Archives for August, 2006

Is This a Test?

So I’m trying to read Justin’s column in the American Prospect online. Yet on the right side of the page, there’s this absurdly healthy looking breast, coated in a thin membrane of fabric, bulging out at me. My friend maintains that the lady in question is of Arab descent; I say that nice Arab girls don’t show their wares like that. That’s why we’re dropping the democracy-whiskey-sexy bombs on them. I think it’s in the 2002 National Security Strategy somewhere. Or maybe I read it on Instapundit.

Anyway, that’s not the point. Every time my eyes cross the page from left to right, there it is. “Lamont… Lieberman… Democratic voters… Bazooooom.” And I forget what I was reading. Then it’s back to the left side of the page, and over again. I feel like I’m unwittingly part of some sort of psychological experiment studying sex and ADD. Breast.jpg

Posted on Aug 30, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Things I Learned on My Summer Vacation

1. Two new developments in the technology of convenience, first seen on the Delaware seashore, coming soon to a bar and grill near you: (a) an efficient vinegar-delivery system for french fries: the spray bottle. Rather than dribble it out through the bottle’s narrow aperture, you can coat your starchy friends with a tangy mist as easily as Windexing your windows; (b) pitchers that keep the beer cold–one crab-house in Rehoboth served beer in pitchers that had a tube running along the handle filled with ice. The only flaw in the design was that as you poured the last beer, the lid on the little ice-spine would flap open, spilling ice in your beer and on the table, and no matter how conscientious the waitress was about warning you, you’d only remember it a millisecond before it crashed all over your beer. Since the problem could be solved with a simple plastic latch, you almost wonder whether the designer just got a kick out of the imperfection. It’s like a dribble glass that only works on drunks.

2. Based on one episode, “Flip This House” is a cool show. It’s like “Extreme Makeover Home Edition,” except instead of that suntanned twerp building a swank new pad for kids with spina bifida, it’s a bunch of pasty people saying “hey, let’s make a whole shitpile of money!” Plus, there’s more dramatic tension. On Extreme Makeover Home Edition, the only dramatic tension is Tad, or Chad, or whatever his name is, pushing people to get the satellite dish installed on the kids’ treehouse before the unveiling. In the FTH episode I saw, there was an excellent fight with unscrupulous, greedy contractors.

That’s about it as far as things I learned. I wouldn’t want to live without the Internet, but one of the things I enjoy best about vacation is unplugging from the goddamned thing and reading novels. Great recommendations, people. Each one I read was better than the one before:

Brain Storm: Thanks to Jeremy Lott for this one. My dad got this for me in ’98 or ’99, but at the time, I couldn’t stand the idea of a lawyer novel. With the career change, it was more than readable.

Calibre. This one, by Galway noirist Ken Bruen, has an irresistable premise: a serial killer who chooses his victims based on how rude they are in public. You’ve probably thought of this on the bus or the metro, sitting too close to some schmuck blatting away on his cellphone. But you haven’t written a book about it. I was almost sorry when the “Manners Killer” met his match in the degenerate but likeable Inspector Brant. The MK could have been the Bernie Goetz of good taste.

After Dark, My Sweet, by Jim Thompson. The escaped nut who outwits them all. More novels should be just under 150 pages. What do you people have to say that’s so important, anyway?

Something Nasty in the Woodshed. I can’t thank Kelly Jane Torrance enough for recommending the Charlie Mortdecai series. Perfect. If you like Flashman and P.G. Wodehouse (as I was embarassed to discover recently that I do) and you have a dark sense of humor, you can’t beat this. It’s Evil Jeeves and Wooster. By accident I read the third in the trilogy, but I’m going back for the first two.

Posted on Aug 25, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Fristian Psychoanalysis

What Julian suffers from is probably not BDS, but DRWBSDS. There’s a lot of it going around, but not enough for my tastes.

Posted on Aug 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Greatest Max Boot Op-Ed Headline Ever

Our Enemies Aren’t Drinking Lattes

Well, it’s true, you know.

Posted on Aug 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Best Complexion at the Leper Colony 2006

I love the pathetically transparent way that Jerry Brito draws attention to the fact that he’s been nominated as one of the 21 hottest policy dorks in the think tank world:

Now this is embarassing From an e-mail I received today: “Dear Distinguished Policy Person, You’ve been nominated as a most beautiful person of your gender in the public policy world.”

