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Today’s Drug Warrior Nonsense

[ 58 ] August 17, 2014 |

I’m generally a fan of Tyler Kepner, but yikes this is a really bad argument:

Alas, Steinbrenner acknowledged that Rodriguez would be back next season. No surprise there: Teams tend not to cut players to whom they owe $61 million for the next three years.

“I know my brother-in-law ran into him in the city, says he looks good, he’s fit,” Steinbrenner said. “You know Alex is a hard worker; Alex will be ready. We just have to go from there, see how he does and how he responds to playing every day in spring training.”

Rodriguez is a hard worker? Oh, please. His repeated reliance on performance-enhancing drugs shatters that myth. But this is the kind of nonsense we will hear, again and again, when Rodriguez takes over this team’s air space next spring.

This comes after a defense of the completely indefensible penalty given to A-Rod, natch. Being “insufferable” is apparently suffucient cause for imposing a punishment of more than three times what the collective bargaining agreement properly calls for.

Anyway, if you hate the use of PEDs in sports that’s your privilege, but the idea that because ARod took PEDs he’s therefore not a hard worker is absolutely absurd. Nobody becomes a 4.0 WAR player at age 35 by sitting on the couch eating Ho-Hos. This fallacy, though, I think is why so many sportswriters are completely freaked out by steroids in ways they aren’t freaked out by other forms of cheating (or, in the case of baseball players who used PEDs before the testing and punishment regime was collectively bargained, “cheating.”) They seem to believe that you can just take a pill or a shot and are magically transformed into a far better athlete. But that’s not how it works, at all. Indeed, perhaps the most important reason PEDs enhance performance is that they allow athletes to heal more quickly and hence train harder. They might enhance bang for the workout buck as well, but at the top level they’re not going to do anything for you if you’re not working extremely hard. The idea that one of the greatest athletes to play any American professional sport is a lazy bum because he took PEDs is silly and insulting.

If Kepner thinks that PED users are lazy, I would invite him to try to ride three legs of the Tour de France in successive days and then phone up Lance Armstrong and tell him he’s not a hard worker.

Academic Freedom For Me…

[ 104 ] August 16, 2014 |

You will be unsurprised that Glenn Reynolds has no problem with academics being fired for the political content of their Twitter feeds:

A FACULTY CANDIDATE WHO TALKED ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE THIS WAY WOULD BE UNEMPLOYABLE ANYWHERE. SAY IT ABOUT JEWS, THOUGH, AND IT’S CONTROVERSIAL. “Yet ad hominem attacks are also a BDS strategy that serves to silence opponents. Many faculty who believe the university made the right decision about Salaita are now unwilling to say so publicly.” BDS people have made clear by their actions that they are nasty antisemites who deserve no respect.

First of all, let us once again dispense with the silly idea that Salaitia was a mere “candidate,” despite having agreed to an offer and been scheduled to teach classes.  By this logic, he could have been teaching for a month and not been hired.  The trustee approval is pro forma; he was treated by the university as an employee, which he was.  The idea that he wasn’t fired is such vacuous formalism it would embarrass proponents of the Hilbig litigation.  He was fired.

So let’s consider another hypothetical.  What if someone said “something like that” about, say, Palestinians?  I happen to have a test case handy:

Note here that Reynolds isn’t talking about Hamas, or Palestinian terrorists; he’s talking about Palestinans as a group. The evidence alleging anti-Semitism in Salaita’s tweets is far more ambiguous. (Indeed, I don’t think they constitute evidence that Salaita is anti-Semitic at all, although some of the tweets are hateful and indefensible even if they are not anti-Semitic.) It is being asserted that Salaita retweeting a tweet saying that a reporter’s story — not the reporter, the story — should have ended at the “point of a shiv” is a firable offense. Reynolds has called for the literal, not metaphorical, murder of Iranian nuclear scientists.

My position at the time of the latter incident is that Reynolds could not be fired for his statements based on the principles of academic freedom, and that applies to his new disgusting tweets as well. Reynolds himself, however, is happy to benefit from these protections but does not want them extended to people he disagrees with, which is a disgrace.

…in comments, IB refers us to this excellent post from Michael Dorf:

Some​ supporters of the university’s decision point to the often-important distinction between firing and not hiring. Academic freedom, they point out, is mostly a matter of contract law, and because Salaita had not yet been formally hired by the University of Illinois, he was not entitled to the same protection as someone who was already a member of the faculty.

But that view appears to be false as a matter of contract law. Like many other states, Illinois law offers protection to people who, in reasonable reliance on an offer that falls short of a fully enforceable contract, take actions to their detriment. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this principle of “promissory estoppel” as recently as 2009, in the case of Newton Tractor Sales v. Kubota Tractor Corp.

