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That’s so funny I forgot to laugh

[ 68 ] May 19, 2010 |

Tom Tomorrow.

A couple of weeks into this I’m curious about how many self-identified progressives are OK with the Kagan nomination as it stands, or more precisely will remain OK with it when her confirmation hearings feature, as they almost surely will, nothing beyond the non-responsive two-step perfected by recent nominees.

Update: A youthful Kagan didn’t like Tom Clark’s left-wing activism when he applied the exclusionary rule to the states.

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A Little Much

[ 20 ] May 19, 2010 |

I think Lizardbreath has a point here. This isn’t to say that I entirely I agree with her take; I stand by my basic comments yesterday and am still not inclined to give Blumenthal the benefit of the doubt, meaning that (again! what are the odds?) I agree with Saletan. To the extent that I remain a lot less charitable than LB, it’s the point raised by Dave: not only is embedding technically-true-but-highly-misleading statements about your service in reactionary bullshit about the way Vietnam vets were treating dismaying in itself, but it I think it also pushes the claims from “dissembling” to “lying.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this particular stabbed-in-the-back myth was about soldiers returning from Vietnam, not reservists supervising toy drives as part of a de facto draft dodge. So I think the technically-true-but-highly-misleading statements are completely fair game.

Having said that, a politician dissembling and sometimes worse about his credentials isn’t exactly the scandal of the century, and it’s very hard to see what the added value of this more recent front page story is. (UPDATE: Actually, I think that’s too weak. Shays’s carefully unfalsifiable but not very plausible stories about what he had been led to believe and what he almost did are pretty repellent, and there’s no excuse for giving him a forum in a front page alleged news story.)

Cheonan Incident Continues to Develop

[ 9 ] May 19, 2010 |

South Korea is preparing to formally accuse North Korea of sinking the Cheonan:

South Korea will formally blame North Korea on Thursday for launching a torpedo at one of its warships in March, causing an explosion that killed 46 sailors and heightened tensions in one of the world’s most perilous regions, U.S. and East Asian officials said.

South Korea concluded that North Korea was responsible for the attack after investigators from Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States pieced together portions of the ship at the port of Pyeongtaek, 40 miles southwest of Seoul. The Cheonan sank on March 26 after an explosion rocked the 1,200-ton vessel as it sailed on the Yellow Sea off South Korea’s west coast.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because South Korea has yet to disclose the findings of the investigation, said subsequent analysis determined that the torpedo was identical to a North Korean torpedo that South Korea had obtained.

Of the countries aiding South Korea in its inquiry, officials said that Sweden had been the most reluctant to go along with the findings but that when the evidence was amassed, it too agreed that North Korea was to blame. A spokesman for the Swedish Embassy declined to comment.

In spite of having some other things on the foreign policy plate, Obama has promised support for Seoul:

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his full backing for South Korea and its investigation into the sinking of the Navy vessel Cheonan near the inter-Korean West Sea border, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday.

President Lee Myung-bak and Obama spoke over the phone for about 25 minutes earlier to discuss a joint response to the naval tragedy.

“Obama told Lee that he fully trusts Seoul and backs its handling of the incident,” the presidential office said in a press release.

Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to Seoul next week to discuss the case, adding the U.S. will closely cooperate with South Korea to deal with the aftermath. Clinton is scheduled to hold high-level meetings in Beijing from May 24 to 25.

Also, William Ruger and I have a short op-ed in the Korea Times on the need for a “Goldilocks solution” to the crisis.

“Supermanliness”

[ 23 ] May 19, 2010 |

I’m currently in the UK doing some research at the National Archives, and I’m reminded that accidental finds are always more interesting that what you’re actually looking for. Amidst the voluminous correspondence of the Viscount Trenchard, I came upon the following translation of a German prisoner of war interrogation report, for a pilot forced down behind the lines in France:

Lieutenant Cyrus Roy Hall, 20th Res: Battn, Royal Highlanders, Canada, attached R.A.F. as pilot.

Age 24. Law student in Canada (Alberta)

Joined the army in October 1914 (Infantry) Landed in France February 1915. Transferred to R.F.C. 1.6.17.

The following statements of the prisoner concerning his flying career are to be accepted with great reserve as they do not agree in any way with the many papers which he carried on him. He states that he was first with the Squadron 45 which was at the time still using Sopwith two seaters, he was then transferred at this own request to a Bristol Fighter Squadron, and after four months service at the front as Pilot, he was transferred to England for testing new types, for which purpose on specially outstanding Pilots were accepted. After short service as a ferry pilot (flying new machines from Englad to France) he then left for France at the end of March with his present unit and he accomplished the most heroic deeds there, especially upon the four occasions when, as he hints, he crossed swords successfully with Richthofen.

