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Archive for April, 2007

Taking One For The Team

[ 0 ] April 28, 2007 |

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a Yankee-hater (or, in other words, a decent human being) is watching Mariano Rivera put up 200 ERA+s every single damned year. Yes, yes, he’s by far the greatest closer of all time, but throwing 75 innings a year you would think that one year hits would just start to drop; there’s simply no precedent for that many incredible years in a row. (Eckersley and Hoffman did it once; Sutter never did it.) Clearly, there was only one way of solving the problem. So I sucked it up and paid a hefty fee for him at this year’s auction. And:

1-2 0 SV 12.15 ERA

You’re welcome!


But I Must Know, What Does Kiper Think?

[ 0 ] April 28, 2007 |

Argh. Is there a bigger waste of 26 hours of TV than ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft? I mean, Christ, what’s wrong with people that they’ve managed to convince themselves that listening to Mel Kiper and half-a-dozen other idiots blathering on about left tackles for two days constitutes entertainment? I don’t really blame ESPN; if the draft didn’t get ratings, it wouldn’t be on. I blame America. Here’s a tip; if you turn off your TV and do something with your life for the next day and a half, you can STILL get the results on Sunday night. They’ll even come in a convenient list format.

While I’m on the subject, let me further decry the creeping, expansive coverage of the NFL on Sportscenter. It’s April, for crying out loud, and I nevertheless find myself subjected to such tripe as “Which AFC South team will have the easiest road in November?” The NFL is fine, but there are alternative athletic options for our viewing pleasure…

Zanger Bob

[ 0 ] April 28, 2007 |

He turns 11 years old today. If the intertubes can make a star out of Pam Oshry or Ann Althouse, it can make a star out of a chunky Dutch kid. Long live strange European pop music!

In unrelated birthday news, Saddam Hussein would be turning 70 today if not for . . . well . . . you know.

But Trent Lott Was Forced To Resign Before Becoming the Second Most Powerful Senate Republican!

[ 0 ] April 28, 2007 |

Seriously, can someone make a case that this isn’t even worse than what Imus did? As Digby reminds us:

Rush is not some misunderstood schlub who just made a few slightly off-color jokes and doesn’t understand why it bothers some people.He’s not even a nasty old racist/misogynist creep like Imus who just thought he could demean anybody he felt like and make big money doing it. Rush Limbaugh a professional cog in the GOP machine who has been helping to set the political agenda in this country for more than a decade. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he plays on racist stereotypes and it isn’t just for the laughs.

Yet in 2000 NBC hired him to do election commentary. ESPN later hired him to do sports. The Republican party defends even the most disgusting of his antics. The president himself appeared on his show just days before last fall’s election.

This flagrant racist is a major part of the GOP. It can’t be emphasized enough. And while one would like to think there’s a better defense available than bizarre homophobic slurs, some appalling racist nonsense about Hillary Clinton and attempts to argue that pointing out someone’s explicit racism is suppressing their “free speech,” let’s be frank: there really isn’t a better defense available.

…it is the crazy season.

More on the Terrorism in Austin

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

From Amie Newman.

You Forgot Poland!

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

Shorter Wingnut:

“Poland’s homophobic purges and suppression of free speech resistance to the gay agenda inspires me.”

I’ve long since stopped being amazed when conservatives — who ordinarily toe the line of American exceptionalism — venture abroad to discover illiberal alternatives to whatever it is they abhor about American culture. Ordinarily, these folks can’t be bothered to care what anyone else in the world thinks about climate change, capital punishment, land mines, nuclear weapons, or any other issue on which there’s a broad international consensus. When it comes to issues of sexuality or family planning, though, many conservatives are perfectly comfortable aligning themselves with the world’s cultural retrogrades and reactionary theocrats (some of whom they also insist we’re opposing in an existential war for the survival of Christendom). Eric Langborgh prefers to view Poland as the closest European cultural peer of the US, but he’s just transparently picking cherries to support his bogus thesis that Poland’s challenge to “the rest of secularized Europe” is somehow commendable.

Here’s some context to what’s going on in Poland:

President Lech Kaczynski . . . has made it clear that he sees homosexuality as a threat. On February 20, during a visit to Ireland, he stated, “If that kind of approach to sexual life were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear.”

