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Archive for November, 2010

NEWSFLASH: John McCain Says Nothing of Interest on North Korea

[ 17 ] November 28, 2010 |


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling for “regime change” in North Korea – and blames the recent crisis on the failings of Pyongyang’s lone international supporter, China.

“It’s time we talked about regime change in North Korea – and I do not mean military action – but I do believe that this is a very unstable regime,” McCain told Candy Crowley Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”.

“They are now passing on from the “Dear Leader” to the “Sweet Leader,” a 27-year-old four-star general.”

McCain, in his first appearance on the show, lit into Beijing, while tepidly endorsing China’s plan for emergency multi-party talks.

That’s… deeply enlightening. I’m not sure what “regime change” means in policy terms outside the context of military action, but I’m guessing that it involves basing future actions on the assumption that the North Korean regime will fall, and that achieving a major diplomatic accord with Pyongyang should effectively be postponed beyond that date. As I suggested earlier, as a realistic prediction about the future of US relations with North Korea, this argument is probably sound; the US has operated with a de facto assumption about North Korea’s limited lifespan since roughly 1989. I hasten to add that proceeding on the assumption that the North Korean regime would either collapse or wither of its own accord wasn’t wholly irrational, given the events of 1989 and the slow-motion moderation of the Chinese and Vietnamese regimes. Nevertheless, the assumption has made serious diplomatic accomodation with North Korea an exceedingly low probability event.

The idea that your counterpart will be dead in a couple of years tends to put a damper on the negotiating process.   Operating under such an assumption probably doesn’t help those within North Korea who would favor a China/Vietnam style moderation and slow reform.  However, elements particular to the North Korean situation, primarily the existence of wildly successful alternative model of Korean nationalism next door, may have ingrained paranoia into the North Korean security state absent any US contribution.


Libyan Uranium

[ 8 ] November 27, 2010 |

One lesson I take from this is the US-Russian cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation is altogether a good thing:

In November 2009, six years after the government of Libya first agreed to disarm its nuclear weapons program, Libyan nuclear workers wheeled the last of their country’s highly enriched uranium out in front of the Tajoura nuclear facility, just east of Tripoli. U.S. and Russian officials overseeing Libya’s disarmament began preparations to ship this final batch of weapons-grade nuclear material to Russia, where it would be treated and destroyed.

The plan was to load the uranium onto a massive Russian cargo plane, one of the few in the world specially equipped to fly nuclear materials. On November 20, the day before the plane was to leave for a nuclear facility in Russia, Libyan officials unexpectedly halted the shipment. Without explanation, they declared that the uranium would not be permitted to leave Libya. They left the seven five-ton casks out in the open and under light guard, vulnerable to theft by the al-Qaeda factions that still operate in the region or by any rogue government that learned of their presence.

For one month and one day, U.S. and Russian diplomats negotiated with Libya for the uranium to be released and flown out of the country. At the same time, engineers from both countries worked to secure the nuclear material from theft or leakage, two serious dangers that became more likely the longer the casks sat exposed. On December 21, Libya finally allowed a Russian plane to remove the casks, ending Libya’s nuclear weapons program and with it the low-grade game of nuclear blackmail they had been playing.

Read the rest. The downside of letting the hacks at the Heritage Foundation call the tune on GOP nuclear policy is that relatively small, little known moments like this become precarious. Pretending that we can dictate to Russia, and that Moscow’s preferences matter for naught, is extraordinarily dangerous.


[ 32 ] November 27, 2010 |

All Wikileaks has to do is claim it’s about to release a bunch of documents, and the world jumps.

In Retrospect, the Happiest Person in the World Over Alabama’s Choke Against Auburn

[ 9 ] November 27, 2010 |

Kyle Brotzman.

I also note that any Scott Norwood comparisons would be egregiously unfair…to Norwood.

Sentiment Appreciated

[ 19 ] November 26, 2010 |

Well, this is unfortunate…

Via Chet.

Is there texting in this class?

[ 72 ] November 26, 2010 |

When I read articles like the one Margaret Soltan linked to about texting in class, I can’t help but be thankful that I once took—and took to heart what I learned in—a course on feminist pedagogy. I’m not going to address whether I consider circling up my students a challenge to patriarchal devaluations of “space” and “emptiness” as indicative of the “lack” and “void” of femaleness, because there’s too much psychoanalytic clutter in both the theories of how repression works and how it can be resisted; instead, I’ll focus on the simple fact that a modified circle presents more opportunities to hold students accountable for their classroom behavior. I write “modified” because the visual nature of my material requires regular use of a projection system, meaning my students arrange themselves in a horseshoe and I move between the lectern at the left heel and an adjacent desk.

Point being, there are very few moments when everyone, myself included, can’t see what everyone else in the class is doing. Of course, I teach a small writing class in which such mutual surveillance of the sort is possible, whereas the classes in which texting has become a problem are more likely to be like those of

Laurence Thomas, a popular philosophy professor whose courses have waiting lists, [who] walked out on his class of nearly 400 students last week when he caught a couple of students fiddling with their phones instead of paying attention to him.

