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Not the Sort of Company You Want to Be In

[ 0 ] September 6, 2009 |
Washington 23 – 31 LSU

Unlike my colleague Dr. Farley, I will not be blogging much on the (American) football program of my alma mater.  (Perhaps it’s because we suck?)  I fully expected the University of Washington to not win against LSU yesterday.  Indeed, this speaks to the new depths that this formerly glorious program has reached when I walk away from that game thinking “hey, we only lost by a touchdown or so, that’s great!”

Then I read this final paragraph in the Seattle Times’ account of the game:

It was the 15th straight loss for the Huskies, tying a Pac-10 record set twice previously by Oregon State. The first 14 Washington losses came under Sarkisian’s predecessor, Tyrone Willingham.

Because that makes all the difference.  We tied a record set by Oregon State?  
Bloody hell.

Trying to Stay Focused…

[ 0 ] September 6, 2009 |

That is all.

Missing the Point

[ 0 ] September 6, 2009 |

This passage from the WaPo ombudsman’s defense of Monica Hesse’s lengthy puff piece on professional homophobe Brian Brown is revealing in the way that it fails to address the central issue:

I agree that the story fell short, but not because Hesse was naïve or lacked journalistic diligence. In retracing her reporting, it’s clear the research was extensive. And some details about her personal life seem to belie claims she has a conservative agenda (more on that later).

The problems:

  • You know, it would be a real game changer if the phrase “having a(n) x agenda” were thrown under the bus. On steroids! Hopefully the nation’s editors can close the deal.
  • Given what we know about certain major Republican politicians, I would be pretty careful about inferring positions on same-sex marriage from the author’s personal sexuality.
  • But that’s the minor point. I didn’t assume from the profile that Hesse was, necessarily, personally against same-sex marriage. And I actually agree with conservatives that on these kinds of social issues journalists are likely to have nominal positions on the issues more liberal than the population as a whole, although I think that they tend to be liberals of the “I wish the world were a better place as long as I don’t have to do anything and it doesn’t affect me in any way or make anybody too upset” variety. But what this story reveals, taking assumptions about Hesse’s politics at face value, is how little a reporter’s personal politics matter. (The story, as Alexander essentially admits, was seriously deficient whether Hesse had an “agenda” or not.) Polls showing the x percentage of reporters vote Democratic don’t, in themselves, mean anything, because someone who voted for Obama is just as capable of writing a puff-piece about a major right-winger if their editors approve. Just as a reporter’s personal opposition to corporate malfeasance doesn’t mean very much if writing stories critical of a newspaper’s advertisers will get you fired.


Gillispie and Pitino Breathe Sighs of Relief…

[ 2 ] September 5, 2009 |

This is easily the most monstrous thing that a basketball coach associated with the state of Kentucky has done recently:

Basketball and politics — two of Kentucky’s favorite subjects — converged Thursday when University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari said he would send a UK jersey to President Barack Obama.

Apparently enough fans objected to the gift that the UK coach felt compelled to post an explanation on his Facebook page.

“Folks — I think everyone is missing my intention of sending a jersey to the President,” Calipari wrote. “There was NOTHING political about it — it was simply a way of spreading the word of Big Blue Nation into the White House! I apologize if I offended anyone — that was not my intention. I know politics and sports don’t mix, but a friend offered to give Bounce Back to the President and we figured we could send along a jersey as well.”

While we’re at it, let’s privatize the fire department, too

[ 0 ] September 5, 2009 |

Shorter Tigerhawk:

Above all else, the manufactured outrage over President Obama’s address to schoolchildren should force us to recognize that public education is a farce, because a completely privatized system would resolve my non sequitur argument regarding school prayer.

Whenever I hear conservatives whining about the universal terror of public education, I always wonder if they have the faintest notion that the party for whom they usually vote was founded by people who believed, among other things, that federal land should be conveyed to the states to establish enormous, publicly funded institutions of higher learning. I’m not surprised, however, that these folks would seem to prefer the model of the antebellum South — a pig-ignorant landscape virtually devoid of public education, filled with planters’ academies for the sons of the slaveholding cousinry and finishing schools for their daughters — nor does it amaze me to see that apparently functioning adults can persuade themselves that public education was somehow irrelevant to the political, cultural, economic and military authority that made the United States the predominant fountain of democracy, whiskey and sexy on the planet over the past 150 years.

