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Hegemony Friday

[Special note: Watch this space this afternoon for my annual performance evaluation. I have been reluctant to post it, since it's so shattering. I have made no changes whatsoever, other than to delete a reference to my career as "evaporative," and alter one passage in which I felt the word "heroic" was more appropriate than the original word, "feeble."]


Great piece recently in National Journal by Paul Starobin. It has a wonky, Politics 201 headline, "Beyond Hegemony," but is a lucid, smart, carefully reported discussion of whether America may someday soon find itself no longer the pre-eminent superpower of the planet. Cameos by Bill Clinton and Yale professor Paul Kennedy ("The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers"). Apparently there are lots of academics who are currently noodling this, and they're holding conferences, and they're fretting a great deal about the possibility that, for example, the "Beijing consensus" of how to run things (authoritarian government, market economy) will supplant the "Washington consensus" (democratic government, market economy). In wonkspeak: "Control of the world would pass from an aggressively idealistic values empire to a supremely pragmatic mercantile one."

But Starobin also says such hand-wringing has happened before, circa 1970 and 1987. "Now, like clockwork, amid concerns that George W. Bush has overstretched the imperial fabric, the baying is again heard that America's 'primacy' days are drawing to a close. Call it the 17-year angst."

Take-home factoid: The U.S. currently has military forces operating in 150 of the world's 193 countries.

Can't find a link to the full article but here's an excerpt.

Bonus passage from the Max Boot piece in The New Atlantis:

" naval competition has disappeared after more than 500 years. No one even tries to challenge the U.S. navy anymore on the high seas. Virtually every other navy in the world is little more than a coastal patrol force.

"The U.S. has 12 aircraft carriers, nine of them Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarriers that can carry more than 70 high-performance aircraft such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet. A tenth supercarrier is in the works. No one else has a single one. France has the world's only other nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, but it is half the size of the Nimitz. Russian has one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, that rarely leaves port, and it has sold another one, the Admiral Gorshkov, to India...

"The U.S. has the world's largest fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines (54) and nuclear-powered ballistic-missile subs (16). Russia comes in second with 37 attack submarines and 14 ballistic missile subs..."

But to what end?

We're ready and able to fight the Cold War again.


Surely I am not the only person to notice that the tale of the Iraq Study Group -- in which a bunch of folks are asked to look at the supreme mess of Iraq and the Middle East and try to fashion a strategy for what to do next -- has an odd echo of Project Runway. Here, take this ugly fabric and make a dress out of it.

By Joel Achenbach  |  December 8, 2006; 8:03 AM ET
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Next: Achenbach Annual Performance Evaluation


I don't think you're evaporative. What does that word mean, anyway?

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the closing of the libraries is a sign of moving from the Washington consensus to the Beijing consensus? Control that information. Who knows what people might think if they got hold of it.

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Might I say, that's a rather fetching collar you're wearing this morning, Wilbrodog. Ooops, sorry--bad choice of words.

Joel the Max Boot piece is just more testimony to the truism that armies and navies are always prepared to fight the previous war. We've got excellent tools for the Cold War, which no longer exists. We've got very little to fight the present war and whatever the future may hold of a similar vein. During WWII, we had WWI-era battleships, which turned out to be nearly useless, so we had to hurry up and build carriers and subs. At the start of WWI we had cavalry.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Feel free to repost from previous boodle.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 8, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Mudge if we do not take climate change seriously soon, those boats may be handy in the future for a variety of purposes.

Posted by: dmd | December 8, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Where is everybody?

*Lick* *sniff* Boodle.. wake up! Wake up, please!!! *licking furiously*

I didn't mean to jump on you like that...

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

In reading the news articles about the Iraq Study Group, the thing that struck me is the extent to which the recommendations (at least, those that got highlighted in news articles) focus on the political process. That is, it's not so much a strategy for what to do in Iraq in order to bring about an acceptable outcome, plus defining what decisions have to be made back home and the foreseeable outcomes from various policy decisions that must be undertaken; rather, it has a lot to say about how things should be bipartisan, and how debate should be conducted. Is that the real content of the report, or is this a matter of the filtration by the media and the aspects that interest the journalists or that they think interest the readers?

The ISG can't provide leadership, and a sound parental scolding doesn't seem like what we need, either (no matter how well-deserved it may be). I believe that we need a dispassionate presentation of options for action, and probable outcomes of those actions. We need a game of chess, not chance.

Perhaps there are 40,000 pages of detailed appendices that aren't part of the public release.