The proposed homophobic legislation follows a series of recent threats and abuses against lesbian and gay Poles by state officials. In June, the State Prosecutor’s office issued a letter to prosecutors in the municipalities of Legnica, Wroclaw, Walbryzch, Opole and Jelenia Gora ordering in sweeping terms investigations into the conduct of “homosexuals” on unspecified allegations of “pedophilia.”

Polish officials have also repeatedly tried to restrict the rights of LGBT people to free speech and assembly. In 2004 and 2005, when he was mayor of Warsaw, President Kaczynski intended to ban Gay Pride marches, though the parades were allowed to proceed after administrative courts held the ban unconstitutional. Authorities also tried to ban the LGBT Equality Parade in Warsaw scheduled to take place on June 10, 2006. Wojciech Wierzejski, a member of parliament from the League of Polish Families (Liga Polskich Rodzin, or LPR) said last May, “If deviants start to demonstrate, they should be bashed with a baton.”

This most recent attack on lesbian and gay rights comes at a time when homophobic policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric by Polish officials have come under increasing international scrutiny. On March 15, the president of the European Parliament reprimanded a Polish member, Maciej Giertych, for publishing an anti-Semitic pamphlet, marking the first time a member of the European Parliament was sanctioned for violations of the EU body’s principles of mutual respect.

Basing policy on false assumptions? Suppressing rights to public assembly? Endorsements of state-sponsored wilding? Sounds like a model to me.


[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

From Armed Forces Journal, Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling. Apparently, this has been making the rounds inside the USMC. It’s surprising and impressive to see an LTC aim the guns at his superiors.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America’s generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America’s generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America’s general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that “there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq.” The ISG noted that “on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence. Good policy is difficult to make when information is systematically collected in a way that minimizes its discrepancy with policy goals.” Population security is the most important measure of effectiveness in counterinsurgency. For more than three years, America’s generals continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in Iraq. However, for Iraqi civilians, each year from 2003 onward was more deadly than the one preceding it. For reasons that are not yet clear, America’s general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq’s government and security forces and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq. Moreover, America’s generals have not explained clearly the larger strategic risks of committing so large a portion of the nation’s deployable land power to a single theater of operations.

Read the whole thing. He argues that only Congress can provide a solution.

Sunstein on Reproductive Freedom and Gender Equality

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

Last week, Bean pointed us to this op-ed by Cass Sunstein, who argued that Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in Carhart II–which rooted a woman’s right to obtain an abortion on the basis that most attempts to interfere with this right violate a woman’s equal citizenship–may well become the Court’s majority one day. In the long sweep of history, this is probably right, and certainly this provides a compelling doctrinal basis. (Reva Siegel, a pioneer in equal protection theory, argues in the recent book What Roe Should Have Said that such an opinion would have been possible for the Court to advance based on the legal materials available in 1973.) A few random comments about Sunstein’s argument:

  • While I think gender equality is fundamental to a woman’s right to choose an abortion, I don’t agree with Sunstein’s assertion that “[m]uch more than the right to privacy, the ban on sex discrimination is firmly entrenched in constitutional doctrines.” [my emphasis] Whether or not one finds it a persuasive reading of the text, the “right to privacy” is perfectly well-entrenched in precedents that have no chance of being overturned reaching back to the 20s, and the doctrine provides a compelling basis for Roe (at the very least, there can be no serious question that choosing an abortion represents a fundamental right; the only question is whether there is a sufficiently compelling state interest to override it.) Moreover, I think that Sunstein creates a false dichotomy here. As the post-1980 jurisprudence of Blackmun, Stevens, and Ginsburg (and, in the case of the husband notification provision, even O’Connor) makes clear, recognition of a woman’s equality rights can be, and is, an important part of applying “the right to privacy” (a somewhat misleading name applied to a line of cases that are really about a broader right to reproductive autonomy). As Carhart II makes strikingly clear, asserted state interests in regulating abortion almost always embody reactionary gender mores, so gender equality is always relevant no matter what docrtine is being applied.
  • One striking thing about Sunstein’s article is what a radical revision of the “minimalist” position on Roe he had previously advanced it is. One implication of the gender equality argument, as Sunstein seems to accept, is that abortion regulations (the 24-hour waiting period is a particularly obvious example) that might be colorable when applying a due process argument are plainly impermissible when applying a gender equality standard. Resting on equal protection also seems likely to have at least as broad an effect on other areas of the law. I certainly approve of all of this, but it’s a strange position for someone who had previously argued that the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence should rest on the narrowest possible grounds and leave the largest possible space for subsequent legislative regulation to advocate without explanation for the switch.
  • I do think that Sunstein deserves credit for acknowledging that “the sex equality argument will not be convincing to committed opponents of the abortion right.” I like discussing the finer points of abortion doctrine considerably more than the next person, but it’s important to recognize that in terms of the public acceptance of the decision, or subsequent results on the Supreme Court, the weak craftsmanship of Roe is irrelevant. (For one thing, as Carhart II makes depressingly clear, the gender equality argument won’t persuade many opponents of abortion because they’re against gender equality.) Whether Ginsburg’s jurisprudence will secure 5 votes will depend on Presidential and Senate elections, not on it being a more attractive jufiscatory framework.

