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British Surge?

[ 12 ] March 24, 2008 |

Defense News:

The U.S. plans to urge Britain to launch a “surge” in Basra to combat increasing violence in the southern Iraqi region, the Sunday Mirror newspaper reported.

Britain, which has around 4,100 troops in Iraq, transferred control to Iraqi forces in December last year but could now be asked to step up its role again amid top-level concern about the situation, the paper said….

But unnamed senior British civil service sources told the Sunday Mirror that Britain would be highly reluctant to go back into Basra because of pressure at home to pull troops out.

“We do not have enough troops for a surge ourselves. The hope is that we can train enough Iraqi army recruits in the next year to cope with the inter-tribal warfare going on in Basra,” one source quoted by the paper said.

A couple of observations:

  • I’m glad that the Surge is going so well that we require additional British troops; typically when we are “winning” we require fewer, rather than more, troops over time.
  • I’m hardly surprised that the British are sounding reluctant on this. While we were surging last year they were downsizing, and I can’t imagine that the Brown government is too terribly excited about stepping more deeply into the mess that Blair made.
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Monday Gil Gerard Blogging

[ 16 ] March 24, 2008 |

Didn’t we always really know?

HT to Pinko Punko.

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Member of Local Riff Raff Successfully Rouses Agitated Rabble

[ 6 ] March 24, 2008 |

The big story lately in Lexington is how a developer want to tear down a block in the center of downtown that contains several favorite nightspots, and replace it with a forty story hotel tower. Local hoodlums have “organized” against this plan, and appear to be having some success:

Political blogger Joe Sonka has set up a Facebook site to critique the tower, share news about the opposition and exchange information. It now has more than 1,400 members.

Preserve Lexington is sending out daily e-mails about the proposal to more than 600 addresses. In the viral world of the Internet, people getting those communiques will forward them to more people, and so the conversation grows.

At the same time, Griffin VanMeter, a founder of a group called Creative Downtown, is collecting oral histories of the block on camera.

Clips of the memories will be shown at “Wake Up Lexington: An Event to Save Our Block,” an event organized by Preserve Lexington that will be held at the Kentucky Theatre on Saturday. You can read all about it on Facebook or at

This is not a movement to stop all development on the block. It’s not an in-your-face challenge to the power structure. It’s a thoughtful, if occasionally irreverent, challenge to the proposal before us. They think we can do better.

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If Only We Could Somehow Get Everyone To Wear Old Navy Chinos and Polo Shirts, Our Problems Would Be Over!

[ 48 ] March 24, 2008 |

Via John Cole, some unintentional comedy from Tom Maguire as he wonders why liberals just can’t see the profoundly important political message behind racist fulminations about people’s deeply disturbing choices of music and dress:

As an example of the PC police in action we need look no further than my previous post. “Old Punk” of the InstaPunk crowd posted his thoughts on why specific behaviors of a specific subset of the black community annoys him. Frankly, there is very little in his post I would be inclined to defend, but I would be very curious to learn how widely held his viewpoints might be. As an example, I would guess his aversion to the hip-hop gangsta sub-culture is widely shared.

Well. Rather than trying to look for the message in his message, the Usual Suspects, led by Glenn Greenwald, seized on the offensive sections as an opportunity to brand Glenn Reynolds and the entire conservative movement as racists.

Well, on some level I concede the point; this is a big country which contains its share of morons, busybody conformists, etc. So I’m sure there’s some quantity of people who get intensely angry because not everyone wears the same clothes and listens to the same music as middle-aged suburban white men. What “message” here is worth engaging with, however, I can’t tell you, and when such crankiness manifests itself in crude stereotypes and racial slurs it’s just straightforward ugly racism. There’s no deeper meaning there.

I also enjoyed Maguire’s whining about the “PC police,” which provides yet another illustration of the fact that complaining about “PC” has come to mean (if it ever meant anything else) nothing more than “bigotry that is indefensible on the merits shouldn’t be subject to any critical scrutiny.” Yes, only the “PC police” could possibly object to calling people black people “niggers” because they get more tattoos than you consider appropriate! An intelligent conservative, on the other hand, would get beyond such trivia and focus on the Profound Political Implications of people who wear low-hanging pants.

…Athenae has similar thoughts.

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Just a quick reminder…

[ 9 ] March 24, 2008 |

…that Glenn Reynolds would never offer an approving link to a racist.

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Done With Airplane Food

[ 0 ] March 23, 2008 |

I just got back after almost 24 hours in transit. I hope to not eat airplane food for as long as I can possibly avoid it.

As I try to get my head screwed on straight and figure my way out of the jet lag fog, a little puzzle for you all. See if you can find what’s incongruous in this image (extra points for figuring out where it’s from). Apparently, I did too much Sudoku on the plane and have now decided that even the blog must become some sort of brain teaser.

