May 2008, Part 2
Jim Miller on Politics
The French 75: In January, during my visit to Britain, I made a point of visiting the Imperial War Museum in London. (Partly, I must admit, because it is so politically incorrect. Though not as politically incorrect as I had hoped. From the name, I expected lots on the wars that established the British empire, but the exhibits I saw began with World War I.)
Near the middle of the main floor, they have a French 75.
Doesn't look like much, does it? But for its time, it was an incredibly advanced artillery piece.
The French 75mm field gun was a quick-firing field artillery piece developed in 1894 and which saw widespread service in World War I and served into World War II. It was commonly known as the French 75, simply the 75 and Soixante Quinze. It was one of the most important developments in field artillery, as it introduced for the first time in the history of field artillery a dual hydraulic (or "long") recoil system which kept the gun's carriage perfectly still when it fired. Because it did not have to be resighted between shots, the French 75 could fire twenty to thirty rounds per minute.I have seen claims — I don't know whether they are true or not — that the possession of this quick-firing artillery piece was one of the reasons the French adopted the disastrous Plan 17, which almost lost them World War I, at the very beginning.
Having a fine weapon makes it easy to forget that your enemy may have his own great weapons.
(If you aren't familiar with Plan 17 and the more famous Schlieffen Plan, you may want to look at one of the maps linked to in the article on Plan 17.)
- 4:14 PM, 16 May 2008 [link]
Rookie Mistake: Almost every conservative, many moderates, and a few on the left were amused by Obama's reaction after Bush criticized — without naming — modern day appeasers. Obama charged that Bush was attacking him, which is like jumping up angrily when a speaker denounces crooks. People are bound to suspect that you may be guilty of something.
The best reaction to Obama's mistake that I have seen came from the Confederate Yankee.
Perhaps we'd all find Barack's stance against meeting with terrorists a lot more sincere if he wasn't friends with several, kicking off his political career at their house.There are some cynics who suspect that, before this campaign is over, Obama will be forced to condemn what William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn have been saying all their adult lives. But even if he does condemn them, a few will suspect that he isn't entirely sincere in his condemnation, just as many suspect that he isn't sincere in his condemnation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
(Incidentally, those two Wikipedia articles leave out most of the interesting stuff. Do a search on "Dohrn + Manson" for an example.
The members of the Israeli Knesset, whom Bush was addressing, probably thought that Bush was talking about former president Carter.)
- 1:08 PM, 16 May 2008 [link]
Taking A Walk On The Mild Side: The winter has been long, wet, and — for this area — cold. Yesterday, summer arrived, and I have been spending time enjoying it. (The weather forecasters say that summer will last until this Sunday, before we return to spring.)
(Here's the Lou Reed song — which I have always liked — though I can't say I agree with its values.)
- 12:30 PM, 16 May 2008 [link]
60 Million Dead? No Big Deal: This morning I was listening, briefly, to local talk show host Dave Ross. Ross is what you might call a member of the Defeat Now! caucus. He wants an American defeat in Iraq, and he wants it now. I came in during the middle of the discussion, so I did not hear why he thought that would be a good idea, but I did hear the end, and was horrified.
Ross was being challenged by a caller who asked him to consider the possible consequences of a victory for terrorists in Iraq. Ross responded to the challenge in two ways, first by saying that he did not think these terrible things would happen. And second, and this is what horrified me, by saying that he could accept those horrific consequences.
In particular, Ross said he was willing to accept the enormous death toll from a nuclear war in the Middle East. The caller argued that the instability resulting from our immediate withdrawal from Iraq might result in nuclear war in the Middle East, with Iran on one side. To this, Ross replied:
Iran has a population of about 70 million. A nuclear war in which one side decided to "eliminate" Iran might cause, directly and indirectly, 50 million deaths in Iran alone, and perhaps another 10 million in other nations.
After Ross said this, I waited to see if he would qualify what he said, or even if he would set some upper limit, if he would say, for instance, that he thought that 100 million deaths might be too big a price even for his Defeat Now! caucus. He did not. And what he had said earlier about Indochina makes me think that I did not hear him wrong, did not misunderstand him. He conceded that millions had died after we had abandoned Vietnam and Cambodia. But he did not seem much bothered by that. (He did say, correctly, that the blame for the millions of dead was not mainly ours. But he didn't go on to say, as he might have, that the left in the US was not terribly critical of Pol Pot and the other mass murderers then, or since.)
