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Baseball Challenge

[ 4 ] March 23, 2008 |

The Tournament isn’t over yet, but the early start to the season means that it’s time for Baseball Challenge. It’s a long, hard slog, with meager repayment for mountains of work, but since you’re here anyway…

LGM Baseball Challenge
League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Remember that the season starts the day after tomorrow. Best of luck!

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My advice would be to call them "boy" while you’re doing it…

[ 0 ] March 23, 2008 |

Shorter Americaneocon:

Although bloggers who refer to black people as “niggers” are clearly speaking from outside the conservative mainstream, the blogger in question raises some important arguments about smacking young black men for wearing their pants too low.

No, really. In the course of defending Old Racist Punk, our hero laments that “most people are harrassed [sic] into silence for even raising such sensitive but troubling topics.” If by “harassed into silence” he means “described accurately as racists,” I suppose he’s on to something, but let’s make a quick list of some of the “sensitive but troubling” issues that Americaneocon might think need “way more discussion” in the US. The following are not, best I’m able to fathom, parodies on the order of the much-missed Altmouse. They appear to be serious, thoughtful articles of discourse from someone who really, really doesn’t “hate black people.”

  • “You see, you’ve just given life to the suspicion that black people in America are, and have long been, a fifth column — unanimously hating the very country that has afforded the highest standard of living ever achieved by black people in human history. We’re teetering at the edge of believing that you’re a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us. You’ve made it possible for us to believe that.”
  • “The path to equality is counter-intuitive. Admit and decry the failings of your community. . . . Tip your white waitress. Stay at work after 5 o’clock.”
  • “Would it kill you if your kid fixated on Sandy Koufax, Mozart, or Shakespeare rather than Mays, Armstrong, or Jay-Z? Does being black really have to be a full-time job?”
  • “The dammed-up flood of good will in this nation for black people who want to work for their own American Dream is absolutely enormous. The biggest impediment is the doubt created in each and every non-black American by the clannish, tribalist, irrational defense of every low act committed by any black person. If you’re offended when Republicans defend Richard Nixon or when Democrats defend Chuck Schumer, imagine what it’s like when black people swarm the streets to defend Jeremiah Wright.”

Of course, since Old Racist Punk adores Alexandre Dumas and Muhammad Ali [er, wtf?], we should regard all of this in the helpful spirit in which it was written.

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Care To Make It Interesting?

[ 16 ] March 23, 2008 |

In wake of a single poll showing Obama with a 7-point lead, Jamie Kirchick asserts that “with a moderate Republican nominee and Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate, there’s an even chance that Massachusetts will go red.” Uh, yeah. I very, very strongly urge the RNC to take this seriously and throw everything they can into the race, accompanied by strong expenditures of resources in California, New York, and Vermont. After all, this would be consistent with the brilliant strategery of Karl Rove!

At times like this, I think that pundits should be forced to have an Intrade account that can be used to back up transparently ridiculous predictions like this.

…and, of course the idea that McCain’s “Scots-Irish” background will help him among Irish Catholic voters in Massachusetts is equally bizarre.

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Sydney "Upright and Largely Intact"

[ 7 ] March 23, 2008 |

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging will return next Sunday.

According to the search team, the wreck of HMAS Sydney has been discovered “upright and largely intact”, while HSK Kormoran was broken into at least four pieces. The latter makes a lot of sense, as the crew of Kormoran reported that she suffered a massive internal explosion just before sinking. The Sydney find, however, leaves some unanswered questions.

The puzzle with the Sydney is how she managed to sink without survivors. Even badly damaged ships that sink quickly tend to have survivors; USS Indianapolis sank in twelve minutes with 880 initial survivors, while HMS Barham sank in a couple of minutes with about 300 survivors. According to the account of the Kormoran survivors, Sydney drifted north for some time before sinking (indeed, they didn’t report seeing her sink), so there was a relatively long period of time between the infliction of damage and the sinking. One plausible theory for why there were no survivors is that Sydney suffered a magazine explosion after disengaging from Kormoran; this would make plausible the loss of the entire crew, as only tiny handfuls of the much larger crews of the battlecruisers Queen Mary, Invincible, and Hood survived the destruction of their ships.

