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Did Joe Lieberman become a jagoff "in steps," or did it happen all at once?

[ 0 ] August 23, 2009 |

In other news, Joe Lieberman is still a national embarrassment.


Speaker Scheduling Fail

[ 0 ] August 23, 2009 |

Why would William Calley ever be invited to speak to a Kiwanis Club?

William Calley, the former Army lieutenant convicted on 22 counts of murder in the infamous My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, publicly apologized for the first time this week while speaking in Columbus.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley told members of the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus on Wednesday. His voice started to break when he added, “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

In March 1968, U.S. soldiers gunned down hundreds of civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. The Army at first denied, then downplayed the event, saying most of the dead were Vietcong. But in November 1969, journalist Seymour Hersh revealed what really happened and Calley was court martialed and convicted of murder.

Calley had long refused to grant interviews about what happened, but on Wednesday he spoke at a Columbus Kiwanis meeting. He made only a brief statement, but agreed to take questions from the audience.

Holy Crap

[ 0 ] August 23, 2009 |

England may win the Ashes

Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval, day three (close):
England 332 & 373-9d v Australia 160 & 80-0
Where to begin?  New boy Trott scores a century in his second innings, 119 overall.  The tail produced, making up for the lethargic approach by batters 2, 3, 4 and 6.  Flintoff’s final batting appearance in test cricket a mere 22, but perhaps he shows some heroics in bowling.
England declared after their ninth wicket fell, with a lead of 545.  Australia answered with 80 no out before the end of play, but the lead of 466 would still be an improbable world record if achieved — by 128 runs.  If I have my facts straight, the highest total overcome at Lords to win is only 263, in 1902.
That said, even with history well against the Australians, why declare at nine wickets?  Weather isn’t going to be an issue, there’s two full days of play remaining (and enough play remaining in day 3 for Australia to score 80), so could somebody explain to me why this is a sound strategy?  My only guess is that it is an overly cautious approach, and nobody was going to declare anything while Trott was still batting (his was the ninth wicket to fall).

If You Don’t Want It, Send It Across the Atlantic, Please.

[ 0 ] August 23, 2009 |

A majority of Tory MPs “believe the NHS is unsustainable in its present form and want to see the introduction of an insurance system or tax breaks for healthcare fees.”

Unsustainable, perhaps, but then virtually everything state run and paid for in the UK can be described as such.  I’m not sure how the latter two points will address this.  Tax breaks for (presumably private) healthcare fees?  
Wouldn’t this take money out of the unsustainable system?
I’m going to love it when these guys are in power.

No Wars of Necessity

[ 0 ] August 22, 2009 |

Of course there’s no such thing as a war of necessity, and of course the term should be banished from our lexicon. There are wars that are necessary to defend specific values that we hold, but these values are almost invariably contingent; territorial integrity gets sacrificed all the time, and even national independence is a value that can be balanced against others (survival, prosperity, etc.). Let’s turn this over to Thucydides:

Melians. As we think, at any rate, it is expedient- we speak as we are obliged, since you enjoin us to let right alone and talk only of interest- that you should not destroy what is our common protection, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and right, and even to profit by arguments not strictly valid if they can be got to pass current. And you are as much interested in this as any, as your fall would be a signal for the heaviest vengeance and an example for the world to meditate upon.
Athenians. The end of our empire, if end it should, does not frighten us: a rival empire like Lacedaemon, even if Lacedaemon was our real antagonist, is not so terrible to the vanquished as subjects who by themselves attack and overpower their rulers. This, however, is a risk that we are content to take. We will now proceed to show you that we are come here in the interest of our empire, and that we shall say what we are now going to say, for the preservation of your country; as we would fain exercise that empire over you withouttrouble, and see you preserved for the good of us both.
Melians. And how, pray, could it turn out as good for us to serve as for you to rule?
Athenians. Because you would have the advantage of submitting before suffering the worst, and we should gain by not destroying you.

