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[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

They seem like good series. Let’s hope so, as the wild card round had 3 dogs (although the individual games were often good.)

LA v. PHI Very interesting series, with very talented teams with often-mocked (especially by me) managers who turned out to be excellent. My gut, like the Diamond Mind simulation, says that the Dodgers’ big edge in bullpen will outweigh the Phillies’ (unnecessarily large) edge in the rotation. The key moment in the last series occurred when Howard was idiotically allowed to face a right-handed reliever at a key moment of the game; that’s not likely to happen again. One big wild card, though: I could see Pedro pulling a series-changing Howard Ehmke start in Game 2, which could be a huge plus. But I’ll stick with DODGERS IN SIX.

NYY v. LA The contours of the series are clear enough: perennial contenders fielding their strongest teams in years, with the Yankees (with a better record in a better division) unmistakably although not massively better. The interesting question is how what looks like awful weather in New York will affect things. I see three it cutting three ways:

  • A rainout, obviously, greatly benefits the Angels. Especially given the Yankee lineup, a Kazmir/Gaudin matchup would give the Angels a huge edge, arguably bigger than Sabathia/Lackey or Saunders/Burnett. If a rainout was guaranteed this series might be close to a push, although I would have to think it’s still unlikely on balance.
  • The colder weather could benefit the Angels in two ways: even absent a rainout it will decrease runs, which both helps the weaker offensive team in general by making the games closer and also gives an edge to the team more able to “manufacture” runs, which again would probably be the Angels.
  • On the other hand, closer games give an edge to teams with a better bullpen, and the Yankees have a huge edge here.

If the Angels still had K-Rod, I might be a little more optimistic about their chances. But it’s pretty easy to see Fuentes and company getting the crap pounded out of them in close games, and it’s hard to see many Angel blowouts. YANKS IN 5.


Saletan and Polanski

[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

Though alerted by both emailers and commenters about this, I was hoping to avoid it. But then, via Patterico (who deals with it well enough), I saw the followup, and…they pull me back in. First, let’s consider this, when Saletan responds to commenters who noted the fact that he completely ignored the fact that the sex in the Polanski case doesn’t seem to have been even nominally consensual:

Many of you, in response, called attention to the victim’s grand jury testimony, which alleges that Polanski gave her a Quaalude and that he ignored her instructions to stop. Those allegations are important pieces of evidence. Not decisive—we don’t convict people in this country based on grand jury testimony from one party—but important. So are other parts of her testimony, which detail apparently voluntary acts of compliance, such as taking off her underwear.

Even leaving aside the fact that in context at best removing her underwear represented consent to nude photography rather than sexual intercourse, this really isn’t a very complicated question either legally or morally. If she repeatedly said “no” to having sex with Polanski subsequent to removing her underwear, he was obligated to stop, and if he didn’t it’s rape. Period. If her testimony is accurate, there can be no question that Polanski was guilty of sexual assault irrespective of the victim’s age.

Then there’s this:

The same goes for laws about sexual abuse. If you have the goods to convict a man of rape, prosecute him for rape. Don’t invite him to plead guilty to sex with a teenager. That kind of plea deal, coupled with a stiff jail sentence, just furthers the conflation of sexual assault defined by force with sexual assault defined by age.

A couple points:

  • Polanski, given the credible evidence that he was guilty of sexual assault, did not receive anything remotely resembling a stiff sentence. Even had the judge set aside the informal agreement, he did not seem at risk for serving anything more than 90 days.
  • It is true that California made a plea agreement to a lesser offense. Although the sentence was far too lenient, given the context (no rape shield law, and a not-coincidentally reluctant-to-testify victim) I’m not inclined to second-guess the decision without knowing more, and pleading to lesser offenses that the defendant concedes to is banal. But since nobody is saying that Polanski should be re-tried, that’s not the issue. Rather, what’s going on is that Polanski’s apologists are arguing that the director should be given special treatment. If a normal person skipped out on a plea agreement, nobody would find his arrest unusual or claim that his going to jail was unjust. Surely, the victim’s credible testimony under oath that she was sexually assaulted is relevant to determining whether Polanski should not have to face consequences that virtually anyone else in his position would have to, even if the state of California is formally obligated to treat him as if he was guilty only of statutory rape.

