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I Guarantee that Ross Douthat Would Write a Better Column on Texting

[ 25 ] November 24, 2010 |

Good Christ, it’s like some horrible mashup of Lee Siegal and… well, Tom Friedman.

For me, the most frightening news in The Times on Sunday was not about North Korea’s stepping up its nuclear program, but an article about how American kids are stepping up their use of digital devices….

We need better parents ready to hold their kids to higher standards of academic achievement. We need better students who come to school ready to learn, not to text. And to support all of this, we need an all-society effort — from the White House to the classroom to the living room — to nurture a culture of achievement and excellence.

If you want to know who’s doing the parenting part right, start with immigrants, who know that learning is the way up. Last week, the 32 winners of Rhodes Scholarships for 2011 were announced — America’s top college grads. Here are half the names on that list: Mark Jia, Aakash Shah, Zujaja Tauqeer, Tracy Yang, William Zeng, Daniel Lage, Ye Jin Kang, Baltazar Zavala, Esther Uduehi, Prerna Nadathur, Priya Sury, Anna Alekeyeva, Fatima Sabar, Renugan Raidoo, Jennifer Lai, Varun Sivaram.

Do you see a pattern?

I lack the words in either English or text to describe everything that’s wrong with this. Borrowed from Drezner, who manages a few musings but frankly doesn’t really tackle the true Lovecraftian horror of the above passages.


Seems About Right

[ 5 ] November 24, 2010 |

Your new Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, ladies and gentlemen:

The most important thing to remember, if you want to be taken seriously, is that she and Ezra Klein are precise equivalents. No, scratch that: the Post would have to hire 20 Rubins as bloggers to go along with the innumerable Rubins on their op-ed page to balance out one Klein.

Also, this blog is serious in its threat to deploy images of Kip Winger until the Editors start blogging again.

Future of Nagorno-Karabakh

[ 3 ] November 24, 2010 |

The Patterson School just finished a negotiation exercise based on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Set ten years in the future, the simulation involves teams representing Russia, the United States, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijian, Armenia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. The key points:

The point of the exercise, however, is to highlight the importance of process. Principally, the problems result from asymmetries in interest, information, and commitment. Negotiators have a strong incentive to withhold information about the intensity and nature of their interests, in large part because others might take advantage of that information. The incentive to deceive animates all sides, narrowing the space in which agreement can be achieved. While outsiders can imagine a variety of potential settlements to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the dynamics of negotiation make arriving at any of those outcomes difficult. Players have an incentive to kill acceptable agreements because the distribution of goods isn’t optimal — “we could get more” — and because accepting an agreement attached with conditions or terms signals weakness.

Problems of trust and commitment mean that certain outcomes that are acceptable as an end state cannot be reached because they require impossible intermediate steps. Multilateral negotiations create multiple veto points in which any player can scuttle an agreement. In this case, the outside powers — the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Iran — were often able to arrive at agreements on potential solutions, only to be stymied by opposition from Armenia, Azerbaijan, or Nagorno-Karabakh. Entrenched animosities and domestic politics in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, combined with the unwillingness of leaders to prepare their citizens to accept the compromises that must come with an agreement, proved to be the main impediments to a successful peace agreement. What the local players lacked in economic and military power, they more than made up for in commitment to their bargaining positions.

Korea Crisis Quotes of the Day

[ 0 ] November 23, 2010 |

Global Times:

Dialogue through artillery fire is rarely an effective means to settle a dispute.

Robert Gates:

I don’t know the answer to any question about North Korea that begins with the word ‘why.’

Justaguy, in the comment thread below:

The desire to put one’s life on the line beating American Imperialists back from the Yalu river has diminished significantly in the past 50 years.

Via Blake Hounshell.

“We’ll Pay For Your Intangibles With Intangible Money.”

[ 16 ] November 23, 2010 |

Shorter Brian Cashman: “Dear Derek: if you don’t like being only significantly overpaid rather than grossly overpaid, feel free to go out and see if Michael Kay has been made the general manager of another wealthy major league team and I haven’t noticed.”

My question: where does Jeter play once the Yanks figure out that he’s no longer even playable as a major league shortstop? The Yanks taking a relatively hard line makes sense, especially on contract length. And it’s hard to imagine a mainstream columnist being willing to say this even two years ago.

Update [Paul]: This is a pretty interesting situation in terms of straight economic analysis and game theory. As Scott notes it’s likely that the Yankees’ offer (reportedly $45 million over three years) is probably much more than what Jeter could expect to get as a free agent. Why would the team do that, and even more mysteriously, why would Jeter’s agent react by going into hurt-confused-offended mode? As to why the NYY would pay considerably more than any other team would for Jeter’s services at this point, the argument can be made (and no doubt his agent is making it at length) that Jeter is worth a lot more to the Yankees than any other team, because he’s an integral part of their current “branding,” to put it in MBA-speak. But how good is the evidence for this argument? The alternative for New York is to pay something like $15 million over the next three years for a shortstop of similar likely quality to Jeter over that time, or perhaps $30 million for a significantly better player (not necessarily a shortstop). In the former case they save $30 million, and have the same odds of having successful seasons in terms of actually winning games. In the latter case they save a lot less money but marginally increase their chances of winning big (and even a couple of wins at the margin are especially valuable to a team that’s very likely to be in championship contention anyway).

Are the economic benefits that the Yankees get from having Jeter in their lineup likely to outweigh the benefits of either of these alternative approaches? It seems at least questionable that they would . . . Which leads to the real possibility that Brian Cashman is playing a subtle game of chicken in game theory terms, where what he’s hoping for is precisely that Jeter rejects his final offer in an operatic huff, thus allowing the Yankees to play the “egotistical zillionaire athlete with no gratitude for the team and fans who made him what he is today” etc etc.

