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The Nominees Are…

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

…as follows. Not a lot of thoughts, although the expanded Oscar list seems pretty OK by Oscar standards. I actually thought all four of the nominated films I’ve seen (Serious Man, An Education, Inglorious Bastards, Up In The Air) were at least good, which is unusual. I’m hoping this will get The Hurt Locker on the big screen in the provinces before I have to resort to watching the Blu Ray, am intrigued by Precious and District 9, am sure that The Blind Side ruins the excellent book, and will probably continue to pass on the inevitable winner Dances With Expensive Smurfs. I’m also happy to see Vera Farmiga get nominated…


Who are You, and What Have You Done with Lord Saletan?

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

Wow. Since when is Will Saletan capable of making sense?

Pam’s story certainly is moving. But as a guide to making abortion decisions, it’s misleading. Doctors are right to worry about continuing pregnancies like hers. Placental abruption has killed thousands of women and fetuses. No doubt some of these women trusted in God and said no to abortion, as she did. But they didn’t end up with Heisman-winning sons. They ended up dead.

Being dead is just the first problem with dying in pregnancy. Another problem is that the fetus you were trying to save dies with you. A third problem is that your existing kids lose their mother. A fourth problem is that if you had aborted the pregnancy, you might have gotten pregnant again and brought a new baby into the world, but now you can’t. And now the Tebows have exposed a fifth problem: You can’t make a TV ad.

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Dumbest Crayon Scribblings At Fred Hiatt’s Place Today

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

Richard Cohen. The fact that a plausible list of the worst WaPo columnists could be compiled an not include him remains amazing; as Paul says, it’s like a mirror image of the 1975 Reds.

What is it, with students and, with commas?

[ 0 ] February 2, 2010 |

I write some, variation of this every time I’m, marking papers, but these, little, Shatners, they leave me no choice. At Unfogged earlier, we were discussing whether the ubiquity of text-based interfaces had a beneficial effect on student writing, and I neglected to mention the blindingly obvious: these fancy new text interfaces not only don’t require commas, their limit on the number of characters actively encourages people to write without them. The result is that students form a mental picture of what a text looks like and it has nary, a comma, in it.

So when they’re asked to write in formal, comma-containing sentences, they don’t distribute the commas according to grammatical rules or the natural rhythms of a sentence; instead, they place their commas according to some aesthetic ideal of what an academic paper looks like. They’re little, abstract, painters, who need to dribble a bit more punctuation here, and a bit more, there, in order to complete, their masterpiece.

I’m tempted to mock up that classic comma joke in a way that’ll be memorable to them:

Let’s eat Shatner!

Let’s eat, Shatner!

Commas: they save lives.

I think I might have to replace “Shatner” with “Priceline Negotiator” if I want them to recognize the reference.

Game Plans

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

Kayvan Farzaneh informs us that the Pentagon has been worrying about terrorists using World of Warcraft to plot attacks. Considering a Wisconsin appeals court recently upheld the right of prisons to ban inmates from playing Dungeons and Dragons, lest they “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment,” this sort of paranoia is not just funny but genuinely troubling.

Too bad the “right to play” in international law only applies to children…

Blaming the Victim

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

Since it might be unsuccessful in denying Jamie Leigh Jones her access to the courts, I suppose it’s not surprising that KBR has tried floating some of the smears against her that it apparently believes wouldn’t withstand the scrutiny of an independent tribunal. Unsurprising, but certainly appalling. (Via Lithwick, who has much more.)

QDR Blogging: Climate Change and the DoD

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

See Loomis.

QDR Blogging: Acquisition Reform and the Civilian Workforce

[ 0 ] February 1, 2010 |

While the 2006 QDR talked a bit about problems in acquisition and the need for acquisition reform, and a bit about the need to hire and retain the right skills in the DoD civilian workforce, but didn’t really draw any connections between the two. The 2010 QDR (p.76):

The Pentagon’s acquisition workforce has been allowed to atrophy, exacerbating a decline in the critical skills necessary for effective oversight. For example, over the past ten years, the Department’s contractual obligations have nearly tripled while our acquisition workforce fell by more than 10 percent. The Department also has great difficulty hiring qualified senior acquisition officials. Over the past eight years the Department has operated with vacancies in key acquisition positions averaging from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force. There remains an urgent need for technically trained personnel-cost estimators, systems engineers, and acquisition managers-to conduct effective oversight.