Ross's nonchalance about genocide, and potential genocide, in these two cases forces me to raise an unpleasant question. Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Iraqis share one characteristic; they have different skin colors than most Americans. And so I have to ask: Would Ross be equally nonchalant about the possibility that, say, France, would be eliminated? (France's population is a little smaller than Iran's.) And it is an unpleasant fact that few on the left cared much when, by the most common estimate, 800,000 were massacred in Rwanda, while Bill Clinton was preserving his political viability.Let me end this by quoting a president that Ross should know well:
You may find it instructive to rewrite those four paragraphs to make them suitable for Dave Ross and the rest of his Defeat Now! caucus. I might start something like this: "We won't pay any price, but we will be happy to impose enormous prices on others, especially if they trusted us."
Cross posted at Sound Politics.(For those not familiar with the politics in this area: Ross was the Democratic candidate for 8th congressional district in 2004. He was defeated by Dave Reichert — fortunately.)
- 2:02 PM, 15 May 2008 [link]
Here's A Picture Of The Brochure that Obama is using in Kentucky.
With this message on the front:
MY FAITH TEACHES ME THAT I CAN SIT AND PRAY ALL I WANT, BUT I WON'T BE FULFILLING GOD'S WILL UNLESS I GO OUT AND DO THE LORD'S WORK. - Barack ObamaYou can read the story here.
Some of us will recall how much grief Mike Huckabee got for supposedly having a "subliminal" cross. Others, including me, will wish that Obama had changed his slogan to: "Faith. Hope. Charity". As long as he is going to be that shameless, he might as well go all the way.
- 12:33 PM, 14 May 2008
Tactical Point: Why is the Obama campaign doing this now? I doubt that they expect it to make a significant difference in Kentucky. Instead, I think that they are experimenting with an appeal that they might use in the general election. Only in certain areas of the US, of course. I don't think they'll use pamphlets like that one in Manhattan or San Francisco.
- 7:02 AM, 16 May 2008
The pamphlet inspired this ObamaFish. The fish would be even funnier if I weren't sure that a few people will take it seriously.
- 3:36 PM, 16 May 2008 [link]
Priorities? This pair of articles from the London Telegraph caught my eye.
First, the thief.
A thief escaped from an open jail only to return to three days later and implore prison staff to take him back in.Second, a story on the British military
Nearly half of all Armed Forces units are suffering from "serious or critical weaknesses" as a result of their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.Perhaps Prime Minister Gordon Brown should spend a little less on prisons and a little more on defense.
It is not hard to understand how prisons might become "cushy", while defense spending was limited. For many on the soft left, most criminals are seen as victims of society, in part. And those on the soft left find it hard to accept the legitimacy of force, even when used in self defense. And so it is natural for them to shift money from defense to making prisons more pleasant for the inmates.
(Gordon Brown has received sharp criticisms for his lack of support for Britain's armed forces. For example:
November 2007 has seen Gordon Brown face intense criticism of not adhering to the 'military covenant', a convention within British politics stating that in exchange for them putting their lives at risk for the sake of national security, the armed forces should in turn be suitably looked after by the government. Criticism has come from several former Chiefs of Defence, including General Lord Guthrie, First Sea Lord Lord Boyce, Air Chief Marshal Lord Craig, Field Marshal Lord Bramall and Field Marshal Lord Inge. Poor housing, lack of equipment and adequate healthcare provisions are some of the major issues Brown has been accused of neglecting.With, of course, the usual caveat about relying on Wikipedia for political articles.)
- 7:04 AM, 14 May 2008 [link]
Is Iranian President Ahmadinejad A Problem? The Australian (Labor) government has a solution: Unleash the lawyers.
The Rudd Government's effort to bring a legal action against Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide is almost certain to fail.Unleashing the lawyers probably won't hurt, and might even create some useful publicity. But I don't think it will solve the problem.
- 4:39 AM, 14 May 2008
More: The link above takes you to an opinion column; for more facts on this solution, you may want to read this article.
- 8:25 AM, 14 May 2008 [link]
Will Clinton Beat Obama In West Virginia By More Than 30 Points? That's about all that is in doubt about the result. With 35 percent of the precincts counted, she is leading him 64-29 percent.
A glance at the map suggests to me that her margin will be at least 30 points. The counties that have not reported results yet are all, or almost all, rural, and Clinton has consistently done better than Obama in rural areas.
The result probably won't matter in the long run, but that's a pretty good whipping.
- 6:53 PM, 13 May 2008
The Missing 7 Percent: Let's see, 64 + 29 = 93. Or, if you prefer the latest numbers, 65 + 28 = 93. So 7 percent of the Democratic voters went to the polls — and didn't vote for either Clinton or Obama. Interesting. (Even more, 9 percent, appear to be abstaining on Republican side, though the numbers aren't strictly comparable, because there isn't an active contest in the Republican party.)
