Friday, August 29, 2008

Is it a McCurse?

This whole Sarah Palin choice thing can't help but remind me of 1972 and McGovern's ill-fated choice of Thomas Eagleton.

Will the GOP really actaully be satisfied with this pick?
Sure, she'll appeal to those who simply can't bear to actually think and therefore believe that the Bible dictates the answer to every question in life, science and politics, but those folks aren't wanywhere enough to win win.

She appears to be utterly unqualified to be president, and let's face it, the main job of the VP is to be president-in-reserve should anything happen to the president.

And she's going to bring front and center the question of McCain's age.

This is so bad a selection that I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't make it out of the convention on the ticket.

McGovern ended up dumping Sen. Thomas Eaglton after reports surfaced that he had undergone mental treatments.

McGovern ended up winning just two "states" -- Massachusetts and D.C.

McCain may pick up just a couple from the deep south, Idaho and Alaska at this rate.

An Alaskan talks about Palin

Reading this I can't help but believe tht McCain has made an epic blunder here by picking Palin for VP.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fools come n both optinist and pessimist flavors

John Derbyshire is a curmudgeon, an entertaining and useful sort of person to have around, but it's useful to rmember that great things are not achieved by curmudgeons.

His words here:

I'm not sure America sufers from an excess of optimisim -- certainly not right now.

There was an America once that was optimistic enough to to the Moon.

Lieberman and McCain and screwing with the Dems and the media

So we got rumors swirling around that McCain may announce his VP pick in competition with Obama's speech.

First, it's really a cheap stunt to do this sort of thing and what little civility remains between the parties will be sorely tested by this kind of thing. The Democrats went first with their con because that's the understanding that has grown up over the years. If the GOP takes unfair advantage of this then we can expect all sorts of screwing around with convention dates in the future.

Lieberman. Ooooh, I hope it's Lieberman. I can't imagine a bigger disaster for the GOP. (Well, maybe Romney would be close). They say the first rule for a VP pick is do no harm.

Lieberman's betrayal of the Democratic party would be complete and would energize every party loyalist -- even the Hillary folks.

At the same time, GOP stalwarts would be appalled. While Lieberman has been a big supporter of Bush's foreign follies, he's otherwise a standard Liberal. Pick Joe, pleeasse.

Obama nominated

Win or lose, a historic moment.

But winning is important -- and not for symbolism's sake. We really need a break from the past.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Not Bayh

It's funny how the media allows itself to get played.

So the latest line seems to favor Biden. Solid choice, if a little staid. Still, Obama provides the sizzle, as they say.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Is it Bayh?

Drudge reports that a Kansas TV station is reporting a local company is printing Obama-Bayh campaign materials.


If true, it's a fairly conventional choice for Obama, although probably a safe one.

This is more evidence, I think, that Obama will be much less radical than opponents fear and supporters may want. In his head, the guy is definitely a liberal, but in his gut, he's a cautious, deliberative and basically conservative man. He really is the Anti-Bush.

If true, I'd expect an announcement earlier, rather than later.

Done With Mirrors On Hiatus?

No details provided, but Done With Mirrors is suspending his/her blog, at least for now.

McCain's houses

On one level the whole thing is part of the silly kind of politics that Obama is trying to move beyond, but on another level it's important because until and unless Obama can give as good as he gets in this sort of thing there's no chance of moving beyond it.

So long as the Republicans think that negative crap works, they will keep doing it. It's a lot easier than actually debating the merits of things, after all. Obama will actually be doing the GOP a favor if he can de-fang the crap-style politics enough that they decide to return to actual issues. (There will never be a complete end to negative campaigning -- it's like Evil, you can't permanently defeat it.)

Conservatives actually do have many valid points on many issues. Unfortunately, under Bush, the conservative movement and the GOP generally have, in the immortal words of Charles Barkley "lost their minds."

Until they return to actually trying to beat liberals with real arguments, they will come out on the short end of things. Because, at the end of the day, being as ass is not enough to win arguments with people.

So, does it really matter that McCain doesn't know how many houses he has?No. But then it didn't really matter that Obama wasn't a big fan of flag pins, either.

