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Pollack

[ 0 ] May 27, 2008 |

Rest in peace. Strangely enough, I kind of preferred his acting to his direction.

UPDATE (BY SL): As I think I’ve said before, I agree with the above (TS joins the consensus.) I especially liked his turns in Eyes Wide Shut and Husbands and Wives, with a special favorite being his cameo in A Civil Action (“Oh. Cornell. Well…that’s a…good school.”)

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Yet Another Common Sense Policy Proposal

Don’t elect judges.

Simple as that. Because when you elect judges, you don’t get impartial decision-making (to the extent that even exists), you don’t get an environment that allows for the scrupulous acting out of exemplary legal ethics, and you certainly don’t get people who are necessarily the best for the job.

True, appointed judges aren’t necessarily always the best qualified for the jobs to which they are appointed…but it should raise a red flag that electing judges is yet another example of American Exceptionalism. Judges here receive less perfunctory specialized training than house appraisers, and certainly far less than their French peers (the judges’ not the appraisers’) who take a 4-day test simply to qualify to become a judge. What’s more, as a recent case proved (despite what the Supreme Court said), in many states the processes for electing judges are anything but democratic.

Supporters of electing judges counter that it allows for more transparency. That may be so. But excuse me if I am a little skeptical that what we are really getting with judicial campaigns is transparency. I think it’s been a long time since political campaigns provided that (at least since the advent of TV, if not long long before).

So while there’s no way to a perfect judiciary, I’m not so sure that elected judges is the closest to perfection that we can get.

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The People Must Be Told

[ 4 ] May 26, 2008 |

Oh, sure.

They were shaped like cigars, saucers, coffins and amorphous blinking blobs. They hovered in a menacing manner, traveled at impossible speeds and vanished into the netherworld, or, in one instance, a hedge in Cornwall.

A few carried humanoid life forms, or so it seemed. A few materialized courtesy of the observers’ possibly having had a drink too many, as in the case of an unidentified flying light cluster witnessed loitering in the sky by the patrons of a pub in Kent.

Whatever they were, these phenomena reported to Britain’s Ministry of Defense over the years and made public this month were almost certainly not actual alien aircraft piloted by actual alien beings.

“The government has been telling us the truth,” declared David Clarke, a senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, who has a side interest in U.F.O.’s. “There are a lot of weird things in the sky, and some of them we can’t explain, but there’s not a shred of evidence for a single alien visitation.”

Oh yeah? Well, explain this, Mr. Smart Guy.

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Baseball Challenge Standings

[ 0 ] May 26, 2008 |

Most pundits now agree that R. Farley has built an insurmountable point lead in the 2008 LGM Challenge:

1 Lexington Bearded Ducks, R. Farley 2611 99.1
2 The Rev. Josh Fields, A. Katz 2373 93.3
3 Headless Thompson Gunners, S. Hickey 2326 91.1
4 Sluggy McSlugs, C. Moore 2323 91
5 kodos423, k. crockett 2254 87.1
6 Lungless Wonders, E. Udall 2231 85.7
7 Theibault Moor Orioles, J. Theibault 2153 80.1
8 JacobyRules, P. Smith 2148 79.8
9 Axis of Evel Knievel, D. Noon 2122 77.6
10 Wild Loose Comma, C. S 2062 72.6

However, several competitors refused to concede defeat…

  • D. Noon: “Farley’s been using black players. Jesse Jackson was black. You know what I’m sayin’.”
  • A. Katz: “My extensive analysis has indicated that if the game used an entirely different set of metrics, I’d be well ahead.”
  • E. Udall: “I would be substantially in the lead if we counted exhibition games. EVERY GAME SHOULD COUNT! COUNT THE EXHIBITION GAMES!”
  • P. Smith: “Hey, remember back in ’68 when Bobby drafted Denny McClain in the fourth round, and Danny Cater in, like, the 10th, and then was way ahead in late May? Well, we all remember what happened then…”

Dead-enders, all of them.

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Puerto Rico!

[ 39 ] May 26, 2008 |

With due respect to the residents of our not-quite-a-51st-state, Barack Obama shouldn’t be spending either a nickel or a minute on the Puerto Rican primary. Illinois, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida have the largest Puerto Rican populations in the United States, and Obama is going to crush in the first five and in all likelihood get crushed in the last. Puerto Rico, unlike most of the states that the Clinton campaign has determined are meaningless, actually is meaningless for any purpose other than Clinton’s quixotic pursuit of the nomination.

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Why, That Sounds Like a Terrible Idea

[ 0 ] May 26, 2008 |

This sounds like an incredibly bad idea:

People who normally use Metro Transit’s [the Seattle bus system-ed] special service to get to ball games, community festivals, and other special events should be aware that new Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rules could significantly restrict Metro’s ability to provide this service.

These changes in federal regulations limit Metro’s ability to offer the special event service as it has in the past. Since these rules are so new, the effect they have on each of the events Metro has been serving is not yet known.

