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Mission Accomplished!

[ 0 ] May 26, 2009 |

A writer for the Weekly Standard begins with the premise that opposition to same-sex marriage is not always motivated by anti-gay bigotry or fundamentalist nonsense. He then goes on to make a case against SSM consisting almost exclusively of…creepy misogyny. So I suppose you’d have to say that he proved his point; there really are a multitude of indefensible reasons for supporting marriage discrimination…

…the great sky-blue satan IDs another choice quote.

…and see also Echidne and Mr. T. Bogg.

…Chotiner hands out more rope.


My Brain is Hanging Upside Down

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Ronald Reagan received well-deserved scorn in 1985 for visiting Kolmeshöhe Cemetery, where several dozens of SS members were buried; even so, the circumstances of that visit could at least be rendered moderately sensible, given the incompetence that preceded the trip in the first place (e.g., Michael Deaver’s inability to realize who were buried there) and the political conditions that Reagan claimed had boxed him in (e.g., Kohl’s earlier support for missile deployment). The fact remains, though, that Reagan’s gesture of “reconciliation” was a disaster that subsequent presidents have wisely elected not to repeat.

By way of comparison, I have no idea why US presidents continue to honor the memory of soldiers who died fighting for the rights of white people to own black people.

A little over 140 years ago the residents of the American south rose up and began brutally slaughtering thousands of their fellow citizens to defend a despicable system of slavery. They chose to kill and destroy instead of recognizing that the tide of history had finally turned against them. Yet the memory of these traitors and murderers is honored, the reasons for their crimes santized. Deserters from the US military – men who took and then broke an oath of service to the Constitution of the United State – are given memorials and characterized as men of honor.

No shit. What respectable constituency is served by this annual rite of national humiliation? That anyone would mourn the confederate dead is beyond my range of comprehension; it’s unfortunate enough that William McKinley ever set in motion the process that eventually brought tens of thousands of Southern corpses under the care of the US government, when the nation would have been more properly served by stacking them on barges and launching them onto the North Atlantic current. But I’m kind of an asshole that way. The scandal here, however, is that Obama and his predecessors have specifically granted legitimacy to a memorial that — as a heap of scholars properly note — is nothing more than an ode to white supremacy and Lost Cause mythology. It continues to serve as a beacon to neo-Confederates who believe the South was engaged in a divine struggle against evil and that its founding principles have been vindicated over the past century and a half. Unless the wreath Obama sent to the memorial happened to be attached to a jackhammer, the effort was surely wasted.

Isn’t that Just Like the French…

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

…to go after a fraudulent religion just because it comes from the United States:

The Church of Scientology’s French branch went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud, in a case that could lead to the group being dissolved in France.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The French branch of the group said on Monday religious freedom was threatened.

Brief Memorial Day Baseball Thought

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Performance this year notwithstanding, this is a beautiful picture for any Mariner fan:

The Effective Case Against Kagan

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

Made by Charlie Savage:

Most of the half-dozen or so candidates Mr. Obama is weighing have little by which to gauge whether their appointment might create a majority with greater sympathy for the White House.

But one, Judge Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has expressed doubts about claims of sweeping executive powers in national security matters. Another, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, has a history of advocating for presidential powers in domestic matters, along with a mixed record of statements on counterterrorism issues.

I’ve become more and more convinced that Wood is the best candidate on what seems to be the short list. And given the Court’s current makeup, a significant possibility that a judge could join the Court’s reactionary wing on arbitrary executive power cases should pretty much be a disqualifying factor.

UPDATE: More from Evitar and Wheeler.

Nork Nuke the Next

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

The catchy title is intended to obscure the fact that I have nothing useful to say on North Korea’s second nuclear test. Seems to have gone better than the first one. Will probably make the Japanese even more twitchy.

Can the Washington Nationals do anything right?

[ 0 ] May 25, 2009 |

The answer, of course, is “no.” While it’s true that Theodore Roosevelt favored spelling reform, one assumes he wasn’t thinking of his own name as a candidate for revision.

This wouldn’t have happened if the team still played in Montreal.

Hackery By Rote

[ 0 ] May 24, 2009 |

As always, this Robert Samuelson column is an utter embarrassment, starting with his typical indefensible conflation of Medicare and Social Security to pretend that they’re both poised to blow up the national budget. And to compound the idiocy, say that the possibility that the Social Security trust fund may stop fully funding benefits in 2037 means it’s about to go “bankrupt,” an unusual way of describing a situation in which dedicated taxes would still fund most of the outlays. (I hate to tell you, Robert, but apparently our defense spending is “bankrupt” right now — I mean, if it’s not fully funded by dedicated taxes throughout eternity, it’s by definition unsustainable!) And it would be really great if the Social Security trust fund were to go “bankrupt” tomorrow, because this would force us to make immediate draconian cuts! And the fact that this won’t in fact happen for decades (and may not happen at all, assuming that the economy becomes more productive) shouldn’t change anything. One illogical assertion piled on top of another, the Samuelson trademark.

