Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Robert Farley

rss feed

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.


[ 0 ] February 7, 2006 |


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?


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.

Tales of the Sea: Goeben, Part VI

[ 0 ] February 5, 2006 |

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Badly damanged by mines, Yavuz Sultan Selim required four months of repair work at Constantinople. Given Allied domination of the North Sea and the Mediterranean, Yavuz could serve no more meaningful purpose in the war. Transferred to German controlled Sevastopol, Yavuz was again placed in drydock for permanent repairs. In June, only partially repaired, Yavuz oversaw the surrender of the last remnant of the Russian fleet at Novorosiisky, although most of the ships were scuttled by the time of Yavuz’ arrival. Yavuz returned to Istanbul for further repairs, but peace interfered. Knowing that the war was coming to an end, the German crew of Yavuz transferred the ship to a Turkish crew on November 2, 1918.

British negotiators, among others, believed that the naval race between Germany and Great Britain had been critical in driving the two nations to war. In one sense, this was a narcissitic reaction on the part of the British. The nations of Europe had plenty of reasons for tension without the need for an arms race. No naval race had led to the Franco-Prussian War, and none would lead to World War II. The British, however, thought in terms of naval power; guided by Mahan, as well as centuries of tradition, they believed that the only real power was naval power. Germany without a navy would not be a threat. From the point of view of France or Russia, this obviously wasn’t true, but I don’t believe that the British ever fully understood just how vulnerable the French felt in the face of a larger, more powerful Germany. In another sense, the British interpretation was accurate, at least from a British point of view. The naval race did shape Britain’s interest and role in the First World War.

Accordingly, the German Navy was an important negotiating point between the Allies and the Central Powers. Germany was forced to turn over the elite units of the High Seas Fleet for internment. Turkey, in a separate treaty, was forced to turn over Yavuz Sultan Selim. In a grim ceremony, sixty Allied battleships escorted sixteen German dreadnoughts and associated ships from Kiel to Scapa Flow. Germany was allowed to keep a few older dreadnoughts for a couple of years, until being forced to relinquish them under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The officers and men of the German ships, fearing that peace terms would result in the transfer of the cream of the High Seas Fleet to Britain, France, Japan, and the United States, scuttled the entire fleet in June of 1919. I hear that the wrecks of the remaining ships are excellent for SCUBA diving.

Yavuz Sultan Selim, however, was not operated by a German crew. The ship was not scuttled, but was instead left in an inactive state until 1923. A nasty little conflict was taking place in Asia Minor. The Allied desire to carve up the Ottoman Empire did not end with the Empire’s Arab possessions. Greece, France, Italy, Bolshevik Russia, and the United Kingdom all sought territorial concessions within Anatolia itself. The Allies had substantial control over the rump Ottoman state, but elements within the Army, led by Mustafa Kemal, resisted the allied incursions. Through a long series of extraordinarily adroit political and military maneuvers, Kemal managed to force all the Allies out of Anatolia, although the Turks sold out Armenia to the Bolsheviks in return for arms and leverage. The Treaty of Lausanne ensured the independence of the new Republic of Turkey (under the rule of Kemal, now known as Attaturk), and provided for the return of Yavuz to the Turkish Navy In 1923, Great Britain turned Yavuz Sultan Selim over to the new Turkish government.

Yavuz was badly in need of a refit. Battleship technology had developed considerably since 1910. Yavuz Sultan Selim was no longer a powerful unit, especially as the larger navies were concerned. Yavuz sat in reserve for several years as the Turks figured out what to do with her. In the mid-1920s, the Turks scraped together the funds necessary to refit Yavuz. They were not willing to pay for a radical reconstruction of the sort that many other navies were carrying out, but they did intend a modest modernization, rendering Yavuz capable of defeating anything that the Soviet Union or Greece, Turkey’s most likely two enemies, could put to sea.

The project was a financial disaster, and brought down Turkey’s naval ministry. Turkey was on the verge of giving up on Yavuz when, in September 1928, Greece gave the Turkish Navy a wonderful gift. In an effort to intimidate Turkey, the Greeks undertook a massive naval exercise near Turkish waters. The maneuvers included Kilkis and Lemnos, the two pre-dreadnought battleships that the Greeks had acquired from the United States in 1914. Attaturk was enraged, and ordered the immediate refit of Yavuz, as well as the acquisition of modern destroyers and patrol ships. Yavuz Sultan Selim, almost completely inactive since early 1918, was granted a new lease on life. In 1930 she returned to service, flagship of the Turkish Navy.

To be continued…

Grudgingly, Seahawks

[ 0 ] February 3, 2006 |

Somebody asked me the other day how it’s possible to love Seattle and consider it a great city while at the same time hating a)the Sonics, b)the Huskies, c)the Seahawks, and d)the goddamn rain.

