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Bitter Gaffe

[ 29 ] April 14, 2008 |

I don’t have an enormous amount to add about Obama’s comment. Evidently, on the merits the controversy is stupid; as Roy says, the comments were a takeoff for politics-of-resentment silliness “in the precise manner Obama described.” And, yes, I wish that Clinton wasn’t discussing it using Page 1 of the Republican playbook, but that’s just another way of saying that I wish Obama had already knocked her out of the race. As long as she’s in, not using it would be to fail Campaigning 101, especially given her base in Pennsylvania.

It does, however. remind me to link to this fine recent piece by Eric Alterman about the ridiculous use of the epithet “elitist” by conservatives:

John Podhoretz, the son of neoconservatism’s second couple, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who attended elite private schools and the University of Chicago before his father’s connections helped him secure jobs in the media empires of Sun Myung Moon and Rupert Murdoch, also professes to see America through rose-hued glasses. “Bush Red is a simpler place,” he explains, on the basis of a visit to Las Vegas. It’s a land “where people mourn the death of NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, root lustily for their teams, go to church, and find comfort in old-fashioned verities.” His comrade in anti-intellectual arms, former CBS News reporter Bernard Goldberg, who has spent a career working within what conservatives would call the “liberal media elite” and who wrote a book comparing his former friend Dan Rather to a “prison bitch,” has sworn off all association with liberals even when he agrees with them, he says, “because of their elitism. They look down their snobby noses at ordinary Americans who eat at Red Lobster or because they like to bowl or they go to church on a regular basis or because they fly the flag on the Fourth of July.”

In red-state America, explains the slumming blue stater David Brooks, “the self is small”; whereas in blue-state America, “the self is more commonly large.” Unlike the citizens of the states that voted for Al Gore, according to Andrew Sullivan, they can even be trusted not to betray their country on behalf of Islamic terrorists. Yet while unelite America is wonderful in every way, it’s just not a place where Laura Ingraham or Rush Limbaugh or Bernard Goldberg or Ann Coulter or John Podhoretz or Newt Gingrich or Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan or David Brooks would ever choose to live.

This isn’t to exculpate Obama for his comments; it was bad politics to frame his perfectly banal point in the precise way that he did. But wealthy urban conservatives and quasi-liberal pundits pretending to be offended on behalf of working-class rural people is a stupid kabuki, as well as considerably more condescending than anything Obama said.

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The Greatest Silence

[ 0 ] April 14, 2008 |

I haven’t had a chance to watch the new HBO documentary about the revolting amount of gang rape in the Congo and its heartbreaking aftermath yet, but Lauren has and gives it her recommendation.

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NY Prisons & Race Event

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

For all you NYC-based LGM-ers, here’s information about a great event coming up this Thursday at NYU (organized by the Wagner School of Public Policy). I won’t be there as bean, sadly, will be in class. But hope some of you will go and report back. Here’s the info:

The American Constitution Society, Wagner Student Criminal Justice Group, Wagner Students of African Descent Alliance, & The Correctional Association of New York:

Prisons, Police, Race and The War on Drugs

Join leading academics, activists, political figures and lawyers in a discussion on a critical, oft-neglected, public policy issue of the day: how police, prosecutorial and prison related practices lead to the dramatically disproportionate confinement of poor people of color.

Date: Thursday, April 17
Time: 6:30-8pm
Location: Rudin Family Forum for Civic Dialogue, Puck Building (295 Lafayette St., 2nd Fl.)

- JEFFRION L. AUBRY, Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction.
- KAMAU KARL FRANKLIN, Racial Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-chair of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.
- ROBERT GANGI, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York.
- DENNIS SMITH, Associate Professor of Public Policy at NYU Wagner.

MARY PORTER, Lecturer in Public Administration, Assistant Dean at NYU Wagner and former prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

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Isn’t that Cute

[ 2 ] April 13, 2008 |

Congressional Budget Office, The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans: Summary Update for Fiscal Year 2005

In its cost-risk projections, CBO assumes that activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere could cost as much as $56 billion in 2005. That figure rests on the assumption that force levels in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain at their current levels throughout fiscal year 2005–an assumption consistent with CBO’s understanding of DoD’s current plans for both operations.