The facts, however, are quite different. If he was in fact at any time attached to Squadron 45, which cannot well be doubted in view of his knowledge of the circumstances, he can only have been an Observer. We trace him as having been in England on the 31st July 1917 with a unit of the R.F.C. at Wantage Hall, Reading (apparently the Cadet School); at the No: 3 Training Squadron, Shoreham, Sussex, on the 26th Sept. 1917; at the Aerodrome of Colney, near London, in December; with the 74th Service Squadron in January and February 1918. He then finished a course in photography with the XVIII Wing (hitherto unknown) which at the time was subordinate to the 74th Service Squadron (since in France.) He only obtained his pilot license (No:10706) on the 24.2.1918 which is proof in itself that he could not have been a pilot in 1917. On the 13th March 1918 he was with the 85th Squadron at Hounslow, at the end of April with the Fighting Squadron in Ayr, Scotland, and on the 14th May he finished his Machine Gun course at the No. 2 Auxiliary School of Aerial Gunnery at Turnberry, whereupon he returned to the 85th Squadron at Hounslow. It is only on the 25th May that he paid his mess bill for the first time in France and this date is important as establishing when his unit came to France….

Prisoner is a prominent example of Colonial “supermanliness”. He considers Europeans as cattle, unable to think for themselves. He judged the English very harshly, especially the higher Officers, but he is also full of contempt for the men. Only Canadians and Americans are free and independent men, who know how to behave and look after themselves in all circumstances. It is apparently quite clear to him that the war has, up to the present, taken an entirely victorious course for Germany. He has, however, no doubt whatever that in the end Germany must be defeated.

Observations:

1. Was there any piece of personal paperwork that Lieutenant Hall didn’t carry with him in the aircraft?

2. Do POWs have any duty to attempt to tell plausible lies?

3. The bit about Canadian “supermanliness” is utterly priceless.

I’m curious whether he ever received his law degree. It does appear that he survived the war, but I can’t find anything about him after that.

KY Election Results

[ 1 ] May 19, 2010 |

Good news from Kentucky, where Jack Conway managed to beat Dan Mongiardo.  Conway is more progressive than Mongiardo and polls better; against the Randernaut he might have a chance. As in all things Kentucky, follow Media Czech at Barefoot and Progressive for updates on the situation.

I also have to give a shout out to friend, former student, poker buddy, and conservative Republican Ryan Quarles, who managed to win his Kentucky State House Republican primary against a teabagger opponent. Ryan and I agree on little apart from the merits of Patterson and the value of the check-raise, but nevertheless…

Deep Thought

[ 10 ] May 18, 2010 |

I didn’t know the Bronx got so many midges on rainy days in May…

Bristol Palin to charge tens of thousands for speeches on how to avoid teen pregnancy

[ 14 ] May 18, 2010 |

There are days when I sort of hope the Mayans got their calculations right.

Speaking of shameless self-promotion, I’m now on Twitter at PaulFCampos

Idiot

[ 30 ] May 18, 2010 |

Great — one of the Senate seats that should be relatively easy to maintain in a bad political year, and we have a Tim Johnson on our hands. Time to find someone else to be the Democratic candidate.

Added (by davenoon): There’s much to loathe about Blumenthal in this story, but arguably the worst angle to it — at least from an historian’s vantage point — is his apparent willingness to repeat the conspicuously untrue legend that returning soldiers were routinely spat upon and otherwise assaulted at war’s end:

In an interview, Jean Risley, the chairwoman of the Connecticut Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc., recalled listening to an emotional Mr. Blumenthal offering remarks at the dedication of the memorial. She remembered him describing the indignities that he and other veterans faced when they returned from Vietnam.

“It was a sad moment,” she recalled. “He said, ‘When we came back, we were spat on; we couldn’t wear our uniforms.’ It looked like he was sad to me when he said it.”

Fables about soldiers being spat upon were, of course, central to the right wing narrative that our loss in Vietnam had everything to do with gutless opponents of the war and nothing to do with the fact that the US decided to squander two decades in the effort to create, sponsor and fight on behalf of a South Vietnamese government that was loathed by the majority of its people and never stood a chance of surviving on its own. There’s no hope, I suppose, that these myths will ever be removed from popular memory of the war; the fact that media coverage of Blumenthal’s other lies will completely ignore this one will only underscore its baleful durability.

Being a secret socialist is hard.

[ 5 ] May 18, 2010 |

I’m still a few days behind the news cycle, what with volcanoes and not picking up people to take them to the airport, so I just now ran across this item which, for reasons that boggle the mind, has been linked pretty much everywhere.  As someone who, unlike Kagan, wrote an actual dissertation on the impact of early 20th Century socialism on American thought—reconciling Jack London’s Darwinism and socialism requires discussing his socialism, after all—I wondered how easily I could be branded a traitor to this great nation on the basis of cherry-picked quotations, and as it turns out I’m doomed.  Just consider the charges against me.