It’s impossible to police 400 students, and I admire the fact that Dr. Thomas is not only paying attention, but that he cares enough to walk out of his class. I have a feeling the same can’t be said of those who teach, for example, similarly large “lectures” consisting of canned PowerPoints from textbook companies. The students have no incentive not to text, because the material on the screen is identical to the material in their outrageously expensive textbooks. No synergy happens in that room—the material is not re-purposed by an expert in ways that illuminate confusing passages in the book—it is simply repeated in a bullet format that oversimplifies the material’s complexity. But I’m here to talk about how to discourage students from texting in class, not complain about the cookie-cutter education so many students are receiving.

I’m not sure it works in larger classes, but in my horseshoe of a classroom, all it takes to discourage texting is to ask them to do a little visualization:

Imagine that you are in a room full of people, each and every one of whom can see you. Picture yourself slipping your hands beneath your desk and placing them between your legs. Now, as your hands start to dance and your arms and shoulders gently flex, I want you to look at your face, the way your eyes shift from your crotch and then up, to your left and your right, then back to your crotch. I want you to focus on that shifty look, that look that says, “I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing, in a place where doing so is inappropriate.” Look around the room, now, and ask yourself: “What exactly do you think your classmates thought you were doing there?”

Everyone giggles without needing to hear the punchline, but here’s the best part of it: the first time someone in the room tries to text, their classmates giggle again; and again; and again; and again. The punchline becomes a good-natured, self-policing policy—so much so that I once had a student come up to me before class and ask to be allowed to keep his self-phone on, as he was expecting an important text from a family member. As with cheating, I can’t be 100 percent positive that no texting occurs during my class, but at the very least I’ve created an environment that’s hostile to the practice.

By walking out, Dr. Thomas did the same, which is why I’m tipping my hat to him here.

“Murderer’s Row” Was the Nickname Given to the Lineup of the 2010 Mariners, Right?

[ 34 ] November 26, 2010 |

Shorter Verbatim OSU president Gordon Gee: “it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.”

Among the powerhouses played by OSU this year (Sagarin ranking):

  • Marshall (109)
  • Eastern Michigan (167, better than North Dakota but below such perennial powers as Central Connecticut and Maine.)
  • Ohio (75)
  • Purdue (86)
  • Indiana (105)
  • Minnesota (104)

Reasonable people can disagree about whether Boise State merits a BCS bid if it runs the table.   But for the president of a school in an overrated, past-its-prime conference that rarely schedules decent out-of-conference opposition to complain about his impossible competition, give me a break.    I, for one, have seen more than enough of Ohio State in national championship games; I’m sure Boisie can do at least as good a job at getting its ass kicked all over the field as the Buckeyes.

Annual Post Arguing That Thanksgiving Does Not Require Bland Food

[ 36 ] November 25, 2010 |

Ron Rosenbaum provides some new content:

White meat turkey has no taste. Its slabs of dry, fibrous material are more like cardboard conveyances, useful only for transporting flavorsome food like stuffing and gravy from plate to mouth. It’s less a foodstuff than a turkey app, simulated meat, a hyperlink to real food.

But since I do indeed respect Thanksgiving traditions, I will also link to Calvin Trillin. Here: a simplified version of Thomas Keller’s beef bourguignon.

Happy Thanksgiving!

[ 3 ] November 25, 2010 |

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers from everyone at LGM, except for Scott who has a bad attitude about turkey and is Canadian in any case.

He’s #1!

[ 41 ] November 24, 2010 |

Hard to argue with Cohen, although Halperin and Freidman sure do make it tough.

Liberal McCarthyism

[ 20 ] November 24, 2010 |

I have to agree with Greenwald that this would-be smearing of John Tyner is an embarrassment. The basic thrust of the article is to invoke “Koch” the way wingers invoke “Soros” — to preemptively discredit any critic whether or not there’s any actual direct connection and without engagement on the merits. In addition, the personal details couldn’t be less damning. Indeed, his relatively consistent libertarianism makes him a far more credible critic of the TSA practices than conservatives who criticize the new TSA procedures (which might affect them!) as a respite from cheerleading arbitrary, illegal torture performed by the executive branch.

Bad “Intelligence”

[ 18 ] November 24, 2010 |

Blake Hounshell rips on NATO for only now figuring out that the high-ranking Taliban leader with with whom they had been in negotiations over the future of the country was an impostor:

How embarrassing. If only they’d looked out for these 10 ways of telling the true Talib from the con man, we wouldn’t be in this mess:

10. Keeps asking if the peace talks can be held in the Maldives

9. Eyepatch switches sides from meeting to meeting

8. Introduces himself as “Colonel Iqbal from the ISI”

7. Runs up a large minibar tab at the Four Seasons Kabul

6. Wife angling for a spot on “The Real Housewives of Kandahar”

5. Claims to be texting Mullah Omar but is actually just playing Angry Birds the whole time

4. Offers to settle Afghan War with a game of Jenga

3. Turban made of an actual towel

2. Wears trench coat, offers to sell the letters O and U

1. Agrees to trade Osama bin Laden for Justin Bieber

At La Riposte, the Editor doesn’t think it’s funny: Read more…

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