No longer at risk of getting repetitious, but definitely doing it: The ISG has confirmed the obvious, that there is no military action that can bring about success at this point. The "enemy" is too diffusely spread throughout Iraq, and they have the ability to act at their prerogative, while we can only react. They control the field. We need to find a way to induce that enemy to concentrate forces in some way (yeah, right) and/or we need a way to starve them of recruits by making it unappealing to join the insurgent gangs with their promise of camaraderie, protection, power, and emotionally satisfying acts of futile violence. This is where real leadership comes in -- the drive to identify and enact an unanticipated and powerful action that strikes the enemy's weaknesses. What does the insurgency fear? What will deprive them of the ability to act? I already have my ideas, but I shall refrain from continuing to repeat myself from previous Boodles.

Posted by: ScienceTim | December 8, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

And that's a delicious outfit you have on, Mudge... oops, bad choice of words, too.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, if continuing to repeat oneself were banned, I'd be living on the street.

Posted by: Achenbach | December 8, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to repost from a recent boodle. This is an article that was written in 1971 and seems more apppropriate today than to the war it refers to.

It's called England's Vietnam: THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, by Richard M. Ketchum...

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

dmd, I'd be concerned about our ability to build adequate deep-water port facilities for those ships along the West Virginia/Tennessee/Pennsylvania coastline on the East Coast. On the West Coast, the Grand Canyon will be deep and navigable, and the mouth of the Colorado will be well protected by the Sierra Madre Island chain and archipeligo, but I'd worry about having all our West Coast fleet bottled up in just one port city, at Flagstaff. But I'm confident we'll be able to improvise something.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

This is probably somewhat repetitious, but how is a tenth, multi-gazillion dollar supercarrier going to stop 9/11 part II? I'm a little confused.

Posted by: Tangent | December 8, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"How is a tenth, multi-gazillion dollar supercarrier going to stop 9/11 part II?"

Duh. By *not* emboldening the terrrrrrrrrrsts. (And we can dock it, per Mudge, at St. Louis.)

Also, we need several dozen more F-22s. And some anti-anti-anti-missile missiles.

Posted by: byoolin | December 8, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

SCC - terrrrrrrrrrsts. I meant, of course, insrrrrrrrrrrrrrgnts.

Posted by: byoolin | December 8, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

By the way, how come there isn't a thirty bazillion dollar appropriation bill for more llamas?

Posted by: byoolin | December 8, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

And remember: they hate us because of our freedom. The jealous hussies.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

If I'd known y'all were such Winston Churchill fans, I'd have told you that a four-volume set written by Winston, 1950, was selling at the Comfort, Texas, book fair for $12. (You don't think that the goal of our recent excursion was primarily to look at the Christmas doodads, do you?) It was books and a bottle of Redneck Barbecue Sauce for us.

I did get the 1921 four-volume set of "The History of the World by H.G. Wells for $12, along with a 1901 copy of Washington Irving's "Sketchbook," and two paperbacks for a buck apiece. One of the paperbacks was "Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclearism" by Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, to go along with another Lifton book I have on nuclear weapons.

I had already picked up the Wells volumes and was jostling them in my arms while browsing the tables of nonfiction when I happened across Lipton's book, which fell open to the following passage (very odd indeed):

Perhaps the greatest exemplar of this tradition was H.G. Wells, who not only projected technological world destruction, but invoked something he named the "atomic bomb" as the agent of that destruction. In his 1913 novel, "The World Set Free," Wells describes a world war of the 1950s in which the world's great cities are destroyed, each by an individual atomic bomb the size of a bowling ball. Ironically enough, it was through reading H.G. Wells in the mid-1930s that {Hungarian--shades of Kati Marton!] Leo Szilard became convinced that actual atomic bombs could indeed be built.

But to what end? Indeed.

Off to see a movie about brilliant rocks!

Posted by: Loomis | December 8, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Llamas hate us because of our freedom?

Good thing we're getting those F-22s.

Posted by: byoolin | December 8, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Maybe the president and his administration would listen better to advice if the press stopped using the administration's word, "insurgents," and started using the correct word: "rebels."

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

>>"Control of the world would pass from an aggressively idealistic values empire to a supremely pragmatic mercantile one."

I'm sorry, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is supposed to be an "aggressively idealistic values empire??" I certainly don't see it that way. The foreign policy of the U.S., including our military presence throughout the world, is driven by our economic interests, which to me makes us more of a "supremely pragmatic mercantile" empire. Meanwhile, the Chinese are trying to establish a workers' paradise, and I believe the basis of their government is highly idealistic. I naturally don't agree with their methods and I wish Chinese citizens had a more democratic and free society. But I can't agree with the dichotomy as it is presented here. Most of our idealism stops at our borders, is how I see it.

Posted by: kbertocci | December 8, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Neber mind dat I hab a code, but now I hab to deal wid dis...

