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Archive for December, 2005

The Meadowlands

[ 0 ] December 8, 2005 |

So, since I hadn’t seen a live game in a year and a half, I had a friend in from Philly who said she was up for it and my boys were in town, I decided to head out to bucolic New Joisey and take in the game. As per reputation, it was a very different experience than seeing a game in Calgary or Montreal, starting with the fact that we were able to but tickets in the 14th row on the blueline at the door, and the crowd was thin (maybe 11,000) and pretty quiet. One of the hooks to the game was seeing the top two most recent finalists for the Vezina Trophy (for best goaltender)–Marty Brodeur, the Devil’s first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Mikka Kiprusoff, the Flames’ young star. Alas, this didn’t really come off, as Kipper was rested after an overtime game in Philly the previous night and Brodeur–who had looked to my eye to be slipping a bit despite the award–was terrible. In fairness to the crowd, it was a bit of a strange game; the Devils controlled the first period territorially but got only one goal and not a lot of chances, and the best player in the game, Jarome Iginla, tied it up late, allowing the Flames to escape with an ill-deserved tie. Then, early in the second the Flames quickly scored two more, and then midway through the period after a great pinch by Warriner Iginla got a real clinker past Brodeur, and that was that. The Flames used their first-rate, physcial defense and speedy forwards to put on a defense-through-forechecking clinic, beautiful to watch if you’re a student-of-the-game Flames partisan, but I guess it would be rather less so if you’re a casual Devils fan. The pockets of Flaming-C jerseys were making more noise by the end of the game. So, anyway, I certainly enjoyed it.

Logistically, 1)New Jersey is, fact, much colder than the city, and 2)despite claims that it’s nearly impossible to get there through transit, it was actually easy as pie; 15-minute bus ride to the Port Authority subway.

You’ve Already Brought Horror into My World

[ 0 ] December 7, 2005 |

Mr. O’Reilly:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I’m gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that.

Remember, there are no demagogues on the right.

Can’t Union-Busters At Least Make Plausible Claims?

[ 1 ] December 7, 2005 |

Asad Raza‘s post about the NYU grad student strike notes that Sexton is using two of the very silliest arguments that come up when “progressive” university administrators and professors make unions-for-thee-but-not-for-me arguments:

But the sticks are many. By email, Sexton threatened students who choose not to scab tomorrow with the removal of both their ‘stipends’ (pay) and their spring ‘teaching eligibility’ (jobs)–the disaggregation of the two things being a rhetorical strategy meant to preserve the fiction that the stipends do not represent payment for teaching labor, despite the fact that they are disbursed to graduate teachers in the form of paychecks with taxes and social security withheld. Of course, despite the fictive bureaucratese, firing workers for striking is illegal and generally considered a vile form of strike-breaking. In practice it puts NYU’s graduate students in the position of almost all strikers – i.e. without pay.

This one always gets me. Evidently, the idea that the grad students who universities rely on for large percentages of their teaching aren’t workers is so transparently idiotic that there’s not much you can do to defend it, but you have to like the aribtrary division between “stipends” and “teaching eligibility,” as if NYU is really doing students a favor by permitting them to teach. As I’ve said before, if that’s the case, there’s an easy solution: keep the “stipends” and end the “teaching eligibility.” Since grad students aren’t really performing “labor,” I’m sure you won’t notice the difference!

And then there’s this, which some NYU faculty members are latching onto:

But let me offer a counterexample to the view that graduate students are not workers: the fact is, they already are classed as workers at many universities, including all the SUNY schools as well as Rutgers. The only difference is that these universities are public. Is there, then, any significance to the distinction between public and private-university graduate students? I don’t believe that a distinction germane to this issue can be made. Certainly the argument that unions erode collegiality and interfere with internal academic affairs can be dispelled by a glance at Rutgers, where graduate students have been unionized since 1972 without incident. It is also very difficult to deny that working conditions at NYU have improved since unionization. In 2000, students in the English department were paid 12,000 dollars for teaching four classes or discussion sections, with no health benefits. Today, compensation for the same workload is 19,000 dollars plus health coverage. Better working conditions make for better teaching; thus the undergraduates are better served by the union as well. Either we should have a union, or Rutgers shouldn’t. You make the call.

This is right, of course; the idea that there should be less right to organize at private universities makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Grad students instructors don’t suddenly have different jobs because they work at private schools. And when it’s made by professors at private schools, it’s even worse for being so self-serving as well as being illogical. It’s a companion of the argument noted by Dave, where allegedly pro-labor professors say that they’re all in favor of unions…as long as they don’t restrict the discretion of employers in any way whatsoever. Needless to say, the distinction between this position and just being anti-labor is one without a difference, unless one is prepared to defend the claim that negotiated restrictions on management discretion are acceptable only when the management isn’t you.

In Defense of the First Amendment

[ 0 ] December 7, 2005 |

In case there was any question, state-funded “faith-based” programs are a terrible idea.