The Athenian point is clear; war is not strictly necessary, and the Melians will gain advantage from surrendering rather than fighting. The Athenians understood this quite clearly, and realized that the subjugation of Melos was necessary only insofar as they wished to preserve the empire. In the case of Haas, the examples he invokes (Korea, WWII, and Persian Gulf) are clearly absurd; the United States faced nothing approaching national annihilation in any of these situations. In the Persian Gulf War, at the very worst we faced the possibility of a dominant Iraq in a region on the other side of the globe and a somewhat higher price of gas; if that entails “necessity,” then the term is fundamentally meaningless. Even most wars that more closely approach “wars of annihilation” typically aren’t, on balance, strictly necessary. There are indeed a (very) few cases in which wars are waged by one people or state in pursuit of the utter annihilation of another people, but these are so rare that including the term “war of necessity” in the lexicon of national security isn’t strictly justified.

…there is invariably confusion when I make this argument. The question isn’t whether war is sometimes necessary in order to preserve certain values; it obviously is. A war may even, in some (rare) cases, be necessary to preserve a people from annihilation. This isn’t how the term is regularly used, however. The term is tossed around without specific invocation of the particular value that is at stake, and accordingly without any debate over whether the value in question is truly worth fighting for. War of necessity, accordingly, is worse than a useless term when it is used in the absence of invocation of, and debate over, the value which it is necessary to defend.

Sarah Palin tagged you in the note "I am the half-wit who used to govern Alaska"

[ 0 ] August 22, 2009 |

There’s much to ridicule in Sarah Palin’s new Facebook note, not the least of which would be her willingness to claim that her experience as Alaska’s governor — a job she bizarrely vacated less than a month ago — provided her with unique insight into the economic and legal nuances of health care reform. In a characteristically staggering moment of narcissism, Palin argues for some sort of equivalence between (1) her status as a “target” for ethics complaints and (2) doctors who face “false, frivolous, and baseless” lawsuits from “similar opportunists.” A sane, considerate adult would be embarrassed to say these things out loud, but to the degree that Palin is to politics what Dr. Nick Riviera is to medicine, the cheerful lack of self-awareness is hardly surprising.

In any event, the preliminary silliness is nothing more than a set-up for a semi-literate, boilerplate discourse on a decades-old Republican talking point (i.e., the alleged need for tort reform to cap malpractice awards). Palin, who implausibly claimed that the time and cost of fighting ethics complaints made it prohibitively expensive for her to do her job, apparently also believes that malpractice suits — which account for roughly 1 percent of health care spending in the US — are breaking the entire system. Like most conservatives who argue for “tort reform,” Palin elides the difference between “frivolous” suits (which the courts, by all accounts, do an efficient job of rejecting) and decisions rendered by juries in actual cases of malpractice. Her solution, predictably, is to use the thunderous power of the state to cap awards; for someone who believes phantom “death panels” are looming over the horizon, Palin’s faith that government can establish a fair ceiling on the economic value of human life is remarkable. Ultimately, capping malpractice damages might have the effect of reducing malpractice suits, but it will reduce legitimate ones as well, and it won’t do anything to reduce the cost of liability insurance, which represents far and away a greater weight on the cost of health care than any malpractice suit that winds its way through the courts. More significantly, the link between “tort reform” and better, safer health care is opaque at best. I’m sure Sarah Palin has an explanation for why damage caps will spur medical practitioners to new heights of Hippocratic vigilance, but she’s probably trying to decide how that issue relates to something she did while she was mayor of Wasilla.

Charlie Crist’s prayers repel hurricanes

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

Insists on giving God the credit.

This kind of thing seems like a real insult to genuine religious believers with an IQ over 87, so I guess that’s not his target demographic.

Friday Cat/Freakishly Large Baby Blogging

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

At five months, Chisel Dustup Palin has reached the height and girth of many fully-grown adults, an accomplishment that owes much to his insatiable hunger for cat meat.

