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Archive for December, 2012

New Year’s Eve & the Aesthetics of Trying Too Hard

[ 148 ] December 31, 2012 |

New Year’s Eve is the most overrated of holidays. Nothing squelches a potential good time faster than the sense that one is obligated to have a good time, which is what New Year’s Eve feels like. This is an example of a more general phenomenon, which could be called Trying Too Hard, or TTH.

TTH can be fatal to the success of many otherwise worthwhile projects, and although I don’t have the inclination at the moment to develop a general theory of TTH, I’d like to throw out a few illustrative examples:

Finnegans Wake

Born To Run (song, not the album)



The Super Bowl

Compare Eric Clapton’s version of Little Wing to Jimi Hendrix’s.



LGM Year in Review

[ 15 ] December 31, 2012 |

Happy New Year! Stay safe!

2012 LGM in Numbers*:

Posts: 2723
Comments: 163,243
Visits: 3,934,352
Unique Visitors: 803,173
Pageviews: 7,459,130

Top Ten Posts of the Year:

  1. The Two American Flags (Loomis)
  2. Law School Applications are Collapsing (Campos)
  3. Oh, God (Noon)
  4. Obama’s the Only President Who’s Ever Bowed, Except for All the Others (Kaufman)
  5. Stupid or Lying: Wildly Overpaid Faculty Edition (Farley)
  6. The Radicalism (and Hackery) of the Health Care Cases Dissenters (Lemieux)
  7. I’ve Had Enough Of You Water-Drinking, Air-Breathing Urban Elitists (Lemieux)
  8. Third Party Nihilism: The Arguments Can Always Get Worse! (Lemieux)
  9. Keep Chuckin’ Those Facts! (Lemieux)
  10. White Man Date (Lemieux)

*All numbers according to either WordPress (posts, comments) or Google Analytics (all others)

I Didn’t Hear Nobody Pray

[ 5 ] December 31, 2012 |

Happy, safe, holiday, etc.

Seriously, no one wants your life to end up befitting a Roy Acuff song. That’s really never ended well for anyone.

Low Hanging Fruit of the Day: Sepp Blatter

[ 73 ] December 31, 2012 |

Blatter is critical of the MLS.  To wit:

But don’t forget that soccer — as they call football there — is the most popular game in the youth. It’s not American football or baseball; it is soccer. But there is no very strong professional league. There have just the M.L.S. But they have not these professional leagues that are recognized by the American society.

It is a question of time. I thought, when we had the World Cup in 1994. … But we are now in 2012 — it’s been 18 years — it should have been done now. But they are still struggling.

Consistent with previous form, Blatter is wrong. The MLS ranked eighth in Association Football leagues in average attendance according to most recent data. In a broader table of association football attendances, the MLS doesn’t look too bad:

1 Germany 45,179
2 England 34,601
3 Spain 30,275
4 Mexico 25,434
5 Italy 23,459
6 Netherlands 19,538
7 France 18,869
8 USA 18,807
9 China 18,740
10 Argentina 18,165
11 England II 17,738
12 Japan 17,566
13 Germany II 17,266
14 Brazil 14,976
15 Turkey 14,058
16 Scotland 13,861


For a league that has only completed 17 seasons, ranking eighth globally is not bad progress, certainly not “still struggling”.  By this measure, the Scottish league has been struggling since the formation of the SFL in 1890 (oh, hang on . . . ).  Some observations on these data include that the MLS ranks higher in average attendance to both the NHL (17,455 0) and NBA (17,274).  This places the MLS third among professional leagues in the USA (NFL: 67,538; MLB: 30,884), fourth among professional leagues in the US and Canada (Canadian Football League: 28,103), and fourth among all leagues in the US when the “amateur” NCAA Division 1 BCS is included (46,074).

This success has been achieved with a tedious “foreign” sport in a context with the established MLB (74,859,268 total attendance in 2011), NFL (17,124,389 / 67,538), and NCAA BCS (37,411,795 / 46,074), as well as the NHL (21,470,155 / 17,274), and NBA (17,100,861 / 17,274).

There are many ways to spin these numbers to make the MLS appear better or worse than it actually is, including pointing out that the average attendance of 18,807 is skewed by Seattle’s average 43,144 (the next four clubs are LA Galaxy and Montreal at 23K, Houston at 21K, Portland at 20K), but then Seattle’s attendance would rank sixth in the English Premier League’s current season, behind only Man U, Arsenal, Newcastle United, Man City, and Liverpool.  Notably, the entire MLS averages similar to the average for QPR in the current season.  While QPR will likely be relegated, their fans do get to see 19 better clubs come through.