The initial report, however, brings that theory into question. Most magazine explosions result in extreme damage to a ship; Kormoran was found in four pieces, Hood in two, Invincible in two, Fuso in two, and so forth. If Sydney is in one piece (and it’s too early to say for sure what “upright and largely intact” actually means), then a magazine explosion seems less likely. The distance between the wrecks (about twelve nautical miles) also renders the theory that the Germans executed Sydney’s shipwrecked crew less than plausible. Although ships can drift a bit on the way down, it seems that the Captain Detmers account of the Sidney drifting off, burning and bow down before Kormoran evacuated has been supported. It’s possible that Sydney’s crew would have evacuated in the immediate vicinity of Kormoran while the light cruiser remained afloat, but not terribly likely, and Sydney would have had to stay afloat for some time before finally succumbing. Moreover, the crew of Kormoran would have had plenty of things to do other than execute Sydney’s survivors; Kormoran herself was mortally wounded and on the verge of exploding. So, I think at the very least we can say that Detmers and his crew are likely not guilty of murdering Sydney’s survivors. This is further supported by the fact that none of the survivors of Kormoran ever copped to the slayings, even after sixty years.

My guess is that this is what happened; Kormoran’s surprise shots killed Sydney’s commanding officer and threw Sydney into confusion. Kormoran also struck Sydney with a torpedo, which would have increased the panic and chaos. Ineffectual and disorganized damage control resulted in the ship taking on considerable water, but the chaos and the uncertain chain of command meant that no one knew who was in authority to give an abandon ship order. When a ship takes on water, a list can turn into a roll very quickly, and at some point before a general evacuate order was given, Sydney turned turtle. A handful, or even a couple dozen, sailors may have escaped, but not in good order and not with the safety and rescue equipment that the survivors of Kormoran were able to take. Bad luck, sun, and sharks then finished off this remnant.

Interestingly enough, one other, more outlandish theory has yet to be ruled out. Some have argued that Sydney was, in fact, killed by a Japanese submarine rather than Kormoran. This is implausible for any number of reasons (no record of such an attack is in Japanese archives, Japan was not at war with Australia at the time, the Japanese sub would have to have been working closely with Kormoran, but Detmers and company never admitted to it, and so forth), but it does kind of fit the facts as we now know them. If Sydney drifted off to the north, wounded but not yet sunk, a Japanese sub could have sent her to the bottom quickly and unexpectedly with a couple of torpedoes. Moreover, the Japanese would have had good cause to surface and execute any remaining survivors. It’s terribly outlandish, yes, but it can’t be completely ruled out until someone gets a look at the state of Sydney’s hull.

In any case, this is a very exciting time for naval antiquarians; one of the great mysteries of the Second World War is on the verge of being solved.

UPDATE: It appears that the bow has been separated from the hull, which suggests the possibility of a magazine explosion.

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Bad ideas all around

[ 1 ] March 22, 2008 |

Via Steve Clemons, there’s Douglas Bandow’s comprehensive review of John McCain’s bizarre foreign policy pronouncements. It’s a reminder of just how consistently McCain has been ill informed or wrong — wildly so in many cases — on the most significant foreign policy questions of the past decade. This is true not merely with respect to Iraq and Iran (where his enthusiasm for conflict is apparently boundless), but in every other region of the planet as well.

It also reminded me to take a look back at the piece that appeared under McCain’s byline in Foreign Affairs in late 2007. Though not as dismaying as the mound of foam that Norman Podhoretz issued on behalf of Rudy Giuliani a few months earlier, the article is basically a K-Tel anthology of deep thoughts from the Bush administration. Lots of manifest destinarian nonsense, enormous statements about the “great struggle,” and an array of proposals that the costs (both financial and diplomatic) war in Iraq has rendered incredible. Does McCain seriously believe, for instance, that anyone would be willing to join a “League of Democracies” guided by the United States? Why not just go ahead and call it a “Coalition of the Willing?” McCain even argues that the US should create a “modern-day OSS” to “fight terrorist subversion.” I suppose their are less diplomatic ways of pointing out that the CIA is no longer politically correct to the anti-Islamofascist right, but I’d have to count this one (belatedly) as one of the least useful ideas of 2007.

I understand McCain will be fishing around for a vice president over the next few months. He really should consider keeping Cheney on the job. And Stephen Hayes, I’m sure, would make a fine Secretary of State.

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[ 16 ] March 22, 2008 |

Exactly right:

Meanwhile, you need to put Iraq in strategic context. The goal wasn’t merely to topple Saddam, but to intimidate other “rogue” regimes by creating a credible threat to take them out too. That meant that something like a 350,000 troop, 15-year commitment wouldn’t achieve the goals of the policy. It wasn’t “incompetent” for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to have rejected those methods; the rejection followed directly from what they were trying to accomplish.

