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Some Thoughts on Dennis Dixon

[ 24 ] November 17, 2007 |

I know I swore that it would never be spoken of again, but the report that Dixon played knowing he had a torn ACL demands comment. My first thought is that Bellotti and the training staff shouldn’t have allowed him to play; players are always going to want to play through an injury, and it’s a coach’s responsibility to protect his players.

Then again, a torn ACL was probably going to require surgery anyway, whether or not Dixon had aggravated it in the Arizona game. Thus, Dixon’s future prospects were going to take a hit whether or not he had been allowed to play. Given the stakes for Dixon (winning the Heisman is a pretty big deal, both personally and financially) and for the Ducks (Bellotti must have understood the hit that the Ducks national championship hopes would take in Dixon’s absence), allowing him to play is a defensible decision.

The situation doesn’t look quite as bleak now as it did on Thursday night; the Ducks still have a pretty solid chance of beating UCLA and OSU and going to the Rose Bowl against either Michigan or Ohio State. Brady Leaf isn’t as bad as he looked Thursday, and hopefully it will be possible to make some adjustments between now and next Saturday. The Ducks defense on Thursday looked worse than it actually was; they ended up giving up only 20 points on the road (one touchdown was an interception return, and another a punt return), and only 3 in the second half. A Rose Bowl season is disappointing given what might have been, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.

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We’re Losing Ground…

[ 0 ] November 17, 2007 |

Farley is now the 849th most common surname in America, down 23 from 1990. The Lemieux’s have apparently suffered some sort of holocaust in the last seventeen years, as they’ve dropped from 2876 to 4456; breed, Scott, breed! Watkins carries the banner for LGM at 222 (down 48 since 1990), and Bean clocks in at 713 (down 133). Noon, I’m sad to say, doesn’t appear in the top 5000.

We’re facing a demographic crisis, people.

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Talkin’ Turkey

[ 0 ] November 17, 2007 |

I bought a turkey yesterday. A kosher organic 14.25 pounder. It felt more like 40 pounds.

It’s going to be the first turkey I ever cook. I’ve prepared Thanksgiving dinner once before, but then I prepared all the side dishes and someone else took care of the main event. I’m planning on using this recipe, which seems easy enough.

But still. It’s a serious bird and, frankly, the bird is intimidating.

So, anyone with indispensable turkey roast advice — something I absolutely must know before getting to work on this thing on Thursday morning — please enlighten me.

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Uncle Ted

[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

Shorter Practically verbatim Ted Stevens:

That’s a nice newspaper you have there. Be a shame if something happened to it.

Crikey. Stevens appears to believe that he can cut off federal funding for the Anchorage Daily News.

What’s truly pathetic about all of this is that Stevens is eventually going to be indicted and, I suspect, convicted on corruption charges; he’s also going to run for re-election and win by his usual staggering margin next fall. The state Democratic party doesn’t see much point in actually running a candidate against Stevens, so we’ll probably be stuck with another low-frequency freak show, much as we had in 2002:

Both Democrats running for the right to face Ted Stevens in November’s general election say the state’s senior U.S. senator is out to get them.

In his campaign material, Frank Vondersaar of Homer calls himself “a political prisoner of Stevens and his criminal co-conspirators” since 1986. Theresa Nangle Obermeyer of Anchorage also calls herself a “political prisoner” and claims Stevens “jailed me for 29 days” in 1996, the first time she ran against the Republican U.S. senator. . . .

Vondersaar, a lawyer and engineer, said he worked in nuclear weapons intelligence for the U.S. Air Force from 1972 to 1985. After deciding he was under surveillance by the Department of Defense, he said he wrote Stevens asking for help. Vondersaar said he was sent to a psychiatric ward for six months, discharged and kept under surveillance.

Vondersaar, who lost to Obermeyer in the 1996 U.S. Senate Democratic primary, said since moving to Alaska, “they have me in a bubble.” And he claimed Stevens is part of the “they.”

“I don’t know how closely he was involved in the original conspiracy, but the conspiracy continues,” Vondersaar said from a Homer radio station where he arranged to use the phone for an interview because he has no home phone.

Obermeyer, an educator, real estate broker and frequent candidate who served one term on the Anchorage School Board, has claimed for years that Stevens repeatedly blocked her husband Tom’s attempts to enter the Alaska Bar. She also alleged Stevens’ entry to the bar was improper.

She was charged with disorderly conduct in 1995 after an altercation with a secretary in a federal building in Anchorage. She was placed on probation but served time, including some at an out-of-state federal prison, for violating probation. She also was arrested in 1998 after allegedly disrupting an Anchorage School Board meeting.

