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Cubs Bankrupt! Cubs Bankrupt!

[ 0 ] October 12, 2009 |


The Chicago Cubs baseball team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, a step that will allow its corporate parent to sell the team in an $845 million deal.

Tragically for baseball and for America, the Cubs will nevertheless be allowed to field a team next year. I blame socialism.


Why is dog fighting more morally repugnant than football?

[ 0 ] October 12, 2009 |

Malcom Gladwell asks a very good question.

I’m a huge college football fan and like my NFL fix too. This article is to put it mildly extremely disturbing.

I don’t know whether it’s a function of watching games in HDTV on a bigger screen or just getting older and less reckless, but even before reading this article I had been struck by the incredible violence of high level football, especially the NFL. The players are so huge and so fast and so strong that every play ends up featuring the equivalent of a bunch of moderate car crashes. I remember saying to somebody I was watching a game with the other day that I don’t understand how five guys aren’t getting seriously hurt on every play. Apparently they are.

Concern Trolling at its Finest

[ 0 ] October 12, 2009 |

While most conservatives would be outraged if Barack Obama managed to win a blueberry pie at a 4H raffle, others would simply mutter and cluck their tongues out of feigned concern that he really didn’t need that pie, and besides, the people who made the pie aren’t that special, and — what’s more — somebody, somewhere will someday make fun of the president because he couldn’t eat the entire pie on his own.

It’s in that dim spirit that Ross Douthat thinks the President would have done the world an enormous favor by rejecting the Nobel Prize the other day. Aside from showing a bizarre lack of familiarity with the nicknames that George Bush acquired in office, Douthat is confusing me terribly. On the one hand, the award is the supposed to be the cross-eyed offspring of “a committee of five obscure Norwegians” whose opinions matter to no one at all — especially not “to the Europeans or the Africans, to Moscow or Beijing, or to any other population or great power” that Americans should care about or fear. And so as far as Douthat sees it, the Nobel is about as meaningful as a Father’s Day card declaring him to be “Number One Dad,” since everyone knows he’s not actually the Number One Dad on the planet.

On the other hand, Douthat insists that Obama’s award is so improper that the world will froth over with rage when it realizes that any number of other people could have received it instead. Because he’s so obviously unsuited for the honor, Obama will discover that “failure, if and when it comes, [is] that much more embarrassing and difficult to bear” (which is, to be fair, precisely the sort of dilemma you’d bear in mind mind if you’d been handed a jizz mop and told to go clean up the mess Bill Kristol had made in the corner booth.) But the idea that the Nobel is going to provide Obama’s critics with further ammunition seems weirdly far-fetched. If we assume the award was a nod of approval for the steps taken by the Obama administration after eight years of universal horror, it’s not hard to imagine the reaction of conservatives if Obama had received the Nobel after several years of “actual accomplishment.” They’d be whining about how he failed to develop missile defense for Europeans who didn’t actually want it; they’d be howling about his Chamberlain-esque naivete in refusing to set Iran ablaze; there would be the predictable bleats about “selling out” right-wing Israelis; and we’d have to listen to endless recitations about the virtues of “peace through strength” and how only dirty fucking hippies support the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.

But since Obama’s getting the award now and not later,
we’ll apparently have to concede that McCain’s “Celebrity” ad was spot-on!


  • When you have the same idea Mickey Kaus had three days ago, you can be safe in assuming that it’s a lemon. I assume most of our readers already understand this, but if you think that such an action wouldn’t have resulted in acres of bandwidth and ink being spent on an “Obama is such an uppity narcissist he think he’s too good for the Nobel Peace Prize” narrative I have some Orange County Option ARM derivatives to sell you.
  • Daniel Davies, in comments: “Tell us more, Ross Douthat, about people who get honours that they don’t deserve! I have this feeling, Ross Douthat, op-ed columnist of the New York Times, that when it comes to excessive rewards for undistinguished track records, you may know whereof you speak! I am particularly interested in Ross Douthat’s theory that accepting an undeserved honour can prove embarrassing when one is unable to live up to expectations!” In fairness, he’s long been known around the world as “Douthat the Incompetent”…

The Scrappy Twins May Not Have The Yankees’ Payroll, But They Play Great Fundamental Baseball!

