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Socialism For Me But Not For Thee

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

Shorter James Cramer: Anybody who believes that merely having a business run so incompetently that you require a massive taxpayer bailout should preclude bonuses is a communist. And let’s be frank, nobody who doesn’t receive at least a six-figure bonus works hard.

In A Shocking Development

[ 0 ] February 3, 2009 |

…bloggers are actually taking useful roles in government. As we’ve mentioned before, Lederman’s hire is especially encouraging but they all look impressive.

And even if he wasn’t a blogger, it’s nice to have Holder rather than Mukasey heading Justice. Wheeler has the rollcall.

No such thing as bad publicity

[ 0 ] February 2, 2009 |

I’d like to think that if you — like Derek the Abstinence Clown — were made of undiluted awesome, you’d rejoice in the opportunity to sow your seed prodigiously, especially if your message consists of the uplifting argument that premarital sex is like being dismembered by machete blades.

Apparently not.

I don’t get it. I mean, Ann Althouse just explained the other day that because a lot of high school kids are still virgins, we really can’t be certain — aside from the reassurances of science — that abstinence education doesn’t work. I find it entirely plausible that someone might view the abstinence clown show and then not get laid for a while. The iron law of post hoc applies here, I’m pretty sure. I can’t pretend to understand why Derek Dye wouldn’t want to take advantage of it.

Deep Thought

[ 0 ] February 2, 2009 |

If only Pajamas Media had put on more blogjams, it could have been the hottest thing since the Victory Caucus.

Good News

[ 0 ] February 2, 2009 |

No matter what we happen to think of the outcome of tonight’s game, I think we can all agree that the Steelers’ victory is good news for John McCain.

Tonight’s Professional Sporting Event

[ 0 ] February 1, 2009 |

Straight-up, you obviously have to pick the Steelers; they’re probably the best team in the league, going up against a team that is better than its regular season record but not that much better. If the game was at Heinz Field, I would take the Steelers giving away the points easily. I would be a little reluctant to give up 7 points to take Pittsburgh on the neutral field, though; Tomlin seems very conservative when he has a lead and Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t great. But, if I had to, I would still probably go Pittsburgh -7 — they’re not going to win again if Big Ben doesn’t play well, but I think he will. And I think we’re going to see that while Jimmy “if the blitz is working, blitz. If they’re shredding your blitz with screens and slants, keep blitzin’!” Johnson as a very overrated defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau isn’t. The fact that Pittsburgh can apply pressure while maintaining a decent number of DBs will, I think, be the key difference between this game and the NFC championship game.

And, I mean…it’s the Cardinals. Against the Steelers. I’m just not enough of a nihilist to pick the former…

Better history, please

[ 0 ] February 1, 2009 |

Why oh why does anyone take Amity Shlaes seriously? I mean, gadzooks. She’s a terrible economist and an even worse historian. These conditions that are not necessarily related to her lack of training in either discipline. It’s entirely possible, I would imagine, that someone with a degree in literature from Yale could eventually turn into something other than a dishonest hack. Regardless, Shlaes’ misuse of data is scandalous and can only be understood as deliberate; her work wouldn’t earn a passing grade in an undergraduate history course, much less pass through the gauntlet of peer review. (I know, I know. For a paper that just offered a scholarship to Bill Kristol after he was booted from the Times for growing weed in his dorm room, factual errancy is, as the kids say, a feature rather than a bug.)

Dean Baker compares her work to creationists and Flat Earthers, a comparison that is in the very least unkind to the latter, to whom we can’t ascribe a bad-faith ideological agenda. We’d do better to wonder when the Post will be reminding us that congressional reconstruction forced a prostrate South to submit itself to Negro Domination.

Thucydides on Film

[ 0 ] February 1, 2009 |

While searching for a Youtube for a video representation of the Melian Dialogue (no luck thus far) I stumbled upon this, a BBC teleplay based on History of the Peloponnesian War with Ben Kingsley as Pericles and Nathaniel Parker as Alcibiades. I’d kill a man to get a copy of this; seriously, if you have a copy, let me know who you need dead, and I’ll make it happen. Alternative recompense also possible.

From Colony to Superpower X: Wilson Epic Fail

[ 0 ] February 1, 2009 |

Chapter X of From Colony to Superpower covers the Wilson administration. There’s a lot here; much of the chapter deals with US relations with Mexico, which Erik is probably a bit more qualified to discuss, and which I’ll accordingly return to in the second round. To start with, I’ll concentrate on Herring’s treatment of the Road to the Great War.

The presence of the United States on the world stage had been steadily increasing since the Revolution. During the Roosevelt administration, the United States became a more or less conventional great power, building and consolidating a colonial empire and evening the field economically and militarily with the most powerful European state. Accompanying this rise to conventionality, such that it was, the idea of American exceptionalism developed and matured. Under the Wilson administration, these strands came together in the construction of a theory that could explain and guide the behavior of the United States in the international sphere; liberal internationalism. It’s not quite right to say that the ideals of liberal internationalism (pursuit of a particular vision of democracy, free trade, international organizations, United States as first among equals) emerged solely from the United States during this period, but it is remarkable the degree to which coherent vision of American foreign policy and the international system was in place by 1916. This vision crossed party boundaries (both Roosevelt and Taft shared general principles with Wilson, although they disagreed on specific points), and offered a narrative of US participation in the First World War. For a variety of reasons, the first US experiment with liberal internationalism was a qualified failure.

