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Will He Also Get Some Ships Named After Him?

[ 22 ] November 26, 2007 |

With #2 Senate Republican Trent Lott apparently set to retire, it seems worth returning again to the Dixiecrat Platform that Lott endorsed in 2002:

4. We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

5. We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

6. We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

7. We stand for the check and balances provided by the three departments of our government. We oppose the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments. We unreservedly condemn the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.

8. We demand that there be returned to the people to whom of right they belong, those powers needed for the preservation of human rights and the discharge of our responsibility as democrats for human welfare. We oppose a denial of those by political parties, a barter or sale of those rights by a political convention, as well as any invasion or violation of those rights by the Federal Government. We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.

9. We, therefore, urge that this Convention endorse the candidacies of J. Strom Thurmond and Fielding H. Wright for the President and Vice-president, respectively, of the United States of America.

In fairness, after Lott’s claim that this platform would have effectively addressed “these problems,” which should have been unsurprising given his history of ties to racist origanizations, he was briefly demoted from being Senate Majority Leader to being only the powerful chairman of the Rules Committee…

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Oh. My. God.

[ 0 ] November 26, 2007 |

At this blog and in other venues, I have for a long time tried to warn America about the robot menace; the inevitable moment when robots will rise against their creators and, mistaking us for bacon, try to eat us.

But have we neglected the monkey menace? Earlier this year I noted that the deputy mayor of Dehli was killed by a swarm of angry monkeys. But it looks as if that’s not the worst:

Wild gorillas have been seen using “weapons” for the first time, giving a new insight into how early man learned to use sticks and stones for fighting and hunting millions of years ago. Researchers observed gorillas in the Cross River area of Cameroon throwing sticks, clumps of earth and stones at human “invaders”. It is the first time that the largest of the great apes has been seen to use tools in an aggressive way.

It’s well known that revanchist elements in the monkey community have long held our advanced evolution and lack of body hair against us. While we’re trying to keep robots out of the front door, do we run the risk of letting monkeys in through the back?

Via Danger Room.

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In Non-Defense Of Nepotism

[ 42 ] November 26, 2007 |

I know you won’t believe this if you don’t live here, but on New York talk radio Roethlisberger vs. Eli Manning is treated as if it were a serious topic for debate, when in fact it’s sort of like debating about whether Houston is in fact generally hotter than Yellowknife. Even in 2006, Roethlisberger’s off year, he was better than Manning; the other three years he’s been very good-to-excellent while Manning has been below-average. (See here for the data.) What follows is an exhaustive list of the credentials Eli Manning has to be considered a quality QB:

  • He is related to other, much better quarterbacks.

That’s it. If we were named “Eli Leaf” or “Eli Dilfer” nobody would have thought it was a good idea to effectively trade Roethlisberger and Shawne Merriman to acquire him, let alone think that it was defensible three years later. Or look at it this way — Joey Harrington has (correctly) been seen as a colossal bust; his lifetime QB rating is 69.6. Manning’s is 73.6, and I don’t think that “marginally better than Joey Harrington after 3 years” sounds like a potential elite QB to me; indeed, it doesn’t even sound like a good QB. This year he’s got a 75, playing against a very weak schedule. He’s a lot more comparable to Jason Campbell than he is to Roethisberger at this point.

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[ 40 ] November 26, 2007 |

Matt makes a good case that John C. Stennis is the worst American ever to give his name to a major capital ship. Any thoughts from our resident naval antiquarians on the worst human being who’s name has ever graced a capital ship?

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The Immolation of Privacy, Cot’d.

[ 12 ] November 26, 2007 |

The latest from the War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, a/k/a where the Constitution goes to die. Wheeler does a very good job of explaining the illogic behind claims that the government doesn’t need probable cause to get access to tracking data; if taken seriously, it would eviscerate large parts of the Bill of Rights. It would also make hash of existing Fourth Amendment doctrine; one doesn’t surrender their constitutional rights by using new private technologies to communicate with other people. As Justice Stewart correctly observed, “the Fourth Amendment protects people — and not simply ‘areas.’” People should be entitled to the reasonable expectation that the state will not have access to private tracking data, email, etc. without some independent reason to suspect wrongdoing.

