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Just To Add

[ 0 ] December 29, 2008 |

…to the points Drezner makes about this silly column, let’s start with this argument from Sherdian:

What’s wrong here is obvious. It’s also not really new. Unlike the NFL, NBA and NHL, baseball has no salary cap. Those leagues do not have caps for the sheer, unbridled joy of finding loopholes and exceptions. They have them as part of an effort to maintain some kind of competitive balance among teams from different-size markets in disparate parts of the country.

Ah, yes, like most sportswriters, Sheridan would seem to be a puke funnel for the extremely wealthy people who own professional sports teams. At this point, let us summarize the central reasons for salary caps in pro sports:

  • To increase the amount of money owners get to keep.
  • There is no #2.

If the policy objective is to ensure competitive balance, then the key is to equalize revenues, not salary expenses. The NFL, in fairness, does a lot of this, but this makes its salary cap largely superfluous for reasons other than suppressing player salaries (and given the short careers of NFL players and the effects of playing on their bodies, this suppression is an absolute disgrace any rational person should be embarrassed to defend.)

On a related point, Sherdian’s whining about high-salaried baseball players because we’re in a recession is a transparent (though beloved by many sportswriters and fans) non-sequitur. If I may be permitted to state the obvious, capping player salaries doesn’t affect the total revenue earned by professional sports one iota. The only question here is how much money goes to the players and how much goes to the owners. How the Steinbrenner family keeping more money and C.C. Sabathia keeping less would help laid off autoworkers or underpaid teachers or whatever other group you care to name I can’t tell you.


And Again…

[ 0 ] December 27, 2008 |

Some depressing holiday news:

Waves of Israeli aircraft swooped over the Gaza Strip on Saturday, firing missiles at Hamas’s security headquarters and killing more than 200 people, bringing the highest death toll in Gaza in years in a crushing response to rocket fire by Hamas against Israeli towns.

After the initial airstrikes, which also wounded about 600 Palestinians, dozens of rockets struck southern Israel. Thousands of Israelis hurried into bomb shelters amid the hail of rockets, including some longer-range models that reached farther north than ever before. One Israeli man was killed in the town of Netivot and four were wounded, one seriously.

A military operation against Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, had been forecast and demanded by Israeli officials for weeks, ever since a rocky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas broke down completely in early November and rocket attacks began in large numbers against Israel. Still, there was a shocking quality to Saturday’s attacks, in broad daylight on about 100 sites, as police cadets were graduating, women were shopping at the outdoor market and children were emerging from school.

The center of Gaza City instantly became a scene of chaotic horror, with rubble everywhere, sirens wailing, and women shrieking as dozens of mutilated bodies were laid out on the pavement and in the lobby of Shifa Hospital so that family members could identify them. The vast majority of those killed were Hamas police officers and security men, including two senior commanders, but the dead included several construction workers and at least two children in school uniforms.

By afternoon, shops were shuttered, funerals began and mourning tents were visible on nearly every major street of this densely populated city.

“Hamas was warned a few times in a variety of ways, but I can’t elaborate on the warnings,” said Maj. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military. “Anything associated with Hamas is for us a legitimate target, including an apartment in which the basement is a weapons storehouse. This operation is not finished yet, but for now it involves only aircraft.”

Israeli airstrikes continued after dark, striking a metal foundry and other targets in southern Gaza, Palestinian officials said. Calls on both Israel and Hamas to refrain from further attacks were issued by Russia, Egypt and numerous governments in Western Europe, as well as the United Nations. The Bush administration urged Hamas to stop firing rockets, but called on Israel only to avoid hitting civilians as it attacked Hamas.

I don’t really have much to add; I assume most of our readers will (like me) see the Israeli response as disproportionate and also see Hamas’ apparent conviction that this time firing some rockets at civilian targets will achieve political and security goals is roughly as rational as the continuation of the American embargo against Cuba (even if the reverse of the power symmetry makes it more understandable.)

Harold Pinter

[ 0 ] December 25, 2008 |


Since I need to go open presents and such, allow me to delegate to Roy’s old appraisal. Make sure to stick around for the decimation of the inevitable Aesthetic Stalinism that followed his Nobel Prize (“Why don’t Kimball and Steyn go make a Thatcher Prize medal out of paperclips and a yogurt lid and give it to Tom Clancy?”).


[ 0 ] December 25, 2008 |

A happy one to all of our loyal (or intermittent) readership.