“I … have been jailed and targeted for many years for telling the truth. I have weathered a total of 14 fabricated court charges. Alaska Bench and Bar have spent millions to attempt to silence my husband and me,” she wrote in an e-mail message answering campaign questions.

Of course six years later, none of this sounds quite as implausible as it used to.

As it happened, Vondersaar won the primary and received about 10% of the vote, putting him solidly in second place. With an additional six years to mull over his plight, Vondersaar is apparently running again.

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Things that are Very Bad

[ 15 ] November 16, 2007 |

Securing your nuclear weapons with the equivalent of a bicycle lock is pretty high on the list. I know that Scott Sagan has taught us that accidents are inevitable, no matter how good our procedures are, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

I’m also a bit dismayed to learn that Royal Navy boomer commanders can still launch their missiles without signal from headquarters. Again, let’s at least try to pretend that we’re safeguarding the most dangerous weapons humanity has ever conceived of…

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Why So Much Poop?

[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

This is awesome. I especially like #23.

Via Battlepanda.

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Cautious Optimism

[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

A long way to go, but this is obviously excellent news. The state enlisting private entities to reveal information about their customer will be a major privacy issue, and it’s critical that incentives remain in place that would force companies to actually consider the rights of their consumers before assisting in illegal government activity.

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For those in need of a laugh . . .

[ 9 ] November 16, 2007 |

. . . and that would presumably include everyone watching the Ducks’ game tonight, I’d just like to point out that Victor Davis Hanson — one of this site’s great laxatives for writer’s blockage — was awarded a National Humanities Medal today for his “scholarship on civilizations past and present.” As the Preznit explained, Hanson — one assumes by spreading loads of pigshit wherever he goes — “has cultivated the fields of history and brought forth an abundant harvest of wisdom for our times.” (Not surprisingly, my victory in the 2006 VDH Invitational was not acknowledged in the ceremony.)

Next year’s list recipients is widely expected to include Stephen Hayes (for his valuable children’s biography of Dick Cheney; William Kristol (for his keen moral sensitivity to the plight of convicted perjurors); and Jonah Goldberg, whose decades of research on Hillary Clinton’s debt to Mussolini produced a “very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.”

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[ 0 ] November 16, 2007 |

alright, time for the bourbon and ice cream.

you know you’re fucked when ryan leaf is embarrassed for you…

…fuck. fuckety fuck fuck a-fuck. I don’t know that I’ve ever in my life been as unhappy as I am now. No one shall speak of this. Ever.

…”Laying around in the aftermath, It’s all worse than you think”. Did I really finish off that bottle of Wild Turkey, or was it one of the cats?

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Life as an Ex-Con is Going to be SOOOO Awesome…

[ 5 ] November 15, 2007 |

I haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, but the Transylvania Book Heist thieves appear to have told their story in this month’s Vanity Fair. As suspected, the plot was hatched in a haze of marijuana smoke and Ocean’s Eleven/Reservoir Dogs-born enthusiasm. Of interest; they apparently had lined up a fence for the books before stealing them, but then for some reason decided to try Christie’s instead.

Warren Lipka:

“In a few years we’ll be released,” Lipka says in Vanity Fair. “We’ll all be … still young. We will be stronger, better, wiser for going through this together, the three of us. Before, in college, growing up, we were being funneled into this mundane, nickel-and-dime existence. Now we can’t ever go back there. Even if we wanted to, they won’t let us.”

That’s true, I suppose; I’ve often pined for the excitement of having to visit my parole officer every week….

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About What I Expected…

[ 0 ] November 15, 2007 |

cash advance

Crooked Timber, unsurprisingly, reaches Genius. For (also unsurprising) chuckles, try Instapundit.

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Surge Thoughts

[ 16 ] November 15, 2007 |

I’ve been waiting a bit before posting any thinking on the Surge and the drop in violence in Iraq, but I think it’s time now for a few observations.

First off, it is important to recognize that there has been a drop in violence. Our measures are inadequate and susceptible to bias and manipulation, but pretty much every quantitative and qualitative assessment of the situation indicates that attacks and deaths are down substantially. Moreover, this drop is beginning to have some positive economic effects, with oil and energy production climbing a bit. Of course, this drop is only relative to the situation in 2006 and early 2007 (we appear to be roughly at 2005 levels, which were unacceptable then and are unacceptable now), but it is a drop nonetheless. The causes for this drop appear to be several, including successful ethnic cleansing, the policy of allying with tribal elites, the decision of the Mahdi Army to lay low, and both the quantitative increase in US forces and qualitative changes in US doctrine. There has also been a substantial drop in the number of IED attacks, which explains much of the reduction in US casualties. It would be wrong to attribute all of the reduction in violence to the Surge, or even to the combination of the Surge with the tribal alliance strategy, but I suspect it would also be wrong to so attribute none of the reduction.

