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There Is A Santa Claus!

[ 7 ] January 24, 2008 |

I know it’s hard to let go of your dreams, but there seems something uniquely pathetic about combining brokered convention wankery with “Fred Thompson’s still in it although he never was in it!” wishful thinking. I hate to tell people, but the GOP nomination is a two-person race, and a two-person race won’t produce a brokered convention.

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Tiger Makes Other Golfers Worse

[ 0 ] January 24, 2008 |


If money motivates, then the prospect of winning the top prize should bring out extreme effort in golf. But when Tiger is playing and you’re not Tiger, you face a depressed prize schedule. If you assume Tiger is going to win, then the top prize available to you is $864,000 rather than $1.44 million. That beats the heck out of steak knives, but it’s significantly less than the winner’s take. Second place—among players who are not Tiger—gets $544,000 rather than $864,000, and so on. While Tiger certainly doesn’t win every tournament he enters, he does frequently shift the reward schedule for most of the field. Of the 219 tournaments he’s played in during his first professional decade, Tiger collected 54 PGA wins, finished in the top three in 92, and in the top 10 in 132….

Analyzing data from round-by-round scores from all PGA tournaments between 2002 and 2006 (over 20,000 player-rounds of golf), Brown finds that competitors fare less well—about an extra stroke per tournament—when Tiger is playing. How can we be sure this is because of Tiger? A few features of the findings lend them plausibility. The effect is stronger for the better, “exempt” players than for the nonexempt players, who have almost no chance of beating Tiger anyway. (Tiger’s presence doesn’t mean much to you if the best you can reasonably expect to finish is about 35th—there’s not much difference between the prize for 35th and 36th place.) The effect is also stronger during Tiger’s hot streaks, when his competitors’ prospects are more clearly dimmed. When Tiger is on, his competitors’ scores were elevated by nearly two strokes when he entered a tournament. And the converse is also true: During Tiger’s well-publicized slump of 2003 and 2004, when he went winless in major events, exempt competitors’ scores were unaffected by Tiger’s presence.

This doesn’t seem right to me, but the empirical case is certainly interesting. What are the alternative explanations? It’s obviously a bit twitchy to claim that Tiger’s hot streaks and slumps cause other golfers to play better or worse; the causation could run in the other direction as well, although the sample size would seem to suggest that isn’t happening…

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Score one for Bazelon & Lithwick

[ 9 ] January 24, 2008 |

The Slate Legal Ladies make quick work of wingnut M. Edward Whelan’s bully-style critiques of NY Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse, and of the Times’s seeming inability to fully stand up for her. Sure, ombudsman Clark Hoyt gives lip service to her lack of bias and calls Whelan a bully, but he then validates Whelan’s critique by going on to criticize Greenhouse for not disclosing in her columns that her husband is a lawyer who has filed amicus briefs with the court, sometimes in the cases she covered…even though she doesn’t talk about her husband’s briefs in her stories. Hoyt suggests that the Times should make stricter its disclosure policy–say, require Greenhouse to provide more information to the public than that her husband is a lawyer, even when it’s not relevant to the substance of her writing.

Lithwick and Bazelon make clear the ridiculousness of the chest-puffing stance:

(Disclosure: We have both worked with Greenhouse and admire her enormously. Fidell has never said anything about the Bush administration to us. We made that quote up. Also, our husbands like Thai food and the color blue, in case that precludes us from reporting on anything in the future. Also also, Whelan has slimed both of us, too—apparently there’s lots of us unfit reporters out there.)

NB, Whelan and other slate-watchers: they write about thai food or the color blue — you complain.

But seriously, Lithwick & Bazelon are right to lay bare the ridiculousness of Hoyt’s acceptance of Whelan’s pseudo criticisms. Especially because Hoyt bases his suggestions for a new Times disclosure policy on Whelan’s complaints. I’ve got a question for Hoyt: does so disingenuously defending your own reporter undermine your stance as the moral authority at the Times?

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Like New

[ 12 ] January 24, 2008 |

I spent much of yesterday afternoon/evening installing a new internal hard drive into my computer. When I got my MacBook about a year ago, I scoffed at the idea that 80GB would not be enough. Well, it wasn’t.

My certified Apple Genius friend took charge (with her handy dandy mini screwdriver), and voila. A few hours later, I had a new hard drive. Frankly, it feels like I have a zippy new computer.

A word to the wise: if you ever migrate information from your old computer to a new computer, do it manually. After ten years and three computers, turns out I had over 10GB of junk “old system” files on my computer…and that, having deleted that stuff, maybe I didn’t really need a new hard drive after all. Doh.

