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Will there be acid? Please tell me there will be acid.

[ 18 ] July 3, 2010 |

I really don’t think I have any choice but to sign up for this:

This July, while others are relaxing poolside, head back to the classroom – from the comfort of your own home. That may sound like an oxymoron but Glenn [Beck]’s new academic program is only available online.

Offered exclusively to Insider Extreme subscribers, Beck University is a unique academic experience bringing together experts in the fields of religion, American history and economics. Through captivating lectures and interactive online discussions, these experts will explore the concepts of Faith, Hope and Charity and show you how they influence America’s past, her present and most importantly her future.

Beck’s “expert” in the field of history happens to be David Barton, a conveyor belt for millennialist pseudohistory whose lack of relevant academic credentials made him a perfect fit for one of the teams selected by the Texas Board of Education to revise the state’s social studies curriculum. (His contributions to the process were, it seems, scrupulously dishonest.) Barton’s necrophilia for George Washington, James Madison and the rest of the founders is legendary; if you have an annoying Facebook friend who’s constantly posting Jeebusly-themed quotations from early American statesmen, the quotation more likely than not derives from Barton’s work. More likely than not the quotations are also unsourced fabrications, but that’s never really bothered Barton, whose attitude seems to be that God wouldn’t have inspired someone to invent them if they didn’t somehow capture the essence of what the founders actually believed.

For $10, it looks like I can gain access to the first four lectures in the series.  Much as I would hate to buy Glenn Beck another few jars of Vicks, I really don’t see how I can pass up this opportunity.


Did Luis Suarez cheat?

[ 167 ] July 2, 2010 |

Uruguay 1 – 1 Ghana

Uruguay win 4 – 2 on penalties.

For those of you who didn’t watch the match, in the 120th minute, literally the last few seconds of the 30 minutes of extra time in the match, Ghana had a series of shots on goal, three if memory serves me correctly (and it seldom does).  The first two shots were parried by the Uruguayan keeper and a defender on the line, legitimately.  The third, a header, was deliberately punched away — by Luis Suarez, a Uruguayan striker.  In other words, one of the ten guys in blue and black who technically can not touch the ball with his hands.  Unlike the 2002 Quarter Final match between the USA and Germany, the ref spotted the foul, red carded Suarez, and awarded Ghana a penalty.

Ghana make this penalty, the match is effectively over, and Ghana go through to the Semi Finals.

I’m not certain that Suarez considered the various probabilities in his decision tree, but he clearly, deliberately punched the ball clear, so he did make some sort of split second decision, on purpose.

So, did he cheat?

No.  He did the rational thing.  It was perhaps not the sporting, moral, or ethical choice, and definitely the cynical choice, but given the nature of the match, he made the correct decision.

If he doesn’t act, the ball goes in, and Uruguay are out.  Plain and simple.  If he acts, there’s a small chance that he does not get spotted by the referee (again, see USA v Germany 2002).  If he does get spotted and correctly sent off, there’s a chance that Ghana miss the penalty.  The odds of both of those events occurring in that order are slim, but as luck would have it, did indeed occur.  Suarez didn’t cheat, he operated within the rules of the game.  Odds are Ghana would have converted the penalty, and we wouldn’t be discussing this.  However, they didn’t, and continued to miss a couple more during the shootout.

The solution to this is plain (as plain as the solution to the Lampard disallowed goal in England v Germany): FIFA need to change the rule.  When it’s plain as day that the goal would have scored in the absence of this deliberate hand ball, they should go ahead and count the goal.  Goals scored are disallowed for any number of reasons; why not allow a goal that hasn’t crossed the line?


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Penalty Kicks

[ 19 ] July 2, 2010 |

As I’ve said before, I can’t stand important games being decided by any kind of penalty shooting, although true aficionados of football will tell me that the nature of the their sport makes them the least bad alternative and I admit I don’t really have a good answer. (For hockey, there’s no excuse.) Under these circumstances, though, the team I’m rooting for suffering the arbitrary loss isn’t nearly as bad as usual.

But, damn.

I Reiterate

[ 4 ] July 2, 2010 |

More Chan Ho Park in high-leverage situations, please!    Today’s accomplishments were especially impressive; not just anyone can allow four runners to score in 2/3rds of an inning when given a strike zone from the bill of the cap to midway down the shin to work with, but he did it…

I also can’t resist noting that following his latest blown save the ERA of the greatest pitcher athlete in Yankee known human history stands at 5.40.   But, in fairness, his K/W data is better than that…

Oh No! The Bond Vigalantes are Coming!

