Monthly Archives: June 2008

Clark’s Recklessness?

Ambinder from the Atlantic reckons it better left unsaid and Lopez from the NRO the calls it a smear on McCain. We are of course talking about General Wesley Clark’s comments on Sunday.

“I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president.”

The hyperventilating is quite predictable and Obama will no doubt remind everyone of McCain’s proud and honourable service. But the problem is that Clark was careful to do this himself once you look at the context. Clark is no Wright! He has a much more distinguished military record himself even if it didn’t involve a tour of the Hanoi Hilton. The risk for McCain and the republicans in overreacting like this is that they will give Clark and Obama the opportunity to drive home the point that Clark is trying to get across. That ‘getting into a fighter plane and being shot down’ isn’t a qualification for becoming president, something that McCain supporters don’t seem to understand. To be sure it does no harm, but it isn’t a qualification, and to say so is not to smear McCain (unlike John Kerry’s swift-boating).

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Of Causation and History (Crooked Timber)

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Crooked Timber) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

I have completed Taleb’s The Black Swan and will say more about it later but I first want to take him to task on one of his opinions (one that he doesn’t really hold as it turns out). From page 171:

Popper’s insight concerns the limitations in forecasting historical events and the need to downgrade “soft” areas such as history and social science to a level slightly above aesthetics and entertainment, like butterfly or coin collecting. (Popper who received a classical Viennese education didn’t go quite so far; I do. I am from Amioun.) What we call the soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies.

To confuse historicism and history is a horrible conflation, and no claims to rural roots should excuse this kind of boorishness. As Aristotle by way of Aquinas and Schumacher reminds us,

‘the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.'(*) ‘Slender’ knowledge is here put in opposition to ‘certain’ knowledge, and indicates uncertainty.

(*) Aquinas, Summa theologica, I, 1, 5 ad 1.

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M.E. Nuclear Follies: Hersh, Ritter, … and the Failed States Index

Jamal Dajani’s latest Mosaic Intelligence Report looks at what has been going on in Afghanistan. The outlook for victory in the ‘good war’ looks incredibly bleak.

Gordon Prather has an article arguing that the Bush administration legacy will be “the deliberate destruction of the existing international nuclear-weapons proliferation-prevention regime,” and Scott Horton has interviewed him on the subject. Prather shows a touching incredulity that nothing the Bush administration does in this area seems to make much sense.

Iraq has gone from second to fifth in the Foreign Policy Failed States Index, illustrating perfectly the success of the ‘surge’. William Pfaff has a truthdig article, The Illusion of Saving Nations from Themselves, reminding us of how we got here:

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362 and the Price of Oil

Via Juan Cole, here is Ron Paul suggesting that the current price of oil may reflect Israeli/US threats to attack Iran.

The OPEC president agrees and forecasts that it may hit $170 before the year is out.

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The Politics of Climate Change

In a comment on my Insanity article, Robert Duquette comments on George Monbiot’s critique of the climate change sceptics.

Monbiot should be careful about using an affinity of narrative to explain the global warming skeptics, because the same affinity can be used to explain the gw alarmists. Man-made global warming is the perfect, apolcalyptic morality tale. Monbiot also makes the mistake of questioning the motives of every scientists he disagrees with, while putting those who agree with him under no such scrutiny. Why not question the motives of scientists who work for governmental agencies, agencies that stand to increase in power and influence, and butgetwise, under any anti global warming regulatory scheme? When facts are not with you, question motives.

There has been a huge amount of tosh spouted by the environmental movement, with their own pathologies and a fondness for trying to persuade through fear and emotional manipulation. But these groups are distinct from government and climatologists.

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Of Museums and Blogs

[Part of a series of articles reviewing blogs and websites (here Jane Austen’s World) on my blog-roll; see the about page.]

As I said in Kiss of Death, yesterday was disapointed by the national maritime museum in Greenwich, the highlight being a talk given at the start on the Death of Nelson, which could have been given anywhere. This I don’t think is much if at all the fault of the museum. One of the most important functions of museums seems to be to preserve artifacts and facilitate scholarly research but my concern is with public education, or perhaps my own use of museums to educate myself. I have long been an admirer of Jane Austen’s world, coming away from many articles feeling as if I had visited a museum (see, for example, From Classic to Romantic: Changes in the Silhouette of the Regency Gown and London’s Lost Rivers).

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The Kiss of Death

Yesterday I finally got round to seeing the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich (the one with the sexy longitudinal grid coordinates). Although regarded as the number one naval museums I found it personally disappointing, about which more in a later article.

I arrived for a talk on the death of Nelson, which was excellent and the highlight of the visit, and the guide said something that caught my attention. When Nelson asked Hardy to kiss Nelson our guide seemed to be very keen that we should understand that this wasn’t a sexual kiss—which I think is a historically respectable sentiment (whichever way you look at it people who are departing are not in the mood for sex) but otherwise I don’t see the point in making such a fuss, but this was not what caught my attention. According to the narrator Hardy knelt and kissed Nelson on the cheek and then administered what she seemed to call the ‘kiss of death’ (though I can find no other instance of the phrase being used in this way)—this was the bit that struck me—Hardy kissed him on the forehead, a common practice that had the effect of settling sailors in death according to our guide.

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