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What Real Informed Consent Would Look Like

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

We all know that so-called “informed consent” abortion laws are totally BS, since the laws are not ensuring informed consent so much as endorsing government coercion of doctors, care providers, and pregnant women.

Which is why I was so happy to see Ema at the Well Timed Period take on what a real informed consent bill would look like — particularly on the heels of new statistics about the prevalence of post-partum depression. Bottom line: it wouldn’t look anything like the laws we see now.

Via.

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Red-Baiting, Live From 43rd Street!

[ 10 ] April 14, 2008 |

When did Bob Owens get a gig with the NYT op-ed page? Nobody tells me anything anymore.

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"I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says…"

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

Poor Fredo.

In related news, see Gene Healy on John Yoo and the Neoconstitution.

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Jack Sparrow Meets Joan of Arc

[ 10 ] April 14, 2008 |

Since the US-engineered fall of the Islamic Courts Union, piracy off the coast of Somalia has increased dramatically. Pirates like this area for a couple of reasons. First, because pirates need friendly bases from which to operate, they tend to do well in failed states. No one in Somalia right now is interested in preventing pirates from plying their trade. Second, pirates thrive when the density of local naval force is low. Piracy was really big in the Straits of Malacca four or five years ago, but naval expansion on the part of Malaysia and Indonesia, combined with facilitation efforts on the part of United States Pacific Command, helped to make the environment much less congenial to the profession. This is also why we almost never see piracy in the Persian Gulf. Several countries make regular anti-pirate patrols off of Somalia, but the density of force doesn’t approach that in the Straits, and probably won’t for a long while.

In any case, about a week ago a group of Somali pirates seized a big (almost 300′) French yacht that was on its way back to Europe. The French tracked the yacht, made contact, and paid the $2 million ransom that the pirates were demanding. They also brought up the Jeanne D’ Arc, a helicopter carrying cruiser. Shortly after the ransom was paid and the hostages freed, French commandos in helicopters landed and seized the pirates. Unfortunately, some locals may have died, although the French deny this.

France launched the raid in order to demonstrate that piracy doesn’t pay, although of course piracy does pay, and will continue to pay for as long as the basic local conditions allow it to thrive. Expect more incidents like this in the future.

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Bitter Gaffe

[ 29 ] April 14, 2008 |

I don’t have an enormous amount to add about Obama’s comment. Evidently, on the merits the controversy is stupid; as Roy says, the comments were a takeoff for politics-of-resentment silliness “in the precise manner Obama described.” And, yes, I wish that Clinton wasn’t discussing it using Page 1 of the Republican playbook, but that’s just another way of saying that I wish Obama had already knocked her out of the race. As long as she’s in, not using it would be to fail Campaigning 101, especially given her base in Pennsylvania.

It does, however. remind me to link to this fine recent piece by Eric Alterman about the ridiculous use of the epithet “elitist” by conservatives:

John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.” His comrade in anti-intellectual arms, former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who has spent a career working within what conservatives would call the “liberal media elite” and who wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a “prison bitch,” has sworn off all association with liberals even when he agrees with them, he says, “because of their elitism. They look down their snobby noses at ordinary Americans who eat at Red Lobster or because they like to bowl or they go to church on a regular basis or because they fly the flag on the Fourth of July.”

In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is more commonly large.” Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. Yet while unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or David Brooks would ever choose to live.

This isn’t to exculpate Obama for his comments; it was bad politics to frame his perfectly banal point in the precise way that he did. But wealthy urban conservatives and quasi-liberal pundits pretending to be offended on behalf of working-class rural people is a stupid kabuki, as well as considerably more condescending than anything Obama said.

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The Greatest Silence

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

I haven’t had a chance to watch the new HBO documentary about the revolting amount of gang rape in the Congo and its heartbreaking aftermath yet, but Lauren has and gives it her recommendation.

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NY Prisons & Race Event

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

For all you NYC-based LGM-ers, here’s information about a great event coming up this Thursday at NYU (organized by the Wagner School of Public Policy). I won’t be there as bean, sadly, will be in class. But hope some of you will go and report back. Here’s the info:

The American Constitution Society, Wagner Student Criminal Justice Group, Wagner Students of African Descent Alliance, & The Correctional Association of New York:

Prisons, Police, Race and The War on Drugs

Join leading academics, activists, political figures and lawyers in a discussion on a critical, oft-neglected, public policy issue of the day: how police, prosecutorial and prison related practices lead to the dramatically disproportionate confinement of poor people of color.

