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Fast Food Chefs Like

[ 0 ] August 12, 2009 |

Even though I generally make an annual sojurn to Vegas with some co-bloggers without current or imminent parental responsibilities, I’ve never tried In-N-Out. But an unscientific survey of chefs — including Thomas Keller! — ranks it as America’s best fast food chain. I’m sure some commenters will be willing to weigh in on the topic…


Mexico v USA

[ 0 ] August 11, 2009 |

Wednesday, August 11.  13:00 PDT, and other times.  Google isn’t new, and for the love of god, don’t rely on me.

This one is being somewhat blown out of proportion.  While Mexico are uncharacteristically struggling in the qualifiers for 2010,  the 5-0 stomping of the USA in the Gold Cup final doesn’t matter, and their FIFA ranking is a near historic low 30th (the USA is 12th), the USA do not win this match.  Sorry.
Why?  Sure, the USA beat Spain, and played respectably against Brazil.  However, in their last 23 matches in Mexico City, they are 0-22-1.  No wins, one draw, and 22 defeats.  Additionally, I tend to put more faith in the Elo rankings over the FIFA rankings.  For example, the USA were ranked something silly like 4th for a while according to FIFA.  Indeed this is true: 4th in May of 2006.  And didn’t the USA look just great in Germany that summer?  Elo have the USA 16th, Mexico 11th, though it should be said that this, too, is not 100% reliable, as I think Elo was overly affected by the Gold Cup performance; the previous month the USA were 9th according to Elo.
While the US players are talking the good talk, I like the resurgent Giovani dos Santos, (shame he plays for Spurs however), and the US have had problems playing at 35,000 7,350 feet in front of 18,000,000 105,000 hostile fans.
Speaking of altitude, I’m off to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail for a week or so in about half an hour, with my lovely partner, her father and a couple of her brothers (one of whom I understand is a fan of LGM).  We’ll be somewhere between 5,000 and 6,500 feet over our route, if I know how to read the map.  Hence, I’ll be off the grid for a spell, which means I’ll miss this match, but at least I’ve got a fifth of Sazerac Rye Whiskey packed away in my provisions.  I suspect it will come in handy.

Most Demanding?

[ 0 ] August 11, 2009 |

I have to agree with David Bernstein when it comes to the assertion that Sotomayor “will soon take on one of the most demanding jobs in the land.” Granting that the job has some high-level intellectual demands and pressures, I would say that in fact being a Supreme Court justice is relatively undemanding for a job of its prestige and influence. I would note, for example, that one year Sandra Day O’Connor was reimbursed for 28 trips. I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of more demanding jobs out there.

Pointless Rant: East Coasters Drive Like this…

[ 0 ] August 11, 2009 |

Having grown up and spent most of my formative years on the West Coast, I am constantly befuddled by the aversion of East Coasters to drives of even moderate distance. Easterners seem, in my experience, largely incapable of conceiving of any drive that takes longer than 45 minutes. Baltimore to Philly? Might as well be the Bataan Death March. New York to Boston? I heard about a guy who tried it once, but I think he was eaten by wild animals near Providence, wherever that is. To be sure, there are good reasons why people should shun long drives, including environmental concerns and the relatively high accident rate of automobile travel. These are not, however, the concerns that my Eastern interlocutors most often invoke. Rather, they just can’t seem to imagine sitting in a car long enough to get from one place to another.

It is not this way in the West. You wouldn’t want to do it everyday, but it was not uncommon for myself and my friends to drive from Seattle to Portland for a day trip, returning the same evening. That’s 170 miles one way, give or take. Hell, while I was at UO it wasn’t even that unusual to do a Eugene to Seattle round-trip in a single day. Mention to an urbanite from the Boston-DC corridor that you’re considering a trip that might take an hour (time spent in traffic doesn’t count, for some reason), and they’ll respond with a blank, stunned stare. Let me illustrate this point with a short play:

Hans- Stasi Interrogator
John- Captured CIA spy hailing from Boston

Hans: Ve have vays of making you talk. Ve shall drive you to ze place of torture vere ve shall find ze location of your nuclear bomb.
John: (meekly) How long of a drive?
Hans: Four hours, but do not vorry. Ve give you a nice New York Review of Books and a thermos coffee-
John: (whispering) Four…. hours? (shrieking) OH GOD, GOD NO! I’LL TALK! I’LL TALK!