In addition, you have to like the way that Samuelson poses as a brave truth-teller, proposing tough but specific policy proposals. And yet, his policy proposal for Medicare — which is the source of most of the fiscal problem he identifies — consists of “a fundamental overhaul of Medicare.” What would this consist of? Your guess is as good as mine (although I suspect Baker has it about right.) But wait — Obama does, in fact, have rather ambitious health care proposals. But that doesn’t count, because “Obama’s plans to expand government-paid health insurance might increase Medicare spending by aggravating medical inflation.” Or, conversely, expanding government insurance might decrease health care costs the way it does in, you know, pretty much every other liberal democracy. Maybe it would work differently in the U.S. — but Samuelson shows no sign of recognizing the fundamental issues here.

And what’s worst of all is that Samuelson has written the same idiotic column, what, six billion times? Isn’t it time for some new blood?

Empathy and the Rule of Law

[ 0 ] May 24, 2009 |

A good post from Susan Bandes. I think the point about the way in which conservative nominees like Thomas and Alito have emphasized their life stories is particularly important — nobody really thinks that judicial decisionmaking is entirely independent of personal experience (although, of course, the values one derives from this experience can differ greatly, and these values are what presidents are really looking for.)

Some Big News on Chinese Aircraft Carriers

[ 0 ] May 23, 2009 |

Feng at ID highlights two new bits of data on China’s aircraft carrier program. The first is that the Chinese have carried out significant work on the ex-Varyag, the Kuznetsov class carrier that they purchased several years ago and that has been the source of constant speculation on Chinese intentions. The second, and much more interesting, is that the PLAN has apparently arranged to begin training its carrier pilots on board the Sao Paulo, Brazil’s full deck aircraft carrier.

Aircraft carriers represent a huge investment of time and effort. Apart from the carrier itself and the aircraft, a navy needs to assemble a battlegroup capable of protecting the carrier, and needs to master fixed wing big deck carrier operations. This last is exceptionally complicated, and its difficulty is not to be underestimated. Operating a modern aircraft carrier requires a high level of professionalism and expertise on the part of the pilots, the aircrew, and the ship’s regular complement. For example, taking off from and landing on a carrier is much more complicated than similar operations on land. Pilots also have to master a set of navigational skills that will guarantee they can find their carrier under adverse conditions. The maintenance requirements for aircraft at sea are much greater than for aircraft on land, because of the corrosive effect of seawater. Coordinating an air group at sea is difficult, and coordinating take offs and landings such that sorties can be maximized is very difficult indeed. We know all this because it took the United States quite some time to master jet aircraft operations on big deck carriers. Until the Chinese master such operations, they’re looking forward to large numbers of accidents and carriers of limited effectiveness.

Learning such operations takes a long time. One shortcut to learning from scratch is to borrow knowledge from others. The Royal Navy, which has substantially lost the expertise it once had in aircraft carrier operations, is borrowing from both the French and the Americans. US and French advisors are consulting with the RN, and RN officers are learning on board US and French ships. Chinese options for vicarious learning, however, are limited. The US certainly isn’t interested in doing the Chinese any favors. The French might be interested, but their military interaction with China is limited by EU arms export rules. The Russians don’t have a reputation for being very effective in carrier operations, and in any case they’re likely to lack a sense of humor about the Chinese stealing their aircraft.

Enter Brazil, last of the four countries to operate conventional aircraft from carriers. Sao Paulo, formerly the French Foch, operates A-4 Skyhawks. It appears from this interview that the PLAN has arranged with the Brazilian Navy to train some of its pilots and crews on board Sao Paulo. It’s fair to say that this represents a substantial step forward for Chinese naval aviation. This agreement with Brazil will presumably allow the Chinese access to Brazilian naval aviation experts in addition to the carrier itself. This should accelerate the development of Chinese naval aviation by quite a bit.

The normal caveats apply to this; in the very best case scenario China is decades away from being able to challenge the carriers of the USN with its own. Moreover, conflict between China and the United States, or China and its neighbors, is far from inevitable. Still, the PLAN appears to be serious about naval aviation, and it seems to know what it needs to learn. As a final point, unless this is all part of an elaborate charade on the part of the Chinese, it indicates that in spite of whatever methods the PLAN may have developed to attack US carriers, it still believes that it needs its own CVs.

America’s Worst Director Update

[ 0 ] May 23, 2009 |

I had always assumed that, while he is certainly a world-class wanker and atrocious director, that McG couldn’t quite match up with the likes of Bay or Schumacher in the tough competition as America’s worst director. His association with Smashmouth, however, might at least make the margins tighter; there was a band that probably deserved more discussion in “America’s Worst Band” discussions. It’s pretty hard to make a video for “All-Star” almost as irritating as the song, but he did it…

For You Compulsive Gadget Freak Types Who Just Have To Read

[ 0 ] May 23, 2009 |

We’re here for you!