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April 18, 2006

Nuggets, 4/18/06

Various things I'm thinking of today:

* Stephen Bainbridge passes along his thoughts about the dust-up between Donald Rumsfeld and the retired generals, which is a story which, aside from the schadenfreudesque fun it affords, is surprising me with its longevity. What makes Baingridge's perspective interesting is that he's looking at it from the perspective of "bottom-up evaluation" -- that is, when underlings evaluate their bosses. It's a common enough technique in the corporate world, and Bainbridge is looking at how such a system works (or doesn't) in a military setting, and what retired generals bring to the table in this formula.

My personal take on the whole Rumsfeld v. retired generals thing is that I tend to side with the cantankerous retired generals more often than not, but I think the real problem here was simply that Rumsfeld had an organizational agenda that was ultimately trumped by realities on the ground. His idea of a smaller, faster military was just dandy for the thrust into Baghdad, but I think once Iraq was taken, there was a problem, and Rumsfeld and co. didn't want to admit the "smaller, faster" plan wasn't "one size fits all." So Rumsfeld was half right (in this circumstance, anyway; one wonders what "smaller, faster" would have accomplished against a competent military foe), but the half he was right about took less than a month, and the half he was wrong about has taken the last three years.

* Regarding the "Pointlessly Wasting Money: A Quiz" piece, someone in there was asking whether this was one of those personality tests, in which the answer you provide is an indication of your personality. Well, maybe it is, but that wasn't the intent. I have simply been thinking about a new computer (although not necessarily the Alienware; that was just representative of the sort of rig specs I was thinking on), or possibly picking up the Heinlein series, and figured that throwing open the question to the Whatever collective would help clarify my thinking on both, and -- surprise! -- it did.

My thinking at the moment is to get neither. The tech geeks have convinced me it's worth waiting until the next generation of processors come along, and enough book geeks have come along to whisper concerns about Meisha Merlin in my ear that I've decided to wait at least until a few of the books in the series have come along to see what the feedback is on the overall worthiness of the collection (to answer the questions in the comment thread, if I buy the series, you damn well better believe I'm going to read them. I'm not someone who buys books just to have them on the shelf). It's possible that by waiting I won't be able to get a set, even if I decide I want one, but since the the run of the set is 5,000 sets, and you have to buy into the whole set (i.e., there need to be 5,000 other people willing to part with at least $2,500 before me), it seems a safe enough risk to me.

I also appreciate the alternate suggestions, including the ones which suggested I hand the money over to Krissy for investment purposes. Trust me, folks, we max out the 401(k) and IRAs and have other investments socked away. And I always hand my money to Krissy anyway; then when I want to buy something I ask her if I can have it. This is a fine way not to spend outside our means, as Krissy is indeed hawk-like in her stewardship of our finances. Which is, among other things, why I can contemplate choices like these.

In any event, thanks for all your thoughts and comments; they were indeed helpful.

* An interesting map from USA Today, showing where abortion would be restricted in the US if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned tomorrow; it's mostly "red vs. blue" all over again. I personally suspect that this map is not quite correct because if it came to that people would vote in representatives with opinions more in line with the general thinking about abortion; which is to say I suspect you'd find rather few states like South Dakota and more like Illinois. It might take an election cycle or two to hit equilibrium, however, during which time I suspect people would be vividly reminded that women who really want an abortion really will get one, regardless of risk. I doubt there would be a national law against abortion, unless the GOP really does want to either fracture or relegate itself to permanent minority status.

My own state Ohio is listed as likely to significantly restrict abortion access; allow me to express doubt on that, or to say that if it's correct in the short run, that it would not be after a single election cycle. I'd also suggest that the law one Ohio state legislator wants to put on the books that would make it a felony to transport a woman across state lines to get an abortion wouldn't last any longer than it took for a soccer mom to get tossed in the slammer for driving her kid to New York to end a pregnancy. Apparently one would still be able to drive one's self, although I'm interested to see how long that loophole would last, or what would happen if two pregnant women traveled together across state lines to get an abortion.

I'm not particularly keen on Roe v. Wade being overturned, but I don't think overturning it would give the anti-abortion folks what they want. When going through a pregnancy is compelled, you're going to find people suddenly rather less tolerant about pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions, or having sex education predicated on "abstinence only." And here's a prediction which I am sure is going to make me friends from all over: I'll bet you a ten spot right now that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, you'll see parents of teenagers becoming a lot more accepting of same sex relationships, because at least that way, their kids won't become pregnant. Because it's been 33 years since Roe v. Wade, you know. Overturning Roe v. Wade would not be the same as turning back the clock. I sometimes wonder if anti-abortion folks have actually internalized this salient fact.

* Speaking of Ohio, the ever-industrious Tobias Buckell (who you may recall has an in-store appearance in Dayton tonight) has started contributing to Blogging Ohio, a news and opinion blog about -- can you guess? -- the fine State of Ohio. If you want news and information about the Buckeye State, in blog form, now you know where to go.

Posted by john at April 18, 2006 02:05 PM

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Comments

Steve Eley | April 18, 2006 04:47 PM

I think the direction indicated by bringing these topics together is obvious. Both the state of Ohio and the Department of Defense should be given over to Krissy to manage. She's sure to keep both in line.

Abortion? Probably not. Making her responsible for who lives and who dies might cause serious strain on conversation at the dinner table.

Kevin Q | April 18, 2006 04:47 PM

Republicans will never pass a national anti-abortion statute because they get much more mileage out of the issue of abortion than they would get out of "solving" it.