Over the long term, CBO projects that the cost risk associated with those (or similar) operations could amount to about $21 billion annually. That estimate is based on the assumption that between 2006 and 2009, U.S. force levels in Iraq decline to about 50,000 military personnel, operations in Afghanistan decrease to a level comparable to the peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Operation Noble Eagle slowly diminishes. Of course, those specific assumptions are unlikely to hold true through 2022. The $21 billion estimate is simply a proxy for the budgetary impact of continued engagement by the U.S. military in such operations. If U.S. foreign policy shifted in a way that increased or decreased the nation’s military presence overseas, costs would change accordingly.

Current Iraq force level: ~140000
Current Afghanistan force level: ~30000
Estimated Iraq cost/year: ~$140 billion
Estimated Afghanistan cost/year: ~$48 billion

But remember; just another dozen or so years of this, and it will all have been worth it.

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Defense Acquisition Through the Ages

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

Via Danger Room, the most awesome thing ever. From past…

D’raw and Kwa-id directed their considerable strength towards lifting the strange object. “Is like … old club,” D’raw panted, “But … much heavier. Makes … bigger dent … in mammoth … head.”

“Me see,” Krog replied, encouragingly.

“Only problem,” Kwa-id conceded, in between breaths, “is mammoths tall. Club heavy. Club best … on small mammoth … or … sleeping mammoth.”

“Sleeping mammoth?” Krog asked. “How we get close and mammoth not wake up? If mammoth wake up, how we get away and not get squished?” D’raw and Kwai-id dropped the club with a thud.

“In all this time, you only make one club?” asked Krog.

The two nodded, and Krog spat in disgust. “Krog not impressed. You go away. Make better club. Maybe even make two different ones, then Krog do comparison and …”

…to future…

“Well,” said Ensign Tkll’ngs’m, reading from a list of talking points, “the aforementioned threats will now be defeated by the highly lethal and survivable Peregrine Starfighter with its balance of increased speed and range, enhanced offensive and defensive spacionics, and reduced observability. The design of the Peregrine also emphasizes reliability and maintainability. To ensure reduced observability, we are emulating the Wavedroid’s cloaking technology, the main drawback of course being that, like the Wavedroids, we will have to decloak in order to fire weapons. Or activate the sensors. Or turn on the engines. Otherwise, it works very well.”

Read the rest.

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[ 22 ] April 13, 2008 |

Josh Marshall has an interesting post about being a recovering aerophobe, and he tells this story:

I still don’t [fly] very often. And it’s not easy. But I do it. In fact, my last flight, which was a few months ago, turned out to be that nightmare turbulence flight I’d always dreaded. (Yes, I know turbulence doesn’t make planes crash; it’s not rational.) The key moment for me was when the pilot went from saying we would be hitting turbulence, to a lot of turbulence, to ‘severe turbulence’ to ‘really severe turbulence’.

If you have no difficulty flying, the best way for me to put this into context would be to say that the moment the pilot finds the phrase ‘severe turbulence’ insufficient is not a good moment.

I’ve written before about how Amtrak helped resolve my anxieties about flying. Now, of course, I live somewhere that’s only accessible by air or water and has an airport that’s reputed to be one of the most difficult on the planet to navigate. There are at least three take-off and landing trajectories I can think of which, viewed from the ground, would persuade the casual observer that s/he was about to watch a jet plow into the side of a mountain. And that doesn’t even take into account the turbulence, which I’ve seen reduce people to tears. One of the first times we flew out of here, I was so sure the plane was going to disintegrate that I began scrolling through a list of people who I thought might be able to take care of my dog after my wife and I were gone. I was also pretty sure that half the plane had been screaming for the ten minutes or so that the fuselage was being reshaped into a pretzel; when things calmed down, a more seasoned flier sitting next to us assured me that I’d been hearing things and that we’d just gone through some pretty routine chop.

