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A Wasted Day..

[ 0 ] September 5, 2008 |

In an effort not to think about politics, I wasted my day today at From father to son:

Thomas Farley, b. 1600 Worcester, England (arrived Virginia 1623)
John Farley, b. 1648 Charles City, Virginia
John Farley, b. 1670 Henrico, Virginia
Henry Farley, b. 1716 Henrico, Virginia
Josiah Farley, b. 1744 Henrico, Virginia
John Farley, b. 1770 Bath, Virginia
William Farley, b. 1811 Burke, North Carolina
Jason Leonidas “Pony” Farley, b. 1847 Jackson, North Carolina
Monteville Columbus Farley, b. 1884 Jackson, North Carolina
Kelly Paul Farley, b. 1914 Missouri
Michael Harriman Farley, b. 1945 Jackson, North Carolina
Robert Michael Farley, b. 1974 Jackson, North Carolina

There’s some interesting stuff, here; I had always assumed that the Farleys were hill people since time immemorial, but Henrico is just outside Richmond. Of course, this would still have been quite rural, but not so much with the hills. Bath is very much hill country, as are Burke and Jackson. On the upside, twice (in successive generations) the family tree fails to fork, as first cousins married one another. On my mother’s side I know less; I am the product of the rare single-parent household headed by a father, and information about my grandmother and great-grandmother is also unaccountably scarce.

Something else interesting; I may have a Jewish ancestor. Elizabeth Corzine, who lived from 1702-1774, is my something-like-eight-greats-grandmother. Corzine is by far the most exotic name in my patrilineal heritage; the next most exotic is Connelly, and the rest are all standard English. I am told that there are some sephardic Jews named Corzine, and it turns out that Elizabeth named her last three sons Moses, Isaac, and Jacob. Those, along with a couple of other traditional Jewish names, lasted for a couple of generations in the family before dying out.

Radio Daze

[ 0 ] September 5, 2008 |

For any of our loyal Delaware listeners, I’ll be appearing on WDEL in about an hour or so (~5:30 EST) to talk about You Know Who.

Based on A Poll of Republican Donors in Montgomery, Alabama, McCain Has A Huge Lead!

[ 5 ] September 5, 2008 |

Some nice cherry-picking from Drudgico.

Shocking Verdicts of the Market

[ 0 ] September 5, 2008 |

Apparently, there isn’t a market for a fourth reactionary newspaper in a city that can be expected to vote Obama about 85-15 during a brutal time for the newspaper industry. Who could have possibly predicted it? (And, yes, the Sun does have very good arts and sports coverage. It’s also not surprising that this wasn’t enough to support a newspaper founded on the principle that it would be great to read an entire newspaper written like the craziest Wall Street Journal editorials.)

For further comedy check this out. Since on days where we get an Atrios link I think we have a greater readership than the Sun , this reminds me that I forgot to say that we are hiring interns with similar rules — it’s a great deal! In fact, we will permit our male interns to wear khakis with their sport jackets on Sunday…

But POW! Hockey Moms! Arugula!

[ 15 ] September 5, 2008 |

Family visitation and work commitments meant that I didn’t see any speeches at the GOP convention last night; I can’t say I was terribly disappointed. Nonetheless, I did look at some transcripts and clips. We could do this all day, but consider the density of lies and nonsense packed into this sentence:

[Obama’s] plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat…


… where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.

There are a couple of obvious lies here: Obama’s plan specifically exempts small businesses from contribution requirements, and he’s not proposing British-style socialized medicine. But what really kills me is the idea that in the current American system no “bureaucrat” will stand between you and your health care. I hate to break this to McCain — whose immense wealth and government benefits mean he doesn’t have to deal with this — but private insurance companies all invest in large bureaucracies whose primary purpose is to stand between you and your doctor.

More on the Military Effectiveness Question

[ 33 ] September 5, 2008 |

Russia Navy Blog has a translation of a Russian article investigating the effectiveness of the Army in Georgia. Reaction speed: Good. Communications: Bad, especially with the Air Force. Recon and night operations bad; T-72s and various APCs also bad. For your humble blogger, this was an especially interesting point:

Examining the war one must recognize that the 1998 decision of the Ministry of Defense to withdraw Army Aviation from the Infantry has turned out unsuccessful. In contrast, every American Army Corps has more than 800 helicopters (up to 350 attack helicopters) and a division has 100 to 150.