Oh gosh! It’s so embarassing! So embarassing I had to blog it! And provide three links! In case you want to vote, and humiliate me more! I’ll just die!

It’s much, much more subtle for me to link it by ragging on Jerry.

Posted on Aug 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Freedom Thighs

There’s apparently a mini-scandal brewing in France because the paparazzi snapped pictures of Socialist presidential contender Segolene Royal at the beach in her bikini. I doubt Royal’s too upset. This is what she looks like. That’s a 52-year-old woman. Politician. Plus she’s really quite pretty. Think of the handicaps she’s struggling against, and yet she still looks that good. It’s like trying to imagine how much more gorgeous Liz Hurley would be if she wasn’t British.

It makes me think: why don’t we cut all the crap and just start electing the best looking people president? It’s not as though the current selection system leads to the ascension of the finest minds and characters in the land. And whoever you elect, you’re going to have to look at for at least four years. The modern presidency has devolved into a national talk show host with nuclear weapons. I’m no happier about that state of affairs than anybody else, but I don’t see any more reason to fear Angelina Jolie with nukes than several other presidents past, present, and future.

Posted on Aug 16, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Via Instapundit, who I’m sure is Just Linking! Not Endorsing! I see this:

TIGERHAWK: What will it take to militarize the West?

I jump the link and get this:

The problem, it seems to me, is that we are not ready to fight another major war. We have only a couple hundred thousand soldiers that we might deploy, and that would leave us totally exposed elsewhere. To do much more than we are doing now we need a bigger military and we need to spend a lot more money.

Now, it is clearly within our capacity to put many more men and women under arms. During World War II, we put 16,000,000 people into the military, about 13% of the population. Today, even adjusted for an older population, we could probably put 30,000,000 people under arms if our survival depended on it. A huge war in the Persian Gulf would not take that many soldiers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if military planners said that we would need four or five million.

We obviously have the capability, if not the will, to expand our military massively if we decide the threat warrants it. However, we will only be able to do this if we substantially militarize our society. We will almost certainly need conscription, and we will need to spend a much larger share of our national income on defense. We will also need to make different investment decisions inside the economy. We would need to mobilize the home front to sustain support for the war. Life would change for everybody.

So, if an existential war against Islamo-fascism is as inevitable as World War II became after the appeasement of the 1930s, what event would be necessary to motivate the United States to militarize its society and economy to fight that war?

War against whom? Iran? Syria? That takes care of Al Qaeda how? What in the world does it even have to do with Al Qaeda? The day of the foiled bomb plot, I left off blogging “so who do we bomb now,” figuring that was snotty and unnecessary, as surely no one was still thick enough to think conventional war was any kind of solution to our current problems.

I never liked that lefty bumper sticker “War Is Not the Answer.” It depends on the question. But when the question is, how do you fight a transnational stateless conspiracy operating, among other places, from within the already-democratic West?–then war–at least conventional war–is not the answer. War is a stupid, bloody non sequitur.

A large swathe of the Right has lost its mind. The warlust runs so deep it’s not even related to any recognizable strategic goal anymore. It’s war as self-expression. It means “We’re serious.” Never mind that it makes as much sense as chewing glass. Sure, the post is hedged and qualified with weasel words and stated as a hypothetical (much like current right-wing discussions about whether we should kill a lot more civilians). But it seems apparent that like many other much-linked, funnynamed characters on the internet, “Tigerhawk” looks fondly on the prospect of total war and the regimentation it would require. Remind me again why I’m supposed to be so scared of the Left.

Posted on Aug 12, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Party of Death

Interesting and disturbing post by Cass Sunstein on the U of C Law blog:

An interesting branch of psychological research explores how people’s decisions and opinions shift when they are reminded of their own mortality. It turns out that when mortality is made salient, significant changes can occur. For example, judges who are reminded of their own mortality are likely to give stiffer sentences to even nonviolent offenders, and once so reminded, ordinary people are more likely to engage in racial stereotyping.

It is natural to wonder how mortality salience is likely to affect political judgments. A paper by Mark Landau and his colleagues, in 30 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 1136 (2004), offers some intriguing clues. Here are two key findings. (a) After people are merely reminded of their own mortality (by being asked, for example, to describe “what you think will happen to you as you physically die and once you are physically dead”), they show stronger support for President Bush and his policies in Iraq. (b) After people are reminded of their mortality OR of the 9/11 attacks, they become more favorably disposed toward President Bush and less favorably disposed toward John Kerry.

