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Big Government Liberals

[ 0 ] February 20, 2006 |

Atrios is quite right; while liberals tend to believe that taxes should be high enough to pay for expenditures, and also tend to believe that a well funded, stable state can usefully fulfill a number of societal tasks, no one believes that big government is a virtue in and of itself.

I don’t know any “big government liberals” in the sense that Andy means. I don’t know anybody who gets a stiffy at the thought of raising taxes and increasing government spending as a share of GDP just for the hell of it. Liberals I know tend to think there are things government should do and we should, roughly, figure out how to pay for those things, though we’re not entirely allergic to deficit spending. When taxes have to go up to cover interest and debt repayment costs no liberals I know are going to go “YAY! HIGHER TAXES! WOO HOOO!”

On the right, the idea that small government is good seems to have escaped its theoretical roots and become a dogmatic assertion, one that is ignored in practice as consistently as it is declared in rhetoric. There is no corresponding
belief on the left in some kind of ideal state of the state.

The New World and Match Point and Munich

[ 0 ] February 20, 2006 |

Almost ready to wrap up my 2005 Top Ten list. 2046 briefly held the project up; I had given up any hopes of seeing the movie before it inexplicably came to Lexington last week. Oddly, it only played for one day, and I missed it. However, I have recently watched The New World, Munich, and Match Point.

The New World: I like New World a lot more than I thought I would. That’s kind of strange, given the high esteem in which I hold Malick and his three previous films. The problem is that I don’t feel I can trust my affection for The Thin Red Line. Badlands is an immortal classic, and Days of Heaven not far off, but The Thin Red Line is a problem. I really like it, and have seen it probably twenty times, but I can’t say for sure that I like it for its cinematic qualities or because of its subject matter, which is near and dear to my heart. I’m of two minds of the voice overs. On the one hand, they can be intrusive. On the other, they seem to speak for the characters with an eloquence that the characters lack. I can’t help shake the feeling that Thin Red Line would have been better with about thirty fewer minutes.

It was, thus, with some trepidation that I saw New World. I don’t particularly care about the Pocahontas-John Smith story, and the concept leaves itself open for some high class wankery. I found myself pleasantly surprised. The voice-overs are less intrusive here than in TRL, and the narrative doesn’t meander as much. It’s interesting that a large scale infantry assault against a fortified position plays such an important role in both films, although that may just be the security specialist in me. I suppose that the important difference in the two is that TRL treats both the Japanese and American forces on Guadalcanal as an alien presence, while only the English are treated in such a way in New World.

Match Point: My thoughts echo Scott’s. Of his later films I much prefer Deconstructing Harry and think that Celebrity is underrated, but Match Point is a worthy effort and his best in a while. The biggest problem with the film is the meteoric rise of our hero in the corporate world; I couldn’t bring myself to believe that, even with the help of his father-in-law, he could shift so easily from the tennis court to the white collar world. This makes it correspondingly more difficult to believe that he would stay with his wife rather than with Scarlett Johansson. A colleague also pointed out a minor but annoying problem; after Johannson and Rhys Meyers first encounter, conducted in a muddy field in the midst of a driving rain at the home of the parents of their prospective in-laws, both apparently wander back into the manor house without being noticed or having been missed. Nevertheless, a solid enough film.

Munich:

“The killing will never stop”- Eric Bana
“Neither will this movie”-Rob

The increasingly reluctant killer is a common trope in American cinema. Some figure righteously begins killing his enemies, but as the killing continues the hero realizes that he is becoming very much like those he hunts. It’s a useful enough narrative device, effective across a range of different quality efforts. However, it really depends on an arc; the hero has to kill some people righteously, then slowly begin to question his actions. If he is reluctant, torn, and squishy before killing his first enemy, the movie gets boring quick.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Munich. We establish very quickly that Eric Bana loves his family and doesn’t really care for killing Palestinians. At that point, his character ceases to be of any interest, because it never changes. He reluctantly kills one Palestinian, then another, then another, worrying each time about his family. This may be a realistic portrayal of an assassin, although I have my doubts. What it is not, however, is compelling cinema. The sixth assassination is no different from the first; the characters don’t move in any meaningful direction.

