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Thursday Frigate Blogging

[ 0 ] September 18, 2008 |

Meet SPS Almirante Juan de Bourbon. She is 6200 ton AEGIS frigate (more of a destroyer, really), capable of 29 knots and armed with SM-2 Standard surface-to-air missiles, Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, and anti-submarine torpedos. SPS Almirante Juan de Bourbon (named after King Juan Carlos’ father) was one of the first NATO warships to enter the Black Sea following the South Ossetia War. If Georgia were admitted to NATO (as Senator McCain has suggested), and if Russia nevertheless attacked Georgia, SPS Almirante Juan de Bourbon would be expected to shoot down Russian aircraft, sink Russian ships and submarines, and endure Russian attacks.

Spain’s prime minister, however, should not expect an invitation to John McCain’s White House.

…via Juan Cole, it appears that it was Spanish intelligence that blew the whistle on the inaccurate airstrike that killed 92 civilians in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. Unrelated, I’m sure.

McCain campaign: Our candidate is crazy, not senile

[ 27 ] September 18, 2008 |

This story is getting better all the time.

It’s pretty clear from the interview that McCain is a very tired old man who was having trouble concentrating, while being interviewed by a native Spanish speaker with an accent who was speaking pretty fast. And even though she asked him four separate times if he would invite Zapatero to the White House, and helped him out a couple of those times by mentioning that Zapatero is the head of the Spanish government, McCain was confused about who Zapatero was (even though he was doing an interview with a Spanish radio network).

But instead of owning up to this, the McCain campaign, using their standard operating procedure, decided to think up a lie and think one up quick, to wit: McCain was fully intending to say that he would refuse to meet with the head of the government of a NATO ally — a country we are by treaty required to defend with military force if they’re attacked (by someone other than us I suppose). As Kevin Drum and others are pointing out this is a fairly insane position to take, but the campaign people have clearly calculated it’s less damaging than to admit that he was just out of it.

The Mind Boggles

[ 26 ] September 18, 2008 |

My governor, promising thorough reform:

Through reform, absolutely. Look at the oversight that has been lack [lax?], I believe, here at the 1930s type of regulatory regime overseeing some of these corporations. And we’ve got to get a more coordinated and a much more stringent oversight regime . . . government can play a very, very appropriate role in the oversight as people are trusting these companies with their life savings, with their investments, with their insurance policies, and construction bonds, and everything else.

I would suggest here that Sarah Palin is pig-ignorant, but that would be an insult to pigs. Pigs, after all — being pigs — know what it is that they’re supposed to do each day, what with the rooting and wallowing and squealing and such. Sarah Palin, apparently, does not realize that modern American conservatives did not object to the regulatory innovations of the New Deal because they were antiquated, but rather because they existed in the first place. And modern conservatives — like the erstwhile economic adviser to John McCain, to say nothing of John McCain himself — rectified the problem by sending those regulations into the spindler.

Wallace Links

[ 0 ] September 18, 2008 |

A useful collection of writings (fiction and non-fiction) from the late David Foster Wallace available online. I particularly recommend “Tense Present” and his take on Updike.

The reign in Spain falls mainly on McCain

[ 0 ] September 17, 2008 |

This is pretty extraordinary: McCain did an interview with a Spanish national radio network, in which he either:(1) Refused to meet with Spain’s prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero because he equates Zapatero with “enemies of America” like Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro; and/or(2) Refused to say he’d meet with Zapatero because he didn’t know who Zapatero was; and/or(3) Failed to realize that Spain isn’t in Latin America.

The interview was conducted in English but translated simultaneously into Spanish. If you understand Spanish you should definitely give it a listen. After some questions about the economy and immigration the interviewer asks McCain about his views on Venezuela. McCain replies with some predictably harsh words about Hugo Chavez’s disregard for human rights and free market principles, and points out that unlike Obama he has said he’ll refuse to meet with Chavez or other enemies of America without preconditions. He’s then asked about Bolivia and says identical things about Evo Morales. A bit later, he’s asked about Cuba, and he says the same things about Raul Castro.

Finally at the end of the interview he’s asked what seems like a completely pro forma question about whether if he’s elected he’ll invite the head of the Spanish government, Zapatero, to the White House. McCain, without responding to the question, says that he’s willing to meet with Latin American leaders who want to promote democracy, respect human rights etc. He then tries to change the subject by talking about what a great job President Calderon of Mexico is doing in fighting the war on drugs.

