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Here on the eastern margins of San Francisco’s supervisorial district 8, one candidate stands out — his flyers pile up in drifts in the corners, his volunteers have rung our doorbell three times, and he’s out on the streets himself soliciting votes. I’ll probably vote for him anyway — though I suppose I ought to find out what he stands for first. (At least he seems to be able to inspire passion in his staff, if not logistical rigor.) The state and national races are not even as engaging as that — the stakes are high, true enough, but the less-bad candidates seem likely to win, on the whole.

How’s it looking where you are? Anybody volunteering?

(CC-licensed photo by Flickr user sashax)


Unfortunately, I think the conclusion is that English PhDs aren’t as funny as lawyers.

Henry Farrell takes some time to write a careful case that he summarizes thusly:

Megan McArdle believes that we would all benefit from more intellectual charity in the exciting cut and thrust of the blogosphere. There is indeed a plausible case for this. What there is not a plausible case for, in my opinion, is more intellectual charity towards Megan McArdle.

This case begins with a discussion of the infamous “spanking Eric Rauchway incident,” which you may remember concluded with Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman saying I was right. Henry says McArdle promised to revisit the issue, which was a promise I did not see at the time.

dr-strangelove-DVDcover.jpgThere’s an odd article running at Foreign Policy about crazy military ideas put forth by civilians:

Here are the top 10 most ridiculous military options offered up by U.S. government officials or civilian commentators over the last few decades. Thankfully, these would-be civilian follies, based on unrealistic and often dangerous notions of what military power can achieve, were quashed before they left the drawing board.

It’s strange for a few reasons. First, it’s about proposals rather than actual actions. In other words, these were things that were thrown out and shot down. Given the range of suggestions–some crazy, some sane–that surround any policy issue, it hardly seems indicative of anything that a few of them over the past decades were pretty awful. Second, the ideas mentioned, while not particularly good, don’t really rise to the level of “follies.” Robert Gates’ 1984 suggestion that American airpower be used against the Nicaraguan military in order to support the revolution there isn’t even in the realm of being a quality thought, but it’s hardly crazier (or even close) than the actual American policy of illegally selling arms to the Iranians and then shipping the proceeds to the American-supported insurgents in Nicaragua, or, for that matter, mining Nicaraguan harbors(bonus content: angry letter from Barry Goldwater!). Third, the suggestions pale next to the insanity of some military ideas, like MacArthur’s desire to use atomic bombs against China in 1950-51, Curtis LeMay’s wishes to use nuclear weapons in just about any crisis in the 1950s that took his fancy, or, worst of all because it actually happened, the entire Bay of Pigs fiasco.* Next (and this is something of a reiteration of the first point), none of these became policy. Isn’t that a recommendation for the process? Finally, it leaves out entirely potentially the worst civilian idea of them all, which was the Bush administration’s Oedipal decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

*I’m counting Eisenhower as military for this post, given his background.

You know, one of the benefits of a liberal education is that one can learn to think critically, and this article raises more questions than it answers:  317,000 waitresses with bachelor’s degrees!  Time to panic and lament like in Player Piano that one is expected to have a Ph.D. in Food Delivery and Note-Taking!

Or, maybe, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  If you took a snapshot of me right after college, you’d see someone who was working two part-time jobs. Oh, that education, wasted folding clothes at Dick’s Sporting Goods!  Wasted entering check amounts in the bowels of the bank!   Prob’ly shoulda gone straight to McDonald’s.

Of course, I was doing that because I needed to earn money to buy business professional clothing, for my job that would start in the fall.  What I need to know in order to make sense of those statistics is how long those workers are at that job, and what they earn over a lifetime.

Look, I know as well as anyone that the time where one could get a B.A. and be set for the rest of one’s life is gone, if it ever existed.  Degree inflation is insane.  But I don’t really see any evidence here that supports Vedder’s thesis that we’re educating all the wrong sorts of people (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) when the jobs he points to are ones where the overwhelming majority of workers don’t have a higher degree.  Educated workers are doing vastly better in this recession. The recession hit recent college grads pretty hard, judging by the unemployment rate.  It hit those with no college over three times as hard.

I have a lot more to say on this, but briefly: discourse on the value of higher education dangerously conflates what one will do immediately after graduation, or in any single job, with one’s entire life prospects.  It conflates what one should major in with whether a department is worth funding and with whether coursework in them is worthwhile.  These are different questions. The smart money says that they have different answers.

Edge of the American West, in conjunction with H-War will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on November 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline.”

My belief is to construe military history as widely as possible: drums and trumpets, surely. The face of battle, most definitely. But also memorialization, gender, and anything else that seems related to war in all its forms.

Submit potential entries here with the subject header “Military History Carnival Submission.” The deadline is November 15th.

