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Pompous Hack With No Sense of Shame of the Day

[ 13 ] June 25, 2010 |

Jeffrey Goldberg.   To see a guy who draws a very nice salary despite printing demonstrable falsehoods as propaganda for a war against a country that posed no significant threat to the United States and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and the loss of trillions of dollars criticize the standards of other journalists…I just don’t have the chops to properly express the contempt that Goldberg merits.

As for the Weigel “scandal,” it makes “OMG players today use different tacitly-sanctioned PEDs than the players I grew up with did!” look like Watergate by comparison.   I haven’t seen anybody raise any objections to Weigel’s excellent reporting, and if his reporting is good what he says about people on a private listserv is completely irrelevant (and, conversely, if his reporting was unfair it wouldn’t matter if he kept his thoughts about Drudge to himself.)   Apart from providing the umpteenth example of how Republicans are world-class whiners, there’s nothing there.   To the extent that there’s a scandal here, it’s this:

It was ironic, in a way, that it would be the Daily Caller that published e-mails from Journolist. A few weeks ago, its editor, Tucker Carlson, asked if he could join the list. After asking other members, I said no, that the rules had worked so far to protect people, and the members weren’t comfortable changing them. He tried to change my mind, and I offered, instead, to partner with Carlson to start a bipartisan list serv. That didn’t interest him.

Not so much “ironic” as “why this non-scandal culminated as it did.”  (I can’t imagine why Ezra thought Tucker couldn’t be trusted!)  The more guilty party isn’t so much Carlson as the dishonest creep on the list who did his dirty work, but if you’re looking for any actual unethical behavior there you go.    I just hope Weigel lands on his feet quickly, and if the leaker gets fired for some trivial nonsense irrelevant to his or her actual work that would be a nice bonus.

see also.


This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things…

[ 6 ] June 25, 2010 |

Friday Daddy Blogging… Elisha and Miriam

Court: First Amendment Does Not Shield People From Criticism

[ 7 ] June 25, 2010 |

Even more so than the other major opinion release by the Supreme Court on Thursday, the outcome of Doe v. Reed was no surprise to anyone who witnessed the oral argument. The question at issue was whether Washington state is within its rights to require the disclosure of signatures given to a petition to get an initiative on the ballot. The argument made by the anti-same sex marriage group that the First Amendment required that the signatures be kept private, to put it mildly, not very convincing. In essence, the argument seems to dovetail uncomfortably with Sarah Palin’s, er, innovative contention that the First Amendment should protect her from any criticism. But, as Scalia noted in his concurrence, “harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance.” When one considers the fact that under Washington state law individuals citizens who sign initiative petitions are acting in effect as legislators, the idea that they have a constitutional right to not have their identities revealed is especially hard to justify.

So the Court upheld the Washington law on its face, 8-1. However, in another example of Chief Justice Roberts’ oft-cited legendary ability to foster consensus on the Court, eight of the nine justices on the Court issued separate opinions. Among those who agreed that the law was valid, the key division was between Scalia and (to a lesser extent) Stevens, who argued that the law did not burden speech at all, and the rest of the majority, who argued that the law did burden speech but that the burden was justified by the state’s interest in a fair process. Roberts’ opinion for the Court also held open the possibility that the group could prove that in its specific case the requirement was unduly burdensome. While I tend to be skeptical of such “minimalist” moves, in this case there may be some justification for it. While this was, in the words of Stevens’ concurrence, “not a hard case,” it’s possible to imagine circumstances in balancing the relevant interests would be harder.   Thomas’s dissent relied heavily on a couple of Jim Crow-era freedom of association cases, and in those cases mere disclosure really did have an unacceptably chilling effect on political speech and action. However, that was an unusual context — obviously, the rules of ordinary politics do not apply in authoritarian states where a disenfranchised minority is subject to state-sanctioned terror for ordinary political activity.  In most circumstances, the disclosure requirement is obviously consistent with First Amendment principles, and hopefully future applications of the case will reflect this.