Clearly taken aback, the interviewer repeats the question, saying yes she understands, but is McCain willing to meet with “the prime minister of Spain, Zapatero.” (McCain is doing an interview with Spanish national radio, so you’d think he might have done five minutes of prep work on subtle issues such as “who is this country’s current leader?”). McCain merely repeats what he said before about wanting to work with Latin American leaders, etc.

So she asks a third time, does this include Zapatero. McCain dodges the question, saying he needs to study the issue, but that he wants to meet with Latin American leaders who support the same goals he does.With something close to evident exasperation, the interviewer says, “Yes Senator, but now we are speaking of Europe, not Latin America” (it’s clear she’s getting the impression that McCain doesn’t know where Spain is). But McCain repeats the same answer a fourth time! The interviewer gives up and the interview ends.

It seems, from the bits of his voice you can hear behind the translation, that McCain is tired and confused, and perhaps he simply doesn’t know who Zapatero is, and is afraid of making a “gaffe,” where he unwittingly agrees to meet with some crazy leftist dictator of an obscure banana republic. Or maybe “Zapatero” sounded suspiciously like “Zapatista” to him.Anyway it’s too bad this is complicated by translation issues, because it’s really shocking to hear how confused and dodgy his answers at the end of the interview are.

Update: Here’s the original English language version of the interview.

Nino Scalia shares some thoughts on legal education

[ 19 ] September 17, 2008 |

No “law and” nonsense for you.

After Scalia left [the University of Chicago Law School] it hired now-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and started offering classes like Obama’s popular “Current issues in Racism and the Law.” Scalia never mentioned Obama or any other professor. But Scalia bemoaned the proliferation of exotic law classes in the country’s law schools. “I took nothing but bread-and-butter classes, not “Law and Poverty,” or other made-up stuff, Scalia said to laughter. He said his advice to law students was: “Take serious classes. There’s so much law to learn. Don’t waste your time.”

I’m well aware that Scalia and his Federalist Society friends get their kicks by driving liberals crazy by saying stuff like this, but it would be a lot easier to ignore if there wasn’t so much evidence that he believes every word he’s saying. To Scalia, a law school course inquiring into what effect poverty might have on peoples’ relationship to the legal system simply isn’t a legitimate part of the curriculum. Studying such matters is “political” you see, and law isn’t supposed to be political — it’s supposed to be neutral, in its majestic equality, toward people of all economic conditions.

It’s impossible to improve on the words of Anatole France, applicable as they are to so many times and places:

Another reason to be proud, this being a citizen! For the poor it consists in sustaining and preserving the wealthy in their power and their laziness. The poor must work for this, in presence of the majestic equality of the law which prohibits the wealthy as well as the poor from sleeping under the bridges, from begging in the streets, and from stealing bread. That is one of the good effects of the Revolution. . . . The Revolution only made stronger, under the pretence of making all men equal, the empire of wealth. It has betrayed us into the hands of the men of wealth. They are masters and lords. The apparent government, composed of poor devils, is in the pay of the financiers. For one hundred years, in this poisoned country, whoever has loved the poor has been considered a traitor to society. A man is called dangerous when he says that there are wretched people. There are laws against indignation and pity, and what I say here could not go into print.

My Todd Collins fetish

[ 1 ] September 17, 2008 |

I confess to being a little obsessed with Todd Collins. Who is Todd Collins you may well ask? At present, he a backup QB for Washington’s NFL team, where he is being paid $3 million per season over the next three years to not play football.

Collins has, I believe, the unique distinction of spending an entire decade in a major professional sports league without ever seeing a single minute of meaningful action. During this time he was paid approximately $8 million to not play football.

From the end of 1997 until December of last year, Collins appeared in a handful of games (he had no less than four seasons in which he literally never stepped onto the field once), but all his appearances were limited to very brief garbage time play in the last few minutes of blowouts (he threw a total of 27 passes over the course of ten years, i.e., an average of one every five months).

Then last season a series of injuries thrust him into the spotlight. He started Washington’s last four games, and played very well, leading the team into the playoffs. For this he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month, and rewarded by Daniel Snyder, Washington’s spendthrift owner, with a three-year $9 million contract. He then returned to holding a clipboard on the sidelines. He is, in my view, a genuine American hero.

This is his blog.* Appropriately, it hasn’t been updated since March.

*Not really. It’s a parody , proving I suppose that there’s no fetish, no matter how exotic, that doesn’t have it’s own internet site (the purported live blogging by Collins during his games last December is actually sort of funny).


[ 0 ] September 17, 2008 |

Moving from ordinary villainy to cartoonish super-villainy:

The last straw, the McCain campaign said, was in July, when Monegan planned to travel to Washington to seek federal money for a plan to assign troopers, judges and prosecutors who could exclusively handle sexual assault cases — one of the state’s most intractable crime problems.

