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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 43

[ 14 ] March 31, 2008 |

Michael Alan Weiner — otherwise known as Michael Savage — was born 66 years ago today.

If Savage had been alive during the early 20th century, he would almost certainly have been among those calling for the lynching of Jack Johnson, the African American boxer whose affection for white women drove white men to distraction; the additional fact that Johnson’s birthday happened to be March 31 might have churned Savage’s stomach into a mighty froth.

In his own wretched lifetime, the bigoted talk radio host and erstwhile herbalist has been forced to share his birthday with Barney Frank, Richard Chamberlain, Patrick Leahy, Al Gore, and Cesar Chavez — each of whom contributed in some small small way to the ruin of a country that used to be run by conservative, white, heterosexual men.

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Tourney Challenge Leaderboard

[ 0 ] March 31, 2008 |

With two each in the final eleven, the Mackin America Conference and the All-LGM Conference have both done well:

1 Mackin 1, J. Mackin 1060 99.9
2 Client #69, I. Fish 1040 99.6
3 MMGood, f. derf 1000 98.1
4 Axis of Evel Knievel, D. Noon 980 96.1
4 Watkins 1, D. Watkins 980 96.1
4 Smith 1, P. Smith 980 96.1
7 Cecil 1, D. Cecil 970 93.5
8 Hornberg 1, A. Hornberg 960 92.2
9 Death or Glory, c. loar 950 90.5
9 Muirshin Durkin, G. Mackin 950 90.5
9 drip, P. Driscoll 950 90.5

I am forced to point out that picking all four number one seeds represents nothing so much as a failure of imagination, but nevertheless.

Remember to sign up for LGM Baseball Challenge:
League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

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MLB Preview I: The AL

[ 15 ] March 31, 2008 |

AL EAST: 1.NYY 2.BOS (WILDCARD) 3. TOR 4. TB. NOT CLOSE TO 4th. BAL There’s obviously not much to choose between the top two, of course; Yankees have the better offense, the Red Sox solider pitching. My guess is that while Girardi will have problems long-term — if he can’t get along well enough with management and the press to survive in Florida, you wonder how he’ll deal with New York — his attention to detail will cause them to jump forward after the more avuncular Torre. The Blue Jays have become a little overrated; their offense is mediocre and their fine pitching too injury-prone to push them into contention. The Rays are also being puffed up a bit (their over/under last I checked was 76); they’re headed in the right direction, but they don’t get on base enough, a 73-year old Troy Percival won’t fix a ghastly bullpen and while I like Shields and Garza Kazmir’s injury and Maddon selecting Hinske over Gomes are ominous signs. They’re a year away at least. Meanwhile, although the Jones trade bodes well for their future this is the year when the Orioles hit rock bottom.

1. DET 2. CLE 3. CHI. 4. KC. 5. MIN Again I’ll go with offense over pitching, albeit without much conviction; I’m not sold on Carmona as an ace or on the Cleveland bullpen-except-the-awful-closer repeating, but if I’m wrong about either they’ll be in the postseason. Getting a better year out of Pronk is key. Still, Detroit could outscore the Yankees and their pitching should be a little better than last year. I like Chicago adding some onbase guys, but their rotation is also shaky and their core ain’t Ordonez/Cabrera/Sheffield/Guillen. The Royals continue their modest improvement. Very modest. The Twins could be over .500 if their pitchers all fulfil their potential, but that seems like a bad bet, like Mauer playing 145 games.

1. LAOFCAUSA 2. SEA 3. OAK 4. TEX The Mariners have become a trendy pick, and I wish I could agree. I see the logic: the Mariners were over .500 last year, and (whatever the long-term cost) added the ace pitcher they’ve lacked, while the the two underrated pitchers that kept the Angles in 1st despite their hacktastic offense will be hurt (one for the year.) The problem is that the Mariners weren’t as good as their record last year, and are an old offense that lacks both power and plate discipline. I could see a really good management team putting the Mariners over the top; alas, the manager was a time-serving bench coach who showed no sign that he knew what he was doing when he took over and was hired anyway, and the GM thought trading Rafael Soriano for Horacio Ramirez was a good idea. Oakland is retooling; they may hang in a little longer than many expect but it won’t involve the postseason. I thought Texas would be OK last year; I’m not falling for that again until some pitchers actually deal with the park successfully.

It’s amazing how far the west has fallen in 5 years…

NL later on Opening Day the Third. But I’ll say this: if you’re anywhere near Vegas, take the Giants under 72 and put $500 on it for me. You’ll thank me in October…

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On The Prison Rape Problem

[ 10 ] March 31, 2008 |

Good op-ed from Ezra.

