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Query…

[ 15 ] March 12, 2010 |

What exactly does this mean?

Jakob Dylan has announced plans for an upcoming nation-wide tour with his band Jakob Dylan and Three Legs, which features Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. The tour is set to kick off April 9th in Pittsburgh, PA in support of his newest album Women and Country set for release April 6th. Prior to the release, Jakob will showcase his album in Austin at this year’s SXSW Festival, where he will be playing shows at Paste Magazine and Rachael Ray’s annual parties.

So… if I have no interest in seeing Jakob Dylan, but would really like to see Neko Case, is this something I should be wasting my precious cubits on?

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Funny Because it’s Funny, Funny Because it’s True…

[ 0 ] March 12, 2010 |

The tragic return of Jay Leno, dramatized.

Making Fun of Glenn BeckTesting Video Embed Function

[ 16 ] March 11, 2010 |

Hat Tip to CNNBC.

LGM Tournament Challenge

[ 6 ] March 11, 2010 |

That time of year again. ‘Cats all the way…

League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Human Security Stuff I’m Too Busy To Blog About

[ 1 ] March 11, 2010 |

JEM fighters will put down their arms for the opportunity to join the Sudanese army at 500 euros a head. Perhaps this will slow conflict-related violence in the region, perhaps not. Human Security Report data from earlier this year reminded us that most of the deaths in Darfur since 2005 are from diarrhea, not violence, so question is will this new deal make it easier or harder to get aid to civilians?

Julian Ku reports that the HRC is weighing in on military commissions… and being ignored by the Obama Administration.

India has passed a law requiring 33% of parliamentary seats to be reserved for women. But why only 30%? (Finland’s quota requires parity.) Recent research on the proliferation of gender quota norms worldwide asks us to consider variation in the percentage of quotas enshrined in election laws and also the conditions under which they’re effective.

An interesting debate is happening at DoDBuzz about the US refusal to join the Cluster Munitions Treaty, about to come into force. Jason Sigger comments here.

Nigeria is conducting arrests and investigating suspects involved in last week’s ethnic violence.

On top of the notorious problem of pirate attacks on aid shipments, looks like half of the aid that reaches Somali shores gets diverted before it reaches the hungry. Don’t forget this is often the price humanitarians pay in conflict zones for access to civilians. Still, one would think the UN should at least be able to prevent its local staff from stealing it for themselves.

Brian Greenhill has a new paper in International Studies Quarterly analyzing the relationship between international organization membership and the human rights performance of states.

Sweden has approved a parliamentary resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians by Turkey as genocide.
Last week a Congressional Committee in the US approved a similar resolution; Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador from the US in response.

Finally, Christopher Albon reviews the advance version of DoD’s new handbook on what GIs should do when faced with – wait for it! – civvie NGO workers in complex emergencies. You can download the pre-release draft here.

So, About That Thing…

[ 12 ] March 11, 2010 |
  1. Yes, I am exceedingly displeased that Jermiah Masoli has been charged with burglary.
  2. Yes, this does rather seem to be part of a pattern of behavior on the part of Oregon football players, and yes, it does produce some difficult questions about Chip Kelley’s tenure.
  3. Yes, it’s best to reserve judgment on Masoli until he’s actually been convicted of something. If he did participate in the burglary, however, he’s an idiot; a first tier Heisman candidate has a lot to lose through such behavior, and the word is that he’ll probably get kicked off the team.
  4. Yes, it did occur to me to think that “this kind of thing wouldn’t happen in Kentucky,” meaning that a star player would be unlikely to face burglary charges.
  5. Yes, I am genuinely ashamed of #4, both because Masoli should clearly be prosecuted for whatever he’s done (the same goes for LaMichael James), and because it’s pretty unfair to Lexington.
  6. And finally, yes; big time NCAA football and basketball should be broken up and replaced with genuine minor leagues in both sports, a move that would be good for the athletes and good for the institutions.

