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Uncomplicated Hero

[ 5 ] April 8, 2010 |

Lt. Miroslav Steven Zilberman:

Hundreds of mourners gathered Thursday at Norfolk Naval Station to pay tribute to Lt. Miroslav “Steve” Zilberman, a Navy pilot killed last week when his plane crashed into the North Arabian Sea after mechanical difficulties. Zilberman, 31, was lauded as a hero whose actions in the cockpit saved the lives of three crew members. Those aviators bailed out of the troubled E-2C Hawkeye before it hit the water and were rescued uninjured. The plane – Bluetail 601 – was returning to the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower from a mission to Afghanistan when one of its engines lost oil pressure and had to be shut down. At the end of the memorial service, Zilberman’s widow, Katrina, was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross. “Without his courageous actions, the entire crew would have perished,” read the citation, signed by Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations. Zilberman grew up in the Ukraine and was in sixth grade when his parents emigrated to the United States, settling in Columbus, Ohio. He joined the Navy right out of high school, but didn’t serve in the enlisted ranks for long. He entered the Navy’s “Seaman to Admiral” program and became an ensign after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in computer science.

See also this post. The E-2 has no ejection seats, and so has to remain level during descent for anyone to successfully escape.


Coalitions and politics

[ 14 ] April 8, 2010 |

One curious line of reasoning used by many who defend appalling exercises like Confederate History month is to attempt to muddy the waters by observing that Lincoln, the Republicans, or “the North” were not, in fact pure as the driven snow with respect to slaver. On its own terms, this line of argument seems to pretty clearly be a dead end: a moderate shrinking of the moral gap between the North and South would do nothing to move the absolute position of the South on the moral spectrum here, which is what’s at issue when discussing the appropriateness of this kind of public historical narrative. But beyond that, the notion that Lincoln and many Northerners were primarily motivated by goals other than the abolitionist cause is true, but this is a deeply trivial truth. Indeed, the following is true: De Jure slavery was ended in this country by a political coalition which contained the following: some committed abolitionists, some lukewarm, timid abolitionists, and some people who were largely indifferent to the abolitionist cause. (Lincoln himself moved from the second category to the first). In this sense, the end of slavery is exactly like every other major political accomplishment in American history–by skill, luck or both, a group of committed reformers manages to steer a larger coalition long enough to accomplish a major goal. That’s how good things happen in politics. The notion that this ‘revelation’ makes a moral evaluation of the Confederacy more ambiguous is beyond bizarre.

Malcolm McLaren 1946-2010

[ 10 ] April 8, 2010 |

While I would not go as far as Jon Savage, quoted in the BBC piece as saying “Without Malcolm McLaren there would not have been any British punk”, it is indisputable that McLaren had a massive influence in redefining music.

Strawman Building in Defense of Treason in Defense of Slavery

[ 79 ] April 8, 2010 |

In attempting to defend the indefensible, John Guardino says that picking on Bob McDonnell’s celebration of pro-slavery treason is unfair because many Confederate soldiers were not personally motivated by slavery.   Actually, even more pathetically he says that people who believe that treason in defense of slavery is nothing to celebrate in 2010 are “race-baiting.”    Obviously, his entire argument is specious, given that McDonnell didn’t issue a proclamation of remembrance for the Civil War, or even for Confederate soldiers, but for the Confederacy itself.

But even on its own terms, the argument fails.   Let’s concede that many Confederate soldiers fought valiantly for the Confederacy’s abominable cause and assume arguendo that many Confederate soldiers were not motivated primarily by a desire to protect slavery when joining in a treasonous war.    By the same token, I’m sure many members of the Wehrmacht fought valiantly and were not personally motivated by a desire to exterminate Jews; this would hardly make a month commemorating Nazi soldiers — let alone a “Nazi History Month” whose proclamation made no reference to genocide — defensible.    And if we concede that Confederate soldiers were fighting for a kinder, gentler form of white supremacist authoritarianism than the Nazis, at least members of the Wehrmacht weren’t taking up arms against their own country…

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Security Theater: Denver Edition

[ 3 ] April 8, 2010 |

I’m really looking forward to flying out of Denver later this morning, after last night’s latest outbreak of rampant hysteria and stupidity.

Because this guy is a diplomat he isn’t going to be charged with some bullshit federal offense involving “interfering” with the operation of a flight. Otherwise he’d probably end up with a felony conviction and 50K in legal bills.

Note that a couple of F-16s were scrambled, 160 people were held in custody for five hours after the flight landed, and FBI agents flew in from near and far to deal with this latest assault on our Freedoms. (No doubt part of the explanation for incidents like this is that tens of thousands of federal employees are paid to sit around waiting for something to happen that basically never happens, so false alarms trigger feverish activity out of sheer boredom if nothing else).

Meanwhile in the last five days four people in the Denver area have been killed by RTD bus drivers. The lesson, clearly, is that while we are safer than we were before 9/11, we are not yet safe enough.

NPR Regrets

[ 0 ] April 8, 2010 |

My piece on the NPR is up at TAP.