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Baseball Challenge

[ 4 ] March 23, 2008 |

The Tournament isn’t over yet, but the early start to the season means that it’s time for Baseball Challenge. It’s a long, hard slog, with meager repayment for mountains of work, but since you’re here anyway…

LGM Baseball Challenge
League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Remember that the season starts the day after tomorrow. Best of luck!

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My advice would be to call them "boy" while you’re doing it…

[ 0 ] March 23, 2008 |

Shorter Americaneocon:

Although bloggers who refer to black people as “niggers” are clearly speaking from outside the conservative mainstream, the blogger in question raises some important arguments about smacking young black men for wearing their pants too low.

No, really. In the course of defending Old Racist Punk, our hero laments that “most people are harrassed [sic] into silence for even raising such sensitive but troubling topics.” If by “harassed into silence” he means “described accurately as racists,” I suppose he’s on to something, but let’s make a quick list of some of the “sensitive but troubling” issues that Americaneocon might think need “way more discussion” in the US. The following are not, best I’m able to fathom, parodies on the order of the much-missed Altmouse. They appear to be serious, thoughtful articles of discourse from someone who really, really doesn’t “hate black people.”

  • “You see, you’ve just given life to the suspicion that black people in America are, and have long been, a fifth column — unanimously hating the very country that has afforded the highest standard of living ever achieved by black people in human history. We’re teetering at the edge of believing that you’re a secret society, a massive collection of sleeper cells just waiting for your chance to do serious harm to the rest of us. You’ve made it possible for us to believe that.”
  • “The path to equality is counter-intuitive. Admit and decry the failings of your community. . . . Tip your white waitress. Stay at work after 5 o’clock.”
  • “Would it kill you if your kid fixated on Sandy Koufax, Mozart, or Shakespeare rather than Mays, Armstrong, or Jay-Z? Does being black really have to be a full-time job?”
  • “The dammed-up flood of good will in this nation for black people who want to work for their own American Dream is absolutely enormous. The biggest impediment is the doubt created in each and every non-black American by the clannish, tribalist, irrational defense of every low act committed by any black person. If you’re offended when Republicans defend Richard Nixon or when Democrats defend Chuck Schumer, imagine what it’s like when black people swarm the streets to defend Jeremiah Wright.”

Of course, since Old Racist Punk adores Alexandre Dumas and Muhammad Ali [er, wtf?], we should regard all of this in the helpful spirit in which it was written.

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Care To Make It Interesting?

[ 16 ] March 23, 2008 |

In wake of a single poll showing Obama with a 7-point lead, Jamie Kirchick asserts that “with a moderate Republican nominee and Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate, there’s an even chance that Massachusetts will go red.” Uh, yeah. I very, very strongly urge the RNC to take this seriously and throw everything they can into the race, accompanied by strong expenditures of resources in California, New York, and Vermont. After all, this would be consistent with the brilliant strategery of Karl Rove!

At times like this, I think that pundits should be forced to have an Intrade account that can be used to back up transparently ridiculous predictions like this.

…and, of course the idea that McCain’s “Scots-Irish” background will help him among Irish Catholic voters in Massachusetts is equally bizarre.

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Sydney "Upright and Largely Intact"

[ 7 ] March 23, 2008 |

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging will return next Sunday.

According to the search team, the wreck of HMAS Sydney has been discovered “upright and largely intact”, while HSK Kormoran was broken into at least four pieces. The latter makes a lot of sense, as the crew of Kormoran reported that she suffered a massive internal explosion just before sinking. The Sydney find, however, leaves some unanswered questions.

The puzzle with the Sydney is how she managed to sink without survivors. Even badly damaged ships that sink quickly tend to have survivors; USS Indianapolis sank in twelve minutes with 880 initial survivors, while HMS Barham sank in a couple of minutes with about 300 survivors. According to the account of the Kormoran survivors, Sydney drifted north for some time before sinking (indeed, they didn’t report seeing her sink), so there was a relatively long period of time between the infliction of damage and the sinking. One plausible theory for why there were no survivors is that Sydney suffered a magazine explosion after disengaging from Kormoran; this would make plausible the loss of the entire crew, as only tiny handfuls of the much larger crews of the battlecruisers Queen Mary, Invincible, and Hood survived the destruction of their ships.