Date: Thursday, April 17
Time: 6:30-8pm
Location: Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue, Puck Building (295 Lafayette St., 2nd Fl.)
RSVP: http://wagner.nyu.edu/events/prisons.php

Panelists:
- JEFFRION L. AUBRY, Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction.
- KAMAU KARL FRANKLIN, Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-chair of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.
- ROBERT GANGI, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York.
- DENNIS SMITH, Associate Professor of Public Policy at NYU Wagner.

Moderator:
MARY PORTER, Lecturer in Public Administration, Assistant Dean at NYU Wagner and former prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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Isn’t that Cute

[ 2 ] April 13, 2008 |

Congressional Budget Office, The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans: Summary Update for Fiscal Year 2005

In its cost-risk projections, CBO assumes that activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere could cost as much as $56 billion in 2005. That figure rests on the assumption that force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain at their current levels throughout fiscal year 2005–an assumption consistent with CBO’s understanding of DoD’s current plans for both operations.

Over the long term, CBO projects that the cost risk associated with those (or similar) operations could amount to about $21 billion annually. That estimate is based on the assumption that between 2006 and 2009, U.S. force levels in Iraq decline to about 50,000 military personnel, operations in Afghanistan decrease to a level comparable to the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Operation Noble Eagle slowly diminishes. Of course, those specific assumptions are unlikely to hold true through 2022. The $21 billion estimate is simply a proxy for the budgetary impact of continued engagement by the U.S. military in such operations. If U.S. foreign policy shifted in a way that increased or decreased the nation’s military presence overseas, costs would change accordingly.

Current Iraq force level: ~140000
Current Afghanistan force level: ~30000
Estimated Iraq cost/year: ~$140 billion
Estimated Afghanistan cost/year: ~$48 billion

But remember; just another dozen or so years of this, and it will all have been worth it.

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Defense Acquisition Through the Ages

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

Via Danger Room, the most awesome thing ever. From past…

D’raw and Kwa-id directed their considerable strength towards lifting the strange object. “Is like … old club,” D’raw panted, “But … much heavier. Makes … bigger dent … in mammoth … head.”

“Me see,” Krog replied, encouragingly.

“Only problem,” Kwa-id conceded, in between breaths, “is mammoths tall. Club heavy. Club best … on small mammoth … or … sleeping mammoth.”

“Sleeping mammoth?” Krog asked. “How we get close and mammoth not wake up? If mammoth wake up, how we get away and not get squished?” D’raw and Kwai-id dropped the club with a thud.

“In all this time, you only make one club?” asked Krog.

The two nodded, and Krog spat in disgust. “Krog not impressed. You go away. Make better club. Maybe even make two different ones, then Krog do comparison and …”

…to future…

“Well,” said Ensign Tkll’ngs’m, reading from a list of talking points, “the aforementioned threats will now be defeated by the highly lethal and survivable Peregrine Starfighter with its balance of increased speed and range, enhanced offensive and defensive spacionics, and reduced observability. The design of the Peregrine also emphasizes reliability and maintainability. To ensure reduced observability, we are emulating the Wavedroid’s cloaking technology, the main drawback of course being that, like the Wavedroids, we will have to decloak in order to fire weapons. Or activate the sensors. Or turn on the engines. Otherwise, it works very well.”

Read the rest.

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Aerophobia

[ 22 ] April 13, 2008 |

Josh Marshall has an interesting post about being a recovering aerophobe, and he tells this story:

I still don’t [fly] very often. And it’s not easy. But I do it. In fact, my last flight, which was a few months ago, turned out to be that nightmare turbulence flight I’d always dreaded. (Yes, I know turbulence doesn’t make planes crash; it’s not rational.) The key moment for me was when the pilot went from saying we would be hitting turbulence, to a lot of turbulence, to ‘severe turbulence’ to ‘really severe turbulence’.

If you have no difficulty flying, the best way for me to put this into context would be to say that the moment the pilot finds the phrase ‘severe turbulence’ insufficient is not a good moment.

I’ve written before about how Amtrak helped resolve my anxieties about flying. Now, of course, I live somewhere that’s only accessible by air or water and has an airport that’s reputed to be one of the most difficult on the planet to navigate. There are at least three take-off and landing trajectories I can think of which, viewed from the ground, would persuade the casual observer that s/he was about to watch a jet plow into the side of a mountain. And that doesn’t even take into account the turbulence, which I’ve seen reduce people to tears. One of the first times we flew out of here, I was so sure the plane was going to disintegrate that I began scrolling through a list of people who I thought might be able to take care of my dog after my wife and I were gone. I was also pretty sure that half the plane had been screaming for the ten minutes or so that the fuselage was being reshaped into a pretzel; when things calmed down, a more seasoned flier sitting next to us assured me that I’d been hearing things and that we’d just gone through some pretty routine chop.