And then the movie goes on. And on. And on. Spielberg spends 164 minutes telling a story that should have taken about 90. Yes, we know Bana is conflicted; we knew that an hour ago. Yes, we know that Ciaran Hinds has doubts; we knew that 90 minutes ago. It’s not that Spielberg fails to get to the point; he gets there in about 20 minutes. The problem is with the other 144 minutes; I finished my large “Mellow Yellow” and my Milk Duds two hours ago, and Bana is still a conflicted, reluctant killer hunting Palestinians. I found myself almost sympathetic with some of the right wing critiques of the movie. How can we take seriously a conversation, four assassinations in, about whether the killing of armed bodyguards is legitimate?

In other news, Eric Bana is still tortured and conflicted about killing Palestinians, and still loves his family.

Sunday Battleship Blogging: IJN Kongo

[ 0 ] February 19, 2006 |

The Imperial Japanese Navy of Togo Heihachiro, including the fleet that destroyed the Tsar’s armada at Tsushima, was primarily constructed in Great Britain. Although relations between Japan and the United Kingdom remained close, the Japanese understood the need for a domestic shipbuilding industry. The next four major IJN units (Satsuma, Aki, Kawachi, and Settsu) were constructed in Japanese yards with varying percentages of British parts.

The IJN understood that war in the Pacific was likely to be of a different character than war in the Atlantic. Because of the size of the Pacific, capital ships were less likely to find each other and fight. More common would be cruiser actions. The IJN found the battlecruisers of the Royal Navy very attractive, and decided to procure four battlecruisers to provide the basis for a new fleet. Finally, the Japanese decided that the first battlecruiser, Kongo, would be built in a British yard, although to a Japanese design. The British had experience with battlecruisers, and the Japanese wanted to take no chances with these expensive warships.

Kongo was commissioned in August of 1913. She was a magnificent ship. Kongo was the first warship anywhere in the world to carry 14″ guns, of which she possessed eight in four twin turrets. Kongo could make 30 knots, enough to outpace existing British battlecruisers, and displaced 27000 tons. When commissioned, Kongo was one of the most powerful warships in the world. Fortunately for the Japanese, Kongo was dispatched to Japan prior to the beginning of World War I. Had her construction been delayed a few months, it is possible that Winston Churchill would have been unable to give up the most powerful ship at his disposal, just as he was unable to give up Turkish and Chilean battleships under construction in 1914. Whether the Japanese, closely allied with Great Britain in 1914, would have taken this lying down is an open question. When the Royal Navy attempted to lease the Kongo and her sisters during World War I, the IJN refused. The presence of Kongo and her sisters at Jutland might well have turned a draw into a rout; their heavy weaponry would have made short work of Hipper’s battlecruisers.

Kongo was rebuilt twice during the interwar period. The first reconstruction was designed to bring her up to the armor standards of contemporary battleships. It resulted in a slower, but better protected, warship. Unfortunately, it also resulted in a less useful unit. More sensible heads prevailed in Japan, and the second major reconstruction of Kongo lengthened her hull, improved her machinery, and restored her speed to 31 knots. Even with the first reconstruction, Kongo’s protection remained inadequate to combat against other battleships, but her speed meant that she could perform carrier escort missions.

On December 7, 1941 Kongo and her sisters were, in spite of their age, the most useful units in the Pacific theater, with the exception of Prince of Wales. While any American battleship could defeat Kongo in single combat, none of them could actually force that combat because of their slow speeds. While the experience of the British battlecruiser squadron at Jutland left a bad taste in the mouth of most major navies after World War I, it turned out that the superior speed of battlecruisers made them more useful units in World War II. The British almost certainly erred in disposing of the battlecruiser Tiger, in 1930, instead of one of the slow “R” class battleships. Had the United States decided in 1918 to press ahead with the construction of three Lexington class battlecruisers instead of the three Colorado class battleships, the United States might well have possessed two useful ships in the wake of Pearl Harbor, instead of two more old, slow battleships.