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[ 0 ] March 31, 2008 |


I was lucky enough to see Ornette Coleman at Town Hall last Friday, and as expected it was exceptional. It was remarkable at the begining to compare his frail, barely audible vocal introduction and his stunningly rich tone, nearly undiminished. His quartet (drums/upright bass/electric bass) was equal to his playing, completing compelling rearrangements of everything from the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite #1 (with Ornette on sax, violin, and briefly trumpet) to Dancing in Your Head. It always amazes me to see improvisation at that level of intellect and musicality, tight and empathetic while also freewheeling. (The same band can be heard on Sound Grammar, about which I’ll echo Fred Kaplan.)

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Hack Memorial of the Day

[ 14 ] March 31, 2008 |

You really have to hand it to people like Jules Crittenden, who refuse to allow Dith Pran’s near-total total silence on Iraq to deter their efforts to use Pran’s death to cast a thick glaze of approval over the war.

In so doing, Crittenden faithfully evokes the boundlessly misinformed wingnut history of the Cambodian genocide, then attempts to cast the war in Iraq as a grand gesture of vindication:

[H]istory already was blaming the United States for abandoning the Shiites in their failed rebellion after the Gulf War, which led to the murder of 300,000 of them. Some people blame the United States for the Iran-Iraq War and Saddam’s use of poison gas on the Kurds. Mainly people who would like the United States to abandon Iraq.

I suppose this is the sort of thing Crittenden would have been arguing if the US rather than the Vietnamese had invaded Cambodia in 1978. Of course, when right wingers discuss Cambodia, it’s important to remember that their underlying thesis has nothing whatsoever to do with the genocide per se; if it did, you’d at least hear them referring once in a while to the fact that the United States had resisted adding its signature to the UN genocide convention (and would continue to do so until 1988). Instead, they use the killing fields to argue that the US should have continued fighting on behalf of a government in Saigon that was no closer to viability in 1975 than it was in 1954, when the fiction of an independent, non-communist South Vietnam was first conceived.

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Victor, Spoils, Etc.

[ 10 ] March 31, 2008 |

Jowei Chen, via Monkey Cage:

In the aftermath of the summer 2004 Florida hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $1.2 billion in disaster aid to Florida residents. This research presents two empirical findings that collectively suggest the Bush administration engaged in vote buying behavior. First, by tracking the geographic location of each aid recipient, the data reveal that FEMA treated applicants from Republican neighborhoods much more favorably than those from Democratic or moderate neighborhoods, even conditioning on hurricane severity, home value, and demographic factors. Second, I compare precinct-level vote counts from the post-hurricane (November 2004) and pre-hurricane (November 2002) elections to measure the effect of FEMA aid on Bush’s vote share. Using a two-stage least squares estimator, this analysis reveals that core Republican voters are easily swayed by FEMA aid – $16,800 buys one additional vote for Bush – while Democrats and moderates are not. Collectively, these results suggest the Bush administration maximized its 2004 vote share by concentrating FEMA disaster aid among core Republicans.

Lots of interesting implications; of course, it’s hardly surprising that administrations (Republican or Democrat) funnel the benefits gained by controlling federal agencies to their own followers. As in Florida, such benefits play both a “Thank You!” and a “Remember me at the polls” roll.

Given that the administration turned FEMA into a well-oiled patronage machine (both internally and externally), you have to wonder at how it reacted to Katrina. Specifically, I wonder whether anyone in a meeting actually made the point that “these folks don’t vote Republican, ain’t gonna vote Republican”, or whether the patronage machine was so well designed to render that statement superfluous.

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Rather a Lot of Admirals…

[ 3 ] March 31, 2008 |


Via Defense Statecraft.

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Community Theater of the Absurd

[ 5 ] March 30, 2008 |

The national dialogue on race continues inside Mister Leonard Pierce’s head.

One of these days, someone — more specifically, someone who is not me — should compile a list of the memorable short plays written by this generation’s finest bloggers. I don’t think conservatives do this sort of thing, because both science and common sense inform us that your average conservative blogger is a boorish jackass who cares that David Mamet is an inept political thinker but who wouldn’t actually go see a showing of American Buffalo. Consequently, they have no use for the Brechtian alienation that accompanies a reading of, say, “Playing Poker with Dick Cheney.”

Any such list, I think, would also have to include the various works of Matt Duss. Beyond that, I’m drawing a blank, which is why I shouldn’t be the one to compile the list.

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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House Braganza

[ 0 ] March 30, 2008 |

This is a guest post courtesy of Mr. Trend of Alterdestiny.

Brazil’s House of Bragança (also spelled Braganza), which ruled Brazil from 1822 to 1889, was a unique experience in Latin America, as it was the only (non-indigenous) monarchy in the Americas. Formed when Dom Pedro I of Portugal declared independence and the establishment of the Brazilian empire in 1822, it had only two emperors in its 77 years – Pedro I and Pedro II, who was ultimately overthrown by the military in 1889, when the Brazilian republic was finally declared.