The Dragon Has Been Slain…

[ 31 ] March 11, 2010 |

Due to popular request, JS-Kit’s relationship with Lawyers, Guns and Money has been terminated.

I hope you people are happy now…

90% Amnesia

[ 7 ] March 11, 2010 |

Stephen Green asserts that to find a president criticizing the Supreme Court you have to go back to Old Hickory.   (And his quote is actually apocryphal, although since it’s “fake but true” I’ll give him a pass.)   But, of course, there are many more recent examples, some least of which come from Saint Reagan.  And Roe was joined by the extra-unassailable Chief Justice — heavens to betsy!   The other obvious problem is that Obama never said he wouldn’t comply with the Court’s ruling, making the analogy with Jackson null.

The remainder of his argument he delegates to Glenn Reynolds, who claims that responding to Roberts’s whining is bad politics for Obama while failing to mention that the Court’s decision is extremely unpopular.   Unlike Reynolds, Obama knows exactly what he’s doing here.

Ask your doctor if moral hazard is right for you

[ 2 ] March 11, 2010 |

This illustrates one of the massive inefficiencies that gets built into our massively inefficient health care system by the invidious relationship that can develop between the interests of Big Pharma and those of advocacy groups pushing for “awareness” of their cause.

About ten years ago I attended an event hosted by a couple of medical academics. It was a concert at a pretty big auditorium in Denver, and the invitees were almost all participants in the academics’ prostate cancer research trials (I was there for other reasons). This was before I had begun to study the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the obesity panic, and I remember thinking at the time, who is paying for all this? (The event was on a scale that must have cost well into six figures). That’s not a question I would ask today.

The Political Economy of Human Rights Advocacy

[ 1 ] March 10, 2010 |

James Ron has a guest post at Steve Walt’s blog about the problems of NGO dependence on Western funding. His argument is a logical extension of his earlier work with Alex Cooley on the negative externalities associated with the political economy of the NGO sector, and it also builds on newer scholarship critically assessing the relationship between domestic NGOs, targets of influence, third-party governments and private donors.

Ron offers an answer to the question in the title of his post: no, foreign funders should not stop donating to local human rights NGOs, but they should donate more wisely: Read more…

Greek Military Spending

[ 3 ] March 10, 2010 |

Earlier this week Henry Farrell posted a link to Charlemagne’s discussion of Greek social spending commitments.  Long story short, it’s not simply a question of the Greek people being lazy or the Greek state being profligate; the high degree of public sector spending was designed to paper over serious rifts in the Greek political community:

Real, live Germans are not heartless ants, and the Greeks are not broke because they are giddy crickets who sing their summers away. Greece is a grown-up country with grown-up problems: rough, tough politics, and a lot of recent history, not all of it very nice. And it is precisely that recent history, and rough politics, that are at the core of Greece’s fiscal woes today. Take the painful question of the huge public sector, and all those civil servants with jobs for life, and unusually generous retirement packages. The existence of those jobs for life is not a cultural quirk, in which Greek officials simply like coffee and backgammon too much to do any work. It is the end result of a brutal, multi-decade power struggle between the left and the right: a struggle that got people killed within living memory.

Read the whole thing, etc. Another cause with Greek deficits, however, appears to be Greece’s high level of defense spending:

Greece’s serious financial troubles are going to affect their military spending. Yhe highest in the European Union and second in NATO only to the United States, the Greeks spend 2.8% of their GDP on defense, compared to an average 1.7% in the other European NATO countries. Defense personnel account for 2.9% of the active population against an average 1.1% in other NATO member states.

Deputy defense minister Panos Beglitis was asked earlier this week by my colleagues at Le Monde about the defense budget. “We have lived totally surealistically,” he conceded, adding that the 2010 defense budget would amount to €6 billion, a 6.6% cut on the 2009 one. “We are the ministry which is the most engaged in the joint effort to reduce our deficit,” he said. But he was careful to add that “we are rationalizing our spending but not at the expense of our military capacity.”