Top Three?

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

“What are America’s Top Three Allies?” is a bit vague; it could mean either “Who are our best three chums?”, or “Who are three most important friends?”. I think the answer to the latter would definitely include Japan and the UK, followed by a pack for third. On the former, if the question is purely political and not cultural, I’d have to go with UK, Israel, and Australia.

So Much for the Town Square Test…

[ 0 ] April 27, 2007 |

It’s not as if the Sharansky test really evidences much in the way of a deep understanding of democracy; it reminds me a lot of Prussia under Frederick II (believe what you will, but obey), but I suppose we couldn’t expect anything much more complicated to appeal to George W. Bush:

If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that a new media law under debate in Afghanistan qualifies:

Control of content will be guided through clauses which include prohibitions that prevent publicity of any other religion than Islam, prohibit the media from producing any content that is unislamic or jeopardises the stability of the nation or any false information which might disrupt public opinion…

Via Brian Ulrich.

Birthday Girl

[ 0 ] April 26, 2007 |

I usually write about hideous people on their birthdays. Although my daughter can be a real pain in the ass — demanding that I change her diapers, prepare her meals, and carry her around as if I were some kind of sedan chair — she’s only a year old as of 5:34 p.m., and I suppose she can only be expected to do so much for herself. I brought Audrey to my final class of the semester this afternoon in recognition of “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day.” Also, she contracted rotavirus from one of the disgusting goblins she hangs out with at daycare, so she’s suspended for the rest of the week. All this probably made for the lamest birthday ever. Whereas most parents would try to make their kid’s first birthday somewhat enjoyable, I made her listen to a lecture on US foreign policy since 1979. She returned the favor by farting about a half dozen times during the lecture.

Although I’m pretty familiar with the kinds of books and toys and foods Audrey prefers, there’s quite a bit I don’t know about my daughter after a full year. As near as I can tell, her political and social views are rather unformulated. I’ve apologized to her many times for helping bring her into the world during a Bush presidency, but I can’t tell if any of that matters to her. She did, however, emit a strange and almost joyful noise today when I was describing the results of the 1980 election. One of my students speculated that she might be a “future Republican,” and I explained that since she has a grossly uncomplicated view of the world and spends most of her time thinking about her own needs, she probably already is a Republican — but that once she acquires basic literacy, she’ll grow out of it. For the time being, though, her overt politics are limited to a hypnotic obsession with Elmo, who — as other parents have already learned — could probably turn the average toddler into the Manchurian Candidate with a mimimum of effort. I can’t understand what the little red bastard is saying half the time, but Audrey jotting it all down in that canteloupe-sized brain of hers, storing it away for the uncertain future. To be safe, I’ve removed all decks of cards from the house.

Well, happy birthday, Audrey. I’m keeping my eye on you.

Strange Justice

[ 0 ] April 26, 2007 |

I like Bill Richardson, and hope that he becomes a viable candidate in the primary. But his choice of “Whizzer White” as his ideal Supreme Court Justice in tonight’s debate is…odd. Myself, I would prefer a justice who was on the right side of (just for starters) Roe, Miranda, and Bowers. (In fairness, he did write one of my favorite concurrences.) The fact that, when informed he was expected to choose a living justice, he chose Ruth Bader Ginsburg while singling out her demolition of the rank sexism of Carhart II makes it all the stranger.

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