Show of hands, please -- who among us would take seriously a press release that uses these phrases:
"lightning harvesting technology for electricity production"
"urban mini-reactors for safe, compact power generation"

Yet my phone is nearly ringing off the hook with people seeking comment on said press release.

In the immortal words of Daffy, "Shoot me now, shoot me now!!"


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

* faxing S'nuke a box of Puffs w/ Lotion®... *

Posted by: TBG | December 8, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

There's a difference between the short term and long term success of a philosophy. In the short term the Beijing solution is impressive, but I question how well any kind of authoritarian government can adapt to long-term changes. Here, the Western democratic ideal is still the best. A free democracy has the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions as if it were a living organism.

Yet even within our relatively open system there are authoritarian elements that have a difficulty adapting. Your mention of the military illustrates that point well. We have the most professional and well-equipped military in the world, yet are being systematically picked off in Iraq by suicide attacks and remotely controlled explosive devices.

Our military needs to adapt to the realities of asymmetric warfare, and develop a large dedicated group of military police trained not to fight, but to maintain order. If we don't we will be like WWI infantrymen using Civil War techniques against machine guns.

Finally, I think we need to accept that there is a difference between influence, predictability and control. The sheer wealth of this country means our actions will always have a profound impact on world events. What we should be worried about is our ability to predict the effects of our actions, and then control those effects if they end up being other than what we expect.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I found one line in the ISG particularly intiriguing. They quoted a general as saying that if New Jersey was occupied, Tony Soprano would be an insurgent. I take umbrage at the implication that only mobbed-up petty criminals can defend our country. We already played this scenario in the 80s and the hero was Patrick Swayze.

The reverse parallels to Iraq bother me tremendously.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

The big problem with using lightning harvesting technology is you have to keep moving the machine.

Posted by: byoolin | December 8, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Too kind, TBG, too kind...



Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I really like the reference to Project Runway.A good friend turned me on to that program and I am a man with no sense of fashion at all,but after watching one show I was hooked.

Joel, I like you analogy of here is a messy situation,here is what you have to work with.Please make something beautiful out of it.

If it was that easy......

Posted by: greenwithenvy | December 8, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I'd like windmills that also harvested lightning without smoking to cinders, S'nuke. The question whether that is actually possible to do it is another story ;).
But mini-nuclear reactors in the city, eesh.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

tangent - it doesn't. The US military is still largely geared to support strategic deterrence - the notion that nobody would dare attack us lest we pound them back a few centuries. This doctrine worked brilliantly during the cold war, but fails completely against the amorphous diffuse groups that represent the greatest present threat.

I mean, we have the largest arsenal of nukes in the world, but they clearly failed to deter the actions of a few suicidal zealots with sharp pointy blades.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I've had the feeling, from the moment it became obvious that our adventure in Iraq was going to be a disaster (the day I first learned it was being seriously discussed), that our country's place in the world was in trouble. Nothing that has happened since has changed my mind. From Rome to the Bristish Empire, nations fail to maintain their hold on the world. Why would we be different? Our dependence on foreign oil has me plenty worried. Watch how fast we would plunge into a situation that would make the Great Depression look like the boom. Meanwhile, our president is still too stubborn and arrogant to see that victory is no longer an option, the talking heads and politicians are quibbling over details, and I want to scream, "Just do something, dammit!"

On a happier note, I've finished my Christmas shopping for the second, and I hope the last time. I keep thinking of little things that would be good gifts. Today I was at Borders and bought myself a present, Hiaasen's new book, with all that's going on in the world, I need a laugh.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 8, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

From my post a while back on plagiarism, I recounted when I was accused of being too smart in college:

"In college, I was accused of plagiarism by a professor because she did not think the word "hegemonistic" was within the vocabulary of an engineering student. The word did not appear anywhere in the source and was my own interpretation. I had to meet with her and trot out my Model United Nations geek bona fides to convince her. She gave me and A on the paper, but I still got a B for the course."

I think the actual subject was a review of a book where Kissinger was accused of being imperialistic vis-a-vis Chile in the Salvador Allende era. I felt our goals were more hegemonistic than imperialistic.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, perhaps we need more ISG commentary by Robin Givhan to complement that by Robin Wright.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Just going to post this article which states the obvious for those of us living in Ontario, it was dark and wet this fall - third worst. What struck me though was the two years that were worse. When the boodle was discussing the October 1970 crisis I commented that I remembered it as a dark period (included much of the early seventies). Turns out in Ontario 1970 was the darkest (least sunshine) followed by 1977.

Back on topic what would be some modern weapons that could be employed to fight insurgents/terrorists?

Posted by: dmd | December 8, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, I have a sneaking suspicion that the plan to harvest lightning was secretly being touted by private industry lobbyists, specifically the International Association of Japanese Box Kite Manufacturers, working closely with the Leyden Jar Production Council, both carefully orchestrated by the eggheads at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. These people never give up, I tell ya.