One way we can’t spin these figures, however, is the way the perennially clueless Blatter did.  If the MLS is not a “very strong professional league”, then only the seven above it might qualify for “very strong”.  It’s certainly not “still struggling”.

Tight-Weak Is No Way To Negotiate With Republicans

[ 95 ] December 31, 2012 |

What Chait and Noah said about the deal that hopefully won’t happen. As always, it’s not that I’m opposed to any possible deal that makes concessions on tax rates, but I’m certainly opposed to concessions when the Republicans aren’t actually offering much of anything in return.

And, since apparently it can never be pointed out enough, I cannot endorse more strongly what Reeve says about the idea that $250K isn’t an upper-class income bracket. Again, living in a desirable urban area is something you’re getting with your money — if you want to use your high income for more vacations or ivory backscratchers move to the suburbs and put the kids in public school.

The One Good Decision the Jets Made

[ 61 ] December 31, 2012 |

It’s firing day in the NFL.  Since Tebow’s tenure with the Jets will also soon be over, I can’t resist pointing out that Ryan is being criticizied for one of the few smart things anyone in Jets management did this year — i.e. figuring out that Tim Tebow can’t play.  I’ve seen a similar argument elsewhere, but for old time’s sake let’s pick on Gregg Easterbrook:

Did Ryan bypass Tebow because he thinks McElroy can win, or because he fears Tebow can? The latter is more likely. Throughout the season, Ryan has been refusing calls to lift Sanchez for Tebow, who for all his throwing-mechanics faults led Denver to a playoff victory last season. If Tebow came in and won the final two Jersey/B games, fans would be livid: Snoopy Stadium would rock with chants of “Rex Must Go!” Ryan calculates his chance of holding his job would be greater if McElroy played and lost than if Tebow played and won.

There are two different ways Easterbrook could be wrong here. One interpretation is that Ryan is scared that Tebow could “win,” but (pace Easterbrook) this fear is perfectly rational and keeping with the interests of the Jets organization. In the second half the Jets played a lot of bad teams, and indeed overall their schedule was so weak that even with Sanchez being terrible they got 6 wins. But when the Jets eked out a narrow win over the Jaguars or Cardinals, everybody understood that this doesn’t indicate that Sanchez or McElroy are quality quarterbacks. Conversely, if the Jets had started Tebow and beaten the Titans 7-6 after a Titan fumbled an interception and the Jets returned it for a touchdown, to people like Easterbrook this would prove that Tebow JUST WINS FOOTBALL GAMES. This pressure interferes with the Jets’ ability to find a real QB going forward.

But I don’t think this is Easterbrook’s argument. I think his argument is that Tebow would give Jets a better chance of winning than Sanchez. And the problem is that this is almost certainly wrong. Tebow doesn’t just have “throwing-mechanics” issues; he has sub-replacement-level performance issues. But I especially like the Tebow/Sanchez comparison, because it proves that Easterbrook doesn’t take his own argument seriously. After all, if Tebow’s one good playoff game proves that he’s a winner, he still has to sit in favor of Sanchez, who has won four playoff games (all on the road!) And Sanchez was even OK in the two conference championship games his team lost, while without wildcard round MVP Dick Lebeau generously conceding Tebow the only kind of pass he can throw at an NFL level, Tebow was absolutely hopeless against an abysmal New England pass defense in the division round. Because Sanchez isn’t a celebrity Christian missionary nobody thinks that this history of playoff success makes him a QB you want starting for you in 2013, and yet Sanchez has clearly better credentials than Tebow in every respect.

The Supreme Court in 2012

[ 1 ] December 31, 2012 |

It could have been a lot worse, which these days is pretty much all you can ask for.

As long as the “conversation” about guns concerns hypotheticals about fictions …

[ 38 ] December 31, 2012 |

… I don’t see the harm in adding more fictions to the hypotheticals. Given that the opposition’s evidence is the “millions” of home-invasions that’ve been thwarted yearly, or most probably even hourly, by gun-savvy Common People Who Love The Constitution More Than Dirty Liberals Do, I don’t see why Dirty Liberals oughta restrict themselves to reality. And so:


Awful People

[ 73 ] December 31, 2012 |

It’s like 1990s-vintage Clinton derangement.   Generating a conspiracy theory from the Benghazi faux-scandal, a passel of wingers argued that Hillary Clinton was faking an illness. (Glenn Reynolds, needless to say, was in the lead.)