The initial report, however, brings that theory into question. Most magazine explosions result in extreme damage to a ship; Kormoran was found in four pieces, Hood in two, Invincible in two, Fuso in two, and so forth. If Sydney is in one piece (and it’s too early to say for sure what “upright and largely intact” actually means), then a magazine explosion seems less likely. The distance between the wrecks (about twelve nautical miles) also renders the theory that the Germans executed Sydney’s shipwrecked crew less than plausible. Although ships can drift a bit on the way down, it seems that the Captain Detmers account of the Sidney drifting off, burning and bow down before Kormoran evacuated has been supported. It’s possible that Sydney’s crew would have evacuated in the immediate vicinity of Kormoran while the light cruiser remained afloat, but not terribly likely, and Sydney would have had to stay afloat for some time before finally succumbing. Moreover, the crew of Kormoran would have had plenty of things to do other than execute Sydney’s survivors; Kormoran herself was mortally wounded and on the verge of exploding. So, I think at the very least we can say that Detmers and his crew are likely not guilty of murdering Sydney’s survivors. This is further supported by the fact that none of the survivors of Kormoran ever copped to the slayings, even after sixty years.

My guess is that this is what happened; Kormoran’s surprise shots killed Sydney’s commanding officer and threw Sydney into confusion. Kormoran also struck Sydney with a torpedo, which would have increased the panic and chaos. Ineffectual and disorganized damage control resulted in the ship taking on considerable water, but the chaos and the uncertain chain of command meant that no one knew who was in authority to give an abandon ship order. When a ship takes on water, a list can turn into a roll very quickly, and at some point before a general evacuate order was given, Sydney turned turtle. A handful, or even a couple dozen, sailors may have escaped, but not in good order and not with the safety and rescue equipment that the survivors of Kormoran were able to take. Bad luck, sun, and sharks then finished off this remnant.

Interestingly enough, one other, more outlandish theory has yet to be ruled out. Some have argued that Sydney was, in fact, killed by a Japanese submarine rather than Kormoran. This is implausible for any number of reasons (no record of such an attack is in Japanese archives, Japan was not at war with Australia at the time, the Japanese sub would have to have been working closely with Kormoran, but Detmers and company never admitted to it, and so forth), but it does kind of fit the facts as we now know them. If Sydney drifted off to the north, wounded but not yet sunk, a Japanese sub could have sent her to the bottom quickly and unexpectedly with a couple of torpedoes. Moreover, the Japanese would have had good cause to surface and execute any remaining survivors. It’s terribly outlandish, yes, but it can’t be completely ruled out until someone gets a look at the state of Sydney’s hull.

In any case, this is a very exciting time for naval antiquarians; one of the great mysteries of the Second World War is on the verge of being solved.

UPDATE: It appears that the bow has been separated from the hull, which suggests the possibility of a magazine explosion.

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Bad ideas all around

[ 1 ] March 22, 2008 |

Via Steve Clemons, there’s Douglas Bandow’s comprehensive review of John McCain’s bizarre foreign policy pronouncements. It’s a reminder of just how consistently McCain has been ill informed or wrong — wildly so in many cases — on the most significant foreign policy questions of the past decade. This is true not merely with respect to Iraq and Iran (where his enthusiasm for conflict is apparently boundless), but in every other region of the planet as well.

It also reminded me to take a look back at the piece that appeared under McCain’s byline in Foreign Affairs in late 2007. Though not as dismaying as the mound of foam that Norman Podhoretz issued on behalf of Rudy Giuliani a few months earlier, the article is basically a K-Tel anthology of deep thoughts from the Bush administration. Lots of manifest destinarian nonsense, enormous statements about the “great struggle,” and an array of proposals that the costs (both financial and diplomatic) war in Iraq has rendered incredible. Does McCain seriously believe, for instance, that anyone would be willing to join a “League of Democracies” guided by the United States? Why not just go ahead and call it a “Coalition of the Willing?” McCain even argues that the US should create a “modern-day OSS” to “fight terrorist subversion.” I suppose their are less diplomatic ways of pointing out that the CIA is no longer politically correct to the anti-Islamofascist right, but I’d have to count this one (belatedly) as one of the least useful ideas of 2007.

I understand McCain will be fishing around for a vice president over the next few months. He really should consider keeping Cheney on the job. And Stephen Hayes, I’m sure, would make a fine Secretary of State.

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[ 16 ] March 22, 2008 |

Exactly right:

Meanwhile, you need to put Iraq in strategic context. The goal wasn’t merely to topple Saddam, but to intimidate other “rogue” regimes by creating a credible threat to take them out too. That meant that something like a 350,000 troop, 15-year commitment wouldn’t achieve the goals of the policy. It wasn’t “incompetent” for Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld to have rejected those methods; the rejection followed directly from what they were trying to accomplish.

And this is why the strategy (especially beloved by liberal hawks) of claiming that this was “really” a war about liberating the Iraqi people and not about the Grave Threat posed by Saddam’s Model Planes Of Terrah has always been a non-starter, because the former war simply wasn’t on the table and never was. The former would have been a bad idea too, because we know nothing about how to create a stable democracy ex nihilo in an institutional context as unfavorable as Iraq, but it’s beside the point because it was simply never an option. Defenders of the war were defending Bush’s war being run by people appointed by George Bush for strategic reasons valued by Bush and Cheney, period.

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