Update (Paul): Like Scott I also hate to get pulled back into this, but it’s appalling that Saletan treats statutory rape in this context as significantly different from forcible rape. Obviously statuory rape creates difficult line-drawing problems, but it’s hard to believe that many people find the idea of a 45-year-old man having sex with a 13-year-old girl to be anywhere near such lines. Even leaving aside the fact that the victim was intoxicated, Saletan’s reference to the victim as a “teenager” obscures this. Would he be making the same argument if she had been 12? 12 is a lot closer to 13 for these purposes than 13 is to 17 or 16, and not just mathematically speaking.

My Inalienable Right To Invest In An NFL Team Is Also Being Violated As I Speak!

[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

Shorter Andy McCarthy: “In a genuinely post-racial America, someone who compared NFL players with gang members would be allowed to invest in the league without controversy. And, yes, I do actually believe that NFL owners are primarily concerned with what Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson think.”

There’s too much comedy gold generated by the subject to deal with it all, but my personal favorite has to be Ed Driscoll claiming there’s a double standard involved, because the league is allowing Fergie to invest, and she’s a total slut! I mean having more sex with people other than Ed Driscoll than Ed Driscoll deems appropriate is way worse than racism! And at a White House event, she once — cover your ears and hide the children! — totally used the word “ass”! OK, she didn’t actually use the word, but you could tell she wanted to!

Adam has more.

Psychological Damage To Sexual Assault Victims

[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

People who consider the victim’s (understandable) desire to put her sexual assault behind her a reason not to punish her rapist in the Roman Polanski case may wish to consider Theoren Fleury being willing to hire the coach who assaulted him to coach the junior team he owned. Being sexually assaulted has all kinds of psychological effects, but they don’t eliminate a rapist’s moral or legal culpability. Of course, since James’s victims were young men, nobody seems to have trouble understanding that in this case.

More On Snowe

[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

I think Joan gets it right. On balance, I think it’s quite possible that giving up even this very thin veneer of bipartisanship would produce a better bill on balance, although given the number of conservative Dems it’s arguable.

Peak Wingnut, October 14 2009

[ 0 ] October 15, 2009 |

Orly Taitz, the enterprising lawyer who has filed various lawsuits alleging that Barack Obama is constitutionally ineligible to be president of the United States, has achieved the perhaps unique legal distinction of so enraging a federal judge with her lunatic theories that she has been fined $20,000 for making frivolous legal arguments, without opposing counsul first moving for sanctions.

Readers who don’t want to wade through this mess may wish to peruse pages 16-18 of the judge’s ruling, dealing with the mysterious appearance of Attorney General Eric Holder in a Columbus Georgia coffee shop, and Microsoft’s tottering financial empire.

By request: my visual rhetoric course

[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

As requested in the comments to my last post and via a couple of emails, here’s a general outline of the course I teach on visual rhetoric. (If you find it interesting or just want to give me money, the book I’m co-writing with my course director should be available early next summer.) I’m more than happy to debate the merits of teaching rhetoric and argument through popular culture or the validity of any of the particular readings I put forward; however, keep in mind that those readings are presented in the classroom and, as such, are designed to be arguable instead of definitive. I want them to argue with particular statements because I’m teaching them how to argue, so there are moments (particularly in the readings of the films) that I’m deliberately wrong. Those moments will likely be obvious to you, but you’re not an 18-year-old undergraduate on the short end of an institutional power imbalance who’s afraid that, should they contradict me, they will fail the class, lose their scholarship and spend their days toiling away in the service industries.

