The White Guy’s Playbook For Discounting Women

This article is a superb example of how women are excluded from, well, anything important. I’ve seen a number of similar examples lately. The actions are so similar that I’ve wondered if there’s a playbook that white guys are sharing around.

1. Start with an impossible goal. Dwight Eisenhower sent Dick Nixon on a 68-day around-the-world tour. The author recognizes that this would be impossible for any president and vice president today, but it’s too bad that Kamala Harris can’t get an education like this.

2. Minimize what she is doing. Here’s the minimization:

Vice President Kamala Harris, who was a first-term senator from California before entering the White House, hasn’t been given the sort of immersive experiences or sustained, high-profile tasks that would deepen and broaden her expertise in ways Americans could see and appreciate. 

Here’s the experience, in the same paragraph, with required and evidenceless minimization. The author does this with a straight face.

But over the last 18 months, her on-the-job training in governing has largely involved intractable issues like migration and voting rights where she has not shown demonstrable growth in leadership, and hit-or-miss trips overseas like the troubled foray in Central America a year ago and the more successful delegation to meet with the United Arab Emirates’ new president, leading a team that included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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Time For Some Debunking

From South China Morning Post, attributed to Twitter

Looks like nuclear misinformation is flaring up again in the news stream. I can’t debunk it all – much of it contains too little fact for that. But I can say why I think some of these things are improbable.

The big story is in the South China Morning Post: Chinese scientists plan ‘disposable’ nuclear reactor for long-range torpedo.

Let me say that the idea of a disposable nuclear reactor, even with quote marks, strikes me as improbable.

The Chinese researchers are proposing a mini version of the Russian Poseidon unmanned submarine – the world’s first known underwater drone powered by nuclear energy.

Ah, okay! Vaporware!

We have not yet seen a prototype of the fearsome Poseidon, touted by Vladimir Putin as being able to cause a radioactive tidal wave along the entire US East Coast. Nor any signs of its development. I have long been dubious of this and the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile, which was at least tested and killed a number of its developers.

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Jaan Kross

Jaan Kross is one of my favorite writers.

He lived in Estonia under Nazi and Soviet occupation. He survived six years in the Soviet Gulag.

He wrote his novels under the Soviet occupation. They are historical novels with more relevance to today than I ever expected during the times I walked by his apartment in Tallinn.

Elizabeth Braw writes about his life and novels.

In The Czar’s Madman, which was published in 1978 and has become Kross’s most famous novel, he tells the story of Timotheus von Bock, a Livonian (early Estonian) nobleman who is a friend of the czar and has promised to always tell him the truth. The czar, alas, can’t stand to hear the truth and throws von Bock in prison. By feigning madness, von Bock manages to get released and has to spend the rest of his life pretending to be mad. Even so, he manages to compose a manifesto addressed to the nobility, calling for an overhaul of the country’s governance. The czar’s agents have an inkling of what he’s up to and constantly hunt the manuscript. 

His novels criticized the Soviet occupation without ever referring to it directly. People live their lives under dictatorships rather normally unless they anger the regime. Kross pushed the limits and remained safe.

But Kross never forgot how dangerous it was to say the things he did, albeit it in the disguise of historical fiction. After a relatively free period in the 1960s, Soviet repression in Estonia worsened again, and Kross was once more overcome by the urge to defect. ‘At one point, he was supposed to give a speech at the writers’ union congress in Tallinn,’ Eerik recalled. ‘He was seriously contemplating standing up and, rather than giving a speech, asking for permission, there on the stage, to leave the Soviet Union with his family.’ But, once again, he decided against it. In The Czar’s Madman, after making the same decision, Timotheus von Bock explains that, ‘I want to be a nail in the body of the empire’. But, as ever, the Soviet censors missed the clues.

I suspect they missed the clues because the novels were written in Estonian. Both Russians and Estonians believe that Estonian is the most difficult language in the world.

Read the whole thing. It’s a lovely tribute to a man who did his best.

Credit: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Clarence Thomas and Thurgood Marshall

Corey Robin works through Clarence Thomas’s approach to the Fourteenth Amendment, which, according to Robin, is where Thomas’s bad ideas come from.

The due-process clause, which prohibits the state from depriving anyone of “life, liberty, or property, without the due process of the law,” is the basis for the constitutional right to contraception, same-sex sexual conduct, same-sex marriage, and, until a few weeks ago, abortion. To some, it might seem strange that the clause contains an affirmative right to anything. Doesn’t it simply require that the state declare the law, set out a punishment for violating the law, charge a suspect for its violation, try him in court, and so on? That, as it happens, is Thomas’s view.

