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Archive for July, 2008

If Dubya were a relief pitcher

[ 0 ] July 26, 2008 |

He would be Todd Jones, i.e., he would

(1) Inexplicably be handed a series of very important high-paying jobs; where he would

(2) Suck at them; yet

(3) Continue to get promoted; thereby destroying

(4) The United States of America/The Detroit Tigers’ season.

Actually the Todd Jones Situation (and wouldn’t that be a good name for a band?) is even less defensible than the Bush presidency. At least Bush doesn’t have an ERA or a K/BB ratio.

[Edit: I now see there are implied references to the topic of How Much Todd Jones Sucks in the Pirate Booty thread, where it's conceded he's not an "elite" (LOL!!!!) reliever. The guy has had one good season in the last eight years! He has an adjusted ERA of 84! He's not even an average relief pitcher let alone an average closer! He's being paid $7 million this season by a team with a $133 million payroll! Alright doctor I'll stop now]

The Obvious Proved

[ 9 ] July 26, 2008 |

Shockingly, the Clinton logic that because Obama performed worse against her in the Democratic primary among Hispanics that he was therefore doomed to struggle against them in the general turns out to be faulty. Why, the next thing you know you’ll tell me that Clinton would have gotten more than 10% of the African-American vote against McCain!

Is There a Monkey Gap?

[ 10 ] July 26, 2008 |

Appalling from a variety of perspectives:

Hundreds of endangered African monkeys are being taken from their natural habitat and sold for scientific experiments, as well to a “secretive” biological laboratory in Iran, London’s Sunday Times reported.

In an undercover investigation by the Times, animal trader Nazir Manji said he sells some 4,000 vervet monkeys a year to laboratories all around the world for about $100 each.

The monkeys, although protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — or Cities — are likely to undergo sometimes painful experiments ultimately leading to their death, the paper reported.

Manji, who has been exporting monkeys for 22 years, said Iran’s Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute bought 215 vervet monkeys from him this year.

The biological research institute, which has headquarters near Tehran, has been accused in the past by an Iranian opposition group of conducting biological weapons testing, it is reported, further fueling suspicions that the monkeys are being used for nefarious purposes.

For Iraq we get yellow cake, and for Iran there’s nothing but monkeys. I have my doubts about the “nefarious purposes”; there’s not much reason to credit the veracity of an unnamed “Iranian opposition group”, but nevertheless it sucks for the monkeys.

Pirate Booty

[ 45 ] July 26, 2008 |

While picking up something at the hardware store today, I heard a talk radio guy complain that the Pirates were driving too hard a bargain on players who rightfully belong to the Yankees, boo-hoo. But when you’ve recently benefited from trades that seem to be crackpot talk radio caller proposals, why no expect to add useful parts without losing anything significant? So, right on cue, following Pat Gillick generously donating OBP machine Bobby Abreu and the late Cory Lidle to the Yanks two years ago in exchange for a 2-for-1 McDLT coupon, the Pirates gave the Yankees decent RH outfielder Xavier Nady and outstanding LH reliever Damaso Marte. In exchange, the only quality prospect they received is someone (admittedly only 19) who can’t hit AA pitching and already has wrist and hamstring problems. But he’s toolsy so he may learn to hit someday. Ehh. Moreover, they took this highly underwhelming package several days before the deadline despite several contending teams in the market for outfield and bullpen help. I’m tempted to say that nothing has changed in Pittsburgh, although in fairness if Littlefield was still there they would have received Pavano, Igawa, and the rights to Dave LaPoint instead of two of the prospects.

I’m tempted at this point to bet Howard a donation to the anti-Prop 8 campaign that the Yankees win the division outright. Not because the Sox didn’t hit tonight per se — two excellent pitchers combined with Foster’s Alice-in-Wonderland strike zone will do that — but because Ramirez may be hurt and Ortiz doesn’t look anywhere near 100%. With the bottom of the order having become a vast wasteland and the leadoff hitter looking almost equally atrocious, they can’t afford to have both of these guys out or in significantly subpar form, especially with Drew bound to cool off. Maybe Manny will be Manny tomorrow and Papi will shake off the rust more quickly than his performance tonight would indicate, but it wouldn’t be very surprising for the Yankees to outplay them by 3 games the rest of the way, especially with Cashman having addressed their weakness against lefthanders while giving up nothing they’ll miss.

That’s Kind of Impressive…

[ 20 ] July 26, 2008 |

German reporter works out with Obama:

He goes and picks up a pair of 16 kilo weights and starts curling them with his left and right arms, 30 repetitions on each side. Then, amazingly, he picks up the 32 kilo weights! Very slowly he lifts them, first 10 curls with his right, then 10 with his left.