This new federal rule redefines “charter service” to potentially include the service that Metro has been offering to sports venues – such as Emerald Downs, Husky Stadium, Safeco Field and Qwest Field. It could also affect special service to local community fairs and events. This includes large-scale events such as the Folklife Festival, Seafair hydro races, Bumbershoot, and the Northwest Flower and Garden Show; and smaller celebrations such as the Bellevue Strawberry Festival and Redmond Derby Days.

If Metro service for an event falls under the new definition of charter service, the agency must first contact private charter firms registered with the FTA to see if any are interested in providing the service. If any firms indicate they are interested, Metro will be precluded from providing the service and the private operators will be given the opportunity to negotiate with the event sponsor for the transportation service.

If no private company is willing and able to provide the transportation service, Metro may be able to continue its special service to the venue.

Metro has been working closely with the FTA and event organizers to understand and clarify the rule requirements, and has received an exemption from the FTA to continue operating service to Mariners games at Safeco until June 30. More information about these rules and the impact on Metro service will be provided as it becomes available.

This is the first time I’ve heard of this; since it’s a new FTA policy, I assume that it has to affect cities other than Seattle. Unless I’m missing something important, the idiocy of this policy is matched only by its chutzpah; the FTA is so certain that government can’t compete with private industry that it will prohibit government from competing with private industry.

Does anyone have a better idea of what’s going on here, or examples from other cities?

…and this is reassuring:

While FTA accepts submissions from private charter operators and qualified human service organizations, FTA does not verify the accuracy of the information submitted. Members of the public using this site should contact the private charter operators directly for more information regarding their services.

Ah! So at least the FTA is explicit about its inability to verify anything that private charter companies tell it; that’s terribly comforting. So if I understand this correctly, “Big Steve’s Big Charters” can register, and thereby preclude Metro from providing service, without anyone knowing or asking whether Big Steve is operating anything more than a 1975 Chevy Scottsdale.

This, dear readers, is what we call a victory for federalism. Thank God that localities can no longer make decisions on how to allocate their transit service.

…ooh, and here’s the registration form. I’m sure they’ll check to make sure that I actually have sixty vans…

…and here’s a Washington Post story on the effects of the policy in DC. HT Woodrowfan.

Via DMZ.

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A Bad Weekend for Blogging

[ 6 ] May 25, 2008 |


When it’s 45 degrees and pissing rain — or when you recall that Ted Stevens represents your state in the Senate — the healthy response is to fill a styrofoam cup with Mad Dog and hide in the closet. But on a weekend like this, you begin to think that most of the forces in the universe aren’t actually conspiring against you.

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Confidence!

[ 0 ] May 25, 2008 |

Well, why not? Armstrong’s the idiot who brought them aboard in the first place. (Normally, a “vote of confidence” would be a good sign, but I have the sinking suspicion it’s serious.)

One more thing: if you think (inexplicably) that you have a championship quality roster and it has the worst record in the league, how can this be a defense of the manager? Aren’t managers aren’t, you know, supposed to get teams to achieve what, or ideally more, than they’re capable of? This really is Bavasi in a nutshell.

UPDATE BY ROB:

“In my 23 years, I have never ever seen anything like this,” Armstrong told MLB.com. “We saw it the other way in 2001. I mean, you have to ask yourself, ‘How did the Mariners win 116 games that season with that roster, compared to this roster?’ This is just as inexplicable the other way.”

Ahem. And ahem. And this doesn’t take into account the fact, of course, that the 2001 Mariners were one of the finest defensive teams in the history of baseball.

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I Come Not to Bury Caesar, But to Jeterate Him

[ 0 ] May 25, 2008 |

Joe Posnanski, on how he wants to like Derek Jeter, but..

So why is it that I’m often writing negative things about Derek Jeter? I realized Friday that it has absolutely nothing to do with Jeter himself. No, what drives me batty is that Jeter — maybe because of his star power, or maybe because he’s a Yankee, or maybe because he’s made some very big plays on the national stage, or maybe because he dated all the supermodels, I honestly don’t know what it is — Jeter brings out this quality in people, this superiority, this … it just drives me insane I don’t know if there’s a word for this quality so, as we do here, I’m going to invent a word.

Jeterate (verb) meaning “to praise someone for something of which he or she is entirely unworthy of praise.”

Example: “The father could not but jeterate his daughter for coloring on the wall because she looked so cute.”

Or: “The employee, knowing his job was on the line, jeterated his boss for almost making a 3-foot putt. ‘That was an incredible putt,“ the employee said. ”With that intense break, I doubt Tiger Woods would have even lipped out like you did.“

Or: “The doctor jeterated his patient for not actually gaining any more weight since the visit four days earlier.”

This requires some mild edits; I write negatively about Jeter because I hate him, and “because he dated all those supermodels” should obviously be replaced with “because he infected all those supermodels with herpes”, but otherwise I think I concur with the gist of the argument.