Of course I believe in change:

[Jack] London wanted to believe that if industrial life could ravage a body in so short a time, social and cultural change could improve a society over a shorter span than the “deep time” geology-influenced evolutionists believed was required. London wanted to believe that a new social order could create a new, superior species in units calculable in years instead of eons.

Of course I believe in progress:

Received wisdom had the trajectory of social evolution necessarily moving—progressing—toward increasingly complex forms of collective behavior.

Of course I want an undemocratic socialist tyrant in charge:

Telic actions cannot be performed by acephalous organizations; democracy is hamstrung by “by the arrant idiocy of political organization.” Such actions can only be undertaken by undemocratic organizations whose leaders are chosen not because they represent society at large, but because they do not. Such leaders will accelerate the process London believes already at work: namely, that “from the facts of [human] history . . . the trend of [social] development is toward greater and greater collective wisdom.”

Of course I believe socialism is the product of natural selection:

As Thomas Huxley wrote in a letter (27 October 1890) to William Ball: Have you considered that State Socialism—for which I have little enough love—may be a product of Natural Selection? The societies of Bees and Ants exhibit socialism in excelsis.

Of course I believe that the death of capitalism is the fiat of evolution and the word of God:

You are perishing, and you are doomed to perish utterly from the face of society. This is the fiat of evolution. It is the word of God. Combination is stronger than competition.

Of course I believe the Fish-Eaters are the chosen of God:

When the tribe complains of hunger, the Bug “sang a song of how good it was to be a Fish-Eater[, how] the Fish-Eaters were the chosen of God and the finest men God had made[, and] how fine and good it was for the Fish-Eaters to fight and die doing God’s work, which was the killing of the Meat-Eaters.”

And if that weren’t enough, of course I want to kill puppies:

For a week it appears as if Big-Tooth may indeed bring about the domestication of the dog, but then he returns home one day to find his friend Lop-Ear “had killed the puppy and was just beginning to eat him.”

If some patriot doesn’t put a stop to me soon, I’m gonna be forced to take action myself.

Smoking (Torpedo)

[ 11 ] May 18, 2010 |

Hard to commit the perfect murder of 46 South Korean sailors these days:

The joint investigation team has reportedly found screw pieces of torpedo, probably causing the sinking of the Navy patrol ship Cheonan, near the border waters in the West Sea where the incident took place in late March.

The Korea Broadcast System (KBS) reported Tuesday that the team has launched close checking of the findings in a non-destructive testing. “The manufacturers of the screw are shortlisted to two countries Russia and China,” KBS reported, quoting government officials who were not identified.

The screw, which is a part that creates power to propel the torpedo in the tail, has been regarded as a decisive clue to the cause of the incident as it does not destruct in general even during an explosion.

The government is ready to make it clear that the corvette was sunk by the torpedo and North Korea will be responsible for torpedo attack as the government has already secured pieces of material evidence, including screw part, when it announces investigation results May 20.

Couple observations:

1. When the forensic technology of the modern state is focused on a question like this, the amount of information that can be acquired is truly remarkable. I suspect that the North Koreans understood that South Korea would divine the true cause of the loss of Cheonan, but I wonder whether they realized that the South Koreans would be able to effectively demonstrate North Korean responsibility.

2. Noting that the torpedo was of Russian or Chinese vintage is a nice touch; it puts extra pressure on Moscow and Beijing to take the lead in sanctioning and pressuring North Korea.

3. Horatio Caine would be proud:

Saudi Woman Beats Up Virtue Cop

[ 4 ] May 17, 2010 |

The Saudi Gazette reports:

Al-Mubarraz police are investigating a complaint that a Saudi woman in her twenties allegedly punched and beat up a staffer of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a). The staffer had to be taken to a medical center because of the bruises to his face and body. Apparently the Hai’a staffer suspected the young woman of being in the company of an unrelated man in an amusement park because the couple appeared to be acting in an inappropriate manner.

When the Hai’a staffer approached the couple to confirm their identities and the relationship between them, the young man collapsed. It was then the young woman allegedly unleashed a fierce attack on the Hai’a staffer with her fists.

Plenty of “you go girl” accolades like this percolating outside Saudi Arabia. It’s actually kind of serious though: the woman could be penalized with jail time and flogging if she is charged for assaulting a government official, so the human rights movement had better prepare a campaign to protect her from the predictable backlash from the state. But as described in the Jersualem Post, this incident may also be symptomatic of a gradual yet significant shift in Saudi society away from its entrenched culture of gender apartheid.

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QOTD

[ 9 ] May 17, 2010 |

Edroso:

“[Racist nuts who think that the Miss America pagent was a DhimmoIslamoCommieNazi conspiracy] are just mad they’re not old enough to have protested Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers.” Nearly as amusing is La Althouse speculating that it was also an anti-federalist conspiracy. Don’t forget the saucer people!

Relatedly, Jonah Goldberg thinks that birthers have some very interesting ideas and he’d like to subscribe to their newsletter.