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God hates koalas

[ 12 ] October 26, 2010 |

Well, this is a bummer, but it’s not like we haven’t been warning the koalas about the sinning and the non-missionary-style sex and all of that sort of thing.

Koala Immune Deficiency Syndrome, as the disease is otherwise known, is now documented in the Wildlife Disease Database, maintained by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is worrying veterinary scientists who are seeing more and more koala victims of the disease.

“Extinction is inevitable in some areas,” Jon Hanger, a veterinary scientist at Australia Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital, told CNN. “I certainly hope we don’t see it across Australia. But if we don’t take the decline seriously and pick up on the warning signs now it’s certainly a risk.”

Like human AIDS, the disease is not fully understood, but a virus weakens the victim’s immune system, leaving the koala vulnerable to cancer, infections and other health problems. The CNN report mentions that KIDS “is spread by koalas coming into contact with each other,” suggesting that mating isn’t the only possible form of transmission.

Apparently, Pat Robertson has contacted the Concord Monitor and reiterated his theory that if we were all in a room with 25 infected koalas and they were breathing various things into the atmosphere, the chance of someone catching KIDS would be quite strong. In other news, it looks like Celia Farber will be publishing a piece in Harper’s arguing that koala AIDS isn’t caused by infectious disease at all.

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Cohen: Real Men Treat Their Subordinates Inappropriately

[ 20 ] October 26, 2010 |

Via Amanda Hess, self- (and by nobody else) described very funny guy Richard Cohen leaps to the defense of Clarence Thomas:

Every 20 years or so, some woman surfaces to accuse the now-Supreme Court justice of being a male chauvinist pig — to resurrect an old term from the tie-dyed era — but falls frustratingly short of making a case for true sexual harassment. Thomas stands nearly alone on the court in his shallowness of his scholarship and the narrowness of his compassion. But when it comes to his alleged sexual boorishness, he stands condemned of being a man.

I know lots of men who don’t repeatedly use inappropriate language and make unwanted sexual advances toward women who work for them, actually. But the key problem here is that Cohen doesn’t seem to understand one of the central issues, which is perjury. Thomas didn’t claim at the hearings that repeatedly asking out and using crude sexual language around his subordinate Anita Hill didn’t constitute sexual harassment. Rather, Thomas denied using such crude sexual language not only around Hill but around anyone. Lillian McEwen’s story is, therefore, very much relevant to whether or not Thomas was telling the truth, which — as Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson have already documented in great detail — he almost certainly wasn’t. And, unlike Cohen, I’m afraid I don’t regard perjury by a Supreme Court nominee as a trivial issue.

But, in fairness, it’s not as if Cohen has any self-interested reason for wanting to declare potential sexual harassment a non-issue. Oh, wait.

[X-Posted to TAPPED.]

The Best Possible News at the Best Possible Time…

[ 19 ] October 26, 2010 |

I couldn’t be more happy:

Tony Scott has confirmed he will direct a sequel to his 1986 blockbuster Top Gun. The film, he told the Hitfix blog, could focus on a new era of aerial warfare in which pilots control unmanned planes remotely.

Earlier this month it was reported that Tom Cruise might return as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell for the sequel, though not in a leading role. Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie is to write the film with original producer Jerry Bruckheimer also said to be on board…

“I’m not waiting for a script. I’m going to do my homework. I’m going down to I think it’s Fallon, Nevada, down near New Mexico and it’s a whole different world now.

“These computer geeks – these kids play war games in a trailer in Fallon, Nevada and if we ever went to war or were in the Middle East or the Far East or wherever it is, these guys can actually fly drones. They are unmanned aircraft. They operate them and then they party all night.”

Scott said the film would also be about the end of the era of fighter pilots. He said: “These guys are still test pilots and they manned the drones when they were first running them.”

Fortunately, I’ve already written a script; Tony, your people should get in contact with my people so that we can discuss terms. I’ve made some updates, including the addition of a prison break scene for Viper and an A-Team style montage on the reassembly of a museum-piece F-14. The unmanned drone focus works perfectly; Iranian F-14 pilots take advantage of a US Navy and US Air Force so slashed by Obama-era defense cuts that they can no longer afford manned fighter aircraft. I even have a cameo for myself as an effete leftist professor questioning the utility of airpower…

Today From the Fainting Couch

[ 4 ] October 26, 2010 |

Shorter Megan McArdle:  If I see anyone using a violent metaphor in the midst of political discourse, I’ll give them a 2×4 to the head.

Aqua Buddha Would Not Approve This Message

[ 21 ] October 26, 2010 |

I think maybe probably Rand Paul should have just carried out his threat not to debate Jack Conway again:

A MoveOn.org activist apparently trying to get close to U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul on Monday was shoved to the ground by supporters of Paul and stomped on, according to a video of the incident.