…. The upshot is that any reminder of the terrorist threat is likely to help President Bush, and probably to help Republicans generally, even (and here is the important fact) to the extent of causing a shift in their direction among moderates and some liberals.

That Karl Rove sure knows what he’s doing.

Posted on Aug 11, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Do You Feel Prescient, Punk?

Good ol’ Dale Franks pulls a post or two at random from Jim and Radley’s blogs and proclaims that prefixless libertarians weren’t “prescient” about the Iraq War. However much I deplore his halfassed research efforts, I have to say, he’s right. Not about Jim’s and Radley’s case against the war, but about “prescience.” Like Jim and Radley, I said before the war that Saddam Hussein was no serious threat to us, that occupying Iraq would be extraordinarily difficult, and that it would likely give a shot in the arm to Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts.

But I make no claim of prescience. The real question isn’t “wow, what kind of crazy mind-voodoo were the anti-war libertarians using that allowed them to predict the future?” Rather it’s, what came over so many otherwise sensible people to make them temporarily so credulous? Those for whom the condition was temporary, that is.

I got a number of things wrong in the run-up to the war. I assumed without question that Hussein had chem/bio and that the chances of him using it against us would be heightened if we invaded. I spun a few overblown nightmare scenarios about the Arab street (while making it clear that I didn’t think they were the most likely scenarios). But the occupation and its possible effects on terrorist recruitment were always essential to my case against the war. Here are a few examples:

January 1, 2003:

We should keep in mind that there were quite a few self-styled experts who waxed apocalyptic in 1991 about “the fourth largest army in the world” and “the elite Republican Guard.” If professional pundits were capable of humility, they’d have been humbled after the war turned out to be the biggest turkey-shoot in American military history.

This time around, the war may go just as easily as it did in 1991. I’ve got no special insight into the psychology of Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they’d rather switch than fight. Where’s the percentage in fighting a losing battle with the most powerful military in human history? I wouldn’t stake my life on an easy victory, but I would put a substantial amount of money on it.

In the best-case scenario, Hussein doesn’t pass WMD off to terrorists and he never gets to launch the Scuds. Shortly after the air war begins, he’s deposed by a Republican Guard coup. We take Baghdad without a single U.S. battlefield casualty. Triumphalism is in the air, and the chorus of self-congratulatory “I-told-you-so’s” rings out in op-ed pages and TV talk shows across the land.

But our troubles are just beginning.

Welcome to the Occupation: At this point, we’ve conquered Iraq. Now what do we do with it? One plan being floated, according to the New York Times, uses the postwar occupation of Japan as a model. In this version of the MacArthur Regency, Iraq will be governed by an American military commander such as General Tommy R. Franks, commander of United States forces in the Persian Gulf.

The MacArthur Regency worked in Japan because the U.S. occupiers entered a country sick to death of war, with a tradition of deference to authority (encouraged by the Emperor’s call to cooperate with U.S. authorities) and a monocultural middle class that could form the basis of a democracy. As historian John Dower puts it, “the ideals of peace and democracy took root in Japan–not as a borrowed ideology of imposed vision, but as a lived experience and a seized opportunity…. It was an extraordinary, and extraordinarily fluid moment–never seen before in history and, as it turned out, never to be repeated.” That process is particularly unlikely to be repeated in Iraq, a fissiparous amalgam of Sunnis, separatist Shiites and Kurds. Keeping the country together will require a strong hand and threatens to make U.S. servicemen walking targets for discontented radicals.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger–no dove, he–noted that he was “viscerally opposed to a prolonged occupation of a Muslim country at the heart of the Muslim world by Western nations who proclaim the right to re-educate that country.” As well he should be. Such a policy would be the most generous gift imaginable to the Al Qaeda recruitment drive. It makes Bin Laden’s ravings about a Crusader-Zionist alliance to de-Islamicize the Middle East look half-plausible to the angry young men of that hate-filled, backward region.

March 19, 2003:

After our quick victory, and after the “Arab street” fails to rise, you’re going to hear a lot of self-congratulation from the hawks. But the fallout from this war is likely to be long-term, in the form of a protracted and messy occupation, and an enhanced terrorist recruitment base.

March 22, 2003:

Likewise, it’s gratifying to see us greeted as liberators, even if, like me, you view armed evangelism in the service of liberty as the most dangerous foreign policy rationale since, well, since… ever. But I’m with Jim: the folks who think the immediate reaction of the locals betokens the success of the occupation are saps. The British forces that stepped in between the Prods and the Catholics in Derry in 1969 were initially welcomed by the latter as protectors. Remember how well that worked out.