[ 0 ] October 12, 2009 |

Can we please stop hearing this nonsense now? And because of that dumbshit Punto I’m going to have to be hearing about St. Jeter’s latest great play all playoffs now too…

…wow, Joe Nathan unable to get a key out against the Yankees, what a surprise! I blame the umpires. Anyway, for those who missed the series, I present the Twins approaching the Yankees in this handy representation:

Donnie Moore Avenged!

[ 0 ] October 11, 2009 |

Dave Henderson’s home run in game six of the 1986 ALCS almost killed me; since that time I have managed to muster no more than grudging support for the Red Sox, even against the Yankees. Even though I left the Angels behind a long time ago (couldn’t hack either the Disney or the dumping of “California” from the name), I take a certain joy in this outcome. I also hope that the Angels beat the Yankees and then beat down the Dodgers in the World Series; a week ago Leno had Torre on his show and asked “is there a team you’d like to play in the World Series?” Apparently oblivious to the fact that the Dodgers have been substantially outperformed by the Angels this decade, Torre blithely answered “It’s the only way I’ll get to the new Yankee Stadium.” God, I hate the Dodgers, and Jay Leno, and the Yankees, and the Red Sox….

Oh, Chucky K…

[ 0 ] October 11, 2009 |

Chucky K has vomited forth a mass over at the Weekly Standard that some people apparently find impressive. The key observation is that American decline is optional, not inevitable. There’s certainly something to this; there are different ways to manage the steadily declining economic profile of the United States on the world stage, and the military hegemony of the United States is dependent upon a series of policy choices made in Washington. Beyond that (and beyond a curious inability to admit that basic shifts in the international economy are occurring, and that these shifts make change in the political structure of international politics inevitable), Chucky K’s argument comes down to two things:

1. We need to be fiscally responsible to maintain our power.
2. The world views us as really benign, which explains the lack of balancing behavior.

Both of these have something to them. It is unquestionably true that huge, long term deficits undermine the ability of the United States to maintain its relative power position. It is also true that the United States has not, by and large, been viewed as a threat of the same scale as some other potential hegemons.

What gets me, however, is that by following the foreign and domestic policies advocated by Chucky K, the United States goes very far in undermining both of these pillars of its international standing. On the fiscal question this should be obvious; the Bush administration, through pursuing the foreign policy recommended by Charles Krauthammer and through the pursuit of massive tax cuts during the pursuit of such policy seriously undercut the fiscal health of the United States. We went from significant and growing budget surpluses to huge budget deficits to economic collapse. This is not, as they say, good for the project of empire. Moreover, Chuck K is on the record opposing a series of steps that would substantially enhance the fiscal health of the United States. If the US adopted UK style NHS tomorrow, the savings would be astronomical, and the money could be devoted to pretty aircraft carriers and shiny F-22s. But is Chucky fighting for nationalized health care? Is he fighting for a rational tax structure that would help remedy the massive deficits created by the Bush administration’s tax policy and economic collapse policy? Where’s Chucky?

The benignity pillar is an even worse joke. You see, the opinion of people abroad only matters to neoconservatives under one condition. The foreigner in question must be advocating a policy that neoconservatives really, really want. If this condition holds, then the foreign opinion in question is absolutely critical. If it doesn’t, then foreign opinion can be ignored. Thus, the small minority of Czechs and the slightly larger minority of Poles that want missile defense matter. The vast majority of Europeans who think we’re stupid for trying to put missile defense in Eastern Europe are irrelevant. Israelis dissidents don’t exist; the Nationalist government of Taiwan (which favors accomodation with China) doesn’t exist; South Korea doesn’t exist when it favors closer ties with North Korea; Iranian dissidents don’t exist when the oppose a US invasion, and so forth.

