Saturday, December 22, 2007

A nation at risk.

This morning's Washington Post breathlessly warns:
The Air Force's 442 F-15A through F-15D planes, the mainstay of the nation's air-to-air combat force for 30 years, have been grounded since November, shortly after one of the airplanes broke into large chunks and crashed in rural Missouri. Since then, Air Force officials have found cracks in the main support beams behind the cockpits of eight other F-15s, and they fear that similar problems could exist in others. . . .

The F-15A-Ds . . . are responsible for defending the United States, including flying combat air patrol missions over Washington, a job now filled by F-16s.

"This is going to be a major problem, and it's going to be a difficult one to recover from," said retired Air Force Gen. Dick Hawley, who led the Air Force's Air Combat Command from 1996 to 1999. "You could basically be without the nation's primary air superiority capability for an extended period of time, which puts us at risk."

This risk -- is it the Canadian Air Force? Venezuela? Nicaragua?
The disclosure of the cracks comes amid intense Air Force lobbying for the purchase of additional new fighter jets. The Air Force wants to replace its aging F-15s with 200 more F-22 Raptors beyond the 183 already approved by Congress and the Defense Department. Senior Defense Department officials have not agreed that the additional planes are needed or supported their purchase.
Yes, well clearly the risk to the nation is that the Air Force will be underfunded. Fortunately, it sounds like they have some experience with how to defend the, um, country.
In another prominent case, involving refueling tankers, several independent study panels concluded that the Air Force had exaggerated the structural consequences of aging for older planes so that it could make a better case for leasing new ones.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A baseball metaphor.

Anne Applebaum:
Way back when George W. Bush was still a candidate and "Condi" was not yet an internationally recognized nickname, someone who had observed the present secretary of state in a previous incarnation told me to watch her carefully. "Everyone underestimates her, because they think she's a token. Condi's not a token. Condi plays the game better than anyone else."

No, Condi is not a token, and yes, Condi played the game better than anyone elseā€”so much so that Condi has now dispensed with pretty much everyone who underestimated her to begin with, most notably Donald Rumsfeld, but for all practical purposes Dick Cheney, too. At this point it is she, the small, athletic black woman, and not one of them, the older, gray-haired white men, who is commonly understood to be the most influential foreign-policy figure in this administration. Condi has the president's ear, Condi calls the shots, and Condi's particular form of pragmatism has triumphed too. Step away from questions of substance (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan), examine the results of seven long years of infighting, and it's hard not to conclude that she is this administration's star player.
If you are a pitcher who can't win a starting job but who manages to pitch a scoreless eighth inning in a game in which your starters got blown out, you are not the team's star player.

By all accounts, Condi has been rolled consistently by Rumsfeld and Cheney, who actually got to run foreign policy -- through and around her -- when this administration could still direct events. Is outlasting them a badge of honor?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Help for indecisive Iowans.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Mark Kleiman on (part of) what makes Barack Obama special.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where's WALL-E?

Jim Hill's guide to intra-Pixar references is a must-see for Pixar obsessives.

Friday, December 07, 2007


John Scalzi visits the Creation Museum. Via Fascination Place.

Falling below Cacciato.

I've never been much of a Denis Johnson fan, sorry, so notwithstanding all the hype for Tree Of Smoke, there are many, many other novels I'd pick up first this holiday shopping season. Now I see B. R. Myers' review in The Atlantic calling it "astonishingly bad" and confirming my suspicions.

Flowers for Trinitron.

New sadhus such as he will be cannot stay in Bombay, Sevantibhai explains. When they go around the high-rise flats for their daily round of gathering food, the doors are usually shut. Sevantibhai never refers to food-gathering as begging -- a man from a business community like the Jains is never a beggar -- but as gocari, the grazing of a cow, which only takes some grass, never the whole clump. They have to walk around with a layperson to ring the bell (the use of electric appliances is forbidden). "If the door is opened, the television is usually on, and if the sadhu's glance happens to fall on the TV just once, it is enough to send him straight to hell." The layman has to make sure, after pressing the bell, that the TV is switched off before the monk walks straight into the kitchen to gather the food. "Dharma Labh," says the monk, inviting the householder to gain religious merit, and inspects all the pots, and takes from each only enough so that the family does not have to cook again, in which case the sin of the second fire would accumulate to the monk. The monk will graze in several different houses, once a day, mixing everything he finds into one or two pots: vegetables, rice, dal, and chapatis from different kitchens, mixed together and eaten cold, strictly for sustenance. Here, too, Bombay makes a monk's grazing difficult. In towns like Ahmadabad, a monk can tell in advance if the television is on in a particular house, because the doors are never closed during the day.
Suketu Mehta, Maximum City 502-03 (Vintage, 2005).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Great moments in Joe Klein.

To the Editor:

In his review of "Gonzo," a life of Hunter Thompson (Nov. 18), Joe Klein states: "Old age is a difficult concept for a perpetual adolescent. Hemingway couldn't handle it." Hemingway was not a perpetual adolescent and did not die in old age.

Kensington, California
The writer is the author of "Hemingway: A Biography."
Letters, The New York Times Book Review 7 (Dec. 2, 2007).

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