On the next page, the QDR calls for the hiring of 20000 additional acquisitions personnel to make up for this shortfall. I suspect that the major reason that we see this in the 2010 QDR and not in the 2006 is that the Obama administration has rejected the idea that essential DoD responsibilities can be privatized and out-sourced. The downsizing and outsourcing of the acquisitions workforce isn’t entirely the responsibility of the Bush administration, as it was also pursued under Clinton. Lead Systems Integrators, in which civilian contractors managed major programs such the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program and the Army’s Future Combat Systems, were part of this project. LSIs were also one of the very, very few “privatization” initiatives that failed so abjectly that pretty much no one wants to try them again.

See also Spencer on this point.

QDR Blogging: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

[ 0 ] January 31, 2010 |

2006 QDR:

India is emerging as a great power and a key strategic partner. On July 18, 2005 the President and Indian Prime Minister declared their resolve to transform the U.S.-India relationship into a global partnership that will provide leadership in areas of mutual concern and interest. Shared values as long-standing, multi-ethnic democracies provide the foundation for continued and increased strategic cooperation and represent an important opportunity for our two countries.

2010 QDR:

As the economic power, cultural reach, and political influence of India increase, it is assuming a more influential role in global affairs. This growing influence, combined with democratic values it shares with the United States, an open political system, and a commitment to global stability, will present many opportunities for cooperation. India’s military capabilities are rapidly improving through increased defense acquisitions, and they now include long-range maritime surveillance, maritime interdiction and patrolling, air interdiction, and strategic airlift. India has already established its worldwide military influence through counterpiracy, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief efforts. As its military capabilities grow, India will contribute to Asia as a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean and beyond.

In just four years, India acquired 48 more words, a 70% increase. If this trend continues, the 2074 QDR will consist entirely of one long paragraph about India.

And the Ann Althouse Award for Contentlessness in Blogging goes to…

[ 0 ] January 31, 2010 |

Ann Althouse!

It seems to me that the President is the victim of his own ideas about how to do things differently. If he had graciously accepted the inheritance left by George Bush, he wouldn’t have had either of these problems. He squandered an inheritance that he failed to value! Bush—despite his reputation for simplicity—did understand the complexity of the problem, and he had a solution. There was stability. After posturing about “change” in his political campaign, Barack Obama seemed to think that he could apply the immense power he had won to changing things in the real world.


The President suffers from the delusion that he wants to do things differently. If he had just wanted to continue doing what Bush had done, he wouldn’t have wanted to do things differently. Bush understood that stuff is hard, and he solved different hard stuff the same way every time. Obama said he wanted to solve different hard stuff differently during the election, and once he won it, he suckered himself into believing that he could wield the power he won to solve hard stuff his own way.

Second-order shorter:

It seems to me that Ann Althouse often writes about ideas she does not have. If she had ideas, she would write about them instead of the having of them, but because she only writes about the having of them, no one ever knows what they are. Her posts are like pictures of laptops idling on tables at which no one works: ideas could potentially be communicated through them, but for now they deliver no actual content, only the low hum of pointlessly cycling hard drives.

Warning: Because her name has appeared three times in this post, she will, of course, show up in the comments and claim that her vacuousness is actually a vortex into which someone has been sucked. (Someone should alert her to the definition of “vacuum” that doesn’t involve suction.)

Etiquette Lessons

[ 0 ] January 31, 2010 |

I’m still going to stick with my contention that the key variables in claiming that Obama’s banal criticism of a Supreme Court opinion was somehow an “unprecedented” outrage are 1)President Obama, and 2)a Supreme Court decision the outraged parties strongly support on the merits.


[ 0 ] January 31, 2010 |

Personal to all Flames General Managers: No more multi-player deals with the Leafs in which you give up the best player. Ever again. What the hell.