Salaita has an almost-classic case of promissory estoppel. He was told by Illinois that trustee approval was essentially a rubber stamp, and in reliance on that representation he resigned from his prior position on the faculty of Virginia Tech.

REAL MEN Follow Illegal Orders Without Complaint

[ 26 ] August 15, 2014 |

Jesus Christ, what a pathetic operation Tucker Carlson is running.

It’s not easy to out-hack a Joe Scarbrough/Mike Allen tag team, but they did it.

Perry Indicted

[ 45 ] August 15, 2014 |

I’m as contemptuous of Perry as anyone, but this seems really thin.  To the extent that the statute reaches Perry’s behavior, itself kind of a stretch, it’s hard to see how the statute is consistent with the separation of powers established by the state constitution.

…more here.  And here.

Hacks of the Day

[ 125 ] August 14, 2014 |
  • Dylan Byers. What can you even say at this point?
  • Good point by Harold Pollock about the most offensive of Kevin Williamson’s recent offensive columns.  Even leaving aside the flagrant racism, the premise of the article is idiotic.  Yes, when Republicans were in charge of the state government East St. Louis was just like Paris!
  • Cary Nelson asserted last week that Steven Salita “had not received a contract.”  So the question is whether he was dissembling or pretending to know things he didn’t.  At any rate, what’s left of his argument is that retweeting someone’s metaphorical criticism of a pundit is a firable offense if it’s done to advance a political position Cary Nelson doesn’t like.  Whether this would leave any remaining content to the concept of “academic freedom” I leave to the reader.

The Militarized Police

[ 57 ] August 14, 2014 |

Serwer puts Ferguson in context:

These heavily armed men are part of a more recent tradition: the militarization of American police. They are, like domestic surveillance, weapons built to fight a faraway war turned homeward. Hands-up is how black people survive nonviolent protest in the era of what author Radley Balko calls the “warrior cop.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion in military equipment to local and state police through the 1033 program, first enacted in 1996 at the height of the so-called War on Drugs. The Department of Justice, according to the ACLU, “plays an important role in the militarization of the police” through its grant programs. It’s not that individual police officers are bad people – it’s that shifts in the American culture of policing encourages officers to ”think of the people they serve as enemies.”

Since 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged further militarization of police through federal funds for “terrorism prevention.” The armored vehicles, assault weapons, and body armor borne by the police in Ferguson are the fruit of turning police into soldiers. Training materials obtained by the ACLU encourage departments to “build the right mind-set in your troops” in order to thwart “terrorist plans to massacre our schoolchildren.” It is possible that, since 9/11, police militarization has massacred more American schoolchildren than any al-Qaida terrorist.

And this is only one critical component of the story; definitely read the whole thing.

Thursday Wednesday, Although Still Clickable Thursday, Links

[ 56 ] August 13, 2014 |

Speaking of the NYT Magazine

[ 19 ] August 13, 2014 |

Hacktacular! I especially like Draper’s assertion that he was citing the Pew data (that completely disproves the core assertion of his article) because Reason‘s advocacy polling was kinda sorta doing the same thing.

After This Strained Comparison, Ms. Dowd Was Put on the 60-Day DL

[ 71 ] August 13, 2014 |

Maureen Dowd, really:

As our interview ended, I was telling him about my friend Michael Kelly’s idea for a 1-900 number, not one to call Asian beauties or Swedish babes, but where you’d have an amorous chat with a repressed Irish woman. Williams delightedly riffed on the caricature, playing the role of an older Irish woman answering the sex line in a brusque brogue, ordering a horny caller to go to the devil with his impure thoughts and disgusting desire.

I couldn’t wait to play the tape for Kelly, who doubled over in laughter

So when I think of Williams, I think of [Michael] Kelly. And when I think of Kelly, I think of Hillary, because Michael was the first American reporter to die in the Iraq invasion, and Hillary Clinton was one of the 29 Democratic senators who voted to authorize that baloney war.

Let’s leave aside the nutty ethnic/gender politics, as much as they explain. I obviously have no problem with attacking Clinton on her Iraq War vote, particularly since she’s currently re-vindicating those of us who supported Obama in the 2008 primaries on foreign policy grounds. I’m not sure what it’s doing in a a Robin Williams remembrance, but whatever.

