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The Winger Cliche Machine

[ 7 ] September 22, 2014 |

Andy McCarthy is amazing:

At National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy criticized “tendentious ‘sports journalists,’ the majority of whom are decidedly left of center, are much less guarded about their hostility to conservatives than their fellow progressives on the political beat.” He gave exactly one example of this: ESPN allowed its own correspondent, Kate Fagan, to speak on the issue. (Fagan also writes for espnW, which McCarthy told us is “where the network focuses on women in sports and, seamlessly, on political and social matters that the Left has successfully branded ‘women’s issues.’”)

Fagan, as the taped interview shows, said the issue was bigger than Ray Rice, and she wanted the NFL to “throw the kitchen sink at domestic violence,” which meant in her opinion going into schools and “talking to young men about dealing with anger about how they treat women: I think that’s where you’re going to see change… going into the school systems and the younger spaces and really reprogramming how we raise men.”

This McCarthy took to mean that “boys would be instructed that differentiating men from women breeds domestic violence,” and that was “how radical ideas — like the Left’s war on boys — get mainstreamed.” He proposed instead that we focus on “the breakdown of the family, the scorn heaped on chivalry, the disappearance of manners, and the general coarsening of our society that result from relentless progressive attacks on traditional values and institutions.” If only boys opened doors for girls again, there’d be no need for this reprogramming! (Other key phrases in McCarthy’s column: “the Obama Left’s agenda,” “ACORN,” “Al Sharpton’s National Action Network,” and “Alinsky-style community organizing.”)

Docked a notch for not mentioning Bill Ayers. Admittedly, the idea that there was no violence against women when patriarchal chivalry was stronger deserves no better than McCarthy’s prose.

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Henley

[ 0 ] September 21, 2014 |

Jim Henley needs our help.

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The Week In Gregg Easterbrook

[ 28 ] September 21, 2014 |

Magary has already spotted Easterbrook’s argument that a banal last-minute kneel-down “was the most exciting NCAA play TMQ has seen in years.” Amazingly, I don’t even think that was the most ridiculous thing in the column this week. For example:

Then there’s Kaepernick. He is a gifted athlete who has an engaging personal story, and he looks great naked. (In consecutive offseasons, Kaepernick has stripped to pose for magazine covers.) But increasingly it seems he is in over his head as an NFL quarterback.

The nude photograph thing speaks for itself (particularly given the amount of space Easterbrook has spent thigh-rubbing about cheerleaders over the years.) On the football point…in over his head? Look, Kaepernick didn’t have a great game last week, and he makes some of the mistakes one would expect of a young QB. Yes, challenging Richard Sherman on first down with the conference championship game on the line wasn’t a great decision. But we should also remember that he was one throw away from a road win against a team that humiliated one of the greatest QBs in league history on a neutral field two weeks later. He was a top-10 QB last year, and he’s been above-average this year. He’s very good.

Things get worse!

Latest Nutty Sports Contract: Over the weekend Robert Quinn signed a mega extension with about $41 million guaranteed. The Rams want to lock him up, contractually speaking, because he was second in sacks in 2013. But Les Mouflons were mediocre on defense in 2013, and since the start of that season, have allowed at least 30 points on six occasions. If Quinn is a franchise-quality defender, why is the St. Louis defense unimpressive?

Well, first of all, the Rams had the 11th best defense in the league last year and the 7th best in 2012, so the empirical basis for the claim is erroneous. Nobody paid to write about the NFL should use “arbitrary number of games with X points allowed” as a metric, not least because a team’s offense is highly relevant to how many points a team allows. But even if the Rams did have a mediocre defense, so what? Houston had a below-average defense last year; does that mean J.J. Watt isn’t a “franchise player”? The 1983 Giants allowed an above-average number of points-per-game, so that means Lawrence Taylor wasn’t a franchise player? Or maybe in a team player even great players can play on mediocre teams? And this point is entirely obvious? Ye Gods. This is “Jon Hunstman could still surprise you!” level stuff.

Still relevant.

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Mariota

[ 10 ] September 21, 2014 |

I struggle to stay awake past eleven, so watching the Ducks 7:30 PDT start was a struggle even for a dire fanatic such as myself.  I think the fact of the late start, combined with the fact that the Ducks struggled to put the Cougars away, is obscuring just how remarkable of a game Marcus Mariota played.  Despite being sacked seven times, he went 21 for 25 with five touchdowns, and ran for 58 yards on 13 carries.

Hell of a performance.