Herring capably describes the development of liberal internationalist sentiment (which was structured, in many ways, by the Great War), and the eventual collapse of Wilson’s efforts in Europe and the United States. Abroad, Wilson failed to create what he understood to be an equitable peace with Germany (on his own terms; I think there’s a good argument to be made that Germany should have been punished much more harshly, but Wilson didn’t believe so), to save a reformed Austria-Hungary, to structure new European borders safely and fairly, and most notably to challenge the foundations of European imperialism. At home, he was unable to make the case necessary to enrolling the United States in the central multilateral institution of the period. I don’t think it’s too harsh to suggest that Wilson’s foreign policy, while ambitious, resulted in utter failure on its own terms.

Herring briefly discusses the Lusitania incident. I have long believed that the sinking of the Lusitania rivals the sinking of the Titanic in the extent to which its significance has been overblown; for all the heat, the actual sinking seems to have had very little impact. The US did not enter the war or substantially change its policy towards Germany as a result of the sinking. The outrage surrounding the loss of Lusitania was one of several reasons why the Germans moderated their submarine policy, but German U-boats were not numerous enough in 1915 to decide the war in any case. Moreover, German behavior of 1917 provided ample causus belli independent of the sinking of Lusitania; this is not to say that the US decision for war was a good one, but rather that the Germans furnished reasons for war (Zimmerman Telegram, unrestricted submarine warfare) that would have held in the absence of Lusitania’s destruction. Thus, while the destruction of Lusitania was certainly tragic (and was incidentally not solely the fault of the Germans, as the ship was being used to smuggle arms to the UK), I do not understand why it has earned such a place of priority in accounts of US participation in World War I.

This brings me to a related question. It’s commonplace to argue that US participation in World War I was a tragic and avoidable error. Indeed, I’ve argued so myself. However, I think that while the “tragic” part is sound, the “avoidable” is in much greater question. The United States could have avoided entanglement by observing an embargo against all belligerents, but it’s fair to say that this is not something that an American President could have advocated in 1914. William Jennings Bryan made, as Secretary of State, some effort to limit US trade, which was met by howls of protest from, well, pretty much everyone. It was also inevitable, I think, that American trade would heavily favor the Allies. Without ordering the US Atlantic Fleet to escort convoys to Germany, there was no way to break the British blockade. As such, it’s very difficult to imagine how the United States could have gotten to 1917 without being intricately bound up in the war, formally neutral or not. After that, it’s not easy to construct a scenario under which an American president, even one opposed to the war (and Wilson certainly lacked enthusiasm for it) could have navigated public outrage generated by German diplomatic clumsiness and the renewal of unrestricted submarine warfare. I suppose that the very best that could have been hoped for would be a replay of 1940-41, in which the US engaged in more or less active maritime hostilities against Germany without a declaration of war, or direct intervention on the continent. I do think that this would have represented a better choice in 1917; however, I suspect it would have been very difficult to pull off politically.

Finally, as I’ve argued before, I would liked to have seen more about US military policy; if in the next chapter we don’t get some account of the importance of the Washington Naval Treaty, I’ll be quite put out.

We have a winner!

[ 0 ] January 31, 2009 |

This is pretty awesome:

I thought PJM was going to rival AP, UPI, Reuters. Finally, a news portal of citizen bloggers and journalists that would counter the Pali stringers and left wing biased journalists of the news gathering agencies . . . .

Can you imagine if I were given 20% of what was invested in PJM? I am one person. No assistants, no interns, no editors, nuthin. I would have had bands of free men roving the world reporting into Atlas central. TV, video, newsletters, action alerts, campaign headquarters — serious ass whuppin.

Like so:

. . . Um, ok. Thers was already there…. As was everyone in this thread. Do I win anything for getting to Atlas by way of TIDOS Yankee?

Fuck it. I’m going back to working on specs for my white wine bong.

That word does not mean what you think it means

[ 2 ] January 31, 2009 |

From the New York Times, Wall Street is pushing back against offensive suggestion that perhaps they have any obligation to account for the billions of dollars we gave them:

“I think President Obama painted everyone with a broad stroke,” said Brian McCaffrey, 55, a Wall Street lawyer who was on his way to see a client. “The way we pay our taxes is bonuses. The only way that we’ll get any of our bailout money back is from taxes on bonuses. I think bonuses should be looked at on a case by case basis, or you turn into a socialist.”

That, indeed, was a recurring equation: Broad strokes + bonuses = socialist.

“It’s a very slippery slope to go down,” said another insurance broker as he waited to be seated for lunch at Cipriani Downtown. “A blanket statement like that borders on” — you guessed it — “socialism.”

I know crying “socialism” whenever anyone gets in your way is pretty deeply ingrained for some people, but it might be time to find a new word.

Zarek-Gaeta for a New Tomorrow

[ 0 ] January 31, 2009 |

I’m not convinced that the Roslin-Adama politico-military clique has demonstrated enough success to deserve our continued support. Discuss.