[X-Posted to TAPPED.]


[ 5 ] June 24, 2010 |

Obviously, you expect some shift in conceptions of executive power based on partisan shifts in control of the White House.   But for apologists for arbitrary executive torture to suddenly discover creeping Hitlerism in fairly ordinary voluntary legal agreements really is a bit much.

Convicting Bad People Under Bad Law Is No Virtue

[ 3 ] June 24, 2010 |

It’s a good thing that the Supreme Court limited the application of the notoriously abuse-inviting “honest services” anti-fraud provision today. Skilling and Black aren’t sympathetic claimants, and the ruling will be good news for a variety of other assholes, but that’s the same trap that leads to the erosion of civil liberties for people with fewer resources to defend themselves. In a democratic society, people should only be subject to legal sanctions for engaging in conduct specifically proscribed by statute, not because a prosecutor decides that someone is an unsavory character and decides to go after him or her under a statute so broad that almost everybody can be argued to violate it.

As I say at the other place, the other interesting thing about the decision is that it’s another reason to believe that concern about Sotomayor’s record on civil liberties was unfounded. .500 isn’t a great average for selecting Supreme Court justices, but there’s increasing reason to believe that Obama has made at least one superb choice.

Now You Have A Reason To Whine And Cry!

[ 26 ] June 24, 2010 |

I think I feel the way about Italy being eliminated the way most people feel about France. The really weird thing is how attractive I find most of the cultural products of these countries otherwise. Lots of people hate France on principle, but for me the puzzle is how two countries this great produce football teams that are so reprehensible…

The Accountability Problem

[ 17 ] June 24, 2010 |

This is a really crucial point:

Pat Garofalo has more on the policy substance here, noting that about 200,000 jobs could plausibly be lost as a result of the minority’s obstructionism here. And do note that if conditions do worsen many, many, many more Americans will blame Barack Obama for the bad state of things than will blame the Senate minority. The filibuster might not be so pernicious were its impact generally understood by the public, but the intersection of a minority that’s empowered to obstruct and an electorate that holds the majority responsible for policy outcomes is toxic.

The filibuster is indefensible for a whole host of reasons, but this dynamic seems especially difficult to justify. Democratic theory can offer justifications for any number of potentially counter-majoritarian veto points, but it’s hard to imagine circumstances in which it’s a good idea to empower a minority while practically leaving accountability with the majority. The fact that even a lot of progressives retain a sentimental attachment to the filibuster is as baffling as any reality of American politics. It can’t even really be nostalgia — for what, the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act? Even the Capra movie really isn’t that good…

Beach Book Blegging

[ 41 ] June 24, 2010 |

At the invitation of an old friend, my daughter and I will be traveling to Thailand the first two weeks of July, and I’ve been commanded to bring only vacation reading. It’s been awhile since I did any of that and I could use suggestions for humorous, smart, non-war-crimes related non-fiction or other good beach reads.

In the past I’ve enjoyed humorous science writing like Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; funny, twisted memoirs like Augusten Buroughs’ Running With Scissors or Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle or social-science-for-laypersons books like More Sex is Better Sex:The Unconventional Wisdom of Economics Heck, I’ll even take a good novel as a last resort. (No mysteries please. Zombie literature ok.)

And it has to be available in paperback. What should I consider? Comment away.

World Cup Predictions Foolishly Revisited

[ 19 ] June 24, 2010 |

Back in December, immediately after the draw for the World Cup, I had the temerity to write a long post breaking down each group, and I foolishly offered predictions as to how the sides would finish.  I’ve been meaning to write this post prior to the last round of matches from the group stage, but a series of events have intervened.

Now, half way through those matches, let’s see how I have fared.

Group A

Prediction: 1. Mexico, 2. France, 3. Uruguay, 4. South Africa

Result: 1. Uruguay, 2. Mexico, 3. South Africa, 4. France.

The difference between Mexico and South Africa was down to goal differential.  At least I was smart enough to state “And Uruguay don’t suck either”.  I don’t think I can be faulted for horribly mis-predicting France, as I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the circus that France became in this tournament.