All of that is fairly obvious. The true stupidity is that Chucky K invokes international opinion as a critical pillar of US power!!! That’s what “benignity” is, after all; it’s the perception by the world that the US is an actor for good. When you do things that the world thinks are stupid (such as invading Iraq) the US looks less benign. THIS IS NOT A COMPLICATED CONCEPT TO UNDERSTAND. If the US derives power from appearing non-threatening (and Krauthammer makes this argument directly) then the US loses power when it appears threatening. This is pretty much boilerplate balance of threat theory, and really isn’t that hard of a concept to grasp. Chucky K either can’t or won’t, because he simultaneously claims that the US derives it power from the perception of benignity, and from how threatening we are. The completion of the circle, I suppose, is the fact that people who don’t like the things we do don’t exist in a neoconservative world.

There’s more, of course; Chucky K blasts Obama’s “dithering” in Afghanistan, while failing to note that seven years of Bush administration dithering (heartily recommended by Mr. Krauthammer!!) played at least some role in creating the current situation. But that’s all secondary in face of the fundamental problem; Krauthammer can’t go two paragraphs without setting forth propositions that are glaringly in contradiction with one another.

Look; the United States really, really needs at least two functioning, policy-interested political parties. And it really, really needs a serious debate on foreign policy. Those in favor of hegemony should be part of this conversation, because the US holds at least a quasi-hegemonic world position, and because there are, in fact, good argument in favor of some construction of US hegemony. But Chucky K ain’t part of that debate, by choice. He has nothing to offer, and I very much wish that, someday, conservatives will purge “thinkers” like Chuck K from their movement.

Mad Men Shallow Thought

[ 0 ] October 11, 2009 |

“Mr. Draper, are you saying Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?”

Isn’t it a little distracting to have Conrad Hilton being played by Eddie Harris?

Trust. But, As Long As It’s A GOP Talking Point, Don’t Verify.

[ 0 ] October 11, 2009 |

I’m sure a lot of our students are hoping that we’ll adopt Fred Hiatt’s rigorous standards for assessing the veracity of claims* published in his op-ed pages:

Me: I always like to see a groundbreaking thesis in an American politics research paper, but your claim that Dwight Eisenhower was assassinated by the John Birch Society and secretly replaced with an innovative robotic model to finish out his term in office isn’t really sourced. What’s your evidence?

Student: I conducted research.

Me: What kind? Where?

Student: You know, research. From the library. Plus, a fellow student is writing a paper arguing that my thesis is unfounded.

ME: OK Then. A+!

*Note: Methods may not be available to non-Republicans


Blame it on the 70s

[ 0 ] October 10, 2009 |

This NYT story argues that the American legal system and the culture in general have become far less lenient toward adults having sex with minors since the wild and crazy 1970s. While doing so it softpedals Roman Polanski’s crimes, waiting until the 13th graph to mention that the girl he raped testified the rape was forcible, and failing to mention at all that Polanski now faces prison time for fleeing from justice for 30 years, in addition to the crime to which he pleaded guilty.

Worse yet, it frames Polanski’s offenses by comparing them to the fictional romance in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan, which involved a consensual relationship between a nearly 18-year-old character and Allen’s middle aged alter ego. Whatever legal and moral objections might be raised to such a relationship (and they would be considerable if, for example, the Allen character was in a position of trust or authority in regard to the Mariel Hemingway character — I saw the film 30 years ago and don’t remember if this was the case), it nevertheless involves a radically different situation than that in Polanski’s real-life rape drama.

The story also contains this almost unbelievably fatuous quote from Polanski’s probation report:

Possibly not since Renaissance Italy has there been such a gathering of creative minds in one locale as there has been in Los Angeles County during the past half century. While enriching the community with their presence, they have brought with them the manners and mores of their native lands which in rare instances have been at variance with those of their adoptive land.

In this context it might be worth mentioning that the late 70s did feature high profile films such as Taxi Driver and Pretty Baby, in which 13 and 12 year old girl characters starred as glamorized and disturbingly sexualized siren/prostitutes (Indeed the sexualization of Brooke Shields in general was a creepy motif of the times). But life doesn’t get to imitate art without criminal consequences, even in Hollywood.