The video, taken by WDRB-TV in Louisville, shows a man wearing a Rand Paul sticker stomping on the woman’s shoulder and head.

Fortunately, the activist seems to be fine. It remains to be seen, however, whether Paul can lose the race in the next few days.

…and our answer to that question is: Probably not.

This Is What Support of DADT Amounts To

[ 17 ] October 25, 2010 |

I had forgotten whether or not the Washington Times was still in business.   Apparently, it is, and it has a revoltingly homophobic editorial in support of DADT. The thing is, none of this irrational rhetoric is in any way unusual — “radical homosexual agenda,” “ramming [non-discriminatory] policy through and/or down throats,” etc. — is how movement conservatives, including Republican public officials, talk about gay and lesbian rights. Which helps to explain why every Senate Republican voted to filibuster the perpetuation of the unpopular and unjust policy that Moon’s minions defend in such rancid terms here.

Racialist Cowering — Not Just For Alec Rawls!

[ 8 ] October 25, 2010 |

As Roy also points out, perhaps the worst defenses of Williams come from people who defend his comments on the merits.

A Hack For All Seasons

[ 40 ] October 25, 2010 |

It’s not exactly shocking that Glenn Reynolds is embarrassing himself about the Degraded Mustard Gas of Death And Terror that totally retrospectively justifies the Iraq War.   And yet, it’s far from the most embarrassing thing he’s written this month.    That would be his poetic-justice-as-fairness yuk-yuking about how liberals think diversity is a good thing…but ban ROTC from college campuses.   As usual, the thing is replete with illogic and ridiculously failed attempts at gotchas (liberals think that when the military wants to recruit employees it should comply with the same nondiscrimination rules that all other employers do…but it hasn’t banned some presidents who have signed bad legislation from campus!   Not offering particular military programs is a failure of “integration” comparable to Jim Crow!   Really, it goes on like that.)

But leaving aside the fact that whether or not colleges have banned ROTC has nothing to do with “diversity” — let alone integration — what about Reynolds’s central premise that elite universities have “banned” ROTC, and Congress should step in by legally requiring them to offer it?  Funny thing about that:

It turns out there is such a law. The Solomon Amendment, passed in 1994, withdraws federal financing from any college with a “policy or practice” preventing the military from “maintaining, establishing or operating” R.O.T.C. on its campus. The law also takes financing away from colleges that bar military recruiting. The Defense Department hasn’t been shy about enforcing its right to recruit, going all the way to the Supreme Court and winning in Rumsfeld v. FAIR.

So if there are colleges that ban R.O.T.C., why aren’t they being punished?

The answer is that in all my research on the subject, I have found no universities that ban R.O.T.C., nor has the military initiated action against any institution for banning the program. We have grown accustomed to saying there are bans only because it fits with the assumption that certain colleges are unfriendly to the military.

There’s no “ban” on ROTC at elite schools, then. When universities required ROTC programs to comply with the university’s standards, the military left. The military could return ROTC to elite campuses anytime if chose to comply with basic requirements for academic standards. What Reynolds is asking for, therefore, is not nondiscrimination but for military programs to be exempt from basic academic standards that apply everywhere else. Not a very compelling argument, I’m afraid.

From Behind the Urine-Soaked Veil of Ignorance

[ 25 ] October 25, 2010 |

Michael’s nice catch about how Muslims obviously are pointing their clothing towards Mecca perversely compelled me to check in on Alec Rawls, even better evidence than Keifer Sutherland and Julian Lennon that sometimes talent sees the next generation and runs away screaming. Fortunately, for appreciators of fine wingnuttery, Mr. Rawls has (to put it kindly) thoughts to share about Juan Williams, the martyr recently sent to gulag that involves $2 million bucks to provide worthless commentary. But first, he has some shame to express about the time he was less than rigorous about applying his racism:

I am ashamed to admit that last month I let my watchfulness lapse, possibly putting my flight at risk. This time I was flying from SF to Logan. When I sat down in the boarding area there was a middle-age Arab-looking man standing across from me, his back to the wall, with a carry-on bag at his side. A minute later a college-age Arab or Indian youth came and placed his carry-on in front of the older man’s bag, then sat on the floor and leaned back against both bags.

[…]

To make up for it I spent the next 3 hours trying to keep at least a half an eye out to see if the older man, seated a few rows in front of me, got out of his seat. Once we got past Chicago I figured they couldn’t be trying to use the plane as a weapon—it was too low on fuel—so I went back to my reading.