Gosh Darn It, People Like Him

[ 1 ] December 25, 2008 |

Bye-Bye Norm. That is, unless the Supremes discover another mysterious “no, the Republican has to win” clause in the 14th Amendment…

The "Invoking A Meritocracy That Never Existed" Gambit

[ 0 ] December 23, 2008 |

Quebec premier Jean Charest has, for the second time, selected a cabinet with equal numbers of men and women, perhaps establishing this as a norm for future premiers. Lysaine Gagnon is displeased:

This development is being touted as a progressive move by Mr. Charest. It certainly added a touch of gloss to what would have been a rather lacklustre event, since most senior cabinet ministers were simply given their former posts. But it’s sending our governments down a very bad path, because it means that some of these appointments will be made regardless of merit and qualifications.

Oooh, fetch me the smelling salts. Are you telling me that a cabinet appointment in Canadian government may be based on any factor other than “merit or qualifications”? What an unprecedented development! When I read this I was planning a string of snark about what an amazing coincidence it was that every Liberal who managed to get elected in the prairies turn out to be remarkably qualified for the federal cabinet, etc. etc., but the striking thing about her argument is that Gagnon completely recognizes this: “There are many factors apart from merit that must be taken into account when a premier creates his cabinet – geography, political considerations and so on.”

At this point, then, one is compelled to ask why exactly the train of political considerations should stop with the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups. This is a classic Charles Murray move: justify the exclusion of African-Americans by citing a non-existent American tradition of judging people on their individual merits. Somehow, the door always stops in front of discriminated against groups (legacy admissions are OK, but suddenly when more people of color start attending universities standardized tests are absolutely sacrosanct.) One can quibble with Charest’s precise mathematical equity, I suppose, but in general it seems likely that appointing more women is as likely to improve the quality of people serving in the cabinet as anything, and certainly redressing the gross gender inequality in political institutions is certainly a more compelling consideration than, say, rewarding the premier’s cronies. Which brings us to the last point: what exactly are the “qualifications” to be a lower-level cabinet minister anyway? Cabinet appointments are always in substantial measure political, and this is not only inevitable but not particularly undesirable.

Pravda as a Jouralistic Standard

[ 0 ] December 20, 2008 |

Shorter Weekly Standard: If American journalism wants to restore its reputation, the only acceptable form covering Dick Cheney is the fellatio cool objectivity of Stephen Hayes.

Almost any part of this review could be a “verbatim,” but I think this was my favorite passage:

There is the cherry-picking of evidence. Much is made, for example, of an Australian intelligence report debunking the purchase by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of electronic maps of the United States and of the doubts regarding aluminum tubing suspected of being useful in making centrifuges for a nuclear bomb. Angler reflects almost none of the fairly consistent foreign intelligence agreement that Saddam had, or was close to having, weapons of mass destruction.

Yes, clearly the fact that Hussein might have been “close to having” some “weapons of mass destruction” that posed no threat whatsoever to American civilians provides evidence that he was close to having nuclear weapons, and debunking straightforward lies made by administration officials is “cherry picking evidence.” Now that’s journamalism that I can get behind.

The "Hate Speech" Lie

[ 0 ] December 19, 2008 |

To follow up on this, it’s not merely that the California court’s decision was directed entirely at state actors, and had no bearing on the actions of private churches at all. It’s that the whole category of “hate speech,” as it pertains to American law, doesn’t exist. The state cannot restrict speech solely based in its content no matter how hateful or potentially dangerous; this has been well-settled federal law for nearly 40 years. (The separate category of hate crimes, which deal with the intent of the perpetrators of violent crimes — which is always relevant — as opposed to their beliefs per se is again of no relevance to Warren’s claims.) This is recognized by critics of the libertarian American approach as well as those (like me) who generally favor it.

Whatever the decision Prop 8 sought to overturn had said, therefore, it simply could not have made any action by a church criminal, and anybody who actually knew anything about American politics and constitutional law would know that. Whether Warren himself is fully immersed in a world of paranoid conservative fantasia or is simply cynically pandering to the ignorant paranoia of his audience I can’t say, but either way it doesn’t speak well of him.

Coleman Cites Bush v. Gore

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

I’ve believed for a while that the most constructive way for progressives to deal with Bush v. Gore is to play it straight — that is, to pretend that it actually stands for a principle that vote counting standards should be fair and uniform. Norm Coleman, however, has an approach much closer to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s indefensible intervention into the 2000 election. Obviously, his claim that the 14th Amendment requires ballots that were improperly excluded to remain excluded is a legal argument with the rare distinction of being more farcical than Bush v. Gore itself. But when you consider that the actual “principle” (to distort the word beyond any possible meaning) that the Supreme Court seemed to be applying in that case was that arbitrary, non-uniform recounts are perfectly acceptable unless they threaten the election of a Repblican candidate, in which case states are required to conduct a recount according to uniform statewide standards restore the arbitrary recount that benefits the Supreme Court’s preferred candidate…well, you have to admit that the Coleman team’s cite is directly on point. Fortunately, I doubt that the Minnesota courts are going to go along….