The Brazilian House of Bragança is a direct offshoot of the Portuguese house of the same name. The Portuguese Braganças had inherited the throne in 1640, when João II, the Duke of Bragança, successfully led the rebellion against Spain’s control of Portugal (the two crowns had been united under Philip II of Spain in 1580 when the line of succession became muddy), re-establishing the Portuguese monarchy with now-king João IV at its head. The Braganças remained in Portugal until 1808, when Napoleon’s armies invaded the Iberian peninsula. The Bragança court picked up and relocated to Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, declaring the American colony the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarve (thereby becoming the first European monarchy to rule its empire from a colony).

The Braganças liked Brazil enough that they remained there well after Napoleon had been defeated; only in 1821, with the Portuguese nobles’ threats of rebellion did João VI return to Portugal from Brazil. Upon his return, he demoted Brazil back to a colony, leaving his son Pedro I as regent in Brazil. However, after 13 years of serving as a political center, Brazilian elites and politicians did not want to return to being a colony, and when Pedro was ordered to return to Portugal, he refused. After several incidences between Brazilians and Portuguese troops in Recife and Bahia (involving bloodshed and guerilla warfare), and on September 7, 1822, after gaining the support of the states of Minas Gerais and São Paulo, Pedro I formally broke with Portugal, creating the Empire of Brazil. (It’s most likely he did so after being pressured by Brazilians interested in breaking with Portugal, though some biographers insist he did it of his own free will and his love of freedom – either way, the thought of being emperor of Brazil instead of waiting for his dad to die and Pedro’s ascension to the Portuguese thrown must have seemed like a pretty sweet deal to Pedro I).

Pedro I’s honeymoon with his new empire was short-lived. By 1824, he had already closed the Constituent Assembly when the latter drafted a constitution that would limit Pedro I’s powers, making him an equal to the judicial and legislative branches in the way the President of the United States was. With the Assembly dissolved, Pedro established indirect elections and gave himself “moderating powers” over all elections and the right to appoint “senators for life.” Pedro I also made few friends in his effort to abolish slavery. Brazil’s economy, based on coffee and sugar, had become extremely dependent upon slave-labor, and the slavocracy had enough control in the government to prevent any real efforts at abolition. Tensions between Pedro I and Brazilian elites and nativists grew, and when the military and the people turned against him after he dismissed his cabinet in 1831, Pedro I abdicated and returned to Portugal, leaving the throne to his 5-year-old son, Pedro II.

During the 9-year regency of Pedro II, Brazil’s political landscape changed, as the different regions of the country gained more control as the government in Rio de Janeiro decentralized its authority. A number of small revolts broke out sporadically throughout the country over a number of issuese, including secession, slavery, and even the restoration of the monarchy in place of the regency. With this turmoil, elites who hungered for a stonger nation-state, supported Pedro II’s ascension as emperor in 1840, when he was still only 14 years old.

Pedro II would govern Brazil for another 49 years. In this time, he strongly re-centralized his authority, using the 1824 Constitution to act as a “moderating power,” continuing to dismiss the legislature, declare new elections, and appoint senators. On the slave issue, Pedro II was predictably slow to act. Brazil only ended the slave trade in 1850, when the United Kingdom exerted pressure (including authorizing British ships to seize slave ships heading for Brazil), yet slavery continued to be central to the Brazilian economy, and the internal slave market remained strong, especially as slave-owners in the Northeast’s sugar-based-economy began selling slaves to their counterparts in the growing coffee-economy of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

As time went on, Pedro II’s power gradually diminished, although it wasn’t always obvious at the time. Of particular importance was the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870), which saw Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina going to war with Paraguay. Argentina and Uruguay quickly withdrew their troops, leaving Brazil’s unprepared and under-equipped army to face a strong, organized, and much larger Paraguayan army. Both sides villified the other in strong racial terms (Brazil characterizing Paraguay as a bunch of uneducated Guaraní Indians; Paraguay portraying Brazil as a bunch of racially-mixed slaveowners). Brazil eventually won the war, with upwards of 50% of Paraguay’s population dying (much of it from disease). However, the war revealed the Brazilian military’s lack of organization and material, for which they blamed the government. From this point onward, the military in Brazil would be a political actor, and its dissatisfaction with Pedro II only grew in the coming years.