I never was able to spot the younger man or see whether they paired up at the other end. Since nothing happened, it would at worst have been a test run, perhaps to see how complacent American passengers have become. If so, I flunked, and should be demoted from any order of merit, all of which makes NPR an order of demerit.

And he didn’t even check the luggage compartments for carry-on bags with semicircles of terror on them. For shame!

But it gets better. You thought Palinesque claims that the First Amendment exempts you from criticism or guarantees fourth-rate hacks lifetime sinecures were frivolous? Try this on for size:

[Funding NPR] violates the Article IV section 4 guarantee to the states that they shall have a republican form of government. The states are under the federal government, so this constitutional provision also constrains the federal government to abide by the fundamental principle of republicanism: that it is the people who are sovereign.

Right. Maybe Rawls is planning a presidential — or at least Senate — run? If he can come up with an argument for why the emoluments clause requires slashing capital gains taxes, he’s a got a great shot!

How to Know “Muslim Garb” When You See It

[ 36 ] October 25, 2010 |

NPR analyst Juan Williams “feels nervous” when he notices people in “Muslim garb” at airports. Unfortunately he’s not alone.

In response, this website is collecting “Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things.” A witty and poignant counter-point to ignorance and prejudice. Some of my favorite examples of “Muslim garb”:

Read more…

A Few Reactions to the First 36 Hours of Wikileaks Spin

[ 39 ] October 24, 2010 |

I see a few conceptual problems in the media coverage of the Iraq War Diaries leak (useful roundup here) and people’s reactions to it.

1) More than half of the atrocities detailed in the diaries were committed by Iraqis against one another, but I think the media’s frame makes more of that than it ought to, in a way that feeds into a dangerous political narrative about culpability in armed conflict. For example the NYTimes claim that “Detainees Fared Worse in Iraqi Hands” misleads us into thinking that somehow that makes the US record in Iraq a little more excusable. I have often heard precisely this argument from students and colleagues when insisting that the US be held accountable for its own crimes – that they’re nothing compared to what others are doing. You also hear echoes of this from DOD spokespeople like Geoff Morell:

“We have not always been perfect but we have been far better than anyone else has in the history of warfare.”

But international law, of course, compares states’ behavior to the standards in the treaties themselves, not to one another’s least common denominator.

2) To take the opposite tack, the argument, such as that made by Daniel Ellsberg, that US misconduct in Iraq “proves” the war was a unethical because it was a “bloodbath” is also, I think, conflating jus in bello ethics (regarding how we fight) and jus ad bellum ethics (regarding the conditions under which it is legitimate to fight). If the war was unnecessary for the reasons fought, a violation of the UN charter, and sold to the public through misinformation, it was unethical regardless of how well US troops may have behaved in the field (always at any rate a relative measure). And even if the war had been justified, this wouldn’t excuse the new evidence – now heaped upon the existing historical record – of detainee abuse, failure to ensure security during an occupation, and rules of engagement that put civilians at risk.

3) Though I agree with many commentators that there’s not a lot here we didn’t know about (short of the gory detail), it must be said there are some new stories in this set of documents. Of the five “bombshells” reported by the Christian Science Monitor, one that actually is kind of a bombshell is the US’ denying it had kept a secret death count. It should be emphasized that as far as I know this is not illegal: the US was never required by the Geneva Conventions to keep such a count or to publicize it. But I would argue governments should be (many others agree) and perhaps this new data will help that movement gain ground. The evidence here suggests it is feasible as well as appropriate to expect belligerents to collect casualty data, and that the better part of valor for belligerents is to make this part of the historical record of wars in advance rather than only when brought to heel by public opinion. In fact, I can think of no better initial mechanism for putting some much-missing teeth into the regime protecting war-affected civilians than to expect governments to account for their record in this regard.

Oh Right, This Is Why I Thought He Was A Moron

[ 27 ] October 23, 2010 |

I should probably be enjoined from criticizing Charlie Manuel again, since I’ve never been more wrong about a manager. He is, on balance, very good. But tactically…ye gods. One worked and one didn’tm but…the IW of Huff was bizarre; depending on how much weight you put on Huff’s dismal 2009 it’s possible that Posey is a better hitter, and neither Posey nor Madison have extreme platoon splits — there’s no way that can be worth giving up a baserunner and moving the Giants one player closer to turning the lineup around. But I think the Ruiz bunt was even worse. You’re going to bunt 2nd to 3rd with a guy with a .940 OPS against lefties? To set up the bottom of the lineup? At home in the 6th inning? If the Phils go on to lose this game, you have to look carefully at that sequence.

…Congrats to the Giants. Nice to see that we’ll have to have at least a quasi- first-time champion this year…