The War in the Caucusus has shown that Army Aviation regiments were directly subordinated to the unified Air Force command in vain. As a matter of fact it couldn’t allocate aviation assets or give daily assignments to squadrons in support of the motorized troops. It is doubtful that this could be accomplished given the overload of the communications system with requests for support from the infantry. It’s obvious since 58th Army Aviation didn’t participate in operational-tactical and tactical airmobile landings…

It also makes sense to transfer control of Army Aviation from the Air and Air Defense Forces back to the Army and re-establish command of Army Aviation in Combined Arms Armies and Corps. Simultaneously give responsibility for Army Aviation and Air Defense to the CinC Army, the command troops of the military district and the combined arms units along with the re-creation of aviation control detachments. Putting Army Aviation back with the Army allows development of plans in support of the ground troops and also allows approximately a 30 percent reduction in Air Force staffs and increases the effectiveness in the utilization of aviation in the interests of the operations and combat actions of units.

According to the article, the Russian Army and Air Force also need precision guided weapons and better positional locating systems. Altogether, the recommendations more or less suggest that the Russian armed forces need to get themselves “networked”. One interesting point towards the end suggested that the Russian troops fought poorly while surrounded. Also see David Axe on Russian armored forces, and how the Russians cleverly used overwhelming numerical superiority to defeat the Georgians.

As good an excuse as any

[ 60 ] September 5, 2008 |

I just submitted my tenure file to the proper authorities. I am now going to get impossibly drunk. And dance a little bit.

Before waking up in a cold sweat every night from now until April.

Thank You, Arminius

[ 19 ] September 4, 2008 |

It turns out that the decisive victory of Arminius over three Roman Legions at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest may still be yielding benefits:

The spread of the Roman Empire through Europe could help explain why those living in its former colonies are more vulnerable to HIV.

The claim, by French researchers, is that people once ruled by Rome are less likely to have a gene variant which protects against HIV. This includes England, France, Greece and Spain, New Scientist reports. Others argue the difference is linked to a far larger event, such as the spread of bubonic plague or smallpox.

The idea that something carried by the occupying Romans could have a widespread influence on the genes of modern Europeans comes from researchers at the University of Provence. They say that the frequency of the variant corresponds closely with the shifting boundaries of the thousand-year empire.

In countries inside the borders of the empire for longer periods, such as Spain, Italy and Greece, the frequency of the CCR5-delta32 gene, which offers some protection against HIV, is between 0% and 6%. Countries at the fringe of the empire, such as Germany, and modern England, the rate is between 8% and 11.8%, while in countries never conquered by Rome, the rate is greater than this.

The theory is that the carriers of the ccr5-delta32 gene, while resistant to HIV, created a vulnerability to other diseases more common within the boundaries of the Empire than outside. As such, the gene is more common outside the Empire, and its carriers now enjoy a fortuitous resistance to AIDS.

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest is thought to have taken place 1999 years ago next Tuesday. I propose that we dub this day Arminius Day, a time when we give thanks for the barbarian chieftain who helped stop the disease spreading Legions of the Roman Empire.

…in comments, Scott suggests:

I think the residents of Gaul and Spain would have accepted a slightly higher susceptibility to a disease 2000 years later over the kind sensibilities of the Vandals, Goths, and Attila the Hun.

Listen; you play with discount rates enough, you can prove anything you want.


[ 34 ] September 4, 2008 |

Ash: You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

Lambert: You admire it.

Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor… unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

Parker: Look, I am – I’ve heard enough of this, and I’m asking you to pull the plug.

Ash: [Ripley goes to disconnect Ash, who interrupts]

Last word.

Ripley: What?