Personally, I have no problem with urban mini-nuke power plants, except for one concern: that the radiation will mutate the 10-foot alligators reputed to be in urban sewage systems, making them into giant rampaging 50-foot alligators which will burst pipes and water mains. And with Steve Irwin gone, how would we tame them? Just one more thing to worry about in the middle of the night.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, believe me, I was never accused of being to smart in college. A lot of other things, maybe, but smart wasn't one of them.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

tbg - it snowed up here last nite? hmmm was certainly COLD! i walk about a mile to my car (dc parking sucks!) and part of that walk is along the potomac - man, i thought my face was going to freeze off!

re: 70's fridge's - apts in so. cali do not come with fridges (!!!!! WHAT???) so you have to buy one and lug it with you every time you move (!!!) - as a poor starving artist, i could only afford the cheapest of fridges - i usually ended up with an "apt" size, non frost free, avocado circa 70's fridge (i went thru 4 fridges in the 5 years i lived there)... i found that you can spray paint them quite easily - i sprayed mine black and added the faux marbeling paint over the black - that and a blue light bulb for the inside and i had the coolest fridge around! someone even bought it from me when i left cali!!

Posted by: mo | December 8, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Hey, we're linked on the WaPo home page. The bunker is standing by, just in case.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

>join the insurgent gangs with their promise of camaraderie, protection, power, and emotionally satisfying acts of futile violence.

The situation reminds me of our own gang troubles - it's down to tribe and criminal activity, and poppin' your 9 on Sat night to make you feel like a man. Witnesses in a Philly murder case (of a little girl!) won't testify because "I'm walkin' through the hood lookin' over my shoulder now".

What I don't understand is Bush has a perfect excuse to leave: We wanted regime change, we did that, hang Saddam and good luck with your new country.

Maybe the plan is to let the Shia exterminate all the Sunni's.

Maybe the Bush Library should be built in Iraq.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 8, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

there was an idea around in the (80s, 90s ?) for a simple nyucular reactor, the Slowpoke I think it was called. The idea was to drop a well package blob of nucular waste containing elements that produce lots of heat in their decay in a large pool. The warm water would be used to heat a large building, an apartment complex or series of home. That would leave all those sources of radiation lying around for those who hate us for our freedom but love us for our cell phones. Have you notice the use of cell phones on footage from the middle east ? All men seem to be on the phone.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 8, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

dmd - the best short term weapon is knowledge. Good old-fashioned strategic intelligence of who, what, when, where, and how.

Longer term weapon is the development of a sense of local security, preferably indigenous, so that people have the sense of safety they need to resist thugs like Sadr and armed gangs like Hezbollah.

Longest term weapon is a shift of values in a region such that humanistic tolerance of opposing points of view is tolerated.

The problem is, you can't cut in line to the last goal without first securing the first two.

And thereby hangs the tale...

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Now I have to go look at some proposals to develop something called an "urban mini-reactor." I am told they can be used for safe, compact power generation.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Mo, that fridge does sound funky to me.

I didn't see one snowflake here last night, must be a Virginia thing. We sure did feel plenty of cold, though.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes I worry that I plagarize every word that I use. Shouldn't I be making up new words to communicate with?

Greel warb quarkn awrik...

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

>"urban mini-reactor."

RD, maybe you can make use of those old avocado fridges...

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 8, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The US is "aggressively idealistic" in that we use force to not only stop the dynamic we're facing Germany, Japan, NK, Iraq but to impose or cause to happen a democratic alternative. As opposed to just co-opting them by buying them off with trade like the Chinese do. But I think it's pragmatic as well in that we use what we have; the Chinese don't have as many options.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 8, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"The 17-year angst" -- so academics & politicians really ARE locusts. You heard it here first.

One problem with encouraging democracy in Iraq is that we unintentionally (I assume) introduced the concepts of cynicism and disillusionment with government's abilities before introducing the government itself. That's a hard hurdle to overcome. Maybe we could give Iraq to the Chinese, in exchange for a cut of the oil. They're good with suppression, repression and crowd control.

Posted by: Ivansmom | December 8, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

error - EXCELLENT idea sir! (bush library in iraq - hey, it's HIS legacy!) exactly the kind of marvelous idea i'd expect from a worthy candidate such as yourself!

anyone hear about the building collapse today in rosslyn, va? a 60 x 30 foot patch of wet concrete fell crushing 3 construction workers! fortunately, no fatalities - only 2 critical injuries...

Posted by: mo | December 8, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Since Joel can't be a wonk on his blog about science, history, political humor, book reviews,travel, and other wonky stuff, shall we come up with more suggestions for kit ideas to expand his sagging portfolio?