Beats a Rusty A-4…

[ 0 ] August 11, 2009 |

The Brazilians may finally be getting some decent aircraft for the Sao Paulo:

The Government of Brazil has requested proposals from several foreign suppliers, including the United States, to provide the next generation fighter for the Brazilian Air Force. In this “FX-2” competition, the Government of Brazil has yet to select the United States Navy-Boeing proposal. This notification is being made in advance of receipt of a letter of request so that, in the event that the US Navy-Boeing proposal is selected, the United States might move as quickly as possible to implement the sale. If the Government of Brazil selects the U.S. Navy-Boeing proposal, the Government of Brazil will request a possible sale of 28 F/A-18E Super Hornet Aircraft, eight F/A-18F Super Hornet Aircraft…

Assuming that the F/A-18 can operate off Sao Paulo (and they could operate from USS Midway, so I don’t see why not), this would transform the carrier from a curiosity into a useful unit. In particular, the F/A-18 has actual defensive capabilities, which the A-4 lacks. Of course, it’s still unclear to what use the Brazilians would put Sao Paulo.

Via Galrahn.


[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

John Boonstra, responding to Paul Johnson:

What we don’t know is if a successful Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would discredit the regime to the point that it would be forced out of power or if such an attack would be used to discredit the opposition, causing Iranians to close ranks behind their extremist leaders.

Generally, when bombs fall on people, they get mad at the people doing the bombing. It’s a simple enough lesson, but one that many, in their unconsidered haste to bring about the regime’s downfall, miss quite entirely. The second of Johnson’s possibilities, or a version of it at least, seems much more likely to result from a missile attack; this would only enhance the government’s hardline posture, and give needless credibility to its attempts to focus attention on outside “enemies.”

If Israeli bombing discredits the Iranian regime, it will be approximately the first time in the history of the world that such a thing has happened. The closest case would appear to be that of Slobodan Milosevic after the Kosovo War, but a much more compelling argument can be made that Milosevic fell because he gave up, rather than because he fought.

The Founders Intended What Now?

[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

Ezra, channeling Alec MacGillis:

So too is the section where he quotes Donald Ritchie, the Senate’s official historian, explaining that “the authors of the Constitution really thought the House would be the driving engine, and the Senate would just be the senior group that would perfect legislation that came up from the House.” Given how often the Senate’s current role is defended on grounds of original intent, it’s crucial to understand that the Founders actually meant for the more representative body to be the more powerful of the two chambers.

I see arguments of this sort every now and again, and I don’t really understand them. A really common one comes in the form “the Founders didn’t want a standing military.” This latter one is wrong on the merits (some of the Founders didn’t want a standing military, while others were pretty happy with the idea), but more broadly it depends on the idea that the Founders were kind of stupid. If they didn’t want a standing military, then they should have been clear in the Constitution that they didn’t want a standing military. Really, the idea that tension with Britain, France, Native American tribes, and Spain might produce strong incentives for a standing military was too complicated for the Founders to think out? It would never have occurred to them? Similarly, the above argument doesn’t make a lot of bloody sense to me. I suppose it’s possible that the Founders may have intended the House of Representatives to be more powerful than the Senate. If they did, it would have been nice for them to so indicate in the Constitution, and to do so a lot more clearly than they did. From the perspective of a Martian (which, in this case, isn’t all that different from the perspective of a 21st century American) it’s really not at all clear that the House should have a stronger legislative role than the Senate. It has certain powers that the Senate lacks, but then the Senate has certain powers that the House lacks.

And so, I’m left to draw the conclusion that either a) the Founders couldn’t anticipate that their vague, uninstitutionalized desires regarding the structure of the legislative branch would quickly fall by the wayside, or b) that the Founders didn’t intend such, or at least didn’t intend such as a group. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Supporters Labeled the Organizers “Ridiculous” and the Event a “Shambles”.

[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

Indeed.  At least I rest easier knowing that the English racist / fascist set couldn’t organize the proverbial piss-up in a brewery.  Some further internal dissent can be found here.

The title above appears in The Times coverage of this event, where the English Defence League kicked off their promised season of anti-Muslim demonstrations in the center of Birmingham.  
Only, those against whom they were “protesting” (protesting what, exactly?) and their allies were considerably better organized.  Reports in the MSM are sketchy and inconsistent, with The Times referring to the group as the English Defence League, while the Independent refers to them as the more broad-minded English and Welsh Defence League.  Both indicate that the Casuals United were possibly involved, possibly not.  To wit, from the Independent:
Discussion and planning on online social networking sites led police to believe the group involved was the English and Welsh Defence League, or Casuals United.