On the other hand, this does give me another excuse to resist getting a cell…

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Beyond the Pyramid

[ 10 ] November 26, 2007 |

Although I don’t think it undermines the key point here — it’s obviously completely irrational to give the majority of federal agricultural subsidies to meat and diary, and most of the remaining subsidies to things other than vegetables — GFR makes a good point about the “food pyramid.” Interestingly, the Canadian government’s recommendations call for lower numbers of servings. The real lesson here, I think, is that all such recommendations are hopelessly arbitrary; it’s pointless to talk about absolute numbers of servings when it depends entirely on what kind of food within the category is being consumed (9 servings of avocado a day probably isn’t a hot idea, whole grains are better than refined grains, etc.), how much you’re exercising, what your overall health picture looks like, etc. The only potentially useful thing is the ratios; all thing being equal you want to be eating more vegetables than grains and more of either than meat or diary, etc. I don’t see the serving-based food pyramid adding much value.

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"They Protect America From the Sky; Ahead, a Professor Says ‘Get Rid of the Air Force’"

[ 12 ] November 26, 2007 |

WTVQ 36 Action News! Hopefully they’ll put up the clip; I went with the jacket and no tie to emphasize my academicitude. They contrasted me with a very nice old man who served in the US Army Air Corps…

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Release & Re-Entry

[ 9 ] November 25, 2007 |

It’s no surprise at this point to learn that the prison door is revolving. Recent studies show that up to 2/3 of those recently released from prisons are rearrested within three years. Recidivism is expensive. It’s also preventable, up to a point.

It’s not hard to see why recidivism rates are so high in the U.S. In 1994, Congress cut federal Pell Grant funding for prison education programs, effectively eliminating college education programs for incarcerated men and women (with the exception of a few privately-funded programs, including one in NY run and financed by Bard College). This despite the fact that about one-tenth of one percent of Pell funding went to prison education programs to begin with and despite the knowledge that virtually every study to address the issue shows that educating people while they are incarcerated dramatically reduces recidivism rates. The genesis of such a punitive (pardon the pun) attitude toward the incarcerated is clear:

Even though crime rates were actually dropping in the 90′s, many argued that judges were letting felons off too lightly and that the ”rights” of victims needed to be taken into account. Thus, beginning in the early 90′s, prison regimes were tightened, even as mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws meant more and more people came into the system and stayed. In this climate few politicians were ready to stand up for higher-education programs for prisoners. Before 1995 there were some 350 college-degree programs for prisoners in the United States. Today there are about a dozen, four of them in New York State.

Education can do a lot, but it can’t fix the recidivism problem alone. Support for those re-entering society upon release is vital, too – job training, help navigating the internet, a place to stay while finding a way to be financially independent and stable. But few to none of these support systems exist in any organized, state-funded way. An unusual exception can be found in Texas, where state officials are reacting to the high societal and monetary costs of recidivism by providing job training classes, drug treatment programs, and psychiatric counseling to re-entering men and women.

Still, even those who most undeniably deserve re-entry help — men and women who were falsely convicted and have since been incarcerated — are not receiving much in the way of support. As the NY Times reported in a huge multimedia feature today, exonerees often re-emerge into a world they don’t know, without familial or community support. They often face depression and PTSD, with many even wishing to return to the predictable daily rhythms of prison life. Some receive compensation from the states in which they were convicted, while others get no financial help at all.

It seems to me undeniable that prison education, in-prison counseling, and re-entry support would reduce recidivism rates and make communities safer. It’s not “soft on crime” to want programs that are efficient and, yes, humane. Yet there’s no move to restore even minimal federal funding for prison education, and re-entry programs fight tooth and nail for what little money there is. Still, we pretend that we don’t throw away the key.

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Ask This Scientician!

[ 12 ] November 25, 2007 |

Michael Medved to join the Discovery Institute. Why doesn’t he deserve the wingnut welfare? It’s not as if his scientific credentials are worse than most other creationist wankers, and he can’t be worse at evolutionary biology than he is at film criticism.

Speaking of which, I was going to make fun of Medved for claiming that Redacted “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” (Having seen Snake Eyes, I find it very hard to believe that it’s even the worst movie Brian DePalma has ever directed.) However, in defending his claim that the soldiers in Redacted “sound like the cast of Rent acting like roughnecks,” Owen Gleiberman cites this example of “cringingly false badass dialogue”:

”You’re so goddamn white you wouldn’t wear yourself after Labor Day!”