1) breastfeeding
2) hospice care
3) career day! Playing Fireman
4) investigating the science of racehorse industry
5) Hard-hitting investigative reporting on whether dogs really want to be read to by kids.

6) Hard-nosed reporting on local ecological hazards-- out of wedlock single deer mothers having too many fawns; snakeheads invading rivers, Republicans in power...

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Saw this article about the EPA this morning.

Posted by: sc lurker | December 8, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

The problem with most 'alternative' power is that it is either thermodynaically of very poor entropic quality (wind, solar, tide) or very location specific (geothermal, hydrodynamic). Zephyrhills, Florida is one of the most electrically active storm capitals in the world. Which doesn't do us a lot of good in trying capture lightning.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

RD, generally I agree with your 12:00, but as I read it, it occurred to me, how do you know the doctrine of strategic defense worked during the cold war?

The most important thing was that the Russians believed you could, and that you believed the Russians could. It really did not matter what the actual strength was of a force, it mattered what the other fellow believed to be the case. Maybe?

Wow that is clear as mud. But I am going to toss it out anyway.

If looked at from the perspective of what the other guy believes being the most important thing, the strategic defenses don't work today because the other fellow doesn't believe that you will ever use them.

Posted by: dr | December 8, 2006 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Thought I'd post some Buddy999 pictures before running off to get a haircut. Must look repectable to write the intelligence test tomorrow.

Posted by: Boko999 | December 8, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

dr - I think strategic defense worked because the nukes never came calling. I can not prove, of course, that this was the only, or even best, approach to have taken.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Your underlying point is, of course, true. We could have filled our silos with banana pudding so long as the Soviets BELIEVED they contained thermonuclear weapons. Of course, they had this nasty way of finding out the truth.

I think enemies like A.Q. fully believe we would nuke 'em if we could. I think they take comfort in the fact that as a practical matter we cannot without doing an obscene amount of collateral damage to a sub-continent or two.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

aww buddy999 - you are a handsome guy! (actually, all the doggies pictured today are adorable!) i love dogs - can't have one b/c my condo doesn't allow them...
why is it that dogs always photograph so much better than cats?

Posted by: mo | December 8, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I think it is because dogs want to please you (sometimes) and so they will actually hold still and try to look pretty. Whereas cats really just think you are pointing something at them with ill-will and will have no truck with it.

Posted by: Yoki | December 8, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

>We could have filled our silos with banana pudding so long as the Soviets BELIEVED they contained thermonuclear weapons.

Well, soon the insurgents will find out that we've released a virus that will affect Arabs with gunpowder traces who are NOT on the side of niceness... and they'll turn into atheist Vegas playboys and be assigned to loose Hollywood/entertainment blondes and forced to make rap videos.

THAT oughta do it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 8, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Referring to Mudge's EPA library posts on the last kit, the loss of library and museum collections due to budget cuts is rampant (although it sounds like the EPA's library destruction is politically, rather than financially, motivated). Most of my personal paleontology library has come from dumpsters. There is a whole grant division at the National Science Foundation for "orphaned collections", to help museums take in collections from other museums that have been "downsized".

About 10 years ago, the US Geological Survey was being forced to throw out almost their entire invertebrate fossil collection because of budget cuts; we were fortunately able to take it in (with help from an NSF grant). The collections were made over 40 years, and came from hundreds of localities (mostly from Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina). Almost all of localities sites are now developed, and the USGS collections are in many cases the only record that fossils ever existed in those places. All told, the collection included around 15 million fossil shells.

Posted by: Dooley | December 8, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Look EF - I was willing to let slide your spillin' the beans about the true nature of those avocado refrigerators, but revealing project Vegas Playboy is just unconscionable.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Please tell me part of the virus includes making the men believe they are also inferior to women.

Posted by: dmd | December 8, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse


I hear Bruneau, Idaho is beautiful this time of year. Maybe we need to have BPH there for the mini-reactor ground breaking.

Posted by: yellojkt | December 8, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I hate cameras. I you look straight into them the magic light will steal your soul, I hope you know that Wilbrodog.
I may look like a shifty-eyed wussie in all my pictures but I still have my soul.

Posted by: ShriekingDog | December 8, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse


... let's float down to Peru
In lamaland
There's a one man band
Who'll toot his flute for you

Here's my take: The Roman/Byzantine Empire existed for almost 2000 with a combination of war and dipomancy back by lost of money and trade and technology owned only by them.

And the need for good diplomats and spies in all quarters of the world is even more necessary than before, what with Iraq and N Korea et al.

Yet, the Bush 43 Admin keeps focusing on Military power as the main way to get things done.