(As for the topic of unreassuring cockpit chatter: My mother once boarded a flight in St. Louis. As the plane waited at the gate, and while the captain was offering his pre-takeoff welcome, the engines suddenly kicked off. The pilot, mid-sentence, uttered the single word “Whoops.” A few moments of awkward silence, he continued: “Let’s try that again.”)

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World Defense Spending

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

This is stuff that we all kind of know, but it’s still interesting to take a look now and again…

1 United States $ 583,283,000,000
2 France $ 74,690,470,000
3 United Kingdom $ 68,911,000,000
4 China $ 59,000,000,000
5 Germany $ 44,712,300,000
6 Japan $ 41,750,000,000
7 Russia $ 40,000,000,000
8 Italy $ 32,600,000,000
9 Saudi Arabia $ 31,050,000,000
10 South Korea $ 27,400,000,000
11 India $ 26,500,000,000
12 Brazil $ 25,396,731,055
13 Australia $ 20,727,710,000
14 Canada $ 17,150,002,540
15 Spain $ 15,792,207,000
16 Turkey $ 15,166,000,000
17 Netherlands $ 12,000,000,000
18 Poland $ 10,838,000,000
19 Republic of China $ 10,500,000,000
20 Israel $ 9,444,000,000

In fairness, the Chinese total is almost certainly too low. Iran is at 24, North Korea at 27, and Venezuela at 33.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Habsburg

[ 44 ] April 13, 2008 |

The earliest known ancestor of House Habsburg is a figure known as Guntram the Rich, who lived in 10th century Germany. Guntram’s grandson, Radbot, built Habsburg Castle in what is now the Swiss town of Aargau. Radbot’s son, Werner, used the title “Count of Habsburg” and lived roughly from 1030 until 1096. By 1199, under Albrecht, the Habsburgs controlled most of the German speaking parts of Switzerland. Albrecht’s great-grandson Rudolf became embroiled in the bitter thirteenth century conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the papacy, enduring excommunication in 1254. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen, however, Rudolf was well placed to pick up the pieces, and in 1273 was elected King of Germany. Rudolf was unable to hold things together in Germany, and failed to secure the election of his son as King, but nevertheless was able to expand the power and holdings of the Habsburg family.

Albert I, son of Rudolf, managed to secure election as King of Germany some time after the death of his father. Over the next 150 years, two more Habsburgs would serve as Holy Roman Empire, and two as King of Hungary. Between 1379 and 1485 the Habsburg lands were split between different branches of the family, but this split ended with the reign of Maximilian I. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, lost Swtizerland but managed to gain control of the Netherlands. Through a complicated series of marriages, Maximilian managed to secure for his grandson, Charles, control of much of the known world, including Spain and Naples. After Charles (V in Austria, I in Spain) the empire was split into Spanish and Austrian branches.

The Habsburgs ruled Castile and Aragon until 1700 (and Portugal from 1580-1640), during the most vigorous period of Spanish colonial expansion into the New World. The Austrian branch secured the title of the Holy Roman Empire for itself until 1806, although it rarely controlled much of Germany. Without going into too much detail, the Habsburgs were involved in pretty much everything worth being involved in regarding European affairs from roughly 1400 until 1918. The Spanish branch died out in 1700, leading to the War of Spanish Succession, while the Austrian line technically became the House of Habsburg-Lorraine following the rule of Archduchess Maria Theresa. Along the way there are too many stories to tell; the life and death of Philip II, the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna, the Battle of Lepanto, the “enlightened absolutism” of Joseph II, and a host of other conflicts and scandals that beset the family over its hundreds of years of rule.

By the time of the French Revolution, it was clear that the Habsburgs would not rule all of Europe. Napoleon ended the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and helped put the Habsburg Empire on the path that would be described as “hopeless, but not desperate” in the 19th century. Prince Metternich managed to hold things together for a while, but the revolts of 1848 forced the abdication of Emperor Ferdinand I in favor of his nephew, Franz-Joseph. Franz-Joseph would rule until 1916, reigning over a brief recovery for Austria power before the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the imposition of the “Dual Monarchy” in 1867, wherein Hungary enjoyed administrative equality with Austria.

