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[ 0 ] October 27, 2007 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

"Ain’t Gonna Study War No More"

[ 7 ] October 27, 2007 |

If I had a “Greatest American Birthdays” series, I’d certainly have to include Mahalia Jackson, who must be counted as one of the most remarkable performers of the 20th century. She was probably best remembered for her renditions of “We Shall Overcome,” but her performance of “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned” — which she sang just prior to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech — was at least as powerful and has been unjustly left behind by popular memory of the civil rights era.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any film of that performance online, but I did manage to turn up this fantastic clip from a 1969 concert in Sweden. Most of that concert appears to be on YouTube, so if you’re in the mood to be completely blown away, do yourself a favor and watch.

If she hadn’t died too young in 1972, she’d have turned 96 today (which still would have been too soon to lose a voice like hers).

The Beauchamp Response

[ 12 ] October 26, 2007 |

I’ve long been skeptical about the Beauchamp stories, and wouldn’t be surprised if more elements of them were proven false. Having said that, though, I see nothing objectionable here. Obviously, 1)there’s no reason to uncritically believe the self-serving results of an investigation the Army refuses to make public, and 2)a recantation under the supervision of his superiors is hardly credible, especially if it’s subsequently withdrawn without his supervisor’s presence. The other thing to note is that the easy way out for TNR would be to just throw Beauchamp under the bus, since nothing of any significance turns on the veracity of his stories (contrary to the myths being spun about these cases, nobody cared about his diaries until right-wing bloggers made a big deal about them, and nobody’s case against the war turns on the bad behavior of some individual soldiers), especially since it’s not as if the magazine is against the war anyway. I think Foer deserves credit for backing up his writer until actual verifiable evidence that further aspects of his stories are false (and “they don’t sound right” or “no soldiers would ever do anything against the rules” certainly don’t count) emerges.

UPDATE: A correspondent points out that Beauchamp didn’t even retract his story to the military. but simply refused to say anything.

UPDATE THE SECOND: A roundup of wingnuttery on the subject from John Cole.

Department of Understatement

[ 24 ] October 26, 2007 |

From a mound of student essays I’m in the midst of grading:

The abolition of slavery following the [civil] war was a great victory for African Americans, especially those living in the south.

Why yes. I suppose it was.

About Time

[ 16 ] October 26, 2007 |

Georgia Supreme Court rules, 4-3, that Genarlow Wilson’s 10-year sentence for receiving a consensual blow-job from a 15 year-old when he was 17 was cruel and unusual punishment.

The Case Against Mukasey

[ 0 ] October 26, 2007 |

I lay it out in a new article at TAP.

This is a difficult question; I fully expected to support the nomination, and I certainly don’t think that there will be a better candidate. The bottom line for me is that nobody is going to act as a good AG for this administration, so it’s more important for the Senate to send a signal that opposition to arbitrary executive power and torture should be non-negotiable issues (and defining torture as not-torture and nominally opposing torture but removing any checks on executive power that could actually prevent it are not going to fool anybody.)

Moral Relativist Of The Day

[ 7 ] October 26, 2007 |

Rudy Giuliani.

This is a distinction that many Iraq dead-enders don’t seem to grasp, but it’s quite straightforward, so let me help. “Torture is wrong” is –right or wrong — not a moral relativist position. “Torture is wrong when other people do it but OK when we do it” is pretty much the definition of a moral relativist position, and indeed the kind that is especially odious: exempting yourself from the standards from which you hold others. You’re welcome!

Tough Gig

[ 0 ] October 26, 2007 |

Hank Steinbrenner:

“I think the most important thing is, whoever we hire, give him a chance. Because he’s not getting the ’96 Yankees. He’s getting a younger team, and for the most part, it’s a transition period, so give him a little while.”

Yeah, you have to show great patience with a manager given that paucity of talent to work with. Right. Assuming the major free agents return, the ’96 Yankees are clearly better than the ’08 Yankees at the following positions:

  • Centerfield
  • First base, assuming they don’t sign someone better than Tino “Even More Overrated Than Mattingly” Martinez

And, er, that’s it. O’Neill and Abreu are a wash, although I grant that Abreu has much lower Water Coolers Destroyed and Bitching Incessantly About Belt-High Pitches Down the Middle Called Strikes averages. Jeter ’08 is obviously better than Jeter ’96, even granting the regression in his defense. And some of remaining edges are, of course, massive: one of the 10 best players ever against the shell of Wade Boggs and Charlie Hayes, Cano against Duncan (although Duncan did have a fluke season in ’96 itself,) Matsui/Damon against Ice Williams, bordeline HOFer Jorge Posada against Joe Girardi. The ’96 Yankees did have a veteran rotation, but apart from Cone’s 11 starts it was merely good; Petite was a little better, but it seems likely that Wang/Hughes/Chamberlain will outpitch Key/Rogers/Doc (ERA+s of the latter 3: 107, 107, 100.)