- 7:33 PM, 13 May 2008
A 40 percent margin?! It could happen. Clinton is now leading Obama 66-27, and has been building her lead all evening. A very quick glance over the map suggests to me that most of the votes still to be counted are from strong Clinton counties.
- 8:18 PM, 13 May 2008
It did happen. Clinton won the primary 67-26 percent.
- 4:52 AM, 14 May 2008
The Missing 7 Percent went to John Edwards; the missing 9 percent went to Mitt Romney (4), Rudy Giuliani (2), Alan Keyes (1), and a candidate I do not recognize, with the last name of Curry (1).
- 10:10 AM, 14 May 2008 [link]
Too Late For West Virginia: But it might help him in the general election.
Barack Obama sported a flag lapel pin and talked up patriotism Monday as he campaigned in blue-collar West Virginia. He also shot a solid game of pool.Like Sistah Toldjah, I don't care whether he wears a flag pin or not. But, also like Sistah Toldjah, I resent Obama implying that those who do wear flag pins are substituting that for "true" patriotism.
(How many stars on his flag pin? The article doesn't say, but I assume someone would have noticed if there were 57, or 60, instead of 50)
- 4:02 PM, 13 May 2008 [link]
Worth Reading: John Kass makes an obvious point; Barack Obama is a Chicago politician, with all that implies. But it's a point that most "mainstream" journalists are determined to ignore.
Will Barack Obama's presidential candidacy serve his state and city by finally drawing national attention to the sleazy and corrupt politics of Illinois and Chicago?Even though Obama has been allied, all through his career in Chicago, with some sleazy political figures, including Tony Rezko.
- 3:50 PM, 13 May 2008 [link]
How Good Are The Climate Models? Not very. At least not at predicting the climate in specific locations. That's the central finding of a study by a team of Greek scientists. (To see their whole argument, download the "presentation".)
Here are two of their six conclusions:
The huge negative values of coefficients of efficiency at those scales show that model predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average.The first may need some explanation. The authors are saying that you get much better predictions for a particular area by using the averages for that area than you get by using any of the climate models.
These findings do not show that the climate models are useless. The models may be broadly accurate in the very long run, even though they are almost useless in the short run. They may provide insights by showing us what variables matter most. And so on.
But the findings should make us cautious about the precise claims often made by the modelers, or by journalists who do not understand some of the modelers' caveats.
By way of Climate Audit, where you will find some interesting comments on the study.
(I have a more positive description of the models, and will try to present it in the next week or so. And I will be looking for a reply to the study from a modeler.)
- 10:26 AM, 13 May 2008 [link]
Perfect Timing: Today's New York Times includes this article on a common way to commit vote fraud, walking-around money, or as they call it, "street money".
Whatever its effectiveness, street money is burdened with negative overtones stemming from accusations over the years that paid operatives have manipulated elderly voters in some elections or given people cash in exchange for their votes.(It's not just accusations. From time to time, people get prosecuted for these crimes.)
Today's New York Times also includes this editorial, with this broad claim.
As with Missouri's proposed amendment, the driving force behind strict voter ID requirements in general is not a genuine effort to prevent fraud, since there is virtually no evidence that in-person voter fraud is occurring.Perhaps the editorial writers at the Times should read their own newspaper. (Or that list of vote fraud cases that I have collected, without much effort.)
- 8:31 AM, 13 May 2008 [link]
What I Liked About This Part Of The Jenna Wedding Story: Is that it wasn't a story.
The ceremony began about a half hour or so before sunset. The couple stood at a cross, made of beige colored Texas limestone, that was erected near the ranch's man-made lake. The cross and altar, made of the same stone used to construct the Bush's ranch house, will be a landmark at the ranch for years to come. The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston officiated.This Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell, in case you missed seeing his picture in the wedding photos.
It was not a story because most Americans are getting beyond race, so that having a president's daughter married by a black preacher requires no comment — even though it has never happened before.
(Incidentally, Reverend Caldwell is backing Barack Obama this year, which obviously didn't bother the Bush family.)
- 8:04 AM, 13 May 2008 [link]
You Just Can't Get Good Help These Days: Even if you are Barack Obama.
So, for those keeping track at home, that's ten instances of Obama publicly blaming his staff for various screw-ups.Ten, so far.
(Does this say anything about Obama's judgment in choosing staff? Good question. Maybe some reporter will ask him about that.)
