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Iraq: The Bottom Line

[ 13 ] October 23, 2010 |

Depressing but true:

Well the latest Wikileaks disclosures ought to shut them up for good (it won’t, of course). “Our” side has both committed war crimes directly and has acquiesced, enabled, and covered up for the commission of such crimes by others. The incidents are not isolated episodes: rather we have systematic policy. The US government has a duty to investigate and to bring those of its own officials and military responsible to justice. Of course, this won’t happen and the Pentagon will pursue the whistle-blowers instead. So it goes.


Friday Nugget Blogging

[ 7 ] October 22, 2010 |

“I don’t think he really means to tie her to the bed and set the house on fire. I think he’s just trying to send her a strong signal, probably because she was cheating on him.”

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Game 6

[ 29 ] October 22, 2010 |

In an homage to the completely impartial commitment to the principle that no pundit can ever be fired for expressing views their employers find objectionable recently displayed by conservatives,  I am proud to renew my eternal, deeply principled support for Dallas area sports franchises.

UPDATE:  This is…not good enough for a game of this magnitude.

UPDATE II:  I didn’t know the Rangers were now being managed by the late Gene Mauch.

UPDATE III:   Don’t keep insulting the Impaler!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

UPDATE IV:  Personal to Joe Girardi:  David Robertson in an all-hands-on-deck elimination game:  a superb choice!    How about a little Mitre for the 6th?   I also can’t resist pointing out that he would appear to be above the greatest pitcher athlete in Yankee known human history on the depth chart.

UPDATE V:   In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t write the post I was planning saying that I didn”t expect Lewis to have much.

UPDATE VI:   Two words:   Woo.   Hoo.   Anybody got one of those perpetual GIFS of Slappy taking the called third strike yet?

Your Moment of Bobo

[ 16 ] October 22, 2010 |

“[L]udicrously wrong, Alessandra Stanley-grade wrong.” In fairness to Stanley, she at least usually confines her inevitable wrongness to a single field…

I Am Outraged That NPR Would Fire This Towering Intellect

[ 30 ] October 22, 2010 |

Shorter Verbatim Juan Williams:  “It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.”

Yeah, the thought that I might be punished — nay, tortured! — by being given a $2 million a year 3-year sinecure keeps me in constant terror.    I’m also sure that the many wingers who were outraged about Amnesty International calling a network of arbitrary torture centers a “gulag” will be even more outraged by Williams…

Yet More Williams

[ 22 ] October 21, 2010 |

In response to Jon Chait and his many other defenders, I think it’s worth making a few points about the Williams firing. Let’s start off by assuming, arguendo, that his comments were objectionable (which they were) but not in and of themselves a firable offense, and also leave aside questions of a double standard. Does this mean that NPR was wrong? Not as I see it:

  • Most important, it’s utterly disingenuous to claim that Williams was fired for a single comment.   This simply isn’t true. Williams had been warned about going on Fox and saying offensive things for years, and the race-baiting nonsense about Michelle Obama being “Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress” is indeed being particularly instructive.   This just wasn’t an isolated incident.
  • Since it’s relevant, allow me to be a sabermetric pedant.   “Replacement value” and “mediocre” are very different things, and while Chait claims that Williams was mediocre he was in fact replacement value.   Mediocre players have value — teams lose pennants all the time because they can’t fill holes with mediocre players.    Replacement-level players don’t — by definition, they can be replaced by players you can acquire for nothing.   Williams is the very definition of “replacement level” — hundreds of people could provide more informative and entertaining commentary for less money.    I challenge any NPR listener to name a single interesting insight or fact that a minimally informed reader didn’t already know from Williams’ interminable career as a pundit.    And the fact is, in any profession, this matters — the more replaceable you are, the shorter the leash you’re on.   If you’re a good teacher and publish several articles in top-flight journals every year, you can probably get away with being a jerk who blows off faculty meetings and committee work — but if you’re a more marginal tenure case I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Granted, when I say he’s “replacement level” I mean only for news organizations who care at all about informing their readers.    For the role of being a Washington Generals Potemkin “liberal” on Fox News, his former NPR affiliation, lazy sub-mediocrity and uncritical immersion in shallow center-right conventional wisdom are major assets.   So he’s landed on his feet (and how!), making attempts to turn him into a “free speech” martyr especially pathetic.
  • And, finally, I reiterate that the idea that NPR was attacking Williams’ free speech are absurd.   Although the First Amendment is irrelevant here, I agree that there are free speech principles implicated when a relatively powerless employee is fired for expressing political views — but this has nothing to do with Williams, who was very well compensated for expressing his political views.   To claim that his employers can’t evaluate the contents of his views when that’s what his job consists of is silly.    Even more ridiculous is the idea that he has this high level of “free speech” in his new job.   If he thinks this, I invite him to refuse to criticize Democratic officials and positions and to constantly attack Republicans,  or to go on MSNBC and attack Fox News hosts.    Nobody who has a job like Williams’ is afforded a level of “free speech” that Williams and his defenders claim.
  • What “free speech” and opposition to “political correctness” mean in this context, then, is the freedom to express prejudices about unpopular minorities. That’s it.  As Greenwald points out, mainstream journalists didn’t rise up in outrage because Phil Donahue was fired for opposing the Iraq War.    I assume that it doesn’t require elaborate argument to explain why this standard of “free speech” is worthless.