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Deader Than Fred

[ 0 ] January 24, 2008 |

Rudy!’s Florida firewall seems to be rather porous.

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Things That Are Very, Very Cool

[ 11 ] January 24, 2008 |

If you pay the slightest attention to the threads around here, you’ll be delighted to know that Aimai is now blogging at If I Ran the Zoo. From her touching introduction:

I’m a dedicated political junkie and free lance cultural kibbitzer. I’ve been posting on other people’s blogs for years and have a wider than I would like group of posters who recognize and detest me (in the last month alone it seemed like “fuck you, Aimai” was some kind of auto response to my posts). It was lonely and sometimes frustrating to have to piss people off retail, as it were. Thanks to Tom’s generous offer to let me perch here I hope to bring my annoying opinions to even more people, and give them a chance to tell me to fuck off right here at my new home base.

Sounds good, but can you take Fitz with you?

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How About Everyone Agree With Me Instead?

[ 72 ] January 23, 2008 |

In light of the anniversary of Roe, you’ll be excited to know that William Saletan has an exciting idea for advancing the abortion debate. The solution is: everyone should just concede that William Saletan is right about everything!

To pro-choicers: Talk about abortion the way you’ve been talking about teen sex, embracing an ideal number of zero. To pro-lifers: Accept that the best way to advance toward zero is through voluntary prevention.

On the latter point, I suppose it would be nice if American “pro-lifers” were more concerned about protecting fetal life than regulating female sexuality, but alas you go to war with the reactionaries you have. While we wait for the forced pregnancy lobby to abandon criminalization and focus instead on contraception access and health care I’ll take a pony and an ice cream castle in the air. Saletan’s advice to pro-choicers, similarly, fails to explain how arguing that abortion is icky will help advance an argument for its legalization, and also fails to explain why people who don’t already should agree with Saletan’s moral intuitions.

In a new moralistic twist, however, pro-choicers are supposed not only to claim that the ideal number of abortions is zero, but that the ideal amount of teen sex is zero! The former is at least narrowly true; I guess it would be nice if the number of abortions was zero in the sense that it would be nice if the number of appendectomies was zero. But in the real world unwanted pregnancies will happen just as burst appendixes will happen, so talking about an ideal abortion rate of 0% can do nothing except undermine the case for keeping it safe and legal. Why I’m supposed to be outraged that 17 year-olds are having sex, on the other hand, is beyond me, and Saletan doesn’t help by providing, say, an argument for this position apart from citing Nancy Keenan’s unfounded assertions. I might agree that the ideal rate of teen pregnancy — and, for that matter, unwanted pregnancy — is zero, and while we’re at it I’ll take three ponies and the next four winning Powerball tickets.

For bonus wankery, Saletan praises what was perhaps last year’s most disingenuous argument for forced pregnancy:

Last year, in a New York Times op-ed, journalist Melinda Henneberger (now a Slate contributor) argued that public sentiment against abortion was hurting Democrats. “Most people differentiate between a fetus in the early weeks of development and at nearly full term,” she wrote, citing the party’s defense of partial-birth abortions.

It’s remarkably how much wrongness can be packed into so little space. First of all, “partial birth” abortions do no just occur “at nearly full term,” and in fact bans on the procedure proscribe even the ones that are preformed before viability, which is why pro-choicers who actually know what they’re talking about opposed the bans. Secondly, neither Saletan nor Henneberger have any argument for their claim a D&X is more morally problematic than a D&E performed at the same time of gestation, most likely because such a distinction is transparently irrational. And finally, neither Saletan nor Henneberger provide any evidence that being pro-choice causes a net loss of votes for the Democratic Party. But when you remember that Saletan actually argued that the Democratic Party’s position must be unpopular unless they win pretty much every single election — they’re all, apparently,referenda on abortion, even the ones held during wartime! — bare assertion is probably the better approach.

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Signs of Life

[ 12 ] January 23, 2008 |

The Cats may be 8-9 and in the midst of their worst season in recent memory, but you can’t complain about a victory over one of the premier sources of evil in the modern world..

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This is Why Mickey Doesn’t Get Hired by a Lot of Campaigns

[ 9 ] January 23, 2008 |

How does Obama win the Democratic nomination for President? According to Mickey, denouncing affirmative action and moving hard right on immigration are key. If that doesn’t work, I’m sure that busting some unions, threatening to invade Iran, and calling for the elimination of Social Security will do the trick…

…incidentally, in the “credit where due” department, Hitch wrote a decent enough article on Huck and the Confederate flag a couple of days ago.