That said, here are links to the analytic portion of the course:

  1. I introduce them to the idea of the overdetermined image, because nothing is accidental in an Alan Moore script.*
  2. Nor, for that matter, is anything accidental when it costs $80,000 per second to film it, which is why we then discuss how Christopher Nolan turns Batman into classic horror monster in Batman Begins. The point here is get them fluent in the language of film, so that they might make arguments about how directors manipulate the camera in order to appeal to the audience. (We also discuss what is and isn’t in the diegetic space, e.g. music, which is heard by the audience but not the characters.)
  3. Then it’s on to The Dark Knight. That link goes to a reading of the interrogation scene; this one leads you to a similarly thorough analysis dedicated to proving the controversial thesis that Batman is really fast—because demonstrating that even the simplest of claims require evidence and careful argument to be taken seriously is the point of the course.
  4. Now that they’re relatively fluent in the language of film, we try to prove something a little more complex; namely, that Superman Returns is very much about 9/11. First, I take them back to September morning; then we analyze the action sequence that’s about planes slamming into NYC landmarks, lest they think I’m reading too much into the anxieties the film taps into.
  5. Now that they’re comfortable with film, I get them to apply that knowledge to comics via the comic that’s about the conventions of comics and is therefore utterly unfilmable, Watchmen. I begin by reminding them of the overdetermined nature of the image, then we discuss panel transitions and word-picture relation, move on layout and narrative flow, then I try to prove what I stated in the second sentence about Watchmen being a meta-comic. My argument’s deliberately argumentative, because Dr. Manhattan can also function as a figure of the reader as well the author, but that’s an argument I want to have. From there, it’s onto the unfilmable film itself.
  6. Now that they can break film and comics into their constituent parts, I re-orient them in an explicitly rhetorical direction. We talk about the rhetorical situation, which is, of course, a triangle. (For the record: that silliness is me teaching myself to manipulate images in Photoshop for my book on teaching visual rhetoric.) Then we situate the rhetorical context in the historical context via Warren Ellis’s Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth.
  7. From there on out, it’s all about the writing. I teach them about paragraph burgers, which, while silly, is the single most effective means I’ve found to teach paragraph structure. Students intuitively understand that you don’t call a pickle with and a piece of a cheese a “hamburger.” For the remainder of the quarter, we use the tools from the beginning of the course to make sophisticated arguments about the rhetorical stakes of what they’d otherwise dismiss as pop culture ephemera.

*I’ve never written up my notes on getting them to think about structure via punchlines, which begins, not surprisingly, here with The Killing Joke. The gist of it is that jokes don’t work if you only provide the punchline, which is my way of introducing them to the notion of process: this shot in a film or panel in a comic or argument in an essay only works as a punchline if the joke’s been properly set up. Basically, I try to get them to think about argument in terms they intuitively understand.

From Kitchener to D’Annunzio

[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

We’re all liberal fascists now.


[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

I heartily endorse this proposal [slide 4] to redesign American currency, if only because replacing Andrew Jackson with Duke Ellington on the $20 would, in and of itself, justify the project.


[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

On some level, taking Ceci Connolly to task for acting as a stenographer for insurance company interests willfully attempting to deceive the public is like criticizing a camel for having humps — there was never any reason to think Connolly would be anything but in over her head, or that her inevitable errors would do anything but reinforce narratives that reactionary interests want spread. The real issue here is with her editors — given her track record, this seems exactly like the kind of reporting they want.

The last word

[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

He only raped one little girl.