Group B

Prediction: 1. Argentina, 2. Greece, 3. South Korea, 4. Nigeria.

Result: 1. Argentina, 2. South Korea, 3. Greece, 4. Nigeria.

Not a bad prediction, only a point separated South Korea from Greece.  Of course suggesting that Argentina take the group isn’t exactly a risky proposition.

Group C

Prediction: 1. England, 2. USA, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

Result: 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.

As predictions go, as I was only off by the “goals scored” tie breaker, I can’t feel too bad about this one.  Furthermore,m I did say “Don’t underestimate Slovenia, any of you”.  I should have also said “don’t overestimate England”.  Furthermore, it was a lot closer on the final day than most would have predicted, and had those two 1-0 scorelines been reversed, it would be Slovenia and Algeria progressing, not the USA and England.

Group D

Ill-Advised Prediction: 1. Germany, 2. Serbia, 3. Australia, 4. Ghana.

Result: 1. Germany, 2. Ghana, 3. Australia, 4. Serbia.

Well, two out of four isn’t bad.  And I did say the following about Ghana:

And Ghana may be all about Essien in the international media, but they have a reputation of being well organized in a disorganized way. Which, as a faux statistician, I can appreciate. But more critically, they have a lot of youth, and their kids have done well in FIFA tournaments in the past decade or so. That said, I still see them finishing last in this tough group. Serbia are that good.

If one chooses to ignore the final two sentences, I come out looking pretty good.

Group E

Prediction: 1. Holland, 2. Denmark

Situation: 1. Netherlands 6, 2. Japan 3, 3. Denmark 3, 4. Cameroon 0.

Fina matches: tonight, 19:30 BST.

The Dutch should win the group — they play Cameroon tonight, and all they need is a draw to win the group.  Even if the Oranje were to lose, their goal differential advantage (+3 over Japan, +4 over Denmark) should be enough to protect them.  The big match is Denmark v Japan.  They’re only separated by goal differential, and that’s one goal; however, that logically means Denmark have to win in order to progress.

Group F

Prediction: 1. Italy, 2. Paraguay, 3. Slovakia, 4. New Zealand.

Situation: 1. Paraguay 4, 2. Italy 2, 3. New Zealand 2, 4. Slovakia 1.

Final matches: today, 15:00 BST.

Any of the four can still progress, and any of the four can still go out.  If Paraguay draw New Zealand, they’re through.  Nothing separates Italy and New Zealand at the moment, they’ve both drawn two, scored two goals, and conceded two goals.  This will be a fascinating one, much like Group C yesterday afternoon.

Group G

Prediction: 1. Brazil, 2. Cote D’Ivoire, 3. Portugal, 4. North Korea.

Situation: 1. Brazil 6, 2. Portugal 4, 3. Cote D’Ivoire 1, 4. North Korea, 0.

Final matches: Friday, 15:00 BST.

Brazil are through, but have not secured the top seed.  However, if Brazil and Portugal merely draw, Brazil are through as top, Portugal are through in second.  The Ivory Coast will beat our reclusive friends from North Korea, but even if Portugal were to lose, the commanding goal differential advantage currently enjoyed by Portugal (+7) over the Ivory Coast (-2) dooms the Ivory Coast to third with near certainty.  Unless Brazil win by a couple, and the Ivory Coast put seven or eight in against North Korea.  An unlikely proposition.

Group H

Prediction: 1. Spain, 2. Chile, 3. Switzerland, 4. Honduras.

Situation: 1. Chile 6, 2. Spain 3, 3. Switzerland 3 , 4. Honduras 0.

Final matches: Friday, 19:30 BST.

The Switzerland victory over Spain threw a spanner into the works of this group.  Chile are through, but (UPDATE: as per the first comment below, there is a scenario, not improbable, where Chile don’t get through) face Spain in their final match.  All that separates Spain from Switzerland is a single goal on goal differential.  Again, this will provide for an engaging set of matches.