(As for the topic of unreassuring cockpit chatter: My mother once boarded a flight in St. Louis. As the plane waited at the gate, and while the captain was offering his pre-takeoff welcome, the engines suddenly kicked off. The pilot, mid-sentence, uttered the single word “Whoops.” A few moments of awkward silence, he continued: “Let’s try that again.”)

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World Defense Spending

[ 0 ] April 13, 2008 |

This is stuff that we all kind of know, but it’s still interesting to take a look now and again…

1 United States $ 583,283,000,000
2 France $ 74,690,470,000
3 United Kingdom $ 68,911,000,000
4 China $ 59,000,000,000
5 Germany $ 44,712,300,000
6 Japan $ 41,750,000,000
7 Russia $ 40,000,000,000
8 Italy $ 32,600,000,000
9 Saudi Arabia $ 31,050,000,000
10 South Korea $ 27,400,000,000
11 India $ 26,500,000,000
12 Brazil $ 25,396,731,055
13 Australia $ 20,727,710,000
14 Canada $ 17,150,002,540
15 Spain $ 15,792,207,000
16 Turkey $ 15,166,000,000
17 Netherlands $ 12,000,000,000
18 Poland $ 10,838,000,000
19 Republic of China $ 10,500,000,000
20 Israel $ 9,444,000,000

In fairness, the Chinese total is almost certainly too low. Iran is at 24, North Korea at 27, and Venezuela at 33.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Habsburg

[ 44 ] April 13, 2008 |

The earliest known ancestor of House Habsburg is a figure known as Guntram the Rich, who lived in 10th century Germany. Guntram’s grandson, Radbot, built Habsburg Castle in what is now the Swiss town of Aargau. Radbot’s son, Werner, used the title “Count of Habsburg” and lived roughly from 1030 until 1096. By 1199, under Albrecht, the Habsburgs controlled most of the German speaking parts of Switzerland. Albrecht’s great-grandson Rudolf became embroiled in the bitter thirteenth century conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the papacy, enduring excommunication in 1254. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen, however, Rudolf was well placed to pick up the pieces, and in 1273 was elected King of Germany. Rudolf was unable to hold things together in Germany, and failed to secure the election of his son as King, but nevertheless was able to expand the power and holdings of the Habsburg family.

Albert I, son of Rudolf, managed to secure election as King of Germany some time after the death of his father. Over the next 150 years, two more Habsburgs would serve as Holy Roman Empire, and two as King of Hungary. Between 1379 and 1485 the Habsburg lands were split between different branches of the family, but this split ended with the reign of Maximilian I. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, lost Swtizerland but managed to gain control of the Netherlands. Through a complicated series of marriages, Maximilian managed to secure for his grandson, Charles, control of much of the known world, including Spain and Naples. After Charles (V in Austria, I in Spain) the empire was split into Spanish and Austrian branches.

The Habsburgs ruled Castile and Aragon until 1700 (and Portugal from 1580-1640), during the most vigorous period of Spanish colonial expansion into the New World. The Austrian branch secured the title of the Holy Roman Empire for itself until 1806, although it rarely controlled much of Germany. Without going into too much detail, the Habsburgs were involved in pretty much everything worth being involved in regarding European affairs from roughly 1400 until 1918. The Spanish branch died out in 1700, leading to the War of Spanish Succession, while the Austrian line technically became the House of Habsburg-Lorraine following the rule of Archduchess Maria Theresa. Along the way there are too many stories to tell; the life and death of Philip II, the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna, the Battle of Lepanto, the “enlightened absolutism” of Joseph II, and a host of other conflicts and scandals that beset the family over its hundreds of years of rule.

By the time of the French Revolution, it was clear that the Habsburgs would not rule all of Europe. Napoleon ended the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and helped put the Habsburg Empire on the path that would be described as “hopeless, but not desperate” in the 19th century. Prince Metternich managed to hold things together for a while, but the revolts of 1848 forced the abdication of Emperor Ferdinand I in favor of his nephew, Franz-Joseph. Franz-Joseph would rule until 1916, reigning over a brief recovery for Austria power before the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the imposition of the “Dual Monarchy” in 1867, wherein Hungary enjoyed administrative equality with Austria.