But Michael Kelly as a passive victim of the Iraq War? Really? Dowd is apparently hoping we’ve forgotten that Kelly was not merely a fanatical Iraq War supporter, but one of the most disgustingly jingoistic and demagogic ones. “That Kelly was brave in going to cover the combat,” Tom Scocca observes, “does not change the fact that he chose to be bold with other people’s lives.” Here, for example, is Kelly after Al Gore criticized the proposed invasion of Iraq:

Gore’s speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts — bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

The column goes on to call Gore an idiot for saying that Osama bin Laden and other architects of the 9/11 attacks remained at large while Bush was busy preparing an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. It must be read to be believed, although I don’t particularly recommend it. More here. I don’t wish death on anyone, but to pretend that Kelly was just a disinterested journalist rather than an influential proponent of the “baloney” Iraq War, please.

On a related note, I see that Dowd will now be writing for the NYT magazine. I assume her assignment will be to take over the “let’s do a point-by-point comparison of people with vaguely similar names” thing. (This week: Jean Vajean and Jean-Claude Van Damme! Are you laughing yet?) For virtually every writer in the world, including those who write obituaries, this assignment would make their writing less funny. But for Dowd, it would be exactly the right level in terms of both intellect and wit.

…see also. And here.

Standing Athwart History, Indeed

[ 142 ] August 12, 2014 |

It seems right that in the same week Kevin Williamson argued that as long as you ignore African-Americans American federalism has been awesome, he would also write something like this:

There are a few lines in here that a good editor would cut but could be waved off as unwitting bad judgment — the Heart of Darkness reference, three fifths, making fun of the hair. But when the writer also decides the best comparison for a young black kid’s behavior is a monkey and to gratuitously question his parentage, there’s really not much question, is there?

There’s also the unstated humor of Williamson describing his subject as “racially aggrieved,” as if the description does not apply to Williamson himself, or as if the kid’s aggrievedness is not, in this case, warranted.

I assume that the National Review was looking for someone who combined John Derbyshire’s racial politics and the pretentious pseudo-intellectualism of Roger Kimball, and on these criteria the Williamson hire has to be considered a major coup.

Robin Williams

[ 195 ] August 11, 2014 |


…RAF lists his favorite performances. I am compelled to note that despite being an academic I hate Dead Poet’s Society, although not because of Williams’s performance. I’ll add praise for his performances in Cadillac Man and the season 2 opener of Homicide.

...Dahlia Lithwick:

Robin Williams did all the voices, all of them. Ranging from the tiny breathy narration of tiny Shawn himself, to the voice of his mom, whose Spanish accent Williams replicated so perfectly that I kept wondering if she had coached him on the way over. Except that she lived in Florida. He nailed everyone in the chapter, from Paula, the beautiful, soulful healer who understood Shawn better than any of us, to the brisk oncologists who flitted in and out of Shawn’s people-packed life.

That afternoon, I was briefly introduced to Williams and then dispatched to the other side of the glass in the recording booth, where I was allowed to sit and watch him inhabit each of these characters. It was the most electric, frantic, high-energy few hours I have ever spent in my life. The whole performance, as he read, and then hit his mental delete key and reread, trying out voices of people he didn’t know and yet capturing them completely—was unforgettable. I was aware that I was in the presence of a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime talent who could not even for a moment settle down enough to breathe himself in. For the few minutes that he was himself, talking to me, he was this sweet gentle, big-hearted guy. But he was happiest doing the voices. And you see this quality in everything he ever did, including an interview about his history of addiction where he only really seems happy when he is doing the British, the French, and the Italians. That sunny day while I watched him read, he was overtaken almost completely by the people he met, and the joy he packed into them—and into the characters he played—was, in some way, stolen from himself.

That day, Robin Williams did all the voices, read all of the paragraphs, read them again, and channeled every character in the chapter, flawlessly and without taking breaks. He just sat there and read the words Shawn wrote, and it was as if he were speaking them and the words as written were almost unnecessary. For days after I met him I was exhausted; totally depleted. And I was also aware that there was no filter, no membrane at all between Robin Williams and the rest of the world; and of what it must have cost him to so fully inhabit so many people—including a dying child he would never meet but to whom he had pledged to give voice. All I could think was very how hard it must have been to take a leave of absence from himself to do that, every day, and how hard it must have been—having done that—to find something to come home to.

Depression is a harrowing and ultimately gutting disease and Robin Williams was open about his struggle. I want to thank him for what he did for Shawn Valdez, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and for all of us who benefitted from his generosity with his talents. Mostly I wish that his lifetime of sharing himself with us had somehow nourished him as much as it fed us all.

All Hail Our Benevolent Local Overlords

[ 106 ] August 11, 2014 |

Shorter Kevin Williamson: With notably rare exceptions, federalism and localism have been awesome for integration and equality under the law in American history.

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