Subscribe via RSS Feed

Not so fast

[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |

Like everyone, I’m eagerly awaiting the final count in Alaska’s Senate election. The final 24,000 ballots will be counted today, with a few absentee ballots trickling in through Wednesday. The final results won’t be certified until Dec. 1, though — at which point a recount is entirely likely. The interesting question at this point seems to be whether a GOP vote to boot Stevens from their conference will have any effect on Stevens’ decision to seek a recount (assuming, as seems likely, that he winds up on the losing end). An ordinary mortal — someone whose heart pumps blood instead of liquified asshole — would perhaps decide to spare Alaskans the additional national humiliation. But Stevens is not the sort of person who’s inclined to ease gently into defeat, and I suspect his campaign will ask that ballots be tallied again. And if Stevens himself won’t do it, ten voters — that’s right, ten — within a particular state house district can request the same, provided they have $10,000 to pay for a statewide recount or $750 per district. It’s conceivable that a group of voters could insist on a targeted recount that focuses on the districts that Stevens won, on the off chance that 1000+ net votes might turn up.

The end zone, in other words, is a long way off. And today’s shameful retention of Holy Joe can only give Stevens more confidence that he’d keep his Senate seat if a recount happened to swing his way. I don’t know if that confidence would be well-placed, but Stevens is the sort of person who is infinitely capable persuading himself that the universe is aligned in his favor.

Also, Ted Stevens turns 85 today.

. . . Good riddance, Ted. The margin looks to be outside the .5% margin for an automatic recount…. Stevens and/or ten of his friends could still pay for one himself, though.


[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |

Shorter Democratic Party: Please, endorse the other party’s presidential candidate and smear ours. We don’t mind!

Q Ships!

[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |

Kenneth Anderson proposes Q-ships to solve the problem of piracy:

There are many legal questions here, of course. But I had a conversation with a US Navy officer, not a lawyer, but someone with operational duties, who suggested that the best military course of action would be to equip some number of civilian vessels as decoys – heavily armed and carrying marines. The best thing, he said, would be for Somali pirates to attack, and then be aggressively counterattacked, in a battle, not the serving of an arrest warrant – sink their vessel and kill as many pirates as possible. It would send a message to pirates that they could not know which apparently civilian vessels might instead instead counterattack.

The original Q ships were civilian steamers equipped with sufficient weapons to fight off U-boat attacks. They were designed to lure U-boats into surfacing, then to destroy the offending submarines with their guns. The project was mildly unsuccessful in World War I (14 submarines killed at a cost of 20 Q ships, with no notable deterrent effect on U-boat attacks), and extremely unsuccessful in World War II (4 Q ships lost with no known U-boat kills). I’ve also seen the argument that the World War I numbers rely on Admiralty juking of the stats, and that the actual impact of the Q ships was much smaller. That said, while a U-boat could usually kill a Q ship even when it fell for the disguise, pirates are probably going to suffer badly at the hands of a well armed crew. Anderson further argues that this is a good thing:

Moreover, the use of overwhelming force aimed at killing them at the very moment the attack is commenced is most useful, before they can board and take hostages, and killing them rather than taking them prisoner and turning them over to local justice systems that do not impose great risks on them. The greatest risk posed by pirates is once they have boarded – that is when their firepower is maximized by having hostages; they are at their weakest when still in their own vessel, and that is the moment to strike – as they commence their attack and can be sunk in their vessel yet have no hostages for bargaining.

Dead men make no amnesty requests. This wouldn’t be such a problem, except for the reluctance of some countries to take the responsibility for prosecuting captured pirates.

No we can’t

[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |

This story, indicating that the Obama administration is bailing on the idea even investigating whether criminal charges ought to be brought against Bush administration officials who committed war crimes such as torture, is very discouraging.

From the standpoint of both the demands of justice and the politically intelligent thing to do, giving off signals that criminals in the Bush administration will simply be let off the hook is a terrible idea. Of course any investigation or prosecution runs the risk of targeting lower level people who really were just following orders, while letting the big fish off the hook — which is all the more reason that Obama should be making it clear to Bush that if he wants his top cronies to be in the clear, legally, he’s going to have to pardon them (it’s slightly unclear constitutionally speaking if Bush can pardon himself, although I have to admit that would be a fitting capstone to the man’s career).

I went to a talk yesterday by a Tanzanian legal official about the great efforts that are being made in Africa to set up a genuine system of international justice for the continent’s war criminals. One thing he spoke of was the great suspicion throughout Africa and the third world that the concept of a war crime is something that applies only to the leaders of weaker nations, and in particular will never apply to the government of the United States.

It would be to say the least unfortunate if one of Obama’s first acts is to confirm those suspicions.

The Stevens Situation

[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |

Hopefully Alaska’s voters will be shown to have made the decision before the Senate has to…

Australian Navy Goes on Vacation

[ 0 ] November 18, 2008 |


Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon says a two-month Navy shutdown over Christmas has been ordered to give staff a rest as the Navy continues to grapple with staff shortages. The shutdown will involve all ships not on operational duties and some staff will be allowed to work from home.