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Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Victoria

[ 23 ] May 25, 2008 |

In 1861, HMS Warrior set the state of the art in Line of Battle Ship, combining steam engines, advanced guns, and an iron hull, she was substantially superior to her ironclad counterparts in France and the United States. The Royal Navy developed on the ironclad type for the next twenty years, with the Colossus class of 1882 being the first to resemble what became known as the classic “pre-dreadnought”. Experimentation on the battleship form continued until the Royal Sovereign class of 1891, which essentially set a new state of the art for battleship construction. Between 1891 and 1905, pretty much all battleships in all navies followed the pattern set by Royal Sovereign; four heavy guns in two turrets, one fore and one aft, with a heavy secondary armament, reciprocating engines, and a speed of around 16 knots.

HMS Victoria preceded Royal Sovereign by four years, and was originally intended to carry the name HMS Renown. In a decision that would become heavy with irony, she was renamed Victoria on the occasion of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Commissioned in 1890, HMS Victoria displaced 11000 tons, could make 17 knots, and carried 2 16.25″ guns in a single twin turret forward. She also carried a single 10″ gun turret aft. Victoria was the first battleship to use vertical triple expansion engines, which significantly reduced her coal consumption. The 16.25″ guns were enormous weapons, but were not directly comparable to later naval artillery; the expected range of engagement was no longer than a couple of miles. The guns were also difficult to load, taking five minutes for each shot. In any engagement involving movement on both sides, this would have been a critical handicap, as primitive rangefinding equipment meant that gunners had to rely on splashes. The 16.25″ gun was replaced by much smaller weapons in later battleship classes.

Upon commissioning HMS Victoria was designated flagship of the Royal Navy Mediterranean squadron, which included an overwhelming concentration of naval power. The Mediterranean squadron was intended to offset the growth of the Italian Navy, which had recovered from the embarrassment of Lissa to field a squadron powerful enough to threaten British communications (via Suez) with India. In 1891 the Mediterranean Fleet fell to Admiral George Tryon, an innovator whose main enthusiasm was signaling. The Royal Navy system of signaling, the Admiral felt, had ossified since the days of Nelson, leaving the captains of individual ships little room for initiative, and threatening an entire system collapse in response to unforeseen events during battle. Accordingly, Admiral Tryon pursued a much simpler system of signal that relied on the ability of captains to do their jobs.

On June 22, 1893 the Mediterranean squadron was engaged in maneuvers of Tripoli (part of modern Lebanon). Deployed in two columns, the fleet was returning to anchor when some confusion arose. The exact details remain unclear; Robert Massie suggests that Admiral Tryon was attempting a complex maneuver that involved the two columns weaving into one another, while Andrew Gordon makes the altogether more plausible argument that Tryon simply miscalculated the distance between the columns. In any case, the maneuver set HMS Victoria on a collision course with HMS Camperdown, the lead ship of the second column. Several officers on both Camperdown and Victoria suggested that the maneuver might be quite dangerous, but Admiral Tryon was inattentive, and Admiral Markham (commander of the second column) did not wish to cross Tryon. By the time that Tryon realized what was happening, a collision was unavoidable.

HMS Camperdown, equipped with a ram bow, struck HMS Victoria on the starboard side, then reversed engines to disengage. This doomed Victoria, as Camperdown left an enormous hole below the waterline. Thirteen minutes after the collision, Victoria rolled over and sank, carrying 358 sailors with her. Admiral Tryon did not survive, and his innovative system of signaling was discarded following the accident, even though it had not contributed to the collision. HMS Victoria now sits in 500′ of water just off the coast of Lebanon, with her bow buried in the sand and her stern pointing towards the surface. As far as I know, she is the only ship ever named after a sitting monarch to sink during the reign of that monarch.

Commander John Jellicoe escaped the sinking Victoria seconds before her loss. Just short of twenty-three years later, Jellicoe would command the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland, where poor signaling would contribute to the loss of three British battlecruisers and to the escape of the High Seas Fleet.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] May 25, 2008 |

George W. Bush, speaking about Osama bin Laden at a press conference, 24 May 2007:

Why is he at large? Because we haven’t got him yet, Jim. That’s why. And he’s hiding, and we’re looking, and we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. We’ve brought a lot of his buddies to justice, but not him. That’s why he’s still at large. He’s not out there traipsing around. He’s not leading many parades, however. He’s not out feeding the hungry. He’s isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.

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For The Defense

[ 72 ] May 24, 2008 |

To play against recent type somewhat, and since they seem to have been the final straw for a lot of people, I should probably say that I don’t actually think that the RFK comments are a big deal at all. The example was poorly chosen, but I think the point she was trying to make is obvious enough: primaries going to June isn’t an especially big deal. Granted, while I’m sympathetic to the point the example on the merits is stupid and illogical; you can’t compare primaries in 2008 to years in which they started much later on a more spread-out schedule, and in the case of force majeure I’m confident that Clinton has already won enough delegates to prevent Dodd or Kucinich from taking the nomination if she drops out tomorrow.

But illogic pretty much comes with the territory when you’re coming up with rationales for a campaign that has no reasonable chance of succeeding. I find her comparisons of trying ex post facto to count votes no rational individual could think even approach a minimally acceptable measure of voter intent to abolitionism and the fight to enfranchise African-Americans under apartheid infinitely more objectionable.

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