- 2:02 PM, 12 May 2008 [link]
Prices For Some Things Are Higher: And prices for some other things are lower. And so inflation is not as bad as you may think it is. That's the message of this David Leonhardt column. To appreciate it, you may want to start by clicking on the first graphic, which shows that, over the last ten years, the prices of clothes and communication have fallen markedly.
Two selections from the column:
During the 1980s and 1990s, though, did you ever stop and marvel at what a small share of your paycheck you were spending at the supermarket? I didn't. I also didn't really notice that gas cost less in the late 1990s than it had in the 1980s. Yet lately, every time my wife or I pass a new benchmark for filling up our tank — $40, $50 and now $60 — we have a conversation about it.Leonhardt could go farther, but doesn't. (He does, after all, work for the New York Times.) The two categories which have risen the most in the last ten years are education and medical care. Those are also the two categories where governments pay the biggest shares of the total costs. That isn't the only reason that costs for education and medical care have risen so sharply, but I think it explains a large part of those increases.
- 1:15 PM, 12 May 2008 [link]
Bruce Bawer On Obama And His Father: In this post, I compared the way two other men, Gerald Ford and Shaquille O'Neal, reacted to fathers who had failed them. As I said then, I found it strange that Obama, unlike the other two men, identified with the failed father, rather than the mother (and maternal grandparents) who actually raised him.
In this article, Bawer comes to a similar conclusion, after reading Obama's book, Dreams of My Father.
Yet on whom does Barack's memoir focus? On his father - whom Barack, against all evidence (which suggests that Dr. Obama was colossally selfish and narcissistic), seeks to portray as heroic, sympathetic, indeed near-mythic. Obama père was a polygamist (and a lousy husband to all his wives), but Barack gives no indication that he finds this morally problematic; on the contrary, he seems determined to excuse his father's many failings as consequences of imperialism, colonialism, and/or racism. One can, of course, well understand why a small boy - or even a young man - might idealize out of all proportion the father he never met. But Obama shows few signs in this book of recognizing that he's doing this. Meanwhile, perversely, he treats his mother and grandparents, who by his own account raised him with extraordinary devotion, all but dismissively. At one point he even suggests that Gramps and Toot were really racists - and that all white people, in fact, are racists, and that black people have been so deformed by this racism that black individuals can hardly be held responsible for their own moral lapses.And is still treating his maternal grandmother dismissively. I was struck by the fact that, after attacking her in a national speech, he chose to spend his Easter vacation in the Virgin Islands, rather than Hawaii, where she lives. (According to news accounts, she is not well, so he may not have many chances to see her again.)
This is, as I said, strange, almost bizarre. But I have not seen a single attempt to explain it from a "mainstream journalist.
- 9:02 AM, 12 May 2008 [link]
An Apostate President? By Muslim doctrine, Barack Obama is an apostate.
As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother's Christian background is irrelevant.And an apostate president would not be universally welcomed in Muslim lands, as Edward Luttwak goes on to explain.
(I'm often critical of the New York Times. But I will give them credit for this: Their op-ed page often includes pieces, such as this one, that present facts and opinions not found in the rest of the paper.
Although Barack Obama is formally a Christian, I am not sure that he actually believes the central tenets of Christianity. Ordinarily, I would not mention such matters, but the reasons he gives for joining Trinity United are so political that it is impossible not to be suspicious.
Here's my earlier post on Obama's Muslim childhood.)
- 5:45 AM, 12 May 2008 [link]
Boys And Girls Are Different: As even the New York Times is forced to admit, occasionally. In particular, girls are more likely to be injured in sports.
Girls and boys diverge in their physical abilities as they enter puberty and move through adolescence. Higher levels of testosterone allow boys to add muscle and, even without much effort on their part, get stronger. In turn, they become less flexible. Girls, as their estrogen levels increase, tend to add fat rather than muscle. They must train rigorously to get significantly stronger. The influence of estrogen makes girls' ligaments lax, and they outperform boys in tests of overall body flexibility — a performance advantage in many sports, but also an injury risk when not accompanied by sufficient muscle to keep joints in stable, safe positions. Girls tend to run differently than boys — in a less-flexed, more-upright posture — which may put them at greater risk when changing directions and landing from jumps. Because of their wider hips, they are more likely to be knock-kneed — yet another suspected risk factor.For some injuries, far more likely, notably injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament.
If girls and young women ruptured their A.C.L.s at just twice the rate of boys and young men, it would be notable. Three times the rate would be astounding. But some researchers believe that in sports that both sexes play, and with similar rules — soccer, basketball, volleyball — female athletes rupture their A.C.L.s at rates as high as five times that of males.Although the ligament can usually be repaired, recovery is a long, and sometimes painful, process.