Clinton, as most of you now know, has a blood clot from her concussion and has been hospitalized.  Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

…As R. Porrofatto notes in comments, longtime Clinton conspiracy nut Ann Althouse would still like to subscribe to Charles Krauthammer’s newsletter.   And yet, she refuses to tell us whether the fake blood clot is related to the murder of Vince Foster or Bill Clinton’s massive drug-running operation!  We need answers, people!   Needless to say, it got her an Instapundit link.

Bleg: border-crossing rights

[ 45 ] December 30, 2012 |

Abusing the keys to the blog a bit here, but I thought I’d appeal to the substantial collective knowledge of our readership.

Another research project has piqued my interest in existing cases, historical and contemporary, in which particular groups (indigenous people, primarily) are granted international border crossing privileges by virtue of their membership in that group. Examples:

Indigenous peoples residing in the vicinity of the US/Canada border have extensive free passage rights and a right to reside in the country not of their citizenship, as outlined in the Jay Treaty (1794) and again in the Treaty of Ghent (1814).  More here.

On the US/Mexico border, no broad indigenous right of free passage exists. However, for at least some groups such arrangements have come to exist. The Kickapoo were chased out of the Great Lakes region and moved around for much of the 19th century, eventually settling in two locations: a federal territory created for them in Indian territory and some land granted to them by the Mexican government in Coahuila. The two groups maintained cultural, political and economic ties, and the INS informally granted the Kickapoo free and unfettered passage from the 1950’s on. That arrangement was eventually codified in the Kickapoo Band of Texas Act in 1983.

In 1751, the Stromstad treaty between Denmark and Sweden codified the boundary between the (then Danish) territory of Norway and Sweden. This law contained a “Lapp codicil,” which granted members of the Lapp people free passage rights across this border for the purposes of nomadic reindeer herding.

I’m looking for more examples of the phenomenon. I’d be interested in border crossing rights for indigenous peoples or other specific ethnic or national groups, whether achieved via international treaties, national legislation, and administrative practice.

Crying Wolf

[ 108 ] December 30, 2012 |

A couple people have asked about my reaction to Naomi Wolf’s latest assertions that crackdowns on Occupy were driven by the federal government. My reaction remains the same — i.e. she’s got absolutely nothing. If you look carefully, you’ll note that the sweeping claims aren’t backed up by any specific cites from the documents in question. And if you look at them, you’ll see why — there’s some description of planned Occupy protests followed by a lot of redacted material. None of what we can actually see remotely backs up Wolf’s claim that there was a “terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity.” Maybe the redacted material would show this, and maybe it would also show who killed the Lindbergh baby, but you can’t just assume that redacted material proves exactly what you’ve always believed it would show.

So, once again, there’s nothing but Wolf’s reactionary assumption that crackdowns on Occupy couldn’t possibly be the work of our benevolent local overlords acting alone but must have been directed by the big bad federal government. The argument hasn’t become any less bad or any more substantiated despite her new set of sweeping assertions.

The “War On Terror” Remains A War on the Fourth Amendment

[ 39 ] December 30, 2012 |


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is meant to allow the government to spy on suspected foreign agents abroad, but it is written in such a manner that it allows the government to snoop on conversations involving American citizens, as long as at least one end of the conversation involves a suspected agent of a foreign group overseas. But very few lawmakers know how the law works, or even have the staff with the necessary expertise or security clearances to figure out how it works. So when respected legislators like Feinstein take to the Senate floor to say that any changes would lead to more flaming buildings and American corpses, senators take it seriously. What this means, however, is that Congress just voted to approve a largely secret law it doesn’t really understand. In the Senate, they actually voted not to know what the law does by rejecting an amendment that would have made the government state how many Americans have been spied on without a warrant.

“Americans have no way of figuring out how their laws are being interpreted,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “We don’t expect the public to, in effect, just accept secret law.”

I also endorse most of what Greenwald says, although as usual with the quibble that when he says that the bipartisan consensus to give wide warrantless wiretapping discretion to the executive branch is an “Obama legacy,” he’s imagining an effectual civil libertarian opposition in Congress that has never actually existed.

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