Ash: I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.
I’ve been reading Nixonland, and what’s perhaps most striking about the book’s main character is the extent to which shamelessness gives a skillful politician a major advantage over ordinary humans. In the mid-1960s Richard Nixon appeared to be an extremely improbable pick to ever become president of the United States: He had lost two major elections in the previous five years; he had no real ideological commitments and no apparent base of support among movement conservatives; he was physically unattractive, and the precise opposite of telegenic; he had no discernable charisma; he was widely considered a joke by the media . . . And yet somehow he won anyway. What he had going for him were intelligence, ruthlessness, bottomless ambition, and no capacity for shame. He was perfectly capable of saying A on Monday and Z on Friday, over and over again, on every issue imaginable, if it suited his political strategy to do so, and he took full advantage of this talent.
Most people have various internal breaks on their ability and willingness to lie. Even people who bend and twist the truth a lot as a matter of professional avocation, for example politicians, are generally not particularly good at it. Bill Clinton, who was supposedly so slick, fooled nobody with his infamous “I did not have sex with that woman” line.
But some politicians, like Nixon, are great liars in every sense. They possess the requisite shamelessness necessary to pull off a stunt like claiming they opposed a $250 million Bridge to Nowhere that they actually wholeheartedly supported, and then (this is the truly rare skill) when they’re called on it by the national media, nevertheless stand up and do it again on TV in front of 30 million viewers, all with a completely straight face.
I don’t want to exaggerate the importance or significance of Sarah Palin, but after last night she strikes me as a potentially dangerous character, beyond the frightening prospect that a laughably unqualified person might suddenly become the most powerful politician in the world.
The kind of shameless ruthlessness necessary to lie like she’s been lying during her first few days in the national political spotlight is a perverse and powerful skill for a politician to have. It raises some interesting questions about her including: just who decided to pluck her from complete obscurity and make her a rising star in the Alaskan and then national GOP heirarchy? These things don’t just happen by themselves after all. There’s a tendency to see all this as nothing more than an off the wall impulsive act by John Shoot From the Hip and Ask Questions Later McCain, but that strikes me as an oversimplification. Despite the American Idol feel this all has, high level politics in this country isn’t American Idol — or rather it’s precisely like a “reality” TV show in that the putative “reality” is in fact tightly scripted. Who wrote this particular script?
A prediction: A few weeks from now, after various hard questions get asked and aren’t answered satisfactorily, Palin will do an interview with Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer, and will be asked how she feels about all the terrible things so many cruel people are saying about her. And her eyes will begin to well up with oh-so-authentic tears, and her voice will break a little as she tries to describe what it’s like to be the mother of five beautiful children, who has recently given birth to a precious little boy who is bravely struggling with burdens that no one, least of all her heartless critics, can begin to understand.
And then all Wingnuttia will collectively sally forth in high dudgeon to defend the honor of American Motherhood, and various liberal bloggers will issue shame-faced apologies for the horrible excesses of politics in these partisan times, and various chin-scratching opinion makers will Ask Big Questions about the State of the American Political Soul, and John McCain will get a seven-point bump in the polls.
And if you don’t think Sarah Palin would do something like that, you never knew Richard Nixon.

Calling Bullshit

[ 57 ] September 4, 2008 |

I don’t know how many times this bears repeating, but Sarah Palin is an abject liar. Not only did she repeat the howling falsehood that she opposed The Bridge to Nowhere, but she also claimed that her administration brought about “the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history.” Which it didn’t. What it did is offer a Canadian company half a billion dollars of Alaskan taxpayer money to seek permits to build a pipeline. TransCanada, however, doesn’t actually own the rights to develop a cubic inch of natural gas; the companies that do possess the leases have made it very clear that the deal between TC and Alaska is unacceptable, and they won’t work within the framework that Palin and the legislature created. Indeed, none of the big producers even bothered submitting applications to build the pipeline. They argue that Palin’s administration — which raised taxes on oil companies — has created an inhospitable business climate, and they’ve refused to participate.

Personally, I have no problem with raising taxes on oil producers. The higher, the better. And I couldn’t care less about the fact that a natural gas pipeline won’t ever be developed under the framework created by the state. I’d prefer the pipes never be laid at all. But Sarah Palin shouldn’t be allowed to get away with celebrating her achievements at promoting “competition” when, in fact, she’s done the sorts of things — raising taxes and “burdening” business with regulations — that would be red meat for the Republicans if they’d been instituted anywhere by a Democratic governor. And Palin shouldn’t be congratulated for pissing away $500 million that could have been invested in researching and developing alternative energy sources in Alaska.