Table of Contents

1. John T. Weikert Farm (Francis Althoff Farm) by Jenny at Draw the Sword (and Throw Away the Scabbard)
2. Schmidt: “Civil War Justice in Southeast Missouri” by (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
3. The R Word by Brett Holman at Airminded
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…because something stupid is surely heading my way. First, Williams is probably right to say that NPR was looking for a reason to fire him, though he is wrong about why; it’s not so much that he appears on Fox as it is that he says inane things, e.g. Michelle Obama is like Stokely Carmichael in a dress. (The halfway serious point here is that it’s a mistake to take Williams’ firing out of the context of his general lousiness.)

Second, the people in “muslim dress” on your flight are probably the least likely to be jihadists, unless their nefarious plot involves making everyone very aware of, and suspicious of, their presence.

Third, the phrase “muslim dress” annoys me because it conflates religion and culture. There’s no religious reason to wear salwar kameez instead of a suit. Everyone knows what he meant and it’s not a big thing, but still, irritating. Oh look, someone made tthe point in funny.

Fourth, this is amusing:

I think what I’m reacting to so strongly here is the Inquisition-like state of journalism today, in which speech deemed offensive to Jews and Muslims in particular is considered immediate grounds for firing.

Goldberg, plz. If you think there are equal social sanctions for anti-muslim and anti-semitic speech in media…oy.

Finally, I need to start praying more in airports to make you nervous.

Reenacting, the practice of replaying historical events, is a hobby with a fairly substantial following in the United States. Wars seem to be the most popular events being reenacted and Civil War re-enactors are enough of a cultural presence to be used for an impressively funny commercial:

But there are troubling aspects to reenactment as well. Like it or not, playing Confederate soldiers in the Civil War invokes uncomfortably the Lost Cause mythology and the enslavement of millions of African-Americans. Equally fraught is World War II reenactment, especially if someone wants to play the Germans, whether Wehrmacht or (as is the case of one GOP candidate), the Waffen-SS. The evoking of the Holocaust is inescapable and deeply distressing. Nor can this be compared simply to an actor playing a role. Actors play many roles; re-enactors tend to stick with a single side and even a single unit for years at a time (the candidate in question, for example, had been a member of the same SS re-enacting unit since at least 2003). As Robert Citino points out, such Waffen-SS re-enacting requires either a fundamental acceptance of the evilness of the SS or a thorough white-washing of their history. Neither is particularly comforting.

Here’s an interesting piece on women’s hairstyles and aging, but I can’t get past the idea of calling someone who is fifty-five “middle-aged.”  Not that she should cut her hair!  But there’s an interesting tension between flouting traditional short hairstyles for “women of a certain age” and the headline, which moves middle-aged up with the  baby boomers.

On the other hand, this should make me a young woman for another ten years or so.

Via Farley at LGM:

I was at a conference in Australia recently and had a chance to visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra:

The War Memorial

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Table of Contents

1. The Battle of Valcour Island 11 October 1776 by NHHC at Naval History Blog
2. Stoker: “the Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War” by (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
3. Brian Gardner: Up the Line to Death by (Tim Kendall) at War Poetry
4. Commitment and Perseverance: Float Plane Pilots Ens. Harvey P. Jolly and Lt (Jg) Robert L. Dana. by NHHC at Naval History Blog

More after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

There’s been some debate over whether the term “illegal immigrant” should be retired.  I think it should, largely because the bare “illegal” is used as a slur and the longer “illegal immigrant” doesn’t reliably pick out a specific class of people or what’s wrong with their legal status.  The U.S. government treats people very differently depending on the specifics of how they got here.

This isn’t just fun with intensions and extensions; it’s significant to the debate.  Around four million people who are here unlawfully entered legally; they’re people who could get visas and later violated the terms of them.   They are people with slightly more options, because in some cases having overstayed a visa isn’t a bar to becoming a permanent resident from within the country.  Some estimated number (anywhere from about two to about 30 million, depending on who you ask; having entered without inspection  means no one counted you coming in) are people who came in by sneaking in.  Every legal option for them that’s in place now requires them to leave the country first, and usually wait out a ban of ten years.

So, yeah, ditch “illegal” in favor of using words that actually have some meaning.  And some cases are heartwarming (and, I’ll admit, odd, in that impersonating an American citizen is about the quickest way to get a lifetime, non-waiverable ban; but there’s about a zillion exceptions in immigration law and she may have very well fallen into one of them.)

Ten years?  I don’t care how much traffic you throw my way now and then (nice of a vet to acknowledge a mere newb), o bearded* one, you need about six months off and a good stiff drink or twenty.

*Still laughing at the Bluto post.  Dude, it is okay to be grizzled.  That makes you a Bloggy Bear. *runs and hides*

Scott Lemieux says don’t pin the misogyny of The Social Network on Sorkin, because the film takes a critical stance towards Zuckerberg’s contempt for women.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it strikes me as relevant that in real life, Zuckerberg had a long-term girlfriend,worked with women when he created Facebook, etc.  I think even if we take it as given that Sorkin rewrites Zuckerberg to make him a misogynist and added all the details about Asian girls so mad for geeks they give blowjobs in bathroom stalls and Harvard parties where girls lose their tops all the time, and then critiqued it successfully, there’s something… off about erasing the creative role of women in the creation of Facebook completely in order to make that critique.