Continuing the Sports Theme on LGM . . .

[ 0 ] October 10, 2009 |

The NYT reviews The Damned United, which piques my interest. When I have time, which latterly has not been plentiful, I devour film reviews, perhaps because Plymouth is not exactly in any one’s cinematic top 20 (this is one of the things I miss the most about Seattle).

I read the book when it came out, and it prompted me to buy several other David Peace novels. I have yet to see the film, however, so my observations on the review itself are understandably suspect. Scott gets one thing wrong in the review (though it may have been an editor in all fairness): when Don Revie left Leeds United, he took the England national team job, not the “British national team” job. Scott also charmingly admits that he hadn’t heard of Brian Clough, but then why should he have? Clough is a legend in England, was an enigmatic television presence (there’s plenty on youtube worth a watch) and had a magnificent career — probably the greatest English manager to never manage England. One of my best friends on this island grew up in Nottingham and was a Forest fan before a few years ago she unwisely traded in Forest for the mighty (and this year, relegation prone) Plymouth Argyle (she attended an Argyle – Forest match here at Home Park with loyalties deeply divided; she emerged an Argyle supporter and undoubtedly has regretted it ever since). While with the Argyle now, she still waxes eloquent about “Cloughie” (and retains a strong dislike for a certain Irish midfielder that Clough developed and then sold on to Man United). Clough’s son, Nigel, is continuing the family business; after an excellent turn at non league Burton Albion, Nigel took the Derby County job that back in the day made his father’s name.
If you can’t see the film, the book is definitely worth a read.
And as this is an international break, with WC qualification coming to a conclusion, I’ll have more to say about this particular sport soon. But first, I need to sort out some appropriate tags for this one from our limited stock . . .

Six Blind Mice

[ 1 ] October 10, 2009 |

When I posted about the latest Twins choke against the Yankees below, I wasn’t even aware of Phil Cuzzi’s attempts to resemble a major league umpire. Which reminds me that I meant to quote Joe Sheehan:

Inge also made some very strong defensive plays in the game, and had home-plate umpire Randy Marsh correctly called a hit-by-pitch on Inge in the 12th—the ball brushed his jersey, just barely hitting him, but by rule hitting him—Inge might well have been a hero.

As is so often the case these days, you cannot write about a big baseball game without using an umpire’s name. Marsh blew that call, which would have given the Tigers a lead. He just missed it, and the ridiculous justification offered by the announcers for it, “letting the batter decide the game,” was embarrassing. Eventually, you have to publicly shame umpires for their incompetence, or they’ll go on being incompetent. Marsh also made an ungodly bad call on a 2-2 pitch to Placido Polanco in the ninth inning, getting fooled by a breaking ball and giving Joe Nathan a key third strike. We can argue about whether he missed the play at the plate on Casilla as well, but the Inge and Polanco calls were more than enough bad to make Marsh the game’s goat. I fear we’re in for yet another month of fail from the arbiters.

I bring this up in part because I want to make clear that I’m not bringing this up to whine as a Yankees-hater. As far as I’m concerned, the Twins have absolutely nothing to complain about: they benefited from two crucial and abjectly horrible calls in the playoff, even after the blown call on Mauer they still had the bases loaded none out in the 11th and couldn’t get even one run off a very hittable reliever, and they wouldn’t have even been in the position if their All-star closer hasn’t served up a tasty meatball with a two-run lead in that ninth.

The problem isn’t that Cuzzi’s call helped the Yankees. The problem is that it was amateurish, absolutely unacceptable in a major league umpire, and we get way too much of this when the umpiring is supposed to be at its best.

putting the responsibility where it belongs.


[ 0 ] October 10, 2009 |

To state the obvious, he’s no Mariano Rivera. I’m glad I had plans so I didn’t have to see it live…

And despite Slappy’s performance (not his first good postseason one against the helpless-as-babes-against-the-Yankees Twins), sportswriters will still try to divide players into “clutch” and “not-clutch.”