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NHL Playoff Preview

[ 0 ] April 10, 2008 |

Various other commitments will prevent the usual lengthy analysis, but for fun some quick picks and comments.

West

(1)Det v. (8)Nsh Nashville seems to be a trendy upset pick, and with Lidstrom, Rafalski and Holmstrom all seeming less than 100% and the goaltending dubious I would give Detroit very little chance against San Jose or Anaheim. But I think they’ll get through the first round; Nashville is a similar but inferior team, and I don’t like that matchup. Wings in 6.

(2)SJ v. (7)Cal I’d love to make a case for my beloved Flames here. With one of the top 3 players in the league, a Norris nominee and a recent Vezina winner Calgary has more front-line talent than the typical 7 seed. I always think this is San Jose’s year and I’m always wrong, and people generally overrate late season performance, so in itself I don’t think San Jose’s red-hot finish portends a non-competitive series. But, still, I can’t do it. The Campbell trade — shoring up the overrated defense that has been San Jose’s Achilles‘ heel — really was big, and Calgary is just too mistake-prone on defense and too thin up front to beat what’s probably the best team in the league right now. Sharks in 5.

(3)Min v. (6)Col I hate to pick Quenville over Lemaire, and I like Backstrom over Theodore. But between Minnesota’s depleted defense and Forsberg playing his best hockey in a while I don’t see the Wild winning (and a Colorado/Detroit series would be fun.) Avs in 7.

(4)Ana v. (5)Dal The sooner what has become one of the most loathsome franchises in pro sports goes down the better, but I don’t see it happening here; Anaheim can beat Dallas at its own defensive game and I still don’t believe in Turco. Ducks in 5.

EAST

(1)Mtl v. (8)Bos You have to pick one massive upset for this to be any fun, right? So I’ll be the only person to pick this one. It reminds me a little of Edmonton/Detroit a couple years ago; a team with a defenseman like Chara can always be dangerous, and Thomas is pretty good. And, although I’m probably wrong, I’m still not convinced that the Habs are as good as their record. Bruins in 7.

(2)Pit v. (7)Ott Two weeks ago, Ottawa looked like a live dog (again, “momentum” being Latin for “bullshit.”) Then two of their best forwards got hurt. I don’t see Marc-Andre Fleury being the goaltender of a championship team, but the Hossa-sweetened Pens blow away the Sens and get their revenge to start. PENS IN 5.

(3)Wsh v. (6)Phi I’ll be rooting hard for the Capitals, having seen them twice live this year and been impressed, and I also think they’ll beat the Flyers. Even a Flames fan has to concede that Ovechkin is the runaway MVP, and he has more help than you might think. (I especially like the Federov trade; the fact that he’s no longer a superstar shouldn’t obscure that he’s still a tremendous defensive center.) For once, the automatic #3 seeded team is more talented than the #6. CAPS in 6.

(4)NJ v. (5)NYR Another classic rivalry matchup. It’s probably foolish to bet against Brodeur, but I think the Rangers’ talent edges up front will be decisive. Plus, if I pick against them bean will never forgive me! So RANGERS IN 6.

UPDATE: World’s most dangerous professor and Eastern Conference expert Michael Berube sends on the following predictions:

Rangers over Devils in 6. Yes, both defenses are good and both offenses have been anemic all year. The difference is, the Rangers’ offense actually can score when they need to, and they have two lines to the Devils’ one.

Penguins over Senators in 6. Maybe five! It’ll be payback for last year. The Sens started off brilliantly this year and have been strangely mediocre in the second half. They’ll stay mediocre, even though I have to like Cory Stillman as a last-minute pickup more than Hossa. Stillman is one of those undersung second- or third-liners with a hard nose and a knack for the timely goal, but he’ll be playing golf with the rest of the Senators in about two weeks.

Canadiens over Bruins in 5. Nice to see Beantown back in the hunt. Now get them out of here so we can move on the Habs-Pens conference final.

Capitals over Flyers in 6. Maybe five! Jeez, would I hate to be playing the Caps right around now. A very average team through March, they’re suddenly, what, undefeated in regulation over their last 11 or 12? And they have that guy, whatsisface, with the 65 goals. I hear he’s good. Anyway, the sooner the Flyers and their thuggish West-Coast counterparts the Ducks are watching the playoffs on TV, the better for the game of hockey.

UPDATE THE SECOND: When I picked the Sharks, I was unaware that Greg Kihn would be singing the national anthem…

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So Much for the Rule of Law

[ 5 ] April 9, 2008 |

I have to say, I have mixed emotions about the New York Times’s decision to replace Linda Greenhouse with Adam Liptak. I’m afraid it is going to defang him and render him unable to really dig into political topics with a definite viewpoint. Like, say, he did in his Sidebar column yesterday.

