Virginia Political Blogs

Over at Bearing Drift a few weeks ago Shaun Kenney said this about MSNBC:

“Let’s be very honest about it.  MSNBC caters to probably the most hateful, unintelligent, mean-spirited, and closed minded of the American left.  The smugness and arrogance of the blathering idiots are perhaps only punctuated by the occasional bright light offered by Rachel Maddow, but beyond this are nothing but the vapid darkness of a fanatic who won’t change their mind and rarely changes the subject.”

“They really do hate us,” says Mr. Kenney (emphasis in the original), and it’s this hate that irks conservatives.  This makes MSNBC a “perfect caricature of what liberals think Fox News must be” (emphasis again from the original). Continue reading

From the Archives: Background (January 27, 2009)


Perhaps I should post this on the “about” page, but it seems to me that the first substantive post should say something about the project and the person starting it.

I grew up in the South in the Sixties and Seventies. I have heard people say the word “nigger” like it was the most normal thing in the world.  The disconnect between my father’s outspoken racism and my own experience helped me see that much of what people hold as true depends on what and how they learn.

Mom taught her kids to love books, and we read a lot. I entertained myself searching history and the world in encyclopedias. I devoured newspapers as I grew older, and in Army boot camp at Fort Knox I read the Louisville newspaper in my bunk every evening after “lights out” – by the light of the sun.  This amused my drill sergeant, who mostly let me be once I mastered the concept of the “push up.”

Twenty years late and back in the same place I retired from my career as a combat soldier.  Army life made me look at my surroundings in new ways, and I had learned a lot. I decided that I wanted to get the education I needed to teach, and set out to do so.

I would call myself a liberal, though I would certainly say that I left the Army with fewer idealistic notions about human nature and the real world. I saw some crazy shit in the Army, and it changed the way I look at things—watching leaders abuse their power makes a man cynical. I learned that many human beings are slaves to their beliefs, however acquired.

I also learned the power of collective action.

My mind is not closed to the possibility of a larger organizing principle than randomness and coincidence. But the system of Gods humans worship today seems to me no less petty, vengeful, and contradictory than the Greek or Roman pantheons. I can’t think of any reason to prefer one God over another besides the religious training my parents arranged during my youth. At least three global religious traditions claim understanding of the nature of the universe, but all three forego persuasion in favor of state coercion—none seem to mind killing each other. I think I’ll just stay out of the fight.

I am interested in and want to write about military affairs, especially the nature of and implications of privatizing conflict management. I also think a lot about politics, especially relations between states and how they create global policy. Since the study of politics necessarily includes economic questions, I have developed an interest in this subject as well.

Finally, I enjoy football.

I plan to write about all these things, whether anyone reads my work or not. The goal is to sort my thoughts, not entertain or inform others, but if my musings accidentally add to some important discussions, all the better.

In the Army, we had to have the “bottom line up front” because when bullets fly long explanations can get soldiers killed. The problem is that too many “facts” depend on socially constructed beliefs, and a moral fog often obscures the points of reference we humans seem to need. I named this blog Foggy Bottom Line to remind myself that people—not gods or natural law—define the world, and understanding it means piercing that fog.

From the Archives: The State of War (March 25, 2007)

The State of War

The capture of 15 British sailors by Iranian naval forces on Friday brings to mind an interesting puzzle for international relations theorists: why has war between states become less common, even as fighting among groups within states more so? Several possible answers spring to mind, including the increasing cost of war between states as military power becomes more destructive, the growing interdependence between states as globalization proceeds apace, and the desire by intrastate groups to achieve the sovereignty required to be the masters of their own affairs.

Until the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003, it seemed that states had begun to agree on sovereignty principles that would “lock in” frontiers and create enormous stigma against changing them. States had, before World War II, accepted war in the name of territorial acquisition, dispute resolution, or punitive action. By the end of the Cold War they supported military action across state borders to stop genocide (Bosnia), protect humanitarian projects (Somalia), or to stop aggressive states (Iraq 1991), though even this principle was unevenly applied. It looks like one effect of the Bush Doctrine has been to reopen the sovereignty norm to conquering states, and by extension force states to become more defensive of their frontiers. If this is so, it makes the world a more dangerous place. Continue reading

From the Archives: On the “Libertarian Case” Against Gay Marriage (March 14, 2007)

On the “Libertarian Case” Against Gay Marriage

Political theory is not my field, but I have a rudimentary understanding of the major works that I developed when I was assigned as a teaching assistant in a freshman political science class on the subject. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to say something about this little piece of writing—“Marriage and the Limits of Contract”—by Jennifer Roback Morse of the Hoover Institution. [EDIT: Now with the Ruth Institute].

This is a self-described “Libertarian” making the “Libertarian” case for state management of reproduction and sexual activity. To get there she defines marriage as “a society’s normative institution for both sexual activity and the rearing of children,” and then argues that “society can and must discriminate among various arrangements for childbearing and sexual activity,” because “society, especially a free society, needs the institution of marriage…” Morse thinks the state should regulate private sexual activity and manage family relationships to preserve a norm about the way human beings should run their lives, even as she defines “libertarian freedom” as the “modest demand to be left alone by the coercive apparatus of the government.” Continue reading