It’s not easy. It’s just not easy.

I hate the Sonics because I grew up a Trailblazers fan. I hate the Huskies because I attended the University of Oregon as an undergraduate. I hate the Seahawks because I was a Raiders fan as a kid. I hate the rain because it’s wet.

Nevertheless, I love Seattle, and will grudgingly cheer for the Seahawks in the Superbowl. First, I pay so little attention to the NFL anymore that the rivalry issue is almost irrelevant. It doesn’t hurt that the Raiders suck and the Seahawks are now in a different conference. Second, the fact that Shaun Alexander is from northern Kentucky gives me a bit of local cover. Third, regional pride kicks in; it’s hard to take the Seattle-bashing without lashing out a bit.

In particular…

What’s more, Seattle is a frou-frou town playing a frou-frou football style

*Ahem* Go Seahawks.

DD(X) and F-22 and High Intensity War

[ 0 ] February 3, 2006 |

Long title for a short post; my minor quibble with Yglesias post on the QDR is that, while it’s hard to envision the F-22 being useful in any situation other than a high intensity conflict against a peer competitor, the DD(X) actually does have capabilities that would make it useful in low intensity situations. The AGS is an improvement over our current fire delivery systems, and the vertical launch system could prove useful in any number of situations.

Of course, this is not to say it’s worth the money. But I am inclined to believe that DD(X) would be helpful across the combat spectrum.

[ 0 ] February 3, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Sophie and Tigger

Mickey’s Been Layin’ Low…

[ 0 ] February 3, 2006 |

Grunt. When he spends his time blogging on car designs and the LA Times, I can at least ignore him…

Surely some Academy members are viscerally averse to watching gay sex. (They have genes too.)

Mickey is proposing an interesting theory of sexual attraction, even were we, for the sake of argument, to accept genetic determination of sexual preference. For Mickey, our genes apparently designate not sexual attraction but sexual repulsion. Heterosexual members of the Academy must find homosexual relations repellant; this is why they like girls (and don’t doubt that we’re only talking about the men here). Heterosexuals like Mickey aren’t attracted by women so much as they are repelled by men, and the idea of man-on-man sex.

This has the nifty side effect of allowing Mickey to believe that it’s not his fault that he’s disgusted by homosexuals; it’s genetic.

And then:

You knew there would be an anti-homophobic guilt trip somewhere in this process.

While I’m inclined to doubt that the “heterosexual” gene plays much of a role in Mickey’s development, it appears that the narcissism gene is coming through strong and clear. The whole point of this evil Hollywood plot, after all, has been to make Mickey feel guilty (and, really, to look stupid, given his predictions about Brokeback’s success). Surely, no one could be interested in the story for any reason other than to make insecure guys like Mickey feel guilty and uncomfortable.

And, last but not least, Mickey apes the Apuzzo line:

Many commenters have noticed the obvious–the Best Picture nominees are four left-messaged political films, plus a movie about Truman Capote! But if you read Finke’s column, you realize it’s really not that bad. It’s worse! If she’s even 50% on the mark, the Academy Awards are now hopelessly, pervasively, and openly politicized (and the politics are Hollywood Left). Maybe they should be carried on Daily Kos.

Worst. Blogger. Ever. When you can’t improve on Jason Apuzzo, it’s time to hang ‘em up.

No Country For Old Men

[ 0 ] February 2, 2006 |


Coens to direct Cormac McCarthy’s NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN starring Javier Bardem & Tommy Lee Jones!

I didn’t really care for No Country for Old Men, which is odd because I love almost all of McCarthy’s work. It was kind of hard for me to see the point, and it suffered from McCarthy’s decision to place an epic villain in a clearly non-epic story. The villains of Outer Dark and (especially) Blood Meridian are massive, outsized characters who McCarthy places within an epic, almost gothic setting. Similarly, the villain/protagonist of Child of God is appropriate to his world. No Country for Old Men, on the other hand, seems almost to be a confused union between Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy, only without the mythic trappings of the latter that might have helped to make sense of the antagonist.

However, fine films are often made from mediocre novels. Make no mistake; if the Coen’s stay close to the story, this will bear far more resemblance to Blood Simple or Miller’s Crossing than to Intolerable Cruelty or The Big Lebowski. It’s hard to do much better than Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones, although I confess that I’m not quite certain who will fit where.

For McCarthy fans, this is probably the best we can expect. Billy Bob Thornton killed any chance we had of seeing The Crossing and Cities of the Plains, which is unfortunate as they most “cinematic” of McCarthy’s works. Suttree and Blood Meridian are unfilmable, as are Child of God and the Outer Dark. I suppose the Orchard Keeper might plausibly be turned into a minor film.