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How to Succeed in War Without Really Having Airpower…

[ 13 ] September 26, 2014 |

My latest at the National Interest touches on some sources of ISIS’ military success:

ISIS has won by exploiting the vulnerabilities of its enemies, which take the form of Western military organizations, while lacking their fighting and communications discipline. This allows ISIS to identify, in both tactical and operational terms, weak points that can cause an entire enemy position to cave in upon itself. In essence, ISIS has an operational form that allows decentralized commanders to use their experienced fighters against the weakest points of its foes. At the same time, the center retains enough operational control to conduct medium-to-long term planning on how to allocate forces, logistics, and reinforcements.

I also have a piece at the Diplomat about the changing role of small navies:

Of course, in practice local conditions limited the advantages of large forces, and small forces sometimes won the day. Crafted appropriately, small forces could threaten larger fleets with platforms and weapons (such as submarines, torpedo boats, and missile boats) that could threaten large ships. This role, of deterring a much larger force, has been part of the mission-kit of small navies for a very long time.

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Next At Cato: Martin Luther King Was The Lester Maddox of the 60s

[ 19 ] September 26, 2014 |

What are conservertarians saying about the resignation of Eric Holder? I wonder. Let’s see:

Like a modern-day George Wallace, Holder has called for racial preference now, racial preferences tomorrow, racial preferences forever.

Yes, this is the same Ilya Shapiro you might remember from such arguments as “maybe the Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was authorized by the so-called “15th Amendment”, but it still violates the lesser-known clause of the Constitution declaring that Congress shall not pass policies that contradict Ilya Shapiro’s terrible policy preferences. It’s somewhere in the back.”


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[ 93 ] September 26, 2014 |

That thing you just heard was the sound of millions of women screaming and wailing in despair.



The real issue liberals are afraid to confront:

I hope to have time to write  more substantive posts soon, including a nifty Creature Feature!


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If Not You, Then Who

[ 69 ] September 26, 2014 |

As in Ferguson, the combination of aggressive police tactics and racism once again proves not only toxic, but fatal:

The police officer who shot dead a young black man in a Walmart store in Ohio as he held an unloaded BB rifle had less than two weeks earlier received what prosecutors called a “pep talk” on how to deal aggressively with suspected gunmen.

Sean Williams and his colleagues in Beavercreek, a suburb of Dayton, were shown a slideshow invoking their loved ones and the massacres at Sandy Hook, Columbine and Virginia Tech while being trained on 23-24 July on confronting “active shooter situations”.

“If not you, then who?” officers were asked by the presentation, alongside a photograph of young students being led out of Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012. A caption reminded the trainees that 20 children and five adults were killed before police arrived.

Williams shot dead John Crawford III 12 days later, after a 911 caller repeatedly said that Crawford was pointing a gun at Walmart customers, including children. Surveillance footage released on Thursday showed Crawford passing shoppers with the air rifle at his side.

Again, these incidents are not isolated. They are cultural within police departments.

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One Small Step For American Journalism

[ 7 ] September 26, 2014 |

Our longish national nightmare is over:

The New York Times Magazine is gearing up for a big redesign in early 2015. But editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein tells Capital that readers will see a number of smaller changes in less than two weeks’ time.

“We’re cleaning up the book in anticipation of the redesign,” he said.

This coming Sunday’s issue will be the last hurrah for “The One-Page Magazine” and “Who Made That,” two front-of-book franchises that were created under Silverstein’s predecessor, Hugo Lindgren, who had in turn reimagined the Times Magazine during a three-year stint from fall of 2010 until his ouster in November 2013.

An easy test, but he passed it. Admittedly, the segment of the American population looking for humor marginally less funny than starving orphans getting cancer will be disappointed. This week’s “Compare and Contrast”: Agatha Christie and Chris Christie. Get it — they have the same last name! Clearly, this feature was cancelled to avoid an Infinite Jest scenario where people die of laughter.

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Hot Soda

[ 113 ] September 25, 2014 |

Hot soda! Get your hot soda drinks from 1913 here!


Why can I not get a hot clam drink today?

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[ 28 ] September 25, 2014 |

I have been light on the blogging lately because of a week that has gone as the following:

Monday–teach, drive to brother in law’s house, watch Jets be the Jets and lose hilariously
Tuesday–visit Valley Forge, give lecture at Muhlenberg College, forced to ditch all my Lutheran jokes after finding out there are hardly any of my people there.
Wednesday–tour coal mine with Muhlenberg students. Buy chunks of coal for office decorations.
Thursday–eat ridiculous and amazing breakfast sandwich at Allentown’s indoor farmer’s market that includes not only eggs and bacon–but deep fried bacon! Drive to Providence in rain.
Friday–move to a new apartment.
Saturday–clean old apartment in the futile attempt to convince my landlord not to screw me on the deposit.