If I understand correctly that the picture is supposed to be going for gritty realism, I’m not sure that I can entirely rule out the veracity of Medved’s claim…

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Tales of the Sea: The Orzel Incident, Part III

[ 0 ] November 25, 2007 |

Part I

Part II

In World War II, submarine duty proved among the most deadly lines of work. Roughly 28000 German sailors died on U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic, from a total force of 40000. 3500 Americans died on submarines, the highest percentage of any service arm during the war. C. Kenneth Ruiz, an American sailor, volunteered for submarine duty after serving on the cruiser Vincennes and seeing his shipmates permanently disabled after the Battle of Savo Island; he reasoned that submarines left almost no wounded. Shortly before the end of the war the Imperial Japanese Navy took the dangers inherent in the silent service a step farther, deploying miniature suicide submarines designed around the Type 94 torpedo. Submarines of all navies accounted for the destruction of almost 5000 ships of over 20 million tonnes. These losses included three battleships and over a dozen aircraft carriers. Over a thousand submarines were lost in action.

Given these statistics, the chances that the story of a ship in the most deadly line of work from the country with the highest casualty rate of war would end well were pretty low.

Orzel returned to Rosyth on April 18, 1940. After a short rest she undertook another patrol, then received a brief refit. Resistance in Norway continued through April and May, with Polish and French troops recapturing Narvik from the Germans on May 28. German offensive operations began in earnest on May 10, however, and the ensuing disaster in France made the Allied position in Norway untenable. The last British troops would leave Norway on June 2, a day before the evacuation at Dunkirk.

On May 23, 1940, ORP Orzel left Rosyth for a patrol near the Danish Straits. A message radioed to Orzel on June 1 was not confirmed as received by the crew. Similar message sent over the next week received nothing but silence. On June 8, Orzel was described as missing in action. On June 11, her status was changed to Lost in Action. As there is no German record of her destruction, she most likely perished in a minefield. It’s possible that Orzel was destroyed in a British minefield that had been laid after she left for her last patrol. A new German minefield had also been laid in her area of patrol. Her final fate remains unknown, and the wreck has not been found. Given that the North Sea is littered with the wrecks of lost submarines, it’s unlikely that any final determination of her loss will ever be made.

Orzel’s sister, Sep, had also escaped the German invasion of Poland. She attacked a German ship without success, and was severely damaged by a counter-attack. Instead of making for Estonia, Sep pulled into a Swedish port, where she was interned for the remainder of the war. At the end of the war, Sep was turned over to the new Communist government of Poland, and used as a training vessel until scrapped in 1969.

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I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think it Means…

[ 0 ] November 25, 2007 |

Mark Halperin, trying to fill column space while saying nothing at all:

Case in point: Our two most recent presidents, both of whom I covered while they were governors seeking the White House. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are wildly talented politicians. Both claimed two presidential victories, in all four cases arguably as underdogs.

Uh… what? An incumbent President with a strong economy who never trailed in a meaningful poll was an underdog in 1996? And a wartime incumbent who also never trailed was an underdog in 2004? I don’t know if Halperin is confused about the word “underdog” or the word “arguably”, but there’s clearly something not quite right going on.

Halperin goes on to argue that Bush and Clinton suffer from tragic flaws, each undermined as Presidents by the qualities that made them strong campaigners. Original, that. On Clinton:

The fun-loving campaigner with big appetites and an undisciplined manner squandered a good deal of the majesty and power of the presidency, and undermined his effectiveness as a leader. What much of the country found endearing in a candidate was troubling in a president.

If by “much of the country” you mean “the beltway elite” then I’m with ya. But I don’t think that’s what you mean. I know we all know this, but it bears repeating; Bill Clinton was a remarkably popular President, and his term in office bears no meaningful resemblance to that of his successor, except in the minds of elite journalists. Clinton irritated the Village by getting a blowjob; Bush irritated the world by blowing up a country. Tragic flaws, indeed.

Pop had Mort; what do we have?

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At Last

[ 36 ] November 25, 2007 |

I promise this is the last turkey-related post, at least for this year. But I wanted to be sure to deliver on my promise of a turkey photo.

So, here’s the before (of the uncooked kosher organic beast):

…and here’s the after:

Not bad for my first time at the turkey helm, eh?

And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging about politics and feminism…

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