[ 3 ] July 2, 2010 |

Very, very shrill.

It seems more and more likely that just as the South ended up largely winning the Civil War after the fact, so does Herbert Hoover seem to be retrospectively winning the Great Depression.   Depressing, in more ways that one…


[ 7 ] July 2, 2010 |

I finally watched Valkyrie this week, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected. Unlike many critics, I thought that Cruise did a solid job as Stauffenberg; within the parameters of the film it’s an uncomplicated role, and Cruise played it in an uncomplicated fashion. Stauffenberg’s primary role within the coup appears to have been as focal point for a set of disparate actors with disparate motivations, which I think that the film captured relatively well.

Apparently, the concern that Stauffenberg expresses for the treatment of the Jews under the Third Reich was also genuine, although I don’t have a sense of whether the issue was primarily about ends or means. The film certainly soft pedals Stauffenberg’s attitude towards the Poles, and rather misrepresents his plan for ending the war. The coup plotters seem to have expected that the deposition of the Nazi regime would lead to the immediate reversion to 18th century power politics, in which the British, French, and Americans would happily accept a truce (under which Germany would retain some territorial gains) in the West while Germany continued the war against Russia. By 1944 this was clearly not in the cards, and I doubt that it would have been acceptable at any point following US entry into the war. That the film didn’t explore this complication is unfortunate, but then it might have detracted from the more important story of the coup itself.

I found the depiction of the mechanics of the coup quite compelling. A remarkable degree of weight is put on both momentum and the presentation of accomplished fact; Stauffenberg realizes that killing Hitler will be sufficient to move events, even if Himmler escapes. Moreover, the choices that are presented to other actors are presented in terms of agreement with objective reality; Hitler is dead, we’re in control, and you’re either on board or you’re not. The coup begins to lose momentum when Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels provide a counter-reality, and especially when they provide key evidence indicating that the central claim of the coup plotters is false. When it becomes clear that Hitler is alive, the moment of contingency on which the coup plotters have built their entire case (“Hitler is dead, and we could go and try to figure out why, but the key point is that we’re the only ones who can maintain control now”) is closed, and the momentum of the plot dies.

5-4 Votes and the “Political Court”

[ 1 ] July 2, 2010 |

A few remarks on this study:

  • While I understand why he uses 1-vote majorities as a proxy for a “political court,” close decisions merely reveal the inherently political nature of Supreme Court decision-making; they don’t create it.   If the Republicans had won three or four more elections and ended up with a Supreme Court full of justices who agreed on most issues (and hence had many fewer close cases), this wouldn’t mean that the legal disputes in question were no longer subject to reasonable disputation.
  • In particular, the idea that the data proves that the Court has become “more political” is clearly wrong.   The Marshall Court had an exceptionally high percentage of unanimous rulings, but to claim that the Marshall Court wasn’t “political” would be silly.    Not only did Marshall sometimes interpret ambiguous legal materials in ways that were congenial to his moderate nationalist constitutional vision, he would sometimes distort statutes or precedents to avoid issuing rulings he believed reflected the best interpretation of the law in order to protect the Court politically.    Marshall Court rulings were reliably more nationalist when moderate Jeffersonians or Whigs held the White House and less nationalist when Jefferson or Jackson were in power.
  • The idea that anyone could argue with a straight face that John Roberts could take us back towards Marshall Court norms still amazes me.
  • But I’m sure, given the obvious similarity between dealing with other justices as dealing with faculty as a dean, Elena Kagan will be able to turn the tide!


[ 10 ] July 2, 2010 |

The Dutch defeat at the Second Battle of Guararapes now stands avenged.

The Oxymoron Olympics

[ 0 ] July 2, 2010 |

Today’s competition:

The feminism of Mel Gibson


The integrity of Glenn Reynolds.


[ 5 ] July 2, 2010 |

So, so true:

The truth is that for most conservatives “family values” doesn’t mean much beyond discriminating against gays and opposing abortion rights.

With the caveat, as always, that the de facto Republican position on abortion is not so much “abortion should be illegal” as “abortion should be illegal but not so illegal that daughters of Republican politicians couldn’t get one.”

Happy Canada Day!

[ 4 ] July 1, 2010 |

Comment Hunting is the Lowest Form of Blogging…

[ 6 ] July 1, 2010 |

I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a less appropriate invocation of Gramsci.