That was actually the short version that left out a bunch of stuff. So all I have to say right now is this: Face/Off was awesome. I should watch it again.

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Every true story has an anticlimax

[ 47 ] September 25, 2014 |


I’m personally observing erev Derek Jeter’s Farewell Game by re-reading Updike’s “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.”

Understand that we were a crowd of rational people. We knew that a home run cannot be produced at will; the right pitch must be perfectly met and luck must ride with the ball. Three innings before, we had seen a brave effort fail. The air was soggy; the season was exhausted. Nevertheless, there will always lurk, around a corner in a pocket of our knowledge of the odds, an indefensible hope, and this was one of the times, which you now and then find in sports, when a density of expectation hangs in the air and plucks an event out of the future.

Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was wide with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and Williams swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed, naked in its failure. Fisher threw the third time, Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.

Like a feather caught in a vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs—hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted “We want Ted” for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

This is the kind of moment that, much to the regret of ESPN, can’t be scripted — the combination of the spontaneously perfect athletic feat, and the presence of the then-unknown great writer in the stands.

Updike’s essay also features a revelatory number: 10,454. That was the attendance at Ted Williams’ last home game of his career — and Updike even notes that he and most of the rest of the crowd were there primarily to see the greatest player of his generation one last time.

These are the good old days?

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The Problem With the “Minimalist” Critique of Roe

[ 20 ] September 25, 2014 |

Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently reiterated her support for the Roe-was-a-mistake thesis:

Would today’s abortion battles be as bitter if the Supreme Court had decided Roe v. Wade differently? Last night, in a speech at the anniversary dinner for the International Women’s Health Coalition, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said no.

“I think if the court had gone step-by-step as we did in the gender equality cases, the court and the public would have reacted in a more positive way than it did,” Ginsburg said. “It established a target. Roe v. Wade, that case name is probably the best-known case of the second half of the 20th century. And a movement focused on ending access to abortion for women grew up, flourished, around that one target. Nine unelected judges decided that one issue for the nation.”

Ginsburg, who was first in her class at Columbia Law and led the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project before becoming a judge, was careful to say she thought the heart of the ruling in Roe was correct — that the Texas law, which made all abortions illegal except those to save the pregnant woman’s life, was unconstitutional. But, she said, the court’s decision to issue a sweeping judgment establishing the right to abortion in all 50 states was a strategically poor one and led to modern-day political battles over reproductive rights.

“There might have been a backlash in any case,” Ginsburg said. “But I think [because of Roe] it took on steam.”

Longtime readers will know that I’ve critizied this theory in both shorter form and interminable form. But I’d like to focus in particular on the particular problem with the argument that the Court should have just said the Texas law was unconstitutional and said nothing more in order to minimize backlash. (Cass Sunstein made the same argument in Balkin’s Roe book.) The obvious problem with this is that a “minimalist” Roe is impossible. The Texas statute might have been substantively extreme but more than 30 states had an essentially identical statute which would also have been struck down by a “minimalist” opinion. It’s true that a “minimalist” opinion would have given more room for these states to pass new abortion regulations. But 1)political battles over abortion in many states followed by litigation…does not sound like a formula for minimizing political conflict to me, and 2)unless the Court was to consistently intervene not only would this approach lead to at least as much anti-abortion right mobilization, but it would also have protected reproductive freedom less effectively. Ginsburg’s proposed alternative is all downside and no upside.

This related observation is important too:

The decision in Roe, too, “was as much about a doctor’s right to practice medicine” as it was about a woman’s right to abortion, she pointed out. “The image was the doctor giving advice to the little woman, not the woman standing alone.”

This is true as far as it goes — Casey does a much better job of linking abortion rights to gender equality than Roe does. To me, the lesson is that the effect of legal rhetoric (as opposed to the bottom-line judgments of courts) is massively overrated. As Filipovic points out, whatever their grounding Roe protected reproductive rights very effectively and Casey didn’t. In this context, what the Court does is just much more important than how it justifies its actions.

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After Holder

[ 80 ] September 25, 2014 |

For me, the key lesson as always is that the Cossacks work for the Czar.

Of the leading candidates, I’m rooting for Patrick — his civil rights record really is very strong.

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This Just In

[ 120 ] September 25, 2014 |

This just in: #HeForShe and #GamerGate INSANITY currently going on in my twitter feed. Check it out if you dare.

It all started with this tweet:

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Minus 995 words

[ 111 ] September 25, 2014 |

Chart from Piketty’s/Saez’s latest data:


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