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Cuban Sci-Fi

[ 214 ] September 20, 2014 |

I dislike science fiction as a genre. While there are a couple of science fiction films I do like, they are not of the norm of the genre (Solaris, La Jetée) and I simply don’t have time for reading science fiction because I find the entire genre uninteresting.

That said, I am very interested in Cuban culture and so this article on science fiction in Cuba is quite interesting and given the interests of many commenters here, I figured it would be a good subject to share on a Saturday night.

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Vaccinations

[ 146 ] September 20, 2014 |

It’s amazing how many stupid lies about children’s health parents believe these days. Get your kids vaccinated for christ’s sake.

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Quoth the Ravens, “We Didn’t Know Nothin’”

[ 68 ] September 20, 2014 |

A really superb piece of reporting by ESPN on the Rice coverup. The Ravens brass always knew exactly what Rice did:

But sources both affiliated and unaffiliated with the team tell “Outside the Lines” a different story: The Ravens’ head of security, Sanders, heard a detailed description of the inside-elevator scene within hours and shared it with Ravens officials in Baltimore.

Goodell has been steadfast that no one in the NFL had seen the inside-elevator video until Sept. 8, the same day the public did. Both the team and the league presumably had a copy of the police report: Ray and Janay were arrested shortly before 3 a.m. on Feb. 15 and charged with simple assault. Rice was accused of “assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to J. Palmer, specifically by striking her with his hand, rendering her unconscious, at the Revel Casino,” the police report says. (Janay’s charges would later be dropped.)

But within hours of the elevator attack, an employee of the Ravens was describing the inside-elevator video to friends in graphic detail, telling confidants that Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a punch and that the video was “really bad,” according to a source close to a Ravens official.

It’s also very likely that the team was involved in spreading “it’s out there” victim-blaming nonsense in the Baltimore media despite knowing exactly what happened, but at the very least they allowed it to stand uncorrected.

If top NFL and Ravens execs didn’t personally see the tape, it’s because they didn’t want to know the contents:

Ultimately, on April 1, the Revel, under subpoena, provided Diamondstein with a copy, and he received the same copy from prosecutors on April 5. By phone, Diamondstein told Cass that the video was “f—ing horrible” and that it was clear “Ray knocked her the f— out.” The lawyer advised Cass that the video, if released, would amount to a public relations disaster for the Ravens and for his client.

Cass listened carefully but never asked Diamondstein to provide the Ravens with a copy of the video — nor, for that matter, did anyone from the NFL ask Diamondstein for a copy, several sources say.

The rich get different justice:

Back in Atlantic County, New Jersey, Diamondstein was wrangling with prosecutors to get the pretrial intervention program for Rice. Initially, prosecutors rejected it as an option. But Diamondstein pressed, and, by early May, he had put together a package of nearly 30 letters of support, from Rice’s former Rutgers University coach Greg Schiano, friends and teammates, even one from Ashton Dean, an 8-year-old boy from Harford County, Maryland, who had a rare disease and for whom Rice had helped raise money. The leaders of the Ravens also wrote a letter on Rice’s behalf. In a letter to Diamondstein dated May 9, Cass, Newsome and Harbaugh extolled Rice’s contributions to the community, charities and his team.

Four days later, first assistant prosecutor Diane Ruberton signed off on the pretrial intervention program. And on May 20, Rice and his wife marched into the courtroom of Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio, who granted Rice’s entry into the diversionary program. If Rice completed the one-year program, including attending anger management classes, the court would dismiss the felony aggravated assault charge. The arrest would remain on Rice’s record, but without a conviction. PTI is an unusual result for defendants charged with aggravated assault in the third degree, defense lawyers and New Jersey domestic violence legal advocates say; less than 1 percent of all assault and aggravated assault cases in New Jersey are resolved by PTI, according to data obtained by “Outside the Lines.”

Multiple sources say that Goodell is lying about Rice lying to him:

Last week, Goodell told CBS News that, during the disciplinary meeting, Rice provided an “ambiguous” account of what had happened inside the elevator. And in its Sept. 12 letter justifying the indefinite suspension, the league said Rice’s account was “starkly different” from what was seen on the inside-elevator video. Four sources, however, told “Outside the Lines” that Rice gave Goodell a truthful account that he struck his fiancée. Furthermore, it would seem that if Rice had given an “ambiguous” account, sources say Goodell had even more incentive to try to obtain a copy of the in-elevator video to clear up any lingering questions. But he did not do that. “For you not to have seen the video is inexcusable,” a league source told “Outside the Lines.” “Because everybody was under the impression that you had.”