All said, I haven’t done terribly bad.  I horribly overrated both France and Serbia, and have slightly overrated Italy and England.  I predicted England 2-1 over USA, which was ever so slightly off, and predicted USA 2-1 over Algeria.  I knew we would beat Algeria, if I began to seriously doubt that around the 80th minute of yesterday’s match.

At least I seem to have nailed the North Korea position.

I fly to the USA on the 28th, which means I’ll miss a couple of the first knockout matches, but I’ll be able to watch USA v Ghana from home on Saturday (with my daughter no less).  If the USA make it past Ghana, and I think we will, I’ll be able to watch a USMNT quarter final match in the USA, which will be a pleasant change.  The next match would be against the winner of Uruguay and South Korea . . . and an English friend of mine here sent me an email this morning predicting that the USA make the semi finals.  He thinks we’ll get past both Ghana and Uruguay.

Me, I’m happy getting out of the group.  Not getting out of the group would have been a major disappointment.  Finishing top means we avoid Germany (for the time being), which does help our cause for progression.

USA 1 0 Algeria

[ 6 ] June 24, 2010 |

Match report here.

I watched in an English pub, which, given I am in England, I found somewhat difficult to avoid.  My local graciously put on the USA match on a smallish flat screen behind the bar (while the other screens in the pub were tuned to that other match).   I was proudly wearing my 2006 Landon Donovan top.

That was a very strange, surreal experience — everybody around me watching one game, me the other.  They have sound, I don’t. I had a semi compatriot with me, an MA student of mine who just returned to Devon after 20 years of living in the US.  His brother has worked for the USMNT for the past 15 years or so — the stories he told were entertaining.   However, on this day, he wore his England shirt over his USA shirt, but at least he paid some attention to the US match, and is very knowledgable about the players, the tactics etc.

By the 80th minute, I was convinced we were cursed.  We clearly needed to do something inhumane to a live rooster in order to lift the curse.  We had so many shots on goal, but nothing would go in for a variety of reasons (luck, hitting the post or the crossbar, their keeper played an excellent game, the ref blew a call, again, etc.).  With England a goal up, us drawing, we’d finish third in the group, and go out.

A good friend of mine, who lives in San Francisco, and I typically exchange a flurry of texts whenever the USMNT play during a tournament, and yesterday was no different.  His best came in around the 75th minute: “at this point I don’t care who it is, but someone in white needs to score.”  As Slovenia too were in white, had they drawn England, we’d have gone through.

The Donovan goal, in stoppage time, literally during the final seconds of the match, changed the entire group at once: before the
goal the table was 1. England, 2. Slovenia, 3. USA, 4. Algeria.  After the goal, 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.  The USA edges out England for top of the group by a seldom-used tie-breaker: as they were level on both points and goal differential, it came down to goals scored.  The US had scored two more goals than England.

That one goal in the dying seconds of the match also moved the poor Slovenes from qualifying for the second round to ending their tournament.

It was a rare amazing sporting moment.  As England looked assured to progress by this point, more of the English were watching my little match.  When Donovan scored, bedlam ensued.  The English in my local wanted us to go through as well, and didn’t seem too concerned about finishing second in the group, at least until it became clear a few hours later that they would be facing Germany in the next round.

To quote my friend above again, this time writing in a different forum: “I challenge anyone who has any interest in and appreciation of sports not to be excited by the US match today. Absolutely amazing drama. I still can’t believe
we won. I still can’t believe we won the group.”


[ 1 ] June 23, 2010 |

In the words of Arthur Carlson, where I come from this ad is in bad taste.

Free At Last

[ 15 ] June 23, 2010 |

I am happily in receipt of a letter from University of Massachusetts’ Chancellor Holub informing me that I have been awarded tenure. Of course you know what this means: the days of keeping outside-the-box ideas to myself are gone like the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. Yep, I just cannot wait to write something unpopular or controversial using my newly acquired academic freedom.