How stupid can they be? Have they not read history? Philosophy? (Camus aside) Science?

Opps I forgot, I'm talking about people born again in their mid 40's and 50's. And one person who was in no way qualified to be president given his past background, histroy, study habits, and personal governance techniques based on past history.

Well, its only two more years. Repeat now "TWO MORE YEARS, TWO MORE YEARS, TWO MORE YEARS!"

Posted by: Kurt | December 8, 2006 2:14 PM | Report abuse

No camera can steal my soul for I have the strength of 10 manchester terriers for my soul is pure.

But yes, even I get nervous sometimes when Wilbrod gleefully points the camera at me when I'm busy airing my tummy.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Mo -- 'fridge bulbs come in blue, and withstand the cold? I want one.

Now on to grown up things: How DOES one pronouce the h-word and variations:

He GEM in ee
HEDGE eh moan ee

My favorite all time student paper submission for jargon was titled:

Marx Tilting on Stilts; Derrrida Treading Marbles: A Postmodern Post-mortem on European Male Literary and Culture Hegemony

Said student LOVED saying that word for fossil-power structure with this syllabific twist:

He GEMMMMM in ee

Since she was a drooling Anglophile, I decided to pronounce the word the other way:

HEDGE eh moan ee

But come to think of it, I don't think I have ever said the word. Read it. Written it. Laughed (at) it.

Uttered? Me thinks not.

Posted by: College Parkian | December 8, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Hey bc, did you see the news that Len Sutton died?

Posted by: Yoki | December 8, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Kurt knows that 2 years is equalivent to 21 years in puppy years? Too long.

Heck, I'm old enough to vote. I demand canine suffrage. Now if I could just work out where to put my nose...

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

What's up, my friends? I am so late in getting here, and had all kinds of problems trying to get here. I've even emailed the Post.

Yoki, that story was so lovely and the gift was even better. Thanks a million.

JA, I'm still laughing at the last line of that story..........only the turkey changes.

Error, the Bush library in Iraq? What a unique idea, but will it fly?

Slyness, I don't know about your place, but here it is so cold. We had to go out early this morning, but coming back in, I don't think I want to do that again, go out again.

It was cold for the Xmas parade yesterday, and some folks did not have on coats. The sunshine fooled them, but it was really cold.

I think someone has stolen my Xmas spirit. I got a beautiful card in the mail, and that helped a lot. I think my spirit is low because I can't ever seem to be the giver at Christmas time, and it has been that way so long. I would love to give presents and gifts, but never seem to have the money to buy those things, not even for my grandchildren. Does that make me a bad grandmother? I hope not, although I do feel like a bad grandmother.

The g-girl does not seem to hold a grudge. She got a three dollar horn yesterday at the parade, and naturally she's driving me crazy with it now.

Have a good day, everyone. It is Friday and the weekend is upon us. I hope it is a good one for all. Please try to stay warm, wrap up, it is so cold here. And remember that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Oh, and before I forget, I do wish each and every one of you, a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of happiness, dreams that come true, and just tons of love. And peace.

Posted by: Cassandra S | December 8, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

CP - There is a long list of words that I know how to write and read, yet cannot easily pronounce. Hegemony is one of them. This has become something of a running joke around here. Other nightmare words are "disingenuous," and "implacable." I fear them.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Just stumbled across this article that has links to Washington, China, my hometown and a persecuted muslim minority, and a former Nobel prize nominee. Not the kind of links I see everyday.

Posted by: dmd | December 8, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, one of the nicest gifts I ever got was made of:
a magnet
a popsicle stick
a clothespin

They were assembled in a refrigator magnet that could clip and hold paper.

This was from my best friend, also from a poorish family, and it said "World's best Pal!! in rainbow colors on a white background.

You give a gift to every kid you read to.

You can give gifts of cookies and many other things that aren't very expensive but still unique.

It's not things that make people happy in the long run, beyond the basics, but it's also the experiences one gains by life. Keep on sharing your experience here.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

What's the matter with hedge money anyway?? It's green, innit?


Posted by: Scottynuke | December 8, 2006 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke - ouch! That one's gonna leave a scar.

Posted by: RD Padouk | December 8, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I did hear about Len Sutton.

Kinda sad, but for a Champ Car driver from his era, he's lived a good long life.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I know gnomes have pointy noses, but surely you don't have trouble finding a place to put yours? I'm worried about you!

Posted by: Yoki | December 8, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, you give everyday, with a gift more valuable than anything money can buy - your spirit.

Posted by: dmd | December 8, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh Cassandra, believe me when I tell you that the gift of a compliment, of your time, of your love and caring, are far better than anything money could buy. My daughters never speak of what my mother *gave* them for gifts, but always speak of her gifts of attention, listening and game playing with them.