And this is why the strategy (especially beloved by liberal hawks) of claiming that this was “really” a war about liberating the Iraqi people and not about the Grave Threat posed by Saddam’s Model Planes Of Terrah has always been a non-starter, because the former war simply wasn’t on the table and never was. The former would have been a bad idea too, because we know nothing about how to create a stable democracy ex nihilo in an institutional context as unfavorable as Iraq, but it’s beside the point because it was simply never an option. Defenders of the war were defending Bush’s war being run by people appointed by George Bush for strategic reasons valued by Bush and Cheney, period.

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In the Bag

[ 4 ] March 22, 2008 |

Since ignoring the fact that John McCain hasn’t released his tax returns while complaining that Hillary Clinton hasn’t isn’t quite enough, ABC News “chief investigative reporter” Brian Ross decided to just make stuff up and claim that McCain had released his returns.

The next few months of watching the media ride on the Straight Talkitude Express are going to be depressing as all hell.

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Why Did We Get It Right?

[ 3 ] March 22, 2008 |

An op-ed for an alternate universe in which people who were actually right about the Iraq War received a significant media platform, as opposed to giving space to those who regret having supported the war because it will make it less likely that we’ll fight the next crazy war (in the context of claiming that you’ve learned your lesson about assuming that razing a government will allow a better one to magically appear in its place like night follows day!)

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Requiem for the Ducks

[ 14 ] March 22, 2008 |

Rarely have I seen a more pathetic second half of basketball. Drove me to drink, it did.

Anyway, except for the poor bastard who picked USC to win it all, looks as if the field is still open. Did anyone have two 12/13 seeds making the Sweet 16?

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 42

[ 24 ] March 21, 2008 |

Doughy Pantload gobbled some cake today. He did so in a very serious, unprecedented way.

Rather than try to summarize the life and work of a man who’s given the left blogosphere so much over the years, I’ll allow Jonah to speak on his own behalf today, the 39th anniversary of his glorious and very serious descent from the womb.

For the first time, I’ve collected some of the most inspiring, serious, and carefully researched moments from the blog dedicated to that most serious of political tomes, Liberal Fascism. You might think I’ve captured the essential seriousness of Goldberg here, but you’d be mistaken, because it’s Jonah who’s captured his own essential seriousness and — in the form of a prose poem — conveyed it through me, his greatest and most serious fan, to you:

I’m not entirely sure how this thing will turn out. I wonder if Big Bird felt this way when all of a sudden everyone got to play with snuffeluphagus?

I promise: I’ll go as deep in the weeds as people want. I don’t want to get weedy on this, at least not yet. That’s too weedy to get into here, but I don’t believe I do and I think fair-minded readers will see this simply by reading the introduction.

Attacks like this are a sign that I’ve hit on something real. There’s a lot — and I mean a lot — of rank nonsense, base-stealing and all around goofy-headed flapdoodle in here. There’s not much percentage in wrestling with pigs over whether I’m a fat-gay-racist-spoiled-moron. There’s no percentage in debating such people. But don’t worry about me. Ultimately it’s a bit like getting a booster shot. The prick hurts for a second and then your immunity is improved over all. As for the charge I’m the product of nepotism: Yawn.

But much of the criticism I get from the left amounts to, “even if you’re right, so what?” I’ve often been reluctant to write about my views on it because there’s no way to avoid sounding arrogant and self-serving.

Okay, here are some rapid-fire responses. The early New Deal was in many respects more militaristic than Hitler’s Germany in the early 1930s. On college campuses, administrators routinely look the other way at classically fascist behavior, from newspaper burnings to the physical intimidation of dissident speakers. These attitudes ultimately stem from the view that the white man, like the Jew, represents every facet of what is wrong and oppressive to humanity. Or witness the common refrain on the left that “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.” That is as fascistic as any of the Nazis slogans. This organic food movement, the whole-grain bread operation, the war on cancer, the war on smoking, that these things were as fascist as death camps and yellow stars. They were as central to the ideology of Nazism as the extermination of the Jews.

This points to one reason why I say contemporary liberalism, to the extent it can be called a relative of classical fascism, is a nice form of fascism. We’re going to nicey-nice ourselves into oblivion, enjoying it all of the way down. That’s my nightmare scenario.

Politically, fascism is indeed a form of populism. All oars in a fascistic society must pull together. The worst practitioner is John Edwards. His “two Americas” rhetoric strikes deeply fascistic chords. Mike Huckabee is another guy who plays this us-versus-them card deftly. Lou Dobbs is another. Again, fascism will come during a moment of broad cross-class agreement, not disagreement.

But that does not mean I am calling liberals Nazis. Democracy and liberalism are not fascistic. I don’t argue anywhere that liberals want to put the Pale Penis People in Prison. I marshal hundreds of pages of evidence to back up my points. I think anatomically my argument is very strong. I’d need to know specifically what he wrote in “The Doctrine of Fascism.” It’s been about three years since I’ve read it.