I’m not sure I believe that Barack Obama can curl a 70# dumbbell with each arm. I could do it, ‘cept that I hurt my back moving a TV…

Australians Blowing Up Our Stuff

[ 11 ] July 26, 2008 |

Have received this from several correspondents:

No match for this, of course.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

If You Like Counterproductive Imperialism, You’ll Love McCain

[ 10 ] July 25, 2008 |

Ilan Goldberg explains why imperialism is not a sound strategy for dealing with Iraq. Matt is correct to note that Charles Krauthammer “wants an imperial relationship with Iraq, Bush wants an imperial relationship with Iraq, and McCain wants an imperial relationship with Iraq, but Iraqis don’t and thus Maliki prefers Obama.” The key graf:

McCain, like George Bush, envisions the United States seizing the fruits of victory from a bloody and costly war by establishing an extensive strategic relationship that would not only make the new Iraq a strong ally in the war on terror but would also provide the U.S. with the infrastructure and freedom of action to project American power regionally, as do U.S. forces in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

Ah, yes, “infrastructure.” This would seem to mean “permanent military bases, which, in distinct contrast to those in Germany, Japan, and South Korea would be maintained despite the strong opposition of the Iraqi government and Iraqi population, and hence will present the likelihood of perpetual conflict for no obvious benefits.” But at least American military presence in a major Middle Eastern nation hasn’t played a large role in motivating a recent major terrorist attack on an American city or anything. Oh wait…

See also Ackerman.

Shunning war criminals

[ 180 ] July 25, 2008 |

As Jack Balkin points out, for both “legal” and “political” reasons it’s unlikely that any U.S. court will prosecute war crimes committed by members of the Bush administration. This circumstance highlights both the moral and practical importance of the question asked recently by Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba: will those who, among many other things, ordered American soldiers to torture people, be held to account, and if so how?

Consider the case of John Yoo. Yoo, a law professor at Berkeley, played a key role in making it the official policy of the United States government that it (we) could and indeed should torture people suspected of being terrorists, and, if necessary, small children.

Unlike German lawyers who helped facilitate Nazi war crimes, Yoo and other Bush administration lawyers will almost certainly not be prosecuted by U.S. courts. (Standard disclaimer: I don’t think the Bush administration is as bad as the Nazis. Disclaimer to standard disclaimer: I don’t think “not as bad as the Nazis” is an appropriate standard for legal exculpation).

It’s been suggested that the University of California investigate Yoo’s conduct, to determine if he should face employment sanctions. That, too, isn’t going to happen, for both good and bad reasons having to do with the nature of academic politics.

Given that Yoo and his ilk are very unlikely to face either criminal or civil penalties, can anything be done? One possibility is social and professional shunning. For example, earlier this month I took part in a conference at which Yoo was appearing on another panel. I wasn’t aware of this until I arrived at the conference itself (it was a large event with a couple of hundred participants), but in retrospect I wonder whether I could have justified taking part in the event if I had known Yoo was participating.

Now I acknowledge that from an academic and historical standpoint, it’s a good thing to get Yoo’s views on questions regarding the limits of presidential power, the definition and legality of torture, etc., and therefore the idea of simply refusing to invite him to conferences and the like is problematic. But subject to such caveats, I wonder (this isn’t a rhetorical device — I’m sincerely wondering) the extent to which it’s either desirable or defensible to continue to treat Yoo as an ordinary colleague, as opposed to, say, a man who at the very least is arguably a war criminal, who for legally and morally dubious reasons cannot be criminally prosecuted, or even formally sanctioned by his employer.

A natural objection to all this is that limiting the “punishment” of Bush administration officials for their crimes to things like not inviting law professors to conferences, or refusing to participate in conferences to which they’re invited, is a profoundly pathetic response to the situation. And it is indeed pathetic. But it may be better than nothing.

Bears Shift to Wolfpack Tactics

[ 0 ] July 25, 2008 |

Troubling:

Terrified workers at a mining compound in one of Russia’s most isolated regions are refusing to go to work after a pack of giant bears attacked and ate two of their colleagues.

At least 30 of the hungry animals have been seen prowling close to the mines in northern Kamchatka in search of food, where the mangled remains of the two workers, both guards, were found last week.

The co-workers at the compound in the Olyotorsky district are trapped and frightened: the gruesome discovery has left them too scared to venture out. A team of snipers, with orders to shoot the bears, is now being dispatched to confront the invasion after government officials authorized an off-season hunt.

A spokesman for the local government in the capital, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, said that the area was so isolated that it would take until at least Saturday to get there. Attempts to reach the scene by helicopter had to be abandoned because of thick fog.

The Kamchatka brown bear is one of the world’s largest, with males growing to around 10 feet and weighing up to 1,540 pounds. They can also reach speeds of up to 30 mph despite their size.

This really sounds like a setup for a horror movie; packs of giant ravenous bears, thick fog, no hope of outside assistance… hopefully the situation can be resolved without the infliction of excess further harm on either the humans or the bears.

