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Category: General

McCarthyite of the Day

[ 12 ] April 29, 2011 |

Appropriately enough, Andrew McCarthy.

In related news, it’s amusing to see Glenn Reynolds “forgetting” about the right-wing smear campaign against lawyers who defended Gitmo detainees. I actually don’t agree with pressuring firms not to defend DOMA and respect Clement for resigning, but to argue that it’s “the left” that “put this tactic on the table” is beyond ludicrous. That lecture should be given to the other side.

Small Government and Fiscal Discipline

[ 10 ] April 28, 2011 |

…goals that, whatever their merits, certainly have nothing to do with what Chris Christie is trying to do.

Thanks Tucker!

[ 30 ] April 28, 2011 |

You know, I used to think that Barack Obama would make a vastly better president than the Donald (or even the Donalde), but if a washed up sixth-string child star thinks otherwise, I might have to reconsider. Maybe Mickey Kaus can find out what the kid from Family Ties thinks about Herman Cain.

Round 2 Picks

[ 17 ] April 28, 2011 |

Speaking of frivolity…

VAN v. NSH: There are two ways you could look at Vancouver’s issues in round 1.   One way is that you have to worry about a team that was up 3-0 and needed OT in game 7 to eke out a win, and didn’t show up on home ice in Game 5.   The way I’d look at it is that after their mid-series setback they played extremely well in Games 6 and 7, and Luongo played well in the elimination game.  Considering that Chicago with Crawfod in net is a better team than Nashville, this is a pretty easy pick.   Sure, as Games 6 and 7 also showed anything can happen (or almost happen) if you run into a hot goalie and Rinne can be outstanding, and Nashville doesn’t figure to be as sloppy defensively as Chicago was, but…I think a rout is more likely than 7 games this time.   CANUCKS IN 5.

DET v. SJ: The way things played out in the first round gives me pause.  Obviously, you have to be more impressed with Detroit’s decimation of the ‘yotes than the Sharks’ often shaky 6-gamer over the depleted Kings.   I can’t ignore the possibility that Lidstrom was holding a lot in reserve Bob Gainey-style.  Still, I liked the Sharks a lot more going into the playoffs and I won’t let Detroit’s good games against Phoenix dissuade me.    I’ll take the Sharks offensively, defensively, and in net, and I don’t think Detroit’s edge behind the bench makes up for it.   SHARKS IN 6.

In the east, I’ll take Washington and Boston.   Over to you, Michael…

…We got the news: break out the hats and hooters for Berube’s picks. As the Eastern expert, he feels it will take only five games for the Bruins to drink their big black cow and get outta there.  I’m not sure, but then, my picks have proven to be less accurate more idiosyncratic.   What can I say — angular banjos sound good to me.    I just hope that someone can beat the Canucks, or I’ll have to drink scotch whisky all night long and die behind the wheel.

The Choice of Firvolous Interests is Inherently Arbitrary

[ 24 ] April 28, 2011 |

As someone with no interest in and political disdain for the royal wedding I found this chart funny, but that isn’t to say that Matt isn’t right. What you find entertaining you find entertaining, and watching the royal wedding is no more or less defensible that watching baseball or television of the scripted and unscripted variety or whatever.

Today’s moment of senseless pedagogical nostalgia

[ 77 ] April 28, 2011 |

When outlining “The Case for Cursive,” a journalist ought to provide an actually compelling argument. The best substitute, it seems, runs something like this:

Might people who write only by printing — in block letters, or perhaps with a sloppy, squiggly signature — be more at risk for forgery? Is the development of a fine motor skill thwarted by an aversion to cursive handwriting? And what happens when young people who are not familiar with cursive have to read historical documents like the Constitution?

In order:

  1. I don’t see why it would. Why standardized, grade-school instruction in cursive handwriting should be celebrated as a useful device in the war against forgery is beyond my comprehension in the era of electronic identity. More broadly, the assumption that cursive is more difficult to forge rests, I suspect, on the dubious premise that cursive script supplies a graphic fingerprint, an expression of individuality that surpasses than any other style of writing. I can’t imagine there’s much — if any — evidence to back up such a claim.
  2. Probably not. The Palmer Method — which I believe still serves as the deep background for (the obviously disintegrating) cursive handwriting instruction in the US — emphasized proximal muscle movements (e.g., shoulder and upper arm) rather than distal muscles on the assumption that fine motor skills would “evolve” from the stability provided by the larger muscles. But as I understand the literature, the relationship between proximal and distal muscle development isn’t entirely clear when it comes to handwriting, and — most importantly — there’s nothing particularly special about a cursive style that facilitates any of the motor advantages that are claimed for it. Handwriting in general is obviously still essential to education, and there are important links between legible handwriting and cognitive development, visual/perceptual acuity, motor control and planning, and academic performance and self esteem more broadly. But while writing still constitutes a huge percentage of what kids do in school, it’s certainly not the only means of developing fine motor skills.
  3. Only an archivist would care. There’s not much to say about this except that the author of this piece clearly needed to come up with a third reason to fret about the disappearance of cursive handwriting instruction. That this is what she came up with tells us pretty much everything we need to know about the severity of the crisis.