Random Airport Blogging, Heathrow Edition (World Cup Qualifiers)

[ 0 ] October 14, 2009 |

I’ll be in the air during most if not all of the final round of qualifying for South Africa 2010, so I will miss a few mini dramas:

Uruguay v Argentina. This is perhaps the most interesting match on offer. With a win or a draw, Argentina avoid the ignominy of being dumped into the playoff against the 4th placed CONCACAF qualifier (against whom they would likely win). There was considerable debate a night or two ago on BBC 5 Live whether or not Maradona will get the sack even if they qualify (as well as whether or not David Beckham or Michael Owen deserve any consideration for making the 2010 squad for England). However, their opposition is Uruguay away, so there’s a decent chance that Argentina lose. Worse, an Argentina loss combined with an Ecuador win away to already qualified Chile results in Argentina not even making the playoff spot — unlikely, but possible.
Imagine a World Cup Finals without Argentina?
In CONCACAF, the only real issue left unresolved is who goes to the playoff against South America 5, and who automatically qualifies, as both the USA and Mexico qualified this past weekend. Costa Rica has a two point lead on Honduras, but face the stiffer challenge: Costa Rica play away to the USA at RFK, while Honduras play away to El Salvador, who have nothing to play for. 1st in the group is still open between the USA and Mexico with the US holding a slender one point lead. While both teams are level on goal differential, that will not come into play: the only way they end up level on points is if the US loses and Mexico draws; such a result would give Mexico a superior g/d.
I predict a US and victory over Costa Rica, and Honduras a slight edge to gain all three points out of El Salvador. While their combined g/d give Honduras a +10 advantage over El Salvador, when they played in Honduras earlier in qualifying it was only a 1-0 victory to the latter.
Assuming the US wins the group this year, don’t necessarily expect a seed in the World Cup itself.
Prost Amerika has a run down of those teams that qualified this past weekend.
There’s not much left to settle in UEFA. 2nd in Group 1 could go to Portugal, Sweden, or Hungary (and I would personally embrace a reality where Christiano Ronaldo is not in the World Cup Finals.)
Groups 2 and 3 are relatively wide open, with neither the automatic qualifier nor second place determined; surprises include Switzerland the likely winner of Group 2, the Czech Republic finishing second at best (and that’s no sure thing), Northern Ireland being mathematically (if not probabalistically) alive on the final match of qualifying, and Poland tanking. For those interested, and I know a couple people who very much are, the chances of Fox News admitting their sins by owning up to the salacious affair with the wingnut branch of the Republican Party, and as a mea culpa get fully behind ‘cap and trade’ as well as criticising Obama for not pushing for the Public Option are higher than Northern Ireland finishing second. NI would need to win away to the Czech Republic, while Slovenia would have to freeze on the big stage of playing away to San Marino and lose big to the mountaintop that could. This would only result in a points draw; the existing g/d advantage to Slovenia is +7 compared to NI.
But hell, it’s possible, right? After all, San Marino have scored a goal during this qualifying campaign, while conceding only 44.
Groups 4 and 5 are settled (Germany and Spain qualify, Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (!) finish second). The only real news in these groups is Turkey’s inability to finish even second.
Group 6, the group that England dominated until they won it, is down to Croatia or Ukraine for second. Groups 7, 8 and 9 are done (qualifying are Serbia, Italy, Netherlands; second are France, Ireland, and Norway). Shocking for France that they finished second to Serbia, and there is an outside chance that Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina would all qualify for the World Cup finals. That would be sort of cool, in a USA v Iran 1998 sort of way (or a South Korea v North Korea 2010 sort of way, both of whom have qualified).
It’s a safe bet that the one of nine second place teams to miss the cut for the second place playoffs is Norway.
As for LHR, there’s a reason I avoid this airport. I had to catch an 0330 bus from Plymouth to get here with any time to make my flight (and in this case far more time than I needed), and the bus drops one off at the Heathrow Central Bus Station. This is very convenient to Terminals 1, 2, and 3, but if you’re unfortunate to find yourself departing from T4 or T5, there’s a combination of long walk and tube journey (technically the Heathrow Express, and that is free) to get to your destination. Total time invested to get from the Heathrow bus station to Heathrow T4 was slightly over twice as long as it takes to fly from Plymouth Airport to Bristol Airport. Since T5 opened, T4 has turned into something of a ghost town as well, but the line for check-in was short (I suppose that has something to do with checking in about four hours in advance of take off?) and security was, surprisingly, a breeze.