Kongo’s first World War II duty was to counter the British battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales, both operating out of Singapore. Japanese aircraft dispatched both ships before they could meet Kongo or her sister Haruna, which freed Kongo for other duties. Kongo participated in almost every major action of World War II, including the Battle of Midway, the Battle of Gualdalcanal, the Battle of Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Kongo and Haruna served together in every engagement, up to and including Leyte Gulf. At Leyte Gulf Kongo was part of Admiral Kurita’s main force, which included the battleships Musashi and Yamato. Kurita’s force intended to attack and destroy the American invasion fleet off Leyte after the main US force had been drawn off by Japanese decoy carriers. Shockingly enough, the decoy plan worked; Admiral Halsey and his battleships left their position off Leyte in a futile attempt to destroy the Japanese carriers.

Off the island of Samar, Admiral Kurita’s force of four battleships, ten cruisers, and eleven destroyers met an American force that consisted of three destroyers and four destroyer escorts. The US force was covering a group of eighteen escort carriers, small, slow ships with almost no defensive armament. In desperation, the US destroyers attacked. Miraculously, they won. The American destroyers, along with aircraft launched by the escort carriers, managed to sink three Japanese cruisers and to disrupt the Japanese attack. The Japanese battleships, expecting to meet battleships, had armed themselves primarily with armor-piercing shells. These shells passed through the unarmored American ships, causing only minimal damage. Eventually, terrified that the American battleships would return and cut off his retreat, Kurita ordered his fleet to turn around and escape. Kongo suffered heavy damage from ensuing air attacks.

Off Formosa, on her way to a refit in Japan, Kongo was hit by three torpedos from the US submarine Sealion. Yamato and Nagato were in line with Kongo, and the latter barely managed to avoid another set of torpedos. Fires started by the torpedo hits spread to Kongo’s magazines, and she exploded and sank. Had her captain not insisted on maintaining a high speed, the damage might have been contained, but he feared additional torpedo attacks. 1250 sailors died when Kongo sank.

Trivia: What was the only dreadnought lost in World War I to torpedo attack?

America’s Greatest Hero

[ 0 ] February 18, 2006 |

Michael Berube.

There really in no better response to Sean Hannity and David Horowitz than laughter. They are fundamentally ridiculous characters.

Best Miniseries

[ 0 ] February 18, 2006 |

I won’t fully engage, but any list of the best miniseries ever that doesn’t start with I, Claudius and the Dekalog isn’t worth the bandwidth it’s typed on…

[ 0 ] February 17, 2006 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

It’s an Honor just to be Nominated

[ 0 ] February 16, 2006 |

Will and David Weman point out that LGM has been nominated for best non-European weblog at Fistful of Euros. I’m not sure how that happened, and we currently seem to be trailing in voting 54-2, but we are honored nonetheless.

Thank you also for the several Koufax nominations we have received; LGM promises to make a good faith effort to engage in minimal negative campaigning before voting begins.

Civil War Scenarios

[ 0 ] February 15, 2006 |

Dan at Duck has posed a question in response to this awful series idea:

Thus, I ask readers to suggest better scenarios for a “Second Civil War.” I’ll suggest my own “formal” criteria, but feel free to take issue with me:

1. The issue–or constellation of issues–should be sufficiently polarizing as to (a) appear impossible to resolve through routine political processes or lesser forms of contentious politics and (b) draw a significant part of the US population into the pool of secessionists;
2. The polarization created by the issue should map onto other, long-standing disputes such that resolving the core issue (or issues) threatens other entrenched interests;
3. The balance-of-power has to have shifted against Federal power such that a great many secessionists–and potential secessionists–believe they have a chance of winning the conflict. This could result from exogenous shocks that weaken Federal power, structural changes in the American polity (a robust “New Federalism,” for example), fragmentation of the US military and its chain-of-command, or concerted outside support for the rebellion of a kind that the Feds cannot preclude or nip in the bud.

Scenario 1: Free Cascadia Now!