A particular problem since this is the basis for giving Rice punishment beyond the maximum Goodell thinks first offenses for domestic violence merit.

At least one promiment Ravens employee has a moral compass:

Although the grainy video did not show what had happened behind the elevator’s doors, the images horrified Ravens coach John Harbaugh, according to four sources inside and outside the organization. The Super Bowl-winning coach urged his bosses to release Rice immediately, especially if the team had evidence Rice had thrown a punch. That opinion was shared by George Kokinis, the Baltimore director of player personnel, according to a fifth source outside the organization but familiar with the team’s thinking.

But Harbaugh’s recommendation to cut the six-year veteran running back was quickly rejected by Ravens management: owner Bisciotti, team president Cass and GM Newsome.

But read the whole etc. — plenty more first-rate reporting. (You will be shocked, I’m sure, to discover that John Mara is one of Goodell’s closest allies.)

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More on Police Unionism and Police Militarization

[ 46 ] September 20, 2014 |

An interesting conversation developed in my post from a couple of days ago on police unions and militarization. Unfortunately, a lot of it came down to what I see very often, which is people on the left supporting unionism in principle but then, when those workers take a position that these people don’t agree with, stripping them of their bargaining rights becomes the answer. The left appropriating anti-union right-wing rhetoric on workers they don’t like is not a good idea, whether BART strikers in San Francisco or police officers’ unions that take positions today’s progressives don’t like.

Joseph Slater had a couple of comments that I think are an important pushback against these ideas. Slightly edited, I want to present them in a front page post:

As someone who has paid a lot of attention to this area over the past few decades, a few observations.

(1) As Hogan at least implied, barring collective bargaining for police would not get rid of police unions or police union political activity. There is a First Amendment right for police officers (and most other public employees) to form unions and act as political advocates. Indeed, in states which don’t permit police to bargain collectively (and there are a number of those, because the First Amendment right to organize into unions does not extend to a right to bargain collectively), police unions still do lobby, often effectively.

(2) Speaking of the fact that a number of states do not permit police to bargain collectively, opponents of police collective bargaining might want to produce some evidence that police behavior, either on the ground or in politics, is “worse” (by their standards) in states that permit collective bargaining than in states that don’t permit collective bargaining: e.g., that the police in South Carolina and Virginia (where collective bargaining is prohibited) are doing better (by the lights of critics) than the police in Iowa and New Hampshire (where the police have collective bargaining rights). I’m not sure such a case could be made, but if you want to take away collective bargaining rights, you should be able to show how things are better where such rights don’t exist.

(3) The concern that police oppose, say, civilian review boards is addressed in public-sector labor law by consistent rules that limit the scope of bargaining for police about such issues. Public-sector labor laws routinely prohibit police unions from bargaining over civilian review boards, use-of-deadly-force rules, and similar policies that clearly affect the public interest. For example, there is a big case out of California on use-of-deadly-force policies squarely holding that police unions can’t negotiate about that topic.

(4) As others have said, critics of police unions seem to put a lot of faith in police management, which seems oddly misplaced in the context of “use of force” issues. It’s also oddly misplaced in the context of basic worker-rights issues, such as unjust discipline, abuse of overtime, and other basic workers-rights issues.

Bottom line / tl;dnr version: cops have interests *as workers* but society has an interest in restraints on the use of force by officers of the state. Collective-bargaining laws balance these interests by limiting what topics police can bargain about. Also, though, eliminating collective bargaining rights will not eliminate the rights of police officers to form unions and lobby for their goals.

One other point worth mentioning. Per Missouri state law, police unions in that state do *not* have the sorts of collective bargaining rights that police unions in most other states enjoy. So the problems in Ferguson — from over-militarization to plain old excessive force — are not attributable to union collective bargain rights.

I completely agree.

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Work and Food Writing

[ 24 ] September 20, 2014 |

So this is kind of an interesting story about a big hop farm in Idaho. I read it because I like beer. But I also read it to see how work is discussed. And of course, it is discussed only in the most passing way. See here:

At the height of the picking season, which starts in September, hundreds of workers tend to the hops. During this year’s harvest, the picking combines and the massive kilns used for drying will operate 24 hours a day. These are boom times and Elk Mountain is thriving.