The Times also suggests that both groups were in cahoots.  Casuals United seem to be an umbrella organization of various football hooligan firms (so I guess in IR parlance it would be more the UN of hooligans rather than a NATO of hooligans . . . they’ll stop beating up on each other only when a more threatening foe arrives).  
What interests me here is the alleged ties to, and denials from, those lovable non-racists in the BNP.  Again, from The Times:
The English Defence League claim not to be a racist group and say that they have no ties with the British National Party. One of the websites linked to the League is believed to have been set up by a known BNP member, but that has now been taken down in an apparent attempt to conceal any link.

There is evidence to suggest a connection between the BNP and this new English (and Welsh!) Defence League.  More indirect evidence can be found here.  It’s heartening to see the non racist BNP (see my earlier post here outlining their lack of racism) embracing the globalization concept of outsourcing, and thus outsourcing their racism.  A couple motivations spring immediately to mind for this from the BNP perspective.  More likely and obvious, they want to raise the spectre of further racist clashes in order to draw attention to the salience of their “cause”. 
Less likely (because I don’t think that they are this clever) but more problematic due to the inherent efficacy of this approach is a reading of behavioral economics.  If the BNP are outsourcing the more radical elements of their appeal to a new organization / party positioned to their right, according to the principle of the “decoy effect” this would make the BNP more appealing when contrasted to a context where this more radical decoy doesn’t exist.  The first chapter of Dan Ariely’s eminently readable book Predictably Irrational covers this concept (and there’s a blog of the same name here).  
I can see the BNP and their even less racist cousins UKIP making further inroads in local elections in England and Wales.  Thankfully, local counsellors have very little power to do anything about anything.

Now Also Appearing at ID…

[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

In addition to my duties at LGM, I will now periodically be blogging at Information Dissemination. The focus there will be more maritime oriented, and a bit more policy wonkish.

Degree of Difficulty

[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

This dude’s job kind of sucks.

If you think you face an uphill challenge at work today, spare a thought for Farah Ahmed Omar, the man in charge of Somalia’s navy. He has neither boats nor equipment and admits he has not been to sea for 23 years.

The interim government does not control much of the 3,000-km (1,860-mile) Somali coastline and then there is the headache of plentiful pirates. Mr. Omar said he was first put in charge of the navy in 1982, but speaking to the BBC by phone from the capital, Mogadishu, he did not sound too daunted by the task ahead.

Responsibility without power… Via Axe.

The Non-Existent "Pro-Life" Majority

[ 2 ] August 10, 2009 |

Ed Kilgore notes a new Gallup poll making clear what was always overwhelmingly likely — the widely-trumpeted May Gallup poll showing a significant “pro-life” majority was an outlier. When public opinion has been as stable over the long term as it’s been on abortion, that’s always the safe bet.

In addition — since, as Ed implies, the “pro-life” term is, especially in this context, a largely vacuous one that doesn’t necessarily imply support for criminalizing abortion — it’s also worth noting that the public wants Roe v. Wade to be upheld by a roughly 2-to-1 margin:

The Supreme Court legalized abortion 36 years ago in the ruling known as Roe versus Wade. If that case came before the court again, would you want Sotomayor to vote to (uphold) Roe versus Wade, or vote to (overturn) it?

                     Uphold   Overturn   No opinion
Sotomayor, 6/21/09 60 34 6
Alito, 12/18/05 61 35 4
Alito, 11/2/05 64 31 5
Roberts, 8/28/05 60 33 7
Roberts, 7/21/05 65 32 4

As Ed says, somehow I’m guessing we’re going to hear a lot less about this than we did about the May outlier.

An Argument For Localism?

[ 0 ] August 10, 2009 |

Horrible stuff:

The bountiful harvest of California strawberries, melons, grapes, peaches and nectarines overflows the nation’s summer tables. But that luscious crop mostly emerges thanks to farm workers who labor in flat fields under a scorching sun – and has a price higher than the grocery-store bill. Every year many farm workers become sick, and some die. Typical of the fatalities was Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, who was just 17. In May 2008, she died after picking grapes in Merced County for nine hours in 95-degree heat. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attended her funeral and promised to do more to protect workers.

I thought about excising the black comedy of the last line, but thought I should leave it in. Schwarzenegger may like the idea of protecting farm workers in theory, but if it might require a marginal increase in tax revenues to enforce the law, I think he’ll quickly forget the whole thing. Priorities, you know…