The questionable suicide of Prince Rudolf, son of Franz-Joseph and presumptive successor, left a surprised Franz Ferdinand as heir apparent. In order to marry the woman he loved, Franz Ferdinand was forced to disavow succession rights for his children. While visiting Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a young Serb named Gavrilo Princip. Princip failed to successfully commit suicide, and was 27 days short of the age of maturity (20) necessary for a death sentence. Consequently, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, although he died of tuberculosis less than four years into his sentence. The assassination set into motion a series of events that led to World War I, and the eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian state.

Franz-Joseph finally died in 1916, leaving the throne to Charles I. Charles began back channel overtures to the Allies for peace, but these failed and led to the weakening of the German-Austro-Hungarian alliance. Notably, Charles banned the use of chemical weapons by Imperial forces after becoming Emperor. Towards the end of the war Charles began an effort to reform the empire, with the goal of reducing the power of the monarchy and giving the various nations greater autonomy. Sadly, in my view, it was not to be; the United States failed to support Charles’ efforts, and the empire crumbled away in October and November of 1918. Charles didn’t abdicate, but he did “relinquish participation in affairs of state” and both Austria and Hungary shortly thereafter declared themselves republics. In 1921 Charles attempted to regain the throne of Hungary, but was thwarted by opposition from Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as regent. Charles died of pneumonia in 1922 in Portugal. In October 2004, however, Charles was beatified by the Catholic Church for curing the varicose veins of a Brazilian nun. Earlier this year, Charles was formally recognized for performing a second miracle (this time for the healing of a Florida woman) which opens the possibility for canonization as a Saint.

The death of Charles left his son, Otto, as the pretender to the Austrian throne. Born in 1912, Otto spent most of his youth in Switzerland and Portugal, fleeing to the United States after being sentenced to death for opposing Anschluss. He returned to Europe after the war, and to Austria in 1966. Since that time Otto von Habsburg has been active in pan-European politics, serving as a German MEP from 1979 until 1999. Most recently, the nonagenarian pretender has been warning of the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin, whom he sees as another Hitler or Stalin. Otto’s son, Karl, has served as an Austrian MEP since 1996, and enjoyed a brief stint as a game show host. Otto’s titles-by-pretension include Emperor of Austria and King, respectively, of Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, Jerusalem, and Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. Prospects for a return to the throne appear grim. The only Austria party favoring a restoration of the monarchy is an obscure group called the Black-Yellow Alliance, which appears to be running on a platform of restoring the Habsburg’s to the throne and re-creating a central European empire consisting of Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. As the actual surviving Habsburgs seem to prefer the European Union, the prospects for success seem uncertain. While both Otto and Karl still use the forms of royalty, neither seems to favor any political restoration, a stance reaffirmed by their participation in the European Parliament.

I find the idea of Habsburgs in the European Parliament particularly appealing. The Habsburg Empire represents a kind of pre-national European identity, while the EU represents a post-national European identity. I wrote this of the Empire a while ago:

It suggests the possibility of a national communal feeling without an independent state as its object. There is no good reason, in a liberal order, why different nationalities should require internationally recognized independent statehoods. This isn’t such a radical idea; Scotland, Wales, and Quebec, for example, all exist as national communities within a larger liberal state order. Moreover, it’s seems quite a good idea, given the difficulties that nationalism has produced, especially in the areas the Habsburg Empire once encompassed.

Anyway, I guess that I’m not certain that the situation of Austria-Hungary really was “desperate but not serious.” The Empire may have offered a vision of political order completely out of sync with the realities of 20th century nationalism, but, on the other hand, we may take that reality for granted when it was actually contingent. The artistic, scientific, and cultural achievements of late Habsburg life supply some reasons to think that the pursuit of an alternative order may have been worthwhile. Of course, the survival of the Habsburg Empire would have required a competent and enlightened political class, no evidence of which has ever been displayed.

…which I continue to stand by.

In any case, this is the end of Sunday Deposed Monarch blogging. There remain unexamined deposed monarchs, but just as with battleships there is progressively less to say about each particular family. Deposed Monarch Blogging will return in response to a surprise deposition or restoration, but for now its finished. For the time being I will devote Sundays to book reviews, which have been piling up. The final Sunday of every month will be dedicated to some sort of maritime blogging, whether a book review or no. In any case, thanks very much for all the interest in monarch blogging; I’d like to think that I’ve done my part to heal the longstanding wounds that have separated battleship antiquarians from their monarchist counterparts.

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