The farm’s business hasn’t always been so good. Just a couple of years ago, Elk Mountain was in trouble. In the 2000s, a global hop surplus led to brewers such as Anheuser-Busch, which started the farm in 1987, stockpiling excess hop pellets. They simply didn’t need any more hops. In the spring of 2010, Elk Mountain’s farmers had to rip out all but 70 acres of their hops rather than maintain a crop that wouldn’t be used. For people who had spent their whole adult lives growing hops, times were hard. No one had seen this coming.

Hundreds of workers. Who are these workers? Are they hop workers full-time? What are the conditions of labor on this farm? None of this is known. We can assume, and almost certainly correctly, that these are migrant workers, probably undocumented.

Does it matter for a post about a hop farm? Yes and no. The point of the piece is to talk about a giant hop farm. Yet I think it rather unfortunate to talk about workers in food as strictly background characters, effectively machines that we don’t have to think about in the process of creating our beer. But we know almost nothing of the labor that goes into our beer, whether it be Miller or our favorite local microbrew. What that labor looks like, who gets paid what, what the working conditions are in those hop farms and breweries–these are really important questions that need to matter–especially to self-described foodies who hope for some level of sustainable production. For no food system is sustainable that does not treat workers with respect.

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Jeter

[ 112 ] September 19, 2014 |

In the wake of the Gatorade ad, this is more my kind of Derek Jeter story.

….From a comment of mine below that explains this:

The point in linking to this was quite simple–an antidote to Jeter-love. Is it crude? Of course. Does it matter in any meaningful way? Of course not. Is it bullshit? Yeah, sure. Is it beneath me? Nothing is beneath me. That should be perfectly clear in September 2014.

On the other hand, it is also part of a larger project I think is important–which is to crush the idea of heroism, something that has never served a society well. Now, Derek Jeter, a marginal to slightly above average HOF shortstop is hardly the worst case of this. It’s hardly his fault after all. But the absurdity of Jeter-love this year, personified in that ridiculous Gatorade ad but infecting the entire season, is something that has tried to place him as almost super-human, a personification of what generations have wanted baseball players to be. So to bring that down to earth a bit, well, that’s what I am doing here.

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So You Want to Steal a Frigate?

[ 92 ] September 19, 2014 |

In my latest at the Diplomat, I work through some of the details of the script of Ocean’s 14: Danny Joins Al Qaeda:

Ships are hard to steal in real life, but we do have a few examples. The crews of two Brazilian dreadnoughts mutinied in 1910, threatening to turn their guns on Rio De Janiero before giving up. In 1931 the Chilean Navy mutinied, with crews seizing ships and dockyard areas for about a week. Also in 1931, the Invergordon Mutiny briefly took control of four Royal Navy battleships. The Russian Navy, of course, suffered several mutinies in the early twentieth century.

Fictional thefts have enjoyed more success. In The Hunt for Red October, a small cadre of treasonous officers manages to steal a nuclear ballistic missile submarine. In Crimson Tide, the act is repeated under somewhat different circumstances.  In Under Siege and again in Battleship, small groups with inside knowledge manage to steal the USS Missouri.  In Star Trek III (oddly, probably the plot most similar to that of the Pakistani effort), a group of five officers orchestrates the theft of a Federation starship.

And so people have imagined stealing ships, and people have successfully stolen ships.  With this in mind, how outlandish was the Al Qaeda plot to seize a Pakistani frigate and use it to attack U.S. warships? How hard is it to steal, and operate, a modern warship? After discussing the question with several naval professionals, the short answers seem to be: It depends, and it depends, but under any circumstances hijacking a warship would prove almost absurdly difficult.

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When Challenging the Expertise of Others, It’s Preferable To Be At Least Minimally Informed

[ 48 ] September 19, 2014 |

K.C. Johnson kinda sorta defends Steven Salaita’s academic freedom, but things go quickly off the rails:

The Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois continues to engender controversy. The three most perceptive commentaries came from FIRE and Steven Lubet. In comments with which I entirely agree, FIRE condemned the public statement of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise, who justified the revocation of Salaita’s offer on the grounds “we cannot and will not tolerate . . . personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse . . . viewpoints themselves.” But why, as FIRE noted, should anyone be prohibited from “disrespectfully” “abusing” ideas”—such as racism or sexism or homophobia? Lubet analyzed the differences between Salaita’s academic freedom and legal claims, and correctly took to task a group of mostly left-of-center law professors who penned a letter defending Salaita but in the process minimized or even whitewashed Salaita’s extremist views. He spoke of his own experience with the ACLU defending the Nazis’ right to march at Skokie—but added that “the ACLU never soft-pedaled the Nazis as merely passionate critics of international banking.”