June 20, 2003:

Peter Taylor’s book Behind the Mask: The IRA and Sinn Fein describes the short honeymoon beginning August 1969, when British troops were greeted by the Catholic population as gallant protectors. He quotes one soldier:

I felt like a knight in shining armor. It was marvelous. “Cheers!” “Nice to see you!” “Hello soldier!” Kids were following you everywhere… Six o clock in the morning and you’d have full breakfast. They’d be out there with trays.

Sectarian violence and IRA attacks on British troops soon put an end to this, however. … And it would get worse. From early 1971 until Bloody Sunday January 30, 1972, IRA snipers had killed 24 British soldiers. By that time, British paratroopers were understandably paranoid, and increasingly contemptuous of the Catholic population. The result was 13 dead civilians and untold new recruits for the IRA (Still, I bet Derry was safer than Washington D.C.!)

Does any of this sound familiar?

I wasn’t prescient, and I didn’t get “lucky” (some luck). I read the newspaper and listened to the administration’s claims about why we were doing it and what would likely happen. I tried a little judicious study of discernible reality, employing what I hope is a decent nose for discernible bullshit. Follow the nose. It always knows.

At the end of the post Dale Franks takes issue with libertarians who want a quick withdrawal from Iraq. He writes:

I am of the view that, when Iraqi forces become the poster boys for Iraqi security, rather than American troops, there remains a good chance that they will, with their local knowledge, be able to do an increasingly effective job of handling the sectarian violence.

Speaking Frankly, I am not of that view. Of that view, I am not. Speaking Healy, that’s not what I think. But if I’m right, that won’t make me prescient.

Posted on Aug 9, 2006 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Tao of Jim

Tao of Jim 2.jpg

Those of you from the younger generation probably know James Garner, if you know him at all, as the old coot who threw a tantrum over Howard Stern’s teasing and/or as the codger with the fat ass who starred in that hideous tearjerker the Notebook. So you can be forgiven your skepticism when I tell you there was once a time when James Garner was cool. He was cool enough in the Great Escape and magnificently cool in the greatest libertarian movie ever made, the Americanization of Emily (almost the same role, oddly enough).

But for me, he was coolest of all in the NBC private-dick show the Rockford Files (1974-80) [warning, loud, badass theme music]. Sopranos fans may know that David Chase produced this show. Which may explain why it was far more literate, interesting, and demanding than network TV fare of the time.

This is pretty much the first show I remember watching with my parents as a kid. Two days ago, it turned up in my Tivo “Suggestions” folder (How does it know?), and I’ve been catching up on it. (Also, it’s unsettling that it runs on a channel that apparently gets the bulk of its revenue from ads for stool softener).

As a kid it made a huge impression on me that as often as not, when Jim Rockford got in a fight, he’d end up getting his ass kicked. I don’t recall that happening a lot with TV heroes of the time. And Rockford wasn’t what you’d call a success in life. A fortysomething ex-con, he lived in a beachside trailer park with his dad, living from retainer to retainer as a private eye. But he had a cool car, and when people–crooks, cops, society types–stuck it to him, he was always ready with a smartass rejoinder. He epitomized what Alan Cabal has termed “the easygoing dockside confidence of the gentleman loser”–a transcendent state of enlightenment to which the sagest among us aspire.

Posted on Aug 8, 2006 in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

This Again, Again

So here, in pertinent part, is Tyler Cowen’s attempted smackdown of coblogger Alex Tabarrok’s defense of libertarian foreign policy :

Had Alex his way, the first Gulf War never would have happened. Saddam and his sons would rule Iraq, owning both Kuwaiti oil revenue and nuclear weapons, and probably itching for a rematch with Iran. Sound like fun?

Had the first Gulf War not happened, there would have been no mass presence of US troops on Saudi soil, and a good chance the Trade Towers would still be standing. If you’ve read much at all about Al Qaeda, you’re aware of how important the Gulf War was as a recruiting device for AQ. If you’ve read Peter Bergen’s first book on Al Qaeda, for instance, you know that he says that for Bin Laden, the presence of American troops on Saudi soil launching an attack against Iraq “was a transforming an event as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan had been a decade earlier.” The bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Bergen notes, were carried out on August 7, 1998 because the first US troops for Desert Shield arrived on August 7, 1990. And here’s shrill Bush-hater Paul Wolfowitz on the topic:

Sustained U.S. bombing of Iraq over those years, and the stationing of U.S. forces “in the holy land of Saudi Arabia,” were “part of the containment policy that has been Osama bin Laden’s principal recruiting device, even more than the other grievances he cites,” Wolfowitz said.

