Friday, May 28, 2010

Poised for more posting ...

I've got a number of things in the works.  I'm amazed at the number of unpublished drafts I've built up lately.

Among the things slowing me down was a touch of the flu and reading Neil Gaiman's "American Gods."  I thought the novel was only OK, though Gaiman admittedly wowed me on several occasions with nifty turns of phrase.  And I liked especially the serial murder subplot resolved very late in the book.  Inspired in part by Gaiman, I hereby share about one of my flu symptoms:  I've been coughing a bit, but other than a burning in the throat afterward it's not all that uncomfortable.  Each cough was a bit like throwing back a shot of phlegm-flavored vodka.

Next up, I think, a grading of PolitiFact and Chris Matthews.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What type of "realist" is President Obama? Pt. 2

This was then (Fareed Zakaria):
Over the course of the campaign against Hillary Clinton and now McCain, Obama has elaborated more and more the ideas that would undergird his foreign policy as president. What emerges is a world view that is far from that of a typical liberal, much closer to that of a traditional realist. It is interesting to note that, at least in terms of the historical schools of foreign policy, Obama seems to be the cool conservative and McCain the exuberant idealist.
(bold emphasis added)

This is now (Peter Beinart):
Obama’s problem is not that he doesn’t have big, serious ideas about foreign policy. To the contrary, he has several of them, which he trots out again and again. The first is “collective security,” the idea that the same forces that threaten the United States—global warming, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, financial collapse—also threaten most other nations, and that they can only be solved through intensive global cooperation. In the United States, collective security was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, who told Americans that they were entering World War I not to restore the European balance of power, but to create a League of Nations that would bring all the world’s “civilized” nations together to safeguard their common interest in prosperity and peace. It has been the default liberal foreign policy vision ever since.
As was pointed out in the first part, liberal foreign policy is the opposite pole from foreign policy realism.
The "neocon" approach embraced by President Bush tried to borrow some of the best from each view--not necessarily a a bad idea since both traditional approaches possess serious flaws.

But many of those laymen who looked forward to having a "realist" in the White House in contradistinction to President Bush simply didn't know what they were talking about.  Zakaria was correct that much of Obama's campaign rhetoric fit the realist pattern.  And certainly the president has backed up some of that rhetoric with something close to a robust war strategy in Afghanistan.  But Beinart makes a good point as well.  Mr. Obama has been focused on dealing in a relatively friendly way with nations aligned against the United States.  The lesson of WW2 was that Wilson's collective security wasn't worth beans unless the collective is serious about security.  France and Great Britain promised to come to Poland's aid if she was attacked.  That's collective security.  Poland fell in record time.  That's how collective security works when the collective doesn't take security seriously.

Has the United States deepened its ties with any of its traditional allies under President Obama?  I've yet to detect the evidence of it.  Our ties with Great Britain have been badly frayed.  France might be closer to the U.S. than at the beginning of the Bush administration, but that would be primarily because of the former's flirtations with political conservatism under Nicolas Sarkozy.  Obama angered the Poles by backing out of a missile defense deal via a compromise with Russia.  Perhaps Japan and Australia are poised to ally more closely with the United States.

On the surface, it looks like the United States is reaping all the benefits of looking weak on the foreign policy stage.  I hope under the surface things are different.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Caiman Multi Theater Vehicle video, 2010

BAE Systems has a recent video featuring an updated version of its Caiman MRAP. The video features the new Caiman MTV "Multi-Theater Vehicle."

If the Pentagon is still buying the MaxxPro Dash then there's still a market for this type of thing.

The vehicle in the background has something closer to the characteristically sloped hood of the original Caiman design. I wonder what it is, exactly?

Valanx JLTV video

Dated 2009, but some of the footage was new to me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rays sweep Yanks in NY (Updated)

It's been a very long time since I posted about the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.  My last post on the topic was the Rays' fourth loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2008 World Series.

I had expected a better season in 2009 based on the seasoning of the Rays top three starting pitchers.  That didn't pan out for a variety of reasons, and since it's no longer 2009 and that topic has already received ample discussion, it's on to 2010.

The loss of J. P. Howell had me very concerned headed into the season.  The bullpen was a pretty big question mark.  On the other hand, the five starting pitchers had all shown some good indications of promise.  And the team in the field seemed stronger at the plate with the addition of Sean Rodriguez, though second baseman Akinori Iwamura's defensive skills would be missed.  I thought the Rays would be better than in 2009 but with no guarantee of reaching the postseason because the Yankees and the Red Sox have noticed the competition and tried to take steps to stay at the top of the division.

Thursday night, the Rays beat the Yankees to sweep a two game series in the Bronx.  The win increased the Rays' lead over the second place Yankees to five games.  No other team in the Major Leagues has a lead that size, and the Yankees would have the best record in baseball (actually second to the Philadelphia Phillies, after review) if the Rays were suddenly plucked from the league.

That means that the baseball team from Tampa Bay is playing extremely well.

The formula is the same one that led to success in 2008:  Solid pitching, great defense and persistence at the plate.

Through this point of the season, each of the five starters has performed extremely well, with righty Matt Garza (5-1, 2.38) and lefty David Price (6-1, 1.81) putting up the kind of numbers that might lead to All-Star selection.

Though the team batting average sits at an unspectacular .257, the Rays stand close to the league lead in runs scored.  The Rays have improved situational hitting under new hitting coach Derek Shelton and taken an aggressive approach to base running.

The result:  winning baseball and perhaps the most entertaining team in the Majors.

Fun stuff.