But trying to paint Obama as some sort of elitist is not the place the McCains want to go. Obama got into Harvard on his own merits, made his own money, grew up raised by a single mom, etc. McCain, meanwhile, got into Annapolis as the son and grandson of admirals, married wealth, etc. Should it be held against McCain that he's rich? No, but it's also not a reason to vote for him.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Death of the Cruiser

It seems evident the United States will be building no more warships called cruisers, and, as the U.S. Navy is about the only one building many large surface combatants of any kind, it seems likely that the cruiser, as a class of warship, will be joining the battleship as a relic of an earlier age.

There's been no formal announcement that the Navy won't have any more cruiser, but applying a little analysis to the current state of Navy ship-building leads to the conclusion that there won't be any more cruisers, ever.

The difference between "cruisers' and "destroyers" has been eroding for close to 50 years, as destroyer classes have continued to grow and destroyers have evolved from special-purpose escorts into general-purpose surface combatants, which used to be the role of cruisers. The re designations of "frigates" "destroyers" "destroyer leaders" and "cruisers" over the years has been evidence of this process. The last large class of cruisers built for the U.S. Navy, the Ticonderoga class, was built on the same hull as the large Spruance class destroyers. And the Arliegh Burke class destroyers are about the same size as the Spruances and Ticonderogas.

The newest, Zumwalt-class destroyers, are slated to displace about 14,000 tons, which makes them larger than all but the largest classes of World War II-era heavy cruisers and larger than the vast majority of post-war cruisers. In fact, I think only the nuclear cruiser USS Long Beach had a larger displacement among U.S. Navy cruisers built since 1950.

It's been politically expedient for quite a while to build "destroyers" instead of cruisers because destroyers sound like smaller, cheaper warships than cruisers to ignorant congressmen and the public. This won't be the first time the Navy pulled a fast one on Congress with semantics. (The Nineteenth Century Navy got more than one new warship by persuading Congress to pay for "repairing" an old one.)

But, with destroyers weighing at 14,000 tons or more in there's simply no longer any room for a "cruiser" in the scheme of things. There are no larger surface combatant warships planned. Ships larger than 20,000 tons displacement are generally aviation ships such as attack carriers, amphibious ships or those new Japanese "destroyers" that look like small aircraft carriers.

The only navy to build a class of very large surface combatants was the Soviet Russian navy with its Kirov-class nuclear battle cruisers. While impressive looking, the actual utility of such vessels is unclear and there have been no similar vessels built by anyone.

So logic dictates that there will be no more cruisers. The term "destroyer" no longer means an agile, small and expendable escort vessel. Those are "frigates" and "corvettes" now. Today a destroyer is a large, multi-purpose major surface combatant. Tactically there's no difference in role between a Ticonderoga-class Aegis "cruiser" and the Arleigh Burke-class Aegis "destroyer."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Olympic swimming records

It seems like every medal is being won by a world record time.

Here's a strange thought -- has anyone, other than te Chinese, actually neasured the pool to make sure it's actually 50 meters? If it were a couple inches short that would be enough to affect records without being detectable to the naked eye. right?

Second chance for Arar

According to a Canadian news report:

In a rare move, a U.S. appeals court has decided to reopen a failed legal challenge launched by Maher Arar, reviving hope for the Syrian-born Canadian that he will win justice in the United States for his 2002 deportation to his birth country.
The unexpected decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York to rehear Arar's lawsuit against U.S. authorities follows a ruling in June that the courts have no jurisdiction over the case because the Syrian-born Canadian was never technically in the U.S. when he was arrested at New York's Kennedy Airport en route to his Ottawa home after a vacation.
"This is good news for him," said Maria Lahood, his lawyer with the New-York based Centre for Constitutional Rights.

This is good news, as it really seemed like an awful situation that the U.S. could do this to someone without any consequences.