The questionable suicide of Prince Rudolf, son of Franz-Joseph and presumptive successor, left a surprised Franz Ferdinand as heir apparent. In order to marry the woman he loved, Franz Ferdinand was forced to disavow succession rights for his children. While visiting Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a young Serb named Gavrilo Princip. Princip failed to successfully commit suicide, and was 27 days short of the age of maturity (20) necessary for a death sentence. Consequently, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, although he died of tuberculosis less than four years into his sentence. The assassination set into motion a series of events that led to World War I, and the eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian state.

Franz-Joseph finally died in 1916, leaving the throne to Charles I. Charles began back channel overtures to the Allies for peace, but these failed and led to the weakening of the German-Austro-Hungarian alliance. Notably, Charles banned the use of chemical weapons by Imperial forces after becoming Emperor. Towards the end of the war Charles began an effort to reform the empire, with the goal of reducing the power of the monarchy and giving the various nations greater autonomy. Sadly, in my view, it was not to be; the United States failed to support Charles’ efforts, and the empire crumbled away in October and November of 1918. Charles didn’t abdicate, but he did “relinquish participation in affairs of state” and both Austria and Hungary shortly thereafter declared themselves republics. In 1921 Charles attempted to regain the throne of Hungary, but was thwarted by opposition from Miklos Horthy, who ruled Hungary as regent. Charles died of pneumonia in 1922 in Portugal. In October 2004, however, Charles was beatified by the Catholic Church for curing the varicose veins of a Brazilian nun. Earlier this year, Charles was formally recognized for performing a second miracle (this time for the healing of a Florida woman) which opens the possibility for canonization as a Saint.

The death of Charles left his son, Otto, as the pretender to the Austrian throne. Born in 1912, Otto spent most of his youth in Switzerland and Portugal, fleeing to the United States after being sentenced to death for opposing Anschluss. He returned to Europe after the war, and to Austria in 1966. Since that time Otto von Habsburg has been active in pan-European politics, serving as a German MEP from 1979 until 1999. Most recently, the nonagenarian pretender has been warning of the dangers posed by Vladimir Putin, whom he sees as another Hitler or Stalin. Otto’s son, Karl, has served as an Austrian MEP since 1996, and enjoyed a brief stint as a game show host. Otto’s titles-by-pretension include Emperor of Austria and King, respectively, of Hungary, Bohemia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, Jerusalem, and Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia. Prospects for a return to the throne appear grim. The only Austria party favoring a restoration of the monarchy is an obscure group called the Black-Yellow Alliance, which appears to be running on a platform of restoring the Habsburg’s to the throne and re-creating a central European empire consisting of Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic. As the actual surviving Habsburgs seem to prefer the European Union, the prospects for success seem uncertain. While both Otto and Karl still use the forms of royalty, neither seems to favor any political restoration, a stance reaffirmed by their participation in the European Parliament.

I find the idea of Habsburgs in the European Parliament particularly appealing. The Habsburg Empire represents a kind of pre-national European identity, while the EU represents a post-national European identity. I wrote this of the Empire a while ago:

It suggests the possibility of a national communal feeling without an independent state as its object. There is no good reason, in a liberal order, why different nationalities should require internationally recognized independent statehoods. This isn’t such a radical idea; Scotland, Wales, and Quebec, for example, all exist as national communities within a larger liberal state order. Moreover, it’s seems quite a good idea, given the difficulties that nationalism has produced, especially in the areas the Habsburg Empire once encompassed.

Anyway, I guess that I’m not certain that the situation of Austria-Hungary really was “desperate but not serious.” The Empire may have offered a vision of political order completely out of sync with the realities of 20th century nationalism, but, on the other hand, we may take that reality for granted when it was actually contingent. The artistic, scientific, and cultural achievements of late Habsburg life supply some reasons to think that the pursuit of an alternative order may have been worthwhile. Of course, the survival of the Habsburg Empire would have required a competent and enlightened political class, no evidence of which has ever been displayed.

…which I continue to stand by.