In a July 7 e-mail, John Katz, the governor’s special counsel, noted two problems with the trip: The governor hadn’t agreed the money should be sought, and the request was “out of sequence with our other appropriations requests and could put a strain on the evolving relationship between the Governor and Sen. (Ted) Stevens.”

Four days later, Monegan was fired. He said he had kept others in the administration fully apprised of his plans to go to Washington.


Did you get that? Governor Sarah Palin was so resolutely apathetic to dealing with a sex crime problem even she agreed was epidemic that her Public Safety Commissioner made a trip to Washington on his own to try to secure funds to combat it. And instead of praising his initiative or thanking him for his service, she shitcanned him—because she didn’t want that money, and because it might have damaged her relationship with the corrupt Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, whom Palin had previously publicly criticized because she’s all mavericky and shit.

When PUMAs attack

[ 0 ] September 17, 2008 |

Prominent Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter who recently married a very elderly billionaire, thus becoming an expatriate Baronness, endorses McCain, while decrying Obama’s elitism.

OK, to be fair it turns out she was already very rich herself before she married into the billionaire leagues. Unlike her preferred presidential candidate.

Some Details on Chinese Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Program

[ 0 ] September 17, 2008 |

Defense News (unfortunately, no link) has an article providing some additional detail on Chinese efforts to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile. The platform appears to be a DF-21 MRBM (Medium Range Ballistic Missile) which has a range of about 2500 km. The article confirms that terminal guidance of the missile remains the sticking point. A modern ballistic missile with GPS guidance is easily accurate enough to hit an aircraft carrier, but one of the advantages of aircraft carriers over islands is that they move; in the time that it would take to identify the carrier, give the order to launch the missile, and wait for the missile to arrive, the radius of action of a carrier at top speed makes a hit quite unlikely. Thus, the ballistic missile needs some kind of guidance system that will allow it to re-target the aircraft carrier once it re-enters the atmosphere.

The article indicates that the Chinese are aiming at having this capability by 2015. Whether that’s technologically feasible is unclear. Some comments at a previous post on this subject also make the point that China may lack the surveillance and satellite capacity to find carriers at sea in time to actually hit them with missiles; the Defense News article concurs, and notes that China is also making a big investment in such assets, although to date it’s capabilities are still insufficient.

The point of all of this is to increase China’s capability for deterring US intervention in a China-Taiwan dispute, intervention which would rely heavily on aircraft carriers. Anti-ship ballistic missiles are only one part of an arsenal (including air-to-ship missiles, ship-to-ship missiles, and submarines) intended to make the USN nervous about using its carriers anywhere near Taiwan, and consequently to make the US political leadership nervous about intervening. This doesn’t mean that the Chinese intend to seize Taiwan at any specific time in the future, but it does mean that the Chinese leadership believes that such a seizure may at some point be necessary.

Masters of the Universe to the Rescue

[ 44 ] September 17, 2008 |

This may be an extremely naive question — I’m sure it is — but how is it exactly that the U.S. government can essentially nationalize a firm with $100 billion in sales and one trillion dollars in assets in a matter of hours, with no legislative action of any kind other than a phone call to Harry Reid?

I mean do they just go to a big ATM or something?

As Atrios notes, in real dollars this rescue operation is more than 25 times larger than the infamous 1979 bailout of Chrysler, when both Congress and the presidency were in the hands of socialists, if I remember the history course I took from Newt Gingrich and Phil Gramm correctly.

That took an act of Congress. But in this wondrous new age everything — from multi-trillion dollar wars, to the sudden covert nationalization of whole industries (what justification will there be now for not bailing out the automakers, especially given their pension liabilities?) — goes straight onto the national credit card, with hardly any visible input or oversight from our elected officials.

Or, to put it another way, in America today profit is privatized but risk is increasingly socialized. It’s a form of crony capitalism that would make Russian oligarchs blush.

War Squishes Democracy

[ 4 ] September 16, 2008 |

Bad, but hardly surprising:

The Kremlin controls much of the Russian media, and Putin occasionally meets with friendly groups of senior journalists to answer questions and guide news coverage…. The message to the 30 or so media executives at the gathering was clear: With Russia occupying parts of Georgia and locked in perhaps its most serious conflict with the West since the Cold War, they should be especially vigilant against reporting anything that the government might find objectionable.

The media was under siege in Russia even before the war, but I suspect that this is part of a general relationship between war and media openness.