The militant wing of Evergreen Revolution, also known as the People’s Front for the Liberation of Cascadia, stages a coup designed to seize the levers of the state in urban areas across the Northwest. Unfortunately for the coup plotters, efforts fail in Seattle, Portland, and both Vancouvers, leaving the movement in control only of Eugene and Bellingham. The movement calls for a wide range of revolutionary social and environmental measures, but is crippled by its unwillingness to use any of the coercive apparatus of the state. Federal reaction is swift, but not swift enough to prevent locals from tearing the coup plotters to pieces in a bloody massacre. This outcome leaves everyone more or less satisfied.

Fin.

Scenario 2:

2006: US military action against Iran successfully delays the Iranian nuclear program, but fails to dislodge Iran’s government. Occupation of parts of Iran, combined with increasingly violent Shiite sectors in Iraq, radically increases the cost of the occupation in both blood and treasure. Concern about oil security increases oil prices to over $100/barrel, severely damaging the US economy.

2008: Sam Brownback wins the Presidency in an election marred by violence and accusations of massive voter fraud.

2009: In the wake of the 2008 Olympics, a Chinese assault on Taiwan achieves complete operational surprise. Chinese forces quickly seize a beachhead and major strongpoints on Formosa. In spite of increasing isolationist sentiment at home (temporarily ameliorated by the aggressive Chinese actions), massive budget deficits, and continuing military action in Iraq, President Brownback decides to commit military force to the defense of Taiwan. The results are disastrous for the United States; US forces are unable to dislodge PLA units, and two US carriers (the Nimitz and the George Washington) are lost to Chinese submarines and surface units. After a coercive air campaign against the PRC government fails to budge the Chinese, President Brownback is forced to conclude a humiliating peace agreement with the PRC.

2010: Continuing trade sanctions against China cause severe economic dislocation in the United States and across the Pacific Rim. In the United States, the worst effects are felt on the West Coast. Chinese support for Iran and Iranian support for Iraqi insurgents results in an ever more deadly and expensive occupation. On the upside, the global economic crisis results in somewhat lower oil prices. Nevertheless, mega tycoon Hugo Chavez successfully purchases Colombia, Peru, and Panama.

2011: Under severe domestic and financial pressure, the United States withdraws from Iraq. The Iraqi government collapses in six weeks. Conservative media elements in the United States begin to pursue a “stab in the back” narrative, blaming the defeat on traitorous leftist elements and the Democratic party. Right wing death squads assassinate several important left wing media and political figures.

2012: In an election marred by brutal violence and massive fraud, President Brownback wins second term in office. In effort to create “national unity” cabinet, President Brownback nominate President Clinton as Secretary of State and President George W. Bush as Secretary of Defense. Sadly, President Clinton is assassinated by a right wing death squad before being confirmed by the Senate.

2013: The governors of Oregon, Washington, California, and Hawaii declare independence from the United States and establish the “Republic of Pacifica”. Large majorities in the Pacific states, impoverished by continuing trade disputes with China and angered by President Brownback’s administration, support the move. The Republic of Pacifica seizes control of military assets within its borders (reduced in size by the previous military and economic disasters) and begins to raise troops. The People’s Republic of China, nervous about supporting a secessionist movement but delighted by the idea of eliminating US military power in the Far East immediately recognizes Pacifica and promises economic and military support.

How’s that for plausible? Sends shivers up your spine, doesn’t it? ;)

Google Chat: Bane of My Existence

[ 0 ] February 15, 2006 |

It’s, uh, just great that I can now chat with anyone who’s online and has a gmail account. That’s going to be really helpful in my efforts to do, oh, anything.

That’s a Capital Idea…

[ 0 ] February 15, 2006 |

Frequent commenter Dittosfan has opened a new group blog, Capital Cadre. The focus is on defense issues, with a little Woody Allen. Check it out.

Jesus the the F-22

[ 0 ] February 13, 2006 |

Michael at The Reaction has a nice post on backtracking within the Air Force on the rules established to prevent evangelicals from abusing their positions in order to promote their religion:

One hopes that superior officers will be “sensitive” to the concerns of subordinates, but will that always be the case? What if free religious expression is perceived in some cases as insensitivity? Does the military need that? After all: “The guidelines were first issued in late August after allegations that evangelical Christian commanders, coaches and cadets at the Air Force Academy had pressured cadets of other faiths.”