K

John Scalzi | April 18, 2006 05:10 PM

Steve Eley:

"Both the state of Ohio and the Department of Defense should be given over to Krissy to manage."

Oh, if only. I'd love to see what she would do to the first lobbyist who tried to gladhand her into some idiotic legislation.

CoolBlue | April 18, 2006 08:00 PM

His idea of a smaller, faster military was just dandy for the thrust into Baghdad, but I think once Iraq was taken, there was a problem, and Rumsfeld and co. didn't want to admit the "smaller, faster" plan wasn't "one size fits all."

I would argue that change takes time. It's not like the pacification of a large, "alien" population by a small force had never been done before. In fact the success of the Marines during the "Banana Wars" led to the generation of The Small Wars Manual.

In the intervening years, a lot of this knowledge embodied within it was, um, forgotten. Well Kinda. The Marines never forget anything. But the Army and Big Military forgot.

The Army was never organized to be able to implement the lessons of Small Wars. And ever since Johnson's Vietnam (as opposed to Kennedy's Vietnam) the SWM was cast aside.

Rumsfeld has taken lessons from both Iraq and the SWM and reorganized the Army to a structure more similar to a Marine Expeditionary Force. Now the Army operates as Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) which are more self-contained and flexible. Each BCT now has it's own support and logistics elements as well as attached Air Force liasons for calling in air strikes. They are organized much more closely to the Calvary Units that existed up until the 1990s It is significant that, for the first time in history, a Marine is the Chairman of the JCS. The Marines never forgot about the SWM.

Rumsfeld has also taken organizational lessons from the Special Forces and in the latest iteration of the Quadrennial Defense Review, Special Operations has finally moved to be if not the centerpiece of the future Military, very close to it.

And there are a lot of good reasons for it. Picking up Bob Kaplan's "Imperial Grunts" gives a whole lot of good reasons for it as well as for giving more control to tactical commanders on the ground and away from Big Military institutional control which tends to be Big Footprint and Risk Averse.

I recently wrote a post about this entitled "Opposing Change" if you're interested.

Derryl Murphy | April 18, 2006 09:06 PM

I wonder if the whole HIV/AIDS thing might offset that concern about pregnancy, John. Plus the so-called biblical injunction against homosexuality, of course. I'd take that bet, and add that I think the men on the anti-choice side will suddenly be faced with all sorts of realities, partly involving daughters, partly involving peccadilloes (I love that word; sounds like a horny armadillo) that result in pregnancy.

D

jess | April 18, 2006 09:07 PM

"Republicans will never pass a national anti-abortion statute because they get much more mileage out of the issue of abortion than they would get out of "solving" it."

I just hope that is true. I'm not from Ohio or South Dakota but I am from a state that would love to follow in those footsteps and try to pass legislation that would limmit my personal freedoms. I hope they never will.

John Scalzi | April 18, 2006 09:16 PM

Derryl Murphy:

"I wonder if the whole HIV/AIDS thing might offset that concern about pregnancy, John."

Regarding boys? Very possibly. Not so much with girls. And with girls, there's (slightly) less homophobia involved.

Brian Greenberg | April 19, 2006 12:27 AM

You folks make it sound like parents would start suggesting that their kids be gay, in order to avoid pregnancy. Need I remind you, they really don't have a choice? I didn't think so.

Re: the USAToday map, what a unique opportunity: quantitative data about the always emotional abortion topic. Two things popped out at me right away:

1) The overturn of Roe v. Wade would really only affect about half the population, and interestingly enough, it's the half that live in places where most people think abortion is murder (I'm assuming here that someone who thinks abortion is murder would not be affected by a law that outlaws abortion in her state). If my calculations are right (based on the USAToday article & the 2000 US Census), we're talking about causing a problem for roughly 40% of women who want an abortion.

2) I'm blown away by the percentages of pregancies that result in induced abortions. The national average is 21%! One in five! More interestingly, perhaps, is that in the states where abortion would likely be restricted without Roe v. Wade (i.e., the "red states"), the average is roughly 17% - not that different from the national average. So here are all these people calling for a ban on abortion, and their wives/daughters are aborting almost 20% of all the pregnancies in their states (totalling 500,000 abortions in 2000!). Makes you wonder about the size/strength of the pro-life movement...

Steve Eley | April 19, 2006 10:06 AM

Brian, you're making two classic mistakes: equating a majority opinion in a population with homogeneity, and equating the size of a minority with the magnitude of that minroity's problems.

This is on top of the less classic mistake of treating a map in USA Today as "quantitative data."

Derryl Murphy | April 19, 2006 07:13 PM

John, the fact that you have a girl and I have two young boys probably explains why I thought male homosexuality and you were ready with the lesbian angle. Good point, though.

D

Matt McIrvin | April 19, 2006 08:59 PM

I doubt there would be a national law against abortion, unless the GOP really does want to either fracture or relegate itself to permanent minority status.

There already is one: the so-called "partial-birth abortion" ban. Granted, it was sold on dishonest grounds that made the procedure sound like something any sane person would want to ban, and the courts overturned it; but it did pass, and the Supreme Court may yet reinstate it. So I wouldn't be too sanguine about further federal meddling.

Luke | April 25, 2006 04:41 PM

"You folks make it sound like parents would start suggesting that their kids be gay, in order to avoid pregnancy. Need I remind you, they really don't have a choice? I didn't think so."

Kinsey 2 through 6 can modify their behavior without significant psychological strain. That's a respectably large chunk of the population.

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