Mr Fitzgibbon says the Government is working to address staff shortages in the Navy. “We’re doing a lot of work trying to find new and innovative ways both to retain skilled people and recruit new people and this is an interim initiative designed to just give some rest and respite to people in Navy where we have our biggest challenge,” he told Lyndal Curtis on AM.

“These people have been facing an extended period of operational tempo and it’s just a way of saying thank you and encouraging them to stay in the service rather than leave.”

He has also not ruled out further Christmas shutdowns in the future.

Job Cuts at FoF

[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |

I suppose this means that James Dobson will be focusing not quite so hard as usual on (messing with other people’s) families. It’s obviously an unfortunate thing when 200 people lose their jobs, no matter whom they work for; worse, it looks like most of the folks who will be taking the hit work in FoF’s distribution facilities, processing and packaging and mailing the insufferably stupid shit that keeps Dobson wealthy and significant. These folks don’t make a lot of money. One hopes that when they realize their boss smoked $500 $50 million [jeebus!] $500,000 on a California ballot measure that might be nullified anyway, they’ll spend their last days on the job stealing everything that isn’t nailed down.

Chinese Aircraft Carrier, Take 42

[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |


A high-ranking Chinese military official has hinted that China’s fast-growing navy is seeking to acquire an aircraft carrier, a move that would surely stoke tensions with the United States military and its allies in Asia.

China has been floating rumours of aircraft carrier construction for at least the last ten years. As such, it’s not as if these particular rumours represent anything new. That said, now would not be a bad time for China to build a carrier. They’ve had plenty of time to study Varyag and the other two rustbuckets that they purchased from Russia. As far as I can tell the largest warships China has ever constructed are 6500 ton destroyers, but nevertheless I’d say that China is probably about as prepared to build a carrier as any country that’s never built an aircraft carrier.

Perhaps as important, China is looking for ways to stimulate its economy. Defense spending isn’t as productive as other forms of investment, but if the CCP feels that it’s oversaturating with further infrastructure investment, a general military buildup makes some sense. USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise, after all, began life as part of the general economic stimulus pursued by FDR in his first term.

The Finlandization of Iceland

[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |


In an official lunch with foreign diplomats, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson shocked neighboring Nordic countries with inviting Russia to take use of the strategically important airbase.

Foreign diplomats hardly believed what they heard when the Icelandic president said that his country needs “new friends” and that Russia should be invited to take use of the old U.S. airbase of Keflavik.

In the lunch which took place in Reykjavik last Friday, Mr. Grimsson accused neighboring countries of failing to support the crisis-ridden Iceland, newspaper Dagbladet reports with reference to Klassekampen.

An internal memo from the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, obtained by the newspaper, describes the diplomats present in the event as “shocked” by the speech.

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a great idea to declare Iceland a terrorist state.


[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |

Obama deserves to be crowned Jesus if he can pull this off:

I think any sensible person would say that if you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner that we should be creating a playoff system.

Eight teams. That would be three rounds, to determine a national champion. It would it would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don’t know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So, I’m gonna throw my weight around a little bit. I think it’s the right thing to do.

Bailouts And Consequences

[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |

I think this article by Jon Cohn is very important. There are two points here that I think should be emphasized. First, I do think that there’s a tendency to go a little overboard when it comes to the quality and popularity of American cars. This is largely the fault of the companies themselves — if you buy one crappy, unreliable car in the 70s or 80s you won’t buy another one — but in addition to what Jon mentions the Malibu is selling well and has been well-regarded by critics, and Cadillac makes as good a car as anyone in the luxury market. I don’t think it’s terribly unreasonable to think that GM and Ford, at least, could become profitable companies after the downturn.

But secondly, and more importantly, I think that at the very least it’s important to be clear-eyed about the consequences of bankruptcy. I don’t think sanguine claims that auto companies could just file bankruptcy like an airline and keep running their operations and re-emerge in better shape. This might work for airlines — where all that matters to most consumers is price to the destination, many customers aren’t even paying the modest price themselves, and you don’t care if the airline you fly next Tuesday is in business in 5 years — but car companies, who need customers to make one large-term purchase with their own money they will be exceedingly reluctant to make if they don’t think a company will be around to honor warranties and provide parts. Bankruptcy will almost certainly lead to liquidation with horrifying economic consequences.

Does this mean that the bailout is good policy? Not necessarily; we have to see what the plan looks like first. There are real reasons to be skeptical of government intervention. I do think, however, it’s important not to kid ourselves about the consequences of deciding against the bailout. Is it worth letting hundreds of thousands of jobs (many of them good union jobs) go while a region of the country is completely devastated as a selective token of adherence to Free Market Principles? Maybe, but let’s be clear about the choice we’re making. The idea of GM going through an orderly Chapter 11 restructuring in this economy is almost certainly dreaming in technicolor.


[ 0 ] November 17, 2008 |

This does not seem to have been a…smooth rollout of their new technology.