My guess is that Jeter and Casey Close understand this well enough, and that after a little bit more huffing and puffing they’ll take something very much like the offer on the table.

The Daily Tucker

[ 9 ] November 23, 2010 |

Obviously, Carlson was upset that his ranking on the Hack 30 was too low. Point conceded!

He may want his Very Serious Publication to stick to “scoops” about how liberal journalists say liberal things when they’re on liberal listservs.

UPDATE: Paul beat me to it.

Lesbians are actually kinda hot and make good soldiers too

[ 11 ] November 23, 2010 |

van alden

So sign ’em up for Team America: World Police.

There’s a lot to savor here: The time machine that takes you back to 1953; the just-so evolutionary biology; the characteristically creepy mixture of obsession with and attraction/repulsion toward the subject matter; the sexualization of the work place. It’s a heady brew, as Agent Van Alden might say.

Update: I read this after The Daily Caller had removed the original final sentence, which per the Amanda Hess piece Scott links above, read “My solution would get the distaff part of our homosexual population off our collective ‘Broke Back,’ thus giving straight male GIs a fair shot at converting lesbians and bringing them into the mainstream.”

The Apex of Conservative Ressentiment

[ 17 ] November 23, 2010 |

The Bristol Palin thing shows, above all else, that Nixonian resentment remains very much at the forefront of modern conservatism. 1)Stuffing the ballot boxes for a crappy reality show, 2)in order to piss of liberals, 3)despite the fact that the vast majority of “liberal elitists” they will claim to have met at apocryphal cocktail parties couldn’t have less interest in the question of who wins the crappy reality show competition, and also 4)to pay liberals back for entirely imaginary vote fraud — perfect!

On Headlines, and Ferocity…

[ 8 ] November 23, 2010 |

I suspect that the crew of the Cheonan might dispute this headline from Reuters:

North Korea shells South in fiercest attack in decades

I suppose we run into definitional issues, and it’s true that the latest shelling has killed civilians. However, torpedoing a patrol ship without warning (even if the warship was in a disputed area) is pretty darned fierce. I worry that the greater degree of plausible deniability provided by a submarine attack relative to an artillery barrage (we can’t be SURE SURE SURE that it was a North Korean torpedo) means that the destruction of Cheonan needs to be treated as an “on the one hand, on the other hand” kind of incident.

h/t topofmyvoice.

Murray Chass Should Put Away His Slide Rule

[ 14 ] November 23, 2010 |

Bill James (subscription required):

It is the people who bad-mouth statistics who inevitably start spewing them. The people who tell you why you can’t trust statistics are the people who trust them most, who rely on them most blindly. What WE do is try to teach people NOT to rely on them, but to examine them more carefully and more suspiciously. Steve Stone may have gone 25-7, we say, but did he really pitch that well? Ichiro may have won the batting championship, we say, but was he really the best hitter in the league? We question the statistics and examine them further. The traditionalists accept them at face value.

Conveniently enough, online columnist Murray Chass:

My problem is with Hernandez winning the award with 13 wins. I am not alone in that view. Four writers voted for David Price (19 wins) and three voted for CC Sabathia (21).

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune voted for Price because, he said, Hernandez’s 13 wins didn’t merit the award and Price was a dominant pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of the one-sided outcome of the vote, Rogers added, “I wonder how much of it was bullying on the Internet. There were a lot of columns written in September saying no one should be stupid enough not to vote for Felix. Maybe that’s what happened, but I hope not.”

Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun noted that the difference between the leaders in wins last year was three (Zack Greene 16, Hernandez 19) and this year was eight (Hernandez 13, Sabathia 21.)

As I said recently, Chass doesn’t even try the old “whatever the statistics say, I’ve seen him play!” routine, which is generally foolish, but at least coherent. What I really don’t understand is how you can simultaneously spend about 90% of your energy as a writer attacking number-crunchers and then assert that the pitcher you concede to be the best in the league should be denied the award given to the best pitcher in the league because he ranks lower according to a single arbitrarily selected (and obviously heavily team-dependent) statistic.

WTF, North Korea?

[ 20 ] November 23, 2010 |

This is mildly alarming:

North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday after dozens of shells fired from the North struck a South Korean island near the countries’ disputed maritime border, South Korean military officials said. Two South Korean soldiers were killed, 15 were wounded and three civilians were injured, said Kiyheon Kwon, an official at the Defense Ministry. The military went to “crisis status,” and fighter planes were put on alert but did not take off. South Korean artillery units returned fire after the North’s shells struck South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island at 2:34 p.m., said Mr. Kwon, adding that the North also fired numerous rounds into the Yellow Sea. News reports said dozens of houses were on fire, and TV footage showed large plumes of black smoke spiraling from the island.

In and of itself, this would be unfortunate but not particularly indicative of a major increase in tensions or a shift in North Korean policy. Combined with the Cheonan incident, the revelation of the nuke facility, and a number of other small incidents, it’s somewhat disconcerting. My best guess is this: North Korea is taking behavioral cues from the increasingly tense security relationship between China on the one side and the US and Japan on the other side. The North Koreans may believe that these tensions open up a wider space for action because they reduce the chances of collaboration between China and the US. Pyongyang may also believe that Beijing tacitly approves the series of escalations. I have no idea regarding Beijing’s actual attitude; China normally regard North Korea as an embarrassment, but in this case they may appreciate that the DPRK has some utility.

But that’s just guesswork. Thoughts?

…see also Spencer, Sigger, and Stratfor.

LGM Readers

[ 5 ] November 23, 2010 |

All get two minutes for looking so good.