The best gifts I've ever received weren't expensive in money but in thought and caring. One was a videotaped compilation of photos of my life from pictures of my parents before I was born, to pictures of me and my daughters. I'm hoping some day to get an updated one including my daughter's wedding and the granddaughters.

There aren't a lot of people like you Cassandra, you are a gift all by yourself.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | December 8, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

That Wilbrod... forget sticks and cookies-- cook lots of devilled eggs and deliver them to poor doggies starving to death, like me!

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

It's been said better by Wilbrod, dmd and Bad Sneaks, but I have to say it again. Your kindness toward everyone is a better gift than anything material ever could be.

Posted by: Yoki | December 8, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, it seems a certain pup has been blogging way too much today and also impersonating me as well. I just gave him the old heave-ho from this desk.

Posted by: Wilbrod | December 8, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Umbrage, outrage and high dudgeon alert: Max Boot got my knickers in a twist, and I don't mean maybe. I'm not just circling the wagons around "my" Navy; I challenge his notion that because nobody has as many capital ships as we do, we shouldn't have them, either. (I dearly wish I could get to the entire article that Joel refers to, but alas, no cigar.)

Some things I know, some things history teaches me, and some things I have to assume:
Assumptions first: We * are * a world power, and we should act like it. That means having the necessary means to project and protect our forces world-wide. Until somebody invents a real-live, no-foolin' Starship Enterprise, complete with transporters, phasers, and whatnot, we are stuck with the rule that says that we will have to physically move our troops and their machinery across these things called oceans. Who does that? I'll take "What is the U.S. Navy?, for $200 gazillion dollars, Alex" (I'll grant you the lone exception to the above rule in the case of having to invade Canaucistan, or New Jersey.)

I know that if you wanted to invade, say, France, you can't just call them up, and say, "Look, we have more aircraft carriers than you. Therefore, we win, put up your hands and surrender." Well, OK, bad example. This war, the last war, the one before that, and the next one to come: boots gotta be on the ground. Again, how do they get there? Yes, I know, boots can jump out of one of those aero plane thingies. Then what? It's called sustainment. A soldier can last only so long on candy bars and a pocketful of ammo.

There has always been a cycle (of somewhat unpredictable duration) that any country, ours in particular, goes through with regard to preparedness for the next war. We start the cycle by already being in a war, building up, then afterwards saying, "Hey, we don't need this cr@p any more, it's too expensive, lets chuck it." Then we get caught with our defensive pants down again, and then have to rush to catch up again.

The history of warfare has been the history of mankind throwing things at each other: rocks, clubs, arrows, bullets, bigger bullets, bombs, poison, rockets, atoms. Now, children strapped with explosives around their waist. Whatever the nature of the next war is, and however we prepare to fight it, we ain't gonna do it with nothing more than a "costal defense force". Unless, of course, we are going to take over Paris.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 8, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Happy Holidays to you, too, Cassandra.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse


Deviled eggs? I have heard this is a beautiful treat. I like plain ole hard boiled ones.

But my favorite treat is cold butter stick. Since it is about six inches long, I think you can see this from space.

I had one once, during a baking frenzy on the part of home-from-college peeps.


I still dream about this.

My favorite book is Sendak's _Higglety-Pigglety Pop_, starring Jennie a white Sealyham terrier. She dreams of pancakes. buttermilk. pancakes.

The finale concerns a repeating sausage trick and Jenny starring in the Mother Goose World Theater.

This book is a good treat for the holidays, with or without kids, with or without dogs.

For cat lovers, others can suggest books.

Posted by: College Barkian | December 8, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

A Times columnist weighs in on the lunar station. I was supposed to post it this morning when the moon kit was still up but it slipped my addled brain. Sorry.,,6-2492816,00.html
But I don't know about this one:
"Getting there will be cheap at the price. The Moon mission in the decade after 1962 cost less than the Vietnam War did in any single year: apply that accountancy to the Iraq war, and the trip to the Moon and points beyond looks like a bargain. "
Even if the Iraq war is on the expensive side at 2.2 trillion according to these 2 economists, one of which is a Nobel Prize:
Ouch. 1-1.4 trillion in budgetary cost to the US taxpayer and about as much on economic costs such as increased oil prices, higher interest rates, etc

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 8, 2006 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I love the plain hard boiled eggs too, although they tend to stop me up a bit-- so I often get it as a treat when I have tummy trouble, along with pumpkin!

Butter? Never had that whole, although it sure does make anything tasty. I'm told too much fatty anything is bad for the tummy.

Well, yeah, but it's so GOOD, I don't care. Although Wilbrod did say something about the V-E-T.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I actually posted this before Yoki talked about giving money for kids to read inside dogs or whatever it was.