The historic reason behind Greece’s massive arms spending lies with neighbor Turkey with whom it entertains, shall we say, difficult relations. Beglitis noted “Turkish provocations” from the Turkish army’s occupation of the northern part of the island of Cyprus in 1974 to the “continued violations of Greek air space”.

Jean-Paul Hébert, a defense analyst, notes that “when one of the two countries buys 50 tanks the other orders 60.” The two nations ranked amongst the world’s top arms importers in 2008 with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India.

The defense commitments will be easier to shed in the short term than the social commitments, as I’m guessing that competition with Turkey is all fine and well until it’s contrasted with jobs, benefits, etc.  Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that it’s extremely important to investigate the internal logic of apparently irrational behavior; both the defense and the social spending mean something different to Greeks than they do to outside observers.

This is excellent news!! For Palin!!

[ 5 ] March 10, 2010 |

For whatever reason, Google Reader’s “Explore” option recently started lumping all political sites together irrespective of orientation, which means that even time I try to find new, interesting voices, I’m bombarded with new, interesting-for-the-wrong-reason-but-potential-blog-fodder voices. For example:

We believe the TV show [Sarah Palin]’s producing with Mark Burnett on the wonders of Alaska will be Reaganesque in its reach of regular people.

For something written by “such good writers,” that sentence is uglier than it is stupid. The majority of Americans won’t appreciate a show about “the wonders of Alaska” for the simple reason that Americans only watch things about Alaska when its bears eat tourists. Don’t believe me? Consider Christopher Nolan’s career:

Batman Begins: $205,343,774
Insomnia: $67,263,182
The Dark Knight: $533,316,061

When his films take place in Alaska, their domestic gross drops, on average, very large numbers because Americans don’t believe that states whose moose-caribou population density (1.11/sq. mi.) outstrips its population density (1.03/sq. mi.) count as America. The idea that a successful Palin campaign could be initiated by a show about 700,000 moose and caribou picked to live in a state and have their lives taped to find out what happens when they stop being polite and start getting real—there’s wishful thinking, then there’s whatever that is. This too:

If [the show is] informative, well-produced, and showcases Palin’s Alaska, we believe it will become a cultural phenomenon. We foresee Alaskan imagery everywhere in 2011. Which is a wonderful setup for the Palin brand in 2012. Late 2010-early 2011 is also when Palin’s next book is due: a policy book on American Virtues. That will be coupled with a book tour that should end round about February 6th, 2011, the day we believe Palin will announce her presidential run. Essentially, the tour bus she uses for the book [American Virtues] will just be slightly rebranding as PALIN 2012, instead of American Virtues. Chances are, “American Virtues” will actually be her campaign motto. We can see the branding and marketing already at work.

These people should not be mocked for claiming 1) that Palin will write a book by her lonesome, 2) that it will be policy-oriented, or 3) that people can write policy books about virtues: they should be pitied for the wistful tones in which they imagine the subtle repurposing of a tour bus in terms of branding, because people who daydream in ad lingo about campaign slogans are the saddest people in the world. Then there’s the fact that, on principle, dreamers this dumb deserve pity:

Palin’s playing 11th dimensional chess that RedState’s not seeing, because it’s so focused on Romney, or dazzled by his Mattel-produced hair. She’s operating a fully-formed multimedia strategy designed to counter Dr. Utopia’s razzle dazzle and media darling status.

Follow that RedState link and you’ll find a discussion of a post at the Daily Caller that warms my heart:

[I]t is very important to point out that something like this may already be Palin’s plan (for the record, I have shared almost all of these thoughts with her via her personal e-mail but have received no response). So far, I have not seen one shred of legitimate evidence indicating that she has decided to run and some serious indications that she won’t.

Wait—Palin decide to ignore this asshole? Excellent. Anyone with any sense would distance herself from people like him, wait—did I just suggest that Sarah Palin is a person with sense? Maybe she is playing 11th dimensional chess.