In any case, this is the end of Sunday Deposed Monarch blogging. There remain unexamined deposed monarchs, but just as with battleships there is progressively less to say about each particular family. Deposed Monarch Blogging will return in response to a surprise deposition or restoration, but for now its finished. For the time being I will devote Sundays to book reviews, which have been piling up. The final Sunday of every month will be dedicated to some sort of maritime blogging, whether a book review or no. In any case, thanks very much for all the interest in monarch blogging; I’d like to think that I’ve done my part to heal the longstanding wounds that have separated battleship antiquarians from their monarchist counterparts.

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Life Imitates Seinfeld

[ 2 ] April 13, 2008 |

Pinkberry settles suit launched, in part, because the company falsely understates the caloric content of its product. On those rare occaisons where I’ve felt like dessert in SoHo, I’ve always been a Rice To Riches man anyway…

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Making Trends out of Nothing At All

[ 6 ] April 13, 2008 |

As Tim Noah points out, what’s particularly strange about the bizarre NYT article claiming that blogging was turning into a job so stress-inducing it could kill you is that the author actually concedes within the text that these are not only random anecdotes but even with respect to these anecdotes there’s no reason to believe that there was a significant causal relationship between the job and the death. How this could still have ended up a Page One story I certainly can’t tell you.

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Not Burke! Not Burke!

[ 14 ] April 12, 2008 |


But foreign policy questions are McCain’s passion, he’s chosen to put them at the center of his campaign, and there’s really nothing at all Burkean about McCain’s take on them. The “our country is democratic, democracy is awesome, therefore we should try to conquer the entire world in the name of spreading democracy” syllogism at the core of McCain “Enduring Peace Built on Freedom” is straight out of the French Revolution.

Quite. Read Uday Mehta Singh’s Liberalism and Empire for a good account of the differences between Burke and the Mills on colonialism and aggressive foreign policy. I’d add that a certain rump “Burkeanism” is almost a default position for a politician who doesn’t really care about domestic policy issues; it’s easy enough to disguise indifference as the appreciation for slow, careful reform.

…indeed, it’s just this kind of thing that Burke would warn against:

Suppose we replaced the mayor of your town with a twentysomething foreigner who didn’t speak English but did have a ton of firepower at his disposal and no real checks on his power. You’d probably feel that was a step in the wrong direction. And conversely, it’s not genuinely reasonable to expect relatively junior Army officers to do this sort of job well.

With the added insight that producing twentysomething imperial viceroys who have had the experience of virtually unchecked power is something that has never been good for a healthy democracy…

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People Who Have a Better Grasp of Iraq than John McCain

[ 8 ] April 12, 2008 |

Everyone in the Middle East, apparently, but particularly the Saudis:

The administration has long tried in vain to build Arab diplomatic and economic support for the Iraqi government. But the Arabs, led by Saudi Arabia, consider Shiite Iran a competitor for regional dominance and have rejected Maliki as “a stooge for Tehran,” as one U.S. official called him.

“The Saudis appear to feel that the current Iraqi government is pretty much in thrall to Iran,” said a State Department official involved in Middle East policy. The administration’s hope, “in the wake of Maliki’s decisions on Basra,” the official said, “is that the Saudis will take a step back and take another look.”

Right; they’ll step back, take another look, and note that Maliki is an inept stooge for Tehran.

In a news conference Thursday, Crocker dismissed Arab concerns about a recent visit to Baghdad by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “It’s not the fact of the Ahmadinejad visit, but the absence of visits by other neighbors that it’s important to focus on. There hasn’t been a single visit, even by an Arab cabinet minister, to Baghdad. As Iraq grapples with the challenges Iran is posing, it could certainly do with some Arab support.”

It was obvious to everyone with two brain cells to rub together that the invasion of Iraq might work to the significant advantage of Iran. It became obvious later that US policy in Iraq reconstruction was making this possibility a reality. The only people who don’t understand this are either willfully blind or catastrophically stupid. The idea that Maliki, tightly connected to Iran, might score points with the Saudis by going after a militia marginally less tightly connected with Iran is pure fantasy.

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