The Lubriderm Awards

[ 0 ] December 7, 2005 |

My own nominees for this prestigious competition:

  • Glenn Reynolds for “Ward Churchill is the ‘face of the left!’”
  • Ivan Tribble” for “people with lives, different aesthetic preferences, or tattoos need not apply, and I’ll just move the goalposts so that we can forget I said that stuff and make some spurious arguments about free speech instead.”
  • K-Lo, Nat Hentoff, and everyone else who made long-distance diagnoses of Terri Schiavo for truly sick exploitation
  • Michael Totten for having an imperialist crush on Christopher Hitchens
  • Christopher Hitchens for lamenting the lack of civil discourse surrounding the Iraq War, after claiming that there are “people close to the leadership of today’s Democratic Party who do not at all hope that the battle goes well in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
  • Eugene Volokh for “if you use conversion in a sense nobody else uses it, then Teh Gays really are trying to “convert” your kids, which is a major public health concern. But there’s no political significance to these posts; I just find my novel insight that people will sometimes try to have sex with people who are attracted to them endlessly fascinating.”
  • Roger L. Simon for 1)XFL Media (TM) and 2)claiming that as long as you don’t actually violate a written contract there’s nothing at all problematic about lying and betrayal.
  • Josh “Tacitus” Trevino for hoping that mentioning where I teach several times embedded in his trademark vacuous pomposity might cause people not to notice that he didn’t have a substantive argument. (Bonus: Trevino claiming that Tacitus is a “liberal blog.”)
  • Jonah Goldberg for “desperately poor people losing their homes is funny!”

Ah, and I fear this only scratches the surface…

…indeed, Rox reminds us about Volokh’s celebration of torture, while in the linked comments Digby reminds us of Assorcket’s classic “Ghandi and his rabble” post.

Medvedite Music Collecting

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

It’s as bad as you could imagine. See Axis.

My suggestions:

Drive By Truckers, Never Gonna Change
AC/DC, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Derek and the Dominoes, I Looked Away

Exploitation

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

Matt is, of course, right: the fact that college sports have become a commercial machine from which athletes, and athletes alone, are not permitted to profit, is a scandal. In many ways, I think it’s a similar bait-and-switch that’s going on with grad student unionization; the university administration is willing to commercialize many aspects of college life, but when it comes to grad students working for the university all of a sudden no trace of economic discourse may penetrate the hallowed groves of academe. (As someone who was part of a grad student union, I can say without equivocation that the difference it makes in terms of advisor-student relationships is absolutely nothing, and arguments to the contrary are embarrassingly specious nonsense.)

But whatever you do, don’t mess with the newspapers

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

In Hitch’s world, these things are cool:

Shooting Iraqis.
Torturing Iraqis.
Bombing Iraqis.
Invading Iraqi homes.
Destroying Iraqi property.
Lying about Iraqi weapons.
Incarcerating random Iraqis.
Destroying Iraqis’ historical heritage.
Spurring a violent insurgency on Iraqis’ soil.

But he is shocked, shocked to find that the US military might pay for stories in Iraqi newspapers. That’s really beyond the pale. “This time, someone really does have to be fired.” Not for the torture. Not for the bad planning. Not for Abu Ghraib. Not for the WMD fiasco. But for this, he thinks someone needs to be fired.

Fuck off, Hitch. You’re not wanted here. Enjoy playing with your new buddies at the Corner.

The Future of the Battleship

[ 0 ] December 6, 2005 |

Armchair Generalist points us toward this Bob Novak editorial on the future of the Iowa and the Wisconsin, the last two battleships on the Navy list. Although plans are in motion to permanently decommission the last two battleships in the fleet, the Marine Corps still hopes that they will be retained in light of their unique ability to supply indirect artillery fire in hostile littoral areas.

The Navy high command is determined to get rid of the battleships, relying for support on an expensive new destroyer at least 10 years in the future. This is how Washington works. Defense contractors, Pentagon bureaucrats, Congressional staffers and career-minded officers make this decision that may ultimately be paid for by Marine and Army infantrymen.

Marine desire to reactivate the Iowa and Wisconsin runs counter to the DD(X) destroyer of the future. It will not be ready before 2015, costing between $4.7 billion and $7 billion. Keeping the battleships in reserve costs only $250,000 a year, with reactivation estimated at $500 million (taking six months to a year) and full modernization more than $1.5 billion (less than two years).

On the modernized battleships, 18 big (16-inch) guns could fire 460 projectiles in nine minutes and take out hardened targets in North Korea. In contrast, the DD(X) will fire only 70 long-range attack projectiles at $1 million a minute. The new destroyer will rely on conventional 155-millimeter rounds that Marines say cannot reach the shore. Former longtime National Security Council staffer William L. Stearman, now executive director of the U.S. Naval Fire Support Association, told me, “In short, this enormously expensive ship cannot fulfill its primary mission: provide naval surface fire support for the Marine Corps.”