This is getting really old. I could go on, but you probably get it. But once I get started, it’s hard to stop. I can do this all day. I could quite literally do this all day. I could also go on about how McCarthyism has its roots in progressivism.

Anyhow I’m done with this now. I will definitely be doing a collection of funnier writing or some such in the future.

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Quite A Lot, Actually

[ 22 ] March 21, 2008 |

Kevin Drum asks: “Two Democrats, two committed Christians. So what’s it gotten them?” Well, in the case of Clinton, the answer is that she’s become a popular Senator of a large state and a close runnerup to be candidate for President, but…had a mean blog post written about her by Barbara Ehrenreich. In the case of Obama, he is similarly legislatively situated and will be the favorite to win election as the President of the United States, but there has been some controversy about statements made by the pastor of his church. Seems like a strong net positive to me, especially when you consider that neither of them would be viable presidential candidates if they were atheists.

This brings me back to what’s always puzzled me about what such arguments about religion in the Democratic Party are actually advocating. If the argument is that religious believers should be treated respectfully and that national Democratic politicians should discuss their faith where appropriate, I agree — but since this is already the case I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. If the argument is that religious beliefs and arguments by public figures should be essentially exempt from criticism — including, apparently, from progressive journalists with a distant-to-hostile relationship with the Democratic Party — this is both impossible and undesirable. The answer, it seems to me, is that it’s fine for politicans to bring up their faith and to make religious arguments, but there’s no reason that this should be somehow exempt from scrutiny from the press and the public in a way that secular appeals are not.

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Privilege the Subjective

[ 0 ] March 21, 2008 |

Matt writes:

It’s striking how much of conservative thinking about national security these days centers around subjective factors — determination, emboldening, “claiming victory” — rather than on objective assessments. Objectively speaking, withdrawing from Iraq would cut off a major line of recruiting for al-Qaeda while simultaneously freeing up vast quantities of American manpower and other resources. How “bold” that makes al-Qaeda leaders feel (and you’ve got to figure these fuckers were pretty “emboldened’ already when they blew up the twin towers, right?) has nothing to do with anything.

Two and a half thoughts on this…

First, I think there is a thread in American culture that privileges subjective factors like “determination”, “reputation”, “boldness”, etc. over objective material factors. Moreover, I think that evocations of reputation, toughness, etc. are more commonly made in the South than in other regions; as such, the increasing dominance of the South in Republican Party politics makes these evocations more key to the conservative understanding of the world. You could say that conservative elites manipulate these attitudes in a cynical way, but I don’t think that’s the entire story; elites, after all, are subject to the same cultural norms that everyone else is subject to. Consequently, we see plenty of evocations of our toughness and credibility (such that we see ourselves as “tough” and “determined” for pulverizing a country with less than a tenth of our population and less than a hundredth of our economic might) even when objective factors favor us; it’s unsurprising that such arguments are pushed to the fore when material reality proves disappointing.

Second, subjective factors are being forced to do the work that material factors should be doing. The Iraq War was, as much as anything else, motivated by the Ledeen Doctrine, the need to pound some little country to dust just to show that we could. The “light footprint” invasion was designed to indicate to potential enemies that we had the capability to do this over and over again; we could invade whomever we wished whenever we wished with whatever forces we had available, and still be essentially guaranteed of victory. This capability, even in the absence of a strong will (and conservatives haven’t actually believed that the American people have a strong will since at least Vietnam; most of them still, essentially, blame the public for being too weak) would put the fear of God in our enemies and force them to do what we wanted. That Iraq wasn’t actually responsible for 9/11 was hardly the point; when someone spills a drink on you in a bar it is incumbent upon you to kick someones ass, doesn’t matter who, just to demonstrate that you’re not to be trifled with.

But (and we’re to thought 2.5 now) the capabilities bit didn’t work out. No one believes that we have the capacity (broadly defined) to depose the Iranian regime and replace it with folks of our choosing. Iraq has served to gut the capabilities argument. What remains is determination; if we can prove to everyone that we’re really, really determined, really, really resolute, and really, really credible, then they may be as frightened of us as if the Iraq War had actually worked. If we demonstrate the willingness to pay infinite costs in Iraq, then the Iranians will think twice before messing with us, as will the North Koreans, the Russians, etc. This argument is founded on about thirty mutually supporting yet equally absurd elements, but it nevertheless has a certain rhetorical power.

And so the last refuge of the scoundrel is “determination”. Conservatives curl up with tendentious readings of the life of Churchill, and convince themselves that as long as we’re determined, tough, resolute, and credible everything will be okay.

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