It's very rare for the court to do this, and it's highy likely that a majority of the full panel disagrees with the 2-1 decision by the small panel, or they wouldn't take this unusual step.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good run down from the War Nerd on Georgia

Meaty link

Bainbridge on the Calvo case

Conservative blogger Steven Bainbridge takes note:
The Calvo case, however, had several other factors working for it that I think help explain why it got so much media attention. Mayor Calco and his wife are white, middle class progressives, who live in a two-story, red-brick house in a Washington suburb. In addition to being a part-time mayor, Calvo works at a nonprofit foundation that runs boarding schools. His wife is a state finance officer. All of which suggests they’re in precisely the same demographic as most MSM reporters. The Washington Post or NY Times reporters look at this case and immediately think: “It could happen to me!” So the story gets saturation coverage--even in Great Britain!
Meanwhile, the MSM ignores the plight of African-American and Latino minority communities caught in the War on Drugs’ crossfire between paramilitary SWAT stormtroopers and gang thugs. How many brown and black families per year are terrorized by cops erroneously executing no knock warrants on the wrong premises? We don’t know because the media only pays attention to collateral damage from the War on Drugs when it happens to people like Mayor Calvo.
What happened to Calvo and his dogs is inexcusable. But the real tragedy is that the same sort of thing happens every day in places like South-Central Los Angeles and nobody cares.
It’s time to declare a cease fire in the failed war on drugs. It’s time for a rational program of legalization and regulation. It’s time for common sense.

What I do for a living

A good post on copy editors

Monday, August 11, 2008


I can't begin to comment on the deep-seated grand political intrigues of the Caucasus, so anyone wanting more on that front is welcome to read folks such as this:

But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this is more consequences of our misadventure in Iraq. If we had kept our eye on the ball and finished off the Taliban in Afghanistan with sufficient force instead of frittering it away with an ill-advised and poorly-conducted war in Iraq we (the U.S.) would have both the military force to have options and the credibility that success would have brought so that military options wouldn't be required.

Instead we have over-extended, over-committed and worn down the military so that we have no realistic military options at all. AND, instead of appearing strong and no one to trifle with the limits of U.S. power have been exposed for all to see in their naked glory because of the way we allowed ourselves to get mired in two long wars without apparent victory or end. (Bushite comments about how things are better in Iraq now display their cluelessness -- the damage has already been done. "Winning" now, whatever that means, doesn't rebuild the reputation that we had for decisive effectiveness we enjoyed before Iraq. It's too late for that.)

Endgame, 1945

Despite reading books about World War II ever since I could read, some 47 years now, there's still aspects of that epic struggle that are completely new to me.

Endgame,1945, an impressive new (2007) book by historian David Stafford sheds light on an aspect of the war I'd never really considered -- what happened as it ended.

It's touched on, here and there, in other histories, but, as Stafford notes in his introduction, most histories of the war end with VE Day. But, of course, the armies didn't disappear overnight and the enormous social and physical wreckage of the war didn't suddenly give way to normal life.

Indeed, there were millions of displaced person, surrendered soldiers, victorious allies, dying camp victims and individual stories strewn throughout Europe. Stafford's book illuminates the big picture by following the stories of about a dozen of these people. Some are soldiers, some are civilians. His perspective is restricted to stories accessible to the Western Allies and those Germans who fell into their hands, so it only tells half the story.

Still, it's a story little told and many of the accounts he mines are previously unpublished or little known.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found it relevant to today's issues as well. President Bush is fond of comparing the Iraq war and occupation to the postwar situation in Germany and Japan, but reading the book shows that all was not simple, easy or peaceful in the aftermath of VE Day. No, it was all confusion, tragedy and an appalling mess. Perhaps more attention to what really happened in 1945 would have given the Bush people a better sense of how ill-prepared they really were.

It's am excellent book and highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The McMaster Promotion board

Kaplan has a good article in slate about something that's real important, but usually flies well under the radar of the Media and the public. He notes how the latest Army general officer promotion board may represent a very important seismic shift in the Army's leadership:

The guy at the top always matters, for good or ill. In the case of the ill, for example, we can't really expect a major across-the-board improvement in the U.S. strategic situation so long as Bush is president.
But, to the extent that lower-ranking officials have quality they can make improvements within their sphere. There may be no clearer example of this than the Department of Defense. The shortcomings of Rumfeld are made starkly evident by the dramatic improvements under Gates, who may be one of the most important and effective SecDefs ever.