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Leave Jonah Alone!

[ 117 ] January 23, 2008 |

As best I can fathom, this appears to be a sincere fan letter to Jonah Goldberg:

When I see people at Crooked Timber open threads asking why they should take you seriously, and spend hundreds of comments calling you an idiot, [. . .] then I want to cry. They’re being dishonest and cruel and not allowing you to make a single mistake. They’re setting you up to fail.

They have no understanding of how to be a genuine scholar. I work like hell to help those around me have the best arguments possible, even if I disagree with those arguments. I understand the spirit Liberal Fascism was written in. And I’m sorry you live in a nation of genuine fascists, and I mean that word in its worst sense. There’s no way I would accept the attitude of Henry Farrell from anyone around me; it is something I would end friendships over.

I’m just amazed you can take this abuse and keep going strong . . .

Goldberg responds by reassuring his readers that he’s going to be OK and that his unserious critics are seriously not serious and that he won’t take them seriously because he’s rubber and they’re glue.

He also wheels out the novel claim that he’s being attacked because he’s “hit something real,” a defensive gesture I’ll be sure to remember when my new project, Freemasons Rule the World, hits bookstores next month. I expect to take some knocks for my argument — which essentially exposes the fact that Freemasons control the world — but I’m pretty sure my anti-Masonic friends will understand that I’m actually making a very cautious, thoughtful argument. In spite of what the title suggests — it comes from an episode of The Simpsons, an allusion my Masonic critics are bound to miss — I don’t argue that contemporary Freemasons actually control the world. Instead, I’m interested in the ways that important Freemasons around the world exert control over lots of things that are in the world, like governments, the global economy, science, and those sorts of things. It’s a work of political theory.

If mouthbreathers choose to mistake my point, I’ll take comfort in knowing that Frederich Hayek, Charles Murray, Allan Bloom — and of course Jonah Goldberg — went through the same ordeal. And if Matthew Yglesias doesn’t like it, it’s because he’s totally mad at me for something I wrote about him, and also because the goatee I’m sporting these days makes him envious.

(Meantime, if LGM readers could do me a favor and read some books on Freemasonry and find the evidence I’ll need to make my argument, I’d be grateful. We’re running up against some deadlines here, and I’m afraid the publisher might have to delay the book’s release again.)

. . . . Praise be! Much as Thomas DiLorenzo appears to have written the rough draft for Goldberg’s book in 1994, Jon Swift — proving that not all conservatives are fascists — has already done the conceptual heavy lifting for my expose of Freemasonry….

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The Rightness of Roe

[ 0 ] January 23, 2008 |

In honor of it’s 35th Anniversary, here’s my three part series on why Roe v Wade was correctly decided:

Part I

Part II

Part III

The short version is that 1)it’s flatly false to say that the right identified in Roe had no previous doctrinal basis, and 2)properly understood the decision is consistent with the general democracy-promoting tenor of Warren Court-era jurisprudence. See also Douglas in Doe v. Bolton–who draws out the precedential connections more carefully than Blackmun–and Stevens in Thornburgh, who correctly points out that it’s ridiculous to claim that a woman has a fundamental right to avoid pregnancy before the fact but has no reproductive rights at all after the fact.

Finally, for new readers my piece in the Prospect explaining why the preferred High Broderite policy of “compromising” by providing formal protection to the rights of women who least need the protection while throwing the rights of those who do need it under the bus is completely unacceptable.

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"If you can’t fix it, Jack, you gotta stand it. "

[ 0 ] January 22, 2008 |

One commenter was upset about the exclusion of Lust, Caution from the Oscars. Depite being an Ang Lee fan, I’m not really too upset. It’s a very good picture, but my guess is that when I compile a top 10 list it will settle towards the bottom. I didn’t agree with complaints about slack pacing in Brokeback–the sheep herding sequences looked great and were necessary to set the mood–but I did find it problematic here. And the political intrigue wasn’t quite detailed enough for my liking. The period detail was outstanding as always, and the acting very good, but there were other movies this year that I like more.

All of this is a way of bringing the sad news that Heath Ledger has passed away at age 28, in what was most likely a suicide [see update]. He had separated from his partner (partner-on-film Michelle Williams) and their daughter last year. His performance in Brokeback, however, will live as long as people are interested in movies. R.I.P.

Deborah Lipp says in comments that police have not found evidence of suicide, and his survivors do not want it described in that way. My apologies for jumping the gun.

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