Pedro II’s rule gradually unraveled in the 1870s and 1880s. Brazilian republican sentiment was growing rapidly, stoking anti-monarchical sentiment. The War of the Triple Alliance had left the military brass disenchanted in its perception of the monarchy, and as more and more officers entered politics, they chipped away at the Crown’s power and authority. The Catholic Church also caused problems for Pedro II, whose government entered into conflict with the Church in the wake of the First Vatican Council, where the Church authorities established papal infallibility and the Vatican’s control over the Church worldwide. Pedro II continued to try to exercise his authority over the Church, leading to a crisis between the Church and the State.

The slavery issue was the final nail in the coffin for the Portuguese Crown. Brazil had already been working towards abolition, freeing slaves who served in the military in the War of the Triple Alliance. In 1871, the state established the freedom of any child born to a slave woman, and in 1885, it freed all slaves who were 60 years old or older. Attitudes throughout society had been gradually shifting in favor of abolition, even among landowning elites and planters, who had begun using immigrant labor to replace slave-labor. Slaves were freely abandoning plantations, and in 1888, Princess Isabel abolished slavery. No longer dependent on the emperor to defend their slave-holding interests, plantation owners supported republicans and the military in demonstrations against Pedro II. On November , 1889, Pedro II was overthrown, bringing to an end Brazil’s House of Bragança.

The heir to the throne, Princess Isabel, returned to Portugal with her mother and father. The line of ascendence passed to her son, Dom Pedro Henrique de Orleans de Bragança. Today, Isabel’s grandson, Dom Luís Gastão Maria José Pio Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga de Orléans e Bragança e Wittelsbach (who turns 70 on June 6 this year) is the heir to Brazil’s throne, having assumed that position upon the death of his father, Dom Pedro Henrique Afonso Filipe Maria Gastão Miguel Gabriel Rafael Gonzaga de Orléans e Bragança e Bourbon, in 1981. Born in France, Dom Luís moved to Brazil in 1945, and currently lives in São Paulo. The likelihood of the House of Bragança’s return to Brazil’s throne seems microscopic, particularly given that the current leader, popularly-elected president Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva, a former metalworker and union leader, is as far from inherited royalty as one can be. The Brazilian people have seemed to cast their stone, and it is not to the House of Bragança’s favor.

Trivia: The last King of what dynasty rose to the throne after narrowly surviving an assassination attempt that killed the reigning King and the Crown Prince?

Cross-posted to Alterdestiny.

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John McCain: The Economically Irresponsible American President that Americans Who Didn’ Think Bush Was Irresponsible Enough Have Been Waiting For

[ 9 ] March 29, 2008 |

Yglesias is right that McCain’s reliance on the advice of Phil Gramm shows that the straight-talking maverick just doesn’t care about economic policy. The fact that Gramm equipped the Glass-Steagall Act with concrete shoes is certainly damning enough; it would be analogous, I think, to asking for Douglas Feith’s advice in scaling the difficult crannies of foreign policy.

Don’t forget, of course, that Gramm was a footsoldier in the Enron Revolution, setting the tables for the catastrophe that really should have spurred a national conversation about bringing back the gallows for corporate felons. Wendy Gramm, while at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, carved out a regulatory exemption for Enron in 1992 before resigning to work for the company until 1998. All the while, Enron continued donating to Gramm’s political campaigns as well as to several hundred other members of Congress. In December 2000, Gramm co-sponsored a recycled deregulatory bill that was inserted into an appropriations bill as a rider; it passed, Clinton signed it, and the the rest is history.

Ordinarily, this is the sort of association that might be disastrous for a presidential campaign, but I’m given to understand that Barack Obama consorts with Angry, Crazed Negroes, so I expect there will be other things for the press to discuss while they’re eating Butterfingers on the Straight Talk Express.

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Casey as Veep

[ 24 ] March 29, 2008 |

Matt is of course right that Bob Casey would be an extremely poor choice to join the Obama ticket. Going with a proponent of criminalizing abortion would be bad on the merits, bad politics, and especially bad considering the need to bring supporters of the Democratic runner-up back into the fold. (I would be especially interested in hearing Scheiber explain how this slap in women’s faces would be good for party unity.) Besides that, Casey is a notably non-dynamic speaker whose name recognition wouldn’t mean much outside of Pennsylvania, and it would also mean vacating a Senate seat the Dems wouldn’t be guaranteed to hold.

Remarkably, after Giuliani’s historic flameout, I don’t recall countless media stories about how the GOP is in deep trouble if they don’t broaden their tent and consider running someone who’s pro-choice. Indeed, let me know if I missed something but as far as I can tell the number of pundits making this argument was “zero,” although people are still whining and moaning about poor Bob Casey not speaking to the Democratic convention in 1992 even though he refused to endorse Clinton 15 years later. And this double standard exists although the Democratic Party actually represents the majority position on reproductive freedom. Why, it’s almost as if these arguments are about indifference and/or hostility to women’s reproductive rights rather than being about politics…

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