Changing nuclear weapons policy means negotiating with a vast national security bureaucracy — involving the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Energy, and the uniformed military services — that was designed in the late 1940s, and that remains embedded in a post-World War II vision of the threat environment.


[ 7 ] April 8, 2010 |

Revolution has a new look.

The Mistral Sale

[ 1 ] April 8, 2010 |

I have a short article up at World Politics Review about the sale of the French Mistrals to Russia:

France’s decision to negotiate the sale of four Mistral-class Amphibious Transport Docks to Russia has been met with harsh criticism in the United States and among some NATO allies. Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili was particularly brutal, declaring of the sale, “It’s not even appeasement of Russia. It’s a reward for Russia.” There is no question that the acquisition of the four amphibious warships will substantially enhance Russia’s power-projection capabilities. However, Russia is not the only state to have committed to the construction of large-deck amphibious warships. In fact, Moscow’s purchase of the Mistrals comes in the context of a global “amphib” splurge. Big “amphibs” are trendy, and the Russians have simply decided to join the club.

An Affair is Very Public,

[ 6 ] April 7, 2010 |

except when it’s private.

Shorter NYT: the Chairman of the prestigious country club located in Georgia that somehow still doesn’t admit women in the year 2010 rebuked some guy for disrespecting women rather than being a role model for our children and grandchildren.

Slightly longer:

Payne began his remarks with a list of accomplishments and acknowledgments associated with the upcoming tournament, then suddenly mentioned Woods. He said Woods’s golf game and work ethic were worthy of comparison to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones, but he quickly added that Woods had forgotten that with “fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility.” He called Woods’s behavior “egregious” and added, “Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.”

And later in the article . . .

” ‘Is there a way forward?’ he asked, referring to Woods’s future. ‘I hope yes.’ ”

Of course, at the end of the article, it’s clear that there isn’t a way forward for the country club itself, when said chairman points out that regarding the membership issue, it’s a private affair. “As you know, that is subject to the private deliberations of the members.”

Progress on the Treason-in-Defense of Slavery Front

[ 14 ] April 7, 2010 |

The only thing that’s surprising about Bob McDonnell’s lionization of Virginia’s Confederate heritage is the ferocity of the reaction. Here at LGM we’ve been beating the Treason-in-Defense of Slavery Heritage card for quite some time; having Bob Owens as an “enemy” kinda makes it easy. I’m glad, however, that a few themes seem to be finding their way into the mainstream:

  1. The Civil War was about slavery. We have copious evidence, supplied by actual Confederates, that slavery was the key issue upon which secession resolved. To put this another way, the traitors who led the South were willing to kill in defense of their right to own black people.
  2. The antebellum South was chock full of people who didn’t think that treason in defense of slavery was a good idea. One subset of these people were the slaves themselves, who made up between 25% and 60% of the population of every Southern state. Another subset were the peoples of West Virginia, East Tennessee, and several other pro-Union regions of the South. Yet another subset were patriotic Americans who chose to remain loyal to the Union, such as General George Thomas of Virginia. For all of the nonsense about how Civil War commemoration is about valor rather than slavery, there are relatively few statues of Thomas in Virginia today.
  3. There is something remarkably odd about the belief that commemoration of the Southern experience must concentrate on the four years in which the South waged a bloody rebellion in service of human servitude, rather than other 230 years of Southern history.
  4. Having our patriotism and love for the United States questioned by people who lionize the worst traitors in American history is bloody irritating.

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Prompt Global Strike Not Dead

[ 2 ] April 7, 2010 |

I’ll have an article about the NPR coming out tomorrow at TAP, but suffice to say that I’m not particularly impressed with the Obama NPR. Every policy document requires compromise, and this is particularly true of a document focusing on nuclear weapons. A multitude of different agencies and vested interests have fingers in the pie, and each demands to be part of the decision-making process. In this case, the administration has managed to achieve a caveated-to-death no first use pledge at the cost of two apparent compromises; missile defense, and prompt global strike. Josh Rogin takes a look at the missile defense bit here; I raised some questions about the presence of prompt-global strike language back in the QDR, and suffice it to say that the NPR does not assuage my concerns. Prompt global strike is mentioned a several points in the NPR as a replacement for first strike nuclear capabilities and a large nuclear stockpile. While prompt global strike doesn’t necessarily mean conventionally armed SLBMs and ICBMs, nothing in the language of the NPR excludes such options. Prompt global strike sounds, on the surface, like a good idea; an Ohio class submarine could deliver a conventional warhead in half and hour to almost any target in the world. The devil is in the details; intel is rarely good enough to require such speed, and the possibility of conventional SLBMs being regularly launched from submerged subs would freak the hell out of the Chinese and the Russians. In other words, not such a good idea. Perhaps the thinking is that rhetorical support of the program now won’t necessarily mean appropriation for it later. If that’s true, I’m not sure that the history of the missile defense program is terribly comforting.

Two great tastes that taste great together.

[ 9 ] April 7, 2010 |

Consider these images the inevitable footnotes to Jill’s post at Feministe:

Read more…