Now, I’m sure my views on cursive handwriting are shaped to significant degrees by the humiliation of being exiled to remedial handwriting class for several weeks during the 5th grade. A perennial “C” student in penmanship, I was neither practically assisted nor aesthetically inspired by the therapist’s suggestion that I imagine Mark Spitz gliding through the water as I helplessly stabbed at the paper in front of me. (This was 1981, mind you. How I was supposed to visualize Mark Spitz — who won most of his Olympic medals when I was a year old — during the pre-YouTube era is anyone’s guess. I suspect Eric Heiden would have been more comprehensible to me, at least as a metaphor.) In any event, my cursive skills continued to moulder through the years until at some point in high school we were quietly untethered from the style and allowed to submit our work in whatever fashion we chose. My handwriting continues to be one of our generation’s greater atrocities, but I can’t imagine I would have fared any better a century ago, when my teachers would have clubbed me on the shins for failing to articulate a proper upper-case “Q.”

A Beast in the Heart of Certain Small Units

[ 30 ] April 28, 2011 |

Excellent in-depth discussion of the Stryker Brigade in the New York Times. What’s great about this piece is that the author goes into considerable depth to understand the structural context behind the so-called “Kill Team”‘s campaign of recreational murder against civilians, and resist the seductive and typical “bad apple” story.

That said, I think this piece over-determines the impact of simply being in a conflict zone and under-emphasizes the significance of unit structure and culture. It’s true that the longer a war drags on the greater the likelihood of some units ‘going rogue’ in this way. It’s also true that certain field conditions – boredom, isolation, loss of one’s comrades – increase the likelihood of atrocity. But within that context, some units commit atrocities and others don’t. A number of studies, including this one from Sierra Leone, this analysis of rape warfare, and another study on IDF units that I can’t yet cite because it’s not yet published, demonstrate that it is variation in the composition and disciplinary culture of small units themselves that account for variation in atrocity. Large-unit commanders may have little control over what small units are doing, but they have considerable control over the composition and disciplinary culture of those units.

For my part, I’m more interested the following aspects of this story, which come later in the piece or are not discussed at all: Read more…

Oh, Nino

[ 8 ] April 28, 2011 |

The week after I tried to offer a limited defense of Scalia in comparison with his reactionary brethren, his opinion in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion could have been written by Alito himself. Its attempt to justify a very strained reading of the statute relies on pro-business policy arguments and bad slippery-slope arguments, and in particular he seems to have forgotten his frequent lessons about how we’re bound by what Congress writes and not by the results some members of Congress might have intended.

Today Among the Passive-Aggressive Birther Curious

[ 19 ] April 28, 2011 |

Shorter Differently phrased Ann Althouse: “I don’t understand how the Times can say that the entirely baseless controversy about the place of birth of the candidate in the 2008 election who was born in the United States had anything to do with race. It’s all an amazing coincidence!” (Another variant from Tom Maguire, the Orly Taitz of the birther curious.)

In related news, connoisseurs of inept Althouse fanboys will enjoy this attempt to argue that her disastrously wrong op-ed which invoked Harry Blackmun, Thurgood Marshall, and William Brennan in the course of an argument about why liberals should support Alito was not actually trying to claim that Alito was more moderate than Scalia. Right. Is “chances are that a [justice] will please conservatives more often than liberals” something you’d say about Sandra Day O’Connor or someone who’s to the right of Scalia? (Hint: Alito, for all intents and purposes, never disappoints conservatives. For that matter, he doesn’t “disappoint” liberals who, unlike Althouse, took some time to examine his record; there’s nothing unexpected about his performance.) This feeble revisionism must also come as a surprise to Althouse herself, who was still claiming that Alito was closer to the Court’s center than Scalia and Thomas  (based, of course, on a case in which he took a position to the right of Scalia and Thomas) after he was appointed and for all I know still believes it.

Advice for the Obama 2012 campaign

[ 17 ] April 27, 2011 |

Blast this as your candidate walks on stage, a smile plastered across his face and both birds flipped high as can be to the outraged, couch-bound conservatives watching him on FOX:

Producer of Atlas Shrugged

[ 36 ] April 27, 2011 |

…going Galt.

Or, as Roy puts it, “[i]t seems the perpetual motion machine runs on whine.”

Reid to Force Republicans to Vote For Ryan’s Political Poison

[ 10 ] April 27, 2011 |