What really cracks me up, however, is their apparent belief that an educational system funded entirely by private dollars would be any more hospitable to the freedoms they seem to believe are thwarted in the public realm. Sure, you’d have a small archipelago of madrassas where Christian children memorized Leviticus and debated the methods by which velociraptors eased their hunger aboard Noah’s Ark — hell, maybe they’d even let kids bring guns to school — but if the eradication of public education actually cracked open the sort of market that libertarians seem to fantasize about, the void would be filled by corporate and foundation dollars that appreciate “free speech” even less than Youth Academies for the Exaltation and Praise of the Venerable Comrade Leader Obama, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea the public schools about which the right wing is ceaselessly bitching.

Today in Libertarian Tax Crackpotery

[ 1 ] September 5, 2009 |

Hmm, maybe the Mets’s bad luck with injuries this year is karmic payback from one of the stars of the 1969 world champions using these kinds of arguments to justify not filing tax returns for several years:

Koosman, 66, of Osceola, told IRS agents in 2006 that he had researched
federal tax laws and concluded they applied only to federal employees, corporate
workers and District of Columbia residents. During a May hearing, he told Crabb
he was naive and fell in with the anti-tax movement.

I’m sure this research was extensive and highly disinterested. [Via]

…Commenters have refuted my theory, noting the world-class crazy excuse making of two members of the &*%$^ ’93 Phillies that were able to hang on against the Expos — I’m not sure Dykstra, who won his only ring with the Mets, counts, but how about Darren Daulton, ladies and gentlemen:

In 2004, Daulton did a two-month stretch in Pinellas County Jail. He’d been found in contempt of court, stemming from a failure to comply with a court order issued in his and Nicole’s divorce battle. He was sprung after agreeing to serve out the remainder of his six-month sentence in a drug-and-alcohol rehab program.

“I’ve been thrown in jail five or six times,” Daulton says from his home in Tampa. “Nicole thinks I’m crazy. She blames everything on drugs and drinking. But I don’t take drugs and I’m not a drunk. Nicole just doesn’t understand metaphysics.”


Daulton isn’t. When he says he’s attuned to Higher Powers, he’s not channeling Bud Selig. “There is no good or bad,” he says, explicating the Dutch Theory of Being. “We’re all the same, but we’re all different. The higher we ascend, the more the same we are.”


Home alone in Tampa, Daulton spends much of his spare time typing up his mystical musings. The notes read like they were dictated by the True Believers who hitched a ride with Comet Hale-Bopp. “Reality is created and guarded by numeric patterns that overlap and awaken human consciousness, like a giant matrix or hologram,” writes the .245 lifetime hitter. “They are created by sacred geometry — numbers, the language of the universe, codes of awakening — such as 11:11, which represent twin strands of DNA about to return to balance. Eleven equals BALANCE.”

During the Dutch Enlightenment, No. 11 has been as significant as it was in Spinal Tap. “I’ll wake up at night and look at the clock and it’s 11:11,” he says. “I’ll turn on the TV and see a baseball game tied at 11 in the 11th inning. I’ll look out the window and see a car passing with 1111 on the license plate. The car will turn into a driveway with 1111 on the mailbox.”

Deep, man.

No, Seriously, this is Really Weird

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

Hurm. And no, the Stalin doesn’t look like Stalin. NSFW.

World Cup Qualification: The Final Two Months

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

El Salvador v USA.  