I want action stories. Nothing that makes me too hungry to listen to... Any suggestions? The bunny must not die at the end or the dog be sad at all.

Wilbrod told me a story about a bunny and dog that were friends and how the dog was sad after the bunny friend died and I actually was sobbing after the story, until Wilbrod told me the dog got a new bunny friend. But it's not the same. Why did the bunny have to die? It was a pet bunny in a big cage all nice and safe.

Mean story.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | December 8, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

New Micro Kit

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | December 8, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Don, I think people are just frustrated with the high cost of American security these days. And not just in terms of tax dollars, but in terms of civil liberties.

The list of what we need to defend ourselves against grows daily, it seems.

And while the old threats may recede a bit, they never really go away. It's reasonable to keep an overwhelming arsenal in all areas and to continue to develop capabilites (hey, it's good to keep that military industrial complex sharp).

Still, I think it's a fair question to ask: How much of these capabilites do we need?

Could we dock 3 of the 10 supercarriers and use the money and resouces to address RD's people with sharp objects and children wearing plastique vests?

How about 10 attack subs and a couple of boomers?

I don't have the answers, but I don't see harm in asking. Maybe the answer really is: "If you want to sleep soundly at night, we need to keep all of it." At least we discussed it openly that way.


Posted by: bc | December 8, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Don, you're not only correct, you made me snort once or twice. Discretion precludes me from saying which parts.

But I think you're only half-right about invading New Jersey: even G. Washington needed boats to do it. Three of NJ's four sides are pretty much wet, and if we didn't have boats to keep 'em guessing, then they'd know we hadda be coming from the north only.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 8, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't want to get involved in another peninsular war

Posted by: Boko999 | December 8, 2006 3:41 PM | Report abuse

>half-right about invading New Jersey.. then they'd know we hadda be coming from the north only.

By the way, that's where the groundhogs went. I saw them flee to the west, the east, and the south, so I knew when they still came in the smart ones must've gone north.

If you guys are going to ally with the Groundhog Nation I canna be responsible for the resulting carnage.

Besides, most people want OUT of NJ, wassup with all this invasion talk? That's why we put the nasty pieces up where visitors can see 'em, and leave the nice horse farms to ourselves - so they won't WANT to invade!

Ok, so who's been telling people NJ is actually a nice place? We have a reputation people!

Posted by: Error Flynn | December 8, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Those 10 aircraft carriers keep terrrrrristic freedom-hating llamas awed enough that they don't use harvested lightning to shock us. THAT is where all the flowers have gone. We don't need no 40,000 pages of appendices; at long-last, sir, have you no decency? I would rather read Froomkin.

Posted by: 42 | December 8, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Those 10 aircraft carriers keep terrrrrristic freedom-hating llamas awed enough that they don't use harvested lightning to shock us. THAT is where all the flowers have gone. We don't need no 40,000 pages of appendices; at long-last, sir, have you no decency? I'd rather read Froomkin.

Posted by: 42 | December 8, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Woo, woo! I got high praise from Mudge, I made him snort. I can go home tonight a happy man.

I make my boss snort, too. Only his has a lump in it.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 8, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I agree with your point about citizens being able to exactly see where there money goes. I wish I knew how to make that happen. Generaly, people think that these ships just cut holes in the ocean, and don't do any real work. No so.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | December 8, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree that most of the problems we face now are a result of problems we created in years past. What we are experiencing now is blowback from our cold war strategy. Many of our (American's) leaders are holdover from this period that are reluctant to change their strategy and or world view in face of this rapidly changing world.

Simply put the USA is not changing pace to meet this new foe; we believe that we are still the "city on a hill" and it's this mentality that will ultimately lead to the USA's downfall. If the USA wants to remain the Hegemon we have to recognize the immediate threat we face and that this foe could potentially dethrone the USA.

According to hegemonic warfare the current hegemon squares off against the rising power and as a result of this conflict and third party emerges as the new superpower. Example: WWI Britain is the superpower, Germany is the rising power, the USA is the third party - the USA realizes its power and gradually makes moves to realize it's potential. The war often leaves the hedgemon and the rising power greatly diminished so much so that the third party easily slides into a position of strength.

Western Civilization is the dominant culture force on the planet which much of the world scrambling to assimilate western traits and goods (you can even find Nike gear in Iran where they hate the USA). The USA is the vanguard of Western Civilization and it's very unlikely that Western Culture will be unseated as a result of the upcoming hegemonic conflict, but the West's ability to influence and dominate global discussions could be greatly effected.

Also do yourself a favor and read up on Fourth Generation Warfare, it's a fascinating take on what is happening right now, and the funny part is it was written back in 1989.

here's the link to the original article

Posted by: Ransdell | December 9, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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