Among the services that make up the United States military the Air Force has always been my least favorite. I am fascinated, of course, by the Navy, and I deeply respect the Army. The Air Force, not so much. Part of this antipathy has to do with what I think is an essentially naive approach to war; the idea that wars can be won at relatively low cost from a distance, an idea that I think has been (and will continue to be) extraordinarily destructive to the foreign policy of the United States. Note that I’m not just picking on Bush, here; I think that the Clinton administration was too often seduced by the notion that a few air strikes could solve difficult problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

A second cause of my antipathy towards the Air Force comes from its pre-history, specifically, the experience of the Army Air Force in World War II. USAAF officers, including Curtis LeMay and others, decided that the Air Force would win its independence from the Army through a focus on strategic bombing, which was supposed to present a way of winning wars independent of the Army or the Navy. In short, this thinking was disastrous. Even setting aside the moral questions associated with the incineration of masses of civilians, the practical effect of the strategic bombing campaigns was minimal. World War II was won in Europe by the Red Army and the US Army, and in Asia by the United States Navy. This is not the story that the Air Force would like to tell or to hear, so they undertook to make up their own story, in which strategic bombing played a significant role. In an important sense, the Air Force was the first of the postwar revisionists. The USAAF played a major role in World War II, but its primary contribution was in support of ground and naval operations.

The accusations about evangelicals don’t make the situation any better. I very much believe that the Air Force is shot through with evagelical Christians who refuse to distinguish between their faith and their service. I recall speaking with a US Army major about this question once. Although he was a conservative, he explained to me that he found the situation in the Air Force appalling; qualified officers who were not part of evangelical Christian “cliques” could not get promoted, and their ideas were ignored. I suppose that the sad thing about this problem is that the rules established to prevent such behavior probably don’t work anyway, given what I suspect is rampant lack of enforcement.

John Cole is indispensible on this matter.

It’s Because He Loves Them so Much….

[ 0 ] February 13, 2006 |

It’s good to see that Brokeback has gotten so deeply under Mickey’s skin. First, he couldn’t imagine enjoying the film because he’s genetically predisposed to be disgusted at homosexual sex. Then, he became deeply concerned about how the nasty liberals were going to lay a guilt trip on him for not liking the movie. Then, he predicted that the film would fail to manage $50 million domestic box office. Since that one collapsed, his line has been that red-staters aren’t watching the film like Frank Rich said they would.

Mickey’s fifth explanation of his vitriol against Brokeback Mountain eschews reference to the genetic disposition that prevents him and other strong, red-blooded, heterosexual men like him from enjoying a film with two gay characters. The reason he, first, dramatically underestimated Brokeback’s take (under $50 million, according to Mickey; currently $66 million and counting on a $14 million investment) and, since then, has been poring over Brokeback’s box office geography with a magnifying glass is that he cares so much about liberals, and doesn’t want to see them hurt…

Bloggers are allowed to point it out (he says defensively)–especially if it’s B.S. the mainstream press has no particular interest in pointing out (because it kills the story, or because they’ll seem homophobic).** But this B.S. falls into a special category: the sort of gratifying myth that in the past has helped lull liberals (and gay rights activists who may or may not be liberals) into wild overconfidence.

Ah, yes. Well, thank you, Mickey, but I’d like to say, on behalf of the entire Left (and I think I’m on solid ground with this one), that we would prefer to continue without your assistance. More specifically, we would like you to be on the OTHER side; you’re far more helpful to the left as a genuine conservative than as a pretend Democrat. First, you suggest that Brokeback won’t make any money because heterosexuals won’t watch such things, then, somehow, you manage to suggest that it will win lots of awards because heterosexuals can’t watch such things without disgust, then you point out the utterly unsurprising fact that Brokeback won’t do as well in Utah as it does in New York (and somehow convince yourself that this is controversial). Frankly, that’s exactly the degree of intellectual acumen that I hope to find in a conservative journalist; your “skills” as a writer and (ahem) editor are also exactly what I would like to see in a writer for the Weekly Standard…