After seeing the injuries on a university women's basketball team (a very well-known team) and reading about the injuries suffered by women's cross country teams (more frequent though not as severe as the injuries on men's football teams), I came to the politically incorrect conclusion that boys and girls should not play the same sports, with the same rules.
The print edition of the article gives two-thirds of a page to this question: Everyone wants girls to have as many opportunites in sports as boys. But can we live with the greater rate of injuries they suffer? My answer to that question is that we should want girls to have as many — but not the same — opportunities in sports as boys have. Because boys and girls are different, as any knee surgeon can tell you.
- 2:36 PM, 11 May 2008 [link]
Who Do You Believe? Obama's adviser, or that lying video? I'm going with the video, myself. Obama did promise to meet with Iran's [insert nasty adjective of your choice here] President Ahmadinejad, wthout preconditions.
- 1:36 PM, 11 May 2008 [link]
Happy Mother's Day! To all the mothers out there. This year, I don't have my usual mother duck to show you, nor even last year's flowers.
But I do have tributes to mothers from four very different bloggers: "Babalu", who reminds us of the facts of life, Dan Collins, who takes a light approach, Jeralyn Merritt, who touched my heart by describing how she is taking care of her aging mother, and "neo-neocon", who gives us three generations, and a little family history.Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:45 PM, 11 May 2008 [link]
When A Disaster Strikes, some try to help. Others try to take credit for helping.
Myanmar's military regime distributed international aid Saturday but plastered the boxes with the names of top generals in an apparent effort to turn the relief effort for last week's devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise.Classy bunch, those generals.
(If the same storm had hit the United States, it would have been called a "hurricane", not a cyclone. In the northwest Pacific, it would have been called a "typhoon". A storm can change from a "hurricane" to a "typhoon", or vice versa, by crossing the International Date Line. There's a full discussion of the naming rules for these giant storms in this article on tropical cyclones.)
- 11:15 AM, 10 May 2008 [link]
Expansionist Plans? Or just confusion? Barack Obama said, yesterday, that he had been in 57 states.
"It is wonderful to be back in Oregon," Obama said. "Over the last 15 months, we've traveled to every corner of the United States. I've now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii, I was not allowed to go to even though I really wanted to visit, but my staff would not justify it."As I read that, he is saying that he has campaigned in 57 states and has 3 to go before he has campaigned in all of them.
It's an understandable mistake, especially given the constant travel of a modern campaign. But it also true that this slip would be treated differently if John McCain or George W. Bush had said it.
(You can see video of the slip here. Like Ann Althouse, I '"love the way he pauses and really thinks before adding the "-seven."'
- 5:39 AM, 10 May 2008 [link]
Measuring The Snow At Mt. Rainier: Here's where they do it.
They use the orange pole on the left to measure snow depth. When I took the picture, there was almost 19 feet of snow there. I am not sure how they measure the daily snow fall, but I wouldn't be surprised if they use that small dark container to the right of the weather station. (The area was roped off, so I didn't take a close look.)
I took the picture last Sunday. Since then, some of the snow has melted, but, according to the park's recorded message, there is still 210 inches on the ground. (They have received 896 inches since last July.)
- 4:21 PM, 9 May 2008 [link]
Is Obama The Democratic Nominee? Not quite yet, says Jay Cost.
Elite opinion on the Democratic race has congealed around the idea that it is over. Clinton has no chance whatsoever to win the nomination now. There is a minority of analysts out there - maybe 5%, maybe even less - who see her path to the nomination as much narrower than it was four days ago, but who still see a path.I'm with that minority, too. As are some of the bettors at InTrade, where they currently give Barack Obama about a 90 percent chance to win the nomination. That means, of course, that the same bettors are giving Clinton about a 10 percent chance to win the nomination.
In general, Cost's analysis seems correct to me, but incomplete. Incomplete because the nomination fight isn't over until it's over. And, until it's over, something could happen. For instance, Jeremiah Wright, who seems to enjoy the spotlight, might pop up again. And it is not hard to think of even more dire possibilities.
- 12:37 PM, 9 May 2008 [link]
Worth A Look: Maybe several looks. Karl Rove's maps showing McCain versus Clinton, and McCain versus Obama. You'll note that McCain is — currently — doing better against the junior senator from Illinois than against the junior senator from New York, and that the patterns of support for the two Democratic candidates are quite different.
(Some states will almost certainly shift as voters in them learn more. For instance, I think that, assuming that Obama is the nominee, McCain will carry both North Dakota and Nebraska easily.)
- 8:52 AM, 9 May 2008 [link]