Thomas finds another part of the Fourteenth Amendment more persuasive, the privileges or immunities clause, which was gutted during Reconstruction. To Thomas, it nationalizes some rights because the states can’t be trusted to preserve them, but ho-ho, not the rights you’re thinking about. Gun rights but not the right to privacy. And Thomas wants those gun rights in case of race war. It’s a complex argument. Read the whole article.

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Nuclear Weapons And Russia’s War On Ukraine

Would Russia use nuclear weapons in Ukraine? A number of people have approached this question boldly in recent days and have boldly asserted that we don’t know. I join in that conclusion, but it’s always interesting to work through the argument.

Over the past year, I’ve been reading Fred Kaplan’s The Wizards of Armageddon closely. It’s a history of the development of nuclear strategy. A great many of the recent articles have reproduced that development in short form. That’s because, I would argue, there’s not much to nuclear strategy. Clausewitz tells us that it’s easy for war to run out of control. When the weapons of war are potentially world-ending, it is essential that war not run out of control. That limits actions and responses.

The deterrence properties of those weapons have been working in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Part of the reason NATO has not joined the war directly is that its entry would move everything too much closer to a nuclear exchange. Similarly, Russia has not attacked NATO members. Nuclear deterrence limits the geographic scope of the war.

Russia’s stated threshold for nuclear weapons use is “an existential threat to the country.” Given Putin’s rhetoric about the reasons for making war on Ukraine, it is hard to know what he considers an existential threat to Russia. Although he has claimed that Ukraine’s sovereignty poses an existential threat to Russia, he allowed his military to back off from a general conquest of Ukraine when it looked like that would not work. There is evidently some flexibility in Putin’s understanding of that phrase.

What happens if the war starts going very badly for Putin? If it looks, say, like Russian ammunition is running out and Ukrainian troops are pushing Russian troops toward the border? Might Putin consider using a nuclear weapon to change the course of the war?

This article gives a bit of the historical background on nuclear strategy and lays out the options clearly, although leaning toward the military ones. Let’s say Russia drops a small nuclear weapon on, say, the Zaporizhzhye nuclear plant. What are NATO’s response options? I say NATO because they’re the ones with nuclear weapons, not Ukraine.

  • Do not strike back, but proclaim Russian inhumanity in using nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear attack on an equivalent target within Russia
  • Escalate a nuclear attack to a higher-value target
  • Strike with a conventional force

The downsides, respectively, are

  • Russia may take this as having a free hand to attack its neighbors.
  • Could go into a slow-motion tit for tat situation or escalate to more nuclear use.
  • Very likely to escalate.
  • Nuclear escalation possible, but less likely.

The last seems to be the most likely NATO response, although much depends on specifics.

These options add up to everything that is possible in a nuclear war that starts on the battlefield, rather than a transcontinental attack. Even there, the options are similar.

Nuclear strategists have been struggling with the simplicity of this pattern since the first bombs were dropped in 1945. They have not come up with new answers. The edgier among them like to try to game out scenarios involving a few small hits, which involve enormous assumptions as to the fear or good will of the other side. Usually they will lament the American lack of tactical nuclear weapons in contrast to Russia’s two thousand or so. But those “small” weapons might be the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki weapons. Too small, and there’s not much difference in destruction from conventional weapons. Larger, and at some point someone is likely to target beyond the battlefield.

The two atom bombs dropped by the US on Japan were the only ones in existence at that time. Nobody could retaliate. But that’s no longer the case. And, just as in any war scenario, much depends on the specifics of the situation and the people involved, perhaps even more so with nuclear weapons. Right now, it looks like we’re a long way from nuclear weapon use.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

The Pandemic Is Not Over

Alongside one of the January 6 hearings, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Representative James Clyburn, released a report, “The Atlas Dogma: The Trump Administration’s Embrace of a Dangerous and Discredited Herd Immunity Via Mass Infection Strategy.” It is based on interviews with Deborah Birx, Brett Giroir, and Robert Redfield, all of whom served in public health during the Donald Trump administration, and none of whom distinguished themselves as a public servant during that time. The report tells us that Scott Atlas, who was worse, began influencing the adminstration earlier than has been publicly known. He was brought in by Jared Kushner.

No surprise, but worth knowing one more disgusting action of the Trump administration. If not Atlas, Trump would have found some other charlatan to tell him that he could ignore the pandemic. But Atlas is the one he found, and Atlas bears responsibility for pushing the “herd immunity” strategy along with the Great Barrington crowd. Atlas estimated that a maximum of 10,000 would die in the pandemic. The total is over a million now, and probably a lot more.

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