This week, Liptak takes on the Border Fence. More specifically, he is scratching his head about Congress’s 2005 decision to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to suspend any federal law that was interfering with border control. Literally. And, not only that, but to suspend judicial review of his decisions so that courts cannot tell him that he has crossed the line.

Securing the nation’s borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

The secretary of homeland security was granted the power in 2005 to void any federal law that might interfere with fence building on the border. For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

Thankfully, in the wake of Chertoff’s decision to suspend 19 environmental laws that stood in the way of the fence-building, two environmental groups have brought a lawsuit to challenge the delegation of power as an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. They’re likening it to the Line Item Veto, which the Supreme Court struck down several years ago. The D.C. Circuit disagreed, but now the case may be headed to the Supremes.

Liptak’s views on the issue are only thinly veiled:

People can disagree about the urgency of border security and about whether it is more or less important than, say, the environment. Congress is entrusted with making those judgments, and here it has spoken clearly. In the process, it has also granted the executive branch more of the sort of unilateral power the Bush administration has so often claimed for itself.

No one doubts that Congress may repeal old laws through new legislation. But there is a difference between passing a law that overrides a previous one and tinkering with the structure of the Constitution itself. The extraordinary powers granted to Mr. Chertoff may test the limits of how much of its own authority Congress can cede to another branch of the government.

How many times is it now that the Bush administration has tested the limits of executive power? I have definitely lost count. And Congress may be the biggest culprit here. It was a different Congress in 2005, but this Democratically-controlled Congress hasn’t done much to right that Congress’s wrongs. At this point, it may all hang on Justice Kennedy.

No wonder Liptak’s hackles are up.

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Wanker Retrospective

[ 0 ] April 9, 2008 |

Here’s the Ole Perfesser on 9 April 2003, several years before his More Rubble Less Trouble phase:

Some people think the looting is bad, but I think that a certain amount is good. It reinforces in people’s minds that Saddam is gone, and that he was unpopular. . . .

Yeah, the thrill will pass, and soon [the Iraqis will] be bitching about this and that, just like everyone else does. But I think that Cheney has been sufficiently vindicated. And some other people have been proven colossally, utterly, unredeemably wrong. Did I mention that?

And here’s the Saddam-o-Centric response at Powerline, where it was decreed that not a day would pass without an uninformed swipe at France:

President Bush is right when he declines to be drawn into the “Is he dead yet?” speculation, rightly noting that the main point is that Saddam is no longer tyrannizing Iraq. If he isn’t dead yet, he soon will be; and if not dead, then hiding ignominiously until he is caught and dragged before an Iraqi tribunal. Saddam–unlike, say, Idi Amin–will not spend his twilight years in the south of France.

Whoopsie!

Yes, it was a truly awful thing that Idi Amin took refuge in a place where the United States had utterly no meaningful influence.

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Five Years

[ 25 ] April 9, 2008 |

Baghdad fell five years ago today. If I understand the conservative blogs correctly, people like me were supposed to have been humiliated and distressed by the news; at the time, I was honestly relieved and mildly surprised that the city hadn’t descended into a cauldron of violence. Aside from the fact that the invasion had no legal standing, my greatest point of opposition to the war derived from my incorrect assumption that Baghdad would take weeks if not months to fall and that in the meantime, an unnecessary number of people would die. Because it happened to be on at the gym, I actually watched Fox News that morning and thought, “Well, okay. That was quick.”

I figured that Bush, Cheney, Rummy and the rest of them would be stuffing their codpieces with a little more toilet paper and asking us to support more of these sorts of things in the future; I was pretty certain I’d not oblige their wishes, but for the time being, I was relieved to have been wrong about the scale of the carnage I’d been predicting in my head. Then again, since I’m a pessimist by nature and anything but a military strategist by training, I wasn’t shocked by the revelation.

Here’s the thing, though. Though I’d opposed American wars before, I’d never seen an administration conduct a large scale operation with anything resembling abject incompetence. So five years ago today, it didn’t occur to me to think — and maybe I’m being naive to admit this — but it never occurred to me to think, “Well, okay. That was quick. I sure hope we don’t fuck this up.” Like I said, though, I was wrong about several things on April 9, 2003.

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Most. Overrated. President. Ever.