As you well know, I’m quite the fan of the battleship, but I’m skeptical of this argument. First, I’m unconvinced that mothballing the ships is an effective solution. Re-activating the ships (and, in the case of Iowa, repairing the damaged B-turret) would take at least six months. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which we could definitively predict the necessity of shore bombardment more than six months in advance. Thus, while there might be an argument for keeping the ships in active service, I’m unconvinced that they could ever be effectively mobilized in the current strategic setting.

Moreover, the battleships are extremely expensive mechanisms for the delivery of ordinance. I’m not so concerned about their vulnerability to air attack; most modern anti-ship missiles would have little effect on a ship as large and as well protected as the Wisconsin. However, they are quite vulnerable to submarine attack, and given that they need to be within 20 miles of a coastline in order to carry out their mission, they would be easy to find and would make a tempting target.

Finally, I am unconvinced by Novak’s argument that the Navy is inherently anti-battleship, and just wants to decommission these ships so that it can purchase the DD(X). The two ships in question are in excess of sixty years old, which is very, very old for a warship. They underwent modernization in the 1980s, but most of their components (including, notably, their gun turrets) remain 1940s era technology. They are impressive platforms, and can carry out missions not originally envisioned, such as the delivery of cruise missiles, but it makes more sense to me to develop newer, cheaper platforms intended to accomplish these missions, rather than to rebuild these ancient ships. For example, it would cost two Littoral Combat Ships apiece simply to reactivate the battleships, and more to modernize and keep them in operation.

So, like AG, I’m inclined to think that the day of the battleship has passed. Nevertheless, I would not consider myself too disappointed if the Marine Corps lobbying was successful, and the two ships were retained. Indeed, if the Navy had demonstrated a bit more foresight in the 1960s, it might have kept the battlecruisers Alaska and Guam, which could have carried out the envisioned operations at a lower cost than the Iowa class battleships.

Outage

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

That was rather disconcerting; roughly three hours with no blogspot. I feel like I have my left arm back…

Both Ways

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

Lovely post from Wolcott on intelligent design and the neocon right. Long and utterly unsurprising story short, there’s plenty of evidence, usually from their own mouths, that many of the intellectual poobahs of conservative world don’t give a rat’s ass for God apart from His ability to keep the unwashed masses in line. The story has been told before, but Wolcott and the pieces he links to retell it well. Derb may be one creepy as hell guy, but he does occasionally manage to display a shadow of genuine intellectual integrity. Not often, but he’s good when he’s good.

However, it seems to me that this misses out on part of the story. There are many genuine evangelicals who are bright people, and who can certainly appreciate the transparent, winking duplicity of Irving Kristol, Robert Bork, and their ilk. Certainly there are strategic reasons for an alliance between the two groups, but you would expect some tension to emerge from the poorly disguised contempt that guys like Kristol hold for actual believers. In short, nobody likes to be a tool. The more I think about it, though, it seems clear that modern conservatism is based on a double betrayal. The intellectuals think that religion is useful for keeping the saps in line, especially as they continue to vote Republican. The evangelicals understand this, but aren’t too worried about it. They know, after all, that when the day comes the faithless intellectuals will be headed straight to Hell.

In other words, the Republican party works because everyone can be comfortable with the knowledge that the guy next to him is getting screwed.

This Is "Pro-Life" America

[ 0 ] December 5, 2005 |

In response to recent attempts to pretend that the Republican Party is like a European Christian Democratic Party, providing care to new mothers to go along with cultural conservatism, Sharon Lerner had a great piece:

With the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, Mississippi’s low number of abortions is not an illustration of the “safe, legal and rare” ideal that many talk about, in which a decline in unwanted pregnancies creates a corresponding drop in abortions. Rather, it is the direct consequence of concerted opposition to abortion from the grassroots to all levels of government.

Such concern for the rights of fetuses does not appear to translate into a commitment to promoting the well-being of the children they may become. The uncomfortable irony for an opposition movement purportedly concerned with saving “innocent babies” is that restrictions on abortion are associated with worse outcomes for actual babies. Indeed, children fare terribly in Mississippi. The state with arguably the least access to abortion also has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the country, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. Mississippi’s infant mortality rate–a good indication of the health of both women and children–is the highest in the country. For every 1,000 live births, 10.5 infants under age 1 die in Mississippi. In parts of the impoverished Delta region, that number ranges up to 18. (The national infant mortality rate, by comparison, is 6.8.) Interestingly, a postelection comparison found that “red” states had higher infant mortality rates than “blue” ones. In general, states that restrict abortion spend far less money per child than prochoice states on services such as foster care, education, welfare and the adoption of children who have physical and mental disabilities, according to a 2000 book by political scientist Jean Reith Schroedel.

Schroedel also found that women in antiabortion states are worse off than their counterparts in prochoice states. They suffer from lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty, and a larger gender gap in earnings. They are also less likely to enjoy mandated insurance coverage for minimum hospital stays after childbirth. Together, the conditions make for an abysmal reality for women in Mississippi, which came in fifty-first in a 2004 ranking of the status of women in the fifty states and Washington, DC, published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

But, of course, improving funding for mothers might mean a modest increase in taxes for the upper class, so we can’t have that! Wouldn’t be “pro-life.”

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