Bush Administration Lawbreaking

[ 0 ] July 25, 2008 |

An interactive guide.

Political Parties and American Empire

[ 5 ] July 25, 2008 |

Daniel Walker Howe, reviewing Walter Nugent’s Habits of Empire, asks a good question:

The most significant deficit of “Habits of Empire” is that the book pays too little attention to the perennial opposition to American imperialism. However common, imperialism has been consistently controversial throughout American history, and objections have been raised to the imperial impulse from all corners of the American political stage. It would be interesting to know why, for example, the Democratic party, which enthusiastically supported Empire I under Jefferson, Jackson, and Polk, largely opposed Empire II [which included the acquisition of Caribbean and Pacific real estate after the Civil War].

That would be, I think, primarily due to the Democracy’s traditional pretensions to being the party of white yeoman supremacy — claims that were much more plausible as an excuse for continental expansion than as an excuse for, say, colonizing the Philippines or acquiring Cuba. Before the party foundered in the 1850s on the question of extending slavery into the territories, it could always defend the acquisition of new land (Louisiana, Florida, Oregon, etc.) in terms of gunfighter/settler mythology. That is, Western lands could be idealized as vacant — and thus a source for agrarian fantasies — while being temporarily occupied by people who required extermination or expulsion. Through the 1840s, Democratic expansionists insisted that such gains would be (a) consistent with the proper fulfillment of national destiny and, thus, (b) egalitarian in their economic and social consequences.

That illusion was strained, first by the debate over the annexation of Texas and then by the aftermath of the Mexican War, the latter of which proved to many Northern Democrats that the gains of that war amounted to a land grab for the slavocracy. When representatives of the execrable Franklin Pierce sought to acquire Cuba, and when pro-South mercenaries organized an array of filibustering schemes to take land in Central and South America, the cause of overseas expansion was firmly associated with the ominous designs of the Slave Power. No one pretended that Cuba or segments of Nicaragua, for example, would play host free white American farmers; these were to be plantation aristocracies and nothing more. The cultural mythology of the antebellum Democracy, then, had no place in these plans.

After the Civil War, there were a variety of concerns that fed Democratic opposition to the (generally) Republican-led efforts to widen the American imperium. It didn’t help that Republicans retained their commitment to high tariffs, which Democrats tended to oppose, and it didn’t help that the party of “Free Soil, Free Labor, and Free Men” had matured into the instrument of Big Business. Quite simply, Democrats (and a variety of insurgent populists) were skeptical of Republican notions of a global American presence, because they couldn’t imagine Republicans would structure such a system to their benefit.

It also didn’t help that many Republicans were proposing to “civilize” — and potentially absorb as citizens — millions of non-white peoples whom most white Americans were unwilling to acknowledge as their peers. (Then again, even Republican voices could be heard arguing against further “amalgamation,” for the same reasons they tacitly accepted segregation ; The Nation, for instance, argued against Hawaiian annexation because it would only feed racists’ “inextinguishable passion” for blood.) For Southern Democrats especially, the ideology of the “white man’s burden” posed a challenge to the ideology of Jim Crow; they weren’t completely incompatible species of white supremacy, but neither were they easily combined into a bipartisan rationale for imperialism.

Anyhow, Nugent’s book seems worth a read. As does Howe’s, of course….

An Angry Rant that I Can Get Behind

[ 18 ] July 25, 2008 |

First, check out this angry rant against the United States Air Force.

It’s a rant that I can appreciate for obvious reasons, but the ranter also makes some very solid points; the criteria by which Air Force officers move up the chain of command appear to be different than those of the other services (or at least most branches of other services), and these differences are consequential for development of leadership potential. As such, leadership of the service might well suffer relative to the Army and Navy. I think it’s an empirical question as to whether Air Force leadership is actually worse than Army or Navy leadership, but I’ve read a lot of anecdotes along these lines, and the theory makes intuitive sense.

The argument here is different from my own case against the Air Force, which concentrates instead on problems presented by the Air Force’s structural position within the national security bureaucracy. However, I would say that the case made here is consistent with the argument I’m making; if we conceived of the Air Force as part of a military organization geared towards the realization of combined arms victory, rather than as its own independent entity, then problems associated with the promotion of technical experts (fighter pilots) to leadership positions wouldn’t be as significant. I also have to wonder how much the victory of the fighter faction over the bomber faction has made a difference regarding the quality of Air Force leadership. I tend to think that the bomber faction has a wrongheaded and destructive approach to theorization of strategic warfare, but at least it has a firm grasp on the idea that the use of military force ought to be geared toward political outcome. I’m not sure that’s the case for the fighter faction; air superiority is a operational, not strategic concept, and ground attack a tactical, not strategic mission. The argument made by the poster at Op-For would seem to back this conclusion up.

Anyway, like I said; it’s a rant worth reading.

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