Someday this will stop…

[ 21 ] September 3, 2008 |

Paul’s excellent piece on the President of Alaska hits on a few things that are worth keeping in mind, regardless of Palin’s affiliation or non-affiliation with the AIP.

Culturally- and ideologically-speaking, there is a certain type of Anglo-Alaskan who regards the rest of the United States — conventionally known, with a mixture of disdain and fear, as “Outside” or simply “South” — as a foreign land to be held at arm’s length. For social conservatives, Outside is a dangerous place, bloated with unwholesomeness; for libertarians, Outside is infested with bureaucrats and brownshirts who will confiscate your guns and fishing reels, tattoo your necks with barcodes, and swab your cheeks for DNA to be loaded into a database administered by the Federal Reserve, Illuminati, and the ZOG; and to populists (left and right), Outside is the Great Expropriator, the colonial overlord who permits non-Alaskan corporations to strip the mineral, timber, and piscine frontiers without fairly compensating those who live here.

It’s a bizarre stew, and its not altogether unlike the right-leaning counter-cultural chafing we might find anywhere in the trans-Mississippi West. But Alaska’s unique geography and history have nourished a political culture that’s clearly incomprehensible to most of the rest of the country, in part because it’s premised on the deeply conflicted view that the rest of the country is a predatory force to whom we must, however, appeal for our own economic survival. The Alaskan Independence Party, obviously, tries to resolve the contradiction through the science fiction fantasy of Alaskan self-sufficiency — a gesture that would make sense to your bog-standard adolescent or to men who sustain the market for inflatable sex dolls, but should be laughable to everyone else.

Other political figures — Ted Stevens and Don Young being the most emblematic — recognize and revel in the arrangement, justifying our dependence on federal largesse by insisting that Alaska’s politically youthful status entitles us to virtually endless developmental aid. Never having been in a state whose favorite son or daughter has been recruited onto the presidential ticket, I obviously have no basis for comparison. But since Palin’s nomination last week, her Alaskan supporters have been positively obsessed with the question of “How will this benefit Alaska?” Some have offered the inane rationale that an Alaskan in the White House will bring “respect” to the state. Others, realizing that both Don Young and Ted Stevens face possible defeat in November, are simply expecting that Vice President Palin would be able to keep the budgetary arteries open. No one, however, is making the case that a Palin Vice Presidency would be good for the United States, because that’s an argument that would be more or less alien to mainstream Alaskan politics. Even advocates of accelerated drilling know that it’s a ruse. More oil from Alaska will do nothing to drive down gas prices for the rest of the country, nor will it provide the United State with “energy independence.” It would, however, amount to a massive public works program for Alaska and will provide new sources of revenue for state government. And as an added bonus, it will remind the polar bears who is the boss of whom.

Now obviously, local and state institutions are provincial by their very nature; and obviously, local and state politics are interdependent with larger governmental structures, national and international in scope. But it’s safe to say that the circumstances of Alaskan politics are not conducive to the emergence of a broader national vision — the sort of thing you’d expect from, say, a person nominated as the vice presidential candidate of a major party. Truth be told, I actually don’t believe that Sarah Palin identifies with the extreme views of the Alaskan Independence Party, for the simple reason that her political career indicates that, all maverick pretensions aside, she seems perfectly comfortable with Alaska’s permanent, remoral attachment to the rest of the nation. In this way, she’s a pretty conventional Alaska Republican; if you happen to think this makes her an acceptable candidate for vice president, you’re being played for a sucker.

Next on Springer: The West Wing

[ 31 ] September 3, 2008 |

I really don’t want to watch Sarah Palin’s speech tonight for all kinds of reasons, including but not limited to the skeeve-inducing thought of what Victor Davis Hanson will be doing at the same time, but who am I kidding, it’s like back in college when you said you weren’t going to watch a double bill of Faces of Death II and Cherry 2000 after your roommates rented them in the face of your ineffectual protests.

Maybe I’ll get through it by taking a drink any time I hear any of the following phrases:

(1) Ivy League

(2) Glass ceiling

(3) Ice road truckers

(4) Beautiful baby

(5) Working moms