[ 56 ] April 9, 2008 |

As an addendum to the Harding discussion, I think it’s telling that the strongest points to be made in Harding’s favor involve improvements over the civil rights and civil liberties records of Woodrow Wilson. Is there any question that Wilson is the most overrated president ever? The compendium of rankings here puts him as high as fourth and no lower than eleventh, but on balance his record was terrible. His civil liberties record was unspeakably bad, and this can’t be explained away by context — it was a much worse record than Lincoln with much less excuse, and he actually wanted more authority to criminalize political dissent than Congress was willing to grant. And, of course, the opportunity for the worst civil liberties record since Adams was created by dragging to the United States into a war whose connection to the national interest was (to put it charitably) oblique. As Matt notes, he also entrenched segregation above and beyond the requirements of his political coalition. And he is also responsible for a Supreme Court appointment–a sixth-rate intellect who refused to shake hands with his Jewish colleagues and among countless other reactionary holdings voted to uphold the show-trial death sentences of the Scottsboro boys — who has to be the worst of the 20th century. He did have some domestic policy achievements, and put Brandeis on the Court too, but that’s a pretty bad president.

Put it this way — JFK is the other candidate for most overrated among progressives, but an ineffectual pro-civil rights record is infinitely preferable to an extensive record of pro-apartheid accomplishment, McReynolds was a much worse blunder than Byron White, etc.

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Academy of the Underrated

[ 31 ] April 9, 2008 |

Ari at The Edge of the American West points us to this Ilya Somin post that makes the best possible — but I think ultimately unpersuasive — case for Warren Harding as the most underrated American president. The argument rests on two points: (a) that Harding was more racially progressive than any of his post-Reconstruction predecessors; and (b) that Harding’s record on civil liberties was better than Wilson’s.

It’s hard to quibble with the first claim, though Harding’s competition in that category can hardly be described as vigorous. It’s true that Harding — who was rumored to have a black ancestor — denounced lynching and supported federal anti-lynching legislation, but it’s equally true that this was an issue with no real political costs to Harding or his party, which could use the issue to depict southern Democrats as violent, premodern yokels. Yet in those areas where his party profited from racism, Harding was less brave.

Most consequentially, he did nothing to stanch the flow post-war nativism. Indeed, shortly after his inauguration in 1921, Harding summoned Congress back to session so that it could pass the restrictive Dillingham Act, which set national origins quotas that would be further enhanced in 1924 after Harding’s death. These quotas would serve as the basis for the country’s racist immigration laws for the next four decades; their anti-Asian components were also part of a process that would eventually result in the Japanese-American internment during WWII.

Moreover, Harding (unlike his successor Calvin Coolidge) never disparaged the Klan’s re-emergence in the 1920s — a reticence that would make sense, given the organization’s broad convergence (at least in the midwest) with the anti-Catholic, temperant Republicanism that spawned Harding’s career in the first place. (And no, I’ve never been persuaded by the idea that Harding was a Klansman. The evidence just isn’t there.)

As for Harding’s record on civil liberties, Somin may have a point there as well, but there are some important qualifications that come to mind. Harding was right to pardon Eugene Debs, and Congress repealed significant parts of the Espionage Act during Harding’s first year in office (including the sedition amendment), but we can only take things so far. Most of all, Harding’s administration could afford to be less demagogic because (a) the Great War was over, and thus the rationale for anti-civil libertarian wartime measures was reduced; and (b) its support for restrictive immigration laws allowed the party in control of the government to claim that it was taking action to prevent “alien radicals” from entering the country in the first place (and thus making emergency deportations unnecessary). I think there’s also a good case to be made that the November 1919 Palmer Raids would not have happened if Wilson — who’d nearly stroked out the previous month — had been at full capacity.

As I said, I think Somin makes the best possible case on Harding’s behalf, but I don’t think he offers much to cut against the essential awfulness of his presidency. He seems to have been a nice guy, but he was rubbish as a president and deserves his bottom-feeder status.

For the sake of sticking my own neck out, I’ll offer up Martin Van Buren as my nomination for most underrated. He got hammered by economic problems that weren’t of his own making; he told Texas to take a hike; and his sideburns rank second only to Chester Arthur’s on the (admittedly small) list of the Coolest Presidential Facial Hair. Also, he used to have a blog.

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Sexism? Or Misogyny?

Nick KristoF (corrected) tries to tease out the differences. It’s harder than one might think.

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Was Gallagher not available?

[ 9 ] April 8, 2008 |

Having gobbled the organs of another hapless calf, Tom DeLay has been rewarded with another year of life. A year ago, I offered a typically affectionate and balanced birthday tribute. This year, I’ll merely pass along this update from the irony deathwatch, which continues tomorrow at Emory University. There, DeLay will be speaking “on the importance of freedom and whether the law protects it.”

No, really:

Ben Clark, outgoing chairman of the College Republicans, said he was optimistic about DeLay’s speech.