[UPDATE:  Yglesias actually beat me to the punch on the sabermetric pedantry.]

Whether you are interested in MB7-839 or looking for 70-647, using 70-178 passes your certification exam on first try of MB5-856; 70-443 is a superb job.

Big Dog Coming Back to Kentucky

[ 1 ] October 21, 2010 |

Dems smell blood in the Bluegrass…

LAWRENCEBURG – Former President Bill Clinton will return to Kentucky a day before the Nov. 2 election to campaign for Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway.

Conway campaign spokeswoman Allison Haley confirmed Thursday that Clinton will visit the state Nov. 1 for Conway. She said the locations of Clinton’s appearances have not been finalized.

Does the Obama Administration Have to Appeal the DADT Ruling?

[ 58 ] October 21, 2010 |

Absolutely not.

There’s nothing particularly complex here. The DOJ has no legal obligation to do appeal the DADT ruling, and there’s ample precedent for allowing a ruling of unconstitutionality to stand. And the case for making an exception here couldn’t be more compelling: the law unjustly burdens minority rights and lacks both popular support and the support of legislative majorities. (This case, therefore, can be easily distinguished from refusing to defend the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.) Whether or not one agrees with me on this, however, when the administration claims it doesn’t have discretion here they’re not telling the truth.

Williams: The Bottom Line

[ 28 ] October 21, 2010 |

As gmack also says in our comments, this is correct:

But as in the case of Rick Sanchez it seems to me that if you assume Williams has been doing valuable work all these years, firing him over this single incident is excessive. But as an NPR listener, I’m a good deal more familiar with Williams’ work than I am with Sanchez’s and it seems clear to me that Williams has not, in fact, been doing valuable work all these years. If Williams had never made these remarks about Muslims and NPR announced his firing this morning on the grounds of general lameness and lack of valuable contribution to their programming, I would have applauded the move so I’m hardly going to deplore what actually happened.

He Probably Drunk-Dials at 7AM, Too

[ 18 ] October 21, 2010 |

While Ginni Thomas probably has the Bob Packwood award for the “creepiest act of communication from a conservative to hit the news this week” locked up, it must be conceded that Todd Seavey gave it a strong effort:

Especially priceless: Jonah’s peals of laughter after one of Seavey’s “some of you probably dated her at the same time” crack.

As for the background on Seavey, I would have thought it was beyond effective parody, but Jill has proven me wrong.

End of An Error

[ 34 ] October 21, 2010 |

NPR fires Wan Juilliams over anti-Muslim comments.

I would like to think that this will get Williams to reconsider whether he wants to waste what was once some real journalistic talent as a hack Fox News liberal, but I fear he will become a more committed YoostaBee instead…

…Sarah Palin’s theory that the First Amendment makes any criticism of people Sarah Palin likes illegal continues to be influential.   Apparently, since I don’t have a contract with NPR my free speech rights are being violated.

…gmack in comments is also correct:

I do want to throw this out here: The problem with NPR’s political coverage is not so much that they employ folks who often mouth conservative arguments and framing devices; the problem is that they are utterly banal and tedious. And on that count, I think Cokie Roberts needs to go before Liasson (granted I’ll be happy if they both go, but one step at a time). In this sense, I’m a bit frustrated that Williams left over this flap. His comment was idiotic*, but the real problem is that his political analysis is useless, uninteresting, and uninformative.

More On Things That Go Boom

[ 0 ] October 20, 2010 |

Stephanie Carvin has a long follow-up to my critique of her earlier explosive weapons essay at Duck of Minerva. She provides a lot of interesting history and legal analysis, but never really elaborates on the one point in the post that directly addresses my defense of the explosive weapons campaign:

With regards to blast weapons, it is clear that the authors of Landmine Action’s report want a de facto ban because of the effects that the weapons cause – albeit both intended and non-intended effects. But by focusing on the effects of the civilians, it is clear that an effects-based rather than intention-based rational is at play here – and I think serious questions can be raised regarding this strategy.

What serious questions? Is such a strategy ineffective? Does it lead to suboptimal outcomes? Weak norms? The banning of weapons that in humanitarian terms are actually superior to the alternatives? The only argument against the effects-based approach versus the intent-based approach appears to be Stephanie’s claim that there’s a mismatch between the advocates’ moral claims and the earlier structure of international law. But:
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