Warren Addenda

[ 0 ] December 18, 2008 |

In addition to Rob’s links below, make sure to read Sarah Posner. And as Steve Benen notes, even defenses based on crude political criteria are exceedingly unconvincing. It’s unlikely in the extreme that Rick Warren’s “purely symbolic” selection is going to attract any non-negligible number of reactionary evangelical voters, while slapping major Democratic constiuencies in the face surely carries its own risks. And worse, it elevates Warren’s stature further, giving him “bipartsian” media credibility when he inevitably attacks any decent part of Obama’s agenda. It’s a dismaying choice, wrong on the merits and wrong on the politics.

Speaking of unconvincing defenses, some low comedy from the woman whose alleged support for gay and lesbian rights and reproductive freedom has long put the “effectively non-existent” in “nominal.” The punchline: “I don’t believe the image of the angry, spiteful gay is helpful to the gay rights cause.” I strongly advocate finding some way of stripping law professors who constantly make excuses for bigots of crucial fundamental rights and we’ll see how many of them don’t start sounding “angry” or “spiteful.”

More Political Expertise In Malkinland

[ 0 ] December 17, 2008 |

Former Cap’n Morrissey gives us a rousing chorus of “Kumbayah”:

Racial divide? Didn’t this election prove that our racial divide had moved to the past? Barack Obama didn’t win from the black vote — he won a majority of white voters as well. While racism will never get completely stamped out, it has thankfully faded out of our public life.


Vote By Race


Obama 43%
McCain 55%
Other 2%

And the thing is, even if you for some reason weren’t aware the exit polls were available free online, if you know anything about politics at all shouldn’t you realize immediately that this assertion is implausible? If you know that Obama overwhelmingly won the Latino vote, the GOP’s African-American vote is basically a rounding error, but McCain only lost by 7 points…how could he have lost white voters?

As for Morrissey’s claim that racism is no longer a factor in public life, yeah, it sure is an amazing coinky-dink that in the 1960 Apartheid Belt McCain did better than Bush in what was otherwise an abysmal year for Republicans.

Today In Left-Medvedism

[ 0 ] December 16, 2008 |

Sacha Zimmerman approvingly cites this New York article. Alas, she doesn’t deal with its fundamental problems, most notably its reliance on anecdotes and otherwise less-than-impartial data and the fact that it’s not clear what an increase in female drinking would have to do with feminism even if it was true (cf. Valenti, Howley, Filipovic.) And, worse, the tut-tutting about young women (rather than, say, young people in general) drinking is pretty clearly anti-feminist.

Rather than addressing any of these problems, Zimmerman makes the kind of argument I’d prefer to leave to the Michael Medveds of the world.

Still, in a pop landscape that turns drunk women into comedic icons, it’s easy to see why bingeing might at least appear empowering. Every swilled cosmopolitan on “Sex in the City” is fetishized; indeed, the pink martini has become a kind of symbol of female liberation. (Never mind that actress Kristin Davis, who plays Charlotte, is an alcoholic who has been sober 18 years.) Meanwhile, every booze-soaked character actress on television, from Karen on “Will & Grace” to the ladies of “Ab Fab,” makes alcoholism seem downright fun–if anti-intellectual. The gals on “How I Met Your Mother” are constantly drinking beer but are rarely shown drunk–unlike the Woo Girls of a recent episode (so named for their penchant to scream, “Wooo!” every time a drink is poured or a great song comes on).

This is strange on a number of levels. First of all, I’m not sure who’s saying that binge drinking (or, for that matter, drinking at all) is “empowering”; as Howley puts it, “I happen to have a female body. It does not follow that my every vice is part of some misguided attempt to achieve gender parity.” I’ve never seen the last show, but I have no idea what SITC or AbFab have to do with “feminism.” The cosmos are fetishized in SATC because all the consumption is fetishized (as most of its fans, I’m sure, are perfectly aware of.) And, most importantly, these are fictional characters in comedy shows. Characters who drink more than is strictly healthy or are otherwise irresponsible tend to being comedic potential to the table; to state the obvious, a show consisting entirely of Ned Flanderses would be considerably less funny than a show with one (usually serving as the butt of jokes.) Leaving aside Zimmerman’s implicit insults to the intelligence of the audiences of these shows, a culture world in which female characters were seen a role models rather than characters would be had for feminism and even worse for art, high and low. To borrow a point from Katha Pollitt, it’s like Irving Howe critiquing Roth because he wasn’t creating good Jewish role models (everyone knows that Portnoy’s Complaint would have been better if it only had the “strongly-felt ethical and altruistic impulses”!)

Even if one accepts Zimmerman’s dubious proposition that one can’t really be a feminist if one drinks more than Zimmerman considers appropriate, let’s please not use “empowerment” as the primary criterion for evaluating art.

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