To argue that Salaita shouldn’t have been fired but his comments are more offensive than some of his defenders claim is, as far as it goes, a perfectly defensible position. The Lubet op-ed Johnson uncritically cites on this point, however, is a disaster. Lubet’s point about “whitewashing” Salaita is supported by three tweets, and he completely botches two of them:

That brings us to the political dimension, where Salaita’s position is weakest of all. Many of Salaita’s supporters have been unfortunately eager to obscure the true nature of his tweets, usually by calling him a passionate supporter of Palestinian rights who reacted strongly to recent events in Gaza. That does not begin to tell the whole story. Salaita’s demeaning comments about Israelis and Jews predate the current fighting, and they go far beyond the bounds of civil, or even passionate, discourse. For example, Salaita celebrated the kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of three Israeli teenagers and proudly called for more such crimes to be committed: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.” He once retweeted a vile suggestion that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg ought to get “the pointy end of a shiv.”

Salaita also traffics in anti-Semitism, having tweeted: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” It should go without saying that racism — toward any group, for any reason — is never honorable, despite Salaita’s own indulgence of bigotry. Even bigots, of course, are entitled to academic freedom, but Salaita’s supporters have been regrettably disingenuous. A committee of the Illinois AAUP, for example, argued that Salaita had merely made “an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East.” This is manifestly untrue. Salaita has not called for an end to violence against Israelis. Quite the contrary, he has reveled in it.

The tweet about settlers, as I’ve said, is completely indefensible. But the Goldberg re-tweet — and, let’s repeat, re-tweet — did not say that “Jeffrey Goldberg” should end up “at the pointy of shiv,” but that his story should be. That’s a huge difference, particularly in a context in which UIUC apolgists like Cary Nelson are trying to argue that the re-tweet was a literal incitement to violence. And reading the “since 1948″ tweet as anti-Semitic makes little sense even in isolation and is transparently wrong in any kind of context. So well it might be true that some people are minimizing the offensiveness of Salaita’s tweets — although I still don’t know who this might be because no specific examples of minimization are cited — we can say that Lubet and Johnson are substantially exaggerating them. The fact that Johnson is not sufficiently informed enough about the case to spot Lubet’s howlers is not encouraging.

Johnson, however, does not let his ignorance about basic facts get in the way of making much larger claims. Johnson attempts to argue that Salaita is unqualified and was hired for solely political reasons. Much of his post is taken up, however, involves a running out the clock by returning to Ward Churchill. An extensive LGM investigation has determined, however, that Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita are different people, and so the former’s plagiarism says less than nothing about the academic work of another scholar hired by another department. When we finally get to the evidence about Salaita’s alleged lack of qualifications, we can see why Johnson decided to run out the clock discussion a decade-old reactionary cause celebre — he’s got nothing:

Salaita was hired for a position in an American Indian studies program. His academic specialization, to the extent it can be called that, appears to be Middle Eastern or Arab-American studies. (His last book was entitled, Israel’s Dead Soul). As the Kramer excerpt illustrated, it can be hard sometimes to distinguish between the quality, tone, and substance of Salaita’s “scholarship” and that of his tweets. Subsequent work by David Bernstein (examining some of Salaita’s book reviews) and Liel Liebovitz (discussing some of Salaita’s “academic” publications) reinforces the concern with the quality of his work.

So we have two sources cited to support the claim that Salaita was unqualified. The first is a discussion not of his scholarship but his Goodreads book reviews. So we can ignore this entirely, while pondering the extent to which Johnson is insulting the intelligence of his readers. The second we’ve been through in far more detail than it merited. To summarize, it was not a review of Salaita’s scholarship as a whole but a review of one of his books, a collection of essays written for a general audience and hence not where you’d begin. And the reviewer had already determined that Salaita was unqualified based on on a tendentious-at-best reading of his Twitter feed, so I’m not inclined to take his word even about the merits of this one book.

The fact that Johnson uses this pathetically weak evidence to attack not only Salaita’s qualifications but the value of an entire field puts is reminiscent of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s dismissal of African American Studies based on titles of dissertations she hadn’t read. Johnson, natch, defended Riley, and is still using similar techniques to issue broad attacks on fields of scholarship he knows virtually nothing about. I have no idea if Salaita was the best candidate for the position or not, but Johnson has given me less than no reason not to defer to actual experts in the field who are actually familiar with Salaita’s work.

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