Even granting that the earlier team had an excellent bench (one thing Torre deserves credit for, and which largely got away from him in later years) and more bullpen depth, please. Whoever manages the team in ’07 ’08 will have far more to work with and merits a high level of impatience.


[ 31 ] October 26, 2007 |

I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to anything as much as I look forward to this series:

It is one thing for you to brush off an inhabitant of, say, the history departments at Yale or the University of Wisconsin as knowing nothing of the military or military history. It is quite another to attempt the same with an Army Airborne Ranger who also happens to be an academic historian and who thinks that your personal signal work is a pile of poorly constructed, deliberately misleading, intellectually dishonest feces.

Next Week: Cannae

National Greasy Foods Day

[ 4 ] October 25, 2007 |

No, really.

Mostly because teaching days freak the shit out of me, the only thing I’ve eaten so far today is about a cup of quark.

I do not, however, have to humiliate myself in front of students tomorrow, so I will be doing my part to make up for lost time when I hit the bars in about an hour to watch the Red Sox-Rockies game.

Smells Like Cat Urine

[ 11 ] October 25, 2007 |

Further evidence that a Giuliani presidency would be like Nixon on crystal meth:

Ms. Gustitus said: “[Mukasey] said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it. I think the way it’s been defined in the media, it shouldn’t be done. The way in which they have described it, particularly in the liberal media. So I would say, if that’s the description of it, then I can agree, that it shouldn’t be done. But I have to see what the real description of it is. Because I’ve learned something being in public life as long as I have. And I hate to shock anybody with this, but the newspapers don’t always describe it accurately.”

It should go without saying, that Giuliani is a gruesome authoritarian by nature, but this exchange is especially revealing. Mukasey-like, he denounces the use of torture while pretending not to have sufficient information to judge whether waterboarding meets the definition of torture. This is nonsense, of course. Along with the rack, there is no more notorious method of torture than waterboarding; there is no special technique (disguised by the liberal media, as Giuliani would contend) that would make waterboarding acceptable under international law or bring it into conformity with any standard of morality. As Phillip Carter and Dahlia Lithwick pointed out the other day

[e]verybody knows what [waterboarding] involves, and even if you live in an igloo without wireless, you can tell it’s illegal. The argument that you can’t call it torture until you’ve been “read into” the torture program is just a lawyer’s trick that justifies keeping bad conduct secret to end-run the laws.

Later in his response, Giuliani repeats the Bush administration’s false belief that “terrorists” — so labeled at the president’s discretion — are not covered by the Geneva Convention, and he invokes the illogical “ticking time bomb” scenario to further lard his vision of an executive power unrestrained by law.

Most interesting, though, is Giuliani’s brief and jocular defense of sleep deprivation, which — along with the kinder, gentler methods of simulated drowning that the liberal media refuses to tell us about — apparently doesn’t count as torture either. “I mean, on that theory,” Giuliani surmises, “I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.”

Well, here’s Menachem Begin famously describing the “silly” time he spent with Soviet intelligence officials, who detained and tortured him during World War II:

In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep… Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.

I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.

He did not promise them their liberty; he did not promise them food to sate themselves. He promised them – if they signed – uninterrupted sleep! And, having signed, there was nothing in the world that could move them to risk again such nights and such days.

It’s always refreshing to hear candidates for public office admit that the US should not even bother to improve upon the record of the old Soviet Union.

Rudy Giuliani — Putting the ‘G’ in KGB.

Judicial Ethics Run Amok

[ 0 ] October 25, 2007 |

I’m in the depths (of hell) studying now for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which all aspiring lawyers must take before being admitted to the bar. So I’m not yet an expert on legal and judicial ethics, but I’m pretty sure that this violates about 38 rules of judicial conduct.

During a domestic violence trial in Maryland last week, a police officer testified that she witnessed a man hit his girlfriend in the face three times at a gas station . The officer had the man arrested. But, according to Paul Harris, the judge assigned to the case, one can’t assume that a woman who was hit didn’t consent to the attack. “Sadomasochists sometimes like to get beat up,” Harris told the courtroom — then acquitted the man.
Judge Harris went onto explain that it had to be clear that the defendant’s actions were not consented to by the victim, and asked, “How do you determine that without the victim?” (Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, posed this question to a Sun reporter: “What would we do in a murder case?”).

Between this case and last year’s ruling — also in Maryland — that consensual sex can’t become rape (consent is irrevocable), the legal system (again, at least in Maryland), seems to be becoming less and less hospitable to women who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. And that’s saying a lot, because where the law started wasn’t any great shakes either.

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