Gates has brought back to the Pentagon something that has been sorely lacking otherwise in the Bush administration -- accountability. Gates has been willing to fire failures. And now we are also seeing that he's interested in rewarding successes.

Unhappy with the kinds of decisions being made by the all-important Army one-star general promotion boards he brought back Gen. Petraeus from the war zone to oversea a promotion board. This alone can't help but send a powerful message how important Gates considered this board.

One of the biggest scandals of the last few years was the failure of two successive promotion boards to promote COL H.R. McMaster. There's hardly a more famous -- and justly so -- O-6 in the Army and it's failure to give him a star was nothing short of scandalous. Anyone who has been following McMaster's career has little doubt that he is one of the most outstanding officers of his generation -- bearing comparison with luminaries such as George C. Marshall and Creighton Abrams.

So Gates filled the board with the kind of outstanding successful combat officers the Army needs. Officers who had managed to rise to the top despite the system, but who could now reform that system to promote like-minded juniors in sufficient numbers to make a difference, as Kaplan points out.

I sure as hell hope the Navy names an aircraft carrier after this guy someday.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The summer of our discontent

It's hard to believe, given the disastrous nature of the Bush era, that the Republicans are still competitive in this race. If there was any justice in the world, they would be sent, as a body, packing into the wilderness for 40 years to repent.

But, of course, justice in this world is in short supply, which explains our hope there is more justice in the world to come.

I think there are many reasons why the race is still close, and to the extent that some of those reasons persist in the fall, there's a chance McCain will pull it off.

In no particular order:

1. Democrats, as a rule, a pathetic losers. They are to party discipline what cats are to herding. They're so afraid of being portrayed as "weak" on various issues that they cave in to the most unreasonable GOP demands. Evidently they are completely clueless that this confirms for all to see that they are, indeed, weak.

2. People aren't paying attention yet. It's only August.

3. Iraq isn't as big a disaster as it was last year. This allows McCain to make short-term claims that he was "right about the surge" but the long-term story is still disadvantageous to the GOP. The bottom line is that the public has made up its mind on Iraq and there's little that can happen there that will make a difference.

4. People like and respect McCain. Or at least the ones that aren't paying attention (See No. 2, above) People who are paying attention are having some second thoughts because of No. 5, below.

5. Negative campaigning still works. Or, at least, it works to make voters see your opponent more negatively. McCain is gambling that he can pull Obama down enough to catch him without losing much ground himself. This is a gamble, however, because it assumes Obama will refrain from going negative himself. McCain provides plenty of ready ammo for negative campaigning, though, and he may regret opening that Pandora's box. McCain is banking on Obama not being ruthless enough to go tit-for-tat with negative ads. While I don't doubt that Obama would prefer not to go there, I think he's provided ample evidence he will do what he must to win. McCain may be misunderestimating his opponent.

6. McCain is popular with the press -- for a Republican. The press hasn't made up its mind on Obama. In part, it wants to like Obama, but because it knows it wants to like Obama it thinks it shouldn't like Obama. If that makes sense to you, you're a journalist. If it doesn't make sense to you then you're a normal person.

7. There's a portion of the electorate (of undetermined size) that isn't ready to vote for a black man under any circumstances. On the other hand, most of those people probably wouldn't vote for any Democrat and have already been factored into the likely vote. The only way this would make a difference is if there's a significant number of people who would otherwise have voted Democrat that won't because of Obama's race. Maybe there is. If the race is close, they may make a difference. My sense is, however, that the anti-GOP sentiment is probably strong enough that other factors will overcome this effect.

Once the convention's shake out things will become more clear

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One person can make a difference

Solzhenitsyn dies.

Like most Russian writers, in general his works are too wordy for my taste, but his novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," is a powerful, classic and short work.;_ylt=AugX46qUJDqsFVOekI1GvTCs0NUE

Friday, August 1, 2008

So at what point do citizens say enough?

Is it when cops taser a man with a broken back 19 times because he can't get up?

Or is it when a police SWAT team shoots to death the two dogs of a town's mayor during a no-knock raid?

Or maybe it's when witnesses who don't parrot the police side of the story are detained, interrogated and intimidated:

Here is a list of drug war victims:

Slate - Encyclopedia Baracktannica