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The Smartest Guys in the Room

[ 17 ] October 14, 2010 |

Obviously, the increasing share of the nation’s wealth that went to the finance sector was the result of a strict meritocracy.


There’s No Pleasing Some People

[ 5 ] October 14, 2010 |

Shorter Rabbi Yehuda Levin:   I used to think that Carl Paladino was a guy who stood up for traditional family values.   But then I heard that his enjoyable emails might involve people having sex with horses of the same gender.   That would be perverted!   In fairness, Paladino does say that all of his future mistresses will be women, praise the Lord.

Calculating Civilian Harms in Pakistan

[ 3 ] October 13, 2010 |

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict has just released a report on damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure in Pakistan. Haven’t read the whole thing yet, but here’s a clip from the executive summary:

Headlines focus on the horrors of terrorism in Pakistan, but CIVIC’s research shows that civilians suffer greatly from a much broader range of conflict-related violence. Pakistani military operations, particularly artillery shelling and airpower, cause significant civilian losses. Civilians are caught between militants and Pakistani forces, while also suffering the consequences of extrajudicial killings, sectarian violence, explosive remnants of war, and US drone strikes.

Civilian losses in Pakistan are often long-lasting and complex, destabilizing families and entire communities. The loss of a husband can deprive the family of its only source of income. An injury can require expensive medical treatment, care by other family members, and prevent survivors from working in the household or finding a job. A house destroyed can mean homelessness, but also the loss of a family’s most important financial asset, forcing them into cycles of debt and dependency.

Despite the severity of losses and consequences of ignoring them, civilian casualties receive too little attention from US, Pakistani and donor-nation policymakers, military officials, and international organizations alike. Overlooking the majority of civilians harmed or displaced by combat operations is undermining the Pakistani government’s legitimacy. The US, too, has an obligation to these victims, as a major supporter of Pakistan’s anti-terror efforts and as a warring party itself, with small numbers of troops on the ground and drones conducting strikes from overhead.

The Metric System

[ 8 ] October 13, 2010 |

My column on piracy, metrics, and grand strategy is up at World Politics Review:

Most notably, the report highlighted the lack of any good cost-benefit analysis of the anti-piracy effort. The United States has no idea how much economic damage unchecked Somali piracy could cause, and thus it has no idea how much economic loss anti-piracy efforts prevent. More importantly, the United States doesn’t know how much it spends on anti-piracy efforts, or how to effectively calculate the costs that it, and other countries, pay in order to prevent pirate attacks. No one has made the effort to tally all of the costs associated with the naval deployment, or with the various other efforts to construct an anti-piracy framework. In short, we cannot conduct a cost-benefit analysis of anti-piracy efforts because we know neither the costs nor the benefits.

With the Blogging, and the Heads…

[ 6 ] October 13, 2010 |

I blogged heads with Michael Moynihan of Reason magazine yesterday. Here we talk about the absence of foreign policy in the 2010 midterm elections:

West Coast Straussians

[ 5 ] October 13, 2010 |

The brief but apparently quite influential education of Christine O’Donnell.

…via Jacob Levy in comments, another take.

The Geography of LGM

[ 19 ] October 12, 2010 |

Since March, 1 person each from New Caledonia, Benin, Haiti, Malawi, Cook Islands, French Guiana, Laos, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, Suriname, Gambia, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Zimbabwe, Monaco, and Guyana have visited LGM. No one from Greenland, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, North Korea, Niger, Chad, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Central African Republic, Congo, or Eritrea has visited.

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed in Monaco. Also Eritrea; we’ve had 10 visitors from Ethiopia, and Eritrea would do well to avoid an LGM Gap. As for North Korea, I’m just a bit sad; what HAVEN’T we done in order to make this blog more attractive to North Koreans?

The Yankee Hater (And, I Guess, Fan’s) Question

[ 13 ] October 12, 2010 |

So who to root for in game 5?

  • The Rays are, in terms of results, a better team — better record, better run differential in a better division.
  • Whether the Rays are a better playoff team is questionable.   Unlike the Twins, they are at least competitive with the Yankees in the regular season.   But their offense, while at least they work counts, has similar power deficiencies, and I worry about that matchup.   In addition, a major source of the Rays’ edge — starting pitching depth — is essentially irrelevant in the postseason.
  • On the other hand, the depth of the Rays’ starting pitching means they’re hurt less by not being able to set up their rotation. I also can’t believe that Maddon would start Shields in Game 1.

Hmm, about 50/50, I’d say.  If Lee could start Game 1 I’d like the Rangers more, but as of now it’s about a wash.  Both would have to be considered substantial underdogs, and neither figure to be cannon fodder like the Twinkies.    Let’s hope the game is good, anyway….

…has anyone seen Bengie Molina and Lou Brock in the same room?   What a speed merchant!

Court Rules DADT Unconstitutional

[ 24 ] October 12, 2010 |

Good, even if a higher Court is likely to stay the order pending an appeal.

Of course, the appropriate course here is for the DOJ not to appeal the ruling. Particularly given that the policy’s persistence owes itself to the Senate’s anachronistic, countermajoritarian rules this case should be an obvious exception to the general rule that the federal government will defend its laws in court. I’m sure Obama won’t do this, but he should.

Today In Republican Misogyny

[ 7 ] October 12, 2010 |

Shorter Ken Buck (as DA): Once you’re previously consented to have sexual relations with someone, the consent then applies to future cases in which you didn’t consent.

The defense of Buck’s failure to prosecute, I suppose, might be that he personally doesn’t believe in this disgraceful bullshit, but the juries in his county would. Aside from the obvious problems with a prosecutor just accepting hypothetical sexism as fact when making decisions, the existence of a recording of a phone call in which her attacker confessed to raping her makes assertions that the case was just unwinnable pretty implausible. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Colorado’s Republican candidate for Senate shares these sexist assumptions.

Bury his body in the old sinkhole

[ 46 ] October 12, 2010 |

This rundown of various “green burial” methods is truly fantastic. The winning method, in my view, involves being turned into a flushable soup:

Alkaline hydrolysis, also known as Resomation (which is a trademarked term) is a process that liquefies rather than burns body tissues. It uses about a sixth of the energy of cremation and has a much smaller carbon footprint, according to Sandy Sullivan, the managing director of Resomation, a company in Scotland that has designed a machine called “the Resomator”. The corpse is placed in a pressurized chamber. The vessel is then filled with water and potassium hydroxide, creating a highly alkaline solution, and heated to 330 degrees. After about three hours, all that’s left are a soft, white calcium phosphate from bone and teeth and a light brown primordial soup of amino acids and peptides. Bodies buried underground decompose in the same way, albeit over many years and aided by microorganisms. Unlike cremation, Resomation doesn’t vaporize the toxic mercury of dental fillings and doesn’t char joint implants, leaving them clean, shiny and potentially recyclable. The bone and tooth material can be ground into a fine ash, as with traditional cremains. The brown liquid, because it’s sterile, can go down the drain.

Good Luck With That

[ 1 ] October 12, 2010 |

Shorter Phillip Klein: If the Supreme Court decides to uphold the ACA, giving the federal government “broad new powers” to regulate the national economy that it has had since 1942, we need a constitutional convention!

What I enjoy most about reading this kind of thing is conservertarians who believe that rolling back the federal government back to pre-New Deal norms would actually be popular. They may want to examine what teabag candidates are actually saying: as far as I can tell, not only do they not specifically argue against most federal programs, their most common policy proposal is to oppose Medicare cuts.