When we’re evaluating the Surge as policy, we have to remember that it should be evaluated as a whole, not solely on its October effects. The Surge began in February, and its execution resulted in an enormous increase in violence that lasted until about June. The Surge has thus resulted in the bloodiest year for the Coalition in Iraq thus far, despite the fact that a month and a half are still left in the year. Even if we allow that the Surge has had a positive impact on violence in the second half of 2007, you cannot separate out the two phenomenon; the increase in violence was a necessary consequence of the strategy employed, and the surge must be evaluated on that basis. If violence in Iraq remains at its current low level, the Surge may eventually pay off in terms of US casualties, but it has failed to do so thus far.

To the extent the Surge and the associated strategy of tribal alliances has succeeded militarily, it has undercut the political justification for the war and undermined the exit strategy. We are now farther away from having a capable, centralized Iraqi state than we have ever been. Even in 2003 and 2004, there was potential that a state might have been constructed that could govern Iraq. Now, in a process that US military authorities have more or less acknowledged, the central national government has become essentially irrelevant. The tribal strategy has cut violence, but it has also, by privileging substate actors, substantially eliminated the prospect of a democratic, unified Iraq. The Iraq we see today is utterly prostrate, completely incapable of defending itself from any outside actor with anything other than a guerilla strategy. It has no air force, no significant armored formations, no navy to speak of, and no unified military command capable of developing long range defense plans. The central government does not control its own territory, in the sense that it utterly lacks a monopoly on legitimate (not to mention illegitimate) violence. It’s also worth mentioning that the actors we’re currently enabling represent the most reactionary, anti-democratic elements in Iraqi life. Indeed, it’s unclear which of the Sunni militias or the Shia government has less of an interest in Western conceptions of democracy.

We should acknowledge that what the US has accomplished in the last year may have been the best we could hope for. It’s possible that the centralized Iraqi state was doomed from the start (or at least by the start of 2007), and that no alternative strategy could have saved it. I’m not convinced by that; a credible threat of withdrawal prior to the gutting of the centralized state might have produced some national reconciliation. It also might not have, but we’ll never know.

Although I hate to use variations on the theme “military victory, political defeat”, the concept can be useful in some situations. Since military force is used to achieve political purposes, the idea that military success can be combined with political failure is usually self-refuting; if it’s a political failure then it’s a military failure by definition. But there are some situations in which it’s illuminating to distinguish between specifically military and specifically political phenomena. In the case of the French experience in Algeria, for example, it’s accurate to say that the exercise of French military power saw considerable success; the FLN and its allies were substantially destroyed before independence, and the military situation of the French forces considerably improved between 1956 and 1960. It’s probably even true that the Algerians could not have thrown the French out if the French themselves had not been willing to leave, and that the military costs that the French had already paid were higher than the costs they would likely incur in the future. The point of this comparison is the fact that it’s hardly irrational that opposition to the war continues to increase even as the violence drops. Even with the drop in violence, there remain no good political options in Iraq. A fair amount has been written about Colin Kahl’s contribution to this debate, but I’m not sure why; it seems almost desperate in its effort to elide the basic problem of Iraqi state capacity. I suppose that the believing that something needs to be done almost invariably drives someone to think that something can be done, but there are times when we face only very bad options, and this is one of them. I don’t see the current US position in Iraq as any more tractable than the French position in Algeria in 1961 or the American position in South Vietnam in 1973. We have created a situation of utter Iraqi military dependence on the United States for both internal and external security, and we lack any plausible options for changing that situation.

I would love to agree with the “let’s declare victory and leave” position, but part of the problem with declaring victory is that it’s not something you can do unilaterally; the other side has to believe it’s been beaten, and third party observers have to believe you’ve won. This, to say the least, is implausible. That said, to the extent that claiming victory can work as a domestic strategy for provoking withdrawal, I’m all for it. Withdraw, give an external security guarantee to the rump Iraqi state, and hope that things sort themselves out without too much bloodshed. Seems to me that the only alternative is stay more or less forever; I think the whole 60-80000 dedicated to training is kind of absurd, given that you need a state to have an army, and that such a rump force will either be withdrawn or doubled at the first sign of trouble.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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