And as far as Cowen’s Iraq Resurgent nightmare scenario goes, I thought the current crisis was that an unchecked nuclear Iran was going to dominate the Middle East. If I start thanking God for the Gulf War and shivering about the counterfactual of a powerful Iraq facing off with Iran, I feel like that’s only going to get me all confused and distract me from what NRO tells me I’m supposed to be worried about this week.

I’m not saying it’s a sure thing 9/11 wouldn’t have happened if we never fought the Gulf War. I’m just saying it’s not as obvious to me as it clearly is to Tyler Cowen that “the first Gulf War never would have happened” is such a showstopper, debate-wise. if you can think through the possibility of unintended consequences in domestic policy, it’s worth giving it a shot when it comes to foreign affairs as well, where our leaders are generally no more enlightened and prescient than they are on the home front.

It’s interesting: I’m a big fan of MR, and from what I can tell, Tyler Cowen is smart enough to kill me with his brain, a la Scanners. Yet from what I can tell from today’s indignant post (and the few other times he’s blogged about war), he doesn’t apply much of that brainpower to foreign policy, preferring to rely on gut reaction. Which is better for this kind of thing.

Posted on Aug 6, 2006 in Uncategorized | 23 Comments

Paperback Reader

So I’m heading to the beach at the end of the month and I’m blegging for paperback fiction that won’t hurt my brain. Anything in the general family of Flashman, Thom Jones, Chandler, Jim Thompson, James M. Cain, Charles Willeford. Basically anything involving alcoholic detectives, lovable 19th-century rogues, epileptic Vietnam Vet ex-boxers, ordinary middle-class people put in horrible situations that test their mettle, mercenary Mexican War vets hired on as scalphunters, down-on-their-luck drifters drawn into morally dubious situations trying to maintain their code and failing miserably, or demented yet strangely sympathetic killers prowling West Texas or South Florida. That sort of thing.

I’ll take a horror novel, so long as it doesn’t require too much suspension of disbelief: say a decent Stephen King that’s more Misery and less Dark Tower. I’ll even take science fiction, provided it features folks wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland and struggling to put civilization back together again or similar scenarios, and provided it has nothing to do with the Singularity. Also, anything that requires me to familiarize myself with the geneaology of Duke Leto of the House of Arrakis or some such is out.

I would even be willing to read something intelligent, provided it’s not some goddamned sprawling nonsense like Dom Delillo or David Foster Wallace. A college friend whose opinion I generally respect told me that Infinite Jest–which is the size of a Midwestern telephone book–was one of the best things he’d ever read. In 1997 I spent three months reading that thing and waiting for the payoff and I still feel like somebody owes me something. If I have to read something smart, I’d like something more in the Graham Greene or Cormac McCarthy family.

Also, I will take nonfiction tailored to the same demented taste, so long as it has very little to do with politics.

Posted on Aug 3, 2006 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

That’s Not Right

Speaking again as a CYTw2D, I agree with Professor Sunstein here. Ugh.

I only hope the China hawks don’t find out about this. As Dennis Miller said, in perhaps his one funny line since 9/11:

You know when Al-Qaeda made a big mistake? When they whiffed that dog on videotape. That got the liberals into it. Because they’re all sitting at home with their Marmaduke day-planner saying, ‘Wait a second? They croaked a puppy? Now it’s on mother-f**ker!”

Posted on Aug 2, 2006 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Heh.

I guess even a retarded meme can be used appropriately. Guest-blogging for Instapundit, Michael Totten hits the left-, er right-, er (I get confused) -wing peaceniks where they live:

NOT ANTI-WAR BUT ON THE OTHER SIDE: A group that calls itself the Armed Revolutionary Fascists vandalized Jewish stores in Rome and defaced them with swastikas and pro-Hezbollah propaganda.

As an opponent of the war, let me be the first to agree that the “Armed Revolutionary Fascists,” whoever they are, are, in fact, on the other side. Of that other war. You tell ‘em, Totten!

Posted on Aug 2, 2006 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

  •  
  •