Saturday September 5.
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah.  
8PM EDT, 5PM PDT, etc.
With four matches remaining in the final round of World Cup qualification in the CONCACAF region, it’s instructive to take a look at the current table:
Costa Rica 12
Honduras 10
USA 10
Mexico 9
El Salvador 5
T&T 5
Note: the top three sides qualify for the World Cup, the fourth place side has to play a home-and-away playoff against the 5th place side in the CONMEBOL region (i.e. South America, who have a decent side or two that you might have heard of).  While that side is currently Ecuador, who don’t quite suck, it could be any of a number of sides . . . including Argentina, who really don’t quite suck.
It’s tighter than I think it ought to be at this stage in the game.  With both Mexico matches out of the way, this should be easier for the US.  We have a solid record at home, even if we’re a bit hit and miss away.  The US MNT schedule from here on out:
September 5 El Salvador Utah
September 9 Trinidad & Tobago away
October 10 Honduras away
October 14 Costa Rica RFK
Given that the El Salvador match is in the USA, considering El Salvador’s place in the table, and what we have coming up down the road, I’d suggest that we need all three points out of this one.  If we drop points, the pressure will be on for the Honduras match (and while T&T are at the foot of the table, they’re not all that bad — they did qualify for 2006 Germany by beating the 5th place South American side).  What we want to avoid is a scenario where automatic qualification comes down to that final match against a rather decent Costa Rica side.  
There are a few injury problems confronting the US going into this match against El Salvador.  Jay DeMerit, who impressed in central defense during the Confederations Cup, looks out with injury (although he did play a full 90 in Watford’s 1-1 draw away to Swansea City this past Saturday), which is a blow, and coupled with Oguchi Onyewu’s suspension due to the current size of his deck of yellow cards, there’s a bit of a hole in central defense.  The only other issue I can see is that Michael Bradley has apparently been dropped by his German side Borussia Mönchengladbach, not even making the bench in their last match.  While Bob Bradley has a policy of playing match-fit players (i.e. those regularly playing for their clubs), look for Michael Bradley to be in the starting XI.
See here for some criticism of the squad chosen for the next two US MNT matches.
While I’ll have more to say about the US MNT in the coming days, I’d like to draw attention to the final of the 2009 US Open Cup (which to the English would be called the US FA Cup final) where Seattle Sounders FC defeated DC United 2-1.
Good job.

Beloved and Respected Comrade Leader Hoover would like to instruct your children

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

What a commie fascist:

The President’s Community School in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia near the Hoover camp at the headwaters of the Rapidan in Madison County will be opened next Monday.

The gathering of the mountain children for the initial session will be without formality of any kind as the formal dedication of the school will be deferred until the classes have been organized and until such time as either the President or Mrs. Hoover, or both, can be present.

Then there will be a flag-raising and other exercises in which it is proposed that the pupils shall have an important part under the direction of Miss Christine Vest, of Yosemite, Ky., the new teacher, who is a graduate of Berea College and who has had much experience in teaching mountain children in her native State.

Financed by President Hoover and a few of his friends and built by the men of the mountains under the direction of a trained constructor, the school is perched on the lee side of one of the highest of the mountains in the Blue Ridge chain in that section.

A remote mountaintop camp, built at the personal request of the President by US Marines, and topped with a school for ignorant hillbillies who were no doubt being groomed to serve in some variety of executive militia? Thank the Lord the Depression came along and knocked this guy down a peg or two.

This Should Be In The Onion

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

and not a real news story.

As usual, it’s OK when Republicans do it, but should a Democrat dare give a back to school address to America’s school children, the end of the Republic is nigh.

A fairly comprehensive greatest hits of this non story can be found here, but my favorite is Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer.  Paraphrased:
“I’m a dad of four.  I’m appalled that Obama has a different idea of how to organize our country, and that he has the temerity to use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate those children of this filthy, godless, socialist ideology which a majority of Americans do not support.”

OK, he didn’t use the word “temerity”.
More, verbatim:

“The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer, so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.”

Because going over the heads of your own party, government institutions, and public opinion, directly to the people school children is such an unlikely strategy, it’s utterly devious.
Genius, that Obama, securing the second grade vote like this.

The Palin Question

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

The possibility that McCain’s choice of Palin really did significantly affect the 2008 elections is one I find genuinely fascinating.

The question is obviously a good example of the fact that it’s essentially impossible to prove social science hypotheses involving causation, with the small number of trials making things even more difficult. What’s interesting about Johnston and Thorson’s data is that normally, when discussing the effect of VP choices, there isn’t even a correlation that could make a causal effect plausible. So, ultimately, it comes down to whose story you find convincing. Focusing solely on the facts of the 2008 race, I find the Johnston/Thorson explanation more satisfying. But we also have to place this in the context of previous data showing both that VP picks matter very little and that campaigns in general are overrated in their effect on elections, which strengthens the argument of skeptics.

The other thing to say is that even if Palin did have a substantial negative effect, it’s not even clear that McCain’s gamble was irrational — after all, he was almost certainly going to lose anyway, and losing by a bigger margin doesn’t really matter. It’s possible that the VP choices of trailing candidates might be less risk-averse in the future, leading to VP choices mattering more. On the other hand, aside from marginal home state effects there still isn’t a good plausible example of a VP having a significant positive effect, so the Palin debacle may make future selections even more risk-averse.

Go Du…… never mind

[ 0 ] September 4, 2009 |

Jesus. Kind of a disaster. Babies are agitated, angry, and fussy. Not an auspicious beginning to the Chip Kelly era.