Whether that’s an aesthetic failure is a different question, and one that would have to wait until I get around to seeing the film (check back in 2011), but my initial impression from the reviews is that this is a middle-aged man’s idea of what it must have been like to create Facebook, and he finds it hard to believe both that a guy could be geeked out enough to invent Facebook and socially well-adjusted enough to have a girlfriend, and that a woman around a geek could be anything but inspiration.

Table of Contents

1. Monday, 9 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
2. On Hospitals in Ships by thomaslsnyder at Of Ships & Surgeons
3. “You Can Get a Lot Out of Them” by NHHC at Naval History Blog
4. Sunday, 29 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
5. Persian Wars: Greeks Turn the Tide at Salamis by n/a at Military History
6. Seaman Si – the Funniest ‘Gob’ in the Navy by DisneyDave at Disney – Toons At War
7. HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of September 27 by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
8. Why Didn’t We Listen to Their War Stories? by (Jimmy Price) at Over There
9. Cdr Cassin Versus the Pirates 28 September 1822 by NHHC at Naval History Blog
10. Flogging Outlawed 160 Years Ago Today by NHHC at Naval History Blog
11. Friday, 27 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
12. 2010 Bonhomme Richard Survey Completed! by Underwater Archaeology at Naval History Blog
13. Ancient Egypt: Chariots Attack at Kadesh by n/a at Military History
14. Lt.(j.g.) Kenneth M. Willett, D-v(G), Usnr: Extraordinary Heroism and Conspicuous Courage by Ships History at Naval History Blog
15. Pea Ridge: a Restored Battlefield by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
16. 92 Years Ago Today by (Jimmy Price) at Over There
17. Thursday, 26 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
18. “The Glory and Triumph” of Kansas by (Ron Coddington) at Faces of War
19. Massed Artillery in the West: Pea Ridge by Craig Swain at To the Sound of the Guns
20. Sidney Byron Smith by Steve Soper at Third Michigan Infantry Research Project
21. Wednesday, 25 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
22. Mexican-American War: Taylor Takes Monterrey by n/a at Military History
23. USS Constellation Captures the Slave Ship Cora by NHHC at Naval History Blog
24. Druid’s ‘the Silver Tassie’ by George Simmers at Great War Fiction
25. Afternoon Remarks by Dr. Horton – the Unfinished Civil War by (Jimmy Price) at The Sable Arm
26. Bruce Levine – the Myth of Black Confederates by (Jimmy Price) at The Sable Arm
27. Tuesday, 24 September 1940 by Brett Holman at Airminded
28. Hewitt &Amp; Bergeron (Eds.): &Quot;Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Vol. 2: Essays on America’s Civil War&Quot; by (Drew@CWBA) at Civil War Books and Authors
29. Two American Sailors Come Home After 67 Years by UltimaRatioReg at Other Military History Stuff
30. 1997 Royal Navy Field Gun Competition by Jason Kottke at Other Military History Stuff

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John Quiggin at Crooked Timber (among others) notes that Germany has finally acquitted its obligations under the Versailles treaty. Which makes one wonder, what was the greatest of the many errors at Versailles? I could write a post on this, as I have an opinion, but perhaps you would like to tell us, instead.
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David Bell well makes the point that for as long as the United States has been a superpower, people have been convinced that it is in decline, because of (choose as many as you like) laziness, moral turpitude, lack of discipline:

What the long history of American “declinism”—as opposed to America’s actual possible decline—suggests is that these anxieties have an existence of their own that is quite distinct from the actual geopolitical position of our country; that they arise as much from something deeply rooted in the collective psyche of our chattering classes as from sober political and economic analyses.

Bell goes back to the 1950s for his history of decline. I’d push it back further, into the 19th century at least.

UPDATE: It occurred to me later that such pronouncements of decline are a symptom of Very Serious People disease and are usually twinned with stern and moralistic remedies.

Hat tip, Ralph Luker

A neat project at the behest of the Women in Philosophy Task Force: stories of what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy.  If you’re a woman and you have a story to share, you can submit it here.

What’s interesting is that while some of the stories are overtly horrid, some are cases where there are good intentions that don’t lead to good results.  Maybe this should go under Neddy’s request for “facts about human nature that explain a lot”, but I think there’s a strong tendency for people to imagine discrimination as something that goes on not only overtly, but with lots of bells and whistles and an identifiable villain snarling on screen, so that if there is discrimination occurring, it will be obvious to the casual (male) observer.   Thus, if he doesn’t see the problem, it must not exist.

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