conservative plan to bolster Canada’s presence in the Arctic.

“I want to address one other question before I go,” Harper said Thursday in response to an unasked question as a lengthy session with reporters wound down.

“I’ve been very clear in the campaign that we have significant plans for national defence and for defence of our sovereignty, including Arctic sovereignty. It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the U.S. ambassador.”

The issue of jurisdiction over the frozen archipelago and iceberg-cluttered waterways is clearly heating up in Ottawa and Washington.

An expert in Arctic defence and sovereignty predicted that the issue will become a sore point in relations between the Bush administration and the newly elected Harper government – which had campaigned in part on a warmer rapport with Washington.

“The sovereignty of the Northwest Passage is a red button issue for Canadian political leaders and for the Canadian public,” said Rob Huebert of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

Heh. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

UPDATE: Dave at Galloping Beaver was all over this, and suspects the same thing I do: It’s all kabuki.

One thing is certain. David Wilkins didn’t start making statements on his own. He doesn’t know the difference between a polar ice-pack and a peanut farm. He was speaking the words of the administration and in that, the timing is important.

Wilkins initially jumped in with comments during the election campaign which fed into the Conservative platform taking issue with Paul Martin’s criticism of US trade policy and the fact that USS Charlotte had transited Canadian waters to reach the North Pole. Wilkins snapped that Canadian politicians should stop bashing the US as a means to get elected, yet totally ignored the Conservative platform which has now supposedly raised an issue.

Harper, after being elected, spends at least 15 minutes (or more) in a phone call with Bush. Harper would have made at least two things very clear: His rise to office was, at best, very tenuous; and, he needed to be able to appear to be strong when dealing with the US since Canadians would not tolerate a prime minister who pandered to the Bush administration. The ability to retain and hold power depends on how Harper appears to be dealing with the US.