I, For One, Don’t Miss It

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

A useful reminder that of what the era of congressional bipartisanship actually consisted of:

The Senator in question was James Eastland of Mississippi and he was a good deal crazier and more repugnant than anyone currently serving in the Congress. But he was a Democrat. Just as there used to be a fair number of moderately progressive Republicans in Congress there used to be a sizable block of rabid white supremacists who operated with utter contempt for democracy and the rule of law inside the Democratic Party. This created structural conditions for a good deal of bipartisanship, but it wasn’t actually less deranged than present-day conditions. And note that Eastland persisted in the Senate, albeit in somewhat mellowed form, all the way until 1978!

Despite the tendency to fetishize this era of bipartisanship, it was just a quirk created by a fact that the regional party loyalites formed during the Reconstruction era were largely inconsistent with the ideological issues of the 20th century. But I see no reason to think that the modern system of ideologically coherent parties isn’t significantly preferable (and as long as it persists, party-line votes will be more, not less, common.)

Ali Ahmad Kurd Visits Lexington

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

Speaking of Kentucky, a short time ago I was fortunate enough to attend a speech by Ali Ahmad Kurd, leader of the Lawyer’s Movement in Pakistan. Kurd detailed his views regarding Pakistani democracy, and his own efforts to see Pervez Musharraf removed from power. Shortly prior to the speech Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo made Kurd a Kentucky Colonel, an honor he now shares with PZ Myers and Tiger Woods, among others.

This was Mr. Kurd’s first visit to Kentucky, and indeed is part of his first visit to the United States. I asked him what he knew of Kentucky, and he responded “KFC and Cassius Clay,” which reminded me of a conversation I had with another UK professor about the world’s most famous Kentuckian. The argument boiled down to Muhammed Ali vs. Harland Sanders; it’s refreshing to learn that it appears we were in the right neighborhood…

Notes Related To Calipari

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

Although Rob beat me to the general news story, a couple related thoughts:

  • Retroactive “vacating” of anything less than a national championship indeed doesn’t strike me as much of a punishment. More to the point, allowing people in charge to escape sanction as long as they can make a point of not finding out what they’re supposed to know strikes me as an ineffective enforcement mechanism.
  • While I wouldn’t say I condone Derrick Rose cheating on his SATs, exactly, it’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen as long as you have a such an indefensible system in place. It’s ridiculous that the NBA cartel forces athletes to attend college whether they want to or not. And, similarly, it’s hard to see much value in the NCAA, having agreed to become the cartel’s free player development system, putting nominal rules in place requiring that athletes put up the pretense of being students, so that the athletes can be denied fair compensation for their services.
  • A similar point is implicit in Michael Lewis’s excellent book The Blind Side. Michael Oher — a left tackle selected 23rd overall by the Ravens in the 2009 draft — was able to go to college only because he was adopted by an affluent family who could coach him through prep school and standardized tests and pay to make up a ton of credits at expensive correspondence courses the average high school counselor wouldn’t even know about. He seemed to make it through Ole Miss without serious academic incident. But I’m not sure why similar opportunities should be denied young men and women who don’t hit a lottery like that. If universities are going to have some attendees who are primarily athletes, not students, I’m not sure that arbitrary SAT requirements accomplish much of anything. I doubt Rose’s year at Memphis would have been much more fulfilling if he had actually met the nominal SAT requirement somehow…

We Have Always Been at War with Memphis…

[ 0 ] August 21, 2009 |

Sorry, Jay:

Memphis will be forced to vacate its NCAA-record 38-victory, Final Four season of 2007-08 under former coach John Calipari and serve three years’ probation because of NCAA rules violations, the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Thursday.

Memphis president Shirley Raines said shortly after the NCAA’s announcement that the school is appealing what she called an unfair penalty.

“We know the rules,” Raines said. “We did our due diligence. We did everything we could to determine the student-athlete was eligible and that the rules were being followed.”

The NCAA in May accused Memphis of several major infractions under Calipari, including a fraudulent SAT score by a player, later revealed to be Derrick Rose, and providing close to $1,700 in free travel to Rose’s brother, Reggie.

Fortunately, John Calipari has been wholly, unreservedly, absolutely, without-a-shadow-of-a-frakking-doubt absolved of even the hint of blame. And anyway, who cares about victories that are vacated retroactively? That’s a compromise I’m willing to make…