May 21, 2010:  Amended the shrunken status I saddled on the Phlllies

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robyn Blumner's defense of women hobbled by her politics

It's time again for a review of an editorial column from Robyn "Blumñata" Blumner.

This week, Blumner rose to the defense of Elena Kagan, President Obama's selection to replace retiring justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

Most of Blumner's column is well taken. Kagan's appearance is not relevant to her nomination to the post, and some of the attacks on Kagan have been mean-spirited.

I'll even give Blumnmer extra credit for allowing a fairly obvious hint that conservatives are not alone in criticizing Kagan's looks:
It was inevitable that Elena Kagan's physical appearance would become fodder for critics of her nomination to the Supreme Court. The solicitor general, a woman of remarkable professional achievement, is still, after all, a woman. Even in 2010, 50 years after the stultifying Mad Men era, a woman's looks are part of her resume.

Of course, the most distasteful sentiments are coming from the extreme right.
Such as the extreme right BuzzFeed.

But seriously, Blumner focuses all of her energy in attacking the double standard society places on the appearance of women but whiffs on a huge part of that double standard (and arguably contributes to the double standard):
The corollary to this is the Sarah Palin phenomenon — a woman whose great looks have earned her a place as an opinionmaker, despite demonstrable intellectual limits. (...) Somehow her beauty magically transforms the mash of incoherence she spouts into pearls of wisdom for supporters.
In actuality, Palin's appearance has repeatedly served as a bludgeon used to belittle her accomplishments, and Blumner certainly appears to wield it that way.  If beauty was all there was to it, then Carrie Prejean 2012 stickers ought to be much more common.  Palin is an intelligent woman, if not an intellectual, and her popularity stems from her charisma and her skill in communicating a message.  Her beauty is a bonus.

Women are treated unfairly based on looks.  Attractive women have their accomplishments downgraded because of their looks.  And less attractive women of great accomplishment are downgraded as people because of their looks.  It's a pity that Blumner skipped an opportunity to criticize both sides of the dilemma.

Additional note:

One of Blumner's examples of right-wing neanderthalism, radio talk show host Neal Boortz, may have received a bad rap from Blumner.  Let's review her presentation of what Boortz said:
A recent tweet from radio host Neal Boortz asked, "Has anyone seen Mike Myers and your new Supreme in the same room at the same time?" comparing Kagan to Shrek, the cartoon ogre character of which Myers is the voice.
A number of liberal media outlets are making a similar criticism of Boortz.  But when I saw that Kagan had been compared to Michael Myers already, I decided it was worth looking into the basis for this claim.

Here's a consecutive pair of Boortz tweets (both from May 11):

Note that the Twitter feeds list in reverse chronological order.  The 3:56 a.m. tweet appears to compare Kagan directly with Mike Myers, just as did BuzzFeed.  The 5:13 a.m. tweet is worded as though it is a response to somebody else's comparison of Kagan to Shrek, with Boortz calling the comparison "a wee bit below the belt."

Funny how that part was left out in Blumner's account.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grading PolitiFact (Texas): John Cornyn and the importance of judicial experience (Updated)

PolitiFact, the fact checking outfit begun by the St. Petersburg Times, usually rates according to a "Truth-O-Meter" rating. Some stories, however, are graded according to the similarly cutesy "Flip-O-Meter." The "Flip-O-Meter" is supposed to rate whether a position is held consistently.

Which brings us to PolitiFact and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex).

The issue:

Judging from the above, PolitiFact presumes to judge Cornyn's consistency on the importance of judicial experience as a qualification for a Supreme Court justice.

The fact checkers:

W. Gardner Selby:  writer, researcher
Brenda Bell:  editor


This PolitiFact piece finds Cornyn guilty of a "Half Flip."  It will be useful to highlight the PolitiFact understanding of that term.  On second thought, it would be useful to highlight the PolitiFact understanding of the term if it was available.  The description is minimal:
We also rate the consistency of public officials on our Flip-O-Meter using three ratings: No Flip, Half Flip and Full Flop.
Needless to say, the practice of omitting any description of standards with respect to the application of the "Flip-O-Meter" may assist PolitiFact in avoiding the appearance of inconsistency.

Fortunately, the stories ought to provide us with some kind of picture of PolitiFact's practical guidelines.

On with the analysis:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Video clip: David Horowitz at UC San Diego

This is amazing video (Hat tip to The Blog via Power Line).

David Horowitz addresses the question of an Islamic student and MSA member with a question of his own.  The results are jaw-dropping:

Here's hoping the Obama administration gets its act together on foreign policy.  Not to mention homeland security.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Politics behind the Kagan nomination

NBC News reports President Obama will nominate Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court of the United States.

It's worth again reviewing some of the politics of choosing Supreme Court nominees.

The conservative message on the judiciary has started getting through. If judges do not judge according to a principled reading of the law then the rule of law is a sham. That's part of the reason why criticisms of conservative judges have lately adopted the same tack as conservative criticism of liberal judges: They are activists overstepping the role of the judiciary.

The choice of Elena Kagan appears to fit that approach pretty well. Kagan has a thin record of opinionated writing, and her role as a government lawyer in defense of administration policies will enable the Obama administration to market her as a centrist.

It will be hard for Republicans to effectively oppose her nomination unless something radically unexpected appears in her record. I doubt Kagan will receive fewer than 80 votes for confirmation.

Is Kagan a centrist? That's doubtful. Obama probably wouldn't nominate her if he had that impression. But President George H. W. Bush nominated David Souter to the Court, so these stealth candidates always carry some risk.