“I think that it has the potential to be a great event,” he said. “We get the chance to show that Emory students can partake in intelligent political discourse. I believe we can.”

Diana Zelikovich, president of the Pre-Law Society, said that DeLay was chosen as this year’s speaker because he “strongly impacted the political agenda for the first half of the last decade.”

“DeLay is proof that you don’t have to have a law degree to be influencing the laws of this nation,” she said. “In this respect, he’s perfect as a keynote speaker.”

In October, the College Republicans brought conservative author David Horowitz to Emory. But he was forced to end his speech due to vocal disruptions from outside protesters. The leaders of both organizations do not believe that DeLay’s speech will elicit the same kind of behavior from the audience.

“We do not anticipate problems with him because DeLay is not an extremist and was an elected leader,” Zelikovich said . . . .

. . . . until . . . um . . . you know . . .

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Nobody Cares

[ 29 ] April 8, 2008 |

It’s obviously funny in itself to see Serious Journalist and (Pro-stripping people of their property and sending them to interment camps solely on the basis of their race) Historian Michelle Malkin engaging in an interminable whine about Barack Obama’s choice of sandwiches and the unwillingness of Obama or Clinton to patronize bigots. But I especially liked that she included this line from a story about John Kerry in 2004:

It will doom his candidacy in Philadelphia,” predicted Craig LaBan, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which broke the Sandwich Scandal. After all, Philly cheesesteaks come with Cheez Whiz, or occasionally American or provolone. But Swiss cheese? “In Philadelphia, that’s an alternative lifestyle,” LaBan explained.

Hmm, how did that work out?

Philadelphia County:

Kerry (D) 542,205 81%
Bush (R) 130,099 19%

Why, it’s almost as if the primary class of people who gives a damn whether a presidential candidate gets crappy processed cheese on their sandwiches is not so much “Ordinary People” as “wealthy wingnut pundits who live in the gated suburbs of urban centers.”

(Via Tristement, Non!)

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Liveblogging the Nonsense….

[ 9 ] April 8, 2008 |

Got in a bit late, just in time to see Crocker discussing how great it was for the US economy that Iraq is buying a couple US aircraft… too bad about that $12 billion/month we’re spending for that boon…

…It’s also nice to hear that the “era of US funded infrastructure projects” is over; I guess that they’re worried about the economy bit more than the “US is utterly critical” bit….

… Dude, extremist Iran-supported Shia militias have already asserted themselves.. in the Iraqi government! Christ….

…And this is why I don’t buy the idea that Cheney pushed Maliki into the offensive; its failure has created a lot of uncomfortable questions for Petraeus. Of course, they might have believed that it would work out well, so no worries…

…Did McCain just sound confused about the difference between Sunni and Shia?

…Kennedy just hit the key point; a year ago we couldn’t reduce because there was too much violence, and now we can’t reduce because there’s too little. Bush (and McCain) have the same answer no matter what…

… Stupid meeting cut short my liveblogging. And now I’m hungry, and off to lunch…

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Sizzling…

[ 26 ] April 8, 2008 |

Via Danger Room, interesting Bloomberg article about the Russian-built Chinese-operated “Sizzler” missile. The Sizzler approaches its target at supersonic speed then arches right before hitting. Apparently, the USN has no defense:

The Navy doesn’t have a test target that can mimic how the Sizzler flies. They haven’t even “picked a contractor to develop the test target,” Capaccio notes. Industry proposals for building the target missile were received in February and a contract valued at about $107 million will be awarded by Oct. 1 for a 54-month development phase and first fielding by 2014.”

The 3M-54 carries either a 200kg or 400kg warhead, and can be fired by submarine from a range of 200km+. That’s almost certainly not enough to kill a US carrier, but it could probably end flight operations. In a wartime scenario, this would have the effect of pushing US carriers farther from Taiwan, and would put a premium on the ability of the USN to identify and destroy Chinese submarines before they can approach. And this latter would be a very difficult job…

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Story of The Day (Yesterday, That is)

It really doesn’t get better than a headline like this: “Possible Nazi Theme of Grand Prix Boss’s Orgy Draws Calls to Quit”

Except for that, with a story this crazy, it does. Max Mosley, the president of Formula 1 and the son of London’s 1930s Facist leader and a socialite who married at the home of Goebbels with Hitler as a special guest, was caught in a sting operation having sex with five prostitutes. Sado-masochistic sex. In which the women were dressed like prisoners and Mr. Mosley yelled at them in German-accented English, saying that they needed more punishment.

His rep says it was “More Alcatraz than Auschwitz.”

And I say, honestly, the headline was enough.

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